BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Brandon Marshall – Ribs / Out for season
Percy Harvin – Ankle (feared season ending)
Joseph Fauria – Ankle
Torrey Smith – Ankle
Jamaal Charles –
Zach Mettenberger – Shoulder re-injured
Andre Johnson – Concussion
Ladarius Green – Concussion
Colt McCoy – Neck
Roy Helu – Toe
The season winds down and the scoring remains strong. Ten different quarterbacks finished with three or more touchdowns and eight different players either rushed or received two touchdowns. We have not yet had a game that was really impacted by weather and the forecast for the weekend looks warm and mostly dry. If this is global warming, at least it offers a few perks.
NEVER TOO LATE TO TRY SOMETHING NEW
Terrance Williams is playing with a broken finger but he’s been on the decline since midseason. For the last five games, he’s been held under 40 yards and has not scored. But Cole Beasley makes a difference in the last three games with at least 40 yards in each and three touchdowns over that time. That’s more scoring than Dez Bryant had in those weeks. That‘s more catches and yards than Jason Witten as well. He’s become a red zone target and the Cowboys next two opponents are at the Eagles and the Colts – both will require more passing to win.
The latest 100 yard rusher in the NFL is Kerwynn Williams of the Arizona Cardinals. The second-year practice squad player previously belonged to the Colts and Chargers. With Andre Ellington out and Michael Bush released, the Cardinals activated Williams. Stepfan Taylor and Marion Grice started the game but later Williams was given one series where he ran four times for 15 yards and later two more runs in the second quarter for ten more yards. Towards the end of the third quarter Williams became the main runner and turned in 75 more yards on 13 carries. Ellington is on injured reserve with a sports hernia and Williams is the only back offering a spark. He’ll get plenty of work on Thursday night in St. Louis and then finish out the year against the Seahawks and then in San Francisco.
The Panthers were ten point underdogs in New Orleans last week but had no problem winning 41-10 and giving Greg Olsen a career best ten catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. Kelvin Benjamin was held to only two catches for 24 yards but scored once. That nets Benjamin nine touchdowns on the season and four over the last four games. Olsen’s been one of the most consistent tight ends this year and remained above 50 yards in each of the last four games. This bodes well for the suddenly hot Panthers and their two main receivers who wind down their season facing the Buccaneers, the Browns and at the Falcons.
NEVER TOO SOON TO RELY ON SOMETHING OLD
Zach Mettenberger re-injured the AC joint in his throwing shoulder and may miss the rest of the season. That installs Jake Locker back as the starter at an opportune time. The Titans finish out the year against the Jets, at the Jaguars and the Colts. Locker preferred Delanie Walker to start the year when he tossed him touchdowns in the first two games and completed ten passes for 142 yards to him in Dallas. The Titans rushing offense is among the worst and Locker will be forced to pass in each game.
Andre Johnson suffered a concussion in the win over the Jaguars and while Ryan Fitzpatrick turned to DeAndre Hopkins as the primary receiver, he only produced four catches for 49 yards. Arian Foster was already rushing for 127 yards and a score in that game so the offense only needed 19 passes. The luxury of just rushing won’t be there for the next two weeks playing at the Colts and then hosting the Ravens. Garrett Graham is already out with a high ankle sprain and now Johnson will be in question at least for the Colts matchup. Hopkins will be the focus of a passing game that is losing all other viable options. You can also expect to see a sharp increase in catches for Foster.
The Bears lost Brandon Marshall for the rest of the season with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung but at least Jay Cutler still ended with 341 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Cowboys. That opens the door for Marquess Wilson and Josh Morgan to see more work but don’t expect any fantasy stars here in the final three games. The Bears are playing out a bad season and Cutler already showed how he would replace Marshall – Martellus Bennett. The tight end had a team high 15 targets last week and caught 12 for 84 yards and one touchdown. Bennett already topped 100 yards in the previous week against the Lions. The Bears will finish against the Saints, Lions and finally at the Vikings. The big three fantasy plays now are Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.
YOU PICKED A FINE TIME TO LEAVE ME, LUCILLE
This season has been marked by inconsistent play by many players and overall by many teams. But the few highly productive and consistent players suddenly picked a really inopportune time to suddenly go cold. Peyton Manning has been a lock for 300 yards and three touchdowns in almost every game so it was especially painful when his 51 game streak with a touchdown pass screeched to a halt. Manning finished with only 173 yards and two interceptions. In a home game no less. Demaryius Thomas was a fantasy monster for the last nine consecutive games and only managed two receptions for 11 yards.
Drew Brees ended with only 235 yards and one touchdown after scoring eight times in the last two weeks. Jimmy Graham has a bothersome shoulder that contributed to his zero catches in the loss to the Steelers and then just three receptions for 35 yards against the Panthers. Other top season best scorers that flopped included Emmanuel Sanders (one catch for 13 yards), Julius Thomas (active but never used), Antonio Gates (five catches for 34 yards) and DeSean Jackson (inactive).
But who was there for you? Merely every top running back. DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Le’Veon Bell, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles and Justin Forsett all turned in decent if not great games and each player scored at least one touchdown. Remember that next summer when you use your first two draft picks on wide receivers.
REMEMBER THE HERO NEVER JUST SHOWS UP AT THE END
When you make line-up decisions for the next three weeks, remember that as every season concludes, it is almost always the “tried and true” players who will perform the best. There are very few notable roster changes at the end of the season aside from a few teams trying out new players who invariably carry no fantasy value. “Always play your studs” is never truer. For this weekend, 11 of the 16 games are the second time that divisional teams are meeting and then it happens six times in week 16. The rule of thumb is that home field is always an advantage between familiar opponents so consider what the players produced in their first meeting and then tweak accordingly. For those leagues that continue into week 17, every game will be divisional rematches.
|DAL 41, CHI 28||The Cowboys Magical Mystery Tour continues with Tony Romo passing for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Dez Bryant (6-82) did not score but Cole Beasley (3-42) scored twice. DeMarco Murray throws in 179 yards on 32 carries and one score in his inescapable quest for 2000 rushing yards. Jay Cutler was better than usual with 341 yards and two touchdowns. All the right Bears did well like Matt Forte with 100 total yards, eight catches and one score. Alshon Jeffery (6-95, TD) and Martellus Bennett (12-84, TD) both had big games with Brandon Marshall eventually knocked out of the game. The 9-4 Cowboys head to Philly and the 5-8 Bears host the Saints.|
|PIT 42, CIN 21||The Bengals were favored by 3.5 and still got waxed by the Steelers. At least Andy Dalton passed for 301 yards and two scores plus ran in a third. Almost everything went to A.J. Green (11-224, TD) while Mohamed Sanu (2-16) just disappears when Green gets going. All Giovani Bernard (6-17) did was make sure that Jeremy Hill (8-46) would disappoint despite running effectively. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 350 yards and three touchdowns and both Antonio Brown (9-117) and Martavis Bryant (4-109, TD) turned in big games. Le’Veon Bell was the star running for 185 yards and two scores plus he caught six passes for 50 yards and a third touchdown. Now the 8-5 Steelers head to Atlanta and the 8-4-1 Bengals head to Cleveland.|
|IND 25, CLE 24||Sadly close doesn’t count for the Browns. Brian Hoyer passed for just 140 yards and two interceptions because he was apparently “the better option” and no receivers were better than 41 yards including Josh Gordon (2-15) who might vote Johnny is asked next week. Isaiah Crowell was active and scored once. Both he and Terrance West ran for exactly 54 yards. The Colts were cold for much of the game but then Andrew Luck mounted a comeback like we all knew he would. Luck finished with 294 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions but he also ran in one score as the leading rusher (5-37). T.Y. Hilton was covered up by Joe Haden for the first half but then they changed coverages and Hilton ended up with ten catches for 150 yards and two scores. The win … ‘whew’ … send the 9-4 Colts back home to face the Texans and the 7-6 Browns host the Bengals.|
|TB 17, DET 34||No surprises here. Josh McCown ended with 250 yards and two scores to Mike Evans (4-45) while Vincent Jackson (10-159) had a rare big game. But the rushing effort remains non-existent with ten carries for 18 yards. Matt Stafford threw for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Calvin Johnson (8-158, TD) was the only big receiver and Joique Bell turned in 133 total yards with two touchdowns. Now the 2-11 Buccaneers heads to Carolina and the 9-4 Lions host the Vikings.|
|HOU 27, JAC 13||This ends with precious little fantasy value. Ryan Fitzpatrick only passed for 135 yards and his only touchdown was on a short run. But Arian Foster ran for 127 yards and one score as the only decent fantasy play of the game. Blake Bortles passed for only 205 yards and one score to Allan Hurns (5-36). Alfred Blue ran in one touchdown as well but there was just no decent fantasy points otherwise. The 7-6 Texans head to Indianapolis and the 2-11 Jaguars travel to Baltimore.|
|BAL 28, MIA 13||The inconsistent Dolphins had a down game where they could ill afford one. Ryan Tannehill passed for 227 yards and one score but no receiver was better than Jarvis Landry (6-55). Lamar Miller ran for 53 yards on only 12 carries. Joe Flacco threw for 269 yards and two scores but Torrey Smith’s knee swelled up in pregame warmups and he ended up used as a decoy. This let Steve Smith (7-70, TD) finally have a big game again and Kamar Aiken (6-65, TD) took advantage of the new opportunity as well. Justin Forsett only ran 13 times but gained 71 yards and scored once. Flacco also ran in one score. The loss sends the 7-6 Dolphins to New England and the 8-5 Ravens host the Jaguars.|
|CAR 41, NO 10||WHAT? WHAT? Really?Just when you think the Saints are maybe coming around, the Panthers end a six game losing streak on the road. Just last week, the Panthers lost 13-31 in Minnesota. Now Cam Newton passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns plus 83 rush yards and a four touchdown. Greg Olsen (10-72, TD) had the best game as a receiver and Jonathan Stewart ran for 155 yards on 20 carries with one score rushed in. That was his best game since 2009. That was his first 100 yard rushing effort in five seasons. Drew Brees only managed 235 yards passed and one measly touchdown. Marques Colston was the best receiver with 72 yards while Mark Ingram was held to only 43 yards on ten carries. Unbelievable. Now the 5-8 Saints head to Chicago and the 4-8-1 Panthers REMAIN IN CONTENTION while hosting the Buccaneers this week.|
|NYG 36, TEN 7||I sometimes think we don’t appreciate just how bad the Titans really are. Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker combined for only 206 yards and two interceptions while Bishop Sankey was the top runner with only 25 yards on nine carries. Just a fantasy wasteland. The Giants had no problems winning this and Eli Manning’s 260 yards and one score mostly went to Odell Beckham (11-130, TD). Andre Williams got the full workload and ended with 147 total yards and one score while Rashad Jennings owners were not that happy with his 22 total yards on three touches.|
|STL 24, WAS 0||I sometimes think we don’t appreciate just how bad the Redskins really are. Not only did they run 12 times for 23 yards but Colt McCoy threw two interceptions and just 199 yards. And Robert Griffin III even threw four passes probably just to piss him off. With DeSean Jackson out, Pierre Garcon was begrudgingly the primary wideout once again and he ended with nine catches for 95 yards but that was the only fantasy value of any Redskins. Shaun Hill passes for 213 yards and two scores that both went to Jared Cook (4-62, 2 TD) and that was about it for fantasy plays in this entire game aside from the Rams defense. Tre Mason was held to only 66 yards on 20 carries without a singe catch. It was a sad game during an otherwise festive time of year. The Rams 6-7 Rams host the Cardinals this week and the 3-10 Redskins will roll over and play dead in New York for the Giants.|
|KC 14, ARI 17||Boring defensive game but one that really helped the Cardinals fortunes. Drew Stanton only passed for 239 yards and one score to Jaron Brown while Malcom Floyd (4-85) was the top receiver. Ex-practice squadder Kerwynn Williams had only been on the regular roster for two days and his first NFL backfield action ended with 100 yards on 19 carries. Alex Smith still has no concept what a wide receiver is and once again the Chiefs fell behind and could not mount a comeback. He threw for 293 yards and one score with Travis Kelce (7-110) as the top receiver and of course Jamaal Charles ran for 91 yards and a score on just ten carries and added a second touchdown on a catch. That drops the Chiefs to 7-6 but they host the Raiders this week. The 10-3 Cardinals head to St. Louis.|
|BUF 17, DEN 24||Man. This is where fantasy and reality really separate. Yes, the Broncos won. But I am openly weeping as I type this. Peyton Manning only threw for … this is hard… 173 yards and no … no… NO TOUCHDOWNS OKAY? AND TWO INTERCEPTIONS!!!! Right when you wanted him the most Manning lays an egg. Sure, C.J. Anderson owners were happy with the three touchdowns but that was about it for happiness. Julius Thomas owners saw him active on the sideline the entire game. Leading receiver – Wes Welker (6-82)? At least Demaryius Thomas had… two catches for 11 yards. It’s like End of Days for fantasy football. Kyle Orton passed for 355 yards and one score with Sammy Watkins (7-127) having the decency to show up. This was just a head scratcher and while the Bills defense is good, it was in Denver. But they won. And now the 10-3 Broncos head to San Diego and the 7-6 Bills host the Packers.|
|SF 13, OAK 24||“Well at least we’re not the 49ers©”. If there is any sign that the season, the coaching regime and the offense as we know it are over, it is going into Oakland and losing by 11 points. Colin Kaepernick passed for 174 yards and one score with two interceptions and if he regresses any more, his mother will start picking him up after practice. Frank Gore ran for 63 yards on just 12 carries and the best receiver was Michael Crabtree (9-56). Derek Carr was far better with 254 yards and three touchdowns. Mychal Rivera (7-109, TD) is back in the news and Marcel Reece (7-64, TD) also had a nice game. Latavius Murray made his return and this time only gained 76 yards on 23 runs but that was far more work then the Raiders suggested he would get. Darren McFadden (4-5) and Maurice Jones-Drew (0-0) both were more productive than usual. The 7-6 49ers now go shuffling with their head hanging low all the way to Seattle and the 2-11 Raiders head to Kansas City.|
|SEA 24, PHI 14||Bit of a surprise. The Eagles were grounded at home when Mark Sanchez was held to only 96 pass yards and two touchdowns. Zac Ertz (2-39, TD) was the top receiver and LeSean McCoy only ran for 50 yards as no Eagle had a decent game. Russell Wilson passed for 263 yards and two scores plus ran for 48 yards and a third touchdown. Doug Baldwin (5-97, TD) was the best receiver and Marshawn Lynch ran for 86 yards plus 27 yards and a score on five receptions. It was not what the 9-4 Eagles needed with the Cowboys coming to town this week. The 9-4 Seahawks stay in striking distance in the NFC West and host the 49ers.|
|NE 23, SD 14||Close game until the Patriots pulled away in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady passed for 317 yards and two scores that went to Julian Edelman (8-141, TD) and Rob Gronkowski (8-87, TD). LeGarrette Blount ran for only 66 yards but his 20 carries dwarfed all others as the instant primary back. Philip Rivers ended with just 189 yards and one touchdown that went to Malcom Floyd (3-54, TD) and no other receivers had over 50 yards or scored, Ryan Matthews only gained 44 yards on 11 runs in this mostly defensive game. Now the 10-3 Patriots host the Dolphins and the 8-5 Chargers host the Broncos.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Le’Veon Bell – The second-year player has been a goldmine all season including running for 204 yards in Tennessee just two games ago. Versus the Saints in week 13, he rolled up 254 total yards and one score. Now against the Bengals, he turns in 235 yards and three touchdowns. He may end up in the Hall of Fame just for what he does during fantasy playoffs.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Derek Carr||256||3||QB||Peyton Manning||173||0|
|RB||Andre Williams||147||1||RB||Alfred Morris||17||0|
|RB||Jonathan Stewart||155||1||RB||LeSean McCoy||50||0|
|WR||Jarius Wright||146||1||WR||Torrey Smith||0||0|
|WR||Charles Johnson||103||1||WR||Demaryius Thomas||11||0|
|WR||Martavis Bryant||109||1||WR||Josh Gordon||15||0|
|TE||Mychal Rivera||109||1||TE||Jimmy Graham||25||0|
|PK||Josh Brown||18 pts||PK||Cody Parkey||2 pt|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 155||Huddle Fantasy Points = 18|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
The playoff race is coming into focus with three weeks left to play. Both the Broncos and Patriots are 10-3 but the Pats own the head-to-head in case the #1 bye is still in play at the end. Still lots could happen but as it stands it appears the AFC is going to be the Patriots, Colts. Broncos and then three of the four AFC North teams or the Chargers may replace one of them.
In the NFC, it seems almost a lock that it will be between the Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, Lions, Cardinals and Seahawks and someone from the NFC South who will be killed in the first round.
The amazing thing is that even this late in the season when everything is on the line, teams still come out flat sometimes. Some suddenly play well for one game. And eventually even Peyton Manning sucks.
The Game-O-The-Week had few contenders. The Colts nipping the Browns was good. But that was about it other than:
Jets 24, Vikings 30
You have to hand it to the Jets for persevering through the sheer folly. Geno Smith opened the game with a pick six but ended with 254 yards and one score – big day in Geno Town. Chris Ivory ran for 73 yards on 16 carries and Chris Johnson gained 53 yards also on 16 carries. Percy Harvin not only caught six passes for 124 yards and one score, but he injured his ankle and may be out for the year. So he is exactly as injury prone as he was before. Great trade there Jets. Eric Decker caught six passes for 89 yards and wistfully thinks about Denver and passes that actually come to you.
The Vikes got 309 yards and two scores from Teddy Bridgewater who looked like everything that Geno Smith was supposed to be. His big day was great aided by the 87 yard catch and score by Jarious Wright that would win the game in overtime. Charles Johnson would turn in four catches for 103 yards and a score with a second touchdown that was fumbled into the endzone for Jerome Felton to recover.
Neither of these teams are playing for the playoffs. And for the Jets, they are almost certain to be facing a complete overhaul of players and coaches in the offseason. But they brought it to the wire and ended the game as the most exciting tilt of the day.
Good luck in your playoffs and may your season high score be coming this week.
Me. I gotta start this Christmas shopping thing soon.
Now get back to work…