Fantasy: Week 14 Revelations
Pierre Thomas (left) and Reggie Bush: AP
As for the Falcons ... what's left to say about the stupefying Big Three of QB Matt Ryan (315 passing yards, 1 TD), RB Michael Turner (61 yards, 1 TD -- pedestrian numbers for him) and WR Roddy White? (If you recall in a previous Clicks, I compared the trio to Troy Aikman/Emmitt Smith/Michael Irvin -- the early years, at least.) At this point in the fantasy season, all three are must-start in the playoffs, especially White (10 catches, 164 yards against New Orleans), whose meteoric rise to superstardom has, in turn, created a permanent bench seat for Dwayne Bowe (847 yards, 6 TDs in '08 for Kansas City) in one of my eight fantasy leagues.
Denver 24, Kansas City 17
Regarding the Broncos, I'd like to say I'm surprised by Brandon Marshall's 11-catch, 91-yard, 2-TD day ... but here are the cold, hard facts: After some major (read: painful) struggles in October and November, following an all-world September, he was chronologically due for a breakout game come December; and sure enough, Marshall shredded Kansas City on the biggest fantasy weekend of the year. Jay Cutler also rose to the challenge, totaling 302 yards and two touchdowns -- the kind of clutch numbers that confirm his standing as fantasyland's No. 3 QB in '08, behind Brees and Kurt Warner. There is one deflating tidbit from Denver's day: If Peyton Hillis (hamstring injury) should miss next week's game at Carolina, don't sweat it, because he wasn't going to do much against the Panthers' D anyway. If anyone should prosper on the chewed-up turf in Charlotte, it'll probably be Cutler, B-Marsh or TE Tony Scheffler.
Houston 24, Green Bay 21
As for the Packers (5-8), the club is essentially out of the real-world playoff picture. But I have to believe Green Bay can post monster numbers next week at Jacksonville. In fact, Aaron Rodgers (299 total yards, 2 TDs), Ryan Grant (112 total yards, 1 TD) and even Donald Driver (3 catches, 75 yards) should be considered must-starts against the free-falling Jags. While we're on the subject, throw WR Greg Jennings (74 yards) and TE Donald Lee (3 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD) into the starter cookie jar, as well.
Arizona 34, St. Louis 10
Regarding the Rams ... are there any more secrets with this motley crew? Marc Bulger (228 yards passing, 1 TD) is the Roger Dorn of the NFL (not highly skilled, just high-priced), Torry Holt (5 catches, 61 yards) has reached the end of his once-dominant rope, rookie WR Donnie Avery excels at drawing pass-interference calls (which, sadly, have no fantasy value) and RB Steven Jackson (67 total yards, 1 TD) just keeps doing enough to warrant being a top-5 pick in the '09 fantasy drafts. And, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Josh Brown kicks the ball better in a driving rainstorm than the cushy lair of an indoor stadium. All that said, Brown and Jackson are still must-starts in Week 15 and 16 home games with Seattle and San Francisco, respectively.
Brian Westbrook: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Tennessee 28, Cleveland 9
San Francisco 24, N.Y. Jets 14
As for the Jets, I still don't have a good hold on this schizophrenic bunch. Are they simply allergic to playing in the Bay Area (0-2 in trips to NoCal this year)? Is Brett Favre (139 total yards, zero TDs) only great in primetime games -- when TV analysts have ample time to sing his praises in the pre-game? How is it possible for Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles to combine for two catches and 15 yards, while taking all or most of the receiving reps? Who's the more consistent rookie tight end -- New York's Dustin Keller (14 yards vs. San Fran) or Seattle's John Carlson (8 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD in Week 14)? And is there any way Thomas Jones (68 total yards, 1 TD) can finish the fantasy-playoff season with 250 total yards and two more scores? Talk about an early Christmas wish.
Pittsburgh 20, Dallas 13
Baltimore 24, Washington 10
Peyton Manning: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Minnesota 20, Detroit 16
In the SI.com & Friends league playoffs, I correctly played a hunch that Adrian Peterson (117 total yards vs. Detroit) and Chester Taylor (53 total yards, 1 TD) would both fare well against the sad-sack Lions -- serving as my only two starting running backs (to be fair, my other alternatives were Jamal Lewis or Derrick Ward -- so it was hardly the gamble of a lifetime). Why did I hand Chester the keys on the biggest fantasy weekend of the year, even though he rode the bench for 12 consecutive weeks? It's simple, really: NEVER underestimate the power of a skilled player returning to his hometown (Detroit) and favorite franchise as a child (the Lions). Also, never underestimate a player's intrinsic motivation when taking on the team that once traded him ... which brings me to Deion Branch.
Chicago 23, Jacksonville 10
Miami 16, Buffalo 3
New England 24, Seattle 21