Will Carroll
Monday December 6th, 2010

Forty-eight yards is not much over the course of a season. It is one nice pass, maybe, or a couple extra yards in a game's worth of catches. Coming into Week 13, 48 yards is all that separated the No. 1 passer (in total yards) from the No. 4. It shouldn't surprise anyone that Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Philip Rivers would be there, but Kyle Orton? Yeah, I'm guessing he didn't go too highly in your draft.

Despite four very different offenses and four very different routes to this point, each QB has been able to put up solid fantasy numbers and end up with nearly the same output.

Looking at the scoring leaders for the season gives a lot of insight into how people got here. It's a lot of QBs, as always, some drafted high, like Manning and Brees, while some lasted longer in your drafts, like Orton and Matt Cassel. (Then again, look down at the busts section and you'll see why ...) Running backs at the top came from the top of the draft, like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, while it's doubtful that anyone outside of Cleveland even grabbed Peyton Hillis late in the draft.

Wide receivers were even tougher to pick this season, with DeSean Jackson among the top scorers so far, despite missing time with a concussion. Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Lloyd should remind us why it's so hard to predict WR points.

Fantasy players will be heading into the playoffs the next few weeks, which means those on the outside looking in -- including me in one of my leagues -- will be taking a hard look in the mirror, pouring over notes and trying to figure out where they went wrong. (Mine's easy -- Ryan Grant and Sidney Rice with picks 2 and 3!) I'm not saying that fantasy football should be guesswork, but I'm going to challenge the chalk line, saying that predictability is something that might be a bit overrated. Let's fast forward around the league:

Adrian Peterson didn't seem to miss Brett Favre (more on that in The Watch), but Sidney Rice missed him even less. Rice, drafted high because he was in the No. 1 slot with Favre (which is normally a great place to be) was derailed by an injury for the first two-thirds of the season. Since returning, he showed he was healthy and now might just be showcasing himself for free agency.

Rice blew up with Tarvaris Jackson throwing the ball, going +22 on the day. Yes, Peterson put up more points, but even with the ankle injury, the expectations have been lowered for Rice's production. Swings like this of raised and lowered expectations are a market inefficiency that can be exploited. People in the financial markets call that delta, something I'd love to see put into a fantasy context. (Wait, this isn't the new idea section ...) Figuring out whether Rice will produce next week at this level is something that's going to be tough and not known for certain until we have more clarity on Favre.

Other breakout performers include Ben Watson (+13), Vernon Davis (+15), Drew Stanton (+14, over really low expectations) and beast-mode Marshawn Lynch (+23)

Nik Bonaddio from numberFire checks in with this week's pair of teammate busts, Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd: "Week 13, from a scheduling perspective, was an embarrassment of riches for the AFC. You had two huge prime-time games featuring prominent teams with big-time playoff implications, but you also had the undercard of Chiefs-Broncos, a matchup whose offensive explosiveness was rivaled only by the friction between the head coaches, an unpleasantness exacerbated by accusations of the Broncos "running it up" and a refused handshake in Week 10.

The Chiefs prevailed in a 10-6 "sturm und drang" that was definitely offensive, although not quite in the way that was expected. Projected as the No. 4 QB, Kyle Orton looked more like Kyle Boller in the hostile confines of Arrowhead, routinely missing open receivers and misreading coverages. Brandon Lloyd certainly didn't help, converting a downright atrocious 18% of his targets. Yes, you read that right, that's 2 receptions on 11 targets. To those concerned about the sky falling, don't. The two of them will surely rebound as this was definitely an outlier on what is proving to be a breakout season for both."

Other busts include the Manning that didn't throw a bunch of interceptions, Eli Manning (-14), Chris Johnson (-10) and Steve Johnson (-11), who at least didn't have a huge drop, except in points.

We may have seen the end of Brett Favre's career or at least the streak. As the NFL wraps up its investigation on him, Favre ended up on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. He'll have an MRI on Monday, but the effectiveness of the offense without him in the game is something Leslie Frazier has to consider.

Adrian Peterson showed no ill effects from his sprained ankle once he got on the field, despite some pregame reluctance from Frazier to even start him. Peterson's big day had everything except anything that indicated an ankle problem. He cut, he hopped, he accelerated, and there was nothing suggesting a limp. Whatever the medical staff did, it worked.

Bad news for Dez Bryant. His season ends on a fractured ankle. He took a hard forced inversion. It's possible his recurrent high-ankle sprain might have been a factor, but getting hit like that would have been enough on its own. His season is done.

Mike Williams (Seattle version) re-injured his ankle, while Darren Sproles left the Chargers tough loss with a concussion. ... Max Hall came in to replace Derek Anderson, but Anderson had to come back after Hall dislocated his shoulder. I'll cover all these in more detail in Thursday's Injury Report.

Is it too late to make moves? Is chasing matchups and points irrelevant or even counterproductive as we head into the fantasy playoffs? No! If anything, it is even more important. In fact, Week 14 is the week where teams -- especially the 7 or 8 slots in the playoffs -- should be flat out gambling on players. Checking matchups isn't going to be enough. If you're playing a team that's legitimately better than yours, it's time to look at upside rather than consistency and predictability.

With a couple players left on the board in one league I'm in, the most likely scenario has me headed to the playoffs in the six slot with a 7-6 record. The No. 3 team is decent, relying on Peyton Manning and Rashard Mendenhall for its points, so their performance has suffered in the last couple of weeks. I don't have to make crazy moves or risk too much to compete with them, but I do need to have my guys playing a lot better than they have been all season.

Instead of sure points in Week 14 (assuming that's the start of your playoffs), you need to consider the upside potential, whether that's on your roster or the waiver wire. One thing I'd suggest doing is checking the over/under Vegas line and looking at possibilities in the high-scoring games.

Several people have complained that there's not a good fantasy football show on TV. There are three simple reasons, in my mind, and remember, I speak as one of the original members of ESPN's first fantasy show.

Its format, customization and ratings. The key factor is that there's no standardization. While we talk about "standard rules," there's really no such thing. A majority of leagues customize things, some to a ridiculous extent. There can be such a difference that knowing the rules can be what separates you from winning and losing. Ask anyone subjected to a bunch of league drafts and you'll find someone who's screwed up the whole thing because they didn't remember the rule set. PPR? IDP? Add in the fact that everyone has their team, an infinite combination of players, and it gets difficult to talk about even a majority of people's interest. If you have a viewer watching a show that feels ignored, that's someone who's changing the channel.

Most importantly to networks, there are simply not the ratings to sustain such a show. There's a chicken and egg issue here, but believe me, most of the big players have tried and failed. Jeff Ma, the former head of Citizen Sports, thinks that the merging of internet video with a larger scale will create the perfect show. Whoever does it is going to have a massive installed base.

Does anyone really understand QB Rating? The stat seems to have been around forever, but it's only been about 40 years. Stats king Seymour Siwoff created it at behest of the NFL in 1971, scaled to make 90-100 a good day, with a maximum of 158.3. That "perfect game" has been hit a couple times, including once this season by Tom Brady. While the numbers behind the rating are available, I'm hardly the first to complain that the result doesn't make sense on its own.

It would make more sense to scale the number to 100. It would require one additional step, multiplying the final result by 67.13. Given all the other machinations, adding one more for an understandable scale doesn't seem overly complex. Of course, all of this ignores whether the QB rating is instructive, which is unclear. Tom Brady would lead the league either way, but at 66.8 or 103.7, is one or the other more instructive? The former sounds like a D+ on a grading scale, or is very similar to his completion percentage. We need a new idea here because QB Rating isn't getting the job done.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.