Will Carroll
Monday December 20th, 2010

Congratulations! You are now headed to the fantasy football championship game. Some of you aren't, but follow along because you love the sport or have moved on to plain ol' gambling on games. You drafted well. You got a little lucky. You avoided the fantasy pitfalls. You made some great waiver moves. Your team stayed healthy. You made that last minute change that saved you a win. You listened to the right experts and you made up your own mind. It all came together and here you are, headed into Week 16 with a chance to win it all. So don't stop now -- what you've done up to this point has worked. Keep your foot on the gas. Take a look around the league and see what happened today and what will happen next week. Being there is an honor, but you want to win it all. You'll have to do what it takes. It will be on your mind all week, even when you're working -- so pilots and doctors, please be careful with that one, okay?

Maybe it wasn't your year -- it wasn't mine, in any of my three leagues -- but you can still learn these lessons. I had a high school coach who used to tell us "walk like a winner." He was on to something there, as Tony Robbins has shown that simple things like posture can affect mood and performance. Your fantasy season may be over, but for all but the championship contenders it's never too late to learn. Let's fast forward around the league:

A breakout performance this week might be the difference between winning and losing. Just like one big play or one good player can turn a real game, it's the same in fantasy. This week's biggest difference maker didn't come on Sunday, but Thursday, putting many teams up enough to cruise to the championship game. It was Vincent Jackson. Nik Bonaddio from numberFire checks in with his take: "The Chargers really are the kings of December, aren't they? It's remarkable. Like the Rockies in baseball, they simply have an amazing ability to get hot at the right time, despite a bevy of injuries and a revolving door at wide receiver. They're making a serious claim to be the dangerous wildcard that no team wants to face come playoff time. As if the re-emergence of Ryan Mathews wasn't enough to keep defensive coordinators up at night, now they also have to worry about Vincent Jackson, who tore up the 49ers secondary to the melodious tune of 112 yards and three scores. Even with a healthy Antonio Gates, Jackson is a lock for 8-10 targets in the fertile Chargers passing game, which is more than enough attention given his proclivity towards the big play. With a very advantageous matchup coming up in Week 16 -- the Bengals rank 21st against the pass and surrender 20.2 fantasy points/week to WR -- Jackson should be the landslide No. 1 target of anyone fishing in Waivers Lake and an obvious starter for any championship matchup. I'm inclined to slate him as a WR2 option, but conservative logic does hold if you'd like to slot him in at WR3 in lieu of dancing with the date who brought you to the ball." Other breakouts include Eli Manning (+10), Ray Rice (+13), and Rex Grossman (a stunning +28).

One of my favorite actors is Peter Sellars. While nothing will top "Dr. Strangelove," his subtle performance in the movie "Being There" is just as brilliant. In today's entertainment world where being famous comes before being talented, it's a concept that is one of the few not being remade, sadly. Reggie Wayne is this year's version of Chance, Sellars' character. He's just been there all season, but instead of feasting on a year where Peyton Manning has been forced to throw more than ever before, Wayne's numbers haven't risen with the tide. His 143 points on the season (coming into today's game) aren't bad, but they're not on pace with last season's numbers. Wayne's catches and yardage are up, but the TDs are down. He's got 5 right now, half of last year's total of 10. The team isn't better, but sometimes increased production is thwarted by the random distribution of TDs in the passing game. Looking at WRs who's point total is based more on TDs this season, we might get some sort of pattern. The top two fantasy WRs, Dwayne Bowe and Brandon Lloyd, are exactly this type, though younger. There's not much difference between Greg Jennings and Wayne on the season aside from the TDs. Wayne's game Sunday continued the same pattern, so labeling him a "bust" might be a bit strong. Let's just call it "sub-optimal," though if you lost today's game because you had Wayne at WR1, you might need to be more creative. Other players who didn't live up to projections include Sam Bradford (-7), Fred Jackson (-13) and Arian Foster, who went (-18) in what looked like a great matchup against the Titans.

It was a scary moment as Austin Collie laid on the turf -- again -- after another concussion. He'd scored two touchdowns earlier, but as he laid on the turf it was clear that no matter the score, it's not worth losing someone's life or well being. The crowd quieted. Both sidelines went to a knee and looked pained. Collie had come out wearing a dark visor, something he had not worn prior to the concussion, to help him avoid any light sensitivity, so the worry was already there that the symptoms could recur. Collie was able to walk off the field and with the increased focus on concussions, I'm sure everyone will be watching closely, but with Collie coming back twice for "big games" and showing increased recurrence risk both times, the NFL needs to take a hard look at how players are cleared. Is it a truly independent and objective process or can a team -- or player -- push a return? While I do not support time out guidelines, I hope that the NFL continues moving in the right direction in regards to concussion management. In other injury news, Terrell Owens left the Bengals game with what I'm told is a "significant knee injury." He'll have medical imaging, but manual testing is pretty accurate so things don't look good. Troy Polamalu missed the game against the Jets, but news came this morning that his Achilles might cost him the rest of the regular season. Brett Favre is out for tomorrow's game, but the Vikings (and Favre) continue to resist putting him on IR. I'll break down all these and more Thursday in my Injury Report

There was a fantasy game this preseason advertising that its big innovation was that you could sub players in and out during games. It was a live, coaching dynamic that at least was fresh in the face of a standardizing fantasy game landscape. I couldn't imagine playing it due to the time commitment and the need for a multi-screen setup that would require a level of ADD that I just don't have. I can only imagine what someone might have done at halftime of today's Giants-Eagles game. In standard leagues, Michael Vick had 1 measly point at the half and finished with over 40. Would you have been patient enough to wait it out or would you have swapped? How many points would you have missed if you weren't watching closely? Especially considering how quickly the Eagles came back today. Head coaches make big bucks focusing on personnel and matchups during a single game. I can't imagine how people like us could hope to focus on multiple games and have any level of success. Just because we can all manage the clock better than Andy Reid doesn't make me think I can do his job.

Next week is the championship game for most leagues. Money will exchange hands. Trophies engraved. Bragging rights transferred. Smack talked. It may not be the Super Bowl, but doesn't it deserve a catchier name than the "Championship Game?" Would the Super Bowl be the cultural touchstone it is if it was just the "NFL Championship Game?" Then again, the NFL is pretty jealous about guarding the use of the Super Bowl name. I have a suggestion that works for everyone. From now on, the fantasy championship game should be called ... The Duper Bowl. There's a football connection and let's face it, it sounds both fun and instantly understandable. "My team made the Duper Bowl," will make sense to those strange people we talk to all week who don't yet play fantasy football and mumble "geek" as we walk away after explaining how we did Monday morning. Duper Bowl rings? Sure, why not! Let's make this happen.

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