Is it possible to watch a four-hour chalk outline get drawn? It's games like the Chargers and woeful 49ers last night that give ammunition to the old fogies who ask, "Do we really need football on Thursdays?" It's hard to believe the same NFL showcase that gave us the Falcons-Ravens masterpiece of a few weeks ago mustered that. When they weren't playing the role of the Washington Generals, the 49ers looked like a walking fantasy wasteland. All the while, the Chargers ran roughshod even while all-world Antonio Gates mends in street clothes. There were a few fantasy football takeaways to be had, however.
What I Loved
Philip Rivers, Hero: With the exception of brief lull from Weeks 12-13, Rivers has been the picture of consistency, and Thursday was one more reason why. The best quarterback without a running game (not from Indianapolis), did his thing when owners needed him the most. At times he looked downright surgical in dissecting the 49ers, posting 273 yards and a trio of touchdowns.
What I Liked
(Doing my best Verne Lundquist) "Vincent Jackson, how do you do?": That was the receiver we all expected to see months ago before holdouts, ill will and injuries conspired to sink his season. Jackson looked fast, smooth and agile in his official comeback -- not to be confused with last week's tease in which he was hurt early on and came out with an empty boxscore line. Although few played him, those who rolled the dice hit the jackpot. Those who stuck with him, have an ace amongst their lineup cards for the playoff stretch run.
What I Loathed
The Walking Dead: It would have been nice for San Francisco to show up. In my Hits and Misses column in a few weeks, expect to see my 49ers expectations near the top of my mistakes. Losing RB Frank Gore can't be understated, but there is too much skill talent on hand to accept the disappearing act of WR Michael Crabtree, TE Vernon Davis and RB Brian Westbrook. Meanwhile I hope QB Alex Smith (who showed flashes last year), is putting together a demo tape for a UFL tryout and leaving this game's film out of it.
Ready to Rebound
Here are some prominent fantasy players primed for a comeback this week.
WR Roddy White at the Seahawks: It's been a long four weeks since White has scored or hit the century mark in yards. White leads the NFL in yards but has been in the 70-yard neighborhood each of the past two weeks. This week expect him to breakout against a struggling Seahawks team ranked 30th in pass defense, allowing 266 yards per game.
TE Jacob Tamme vs. the Jaguars: After back-to-back low yardage, scoreless weeks, it would be easy to throw the one-time backup fantasy tight end out with the bath water. Don't give up on Tamme yet, for along comes the Jaguars as the Colts fight for their playoff lives. Jacksonville has the 28th-ranked passing defense and has given up 24 touchdown passes thus far.
RB Matt Forte at the Vikings: It feels like I've nominated Forte in this spot every other week at this point, but this time it's a golden opportunity. With a homeless Minnesota team staring down the barrel of third-string QB Joe Webb starting and frigid temperatures that could ice the Bears' passing game, get ready to ride Forte.
There are always some hidden points out there to be found from benchwarmers or fantasy free agents who that can plug a spot in any lineup. Here are three to focus on this week.
QB Kerry Collins vs. the Texans: One week after carving up the Colts for 244 yards and three touchdown passes, Collins is a viable option for owners of struggling QBs who need a lift. This week he plays a Texans' pass defense ranked last, allowing a whopping 279.9 yards and a league-worst 29 TD passes.
RB Michael Bush vs. the Broncos: Out of his last four weeks, Bush has had one good game while Hurricane McFadden has busy wreaking havoc. This week expect the Raiders' No. 2 back to get in on the act against a struggling Broncos defense ranked one spot from dead last -- 31st -- against the run.
TE Kevin Boss vs. the Eagles: Steve Smith's injury, plus a banged-up Mario Manningham equals a bigger role in the Giants' passing game. Last week Boss caught a touchdown dart and has scored in two of his last three games.
The last two weeks have been a roller coaster ride for fantasy owners of some of this year's top players ... right off a cliff. With teams on the playoff bubble or starting the first round of the postseason, the past two weeks have been miserable, soul-sucking experiences in futility. Some standout players have gone down the tubes with either terrible performances or tough injuries. With that, here is my all-dartboard group of suspects who must pick it up for those of us with championship hopes still breathing, to stay alive. The Dirty Dozen of Disappointments are in (fittingly) descending order:
12. RB Matt Forte, Bears11. WR Roddy White, Falcons10. WR Greg Jennings, Packers9. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers8. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals7. RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers6. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys5. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions4. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs3. WR Brandon Lloyd, Broncos2. QB Kyle Orton, Broncos1. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
1. Texans at Titans2. Jaguars at Colts3. Eagles at the Giants4. Saints at Ravens5. Redskins at Cowboys
While confidence pools reign supreme during bowl season, don't be afraid to shake things up by trying college fantasy football. Any number of owners can take part, drafting multiple QBs, RBs and WRs. My league's position limits were five QBs, five RBs and seven WRs, but any batch of position numbers is usable. There is no setting lineups, everyone plays. Settle on a scoring system, break out the calculator and box scores, and keep a running tab on each team's total score with the highest total winning with old school pen and paper or on computer.
My seven-team college bowl group got together for a draft yesterday and here is how the first five rounds went in order.
1. QB Cameron Newton, Auburn2. QB Bryant Moniz, Hawaii3. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan4. QB Colin Kaepernick, Nevada5. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma6. WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State7. QB Dominique Davis, East Carolina8. RB LaMichael James, Oregon9. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State10. QB G.J. Kinne, Tulsa11. QB Darron Thomas, Oregon12. WR Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma13. QB Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State14. WR Greg Salas, Hawaii15. QB Ricky Dobbs, Navy16. RB Vai Tua, Nevada17. RB Mikel Leshoure, Illinois18. RB Chad Spann, Northern Illinois19. RB Alex Greene, Hawaii20. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina21. RB Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State22. QB Taylor Potts, Texas Tech23. RB Jordan Todman, Connecticut24. RB Dion Lewis, Pittsburgh25. QB Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois26. RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma27. RB Daniel Thomas, Kansas State28. QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska29. QB Aaron Murray, Georgia30. RB Mark Ingram, Alabama31. RB Darriet Perry, Florida International32. WR Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii33. RB Roy Helu, Jr., Nebraska34. QB Austin Davis, Southern Miss35. QB Kyle Padron, SMU