In Week 12 we found out that a seven-point Steelers lead was impregnable with Tyler Palko quarterbacking, that the Eagles have caught fire in a Towering Inferno sense of the phrase, Stevie Johnson is a goat, DeSean Jackson has butterfingers, Dwayne Bowe has alligator arms and that former backup quarterbacks everywhere have owners with players affected feeling nauseously (non-)optimistic. We also learned that when kickers have to go, they have to go (and so do their coaches, so to speak, but more on that later.
1. The Falcon Crest Award: Matt Ryan has risen from the ashes of reality, so to speak. Because no matter how good in real life he's been with solid numbers and big time performances, Ryan has been unreliable in fantasy terms. That was then; lately he's hit top-10 fantasy quarterback status with a bullet and is sitting on the fringe of the top five or six at the position. With Sunday's three-TD, 262-yard outing, in the last four games he's thrown nine touchdowns with two interceptions with an average yardage total of 301 yards.
2. Fantasy Enigma of the Week: Give Vincent Jackson this, he's consistent at one thing -- driving owners batty. He's been over 100 yards four times this year, yet five times he's been under 50 yards, the latest yesterday's robust 25-yard, two-catch outing.
3. The "That's So Beanie" Award: Why, oh why, does the former OSU back continue to torture us? Despite being listed as Questionable Sunday (probably dating back to his first day on Pop Warner), Wells played and tore up the league's worst run defense. With 228 yards in a record day, it was his first performance over 100 yards in six games. He's annoying, injury prone and, occasionally, brilliant. He's also a RB2 by necessity in many leagues with owners struggling to trust him and the injury report.
4. The Spinal Tap Award: Just like the fictional roc doc, in which the band's drummers spontaneously combusted, there are a few fantasy positions that jogged the memory in that direction this holiday weekend.
A. The Lions running back position: The jury is out on Kevin Smith's ankle sprain, but it's the latest in running game setbacks for Detroit. The first was losing Mikel Leshoure to a torn Achilles in the first week of preseason. The second was Jahvid Best's concussion. Thanks to a dicey history and a papier-mâché melon, he was shut down Friday for his own good. The latest problem was Smith, the waiver wire phenom many an owner (ahem) jumped on post-haste following a breakout game against the Panthers.
B. The Texans quarterback position: Admit it, the words, "Matt Schaub" and "season-ending injury" seem to go together like the terms "Wall Street" and "bonuses." From the team that accidentally launched the career of Sage Rosenfels, Sunday's loss of Matt Leinart outdid even them. With Schaub out and Leinart now gone with a possible broken collarbone, it's time for hello, T.J. Yates. The Texans are now relying on a long-shot rookie for their playoff push (as are many a fantasy team that owns his teammates, see below), and it's hard to feel good about it.
5. The Fantasy Aftershock Award: The Texans, Bears and Chiefs all get a share of this one. All are relying on backup quarterbacks and they aren't the only ones. Here's a list of concerns for fantasy owners that has us all shook up.
The Chiefs: By now Steve Breaston owners should have gotten the point and have either benched or cut him, leaving Dwayne Bowe owners hanging in the balance. First the good news for Bowe -- 20 targets total the past two weeks. His 78-yard average and no scores the past two weeks are a little shakier -- especially given the New England bloodbath that was ripe for a garbage time TD. Bowe's stock is damaged, but he still carries value as low-grade WR2 and high-end WR3/flex play. At least Tyler Palko is looking for him based on targets. Whether he can get the ball there is another story.
The Texans: With the quarterback position in shambles, Arian Foster and newly healthy Andre Johnson are the most affected. Foster failed to rush for 100 yards Sunday, and Johnson hardly made a dent in the box score. Foster should be OK, but don't expect many super-powered, week-winning performances. Johnson might be relegated to flex status until Yates shows signs of coming around or self-destructs.
The Bears: Matt Forte owners, it's time to hit the panic button. Caleb Hanie's flameout should make you afraid. Very afraid. A two-game trend of Forte slowing down was already something to worry about. Now with Hanie (three interceptions, not to mention a botched spike play) at the helm, Forte looks like the main victim as the skid hits three games. Of course, it helps to touch the ball, and 12 carries for 59 yards just isn't going to cut it. Proceed with caution.
6. The Don't Pinch Me Award: I, for one, have been waiting all year for second-hand Redskins journeymen like Keiland Williams and Ryan Torain to fall by the wayside for the undervalued Roy Helu. Yesterday, Helu rocked the all-purpose ability with 162 total yards and had a highlight TD run, staking a claim for at least flex-play fantasy viability. Going forward, the former Cornhuskers star has to be the choice as the featured back -- which probably means coach Mike Shanahan will give him two carries next week.
7. The Art Imitating Life (or something like that) Award: San Diego kicker Nick Novak takes it here. Nothing says a coach has lost control of his team like his kicker urinating on the sideline during a game. Novak unintentionally symbolized the fantasy and real life fortunes of the flagging Chargers. Remember when Phillip Rivers was good and the only problem for fantasy owners was guessing what street free agent receiver was going to star for the Chargers thanks to Rivers' unstoppable passing game?
8. Fantasy Anomaly of the Week: DeAngelo Williams (two TDs) barely edges out Dustin Keller (two TDs) for this one. Williams has been next to useless this year (while the Jets TE has been at least startable) and outgained Keller with yards in a pair of crazily unpredictable performances.
• To Roddy White, welcome back. Benefiting from Ryan's increased production has been White, who after a brutal season is picking up the pace. Sunday's 120-yard performance made it two games in a row over 100 yards and three for the season (ouch). In the next few weeks he has a chance to salvage a tough year at the best possible fantasy time, the playoffs.
• Give the Eagles this much, at least Vince Young has been producing points in two games. Owners struggling for a waiver-wire starter due to the rash of starter injuries the past two weeks got a nice scoring bump from Young, who, if he had a little more receiver help, would have had two more TD passes against the Pats. No matter what state the Eagles are in, he makes a fine start against the Seahawks should Vick still be out Thursday.