December 08, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 14 Revelations
Pierre Thomas (left) and Reggie Bush: AP
New Orleans 29, Atlanta 25
  • If you're a fantasy owner of multiple Saints stars -- like QB Drew Brees, RBs Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and WRs Marques Colston and/or Lance Moore -- how's that knot in your stomach doing right now? The consternation, no doubt, stems from the club's Thursday night roadie in Chicago, where the Saints' indoor-friendly offense will likely confront snow, cold, wind, rain or sleet -- in addition to the Bears' swarming defense. But at least New Orleans enters the showdown at full strength (Exhibit A -- Bush's 106-yard, 1-TD effort against Atlanta) and in full playoff contention, giving me hope of a sneaky-sweet night of fantasy goodness. But if that's not enough for the nervous-nelly owner, here's one more soothing thought: If your team should somehow survive Week 15, the Saints play the Lions in Week 16. Cha-ching!

    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
  • Speaking of the Chiefs, I cannot help but wonder how many fantasy-playoff games were won or lost, based on Tyler Thigpen's brave, but futile sprint to the end zone (or, more specifically, the Denver 1) on 4th-and-goal ... with just seconds to spare in the game? On the day, Thipgen racked up 221 total yards and one touchdown, while missing TD No. 2 by one-half arm length. Ouch! Kansas City's other contingent of stars -- like Bowe, Tony Gonzalez (5 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD) and Larry Johnson (36 total yards) -- had varying degrees of success against the Broncos ... but don't let that deter you for Weeks 15 (vs. San Diego) and 16 (vs. Miami). You'll want 'em in your starting lineup. You'll need 'em in your starting lineup!

    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
  • What's the bigger miracle from Sunday involving Matt Schaub -- that he threw for 414 yards just one week after returning from a semi-serious knee injury ... or that he attempted 42 passes at c-c-c-c-cold Lambeau Field (gametime wind chill: 8 degrees) without his right arm falling off in the post-game? No one has more man-love for Schaub than I do (especially when Andre Johnson is red-hot), but I would have never pegged him for 414 and two touchdowns -- and in a tight-knit game, as well. Of course, Schaub's amazing return was heavily aided by the clutch production of Johnson (4 catches, 55 yards, 1 TD, 1 2-pointer), Kevin Walter (6 catches, 146 yards, 1 TD), TE Owen Daniels (6 catches, 65 yards) and rookie RB Steve Slaton (160 total yards) ... which leads one to the following question: Will any of this fantasy goodness from the Green Bay game carry over to Tennessee in Week 15? I say, "Yes ... er, maybe ... um, get back to me on Wednesday."

    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
  • The box score in Monday's paper will say Kurt Warner "only" threw for 279 yards and one touchdown in the Cardinals' NFC West-clinching win against the Rams, but the former (and future?) MVP actually had 227 yards at halftime and could have broken the hallowed 500-yard mark in a tighter-scoring game. But maybe, just maybe it'll be a hidden blessing (is there such a thing?) for fantasy owners, since Warner will likely throw early and often in next week's showdown with the playoff-contending Vikings. Speaking of which ... would you rather have the Cards' receiving trio of Larry Fitzgerald (6 catches, 73 yards, 1 TD vs. St. Louis), Anquan Boldin (1,004 yards, 11 TDs in '08) and Steve Breaston (7 catches, 90 yards) or Minnesota's fantastic triumvirate of Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Jake Reed, circa 1998? Call me crazy ... but I'll take Fitz/Boldin/Breaston -- assuming Warner's working under center.

    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.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Brian Westbrook: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
    Philadelphia 20, N.Y. Giants 14
  • How's this for an extreme reversal of fortune: Two weeks ago, in the fantasyland trade market (where deals are still accepted), you could've landed Brian Westbrook (coming off sluggish outings against Cincy and Baltimore) for a name-brand receiver like Dwayne Bowe and a bag of Titleists; whereas Brandon Jacobs (coming off a thrashing of the Ravens) would have been deemed an "untouchable," in the class of Adrian Peterson or Drew Brees. Fast forward two games ... where Jacobs is now the "sell, sell, sell" option and Westbrook has quickly catapulted to rock star-status -- on the strength of a four-TD night against Arizona on Turkey Day and, perhaps more impressively, his 203-yard, 2-TD day against the defending champion Giants in Week 14. Through Jacobs and Westbrook's divergent flow charts, we (sort of) learn how the fantasy world -- as we know it -- can change in an instant. But that cannot, and will not, deter me from predicting more greatness for Westbrook in Week 15 against Cleveland. Let's see, the impetuous youth from within wants to shout "190 yards and two TDs" for Westy ... but the rational fantasy honk in me says "160 yards and one TD" -- essentially the same numbers (vs. Cleveland) posted by one lightning-fast rookie on Sunday.

  • Tennessee 28, Cleveland 9
  • At the risk of jumping too far ahead, Titans RB Chris Johnson seems like a mortal lock for the top five in next year's fantasy drafts (along with Peterson, Westbrook, LaDainian Tomlinson and Tom Brady/Steven Jackson), even though he shares the rushing load with the biggest TD vulture since the days of USC football and Reggie Bush, circa 2005. I know LenDale White (101 total yards, 1 TD on Sunday) serves a great purpose for Tennessee as a punishing between-the-tackles runner, and I realize his presence ensures a healthy, rested Johnson throughout his rookie campaign. But it's December now, for crimedy sakes, and I would love to know if Johnson (166 yards, 1 TD vs. Cleveland) has the right stuff to collect 200 yards and three touchdowns in a single game (preferably Week 16 at Indy) ... before next August. How's that for a self-serving rant? As for the Browns ... it's very hard to endorse any of the remaining contributors in Weeks 15 (@ Tennessee) or even 16 (vs. Cincinnati) -- partly because Ken Dorsey (150 yards passing, zero TDs) stands as the No. 1 QB and partly because I saw an unnamed player booking his post-season vacation online during one of the long TV timeouts on Sunday. (Kidding!)

  • San Francisco 24, N.Y. Jets 14
  • No offense to QB Shaun Hill or WRs Isaac Bruce (6 catches, 70 yards vs. the Jets) and Bryant Johnson (6 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD), but the 49ers' fantasy revelance begins and ends with Frank Gore and his now-tender ankle. Before leaving early to injury, Gore racked up 65 total yards and one touchdown against the Jets, while setting the tone for San Francisco's upset victory. If Gore is a healthy go this week in practice, he should post stellar numbers against the easy-cheesy likes of Miami (Week 15) and St. Louis (Week 16). If he is resigned to wearing street clothes for the next two games, it'll have an adverse effect on Hill's passing stats -- since opposing teams will be keying the pass and giving little respect to DeShaun Foster, Gore's backup.

    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
  • I'm not a gambling man, per se, but I would have lost a good chunk of change betting the "under" on whether Cowboys third-string RB Tashard Choice would total 150 yards against the stout Steelers run defense ... amid high winds and icy-cold temps at Heinz Field. But Choice, a rookie from Georgia Tech, tallied 166 yards (88 rushing), while almost leading his club to a season-defining win in Pittsburgh. Instead, Choice, Tony Romo (210 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs) and Terrell Owens (32 yards, 1 TD) face a must-have game in Week 15 (against the Giants) ... right before fantasy owners are placed in the awkward position of reluctantly starting the Dallas playmakers against the NFL's best defense (Baltimore in Week 16). Regarding the Steelers ... think of them as the AFC's fantasyland version of the Saints: If they can perform reasonably well against the Titans next week, they'll receive a substantial gift from the scheduling gods in Week 16 -- in the form of the feckless Browns.

  • Baltimore 24, Washington 10
  • It's taken me 13 weeks to learn a very valuable lesson about the Ravens' prospects: Instead of trumpeting Willis McGahee, LeRon McClain, Derrick Mason or rookie QB Joe Flacco (145 total yards, 1 TD) for fantasy goodness, the Baltimore defense is the only certifiable threat -- or dare I say "lock" -- to earn 15 fantasy points each week; and Sunday night's Beltway clash with the Redskins was no different. Behind all-world safety Ed Reed (3 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 INT-TD return, 1 forced fumble) and future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis (10 tackles, 1 sack), Baltimore's defense collected 19 fantasy points ... and singlehandedly booted my team (Count Chocula's Henchmen) from the SI & Friends league playoffs (thanks, Jeff Ritter). As for the 'Skins, yes, they looked awful against the Ravens ... but doesn't everybody? And now, through the graceful hand of the scheduling gods, they also have a chance to get healthy fast, via the lowly Bengals. But a word of caution: Philadelphia only scored 13 points at Cincinnati a few weeks ago.
  • Quick-Hitting Revelations
    Peyton Manning: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
    Indianapolis 35, Cincinnati 3
  • Hmmmm ... you'd think with 35 points and Peyton Manning flinging the ball around 30-plus times, the Colts' stud playmakers would have posted all-world fantasy numbers. But aside from Marvin Harrison (3 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD) and maybe, maybe TE Dallas Clark (4 catches, 29 yards, 1 TD), the whole day just reeked of mediocrity. But help is on the way for Joseph Addai (40 total yards) and Reggie Wayne (5 catches, 48 yards) ... in the form of the still-winless Lions next week at Lucas Oil Stadium. Assuming he's healthy and backup Dom Rhodes (43 total yards, 1 TD) can keep his "vulturing" to a minimum, I fully expect Addai to collect 110 yards AND two scores against Detroit. As for the Bengals ... I have a few positives: Ryan Fitzpatrick, when presented with time to throw, has some serious cheese on his fastball. And, for the owners who didn't jump ship on the Striped Divas long ago, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (8 catches, 75 yards) and Chad Ocho Cinco (5 catches, 79 yards) are still putting up solid stats and playing without a hint of laziness for a 1-11-1 club.

  • Minnesota 20, Detroit 16
  • I've got a real Hamlet thing going on with WR Calvin Johnson these days: To regularly start a guy whose team stinks and targets (the number of times he's thrown to) are dropping ... or not to start an athletic freakazoid who is literally a threat to score on every pass play -- whether from two yards in or 99 yards away? Thankfully, I ignored the little voice from within and gave CJ yet another shot against the Vikings; and he rewarded that, ahem, loyalty with a 70-yard scoring catch from Daunte Culpepper in the third quarter. On the day, Calvin only caught three balls for 84 yards, but after the C-Pep bomb ... who cares?

    In the & 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
  • Outside of kickers Robbie Gould (Chicago) and Josh Scobee (Jacksonville), you had zero excuse for starting anyone not named Matt Forte or Maurice Jones-Drew in the fantasy playoffs -- even for one of those quirky Loser's Bracket tourneys. So, who cares if Kyle Orton threw two touchdowns or that David Garrard could barely complete 50 percent of his passes amid the bitter-cold temps at Soldier Field? And does it really matter that Greg Olsen scored a touchdown, long after everyone stopped pimping him as The Next Great Tight End? (I didn't think so.) Here's all you need to know about Weeks 15-16: Even on a so-called off day, Forte (106 total yards vs. Jacksonville) is still a virtual lock for 10 fantasy points (in standard-scoring leagues) and remains a must-start in Chicago's final two home tilts (New Orleans, Green Bay). MJD's outlook is similarly stellar during this period, as Jacksonville entertains two suspect defenses (Green Bay, Indy) at home -- although he'll be hard-pressed to eclipse his Sunday output (102 total yards, 1 TD). But then again, he's long overdue for a kick-return TD.

  • Miami 16, Buffalo 3
  • For what it's worth, Davone Bess (9 catches, 74 yards vs. Buffalo) has officially passed Ted Ginn Jr. (1 catch, 18 yards) as the Dolphins' most viable fantasy receiver -- at least with Greg Camarillo (the Wes Welker clone) out for the season. And I fully expect Bess to be a serious threat for the WR3 slot in your starting lineup, factoring in Miami's easy-cheesy schedule in Week 15 (vs. San Francisco) and 16 (at Kansas City). For what it's worth, part two, you'd be crazy to start any Buffalo playmaker down the fantasy-playoff stretch ... unless we're talking about Marshawn Lynch (35 total yards vs. Miami) against Denver in Week 16. Thanks to the regression of backup QB J.P. Losman (123 yards, zero TDs), I feel compelled -- wait, obligated -- to give WR Lee Evans a permanent spot on the bench.

  • New England 24, Seattle 21
  • From a fantasyland perspective, the Seahawks completely dominated this game, boasting the better quarterback (Seneca Wallace -- 259 total yards and three TDs), the better runner (Maurice Morris -- 58 total yards), the better tight end (John Carlson -- 8 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD) and more electifying receiver (Branch and his 4-catch, 88-yard, 2-TD day). And yet, the Patriots walked away with another classic how-did-they-do-that victory ... which begs the question: When New England travels to Oakland next week, which receiver will all-world cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha cover the entire game -- Randy Moss (3 catches, 56 yards vs. Seattle) or Wes Welker (12 catches, 134 yards)? Whomever doesn't draw Asomugha automatically becomes a must-start in Week 15. Good luck on figuring out which one that'll be before 4 p.m. EST next Sunday.
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