December 14, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 14 Revelations
Brandon Marshall: Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Indianapolis 28, Denver 16
  • You have to give Brandon Marshall major props for calling his shot. During one of the Sunday pregame shows on TV (possibly ESPN), Marshall told a sideline reporter, off camera, that [today] was the day he'd rejoin the pantheon of the NFL's best receivers. Four hours later, after pulling down an NFL-record 21 catches for 200 yards and two TDs (breaking Terrell Owens' single-game mark), Marshall produced perhaps the greatest fantasy day for any wide receiver in 20 years ... right around the time Jerry Rice burned Atlanta's Charles Dimry for FIVE touchdowns at old Fulton-County Stadium! So, what does this all mean for Marshall in Weeks 15 (@ Oakland) and 16 (@ Philadelphia)? Well, that's where it gets tricky. Not only will the Raiders and Eagles likely pay extra-special attention to the enigmatic receiver ... but Marshall will also have to outmaneuver Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel in back-to-back weeks -- essentially cruel and unusual punishment for any gifted player. However, if Marshall should continue this amazing run during the fantasy playoffs, it'll give us cause to deify him as the No. 1 wide receiver for next year's Points Per Reception league drafts -- ahead of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Wes Welker and Reggie Wayne. That's high praise!

    As for the Colts, we'd like to formally apologize to Indy's Dallas Clark for not earning pictorial prominence in this week's Revelations. In most cases, receivers with three touchdown catches go straight to the front of the Clicks line. We'd also love to give more, um, love to Peyton Manning (220 passing yards, 4 TDs, 3 INTs) and RB Joseph Addai (116 total yards) ... but we're still knee-deep in historical comparisons involving Marshall. Perhaps we'll return to earth for Wednesday's Clicks -- just in time for Colts-Jags on Thursday night. (Here's a preview: Start Manning, Addai, Clark, Wayne and Pierre Garcon on national TV.)

  • Philadelphia 45, N.Y. Giants 38
  • At first blush, the Eagles' statistical production seems horribly mismatched with the actual 45 points on the Meadowlands scoreboard. Donovan McNabb threw for only 265 yards and two touchdowns. LeSean McCoy (54 total yards) and WR Jason Avant (zero catches) were noticeable nonfactors; and Michael Vick and Leonard Weaver vultured touchdowns from playmakers who are genuinely worth owning. But a closer look reveals the reason why Philly is still a good bet for the Super Bowl, even though Minnesota and New Orleans are the NFC's runaway favorites: The defense scored one touchdown, special teams (care of DeSean Jackson) posted a score ... and then Jackson (6 catches, 168 yards, 1 TD) and TE Brent Celek (5 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD) solidified their standing as the five best fantasy studs at their respective positions. Put it all together ... and there's plenty of justification for starting McNabb, Jackson, McCoy, Avant, Celek, the Philly defense or even Jeremy Maclin and Brian Westbrook in Weeks 15 (vs. San Francisco) and 16 (vs. Denver). In other words, who's gonna stop 'em?

    The Giants took the more traditional route to fantasy brilliance, although no one could've forecasted Eli Manning's 401 total yards (382 passing) and three touchdowns ... or Hakeem Nicks' 68-yard scoring catch/run -- just milliseconds after dropping two easy balls (including one sure-thing TD). In essence, this was the type of output fantasy owners have been expecting since Week 6 -- with no less than seven Giants having fantasy nights to behold: Manning; RBs Brandon Jacobs (69 yards, 1 TD) and Ahmad Bradshaw (101 total yards, 1 TD); WRs Steve Smith (7 catches, 74 yards), Nicks (4 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD), Domenik Hixon (1 catch, 61 yards, 1 TD) and TE Kevin Boss, who has at least 70 yards receiving and/or one touchdown in four of his last six games. All this begs the question: What lies ahead for the Giants and their Week 15 trek to Washington? Truth be told, we're a little nervous about recommending any Giants next week (Manning, Bradshaw aside) -- especially when compared to the Texans.

  • Houston 34, Seattle 7
  • Perhaps this is why Andre Johnson (11 catches, 193 yards, 2 TDs) was ranked ahead of Larry Fitzgerald in PPR drafts back in August. Perhaps this is why the Atlanta Falcons may have committed the personnel blunder of the decade in trading Matt Schaub (365 passing yards, 2 TDs) to Houston in the spring of 2007 (before Michael Vick's well-chronicled downfall). And unfortunately for Johnson and Schaub, perhaps this is why the Texans are staring at another .500 season and, of course, no playoffs. The message here: Houston still has a glaring lack of playmakers at the Nos. 2 and 3 receiver spots (sorry, Kevin Walter/Jacoby Jones); and this offseason, the club has some major decisions to make with running backs Steve Slaton and Ryan Moats (46 total yards, 1 TD vs. Seattle). Of course, since this is a fantasy column, no one cares about Houston's real-world existence or its 2010 prospects ... they just want to hear about how Schaub and Johnson are top-7 plays in Weeks 15 (@ St. Louis) and 16 (@ Miami) and how they could conceivably carry teams to a fantasy championship.

    Do you recall The Julius Rules from September? It was a time-tested Fantasy Clicks system where owners could only start Seahawks RB Julius Jones (43 total yards vs. Houston) against mediocre defenses for home games ... and divisional opponents on the road. Well, The Julius Rules apparently worked too well for Week 14 -- because no other Seattle player (Matt Hasselbeck excluded) eclipsed 75 yards in the team's eye-opening loss. In fact, the only fantasy bright spots dealt with Hasselbeck (247 passing yards, 1 TD) and RB Justin Forsett (73 total yards); and let's face it, folks ... neither player had anything to do with your team miraculously advancing to Week 15, aka, the fantasy semifinals. Speaking of which, fantasy owners can feel free to start Hasselbeck, Forsett, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (4 catches, 52 yards), Nate Burleson (3 catches, 50 yards) and even Lord Julius next week against Tampa Bay ... at home ... and with Sunday's debacle long forgotten by Seattle's schizophrenic playmakers.

  • New Orleans 26, Atlanta 23
  • It's getting to the point where Drew Brees is expected to throw for 300 yards and three TDs in every game -- home or away, rain or shine, pressure of maintaining a perfect season or no pressure of maintaining a perfect season. Two weeks ago against New England, Brees tallied five touchdowns and registered a perfect QB rating of 158.3 ... but we'd argue that Brees reached a greater level of perfection against the Falcons on Sunday -- if that's even possible. Flawless throw and flawless throw. Unflappable poise in the pocket; and absolutely zero doubts the Saints would pull out the road victory, even when holding a measly three-point lead. It goes without saying: Brees is an automatic lock to start/dominate Week 15 at home against the Cowboys. In fact, he should be the No. 1 quarterback for the week. The same may hold true for WR Marques Colston (6 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD), who'll undoubtedly have a field day against the Dallas secondary and might only be surpassed by Fitzgerald in fantasy production. Of course, if Colston cannot fulfill those expectations of grandeur, it's simply because Pierre Thomas (100 total yards), Reggie Bush (79 total yards, 2 TDs) and/or Robert Meachem ciphoned part or all of the jet fuel from the Saints' launching pad.

    The Falcons, in turn, should be commended for pressing on without the dynamic talents of QB Matt Ryan and RB Michael Turner, in the form of substitutes Chris Redman (303 yards passing, 1 TD) and Jason Snelling (102 total yards, 1 TD). But after last week's home shellacking at the hands of Philly, we're hard-pressed to find anyone who started the duo during the fantasy playoffs. After all, dance with the one who brung ya, right? Speaking of which ... Tony Gonzalez (6 catches, 50 yards) and WR Roddy White (2 catches, 41 yards) certainly fell flat against the Saints in Week 14; but they likely won't be benched, as a tandem, against the No. 1-ranked Jets (and Darrelle Revis) in Week 15. Chalk it up to name-brand loyalty.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Chris Johnson: Joe Robbins/Getty Images
    Tennessee 47, St. Louis 7
  • Mr. Johnson ... please come to the front desk and pick up your very-large Fantasy MVP trophy.
    It's not everyday you hear the word freakazoid used in NFL circles. But who among us can resist the temptation to hail Chris Johnson's output -- after just 13 games -- as the best fantasy season of this decade (besting Tom Brady (2007), Randy Moss (2007) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2006)? On Sunday, he amassed 186 total yards and three touchdowns, while singlehandedly staking the Titans to a 23-0 halftime lead. But truth be told, this might've been CJ's third-best performance of the year, lagging behind his 284-yard, 3-TD day in Week 2 and 228-rushing-yard, 2-TD effort in Week 8. If that doesn't say 'MVP' ... nothing does. And bonus, Johnson (2,017 total yards, 11 TDs in '09) is primed for fantasy greatness in Weeks 15 (vs. Miami) and 16 (vs. San Diego) -- both home games!

    As for the other Titans, the jury's still out on Vince Young's hamstring injury. But then again, it's not like Kenny Britt (2 catches, 75 yards), Nate Washington (3 catches, 54 yards), Alge Crumpler (4 catches, 41 yards, 1 TD) or Bo Scaife (4 catches, 43 yards) are strong locks for fantasy goodness in 10- or 12-team leagues for Weeks 15-16. If anything, those guys can only hope (pray?) that Johnson doesn't convert every one of his long runs/catches into touchdowns. But that's a lot to ask.

    Regarding the Rams, Week 14 marked the first time we could recall Steven Jackson being a nonfactor early in a game. He finished with 53 blah yards, giving fantasy owners some concern as to whether his back injury is getting cumbersome. At the very least, those same owners now have proper motivation to pluck backup RB Kenneth Darby (58 total yards) off midweek waivers ... just in case S-Jax misses a game or two. The same holds true for little-known WR Brandon Gibson (6 catches, 43 yards), who is morphing into a poor, poor man's Wes Welker with each passing week -- especially in PPR leagues. Unfortunately for Gibson, though, he'll never see the light of day in standard-scoring starting lineups -- at least until the St. Louis quarterbacks endure a complete overhaul ... starting with Sunday's punching bag du jour, Keith Null (157 yards passing, 1 TD, 5 INTs).

  • New England 20, Carolina 10
  • Yes, we could spend lots of time on Tom Brady (192 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), Laurence Maroney (111 total yards), Wes Welker (10 catches, 105 yards), Ben Watson (3 catches, 17 yards, 1 TD) or even the sneaky-good talents of RB Kevin Faulk (75 total yards, 1 TD). But let's be honest: The fantasy world can't move forward with the Patriots until we find clarity on the whole Randy Moss issue ... as in, What's the deal with the one catch for 16 yards? If this were any other year, we'd laugh off Moss's struggles in the last four weeks (11 catches, 183 yards, 2 TDs) and start him -- with high confidence -- in Weeks 15 (@ Buffalo) and 16 (vs. Jacksonville). But right here, right now ... something is amiss, whether Moss is pouting behind closed doors, clashing with coach Bill Belichick or Brady's trio of injuries are more serious than any Bostonian could imagine. Or maybe, just maybe, Father Time is beginning to catch up to the 32-year-old Moss. As for next week, he's nothing more than a flex consideration, especially if stifling crosswinds and/or heavy snow are buzzwords in Buffalo.

    Regarding the Panthers, we should have known that Jonathan Stewart (29 total yards) would continue his distubring trend of one-game-up/one-game-down. We should've known that J-Stew's amazing physical gifts are only surpassed by his maddening inconsistencies when running the ball. Furthermore, we should realize that Stewart can never be a franchise back without the capacity for catching multiple passes out of the backfield. Thank goodness Steve Smith (2 catches, 83 yards, 1 TD) and DeAngelo Williams (97 total yards) brought their B-plus games to Foxboro ... otherwise, we'd have no choice but to discuss QB Matt Moore's permanent fantasy ceiling of 220 yards/1 TD.

  • Washington 34, Oakland 13
  • From the sorry Rams to a personal mea culpa ... we'd like to apologize to Redskins RB Quinton Ganther for bashing his fantasy talents leading up to the Raiders game, especially on Twitter. Apparently, 93 total yards and two touchdowns was quite doable for a fourth-string tailback from the University of Utah. Apparently, Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright were mere cogs of Jim Zorn's invincible offensive machine, protected by an impervious O-line. And apparently, Chris Cooley might have to find work elsewhere next year, now that Fred Davis (3 catches, 50 yards, 2 TDs) has become the District of Columbia's new favorite son at tight end. Here's one thing we won't apologize for: We're not sorry that Jason Campbell (242 total yards, 2 TDs) has remained on two of our so-called-expert league rosters all season ... despite never getting a non-bye-week starting nod over Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers.

    It's been said many times, many ways in recent weeks: The Raiders, even with Bruce Gradkowski at the helm and a never-say-die spirit for road games, are still a fantasyland mess. How else could one explain Darren McFadden cracking the century mark for the first time this season -- off 84 receiving yards? And how else could we possibly explain that JaMarcus Russell -- yes, THAT JaMarcus Russell! -- had twice as many receptions as Louis Murphy (1 catch, 8 yards) ... and more than twice the receiving yards on Sunday?

  • N.Y. Jets 26, Tampa Bay 3
  • From Chris Johnson and Brandon Marshall ... we salute our third and final player to dominate his own team in fantasy Week 14: Thomas Jones. Against Tampa Bay, Jones rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns, almost tripling the output of any other non-QB playmaker for New York. In fact, only lightly regarded Danny Woodhead managed seven or more touches for the entire game -- out-toting Braylon Edwards (3 catches, 37 yards), Jerricho Cotchery (1 catch, 26 yards), Shonn Greene (41 rushing yards) and TE Dustin Keller (1 catch, 3 yards), whose fall from fantasy grace has been nothing short of astonishing. Obviously, Jones is the only must-start among the Jets for Week 15 (vs. Atlanta), even though another suspect NFC defense is on the docket.

  • At this point in the fantasy season, it's sometimes nice to cut through the Revelations b.s. and simply focus on a team ... in 40 words or less. So here we go: There is absolutely no excuse for starting any Bucs playmaker aside from Antonio Bryant or Kellen Winslow in Week 15 at Seattle. In fact, any fantasy flirtation with Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, Josh Freeman or Maurice Stovall would be pure madness! (Oh shoot ... 41 words ... and we didn't even find room to mention Tampa Bay's 124 yards of total offense. We also couldn't squeeze in the Bucs' total-yardage count against the two New York teams this year: 210!)

  • San Diego 20, Dallas 17
  • Instead of crying in our beers over the 10-10 score after three quarters, in a game pitting two of the NFL's most dynamic offenses, we've chosen to lament the Chargers' positives, such as: Vincent Jackson's slump-busting breakout (7 catches, 120 yards) and LaDainian Tomlinson's 59 total yards and one score. We'll even extend hearty props to QB Philip Rivers (272 yards passing, 1 TD) and TE Antonio Gates (4 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD). After that, perhaps we were right to save the Start Your Chargers battle cry until Christmas Day against Tennessee.

    The Cowboys, for the most part, posted better fantasy numbers than the 17 points suggest. From Tony Romo (249 passing yards, 2 TDs) and Felix Jones (53 total yards) to Miles Austin (6 catches, 71 yards, 1 TD) and Roy Williams (4 catches, 74 yards) ... it was a passable performance for all, with few negative consequences carrying over to Week 15 (@ New Orleans -- a bona fide shootout). But enough about that: We're curious to know how many playoff games were won/lost on Patrick Crayton's garbage-time-supreme TD with just two ticks left ... and San Diego assured of victory? Perhaps this is why there are no bathroom breaks in fantasyland.

  • Revelations, Book III
    Adrian Peterson: Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI
    Minnesota 30, Cincinnati 10
  • On a day when no tailback rushed for triple digits ... or no pass-catcher eclipsed 50 receiving yards ... and the seemingly immortal Brett Favre needed an 8-yard run just to reach the 200-yard mark, the Vikings still finished with 30 points against one of the NFL's better defenses. So, does that mean Favre (192 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT), Adrian Peterson (137 total yards, 2 TDs), Sidney Rice (4 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD), RB Chester Taylor (57 total yards), WR Percy Harvin (inactive -- migraines) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe (2 catches, 19 yards) are automatic locks for fantasy goodness in Weeks 15 (@ Carolina) and 16 (@ Chicago). If the weather is good for either game (read: minimal winds and light snow) ... they're all must-starts for the playoffs (minus Taylor). If not, then you're probably better off starting one of the Bengals' Big Three in their stead (minus Peterson).

    Oh sure, Carson Palmer (104 total yards, 1 TD) might've done enough damage in one day to scare off owners from starting in Weeks 15-17 ... but ya gotta love Cincinnati's dates with San Diego (in sunny SoCal!) and Kansas City (does it matter where this one's played?) in the next two weeks. Hence, he's a starting consideration next Sunday -- assuming your fantasy team is still alive. The same holds true for RB Cedric Benson (100 total yards) and Chad Ochocinco (3 catches, 27 yards, 1 TD) ... but that's where the Bengals' gravy train comes to a sudden stop -- regardless of your misguided faith in Andre Caldwell (4 catches, 25 yards) or Brian Leonard (18 total yards).

  • Green Bay 21, Chicago 14
  • For those who don't believe that Ryan Grant is a top-5 fantasy back in the latter half of any season ... we'd like to submit his 144-yard, 2-TD outing against the Bears as Exhibit A. And for those who don't believe that TE Jermichael Finley (5 catches, 70 yards) should be a starter for next week's fantasy semifinals against Pittsburgh ... we're willing to guarantee 4 catches/60 yards/1 TD against the Steelers -- regardless of snow, wind, sleet, rain or how bad the Hines Field playing surface will be. As for QB Aaron Rodgers (180 passing yards, zero TDs) and WR Greg Jennings (3 catches, 56 yards), their pedestrian numbers would have been more palatable, if the officials hadn't missed Jennings' TD catch in the first quarter. Damn!

    On the flip side ... there aren't too many encouraging signs with the Bears and their phalanx of fantasy poseurs: Yes, Jay Cutler threw for 209 yards and two scores, but no self-respecting fantasy owner would possibly start him at Baltimore next week. Yes, Johnny Knox pulled down five catches for 83 yards and one touchdown ... but he's nothing more than a deeper-league consideration at this point. And we'd love to give out hearty endorsements for Matt Forte (68 total yards) and Greg Olsen (2 catches, 14 yards) for Week 15 ... but that would require the Bears coaches to think creatively with their two biggest playmakers. Yikes!

  • Baltimore 48, Detroit 3
  • Go ahead and do the math ... we know you're dying to figure out Ray Rice's averages from his 17-touch, 219-yard, 1-TD outing against the sad-sack Lions; and once you've done all the long division, TRY your hardest not be blown away by a player who'd be a shoo-in for 2009 Fantasy MVP -- if Chris Johnson was born 10 years later or Brett Favre hadn't unretired for a second time. How good was Rice (166 rushing yards) on Sunday? For starters, he probably carried 95 percent of his owners to the fantasy semifinals; perhaps more amazingly, he managed to dwarf the stellar production of fellow Ravens like: WR Derrick Mason (5 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD), QB Joe Flacco (232 total yards, 1 TD) and RB Willis McGahee (78 total yards, 2 TDs). (And yes, we've decided NOT to gloat too much about predicting McGahee's two scores in last week's Clicks.)

    As for the comical Lions, there's nothing more to say, really. You already know that Calvin Johnson (4 catches, 37 yards) has difficulty getting open when hounded by FIVE Baltimore defenders on any given play. You already know that RB Kevin Smith (88 total yards) is the NFL's quietest lock for 80-plus yards from week to week. And you already know that Matthew Stafford will be a top-5 fantasyland QB in 2011 ... and that sitting out a game in '09 (separated left shoulder) won't affect that proclamation. Here's something you may not have known: At the ripen age of 32, Daunte Culpepper (146 total yards, zero TDs, 2 INTs) actually has the physical/mental stamina to survive an entire 60-minute meltdown ... even though he should've been replaced midway through the third quarter. Oh, the irony!

  • Buffalo 16, Kansas City 10
  • Speaking of the Lions (one last time, we promise) ... did you know that Detroit tried to move heaven and earth on Draft Day 2007 to land Ray Rice in Round 2? And then with a 10-hour break to mull over the first pick of Round 3, the Lions passed on Jamaal Charles and selected Kevin Smith instead? Ouch! Perhaps this is why Matt Millen (mercifully) returned to the broadcasting booth ... and why the Chiefs are cautiously optimistic that Charles (181 total yards, 1 TD vs. Buffalo) will be the torchbearer for the franchise's revival -- sometime in 2010 or '11. After all, what's not to like about a guy who's a lead-pipe cinch for one TD every game ... and a good bet to lead Kansas City in rushing/receiving yards in Weeks 15 (vs. Cleveland) and 16 (@ Cincinnati). In fact, Charles just might be the No. 2 tailback in all of fantasyland next week -- behind (surprise!) Chris Johnson.

    Regarding the Bills, yes, they prevailed on the scoreboard. But there's little to celebrate on the fantasy tote board -- aside from Fred Jackson's expected output of 122 total yards. We're not even going to scream and shout about Terrell Owens' scoring catch or Marshawn Lynch's 94 total yards from out of the blue. Bottom line: If Buffalo can only muster 273 yards against the AFC's worst defense, what chance does it have against New England in Week 15? If fantasy owners are searching for a ray of hope here, it begins and ends with F-Jax at running back ... at the flex spot.

  • Miami 14, Jacksonville 10
  • Here's all you need to know about the Dolphins: Wide receiver Davone Bess (3 catches, 22 yards) wants to be The Man in Miami's passing offense -- and yet he's too erratic to start from week to week. And Ricky Williams (115 total yards, 1 TD) doesn't want to be The Man in the wake of Ronnie Brown's season-ending injury -- even though he's the Fins' most consistent performer. That leaves us with QB Chad Henne (221 total yards, 1 rushing TD) and WR Greg Camarillo (7 catches, 110 yards) ... both of whom should be starting considerations -- next year. Out of whack, huh?

  • Last but not least, we end with a question: Is Maurice Jones-Drew (83 total yards, 1 TD) running out of gas for the stretch run, or have defenses finally figured out the Jaguars -- much like their home base of Jacksonville -- are a one-horse operation (or major sports city)? Oh sure, Torry Holt (2 catches, 71 yards) has a Halley's Comet-esque penchant for causing a fantasy stir every now and then; and WR Mike Sims-Walker (1 catch, 6 yards) has the potential for 100 yards when fully healthy. But from here on out, it's MJD's show to win ... or lose. Unless you believe QB David Garrard (167 total yards, zero TDs) is simply saving his energy for the Jags' first home sellout of the season (or so it seems) -- Thursday against the 13-0 Colts.

    Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
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