December 15, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 15 Revelations
Randy Moss: Greg Trott/Getty Images
New England 49, Oakland 26
  • I could take the Patriots' surprise beatdown of the Raiders in a million different directions -- like how does Sammy Morris rumble for 117 yards and one touchdown on any NFL team, or how is Wes Welker (6 catches, 69 yards, 1 TD) anything less than a Round 2 pick in Points Per Reception league drafts next year, or how can any NFL general manager deny interest in free-agent-to-be Matt Cassel (two 400-yard games and four 3-TD-plus games in '08) during the winter months? Instead, I will focus on the ex-Raider, Randy Moss, who was probably salivating for a chance to disparage Oakland and its fans for ever doubting his greatness. Do you realize he grabbed his ninth and 10th touchdowns of the season on Sunday? For all the negative talk surrounding Randy and how he'd succeed in a World Without Brady, Moss (5 catches, 67 yards, 1 TD vs. Oakland) ranks third in TD catches behind Anquan Boldin and Calvin Johnson (both 11). And assuming Tom Brady returns to the fold in '09 healthy and ready for action, I would expect Moss to go for 1,200 yards and 13-14 TDs -- at the ripe, old age of 32.

    Regarding the Raiders ... congrats to QB JaMarcus Russell for his 242-yard, 2-TD effort in the rain; but he'll need an extremely strong finish to even warrant a mid-round draft pick in 2009. Minor kudos are also extended to RB Justin Fargas (70 rushing yards), TE Zach Miller (5 catches for 60 yards) and RB Darren McFadden (114 total yards, 1 TD) -- although I'm a little leery over D-Mac's penchant for catching balls instead of running off-tackle, up the gut. Memo to whichever Al Davis lackey gets the head coaching job next year: The Raiders can only become consistent winners once McFadden logs the majority of carries and averages 22-25 touches per game. It's as simple as that.

  • Minnesota 35, Arizona 14
  • Speaking of underrated quarterbacks throwing four TDs ... what was the bigger Sunday miracle involving the Vikings: That Tarvaris Jackson (163 passing yards, 4 TDs) racked up his TD-count on only 11 completions OR that only six Minnesota receviers caught a ball, with none catching more than four? When it comes to who starts next week for the likely NFC North champs -- Jackson or Gus Frerotte -- I believe either one should fare well against Atlanta. Along those lines, Adrian Peterson should also post strong numbers in Week 16, although owners shouldn't expect another 165-yard day against the Falcons' sneaky-good defense (maybe 140).

    As for the Cardinals ... Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston combined for only 15 catches and 132 yards, a stunning flameout considering the Vikings' pass defense is more opportunistic than stout; and Kurt Warner (270 passing yard, 1 TD) fell short of my pie-in-the-sky projection of 350 yards and two touchdowns. But there's no reason to believe Arizona's four studs -- plus slumping RB Tim Hightower -- won't turn on the jets against New England in Week 16 -- unless the Foxboro weather is equal parts rain, snow, sleet, wind or just plain ugly.

  • Indianapolis 31, Detroit 21
  • After watching Dallas Clark (12 catches, 142 yards, 1 TD), Reggie Wayne (7 catches for 104 yards), Dominic Rhodes and some random cat named Chad Simpson (one rushing TD) register stellar numbers against Detroit, I wonder if Indy RB Joseph Addai is kicking himself for missing this one? The injured star surely could've duplicated Rhodes' 116-yard, 2-TD day against the still-winless Lions ... and maybe, just maybe he might've surpassed Clark's total-yardage effort in the Colts' seventh straight win. And then there's Old Reliable, Peyton Manning, whose 318-yard, 1-TD outing may have fallen short in some estimates ... but the bottom line is this: If your fantasy club didn't advance to the Super Bowl, I doubt Peyton is to blame. Maybe Calvin Johnson ultimately killed your chances, thus helping your opponent, with yet another touchdown.

    Speaking of Calvin ... there is no hotter receiver -- or NFL player, for that matter -- getting less press than No. 81 these days, and rightfully so, given Detroit's devilish dance with an unprecedented 0-16 season. In his last 10 games, Johnson (9 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD vs. Indy) has scored eight touchdowns, while racking up at least 65 receiving yards in nine of those losing tilts. But there's more to the Lions: Rookie RB Kevin Smith (119 total yards, 1 TD) continues to feast on the opposition, while simultaneously bolstering his resume for the '09 fantasy drafts; and QB Dan Orlovsky (233 yards, 1 TD) can be a decent fantasy No. 2 guy next year ... provided he's The Man and not Drew Stanton ... or even University of Georgia star Matthew Stafford, the likely No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

  • San Diego 22, Kansas City 21
  • Here's what I don't understand about Philip Rivers: He can throw for 349 yards and two TDs in a wet windstorm against Kansas City -- like he did on Sunday -- and he can fall short of the 150-yard mark on a crystal-clear SoCal day against Atlanta -- like he did two weeks ago. Granted, the Falcons' defense is marginally better than the Chiefs' ... but still, what's with the maddening inconsistency during fantasy crunch time? Speaking of running hot and cold, Vincent Jackson (6 catches, 89 yards, 1 TD) had another top-shelf game, Antonio Gates (7 catches for 78 yards) recovered from his Week 15 goose egg and Darren Sproles (11 total yards) disappeared into thin air after disarming Oakland the week before. In my mind, neither Rivers, Jackson nor Sproles is a must-start in Week 16 against Tampa Bay ... but LaDainian Tomlinson (74 yards, 1 TD vs. Kansas City) is a definite starter next week. After all, that's why you drafted him No. 1 overall back in August, right?

    Regarding the Chiefs ... there's really nothing new to report. Tony Gonzalez (6 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD vs. San Diego) is the redoubtable No. 1 tight end in fantasyland, WR Dwayne Bowe (6 catches, 44 yards, 1 TD) should be a top-40 pick in '09, Tyler Thigpen (211 total yards, 2 TDs) remains a No. 2 QB option for the foreseeable future and Larry Johnson -- despite his recent struggles -- is a solid candidate for 120 yards and one touchdown in Week 16 against Miami. Just don't expect him to throw another TD pass.
  • Revelations, Book II
    Andre Johnson: AP
    Houston 13, Tennessee 12
  • Is there anything to say about Andre Johnson that hasn't already been said? Not only did A.J. pull down 11 catches for a Texans-record 207 yards on Sunday ... but, perhaps more importantly, the man also won a reasonably permanent spot in my heart -- meaning I promise to take him as my first wide receiver in every fantasy draft for next five years. That's another half-decade of owning the best possession receiver, the best first-down receiver, the best third-down receiver and the best red-zone guy in the biz -- all rolled in one. Of course, all this buildup would be stupid if I was sitting him against Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha (the NFL's best shut-down corner) in Week 16. That'll be one heckvua matchup, but one that ends with Johnson grabbing 8-9 balls for 90-110 yards and, of course, one touchdown. As for Tennessee, I can see where someone would loathe any playmaker against Pittsburgh next week -- even rookie burner Chris Johnson (67 total yards vs. Houston). But with all apologies to's Andrew Perloff, I'm going to go against the grain and say that CJ will finally crack the Steelers' stingy run defense -- to the tune of 140 total yards and maybe two touchdowns. In my mind, the Titans are due for a breakout effort ... and CJ -- not LenDale White -- should be the catalyst to the franchise's homefield-clinching victory.

  • Carolina 30, Denver 10
  • Strange but true: I have never owned Steve Smith in any fantasy league before, although it's hardly from a lack of trying. If you recall over the summer, just days after his two-game suspension (for belting teammate Ken Lucas in practice), I implored the loyal Clicks reader to seize the day and grab Smith early in drafts -- suspension be damned -- based on the Panthers' easy-cheesy schedule from Weeks 3-17. And true to form, a healthy and highly motivated Smith (9 catches, 165 yards, 1 TD vs. Denver) has been a one-man wrecking crew for opposing defenses that key too much on DeAngelo Williams (91 total yars, 1 TD) and Jonathan Stewart. Of Carolina's gruesome twosome -- Smith and Williams -- I think the wide receiver has a better chance of demoralizing the Giants for big, big gains in Week 16, the de facto NFC Game of the Year (think 130 yards and one touchdown). As for the Broncos ... they'll get yet another shot at clinching the AFC West, this time against the Bills in Week 16. It goes without saying, QB Jay Cutler (172 yards passing, 1 TD) and WRs Brandon Marshall (5 catches for 48 yards) and Eddie Royal should rebound in a major way at home -- especially against a club that seemingly folded up their playoff tent about five weeks ago.

  • N.Y. Jets 31, Buffalo 27
  • File this one under "C" for curveball, but I absolutely love the Jets playmakers as fantasy starts in Week 16 against the Seahawks (weather permitting, of course). Sure, Seattle has its last home game of the Mike Holmgren era, and the players will be amped-up to send the old coach out on a positive note; but Gang Green has soooooo much to play for next week, and that kind of motivation usually trumps anything a team playing out the proverbial string could possibly achieve. Just to clarify, I see no harm in giving Brett Favre (234 total yards, 1 TD vs. Buffalo), Thomas Jones (82 total yards, 1 TD), Laveranues Coles (6 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD) and Dustin Keller the starting nods. I'd even ponder giving Leon Washington a start -- particularly if your league rewards punt- or kick-return TDs. Speaking of playing out the string, if you haven't jumped ship on every Bills player by now, aside from Marshawn Lynch (140 total yards, 0 TDs) ... what are you waiting for? This is not the time to suddenly find religion with Fred Jackson; this is not the time to search for the alleged goodness in J.P. Losman (165 total yards, 1 TD) and it's certainly not the time to believe Lee Evans will post that once-in-a-season game in Week 16. Even if they are playing the Swiss-cheese-like Broncos.

  • Cincinnati 20, Washington 13
  • Only a hard-core Harvard University alum who lives in the Greater Cincinnati area would have started Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fantasy playoffs ... so what's the point of discussing his 238-yard, 2-TD day, you ask? Well, if I was rebuilding my own NFL team from relative scratch, I would trade for Fitzpatrick after free-agent-to-be Matt Cassel (4 TDs against the Raiders on Sunday) got too expensive on the open market. Sure, Fitz is still a long-term project in the realm of Tyler Thigpen or Seneca Wallace, but he has immense potential down the road, kind of like Rich Gannon had about 20 years ago -- long before he became NFL MVP. As for the Redskins ... so much for all the hype surrounding Clinton Portis (83 total yards, 0 TDs) -- but hey, at least he didn't separate his shoulder in this trip to Paul Brown Stadium. That aside, Portis, Santana Moss (7 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD) and TE Chris Cooley (6 catches, 51 yards) are all solid plays at home against Philly in Week 16.

  • Dallas 20, N.Y. Giants 8
  • You know, for an 11-3 team that could easily win back-to-back Super Bowls come February, there is not one healthy Giants player -- including QB Eli Manning (191 yards, 0 TDs vs. Dallas) -- that I'd willingly start in Week 16 against the Panthers. I don't care if the game's at the Meadowlands, or that Derrick Ward (66 total yards) is probably a better lead back than what he showed on Sunday night ... there's no way I'm taking the bait, at least until Brandon Jacobs returns to the lineup. Regarding the Cowboys, how about rookie RB Tashard Choice, eh? In two games as Marion Barber's stand-in, he's racked up 309 total yards and one touchdown ... the kind of numbers that should squeeze Barber back into a full-time role. But then again, it might not matter to their next opponent: the Ravens. It might not matter that Tony Romo (244 yards, 2 TDs) is obviously much stronger at home; it might not matter that Terrell Owens (just 38 total yards) plays better when he's in a dysfunctional relationship and it might not matter Roy E. Williams -- the $45 million man -- remains a solid jump-ball-at-the-goal-line threat, even though his skills have sharply declined. Does that amazing trade count as a "win" for Detroit?
  • Quick-Hitting Revelations
    Michael Turner/Photo Courtesy of Icon SMI
    Atlanta 13, Tampa Bay 10 (OT)
  • Isn't it funny how the best real-life games usually make for the worst ones in fantasyland? But this clash involving division rivals had a knack for fantasy flair, the kind not often found in 23-point games. Exhibit A: Michael Turner. The ex-Charger ran for 152 yards (his seventh 100-yard-plus game) and one touchdown and absolutely could not be stopped on the Falcons' game-winning FG drive in overtime. Exhibit B: Antonio Bryant. The Bucs wideout may have produced the NFL Play of the Year last week with a one-handed TD grab against Carolina -- capping his 9-catch, 200-yard, 2-TD night -- but, heading into Sunday, I still had some reservations about relying on a guy who has to rely on Jeff Garcia for the ball. But in a surprise move, Garcia did not dress for the game ... clearing the way for Brian Griese and his 19 targets to Bryant wayyyyyyy back in Week 3. Problem solved.

    As for Week 16, I highly recommend Matt Ryan, Roddy White (4 catches for 61 yards) and Turner as starting options with Atlanta (vs. Minnesota). And Griese (269 passing yards, 1 TD on Sunday), Bryant (8 catches, 108 yards, 1 TD) and even Cadillac Williams (59 rushing yards) serve as excellent choices with Tampa Bay (vs. San Diego).

  • Pittsburgh 13, Baltimore 9
  • Seriously, did you expect anything else? Did you think Ben Roethlisberger (246 passing yards, 1 TD) would throw five TDs (like he did against Baltimore in '07) -- let alone two against the Ravens' white-hot defense? Did you think Joe Flacco (120 total yards) would eclipse the 250-yard mark -- let alone 150? And did you really believe Willie Parker (56 total yards) would outperform Le'Ron McClain (87 yards)? Truth be told, I thought that'd be the case with Parker or Mewelde Moore or even Willis McGahee (33 total yards) ... but hey, that's probably why I don't own any Baltimore or Pittsburgh players in any of my leagues. As for the lone gem ... look no further than Hines Ward, whose 8-catch, 107-yard day was the primary reason why Pittsburgh left M&T Bank Stadium with a four-point win, the AFC North title and a first-round playoff bye. One last thing: Since the Steelers are still playing for the AFC's No. 1 seed, expect their full complement of stars to suit up and play against the Titans -- which means plenty of fantasy goodness for Ward and Big Ben.

  • Seattle 23, St. Louis 20 (OT)
  • I broke a major playoff commandment in this game -- starting Seattle QB Seneca Wallace over Jay Cutler in my favorite PPR league. In my warped mind, I was convinced that Wallace, on the heels of a three-TD game last week, would shred the St. Louis defense for about 275 yards (50 rushing) and two TDs -- whereas Cutler would struggle mighily against the stout Panthers' D. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to Wallace's coronation: He had little difficulty moving the ball between the 20s -- aside from the occasional Rams blitz -- but had terrible luck in the red zone. Hence, I found myself weeping uncontrollably in the bowels of the office late Sunday, continually beating my head against the wall for ignoring the one tried-and-true tenet of fantasy football: Always play your healthy studs in fair weather! As for the other playmakers ... John Carlson (5 catches, 76 yards) might be the NFL's No. 3 tight end right now; and Steven Jackson (127 total yards, 1 TD) has done enough to warrant top-5 consideration in next year's fantasy drafts -- unless colleague Jeff Ritter is crafting the cheat sheets.

  • Miami 14, San Francisco 9
  • This yawnfest was a veritable Who's Who? of guys who should be stuck on your fantasy bench -- Chad Pennington (160 total yards, 2 TDs), Ted Ginn Jr. (two catches for 6 yards -- seriously?), Ricky Williams (34 total yards), Vernon Davis (31 yards), Davone Bess (three catches for 25 yards) and QB Shaun Hill (233 yards, 0 TDs). The only beacon of light came in the form of WR Isaac Bruce (7 catches for 71 yards), who's averaging seven catches for 83 yards and 0.5 TDs in his last four games -- solid PPR numbers. At first blush, San Francisco (@ St. Louis) and Miami (@ Kansas City) both have borderline-excellent matchups for Week 16 ... but then again, I would have said the same about this one right up to 12:55 p.m. EST on Sunday. Ugh!

  • Jacksonville 20, Green Bay 16
  • After watching this clunker, one has to ask the following questions: Do NFL players fully realize how big fantasy football has become in our society? Do they know that a modest-but-impactful chunk of the NFL viewing audience only watches every game -- from beginning to end -- to satisfy a fantasy fix? And to that point, what percentage of those players are blissfully aware the fantasy playoffs occur from Weeks 13-17? In a 60-minute ballgame with reasonable scoring, amid perfect weather conditions, only Aaron Rodgers (300 total yards, 1 TD), David Garrard (269 total yards, 2 TDs), Maurice Jones-Drew (70 total yards, 2 TDs) and Greg Jennings (one touchdown) produced playoff-worthy numbers in Week 15 (and no, Dennis Northcutt's once-in-a-blue-moon performance doesn't count, either). It's the kind of disheartening day that makes me wish the Four-Letter Network filmed more fantasy TV spots, like the one for MJD ... or Jennings.
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