As the week comes to a conclusion tonight with the Giants and Saints, we are mostly one week away from the fantasy playoffs. In almost all of your formats, it's a 13 week regular season, followed by six teams making the playoffs with two byes. Few leagues will count week 17, as many teams put their players on rest and therefore make a 16 week build-up to that moment pointless if you've worked so hard on building an all-star roster.
Which makes it important to note that if you have players on San Francisco or Green Bay, you may want to stay on notice for weeks 15 and 16. San Francisco can clinch the NFC West this week with a win over St. Louis and the Packers can clinch the North this week with a win and a loss by the Lions and Bears.
The Patriots have a two game lead on the Jets in the AFC East with five games left and the Pats play the Colts and Redskins over the next two weeks. They could potentially be resting players by week 16 against Miami. The Texans also hold a two game lead, but extenuating circumstances make it less likely that they'll be playoff bound by week 16.
As far as fantasy goes, this is the big, final push for a playoff berth for most of you. Either you've clinched, you're out, or you absolutely need a win this week. We'll do everything in our power to make that happen so you continue to come back to FakeTeams.
As for me, I'm 8-4 in all four of my leagues and I've either clinched or basically clinched a playoff berth in all of them. With a little luck, I'll get a bye or two. (I could get a bye in my most important league if it wasn't set up so stupidly. I'm going to be in 2nd place, but there are divisions so I'll get the four seed at best.)
Let's recap all of the action so that you're more prepared to know what happened and what you need to know for this final playoff push. Here we go...
Matt Leinart's Consecutive Starts Streak Ends at One, Texans Win
Well, the Leinart era in Houston came and went faster than the career of Rebecca Black, and it was almost just as bad. Upon first sight, Leinart's numbers looked good: 10 of 13 with a TD and no picks, leading the Texans to a 20-10 lead over Jacksonville. However, he only had 57 yards passing for 4.4 yards per attempt. That's not good and though Leinart may have improved as the season went on, at this time maybe T.J. Yates gives the Texans just as good a shot at winning. Yate was 8 of 15 for 70 yards (A just as uninteresting 4.67 yards per attempt) and 0 TD/0 INT.
The more important parts of Houston's success did their part.
Andre Johnson made his return after missing six weeks, and I tried to caution people from starting him. I kept him on my bench and started Victor Cruz tonight. (I'm leading by six and he has nobody left, so I'm good either way.) Johnson was targeted only 4 times and caught 2 passes for 22 yards. I am moving Johnson back into my starting lineup this week however, facing a soft Falcons pass defense and giving Andre a full week to practice with Yates.
Still, it's the Texans defense that I think will still get them to the playoffs, and they mostly shut down the Jaguars.
The Jags led 7-0 early on an Ashton Youboty 38-yard fumble return, but they could only manage two field goals for the rest of the game in the 20-13 loss.
Blaine Gabbert was finally removed from a game for sucking after he was 13 of 29 for 136 yards, 0 TD/1 INT. Luke McCown returned to center and was 7 for 11, 62 yards, 0 TD/0 INT. McCown has never been an NFL quarterback and Gabbert is far away from being one, and that's why I ranked the Jags so low on my "Quarterback Stability" rankings last week.
Maurice Jones-Drew did his best to keep Jacksonville in the game, rushing for 99 yards on 18 carries and catching 4 passes for 67 yards. MJD is over 1000 yards for the third straight season, and his 1,040 yards on the ground is 10 yards behind LeSean McCoy for the NFL lead.
Julio Jones Returns from Injury but Team Forgot to Tell Julio Jones. Falcons Win Anyway.
After being injured early in week 10, owners were anxious for Jones to get back on the field. Afterall, he was one of the hottest rookies in the NFL and he was on pace for some huge numbers. He nearly had unseated Roddy White as the teams go-to guy after only a few professional games.
How quickly perceptions change.
Jones was held without a catch, only having his name called (from my recollection anyway) for an offensive pass interference penalty.
My best move of the day was benching Matthew Stafford, coming off his his biggest fantasy game of the season, for a mostly cold-this-season Matt Ryan. After Stafford threw three picks on Thursday, Ryan didn't have much to do to prove me right.
Ryan was 27 of 34 for 262 yards, 3 TD/0 INT.
Roddy White had his best game of the season, catching 10 passes for 120 yards and a TD. If you held out on White, then you're feeling pretty good right about now as he has 17 catches for 267 yards in the last two games. White is a streaky player, but when he's on he's really on. He's inching his way back up the leader board and is 10th in the NFL in receiving. He was targeted 14 times.
Tony Gonzalez continues to defy age and caught all 9 of his targets for 69 yards. Harry Douglas caught 2 of 5 targets for 45 yards and a TD. Tight End Michael Palmer also caught a TD, he has 7 catches on the season.
The Vikings held tough in this game, closing it to 3 in the fourth quarter, but eventually lost 24-14.
Christian Ponder continues to show good potential and was 17 of 25 for 186 yards, 1 TD/0 INT. His favorite target was Percy Harvin, who caught all 8 of his targets for 95 yards and a beautiful 39-yard TD. Harvin continues to flash potential that makes you believe he could be an NFL star, but he has not topped 100 yards receiving this season. He does have a TD in each of his last two games however.
Toby Gerhart made his first start of the season and had 44 yards on 17 carries with a TD, plus 2 catches for 19 yards. The Vikings are virtually eliminated (probably technically too) from the playoffs at 2-9, so what would their point be to rush back Adrian Peterson at this point? Gerhart is a solid flex play and a decent RB2 play for every start he makes. Minnesota plays Denver this week, a team that can be tough on runners but they just gave up 185 yards on the ground to San Diego.
I honestly don't know how to explain the Bengals nearly losing to the Browns at home and also being a game back of the Ravens and Steelers in the division. Cincinnati could technically tie for first place again with a win over Pittsburgh this week. An uninspired performance against Cleveland, that took a late Mike Nugent FG to make it a 23-20 win, makes me think that's unlikely.
Andy Dalton resisted the temptation to throw an interception (after throwing 5 in his last two games) and was 21 of 31 for 270 yards, 1 TD/0 INT. He has thrown a TD in 10 of 11 games this season. He did lose a fumble.
A.J. Green continues to impress his coaches and teammates and returned from missing a game with a knee injury to catch 3 pass for 110 yards on 4 targets. Jermaine Gresham caught 5 of 10 targets for 68 yards and a TD. Jerome Simpson was only targeted 5 times and had 2 catches for 15 yards.
Cedric Benson had a big game with 106 yards and a TD, plus 24 yards receiving. It was his first 100-yard game since week four.
Colt McCoy was only 16 of 34 for 151 yards, but threw 2 TD against 1 INT. Still, McCoy continues to struggle in his sophomore season, and the Browns would be wise to find a QB in the draft next year.
Peyton Hillis returned to action for the first time since week 6. Other than a 94 yard, 2 TD game in week two, Hillis hasn't done a thing this season. He carried the ball 19 times for 65 yards, which was more than expected until Montario Hardesty (who was also activated) suffered a setback in warmups. The good news is that Hillis is healthy. The bad news is that they play Baltimore or Pittsburgh in three of their next four games. (And Pittsburgh again to end the season.) I wouldn't be shocked at all to see Cleveland lose out this year. Their only winnable-looking game is Arizona in week 15.
This also means Chris Ogbonnaya is done as a fantasy option.
Jordan Norwood had a career game, catching 4 passes for 69 yards and a TD. He caught a 51-yard bomb last week. Are the Browns going to continue to get the unknown player involved? Greg Little was targeted 14 times, but caught only 5 for 57, with a TD.
Colts Request to Move to the Big East, Declare NFL Conference "Too Hard"
How many ways can the Colts embarrass themselves this season? Their season high scoring output this year is 24. They lost to the Saints by a score of 62-7. And now they've lost home games to Cleveland, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Carolina.
I don't buy the fact that the Colts want to do anything else other than win. The players and coaches DO. NOT. CARE. about Andrew Luck. They don't. An NFL team has a roster of 53 active players on any given week, and in Indianapolis, most of those players figure that they'll lose their jobs anyway. Same with the coaches after starting 0-11 and staring down the barrel of a winless season.
No, the Colts are 0-11 because the Colts built a team around Peyton Manning and then blew up like the Death Star when their leader went down. With mostly the same offense last season, the Colts averaged 27.2 points per game and put up over 20 points all but twice. Remove Manning this season, and they're scoring 13.6 per game and they've scored over 20 only once.
Curtis Painter was 15 of 29 for 226 yards, 1 TD/2 INT.
Reggie Wayne also had his best game of the year, catching 5 for 122 yards and his first TD or 100 yard game since week one. It was more yards than Wayne had put up in his last three games combined. Wayne, Pierre Garcon, and Austin Collie were all targeted 8 times. Garcon caught 3 for 34 and Collie caught 3 for 28.
Cam Newton was 20 of 27 for 208 yards, 0 TD/0 INT. He has only 1 passing TD in his last three games. He did rush for 53 yards and a TD. The Panthers play the Buccaneers twice in the next four weeks, and Tampa is 29th in scoring defense.
Jonathan Stewart had 70 yards on 10 carries and DeAngelo Williams had 15 carries, 69 yards, and 2 TDs. It was a season-high in rushing yards for Stewart and for Williams his second and third TDs of the year. Both backs have played very well this season, and if you combine their efforts they have 982 yards, 5 TDs, and nearly 5 yards per carry. Too bad for us, they don't combine their efforts, they split them up.
Steve Smith caught 3 of 8 targets for 68 yards. He is 2nd in the NFL in receiving with 59 catches for 1,060 yards. It's his first 1000 yard season since 2008.
Mark Sanchez Gets Undeserved Credit and Stevie Johnson Shoots Himself in the Foot in Jets 28-24 Win
Stevie Johnson made jokes in this one, but the Jets really got the last laugh after Johnson dropped the ball and the Jets squeaked out a close win.
Mark Sanchez had a career-high 4 TDs on 17 of 35 passing for 180 yards with 1 INT. However, every TD pass that I witnessed saw him hit an open wide receiver. I also saw the Bills drop a couple of easy interceptions, and his final numbers still show a player complete less than 50% of his passes for a terrible 5.14 yards per attempt.
From a fantasy standpoint, Sanchez was a beast. I still stand by the fact that he's not much of an NFL quarterback.
Plaxico Burress caught 4 of 7 targets for 54 yards and a score. Burress had 7 TDs on the season, but interestingly he hasn't topped 80 yards once this year. Santonio Holmes caught 2 of 9 targets for 22 yards and a TD. He was only topped 80 yards once this year, and hasn't topped 100. Dustin Keller caught 4 of 8 targets for 61 yards and 2 TDs. It was his first TD since week two.
C.J. Spiller made his first start had had 55 yards on 19 carries with 3 catches for 15 yards. The Bills only gave 1 carry to Johnny White and 2 to Tashard Choice (for -8 yards) so Spiller remains the guy for the rest of the season in Buffalo.
Stevie Johnson caught 8 of 14 targets for 75 yards and a TD, but dropped an important fourth-quarter pass that will continue to haunt him. Brad Smith caught 4 of 7 for 77 yards and a TD. David Nelson caught 5 of 9 targets for 47 yards and a TD. TE Scott Chandler caught 6 of 7 targets for 50 yards.
The Bills had a chance to keep their playoff hopes alive, but it's unlikely that they'll be a threat now.
The Cardinals are a pretty bad football team, but a career-performance from Beanie and a record-tying fourth punt return TD from Peterson allowed the Cards to beat the Rams 23-20. All despite the fact that John Skelton is still taking snaps as an NFL quarterback.
Skelton was 12 of 23 for 114 yards, 0 TD/2 INT. Thankfully, the Cards got a lot of help in other areas.
Beanie had 228 yards rushing on 27 carries with a TD. Wells had 240 yards rushing in his previous five games combined. The performance will excite owners, but the Cards draw the Cowboys, Niners, and Bengals in three of their next four games. All tough matchups for Wells. He also lost a fumble.
Larry Fitzgerald caught 3 of 10 targets for 55 yards.
Peterson, who had previously beaten the Rams in OT with a 99-yard punt return TD, took one to the house near the end of the third quarter. He's the first player in history with 4 returns of 80 or more yards for a score in the same season.
Sam Bradford was 17 of 31 for 203 yards, 1 TD/0 INT with a fumble.
Steven Jackson had 64 yards on 17 carries. Brandon Lloyd caught 5 of 13 targets for 74 yards and a score. He has scored in three straight, and four of the last five games. He doesn't caught a high percentage of targets but he is always one of the most targeted players on Sundays.
Will the Real Chris Johnson Please Stand Up?
What's it going to be CJ2K? Do you suck now or not? I'm going to say that based on his previous history, and the fact that he can still have monster games, that Johnson hasn't completely lost the touch. He may be a sleeper in drafts next year (like.. a 2nd round sleeper) depending on how he finishes the season.
After rushing for 13 yards on 12 carries last week, Johnson had 190 yards on 23 against Tampa Bay in a 23-17 victory for the Titans. He did lose a fumble and failed to score.
Matt Hasselbeck returned from getting hurt the previous week and was 19 of 34 for 160 yards, 1 TD/2 INT. The Titans stayed within two games of a T.J. Yates-led Texans team, so Hasselbeck will stay in there for as long as Tennessee is in the hunt. The two teams play in week 17.
Josh Freemans freefall continues and he was 18 of 33 for 199 yards, 1 TD/1 INT, 2 fumbles and one lost fumble. He has 12 TD/16 INT on the year with a 74.6 QB rating. He won't lose his job now and he'll be the starter in 2012, but he's going to need to show improvement in 2012.
LeGarrette Blount had 103 yards on 20 carries and a shocking 3 catches for 56 yards (he had 86 yards receiving in his career coming into the game) but he didn't score and lost two fumbles.
Earlier I noted the favorable matchups that the Panthers had with the Bucs coming up, and it's also favorable for players like Blount. The Panthers have given up the 2nd most rushing TDs in the league.
Sebastian Janikowski: Fantasy Stud.
The Raiders put up the sign of the devil in the first three quarters in their game against the Bears: 6-6-6 was the scoring output on six Janikowski field goals, and the Raiders went on to win 25-20. Despite their best efforts, the Bears couldn't overcome Caleb Hanie.
Hanie was 18 of 36 for 254 yards, 2 TD/3 INT. While not completely helpless, two of his three first half interceptions led to Raiders field goals. The Bears defense did all they could, but it was not enough.
The interesting news is how much Hanie favored Johnny Knox. He caught 4 of 10 targets for 145 yards and a TD. It was his first 100-yard game of the season. Roy Williams caught 3 of 5 targets for 37 yards, Earl Bennett caught 1 of 4 for 5 yards, and Kellen Davis caught 2 of 3 for 25 yards and a TD.
The Raiders were mostly led by Janikowski as the offense was mostly stopped in the red zone.
Carson Palmer was 21 of 37 for 301 yards, 0 TD/1 INT. Michael Bush had 69 yards on 24 carries and a TD. The Raiders will work Darren McFadden back in slowly as soon as he does return, which could mean bad news for both McFadden and Bush owners when he does eventually return. It could be a more even split, with each week being a crap shoot.
Native Americans Get Thanksgiving Revenge as Redskins Stun Seahawks in Fourth Quarter
As a Seahawks fan and a writer for the SBN Blog Field Gulls, I've obviously seen a lot of Seahawks football. We aren't any good on offense outside of Marshawn Lynch and some nifty receivers, but I'm confident that our defense can get the job done, especially against an offense like that of Washington.
So, a fourth quarter 10-point lead seemed pretty safe to me. I guess not, and the Redskins won 23-17.
Rex Grossman was 26 of 35 for 314 yards, 2 TD/2 INT. Grossman looked good early, but then looked like Rex Grossman, then finished it off with a long TD pass to Anthony Armstrong. He has 4 TDs in his last two games, and the Redskins actually have a sneaky play against the terrible Vikings pass defense in week 16.
Roy Helu had the best game of his career, tearing up a Seahawks defense late and scoring on a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter. He had 108 yards on 23 carries with a TD with 7 catches for 54 yards Ryan Torain did not get any action at all. Is this finally Helu time? IS IT SHANAHAN?!?!
Santana Moss was the most targeted Redskin, but only caught 4 of 10 for 29 yards. Jabar Gaffney caught 5 of 8 for 72 yards. Fred Davis caught 4 of 4 for 58 yards and a TD. Armstrong was only targeted once, and it was a 50-yard go-ahead TD.
Tarvaris Jackson has proven to me that he's not a good NFL quarterback. He's got a good arm, but his decision-making is terrible. Just awful, and the Hawks couldn't get anything going in the fourth quarter. He was 14 of 30 for 144 yards, 2 TD/1 INT. He has now thrown the ball basically the same amount as he did in 2007 with Minnesota and his numbers are eerily identical. He hasn't improved in the last four years. He's bad.
Marshawn Lynch had his third 100-yard game in the last four weeks, going for 111 on 24 carries. He and Michael Bush are both free agents after the season.
Doug Baldwin was targeted 10 times and caught 5 for 60. The undrafted rookie free agent has 604 yards on the season, giving him an outside shot at 1,000 if things break just right. Sidney Rice left with a head injury, so the door might open for Baldwin to get more targets for the rest of the year. The Hawks play some softer matchups down the road.
Lynch and Golden Tate each caught TD passes.
Broncos Defense Has Held Opponents to 15 or Less in Four of Their Last Five Victo --- TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW TEBOW!!!!!
I'm not going to argue with a 5-1 record, or with the fact that Denver is putting up monster rushing numbers during this current winning streak. But how much are we going to ignore the fact that the Denver defense has become a scary matchup in fantasy?
They gave up 45 points to the Lions, and they've faced some bad offenses, but they're keeping opponents out of the end zone.
Tim Tebow was 9 of 18 for 143 yards, 1 TD/0 INT and 22 carries for 67 yards. The 22 carries is the highest for an NFL QB since the merger. The interesting thing about Tebow is that as raw as he is as a passer (and he's the rawest in the NFL) he has only thrown 1 INT in 143 attempts.
Willis McGahee carried it 23 times for 117 yards. Eric Decker caught 3 of 6 targets for 65 yards and a TD. He has 4 TDs in the last 5 games. He's the only possible Denver play as a receiver or tight end. And he's risky because he caught 0 passes last week.
Philip Rivers was 19 of 36 for 188 yards, 1 TD/0 INT in the 16-13 OT loss. Nick Novak missed a game-winning 53-yard field goal attempt that would have stopped the Tebow train. Rivers didn't throw a pick for the first time since week four.
Patriots-Eagles Was Not The Cool Game You Thought It Would Be. Patriots Roll 38-20.
So the Eagles do still mostly suck. They don't play defense, they don't seem to manage a great game, LeSean McCoy only gets 10 carries and 4 catches and the Eagles can't be surprised that they lost.
Tom Brady keeps rolling and was 24 of 34 for 361 yards, 3 TD/0 INT. He has 8 TD/0 INT in his last three games. I really hope that either A.) The team in my league with all Patriots does not make the playoffs or B.) Bill Belicheck starts resting players soon and the Pats clinch in two weeks.
Probably not likely on either account. They play the Colts next week, followed by Washington, Denver, and Miami.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis hadn't scored since week five, but had 44 yards and 2 TDs. Six players had a carry, but only four caught a pass.
We Welker caught 8 of 12 targets for 115 yards and 2 TDs. He has a league-leading 82 catches, a league-leading 1,143 yards, and 8 TDs on the year. Deion Branch caught 6 of 10 targets for 125 yards. It was his first 100-yard game since week two. Rob Gronkowski had 4 catches for 59 yards on 5 targets with a score. He has 6 TDs in the last four games. He is 7th in the NFL in receiving. Aaron Hernandez caught 6 of 8 targets for 62 yards.
Vince Young had his first 400-yard passing game of his career, going 26 of 48 for 400, 1 TD/1 INT and 40 yards rushing. But the other QB that "just wins" was held scoreless until he hit Jason Avant for a meaningless TD at the end of the game.
LeSean McCoy had 31 yard on the ground with an early score that put the Eagles up 7-0, but didn't see much action after that.
Jason Avant was targeted 14 times and caught 8 for 110 and that TD. DeSean Jackson caught 4 of 10 for 73 yards. Brent Celek caught 5 of 6 for 75 yards. Riley Cooper was targeted 7 times and caught 3 for 71.
You Ain't No Palko of Mine. Chiefs Lose to Steelers, 13-9.
The game was kind of interesting, but mostly just ugly to watch each side try to give up the game at some point. The only scoring in the second half was a field goal by Kansas City, and otherwise it was just a lot of missed opportunity.
Tyler Palko was 18 of 28 for 167 yards, 0 TD/3 INT and a fumble lost. Most people will remember Dwayne Bowe putting no effort into trying to catch a pass near the end of the game that ended up being the final interception that put the nail in the coffin.
Thomas Jones ran 13 times for 37 yards, Dexter McCluster ran it 9 for 28, and Jackie Battle took it 9 for 20. At some point when Jamaal Charles went down, each one of these guys figured to be interesting. It turns out, none of them are right now.
Ben Roethlisberger was 21 of 31 for 193 yards, 1 TD/1 INT.
Rashard Mendenhall had 57 yards on 17 carries and two catches for 10.
Follow me on twitter @casetines for playoff questions
- My sleepers were: C.J. Spiller, Matt Hasselbeck, Eric Decker, Legedu Naanee, Greg Olsen, Toby Gerhart, Joe McKnight.
- Guys I did not approve of: Stevie Johnson, A.J. Green, Drew Brees, Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert.
- Guys I liked: Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Mike Wallace.
- It wasn't my best week on predictions, but it was a good week for my fantasy teams. Locking up playoffs spots in both of my money leagues as I've been wanting to do all season. I'll sweat only mildly this weekend until sweating disgustingly and profusely during week 14, and hopefully weeks 15 and 16.
- It's about time to start re-evaluating the best and worst matchups for the fantasy playoffs.
- Early week 13 matchup notes: The teams that are worst against the run in terms of scoring are Carolina, Indy, Tampa Bay, Arizona, and Buffalo. They face: LeGarrette Blount, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, the Panthers trio, DeMarco Murray, and Chris Johnson.
- The best matchups for QBs belong to Tim Tebow (yeah...), Tarvaris Jackson, Tony Romo, Blaine Gabbert or Luke McCown, and Matt Moore. So.. not much to use there outside of Tebow and Romo. Could be good weeks for Doug Baldwin, Eric Decker, Mike Thomas, Marcedes Lewis, Laurent Robinson, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Brandon Marshall.
- I stare at standings, scores and stats all day on Sunday and Monday. It's interesting that basically half of the league is either 7-4 or 4-7. The 7-4 teams are in the thick of the playoff race, the 4-7 teams are 3 games back of the playoff race with 5 games left. And no, they aren't in the playoff race. There is not a single 5-6 team in the league. There are three 6-5 teams, depending on what happens between the 7-3 Saints and 6-4 Giants tonight.
- I expect the Saints to win at home and a lot of scoring.
- Please share your playoff hopes in the comments below.