Instant reactions from Week 16
Andy Dalton came up big for owners in crunch time while Drew Brees and others struggled. Our Jamey Eisenberg shares his observations from a busy Sunday.
In case there was any doubt, Peyton Manning won the Fantasy MVP with his performance Sunday. He helped many owners win a championship with his record-setting outing at Houston.
By comparison, Drew Brees might have lost the championship for Fantasy owners with his poor showing at Carolina. More on him later.
Manning set the NFL single-season record against the Texans with 51 touchdowns, which broke Tom Brady's record set in 2007. Manning was 32 of 51 passing for 400 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with Eric Decker for two scores, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas . Julius Thomas caught the historic touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Manning has the chance to add to his totals in Week 17 at Oakland since the Broncos are still chasing the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. That's great for Fantasy owners who still play into the final week of the season and own all the prominent Broncos.
As for Brees, he struggled outdoors again, which was disappointing. He was 30 of 44 passing for 281 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against the Panthers in a rain-soaked game. This is now three games this season with 15 Fantasy points or less outdoors, and it could be trouble for Brees and the Saints heading into the playoffs if they don't end up winning the NFC South and have to travel in the first round to an outdoor venue.
The good news for Fantasy owners in Week 17 is Brees and the Saints will likely be playing all their regulars against Tampa Bay -- at home. He'll bounce back and end his season on a high note.
In terms of teams resting players next week, the only playoff team you have to worry about is Kansas City since the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. That impacts Jamaal Charles , so keep an eye on Knile Davis on waivers if you play in Week 17.
• Injuries of note: Shane Vereen (groin), Tony Romo (back), Emmanuel Sanders (knee), Steve Smith (knee), Eddie Lacy (ankle), Andre Brown (concussion)
Vereen left the game at Baltimore in the first quarter, and hopefully he'll be OK for Week 17 against Buffalo. Prior to leaving, Vereen had two carries for 6 yards and one catch for 4 yards and a touchdown. He was potentially on his way to a big game.
Romo finished the game against the Redskins and led the Cowboys to a game-winning touchdown to DeMarco Murray in the fourth quarter. He was 17 of 27 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But he's scheduled for an MRI on Monday for his back, although it's not believed to be serious. He's expected to play in Week 17 against Philadelphia.
Sanders injured his knee at Green Bay, but first he caught two passes for 7 yards and a touchdown. If he's able to play in Week 17 against Cleveland then consider him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best.
Smith said he felt something pop in his knee after he left the game against New Orleans in the first half. He finished the game with one catch for 44 yards. If he's able to play in Week 17 against Atlanta he would be just a No. 3 Fantasy receiver.
We hope Lacy is OK for Week 17 against Chicago because that's a dream matchup against the Bears. Lacy did well against the Steelers in Week 16 before leaving with 15 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns and two catches for 6 yards. If Lacy is out, James Starks should be added in all leagues against the Bears.
Brown suffered the concussion in overtime at Detroit, and you have to be concerned about his status for Week 17 in a meaningless game against the Redskins. We'll see what the Giants do at running back against Washington, but Michael Cox could be forced into a featured role. Brown struggled against the Lions as expected, finishing with 16 carries for 40 yards and two catches for 14 yards.
• Fred Jackson good, C.J. Spiller just average: It's fitting that Jackson was the better running back for Fantasy owners in the championship week against Miami than Spiller, because it's been that way all season. Jackson was a great surprise this year, and Spiller was arguably the biggest bust.
Jackson finished with 19 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 7 yards against the Dolphins. Spiller, meanwhile, had 20 carries for 77 yards and three catches for 26 yards.
We'll see how each one does in Week 17 against the Patriots, but hopefully Jackson isn't with the Bills in 2014 when it comes to Spiller's Fantasy value. If Jackson is gone, Spiller has a chance to be special, but if Jackson is back then his upside will again be limited. Stay tuned this offseason.
• Matthew Stafford , Calvin Johnson crush Fantasy dreams: Stafford and Johnson were terrible for the past three games, which ruined many Fantasy seasons. They were awful in Week 16 against the Giants.
Stafford was 25 of 42 passing for 222 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, and Johnson had three catches for 43 yards on four targets. There was a report Sunday morning that Johnson could miss the game, but he played and was disappointing. Stafford now has 21 Fantasy points combined in his past three games against Philadelphia, Baltimore and the Giants. And Johnson had 18 Fantasy points in his past three.
Also leaving Fantasy owners in a lurch against the Giants was Reggie Bush , who was benched after he fumbled and finished with 12 carries for 34 yards and two catches for 10 yards. He was replaced by Joique Bell , who had 20 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown and 10 catches for 63 yards. If you play in Week 17, you should probably consider starting Bell over Bush at Minnesota.
• Kirk Cousins helps Pierre Garcon shine: Garcon might have had big games the past two weeks against Atlanta and Dallas given the deficiencies of those two defenses, but he's dominated with Cousins under center. He had 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys, one week after catching seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons.
What changed for Garcon? Not much. The targets were up against Dallas with 18, which is a season high. But his 11 targets against Atlanta were on par with the rest of the season since he had 11 or more targets nine times in his first 13 games.
You can argue Cousins gave Garcon more chances to make plays down the field, which is fair, but I expect Garcon to be dominant next season as well when Robert Griffin III regains his starting job. I look at Garcon as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver with the chance to be a Top 10 option. He's that good, and we hope these past two games are proof of that.
• Cordarrelle Patterson establishing himself: Patterson had another big game Sunday at Cincinnati and extended his scoring streak to four games in a row. He had three carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, three catches for 8 yards and four kickoff returns for 143 yards. We hope he can carry this momentum into 2014 when he could be a viable Fantasy option in all formats, especially if the Vikings upgrade at quarterback.
In the past four weeks, Patterson has two rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and continues to develop his skills. He's going to be a potential breakout candidate next season.
One downside for the Vikings as far as Fantasy owners are concerned was the play of Adrian Peterson . He returned after missing Week 15 with a foot injury and struggled with 11 carries for 45 yards and one catch for 2 yards. He has a tough matchup in Week 17 against the Lions, but we expect him to finish strong as long as he's healthy.
• Andy Dalton heating up again: The Bengals dominated at home Sunday against the Vikings, and Dalton led the way. He was 27 of 38 passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns and one carry for 10 yards.
Dalton has been good at home of late with at least 36 Fantasy points against the Colts in Week 14 and now the Vikings. He also has at least 36 points in three of his past four home games.
We know when Dalton gets hot he can be among the best Fantasy quarterbacks, and with the way he's playing at home he should be started in Week 17 against the Ravens. He had 18 points at Baltimore in Week 10.
• Fun with rookie running backs: There were three rookie running backs who might have been key contributors to Fantasy championships Sunday. Lacy and Le'Veon Bell were great head-to-head in Green Bay, and Zac Stacy was fantastic against the Buccaneers.
Lacy had 20 Fantasy points before getting hurt, and Bell wasn't far behind with 26 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 5 yards, which was 16 points. Stacy faced a tough matchup against Tampa Bay, but he still managed 33 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 5 yards, which is 14 Fantasy points.
It wasn't all great as the fourth member of this rookie group, Giovani Bernard , finished with just 13 carries for 20 yards and two catches for 47 yards against Minnesota. But all four of these running backs have established themselves as elite Fantasy options heading into 2014, especially if the Bengals part ways with BenJarvus Green-Ellis to help Bernard.
Also, Andre Ellington only had six Fantasy points at Seattle with 15 carries for 64 yards and two catches for 8 yards. He has played well at times this season, but Rashard Mendenhall has limited his upside. If Mendenhall is gone next season, Ellington could be a star and is one of my breakout candidates heading into 2014.
• Waiver Wire preview: Here is a preview of the players we will highlight in Playing the Waiver Wire on Tuesday.
Quarterback: Kirk Cousins , Redskins (42 percent)
Running backs: James Starks , Packers (48 percent), Dennis Johnson , Texans (37 percent), LeGarrette Blount , Patriots (32 percent), Shonn Greene , Titans (21 percent), Knile Davis , Chiefs (18 percent), Edwin Baker , Browns (3 percent), Michael Cox , Giants (1 percent), Deji Karim , Texans (0 percent)
Wide receivers: Jarrett Boykin , Packers (82 percent), Terrance Williams , Cowboys (68 percent), Marvin Jones , Bengals (67 percent), Cordarrelle Patterson , Vikings (43 percent), Nate Washington , Titans (39 percent), Mike Brown , Jaguars (9 percent), Mohamed Sanu , Bengals (8 percent), David Nelson , Jets (1 percent), Jerrel Jernigan , Giants (0 percent), Stedman Bailey , Rams (0 percent)
Tight ends: Zach Miller , Seahawks (25 percent), Brent Celek , Eagles (22 percent), Jermaine Gresham , Bengals (18 percent), Joseph Fauria , Lions (14 percent), Marcedes Lewis , Jaguars (9 percent), Ryan Griffin , Texans (3 percent)
• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em star: Ryan Mathews was spotted in a walking boot after Sunday's game against Oakland because of an injured ankle, but he's expected to play in Week 17 against Kansas City. Mathews was great as our Start of the Week with 25 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 20 yards. As long as he's healthy, start him in all leagues against the Chiefs.
• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em flop: Arguably the biggest win in Week 16 belongs to the Cardinals for going into Seattle and beating the Seahawks to keep their playoff hopes alive. Part of the reason for their success was containing Russell Wilson , who was 11 of 27 passing for 108 yards, one touchdown and one interception and just two carries for 32 yards. Wilson now has three games in a row of 17 Fantasy points or less, which hurt a lot of Fantasy owners down the stretch.