Instant reactions from Week 17
The season finished with a bang for several players. Our Jamey Eisenberg breaks down the highlights one last time in his instant reactions from Week 17.
The regular season ended Sunday, and the final week was a continuation of many of the same themes from throughout the year. Peyton Manning was awesome, Trent Richardson was mediocre and we wish injuries didn't ruin Aaron Rodgers , Shane Vereen and Randall Cobb for most of the year.
We also said goodbye to a legend in Tony Gonzalez , who played his final NFL game as he heads into retirement.
The game of the day was Green Bay at Chicago, and the Packers won the NFC North title 33-28 thanks to a late touchdown from Rodgers to Cobb. Rodgers, who came back after a seven-game absence with a broken left collarbone, was 25 of 39 passing for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked a little rusty, but he was still the Fantasy star we missed during the meat of the season.
Jordy Nelson looked like a No. 1 receiver again with 10 catches for 161 yards on 16 targets. And Cobb came back after being out 10 weeks from a knee injury, and he had two catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns.
It was fun to see the Packers at full strength with their passing game, and Eddie Lacy was still a factor with 21 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Packers now face the 49ers in the Wild Card round, and if you think they'll advance then consider several of their players for the CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge.
As for the Bears, their season ends in disappointing fashion, but they finished with some quality Fantasy performances in Week 17. Jay Cutler , our Start of the Week, was 15 of 24 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Matt Forte had 22 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, and Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 80 yards with a lost fumble.
Chicago should have a great offense again in 2014, but the key is bringing back Cutler, who is a free agent. If he's back as expected then consider him a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback, Forte a Top 5 running back and Marshall and Jeffery as Top 10 receivers.
• Matt Ryan and Roddy White end season strong: Ryan's season fell apart when Julio Jones (foot) went down in Week 5. White's season never really got started because of an ankle injury in the preseason. That didn't matter in Week 17 against Carolina.
The two finished strong in the final two weeks of the year, giving Fantasy owners hope for 2014. Ryan had back-to-back games with 20-plus Fantasy points for the first time since Week 7. And White had consecutive games with double digits in Fantasy points for the first time all year.
Even though Gonzalez plans to retire, Ryan will get Jones back, White healthy and Harry Douglas has developed into a quality No. 3 receiver. Ryan has the chance to rebound as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, and he should be tremendous value on Draft Day.
White also will be overlooked in the draft, but he could easily rebound as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver. Jones will come back as a Top 5 Fantasy receiver, and the Falcons offense should be awesome.
• Chris Johnson done in Tennessee? Johnson might have played his last game for the Titans in Week 17 against Houston. If so, he went out on a high note with 27 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 14 yards.
There's a report the Titans will release Johnson this offseason as a salary dump. Johnson finished the season with 279 carries for 1,077 yards and six touchdowns and 42 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns.
If he comes back to Tennessee, he'll remain a high-end No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 2 or 3. If he's cut, where he ends up will determine his value, but he'll still be a starting Fantasy running back coming into the season.
• Cordarrelle Patterson star on the rise: Patterson put on a show Sunday against Detroit. He had two carries for 54 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 31 yards and a score.
Patterson has now scored in five games in a row, and he has the chance to be a breakout star in 2014. We'll see who the Vikings have as their starting quarterback, but he will be a potential Top 24 Fantasy receiver coming into the year.
• Backup running backs shine: Three of the best running back performances Sunday came from backups with Knile Davis , Jonathan Grimes and Matt Asiata .
Davis started for the Chiefs with Jamaal Charles resting for the playoffs at San Diego. He had 27 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns and two catches for 5 yards.
Grimes started for the Texans with everyone else injured at Tennessee. He had 16 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 76 yards.
And Asiata started for the Vikings with Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) out against Detroit. He had 14 carries for 115 yards with a lost fumble.
This is why playing into Week 17 is frustrating when you don't have stars like Charles and Peterson, but it's also fun when you use these backups and they come through.
• LeGarrette Blount dominates Bills: The Patriots unleashed Blount against Buffalo in the rain, and he was awesome. He had 24 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and he closes the season with 265 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his final two games.
Stevan Ridley also ran well against Buffalo with 12 carries for 74 yards, and Shane Vereen had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots are off until the Divisional Round of the playoffs after locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but look at Blount as a solid option in the playoff challenge.
• Andy Dalton keeps rolling: It wasn't pretty, but Dalton had his fourth game in a row with 20-plus Fantasy points with his performance against Baltimore. Dalton was 21 of 36 passing for 281 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, and he added six carries for 23 yards and a score.
Manning and Drew Brees finished the regular season as the top two Fantasy quarterbacks. No. 3? It was Dalton.
The Bengals play the Chargers in the Wild Card round, and we hope Dalton has another solid game. He will enter next season as a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback if he has a strong postseason after the way he played during the year.
• T.Y. Hilton has strong finale: The Colts will play host to the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, and we hope the Hilton we saw in Week 17 shows up in the playoffs. He was great against Jacksonville with 11 catches for 155 yards on 15 targets.
This was Hilton's first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 10, but he's capable of being a big-play threat. He's a good option in the playoff challenge since he has 34 targets in the past three games.
• Of course C.J. Spiller ends strong: Spiller and Richardson are the two biggest busts of 2013. Richardson scored a touchdown Sunday against the Jaguars but still finished with only nine Fantasy points on eight carries for 25 yards and two catches for 17 yards.
But Spiller went out on a high note at New England. He had 19 carries for 105 yards and five catches for 28 yards. It was his first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 13 and only the fifth time he's scored in double digits this season.
Fred Jackson was great also against the Patriots with 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 53 yards, and he clearly outplayed Spiller all season. He had 10 games with double digits in Fantasy points this year.
We'll find out if Jackson, who will be 33 next year, is back in Buffalo in 2014. If he's gone, then Spiller could be a second-round pick in the majority of leagues. But if Jackson is back then Spiller's upside will again be capped, and we wouldn't draft Spiller until Round 4 at the earliest, with Jackson coming off the board around the same time.
• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em star: Our sleepers came through in a big way in Week 17 as we had one Top 10 quarterback (Terrelle Pryor), three Top 6 running backs (Blount, Davis and Grimes) and two Top 8 receivers (Jerrel Jernigan and Hilton). Jernigan was the No. 1 Fantasy receiver with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown and two carries for 57 yards and a touchdown against Washington.
• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em flop: I got Michael Crabtree right as a sit since he had just three catches for 29 yards at Arizona, but Colin Kaepernick proved me wrong as our bust alert. He was 21 of 34 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns and four carries for 24 yards. I like Kaepernick a lot as my quarterback in the playoff challenge.