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Fantasy Game Recaps: Week 14
12/8/08

The AFC North is characterized by its two top defenses. Defensive backs Ed Reed of the Ravens and Deshea Townsend of the Steelers led their defenses to victories, each converting a turnover into a touchdown. When the dust settled on Sunday, it was the Steelers and the Ravens defenses that won their respective games. Come Monday, many fantasy games will have been decided by these defensive performances as well, as each defense outperformed nearly every offensive weapon on the field (sorry Brian Westbrook, but you got the love last week - no repeat photographs are permitted).

Steelers 20 - Cowboys 13

Fantasy Superman: Steeler Defense, Tashard Choice
Fantasy Performers: Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten
Fantasy Hens: Hines Ward, Willie Parker, Tony Romo

Itís difficult to discuss the Steelers top performer without discussing the Cowboys worst performer, as they go hand-in-hand. The Steelers defense capitalized on five Cowboy turnovers, four of which came from Tony Romo. In addition to the five turnovers, the Steelers D held the Cowboys to only one touchdown and two field goals, sacked Romo three times and scored the winning touchdown. Apparently the Steelers best offense is their defense. A tough defense was necessary to salvage this game as the Cowboys stifled the Steelers running game, limiting Willie Parker and Mewelde Moore to a combined 47 yards on 17 carries, Parker getting 25 yards on 12 carries and Moore gaining 22 yards on just five carries. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, but lost a fumble. Santonio Holmes led the Steelers in yardage, catching three passes for 82 yards. Nate Washington and Mewelde Moore led in receptions with four each, Washington for 58 yards and Moore for 36 yards. Hines Ward had only a two-yard catch. Heath Miller scored the Steelers only offensive touchdown and had three catches for 20 yards.

Romoís four turnovers negated virtually any value to be derived from his 210 passing yards and one touchdown. Although Terrell Owens only reeled in three catches for 32 yards, one was for a 12-yard touchdown. Jason Witten clutched six catches for 62 yards. The surprise of the day came from the Cowboysí third string running back Tashard Choice, who stood little chance against the Steelersí number one run defense. Choice averaged nearly four yards a carry, rushing for 88 yards and caught five passes for another 78 yards.

Ravens 24 - Redskins 10

Fantasy Superman: Ravensí Defense
Fantasy Performers: LeíRon McClain, Derrick Mason, Antwaan Randle El
Fantasy Hens: Mark Clayton, Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss

The Ravens offense did not require as much support from their defense as did the Steelers. Nonetheless, the Ravens defense put up relatively identical numbers. Instead of giving up 13 points, the Ravens gave up ten. Ed Reed forced up three turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. The Ravens defense also tallied up two sacks. LeíRon McClain once again led the Ravens three headed running back committee, with 61 yards and a touchdown. Willis McGahee eked out one more ground yard than Ray Rice with 32 yards to Riceís 31 yards, but McGahee coughed up the ball once and caught one pass for negative yards. Derrick Mason continues to look solid down the backstretch with three receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. Mark Clayton failed to repeat last weekís performance, going just two for 19 yards. Todd Heap went 54 yards on two catches. Joe Flacco threw for only 134 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

Expectations were low for Clinton Portis and he did not disappoint. Portis rushed for only 32 yards, caught three passes for 14 yards and fumbled once. Ladell Betts had a better day with 57 reception yards. In fact, Betts led all receiving. Santana Moss caught four passes for only 48 yards. Antwaan Randle El had one more catch than Moss, one less yard and one more touchdown. Jason Campbell threw for 218 yards, a touchdown and two picks.

Chargers 34 - Raiders 7

Fantasy Superman: Vincent Jackson, Philip Rivers, Darren Sproles
Fantasy Performers: LaDainian Tomlinson, Zach Miller
Fantasy Hens: Chris Chambers, Antonio Gates, Darren McFadden, JaMarcus Russell

For many play-off teams, the decision to play certain players is based on performances over the past few weeks, or prior performances against the same team. Vincent Jackson is a perfect example. Could you stick Jackson in your starting play-off line-up when he had four receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown over the last three weeks? Could you play him after zero catch performance last week? Could you start him after going three for 52 yards earlier this season against the Raiders? Well, if you did not, you sat five receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown. The same could be said for Philip Rivers, who threw for 601 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions over the last three weeks; 180 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against the Raiders; and 149 yards last week, without a score. However, on Thursday night, Rivers tossed three touchdowns on 214 yards of passing. LaDanian Tomlinson rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. Even Darren Sproles got into the action with two receiving touchdowns and 64 total yards. On the dark side, neither Chris Chambers nor Antonio Gates pulled down a single catch.

The only Raider who has proven to be remotely reliable this season is tight end Zach Miller, who caught eight balls for 64 yards, half of the total passing production of the Raider offense. Darren McFadden only touched the ball three times and never crossed the ten yard plane. Before leaving the game with a leg injury, Jamarcus Russell turned the ball over three times to his 68 yards passing. Justin Fargas rushed for 50 yards.

Titans 28 - Browns 9

Fantasy Superman: Chris Johnson
Fantasy Performers: LenDale White, Justin Gage
Fantasy Hens: Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards

The rookie wall is not slowing down Chris Johnson, who busted threw it on Sunday with 136 yards rushing, 30 yards receiving and a touchdown. LenDale White was not far behind his rookie running partner, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown, but he also fumbled. Justin Gage mustered very little productivity, but his two catches for 18 yards were enough to get him across the goal line once. If forced to rely on Kerry Collins, his 155 yards resulted in two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Hopefully, your play-off chances did not hinge upon the performance of Jamal Lewis, who rushed seven times for seven yards. Braylon Edwards was only slightly better with three catches for 38 yards. Ken Dorsey threw the ball 43 times, completing 22 for only 150 yards and one interception.

Eagles 20 - Giants 14

Fantasy Superman: Brian Westbrook
Fantasy Performers: L.J. Smith, Donovan McNabb
Fantasy Hens: Kevin Curtis, DeSean Jackson, Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Domenik Hixon, Amani Toomer, Kevin Boss
One player in this game basically hogged all of the fantasy points, equaling the entire output of the opposing team. If you slept through Sunday, that player was Brian Westbrook, who rushed for 131 yards, caught six passes for 72 yards and scored a 30-yard rushing touchdown and a 40-yard receiving touchdown. Donovan McNabb did not repeat his performance of Thanksgiving Day, but he did not repeat the prior weekís poor performance either. McNabb threw for 191 yards, one touchdown and rushed for another 20 yards. Other than L.J. Smithís six catches for 44 yards, the Eaglesí five wide receivers caught a total of six passes, with Kevin Curtisí two catches for 42 yards being the greatest.

The Giants offense looked like it shot itself in the leg and the Plaxico Burress fiasco may have been a bigger distraction then anticipated. The Giants offense put up just above 200 yards on the day, with Brandon Jacobs rushing for 52 yards and Derrick Ward rushing for 39 yards. Ward was not a factor in the passing game. Nor was anyone else. Steve Smith led the pass offense with four catches for 47 yards. Domenik Hixon followed with only 30 yards, Amani Toomer with 25 yards and Kevin Boss with just one catch for five yards. Eli Manning passed for only 123 yards and a touchdown.

Saints 29 - Falcons 25

Fantasy Superman: Pierre Thomas, Roddy White
Fantasy Performers: Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Devery Henderson, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, Michael Jenkins
Fantasy Hens: Lance Moore, Marques Colston

The running tandem of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas looked like the Titans this weekend, with Thomas rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown, while also catching one pass for seven yards and a touchdown. Bush nearly duplicated Thomasís numbers with 80 on the ground and 26 in the air and one touchdown. Drew Brees did not have his best day at home, but he was nevertheless flawless, passing for 230 yards and two touchdowns. His number one target was Jeremy Shockey who hauled in five catches for 64 yards. Devery Henderson caught three balls, but went for 72 yards. Lance Moore and Marques Colston were complete busts this week, each catching three passes, Moore for 35 yards and Colston for 26 yards.

Roddy White may not have scored a touchdown, but he had a monster day nevertheless, with 10 catches for 164 yards. Michael Turner rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown and Michael Jenkins caught five for 69 yards. Matt Ryan threw for 315 yards, 14 more than his best performance as a pro. Ryan tossed one touchdown and one pick. He also rushed for 13 yards and a touchdown.

Colts 35 - Bengals 3

Fantasy Superman: Peyton Manning
Fantasy Performers: Dominic Rhodes, Marvin Harrison, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez, Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Fantasy Hens: Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cedric Benson

Peyton Manning had a very nice comeback from last week. Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns. The old Manning-Marvin Harrison connection returned, with the pair hooking up three times for 78 yards and a touchdown. Unknown tight end Gijon Robinson seemed to be Manningís favorite target with six catches and 69 yards, but running out Dallas Clark still paid dividends on four catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Gonzalez was also limited to three catches for 27 yards, but he paid off with a touchdown as well. Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai were huge busts once again. Wayne could only muster up 48 yards on five catches while Addai totaled 40 yards running and receiving. In exceptionally deep leagues, Dominic Rhodesí 31 yards and a touchdown could help get teams over the hump.

The Bengalsí woeful season is almost over. The wide receiving pair of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson finally had a decent day, even though neither scored a touchdown. Johnson caught five for 79 yards and Housh caught eight for 75 yards. However, that was about it for the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick could only connect for a total of 170 yards and threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball away once. Cedric Benson rushed for only 57 yards.

Texans 24 - Packers 21

Fantasy Superman: Matt Schaub, Andrew Walter, Steve Slaton
Fantasy Performers: Andre Johnson, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Donald Lee
Fantasy Hens: Owen Daniels, Brandon Jackson

The Texans had three big performers on Sunday, but none bigger than Kevin Walter, who caught six passes for 164 yards and a 58-yard touchdown. Steve Slaton rushed for 120 yards and caught three for 40 yards, but fumbled the ball away once. Matt Schaub threw for 414 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Andre Johnson may not have had a huge day by his standards, but he did catch four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Owen Daniels caught six for 65 yards, but a fumble marred his point production.

Ryan Grant bounced back from a terrible week with a 104-yard, one touchdown performance. Aaron Rodgers turned over the ball as many times as he threw for a touchdown (twice), but he threw for 295 yards. Donald Driver and Greg Jennings had few receptions, but Driverís 75 yards on three catches beat Jennings two catches by a single yard. Donald Lee and Jordy Nelson each had three catches and a touchdown. Lee had 48 yards. After last weekís eleven carries for 80 yards, Brandon Jackson did not run the ball even once and caught two balls for less than 10 yards.

Vikings 20 - Lions 16

Fantasy Superman: None
Fantasy Performers: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Visanthe Shiancoe, Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith
Fantasy Hens: Bernard Berrian, Gus Frerotte

If this was the first week of your fantasy play-offs and you were hoping for a huge performance from Adrian Peterson, you were probably disappointed. The Lions are a great team for fantasy running backs to get fat on. Yet, Peterson rushed for only 102 yards and had one catch for 15 yards. Given his failure to rush for a touchdown, Petersonís breaking 100 yards was at best, like kissing your half-sister. Chester Taylorís 53 combined yards and a touchdown equaled Petersonís production in many fantasy formats. The best day was turned in by Visanthe Shiancoe, who reeled in five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.

Calvin Johnson continues to be the bright shining star in a dismal Lionís universe. Johnson had three catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. The ups and downs of the week with the potential suspension of Minnesotaís Williamses, ended up having no adverse effect on Kevin Smith, who ran for 63 yards and caught two passes for 27 yards. Daunte Culpepper threw for 220 yards and a touchdown, without a single turnover.

Bears 23 - Jaguars 10

Fantasy Superman: Maurice Jones-Drew
Fantasy Performers: Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, Kyle Orton
Fantasy Hens: Matt Jones, Fred Taylor

The Bears offense was not highly productive. Matt Forte put up decent, but not spectacular numbers, with 69 yards rushing and five catches for 37 yards. However, he failed to score. Devin Hester caught five passes for 80 yards. However, he failed to score. The only touchdowns were distributed between the Bearsí two tight ends. Greg Olsen caught one on three receptions for 52 yards. Desmond Clark caught the other, a two-yard pass, for a total of two catches for eight yards. Kyle Orton connected on 20 of 34 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Few Jaguars are worthy of fantasy reporting lately. Maurice Jones-Drew is quietly having a good second half of the season. On Sunday, Jones-Drew rushed for only 55 yards, but he also had seven catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Fred Taylor was limited to 53 yards rushing. Matt Jones had only 34 yards on three receptions.

Patriots 24 - Seahawks 21

Fantasy Superman: Wes Welker, Seneca Wallace, Deion Branch
Fantasy Performers: Matt Cassel, Sammy Morris, John Carlson
Fantasy Hens: Randy Moss, Kevin Faulk, Maurice Morris
Steel headed Wes Welker came back from a punishing hit last week and hauled in a cool dozen catches for 134 yards, exactly one half of Matt Casselís 268 yards and one catch shy of half of Casselís 26 completions. Cassel also threw a two yard touchdown to Benjamin Watson, his only catch. Randy Moss only had three catches on the day for a total of 56 yards. Sammy Morris rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Faulk only rushed for 16 yards and caught five passes for 22 yards.

The Seahawks were a shining example of where fantasy does not mirror reality. The Seahawks may have lost the game, but they turned out several stellar fantasy performances. Deion Branch scored twice on four receptions for 88 yards. John Carlson had eight catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Seneca Wallace arrived on the scene with a huge outing. He passed for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 47 yards, eight more yards than starting running back Maurice Morris, 15 more yards than Leonard Weaver and 31 yards more than T.J. Duckett.

49ers 24 - Jets 14

Fantasy Superman: None
Fantasy Performers: Frank Gore, Shaun Hill, Bryant Johnson, Isaac Bruce, Thomas Jones
Fantasy Hens: The Jetsí Passing Game

Frank Gore was on his way to a very good day, rushing for 52 yards and catching three balls out of the backfield for 13 yards and a touchdown. But, Gore left the game with an injury and DeShaun Foster took over, not too effectively with 16 rushes for 35 yards. Bryant Johnson caught six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. Isaac Bruce has to be happy that he is no longer in the Rams offense, after another strong day with six catches for 70 yards. Shaun Hill completed nearly seventy percent of his 39 passes for 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Brett Favre connected on 20 of 31 passes. Not too shabby! Actually, it was quite shabby. Favre threw for only 137 yards and no touchdowns. Of the 137 yards and 20 completions, nine completions went to two running backs for 43 yards, meaning that the receiving corps could not even muster up 100 yards between Chansi Stuckey, Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Chris Baker and Brad Smith. Stuckey put up the most respectable numbers with four catches for 43 yards. Meanwhile, Cotchery and Coles had only one catch each, Cotchery for 10 yards and Coles for five yards. Thomas Jones had a combined 68 yards and a touchdown. Leon Washington caught six passes for 39 yards. But for Favreís first rushing touchdown on the year, Favre had a completely miserable performance in San Francisco.

Broncos 24 - Chiefs 17

Fantasy Superman: Brandon Marshall, Tony Gonzalez
Fantasy Performers: Jay Cutler, Peyton Hillis, Dwayne Bowe, Tyler Thigpen
Fantasy Hens: Larry Johnson

Brandon Marshall has scored only one touchdown since September. On Sunday, Marshall made up for that drought with a two touchdown, eleven catch, 91-yard performance. Jay Cutler enjoyed an eighty percent passing ration, connecting on 32 of 40 passes, for 286 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Cutlerís 16 rushing yards gave him over 300 total yards on the day. Peyton Hillis was off to a good start, rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries, but he left the game with an injury, leaving the ball in the hands of Tatum Bell. Bell performed better than DeShaun Foster in the back-up role, running 11 times for52 yards and hauling in two catches for 16 yards. In PPR leagues, Tony Scheffler and Eddie Royal had decent days, with Scheffler gaining 61 yards on five catches and Royal gaining 42 yards on six catches.

The ageless wonder padded his stats against all tight ends, when Tony Gonzalez had five receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown. Dwayne Bowe almost hit the 100-yard mark, with seven catches for 96 yards. The 169 passing yards between these two made up all of Tyler Thigpenís passing except for 18 yards, however, Thigpen also ran for 34 yards, just two yards shy of Larry Johnsonís weak 36-yard performance.

Dolphins 16 - Bills 3

Fantasy Superman: None
Fantasy Performers: Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Ronnie Brown, Josh Reed
Fantasy Hens: Ted Ginn, Jr., Ricky Williams, Marshawn Lynch, J.P. Losman, Lee Evans

You never can tell with the Dolphins young wide receivers, who will be the flavor of the week. For the second consecutive week, Ted Ginn, Jr. fell off of Chad Penningtonís Christmas wish list and Devone Bess rose to the top. Bess brought down nine passes for 74 yards, Ginn, Jr., only one for 18 yards. Anthony Fasanoís 20-yard touchdown grab led the offense and Fasano ended the day with three catches for 36 yards. Ronnie Brown rushed for 70 yards and hauled in two catches for 18 yards. Ricky Williams rushed for 40 yards. Pennington threw for only 181 yards, but had a touchdown and no turnovers.

The Bills offense barely eked out 200 yards, 53 of which came off the fleet footed J.P. Losman. Unfortunately, Losman could only throw for 123 yards and tried to turn the ball over four times - he was only successful in his turnover attempts twice. Losman nearly lapped Marshawn Lynch, who rushed for 31 yards. The Billsí other big weapon, Lee Evans, was limited to three catches of only 23 yards. Josh Reed caught five passes for 58 yards.

Cardinals 34 - Rams 10

Fantasy Superman: Cardinalís Defense
Fantasy Performers: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin, Steven Jackson, Torry Holt
Fantasy Hens: None

I was surprised to read the box score on this game after hearing the score on the news. I obviously figured three touchdowns would have come from the passing game. That was not the case. Kurt Warner only targeted one touchdown and threw for 279 yards and an interception as well. His number one target was Steve Breaston who just may be the receiver to focus on for next year since Anquan Boldin should not be returning to Arizona. Breaston caught seven passes for 90 yards. Right behind him was Larry Fitzgerald with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. Of course, not far behind was Boldin with five catches for 62 yards. Tin Hightower could have reinvented himself against a pour Rams run defense. Instead, he scored a touchdown on 12 carries for only 32 yards.

Steven Jackson rushed for 62 yards and caught four passes for only three yards. Jackson scored a touchdown, but that was virtually negated by two fumbles. Torry Holt had five catches for 61 yards.