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Fantasy Game Recaps: Week 17
12/30/08

While most fantasy leagues closed shop following week 16, a few still remain open for business going into the final week of the season. The frustrations of week 17 match-ups appear each year. This year was no different. Perhaps the most frustrating week 17 performance was not the failures of players to perform in meaningful games, but instead the performance of LaDanian Tomlinson, who waited until most fantasy leagues were completed before acting like the first pick of a fantasy draft.

Chargers 52 - Broncos 21

Fantasy Superman: LaDainian Tomlinson, Darren Sproles, Tatum Bell
Fantasy Performers: Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Jay Cutler, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler
Fantasy Hens: Antonio Gates, Chris Chambers, Brandon Marshall

Welcome to the Bitter Hearts Club. With sound reasoning LaDainian Tomlinson was taken with the first or second pick of nearly every fantasy draft this season. Over the past three seasons he averaged 2033 combined yards, 55.67 receptions and 23 touchdowns. One could not ask for more out of their number one pick. Broken down over a 16 game season, Tomlinson averaged 127 ypg, 3.48 receptions per game and 1.44 touchdowns a game. In a standard scoring format with no bonuses and one point per reception, Tomlinson averaged 25 points per game over the last three years. Through the first 15 games of the 2008 season, Tomlinson never surpassed his three year average and only came close to it twice, once against Oakland and the other time against New Orleans. Then, as the fantasy season closes for most teams and fantasy managers return to just watching football games in preparation for the NFL play-offs, they are treated to a display of the old LaDanian Tomlinson who in only three quarters of play rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns. The fourth quarter belonged to Darren Sproles and Jacob Hester. Sproles rushed for 115 yards (81 of which came in the fourth quarter), caught two passes for 17 yards and scored two touchdowns (one of which came in the fourth quarter). Hester rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown, all in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers connected on 15 of 20 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, spreading the ball evenly amongst his receivers: Chris Chambers - three for 50 yards; Antonio Gates - three for 49 yards; and Vincent Jackson - two for 47 yards (along with 30 yards rushing).

Forget the cell phone kiosk, Tatum Bell has come a long way from grabbing Rudi Johnsonís bags and then being sent packing his own. Bell rushed for 86 yards, caught four passes for 31 yards and scored two touchdowns. Eddie Royal ended a solid rookie campaign with 11 receptions for 76 yards, ending the season with 91 receptions and 980 yards. Brandon Marshall did not have an exceptional game, catching only six balls for 55 yards, but he did catch his 100th pass of the season and continued with four more and over 1250 yards on the season. Jay Cutler tossed for 316 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Tony Scheffler caught five passes for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Panthers 33 - Saints 31

Fantasy Superman: DeAngelo Williams, Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Lance Moore
Fantasy Performers: Steve Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Jonathan Stewart, Jake Delhomme, Deuce McAllister
Fantasy Hens: None

One factor appeared constant amongst most fantasy leagues. DeAngelo Williams led his fantasy managers deep into play-offs and across the finish line to fantasy championships. The only question was how many team owners stuck with Williams from draft day to week 16. Halfway through the season, Williams had only 525 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Eight games later, Williamsí 178 rushing yards put him over 1500 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. Jonathan Stewart rushed 17 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. Jake Delhomme connected on 14 of 20 passes for 250 yards and a touchdown. The 14 catches were divided amongst only three receivers (not one reception was made by a tight end or a running back). Steve Smith caught five passes for 139 yards, Muhsin Muhammad caught seven for 79 yards and a touchdown and D.J. Hackett caught two passes for 37 yards. Given the limited number of offensive players getting into the action (six), I feel it necessary to note that John Kasay connected on four of five field goal attempts.

Drew Brees finished a fantastic fantasy year with a fantastic fantasy game. Brees threw for 386 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Brees ended 2008 without a play-off appearance despite throwing for over 5,000 yards and 34 touchdowns. The running game was down a Reggie Bush and a Pierre Thomas, leaving Mike Bell and Deuce McAllister to shoulder the load against a tough Panther defense. The Saints only rushed the ball 11 times, with McAllister carrying the ball eight times for 40 yards, along with five catches for 41 yards. Marques Colston hurt a lot of fantasy teams this season, catching only 25 passes for approximately 450 yards and only one touchdown prior to the commencement of fantasy play-offs. But, once there, Colston posted three very solid games and if relevant in week 17, may have assisted one or two fantasy teams to win their championship with seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Lance Moore returned from a dismal fantasy play-offs to catch eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Raiders 31 - Buccaneers 24

Fantasy Superman: Michael Bush, Cadillac Williams, Michael Clayton
Fantasy Performers: Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, JaMarcus Russell, Jeff Garcia, Antonio Bryant
Fantasy Hens: None

Most teams making it into their fantasy play-offs did not rely greatly on players from either of these teams. But, perhaps the Raiders revealed a glimpse of promise for 2009. All year long, my mantra for this team is that if its name does not end in Miller, itís hardly worthy of note. The Raiders showcased Michael Bush, perhaps as trade baitÖwho knows. But, what a showcase! Bush rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns. The other names which became household names in weeks 15-17 were receivers Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens. On Sunday, Higgins snagged six catches for 52 yards and a touchdown, while Schilens caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Jamarcus Russell only passed for 148 yards, but he completed 14 of 21 passes and threw two touchdowns, to only one interception.

Carnell Williams appeared to be back in the groove, rushing for 78 yards, catching five passes for 37 yards and scoring twice. However, another patellar issue will have fantasy owners worried and monitoring Williamsí progress in the off-season. Antonio Bryant returned to earth, logging only three catches for 77 yards. However, Bryant is definitely a player to look at for 2009, after catching 83 passes for 1248 yards. Michael Clayton busted on the scene , as he does once or twice a season, with two catches for 87 yards, one, a 58-yard touchdown. Jeff Garcia passed for 257 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Steelers 31 - Browns 0

Fantasy Superman: Willie Parker
Fantasy Performers: Jamal Lewis, Hines Ward, Heath Miller
Fantasy Hens: Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Mewelde Moore, Braylon Edwards, Bruce Gradkowski

So, you are in a week 17 championship game. The Steelers have little to gain in this game and you figure itís the time to play Mewelde Moore, as sitting Fast Willie Parker would seem prudent. Instead, after the game, you now understand why most leagues end their fantasy season in week 16, as predictability goes out the window. Willie Parker rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown, while Moore only rushed for 23 yards. Ben Roethlisberger got knocked out of the game early, completing nine of 14 passes for 110 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Hines Ward caught six passes for 70 yards and Heath Miller caught five passes for 55 yards. Santonio Holmes caught only three for 31 yards.

Surprisingly, although the Browns could not muster up any offense, Jamal Lewis apparently did not recognize the color of his uniform and rushed for 94 yards, 75% of the entire Browns offense. Braylon Edwards put an exclamation mark on his abysmal season, catching only one pass for five yards. The passing game was limited to a whopping 26 yards, so it is fair to say that every one involved therein should be embarrassed to make such an admission.

Vikings 20 - Giants 19

Fantasy Superman: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian
Fantasy Performers: Tarvaris Jackson, Bobby Wade, Domenik Hixon, Derrick Ward
Fantasy Hens: Visanthe Shiancoe, Steve Smith, Amani Toomer

Adrian Peterson suffered the sophomore jinx this year. What? How can that be possible? All-Day rushed for 1760 yards. There is no jinx. However, it was not until week 17, that Peterson scored a touchdown that put him into double digits. Eleven running backs scored more touchdowns than Peterson and three scored as many touchdowns. Peterson did play every game however, and in week 17 he ran for 103 yards and a touchdown. If this is only a sophomore jinx, 2009 should be truly exciting. Tarvaris Jackson threw for 239 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian each had four receptions, Wade for 98 yards and Berrian for 81 yards and a touchdown. Visanthe Shiancoe, who has come up large down the stretch, came up with only two catches for 14 yards.

The Giants pose the perfect example of why you do not want to see your fantasy championship going into week 17. Whether Carolina won and the Giants lost made no difference on the Giants play-off bye and accordingly, numerous starters were out of the game, not just fantasy starters, but their linemen as well. While Adrian Peterson and the Vikings were playing for their play-off lives, Brandon Jacobs - out; Eli Manning - half a game; Derrick Ward - limited carries. Eli Manning tossed for 119 yards. Derrick Ward rushed for 77 yards and caught two passes for 14 yards. Domenik Hixon caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Steve Smith and Amani Toomer each had only two catches, Smith for 20 yards and Toomer for 16 yards.

Colts 23 - Titans 0

Fantasy Superman: Week 17 nightmare - none
Fantasy Performers: Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark
Fantasy Hens: Peyton Manning, the Titans Offense (specifically Kerry Collins, Chris Johnson, LenDale White and Justin Gage)

This is another shining example of a week 17 nightmare and why fantasy leagues should end in week 16. The winning team did it with mostly second teamers. Peyton Manning was perfect, but he only threw the ball seven times and then gave way to Jim Sorgi. Manning threw for 95 yards and a touchdown to Joseph Addai for a 55-yard touchdown. Other than that reception, Addai ran the ball once for four yards. Reggie Wayne had only one catch for 15 yards. Dallas Clark caught six for 59 yards and Marvin Harrison filled the void with seven catches for only 31 yards.

Chris Johnson did not tote the ball. Lendale White carried it only seven times for 25 yards. Justin Gage had no receptions. Kerry Collins threw the ball twice for one completion and no yards. The only difference between the Titansí pathetic performance and the Brownsí was that the Titans did not need to prove anything in week 17 and Jeff Fisher would not be losing his job.

Texans 31 - Bears 24

Fantasy Superman: Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton
Fantasy Performers: Kyle Orton, Devin Hester
Fantasy Hens: Owen Daniels, Kevin Walter, Matt Forte

Andre Johnson failed to show up for week 16 championship games, but in week 17Johnson added to his already insane statistics with ten catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson ended 2008 with 1571 yards, 115 receptions and eight touchdowns. Steve Slaton added to his impressive rookie campaign with 92 rushing yards, five catches for 36 yards and a touchdown, but he coughed up the football once. Matt Schaub passed for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Oddly, no other receivers made much out of Schaubís large numbers. Owen Daniels caught three for 37 yards and Kevin Walter only caught one for 23 yards.

In a must win game for the Chicago Bears, the Windy Cityís rookie running back, Matt Forte was outperformed by the Texansí rookie running back. Forte may have ended the season with slightly better numbers than Slaton, but when it mattered most, he rushed for only 50 yards, caught three passes for 25 yards and failed to score a touchdown. Kyle Orton passed for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Devin Hester posted six receptions for 85 yards.

Packers 31 - Lions 21

Fantasy Superman: Aaron Rodgers, Kevin Smith, Donald Driver, DeShawn Wynn, Calvin Johnson
Fantasy Performers: Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings
Fantasy Hens: None

The Lions versus Packers was a completely meaningless game, its only focus being whether the Lions would be the first team to go winless. The Packers were hoping to go 6-10. A week 17 championship could easily have been decided by some of the huge performance out of this gameís blue chip players. Aaron Rodger threw three touchdowns without a turnover on 308 yards of passing. Donald Driver came up huge with six catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Greg Jennings had five catches for 101 yards. Ryan Grant rushed for 106 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards, while DeShawn Wynn burst back onto the scene with 106 yards and a touchdown.

Every 6.5 times Calvin Johnson caught a ball, he crossed the goal line. Megatron was on the worst team the NFL has ever seen , yet he ended the season with the fifth most receiving yards, tied for the most receiving touchdowns, all on just 78 receptions. In the Lionsí effort to avoid humiliation, Megatron caught nine passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Smith did not garner the attention of other rookies this year like Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton, Matt Forte or the quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Maybe thatís because his team was 0-16, or maybe itís because he only posted only 305 yards and four touchdowns over the first half of the season. But Kevin Smithís 92 yards and a touchdown against the Packers almost brought Smith to the 1,000 yard mark as he posted 671 yards and four more touchdowns in the second half of the season. Smithís numbers were equal to each of the other three rookie running backs over the second half of the season. IS John Stand ford a name to even consider in 2009. Dan Orlovsky liked him enough to get the ball to him 10 times for 164 yards over the last three games of the season (3 for 82 yards in week17).

Bengals 16 - Chiefs 6

Fantasy Superman: Cedric Benson, Dwayne Bowe
Fantasy Performers: Tony Gonzalez, Tyler Thigpen
Fantasy Hens: The Bengalsí Passing Game, Larry Johnson

Like the Lions v. Packers game, this had all the makings of a game which would give the two teams a combined six wins over the season. However, a week 17 championship game could have welcomed another late season performance for Cedric Benson who rushed for 111 yards, caught two passes for 19 yards and scored a touchdown. Bensonís 120 yards rushing average over the last three games makes him a guy to keep your eye on for next season. The once powerful Bengalsí passing attack fizzled out in the same anonymity which has been present all year. Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Carson Palmer were nowhere to be seen. Neither was Ryan Fitzpatrick, who connected on 18 of 30 passes for only 129 yards.

Just in the nick of time, Dwayne Bowe made himself fantasy relevant for 2009 with a ten-catch, 103-yard performance. Tyler Thigpen passed for 191 yards and a touchdown to his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez who caught five passes for 53 yards. Larry Johnsonís fantasy relevance took a big shot with only 18 rushes on 10 carries.

Patriots 13 - Bills 0

Fantasy Superman: Fred Jackson
Fantasy Performers: LaMont Jordan, Sammy Morris, Lee Evans
Fantasy Hens: Matt Cassell, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Trent Edwards, Marshawn Lynch

In what was another meaningful game for a week 17 fantasy championship, the wind assisted in fantasy underperformances. The Patriots needed a win and Belichickís history of playing his first team players in week 17 would give managers false hope this week. Wind conditions had Matt Cassell throw the ball only eight times, connecting on six (three of which went to running backs) for a total of 78 yards. Wes Welker doubled Randy Mossís performance, Welker going two for 26 yards and Moss nabbing only one for 13 yards. Lamont Jordan rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown. Sammy Morris rushed for 85 yards.

Marshawn Lynch did not see any action. His replacement Fred Jackson rushed for 136 yards. Trent Edwards threw for only 128 yards and fumbled the ball once. However, Lee Evans had a decent game under the conditions, with five catches for 63 yards.

Falcons 31 - Rams 27

Fantasy Superman: Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood, Steven Jackson
Fantasy Performers: Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Donnie Avery, Torry Holt, Marc Bulger
Fantasy Hens: Matt Ryan

The Falcons run game excelled going into a play-off prep game, but rookie Matt Ryan may have shown that he is not ready for the big one just yet. Ryan completed only 10 of 21 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, while throwing two interceptions. Michael Turner completed an excellent year outside the shadow of LaDanian Tomlinson, rushing for 208 yards, a touchdown and one fumble. Jerious Norwood also had a fantasy relevant game with 56 yards rushing, 22 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Roddy White caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown, while Michael Jenkins led in catches and yardage with four for 72 yards.

Apparently Steven Jackson was afraid of posting his first season with less than 1,000 rushing yards, coming into the game with only 881 yards on the ground. Sixty minutes later, S-Jax ad his 1,000 yards with a monster performance of 161 yards rushing, four catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns. Torry Holt showed up with six catches for 90 yards. Donnie Avery had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. Marc Bulger tossed for 230 yards and touchdown.

49ers 27 - Redskins 24

Fantasy Superman: None
Fantasy Performers: Shaun Hill, DeShaun Foster, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley
Fantasy Hens: Frank Gore, Isaac Bruce

The Skins and the Niners acted like this game meant something. Perhaps a 9-7 season sounded better than a .500 season for Washington and a 7-9 season would secure Mike Singletary a job after dropping his drawers. Frank Gore started, but split carries with DeShaun Foster. Although Gore averaged over five yards per carry, he only rushed 11 times for 58 yards and no scores. DeShaun Foster rushed for 44 yards, caught three passes for 20 yards and scored a touchdown. Shaun Hill may have secured himself a position as starter for the 49ers, passing for 245 yards, a touchdown and rushing in for another touchdown, while throwing up one interception. Josh Morgan caught three passes for 50 yards and Bryant Johnson caught two passes for 43 yards. Isaac Bruce caught only two passes for eight yards.

Clinton Portis was drafted at the back end of the first round of most drafts and paid off great dividends to those who jumped on him. Portisís 80 yards and a touchdown brought him within a breath of 1,500 rushing yards, over 1,700 combined yards and 9 touchdowns. Jason Campbell threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, nearly all of which went to Santana Moss (six for 68 yards) and Chris Cooley (six for 57 yards). The touchdown went to Antwaan Randle El who only had three catches totaling 16 yards.

Cardinals 34 - Seahawks 21

Fantasy Superman: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Kurt Warner, Deion Branch
Fantasy Performers: Edgerrin James, Jerheme Urban, Seneca Wallace, Bobby Engram
Fantasy Hens: Tim Hightower, Maurice Morris

The week 16 championships were burned by Kurt Warner. In week 17 however, Warner returned to prominence with 263 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Edgerrin James rushed for 100 yards while his heir apparent, Tim Hightower rushed for only three yards on three carries. The game belonged to Larry Fitzgerald, who ended the season tied for the NFLís leading touchdown receiver, second in receiving yards and tied for fourth in number of receptions. Fitzgerald caught five passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Steve Breaston is making it easier on the Cardinals to let Anquan Boldin move out, with five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. Jerheme Urban posted four for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Just when you though it was safe to say no to Deion Branch, he catches six passes from Seneca Wallace for 90 yards and two touchdowns. Bobby Engram also caught six passes for 50 yards. Wallace connected on 24 of 43 passes for 250 yards for two touchdowns, along with two interceptions. Maurice Morris rushed for 45 yards, caught three passes for 26 yards and fumbled the ball once.

Eagles 44 - Cowboys 6

Fantasy Superman: Correll Buckhalter, The Eagles Defense
Fantasy Performers: Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten
Fantasy Hens: Brian Westbrook, Kevin Curtis, Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Tashard Choice

A look at the score tells you that the Eaglesí top players had a fantasy bonanza. Oh wait, no it didnít. Two touchdowns, five turnovers, four sacks and allowing only two field goals made the Eagles Defense the play of the day. Correll Buckhalter rushed for 63 yards, caught three passes for 59 yards and scored a touchdown. Donovan McNabb hooked up only 12 times for 175 yards, but scored two touchdowns on passes and one rushing. Brian Westbrook rushed for only 50 yards, caught two passes for 12 yards and dropped the rock once. The Eagles receivers only posted 74 yards with DeSean Jackson leading the way with three for 46 yards. Tight End Brent Celek replaced L.J. Smith with three catches for 30 yards and a touchdown.

There is no truth to the rumor that Tony Romo cannot handle the pressure of a meaningful game. He threw for 183 yards. Romo did not score and he threw one interception and fumbled away the ball twice. In an all important game for the Cowboys, Marion Barber rushed only three times for 13 yards, caught two passes for 20 yards and also fumbled. Tashard Choice rushed for 56 yards. Terrell Owens reminded the Eagles just how he can have a very good game despite the rest of his teamís falling apart around him, hauling in six catches for 103 yards. Jason Witten caught seven passes for 50 yards.

Dolphins 24 - Jets 17

Fantasy Superman: Ted Ginn, Jr., Leon Washington, Laveranues Coles
Fantasy Performers: Chad Pennington, Anthony Fasano
Fantasy Hens: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Davone Bess, Brett Favre, Thomas Jones, Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller

Big play Ted Ginn, Jr. caught only two passes, however, he did so for 71 yards and a touchdown. Chad Pennington passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphin running game was solid, but from a fantasy perspective held in check with Ronnie Brown rushing for 57 yards on 11 carries and four catches for 15 yards, while Ricky Williams rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries. Anthony Fasano had three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, while Davone Bess had twice as many catches (6) for the same amount of yards (39), without a score.

Brett Favre threw for 233 yards and a touchdown, but three interceptions dampened any fantasy performance numbers (as it did any play-off chances). Thomas Jonesí late season drop-off culminated in a 10 carry for 23-yard performance. Leon Washington, on the other hand, rushed for 60 yards., a touchdown, and caught six passes for 29 yards. Laveranues Coles ended the season on an up tick with four catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. Chanci Stuckey caught four passes for 50 yards. Jerricho Cotchery caught two passes for 41 yards. Dustin Keller caught two passes for only 24 yards.

Ravens 27 - Jaguars 7

Fantasy Superman: LeíRon McClain, Mark Clayton
Fantasy Performers: Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, Willis McGahee, David Garrard
Fantasy Hens: Maurice Jones-Drew, Dennis Northcutt

Although LeíRon McClain could not average even three yards per carry, two touchdowns and 70 yards is a fantasy relevant performance. In fact, Willis McGahee looked much better on far less touches, rushing four times for 24 yards and a touchdown, while also catching two passes for 25 yards. Mark Clayton netted 128 yards on just four receptions. Derrick Mason caught six passes for 77 yards. Joe Flacco passed for 297 yards, yet he did not connect for a single score.

Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 78 yards and caught only one pass for 10 yards. Jones-Drew fumbled the ball away and did not score a touchdown. David Garrardís passing was limited to 127 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. However, Garrard rushed for 40 yards. The top receiver in the Jaguar offense was Dennis Northcutt, who had five catches for 35 yards and one fumble.