Kaepnernick continues to impress (USAT)
As an Arian Foster owner in numerous leagues, it was frustrating to see him not score in a game for just the second time all season, especially at home in such a favorable matchup, but he really piled on the yards late, finishing with 165 rushing, so it's tough to complain too much. In fact, his 6.1 YPC was by far the best of the year. He also had a 27-yard touchdown run called back due to a hold…Reggie Wayne picked a poor time to have his three lowest yardage totals of the season, which have occurred over the past three games, including a season-low 14 yards Sunday…Vick Ballard was highly impressive. He's an interesting keeper league commodity moving forward…Sunday marked just the third game this season in which Andrew Luck didn't commit a turnover, and while he finished with a strong 95.6 QB rating, he's now completed just 49.5 percent of his passes over the past five games…During the 10 games I started Andre Johnson in my home league this year, he averaged 5.1 catches and 63.0 yards with two touchdowns. During the four games I put him on my bench, he averaged 10.5 catches and 182.5 yards with two touchdowns. Good times.
Ronnie Hillman shouldn't be knocked for his inferior YPC since most of his carries came in obvious run situations when Denver was purely trying to run out the clock, but Knowshon Moreno really impressed beforehand, showing exceptional patience and vision while even hurdling Ed Reed in the open field at one point. I'm as surprised as anyone…Demaryius Thomas got 13 yards on nine targets, while Eric Decker got 133 yards and a touchdown (on 11 targets). I'm guessing many fantasy owners expected something close to the opposite entering Sunday…It's just one game, but Cam Cameron's firing certainly didn't help Baltimore's offense against Denver…Ray Rice was given more than 20 carries in seven games last year. He's been given that many just twice so far this season…It may have been inconsequential, but Dennis Pitta's second touchdown catch was definitely noteworthy.
"Da Ali G Show" is easily one of my favorite comedies of all time, so it's nice to see him get an award, even 10 years later.
The Jags were up 3-0 immediately in Sunday's game and didn't score over the next 55 minutes. Early in the second quarter, a 20-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon was negated by a penalty, as Guy Whimper (best or worst name in football?) failed to properly check himself in. Jacksonville also scored a touchdown inside the final two minutes, during a meaningless drive only for it to be later overturned by replay…Chad Henne has completed just 48.7 percent of his passes over his past three games, getting 5.1 YPA with a 1:3 TD:INT ratio, as he's quickly reverted back to his days in Miami…Over his last five games, Cecil Shorts has 33 catches for 469 receiving yards and four touchdowns despite dealing with shaky QB play.
I made a joke in last week's column about Washington having a QB controversy, and while there obviously still isn't one, Kirk Cousins really impressed, completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 8.9 YPA. The Washington coaching deserves plenty of credit too, as they even had to change schemes and move away from the Pistol with the switch at QB. Like most, I didn't understand why the Redskins used an early fourth round selection on Cousins, especially since they traded so many picks in the RG3 deal, but they were clearly right in doing so. He provides nice insurance in the short-term behind a quarterback who carries extra injury risk with the nature of his play, and he could easily lead to an early round draft pick in a trade down the road. Seriously, how good is this year's rookie QB class?...Alfred Morris had a nice day, but a good game could have been truly huge had Evan Royster not stole a goal-line touchdown…Washington is now 7-1 with Pierre Garcon in the lineup this season…Trent Richardson has 11 touchdowns on the year, including six over the past four games. And among backs with at least 80 carries, his 352 receiving yards are tied for the third-most in football, so he's been anything but a fantasy disappointment. Still, his low YPC continues to surprise, especially since he seemingly passes the eye test to almost all observers. Richardson's 2.1 YPC after contact is tied for 43rd in the NFL, but his 38 broken tackles are the sixth-most in the league. Hopefully his offensive teammates improve moving forward and better health lead to a big jump in efficiency during his sophomore year. And if not, the volume and goal-line work make him a first round pick regardless.
Marshawn Lynch actually has one more broken tackle (a league leading 50) than Adrian Peterson this season, but the latter has gotten a full yard more per carry after contact (2.9 compared to 3.9, which leads the NFL by a wide margin). At this point, I'm not sure what more can be said about Peterson, who's run for 1,313 yards over the past eight games (the most over an eight-game span in NFL history), getting a respectable 7.5 YPC (and nine touchdowns) in the process. It would be pretty cool to see Peterson break the rushing record and Calvin Johnson set the receiving record with Aldon Smith or J.J. Watt doing the same in sacks all in the same season…Blair Walsh is a perfect 8-for-8 from 50+ yards this year and 90.6 percent overall, as he's been incredible. However, he was just 1-for-3 (his only two miscues on the year) over his previous three games, so Sunday's monster outing might not have helped a ton of fantasy owners…Albeit somewhat risky, if you've made it this far and have Danny Amendola, I think you've got to roll with him in Week 16. He looked healthy enough Sunday, and Tampa Bay has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, including a league-high 208 receptions.
Saturday night's UFC card was one of the better in recent memory, with almost all of the fights highly entertaining and ending in spectacular fashion. I can't wait for the upcoming Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz fight (UFC 158 looks like a loaded card).
Josh Freeman has been very inconsistent in his career, but who could have seen this coming in such a favorable matchup? I wonder how often a team is shut out in a game that's the week's highest over/under total — I'd imagine it's quite rare. Freeman's zero touchdown/five turnover effort likely sunk many fantasy owners, and to think, he looked like a truly emerging star in the middle of the year…Doug Martin rushing for 16 yards on nine carries against a Saints team that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs (they still have, even after Sunday's performance) has to be one of the most surprising lines of the year…After scoring eight times over his first nine games this season, Jimmy Graham has been held out of the end zone in each of his past four contests. He 's also reached 75 receiving yards in just one game since Week 4. Maybe the wrist injury is more to blame than most realize, but Graham certainly won't be going nearly as high in drafts next year.
Snitches get stitches. Just ask Michael Douglas' son.
While I was in no way surprised the Falcons beat the Giants, obviously the way in which they did was hardly expected. Matt Ryan is now 33-4 (including 11 straight wins) at home during his career, which is the best winning percentage since the merger…Count me among those who were burned by David Wilson. The game situation literally could not have gone worse for the explosive runner, who certainly didn't disappointment (4.6 YPC) with what he was given. Ugh…Not sure what to make of Eli Manning right now, who's been totally uneven all year. One weird thing to note, he's actually lost the fewest yards via sack (94) among starting quarterbacks this season…It was nice to see Julio Jones hit pay dirt twice, as it marked the first time he's scored at home this year. He was about as good as it gets, hauling in all six of his looks while getting 12.3 yards-per-target. Jones is on pace to finish with 79 catches for 1,190 yards and 10 touchdowns and yet his season feels disappointing. Of course, my expectations were extremely high entering the year. I'll be buying Jones stock again in 2013 though.
Here's my NBA column from last week, for those who like hoops or just more random links.
Brandon Marshall has already set career highs in receptions (107) and receiving yards (1,398) while tying a personal-best with 10 touchdowns. His 15-yard touchdown Sunday that involved two broken tackles, one via a sick stiff arm, was a thing of beauty. Marshall has been fantastic all year, so it's pretty strange that Jay Cutler's 7.0 YPA is the second lowest of his career, and his INT% has increased from 2.2 last year to 3.7 this year, although his TD% has improved from 4.1 to 4.5…I suggested my wife start Malcom Floyd over James Jones this week. Oops. Not sure what I was thinking considering Jones is now the NFL leader in touchdown receptions…I'm beginning to think Matt Forte struggles in goal-line situations…Mason Crosby's slump might actually be bad news for the rest of the league, as it's forced Green Bay to be unusually aggressive. With 9:44 left in the third quarter on 4th-and-6 from the Bears' 26-yard line, the Packers bypassed a 43-yard FG attempt and went for it (almost all coaches go by the book here and bring in the FG unit even if the stats suggest they should do otherwise, with Mike McCarthy certainly not being one of the exceptions). Instead, Green Bay picked up a first down and the drive later resulted in a touchdown. This should only continue more after Crosby shanked a 42-yarder later in the game on 4th-and-1…What were the Packers thinking running such a crazy trick play during a punt return that required a pass backward across the entire field while up 21-10 with fewer than eight minutes left in the game? Dumbfounding…After the aforementioned trick play resulted in a turnover, the Bears were back in the game, but two huge penalties prevented them from truly coming back — one offensive PI against Alshon Jeffery (the second against the rookie WR on the day) followed by a non-call on Sam Shields (again with Jeffery involved) on a crucial fourth down with 2:07 left in which there was at least as much contact made in the previous call.
A unicorn lair claimed to be unearthed in North Korea. The accompanying picture is pretty indisputable.
After recording zero rushing touchdowns this season, Russell Wilson had three Sunday, including two in the first 10 minutes. At halftime, the Seahawks had scored 89 points over their previous six quarters. They didn't quite keep up the pace (although they did attempt a fake punt up 47-17 in the fourth quarter, resulting in slightly different reactions), but they have now scored 108 points over their past two games. Wilson might have had a truly historical fantasy day if not for the blowout. He'll enter next year as a clear top-12 fantasy QB, and it's mainly Seattle's strong defense preventing him from entering top-six territory…I probably would have picked Seattle to win the NFC if not for San Francisco upsetting New England, which almost certainly prevented them from getting the No. 2 seed. But still, this is a dangerous team that should only get better in years to come…Stevie Johnson had a really nice game, securing eight of his 12 targets for 115 yards and a score, including this catch that was probably the best of the week…It's pretty crazy in a game that was so lopsided, the Bills had both a 100-yard rusher (C.J. Spiller) and a 100-yard receiver (Johnson) and just one fewer first down than the Seahawks (22 to 21). Seattle became the first team since the merger to score 50 points in back-to-back games.
Here's an old yet classic clip of someone getting tased and then stealing a cop car afterward and taking it on a joy ride.
After a stretch in which San Diego went 1-7, they went into Pittsburgh last week and dominated. So of course they follow that up by entering the fourth quarter Sunday down 31-0 at home as favorites against the Panthers. What a joke…Danario Alexander entered averaging 6.0 catches and 98.8 receiving yards with five touchdowns over his previous five games, getting 47 targets over that span. Naturally, he saw just three looks and put up a goose egg in Week 15. I don't mean to brag, but I strongly recommended starting Alexander, Bryce Brown and David Wilson this week…It's only fitting the week SD coaches go out of their way to say Ryan Mathews is going to set a career high in touches with Ronnie Brown out he totals a whopping four carries before suffering a season-ending broken collarbone (he's now shattered both in the same season). I've been a full blown Mathews apologist in the past, but there's no sugar coating or making excuses for him at this point…Philip Rivers has 15 fumbles this year — by far the most in the NFL…Over the last five games, Cam Newton has 13 touchdowns with zero turnovers, getting 8.6 YPA while adding 293 rushing yards over that span. The sequence of his production this year might keep his price tag down at least a bit next year, but his upside remains extremely high.
I know "Dexter " is totally ridiculous, but Season 7 was also totally engrossing. It's not even close to as good as "Breaking Bad," but both shows have protagonists who have grown increasingly amoral, and both have also set up their (likely) final seasons in a similar way. Dexter's season finale Sunday really took a dark turn.
Matthew Stafford was a fantasy killer in Week 15 (USAT)
Those who started Detroit's defense in fantasy leagues have to be enraged. After pitching a shut out for the first 20 minutes, they gave up a touchdown after a muffed punt led to a five-yard drive. A Matthew Stafford interception then followed, leading to another touchdown, this time on a three-yard drive. The following seven points allowed came via a Stafford pick-six (in fantasy terms this actually only counted as an extra point against in Yahoo! leagues). So at halftime, the Lions' D had given up 21 points on drives that combined for eight yards. They then allowed one field goal in the third quarter on a 30-yard drive, and saw yet another Stafford pick-six count against them in the fourth quarter before finally giving up a legit touchdown late in the game when the score was out of hand, although even that one was just a 31-yard drive. The points put up by Arizona meant they also barely threw the ball on offense, so this only compounded the problem. Unreal…Over his last five games, Larry Fitzgerald has 10 catches for 89 yards and no touchdowns. Wow…For all of their problems, the Cardinals pass defense has actually been strong this year, allowing a 17:22 TD:INT ratio and an NFL-low 68.0 QB rating (and the third fewest fantasy points against), but that hardly gives Stafford a pass on such a truly horrific performance. Despite playing half his games in a dome and having arguably one of the best wide receivers in the history of football at his disposal (Calvin Johnson has already become the first WR to post back-to-back 1,600-yard seasons, and to put this in perspective, Jerry Rice had one such season during his entire career), Stafford has gotten 6.8 YPA this year. He's produced 17 touchdown passes on 629 attempts.
My home league opponent had Darren McFadden, Sebastian Janikowski and the Raiders' defense going against me, and I had Carson Palmer. Palmer had by far his worst game of the season, while Janikowski attempted six field goals, making five of them. And the Raiders' defense that has (still) allowed the most points per game in the NFL this year produced a shutout. Really? The Chiefs didn't get a first down until there were 5:00 minutes left in the third quarter! At some point, the fantasy gods were just trolling me...Seriously, how bad are the Chiefs? Oakland has allowed 14 touchdowns to running backs this season — the second most in the NFL. Jamaal Charles got 10 yards on nine carries Sunday. I can't wait for the Ricky Stanzi era to start.
The Cowboys/Steelers battle turned epic, although it was surprising to see the Cowboys pull off the victory, as while both teams are inconsistent, it's usually Dallas blowing the big games while Pittsburgh often steps up. The outcome was especially surprising when you consider the Steelers were called for zero penalties on the day, while the Cowboys were flagged for eight…Tony Romo became the first 300-yard passer Pittsburgh has allowed since Week 9 of last year…After scoring three touchdowns over the first 34 games of his career, Antonio Brown has scored twice over his past two contests. While it ultimately didn't matter, it was curious of Brown to go out of his way to sprint out of bounds after a catch with a minute left in the fourth quarter on a play in which resulted in fourth down, saving the Cowboys time.
Here's a truck full of cows crashing, with all of them seemingly unharmed and walking away like nothing happened.
What a crazy 49ers/Patriots game. The first quarter actually featured plenty of (sloppy) action, but the true craziness occurred later, as a 7-3 game midway through the second quarter somehow ended with 75 total points being scored. As a 49ers fan, losing a game in which they were up 31-3 would have easily gone down as one of the worst ever, at least in the regular season…Tom Brady completed fewer than 60.0 percent of his passes for the first time this season, but he produced 24 points in the fourth quarter against arguably the best defense in the league, finishing with 443 passing yards. He's also now 18-for-19 while rushing during 4th-and-1 situations during his career, which is remarkable. The 49ers handed the Patriots their first loss at home in December in 10 years…Fantasy owners certainly don't care after a nice game, but Aaron Hernandez got just 4.8 yards per target…After totaling 23 targets over his previous five games, Brandon Lloyd has seen a whopping 25 over his past two games, gashing an SF secondary that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers for 190 yards Sunday night...This game featured eight fumbles, eight fourth down conversion attempts (damn you Bill Belichick for being so smart, not only including the aggressive fourth down decisions but also immediately kicking the FG late in the fourth quarter and then attempting the onside kick. He's playing chess while the rest of the league is playing checkers) and a successful fake punt…Colin Kaepernick's four TD passes were the most by a 49er since 2003, and he also got 8.6 YPA while taking just one sack. Moreover, his 5.4 AirYPA easily leads the NFL, which is incredible for someone with five career starts. CK7 needs to stop fumbling, but I'm officially all in - it's not just an SF thing either, as I started him in my three biggest money leagues this week. Consider me mayor of Kap City.
Longread of the week: "Murder by Text." This is extremely depressing. You've been warned.
The Jets weren't put in as bad of situations as the Lions' D was, but their offense certainly didn't help, although New York still held Tennessee to just 14 points with just 127 net passing yards. Chris Johnson's 94-yard touchdown run was the second longest in Monday Night Football history, accounting for a third of the team's total yardage…I sincerely hope ESPN and NFL Network does a better job of picking prime time games next year, as 2012 will go down as an embarrassing slate for both…Mark Sanchez finished Monday night's game with a 4.7 YPA mark and five turnovers, with the latest ending the game in perfect fashion. Tim Tebow finished with a better QB rating despite not completing a single pass.