Russell Wilson delivered a clinic at Soldier Field (US Presswire)
If we asked you to evaluate two unnamed NFL quarterbacks based only on these stats...
Player A — 7.1 Y/A, 17 TDs, 16 INTs, 54.4% comp, 216 rush
Player B — 7.4 Y/A, 19 TDs, 8 INTs, 63.4% comp, 298 rush
...it's unlikely you'd conclude that Player A was better. You definitely wouldn't suggest that he was substantially better.
Of course you might also argue that we can't reasonably evaluate QBs based on a few cherry-picked stats, omitting team context and win-loss record — and you'd be right. I'm not all that interested in making over-the-top claims about either Luck or Wilson. Both rookie quarterbacks were excellent in the biggest moments on Sunday, leading their teams to comeback wins on the road. It seems silly to debate which come-from-behind victory was more impressive, or which tells us more about an individual player's NFL future.
For fantasy purposes, Luck had the bigger day, thanks mostly to pass volume (and the quality of the opposing defense). He put the ball in the air 54 times at Detroit, the third time this season he's reached to 50-attempt mark. Luck finished 24-for-54 with 391 yards, four TDs and three picks. As of this writing, he's actually the week's top-scoring player. Let there be no doubt: He's terrific. An emerging fantasy star. Basically an every-week play.
But we've told Luck's story before, several times. Wilson, by comparison, hasn't received nearly enough attention around here.
All Wilson did on Sunday was direct a 97-yard go-ahead drive late in the fourth quarter, accounting for 86 of the yards himself, followed by an 80-yard game-winning drive in OT. He refused to give away the football to the league's most opportunistic defense, completing 23 of 37 throws for 293 yards and two scores. Wilson also added 71 rushing yards on nine carries, making the Bears D look old and slow and very tired. He had a huge fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, too.
Over Wilson's last five games, he's tossed 11 touchdown passes and just one interception, completing 68.3 percent of his throws. It seems almost a fluke that he doesn't have a rushing score this season — he's run the ball more often than Luck this year (66 to 44), just for the record, gaining more yards (298 to 216).
Wilson still hasn't attempted 40 throws in any game for the Seahawks, so he's nowhere near Luck in terms of year-to-date fantasy scoring. (Luck is averaging 41.9 attempts per game, Wilson 26.4). But he now leads all rookie quarterbacks in touchdown passes, and he ranks second to RG3 in passer-rating, yards-per-attempt and completion percentage. If Pete Carroll puts a bit more on Wilson's shoulders in 2013, we're looking at a better-than-useful fantasy season.
Another 10 catches, 14 targets for Brandon Marshall (Getty)• In a losing effort, Brandon Marshall had another enormous day for Chicago, snagging 10 balls for 165 yards on 14 targets, again accounting for most of Jay Cutler's passing yardage (233). Marshall hauled in a ridiculous 56-yard reception in the final seconds of regulation (against indifferent coverage), setting up Robbie Gould's game-tying field goal. The Bears offense wasn't necessarily the team's biggest problem on Sunday, although they certainly didn't make the most of their opportunities. Earl Bennett dropped an easy long TD, and the Bears blew a fourth-and-short conversion in the first half at the Seattle 15.
If there was a silver lining in Chicago's loss — there wasn't, but please play along — it's that Matt Forte (ankle) was able to handle a full workload. He gained 96 total yards on 24 touches, breaking the plane once, generally looking healthy.
• I'm not entirely sure who the Vikings quarterback will be next season, but apparently it's still going to be Christian Ponder in Week 14. So you've got that to look forward to, Minnesota fans. Ponder was a mess on Sunday at Lambeau, completing just 12 throws to his own receivers, and two to Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett. Adrian Peterson was an absolute monster (we told that story while it was in progress), finishing with 210 rushing yards on 21 carries. Ponder accounted for 119 yards on 25 throws. Yikes. Stay ready, Joe Webb.
• Green Bay receiver James Jones gave us a zero last week, never even drawing a target, but he got himself back on the board early in Week 13. Jones hauled in a 32-yard score on a free play in the first quarter, then later had a second TD negated by penalty. Greg Jennings led all Packers receivers in targets in his return to active duty, hauling in four balls for 46 yards on eight chances. Randall Cobb caught everything thrown his way (6-for-6), finishing with a game-high 62 yards. Jordy Nelson checked out early with a hamstring injury, so he offered little to the fantasy community (1-10-0).
• If you suffered through the entire Cards-Jets game ... well, wow. I'm sorry. Also, it might be time to take a personal inventory, maybe figure out why you keep doing this to yourself.
New York edged Arizona in a game that featured five turnovers and one offensive touchdown. Ryan Lindley was a disaster for the Cards (10-for-31, 72 yards, INT), and for Larry Fitzgerald owners. Fitz finished with just one catch on seven targets, gaining 23 yards. Hopefully you weren't expecting much more. Mark Sanchez completed fewer than 50 percent of his throws and was picked three times; two of the interceptions were horrendous, one a brilliant play by Patrick Peterson. Sanchez was eventually yanked in favor of Greg McElroy, who completed five passes for 29 yards, with a goal line TD. Tim Tebow was inactive due to a rib injury.
"I'll let you guys know who's going to be quarterback [next week] when I'm ready," said Rex Ryan.
Yeah, OK. I can't pretend to care about the Jets quarterback situation right now, coach. Maybe next year.
Peyton Manning delivers his usual big day (USP)• Peyton Manning tossed his usual three touchdown passes in Week 13 — he's hit that number seven times this season — completing 27 of 38 throws for 242 yards. Ho-hum. Just another 20-something fantasy points for that dude. One of Sunday's more remarkable completions was this Manning-to-Knowshon Moreno connection for a first down, notable because Denver's running back was sitting on the 30-yard line when it happened.
Moreno didn't have a huge yardage day, but he again dominated the backfield work, finishing with 83 total yards on 24 touches. Ronnie Hillman was merely a supporting actor, carrying five times for 29 yards.
• Wes Welker tied Jerry Rice's career record for double-digit reception games in Week 13, reaching the 10-catch plateau for the 17th time in his career. The Pats clinched their division on Sunday, though the game was a bit closer (and less fantasy-friendly) than you might have expected. Tom Brady wasn't taking many deep shots, finishing with 238 yards on 40 attempts, tossing one TD pass and one pick. The interception was just his fourth of the year on 460 throws, which hardly seems possible.
On the Miami side, we should note the distribution of carries and yards for Daniel Thomas (5-10) and Reggie Bush (15-64). Thomas had some rough moments in pass protection, too, so his stock isn't exactly soaring.
• Brady Quinn had an unexpectedly great day on the field (19-for-23, 201 yards, 2 TDs), and a much more impressive day at the podium. You can find his full postgame comments right here. Well said, sir. Full credit to Quinn, Romeo Crennel and many other Chiefs for their handling of an unimaginably difficult situation.
Cam Newton had a nice enough day for the Panthers in defeat, passing for 232 yards and three scores against KC, while also leading his team in rushing (7-78-0). DeAngelo Williams was great on a per-carry basis (5.6), but he only took 12 hand-offs. Steve Smith had a big day (5-120-1), much too late to save your fantasy season.
• All things considered, this was really not a great day for Jerry Rice, at least in terms of NFL records. There the Welker thing (see bullet above), and then there's Calvin Johnson's pursuit of Rice's single-season receiving yardage mark. 'Tron hauled in 13 balls for 171 yards on 20 targets in the loss to Indy, which gives him 1,428 year-to-date receiving yards. Calvin is now on pace to finish with just over 1,900 ; Rice holds the all-time record with 1,848.* Johnson was basically a one-man show for the Lions in Week 13, as Ryan Broyles exited early with a right knee injury (and it doesn't sound minor). Broyles tore the ACL in his left knee late last season at Oklahoma.
*Honestly, I still can't stand thinking about Rice's 1995 season. He put up 289 of his yards on a Monday night in mid-December, costing me a fantasy title. I'm not gonna be too upset if there's one less mention of his '95 campaign in the record books.
• Were promises not made about getting CJ Spiller more touches than Fred Jackson? Am I making that up? I'm not, right?
Well, Jackson carried 25 times on Sunday against Jacksonville, gaining 109 yards. Spiller had 14 totes for 77, including a 44-yard touchdown. I'm not going to argue that Jackson should be shelved completely — this isn't a DeAngelo-vs.-DeShaun situation — but Spiller is a huge talent, deserving a greater share of the touches. Regardless, the Bills got a win against the Jags in Week 13. So Chan Gailey will probably decide he's found the winning formula.
Cecil Shorts, unstoppable fantasy force (USP)Cecil Shorts caught another TD pass for Jacksonville, his fourth in as many games, but he was really the only Jaguar of note. Chad Henne completed just 18 of 41 pass attempts, but a 1-yard rushing score helped save his fantasy day.
• The Texans clinched a playoff berth on Sunday, though no one had a particularly great fantasy day. Matt Schaub threw a pair of TD passes, Arian Foster rushed for one score, and the defense handled the rest. Tennessee debuted a new offensive coordinator (Dowell Loggains) with the same old results (10 points). Kenny Britt caught just two balls on eight targets, but one of 'em became a 34-yard score. So that's something. The Titans receivers really had a sloppy day otherwise. Kendall Wright is probably still out there somewhere, dropping things.
• If the Niners QB situation is truly a hot-hand thing, then the warmest hand may no longer belong to Colin Kaepernick. He accounted for 292 yards on Sunday (84 rushing), but he also handed the Rams eight of the 10 points they scored in regulation. First there was the safety on a grounding penalty from the end zone (may have been an incorrect call, but apparently it's not reviewable...which is crazy), and then there was his errant pitch, resulting in a late defensive touchdown for St. Louis. But Jim Harbaugh was supportive in his postgame comments...
"I'll let you know if there's a change," Harbaugh said, "but right now feel as if it'll be the same as this week."
...so there's no reason to assume Alex Smith will be back at the controls in Week 14 against Miami.
• AJ Green's streak of not scoring a touchdown has now reached two games. TWO. WHEN WILL OUR LONG NIGHTMARE END? (Green still caught nine passes for 85 yards, so there's nothing to complain about). Philip Rivers delivered yet another sketchy line, passing for no scores, turning the ball over twice. You weren't surprised that the game ended with a Rivers end zone interception, right? Of course you weren't.
• Brandon Myers caught 14 balls on 15 targets against the Browns, doing much of his damage on the Raiders' final drive. His late touchdown, in the final seconds of a not-at-all-meaningful game, is probably going to knock a few thousand fantasy owners out of the playoffs (including me, in at least one league). No one ever said this wasn't a cruel game. Josh Gordon had a huge day for Cleveland, catching six passes for 116 yards, with a 44-yard TD included. Brandon Weeden and Carson Palmer both topped 300 yards, combining for 715 and three TDs. Denarius Moore somehow posted a disappointing line (2-31-0) while his quarterback was throwing 50-plus passes, and he ended up on the bench "for performance reasons." Uh-oh.
• Charlie Batch didn't exactly have a clean day for Pittsburgh — the misfire to Mike Wallace in the end zone was brutal — but give him credit for perseverance. And give him additional credit for outproducing Joe Flacco, even if that's not the most difficult trick in the NFL. And then he gets a bonus point for his run-blocking. Nice win, Pittsburgh. Nice handshake, coaches.
• One last note from the Seahawks' win at Chicago, and it's a piece of good news for Seattle fans...
Sidney Rice was leveled at the goal line in OT while scoring the game-winner, and most of us assumed he was concussed. He has a history of such injuries, so any big shot to the head/neck area is a serious concern. Here's hoping he's indeed OK.
EARLY ADDS FOR WEEK 14
QB Sam Bradford, St. Louis (at Buf)
QB Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (vs. KC)
QB Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. Ari)
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Atlanta (at Car)
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh (vs. SD)
RB James Starks, Green Bay (vs. Det)
RB Joique Bell, Detroit (at GB)
RB Montell Owens, Jacksonville (vs. NYJ)
RB Justin Forsett, Houston (at NE)
WR TY Hilton, Indianapolis (vs. Ten)
WR Donnie Avery, Indianapolis (vs. Ten)
WR Rod Streater, Oakland (vs. Den)
WR Josh Gordon, Cleveland (vs. KC)
WR Andrew Hawkins, Cincinnati (vs. Dal)
WR Mike Thomas, Detroit (at GB)
WR Golden Tate, Seattle (vs. Ari)