When Jeff Reed(notes) drilled the extra point that gave Pittsburgh a 37-36 victory over Green Bay on Sunday, it felt as if the Steelers had just won the WAC championship, or your dorm floor's Tecmo Bowl title. NFL games aren't supposed to be anything like that.
Ben Roethlisberger(notes) passed for an absurd 503 yards and three touchdowns, yet he wasn't even the top fantasy quarterback in the game. Aaron Rodgers(notes) ran for one TD and threw for three others, finishing with 22 yards on the ground and 383 through the air. The Steelers and Packers combined for 973 total net yards. Nine different players had at least 70 receiving yards.
Rodgers was so thoroughly unstoppable that when Pittsburgh attempted an onside kick late in the fourth quarter ahead by two, the decision almost made sense. If the onside gamble failed (which it did, due to a penalty), Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was willing to concede a score (which came quickly, from Rodgers to James Jones(notes)).
Tomlin just wanted his offense to possess the ball at the end of the game. These were his postgame comments:
"First of all, I felt like with the element of surprise we had a chance to get it. But if we didn't get it and they would have scored, then we would have the necessary time on the clock to go down the field and match their score. … We had 30 minutes of evidence there to show that we could drive the ball on them. We also conversely had 30 minutes of evidence to show that they could drive the ball on us. That's why we took that risk when we did."
It was certainly a bold call, one that demonstrated (appropriately) no confidence whatsoever in the Steelers defense. If you're a fantasy owner who started either Roethlisberger or Rodgers in the playoff semis, then you're not about to argue with Tomlin's play-for-the-shootout strategy.
• You'll get a full helping of Jerome Harrison(notes) propaganda below. The Cleveland back posted the third-highest single-game rushing total in NFL history (286), just one week after being decisively outperformed by Chris Jennings(notes). If you saw it coming, we offer you our congratulations (not our jobs). Touché, Mangenius. Harrison gets the Raiders next. That should go well. Credit the Kansas City defense with an assist on Harrison's insane day; Cedric Benson(notes) gets to face the Chiefs in Week 16.
• Justin Fargas(notes) reportedly tweaked a knee early in Oakland's win over Denver, which led to Michael Bush's(notes) unexpected workload (18 carries, 133 yards, TD). Darren McFadden(notes) ran well, too, but he lost a fumble in the third quarter and was later stuffed on fourth-and-goal. The game was briefly delayed while stadium security searched for a fan who was distracting players with a laser pointer. It seems so wrong that Ron Jaworski wasn't broadcasting a contest that featured an actual laser.
• Vincent Jackson(notes) returned to dominance against a Cincinnati defense that's defended elite wideouts well all year. V-Jax finished with five catches for 108 yards and two scores. Malcom Floyd(notes) added four catches for 63, as quarterback Philip Rivers(notes) connected with nine different receivers.
• Rams running back Steven Jackson is dealing with more ailments than just about anyone in the NFL, and his team's short-term situation is hopeless. But he's earning all kinds of fantasy cred by playing out the year and continuing to deliver useful numbers. Jackson gained 123 total yards against the Texans on Sunday, leading his team in both rushing and receiving (and attempts to destroy Bernard Pollard(notes)). That's the 11th time S-Jax has reached triple-digit yardage this season. He's averaging 119.6 yards from scrimmage for a team that only gains 298.9. He's clearly not the fantasy MVP, but he deserves some sort of imaginary hardware for his efforts on our behalf.
"JaMARCUS RUSSELL OFF THE BENCH LIKE JOHNNY U!!!!!"
Yup, that's what he said. There are not enough exclamation points or capital letters to do it justice. The man is excitement itself.
Posted at 10:30 pm ET
As you might have heard, the East Coast was hit by an epic, record-breaking storm this weekend. Baltimore reportedly received 21 inches of snow. Philadelphia was buried by 23 inches. (That appears to be Alexis Bledel digging out Lincoln Financial. Fell on tough times after Gilmore Girls. Very sad).
But so far, weather is one of Sunday's least valuable players. It hasn't been an overwhelming factor in any game, unless Alex Smith intends to blame his atrocious half on the wintry conditions in Philly (7-for-17, three INTs).
Donovan McNabb(notes) has passed for 179 yards and one TD against the Niners, and he ran for another score. Michael Vick(notes) suffered a thigh injury in the first half, so McNabb may not lose red zone opportunities this week. DeSean Jackson(notes) broke the plane from 19, which is roughly 40 yards shorter than his usual score.
• San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary had a few thoughts for Vernon Davis(notes) after the tight end failed to make a play on this ball, conceding the interception. Davis has an outstanding matchup against a Philly defense that allows almost unlimited fantasy points to TEs, but he caught just one pass in the first half.
• If you're a fan of turnovers and missed field goals, we urge you to get yourself in front of the Bucs-Seahawks game immediately. It has much to offer. We have no idea what Matt Hasselbeck was attempting to do on this play. That was no ordinary fumble. Whatever it was, it deserves its own stat.
• Greg Jennings(notes) has been a significant disappointment through 14 weeks, considering his average draft position. But he's on his way to a season-best performance at Pittsburgh, thanks to an 83-yard first quarter TD reception.
• You're not surprised that Baltimore is destroying Chicago, right? Good. The Bears were a very quotable team all week, discussing players who are no longer on the roster and coaches who shouldn't be on the payroll…but no one ever mentioned the Ravens. It was perfectly clear that Chicago wasn't prepared to play a live opponent. Jay Cutler(notes) threw a pair of first half interceptions, his 23rd and 24th of the year.
• Michael Bush and Darren McFadden are splitting the rushing workload for the stubbornly competitive Raiders. Bush has the only TD for Oakland. He went 23 yards, untouched through a massive running lane.
Posted at 6:15 pm ET
Two weeks ago, Jerome Harrison was the Cleveland running back to own. Last week, it was Chris Jennings. This week, it's Harrison again – and he delivered a historic fantasy line, not merely a good one.
Harrison carried 34 times for an obscene 286 yards and three touchdowns against the Chiefs. That yardage total is actually the third highest in NFL history. Harrison scored from long-distance and he scored from short-range. Cleveland's run-blocking was obviously spectacular. Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers(notes) blocked with Charles Jefferson-style aggression. He was a beast.
But the day clearly belonged to Harrison. When you manage to bump Jim Brown's name from the Cleveland record book, you've done something right. Harrison is only owned in 24 percent of standard Yahoo! leagues and he's at home against Oakland next week.
You know what to do.
• Beanie Wells(notes) rushed for 110 yards and one score on 17 carries against the Lions. Delightfully, he didn't fumble in Arizona's 31-24 win. The widely available Maurice Morris(notes) gained 161 total yards for Detroit, leading his team in both rushing (126) and receiving (5-for-35). Those of you in the deepest two-quarterback leagues will note that Daunte Culpepper(notes) was benched in favor of Drew Stanton(notes).
• Welcome back to the end zone, Kevin Walter(notes). He caught an easy 3-yard score in the third quarter at St. Louis. Joel Dreesen was open on the play as well. Matt Schaub(notes) finished with 367 passing yards in a shockingly narrow win over the Rams. Andre Johnson(notes) again dominated a grossly overmatched secondary, catching nine balls for 196 yards. Arian Foster(notes) wasn't heard from again following the early fumble.
• Chad Henne(notes) threw for 349 yards on Sunday, but he made a few spectacularly bad throws. Chris Hope(notes) picked off a pass in the end zone that was a mile short of its intended target. Henne lucked into a late 57-yard completion after Michael Griffin(notes) had the interception in his hands, but couldn't hold on. Griffin made amends, however, intercepting a pass in overtime to setup Rob Bironas'(notes) game-winning field goal.
• Arizona's Bryan Robinson(notes) drew two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties within approximately 30 seconds during a third quarter mini-implosion by the Cards at Detroit. Those flags, plus a nifty gain by Aaron Brown on an end-around, setup a Jason Hanson(notes) field goal that tied the game at 17.
• The head official in New York had to ask Jets fans to please stop whistling in the stands. It should never come to that. Fans need to police that situation themselves. Whistlers must be silenced.
• Lee Evans(notes) ran a beautiful route on his late 11-yard score against the Pats, making a terrific play on the back-shoulder throw. The Bills recovered an onside kick following the TD, but they were flagged for going offsides.
Posted at 4:45 pm ET
It's been another lost year for the Cleveland Browns, but you can't assign any blame to Joshua Cribbs(notes). His 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in the first quarter at Kansas City established a new all-time NFL record. And just to prove that the first seven career TDs weren't flukes, Cribbs added a 103-yard return in the second quarter.
The first touchdown had a slightly higher degree of difficulty, as Cribbs broke multiple arm tackles, then outran the Chiefs' coverage team to the end zone. Here's the clip via NFL.com. Incredibly, Cribbs has at least one kickoff return TD in each of his five seasons.
• Jamaal Charles(notes) is having the excellent game you should have expected for KC. He's rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and he's added a pair of catches for 16 yards. He's making a strong late-season charge into the first round of 2010 drafts. Charles has now found the end zone in six straight games.
• This year, Houston running backs are fumbling as if it's a scripted play. Unreal. Arian Foster brought a premature end to the Texans' opening drive by putting the ball on the turf at the end of a 13-yard gain. Lowlight here. Gary Kubiak does not need another fumbler, Arian. His cupboard's full. Ryan Moats(notes) took over on the next series for Houston. He's picked up 28 yards on six carries. Foster didn't receive another look in the first half after the turnover.
• Dwayne Bowe(notes) returned from his four-game suspension and he's back in mid-season form, dropping passes. Bowe failed to hold onto a TD pass over the middle in the end zone. He's fine to start in fantasy, but he's torture to watch.
• Tom Brady(notes) was held without a passing yard in the first quarter against Buffalo, a team with one of the NFL's stingiest pass defenses. But Randy Moss finally surfaced on the Pats' first drive of the second quarter, drawing a long interference penalty, then catching a 13-yard score. New England had a short first-and-goal following the PI call, but they went with play-action instead of running. Because the Patriots hate you, Laurence Maroney(notes) owner. (OK, so Maroney had a TD late in the half. But some of us could use another).
• Larry Fitzgerald(notes) owners spent the week panicking about the condition of their No. 1 receiver's knee. But Fitz rewarded those who kept the faith, catching an early 1-yard score. The ball was up for grabs, but Larry generally wins those battles. Video here. Annoyingly enough, Tim Hightower(notes) later poached a short-yardage score from Beanie Wells. However, the rookie is dominating the rushing workload, as has been the case in recent weeks.
• So far the hit of the day belongs to Vince Young(notes), who simply demolished Vontae Davis(notes). Unfortunately for VY owners, the tackle ended an interception return. Chris Johnson is on pace for his ninth straight 100-yard rushing effort to no one's surprise. He's picked up 71 first half yards on 14 carries. But oddly enough, Justin Gage(notes) has both of the Titans' TDs.
• The Falcons-Jets tilt is hardly a thing of beauty, although Braylon Edwards(notes) hauled in a 65-yard score. Mark Sanchez(notes) has thrown two more picks, Matt Ryan(notes) is 5-for-17 at half, and Michael Turner(notes) checked out after one carry after aggravating his ankle injury.
Posted at 2:45 pm ET
Early injury updates: Steven Jackson (flu, back, Ramness) participated in a walk-through on Saturday, so there's hope for him. Early signs also point to "yes" for Michael Turner (ankle), Matt Ryan (toe), Larry Fitzgerald (knee), Sidney Rice(notes) (flu), Vince Young (hamstring) and Calvin Johnson(notes) (knee).
Posted at 10:20 am ET
Welcome to Week 15, fantasy owner. If you've made it this far, congratulations. But this is a messy weekend full of injuries, illnesses and meteorological events. Please join us over at Fantasy Football Live at noon ET for last-minute updates and analysis (and our favorite holiday recipes!)
There's swine flu goin' around, Snowman, so please cover your mouth and carrot when you sneeze.
Photos via Getty Images (Jackson, Browns, Santas) and US Presswire (snow girl).
- Mike Tomlin