Welp, that's settled.
If you had any doubts about which name belonged atop draft boards in 2014, Jamaal Charles resolved the issue on Sunday, emphatically — in the first half.
By intermission in Oakland, the Chiefs led the Raiders 35-17, and Charles had already visited the end zone for the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th times this season. Jamaal would finish his day with 215 total yards, eight catches and five scores. Five. Add it all up and you get 51.5 standard league fantasy points, the highest total we've seen this season (and one of the best all-time. It wasn't Billy Cannon in '61, but it was great). Charles now leads the NFL in touchdowns, he's second in all-purpose yards, and he leads his position in fantasy scoring by a wide margin.
For those of you who somehow missed the binge on Sunday afternoon, you can check the tape right here. He's a phantom, basically. Untouchable and unfair.
It's ridiculous that it took six seasons for an NFL head coach to decide that Charles could prove useful in goal-to-go situations, but that's been the case in KC. Jamaal entered the year with zero multi-TD seasons on his resume, and only three career scores from inside the 3-yard line. This season, he has 11 scores of three yards or less. Andy Reid certainly has his faults, but he's always understood that it's not such a bad idea to feed your best player near the goal line.
If you faced Charles in Week 15, um ... thanks for playing. Good effort. You ran into a buzzsaw in the semis, that's all. No shame in losing to Jamaal.
We should note that four of Charles' five TDs this week were receiving scores, which of course means Alex Smith had a day. Alex finished 17-for-20 with 287 yards and five touchdowns, making him the third highest-scoring player at his position as of this writing. If you rolled with Smith in a must-win week ... well, wow. That's courage right there.
• Thousands of fantasy gamers dropped Kendall Wright last week, following his quiet day at Denver. Thus, thousands of former Wright owners are full of regret today. Wright saw 20 targets from Ryan Fitzpatrick in the shootout with the Cardinals on Sunday, catching 12 balls for 150 yards. He was a beast during Tennessee's late game-tying drive, too. If that kid is ever paired with an upper-tier passer, he'll be a terror.
Delanie Walker found the end zone against Arizona, like you knew he would — the Cards have now allowed 14 TDs to opposing tight ends, a silly number. Fitzpatrick put up an unreasonably great fantasy number, passing for 402 yards, four scores and two INTs.
Larry Fitzgerald was being evaluated for a concussion late in Arizona's OT win, so let's hope he's OK. It was the usual story in the Cards' backfield this week, as Andre Ellington accounted for most of the yards (71 rushing, 87 receiving) while Rashard Mendenhall gained three-point-something per carry and poached the scores (2 TDs). Don't pretend you're surprised; no use complaining.
• Also not surprising: Dallas blew a game in which they were up by 23 points at half, and by 12 with five minutes remaining in the fourth. Even if you weren't watching, I'm confident you can guess what transpired. Lousy game management? Check. Late interception(s)? Double-check. We've seen this script too often.
Cowboys fans have many issues to complain about right at this moment, but the Green Bay-Dallas tilt was completely satisfying from a fantasy perspective. The teams combined for 899 total yards and 73 points. Matt Flynn tossed four TD passes, because ... well, it was that sort of day. Just look at the names on the QB leaderboard. Also: Dallas' defense is still not good, in case you were wondering.
• Ryan Tannehill was kind of a badass on Sunday, leading the Dolphins to a come-from-behind home win against the Pats, throwing for 312 yards and three scores in the process. Tannehill has been sacked more than any passer in the league, yet he's still on a 4000-yard pace, leading a potential playoff team. It would be fair to say he's made a value leap in year two.
Julian Edelman had yet another excellent day for New England (13-139-1) and Tom Brady threw for 364 yards. But when the Pats are Gronkless, the points don't come easy. Miami eliminated Shane Vereen as a weapon on Sunday, as he finished with just 21 scrimmage yards on five touches. Danny Amendola had a nice-enough day (10-131-0) and Michael Hoomanawanui made a heckuva catch for a score, but this team is talent-starved at the skill spots right now.
• Jags running back Jordan Todman rushed for 109 yards on 25 carries in a game that was barely on my radar (because all my Spiller teams are cooked). So anyone who's looking to spread some Todman sunshine in comments is encouraged to do so. That guy had a solid combine back in the day, but he entered the week averaging just 3.2 YPC for his career. If Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) can't make it back next week, Todman could get mildly interesting against Tennessee.
• Seattle picked off Eli Manning five times in a 23-0 evisceration of the Giants on Sunday. New York didn't even visit Seahawks territory until the fourth quarter, which seems impossible. And Victor Cruz suffered both a concussion and a knee sprain, leaving his future availability in doubt. All things considered, not really a great day, Giants fans. Hopefully the fantasy community stayed far away from Big Blue in an obviously terrible matchup.
• Houston allowed a touchdown to Trent Richardson on Sunday, so the Texans have officially hit rock bottom. Donald Brown checked out with a stinger in Indy's 25-3 win, which led to a 19-carry day for T-Rich. So that's a situation to monitor, if you're a Brown owner who happened to survive his 38-yard week.
• Kirk Cousins took full advantage of a friendly matchup with Atlanta this week, passing for 381 yards and three scores on 45 attempts. He gets another user-friendly opponent in Week 16, too, as Washington hosts Dallas. Not much about Cousins' team is appealing these days — not in fantasy, not in reality — but it would hardly be a shock if he threw for another 300-plus yards against the Cowboys. Everybody does it.
• Philadelphia and Minnesota combined for 930 total yards and 78 points on Sunday, in the shootout no one saw coming. (Or at least I didn't see it coming. Honestly, I thought the Vikes were gonna put up something like nine points.) Nick Foles and Matt Cassel both topped 30 standard fantasy points. Greg Jennings had a monster receiving day for the Vikings (not his first with Cassel), hauling in 11 balls on 13 targets for 163 yards and a score. DeSean Jackson finished with 10 catches for 195 and one touchdown for Philly, not that you expected any less.
But the insane fantasy line of the day belonged, without question, to unheralded running back Matt Asiata, the backup to the backup for Minnesota. Asiata carried a whopping 30 times against the Eagles for a not-so-whopping 51 yards (1.7 YPC). He became just the fifth back since the merger to gain less than 60 yards on 30 or more carries. He was pretty much a straight-ahead, one-speed runner — roughly what you'd expect from a third-stringer. And naturally, Asiata scored three touchdowns. Because fantasy is cruelly unfair.
Adrian Peterson is expected back next week, so Asiata is looking like a one-hit wonder.
• Drew Brees saved a few fantasy seasons by piling up garbage time points in the final quarter at St. Louis, but his team suffered an unexpected double-digit loss. Zac Stacy ran all over the Saints defense (no shock), gaining 133 yards on 28 carries, breaking the plane once. The Rams defense contained Jimmy Graham nicely (2-25-0), while Marques Colston enjoyed another respectable day (8-92-1). New Orleans travels to Carolina next week — tough matchup, away from home — so there's hope for anyone facing Brees in the title round.
• Jay Cutler was a plague for the first 28 minutes of clock time on Sunday, tossing two interceptions (including a pick-six), sailing several throws, generally looking like a guy who hadn't played since mid-November.
But in the second half — and particularly in the fourth quarter — Cutler was fully operational. He finished with 265 yards and three TD passes, leading the Bears to their eighth win. Alshon Jeffery made yet another absurd TD catch on a ball that could have been picked. At this point, it's an every-week phenomenon.
Those of us who've been stubborn loyalists with Cutler (maybe that's just me & Coach Trestman) were rewarded, finally. Here's the stat that really clinched the win...
Bears QB Jay Cutler on third down vs. Browns: 10 of 11 for 148 yards, TD, passer rating of 149.1. Tie game at 24 w/ 10:59 left.
— Rich Campbell (@Rich_Campbell) December 15, 2013
That's clutchiness, friends.
Chicago travels to Philly next week for the Sunday night game, and you'll want to invest in that game in all possible ways. The Bears bring the league's worst run defense, while the Eagles rank last against the pass. Start 'em all, gamer.
• One programming note, before we hit the pickups: Next week, in keeping with Roto Arcade tradition, we'll roll out a live-chat edition of Sunday Scene. It's basically a community game-watch during the most important week of the fantasy season. Come join us, just after kickoff in the early games. We'll go at least three hours — possibly longer, if my teams aren't bombing.
PRIORITY PICKUPS FOR CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK
QB Jay Cutler, Chi (at Phi)
QB Kirk Cousins, Was (vs. Dal)
QB Ryan Tannehill, Mia (at Buf)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ten (at Jac)
RB Jordan Todman, Jac (vs. Ten)
RB LeGarrette Blount, NE (at Bal)
RB Edwin Baker, Cle (at NYJ)
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Min (at Cin)
WR Ace Sanders, Jac, (vs. Ten)
WR Andre Caldwell, Den (at Hou)
WR Andre Holmes, Oak (at SD)
TE Zach Miller, Sea (vs. Ari)
DEF Detroit Lions (vs. NYG)