Sunday Scene, Week 16: Nothing is settled

Andy Behrens
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Well, in all likelihood, your fantasy title has not yet been decided. This has been a less-than-satisfying final Sunday. The bobblehead is still up for grabs. (Let's assume you only compete for small, inexpensive mass-produced statues).

This is basically a nightmare fantasy week, with games on the schedule Thursday through Tuesday. Three of the NFL's elite teams are waiting to play (ATL, NO, PHI), as is one of its un-elite teams (MIN). Thus, in the fake game, we wait.

Feel free to describe your championship match-up situation in comments. Michael Vick(notes) and Drew Brees(notes) can only hurt me, so I'm not feeling terribly confident. For most of us, there's nothing left to do but complain about the league's scheduling decisions and/or gripe about snow removal in Philadelphia. Or perhaps you'd like to send a special holiday message to Peyton Manning(notes), who declined to score a touchdown on Sunday, Westbrook-style.

But if your league actually settles its fantasy championship next week — terrible idea, not endorsed by this blog — you'll need to spend the days ahead figuring out which NFL teams intend to rest starters. You'll find a thorough review of the postseason picture right here, updated as results roll in. The AFC isn't too difficult to sort out, as five of six playoff teams have clinched. The Patriots, Chiefs and Jets will clearly have the luxury of sitting key assets in Week 17. The Chargers have been bounced, so they could very well decide to rest all their broken pieces. The Steelers and Ravens aren't going to shut down, not with the AFC North title undecided and a bye on the line.

The NFC is … well, it's more of a mess. Nine teams are still alive, and four are still battling for first-round byes. If Atlanta wins on Monday night, they'll bring some clarity to the picture, clinching homefield throughout the playoffs. If Minnesota happens to beat Philly on Tuesday — seems impossible, but let's just say — then Chicago will lock up a bye, too. But if the Eagles win as expected, then every team in the conference (with the possible exception of Atlanta) will sprint to the finish.

Incredibly enough, the NFC West has not yet been dissolved. Some franchise is required to win that division, even though they may do it with a 7-9 record.


Aaron Rodgers(notes) humiliated the Giants on Sunday, passing for 404 yards and four TDs. He shredded the New York secondary and had no trouble at all with the pass rush. It was a dominant performance. If you had to guess which quarterback involved in that game had suffered a head injury recently, you would have definitely picked Eli Manning(notes) (4 INTs).

Note the stellar work by Tampa Bay's young talent on Sunday: Josh Freeman(notes) passed for five scores and completed 80.8 percent of his passes, LeGarrette Blount(notes) rushed for 164 yards, and Mike Williams had a pair of TD catches. The Bucs demolished Seattle, on a day that Matt Hasselbeck(notes) injured his hip on an early touchdown run. It's possible that Charlie Whitehurst(notes) will be at the controls for the Seahawks in Week 17.

Carson Palmer(notes) had neither Terrell Owens(notes) nor Chad Ochocinco(notes) at his disposal on Sunday, and he was facing the league's top-ranked pass defense. You wouldn't think that scenario would yield a useful fantasy line, but it did. Palmer finished with 269 passing yards and four TDs. Jerome Simpson(notes) was beastly, catching six passes for 124 yards and two scores.

Somewhere out there, somebody is winning a trophy thanks to Sebastian Janikowski's(notes) big day (four field goals, including a 59-yarder and a 51-yarder). Please document your achievement in comments. You and Sea Bass have earned a victory lap.

San Diego running back Mike Tolbert(notes) took a wicked shot to the helmet on this ill-fated run, injuring his neck on the play. Frightening moment. Tolbert gave a thumbs-up gesture while leaving the field on a stretcher, though, so that's a decent sign. In his absence, Ryan Mathews(notes) had a respectable day for the Chargers, breaking the plane on a 23-yard score.

Tim Tebow(notes) took advantage of Houston's miserable pass defense, throwing for 308 yards and one TD, while rushing for another score. It's OK to be moderately excited here, as long as you remember the quality-of-opponent issue. Every week, someone torches the Texans. Tebow had a few misfires on Sunday, and he threw an ugly interception on his third attempt of the game. He's not in the Randall Cunningham run/pass club just yet.

Important programming note No. 1: Next week, we're going with a live chat in Sunday Scene, just like last year. Please consider joining us, even if your league (smartly) doesn't use Week 17 stats. If nothing else, it's one final opportunity to yell at us about Rashad Jennings(notes). How can you possibly pass that up? You can't. Be here at noon or you'll miss the open bar.

• Important programming note No. 2: Monday is a travel day for the blog editor, so there will not be a 7-on-7. Lucky for you, the Rams Report Card is already live. Enjoy. -Posted at 9:55 pm ET


Second Half
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In Sunday's win at Buffalo, Tom Brady(notes) established a new NFL record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception. The old mark belonged to Bernie Kosar (308); Brady is now at 319 and counting. Ken Hamlin(notes) had the last pick against the Pats QB, way back in Week 6. Brady might just carry this streak into 2011. He finished with just 140 passing yards against the Bills, but three of his 15 completions resulted in TDs.

Most of you don't get to see Devin Hester(notes) in action each week, except via highlight. That's a shame, because his non-scoring returns are often every bit as ridiculous as the touchdowns. Hester's 38-yard runback in the third quarter against New York would be a perfect example. He was surrounded by potential tacklers, yet somehow extracted himself and gave his team a short field. No idea how he does these things.

The Jets and Bears gave us an unexpected shootout, combining for 72 points and 715 total net yards. Jay Cutler(notes) had a short rushing score and he threw for three others (one to Hester, two to Johnny Knox(notes)). Matt Forte(notes) ran well again, finishing with 113 yards on 19 carries. Mark Sanchez(notes) didn't have a bad day, at least not until his final, failed throw.

Matt Cassel(notes) had a quite second half against Tennessee, because the game wasn't particularly competitive. His final line was still impressive, though: 24-for-34, 314 yards, 3 TDs. Dwayne Bowe(notes) accounted for nearly half the passing yards (153) and one of the scores. On the other side, take note of the numbers delivered by second-year tight end Jared Cook(notes) (5-96-1). He could be a post-hype sleeper to watch next season; it's possible that Cook is only getting an opportunity now because Bo Scaife(notes) talked his way out of a job.

Apparently someone gave Jahvid Best(notes) a map to the end zone, because he scored his first touchdown since Week 2. Video evidence here. Best finished with 77 total yards on just seven touches.

If your league's scoring system gives bonuses for 2-yard gains, then this was a monster day for Rashad Jennings. In standard formats, um … no, he wasn't so useful. Jennings was started by an unusually high percentage of fantasy experts this week, if it makes you feel any better. (Not sure why it would, but maybe). David Garrard(notes) actually led the Jaguars in rushing yards, thanks to his game-tying 20-yard touchdown run. Of course Garrard also threw a pick in overtime that effectively un-tied the game; he handed the ball to Washington deep in Jacksonville territory, setting up a layup field goal. Brutal day for the Jags.

It seems fairly likely that Mike Singletary will be kicked to the curb before the 2011 season begins, now that his Niners officially can't win the NFC West. San Francisco, a preseason division favorite, can finish no better than 6-10. Singletary had yet another sideline skirmish with yet another Smith on Sunday. (In his defense, today's argument followed a horrible pick).

Danario Alexander(notes) established career highs in receptions (6) and yards (99) for St. Louis, while Sam Bradford(notes) set a new league record for completions by a rookie quarterback. Those two travel to Seattle next week, with a (bad) division title on the line.

Ed Reed(notes) was set ablaze on Sunday, but he walked away casually, unharmed. Ed did some bad things to Colt McCoy(notes), finishing with two interceptions, 52 return yards and a crazy lateral. The Ravens backed up all their unnecessary talk, beating Cleveland, 20-10. No skill player involved in that game carried you to a fantasy title. -Posted at 5:40 pm ET


Relax, commenters. There's no fantasy scoring issue with the MIN-PHI game. Please check the notes on your league page…

We repeat: Scoring for the game will count. There's no issue. You will receive full credit for all the Joe Webb(notes) magic. -Posted at 3:40 pm ET


Injury updates for the 4:00 pm games: Andre Johnson(notes), Chad Ochocinco, Antonio Gates(notes) and Malcom Floyd(notes) are INACTIVE. Take evasive action, quickly. (Jacoby Jones(notes) gets interesting with AJ sidelined). Joseph Addai(notes) and Knowshon Moreno(notes) are ACTIVE. Use those two at your own risk. -Posted at 3:15 pm ET


First Half
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Matt Cassel opened his day with eight straight completions against Tennessee, connecting with Jamaal Charles(notes) for a 14-yard TD on the game's opening drive. Simple screen, well executed, against a defense that reacted as if they'd never seen one. Works for me. (See below). Cassel found Charles again for a short score on the Chiefs' next possession, then later found Dwayne Bowe for a TD.

Shaun Hill(notes) only attempted eight first-half throws in his return from injury, but he found Brandon Pettigrew(notes) for a 20-yard touchdown. Megatron has hardly been a rumor, with just one catch for six yards. Lousaka Polite(notes) has a TD for Miami, which helps nobody.

This play is just insane. That'd be Seneca Wallace(notes) taking the shotgun snap for the Browns and handing off to Peyton Hillis(notes), who then flipped the ball to Mohamed Massaquoi(notes) on a reverse. Massaquoi immediately looked to throw. He could've hit an uncovered Wallace underneath for a long gain, but instead chucked the ball deep to the end zone, toward Brian Robiskie(notes), who had a defender on him like a cape … and still, Robiskie came down with the catch. (Confirmed by review). Touchdown, Cleveland.

Chris Cooley(notes) owners, this may not be your day. On a first-and-goal from the 1, your tight end dropped the easiest imaginable TD reception. All alone, middle of the end zone. Awful. Rex Grossman(notes) connected with Fred Davis(notes) off play-action on the game's next snap. Related: Ryan Torain(notes) isn't assisting us (7-28-0). Neither is Rashard Jennings (9-22-0).

Mark Sanchez doesn't look like a guy with a shoulder injury so far (and the Bears don't look like a team with a pass rush). The Jets fell behind 10-0 early, but they stormed back thanks to … well, thanks mostly to Jay Cutler (pick six, disastrous sack). It's been a giveth/taketh day for Cutler, who ran for a 2-yard TD late in the half.

Plenty of rushing stats available in Buffalo, where four backs (Woodhead, Green-Ellis, Spiller, Jackson) have each eclipsed 60 yards in the first half. Tom Brady is targeting TEs again, having hit both Rob Gronkowski(notes) and Alge Crumpler(notes) for short scores.

Michael Crabtree(notes) caught a 60-yard touchdown pass that might have been intended for someone else. Not sure. But his owners — if any of 'em are still alive — aren't about to refuse the score. -Posted at 2:45 pm ET


Ridiculous update: Folks, the Minnesota-Philadelphia game has been postponed until Tuesday night, 8 pm ET. This is now officially the longest fantasy week in history. Unbelievable. Adrian Peterson gets another two days of rest, and so does Brett Favre(notes). All the Eagles skill players are now safe starts, because presumably we won't have weather to fret about.

Honestly, this sort of thing would just never happen in Chicago, where we plan for the possibility of snow in winter. C'mon, Philly. -Posted at 12:55 pm ET

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OK, no distractions today. Stay focused. Saturday was the appropriate time for goodwill, mirth, gaiety, and other Yule-stuff. But today is all about fake football. Let's go win a title.

There's a blizzard in the forecast for the northeast, with 6-12 18 a frightening number of inches of snow expected in Philadelphia, and winds perhaps reaching 40 miles per hour. Should be delightful, if they play it. Also, Rashad Jennings is in the forecast for Jacksonville, facing a user-friendly Washington run defense.

It appears we're going to have game-time decisions all over the map on Sunday, too. Might not be such a bad idea to drag Andre Johnson and Adrian Peterson into flex spots, if you have that option available. Give yourself as many replacement options as possible.

If you require direct interaction with fantasy professionals on Sunday, please join us at noon ET for Fantasy Football Live. We'll be discussing injuries, match-ups and weather, per the usual format. Sunday Scene will of course be updated as needed. (The mood around here will be heavily influenced by the Mike Williamses, as well as various Chiefs).

Here's your pregame chant. Onward to victory, gamers.


Photos via US Presswire