A quick scan of the major contributors in this all-important Week 14 of the NFL season makes me scratch my head and laugh.
The top RB performances were turned in by T.J. Duckett and Tatum Bell. Duckett has been alternately huge or invisible, and Bell had been unable to find the field until last week. Maurice Hicks and Obafemi Ayanbadejo cracked the week's top 10.
I did the double-take, too. Top performances in each of the main positions were put up by members of the San Francisco 49ers. That's the beauty of this game. While it appeared obvious that the Cowboys would lay big points on the New Orleans Saints, an early turnover or missed field goals sends the game in another direction.
Hopefully, your day was full of the long runs, magnificent catches and multitude of TD bombs. Let's recap the day's action.
Oakland Raiders 10, Atlanta Falcons 35
The Raiders jumped out to a 3-0 first-quarter lead, and then sat idly by and watched T.J. Duckett run wild to bring the Falcons to an NFC South title. Duckett rushed for a team record four touchdowns and 65 yards on 12 carries.
The loss of top receiver Ronald Curry impacted the Raiders passing game, although Kerry Collins got more out of the two-headed backfield than the silver and black had seen in some time. Amos Zereoue and J.R. Redmond combined to run for 100 yards, but the offense never got on track. Collins finished with 166 passing yards and an interception with zero touchdowns.
Zack Crockett scored the Raiders' lone TD and added 20 yards on the ground.
No Raider receiver caught more than two passes on the day. John Stone led the way with 62 receiving yards. Four other receivers caught two balls.
The Falcons scored 35 points, but Michael Vick was held out of the end zone for the sixth game this season. Vick turned in 145 passing yards and added 31 on the ground.
Dez White led Atlanta receivers with three catches for 34 yards.
Alge Crumpler was limited to one catch for 22 yards.
Collins accounted for one touchdown, tossing an interception that was returned by Rod Coleman for a 39-yard TD.
Indianapolis Colts 23, Houston Texans 14
That two-TD total has to be a misprint, doesn't it? Nope, the Texans were able to hold Manning and company to just 23 points, after surrendering 49 points to the high-powered Colts only four weeks ago.
Manning tossed for 298 yards and two touchdowns. Adding today's numbers to the first 13 weeks, Manning has an absurd 46-9 TD-to-INT ratio.
Reggie Wayne led Colts receivers with seven catches for 96 yards and a score. Marvin Harrison, fresh off signing a monster contract extension, contributed three catches for 26 yards and an early TD. Third receiver Brandon Stokley added three catches for 54 yards.
Edgerrin James went over 100 yards for the fourth straight game and eighth time this season. James accounted for 105 yards on the ground and another 54 via the air.
Domanick Davis rolled up 200 yards of total offense (128 rushing and 72 receiving). He scored his 11th TD of the season.
The Colts' four-game streak of scoring 40-plus points came to an end. It was just the fourth time that they've been held under 30 points this season.
New York Giants 14, Baltimore Ravens 37
Poor Eli Manning. Each week it seems that another top-tier defense lays in wait for him. This week, the Ravens defense held Manning to just 4-of-18 passing for 27 yards before Tom Coughlin finally inserted Kurt Warner into the fray. Warner completed 6-of-9 for 127 yards in the waning minutes of this debacle.
While that may be the big story, fueling speculation of another QB change (Coughlin said "no" in the post-game interview), let's give praise to the continued development of Kyle Boller. Finally armed with a healthy Todd Heap, Boller completed 18-of-34 for 219 yards and four TD tosses. Heap (five catches for 76 yards) was on the receiving end of two touchdowns.
Clarence Moore has established himself as a down-field threat for the Ravens. He caught three balls for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
Jamal Lewis returned from his nagging ankle injury to tally 32 yards on eight carries. He was also the subject of early controversy when a play on which he clearly fumbled was ruled "down by contact." Baltimore scored shortly thereafter. Lewis sat down once the game got out of reach and let Chester Taylor carry it home. Taylor rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries. Lewis expects to be at full-speed for next week's showdown with Indianapolis.
Tiki Barber rallied late to finish the game with 55 rushing yards and a touchdown. However, last year's fumble problems returned and he lost two this day.
Jeremy Shockey led Giants receivers with five catches for 83 yards.
The Bills terrorized rookie Luke McCown, leaving the crowd of family and friends in Jacksonville, Texas in tears. McCown finished 8-for-20 for 62 yards and a touchdown, but lost 74 yards on seven sacks and threw two picks.
Dennis Northcutt (two catches, six yards) scored Cleveland's only TD, a three-yard reception.
Antonio Bryant, who turned in a monster game in last week's loss to New England, caught four balls for 37 yards.
Willis McGahee continued his dominance for the surging Bills, rushing for 105 yards on 27 carries and two scores.
Drew Bledsoe wasn't spectacular, turning in just 100 passing yards, but effectively managed the game. He threw one TD and one pick.
Rookie Lee Evans was the recipient of Bledsoe's lone TD, a seven-yard toss. He finished with four catches for 33 yards. Evans also contributed a 48-yard run.
Backup running back Shaud Williams rushed for a four-yard TD and contributed 42 rushing yards to the winning effort.
Did I mention the domination of the defense? How about the fact that the Bills have won four in a row.
New Orleans Saints 27, Dallas Cowboys 13
Just when you thought the Julius Jones-led Dallas Cowboys would go on a phenomenal roll and squeak into the playoffs, the 'Boys laid a goose egg against the Saints.
Jones rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown, but the passing game never got in gear behind Vinny Testaverde, who threw for only 167 yards on 35 attempts with one interception.
Eddie George was de-activated for this game. It was the first time in George's pro career that he was not active for a game.
Deuce McAllister was the star of the day for the victorious Saints, rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints defense forced four turnovers.
Chicago Bears 3, Jacksonville Jaguars 22
The Jacksonville Jaguars refused to let the surfer get on track. The Bears offense entered the game without five offensive starters, making life difficult for QB Chad Hutchinson. One week after a big performance against the Vikings, Hutchinson was limited to 212 passing yards, five sacks and one interception.
The Jaguars put the pressure on Hutchinson by concentrating efforts to dominate Thomas Jones. Jones managed just 26 yards on 13 carries. He was also the Bears' top receiver with three catches for 68 yards.
Rookie Bernard Berrian caught two balls for 46 yards. Write his name down as a sleeper for next year if Rex Grossman fully recovers from his injury.
Byron Leftwich had his first multi-TD game since Week 7, completing 26-for-46 and 247 yards.
Rookie Reggie Williams caught his first career TD pass, a six-yard reception in the first quarter. Williams had four catches for 62 yards.
Jimmy Smith dropped a couple early, but took care of business late. Smith hooked up with Leftwich six times for 85 yards and a score – a 31-yard pass early in the fourth quarter.
Fred Taylor helped grind the clock, carrying the ball 21 times for 79 yards.
The Jaguars defense forced two turnovers and chipped in a safety.
Seattle Seahawks 27, Minnesota Vikings 23
You gotta get rid of the ball on the final play, Daunte. After a dubious decision by Randy Moss to chuck a ball into the end zone with just over two minutes remaining, the Vikings got another shot – and failed.
Seattle got a gutsy performance from a grief-stricken Darrell Jackson, mourning the loss of his father. His availability was a question mark heading into the day, but Jackson not only played, he dominated. Jackson contributed 10 catches, 135 yards and one touchdown to the winning effort.
Matt Hasselbeck threw three touchdown passes for the second straight week. He completed 23-of-34 passes for 334 yards. Hasselbeck also threw two picks, but when the touchdowns outnumber the turnovers, who's to complain?
Shaun Alexander caught one of those TD passes from 12 yards out. He also rushed 27 times for 112 yards.
Daunte Culpepper completed 21-of-33 passes for 270 yards, one touchdown and a pick. He and Randy Moss hooked up for the 10th time this season. Moss finished with 104 yards.
Onterrio Smith carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards and a score. He also caught four passes for 41 yards.
Nate Burleson added four catches for 42 yards in defeat.
Cincinnati Bengals 28, New England Patriots 35
Corey Dillon provided a rude welcome to his former team in Massachusetts. Dillon scored on a one-yard run early in the first quarter and finished the game with 88 yards on the ground. His backup, Kevin Faulk, was perfect on the night with one carry for four yards and a score.
Tom Brady was his normally efficient self, completing 18-of-26 passes for 260 yards and two scores. He did not commit a turnover.
Brady connected with seven receivers, led by David Patten with five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Christian Fauria replaced the injured Daniel Graham in the lineup and put up three catches for 33 yards and a touchdown. Watch for updates on Graham's status heading into the next game.
Deion Branch continued to work himself back into the swing of things for the playoff stretch. He caught three balls for 44 yards.
The Bengals rode the hot hand of Carson Palmer into this game, and he continued to deliver. Palmer threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns before leaving with a leg injury. Jon Kitna filled in and picked up where he left off to end the 2003 season. He completed nine-of-13 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. I'll post a preliminary status report for Palmer in Tuesdays' Inside Week 14 piece.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh reached double-digit catches for the second straight game, hauling in 12 balls for 145 yards. Alas, he was not on the receiving end of a touchdown.
Chad Johnson followed Houshmandzadeh's lead with a five-catch, 80-yard performance. He was also on the receiving end of a five-yard TD strike from Palmer. Kelley Washington (two catches, 35 yards) caught a 27-yard bomb from Jon Kitna late in the fourth quarter.
Matt Schobel continued the year of the tight end with a two-yard TD reception. It was his only catch of the game, but it found the house.
Punter Kyle Larson rushed for 11 yards on a fake FG attempt for a touchdown. No fantasy points were awarded to fantasy owners for Larson's scamper.
Rudi Johnson led the Bengals with 93 yards rushing on 23 attempts. He also put it on the carpet, one of three Bengals turnovers on the day.
San Francisco 49ers 31, Arizona Cardinals 28
Can these two teams play every week? At least we'd know that some fantasy points would be scored by the players on each roster. Dennis Green and the Cardinals can call the 49ers their daddy. Both of the 49ers' wins came at the expense of Green's Cardinals, and both by the same final score. How do you spot the 1-11 49ers a 28-3 lead … at home?
Ken Dorsey and Maurice Hicks subbed for the injured Tim Rattay and Kevan Barlow, and looked pretty good doing it. Dorsey tossed for 191 yards and three touchdowns. The big number for Dorsey was the zero he put up, as in zero turnovers.
Cedrick Wilson caught five balls for 83 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest catch came in between three defenders in the overtime period to help continue the winning march.
Brandon Lloyd started the scoring for the 49ers, hooking up with Dorsey on a five-yard TD just five minutes into the game. He finished with two catches for 18 yards.
Maurice Hicks came up huge for the 49ers, carrying the ball a ridiculous 34 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. Hicks also caught five passes for 29 yards out of the backfield.
Josh McCown couldn't repeat the three-TD performance he turned in against the 49ers in their earlier meeting. McCown rallied the team and tossed for 307 yards, but failed to find the end zone by air.
Obafemi Ayanbadejo carried the ball five times for 13 yards, but found the end zone twice.
The incomparable Emmitt Smith rushed for 53 yards on 18 carries, including an eight-yard TD. That's a huge effort for a guy listed as questionable early Friday.
Rookie Larry Fitzgerald finished with four catches for 47 yards.
Kevin Jones ran wild in the first half and finished with 154 rushing yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, he only accounted for about 40 yards of that total after the break, as the Packers challenged Joey Harrington to beat them.
Harrington completed a miserable five-of-22 passes for 49 yards. Small consolation is that he didn't turn it over.
Therefore, there isn't a whole lot to be excited about in the Lions' passing game. Az-Zahir Hakim had the longest reception at 19 yards.
Brett Favre got it going in the second half. He finished the day with 189 passing yards and one TD, a 23-yard strike to Donald Driver (four catches, 87 yards) that was the best looking pass of the day in a stiff wind. Bubba Franks added four catches for 29 yards, as he was actually active in the game outside of the red zone.
Ahman Green rushed for 72 yards on 23 carries, most of which came in the decisive second-half. He also contributed five catches for 19 yards.
Those banking on a big game from Javon Walker were left wanting, as the big third-year receiver finished with only three catches for 27 yards.
Ryan Longwell kicked three second-half field goals to seal the victory.
New York Jets 6, Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Is there anything The Bus can't do? He runs, he passes and he continues to pass more milestones. Jerome Bettis surpassed the 13,000-yard mark in today's victory over the Jets. He and Curtis Martin became the fifth and sixth players in NFL history to reach that mark with their totals in today's contest. Bettis finished with 57 yards on 10 carries to go along with his 10-yard TD toss.
Ben Roethlisberger wasn't terribly sharp, but he managed the game well enough for another victory. His biggest toss was a 46-yard bomb to Lee Mays. Roethlisberger completed nine-of-19 passes for 144 yards with two interceptions.
Duce Staley still appears rusty after his extended layoff. He rushed 16 times for 51 yards.
Jerame Tuman was the receiver on the halfback toss from Bettis. It was Tuman's second TD of the season.
The normally conservative Chad Pennington was not on his game today, completing 17-of-31 passes for 189 yards and three interceptions.
Curtis Martin was held to 72 yards on 24 carries. He added 35 yards on three receptions.
St. Louis Rams 7, Carolina Panthers 20
St. Louis played without Marc Bulger, Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson against the resurgent Carolina Panthers. Chris Chandler took the helm and threw six, count them, SIX interceptions.
Chandler's lone highlight was the 75-yard catch and run completion to Torry Holt (six catches, 151 yards) for a TD.
Arlen Harris ran 19 times for 61 yards in place of the dynamic duo and caught four passes for 41 yards.
Isaac Bruce was limited to a mere three catches for 27 yards.
Rookie Keary Colbert contributed five receptions for 46 yards.
Nick Goings continued his magic for the Panthers, tallying 108 rushing yards and a score. Goings reached the century mark for the fourth straight game.
The Panthers defense tallied 21 fantasy points for fantasy owners based on the default scoring configuration.
Parker racked up 118 yards on six catches, while Osgood added two catches for 27 yards.
Keenan McCardell was held to three catches for 30 yards, while the aforementioned Gates caught just one ball for 17 yards. McCardell also left the contest with a hamstring injury.
LaDainian Tomlinson bowled his way to 131 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown.
Brian Griese became the latest NFL quarterback to approach the 400-yard mountain, and like many before him, he left the field in defeat. He tossed a critical interception to Donnie Edwards that was returned 30 yards for a touchdown.
Michael Clayton led all Bucs receivers with nine catches for 145 yards and a score. The rookie needs just 12 yards for 1,000 on the season.
The cagey veteran Joey Galloway caught five balls for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Pittman tallied 88 combined rushing and receiving yards. He caught six passes from Griese.
Miami Dolphins 17, Denver Broncos 20
Jake Plummer flipped a pick, and then he flipped the bird. After a first-quarter interception, Plummer directed an obscene gesture at a jeering fan. Blame T.O. Plummer finished the game 16-for-30 for 219 yards and two interceptions.
Forget about Plummer, the story here is the coming out party of another rookie tailback. Fantasy owners and Mike Shanahan have been waiting for him to finally get healthy and contribute. Like Kevin and Julius Jones before him, Tatum Bell came up with a big effort to aid the Broncos to a hard-fought victory. Bell rushed for two touchdowns and 123 yards on 17 carries.
Reuben Droughns was replaced by Bell after an early turnover. He would return to the game and finish with 62 yards on 18 carries.
A.J. Feeley completed 50 percent of his passes for 170 yards, one TD and a pick.
Chris Chambers added five catches for 47 yards.
I'll be back on Tuesday with a full recap of the weekend's games and a first-look at the injury report as your fantasy playoffs progress.