Whether you're looking ahead to keepers for '06, or battling on for the title or pride in Week 17, thanks for taking time out of the holiday hustle and bustle to stop by.
This past week saw a number of big performances again from the usual suspects. Carson Palmer, Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, and the Chicago defense did their part to give an extra boost to your holiday spirits.
It's a wild final week, filled with last-minute scratches, token appearances, and 2006 auditions. Let's review the week that was and preview Week 17 of fantasy action.
WEEK 16 UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Who's No. 1? With most leagues done for the season, it's time to debate next year's No. 1 pick? I'm leaning toward Shaun Alexander followed by Larry Johnson. Any arguments? Click on the link at the end of the column to send me your thoughts. Johnson has been absolutely unbelievable since assuming the starting role at mid-season. He's totaled 18 touchdowns and nearly 2,000 yards of offense despite having just one 20-carry game before Week 9. That's domination.
Carson Palmer and the Bengals took one on the chin from the Bills in Week 16, but they'll still sit in the No. 3 or 4 seed for the playoffs. Palmer may not play in Week 17, but it's time to give him props for a fantasy MVP-type season. Palmer tossed multiple TD passes in 12 games this year, eclipsing the 200-yard mark in 13 of them. Palmer scored at least one TD in every game started this year. When he failed to throw one against the Steelers in Week 7, he scored via the ground.
Santana Moss owners certainly did a victory dance with his monster performance in a division rivalry game against the Giants. Moss went for 160 yards and three scores in the 35-20 win. Moss had gone scoreless in seven of his previous eight games, so such a performance seemed unlikely. But, given his 1,240 receiving yards entering the game, owners stood by him and inserted him into the lineup. Jackpot!
Welcome to the world of the vulture, LaBrandon Toefield. After watching Greg Jones earn the No. 2 role earlier in the year, Toefield's production has been minimal. In Week 16, Fred Taylor did the heavy lifting, going over 20 carries and 100 yards, leaving Toefield with three TDs on four carries for 24 yards. Too bad he was started in virtually zero leagues.
We got a picture of what will become a familiar battle in the NFC South for years to come in Week 16 with Michael Vick battling Carnell Williams. Williams and the Bucs got the win late on the strength of his 150 yards rushing and a score. Vick had 161 passing yards and 63 rushing yards with two TD passes in the important championship week matchup. We'll look forward to their next encounters in '06.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- Frank Gore, RB, SF: Gore is making the most of his opportunities while Kevan Barlow recovers from his knee injury. The rookie ran 10 times for 68 yards and two scores in Saturday's win over St. Louis, one week after rolling up 136 yards of offense on the Jaguars. He'll factor heavily in the season finale against the lowly Texans run defense.
- Kyle Boller, QB, BAL: Boller is suddenly on fire to close out the '06 campaign, tossing six touchdowns in his past two games. He's got a six-game scoring streak intact, including three games with three TD passes. Boller next faces a Cleveland defense that ranks fifth against the pass at 182 yards per game, but has allowed 19 passing TDs.
- Troy Walters, WR, IND: Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne won't see much time, if any, in this week's finale against Arizona, and Brandon Stokley is nursing a bruised knee sustained last week. Walters stepped in and became a favorite target for Jim Sorgi, hauling down eight passes for 91 yards and a score against Seattle.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Julius Jones, RB, DAL: It took 16 weeks, but Julius Jones finally got his first 100-yard game of the year in the road win at Carolina. Not only did Jones top 100 yards, he nearly got to 200 (194) before this one finished. Jones likely rode the pines in many fantasy leagues based on the continued workload split with Marion Barber, the daunting task of the normally stout Carolina run defense, and the fact that he hadn't sniffed the end zone since Week 3. This huge performance represents what fantasy owners expected of him all year, and he'll look to repeat it this week with the playoffs on the line and the weak St. Louis run defense on tap.
Jim Sorgi, QB, IND: Sorgi is likely to see three quarters of action this week in the Colts' regular season finale against Arizona. Last week, he tallied 237 passing yards, a score, and a fumble lost against Seattle. Look for more of the same this week against the Cardinals, as Peyton Manning and company will take a seat early.
Josh McCown, QB, ARI: McCown put up big numbers against the Eagles this past week, throwing the requisite 38 times for an Arizona QB, and completed 27 of them for 294 yards. He also tossed two TD passes on the day. With the running game still in park, McCown will take to the air another 35-40 times against the Colts in this week's finale, looking to get both Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald over 100 receptions on the year, and to audition for a job in '06.
Willie Parker, RB, PIT: Parker rolled up his first 100-yard game since Week 7 against the Browns last week on the strength of an 80-yard TD run. Parker has been effective of late, racking up at least 82 yards of offense in four straight games. Parker and the Steelers are looking to secure a Wild Card berth this week, and the 25th-ranked Detroit rush defense (122.7 yards per game) stands in the way.
David Carr, QB, HOU: Carr had his second big outing in the past five weeks, tossing for 295 yards and two scores against the Jaguars. Next up for Carr and the Texans is a date with San Francisco, whose defense ranks dead last, allowing 282 yards and nearly two TD passes per game.
Ricky Proehl, WR, CAR: Proehl became the top receiver for Carolina by default when Steve Smith was ejected in the third quarter of the Panthers' Week 16 contest. Proehl caught only two balls, but racked up 104 yards and a score. It was Proehl's second TD reception in three weeks. He'll be counted on this week as the Panthers look to finish with a win against Atlanta.
Ricky Williams, RB, MIA: Still doubting whether Ricky can dominate a game? Williams ran wild against Tennessee in Week 16, scoring for the fourth time in five games and posting his first 100-yard game (172) since his return to the field. Ronnie Brown is still banged up, leaving Williams to shoulder the majority of the workload against the surging Patriots defense.
Amani Toomer, WR, NYG: Toomer has scored in two straight games and five of his past seven. The veteran receiver has averaged five catches for 64 yards in those seven contests. With Jeremy Shockey hobbled by a sore ankle, Toomer will be a primary option this week against Oakland.
Fred Taylor, RB, JAC: Taylor picked a good time to get healthy for fantasy owners, posting his first 100-yard game since Week 7 against the Texans. Greg Jones is still aching, and LaBrandon Toefield will vulture the short yardage stuff, so those owners rewarded adequately for yardage should give a look-see to Taylor this week against the Titans (who, as stated in the previous entry, allowed 172 yards to Ricky Williams).
Samie Parker, WR, KC: With Eddie Kennison hobbled, Parker stepped up as the deep-threat option for Trent Green once again in Week 16. He scored his third TD of the season, hauling in a 42-yard TD pass from Trent Green to down the Chargers. Parker has averaged nearly five receptions and 68 yards per game over the past five weeks.
Rex Grossman, QB, CHI: Grossman only tallied 166 yards, a score, and an interception against the Packers, but his willingness to throw the ball downfield added an extra step to the Chicago offense. Grossman will likely put the ball in the air more against the Vikings in the finale, looking to establish more of a connection with Muhsin Muhammad, Justin Gage, and Bernard Berrian heading into the playoffs. After all, Kyle Boller hung three scores on the Vikings in Week 16.
Mark Clayton, WR, BAL: Get the ball in the hands of your playmakers. For the Ravens, that means finding a means to get the rookie Clayton the ball. He's scored in three straight games, posting his third day with 85-plus receiving yards in the past four weeks.
Plaxico Burress, WR, NYG: He dropped a sure TD pass to start the Week 16 contest against the Redskins. After that, Burress was virtually non-existent. He didn't record his first catch until the second half and finished with just three receptions for 40 yards. Since his six-catch, 109-yard game against Seattle in Week 12, Burress has failed to top 50 receiving yards and has not caught more than four passes in a game. He last saw the end zone in Week 11, instead watching teammate Amani Toomer reach pay dirt on numerous occasions.
Steve Smith, WR, CAR: The season's first-half MVP has been hit or miss, literally, down the stretch. Since Week 9, Smith has alternated between brilliant and weak efforts, scoring three touchdowns in the final seven weeks and getting himself ejected in championship week. His 1,432 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns are huge, but his one catch for 18 yards in Week 16 sabotaged many a championship dream.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, SD: The unthinkable happened in Week 16. LaDainian Tomlinson's scoreless streak extended to four games when he was shut out of the end zone by the Chiefs. During that stretch, Tomlinson has been held under 100 rushing yards as well. He's expected to play in Week 17 despite the Chargers' elimination from the playoff picture, but don't be surprised to see Michael Turner pile up some carries as well.
Randy Moss, WR, OAK: Despite his 889 receiving yards on the season, Moss has to be a top contender for bust of the year. He's scored only four times in his past 10 games, and has been held under 50 receiving yards in seven of those contests (five times under 40).
Steven Jackson, RB, STL: Jackson got into the end zone in Week 16, but that hardly made up for his 1.8 yards per carry average (16 carries for 28 yards). That TD was Jackson's first in four weeks, a period during which he cracked 80 rushing yards just once. He now faces a revved up Dallas defense looking to make one last stand at home to make the playoffs.
Keyshawn Johnson, WR, DAL: Johnson posted solid numbers in Sunday's win against Carolina, going for 89 yards on six receptions. However, the old issue of Keyshawn finding the end zone has reared its head again, as he's gone scoreless in four straight games. Ahead of his totals against Carolina, Johnson had just seven catches for 71 yards in the Cowboys' previous three games combined.
Brett Favre, QB, GB: It's almost like piling on at this point, but Favre's totals for December merit mentioning. He ranks seventh for the month with 908 passing yards, but has thrown zero touchdowns while firing nine interceptions. Add to that total three lost fumbles, and you have a sad close to the season for one of this generation's greats. Favre will look to light up Lambeau Field one last time when the Packers host the Seahawks.
Eli Manning, QB, NYG: Oh, but for the Burress drop to start the game. Or, the Chris Snee penalty that negated a 36-yard score to Toomer. However you cut it, those plays don't add to Manning's fantasy stats. He's thrown just three TDs in his past four games while tossing seven INTs. Additionally, he was held under 200 yards in two of those contests.
Chester Taylor, RB, BAL: He was on a roll, ready to supplant Jamal Lewis as the top man in Baltimore, or so it seemed. Then, a couple of missed games and a low rushing average combined with a rejuvenated Lewis make Taylor waiver wire fodder in Week 17. He's accrued only 11 carries in the past two weeks, though his 49 receiving yards redeemed him slightly in Week 16. Taylor has lost fumbles in three of his past four outings.
Antowain Smith, RB, NO: He had a chance to make his case for the No. 2 role for the Saints in '06, but has come up short in two straight weeks down the stretch. Smith has carried the ball 23 times for just 58 yards in the past two contests (2.5 average). The Saints face a tough Tampa Bay defense in the finale this week.
Jamie Martin, QB, STL: Interim coach Joe Vitt named Martin his starter for the season finale in Dallas. Martin threw for 354 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in losing to the 49ers. He'll face a Dallas defense this week that has played quite well at home, allowing just six touchdown passes by visiting QBs in seven home games.
WATER COOLER RULER
The games of Week 16 yielded big play after big play from running backs. Led by Willie Parker's 80-yard sprint to the house, 21 running backs had a carry of 15 yards or longer. Another 16 backs had a run of 10-14 yards.