On to the playoffs! For a number of leagues, Week 13 marked the final matchups of the fantasy regular season. Those owners who stayed with Carson Palmer in a tough matchup were delighted with his dominance over the Steelers. The Seahawks rolled to their 10th win of the season and got Shaun Alexander closer to the single-season TD total. Chicago's defense turned the page and shook off Brett Favre's past brilliance against them, while Brad Johnson tossed multiple TD passes in getting the Vikings back into the Wild Card hunt.
Let's recaps some of the stories and performances from the week that was.
WEEK 13 UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Can we give Hines Ward a little love for busting out the "Ickey Shuffle" on Sunday against the Bengals? The Pittsburgh defense failed miserably in their attempt to contain Carson Palmer and the Bengals offense, and forced Ben Roethlisberger and company into shoot-out mode. Roethlisberger threw the ball 41 times in the defeat, piling up 386 passing yards, three touchdowns, and throwing three critical interceptions. At least those who started the Cincinnati defense were rewarded with four turnovers (add a Ward fumble). But, back to the receivers for a moment. Ward rolled up nine catches for 135 yards and two scores in this one, winning the battle against Chad Johnson (five catches for 54 yards) in terms of fantasy stats and end zone celebrations, but losing the war in the 38-31 loss. T.J. Houshmandzadeh made a spectacular catch on a 43-yard TD pass from Palmer, and played through pain in his elbow to later add a second score (five catches for 88 yards).
Chris Chambers of the Dolphins turned in an absolutely sick stat line against the Bills, catching 15 balls for 238 yards and a score in the dramatic comeback win over the Bills. His late TD catch one-upped the tremendous first quarter piled up by Lee Evans. Evans caught three touchdowns in the first 12 minutes of the game for 106 yards, but added only two catches for 11 yards in the final three quarters.
With his 136-yard, two-TD romp against the Rams, Clinton Portis eclipsed the 1,000-yard for the fourth straight season. Portis recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the year, and his eighth with 87 or more yards. Portis next faces an Arizona run defense that allows 112 yards and 1.3 TDs per game.
Corey Dillon returned to the field for his first action since Week 9 and looked solid in the uninspiring 16-3 win over the Jets. Dillon ran for 65 yards and a score, and added 19 receiving yards. Dillon picked the perfect time to return for fantasy owners, as the Patriots will face run-softies Buffalo in Week 14 and the Jets again in Week 16.
Mike Holmgren must have a soft spot in his heart for fantasy owners (or maybe he's got one eye on the upcoming contract negotiations), as he got Shaun Alexander two touchdowns in the 42-0 dismantling of the Eagles on Monday night. Alexander finished with only 49 yards, but the Seahawks didn't need him or Matt Hasselbeck (98 passing yards and one score) to light it up in this one. The defense scored three touchdowns, recorded four sacks, and forced six turnovers. Congratulations to those owners running with the Seattle defense. In Week 13, the Seattle defense scored 44 points in the Yahoo! default settings. To put that total in perspective, Lee Evans and his 117 yards and three scores ranked second for the week with 23 points.
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- Chris Henry, WR, Cin: As much as Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh get the headlines, the rookie Henry has become a tremendous third option for Carson Palmer. His three-game scoring streak ended on Sunday against Pittsburgh, but Henry still hauled in five passes for 52 yards. The stretch run for the Bengals includes several teams susceptible to big plays, including the Browns, Lions, and Chiefs.
- Chester Taylor, RB, Bal: The continued struggles of Jamal Lewis despite playing in a contract year means that Taylor will get an extended look over the final four weeks of the year. Taylor carried the ball 11 times in Week 13 against Houston and maintains a 4.4 yards per carry average.
- Eric Parker, WR, SD: Parker scored for the third time in his past four games on Sunday, contributing three catches for 22 yards in the defeat of Oakland. Parker caught seven balls for 98 yards in the Week 12 win over Washington and has snagged three or more catches in eight of 12 games this year. He's a solid option for the No. 3 receiver spot with Miami on the slate for Week 14.
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DeShaun Foster, RB, Car: Foster topped 20 carries for the second straight week and dominated the Falcons run defense. He tallied 27 Touches and 180 yards of offense. Oh yeah, Foster also scored two touchdowns in the 24-6 victory. Week 14 presents a big challenge for Foster and the Panthers. Foster struggled in the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay, accumulating only 39 yards on 18 Touches in Week 9.
Lee Evans, WR, Buf: Over the past month, Evans has seen his workload increase, averaging four catches and 74 yards per game. He recorded his second multi-TD game of the year by snagging three quick TDs against the Dolphins on Sunday. The Bills meet an injury-decimated and deep-ball prone New England in Week 14. Check the waiver wire this week if you're in need of a third receiver.
Michael Bennett, RB, Min: Bennett came on in relief of the injured Mewelde Moore (ankle) and piled up 89 yards of offense with two touchdowns against the Lions. That made for his second big game against the Lions this year (111 yards of offense with a score in Week 9). If Moore is unable to go this coming week, Bennett makes for a solid play against the 30th-ranked St. Louis run defense (138.8 yards per game and 1.3 TDs).
Julius Jones, RB, Dal: After missing three weeks with an injury and struggling in his first game back, Jones has picked up his workload and productivity in the past three weeks. This week's loss to the Giants marked his second straight week with at least 25 Touches. He piled up 162 yards of offense against the Giants and will be counted on to do so again this week against the Chiefs. The only problem here is that Jones hasn't scored since Week 3.
Brad Johnson, QB, Min: Johnson threw for 200 yards for the second straight game against the Lions, and finds himself in a prime spot on Sunday against the porous Rams secondary. He's thrown multiple TD passes in consecutive weeks, and has led the Vikings to five straight wins.
Zachary Hilton, TE, NO: If you're looking for consistency at TE (and save those Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez owners, who isn't?), Hilton might be worth a look-see. He's caught 13 passes for 155 yards in the Saints' past three games with one TD. Hilton appears in a prime-time matchup against the Falcons (199 passing yards and one TD per game) to end Week 14.
Koren Robinson, WR, Min: Robinson was the flavor of the week in the Minnesota receiving corps, racking up 148 receiving yards with an 80-yard TD score. He's caught 10 passes in the past three weeks for 228 yards while retaining kickoff return duties. The matchup against the Rams is intriguing and makes Robinson worthy of a glance this week. Of course, there's always a chance that Brad Johnson decides that Nate Burleson gets the attention this time.
Domanick Davis, RB, Hou: Since missing two games with a knee injury, Davis has picked up his production for the Texans. Yes, they don't score many points, but for those leagues rewarding yardage, he's on a roll. The 171 yards he put up against Baltimore marked his fifth straight game over 100 total yards.
Dante Hall, WR, Kan: He's always been known as a dominant return man, but suddenly Hall has gotten on the radar as a receiving option for Trent Green. He's only caught more than two passes on four occasions, but he's always a threat to break a long one. Hall has recorded a catch of 11 or more yards in 10 of 12 games, and busted off catches of 52 and 41 yards in the past two weeks. Hall caught TD passes in each of the past two games and will be used to stretch the field against the Cowboys in Week 14.
David Garrard, QB, Jac: Garrard performed well in his first start in place of Byron Leftwich. He's never going to pile up the yardage (zero 200-yard games in his career), but he can make plays. Garrard tossed two touchdowns to go with his 116 passing yards and added 26 yards on the ground. It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure under the microscope against Indianapolis on Sunday.
Brett Favre, QB, GB: The season of frustration continued for Favre on Sunday, as the Bears left his mastery of them at Soldier Field (11-1 before Sunday) in the rear-view mirror. Favre committed four turnovers in the game (two INTs, two fumbles), with his two interceptions leading directly to 10 Chicago points.
Stephen Davis, RB, Car: Davis has clearly taken a backseat to the shifty DeShaun Foster. He started the game against Atlanta, but yielded to Foster after gaining eight yards on five carries. That marked Davis' second game in three starts with less than 10 rushing yards and third straight without a score.
Matt Jones, WR, Jac: The loss of Byron Leftwich to injury has hurt nobody's performance more than Matt Jones. After his streak of four TDs in five games, Jones has caught only one pass for seven yards in the past two weeks. The schedule is still favorable for the Jaguars down the stretch, but Jones is a difficult start at this juncture.
Keary Colbert, WR, Car: At least Colbert isn't resigned to one or two-catch games on a weekly basis, but his output has been minimal in recent weeks. Colbert has seven catches in the past two games, but for only 56 yards. His performance turned South with a zero catch performance against the Bears. This down-turn in performance came after a stretch during which he scored in two of three games.
Heath Miller, TE, Pit: Miller was well on his way to becoming the next Antonio Gates, and then Ben Roethlisberger got hurt. Miller has gone scoreless in five straight games after piling up a four-game TD streak in the middle of the season. He did rack up his best yardage total (44) with Roethlisberger back under center. Week 14 presents an interesting challenge when the Bears visit Pittsburgh.
Jamal Lewis, RB, Bal: After one week on the rise, Lewis drops like a stone again. He compiled only 40 total yards against the bottom-ranked Texans defense and lost his fifth fumble on the season. He'd enjoyed his first 100-yard season against the Bengals in Week 12, and then watched Chester Taylor get back into the mix this past week. It's likely that Taylor eats into his carries more this week against the Broncos.
Kevin Curtis, WR, STL: I know, I remember the game-winning TD against the Texans in Week 12. However, after piling up three or more catches in nine of the Rams' first 10 ten games, Curtis has just three catches in the past two weeks. He finished Sunday's game against Washington with two catches for six yards.
Aaron Brooks, QB, NO: After two brilliant games by Brooks (524 yards, five TDs, and one INT), Brooks scuffled mightily against the Buccaneers in Week 13. He threw for 215 yards, but tossed zero TDs against four INTs. It was his third game without a TD pass this year. He next faces cousin Michael Vick and the Falcons. In their first meeting, Brooks threw for 259 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
Muhsin Muhammad, WR, Chi: Muhammad went without a catch on Sunday against the Packers, making it the 10th time this season that he's failed to top 60 receiving yards. Muhammad has followed up his brilliant 16-TD '04 season with just three scores this year. The Bears play three road games in the next four weeks, with tough matchups against Pittsburgh and Atlanta on tap.
Philadelphia: I'm not going to single out a single player here. Monday night's game against Seattle, a 42-0 burial for those of you whose matchups were unaffected by the participants, was embarrassing. L.J. Smith's two catches for 46 yards constitute the Eagles' highlights in this game. Brian Westbrook had 55 yards of offense, but joined the walking wounded in Philly with a sprained foot. The Eagles next welcome the division-leading Giants and their formidable defense.
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The Bengals were able to contain the Steelers running game on Sunday. After allowing 221 rushing yards to the Steelers in the Week 7 loss, the Bengals limited them to 95 yards on the ground. For the season, the Steelers are 0-5 when they fail to reach 100 rushing yards.