With so many leagues wrapping it up after Week 16, and Christmas and New Year's on the minds of the masses these next two weeks, this will be the final NFL Skinny of the '06 season. The Yahoo! Sports fantasy staff will be putting together year-end columns next week looking at the highs and lows of the fantasy season that was, as well as looking ahead to what we should be thinking about in advance of the '07 season, so be sure to keep checking back in. I want to wish all of you a happy holidays and, for those still fighting the good fight, best of luck and may all your lineup decisions be right … oh, and here's a peek back at the weekend that was.
Week 15 Update: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Week 15 didn't pack much of a punch, frankly. Among the oft-started fantasy contingent, only LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook, Steven Jackson, Marion Barber III, Marvin Harrison and Terrell Owens managed to find pay dirt more than once. And no previous week this season produced fewer combined 100-yard rushers, 100-yard receivers and 300-yard passers. Finally, fantasy power players Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Larry Johnson scored fewer than 10 points in many league formats. All of this is to reiterate how blessed Tomlinson owners really are – the number of top 500 teams in Yahoo! public leagues that own LT continues to rise (it's at 57.4 percent, compared to the Baltimore defense, in second at 23.8 percent). The only thing Tomlinson owners have to fear now is Marty Schottenheimer. The Chargers head coach could opt to rest Tomlinson at least partially these next two weeks, and Michael Turner could quickly become fantasy relevant, especially for leagues that play championships in Week 17. Turner was a widely-available free agent (95 percent) heading into Week 15, and Tomlinson owners need to buy that insurance now if they haven't already. But the fact that San Diego is only a game up on both Baltimore and Indianapolis for playoff seeding should keep LT owners safe for one more week, assuming San Diego isn't up (or down) by a large margin heading into halftime in Seattle on Sunday.
Alright, here's an example of how fantasy football can get a bad name. I whole-heartedly agree that Terrell Owens should have been suspended for spitting in the face of DeAngelo Hall on Saturday, but as an Owens owner still playing for a championship, I'm glad he didn't. He'll pay a $35k fine, but will still be allowed to play on Christmas Day against Philadelphia. But it's not as if Owens is looking all that good on the fantasy side, anyways. When he faced the Eagles in Week 5, he caught just three of the 13 passes thrown his way for 45 yards – his second-worst fantasy outing of the year. The Philly secondary has yielded just four touchdowns to receivers in its past eight games.
For the curious, I played in seven fantasy football leagues this year, went to the playoffs in four of them (completely crashed and burned in two Yahoo! experts leagues), and play for the championship in Week 16 in two of them – the Y! Sports Blog League (Larry Johnson-powered) and the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Experts League (LaDainian Tomlinson-powered).
For a rundown of the Week 15 injury news be sure to check out Christopher Harris' Damage Report.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues
QB – Jay Cutler, Den
Cutler has tossed two touchdowns and has improved his passing yards and QB rating in each of his three starts. Now he faces a Cincinnati defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs, including four touchdowns to Peyton Manning and the Colts on Monday night. Cutler can still be had in 82 percent of Yahoo! leagues. The QB position has been so unstable that I'm sure there are plenty of owners still alive who will have to give serious consideration to plugging in Cutler this week, including myself.
RB – Ron Dayne, Hou
Alright, so maybe the number of owners still active in their league is being cut in half with each passing week, but that doesn't explain why Dayne is still almost 92 percent available in Yahoo! leagues. In fact, I just added him this past Sunday morning in one of my leagues, but made the mistake of adding him to the bench while I started Tatum Bell – luckily, that lineup decision was not fatal. While Bell fumbled early in Sunday's game and managed just 29 yards on 18 carries, Dayne was busy posting his third straight game with at least 99 yards from scrimmage, and he also scored a touchdown for the third time in the past two games – This is also the third straight week he's appeared in this Bargain Bin. Dayne, who has averaged 19 carries per game in the past three weeks, will face the most generous fantasy run defense in Week 16, the Indianapolis Colts. In the past seven games, the Colts have allowed 12 touchdowns to opposing running backs.
WR – Ronald Curry, Oak
I'm a Curry fan, and I'll admit I'm quick to jump on his bandwagon if it looks like the sun is starting to shine on him at all. But there are legitimate reasons to like him right now. Curry was the most-targeted receiver in the league in Week 15, catching nine of fourteen balls thrown his way for 87 yards. For the season, Curry has hauled in a worthy 68 percent of his targets, a stat that is even more impressive when you consider the quarterbacks that he's had to work with. Curry reminds me a bit of an Anquan Boldin – big, strong, athletic, savvy, sure-handed. He faces a decent Kansas City secondary in Week 16, but he did have five catches for 85 yards against the Chiefs back in Week 11. If you are in a tight spot at receiver this week, there are much worse gambles than Curry, who is available in more than 99 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Rex Grossman, Chi, QB – Depending on the week, this guy is either the cancer or the cure for the Chicago Bears. Right now, he's back to being the cure. After throwing zero touchdowns and six interceptions in Week 13 and Week 14 combined, Grossman has tallied four touchdown passes without an interception in his past two.
D.J. Hackett, Sea, WR – Hackett has averaged over 95 yards in the past two weeks while his role has increased because of Darrell Jackson's turf toe. Jackson is out again in Week 16, so Hackett has a good opportunity to turn in his third straight solid outing.
Terry Glenn, Dal, WR – Glenn has the third-most receiving yards and ninth-most fantasy points among receivers over the past five weeks – in Week 15, he caught five passes for 96 yards.
J.P. Losman, Buf, QB – Believe it or not, Losman has been the sixth-best fantasy quarterback for the past five weeks, throwing for a combined 10 touchdown passes and an average of 210 passing yards per game.
Ladell Betts, Was, RB – He bagged his fourth-straight 100-yard rushing game on Sunday, and the outlook looks good for him to land his fifth in a row in Week 16 – he faces a St. Louis defense that has allowed nine running backs to top the century mark this season.
Edgerrin James, Ari, RB – Edge has averaged 4.4-plus yards per carry in five of his past six games and is now only 12 yards from reaching the 1,000 yard rushing mark.
Braylon Edwards, Cle, WR – Edwards has caught a touchdown in three straight games and five of his last seven.
Robert Royal, TE – Don't ask me to explain it, but Royal has scored in three straight games.
Larry Johnson, KC, RB – When you're Larry Johnson, you're held to a higher standard, and despite 314 combined rushing yards in his past three games, he's been shut out of the end zone in that span, a scoreless streak that he's matched just once since Week 12 of '04.
Tatum Bell, Den, RB – Bell's fumble lost and just 29 yards on 18 carries Sunday has opened the door again for Mike Bell, who found pay dirt twice in Week 15.
Steve Smith, Car, WR – Smith has averaged just 62 yards and has failed to find the end zone in the past two games with Chris Weinke at quarterback. And after topping 100 yards 10 times last season, he's failed to eclipse that mark in his past five games.
Andre Johnson, Hou, WR – Over the past three weeks, 63 receivers have scored more fantasy points than Johnson, who is averaging just 35 yards per game in those contests.
Jon Kitna, Det, QB – Kitna has thrown no more than one TD pass in each of his past seven games and has 12 interceptions and five fumbles lost during that span.
Deion Branch, Sea, WR – Branch has not topped 54 yards or scored a touchdown in his past four games.