Rob Gronkowski's Bad Break

Patrick Daugherty
Rich Hribar makes a bold fantasy prediction for every team in the league

Sunday was a glorious day. There was enough snow to make a Norman Rockwell painting, a gaggle of improbably close games and touchdowns — lots and lots of touchdowns. A record amount of touchdowns, in fact.

Not so glorious? Fantasy's No. 1 running back and No. 1 tight end both going down in a heap. For Adrian Peterson, the outlook is uncertain, but not altogether gloomy. He doesn’t believe his sprained foot will end his season, and even if it does, it’s not going to cloud his status for 2014. Perhaps AD has lost a battle — a 3-9-1 battle for the Vikings — but not the war.

For Rob Gronkowski, however, the news couldn’t be worse. Gronk had only recently tallied more 2013 games played (seven) than surgeries undergone in the past 13 months (five). Now he’s staring at one of the most serious operations a football player can undergo: ACL reconstruction. It comes at a time when Gronk was near the top of the tight-end leaderboard in nearly every meaningful category despite his limited playing time, and fueling the robust turnaround of the Patriots’ offense.

Now his 2013 is through, his Week 1 2014 status up in the air and his career in question. Because, let’s be real. Gronk is one of the NFL’s ultimate gamers. That cannot be debated. But at what point is it all too much? Gronk is a 24-year-old man who has now suffered serious back, arm and knee injuries, all in one 13-month span. That is not to mention the back issues that cost him his entire junior year at Arizona. We know Gronkowski will be back, but is there any way he will ever be the same? How many serious injuries can one player compensate for as he plays the world’s most violent game at a speed typically unseen for a 6-foot-6, 265-pound pass catcher?

If you own Gronkowski in a Dynasty league, counting him out now won’t do you much good. You’d be selling lower than low when there’s nothing to be gained for 2013. Waiting through the course of Gronk’s rehab is the sensible thing to do. But one must also be sensible. Modern medicine produces a lot of miracles, many of them for football players. But if the next time we see Gronk we’re really seeing Gronk, it will be the best-possible outcome, and not the most likely. That’s because for whatever Gronk has in youth and resilience, it may not be enough to overcome the latest and most serious hit in a series of them that just won’t seem to stop coming. Even in the age of Adrian Peterson, football is a cruel game that can alter or erase careers in an instant. Let’s hope Rob Gronkowski isn’t the latest example.   

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Three Up

1. Da’Rick Rogers/LaVon Brazill

It only took Darrius Heyward-Bey proving time and time and time again that he was the worst playmaker in the NFL, but Rogers and Brazill finally got some serious run on Sunday, putting some life back in the Colts’ passing attack in the process. Rogers stung the Bengals for 6/107/2, while Brazill went 3/53/2. Both players figure to be inconsistent over the season’s final three weeks — both as “real-life” receiving threats and re-draft fantasy options — but should be owned across the board in Dynasty leagues. As for re-draft purposes, Rogers and Brazill could go a long way toward resuscitating Andrew Luck’s flagging QB1 value in Pep Hamilton’s discombobulated offense. Rogers is worth a flier if you’re hurting at receiver.      

2. Aaron Rodgers’ Collarbone Scans

Barring truly distressing test results, Sunday’s shocking win over the Falcons should be the final push Green Bay needed to give its franchise quarterback the go ahead for the season’s final three games. In addition to Matt Flynn, Rodgers’ fantasy owners have the Lions’ latest no-show performance to thank. If/when Rodgers is cleared, he’ll be returning to a dream matchup with Dallas’ barely-there secondary on JerryWorld's artificial turf. For most Rodgers owners, it’s probably already too late. For the few that survived and advanced to the fantasy semifinals, Christmas is coming early this year.   

3. Dennis Pitta

Pitta was supposed to be on a snap count in his 2013 debut. Instead, he was on the field for every meaningful snap, drawing 11 targets as he posted a 6/48/1 line. Pitta’s touchdown couldn’t have come in more clutch fashion, as he made a diving, contested grab on 4th-and-goal with just 2:05 remaining. A legitimate safety valve and over-the-middle threat for a team that’s lacked one all season, Pitta could be a high-end TE1 for the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs. He’s the ideal replacement for Gronk owners left in a lurch.

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Three Down

1. Eli Manning

Facing the league’s worst secondary, Manning plunged to a new depth, tossing his 19th and 20th picks of the season as he moved past Geno Smith for the “league lead.” Disintegrating as a passer, it’s not entirely clear what’s ailing Manning, but it is clear what’s wrong: Everything. Manning’s 2013 is long lost. The question is what he’ll have left for 2014. Manning has had a good ride with OC Kevin Gilbride, but at the very least, a new voice in his ear would be a good start. As Philip Rivers has proven, there's no reason Manning's days as an effective quarterback have to be through as long as he still has his arm.

2. E.J. Manuel

Unlike Manning, Manuel has a legitimate excuse for his horrendous play — he’s made only nine career starts. But horrendous it’s been, as Manuel has as many turnovers as touchdowns (10), and is averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt. Manuel was completely overwhelmed in Sunday’s loss despite being one of the few quarterbacks in the league playing in ideal weather conditions. Manuel needs to show at least some modest improvement over the season’s final three games.

3. Chris Johnson

Back to his old ways over his past three games (188 yards rushing, 3.76 yards per carry), Johnson now gets the Cardinals’ run-erasing defense in Week 15. Throw in Shonn Greene’s first real vulture performance on Sunday, and you have a player who’s shaping up as a diceroll RB2. That’s an inexcusable shame, as Johnson has proven he could still be so much more when he wants to be. Stretches like Johnson’s past three weeks are why the Titans are reportedly mulling cutting him loose in the offseason.   


1. When you hug Mike Shanahan, does it feel like a cactus?  

2. There’s no way the Antonio Brown thing isn’t karma, right?  

3. should i bench josh gordon this week because (*inserts insane reason to bench fantasy’s No. 1 overall receiver*)?

Stats of the Week

Josh Gordon’s 774 receiving yards over his past four games are an NFL record, while his 1,400 yards on the season are a new Browns single-season record. Gordon leads the NFL in receiving despite being suspended for Weeks 1 and 2.

Each of Shane Vereen’s 12 catches and 153 receiving yards were the most by a running back in a single game this season, as well as new Patriots’ franchise records.

Ray Rice’s 67 yards rushing were his third most of the year, while his 42 receiving yards were his most of the season. That should tell you all you need to know about his 2013.  

The Broncos had six players with at least 35 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. The Peyton Manning Effect, in full effect.

Treading that same water, the Broncos are the first team in league history to have four players with at least 10 touchdowns. With two more from Eric Decker, they will have five.

Matthew Stafford completed four second half passes.

The win probability chart from the final 2:07 of Ravens/Vikings needs to be seen to be believed.

The Rams are currently in possession of Washington’s No. 2 overall pick. It could easily turn into the No. 1 overall.

Don’t look now, but Ryan Mathews is No. 10 in the league in rushing. This is the same Ryan Mathews you thought would never have a productive career because he was crappy on your fantasy team last season.

Donald Penn and Danny Noble have touchdown catches this season. Hakeem Nicks doesn’t.

Awards Section

The So That’s What All The Hype Was For Award: Cordarrelle Patterson still has some flaws as a receiver — namely, he can look stiff when catching passes — but his 79-yard touchdown late in Sunday’s loss was the exact kind of play that earned him first-round status. Patterson rolled out just before the ball was snapped, moved forward two yards, caught a screen, danced through the first and second levels of the defense and was off to the house. Throw in his special-teams prowess, and you have a player ready to make a major impact in two phases of the game for years to come.

Week 14 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Peyton Manning, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Jamaal Charles, WR Josh Gordon, WR Marques Colston, WR Andre Johnson, TE Jordan Cameron, TE Charles Clay  

Five Players Trending Up Heading Into 2014: Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Shane Vereen, Chris Ivory, Ryan Mathews

Five Players Trending Down Heading Into 2014: Eli Manning, Rob Gronkowski, Ray Rice, Stevie Johnson, Darren McFadden   

Breaking Down the 2013 MVP Debate: Peyton Manning

Most Absurd Moment of Week 14: Snowotron 

Patriots Running Back Power Rankings: 1. Shane Vereen, 2. Stevan Ridley, 3. LeGarrette Blount, 4. Brandon Bolden  

Tweet of the Week, from @68INCOGNITO: #FinsUp