Sometimes, your fantasy week turns on the smallest possible detail. Today, that detail was probably a red flag.
Coaches' challenges had a massive impact in Week 13. This happens pretty much every week, but in early December, owners are either qualifying for the playoffs or getting eliminated. Things are magnified. Challenges that are upheld and denied radically alter fantasy stats. On Sunday, Dallas Clark, Reggie Wayne, both Mannings, Amani Toomer and Braylon Edwards were among the beneficiaries.
But let's talk about Derrick Ward.
For Ward owners, it didn't matter so much whether Lovie Smith's second quarter challenge was successful. It wasn't. Smith thought that perhaps Ward's 31-yard run should have been a 26 yard run, but that really didn't make much difference in fantasy scoring.
What mattered was that A) the officials allowed Smith to challenge the play after it appeared the Giants had snapped the football, and B) Reuben Droughns would have scored a 1-yard TD on the ensuing play.
Instead, the Droughns touchdown was wiped out. The Bears lost a timeout and the ball was spotted again at the one. Droughns then proceeded to carry twice and lose a yard. And then on third down, Ward plunged in from the 2-yard line. So, on a challenge that didn't succeed and probably shouldn't have been allowed, Derrick Ward owners gained six points.
Ward finished with 154 yards, one touchdown and a nasty ankle injury. He was really a disposable fantasy asset, though, a one-week add with Brandon Jacobs injured. That might seem callous, but Ward hadn't even played since Week 7. He was almost certainly added to rosters this week only as a fantasy temp.
Today, the fantasy community should thank referee Walt Coleman, Smith, Jacobs, various Fox camera operators, and anyone else who helped make Ward's 21 fantasy points possible.
• The day's first touchdown belongs to Shaun Alexander. And no, you're not reading some old, archived Sunday Scene from 2005. He pretty much walked into the end zone over the left side, just like old times.
• Not long after the Alexander TD, Chester Taylor goes untouched and unthreatened into the end zone from two yards out. The prior two plays for Minnesota had been a 14-yard run by Taylor and a 28-yard run by Adrian Peterson. Nothing evidently wrong with Peterson's knee so far. There's clearly nothing wrong with the Vikings offensive line, either
• Fred Taylor breaks off a 29-yard run with 8:07 on the clock in the first quarter, juking both Kelvin Hayden and Antoine Bethea to the ground. There might not exist another great player who's been as thoroughly derided by fantasy owners as Taylor. Maybe after 10,221 yards, we can let that whole "Fragile" thing go.
Following Taylor's 29-yard run, the next play is an 11-yard rush by Maurice Jones-Drew at the end of which he absolutely levels Hayden. And two plays later, a false start penalty on the Jaguars negates what would have been a Hayden interception return for a touchdown. Tough series for that dude.
• Ernie Sims wallops Adrian Peterson on the final play of the first quarter in the Lions-Vikings game. It might've been the most solid hit of the day so far in any game … and Peterson fell forward for three yards after the contact.
• Jack Del Rio kinda/sorta wins a challenge, getting the ball re-spotted after a Ben Utecht first down reception late in the first quarter. Except when the officials re-measure after correcting themselves, the Colts still get the first down by approximately an inch. So the Jaguars still lose a timeout, despite the fact that replay fixed an error.
Hmm. It's possible that's fair. It's also possible that it's No. 793 on the list of crazy things about NFL replays.
• And Adrian Peterson just makes both Kenoy Kennedy and Gerald Alexander (and probably that Hayden guy, too) look completely silly with a vicious late cut – off that injured right knee – on a 16-yard touchdown run.
• Roy Williams runs a textbook post-corner route and picks up 43 yards. It's nice to see a devastating Madden play work this well in the NFL. Later, six inches away from the goal line on second down, Detroit throws to Casey FitzSimmons for a touchdown. That gives the Lions 17 pass attempts and one rush so far.
• Late in the second quarter, the Redskins are leading the Bills 6-2. On the first play of their first defensive series, Washington only had 10 men on the field as a thoughtful tribute to the late Sean Taylor. Fred Jackson picked up 22 yards on the play, and it remains the longest gain from scrimmage for the Bills.
During the pregame show, Terry Bradshaw had suggested that Buffalo should kneel down on the 10-man play. That would've been tactically foolish, obviously, and it really wouldn't have been the appropriate response to the statement the Redskins were trying to make – that Taylor was with them. As evidenced by the score, the Bills did nothing with Jackson's early gain.
• Fred Taylor does a face-plant in the backfield, but still picks up five yards. Not really the prettiest five yards, but it works. He's off to another big yardage day.
• Jared Allen just caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Damon Huard, no doubt sending Kolby Smith and Tony Gonzalez owners into a violent rage. This was no Mike Vrabel touchdown, either. Allen was actually covered reasonably well on the play, but made a spectacular catch near the sideline. Another great IDP day for Allen, it appears. Midway through the second quarter he has two sacks and the touchdown.
Steve Spurrier and the rest of the '76 Buccaneers can prepare the box of Franzia.
• Bob Sanders just destroyed Greg Jones on the goal line. I've never known how a 5-8 dude can inflict so much damage on such large humans. Maurice Jones-Drew scores for Jacksonville from two yards away on the next play.
• Tarvaris Jackson is playing about as well as any quarterback can without really having the opportunity to throw very often. Here's his halftime line: 10-for-13, 111 passing yards, two TDs, and three carries for 22 yards. At least two of those incompletions were solid decisions to throw the ball away, too.
• And the Dolphins now trail 17-13 after a 19-yard Clemens-to-Brad Smith touchdown. Spurrier puts the Franzia box back in the fridge.
• Peyton Manning just passed Joe Montana on the all-time yardage list. And shortly thereafter, Manning found Anthony Gonzalez for a touchdown … but Gonzalez knew immediately that he'd pushed off, and it drew a flag. Two plays later, Manning found Dallas Clark for their second TD connection of the day.
It's possible that Manning is a better quarterback than Montana. That's a question better left to NFL experts, not fantasy hacks. But Manning's SNL appearance clearly doesn't match Montana's.
• So that was a nasty throw from Trent Dilfer that led to Richard Marshall's interception return for a touchdown. Dilfer just wings the ball into a clump of Panthers, and the Niners are down 17-0. Without looking up any stats, I'm going to guess that the Niners don't have a particularly good record this year in games they've trailed by 17.
• Nobody runs the two-minute drill quite like Philip Rivers. The Chargers get the ball at their own 35 with 1:42 on the clock. We take you now to the Yahoo! box score play-by-play:
1st-10, SD 35, 1:42 SD committed 5 yard penalty
1st-15, SD 30, 1:41 P. Rivers incomplete pass down the middle
2nd-15, SD 30, 1:38 P. Rivers passed to A. Gates to the right for 1 yard loss
3rd-16, SD 29, 1:29 P. Rivers incomplete pass to the right
4th-16, SD 29, 1:10 M. Scifres punt, no return
That's how it's done, kids. Lose six yards, take 30 seconds off the clock, and give the ball right back.
• Mike Nugent kicks a field goal to end the first half in Miami and it's 20-13, Jets. The '76 Bucs certainly need to drink something.
• With 11:21 remaining in the third quarter, the Suishams now lead the Lindells, 9-5.
• Adrian Peterson with another spectacular move to freeze Kenoy Kennedy and … (yawn) … score his second touchdown of the game, this time from 13 yards. It's 42-10, Vikings. Fox can't seriously stick with this game much longer.
• Within minutes of each another, Brian Westbrook and LaDainian Tomlinson both manage long touchdown runs against the Seahawks and Chiefs respectively. Not that either of those two care, but Westbrook and Tomlinson are engaged in a tight battle to be the top scorer at running back, fantasy-wise. Westbrook entered the day with 199 total points in standard scoring leagues, and Tomlinson had 184. Tomlinson tied Walter Payton with 110 career rushing touchdowns on his 31-yard TD.
• Finally, the Suishams score a touchdown. Clinton Portis finds the end zone from three yards and it's 16-5.
• Roy Williams, who was off to a nice day (see above), is now out of uniform and on the Detroit sideline with an apparent knee injury. Uh-oh. In case you were wondering whether the day could possibly get worse for Detroit.
• Adrian Peterson is on the sidelines midway through the third quarter, his helmet off, just goofing off. He's not injured, but he's almost certainly done for the day with Minnesota leading by a ton and his ligament still presumably partially torn. Peterson's final numbers: 15 carries, 116 yards, two touchdowns.
Assuming Randy Moss remains a New England wide receiver – and maybe that's not a safe assumption, but let's just say – there's going to be an interesting debate in the fantasy community next July about who, exactly, should be the No. 1 overall pick. If we're drafting today, knowing nothing else, I'm going with Peterson. But I understand that there are reasonable arguments to be made on behalf of Tom Brady, Tomlinson, Westbrook, and probably even Moss. Although if Jaworski selects Moss on that ESPN fantasy draft special, he's a hypocrite.
• Referring to Jon Kitna's ability to bounce back from the mauling he sustains each week, Brian Baldinger asked, "I wonder what Kitna is made out of?"
I'm fairly sure that was rhetorical; he didn't actually expect a discussion of human anatomy from Dick Stockton, although that would be awesome. But I have a guess at what Jon Kitna is made out of: he's at least 29 percent Carl Everett. Not sure about the rest, but I saw that "Outside the Lines" thing, and he's got a little Carl in him.
• Calvin Johnson dropped the ball on a slant where he could have pretty much run forever. Despite the injury to Roy Williams and the fact that the Lions are basically running the June Jones offense today, Johnson caught his first pass with 13:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
• Peyton Manning with a shovel pass to Luke Lawton for a touchdown, and it's 28-17 Indianapolis. That's four touchdown passes for Manning. Seems like you shouldn't get full touchdown credit for the shovel, which is basically the throw you use in co-ed flag leagues because a girl has to touch the ball every four plays.
• Another longish TD by Tomlinson, this one a 28-yard fourth quarter run. He passes Payton on the career TD list, and Tomlinson now has double-digit rushing touchdowns in every season he's played. I don't really know his TCU stats, except that they were obscene, but I'd guess that he may never have played a season of football at any level without rushing for at least 10 TDs.
• After 231 harmless passes, David Garrard finally throws an interception. Antoine Bethea got the pick after a Gary Brackett deflection. But after a three-and-out by the Colts, Garrard was brilliant, completing six of seven passes on a 78-yard touchdown drive. Dennis Northcutt caught a 17-yard bullet for the score, then Garrard ran for the two-point conversion. It's 28-25, Colts. The Jaguars may not win, but they can certainly hang with Indy.
• It's getting tight between the Suishams and the Lindells: 16-14 with 1:55 remaining.
• Lofa gets his third interception of the day, clinching the win for Seattle. Or rather, A.J. Feeley neatly delivers the ball to Lofa for the third time today. Moose Johnston suggests that Tatupu might actually not be visible to Feeley, which would suggest that the Seahawks are using this technology, which has to be at least as bad as spygate. And much cooler.
• Oh, my. The Lindells pull off a thriller, as Rian kicks a 36-yard field goal with 0:04 left. They scored 17 the hard way: five field goals, one safety. Fred Jackson led the Bills in rushing and receiving, starting in relief of both Marshawn Lynch and Anthony Thomas. Jackson finished with 151 total yards. Clearly, no TDs.
• Louisville's own Chris Redman relieved Joey Harrington today, and he promptly lit up the Rams: 16-for-24, 172 yards, two touchdowns, one interception. If he gets the start against the Saints in Week 14, it won't be easy to keep Redman out of the top 20 in the quarterback rankings.
• The Giants were moving the ball, Derrick Ward looked very strong … and Eli Manning throws directly to Brian Urlacher. Just as we saw last week, Manning seemed to think that Jeremy Shockey would break someplace other than where he went. The Bears took over at their own 21. Chicago came out going mostly no-huddle, and engineered what Joe Buck appropriately called "a flawless drive," ending in a Rex Grossman touchdown toss to an unaccounted-for Desmond Clark.
• Selvin Young and Travis Henry split the carries for the Broncos on Denver's first drive – they each had four – and Henry had the touchdown. No Andre Hall (ankle) today, which doesn't really add much clarity to this situation.
Hester blew right past him. The blitz was picked up, Grossman heaved the ball downfield, Hester had the nearest defensive back beaten by at least seven yards … and a perfectly thrown pass bounced off Hester's shoulder pads. Incomplete. Grossman was then sacked at the 1-yard line on the next play from scrimmage. Then a punt was either shanked or partially blocked, giving the Giants the ball at the Bears 32.
• Luke McCown – one of two McCowns starting today, Josh being the other – started the game by completing his first 15 passes. Joey Galloway caught a 60-yarder, which, if had been a 61-yarder, would have been a touchdown.
• With 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter and a first and goal at the Cleveland 1-yard line, the Cardinals threw three straight times. Eventually, Warner connected with Bryant Johnson. If you've made any sort of investment in Larry Fitzgerald this season, hopefully you picked up Johnson this morning when it became increasingly clear that your No. 1 receiver would miss the game with a groin injury.
• Eli's third turnover of the Giants-Bears game arrives via a Charles Tillman interception in the end zone, ending another terrific drive by New York. The second turnover was an unforced fumble.
• Travis Henry gets his second short touchdown, getting in the end zone from three yards away. He now has 14 carries for 40 yards and two TDs in what could very well be his last game for a while (though we think that every week). Selvin Young has seven carries for 28 yards.
• Sinorice Moss ran straight downfield while Eli threw short, clearly expecting Moss to stop. Manning yelled briefly after the play, which from him is basically a psychotic outburst.
And Amani Toomer makes a remarkable catch in the end zone on a poorly thrown ball, sparing Eli just a little more criticism. The play was initially ruled incomplete, but replays showed – I thought conclusively, the broadcasters thought inconclusively – that Toomer got his hands under a low throw.
Luke McCown directed a late, game-winning touchdown drive against New Orleans. The first six plays went to Earnest Graham, but the TD was a McCown-to-Jerramy Stevens 4-yarder. McCown, who hadn't started an NFL game since 2004, finished with 313 yards and two TDs. This says at least as much about the Saints pass defense as it does McCown.
The two McCowns actually combined for 454 yards, five touchdowns and two wins.
• Another Browns game, another odd, semi-controversial finish. Cleveland lost to Arizona 27-21, despite the fact that the game ended with Kellen Winslow catching the football in – or very nearly in, or forced out of – the end zone. Braylon Edwards (149 yards, one TD), Derek Anderson (304 yards, two TDs) and Jamal Lewis (86 total yards, one TD) had their usual days.
We shall not speak of the end of the Bears-Giants game. I'm leading Brad Evans 82-74 in the Friends & Family League entering the Sunday night game, and I've chosen to be emotionally invested in that right now. That's looking somewhat better than the Bears playoff chances.