1. Tennessee Tease: With many fantasy leaguers needing to replace Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Orton or another passer with question marks, Kerry Collins was a very attractive starting option in Week 15. Collins looked good in Week 14, and a matchup against the Texans made him look like at least a solid starting choice. It certainly appeared Collins was on his way to an outstanding afternoon as hoped when he fired a pair of early TD passes and the Titans jumped out to a cushy first-quarter lead. Unfortunately, the excitement of a possible outstanding statistical performance was short-lived.
Collins did not throw a scoring pass the rest of the day and finished with just 237 passing yards. The remainder of the game belonged to the running backs, as Chris Johnson rushed for 130 yards and a TD, bouncing back from a disappointing pair of performances. Javon Ringer also added a scoring run. Collins' quick numerical flameout was a reminder that the Titans certainly want to run the ball first and foremost, regardless of the opposition. With Collins able to make defenses respect the pass, and the renewed threat of Kenny Britt, the best passing game the Titans can offer will open up room for Johnson. Of course, jumping out to a 21-0 lead also made the Titans scale things back significantly, and that cannot be overlooked. It's always attractive to play any QB going against Houston's defense. How the Broncos game plan against the Texans next week will depend on the health of Kyle Orton and Knowshon Moreno as well.
2. Rally around the rookie? Tim Tebow came through with a somewhat impressive NFL debut, scoring on a 40-yard run and totaling 78 rushing yards in a loss at Oakland. Tebow completed eight of only 16 passing attempts for one TD pass, and helped revive the outlook of Brandon Lloyd, who caught four passes for 79 yards and a score. He also put forth an acceptable fantasy performance without the support of injured running back Knowshon Moreno, who missed much of the game. It was very apparent that Tebow still needs a lot of work on his pro-level fundamentals and opposing defenses will game plan more effectively for him if he gets another start or two going forward. Yet the lesson learned is that Tebow can indeed make some timely throws here and there, and he can make the opponent honor the quarterback's unique skill sets when he is in the game. If Tebow starts again, you can also roll with Lloyd with confidence. Even if Tebow throws some off-line passes, the acrobatic Lloyd can get to balls many other WRs cannot. Also, if Tebow plays with Moreno again, opponents cannot simply load up against the Denver RB. No fantasy player in his right mind would start Tebow at this time of year, but he does not drag down the rest of the Denver offense, either.
3. Packing some punch: Most fans and prognosticators weren't expecting much from Green Bay backup QB Matt Flynn as he traveled to New England to face the red-hot Patriots and their opportunistic defense. Yet the NFL season and fantasy playoffs are always loaded with surprises. Flynn actually outgunned Tom Brady from the fantasy perspective, throwing for 251 yards, three TDs and one interception. Brady finished with 163 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Flynn may have blown Green Bay's golden opportunity to pull off a major upset with a costly second-half interception and highly questionable clock management at the end of the game. Yet he did manage the game well for most of the first half, and played with a lot of poise. Flynn seemed nonplussed by the magnitude of the matchup and was not intimidated by the spectre of trading offensive blows with Brady in his own house. He spread the ball around very effectively, throwing completions to 10 different receivers and TD passes to three different pass-catchers, including Greg Jennings, who most fantasy owners were so worried about heading into Week 15. There is a realistic chance that Flynn will have to start again vs. the Giants next week. If he does, you cannot assume the Packers offense will roll over and die. New York may be more aggressive up front and effective pressuring the passer, but as we saw Sunday night, Flynn is the type of QB who will stand in the pocket and still execute with confidence.
4. Sexy Rexy: Many fantasy players also assumed Rex Grossman was going to lay a statistical egg against the rejuvenated Cowboys. Grossman was always erratic in the past, and his lack of overall reliability eventually proved to be his undoing as a possible starter. Yet Grossman did enjoy a 2006 hot stretch that included a trio of games in which he threw for three or more TDs. His career fizzled soon after, and most fantasy leaguers thought he was an easy target for the Dallas defense on Sunday. Veteran reserve quarterbacks, however, have often surprised the average fan and fantasy player in the past. Just because Grossman is not good enough to win with from the pure NFL perspective, does not mean he cannot challenge defenses, or at least make them respect the passing game. Grossman "shocked" everyone by throwing for 322 yards and four TDs in a loss at Dallas. Of course, he also threw a pair of interceptions. He did boost Anthony Armstrong to a 100-yard day and found Santana Moss for two scores. Grossman actually pumped more life into the Redskins offense than Donovan McNabb ever appeared to this season. As a fantasy owner, you can never automatically assume the worst about a veteran passer. You should not start Grossman if you're smart, but you can't feel good about any defense facing Washington when he is in there, either.
5. Failure in the Cards: Starting a defense based on the perceived lack of impotence of the opponent alone can also be dangerous. The Cardinals were the "hot" defense of the week because they looked so good against Denver in Week 15 and were facing the moribund Panthers. Many owners overlooked that Arizona still ranked 30th against the run prior to Week 15, and the ground game was Carolina's one true strength. Plus, Arizona was still starting an unproven passer, and the defense could be spending a lot of time on the field. The team was also traveling across the country to play a meaningless game. The Cardinals allowed 19 points to the "punchless" Panthers and registered only two sacks and one interception in a totally uninspired performance. The result was five NFL.com fantasy points, less than the likes of Buffalo, Jacksonville, and oh yes, Carolina. The Panthers totaled 11 fantasy points in Week 15. Heck, they were facing Arizona! Just a reminder that a fantasy man (or lady) cannot live by matchups alone. Or the face value perception of a matchup.