Fantasy MMQ: Jackson thrives in Week 15

The top news from this past week surrounded the failures of Tom Brady and Tony Romo, who combined to score fewer fantasy points on NFL.com than Brodie Croyle!

Brady did little in bad weather against the New York Jets, as the offensive attack focused on Laurence Maroney and the run for much of the afternoon. Romo, who could have had a blonde distraction in the stadium named Jessica Simpson, looked more like Gary Hogeboom or Steve Pelluer with no touchdowns and three interceptions in a loss to Philadelphia.

In what was a magical season for fantasy footballers who had Brady or Romo on their roster, their postseason hopes and dreams were dashed in most cases.

In an ironic twist, this season's consensus No. 1 overall selection, LaDainian Tomlinson, was the player that led his owners to a berth in their league's championship. The stud runner was overshadowed for most of 2007 due to the statistical heroics of both Brady and Romo, but it was L.T. who was the real hero of the weekend.

Quarterbacks

As we delve into our positional review, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger finished with 24 points to lead all quarterbacks. Brees, who started the season slow, has been the most productive player in fantasy football over the past two weeks. Big Ben fought off an injured shoulder to throw for three scores against a formidable Jacksonville defense.

Kurt Warner (23 points) continued to light up the scoreboard with three scores of his own in a loss to New Orleans, and David Garrard (23 points) proved he could hack the snow, wind (and the Pittsburgh defense) with three touchdown passes in a 29-22 win. The inconsistent and unpredictable Vince Young (22 points) threw for two scores and had a solid week against what had been a hardened Kansas City pass defense at Arrowhead Stadium.

A number of former backup quarterbacks also thrived in Week 15, as Shaun Hill (20 points), Cleo Lemon (19 points) and Sage Rosenfels (18 points) all produced nice totals. Regular starter Donovan McNabb (19 points) had one of his better stat lines of the season, and Brett Favre (17 points) continued his assault on the record books with a 227-yard, two-score week in St. Louis. Brodie Croyle (16 points) had a nice week based on his previous numbers, but Carson Palmer (16 points) failed to meet expectations in San Francisco.

The Cincinnati quarterback has now averaged a mere 8.6 fantasy points on NFL.com over the past three weeks.

Brady (3 points) and Romo (3 points) were the biggest disappointments at the position, but super sleeper Derek Anderson (5 points) wasn't much better in what was a snowstorm in the Buffalo-Cleveland contest. Jeff Garcia (8 points) returned from an injured back but did little against Atlanta, as the Tampa Bay defense shined for most of the afternoon. Marc Bulger (10 points) returned from a concussion but failed to produce against Green Bay, and Philip Rivers (11 points) saw limited work in what as a blowout win over Detroit.

Running backs

The top running back of the week was Darren Sproles (25 points), who rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Detroit. The smallish back saw most of the work in the second half with San Diego ahead by a mile, and he made the most of his opportunities. Fantasy footballers didn't reap the benefits of this monster stat line, however, as Sproles was owned in one percent of NFL.com leagues. Tomlinson (23 points) did all of his damage in the first half of the contest but still finished with 116 yards and two scores of his own. Aaron Stecker, who opened the season third on the Saints depth chart behind Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, had 141 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.

Steven Jackson (22 points) and Fred Taylor (20 points), who have been on fire in recent weeks, rounded out the top five performances among running backs. Action Jackson was a huge disappointment earlier in the season due to and injured groin, but he's bounced back to lead countless owners to a title berth.

Veterans such as Clinton Portis (18 points) and Jamal Lewis (17 points) were also solid for their respective owners, as was Earnest Graham (17 points) and Laurence Maroney (16 points). Graham scored against Atlanta has now found the end zone in six consecutive contests. He has been one of the better waiver-wire treasures of the season. His immense level of success could create a backfield committee with Cadillac Williams next season, but for now he's been a beast between the white lines. Brian Westbrook (14 points) had a solid week as well, but it could have been better had he not laid down at the Dallas 1-yard on what was a certain touchdown in order to run out the clock.

That lost six points cost numerous fantasy footballers a win.

Justin Fargas (14 points) was solid before an injured knee forced him to miss some time against Indianapolis. Dominic Rhodes saw most of the fourth-quarter work in his absence and could move up and start if Fargas is out next week. LaMont Jordan might also be named the starter in Fargas' absence, but he was deactivated in favor of Rhodes and seems to have fallen to third on the depth chart.

Shaun Alexander (1 point) and Kevin Jones (1 point) both had dud stat lines, and Rudi Johnson (1 point) was also a disappointment in San Francisco last Thursday night. Alexander, who has averaged a career low 3.3 yards per carry this season, has fallen from elite status and isn't even a safe flex starter in the fantasy championship week. Thomas Jones (2 points) also failed to produce, as he lost work to Leon Washington in a loss to the Patriots. Travis Henry (2 points) and Selvin Young (3 points) faltered in Houston, and it now looks like the Broncos will fail to field a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time since 2001.

Marion Barber (3 points) and DeShaun Foster (4 points) also had bad weeks. The latter lost carries to DeAngelo Williams, who scored 13 points against Seattle and could see more of a role in the Carolina offense in the final two weeks. The former Memphis standout could be a viable flex starter in larger formats in Week 16 against Dallas.

Wide receivers

The most productive wideout of the week was owned in less than 6 percent of NFL.com leagues, Roydell Williams. The Tennessee wideout scored 21 points on a 94-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Chiefs. Despite the solid numbers, Williams is far too inconsistent to start in fantasy football's championship week. Marques Colston (17 points) remained hot with 114 yards and a touchdown against Arizona. He now has close to 1,100 yards and a has recorded a career-best nine touchdowns on the season.

Believe it or not, but Greg Camarillo (16 points) was third in points at the position. He wasn't owned in leagues and won't have value in Week 16, but he will be forever known as the wideout that helped the Miami Dolphins avoid a winless season. Dennis Northcutt, Anthony Gonzalez and Andre Johnson all scored 14 points to round out the top five.

A few other wide receivers made their presences known, as Deion Branch (13 points), Greg "Touchdown Machine" Jennings (12 points) and "Breakout" Brandon Marshall (10 points) performed well. But overall, wideouts failed to make much noise this week. In fact, a mere six receivers recorded better than 13 fantasy points on NFL.com.

A number of big-name wideouts failed to produce in the box scores when fantasy footballers needed them the most, none more prominent than Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, Lee Evans and Wes Welker, all of whom scored three points. Owens was frustrated throughout the contest, as Romo was inaccurate and off kilter throughout the Philadelphia-Dallas contest. Burress dealt with some serious wind issues and an ineffective Eli Manning against Washington, and Evans was limited to due snow in Cleveland. Welker, much like fellow P-Men Brady and Randy Moss (7 points), turned out to be a disappointment.

Other studs like Reggie Wayne (6 points), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6 points), Braylon Edwards (6 points), Steve Smith (7 points) and Chad Johnson (7 points) also failed to make noise in what was a bad week for the better-known players at the position.

Tight ends

Tony Scheffler (16 points) recorded seven catches for 100 yards and one touchdown last Thursday night in Houston to lead all tight ends. Jason Witten (11 points), who now leads the position in points on NFL.com, caught eight more passes for 113 yards in a loss to Philadelphia. Vernon Davis (10 points) put together a nice stat line last Saturday night, and Kevin Boss (9 points) stepped up for the New York Giants in a loss to Washington. The Giants lost Jeremy Shockey for the season due to a fractured fibula, but I still wouldn't rush to add Boss off the waiver wire.

Heath Miller (8 points) had just two catches on the week, but one was good for a score and placed him fifth in points among tight ends.

Much like last week, a number of lesser known tight ends had decent weeks. Aside from Boss, Kris Wilson (7 points), Ben Patrick (7 points), Anthony Becht (7 points), Brandon Manumaleuna (6 points), Troy Bienemann (6 points) and Dante Rosario (5 points) all had more points than stars like Antonio Gates (0 points), Tony Gonzalez (1 point) and Kellen Winslow (2 points).

For Gates, it was the second time in three weeks that he has produced a zero in the box scores for fantasy footballers.

Kickers

Mason Crosby (19 points) booted four field goals to lead all kickers on NFL.com, but Nate Kaeding (16 points) was a close second. The San Diego kicker has been a real dud for the season, but he did produce in a win over Detroit. Rob Bironas (14 points), Matt Bryant (13 points) and Shaun Suisham (11 points) completed the list of the top five kickers.

Matt Stover (10 points) bounced back from several bad weeks, but he missed an overtime kick for Baltimore that would have kept Miami without a win. Jay Feely (10 points) also had a decent stat line in the contest.

It was a terrible week for some of the better kickers in fantasy football. The biggest disappointments at the position were Jeff Wilkins (2 points), who has been up and down all season, Sebastian Janikowski (2 points), Josh Brown (4 points), David Akers (4 points) and Nicholas Folk (6 points) failed to help owners in their quest for a title week berth.

Defenses

Tampa Bay (37 points) was dominant in a win over Atlanta with two touchdowns, two interceptions and three points allowed. New England (25 points) also found the end zone, as did San Diego (22 points) in its destruction of the Lions. In what was a shock, Philadelphia (22 points) held Dallas to six points and recorded three interceptions and four sacks at Texas Stadium. The New York Jets (15 points) scored a touchdown at Gillette Stadium and rounded out the top five defenses of the week.

Pittsburgh (2 points) looked like a solid option based on the weather conditions at Heinz Field, but this defense allowed 29 points and failed to record a sack against the Jags. Detroit (0 points) continued to flounder in fantasy circles, and the New York Giants (4 points) were also a disappointment. Seattle (6 points) and Baltimore (7 points) also did little between the white lines.

News & Notes

» The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have clinched the NFC South, but head coach Jon Gruden has no plans to rest his starters. The Buccaneers still have a chance to pass Seattle and win the third seed in the NFC. "We are still playing for something," Gruden told the St. Petersburg Times. "We want to continue to get better. We're going to keep it normal." That's great news for fantasy footballers who have reached the championship and have leaned on the likes of Earnest Graham and Joey Galloway in prominent roles all season.

» Fantasy owners who survived Tony Romo's dreadful performance and still reached their league's championship week should have the talented quarterback available in Week 16. Head coach Wade Phillips told reporters that there was some swelling in Romo's right thumb during the team's loss to Philadelphia, but the trainers feel it's not too serious. Barring setbacks, Romo will start on Saturday night (8pm EST, NFL Network) against a Carolina defense that has surrendered 11 passing touchdowns in their past five weeks.

» Texans head coach Gary Kubiak said Matt Schaub's injured shoulder might not keep him out the rest of the season, but it seems like Sage Rosenfels will see another start. The former Miami Dolphin has thrown four touchdown passes in the past two weeks and has some value for fantasy owners that are required to start two quarterbacks. With Houston out of the race for a postseason berth, it would be odd to see Schaub come back for Week 17. That makes Rosenfels a more legit option for owners who play out the whole season as well.

» Congratulations are in order for Bobby Engram, who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this weekend for the first time in his 12-year career. Engram, who has also recorded a career-best 85 receptions, has been a tremendous option for fantasy footballers in the absence of Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett, who have both missed time this season due to injuries. Engram should be considered a solid No. 3 or 3 fantasy option in Week 16 against a Baltimore team with a defensive backfield that has been riddled with injuries.

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