The top news from this past week surrounded quarterbacks, as a total of five different signal-callers threw four touchdown passes in their respective contests. The week was a true microcosm of the entire season, as quarterbacks have become the dominant position in fantasy football circles.
In fact, the culmination of solid stat lines from quarterbacks and the fall of running backs due to injuries, backfield committees and inconsistent production will turn the entire landscape of fantasy drafts in 2008. It might not seem like it now, but we are smack dab in the middle of some real changes in fantasy land.
Moving on to our positional review of the week, Tom Brady led the quarterbacks (and all positions) with 39 fantasy points. He now needs four touchdown passes to tie the single-season record of Peyton Manning, who threw 49 touchdown strikes in 2004. I'd look for the Patriots to spread out their next opponent, the New York Jets, as head coach Bill Belichick would no doubt love to give Brady a chance to break the record against former pupil, and current Jets leader, Eric Mangini.
Jay Cutler (35 points) had his best stat line of the season with four scores against Kansas City, but he's been so inconsistent that it's hard to consider him more than a low-end No. 1 fantasy quarterback.
Matt Hasselbeck (34 points), Peyton Manning (33 points) and Trent Edwards (30 points), all of whom threw four touchdown passes, round out the top five performances at the position. Despite his efforts, Edwards is the lone member of this trio without a ton of value. He'll be hard pressed to duplicate such immense numbers next week in Cleveland.
Tony Romo (25 points) had a strong final three quarters in Detroit and continued to be a top fantasy football stud. Sage Rosenfels (22 points) threw for three scores and could have some value in leagues with 12-plus teams if Matt Schaub is unable to return in time for Thursday night's contest against Denver (8 p.m. EST, NFL Network). Kurt Warner (21 points) would have been in our top five at the position, but he lost 10 points with his five interceptions in a loss to Seattle. David Garrard (21 points), who should now be considered a No. 1 fantasy quarterback, and Brett Favre (20 points), also produced well in the first week of the fantasy football postseason.
The biggest disappointment at the quarterback position had to be Carson Palmer (3 points), who threw for 189 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in a win over St. Louis. The weather was awful for most of the contest, but Palmer's lack of production was a killer for countless owners. The inconsistent Vince Young (0 points) floundered in a loss to San Diego, and Jason Campbell (4 points) had his problems last week before an injured knee ended his night. Rex Grossman (0 points) was also injured in the same contest and could miss the remainder of the season, so Kyle Orton, who was named the starter on Monday, will see more work in the final weeks.
Trent Dilfer (minus-1 point) was also injured this week, and chances are he'll miss Week 15. With Alex Smith still at less than 100 percent, the Niners will lean on Shaun Hill against Cincinnati on Saturday night (8 p.m. EST, NFL Network). Jeff Garcia was out of action due to an injured back, but he is expected to return this week and face Atlanta in what is a favorable matchup in Tampa Bay. Donovan McNabb (14 points) returned from his injuries and posted an unimpressive 179 passing yards and one touchdown in a loss to the Giants. Outside of two starts, McNabb has been a serious disappointment for owners this season.
The top running back of the week was LaDainian Tomlinson (28 points), who picked the perfect time to explode for 173 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in a comeback win over Tennessee. Marion Barber (28 points) had a monster three-touchdown performance in Detroit, and Joseph Addai (28 points) recorded three scores in the first half in a Sunday night win over Baltimore. Jamal Lewis (24 points) has resurrected his value in Cleveland and should continue to shine in the fantasy football postseason with contests against Buffalo and Cincinnati over the next two weeks. Kevin Jones and Earnest Graham rounded out the top five runners, as each posted an impressive 22 points in their respective contests.
One of the best sleepers of the season has been Ryan Grant (21 points), who slashed Oakland for 156 yards and one touchdown. He is now second in fantasy points to Tomlinson on NFL.com over the past three weeks. Samkon Gado (21 points) was a pleasant surprise, as he started in place of an injured Jesse Chatman and found the end zone twice for Miami. He's now worth a roster spot in most formats. Fred Taylor (19 points) has been on fire over the past three weeks, and LenDale White (19 points) rebounded from some bad performances and shined in a loss to San Diego. Brian Westbrook (18 points) and Rudi Johnson (15 points), who has bounced back in recent weeks, were also productive starters at the position.
Chester Taylor (18 points) started for Minnesota and seems to have secured at least a shared backfield role with Adrian Peterson (0 points), who picked a bad time to finish with no points. Marshawn Lynch (8 points) returned from an injured ankle and shared the workload with Fred Jackson (11 points), who rushed for 115 yards in a win over Miami. Lynch will no doubt see most of the work down the stretch, but Jackson is now fantasy relevant across the board. The same can be said of Selvin Young (15 points), who started ahead of Travis Henry (8 points) and rushed for 156 yards against Kansas City. Both backs are now viable options against Houston in Week 15.
Shaun Alexander (3 points) lost carries to Maurice Morris (5 points) and was an enormous disappointment for fantasy footballers, and Kolby Smith (1 point) was worse in a loss to Denver. Laurence Maroney (1 point), DeShaun Foster (2 points), Willis McGahee (2 points) and Maurice Jones-Drew (4 points) also failed to meet statistical expectations. Ron Dayne (2 points) was also a disappointment, and an injured ankle could keep him out for Week 15. That means Darius Walker (7 points) now has some value in the world of fantasy football.
A total of 22 wide receivers scored double-digit fantasy points on NFL.com this past week, but none were more productive than Randy Moss and Anthony Gonzalez, who both scored 25 points. This was the first monster stat line from Gonzalez, who should be added in leagues with 12-plus teams while Marvin Harrison remains out of action. "Breakout" Brandon Marshall (24 points) had 115 yards and two scores in a win over Kansas City, but he did endure some bumps and bruises in the contest. Plaxico Burress (19 points) fought off knee and ankle injures to produce for the G-Men, and Lee Evans (19 points) rebounded from some bad stat lines in recent weeks and found the end zone twice in a win over the Dolphins.
Jerheme Urban (18 points), not Bryant Johnson (6 points), had a monster stat line in the absence of Anquan Boldin, but Urban's value remains limited to much larger formats. One wideout to add is Jabar Gaffney (18 points), who recorded 122 yards and one touchdown in a win over Pittsburgh. He has scored in three consecutive weeks and now has more value than Donté Stallworth in fantasy football circles. Greg Jennings (16 points) found the end zone against Oakland and should be considered a must-start wideout in all formats.
Several other wide receivers made their presence known, as Bernard Berrian (15 points), Reggie Williams (15 points) and Andre Johnson (14 points) all produced well. Williams is inconsistent, but he does have seven touchdowns on the season. That's more than Boldin, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson and Steve Smith. Larry Fitzgerald (13 points) returned from a groin ailment and found the end zone in a loss to Seattle. Jerricho Cotchery (11 points) also came back from injuries and recorded 119 yards in a loss to Cleveland.
Overall, a number of big-name wideouts also failed to produce in the box scores. Terrell Owens (2 points) was an enormous disappointment in a win over Detroit, and Santonio Holmes (1 point) returned from injuries and was held down in New England. His teammate, Hines Ward (3 points), also found it hard to produce in the contest. Donald Driver (3 points) recorded 38 yards and has become the No. 2 fantasy wideout to Jennings on the Green Bay roster. Steve Smith (4 points) posted single-digit fantasy points for the seventh consecutive week and failed to find the end zone for the sixth consecutive week in a loss to Jacksonville.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (5 points) and Chad Johnson (6 points) were also mediocre in a win over St. Louis.
Jason Witten (17 points) went ballistic in Detroit with 15 catches, 138 yards and one touchdown to lead all tight ends. Robert Royal (16 points) found the end zone twice in a win over Miami, but he still has limited value overall. Tony Gonzalez (13 points) posted his second consecutive enormous stat line despite missing some time with an injured leg. Donald Lee (13 points) rebounded from a few bad performances and posted 71 yards and a score against Oakland. Daniel Graham (11 points) came out of nowhere to post 55 yards and one score. Antonio Gates (11 points) was also one of the better point producers at the position, but that's a shock to no one in fantasy circles.
Much like last week, a number of lesser known tight ends had decent weeks. Todd Yoder (8 points) found the end zone for Washington, and both Sean McHugh (6 points) and Delanie Walker (6 points) made an impact. In fact, this trio had more fantasy points than Kellen Winslow (3 points) who was held down by the Jets at the Meadowlands.
Winslow wasn't the greatest disappointment at the position, however, as Jeremy Shockey (0 points) put up the ol' goose egg against Philadelphia. Dallas Clark (1 points) was non-existent against Baltimore. Heath Miller (2 points), Desmond Clark (3 points) and Vernon Davis (4 points) also hurt the chances of countless owners in the fantasy postseason.
Shayne Graham (14 points) led all kickers in points on NFL.com, but Mike Nugent (13 points) and Josh Scobee (13 points) were also solid starters. In fact, Nugent and Scobee are still free agents in countless formats and should be added on teams that lack a consistent kicker. Ryan Longwell, Jason Elam, Josh Brown and Stephen Gostkowski rounded out the top performances from kickers with 11 points apiece.
It was a terrible week for some of the better kickers in fantasy football. The biggest disappointments at the position were Matt Stover (2 points), who should now be released in all formats, Neil Rackers (3 points), who like Stover should be dropped, Kris Brown (4 points), Nicholas Folk (4 points) and Adam Vinatieri (6 points). While Brown and Folk are still nice options, the rest have seen their value fall across the board. In fact, Vinatieri doesn't even warrant a roster spot in most leagues with 12 or fewer teams.
Green Bay (28 points) scored two touchdowns and led all defenses on NFL.com. Jacksonville (27 points) dominated Carolina with one touchdown and 149 yards allowed in a blowout win, and Buffalo (27 points) smoked the Fish at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Minnesota (26 points), Denver (25 points) and Seattle (25 points) completed the best point producers.
Dallas (3 points) had to be the biggest disappointment of the weekend, but Chicago (5 points) was a close second. Carolina (2 points) had a complete reversal of fortune compared to its success last week against San Francisco. Baltimore (6 points) has also fallen on hard times, but next week's date with Miami still makes this unit an attractive choice.
News & Notes
» Reports out of San Diego indicate that Philip Rivers sustained a partial tear of his MCL in a win over Tennessee. He had his right knee rolled on and was forced to miss some time, but Rivers returned to lead his team to an overtime win. He could be limited in practice throughout the week, so there's a chance that Billy Volek could start against Detroit. Volek, who threw for close to 1,200 yards and 11 scores in a three-week stretch in 2004, would have some value in larger formats if he is called on to make the start.
» Javon Walker had some discomfort in his surgically-repaired knee, which was the main reason the Broncos deactivated him in Week 14. Head coach Mike Shanahan also has much more faith in Brandon Stokley, who has become a solid No. 2 wideout in Walker's absence. Despite his immense skills and abilities, Walker has fallen behind Brandon Marshall as the best fantasy wideout in Denver. Unless you're in a much larger league, the former Florida State product doesn't even warrant a roster spot at this point in time.
» Reports out of St. Louis indicate Marc Bulger could be shelved the rest of the season due to a recent concussion. In fact, Rams head coach Scott Linehan has now termed Bulger's absence "indefinite." With Gus Frerotte out due to an injured shoulder, the Rams might have to stick with Brock Berlin as their quarterback. Berlin made his first NFL start in Week 14 and finished with a mere 153 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. His presence could hurt the value of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce down the stretch.
» Laveranues Coles was in so much pain after Sunday's loss to Cleveland that he needed assistance getting down from the interview podium after the contest. He is far less than 100 percent due to a high ankle sprain, and his 48-yard effort against a porous Brown pass defense was proof of his ailments. The Jets face New England this week in what could be a blowout, so the chances for a late-game focus on the pass attack is evident. However, Coles' ankle problems make him no more than a No. 3 fantasy wideout in most cases.