From studs to duds, sleepers and more, NFL.com breaks down the biggest fantasy stories of the week.
1. Jerome Harrison explodes against the Chiefs.Fantasy football is fun, exciting and one of the most popular forms of entertainment among NFL fans nowadays. It can also drive you absolutely nuts. Case in point is the performance of Harrison this week and the weeks leading up to it. When Jamal Lewis was placed on injured reserve, it appeared to most that Chris Jennings was about to take over the top spot on the depth chart. After all, he had seen more carries than Harrison in the weeks before Lewis was injured. Then came a game against the San Diego Chargers in the first week of December that saw Harrison receive most of the carries and score 21 fantasy points. OK, so Harrison appeared to be the back to own in fantasy leagues, right? Wrong. The following week, Jennings saw 20 carries (to Harrison's seven) in a win over the Steelers.
Alright, so Jennings must now be the better option. Wrong again. Harrison went off against the Chiefs, carrying the ball 34 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He broke the team's single-game rushing record once held by Hall of Famer Jim Brown! Harrison's 47-point performance was also one of the greatest ever in a fantasy league. But because of the confusion in the Browns backfield, he was owned in just 49 percent of NFL.com leagues and active in 11 percent. Well, at least we know now that next week Harrison will see most of the carries against the Oakland Raiders in what is another very favorable matchup. Or do we? Well, it's anyone's guess at this point.
2. Aaron Rodgers continued to dominate the opposition. There are a lot of fantasy owners out there that think Titans RB Chris Johnson is the unquestioned MVP in fantasy football. But I would argue that Rodgers has been even better this season. The current leader in fantasy points on NFL.com, Rodgers went off for 43 points in a loss to the Steelers in Week 15. He threw for 383 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the contest, and is now on pace to finish the season with over 4,500 passing yards and 36 total touchdowns. Rodgers is also averaging a very solid 25.1 fantasy points per game and has scored single-digit fantasy points just once in his 14 starts.
With a matchup against Seattle next on the schedule, Rodgers should continue to find success and will lead a lot of owners to a league title. The Seahawks have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2009. With a game against the Cardinals in Week 17, Rodgers is certain to finish strong in the stat sheets. And based on the increase in backfield committees and the surge of quarterbacks in recent seasons, I guarantee that Rodgers will be a first-round pick in almost all 2010 fantasy drafts.
3. Tom Brady costs fantasy owners a chance at a title. I never expected Brady to come close to his record 2007 numbers this season, especially coming off a serious reconstructive procedure on his knee. But I also never thought he would be as bad as he's been in recent weeks. In his last four games, Brady has averaged just 11.5 fantasy points on NFL.com. That includes an eight-point flop in Week 15 against the Bills. How bad was his performance? Well, consider that 21 quarterbacks scored more points then Brady. That lists includes the likes of Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Freeman and Matt Moore. Yes, Matt Moore outscored Brady -- by 21 fantasy points!
Based on his current numbers, Brady will finish the regular season with over 4,500 passing yards and 28 total touchdowns. Those are still solid totals, but I think most fantasy owners were expecting more, fairly or not. On a positive note, I still see Brady as a must-start quarterback for those who were lucky enough to survive his poor numbers against Buffalo. His next game is at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (19.9 PPG) to quarterbacks in 2009.
4. Gary Kubiak has become the new Mike Shanahan. If fantasy owners are sending out lumps of coal to Eric Mangini for his Christmas "gift," I'd be scared to know what awaits Kubiak's holiday stocking. Let's take a look at his track record for killing fantasy owners this season. First, he benched Steve Slaton after a fumble in a game against the Bills. It was a great matchup for Slaton, but he never got the chance to take advantage. Instead, he watched on the sidelines as Ryan Moats scored 32 fantasy points. He was owned in zero percent of NFL.com leagues that week. When Moats contracted a case of the fumbles, Kubiak started Chris Brown once Slaton was lost for the season due to an injured neck. When Brown was ineffective, Kubiak went back to Moats. Next, he decided to start rookie Arian Foster against the defenseless St. Louis Rams.
Kubiak went so far as to tell the Houston Chronicle that he was "fixing to pick it up big-time for (Foster)" in Week 15. Since the Rams have been awful against the run, fantasy owners (including myself) saw Foster as a viable flex starter. Then came the dreaded fumble monster. Again. On the ninth play of the game, Foster fumbled after a 13-yard reception and didn't touch the football again. The rookie finished with minus-one fantasy point and likely ended the title dreams of those who started him.
5. Miles Austin is an elite fantasy wide receiver. Austin was a preseason sleeper on NFL.com, but no one expected him to become one of the top players in fantasy football. After his 139-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Saints, the Monmouth product had briefly moved ahead of Andre Johnson as the top-scoring receiver in the league. Now second behind Johnson after 14 weeks, Austin has gone from a player with an ADP (average draft position) of 151.57 to a must-start across the board. What makes his current point total even more amazing is that Austin wasn't even featured in the offense until Week 5, when he started in place of an injured Roy Williams.
While it's far too soon to make a final decision, how would you like to be a fantasy owner who has to choose between Austin and Calvin Johnson in a keeper league? Sure, Megatron still has the overall edge based on his incredible skills and abilities. But the fact that Austin is even on the same level as Johnson in a keeper league (and far ahead of him in all seasonal leagues) just shows you how wild and unpredictable the National Football League and fantasy football came be from one season to the next.
News and notes
-- Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles has become a fantasy superstar. He's averaged close to 17 fantasy points per game on NFL.com in his last six games. That includes a combined 45 points in his last two starts. While he does have a tough matchup against the Bengals in Week 16, it's become pretty tough to bench this talented back. Charles is also now in the discussion in keeper leagues, where is age and skills make him a viable option.
-- Falcons RB Michael Turner was active against the Jets, but he saw one attempt before leaving the contest due to his problematic ankle. In his absence, RBs Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood shared the workload. It's unclear if Turner will suit up in Week 16, but fantasy owners need to shelf him for the season (if they haven't already). In fact, I'd start Snelling as a flex player based on a great matchup against the Bills.
-- Jets CB Darrelle Revis made Falcons RB Roddy White (four catches, 33 yards) look invisible in Week 15. Revis has now shut down stud wideouts like Andre Johnson, Marques Colston, Steve Smith (CAR) and Randy Moss, to name a few. With that said, I think you have to at least think about sitting Reggie Wayne in Week 16. He's next to face Revis, and there's at least a chance the Colts will rest him for part of the contest.
-- In what was a weird week in the world of fantasy football, it was no shock to see Lions RB Maurice Morris finish in the top five in fantasy points at his position. The veteran running back scored 21 points against the Cardinals and is clearly the featured option in the team's backfield. Morris should now be see as a viable flex starter across the board with matchups against the 49ers adn Bears coming up.
-- Lions WR Calvin Johnson has really seen his value drop since QB Matthew Stafford has been out of action. With the rookie quarterback under center, the man called Megatron has averaged five catches for 81 yards. Johnson isn't even producing half of those numbers with Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton at the helm. It's still hard to bench a player with his skills, but Johnson's been an enormous bust this season.
-- It's pretty apparent that Cardinals RB Beanie Wells has become the top option in the team's backfield. In Week 15, he posted his first 100-yard rushing effort at the NFL level and had 11 more carries than RB Tim Hightower. Of course, Hightower did vulture a touchdown against the Lions, but Wells' stock is still on the rise. With a Week 16 matchup against the Rams up next, Wells has value as a No. 2 fantasy option.
-- Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams left Sunday night's game in the first quarter with a left ankle sprain and never returned to action. His absence was a killer for fantasy owners, as Williams saw just six carries and scored one fantasy point before being forced to exit. If he's out for Week 16, RB Jonathan Stewart (109 yards, TD vs. Vikings) would become a very attractive starting option against the New York Giants.
-- Bears TE Greg Olsen has disappeared off the face of the earth, at least it seems like it in his last six games. In that stretch, he's scored a combined 16 fantasy points on NFL.com. That includes scoring zero points in two of his last three starts. With that said, I still think he's a low-end starter this week against the Vikings. Minnesota has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.