1. Tim Terrific: Many fantasy experts, myself included, were skeptical that Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow could deliver two quality performances in a row, especially from the statistical perspective. Yes, he was facing the awful Houston pass defense, but he is still a rookie, and with a week of film preparation, it was likely that the Texans would expose his flaws. When Houston jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead, it appeared that those who had started Tebow in their leagues were going to get burned with a very disappointing stat line.
But with nothing to lose and a deficit to slice, Denver let Tebow loose, and the result was a very good fantasy performance, fully orchestrated in the second half. Tebow started throwing mid-range and deeper passes, and his receivers -- who were open often, of course -- helped him make key plays that launched an exciting comeback. Tebow completed 16 of 29 attempts for 308 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and much to the delight of those who rolled with him, he added a six-yard rushing TD on his way to totaling 27 ground yards. Two starts is certainly a small sample size, but Tebow's upside is clear as a versatile playmaker heading into 2011, and he certainly will be a hot topic among fantasy draftniks. The results may not be nearly as impressive if he begins next season as a starter and has to carry the offense in more meaningful games. Temper expectations on Tebow, and do not reach for him too early or over another more established, consistent quarterback. Some less experienced or freewheeling owners may take him when there are still safer selections on the board.
2. Freeman Street: Throughout most of this season, the Bucs' Josh Freeman has progressively been getting better as an NFL and fantasy quarterback. Freeman has evolved from careful youngster to solid game manager, and now, to quality fantasy starter. Freeman officially blossomed in Week 16, with a career performance against Seattle. The second-year quarterback threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions, completing 21 of 26 attempts for 237 yards. The most impressive and astounding cross-section of the stat line is the fact that he registered as many touchdowns as incompletions. Freeman has done a very admirable job of making all the right throws while valuing the football and limiting his mistakes. He has thrown one interception in his past six games and has six picks overall.
Freeman has mostly been solid, but unspectacular this season. We could see much more of the same in 2011. Yet you do not necessarily need a superstar at QB to win your fantasy league, and Freeman certainly will not hurt your team in most weeks. As we saw this week, too, there will also be the occasional spectacular fantasy performance. The core of a potent offense has been formed around Freeman, as first-year receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn offer a ton of promise, and LeGarrette Blount, another outstanding rookie, will offer stellar run support in the near future and beyond. Williams caught two touchdown passes Sunday and Blount also enjoyed a career day, rushing for 164 yards. The Tampa Bay offense is going to be a desirable source of fantasy production for a long time, and it's the emerging Freeman who will be leading the way.
3. Caged Cat: In fantasy football, it's hard to resist the temptation of upside. Yet it is often better to minimize risk, especially at a very important time of the season. Jacksonville's Rashad Jennings was the pregame darling of Week 16, and many of his owners were tempted to start him, even over more established players. The perceived possibility of outstanding numbers against a lesser opponent -- in this case, Washington -- plus the added lure of looking smarter than the opponent, made for a very attractive lineup package. Jennings had scored three times in the four games prior to Week 16, and the assumption was that he could certainly maximize his production with increased touches in place of the injured Maurice Jones-Drew.
Yet Jennings was completely untested as a runner with an expanded workload, and that made him a risk, regardless of opponent. Opportunity does not always lead to production at the pro level. I was not going to start a youngster who was completely unproven as a more regular runner in my fantasy Super Bowls. It was just too much of a gamble. Jennings rushed for 32 yards on 15 carries, as he failed to create much of his own running room. He added 29 receiving yards to at least reach mediocrity and avoid a totally awful stat line. For those who started Jennings over guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Matt Forte, a lesson was learned. Always go with the more established player. This same sort of lesson was also taught recently, when Packers running back James Starks was the hot start with no real track record in Week 14.
4. Not so sexy Rexy: Another temptation that fantasy players fall victim to all too often is the "reactionary" start. That's when a player who delivers a surprisingly strong performance is activated by fantasy owners the following week. This time, the center of the reactionary storm was Rex Grossman. His 322-yard, four-touchdown outing caught the positive attention of many fantasy players. Some of them surely trotted him out as a starter in Week 16, as Jacksonville's pass defense has long been regarded as a very vulnerable unit this season.
Savvy fantasy owners know, though, that you should look far past one week on a player's history when you can. Grossman had long been notorious for his streakiness and inconsistency, and was always capable of following a quality performance with a mediocre outing or a stinker. Rather predictably, Grossman fizzled in Week 16. He completed 19 of 39 attempts for 182 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The performance was classic "bad" Grossman, as his questionable decision-making, erratic accuracy and shaky pocket skills were all on display. This was just another prime example of how you must minimize risk in fantasy Super Bowls. Any time you avoid using a historically unreliable player like Grossman, you are minimizing risks as much as you possibly can.
5. Trophies on ice: Because of a terrible blizzard that struck the Northeast on Sunday, the Vikings-Eagles game was moved to Tuesday. Of course, the NFL did the right thing by putting the safety of the teams, fans and stadium personnel first, and that is truly admirable. Yet the league should also get kudos for handling the situation well for fantasy leaguers (whether or not that was the intention). The NFL took players out of harm's way, yet in the process they also significantly reduced the odds that extreme weather conditions could have an unfair effect on fantasy championship games. The best teams in many leagues would not get a fair shake at their titles if players such as Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson were reduced to much lesser or paltry statistical finishes.
What deserves even louder applause, though, is the fact that the league announced the decision in enough time before the early kickoffs so fantasy players could re-adjust their lineups accordingly. The early forecast for the rescheduled game is for clear skies and medium winds, according to the Weather Channel. That's the type of forecast Vick owners would much prefer to see. If you're playing against Vick, you will find yourself satisfied even more if you truly beat the best team you can possibly face. No "hollow" fantasy Super Bowl victories this time. Sure, the postponement now puts fantasy owners on edge for an extra day. I'll wait the additional day to rightfully accept the trophy.
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