Fantasy Football Week 16: Biggest Takeaways from Last Week

Eric Mack@@EricMackFantasyFantasy Football Lead WriterDecember 16, 2013

USA Today

If you still care what a fantasy hack...err...analyst has to offer, congrats! You are one of the fortunate few.

We continue to learn just how much good fortune plays a leading role in fantasy football every week and every season. The NFL and fantasy are oftentimes unpredictable games, which is why we love them so much and can't get enough. At least some of us get one more week.

We break down the top takeaways from Sunday's action and help set you up for what is likely your fantasy football Super Bowl on tap this week.


Chiefs' Charles, Welcome to No. 1 in 2014

If it wasn't apparent already, Jamaal Charles put to rest any question about who should be the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. He and his fantasy owners have Andy Reid to thank for that.

The offensive guru has made fantasy monsters in the past out of Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy—the only player who has a case next to Charles right now—but he has taken the game-breaker Charles to a whole other level.

"I don’t know how anybody can be more valuable to a team," Reid told Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star.


Charles didn't even need that many carries. His clutch 51-point week came mostly on breakaway pass receptions. Despite rushing just eight times for 20 yards, Charles racked up eight receptions for 195 yards and four touchdowns. Throw in his rushing score, and you have the fantasy football semifinal holy grail: five touchdowns!

He even has a signature touchdown celebration befitting him. Heck, his fantasy owners can mimic his "wipe it down" move as they polish their championship trophy. Charles tells Mellinger:

I just wipe the haters off me. Especially the people who said I wouldn't ever come back from my ACL: 'Oh, he won't ever be the same.' I wipe it off for the people who doubted me and doubted my ACL. So I try to wipe my ACL down, too. Just to let them know.

Oh, everyone knows now in fantasy. They have gotten the message loud and clear.


Don't Draft Quarterbacks Early

You might have spent weeks, if not months, lamenting on not taking a sure thing with a quarterback in the early rounds. Heck, Peyton Manning is on pace for the greatest season for a quarterback in NFL history. He will wind up being fantasy's highest scorer, not Charles.

But look at the scoring leaders at the quarterback position for the crucial Week 15, and you have your answer why you don't need an early-round passer in fantasy.

  1. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs (40)
  2. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (39)
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tennessee Titans (38)
  4. Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers (33)
  5. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings (32)
  6. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (30)
  7. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (27)
  8. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears (25)
  9. EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills (24)

Not until you get past the top eight do you get to a quarterback who was even drafted in most leagues—and we're not taking about the rookie Manuel. The New England Patriots' Tom Brady tied Manuel for ninth on the scoring list with 24 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were out of the top 12. Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) was inactive and shut out. Cam Newton was barely tied for 20th. It was a bad week for the elite passers to be worse than average.

It sure doesn't make a very good case for picking a quarterback in the early rounds.


Rodgers Owners Have Glimmer of Hope

Speaking of the aforementioned Rodgers, his owners had to be huge fans of the Packers in that incredible second-half comeback against the defensively inept Dallas Cowboys. The Flynn-led offense put up just three points in trailing 26-3 at the half, but Tony Romo choked away another victory with a pair of late interceptions after the Packers went on a touchdown-scoring streak.

The performance and victory were crucial for Rodgers owners because they kept the Green Bay Packers' flailing playoff hopes alive and make it less likely head coach Mike McCarthy will merely shut down the superstar quarterback for the rest of the season.

As much as Flynn's 33-point fantasy performance was worthy of earning him the status as "The Man" the rest of the way...

"Not really," Flynn told Vic Ketchman of the Packers' official website. "I really have been trying to take it one game at a time. I don't anticipate being the guy. We all anticipate Aaron getting healthy."

Expect another full week of Rodgers status updates. By the way, Monday marks the six-week anniversary of the Nov. 4 injury. Broken bones are famously four- to six-week deals.

It might be time to give the old Charles "wipe it off" on Rodgers for your fantasy lineup.


Forget About Your Cards Next Week

As for players you should be ready to not play in your fantasy Super Bowl, make them your Arizona Cardinals. Not only do they have to travel to face the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man, who will be playing to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but the Cards are also dealing with myriad injury question marks.

  • Carson Palmer played through a high-ankle sprain, according to a tweet from Mike Jurecki, a radio host for Fox Sports 910.
  • Rookie running back Andre Ellington left with what Cardinals were calling a thigh bruise, according to Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals' official website.
  • Receiver Larry Fitzgerald will have to pass the concussion protocol this week after he left with an apparent head injury, according to Odegard.
  • Michael Floyd has been battling an ankle issue of his own, and he was limited to two catches for 33 yards.
  • Tight end Rob Housler (groin) missed the game altogether.

You cannot like Palmer, Ellington, Fitzgerald, Rashard Mendenhall, Floyd or Housler next week even if they would be 100 percent. The Arizona Cardinals defense is also minus the Honey Badger (knee), but it might be the only real fantasy option you consider viable with your fantasy championship on the line.


Saints' Graham Among Biggest Chokers

We always tend to trumpet the huge performances here, but we have to dwell on the negative this week too since some of your fantasy stars might have cost you in the clutch. It was bad not being able to count on Adrian Peterson (foot), but Jimmy Graham was healthy and still mysteriously was held to just two catches for 25 yards.

Drew Brees was disappointing until very late in the game, as he forced a second interception into triple coverage on Graham in the end zone.

Here are the other 2013 fantasy stars who won't be getting holiday cards from their fantasy owners, despite yeoman's work for us most of the season:

  1. Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos (four points)
  2. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos (four)
  3. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos (four)
  4. Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos (four)
  5. Shane Vereen, New England Patriots (one)
  6. Andre Brown, New York Giants (one)
  7. Victor Cruz, New York Giants (two)
  8. Cincinnati Bengals Defense/Special Teams (three)
  9. Harry Douglas, Atlanta Falcons (three)
  10. Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints (four)
  11. Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (two)
  12. New Orleans Saints Defense/Special Teams (two)

Many of that dirty dozen were victims of unfavorable matchups, which you can (mostly) do nothing about in fantasy—but that is not the case for the top five above. They were hot, healthy and facing a good matchup that should have made them fantasy stars this week. You just ran into some bad, dumb luck there.


Thank You, Asiata, We'll Take It Home

Owners of the preseason No. 1 overall player, Peterson, have to send a huge "thank you" if they picked up his backup's backup. Peterson was out with his mid-foot sprain, while his fill-in, Toby Gerhart, was also out due to a hamstring injury.

Those inactives opened the door for little-known back Matt Asiata to lead fantasy owners into Super Bowls. It wasn't the 30 carries for a mere 51 yards, as much as the importance of those three short touchdown runs.

Asiata tied a single-game Vikings franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a game at just the perfect time.

Peterson told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press' Brian Murphy he wasn't allowed to play. "I was ready to roll," Peterson said. "The decision was taken out of my hands."

The ball was then handed to Asiata...30 times, including the all-important three times at the goal line.

Now, Asiata will hand it back to Peterson. Head coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN's Ben Goessling to expect Peterson back next week. 


Rookie Running Backs Set up Nicely

Speaking of running back coming-out parties, fantasy football sure has a lot of rookie running back performances to be proud of. Despite no running back getting picked in Round 1 of the NFL draft for the first time since 1963, the position has plenty of burgeoning careers to look forward to.

Eddie Lacy, Zac Stacy, Le'Veon Bell, Andre Ellington and Giovani Bernard all had top-20 performances for fantasy owners this week.

Clearly, NFL teams don't have to pick backs in Round 1 like fantasy owners do. A couple of those rookie backs will be first-round candidates next year, especially with how they are coming through in the clutch for fantasy owners.


T'Rich Out of the Doghouse?

One of this past August's first-round backs, Trent Richardson, has had a trying season, but things might be looking up for him after his 19 carries for 64 yards and four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown. Donald Brown had taken feature-back duties from Richardson, but he might have earned them right back.

Richardson scored on a shovel pass early in the game and took over Sunday when Brown left with a stinger, according to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

"I come out and train to be in that position whenever my number's be ready," Richardson told Chappell. "The offensive line made it real easy for me."

Patience has been the name of the game—and season—for Richardson and his fantasy owners.

"You've got to be patient," he told the Star. "That's the type of offense we have. We play for all four quarters."

As much as you probably cannot trust Richardson in fantasy crunch time—especially if Brown is ruled healthy this week—the Chiefs have been vulnerable against running backs of late.

Kansas City allowed the Raiders' Rashad Jennings to go over 100 combined yards and two touchdowns this week. The Buffalo Bills, Broncos (twice) and San Diego Chargers also had big performances against the Chiefs in the past month-plus.

Richardson might be a sleeper play again, especially as a threat to reach the end zone.


CJ An Example of Why You Don't Sit Studs

A lot of fantasy analysts on the web this week did not like the Titans' Chris Johnson against the Cardinals. Arizona was No. 1 in fantasy against running backs, but this writer held firm to his belief that Johnson is one of the fantasy backs you start against anyone.

CJ2K showed why, totaling 91 combined yards with three receptions and the all-important touchdown. That gave him 15 fantasy points in standard leagues and has him tied with Richardson for 12th best at the position. Not only should Johnson have been kept active, but he also performed like a No. 1 fantasy back in 12-team leagues.

You have to love Johnson at Jacksonville next week.


Awesome Dawson Finally Comes Through

Rarely is a kicker performance worth our words, but this was the fantasy semifinals, so we can delve into this minutia. Preseason breakout favorite Phil Dawson had been a disappointment for most of the season, but he rewarded faithful and patient fantasy owners with four field goals and three extra points.

It made him the No. 2 kicker to the Cowboys' Dan Bailey thus far on the week. Regardless of how disappointing Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' 30th-ranked passing offense has been, Dawson is a must-start kicker in all leagues.

He draws the Atlanta Falcons, dead last against fantasy kickers, next week.




Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.


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