Playing for a Fantasy championship kind of takes me back to the days when I was a kid on Christmas Eve.
That same angst and anticipation having to wait one more day to see what jolly ol' St. Nick was going to leave under the Christmas Tree mirrors the same anguish Fantasy Football owners wrestle with on a weekly basis -- waiting to see if their lineup decisions end with reward or devastation.
The most turmoil facing Fantasy owners heading into Week 16 was what to do with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch?
Lynch came into Saturday on quite a run. He had scored in 10 straight games and had less than 10 Fantasy points (standard formats) just once in that stretch. Yet, with many Fantasy leagues hosting its championship game Week 16, Lynch owners ponder whether or not to start the streaking back or bench him with San Francisco on the schedule?
San Francisco entered play Saturday yielding 8.0 Fantasy points per week to running backs, which was the lowest average in the NFL. Running backs were also averaging just 58.9 rushing yards per game and no running back had more than 64 rushing yards against the stout 49ers run defense. Most impressive, however, was that San Francisco hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season.
Let's not forget either that Lynch rushed for just 33 yards and no touchdowns in Week 1 against the 49ers.
Those factors definitely scared off some Lynch owners as his starting percentage dropped from 93 percent in Week 15 to 87 percent in Week 16. But Lynch taught us a valuable Fantasy lesson moving forward -- don't remove players on insane hot streaks from your lineups, no matter the matchup.
Lynch finished with 107 rushing yards on 21 carries, becoming the first running back to top 100 yards against the 49ers since Green Bay's Ryan Grant did it in Week 11 of the 2009 season. Also, Lynch became the first player this season to score on the ground against San Francisco when he broke to the outside and dodged a few tackles on his way to a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
You want to talk about Draft Day value? Lynch was the 32nd most drafted running back in CBSSports.com leagues, behind the likes of Joseph Addai, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Grant, and wasn't drafted on average until the seventh round in 12-team standard formats.
Lynch is now a top 5 Fantasy scoring running back and has his first 1,000-yard season since 2008.
"If Marshawn Lynch isn't in the Pro Bowl, there is something wrong with the voting system," Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said Saturday. "Plain and simple, he's proved it week in and week out."
First Quarter -- Surprises of the Week
Andy Dalton was just the second quarterback in the last nine games against Arizona to throw for multiple touchdowns ... Kevin Smith became the first running back to produce multiple touchdowns in a game against San Diego this season ... Evan Royster was pressed into his first start Week 16 against the Vikings after Roy Helu was inactive. Royster responded with his first 100-yard game against a defense yielding just 90.8 rushing yards per game to running backs ... Steven Jackson going over 100 yards might have been even more impressive seeing how Pittsburgh was yielding 86.3 rushing yards per game to running backs and no running back went over 100 yards against Pittsburgh since Arian Foster did it in Week 4 ... Continuing the trend of improbable 100-yard games, Peyton Hillis rushed for 112 yards against a Ravens defense allowing running backs to average 81.4 rushing yards per game ... Thanks in large part to a 99-yard touchdown, breakout Fantasy star Victor Cruz became just the second receiver this year to break 100 yards against the Jets, joining Wes Welker ... Brandon LaFell also used a 90-plus yard touchdown catch to propel him to a 100-yard game against the Bucs ... Jared Cook is picking the wrong time to have his breakout run as he has now gone over 100 yards in two straight games. Sadly, he hasn't been started in more than 7 percent of Fantasy leagues in either week ... Evan Moore seems to be one of the only tight ends able to score against the Ravens. After a touchdown Saturday, he now owns two of the three touchdowns scored by tight ends against Baltimore this season.
Second Quarter -- Duds of the Week
Philip Rivers earned back the trust of Fantasy owners during San Diego's three-game win streak to open December. Sadly, Rivers fell way short of expectations Week 16 against the Lions secondary that gave up nine passing touchdowns in its previous four games. Rivers threw one touchdown and two interceptions, while finishing with 13 Fantasy points ... Tim Tebow was in a similar situation going into a matchup with the Bills, who had just two interceptions to 16 passing touchdowns allowed in their previous seven games. Tebow had one touchdown to four interceptions ... Cedric Benson finally lost a fumble for the first time this year in Week 16 and his two lost fumbles Saturday dropped him to 1 Fantasy point for the week ... LeGarrette Blount was benched after fumbling on his first carry Saturday ... After shredding the vaunted Ravens defense for three touchdowns in Week 15, Chargers running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert failed to score in Week 16 against the Lions and totaled 9 Fantasy points ... LeSean McCoy failed to deliver for Fantasy owners when it mattered the most by producing 4 Fantasy points in a win against Dallas. Although, he was hobbled by a left ankle injury for part of the game ... Beanie Wells and Chris Johnson, who were both started in at least 64 percent of leagues, didn't fare much better with just 5 Fantasy points each ... Laurent Robinson missed Tony Romo's presence the most Saturday. He had a season-low one catch and failed to score for just the second time in nine games ... Hakeem Nicks couldn't get off Revis Island in Week 16 and the 90 percent of Fantasy owners who started the third-year receiver were dealt just 2 Fantasy points ... The Panthers routed Tampa Bay, but star receiver Steve Smith hardly played a factor with one catch for 9 yards ... Jets receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes combined for 8 Fantasy points against a Giants defense yielding 25.6 Fantasy points per week to receivers ... A.J. Green fell short against a Cardinals defense yielding 22.1 Fantasy points per week to receiver by producing 4 Fantasy points.
Third Quarter -- Injury Report
The injury heard around the world was the one Adrian Peterson suffered to his left knee, which was later reported as a torn ACL. Peterson's status for the start of the 2012 season could now be in doubt ... Tony Romo injured his throwing hand on the first drive of the game Week 16 against the Eagles and wouldn't return ... Christian Ponder's day ended Saturday when he suffered a concussion against Washington. Joe Webb rallied Minnesota to a win ... Reggie Bush topped 100 rushing yards for a fourth straight game Week 16, but he finished the loss to the Patriots on the sidelines because of a leg injury.
Fourth Quarter -- Early Look Ahead
All games in Week 17 will be played on New Year's Day ... The marquee matchup is the Sunday night showdown between the Cowboys and Giants, as a spot in the playoffs and the NFC East title is on the line. The last time these two teams met in Week 14 they combined for 71 points and 954 yards. Fantasy owners would love to see that production again ... Detroit at Green Bay might not be as exciting as it appears if the Packers sew up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and choose to rest some of their starters Week 17 ... Tennessee still has a shot at the playoffs, so guys like Chris Johnson, Nate Washington, Damian Williams and Jared Cook still have Fantasy value next week at Houston ... The Jets' playoff hopes are still alive as well and their Week 17 matchup should be intriguing knowing how much the Dolphins hate to lose to their AFC East foe ... Baltimore at Cincinnati could be a defensive slugfest as both teams have a lot on the line. But surprisingly when the last time these two teams met in Week 11 they combined for 55 points and 856 yards ... There will be some scoreboard watching going on next Sunday as the outcomes in Kansas City at Denver and San Diego at Oakland will decide the AFC West champion. Only Denver and Oakland remain alive in the hunt.
Overtime -- Q & A
I'm in a one-player keeper league. Who should I consider as my keeper? My team is Matthew Stafford, Wes Welker, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Kellen Winslow, Reggie Wayne, Early Doucet, Matt Ryan, Reggie Bush, Brandon Pettigrew and Johnny Knox. --Brendon Leaptrot
MH: The names that jump out are Stafford, Welker, Green, Jones, Rice, Jones-Drew and Bush. But this really comes down to Rice and MJD, who are both top 5 Fantasy draft picks heading into 2012.
If you look at the numbers, those two have been neck-and-neck in Fantasy points since Rice became a feature back in 2009. You can't really go wrong with either option.
One of my concerns is scheduling. Clearly, the Jaguars will have a more favorable schedule in 2012 as a non-playoff team. But that doesn't sway me as much as the experience factor.
MJD has been taking a beating as a featured back since 2006. He hasn't had less than 200 touches in any season since turning pro and is on pace to have 350-plus touches for a second-straight season in 2011. We all know the shelf life of a running back in the NFL is short and MJD will be entering his seventh season in 2012.
Rice is also on track to have 350-plus touches for a second-straight year in 2011, and that's not even counting the playoffs, which Rice will partake in for a fourth-straight season. But Rice is still only going to be 25 years old at the start of next season, and we still know he is going to be the focal part of the Ravens offense.
The Jaguars will be experiencing a changing of the guard, and while we doubt the new coach will completely phase out MJD, he might have a different philosophy when it comes to using the veteran back than did former Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio.