Week fifteen is almost in the books and I hope you were able to sit in front of a television both Saturday and Sunday. I lost count of how many times I said out loud “That’s UNBELIEVABLE!” Seriously, there were some incredible moments in this week’s games. From kickers missing everything, to games starting with kickoffs returned for touchdowns, to games that went right down to the wire, one of the best weekends of football all season. One thing I do know, I wish Peyton Manning would break that record so we can move on from that. Everywhere you look someone is advertising his game, talking about him, etc, etc, etc. I’m afraid to read the mainstream media this morning for fear that it has reached a new level since he decided to take a knee instead of push for a meaningless touchdown at the end of yesterday’s game.
In any case, strange week on the fantasy front where unfortunately many of the top fantasy players did not do well this week. Don’t you just have it when that happens in the playoffs? Here’s a snippet of the top nine fantasy players this week: Volek, Bennett, Josh McCown, Porter, Kerry Collins, Culpepper, Larry Johnson, Burleson, Harrington. I’m sure I’m not the only one kicking myself for having one of these guys on the bench this week (did I really play Plummer over Collins? Oops), but what can you do, that’s what fantasy football is all about sometimes. Hopefully some of your teams are still moving on and you have more guys mentioned here than your opponent. On to the games…
Pittsburgh 33, at New York Giants 30
The weekend got off to a great start when the Giants returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to electrify the home crowd. The New York picked off a pass on the ensuing series and we had ourselves a good game. That turn of events woke up the visiting Steelers, as their defense held, then the offense went to work. Bill Cower realized this was going to be a tough game, and went to the trick play book for the tying score, Antwaan Randle El (149 yds, TD, passing TD) taking the pitch and tossing quick shovel pass to Verron Haynes. The Giants then did something they haven’t in a while, ran Tiki Barber (114 total yds, TD). He single handedly brought the Giants down the field on the next series where New York retook the lead. Unfortunately, the Giants were shut out the rest of the half as the visitors enjoyed a 20-14 lead at the break. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, where New York scored to re-teakt the lead at 30-26, but Tom Coughlin curiously went for 2 and was not even close to getting it. Pittsburgh went to work, Hines Ward (134 yds) catching a couple key passes, Randle El caught a 36 yard bomb then it was all Jerome Bettis (140 yds, TD) punching it in from a yard out. The Giants would only have one more possession where they were intercepted and the Steelers escape with the nice win.
Washington 26, at San Francisco 16
Sandwich game of the day that pretty much lived down to its pre-game billing. Mistakes, penalties, and a general lack of offense plagued both teams in this oneas the Skins take home the win. Clinton Portis (110 yds) the only player from either side that played well.
at Atlanta 34, Carolina 31 (overtime)
Two teams playing very well met in the Saturday night contest, and a great game ensued. The Falcons jumped out to the early 10-nothing lead, but Carolina came right back, scoring the next 10 points for the tie game at the half. Atlanta seeming took control of the game in the third, posting two touchdowns, including one by Warrick Dunn (134 yds, TD). But the Panthers would not go away. Jake Delhomme (340 yds, 2 TD) found Kris Magnum to get the comeback started. The defense held, but Carolina muffed the punt, putting the Falcons back in business with great field position. Two plays later, in an incredible play, Julius Peppers grabbed the ball one handed after it was swatted into the air and raced untouched 60 yards for a score. Carolina would then force another turnover, and again they cashed in to take a 31-24 lead with under 4 minutes to play. But the Falcons have Michael Vick (154 yds, 2 TD, rushing TD), and he would not let his team down. Facing a fourth and goal from the 12 yard line, Vick raced up the middle for the end zone, somehow keeping himself airborn until he crossed the goal line forcing the overtime. Carolina had first dibs in the extra session, but Delhomme threw high on the third play, the Falcons picking off the pass easily. A couple of runs later and Atlanta kicked the winning field goal, ending the Panthers win streak. Muhsin Muhammed (135 yds, TD) also played well in a losing effort.
Houston 24, at Chicago 5
The weather was frightful in this one, but the Bears offense was equally frightful. Domanick Davis (95 yds, TD) and the Texans D (4 turnovers, return TD) ruled the day in this one as the Bears never threatened.
Buffalo 33, at Cincinnati 17
Two teams were meeting here to determine which would continue their improbable trek to possible post-season play while the loser would likely be eliminated. The Bengals drew first blood, Rudi Johnson (130 yds, TD) getting it done from 3 yards out, but Buffalo would quickly score to tie things back up. Then the Bills D (4 turnovers, 3 sacks, 2 return TDs) took over. They blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone for a score, then Takeo Spikes caught an ill advised pass and returned the interception for a touch. Though it was still early in the fourth quarter, that essentially ended things. Buffalo would eventually push their lead to 30-10 and coasted to the easy win, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
San Diego 21, at Cleveland nil
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! Winter football conditions reigned supreme in this one, and so did the better team. The Chargers did enough to win on offense and their defense held the Browns to next to nothing. LaDainian Tomlinson (111 yds, 2 TD) the only player from either team to get a mention here in a winning effort.
Minnesota 28, at Detoit 27
There’s losing, there’s losing bad…and then there’s losing in unbelievable fashion…though I seem to recall this same thing happened last year to New Orleans late in the season as well. In any case, good game this turned out to be, back and forth all game and hard fought. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, Daunte Culpepper (404 yds, 3 TD) again hooked up with Nate Burleson (134 yds, 2 TD) to extend the Vikings lead to 8 points. Joey Harrington (361 yds, 2 TD) and the Lions offense got their groove on, Roy Williams (104 yds, 2 TD) catching a nine yard pass for the score. In an incredible two point play, Harrison was falling to the ground when he lofted the ball to the end zone, somehow falling into the arms of Tai Streets to tie the game. Minnesota would move the ball on their own, getting well within field goal range. On third and short, Moe Williams went 11 yards for the score and the Vikings had the lead with less than two minutes to go. Again, Harrington led the charge, and working without a timeout, drove Detroit down the field where he again found Roy Williams, this time from a yard out with eight seconds to go. Overtime seemed likely, but fate would not be kind to Detroit. The snap on the extra point was low, could not be handled, and the Lions suffer the one point loss. Tough…yet at least it continues to insure the Lions get a better draft pick (snick). Kevin Jones (114 total yds, TD) also gets a mention here in a losing effort.
at New York Jets 37, Seattle 14
Mike Holmgren just can’t catch a break with instant replay. Arguably, last week’s play in the Seattle game should have at least been reviewed, but it wasn’t. Then this week, Curtis Martin (134 yds, 2 TD) apparently gets into the endzone on a close play, he calls for the review and he loses. VERY close play, honestly I didn’t think he was in even after seeing it multiple times on replay. At the time the score was 10-7 early in the second quarter and it was a third down play. Chad Pennington (253 yds, 3 TD) would hook up with Santana Moss (79 yds, 2 TD) to extend the lead to 24-7 before the Seahawks would answer to close the gap to 10 at the half. The same two hooked up again in the third and the rout was just about on. Seattle’s last gasp happened in the fourth, and again Holmgren would be unlucky. Shaun Alexander tried to run it up the gut on third and goal from the one, but he was apparently stopped with the officials literally spotting the ball on the six inch line. Seattle would go for it on fourth down, Alexander taking the toss and going to the right but when he was about to try and bowl his way into the endzone, he lost the ball, the Jets recovered and that was that. To make matters worse, later in the quarter Matt Hasselbeck was injured on a sack and did not return.
at Philadelphia 12, Dallas 7
As is usually the case when division rivals meet, the game is close and comes down to the wire. This was no different. The Eagles took the lead in the second quarter, only to see the extra point blocked. Dallas would score and their successful PAT gave them the lead. Offense was tough to come by the rest of the way, especially when Terrell Owens left the game with a leg injury and did not return. Dallas had an opportunity to extend their lead, but a 46 yard field goal was missed, and the Eagles went to work on a drive capped by Dorsey Levens going in from 2 yards out, which ended up being the last points of the game.
at Kansas City 45, Denver 17
If there was any doubt that Kansas City was out to destroy Denver’s playoff chances, it was erased when Dante took the opening kickoff and returned it for a touchdown. From there the Chiefs continued to dominate the Broncos on their way to an easy win. Larry Johnson (151 yds, 2 TD), Eddie Kennson (101 yds, 2 TD), and Trent Green (224 yds, 3 TD) all had strong days while their defense harrassed Jake Plummer (292 yds, TD, 2 int) for the duration of the match. Kansas City scored early and often, extending their 28-10 halftime lead to 45-10 before the Broncos were able to respond.
New Orleans 21, at Tampa Bay 17
Speaking of opening kickoffs being returned for a touchdown, Aaron Brooks scored on an electrifying return that defies descriptoin. Playing against his former team, perhaps he was too jacked as the kick went thru his legs, rolling to the one yard line. He gathered the ball there and was literally surrounded by 5 Bucs. Somehow he got a block to escape and raced down the sideline to paydirt. From there, missed opportunities on both sides prevented either team from pulling away. The Bucs actually held a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter, as theTampa D (7 sacks, return TD) was doing well. But the Saints would come back, scoring two touchdowns, including one with under a minute to play to give the visitors the win which keeps their playoff hopes alive.
at Arizona 31, St.Louis 7
This one was ugly from the get-to, but not for the team that you would have thought. The Cardinals took their turn in pelting the Rams as Josh McCown (287 yds, 2 TD, 2 rushing TD) led Arizona to an extremely easy win. No Rams to talk about so let’s just move on.
Jacksonville 28, at Green Bay 25
With temperatures in the single digits and wind chills below zero, the team from Florida walks into Lambeau Field to take a win from the Packers. The Jaguars opened the scoring with Jimmy Smith (87 yds, 2 TD) catching the first of his two TDs, giving the visitors the early lead. Green Bay would kick a field goal to bring the score closer in the second, then one of the more bizarre plays you will ever see took place. Byron Leftwich was back to pass when the Packer defense got to him, batting the ball from his hand before he began his throwing motion, but the ball was on his hand and he pushed the ball out, following thru on his potential throw. The ball didn’t go far, coming to the ground where there were no players from either team. One of the Jaguar offensive lineman picked up the ball and held it, all the while players were motioning for the Green Bay medical staff to come onto the field to help an injured player. The Packers’ Darren Sharper ran over to the player with the ball and knocked it to the ground, then picked it up and ran untouched into the endzone….officials ruled the play on the field a score, and replay confirmed it despite Jacksonville’s challenge. The Jags were undaunted by their misfortune, Smith scoring again to give Jacksonville the 14-10 halftime lead. Brett Favre (367 yds, 2 TD, 3 int) would hook up with Donald Driver for a long score, but Fred Taylor (165 yds, TD) busted one from 37 yards out. Favre would be intercepted twice in the fourth quarter, once in the end zone and Jacksonville would hold on for the win. Javon Walker (152 yds) also played well in a losing effort.
at Oakland 40, Tennessee 35
Shootout at the OK Corral! Jerry Porter (148 yds, 3 TD) caught three TD passes for the second time in a game this season, and Kerry Collins (371 yds, 5 TD) had a career day as Oakland takes the high scoring win. The teams just went up and down the field with reckless abandon, neither of which are heading to the post season. On the other side of the ball, Player of the Week Billy Volek (492 yds, 4 TD, rushing TD) also had a feast, as Drew Bennett (160 yds, 2 TD) and Derrick Mason (121 yds, TD) also get mentions here in a losing effort.
at Indianapolis 20, Baltimore 10
An exciting game to close out the weekend, however one that will go in the books as not having any fantasy players perform well enough to get a mention in this space. As the world surely knows, Peyton Manning was out to get the record this week, but it was not going to happen against a very tough Ravens D. The Colts held a slim 6-3 halftime lead, as both teams kept the other out of the end zone. Manning would finally toss a TD, a long one to Marvin Harrison mid-way thru the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, the Ravens would get into position for a field goal, but the kick was so low it bounced off the back of one of the blocker’s helmets, the Colts picking up the loose ball and racing 31 yards downfield. Edgerrin James ran it in from two yards out to extend the lead. Late in the game, the Colts defense picked off a pass and ran it back to the Baltimore 4 yard line and as Manning ran on the field, though there were only 59 seconds remaining, the 20-10 score dictated that he should take a knee and not go for the record, which he did. Colts win and we are forced to suffer thru another week of advertising his next game.