Week fifteen is almost in the books and if you don’t think home field advantage is important, just check out the results of this week’s games. Twelve of the fifteen games were won by the home team, many in surprising fashion. Now covering the point spread, that is a different story! The weather is getting ugly, and as I did last week, I salute all the fans that go to these games. The weather was a factor in many of this week’s games, snow, rain, cold..you name it. As for fantasy, 41 players will make this week’s story. Many of the studs continue to produce, but as always there were a couple of surprises this week. Let’s get right into the games.
at Cincinnati 41, San Francisco 38
Both of these teams are still somewhat of a mystery. The Bengals are a mystery to being in playoff contention, while the 49ers are a mystery to winning on the road (now 0-7 this season). Coming off last week’s disappointing performance, many wondered whether Cincinnati would be able to bounce back. That’s affirmative. Rudi Johnson (174 rushing yards, 2 TD) once again filled in for Corey Dillon (flu this time) and Chad Johnson (6 catches for 91 yards, TD) had a strong game for the winners. But this was a game where 41 points was almost not enough. Jeff Garcia (344 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int, rushing TD) had another great game, perhaps trying to put down any Tim Rattay talk, as the Niners ran up over 500 yards in total offense. San Francsico scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Cincinnati scored 10 points in the quarter as San Francisco’s on-side kick with just over a minute to play was unsuccessful and that was that. Kevan Barlow (151 total yards, 2 TD), Terrell Owens (8 catches for 127 yards, TD) and Tai Streets (6 catches for 89 yards, TD) also did well in defeat. The game was marred by two shows of poor sportsmanship, Chad Johnson pulled out a pre-printed sign after one of his scores, while Owens threw some snow into the crowd following one of his. These guys should act like they’ve been in the end zone a time or two before….
at Indianapolis 38, Atlanta 7
When you’re coach is fired mid-week, this is about what can be expected, especially against a good team. Peyton Manning (290 passing yards, 5 TD, 0 int) continued his record pace, as Marvin Harrison (7 catches for 117 yards, 2 TD) and Brandon Stokley (7 catches for 95 yards, 2 TD) also chipped in to the rout. Atlanta had nothing to show here, let’s just move on.
at Kansas City 45, Detroit 17
Another rout. Kansas City scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and never looked back. Priest Holmes (94 rushing yards, 3 TD) did the work on the ground, and Trent Green (341 passing yards, 3 TD, 0 int) submitted as perfect a performance that can be done. Tony Gonzalez (6 catches for 93 yards, 2 TD) and Derrick Blaylock (5 catches for 106 yards, TD) also chipped in for the winners. Detroit loses their 23rd game in a row on the road, Shawn Bryson (105 rushing yards, TD) being the lone bright spot in this one.
at Chicago 13, Minnesota 10
Speaking of making changes midweek, with the Bears out of consideration for a playoff spot, they turned over the reigns to rookie Rex Grossman. As sometimes these changes go, it can spark a team, or maybe just leaves the opponent not sure what to prepare for. Whatever the case was here, the Bears get the nice home win. Grossman was not spectacular, but he made few mistakes. For the losers, Onterrio Smith (148 rushing yards) filled in nicely for the injured Michael Bennett, and Randy Moss (9 catches for 93 yards, TD) also gets a mention here. Had Moss been able to come down with a Culpepper pass in the end zone with just over a minute left in the game, the result might have been different. Bear rookie Charles Tillman went up with Moss and he came down with the ball for the interception that helped seal the win.
at New England 27, Jacksonville 13
For the second week in a row, the weather was ugly in New England, snow rearing its unwanted head. But as is usually the case, nothing seems to affect this team. Tom Brady (228 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int) led the Pats to a touchdown on the opening drive, but Jacksonville came right back. Byron Leftwich (288 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 int) hooked up with Jimmy Smith on a 67 yard pass and run on their first play, but the New England defense stiffened, forcing the field goal. The Patriots then held the ball for seven plus minutes, getting a field goal of their own on their next possession. The weather turned real bad in the second half, but the Pats were able to extend their lead early in the fourth quarter. With just under six minutes to play, Tyrone Poole intercepted a pass at the Jaguar 43 yard line and began down the left sideline. When Leftwich collided with the referee, knocking both to the ground, Poole thought he was home free and held the ball up at the ten yard line. LaBrandon Toefield had other ideas, and he brought down Poole at the five yard line. No matter, the Pats punched it in three plays later. All that was left was the Jags to finally find the endzone, Leftwich hooking up with Kevin Johnson with three plus minutes to go, something a New England opponent hadn’t done in five games.
at NY Jets 6, Pittsburgh nil
With the snow falling at a fast clip, it was Curtis Martin (228 total yards) that ran wild in the close Jets win. Martin had his best game in years, helping set up two field goals that proved to be the difference in the game. When Jeff Reed missed his second field goal, this one a 20 yarder with ten minutes to go in the game, it looked like the Jets would run out the clock. But the Steelers forced a turnover to get the ball back. The Jet defense was up to the task, stopping Pittsburgh on their two remaining drives to seal the win…and the fate of Pittsburgh, who was eliminated from playoff consideration.
at St.Louis 27, Seattle 22
The Rams handed the ball to Marshall Faulk (85 rushing yards, TD) almost exclusively in the fourth quarter, and Faulk did not disappoint. The Rams booted two field goals in the frame, and they hold on for the win that clinched the division. Torry Holt (6 catches for 100 yards, TD) and
Marc Bulger (236 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) also performed well in the win. Seattle never gave up, and if it weren’t for Bobby Engram tripping over a fallen back judge with a minute to go, the result might have been different. But it wasn’t, and Seattle’s struggles on the road continue. Shaun Alexander (126 rushing yards, TD) and Darrell Jackson (6 catches for 99 yards, TD) performed well, but it was not enough to overcome.
at Tampa Bay 16, Houston 3
The Bucs keep their slim playoff hopes alive, as their defense ate up the Texans, limiting them to just over 100 yards in total offense. In the meantime, Thomas Jones (134 rushing yards, TD) ran hard as the only player from either team to get a mention here. It was the first time all season that Tampa Bay won two games in a row, doing so without injured Warren Sapp. I’m trying to imagine how few yards Houston would have moved the ball if Sapp did play, wow. Moving on.
at Tennessee 28, Buffalo 26
Buffalo returned to the field where they lost a heartbreaking playoff game on a kickoff return for the first time, and when the news came down that Steve McNair wasn’t going to be starting, they had to feel a little better about themselves. Billy Volek (295 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int, rushing TD) started the game and for the most part, did very well. Buffalo held the 10-6 advantage at the half, and they extended that lead on the opening drive of the second half, Pat Williams returning a Volek fumble for a 17-6 lead. The Titans began mounting their comeback, as they scored the next two touchdowns. The Bills had comeback plans of their own, taking a field goal to close to within one in the fourth quarter. Tennessee took the ensuing possession for a scoring drive of their own, Volek getting it done from a yard out to extend the lead to eight. Yet again, Buffalo circled the wagons, scoring a touchdown with under a minute to play, yet it was not meant to be. Drew Bledsoe’s two point attempt of a pass to Bobby Shaw was low and ruled incomplete and the Titans had their win. Derrick Mason (9 catches for 137 yards) also did well for the winners, no Bill to post here.
Dallas 27, at Washington nil
The Cowboys stop their losing skid, shutting out the reeling Redskins on the road. Troy Hambrick (189 rushing yards) was the offense while
the Dallas D (6 turnovers, 1 sack, 161 yards allowed, pitched a shutout) did their part in the lopsided win. Moving on.
at Oakland 20, Baltimore 12
After taking control of the division last week, you would think that the Ravens would have been able to keep things going this week against a weak opponent. Not so. The Raiders got up early and the Ravens never threatened. Just a zzzz of a game fantasy wise as only Todd Heap (6 catches for 93 yards, TD) makes the story from either team.
Carolina 20, at Arizona 17
What better way to be able to clinch a division title than to have a game against the Cardinals. But this one wasn’t easy, and was decided at the very end when John Kasey successfully booted a 49 yard field goal with only seconds remaining. The Cardinals had taken the lead, Neil Rackers connecting from 44 yards out with under two minutes to play, but it was his missed 35 yard boot earlier in the quarter that may have cost his team the win. Jake Delhomme hooked up with Steve Smith five times on the game winning drive as Arizona had no answers on defense. Joshua McCown (172 passing yards, rushing TD) the only player from either team worthy of a mention here in the fantasy realm.
at Denver 23, Cleveland 20
A tough hard fought game between two teams battling for their playoff lives. The Broncos got off early, taking an early 10-0 lead, but it was a lead they would not be able to hold. The Browns answered with 10 points of their own in the second quarter and the second half went back and forth, neither team able to score in the third quarter. Denver got on the board in the fourth, Clinton Portis (139 rushing yards, 2 TD) scampering in from 13 yards out and when Tim Couch was intercepted on the next play, it looked like Denver was home free. Cleveland’s defense held, and a nice punt return set up a quick score for the Brownies. After another punt, the Browns moved into field goal range and took the lead with just over a minute to play in regulation. Jake Plummer worked the ball to Ashlie Lelie, and Jason Elam clicked from 36 yards out to force the overtime. Cleveland had no luck opening up the extra frame, but Denver did. Elam again doing the deed, this time from 25 yards out for the win. The win may have come at a price, as Portis had to be helped off the field just before Elam’s winning kick.
Green Bay 38, at San Diego 21
An innocent 17-3 game at the half turned out to be a fourth quarter shootout. Trailing 17-6 entering the fourth, Co-Player of the Week LaDainian Tomlinson (11 catches for 144 yards, 2 TD, 51 rushing yards) took two passes from Drew Brees (363 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int), one from seven yards out, the other from 68 yards, and the Chargers had the lead. Two plays later, Brett Favre (278 passing yards, 4 TD, 1 int) tossed the first of his three fourth quarter touchdown plays. The Packers got a break, recovering a Brees fumble on the Charger one, where Ahman Green (75 rushing yards, 2 TD) took the Favre offering in for another score. The next drive, Favre again was good, and Green Bay had the win. Donald Driver (8 catches for 112 yards, TD) also did well for the winners.
at New Orleans 47, NY Giants 7
What a night for Co-Player of the Week Joe Horn (9 catches for 133 yards, 4 TD). Unfortunately, his four touchdown night was marred by yet another premeditated celebration. After his second touchdown catch, he went looking underneath the goalpost padding for something, and couldn’t find it. He had given up the search, when teammate Michael Lewis helped out, and found what Horn was looking for – a cell phone.
Fifteen yards later and a tongue lashing from the coach, Horn was happy with the result of his celebration, saying he wanted to get on the horn with his kids after he scored. As for the game, the Giants were going with Jesse Palmer in place of the injured Kerry Collins, and the result was not pretty. No Giant makes the story, while Aaron Brooks (296 passing yards, 5 TD, 0 int), Deuce McAllister (145 total yards) and the Saints D (3 turnovers, 3 sacks, 7 points allowed, return TD ret) all get a mention here in the blowout win.