Week fourteen is almost in the books, and offenses have returned back to normal this week. Despite there being only one matchup that featured two teams with records above .500, there were some good games to watch. The playoffs are in sight and many teams are doing what they can to control their own destiny. As for fantasy, offenses being held in check means less high scoring, which in turn puts a premium on making the correct choices in your starting lineup. Hopefully you will have more players mentioned here than your opponent. On to the games…
at Jacksonville 22, Chicago 3
The Jaguars end their hard luck three game losing streak with a strong win at home. Both defenses came to play, as only two touchdowns were scored in the entire contest. Jacksonville got on the board first, Byron Leftwich (242 yds, 2 TD, int) tossing a six yard scoring pass as he was on his way to becoming the only player from either side mentioned in this space this week. The Bears couldn’t get anything going on offense, posting their worst rushing total of the season. The Jaguars actually end a game in the win column by taking a knee, something that hasn’t happened yet this season. The win keeps them one game out of the wildcard chase in the AFC while the Bears slim chances are slipping away.
at Baltimore 37, NY Giants 14
I guess there’s no need to write much more about the Giants this year. It seems like each week the Eli Manning decision once again proves to have been the wrong one, and the longer this experiment goes on, the more likely it seems the Giants are punting on their chance of getting into the playoffs. Which is fine if that’s what they want. The Giants lose their third straight as Manning threw for 27 yards in this one. On the other side, Kyle Boller (219 yds, 4 TD, 0 int) had a tremendous day finding Todd Heap (76 yds, 2 TD) twice. The Ravens D (6 turnovers, 2 sacks), always a strong fantasy play, had their way with the New York offense as well.
Indianapolis 23, at Houston 14
A funny thing happened to the Colts along the way to scoring their usual 50 points, they ran into a pretty good defense. Peyton Manning (298 yds, 2 TD) threw for scores on Indianapolis’ first two drives, and it was looking like another record breaking day. Edgerrin James (158 total yds) was also doing well, but the Texans D started stopping the Colts, forcing them into field goals. In the meantime, Player of the Week Domanick Davis (201 total yds, TD) was running wild. If there is a fantasy player that is less heralded, and quite frankly, less respected in the fantasy community, I don’t know who it is. Every week you see and hear how fantasy owners are looking to start someone, ANYONE, over him, yet every week he produces. There are many things in life I don’t get, and this is one of them. I’m just glad he’s on my team. As for the game, Davis’ 15 yard run midway thru the third brought the Texans within three, but that would be as close as they would get. Reggie Wayne (96 yds, TD) also performed well in a winning effort.
at Buffalo 37, Cleveland 7
This game was 60 minutes of punishing Bills D (5 turnovers, 8 sacks, 17 yards allowed!). When they sacked the Luke McCown on the first play of the game, that was a sign of things to come all game. The Browns even tried to mix things up, bringing in Jeff Garcia in the third, but he was sacked (and fumbled) and had to leave the game so McCown came back in. Seventeen yards of offense, ouch. On the other side, Willis McGahee (105 yds, 2 TD) had a strong day once again for the Bills as they take their fifth straight win. The Bills are right in the thick of the playoff chase, and they are certainly a team to be reconed with down the stretch.
New Orleans 27, at Dallas 13
Just when you think you have things figured out, like the Saints being a bad team and the Cowboys being a wildcard contender, things get reversed. I guess that’s why they play the game. Dallas wasted an early 10 point lead in this one, falling at home to the listless Saints. Duece McAllister (120 total yds, 2TD) had a nice game, his second touchdown run in the fourth quarter tying the score. That came at a time when the Cowboy offense could not move the ball, and that opened the door for a late Joe Horn touchdown catch to seal the deal.
at Atlanta 35, Oakland 10
Oakland scored the first points of the game on a first quarter field goal, but the Falcons scored the next 35 as they cruise to the easy win. TJ Duckett (4 TD) scored two of his four scores in the second quarter to get Atlanta back on top. With the half winding down, Rod Coleman grabbed a deflected pass and rumbled 39 yards into the endzone to make the score 21-3 and the rout was on. Oakland never got things going and get no players mentioned this week.
Seattle 27, at Minnesota 23
It’s funny, you watch a game and listed to the commentators, then after the game you see the hilights and listed to more commentating, when a play goes bad, all of a sudden it was a terrible play call by the coaching staff…? The play in question came with just over two minutes to go, the Vikings driving for the potentially game winning score. Randy Moss takes the hand off on a reverse and makes a throw to the endzone intended for Marcus Robinson that is picked off. Probably an ill advised throw since there were two defenders that were not fooled on the play, but what can ya do. Moss was actually under pressure and hit as he released the ball. Seattle could not run out the clock, and the Vikings did get one last gasp. Contravery almost reared its ugly head on the final play of the game, Daunte Culpepper (270 yds, TD) scrambling from pressure and apparently being knocked down. He rolled over and as the Seahawks came onto the field to celebrate, he threw the ball into the endzone where it barely fell incomplete. Officials ruled Culpepper’s knee was down so the point was luckily moot. The final minutes overshadowed a great game under difficult circumstances for Darrell Jackson (135 yds, TD), who was playing just hours after learning of his father’s passing. Matt Hasselbeck (334 yds, 3 TD, 2 int) and Shaun Alexander (112 yds, TD) also put in strong efforts for the winners.
at New England 35, Cincinnati 28
New England came out running in this one, going for it on a fourth and short during the opening drive that was capped off by Corey Dillon hitting paydirt from a yard out. But the Bengals came to play in this one, tying things back up early in the second quarter. Tom Brady (260 yds, 2 TD, 0 int) then found David Patten for a 48 yard score to put New England back on top. On the ensuing possession, Asante Samuel stepped in front of a Carson Palmer offering and went untouched for the score. Again, the Bengals did not quit, getting another TD to close the gap. Yet once again, their two minute defense failed them, and the Pats pushed the lead to 28-14 at the half. The Patriots methodically went down the field to open the second half, and extended their lead to 21. Again, the Bengals didn’t quit, even when Palmer was injured and forced out of the game. Joe Kitna was moving the ball and Cincinnati scored late in the fourth to make it a seven point game. But that would finally be it, as New England would run out the clock to take the hard fought win. TJ Houshmandzadeh (145 yds) did well in a losing effort.
at Pittsburgh 17, NY Jets 6
Defense, defense, defense…on both sides in this one. Both quarterbacks struggled, but it was probably a case of the defenses just outplaying them. A tight 3-3 game came down to the third quarter, when Jerome Bettis tossed a 10 yard touchdown pass for Pittsburgh’s first lead of the game. The Jets would counter with a long field goal, but again it was the Bus, getting into the end zone from 12 yards out to provide the margin of victory. Great game to watch for those defensive purists out there.
at Denver 20, Miami 17
This is the time of year when many of the good fantasy owners look back at draft day strategies to see what went right, or what went wrong. Hopefully you’ve been with us all season and didn’t put much stock in the “handcuff” draft theory. In other words, the early drafting of a backup RB. I don’t believe there was a single handcuff that worked this season. That said, the two guys taken the most were probably Steven Jackson and Tatum Bell. Those of you that drafted Bell, probably don’t have him any longer, and if you did, you probably didn’t play him this week despite our efforts to let you know that he’s been seeing his time on the field increase. If you’re just scanning box scores this morning, you’re happy to see his performance this week, which is worthy of a mention here for Mr. Bell (123 yds, 2 TD), as he got most of the game time due to Droughn’s propensity to the fumble. However, he left the game with what is likely a shoulder separation which could end his season. As for the game, not much else to discuss. Hard fought the whole way with the Broncos ekeing out the win on a late 50 yard Jason Elam field goal. Perhaps Jake Plummer should check the standings, I could have sworn early in this one after an interception he was telling the fans that he was number one…? Hmmm.
at Green Bay 16, Detroit 13
Snow flurries, strong wind….aaah, winter in Green Bay. As is sometimes the case, this was a tale of two halves. The first was all Lions as they raced to a 13-nil halftime lead. But as the winds picked up, so did the performance of Brett Favre. He got hot in the second half as the Packers came back to tie, and with two seconds remaining, Ryan Longwell came thru from 23 yards out to send home the Lions disappointed again. Kevin Jones (156 yds, TD) did well in a losing effort while no Packer gets an official mention here.
at San Diego 31, Tampa Bay 24
Just when it looked like the Chargers were going to flinch and lose a close game, their defense came thru. San Diego and Tampa Bay went back and forth all day. Chargers score, Bucs score to tie on a Joey Galloway (78 yds, 2 TD) touchdown, Chargers score, Bucs score to tie on another Galloway catch. LaDainian Tomlinson (131 yds, TD) was running well for San Diego, and Eric Parker (118 yds, TD) was catching everything in sight but San Diego could not put the game away. When Michael Clayton (145 yds, TD) made an incredible touchdown catch midway thru the fourth quarter, tipping the ball to himself, to tie things up at 21, the mood seemed uneasy in San Diego. The Chargers offense could not get a first down on the ensuing possession, and Tampa Bay was back in business. However, lucky for the Chargers, Brian Griese (392 yds, 3 TD, 3 int) was at the helm of the opposition, and three plays later he was picked off by Donnie Edwards, who returned it 30 yards for the go ahead score that essentially ended the game.
at Carolina 20, St.Louis 7
We talked earlier in this piece about Buffalo being a team no one wants to play right now, how about the Carolina Panthers. This is a team on a mission as they win their fifth straight game. The Panthers D (6 int, 3 sacks, 7 points allowed) was in full effect all game, taking advantage of the aged Chris Chandler starting for the Rams. They harrassed him all game into an incredible six interceptions. Nick Goings (108 yds, TD) did most of the work on offense as the Panthers actually cruise in this one. Torry Holt (151 yds, TD) the lone bright spot for the Rams.
San Francisco 31, at Arizona 28 (overtime)
Funny game this one, the Niners build a huge 25 point lead, watch it evaporate, then win it in overtime. San Francisco got on the board early and often in this one, Maurice Hicks (139 yds, TD) and Cedrick Wilson (83 yds, 2 TD) the bright spots in an offense that seemed to actually know what it was doing this week. But Josh McCown led the Cardinals on scoring drive after scoring drive in the second half, and when Emmitt Smith scored late in the fourth, the lead was down to three points. The Cardinal D would stiffen, and their offense would get another chance, Neil Rackers making good from 22 yards out to tie. Both teams would have their chances in the sudden death frame, but it was San Francisco that got things going on their second possession, Todd Peterson ending things from 31 yards out.
Philadelphia 17, at Washington 14
Division battles are usually hard fought no matter the teams’ records, this was no exception here. Washington got a great start in this one, Ladell Betts returned the opening kickoff 70 yards which set up an early Clinton Portis (102 total yds, 2 TD) score. But the Eagles came right back on their next possession, LJ Smith catching a 2 yard score. Then the defenses on both sides took over as neither team scored again in the half. Philadelphia would draw next blood in the third, a field goal and Dorsey Levens run putting some space between them and the Skins. But Washington would claw their way back, Portis scoring again early in the fourth. Both offenses had multiple chances to run the clock out, but Philly’s could not solve the Washington D. With under four minutes to play, it was now or never for Washington. A couple of clutch passes to Chris Cooley got the Redskins in field goal range, with plenty of time to go for the endzone. On first down from the 27, Patrick Ramsey lofted a poor throw to the corner of the endzone, where Eagle Brian Dawkins actually had to fight with his own player to come down with the interception in the end zone. Washington would even get one more chance, but they could muster up nothing. Laveranues Coles (100 yds) also did well in a losing effort.