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What Did We Learn – Week 16 Edition

Matt Forte is returning to his rookie form. When Mike Martz came to town, many were expecting Matt Forte to play the Marshall Faulk role. But early in the season, the Bears were way too pass-heavy. As they found a balance that is now working for them, Forte has emerged as a big part of the offense, both on the ground and through the air. He turned his 19 carries into 113 yards and a touchdown, and added 56 yards on 4 catches.

Derrick Mason is the #1 in Baltimore. He only caught four balls for 50 yards, but looking at the season as a whole, he’s been fantastic. His numbers are very comparable to Anquan Boldin, and while Boldin’s yardage total is slightly higher, Mason is Flacco’s go-to guy, even citing Mason as the guy he looks for on third downs. Remember that Boldin also had a 142 yard, 3 touchdown game.

Kenny Britt is a reliable fantasy wideout. Britt has been on point this season, specifically when Kerry Collins is at quarterback. That may not be the case next season, but Britt has proven he can play at a high level in the NFL, catching 4 balls for 89 yards and a score. His huge game against Philly aside, he’s still been a very reliable deep threat, sort of a Vincent Jackson-lite.

Ryan Mathews will finally be the feature back in Week 17. With Mike Tolbert needing to rest his injured neck, Mathews will get a shot this week. And, considering the Chargers are eliminated from playoff contention, they may want to get a serious look at Mathews this weekend at Denver. He put up 55 yards and a score on 12 carries, and would have gotten more if San Diego didn’t fall behind. He’s a guy to look at for this week, and a guy I’ll watch closely to form my opinion for next season.

Carson Palmer is better when he’s throwing to “quiet” receivers. You wouldn’t think it, but if you take away Palmer’s two best pass-catching options in Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, he plays better. He picked apart the Chargers defense for 269 yards and 4 scores, and most importantly, zero interceptions. I think we all expected more performances like this, but it’s nice to see him at least figuring things out.

I am a Tim Tebow fan. That’s right. It’s still early, so there should be some room on the bandwagon. Tebow looks like the real deal, almost willing his team to come back on Sunday. Down 14 going into the 4th quarter, the Broncos seemed to feed off of the enthusiasm and leadership of their quarterback, as Tebow threw for a touchdown, and then ran in another. I wasn’t sure that those intangibles that were so often spoken about in Gainesville would translate to the pro game, but it appears his teammates have bought in. I can’t get enough, and I hope his next coach will be a Tebow believer.

Aaron Rodgers has no after-effects from that concussion. Against the league’s second ranked defense, a defense that had already knocked out five quarterbacks this season, Rodgers silenced the critics and non-believers, throwing for 404 yards and 4 touchdowns. His line held up, and his top-notch receiving corps delivered after the catch. They even had a few drops that would have made his numbers even more impressive. Rodgers has repaid his owners with a ridiculous season, and looks to be heating up at the right time to make a playoff run.

Mike Wallace has become a borderline top-10 receiver. Big Ben’s return has sparked the emergence of Mike Wallace. Similar to DeSean Jackson, Wallace relies on deep balls for real value, but also similar to Jackson, he can turn a simple slant into a 75-yard score. With 1,152 yards and nine touchdowns, he’s put his mark on this Steelers’ season. I still prefer the usual suspects at wide receiver, and even DeSean Jackson for that matter, but Mike Wallace has made a believer out of me.

Jamaal Charles is a top-5 back. Why Kansas City Chief Head Coach Todd Haley played the early season running back roulette, I’ll never know. But Charles has become the running back we all saw at the end of last season. He’s posted 1,380 rushing yards this season to go with 455 receiving yards. He’s scored 7 touchdowns on the year, and that number could increase in a big way if given the lion’s share of touches next season.

Josh Freeman is easily a top-10 quarterback next year. He’s been consistent all year long. He just threw for five touchdowns against Seattle. He’s carried the Bucs to playoff contention and a 9-6 record, personally leading them in several comeback wins. He’s thrown for 3,196 yards, 23 scores, and just 6 interceptions. If he can take another step forward, get more in sync with his young receiving corps, and get big LeGarrette Blount going early in games, he’ll be even better next year.

Good luck in Week 17, and be safe this weekend.

Drew Magyar is a staff writer and can be reached at

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