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What Did We Learn? – Week 16

Rocky IV is by far my favorite of the series. Any time it’s on, I’m hooked. I can come in during the opening credits, or during one of the awesome 1980’s montages, or during the entrances for the final fight. Doesn’t matter. I’m all in until the very end. I always get chills. And I always feel a strange mixture of excitement and exhaustion when it’s over.

What’s the point, you say? Well, I was watching that movie the other day when I noticed the way Rocky and Drago stood up for the 15th and final round, both bloody and battered, but refusing to quit. They stand in their corners for a moment, gasping for breath, and then stumble to the center of the ring, where Drago tells Rocky, “To the end.”

Well, that’s us. We’re all punch drunk, standing in our corners waiting for one more round to begin. If you’re still alive at this point in the season, you’re probably running on fumes. You’re reading articles, injury updates and projections from multiple sites and news outlets.

Take a breath. With no Thursday night game this week, you have either an extra few days to sort out your lineup or an extra few days to stress about your decisions.

Let’s move on to fantasy headlines from last week. Looking at the numbers, there are some guys you can trust this week, and there are others that may even be available on the waiver wire that you can either add to your starting lineup or just prevent your opponent from grabbing. Then, we’ll discuss guys and matchups that may mean tough decisions for fantasy owners.

Ryan Mathews
has returned to form. Coming out of college, he was a highly-touted young back, and he was drafted as the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. He’s shown flashes of the talent that made him the No. 12 pick in the 2010 draft, but he’s also gone through some slumps in San Diego. On Thursday night, he ran all over the Denver Broncos to the tune of 29 carries for 127 yards and a score. It marked the second straight game that he’d topped the century mark, and also the second straight game he’d rushed 29 times. I was impressed that he could carry the ball that many times on a short week, but Mathews looked great in Denver. He’s now topped the 1,000-yard mark, and he’ll likely end up a second-, or at least third-, round pick next year.

Kirk Cousins
just took step one towards an offseason trade. On Sunday, he threw for 381 yards and three scores (with two interceptions), and he almost pulled off an impressive come-from-behind victory in Atlanta. He showed some poise and seemed to have pretty good command of the offense. And now he gets a Dallas secondary that just gave up another touchdown to
Matt Flynn

. Cousins was already one of the more attractive offseason trade targets among quarterbacks, but he’s improving his stock. Keep in mind he’s a fourth-round pick, so he’s at the end of Year 2 of a very reasonable four-year contract. It’ll be interesting to see if he can pay dividends or if he’ll be just a sequel to Flynn.

Julian Edelman
looks like the primary beneficiary of the
Rob Gronkowski

injury. Unless you want to count New England’s opponents. Edelman was targeted an astonishing 19 times, racking up 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Tom Brady

used both Edelman and
Danny Amendola

to shred the Miami secondary all afternoon. The two combined for 23 receptions, so I think there are plenty of passes to go around in Foxboro. Baltimore has actually been very good against receivers this season, but I think the Ravens will have difficulty marking the two slot receivers, making both worth starting.

DeSean Jackson
continues to make explosive plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s always been a big play threat, but this season, he’s bought in to coach Chip Kelly’s scheme. On Sunday, he certainly did his part, making 10 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown in Philadelphia’s loss in Minnesota. He’s making plays, and
Nick Foles

is looking his way plenty, as he was targeted 16 times. Jackson is having a career year, with 75 receptions for 1,275 yards and nine touchdowns. He’ll be a mainstay of the Philadelphia offense next season as well.

Matt Asiata
has some value up in Minnesota. With
Adrian Peterson

(foot) and
Toby Gerhart

(hamstring) both inactive, the second-year back out of Utah rumbled 30 times for 51 yards and a trio of scores. I struggled trying to come up with a comparison, but I kept passing out. He’s a pretty big dude that has obvious power, but he kind of just runs into people and falls over. There’s no speed or juking to speak of. Going forward, he’s really touchdown-dependent, and his Week 16 matchup at Cincinnati doesn’t bode well.

Greg Jennings
is alive. I know – I was as surprised as you are. He actually displayed impressive chemistry with
Matt Cassel

, for what that’s worth. Jennings caught 11 balls for 163 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia, flashing the hands and skills that made him a stud in Green Bay. I’m still not sold on Jennings, partly because he’s struggled this season and partly because Cassel is the least awful option the Vikings have at quarterback. But still, he’s alive.

Jordan Todman
ran effectively for the Jacksonville Jaguars. With
Maurice Jones-Drew

out with a hamstring injury, Todman got the start in the backfield against Buffalo, and he made the most of it. He ran 25 times for 109 yards and added four catches for 44 yards. He’s got impressive speed, and he showed it throughout the game, getting outside on runs and turning them up field.
Maurice Jones-Drew

hopes to return next week, but if he can’t go, Todman makes for a really interesting start against a porous Tennessee run defense.

Rashad Jennings
is establishing himself as the feature back in Oakland. He’s been the lead guy over the past several weeks, and he’s making a significant case to be the lead guy next season, too. On Sunday, Jennings ran 23 times for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging a gaudy 4.6 yards per carry, and he continues to provide significant value with
Matt McGloin

under center. He signed a one-year deal back in April, so he’ll be a free agent after the season, but the Raiders may end up signing him to a long-term deal.
Darren McFadden

is costing nearly $6 million this season, and his contract also runs out after this season. Jennings is more likely to be in Oakland next year.

Eddie Lacy
has been everything the Green Bay Packers hoped he’d be. After some injury issues early in the season, Lacy has come on to provide a real lift for Green Bay. In Sunday’s come-from-behind win in Dallas, Lacy rushed 21 times for 141 yards and a touchdown and added four catches for 30 yards. He’s surpassed 100 yards four times this season, and he’s been running hard and punishing would-be tacklers. He’s topped the 1,000-yard mark and now has eight touchdowns in his rookie season. He figures to be a workhorse in Green Bay for the foreseeable future.

Andre Ellington
continues to impress in Arizona. Ellington was a sixth-round pick out of Clemson in April’s draft, and he’s showcased impressive speed and ability for the Cardinals. On Sunday, Ellington, ran for 71 yards on just 10 rushes, and he caught four passes for 87 yards. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 14 touches for 158 yards, or an average of more than 11 yards per touch. That’s absurd. I insist that I can actually see
Rashard Mendenhall

getting slower, but the Cardinals continue to start Mendenhall and use Ellington as a change-of-pace guy. Ellington has been really impressive, and you might be tempted to roll with him going forward. But Arizona travels to Seattle this weekend, and that hasn’t been good for anyone this season.

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