A number of big-name quarterbacks had big-time bounce-backs in championship week – and then there was running back David Johnson who gave one of the best Christmas Eve / Week 16 performances for the books.
The Cardinals running back rang up more than 130 combined yards and three touchdown runs against the Seahawks -both teams seemed to look completely different than those who gave us the 6-6 atrocity earlier this season - thankfully.
Johnson was ridiculous, paying huge dividends for owners who were playing in the their championship games. And there were plenty – a number of fantasy sites said that Johnson was one of the most popularly owned players for teams competing in their fantasy championships. He now has more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and tied Barry Sanders in at least 100 yards per game in 15 straight weeks.
Sidebar: So who is the No. 1 pick in 2017?
I pick Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott just barely ahead of Pittsburgh runner Le’Veon Bell. He has five multiple TD games and 100 or more yards rushing in seven games behind the best offensive line in football. Bell has a lesser o-line and older QB and this year went five games without a rushing TD.
Johnson has the most team question marks – will the fading Carson Palmer retire at QB? What about WR Larry Fitzgerald – or for that matter offensive whiz / Coach Bruce Arians (ask the Colts how much they miss him). Plus his offensive line needs an upgrade.
QB redemption: Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins were a couple of top performers who made up for shameful semi-final Week 15 performances. If any owners were still alive in the playoffs, they must have luckily advanced despite both going without even a touchdown pass a week earlier.
Both QBs came through with Rodgers amassing a championship week performance for legends only with 4 scoring passes and running in a fifth. Writers’ note: I play in four different leagues and none of the teams owning Rodgers made it past Week 15.
Cousins not only finished just shy of 300 yards but added one TD pass and out of the blue - ran in two scores on the ground.
Other QB rebounds –
Russell Wilson and Mr. Hyde: Russell Wilson’s schizophrenic season continued, this time with him looking better than competent. Owners who gambled on Wilson (or who had teams actually still alive) enjoyed 350 yards and four scoring passes.
This year he has five games this with no touchdown passes, five games with one touchdown pass and four games with three or more TDs. More infuriating for Wilson owners is that it isn’t like he’s used his legs instead of his arm; he’s got just one touchdown run this year. Going into next year I’ll probably rank him at the bottom end of the top 10 but never again near one of my rosters.
Real Steel: Ben Roethlisberger was another top tier QB that stumbled last week but did well to vex the Ravens once more, throwing three scoring passes after finishing with only one and less than 200 yards one week earlier.
And one not so much …
Let’s talk Drew Brees. More to the point, let’s talk about how he failed owners at the season’s most crucial point. Brees passed for one touchdown Saturday, leaving anyone in the title game lifted up by his big Week 15 performance left standing at the altar. Five touchdowns in his last four games was a brutal finish considering three of those games included one or less scoring passes and two bagels. You may have to wonder if father time is catching up to him when making 2017 draft boards or if it was just an odd statistical anomaly.
The Buffalo and Miami RB dual: For the second time this season Miami RB Jay Ajayi cranked out a 200-yard game against the Bills, costing Coach Rex Ryan his job. Ajayi needed a performance like this after scoring once in the previous six games. On the other side LeSean McCoy continued his stellar play once new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn took the offensive reigns.
The QB recycle bin: Collin Kaepernick & Blake Bortles. Kaepernick turned in a big performance against the Rams with two touchdown passes and a scoring run. Bortles passed for over 300 and a score, but caught one too.
Goats, starting with Doug Martin
It’s hard to remember a quicker fall from grace than Doug Martin’s. In a move nobody saw coming, Martin was a healthy scratch from the lineup leaving owners scrambling. The hard truth is that he’s been garbage most of this year – even after missing six games to injury. Martin currently has 3 rushing touchdowns and a career low 2.9 yards per carry. But the matchup with the Saints was just nice enough many were counting on him – and got left with nothing or a last-second waiver wire move.
Jeremy Hill: A lingering knee injury made Hill maybe the worst goat of championship week. At least most Martin owners were able to scramble and grab a 4 p.m. player, possibly even Jacquizz Rogers – whereas Hill owners were just stuck watching a tragedy. Hill – who should not have even suited up – finished with 8 yards in one of the worst games of his career. Making it worse, was that after missing most of the week of practice, Hill was a participant Thursday, leading many to think he would be fine. That went well.
Ty Montgomery: From penthouse to outhouse in one week. Montgomery just was not a part of the game plan for whatever reason last week. The Packers ignored him at the goal line and kept him in mostly as an extra blocker against the Vikings pass rush. File under unexplained.
Denver receivers – Four catches, 46 yards – combined for Demaryious Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders against the Chiefs in a brutal night for Trevor Siemian.
Thomas Rawls - His up and down injury-plagued season took yet another turn. Eight carries, eight yards and a shoulder injury to boot. The lack of a running game wreaked havoc with the Seahawks all year thanks in part to Rawls' health struggles.
DeAndre Hopkins – Only six targets after 17 one week ago – in a bad outing by new Texans quarterback Tom Savage. After a one week mirage, the QB change did nothing to help Hopkins in Savage’s second week running the Houston offense.
Pick this guy up:
If have one more week to play for your championship, or are just looking at names to consider next season here’s a couple players making waves.
JJ Nelson, Cardinals – Another nice game for Nelson who has established himself the last month for Arizona. Between Larry Fitzgerald who could retire, or Jon Brown who’s battled health issues with the sickle cell trait, Nelson is primed for a big 2017. Currently he’s scored in four games in a row and has only gotten better with more snaps and targets.
Adam Thielen, Vikings – Remember when Stefon Diggs was the next big thing? Diggs looks good, but Thielen leads Minnesota receivers in yards and touchdowns and absolutely blew up Saturday with 200 yards and a pair of scores. A lot is up in the air for the Vikings next season including at the QB position – but Thielen’s star is rising while Diggs has cooled off and Laquan Treadwell seems to be in the witness protection program.