The Fantasy Hit List

When the clock strikes :00 in the Vikings-Bears game tonight at Soldier Field, many fantasy leagues around the globe will conclude another eventful season. For 16 weeks, many of you did outstanding jobs (myself included…I hope my bosses aren’t reading this) of neglecting your careers to scour the Internet for injury updates, waiver-wire gems and weather reports.

For those of you whose names will be etched on a championship trophy in the coming months, we at the National Football Post salute you. For those who came up short in 2009, there’s always next season. Remember, you can always play fantasy baseball and enjoy watching the beautiful spring and summer months roll by as you focus your energy on the Royals-Orioles matchup. For me, I now become Wes Bunting’s personal assistant for the next four months as we prepare for the NFL Draft. You may think that sounds luxurious, but you try rooming with Bunting in Mobile and Indianapolis.

Not to worry, however. I will still be pounding out the articles and analysis for those of you with one more game left to play.

In addition, stay tuned because I’ll be releasing the 2009 NFP Fantasy Awards, All-Fantasy Team and All-Bust Team over the next two weeks. If you have any suggestions or you just want to bust my chops, hit me up at Joe.Fortenbaugh@NationalFootballPost.com.

A champion is crowned

The 2009 NFP Fantasy Experts League came to a conclusion Sunday night. I want to thank Jamey Eisenberg (CBS Sports), Ken Daube (ESPN), Brandon Funston (Yahoo!), Jay Clemons (Sports Illustrated), Gregg Rosenthal (RotoWorld), Jon Phillips (RotoExperts), Greg Kellogg (Fantasy Sharks), Matt Loede (NFL Gridiron Gab) and my boy Corey Erdman (Hardcore Fantasy Show, Sirius Satellite Radio) for participating this season.

The NFP put up a sweet flat-screen television for grabs to the expert who could take down the field.

Want to know who won? Click here to check it out.

I love…

The Arizona Cardinals defense. Yes, that’s strictly from a fantasy perspective because I don’t believe this unit has what it takes to make another run at the Super Bowl. But for one afternoon, they delivered in a big way for me.

Trailing by roughly 20 points in the title game of the NFP Experts League (I’m assuming you already clicked the link above and saw the results), I thought I was dead to rights as I sat in the Philadelphia press box during the Eagles-Broncos game sweating bullets. With only Redskins tight end Fred Davis left to play and a seemingly insurmountable lead to overcome, it looked like my own personal Cinderella story was coming to a screeching halt.

Then, a ray of hope shone down from the heavens. Going to church on Christmas Eve must have scored me a couple points with the Big Man.

Trailing 24-10 with 4:01 left to play in the fourth quarter, Rams quarterback Keith Null threw a beautiful interception to Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson at the Arizona 47-yard line. Wilson ran the pick back to the Rams’ 12. Two plays later, rookie running back Beanie Wells (and one of my recent waiver-wire pickups) bulldozed into the end zone to make it 31-10 Cardinals.

This three-play series grabbed me nine points. Add that to the bonus points I landed for yardage (Arizona only game up 238 total yards) and points (10) and throw in four turnovers and four sacks and what do you get?

A fantasy championship.

MBP Award (Most Beastly Performance)

Roddy White Wide Receiver Atlanta Falcons

I’ll admit that I’m somewhat biased with this selection since White was on my fantasy team, but if you feel there’s a more deserving player (Jonathan Stewart?), by all means, let me know.

Entering a Week 16 showdown with nothing but pride left to play for (the Falcons had already been eliminated from the postseason hunt), White and the Falcons took on a Buffalo Bills defense that was giving up an average of just 16.2 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (third in the NFL). Only the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers had been stingier against wideouts this season.

But White and the rest of the Falcons came ready to play, and the 31-3 final score proved it. The five-year veteran out of UAB hauled in eight passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 14 targets for a total of 25 fantasy points (33 in PPR leagues).

A pleasant surprise from a guy who caught only six passes for 74 yards with no touchdowns in his previous two games.

Bringing home the bacon

A shout out to the players who stepped up in the clutch:

Jonathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers: With DeAngelo Williams on the sidelines nursing an ankle injury, J-Stew stepped up big, rushing for 206 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in the Panthers’ 41-9 butt-whipping of the New York Giants. Stewart didn’t just come through in the clutch, he crapped all over Giants Stadium in the last game Big Blue will ever play at their legendary venue.

Ryan Grant RB Green Bay Packers: Grant continued his push to close out 2009 on a strong note as the Green Bay running back scored two touchdowns and rushed for 97 yards on 16 carries in the Packers’ 48-10 stomping of the Seattle Seahawks.

Jerome Harrison RB Cleveland Browns: Another fantasy playoff week, another quality start from the dynamic Harrison, who carried the ball a staggering 39 times en route to 148 yards and a touchdown in Cleveland’s 23-9 win over the Oakland Raiders. Don’t look now, but the Browns have won three straight games.

Tom Brady QB New England Patriots: Just like old times. Tom Terrific was nearly perfect, completing 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns as the Patriots cracked the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-7. Is New England gearing up for a potential run at another Super Bowl?

Donovan McNabb QB Philadelphia Eagles: The D-Mac attack was in full force at Lincoln Financial Field as McNabb completed 20 of 35 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns in Philly’s 30-27 win over the Denver Broncos. It should come as no surprise that the Eagles again went 4-0 in the month of December.

Randy Moss WR New England Patriots: There are two things Randy Moss does well: pay his fines in straight cash and catch touchdown passes. The savvy Pro Bowler hauled in four passes for 45 yards and three scores, proving that he’s still arguably the deadliest red-zone receiver in the league. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Jaguars decided not to cover him inside the 20-yard line.

Greg Jennings WR Green Bay Packers: It wasn’t overly impressive, but for a guy who’s struggled at times this year, Jennings stepped up when it mattered. The Green Bay wideout caught four passes for 111 yards against a Seahawks secondary that even I could carve up like a Thanksgiving turkey. We told you a month ago that Jennings would deliver in the fantasy playoffs. Over the last three games, he’s caught 12 passes for 285 yards and one score.

Santonio Holmes WR Pittsburgh Steelers: The defending champs are still alive. Holmes, last year’s Super Bowl MVP, caught five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 23-20 win over hated division rival Baltimore. Holmes has become one of fantasy’s most reliable wide receivers.

Brent Celek TE Philadelphia Eagles: Just another day at the office as one of quarterback Donovan McNabb’s favorite targets took advantage of the extra attention paid to wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Celek stepped up and caught four passes for 1 21 yards and a touchdown in the Birds’ 30-27 win over the Broncos. This kid is worth every penny. And to think, Philly almost traded for Titans tight end Bo Scaife this past offseason. That’s right, I get a scoop every now and again.

San Francisco 49ers D/ST: The Niners did to the Lions what the Cardinals failed to do last weekend: shut them down. The San Francisco defense held Detroit to just six points and 289 total yards while racking up six turnovers and two sacks in a 20-6 beat down. Nice job, San Fran.

Thanks for nothing

When it mattered most, these guys were nowhere to be found:

Fred Jackson RB Buffalo Bills: Against a Falcons defense that ranked 20th in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (19.8 pts./gm), Jackson was only able to muster 54 total yards on 15 touches with no scores. That may have been one reason Buffalo was trounced 31-3.

Brandon Jacobs & Ahmad Bradshaw RBs New York Giants: The New York running game has been subpar at best this season, and the trend continued when Big Blue’s two workhorse backs combined for a whopping 54 yards on 17 carries with no touchdowns. Bradshaw contributed the bulk of those numbers as Jacobs picked up only one yard on six carries. B-R-U-T-A-L.

David Garrard QB Jacksonville Jaguars: I had to throw Garrard in the mix because he tanked Matt Bowen’s fantasy championship hopes this weekend. Bowen was forced to start the road-inept Garrard in place of stud Peyton Manning due to concerns that Colts head coach Jim Caldwell would sit his starters early in the game. Garrard’s full four quarters of work featured 19 completions on 25 attempts for 185 yards and two interceptions. The Jacksonville quarterback has now thrown only one touchdown pass and has a QB rating of 74.7 in seven road games this season.

Drew Brees QB New Orleans Saints: Any time you post a QB rating of 104.7 you’re doing something right. But this is the world of fantasy football, and QB ratings don’t reflect fantasy points. Owners spent a high draft pick on Brees back in August and went into Week 16 with an excellent home matchup against a soft Tampa Bay secondary. However, the Saints lost 20-17 in overtime and Brees threw just one touchdown pass. Not the type of numbers owners were looking for on the biggest fantasy weekend of the year.

Brandon Marshall WR Denver Broncos: Credit Eagles cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown, as well as defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, for spending Sunday afternoon locking down one of the league’s deadliest wideouts. Marshall ended Week 16 with a healthy eight receptions for only 39 yards. Denver did everything it could to get the ball in Marshall’s hands, which included several bubble screens and quick slants. But the Birds found a way to tackle when it mattered, limiting Marshall and crushing your fantasy title hopes.

Mike Sims-Walker WR Jacksonville Jaguars: You would think a team that gets drubbed 35-7 would spend the second half of the blowout throwing the ball to its best wide receiver. In most instances, this is what teams do. In Jacksonville’s case, the Jags decided to pack it in and head home early. MSW caught only two passes for 19 yards. What makes that stat line even worse is knowing that the Patriots entered Week 16 ranked 21st in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers (20.9 pts./gm).

Indianapolis Colts: Hopefully, you heeded our advice and went with other more reliable options because the inevitable happened on Sunday as head coach Jim Caldwell yanked his starters in the Colts’ 29-15 loss to the New York Jets. Quarterback Peyton Manning completed 14 of 21 passes for 192 yards and no touchdowns, while wide receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark combined for seven catches for 90 yards and no scores. I decided to sit both Wayne and running back Joseph Addai, who rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on just six carries. Thanks, Addai.

Tony Gonzalez TE Atlanta Falcons: On a day when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, future Hall of Famer Gonzalez was able to grab just a miniscule piece of the pie, hauling in two passes for 17 yards. Thanks, but that one fantasy point didn’t help all that much.

New Orleans Saints D/ST: A surprise unit that stormed through the first half of the season, the Saints defense was as lackluster as ever, allowing 20 points and 439 total yards AT HOME to rookie QB Josh Freeman and the now three-win Buccaneers. What looked to be such a solid start in the morning turned into a big mistake in the evening.

Monday night mania

It’s our last MNM for the season, so you better bring your A game.

You know how this works. I’m giving away a coveted NFP T-shirt to the reader who can pick the winner of tonight’s matchup (against the spread) AND guess the closest to the total amount of points that will be scored in the game.

Just leave a comment below with your picks.

Example: Chicago and 39

Monday Night Football: Minnesota Vikings (-8) at Chicago Bears

Enjoy the game!

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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