Mixed blessings

One Last Ride On The Merry-Go-Rant
This brief diatribe (spliced into a potpourri column) has nothing to do with the great city of Indianapolis or the two iconic franchises (Giants, Patriots) playing on Super Sunday. It has everything to do with the mindless chatter you'll have to endure between now and Friday on Media Row.

Tom BradyPatriots quarterback Tom Brady is always the top draw at Media Day.

The one black mark against Super Bowl Week used to be Tuesday's NFL Media Day, a tension-filled battleground pitting traditional sports and news media vs. clueless on-air talent from MTV, Telemundo or any other attention-seeking, non-sports network that could entice a bold employee (or hired gun) to 'propose' to an unsuspecting star like Tom Brady or Eli Manning — while donning a wedding gown. Or those who conduct semi-serious interviews with secondary players or assistant coaches … dressed in a clown suit or costume headgear that would make Massive Head-Wound Harry blush. But over time, both sides have learned to peacefully share that spotlight for one day — bringing us back to Media Row, the most organized hot mess of Super Bowl Week.

On paper, a summit of local and national radio/TV stations performing their jobs under one roof during Super Bowl Week seems like a noble pursuit. In fact, whoever hatched the concept of Media Row — sometime after the explosion of sports radio in the mid-1990s — probably deserved a raise many years ago. But Media Row, on the whole, has outlasted its usefulness, devolving into a contrived marketing showcase for five groups of interview subjects:

1. Current athletes shilling for name-brand deodorant, pet food or foot-powder companies — with little interest of discussing their careers or personal lives.
2. Former athletes rehashing great moments of Super Bowls past — while promoting their own proprietary take on bleu-cheese salad dressing.
3. A-list celebrities promoting bad movies coming out in July.
4. B-list celebrities promoting good movies that no one has time to see on Super Bowl weekend.
5. C-list celebs, aka reality-TV stars, keeping their 15 minutes of fame alive with well-timed walks through Media Row, before being hounded by show producers who are always desperate to fill air time in 5-minute intervals.

Disclaimer: I am blissfully aware of how most people view sports radio the other 51 weeks of the year — as a vast wasteland of pointless babble, canned jokes, thoughtless rants, shallow analysis and hourly formats that are painfully formulaic; and for the most part, they're right. But at least during the spring, summer and fall months in radio markets across the country, relaxed conversations organically spin into sparkling debates or classic comedic bits. However on Media Row, there's often little comedy and zero chemistry during these interviews … through no real fault of the radio host, who gets MAYBE five minutes with a subject, while delicately adhering to the draconian measures of all p.r. hacks:

1. Is my star being badgered with pointed questions that don't involve a Super Bowl prediction or his/her latest acting role?
2. Is Joe/Jane Radio Host trying to steal one extra second of their allotted five-minute window?
3. Is my client not getting ample time to endorse the deodorant company that's paying for his/her and MY flight, hotel, meals, expenses and tickets to exclusive parties during Super Bowl Week?

Bottom line: IF you're going to subject yourself to Media Row this week, and have access to the glorious TuneIn or I-Heart Radio apps for the iPhone, stick with hosts who gleefully share raucous accounts of one-star hotel stays, celeb sightings while trying to score dinner reservations at The Capital Grille, Harry & Izzy's or Morton's … or their most debaucherous tales from some of Indy's finest watering holes and/or adult-entertainment venues. At least they're trying to liven up four days of broadcasting misery with personalized stories of legendary fun — none of which occurred at a corporate event sponsored by anti-dandruff shampoo makers.

The Crystal Ball Rules All, Part I
Here's an updated list of my Top 60 fantasy footballers for 2012 (sans Adrian Peterson, Rashard Mendenhall or Peyton Manning). For argument's sake, let's pretend Peyton (neck surgery) sits out the season:

1. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
2. RB Arian Foster, Texans
3. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers (my days of ignoring QBs in Round 1 are over)
4. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
Calvin Johnson, Lions
6. QB Drew Brees, Saints
7. RB Chris Johnson, Titans (a relative free pass from last year's debacle)
8. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
9. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (could easily vault up the list with a healthy spring)
10. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (the Jags' inept playmakers fuel this middling ranking)
11. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
12. TE Rob Gronkowski 13. RB Matt Forte, Bears (Free Agent)
14. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
15. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
16. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders (the biggest risk-reward candidate of the top 30)
17. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
18. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks (no way Seattle lets Skittles walk in free agency)
19. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (he'll probably be in the top 15 by August)
20. QB Cam Newton, Panthers (a must-have dynamo in keeper leagues)
21. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
22. WR Roddy White, Falcons
23. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
24. WR Greg Jennings, Packers
25. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
26. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals (may share the running spotlight with Ryan Williams)
27. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
28. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (still bitter about his knucklehead effort against Dallas in Week 14)
29. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
30. RB Roy Helu, Redskins

The Crystal Ball Rules All, Part II
… And here are the next 30, spilling over into Round 5 for 12-teamers:
31. QB Eli Manning, Giants
32. RB Michael Turner, Falcons (Jacquizz Rodgers is a must-handcuff for Turner owners)
33. WR Jordy Nelson, Packers (needs one more Prove It season in fantasyland)
34. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
35. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
36. WR Wes Welker, Patriots (Free Agent)
37. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
38. RB Trent Richardson, Rookie (Alabama)
39. WR Victor Cruz, Giants
40. WR Brandon Marshall, Dolphins (a safe ranking for Mr. Pro Bowl)
41. RB Darren Sproles, Saints
42. RB Reggie Bush, Dolphins
43. R
B Mikel Leshoure, Lions (the perfect fantasy back for Detroit's offense)
44. WR Percy Harvin, Vikings (my favorite unsung hero from last year)
45. RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (on the verge of a breakout — again)
46. RB Shonn Greene, Jets
47. RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings (assuming AP won't be his typically stellar self until November)
48. RB Isaac Redman, Steelers (someone has to benefit from Pittsburgh's renewed commitment to the run)
49. WR Miles Austin, Cowboys
50. WR Marques Colston, Saints
51. RB Michael Bush, Raiders (Free Agent)
52. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
53. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers (a reputation fantasy pick)
54. TE Vernon Davis, 49ers
55. WR Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs (don't fall asleep on 2010's breakout receiver)
56. RB LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
57. RB Peyton Hillis, Browns (Free Agent)
58. WR Vincent Jackson, Chargers (Free Agent)
59. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
60. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers

The Next Wave
Quarterback: Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman

Running Back: Javhid Best, C.J. Spiller, Mark Ingram, Montario Hardesty, Ryan Grant, Willis McGahee and rookie Lamar Miller

Wide Receiver: Jeremy Maclin, Steve Smith, Antonio Brown, DeSean Jackson, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Julio Jones, Mike Williams, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon

Tight End: Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Pettigrew, Fred Davis, Dustin Keller, Jermaine Gresham

Super Prediction
Since 1970, the Super Bowl combatants from a particular year also met 12 times during that regular season — with the team seeking revenge on Super Sunday posting a 7-5 record. This stat, apropos of nothing, fits perfectly into my declaration of New England 31, N.Y. Giants 20. Enjoy the game!

Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter.

The Biggest Losers

The Quick Introduction
We've crunched the numbers from 46 glorious NFL seasons to identify the 25 Greatest Teams To Not Win The Super Bowl (plus two special mentions) — a list that rewards overall record, per-game point differential, turnover margin, blowout victories, strength of schedule … and any other bits of extra credit that would help vault teams into the countdown. So, in advance, we'd like to apologize to the 1967 Cowboys, 1974 Raiders, 1979 Oilers, 1981 Bengals, 1986 Bears, 1990 49ers, 1991 Lions, 1997 Packers, 2005 Seahawks and 2008 Titans, among others, for bypassing their significant contributions to NFL history.

1. 2007 New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 16-0
Home: 8-0 … Road: 8-0
Per-Game Point Differential: +19.7
Turnover Margin: +16
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 12
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 5-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Giants)

OVERVIEW: The Patriots' perfect regular season in 2007 was more than just an unblemished record; it was an across-the-board reckoning for a club that genuinely wanted to win every game 45-7, no exceptions. How else does one reconcile otherworldly production in point differential (19.7), turnover margin (+16), wins by 10 points of more (12) and a 6-0 mark against playoff teams — including three division winners? But alas, there's a fine line between being universally hailed as the greatest club in NFL history (on the precipice of 19-0) … and begrudgingly accepting the National Football Post's award for Best Team To Not Win A Super Bowl. But that's a reality of the ultimate bittersweet season. On the positive side, Tom Brady set an NFL record with 50 TD passes, with Randy Moss collecting an NFL-record 23 touchdown receptions. And realistically speaking, only the Ravens and Giants had fourth-quarter opportunities to spoil the Patriots' run of perfection during the regular season — a stunning achievement in a parity-driven era. But a loss in Super Bowl XLII slightly downgrades New England's once- in-a-generation dominance from September-December … to a mere footnote.

2. 1983 Washington Redskins

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +13.1
Turnover Margin: +43
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 11
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 5-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Raiders)

Joe TheismannThe Raiders proved to be too much for Joe Theismann and the 'Skins.

OVERVIEW: Forget the near-meltdown against the 49ers in the NFC title game (up 21-0 in the fourth quarter). Forget the futile showing against the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII (losing 38-9). From a regular-season perspective, the '83 Redskins trump nearly all comers in this countdown — even the high-powered Vikings of 1998. Looking at the numbers, Minnesota had a better overall record, more points scored and one additional blowout victory. But the Redskins, led by QB Joe Theismann, John Riggins, Art Monk, rookie Darrell Green and head coach Joe Gibbs, prevailed in the end, thanks to an eye- popping turnover margin (+43), a 5-1 mark versus playoff teams, two one-point losses and an actual Super Bowl appearance. There's also this consolation prize: The 1983 Redskins are the greatest defending Super Bowl champs to NOT repeat the following season.

3. 1998 Minnesota Vikings

Regular Season Record: 15-1
Home: 8-0 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +16.2
Turnover Margin: +14
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 12
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

OVERVIEW:The Vikings were a viable powerhouse in that 1998 season, amassing a then-NFL record 556 points (predating the '07 Patriots), registering 12 blowout wins and dismantling the opposition by 16.2 points per game. (This explosion coincided with rookie WR Randy Moss's NFL debut: 69 catches, 1,313 yards and 17 TDs.) Perhaps more impressive, the offense didn't supremely click until after backup QB Randall Cunningham (3,704 yards passing, 35 total TDs) took over in Week 3 (due to Brad Johnson's injury). Of course, Minnesota 's championship hopes were dashed by Atlanta in the NFC title game — remember Gary Anderson's only missed field goal in a two-year span? — precluding a titanic clash with the eventual champion Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII (John Elway's triumphant swan song).

4. 1968 Baltimore Colts

Regular Season Record: 13-1
Home: 6-1 … Road: 7-0
Per-Game Point Differential: +18.4
Turnover Margin: +7
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 11
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 1-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Jets)

OVERVIEW: We could break down the Colts' Super Bowl III loss to the Jets in myriad ways. But it's more fun to wonder how NFL history might have been written if Baltimore had not been party to the most storied upset of all time. Something like …
1) The AFL never earns the pre-merger respect of the NFL.
2) Coach Don Shula never feuds with Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom and ends up leaving Baltimore for the still-in-expansion-mode Dolphins in 1970. (The Shula-led Colts slumped to an 8-5-1 finish in 1969.)
3) Newly minted celebrity QB Joe Namath never gets the chance to visit Bobby Brady, on his phony death bed, in a campy but memorable episode of TV's The Brady Bunch.
4) Even worse, Namath never inks a landmark deal to endorse pantyhose for Beauty Mist in the mid-70s.

5. 2011 Green Bay Packers

Regular Season Record: 15-1
Home: 8-0 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +12.6
Turnover Margin: +24
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 6-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3.5
Playoff Extra Credit: None (although that will change if the Giants win SB XLVI)

OVERVIEW: The No. 5 ranking seems great … until you realize that heading into December, many pundits were hailing Green Bay as a viable candidate to go 19-0 and assume the mantle of Greatest Team In NFL History. But a Week 15 loss to the lowly Chiefs and Divisional Playoff home defeat to the Giants quickly softened the perception of these Packers, who were an offensive juggernaut throughout the year but mere mortals on the defensive end. Still, what's not to love about 560 seasonal points (just shy of the 2007 Patriots), 11 games of 30 or more points, a stellar turnover differential (+24) and sterling 6-0 mark against 2011 playoff clubs? Of course, that unblemished status doesn't include the devastating postseason loss to the Giants … but the Packers aren't the first dominant team to be snakebitten by New York in the NFL playoffs.

6. 2010 New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 8-0 … Road: 6-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +12.8
Turnover Margin: +28
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 6-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

Tom Brady & Wes WelkerTom Brady and Wes Welker couldn't get past the Jets in the AFC Divisional Round.

OVERVIEW: Tom Brady has reached the Super Bowl five times in his career (including next week's opportunity), but the 2010 Patriots might have been his most complete and balanced club over a 10-year period. Brady threw for 3,900 yards and 36 TDs (against only four INTs) and cruised to NFL MVP honors. Tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 13 TDs — while deftly sharing the rushing load with Danny Woodhead, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. Pass-catchers Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez finished with 700 yards or six touchdowns. And the typically bland New England defense allowed only 313 points — with 7 or fewer points in four of its last five regular-season games. But the true greatness of the 14-2 season lies with Brady, who led the Patriots to 30-plus points in the last eight games — which has to be a consecutive-games record.

7. 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

Regular Season Record: 10-4
Home: 6-1 … Road: 4-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +12.7
Turnover Margin: +15
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-3
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 5
Extra Credit, Part I: NFL modern-day record of 5 shutouts
Extra Credit, Part II: Lost to Super Bowl champ (Raiders)

OVERVIEW: At the very least, the 1976 Steelers are the greatest team to start 1-4 in any NFL season. In their final nine games that year — all Pittsburgh victories — the famed Steel Curtain defense surrendered a TOTAL of 28 points (or 3 per game), a ferocious, awe-inspiring run that included three consecutive shutouts (an NFL record). And in the playoffs, the Steelers demolished the Colts in Baltimore, 40-14 … before bowing out to the eventual champion Raiders in the AFC title game, a consequence of playing without injured running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Of course, this ranking comes with some controversy, as Pittsburgh is the only club in the countdown to lose every time against playoff competition during the regular season, and it was a pedestrian 4-3 away from the friendly confines of Three Rivers Stadium. But for us, 'tis better to stay on Jack Lambert's good side.

8. 1969 Minnesota Vikings

Regular Season Record: 12-2
Home: 7-0 … Road: 5-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +17.6
Turnover Margin: +12
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Chiefs)

OVERVIEW: The 1969 Vikings achieved the rare triple crown of leading the NFL in points scored (379), points allowed (133) and per-game point differential (17.6). Throw in nine blowout victories, a perfect mark against 1969 playoff teams and three outings of 50-plus points … and we're talking about one of the greatest single seasons in league history. But just like the 1968 Colts, the '69 Vikings will forever be stained by a Super Bowl loss to a seemingly inferior team (Kansas City) from a seemingly inferior league (AFL); and while the Chiefs get full props for taking down the Vikings when it mattered most — 65 Toss Power Trap, anyone? — it's important to include one gut-wrenching footnote: In Week 1 of the 1970 season — the first official year of the NFL-AFL merger — Minnesota exacted some revenge on Kansas City, rolling to an emotional 27-10 win in Bloomington.

9. 1984 Miami Dolphins

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +13.4
Turnover Margin: +8
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (49ers)

OVERVIEW: The 1982 Dolphins reached Super Bowl XVII on the strength of a dominating defense, affectionately dubbed The Killer B's. But when Miami reached The Big Game two years later, it had seamlessly morphed into an offensive machine, coinciding with the emergence of receivers Mark Duper, Mark Clayton and QB Dan Marino, who would break new ground with 48 TD passes in 1984 (an NFL record that stood for 20 years). With Marino (the sixth QB taken in Round 1 of the heralded '83 draft) leading the charge, the '84 Fins were virtually unstoppable, notching 10 blowout victories and a sizable point differential (13.4). The only drawbacks: In Week 11, Miami suffered its first loss to an underwhelming San Diego club (in overtime); and in the AFC playoffs, the Dolphins were lucky to avoid the defending champion Raiders (knocked out in the Wild Card round).

10. 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers

Regular Season Record: 15-1

8-0 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +7.6
Turnover Margin: +11
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champ (Patriots)

OVERVIEW: The NFL has churned out only five 15-1/16-0 teams since the league expanded the regular season to 16 games in 1978. So, the following statement shouldn't be constituted as a slap in the face to the Steel City faithful: The '04 Steelers are the worst 15-win team of the bunch. (how droll) With that said, there aren't enough superlatives to describe the balance between the Pittsburgh defense, ranked No. 1 in scoring that season, and the offense helmed by rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger (2,621 yards passing, 18 total TDs) and veteran RB Jerome Bettis (13 TDs). Following a Week 2 defeat to Baltimore, Big Ben and Co. ripped off 14 straight victories to finish the regular season. The Steelers were similarly stellar in three major areas: Turnover margin (+11), blowout wins (8) and 3-0 against playoff teams. And just like the 1979 Chargers, Pittsburgh posted easy regular-season wins against the future Super Bowl combatants — New England and Philadelphia (back-to-back weeks).

11. 1992 San Francisco 49ers

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +10.4
Turnover Margin: +7
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 5-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champ (Cowboys)

Steve YoungSteve Young and the Niners would go on to win a Super Bowl by blowing out the San Diego Chargers.

OVERVIEW: The 1992 Niners were as dynamic as their dynastic forebears of the 1980s, with Steve Young succeeding Joe Montana at quarterback and George Seifert seamlessly handling the coaching reins after Bill Walsh retired from the pro game in February 1989. Looking at the numbers, the '92 Niners earned strong marks in point differential (10.4), turnover margin (7), blowout wins (8) and overall record against playoff teams (5-1). For good measure, Young and Co. capped the regular season with eight straight victories — a necessity for holding off the eventual champion Cowboys in the race for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. Not that Dallas needed it to capture its first Lombardi trophy in 15 years.

12. 1990 Buffalo Bills

Regular Season Record: 13-3
Home: 8-0 … Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +10
Turnover Margin: +14
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 4-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Giants)

OVERVIEW: The 1990 Bills ruled the AFC through fear … and a devastating, quick-strike offense (27 points per game) that had no peer. Behind Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith (sorry, Andre Reed — for now), the '90 Bills enjoyed a problem-free run to the East title and AFC championship, thumping the Dolphins and Raiders in the playoffs before suffering a gut-wrenching loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. But that franchise-defining defeat — capped by kicker Scott Norwood's wide-right miss at the gun — doesn't obscure double-digit excellence in point differential and turnover margin, the nine blowout victories or a 4-2 mark against playoff teams (including the Giants in December). Unfortunately, New York got its revenge in January.

13. 1998 Atlanta Falcons

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 8-0 … Road: 6-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +8.6
Turnover Margin: +20
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Broncos)

OVERVIEW: There's plenty to love about the 1998 Falcons, from their perfect home record and monster turnover margin (+20) … to the eight decisive victories against top-notch competition. Throw in a major upset win in the NFC title game (over the juggernaut Vikings) and a respectable loss to John Elway's greatest Broncos team in Super Bowl XXXIV … and you have one of history's most undervalued clubs. How unsung was this group? The team's three biggest offensive weapons were QB Chris Chandler (3,154 yards passing, 25 TDs), RB Jamal Anderson (2,165 total yards, 16 TDs) and WR Tony Martin (1,181 yards, 6 TDs).

14. 1967 Los Angeles Rams

Regular Season Record: 11-1-2
Home: 5-1-1 … Road: 6-0-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +14.4
Turnover Margin: +16
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champ (Packers)

OVERVIEW: The 1967 Rams, led by QB Roman Gabriel and the Fearsome Foursome (Lamar Lundy, Roger Brown and Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones), enjoyed a sublime regular season — 10 blowout victories, one signature win over the eventual champion Packers, plus impressive margins with point differential (14.4) and turnovers (+16). Simply put, this might have been the Rams' second-greatest team of their 48-year tenure in Los Angeles (after the 1951 NFL champions — led by the immaculate QB tandem of Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield).

15. 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 … Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +11.2
Turnover Margin: +12
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

OVERVIEW: It's not a stretch to draw eerie parallels between the 1999 Jaguars and 2007 Patriots, the kingpins of this countdown. Both clubs proffered double-digit excellence in point differential and turnover margin, while
winning at least nine games by 10 points or more. The two head coaches, Tom Coughlin (Jags) and Bill Belichick (Patriots), were direct descendants of the Bill Parcells coaching tree. And both teams, excruciatingly, lost to only one franchise during their near-flawless campaigns. Of course, New England lost to the Giants in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII … whereas Jacksonville went 0-for-3 against division rival Tennessee. That, in a nutshell, explains why the Jags aren't sitting at No. 2.

Top 10 Championship Sundays

The Grand Introduction
For the casual American sports enthusiast, nothing compares to the pomp and circumstance of Super Sunday — complete with red-carpet celebrity appearances, big-budget, industry-changing commercials, endless food spreads, uplifting halftime musical extravaganzas and oh yeah, the Super Bowl itself. But for the hard-core NFL fan, the best football day likely occurs on Championship Sunday — a long-standing tradition of determining the two Super Bowl entrants in a clean seven-hour window every January. Well, this column caters to the fan who fondly recalls the efforts of Len Dawson, Dave Osborn, Dwight White, Mike Renfro, Ken Anderson, Dwight Clark, Mark Moseley, A.J. Duhe, Charles Mann, Merton Hanks or any other major contributor who helped make Championship Sunday the spectacle it is today.

Top 10 Championship Sundays Of The Super Bowl Era
1. 1987 Season — Washington 17, Minnesota 10/Denver 38, Cleveland 33
The Skinny: If not for the heroic efforts of Redskins cornerback Darrell Green (robbing Anthony Carter of a game-tying touchdown in the waning seconds) and Broncos safety Jeremiah Castille (famously stripping Browns tailback Earnest Byner before a game-tying score in the final minute), this Championship Sunday would have produced two overtime classics, thus crushing its competition in this category by the largest of margins. Instead, we're left to celebrate two amazing games that titillated TV viewers from the first whistle to the final gun — while perpetuating the notions that Vikings and Browns fans are a cursed bunch, resigned to never experience the enduring dream of just one Lombardi Trophy.

Dwight Clark“The catch.”

2. 1981 Season — Cincinnati 27, San Diego 7/San Francisco 28, Dallas 27
The Skinny: And now for the most memorable pairing of Championship Sunday games, starting with the Freezer Bowl at Riverfront Stadium, where the Bengals and Chargers encountered stifling crosswinds and a wind-chill factor of minus-59 … and ending with Joe Montana's game-winning pass to Dwight Clark to upset the Cowboys, aka The Catch game. Eight days prior to the AFC title game, San Diego outlasted Miami 41-38 in perhaps the greatest playoff game of the Super Bowl era, withstanding warm temperatures, high humidity and intense cramping (see Kellen Winslow) to trump the Fins. (Dolphins-Chargers also featured two 400-yard passers — Dan Fouts/Don Strock.) For Dallas-San Francisco, this game marked the beginning of the 49ers' dynasty under Bill Walsh … and Montana's reign as the most dominant quarterback of the 1980s.

3. 1967 Season — Green Bay 21, Dallas 17/Oakland 40, Houston 7
The Skinny: Let's be honest. Oakland could have eked past Houston 3-2 in the AFL championship … and this Sunday pairing still would have grabbed a top-5 finish — thanks to The Ice Bowl, the Packers' most significant victory of all time and one that cemented Lambeau Field's status as an iconic sports venue. Who can forget the images of CBS announcers Ray Scott, Jack Buck and Frank Gifford standing on the sidelines before kickoff, half-heartedly pretending not to be affected by the minus-15 temperatures? Or Cowboys receiver and future Hall of Famer Bob Hayes running pass patterns with hands in pockets? Or the sight of Jerry Kramer executing the most famous block in NFL history — enabling Bart Starr to win the game on a QB-sneak touchdown in the final seconds? The Ice Bowl eventually produced 14 Hall of Famers — including coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry and Cowboys GM Tex Schramm — a list that curiously doesn't include Kramer, arguably the most celebrated offensive guard in all of pro football.

4. 2007 — New England 21, San Diego 12/N.Y. Giants 23, Green Bay 20 (OT)
The Skinny: The first half of Championship Sunday brought to light two significant feats: Tom Brady and the Patriots becoming the first 18-0 club in NFL history … and Chargers QB Philip Rivers earning Jack Youngblood-esque toughness points for playing the entire AFC title game just a week after suffering an ACL knee tear. The nightcap did wonders for the legacies of Eli Manning, Michael Strahan, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin and their transformation from underachievers to conquering heroes … while giving Packers fans one unseemly snapshot of Brett Favre's last pass in green-and-gold — in the form of a crucial overtime interception in Green Bay territory. NFL fans with a non-rooting interest also snapped an enduring photo from this classic — Coughlin's frostbitten face on one of Lambeau's c-c-c-coldest days in recent memory.

5. 1995 — Pittsburgh 20, Indianapolis 16/Dallas 38, Green Bay 27
The Skinny: Leave it to <strong>Jim Harbaugh
, aka Captain Comeback in his playing days, to almost steal the spotlight from Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Reggie White, Robert Brooks and Favre on this Championship Sunday. Had Colts receiver Aaron Bailey cleanly corralled Harbaugh's Hail Mary pass to end the AFC title game in Pittsburgh, it might have marked the second-greatest occurrence in postseason history — right after Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception against Oakland in 1972. Instead, we're left with the amazing sight of Bailey losing full control of the Hail Mary pass at the last possible second, under a sea of Steelers defenders trying to jar the ball loose. For Packers-Cowboys, Favre and Aikman combined for 562 yards passing and five TDs … with Smith, Irvin and Brooks amassing 372 total yards and seven TDs in one of the more entertaining championship bouts you'll ever see. For once, the actual game exceeded its preceding megahype.

John ElwayDespite winning two Super Bowls, John Elway may be remembered best for “The Drive.”

6. 1986 — Denver 23, Cleveland 20 (OT)/N.Y. Giants 17, Washington 0
The Skinny: We couldn't post a list of unforgettable Championship Sundays without a salute to John Elway's most legendary playoff appearance, via The Dri
ve — a 98-yard TD journey against the Browns to force overtime in the AFC title game. If there's been a more pressure-packed drive in NFL history — where the opposing quarterback was deep in his own territory and hounded by inhospitable fans — I can't think of it. Which brings us to the controversial kick in overtime: If anyone can produce hard video evidence that Rich Karlis's game-winning field goal actually sailed through the uprights … please let me know. (HA!) For the New York-Washington game, NFL nation learned of the awesome power of Giants Stadium when near-Gale-force winds and one of the modern era's stingiest defenses join forces. In the Giants' two NFC playoff games that season, they outscored the 49ers and Redskins 66-3.

7. 1968 — NY Jets 27, Oakland 23/Baltimore 34, Cleveland 0
The Skinny: Steelers and Vikings fans, circa 1974, might dispute this particular Championship Sunday ranking, given the Colts' road rout of the Browns in the NFL title game. But a closer look reveals the following: The Jets' thrilling comeback win over the Raiders stands as the most significant occurrence in AFL history … giving Joe Namath the platform to make the most famous guarantee in sports. It also perpetuated the myth the Colts were an indestructible machine, worthy of being 20-point favorites in Super Bowl III and incapable of falling to a pass-happy club from a supposedly inferior football league. If Baltimore had to scrap and fight to beat Cleveland in the NFL title game … perhaps the David v. Goliath buildup to the Super Bowl wouldn't have been so pronounced; and maybe, just maybe Namath doesn't get provoked into guaranteeing victory at some random banquet in Miami, four days prior to kickoff. (Strange but true: Miami Herald scribe Edwin Pope was the only writer to publish a story immediately off Namath's impromptu prediction.)

8. 2009 — Indianapolis 30, N.Y. Jets 17/New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28 (OT)
The Skinny: This underrated Championship Sunday would have merited a higher ranking if the Jets hadn't buckled under the weight of newly minted expectations after rolling to an early 10-0 lead over the heavily favored Colts (not unlike the Jets' 10-0 halftime lead over the Broncos in the '98 AFC title game). But this Sunday garners its fame from the Vikings-Saints clash, where Favre (310 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs) was one ill-advised, across-the-body interception away from leading Minnesota to its fifth Super Bowl. On this day, Drew Brees only threw for 197 yards; but his three TD passes were enough to set up the Saints for overtime … and the subsequent game-winning drive immediately after the coin flip. Vikings fans will recall this game for Adrian Peterson's inexplicable fumbles and Favre's last-minute INT; but NFL execs will remember this one for being the impetus of revised scoring rules for overtime playoff games.

9. 2006 — Chicago 39, New Orleans 14/Indianapolis 38, New England 34
The Skinny: Don't let the final score of Saints-Bears fool you. Heading into the fourth quarter, Chicago was clinging to an 18-14 lead and desperately seeking a way to control the New Orleans troika of Brees (354 yards passing, 2 TDs), RB Reggie Bush (151 total yards, 1 TD) and WR Marques Colston (5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD) … before pulling away with three late scores to seal the franchise's first Super Bowl berth in 21 years. The second game obviously takes the cake, though, with Peyton Manning orchestrating the greatest comeback in Championship Sunday history. Down 21-6 to New England, Indy rallied for 32 second-half points and broke the Colts' 36-year Super Bowl drought. Strange but true: Manning threw for 349 yards and one touchdown — but no receivers or tailbacks caught his lone TD pass. That honor went to a defensive-tackle-turned-eligible-reciever-at-the-goal-line, former Patriot Dan Klecko.

10. 1974 — Minnesota 14, L.A. Rams 10/Pittsburgh 24, Oakland 13
The Skinny: How's this for cool synergy? From 1972-77, the Raiders and Steelers met on the same field 10 times — including four legendary playoff battles. And from 1973-79, the Rams and Vikings — the NFL's second-best rivalry of the 1970s — also played one another 10 times … including the infamous Mud Bowl (January 1978). Going back to the 1974 season, both the Vikings and Steelers got regular-season revenge on Championship Sunday, with Minnesota capitalizing on five Rams turnovers in the NFC title game and Pittsburgh pulling off a road shocker in the AFC championship — just a week after the Raiders ended the Dolphins' three-year reign as AFC champions in the iconic Sea Of Hands game … or 'Super Bowl 8 1/2' to some in the media. In the Steelers' victory, rushers Rocky Bleier (123 total yards) and Franco Harris combined for 234 total yards and two touchdowns, while QB Terry Bradshaw completed only four passes to Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Over 70 seasons, this upset stands as the Steelers' sweetest road triumph.

Honorable Mention
1998 — Falcons upend Vikings in OT thriller/Broncos overcome 10-0 deficit to beat Jets
1985 — Bears blank Giants, notch second straight shutout in NFC playoffs/Pats topple Marino's Dolphins in 31-14 upset
1992 — Bills sprint past Dolphins/Cowboys get 11-year revenge on 49ers, win NFC title at Candlestick
2001Bledsoe relieves Brady, spurs Pats' upset of Steelers/Warner outduels McNabb in Rams' shootout win
1994 — Chargers stifle Steelers at the goal line to win AFC crown/49ers cruise past Cowboys after blazing 21-0 start
1975 — Steelers outlast Raiders on icy Three Rivers turf/Cowboys pummel Rams by 30 in L.A.

Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter.

Finish strong

Week 16 Rules To Live By
1. Don't fall in love with one-hit wonders. Indy's Donald Brown (163 total yards, 1 TD), Chicago's Kahlil Bell (108 total yards, 1 TD) and Arizona's Andre Roberts (6 catches, 60 yards, 1 TD) all posted surprisingly stellar performances last week … creating the illusion they'll be solid fantasy bets again for Week 16. But in my mind, the biggest weekend of the NFL season — and perhaps the most important fantasy Saturday/Sunday of your life — is NOT the best time to experiment with flawed, inconsistent assets. Yes, Dwayne Bowe, Beanie Wells, Rashard Mendenhall and LeGarrette Blount have mellowed out somewhat in recent weeks, but they're still more palatable Fantasy Bowl options … especially when facing the Raiders, Bengals, Rams and Panthers.

2. It's OK to run counter-intelligent moves to your Fantasy Bowl opponent. During the regular season, I can be rather indifferent about my head-to-head competition for a given week — especially when lording over 11 leagues, plus commissioner duties. (I'm more consumed with Total Points For and Power Rankings.) But during the playoffs, it's imperative to maximize your points, while minimizing the impact of your opponent's star players. For example, if Owner B has Tony Romo at QB … I highly recommend starting Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson or Jason Witten as a savvy reflex. The reasoning is simple: If Romo is going to roll for 3-4 touchdowns against the Eagles, there's a strong chance all the TD passes will go to the above foursome. On a smaller scale, the same holds true for quarterbacks and defenses. If Owner B has Eli Manning as his/her QB1, make every effort to start the Jets D/ST — just in case Manning tosses three interceptions and one pick-six in Saturday's Big Apple battle.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff, like kickers and defenses. It's real simple here: If you have a top-10 kicker, don't mess with success. And if you have a top-7 defense or one that gets to haunt Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Jacksonville in Week 16 … therein lies the key to playoff success!

Tony GonzalezICONMake sure Tony G is in your starting lineup this weekend. No sense in sitting at this juncture.

4. Start all productive players from the Falcons, Eagles, Saints, Chargers, Cowboys and Lions this weekend. The scheduling gods sometimes smile on fantasyland … and when that happens, act accordingly. For all-important Week 16, you likely can't go wrong with starting regulars from Chargers-Lions, Eagles-Cowboys and Falcons-Saints — a game where pass-catching stars like Roddy White, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Lance Moore and Julio Jones each possess the potential for 85 yards and/or one TD on the lightning-fast surface of the Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome. (Let's hope these naming rights stick longer than Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium, er, Pro Player Park, er, LandShark Stadium, er, Sun Life Stadium, er, “Insert Name Here” Stadium.)

Week 16: QB Locks For 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs
1. Drew Brees vs. Atlanta
2. Aaron Rodgers vs. Chicago
3. Tom Brady vs. Miami
4. Philip Rivers @ Detroit
5. Michael Vick @ Dallas
6. Matthew Stafford vs. San Diego
7. Tony Romo vs. Philadelphia
8. Rex Grossman vs. Minnesota

RB Locks For 120 Total Yards and/or 2 TDs
1. Arian Foster @ Indianapolis
2. Chris Johnson vs. Jacksonville
3. Ray Rice vs. Cleveland
4. Adrian Peterson @ Washington
5. Willis McGahee @ Buffalo
6. Michael Turner @ New Orleans
7. Ryan Mathews @ Detroit
8. LeSean McCoy @ Dallas
9. DeAngelo Williams vs. Tampa Bay
10. C.J. Spiller vs. Denver
11. Michael Bush @ Kansas City

WR Locks For 110 Yards and/or 1 TD
1. Calvin Johnson vs. San Diego
2. Mike Wallace vs. St. Louis
3. Brandon Marshall @ New England
4. Jordy Nelson vs. Chicago
5. Santana Moss vs. Minnesota
6. Roddy White @ New Orleans
7. Hakeem Nicks @ N.Y. Jets
8. Marques Colston vs. Atlanta
9. Dez Bryant vs. Philadelphia
10. Earl Bennett @ Green Bay (super-sleeper pick)

Kicker Locks For 3-Plus Field Goals
1. Mason Crosby vs. Chicago
2. Billy Cundiff vs. Cleveland
3. Neil Rackers @ Indianapolis
4. Shaun Suisham vs. St. Louis
5. Stephen Gostkowski vs. Miami
6. Mike Nugent vs. Arizona

Opportunity Knocks
For those seeking redemption from a failed regular season or inexplicable postseason flameout, I offer a chance to join me (and countless friends from the Seattle area) in an established postseason fantasy league — once the NFL playoff pairings are announced. Please hit me on Twitter in January, if interested.

Tomorrow Never Knows … OK, Maybe It Does, Part I
I have brainstormed an admittedly rudimentary estimate of the Top 50 fantasy players for 2012 (non-PPR). Here are the first 25:
1. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
2. RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
3. RB Arian Foster, Texans
4. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
5. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
6. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
7. RB Chris Johnson, Titans
8. RB Ryan Mathews, Chargers
9. RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
10. QB Drew Brees, Saints
11. RB Fred Jackson, Bills
12. RB Matt Forte, Bears
13. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars
14. RB Michael Turner, Falcons
15. QB Tom Brady, Patriots
16. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
17. TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
18. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
19. RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys
20. RB Frank Gore, 49ers
21. WR Mike Wallace, Steelers
22. RB Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
23. WR Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
24. WR Roddy White, Falcons
25. RB Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers

Tomorrow Never Knows … OK, Maybe It Does, Part II
… And here are the next 25, spilling over into Round 5 for 12-teamers:
26. QB Matthew Stafford, Lions
27. WR Gre
g Jennings
, Packers
28. WR Hakeem Nicks, Giants
29. RB Steven Jackson, Rams
30. RB Roy Helu, Redskins
31. QB Michael Vick, Eagles
32. QB Eli Manning, Giants
33. TE Jimmy Graham, Saints
34. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
35. QB Tony Romo, Cowboys
36. QB Cam Newton, Panthers
37. WR Dez Bryant, Cowboys
38. RB Shonn Greene, Jets
39. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
40. RB Trent Richardson, University of Alabama*
41. RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants
42. RB LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
43. TE Aaron Hernandez, Patriots
44. QB Peyton Manning, Colts
45. QB Philip Rivers, Chargers
46. RB Peyton Hillis</strong>, Free Agent (not likely to return to Browns)
47. TE Antonio Gates, Chargers
48. RB Jahvid Best, Lions (Mikel Leshoure works here, as well)
49. QB Matt Schaub, Texans
50. RB Michael Bush, Raiders (high-end handcuff to D-Mac)
* – likely to turn pro before the NFL draft in April

YouTube Memory Lane
1. 1979 — <i>Monday Night Football … Let's rehash one of my favorite chestnuts of the year: Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert unleashes a nasty high-elbow shot on Broncos receiver Haven Moses. Two things make this clip eminently watchable: Howard Cosell shamelessly lampoons Moses for not making a leaping, in-traffic catch of a substandard Craig Morton pass … and 'Dandy' Don Meredith expresses little sympathy for Moses getting flattened by a future Hall of Famer. If this play had occurred last week, the NFL mini-universe would be up in arms over Lambert not getting flagged for “hitting a defenseless receiver” — with ESPN subsequently playing the Is Lambert a dirty player? card with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith the following Monday. And yet, in 1979, there were greater safety concerns for Lynn Swann leapfrogging a car, curiously placed near the end zone. What, Three Rivers Stadium didn't have adequate parking then?

2. 1979 — Seattle fans might want to avert their eyes from this all-time disaster, with the Rams holding the Seahawks to -7 total yards and one first down in a 24-0 rout at The Kingdome. As you may have guessed, the 'minus-7' still stands as the NFL record for Fewest Yards By One Team In A Single Game; remarkably, though, the Seahawks' one first down was never an NFL precedent … as five teams — the 1933 Eagles, 1933 Steelers, 1935 Eagles, 1942 Giants and 1966 Broncos — all went an entire game without gaining 10 yards in 4 downs or less. Ouch! Postscript: Six days prior to the Seahawks' historic meltdown, the franchise garnered a level of never-before-attained fame on Monday Night Football … by stunning the Falcons on Efren Herrera's fake-kick/go-route reception to set up the winning score — prompting the awesome Cosell quote: (Head coach) Jack Patera is giving the nation … a lesson in creative football!

3. 1980 (Oilers-Steelers) — In the 1979 AFC Championship Game (played on Jan. 6, 1980), Houston's Vernon Perry shocks the black-and-gold Pittsburgh faithful with a 75-yard pick-six off Hall of Famer-to-be Terry Bradshaw. This game marked the zenith of the Oilers' Luv Ya Blue era, highlighted by head coach Bum Phillips, QB Dan Pastorini and Earl Campbell, the Hall of Fame back who rushed for an incredible 6,457 yards and 55 touchdowns in his first four pro seasons (1977-80). From a more historic standpoint, thanks to Mike Renfro's non-scoring touchdown catch in the third quarter — where all of America could plainly see that Renfro had two feet inbounds in the end zone — the NFL might have been motivated to experiment with instant replay in the 1980s … before fully adopting it for modern-day use. Could you imagine the social-media outrage today, if a crucial call in a championship game couldn't be overturned, via instant replay? Let's give a tiny bit of credit to Renfro and NBC announcer Dick Enberg for planting that technologically advanced seed on a cold, blustery day in Steel City. (Cue the disco-themed outro)

Goodbye … And Good Luck!
Well, here it is … perhaps the last fantasy football-related paragraph of my lifetime; and as part of that, it's been my sincere pleasure to share unsolicited advice, anecdotal stories and YouTube memories apropos of nothing to the fantasy masses this season. (Hopefully my July-based guarantee of Make The Playoffs … Or Your Money Back came through, as well.) I would also like to thank the National Football Post powers-that-be — Andrew Brandt, Jack Bechta, Matt Bowen, and especially Elise Menaker (the omnipresent intern) and Joe Fortenbaugh — for providing a twice-a-week forum to celebrate the game/hobby that has effectively consumed my life for the last 10 years. I'll leave with five parting words: Don't ever bench Larry Fitzgerald!

Jay Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter.

Week 15 Revelations

The Grand Introduction
With a large segment of the populace no longer contending for a fantasy championship — either from a disheartening playoff exodus or substandard record during the regular season — we'll simplify today's Revelations to include only the key events from Sunday. That comment isn't a referendum on the uniquely unheralded talents of Indy's Donald Brown or Arizona's Andre Roberts or an excuse-making venture for Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson; it's more of the time-tested rationale that Brown and Roberts aren't consistent enough to start in your Fantasy Bowl lineup … and Rodgers and Peterson should recapture their superstar form in Week 16. And now, our final Revelations of the 2011 season:

Week 15 Revelations
1. When I hailed Matthew Stafford as The Next John Elway back in 2006 (his freshman season at Georgia), it wasn't in the context that he would someday pull off 98-yard miracle TD drives in highly pressurized situations. Stafford deserves every last word of that long intro after amassing 391 yards passing and four touchdowns against Oakland and vaulting the 9-5 Lions (the No. 6 seed in the NFC playoff race) to the franchise's most thrilling comeback victory of my lifetime. For all we know, this game might have been Stafford's coming-of-age experience as a star quarterback, a signature event that launches the Lions' candidacy for the next six Super Bowls; but since this is a fantasy column … let's stick to two primary proclamations: For standard-scoring, 12-team drafts in 2012, WR Calvin Johnson (9 catches, 214 yards, 2 TDs) is a surefire Round 1 pick and Stafford (4,145 yards/33 TDs) could be slotted ahead of Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo — leading the second wave of elite fantasy QBs after Rodgers, Brady and Brees. Speak of the devil …

Drew BreesDrew Brees is headed for Dan Marino's passing record.

2. Drew Brees is clearly in a rush to obliterate Dan Marino's NFL record for seasonal passing yards. It wasn't enough for Brees (412 yards passing, 5 TDs vs. Minnesota) to modestly average 239 yards passing in his final three games to eclipse Marino's 27-year-old mark of 5,084 yards; apparently, he wants the full 717 yards in Weeks 15 and 16 … with a possible chance to rest in Week 17. Assuming that's the case, Brees (37 TDs) is a no-brainer starter against the Falcons next week, with the same holding true for WR Marques Colston (8 catches, 91 yards), TE Jimmy Graham (7 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD; team-high 10 targets), RB Darren Sproles (112 total yards, 1 TD) and even RB Pierre Thomas (85 yards, 1 TD). Bottom line: If the Saints are a healthy lock to post 27-plus points against Atlanta, doesn't it stand to reason there will be plenty of fantasy juice for everyone above? There might even be some left for tailbacks Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory (74 yards) — depending on Ingram's lingering toe injury.

3. LeSean McCoy should be the next No. 1 overall pick in standard-scoring drafts. It's a vicious cycle, for sure. Elite running back enjoys monster season right before he's eligible for a contract extension … prompting a lengthy holdout the following summer and subsequent slow return to dominance in September, once the ink dries on the new deal. But with the 23-year-old McCoy (97 total yards, 3 TDs vs. the Jets), I have a feeling the Eagles will take care of business before training camp starts, enabling Shady to continue building a scintillating resume that, historically speaking, has few peers amongst running backs after three seasons. Now, is it reasonable to believe McCoy (1,579 total yards, 20 TDs in 2011) will easily roll for 20-plus TDs in the coming seasons? Uh, probably not. But that's hardly a deterrent: Adrian Peterson has rumbled for 18 touchdowns just once in his stellar career … and he's usually the de facto choice for the top spot in August. Next summer, though, AP may have to settle for the 2-slot.

4. Expect Arian Foster to be the alpha male among running backs in Week 16. Thank god this is a fantasy column … otherwise, we'd spend too much time lamenting how the 10-4 Texans could never reach the Super Bowl with T.J. Yates at quarterback or a painfully mediocre receiving corps when Andre Johnson's in street clothes. But we'll spare Yates (227 total yards, zero TDs, 2 INTs vs. Carolina) and WR Kevin Walter (2 catches, 26 yards) of any Monday mocking and simply revel in Foster's brilliance against the Panthers (167 total yards, 1 TD) … and how he's a lead-pipe cinch to dominate the Colts next week. Especially now that Indy has little motivation — professional pride aside — to earn its second victory and miss out on drafting Stanford's Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in April. At this point, Foster (1,667 total yards, 9 TDs in 2011) is a solid bet for 155 total yards and one score on Christmas Eve. (Ho ho ho)

5. Fantasy GMs might have to erase all memories of Reggie Bush and C.J. Spiller from Sunday. Obviously, it will be difficult to forget Bush racking up a career-high 203 rushing yards (and one TD) against Buffalo or Spiller chalking up his finest day as a pro (167 total yards, 2 TDs). And yet, it's the prudent thing to do for a few reasons: In Bush's case, the Dolphins are searching for a new head coach, who may feature a bigger (and younger) back like Daniel Thomas (42 yards) next year; and with Spiller, the Bills are likely in no rush to end his highly productive timeshare with RB Fred Jackson (a fantasy MVP candidate before his season-ending injury). If this dilemma sounds familiar, it's the same gut-wrenching assessment/projection that owners had to make with Carolina's DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart after both backs rushed for 1,000 yards in 2009 — and Stewart punctuated the Week 16 championship round with 206 rushing yards and one TD against the Giants. Regarding the situations in Miami and Buffalo, it's best to embrace the RB handcuff next August … or ignore it in the early rounds.

6. Don't be surprised if Greg Little takes a Greg Jennings-esque fantasy leap in Year 2. To be fair, Jennings had Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers as his quarterbacks for that 2007 breakout campaign (53 catches, 920 yards, 12 TDs) … whereas Little (5 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD vs. Arizona) currently fields passes from Colt McCoy (DNP in Week 15) and Seneca Wallace (247 total yards, 1 TD). But there's a reason why Browns personnel czar Mike Holmgren tapped Pat Shurmur as the franchise's head coach: Shurmur has a track record of developing QBs in
progressive offenses, indicating that either McCoy or a high-end rookie (Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones) will help Little (87 targets in his last 10 games) become a top-15 receiver next season. Clip and save: If you're looking for Round 3 value at a Round 8-or-later price in the preseason, Little serves as the perfect low-risk, high-yield commodity.

Revelations, Book II
7. In the curious case of Ryan Mathews … are you not being entertained? OK, so maybe Mathews (119 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Baltimore) didn't possess a Toucan Sam-like nose for the end zone prior to the Ravens game, scoring just four times from Weeks 1-14. But that really shouldn't hinder his preseason standing for next year (or the foreseeable future): Simply put, is it possible to hold a grudge against an explosive back who could flirt with 1,800 total yards for the next six seasons … if he only hits end-zone paydirt 6-7 times a year? (Rhetorical question … no need to answer.) Of course, it helps that Mathews has WR Vincent Jackson (93 total yards), WR Malcom Floyd (5 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD), TE Antonio Gates and QB Philip Rivers (270 yards passing, 1 TD) as true-blue/powder-blue allies; but regardless of whether coach Norv Turner stays in San Diego beyond this season … Mathews holds the key to the club's future production. Even if Mike Tolbert (58 total yards, 1 TD) remains one of fantasyland's most effective goal-line vultures.

Tom BradyTom Brady got the best of Tim Tebow in their first-ever showdown.

8. Tim Tebow will neither be celebrated nor disparaged in Revelations this season … despite his uncanny knack for making (only) one receiver very happy every Sunday. Sure, we could handle Tebow's spirited day against the Patriots (287 total yards, 2 TDs) in a variety of ways, but let's focus on seven of his 11 completions going to WR Demaryius Thomas (116 yards; team-high 13 targets). How is that possible? Not even Jerry Rice, Randy Moss or Andre Johnson commanded such a huge market share of a quarterback's success in their prime. For what it's worth, Thomas is close to earning a top-12 ranking in receiving targets, yards and touchdowns for the season's latter half; and with that metamorphosis, WR Eric Decker (1 catch, 22 yards vs. New England) has essentially become an afterthought in the Broncos' charmingly archaic offense. Without a doubt, Tebow has made some interesting fantasy strides in the last six weeks, exceeding 220 total yards at nearly every turn. But in 12-team leagues, he's still a preferred-status backup. As far as Denver runners go, Willis McGahee (70 total yards) remains the best starting option — when toting the rock more than seven times a game.

9. Don't sleep on Aaron Hernandez as a Round 5/6 pick next year. The assumption goes that if Hernandez (9 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD; team-high 11 targets vs. Denver) wasn't playing second fiddle to Rob Gronkowski, he'd be an elite fantasy asset at his position. But a closer look at his portfolio reveals that Hernandez (68 catches, 736 yards, 6 TDs) already merits supreme mention with the likes of Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Vernon Davis, Fred Davis (when he's not suspended) and Jermichael Finley. In fact, Hernandez could be the third tight end taken in standard-scoring drafts for 2012 … and fourth in Points Per Reception leagues (behind Gronkowski, Graham, Witten). This out-of-the-box thinking has everything to do with Tom Brady (320 yards passing, 2 TDs) and that New England will likely devote its draft/free-agent resources to rebuilding the defense this spring — allowing for Hernandez to be the Patriots' No. 3 playmaker (behind Gronk and Wes Welker).

10. Let's accentuate the positives from the Titans' desultory loss to the previously winless Colts. OK, so this exercise may be a tough pill to swallow for every fan who assumed Tennessee would coast to victory; but from a numbers perspective, it's hard to complain about Chris Johnson (109 total yards, 18 PPR points), QB Jake Locker's sneaky-good relief appearance (117 total yards, 1 TD) or that CJ2K, TE Jared Cook (9 catches, 103 yards), WR Nate Washington (7 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD) and WR Lavelle Hawkins (8 catches, 88 yards) combined for 44 targets on Sunday — a sign the Titans' passing game (presumably under Locker) will garner much fantasy respect in 2012, particularly when Kenny Britt returns. As for next week, start Johnson in all scoring formats … and expect something in the ballpark of 125 total yards and one TD against the Jaguars.

11. Darrius Heyward-Bey is closer to becoming a top-20 receiver than you think. Heyward-Bey (8 catches, 155 yards, 1 TD; team-high 8 targets vs. Detroit) has posted admirable numbers in two four-game spurts this season — 22 catches, 39 targets, 385 yards, 1 TD from Weeks 4-7 and 20 catches, 38 targets, 298 yards, 2 TDs from Weeks 12-15. For a full 16-game slate, we're potentially talking about 84 catches, 154 targets, 1,376 yards and six TDs — stats befitting of a top-10 wideout and Round 3/4 pick. Now comes the reality check: Given the futile production of his first two years in Oakland, Heyward-Bey will surely encounter one more offseason of fantasy indifference, as GMs adopt a Prove It Again philosophy before buying into the hype of ANY Raiders wideout evolving into a week-in, week-out dynamo for QB Carson Palmer (367 yards passing, 1 TD). Plus, running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush (135 total yards) are still Options 1 and 1a. One last thing: Before anyone asks … yes, I plan on drafting DHB slightly higher than Michael Crabtree next summer.

Hakeem NicksHakeem Nicks and the Giants put up a stinker on Sunday.

12. Blame ESPN for jinxing Hakeem Nicks against the Redskins. By now, you've probably seen Nicks' unfortunate drop of an easy TD from Eli Manning in the first half, perilously setting the tone for the Giants' shocking home defeat. But perhaps you missed the ESPN Sunday Countdown feature decrying that Nicks (5 catches, 73 yards; team-high 12 targets vs. Washington) possesses the NFL's best pair of hands — in the company of Hall of Famer-to-be Cris Carter. Lucky for Nicks, we're not going to equate one blown touchdown to getting suspended in the first half of a crucial intra-division game (ahem, Ahmad Bradshaw) or throwing three ugly interceptions against a 4-win team (Manning). As for the Christmas Eve clash with the Jets, we&#3
9;re guaranteeing 110 yards and/or one TD for Nicks — without or without Darrelle Revis tracking his every move.

13. Steven Jackson is a victim of circumstance … on so many levels. Let us count the ways in which Jackson (143 total yards, 23 PPR points vs. Cincinnati) is wasting the best years of his professional life in St. Louis: The Rams have won only 13 of 75 games since 2007. Their franchise QB (the injured Sam Bradford) will apparently be on the trading block in the spring (ESPN speculation). Head coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney may be sent packing by season's end. The pass-catchers — Brandon Lloyd aside — are a hot mess (although Danario Alexander deserves kudos for an amazing TD reception). And when presented with the option of starting Tom Brandstater, A.J. Feeley or Kellen Clemens against the Bengals … the Rams chose the QB who had been with the club for 11 days and hadn't thrown a TD pass since 2007 (with the Jets). Back to Jackson: If the above indignities weren't punishment enough for the all-star back, S-Jax has the untimely misfortune of facing two of the NFL's stingiest run defenses (Steelers, 49ers) in Week 16 and 17. It goes without saying: Jackson should only be a flex-starting consideration next week.

An award-winning fantasy writer with Sports Illustrated (2008-2010) before joining the National Football Post, Jay Clemons' Fantasy Philanthropist Blog can be found here every Monday and Thursday of the fantasy season (Weeks 1-16). Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter.

Double trouble

The Grand Introduction
It can only mean one of two things if you're reading today's column, cover to cover: Either you've reached the semifinal round of the fantasy playoffs (congrats!) … or you simply can't get enough Brent Musburger or Jimmy 'The Greek' Snyder' clips from yesteryear, via YouTube. There's also one more ancillary reason for tuning in just 10 days before Christmas: You've been a tireless devotee to the Fantasy Philanthropist, forsaking friends, family, office gossip and work-related assignments every Monday and Thursday afternoon … for which I humbly, happily say, Thank you, and please get a life. HA! Moving on to the next round …

Week 15 Rules To Live By
1. Ride your studs for Weeks 14-16. At the risk of repeating popular refrains from weeks past, Round 2 of the playoffs is NOT a time for overthinking or experimentation. Unless your star is severely limited by an injury … owners must assume elite talents will bring their typical A-games to the weekend party (uh, except Ahmad Bradshaw). If you've been riding Percy Harvin (38 catches, 445 yards, 5 TDs since Week 10) as a flex starter for the season's second half … there's no point in deviating from that savvy stance. If you're convinced that Michael Bush is the Raiders' only hope for victory — or avoiding 30-point deficits at halftime — keep throwing him to the wolves (and Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, who's back from a two-game supspension). But if you're thinking about benching Larry Fitzgerald because of his made-for-TV clash with Browns CB Joe Haden … perhaps you should stop reading and head back to the mall. Bottom line: Stars are stars for a reason; so let's not delude ourselves into thinking that Arian Foster cannot dominate the Panthers on Sunday. OK?

Tim TebowCan Tim Tebow muster up a big performance against a shaky New England defense?

2. Don't assume fantasy greatness for Tim Tebow against the pass-friendly Patriots. New England may have the NFL's worst pass defense, but it would be foolish for Denver to abandon its run-first, run-second strategy in this spotlight game. The Broncos, for all their many warts, are an above-average running team when Tebow's deftly operating the read-option and Willis McGahee isn't hindered by knee, hamstring or ankle injuries; and it's a primary reason for the club rebounding from a 45-10 debacle in Week 8 to post six straight victories. (Not to mention taking America and Twitter Nation by storm.) Unless Tebow has plenty of time for garbage-scoring passes on Sunday, he's still only a lock for 235 total yards and one touchdown. Decent numbers for a QB2.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff, like kickers and defenses. It's real simple here: If you have a top-10 kicker, don't mess with success. And if you have a top-10 defense or one that gets to play Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Jacksonville in Weeks 15 or 16 … therein lies the key to playoff success!

4. Start all productive players from the Ravens, Vikings, Giants, Chargers, Redskins and Saints this weekend. The scheduling gods sometimes smile on fantasyland … and when that happens, act accordingly. For all-important Week 15, you likely can't go wrong with starting regulars from Ravens-Chargers, Saints-Vikings and Giants-Redskins — a game where QB Rex Grossman could become a last-minute addition to the 'QB Locks' list for 275 total yards and/or three touchdowns … and Roy Helu and Brandon Jacobs may hit the 100-yard/1-TD threshold.

5. Think of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green as surefire springboards to the championship round. By all accounts, Dalton (at least one TD pass in 10 straight games) and Green (55 catches, 891 yards, 7 TDs) have exceeded expectations for NFL rookies to this point; in fact, their progress has been nothing short of remarkable. But for the first time since Week 8, we're guaranteeing prolific numbers for the tandem — against the Rams on Sunday and Cardinals for Week 16. Simply put, if St. Louis couldn't handle Doug Baldwin (7 catches, 93 yards, 1 TD last week), what chance does it have against Green — a possible Round 4 pick in next year's standard-scoring drafts?

Week 14: QB Locks For 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs
1. Tom Brady @ Denver
2. Aaron Rodgers @ Kansas City
3. Drew Brees @ Minnesota
4. Philip Rivers vs. Baltimore
5. Andy Dalton @ St. Louis
6. Cam Newton @ Houston
7. Michael Vick vs. N.Y. Jets
Eli Manning
vs. Washington

RB Locks For 120 Total Yards and/or 2 TDs
1. Michael Turner vs. Jacksonville
2. Chris Johnson @ Indianapolis
3. Arian Foster vs. Carolina
4. Ray Rice @ San Diego
5. LeSean McCoy vs. N.Y. Jets
6. Frank Gore vs. Pittsburgh
7. Michael Bush vs. Detroit
8. Roy Helu @ N.Y. Giants
9. Marshawn Lynch @ Chicago
10. Beanie Wells vs. Cleveland

Tale Of The Tape … Apropos Of Nothing
At the time of this writing (Wednesday morning), I still haven't gotten over two crushing defeats from Round 1 of the playoffs — the SI.com & Friends and Downriver Celica Supra leagues, where I twice cleared 100 points yet lost to a lower-seeded club that suddenly found religion in Week 14. That isn't to say Cory McCartney and Tony Bahu don't possess championship-caliber rosters, they do; but in standard ESPN leagues, cracking the century mark is usually a means for playoff advancement.

Michael VickThe Philanthropist is looking for a big day from Michael Vick.

Moving on, I have a great semifinals matchup in the 16-team 'Philanthropist #4' league against No. 3 seed John Lorge IV — a Northwest-based software tycoon who, back in September, brazenly rebuffed my pitch to create/develop a phone app that would dramatically enhance the viewing experience inside a stadium/ballpark for any of the four major sports. (The pitch is near the bottom of this column). So, as you can imagine, knocking off the cold-hearted, practical-minded Lorge would be a nice piece of revenge. (cue evil laugh) Here's our tentative lineups for Week 15:

QB: Drew Brees
RBs: Michael Turner, Darren Sproles
WRs: Mike Williams, Wes Welker
Flex: Greg Little
TE: Jimmy Graham
PK: Stephen Gostkowski
D/ST: Pittsburgh Steelers

QB: Michael Vick
RBs: Ryan Mathews, Frank Gore (with Ahmad Bradshaw forever banished to the bench)
WRs: Victor Cruz, Laurent Robinson
Flex: Roy Helu
TE: Jason Witten
PK: David Akers
D/ST: Arizona Cardinals
For what it's worth: ESPN projects a 103-100 victory for Lorge's Seattle Seacocks.

Running With The Moon
Here is my always-fluid top-40 listing of tailbacks in standard-scoring leagues — from this point forward:
1. Ray Rice, Ravens (needs 124 total yards per game to hit 2,000)
2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles (a consistent fantasy dynamo … just like we predicted back in August)
3. Arian Foster, Texans (expect a big-time bounceback this week)
4. Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars (care to repeat the 4-TD odyssey from last week?)
5. Chris Johnson, Titans
6. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
7. Frank Gore, 49ers
8. Michael Turner, Falcons
9. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
10. Roy Helu, Redskins (a solid bet for 100-plus yards in Weeks 15/16)
11. Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
12. Shonn Greene, Jets
13. Ryan Mathews, Chargers (the West Coast version of Helu)
14. Michael Bush, Raiders
15. Steven Jackson, Rams
16. Beanie Wells, Cardinals
17. Willis McGahee, Broncos (deserves 24 touches per game, when healthy)
18. LeGarrette Blount, Buccaneers
19. Darren Sproles, Saints
20. Cedric Benson, Bengals
21. Brandon Jacobs, Giants
22. Reggie Bush, Dolphins (second-half resurgence bodes well for 2012)
23. Felix Jones, Cowboys (opportunity knocks once again for this speed demon)
24. Marion Barber, Bears
25. Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants (persona non grata with yours truly … but still has value)
26. DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
27. Ryan Grant, Packers (easily the most coveted free agent this week)
28. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
29. C.J. Spiller, Bills
30. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots (paying the price for the passing game's near-perfection)
31. Kevin Smith, Lions
32. Peyton Hillis, Browns
33. Mark Ingram, Saints
34. Darren McFadden, Raiders (on the very-remote chance he returns for Week 16)
35. Mike Tolbert, Chargers
36. Toby Gerhart, Vikings (Gerhart and earn major backup props for 2011)
37. Joseph Addai, Colts (an injury-ravaged disappointment — again)
38. Pierre Thomas, Saints
39. James Starks, Packers
40. Matt Forte, Bears (I don't expect him back until the wild card round)

WR Locks For 110 Yards and/or 1 TD
1. Roddy White vs. Jacksonville
2. Vincent Jackson vs. Baltimore
3. Calvin Johnson @ Oakland
4. Percy Harvin vs. New Orleans
5. Wes Welker @ Denver
6. Marques Colston @ Minnesota
7. Jordy Nelson @ Kansas City
8. A.J. Green @ St. Louis
9. Brandon Lloyd vs. Cincinnati
10. Dez Bryant @ Tampa Bay
11. Victor Cruz vs. Washington
12. Mike Williams vs. Dallas (does this count as a sleeper pick?)

Kicker Locks For 3-Plus Field Goals
1. Ryan Longwell vs. New Orleans
2. Stephen Gostkowski @ Denver
3. Sebastian Janikowski vs. Detroit
4. Dan Bailey @ Tampa Bay
5. Josh Scobee @ Atlanta
6. David Akers vs. Pittsburgh

The 'In-Stadium Convenience' App That'll Never See The Light Of Day
I. Welcoming video from home team's star player (or local celebrity), introducing the unique features of the “in-stadium convenience” app

II. Outside: GPS-style format for marking the location of vehicles in massive stadium lots

III. Inside: GPS-style map of stadium
a. Color-coded moving dots tracking the roaming concessionaires (beer, sodas, pretzel, hot dogs, ice creams, etc.)

IV. Wi-Fi-like access to stadium officials for pre-ordering concessions, merchandise, special meetings with on-site team representatives

V. 'Binoculars' app (w/infrared sensors) for getting a better view of the action (less expensive sets)

VI. Real-Time cameras outside the men's/women's bathrooms … and at certain concession stands (tracking user/customer lines throughout an event)

VII. Take Detroit's Comerica Park for example: When parents are watching their kids at the famous ferris wheel (within stadium confines), they'll get the closed-circuit game feed that can usually be viewed near the concession stands

VIII. Sport-specific metrics:
a. Baseball — A device that tracks real-time “pitch speed,” “bat speed” and distance of a fly ball/home run
b. Football — A device that tracks real-time speed of quarterback throws, hang time for punts, wind variables for field goals, etc.
c. Basketball — A device that tracks a player's vertical leap on dunks/blocks
d. Hockey — A device that tracks the speed of slap shots, person-to-person checks and running time for line-shift changes

YouTube Memory Lane
To conclude our last full Philanthropist column of the season, here are two epic NFL clips from the 1970s, via YouTube:

1. 1976 (Rams-Dolphins) — Here's something you don't see very often — legendary CBS (and later FOX) announcer Pat Summerall calling a regular season game at the Orange Bowl in Miami (this site is the new home of baseball's Miami Marlins). Two interesting nuggets stand out:

a. To open the second half, Summerall qualifies the Rams' 19 first-half passes as essentially their total passing output for the entire season (3-plus games at the time), an homage to head coach Chuck Knox's stubborn and highly successful commitment to the running attack (except this game). Incidentally, Knox won five straight NFC West titles in five seasons with the Rams (1973-77) … but never led Los Angeles (or any other club) to the Super Bowl. Simply put, in the history of decorated coaches who routinely sparked previously moribund programs and won far more games than they lost but didn't make it to Super Sunday … Knox was Marty Schottenheimer before, uh, Marty Schottenheimer.

b. When promoting the slate of next Sunday's games, Summerall mentions how the Giants will host their inaugural game at the new Meadowlands Stadium. In that turbulent '76 season, New York opened with nine consecutive losses, including a 24-14 defeat in the home opener against Dallas (Week 5).

2. 1978 — The original broadcast from Earl Campbell's famous bulldozing run against the Rams (and through Isiah Robertson). How awesome was The Tyler Rose's display of tearaway-jersey power and fury? In the countless clips I've seen of George Allen as an announcer … this is the most excited he's ever been. And for those who don't remember old George, he was always pumped! At the end of the clip, play-by-play icon Vin Scully happily reports that Campbell quickly got a brand-new jersey from the Oilers' equipment staff … begging these pertinent questions for some 33 years later: How did the Houston staffers know Campbell would require a second #34 at a moment's notice? (It's not like they were playing on wet grass that day.) And who has a squeaky-clean, fresh-smelling alternate jersey on hand for games played indoors? I bet the Bad News Bears didn't have alternate jerseys when they visited the Astrodome one year later.

An award-winning fantasy writer with Sports Illustrated (2008-2010) before joining the National Football Post, Jay Clemons' Fantasy Philanthropist Blog can be found here on Monday and Thursday during the regular season. Clemons can be reached, day or night, via Twitter.

Week 14 Revelations

With roughly 60 percent of fantasy owners eliminated from championship contention on this Monday of Week 14 — either from a disheartening Round 1 exit or missing the postseason altogether — we're going to handle the season's final two Revelations in a slightly different manner.

Week 14 Revelations
1. The one-man wrecking crew of Maurice Jones-Drew either made — or ruined — your fantasy weekend. If only the bumbling Buccaneers had some advance warning that Jones-Drew (136 total yards, 4 TDs) was the Jaguars' best player and greatest week-to-week hope for victory … perhaps this timely devastation could have been curtailed. But only team personnel equipped with newspapers, magazines, computers, Web capabilities, satellite sports radio or access to NFL Films highlight videos would have known that Jacksonville's supporting cast meekly comprises zero elite wideouts, an occasionally relevant tight end (Marcedes Lewis — 2 catches, 77 yards) and embattled rookie quarterback (Blaine Gabbert), who's hardly a lock to be the opening-day starter next season, Sunday's decent effort notwithstanding (217 yards passing, 2 TDs, 2 INTs). Can you tell that I'm one of the hundreds directly scorned from MJD's monster afternoon against Tampa Bay (37 standard points, 43 Points Per Reception league points)? It goes without saying: Against Atlanta and Tennessee (Weeks 15/16), Jones-Drew is a potentially explosive asset for 10-, 12- and 14 team leagues.

Eli ManningICONEli Manning continues to pile up the points for savvy fantasy owners.

2. Eli Manning has earned the right to be drafted ahead of his famous brother next summer. Remember back in early October, when Eli had finally broken his seven-year drought of passing for 300 yards in consecutive games? Well, it has now gotten to the point where fantasy owners should be shocked if Manning (400 yards passing, 2 TDs vs. Dallas) isn't hitting the 330-mark every week, even if the Giants' three-headed rushing attack (Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Ware) appears stronger than ever. That's the confounding thing about New York's offense: Head coach Tom Coughlin may look like the most conservative man in America … but he also allows his coaches freedom to ride the golden arm of Manning and stellar hands of WR Hakeem Nicks (7 catches, 154 yards; team-high 10 targets), WR Victor Cruz (7 catches, 83 yards), WR Mario Manningham (2 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD) and TE Jake Ballard (4 catches, 52 yards, 1 TD) during crucial games. As for Eli (4,105 yards passing, 25 TDs in 2011), you already know he's a top-5 quarterback and automatic starter for the stretch run (even Week 16 vs. the Jets) … but he's also a likely Round 4 gem next August — roughly 12-18 picks ahead of Peyton Manning (perhaps the greatest QB of all time). How's that for progress?

3. Good luck slowing down the Saints for Weeks 15 and 16. Playing outside and on a notoriously uneven surface at LP Field in Nashville, neither QB Drew Brees (343 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Tennessee), WR Marques Colston (7 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs) nor RB Darren Sproles (91 total yards; 16 PPR points) were expected to be high-end fantasy achievers this weekend; and yet, that's exactly how things broke for the Big Three, with tight end Jimmy Graham (5 catches, 55 yards; team-high 9 targets) and tailbacks Christopher Ivory (53 yards) and Pierre Thomas (57 total yards) assuming secondary roles against the Titans' formidable defense. The expectations for Weeks 15-17, in turn, have been restored to their typically ambitious levels: With three straight dome games to finish the season (@ Minnesota next week, two home games), fantasy owners should expect modest-to-monster numbers from the above Saints — particularly Brees, as he approaches Dan Marino's NFL record for seasonal passing yards (5,084).

4. Rob Gronkowski has already cemented his standing as a Round 2 pick next August. Just like the Saints, there really isn't much mystery to the Patriots' fantasy travails: QB Tom Brady (357 passing yards, 3 TDs vs. Washington), WR Wes Welker (7 catches, 86 yards, 1 TD; 10 targets) and Gronkowski (6 catches, 160 yards, 2 TDs; 10 targets) are rubber-stamped starters regardless of opponent or weather … with everyone else — including RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (19 total yards) — serving as week-to-week considerations. But prior to Sunday, very few gurus had taken an official stance on Gronkowski (15 receiving TDs this season — the most for a tight end in NFL history) and his 2012 stock: Forget loading up on running backs in Rounds 1-3 (usually an admirable strategy). If Gronkowski is available in the first 24 picks, you grab him and Brady (4,273 yards passing, 33 TDs) in consecutive rounds — creating the perfect QB-TE handcuff — and let everything else fall in place. Is Gronkowski a lock for 15 touchdowns every season? Of course not. He may collect 20 someday.

5. Faithfully ride Shonn Greene's hot streak for another two weeks — even if no one can really explain it. Perhaps Greene (187 total yards, 1 TD vs. Kansas City) found the Poor Man's Chris Johnson label insulting (or flattering), or maybe the Chiefs are simply one of the NFL's most inept clubs. Either way, it was great to see Greene roll for season highs in rushing (129) and receiving (58) for Round 1 of the playoffs, while giving QB Mark Sanchez (185 total yards, 4 TDs) some wiggle room to flourish, as well. Which brings us to this: With games against the Eagles and Giants on the horizon, Greene is a healthy lock for 250 combined yards and one touchdown — numbers befitting of a flex starter in 12-team leagues … and RB2 in 14-teamers. Unlike TE Dustin Keller (4 catches, 34 yards; team-high 5 targets), RB LaDainian Tomlinson (64 total yards, 1 TD), WR Santonio Holmes (2 catches, 12 yards, 1 TD) or even the schizophrenic Sanchez, only Greene stands as the Jets' lone lock from this point forward.

6. You simply don't bench Larry Fitzgerald in a highly pressurized setting. Ever. There's a reason why Fitzgerald (7 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD vs. San Fran) is a surefire Hall of Famer and perhaps the greatest receiver of the new century. Regardless of whether Kevin Kolb (injury casualty) or John Skelton (307 total yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) sits behind center for Arizona, there's an excellent chance Fitzgerald (team-high 9 targets) will rise above it all to post stellar numbers. Similar to RB Beanie Wells (30 total yards), Fitzgerald isn't immune from the occasional clunker; but fickle fans and skeptical experts can really do damage by trying to guess when Fitzger
ald will be a dud — like when he ravaged the Eagles' all-world secondary (7 catches, 146 yards, 2 TDs) or mystified perhaps the NFL's best defense on Sunday. Bottom line: Fantasy GMs shouldn't outsmart themselves on Fitz … even though they'll probably do it again next week for CB Joe Haden and the Browns' rock-solid pass defense.

Arian FosterOne questionable game does not a season make.

7. Let's not overreact to Arian Foster's so-so day against the Bengals. Yes, Foster (74 total yards vs. Cincy) didn't carry any fantasy owners to a Round 1 victory, but he didn't kill your team's chances for advancement, either. Since returning from injury in Week 4, Foster has notched at least 80 total yards in every game — often going way above that arbitrary number of acceptance — while collecting nine touchdowns. And on a day when third-string QB T.J. Yates (336 total yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and RB Ben Tate (97 total yards) were surprisingly immaculate … 74 yards suddenly doesn't seem like a bad throwaway day. Verdict: Foster (1,500 total yards/10 TDs in 2011) absolutely cannot fail next week against the Panthers, the NFL's leader in rushing touchdowns allowed.

8. Roy Helu and Marion Barber will be difference-makers at the flex spot. Since this is a fantasy column, we'll conveniently ignore Barber's ill-advised method for draining the clock (running out of bounds) or game-changing fumble in overtime … and focus on his 140 total yards and one TD against the Broncos. With Jay Cutler and Matt Forte out for the foreseeable future, Barber is now the Bears' only starting consideration in 12-team leagues. Expect him to roll for 120 yards/one score against the Seahawks next week. The same kind of optimistic thinking applies to Helu (132 total yards vs. New England), minus the fumble problems. With Rex Grossman as his shepherd, Helu will continue to be a standard-league stalwart and PPR menace for Weeks 15 (@ NYG) and 16 (vs. MIN) — to the tune of 245 combined yards and two TDs during that span.

9. Tim Tebow will neither be celebrated nor disparaged in this column — even if he has the Broncos on track for the AFC West title. To clarify, we're blissfully aware of Tebow's 7-1 record, five comeback victories and Denver's stunning worst-to-first transformation since mid-October; but that real-world turnaround holds little water in the stats-driven world of fantasy football. Sure, Tebow (285 total yards, 1 TD vs. Chicago) has been an emerging talent his last two games, and yes, he has singlehandedly boosted the stock of WR Demaryius Thomas (7 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD; team-high 13 targets) — at the expense of Eric Decker (3 catches, 33 yards). But when choosing a can't-miss QB for Rounds 2 and 3 of the playoffs, Are you going to side with a guy who was 3-for-16 at one point against Chicago? Are you really leaning toward the quarterback who often flirts with the middling range of 190-230 total yards per game? On the bright side, Denver draws New England's horrible pass defense next week; but from our view in the bleachers, it's still not enough to covet Tebow over Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Ryan or even a hobbled Ben Roethlisberger. When fully healthy, Willis McGahee (knee) remains the Broncos' strongest fantasy play.

Head over to Page 2 for more Revelations!

Matters of survival

Playoff Rules To Live By
1. When in doubt (or all things being equal), always flex a running back in standard-scoring leagues … and receiver in Points Per Reception leagues. This rule is pretty simple: It's best to play the percentages when stuck in a quandary at the flex spot. For standard leagues, I'd rather have Chargers RB Ryan Mathews over Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall — since Mathews (8 games of 100-plus total yards in 2011) will likely see more touches in Week 14. On the flip side, Marshall's probably a lock for 6-7 catches against the Eagles and could notch a few points higher than Mathews (just 2.25 catches in his last 4 games) in PPRs. We're talking delicate strategies here … but ones that mathematically make sense.

Ray RiceStick with the studs that got you to this point.

2. Ride your studs for Weeks 14-16. Round 1 of the playoffs is NOT a time for overthinking. Unless your star is severely limited by an injury … owners should assume the players will bring their typical A-games to the weekend party. The best example of this is LeSean McCoy: Prior to Eagles-Seahawks last Thursday, the NFL Network's Stacey Dales unwittingly sounded the fantasy siren by reporting that McCoy, gingerly running on a sore toe during warmups, wasn't sure how long he could go for Philly (then 4-7). Well, after one quarter of hit-or-miss execution, McCoy ran wild in the final three quarters and finished with 133 total yards and two touchdowns. There's a reason why he's the top-ranked non-quarterback … just remember to keep the faith, regardless of what the NFL Injury Report entails.

3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T cold, blustery weather when choosing a starting QB. I don't want to psych anyone out here … this is merely another friendly reminder that bitter-cold temperatures and stifling crosswinds can be a fresh hell for quarterbacks in the Northeast or cities such as Green Bay, Denver and Kansas City. So, be sure to bone up on NFLweather.com before cementing your lineups for Thursday, Sunday and Monday. Obviously, you're NOT going to bench a stud QB like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford or Eli Manning in anything short of gale-force winds or 10 inches of snow … but fantasy GMs should also be weary of blindly giving starts to non-elite QBs (like Andy Dalton, Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy, Dan Orlovsky) — who may face uncomfortable weather conditions on Sunday.

4. Don't sweat the small stuff, like kickers and defenses. It's real simple here: If you have a top-10 kicker, don't mess with success. And if you have a top-10 defense or one that gets to play Kansas City, Cleveland, Indianapolis, St. Louis or Jacksonville in Weeks 14, 15 and 16 … therein lies the key to playoff success!

5. Use 'Targets' when stuck on pass-catchers for your starting lineup.There's a reason why we focus on targets for wide receivers, running backs and tight ends in just about every Philanthropist article (including today's). Players who see the ball 30-to-40 percent more than their peers are more likely to experience success on a given Sunday … and that peace of mind goes a long way toward maximizing your playoff points. Of course, it's not a foolproof plan. Prior to Week 13, Rams WR Brandon Lloyd was the NFL's runaway leader in targets from Weeks 8-12 … and yet, he only caught backup QB A.J. Feeley's eye twice in a pitiful shutout loss to the 49ers. (Rumor has it that St. Louis only crossed the 50-yard line once in the game.) But for the most part, a receiver who's enjoying consistent success … tends to remain hot from week to week. Unless A.J. Feeley is directing that offense.

6. Start all productive players from the Cowboys, Lions, Chargers, Vikings, Bills and Giants this weekend. The scheduling gods sometimes smile on fantasyland … and when that happens, act accordingly. For all-important Week 14, you probably can't go wrong with starting regulars from Giants-Cowboys, Vikings-Lions and even Bills-Chargers — a game where QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Philip Rivers won't incur any weather-related obstacles … and the playmakers from this non-playoff-contending showdown should have ample motivation to let it all hang out on Sunday afternoon. Simply put, Buffalo vs. San Diego could be the highest-scoring game of the week.

Larry FitzgeraldThe Philanthropist demands that you ride with Larry Fitzgerald in Week 14.

7. DO NOT bench Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, San Francisco boasts perhaps the NFL's stingiest defense, but plucky Arizona is catching the NFC West champions at an ideal time. Think of it: All-pro linebacker Patrick Willis (hamstring) will likely miss the trip to the desert. The 49ers (10-2, 8-1 in-conference) possess a one-game lead over the Saints (9-3, 6-3) — but two-game edge for the in-conference tiebreaker — in the race for the NFC's No. 2 playoff seed (wild-card weekend bye) … and Fitzgerald (55 catches, 943 yards, 6 TDs), in case you weren't already aware, is one of the greatest receivers of our time. Round 1 of the playoffs is NOT a good time to doubt Fitz's skills.

8. Unless there's breaking news, don't change your lineup AFTER 12:45 p.m.</strong>: Take it from someone who barely missed the National Football Post fantasy league playoffs last week. Changing out A.J. Green for Deion Branch right before kickoff — even though Green was nursing a leg injury — probably isn't a capital idea. Rule of thumb that eerily resembles #2: Stick with your gut when it comes to matters of the star playmaker.

Week 14: QB Locks For 275 Yards and/or 3 TDs
1. Eli Manning @ Dallas
2. Aaron Rodgers 3. Philip Rivers vs. Buffalo
4. Matthew Stafford vs. Minnesota
5. Cam Newton vs. Atlanta
6. Tom Brady @ Washington
7. Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants

RB Locks For 120 Total Yards and/or 2 TDs
1. Ray Rice vs. Indianapolis
2. Chris Johnson vs. New Orleans
3. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Tampa Bay
4. Michael Turner @ Carolina
5. Marshawn Lynch vs. St. Louis
6. Roy Helu vs. New England
7. Rashard Mendenhall vs. Cleveland
8. Frank Gore @ Arizona
9. LeSean McCoy @ Miami
10. Ryan Mathews vs. Buffalo
11. Arian Foster @ Cincinnati

Tale Of The Tape … Apropos Of Nothing
I made the playoffs in eight of my 11 football leagues this season, with four division titles to boot. But here's the weird part: As the No. 8 seed of the 16-team 'Philanthropist #1' league — where I had to perform some Week 13 magic just to leapfrog two teams for the final spot — I'm also somewhat confident of advancing past the No.
1 seed (Jacob Sudek's Confident Crocodiles) and into the Week 15 semifinals. Here's our tentative lineups:

QB: Matt Ryan
RBs: Ray Rice, Michael Bush
WRs: Mike Wallace, Wes Welker
Flex: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Benjamin Watson
PK: Olindo Mare
D/ST: New York Jets

QB: Matthew Stafford
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Rashard Mendenhall (with Roy Helu, Peyton Hillis riding the bench)
WRs: Percy Harvin, Damian Williams
Flex: Ryan Mathews
TE: Jermaine Gresham
PK: Mike Nugent
D/ST: Houston Texans
For what it's worth: ESPN projects a 120-111 victory for my squad, Count Chocula's Henchmen.

Passing Fancy
Here's a revised listing of my always-fluid rankings for starting QBs, 1 through 32:
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (might as well pencil Green Bay in for 16-0)
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Drew Brees, Saints (there's a noticeable discrepancy between his outside/inside numbers)
4. Eli Manning, Giants
5. Matthew Stafford, Lions
6. Cam Newton, Panthers (an absolute machine … and unimpeachable mainstay for 2012 keeper leagues)
7. Michael Vick, Eagles
8. Tony Romo, Cowboys
9. Ben Roehthlisberger, Steelers
10. Philip Rivers, Chargers (had no trouble with Jacksonville's respectable pass defense)
11. Matt Ryan, Falcons
12. Andy Dalton, Bengals
13. Carson Palmer, Raiders ('garbage-time scoring' is just as sweet as first-quarter paydirt)
14. Mark Sanchez, Jets
15. Alex Smith, 49ers
16. Christian Ponder, Vikings (making great strides as a rookie … could be a Round 9/10 fantasy pick next year)
17. Josh Freeman, Buccaneers
18. Joe Flacco, Ravens
19. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills
20. Tim Tebow, Broncos
21. Matt Moore, Dolphins (judgment call on whether Moore should be the Fins' starter in 2012)
22. Matt Hasselbeck, Titans
23. Colt McCoy, Browns
24. Sam Bradford, Rams (should make a sizable leap next season … IF Josh McDaniels stays)
25. Rex Grossman, Redskins
26. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals (LaRod Stephens-Howling says, “You're welcome!”)
27. Dan Orlovsky, Colts
28. Tarvaris Jackson, Seahawks (a sneaky-good play for sizable numbers Monday against the Rams)
29. Caleb Hanie, Bears
30. Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars (if only he could shuttle-pass his way to respectability every week)
31. T.J. Yates, Texans
32. Tyler Palko, Chiefs (hard to believe he's even on this list)

For more from the Fantasy Philanthropist, head over to Page 2!

Week 13 Revelations

Week 13 Revelations
1. Let the good times roll for Chris Johnson all the way through Christmas. The NFL talking heads must be racking their brains today, trying to find a viable reason — separate from Johnson's recent explosion — for the Titans' 7-5 mark and prominent place in the AFC playoff push. Matt Hasselbeck throwing for only 140 yards and zero touchdowns? Damian Williams leading receivers with just four catches and 62 yards? Tennessee's offense converting on just 2-of-11 third-down opportunities … and the defense surrendering 397 net yards to a Buffalo team that doesn't have Fred Jackson? Lucky for us, this stanza begins and ends with Johnson (157 total yards, 2 TDs), whose per-game average of 133 total yards since Week 9 (including a 28-yard debacle against Atlanta) represents a fair baseline of expectations for Weeks 14 (vs. New Orleans), 15 (@ Indy) and 16 (vs. Jacksonville). In other words, with all apologies to Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Arian Foster, Johnson will be the most devastating rushing talent during the fantasy playoffs — bar none. How's that for a reward to every fantasy owner who stuck by Johnson during the lean months of September/October … or stealthily traded for him just seconds after Tennessee's Week 5 loss to Pittsburgh?

Aaron RodgersAt this point, what more can we say about Aaron Rodgers?

2. We're running out of superlatives to describe Aaron Rodgers … and the Giants' triumvirate of Manning, Cruz and Nicks. Before we dive into the fantasy aspect of Sunday's classic at MetLife Stadium, let's acknowledge the following: With Oakland, Kansas City, Chicago and Detroit left on the docket, 12-0 Green Bay is a 100-percent lock to finish the regular season undefeated … even if head coach Mike McCarthy sits Rodgers (401 total yards, 4 TDs vs. New York) after three quarters of every game. The Packers are simply too good and too deep to fall against four clubs that aren't necessarily finishing with a bang. But since this is a fantasy column, we won't debate the pros/cons of Green Bay pulling an Indy, circa 2009, and depriving its fan base of the rare opportunity to become the NFL's second perfect club in the Super Bowl era; instead, we'll happily report that Rodgers, WR Greg Jennings (7 catches, 94 yards, 1 TD; team-high 14 targets), WR Jordy Nelson (4 catches, 94 yards), TE Jermichael Finley (6 catches, 87 yards, 1 TD; 11 targets) and even venerable wideout Donald Driver (4 catches, 34 yards, 2 TDs) are excellent plays for Weeks 14-16. (Rodgers, by the way, led the Packers in rushing Sunday — 32 yards.) As for the Giants … Eli Manning (347 yards, 3 TDs, one ill-advised pick-six), WR Victor Cruz (7 catches, 119 yards) and WR Hakeem Nicks (7 catches, 88 yards, 2 TDs) are automatic starters — regardless of scoring format. The same may hold true for RB Ahmad Bradshaw (47 total yards), who played admirably in his first game back from a nasty foot injury. Assuming there are no setbacks leading up to the Week 14 clash with the Cowboys, Bradshaw should fare markedly better the second time around.

3. You better have a darn good reason for benching Percy Harvin during the fantasy playoffs. Here's a simple message for anxious GMs who put wayyyyyyyyyyy too much stock into players missing a midweek practice in December: Specific to Harvin's case, stop reading the injury reports on Wednesday … or Thursday … or Friday! At this point in the season, especially with Adrian Peterson out with an ankle injury, no bout with the flu or tweaked rib cage or general soreness can prevent Harvin (175 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Denver) from being a reliable fixture in the Vikings offense. Harvin's simply too good, too fast and too focused to be slowed by anything that doesn't rhyme with schmigraine; and as a result, fantasy owners would be foolish to sideline him for Round 1 of the playoffs. In fact, with upcoming games against Detroit, New Orleans and Washington, Harvin (9 targets on Sunday) should be a no-brainer starter in all scoring formats. Unfortunately, the same stance doesn't apply to RB Toby Gerhart (133 total yards), QB Christian Ponder (393 total yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) or WR Devin Aromashodu (6 catches, 90 yards; team-high 15 targets). Yes, they're making noticeable strides at such a crucial juncture, but none of the trio has cultivated a sustainable level of excellence and should only be considered emergency starters in deeper leagues.

4. Fantasy owners could do worse than Tim Tebow at QB; they could also do a lot better. The following comments have nothing to do with Tebow's 6-1 record as a starter, Denver's first five-game road winning streak in ages, Tebow's beautiful sideline pass to Demaryius Thomas late in the fourth quarter, or that the Broncos are tied for first in the AFC West. From a fantasy perspective, Tebow's upside for this season doesn't extend much beyond Sunday's production against the Vikings (215 total yards, 2 TDs) — respectable numbers, but none that should hold great value when choosing starting lineups for Weeks 14 (vs. Chicago), 15 (vs. New England) or 16 (@ Buffalo) … unless Rex Grossman, Caleb Hanie, Tarvaris Jackson or Kevin Kolb are entrenched starters. Bottom line: Tebow may have located another weapon outside of Eric Decker for one three-hour stretch — namely Thomas (4 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs; team-high 7 targets) — but it's far too late to develop a man-crush on a talented, but still-erratic receiver for the fantasy playoffs. Especially with offenses that boast only 10 completions over 60 minutes. Right now, a healthy Willis McGahee (111 total yards, 1 TD) is the only fantasy must-start against the Bears and Patriots.

5. And now for the Masters Of The Obvious portion of today's Revelations … when discussing Lions-Saints. Do we even need to assess the fantasy planes of QBs Drew Brees (342 yards passing, 3 TDs vs. Detroit) or Matthew Stafford (408 yards passing, 1 TD, 1 INT) after Sunday's air assault? Each star has the capacity to singlehandedly advance teams in next week's playoffs … which should frighten their Week 14 fantasy foes. Here's another scary thought: Calvin Johnson (6 catches, 69 yards) and Marques Colston (6 catches, 54 yards) have gone a combined 13 straight weeks without recording multiple touchdowns — suggesting a monster effort can't be too far away. On a relative scale, the same holds true for tight ends Jimmy Graham (8 catches, 89 yards) and Brandon Pettigrew (2 catches, 13 yards): Assuming Pettigrew doesn't get suspended for illegally touching an official … both pass-catchers should collect scores against the Titans and Vikings in Week 14, respectively. Speaking of improper contact, it's probably
best for fantasy owners to focus on Nate Burleson (5 catches, 93 yards) making nifty receptions on all three calls for offensive pass interference — and not the senseless infractions. That level of concentration has some value, right?

Revelations, Book II
6. Hmmmm … perhaps Ray Rice will fulfill my summertime prophecy of 2,000 total yards after all. You know we're having a superb Revelations when Rice rolls for 214 total yards against Cleveland … and only gets to bat leadoff in Book II. But then again, it's not like his 204 yards on the ground came as a complete surprise. Prior to Sunday, the Browns ranked 29th against the run; and Rice's next two opponents (Colts, Chargers) rank 31st and 25th in the same category. That's essentially a license to steal chunks of yards at a time for Rice (11 TDs in 2011) and the conservative Ravens, who have a knack for morphing into a run-first, run-second superpower when the calendar hits December. That isn't to say QB Joe Flacco (158 yards passing, zero TDs), WR Anquan Boldin (2 catches, 32 yards; only 4 targets), WR Torrey Smith (1 catch, 32 yards) or even TE Ed Dickson (3 catches, 47 yards) won't be starting considerations during the fantasy playoffs … it just means they'll be taking a backseat to Rice (and maybe Ricky Williams) during the money-time phase of the season. There's no more bankable asset than Rice.

7. Roy Helu is the Redskins' only fantasy hope if Fred Davis waves bye-bye to the final four games. That bolded introduction isn't necessarily a death blow to WR Santana Moss's chances for sneaky-good success during the fantasy playoffs; after all, Moss (5 catches, 42 yards) drew 12 targets against the Jets and will likely serve as Rex Grossman's favorite wideout for Weeks 14-17. But let's be honest: Neither Moss nor Jabar GaffneyMike Shanahan acknowledge that Helu should average 22-25 touches during that span. Assuming that occurs, Helu is a must-start in all scoring formats — especially Points Per Reception leagues.

Shonne GreeneShonne Greene ripped off a monster on Sunday.

8. Our thumbs-up endorsement of Shonn Greene for the fantasy playoffs has little to do with his 3-TD explosion against the 'Skins. Frankly, I'm surprised the Jets notched 34 points against a respectable Washington defense, including 21 in the final quarter. It's a confounding breakout for a big-name club that really doesn't have a glut of bankable fantasy assets (aside from the defense). Sure, Santonio Holmes (4 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD; team-high 8 targets vs. Washington) is rock-solid in clutch situations and QB Mark Sanchez can never be counted out for three or four touchdowns on a given Sunday; but there's just too much sporadic production from WR Plaxico Burress (3 catches, 33 yards) or TE Dustin Keller (3 catches, 12 yards) to warrant starting consideration for Weeks 14-16. Which brings us to Greene (114 total yards on Sunday) … who has posted respectable-to-stellar numbers in seven of his last eight games and serves as a poor man's Chris Johnson from this point forward. Bottom line: Forget about Greene's September/October malaise and focus on his capacity for 90 total yards/1 TD against the Chiefs, Eagles and Giants.

9. The Colts may have found their quarterback of the future — as in the next four weeks. There are many positives to derive from Indy's performance against New England … without even detailing how easily the Colts covered the Vegas betting line of 20.5 points. Not only did Indy tally better numbers in total yards (437-362) and first downs (26-24), but QB Dan Orlovsky (353 passing yards, 2 TDs — only seven incompletions) likely clinched a spot on an NFL roster next year, a significant assumption since the Colts probably won't have room for an expensive third-string quarterback in 2012, when both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck come into play. But that's a conversation for February. Right now, fantasy owners are only worried about whether Orlovsky, RB Donald Brown (56 total yards, 1 TD), Pierre Garcon (9 catches, 150 yards, 2 TDs), Reggie Wayne (5 catches, 55 yards), Austin Collie (7 catches, 70 yards) or even TE Jacob Tamme (5 catches, 49 yards) are starter-worthy assets in the next few weeks. The across-the-board answer for Weeks 14 (@ Baltimore) and 16 (vs. Houston) is no. But for Week 15 against the Titans, feel free to start Garcon, Brown or Wayne in the flex spot for 12-, 14 and 16-team leagues. That game has scoring aplenty written all over it.

10. There are no easy answers for Steven Jackson's recent vanishing act. OK, so no one expected Jackson (583 rushing yards, 3 TDS from Weeks 6-10) to break the century mark in rushing yards against the 49ers, the NFL's stingiest defense; but 30 total yards … on a day where QB A.J. Feeley (156 yards, zero TDs, 1 INT) and the Rams absolutely needed a running game to be competitive? If Jackson's not injured, and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hasn't been incapacitated when calling plays, then how does S-Jax only have 173 total yards since Week 11 (on 49 touches)? Before this slump, he was a lock for the RB2 or flex spots in 12-team leagues — no questions asked; but now, it's fair to wonder if Jackson should even be a no-brainer starting consideration for the lucky owners who reach Rounds 2 and 3 (Weeks 15-16). In the meantime, start S-Jax against the Seahawks in Week 14 and pray for a rebound; and then start Brandon Lloyd (1 catches, 34 yards) … once the sting of Sam Bradford's Sunday absence (ankle) and Lloyd's microscopic two targets against San Fran dissipate.

Rob GronkowskiAnother week, another big effort from Rob Gronkowski.

11. Thank goodness no one's losing sleep over the Patriots' running game. Let's keep this one short and sweet: Heading into the fantasy playoffs, it'd be criminal to bench QB Tom Brady (296 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Indy), WR Wes Welker (10 catches, 110 yards; team-high 11 targets) or TE Rob Gronkowski (5 catches, 64 yards, 3 total TDs) for any reason, shallow or substantive; and on the flip side, none of the New England tailbacks deserve you
r full attention when contemplating the all-important starting lineups for 10- or 12-team leagues. Not BenJarvus Green-Ellis (14 total yards, 1 TD), not Shane Vereen (DNP on Sunday), not Stevan Ridley (team-high 33 rushing yards). On the surface, that seems like a harsh stance to take with Green-Ellis (3 TDs in two weeks) … at least until we can view Gronkowski's rushing TD in the proper light: For those scoring at home, Gronkowski (65 catches, 928 yards, 13 TDs in 2011) is now a red-zone vulture for Deion Branch (3 catches, 37 yards), Aaron Hernandez (7 catches, 43 yards) … and Green-Ellis.

Head over to Page 2 for more Revelations!

Week 12 Revelations

Week 12 Revelations
1. It's hard to feign surprise with Chris Johnson's recent run of fantasy success. We'll kick off today's Revelations with a simple, but memorable premise for handling Johnson at this point: He's too good and too fast and too necessary to Tennessee's playoff chances to be benched in 10- or 12-team leagues … so why even flirt with the possibility of missing out on 190 yards rushing from week to week? OK, so maybe Johnson (193 total yards vs. Tampa Bay) had the luxury of playing in near-monsoon conditions Sunday — essentially de-emphasizing the Titans' passing attack — and maybe the offensive linemen were highly motivated to reverse head coach Mike Munchak's candid thoughts about their blocking acumen; but whatever struggles Johnson endured in the season's first half have long been replaced by realistic thoughts of 120 total yards and 1 TD for Weeks 13-16. With dates against Buffalo, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Jacksonville on the horizon, Johnson (110-plus yards in three of his last four games) is a good bet for 530 total yards and four TDs in the next 26 days — even if Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck fires off a few more scoring beauties like this.

Beanie WellsBeanie Wells went to work on Sunday and put up some monster numbers.

2. Beanie Wells would like the fantasy universe to know his once-balky knee is A-OK. Short of the NFL granting a third Cardinals-Rams clash for the regular season (not going to happen), Wells likely won't repeat his franchise-record 228 rushing yards again this year. But that shouldn't be a concern in fantasyland: For the GMs whose trade deadlines have yet to pass, there will never be a better time to sell-high on Wells (just 300 rushing yards from Weeks 5-11); and for Beanie's prospective owners, a fantasy back is only as good as his last outing. (How's that for rationalization?) Simply put, everyone should be excited about Wells' prospects for the next four weeks — three straight home games against Dallas, San Francisco, Cleveland and one trek to Cincinnati — especially if QB Kevin Kolb returns to the lineup and adds value to WR Larry Fitzgerald (3 catches, 55 yards; team-high 9 targets). Which brings us to this: In the wake of John Skelton's brutal Sunday performance (132 total yards, zero TDs, 2 INTs), why didn't the Rams continually put eight or nine defenders in the proverbial 'box'? Were they fearing a breakout from Early Doucet (1 catch, 14 yards) and Andre Roberts (2 catches, 14 yards) … or just another twice-deflected TD reception for Fitzgerald?

3. Reports of Roddy White's fantasy demise have been greatly exaggerated. On a day when Michael Turner (64 total yards) and rookie WR Julio Jones (zero catches) were mere mortals, in a game where the Falcons raced to a quick 17-0 lead and could have easily gone ultra-conservative in the second half, White (10 catches, 120 yards, 1 TD; team-high 13 targets vs. Minnesota) still dominated the competition and justified his standing as a high Round 2 pick in August. Is it too late for White (back-to-back 100-yard games) to reclaim his status as a top-5 receiver by season's end? Probably. But it's also reasonable to say that Roddy should average 7 catches/85 yards/0.5 TDs in the next four weeks (Houston, Carolina, Jacksonville, New Orleans) — with only one of the games played outdoors. A few reasons to believe: QB Matt Ryan (262 yards passing, 3 TDs) has racked up 300 yards or multiple TDs in his last four games and TE Tony Gonzalez (9 catches, 69 yards) and WR Harry Douglas (2 catches, 45 yards, 1 TD) are wreaking enough havoc to discourage any White double teams or many 8-men-in-the-box fronts to combat Turner.

4. If only the Redskins could commit to Roy Helu on a week-in, week-out basis. Head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have a real opportunity for growth in Week 13 … even if it belies their reputation for over-thinking and outsmarting themselves when preparing a game plan: Ride Helu (162 total yards, 1 TD vs. Seattle) when running the ball, target TE Fred Davis (4 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD) as much as possible in the red zone … and everything else will seamlessly fall into place. For a club that employs QB Rex Grossman (314 yards passing, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) and WR Jabar Gaffney (5 catches, 72 yards) on a regular basis, the Redskins should feel obligated to feature Helu and Davis at every turn; and yet, we're left to wonder if Helu or Ryan Torain or Evan Royster will log the most tailback touches against the Jets next week? It's this kind of uncertainty that relegates Helu to the fantasy bench … even if he's a more explosive option than Indy's Donald Brown — or the New England back who rode Tom Brady's coattails to two gift-wrapped TDs near the goal line.

Wes WelkerICONAfter a quiet few weeks, Wes Welker exploded against the Eagles.

5. It's hard to get a read on the Patriots' expansive fantasy potential for Weeks 14-16. Under no circumstances would anyone bench Brady (389 total yards, 3 TDs vs. Philly), TE Rob Gronkowski (4 catches, 59 yards, 1 TD) or Wes Welker (8 catches, 115 yards, 2 TDs; team-high 12 targets) during the fantasy playoffs; but it is fair to wonder if RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (44 total yards, 2 TDs), WR Deion Branch (6 catches, 125 yards; 10 targets) or TE Aaron Hernandez (6 catches, 62 yards) warrant a similar courtesy during that crucial stretch (@ WSH, @ DEN, vs. MIA)? All three games will be played outdoors — perhaps in blustery winter weather — and the Broncos and Dolphins have been particularly stingy on defense since Week 8 (less than 16 points allowed per game). Perhaps we'll spend another week chewing on that question, as the Patriots prepare to bludgeon the winless Colts … while titillating Vegas with a point spread that could exceed 20. Whoa!

Revelations, Book II
6. Thank goodness this is a fantasy column … and not a forum for mocking Steve Johnson's immaturity. It was never my intention to lecture or degrade Johnson (7 catches, 85 yards, 1 TD) for his inappropriate TD dance or deflating drop of a likely TD pass in the fourth quarter of the Bills' tough loss to the Jets. (NBC's Bob Costas already took care of that.) But it also bears noting that, prior to Sunday, Johnson had pulled down only seven catches for 291 yards in his previous seven games — an eminently forgettable stretch that should have humbled Johnson enough to prevent an ill-advised (and spontaneous?) mimicry of Plaxico Burress's gun-arrest incident from 2008 … resulting in a crucial 15-yard penalty on the subsequent kickoff (fueling a Jets TD). In the course of Buffalo's four-game losing skid, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (297 total yards, 3 TDs vs. the Jets) has also taken his lumps; but fantasy owners should also be heartened by Fitzpatrick's efforts to pull off Sunday's near-upset … and willingness to rely on RB C.J. Spiller (70 total yards), TE Scott Chandler (6 catches, 50 yards), WR David Nelson (5 catches, 47 yards, 1 TD) and Brad Smith (4 catches, 77 yards, 1 TD) during crunch time. Verdict: Fitzpatrick would be a sneaky-good starter for Weeks 13 (vs. Tennessee) or 14 (@ San Diego).

7. There is no excuse for benching Brandon Lloyd in PPR leagues. Think of all the love Lloyd (5 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD vs. Arizona) would be getting if he played on a pass-happy playoff contender … or if the Rams had a quarterback who wasn't worthy of the curiously apropos moniker, Binary Code. For Lloyd to amass 71 targets in six games (tops in the NFL) and four TDs in his last five games (ranking 3rd among wideouts during that span) has been nothing short of spectacular, and yet, I'm still flooded with Twitter questions of whether Lloyd deserves a flex-starter slot over Shonn Greene, Denarius Moore, James Starks or Earl Bennett. The short answer is, of course, yes. The more definitive answer is this: As long as Steven Jackson (78 total yards) is operating at full capacity and Sam Bradford (203 yards passing, 1 TD) has complete use of his right arm/shoulder, Lloyd will remain a threat for 8 catches/90 yards/1 TD in a Josh McDaniels offense — regardless of the opponent or how replaceable Austin Pettis (3 catches, 45 yards), Lance Kendricks (3 catches, 37 yards) or Brandon Gibson (2 catches, 30 yards) may seem at this stage of their development. Which brings us back to Bradford: He'll undoubtedly be a stud someday; but there's no rhyme or reason to the current 14-game malaise of zero or one touchdowns. As a result, there is just cause for keeping him on the fantasy bench for Weeks 13-16.

8. Tim Tebow will neither be celebrated nor disparaged in this column … even if he leads the Broncos out of the doldrums and into the playoffs. As stated in previous Revelations, Tebow (210 total yards, 1 TD vs. San Diego) is essentially a lock for 180-230 total yards and 1.5 TDs every Sunday — numbers befitting of a fantasy backup and usually not a potential real-world MVP IF Denver rallies from a 1-4 start to capture the AFC West title. But that's the confounding nature of this unwavering energy source: Tebow may struggle to notch 10 completions in a game, but he's also responsible for the ascension of RB Willis McGahee (117 rushing yards) in recent weeks. Tebow may have unwittingly devalued the prospects of wideouts Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal (zero catches for both), but his favorite target, Eric Decker (3 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD), has morphed into a flex-start consideration in 12- and 14-team leagues for Weeks 13-16 — since we already know that Decker (8 TDs in 2011) is the primary beneficiary to Tebow's lone scoring pass for the week.

Mark SanchezICONSanchez quieted some of his critics on Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes.

9. Mark Sanchez deserves more fantasy respect by the day. While it's true that Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes both hit end-zone paydirt against the Bills and Shonn Greene played admirably without LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) sharing the touches … one can't shake the feeling of, Are these big names dependable contributors in the fantasy realm? Dustin Keller (4 catches, 61 yards, 2 TDs), a notorious feast-or-famine asset at tight end, hadn't scored since Week 2 (prior to Sunday) and already has four games of two or less catches. Plax and Holmes combined for only six catches and 76 yards on Sunday … and Greene (90 total yards) produced just his third-best yardage day of the season. Which brings us to Sanchez (180 yards passing, 4 TDs): Yes, he's thrown some horrible INTs this year — last week's game-changing pick-six comes against Denver comes to mind — but he also ranks in the top half of signal-callers throughout the league. Looking for a stealth QB during the playoffs? Sanchez (21 TDs in 2011) is a good bet to dissect the Chiefs, Eagles and Giants in Weeks 14-16 … even if Burress, Holmes, Greene and Keller are merely complementary pieces along the fantasy bench.

10. Don't fall asleep on Mike Williams during the fantasy playoffs. As detailed in the Brandon Lloyd stanza, targets are everything to gurus who make a living predicting the future; and by subtracting Weeks 2 and 10, Williams (6 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD vs. Tennessee) has attracted at least eight targets in every other game — including 22 the last two weeks. Bottom line: The Bucs (4-game losing skid) may be headed for a desultory finish to the season, but Williams, RB LeGarrette Blount (159 total yards) and QB Josh Freeman (209 total yards, 1 TD) shouldn't be taken lightly down the stretch. The same holds true for Kellen Winslow (5 catches, 52 yards) in a top-heavy, middle-soft tight end class. Each playmaker is capable of posting monster numbers at some point in the next four weeks — particularly the two dates with the Panthers … a defense that's surrendered rushing TDs at a noticeable rate and boosting duds like Curtis Painter on gray November afternoons.

11. Let's keep a little perspective on Reggie Wayne and DeAngelo Williams. There's a reason why Wayne (5 catches, 122 yards, 1 TD vs. Carolina) currently resides on waivers in my 14-team PPR experts' league for Yahoo! Sports (although that will change on Wednesday) … and there's a reason why Williams (69 total yards, 2 TDs vs. Indy) has been running a distant third with the Panthers' ground attack this season. Neither star has enough power to reverse the trends of the first 11 weeks … and one stellar Sunday in Indy probably won't bring substantial change to their overall situations. After all, Wayne only has one double-digit targets effort since Week 3 — the time when Painter (226 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) took command of the Colts offense — and Williams must continually wrangle for touches with QB Cam Newton (261 total yards, 1 TD) and RB Jonathan Stewart (82 total yards). That aside, Wayne and Williams are cer
tainly roster-worthy from this point forward; and who knows … perhaps Wayne will notch a TD or two against the Patriots next weekend — given the seemingly plentiful opportunities for garbage-time scoring in the second half.

Check out more Week 12 Revelations on Page 2!