Saints' Brees stars, Pack's Rodgers stumbles during critical road tests
Drew Brees came up huge, while Aaron Rodgers came up short during Week 15
In a home game against the rival Redskins, Eli Manning predictably struggled
Reggie Bush had a career day with 203 yards and a score vs. the woeful Bills
This might still go down as Aaron Rodgers' year -- despite his mediocre performance on the road in Kansas City -- but Drew Brees' fantasy owners have to be elated their man is keeping pace. Heck, it could have been their man knocking out Rodgers' teams head-to-head in Week 15.
Brees' 412 yards and five scores this week have led numerous fantasy teams into their Super Bowls, while Rodgers' Packers pick up their first loss of the season. A late rushing score by Rodgers salvaged his bad day, but Brees' performance was eye opening. He soared on the road while Rodgers could not.
Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record looks like it is toast, just like Brees' fantasy opponents were single-handedly burned by fantasy's second-best QB.
Other leading stories in the crucial week was the choke job by Eli Manning against his nemesis -- yeah, he sure isn't elite in fantasy -- and Reggie Bush finally posting a 200-yard game in Buffalo.
We break down all the action from the fantasy perspective game-by-game in the Fantasy Football Fast Forward for Week 15:
Frank Gore hasn't been himself of late, but he sure came through for fantasy owners -- against a lot of advice to the contrary -- who trusted him against the Steelers run defense. Going for 65 yards and a score is more than many could have expected. The Seahawks aren't a pushover run defense either, particularly in Seattle with the 12th man, but Gore looks like a lot more viable play than he has been in weeks.
Vernon Davis has been a healthy disappointment this season, despite Alex Smith's ability to prove viable at quarterback. He remains one of those starting-caliber fantasy tight ends you probably are best advised to keep running out there vs. playing a flavor of the week. The Steelers were supposed to be a bad matchup for him, but he came through with six catches, 72 yards and a TD. Michael Crabtree owners weren't as fortunate.
Ben Roethlisberger was able to play and throw for 330 yards, but the injury and the three picks made him what he should have been in fantasy -- a reserve this week. If he plays in Week 16, though, you have to start him against the Rams defense.
Rashard Mendenhall couldn't be the first one to score a rushing TD on the 49ers this season, but that Rams run defense makes him one of the potentially top plays at the position this weekend.
Jerricho Cotchery led the Steelers receivers this week, but he isn't a good fantasy option going forward. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and perhaps Heath Miller as a fringe TE are the plays still.
Ryan Mathews might have sealed a spot in the first round of fantasy drafts next year with this performance against an elite run defense. He is a must-start, regardless of the matchup, when healthy. He should only get better in Year 3. He might even emerge as a top-five back.
Philip Rivers finally didn't turn the ball over, but he didn't do much for Antonio Gates, who struggled in a tough matchup. The Ravens are one of the best teams in fantasy against TEs and it showed. Don't dare start any of the Browns TEs against the Ravens next week.
Since returning from injury, Malcom Floyd has shown capable of being a fantasy option. He is a decent sleeper against the Lions next week.
Anquan Boldin's mediocre numbers and Torrey Smith's emergence might alter the ranking of the two. Smith has outperformed Boldin for the year. Smith is the Ravens' No. 1 receiver now. Ed Dickson, who did find the end zone here, is a solid late-round sleeper at TE.
Joe Flacco has slotted as a fantasy backup, but the expected continued improvement by Smith and Dickson can get Flacco back among the top 12 next season. Flacco isn't a great option against the Browns, if only because it is going to be a heavy serving of Ray Rice next week.
Aaron Hernandez had the type of performance that reminds all of us why he is a must-start week-to-week. The Broncos had a very good defense going in against TEs, but Hernandez plays the position like a wide receiver and -- while usually overshadowed by Rob Gronkowski -- Hernandez is a must-start at the TE position.
Chad Ochocinco made an appearance in Deion Branch's absence, but we are reminded how little he has working with Tom Brady. He caught just that one 33-yard touchdown. Ochocinco is not a viable play against the Dolphins.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has had some awful rushing averages, but he at least found the end zone. The Pats made a mess of the RB position for us in fantasy, though, giving rookie Stevan Ridley and Danny Woodhead added time in the rotation. It is a mess best avoided in the final two weeks.
Lance Ball picked up the slack for Willis McGahee, who is being evaluated with a hamstring injury. Ball is a must-start in fantasy against the Bills bad rush defense if McGahee doesn't go. Ball is a good flex sleeper regardless.
Demaryius Thomas has put good distance between himself and Eric Decker in fantasy terms of late. Thomas is the play now.
Tim Tebow did enough to stay active in any formats. The Bills are a good matchup for him.
This performance has stamped LeSean McCoy as the No. 1 RB in football over the Texans' Arian Foster and perhaps made McCoy the fantasy MVP over Rodgers or Brees.
Michael Vick performed like a fantasy starter, but just not an elite one. He has made Brent Celek a must-start option at tight end facing the Cowboys next week, though. Vick will be a must-start in that matchup, too -- along with the huge disappointments Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.
Shonn Greene let his owners down in a great matchup, but it was more a function of the Eagles' big lead that took the rushing carries away from him. Greene will be much better next week against the Giants.
Plaxico Burress is the new Cris Carter: All he does is catch touchdowns.
Mark Sanchez has quietly had a fantasy-starter-quality year. He will be a good play against the maligned Giants defense, too.
Matthew Stafford came through with a clutch performance that should slot him right behind the Big Three at QB, Rodgers, Brees and Brady. Stafford has the No. 1 receiver in football -- yes, better than Welker -- in Calvin Johnson, who rebounds with a legendary fantasy performance of nine catches for 214 yards and two scores. Stafford and Johnson are the new Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison (or Reggie Wayne), the best combo in football.
Kevin Smith had poor results against a suspect run defense. Trusting him against a Chargers defense that slowed Ray Rice is risky.
Titus Young was outperformed by Nate Burleson, but he did at least find the end zone. Young is a great long-term talent but a mediocre option next week. Burleson should be the play over him.
Carson Palmer had arguably his best game as a Raider, mostly because he finally avoided the turnovers. It is also promising he is finally connecting with Darrius Heyward-Bey. It should give you enough confidence in them to use them in a tough matchup next week at Kansas City. Palmer's receivers are getting healthier, but it was still DHB and T.J. Houshmandzadeh that did the damage.
Michael Bush wasn't bad, but the pending return of Darren McFadden, perhaps, and the resurgent Chiefs defense make Bush a risky start in Super Bowls.
Greg Little finally had a veteran QB who can get him the ball down field. Seneca Wallace isn't a fantasy option, but he sure made the rookie Little into one. Starting any Browns against the Ravens (coming off a loss) is probably not a good idea.
Peyton Hillis rebounded with a clutch performance if you trusted him enough to use him. The Little rule applies against the Ravens for Hillis, too, though.
Andre Roberts outperformed Larry Fitzgerald, which makes Roberts a sleeper for 2012 but not a great option against the Bengals secondary next week.
Beanie Wells did enough to trust him in Week 16, barely.
Brees, overshadowed by Rodgers, is having the best season of his Hall of Fame career and Marino's single-season passing record will be going down. This hot streak has boosted Jimmy Graham to being a top-three tight end and Lance Moore to a solid starting receiver in a standard league. Marques Colston and Darren Sproles were already regular starters.
With Mark Ingram out, Chris Ivory piled up the carries and yards, but Sproles did the receiving damage out of the backfield and Pierre Thomas got the rushing score. No matter the status of Ingram, only Sproles is a viable start against the Falcons run defense in Week 16.
Percy Harvin's hot streak was halted, mostly due to the struggles of rookie Christian Ponder. He might not be a great play against the surging Redskins defense next week either.
Adrian Peterson did all right, but he wasn't quite the fantasy starter we needed, getting just 10 carries -- although that was more a function of the game's score than Peterson's health.
Toby Gerhart rewarded loyal fantasy owners with a pair of receiving scores, which could help you trust him next week against the Redskins.
Rodgers was somehow human in this one, not because of turnovers, but incompletions. He did salvage his day for fantasy owners with the late rushing score, though.
The Packers' lack of a running game caught up to them here. The injury absence of James Starks hurt, but none of the Packers backs will be good plays against the Bears' run defense.
Donald Driver, James Jones and even Jordy Nelson did a poor job of picking up the slack for Greg Jennings. They should be better next week. Driver at last caught a TD pass. Jones doesn't look like a viable play against the Bears.
The Chiefs were far more productive with Kyle Orton under center against that suspect Packers secondary. Orton avoided picks and spread the ball around. Steve Breaston showed a bit more and both he and Dwayne Bowe can be starts against the Raiders, if you need a sleeper in Breaston.
Thomas Jones got the bulk of the carries and more yards, but it was Jackie Battle who found the end zone late. Battle might be the better option if you need an RB sleeper against the Raiders' poor run defense next week.
Eli Manning choked for fantasy owners against the Redskins again. His rise to the elite will have to wait another year because of performances like this. The three picks were bad, but he was hurt by a lot of drops by his young receivers. Mario Manningham cut off a fade route that led to a Manning INT in the end zone late, too.
Hakeem Nicks dropped a sure long TD early and another TD late. Nicks was the only productive receiver, though. Victor Cruz disappointed, Manningham was hardly a factor and Jake Ballard was a bust.
Roy Helu was a surprising disappointment here, even with the score in his favor. The Giants bottled him up well and Helu didn't get involved in the passing game. The sledding should be tougher against the Vikings next week, which makes Helu a risky play if you have good alternatives.
Rex Grossman wasn't great, but he did enough to win and keep Jabar Gaffney and Santana Moss (because of a TD) productive for fantasy owners. Donte' Stallworth didn't quite get it going, but this group can be sleepers against a banged-up Vikings secondary that was ripped by Brees this week.
Ahmad Bradshaw took the reins back from Brandon Jacobs as the Giants RB to start. Neither will be good against the Jets run defense next week, though.
The Colts finally find the win column, playing a way they should have played from Day 1 -- conservatively and focusing on the running game. Donald Brown was having a mediocre game until he broke the 80-yard score to ice the game late. Brown has earned the right to be the Colts first-choice at RB next season over the aged Joseph Addai and fumble-prone rookie Delone Carter. None of the Colts backs are advisable plays Thursday against the Texans' run defense, though.
Dan Orlovsky didn't do much other than finding Reggie Wayne for a score. Pierre Garcon was quiet and Dallas Clark was blanked. No one is advisable against the Texans defense.
Chris Johnson wasn't terrible, but the Titans should have done more to get him going in the running game. Save for a 35-yard run, there wasn't much in his 15 carries for 55 rushing yards. Johnson did at least chip in eight receptions for 54 yards. Johnson remains a start against the Jags next week, particularly in PPR formats.
Matt Hasselbeck has likely officially handed the reins to Jake Locker here. Locker outplayed him with a passing TD to Nate Washington, who has been resurgent. Washington is the go-to receiver again. Damian Williams was relatively silent and was even outproduced by Lavelle Hawkins.
Titans TE Jared Cook went over 100 yards, but he is not worth the gamble in Week 16.
Arian Foster was limited to 16 carries, but he was plenty productive. The surprise was Ben Tate going for just 26 yards in his seven carries against that bad Panthers run defense. Tate should be a flex sleeper for us again against the Colts on Thursday, though.
The T.J. Yates love affair ends here. He was bad and couldn't make any of the Texans receivers or tight ends productive here. They should be better against the Colts, but they still shouldn't be considered sure things.
D'Angelo Williams has put back-to-back decent weeks together. With the run-poor Bucs defense on tap, Williams and maybe even Jonathan Stewart can be sleepers to use in your fantasy Super Bowl.
Cam Newton had a tough matchup and didn't play his best, but he avoided interceptions and got a pair of TD passes to Steve Smith and Jeremy Shockey. Shockey outplayed Greg Olsen here, but Olsen remains the better fantasy option next week if you're going with a Panthers TE, or any non-Smith Panthers receiver for that matter.
Marshawn Lynch was bottled up by a tough Bears run defense, but his two scores get him over the hump for fantasy owners. It might be enough for you to trust him even against the best rush defense in the NFL in the 49ers next week. They haven't allowed a rushing TD all season.
Caleb Hanie's interceptions might have kept the Bears from the playoffs. He might not get another start, if the Bears take the risk with Jay Cutler trying to come back next week. If Cutler comes back, you might be able to consider Earl Bennett a sleeper.
If Matt Forte doesn't come back next week, you might have to consider Kahlil Bell the RB to use. Marion Barber had that costly fumble last week and didn't show up here with just 11 carries for 33 yards. Bell is a decent receiver out of the backfield, too, which helps the QB.
Doug Baldwin falls back to being a non-factor. Tarvaris Jackson didn't lose the game here, but he is too inconsistent to trust any of his receivers.
Both Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott found the end zone against the suspect Rams run defense. Benson, despite the three fumbles, is a start against the Cardinals underrated run defense next week, but Scott is not.
Andy Dalton was a big disappointment against a bad Rams secondary, but he did make A.J. Green productive for fantasy owners. Jermaine Gresham and Jerome Simpson have decent futures, but shouldn't be trusted in your fantasy Super Bowl.
Kellen Clemens actually played better than Sam Bradford has for the majority of this season. Steven Jackson did most of the damage for him, while Brandon Lloyd was a marginal receiver. Jackson and Lloyd are going to be risky options against the Steelers' elite defense next week.
Reggie Bush has a career day with 203 yards and a TD against the poor Bills run defense. Bush has proved to be an everyday back, but it will be interesting what the new regime does -- especially since rookie Daniel Thomas should be better prepared and more healthy next season. Bush is going over 1,000 yards this season, though, and probably should be considered a top-20 RB.
Matt Moore shouldn't be a starter next season, but he has at least proved to be a solid veteran backup QB. He made Brandon Marshall and Anthony Fasano productive for owners with TDs here. The Pats suspect secondary can make Marshall a star, and Fasano and maybe even Brian Hartline sleepers next week.
C.J. Spiller had a productive day against one of the best run defenses in the NFL, going for 91 yards and a score on the ground. He was also a beast in the passing game with 10 catches, 73 yards and a score. It makes him a viable play against the Broncos next week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three picks, but he did go over 300 yards again, finally. Stevie Johnson really is the only receiver to trust, though. Most of David Nelson's production was in garbage time.
Tony Romo keeps making all three of his receivers productive, throwing a TD to Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Laurent Robinson. Even Jason Witten was productive with the four catches for 77 yards. You probably shouldn't sit any of them against the Eagles next week.
Felix Jones is taking over as a workhorse back and should remain active in all leagues. He has proven to be as good as Demarco Murray and the Eagles have been gashed on the ground this season.
Josh Freeman's bust of a third season should not get him drafted as a starter in any leagues next season. He won't be a good play against the Panthers next week either.
Mike Williams was blanked here and is a bad option, too. Tight end Kellen Winslow is only a marginally better option.
LeGarrette Blount went bust against the Cowboys resurgent run defense, mostly because the score took the run out of the Bucs game plan. Blount should be better against the Panthers run defense.
Matt Ryan is at his best right and should be considered a must-start in the upcoming shootout against the Saints. Roddy White and Julio Jones are clicking on all cylinders, while Tony Gonzalez should remain active and produce far more than the one catch for 14 yards he gave us here.
Michael Turner rebounded with a 60 yards and a score, proving he's not done being a must-start fantasy RB either.
Maurice Jones-Drew battered his way to 112 yards against a tough run defense. He rewarded owners that stuck with him in a bad matchup. He will be much better against a Titans team that was ripped on the ground by the Colts.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com, including the Start 'Em, Sit 'Em, the Weekend Fantasy Watch List and his Sunday night staple: Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.
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