Fantasy Football

Week 15 flops: Hightower falters

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for>>

The eyes of many fantasy owners were fixed on the pregame warm-ups for the Chiefs-Rams game on Sunday.

Every Matt Cassel throw and facial expression was analyzed and scrutinized, and the toggling of fantasy lineups had keyboards smoking. His return to the field spurred the Chiefs to victory, but Cassel was not the elixir that owners of Dwayne Bowe had hoped he’d be in Sunday’s game.

Bowe caught two passes for 53 yards on six targets. Bowe’s three-game scoreless streak torpedoed the best efforts of fantasy owners down the stretch. He’s caught a total of three passes for 56 yards in the past three weeks.

Like Bowe, fantasy superhero Peyton Hillis also saw his scoreless streak extended to three games by the Bengals on Sunday. He carried the ball 14 times for 59 yards while adding two receptions for 23 yards.

It was a respectable effort, but certainly not the world-beating effort to which owners had become accustomed in the balance of the season. Hillis was limited to fewer than 60 rushing yards for the second time in three weeks.

Owners of Maurice Jones-Drew had penciled in their numbers and booked their flights to the championship round prior to kickoff against the Colts.

Alas, Jones-Drew couldn’t replicate his normal heroics against the Colts and was limited to 46 rushing yards. He added two receptions for 22 yards, but that was hardly the monster performance that fantasy owners anticipated.

Remember, Jones-Drew came into this game with 12 rushing touchdowns against the Colts during his career and had scored twice in the Week 4 meeting (one via the air). The Colts did a fantastic job to contain Jones-Drew, thus ending his six-game streak of 100-yard efforts.

St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was shut out in the passing touchdown column for the third straight game in Sunday’s 27-13 loss to Kansas City (he rushed for a touchdown in Week 14). He completed 21-of-43 attempts for 181 yards and threw two interceptions for the second straight game and absorbed three sacks.

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Tim Hightower was a popular waiver wire pickup and plug-in starter this week for a highly advantageous matchup against the Panthers. Alas, Hightower’s touch count was tiny and his production even worse. He carried the ball six times for 16 yards, adding three receptions for 12 yards.

Hightower also fumbled inside the 5-yard line to squander his best opportunity of the day. Receiver Steve Breaston scooped up the ball and scored the Cardinals’ lone touchdown of the day.

Chris “Beanie” Wells’ lost season continued with another miniscule effort against the Panthers. He carried the ball eight times for 11 yards in the Cardinals’ latest loss. Wells has rushed for fewer than 20 yards in three of the past four weeks.

Mike Goodson was on the radar as a possible flex option this week against the Cardinals given the Panthers’ recent success on the ground and his contribution to the passing game.


Instead, he watched as Jonathan Stewart rumbled for 137 yards and did little with his 12 touches. Goodson carried the ball 10 times for 21 yards and contributed two receptions for 27 yards. He’d amassed 100 total yards or scored in five of the Panthers’ previous six games.

If you only saw the final score and didn’t watch the tale of redemption or horror film (depending on your allegiance) in East Rutherford, you would have assumed that every big name involved in the action contributed to your fantasy lineup’s bottom line. Alas, that wasn’t the case.

The huge early deficit faced by the Eagles limited LeSean McCoy’s chances on the ground. He carried the ball 10 times for 64 yards, including a 20-yard sprint. He added only 13 receiving yards on four receptions.

McCoy had amassed 100 total yards or scored in seven consecutive games heading into Sunday’s divisional battle. At the same time, I do feel that I would be remiss if I failed to note that McCoy topped 1,000 yards for the season in this contest.

The Giants’ tailbacks were also held in check during this game. Ahmad Bradshaw carried the ball 19 times for 66 yards, adding two receptions for 14 yards. Brandon Jacobs’ three-game reign of terror ended when the Eagles limited him to 34 yards on 12 carries.

The Lions ended that miserable 26-game road losing streak by defeating the Buccaneers in overtime. Unfortunately, tight end Brandon Pettigrew didn’t contribute much to fantasy box scores. The 6-foot-5 behemoth caught two passes for 25 yards, his sixth straight game without an end zone romp.

Although Pettigrew has generated only three touchdowns this season, his 64 receptions should not be discounted as we look ahead to 2011.

Arrelious Benn was on the "super-sleeper" list for this week given his recent production (122 yards in Week 14) and growth of the Tampa Bay offense. The Lions did well to contain Josh Freeman’s new deep threat, holding Benn to three receptions and 34 receiving yards on four targets.

Kellen Winslow was the victim of a dubious penalty call in the end zone that negated a touchdown reception against the Lions (and took Josh Freeman out of the “Stars” article). Winslow caught four passes for 46 yards on six targets. The veteran tight end has caught three or more passes in 12 of 14 games this season.

I had grand hopes for the Miami running game against Buffalo in Week 15. Ronnie Brown found the end zone in the loss, but Ricky Williams couldn’t get rolling.

Williams amassed just 19 yards on seven carries. He held some value in PPR leagues with five receptions, although the 34 receiving yards hardly made a dent in fantasy box scores.

The Dolphins did well to limit the opportunities afforded to dual-threat running back Fred Jackson on Sunday. Jackson did not record a catch in the Bills’ victory and was held to 36 rushing yards on 15 attempts. To his credit, Jackson did reach 1,000 total yards for the season in this contest.

Jacksonville receiver Mike Thomas made one of the more confusing plays of Week 15. He seemingly signaled for a fair catch on a punt return in the second quarter and then promptly sprinted 78 yards for a touchdown.

If you received points for the return, then you can raise your coffee cup as a salute. If you didn’t, then his three-reception, 63-yard effort hardly moved the needle, particularly when his lost fumble was factored into the final point total.

The Colts scored 34 points in Sunday’s all-important win over the Jaguars. Alas, fantasy owners received little production from the receiving corps outside of Austin Collie. You received adequate contributions from them in PPR leagues, but their production in standard leagues was minimal.

- Pierre Garcon caught five passes for 44 yards. He’s caught five or more passes in six consecutive games.

- Reggie Wayne caught five passes for 34 yards. Wayne has recorded two touchdowns in the past seven weeks.

- Jacob Tamme played through injuries to haul in seven passes, but yielded only 34 yards on those grabs. He’s caught four or more passes in each of the eight games in which he’s played.

It wasn’t a terrible week for Jason Campbell overall. He passed for 238 yards and rushed for 41 yards to offset his two interceptions. Campbell completed one touchdown pass to Marcel Reece, a 73-yard throw and sprint.

Louis Murphy was targeted only twice in the Oakland victory. He finished with a single reception for 14 yards.

I know that we’re still trying to pick up our jaws following the game-ending punt return by DeSean Jackson against the Giants. You’re also probably spending a little time either consoling our needling Giants fans this morning.

Unfortunately, many owners did not receive credit for these heroics and were left wanting. Jackson finished the game with three receptions for 52 yards and lost a fumble. He was targeted eight times in the dramatic victory.

It was Jackson’s fourth game without a receiving touchdown in his past five starts (three games with fewer than 60 receiving yards).

The New York Giants defense and special teams failed miserably in that final play of the game. Clearly, allowing Jackson’s sprint to daylight at the close that game rates among the more mind-boggling failures in recent memory.

I still have to wonder what happened in that second half overall. Armed with a huge lead, the Giants failed to run the ball effectively and the defense failed miserably. Justin Tuck was chasing Brent Celek, and Kenny Phillips whiffed on the tackle. You couldn’t have anticipated that the Giants would contain Michael Vick and the Eagles altogether, but this was a catastrophe.

Finally, I need to make a note about the disappearances of Wes Welker and Deion Branch in that odd New England victory over Green Bay on Sunday night. Welker logged three receptions for 42 yards (six targets), while Branch recorded two receptions for 33 yards.

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