Surprises: Hilliard steps in for Ricky

You opened your gifts and attended multiple holiday gatherings this

weekend. Perhaps you spent countless hours at an airport waiting

for the call to board your flight to Anytown, USA. I have no doubt

that whatever your activities, visions of glorious long passes,

spine-tingling hits and end zone celebrations danced in your head.

It’s championship week in our glorious fantasy land, and

more than a few matchups hang in the balance as we await kickoff of

the Minnesota-Chicago game at Soldier Field. Some owners are

waiting to unwrap a title on the strength of

Adrian Peterson’s legs or perhaps maybe

Brett Favre’s arm, while others rode a number of

surprising options to big weeks.

One of the first stat lines that popped off the page was that of

Atlanta quarterback

Matt Ryan. In a tough spot against the Bills and coming off

a difficult run of recent performances, he completed 18-of-35

attempts with three touchdowns. The Bills had only allowed 11

passing touchdowns coming into the Week 16 battle, and Ryan worked

the downfield passing game brilliantly.

Roddy White had been quiet for the past month and made for a

difficult play against the Bills. It seemed that a good portion of

non-

Jerome Harrison calls, texts and Tweets (more on him in a

moment) on our “FOX Fantasy Football” radio show

involved White. He rallied against the Bills to post a brilliant

game, hauling in eight passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Trusting fantasy owners received an early validation of their trust

when he and Ryan connected on a long touchdown pass.

Veteran receiver

Marty Booker caught four passes for 57 yards and a

touchdown, his first of the season. I knew he was on the roster,

but the touchdown grab left me a tad shocked.

The Panthers came out and just ran over the Giants in Week 16,

thus ending any playoff hopes for New York.

Matt Moore shone brightly again, completing 15-of-20

attempts for 171 yards and three touchdowns. It was his second

consecutive three-touchdown game since assuming the top spot

because of

Jake Delhomme’s injury. Panthers fans can only ask the

“what might have been?” question as we roll toward the

end of the season.

DeAngelo Williams was deactivated, thereby putting

second-year tailback

Jonathan Stewart into the lead role for the Panthers.

Stewart showed great power and speed, breaking tackle after tackle

en route to a mind-boggling 206-yard performance with a touchdown

on 28 carries. He’s raced to three 100-yard games in his past

four starts and has now topped 1,000 yards for the season.

One of Moore’s touchdown passes was thrown to veteran

receiver

Muhsin Muhammad. It was his first touchdown of the season.

He caught three passes for 56 yards and has now caught multiple

passes in four consecutive games.

There was ample debate about the role to be assumed by Cleveland

tailback Jerome Harrison against the Raiders. Would Eric Mangini

reverse course again and throw rookie

Chris Jennings back into the mix? Those questions were

answered quickly, as Harrison rumbled for a 17-yard touchdown early

in the game. He assumed the role of true workhorse with 39 carries

for 148 yards, a touchdown and a lost fumble. Mangini likes what

he’s seen from him the past couple weeks, as Harrison’s

seemingly left his injuries behind. However, we have to wonder

whether Mangini will be around to coach him beyond Week 17.

The Dolphins tried to make a dramatic comeback against the

Texans after surrendering a huge lead. Owners who didn’t see

the game would have assumed

Ricky Williams was leading the charge. Alas, he’d been

sidelined by a shoulder injury, thereby leaving

Lex Hilliard from Monmouth as the top option, and he carried

the ball three times for 12 yards and a touchdown. He also scored

through the air with nine catches for 74 yards. He becomes

wire-worthy this week as we await confirmation of Williams’

status.

It happened one week too late for fantasy owners. Houston turned

to

Arian Foster for a huge workload against the Dolphins, and

he responded with a 19-carry, 97-yard effort with a touchdown in

the win. His bid for additional touches was aided by

Chris Brown’s loss of another fumble.

Dallas tight end

Jason Witten caught six passes for 117 yards, including a

career-long 69-yard reception. He narrowly missed recording his

second touchdown of the season on that long sprint toward the end

zone. Alas, he was tackled inside the five-yard line. Still, this

was a nice boost for dedicated fantasy owners from his smallish

weekly totals they’d been receiving.

Kyle Orton performed nicely in a rough spot against the

Philadelphia defense. He passed for 182 yards with three

touchdowns, an interception and three sacks in the intriguing

second-half comeback effort.

Jabar Gaffney was Orton’s top target in this contest,

registering seven catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. His

seven receptions marked a new season high mark. He’s caught

three or more passes in nine games this season.

Todd Heap didn’t rack up a huge reception total on

Sunday against Pittsburgh, but he made his looks count. He caught

two passes for 37 yards, both of which were touchdowns.

That’s an efficient workday. Imagine if he’d been able

to stay healthy the past several years.

New England ran with

Laurence Maroney early against the Jaguars, but a costly

fumble at the goal-line put him on the bench.

Sammy Morris took the top spot and rumbled for 95 yards and

a touchdown on 12 carries. He’ll be the top back for Bill

Belichick in Week 17.

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