Chris Wesseling

The Morning After

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Sweet Smell of Vick-tory

Monday, December 20, 2010


According to ColdHardFootballFacts.com, the Eagles entered Week 15 with an NFL-best 58 big plays in 13 games, an average of 4.5 game-changing explosions per week. After the Giants smothered Michael Vick & Co. for 52 and a half minutes, Philly's offense erupted for four plays of 30+ yards in the fourth quarter alone. In the final eight minutes, Vick was 6-of-11 for 121 yards and two touchdowns through the air while adding 94 yards and another score on four scrambles.

Vick was at his unparalleled best, demoralizing his opponent. On six first-half plays where the Giants brought seven or more pass-rushers, Vick managed just a five-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin. When the Giants sent the house in the fourth quarter, Vick scrambled away for huge gains of 22, 33, and 35 yards. "That's as frustrating as it gets to ... a defensive team, to be in position and to be doing what your responsibilities are, and the quarterback just slithers his way out of there or he ducks down, or however he did it," a dejected coach Tom Coughlin said after the game.

Vick's unstoppable performance left teammate Asante Samuel exclaiming, "You can't even write a movie like that." It was just the ninth time in NFL history that a team has come back from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to win. The 28 fourth-quarter points also set a franchise record.

The 130 yards rushing were more than all but four running backs Sunday -- and a reminder that no franchise does running quarterbacks like the Philadelphia Eagles. Randall Cunningham (1988, 1990) and Donovan McNabb (2000) are the only two quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 3,000 yards and 20 TDs while also scrambling for 600 yards and five rushing TDs in a single season. With 245 more passing yards, Vick will join that dynamic duo.

The Eagles are now 8-1 in games Vick has started and finished, averaging 30.0 points per outing. His lowest passer rating in a game this season is 83.0, which is higher than any seasonal rating he posted in six seasons with the Falcons. In 71 starts in Atlanta, Vick threw three touchdown passes of 45+ yards. In 10 starts in Philadelphia, Vick has already tossed eight touchdowns of 45+ yards. It's a testament to the Eagles' explosive weaponry and Vick's vast improvement as a pocket passer.

Sunday's game was the perfect example of why Vick can never be sat in fantasy leagues regardless of matchup. You simply cannot let the potential of one player carrying your team to victory go unused on a weekly basis. Despite missing three starts and going half-way in two other games, Vick is in a virtual three-way tie with Drew Brees and Philip Rivers for first place in quarterback fantasy points. His 29.7 points per week are nearly six points more than second-place Aaron Rodgers' second-place mark of 24 per game. I'm taking Vick into the fantasy finals in three of my four redraft leagues, and I bet that's the case with the majority of Vick owners. The playing field won't be level in championship week.

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Game Balls

Ray Rice - Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis challenged his offense Saturday night in a team meeting to set a physical tone. "Ray said if we're going to run the ball, then run it � and let's not stop running it until they stop us," Rice said. "I got his message." After some veterans privately questioned Cam Cameron's play-calling, the offensive coordinator finally got the ball in his best player's hands for a career-high 36 touches.

Held under 100 rushing yards in all but one game this season, Rice broke out for 153 rushing yards and a touchdown on 31 carries while adding five receptions for 80 yards and another score. Without a run longer than 30 yards on the season, Rice finally broke free for a 50-yarder while adding a 32-yard screen pass that featured seven broken tackles. As ESPN's John Clayton points out, the key to Rice's big day was running up the middle. He had averaged just 3.9 yards per carry up the gut coming into the game. That number jumped to 6.9 when the Saints had seven or fewer defenders in the box Sunday. "We had probably broken more tackles than we've ever had," coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought that Rice and Willis McGahee ran really hard and I thought our offensive line finished blocks. We moved people and finished blocks." Expect Rice to remain the offensive focal point at Cleveland in Week 16.

Jamaal Charles - Tied for 15th in the NFL in rushing attempts (203), Charles has vaulted to third in rushing yards -- only 40 behind leader Arian Foster. Buoyed by a career-long 80-yard run in the fourth quarter, Charles averaged 10.9 yards per on 14 touches at St. Louis. In his last 17 games, JC Superstar has 1,961 rushing yards for an preposterous average of 6.6 per carry. He's up to eighth among running backs in fantasy points.

Larry Fitzgerald - Cardinals quarterbacks have combined for a 50.5 completion rate, 5.9 yards per attempt, an 8:17 TD-to-INT ratio, and a passer rating below 60. The putrid passing hasn't stopped Fitz from catching fire, however, with double-digit targets in an incredible nine straight games. Here's a stat you won't believe: Despite the knee sprain to open the sesson, Fitzgerald is averaging more yards per game (70.4) this year than he did last year with Kurt Warner (68.3). Barring the unexpected, he's going to hit 90 receptions and 1,100 yards for the fourth straight season and fifth in the past six. Fitzgerald (27 years, 110 days old) is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 600 receptions and the second-youngest (8,053) to record 8,000 receiving yards behind Randy Moss (26 years, 297 days).

Calvin Johnson - Nine of Megatron's 10 catches went for first downs, and he was clutch on the Lions' critical final two possessions. "They have a ridiculously tough dude to deal with and we didn't deal with him very well,'' admitted cornerback Ronde Barber. With a 73/1,068/12 line, Calvin is second only to Brandon Lloyd in wide receiver fantasy points.

Mike Wallace - Wallace was expected to spend the afternoon stranded on Revis Island, but the shutdown corner shadowed Hines Ward instead. Wallace has proven to be matchup proof, regardless, beating all corners this year. Fantasy's No. 10 receiver is enjoying a true breakout season with 1,048 yards and eight scores. He (91) and DeSean Jackson (84) are the only fantasy receivers in the top-20 with fewer than 100 targets.

Brandon Marshall - If checkdown artist Chad Henne had found an open Marshall on fly routes down the field, this could have been a 200-yard performance. Instead, Henne dumped off to Marshall, who bodied up CB Drayton Florence on a string of horizontal receptions. The majority of Marshall owners are sitting at home for the fantasy playoffs. Those still in contention have the luxury of a tasty matchup against the Lions in Week 16.

Jonathan Stewart - After averaging 118 yards in five games to close out last season, Stewart has averaged 115 over the past month since returning from a concussion. With a per carry average of 5.48 yards over that same span, Stewart is running as well as any back in the NFL. The irresistible force meets an immovable object Thursday night when Stewart travels to Pittsburgh to take on a defense surrendering just 3.0 yards per carry and 24 yards fewer per game than any other team.

The Babineaux Family - Safety Jordan of the Seahawks picked off Matt Ryan only to be upstaged by his brother the next quarter. Jonathan recovered a Matt Hasselbeck fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, the pivotal play in a game that had been tight to that point.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
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