Earlier in the season, we praised the Texans' secondary as a fantasy rock
. Excluding the inimitable Rusty Smith
's lone career start, the Texans have surrendered 24 or more points in every game this season. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain, the foremost media authority on the franchise, declared the 2010 pass defense the worst "in the history of football at any level since the beginning of time
Into that dream matchup stepped rookie Tim Tebow
as a fantasy wild card during championship week. As former NFL player turned writer/analyst Ross Tucker
suggested, "if Tebow can't have a good day against THIS Texans pass defense, he may not be able to hack it
in the NFL. Pretty sure that is a rule."
Tebow hacked the worst pass defense in NFL history to the tune of 308 passing yards, 27 rushing yards, and two total touchdowns -- including the game winner on a drive that had every fan in the stadium believing the Broncos would pull through
. It was the eighth time this season that Houston allowed over 400 offensive yards and the first time a Broncos rookie has cleared 300 yards in his home starting debut.
It's tricky to gauge his progress against a lousy defense, but Tebow made clear improvement over his first start. While his mechanics remain a work in progress, Tebow displayed surprising arm strength and accuracy on intermediate-to-deep throws. After easing his quarterback in early with screen passes and checkdowns, play-caller Mike McCoy unleashed an aggressive Tebow down 17 points to start the second half. He was rewarded with a chain-moving performance highlighted by Tebow's "competitive leadership
" in crunch time.
Tebow isn't out of the woods just yet, but his performance in his first two starts will leave the next Broncos regime with a Kyle Orton
dilemma. If Tebow can build on the best moment of the season with another impressive game next week, the Denver faithtful will have a reason to get excited heading into the 2011 offseason.
When filling out Week 17 fantasy lineups, just remember the Texans' pass defense makes heroes out of every quarterback they see. Get your "Jag-er Bombs
" ready for the season finale.Editor's Note: You can get our Season Pass package at a discount rate for the fantasy playoffs. Tons of extra stat tools, projections, columns, and playoff rankings, and Chris Wesseling's Dynasty league coverage -- all for just $4.99.Fantasy Triplets Matt Cassel / Jamaal Charles / Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs - Kansas City's 34-14 blowout victory over the Titans was a testament to offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' play-calling. Cassel's Pro Bowl-caliber performance throughout the season is a testament to Weis' tutoring (and an unbelievably weak pass defense schedule). Missing one game due to appendectomy surgery, Cassel's 27 touchdowns are already 11 more than last season's total while cutting his interceptions from 16 to five. The Chiefs are 10-4 with Cassel in the lineup, and they've yet to lose at Arrowhead. So which quarterback does he beat out for a Pro Bowl spot: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, or Peyton Manning?
For all of the early-season hand wringing over Charles' role, he carried a lot of fantasy owners to the championship on Sunday. Only Arian Foster, Peyton Hillis, and Darren McFadden boast more than Charles' 225.5 fantasy points. Only Foster has more rushing yards (1,434 to 1,380) and yards from scrimmage (2,028 to 1,835). No back has outproduced Charles at crunch time in the past five weeks. Should we be thanking Todd Haley for keeping him fresh for the fantasy playoffs?
After racking up 13 touchdowns in a seven-game stretch from Weeks 6-12, Bowe had been held to three catches and zero scores in the last three games. That slump was busted on an in route that Bowe took for 75 yards against an unmotivated Titans defense Sunday. Bowe's 153 yards led the league in Week 16, and he's up to a league-best 199.4 fantasy points powered by 15 touchdowns.
Josh Freeman / Kellen Winslow / Mike Williams, Buccaneers - It's a shame Tampa Bay isn't in the NFC West. They would have made an ideal champion. Freeman won't garner serious MVP consideration, but how many players have been more instrumental to their team's success in 2010? Freeman tied a Buccaneers franchise record with five touchdowns in a 38-15 rout of Seattle, guaranteeing a winning record for a team that started 10 rookies this season. One of the league's most improved players, Freeman has just one interception in his last seven games. Only Tom Brady, Michael Vick, Matt Cassel, and Ben Roethlisberger have fewer picks than Freeman's six. The second-year signal caller is up to 11th in QB fantasy points this season.
Kellen Winslow entered championship week as one of fantasy's biggest every-week disappointments at tight end. After burning the Seahawks for seven receptions, 98 yards, and two touchdowns, Winslow skyrocketed to fifth in an underwhelming field this year. With a week to go, Winslow's 63/702/5 line isn't far off last year's 77/884/5 performance.
Mike Williams posted the first two-score game of his impressive rookie season, vaulting to 12th at wide receiver with a 60/915/10 line. With 151.5 fantasy points, Williams has a good shot to pass both Marques Colston (151.8) and Michael Clayton (161.3) for the second-best rookie receiver season of the past decade. Anquan Boldin is locked in at No. 1 with 181.7 points in 2003.
Special mention goes out to LeGarrette Blount, who blasted Seattle's defense for 164 yards on 18 carries. With three 100-yard performances in the past four weeks, Blount is just 59 yards away from 1,000 while averaging 5.2 yards per tote.
Jay Cutler / Matt Forte / Johnny Knox, Bears - Though Cutler uncorked his requisite pick-six against the Jets, his offense appears to be peaking at the right time. The Bears scored 38+ points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1989. With Mike Martz incorporating more moving pockets and deep drops, Cutler has survived a porous offensive line to throw at least three touchdowns in three of the past five games. He's up to 13th in QB fantasy points after sitting closer to 20 a few weeks back.
With the offense struggling around him for much of the season, Forte has been the epitome of a "will he or won't he" fantasy play each week. He rewarded faithful owners Sunday, snapping the Jets' streak of 21 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. On the strength of 169 yards in Week 16, Forte became the first running back in franchise history with at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage in each of his first three NFL seasons. Forte is now 10th in running back fantasy points this year.
Johnny Knox was a major Rotoworld tout back in August as the receiver most likely to break out under Mike Martz. While it's been a rocky road thanks in large part to early-season quarterback woes, Knox is just 40 yards away from the franchise's first 1,000-yard receiving season since 2002. With a 51/960/5 line, Knox is up to 21st in wide receiver fantasy points.
Aaron Rodgers / Greg Jennings / Jordy Nelson, Packers - One week after missing his first start in three seasons, Rodgers shredded the Giants defense for a career-high 404 yards and four touchdowns in a must-win game to put Green Bay in the driver's seat for the NFC's No. 6 seed. The virtuoso performance called to mind Rodgers' epic playoff performance in last year's playoff shootout victory at Arizona. Since 2008, Rodgers has passed for 12,165 yards to join Kurt Warner (12,612) and Peyton Manning (12,287) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to clear 12,000 yards in their first three seasons as a starter.
Rodgers got the scoring started by finding Nelson streaking across the middle. Nelson did the rest, outrunning Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant for an 80-yard score, the longest of his career. While the Packers' fourth receiver won't be a fantasy factor in Week 17, Jennings roared back to elite WR1 status in Rodgers' return. Excelling, as usual, at the point of the catch, Jennings' 142 yards were second only to Bowe's 153 in Week 16. He trails only Bowe and Brandon Lloyd in wideout antasy points this season.