It's often said the quarterback gets too much credit when a football team performs well and too much blame when things go awry. In the case of Aaron Rodgers, no matter how Green Bay Packers fans feel, fantasy football owners shouldn't have a disparaging word. Comparing the also-ran Packers with Brett Favre's contending New York Jets isn't really fair, but from our standpoint, the big winner was clearly Rodgers -- and those who trusted him as their starting quarterback.
Not only did Rodgers help fantasy football owners to their playoffs but he's going to lead teams to championships with his consistent and occasionally terrific play, which we clearly expect to continue Monday night against the Chicago Bears. Rodgers might even end up the best player in fantasy for the season, an incomprehensible thought considering the Favre soap opera from the summer and how Rodgers was viewed in it, and considering the Packers need to win out to avoid double digits in the loss column this season. Entering Week 16, only New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees had more fantasy points, regardless of position, in all of fantasy, and Rodgers has been better in the past month.
Let this be yet another lesson for fantasy owners, that an actual team's record rarely has influence over statistical output. Great job, Eli Manning, Jake Delhomme, Kerry Collins and Ben Roethlisberger -- you likely have earned your strong defensive teams bye weeks in the playoffs; but these guys aren't winning fantasy titles. Brees and Rodgers are the top quarterbacks in fantasy this season; they're winning titles. Of course, we feel compelled to point out that Brees was the No. 3 quarterback in ESPN average live drafts and Rodgers came in at No. 20, behind, among many others, Vince Young. Favre was No. 12, and he entered Sunday's games with fewer fantasy points than Tyler Thigpen.
My guess is some Rodgers owners aren't even aware just how prolific their late-round draft choice has been because he seldom has been one of the top activated signal-callers. Even this week, with his season ranking second to only one and against a Bears team that can be thrown on -- only eight teams allow more fantasy points to wide receivers -- Rodgers is active in fewer than 60 percent of leagues. That figure does rank him eighth at quarterback, ahead of Favre. At least Rodgers has that going for him!
If there's anything a fantasy owner takes from Rodgers' exceptional fantasy season, other than the fact some of the best statistics do come in losing seasons, it's to always check your roster and see whether someone with a lesser name on your bench is outperforming one of your starters; whether a simple change of whom you activate could help your team.
Rodgers clearly wasn't popular on draft day -- more a curiosity pick than anything else, it seems -- but those who have relied on him in fantasy this season have reaped the benefits. Maybe in 2009, as Rodgers becomes a top-5 quarterback on draft day -- other than Brees, Peyton Manning and maybe Tony Romo, who else is a surefire top-5 quarterback? -- the Packers can reverse their record and help get their quarterback to the grandest stage of all: the playoffs.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.