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Updated: December 22, 2008, 12:10 PM ET

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Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward came up big, but were they even in your starting lineup?

Rush to judgment
Heading into the Sunday night game at Giants Stadium, it had been a pretty dull week for running backs in fantasy football. Nobody at the position had managed as many as 20 fantasy points, and the ones who were scoring were hardly popular (Fred Jackson? LaMont Jordan?). Quarterbacks, a few defenses -- the Cincinnati Bengals, really? -- and a tight end littered the leaderboard. And then the Giants and Panthers faced off.

Nothing against Carolina's DeAngelo Williams, whose 34-point fantasy performance in Sunday night's game was certainly impressive and led the week, but what two-thirds of the New York Giants' Earth, Wind & Fire running attack accomplished late in the game was quite a treat, and likely changed a lot of fantasy championship tilts.

Williams scored four touchdowns, eclipsing 30 fantasy points for an incredible third time in four weeks, but was left on the bench in 23 percent of leagues. By this point of the season, fantasy's top running back should be a fixture in lineups, whether the opponent is the defending Super Bowl champs or not. Williams might end up fantasy's MVP, as he leads all running backs in fantasy points heading into the final week.

Meanwhile, fantasy owners who owned Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward weren't rushing to activate them. Because Jacobs' availability was still in question Sunday morning, he was started in just under 53 percent of leagues, while Ward was active in just more than 40 percent. If Jacobs plays, would he play well, and what would that mean for Ward? Thus, most fantasy owners looked elsewhere. Jamal Lewis was active in more leagues. Who knew both Giants running backs would be this good in the same game?

Had John Kasay kicked a game-winning 50-yard field goal late in regulation, the Giants' duo would have had decent games. In overtime, each added to the fun. Ward had more than 100 yards in regulation, then he broke off runs of 51, 14 and 17 yards in overtime to reach a career-best 215 rushing yards. No, he never did score, but that's still a fat 21 fantasy points -- Ward's best output of the season. Jacobs then punched in the winning score, his third touchdown of the game, en route to 26 fantasy points, also a season high. Williams had the best individual performance of the game, and the week, but the Giants got the win.

In terms of what this means for Week 17, those who own Williams can smile, as the Panthers need to beat the Saints to win the division, so he'll be in there. Don't bet against another monster outing. The Giants have clinched the NFC's top seed, so there's little chance Jacobs, and probably Ward, will be in action. Maybe it's time for Ahmad Bradshaw to score 20 fantasy points.

In Other News

Weather? What weather? Sure, you can point to Mother Nature for limiting the productivity for a number of your favorite fantasy quarterback options Sunday, but just as many players did well. Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington were supposed to sputter in frigid Missouri, but they combined for 44 fantasy points. Kurt Warner burned many an owner with his one fantasy point, but on the same field, Matt Cassel had no problems throwing for 345 yards and three scores. And while Brett Favre was busy giving the ball to the Seahawks, Seattle's Seneca Wallace wasn't. My theory on weather: These guys are professionals, and most of the time rain, sleet and snow are vastly overrated for hurting statistics.

There's irony in the fact the 2008 regular season will close with AFC West quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers meeting to decide the division title, as they were the top individual performers of Week 16 until Williams topped them. Cutler and Rivers were top-5 quarterbacks for fantasy for the season entering the week, and Nos. 3 and 6, respectively, for being activated in ESPN leagues in Week 16, so their performances aren't shocking. Cutler threw for 359 yards and ran for two touchdowns in a home loss to the Bills, while Rivers went to Tampa Bay and produced his first four-touchdown game of the season. It's a good thing for fantasy that Cutler lost and Rivers won; had either of those not happened, we'd probably be watching backups Patrick Ramsey and Billy Volek slinging the football in Week 17.

Fantasy owners haven't received too many monster performances from the tight end position. In fact, entering Week 16, only three tight ends had managed to reach 20 points in a game all season long! Dallas Clark did it twice, including Week 15, and Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow did it in Week 10. That is it. And then came Visanthe Shiancoe of the Minnesota Vikings, who blew them all away Sunday with 136 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns. That's 25 fantasy points, more than doubling his previous best performance. A week ago he caught one pass for eight yards, certainly not making his news on the field. Shiancoe was active in 23.2 percent of ESPN leagues, ranking him 19th at the tight end spot, even though he entered the week eighth in points at his position. If you won a fantasy title because of Shiancoe's career game, congrats.

What I Noticed
This Week In Fantasy Football History
By Neil Tardy

1995: Isaac Bruce has been around long enough to amass 1,000 receptions and move into second place all-time in receiving yards. Bruce has been around so long you may have forgotten his place as one of fantasy's great finds. As a Los Angeles Rams rookie in 1994, Bruce totaled a mere 21 receptions in 12 games. But as a second-year pro with the St. Louis Rams, he amassed an astonishing 119 catches for 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns. So, you're thinking, Bruce had to be the prized receiver in fantasy that year. If you are, there's something else you're forgetting: 1995 was the year of the wideout. Incredibly, Bruce was fourth in the league in receptions that season, trailing Herman Moore (123) and Jerry Rice and Cris Carter (122 apiece). But if you were playing for a fantasy title in the '95 season finale, Bruce was the best of this remarkable foursome. He went for 15 receptions, 210 yards and a score versus Miami.

Raise your hand if Tyler Thigpen turned your season around and won you a fantasy title. Whoever runs the Chiefs in 2009, play this guy. … How scared were Pierre Thomas owners when the first three Saints to score rushing touchdowns were not him? Thankfully the Lions complied, Thomas scored, and all was well. … One can only wonder how Dan Orlovsky would have done had he not been held back by the flu. From 125 passing yards to what, 150? … T.J. Houshmandzadeh was held without a catch against the Browns. Then again, there's little need to throw when the Browns last scored a touchdown in 1989. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw nine passes. That's one drive for Drew Brees. … I played Shaun Hill in a title game and was mighty worried when he was in negative fantasy points with four minutes to go. After the game, coach Mike Singletary admitted he nearly yanked Hill for J.T. O'Sullivan. Hill salvaged his game with two late touchdowns, though. … Kurt Warner's problem wasn't really the weather. It's the team around him. Warner is unlikely to play until the playoffs. … Arizona tried to run, but Tim Hightower couldn't do a thing. … Wait for it -- DeSean Jackson just dropped another pass! … Good for Jamal Lewis, as he became the 24th player in history to rush for 10,000 yards. But he still hasn't rushed for 100 in a game this season. … I couldn't count how many DeShaun Foster questions there were in the Sunday morning chat. So, you still want to rely on the guy? … The Buccaneers' defense did seem a wise fantasy choice with the Chargers traveling cross-country. Um, 41 points later, the No. 3 fantasy defense for the season doesn't even look so good for Week 17 against the Raiders. … That's one touchdown and six picks for Brett Favre in four games, if you're still counting.


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Best and Worst …
Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals
Actually, call it a tie between and Benson and his team's stout defense. The running back exploded for a career-best 171 yards on an incredible 38 rushes, while the Cincy defense -- active in 2.7 percent of leagues! -- pitched a shutout against their Ohio rivals and racked up 27 points. Benson didn't score a touchdown, but with back-to-back 15-point efforts you'll have to consider him a flex at worst against the Chiefs the final week.

Coming off a 207-yard, 26-point effort against the Titans, few Andre Johnson owners were scared to use him against the Raiders. Two catches and one fantasy point later, Johnson had his worst week at the worst time for the 97.4 percent of fantasy owners who activated him. Ouch. And it's not like Kevin Walter or Steve Slaton went off, either.
Player Tracker

Tarvaris Jackson, QB, Vikings: It's anyone's guess why this guy played so poorly to start the season, but he's putting up the numbers now. You might want to take a look at him in the final week against a Giants team that doesn't need the win. Jackson put up 22 fantasy points for the second consecutive week, throwing two touchdowns and running for 76 yards. There's hope for him in 2009 yet.

LaMont Jordan, RB, Patriots: Where was this all season? Jordan isn't the most durable guy, or the youngest, but he'll be a popular addition for Sunday's game in Buffalo, considering he has become the goal-line guy and scored 34 fantasy points in two games. Who knows, he could matter next season as well.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions: When you think of rookie running backs this season, he probably isn't at the top of the list that comes to mind. However, Smith is closing strong, with 17 fantasy points against the Saints on Sunday, following up his 15 the week prior. It's a shame it all happened for one of the worst teams in history, which has clouded his accomplishments.

Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers: Let's give the old man some credit for not only scoring the team's first touchdown, but his seven receptions moved him over 1,000 for his career, and his 61 yards pushed him into second place all-time. Bruce has showed renewed kick with Shaun Hill, and assuming he plays next season, shouldn't be forgotten.

Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: So much for turning his season around. In truth, McNabb had only one great game after his Week 12 benching, skewering an easy-to-skewer Cardinals defense. Against the Redskins, McNabb hurt fantasy owners with a mere seven points. He has one more game as an Eagle, then who knows which team he'll be underachieving for in 2009.

Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: It's not just that reserve Ricky Williams had more carries and scored a touchdown, but Williams had more receptions as well! Brown finished with single-digit fantasy points Sunday for the fifth time in six games, and there's little reason to think if a Miami running back does well this week at the Jets that it will be him.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: The Titans are good, but people had run on them this season. Parker did not, averaging fewer than two yards on his 18 rushes. The Steelers probably won't use him much in the finale, if at all, but one must wonder if Fast Willie will ever be relied upon to match his fantastic 2006 again.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs: Unlike Braylon Edwards, among others, you can't blame Bowe's problems on his quarterback. Tyler Thigpen certainly got things done. Bowe won't follow up his fine rookie campaign with more points, and his disappointing two-point game as the Chiefs scored 31 is a microcosm of his season.

Trainer's Room

Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch ran for 34 yards and a touchdown before he suffered a sore shoulder and turned things over to star-of-the-game Fred Jackson. The Bills have nothing to play for in Week 17, so Lynch might not play. Others who were seen limping around the field include Calvin Johnson and Brian Westbrook with hurt knees. Westbrook should play as the Eagles need to win.

Broncos running backs continued their trend of getting hurt. P.J. Pope started and ran for 44 yards, then left with a sore hamstring. Selvin Young replaced him, ran poorly, then left with a pinched nerve in his neck. That is probably what it takes for Tatum Bell to get carries in Week 17, unless Jay Cutler gets them all. Cutler led the team in carries Sunday.

Early Week 17 Trends
Well, this is it, folks. Some of you might have already celebrated league championships, but for those who play to the bitter end, we're here for you. Everything in Week 17 happens Sunday. The Broncos and Chargers will finish things up in the night game. These teams met in Week 2 and put on quite the show, as the Broncos won 39-38 on Mike Shanahan's bold two-point play call at the end. The quarterbacks accounted for 727 passing yards and seven scores, so let's just say they should be active for you. Brandon Marshall, Chris Chambers and Tony Scheffler were the receiving stars. LaDainian Tomlinson produced only 40 total yards.

Of course, since it's Week 17 you'll find quite a few of the better players seeing limited action, if they dress at all. In the NFC, look for the Giants and Cardinals to hold numerous players back. However, the Panthers' loss means Carolina has to win to hold off the Falcons for the NFC South title. In the AFC, we're not likely to see the stars for the Titans, Steelers and Colts. We'd say look for players who need to win, but in last season's Week 17, the top fantasy quarterback was Jaguars reserve Quinn Gray. Don't try to look for a trend. In Week 17, the top quarterback really could be anyone, even Matt Leinart.

There are games that do matter, including Dolphins-Jets, as Chad Pennington can earn a playoff spot over the quarterback that sent him packing, Brett Favre. In Week 1, the Jets took a 20-14 decision, as both quarterbacks threw two touchdown passes. Thomas Jones was the running back star with 101 yards, and should be counted on for a similar game after his off game in Seattle. The other big AFC East game is the Patriots in Buffalo. The only player who did much in the Week 10 meeting was New England's BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He's no longer a factor, but Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan certainly are.

The Eagles and Cowboys don't need a possible playoff berth to motivate them. When they played in Dallas in Week 2 there were 78 points scored, a few more by the Cowboys. DeSean Jackson cost fantasy owners by celebrating a touchdown a bit early, and Terrell Owens gave his owners hope with his lone multi-touchdown game of the season.