Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The semi-finals of your fantasy playoffs are not the best times to encounter the unexpected. But in Week 15 of the 2011 NFL fantasy season, that's exactly what we saw.
Drew Brees, New Orleans - It's not a surprise that Brees has been a top-three quarterback, but not even his most ardent supporter could have expected a season like this. Through 14 games Brees has thrown for 4,780 yards (304 short of Dan Marino's all-time single season mark of 5,084 passing yards) with 37 TDs and just 11 interceptions. Now that the fascination with Aaron Rodgers and the undefeated season has subsided, fantasy owners can see just how good Brees has been this season. On Sunday he was machine like in his dismantling of the Minnesota Vikings secondary, throwing for 412 yards and five touchdowns before calling off the dogs. He hasn't thrown an interception since Week 9 while throwing 16 touchdown passes. The Falcons 22nd-ranked pass defense, next week opponent, shouldn't be much of a problem either.
Felix Jones, Dallas - Jones as a "workhorse" is unexpected simply because he's so injury prone. But on Saturday night he had 25 touches, 22 rushing attempts for 108 yards and three receptions. He didn't score, but simply coming out of the game in one piece and being ready for the championship round is an unexpected pleasure.
Reggie Bush, Miami - The knock on Bush has always been his health and his inability to carry a running game. In 2011, Bush has been both healthy and the workhorse of the Dolphins running game. On Sunday, he carried your fantasy team to the championship round by rushing for a career-high 203 yards and a touchdown. A matchup with New England in Week 16, the finals, bodes well for fantasy owners.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit - With his team down 13 points, Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson picked the Lions up and dragged the team and your fantasy lineup to victory. Stafford's 391-yard, four TD, no interception afternoon caps off a season in which he's finally stayed healthy. (He played just 13 games in his first two seasons, but has played in all 14 games this year, throwing for 4,145 yards, 33 TDs against just 14 INTs.)
Marion Barber, Chicago - Following his 108-yard performance against Denver, fantasy owners were likely depending on him to repeat that production at home against Seattle. Instead, Barber managed just 33 yards and gave way to Kahlil Bell who was much more effective against the Seahawks front seven. A game at Green Bay in Week 16 isn't an exciting prospect.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota - Peterson did run for 60 yards, including a nice 39-yard run, but he's not 100% and can't be thought of as a No.1 running back heading into finals week. Running mate Toby Gerhart got six touches and scored twice, stealing some of Peterson's fantasy value.
Rob Gronkowski, New England - You certainly can't be mad at "Gronk" considering all he's done for you this season (1,141 yards, 16 TDs), but he picked a bad time to come up small. The Broncos doubled him most of the afternoon, leaving fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez wide open all day.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay - Did losing Greg Jennings mean that much to Rodgers and the Packers offense? Rodgers had just 59 passing yards at half-time and his fantasy owners were probably getting ready jump off a tall building. A late fourth-quarter rally made Rodgers' numbers respectable (235 yards, two touchdowns - 18 fantasy points), but most fantasy owners have come to expect a lot more from him.
Eli Manning, New York Giants - The Eli we saw on Sunday was more like the 2010 version who led the NFL with 25 interceptions. Admittedly, he didn't get much help from his receivers, particularly a Hakeem Nick drop of an easy touchdown, but for a guy who has been averaging 19 fantasy ppg, Sunday's 1.3 points was simply a disaster.
James Jones, Green Bay - When Jennings was declared out, too many fantasy owners jumped on the Jones bandwagon. Hopefully they didn't break their ankles jumping off the wagon after his two-catch, 17-yard performance.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay - It was the same problem as he's had all season. Because he's not part of the Bucs passing game, either receiving or blocking, he becomes useless when Tampa Bay falls behind on the scoreboard. Nine carries for 21 yards was a tragedy for fantasy owners.
Wes Welker, New England - The day couldn't have been set up much better for Welker, A matchup against Tim Tebow and Denver had the nation watching and Brady in top form. The Broncos were determined to take Gronkowski out of the mix and did so for most of the game. Brady threw for 320 yards and a couple of scores. Someone explain how Welker, he of 104 catches, 1,380 yards and nine touchdowns this season, managing just four catches for 41 yards?