You wouldn't have to go very far down the list of season-long producers to find the big Week 16 performers. With few exceptions, the names at the top of the various Best-Of lists were the names we all know.
Read on. See those big names. And the few exceptions:
Best quarterbacks in Week 16
Peyton Manning, DEN (400 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 32 fantasy points)
With most fantasy players, there's at least some time during the season where you can write something like, "After a brief dip in fantasy performance the last few weeks, PLAYER bounced back Sunday ..." That hasn't been possible with Manning. He did drop to 14 and 12 fantasy points in Weeks 11 and 12, but even then he had 473 passing yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception in the two weeks. He's thrown at least four touchdowns eight times this season, and scored 30 or more fantasy points five. Oh, and he broke that pesky "most touchdowns in a season" record. He's just ... it's nuts. That's all it is. Nuts.
Next game: And after all that, Manning gets to face the third worst defense against opposing fantasy quarterbacks in Week 17. Dude is going to be so danged unlucky in his next life.
Andy Dalton, CIN (366 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 10 rushing yards, 31 fantasy points)
I give up on Dalton, you guys. He's had games of five and six fantasy points and games of 30 and 31 fantasy points. When he played San Diego -- a bad defense -- he scored nine. When he faced Buffalo -- a good defense -- he scored 24. His 31 fantasy points Sunday marked the first time all season he's repeated a fantasy point total. Anyone who says they understand him is lying to you. Dalton now has 31 touchdown passes on the season (plus one rushing) against 16 interceptions, a 2:1 ratio overall, but a full half of those interceptions came in a three-week span. He threw for 372 yards in Week 7. Four games later, he threw for 93. Four games later, he threw for 366. I'm just listing weird things now.
Next game: Dude, I don't know. If you told me he threw for 350 yards and four scores against the Baltimore Ravens, I'd buy it. If you said he threw for 160, one score, and three picks, I'd buy it. There's way too much variability in his performances for me to buy it, but if you want to, go wild, chief.
Geno Smith, NYJ (214 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 48 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 26 fantasy points)
Want to play a game? Quarterbacks with fewer 20-point fantasy days than Smith this year: Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo. Of course, he's also the only quarterback with multiple negative-point performances on the season. There are a lot of reasons for that: Smith is a rookie, his offensive weapons have all been hurt at least once, he's in a heck of a weird situation. But between his rushing ability and his occasional big games, it's easy to envision a scenario in which Smith -- with a little more seasoning and a little more help around him -- is a perfectly fine fantasy quarterback in 2014.
Next game: It is much more difficult to envision a scenario in which Smith goes on the road in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins -- the fifth-best team against opposing fantasy quarterbacks this season -- and produces. Smith fans should remember Week 16 fondly.
Best running backs in Week 16
LeSean McCoy, PHI (133 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 29 receiving yards, 27 fantasy points)
McCoy's big Sunday night against that awful Bears' run defense pushed him over 2,000 yards from scrimmage on the season and cemented his status as the No. 2 fantasy running back on the season -- he's behind Jamaal Charles, but Sunday put some distance between McCoy and Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, and Knowshon Moreno. McCoy hasn't put up fewer than nine fantasy points in a game since Week 8, and Sunday was his fifth game with 20 or more fantasy points.
Next game: The Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys in a rather big win-or-go-home game Sunday night. Perhaps you've heard about it. The Cowboys have actually been worse against opposing fantasy running backs this season than the Bears have, if you can believe it. There's every reason to expect continued big production from McCoy.
DeMarco Murray, DAL (96 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 15 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, 22 fantasy points)
It took a while for Murray's season to really get going, but he's now put up 20-plus fantasy points in three of his last four games, and he gained 155 yards from scrimmage in the fourth one. Injuries are always a concern with Murray, but danged if that isn't really the only concern with him right now; he's been one of the best running backs in fantasy over the last month.
Next game: Week 17's game between the Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles will be interesting for oh-so-many reasons, and the fact that both of these defenses are awful is one of the big ones. Expect Murray to continue his hot performance.
Donald Brown, IND (79 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 31 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, 22 fantasy points)
It looked like the nice hot streak for Brown was nearing an end. After back-to-back big games in Weeks 10 and 11, he had barely four fantasy points per game in his next four, scored three or fewer in three of those, saw Trent Richardson finally start to produce, and was questionable for Week 16 with a stinger. So, of course, he had his best game of the season in Week 16, facing one of the NFL's top defenses. Because things never make sense. Sunday was Brown's first game of more than 100 yards from scrimmage all season, and it gave him seven touchdowns in a season in which he was at best the fourth running back the Colts turned to.
Next game: The Colts host the Jaguars Sunday, needing a win and help to improve their playoff seeding. With his lessened production of late, the Week 16 game out of Brown really looks like the aberration. He's a mid/low-end flex play, but not much more.
Joique Bell, DET (91 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 63 receiving yards, 21 fantasy points)
Bell managed to lead a team that had Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson both active in rushing and receiving yards Sunday, which seems like it ought to be impossible. But Johnson was a game-time decision as he nursed an injury, and Bush clearly isn't all the way back to full health. Bell led the team in rushes (20), receptions (10), targets (also 10), and all sorts of other stats. Basically, he was the only reason the Lions were even able to get to overtime against the Giants, of all teams.
Next game: Detroit's loss Sunday eliminated them from playoff contention, so it seems like they'll be pretty inclined to rest their studs against the Vikings in Week 17. Of course, those studs are Bush and Johnson, not Bell. Bell ought to still have a big game.
Best wide receivers in Week 16
Eric Decker, DEN (131 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 25 fantasy points)
No, it wasn't the 41 fantasy points he put up last time he appeared in this space, but Decker still checks in as fantasy's top wide receiver in Week 16. His hot production of late (87 fantasy points in his last four games) has bumped Decker from a disappointing season to top-10 receiver status. Decker's second score Sunday gave him 10 on the season, meaning the Broncos now have five different players -- Decker, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Knowshon Moreno -- with 10 or more touchdowns. It must be nice to have Peyton Manning at quarterback. Or it must be nice for Peyton Manning to have those kinds of weapons. One of those.
Next game: The Broncos take on the friendly Oakland Raiders defense in Week 17, needing a win to hold on to the AFC's No. 1 seed. Welker has already been ruled out for the game, so there's every reason to expect the rest of the team's weapons to be productive, Decker included.
A.J. Green, CIN (97 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 21 fantasy points)
Green's "disappointing" four games before Sunday included two touchdowns and three games of 70 or more yards. Oh, to be that disappointing for even one day of my life. Anyway, Green had his first multi-score game since Week 1 in the Bengals' blowout of the Vikings Sunday, and now has four games of 20 or more fantasy points, 10 with 10 or more. He's an easy WR1, and Sunday's 97 yards put Green to 1,365 on the season, the new best mark of his career.
Next game: Depending on how things play out in Week 17, the Bengals could end up anywhere from the AFC's two-seed (and a bye) to the four seed. Meanwhile, their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, needs to win just to make the playoffs. Basically, everyone in that game is going to be hungry, and Green tends to have the biggest appetite. That was a horrible metaphor. He's good. He'll play well.
Pierre Garcon, WAS (144 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 20 fantasy points)
Garcon had 144 receiving yards in Sunday's game; Aldrick Robinson was second on the Redskins with 14. The entire team, other than Garcon, had 53. Basically, Garcon took Kirk Cousins' fantasy day from "hideously, abysmally awful" to "tolerable, I guess." He caught 11 of his 18 targets; no one else on the team had more than two catches or four targets. Find a way to underplay how significant Garcon was to Washington Sunday; I dare you. After a rough stretch of games, Garcon now has 273 yards and 38 fantasy points in his last two outings.
Next game: The Redskins-Giants game Sunday should be called the Sadness Bowl, as it will be a match to see who can take something positive away from this 2013 season. Facing a Giants pass defense that actually isn't awful could hurt Garcon a bit, but he's so clearly the team's only through-the-air weapon that he should still be counted on for big production.
Best tight ends in Week 16
Julius Thomas, DEN (78 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13 fantasy points)
Between injury and reduced ineffectiveness, Thomas' production had slipped significantly in recent weeks, but he bounced back to productivity Sunday against a bad Texans team. The tight end now has 12 touchdowns on the year, entering the season with only one career reception in two injury-ravaged seasons. He's put himself in the same tier of tight ends as Vernon Davis -- not quite as good as the top-top guys, but still a definite starter in every league.
Next game: Just like Peyton Manning, just like Eric Decker, Thomas gets to play a bad Oakland defense in a Week 17 game the Broncos will likely be playing hard in. He could easily repeat this production.
Jimmy Graham, NO (73 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13 fantasy points)
Graham is in that aforementioned tier of top-top guys, and as long as Rob Gronkowski is hurt he's all alone in that tier. He's scored double-digit fantasy points 11 times, and 20-plus four. He accounted for the Saints' only touchdown Sunday (and, since the Saints signed Shayne last week, "Graham" accounted for literally all the team's scoring), succeeding despite going on the road against a good defense and playing in a torrential downpour. Come on, it's Jimmy Graham and he's awesome.
Next game: Suddenly, the Saints have a lot to play for in Week 17, and could even, if things go really wrong, miss the playoffs altogether. And as long as Graham is out there in a game that matters, he's a fantasy must-use.
Marcedes Lewis, JAC (50 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 10 fantasy points)
Lewis has now scored touchdowns in four straight games, averaging 10 fantasy points a game in that time. He's also risen to the top of the Jaguars' receiving targets; he leads the team in receiving yards (169) in the last four, and is right in there with Ace Sanders and Mike Brown in catches and targets. Despite missing a big chunk of the season to injury, Lewis has already equaled his second-best season touchdown total, and he's building a lot of potential value for 2014.
Next game: The Jaguars travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts in Week 17. Touchdowns are unreliable, and Lewis still hasn't gone over 54 yards in a game, so it's always possible Lewis bottoms out next week, but he should still be a low-end TE1/high-end TE2.
Best kickers in Week 16
Josh Brown, NYG (3/3 FG, 2/2 XP, 15 fantasy points)
Nick Novak, SD (4/4 FG, 2/2 XP, 15 fantasy points)
These two really illustrate how bloody unpredictable kickers can be. Novak entered the week as the No. 8 kicker; Brown was at 31. They tied in scoring. Adam Vinatieri missed a makeable kick; so did Justin Ticker. Steven Hauschka missed a chip shot. Every kicker ranked 19th or worse entering Sunday was perfect, while five of the top 18 missed kicks. It's very silly, and predicting it is awful.
Best defense/special teams in Week 16
New England Patriots (7 points allowed, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 26 fantasy points)
So this was impossible to see coming. The Patriots had scored six or fewer fantasy points in six straight -- including a negative-four in Week 14 -- and hadn't topped 15 in a single game all season. Meanwhile, the best a defense had done against Baltimore all season was 14. It sure seems like a somewhat hobbled Joe Flacco makes a huge difference.