If you'll allow me to get schmaltzy in this space, I'm the big winner of Week 14. Friday, my 72-year-old father fell down at home, and his artificial hip was jarred, breaking his femur. You aren't supposed to break your femur, and you definitely aren't supposed to break your femur at 72 years old. We got him to the ER quickly enough, but still. His surgery was slated for Sunday morning, and it promised to be a ridiculous ordeal.
Between his age, his assorted lifelong maladies, and the fact that the surgeons were basically going to be swapping out a decade-old artificial hip for a new one, there was ample concern that going to surgery would be Dad's last move. He was an awful candidate for general anesthesia, and he has a DNR, so my sister and I made sure we wished him well on his way in.
It was five hours. There were lots of "any news?" texts and well-wishes, until right around game time Sunday afternoon, when the two orthopedic surgeons came out. And both guys were smiling.
My dad had his first major surgery -- six-bypass heart surgery -- in 1997. The doctors basically told us that Dad wasn't likely to live much longer than six more months, a year, whatever. He's had multiple operations and medical issues in the decade-and-a-half since -- with most of them carrying similar warnings -- right up until this weekend. As I write this, the old guy is in the ICU, recovering. Apparently, the surgery went just about as well as could be expected. Before we left the hospital Sunday, my sister and I stopped by his room, and he was basically unconscious, but he was up just enough to raise his left hand up a few inches. An obvious wave.
It's why there'll be no Flights of Fantasy this week. We'll be there again much of the day tomorrow, which also happens to be my 30th birthday (and a heck of a birthday present the successful surgery was), so there's a reasonable chance there won't be the usual Ticker Tuesday. I'll apologize for that now. But my dad is the entire reason I'm into sports, and 95 percent of the reason I write. So yeah, Josh Gordon and Peyton Manning and LeSean McCoy had big games Sunday, and that's awesome.
But sorry guys, you can't measure up to my Sunday win.
Best quarterbacks in Week 14
Andrew Luck, IND (326 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 32 rushing yards, 32 fantasy points)
Eventually, we're going to know what to expect out of Luck week to week. Rankers kept listing him high week after week lately, and Luck had rewarded that faith with 13.5 fantasy points per game in his last four. Then this week, I saw him listed as low as 20th among quarterbacks. The Bengals' defense got all sorts of advance praise. And through one half, it looked good, as the Colts had no score. But then the second half started, and as has been his way lately, Luck woke up, throwing all four of his touchdown passes after intermission. It was his highest passer rating since Week 1, and his second-highest fantasy score of the season.
Next game: If we didn't know what to expect out of Luck entering this game, why would we know coming out of it? He's still crazy talented, but he's still struggling to find a consistent connection with his receivers. You'd probably do well to stick with him against the Houston Texans, but no one knows for sure.
Peyton Manning, DEN (397 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, 31 fantasy points)
So, yeah, he's pretty good at football. Sure, he attempted (and completed) more passes than he had all year, but success is success, especially against a defense that has been above-average against quarterbacks and stellar against wide receivers all year. Manning spread the ball around, with receiving touchdowns for all three of his top wide receivers and his tight end, and rushing touchdowns for both of his main running backs. This was basically the most Peyton Manning game possible.
Next game: The Broncos get to host the San Diego Chargers in Week 15. Manning has had big games against Kansas City and Tennessee and Baltimore, and he put up 27 last time he played the Chargers. If you can find a reason to expect a bad game from Manning, go for it, but whatever reason you find definitely won't be obvious.
Andy Dalton, CIN (275 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 11 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 30 fantasy points)
Dalton averaged 11.4 fantasy points in Weeks 1-5, then 27 in Weeks 6-8, then 10 in Weeks 9-13, then put up 30 on Sunday. Basically, guh? Dalton has not had a single game between 16 and 24 fantasy points all season, and it's not like his opponent has been a giveaway -- he put up only nine against the Chargers, only eight against the Patriots. The only thing noticeably different about Week 14 Dalton than his other big and small weeks is that he had his first rushing touchdown of the season. Just like Manning, Dalton spread the ball out, with A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (twice) all scoring along with Dalton.
Next game: If you want to say that Sunday was the start of a hot streak for Dalton, then great, use him in Week 15. But this is the playoffs, and with Dalton as likely to put up 25 fantasy points as he is to put up six, only the true gamblers will roll him out there next week.
Best running backs in Week 14
LeSean McCoy, PHI (217 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 receiving yards, 33 fantasy points)
A game that was 8-0 and played in horrendous weather at halftime became a veritable shootout, with 54 total points scored in the game, thanks largely to 28 from the Eagles in the fourth quarter. McCoy was a huge part of that, as 148 of his 221 total yards and both of his touchdowns came in that last frame. It was McCoy's first game over 200 yards from scrimmage this season, but his sixth with at least 150. And, depending on what Matt Forte does on Monday night, McCoy could rank as high as second among fantasy running backs at week's end.
Next game: On the one hand, the awful weather in Philadelphia Sunday meant that quarterback Nick Foles wasn't passing much and was going to McCoy way more often than normal. On the other, the Eagles follow this game against Detroit with an even better matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, who allow the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. It might be too much to expect 217 yards, but a generic "big game" is well within his wheelhouse.
Jamaal Charles, KC (151 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 8 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown, 27 fantasy points)
Speaking of the top fantasy running backs, Charles cemented his hold on No. 1 at the position Sunday against the Redskins, setting a season high in rushing yards. He now has at least 100 yards from scrimmage 11 times in 13 games, and has 13 touchdowns in 13 games. His 7.9 yards per carry was his second-highest mark of the season. He has topped 20 fantasy points four different times, only fallen below 10 twice, and hasn't scored fewer than seven at all.
Next game: Charles has been successful against all sorts of teams. He's a reasonably matchup-agnostic running back, and there's no reason to think that will end next Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Your studs are your studs.
Shane Vereen, NE (9 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 153 receiving yards, 21 fantasy points)
Vereen's transformation into Darren Sproles is almost fully complete now, as he is one of the pass-catchingest (not a word) running backs in the game. He had almost 90 more receiving yards than the Patriots' No. 1 receiver, and even outgained the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon in the game. Since his return from injury four weeks ago, Vereen's 45 targets are nine ahead of the Patriots' second most, and he's led the team in targets in each of the last three. He's not necessarily going to do a lot in the rushing game alone, but he more than makes up for it with his catches.
Next game: The Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins in Week 15, and with tight end Rob Gronkowski probably done for the year and no wide receiver really establishing himself as a reliable week-to-week producer, there's every reason to think Vereen continues his receiving-game production.
Best wide receivers in Week 14
Josh Gordon, CLE (151 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 34 rushing yards, 24 fantasy points)
Gordon has played himself firmly into the top five among wide receivers. He's averaged 30.3 fantasy points in his last three, and averaged almost 17 fantasy points per game. He's only eight points behind Calvin Johnson for top overall wide receiver, and the dude missed two games to suspension at the start of the year. His 185 yards from scrimmage Sunday was the worst of his last three games by more than 50. The numbers are starting to get a little silly, frankly.
Next game: At this point, it doesn't matter if it's Jason Campbell or Bruce Campbell throwing to Gordon. He needs to be in every lineup, every week. It's been several weeks in a row now of people saying, "He can't keep this up," yet he keeps doing it. The Browns host the Chicago Bears next week, and who the heck knows what Gordon has up his sleeves next.
Marques Colston, NO (125 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 24 fantasy points)
It's been a rough year for Colston. He had only two touchdowns total entering Sunday, and his 107 yards in Week 10 marked his only hundred-yard game of the season. He had only scored 10 or more fantasy points twice all season entering Sunday night. So notching 24 fantasy points and 125 yards was exactly what Colston's fantasy owners have been waiting for. Unfortunately, Colston likely cost his owners a relatively high draft pick, and his awful performance to this point might mean his fantasy owners didn't make it to the playoffs to capitalize on this performance.
Next game: The Saints take on the St. Louis Rams in Week 15. Colston has been so inconsistent this season that it's really hard to guess what he might have to offer next week, even after this big game. Anyone still holding on to Colston probably has to use him, but it could go bad just as easily as it could go well.
Da'Rick Rogers, IND (107 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 22 fantasy points)
Rogers' career numbers so far: 107 receiving yards, two touchdowns. They bear a striking resemblance to his Sunday numbers, as Sunday was the first time the undrafted rookie free agent has even had a target for the Colts. His SB Nation Fantasy headlines have included phrases like "unlikely to have fantasy relevance" and "likely won't impact fantasy until 2014." But with Reggie Wayne done for the year, T.Y. Hilton struggling for several weeks in a row and Darrius Heyward-Bey doing very little of anything, the team has started looking to guys like Rogers and LaVon Brazill (who also scored twice Sunday).
Next game: There was a reason Rogers went undrafted, and there was a reason he has been off the active roster this season more often than he's been on it. He has potential, but -- this game aside -- there's not a lot of reason to think he's been a diamond in the rough all this time. Expect a big slide next week against the Houston Texans.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN (141 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 6 rushing yards, 20 fantasy points)
Patterson was probably the biggest fantasy gainer of the insane last 2:05 of that Vikings-Ravens game, which saw 36 points scored after only 19 had been scored in the game's first 58 minutes. He scored on a 79-yard pass with 45 seconds left in the game that at the time looked like it had given the Vikings an improbable victory, only for them to end up with an even more improbable loss. After a few weeks of chatter due to his kick-return game and his impressive speed, Patterson actually turned the talk into reality, as his 20 fantasy points marked the first time the rookie has scored more than eight in a game.
Next game: The Vikings face a Philadelphia Eagles team in Week 15 that allows more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than any other team in football, and it isn't very close. Now that his looks have been increasing (at least five targets twice in his last three after no more than three in a game before), Patterson's numbers could stay high.
Best tight ends in Week 14
Jordan Cameron, CLE (121 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 18 fantasy points)
It's been a rough go for Cameron. After 64 fantasy points in his first four games, the tight end had only topped eight once since, and hadn't topped 50 receiving yards since Week 8. That's why this game had to be a huge relief, for both Cameron and his fantasy owners. In Thursday's War Room, the fantasy worries were plentiful, with owners worrying if Cameron should be benched for the likes of Ladarius Green and Jordan Reed. Those that kept the faith were rewarded in a big way.
Next game: Even with his struggles, Cameron still comes in as fantasy's No. 4 tight end on the season, and one of the tight ends behind him who would obviously jump above, Rob Gronkowski, appears to be done for the year. The Browns play the Chicago Bears next week, and while Cameron has had more bad games than good, his owners probably need to keep running him out there.
Jimmy Graham, NO (58 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 17 fantasy points)
Graham had a brief lull in Week 10 and 11, with nine combined fantasy points. Otherwise, he's basically been huge all season long. He's easily fantasy's top tight end, and with Rob Gronkowski likely out for the rest of the season, it isn't even particularly close. He's got a bigger lead at his position than any other player.
Next game: The Saints play at the St. Louis Rams next Sunday. St. Louis is one of the better teams against opposing tight ends, but with Graham it doesn't really matter. Again, he's the best in the game.
Charles Clay, MIA (75 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13 fantasy points)
Clay was actually one of three tight ends to tie for No. 2 with 13 fantasy points (along with Garrett Graham of the Houston Texans and Luke Willson of the Seattle Seahawks), but he gets the second-place spot by virtue of his 75 yards, which surpassed Graham's 73 and Willson's 70. Clay now has double-digit fantasy points five times this season, and has firmly set himself in the top 10 among tight ends. It's been a big rise for an afterthought tight end.
Next game: The Dolphins play the New England Patriots Sunday, who held Clay to 37 yards and three fantasy points the last time they faced off. Still, yards in the high double-figures should be a general expectation out of Clay at this point; the question is whether he can get into the end zone.
Best kicker in Week 14
Matt Prater, DEN (3/3 FG, 6/6 XP, 17 fantasy points)
It is only justice that Prater was fantasy's highest-scoring kicker Sunday, as he also set an NFL record with his 64-yard field goal to end the first half. His big game Sunday should bring him into second place (behind Stephen Gostkowski) among this season's fantasy kickers.
Best defense/special teams in Week 14
Kansas City Chiefs (10 points allowed, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery, 2 touchdowns, 27 fantasy points)
This was a great bounce-back for the Chiefs' defense, who had led the NFL in D/ST scoring until a recent disastrous stretch. They bounced back Sunday, with the highest single-game D/ST score of any team this season. A lot of that comes as the Washington Redskins are imploding, but the Chiefs deserve credit for taking advantage. It was a huge game for a unit and a team that needed one.