The fantasy season is over for many, and it ended in much the same fashion it began -- with Peyton Manning putting up a record-setting performance and causing great regret among every fantasy owner who didn't draft him.
Manning and Jamaal Charles will be the first two players who come to mind when fantasy owners remember this season – at least, the first two players who come to mind for positive reasons. Plenty of big-name players disappointed, and that didn't stop in Week 16 when Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Peterson and many more failed to come through when owners' championships were on the line.
If you play through Week 17, your week has already gotten off to a bad start with Tony Romo being declared out because of a back injury. Dez Bryant remains a must-start, but the rest of Dallas' offense doesn't figure to be as potent with Kyle Orton under center.
But that's fantasy football, for good or for bad. Fantasy owners know the deal when they sign up every August, and for some reason, they keep coming back for more. Let's hope it doesn't ruin your Christmas, and if it does, just remember: There are eight short months until next year's draft!
For those who are playing through next week, let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position.
Notable Riser: It was a down week for most fantasy quarterbacks, but Andy Dalton continued his late-season surge, scoring 39.6 fantasy points -- the second time in the past three weeks he's put up 36-plus points. Dalton has been streaky this year, so it's tough to know if his three-game hot streak will carry over to Week 17, but he had a respectable 19.2 points when Cincinnati faced Baltimore in Week 10. With the Bengals still in the running for a first-round bye, there are plenty of reasons to trust Dalton this week.
The same goes for Ben Roethlisberger, who turned in his fifth 20-plus-point performance in his past six games. The added bonus with Roethlisberger is that he's proved he can do it regardless of the weather conditions.
Notable Faller: Jay Cutler couldn't take advantage of a favorable matchup against Philadelphia, struggling so much that Bears' coach Marc Trestman had to reiterate on Monday that Cutler would indeed start in Week 17 against Green Bay. Cutler rebounded after a poor opening half in Week 15 to finish with good fantasy numbers, but even with everything on the line for Chicago in Week 17, Cutler is a very risky play for fantasy owners.
Cam Newton has turned in three-straight subpar performances, but last week's dud can largely be blamed on the poor weather in Charlotte. Newton has still been streaky this year, but he remains one of the highest-upside players in fantasy. The Panthers have a shot at the top overall NFC seed, so now is not the time to give up on Newton.
Notable Riser: It looks like Edwin Baker is this year's winner for the “2013 Late-Season Fantasy Breakout Star,” scoring at least 13.6 fantasy points for the second-straight week. With Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew back in action for the Vikings and Jaguars, respectively, Baker was the only one of last week's breakout backs (Matt Asiata and Jordan Todman) to get significant playing time. He responded well, and he should be featured heavily in Week 17.
Heading into next week, backups Knile Davis (Jamaal Charles, rest), James Starks (Eddie Lacy, ankle injury), Asiata (Peterson foot and groin injuries; Toby Gerhart, hamstring injury), Michael Cox (Andre Brown, leg injury) and Deji Karim (Dennis Johnson, injury) could be in line for more touches.
LeGarrette Blount was New England's leading rusher last Sunday, marking the fourth-straight game in which he's accomplished that feat. That hasn't translated to many fantasy points, but he went off for 19.6 against the Ravens. It seems clear that Blount is the preferred option for carries right now, and as long as he doesn't fumble, that's unlikely to change. Blount has legitimate value this week against Buffalo, especially with Shane Vereen (groin) hobbled.
Notable Faller: Reggie Bush's fumbling problems seemingly cost him playing time for the second time this year, though Lions' coach Jim Schwartz won't come out and say it. Joique Bell continues to excel alongside/in place of Bush, and with the Lions having nothing to play for this week, Bell (or Theo Riddick) will likely be featured.
Trent Richardson had an impressive 19 touches last week, but he totaled just 58 yards. Meanwhile, Donald Brown had 110 yards and two scores on 12 touches. In other words, Richardson's last shot to save his fantasy season fizzled out in a hurry.
Notable Riser: St. Louis'
New York's Jerrel Jernigan saw the biggest boost from Victor Cruz's absence, catching six of 12 targets for 80 yards and a score. The Giants showed that they're still playing hard, so Jernigan is a potential WR3 next week against Washington's porous pass defense.
Notable Faller: Knee injuries to Steve Smith and Calvin Johnson will almost certainly keep both out of next week's games, though Johnson is more likely to play than Smith. Wes Welker (concussion) and Stevie Johnson (personal) also seem unlikely to play, but Randall Cobb (leg) has an outside shot at returning.
It was a slow passing week in general in the NFL, so you can only take so much from the numbers. The Pats-Ravens' game was the best example of this. Danny Amendola caught just two passes for 45 yards, but the Pats only threw 26 times. With Vereen getting banged up, Amendola should be in line more targets against Buffalo.
Notable Riser: Marcedes Lewis is coming on strong at the end of his contract season, scoring in his fourth-straight game. The targets haven't been spectacular (4, 4, 7 and 6), but Lewis is clearly a big part of Jacksonville's red-zone offense. The Colts have been as good as virtually any team against TEs this year, but Lewis is still a solid TE1.
Houston's Ryan Griffin is also looking like a nice Week 17 sleeper. In his two fill-in starts in Weeks 15 and 16, he's caught all 11 of his targets for 128 yards. The Titans are in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to TEs, so he could finish strong.
Notable Faller: Dennis Pitta's solid first game back in Week 14 has overshadowed his two subpar outings since. He was on the field more last week, catching four of seven targets, but Pitta mustered only 34 yards. His upcoming matchup against Cincinnati doesn't make things any easier, so fantasy owners would be wise to look elsewhere.
Owners might be thinking the same about Greg Olsen, who has turned in two poor outings in his past three games. But the weather had a lot to do with his struggles last, and he was targeted a healthy seven times (for the sixth-straight game). Olsen is still a strong option.