- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas just wasn’t the same after Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers delivered coal-worthy performances in my fantasy championship game on Christmas Eve.

Thanks to the rare Saturday slate of games, I had the pleasure of watching McCoy fail to score for only the second time all season in an easy win over the Cowboys (he had a season-high 185 yards and 2 TDs in the previous meeting). As a bonus, RedZone allowed me to watch Rivers in all his glory, including a fourth-quarter stretch late in a blowout loss to the Lions that included four straight incompletions from the Detroit 3, an interception inside the Detroit 5 and another pick from the shadow of his own goal line that was returned for a score.

Had those two delivered even average performances, things might have been different. As it was, I lost to a worthy competitor. No shame in that, as the league champion says. Congrats, Jay.

(It’s always annoying, though, when a baseball fan wins a fantasy football league. Like a co-worker’s 9-year-old niece winning the NCAA tournament office pool.)

OK, with another season in the rearview mirror, let’s look forward with my 2012 first round.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: He hasn’t had a bad week. Even in the Packers’ loss, he accounted for both touchdowns. He has averaged 3 TD passes per game (45 total). There’s no reason to believe he won’t keep up that pace next year.

Saints QB Drew Brees: Talk about a sure thing. He’s thrown for at least 1 TD in 42 straight games. That’s six shy of breaking Johnny Unitas’ record streak. And yards? Well, Brees just broke Dan Marino’s single-season record. He’s thrown for 5,087 yards and 41 TDs. Like Rodgers, he operates an offense in which such numbers are likely to become the norm. The only difference between the two is that Brees is more prone to turnovers.

Patriots QB Tom Brady: If Brees sits this week, Brady likely will take over the single-season yardage record. He’s thrown 36 TDs, and with the emergence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady is almost certain to maintain big numbers. Injuries may be a concern down the road, though.

Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: Those league-leading 20 TDs are no fluke. Imagine how dangerous he’d be if the rest of the offense could put it together. He’s a no-brainer as the top running back in any type of league.

Texans RB Arian Foster: I was surprised he’s been so steady after his breakthrough 2010. I’m a believer now.

Panthers QB Cam Newton: As I said previously, every owner in every league I’m in will select Newton higher than I would, and those owners will make me look foolish. I still have a hard time believing he’s accounted for 34 TDs, including an NFL-record 14 on the ground.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson: Despite an extended drought, he still enters the final week of the season leading all receivers with 15 TDs. He’s the NFL’s most physically dominant skill player at the peak of his game.

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch: He’s scored at least 1 TD in every game since Week 5, and last week he became the first player this season to rush for a TD against the 49ers. He really is a beast.

Lions QB Matt Stafford: If he cuts down the turnovers, he’ll join the Rodgers-Brees-Brady tier. In his first full season, he’s thrown for 4,518 yards and 36 TDs. Expect more of that.

Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew: To lead the league in rushing on an offense led by people their mothers don’t even recognize is amazing.

Ravens RB Ray Rice: If Jon Harbaugh ever figures out how good this guy is, look out.

Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski: A tight end in the first round? This one, yes. His 15 TDs are an NFL record for the position. He’s young, strong and has Tom Brady throwing to him. That’s a great combination.

See ya next year.



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