By DJ Gallo
Joe Namath. Lynn Swann. Timmy Smith. Steve Young.
All are Super Bowl legends whose places in football history are forever secured thanks to huge performances on football’s biggest stage.
Yet they are names from the past. They played before fantasy football exploded into a $70 billion industry – dwarfing the nearly $10 billion a year in revenue the NFL itself generates annually. They played before fantasy talk dominated pre- and postgame shows and fantasy stats scrolled across the bottom of our screens.
For many football fans, Week 16 of the season is even bigger than the Super Bowl because it is their personal Super Bowl. It is the week with money on the line. Week 16 is the week fantasy football champions are crowned. And while a quarterback – or running back, receiver or kicker — in the Super Bowl plays for just his one team, in Week 16 their performances affect tens of thousands of fantasy teams all across the country whose owners are competing for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars and bragging rights, too.
The Super Bowl legends of the past have been given their due. It’s time we spread some of the glory to the fantasy legends of Week 16, the players who stepped up on fantasy championship week with clutch performances to lead their team owners to faux glory.
It’s time these fantasy Super Bowl legends get some accolades.
Tony Romo is a choker who can’t win when it matters, right?
You clearly don’t know your fantasy history.
In Week 16 of the 2012 season, Romo put up a fantasy title game performance for the ages: 416 yards, 4 TD passes and 0 INTs against the Saints for a fantasy points total of 32.
His real-life teammate, Dez Bryant, also came up huge with 224 receiving yards and 2 TDs – for a whopping 34 fantasy points – making the Romo-Bryant combo every bit as legendary for the fantasy generation as Montana and Jerry Rice were to their parents’ generation.
Of course, the Cowboys lost the real game – 34-31 in overtime to the Saints, and then laid an egg in Week 17 at Washington to miss the playoffs (again) – but to their 2012 fantasy owners, Romo and Bryant are forever champions. They performed when it mattered.
So now you know what Jerry Jones might have meant when he told CBS Radio Dallas’ KRLD-FM last month that he’s doing “some of [his] best work” as a GM.
Maybe Jones is running the real Cowboys as his own personal fantasy team. It would explain much. So very much. The Cowboy defense is a disaster. But so what? Defense wins Super Bowl championships, not fantasy championships. It’s insane to pick defense before the 8th round, right? That’s Fantasy 101.
Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams had a career-year in 2008, totaling 20 touchdowns and 1,636 yards from scrimmage. He put the appropriate finishing touches on his historic fantasy season in Week 16 of 2008 by running for 4 TDs and 108 yards for a whopping 34 fantasy points.
The real Panthers squandered Williams’ performance and lost 34-28 to the Giants, prompting Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme to say of the game: “Disappointing would be putting it mildly. We had a chance. We didn’t get it done.”
Oh, Jake. Have some perspective. It’s not all about reality. Your teammate became a fantasy legend.
Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman get all the praise for winning multiple Super Bowls, but no one is in the same class as Rodgers when it comes to winning fantasy titles.
Behold his Week 16 performances:
2010: 404 yards, 4 TD
2011: 283 yards, 5 TD
2012: 342 yards, 3 TD
That’s a Week 16 title game average of 29.3 fantasy points! (Rodgers also won one Super Bowl in those years, which is a nice little added bonus.)
Please, Packers. Get Rodgers healthy in time for Sunday’s game. You have no idea how much is on the line.
Santana Moss has long been a fantasy enigma. He’ll have good years followed by mediocre years followed by good years. But in 2005 it all came together for the Washington receiver with 1,483 receiving yards and 9 TDs – including 160 yards and 3 TDs in Week 16 for 34 fantasy points.
“It’s very special,” Moss said after his performance. “I’m just thrilled to have all this come to me. At the same time, I just want to stay focused on what the big picture is and try to get us into these playoffs.”
Moss’ team was eliminated from the real playoffs three weeks later and they’ve only been back twice in the eight years since. He should have cherished his fantasy playoff success more. Fake success is probably as good as it will ever get under Dan Snyder.
The Canadian-born kicker last played pro football in the CFL in 2007 and has largely been forgotten to history. It’s time to right that wrong.
In Week 16 of the 2004 season, Christie – then with the New York Giants – nailed five field goals, two of more than 40 yards – to give his owners a huge 17 points from the kicker position. New York lost that game and Christie never played again in the NFL after the 2004 season, but he went out with his head held high as (fantasy) champion on those 6-10 Giants.
In 2005, in one of the most surprising Week 16 performances in fantasy history, Ravens’ quarterback/general disappointment Kyle Boller threw for 289 yards and 3 TDs with just 1 INT for 21 fantasy points.
No one could have expected such a performance from Boller and, no doubt, no one benefited from it because a Kyle Boller-quarterbacked fantasy team would get nowhere near the championship round. That said, Boller’s breakout game is a good reminder that there’s no telling what can happen in Week 16. There could be a Boller out there this year, sitting on the fantasy waiver wire right now, who will bring you fantasy glory and riches.
What do you think? Want to take a gamble on the Boller-esque Chad Henne or Matt McGloin for your title game? It could really pay off and such a bold move would cement your place as a fantasy football genius.
(Don’t do it. Really. Don’t.)
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com and has written for ESPN.com, ESPN The Magazine, The Onion and Comedy Central. He has appeared on SportsCenter, ESPNews, ESPN Classic and G4 and is a frequent radio guest and published author. Follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloEtc, @sportspickle and @thatdjgallo.