Matt Ryan, QB (Falcons)

NO 32 at ATL 38

Drew Brees was the passing leader in Week 17, but I thought Matt Ryan deserved more of the credit since he was more efficient than the veteran Saint.  Ryan went 27 for 36, 331 yards, 4 TDs, 0 Int, and a whopping 139.9% passing rate.  These kinds of numbers have been the norm for 31-year-old quarterback with 8 years in the league.  It’s why he will likely win the MVP Award this season.  Ironically, he came in 2nd behind Brees (5208 yards) in the overall passing leader category for the 2016 regular season with 4944 yards.  Unfortunately for Brees, he was not QB for a team that made it to the post season, or he would be a candidate in the discussion for MVP.

Isaiah Crowell, RB (Browns)

CLE 24 at PIT 27

Crowell was Week 17’s rushing leader with 19 carries and a career high 152 yards, including a 67-yard run (the 2nd longest of his career). He also caught 3 passes for 16 yards.  The 23-year-old becomes a restricted free agent in 2017, so it will be interesting to see if Cleveland keeps the talented running back on their roster.  Perhaps they will consider that Crowell was just 48 yards short of rushing for 1,000 yards in 2016 and became the first Browns player to run for 100+ yards or more 4 times in a season since 2010.

Michael Thomas, WR (Saints)

NO 32 at ATL 38

The rookie was this past week’s receiving leader with 10 catches, 156 yards and a 14-yard TD.  With a stellar performance this season overall in 15 games (1,137 receiving yards, 92 receptions, 9 TDs), the former Ohio State alum has established himself as the top rookie receiver in the league and his 2016 campaign is considered to be one of the best seasons in “NFL history for rookie wideouts”.  It is obvious that talent runs in the family as Thomas is the nephew of NFL great Keyshawn Johnson.  At the 2016 Combine, Thomas said, “I want to be better than my uncle.”  So far so good, kid.  In 14 games, Johnson finished his 1996 rookie year with the NY Jets with 844 receiving yards, 63 receptions and 8 TDs.  Then again, he didn’t have Drew Brees as his QB…

Markus Golden, OLB (Cardinals)

ARI 44 at LA 6

It may have been a meaningless game between the Cardinals and Rams during Week 17, but don’t tell that to Markus Golden.  He put on an absolute show on Sunday when he racked up 3 sacks, 2 QB hits, 3 tackles, 1 assist and 1 forced fumble.  Considered one of the league’s elite pass rushers, Golden finished 2016 with 12.5 sacks, good enough for a tie for 3rd place only behind Von Miller & Vic Beasley.  The sophomore’s assets include his incredible speed & athleticism and he will surely continue to be on fantasy owners lists in years to come as he develops further.

Tyreek Hill, WR (Chiefs)

KC 37 at SD 27

The 22-year-old rookie became the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time this season during Week 17 for his 95-yard punt return vs the Chargers which helped the Chiefs win the AFC West championship.  With this play, he also became the first rookie in NFL history to score a TD of 65+ yards in 4 consecutive games.  And… he’s also the first player ever with at least 3 TDs via rush, reception and kick return in a single season.  Despite his unbelievable performance in his first season, Hill’s success is a bit of a surprise.  The Chiefs drafted him in the 2016 fifth round when most experts thought he’d go undrafted.  His numbers in college (an NCAA Division II school) were less than stellar and he was on probation for a particularly bad domestic violence incident that lead to him being kicked out of Oklahoma State.  He was also considered small for an NFL WR at 5’10 and 185 pounds.  But KC Head Coach Andy Reid must have seen something special in him and was willing to look past his personal indiscretion.  In any event, he’s been special and a big reason the Chiefs are heading to the post season as the AFC’s #2 seed.

Arizona Cardinals (Team)

It is shocking to think that the Cardinals did not make it to the post-season this year given the fact that they were an early favorite to win Super Bowl 51.  Even Sports Illustrated declared back in August that Arizona would win the championship over the Steelers.  At the time, they believed the Cardinals had the “most complete team in the NFL” and a “ton of experience on both sides of the ball”, as many others did.  Unfortunately, Arizona finished 2016 with a record of 7-9-1 and left fans & experts alike scratching their heads. Instead of being an elite team, they fell under .500.  So what went wrong?  The reasons don’t stand out immediately based on the stats.  The team finished the year with the #2 Total Defense and #9 Total Offense.  But, critical mistakes were their downfall, particularly on Special Teams and also, losing close games in the final minutes cost them. QB Carson Palmer also faltered and ended the season with dubious stats.  His QBR this season was a paltry 58.9 (18th) compared to 2015 where he led the league in QBR (78.6).  Whatever the reasons for the disappointing season, this team may look very different next year as 19 players on the current roster are scheduled for unrestricted status in addition to three restricted free agents.


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