This afternoon we were saved. No, Tim Tebow didn’t sprinkle water on our heads. That’s next week.

When the Saints beat the Falcons, one giant leap was taken towards fantasy playoff doom being avoided.

Thanks, New Orleans

And I mean that sincerely. The fantasy community owes you a steak dinner, or perhaps even a lobster and a duck, making an all new American Thanksgiving creation. We shall call it, um, Duckster. Yeah.

In what was a highly entertaining game during an early afternoon Sunday schedule this week that was mostly filled with duds (at one point, four games combined for a score of 152-36), the Saints handed the Falcons their first loss of the season. Powered by a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter and helped by far too many bonehead Atlanta penalties, the Saints have now done something that once looked impossible: they’ve regained our respect, and they’re one game removed from being a .500 football team.

But for us, they did something even more important. They’ve begun the process of ensuring that the mighty Falcons don’t bench key contributors during the fantasy playoffs.

When exactly the fantasy playoffs start and end depends on the settings of your league. But from my experience many leagues forgo Week 17 altogether because it’s such a crapshoot in terms of teams that have already clinched a playoff spot sitting their stars, and even basement dwellers sitting veterans and handing a heavier workload to youngsters who will take on larger roles next year (example: in a different universe where the Falcons suck, it’s very reasonable to think that Jacquizz Rodgers would get far more carries in Week 17). Many leagues start the playoffs in Week 15, and then Week 16 is championship week.

There’s still a lot of football left to be played, but suddenly with just this one loss, the likelihood of those final games meaning something to Atlanta has increased, albeit slightly. But hey, we’ll take it. If the 49ers beat the Rams — as of this writing they trail 14-7 — suddenly there could be a team with an identical record as the Falcons atop the NFC, and another team only one game behind at the end of Week 10. The Niners are the former team, and the latter would be the Bears if they beat Houston tonight.

Given the depth of high-end fantasy talent deployed by the Falcons (coming into this week Matt Ryan was sixth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, Tony Gonzalez was fourth among tight ends, and Roddy White was 11th among wide receivers), Falcons games that matter late in the season are vital to championship aspirations.

And a special thanks to you, Chris Ivory

One more quick note on the Falcons-Saints game: Chris Ivory (not Christ Ivori) is still the new efficiency. A week after finishing with 48 yards on 10 carries during his first game this year due to injuries, Ivory had 72 yards on only seven carries today, and 56 of those yards came on one rumbling touchdown romp that featured a Madden-style stiff arm. Basically, he made Asante Samuel into his puppet.

Yep, he had more yards on one carry than he did during the entire game last week, a game that was already impressive. Ivory is consistently finding the edge and utilizing his quick feet in open space, which has quickly led to several long runs in just two games. Ivory already has two runs for 20 yards or more (he had a 22 yarder last week), and in nine games prior to today Trent Richardson and Willis McGahee — two far more widely owned and far more widely started running backs — also had two. Fantasy football is fun.

Ivory should be the most commonly added player on waivers again this week, and his efficient gashing (Mark Ingram had 67 rushing yards today, but he needed 16 carries to get there) could mercifully bring some clarity to the New Orleans backfield. Maybe.

Michael Turner is still the worst

Yeah, I lied. One more quick and simple observation on what was clearly the game of the afternoon that didn’t feature Fitz magic. If there’s any justice left in this world, Michael Turner will get Steven Jackson’ed really soon.

No intense analysis is needed here. Just basic numbers from the events of the afternoon:

Jacquizz Rodgers: 62 yards on seven touches (three carries, four catches)

Michael Turner: 15 yards on 13 touches (all carries)


Where you at, Eli?

We’ve gone beyond concern with Pey Pey’s little brother now, and we’re somewhere between panic and begrudging acceptance. During the Bengals’ 31-13 dusting of the Giants, Eli Manning was asked to throw a lot. Basic football, yes, because throwing a lot is what happens when a team is down by 24 points at the end of the third quarter. While Manning’s two interceptions were disappointing and ugly (more on that darkness in moment), at the very least when a team is in blowout mode it’s reasonable to expect some garbage-time passing yardage from a quarterback.

Yes, it would be if that quarterback wasn’t named Eli Manning, and he’s not tasked with moving an offense forward that’s suddenly been zapped of all its deep-threat potential. Manning attempted 46 passes — his second-highest total of the season — and yet he finished with just 215 passing yards. If you’re an Eli owner and you’d really like to hate yourself, grab a calculator machine and punch in the numbers on that to see what his yards per attempt was. And when you see that 4.7 blink back at you, then you have my permission to eat an entire advent calendar. Hey, it’s not too early.

His longest pass went for just 16 yards, showing the depth of the power outage that’s maybe coming because defenses are focused solely on Victor Cruz, who had just 26 yards on three catches. After completing passes of 80 and 77 yards earlier this year, Manning’s average longest single-game completion was 47.7 yards prior to today.

And about those interceptions. With two more today, Manning has now thrown four over his last three games, a stretch when he hasn’t recorded a single touchdown pass. Overall then his touchdown-to-interception ratio is now 12:11, a troubling trend through 10 games, as last year Manning’s TD:INT ratio was +13.

Just hold on, and hope Hakeem Nicks gets back to full health during the Giants’ bye to restore the depth of their passing game, and Ahmad Bradshaw gets some rest too so he’ll return and ease the pressure on his quarterback, who currently has to do everything all the time during every game.

Marcel Reece was what we thought he would be

To the four people who thought Taiwan Jones would be relevant after both Mike Goodson and Darren McFadden went down last week, I say HA, victory is mine.

In a game the Raiders lost in very Raiders fashion to the Ravens (55-20) while they made Al Davis say something incoherent in his grave because it was the first time Oakland allowed 40 or more points in back-to-back games since 1962, Reece continued to be one of the few sources of encouragement. After 95 yards on eight receptions last week, Reece had 104 yards on 18 touches today.

What especially speaks to Jones’ irrelevance is that 13 of Reece’s touches came through carries when he hadn’t received a single carry prior to this week, and even undrafted rookie Jeremy Stewart was given seven carries.

How many did Jones get? Two.

The Patriots run defense has been exposed

Here’s how great the Bills have become at running with a football, be it through Fred Jackson or C.J. Spiller. Prior to today the Patriots were allowing only 88.6 rushing yards per game on just 3.5 per carry. Midway through the second quarter of this afternoon’s game the Bills already had 81, and the Jackson/Spiller combo finished with 150.

That’s the good news for Bills fans who are still scouting cliffs. The bad news for fantasy purposes (*inserts broken record*) is that Jackson is still holding Spiller back from being one of the best RBs in the league.

Hyperbole? Maybe. But we won’t find out this year, and we may not learn the answer to that question as long as Chan Gailey remains the head coach in Buffalo. Look, Jackson is a nice running back, and he had a fine game today with 115 yards on 20 touches. That’s neat, and it works out to 5.6 yards per touch. Normally we’d praise that, and offer to kiss parts of Jackson that shouldn’t be kissed.

But when he’s in the same backfield as another running back who had 131 total yards on 10 yards per touch, he’s the weakest link. Jackson deserves and needs carries, and his performance has dictated that. But it hasn’t dictated that he’s worthy of being on the high end of the running back platoon in Buffalo, and it definitely hasn’t dictated that he should receive 16 carries to Spiller’s nine.

Doug Martin is so average

Yep, so many yawns. Martin had just 119 yards from scrimmage this week on 5.4 yards per touch, so he sucks huge time. That yardage includes a 42-yard catch, proving that he still enjoys a brisk Sunday jog. Over his last three games Martin has now recorded four +40 yard plays, and he has 605 all-purpose yards over that stretch.

We are all muscle hamsters.