What a way to end a Sunday.
The Brock Osweiler-led Denver Broncos ended the New England Patriots' pursuit of perfection, winning a 30-24 overtime thriller on Sunday Night Football. For many -- this columnist included -- it was one of the season's best games.
But there really was only one story for fantasy owners in that Sunday night game: the early exit of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski due to a right knee injury that required he be carted off the field. Now we await an update on his status, since the injury was to the same knee on which he had ACL and MCL surgery in January 2014. It's fair to be concerned.
While Gronkowski's injury might not be as severe as initially feared, an absence of some length remains possible. To illustrate the magnitude of his potential loss, consider: His 142 fantasy points in 11 games ranks 37th among tight ends since 1960, and all 36 ranked ahead of him played in at least 14 games in those years. Gronkowski also has averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game, the fourth-best average for any tight end who appeared in at least half of his team's games. He also has four of the 10 best such campaigns:
Gronkowski also paces his position in terms of fantasy points per game, possessing a two-point lead in that category over Tyler Eifert (10.9 average; this includes only tight ends who have appeared in at least half of their teams' games). To put that into perspective, Devonta Freeman is the only other player with at least a two-points-per-game lead over the rest of his position -- Freeman has averaged 17.6 to Adrian Peterson's 15.5 -- and Gronkowski's 12.9 average is better than all but five running backs and five wide receivers who have appeared in at least half of their teams' games.
While Scott Chandler would benefit most in the absence of Gronkowski, making Chandler one of the week's top pickups, those numbers illustrate the "irreplaceable" measure of Gronkowski's value.
Happy birthday, Russell!
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson celebrated his 27th birthday in style with 34 fantasy points, which tied Matthew Stafford's total from Thanksgiving Day for the most in Week 12 (entering Monday's game). It was also the third-best fantasy point total by any player on his birthday since 1960:
In addition, Wilson reached 1,000 fantasy points for his career on Sunday, in his 59th NFL game. Among players whose careers extended beyond 1960, only 10 reached 1,000 fantasy points in fewer games: Cam Newton, in 53 games; Andrew Luck, 55; Daunte Culpepper, 56; Dan Marino, 57; Marcus Allen, 57; Eric Dickerson, 57; Jim Brown, 58; Terrell Davis, 58; Aaron Rodgers, 58; and Matthew Stafford, 58.
Wilson has the eighth-most total fantasy points through 59 career games -- his 1,022 exceeds Stafford's 1,011 and Luck's 1,005 (stuck on 55 games due to his current injury), even though both Luck and Stafford reached the 1,000-point career threshold in fewer games. Wilson trails the leader, Newton (1,104), by only 82 total fantasy points. While disappointing in fantasy terms overall this season, Wilson perhaps is heating up for his owners at the right time, with favorable matchups ahead against the Baltimore Ravens (Week 14) and Cleveland Browns (Week 15).
It's a testament to the Chiefs' offensive line play this season, and especially in Week 12, despite the loss of two key players to injuries. Though the health of Jeff Allen (ankle, who was able to return to Sunday's game), Eric Fisher (neck) and Mitch Morse (concussion) needs be monitored, it's fair to suggest that any starting running back for the Chiefs -- be it West, Ware or "other" -- going forward warrants minimum RB2 status each week.
Entering Monday's game, 10 wide receivers have scored at least 20 fantasy points in Week 12. Only once since 1960 have more wide receivers scaled that plateau in a week: Week 13 of 2004, when 13 wide receivers did it.
Meanwhile, 13 quarterbacks have scored at least 20 fantasy points. Only two other times since 1960 have at least 13 quarterbacks done that: Week 2 of 2015 (14) and Week 14 of 2014 (13).
With the leading fantasy scorer among running backs, Devonta Freeman, inactive for Week 12, a 300-point running back is highly unlikely this season. In fact, Freeman's pace of 264 -- and that's granting him his per-game average over the Atlanta Falcons' final five games -- and Adrian Peterson's 247 are easily Nos. 1 and 2 in that department now. That means 2015's top-scoring fantasy running back could have the lowest total since Emmitt Smith tallied a league-leading 238 in 1993. Terry Allen's 264 in 1996 is the next lowest by a leader during that time span.
Spencer Ware, the third starting running back for the Kansas City Chiefs this season, picked up right where the previous two -- Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West -- left off, scoring 17 fantasy points on Sunday. That gave the Chiefs three running backs who had a game worth at least 15 fantasy points in a starting role this season; they are only the sixth team to do so in any of the past five seasons (2011-15):
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson paced his position in fantasy points on Sunday with 29 -- 12 more than all but one running back (C.J. Anderson, 27) thus far in Week 12. It also was Peterson's 21st career game with at least 25 fantasy points, which moved him into a tie with Jim Brown for the sixth most by any running back since 1960. Brown, incidentally, had 32 career games that would have been worth at least 25 fantasy points if we included his 1950s statistics.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins set a career high with 27 fantasy points on Sunday, all of which came before halftime. That total is as much as any one team has amassed from its wide receivers against the Chiefs' defense since Week 4 (Cincinnati Bengals, 27), and it's more than any individual wide receiver had against the Chiefs since Randall Cobb scored 28 against them in Week 3.
The Seahawks' Doug Baldwin paced all wide receivers with 32 fantasy points on Sunday, easily setting a career high. Baldwin's previous personal best was 19 fantasy points, set in Week 5 of the 2011 season and matched in Week 10 of this season. In addition, Baldwin has 100 fantasy points for the season, just one shy of his previous single-season best from 2013.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton also set a career high with 26 fantasy points, twice as many as his previous personal best of 13, set in Week 5 of this season. Wheaton's 26 points was more than he had in his previous nine games combined (23), and it was the most that any wide receiver has scored against the Seahawks since T.Y. Hilton had 26 against them in Week 5 of 2013.
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. managed another 20 fantasy points on Sunday, giving him 150 this season and moving him into third place at his position for the year. Beckham has 347 fantasy points in his first 23 career NFL games, which is 22 more than any other wide receiver since 1960 has had through that many career contests.