Carroll County Times

Fantasy football: Playing the odds in Week 17

If you're reading this, hopefully it's because you play in a salary cap or weekly fantasy football league, where you get to choose new line-ups every week and not because your commissioner decided to have the championship played in week 17.
While plenty of "real" playoff scenarios will be decided today, for fantasy purposes studs can become practically useless when they are rested by their head coach so they are fresh for the playoffs (Jamaal Charles). It's not nearly as bad this year as in previous years, as only the Chiefs are locked into their playoff position (5th seed in the AFC) and have nothing to play for.
With that in mind, let's get to this weeks picks, and make sure to check out the

Start 'em if you got 'em
QB Aaron Rodgers. This should be a no-brainer right? Rodgers is finally playing again after what seems like an enternity of waiting for clearance, and it's essentially a playoff game - the Packers beat the Bears and they are in the playoffs. Chicago's defense is a shell of its former self, and while there is a chance Rodger is rusty, he's still among the most talented players at the position. If you've played QB roulette and made it to your championship waiting for Rodgers to get healthy, go ahead and use him now.
RB Eddie Lacy. You've been rolling with him this long, and even with a bum ankle, he should still do some damage against a Chicago Bears defense that is the league's worst at stopping the run. The threat of Aaron Rodgers throwing the football means the Bears can't key on Lacy either. Obviously, if he's rule out, you can't start him, so get James Starks on your bench if you haven't already.
RB Le'Veon Bell. After turning in his first 100-yard performance rushing in week 16, expect him to get a lot of carries - and yards - once again in a must-win home game for the Steelers against Cleveland. He's a bona fide weapon in the passing game as well and is getting opportunities at the goalline.
WR Jordy Nelson. Why, yes, I do like the Packers offense this week. With Rodgers back under center, Nelson should return to the WR1 form he displayed before the Green Bay QB carousel began.
WR Mike Wallace. The Dolphins will be fighting for their playoff lives and may struggle running against the stout Jets defense, meaning they'll air it out and should take a few shots downfield with Wallace.
WR T.Y. Hilton. Incredibly streaky the whole season, he's been better at home and has a juicy match-up against the Jags. The Colts have made an effort to get him more involved and that should happen again today.
TE Marcedes Lewis. Chad Henne is locked onto him in the red zone and he's scored in every game in December so far, with at least 4 catches in all of those outings.


Scale 'em back
QB Russell Wilson. As much as I like Russell Wilson, I'm a bit concerned after last week's performance against the Arizona Cardinals. The mystique of playing in Seattle against Wilson, who was undefeated at his home stadium until last week, is no longer there. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams are getting better week after week and are aiming to finish .500. Don't look at the schedule and see StL and think "piece of cake." It wont' be.
QB Andy Dalton. He's been spectacular as of late, and while the Bengals technically have an outside shot at getting a first-round bye with a victory - and would probably love to eliminate the Super Bowl Champion Ravens from the playoffs (where, if they lost, they'd likely face them again next week) - I just don't trust Dalton in a clutch situation. This is a playoff game for Baltimore, and they'll bring their best effort.
RB Knowshon Moreno. You're going to start him if you have him, and you should. It's a great match-up against the Raiders and he's having a career year, plus the Broncos are still playing for homefield advantage. But even in meaningful games in recent weeks, it's seemed like his workload is shrinking. If this turns into a blow-out - and it could - Moreno could end up ceding carries to Monte Ball so Moreno is fresh for the playoffs.
WR Dwayne Bowe. He's hurt. His team isn't playing for anything. And if for some reason they leave him in there, he'll be catching passes from whoever Alex Smith's back-up is (I'm not even going to look it up, because if he can't beat out Alex Smith, it's not worth knowing his name.)
WR Emmanuel Sander. Scoring in 4 of his past 5 games, Sanders is dealing with a knee injury and, while he's been useful because of his touchdowns, he's been held to under 53 yards receiving in 6 of his past 7.
TE Andrew Quarless. He had consecutive games of 6 catches for 66 yards and a score before a 1-for-19 outing last week with Matt Flynn at the helm. But who knows what kind of chemistry he'll have with Aaron Rodgers?

Taking a flier
QB Kyle Orton. I'm not recommending this unless you've made it to the championship game with Tony Romo and have no other options, or are in a weekly league. He's an efficient quarterback and the Eagles defense isn't especially scary.
RB Knile Davis. He's shown some explosiveness in his limited opportunities, and he should get a lion's share of the carries assuming Andy Reid sits Jamaal Charles (he will). He's a guy I'd be all over in a salary cap or weekly league.
WR Nate Burleson. You'd probably have to be pretty desperate to start him after a couple of duds in beatable match-ups, but if Megatron sits with his injury, Burleson becomes the No. 1 WR against his former team. If nothing else, he should get targets, and that's half the battle.
TE Ryan Griffin. After leading the team in receiving each of the past two weeks for a total of 11 catches for 128 yards, Griffin is squarely on the fantasy radar. If you need a boost at TE, he could be your man.