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Fantasy & Reality: Who's in and who's out?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Right off the bat, you should know that Week 17 is always a mess for Fantasy owners. Studs sit or disappoint because they don't play as much, unknowns come out of nowhere and put up great numbers and we as a collective base of football fans who play a game to enhance our love of the sport are either grossly letdown or thoroughly overjoyed with the results.

Actually, when I put it that way it sounds like each of the previous 16 weeks.

I get the challenge of playing into Week 17. A Fantasy owner worth his weight in chicken wings should be able to put a good lineup together and outscore his opponent. But is it really fair to have a game with so much meaning (assuming you play for a championship in Week 17) go down without one or more of the guys who got you to that point? For instance, I weep (figuratively) for the Aaron Rodgers owners who got such a great boost from him in Week 16 and will probably see him give way to Matt Flynn before halftime against the Lions. The 20-to-40 point per week Fantasy stud is now bench-worthy. It's not cool.

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But if you play into Week 17, you knew it was coming and you can't do anything about it now. So let's run down the Week 17 slate and figure out who's playing for what and who we'll see.

Playoff implications for both teams

Cowboys at Giants: Winner hosts a playoff game, loser goes home. No one is sitting.

Ravens at Bengals: The Ravens clinch a bye with a win and potentially fall into a wild-card berth with a loss. The Bengals clinch a wild-card berth with a win and potentially fall out of the playoffs with a loss. No one is sitting.

Playoff implications for one team

Steelers at Browns: The Steelers need a win and a Ravens loss to clinch the AFC North and a bye. Playing against their bitter rivals you can be sure they'll roll out their starters -- including Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers would love to have their cake (get Roethlisberger to the playoffs healthy) and eat it too (get the first-round bye). Chances are they can beat the Browns with minimal help from Roethlisberger, who could at least force the Browns to defend the pass whereas Charlie Batch wouldn't scare them off. The Browns might run Peyton Hillis into the ground before setting him free this offseason.

Jets at Dolphins: The Jets need a win, a Bengals loss, a Titans loss and either a Raiders or Broncos loss to claim the final playoff spot in the AFC. Because they play early and won't know their fate until later on, their starters are expected to go four quarters. The Dolphins shouldn't rest anyone.

Titans at Texans: The Titans need a win, a Bengals loss and a combination involving two wins from the Jets, Raiders and Broncos to land the No. 6 seed in the AFC. They'll play to win, of course. The Texans, however, are locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC and are expected to pull their starters at some point. We'll see a healthy dose of Jake Delhomme and Derrick Ward.

Chiefs at Broncos: Tim Tebow's Broncos can land the AFC West with a win against Kyle Orton's Chiefs. Obviously the quarterback storyline is intriguing, but so is the fact that both defenses are trending in different directions -- Kansas City is on the rise and Denver is slipping. This should be a fun game where both teams rest no one.

Chargers at Raiders: The Raiders clinch the AFC West with a win and a Broncos loss. The Raiders can also sneak into the playoffs as a wild-card team with a win, a Bengals loss and either a Titans loss or a Jets win. With the Bengals playing at the same time, there's no doubt that Oakland will run its starters. Darren McFadden and Jacoby Ford might play this week. Vincent Jackson might rest given that the Chargers have nothing to play for.

49ers at Rams: The 49ers clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win. They'll play their starters until they feel like they have the win clinched. The Niners blew out the Rams 26-0 in Week 13 but didn't get 20 points until early in the fourth quarter. Alex Smith is also the most recent quarterback to throw two touchdowns against the Rams. St. Louis might give a spirited effort for their head coach, Steve Spagnuolo, in what might be his last game with the team.

Panthers at Saints: The Saints need a win and a loss by the 49ers to land the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They play at the same time on Sunday so they won't learn their fate until late in the game, if at all.

Lions at Packers: The good news: The Lions can clinch the No. 5 seed and a date with the NFC East winner in the first round of the playoffs with a win. A loss combined with a Falcons win would pit them at New Orleans or San Francisco as the No. 6 seed. Speculation is that the Lions will try to win and clinch that game with the Giants or Cowboys.

The bad news: The Packers have the No. 1 seed all locked up. As we noted last week, Mike McCarthy was once in this position and pulled his starters in the second quarter of a meaningless Week 17 game. McCarthy has already said he'll rest the players nursing injuries and chances are other starters will follow. Expect limited production from Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and the Packers DST.

Buccaneers at Falcons: The Falcons can get the No. 5 seed with a win and a Lions loss. Otherwise, they'll play at the Saints or 49ers on Wild Card Weekend. Here's the catch: This is among the late games, so the Falcons will know their fate before kickoff. So while they might be in a position to rest their starters plenty before a big playoff matchup, chances are head coach Mike Smith will want to see some strong performances as a tune-up against the lowly Bucs before resting his starters. There shouldn't be much fear in starting Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez; Michael Turner might need the rest and could be limited against this Bucs defense but he could play one or two series and be solid for Fantasy.

Bills at Patriots: The Patriots clinch the top seed in the AFC with a victory. Bill Belichick typically does not rest his starters and certainly won't pull Tom Brady & Co. until they build a huge lead on the Bills. After losing to them back in Week 3, you can almost sense that the Pats will lay it on thick to end Buffalo's campaign.

No playoff implications

Redskins at Eagles: Philadelphia's fighting for .500 while Washington's fighting for Mike Shanahan's 12th win in two seasons. LeSean McCoy should be a decent part of the offense for the Eagles assuming he practices in advance of the game. Evan Royster will be in a position to rack up stats if Roy Helu is out again; if Helu plays they'll probably split.

Bears at Vikings: Like many of these games, the Bears and Vikings will give their young players a chance to put themselves on tape for evaluation as neither coaching staff is expected to go anywhere. Joe Webb, Toby Gerhart and Kahlil Bell should be prominently featured. Both defenses could struggle.

Seahawks at Cardinals: The winning team will be 8-8, which would be an improvement for the Seahawks (they won the NFC West at 7-9 last season). Marshawn Lynch will attempt to extend his touchdown streak to 12 games while John Skelton will attempt to give the Cardinals coaching staff a reason to consider him for a quarterback competition next summer. Larry Fitzgerald is two touchdowns away from his fourth double-digit scoring season in five years.

Colts at Jaguars: The Colts can end the season on a three-game win streak and potentially lose the No. 1 overall pick in the draft with a win. The Jaguars will battle to give interim head coach Mel Tucker his second win and Maurice Jones-Drew can cement his grip on the rushing title with a solid game (he's 63 yards from 1,500).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Patriots make practice squad transactions
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:21 pm ET) The Patriots announced defensive lineman Casey Walker has been signed to the team’s practice squad. To make room for Walker on the practice squad, the Patriots released linebacker Ja’Gared Davis .

Seahawks add T Andrew McDonald, release DT Jimmy Staten
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) The Seahawks added offensive tackle Andrew McDonald to their practice squad and released defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, reports Sports Radio KJR.

Lions RB Reggie Bush unlikely to play vs. New England
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) Althoguh Lions running back Reggie Bush vowed to return to the lineup this week, he is unlikely to play Sunday against New England, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora Saturday.

Bush was a limited participant all week in practice with an ankle issue. He is still working his way back from the injury, and it appears as if he's still not 100 percent. If he sits out Sunday, he will have missed four of his last six games.


Jets list 11 players as probable for Monday night
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:54 pm ET) Following a bye week, the Jets appear well rested heading into Week 12. The Jets listed offensive lineman Oday Aboushi (shoulder), wide receiver Eric Decker (hamstring), wide receiver Greg Salas (wrist), running back Chris Ivory (shoulder), running back Chris Johnson (knee), wide receiver T.J. Graham (neck), offensive lineman Willie Colon (knee), center Nick Mangold (shoulder), linebacker Antwan Barnes (knee), defensive back Darrin Walls (calf) and defensive back Jaiquawn Jarrett (calf) as probable for Monday night’s game against Buffalo.

Broncos TE Virgil Green: I'm ready to return Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:30 pm ET) Broncos tight end Virgil Green told the Associated Press he's ready to return to action on Sunday. Green missed the previous three games with a calf injury. If Julius Thomas (ankle) is unable to play, Green hopes the team allows him to display his versatility as a pass-catcher.

"I'd love for J.T. to play. I really don't know where he's at right now, but if he doesn't go, I feel like it's an opportunity for me to show that I'm not just a blocking tight end," Green said. "I can catch. People know I can run the ball as well, so it's an opportunity for me and I have to jump all over it."


Ravens head into MNF with only two players listed as out
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) Only Ravens wide receiver Michael Campanaro (thigh) and tackle Jah Reid (hand) were listed as out for Monday night’s game at New Orleans, according to the team’s final injury report.

The Ravens also listed defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (not injury related), tight end Owen Daniels (not injury related), linebacker Terrell Suggs (not injury related), linebacker Daryl Smith (not injury related), fullback Kyle Juszczyk (foot) and guard Marshal Yanda (knee) as probable.


Bills list RB Fred Jackson questionable for Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:15 pm ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson was a limited participant in practice Saturday and was designated as questionable for Monday night's contest against the Jets, per the team's official website. Jackson sat out Week 11 against Miami after suffering a setback Week 10 against Kansas City.

"We'll see how it goes. It felt good to get out there," Jackson said. "I don't feel like there were any setbacks. Hopefully I can continue to progress well and play well on Monday."


Bills unveil final injury report for Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:10 pm ET) The Bills have ruled out Jarius Wynn (knee) for Monday's game against the Jets. Ron Brooks (groin) and Fred Jackson (groin) were deemed as questionable for Week 12.

Meanwhile, the following players were ruled as probable: Dan Carpenter (groin), Marquise Goodwin (ankle), Chris Hogan (hip), Manny Lawson (ankle), Kyle Orton (toe), Frank Summers (neck), Kraig Urbik (shoulder) and Sammy Watkins (groin).


Chargers release Richard Crawford, promote Ryan Miller
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) The Chargers announced cornerback Richard Crawford was released Saturday. Crawford was released to make room for offensive lineman Ryan Miller. Miller had been on Chargers’ practice squad and was promoted to the 53-man roster. Crawford had yet to appear in a game for the Chargers.

Saints enter Week 12 relatively healthy
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:50 pm ET) The Saints enter a Week 12 showdown against the Ravens relatively healthy. According to the team's final injury report which was released on Saturday, Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Kyle Knox (hand) were the only players ruled out for the game. Robert Meachem (ankle) was deemed questionable.

Meanwhile, Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder), Travaris Cadet (hamstring), Curtis Lofton (ankle), Keenan Lewis (knee), Zach Strief (chest) and Mark Ingram (shoulder) were all ruled as probable for Monday.


 
 
 
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