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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
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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