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Fantasy & Reality: Week 17 Fantasy pitfalls

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The albatross that is Week 17 is upon us. And though roughly two-thirds of Fantasy leagues have been decided by now, it doesn't mean that the season is over for everybody ... even though the regular season is over for the starters on a few NFL teams.

Playing into Week 17 is a fun challenge, but a game already dominated by improbabilities and uncertainties is compounded by the wishes of a team without the proverbial "something to play for." Everywhere you look there's risk in starting key players because their teams might not need them for the full 60 minutes. Some won't be used at all.

The good news this season is that there aren't many teams with playoff spots locked up. That should mean a lot of players who helped you get to Week 17 playing for you. That's how it should be when a championship is on the line.

Playoff implications for both teams

Cowboys at Redskins: For the second straight year, the Cowboys are on the road in a win-and-in game. Not only is the winner in the playoffs but they'll host the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. Not the best prize in the world but certainly one worth playing for. The loser will likely miss the playoffs but there is a scenario where the Redskins can still make it with a loss, though it will depend on results earlier in the day. Expect the starters for both teams to play the whole game.

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Packers at Vikings: The Vikings are in with a win on Sunday. The Packers are already locked into a home game, but they could land the No. 2 seed and a bye with a win. You won't see Aaron Rodgers' backup throw six touchdowns in this one.

Playoff implications for one team

Texans at Colts: With a win, the Texans will own the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Their starters will play.

The Colts, meanwhile, are locked into the No. 5 seed and have nothing to play for from a playoff standpoint. However, emotions will run high when their head coach, Chuck Pagano, makes his expected return from chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. Pagano is a first-time head coach who has worked as an assistant for a number of head coaches, much like interim head coach Bruce Arians. Neither have been at the helm of a team in this "meaningless" situation but they have both been around it. In Pittsburgh, Arians was part of a Steelers team that played their starters for most of blowout wins against Cleveland in 2010 and again versus Cleveland in 2008. In 2007, several starters rested for the whole game after the Steelers locked up the AFC North. Pagano was part of a Ravens team in 2007 that pulled their starters after putting the final touches on a convincing win. The hunch is that the Colts' top stars like Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne will play most if not all of the game because of Pagano on the sideline and the electric atmosphere thanks to the home crowd and an opponent desperate for a win.

Ravens at Bengals: The Ravens have a home game locked up in the Wild Card round. It is unknown how hard they'll fight for a chance at the No. 3 seed but chances are they'll come out firing in an attempt to simply fine-tune the offense. As we noted with Pagano above, the Ravens have rarely been in a position to rest their starters under coach John Harbaugh. We'll probably see the first-team offense on the field for a decent portion of the game but not the whole thing. The Ravens might actually prefer to land the No. 4 seed to keep a home game with the Colts and see the Texans in Round 2, not the Broncos or Patriots.

The Bengals have clinched the No. 6 seed and have nothing to gain from playing. The last time Marvin Lewis' crew was in such a situation was when they won the AFC North title in 2009 -- the starters played a little bit and gave way to the backups soon thereafter against the Jets. They wound up playing the Jets at home the very next week and lost, something Lewis made mention of during a press conference this week. Even with Lewis saying he'll "play to win," it doesn't mean he'll try to do it with his starters for 60 minutes.

Dolphins at Patriots: If the Patriots want to have a chance at a bye, they need to win. Losses by Houston or Denver would give them a top-two seed, so expect the Pats' first-team offense to play until the game's in hand. The Dolphins are out of playoff contention but their first-year head coach will likely demand a good effort while potentially looking at some younger players.

Chiefs at Broncos: The Broncos land a bye with a win. If the Texans lose and the Broncos win then the Broncos will clinch the top seed in the AFC. John Fox said previously he wasn't resting his starters and chances are that will be the case until the Broncos build a big lead on the Chiefs. That should be by halftime.

Bears at Lions: The Bears land the NFC's sixth seed with a win and a Vikings loss. Because the Vikings play a late game, the Bears won't know their fate until after their game. Their starters will play. The Lions have nothing to play for, but Calvin Johnson will probably aim for over 2,000 receiving yards.

Eagles at Giants: The only team here with playoff hopes is the Giants, and they're faint. A Giants win gives them a chance at a wild card spot depending on other games later in the day. Perhaps the Giants will finish strong.

Cardinals at 49ers: The 49ers must win and also need a Packers loss to slide back into the No. 2 seed. The Packers and Niners play at the same time so expect Harbaugh's starters to stay in the game a while.

Rams at Seahawks: The Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot and can actually host a home game if they win and the Niners lose. They play at the same time so expect the Seahawks to put their best foot forward.

No playoff implications

Buccaneers at Falcons: The Falcons have the top seed wrapped up, something they've never had going into Week 17 under head coach Mike Smith. However, Smith has benched his starters for backups during a game as recently as last season. This might not be the week to roll with your Falcons starters.

Jets at Bills, Panthers at Saints, Browns at Steelers, Jaguars at Titans, Raiders at Chargers: A lot of teams with a lot of coaches who may or may not be associated with their teams at this time next week. There might be a surprise inactive or two among this crew, so stay close to CBSSports.com on Sunday when we get the official inactives.

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
Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jobbing
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

Report: Niners won't release Aldon Smith
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The 49ers might expect a suspension for pass rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, but they are not planning to release him, NFL Network reported on Friday.

Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker. He was also arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


 
 
 
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