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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
Report: Cardinals reverse course, will start QB Ryan Lindley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has changed his mind and will start quarterback Ryan Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, in Sunday's game at San Francisco, reports the Arizona Republic. Lindley hit 18 of 44 throws for 216 yards with an interception in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. He has not thrown a touchdown in 225 career pass attempts.

Arians earlier said he'd play Thomas for at least the first half. But that was before Thomas failed to inspire confidence at Wednesday's practice.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 throws. Starter Drew Stanton (knee) is not expected to be ready until the playoffs.

Arizona remains a 6-point underdog Sunday.


Chip Kelly not fully committed to Nick Foles for 2015
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Asked about his quarterback situation heading into 2015, Eagles coach Chip Kelly expressed support for Nick Foles but did not fully endorse him as the team's quarterback of the future, reports Philly.com. Kelly said he needs to make a decision on Foles based on his limited body of work.

"The reality is the reality," Kelly said, referring to the broken collarbone that ended Foles' season after eight games.

"I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games.' In certain times we're going to have to make decisions, so you have to make it based on what you have. We don't have any control over the injury."

Foles threw 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this year after sparkling with 27 touchdowns and two picks last season. Foles has one more year on his contract at $660,000, while replacement Mark Sanchez is scheduled for free agency. Matt Barkley is signed for two more years but has thrown one pass this season.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur sounds like a believer in Foles.

"I think we know what we have in Nick, and we've seen a guy that I think, by last count, he's 14-4 as a starter," Shurmur said. "So that's really how you judge a quarterback."


Eagles OLB Trent Cole plans to play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole, who sat out Week 16 with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and said he plans to play Sunday at the Giants, reports the Delaware News Journal. Cole has 48 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 14 games.

'No plans on how long' QB Logan Thomas plays Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) After earlier saying Cardinals quarterback Logan Thomas would play at least the first half Sunday at San Francisco, coach Bruce Arians said there are "no plans on how long" the rookie will play, reports ESPN.com. Thomas will be making his first start after Ryan Lindley predictably flopped Week 16 against Seattle.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 passes. That completion was an 81-yard touchdown to running back Andre Ellington.

Quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) isn't expected to be ready until the playoffs, so Lindley is the only option behind Thomas. Lindley has zero touchdowns and eight interceptions in 225 career pass attempts. Arizona has not scored a touchdown in its past two games.

A 6-6, 250-pounder out of Virginia Tech, Thomas had a "shaky" start to Wednesday's practice before finishing "pretty strong," according to Arians.

Arizona is a 6-point underdog Sunday. The line opened at 4.5 before bettors pounced on the 49ers.

Despite their offensive struggles, the Cardinals can win the NFC West with a victory and a Seattle loss to the Rams.


Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse not practicing
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Seahawks wideout Jermaine Kearse, who injured his hamstring Week 16, did not practice Wednesday as the team prepared for Sunday's game against St. Louis. Kearse also would not have been able to participate had the team practiced Thursday.

If Kearse sits out, rookie Paul Richardson would start in his place. Seattle is a 12.5-point home favorite.


Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who's missed three straight games with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and is on track to return Sunday against the Falcons.

However, coach Ron Rivera has indicated he'll stick with Jonathan Stewart as the starting tailback. Stewart has run for 437 yards over the past four weeks.

Carolina is a 4-point underdog at the Georgia Dome.


Chuck Pagano 'hopeful' T.Y. Hilton will play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton put in his second straight limited practice Wednesday, with coach Chuck Pagano saying he's "hopeful" Hilton will play Sunday at Tennessee. Hilton sat out Week 16 with a hamstring injury -- the first game he's missed all season -- and Indy got destroyed 42-7 at Dallas.

Hilton leads the Colts with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Indy is a 7-point favorite over the 2-13 Titans.


Ravens RT Ricky Wagner undergoes foot surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Ravens right tackle Ricky Wagner underwent successful surgery to fix a Lisfranc foot sprain, reports the Baltimore Sun. He suffered the injury in the Week 16 loss to Houston.

Wagner, who allowed two sacks and drew high marks from coaches in his first season as a starter, is expected to be ready for next season, the report said.


Bears sign DE Austen Lane
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Bears have signed defensive end Austen Lane, Pro Football Talk reports.

Lane will fill the roster spot of defensive end Willie Young, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Lane was with the Bears during the preseason but didn't survive the final cuts. He's managed three sacks in 30 career games.


Cardinals' Thomas starts practice 'shaky,' finishes 'pretty strong'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated that Week 17 starting quarterback Logan Thomas was "shaky" at the beginning of Wednesday's practice but finished "pretty strong" as he developed an understanding of where to throw his passes, ESPN.com reports.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."

Thomas has just three days of practice before facing the 49ers in a game that has the possibility of landing his team with a first-round bye with a win and help from other results.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better," Thomas added. "It just comes with reps and comes with time."

The Cardinals are a 6-point underdog in San Francisco Sunday.


 
 
 
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