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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: Cowboys OT Doug Free has stress fracture in foot
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:52 pm ET) Sources indicated Cowboys offensive lineman Doug Free has a small stress fracture in his foot and has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Colts, according to the NFL Network.

Free was listed as doubtful with an ankle issue.


Redskins list Kedric Golston as questionable to return vs. Eagles
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) Redskins defensive lineman Kedric Golston had to leave Saturday’s game against the Eagles with a shoulder injury.

The team reported his return is questionable.


Redskins LB Trent Murphy downgraded to out for rest of week 16
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:15 pm ET) Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy was downgraded from questionable to out for the remainder of Week 16 with a hand injury, per the team's official website. Murphy left Saturday's game against Philadelphia in the opening quarter with the injury. He did not record a tackle. Jackson Jeffcoat will take over for him the rest of the way.

Michael Vick: Jameis Winston is 'future of the NFL'
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) When Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston does make it to the NFL, he will already have the support of Jets quarterback Michael Vick.

Despite Winston’s troubles away from the field, Vick believes Winston will be the league’s next big star.

"I think he's the future of the NFL," Vick said, per ESPN.

While some NFL teams are concerned about Winston’s character, Vick believes Winston's talent on the field will overshadow any mistakes he makes off it.

"But I do know one thing: He may make some poor decisions, but he gets on that football field and he plays his ass off," Vick said. "Yeah, he can mature. He'll mature. I see him maturing as time goes on. Like, this year hasn't been as bad of a year as the first year was for Jameis. I think the kid will continue to improve." 


Redskins LB Trent Murphy taken to locker room with hand injury
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy was escorted to the locker room with a hand injury Saturday afternoon against the Eagles in Week 16. Murphy suffered the injury in the opening quarter of the game and has been ruled questionable to return, per the team's official website.

Report: Patriots' Julian Edelman will not play Sunday vs. Jets
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:39 pm ET) Sources indicated Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman did not travel with the team to New York and will not play Sunday against the Jets, reports the Boston Herald.

Edelman was listed as questionable with a concussion. In 14 games, Edelman has 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns.

With Edelman out, wideout Danny Amendola could be in line for more playing time. Amendola has 15 catches for 113 yards and one touchdown in 14 games.


Buccaneers place S Major Wright on IR
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:22 pm ET) The Buccaneers announced a pair of roster moves on Saturday, per the team's official website. Tampa Bay placed safety Major Wright on season-ending injured reserve with an injury to the ribs and promoted cornerback C.J. Wilson from the practice squad to the active roster.

Wright appeared in 12 games this season, registering 51 combined tackles, his lowest total since 2010.


49ers LB Chris Borland placed on injured reserve
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:16 pm ET) The 49ers have placed rookie linebacker Chris Borland on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury, reports NFL.com. Borland was in the midst of a breakthrough rookie campaign before going down with the injury in Week 15. Nick Moody will likely start the final two games of the season in place of Borland.

Borland appeared in 14 games and posted 107 total tackles, one sack and two interceptions.


Report: 49ers RB Frank Gore will play Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) A source told Ian Rapoprt of the NFL Network that 49ers running back Frank Gore will indeed play Saturday night against San Diego. Gore entered Week 16 questionable after suffering a concussion the previous. It appears as if he has been medically cleared and will be in the starting lineup come kickoff.

Gore may be playing his final two games with the 49ers as he is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Through 14 games, he has rushed for 804 yards and three touchdowns on 204 carries, averaging 3.9 yards per attempt, the lowest during his 10 years in the league.

The 49ers have dropped from a 1 1/2-point to just a 1-point home favorite against the Chargers.


Report: Panthers QB Cam Newton medically cleared to start
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been medically cleared to play in Week 16, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. He'll be in the starting lineup for Sunday's pivotal clash against the Browns, just 11 days removed from a car accident in which he suffered two small fractures in his back.

Newton was unable to play the previous due to the injuries he suffered in the collision. Through 12 games, Newton has passed for 2,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has rushed for 425 yards and three touchdowns on 85 carries.

He was officially ruled as probable leading up to Week 16. Carolina has moved from a 3-point to a 4-point favorite at home against Cleveland.


 
 
 
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