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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
Chris Johnson signs two-year deal with the Jets
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:19 pm ET) The Jets have signed running back Chris Johnson to a two-year deal, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

Johnson told reporters on Tuesday he was taking free agency one day at a time and added that he had other visits planned, but the Jets must have made him an improved offer to lock up the one-time 2,000-yard running back. 

Johnson has totaled at least 1,400 yards in each of his last four seasons with the Titans since running for 2,006 yards in 2009. He also scored 10 touchdowns in 2013 (four receiving). 


Clay Matthews says it's thumbs up for training camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:37 pm ET) Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said he's diligently rehabbing his injured thumb, comparing it to a torn ACL rather than a typical bone break. As part of the injury he also had surgery on his forearm, which got damaged when he re-injured the thumb late last season. But he told USA Today that he'll be ready for the start of training camp, though he'll miss offseason workouts. 

Mike James resumes running and cutting
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:28 pm ET) Buccaneers running back Mike James is working his way back into football shape after breaking his left ankle last season. He told the Tampa Bay Times that he's been running and cutting and is aiming to get back to full strength and speed. Asked if he would be ready for the team's April minicamp, James said he and the team are "taking everything day by day." 

Josh Freeman signs with Giants
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:33 pm ET) The Giants have signed quarterback Josh Freeman, reports FOX Sports.

Freeman spent last season with the Buccaneers and Vikings. His only appearance for Minnesota was against the Giants, and he completed 20 of 53 passes for 190 yards and an interception.

Freeman will try and make the final roster for the Giants as a backup to Eli Manning, who is coming off ankle surgery this offseason. The Giants also have Curtis Painter and Ryan Nassib on the roster.


Rob Gronkowski will 'take his time' coming back
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:26 pm ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will "take his time and then take more time" coming back from a torn ACL suffered last season, a source told Bleacher Report

Gronkowski's heart was questioned last year when he took his time coming back from forearm and back procedures. This year he might not care how long he takes as he wants to practice patience in his rehab. 

The knee injury happened in December of last year. Usually it takes nine months to come back from an ACL injury without incident. That would mean he'd be ready to hit the field by late August. 


Haloti Ngata turned down extension with Ravens
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:10 am ET) Looking to free up cap space earlier this offseason, the Ravens offered a "lucrative, long-term" deal with defensive lineman Haloti Ngata so that he wouldn't cost $16 million in cap space. Ngata, 30 years old with two years left on his current deal, wasn't willing to take the extension, NFL Network reports. 

Report: Ravens planning to add two running backs
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:47 am ET) The Ravens are aware of what's been going on with Ray Rice this offseason but were planning to add a pair of running backs this offseason anyway. NFL Network reports that they now believe that one of those two might have to start depending on what happens with Rice. 

The veteran running back had a horrible 2013 season (under 1,000 total yards) and then was indicted on a third-degree aggravated assault charge when he struck his then-fiancee and current wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. 


Kyle Rudolph hopes for contract extension
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:43 am ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph hopes to stay in Minnesota on a long-term contract, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Rudolph is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He said Tuesday that the team, which still has approximately $10 million in salary cap space after a busy offseason, has not approached him about a contract extension.

"I've really enjoyed my time here, from the top down, in our organization," Rudolph said. "I think we have the best owners in football. They're willing to do anything for us to win. Everybody in the front office, the new staff, I really like the direction this team is going in. I'm excited to be a part of that future."

Rudolph is hoping to bounce back after he was limited to eight games in 2013 because of a fracture in his left foot. He caught 30 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns before injuring his foot in a Week 9 loss to the Cowboys. 

He has been studying tape of the Browns from last season so he can get a feel for how he will be utilized in new coordinator Norv Turner's offense. Tight ends such as Jay Novacek, Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron produced impressive numbers in three different decades with Turner calling the plays.

"I hope to fall in line with that," Rudolph said. "I'm excited to get into this offense."


Peyton Manning excited for Emmanuel Sanders
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:21 am ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning recently spent time working out at Duke University with some of his receivers, including newest addition Emmanuel Sanders. Manning said "it was good to get some good work with him." 

Sanders is expected to replace the departed Eric Decker, and Manning said they have a lot of work to do.

"I'm excited about playing with him," Manning said.


Peyton: Montee Ball can handle new role
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:14 am ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said running back Montee Ball has a great opportunity now that Knowshon Moreno is gone as a free agent to Miami.

"I thought Montee had a great year," Manning said. "I thought he learned a lot in his first year. In my past, I've seen a lot of development in guys from their first year to their second year. There is no question with the loss of Knowshon — who was just nothing short of awesome for us this past year and was a great teammate — that Montee is going to have more responsibilities, and I think he will answer that challenge. I think he has the work ethic, I think he has the mental capabilities to handle the workload and I look forward to having a full offseason with him. He didn't have a full one last year because of being a rookie, so I look forward to getting even closer with him as far as being on the same page."


 
 
 
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