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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
Cardinals sign Reggie Dunn
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:34 pm ET) The Cardinals have signed receiver Reggie Dunn , the team announced. Dunn spent last year on the practice squad with the Steelers, Packers, Browns, Dolphins and Patriots. 

Cecil Shorts injures hamstring
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:22 pm ET) Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts was pulled from practice Friday because of hamstring tightness, reports the Associated Press. However he was spotted later walking around with his family without a wrap or ice on. The Florida Times-Union presumes the injury isn't serious


Marcedes Lewis 'in best shape of his life'
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:20 pm ET) Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis is making a good impression so far, reports the Associated Press.

The report says Lewis "absolutely killed his conditioning test," which impressed general manager Dave Caldwell.

"He's in the best shape of his life," Caldwell said.


Tony Romo says best football still in front of him
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:10 pm ET) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who turned 34 in April and is coming off his second back surgery in less than a year, said he's just now starting to play the best football of his career, reports ESPN.

"I feel personally like I've just started to come into the player that wanted to be six, seven years ago," Romo said. "I think -- and I've said it before -- but I think over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me that I've had throughout my career. That's for a lot of different reasons. But I really believe that, and I believe that will show as we go forward. So I'm excited about that. As my body continues to get healthier and healthier, it's going to be better."

Romo said he will spend three to four hours a day doing rehab, maintenance or strengthening exercises for his back. He said there is no pain in it.

"They'll definitely get sick and tired of me over here in the training room and just all the areas around the facility here because you're going to want to get inflammation and all that stuff," Romo said. "If anyone's ever had surgery, you have to do all those things. A back, any time you've ever had a back, the smart people change the routine going forward. They make sure that they commit to a routine that's going to give them the best chance to be strong in all the other areas you need to be."


Andre Johnson prepared to finish his career with Houston
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:10 pm ET) Andre Johnson reported to training camp on time after missing the offseason program while being unhappy with his situation with the rebuilding Texans. But Johnson told the Houston Chronicle on Friday that his "plan" is to finish his career with the Texans, suggesting that he's on board with the team's new direction after all. 

Eagles excuse Keelan Johnson from training camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:59 am ET) The Eagles announced Friday that safety Keelan Johnson was excused from training camp "for an undetermined amount of time" to attend to a personal matter in Arizona. Johnson was recently arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. 

Johnson will still count on the 90-man roster while he's away. 


Harbaugh: I'm very confident in Bernard Pierce
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:49 am ET) With Ray Rice suspended for the first two games of the season, the Ravens have to figure out who will start at running back in his absence, reports ESPN.

The top choice to fill in for Rice is Bernard Pierce. He was limited all offseason after having shoulder surgery, but he looked to be in good shape as the Ravens opened training camp this week. 

"I'm very confident in Bernard. I've always liked Bernard," coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a heck of a player. He’s worked very hard, he’s 217 pounds, [and] he's in the best shape of his life. He looked good out here the last couple of days. We'll know more by Tuesday once we get the pads on and seeing him move with the pads on and how the shoulder holds up -- that'll be important."

Outside of Pierce, the Ravens have Justin Forsett and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but Pierce is the likely starter with Rice out.

"I have a lot of confidence in all of our guys," Harbaugh said.


Brandon Bolden off to bad start in camp
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:44 am ET) The Boston Herald has noticed that Patriots running back Brandon Bolden has had two bad practices to begin training camp. He's fumbled twice and had a bad drop. Fumbles were a part of Bolden's rookie training camp as well. 

It's believed Bolden is in the running for the backup running downs job behind Stevan Ridley in camp, but if he keeps fumbling he could be released. 


White: Julio Jones will 'destroy the NFL'
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:40 am ET) Falcons receiver Roddy White is hoping teammate Julio Jones (foot) will be healthy all season because he's counting on a big year for Jones in 2014, reports ESPN.

"I'm worried about him in a sense that I just want him to play football," White said. "Being with Julio for the last few years, I know how great of a player he is. I know how great of a player he can be. And I just want him to be the best he can be. That's all I care about. If he's the best he can be, we're going to win. There's no doubt about it. 

"I don't have any other concerns with him because we're like brothers. I want to see him be on the field throughout the whole season and just watch him destroy the NFL."


Roddy White not expected to be limited in camp
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:34 am ET) Falcons receiver Roddy White, who dealt with a high ankle sprain and hamstring injury last year, isn't sure if he'll be limited at all during the early portion of training camp, reports ESPN. 

"I don't know," he said. "I haven't gone over the schedule or anything yet. But probably not, because I didn't do too many OTAs [organized team activities]. We've got to work on timing."


 
 
 
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