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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
Buccaneers RB Doug Martin does little in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:49 pm ET) Buccaneers running back Doug Martin did little in his return Week 12. 

Martin carried the ball 11 times, but only gained 27 yards. He managed to haul in one pass, gaining 4 receiving yards. Though the game was mostly close early, and the Bucs had a 10 point lead coming into the second half, the team didn't give Martin a lot of work. 

He'll look for more Week 13 against the Bengals.


Titans WR Justin Hunter comes down with fourth TD reception
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:48 pm ET) Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter finished Sunday with only four grabs, but he made one of them count for six in his team's 43-24 defeat to Philadelphia in Week 12.

Hunter came down with a 40-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter for his third touchdown of the season. He was targeted a team-high 10 times and finished with four catches for 64 yards and a score. He has 27 catches for 480 yards on the season.

Hunter will look to add to his total in Week 13 against Houston.


Bengals' A.J. Green has career-high 12 catches in Week 12 win
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:47 pm ET) Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green hauled in a career-high 12 catches during a 22-13 win Week 12 at Houston. He finished with a team-high 16 targets and 121 receiving yards.

Green, whose previous career-best was 11 catches, has surpassed 100 receiving yards in two straight games and four times this season. He has 19 career 100-yard games.

Green's best chance for a touchdown Sunday came on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line at the 9:06 mark of the second quarter. But while he caught a fade pass from quarterback Andy Dalton, Green could not get both feet down for the score.

The Bengals are back in action Week 13 at Tampa Bay.


Bucs' Josh McCown has tough game Week 12
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown had a tough game Week 12 against the Bears.

McCown completed 25 of 48 passes for 341 yards and a touchdown. Turnovers were a big issue for him, though. McCown threw two interceptions, and fumbled twice. He lost one of those fumbles. McCown was under constant pressure during the contest, taking five sacks. He managed to find Mike Evans on a 19 yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, but did not find the end zone again versus his former team. McCown also had 12 rushing yards.

McCown will look for more Week 13 against the Bengals.


Ryan Mallett flops in second start
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett struggled badly in his second start in Week 12, a 22-13 loss to the Bengals.

Mallett, who had two touchdowns in a win a week ago, fell apart in Sunday's game, tossing one interception without finding the end zone. He completed fewer than half of his 45 passes as well, while racking up just 189 yards in the game.

Mallett looked competent in his first career start last week, but couldn't get anything going this week. With bye weeks done, Fantasy owners should have little reason to look his way in Week 13 against the Titans.  


Titans' Delanie Walker goes off for 155 receiving yards Week 12
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET) Titans tight end Delanie Walker returned from a concussion and put together a monster performance in Sunday's 43-24 defeat to Philadelphia in Week 12.

Walker broke past Emmanuel Acho and came down with a career-long 68-yard reception in the second quarter. He was targeted nine times and finished with five catches for 155 yards. He has 667 receiving yards and four touchdowns on the season.

He'll look to keep rolling Week 13 against Houston.


Jeremy Hill shines in Giovani Bernard's return
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(5:42 pm ET)  Bengals running back Jeremy Hill continued to run the ball well in Week 12 against the Texans, as he outshone incumbent starter Giovani Bernard in his return from an injury.

Hill rushed for 361 yards in three games in Bernard's absence, and kept on running against the Texans, racking up a team-high 87 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Bernard managed just 45 yards in the game on just one fewer carry, and didn't do much to make up the gap in the passing game.

The Bengals kept the carry split very even Sunday, and that could be the case moving forward, which might not be the best outcome for either player's value. The Bengals led early and faced little resistance from the Texans' offense, which allowed them to run the ball 43 times total.

If the Bengals are stuck playing from behind moving forward, opportunities to run the ball extensively could be much harder to come by. Still, they should be working from ahead often yet again in Week 13, with the Buccaneers on the schedule, so both Hill and Bernard might be worth starting yet again. 


Another TD for Eagles DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:40 pm ET) After scoring seven touchdowns in their first five games, the Eagles DST had only two in its next five. But it got back on track Week 12 against Tennessee with wide receiver Josh Huff returning the opening kickoff 107 yards.

The Eagles weren't so bad defensively either, allowing 24 points on 351 yards. They recorded five sacks, giving them 35 in their last eight games, recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. But in terms of Fantasy production, the touchdowns have come to define the Eagles DST.

Unfortunately, defensive and special teams touchdowns are difficult to predict from week to week, which is why the Eagles DST remains a viable play despite a so-so matchup Week 13 at Dallas. Just understand you're playing with fire every time you use it.


Dolphins offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James suffers injury
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(5:39 pm ET) One of the Dolphins most valuable players left Week’s 12 game against the Broncos when offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James exited the game with a stinger. His return is questionable.

Texans' Alfred Blue has modest outing following 156-yard outburst
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:37 pm ET) Texans running back Alfred Blue started a second straight game Week 12 vs. Cincinnati with Arian Foster still sidelined due to a groin injury. However, Blue had a more modest performance in a 22-13 loss after rushing for a career-high 156 yards last week.

Blue was held to 46 rushing yards on 16 carries Sunday. His longest run went 9 yards. He added three catches for 20 yards in the loss.

Blue still doesn't have a rushing touchdown in 11 games. The Texans are back in action Week 13 vs. Tennessee.


 
 
 
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