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Fantasy & Reality: Who's sitting in Week 17?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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For the first time in a long time, Week 17 won't be the typical parade of backup players finishing the regular season. There are actually a lot of meaningful football yet to be played. Even if you don't play into Week 17, you can feel good about having a lot of fun games to watch.

In fact, there's exactly one game involving at least one playoff participant that isn't likely to feature starters. That's the matchup between the Chiefs and Chargers in San Diego.

Kansas City has locked into the AFC's No. 5 seed. They can't do any better or any worse. Twice before in Andy Reid's coaching history has he been in such a situation, and twice before he rested a number of starters. He rested starters for a game in 2001 and again in 2004 for not one game, but two. And in 2010, Reid also rested top playmakers in Week 17.

So go ahead and guess who's going to suit up in a track suit on Sunday? You'll probably see Jamaal Charles there, even if he is within 20 yards of 2,000 total on the year, and chances are pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali will also sit as they're very important defensive guys for the Chiefs. If Alex Smith plays it won't be for long, and if he sits then chances are Dwayne Bowe will also sit. In fact, Bowe hurt his neck last week but stayed in. Maybe he'll end up sitting out too.

This is all very good news for the Chargers, who are the only team in the NFL that will know their playoff fate before kickoff. If either the Ravens (at the Bengals) or the Dolphins (vs. the Jets) win, the Chargers cannot clinch a playoff berth. But it's highly unlikely the Chargers will call in their starters and play the backups if such a situation were to occur, so you'll probably see them play all out, which against a bunch of Chiefs backups isn't such a bad thing.

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Are there any other games where backups could see significant playing time and potentially cost Fantasy owners? It's always possible the teams with nothing to play for could do it, but it's rare. Teams with first-year head coaches like the Browns, Jaguars, Bills and even the Chargers could opt to "get a look" at some of their younger players, but it might not happen unless the game is out of hand. It's also possible we could see teams headed to the playoffs like the Broncos, Patriots, Bengals, Colts, Seahawks, Panthers and 49ers pull their starters once they feel they have wins secured. It's not nearly enough to consider sitting players from those rosters, but the key contributors could play three-and-a-half quarters instead of four.

All told, this is good news for those Fantasy leaguers who insist on playing all 17 weeks.

On running backs and Round 1

Much will be written about the benefits and pitfalls of taking a running back in the first round of a draft. On average in 2013, there were nine running backs drafted in Round 1. Of those nine, four finished in the Top 12 but none of the other five finished even in the Top 24! This year, you either nailed it with your first-round pick or you whiffed. There's no happy medium.

That shouldn't be a surprise given the nature of the position and how teams tend to use their backs. Nor should it be a surprise that the running backs that finished in the Top 12 this season will be on the radar for Fantasy owners picking in Round 1 next season, even though the turnover is so steep.

I'll never fight to take a running back with my top pick, but I will stand by this statement: Unless I can get a back with 20-touch potential including goal-line work or an elite difference-maker at receiver or tight end, I'm taking the safe way out. If that means getting a quarterback, even though the position is deep, then so be it.

There were a lot of people who drafted Trent Richardson or C.J. Spiller or any other bust first-round pick and still won the crown, but that's not the point. I don't want the headache of taking a back without the promise of a big workload and big stats when I can get a quarterback with weekly 30-plus-point potential, especially if it's someone in a weak division. We talk all the time about how Jimmy Graham is a differentiator among tight ends but won't say the same about Peyton Manning?

The reason for it is because it's easier to find a reliable quarterback off waivers than it is a reliable tight end. But it's also hard to find a player who consistently posted 20-plus Fantasy points with a number of games into the 30s, 40s and 60s. All things being equal, if I can't get my hands on a running back I feel really good about in Round 1, I'll wait until Round 2 to get him.

We already know there will be a minimum of seven running backs to start most drafts next year. All the big-ticket guys you've come to know as reliable "stud" workhorses will be there, and that list will include rookies from this year and a couple of veterans too. That will push any possible quarterback selections to the back of Round 1, which makes waiting for a running back a breeze since you'll pick again soon in Round 2. Starting a draft with Manning and Giovani Bernard or Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Mathews wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: The Chiefs are a dangerous team. You already know that Kansas City's offense is a lot of Jamaal Charles and a little bit of everyone else. The Chiefs a team that is not built to play from behind -- they need to stay in close games in order to come out ahead. The key to their defense is the play of pass rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. When they're on, the rest of the defense looks great. When they're out of not hot, their defense is absolutely pedestrian. I had a hard time coming to grips with that earlier this year but after watching the Colts take aim at them and benefit from their poor tackling, I just can't see this team getting far in the playoffs. Keep it in mind if you're in Playoff Challenge leagues that limit transactions.

Reality: Andy Dalton's success has come in threes, not fours, and has not come against the Ravens. For Dalton to do well this week in Fantasy he'd have to buck two trends: Play well for a fourth straight week and play well against a tough divisional opponent. Last year, Dalton had two stints with three-straight games with 25-plus Fantasy points before coming back down to earth in his next game. This year he's already had one trio of games with 30-plus points before fading, and has hit the 23-point mark in each of his last three. Asking for a fourth against a defense that has not only allowed just four quarterbacks to post 20-plus points against them this season but one he's never had 20-plus points against in his career seems just too risky.

Fantasy: The Cowboys are doomed without Tony Romo. I've seen a lot of Kyle Orton's games and while I won't call him a great quarterback he certainly isn't nearly as bad as 90 percent of the backup passers out there. Dallas' decision to pay him to back up Romo will come in handy this week as he'll at least give them a chance to win against Philadelphia. Orton has a 81-to-57 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has averaged 6.6 yards per attempt throughout his career. When he was at the helm of the Broncos back in 2010 he had some downright awesome games thanks to a very good group of receivers. I'd give him a chance in this one -- he's not a horrible replacement for Romo owners in Week 17.

Reality: The Fantasy game can be improved upon. One of the best parts about writing about Fantasy has been the overall simplicity of how you keep score. You're either in a standard league or a PPR, your passing touchdowns are worth either 4 or 6. We all tend to keep track of players the same way and follow the same basics as it comes to lineups.

I'm starting to wonder if we as game players are ready to start branching out into new scoring systems and sets of rules. More two-quarterback leagues with the rise of so many good passers. More points for the little things like breaking tackles, first downs, longer field goals and players winning their real-life games. More roster flexibility including automatic in-game replacements from the bench in case of an injury to a starter (real life coaches can replace players when they get hurt, why can't we?). The game is already evolving as more and more people get into PPR leagues and dynasty/keeper formats. It's only a matter of time before we start asking more from our commissioners to make the game even more fun.

Reality: The Fantasy season isn't over. It's never over. It took me three years as a frustrated Fantasy loser back in 2000 to realize that if I really wanted to win at Fantasy Football I needed to pay attention year-round. Ever since then Fantasy Football has been a 12-month-a-year game for me. I might not draft (much) between now and late August but keeping up with the news, the coaching carousel and the numbers from last year and what they might project out to in 2014 is vital if you want to dominate. If only there was a website that treated Fantasy like the year-round obsession it's become.

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 .

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Player News
Colts can void RB Trent Richardson's contract
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:27 pm ET) The Colts can void running back Trent Richardson's $3.1 million guaranteed salary for 2015 because he was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, reports CBS Sports' Joel Corry, a former agent who's an expert on player contracts.

Richardson, who missed a walkthrough before the AFC title game, received a two-game suspension from the team, general manager Ryan Grigson confirmed. If Indy chooses to keep Richardson, he'd serve the second game of the suspension next season.

ESPN.com expects the Colts to exercise their option to void Richardson's contract, and the players' union to challenge that move.


Panthers LB Thomas Davis says he's not close to retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:17 pm ET) Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, who turns 32 in March, is not contemplating retirement any time soon, reports ESPN.com.

“I lost two and a half years to injuries, but I also feel I gained two and a half years," said Davis, who underwent two reconstructive ACL surgeries on the same knee. "This was my 10th year and I’m going on year 11, and I still feel I have a lot of football left in me.’’

Davis has one year left on his contract, and he hopes to sign one more contract after that. Davis made 100 tackles this season after recording a team-high 123 in 2013.


Union challenges Goodell on Adrian Peterson's counseling requirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) The NFL Players Association filed a legal brief saying Commissioner Roger Goodell's requirement that Adrian Peterson attend counseling was unlawful, reports ESPN.com. The union claims Goodell's disciplinary powers don't extend past suspensions, fines and contract terminations to counseling, the report said.

In November, Goodell suspended Peterson without pay for the rest of the season and said the Vikings running back cannot be reinstated until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May.

In his letter to Peterson, Goodell set several requirements for reinstatement, including counseling.

"In order to assess your progress going forward, I will establish periodic reviews, the first of which will be on or about April 15, 2015," the commisssioner wrote. "At that time, I will meet with you and your representatives and the NFLPA to review the extent to which you have complied with your program of counseling and therapy and both made and lived up to an affirmative commitment to change such that this conduct will not occur again. A failure to cooperate and follow your plan will result in a lengthier suspension without pay."


Bucs QB Mike Glennon on the move?
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) With the Buccaneers holding the No. 1 overall draft pick, the team has its choice of quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. The Tampa Tribune says "some around the league" believe other teams will try to trade for quarterback Mike Glennon, and that Glennon could net the Bucs a fourth- or fifth-round pick.

Glennon played in six games this season, throwing for 1,417 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions. The team's refusal to play Glennon "even after their slim playoff hopes faded" has many observers believing the Bucs are ready to move on from him, the paper said.


Lions see plenty of upside in WR Corey Fuller
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) The Lions are looking for a solid No. 3 receiver to supplement Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, and converted track star Corey Fuller could be the guy, reports the team's website. Fuller was Johnson's backup in 2014 and played in some multi-receiver sets, catching 14 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown.

“I think I had a big improvement coming in from last year to this year,” said Fuller, a sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft. “If I just keep on progressing, who knows where I can go.”

Fuller, who brings a unique combination of speed and strength, said his main focus this offseason is improving his route running.

“The whole (route) tree,” he said. “Being able to expand the routes they throw me.”


Steelers not expected to re-sign Ike Taylor
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) The Steelers likely won't re-sign impending free agent cornerback Ike Taylor, reports ESPN.com. Taylor, 34, dealt with multiple injuries this season and finished with 16 tackles in five games.

Taylor has spent his entire 12-year career with Pittsburgh. He said this month he's OK with 2014 being his last season.


Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart looking to build off strong finish
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:37 am ET) Over the last five weeks of the regular season, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart rushed for 486 yards, second only to Dallas' DeMarco Murray. Stewart followed that up with 123 yards and a touchdown in the playoff win over Arizona.

"I'm really excited for next year," Stewart told the team's website. "You have to find your zone throughout the offseason. It starts now."

Stewart got the chance to be a workhorse when DeAngelo Williams fractured his hand Week 13. ESPN.com reports there's a "strong possibility" the Panthers will release the 31-year-old Williams this offseason, leaving Stewart, 27, as the unquestioned starter.

"It's just part of the journey," Stewart said of the individual success he had toward season's end. "The moment you start focusing on that, you miss out on other things along the journey."


Report: Patriots hoping to sign Darrelle Revis to long-term extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) The Patriots are reportedly looking to sign cornerback Darrelle Revis to a long-term extension, according Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

However, New England has not ruled out paying Revis the $20 million team option in 2015, Rapoport reports. The decision needs to be made by April 1, when a $12 million roster bonus kicks in for Revis.

Revis totaled 47 tackles in 16 games for the Patriots, grabbing two interceptions and forcing one fumble.


C.J. Spiller expecting 'March Madness' style free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Bills running back C.J. Spiller is getting healthy again. Spiller, who has fully recovered from a shoulder injury, just ended the final season of his contract and is looking at his options for next season.

"Physically, I’m back to 100 percent, back to doing normal activities," Spiller told The Post and Courier on Friday. "As far as football, free agency will start in March, and I’ll get with my people next week and get a game plan together."

Spiller has played five seasons for the Bills, only playing two full years. He ran for 1,244 yards in 2012 with six touchdowns.

"I guess you could say it’ll be March Madness," Spiller said with a smile. "It’ll be a fun March."


Report: Rams among teams interested in trade for Eagles' Foles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/26/2015) Teams are beginning to show interest in Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as reports are surfacing Philadelphia is unsure of what to do with the third-year quarterback, per NJ.com. A source said the Rams have interest in Foles should the Eagles choose to trade him this offseason. 

The Titans and Texans have also been mentioned as teams that would have interest in Foles, if he hits the trade market.

It's still unclear if the Eagles would be willing to move Foles. NJ.com reported last week the Eagles, who have the 20th pick in the NFL Draft, are considering making a run at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the draft. 

"From No. 20, it's certainly not going to be easy,'' a source said. "It's probably going to take moving up twice to do it. There's going to be some wheeling and dealing involved.

"Can it happen? I don't know. But they're going to try."

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly recruited Mariota to Oregon and coached him for two years.

"Obviously, [with] my relationship with coach Kelly, it'd be a lot of fun to be a part of that offense and be a part of that team," Mariota said when asked about a potential reunion with Kelly.

Foles is 15-9 as a starter in the NFL, but he has yet to play a full season. He has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 6,753 yards, 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.


 
 
 
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