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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
Marcus Lattimore eager to start pro career
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:35 pm ET) 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore is ready to start his proffesional career. After blowing out his knee in a gruesome injury in October of 2012 at South Carolina, Lattimore told The State on Sunday that his knee rehab is complete and that he's "ready to play."

Lattimore, who will attend the first day of the team's offseason workouts, will enter a crowded backfield with Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James already backing up current starter Frank Gore. However, James has expressed his desire for a bigger role and could be dealt, opening the door for the No. 3 spot in the backfield.

"If that happens, it does put me in that No. 3 spot," Lattimore said. "But I've just got to go in there and work hard. I can pass-protect and run the ball. I've got to show that."


Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jogging
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
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(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
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(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

 
 
 
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