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Instant reactions from Week 17

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The regular season ended Sunday, and the final week was a continuation of many of the same themes from throughout the year. Peyton Manning was awesome, Trent Richardson was mediocre and we wish injuries didn't ruin Aaron Rodgers, Shane Vereen and Randall Cobb for most of the year.

We also said goodbye to a legend in Tony Gonzalez, who played his final NFL game as he heads into retirement.

The game of the day was Green Bay at Chicago, and the Packers won the NFC North title 33-28 thanks to a late touchdown from Rodgers to Cobb. Rodgers, who came back after a seven-game absence with a broken left collarbone, was 25 of 39 passing for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He looked a little rusty, but he was still the Fantasy star we missed during the meat of the season.

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Jordy Nelson looked like a No. 1 receiver again with 10 catches for 161 yards on 16 targets. And Cobb came back after being out 10 weeks from a knee injury, and he had two catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

It was fun to see the Packers at full strength with their passing game, and Eddie Lacy was still a factor with 21 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. The Packers now face the 49ers in the Wild Card round, and if you think they'll advance then consider several of their players for the CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge.

As for the Bears, their season ends in disappointing fashion, but they finished with some quality Fantasy performances in Week 17. Jay Cutler, our Start of the Week, was 15 of 24 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Matt Forte had 22 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Marshall had six catches for 74 yards and a touchdown, and Alshon Jeffery had three catches for 80 yards with a lost fumble.

Chicago should have a great offense again in 2014, but the key is bringing back Cutler, who is a free agent. If he's back as expected then consider him a Top 10 Fantasy quarterback, Forte a Top 5 running back and Marshall and Jeffery as Top 10 receivers.

Matt Ryan and Roddy White end season strong: Ryan's season fell apart when Julio Jones (foot) went down in Week 5. White's season never really got started because of an ankle injury in the preseason. That didn't matter in Week 17 against Carolina.

The two finished strong in the final two weeks of the year, giving Fantasy owners hope for 2014. Ryan had back-to-back games with 20-plus Fantasy points for the first time since Week 7. And White had consecutive games with double digits in Fantasy points for the first time all year.

Even though Gonzalez plans to retire, Ryan will get Jones back, White healthy and Harry Douglas has developed into a quality No. 3 receiver. Ryan has the chance to rebound as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback, and he should be tremendous value on Draft Day.

White also will be overlooked in the draft, but he could easily rebound as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver. Jones will come back as a Top 5 Fantasy receiver, and the Falcons offense should be awesome.

Chris Johnson done in Tennessee? Johnson might have played his last game for the Titans in Week 17 against Houston. If so, he went out on a high note with 27 carries for 127 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 14 yards.

There's a report the Titans will release Johnson this offseason as a salary dump. Johnson finished the season with 279 carries for 1,077 yards and six touchdowns and 42 catches for 345 yards and four touchdowns.

If he comes back to Tennessee, he'll remain a high-end No. 2 running back worth drafting in Round 2 or 3. If he's cut, where he ends up will determine his value, but he'll still be a starting Fantasy running back coming into the season.

Cordarelle Patterson's star on the rise: Patterson put on a show Sunday against Detroit. He had two carries for 54 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 31 yards and a score.

Patterson has now scored in five games in a row, and he has the chance to be a breakout star in 2014. We'll see who the Vikings have as their starting quarterback, but he will be a potential Top 24 Fantasy receiver coming into the year.

• Backup running backs shine: Three of the best running back performances Sunday came from backups with Knile Davis, Jonathan Grimes and Matt Asiata.

Davis started for the Chiefs with Jamaal Charles resting for the playoffs at San Diego. He had 27 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns and two catches for 5 yards.

Grimes started for the Texans with everyone else injured at Tennessee. He had 16 carries for 50 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 76 yards.

And Asiata started for the Vikings with Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) out against Detroit. He had 14 carries for 115 yards with a lost fumble.

This is why playing into Week 17 is frustrating when you don't have stars like Charles and Peterson, but it's also fun when you use these backups and they come through.

LeGarrette Blount dominates Bills: The Patriots unleashed Blount against Buffalo in the rain, and he was awesome. He had 24 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and he closes the season with 265 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his final two games.

Stevan Ridley also ran well against Buffalo with 12 carries for 74 yards, and Shane Vereen had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. The Patriots are off until the Divisional Round of the playoffs after locking up the No. 2 seed in the AFC, but look at Blount as a solid option in the playoff challenge.

Andy Dalton keeps rolling: It wasn't pretty, but Dalton had his fourth game in a row with 20-plus Fantasy points with his performance against Baltimore. Dalton was 21 of 36 passing for 281 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, and he added six carries for 23 yards and a score.

Manning and Drew Brees finished the regular season as the top two Fantasy quarterbacks. No. 3? It was Dalton.

The Bengals play the Chargers in the Wild Card round, and we hope Dalton has another solid game. He will enter next season as a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback if he has a strong postseason after the way he played during the year.

T.Y. Hilton has strong finale: The Colts will play host to the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, and we hope the Hilton we saw in Week 17 shows up in the playoffs. He was great against Jacksonville with 11 catches for 155 yards on 15 targets.

This was Hilton's first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 10, but he's capable of being a big-play threat. He's a good option in the playoff challenge since he has 34 targets in the past three games.

• Of course C.J. Spiller ends strong: Spiller and Richardson are the two biggest busts of 2013. Richardson scored a touchdown Sunday against the Jaguars but still finished with only nine Fantasy points on eight carries for 25 yards and two catches for 17 yards.

But Spiller went out on a high note at New England. He had 19 carries for 105 yards and five catches for 28 yards. It was his first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 13 and only the fifth time he's scored in double digits this season.

Fred Jackson was great also against the Patriots with 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 53 yards, and he clearly outplayed Spiller all season. He had 10 games with double digits in Fantasy points this year.

We'll find out if Jackson, who will be 33 next year, is back in Buffalo in 2014. If he's gone, then Spiller could be a second-round pick in the majority of leagues. But if Jackson is back then Spiller's upside will again be capped, and we wouldn't draft Spiller until Round 4 at the earliest, with Jackson coming off the board around the same time.

• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em star: Our sleepers came through in a big way in Week 17 as we had one Top 10 quarterback (Terrelle Pryor), three Top 6 running backs (Blount, Davis and Grimes) and two Top 8 receivers (Jerrel Jernigan and Hilton). Jernigan was the No. 1 Fantasy receiver with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown and two carries for 57 yards and a touchdown against Washington.

• Start 'Em/Sit 'Em flop: I got Michael Crabtree right as a sit since he had just three catches for 29 yards at Arizona, but Colin Kaepernick proved me wrong as our bust alert. He was 21 of 34 passing for 310 yards and two touchdowns and four carries for 24 yards. I like Kaepernick a lot as my quarterback in the playoff challenge.

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Player News
Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall not sure if he'll be ready for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Redskins veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall hopes he has recovered enough from a torn Achilles tendon to be 100 percent for the starting of training camp. But he's making no guarantees.

"I know they're going to monitor me," he told 106.7 The Fan. "I know they are not going to just throw me out there and [have me] take all the reps with the [first team].

"I'm just going to get out there and see how the body feels ... I'm at the mercy of the trainers and coaching staff. They're going to kind of wean me back in slowly."

Hall, who lost all but three games last season to the injury, also missed OTAs and minicamp, but has recently begun ramping up his workouts.


Saints WR Nick Toon seeks to seize best opportunity of career
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) The path is clear for Saints wide receiver Nick Toon to earn more playing time than ever. But he realizes that he must get on that path and stay on it through superior performance.

The offseason losses of Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meacham should result in more reps for Toon, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He has been buried on the depth chart, though he did catch a career-high 17 passes last year.

He believes that now is the time for him to step up and break out.

"Pressure is not something that I've every worried about or thought about," he told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just try to be consistent. Anything outside of that is out of my control, so do what you've got to do to put yourself in the best position for things to work out."

Toon has a shot at the third receiver role behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston.


Giants WR Victor Cruz believes he'll be back in action for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Giants standout receiver Victor Cruz believes he can avoid starting the season on the PUP list despite continuing to deal with his recovery from a patellar tendon tear.

"The plan is to be ready for training camp and I feel good," he told SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Placing Cruz on the PUP list would give the Giants roster flexibility if he is not ready by training camp. If he lands on the regular-season PUP list, he would be forced to miss the first six games.

Cruz has experienced weakened production every year since his breakout season of 2011. But he was limited to just six games in 2014.


Report: Packers have no plan to release TE Andrew Quarless
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:28 am ET) The Packers have no intention of releasing tight end Andrew Quarless despite his arrest on July 4 for allegedly shooting off his gun in public, sources have told ESPN.

Quarless was charged with a misdemeanor after firing two shots into the air outside a parking garage in Miami Beach, per police reports. He was seen arguing with two women before the incident.


Report: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul can forget long-term deal
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) The Giants will not take back their one-year franchise tag offer of $14.813 million to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the wake of a fireworks accident that resulted in a hand injury and hospitalization, a source has told the New York Daily News.

But the source added that there is "no chance" the Giants will now work on a long-term contract for Pierre-Paul. 

Giants officials made the trek to South Florida on Tuesday to see how he is recovering, sources have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Pierre-Paul is coming off his best season since 2011. He contributed to 77 tackles and racked up 12 1/2 sacks.


Eagles LB Brandon Graham could be on verge of breakout year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:29 am ET) Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham feels the optimism of a guy coming off his best season.

"I'm feeling the best I've ever felt," he told the team website.

It's no wonder. He recorded career-highs in tackles (36), tackles for losses (13 1/2), assists (11) and sacks (5.5) in 2014. He earned significant playing time in a rotation at that position. And with Trent Cole off to Indianapolis, those reps could increase this year.

Graham has toiled feverishly to improve his game and adapt to a new defensive system. The result was a new four-year contract with the team.

"I understand the game and the league and what it takes to get it done here," he said. "I think I've grown up. I'm serious about being a great player. I want to be the best."


Giants pulling long-term contract offer to Jason Pierre-Paul
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) In the wake of a Fourth of July fireworks mishap, the Giants on Monday pulled their long-term contract offer to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains hospitalized in Miami, per NFL.com insider Ian Rapaport. 

The Giants had applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the player has not yet signed it, technically leaving him not under contract with the team. The Giants move to yank the longer deal is a bit of gamesmanship, since according to Rapoport, Pierre-Paul was not going to sign the $60 million deal anyway. 


Bills sign veteran tackle Wayne Hunter
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) The Bills took another step to shore up their offensive line, signing veteran tackle Wayne Hunter to a one-year deal Monday, per the National Football Post. 

Hunter, who has not played in the NFL since 2012, did spend three years with the Jets under new Bills coach Rex Ryan from 2009-2011. 

Hunter's deal is reportedly worth $870,000.


RB Khiry Robinson could be odd man out in Saints backfield
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) Running back Khiry Robinson is a fan favorite with the Saints, but the third-year pro, who once was viewed as a breakout candidate for the team, may find his role squeezed by the presence of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, per ESPN.com. 

Robinson dealt with a broken arm last season, which limited him to 12 carries and 32 yards over the final 10 weeks of the year. The Saints then re-upped with Ingram and brought in Spiller to replace Pierre Thomas, meaning Robinson will have to fight hard in training camp to establish a role. 

"I just gotta keep working," Robinson said. "It's all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it's a good thing we've got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we've got another player right up there to do the same thing."


Report: Giants Jason Pierre-Paul hurt in fireworks accident
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly hurt his hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Miami, according to the Daily News

The paper reports that the injury is not considered career-threatening, but that varying accounts of what happened have been reported. The Giants have not confirmed nor denied the incident. 

The Giants applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the 26-year-old has not yet signed it as he seeks a long-term deal, meaning that he technically is not under contract. 

Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks last year for New York. 


 
 
 
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