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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
Kenny Britt looking for fresh start in Week 1 vs. Vikings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:34 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt ended an up-and-down career in Tennesse by catching only 11 passes for 96 yards last season. Reunited with former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher, the embattled receiver will look to begin his tenure with his new team on the right foot in Week 1 against the Vikings.

Britt has flashed big-play ability in the preseason, catching a 36-yard pass from starter Sam Bradford in Week 3 before the quarterback succumbed to a season-ending injury. He then tacked on a 32-yard completion from backup Shaun Hill on the team's second drive. If Britt can find chemistry with his new starting quarterback quickly, he has the opportunity to emerge from a muddled Rams receiving corps and become the team's No. 1 option in the passing game.

Will it happen? The Vikings were one of the worst teams in the league at defending the pass last year, ranking 30th in pass-defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. The results, however, look much better in the early-going this season. In the team's third preseason game, the defense held Kansas City starter Alex Smith to 140 yards on 14-of-24 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

If that same defense comes to play Sunday, Hill may have nothing but trouble trying to move the chains consistently. But if the upgraded offensive line can keep the Vikings at bay, the Hill-to-Britt connection has the potential to surprise. Consider Britt a quality free-agent add in advance of Sunday's game on the chance that he and Hill show something.


Zac Stacy could struggle vs. Vikings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:20 am ET) Rams running back Zac Stacy lost his starting quarterback for the season during preseason competition. This is nothing new for the second-year back, as he had to play the second half of 2013 without Sam Bradford as well.

Though Stacy ripped off four 100-yard games after Bradford's injury, he mixed in several ugly lines as well, managing only 62 yards on 26 carries against the Colts, just 25 yards on 14 carries against the Cardinals and only 15 yards on 15 carries as the Seahawks exacted their revenge in Week 17.

Stacy's Week 1 matchup this season is a Vikings team that played well against the run last season. The Vikings finished seventh in the league in rate stuffing the running back at or behind the line of scrimmage. The defense surrendered just shy of 3.9 yards per carry, which is right at Stacy's per-carry rate from last season.

The Rams will likely try to remain committed to the running game with a second stringer at quarterback, but the Vikings have the personnel to sniff out a conservative gameplan and more or less shut down the running game. CBSSports.com Fantasy experts are split on Stacy's stock this week, with Jamey Eisenberg slotting him eighth at the position and Davie Richard ranking him 20th.


Wes Welker expected to be suspended for Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post.

Mike Klis initially reported that there was a chance Welker's suspension wouldn't kick in until after Week 1, but issued an update later. While the NFL has yet to officially announce the suspension, the Broncos have been informed of the move. The team is expected to send out a press release confirming the information Tuesday.


Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Update: Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post. The team is expected to send out a press release shortly.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


 
 
 
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