Only the diehards who can’t stand to watch a football game without having some rooting interest in it join fantasy football leagues that play their league championship games during the last week of the NFL’s regular season. With that in mind here are my recommendations for Week 17 - all games are on Sunday this week, and all 16 games are division rivalry games, including a doozy of a regular-season finale in the NFC (yawn) West:
Miami at New England (Sunday early) - New England has a history of playing their starters most of the game even during season-ending contests that have no bearing on the Pats’ playoff seeding. It’s understandable, given that the Patriots often have a bye the first week of the playoffs. Still, with several key starters dealing with nagging injuries, it’s hard to believe that a big-picture coach like Bill Belichick would take unnecessary risks in what amounts to a glorified preseason game. Miami 24 New England 21.
- Yes (Should definitely be in your starting lineup): WRs Brandon Marshall & Davone Bess, TE Mickey Shuler, DEF
- No (Should definitely NOT be in your starting lineup): RB Ricky Williams, WR Brian Robiskie, TE Anthony Fasano (Out-knee), K Dan Carpenter
- Maybe So (Okay to start if you don’t have a better option): QB Chad Henne, RB Ronnie Brown
- New England
- Yes: DEF
- No: QB Tom Brady (Probable-foot), RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Danny Woodhead, WRs Wes Welker & Deion Branch (Questionable-knee), TEs Aaron Hernandez (Questionable-hip) & Rob Gronkowski, K Shayne Graham
- Maybe So: None
Carolina at Atlanta - It’s easy to imagine Carolina rolling over and playing dead in this game against a superior opponent, but don’t underestimate the players’ desire to send John Fox out on a winning note in what will be his last game after a nine-year run coaching the Panthers. Carolina will put up a good fight, but the Falcons will pull this one out late in the game. Atlanta 21 Carolina 20.
- Yes: WR Steve Smith (Questionable-calf), TE Dante Rosario, DEF, K John Kasay
- No: QB Jimmy Clausen, RB Mike Goodson, WRs Brandon LaFell & David Gettis
- Maybe So: RB Jonathan Stewart (Probable-foot)
- Yes: RB Michael Turner, WR Roddy White (Probable-knee), TE Tony Gonzalez, DEF
- No: WR Michael Jenkins, K Matt Bryant
- Maybe So: QB Matt Ryan
Minnesota at Detroit - It wouldn’t be a Vikings’ game if we knew how healthy Brett Favre was. Thanks to the hole in the Metrodome roof this will be Minnesota’s second game of the season in Detroit, and they’ll make themselves right at home. The margin of victory will depend on how much the Vikings play injured star Adrian Peterson, but the outcome won’t. Minnesota 24 Detroit 13.
- Yes: RB Adrian Peterson (Probable-knee)/Toby Gerhart (whoever starts), WR Percy Harvin, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DEF
- No: QB Brett Favre (Doubtful-concussion), WR Sidney Rice (Doubtful-concussion), K Ryan Longwell
- Maybe So: QB Joe Webb, WR Greg Camarillo
- Yes: WR Calvin Johnson (Questionable-ankle), TE Brandon Pettigrew, DEF
- No: QB Shaun Hill, RBs Maurice Morris & Jahvid Best (Probable-toe), WR Nate Burleson, K Dave Rayner
- Maybe So: None
Pittsburgh at Cleveland - Hard as it is to believe, if the Steelers lose this game they could possibly drop to the AFC’s sixth seed, even with an 11-5 record. Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, and the Steelers’ stout defense will ensure that doesn’t happen. Pittsburgh 27 Cleveland 10.
- Yes: QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WRs Hines Ward & Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, DEF, K Shaun Suisham
- No: None
- Maybe So: WR Emmanuel Sanders
- Yes: TE Ben Watson (Probable-ankle)
- No: QB Colt McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis (Questionable-ribs), WR Josh Cribbs, DEF, K Phil Dawson
- Maybe So: WRs Mohamed Massaquoi & Brian Robiskie
Oakland at Kansas City - A month ago it looked like a playoff berth might be at stake in this game, but the two teams have gone in opposite directions since then. Jason Campbell’s first season with the Raiders has been a huge disappointment, but at least he can look forward to a new head coach next season. Kansas City 24 Oakland 21.
- Yes: RB Darren McFadden (Questionable-toe)/Michael Bush (whoever starts), WR Jacoby Ford, TE Zach Miller (Probable-foot), DEF
- No: WR Louis Murphy, K Sebastien Janikowski
- Maybe So: QB Jason Campbell
- Kansas City
- Yes: RBs Jamaal Charles & Thomas Jones, WR Dwayne Bowe, TE Tony Moeaki, DEF
- No: WR Chris Chambers, K Ryan Succop
- Maybe So: QB Matt Cassel
Tampa Bay at New Orleans - Josh Freeman had the best game of his young career last week, but don’t let that trick you into starting him against New Orleans’ secondary. New Orleans has already punched its ticket to the playoffs, while Tampa Bay still has a shot, albeit a long one. Tampa also sports arguably both the best rookie running back (LeGarrette Blount) and the best rookie wide receiver (Mike Williams). That speaks well to the Bucs’ future, but they’ll come up short this Sunday. New Orleans 23 Tampa Bay 20.
- Tampa Bay
- Yes: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow (Probable-knee), DEF, K Connor Barth
- No: QB Josh Freeman, WR Arrelious Benn
- Maybe So: None
- New Orleans
- Yes: QB Drew Brees, RB Chris Ivory (Probable-hamstring), WR Marques Colston (Questionable-knee), TE Jimmy Graham, DEF, K Garrett Hartley
- No: RBs Reggie Bush (Probable-chest) & Pierre Thomas (Questionable-ankle), TE Jeremy Shockey (Questionable-groin)
- Maybe So: WRs Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem (Probable-toe), & Lance Moore
Cincinnati at Baltimore - Carson Palmer is another quarterback coming off a stellar performance last week who figures to have a much tougher time this week. It would be fun to see Cincinnati’s young receivers come through with an encore performance against Ed Reed and crew, but that doesn’t figure to happen with a division title still within Baltimore’s grasp. Baltimore 24 Cincinnati 21
- Yes: WRs Andre Caldwell & Jordan Shipley, DEF
- No: RBs Cedric Benson & Bernard Scott (Questionable-toe), TE Jermaine Gresham (Doubtful-knee), K Clint Stitser, WR Chad Ochocinco (Out-ankle)
- Maybe So: QB Carson Palmer, WR Jerome Simpson
- Yes: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, TE Ed Dickson, DEF
- No: WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, TE Todd Heap (Questionable-thigh), K Billy Cundiff
- Maybe So: WR Derrick Mason (Probable-ankle)
Buffalo at New York Jets - With the Jets having very little chance of moving up to the fifth seed there’s a good chance ailing quarterback Mark Sanchez’ day will be a short one. It doesn’t matter whether Mark Brunell or Kellen Clemens follows Sanchez - New York will rely on its ground game to grind out the victory and head into the playoffs with what passes as a head of steam for them. New York Jets 24 Buffalo 17.
- Yes: WR Steve Johnson, DEF
- No: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Questionable-knee), RBs Fred Jackson & C.J. Spiller, WRs David Nelson (Out-ribs) & Donald Jones (Out-concussion), K Rian Lindell
- Maybe So: None
- New York Jets
- Yes: RB Shonn Greene, WR Santonio Holmes (Probable-quad), TE Dustin Keller, DEF
- No: QB Mark Sanchez (Probable-shoulder), WR Jerricho Cotchery, K Nick Folk
- Maybe So: RB LaDainian Tomlinson, WR Braylon Edwards
New York Giants at Washington (Sunday late) - Depending on whether the Giants are able to win and gain an unlikely playoff berth, this could well be Tom Couglin’s last game. Washington has also had a messy season, but Anthony Armstrong’s recent emergence has been one of few bright spots. New York Giants 24 Washington 17.
- New York
- Yes: QB Eli Manning, RBs Ahmad Bradshaw & Brandon Jacobs, WRs Mario Manningham & Derek Hagan, TE Kevin Boss, DEF, K Lawrence Tynes
- No: WR Hakeem Nicks (Out-toe)
- Maybe So: None
- Yes: WRs Anthony Armstrong & Santonio Moss, TE Chris Cooley
- No: RBs Ryan Torain (Questionable-ribs) & Keiland Williams, DEF, K Graham Gano
- Maybe So: QB Rex Grossman
Tennessee at Indianapolis - Indy’s in a win-and-you’re-in situation; it’s hard to imagine they won’t win with Peyton Manning at the helm in a game like this. Tennessee’s season has been a huge disappointment from start to finish. Indianapolis 31 Tennessee 21.
- Yes: RB Chris Johnson, WR Kenny Britt, TE Jared Cook
- No: RB Javon Springer, WRs Justin Gage & Randy Moss, DEF, K Rob Bironas (Probable-groin)
- Maybe So: QB Kerry Collins, WR Nate Washington
- Yes: QB Peyton Manning, WRs Reggie Wayne & Pierre Garcon, TE Jacob Tamme, DEF
- No: K Adam Vinatieri
- Maybe So: RBs Joseph Addai, Domenic Rhodes, & Donald Brown; WR Blair White
Chicago at Green Bay - Green Bay controls its own (wild card) destiny. Chicago would like to win, but with nothing to play for, it’s hard to see them risking injuries to their starters by playing them the whole game. Green Bay 24 Chicago 17.
- Yes: RB Matt Forte, WR Johnny Knox, TE Greg Olsen, DEF
- No: QB Jay Cutler, WRs Earl Bennett (Questionable-ankle) & Devin Hester, K Robbie Gould
- Maybe So: None
- Green Bay
- Yes: QB Aaron Rodgers, WRs Greg Jennings & Donald Driver, TE Anthony Quarless
- No: RB Brandon Jackson, K Mason Crosby
- Maybe So: WRs James Jones & Jordy Nelson
Arizona at San Francisco - When the NFL’s schedule-making wizards set this season’s schedule, this is probably the game they figured would decide the NFC
Worst West. Things obviously haven’t worked out that way. At least Jim Tomsula gets to face the Cards in his first (and in all likelihood last) game as the 49ers’ head coach. San Francisco 27 Arizona 21.
- Yes: WR Larry Fitzgerald
- No: RB Beanie Wells, DEF, K Jay Feely
- Maybe So: QB John Skelton, RB Tim Hightower, WR Steve Breaston
- San Francisco
- Yes: QB Alex Smith, TE Vernon Davis (Probable-thumb), DEF
- No: QB Troy Smith
- Maybe So: RBs Brian Westbrook & Anthony Dixon (Probable-ankle), WR Josh Morgan
Dallas at Philadelphia - Here’s another game that the NFL’s schedulers probably figured would decide a division title. Michael Vick and Wade Phillips made sure that wouldn’t be the case. At least Vick will still be on his team’s sideline (presumably) Sunday. Philadelphia 24 Dallas 21.
- Yes: RB Felix Jones, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, DEF
- No: RBs Marion Barber & Tashard Choice, WR Roy Williams (Probable-groin), K David Buehler
- Maybe So: QB Stephen McGee/Jon Kitna (Questionable-abdomen) (whoever starts)
- Yes: QB Kevin Kolb, RB LeSean McCoy, TE Brent Celek, DEF
- No: QB Mike Vick (Out-quad), WR DeSean Jackson (Questionable-foot) & Jeremy Maclin, K David Akers
- Maybe So: WRs Jason Avant & Riley Cooper
San Diego at Denver - San Diego has arguably the best offense in football, the best defense in football, and the worst special teams in football (sorry, Giant fans). It all adds up to another season of shattered dreams and wasted opportunities. Look for the Chargers to take out their frustrations on the
Tebows Broncos. San Diego 31 Denver 17.
- San Diego
- Yes: QB Philip Rivers, RBs Ryan Mathews & Darren Sproles, WRs Vincent Jackson & Legedu Naanee, TE Randy McMichael, DEF
- No: RB Mike Tolbert (IR-shoulder), TE Antonio Gates (IR-foot), K Nate Kaeding
- Maybe So: None
- Yes: WRs Brandon Lloyd & Jabar Gaffney, DEF
- No: QB Tim Tebow (Probable-ankle); RBs Knowshon Moreno (Questionable-ribs), Lance Ball, & Correll Buckhalter, K Steve Hauschka
- Maybe So: WR Eddie Royal (Questionable-groin)
Jacksonville at Houston - Houston was expected to contend for a playoff berth this season; Jacksonville wasn’t. It’s still highly unlikely for Jacksonville to get the necessary help from Tennessee against Indianapolis, but even without the services of Maurice Jones-Drew the last two games of the season, they’ve had a better year than their
last two fans had any right to expect. Jacksonville 27 Houston 24.
- Yes: QB Trent Edwards, RB Rashad Jennings, WRs Mike Sims-Walker (Probable-ankle) & Mike Thomas, TE Marcedes Lewis, DEF, K Josh Scobee
- No: QB David Garrard (IR-finger), RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Out-knee)
- Maybe So: None
- Yes: QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster, WR Jacoby Jones
- No: WR Andre Johnson (Out-ankle), K Neil Rackers (Probable-hamstring)
- Maybe So: WR Kevin Walter
St. Louis at Seattle (Sunday night) - It’s hard to believe this is the best NBC could do for a regular-season finale, but it’s the only game that amounts to a playoff game for both teams. Rest assured, if you find something else to do Sunday night, you’ll have plenty of company. St. Louis 24 Seattle 17.
- St. Louis
- Yes: QB Sam Bradford, WR Danny Amendola, DEF
- No: K Josh Brown
- Maybe So: RB Steven Jackson; WRs Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson & Danario Alexander
- Yes: WRs Mike Williams & Ben Obomanu, TE John Carlson, DEF
- No: QB Matt Hasselbeck (Questionable-hip)/Charlie Whitehurst (whoever starts), RB Marshawn Lynch, K Olindo Mare (Probable-back)
- Maybe So: None
Good luck in your fantasy league championship games this weekend!
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