Hopefully this isn’t your championship weekend and you’re just playing for fun. But since all bets are off in Week 17, some obvious choices are suddenly not so obvious. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2011 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills at Patriots. He torched the Patriots for 369 yards and two TDs when these teams met way back in Week 3. Though Fitzpatrick has been mediocre most of December, he has a great chance to finish on a high note as he faces the worst pass defense in the league.
Ben Tate, RB, Texans vs. Titans. With its postseason seeding set in stone, the Texans will surely rest Arian Foster. That should leave the backfield to Tate, assuming he also isn’t reserved. Tate posted 104 yards rushing against Tennessee’s mediocre defense in Week 7, even though Foster started and played well.
Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys at Giants. With everything on the line and his quarterback nursing a bruised hand, Jones will be leaned on heavily in this favorable matchup. He’s had plenty of time to rest his bum hamstring, so look for a heaping helping of Jones in Sunday night’s showdown. He collected 137 combined yards in the last meeting between the division rivals.
Robert Meachem, WR, Saints vs. Panthers. New Orleans still has a bye week on the line, so the starters should get a decent amount of action. With Lance Moore likely to sit out due to a hamstring injury, Meachem has a great chance to prosper against the Panthers’ porous secondary.
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers at Raiders. A groin injury will likely sideline Vincent Jackson for the finale, giving Floyd an ideal opportunity to reach the end zone for the third consecutive week. Oakland’s pass defense has been pretty awful, so it should be a nice day all around for those participating in the San Diego aerial attack.
More thumbs up: QBs Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Matt Stafford; RBs Maurice Jones-Drew, Kahlil Bell, Rashard Mendenhall, Marshawn Lynch, Beanie Wells, C.J. Spiller, Michael Bush, DeAngelo Williams; WRs Reggie Wayne, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Maclin, Torrey Smith, Steve Smith, Nate Washington, Stevie Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson, Denarius Moore.
Roll ‘em back
Tim Tebow, QB, Broncos at Chiefs. Kansas City has played outstanding defense over the past two weeks, most notably against Aaron Rodgers in Week 15. Tebow generally makes up for his passing deficiencies with rushing scores, but those will be tough to come by as well. These teams are heading in opposite directions lately, making Tebow a very risky play in rowdy Arrowhead.
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans at Texans. In Week 7, Houston held Johnson to a paltry 45 combined yards. Though he’s broken out of his early-season doldrums, Johnson is now dealing with a nagging ankle injury on which he’s having trouble cutting. Though the Titans still have a shot at the postseason (provided they get a lot of help), it’s hard to expect a full game, or meaningful production, from “CJ1K” against the stout Texans run defense.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams vs. 49ers. As predicted here, and virtually nowhere else, Marshawn Lynch finally punctured the 49ers’ defense for its first rushing TD of the season last weekend. Jackson won’t make it two in a row. He was held to 30 combined yards when these teams met in Week 13. It should be another ugly day to finish an ugly season for the Rams.
Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers vs. Lions. Even if Green Bay’s regular starters are allowed to play a quarter or more, Nelson should be resting comfortably on your bench. He lives and dies on big plays and limited targets, so his risk is amplified further when an early exit seems assured.
Andre Johnson, WR, Texans vs. Titans. He’s expected to return from his on-again off-again hamstring injury, but he’ll be on a strict snap count. With nothing at stake for the Texans, and his fellow starters leaving early, Johnson should remain on your bench.
More thumbs down: QBs Aaron Rodgers, Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco; RBs Donald Brown, Arian Foster, LeGarrette Blount, Mike Tolbert, Kevin Smith, Willis McGahee, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jackie Battle, Ryan Grant; WRs Plaxico Burress, Vincent Jackson, James Jones, Lance Moore, Greg Little, Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Lloyd, Antonio Brown.
Taking a flier
Stevan Ridley, RB, Patriots vs. Bills. The rookie led his team in rushing the last time they faced the Bills, and Ridley has gotten the most carries in the Patriots’ backfield committee over the last two games. Against the NFL’s 28th-ranked rush defense, Ridley is well positioned to have the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday.
Don’t be the bonehead who…wages your title game in Week 17 again next year. Talk to your commissioner and fellow owners now, and agree to change the schedule so you’re not stuck in this same situation next season. Championships should not be contested while many of your best players are wearing baseball caps.