Friday, December 27, 2013

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Hopefully you’re playing for fun and not for a title this weekend.  Or, better yet, you’re pre-spending your winnings in Disney World like I am today.  But if you insist, here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in the 2013 regular season finale.

Watch ‘em roll

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts vs. Jaguars.  Indy needs to win for a shot at a first-round bye.  Fortunately, Luck and his receivers will be facing a Jags secondary that has coughed up 28 passing scores (vs. just 11 interceptions) to date. 

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Chiefs.  Though Mathews is hobbling on a balky ankle this week in practice, he should play Sunday and have a field day against a Chiefs defense that will be featuring backups most of the way.  Start him if you’ve got him.

Chris Johnson, RB, Titans vs. Texans.  By all accounts, Houston has given up the ghost.  And though Tennessee is out of contention, CJ1K still has something to prove.  He’s likely to be a free agent after this season, and he still needs 50 yards to reach 1,000 for his sixth straight year.  Johnson should get plenty more than that.

Riley Cooper, WR, Eagles at Cowboys.  It should go without saying that you start your stars against Dallas, but Cooper is one of those fringe players that hasn’t attained star status just yet.  They’ll be calling his name often in this one, as Nick Foles has his way with the overly accommodating Cowboys secondary.

Brian Hartline, WR, Dolphins vs. Jets.  After getting frozen out in Buffalo, the Dolphins return to the friendly climes of South Florida with a shot at a postseason berth.  Hartline posted nine receptions for 127 yards and a score in the Week 13 meeting with the Jets, and he’s a good bet to repeat his heroics against the struggling visitors.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger; RBs DeMarco Murray, DeAngelo Williams, Alfred Morris, Eddie Lacy, Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Bobby Rainey; WRs DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks, Roddy White, Kendall Wright, Pierre Garcon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julian Edelman, Alshon Jeffery, Keenan Allen, Torrey Smith, Jordy Nelson.

Roll ‘em back

Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals vs. 49ers.  The schedule-makers were brutal to the aging quarterback, forcing him to run a gauntlet of the Rams, Seahawks and 49ers over the last three weeks.  Palmer’s body has been battered and beaten, but he’ll give it his all in this important contest with major playoff implications.  That said, don’t expect San Fran’s secondary to be gentle with the senior under center.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings at Lions.  We saw what happened last Sunday when the Vikings pulled Peterson (groin, foot) after getting down by multiple scores.  With nothing to play for this week, why would they risk their biggest star again? Even if he plays, the Lions are solid against the rush and would give AP a run for his money.

Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons vs. Panthers.  Jackson has scored three TDs in the past two weeks, but the good times will screech to a halt against a stout Panthers run defense that has surrendered just four rushing scores all season.  Carolina has a lot at stake in this game, so they won’t be very hospitable to their visitors.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions at Vikings.  Don’t count on much, if anything, from Megatron in Detroit’s meaningless finale.  Something is clearly amiss with his knee (reports say a partially torn PCL), so the Lions would be foolish to risk the future of their franchise wideout in Minnesota.

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs at Chargers.  Kansas City is the only playoff-bound team that has nothing at stake this weekend.  Andy Reid is expected to give his starters only a limited number of snaps, so Bowe (concussion) and his QB must head to your bench.  And as hard as it will be to sit Jamaal Charles, you will likely be stuck with whatever he can produce in a series or two. 

More thumbs down: QBs Russell Wilson, Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Mike Glennon; RBs Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore, Ray Rice, Reggie Bush, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Lamar Miller; WRs Harry Douglas, Lance Moore, Rod Streater, Steve Smith, Stevie Johnson, Jarrett Boykin.


Joique Bell, RB, Lions at Vikings.  Detroit has been eliminated from the postseason, so expect the backups to get a heavy workload.  Bell has been limited in practice by a knee injury sustained after his 30-carry outing last Sunday.  But assuming he fights through it, he should get plenty of action – as a rusher and receiver – against the average-at-best Vikings defense.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…benches Andre Brown this week.  First off, he has passed his concussion tests.  Second, though he has been stifled in consecutive weeks by two strong run defenses, he’ll be facing the rushing doormats from Washington.  And finally, he’ll be making his case for a starting role in 2014.

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