Friday, December 26, 2014

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Hopefully you aren’t contending for a title this weekend. But if you are, or you’re playing a weekly game, we still have work to do.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins vs. Jets. Miami has nothing but pride at stake in this divisional battle, but Tannehill still has much to prove as the Dolphins’ QB of the future. He had a huge game last week and should stay in the groove with his wideouts against the Jets’ horrid secondary.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers at Falcons. Those who trusted Stewart last week were rewarded with 122 rushing yards and a late TD reception. Keep Carolina’s (current) bell cow in your lineup against an Atlanta run defense that has coughed up a league-worst 20 rushing scores. This is a must-win game for both teams.

Joique Bell, RB, Lions at Packers. Reggie Bush got the start last week because Bell violated a team rule. But once Bell got into the game in the second quarter, he resumed his lead-back duties. He presumably will keep his nose clean this week, and he’ll be leaned on heavily as a rusher and receiver in this critical game for the Lions.

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings vs. Bears. Minnesota has little to play for, but this is a divisional rivalry and Chicago’s pass defense is truly awful. Even if Jennings doesn’t play a full game, he has an excellent opportunity to notch his fifth TD reception over the final six games of the season.

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Panthers at Falcons. The rookie hasn’t found the end zone since Week 14, but he hasn’t faced Atlanta’s overly generous secondary either. Look for another 100-plus-yard performance, with at least one TD in this all-or-nothing contest.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Eli Manning, Russell Wilson; RBs Justin Forsett, Devonta Freeman, Matt Asiata, C.J. Anderson, Andre Williams, Chris Ivory, Jeremy Hill, Joseph Randle, Fred Jackson, Alfred Morris; WRs Mohamed Sanu, Emmanuel Sanders, Kenny Stills, Sammy Watkins, Terrance Williams, Mike Wallace, Jarvis Landry, Jeremy Maclin, Mike Evans, Kendall Wright, DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith.

Roll ‘em back

Nearly 20 teams are either eliminated from the playoffs or have little or no incentive to play their stars in Week 17. Every one of the starters from these teams, therefore, comes with significant risk of being pulled early: 49ers, Bears, Bills, Browns, Buccaneers, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Redskins, Saints, Titans and Vikings. When in doubt, choose a player with an incentive to give his all.

More thumbs down: QBs Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Matt Stafford; RBs Tre Mason, Kerwynn Williams, Giovanni Bernard, Branden Oliver, Reggie Bush; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Julian Edelman, Eddie Royal, Dwayne Bowe.


Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots vs. Bills. Predicting which back will get the lion’s share of the carries for New England is always a dicey proposition. It’s even harder to decipher when the team has nothing to play for. But here’s my expectation: The prodigal rookie Gray will get the call, while the veterans are used sparingly.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…plays for all the marbles in Week 17 next season. Too many key players will be sitting or exiting early, so the best fantasy teams could be unfairly penalized. Also, be sure to watch the inactive reports, as several stars will likely be healthy scratches.

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