Friday, January 1, 2016

Week 17 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start DeAngelo Williams and Brandon Marshall, or to bench Zach Mettenberger and Greg Jennings? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2015 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Jets at Bills. The Jets have a playoff berth at stake, while the Bills have only Rex Ryan’s ego on the line. That’s never kept opposing teams from trouncing him, though; so look for Fitzpatrick to keep feeding the ball to his consistently productive receivers. At this point, weather is not forecast to be a major factor in upstate New York on Sunday.

Tim Hightower, RB, Saints at Falcons. Hightower has been a late-season gem for the Saints and his fantasy owners, and he’s coming off his best game since…well…ever. He should remain very busy, and productive, against Atlanta’s sorry run defense.

Darren McFadden, RB, Cowboys vs. Redskins. The only thing working for Dallas’ offense is its running game, and McFadden is just three yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season since 2010. With Washington likely playing its scrubs for most of the game, and Kellen Moore under center for the Cowboys, McFadden should be good for another “hundo” and perhaps even a rare trip to the end zone.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Steelers at Browns. Pittsburgh can’t afford another disappearance by its passing attack with a possible playoff berth on the line. Bryant was awful last week, but he should have a nice rebound against the same generous Cleveland secondary he torched in Week 10.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles at Giants. In-season coaching changes often spur teams to rally in their first game under an interim leader. Sam Bradford and his receivers have a lot to prove after such a disappointing season. Matthews is riding a nice two-game streak and should continue to prosper against the suspect Giants secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Eli Manning; RBs Ronnie Hillman, David Johnson, Frank Gore, Jeremy Langford, James White; WRs Jeremy Maclin, Nate Washington, Eric Decker, Allen Hurns, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, Emmanuel Sanders, Kamar Aiken.

Roll ‘em back

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins at Cowboys. Washington has nothing at stake in this divisional matchup. Their playoff seeding is set, so expect to see little more than token appearances from Cousins, DeSean Jackson and their other starters.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Lions. Forte is dealing with a back injury, which puts his playing status in jeopardy for Sunday’s meaningless contest. Even if he plays, talented backup Jeremy Langford should see the majority of the backfield work, while KaDeem Carey could ruin both backs’ value by poaching the goal line touches again.

Todd Gurley, RB, Rams at 49ers. Would you risk your franchise running back in an inconsequential finale? Gurley has been in a walking boot this week due to a nagging foot injury, though he is expected to be active. Just how much he plays is the bigger question. Of course, he could run wild; but it would be coaching malpractice to take big chances with their only offensive star’s health in this matchup.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Titans. Hilton will be attempting to shag passes from a quarterback he likely just met this week. If the Colts are savvy enough, they’ll install a wildcat offense (a la Baylor) since they are down to practice squad and off-the-couch options at QB. Regardless, nobody in Indy’s passing game can be trusted.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks at Cardinals. Doug Baldwin is too hot to sit, but Lockett is coming off a rough outing against the Rams. Meanwhile, Arizona just embarrassed the vaunted Packers passing attack, and head coach Bruce Arians said he will not rest his starters prior to the playoffs. The rookie’s ceiling is low this weekend.

More thumbs down: QBs Ryan Tannehill, Alex Smith, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Jay Cutler, Jameis Winston, Nick Foles; RBs Karlos Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Matt Jones, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, DeMarco Murray, Christine Michael, Denard Robinson, Isaiah Crowell, Antonio Andrews; WRs Pierre Garcon, Donte Moncrief, Travis Benjamin, Terrance Williams, Davante Adams, Mike Wallace, Anquan Boldin, Dorial Green-Beckham, Malcom Floyd, Dontrelle Inman, Amari Cooper, Rishard Matthews.


Brian Hoyer, QB, Texans vs. Jaguars. Now that he has cleared the concussion protocol, Hoyer is set to start against the sieve-like Jaguars secondary on Sunday. Hoyer racked up 293 yards and three TDs without a turnover against this defense in Week 6, and he’ll need to have similar results to keep up with the high-flying Jags offense and nail down the AFC South title.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…plays your championship game in Week 17 next year, when so many teams and players have either thrown in the towel or are resting up for the postseason. Instead, play a “Free for All Bowl,” where each team – including those that didn’t make the playoffs – sets one final lineup and the top scorer wins a small portion of the pot. It’s a great way to keep the good times rolling for an extra week, and for everyone to have a shot at one last taste of victory.

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