|Are the Patriots Still Legitimate Super Bowl Contenders Without TE Rob Gronkowski?||Notes and Observations Week 14: Patriots Mount Another Improbable Comeback; Beat Browns 27-26||Connelly’s Top Ten – Patriots Stink but Exciting; Poor Gronk||Patriots Lose Gronk But Complete Miraculous Comeback to Beat Browns, 27-26|
For week 17, I decided to stray away from the rankings format, firstly because it’s extremely hard to rank one quarter of a star player against a full game against a second-stringer and, secondly, I feel that it’s more important to stress which players will be getting a huge boost in playing time and which players won’t. These decisions will be the difference in your matchup because in week 17 you throw away all value that is in someone’s name. Remember a whole game of Arian Foster is better than one quarter of Joseph Addai.
With that in mind, I decided to go through each team that will be affected this weekend due to playoff scenarios. For example, it’s well-documented that the Colts will be resting their starters, but the Vikings won’t because they still have a bye week on the line. Obviously, we know both the Steelers and Dolphins will hold nothing back so you should have no doubts about starting those regulars. Now that all the rules have been set…let’s go!
If the Colts choose to bench their starters when they are undefeated, what do you think they will do with absolutely nothing to play for? That’s right, make sure to bench Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and even Pierre Garcon because they shouldn’t play any more than a quarter. However, Donald Brown should make for an interesting play because the Colts will want to get him back into NFL-shape after missing three of the last four games. The Bills allow the most points to opposing RBs so it’s a great matchup for Brown. Austin Collie would be a nice play if Peyton was in the game, but he’ not.
Don’t let their number two seed fool you, the Vikings could find themselves as the fourth seed if they lose and both the Eagles and Cardinals win. With a bye week at stake, you can bet that all their starters will play a full four quarters and against a deflated New York Giants team that might not show up to play. This means that you are starting all of your regular Vikings such as, Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, and Visanthe Shiancoe.
The Saints have nothing to play for and are hobbling into the playoffs after two straight losses. Pierre Thomas and Lance Moore will miss the matchup so make sure to bench them and it has been reported that Drew Brees will serve as the team’s third-string quarterback on Sunday so make sure to put him on your bench. There is also a chance that Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush are limited and their value takes a hit without Brees on the field. There haven’t been any reports on whether the Saints will bench these starters , but I would not feel safe starting any of them with a championship on the line. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem could make for nice starts because they will most likely play a majority of the game. Meachem scored 15 points in the last meeting between these two teams.
Also, you want to upgrade the value of Jonathan Stewart and Steve Smith because the Saints will not be trotting out their best defenders in this game either.
The Patriots have been very secretive with their plans for Sunday so the value of Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker is uncertain. In my opinion, the Patriots have never rested players before so why now? I think the only way they sit is if the Patriots get up to a big lead, in which case you are happy because that means your guys are scoring points. Fred Taylor makes an interesting play because I’m sure the Patriots will run him a good amount to get him ready for the playoffs. The Texans are coming off a game where they let up 25 fantasy points to the Dolphins’ RBs.
On Houston’s side, you are obviously starting Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, while Ryan Moats and Arian Foster could be nice sleepers if the game gets out of reach.
The Ravens are in with a win so they will going full throttle against a bad Raiders defense. Don’t be afraid to start the regulars and even Willis McGahee could sneak in a touchdown late in the game because I assume there will be a lot of garbage time in the second half. The Baltimore D/ST is also a great play as the Raiders are without Bruce Gradkowski and Justin Fargas—the only two bright spots for them this season.
The Cardinals find themselves in a peculiar situation because if the Vikings win their one o’clock game, the Cardinals won’t be playing for anything. The peculiar part is that they play the Packers in week 17 and could very well face them again in the first round of the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how these two teams play it out because they won’t want to tip their hand as far as game plans go so we could be in for an ugly matchup.
If the Vikings lose their game, look for the Cardinals to go all out to try and steal the bye week so Kurt Warner, Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin would make for good fantasy starts, but if the Vikings win it might just be the Cardinals defense you want on your roster come kickoff.
The Packers have only their fifth seed to lose, which isn’t really a big deal so I can’t see any reason for them to try hard. Like I mentioned above, their likely first round matchup will be against the Cardinals so they will not want to tip-off their gameplan to the opposition. I would not be surprised to see Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver get benched at some point, but it’s impossible to predict when. Start them at your own risk. Also, make sure to pay attention to the Vikings game because if they win and the Cardinals are eliminated from the bye week, the Packers D/ST becomes a great play.
The Chargers are cemented in at the number two seed and have no reason to risk injury to their starters. This means Phillip Rivers, LaDanian Tomlinson, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates are risky plays, but it doesn’t mean everyone is completely useless. RBs Darren Sproles and Mike Tolbert could have great days against a Redskins defense that has allowed four rushing touchdowns in their last three games. Tolbert had 60 yards on 11 carries last week against the Titans in garbage time and has averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
If the Patriots win their game at one o’clock the Bengals will be stuck with the fourth seed and have no reason to play their starters. The one that will get pulled the quickest is RB Cedric Benson because they have Larry Johnson who can carry the ball 25+ times in the game. Also, Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco could see less playing time although Ochocinco has a twitter feud going on with Darrelle Revis so he may want to prove something on the field. Of course, if the Patriots lose then there’s no telling how long the Bengals’ starters will stay in the game.
You will want to play all of your regular Jets because they have to win to make the playoffs. That means Thomas Jones is still a top-five running back and Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery could make nice flex plays. If you are strapped at QB you could do worse than Mark Sanchez, who could be facing a second-string defense in the second half. Another sleeper in this game could be RB Shonn Greene because if the Jets get up by a couple scores, they will elect to sit Jones in favor of Greene, who rushed for 90 yards on 16 carries last week against the Colts. Obviously you are starting the Jets D/ST.