FANTASY PLAYS: Plays for Week 17 (but why are you still in?)
If you are still playing fantasy football in Week 17, there is only one question to ask yourself: Why?
This is the week when most sensible fantasy leaguers are done with their seasons, because there are way too many personnel questions that will adversely affect your lineups. In the final week of the NFL regular season, teams that have clinched playoff berths and cannot significantly change their seeding will often rest their starters to preserve them for the postseason.
Plus, many key players will be unavailable for the season finales because of health issues - some are simply just worn out.
There is no point in playing in Week 17 when important starters are unavailable and the results become skewed. If that's the way your league is set up, it's time to make a strong appeal to your commissioner to change things for next season.
The Steelers, Cowboys, Texans and Giants are the primary teams that might rest starters this week. Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has already declared he will not play Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown. The other three teams have publicly indicated they won't rest their starters, but coaches certainly cannot be believed. In cases such as Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Odell Beckham Jr., for instance, you cannot be confident you will get a full amount of potential production. It's going to be hard to construct an ideal lineup for Week 17.
STEVE SMITH'S FAREWELL
Steve Smith has announced that Sunday's game against the Bengals will be the last of his NFL career. The Ravens have nothing to play for, so they'll make a strong effort to get the ball to him, instead of working him into the flow of a normal game plan. Look for Smith to get red zone looks, and because of a possible healthy amount of targets, he is a good start as a third wide receiver in Week 17.
Antonio Gates needs one touchdown reception to tie the all-time record for scoring catches by a tight end. Last week, it was obvious Philip Rivers was telegraphing passes to him in key situations, and Rivers made sure to get Gates the ball near the goal line for a TD catch. Gates has already said he plans to play next year, but Rivers will continue to try to get him the record with nothing else on the line for the Chargers right now. So go ahead and start Gates this week.
Doug Martin has been suspended by the NFL, and Jacquizz Rodgers will start for Tampa Bay against Carolina. While Rodgers is a smaller running back, the Buccaneers have shown a willingness to ride him hard when they start him. He totaled 56 carries in Weeks 5 and 7. Rodgers will get a lot of volume against a Panthers defense still missing Luke Keuchly, so he is worth starting this week if you have a RB hole.
RAIDERS MINUS CARR
The Raiders will go to Denver without QB Derek Carr, and they have not locked up the AFC West title yet. Journeyman type Matt McGloin will start against a Broncos defense looking to play spoiler. McGloin has 11 career TDs and 11 interceptions in a dozen games played. His presence in the lineup could drag down the potential production of receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. If you have a close decision regarding those WRs and another player, go with the alternative.
The biggest game of the week pits the Packers against the Lions for the NFC North title. Detroit could look to re-establish RB Zach Zenner, who had a strong first half against Dallas last week, in an effort to balance the offense and help keep the Packers offense off the field more. Consider using him if you are desperate for RB help. Both teams are very vulnerable in the secondary, so expect strong outings from Golden Tate and Davante Adams. Start Matthew Stafford if your other QB option is being rested.
SEAHAWKS FOR NO. 2 SEED
The Seahawks blew their opportunity to control the No. 2 seed in the NFC last week but travel to San Francisco with some hopes of getting back into that favorable postseason position. San Francisco has a historically awful run defense, and it looks as though Thomas Rawls (shoulder) should be able to play. With Tyler Lockett's season over, Jermaine Kearse could get more looks and is worth a desperation play. Jimmy Graham is a good bet to score his first road TD of the season.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com