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Scott Pianowski

Week 17 status check: Brees headed out, Broncos benched

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We know some of you are still scrapping for a fantasy title, so let's do our usual cross-check and see who's in and who's out for Week 17.

The Saints play to start Mark Brunell(notes) at Carolina Sunday while Drew Brees(notes) is the No. 3 quarterback – at least that's what Sean Payton told Sports Illustrated's Peter King. With Brees apparently out and Pierre Thomas(notes) out, it's probably a dangerous week to go anywhere near the New Orleans offense; although Payton said earlier in the week that his team would take this game seriously, he might not be following through on that theme. We'll see what the Saints say on Saturday.

Things are getting downright strange in Denver, where Josh McDaniels has essentially benched Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler for Sunday's critical game against Kansas City. Marshall has been dealing with a tweaked hamstring and apparently McDaniels wasn't thrilled with the wideout's pain threshold. "There's a lot of players that play with things that are more difficult to play with than what he has" McDaniels sharply offered to the media. The decision to sit Scheffler is also thought to be attitude-related, though the coach didn't get into specifics. The Broncos will also be without Eddie Royal(notes) (neck).

Philip Rivers(notes) will start against Washington but Norv Turner says Billy Volek(notes) will see significant time as well. Don't risk your Week 17 game on anything tied to San Diego. There's a chance Vincent Jackson won't play at all due to his Achilles injury.

Devin Hester(notes) (calf) has been removed from Chicago's injury report, which takes away from the Devin Aromashodu(notes) buzz, unfortunately.

Jerome Harrison(notes) (hip) had a full workout Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday's home game against Jacksonville. Looks like we can use him with confidence.

Heads up on Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) (foot/ankles), who didn't work Friday and is considered questionable for Sunday. Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News doesn't expect Bradshaw to play much if at all, and with the Giants out of the playoff hunt there's a legitimate question as to how much they might want to expose Bradshaw in what's a meaningless game to them. Gartrell Johnson(notes) is the next running option, if you're really desperate. Hakeem Nicks(notes) (hamstring) is listed as probable, while Mario Manningham(notes) (shoulder) is questionable.

DeAngelo Williams(notes) (ankle) didn't practice all week and is considered doubtful. Get ready for plenty of Jonathan Stewart(notes) (heel) against New Orleans.

Tom Brady(notes) (various) is listed as probable and barring a late change of heart from the Patriots he'll start at Houston. Context clues point to Brady playing somewhat deep in this ballgame, but you know Bill Belichick – he's not telling us anything of substance and he can always pull a surprise at the last second with no warning.

Hines Ward(notes) (hamstring) took all the reps Friday and is considered probable for the must-win game at Miami. Check back Sunday, but it looks like he'll go.

Derrick Mason(notes) (knee) was limited all week and will be a game-time decision at Oakland. It's hard to imagine Mason not playing in this must-win game, but you're also dealing with a risky late start here, so there's more risk than usual.

Michael Turner(notes) (ankle) missed another session Friday and it would be a major surprise if he dressed at Tampa Bay. The Falcons did have Matt Ryan(notes) (toe) and Tony Gonzalez(notes) (calf) for some snaps; Ryan should start while Gonzalez looks like a game-time decision.

Ricky Williams(notes) (shoulder) was limited Friday and looks like a risky option against Pittsburgh; while the Steelers defense has been in shambles against the pass most of the year, it's still stout against the run. Look for Lex Hilliard(notes) to get more work than usual Sunday.

Beanie Wells (groin) is listed as questionable and had a limited day Friday (hopefully it didn't take away from his enjoyment of the Rose Bowl). The Cardinals might choose to play it safe with him against Green Bay.

Steven Jackson (back) hasn't been practicing and once again is a game-time decision. The unexciting Kenneth Darby(notes) figures to start if Jackson can't go.

Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) (ankle) took all the Friday reps and is probable to start for the Bills. That makes Terrell Owens(notes) and Lee Evans(notes) a lot more viable.

Justin Fargas(notes) (knee) missed Friday's work and is considered doubtful for Sunday. Michael Bush(notes) and Darren McFadden(notes) figure to split the work.

Donald Brown(notes) (illness) took full reps Friday and will probably see a fair amount of action at Buffalo. Don't look for Peyton Manning(notes) to stick around very long, however, and there's a good chance Pierre Garcon(notes) (hand) won't play.

The Vikings expect Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) (thigh) to play Sunday, though he's listed as questionable. Check back before kickoff.

Santana Moss(notes) (knee) had a full practice Friday and is probable for San Diego, if you feel like riding with the Washington passing game.

Kellen Winslow(notes) (knee) had a full practice Friday and is probable for the home game against Atlanta. He's worked reasonably well with Josh Freeman(notes), averaging 68 yards a game over the last seven weeks.

Julius Jones(notes) (ribs/ankle) had a complete practice Friday and will be in the mix against Tennessee, along with Justin Forsett(notes).

Torry Holt(notes) (finger) won't play at Cleveland, capping an underwhelming year for him with the Jaguars.

Lance Moore(notes) (ankle) is another Saint who won't play at Carolina, and the team also has problems at tight end, where Jeremy Shockey(notes) (toe, questionable) and David Thomas(notes) (calf, doubtful) are both banged up (Saturday update: Thomas didn't make the trip). Don't gamble on either of those guys.

Ricky Schmitt(notes) (groin) has been placed on IR, which means Shane Andrus(notes) will kick for the Niners at St. Louis.

Steve Smith actually wanted to play through his broken arm this week but the Panthers aren't going to take that chance. He's been put on IR and is done for the year. Muhsin Muhammad(notes) (ankle) practiced Friday and should be able to go.

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