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NFL Skinny: Week 17 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

We've nearly reached the end of the 2009 fantasy football road. Congratulations if you've made it this far. No doubt, it took a hearty combination of luck and shrewd roster management to make it to this point. Unfortunately, the biggest bends, twists and oddball turns have been saved for the final stretch of pavement leading up to the league title hardware. But, if you joined a league using a Week 17 championship, you likely already knew what you were getting yourself into (since it's not a Yahoo! default league setting and requires opting for the extra week).

I'll just put my disclaimer out now in advance of the game overviews below: In many cases this week, I have no clue how the game is going to play out. I did not get an advanced degree in Belichickian translation, nor do I know which players will lean to the side of pride in a meaningless contest and which have already called their golf club and set up tee times for next week. Week 17 is fantasy football at its most unpredictable, which is saying a lot given how logic is often lost on this game.

Alright, that said, I wish you all a happy New Year's celebration and the best of luck on Sunday. It's been a fun ride. Cheers!

Week 17 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 17 matchup

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ BUFFALO BILLS

Key Stats: COLTS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 217 YPG passing allowed
BILLS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 188 YPG passing allowed

What to watch for:Beware of Indy resting its starters even more than in Week 16 – they'll likely play it like the first or second game of the preseason … BUF RB Fred Jackson(notes) needs 150 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He's expected to see a heavy workload … Snow is in the forecast for Sunday in Buffalo.

Fred Jackson, Donald Brown(notes)
Austin Collie(notes), Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes), Terrell Owens(notes), Lee Evans(notes), Buffalo defense
Peyton Manning(notes), Curtis Painter(notes), Joseph Addai(notes), Reggie Wayne(notes), Dallas Clark(notes), Hank Baskett(notes), Pierre Garcon(notes), Marshawn Lynch(notes), Shawn Nelson(notes), Indianapolis defense
Sleeper: x
Injuries: BUF LT Jonathan Scott(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; BUF QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (ankle) could be questionable; BUF FS Bryan Scott(notes) (head) is out
Prediction: Buffalo 24, Indianapolis 19
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

Key Stats: SAINTS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 241 YPG passing allowed
PANTHERS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 197 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: Like IND, NO is locked into the No. 1 playoff seed. But the team is a riding a two-game losing streak and head coach Sean Payton wants to fix the knocks in the engine before the playoffs arrive. As it stands, the Saints plan to play this one straight up … Only one WR has scored a TD against CAR in the past seven weeks.
Drew Brees(notes), Jonathan Stewart(notes), Marques Colston(notes), Muhsin Muhammad(notes)
Matt Moore(notes), Pierre Thomas(notes), Reggie Bush(notes), Mike Bell(notes), Robert Meachem(notes), David Thomas(notes), DeAngelo Williams(notes)
Devery Henderson(notes), Jeff King(notes), New Orleans defense, Carolina defense
Sleeper: Kenneth Moore(notes)
Injuries: NO RB Pierre Thomas (ribs) could be questionable; NO WR Lance Moore(notes) (ankle) could be out; NO TE Jeremy Shockey(notes) (toe) could be questionable; NO WLB Scott Shanle(notes) (concussion) could be questionable; NO CBs Randall Gay(notes) (concussion) and Jabari Greer(notes) (sports hernia) could be questionable; NO FS Usama Young(notes) (sports hernia) could be out; CAR RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) could be questionable; CAR WR Steve Smith (broken arm) is out
Prediction: Carolina 27, New Orleans 24
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Key Stats: JAGS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 246 YPG passing allowed
BROWNS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 248 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: JAC WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes) needs 159 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark … JAC QB David Garrard(notes) has 1 TD pass in seven road games … CLE RB Jerome Harrison(notes) needs 165 rushing yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark – JAC still has slim playoff hopes.
Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), Mike Sims-Walker, Jerome Harrison
David Garrard, Mohamed Massaquoi(notes), Joshua Cribbs(notes), Jacksonville defense
Derek Anderson(notes), Torry Holt(notes), Zach Miller, Chansi Stuckey(notes), Evan Moore(notes), Cleveland defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: JAC DE Atyyah Ellison (knee) is out; JAC TE Marcedes Lewis(notes) (face) is out; JAC CB Rashean Mathis(notes) (groin) could be questionable; CLE DE Kenyon Coleman(notes) (ankle) could be out
Prediction: Jacksonville 21, Cleveland 17
NEW YORK GIANTS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Stats: GIANTS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
VIKES – 3.9 YPC allowed | 223 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: NYG WR Steve Smith needs 3 catches to reach 100. QB Eli Manning(notes) needs 3 TD passes to reach 30 … MIN has a chance to secure a first-round bye if it wins and PHI loses its Sunday afternoon game at DAL –
Brett Favre(notes), Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice(notes), Visanthe Shiancoe(notes), Eli Manning, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss(notes), Minnesota defense
Percy Harvin(notes), Bernard Berrian(notes), Mario Manningham(notes), Hakeem Nicks(notes), Ahmad Bradshaw(notes)
NY Giants defense, Brandon Jacobs(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: NYG RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) could be questionable; NYG WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) could be questionable
Prediction: Minnesota 26, NY Giants 17
CHICAGO BEARS @ DETROIT LIONS

Key Stats: BEARS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 209 YPG passing allowed
LIONS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 265 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: DET WR Calvin Johnson(notes) needs 102 yards to reach 1,000.
Jay Cutler(notes), Matt Forte(notes), Devin Aromashodu(notes), Greg Olsen(notes), Calvin Johnson
Devin Hester(notes), Maurice Morris(notes), Earl Bennett(notes), Chicago defense, Detroit defense
Daunte Culpepper(notes), Bryant Johnson(notes), Will Heller(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: CHI CB Charles Tillman(notes) (rib) is out; CHI WR Johnny Knox(notes) (ankle) is out; WR Devin Hester (calf) could be questionable;
Prediction: Chicago 27, Detroit 20
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

Key Stats: PATS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 204 YPG passing allowed
TEXANS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 216 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: The Patriots are locked into either the No. 3 or No. 4 playoff spot – a loss on Sunday and a CIN win drops them into the No. 4 spot; a win secures the No. 3 spot regardless of what CIN does. Of course, NE head coach Bill Belichick isn't letting on to how much he plans to play his starters. I'd expect the healthy players to log at least a couple quarters. But I'm running most of them under the caution flag because it's anyone's guess to how it plays out … HOU needs a win and losses by any two of BAL, NYJ, DEN – it's a long shot given that BAL plays the Raiders and DEN plays the Chiefs … NE WR Wes Welker(notes) needs one catch to set his single-season receptions career high. With two catches, he'd be at 124 for the season, which would leave him all alone at No. 2 on the single-season receptions list, 19 behind Marvin Harrison(notes) (143 in 2002) … HOU QB Matt Schaub(notes) needs 3 TD passes to reach 30 (Brady needs 2)
Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson(notes)
Tom Brady(notes), Randy Moss(notes), Wes Welker, Sammy Morris(notes), Arian Foster(notes), Ryan Moats(notes), Kevin Walter(notes), Houston defense
Laurence Maroney(notes), Benjamin Watson(notes), New England defense, Joel Dreessen(notes), Chris Brown
Sleeper:
Injuries: NE RT Nick Kaczur(notes) (shoulder) could be out; NE NT Vince Wilfork(notes) (foot) could be out; HOU FS Dominique Barber(notes) (hamstring) is out;
Prediction: Houston 28, New England 20
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Key Stats: STEELERS – 3.9 YPC allowed | 216 YPG passing allowed
FINS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 237 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: Both teams still have a long shot chance at the playoffs and the game is early on Sunday, so it will be all systems go for both teams … MIA RB Ricky Williams(notes) could be out with a shoulder injury. Backup Lex Hilliard(notes) could be a sleeper in very deep leagues if he gets full-time work. But it's the Steelers, so forget about him in normal-sized leagues.
Chad Henne(notes), Ben Roethlisberger(notes), Santonio Holmes(notes), Mike Wallace(notes), Miami defense, Pittsburgh defense
Hines Ward(notes), Rashard Mendenhall(notes), Heath Miller(notes), Greg Camarillo(notes), Brian Hartline(notes), Davone Bess(notes)
Ricky Williams, Anthony Fasano(notes)
Sleeper: Lex Hilliard
Injuries: PIT WR Hines Ward (hamstrings) could be questionable; MIA G Justin Smiley(notes) and RT Vernon Carey(notes) (knee) could be out; MIA LB Channing Crowder(notes) (foot) is out; MIA LB Jason Taylor(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; MIA RB Ricky Williams (shoulder) could be out; MIA SS Yeremiah Bell(notes) (head) could be questionable; PIT FS Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee) could be questionable;
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Miami 17
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

Key Stats: 49ERS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 243 YPG passing allowed
RAMS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 237 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for:Nothing to play for here but NFC West pride. SF dominated the previous matchup, winning 35-0 in Week 4 … SF TE Vernon Davis(notes) needs 124 yards to reach 1,000 … STL RB Steven Jackson has played through a back injury for most of the year, and he's played well. But he sat in Week 16. He's going to try to play on Sunday, but you should understand the risks with him by now.
Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree(notes), Frank Gore(notes), Vernon Davis, San Francisco defense
Steven Jackson, Brandon Gibson(notes), Josh Morgan(notes)
St. Louis quarterback, St. Louis tight ends, St. Louis defense, Donnie Avery(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: SF LT Joe Staley(notes) (knee) could be questionable; SF CB Nate Clements(notes) (shoulder) is out; SF K Joe Nedney(notes) (hamstring) is out; STL CB Ronald Bartell (elbow) could be questionable; STL RB Steven Jackson (back) could be questionable; STL WR Donnie Avery (thigh) could be questionable; STL LG Mark Setterstrom(notes) (triceps) is out; STL LBs Paris Lenon(notes) (broken toe) and James Laurinaitis(notes) (knee) could be questionable; STL DE Leonard Little(notes) (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: San Francisco 24, St. Louis 14
ATLANTA FALCONS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Stats: FALCONS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 247 YPG passing allowed
BUCS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 207 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: ATL QB Matt Ryan(notes) needs 307 passing yards for 3,000 … ATL RB Michael Turner(notes) needs 129 yards for 1,000.
Matt Ryan, Roddy White(notes), Carnell Williams(notes), Kellen Winslow(notes) Jr., Antonio Bryant(notes)
Tony Gonzalez(notes), Josh Freeman(notes), Atlanta defense, Tampa Bay defense, Michael Turner, Jason Snelling(notes)
Michael Jenkins(notes), Michael Clayton(notes)
Sleeper: Jerious Norwood(notes)
Injuries: ATL RB Michael Turner (ankle) could be questionable; ATL TE Tony Gonzalez (calf) could be questionable; ATL LT Sam Baker(notes) (hamstring) could be out; ATL K Matt Bryant(notes) (hamstring) could be out
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Atlanta 21
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

Key Stats: PACK – 3.6 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
CARDS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 234 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: If MIN wins early on Sunday, ARI loses any hope of a first-round playoff bye. If that happens, and given the strong possibility that GB (locked into a No. 5/6 seed in the NFC) could be its first-round playoff opponent, this could be two teams completely resting starters while trying to not give their opponent any usable intel to use for the following weekend. If ARI has a shot at a bye at the time of kickoff, bump up its starters … GB head coach Mike McCarthy is giving lip service to the idea that he's going to play this game like any other week, but don't buy that. All GB starters are very iffy. In fact, I like backup RB Brandon Jackson(notes) more than starter Ryan Grant(notes) this week. And I'd prefer to avoid the WRs (Donald Driver(notes) and Greg Jennings(notes)) … ARI WR Anquan Boldin(notes) needs 14 yards for 1,000 … ARI QB Kurt Warner(notes) needs 278 passing yards for 4,000 … GB WR Donald Driver needs 4 yards for 1,000.
Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells(notes), Tim Hightower(notes), Steve Breaston(notes), Aaron Rodgers(notes), Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley(notes), Arizona defense, Green Bay defense
Ben Patrick(notes)
Sleeper: Brandon Jackson, Ahman Green(notes), LaRod Stephens-Howling(notes), Jordy Nelson(notes), James Jones(notes), Early Doucet(notes), Matt Leinart(notes)
Injuries: ARI K Neil Rackers(notes) (groin) is likely out; ARI WR Larry Fitzgerald (elbow) could be questionable; ARI OLB Will Davis(notes) (knee) could be questionable; GB NT Ryan Pickett(notes) (hamstring) could be out; GB S Derrick Martin(notes) (ankle) is doubtful; GB DE Mike Montgomery(notes) (ankle) is doubtful
Prediction: Arizona 27, Green Bay 20
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ DENVER BRONCOS

Key Stats: CHIEFS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 219 YPG passing allowed
BRONCOS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 185 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: DEN is right on the playoff bubble and it will be playing full tilt for a postseason berth … DEN RB Knowshon Moreno(notes) needs 103 yards for 1,000 … KC RB Jamaal Charles(notes) needs 139 yards for 1,000
Brandon Marshall(notes), Jamaal Charles, Kyle Orton(notes), Knowshon Moreno, Denver defense
Dwayne Bowe(notes)
Matt Cassel(notes), Kansas City defense, Kansas City tight ends, Chris Chambers(notes), Eddie Royal(notes), Tony Scheffler(notes)
Sleeper: Correll Buckhalter(notes), Jabar Gaffney(notes)
Injuries: DEN G Russ Hochstein(notes) (knee) is out; DEN WR Eddie Royal (neck, hand) could be questionable
Prediction: Denver 29, Kansas City 16
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats: RAVENS – 3.5 YPC allowed | 203 YPG passing allowed
RAIDERS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 214 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: It's simple for BAL: win and it's in, lose and it's out. To paraphrase Tim McGraw, expect the Ravens to live like they are dyin' on Sunday.
Ray Rice(notes), Joe Flacco(notes), Derrick Mason(notes), Todd Heap(notes), Baltimore defense, Zach Miller
Michael Bush(notes)
Charlie Frye(notes), Mark Clayton(notes), Demetrius Williams(notes), Kelley Washington(notes), Darren McFadden(notes), Oakland receivers, Oakland defense, Justin Fargas(notes)
Sleeper: Willis McGahee(notes)
Injuries: BAL LT Jared Gaither(notes) (foot/back) is questionable; BAL FS Ed Reed(notes) (groin) is questionable; BAL LB Tavares Gooden(notes) (groin) is questionable; OAK RB Justin Fargas (knee) could be questionable; OAK WR Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) (foot) could be questionable; OAK DT Gerard Warren(notes) (shoulders) could be questionable; OAK LG Langston Walker(notes) (ankle) is questionable
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Oakland 9
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Key Stats: SKINS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 200 YPG passing allowed
BOLTS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: SDG has only an 18-game December winning streak riding on Sunday's contest. It has clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs. With a week off ahead, head coach Norv Turner sounds like he'll give his starters a healthy amount of playing time on Sunday. If the game is close to the end, the starters could get a fairly normal workload. Turner wants to keep the team sharp and, if it builds a big lead early, that's liable to be enough to let him feel good about the upcoming down time. At that point, you'd likely see his top guys get pulled. I would stick with the usual subjects here, save RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes), as he would likely benefit most from the extra rest.

x

Philip Rivers(notes), Vincent Jackson(notes), Antonio Gates(notes), Darren Sproles(notes), San Diego defense, Fred Davis(notes)
Malcom Floyd(notes), LaDainian Tomlinson, Quinton Ganther(notes)
Jason Campbell(notes), Santana Moss(notes), Malcolm Kelly(notes), Washington defense
Sleeper: Mike Tolbert(notes)
Injuries: WAS RG Mike Williams (foot) is out; WAS FS Reed Doughty(notes) is doubtful; WAS WR Devin Thomas(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; SDG DE Jacques Cesaire(notes) (elbow) could be out; SDG LB Shaun Phillips(notes) (ankle, hip) could be questionable; SDG LB Kevin Burnett(notes) (neck) could be out
Prediction: San Diego 27, Washington 13
TENNESSEE TITANS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Key Stats: TITANS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 265 YPG passing allowed
HAWKS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 250 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: SEA WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) needs 155 yards for 1,000 (not happenin') … TEN RB Chris Johnson needs 128 yards for 2,000 and 234 yards to surpass Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record (now that very well could happen against a SEA team that has completely given up).
Chris Johnson, Tennessee defense
Vince Young(notes), Nate Washington(notes), Justin Gage(notes), Kenny Britt(notes), Bo Scaife(notes), Matt Hasselbeck(notes), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, John Carlson(notes), Justin Forsett(notes)
Julius Jones(notes), Deion Branch(notes), Seattle defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: SEA LB Aaron Curry(notes) (shoulder) is questionable; SEA RB Julius Jones (rib, foot) is questionable; SEA WR Nate Burleson(notes) (ankle) is out; SEA CB Josh Wilson(notes) (hip pointer) is questionable; TEN CBs Nick Harper(notes) (forearm) and Ryan Mouton(notes) (ankle) could be questionable
Prediction: Tennessee 34, Seattle 14
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Key Stats: EAGLES – 3.9 YPC allowed | 211 YPG passing allowed
COWBOYS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 228 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: This has the makings of the best game of Week 17. A division title is riding on the outcome. And, if PHI wins, it means a first-round bye. If DAL wins, it would need help from other teams to secure a first-round bye, but at least it's possible … I have a feeling PHI RB Brian Westbrook(notes), who had 11 touches in his return from concussion last week, gets an additional 5-6 touches this week. I'm putting him down as a sleeper, but I have a green-light feel about him. Pay attention to any news coming out of Philly in regards to his workload. DA has allowed the 5th-most receiving yards to RBs, and Westbrook could be a real problem for the Cowboys in that department.
Tony Romo(notes), Miles Austin(notes), Jason Witten(notes), Donovan McNabb(notes), DeSean Jackson(notes), Brent Celek(notes)
Jeremy Maclin(notes), Marion Barber(notes), Felix Jones(notes), Roy Williams, Philadelphia defense, Dallas defense
LeSean McCoy(notes)
Sleeper: Brian Westbrook
Injuries: PHI SS Quintin Demps(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; PHI C Jamaal Jackson(notes) (knee) is out
Prediction: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ NEW YORK JETS

Key Stats: BENGALS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed
JETS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 164 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: The Jets need to win to make the postseason, while CIN has seemingly little play for. And this is a situation where these two teams could face each other once again in the first round of the playoffs. Count on the Jets giving it everything they've got. If the Patriots win earlier on Sunday, the Bengals will be locked into the No. 4 seed and that could make relying on CIN starters very dicey. The matchup is not ideal in fantasy to begin with, as the Jets are one of the top defenses in the league. Definitely avoid the passing components of the CIN attack. If the Patriots lose early Sunday, though, it would help legitimize RB Cedric Benson(notes) as a green light.
Thomas Jones(notes), NY Jets defense
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati defense, Braylon Edwards(notes), Jerricho Cotchery(notes)
Carson Palmer(notes), Chad Ochocinco(notes), Laveranues Coles(notes), J.P. Foschi(notes), Mark Sanchez(notes), Dustin Keller(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: CIN DT Domata Peko(notes) (knee) could be questionable; CIN FS Chris Crocker(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; CIN SLB Rey Maualuga(notes) (broken ankle) is out
Prediction: NY Jets 21, Cincinnati 13
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