Can Hoyer save Fitzgerald's season?
Week 17 title games can be a bit tricky. Many teams have little or nothing left to play for, and so it’s more difficult to count on their top talent. Teams with nothing left to contend for or that have already wrapped up a top playoff seed, i.e. the Falcons, will sometimes rest their starters with little or no notice prior to kickoff. It is with that thought in mind that I generally recommend putting your Super Bowl stakes in the hands of players on teams that are still fighting for a final playoff spot or jockeying for seeding. Reserves who get a shot to start or see increased snaps because of an injury are also worthwhile options even if they play for bad teams. These players are auditioning for expanded roles next season or big offseason paydays in the case of free agents.
There are always exceptions, though. High-character talents on bum teams will still come to play, as we saw with Larry Fitzgerald last week and will likely see regardless of what quarterback Arizona digs up to take the field versus San Francisco this week. Jamaal Charles, who was questioned in this column last week, is another example of someone who will continue giving everything he can to a team going nowhere. While he’s an obvious start, other players of his ilk are not — looking at you, Run DMC — and should be considered for the bench. Something to consider when making those tough calls is the recent performance of a player combined with his health the last few weeks. Players like Ahmad Bradshaw have dealt with a great deal of wear and tear and are fading, while fresh guys like his backup David Wilson or the Ryan Grant deja vu going on in Green Bay are poised to take advantage of tired defenses. For that reason, names such as Lamar Miller, Kahlil Bell and Jordan Shipley are worth considering in deeper leagues.
1. Mark Ingram vs. Carolina – Ingram has at least 65 total yards or a score in seven of his eight previous games. He’s coming off a career-high 21 carries last week and should continue to have plenty of opportunities versus a Carolina team that’s struggled at times stopping the run.
2. Antonio Brown vs. Cleveland – Brown is riding a three-game TD streak and about to face a Cleveland defense that just gave up two touchdowns to a No. 2 receiver and let Brown go for 241 yards and a score in two games last year.
3. Jeremy Maclin at New York Giants – Has anybody else seen how bad the Giants secondary has been the past two weeks? Even Michael Vick will be able to throw on it. Maclin, who is as close to 100 percent healthy as he’s been all season, has 293 yards and two scores in his last three games and is poised to continue his hot streak versus a bad New York defense.
4. Jackie Battle vs. Oakland – Battle struggled to produce efficiently last week versus a tough Jets defense. However, in his previous two opportunities as the feature back he posted at least 69 yards and two touchdowns each time. Those numbers are likely a stretch, but a fair amount of yards and perhaps some goal-line chances can be expected versus a weak Raider run defense.
5. Larry Fitzgerald at San Francisco – It would be a major gamble given that Fitzgerald totaled just 89 yards in five games prior to “exploding” for 111 last week, but with a Brian Hoyer actually able to throw within 10 feet of his body, there’s a legit shot of Fitz posting another solid day yardage-wise.
6. Kenny Britt vs. Jacksonville – Britt has a touchdown or 100 yards in four of his last five games. Facing a Jags defense ranked 24th versus the pass should provide him some nice opportunities to keep up the good work.
WEEK 17 FLEX-PLAY RANKINGS
1. *Adrian Peterson MIN vs. GB - Dealing with continued abdominal soreness - probably will be limited in practice.
2. Calvin Johnson DET vs. Chi
3. Dez Bryant DAL at Was
4. Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. StL
5. C.J. Spiller BUF vs. NYJ
6. *Knowshon Moreno DEN vs. KC - The emergence of Jacob Hester as a goal-line vulture is disturbing.
7. Doug Martin TB at Atl
8. Brandon Marshall CHI at Det
9. Andre Johnson HOU at Ind
10. Demaryius Thomas DEN vs. KC
11. DeMarco Murray DAL at Was
12. Frank Gore SF vs. Ari
13. Jamaal Charles KC at Den
14. Ray Rice BAL at Cin
15. *Arian Foster HOU at Ind - Irregular heartbeat - saw a cardiologist on Monday and checked out ok. The current plan is for him to play, but until I see the practice reports, he's a little lower in the rankings.
16. Alfred Morris WAS vs. Dal
17. Montell Owens JAC at Ten
18. Jason Witten DAL at Was
19. Marques Colston NO vs. Car
20. Vincent Jackson TB at Atl
21. Victor Cruz NYG vs. Phi
22. Eric Decker DEN vs. KC - Best receiver of all time, ever.
23. Wes Welker NE vs. Mia
24. Steve Johnson BUF vs. NYJ
25. Jimmy Graham NO vs. Car
26. Aaron Hernandez NE vs. Mia - Will Gronk come back this week? Will Hernandez go back to being frequently targeted after last week's letdown?
27. *Chris Johnson TEN vs. Jac - Banged up ankle in the loss to the Packers, but returned to action.
28. LeSean McCoy PHI at NYG
29. Reggie Bush MIA at NE - The Dolphins hope to re-sign Bush this offseason, reversing their original intentions.
30. Stevan Ridley NE vs. Mia
31. Miles Austin DAL at Was
32. Steve Smith CAR at NO
33. Jeremy Maclin PHI at NYG
34. James Jones GB at Min
35. Justin Blackmon JAC at Ten - Could get a ton of targets this week with Cecil Shorts out.
36. Brandon Lloyd NE vs. Mia
37. Danario Alexander SD vs. Oak
38. *Randall Cobb GB at Min - Injured his ankle in the third quarter against the Titans - initial indication from coach Mike McCarthy is that the injury isn't serious.
39. Pierre Garcon WAS vs. Dal
40. Antonio Brown PIT vs. Cle
41. Darren Sproles NO vs. Car
42. *DeAngelo Williams CAR at NO - Early long touchdown called back due to a penalty on the Panthers, ending up making Williams have a disappointing day.
43. Steven Jackson STL at Sea
44. Darren McFadden OAK at SD
45. Mikel Leshoure DET vs. Chi
46. Ahmad Bradshaw NYG vs. Phi
47. Shonn Greene NYJ at Buf
48. Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. Cle
49. Mike Williams TB at Atl
50. Torrey Smith BAL at Cin
51. Hakeem Nicks NYG vs. Phi - No catches, three targets last week. Was this on Nicks, or was this on Eli?
52. Michael Crabtree SF vs. Ari
53. Danny Amendola STL at Sea - One of the quiet fantasy killers last week.
54. Danny Woodhead NE vs. Mia
55. Greg Jennings GB at Min
56. Jason Avant PHI at NYG
57. Lance Moore NO vs. Car
58. Golden Tate SEA vs. StL
59. Mark Ingram NO vs. Car
60. *Montario Hardesty CLE at Pit - Should get more playing time even if Trent Richardson does play.
61. Ryan Grant GB at Min
62. *Jacquizz Rodgers ATL vs. TB - How much work will the Falcons' starters get? And what does that mean for Rodgers?
63. Ben Tate HOU at Ind
64. *Michael Turner ATL vs. TB - How much work will the Falcons' starters get?
65. BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN vs. Bal - The Steelers shut down Green-Ellis by blitzing nearly every snap.
66. *Vick Ballard IND vs. Hou - How much work will the Colts' starters get?
67. Bernard Pierce BAL at Cin - Had 14 carries despite coming back from a concussion.
68. Lamar Miller MIA at NE
69. *Ronnie Brown SD vs. Oak - Though Battle started for the Chargers, it was Brown that got more touches.
70. Greg Little CLE at Pit
71. Kenny Britt TEN vs. Jac
72. *Anquan Boldin BAL at Cin - Suffered a shoulder bruise in the win over the Giants.
73. Rod Streater OAK at SD
74. Josh Gordon CLE at Pit
75. *Mike Wallace PIT vs. Cle - Dealing with a hip strain.
76. Dwayne Harris DAL at Was
77. Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. Cle
78. *Randy Moss SF vs. Ari - Bigger role with Manningham out.
79. Chris Givens STL at Sea
80. Dexter McCluster KC at Den
81. Larry Fitzgerald ARZ at SF - Did anyone that's still in the playoffs actually have him going last week for his 100-yard game?
82. *Julio Jones ATL vs. TB - Will the Falcons bench their starters this week?
83. *Roddy White ATL vs. TB - Will the Falcons bench their starters this week?
84. *A.J. Green CIN vs. Bal - Will the Bengals bench their starters this week?
85. *Reggie Wayne IND vs. Hou - Will the Colts bench their starters this week?
86. *T.Y. Hilton IND vs. Hou - Will the Colts bench their starters this week?
87. Dennis Pitta BAL at Cin
88. Greg Olsen CAR at NO
89. Owen Daniels HOU at Ind
90. Dallas Clark TB at Atl
91. Antonio Gates SD vs. Oak
92. Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. GB
93. *Delanie Walker SF vs. Ari - Could get more targets this week if Vernon Davis can't go.
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