FANTASY GRIND: So, did you win the title?

If you’re now a fantasy football champion, congratulations –

what a tough road to get through this season.

Even the last several minutes of the final of most fantasy

leagues, Monday night’s San Francisco-Atlanta game, had

title-swinging implications for plenty of fantasy owners.

Vernon Davis’ goose egg. Navarro Bowman’s interception returned

89 yards for a touchdown. And Matt Ryan’s seemingly meaningless

interception thrown on a desperation pass on the final play of the

game. The plays mattered in many leagues – in some, they meant the

difference between winning and losing.

”That’s been the best thing I’ve ever seen happen in a football

game,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of the interception. ”Might’ve

been close to `The Catch.”’

Harbaugh was referring to Dwight Clark catching a pass from Joe

Montana in the 1982 NFC championship game. But in fantasy, the

entire sequence was comparable to Peyton Manning sliding after a

28-yard run against Oakland in 2010 in the championship in many

leagues.

Small swings – decimal-point swings, these days – all count.

Hope you made the right calls, even if the score didn’t go your

way. Mulling how to handle a Reggie Bush injury, a tough matchup

for Nick Foles or a waiver wire defense is hard work.

So if you were on the other end and are now questioning your

decision-making during certain moments this season, remember that

hindsight is not always helpful.

And if you’re still playing in Week 17, try to get that changed

in your league next year.

STILL PLAYING?

If you’re still playing in Week 17, hopefully you have a

two-week final. Week 17 is notorious for being tough to manage in

fantasy leagues, with NFL teams resting starters for the playoffs

or other reasons based on results around the league and complex

tiebreaker scenarios that at times make losing acceptable.

That’s why most leagues prefer a Week 16 finale, or a Week 17

finish only if the championship is two weeks long with the ability

to adjust starters in between weeks.

QB: Kyle Orton, Dallas. Chances are you don’t need too much

quarterback help if you’re in the championship game, either because

you picked up Peyton Manning or you’ve been fortunate with Nick

Foles, Andy Dalton or one of several quarterbacks. But if you’re

looking for a competent replacement for Tony Romo or don’t like

your guy’s matchup and your waiver wire is thin, Orton might be

good enough this week.

RB: James Starks, Green Bay. Look to see if Eddie Lacy practices

this week. If not, Starks could be in for a big week against

Chicago. Chicago has been the worst team in the NFL at defending

running backs, allowing an average of 24.4 points to running backs

in standard leagues this year.

WR: Mike Wallace, Miami. Again, if you’re in the title game,

hopefully you’re not desperate for a wide receiver. But experts

compiled by FantasyPros.com consider Wallace a top-20 option this

week.

TE: Charles Clay, Miami. Don’t be discouraged if you own San

Francisco’s Davis (and you’re still playing for a title) – play him

over pretty much any tight end who isn’t Jimmy Graham. Clay,

however, has a good shot to cap a season well against the Jets and

go into next year as more than just one of a bunch of middling

tight ends.

RINGER TIME: MICHAEL FABIANO

NFL.com columnist Michael Fabiano avoids leagues that play in

Week 17, and thinks you should, too.

”It’s just not a good idea,” Fabiano said.

Fabiano, a New York Yankees fan, said it would be like Derek

Jeter leading the league in on-base percentage, then his team being

unable to use him in the World Series.

Players are rested late in NFL seasons for many reasons. Some

coaches want their guys fresh with playoffs coming up; others want

to avoid risking injuries to superstars when they’re eliminated

from contention.

And Fabiano said he’s seen it happen as early as Week 16.

”You got there with these players, that’s not fair you’re not

going to use them,” he said. ”That’s a really hard pill to

swallow for me.”

Fabiano said he’s learned several things from 2013 that he’ll

take going into next year: Running backs are still the position to

draft early, and you can still wait on a quarterback, he said.

”Running backs are scarce,” he said, while valuable

quarterbacks will be around at discount prices.

”One of them is going to be RGIII,” he said, referring to

benched Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I fell short in the one final I made in five leagues, in a

league with former journalism school colleagues. My score was

respectable – the second-highest in the league for the week – but

no match for the third-highest weekly point total of the year put

up by my opponent. I could blame Adrian Peterson or Dennis Pitta,

but it really wouldn’t have mattered against Jamaal Charles and

Andy Dalton.

The loss wasn’t too bad, but kept me from bragging rights among

a group of tight friends I travel yearly with to spring training

games in Arizona. The other three guys each won separate leagues –

I didn’t. That’ll be fun come March.

But one of them, Newark, N.J.-based AP photographer Julio

Cortez, sent a text after shipping his first ever fantasy title in

his second year playing, in a league of New York-area

photographers.

”Thanks for helping me draft. I have half my original team, so

it’s half your championship,” he said.

Thanks, dude. After this year’s ups and downs, I’ll take

whatever I can get.

Oskar Garcia is a news editor in Honolulu who spends way too

much time on fantasy sports with too little to show for it. He can

be reached at ogarcia(at)ap.org or on Twitter at

www.twitter.com/oskargarcia