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Grand Finale

After chumming around with family you see only once a year, stuffing your belly like a glutton and unwrapping another pair of socks and slippers, it was finally time to enjoy some football. Hopefully your fantasy team was not competing in the “consolation” tournament, but rather in the championship or semifinal game in your league. Though most leagues finished in Week 16, there is a population of fantasy owners that will need to prepare for the final week of the NFL season.

Not only will Week 17 bring forth the usual share of game-time decisions and weather variables, but it will also include a number of stars taking the week off or playing only a few drives as their teams have clinched a playoff spot. Several teams, including the New England Patriots and New York Jets, are locked into their respective playoff bracket so be wary of starting Tom Brady, Mark Sanchez or any other stars on these teams.

In Week 17 last season, coach Bill Belichick learned a harsh lesson as he watched Wes Welker blow out his knee in a meaningless game against the Houston Texans, which undoubtedly hindered his team’s playoff hopes. Some teams that have secured playoff eligibility will still be battling for playoff positioning and home field advantage. The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs should be included in this list. Obviously we all can count on our “stars” from the Seattle Seahawks and St Louis Rams to play (except for injured Matt Hasselbeck) as they spar to decide the winner of the NFC-Worst … I mean NFC West. If Seattle wins, they will enter the playoffs with a 7-9 record!

Savvy fantasy pundits have likely secured backups in the case that their studs sit. I would urge you to do the same during this volatile week. Let’s take a dive into Week 17 so that you may end 2010 raising your league’s fantasy trophy in the air.

Kevin Kolb – With Tuesday’s loss against Minnesota, the Philadelphia Eagles will likely rest Michael Vick and their top receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. Regardless, Kolb is motivated to show Philadelphia and the rest of the NFL that he is indeed worthy of a starting job. Fortunately, Kolb will face off against a weak Dallas Cowboys’ secondary that is tied with the Houston Texans for most passing touchdowns allowed. Since Week 7, Dallas has allowed an average of 300 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. Come on, even Rex Grossman torched them! Look for Kolb to make a statement with 300 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Ryan Mathews – Mathews’ season has been disappointing and riddled with injury as he lost his starting gig. With the injury to Mike Tolbert, Mathews is in line to start Week 17 as the San Diego Chargers aim to redeem themselves after their lackadaisical performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, which was the nail in their playoff coffin. Mathews ran for 55 yards on 12 carries along with a score last Sunday. Look for Darren Sproles to pick up a few carries, but Mathews should earn the bulk of work against a weak Denver Broncos front line. Denver’s defense has given up the most points to opposing running backs and continued the trend by allowing 135 total yards and a touchdown to Houston’s Arian Foster last week. Although Mathews missed the previous game against Denver in Week 11, teammate Mike Tolbert totaled 153 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. Mathews is an enticing start this week and will earn 100 total yards and a touchdown.

Kenny Britt – After becoming one of the biggest first half sleepers, Britt injured his hamstring and missed five games as his Tennessee Titans floundered. Now that he is healthy again, the Tennessee wideout has begun heating up again with an average of 108.5 yards per game and has caught a reception for more than 50 yards in each of the last two games. The Titans will look to play the spoiler against the Indianapolis Colts this weekend. Indianapolis defends the pass fairly well, but Britt should be a solid start. If Britt is being neglected on your league’s waiver wire, snag him as he will earn 80 receiving yards and a touchdown this weekend.

Jared Cook – I understand that the Tennessee Titans are by far no offensive virtuoso, but I must bring another player to your attention. Bo Scaife has been the starting tight end the majority of the season; however, he is currently in coach Jeff Fisher’s doghouse for comments made regarding the team’s locker room. Cook has risen to fantasy awareness and has made a case to continue starting with more than 40 receiving yards in four of his last five games. He was targeted nine times last weekend. With Scaife on the bench, Cook should continue to blossom in Week 17 against Indianapolis. For most of the season, the Colts defended opposing tight ends better than any other team, but have struggled recently by surrendering an average of 60 yards along with six touchdowns over the last six games. I expect Cook to be targeted again and will earn 75 total yards this week. Although these numbers are not jaw-dropping, it is certainly better than what Kevin Boss, Chris Cooley and Tony Gonzalez earned for their owners last week.

St. Louis
Rams Defense – I just don’t trust Charlie Whitehurst. In his time filling in for Matt Hasselbeck this season, he has failed to impress. Obviously, he will have much more time to prepare for the biggest game of his young career as Seattle and St. Louis will play for a trip to the playoffs. The Rams have interceptions in their last four games and rank fourth in the league in sacks. In their last duel, the Rams posted 15 fantasy points and only allowed three points. St. Louis’ offense is not potent enough to blow out Seattle, but the Rams should dominate on the defensive end and ultimately win this game, especially since Seattle has lost three games in a row and scored only an average of 18 points per game during this streak. St. Louis will be a safe start this week as they should post at least 10 points, win the division and reach the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Last week’s picks – Not a great week!

QB – Tim Tebow

– Week 16 stats: 308 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, 2 TD, INT

– My Prediction: 180 passing yards, 25 rushing yards, 2 TD (By far my best recommendation of the week. Sixth-most fantasy points for his position this week.)

RB – Tashard Choice

– Week 16 stats: 27 total yards

– My Prediction: 90 total yards, TD (Jon Kitna’s struggles and Marion Barber added to the mix caused Choice to be a non-factor. Missed this call.)

WR – Santana Moss

– Week 16 stats: 100 receiving yards, TD

– My Prediction: 85 receiving yards (Moss fell short of my prediction, but still had a productive outing, especially in points-per-reception leagues.)

 TE – Kevin Boss

– Week 16 stats: No catches

– My Prediction: 50 receiving yards and a touchdown (Ouch. Eli Manning struggled and threw to Boss a few times, which he dropped. Terrible showing for the tight end. Bad call on this one.)

 DEF – New York Jets

– Week 16 stats: 6 points with 38 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 TD

–  My Prediction: 10 points (A horrid third-quarter performance by the Jets hurt this call and lost the game for the team.)

Good luck in Week 17 and have a Happy New Year!

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