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START/BENCH: Week 17

It’s the end of end of the line.

In most fantasy leagues, the season is over. Done. Finished. A champion was crowned in Week 16, and the crowing by the winner and grousing by the losers is already in full swing.

However, some leagues like to milk the year for all it’s worth. Ride that bad boy until the wheels fall off. And so they hold the title game in Week 17.

There’s one big problem with that, of course. Teams that are already locked into a playoff seed have nothing to gain (and everything to lose) by playing their starters in Week 17. With New Orleans Saints as the No. 1 seed in the NFC bracket, Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas will be sitting out this week’s matchup with Carolina, who have shut down Cam Newton for the year.

Yes, I know that Sean Payton said that he isn’t resting the starters. I also know that the last time New Orleans rode the No. 1 seed in the NFC to the Super Bowl (2009) he did. Don’t judge people by what they say. Judge them by what they do.

Team owner Jerry Jones has said that Dallas will play its starters, but it’s hard to see why given that Dallas is the No. 4 seed in the NFC win or lose. Chicago hasa slim chance at winning the No. 2 seed in the NFC with a win and a Los Angeles Rams loss, but the Rams play lowly San Francisco — so Chicago could wind up pulling starters as soon as the Rams look to be cruising to a win.

Many of the players who have earned “sit them down” status this week have done so because of situations like that. It’s hard to sit players who helped carry you this far, but those players aren’t much good to you if they take the day off or only play a few series.

With that warning in mind (and a friendly admonition to consider holding your championship game in Week 16 next year so you don’t have this problem), it’s time for the final edition of “Start/Bench” at Fantasy Sharks for 2018.

I hope this column was at least marginally useful to you in 2018, that you’ll be back in 2019 (I have the same hope myself, but I have been getting the evil eye from management ever since the, um, incident with the executive bathroom — damn you Taco Bell), and that the new year brings you good fortune and happiness.

QUARTERBACKS

STUDS

ROLL THEM OUT

Derek Carr, Oakland (at Kansas City)

Carr hasn’t been lighting it up through the air — he has just three touchdown passes over the last three games. But Carr’s playing well, has gone for more than 300 passing attempts without an interception and faces a Kansas City team Sunday that leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs. Cincinnati)

By virtue of four losses in its last five games, Pittsburgh needs both a win over Cincinnati and a loss by Baltimore to get into the playoffs. The first part of that equation shouldn’t be too hard — Cincinnati is awful on defense.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Tampa Bay)

Atlanta handled a banged up Carolina tea in Charlotte last week in one of its more impressive efforts of the season. Ryan should be solid again in Week 17 against a Tampa Bay defense that isn’t scaring anyone — Tampa Bay is sixth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay (vs. Atlanta)

Winston was pretty good last week against Dallas, passing for 336 yards and a score against a stout Dallas defense. Tampa Bay and Atlanta will be playing for pride in Week 17, but it’s a matchup that should feature plenty of offense.

SIT THEM DOWN

Tom Brady, New England (vs. New York Jets)

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe New England will go on another deep playoff rum and make it to a ninth Super Bowl in the Brady/coach Bill Belichick era. But New England just doesn’t look right, and last week against Buffalo Brady passed for all of 126 yards with two interceptions.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (vs. Chicago)

The edict for Minnesota is clear — beat Chicago on Sunday and it’s on to the postseason. Minnesota has played better offensively of late, but Chicago is dead last in the NFC in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this season.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland (at Baltimore)

More than a few quarterback streamers have been riding the Mayfield Express for some time now —with great success. However, while it’s been a very impressive first season for the rookie this week’s matchup with the NFL’s best defense is, in the words of Charles Barkley, turrible.

Russell Wilson, Seattle (vs. Arizona)

Seattle has reason to play to win on Sunday — a victory means the No. 5 seed and a trip to Dallas instead of Chicago. But as soon as Seattle feels like it has this one in hand Wilson’s getting the hook, and Arizona is 27th in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks this year.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.