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Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:03
NFL Headline News

 FANTASY FOOTBALL
By JOHN McFARLAND
Associated Press Writer
Welcome to the year's second NFL exhibition season. Or as Colts fans might call it, Sorgi Time.
Indy backup quarterback Jim Sorgi and his ilk will make rare departures from the bench this week as some teams pretty much take the day off to rest up for the playoffs.
It's a disturbing development for fantasy football leagues that run the playoffs through the bitter end of the NFL regular season, when many top players are sporting ballcaps on the sideline.
The Colts are always among the worst offenders, doing maybe an obligatory series with starters before packing it in. They'll be joined by numerous Cowboys and Buccaneers, and probably more than a few Seahawks and Packers. The biggest problem is trying to figure out who will play starters and for how long.
The key this week is to ditch the fantasy truism that you always start your big stars. Instead, look for players on teams that need to win, backups who will get heavy minutes or guys who've been trying all year despite playing for horrid teams. (It's also a good idea to talk your commissioner into stopping the playoffs a week earlier next year.)
As you prepare to again start watching football games just because they're interesting, here's a look at players to start in Week 17, some to avoid, and a few long shots who just may pan out:
QUARTERBACKS
A SAFE BET
-Count Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger among the trying. The Steelers have locked up a playoff spot, but they really want to beat out San Diego for the third seed to avoid the frightening Jaguars in the first round.
-Kurt Warner continues his tryouts for the 2008 starting job with a chance to give the Cardinals their first non-losing finish since 1998. He's thrown three TDs in each of his past three games.
-Jay Cutler is way better when he plays in Denver, and the Vikings' pass defense is the NFL's worst regardless of the town. (Todd Collins last week scorched the Vikings for a couple scores, and Clinton Portis even threw one.)
-It doesn't really matter whether the Browns win or lose, because the only way they get to the playoffs is with a Titans defeat. But look for Derek Anderson to be trying hard because it's not good form to take the day off while hoping for help.
-There's no doubt Vince Young has been a fantasy disaster, but he has a chance to put the Titans in the playoffs against the Indy backups.
TAKE A SHOT
-Todd Collins has parlayed his years of NFL obscurity into a couple decent outings and can lead the Redskins into the playoffs with a win over starter-resting Dallas.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Brock Huard, don't start these guys:
-It's the time of year Peyton Manning owners have come to dread. The last couple times he had nothing to play for in the season-ender he put up these awesome stats: 1-for-2 for 5 yards in 2005, 1-for-2 for 6 yards in 2004.
-Likewise, expect the NFC's top teams to start their bye weeks early, with Dallas' Tony Romo and Green Bay's Brett Favre perhaps extending their starting streaks but doing little else.
-Atlanta's Chris Redman had a big day against Arizona, but everybody does. The Seahawks, resting starters or not, should keep him from decent stats.
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RUNNING BACKS
ALL DAY LONG
-The Chargers still have playoff positioning to fight for, and LaDainian Tomlinson would like to hang on to the NFL rushing lead, so look for him to knock out 100 or 150 yards by halftime before catching some rest.
-Until the Vikings learn to pass to guys on their own team, Adrian Peterson will see 11-man fronts. But those 11 Broncos give up a horrid 141 yards a game, and the Vikings still have slim playoff hopes.
-With Joseph Addai resting, Indy's Kenton Keith could wind up with 30 carries as the Colts start working the clock sometime in the first quarter. The Titans should be playing tough, but with so many carries something should break.
-Assuming Rudi Johnson sits again, Cincinnati's Kenny Watson could go for 200 yards against Miami. (Dolphins seem to have eased up after getting a win, if that's possible.)
-Detroit's T.J. Duckett will start in place of the injured Kevin Jones. He should get plenty of carries in the Green Bay cold, and Packers defenders with nothing to play for will be in no hurry to jump in front of the 254-pounder.
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-If you're still stuck with Thomas Jones on your roster, well, you know how the Jets feel. If he can overcome the emotion of the Herm Edwards Bowl (also known as the Draft Position Bowl), Jones may be worth a start against Kansas City.
RED FLAGS
-Yes, that was actually Shaun Alexander looking aggressive and powerful last week. The Seahawks want more of that, but probably not much more till the postseason.
-Despite Clinton Portis' success against the Vikings' NFL-best rushing defense last week, don't expect much from Denver's Travis Henry or Selvin Young. Both have been stopped cold recently against lesser defenses.
-Willis McGahee's out in Baltimore, but don't get any cute ideas about Musa Smith. He should do just about nothing against the Steelers.
---
WIDE RECEIVERS
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-Carolina's Steve Smith, taking a break from his duties as leader of the Matt Moore fan club, should put up some big numbers on Tampa's second string. The rookie figured out last week that throwing to Smith every time is a good idea.
-Wasn't Anquan Boldin supposed to be all beat up? He's got 19 catches for 245 yards and two scores the past two weeks. And he put up these numbers in his last two home games against the Rams: 10 catches for 129 yards, 8 catches for 119 yards.
-About the only motivation for the 12-loss Rams, meanwhile, is to keep Torry Holt from yelling at the coach again. Still, the Rams will look to end things on a positive note against a defense that made Chris Redman look good.
-Chad Johnson has been a big disappointment this year, as have the Bengals. But Johnson and every other Bengals receiver should fare well against Miami as they also try to end the season with at least some good stats.
-If the weather's not too miserable in Chicago, the Saints' David Patten could put up some numbers as New Orleans tries to keep very slim playoff hopes alive.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-If you can figure out who plays receiver for Miami, it might make for a good long shot. Really, what are the chances of Cincinnati playing good pass defense two games in a row?
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-If Marvin Harrison is out of the Colts lineup again, Reggie Wayne takes over the role of star receiver playing one or two series in the meaningless finale.
-Chris Chambers had a big game for the Chargers last week, but avoid him unless you expect him to get a few turns at running back against Oakland's 31st-ranked run defense.
-The time for starting Lions receivers ended about two months ago.
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected success for Clinton Portis (Over 100 total yards, TD run, TD pass), Donovan McNabb (3 TDs), Fred Taylor (fifth-straight 100-yard game, TD), Braylon Edwards (2 TDs) and Santana Moss (TD). I figured Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (3 TDs apiece) wouldn't sit yet. I also saw disaster for Plaxico Burress (6 yards) and Bernard Berrian (14 yards).
Big Misses: I expected bad things for Roddy White (141 yards) and Shaun Hill (3 TDs), but many good things for Carson Palmer (115 yards, TD, 2 INTs) and Calvin Johnson (47 yards.)
---
FULL DISCLOSURE
I made the playoffs in both leagues despite having no significant Patriots.
I'm in the championship game this week in my 12-team league, thanks mostly to Reggie Wayne, Willie Parker (except last week), Brandon Jacobs, Marshawn Lynch and Jason Witten. I somehow overcame the QB duo of Jon Kitna and Eli Manning. (Go Todd Collins!)
I won a first-round playoff game in my 10-team league, thanks mostly to Matt Hasselbeck, Braylon Edwards, Plaxico Burress, Jason Witten and free agency magic from Chester Taylor and Maurice Morris. Making the playoffs was a feat considering my high drafting of Frank Gore, Ronnie Brown, Thomas Jones and Donald Driver. I left the playoffs thanks largely to another flop from Burress and being too chicken to start Kurt Warner.
 

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