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Wide Write: The Week 17 Scramble

If your fantasy football league has its championship game in Week 17 instead of Week 16, your commissioner has clearly lost his marbles, and so have you and your fellow owners for allowing the specter of numerous rested players to creep into your fun. Heck, the week is so meaningless that we’re not even doing a video to accompany this column. But since you have to play on, we’ll structure this week’s column a little differently than usual in an effort to help.

The Colts, Chargers and Saints are almost certain to protect their stars this week, while the Packers, Patriots, Bengals and maybe the Cardinals could find themselves in position to do the same thing. Many of you might need to bench risky players from those teams, so we’ll list a handful of free-agent targets at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. They mainly fall under the category of, “Crap! Peyton Manning won’t do anything for me this week, and my backup got hurt, so I need to pick up somebody!”

Remember that this column is posted on Thursdays, so please make sure to check your players’ status as close to kickoff as possible. My final morning blog of the season will be published on Friday, but I'll tweet lineup-related news all weekend as I hear it.

As always, if you have any questions, comments or insults, send them to widewritevideoblog@foxnews.com. We’ll be back next week with a review of the 2009 fantasy football season.

Quarterbacks

1. Alex Smith, 49ers – He’s available in more than half of FOXSports.com leagues, and the Niners visit the really, really bad Rams this week. If Smith is available, he should be at the top of your list.

2. Matt Moore, Panthers – It’s hard to argue with Moore’s recent play, as he’s thrown for 470 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. The resurgent Panthers host the Saints this week, and the Saints are likely to lock their vital defensive starters in a Bank of America Stadium concession stand by the end of the first quarter. Even without the injured Steve Smith, look for Moore to deliver at least a decent performance.

3. Matt Leinart, Cardinals – If the Vikings beat the Giants in the early game – which they will – the Cardinals’ only reason to try will be an attempt to get the NFC’s third seed IF the Eagles lose to the Cowboys. If your starting QB in that situation was a fossil like Kurt Warner, you’d bench him, and so will head coach Ken Whisenhunt for most of the game against the Packers. Leinart might put up some solid numbers.

4. Jason Campbell, Redskins – A couple of weeks ago, I recommended Campbell as a free-agent pickup. Since then, he’s passed for less than 200 yards in each of his two games while throwing just one touchdown along with three interceptions. This week, look for Campbell to redeem my good name by having a nice day against the vacationing Chargers.

5. Nobody – Curtis Painter? Ryan Fitzpatrick? What do you think, I’m crazy?

Running backs

1. Arian Foster, Texans – Foster burned you with his fumble-induced benching in Week 15, but bounced back with 19 carries for 97 yards and a score in Week 17. Head coach Gary Kubiak said earlier this week that Foster and Ryan Moats would see more action than Chris Brown against the Patriots. Foster is still widely available, and should be at the top of your free-agent shopping list.

2. Donald Brown, Colts – Brown looked to be in a timeshare with Joseph Addai early in the season, but missed most of November and December with some injuries. He returned last week during the Colts’ gutless surrender against the Jets, and carried 15 times for 22 yards and a touchdown. Sure, Brown’s yards-per-carry total was awful, but expect the Colts to use Week 17 to shake more rust off him. Or, maybe the Colts will rest Brown for the playoffs, put him in the same plastic bubble as Peyton Manning on the sideline and start one of the team’s ticket sales interns at tailback. You can never be too careful when you’re getting ready for the playoffs.

3. Mike Tolbert, Chargers – LaDainian Tomlinson will probably be protected like the Hope Diamond this week, and Darren Sproles won’t get in harm’s way too often, either. Tolbert’s the next guy in line, and after he carried 11 times for 60 yards in the Bolts’ blowout win over the Titans last Friday, he’s a no-brainer.

4. Sammy Morris, Patriots – Laurence Maroney fumbled at the goal line last week, and got yanked in favor of Morris, who’s been waiting patiently for more work since returning in Week 12 from a five-week injury layoff. I’ve always had doubts about how much confidence Bill Belichick has in Maroney, and we should find out more this week. Fred Taylor’s presence could muck things up, but Morris should be good for at least a dozen touches. Last week he got 12 carries, and put up 95 yards and a TD.

5. Lynell Hamilton, Saints – Pierre Thomas hurt his ribs in Week 15, and you have to think the Saints will take it easy with him. Mike Bell is still in the picture, but he hasn’t been sharp lately, and Hamilton’s workload picked up when Thomas got hurt. Also, it’s apparent that the Saints would rather move their franchise to Kandahar than hand the ball off to Reggie Bush more than six times a game.

Wide receivers

1. Devin Aromashodu, Bears – Jay Cutler keeps saying how much he loves throwing to Aromashodu, and he proved it Monday night by hitting his new favorite non-defender seven times for 150 yards and the game-winning TD in overtime. Aromashodu is the Bears’ new top receiving target, and he gets to run through the Lions’ secondary this week. Hurry, because he’ll get snapped up quickly this week.

2. Austin Collie, Colts – Dallas Clark might want to go for 100 receptions (he needs seven), but if the Colts didn’t think it was important to go for a perfect record, they probably won’t worry about Clark’s stupid little personal milestone. Reggie Wayne will probably sit for most of the game, Pierre Garcon has been declared out with a hand injury … someone’s gotta catch Painter’s handful of accurate passes, right?

3. Malcom Floyd, Chargers – Floyd is widely available, and with 36 catches for 636 yards and a touchdown, his stats aren’t bad. Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson have a 2 p.m. PT DVD viewing of He’s Just Not That Into You scheduled for the Chargers’ sideline on Sunday, so Floyd will be the best receiver left on the field. As long as he doesn’t get benched with everyone else, anyway.

4. Chaz Schilens, Raiders – After missing the first half of the season with a foot injury, Schilens has finally become productive as one of Charlie Frye’s preferred targets over the last two games, catching nine passes for 101 yards and a TD. He was targeted 18 times in those two games, so he’s bound to keep catching passes. Yes, you’re allowed to pick up a Raider receiver. He won’t catch any awful germs from Darrius Heyward-Bey – I promise.

5. Kenny Moore, Panthers – With Steve Smith out, Moore is likely to start in his place against the Saints’ JV team. Mushin Muhammad isn’t bad but he’s 36 years old, and doesn’t a “Moore! Moore!” connection sound too good to be true? OK, this one is a longshot, but if you’re looking for free agents in Week 17 you’re probably not playing conservatively.

Tight ends

1. Zach Miller, Raiders – Miller is available in just under half of leagues on FOXSports.com, and he was targeted 13 times in Week 16 after missing the previous game with a concussion. He caught nine passes for 110 yards against the Browns, and there’s no reason why he can’t put up solid numbers against the Ravens. If you own Clark or Gates and don’t want to risk playing them this week, Miller should be the first person you look for.

2. David Thomas, Saints – Jeremy Shockey has missed two games with a toe injury, and in those games Thomas has caught 13 passes for 102 yards. Sure, the Saints could probably gain more yards per play by simply having someone fall forward with the ball, but 13 catches is 13 catches. If Shockey is held out for either injury or precautionary reasons, Thomas becomes a terrific play in a PPR league.

3. Tom Santi, Colts – Clark might not play much, and the team’s other backup tight end is hurt. That’s pretty much all you need to know here.

4. Joel Dreessen, Texans – Dreessen isn’t great, but he has caught 10 passes over his last three games, and he plays for a desperate team that loves to throw. They really liked throwing to TE Owen Daniels, and while Dreessen couldn’t fill those big shoes, he isn’t bad. How’s that for an endorsement?

5. Jeff King, Panthers – See Moore, Kenny. Teammate Dante Rosario is probably a better receiving tight end than King, but King has been getting the ball more lately. With Smith out, QB Matt Moore will probably throw more to his tight ends, and King caught a TD against the Giants last week.

Thanks for reading. Please share this column with your friends, post it on your Facebook page – really, I’d like to be just about everywhere if it’s OK with you.

Happy New Year!


John Halpin writes Wide Write and hosted an accompanying video blog every week throughout the NFL season. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FOXSports.com/fantasy. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37). His blogs, columns and tweets will cover fantasy baseball beginning Jan. 3.