One of the reasons some fantasy leagues don't play in Week 17 is because some teams sit their starters or they only play a partial game because of the pending NFL playoffs. Other bottom-feeder teams yank their regulars to see what they have in their youngsters in the remaining week of the season.
In one of the leagues I've been a part of for 15 years, we have a Pro Bowl game. Each division votes in a lineup, with the regular season division winner making the final decisions on the lineups. Whichever division loses the Pro Bowl has to pay for all the food for the draft the following year.
But I do realize there are some teams who have important games to play this weekend.
So let's start with the what we know as far as playoff scenario for the NFL and who will and won't play this weekend.
In the NFC, four teams have clinched playoff spots (New Orleans, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia), and St. Louis and Seattle are battling for the NFC South crown. Vying for the last playoff spot are Green Bay, New York Giants and Tampa Bay.
Nothing is set in stone as far as seeds as Chicago has the chance to win the No. 1 seed in the playoffs yet. Atlanta and New Orleans still are playing for the NFC South crown and a first-round bye. Only Philly is set in its seed: No. 3. And that's why it's looking like Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson will be on the bench and one can't expect much more than a half or three quarters out of the rest of the big Eagles starters this weekend.
Outside of that, most of the stars on the NFC contenders should still be in the game unless games get out of hand, so feel comfortable starting those players. One thing to note is New Orleans' Marques Colston is probably out for the game after having minor surgery Tuesday.
In Seattle, it's looking early on that Matt Hasselback will not be a go for this game. I think a start from Charlie Whitehurst doesn't bode well for the surrounding offensive cast as far as fantasy goes.
In the AFC, more of the playoff picture is settled. New England has the No. 1 seed wrapped up but with the bye week ahead, one can't expect the Patriots to sit their stars the whole game. However, coach Bill Belichick saw his star possession receiver, Wes Welker, lost to injury in a meaningless week 17 game last year. So I expect the Hoodie to follow a happy medium. You'll probably see their studs for a half and start exiting the game player by player in the third quarter. Former linebacker and long-time Belichick player Teddy Bruschi said Belichick used to always tell the team to prepare to play the whole game in meaningless weeks like this. So is three quarters of Tom Brady better than a full game of your other options? That you'll have to decide.
The rest of the playoff picture shapes up like this: Baltimore and Pittsburgh are duking it out for the AFC North title and a first-round bye, with the other falling to a No. 5 seed. The Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars are playing for the AFC South crown. All four teams should have their studs in the game, and so should you. Keep in mind David Garrard is out for sure and it's appearing that Maurice Jones-Drew won't be playing either. It would mark the second time MJD has missed a game due to injury, with last week being the first.
Kansas City and the New York Jets look destined for a first-round date already so use caution in whether you play your studs on those teams. Mark Sanchez is supposed to start Sunday, but with little to play for, I'd expect some game work into the second half before pulls are made. Much like the Pats, there's no sense in seeing a situation like Welker last year. Rex Ryan didn't comment on anyone's feet Thursday, but he did say Sanchez would play though not for how long. I'd use that rule of thumb with all Jets.
Speaking of injuries, let's take a quick look at non-playoff teams who is hurt among them.
At quarterback, the Vikings have said Brett Favre will play if he's cleared from his concussion. He hasn't passed that test yet, but against the Lions, if he doesn't go, you have to like Joe Webb. Jon Kitna is out for the Cowboys and Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't practiced yet this week for the Bills.
At running back, Peyton Hillis should be back for Eric Mangini's final game at the helm. He's rested all week but is going against a stout Pittsburgh defense, so use caution. Darren McFadden has said he plans on playing against the Bears but likely will be that dreaded game-day decision.
Knowshon Moreno practiced a bit Thursday but also will be that game-time decision, and if he plays, he could be sharing with Correll Buckhalter, who had 92 total yards and two touchdowns last week.
At wide receiver, Andre Johnson hasn't practiced all week and coach Gary Kubiak said it will be Johnson's decision whether he plays or not. Megatron, or Calvin Johnson, as he's more commonly known as, also has not practiced this week and his status is unknown at this point.
You also want to keep an eye on Sidney Rice and Malcom Floyd as both are injured and question marks for Sunday.
I made the comment today to one of my league's owners that I've not seen our rosters filled with so many injury statuses next to names. My best advice to give you is to pay attention to the inactives Sunday, which will start getting announced about two hours before games.
Good luck this weekend. Bring home a championship, but don't go selling any of the jewelry or trophies you win from it.
You can check this spot out again come August when training camps are in full swing, and I'll be offering advice on your drafts and the 2011 season, if there is one.
Aaron Korte is The A-T's fantasy football columnist.