Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Rest for the Weary?

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh got the ball rolling Monday when he addressed the idea of resting his starters down the stretch. He insisted he will not rest anyone on his 10-2 team even though they have already clinched the NFC West.

The truth is Harbaugh doesn’t really have a choice right now. The Niners are just one game clear of the Saints for a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. If they lock up that bye at some point in the next two weeks, Harbaugh may change his tune and sit some guys down.

Therefore, if I own Frank Gore, I’m making certain I own Kendall Hunter heading into the fantasy playoffs. Then again, if I own Gore, I’m not feeling too good about myself. He has a total of four catches over the last six weeks, hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 8 and faces the Steelers and Seahawks in Weeks 15 and 16.

Let’s take a look at some other teams that threaten to end up resting their stars in Weeks 16 and/or 17.

The Packers are almost certainly going to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The question is if they will choose to go for a 16-0 record. Here’s coach Mike McCarthy’s latest comments on the matter:

"I clearly understand the 16-0 gig and the importance of it," McCarthy said after Sunday's win over the Giants. "[But] that's why you have to stay focused on what's at hand, because every week it's going to be a challenge. We're 12-0 and we need to get to 13-0. We have other goals that are in front of us before we can even attain [16-0]. I hope we're in position to talk about it, but right now we really aren't."

To me, that sounds like a guy that wants to go for the perfect season. The Packers play an aggressive brand of football, they have an aggressive quarterback and an aggressive coach. Therefore, I’m only rolling with two handcuffs here: If I own Aaron Rodgers, I own Matt Flynn. And if I own Greg Jennings, I own James Jones.

Back in 2009, the Saints locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC heading into Week 17. Coach Sean Payton decided to completely hold out Drew Brees and rest other select starters.

If the Saints end up clinching the No. 3 seed, look for Payton to follow the same path. However, that’s unlikely to happen before Week 17. There’s no must-have handcuffs here.

The race for the byes in the AFC is likely going to come down to the final game. It’s a dream scenario for fantasy owners, who don’t have to worry about rest.

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The NFL officially announced the season-ending suspensions of Fred Davis and Trent Williams Tuesday. According to, each has failed three tests for marijuana. If they get busted one more time, they will be suspended for one year.

The short-term effects on the Redskins project to be pretty severe. Davis was their best playmaker all year and now blocker Logan Paulsen is the starting tight end. Look for Rex Grossman to rely on Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney heavily.  

The loss of Williams will be felt across the board as well. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2010 draft and has proven to be a difference-maker in the running game. When Williams missed Weeks 7 and 8 due to a high-ankle sprain, the Redskins averaged 10.0 points per game against the lowly defenses of the Panthers and Bills.

Peyton Hillis (hip) is fully expected to play Thursday night as a weak flex play against the Steelers’ red-hot defense. … We still have no timetable on Darren McFadden (foot), who isn’t expected to return Week 14. … Tony Fiammetta (illness) is due back this week. Good news for DeMarco Murray.

Emmanuel Sanders (knee) is not expected to play Thursday. Antonio Brown will get a couple extra targets. … Miles Austin (hamstring) is expected to be a full go in practice this week. … Malcom Floyd (hip) emerged from his return healthy. He’s on the WR3 radar.

LeGarrette Blount was involved in an assault in the Tampa area back in September. Considering his history, it’s possible the league eventually gets involved. … Santana Moss played 64-of-72 snaps in his second game back from injury. … The Texans signed Jeff Garcia to be their No. 3 quarterback. … The Bears have no interest in Brett Favre. … Joe Webb will start Sunday if Christian Ponder (hip) can’t.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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