Adam Levitan

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Who will play?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It’s been a record-breaking season. From Calvin Johnson to Adrian Peterson to J.J. Watt to Blair Walsh to Jason Witten to Robert Griffin III, the statistics have been truly unusual. And Week 17 will be just as unusual.

Unlike most Week 17s, rest is only going to be a luxury for a few teams. That will lead to better games, some playoff-altering injuries and normal workloads for skill players. “Hey, we could have played fantasy this week!” No sir, that would be the results-oriented conclusion. Before the season, your league made the well-informed and correct decision to only play through Week 16. Regretting that now is like playing being mad at yourself for starting Arian Foster over Ryan Grant last week.

Anyway, let’s get to the scenarios. I’ll be playing Snapdraft this week and others could have some pocket change on the line (entertainment purposes only, of course). Some playing-time notes for all the playoff teams:

1. FALCONS: Atlanta has clinched the No. 1 seed. They play the Bucs at home Sunday. “We’re going to play the game to win,” is all coach Mike Smith has coyly said so far.

Look for the Falcons to treat this like a third preseason game. Get some work in and get off the field without any injuries. And in the Falcons’ third preseason game this year (at Miami), Matt Ryan played two possessions of the third quarter before calling it a day. Michael Turner got 10 carries while Julio Jones and Roddy White combined for just six catches. This is a team to certainly avoid at all costs.

2. PACKERS and 3. 49ERS: Green Bay must beat the Vikings at home on Sunday in order to clinch the No. 2 seed. If they lose and the 49ers win against the fighting Brian Hoyers, the Niners get the bye. Both games are at 4:25 p.m. ET, so they’ll each have to play it out at full bore. 

and 8. COWBOYS: This game was flexed to Sunday Night Football because it will decide the NFC East champ. The only way the Cowboys can get in is with a win. However, if both the Bears and Vikings lose earlier Sunday, then the ‘Skins will be guaranteed a Wild Card berth even if they lose. Green Bay is favored by 3.5 in Minnesota and the Bears are laying three in Detroit. Still, I’d expect the ‘Skins to go all out to win the division no matter what. Get ‘em going.

5. SEAHAWKS: Seattle has locked up a playoff berth, but they could earn the NFC West crown by beating the Rams at home and having the Cardinals upset the Niners. That would earn them the crucial home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Expect the Seahawks to play all-out.

6. VIKINGS and 7. BEARS: If Minnesota beats Green Bay at home, they are in. If they lose and the Bears win at Detroit, Chicago gets the wild card. Obviously, everyone will be going full blast here.

9. GIANTS: The defending Super Bowl champs need to beat the Eagles and also have the Cowboys, Vikings and Bears all lose. Unlikely? Extremely. Will they still be scraping just to give themselves a chance? Definitely.

* All the AFC playoff spots are locked up. The only thing left to decide is seeding.

1. TEXANS: Houston had a great chance to lock up home field throughout the playoffs by beating the Vikings at home last week. They blew it in ugly fashion. Now they have to go to Indianapolis, where they’ve never won, and beat the Colts. Arian Foster will be fine.

2. BRONCOS: Coach John Fox has already said he has no plans to rest Peyton Manning or anyone else. And now that they have a chance at the No. 1 seed, Peyton definitely isn’t getting a game off. Las Vegas believes the Broncos will be going all-out – they’ve been installed as 16-point favorites over the Chiefs.

3. PATRIOTS: New England owns the tiebreaker over Houston. So if the Texans lose and the Patriots beat the Dolphins, they’ll move into position for the bye. Bill Belichick never takes his foot off the gas anyway.

4. RAVENS: Baltimore does not have much to play for. The highest they can get is the No. 3 seed, but they’ll need a stunning loss by the Patriots as a 10-point favorite. The lowest they go is sticking in the No. 4 spot. With so many other spots available for players, we should avoid the Ravens if possible.

5. COLTS: Indy is locked into the No. 5 spot. Coach Chuck Pagano delivered one of the more inspirational press conferences I’ve ever seen on Monday – it’s understandable about the topic of possibly resting his players didn’t come up. He’s expected to address that on Wednesday. Reggie Wayne expects to play a full game, but it’s far from a lock.

6. BENGALS: Cincy is also locked into their seed. Marvin Lewis has a history of resting players in this situation, but he claims he won’t this year. I wouldn’t trust him. A half of action for Andy Dalton and A.J. Green should surprise no one.

Randy Moss is now the 49ers’ No. 2 receiver thanks to injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams. Yikes. … The Raiders haven’t named a Week 17 starter yet, but it sounds like they’re leaning toward Matt Leinart over Terrelle Pryor. … Randall Cobb (ankle) will still be used in the return game once he gets healthy. … David Wilson played just four snaps last week even though Ahmad Bradshaw was clearly less than 100 percent. Red flag.

Alex Green (concussion) is fully expected back to share the load with Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris Sunday. … Vernon Davis (concussion) is tentatively expected to get cleared for Week 17. … Chris Johnson is nursing a sore ankle this week. … The shoulder injury Anquan Boldin sustained last week is just a bruise.

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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