We're heading for the final weekend of the National Football League regular season. Hopefully you had an enjoyable and prosperous year, a great holiday season, and I wanted to thank you for reading this column this season, too. I fell short in my pursuit of a championship in the FLEX League PPR, drafted on Sirius XM Satellite Radio back in August. Unfortunately the injury to Antonio Brown did not help my cause. Fortunately I was able to knock off a good guy, Bob Lung, a co-worker of mine at RotoExperts.com a few years back, in the title game of the Triple Crown Football Standard Experts League. I hope that you have been able to raise a trophy or find some cash winnings in your leagues this season.
The Los Angeles Rams are locked into the No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NFC playoff picture, so head coach Sean McVay hinted on Tuesday that the team is likely to rest their starters in Week 17 against the red-hot San Francisco 49ers in order to avoid injuries in what is essentially a meaningless game in terms of the playoffs. In other words, they do not play to 'Ram It'. If you've never watched the team's classic rap song 'Ram It!' from their first tenure in Los Angeles, it's worth a spin. It's classic 1980's football, and WAY less famous than the more popular Super Bowl Shuffle from the Chicago Bears. But if you've ever wanted to see Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson rap, if you like mullets and awful singing, this is definitely for you.
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Fast forward back to the present, fantasy owners with a championship in Week 17 aren't likely to see much from their Rams. Todd Gurley posted 21 carries for 152 yards and three touchdowns in Week 15, while adding three grabs for 28 yards and a score. In Week 16 he was good for 22 carries for 118 yards, while posting 10 receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns at Tennessee. If he didn't win a championship for every team he was on in standard leagues, something is wrong. He has made a strong case for Most Valuable Player honors for the National Football League, and if I had a vote I would take him over New England Patriots QB Tom Brady. Yes, the latter is a Super Bowl champ, a future Hall of Famer and he has had a great season. But the past few weeks he has been average at best, while Gurley has single-handedly carried his team to new heights. How many people had the Rams as their NFC West Division champions going into Week 1? Yeah. Exactly. Crickets.
So if Gurley sits, Malcolm Brown and Lance Dunbar could get chances to handle the carries in Week 17. While that's a risky proposition for those in standard leagues, especially in championship fantasy games, they could be god-sends in DFS play as low-cost options depending on how McVay elects to distribute the carries. The same holds true for Sean Mannion, who could potentially be under center in place of Jared Goff, who works to get ready for a home playoff game in two weeks. Mannion, the former Oregon State standout who used to throw his passes to Brandin Cooks, has a good arm and could surprise if he makes the start. Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods could all potentially be out, or severely limited, but there is plenty of talent left.
Fantasy owners looking for a playmaker in Week 17 could finally see Tavon Austin go for that huge outing. The wide receiver corps for the Rams could consist of Austin, special teams maven Pharoh Cooper and Josh Reynolds, as they each finally get their chances to shine. Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee might also be relied upon for more work, particularly in the red zone, while Derek Carrier might also be thrust into a meaningful role to close out the regular season. Again, it's an extremely risky proposition to take any of these players seriously in championships for standard play, but Austin might be that tremendous waiver wire addition who can put you over the top as a sleeper WR4 or flex option.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams DST isn't as attractive this weekend. If the team is resting starters, it's hard to imagine Alec Ogletree will be rolled out there for no reason. He, Mark Barron, Aaron Donald and Trumaine Johnson could also see their playing time severely limited. In addition, that makes 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo an attractive fantasy play again, as he won't have to face the entire wrath of the Rams defense, getting a chance to continue adding to his lore heading into the offseason.
To rest, or not to rest…
There are several teams trying to decide whether they will rest key players heading into the regular season finale. It's yet another reminder why all fantasy championships should be decided in the penultimate weekend of the regular season and not Week 17.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone indicated that he has no plans to rest QB Blake Bortles or any other starters for their key AFC South battle against the Tennessee Titans. Fantasy owners can probably thank the San Francisco 49ers for their spirited effort against the Jags, humbling the young AFC South Division champions in Week 16. It appears Bortles will be asked to go the distance in this one despite the fact Jacksonville is locked into the No. 3 seed in the AFC. It's rather nice to see, however, as the Titans need a win to get into the playoffs and resting their starters would make it easier for teams like the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills, who need the Titans to lose. It would be ironic if Marrone has a change of heart, helping the Titans have an easier road while sticking it to his former employer, the Bills.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson wouldn't commit to using Nick Foles for the entire game in Week 17. He wasn't being non-committal due to the disastrous performance of Foles against the Raiders on Christmas night, but rather that he is playing it safe since the team is already down one signal caller and they have nothing to gain against the Cowboys since the No. 1 seed in the NFC is already locked up. If Foles is rested or limited during the game, look for former Indiana standout Nate Sudfeld to see his first meaningful NFL action. In Carolina, head coach Ron Rivera indicated that all starters, including Cam Newton, will be expected to go the distance. The Panthers hadn't even locked up a playoff spot until last weekend, and they still trying to secure a home playoff game, with an outside chance of a first-round bye if craziness ensues.
Quick Hits: Cody Latimer (thigh) and Emmanuel Sanders (ankle) continue to be banged up, and there is no real reason for the Broncos to risk further damage to the receivers in Week 17 with nothing on the line. It wouldn't be shocking to see Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor finish up strong in the regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. It appears they'll be catching their passes from Paxton Lynch, as the former first-rounder appears to be on track to make just his fifth NFL appearance. … The Packers are unlikely to have Aaron Jones (knee) in the backfield, so Jamaal Williams is expected to shoulder the load in Detroit in the finale. He is a fantastic fantasy option and mid-level DFS play, too. The Packers will also be sticking with Brett Hundley under center, as Joe Callahan will remain as the backup. … The Steelers did not offer any update on the progress of Antonio Brown (calf), but he has been officially ruled out for Week 17. It's no surprise, as the initial timetable suggested Brown would be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season. As such, he'll have two more weeks to get healthy before the team takes the field in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. … Branden Oliver could be a streaming option in Week 17 if Melvin Gordon is not healthy enough to go. As of Tuesday the team's leading rusher was in a walking boot. Oliver appears to be ahead of Austin Ekeler, as the rookie suffered a broken ring finger in Week 15 and did not see an offensive snap in Week 16. … DeMarco Murray (knee) said he feels he could play through the pain of a torn medial collateral ligament in Week 17 against the Jaguars, but it's uncertain if the organization will want to roll the dice. Of course a player will say he can play, but could he make it worse? He might just be feeling the heat, especially if Derrick Henry explodes with a huge afternoon.