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Working the Wire: Who's trying, who isn't?

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa

Mark Stopa has been sharing his fantasy insights for Rotowire since 2007. Mark is the 2010 and 2012 Staff Picks champion (eat your heart out, Chris Liss) and won Rotowire's 14-team Staff League II in consecutive seasons. He roots for the Bills and has season tickets on the second row, press level to the Rays.

Random Thoughts entering Week 17:

Can you believe the 2010 NFL regular season is almost over? Crazy. I've enjoyed this article and the comments and hope you all have as well.

As right as I was about the Packers, I was that wrong about the Chargers. In retrospect, the signs were there, e.g. the bad loss to the Raiders a few weeks ago. They have elite talent, and the season stats reflect it, but nobody does less with more than Norv Turner. When you're talking about coaching changes for 2011, start there. There's no excuse for this team to not be in the playoffs. I talk about Philip Rivers, below, but what about the defense? The stats said this was a top defense, but how does it allow Carson Palmer to have his best game of the year, in the cold, in a meaningless game (for the Bengals), without his top two wideouts? Disgraceful. A.J. Smith deserves blame, too - you have to wonder if the Chargers would have started the season better, and gotten another win or two, if Vincent Jackson was in the fold from the outset.

My MVP ballot: Brady, Vick, Aaron Rodgers. The Rodgers haters criticize him for not winning close games, but that ignores how the Packers blow out teams like the Giants because of his talents. You really wanna blame Rodgers for putting up 45 on the Giants in a must-win game? (h/t Scott Pianowski). Philip Rivers is off the list - an MVP doesn't lay eggs in must-win games against the Raiders and Bengals.

What's the best way to summarize the debacle that is the NFC West? Seattle's nine losses have been by a total of 189 points (21 points per loss), with every loss by at least 15 points, yet a home win in Week 17 against a losing team gets them a home playoff game. They're so bad that at this point I'd pick the Lions over Seattle straight up on a neutral field. Expect Roger Goodell to change the playoff format to ensure this doesn't happen again.

I'll say this about Tim Tebow - the Texans, as bad as they are on defense, shut out a rookie QB earlier this year.

One of the reasons I picked the Vikings against the spread in Staff Picks, at +15, was the possibility of bad weather in Philadelphia. Seeing that game get postponed because of snow was not my happiest holiday moment.

I'm glad the Sunday night games can be flexed, but the NFL needs to find a way to do that with the other prime-time games. Cardinals/Cowboys was actually a good game, but with John Skelton and Stephen McGee quarterbacking two losing teams, was anyone watching (other than me and Liss)?

I hate head to head leagues that play in Week 17, but, somehow, I'm playing in one in an ESPN league. I'll try to post comments throughout the week as news develops about which teams will try and which ones won't. That said, here's my take on the teams that have something at stake in Week 17: Seahawks/Rams (winner wins division), Falcons (win = top seed), Steelers (win division, second seed with win), Bears (get second seed with win), Packers (get sixth seed if beat Bears), Colts (win division with win), Giants (get sixth seed if win and Packers lose), Bucs (get sixth seed if win and Giants and Packers lose), Jaguars (win division if win and Colts lose), Saints (win division with win and Falcons loss to Panthers), Ravens (win division with win and Steelers loss), Chiefs (outside chance at second seed, I think), Eagles (still alive for second seed, with Tuesday's game pending).

Sam Bradford, QB, Rams: If you don't have an elite option like Aaron Rodgers playing this week, you should run to get Bradford off waivers. The Seahawks are terrible on defense (see above), and the Rams won't hold anything back with a chance at the playoffs. If you need further convincing, check out Josh Freeman's 5-TD performance last week against Seattle.

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: Garrard is the ultimate tease - not horrible enough to be outright benched by the Jaguars, yet not good enough to be reliable. This week, with less pressure against the anemic Texans defense (and a playoff birth still a small possibility), expect Garrard to bounce back in a big way.

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins: Torain has proven that, when healthy, he's the feature back for the Redskins. Another double-digit fantasy day should be in store in Week 17, albeit in a tough matchup.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: Addai is in a crowded backfield in Indy, but he seems to be the guy the Colts trust near the goal line. Among waiver-wire options, he's probably the most likely to get a two-TD game this week, particularly with the Colts playing for their playoff lives.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints: Thomas didn't have huge stats in the Saints huge victory against the Falcons, but he looked to me to be the best player on the field. I'm not sure how much he'll be used in Week 17 (like most players), and I'm worried the Saints may not be up for this game, as they're locked into their playoff seed unless the Panthers beat the Falcons, but undoubtedly there are worse options available.

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets: We saw it again last week - the Bills cannot stop the run. I expect Greene to get more touches than usual as LaDainian Tomlinson gets some rest in what is basically a meaningless game for the Jets.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Jaguars: Wow, what a letdown. I had huge hopes for Jennings against a bad Redskins run defense, and he sure disappointed anyone who rolled the dice on him. This week, the matchup is arguably even better, and I expect a bit of a bounce-back, presuming, of course, that Maurice Jones-Drew is inactive again.

Kenny Britt, WR, Texans: A midseason injury masked what has been a terrific breakout season for Britt. Start him with confidence in Week 17, where weather won't be a factor in the dome in Indianapolis.

Jacoby Jones, WR, Texans: If Andre Johnson is inactive again, Jones has a terrific matchup (at home, where weather won't be an issue), against an awful Jaguars run defense.

Bengals WRs: With your fantasy championship on the line, would you trust Carson Palmer throwing to a bunch of no-name receivers (presuming Chad Ochocinco is inactive again), in Baltimore? I wouldn't. Last week's stats looked nice, but don't chase past stats.

Blair White, WR, Colts: I've said it before and I'll say it again - Peyton Manning loves his slot receivers.

Mike Thomas, WR, and Mercedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars: We know that somebody in the Jaguars passing game is going to have a fantasy-friendly day against the Texans terrible pass defense. Thomas and Lewis are the two most likely candidates.

Falcons D/ST: The stars are aligned here - it's a must-win game (to clinch the division and the top seed), they're coming off a loss, and they're facing the Panthers.

Rams D/ST: The Rams aren't an elite option, but a Charlie Whitehurst-led Seahawks team is as good a bet as any to serve up a return TD.