RYAN CLARK is a terrific panelist on ESPN's various NFL shows. He made a crack this week that was humorous to the real world, but crystallized the dilemma fantasy leaguers are facing this week.
Clark was giving his prediction for this week's Giants-Redskins game when he pulled out a burgundy-and-gold helmet and declared that Washington would beat New York. His primary reason was that the Giants - with nothing to play for - would trot out a diminished lineup consisting of "Nodell Beckham Sr. and Feli Manning."
Not bad a line ... unless you're fantasy playoffs extend to Week 17. Then not having Beckham is either a big break or big trouble.
Eight of the 16 games this weekend have no effect on the NFL playoffs. Jobs always are at stake, so the players will go hard. Who those actual players are is more difficult to determine. It's why our fantasy football staff always recommends that leagues wrap up in Week 16.
"At this time of the year, everyone is a little banged up and hurting," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is among the Steelers stars not playing this week. "If coach says take the day off, I'm not going to argue."
The teams below are playing games that mean nothing in the standings. The toughest decision here is Ezekiel Elliott. Looks as if Dallas is treating Sunday like a third preseason game and will play its starters no more than a half - and maybe only a series or two.
Elliott still might get in the end zone, but Pittsburgh's DeAngelo Williams, who is filling in for Le'Veon Bell, is the better play this week.
NFC: Dallas, Eagles, Chicago, Minnesota, Arizona, Los Angeles
AFC: Houston, Tennessee, Buffalo, N.Y. Jets, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jacksonville
The teams below have clinched postseason spots, but can improve their playoff seeds. New England is playing at 1 o'clock Sunday for the AFC's No. 1 seed, so start all the usual Patriots.
NFC: Atlanta, Seattle
AFC: New England, Oakland, Kansas City, Miami
These teams are playing for a postseason berth. Washington (4:25 p.m. vs. the Giants) gets in with a win. The winner of Green Bay at Detroit (8:30 p.m.) wins the NFC North. The loser gets a wild-card if Washington loses, or is eliminated if Washington wins. Tampa Bay needs a miracle, but the Bucs play at 1 o'clock, so start Mike Evans as usual. Tampa's Jacquizz Rodgers is an RB2.
NFC: Green Bay, Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay
These teams are trying to spoil things for their opponents. Normally, the Giants would want to foul up archrival Washington, but New York has a wild-card game next week. Seeing the season-ending injuries to Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota shows Beckham a risky fantasy start this week.
NFC: N.Y. Giants, Carolina, San Francisco, New Orleans
AFC: Denver, San Diego
We like guys who finish strong.
MVP: David Johnson, Cardinals
QB1: Matt Ryan, Falcons
QB2: Aaron Rodgers, Packers
RB1: David Johnson, Cardinals
RB2: Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
WR1: Jordy Nelson, Packers
WR2: Antonio Brown, Steelers
Flex: LeSean McCoy, Bills
TE: Travis Kelce, Chiefs
What a year
Here are a few random memories from the 2016 season:
* Week 4: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones becoming the first set of teammates to roll up 500 yards passing and 300 yards receiving in the same game.
* Week 3: Odell Beckham losing a battle with a kicking net.
* Week 5: Supposedly rusty Tom Brady throwing for 406 yards and three TDs in his return from the Deflategate suspension.
* Week 8: David Carr throwing for 513 yards, including 219 in overtime.
* Week 8: A Bills fan throwing a sex toy onto the field. Apparently, metal detectors, like Antonio Brown, can't catch everything.
* Week 7: Jay Ajayi making history with his second consecutive 200-yard game.
* Week 4: Ben Roethlisberger posting five TD passes and five incompletions.
* Week 16: Adam Thielen putting up 12-202-2. Had no catches the week before and suffered a neck injury, which put him on most fantasy benches for his monster outing.
* Week 14: "We looked like a middle school offense out there." - Rams running back Todd Gurley.
Quarterbacks: This is a good week to have Oakland's defense, with Denver expected to play both youngsters Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch . . . Drew Brees needs 142 yards for the fifth 5,000-yard season of his career. Inquirer editor and rabid Saints fan John Smith quickly points out that no other quarterback has done it more than once.
Running backs: We have Seattle's Thomas Rawls fourth among fantasy RBs this week. If Rawls, who is practicing full after bruising his shoulder last week, gets 15 carries, he will top 100 yards against a 49ers defense that is surrendering an average of 150 rushing yards to opposing running backs . . . Chicago's Jordan Howard is the only other rookie besides that fella in Dallas with 1,000 yards rushing. Howard's 1,178 yards are the third-most in Bears history (behind Matt Forte and Anthony Thomas). Gale Sayers ran for only 867 yards as a rookie in 1965, but scored 22 touchdowns (14 rushing, six receiving, one kickoff return, one punt return) - in 14 games! It's a record that still stands. Howard, a fifth-round pick out of Indiana, will be a top-15 RB in next year's drafts.
Wide receivers: Cardinals wide receiver J.J. Nelson has only 10 catches in the last four games, but four have been for touchdowns . . . The Packers have two wide receivers with more TD catches than the total of eight put up by the Eagles WRs. Jordy Nelson has 14 and Davante Adams has 10.
Tight end: San Diego's Antonio Gates needs two touchdowns to break Tony Gonzalez's career record of 111 for tight ends. Gates, who turns 37 in June, said this week he is leaning toward returning for his 15th NFL season. His TDs by passer: Philip Rivers 83, Drew Brees 23, Doug Flutie 2, LaDainian Tomlinson 2.
Week 17 rankings
Quarterback, team: Opponent
1. Tom Brady, NE: at Mia.
2. Matt Ryan, Atl.: vs. NO
3. Aaron Rodgers, GB: at Det.
4. Drew Brees, NO: at Atl.
5. Russell Wilson, Sea.: at SF
6. Andrew Luck, Ind.: vs. Jac.
7. Cam Newton, Car.: at TB
8. Kirk Cousins, Was.: vs. NYG
9. Carson Wentz, Phi.: vs. Dal.
10. Jameis Winston, TB: vs. Car.
11. Matthew Stafford, Det.: vs. GB
12. Sam Bradford, Min.: vs. Chi.
Running back, team: Opponent
*Montgomery may not be eligible as an RB
1. David Johnson, Ari.: at LA
2. LeSean McCoy, Buf.: at NYJ
3. DeMarco Murray, Ten.: vs. Hou.
4. Thomas Rawls, Sea.: at SF
5. LeGarrette Blount, NE: at Mia.
6. Jordan Howard, Chi.: at Min.
7. DeAngelo Williams, Pit.: vs. Cle.
6. Ezekiel Elliott, Dal.: at Phi.
9. Devonta Freeman, Atl.: vs. NO
10. Jay Ajayi, Mia.: vs. NE
11. Mark Ingram, NO: at Atl.
12. Ty Montgomery, GB*: at Det.
13. Todd Gurley, LA: vs. Ari.
14. Frank Gore, Ind.: vs, Jac.
15. Jacquizz Rodgers, TB: vs. Car.
16. Latavius Murray, Oak.: at Den.
17. Jonathan Stewart, Car.: at TB
18. Alfred Blue, Hou.: at Ten.
19. Darren Sproles, Phi.: vs. Dal.
20. Isaiah Crowell, Cle.: at Pit.
21. Spencer Ware, KC: at SD
22. Tim Hightower, NO: at Atl.
23. Zach Zenner, Det.: vs. GB
24. Rob Kelley, Was.: vs. NYG
25. Rex Burkhead, Cin.: vs. Balt.
Wide receiver, team, Opponent
1. Jordy Nelson, GB: at Det.
2. Julio Jones, Atl.: vs. NO
3. Odell Beckham, NYG: at Was.
4. Mike Evans, TB: vs. Car.
5. Doug Baldwin, Sea.: at SF
6. Brandin Cooks, NO: at Atl.
7. T.Y. Hilton, Ind.: vs. Jac.
8. Golden Tate, Det.: vs. GB
9. Julian Edelman, NE: at Mia.
10. Larry Fitzgerald, Ari.: at LA
11. Demaryius Thomas, Den.: vs. Oak.
12. Allen Robinson, Jac.: at Ind.
13. Sammy Watkins, Buf.: at NYJ
14. Amari Cooper, Oak.: at Den.
15. Michael Thomas, NO: at Atl.
16. Emmanuel Sanders, Den.: vs. Oak.
17. Michael Crabtree, Oak.: at Den.
18. Cameron Meredith, Chi.: at Min.
19. Davante Adams, GB: at Det.
20. DeSean Jackson, Was.: vs. NYG
21. Stefon Diggs, Min.: vs. Chi.
22. Brandon LaFell, Cin.: vs. Bal.
23. Marqise Lee, Jac.: at Ind.
24. Tyrell Williams, SD: vs. KC
25. Alshon Jeffery, Chi.: at Min.
Tight end, team: Opponent
1. Travis Kelce, KC: at SD
2. Zach Ertz, Phi.: vs. Dal.
3. Greg Olsen, Car.: at TB
4. Antonio Gates, SD: vs. KC
5. Jimmy Graham, Sea.: at SF
6. Delanie Walker, Ten.: vs. Hou.
7. Eric Ebron, Det.: vs. GB
8. Kyle Rudolph, Min.: vs. Chi.
9. Jordan Reed, Was.: vs. NYG
10. Jason Witten, Dal.: at Phi.
11. Martellus Bennett, NE: at Mia.
12. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Hou.: at Ten.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Sam Bradford
RBs: Thomas Rawls, Alfred Blue
WRs: Cameron Meredith, Brandon LaFell
TEs: Zach Ertz, Antonio Gates