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Ed Barkowitz: Strange days, indeed, for fantasy owners

SOME UNUSUAL realities of fantasy football in late December include Drew Brees owners rooting for a Saints loss, Peyton Manning owners praying he plays at least a half, and Jerome Harrison being more popular with his owners than George Harrison ever was with Baby Boomers.

SOME UNUSUAL realities of fantasy football in late December include Drew Brees owners rooting for a Saints loss, Peyton Manning owners praying he plays at least a half, and Jerome Harrison being more popular with his owners than George Harrison ever was with Baby Boomers.

Let's untangle, starting with Brees and the Saints.

A win by New Orleans Sunday over lowly Tampa Bay clinches homefield throughout the NFC playoffs for the Saints. A New Orleans loss means the Saints could play one more meaningful game and thus not rest Brees and some of the other starters in Week 17.

One thing working against Brees owners was that in Week 11 New Orleans hung a 38-7 loss on the Bucs, who seemingly have been playing out the string ever since training camp broke.

Working for Brees owners is that Minnesota, the only other team that could win homefield advantage, doesn't play until Monday. The Saints will take the Bucs seriously and probably hang another 30-something.

The problems in Indianapolis are much more immediate. Manning will start against the visiting Jets. Beyond that, who knows? The coach isn't saying, but expect to see backup Curtis Painter, a rookie out of Purdue.

It's hard not to look back at 2005 when the Colts clinched domefield throughout after their 13-0 start. Manning played the whole way the following week in a loss to the Chargers, but sat most of the final two games. Indy ended up 14-2, but was shocked by Pittsburgh in the divisional round. Was rust a factor? You can bet your whack-a-mole mallet it will be brought up.

"Right now, I could not tell you exactly what it's going to be," Colts coach Jim Caldwell said, "whether or not a guy plays one series or the entire game. I couldn't tell you that honestly, right now."

Meanwhile, all George Harrison did was play lead guitar with some guys named John, Paul and Ringo. Jerome Harrison ran for 286 yards and three scores for the Browns against the Chiefs Sunday during fantasy playoff season.

Harrison the football player not only got his game jersey scooped up by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but his breakout performance has earned a spot in fantasy lineups, especially this week against the Raiders' 28th-ranked run defense. We love him, yeah-yeah-yeah.

"The runner [Harrison] was

really hooked up . . . He's a good finisher," Oakland coach Tom Cable said on a conference call. "But when you run for those kind of yards, you're blocking people."

Another lesson from Sunday's performance by Harrison is to salivate if your running back is playing against the Chiefs.

Before Harrison torched them, Kansas City had given up 183 combined to Buffalo's Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch and 199 to Denver's Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno. Cedric Benson and the Bengals get to gorge on KC prime this week. In Week 17, the Chiefs are at the Broncos.

Headache of the week

The Elias Sports Bureau adjusted the scoring of a play from the Cardinals-Lions game Sunday that figures to have huge ramifications in some fantasy leagues.

Elias ruled Anquan Boldin's 5-yard touchdown reception from Kurt Warner was actually a lateral. As a result, Warner loses a TD pass and 5 yards passing (from 233 to 228). Boldin loses a catch and 5 receiving yards (new numbers: 5-67) and gains a rushing touchdown and 5 yards rushing. Most mainstream Web sites should have made automated fixes, but commissioners and those possibly affected ought to double-check.

Those who now win their fantasy playoff game will yell "Ho, Ho, Ho." Those who now lost may yell "Hosed, Hosed, Hosed."

Ain't fantasy great?

Three up

* Roddy White, Falcons wide receiver: Look for six catches and a score against a Buffalo secondary that will be without corner Terrence McGee (shoulder) and safety Jairus Byrd (groin). Atlanta wideout Michael Jenkins also could be a sneaky play as a No. 3.

* Jamaal Charles, Chiefs running back: Has played his way into a 2010 commodity by posting TDs in each of his last four games and 297 total rushing yards in his last two (143, 154). This being the Chiefs, though, he probably will break his ankle walking on a beach in the summer.

* Brent Celek, Eagles tight end: The kid knows Brian Dawkins will be lined up on the other side of the field. And Celek can't wait.

Three down

* Calvin Johnson, Lions wide receiver: The Detroit quarterback merry-go-round stops this week on Drew Stanton, a second-year pro out of Michigan State with a decent arm. Still, Johnson's no better than a third wide receiver.

* Joseph Addai, Colts running back: It's not easy to be the primary running back on a 14-0 team, score 12 total touchdowns and still not crack 100 yards rushing. Look for plenty of rookie backup Donald Brown over the next two games. Also recommend Indy wide receiver Austin Collie as a No. 3.

* Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers running back: Pittsburgh hosts Baltimore, which used to give predecessor Willie Parker all sorts of trouble. Yeah, they're different backs, but sit Mendenhall if you have other options.

CJ watch

Chris Johnson has rushed for at least 100 yards in his last nine games and will need to average 135 yards over the last two games to reach 2,000. His final two games are against the league's 21st- and 13th-ranked run defenses, respectively, San Diego and Seattle. Here's a look:

Season yards. . . 1,730

Week 16 opponent. . . San Diego

San Diego avg. allowed. . . 116.9

Week 17 opponent. . . at Seattle

Seattle avg. allowed. . . 106.4

Ed Barkowitz, who made the championship in one of his three leagues, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001. Not that anyone cares, but the result of that championship game will appear in next week's fantasy football report. *

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