Start These 10 Players In Week 17

December 30 10:47pm
Joe Fortenbaugh

Happy New Year, everybody!  Let’s close this season out on a strong note by winning some cash in both the fantasy and sports betting worlds.  Before we get to our ten players to start in Week 17, here are my final two picks for the 2011 regular season (Last Week:  1-1, Overall:  11-9):

NEW YORK GIANTS (-3) vs. Dallas Cowboys:  Big Blue is coming in hot after a monstrous Week 16 win over the New York Jets, while the Cowboys limp into the season finale after getting pimp-slapped by the Philadelphia Eagles.  Keep in mind the ‘Boys are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games against the Giants.

TENNESSEE TITANS (-2.5) at Houston Texans:  Tennessee is fighting for a playoff spot while the Texans are locked into the #3 seed and have zero to gain from winning this game.  That shouldn’t even matter because Houston had a chance to clinch a first-round bye against NFL doormats Carolina and Indianapolis over the last two weeks and completely failed to show up, so we don’t expect much from this team in Week 17 with nothing on the line.  Tennessee wins, but fails to make the playoffs.

10 Players To Start

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (vs. Dallas):  It all comes down to this.  Win and you’re headed for the postseason, lose and you’ll be standing on the first tee at your favorite golf course by Monday afternoon.  No matter how this one shakes down (we think the Giants pull it off and cover the spread), look for explosive performances from both starting quarterbacks, as the back ends of these two defenses resemble a more porous version of Swiss cheese.  Remember, the last time Dallas and New York got together back on December 11, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (at Oakland):  He may not find the end zone all that often, but over his last five starts, Mathews is averaging a healthy 14.4 fantasy points per game (standard scoring).  Take his recent hot streak and put it up against an Oakland Raiders team that ranks 27th in the NFL against the run (135.0 yds/gm) and is surrendering an average of 20.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (7th-most in NFL) and you have yourself a ball-carrier poised for a solid Sunday afternoon.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys (at New York Giants):  Since returning to action from a hamstring injury on December 11, Austin has found the end zone in three straight starts while recording a reliable 23 targets.  In fact, the four-year veteran has scored a touchdown in three of his last four outings against this Sunday’s opponent, the New York Giants.   Keep in mind that Big Blue currently ranks 27th in the league in pass defense (255.4 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 25.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (3rd-most in NFL).  We expect Austin to post a solid stat line.

Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Washington):  Celek has been targeted six or more times in seven of his last ten starts and is just two weeks removed from an incendiary five-catch, 156-yard, one-touchdown performance against the New York Jets.  We’d ride with him again in Week 17 against a Redskins defense that is surrendering an average of 9.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season (4th-most in NFL).

Denver Broncos, D/ST (vs. Kansas City):  I know this unit has been a little dicey as of late, but I’m not buying into the idea that Kyle Orton is going to return to Denver and light up his former team.  In fact, when was the last time Orton lit anybody up?  Sure, the Purdue product has thrown for 599 yards in his first two starts with the Chiefs, but all of that fluff led to only one touchdown pass.  After two straight losses, the Broncos are going to bounce back big and earn themselves a spot in the postseason on Sunday, where they will likely receive a swift kick in the ass from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo Bills (at New England):  Fitzpatrick has been piss-poor ever since he inked that $59 million contract extension back in October.  However, the former Harvard signal-caller walks into a pressure-free situation on Sunday against a New England Patriots defense that currently ranks dead last in the NFL against the pass (293.8 yds/gm) and is surrendering an average of 23.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season (2nd-most in NFL).  Remember, the last time these two teams got together, Fitzpatrick torched this dreadful secondary for 369 yards and two touchdowns.

Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina):  Expect the Saints to give it their best shot Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, as New Orleans plays at 1:00pm ET and has a chance to earn a first-round bye, should the 49ers slip up at St. Louis.  As for Sproles, the dude is averaging 91.5 total yards over his last four games, with three trips to the end zone.  Look for another respectable showing in Week 17 against a Carolina defense that is giving up an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (2nd-most in NFL).

Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers (at Oakland):  Floyd has found the end zone in three of his last four starts and has recorded 95 or more receiving yards in each of his last two outings.  Not bad for a guy who can never seem to stay healthy.  Should Floyd make it through a full four quarters on Sunday, don’t be shocked if he rolls up some nice numbers against a Raiders defense that currently ranks 25th in the NFL against the pass (247.5 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 25.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (4th-most in NFL).

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (vs. Tennessee):  This one may be a bit of a stretch, but keep in mind the Texans are locked into the #3 seed in the AFC and have nothing to gain by beating the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.  With that type of scenario in place, why would this organization risk an injury to stud tailback Arian Foster?  Should Foster get some much deserved rest, look for Tate to slash and gash a Tennessee defense that ranks 24th in the NFL against the run (126.7 yds/gm) and is surrendering an average of 19.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season (9th-most in NFL).

Steve Smith, WR, Carolina Panthers (at New Orleans):  Vegas oddsmakers opened the total for this game at a staggering 56 points, meaning they’re expecting a shootout in the Big Easy to cap off the season.  Smith hasn’t done all that much over the last few weeks, but we see him busting loose in his final start of the season against a Saints defense that ranks 30th in the NFL against the pass (268.0 yds/gm) and is giving up an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (6th-most in NFL).

Joe Fortenbaugh wants you to know that if you ever have a fantasy question, you can hit him up at National Football Post.com or on Twitter:  @JoeFortenbaugh

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