Who's in and who's out of the early games in Week 17
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Who's in and who's out of the early games in Week 17

It's Week 17 and ... you're still playing for a championship? Wait, why? Haven't you learned your lesson by now? Week 17 always throws all kinds of wrenches into your fantasy team's best laid plans. That has been shown clearly this morning with the news that the Ravens are expected to hold Ray Rice @RayRice27 out of today's game versus the Bengals. I'll be here all morning long giving you the latest updates on the actives and inactives in today's early games, keeping an eye on Roddy White @roddywhiteTV, Chris Johnson @ChrisJohnson28, Hakeem Nicks and Johnathan Stewart. But next year, make sure your league finishes up by Week 16.

Players already ruled out for Week 17 include Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mike Wallace, Heath Miller, Nick Foles, Carson Palmer, Pierre Thomas and Maurice Jones-Drew. For a full list of injuries from around the league this week, click the link below to the NFL's official injury report.

-- As expected Matt Forte will play today versus the Lions. He re-aggravated his right ankle last week, but he's been dealing with and playing through that problem almost all season. He is a strong RB2.
-- The Ravens have apparently made a slight change and actually will play Ray Rice today versus the Bengals. But before you rush to go put him back in your starting lineup, know this: ESPN's Adam Schefter says Rice will play only a series or two before calling it a day. I say get Rice on your bench and get Bernard Pierce into your lineup as an RB2 or flex option. He should get 18-20 touches today.
-- Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks are both active against the Eagles. Both are not close to full health, but Bradshaw is probably a low-end RB2 while Nicks is a high-end WR3.
-- Big surprise out of Jacksonville as running back Montell Owens will be inactive today due to knee pain. He wasn't even on the injury report, but this means the Jags will start their fifth different running back this year in the form of Richard Murphy today. Avoid. (Update: Actually, Keith Totson will get the start, but Murphy will be involved, too. Still avoid).
-- As expected, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart @Jonathanstewar1 is inactive following a setback with his sprained ankle. DeAngelo Williams is an OK RB2 versus the Saints' bad run defense.
-- Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew is active despite being listed as doubtful with an high ankle sprain that has cost him the past two games. He should stay on your bench.
-- So, the Ravens have chosen to activate Ray Rice -- for a series or two -- but wide receiver Anquan Boldin @AnquanBoldin is inactive for rest purposes. Hands off this entire Ravens offense today. It looks like it'll be a short day for Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, etc. None of those guys are expected to play for more than a couple of series.
-- Titans running back Chris Johnson is active. His ankle injury is minor, so he is a solid RB2 versus the Jaguars' defense. Johnson reportedly looked good in pregame warmups.
-- Falcons WR Roddy White is active. I've gone on record saying that I would start healthy Falcons studs -- Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez. Roddy is a trickier play because, although he was awesome in Week 16 and has an awesome matchup today against the Bucs, it's no secret that he has been bothered by a knee injury for the past few weeks. With the Falcons having nothing to play for, he probably won't play a full game today. I would start him, but only as a WR3 and hope he plays a half. Michael Turner is also active for Falcons, but given the matchup and the lack of anything at stake, he is a weak flex option.
-- Arian Foster is active for the Texans. Kudos to you after he gave you a zero last week. Start him with confidence as the Texans need to win today.
-- Jeremy Maclin will start for the Eagles today despite knee injury. He has a great matchup against the Giants, and I don't think having Vick back under center changes his value much. Maclin is a low-end WR2.
-- Kendall Wright is active for the Titans despite a rib injury, but the rookie is only a low-end WR3.
-- Colts wide receiver Donnie Avery. But with the Colts playing for nothing today, I don't expect him to play much. Get him onto your bench.
-- Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is active. He has a balky wrist, a dislocated finger and a lead in dropped passes in the NFL. Doesn't matter, you're still starting him.
-- Bengals running back BenJarvus-Green Ellis is active. Given what the Ravens are doing with their stars today, I am worried about what the Bengals will do in that same game, but there has been no insinuation that they will sit their starters. It's a tough call, but roll with BJG-E and A.J. Green per usual. If the Bengals stick with their starters, this offense could have a huge day against the Ravens' backup defenders.
-- As expected, Mark Sanchez is back as the Jets starting QB today since Greg McElroy is concussed and Tim Tebow is ... something, I don't know. The coaches really haven't come up with a good reason to not play Tebow. He is active today. This season finally ends today, Jets fans. Rejoice!
-- Steelers WR Emmanuel Sanders is active despite a rib injury. He is basically the team's No. 2 receiver today, but he is a weak WR3.
-- More Ravens news: With Anquan Boldin out, Jacoby Jones will start out wide against the Bengals. Once Torrey Smith departs at some point in the first quarter, Jones will be the No. 1 WR, but I wouldn't start him since he will likely have Tyrod Taylor throwing the passes. Again, hands off this offense aside from Bernard Pierce.
-- Lions WR Calvin Johnson is active. He practiced very little this week, and now he'll go get a 2,000-yard season. Start.
-- Texans tight end Owen Daniels is active despite a hamstring injury that forced him to miss some practice. The Texans need to win today, so he will play often, and he is one of the last few guys whom I would start at TE over Rob Gronkowski.

Fantasy Analysis:

Most Browns fans may not know who is playing for their team today against the Steelers. That's because, with Weeden and Colt McCoy out, Thad Lewis is going to start at quarterback. He is a 25-year-old practice squad player from Duke who will take his first snap in the NFL. In Pittsburgh. Oh, boy. And behind him won't be Richardson, who is out with a sprained ankle. It'll be Montario Hardesty, who is a low-end flex in a tough matchup. However, the Steelers' defense is an outstanding play.
On the other side of that game, the Steelers' offense has been depleted because of injuries to Miller and Wallace. That means Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders will be Ben Roethlisberger's top two targets today. And other than that, where else is he going to go with the ball? Jerricho Cotchery? Ha! Sanders shouldn't be in your lineup, but Brown, who has scored in three consecutive games, is a top-25 WR. However, he might see a lot of Joe Haden.
Foles played the second half of last week's loss to the Redskins with a broken throwing hand. That won't happen again today as he has been placed on injured reserve. That means Michael Vick, likely playing in his last game as an Eagle and in his first game since Week 10, will get the start against a floundering Giants squad. He should be very motivated to play well, and I think he is a low-end QB1.
With Palmer out with broken ribs, the Raiders have chosen to start Terrelle Pryor over Matt Leinart. At first blush, it seems like an odd decision because Pryor indeed doesn't seem ready to be a passer at this level. But everybody knows what Leinart is. He certainly didn't change any opinions on him with his weak performance in Week 16, and he's a free agent after this season. Conversely, the Raiders need to see what they have in Pryor, a 23-year-old project. At the very least, his athleticism makes him intriguing to watch, but you shouldn't be starting him or any Raiders receivers in Week 17. The Chargers defense remains a pretty solid play, although Pryor is tough to track down.
Thomas was put on injured reserve Saturday due to a knee injury. That means Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory, recovered from his hamstring injury, will take care of the Saints' backfield. Sproles is the best fantasy start by far, but Ivory is a sneaky deep sleeper as he should get 8-10 carries, he looked very good earlier this year when he got some playing time, and the Panthers have a tough time stopping the run. Ingram is also a flex option.
The Jaguars have done a nice job of mucking up this Maurice Jones-Drew situation. He suffers a foot injury in Week 7 and for the rest of the year, despite any evidence to go with it, the team holds out hope that he can return at some point, even far after the Jags have been eliminated from the playoffs. They don't put him on injured reserve until Week 17, when we find out that Jones-Drew will need surgery on that foot and will be out until May. Way to go, guys. As far as today is concerned, Montell Owens is a high-end flex play against the Titans. He'll get 15+ touches, and looked strong against the Patriots last week (Update: Not so much. See above).

Source:
NFL.com

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Brian Murphy -
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Los Angeles, CA
FFToolbox Fantasy Football Writer since 2002
Follow me on Twitter: @Spokes_Murphy.

I have played fantasy sports since 2001, specializing in fantasy football and baseball. I wrote for FFToolbox from 2002-2005 and re-joined in 2009.

I am a journalism/mass communication grad student at Cal State University, Northridge. I am aiming to be a sports reporter for a website, newspaper, magazine, anything. I am a graduate from the University of Central Florida. I make my home in Long Beach, Calif.

While I grew up in California, my favorite football team has always been the New York Giants.
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