I hate Week 17 of the NFL season. If you're playing your championship game this week you must know what I'm talking about, right? Once I get passed that situation, I'll break down the ups and downs of the Redskins' backfield which has more shooting stars than the Milky Way this season. I know that people are in love with Vincent Jackson, and curse the day that Chris Johnson was born, but is that really the right way to look at their 2011 performances? Finally, I'll hit on injuries highlighting which players you need to know about for Week 17 (face it, everyone is pretty much injured by Week 17).
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My Week 17 Diatribe
Week 17 sucks. There I said it. I mean it's almost as frustrating a situation as knowing that the love of your life is grinding all over that fool on the dance floor and for some reason you just can't open her eyes to the fact that the doof is a cheat, a liar an a general overall scumbag. Why is Week 17 almost as frustrating as being so close, but so far from the love of your life? Because there simply isn't any reasonable expectation about what will happen in the final regular season weekend of the 2011 campaign. Are teams going to rest their players? If they do rest their players, how much game action will the miss? The second half? Three quarters? It's a maddening situation that results in people doing things like starting Kahlil Bell over Arian Foster or Malcolm Floyd over Jordy Nelson. Tis Week 17. Hopefully if you're still playing your league has done something proactive like combining your championship week to include Weeks 16 and 17 because I would really hate to think that I've reached the finals on the back of Aaron Rodgers, but because of his uncertain playing time in Week 17 that your fantasy championship is resting on the shoulders of Joe Flacco instead.
The Redskins' Backfield
What a flipping mess.
All the way back to the preseason I said that Roy Helu would be the back to own with this team. I was right about that as he leads the team with 147 carries and 635 rushing yards (he also leads the backfield with 47 receptions). However, as has seemingly happened to every rusher on the club this season, he's dealing with injury making him a spotty play in Week 17 (he missed Week 16 with his ankle issue). Let's take a look at how things have gone this year, proving once again, that it's borderline insane to trust any Mike Shanahan coached team if you're searching for consistency out of the backfield.
Tim Hightower opened the year as the lead back racking up 45 carries and 168 yards in the first two weeks of the season. He ended up being banged up and carried the ball just 22 times in his next three games. He ran 17 times for 88 yards in Week 7 when he returned to the field, but unfortunately he blew out his knee when he tore his ACL ending his season.
Ryan Torain stepped up when Hightower was hurt running for 135 yards an a score in Week 4. However, that was the only highlight of a miserable season. Since Week 4 Torain has run the ball 40 times for a total of 65 yards. Yeah, you read that right. He was released this week and is free to sign with any team for the playoffs. Question is, who wants him at this point?
Helu finally got his chance to shine in Week 9 and he performed spectacularly catching a club record 14 passes for 105 yards. Of course, that meant his workload was slashed in Week 10 as he touched the ball only nine times including just three receptions. He then had another terrible outing in Week 11 with just 10 touches, before he exploded in Week 12, the first of 4-straight games with at least 23 carries (from Week 12-14 he ran for at least 100-yards each game). In Week 15 he lacked burst because of his ankle injury running for just 53 yards, an ultimately he was inactive last week.
Evan Royster, you know the guy who had all of 17 carries in his rookie season heading into Week 16, took the proverbial bull by the horns last week and gashed the Vikings for 132 yards on 19 carries, and the circle was complete.
At one point this season, four different Redskins' running backs had weeks that put them in RB1 territory. At the same time, there was never any consistency in the backfield, and that made owning any of the stable of backs a maddening proposition.
Will Evan Royster take you to the promised land in Week 17? Helu is expected to play after returning to practice, in a limited manner Thursday, so there's no telling how the touches are gonna play out this week. Given the way things have gone this season for the 'Skins maybe it will be Darrel Young who has the biggest effort in Week 17 – it certainly would be fitting.
As Good As You Think?
Vincent Jackson (groin) didn't practice Thursday and word out of San Diego is that most seem to expect Jackson to sit out Week 17. Here are some facts about Jackson's 2011 season.
Jackson has 58 receptions. That's fewer than guys like Nate Burleson (67), Reggie Wayne (67), Mike Williams (64), Greg Little (61) and David Nelson (59).
Jackson has 1,077 yards receiving for his third 1,000 yard effort. Still, it's hit lowest mark of the three (1.09 and 1,167 in 2008-09).
Jackson has eight scores, one off his career best of nine. Eight receiving scores is also the same total as Erik Decker, Lance Moore and Plaxico Burress.
Add that all up and V-Jax is currently a top-15 wide receiver in PPR setups. Still, with even moderate performances this week, assuming Jackson doesn't play, he'll fall behind at least five other wide receivers making it possible that he could finish outside the top-20 at the wide receiver spot. Is that what you expected when you drafted him as your top wideout this season? Remember, Jackson has never caught 70 passes or scored in double-digits in any NFL season. For all the talent he possesses he's been unable to put it all together for 16 games.
Better Than You Think?
Every week I hear people complain about Chris Johnson. I'm not going to sit here and say that those complaints aren't warranted. After rushing for an average of 1,533 yards in his first three seasons Johnson is still 14 yards away from a 4th straight 1,000 yard effort. He's also scored only four times after averaging 13 combined scores in his first three seasons. Compared to his established levels he has been an abject failure. However, that doesn't mean that he still hasn't been a useful fantasy performer.
Johnson has run for more yards than Adrian Peterson, Fred Jackson, Michael Bush, DeMarco Murray and Rashard Mendenhall (yes injuries have played a part here, but you have to give CJ2K credit for staying healthy while others have fallen by the wayside). Johnson also has a career best 53 receptions, tied for the third most at the running back position with Mike Tolbert and Arian Foster. And those receptions are key. Johnson has used those receptions to vault him into the top-12 at the running back position in PPR setups. In fact, Johnson has more fantasy points in a PPR than Peterson, Jackson, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Beanie Wells, Rashard Mendenhall etc.
Is Chris Johnson a disappointment this season? Yes.
Is Chris Johnson a failure this season? Hardly.
Tom Brady (left shoulder) returned to the practice field Thursday though officially he didn't practice as he threw on the side. There was a mini panic when it was revealed that there was something wrong with his wing, but he should be fine for Week 17, and with the Pats playing to lock up home field advantage, look for Brady to be a chuckin the pigskin.
Reggie Bush (knee) has run for at least 100-yards in each of his last four games. However, he's missing practice, he didn't show up again Thursday, an his outlook for the season finale is growing more and more dicey. Keep an eye on practice reports for Friday as they'll paint a better picture of what we should expect this weekend.
Greg Jennings will not play in Week 17 because of his knee. Good news though is afoot as he returned to the practice field Thursday. Looks like he should be good to go for the Packers first playoff game.
Andre Johnson practiced on Thursday and he will play in Week 17. The expectation is that he will see 15-20 snaps so that he can get back up to game speed for the playoffs.
Felix Jones (hamstring) is expected to play a substantial role in Week 17 against the Giants. You know what you get when you trust him, so start him in Week 17 at your own peril.
Ryan Mathews (calf) returned to practice Thursday while Mike Tolbert (calf) did not. If Tolbert misses the game, or is extremely limited which seems like it may be a best case scenario at this point, Mathews could be an elite play against a Raiders club that is the seventh worst group in terms of limiting fantasy points to the running back position in PPR setups.
Colt McCoy (concussion) is still missing practice. Barring a Festivus miracle he'll miss a third straight game for the Browns leaving Senaca Wallace as the starter.
LeSean McCoy (ankle) returned to practice week. After the injury McCoy made it seem like he had no chance to play in Week 17, but as Andy Reid told everyone, it looks like McCoy should be good to go. McCoy is 128 yards behind MJD for the league rushing title, so he might have to settle for simply leading the NFC in rushing yards. Start him with confidence this week.
Darren McFadden (foot) is not going play in Week 17. This may be the most mismanaged injury situation of the season as the Raiders allowed DMC to twist in the wind week after week, as they failed to mention, for nearly two months, that McFadden's injury was of the Lisfranc variety. Basically, they threw him under the bus and let everyone think he was soft, what, so they could keep their opponents each week guessing if he would play? Hey Raiders, why don't you worry a bit more about leaving your players open to derision than you do about faking out your upcoming opponent.
Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) didn't practice Thursday. He's still fully expected to suit up in Week 17 against the Cowboys as the team is just taking it easy with him in practice. The last time he faced the Cowboys he went bonkers for eight grabs and 163 yards, and in four matchups against the 'Boys he's averaging six receptions and 97.5 yards a contest. Teammate Mario Manningham (knee) practiced Thursday and it sounds like he should be able to play in Week 17 even if he is at less than 100 percent.
Tony Romo (hand) practiced again Thursday. He'll be out there in a must win against the Giants this weekend. The last time Romo faced the Giants he passed for 321 yards and four touchdowns, an he's averaged 244 passing yards and 2.3 passing scores in his nine career games against the Giants.
James Starks (ankle) missed practice Thursday and it appears that he will sit out Week 17 to get his body back to as close to 100 percent as possible for the playoffs. That means we're likely to see a whole lot of John Kuhn and Brandon Saine in a game that the Packers might be playing the majority of without Aaron Rodgers.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter Page.