Will Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bears' stars be seeing more of the bench or the field this week?

Will Jay Cutler and the rest of the Bears' stars be seeing more of the bench or the field this week?

Well, the season is probably over for most of you.  But there are those rare leagues out there that include week 17 as their championship week.  This can be especially difficult for some owners, as week 17 is often very atypical as some teams have nothing left to play for, and others are fighting for their playoff lives.  With that, here are a few tips to help you survive week 17.

Riding the horse that got you there?: Have you been starting the Chicago Bears defense all year?  How about Tom Brady?  Well, you may want to be careful starting them this week.  It’s typical of many teams to rest their starters when they have nothing left to play for on the season.  The Patriots have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and if Atlanta wins at 1:00 on Sunday the Bears will be guaranteed the #2 seed in the NFC.  It’s no guarantee that either of these teams will sit their starters, especially the Patriots, we all saw what they did in 2007, but be careful if you want to start players on either of these teams.

Know your backups: Stats in week 17 can look incredibly strange, due in large part to what I just talked about in the first segment.  Let’s take a look at the stat leaders for the Cardinals, who had wrapped up the NFC West and their playoff seed in week 17 of 2009:

Passing:  Matt Leinart- 96 yds, 0 TD

Rushing:  Tim Hightower- 6 rushes, 24 yds; Beanie Wells- 6 rushes, 19 yds

Receiving:  Anquan Boldin- 3 catches, 38 yards

Not exactly stellar numbers from what was one of the best offenses in 2009.  You need to keep a close eye on your fantasy bench to see if there might be a guy there with some sleeper potential who could step in if you think that one of your studs might not be playing much in week 17.  Guys like Danny Amendola and Mike Thomas, who probably saw your starting lineup only a few times this year, may become a lot more valuable this week.

Backs against the wall = Fantasy gold: There will be plenty of teams playing for a shot at the playoffs this week.  Teams like Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and the New York Giants all need to win this week for a shot at the postseason.  Guys like Aaron Rodgers, LeGarrette Blount, and Hakeem Nicks could be great plays this week because of that.  These guys are all major cogs in their teams’ offensive machines, and know what is at stake this week.  I expect each of these guys to have great weeks, but they aren’t the only ones.  Scan your rosters and the waiver wires for other guys like James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Josh Freeman, or Kevin Boss who could have some nice sleeper potential for this week.

Sleeping on the job is a good thing: Well, not literally, but I’m talking about sleepers here.  This is the week where finding the right sleeper may be the difference between winning and losing.  I’ve already given you a bit of a start on that, but I really suggest some deep statistical analysis by every owner who’s faced with a week 17 game.  Look at trends over the last 3-5 games by players sitting on your waiver wire.  Also look at the way the defense he’ll be opposing has trended.  That’s how you find a true sleeper.  And on that note…

SLEEPER OF THE WEEK

-James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers

Jones has been streaky, at best, this season.  He’s had a tendency to drop too many balls, but has also had his share of explosive plays this season.  The good news is pretty strong this week when it comes to Jones though.  He’s playing a Bears team that he had 5 catches against in week 3, not bad production for being the 4th option for the Packers at that point (as Jermichael Finley had yet to get injured).  Secondly, Jones has caught a touchdown in each of his last two games, against pretty tough teams in the Patriots and the Giants.  Finally, the Bears have given up an average of 237 yards per game over their last 4 games.  That’s about 17 yards more per game than they had given up in the weeks prior to that.  Add to that the fact that the Bears have given up more than 21 points in 3 of those 4 games, you have a recipe for some sleeper success.  And keep in mind, if the Bears choose to rest their players Jones’ value grows even more.

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