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Flacco, Mathews have great matchups in fantasy's Week 17

Start 'em, sit 'em is the ultimate look at weekly matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy team. Sleeper alert features a player who's under the radar and could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a player who's a regular fantasy starter but could fail to meet expectations. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.

Start of the week

Joe Flacco vs. Bengals: Flacco is in the midst of his best statistical season, throwing for 3,497 yards with 25 touchdowns. He's been especially impressive at home, averaging better than 17 fantasy points per game on his own turf. The Ravens need to beat the Bengals to have any shot at the AFC North title, so look for Flacco to shine.

Quarterbacks - start 'em

Eli Manning at Redskins: Despite his high turnover numbers, Manning has thrown for a career-best 30 touchdowns and has a chance to hit the 4,000-yard passing mark for the second time. The Giants need to win to keep their postseason hopes alive, so Manning will be motivated to play well against the Redskins and their poor pass defense.

Matt Schaub vs. Jaguars: The Texans might be without Andre Johnson (ankle) for the second straight week, but Schaub is still a viable fantasy starter in most leagues. In his last game against the Jaguars (Week 10), Schaub threw for 314 yards with two touchdowns and scored 21.96 fantasy points on NFL.com.

Matt Ryan vs. Panthers: Ryan is coming off a mediocre performance against the Saints, but he's destined to rebound against a Panthers defense that was shredded by Ben Roethlisberger last week. The Falcons must win to secure the top seed in the NFC, and Ryan has been very solid at home.

Sleeper alert - Sam Bradford at Seahawks: Bradford ranks just 20th in fantasy points among quarterbacks on NFL.com, but that doesn't mirror how good he's been as a rookie. The Seahawks have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season -- including 18.36 to Bradford in Week 4 -- so he clearly has sleeper appeal.

Quarterbacks - sit 'em

Jay Cutler at Packers: Bears coach Lovie Smith has said that he won't rest his starters in Week 17, even if his team can't possibly move up to the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Still, Cutler's matchup against a tough Packers team that needs a win to earn a postseason berth isn't favorable. Don't be surprised if the quarterbacks struggles.

Carson Palmer at Ravens: Despite the absence of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, Palmer still put up a huge stat line against a stout Chargers defense in Week 16. Can he do it again? I wouldn't count on it. The Ravens have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and will play hard to improve their AFC postseason seeding.

Mark Sanchez vs. Bills: Sanchez hasn't been the most consistent quarterback in fantasy football, and the increasing likelihood that he won't play for an entire four quarters against the Bills makes him even more undesirable. The Jets quarterback is dealing with a bum shoulder as well, so there's no reason to consider using him in Week 17.

Owners beware - Josh Freeman at Saints: Freeman was a hero for countless fantasy owners last week, scoring close to 32 fantasy points in a win over the Seahawks. But despite that performance, I still wouldn't be shocked to see him struggle against the Saints - their defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Running backs - start 'em

Rashad Jennings at Texans: Jennings failed to live up to all the hype last week, due in large part to a poor effort from his offensive line. However, the Liberty product should still be considered a nice No. 2 fantasy back against a dreadful Texans defense. With Maurice Jones-Drew out again, Jennings will remain the featured back for the finale.

Ryan Mathews at Broncos: My fantasy pal Dave Dameshek shamed me for promoting Mathews as an early-round pick in drafts, and I deserve the friendly dig. But I will still jump back on the rookie's bandwagon for one week. With Mike Tolbert injured and a matchup against a weak Broncos defense ahead, Mathews should finish the year strong.

Shonn Greene vs. Bills: The Jets will likely rest a lot of their starters, so I think Greene will see more touches than LaDainian Tomlinson against the Bills. Their defense has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, so Greene could really go off in what amounts to a meaningless AFC East contest.

Sleeper alert - Brian Westbrook vs. Cardinals: There isn't much at stake in this NFC West battle between the Niners and Cardinals, but fantasy owners should still be able to squeeze out some points. That is especially true for Westbrook, who rushed for 136 yards and scored a touchdown the last time he faces the Red Birds (Week 12).

Running backs - sit 'em

Matt Forte at Packers: Forte helped lead countless fantasy owners to a championship in Week 16, posting an impressive 22.90 points in a win over the Jets. However, he's no lock to score even half of that total against a stout Packers run defense. Back in Week 3, the Pack held Forte to 29 rushing yards and an awful 4.30 fantasy points.

Cedric Benson at Ravens: Benson's 2010 numbers don't look bad at all -- he's rushed for over 1,050 yards with a career-best eight total touchdowns. But I would still be cautious starting him against the Ravens, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. Benson also scored just 7.80 fantasy points against them in Week 2.

Peyton Hillis vs. Steelers: It's hard to bench Hillis when you consider his overall body of work this season. But if you have backfield depth, it's worth considering. Whether he's slowing down or defenses are just keying in to stop him, Hillis has really struggled in his last four games. That's not likely to change against the Steelers and their ferocious run defense.

Owners beware - Knowshon Moreno vs. Chargers: Moreno cost a lot of owners a chance at a title last week, as his injured ribs caused his touches (and production) to be limited. Interim coach Eric Studesville said that he will ride the "hot hand" among his running backs this week, so Moreno is a risk against a very tough Chargers defense.

Wide receivers - start 'em

Brandon Marshall at Patriots: After struggling to produce for much of the season, Marshall has finally started to put up the sort of numbers we expected from him. He's posted 21 catches for 208 yards over his last two games and has scored in two of his last three starts. The Patriots aren't great against the pass, so keep Marshall active.

Mario Manningham at Redskins: Manningham has been a virtual stat-sheet stuffer for fantasy owners, posting a combined 245 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games. With Steve Smith (knee) out and Hakeem Nick (toe) unlikely to play against the Redskins, Manningham should see a ton of targets in what is a very favorable matchup.

Mike Thomas at Texans: Thomas was an unsung hero for clever fantasy owners who started him last week, posting six catches for 96 yards and one touchdown against the Redskins. While losing David Garrard hurts, Thomas still has a great matchup against the Texans -- their defense has allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers.

Sleeper alert - Danario Alexander at Seahawks: If you're looking for a deep sleeper at the wide receiver position in Week 17, consider Alexander off the waiver wire. He's coming off a 99-yard effort vs. the 49ers, and this week's game against the Seahawks is favorable -- their defense has allowed the third-most fantasy points to wideouts.

Wide receivers - sit 'em

Santonio Holmes vs. Bills: Much like the case with his quarterback, Holmes (toe) is dealing with an injury and could wind up playing less than a full four quarters against the Bills. Their defense has allowed just 15 touchdown catches to wide receivers this season, so Holmes likely wouldn't have a huge stat line regardless of playing time.

Hines Ward at Browns: Ward is in the midst of one of his worst statistical seasons, posting a mere 710 yards and four touchdowns after 15 games. While a matchup against the Browns seems favorable, keep in mind that their defense has surrendered an average of just 19.4 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.

Mike Williams vs. Rams: Williams is having his best statistical season at the NFL level, posting 62 catches for 735 yards in 13 games. However, Big Mike has scored just one time all year long. Furthermore, it's hard to trust him to produce in your fantasy league championship with Charlie Whitehurst expected to start at quarterback.

Owners beware - Santana Moss vs. Giants: Moss is having a nice statistical season across the board, so it's hard to sit him in most fantasy leagues. His lack of success against the Giants in recent seasons should be noted, though. In his last five games against the G-Men, Moss has averaged a mere 34.5 yards with just one touchdown.

Tight ends - start 'em

Owen Daniels vs. Jaguars: After struggling with injuries earlier in the season, Daniels is finally putting up good numbers for owners. In his last three games, he's recorded a combined 17 catches - Daniels has also gone over 70 receiving yards in two of those contests. The Jaguars struggle to stop tight ends, so Daniels is a nice option.

Marcedes Lewis at Texans: Lewis has had his best statistical season as a pro, posting 674 yards and nine touchdowns, so he's clearly established himself as a viable starter in fantasy leagues. He should continue to see his share of targets with Trent Edwards under center, and a matchup against the Texans makes Lewis more attractive.

Tony Gonzalez vs. Panthers: Gonzalez, 34, is on the verge of posting his lowest reception and yardage totals since 2002. Still, he remains a legitimate fantasy option in most leagues - especially against a favorable opponent. That's what he faces this week, as the Panthers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2010.

Sleeper alert - Rob Gronkowski vs. Dolphins: Gronkowski, a Week 16 sleeper on NFL.com, scored two touchdowns against the Bills and has now found the end zone nine times in his rookie season. With Aaron Hernandez still at less than 100 percent, Gronkowski should once again see more than enough opportunities to produce for owners.

Tight ends - sit 'em

Visanthe Shiancoe at Lions: In what was a disappointing season for tight ends overall, Shiancoe has floundered in the stat sheets. He's found the end zone just twice in 15 games -- he scored a combined 18 touchdowns in his previous 32 games. This week's opponent, the Lions, also held Shiancoe to just one catch for seven yards in Week 3.

Jermaine Gresham at Ravens: Gresham has a bright future in the NFL and in fantasy football alike, posting a very respectable 52 catches in his rookie season. But with a game against the Ravens upcoming, the Oklahoma product is anything but an attractive option. Ray Lewis and crew have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2010.

Benjamin Watson vs. Steelers: Watson has posted career bests in receptions and receiving yards in his first season with the Browns, but he's still been an inconsistent option for owners overall. While he did have a huge game against the Steelers back in Week 6, their defense has still allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

Owners beware - Zach Miller at Chiefs: Miller is coming off one of his best statistical performances of the season, posting nine catches for 66 yards and one touchdown against the Colts. Don't be surprised if he falters against the Chiefs, though -- their defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season.

Kickers - start 'em

Nate Kaeding at Broncos: Kaeding has been on fire from a statistical perspective in recent weeks, averaging a very solid 11 fantasy points over his last four games. His success should continue against the Broncos, who have surrendered 25 field-goal conversions, 49 extra points and the second-most fantasy points to kickers overall.

Adam Vinatieri vs. Titans: A former Super Bowl hero, Vinatieri is in the top 10 in fantasy points among kickers on NFL.com this season. He could improve on that rank even further against the Titans, who have surrendered the third-most fantasy points to opposing kickers. Vinatieri also scored 12 points against them back in Week 14.

Sleeper alert - Jeff Reed vs. Cardinals: Reed has been a very inconsistent option in fantasy leagues this season with the Steelers and 49ers, but he can still be quite useful when the matchup is right. In fact, Reed is a very attractive option against the Cardinals - their defense has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing kickers this season.

Kickers - sit 'em

Mason Crosby vs. Bears: Crosby will be active in a lot of fantasy leagues in Week 17 based purely on his name value. Keep in mind, though, that the Bears have allowed an average of just 5.9 fantasy points per game to opposing kickers. Furthermore, Crosby scored just five fantasy points (one field goal) against them back in Week 3.

Garrett Hartley vs. Buccaneers: The top-rated fantasy kicker on countless preseason rank lists, Hartley doesn't even rank in the top 15 in points at his position on NFL.com. Based on this week's game against the Bucs, who have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to kickers in 2010, Hartley isn't likely to put up a big stat line.

Owners beware - Dan Carpenter at Patriots: The sixth-rated kicker in fantasy football on NFL.com, Carpenter is having a solid season for owners. However, he could fail to produce great totals against the Patriots -- their defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to kickers. Carpenter also scored just two points against them in Week 4.

Defenses - start 'em

Falcons defense vs. Panthers: The Falcons defense has been playing at a very high level over the last three weeks, averaging a solid 13.3 fantasy points on NFL.com. That includes a 13-point performance against this week's opponent, the Panthers. Facing the ineffective rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen, the Falcons should fly high once again.

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Rams defense at Seahawks: The Rams and Seahawks will battle for the NFC West title on Sunday night, and it's hard not to like coach Steve Spagnuolo's unit against Whitehurst. In their first meeting of the season (Week 4), the Rams defense scored a very impressive 15 fantasy points - and that was with Matt Hasselbeck under center.

Sleeper alert - Lions defense vs. Vikings: Believe it or not, but defenses facing the Vikings have combined to score the second-most fantasy points at the position this season. That's good news for the Lions, who have deep-league fantasy value against Joe Webb and a Vikings offense that has been very inconsistent in recent weeks.

Defenses - sit 'em

Titans defense at Colts: The Titans defense has been a train wreck in recent weeks, averaging a mere 3.2 fantasy points on NFL.com in its last five games. That includes putting up a big, fat goose egg against Peyton Manning and the Colts in Week 14. Indianapolis will be motivated to produce with a division crown on the line, so avoid the Titans.

Buccaneers defense at Saints: The Buccaneers have produced some solid young fantasy options on the offensive side of the football, but their defense still leaves much to be desired. In fact, this unit has scored double-digit fantasy points just once since Week 9. That stat isn't likely to change against Drew Brees and the Saints offense.

Owners beware - Bears defense at Packers: It's hard to bench a defensive unit as productive as the Bears if you're still playing in Week 17, but facing Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field is anything but attractive. Considering what their offense did to the Giants last week, the Bears could be in for a very long afternoon.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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