We know there are still quite a few of you out there contending for a fantasy football championship in Week 17. We salute your steadfastness -- even if we question your scheduling. But seriously, title games played this week are no less important than those who picked up their spreadsheets and went home after Week 16. As such, we present our final fantasy matchups of the 2012 NFL season. Good luck!
Analysis: After playing so well for much of the season, Josh Freeman has taken a nosedive in the past couple of weeks. Don't expect him to rebound this week, making Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams risky starts. The matchup is favorable for Doug Martin, who could post quality fantasy numbers -- as long as the Bucs don't fall behind. The aerial trio of Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White should put on a show against Tampa's secondary. The biggest question is whether or not Atlanta's starters will play all four quarters, especially if they have a big lead.
Analysis: The Jets' best fantasy performance of the season came in Week 1 against the Bills. Mark Sanchez might not have another 20-point outing, but he could be better than expected. Gang Green's real fantasy value is in the backfield, where Shonn Greene is poised for big things. Likewise, C.J. Spiller is the only Bill of any real fantasy consequence -- especially with Antonio Cromartie roaming the defensive backfield.
Analysis: Joe Flacco on the road is always questionable, even more so against a quality Bengals pass defense. That means Torrey Smith could be held in check once again (he scored just seven points in the season opener vs. Cincy). A.J. Green has a quality matchup, but only if Andy Dalton can get him the football -- something that hasn't happened much in two of the past three weeks. This week should be an opportunity for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to get back on the positive side of things after a disappointing Week 16.
Analysis: A gimpy ankle makes Matt Forte a risky start this week. Jay Cutler won't be great, but if you're in a pinch, you could do worse at quarterback. You're going to start Brandon Marshall regardless, but it helps that the matchup is in his favor in Week 17. A slumping Matthew Stafford should be avoided this week, though that's no reason for fantasy owners to shy away from Calvin Johnson. The constantly disappointing running back situation will continue that trend this week. There's not much else to be excited about here.
Analysis: The Texans have been much more pass-happy recently, which is good news for Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson against the Colts. Arian Foster has seen his role diminished, but should be started against a defense that allowed huge rushing totals to the Chiefs last week. Andrew Luck has earned the right to start in most formats, especially at home. But you should temper your expectations against a tough Houston defense. Look for decent, but not spectacular, fantasy numbers from Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton.
Analysis: This has the potential to be one of the fantasy bonanzas of the week. Cam Newton's late season run of success will continue against New Orleans' porous defense. That's particularly good news for Steve Smith and should be a good omen for Greg Olsen as well. Drew Brees and his receiving corps -- especially Marques Colston and Lance Moore -- don't have a great matchup, but their track record means they should be started. It could be tough sledding for Mark Ingram, but Darren Sproles' versatility makes him a nice flex option.
Analysis: Michael Vick's return is intriguing, especially against a questionable secondary. Just don't expect extraordinary fantasy numbers. If you're looking for WR help, Jeremy Maclin has sleeper potential while LeSean McCoy is a good RB2 start...as long as he gets a respectable number of touches. Eli Manning has an outstanding matchup against a woeful Eagles secondary. However, Ahmad Bradshaw's recent disappointments make him a risky play. That should mean more opportunities for Victor Cruz (and hopefully Hakeem Nicks).
Analysis: With Trent Richardson ruled out of action, there is very little reason to consider any Browns offensive players in the season finale. Brandon Weeden and his receivers won't have an easy time of it and should be avoided in just about all circumstances. Ben Roethlisberger should be solid, but not outstanding. However, with Mike Wallace out of action, Antonio Brown is a quality option for fantasy owners. The Steelers defense is also worth starting in most leagues this week.
Analysis: File this one under "Because the schedule makers said so". Montell Owens has a nice matchup, but I can't recommend starting him in your title game. With Cecil Shorts out, Justin Blackmon is next in line and has sleeper appeal. Don't let the matchup fool you, Jake Locker is not worth a start this week. Chris Johnson has an even better matchup, but his ups and downs mean expectations should be kept in check this week. Look for Kenny Britt to continue his recent run of success, though he's not much more than a flex play.
Analysis: Jamaal Charles is the only Chiefs offensive player worth a look. The problem is that he's facing a Bronco defense that has halted plenty of fantasy backs in their tracks. Still he deserves a start, but hope that Kansas City can keep it close and the coaching staff doesn't abandon the run. Conversely, you can start just about any Broncos on your roster. With reports that Peyton Manning and crew will play four quarters, you can be confident in their production against a bad defense.
Analysis: Aaron Rodgers has picked the right time to start getting hot. He might not have Randall Cobb this week, but should still spread it around to James Jones, Greg Jennings and possibly Jordy Nelson. After Ryan Grant's big game last week, don't overvalue him. He's a flex at best. Once again, the Vikings offense will be all about Adrian Peterson. Kyle Rudolph is Christian Ponder's most consistent target, but he's a risky start this week.
Analysis: Reggie Bush doesn't have the best matchup against the Patriots run defense, but his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield should boost his value for the week. Ryan Tannehill has a sleeper-worthy matchup and Brian Hartline could see a return to fantasy relevance. Forget what the numbers might say, Tom Brady and Wes Welker remain must starts. Aaron Hernandez could find it tough going against the Miami defense. Same goes for Stevan Ridley, though he deserves a look at RB2.
Analysis: The Chargers defense has played well of late and with Oakland forced to start either Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor, the prospects aren't good for the Raiders passing game. After a poor outing last week, there's no reason to trust Darren McFadden ni a championship setting. Look for an encore from the Philip Rivers-Danario Alexander show this week. With Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and possibly Curtis Brinkley sharing carries, there's too much uncertainty to recommend a Chargers running back.
Analysis: Sam Bradford has been hot lately, but it's hard to recommend starting anyone against the scorching Seahawks defense. Although fantasy owners would be crazy not start Seattle's defense after its incredible run over the past month. That logic also applies to Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch -- even if the numbers aren't completely in their favor. In this case, staying with the hot hand could take you to a fantasy championship.
Analysis: Brian Hoyer is starting at quarterback for Arizona against the 49ers. That's pretty much all you need to know. It doesn't matter that San Francisco's defense was embarrassed last week. In fact, that might add fuel to their fire. Avoid all Cardinals. That said, the Niner defense is a must-start, even if the rest of San Francisco's fantasy options are a little questionable this week.
Analysis: Don't be surprised if this is a repeat of the Thanksgiving Day track meet these teams engaged in. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant should continue to be a productive pass-catch tandem. DeMarco Murray is a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 and should have better than average numbers. This is not the time to let matchups frighten you away from RG3. Expect him to find Pierre Garcon repeatedly while Alfred Morris posts quality rushing totals and possibly a touchdown.
Follow Marcas Grant on Twitter @MarcasG