Fantasy mailbag: Owners should avoid Romo in Week 17

Tony Romo has been my No. 1 quarterback all season, but I'm worried that he won't play much in Week 17. Should I start Romo or either Shaun Hill or Vince Young? -- J.C., Atlanta, Ga.

Michael Fabiano: With an injured thumb on his right hand and nothing to play for in Washington, I would suspect that Romo will see little or no action. In fact, I'd almost guarantee that you'll see more of Brad Johnson. The quarterback to start from this trio is Young, who faces an Indianapolis team that will no doubt rest its starters both on offense and defense.

Tennessee needs a win to secure a postseason berth, and Young is in the middle of a weird trend of statistical success in odd-numbered weeks. In Weeks 13 and 15, Young averaged 25 fantasy points on NFL.com. In Weeks 12, 14 and 16, Young totaled an awful seven points. Even if it's coincidence, it's still a trend and one to take into account. Again, Young must perform well to lead his Titans into the postseason, so I'd take a chance on the former Texas standout.

I have to keep three of these five players: Tony Romo, Clinton Portis, Larry Fitzgerald, Braylon Edwards and Terrell Owens. Who should I choose? -- M. Mauro, Pittsburgh, Pa.

M.F.: This is one of those decisions that might have to wait until the offseason. Romo is the most obvious choice, and Owens is a stud as well if the league has short-term contracts. However, the potential loss of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who will be a hot name as a head coach candidate, could hurt both of their values in 2008. If the league is a long-term format, Edwards would have more value than Owens for obvious reasons. Portis would be the third keeper unless the league rewards points for catches, in which case you could opt for another wideout.

Should I start Tom Brady in my league's championship? I can add a lesser quarterback who will play an entire game like Trent Edwards, Shaun Hill or Tarvaris Jackson. Do I dare bench Brady? -- K. Donnelly, Reading, Mass.

M.F.: This is a hunch, but I think Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wants to finish the undefeated season against the New York Giants on Saturday night (8pm EST, NFL Network). I also think he will allow Tom Brady at least a chance to tie Peyton Manning's record for touchdown passes in single season (49), and I wouldn't bet against Brady having the chance to throw for two scores (even if it's in the first half) in an effort to hit 50 touchdown passes and break the mark.

I also wouldn't be surprised if Belichick wants Randy Moss to tie or break the single-season record for receiving touchdowns (22), which Jerry Rice holds at the current time. Brady has been such a stud throughout this season that I think he could even outscore Edwards, Hill and Jackson in one half against a Giants team that could rest its offensive and defensive starters.

Carson Palmer has been a huge disappointment in recent weeks. Should I bench him in Week 17 in favor of Marc Bulger, Todd Collins, Jay Cutler or Jeff Garcia? -- B. Charleston, Myrtle Beach, S.C.

M.F.: It's true that Palmer has been a real dud for fantasy owners, and I question whether the Bengals will even show up and play hard in Miami in what has been a terrible season. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the Dolphins beat them in Week 17. Bulger has the best matchup against an Arizona defense that has fallen apart in recent weeks, and I tend to trust the matchups rather than attempt to predict what can be (at times) an unpredictable league. Unless there's talk that he will be limited or held back because of the abuse he's taken all season, I would side with Bulger over Palmer.

I need to start two running backs from Earnest Graham, Jerious Norwood, Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Kolby Smith and Kenny Watson. Help! -- J. Thomas, Canada

M.F.: Peterson is a must-start against a Denver defense that is one of the league's worst against the run. Furthermore, Minnesota needs a win to have a chance at a postseason berth, and Peterson will shoulder much of the offensive load. The second back to start is Watson, who faces a Miami defense that has also been terrible against the run. However, be sure to keep tabs on the status of Rudi Johnson before a final decision is made. Should Johnson return from an injured groin, then Smith would have more value in his game at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets.

I have to keep three players from Drew Brees, Edgerrin James, Kevin Jones, Jamal Lewis and Randy Moss? -- A. Erickson, Syracuse, N.Y.

M.F.: Brees and Moss are the most obvious choices, so your final decision boils down to James, Jones and Lewis. Based on their ages and 2007 numbers, I'd have to side with Lewis. He has had a monster season in Cleveland, while James is at the end of another nice, but not tremendous season, in Arizona.

Jones would have more value in this scenario, but his status for the start of next season is uncertain after he tore up his knee in a win over Kansas City. This will be the second offseason Jones will spend recovering from an injury (he rehabbed a Lis franc fracture in his foot last season), so Detroit might have to add another running back as insurance for their brittle featured back.

Which quarterback should I retain from Derek Anderson and Ben Roethlisberger? -- B. Matthews, Reno, Nev.

M.F.: Anderson will finish as one of the better super sleepers in the past decade, but all it will take is one short stretch of poor production for the Brady Quinn talk to start in Cleveland. As a result, I'd have to side with Big Ben Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh quarterback finished the fantasy season with a career-best 34 total touchdowns, and he thrived in the offense of coordinator Bruce Arians. He'll also have his offensive weapons back in the mix, and Santonio Holmes could be one season closer to becoming a superstar at the wide receiver position.

I have to pick from three injured running backs as keepers for next season: Ronnie Brown, Larry Johnson and Deuce McAllister. Who is the best bet to rebound? -- L. Jerheme, St. Paul, Minn.

M.F.: It's hard to release Johnson, who should return from an injured foot in time for training camp 2008. The former Penn State star carried the football a mere 158 times this season, which should make up for the NFL-record 416 carries he recorded in 2006. The second back to retain is Brown, who should also be back in time for training camp after a surgical procedure to repair a torn ACL.

The Dolphins runner was the most productive player in fantasy football at his position when he tore up his knee in Week 4, and he'll remain the centerpiece of the team's offense next season. Barring setbacks, you should have a nice backfield to build your team around.

I need to start three wide receivers from Anquan Boldin, Jerricho Cotchery, Lee Evans, Andre Johnson and Reggie Williams? -- H. David, Washington, D.C.

M.F.: The two obvious choices here are Boldin and Johnson, so the real question lies in which of Cotchery, Evans and Williams should be active as a third wide receiver. Williams has the best matchup of the three, but there's a good chance that Jacksonville's starters will be rested for the postseason. That makes him less of an option since you want to avoid players who might be limited as much as possible in Week 17. Overall I would have to side with Evans, who faces a Philadelphia defense that ranks 23rd in pass defense.

I want your opinion on Ryan Grant. Is he the real deal or the next Samkon Gado? I have to retain either Grant or Cadillac Williams for 2008. Thanks. -- K. Tansey, Boston, Mass.

M.F.: I don't think Grant is the next Gado, but I do think it's better to temper expectations for him in 2008. He has produced like a No. 1 fantasy back in the second half of this season, but he should be seen as a borderline No. 1 or 2 runner and worth a second- or third-round pick in seasonal formats. However, I do like Grant over Williams in keeper leagues based on the emergence of Earnest Graham in Tampa Bay.

Graham proved that he has the skills and abilities to handle to duties of a featured back, and the Buccaneers will be hard pressed not to use him in a prominent role in 2008. That could mean a backfield committee is in store for Williams, whose keeper value has taken a serious plunge in 2007.

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