If your fantasy season extends through Week 17, there are lots of confusing numbers to navigate. Recent production may not always be applicable, and it's a challenge to find the right starting options. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com makes sense of several stats as the 2011 campaign enters the final set of fantasy games for those who are still active.
Flying into the finals: These players have positive numbers following them into Week 17 fantasy championship games.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Miami
Stat: In four games vs. the Jets, Marshall averages 86.5 receiving yards per game.
Analysis: Marshall obviously draws Darrelle Revis in coverage, as the Dolphins do not have any other notable WRs to challenge the Jets' secondary. Marshall is the type of big WR that can challenge Revis, and he had 109 receiving yards in his last meeting with the New York CB. But Revis certainly is capable of winning this round, and you should go with another top WR option if you have one.
Toby Gerhart, RB, Minnesota
Stat: Gerhart has 90-plus rushing yards in three of his past four games.
Analysis: The Bears have the league's sixth-ranked rush defense, but Gerhart is versatile and is playing very well in an expanded role. Stick with Gerhart as a RB2 this week for quality touches and production, even with the seemingly tough matchup.
Laurent Robinson, WR, Dallas
Stat: Robinson had four catches for 137 yards and a TD in his last meeting with the Giants.
Analysis: Robinson's decreased reps with Miles Austin back in action, plus Tony Romo's hand injury, makes him a risky play. Robinson has been a great free agent add this year, but his owners may have run out of luck with him at this point.
Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants
Stat: Jacobs rushed for 101 yards and two TDs in his last meeting with Dallas.
Analysis: Even though Ahmad Bradshaw is back in the mix, you have to like Jacobs as a flex play this week. Jacobs has been inconsistent, but will run with a sense of urgency this week in a big game as he looks to also prove his worth to possible new suitors in 2012.
Carson Palmer, QB, Oakland
Stat: Palmer is averaging 333.3 passing yards per game as a starter at home with the Raiders this season.
Analysis: The Raiders still have playoff hopes and will lay it all on the line against San Diego. Palmer will gun the ball often, and even if he makes some turnovers, the final fantasy numbers will be good enough to help you win. Start Palmer if your other QB option is a risk not to play a full game.
Tim Tebow, QB, Denver
Stat: In two career games vs. the Chiefs, Tebow has two rushing TDs and two passing TDs.
Analysis: Lock Tebow in this week and forget about last week's four-interception debacle at Buffalo. The Broncos are shooting for the postseason and Tebow will post quality numbers in the regular season finale.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh
Stat: In his past three games vs. Cleveland, Wallace is averaging 25.2 yards per catch.
Analysis: Wallace caught four balls for 57 yards and a TD against the Browns in Week 14. He does not have a 100-yard game since Week 7, and Wallace has been frustrating his owners for weeks. Yet with other top-line options possibly not playing full games this week, it's hard to bench Wallace, especially with his potential to break out at any time.
Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore
Stat: Smith had six catches for 165 yards and a TD in his first meeting with the Bengals this year.
Analysis: Do not expect too much from Smith this week. Anquan Boldin is done for the season, and Smith does not have any true playmakers to complement him in the passing game. The rookie may not be ready to step in as a No. 1 WR yet, as evidenced by his two-catch, 38-yard game last week. Reserve Smith if you have other quality WR options.
Limping to the finish line?: These players have negative numbers following them into Week 17.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo
Stat: Fitzpatrick has five TD passes and eight interceptions in four career games against New England.
Analysis: The Patriots' league-worst pass defense presents a good matchup for nearly every opposing QB. Fitzpatrick can feel free to toss away with little regard for consequences as the Bills are playing out the string. He'll be a pretty good fantasy option if you have another QB who is a risk to sit in Week 17.
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
Stat: Smith has one 100-yard game and two TD catches in his past seven games.
Analysis: Defenses are doing a much better job of taking Smith away as an option for Cam Newton in recent weeks, but with choices more limited in Week 17, you will have to stick with Smith in some instances. He can still bust out for a big game, as the Saints have to be more concerned with the other weapons in the Carolina offense entering this week.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia
Stat: Maclin has one TD catch in his past five games.
Analysis: Maclin also has not reached the 75-yard receiving mark in his past six contests. He did catch five balls for 72 yards and a score last week, though, and look for a strong finish against Washington. Injuries derailed Maclin this year, but he is better than the numbers indicate and he will want to finish strong in Week 17.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland
Stat: Hillis has averaged 26.3 yards per game in three career games against the Steelers.
Analysis: Hillis has rushed for 211 yards in his past two games and is rolling to the end of the line in Cleveland after a mostly forgettable season overall. Hillis can indeed hit 100 yards again as he looks to make a statement heading into free agency.
Eric Decker, WR, Denver
Stat: Decker has one TD reception in the past six games.
Analysis: Decker was shut out at Buffalo, but Tebow still is throwing the ball to him and looking for him downfield. If you are desperate, use Decker as the Broncos attempt to nail down a playoff berth.
With Adrian Peterson finished for the season, Toby Gerhart becomes a very attractive fantasy option for leagues still playing in Week 17, **Michael Fabiano writes**. **More ...**
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona
Stat: Wells has averaged 56 rushing yards per game in three career contests against Seattle.
Analysis: Reserve Wells in Week 17. He is banged up and is struggling to make it to the end of the schedule. Seattle's defense is sturdy and Wells has not rushed for more than 67 yards in any of the past four games.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets
Stat: Greene has two 100-yard games this season.
Analysis: He has also not scored in the past two weeks as the Jets have seen their postseason hopes dim. Greene scored half of his TDs in one game against the Redskins in Week 13 and has been mostly mediocre otherwise. Do not expect much this week against Miami's third-ranked run defense.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Stat: Gore has not rushed for 100 yards since Week 9.
Analysis: Gore rushed for 73 yards on 21 carries in his first meeting with the Rams this year. The 49ers do not want to overwork him as they look ahead to the postseason, but they still need him to carry on many key downs. Gore may stay below 100 again, but he has scored in three consecutive games and is a must-start in Week 17.
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