By Christopher Harris

ESPN.com

(Archive)

Week 17

Miami Dolphins

(7-8)

New England Patriots

(13-2)

Analysis: In Week 17, the Dolphins will: play their regulars per usual. Tony Sparano is likely on the hot seat, and a win at New England could ease his pain. In Week 17, the Patriots will: um, good question. Considering they lost Wes Welker to a torn ACL in a meaningless Week 17 game in Houston last year, you'd think Bill Belichick would be reluctant to use his starters here, since the Patriots have wrapped up home field throughout the playoffs. But Belichick believes what he believes, and I'm not sure past results figure into future performance. My guess is that Tom Brady and his fellow starters play a half, then sit.

Fantasy Up: So you have to ask yourself: Is one half of Brady better than a full game from Stephen McGee? I would argue that it is. In fact, I left Brady among my top 10 quarterbacks this week, even factoring in the possibility that he sits early. However, I took Welker and Deion Branch out of my top 20 receivers. Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and even Matt Slater could see significant second-half action catching passes from Brian Hoyer, but you can't start any of those guys in the back half of your fantasy title game. … Brandon Marshall has 10-plus catches for 100-plus yards in consecutive games (albeit versus the Bills and Lions), and no doubt was a surprise value play in many fantasy title games this year after spitting the bit for three months. Rookie Pro Bowl corner Devin McCourty figures to get some rest here. No reason to get away from using Marshall. … BenJarvus Green-Ellis fits the mold of a guy Belichick would just leave in there and let pound away while Brady and the pretty boys take it easy, but the Dolphins defense is still tough against the run (don't hold Jahvid Best's crazy 53-yard catch-and-run last week against them too much). With lots of other questions among the top fantasy rushers, I still left BJGE barely inside my top 20. Danny Woodhead is better (as always) as a flex, while Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are likely to get some second-half carries. There's risk using any of these guys, for sure, since we really don't know what Belichick is going to do. … Ronnie Brown looked relatively strong in the screen game and out-touched Ricky Williams 18 to 16 last week, plus got the Dolphins' only real goal-line attempt and converted it for a touchdown after a long Mickey Shuler reception (Lousaka Polite did have a four-yard touchdown run earlier in the game). Still, Brown's yards-per-carry are way down, and with just a few exceptions this season, the Wildcat hasn't been very good to him. That said, the Dolphins have been known to grind it out in late-season games against the Patriots, which makes me not exactly hate either Miami running back as a deeper-league option. … I'd expect Aaron Hernandez to sit again to rest his hip injury, which would install Rob Gronkowski as a better-than-average fantasy option. I'd like him even better than No. 9 at his position this week, but again, I worry about resting Pats.

Fantasy Down: Chad Henne simply cannot be the Dolphins' starter under center next season. He's been given enough rope. How many times can we watch this kid blow games late with boneheaded interceptions? Versus the Lions last week, he actually threw two: up three points with less than four minutes to play on a third-and-11 from his own 28, he overshot Shuler by a wide margin and Nate Vasher picked him off; then with the game tied at 27 and under three minutes left from his own 22, he zinged a pick-six into double coverage. Enough ugliness. Let the Donovan McNabb era begin in South Beach.


Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy and follow him at www.twitter.com/writerboyESPN.

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