The Awards: Start’Em/Sit’Em Week 17

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Roll out the red carpet; here are the 2011 fantasy football awards. The best, the worst, the mediocre, the disappointing, the surprising, the tease and the one you thought missed out on …

No it’s not high school. It’s fantasy football.

Fantasy MVP: Aaron Rodgers

Runners-up: Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy

These three men showed the true grit it takes to be a fantasy football most valuable player. A-Rodge put together one of the most dynamic seasons by a quarterback, accounting for 48 total touchdowns. Brees just surpassed Dan Marino for the single-season passing record, and Shady McCoy scored 20 times. But in the end, it’s Rodgers’ knack for end zone week after week that propelled him to win 2011 MVP.

Mr. Consistency: LeSean McCoy

Runners-up: Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson

This award and the MVP are very similar, the difference being that Mr. Consistency is a player you don’t have to question whether or not you’re going to start him on Sundays. Shady gets this one for scoring a touchdown in all but three games this season.

Mr. Consistently Disappointing: DeSean Jackson

Runners-up: Peyton Hillis, James Starks

Like Mr. Consistency, Mr. Consistently Disappointing is a guy you couldn’t just take out of your lineup because there was so much potential in starting him. Hillis sat out games with the sniffles and Starks forgot how to play running back in the league, but Jackson – with three touchdowns in a contract year – was the fifth-best Jackson this season. Pitiful.

Biggest Bust: LeGarrette Blount

Runners-up: Mark Ingram, Mike Williams (TB)

Week 16’s 11-yard effort pretty much summed up a season of disappointment for the Tampa Bay back. Blount was expected to smoke the opposition this year after a 2010 campaign that screamed fantasy superstar. Like his teammate and the former Heisman trophy winner, expectations were hardly met.

Breakout Star: Rob Gronkowski

Runners-up: Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Jimmy Graham

All of these players were hyped up during the fantasy offseason with the expectation that this would be their breakout year. Megatron was finally getting a healthy Matt Stafford, Nelson was to have a bigger role in the offense and Graham was going to be Brees’ red zone guy. But the Gronk, the furthest thing from a mere mortal, broke the record for touchdowns by a tight end and then went home to adult film star girlfriend. Props, Gronk.

“Can I Pick You Up” Mid-Season of the Year: Victor Cruz

Runners-up: Laurent Robinson, DeMarco Murray, Roy Helu, Michael Bush

It’s not always easy to pull the trigger on a free agent in the middle of the week. Some leagues have budgets; others have a limited number of pick-ups. But if you were bold enough to grab VC after a Week 3 breakout game in Philadelphia, you have an eye for talent.

Biggest Tease: Chris Johnson

Runners-up: Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Beanie Wells

Nobody likes a tease, especially in fantasy football. CJ2K led the way in those superstars you drafted to rely upon week after week to carry your team. “How can I bench [insert Chris Johnson, Philip Rivers, V-Jax, Beanie Wells] this week,” you asked yourself. Should have, could have … would have (if I knew what I knew now).

The One That Finally Got Hot…But it Was Too Late: Marshawn Lynch

Runners-up: DeAngelo Williams, Julio Jones, Reggie Wayne, Malcolm Floyd, Reggie Bush

And we thought beast mode was a one-time thing. Lynch owners, who somehow stayed resilient with him in the lineup for the first seven or eight weeks of the season, had their patience rewarded by a running back averaging 107 yards per game with nine touchdowns from Week 9 to 16. But while Lynch proved to be the winner, “it was about time” for the runners-up, who waited to we were out of contention before lighting up the scoreboard.

Vulture of the Year: Mike Tolbert

Runner-up: Cam Newton

A shockingly quiet season for vultures, Tolbert ultimately receives this award after scoring nine touchdowns that in all likelihood should have belonged to Ryan Mathews. Tolbert was the goal-line back and the third-down back – that’s right, a 243-pound third-down back – who tortured Mathews owners.

Young Gun (Rookie) of the Year: Cam Newton

Runners-up: A.J. Green, Torrey Smith, Denarius Moore

This was a runaway by Swag Newton. The Panthers’ rookie accounted for 30 touchdowns (20 passing, 14 rushing) and was the team’s ultimate red-zone threat. In most leagues he was taken as an afterthought – a Mr. Irrelevant, if you will – and he proved to be the most dynamic dual-threat fantasy football star since Michael Vick.

Follow Sam on Twitter for fantasy updates throughout the week; tweet him with your questions, too.

Start ‘Em:

Teams playing in their fantasy Super Bowls in the final week face a perplexing task – how do you know which of my superstars are going to be playing for more than the first quarter?

It’s hard to bench Arian Foster, but what if his head coach is going to use Ben Tate to preserve his starter for Wildcard Weekend?

Obviously it’s important to follow reports about your players throughout the week, but for fantasy’s sake, there are plenty of top stars on contending teams that should be out there Sunday. Here are your best bets by matchup:

Tennessee @ Houston

CJ2K, winner of the Biggest Tease honor, racked up all of 18 yards his last time out against the Texans. And no, I don’t believe you can blame an injured ankle for his recent string of horrible outings (11 rush, 23 yards; 15 rush, 55 yards; 15 rush, 56 yards).

The Johnson-esque numbers he produced from Weeks 10 to 13 were the aberration this year, and there’s no way he can be counted on against the Texans’ defense ranked second against the run.

For the other running back in this one, Arian Foster, as I said earlier is one of the those must-starts each week. In October Foster tallied 234 total yards and three touchdowns against the Titans in Nashville. The Texans did have a more threatening passing attack then with Matt Schaub, but Foster is getting plenty of attention with T.J. Yates checking down to his back.

If Dan Orlovsky and Cam Newton can beat the Houston secondary, so can Matt Hasselbeck.

I’m paying attention to Matt Hasselbeck and Nate Washington, who I expect to capitalize in a suddenly struggling Texans pass defense.

Swag Newton was able to beat them deep two weeks ago, while Dan Orlovsky had no troubles finding Reggie Wayne in the final seconds of last Thursday’s showdown.

If you’re desperate for a quarterback, Hass isn’t the worst option, and Washington should be a solid WR2/WR3 or flex with upside in a must-win for Tennessee.

Kansas City @ Denver

I’ve recommended starting Tim Tebow numerous times this year; I can’t recall saying the same about Kyle Orton.

This week, though, my money is on Orton.

In the John Elway Bowl, I believe the Chiefs, fighting for their interim coach’s job, for respect and to play the role of spoiler against a hated division rival, will upset the Broncos at Mile High. And of course, Orton dissecting the Denver defense will be the reason why.

The Broncos secondary is allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. During the Tebow win streak, the best defensive performances came against Caleb Hanie, Mark Sanchez and Tyler Palko. Orton has thrown for 599 yards in his last two games.

Kyle Orton should get his revenge on his former team Sunday.

And if you’re looking for a fill-in at wide receiver: since Orton became the starter, Dwayne Bowe has 10 catches for 129 yards, Steve Breaston has eight for 91 and Dexter McCluster has seven for 100.

On the Denver side, the Chiefs haven’t allowed more than 71 yards or a touchdown since Romeo Crennel took over the team. Only the Jets scored a rushing touchdown in their last five contests. Willis McGahee has 168 yards over his last three games and just one score in his last seven; the wise man should not trust any Denver backs.

Baltimore @ Cincinnati

Shocking: Ray Rice wasn’t a recipient or a runner-up for any of the awards. But I’m not blaming the Ravens running back for the lack of hardware; I’m blaming their offense.

The Ravens lack a true offensive identity, as his touches can vary from five to 29 each week. With Anquan Boldin out against in Week 17, you’d expect to the Ravens to run the ball right?

Not so fast.

Only 11 teams are better against opposing running backs than Cincinnati, and the Bengals have not allowed a rushing touchdown in their last three home games. Overall, the Bengals’ rush defense has allowed single-digit fantasy points in four of their last five.

But while Rice torched Cincy for 104 yards and two touchdowns in their Week 11 matchup, I would not rule out more of an aerial approach on Sunday.

The Bengals’ secondary is more vulnerable, and his last time out, Torrey Smith caught six passes for 165 yards and a score. The Young Gun of the Year runner-up tends to feast upon mediocre secondaries, and I’d expect the same this week.

Torrey Smith had himself a game last time vs. Cincinnati, and he'll be the No. 1 target without Anquan Boldin.

Baltimore’s fourth-ranked pass defense has been stellar all season, never allowing more than one passing touchdown in a game this year. However, Andy Dalton threw for the highest yardage total against this secondary (364) when they last met. Only Big Ben, Hass and Dalton have thrown for more than 300 yards against them.

Obviously A.J. Green should get the nod, but I’m also leaning towards starting Jerome Simpson. Andre Caldwell is out for the year, and Simpson hauled in eight passes for 152 yards in Week 11 and obviously made headlines with his touchdown grab last week. He should be even more involved this week.

San Diego @ Oakland

The Bolts have absolutely nothing to play for. Their general manager and their coaching staff are both likely out at season’s end, while Oakland can keep their division title hopes alive with a win. In other words, bench your Bolts and start your Raiders.

Only 10 teams have been better against opposing backs than San Diego. But in addition to their motivational problem, the Chargers’ defense doesn’t travel especially well. As a road team, opposing backs average 93 yards per game and have scored in four of the seven contests. It’s not too eye-opening, but then factor in this:

In their Week 10 showdown, Michael Bush ran train on the Chargers – 30

Denarius Moore's best game came against these San Diego Chargers a few weeks ago.

carries for 157 yards and a touchdown— in San Diego, nonetheless.

More than Bush, I’m also confident in Denarius Moore to make his presence felt. Matthew Stafford exploited the Chargers’ secondary last week for 353 yards, and Carson Palmer had a successful 299-yard, two-touchdown performance in his last game against them.

Palmer’s go-to guy, of course, is Moore, who caught five passes for 123 yards and both of Palmer’s touchdowns.

Dallas @ New York Giants

The over/under currently stands at 46.5, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they blew that line out of the water in a good old-fashioned shootout.

The last time the G-Men and Cowboys met, Eli Manning threw for 400 yards and two scores and Tony Romo threw for 305 with four.  In fact, all of the superstars – Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson, Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz put up formidable numbers.

And that’s why there’s not a Giant or Cowboy that shouldn’t be starting this week.

All of the Giants and Cowboys offensive weapons are worth starting this week.

After DeMarco Murray was injured early on their last game, Felix Jones filled in admirably, rushing for 106 yards and adding another six receptions. On the flip side, Brandon Jacobs topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the first and only time this year.

Defensively, neither of these teams have much of a rep at this point. The Giants are ranked 28th and the Boys are 14th, a Jeykll and Hyde-type season in Rob Ryan’s first season. On the offensive end, however, they’re eighth and ninth, respectively.

Let the fantasy magic begin.

Others players I like:

  • Frank Gore
  • Steve Smith
  • Rashard Mendenhall
  • Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney
  • Reggie Wayne
  • DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin
  • Reggie Bush
  • Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Herndandez
  • Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles

Other players I don’t like:

  • Percy Harvin
  • Toby Gerhart
  • Antonio Brown
  • LeGarrette Blount
  • Peyton  Hillis
  • Dustin Keller