The last time Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick completed an NFL game, the United States of America was still a day away from choosing its next president. Yeah, it's been awhile. But on Sunday in New Jersey, Vick is slated to start against the New York Giants, likely for the last time in Eagles colors, and because of the name value and occasional statistical goodness he brings, fantasy owners with something on the line will have to consider if he's worth using.
There's a reason so many fantasy football leagues are decided before Week 17, not just because of a situation like this but more because some of the players trusted to deliver fantasy championships aren't likely to complete their games. It's a guessing game, to some degree, though I've always felt the Week 17 theme of radical upheaval is a tad overrated. Sure, we ponder how many snaps will be played by the likes of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and top-10 Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, but in general, there aren't so many critical fantasy studs up for debate. I'm fine finishing championships in Week 16, but the disadvantage is simply overstated for those counting on this week.
With Vick, for example, he's a gift -- or perhaps a "re-gift" -- to those concerned about Luck, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning or any other usable fantasy passer that might see fewer snaps than normal. Vick remains owned in 74.2 percent of ESPN standard leagues, and surely some of those people will need to determine his viability versus the quarterback(s) used to get their teams this far. Vick is presumed healthy and motivated after missing the past six games, first because of a concussion then the franchise directive that rookie Nick Foles need not look over his shoulder. Foles didn't impress, and the Eagles have months to decide if he's their guy in 2013. Vick could be starting in any number of spots by next September, including Philly in theory, and he gets one last chance to show off his considerable skills. One would think he realizes how important his final statistical impression could be to his wallet. For the first two months, and for much of an abbreviated 2011 campaign -- they're all abbreviated with Vick -- he was a borderline top-10 fantasy quarterback. Even now, with half a season of action, he's fifth among quarterbacks in rushing yards. And the Giants aren't exactly the 1986 Chicago Bears defensively, as they made a struggling Joe Flacco look like Joe Montana in his prime Sunday afternoon.
I left Vick out of my top 10 quarterbacks for Week 17, but not by much. I simply liked 10 others better, but only 10. Considering I wasn't ranking Vick as high as No. 11 consistently the first half of the season (when he was healthy), this shows that I actually trust a relevant statistical performance is pending -- one that should surely anger beleaguered Eagles fans. (Oh, what if, right?) Coach Andy Reid is also on his way out of town; do you think he wants Trent Edwards seeing meaningful snaps? Vick was his guy, and while Vick brings risk due to the style he plays and the Eagles offensive line qualifying as putrid, this is one last shot for many Eagles to play together before the band is broken up. Vick, along with running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, fared well in my rankings this week and should be considered decent bets to send fantasy owners out on a positive note.
Quarterback: Among the quarterbacks I ranked better than Vick include Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. They combined for 36 fantasy points head-to-head in Week 16, but the opponents are markedly easier for this week. ... A month ago, I would have ranked Eli Manning and Josh Freeman better, but over the past two games, Manning is averaging 155 passing yards and has one passing touchdown, while Freeman has eight interceptions. I'll play hotter quarterbacks instead. ... By the way, don't opt for Tony Romo because his game is the last one of the regular season and it adds to the fantasy intrigue, but do so because this should be a 35-31 type of game, with many fantasy heroes. ... If Robert Griffin III was able to run at full speed, he might have been my No. 1 or 2 guy. Instead, even though he's clearly not 100 percent, he's still a solid No. 6. ... Need a deep-league home run threat? I actually like Philip Rivers and Chad Henne a bit more than usual against awful defenses this week.
Running back: Trust your best options and hope for the best. If that means Adrian Peterson has 25 yards at halftime and he's lifted for backup Toby Gerhart, it's the chance fantasy owners must take. ... This seems like precisely the week someone like Chris Johnson, whose owners might never want to draft him again, goes off. I ranked him 10th. Same with Darren McFadden, my No. 20 option. ... Only one of us ranked Cleveland Browns rookie Trent Richardson, so watch for updates on him. Montario Hardesty would be a decent flex option if Richardson sits. ... David Wilson of the Giants is the proverbial home run threat. He didn't get many touches in Week 16, but he scored, and if you're down big in a two-week fantasy matchup, he becomes more interesting. ... Beanie Wells is saying all the wrong things about his future in Arizona. His Cardinals play in San Francisco. Yep, I'd rather use a lot of others, including rejuvenated Ryan Grant.
Wide receiver: This is a wide open position this week, as the rankers disagreed on the Falcons' choices, Randall Cobb and Justin Blackmon and the health of Mike Wallace and Jordy Nelson. My feeling on White/Jones and Reggie Wayne is they can do enough first-half damage before hitting the bench. None made my top 15. ... The Falcons and Denver Broncos each have a pair of top-10 scoring wide receivers this season. Yep, we all like Eric Decker this week. ... I like Brandon Lloyd more than the average this week. Can't you just see Tom Brady throwing for 400 yards no matter what the other AFC contenders are doing? ... Tampa Bay's Freeman might give the ball away a bunch, but I see Mike Williams ending strong.