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Finding teams with motivation is key to Week 17

Exhibit No. 1 as to why fantasy titles should be decided in Week 16 of the NFL season can be found in Thursday's report that Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will be held out Sunday against Dallas.

Deciding fantasy titles when so many elite players are being rested by their teams is silly. But since there are leagues out there that do it, here's a look at the teams who are likely to be holding players out, and who might have meaningful fantasy contributions in their place:

*New England: Coach Bill Belichick routinely plays quarterback Tom Brady in blowouts, despite all logic suggesting he should be on the sidelines. Since the Pats have secured the top seed in the AFC, which means they have home-field advantage and a playoff bye, I'd expect Brady to get a series or two, just to stay sharp. It would be crazy for Brady or receiver Wes Welker to play more than a quarter.

*Kansas City: The Chiefs are locked into either the third or fourth seed in the AFC, which means they'll host a game on wild-card weekend, then hit the road. Coach Todd Haley told the Kansas City Star this week that his starters will play.

"We're a transitioning team," Haley told the paper. "Maybe some teams can look at games differently, but I know our group right now -- with where we are in our development -- we need to approach them the same way, which is get ready to win."

Still, with quarterback Matt Cassel having an appendectomy this month, I wouldn't trust Haley to play him the whole game. I'd also be wary of using receiver Dwayne Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles. Thomas Jones could see more work, which is good news for his owners.

*New York Jets: All that's left to be decided for the Jets is where they'll open the playoffs, so even though he'll start, I wouldn't count on seeing much of quarterback Mark Sanchez (shoulder). Same goes for receiver Santonio Holmes (toe). If the Jets were smart, they'd also rest RB LaDainian Tomlinson. If Tomlinson owners are smart, they should sit him.

*Atlanta: Monday's loss to the Saints was good news from a fantasy perspective for those with Falcons on their roster. It means Atlanta needs a win Sunday to clinch the top seed in the NFC. All that stands in their way are the hapless Carolina Panthers. That means the Falcons will be out to open a big lead, then get their starters out of there.

*Chicago: The Bears will know by the time their 4 p.m. game kicks off against Green Bay whether they have a chance at the top seed in the NFC, and home-field advantage. It's unlikely, since Carolina would have to beat Atlanta and New Orleans would have to lose to Tampa Bay earlier in the day.

However, a win would knock division rival Green Bay out of the playoffs, which might be enough to get Bears coach Lovie Smith to keep his starters in. I'm not convinced, though, so I'd sit players like quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte.

*Philadelphia: As mentioned above, Vick is out. Kevin Kolb has been great in his place, so he's worth a look if you need a starter. I'd also sit running back LeSean McCoy and receiver DeSean Jackson.

Here's a list of the teams who are playing either for a first-round bye or their playoff lives, and whose players can thus be used safely: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Seattle, Green Bay, New York Giants and Tampa Bay.

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Checking the Bills

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, so his status bears watching as game time approaches. The Bills will make a big effort to get running back Fred Jackson 1,000 yards rushing. He needs 108, so he's a good play.

Stevie Johnson is also one touchdown catch from tying and two from breaking the franchise single-season record of 11 set by Billy Brooks in 1995, so that's another milestone that the Bills can chase. Johnson is a good start who becomes a great one if the Jets decide to rest cornerback Darrelle Revis.

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com