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It's not too soon to think about next year

Week 16 of the fantasy football season did more than just decide most 2011 championships.

It also saw a devastating injury that could have a big impact on your 2012 draft. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson blew out his left knee, suffering a torn ACL and MCL and damage to the medial and lateral meniscus.

Peterson will have surgery today on the knee -- the date was moved up because of severe pain he was suffering from -- and the Vikings believe his recovery time will be eight to nine months. That puts him very close to being ready for the start of next year, but the timeline should remain fluid to account for the variables found both during surgery and the subsequent rehab.

Of course, it's also easy to imagine that timeline being optimistic. Peterson's explosiveness and aggressive style will likely take longer to come back. Severe injuries such as his are both physical and mental. He has to trust that his rebuilt knee will be ready for the rigors of an NFL season.

It can sometimes take an entire year for that to be the case.

For that reason, Peterson's injury could have the biggest impact on the 2012 fantasy season. But before we turn our full attention to next season (next week's column will offer up a 2012 first-round mock draft), here's a look at some of the 2011 fantasy award winners, plus a look at some Week 17 options for those leagues who take it to the bitter end.

*Fantasy MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers. Rodgers put a bow on his fantasy season with a Christmas gift for his owners, a five-touchdown performance against Chicago in Week 16 that likely wrapped up a fantasy title. He passed for multiple touchdowns in all but one game this season, making him as consistent as he was dynamic (45 TDs, six interceptions).

*Top QB: Drew Brees, New Orleans. The difference between Rodgers and Brees isn't quite as close in fantasy (Rodgers had 385 points to Brees' 347) as it is for the "real" MVP. Still, Brees was absolutely remarkable when it mattered most, throwing for 719 yards and nine TDs in the last two weeks (otherwise known as the fantasy postseason).

*Top RB: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles: Baltimore's Ray Rice had more yards from scrimmage, but McCoy led all players with 20 touchdowns. He had double-digit fantasy points in every game except Week 16, when a sprained ankle knocked him out of the lineup.

*Top WR: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Megatron, like Brees, was simply electric in the fantasy postseason. He had 316 yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks. Johnson goes into Week 17 with 1,437 yards and 15 touchdowns.

*Top TE: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: The local boy has done quite well for himself. His 15 receiving touchdowns set a single-season NFL record for tight ends, and he's got 82 catches for 1,219 yards.

*Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina: He propelled himself into a top-five quarterback for 2012 with one of the best fantasy seasons ever put together by a rookie.

Newton has 34 total touchdowns, 674 rushing yards and has thrown just two interceptions in the past five weeks. Newton has future superstar written all over him.

*Biggest injury: Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City: A torn ACL knocked Charles, a first-round pick in nearly every format, out for the season in Week Two. The Chiefs did not have a consistent handcuff for Charles, meaning owners were without their first-round pick. Honorable mention goes to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, depending on when your league drafted. If it was early enough in the preseason, Manning could have been a wasted early-round pick.


Week 17 quick reads

Toby Gerhart is tasked with replacing Peterson in the Vikings' backfield. He should get 20-plus touches against the Bears.

Packers receiver Randall Cobb should play the entire game against Detroit. Expect him to be a favorite target of Matt Flynn.

The Miami Dolphins' defense became the first one since Week 11 not to score negative points against the New England Patriots last week. The Dolphins have an easier match Sunday against the Jets, who have allowed double-digit fantasy points in the past two games.


Analyzing the Bills

The fantasy options for the Bills are strong in Week 17 against a New England defense giving up a league-high 412 yards per game.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, running back C.J. Spiller, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and tight end Scott Chandler are all safe plays.

For the Patriots, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis hasn't eclipsed 20 yards rushing in four consecutive games. It's looking more and more like he'll be gone after this season. Over the past two games, running back Stevan Ridley has 24 carries and is playing on third downs. He could get more work in front of Green-Ellis.