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Fantasy football: Don’t get down on Luck

The No. 1 fantasy player was public enemy No. 1 on Sunday.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck scored zero points in a favorable matchup against the Cowboys, ruining many owners’ championship games. But they probably wouldn’t have gotten there without him. He leads all players in a basic-scoring system with 322 points (20.1 average). He’s second with 38 touchdown passes and third with 4,601 passing yards.

Granted, Luck’s performance plummeted in the playoffs. Before his goose egg, he scored 14 points in Week 15, tying his season low. He wasn’t alone. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers had 19 points in the last two games, and the Broncos’ Peyton Manning had 25. They often put that up in a week. The Saints’ Drew Brees had 10 against a bad Falcons defense.

But Luck’s 109-yard, two-interception outing shouldn’t diminish his value. He plays in a pass-happy offense (his 600 attempts rank second in the league), and he isn’t afraid to run (his three rushing touchdowns are tied for third among quarterbacks). He’s the fantasy MVP this season and my No. 1 pick entering next season.

The rest of the All-Fantasy team:

RB DeMarco Murray, Cowboys (264 points): Murray disappointed owners with a subpar performance last week because of a broken hand. But it could have been much worse than the 11 points he scored. He began the year with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games and has a league-leading 11 for the season. He also is tied for the lead with 12 touchdown runs.

RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers (262): Bell is second in the league with 1,341 rushing yards, but he trails Murray (1,745) by 404. Thanks to his 774 receiving yards (second-most in the league behind the Bears’ Matt Forte), Bell trails Murray by only 25 yards from scrimmage. He also has turned into a touchdown machine, scoring seven times in the last five games.

WR Antonio Brown, Steelers (227): Brown leads the league with 122 receptions and 1,570 yards, and he’s third with 12 touchdown catches. His catch total is 19 more than the nearest receiver (the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas), and he had fewer than seven catches in a game twice.

WR Jordy Nelson, Packers (213) & Thomas (212): The second receiver spot is too close to call. Nelson leads Thomas in touchdowns 13-11, and Thomas leads Nelson in yards 1,504-1,433. Thomas did have two fewer games with single-digit scoring, but that’s nitpicking.

TE Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Gronk ran away with this spot, leading the Chargers’ Antonio Gates by 36 points. He’s tied with Gates and the Broncos’ Julian Thomas with a position-best 12 touchdowns, but he has 143 more yards than the nearest tight end (Panthers’ Greg Olsen).

WEEK 17
OUTLOOK

START ’EM

QB Eli Manning, Giants: Here’s a case of a receiver, Odell Beckham, helping a quarterback. Plus, the Eagles have allowed the fourth-most points to QBs.

RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers: He has averaged 109.3 rushing yards in the last four games, and the Falcons have allowed a league-high 19 touchdown runs to running backs.

WR Greg Jennings, Vikings: He has a touchdown in four of his last five games, and the Bears have allowed a league-high 33 touchdown passes.

BENCH ’EM

QB Tom Brady, Patriots: Bill Belichick has played his stars before in meaningless games, but here’s betting Brady doesn’t go the distance against a tough Bills defense.

RB Tre Mason, Rams: Since allowing 191 rushing yards to Chiefs running backs in Week 11, the Seahawks have allowed an average of 52.2 per game.

WR Martavis Bryant, Steelers: He has scored fewer than five points in four of his last five games. Granted, the one double-digit game was against the Bengals, but don’t expect a repeat.

WEEK 16 PICKS

START ’EM

QB Matt Ryan: 322 passing, TD

RB Joique Bell: 74 rushing, TD

WR Jeremy Maclin: 62 receiving

BENCH ’EM

QB Philip Rivers: 356 passing, 4 TDs, 3 INTs

RB Doug Martin: 17 rushing

WR Josh Gordon: 45 receiving

Email: jagrest@suntimes.com

Twitter: @JeffreyA22