Week 17 Fantasy Football Matchups

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 0-5 logos (with five logos suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any logos suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Cleveland Browns Stadium
Playoff implications: Jacksonville keeps very thin playoff hopes alive with win. The Jaguars have been hideous on the road while Cleveland enters the game riding a three-game win streak. The belief here is that Jack Del Rio will dial up a conservative game plan revolving around Maurice Jones-Drew. He should do well, but the rest of the team is a big question mark. Sure, Charlie Frye found a way to total 333 passing yards on the Browns last week, but with three interceptions and no touchdowns. The Browns should find a way to keep Mike Sims-Walker in check (he has one touchdown on the road this year) and might even apply enough pressure to keep David Garrard off-balance. The matchup will be tricky for Cleveland too as the Jaguars' run defense has been pretty solid. This doesn't guarantee a rock-star finish for Jerome Harrison, but Jacksonville got worn down by the Patriots' run game last week and might suffer the same fate here. One other sleeper: Mohamed Massaquoi. The Browns will surely try to attack the Jaguars' terrible secondary, and Derek Anderson's strong arm should be able to connect with the rookie receiver on a deep route or two.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
David Garrard QB Derek Anderson
Maurice Jones-Drew RB Jerome Harrison
Rashad Jennings   RB Chris Jennings
Mike Sims-Walker WR Mohamed Massaquoi
Mike Thomas WR Josh Cribbs
Ernest Wilford   TE Evan Moore
Josh Scobee K Phil Dawson
Jaguars DST Browns
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ford Field
No playoff implications. The Bears proved everyone wrong by not mailing it in against the Vikings last week, and it should propel them to a second win here. Chicago has done well against the league's worst teams, and Matt Forte has especially stepped up in games against poor opponents. Look for him to do well and possibly shoulder the load, thus eliminating the chance of a huge game from Jay Cutler. Sure, Cutler should throw well against a bad Lions secondary, but he shouldn't have to in order to win the game. One note: With three touchdowns, Cutler matches his interception total, which in the Bears' mind might camouflage his atrocious season. Cutler will also set the franchise mark in passing attempts in a season following his fourth toss. The Lions are a mess, but this serves as their own personal Super Bowl: A win at home to end the year might build some momentum. Calvin Johnson sticks out as a good Fantasy choice based on the Bears' banged-up secondary, which couldn't contain Sidney Rice both in the red zone and elsewhere -- and that was with cornerback Charles Tillman (he's out for the year now). So even with double coverage pressed upon him, he should do fine. Maurice Morris also could take on a decent chunk of the workload as the Bears are far from efficient at stopping the run.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jay Cutler QB Drew Stanton
Matt Forte RB Maurice Morris
Kahlil Bell   RB Aaron Brown
Devin Aromashodu WR Calvin Johnson
Earl Bennett WR Dennis Northcutt
Greg Olsen TE Will Heller
Robbie Gould K Jason Hanson
Bears DST Lions
Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ralph Wilson Stadium
No playoff implications. After pulling their starters last week, the expectation this week is that the Colts will again rest their first-team offense and defense before the game ends. At this time last year Manning came out gunning in the first series of the team's meaningless regular-season finale and completed all seven of his passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Expect that this year, which means that he, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai and Dallas Clark are not expected to be reliable Fantasy choices. A guy to look at might be Donald Brown; the Colts have said they'd like to get Brown some work after he missed so much playing time with his chest injury, so he could see more action than anticipated. But, the Colts will want him fresh for the playoffs too -- the sneaky Fantasy play might be Mike Hart against a bad Bills run defense. Either way, you're playing with fire if you go with any Colts -- even kicker Adam Vinatieri might get rested. The Bills will not rest and could even turn up the juice a little bit against a second-string Colts team. Fred Jackson should end the year strong and even Terrell Owens and Lee Evans are appealing with Ryan Fitzpatrick expected back under center. Because the Colts will likely rest their stars, don't be surprised to see a Bills win.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Peyton Manning QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Donald Brown RB Fred Jackson
Mike Hart RB Marshawn Lynch
Austin Collie WR Terrell Owens
Reggie Wayne WR Lee Evans
Dallas Clark TE Shawn Nelson
Adam Vinatieri K Rian Lindell
Colts DST Bills
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Bank of America Stadium
No playoff implications. Saints head coach Sean Payton says he wants his team to build some momentum and make some corrections. That shouldn't take more than a half, if that. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Saints won't risk injury to their first-team offense in a matchup against a team they annually have trouble playing against. Don't look for Drew Brees, Reggie Bush and Marques Colston to play more than a half or so, and don't expect Pierre Thomas (ribs) and Jeremy Shockey (toe) to play at all. Guys who might play a lot include Mark Brunell, Lynell Hamilton and Devery Henderson, but only Hamilton warrants Fantasy consideration as a flex. The Panthers will play hard for coach John Fox and for a .500 record, and they should get it. The Saints' run defense has been trampled of late, and that's the first-team defense. Jonathan Stewart, assuming he's alone as the primary back, should be a behemoth. That's good for the Panthers since quarterback Matt Moore lost his best target in Steve Smith last week. Don't count on the Panthers' passing game to do much -- really there's only one star in this game so long as DeAngelo Williams is out.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Drew Brees QB Matt Moore
Reggie Bush RB Jonathan Stewart
Mike Bell RB Mike Goodson
Marques Colston WR Muhsin Muhammad
Robert Meachem WR Kenny Moore
David Thomas TE Dante Rosario
Garrett Hartley K John Kasay
Saints DST Panthers
San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Edward Jones Dome
No playoff implications. The 49ers are sure to end the season strong under the orders of head coach Mike Singletary, and they have a fantastic matchup to boot. Frank Gore should set a career-high in rushing touchdowns in a season here (he needs one more for nine) and is on the cusp of having his second-best season rushing yardage wise. Plus it doesn't hurt that he's scored in four of his last five games with the Rams with three 100-yard rushing games (he had 106 yards and two scores in his last game vs. them in 2008). Gore's running could set up Alex Smith for modest totals, but he'll probably play a good amount if not the whole game and deliver a nice stat line. Vernon Davis is safe and Michael Crabtree isn't so bad, either. The Rams don't exactly have the look of a team fighting hard for their coach even though it's believed that Steve Spagnuolo will get another crack at running the team in 2010. There's no telling until an hour before kickoff if Steven Jackson will play, but the matchup will be tough for him if he does. He hasn't scored in his last four against the 49ers including a 23-carry, 79-yard effort against them earlier this year. No one else from the Rams should be trusted in Fantasy even though the Niners' secondary hasn't been great of late.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Alex Smith QB Keith Null
Frank Gore RB Kenneth Darby
Michael Robinson   RB Chris Ogbonnaya
Michael Crabtree WR Brandon Gibson
Josh Morgan WR Donnie Avery
Vernon Davis TE Randy McMichael
Ricky Schmitt   K Josh Brown
49ers DST Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Land Shark Stadium
Playoff implications: Both teams need wins to keep playoff hopes alive. The Steelers should do their thing through the air here. The Dolphins have been consistently shaky in the secondary and Pittsburgh has too many weapons for the Dolphins to aptly cover. Hines Ward is gimpy with a pair of sore hamstrings so he might be relegated to a possession, short-area type, and that could mean even more opportunities for Santonio Holmes (a South Florida native) and Mike Wallace downfield. Ben Roethlisberger's offensive line will have its hands full with the Miami pass rush but the Steelers should still be solid throwing the ball. Rashard Mendenhall's damage might not come until the second half if the Steelers carry a lead, but he's impossible to sit this week with the expected shortage of quality running backs available to owners. The Dolphins' run game might be a bit watered down since Ricky Williams' status is not a lock. That's too bad -- between all the Steelers' injuries up front the Dolphins should be able to clear some room. If Williams is healthy, he'll be the guy. If not, look for Lex Hilliard to be a Week 17 savior. But the Dolphins, like other Pittsburgh opponents of late, will see the Steelers secondary and salivate. Chad Henne has three 320-yard games in his last four and should make it four of five. The problem is that Miami uses several receivers so there's no telling who the same picks are for Fantasy, but Davone Bess is the safest of them all. This could be a moderately high-scoring game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Ben Roethlisberger QB Chad Henne
Rashard Mendenhall RB Ricky Williams
Mewelde Moore RB Lex Hilliard
Santonio Holmes WR Davone Bess
Mike Wallace WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Hines Ward WR Greg Camarillo
Heath Miller TE Anthony Fasano
Jeff Reed K Dan Carpenter
Steelers DST Dolphins
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Reliant Stadium
Playoff implications: New England could clinch the No. 3 seed with a win. Houston keeps playoff hopes alive with a win. The game should mean something to the Patriots -- a win cements them from seeing the Colts until the AFC title game, if at all. They have had far better success against the Chargers in the playoffs than the Colts, so surely they'd rather play them than Indianapolis. Also, the Patriots did not rest their starters down the stretch in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007; only in 2005 did the Patriots rest their starters in the final regular-season game, so odds are that they'll play for most or all of this game, though there is the chance that they could rest -- this is not a slam dunk. Assuming they play to win, expect them to utilize the pass against Houston and lean on Wes Welker in the short area where Houston won't be able to cover him efficiently. That sets up everything for Tom Brady to hit Randy Moss deep, where the Texans have been burned before. New England's run game is a hornet's nest for Fantasy owners -- try and stay away so long as you can help it. The Texans will fight to the end in this one, and they are sure to attack the Patriots' poor secondary. Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson should finish the year strong, and the likes of Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones also have the chance to strike. If you like playing with fire, Arian Foster has a chance at 80 to 100 total yards; the Patriots struggled a bit with Maurice Jones-Drew last week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tom Brady QB Matt Schaub
Sammy Morris RB Arian Foster
Laurence Maroney RB Ryan Moats
Randy Moss WR Andre Johnson
Wes Welker WR Kevin Walter
Julian Edelman WR Jacoby Jones
Benjamin Watson TE Joel Dreessen
Stephen Gostkowski K Kris Brown
Patriots DST Texans
N.Y. Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Mall of America Field
Playoff implications: Minnesota clinches No. 2 seed in NFC with a win and a Philadelphia loss. While the Giants aren't headed to the postseason, the belief is that they'll still give the Vikings all they can handle. With the Minnesota defense really struggling, look for Eli Manning to attack downfield with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham while keeping Steve Smith and Kevin Boss involved in the short-area. The matchups are pretty good for everyone here, especially with the Vikings' pass rush taking a dip in production (the Giants should do a nice job of protecting Manning from Jared Allen). This could also be a great game for Ahmad Bradshaw; he'll see a lot of work not only running the ball but also as a receiver. He's a solid option this week. The Vikings are forced to play to win here because of their late-season meltdown, and the matchup is perfect for Brett Favre. He's indoors, where his receivers play best, and the Giants' secondary is sunk. Sidney Rice should have an enormous week, and while Percy Harvin hasn't exactly delivered since coming back from his migraine problem, he's not a bad choice as a flex or No. 3 receiver. Bernard Berrian even has potential. Obviously the ground game will be a key part of the Vikings' day, and it's nice that Fantasy owners can trust Adrian Peterson in Week 17.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Eli Manning QB Brett Favre
Ahmad Bradshaw RB Adrian Peterson
Gartrell Johnson   RB Chester Taylor
Steve Smith WR Sidney Rice
Hakeem Nicks WR Percy Harvin
Mario Manningham WR Bernard Berrian
Kevin Boss TE Visanthe Shiancoe
Lawrence Tynes K Ryan Longwell
Giants DST Vikings
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Raymond James Stadium
No playoff implications. The Falcons will attempt to finish strong, and one good way to do that is to run the ball effectively. Assuming Michael Turner ends the year on the inactive list, Jason Snelling will have one last matchup against a bad run defense to try and exploit. Look for him and Jerious Norwood to take control of the game before Roddy White gets a chance to finish off some drives. The Falcons' key starters look good for Fantasy. Expect the Bucs to put up a good fight to try and finish the year on a three-game winning streak. The Falcons' defense looked great last week but it came against Brian Brohm and the Bills. The Bucs, as weak as they may be, are a notch better and will give the Falcons some fits. There's hope for Josh Freeman, Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant via the passing game, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to consider Cadillac Williams. He did outstanding last week against the Saints and the Falcons aren't exactly stud run stuffers. Knowing that Williams could see as many as 20 touches, owners should take a look at him as at least a No. 2 option.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Ryan QB Josh Freeman
Jason Snelling RB Cadillac Williams
Jerious Norwood RB Derrick Ward
Roddy White WR Antonio Bryant
Michael Jenkins WR Maurice Stovall
Tony Gonzalez TE Kellen Winslow
Steve Hauschka K Connor Barth
Falcons DST Buccaneers
Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Oakland Coliseum
Playoff implications: Baltimore clinches a wild-card spot with a win. The Ravens should run all over the Raiders, who will put up a fight if only to play spoiler. Ray Rice should finish the Fantasy season strong with a big workload against a Raiders run defense that has allowed eight 100-yard games so far. Joe Flacco is good enough to go with in Week 17 too since we know he'll play the whole game, which is better than other elite playoff-bound quarterbacks, though if Derrick Mason is out it will hurt him. The Raiders' offense has a tough matchup but could make some waves through the air if Ed Reed is still sidelined. In that case, tight end Zach Miller is an option. Oakland likes to run the ball a lot and we'd be surprised to see Michael Bush and Darren McFadden put up big stats.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Joe Flacco QB Charlie Frye
Ray Rice RB Michael Bush
Willis McGahee RB Darren McFadden
Derrick Mason WR Chaz Schilens
Mark Clayton WR Louis Murphy
Todd Heap TE Zach Miller
Billy Cundiff K Sebastian Janikowski
Ravens DST Raiders
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Cowboys Stadium
Playoff implications: Winner of game wins NFC East and gets home playoff game. Philadelphia gets No. 2 seed with a win. Dallas gets No. 2 seed with a win, an Arizona loss and Minnesota loss. The Eagles have no choice but to lean on their passing game here. Dallas is stout against the run as they've been all season (zero 100-yard rushers) and the Eagles have no consistency with their run game right now. The rushers will be used as receivers a decent amount and Donovan McNabb will need to put on his best game as well as his receivers not making mistakes. DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek are obvious targets, but seeing Jeremy Maclin contribute in his first game back from a foot sprain as much as he did was really impressive. The Cowboys will have their hands full with the Eagles even though their pass rush will focus on the interior of the Philadelphia line with center Jamaal Jackson done for the season. Dallas is humming right along and the offense should have a balanced approach with a chance at winning the division on the line. Secondary receivers have been beating up the Eagles -- Hakeem Nicks, Josh Morgan and Jabar Gaffney have posted excellent numbers while their counterparts like Steve Smith, Michael Crabtree and Brandon Marshall have been so-so. This could mean strong totals for Roy E. Williams, who had 75 yards in their earlier meeting. In that earlier meeting, Philadelphia took away Miles Austin and forced Tony Romo to put the ball in other peoples' hands. With Jason Witten playing better and Marion Barber seemingly contributing more, Romo still wouldn't be a bad Fantasy choice if the Eagles went that way again.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Donovan McNabb QB Tony Romo
Brian Westbrook RB Marion Barber
LeSean McCoy RB Felix Jones
DeSean Jackson WR Miles Austin
Jeremy Maclin WR Roy E. Williams
Brent Celek TE Jason Witten
David Akers K Shaun Suisham
Eagles DST Cowboys
Washington Redskins at San Diego Chargers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Qualcomm Stadium
No playoff implications. The Redskins have the arduous task of ending their season under their lame-duck head coach by taking a cross-country flight to play the Chargers' second-string players. How can they possibly get motivated for such a thing? They're going to be focused on not getting hurt, not beating up on the Chargers. No one from the Redskins is safe to start. The Chargers say they'll take this game seriously, but anyone with a brain in their head knows that it would be foolish for the Bolts to play their first-team offense much. They've handled LaDainian Tomlinson with kid gloves in the past and the expectation is that they will limit him to a few carries. Once he's gone, the rest of the first-team offense will follow. If you want a legit option for Week 17, check out Mike Tolbert, who played extensively when the Chargers' starters were pulled last week. He owns some incredible rushing and receiving averages (5.9 and 13.1, respectively) and could chew up the Redskins.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jason Campbell QB Philip Rivers
Quinton Ganther RB Mike Tolbert
Marcus Mason   RB Darren Sproles
Santana Moss WR Vincent Jackson
Antwaan Randle El   WR Malcom Floyd
Fred Davis TE Antonio Gates
Graham Gano   K Nate Kaeding
Redskins   DST Chargers
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, 4:15 pm, University of Phoenix Stadium
Playoff implications: Arizona gets No. 2 seed with a win, a Minnesota loss and a Philadelphia loss. Green Bay has wild-card spot locked up. There's a good chance that the Packers will be in Arizona again for the first round of the playoffs, and that complicates things. Will Green Bay rest its studs? If so, how much? And even if the team plays their first-team offense, will they run plays that they will consider using next week when the game really matters? There is some history here: The last two times the Packers had a playoff seed wrapped up they played their starters into the second quarter and then rested them. This includes when Mike McCarthy coached the team in 2007. Since the Packers can't qualify for anything better than what they have already, this is a safe expectation. We might see a lot of Brandon Jackson and Ahman Green running the ball with Matt Flynn throwing to Jordy Nelson. Be extremely careful with all Packers players this week. The Cardinals' status will solely depend on how the Vikings do: If they Vikings win, the Cardinals will surely rest their first-team offense for most or all of the game. If the Vikings lose, the Cardinals will "ball." And seeing as how the Cardinals will probably take on the best of the Packers' bench, all of their key Fantasy players will be outstanding and startable for Fantasy -- if Minnesota loses. The worst thing that could happen to Fantasy owners of Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, etc., is that the Giants-Vikings game goes into overtime and extends into the start of the Cardinals' game. My hunch? The Vikings find a way to beat the Giants, and as such the Cardinals' key offensive players will not be used much.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Aaron Rodgers QB Kurt Warner
Brandon Jackson RB Beanie Wells
Ryan Grant RB Tim Hightower
Greg Jennings WR Larry Fitzgerald
Donald Driver WR Anquan Boldin
Jordy Nelson WR Steve Breaston
Jermichael Finley TE Ben Patrick
Mason Crosby K Mike Nugent
Packers DST Cardinals
Tennessee Titans at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Qwest Field
No playoff implications. Look for the Titans to give Chris Johnson many chances to break the single-season rushing record. He's 233 yards shy from cracking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing mark, but he's only 74 yards from Marshall Faulk's single-season scrimmage yards record. He'll get the chance to eclipse both against a disinterested Seahawks defense. If he's getting these opportunities, then that might mean less passing for Vince Young and fewer stats for the Titans' receivers. They might be OK for touchdowns but not big yardage. The Seahawks will play out the string against a defense that should be fired up in spite of being out of the playoffs. The only Seahawk with something to legitimately play for is Justin Forsett, who needs a good performance on film to help his case to see significant playing time in 2010. The rest of the Seahawks' players aren't reliable for Fantasy based on how they've been playing.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Vince Young QB Matt Hasselbeck
Chris Johnson RB Justin Forsett
LenDale White   RB Louis Rankin
Kenny Britt WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Justin Gage   WR Deion Branch
Bo Scaife TE John Carlson
Rob Bironas K Olindo Mare
Titans DST Seahawks
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Invesco Field at Mile High
Playoff implications: Denver keeps playoff hopes alive with a win. The Chiefs should put up a good fight for first-year head coach Todd Haley, who is sure to stick around for 2010. Expect to see Jamaal Charles play well against a Broncos' run defense that has disappointed as of late, and expect him to surpass the 59 total yards and score he had vs. Denver earlier this season. Dwayne Bowe has never scored in four games against Denver, and this isn't a good time to expect him to break the trend as he hasn't scored or even played remarkably well since coming back from his suspension. He's a better choice in PPR leagues; Chris Chambers might be better in standard formats. Matt Cassel is an interesting choice -- the Broncos' secondary was scorched by the Eagles last week and Cassel could find creases in the Denver defense to make some plays. He'll play a full game, which makes him at least a consideration for Fantasy owners. The Broncos will likely be run oriented as the Chiefs have been atrocious against the run the last two weeks. Both Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter appear to be good options. When the Broncos pass, count on Brandon Marshall to be great. He's got at least one touchdown in each of his last four against Kansas City (six total) with at least seven catches in all four games and at least 91 yards in three of the four games. He's a beast, and he'll make up for last week's outing at Philadelphia.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Cassel QB Kyle Orton
Jamaal Charles RB Knowshon Moreno
Tim Castille   RB Correll Buckhalter
Chris Chambers WR Brandon Marshall
Dwayne Bowe WR Jabar Gaffney
Leonard Pope   TE Tony Scheffler
Ryan Succop K Matt Prater
Chiefs   DST Broncos
Cincinnati Bengals at N.Y. Jets
Sunday, 8:20 pm, Giants Stadium
Playoff implications: New York clinches a wild-card spot with a win. Bengals have home-field game for wild-card round clinched, could clinch No. 3 seed in AFC if New England loses at Houston. Don't expect the Bengals to play their starters very long -- their primary goal is to get their starters into the playoffs healthy. And, there's a chance these two teams could meet again next week -- do the Bengals want to put a lot of what they can do against the Jets on film? You'll be glad to know that the last time the Bengals had a meaningless game in advance of a playoff matchup, they played the first-team offense for two series and then left the game to the backups. That said, expect minimal totals for Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Carson Palmer. This also will mean that the Jets will steamroll the Bengals' backups, making Thomas Jones an awesome option. The Jets should also keep it simple and might even replace their first-team offense if they can build a huge lead and get their playoff berth. That said, guys like Mark Sanchez, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery should play enough to at least deliver decent stat lines.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Carson Palmer QB Mark Sanchez
Larry Johnson RB Thomas Jones
Cedric Benson RB Shonn Greene
Chad Ochocinco WR Braylon Edwards
Laveranues Coles WR Jerricho Cotchery
J.P. Foschi TE Dustin Keller
Shayne Graham K Jay Feely
Bengals   DST Jets
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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