ASL's Jeff Hayes goes game by game and gives you all of the start-sit advice you need to finish off your fantasy championship in Week 17.
The dreaded Week 17 has arrived in a hurry. I hope you are just reading this for fun and not trying to win a championship this week. If you are though, you must keep a very close eye on the newswire as playoff teams may rest some stars. Four teams have locked up their playoff positions and will look to rest players: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Rams. Also be wary of teams that could take their foot off the gas once the game is in hand. That group includes the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. Good Luck! It feels like Week 17 is about who can dodge better.
I have included Las Vegas' projected point totals for each team. The offensive and defensive rankings presented in this article are the product of many statistical categories outside of yardage and points allowed. They take into consideration fantasy points allowed, yards allowed, the strength of opposition and defensive efficiency. They are they heavily weighted by recent production trends and injuries as well.
Buffalo Bills (22.8) at Miami Dolphins (19.8)
Buffalo needs a win here to have a chance of making the playoffs. They sport the second-best pass defense and the worst run defense, which makes Kenyan Drake the only option I am looking at for the Dolphins and top-five RB if the game plan goes his way. Drake found it tough to run against the Chiefs last week, but expect bigger, better lanes this week. Miami owns a below-average pass and rush defense so it would appear that Buffalo should find some success across the board. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy look like top options this week and look for Charles Clay to get in on the action as Miami is much tougher against wideouts than tight ends. The Buffalo's D/ST looks like a strong play as well.
Carolina Panthers (20.8) at Atlanta Falcons (24.8)
This could be the game of the day. Both teams want the win, but only the Falcons need the win. The Panthers are in the playoffs but can improve their position. The passing games should flourish as both teams are in the middle of the pack and trending toward the bottom in pass defense. The rushing defenses are much better for both. Matt Ryan and Cam Newton are both great plays. Julio Jones and Greg Olsen will be the main beneficiary for each, respectively. The success of the ground games will depend on usage. The yards will be there for both Christian McCaffrey and Devonta Freeman if they are used accordingly, but if the game plan goes astray, it could be a long day. I think both of those RBs will play well. Plus, it's not like you can sit them anyways. Atlanta's defense is tough against wide receivers, so I'm staying away from Devin Funchess.
Chicago Bears (13.8) at Minnesota Vikings (25.8)
The Chicago Bears bring in the lowest projected point total of the week versus Vikings. Please, don't put any Bears in your lineups this week. Conversely, Minnesota's D/ST is the top D/ST play on the board. Case Keenum returned to being below average last week, mostly due to the opponent rather than his performance. I can see Case needing to do a bit more in this one as Chicago's run defense can be tough at times. I don't see any Vikings offensive player sticking out here, but stick with Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. Again, Latavius Murray should have an opportunity or two for a TD.
Cincinnati Bengals (15.5) at Baltimore Ravens (25.0)
The Ravens need a win to clinch a playoff berth. I bet the Bengals would love to disrupt that. Cincinnati's defense looked like a much different unit last week as it stymied the Detroit Lions' passing game. However, since Cincy's run defense is ranked 31st, I like Alex Collins here as well as Javorius Allen to rack up some yards and maybe a TD. Cincinnati is tougher against the pass, ranked 17th. But I do like Ben Watson as Cincinnati is weak against tight ends. Baltimore is ranked in the middle of the pack in both pass and run defense, so I think the Bengals can keep up here. I like Giovani Benard as his volume has been fantastic whenever Joe Mixon has been sidelined, and Mixon is currently dealing with an ankle ailment. A.J. Green is also in a great spot here.
Cleveland Browns (13.3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (26.3)
So far, none of the games mentioned will have any of that Week 17 madness, but we might have one here. The Steelers are still vying for the AFC's No. 1 seed so their players will play, but it could be over early against the Browns. Will Pittsburgh sit Ben Roethlisberger and/or Le'Veon Bell if/when this game gets out of hand? They are still must-starts, however. JuJu Smith-Schuster is a great play as well, and Jesse James is a potential sleeper as Cleveland is abysmal against TEs. Pittsburgh's defense has been pretty vulnerable against the run but tough versus the pass. I don't see Cleveland being able to do much here other than a random TD to Josh Gordon or Duke Johnson. Pittsburgh's D/ST should be a top play. UPDATE: It has been rumored that Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell will not play in this match up as the Browns instill no fear in their opponents. Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant may be the only two options for fantasy points.
Dallas Cowboys (21.8) at Philadelphia Eagles (19.3)
I wouldn't be worried about Nick Foles sitting here. I'd be more worried about him possibly playing horribly again. Both teams are decent against the pass, so I wouldn't expect a whole lot from Foles here. Dak Prescott should have some decent opportunities as Philadelphia has been good at bottling up opposing ground games. I think Ezekiel Elliott can find some holes and maybe a TD, but I don't see a lot of fantasy points for him. Dak and Dez Bryant are both good plays as they may have to hook up frequently here to win this game. I am staying away from the Eagles for fantasy purposes as this game is pointless to them, so their starters may find the bench.
Green Bay Packers (18.0) at Detroit Lions (25.0)
There are no playoff spots locked up in this one, so play your starters at will. This would normally be a great game for fantasy production, but neither offense instills much confidence. Matthew Stafford is a good play, which will also lend some value to Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. I wouldn't want to start anyone in Detroit's three-man backfield, but look out for Tion Green if the coaches decide to give him a longer look. I think Jamaal Williams could again resurface as a workhorse as Aaron Jones will likely be ruled out. Outside of Williams though, I'm going to take a pass on most Packers players.
Houston Texans (18.5) at Indianapolis Colts (22.5)
Here is another game in which neither offense may be able to exploit the poor defense on the other side. DeAndre Hopkins is an obvious must-start. Lamar Miller or Alfred Blue could have some potential, but they appear to be entangled in a timeshare, so it's just Hopkins on that side of the ball. For Indianapolis, I like T.Y. Hilton based on his volume from last week. Frank Gore should have some chances to score, but overall, there shouldn't be much of that going on here. UPDATE: DeAndre Hopkins will be inactive for week 17. You can expect a slight bump up in usage for Miller, Will Fuller and a potential TE but nobody here can do what Hopkins does with limited QB play.
Jacksonville Jaguars (18.8) at Tennessee Titans (22.3)
The word coming out of Jaguars camp is that they will not rest their starters. However, I could see the Jags approaching this like a preseason game where the starters play a quarter or two before sitting. Definitely be cautious with Leonard Fournette. He is banged up and there is no need to play him here, so shy away from him in fantasy. Really, I would stay away from all Jacksonville players as their participation level is just too uncertain. Starting any of their wideouts is a gamble. Here is an intriguing question: How are DeMarco Murray's legs staying on? It's every week now that he has some type of issue. If he can't play, that opens up the offense for Derrick Henry, which we all have been waiting 17 weeks for. I do think he is a good play as Jacksonville can be vulnerable against the run. There's an interesting playoff twist here as the Titans would most likely face the Jags next week if they beat them this Sunday.
New Orleans Saints (28.8) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (21.8)
The Saints against the Bucs is normally a game that generates plenty of fantasy points for both teams. This game, however, has a lopsided feeling. Jameis Winston will have ample opportunities to put up some yards in catch-up mode, but turnovers will likely be a part of his day too. Mike Evans looks like a fine start as a high-volume player, and tight end Cameron Brate should see a good number of targets as well. Still, I like the Saints in this one a lot. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara racked up more than 200 combined yards from scrimmage versus the Bucs in Week 9. Both are easy top-10 RBs. One of them might claim the top spot for the week. You have to like Michael Thomas here if he plays. He is currently being bothered by a hamstring injury. As for Drew Brees, you really have to love the spot he is in, right? The ability of this rushing game to do whatever it wants is cutting into his value, but he got you here, so ride on!
New York Jets (15.0) at New England Patriots (30.0)
The Patriots are another team that you have to be cautious with despite a great matchup as they may sit some key players at some point. Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis are all great starts IF they play the whole game. The Jets are ranked 28th against the pass and ranked ninth against the run. If Brady were to have one of his four-TD games, this could be it as the ground game could face a tougher time than normal moving the ball. Start Brandin Cooks. I would like to do the same with Chris Hogan, but it remains to be seen if he will actually play. And yes, of course, Mike Gillislee is good for one goal-line score. I am avoiding all Jets players as New England's D/ST could be a high-end play. Bilal Powell is interesting based on what he did last week, but he is just too inconsistent to trust. UPDATE: Mike Gillislee will join Rex Burkhead on the bench in week 17. Look for Dion Lewis to get more carries then expected and James White looks likely to play. White has appealing sleeper potential here if they do sit Lewis at some time.
Washington Redskins (20.8) at New York Giants (17.3)
It's too bad this game will feature two of the worst running games because they will be facing two of the worst run defenses. Something has to give here though, so I am going with Samaje Perine to finish the year strong. Wayne Gallman should have some decent yardage numbers, but sharing touches with Orleans Darkwa caps his upside. The Giants will find it tough to throw on the Redskins' fourth-ranked pass defense. Thus, it could be a tough day for Eli Manning and Davis Webb when it comes to that. Washington is most vulnerable to TEs, so Evan Engram is worth starting if he can play through his bruised ribs. Kirk Cousins should have no problems closing the season out on a high note. Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson are good plays with TD potential. UPDATE: Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard have been declared out for week 17. In rides a potential sleeper TE though, Rhett Ellison had decent yardage total in week 16 and someone has to catch the ball.
Arizona Cardinals (14.8) at Seattle Seahawks (23.8)
This looks like a very rough matchup for the Cardinals as Seattle handled Dallas last week to stay in the hunt. Seattle needs to win this game and will but by how much? I am staying away from all Cardinals and presenting Seattle's defense as a top-five D/ST. Arizona's defense is first against the run, so don't expect much from Seattle's RBs. You do have to like Russell Wilson as he should have his hand in multiple touchdowns. Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham should both help move those chains, but Arizona is weaker against wide receivers, so if I had to pick one to score, it's Baldwin.
Kansas City Chiefs (17.5) at Denver Broncos (21.0)
Kansas City has clinched a playoff spot and is resting Alex Smith. Don't be surprised to see Kareem Hunt in the same situation. Even if he doesn't sit out, he will play sparingly. Denver is ranked fifth and seventh in passing and rushing defense respectively, so don't get your hopes high for Patrick Mahomes or Charcandrick West. On the bright side, Tyreek Hill should get some shots over the top of the defense as Mahomes has a cannon for an arm. Just hope those two can connect. Travis Kelce should have a solid game as Mahomes' security blanket, but Kelce could see an early exit as well. With Paxton Lynch under center, Denver should lean heavily on C.J. Anderson, but the Chiefs' 13th-ranked defense is stingy. Demaryius Thomas should see enough volume to post a decent but not outstanding box score. Both defenses look playable in this one.
Oakland Raiders (17.5) at Los Angeles Chargers (25.5)
Derek Carr looked terrible last week against the Eagles and now draws the third-ranked Chargers defense that must win here. Neither QB has an overly favorable matchup, but Philip Rivers will find a way produce and get the win. Keep a close eye on Melvin Gordon as he is battling an ankle injury. If he sits, grab Branden Oliver. You could get great volume at a low price from him. Oakland is not good at stopping TEs, so Antonio Gates looks good to score again. Keenan Allen should see his usual volume and always has a chance to score. I expect the Chargers' offense to attack relentlessly, so Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin have some deep-threat potential as well. If you couldn't tell, I am all over Rivers this week. On the Raiders' side, Michael Crabtree might miss this game due to a bad hamstring. That would open the door for Amari Cooper, but his difficult matchup makes him nothing more than a dice roll.
San Francisco 49ers (21.5) at Los Angeles Rams (24.0)
This game is the exact reason why you finish your fantasy championships in Week 16. The fantasy football MVP who got you here has left you here. I hope all Todd Gurley owners won their leagues last week as he will sit in Week 17. Jared Goff is also sitting but have no fear: Jimmy Garoppolo is playing and playing well. Jimmy G is facing the tenth-ranked Rams defense, but he's worth starting given how good he has looked in these past few weeks. Marquise Goodwin is always in play but after him, it gets pretty muddled. Garoppolo has shown the propensity to spread the targets around, but Goodwin is his only truly trusted target. Tight end George Kittle could be the second option, but also watch out for slot receiver Trent Taylor. Carlos Hyde is in a great spot as the Los Angeles Rams are 24th in run defense. Hyde could approach a top-five spot this week if he doesn't split too many touches with Matt Breida. San Francisco's pass defense is beatable, but I don't see Sean Mannion taking advantage. The 49ers' D/ST is a sneaky streaming choice.
Good luck everyone and thank you for reading. Feel free to follow me: @TheFantasyHaze
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