By Scotty P. - SPM Fantasy Staff
Week 17 of the National Football League season always is tricky when it comes to fantasy football.
In the early days of full-season fantasy, it didn’t take long for league commissioners and team managers to realize that it wasn’t fair to decide a championship on a week in which some teams may choose to rest their players in preparation for the playoffs. Thus, most leagues adopted a format in which their championship games are played in Week 16.
When it comes to DFS, though, Week 17 is an enigma that presents incredible opportunities as well as mirages and pitfalls that must be avoided if you hope to finish in the money.
Games in which both teams have nothing to play for tend to be high-scoring affairs that often go over the projected points total. Don’t overlook these matchups. The Vikings-Lions game this week fits that description, although we would be wary of picking Detroit players if Matthew Stafford does not play. Raiders-Broncos, Chiefs-Chargers, Jets- Patriots and Buccaneers-Falcons are games that also basically fit that description, but more info on those contests can be found below.
You can be comfortable knowing that you will get the best possible effort from players on teams that are truly playing for something. This year, getting a bye is a big deal since there is only one in each conference. In the AFC, Kansas City has a bye and already has stated that it is resting many of its top players.
The situation is much different in the NFC, however, where the Packers, Saints and Seahawks all have a shot to earn the top seed. This is a tricky spot, however. Green Bay earns the top seed with a victory over a hungry Bears team that will get a wildcard berth with a win.
The Saints are solid five-point favorites over a Carolina club playing out the string, but New Orleans’ entire running-backs room will be sidelined because of COVID contact tracing. It sounds like Ty Montgomery will move from the practice squad to the backfield for Sean Payton’s club, and you can bet that Taysom Hill will see some action in the backfield along with some others we may not have know much about.
We know that Payton is as competitive as they come, relishes a challenge and takes pride in how well his teams have played during his tenure no matter who is in the lineup. The fact that a top seed could be on the line just ensures that he will go all out to motivate his team and scheme up a victory. That said, while Montgomery might be worth a spot in a lineup or two as a flex option playing against a team that struggled against the run vs. Washington last week, we can see a scenario at QB where Drew Brees and Hill split time, thus making neither of them viable options.
The other factor when it comes to selecting players from any of the three NFC teams competing for the top seed is what is going on in the other games that affect that race. All three of those teams play at 4:25 p.m. EST, which is good because you are likely to get their best efforts for sure during the first half. But if the Packers get out to a big lead or one of the other games gets out of hand either way, it is possible that one or all of the teams could rest players in the second half.
Clearly Green Bay has the most to lose by taking anything for granted. The Saints and Seahawks, who face a beat-up 49’ers team that is missing its top wide receiver and is on its third QB, are both 11-4 and have clinched division titles. Finishing second in the conference race really has very little significance since only the top team gets a week off.
With the Bears in a must-win situation, you probably can be comfortable playing players from any of the top-three NFC teams in some of your lineups, but it wouldn’t be smart to throw all your eggs in that basket. The Saints’ running-backs situation is worth monitoring closely for sure given the COVID situation, the potential QB split and the fact that on paper they still could build a big enough lead to rest players no matter what.
Seattle is playing against a good San Francisco defense, but Kyle Shanahan appears to have thrown in the towel. Be wary of the Seahawks, whose improved defense paired with the return of running back Chris Carson has led to a more conservative offensive game plan down the stretch. If the ‘Niners show up to play, Seattle’s offense might not put up big numbers, and if San Fran is a no-show you might end up seeing Russell Wilson, D.K. Metcalf and Carson on the bench for much of the second half.
Looking at the Packers-Bears game, Chicago’s David Montgomery would appear to have a very favorable matchup, and Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney and Jimmy Graham merit consideration. On the flip side, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams have been can’t-miss propositions for the last six weeks no matter who they are matched up against.
This week will be a challenge for Green Bay against a strong Bears D that is playing for a postseason berth, but you can be assured the Pack will be giving it their best effort, and it seems unlikely that this game will turn into a rout for either team. Robert Tonyan is a solid play as well against a defense that hasn’t been good against tight ends, but we would stay away from Aaaron Jones. The expectation is that Rodgers will sling it around, getting the ball out quickly, so one of the Green Bay depth receivers likely will have a nice day. Figuring out which one that will be on a weekly basis is one of life’s great mysteries, however.
Looking around the rest of the league, avoid players from the Chiefs and Steelers at all cost. Unless you want to play a hunch and hope a cheap no-name steps up and takes your DFS team to the promised land, skill-position players on these teams will be working with backup quarterbacks and likely to split snaps at best or play a quarter or less at worst.
It’s also hard to advise selecting players from the Rams, who need to win or for the Bears to lose to earn a wildcard spot. Although in a normal week the Lost Angeles offense would have a favorable matchup vs. the Cardinals, the Rams will be without injured starting quarterback Jared Goff against an Arizona team also playing for its postseason life. The Cards really don’t have a great matchup against a stout Ram defense that is going to feel like it has to steal the game for its depleted offensive unit.
In addition to the teams already mentioned that still have something to play for, the Week 17 stakes also are high for the Ravens, Browns, Titans, Colts, Dolphins, Giants, Cowboys and Washington. The Panthers, Texans, Jaguars, Jets, Broncos, Raiders, Chargers, Bengals, Patriots, Eagles, Falcons, Lions and 49’ers have nothing to play for, and we are just not sure how the Buccaneers and Bill will approach the final week of regular-season competition. Choose players from the latter two teams at your own risk.
As for the other teams with little or nothing at stake, as always do your homework. If a team is playing to save or help a coach or clearly trying to finish on a strong note – the Vikings, Falcons, Chargers, Texans and Bengals might fit that description – and the matchups are solid, by all means use players from those teams in various lineups.
Dalvin Cook is out for the Vikings, which could mean a big day for talented backup Alexander Mattison or a huge day for the receiving corps of Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Mattision will be a safe value play for sure in many lineup, but choosing between Thielen and J.J. will be more challenging. Either one is a good bet to help team, but you want to get the best bang for your buck, which means you want to get at least 20 points from whichever one you choose. Jefferson had a huge game the last time Cook sat, so if we would have to give a slight edge to one over the other it would go to him.
The Eagles appear to be sitting out many of their top players and possibly looking for a better draft pick. They are playing a very strong defense and a team that is desperate to win. Stay away. Denver and the Jets have been playing better of late and are trying to develop some of their younger players. It might be worth taking a shot on some of their guys.
DeShaun Watson is the ultimate competitor and has had a tremendous season despite the dysfunction in Houston. He’s a solid play almost every week along with Brandin Cooks and the usually affordable David Johnson.
The Bengals are improved but face a Ravens team that is rolling and needs to win. Maybe look at Giovanni Bernard or Tee Higgins in a Flex role, but nothing more. Jacksonville is just bad and playing a hungry Colts team that can be a defensive force at times. It seems as though Bill Belichick’s Patriots and Shanahan’s 49’ers just want the season to end, while Teddy Bridgewater thrives in the underdog role and showed no signs of mailing it in while knocking off The Football Team last week. The Panthers have a strong receiving corps, but it’s hard to pinpoint which one would be the best bet against a good Saints’ D playing for the top seed.
As always, it’s best to do your homework to find the best matchups and value plays. This week just might require a little more effort and research, and we recommend simply crossing off the players from some teams on your list of potential selections before you start creating your lineups so that you can avoid the temptation of taking someone you know is a high-risk pick just because they have a bargain price or fit nicely into a lineup you have built.
As always, we will provide an up-to-date list of the top values Sunday morning to help you make your final decisions.