Chances are your fantasy league has concluded. But maybe you play in one of those weird leagues that holds its championship on a week where half the stars won’t even be playing; or perhaps you just want to wash the awful taste of defeat from your mouth by getting in on some daily fantasy action. Whatever your reasoning may be, you want fantasy advice for Week 17.
If you happen to be the newly unpopular person in your league who won the championship, chances are you didn’t listen to much of my advice from last week. I would normally recap it here, but there were way too many major whiffs. If you want to see it, here it is. But I’d rather save the time and jump into the difficult week that lies ahead.
As it has been all season, I’m going to give you advice on the fringe players, which is even tougher in Week 17. If you want a look at the top of the board, check out Nicholas’ top 50 flex players of the week. Let’s get to it.
An Explicit Seven Fantasy Tips for Week 17
1. Start Thomas Rawls
Although he has only had one week with more than nine points and is battling some injuries, Rawls will be running against the league’s worst rush defense this week. The 49ers are allowing 28.00 PPG to RBs (most), and that jumps to 30.00 PPG in the last four weeks (second-most).
The Seahawks still have a first-round bye to play for and would love to establish some sort of running game before the playoffs arrive. This is a golden opportunity and you should view Rawls as an RB1 with a high-ceiling.
2. Thanks to matchups, start…
Blake Bortles – In his first game under new head coach Doug Marrone, Bortles posted his best passer rating of the season – 103.5. Marrone deserves a ton of credit for Bortles’ performance, but the last time I checked, there wasn’t a head coaching slot on your fantasy roster. So we’ll settle for Bortles as a top-eight play at QB this week against a Colts defense that’s giving up 17.93 PPG to QBs (seventh-most). In spite of his struggles since dislocating his middle finger, I expect Matthew Stafford to be a very low-end QB1 this week against the Packers’ suspect secondary.
Bilal Powell – You have to monitor this one, as his status for Sunday is questionable. If he does suit up, Powell will be facing a Bills defense that’s allowing 21.71 PPG to RBs (third-most), and 33.68 PPG over their last four (most). View him as an RB1. If he doesn’t play, rookie Brandon Wilds is a great sleeper start as a low-end RB2.
J.J. Nelson – Over the last three weeks, Nelson is averaging 15.8 PPG, and now has 18 targets in two weeks without Michael Floyd around. This week, he’ll have a premier matchup against a Rams defense that allows 25.09 PPG to WRs (sixth-most). Start Nelson as a WR2 with a very high-ceiling. Jermaine Kearse is also a decent sleeper as a WR3 with Tyler Lockett out.
3. Thanks to matchups, bench…
Andy Dalton – No A.J. Green or Tyler Eifert is going to make life difficult for Dalton this Sunday; not to mention he’s facing a Ravens defense that’s only allowing 15.62 PPG to QBs (tenth-fewest). For a second-straight week, Dalton will be a low-end QB2. I don’t need to give any advice on Matt McGloin against the Broncos defense, right? (Don’t even look at him.)
Shaun Draughn – With Carlos Hyde out for the final week of the season, Draughn projects to receive a much heavier workload. However, he won’t do much with the extra carries; Seattle only gives up 15.53 PPG to RBs (sixth-fewest). Draughn should only be considered an RB2 in PPR leagues. I’d also put Jay Ajayi on the bench this week, since he’s not playing Buffalo again.
Raiders receivers – Don’t start Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree. They have a backup throwing them the ball, and have to deal with a Bronco defense that’s only allowing 13.23 PPG to WRs (fewest). The Raiders will go run-heavy throughout. Not that it has anything to do with McGloin, but I’d also downgrade Alshon Jeffery to a WR3 in a tough road matchup with Minnesota.
4. The Backup QB effect
There are a handful of teams who will be led by an unusual face this week. Here is how it’s going to affect their fantasy stars.
E.J. Manuel, Bills – He’s not a good quarterback. Manuel won’t be able to exploit a weak Jets secondary, so don’t value Sammy Watkins as anything more than a WR3; and Manuel’s not the same running threat that Tyrod is, which will result in LeSean McCoy’s numbers suffering. He’s a low-end RB2 this week. Manuel is a low-end QB2 at best.
Landry Jones, Steelers – There will be more to come on Jones later on, but looking to his supporting cast, DeAngelo Williams is the only Steeler worth starting. View him as a borderline RB1.
Matt Cassel, Titans – With Cassel at the helm, the Titans lose the exotic part of their smashmouth offense. Houston won’t have to respect Cassel pulling the ball, and will key in on the RBs. I would also expect Derrick Henry’s role to increase this week, making him a high-end RB3, and demoting DeMarco Murray to RB2 status. With a tough matchup for the Tennessee WRs, I wouldn’t play any pass catchers other than TE Delanie Walker. If you’re needy, Rishard Matthews is a touchdown dependent WR3. Cassel should be viewed as a middling QB2.
Matt McGloin, Raiders – You’ll find advice for all parties other than RBs elsewhere in this article. Oakland will lean heavily on Latavius Murray, and so should you. Murray is an RB1 this week, while DeAndre Washington garners some attention as an RB3.
5. Run with DMC
It is becoming clear that the Cowboys don’t want to disrupt Dak’s psyche by giving Tony Romo some snaps this week, but they’ll be thrilled to give Ezekiel Elliott a much lighter workload. This means Darren McFadden will see even more than the 14 carries he received last week.
Don’t go expecting McFadden to put up Elliott-like numbers, but the Eagles have given up 19.28 PPG to RBs over their last four (14th-most). With a promising number of touches coming his way, and the luxury of running behind the best offensive line in the league, McFadden becomes a low-end RB1.
6. Despite tough matchups, stick with…
Kirk Cousins – Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. are expected to start for the Giants this Sunday, but I wouldn’t expect Ben McAdoo to leave his defensive starters in there for too long. I’d overlook the fact that the Giants are only surrendering 12.55 PPG to QBs (second-fewest) and bet on Cousins with Washington’s season on the line.
Jordan Howard – The Vikings defense only surrenders 15.77 PPG to RBs (ninth-fewest), but Howard’s best rushing total of the season came against Minnesota back in Week 8. Don’t shy away; his consistent workload makes him a very safe RB2 this week.
Adam Thielen – The Bears only allow 21.77 PPG to WRs (12th-fewest), but Thielen has become Sam Bradford’s Mr. Everything. Not only is he the security blanket, Bradford also trusts him deep down the field. Keep Thielen in as a WR2 in this matchup. Stick with Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson as well, not that Indianapolis is a tough matchup.
7. Do not be fooled into starting…
Landry Jones – Sure, the Browns are allowing 19.29 PPG to QBs (most), but Landry Jones isn’t a good quarterback; he also won’t have Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown out there with him. To pile on, it’s not even a certainty that he’ll play the entire game with Zach Mettenberger also on the roster. Just don’t do it.
Any LA receiver – I made the mistake of assuming Jared Goff was at least a slightly serviceable QB last week when I told you to start Kenny Britt, but I won’t do it again. Arizona may be giving up 25.81 PPG to WRs (fourth-most), but Britt and Tavon Austin can’t be trusted as anything more than boom-or-bust WR3s.