The Week 17 Fantasy Conundrum
Under no circumstances should a fantasy football league and its owners’ fortunes ever extend into the uncertain mess that is Week 17. Every year, teams with their seeding locked up (like the Saints) will rest starters, sometimes even after declaring them active just to mess with us a little more. Thus, owners who have dominated all season often find themselves without their most explosive weaponry, and ultimately robbed of a title. Week 16 is, far and away, the preferred week for championship bouts.
Still, if your sadly in this position, or (ideally) a DFS aficionado, The Wolf won’t leave you stranded. Below, find a breakdown of the stakes for each team, updates on who might be resting starters, and their likely backups. Oftentimes, capitalizing on the inactives list can lead to huge Week 17 DFS bargains and success.
Current 2018-19 Playoff Standings (Week 16):
Fantasy Football Implications:
Summary: With No.1 and homefield locked up, the Saints seem likely to rest their starters. Elsewhere, both the Seahawks and Cowboys have minimal to gain, but both coaches and owners say the starters will be out there. Still, this adds some serious risk to all, as the key players could rest with early leads.
1) New Orleans Saints
Stakes: None. They’ve locked up the NFC’s No.1 Seed.
With home-field advantage already locked up, the Saints have legitimately nothing to play for. In the past, Sean Payton has rested his starters whenever his seeding was locked-up (2006 & 2009). He also expressed regret for playing his starters in 2010 and losing key pieces to injury. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and Mark Ingram cannot be trusted, even if active. You weren’t trusting Tre’Quan Smith or Ted Ginn Jr. anyways, although either could be an interesting DFS Dart Throw if active.
Instead, Teddy Bridgewater ($5300 on DK) will get a shot to showcase his goods before hitting free agency, though the game-plan will likely be conservative and run-heavy. This means Dwayne Washington ($3000 on DK) could be a great cost-cutter for DFS lineups as legitimately the only other backfield option. Also, against a Carolina secondary getting routinely roasted, likely WR-starters Austin Carr ($3000) and Keith Kirkwood ($3300) are intriguing bottom-barrel dart throws.
2) Los Angeles Rams
Stakes: Must-win to lock-up No.2 seed; could lose Bye with loss and Bears Win
With two losses in their last three, the scrambling Rams need every playoff advantage they can gain. Thus, expect Sean McVay‘s starting crew to be out and at full-go for a home tilt against the 49ers as they look to lock up their Bye. Start Jared Goff, Robert Woods, and Brandin Cooks as normal.
The only question mark? No.1 overall fantasy pick Todd Gurley. According to Ian Rapoport, Gurley could be rested again after CJ Anderson‘s massive 167 yard, TD explosion. At only $5400 and against a smashable 49ers defense, Anderson would be a very viable DFS play and stream for Week 17 psychos.
3) Chicago Bears
Stakes: Shot at No.2 seed and Bye with win and Rams loss
Despite having the NFC North locked up, Bears HC Matt Nagy has already said the team won’t rest starters for Sunday’s contest against Minnesota. The chance to leap the Rams into Bye Week positioning is simply too much for Nagy to pass up, and the two teams play at 4:25pm ET, so no fate will be sealed prior. Fantasy-wise, the Bears unpredictability plus a tough matchup with the Vikings makes for tough sledding. Really, only Tarik Cohen is worth considering here at a cheap $5900 following his dud last week.
4) Dallas Cowboys
Stakes: Seemingly none… they are locked into the No.4 seed… but…
Despite having nowhere to fall or rise, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insists the team will not be resting starters: “We’re all-out. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got some work to do out here, I think we’ll all agree…We don’t want to, if we can, go into the playoff with dangling participles — loose ends.”
This creates a tricky fantasy dilemma. Multiple starters along the line, including crucial All-Pro pieces in guard Zack Martin (knee) and left tackle Tyron Smith (elbow) could greatly benefit from some rest. Losing an engine like Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL’s leading rusher, would all but crush the Cowboys’ dreams at a playoff run. I would be very cautious in my approach with Zeke, Dak Prescott, and Amari Cooper. If Zeke is sat ahead of time, Rod Smith would be a mildly intriguing option at $5500, as the Giants have surrendered the third most FPs to RBs.
5) Seattle Seahawks
Stakes: Locked into Wildcard spot, with chance to fall to No.6
Though the Seahawks’ have minimal room to gain, Sunday could determine a date with the Cowboys OR the Bears to open the playoffs. With the Bears a seemingly more daunting task, the ‘Hawks are expected to be full go Sunday according to HC Pete Carroll: “We’re going for it…We’ve got a big game. We’re not changing anything. We’re going to do like we do and go for it… We have to keep doing what we’re doing to keep the momentum going and the precision that it takes to keep sharp and all of that. There’s no other circumstance but to take it like a championship (opportunity) and go for it.”
Most noteworthy from a fantasy perspective would be the backfield. The Cardinals surrender the second most FPs to backs, and Chris Carson, who’s amassed 55 touches over the past two games, has been dinged up throughout the season. If he plays his normal workload, Carson will be a locked-in Top 8 play. However, Mike Davis would be a near-lock at only $3800 if Carson is expected to rest.
6) Minnesota Vikings
Stakes: Must-win to clinch playoff berth, can improve to No.5 seed.
The Vikings control their destiny, as they’re locked into the playoffs with a win. Should they lose and the Eagles win, however, and the Vikings would be on the outside looking in. Thus, the entire first-team offense will be full gear in a tough matchup versus the Bears. Kirk Cousins is tough to trust, but the Bears are susceptible to big WR-games. In fact, Stefon Diggs destroyed this team for 13 catches, 126 yards, and 1 TD back in Week 11 and is a reasonable $7000. Meanwhile, Dalvin Cook has been rolling, with over 100 total yards in back-to-back weeks since the OC switch. He’ll faces his stiffest competition yet, however, with the Bears surrendering the fewest FPs to RBs.
In the hunt: Only the Eagles remain as playoff contenders. With a win and Vikings loss, Philadelphia will sneak-in as the No.6 seed and gain a shot at defending their title. Somehow, Nick Foles is again catching magic, going for 471 and 4 TDs last week versus the Texans. He gets a pathetic Redskins D and is fully in play at a $5900 salary. The Redskins have been gift-wrapping huge games to No.1 wideouts, making Foles’ clear-favorite target Alshon Jeffery a tremendous value at $5700. Zach Ertz is also fresh off a monster, and is the clear No.2 TE behind only Travis Kelce.
Summary: With all seeds still up for grabs, none of the AFC teams are expected to sit starters. Here’s all the scenarios and fantasy implications for each squad:
1) Kansas City Chiefs
Stakes: Must-win to secure No.1 Seed
Though Andy Reid notoriously rests starters with nothing on the line, this isn’t the case for Sunday. With the potential to lose the division and No.1 Seed to the Chargers, the Chiefs should be at full-go for Sunday’s tilt against the Raiders. This is great news for those who own Patrick Mahomes, Damien Williams, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. The Raiders surprisingly had the Chiefs on the ropes in a 40-33 Week 13 shootout, and a competitive game would make these fantasy mega-stars even more attractive.
2) New England Patriots
Stakes: Must-win to secure Bye, outside shot at homefield throughout
Despite a down-year by New England’s standards, the Patriots surprisingly still have a shot at the No.1 seed and homefield throughout if the Chiefs AND Chargers shockingly lose. Moreover, the Pats could also lose their No.2 seed and Bye with a loss and Texans win. Clearly, plenty is still on the line, and all of your Patriots should be all-systems-go in a juicy matchup versus the Jets. Last week against New York, Aaron Rodgers topped 40+ FPs, while the plodding Jamaal Williams went for over 24+. Despite their recent struggles, Tom Brady and this offense are in line for a massive rebound.
3) Houston Texans
Stakes: Must-win to secure No.3 seed and Division Title. Shot to ascend to Bye Week.
On the back of an insane 9-game win streak, the Texans have positioned themselves atop of the (surprisingly) competitive AFC South. Still, despite clinching a playoff berth, they could both ascend or plummet from their current No.3 standing. With a Texans loss, the Colts or Titans could actually steal the Division in their play-in game Sunday, sending the Texans to a No.6 seed. And yet, a win and losses from KC and/or NE could secure the Texans a bye. Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and perhaps Lamar Miller should be full-go, even if dinged up. Though typically tough, the Jaguars have seemingly quit on 2018. Still, only Hopkins is a true “Must-Start” here.
4) Baltimore Ravens
Stakes: Must-win to lock-in No.4 Seed. Could lose playoff berth with loss and Steelers win.
A Week 17 win against the Browns will secure the Ravens the No.4 seed, but a loss and a Steelers W would send them packing. Thus, they’ll be fully locked in, giving the rolling Gus Edwards a prime matchup versus a Browns defense that’s routinely bulldozed. Otherwise, there’s minimal fantasy-worthy talent here.
5) Los Angeles Chargers
Stakes: Could secure No.1 seed with win and Chiefs loss
With a shot at the No.1 seed up for grabs, the Chargers will be full-go for Sunday against the Broncos. Luckily, both the Chargers and Chiefs play at 4:25pm, so neither team will be aware of the other’s fate. Play Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, and Philip Rivers against the dinged-up Broncos without reservation.
6) Indianapolis Colts:
Stakes: Win-and-in game versus Titans, with possibility of ascending up to No.3 with Texans loss.
Squaring off in a win-and-in game for the sixth seed versus the Titans, all Colts will be fired up for Sunday Night Football. With a Texans loss, either the Titans or Colts could snag the No.3 seed as well. Start Andrew Luck, TY Hilton, and Marlon Mack as normal.
In the hunt: The Titans face the same fate as the No.6 seed Colts. Derrick Henry is the only trustworthy fantasy asset here, especially with the fragile Marcus Mariota in question once again. Meanwhile, the Steelers could take the No.4 seed with a win and Ravens loss. This explosive attack will be fired up against the absolutely abysmal Bengals defense, and all should be locked-in fantasy starters. Both the Bengals and Steelers play at 4:25pm EST, ensuring neither knows the others status.
Are you a DFS Nut or in a JV, psycho league that extends to Week 17? Be sure to hit up @RotoStreetWolf for any and all lineup dilemmas, and tune into our Week 17 DFS Show this Sunday!