NFL Week 17: Who's Resting Starters and Fantasy DFS Implications (2019, Updated) - Roto Street Journal
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NFL Week 17: Who’s Resting Starters and Fantasy DFS Implications (2019, Updated)

NFL Week 17 is always a minefield for fantasy owners to navigate. Many teams have their playoff seeds locked up with no motivation to play starters. Other teams, eliminated long ago, can also be tough to read in regards to injuries. Hopefully, you’re reading this strictly for DFS purposes, and not with your fantasy championship on the line.

Regardless, The Wolf is here to identify any potential fantasy booby traps, as well as sneaky value plays, in a Week 17 where countless NFL lineups will be in flux.

All-but-Certain to Rest Starters

1) Baltimore Ravens – AFC No.1 Seed & Homefield Clinced 

Ravens HC John Harbaugh has already ruled out MVP-frontrunner Lamar Jackson, along with Mark Ingram (calf), Earl Thomas, Marshal Yanda, and Brandon Williams.

Stud TE Mark Andrews (ankle) also seems destined to rest. He’s been dinged up all year, and has yet to practice this week. Now would be the perfect time for Baltimore to rest him and allow Andrews to heal up for over two weeks of rest. Should he suit up, Andrews would be very difficult to trust catching passes from Robert Griffin III. No, don’t get cute with Hayden Hurst or Nick Boyle. 

RGIII is only $5100 on DraftKings, and doesn’t have to do a whole ton to hit value at that price tag. Still, the matchup isn’t inviting, as the Steelers surrender the 4th fewest points to the position. If scraping the bottom barrel, look at Philip Rivers ($5400) instead.

Gus Edwards checks in at $4800, and should be in line for 15-20 carries. Still, the matchup isn’t particularly ripe, as Pittsburgh sports one of the league’s top defensive lines, and boxes should be stacked without Jackson’s threat present. I’ll likely fade this offense altogether, and fire up the Steelers D/ST ($3000) with confidence.

2) Minnesota Vikings – Locked into NFC No.6 Seed 

*Update* The Vikings have confirmed they will rest the bulk of their starters. This means Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen will all be out. This locks in the Bears ($2100) as the ultimate value play.

The Vikings have no room to rise or fall after Monday Night’s dud versus the Packers. Consequently, don’t expect Dalvin Cook or Alex Mattison to return versus the Bears (but that DOES NOT mean go back to the Mike Boone well from hell).

Kirk Cousins has already said he “isn’t sure how much or if he’ll play at all.” Comforting. You shouldn’t have been using him in a tough spot versus the Bears anyways. Already tough fantasy sells this week, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen also should be completely off radars. They seem likely to rest, and if not, do you really want anything tied to Sean Mannion? 

Just like the Ravens — FADE this whole team. Meanwhile, the Bears are the fourth cheapest D/ST on DraftKings ($2100), and a great way to save budget for other studs. Even if fully loaded, I’d expect Allen Robinson to have a field day against this secondary. Playing without some starters only enhances his outlook.

3) Buffalo Bills – Locked into AFC No.5 Seed

Via ESPN, HC Sean McDermott expects “a majority” of the Bills starters to play Week 17 against the Jets — including QB Josh Allen. “Playing” does NOT equal playing a whole game, however, and I’d expect the starters to be done by halftime here. McDermott admitted as much, saying to expect some Matt Barkley. Despite the enticing matchup, this uncertainty makes Allen and his top weapons like John Brown and Devin Singletary extremely risky Week 17 fantasy bets.

4) Houston Texans – Can’t Win Bye or Lose Division Title 

*Update – The Texans have essentially ruled out Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins barring a crazy Chiefs loss. Comfortably move on from them. While I prefer the Bears D/ST, the Titans now are great options

Currently the AFC’s No.4 seed, the Texans have seemingly nothing on the line in Week 17. Sure, Houston could theoretically “improve” to the 3 seed if they win and the Chiefs somehow lose to the hapless Chargers.

But a 3-seed comes with minimal benefits, at least compared to a week of rest for ailing players.

Even still, Bill O’Brien claims the team will “play to win,” and thus has “no plans to rest players.” This should absolutely be taken with a (huge) grain of salt, especially after Deshaun Watson took some heavy hits and hobbled around a bit last Sunday with a back injury.

Thankfully, Sunday should offer some greater clarity. Playing 1pm, as the Chiefs will have either locked up the three-seed, or left the door for the Texans to swoop in with a 4:25pm kickoff. This does present a challenge — do you wait on studs like Watson and DeAndre Hopkins, or find a safer alternative? I lean towards fading the Texans, but they’d admittedly be enticing tournament plays at low ownership, against a banged-up Titans secondary, with shootout potential.

Non-Playoff Teams that May Rest:

5) Los Angeles Rams – Nothing to play for

HC Sean McVay has “hinted” the Rams could rest some “key starters” versus the Cardinals in Week 17. Unlike 2017, the Rams reportedly “won’t make wholesale changes to their starting lineup… but they could opt to rest some of their best players.” Speculatively, DaSilva suggests Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, and Gerald Everett could rest, alongside Jalen Ramsey and Bobby Evans on defense.

Consequently, the Rams have become trickier to trust. Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp (who’s snaps were already diminishing), and even the scorching Tyler Higbee would all be downgraded considerably should Goff sit this one out. The matchup is extremely juicy, particularly for Higbee ($5600) given Arizona’s historic struggle vs. TEs. Nonetheless, a risk of early rest and/or a Blake Bortles injection make all parties take a hit.

Should Gurley be ruled out ahead of time, Malcolm Brown ($4000) and Darrell Henderson ($3400) would become viable cheap dart throws. Henderson did miss practice time earlier this week, so Brown would be a potential workhorse without his companions, and a strong bet for a TD regardless of who’s; under center.

Highest Motivation – Playing for Playoff Lives

Plenty of teams are playing for their playoff lives, and will be going all out to secure Ws. Below are the teams who have it all on the line in Week 17.

1) Philadelphia Eagles – Win and In (NFC East title)

*Update* – Zach Ertz is OUT, locking in Dallas Goedert as my No.3 TE for the week. He’s a lineup lock for $4900.

After embarrassing the Cowboys in Week 16, the Eagles now control their playoff fate. If they take care of business against the pathetic Giants, Philly will be headed to the playoffs once again under Doug Pederson. Even if they lose, the Eagles would make it with a Cowboys loss.

Thankfully, both teams play at 4:25pm, so neither will know the others fate until long into the game. Thus, expect Carson Wentz and co to be fully motivated and in for the entirety of a juicy, juicy spot. At a meager $6100, Wentz is far-and-away my favorite QB option in Week 17. Even amidst all the injuries, Wentz has now scored 28.4, 23.9, 22.45, and 21.96 FPs across his last four games, and now gets a Giants team that ranks 26th in points allowed to the position. He’s a near-lock for another 21+ FP effort.

In fact, amidst the injury carnage, some intriguing low-cost stacks emerge here. Greg Ward ($4700) is the only WR with a pulse these last two weeks, and has been far-and-away the top wideout option for Wentz. In fact, he was the only WR to catch a ball from Wentz just two weeks ago. After going 19 and 11 FPs in his last two, Ward should feast upon a Giants secondary surrendering the third most FPs to WRs.

Dallas Goedert ($4900) also is a prime option in this slate. Zach Ertz (ribs) is shaping up to be a true game-time decision, and should be at significantly less than 100% if he does suit up. Ertz missed a heavy portion of the Dallas game, leading to a career high in usage (12 targets), catches (9 rec), yards (91), and FPs (24.1) for Goedert. He is again a threat to break the 20 FP threshold, especially if Ertz sits.

In the run-game, Jordan Howard annoyingly returns. In his absence, Miles Sanders has played above 80% of snaps in 4 of 6 games, a feat previously achieved only 1 other time in Pederson’s 57 other games. Sanders has been the PPR RB3 over this span, and is still expected to have his “hot hand” ridden. Still, Howard could see serious work to shake off rust, particularly in the Red Zone. Sanders’ elite ceiling is just a tad lower, enough for me to consider other options in his $6800 range.

Simply put, the added motivation, cheap prices, and juicy matchups make the Eagles my favorite DFS stack across the board.

2) Dallas Cowboys – Win + Eagles Loss = NFC East Title

On the flipside, the Dallas Cowboys still remain entirely in the hunt. With their matchup vs. the Redskins kicking off at the same time as Philadelphia, Dallas should be full-go in this cake matchup.

Dak Prescott was noticeably hampered with his AC Joint ailment in Week 16. He won’t throw until Friday, and will clearly be limited in this contest. Despite the tasty Redskins matchup (7th most FPs) and $6300 price tag, Prescott is risky to trust here. He makes sense only for tournament differentiation. This also means I’m fading the seriously-injured Amari Cooper ($6500) and Michael Gallup ($5400), despite the drool-worthy pricetags in blow up spots.

Instead, I’ll be turning to Ezekiel Elliott ($8000) nearly everywhere. In a week of juicy elite RB matchups, perhaps Zeke is the tastiest. He trounced Washington for 23 FPs last time out, and should be leaned upon even more heavily here with Prescott hampered. Expect Zeke to shred for a 25+ FP bashing against a front-seven missing several core pieces.

3) Tennessee Titans – Win & In (6th Seed) 

Arguably the wildcard that no team wants to face in Round One, the Titans will ride steamroller Derrick Henry and the  hot-hand of Ryan Tannehill into the 2019 dance with a win versus the Texans. With everything on the line versus a weak defense, all Titans should be fantasy priorities in Week 17.

Tannehill ($6800) continues to be priced under $7k, despite topping 19+ FPs in all but 1 of his 9 starts. He’s particularly hot in his last three, with 23, 25, and 31 FPs. Houston has let up the second most FPs to the position, and Tanny should once again be unleashed. Expect AJ Brown ($7000) to again light it up — he went for 28 FPs last time versus this porous secondary, and has scored at least 1 TD across three straight. The dude is a monster after the catch and at the point of attack, and is already my pick for 2020’s Chris Godwin.

4) Pittsburgh Steelers – AFC 6th Seed w/ Win & Titans Loss 

Yay, all your megastar options for the Steelers will be raring to go against Baltimore’s backups!

Hopefully, you abandoned any type of offensive options here long ago. RB James Conner would be somewhat justifiable… if he wasn’t likely out yet again. I’m not touching any of the three-headed nightmare RBBC that’ll form in his absence. You shouldn’t need any justification for benching any pieces of the pass-game after Duck Hodges has tanked any predictable production, and JuJu‘s return makes the target distribution even more uncertain.

Really, the lone option here is the Steelers D/ST ($3000). Against the RGIII-led Ravens backups, this elite unit is again set up for a 12+ FP day. Outside of the Bears ($2100), the Steelers are my go-to D/ST in Week 17.

5) Oakland Raiders – AFC 6th Seed w/ the Miracle of All Miracles 

*Update – Josh Jacobs is OUT. DeAndre Washington isn’t a must-play at his $5200 price given the tough matchup. 

Though there’s roughly 1% chance the Raiders get both a W and all the help they need, the teams remains just barely alive. Unfortunately, they also play at 4:25pm, and will know whether or not their fates are sealed long before kickoff.

Really, the only player that should be on fantasy radars anyways is Josh Jacobs ($6300). He’s missed two of the last three games with a fractured shoulder, and is also fresh off a surgery for a skin infection. If their playoff hopes remain alive, the Raiders will likely do all they can to get their stud horse out there. Even still, with 4.6, 13.4, and 12.1 efforts across his last three, the ceiling isn’t particularly astronomical. Moreso,  this impacts whether DeAndre Washington ($5200) remains a viable streamer. I’d avoid at the heightened price tag in his toughest matchup yet.


High Motivation – Playing for Byes and Seeds

The following teams may have already clinched playoff berths, but have plenty of incentives like homefield advantage and Bye Weeks on the line. Thus, they should be expected to play their starters for the vast majority, if not the entirety, of Week 17. 

1) The Entire NFC Outside the Vikings

Thankfully for NFL and fantasy fans, the entire NFC remains up for grabs. Even the current 5th seed Seahawks have a shot at the top spot and homefield throughout.

As such, expect all your studs from the Saints, 49ers, Packers, and Seahawks out there and fully ready to go. In particularly juicy spots:

  • Despite his first “Kamara” 29+ FP effort since Week 3, Alvin Kamara ($7800) remains under $8k. He’s squaring off with the single-worst run defense in the league, and is easily a threat to cross the 25+ FPs line once again. Surprisingly, he’s only 7th on RotoGrinders projected ownership (10%), which would make him even more of a steal.
  • Aaron Jones ($8200) is scorching, with 32, 17, and 34 across his last three. Expect the good times to keep rolling, as the Packers keep fighting for the one seed. The Lions are the third most generous team in points allowed to RBs, and Jamaal Williams hasn’t practiced yet this week, raising Jones ceiling and floor even further. He’s firmly among the top options amidst a group of elite RBs in elite matchups (Zeke, Henry, Kamara, Jones).
  • In this same matchup, Davante Adams ($8000) is also shaping to be a fantastic play. He’s fresh off a 16 target, 13 catch, 116 yard day. Although more porous to the run, the Lions are also generous to WRs, surrendering the fourth most FPs to the position. Expect Adams to again log 12+ looks and 9+ catches.

2) Patriots – Lock Up No.2 Seed & Bye with Win 

Finally, the Patriots offense flashed some signs of life versus a tough Buffalo defense. Tom Brady looked fired up, Julian Edelman was moving around well, and the run-game found some footing behind Elandon Roberts at fullback.

Expect the downpour to continue in the softest of matchups against Miami. Equally horrendous against the run and pass, all options are viable here. Brady ($6000) has topped 18 FPs only once in his last 7, and been below 15 in five of these, suggesting a low floor and ceiling. Yet, with a bottom-barrel price, he’s worth a look to stack with Julian Edelman ($7300). Five of the last 7 Milly Maker winners have streamed against the Dolphins, who remain just pesky enough under Ryan FitzMagic to keep the opposition throwing. Edelman is especially of note, as the Dolphins have been the worst team against slot WRs and are down to their fourth and fifth string corners.

Meanwhile, the run-game has grown even more unpredictable with the recent emergence of Rex Burkhead ($4500). The cheapest of the Pats RBs (Michel is $4900 and White is $5900), Burkhead has 13 and 18 in his last two. He offers the most versatility to this offense, and seems to be emerging as the top option. Michel still drips in 2+ TD upside if the team gets rolling early, while White feels certain for 5-6+ catches. With other cheaper options with less congestion, such as Damien Williams ($4700), I’ll likely avoid the backfield altogether.

3) Chiefs – Can Steal No.2 Seed & Bye with Win and Patriots Loss 

One of the league’s most explosive offenses should be fully geared up on Sunday versus the Chargers.

With no Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes ($7200) is in a tier alone as the top QB option. If paying up at the position, he has to be the top target. Tyreek Hill ($7700) makes for an interesting pivot away from Julio Jones ($8500). He’s my WR4, behind only Thomas, Julio, and Adams.

In the run-game, Damien Williams ($4700) returned and immediately took the backfield reigns. Across his last four active games, Williams has logged 19, 5 (injury), 24, and 14 touches for 18, 2, 14, and 23 FPs. He remains the sneaky featured back for this squad, and gets a solid matchup against a quitting Chargers team that surrenders the 12th most FPs to the position. Williams is my RB17 (+4 ECR). LeSean McCoy ($4200) is expected to return, but the Chiefs have openly admitted to putting him on ice ahead of the playoffs.

Teams eliminated from the playoffs (more likely to rest injured players)

The following teams have nothing but pride on the line, as well as any arbitrary benchmarks or records for players. 

Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Washington.

Potential Record Chasers:

  • Christian McCaffrey  has a litany of records he could achieve Sunday, and the team will reportedly feed him all they can to achieve it. Interim OC Scotty Turner has pledged to get McCaffrey “the ball any way he can” on Sunday. Unlike last year, CMac should expect his normal monstrous load. In fact, with DJ Moore banged up, expect an uptick in receptions — CMac caught a whopping, career-high 15 balls with Moore shelved for most of last week. With only 67 receiving yards, CMac could become just the third 1,000 rush, 1,000 receiving RB in history. He’s also 216 yards away from Chris Johnson‘s total yardage record. He’s worth the $10k investment on DraftKings.
  • Potential 1,000 receiving yards (100 yards or less): Tyler Boyd, D.J. Chark, George Kittle, Mike Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Austin Ekeler, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin
  • Potential 1,000 yard rushers: Joe Mixon needs 25 yards to reach 1,000 rushing yards; Phillip Lindsay needs 42, and Saquon Barkley needs 89, Aaron Jones needs just 16 yards.

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