In the final week of the NFL regular season, most leagues have already concluded their championship games. Some of you out there, however, are gearing up for the biggest game of the year, and need to win just one more game if you’re to take your league crown. Congratulations on having a team good enough to make the finals, but if you’re in a league that finishes in Week 17, you’ve set yourself up for your team to be severely weakened heading into the title bout.
So much depends on what each player’s position in the NFL playoffs is. Some teams may have nothing to play for and will not be afraid to show their apathy on the field. Many stars will be rested, or at least severely limited, so it’s difficult to trust anybody at all, even if somebody is declared active. This can be an especially fun week to play a one-off friendly fantasy game with low stakes, or to get involved in DFS, but if your league championship is this week, more often than not there are going to be some serious problems with the team that got you this far.
That being said, I am here to help. There may be some unconventional names in the start and sit sections, but that’s the roller coaster you got on when you signed on for Week 17 fantasy football. Let’s do this.
(I’ll take a break from pounding the table for the criminally under-started Ryan Tannehill this week after including him here every week since Week 12. I’m sure I got my point across by now. If you aren’t starting him by now you probably never will, so I’ll move on to some new QBs this week. Just know that I like them both far less than Tannehill, who I would rank as QB4 this week.)
Tom Brady vs Dolphins
Brady hasn’t been a great fantasy starter this season, but after playing one of his best games of the season against the Bills, and heading into an extremely important Week 17 game with a first-round bye on the line, Brady is ready to demolish the Dolphins, who just let Andy Dalton throw for almost 400 yards and four touchdowns. The Patriots receivers are extremely limited, but with the Dolphins being the cure-all for struggling offenses that they’ve been all season, this isn’t the week to worry about it.
Robert Griffin III vs Steelers
Is it the safest idea? Not at all. But with Lamar Jackson already declared inactive for Week 17, RG3 now takes control of the league’s most dominant offense. This may seem exaggeratory, but a fully healthy Robert Griffin can be nearly as dangerous as Jackson, lest we forget how dominant he was before his knee injuries. Those injuries are long in the past now, and Griffin now gets the best chance that he’s had in years to show how good he still is. The game being against a motivated Steelers team is frightening, and it absolutely gives Griffin as low a floor as a quarterback can have, but if you’re willing to roll the dice, the Heisman-winning starting quarterback for the Ravens is available if you want him.
Kyler Murray at Rams
Kyler Murray is currently a game-time decision in a Week 17 game in which the Cardinals have nothing to gain by winning. Whether he plays or not, Murray hasn’t been an effective fantasy option in a month, and a road game against the Rams does absolutely nothing to make me feel better about that. He has had an excellent rookie season, but Kyler shouldn’t be considered an option for Week 17.
Josh Allen vs Jets
Allen is the perfect example of why Week 17 fantasy matchups are nothing but trouble. He’s currently rated as fantasy’s QB6 and has been a tremendous and reliable starter all year, but there is no way you can trust him in Week 17, despite Doug McDermott declaring him the starter. The Bills have already clinched the fifth seed in the playoffs heading into the game, so it’s anyone’s guess whether Allen plays the entire game, just the first half, or even just a series or two, with nothing to play for.
DeAndre Washington at Broncos
Some sharp fantasy owners were on top of Washington a week earlier, and I mentioned him briefly in last week’s column as a high risk/high reward play. He came through, accumulating over 100 total yards with a touchdown. With his 3.4 average YPC, he’s going to need volume to produce a good score, but his 25 touches in Week 16 suggests that Jon Gruden is amenable to that. With Josh Jacobs doubtful for Sunday and the Raiders still alive for a playoff spot, Washington will once again draw the start and get a full workload.
Carlos Hyde vs Titans
I’m not Hyde’s biggest supporter, but just two weeks ago he took 26 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown against the same Titans team that the Texans will be facing this week. That’s enough to get me interested in a game in which the Texans are trying to play spoiler against their division rival. The Texans may be locked into the four seed come game time if the Chiefs win earlier Sunday afternoon, but Bill O’Brien’s comments against resting starters is at least something to have some hope in.
Kerryon Johnson vs Packers
It still puzzles me that he was out there in the first place, but Johnson led the Lions in carries in his first game back without incident. Not that it led to any meaningful fantasy production. Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson split carries with Kerryon, which essentially renders all three useless in an offense that has struggled to sustain a single start-worthy fantasy back all year. It’s great news for his potential breakout season next year, but forget about Kerryon Johnson in all but the deepest leagues as 2019 comes to a close.
Devin Singletary vs Jets
Singletary’s situation is the same as Josh Allen’s (and every Bills starter, for that matter). Nobody knows how much he’s going to play, so it isn’t worth staking your championship game on it. Find somebody else, especially with Singletary only being a mediocre starter against the scary Jets rush defense.
Greg Ward Jr. at Giants
Greg Ward has been a pleasant surprise for Eagles fans and for fantasy owners looking to squeeze some production out of the crippled Philly air attack beyond just Zach Ertz (who will also be inactive for Sunday’s game). Ward has been a passable starter since he arrived on the scene in Week 12. With just one game below four receptions since then, Ward is becoming about as reliable as any Eagles receiver can hope to be this season, and his 132 yards over the past two games shows that his chemistry with Carson Wentz is only improving. With a must-win Week 17 date with the Giants on the docket, a breakout game for Ward is certainly a possibility.
Cooper Kupp vs Cardinals
No, I can’t deny that Kupp’s targets and target depth have both dwindled in recent weeks, but it’s hard to seriously protest his production to the point of benching him when all he does is catch touchdowns. Kupp’s current streak of four games with a touchdown catch is the best in the league, and with the Cardinals being one of the teams to allow one of those touchdowns, another game against them can’t hurt. He caught six passes for 65 yards in that game as well, which is his best statistical game since coming off his bye in Week 10. Kupp’s Start% is staggeringly low, but his scores have proven that to be a mistake.
T.Y. Hilton at Jaguars
Does anybody really want to go through this again? Hilton has been in and out of the Colts’ lineup for the entire 2nd half of the season, and not once in that span have his returns to action resulted in any meaningful fantasy production. In the last three games he’s played, he’s received a smaller snap count than both Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson. The matchup against the Jaguars is excellent, but his usage isn’t that of a fantasy starter right now. Try again when he’s healthy in 2020.
Tyler Lockett vs 49ers
Once the most reliable player at the position, Lockett put a stamp on a historically infuriating 2nd half of the season with a soul-crushing one-catch, 12-yard performance against the Cardinals. Since his career game in Week 9, which at the time made him the season’s WR3, Lockett has topped nine points just once. While it’s true that the Niners have been exposed defensively over the past three weeks, their reputation precedes them, and they limited Lockett to just three receptions for 26 yards in their Week 10 matchup.
Dallas Goedert at Giants
Goedert is a layup streaming option this week. He’s put up borderline TE1 numbers all year even with Zach Ertz in the lineup, so with Ertz missing this week’s game with the Giants, Goedert should be one of the best options at the position this week.
O.J. Howard vs Falcons
False alarm. Howard had his best chance of the year to get back into the starter tier at tight end last week and he finished with yet another punchless performance. Anyone with hope for something better against the Falcons is a bigger optimist than I am. No matter how he performs this week, Howard will likely go down as the biggest bust of the 2019 season.
And that’s all! The regular season ends this week, and so too does fantasy football. Hopefully I gave you some good advice this year, and I hope you had a good time reading each week too. I guess we’re on to 2020 now. Time to start making some mock drafts.
Best of luck to all of you still playing in Week 17!