It is said that now is the most wonderful time of the year and I know this to be true, but only for anyone who is still playing in their fantasy league – and I am not talking about the consolation bracket. Most league championships will take place during Week 17 of the NFL season, making this week the most important week of the year.
Luckily for fantasy managers, the NFL playoff races are still heated and no playoff teams will have the luxury of sitting their top players this week. There are only two open spots left in the NFC playoff picture and there are three teams with 11-4 records who are trying to catch the 12-3 Packers for the No. 1 seed. The 11-4 Chiefs are the only team in the AFC that has clinched a spot but they do not own many tie-breakers and could still be caught by several teams.
Week 17 features no games on Thursday or Saturday. This gives you a full week to prepare before the bulk of players will compete on Sunday. Every year there are streaming players who were not fantasy-relevant at the beginning of the season that come up huge during the last few weeks of the season.
RB Rex Burkhead was one of these players last week. Burkhead recorded a 22-149-2 stat line in the Texans' 41-29 upset of the Chargers. WR Isaiah McKenzie was the biggest surprise at receiver in Week 16. McKenzie caught 11-of-12 targets for 125 yards and a touchdown in the Bills’ win over the Patriots.
These are the type of players managers are trying to insert in their lineups during the fantasy playoffs. With money on the line, every point counts and there is no time to be attached to any certain player because of his past. Do not hesitate to sit someone who has been underperforming as of late and throw in someone set to have a big day like Burkhead or McKenzie.
Notable Week 16 Injuries that Impact Fantasy
Colts’ TE Jack Doyle injured his knee/ankle in the first quarter and did not return. Doyle’s status is questionable for Week 17
Texans’ WR Phillip Dorsett III injured his foot in the third quarter. Dorsett III is doubtful for Week 17.
Eagles’ RB Miles Sanders broke his hand late in the first half. He will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Eagles’ other RB Jordan Howard exited the game in the fourth quarter due to a stinger. He is not expected to miss Week 17.
Jaguars ‘RB James Robinson suffered a torn Achilles in the first quarter. He will undergo surgery and fight to return for the start of the 2022 season.
Rams’ RB Darrell Henderson left in the fourth quarter due to a knee injury. The Rams placed Henderson on the injured reserve.
Chiefs’ RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire injured his shoulder in the third quarter. The initial report was positive that CEH did not break any bones. He is dealing with some swelling and is doubtful for Week 17.
Vikings’ WR Adam Thielen came back after a two-game absence but it wasn’t long before suffering multiple aggravations of his ankle injury. Thielen is questionable to play in Week 17, and if he does will most likely be on a snap count
49ers’ QB Jimmy Garoppolo tore his UCL and a fractured bone in his right thumb. Garoppolo is probably not going to return during the regular season.
QB to Start
Trey Lance, 49ers – Start vs Texans
The Garoppolo era may be officially over in San Francisco. Many people have been calling for Coach Kyle Shanahan to make the change to Lance. Those fans will most likely get their wish in Week 17 against an atrocious Texans’ defense. Lance who is full of raw talent hasn’t played since Week 5, which makes him a risky play. But his rushing ability mixed with a good matchup makes his floor high. The 49ers’ rookie-QB is the exact player that could be the difference because his ceiling is also extremely high. Remember, fortune favors the bold.
QB to Sit
Russell Wilson, Seahawks – Sit vs Lions
Wilson and the Seahawks are in unfamiliar territory – playing meaningless football in December and January. Since drafting Wilson in 2012, the Seahawks have only missed the playoffs once (2017) – this season will be the second time. There are a lot of stories developing around Wilson and the future of the Seahawks as they begin to prepare for the offseason. Wilson hasn’t performed horribly in the last quarter of the season but he is not to be trusted this week. Wilson will probably not provide the volume which will allow him to put together a good fantasy game against the Lions.
RBs to Start
Jordan Howard, Eagles – Start @ WFT
Howard should be the main beneficiary of Miles Sanders’ absence. Howard’s status must be monitored this week because he started the week with a questionable tag – but he is expected to play. The Eagles have shown they are willing to give Howard the bulk of the running back touches when Sanders has been sidelined this year. Howard will also get the highly coveted goal-line carries for Philly. The Eagles have a run-first offense and should stick to the script against the Football Team in Week 17 making Howard a trustworthy fantasy play.
Javonte Williams, Broncos – Start @ Chargers
Williams and the whole Broncos’ offense looked lost with Drew Lock as their QB last week. If Teddy Bridgewater returns then Williams' value will be back in the top-15. If Lock gets another start, then Williams may be hard to trust but I think he still needs to be started. The Broncos’ rushing attack has been a problem for most defenses and the Chargers have given up the third-most points to opposing RBs this year. Denver’s rookie RB had over 100 total yards a TD against the Chargers in Week 12 – posting 18.6 fantasy points.
RB to Sit
Saquon Barkley, Giants – Start @ Bears
Barkley is recording around 15 touches a game down the stretch for the Giants. which is nice to see for his owners. There is a problem though, he is not doing much with his touches because the Giants' offense is atrocious. The former first-rounder has gained more than 60 rushing yards once this year and has not scored a rushing TD since Week 4. Barkley’s usage makes him difficult to sit but his output just leads to weekly disappointment. The Bears' defense ranks near the middle of the pack against opposing RBs and should be making sure the Giants QB (whoever that may be) has to throw the ball to beat them. Also, there is a chance that the Giants decide to shut down Barkley early this year.
WRs to Start
Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Start vs Vikings
Valdes-Scantling had a huge game in Week 15 against the Ravens but had to miss last week due to COVID. It’s difficult to predict who will get the bulk of the targets behind Davante Adams when everyone is healthy in Green Bay. Now with Randall Cobb on the IR, MVS becomes a likely candidate to garner receptions. The Vikings’ defense has given up the most points to opposing receivers this year and will need to send extra defenders Adams’ way if they do not want him to single-handedly destroy them. The Vikings have beat Green Bay once this year in a high-scoring game and the Packers will be ready to set things straight this time around.
K.J. Osborn, Vikings – Start @ Packers
The absence of Adam Thielen has opened the door for Osborn, and he has produced well as an every-down player. Three out of the last four games the third-year receiver has scored more than 12 fantasy points. Osborn started Week 16 on the bench but Thielen quickly aggravated his ankle injury, which opened the door for No. 17 to catch 5-of-7 targets for 68 yards and a TD. With Thielen limited, the Packers will be doing their best to limit Justin Jefferson, leaving the door wide open for Osborn to make his mark this Sunday.
WR to Sit
Chase Claypool, Steelers – Sit vs Browns
The Steelers’ offense has struggled all year and has recorded more than 20 points once in the past five weeks. Diontae Johnson and Najee Harris are the only Steelers that collect enough touches to make them trustworthy in fantasy. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is horrible, which makes it hard for the offense, run by an aging QB, to sustain drives. Claypool does not get enough targets in an offense that does not score enough points to be trusted against the Browns' strong defense.
TE to Start
Tyler Higbee, Rams – Start @ Ravens
Higbee has been a disappointment for anyone who drafted him. He has recorded three total receiving TDs and one game with more than 50 yards (Week 1). Most TEs outside the top-five are TD-dependent boom-or-bust type of players. Higbee is not a must-start this week but his matchup with the Ravens’ defense makes him an intriguing play. The Ravens have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to TEs this season and have been giving up a lot of points as a whole as of late. Higbee has averaged nearly six targets in the past three games he has played, and hopefully, he can do more with his targets in Week 17.
TE to Sit
Cole Kmet, Bears – Sit vs Giants
I mentioned above that most tight ends fall into the boom-or-bust TD-dependent category this year. Kmet is in that category but he’s been more of a bust because he is yet to score a TD this season. A big reason Kmet hasn’t found the end zone is due to the Bears’ offense not knowing where the pay-dirt is. Another reason is that TE Jimmy Graham vultures TDs when the Bears do get in the red zone. Although the Giants provide an easy real-life matchup for the Bears, the Giants’ defense has provided some resistance against opposing offenses and rank 17th against opposing TEs – making Kmet unreliable.