Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 17: Lineup Advice for Final Regular-Season Fantasy Week

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 24, 2013

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) looks to stiff arm Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans (59) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The final week of the regular season is here, which means one more painstaking week of teeth-grinding decisions for owners as they peruse their lineup for the best possible combination.

This is the week that separates the best from the rest, and funnily enough, there is nothing different about it from any other. Well, expect for watching which players may sit because their teams are already sitting pretty with postseason seeding secured (hint—this is why owners should play in leagues that end before the real season).

Like every week, smart decisions based on a variety of factors will win the day. Factor in health, trends, matchup analysis and even postseason scenarios and the picture becomes clear as to whom to start and sit.


Note: All fantasy scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues. Points-against info courtesy of ESPN.



Start 'Em: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. BAL)

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 22:  Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the NFL game against the Minnesota Vikings at Paul Brown Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Andy Dalton has been hit-or-miss all year for the Cincinnati Bengals, catching fire at some points and disappearing the next.

But Dalton's game against Baltimore has major playoff implications as the team chases a No. 2 seed in the AFC. Better yet, Dalton is at home, where the Bengals have scored 40 or more in four straight and Dalton has thrown 15 touchdowns to three interceptions in the same span.

Dalton has scored 30 or more in two of three, and while he may not reach those heights again, he has to be in the lineup if owned.


Sit 'Em: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (at MIN)

Dec 22, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to pass during the overtime quarter against the New York Giants at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Some fantasy stars drop off the face of a cliff as the season gears toward its conclusion.

This year, Matthew Stafford is the poster boy. Stafford has thrown five interceptions to one touchdown in his last three games and has scored seven or fewer points in that same span.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King sums up Stafford's typical play in December nicely:

Week 17 is a great matchup against Minnesota, but history and recent trends say to avoid at all costs. Stafford has ruined enough fantasy seasons this year. 


Running backs

Start 'Em: DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (vs. PHI)

Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) runs with the ball against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarco Murray has now scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games, but he gets a mega-boost in the final game of the season thanks to the strange status of quarterback Tony Romo.

Per EPSN's Adam Schefter, Romo will miss the rest of the year:

But head coach Jason Garrett has backpedaled on the report, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:

Regardless of how this shakes out, Murray is now a must-start option as he appears in line for heavy usage against the Philadelphia Eagles. It helps the Eagles allow an average of 16.1 points to running backs, but Murray is due for much more with an increased workload.


Sit 'Em: Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (vs. JAC)

Dec 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown (31) runs the ball during the first half of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Before the game on Sunday night in Week 16, Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown was the second-highest scorer at his position with 22 points.

Quite the shock considering it came against the stout Kansas City defense.

Just do not expect it to happen again.

That was Brown's second foray over 20 points on the year, and only his fourth over 10. Brown is seeing more work than usual and scored seven points against Jacksonville in Week 4, but he is not the type of player to count on with everything on the line.


Wide Receivers

Start 'Em: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (vs. PHI)

Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is congratulated by Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Oh yes, do not let the strange cloud of confusion around Tony Romo deter feelings toward Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant—he must remain in any and all lineups.

Regardless of who is under center, the quarterback will spam it to Bryant. He has scored 12 times this year for good reason—not many can match up with him in the red zone.

Romo's injury could not have come at a better time for Bryant owners. The Philadelphia Eagles are the NFL's worst defense against wide receivers and allow an average of 29.2 points per game.

Bryant is a receiver who thrives regardless of quarterback. Owners should not overreact to news about Romo.


Sit 'Em: Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers (at CHI)

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 22: Jarrett Boykin #11 of the Green Bay Packers reaches in vain for a pass in the end zone against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau Field on December 22, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Steelers defeated the Packers 38-31. (P
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Make no mistake, Jarrett Boykin is destined for big things in Green Bay. Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon sheds a bit of light on the situation:

But big things are not in store for Week 17. Boykin has scored over 10 points just once in his last four outings, in part because Matt Flynn has been under center for the injured Aaron Rodgers.

Boykin is no Bryant in that he can survive a quarterback change with consistency. If he is, he has yet to show owners anything of the sort.

Regardless of Rodgers' health, Boykin needs to be on any and all benches as the Packers will be looking to run it more than anything against the NFL's worst run defense.


Tight Ends

Start 'Em: Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears (vs. GB)

Dec 15, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) tries to break free from Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward (43) during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

In the fantasy landscape this season, around eight points is a quality outing for a tight end. Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett hit that last week against Philadelphia.

While it was just his fifth journey to eight or more points, owners will be hard-pressed to find much better at the position. Bennett now gets a shot at a Green Bay defense that allows an average of 8.1 points to tight ends.

In a game that crowns the NFC North champion, expect a solid line from Bennett.


Sit 'Em: Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles (at DAL)

Dec 22, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Brent Celek (87) watches the ball into his hands during pre game at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As sexy as the matchup looks for Philadelphia against a horrid Dallas defense, the good vibes do not extend to every member of the offense.

For instance, owners should not fool themselves into thinking Brent Celek will have a major impact.

Celek has suffered in Chip Kelly's offense and has seen some of his targets go to Zach Ertz in recent weeks. Eight of Celek's games this year have gone for two or fewer points, and that is the type of consistency owners should shy away from at this point in the season.


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