Fantasy

Fantasy Football Week 17: Early Advice for Your Roster

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

Fantasy Football Week 17: Early Advice for Your Roster

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Here's hoping that you had a wonderful Christmas or, if you don't celebrate it, a good day off.

    Or at least if you were stuck working, your boss and the customers cut you some slack.

    You won't get any slack if you're in the fantasy championship game in Week 17—not from your opponent.

    We've got a laundry list of players you'll want in your lineup this week, as well as some you won't want anywhere near it.

    We also talk a bit about Tony Romo, as well as a few other guys who are on the fence to play this week, and we do tackle whether a Week 17 fantasy championship is as insane as it used to be or if you're ahead of the curve.

    Good luck this week—here's hoping you all come away with a win.

     

    *All statistics obtained from NFL.com or ESPN.com unless otherwise noted. You can also check out Tuesday’s Start/Sit article here.

Should Championships Be in Week 17?

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    Once upon a time, this is where we often saw Peyton Manning in Week 17, but no more.
    Once upon a time, this is where we often saw Peyton Manning in Week 17, but no more.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    For as long as I can recall, the theory has been that Week 17 championships are a bad idea.

    But is that true anymore?

    Yes, we have several players out—or in Tony Romo’s case, maybe out, but we’ll get to him in a minute—however, the majority of them were out last week.

    There are still people discussing whether a team will sit its players, but by and large there are enough teams still fighting for playoff spots that it’s not as big a factor as it once was.

    In fact, that’s what the NFL intended when they altered the schedule to force more divisional games at the end of the season. Worried that teams resting players hurt the integrity of the game, they did this specifically to force more teams to play their starting roster.

    Of course, they didn’t do that with fantasy football in mind, but it works out anyway.

    For the most part, I think a Week 17 championship can still be dicey and bring more “luck” into play than I am comfortable with. Just because some teams aren’t locked into a spot doesn’t mean others won’t rest a guy or—depending on other games—yanks them at halftime.

    As time goes on though, I’m starting to think perhaps we’re wasting a week of quality trash talking.

    What do you think? Has your league moved to a 17-week fantasy schedule? Or do you keep it "old school?"

    Let us know in the comments.

The Romo Factor Aka Stud Quarterback Odds and Ends

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    On Monday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was “ruled out for the rest of the season,” which means backup Kyle Orton would get the start against the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s pivotal Week 17 game.

    CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora said that the final determination had yet to be made on Romo, but that it looks like Orton will get the start and that it looks likely Schefter’s report on Romo’s injury being season-ending is correct.

    So what is a fantasy owner to do? For that matter, how do you approach Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or a guy like Alex Smith whose team is unlikely to change their playoff seeding?

    Really, it’s largely the same as we’ve preached for weeks: Have an alternative ready, keep an eye on the news.

    Romo’s situation appears to be the easiest despite some of the smoke the Dallas organization is throwing out. Romo isn’t going to play, and frankly, if there is this much doubt, he’s got to be hurting. In which case you can’t feel good about him starting in a championship game.

    We should know about Rodgers on Friday, but I have been leaning that he will not play. You’ve landed in the championship game without him—even if he plays, you probably have an option you should trust more.

    Still, that Bears defense is tempting……

    If you’ve got someone like Alex Smith in your lineup, you’ve probably been playing matchups. So do what you’ve already been doing—pick the better matchup. I think Andy Reid has his team looking to end the season on a high note—most teams will, actually.

    Finally, I’m not worried about Peyton Manning, Tom Brady or anyone else sitting early unless they get out to a big lead.

    In which case you can bet they’ve contributed to your success before they hit the bench anyway.

Quarterback Matchups to Like

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Cam Newton at Atlanta Falcons

    While Newton didn’t have much to offer fantasy owners last week, you can expect a great performance against the weak Atlanta Falcons defense. 

    And that's before you even take into account that the division title, a first-round bye and even potentially home-field advantage are all on the line.

    Newton and the Panthers will be laser-focused and primed for a big win.

     

    Nick Foles at Dallas Cowboys

    Foles brought the touchdowns last week, though his yards weren’t anything special. Sadly for Cowboys fans, their defense isn’t anything special either.

    With the division on the line, you can expect the Eagles and Foles to attack early and not let up on the gas until the final whistle.

    That makes him a very good start in the fantasy championships.

     

    Andrew Luck vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

    On the surface, Luck’s Week 16 stats weren’t anything to crow about. Dig deeper, though, and you'll realize he put up those numbers against an allegedly great Kansas City defense.

    He should be able to blow the Jaguars out of the water this week. The only reason to hesitate to play him would be if you think it’s going to get ugly early, resulting in Luck being benched.

    The Jaguars play well enough to compete though, so I don’t expect that.

Running Back Matchups to Like

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Chris Ivory at Miami Dolphins

    Ivory had a nice, fat box score last weekend, totaling 109 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Meanwhile, the Dolphins were busy letting Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson run for 111 yards and a touchdown, with C.J. Spiller adding 77 yards to the damage tally.

    The Jets are playing for pride and to be spoilers, with Ivory still trying to justify his addition to the team. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are struggling at the wrong time of the year.

    Ivory should be a low-end No. 2 fantasy back or a rock-solid No. 3.

     

    Le’Veon Bell vs. Cleveland Browns

    As we just pointed out, the Browns allowed Chris Ivory to top 100 yards—Steelers rookie Le’Veon Bell should have a shot at replicating that.

    Coming off a big performance against Green Bay, Bell should have the momentum to be effective as a strong No. 2 or even a No. 1 fantasy running back this week.

     

    DeAngelo Williams at Atlanta Falcons

    Williams had a solid, though unspectacular, game on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Against an Atlanta defense which can be run on, with the division, a bye and potentially home field on the line, you can expect Williams to bring his “A” game.

    Start him as a solid No. 2 running back with some upside.

     

Wide Receiver Matchups to Like

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    James Jones at Chicago Bears

    As we said back in the Romo slide, it feels as if Aaron Rodgers won’t play this week. If he doesn’t, keep in mind that quarterback Matt Flynn only seemed able to hit James Jones against the Steelers.

    Flynn completed 75 percent of his attempts to Jones while only completing 44.4 percent of his passes to other receivers.

    The Bears might adjust a little when they see the film, but their injured secondary is going to have its hands full with Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin on top of whatever Jones might do. Despite last week, Nelson remains a bigger threat and Boykin has proved himself a dangerous receiver.

    Jones will see plenty of opportunities and single coverage, which should produce enough numbers for him to be a nice No. 3 fantasy receiver this week.

     

    Anquan Boldin at Arizona Cardinals

    Over the last three weeks Boldin’s production has been a bit inconsistent, though two of the three weeks have seen solid production. The Cardinals will be a tough matchup, but the secondary will be more concerned with Michael Crabtree than Boldin.

    He should find enough room to put together some nice No. 3 fantasy receiver numbers.

     

    Robert Woods at New England Patriots

    For the last two games, rookie Robert Woods has topped 70 yards while being targeted 11 times over that span—more than any other receiver on the Bills. He’s also been targeted in the red zone once each of the last two games.

    The Patriots have gathered momentum as they head into the playoffs, but the defense is far from above reproach—they can be beat.

    Woods should put up some No. 3 or No. 4 receiver numbers.

     

Tight End Matchups to Like

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    Greg Olsen at Atlanta Falcons

    The up-and-down season has continued for Panthers tight end Greg Olsen as he was well-covered last weekend against the Saints.

    However, with Steve Smith out this weekend, Olsen will be a much bigger portion of the game plan.

    He should find plenty of room against a shaky Atlanta Falcons defense.

     

    Marcedes Lewis at Indianapolis Colts

    For four weeks in a row, Lewis has scored a touchdown, and against an Indianapolis Colts defense which can be beat (maybe not by the Kansas City Chiefs) he should keep it up.

    While there is some danger in playing a guy whose point total is so heavily tied to touchdowns, you also want to play the hot hand.

    And Lewis definitely is that.

     

    Martellus Bennett vs. Green Bay Packers

    Coming off two solid games in a row, Bears tight end Martellus Bennett has definitely benefitted from the presence of Jay Cutler. It doesn’t hurt to have one of the best receiver tandems next to him in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

    The Packers defense still struggles to stop the pass and there is a ton on the line for both teams. Bennett will see plenty of opportunities.

Defensive Matchups to Like

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

    The Browns have nothing to play for and the Jets were able to limit Josh Gordon in a way no other team seemed to be able to.

    The Steelers’ playoff chances are on life support, but the only thing they can really control is winning this game. Expect the best performance of the year from the defense.

     

    New York Jets at Miami Dolphins

    The Dolphins turned in a dreadful performance last week—especially the offensive line.

    That means the Jets defensive line will be salivating at the chance to knock Ryan Tannehill around and kill the Dolphins’ chances of making the playoffs.

    Even the secondary played well last week, so you might see a turnover or two. Still, your main source of points will be sacks, of which there should be plenty.

     

    Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

    Working on the assumption that Kyle Orton will be under center for the Cowboys, you have to like the Eagles this week. Given that he has thrown all of 15 passes since the start of the 2012 season, it's safe to say he may be a bit rusty.

    Even when he was a starter back in 2010 and part of 2011 with the Denver Broncos he wasn't exactly good.

    Having Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to will help, but Orton just isn't good and the Dallas offensive line can be streaky.

    The Eagles look really good against an offense which can't get out of its own way and a quarterback who has rarely looked reliable.

     

Matchups to Avoid

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    Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    As we did last week, here is one matchup per position which you will want to stay well clear of.

     

    Russell Wilson vs. St. Louis Rams

    The Rams have played inconsistently on defense, but this is more about Wilson than the defense. 

    Over the past three games, Wilson has topped 200 yards just once—and on that occasion by just six yards—and thrown three interceptions on top of just three touchdowns.

    Not shockingly, the team has dropped two out of three of those games—one at home.

    Wilson has not played well recently, and if the Rams can play tough—and they will come to play hard—he'll struggle.

    The quarterback and the matchup should give you pause this week—find a better option.

     

    Alfred Morris at New York Giants

    Last week was the third straight game where Morris ran for under 100 yards. He did score a touchdown though—his first since Week 13.

    Meanwhile, the New York Giants held another running back under 100 yards—this time Joique Bell.

    Last time these two met, Morris had just 26 yards on the ground and 43 yards once you added in the receiving. He did score a touchdown, but that overall number—that's not encouraging.

    The Giants may be a dumpster fire, but one thing they do is shut down running backs.

    They have allowed two 100-yard rushers in 16 games—DeAngelo Williams in Week 3 and Ryan Mathews in Week 14.

    Beyond that it's been a difficult time getting that 100-yard bonus if your league offers it.

    Aside from Morris, the Giants have DeMarco Murray, Eddie Lacy, Rashad Jennings, LeSean McCoy (twice), Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch and Bell under 100 yards.

    You'll probably be in a position to bench Morris outright, but he shouldn't be your No. 1 starter this week if you can avoid it.

     

    Roddy White vs. Carolina Panthers

    The veteran Falcon is coming off a huge game against the San Francisco 49ers during which he caught a dozen balls for 141 yards and a touchdown.

    Don't expect that this week against a tough Carolina defense.

    Matt Ryan has had some issues with his offensive line, and while he was only sacked once against the Niners, he was hit five times altogether.

    He's going to have a hard time getting the ball out. He won't have time to let White get open from some tight coverage, which may limit White's production.

    Stay away from White, or if that's not possible, limit his impact by starting him in a lower slot.

     

    Antonio Gates vs. Kansas City Chiefs

    If you're still clinging to Gates as a potential starter this week, see if the waiver wire is open.

    Because even if he wasn't facing a tough defense which is looking to rebound from an embarrassing loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts, his production doesn't warrant much faith.

    Gates has just three touchdowns this season—none since Week 11—and hasn't caught more than five balls or had more than 50 yards since then (his one 50-yard day coming against the New York Giants and landing exactly on 50 yards).

    His targets aren't high either—just six over the last two games.

    Gates is a guy you might play because the name still holds some glamor—but he's nobody to trust your fantasy championship to.

     

    Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at FootballGuys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.

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