Fantasy Football Week 17 Rankings: Matchups and Projections for Players We Love

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 1, 2016

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall touts one of Week 17's top matchups.
New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall touts one of Week 17's top matchups.Brad Penner/Associated Press

The new year doesn't change much about how fantasy football owners have to approach making lineups.

Week 17 looks like a doozy, too, with several mismatches on tap. Plenty of star players are gunning to get their teams to the postseason, and plenty more are at least offering the chance of major production by playing the spoiler. 

In fact, new year or not, Week 17 is usually the most difficult to figure out because one can never truly predict which teams have playoffs in mind and which have eyes for the draft. 

For those still alive and others wanting a refresher before they start heading into drafts of their own, here's how the Week 17 rankings shake out.

 

Week 17 Schedule

Sunday, Jan. 03Time (ET)
New Orleans at Atlanta1:00 pm
N.Y. Jets at Buffalo1:00 pm
Washington at Dallas1:00 pm
Tennessee at Indianapolis1:00 pm
Detroit at Chicago1:00 pm
Pittsburgh at Cleveland1:00 pm
New England at Miami1:00 pm
Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants1:00 pm
Baltimore at Cincinnati1:00 pm
Jacksonville at Houston1:00 pm
Tampa Bay at Carolina4:25 pm
Oakland at Kansas City4:25 pm
Seattle at Arizona4:25 pm
San Diego at Denver4:25 pm
St. Louis at San Francisco4:25 pm
Minnesota at Green Bay8:30 pm
Source: ESPN

 

Quarterbacks

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Cam Newton21
2Ben Roethlisberger20
3Eli Manning19
4Russell Wilson18
5Tom Brady17
6Carson Palmer16
7Matt Ryan12
8Drew Brees12
9Alex Smith11
10Aaron Rodgers10
11Blake Bortles10
12Brian Hoyer*10
13Matthew Stafford10
14Ryan Fitzpatrick10
Author's projections. *If he plays.

The quarterback matchups to close the season couldn't be juicier.

Look at Eli Manning of the New York Giants, who comes off a seven-point showing and probably doesn't have a lot of trust with owners right now but gets one of the top matchups of the week.

Thank the Philadelphia Eagles, owners of a defense allowing the third-most points to the position. In fact, the Eagles have tanked hard after a Week 8 bye, allowing 24 touchdowns to quarterbacks over the games since.

Even better, Manning gets Odell Beckham Jr. back, ensuring a huge day.

What about a guy like Matt Ryan? Owners might scoff, but nobody should when a quarterback gets a matchup against the New Orleans Saints, the unit allowing the most points to the position.

Since a Week 11 bye, the hapless defense has let up 15 touchdowns to quarterbacks over five games. Ryan's been a dud this year overall, but even he managed 18 points against the unit earlier this season.

Going out with a bang looks to be on the menu for Ryan.

 

Running Backs

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Devonta Freeman16
2DeAngelo Williams15
3Adrian Peterson14
4Todd Gurley14
5Tim Hightower13
6David Johnson13
7Darren McFadden12
8Charcandrick West12
9Jonathan Stewart*11
10Jeremy Hill11
11Frank Gore11
12Matt Forte*11
13Karlos Williams10
14C.J. Anderson9
15Eddie Lacy9
16Jeremy Langford9
17Chris Ivory8
18Doug Martin8
19Lamar Miller8
20Rashad Jennings8
21Latavius Murray7
22Giovani Bernard7
23Antonio Andrews7
24Javorius Allen7
25Darren Sproles7
26Ronnie Hillman6
27Brandon Bolden6
28Denard Robinson6
29Danny Woodhead6
30DeMarco Murray6
Author's projections. *If he plays.

Honestly, it would be a tad boring talking about the damage Devonta Freeman and Todd Gurley will do this weekend in elite lineups.

More interesting would be someone such as Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Peterson gets another shot at the Green Bay Packers, a team that mostly held him in check by way of 13 carries for 45 yards back in Week 11. But a touchdown saved his fantasy day, giving him nine points.

Now Peterson has his eye on the rushing title going into the postseason, and the Packers aren't exactly the best at defending runners, having allowed 123 or more yards and one score to two of their past three opposing backfields, pairing with Peterson to make him one of the starts of the week.

Also more interesting than some of the usual top guys is Saints running back Tim Hightower, who has 15 or more points in each of his past two outings including a high of 28. He's looking at a matchup with the Falcons, a team allowing the seventh-most points to backs.

Given his every-down usage, Hightower should post another strong performance and end the season on a high note.

 

Wide Receivers

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Antonio Brown18
2Odell Beckham Jr.18
3DeAndre Hopkins16
4Julio Jones15
5Calvin Johnson15
6A.J. Green14
7Brandon Marshall13
8Alshon Jeffery*12
9Michael Floyd11
10Doug Baldwin11
11Eric Decker10
12Martavis Bryant10
13Mike Evans10
14Allen Robinson10
15Larry Fitzgerald8
16Jeremy Maclin8
17Jarvis Landry8
18Travis Benjamin8
19Michael Crabtree8
20Brandin Cooks8
21Julian Edelman*8
22Golden Tate8
23Sammy Watkins8
24Nate Washington8
25John Brown7
26Demaryius Thomas7
27Kamar Aiken7
28Jordan Matthews7
29Tavon Austin6
30Emmanuel Sanders6
31Anquan Boldin6
32Amari Cooper6
33Tyler Lockett6
34Willie Snead6
35James Jones6
Author's projections. *If he plays.

 

Antonio Brown once again rules all.

How couldn't he? Fantasy's leading scoring wideout has another showdown with the Cleveland Browns, who find themselves in an even worse position than the first time they encountered Brown back in Week 10—where he exploded for 27 points on 10 catches for 139 yards and two scores.

It might sound silly to suggest Brown could flirt with the same numbers again, but Cleveland has managed to allow eight touchdowns to wideouts since a Week 11 bye. Brown has a pair of 29 or more point outings over the same span and 27 or more in four of his last seven.

Brandon Marshall's not far behind Brown on the scoring list or projections above for good reason.

The veteran would be a big part of the reason the New York Jets have looked great this year, and he's the owner of a touchdown in every game except four this season.

While a matchup against the Buffalo Bills doesn't sound great, Marshall caught three passes for 23 yards and a score for eight points against the unit in Week 8. Buffalo's steadily gone downhill in recent weeks, allowing five touchdowns to the position over the past five weeks.

With playoffs on the mind, Marshall's going to have a huge outing.

 

Tight Ends

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Rob Gronkowski13
2Gary Barnidge12
3Travis Kelce12
4Benjamin Watson10
5Delanie Walker8
6Greg Olsen8
7Antonio Gates8
8Julius Thomas8
9Heath Miller7
10Will Tye7
11Zach Miller6
12Zach Ertz6
Author's projections. *If he plays.

For once, tight end isn't too hard to figure out.

Well, on paper. The big names should produce, and a big name such as Travis Kelce should actually come through for owners, too.

The Kansas City Chiefs tight end hasn't been consistent this year, recording just five double-digit outings and never two in a row. But there's a first time for everything, or so they say, because Kelce gets another shot at the Oakland Raiders.

Another because Kelce posted a four-point dud against the unit back in Week 13. Given Oakland's well-known struggles, though, he should bounce back.

How wild is tight end? The Saints Benjamin Watson sits as the eighth-highest scorer, yet doesn't have an ownership percentage above 80. Alas, he's one of Drew Brees' favorite targets going into an encounter with the Falcons, a team giving up the 11th-most points to the position.

With pride on the line, Watson's going to see plenty of chances.

 

Defense/Special Teams

RankUnitProjected Points
1Broncos11
2Steelers10
3Rams9
4Cardinals9
5Chiefs8
6Panthers7
7Vikings7
8Ravens6
9Giants6
10Eagles6
Author's projections.

Stick with Brown's Steelers when it comes to defenses this week. 

While not the highest-scoring unit by any means this year, Pittsburgh boasts five double-digit outings with a high of 22. One of those highs came against these same Browns in Week 10, where the Steelers picked off a pass and recovered a pair of fumbles.

Road game or not, Cleveland's trotting out Austin Davis under center, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Pittsburgh shouldn't have any problems surrendering minimal points and forcing a few turnovers.

 

Kickers

RankPlayerProjected Points
1Brandon McManus9
2Stephen Gostkowski8
3Chandler Catanzaro8
4Cairo Santos8
5Graham Gano8
6Shayne Graham8
7Josh Brown7
8Steven Hauschka7
9Connor Barth7
10Robbie Gould6
Author's projections.

As always, a nice floor stands as one of the factors owners should hunt at kicker.

Graham Gano of the Carolina Panthers has done just that for those who nabbed him, tallying eight or more points in 11 games this year.

Like any fantasy stud, Gano's looked best in a great matchup, such as when he posted 13 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4. Those Buccaneers are the matchup again this weekend, and they happen to allow the third-most points to the spot with 15 or more points allowed in three of their last five.

Gano's going to the postseason with some momentum, folks.

 

All scoring info courtesy of ESPN standard leagues, as are points-against info and ownership stats as of January 1.

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