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Week 17 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Matchups to Exploit and Avoid in Season Finales

Nov 1, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cincinnati Bengals half back Jeremy Hill (32) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Bengals won the game 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2016

Making a fantasy football lineup in Week 17 is never easy because of the unknowns around the league. The key is to use the players you can trust the most.

Only the Washington Redskins are set in their seed in the playoffs, meaning they can rest players if they choose. Of course, other teams might do the same based on the flow of the game or other coaching decisions. Meanwhile, players out of the playoffs have begun dropping like flies and have already seen their seasons come to an end.

This creates plenty of uncertainty, but here is some advice to help you out on the final day of the 2015 regular season.

 

Sit 'Em

Top Players to Put on Your Bench
Pos.PlayerTeamOpp.
QBPhilip RiversSan Diego ChargersDEN
QBTyrod TaylorBuffalo BillsNYJ
RBJeremy HillCincinnati BengalsBAL
RBLamar MillerMiami DolphinsNE
RBIsaiah CrowellCleveland BrownsPIT
WRT.Y. HiltonIndianapolis ColtsTEN
WRRandall CobbGreen Bay PackersMIN
WRJohn BrownArizona CardinalsSEA
TEHeath MillerPittsburgh SteelersCLE

 

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Tony Avelar/Associated Press

The Denver Broncos defense struggled in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 15 and the first half against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, but the unit got back on track after halftime against Bengals. The aggressiveness and intensity picked up, and it was clear this was once again one of the top defenses in football.

San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich knows his team is in for a challenge on Sunday:

When Philip Rivers matched up against the Broncos defense in Week 13, the quarterback finished with just six fantasy points in standard leagues. He finished with no touchdowns and an interception while ending his day with a Total QBR of just 12.0.

With a banged-up offensive line and few receiving targets he can trust, Rivers will be overmatched against this defense and end up having a quiet game.

 

Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati Bengals

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 13:  Stephon Tuitt #91 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tackles Jeremy Hill #32 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

He is always a threat to score a touchdown or two, but Jeremy Hill has not played well this season and especially not down the stretch.

While Hill is getting plenty of work, with 45 carries over the last three games, he has turned that into just 110 rushing yards—equal to 2.4 yards per carry. It took two one-yard touchdowns in Week 15 to avoid three dreadful performances in a row.

It's unlikely this turns around against the Baltimore Ravens, who have struggled defensively but are much worse against the pass than the run. The squad ranks seventh in the NFL with just 3.9 yards allowed per carry, likely forcing the Bengals to try to beat them through the air.

With Giovani Bernard also still taking away snaps despite his relative ineffectiveness, Hill is too risky of a pick in Week 17. 

 

Start 'Em

Sleepers to Put in Your Lineup
Pos.PlayerTeamOpp.
QBMatthew StaffordDetroit LionsCHI
QBAlex SmithKansas City ChiefsOAK
RBRashad JenningsNew York GiantsPHI
RBAlfred BlueHouston TexansJAX
RBSteven JacksonNew England PatriotsMIA
WRJordan MatthewsPhiladelphia EaglesNYG
WRDeVante ParkerMiami DolphinsNE
WRRueben RandleNew York GiantsPHI
TEZach ErtzPhiladelphia EaglesNYG

 

Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 20:  Alfred Blue #28 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It's usually difficult to trust Alfred Blue, who has just three double-digit scoring games this season. However, when he is healthy, he remains a heavy part of the Houston Texans offense.

Blue has 35 carries over the last two games, and though he is inconsistent, he did have 107 rushing yards against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 15. His problem has simply been the inability to get into the end zone; he has just two touchdowns on the year.

The Jacksonville Jaguars could help in this area after giving up 14 rushing touchdowns to this point of the season. According to ESPN, the defense has given up the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2015, including 28 points to Tim Hightower last time out.

Houston needs a win to clinch a playoff spot, so the players will be going hard all game. This will help Blue have a chance to put together a solid showing in Week 17.

 

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 20:  Jordan Matthews #81 of the Philadelphia Eagles makes a catch in the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Lincoln Financial Field on December 20, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty I
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

It has been a disappointing season for Jordan Matthews and those who drafted him early, but if you stuck with him, you have likely been rewarded with two big-time showings for the fantasy playoffs. 

Over the last two weeks, Matthews has totaled 263 receiving yards on 14 catches and a touchdown in each game. Both scores did come in the fourth quarter with the Philadelphia Eagles trailing, continuing an interesting trend Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports has picked up on:

These passes don't help the Eagles all too much with the game out of hand, but they count the same in fantasy football. There is also no reason to expect him to slow down in Week 17.

The New York Giants enter Sunday with the most passing yards allowed in football, and it doesn't seem like anyone is going to catch them. Even without Chip Kelly, Matthews has finally developed a chemistry with Sam Bradford and should keep up the recent success.

 

Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for all your fantasy football and daily fantasy needs.

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