Fantasy Football Week 17: Matt Camp's Week 17 Preview
The NFL regular season comes to a close in Week 17. Most fantasy football leagues have concluded, but for those who are conducting their championship this week, playing-time issues will be a problem for both contending teams and those out of playoff contention.
In addition to my usual look at the waiver wire, I’ll include an explanation of the motivation for teams that have clinched a spot in the NFL playoffs or remain in the hunt heading into Sunday’s action.
Amazingly, someone like Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings could replace a major part of your starting lineup, such as Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are locked into the third seed in the AFC, so they don’t need to risk Brown. If you can’t use Brown this week for your championship game, I’d suggest telling your league commissioner that Week 17 is too late to playing meaningful fantasy matchups.
Congratulations to those who have already brought home a title. To everyone else, good luck navigating the dangerous waters of Week 17.
Week 17 Motivation
Let’s take a look at the teams that have clinched a playoff spot or still have a chance to qualify in Week 17. If the team isn’t listed, it's been eliminated from playoff competition.
Dallas Cowboys (at PHI, 1 p.m. ET)
The Cowboys clinched the top seed in the NFC and have no need to play any of their key players in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Don’t assume you’ll get much, if anything from Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott or Dez Bryant.
Seattle Seahawks (at SF, 4:25 p.m. ET)
Seattle clinched the NFC West but could land anywhere from the No. 2 seed to the No. 4 seed depending on what happens with the other division winners (Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions/Green Bay Packers). The Seahawks have motivation to play for the chance at a first-round bye when they take on the San Francisco 49ers.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. NO, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Falcons are the NFC South champions and can clinch a first-round bye if they beat the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. They play at the same time as the Seahawks, so the Falcons have enough reason to play their usual starters.
New York Giants (at WAS, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Giants are locked into the No. 5 seed and have no motivation to take any chances with their key starters in their Week 17 matchup against the Washington Redskins. That's reason enough to be concerned about Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning.
In the Hunt
Green Bay Packers (at DET, 8:30 p.m. ET)
Because the Detroit Lions lost to the Cowboys in Week 16, the final game of the regular season takes place Sunday night between the Packers and Lions with the winner earning the NFC North title and potentially a top-three seed. Green Bay leads the division on a tiebreaker but would need a loss by the Redskins earlier Sunday to get the final wild-card spot if it loses to the Lions. Expect to see the regular starters.
Detroit Lions (vs. GB, 8:30 p.m. ET)
The winner of the Packers vs. Lions in Week 17 will be the NFC North champion. For the Lions, that could put them as high as the No. 2 seed, but a loss could drop them out of the playoff altogether unless the Redskins lose. You’ll see their normal starting lineup.
Washington Redskins (vs. NYG, 4:25 p.m. ET)
If the Redskins beat the Giants, they earn the sixth seed in the NFC. Motivation is obvious in that situation.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. CAR, 1 p.m. ET)
The Buccaneers need to win and get a lot of help to make the playoffs as the sixth seed. Playing time is not a concern.
New England (at MIA, 1 p.m. ET)
The Patriots have locked up one of the top two seeds in the AFC, so they’ll have a bye for the Wild Card Round and host a game in the divisional round. With a win over the Miami Dolphins, they clinch the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, when asked about resting starters, head coach Bill Belichick said he didn’t “really understand the question” and talked his way around a clear answer. Barring an injury, the Patriots will likely use their best players to go for the win and No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Oakland Raiders (at DEN, 4:25 p.m. ET)
While the Raiders have clinched a playoff spot, they can land anywhere from the top two seeds to a wild-card spot. A win would guarantee they’d get a first-round bye, which could be the top seed if the Patriots lose to the Dolphins. It would also mean one less game to play after losing Derek Carr to a broken fibula. They should be motivated to win with their typical starting lineup.
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. CLE, 1 p.m. ET)
The Steelers are locked into the No. 3 seed and have nothing to play for when the Cleveland Browns visit Sunday. Don’t assume you’ll see key players like Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown for long, if at all, in this meaningless game.
Houston Texans (at TEN, 1 p.m. ET)
Houston won the AFC South and can’t move any higher than the No. 4 seed, so it knows it will host a game in the opening round of the playoffs. The Texans could decide to sit players like DeAndre Hopkins, C.J. Fiedorowicz and especially Lamar Miller after he missed Week 16 with an ankle injury.
Kansas City Chiefs (at SD, 4:25 p.m. ET)
The Chiefs are in the playoffs but need a win and a Raiders loss to the Broncos to win the AFC West and get a first-round bye. They should be motivated to feature all of their regular starters.
Miami Dolphins (vs. NE, 1 p.m. ET)
Even though the Dolphins clinched a playoff spot, their motivation may lie in their potential opponent. Beating the Patriots gives them a shot at the No. 5 seed and arguably a better matchup with the Houston Texans, as opposed to the sixth seed and a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers.
According to head coach Adam Gase, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the team needs “to do everything to make sure we are 1-0 at the end of this week,” so it seems like the Dolphins will roll with their starters.
Sam Bradford, MIN
Percent Owned: ESPN 9.3, Yahoo 12
With their loss to the Green Bay Packers in Week 16, the Minnesota Vikings were eliminated from playoff competition, although it’s hard to blame Bradford for the poor finish to their season. In the last three games, he threw for 965 yards with four touchdowns and just one interception. He’ll have a chance to finish the season on a high note with a favorable matchup against the Chicago Bears.
Week 17 Projection: 270-280 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jacquizz Rodgers, TB
Percent Owned: ESPN 17.3, Yahoo 18
In a surprise move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made Doug Martin a healthy scratch for Week 16 and will do so again in Week 17, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. With Martin out of the mix, the team turned to Rodgers, who came through with 64 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and two receptions for 15 yards while playing 61 percent of the snaps. He’s the Buccaneers running back to have in Week 17.
Week 17 Projection: 16 carries, 63 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 18 receiving yards
Alex Collins, SEA
Percent Owned: ESPN 1.6, Yahoo 1
The Seattle Seahawks turned to Collins in Week 16 after Thomas Rawls suffered a bruised shoulder. According to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, head coach Pete Carroll doesn’t know if Thomas Rawls will be available against and that Rawls hasn't had an MRI on his injured shoulder. Collins rushed for 28 yards on seven carries and snagged all four of his targets for 19 yards against the Arizona Cardinals. He'd be a strong play if he starts against San Francisco 49ers in Week 17.
Week 17 Projection: To be determined based on Rawls’ status
Darren McFadden, DAL
Percent Owned: ESPN 4.3, Yahoo 5
McFadden saw a big jump in his workload in only his second appearance of the season. Even though Ezekiel Elliott started and played the first three quarters with 51 percent of the snaps, McFadden had 14 carries for 49 yards but failed to haul in his only target. The Dallas Cowboys have nothing to play for in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles, so they could bench or limit Elliott, giving McFadden the lead role.
Week 17 Projection: 17 carries, 68 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 16 receiving yards
Zach Zenner, DET
Percent Owned: ESPN 19.2, Yahoo 8
With Theo Riddick (wrist) inactive for the third straight game, the Detroit Lions turned to Zenner over Dwayne Washington for their Week 16 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Zenner delivered by rushing for 67 yards and a pair of scores on 12 carries. He added two receptions for 25 yards on three targets and led the way with 76 percent of the snaps. He could do the same in Week 17 if Riddick has to sit again.
Week 17 Projection: To be determined based on Riddick’s status
DeAngelo Williams, PIT
Percent Owned: ESPN 17.5, Yahoo 19
Williams returned to the field in Week 16, getting his first snaps since Week 9 after recovering from a knee issue and subsequent surgery. Williams played just 2 percent of the snaps but could be in for a much busier day in Week 17. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Le’Veon Bell will not play in a meaningless game for the Steelers, leaving the door open for Williams to see a bigger role.
Week 17 Projection: 13 carries, 52 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 18 receiving yards
Adam Thielen, MIN
Percent Owned: ESPN 24.5, Yahoo 29
I featured Thielen in my late-week waiver wire heading into his Week 16 game with the Green Bay Packers with the hope he could perform as a WR3. He wound up as much more than that with 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 15 targets. Thielen has been more reliable than Stefon Diggs in the last month and should be owned in any league that is playing for something in Week 17.
Week 17 Projection: 6 receptions, 80 yards
Cameron Meredith, CHI
Percent Owned: ESPN 29.4, Yahoo 42
The Chicago Bears have been out of contention for a while, so as they look ahead to 2017, Meredith is giving the team plenty of reasons to include him in their future plans. Over the last two weeks, he has 18 receptions for 239 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He should get another extensive look in Week 17 against a confused Minnesota Vikings secondary.
Week 17 Projection: 7 receptions, 91 yards
Marqise Lee, JAC
Percent Owned: ESPN 12.2, Yahoo 17
Lee has been easy to overlook this season because of the struggles of Blake Bortles, which really hurt the value of Allen Robinson. Bortles played his best game of the season in Week 16, and Lee was part of it with three receptions for 37 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. He also completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Bortles as a nice bonus. He’ll have a chance to finish on a high note against the Indianapolis Colts.
Week 17 Projection: 5 receptions, 65 yards
Brandon LaFell, CIN
Percent Owned: ESPN 19.7, Yahoo 25
LaFell’s role became a lot more important to the Cincinnati Bengals when ownership wouldn’t let A.J. Green play through his hamstring injury in Week 16, according to Bob Holtzman of ESPN.com. With Green out, LaFell had his best game of the season, catching six of 10 targets for 130 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Houston Texans.
Week 17 Projection: 6 receptions, 78 yards
J.J. Nelson, ARI
Percent Owned: ESPN 10.5, Yahoo 26
Even with the Arizona Cardinals out of contention, Nelson’s hot streak continued in Week 16. He caught his fourth touchdown in as many games en route to a three-catch, 132-yard performance in a win over the Seattle Seahawks. Nelson has just 10 receptions in his four-game stretch of scoring, so while he’s been touchdown-reliant, he should get more chances to score when the Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17.
Week 17 Projection: 4 receptions, 77 yards
Vernon Davis, WAS
Percent Owned: ESPN 48.8, Yahoo 27
Jordan Reed (shoulder) wasn’t able to play in Week 16, but Davis didn't take advantage of a bigger role, posting just one reception for 13 yards on two targets. He may get a chance to redeem himself in Week 17 against the New York Giants if Reed is out again. According to head coach Jay Gruden, Reed is day-to-day. He didn’t practice at all in the days leading into Week 16.
Week 17 Projection: To be determined based on Reed’s status
Charles Clay, BUF
Percent Owned: ESPN 16.8, Yahoo 18
Clay made an appearance in my Week 16 late-week waiver wire and came through with his best game of the season in an overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins. He caught eight of 10 targets for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Over the last three games, Clay has 18 receptions for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 23 targets. The Bills may be out of it, but they face a beatable New York Jets defense in Week 17.
Week 17 Projection: 5 receptions, 60 yards, 1 touchdown
Oakland Raiders (at DEN)
Percent Owned: ESPN 35.4, Yahoo 45
The Raiders were able to outlast the Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 even after losing Derek Carr to a broken fibula. They’ll try to lock up the AFC West and a first-round bye when they head to Denver to take on the Broncos in Week 17. Head coach Gary Kubiak said he hasn’t made a decision on who he’ll start at quarterback, although he said there would be no drawbacks to playing Paxton Lynch, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com.
The Broncos haven’t scored more than 10 points in their last three games and have nothing to play for after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16. If the Raiders face Lynch in Week 17, they should take advantage of a rookie who has completed just 59 percent of his passes at just six yards per attempt.
Week 17 Projection: 3 sacks, 1 interception, 13-16 points allowed
Wil Lutz, NO
Percent Owned: ESPN 25.1, Yahoo 12
The New Orleans Saints are out of playoff contention, but they continue to fight for a positive end to their season. Lutz has been on a tear in his last six games. He has made his last 18 field-goal attempts, and his last extra-point miss came in Week 10. You can take a shot with one of the hottest kickers in the league in Week 17.
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