Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 17: Top Matchup Plays and Sleepers for Final Games

Theo SalaunContributor IIIDecember 24, 2019

Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards runs with the ball against the Cleveland Browns during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Gail Burton/Associated Press

Maybe you’re stuck laying the hopes of your fantasy football championship on Week 17 because your league made a mistake or simply holds a penchant for chaos. Whatever the reason, egg nog and I are here for you.


With homefield advantage, the Baltimore Ravens are already sitting their stars. The Buffalo Bills, locked into the fifth seed, might also do so. Unless the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs—the Houston Texans can probably be added to that list.


That automatically makes Gus Edwards, 10 percent owned and facing the Pittsburgh Steelers, a league-winner. But there’s 13 other teams that are likely to sit their most notable starters for at least a stretch...because this week is absolute chaos, so he’s not the only sleeper.


It is very possible that the 10 percent of leagues where Edwards is already owned are the only  10 percent of leagues still playing in Week 17. Still, considering the stars most likely to sit and the surprises most likely to step up, we’ve got three starts, three sits and one sleeper at every position.  


Make sure to monitor press conferences and team beat writers closely this week, as coaches are likely to decide which starters will rest as the days progress.


Quarterback Starts and Sits

  • Start: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)
  • Start: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)
  • Start: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (at Cincinnati Bengals)
  • Sit: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (vs. Tennessee Titans)
  • Sit: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Jets)
  • Sit: Tom Brady, New England Patriots (vs. Miami Dolphins)

Quarterback Sleeper: Daniel Jones, New York Giants (vs. PHI, 19 percent owned)

The Giants don’t have much to play for, but Danny Dimes and the boys should want as many positive game reps as they can get. Sure, Saquon Barkley could get fewer snaps coming off of a 200-plus yard game, but Jones and others will want to produce against a very beatable Philadelphia Eagles secondary.

The Eagles held the Dallas Cowboys to just nine points in Week 16 and are playing for playoff contention in Week 17, but that felt attributable enough to Jason Garrett’s coaching and Dak Prescott’s injured shoulder than a sudden, stark improvement to a weak Eagles secondary.

Last time the Eagles faced New York, in Week 14, Eli Manning had 200-plus yards and two touchdowns without an interception. That game was bookended by contests in which they allowed the Miami Dolphins and Washington’s national football team 37 and 27 points, respectively.

Danny Dimes just tossed five touchdowns in his first game back and New York will want to see him continue building rhythm to finish the season. 


Running Back Starts and Sits

  • Start: Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • Start: Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)
  • Start: Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints (at Carolina Panthers)
  • Sit: Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
  • Sit: Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (at Jacksonville Jaguars)
  • Sit: Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

Running Back Sleeper: Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots (vs. MIA, 5 percent owned)

The Patriots just beat a Buffalo Bills team that was 10-4. The Miami Dolphins just needed an overtime period to beat a Cincinnati Bengals team that was 1-13. New England needs to win this week and should do so easily. 

Considering Sony Michel’s injury history, that means New England is likely to rest him as much as possible for the playoffs. Enter: Rex Burkhead, the guy who has two touchdowns in the past two games, including the game-winner over Buffalo.

Burkhead only had 11 rushes and six targets over that two-game span—while Michel rushed 40 times and received four targets. If New England smartly decides to lessen Michel’s load, even a bit, then Burkhead should be able to produce. We’ve seen what he can do with miniscule opportunity, so better opportunity against a porous defense should not be slept on.


Wide Receiver Starts and Sits

  • Start: Breshad Perriman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
  • Start: Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
  • Start: AJ Brown, Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)
  • Sit: DJ Moore, Carolina Panthers (vs. New Orleans Saints)
  • Sit: Terry McLaurin, Washington’s national football team (at Dallas Cowboys)
  • Sit: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (vs. Tennessee Titans)

Wide Receiver Sleeper: John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals (13 percent owned, vs. CLE)

Like the Giants, the Bengals aren’t playing for much this week. But they have the top draft pick locked up and some guys will still want to play ball—including Andy Dalton and John Ross. Dalton deserves the opportunity, after being benched and not getting traded, to audition for his next job a little.

Head coach Zac Taylor, meanwhile, seems ready to find out what he really has in Ross, who missed nine weeks this season. In his first two games back, Ross eased back in, only playing 51 and 38 percent of the offense’s snaps while being limited to just six total targets. Then, in Week 16, he played 79 percent of the snaps, got 13 targets and rushed twice.

Ross and Dalton’s connection was visibly rusty, as those 13 targets, many of them deep looks, turned into just six catches. But that was still enough for 84 yards. Dalton is playing for his next job while Taylor and Ross need to find out what their offense can be next season, making the speedster an excellent play against a disappointing Cleveland Browns secondary.


Tight End Starts and Sits

  • Start: Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
  • Start: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)
  • Start: Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)
  • Sit: Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Sit: Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks (vs. San Francisco 49ers)
  • Sit: Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City Chiefs)

Tight End Sleeper: Kaden Smith, New York Giants (vs. PHI, 2 percent owned)

The year is 2018. A time-traveler is telling you that a Daniel Jones and Kaden Smith stack could put up points in a pinch for your fantasy football championship. (They also tell you that playing in Week 17 is either silly or diabolical.)

Evan Engram is out for the year and Kaden Smith stepped up in Week 16. Now, just as the Giants want to find out what they have in Jones and Darius Slayton going into 2020, they should see what Smith is made of.

In Week 16, they did. Smith played 100 percent of the offense’s snaps and turned eight targets into six receptions, 35 yards and two touchdowns. Now he plays a Philadelphia secondary that I refuse to credit for holding a practically immobile Jason Witten (and gimpy Prescott) to negligible production. Snaps, targets, some talent and a favorable gamescript make Smith an enticing play this week.


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