Start 'Em or Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football Week 17
We've reached the end of the line for fantasy football—for real this time.
Most fantasy football leagues ended in Week 16. But some hearty fantasy managers stretch things out one more week, holding their championship game in Week 17.
The upside to doing that is an extra week of fantasy football fun. The downside is that teams who have secured playoff seeding often rest players in the final week of the regular season. That can leave fantasy managers scrambling to find a replacement for a star player at the worst possible time.
Cue Lamar Jackson owners nodding slowly and sobbing.
For one more week in 2019, I'm here to help. I've gone through the start/sit questions on the Bleacher Report app and selected some that will offer help with players who could be set to explode or fizzle. They're the players who can win you a championship or cost you one—including some of the fantasy stars who could be taking Week 17 off.
That's OK. Adversity builds character.
Rest in Pieces
This is why Week 17 championship games in fantasy football are a bad idea.
We already know that the Baltimore Ravens plan to rest Lamar Jackson and other starters Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That means that the MVP of fantasy football won't be available for managers in the most important game of the year.
It's also possible that the Houston Texans will rest players if the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Los Angeles Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. That outcome would lock Houston into the No. 4 seed and a matchup with the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round.
In a perfect world, the recommendation here would be to wait. See what happens with the Chiefs. And have a quarterback playing in one of the seven other afternoon or night games you can plug in for Watson if needed, such as Jacoby Brissett or Derek Carr.
Neither of those names inspire cartwheels, but neither does Mitchell Trubisky of the Chicago Bears. Even in a game where he's likely to face a depleted Minnesota Vikings defense that will rest anyone with a sprained toenail, his season-long inconsistency is concerning.
But if these are the only two options available, then Trubisky has to be the guy. You can't risk Watson not playing at all, and the Chiefs are an excellent bet to finish off the Bolts and snag the No. 3 seed in the AFC.
The Call: Trubisky
The Resting Players Blues, Part 2
Oh, look—another reason to hate Week 17 championship games. Fantasy football's third-ranked PPR wide receiver in 2019 may be watching a meaningless game unfold from the bench.
Again, in a perfect world, you'd like to have a backup plan that's playing in the late afternoon or Sunday night window. But alas, we do not live in a perfect world.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Breshad Perriman being an easy yes here shows how weird things can get late in the fantasy football season. A month ago, Perriman was likely languishing on your league's waiver wire. But that was before Mike Evans and Chris Godwin got hurt. Over the past two games, Perriman has caught 12 passes on 18 targets for 215 yards and three scores.
Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker has been a similar surprise success in 2019. Over the second half of this season, only Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints has more PPR points among wideouts. But on Sunday, the Dolphins face a Patriots team at Gillette Stadium still playing for the AFC's No. 2 seed.
The Patriots figure to put star cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Parker, and Gilmore has made a habit of erasing big-name wide receivers from stat sheets this season.
Keenan Allen's matchup in Week 17 isn't much better, as the Kansas City Chiefs are giving up the second-fewest PPR points to receivers in 2019. But the Patriots are dead last.
That matchup with Gilmore is the fantasy kiss of death. Allen hasn't been great as of late, but he has averaged more than nine targets per contest over his last six games. As such, he gets the second slot.
The Call: Perriman and Allen
The first part of this question is another situation where a team resting players may come into consideration.
Regardless of what happens when the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets meet in Week 17, the Bills are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Running back Devin Singletary could see fewer touches in the finale as a result. Wide receiver Cole Beasley could wind up catching passes from a reserve quarterback if Josh Allen sits.
That leaves Terry McLaurin of the Washington Redskins, whose fantasy prospects might actually improve when an injured Dwayne Haskins gives way to veteran Case Keenum in Dallas on Sunday.
There's a catch here, though...because of course there is. Per Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk, McLaurin is in the concussion protocol after showing symptoms following last week's game. He'll be re-evaluated Thursday.
If McLaurin is active, he's the guy. If he sits, you'll have to roll the dice that Singletary's workload isn't scaled back too much.
At quarterback, this is an easy call. One of these players—Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans—is a top-five fantasy signal-caller over the second half of the season and is playing in a must-win game. The other, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Miami Dolphins, faces a New England Patriots defense that ranks last in the league in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
With the Pats still playing for a first-round bye, Fitzpatrick is a definite no-go.
Defensively, the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the AFC in sacks, are tied for the league lead in takeaways, rank third in fantasy points among defenses and will play a Baltimore Ravens team that will sit a number of prominent players in Week 17.
The San Francisco 49ers have been great defensively in 2019, but their matchup against the Seattle Seahawks in a game for the NFC West crown is much less favorable.
The Call: McLaurin (if healthy), Tannehill, Pittsburgh
The Battle of Ohio
I don't even want to know what kind of fantasy team has a backfield so stacked that one of these running backs has to sit.
It makes sense that it's in the championship game, though.
The first half of the 2019 season was a hot mess for Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals. Over the first eight weeks of the year, Mixon ranked outside of the top 30 running backs in PPR points. However, the third-year pro is ninth among running backs in PPR points over the past month.
Alas, he's no match for Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns in Week 17.
There's also the matter of their respective matchups. The Bengals rank ninth in PPR points allowed to running backs this season. When these teams met in Week 14, Mixon had the bigger game, finishing with 170 total yards and a score. But Chubb had 117 total yards of his own, and he's been the more consistent performer this season.
That other running back had better be awfully good, though.
The Call: Chubb
No Respect, I Tell Ya
There isn't a quarterback in the NFL I've been asked about more over the last six weeks than Ryan Tannehill of the Tennessee Titans.
He's the Rodney Dangerfield of fantasy signal-callers.
All Tannehill has done this year in Tennessee is win six of nine starts, complete over 70 percent of his passes, throw 20 touchdown passes against just six picks and post a passer rating north of 115. As mentioned earlier, he's a top-five fantasy quarterback over the second half of the 2019 season.
Other than that, he hasn't done much.
Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills is out here. The Bills are locked into a playoff spot. There's no reason for head coach Sean McDermott to risk his franchise quarterback against the New York Jets. Even if Allen does start, the odds he plays the entire game (or close to it) aren't good.
But during "crunch time" of the fantasy slate (the last month or so), Tannehill ranks inside the top five. Ryan ranks just outside the top 10. The latter has the better fantasy matchup on paper, but the former is playing for a spot in the postseason tournament against a Houston Texans team that may raise the proverbial white flag before the game even starts.
Gotta go with Rodney.
The Call: Tannehill.
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree
There are a lot of options here. The easy thing to do would be to say Mostert and Perriman are the plays.
But who likes easy?
At running back, it's a matter of risk mitigation. Mike Boone of the Vikings did next to nothing last week against the Packers. Travis Homer of the Seahawks, Damien Williams of the Kansas City Chiefs and Gus Edwards of the Baltimore Ravens are all staring at uncertainty in regard to workload in Week 17.
Then there's Le'Veon Bell of the New York Jets. Bell has topped 20 carries in each of the last two games. But Bell's only averaged 3.5 yards a pop on those 46 carries the last two weeks, is averaging just 3.3 yards a carry for the season and hasn't found the end zone since Week 11.
That leaves Raheem Mostert of the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners backfield is crowded, but Mostert has emerged as the top dog over the second half of the season. When a player has found the end zone in five straight games, that player needs to be in fantasy lineups.
The unpredictable workloads of most of those backs (and Bell's so-so ceiling) lead me to look at the receivers to fill the flex spot. Darius Slayton and Golden Tate of the New York Giants are out if only because it's become difficult to discern which wideout in New York will blow up in a given week. DK Metcalf of the Seahawks will likely see a lot of Richard Sherman on Sunday night. DeVante Parker of the Miami Dolphins faces an even stiffer test against Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots.
Greg Ward Jr. of the Philadelphia Eagles is tempting in a must-win game against a soft Giants secondary, but given the gonzo numbers Breshad Perriman of the Buccaneers has posted the past couple of weeks as Tampa's top receiver, his upside is too high to pass up.
The Call: Perriman and Mostert
There are lots of options here, so let's just dive in.
Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings is an easy pass. When he's been hot this year, he's been the surface of the sun. But when he's been cold, he's been a Bumble's backside.
(That's a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reference. The holidays end when I say they end.)
Diggs has also battled injuries this year, and the Vikings are locked in as the No. 6 seed in the NFC. He's likely looking at either a limited snap count or sitting out altogether.
DJ Chark Jr. of the Jacksonville Jaguars is out, too. He got off to a fantastic start and has had a fine sophomore year, but he's been nicked up recently and hasn't had a 100-yard game or a touchdown since Week 11.
Yes, that was the last meeting with the Indianapolis Colts. But after he recorded just two catches for 18 yards on seven targets last week against the Atlanta Falcons, he just can't be trusted.
Breshad Perriman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has officially hit must-start status thanks to the Chris Godwin and Mike Evans injuries. He's being targeted a ton and has two 100-yard games and three scores over the last two weeks.
That leaves two spots, and I'm filling both with Dallas Cowboys.
It's no knock on Terry McLaurin of the Washington Redskins, who has had an excellent first season in the NFL. And if Case Keenum starts under center against the Dallas Cowboys, that's actually a good thing for Scary Terry from a fantasy perspective...assuming he clears the concussion protocol and plays.
But Dallas is in full-blown desperation mode, and the Cowboys have been a bottom-five matchup for wide receivers this year, which rubs a bit of the shine off McLaurin.
Most importantly, combining Perriman with a stack of Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper offers a nice combo platter of a higher fantasy floor and a sky-high ceiling.
Play the percentages.
The Call: Gallup, Cooper, Perriman.
We're going to kick this one off with a couple of ground rules, and the first is the assumption that you need two running backs in Week 17.
The second is that I'm going to pretend you didn't ask whether you should start the No. 1 running back in fantasy football this week. Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers has a real chance at notching only the third 1,000/1,000 season in NFL history against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The Panthers have nothing else to play for besides getting him that accolade.
He's going to have a big game…again.
The second spot comes down to either James White of the New England Patriots or Austin Ekeler of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Minnesota Vikings backs are out. The team has no reason whatsoever to risk Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears, and Mike Boone just gained all of 28 yards on 11 carries against the Green Bay Packers.
Both White and Ekeler have excellent fantasy matchups for running backs. The Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, both rank inside the top 10 in PPR points surrendered to running backs in 2019.
But in addition to having the better matchup, Ekeler has also been used much more consistently this season. Over the first 15 games, he has averaged 13.7 touches, 97.4 yards from scrimmage and 0.7 touchdowns per outing.
You don't sit a back who has sailed past 1,400 total yards for the year.
The Call: McCaffrey and Ekeler
For the final time in 2019, it's time to bang out some answers to reader questions in rapid-fire fashion.
I may get a little (sniffle) emotional. So try to (sniffle) bear with me.
CrazyMonkey123 needs some wide receiver help: "DeVante Parker or A.J. Brown?"
As I already mentioned, there's a big reason to be significantly concerned about Parker's matchup in Week 17: Stephon Gilmore. Brown has been a top-five PPR option at his position over the last four weeks in his own right and gets a much more favorable matchup.
As it turns out, he also has an interesting RB question: "Who should I start in the Ravens backfield…Gus Edwards or Justice Hill?"
On some level, I want to say "neither." The Steelers are 28th in PPR points given up to the running back position in 2019. But if forced to choose between the two, I'd go Edwards. He's a better bet for more touches and will get short-yardage/goal-line work.
HookEmTexas needs a replacement for Lamar Jackson: "Tannehill or Jameis Winston?"
This is a closer call. Winston has shown multiple times this year that he can post a week-winning stat line with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But his numbers tailed off in Week 16, and the Atlanta Falcons defense has improved over the last month-plus. Go with Tannehill.
So does YEMYO. "(Jared) Goff vs. AZ, (Daniel) Jones vs. PHI or Jimmy Garoppolo at SEA?"
Jones is coming off a monster game, and Garoppolo gets a Seahawks team allowing the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2019. But no team in the NFL has been kinder to the position from a fantasy perspective than the Cardinals. Goff is the play here.
It's a defense question for rabidmonk: "Bills D/ST or Steelers D/ST?"
There's not really a wrong answer here. The New York Jets (who the Bills host) lead the NFL in fantasy points allowed to defenses, while the Steelers have consistently piled up sacks and takeaways in 2019. I'll give the edge to Pittsburgh against the Baltimore Ravens' reserves, but this is a pretty close call.
kayub84 needs running back help. "(Le'Veon) Bell, (Kerryon) Johnson or Gus Edwards?
Johnson hasn't logged 15 carries in a game since September, and while I expect Edwards to lead the Baltimore backfield in touches Sunday he'll do so in an unfavorable fantasy matchup. Bell's been a disappointment in 2019, but the Bills are surprisngly kind to opposing running backs, surrendering the 11th-most PPR points to the position.
The return of Beast Mode has piqued the curiosity of j_dean5: "How do you feel about taking a flier on Marshawn Lynch?"
Lynch returning to the NFL (and the Seattle Seahawks) is a great story, but it's been a long time since he saw the field in a game that counts. His first outing is against a San Francisco 49ers team that ranks last in the NFC in fantasy points allowed to running backs. It's a high-risk, low-reward gamble.
Have other fantasy football start/sit questions? Post them here, on the Bleacher Report app or on Twitter @IDPSharks, and I'll do my best to help.
Gary Davenport was the Fantasy Sports Writers Association 2017 Football Writer of the Year.