Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 17: Final Fantasy Football Lineup Decisions to Consider

Theo SalaunContributor IIIDecember 28, 2019

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman (19) can't hang onto a pass against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

If you're reading this, it's too late. Your league has already mandated Week 17 as the final championship week and you can do nothing but embrace the chaos. You may not be able to play all of the guys who got you here—like the already-resting Lamar Jackson—but the waiver cavalry has brought reinforcements.

In last season's Week 17, Josh Allen led the league in scoring with 40.46 fantasy points (in four-point-per-passing-touchdown leagues), C.J. Anderson dropped 21.4 and Blake Jarwin put up 29.9. Guys like Kenneth Dixon, Dwayne Washington, Alfred Morris and Doug Martin all rushed for 100-plus yards. 

It is the week of the unsung hero so we are here to try to sing some praise. We list three starts and three sits at each position before analyzing one of each role's unlikely players you should consider starting or sitting in the biggest, weirdest week of the football year. 


Quarterback Starts and Sits

Start: Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)

Start: Daniel Jones, New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)

Start: Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (at Cincinnati Bengals)

Sit: Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers (at Seattle Seahawks)

Sit: Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Jets)

Sit: Tom Brady, New England Patriots (vs. Miami Dolphins)


Start 'Em: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)

A season-long underperformer in a must-win game against a juicy matchup. This is what Week 17 is all about. Carson Wentz has not topped 25 fantasy points since Week 1 and has scored under 20 fantasy points in seven of his last nine games.

But following an impressive outing against the Dallas Cowboys with playoff hopes on the line, Wentz is an elite option this week—possibly for the first time all year. Wentz has not thrown for under 250 yards in any of his last five games and has 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions during that span.

He has been fumbling the ball, with four lost in that stretch, but it's hard to imagine him being that loose with the ball in a game against a weak defense, especially with his team's postseason in question. The Giants are allowing just over 27 points per game over their last four, including 35 last week to Washington. 

New York's offense has shown flashes, but the defense can be exposed and Wentz will be a major factor in putting this game, and the Cowboys' playoff hopes, out of reach. 


Sit 'Em: Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (vs. Tennessee Titans)

For you to start Deshaun Watson, the Kansas City Chiefs must lose to the Los Angeles Chargers in their earlier game. With how unlikely that seems, you should be prepared to sit Watson in favor of someone who will play in a game with stakes. 

If the Chiefs win, they clinch the third seed in the AFC. If they lose, the Texans can move up to third with a win over the Titans. Vegas has Kansas City as a nine-point favorite, per Caesars, and even that seems a little low. As Kansas City's defense has improved recently, Denver's has become shakier—something Andy Reid's offense is likely to take advantage of.

If the Chiefs do somehow lose, then Watson becomes a decent start against a Tennessee team that has much more than one-spot seeding on the line. That matchup is not great and the odds are that Watson will end up resting following a Chiefs win anyway. Look elsewhere.


Running Back Starts and Sits

Start: DeAndre Washington, Oakland Raiders (at Denver Broncos)

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: Sony Michel, New England Patriots (vs. Miami Dolphins)


Start 'Em: Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

Those who rode the Gus Bus in 2018 know just how much horsepower his young wheels pack. On 249 career carries, he has averaged 5.2 yards per carry. He's also busted off runs for 40-plus yards in each season, denoting the big-play ability that seems counterintuitive to his bruising style.

The reasons not to start Edwards in Week 17 are obvious: The Baltimore Ravens have clinched home-field advantage and are resting starters while the Pittsburgh Steelers are a stringent defense in a must-win situation.

Resting starters, including offensive lineman Marshal Yanda, is unideal for Edwards—as the absence of Lamar Jackson and other key players limits Baltimore's offense. But Edwards has produced whenever he's gotten opportunity, and Baltimore's backup personnel should fit directly into the same scheme, with a mobile quarterback in Robert Griffin III, that has dominated teams all year.

John Harbaugh is a competitive guy, and the Ravens have never been the type to just take games off. The team's ceiling may be limited, but Edwards is talented enough to be leaned upon against a defense that, while stout, lacks the offense to prevent volume and positive field position for the Gus Bus. 


Sit 'Em: Todd Gurley II, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

After starting the season by limiting Todd Gurley II's usage, Los Angeles decided to bring back a game plan centered around his versatility. But it was too little and too late, as the Rams are no longer in position to make the playoffs.

The Cardinals are an appealing matchup for a running back, but there is no reason that Gurley's high usage rate should continue. He has been dealing with knee arthritis, hence the early-season limitations, and is under contract through 2023. 

With nothing to play for, the Rams would be smart to treat Week 17 like an early preseason game and maximize rookie Darrell Henderson Jr.'s reps after Gurley starts and the Rams use his versatility to try some things out with the first-team offense. Malcolm Brown should be used in the red zone, as there is really no point to making Gurley pound the rock between the tackles with the season finished. 

With such a high probability that he receives a season low in touches, Gurley owners are better off considering other options.


Wide Receiver Starts and Sits

Start: Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos (vs. Oakland Raiders)

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)


Start 'Em: Breshad Perriman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Atlanta Falcons)

We go again. Jameis Winston is both horrible and fantastic at football, and a Bruce Arians team is destined to chuck the rock until the final whistle blows.

Over his past four games, Perriman is averaging 7.3 targets, five receptions, 93 yards and a touchdown. In his two starts since Chris Godwin and Mike Evans got hurt, those numbers have blossomed to nine targets, six receptions, 107.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns. 

Atlanta's secondary has holes, and Winston is likely to throw the ball enough to find some of them. The rest of the receivers are scout team guys, and the tight ends have been underutilized all year (yes, O.J. Howard does have more tackles than touchdowns this season). 

Perriman is seemingly the best, if not only, option for Winston, and there is no reason his volume should drop as Arians needs to keep his offense in the fire for one last game before making some difficult decisions about Tampa Bay's future this offseason. 


Sit 'Em: DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (at New England Patriots)

Stephon Gilmore is the defensive player of the year, and the Patriots have always made a point to remove the opposing team's best option. For the Dolphins, that option is DeVante Parker. 

Parker has had double-digit targets in five of his last seven games, despite suffering a concussion during that stretch. In the two weeks since he returned to health, he is averaging 11 targets, 4.5 receptions, 91.5 yards and 1.5 touchdowns. But those games were against the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.

Now he faces a New England team that has playoff positioning to play for. Gilmore will shadow Parker, and if that's not enough, the Patriots will double him. He may not seem like the traditional X-factor Bill Belichick decides to scheme for, but without him the Dolphins are stuck relying on the likes of Isaiah Ford, Mike Gesicki, Patrick Laird and Ryan Fitzpatrick.


Tight End Starts and Sits

Start: Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals)

Start: Jonnu Smith, Tennessee Titans (at Houston Texans)

Start: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (at New York Giants)

Sit: Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (vs. Pittsburgh Steelers)

Sit: Jacob Hollister, Seattle Seahawks (vs. San Francisco 49ers)

Sit: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers (vs. New Orleans Saints)


Start 'Em: Kaden Smith, New York Giants (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)

The Giants lost Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison to injury reserve and Big Smith has stepped up. Last week he played 100 percent of the team's snaps and turned eight targets into six receptions for 35 yards and two touchdowns.

That was against a weak Washington secondary, but the Eagles secondary is not much better. Philadelphia is playing for a lot more than the Giants are, though New York should still look to be competitive in a division game and find out what they have in their offense now that Daniel Jones is back from injury and fresh off a five-touchdown game.

Smith is getting the snap and target share to be a great play this week in a game with implications for the team's pride and his future.


Sit 'Em: Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers (at Kansas City Chiefs)

The Chiefs have something to play for; the Chargers do not. Philip Rivers has been playing for his job this whole season but still has targeted Hunter Henry four or fewer times in three of their last four games.

Maybe the change of heart was real in Week 16, as Henry saw seven targets and pulled in five for 45 yards, but it's hard to have faith in that—especially against a tougher defense.

Tyrann Mathieu is the type of safety who seeks out contact and embodies a Kansas City secondary that has ramped up its intensity in recent weeks. Henry is talented enough to overcome tough matchups, but his usage is too concerning to bank on in such an important week.