Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 17: Top Matchup Plays and Sleepers
Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season is fast approaching, and for the first time since—checks notes—forever, that doesn't mean the curtains are about to drop on the campaign.
The league's new 18-week schedule means fantasy football managers have more time than ever to sweat out playoff matchups, find favorable matchups to exploit and sneak a potentially season-saving sleeper into their lineup.
We're here to help with that final part by running through an early round of start-or-sit debates for the upcoming docket.
Start: Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (at Washington Football Team)
The league's most favorable matchup for opposing quarterbacks looked the part in Week 16, when Washington helped Dak Prescott snap out of a recent funk by throwing for 321 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone.
The Football Team, which has allowed more fantasy points to the quarterback position than anyone, per Yahoo, has now let four different quarterbacks throw for at least 275 yards and four scores. Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston make up half of that group.
Jalen Hurts could have a field day with his arm alone, but his upside as a rusher should move him into no-brainer starting territory. While the Eagles quarterback set season-lows for rushing yards (seven) and attempts (two), he could be a big factor in the ground game again with starting running back Miles Sanders sidelined by a broken hand.
Sit: Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (at Indianapolis Colts)
The Colts just made Kyler Murray look pedestrian (245 yards, one touchdown). A few weeks back, they did the same thing to Tom Brady (226 yards, one touchdown and one interception).
Why would anyone want to bank their fantasy playoff hopes on them not having a repeat performance against Derek Carr, who's been slow for weeks?
Carr hasn't produced a multi-score game since Week 10. He has topped 250 passing yards once in his last four games, and dating back to Week 9, he has just eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions over his last eight outings.
Start: Rashaad Penny, RB, Seattle Seahawks (vs. Detroit Lions)
The Seahawks waited forever—three-plus seasons feels like an eternity for NFL running backs—for a return on their 2018 first-round investment in Rashaad Penny, but the light bulb may have finally clicked.
Better late than never, right?
Penny has been electric two of his last three times out. On Sunday, he turned 17 carries into 135 yards and a touchdown. Two weeks before, he took 16 rushes for 137 yards and two scores. That admittedly isn't the biggest sample size, but it seems safe enough to trust he can build off that momentum against a Detroit Lions defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs.
Sit: Rex Burkhead, RB, Houston Texans (at San Francisco 49ers)
Is it possible to kick someone when they're up? Whatever that's called is what we'd recommend doing to Rex Burkhead this weekend.
Sure, he's coming off his best game (by a mile) of the season, as he just bulldozed the Los Angeles Chargers for 22 carries, 149 rushing yards and two scores on Sunday. While that might tempt you into riding the hot hand, let us be the first to remind you he was mostly frigid in the weeks prior. Coming into Week 16, he hadn't rushed for more than 41 yards in a game and had a single score—rushing or receiving—on his stat sheet.
The Texans improbably amassed a favorable game script for Burkhead against the Chargers, but the tide could turn quickly against a San Francisco 49ers team that needs this win to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Texans could fall into a big enough hole to quickly abandon the running game, but even if they don't, it's hard to see lightning striking twice for the previously forgettable Burkhead.