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Fantasy Football Week 17: Players to start or sit

Dalton Del Don
·10-min read

I leaned more heavily toward DFS recommendations with it being Week 17, which means most leagues have already played their title games.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts

Sit: All Jaguars

Start in DFS: Jonathan Taylor ($29)

The Colts’ defense hasn’t been playing especially well recently, but with James Robinson out, DJ Chark banged up, and Mike Glennon starting at QB, Jacksonville can safely be avoided in Week 17.

Taylor is suddenly a sure first-round fantasy pick next year, and he ends his rookie campaign in a must-win situation (the Colts could become the first team since Matt Cassel’s Patriots to win 11 games and not make the playoffs) with the Colts as two-touchdown home favorites and facing a Jaguars defense that’s allowed the fourth most fantasy points to running backs this season. Taylor is a top-three RB this week and underpriced in DFS.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

Sit: Andy Dalton

Start in DFS: Darius Slayton ($13)

Dalton is coming off a strong game and has a nice trio of wide receivers to throw to but will be likely missing LT Zack Martin again and faces a Giants defense that’s been among the toughest on fantasy QBs over the last five games.

We won’t see a 100% Slayton until next season, but he’s seeing good volume (at least eight targets in three straight games), and that should continue with Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram all dealing with injuries. The Cowboys have ceded the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, while Slayton was top-10 in WOPR last week and is cheap in DFS.

[Week 17 Fantasy Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Kickers]

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

Sit: All Steelers

Start in DFS: Browns D/ST ($12)

With the Browns 9-point favorites (despite coming off a loss to the Jets), it’s clear Pittsburgh is expected to rest its starters, so none can be trusted in Week 17 fantasy lineups.

With Mason Rudolph getting the start and the Browns motivated with a playoff spot on the line, Cleveland’s defense is a borderline top-three fantasy start this week (the weather should be cold as well) but mispriced in DFS thanks to the resting situation. But be sure to monitor as the Browns continue to deal with COVID-19 issues.

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

Start in DFS: Derrick Henry ($42)

Start: Chad Hansen

Henry is setup for a huge finish to the regular season against a checked-out Texans defense and is worth paying up for as a DFS foundational piece this week. He’s 223 rushing yards shy of 2,000 this season and could very well reach it Sunday.

Hansen is a flier for those in deeper leagues who should see more volume after leading all Texans in routes run last week (and Keke Coutee is banged up). Hansen faces a Tennessee secondary that’s ceded the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

Start in DFS: Ty Johnson ($12)

Sit: All Patriots

Johnson has impressed when given the chance this year and should take over as New York’s lead back in Week 17 with Frank Gore and La’Mical Perine both out. Johnson gets a Patriots defense that’s been one of the most favorable to fantasy backs over the last month, so he’s an intriguing bargain in DFS.

Cam Newton throwing for nearly 400 yards in Seattle feels so long ago, as he’s tossed just three touchdowns over 11 games since. The Jets also enter with a top-10 ranked DVOA run defense, so it’s tough to trust any New England fantasy players in this matchup despite the big coaching advantage.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Start in DFS: Alexander Mattison ($17), D’Andre Swift ($24)

With Dalvin Cook out due to tragic circumstances, Mattison will be tough to pass up if he plays. He’ll face a Detroit team that’s playing as poorly as any defense in the NFL. Kirk Cousins and Irv Smith (Kyle Rudolph is out) are also must starts this week. The Lions have allowed the most yards per play (6.2), the most rushing touchdowns (25), the highest YPA (8.4) and rank last in DVOA this season. Otherwise they’ve been terrific.

It would be better if Matthew Stafford were starting at QB, but Swift is a DFS option either way, as the impressive rookie has taken over as Detroit’s clear lead back and has a favorable matchup against a Vikings defense that’s allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Start in DFS: Hayden Hurst ($13)

Start: Tom Brady

Hurst has scored in back-to-back weeks and should see decent volume against a Tampa Bay defense that encourages passing. Especially with no Travis Kelce thanks to Kansas City likely resting its starters, it makes sense to pay down at tight end this week in DFS.

Brady is the first player in more than 40 years to throw for 600-plus yards over a four-quarter span, so he enters as hot as any player in the league. The Bucs have incentive to win (in order to face the NFC East winner), this game projects to be fast-paced, and the Falcons have yielded the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

Start in DFS: Lamar Jackson ($34)

Sit: All Bengals

With Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen a threat to rest, Jackson has a strong argument as this week’s No. 1 QB, so he’s worth considering in DFS. Over the last four games (really 3.5), Jackson has gotten 8.5 YPA with eight passing TDs and four rushing scores while averaging 83.3 yards on the ground.

The Bengals somehow scored 37 points last week, but the Ravens present a slightly tougher challenge than Houston. Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins are banged up, and the game script should pose further problems for Brandon Allen.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

Start: Dolphins D/ST

Sit: All Bills

The guess here is the Bills don’t go all out in this game, with the presumption it’s meaningless with Pittsburgh resting its starters and being 9-point underdogs. A motivated Dolphins defense would be a strong fantasy start if facing Matt Barkley and/or Jake Fromm (and with Cole Beasley out).

The Bills barely being favored at home here suggests there’s a real chance Buffalo rests its starters for a decent amount of Sunday’s game, making them risky fantasy options in Week 17.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Start: Robert Tonyan

Sit in DFS: David Montgomery ($29)

Tonyan finished as the No. 3 tight end in PPR leagues this year despite seeing just 57 targets, and he’s an especially strong start in Week 17 against a Bears defense that’s been the second-most vulnerable team against the position over the last five games.

Montgomery has seen his stock move way up over the second half of the season, and he’s impressed even if helped by his schedule. But the Packers have been stingy against fantasy backs lately, and I’d prefer Jonathan Taylor at the same DFS salary.

Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
David Montgomery's hot streak could come to an end in a matchup against the Packers. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

Sit: Drew Brees

Start: Curtis Samuel

The Panthers’ defense has played well lately (a poor Washington offense helped last week, but the game before featured Carolina getting to Aaron Rodgers unlike any other team this year), and Brees is clearly playing compromised through his injury.

Samuel racked up a career-high 106 receiving yards last week and should be extra busy Sunday with Robby Anderson, Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis all possibly out.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Start: Mike Williams

Sit: All Chiefs

Williams saw 10 targets last week (three in the red zone) and should see heavy volume again Sunday with Keenan Allen likely still sidelined. Williams is intriguing at just $14 in DFS.

With Patrick Mahomes setting an NFL-record in dropped interceptions, the Chiefs are turning to Chad Henne in Week 17, while others on offense may also sit thanks to KC locking up the No. 1 seed. Good luck to the rest of the AFC having to face Andy Reid coming off the double bye in the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Start: Seahawks D/ST, Richie James

The Seahawks’ defense has played far better after a historically poor start and since trading for Carlos Dunlap (and with Jamal Adams and Shaquill Griffin getting healthy), ceding the third-fewest yards per play over the last three weeks. The 49ers have allowed by far the most QB hits this season, and this week they’ll be starting C.J. Beathard at quarterback while missing Trent Williams, Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert and Brandon Aiyuk (and George Kittle’s snaps will be limited), so Seattle is a top-three fantasy D/ST on my board.

James played 91% of the snaps and tied for SF’s lead in routes and routes/dropback last week and should see more targets with Aiyuk joining Samuel on the sidelines in Week 17. James showed upside during a 184-yard explosion earlier this season, and a pass-heavy game script should be in store for San Francisco this week, so he’s a sleeper.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Start: Nelson Agholor, Jerry Jeudy

Despite Las Vegas taking the first wide receiver in the draft, Agholor somehow finished as a top-20 WR in PPR leagues this season. He’s seen at least six targets in six straight games, making Agholor well worth using in Week 17 fantasy lineups.

Jeudy is coming off one of the roughest games any player has had in the league this year, but you’d rather see a bunch of drops than no targets at all, and the setup remains favorable Sunday. Facing a Raiders defense that struggles to get to the passer, I’m in on a cheap Denver stack this week with Drew Lock ($22) and Jeudy ($12).

[Play in Yahoo’s NFL $100K Baller. $15 entry fee for a chance at a 5K Vegas getaway]

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

Start: Cardinals D/ST, Malcolm Brown

The Rams enter devastated by injuries, down a QB (Jared Goff), receiver (Cooper Kupp) and their top-two backs (Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson). John Wolford hasn’t attempted an NFL pass and Blake Bortles is Blake Bortles, so Arizona’s D/ST has upside this week, especially if Kyler Murray is healthy enough to give the team a favorable game script.

LA’s QB situation could be a problem, but Brown gets to act as lead back for a Rams rushing offense that ranks No. 2 in DVOA. Facing a Cardinals defense that was just gashed for 200-plus yards by Jeff Wilson Jr. (in fairness, few defenses can stop JWJ), Brown is a top-15 RB this week and a definite DFS option.

Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles

Start: Logan Thomas, Eagles D/ST

Washington enters its must-win game Sunday night with uncertainty at quarterback, although a one-legged Alex Smith or Taylor Heinicke will be an upgrade over Dwayne Haskins. With Antonio Gibson and Terry McLaurin banged up, Logan Thomas should once again see heavy volume (27 targets over the last two weeks), making him a must-start at a weak tight end position.

The Eagles were lit up by Andy Dalton and company last week after Fletcher Cox left injured, but Philadelphia is still a D/ST option in fantasy leagues this week. Washington’s QB situation remains a serious question mark, and the Eagles enter with the league’s sixth-best pressure rate.

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