Why Playing DFS in Week 17 is Better than Christmas

Why Playing DFS in Week 17 is Better than Christmas article feature image

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard (30).

  • Don't think Week 17 in the NFL is worth paying attention to? Think again.
  • Ian Hartitz analyzes the DFS matchups to keep an eye on based on quality backups, motivation levels, injuries and contract incentives.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed any time off work as well as gatherings with family members you generally try to avoid. Regardless, it’s time to once again turn our focus back to sports, gambling and everything in-between.

This Saturday is already set with college football matchups featuring Notre Dame-Clemson and Alabama-Oklahoma along with Jones vs. Gustafsson 2 at UFC 232 later in the night.

However, Sunday is where football fans should explore that “everything in-between”. Gambling on all the oddities of the NFL’s Week 17 slate is always a tough task, but the heavy dosage of unknowns are actually an advantage in the fine sport of daily fantasy football.

Week 17 is the best week of the daily fantasy season. What follows are some tips for how you can profit on this glorious occasion.

The Week 17 Slate Features Backups Getting Starter-Caliber Volume

There is usually a free square — a very cheap player expected to have a large workload — or two per week throughout the regular season, but the ever-evolving nature of Week 17 usually produces more value than usual thanks to the plethora of resting players.

Our Pro Models can easily identify these under-valued workhorses with Projected Plus/Minus, which measures the difference between each player’s median projection and their salary-implied point total.

There are plenty of undervalued flex options on DraftKings this week based on their respective situations:

  • Broncos running back Royce Freeman ($3,500): +5.4 Projected Plus/Minus, Phillip Lindsay (wrist) is done for the season.
  • Broncos running back Devontae Booker ($3,200): +3.45, Lindsay is done for the season.
  • 49ers running back Jeffery Wilson ($4,400): +4.55, Matt Breida (knee) is done for the season.
  • 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne ($3,800): +3.1, Dante Pettis (knee) is done for the season.
  • Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin ($4,300): +2.54, DeSean Jackson (Achilles) isn’t expected to suit up Sunday.

Godwin in particular is intriguing considering his matchup against the Falcons’ bottom-five defense in both overall and pass DVOA. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick have posted a solid +0.38 correlation with their No. 2 wide receiver over the past two seasons, although Godwin’s projected 21-25% ownership rate and 7% Leverage Rating indicate he’s a better play in cash games than tournaments this week.

Be sure to check out our Ownership Dashboard shortly after lock to see how chalky these under-valued players end up being.

We Know the Motivation Level for Almost Every Team

I broke down which Week 17 games still matter earlier this week. The main takeaways among teams with some potentially questionable motivation levels:

  • The Saints and Cowboys aren’t expected to use their starters for the majority of the game.
  • The Bears, Rams, Chargers, and Seahawks are tentatively expected to play their healthy starters, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see each team lean on a run-heavy game plan to minimize any potential risk to their respective quarterbacks.
  • The Patriots, Texans, Ravens, Colts, Titans, Steelers, Vikings and Eagles are fully expected to try their hardest to win their respective games, which each hold heavy-playoff implications.
  • The Buccaneers seemingly want to get third-string quarterback Ryan Griffin some game reps (because why not at this point).
  • It wouldn’t be surprising if Christian McCaffrey doesn’t receive his usual monstrous workload considering the Panthers are officially eliminated from the playoffs and are down to third-string quarterback Kyle Allen.
  • The Chiefs are attempting to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and are expected to be full go Sunday against the Raiders. Patrick Mahomes and the passing game have a massive advantage over the Raiders’ inept secondary.

Our Pro Models do a good job demonstrating which players are drastically over-valued again thanks to Projected Plus/Minus.

Notable over-valued flex options on DraftKings based on their likelihood for rest include:

  • Drew Brees ($6,500): -10.75 Projected Plus/Minus
  • Jameis Winston ($6,100): -5.43
  • Michael Thomas ($8,400): -5.11
  • Amari Cooper ($7,200): -3.94
  • Ezekiel Elliott ($9,000): -4.29
  • McCaffrey ($9,100): -6.37
  • Alvin Kamara ($7,900): -4.37

Additionally, our Live NFL Odds Page can help indicate where sharps strongly disagree with opening lines. Each of the Cowboys (+3 open, +6 now), Chargers (-4 open, -6.5 now) and Rams (-6 open, -10 now) have seen line shifts of multiple points that seem to indicate their playing-time intentions.

Matchups define the game of football, and the backup-heavy nature of Week 17 makes potential low-scoring games easier to identify than normal.

Injured Players Usually Aren’t Rushed Back

Our Week 17 Injury Report provides daily practice participation along with estimated and official game statuses for every fantasy-relevant player. A good rule of thumb for piecing together which questionable players are closer to doubtful, or probable, is to see if they’ve been able to get in a full practice during the week.

However, Week 17 is unique with injuries in that there isn’t much incentive for banged-up players to suit up for meaningless games. Head coaches will always tell the media that their best players “who are healthy” will play on Sunday, but they can get around this white lie with somewhat-phantom injuries that could probably be played through if needed.

There are a number of regular starters who might not be rushed back to action this week for meaningless games based on their practice participation.

  • Julio Jones (hip, ribs) didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday after he played just 24-of-48 snaps (50%) in Week 17, but he’ll at least suit up this Sunday against the Buccaneers.
  • Tevin Coleman (groin) joined Jones on the sideline during practice this week, and he’ll also suit up. Still, the emergence of backup Brian Hill makes a featured workload for Coleman unlikely.
  • Allen Robinson (ribs) has been sidelined all week. A-Rob is expected to have a brutally tough shadow matchup with Xavier Rhodes even if he’s ultimately able to suit up.
  • Davante Adams (knee) wasn’t able to practice during the week, but he’s in reach of some pretty serious milestones (more on that in a bit).
  • Leonard Fournette (ankle, foot) is doubtful and not expected to see a hefty workload even if he manages to suit up.
  • Both Spencer Ware (shoulder) and Austin Ekeler (stinger) are expected to return and provide some relief to Damien Williams and Melvin Gordon, respectively.
  • Todd Gurley (knee) is considered day-to-day and probably doesn’t need to be rushed back considering C.J. Anderson’s excellent performance in Week 16.
  • The Steelers are expected to welcome back James Conner (ankle), but Antonio Brown (knee, questionable) is undergoing further tests Friday.
  • The Seahawks should have first-round pick Rashaad Penny, which could feasibly lead to a smaller-than-usual workload for Chris Carson in their mostly-meaningless Week 17 matchup.

Receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (quad), Tyler Boyd (knee), Jermaine Kearse (heel) and Quincy Enunwa (ankle) have already been ruled out.

The absence of the latter two receivers is great news for Robby Anderson …

… though Anderson has been held under 50 receiving yards in five of six career matchups against the Patriots and has yet to find the end zone against Bill Belichick and company.

Be sure to monitor our industry-leading NFL News Feed for immediate analysis on every fantasy-relevant tidbit throughout the league.

Week 17 is Record-Breaking and Incentive-Cashing Szn

NFL contracts are typically filled with performance-based incentives that begin to get leaked to the media towards the end of the season. Of course, some players are closer to their goals than others.

Lions cornerbacks Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson are expected to cash in on playing-time incentives this week, while safety Eric Weddle will earn a $1,000,000 bonus if the Ravens make the playoffs.

In addition to contract-based incentives, players can be further motivated in Week 17 by chasing the record books. This is in play for tight ends Travis Kelce and George Kittle. You better believe 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will be trying to help the latter player.

Davante Adams also has plenty to play for, assuming the Packers’ No. 1 receiver is ultimately able to suit up.

Adams is set up brilliantly against the Lions at home, where he’s averaged a robust 18.5 DraftKings points per game with a +4.9 Plus/Minus and a 71% Consistency Rating over the past three seasons (per our NFL Trends tool).

Thanks for reading, enjoy Week 17 and have a happy New Year!

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