Week 17 Fantasy Football: Which Games Still Matter?

Dec 24, 2018 1:09 AM EST
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Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8).

  • It's the final week of the regular season, but there are still important matchups worth watching.
  • Check out the teams and players to keep an eye on in DFS for Week 17.

Week 17 is here! It’s both your last chance to play regular season DFS until next September, as well as your first immediate opportunity to seek revenge over the potential lack of any season-long championship hardware.

The Packers and Jets demonstrated in Week 16 that two teams in a game with zero playoff implications are still perfectly capable of racking up points  It’s also true that the physical and violent nature of football doesn’t lend itself to tanking as easily as a beta-sport such as basketball.

Still, it’s helpful to know which teams still have something to play for when attempting to build workload projections for fantasy. The Panthers might be willing to give Christian McCaffrey 20 touches per game into perpetuity, but we should at least be aware of the situations that could warrant a reduced snap count or workload.

What follows is a brief breakdown of which Week 17 games feature two teams with playoff hopes on the line, which matchups only have one-such team and which matchups feature teams that are either eliminated or can’t further help their playoff position.

You can view the full updated Week 16 NFL playoff picture here.

Matchups Featuring Two Teams Fighting for Their Playoff Lives

Bears at Vikings

The Bears still have an outside shot at gaining a first-round bye, while the Vikings can clinch a Wild Card spot with a victory. Still, early line-movement suggests the Bears could perhaps rest their starters considering their only chance at obtaining the No. 2 seed would require the Rams to lose at home to the 49ers. The Bears opened as +3 underdogs, but have already moved to +6.5 (per our Live NFL Odds page).

This doesn’t guarantee Mitch Trubisky and company will rest, as both 49ers-Rams and Bears-Vikings won’t kick off until 4:25pm EST . Be sure to monitor our NFL News feed throughout the week for the latest on head coach Matt Nagy’s intentions.

We can more confidently project the Vikings to keep their foot on the gas in this must-win game. This could again mean an enhanced focus on the ground game, as Kirk Cousins has thrown for fewer than 30 passes in consecutive games after offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired after doing so just once in Weeks 1-13 combined.

Expect Dalvin Cook (39 touches in Weeks 15-16) to continue to work as the heart-and-soul of the Vikings offense.

Colts at Titans

The final wild-card spot in the AFC will come down to the winner of Colts-Titans. Both teams are moderately healthy, although Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron (concussion) was forced out of action early in Week 16. Be sure to monitor our Week 17 Injury Report for Ebron’s daily practice participation along with his estimated and official game status.

Matchups Featuring One Team Fighting for Their Playoff Lives

49ers at Rams

The Rams could still lose the No. 2 overall seed to the Bears after both teams won in Week 16, but it would require LA to lose to the 49ers at home. Of course, they chose to let Todd Gurley (knee) gain some extra rest in a similarly-important matchup against the Cardinals on Sunday.

It’s unlikely we see a full workload for Gurley even if he’s able to suit up considering how well C.J. Anderson (20 rushes, 167 yards, 1 TD) performed during his Rams’ debut. Jared Goff threw a season-low 24 passes in Week 16, so a run-heavy approach that doesn’t put the team’s top-playmakers in harm’s way could again be head coach Sean McVay’s approach.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is usually good enough schematically to warrant fantasy exposure even in dire situations, although the likely absence of both No. 1 receiver Dante Pettis (ankle) and No. 1 running back Matt Breida (ankle) could make things tough.

Still, don’t be surprised if Nick Mullens and Shanahan work extra hard to get George Kittle the single-season record for yards by a tight end.

Chargers at Broncos

The Chargers are alive for a potential first-round bye if things break their way. That being: K.C. loses and Philip Rivers and company take care of business against the Broncos. They’ve already shown a willingness to put Melvin Gordon and his balky knee in harm’s way this season, so expect the Chargers to try to make a statement against their divisional rival.

Browns at Ravens

The Ravens are a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh and can clinch the AFC North with another victory. This should mean another healthy diet of Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon in the run game against the Browns’ pass-funnel defense that ranks sixth in pass DVOA, but just 23rd against the run.

Still, the Browns aren’t exactly a candidate to roll over and let the Ravens take home the division. Baker Mayfield and company have won 5-of-7 games since Hue Jackson was canned. It’d be silly to do anything to stunt the momentum of the team’s franchise quarterback.

  • Weeks 3-8: 59% cmp | 6.6 Y/A | 8 TDs, 6 INTs | 245 yards per game
  • Weeks 9-16: 71% cmp | 8.5 Y/A | 16 TDs, 5 INTs | 268 yards per game

There’s also a bit of history to be made from rookie running back Nick Chubb, who is dangerously close to clearing 1,000 rushing yards on the season.

Eagles at Redskins

The Eagles need the Vikings to lose to the Bears to have any shot at making the playoffs. Both games are slated to kickoff during the afternoon slate, so we can expect Nick Foles and company to be all systems go against Washington.

It’s likely the Redskins won’t rush Jordan Reed (foot) or any of their other banged up difference-makers back into action for this meaningless game, which bodes well for the Eagles’ fearsome pass rush against Washington’s injury-riddled offensive line.

Raiders at Chiefs

The Chiefs can clinch the AFC’s No. 1 overall seed with a victory over the helpless Raiders in Week 17. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce should be full go considering a loss, along with the Chargers defeating the Broncos, could lead to a wild card finish for the Chiefs.

Jets at Patriots

The Patriots have already clinched the AFC East with their Week 16 win over the Bills. They also regained the No. 2 seed from the Texans, who lost to the Eagles on Sunday. New England holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Texans thanks to their 27-20 victory back in Week 1, so one more win for Tom Brady and company will earn them a first-round bye.

The problem is the new-look Patriots offense might not lend itself all that kindly to fantasy goodness, especially in the passing game. Sony Michel (18-116-1), James White (8-41-1) and Rex Burkhead (13-39-0) were all productive on the ground during the offense’s first game without Josh Gordon, but Tom Brady threw a season-long 24 passes and only targeted Julian Edelman (6-70-1) more than 10 times.

Michel seems like the best bet for a decent workload considering he’s averaged 17.8 carries since the Patriots’ Week 11 bye. His combination of power and elusiveness helped him rack up a season-high 133 yards and a touchdown against the Jets’ 20th-ranked defense in rush DVOA back in Week 12.

Bengals at Steelers

The Steelers are now fighting for their playoff lives at home against the Bengals’ 31st-ranked scoring defense. They’ll need the Ravens to lose to the Browns to have any shot at making the playoffs.

Jaguars at Texans

The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a victory in Week 17 and are more-or-less in the playoffs already regardless. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a run-first strategy on offense to limit Deshaun Watson’s exposure behind the team’s still-leaky offensive line.

Matchups Featuring Zero Teams Fighting for Their Playoff Lives

Panthers at Saints

The Saints have already clinched the No. 1 seed. Drew Brees rested during a meaningless Week 17 game back in 2009 when they already had the No. 1 seed locked up as well. The Panthers have some season-long objectives they can attempt to cross off, but the effort might not be worth the potential risk.

Cowboys at Giants

The Cowboys clinched the NFC East and are almost certainly locked into the 4-seed, as they’re two games behind the Bears in the loss column. It’d be shocking if Ezekiel Elliott receives a touch, but Dak Prescott and company could see some light action before resting early based on how the team handled a similar situation in 2016.

Cardinals at Seahawks

The Seahawks can’t do better than their wild card spot, as the Rams clinched the NFC West all the way back in Week 13. Their general mindset of running the ball as much as possible lends itself kindly to keeping Russell Wilson safe in a meaningless game against the overmatched Cardinals.

The status of Rashaad Penny (ankle) will be worth monitoring against a Cardinals defense that has allowed at least 150 rushing yards to each of the Raiders, Chargers, Falcons and Rams since Week 11.

Lions at Packers

Both the Lions and Packers proved in Week 16 that they’re going to go down fighting with their healthy starters. Randall Cobb (concussion) probably won’t be rushed back, but we should feel more confident than normal in these players as fantasy assets considering both Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford are tentatively expected to play-to-win.

Falcons at Buccaneers

The Falcons and Buccaneers are also positioned to play-to-win despite being eliminated from playoff contention. The likes of Julio Jones (ribs), DeSean Jackson (foot) and Tevin Coleman (groin) probably won’t receive featured workloads, although each team boasts plenty of available talent at receiver for Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston to still have productive afternoons.

Dolphins at Bills

The Dolphins still need to find out what they have in Ryan Tannehill if they haven’t figured that out already, while the Bills would be foolish to rob Josh Allen of a full game’s worth of reps.

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