Happy New Year's! We made it.
It's Week 17, aka one of the best DFS slates of the season and the absolute worst time to end your fantasy league. Seriously. Friends don’t let friends play in Week 17 championships.
As always, the season finale is a news-based week. While a few teams (like the Chiefs, Bills, and Steelers) have their playoff outcomes wrapped up and are for sure resting starters, there are 14 teams that are still fighting for seeding or their playoff lives — and they will be all-out to win.
Along with 14 "dead" teams fighting only for their NFL draft standing, there are plenty of injury situations and motivation angles to monitor, too. Some of these teams out of the hunt might rest their banged up starters or limit veterans' snaps to get a longer look at players on the 2021 roster bubble. Other teams might let players chase stats and performance incentives in their contracts.
I updated my cheatsheet of every team's motivation at the bottom of this page that you'll definitely want to peep.
Ok. Let's get to it.
Note: The ownership projections referenced in this article are from our dashboard, which is powered by FanShare. These are updated constantly throughout the weekend.
Popular plays that could (and should) be the foundation of your rosters.
Derrick Henry (9.4k DK; 10.2k FD)
Duh. Everyone on earth knows what the Titans are going to do against the Texans. This spot sets up for another potential 40-burger for Henry, especially if Deshaun Watson can manage to keep the game somewhat close and force the Titans to keep their foot on the gas. First and foremost, the Titans are massive 7.5-point favorites and have the highest implied scoring total on the board (32). And, over the last few seasons, Henry has arguably been the most valuable fantasy running back (behind only CMC) when the Titans win. This is just absurd: Since the start of last season, Henry averages a whopping 26.0 DraftKings points per game when the Titans win. In this 19 game sample, Henry has scored at least 14.8 DK points 16 times; he's eclipsed 20 DK points 12 times; and he's hit 30 or more points 7 times. Henry has the highest touchdown chances of any player on the board and a legitimate chance at multiple scores against this Texans run "defense" that he's shredded for 423 yards and 5 TDs in his last two outings against them.
Davante Adams (9.2k DK; 9.3k FD)
With all of the value at running back and wide receiver, we're going to see Henry and Adams' ownership push 40-50% in some smaller-field single-entry and 3-max tournaments. And why wouldn't they? Adams is currently having the best fantasy season by a receiver all-time while Henry might get the rock 25 times against a trash defense. As for Adams, if we remove the Week 2 game that he left early, he is averaging 29.7 DraftKings points per game across his 12 fully healthy contests. The next closest receiver? It's Stefon Diggs at 21.7 DK PPG. With the Bears missing both of their starting CBs — Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine are out — Adams is going to have a chance to repeat his 11/142/3 line from last week.
Ty Montgomery (4.0k DK; 4.5k FD)
With Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Dwayne Washington all out due to COVID protocols, the Saints only two running backs on Sunday will be Montgomery and practice squad-er Tony Jones Jr. At the minimum price on both sites, Montgomery is just a lock button play even at what will be 60+ percent ownership against this Panthers front-seven that has yielded the fifth-most yards per carry (4.9) and second-most receptions per game to running backs (6.2). I actually think we’ll see Taysom Hill used as the goal-line back, but the Saints have no other option but to feature Montgomery heavily on short throws and possibly even line him up at receiver on a handful of snaps.
Jonathan Taylor (9.2k DK; 9.3k FD)
After Montgomery, Adams, and Henry, I suspect we'll see Taylor go off as the fourth or fifth-highest owned player on this slate. The spot for Taylor is just too good to pass up and he remains underpriced — relative to his ceiling — on both sites. After getting benched in Week 10 when lost a fumble, Taylor has been entrusted with 26, 16, 22, 20, and 18 touches over his last five games and turned it into 21.5 fantasy points and 116.6 scrimmage yards per game. The Jaguars have already waved the white flag on their season and Taylor should have no issue getting another big workload. Over the last five weeks, the Jags have allowed 20+ fantasy points to Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Derrick Henry, Ravens RBs, and David Montgomery.
Good plays that have holes.
Malcolm Brown (4.3k DK; 5.6k FD)
Brown is a great play on paper with 15-18 touches guaranteed since Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers are both out, but just how well will the Rams be able to move the ball with John Wolford at the controls? The Rams implied total is at just 18.8 points, which is basically the same as the Jets (18.5). Brown is projected as one of the highest owned RB on the slate despite a few warts.
Speaking of which…
Ty Johnson (4.3k DK; 5.0k FD)
He’ll handle the majority of the backfield work with Frank Gore and La'Mical Perine both out. What's more, Johnson will come in at far lower ownership than Malcolm Brown, because, well, it's the Jets. Back in Week 13 when Perine missed and Gore left on the opening drive, Johnson ran for 117 scrimmage yards and a score on 24 touches. This matchup for Johnson and the Jets run game is better than the public will think, too, as the Patriots have been whacked for the fifth-most scrimmage yards (169 per game), sixth-most yards per carry (5.1), and seventh-most fantasy points (27.7 per game) to opposing backfields over the last five weeks. The concerns are simple, though: How much will the Jets score? And just how much will Josh Adams play? Back in Week 13, Johnson handled 39 snaps while Adams had 19.
Plays that will go over-owned.
Alexander Mattison (6.1k DK; 5.0k FD)
Ok, maybe Mattison isn’t a fade on FanDuel where he’s priced as the RB59. But on DraftKings, I’m avoiding Mattison at his elevated price for a few reasons. First and most importantly, there are just a ton of really good running back plays up and down the board and Mattison is sort of sandwiched in a dead zone at $6,100. With so many great value plays in the 4k range, it’s easy to find the salary to get up to Jonathan Taylor or pay down into the mid-5k range for Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake (if Chase Edmonds is out). Plus, Mattison’s role isn’t exactly secure. HC Mike Zimmer said that the team might go with a committee between Mattison, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah to replace Dalvin Cook. Remember, the last month has been a rough stretch for Mattison as he’s been in and out of practice with an appendectomy and a concussion.
Leverage off of Mattison: All the Kirk Cousins / Justin Jefferson
Marvin Jones (5.1k DK; 6.1k FD)
This is strictly an ownership fade, because on paper, Jones is a good play once again at his depressed price. This year, Marvin Jones is averaging 15.6 fantasy points per game without Kenny Golladay in the lineup, which would make him the WR17 just behind Tyler Lockett (16.1). Still, if he’s going to be 20-25% owned as the chalk value receiver, there are just plenty of good options around him that make sense and will go lower-owned. Plus, Matthew Stafford’s chances of making it through this game aren’t exactly high and Chase Daniel making another appearance would kill Jones’ upside.
Leverage off of Jones: 1) Emmanuel Sanders, 2) Curtis Samuel, 3) Mike Williams, 4) Michael Gallup
Laviska Shenault (4.2k DK; 5.5k FD)
With D.J. Chark and Collin Johnson both out, the field is going to look to Shenault as one of the top punt plays on this slate. And he’s a fine play for sure, but if he’s going to be 10-12% owned and similar options like Darius Slayton and Jerry Jeudy are going to be sub-5%, that’s where your money should be for tournaments. I also don’t mind the idea of just playing Keelan Cole (3.4k DK; 5.1k FD) at a slightly lower price and way lower ownership. Cole is the Jags’ primary slot receiver and throwing through the middle is exactly how you beat the Colts. This season, 64% of the production that the Colts have allowed to wide receivers has come through the slot. That’s the second-highest rate in the league behind the Rams (65%).
Leverage off of Shenault: 1) Jerry Jeudy, 2) Darius Slayton, 3) Keelan Cole
Favorite Tournament Plays
To win all the money.
Nick Chubb (7.6k DK; 8.1k FD)
I'm in 100% agreement with Scott on this call. After flopping at fairly high ownership last week against the Jets, Chubb is going to come in at lower ownership and in an arguably even better spot against a Steelers defense that is resting key starters like Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt. Chubb has been the Prince version of Derrick Henry when the Browns are victorious this season, averaging 6 more DraftKings points per game in wins compared to losses. Vegas has tabbed the Browns as 9-point favorites over the Mason Rudolph-led Steelers.
D.K. Metcalf (7.3k DK; 7.6k FD)
Metcalf might be my favorite receiver play on this entire slate not named Adams. Richard Sherman is out and Metcalf went for 12/161/2 in this matchup without Sherman earlier in the season. With ownership flocking to Davante Adams, Calvin Ridley, and Justin Jefferson, Metcalf is going to be under-10% owned and has still has true slate-breaking upside despite getting slowing down a bit in recent weeks. Metcalf got shut down by Jalen Ramsey and was a casualty of the team flopping so hard against the Jets, but this spot is absolutely mouth-watering for him to find his ceiling again.
Jerry Jeudy (4.2k DK; 5.1k FD)
He saw 15 targets last week, K.J. Hamler is out, and he gets a top-5 matchup against a Raiders secondary that has allowed a receiver to eclipse 15+ fantasy points in five of their last 6 games. The only team that failed to have a receiver hit 15+ against Vegas in this span was Miami. Our ownership projections have Jeudy tabbed at 5% while Laviska Shenault should attract more than double the ownership at the same price. If you want to go full YOLO in large-field tournaments, a Drew Lock / Jerry Jeudy pairing will not cost you hardly anything and will allow you to get to the big dogs (like Adams and Henry) with a contrarian roster construction.
Despite the fact that the Chiefs are resting starters on offense and defense, no one is thinking about playing Justin Herbert. With Chris Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, and Frank Clark all unlikely to play more than a handful of snaps or sit completely, this spot for the Chargers offense is going completely overlooked. Herbert is projected for just 4% ownership while Mike Williams is projected at 5%. With Keenan Allen out last week, Williams led the team with a massive 30% target share.
Week 17 Motivation Cheatsheet
Playoff teams resting starters
Chiefs — They’ve already locked up the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. Patrick Mahomes is out and I’d be shocked if Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill plays. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is out and Le’Veon Bell is questionable.
Bills — This hasn’t been confirmed yet, but they are locked into the 2 or 3 seed. Josh Allen played just seven snaps in a similar Week 17 spot last year when the Bills were locked into a Wild Card slot. If the Steelers lose, the Bills are the No. 2 seed
Steelers — They’ve already won the AFC North. Ben Roethlisberger is out along with T.J. Watt and Cam Heyward. Joe Haden (COVID list) will also miss.
Teams with no playing time concerns
Packers, Saints, and Seahawks — The top-three seeds in the NFC have all clinched, but are all still alive for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. The Seahawks need the Packers to lose and the Saints to lose/tie to vault all the way up from the No. 3 seed to the 1 seed.
Ravens — If they beat the Bengals, they are in.
Browns — If they beat the Steelers, they are in.
Titans — If they beat the Texans, they win the AFC South.
Colts — If they beat the Jaguars and the Titans lose, the Colts win the AFC South. They can also make the playoffs with a win and a Ravens, Browns or Dolphins loss.
Dolphins — The Dolphins are in with a win over the Bills or a Ravens, Browns, or Colts loss.
Rams — L.A. can lock up a Wild Card berth with a win over the Cardinals, but they will be short-handed. Jared Goff (thumb) is out, Darrell Henderson (ankle) is on I.R., and Cooper Kupp is on the COVID list. Also, Cam Akers (ankle) is very questionable to play. DT Michael Brockers is also out. T Andrew Whitworth could come back off IR.
Cardinals — Whoever wins the Rams-Cardinals game makes the playoffs.
Bears — The Bears are in with a win or a Cardinals loss.
Washington, Cowboys, and Giants — The NFC East is an absolute joke. But, all three of these teams are very much alive. If Washington beats the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, they are in. Meanwhile, the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game can become NFC East champs and the No. 4 seed if Washington loses. Adding to the intrigue… The Football Team is dealing with a slew of injuries on offense between Alex Smith (calf), Antonio Gibson (toe), and Terry McLaurin (ankle).
Teams with question marks
Buccaneers — HC Bruce Arians is a known embellisher of the truth, but he said that they are going to “play to win” against the Falcons. I’m skeptical. The Bucs can’t improve their playoff standing since the Saints have already locked up the NFC South. If the Bucs’ lose and the Rams lose, Tampa is still the No. 5 seed at 10-6. However, locking up the No. 5 seed is incredibly valuable because it would give them a date with the No. 4 seed (NFC East winners) in the Wild Card round.
Eagles — Even though the Eagles were never competitive this season, they are still playing a big part in the playoff picture. If they beat Washington, the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game will make the playoffs as NFC East champs and the No. 4 seed. Meanwhile, HC Doug Pederson is fighting for his job. Does he go all out? If so, he’ll do it short-handed without Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert. Key defensive players Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett are battling injuries, too.
Vikings — Dalvin Cook isn’t playing after his father unfortunately passed away this week. Meanwhile, Kyle Rudolph and Riley Reiff are both out. HC Mike Zimmer said he’s not resting starters against the Packers, but Minneosta could (and should) use this week to get a longer look at some of their players that aren’t locks for 2021 roster spots.
Teams that are dead for the playoffs and may rest starters
- Texans — What are the chances that HC Romeo Crennel lets Deshaun Watson play full out and risk injury in a meaningless game? Star tackle Laremy Tunsil is out along with G Brent Qvale. Duke Johnson was limited all week and his return would cut into David Johnson’s role.
- Lions — Matthew Stafford has been battling a slew of injuries, but he’s somehow going to play. Also, Kenny Golladay’s season is over as he looks forward to free agency.
- Jaguars — James Robinson (ankle) is confirmed out along with D.J. Chark (shin) and Collin Johnson. Mike Glennon is starting again.
- 49ers — Jimmy Garoppolo will not return and both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk (ankle) are out. So are T Trent Williams and CB Richard Sherman.
- Chargers — Keenan Allen (COVID list) won’t play. L.A. also might be without Joey Bosa and Chris Harris.
- Panthers — Christian McCaffrey will not return while Mike Davis is unlikely to play. T Russell Okung is also out.
- Falcons — Julio Jones (hamstring) is confirmed out. Todd Gurley is confirmed dust.
- Raiders — Trent Brown has been back on the line over the Raiders last three games, but he might miss the season finale with a knee injury.
- Broncos — K.J. Hamler (concussion) might sit.
- Patriots — Damien Harris (ankle) hasn’t played since Week 14 and will miss the finale. David Andrews and Shaq Mason are out.
- Bengals — Tyler Boyd (concussion) and Tee Higgins (hamstring) should both play.
- Jets — Frank Gore is out and La’Mical Perine is on the COVID list after testing positive.