Week 17 Vantage Points


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Week 17 Vantage Points

It’s Week 17, and as much as the NFL would love to convince you this week isn’t different… well, it is. Many teams are eliminated. Fewer teams, but some, have clinched playoff spots. Even fewer teams have locked themselves into playoff seeding.

But with the final chapter all but finished for such a large number of teams, coaches do treat Week 17 differently than other weeks. Injured players — for eliminated teams or for teams who play meaningful playoff football in a week or two — may rest. Even healthy starters for some teams will sit. Some younger players will perhaps get a longer look this week, with an eye to 2021.

So instead of trying to dig up news stories for every team as I have in each of the last 16 weeks, the focus of this Vantage Points column will be to examine potential playing-time issues — good or bad — that could pop up this week.

Teams Resting Starters

NOTE: Keep in mind that “resting starters” isn’t all equal. While some guys won’t suit up at all, it’s possible others are active on Sunday but play only a few series, or a quarter. There may be some degree of “scoreboard watching” going on.

Kansas City Chiefs: We already know Andy Reid has a long history, dating back to his time in Philadelphia, of benching his starters when his team has its seed locked up. The Chiefs are the #1 overall seed in the AFC by virtue of their 14-1 record, and that means Patrick Mahomes is almost certainly not going to play, ceding work to Chad Henne. Reid said “certain guys” will rest, and for fantasy purposes, I’d take that to mean Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and especially Tyreek Hill, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury in recent weeks. RB Le’Veon Bell (knee) is also dinged up, so I wonder if Darrel Williams might have his snaps limited. That should give some work to preseason DFS hero Darwin Thompson. Obviously, this is good news for the Chargers, who are banged up as well.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed to reporters on Monday that Ben Roethlisberger will not start against Cleveland, opening the door for Mason Rudolph to do so. Tomlin wouldn’t confirm which other players, if any, would rest in Week 17, but it stands to reason that this entire offense should get a fantasy downgrade. (Tomlin said “the vast majority” of his players would play, but did leave the door open to resting other key players.) The Steelers seem intent on bottling up the momentum from the second half in Indianapolis and are trying to carry that into the postseason. They also could be in a better position to win with the Browns dealing with so many COVID-19 issues.

Buffalo Bills: Coach Sean McDermott has made no overall declarations, but the Bills and Steelers are duking it out for the #2 seed in the AFC, which clearly Pittsburgh doesn’t view as nearly as important as in years past. “Those conversations are taking place,” McDermott said this week when asked about potentially resting his starters. McDermott also said the Steelers’ decisions would play into his own decision-making. The Bills are already going to be down WR Cole Beasley with a leg injury, so it’s possible McDermott looks to avoid further damage by giving Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and maybe someone like CB Tre’Davious White the day off. Obviously, Buffalo resting starters on defense would help rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa of Miami, who will be starting with Ryan Fitzpatrick on the COVID-19 list.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs will not be resting starters in Week 17, per coach Bruce Arians. However, as Pewter Report writes here, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll play the whole game. The Bucs can’t win the NFC South, but they certainly will want to get the NFC’s #5 seed, which would guarantee a matchup with the NFC East “champion” and not one of the Packers, Saints, or Seahawks. Obviously, Arians pulled his starters in a blowout win over the Lions last week, so he could potentially do the same under similar circumstances against Atlanta. The Bucs also play before the Rams, also in contention for the #5 seed, so they won’t be able to scoreboard watch.

Baltimore Ravens: No, I don’t expect the Ravens to rest starters. However, they have about a million guys listed as questionable on their injury report this week (see below), and they have an easy matchup with the Bengals. Baltimore could be careful with its starters if the game gets out of hand, because they need three things to happen for them to miss the playoffs — they must lose, the Colts must beat the Jags (likely), and the Browns must beat the Steelers (possible). It’s not a long shot, but if the Ravens take care of business the way they should, some dinged-up guys could get pulled.

Player Milestones

Individual milestones aren’t the most important things for coaches to think about at this stage of the year, but some will certainly be aware of where their players stand when it comes to reaching record-breaking numbers, or even nice round numbers for the 2020 season. So in the past, some players have been fed extra in Week 17 to try to get them to a statline that’ll look great on the back of a football card. Here are some guys who could benefit from heavier usage in Week 17.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson is 46 yards shy of Randy Moss’ franchise rookie record in receiving yards, and with 111 yards, he’d break Anquan Boldin’s rookie record in the post-merger era of 1377. He gets a Lions defense that is ill-equipped to stop anyone.

Chargers QB Justin Herbert already owns the rookie TD pass record with 28. With 2 more, he will become the first rookie QB in NFL history to chuck 30 TD passes.

Titans RB Derrick Henry is 223 yards shy of 2000 on the season. That obviously seems unrealistic, but he takes on the hapless Texan defense this week. Henry has gone over 200 yards rushing in each of his last two games against Houston. If he busts off some big runs early in the game, it’s fair to think they’ll let him try to go for it.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is 92 rushing yards away from being the first quarterback in NFL history with back-to-back seasons — or even two nonconsecutive seasons — of 1000 rushing yards. There have only been two such seasons: Jackson last season and Michael Vick in 2006.

Bengals rookie WR Tee Higgins is 92 yards shy of 1000 receiving yards as he heads into a matchup with the Ravens. It’ll be a tough task, as the Ravens are still fighting for a playoff spot.

Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb is another rookie WR within reach of 1000 yards this week against the Giants — he needs 108. For what it’s worth, the Giants are middle of the pack in receiving yards surrendered to slot players — 13th-most in the NFL, per SIS. Lamb plays almost exclusively out of the slot.

Colts RB Jonathan Taylor is 84 yards shy of 1000 on his rookie campaign. And while it’s a long shot, he needs 165 to pass the Jags’ James Robinson for the most by a rookie this season. And he gets the Jaguars’ awful defense to try to accomplish that feat.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is 2 TD passes shy of his first 40-TD campaign.

Buccaneer QB Tom Brady is 4 TD passes shy of 40 — he would join Peyton Manning as the only 2 QBs to throw 40 TD for two different teams.

This is purely anecdotal, but with Patrick Mahomes resting, Packer QB Aaron Rodgers has the potential to make his case for the MVP award. The Packers are playing for the NFC’s #1 seed, so winning is more in their minds, but winning would help Rodgers potentially take the award home.

Raiders RB Josh Jacobs is 24 rushing yards shy of 1000 on the season.

Browns RB Nick Chubb is 41 rushing yards shy of 1000.

Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott is 63 rushing yards shy of 1000.

Saints RB Alvin Kamara is 68 rushing yards shy of 1000 on the season — he actually has never run for 1000 yards in a season before — and with his positive COVID-19 test, it doesn’t appear he’ll do it this year either.

Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake is 81 rushing yards shy of 1000.

Buccaneers RB Ronald Jones needs exactly 100 rushing yards to reach 1000 this season. Teammate Leonard Fournette told reporters this week that Jones — who is activated off the COVID-19 list — deserves the milestone for his hard work.

Bronco RB Melvin Gordon is 107 rushing yards shy of 1000 — a fact coach Vic Fangio is aware of.

Eagles RB Miles Sanders is 133 rushing yards shy of 1000.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs is 5 receptions shy of 125 and 41 receiving yards shy of 1500.

Packers WR Davante Adams is 3 receiving TD away from 20.

Texans WR Brandin Cooks is 16 receiving yards shy of 1000.

Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett is 36 receiving yards shy of back-to-back 1000 yard seasons. Lockett also has an outside shot at 100 receptions — he needs 12.

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans is 40 receiving yards shy of 1000.

Titans WR Corey Davis is 55 receiving yards shy of 1000. His teammate AJ Brown is 76 yards shy of the feat. It would be back-to-back 1000 yard seasons for Brown to start his career, and it would be a very timely accomplishment for Davis as he heads into free agency.

Rams WR Robert Woods is exactly 100 receiving yards shy of 1000 on the season. He won’t have to contend with Cooper Kupp (COVID) for targets this week, but he will be playing with a backup QB in John Wolford.

Vikings WR Adam Thielen is 132 receiving yards shy of 1000 on the campaign. If he got there, he’d join Justin Jefferson, and would have the rare distinction of being part of two different 1000-yard receiving duos in the same season (he has done it with Stefon Diggs as well).

Raiders TE Darren Waller needs 2 receptions to get to 100 on the season.

Panthers WR Robby Anderson is 8 receptions shy of 100.

Steeler WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is 9 receptions away from his second 100-catch season.

COVID-19 Issues

The fantasy football season may be over and the playoff-contending teams are thinning out, but turns out we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic! And multiple teams are affected at this point.

The biggest victims so far are the Cleveland Browns, who have had to shut down their facility multiple times this week, with TE Harrison Bryant, LB Malcolm Smith, S Andrew Sendejo, and LB BJ Goodson all testing positive, along with issues with coaches as well. CB Denzel Ward was added to the list as well, and is likely their biggest loss. Obviously, in terms of pure football consequences, this is a disaster for Cleveland, which was on the precipice of clinching a playoff spot but lost to the Jets last week after virtually its entire WR room was out of the game due to COVID contact tracing. The Browns should get WR Jarvis Landry and company back this week against Pittsburgh, but obviously with an active breakout within their building, any more issues could pop up at any point. Could they delay this game… potentially hurting the Steelers’ preparation for the playoffs?

Saints RB Alvin Kamara was a late addition to the list this week, landing on it on Friday afternoon. It is, as Adam Schefter reports, for a positive test, so Kamara’s status for next week is in danger too.

Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tested positive for COVID-19 this week, so obviously Tua Tagovailoa will start with the Dolphins’ playoff hopes on the line. The Dolphins signed Jake Rudock to back up Tua.

Rams WR Cooper Kupp tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play this week. So the Rams will be down arguably their top target and QB Jared Goff (thumb). Maybe we’ll get some second-team swag between QB John Wolford and WR Van Jefferson. The Rams also placed DT Michael Brockers on the COVID-19 list.

Chargers WR Keenan Allen was already going to miss with a hamstring injury, but just to put a nail in that coffin, he’s also on the COVID-19 list.

Jet RB La’Mical Perine tested positive for COVID-19. With Frank Gore (lung contusion) also out, it’ll be a big week for Ty Johnson.

Viking OL Riley Reiff is on the COVID-19 list, though it’s not known if he was merely a contact or tested positive. He’s in danger of missing the game.

Raven P Sam Koch was placed on the COVID list this week. Another specialist, the recently extended 49er kicker Robbie Gould, was also placed on the list. If he can’t kick in Week 17, Tristan Vizcaino (signed off the Minnesota practice squad) will.

Titans P Brett Kern is on the COVID-19 list. You might remember Kern missing a game earlier this season, and his backup was atrocious, so this could be important for Tennessee.

Cardinals S Chris Banjo, who plays special teams and defense, is on the COVID-19 list and won’t play against the Rams.

Eagles S/CB Jalen Mills will miss this week’s game against the Team on the COVID-19 list. He’s yet another player missing from a decimated secondary.

Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles has been working remotely this week because he was determined to be a close contact of someone COVID-positive. He’s expected to be ready to coach this weekend. However, DT Steve McLendon was placed on the list.

Giants OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo tested positive fo COVID-19 this week and will not be available to coach against Dallas.

The Texans had to close their facility on Wednesday because of some positive tests. There’s no indication whether or not a player tested positive for COVID.

Injuries to Watch

Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray (leg) is practicing in full and says he’ll play against the Rams. WRs DeAndre Hopkins (hip) and Larry Fitzgerald (groin) have both missed practice time this week but I’d expect both to go. RB Chase Edmonds (hip) has been very banged up lately, and the injury costing him practice time this week is a new one suffered in Week 16. He’s a game-time decision. Obviously, Edmonds being out would be good news for Kenyan Drake, against a Ram defense that might not have DT Michael Brockers (COVID).

Atlanta Falcons: WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is out. RB Ito Smith (ribs) should play against the Bucs. WR Brandon Powell (foot) and CB Darqueze Dennard (quad) are also out.

Baltimore Ravens: RB JK Dobbins left last week’s game against the Giants with a chest injury but isn’t even listed on the injury report this week. Fellow RB Mark Ingram has been a healthy scratch the last two weeks, but is sitting out of practice this week with an illness. He’s questionable, as is Gus Edwards, who was added to the injury report Friday with a back injury. WR Willie Snead (ankle) has missed multiple practices this week ahead of the Ravens’ tilt with the Bengals. Every player who has a game status for the Ravens — including DE Calais Campbell (calf), CB Marlon Humphrey (knee), DE Yannick Ngakoue (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (ribs/shoulder), CB Marcus Peters (calf), and G DJ Fluker (knee) —is listed as questionable.

Buffalo Bills: WR Cole Beasley (knee) is “week-to-week” according to Sean McDermott. He almost certainly won’t play against the Dolphins, as the Bills may selectively rest some starters.

Carolina Panthers: RBs Christian McCaffrey (thigh) and Mike Davis (ankle) are both DOUBTFUL against the Saints. Rod Smith and Trenton Cannon are the next two RBs up, though I’d expect WR Curtis Samuel to see some action as well. Samuel could be extra important if WR Robby Anderson (groin) also can’t play. The Panthers still have injuries on the offensive line as well, with T Russell Okung (calf) and G John Miller (shoulder).

Chicago Bears: The big problems for the Bears are on the defensive side of the ball. CBs Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) and Buster Skrine (concussion) have missed multiple games in a row and will not play against the Packers either. DT Akiem Hicks, one of their most valuable players, has missed practice time with an illness this week but should play. On offense, TE Cole Kmet (shoulder) and WR/RB Cordarrelle Patterson (knee) are questionable. WR Allen Robinson (hamstring) returned to practice on Friday and should be good to go.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR Tyler Boyd passed concussion protocol and will play this weekend. WR Tee Higgins (hamstring) should also be able to go. RB Joe Mixon (foot) remains shut down and will not play against the Ravens, opening the door for Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine to continue getting work. On defense, CB William Jackson (concussion) is out.

Cleveland Browns: Obviously, as outlined above, the biggest question for Cleveland is just how many players and coaches will miss with the COVID-19 protocols. But the good news is their receivers — Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Donovan Peoples-Jones — all of whom missed last week with contact tracing issues, are activated from the COVID-19 list and will play against a Pittsburgh team that will rest some key starters. The Browns could also get stud G Wyatt Teller back from a calf injury, which is huge.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys are generally healthy headed into Week 17 (well, inasmuch as this team can be considered “healthy” this season), though they have some defensive issues with LB Leighton Vander Esch (ankle), S Darian Thompson (concussion), and CB Rashard Robinson (knee) all dicey. Owner/GM Jerry Jones said star OL Zack Martin (calf) likely won’t return this week but could for the playoffs if the Cowboys advance that far.

Denver Broncos: The big news for Denver as it heads into its tilt with the Raiders is OLB Bradley Chubb (ankle) returned to practice this week and could play. WR KJ Hamler remains in the concussion protocol and will not play.

Detroit Lions: I think you need to give credit to just how tough QB Matthew Stafford is. Despite dealing with rib and throwing thumb injuries, he returned to practice on Thursday and it appears he’s going to give it a go against the Vikings in a meaningless game (he’s officially listed as questionable). But he won’t have WR Kenny Golladay (hip), who had a lost season as he heads into free agency. LB Jamie Collins (neck) and OL Frank Ragnow (throat) are both questionable.

Green Bay Packers: The biggest injury for the Packers happened in practice this week, and it’s disastrous — LT David Bakhtiari tore his ACL and will obviously be out until 2021. It’s a stunning injury we don’t often see during in-season practices. RB Jamaal Williams (quad) missed last week, leading to the breakout for rookie AJ Dillon, but will return this week. RB Aaron Jones, who took a big shot last week and ceded some work to Dillon, isn’t listed on the injury report. T Rick Wagner (knee) will play as well.

Houston Texans: The most notable Texan injury is one that isn’t even on the injury report — QB Deshaun Watson, who injured his hand late last week, will play. His LT Laremy Tunsil (ankle) will not, however. RB Duke Johnson, who has missed multiple games with a neck injury, returned to practice this week, and is questionable.

Indianapolis Colts: The biggest blow to the Colts is that LT Anthony Castonzo had to go on IR with an ankle injury he simply couldn’t play through anymore. The Colts could choose to move stud G Quenton Nelson to LT, as he got reps there this week, and fortunately for them, they were able to get RT Braden Smith activated off the COVID-19 list. (Both Castonzo and Smith missed last week’s game against the Steelers.) The Colts will be down two starters in their secondary — CB Rock Ya-Sin (concussion) and S Khari Willis (concussion). Stud DT DeForest Buckner (ankle) will play, while TE Jack Doyle (quad) is questionable against Jacksonville. WR Michael Pittman (concussion) is questionable.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The tank job is complete for the Jags, who have locked up the #1 overall pick, but they’ll still be down their two biggest fantasy options — RB James Robinson (ankle) and WR DJ Chark (shin) are both out against Indianapolis. The Jags won’t have rookie WR Collin Johnson (hamstring) either.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs are going to rest most of their key starters against the Chargers, but some guys have injury designations as well. We already know RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle/hip) will miss, but it appears Le’Veon Bell (knee) may as well (he’s listed as questionable). WR Sammy Watkins (calf) won’t play either. WR Tyreek Hill is listed with a hamstring injury, which has bothered him for weeks, and he’s probably the top priority in terms of Kansas City resting guys, so he’s out. It’s possible all of these players — including CEH — miss this week but are back in two weeks for the Divisional Round.

Los Angeles Chargers: WR Keenan Allen (hamstring/COVID-19) is out. The Chargers will also be down several key defensive players against Kansas City, including DE Joey Bosa (shin/concussion) and CB Casey Hayward (hamstring). T Bryan Bulaga (foot) is also out.

Los Angeles Rams: QB Jared Goff (thumb) is out. John Wolford will start. WR Cooper Kupp (COVID-19) is also out. RB {Darrell Henderson|RB|LAR}} (high ankle) is on IR, while Cam Akers (high ankle) is doubtful. Expect a big role for Malcolm Brown, with UDFA Xavier Jones behind him. The Rams could get LT Andrew Whitworth (knee) back from IR to help matters, though. DT Michael Brockers is on the COVID-19 list, which is a blow to their run defense.

Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders placed DE Clelin Ferrell on IR with a shoulder injury. It doesn’t appear that T Trent Brown (knee) nor CB Lamarcus Joyner (thigh) will play this week.

Miami Dolphins: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is out against Buffalo after testing positive for COVID-19. WRs DeVante Parker (hamstring) and Jakeem Grant (ankle) are both listed as questionable.

Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are very banged up headed into a meaningless Week 17 game. The most notable missing player isn’t with an injury, however — RB Dalvin Cook will miss this game following the death of his father. My condolences are with Cook and his family. The Vikings will have to try to replace him with RB Alexander Mattison (concussion), who has returned to practice this week, Mike Boone, and Ameer Abdullah. Key OL Riley Reiff is on the COVID-19 list. On defense, Minnesota could be missing several key players in CB Cameron Dantzler (hamstring), LB Eric Kendricks (calf), and others. K Dan Bailey (back) is also in danger of missing (he’s questionable). The Vikings seem to have more incentive to sit down injured players since there’s been no indication their coaching staff or front office is in danger of losing jobs.

New England Patriots: Not that anyone is counting on any Patriots for fantasy purposes, but their injury report is long, as usual. The most serious is that the Pats put rookie LB Josh Uche on IR with a foot injury. OLs David Andrews and Shaq Mason both are out with calf injuries. At least DB Devin McCourty (shoulder) looks like he’ll be able to go against the Jets. RB Damien Harris is out yet again with the ankle injury that cost him the last number of weeks.

New Orleans Saints: With the significant exception of RB Alvin Kamara (COVID-19), the Saints are generally healthy headed into Week 17. By the way, this is the third — and potentially final — game on IR for WR Michael Thomas (high ankle). Thomas could be ready as soon as next week if the Saints don’t get the NFC’s bye.

New York Giants: The Giants are expecting to have TE Evan Engram (calf) and WR Sterling Shepard as they attempt to take the NFC East title. It doesn’t look like they’ll have WR Golden Tate (calf) though, as he’s doubtful. QB Daniel Jones (hamstring) is practicing in full, but how healthy is he? The normally nimble Jones has just 1 rush for 3 yards over his last two starts.

New York Jets: New York is down two RBs — Frank Gore (lung) and La’Mical Perine (COVID-19) are out, opening the door for Ty Johnson to start against the Patriots.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles end yet another season with a preposterous number of injuries. On offense, RB Miles Sanders (knee), WR DeSean Jackson (ankle), TE Dallas Goedert (calf), and LT Jordan Mailata (concussion) won’t play. That should mean another start for Boston Scott in the Philly backfield. On defense, CB/S Jalen Mills (COVID-19) is out. DE Derek Barnett (calf) won’t play either, while DT Fletcher Cox (neck) is questionable.

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers’ injury report this week is hinting at which key starters they’ll sit down — QB Ben Roethlisberger, C Maurkice Pouncey, and EDGE TJ Watt are all sitting out of practice with no injury designation. Obviously, they could choose to rest more players in game, but those three will not play. K Chris Boswell is dealing with a groin injury and was a mid-week downgrade, so he won’t kick this week. The Steelers have K Matthew Wright on their practice squad.

San Francisco 49ers: The Niners will not have QB Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring), WR Brandon Aiyuk (ankle), T Trent Williams (elbow), CB Richard Sherman (calf), and K Robbie Gould (COVID-19) against the Seahawks. The NFL’s most injured team wraps up its 2020 campaign with another rash of injuries.

Seattle Seahawks: RB Carlos Hyde (illness) is questionable and RB DeeJay Dallas (ankle) is out. That should mean a lot of work for Chris Carson. TE Greg Olsen (foot) won’t play either. OL Mike Iupati (neck) is also out against the 49ers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs may be conservative with their starters at some point in Week 17 if it looks like they’re going to beat the Falcons, but they’re actually pretty healthy headed into the game. CB Carlton Davis (groin) is the big question mark (he’s doubtful). RB Ronald Jones (finger/COVID) will play and needs 100 rushing yards on the button for 1,000 on the season.

Tennessee Titans: The biggest issue for the Titans is probably the fact that P Brett Kern is on the COVID-19 list. T Dennis Kelly (knee) is unlikely to play against the Texans.

Washington Football Team: There are three big injuries for the Team on offense against the decimated Eagles defense. QB Alex Smith (calf), RB Antonio Gibson (toe), and WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) are all listed as questionable. If Smith can’t start, Taylor Heinecke will, following the release of Dwayne Haskins.

Joe Dolan, a professional in the fantasy football industry for over a decade, is the managing editor of Fantasy Points. He specializes in balancing analytics and unique observation with his personality and conversational tone in his writing, podcasting, and radio work.