Caplan's Week 17 Insider Fantasy Notebook


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Caplan's Week 17 Insider Fantasy Notebook

In my Week 17 notebook, I go inside what the situations all 16 games look like for fantasy GMs with some additional notes.

Good luck everyone!


What’s at Stake?

The Cardinals, like their opponent, are out of the playoff picture.

One guy who could continue to get an extended look is WR Greg Dortch, who has put up big numbers in the last two games he played in.

Head coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked Monday what Dortch had to do to get consistent playing time going forward.

“What he did yesterday. It was by far the most detailed he’s been (as far as) alignment, assignment, the technique, the route depth— all those things. Like I said (last night) I’m really proud of how he responded. We challenged him to, ‘Hey man, these last three weeks let’s do it like a pro on each and every snap.’ We took him off the return duty so he can focus on that, and he responded. We’ve said it all along, when he knows what he’s doing, he’s running routes and catching the ball in space, he’s done a great job. He’s just got a build off that, but I liked what I saw yesterday.”


What’s at Stake?

The Bears were eliminated from the playoff hunt weeks ago, so there’s nothing at stake here other than evaluating players for next season. That’s why rookie WR Velus Jones has played 69 total offensive snaps over the past two games.

The Lions are still alive for the final NFC Wild Card spot, so they should be playing their starters in their usual roles.


What’s at Stake?

They are a total mess after their head coach was fired earlier this week, but just based on recent weeks, they haven’t been trying to play starters any less than normal on offense despite being eliminated from the playoffs.

The Chiefs are still trying to secure the #1 seed in the AFC, so they shouldn’t be resting any players.


What’s at Stake?

While they have nothing on the line this week even if they lose, don’t tell that to head coach Doug Pederson. Although head coaches don’t always tell the truth in these situations, Pederson actually seems serious.

“Not at all. There’s never a meaningless game. Never, ever, ever. You play to win every game. The only way I rest players is if they’re hurt and can’t go.”

He was asked if he would handle the playing/resting of players differently if the team was not on a (3-game) win streak…

“Not at all. When I rested those guys in Philly (with the Eagles in 2017), it was the last week of the regular season, and we’d already clinched the number one seed. We’d already clinched the NFC East. We haven’t clinched anything yet. I feel it’s important that we keep momentum. Keep the streak going if we can and play the guys that are healthy in this ball game. It means a lot to this organization and to where we are as a group. We’re a young group that is learning how to win football games. Maybe one day I would treat it differently, but right now, I think this is the right approach.”

I’m choosing to believe him here, but I can certainly see him pulling the starters late if the game is in hand.

As for the host team, they don’t really have anyone to evaluate that’s noticeable at the skill positions as they have run out of most of their younger backup players due to major injury issues.


What’s at Stake?

If the Dolphins win, they clinch the final AFC Wild card spot, so they have a lot on the line, plus they have lost four games in a row and will want to get things going positively heading into a likely postseason appearance.

The Patriots know they need to win and will also need help in Week 18, but they’ll first try to beat their division rival with their best players.


What’s at Stake?

Colts interim head coach Jeff Saturday is trying to make his case to be the permanent head coach, so he won’t want to rest any key players.

As for the Giants, if they win this game, they get in the playoffs as a Wild Card in the NFC, so the starters should play their normal number of snaps.


What’s at Stake?

The Saints are still in it for the last NFC Wild Card spot, but barely. So, they should be playing their starters as they normally would at least for this game.

As for the Eagles, they want that first-round bye, so they’ll be playing their starters like they normally would. If they clinch, look for the starters to either be rested completely in Week 18 or have their playing time limited, so hopefully this week is your championship week.

Additional Notes: If you’re in a league that plays in Week 18, you might want to add RB Boston Scott, as the Eagles are almost sure to rest Miles Sanders or limit his playing time if they beat the Saints.


What’s at Stake?

As hard as it is to believe, this game has huge NFC South division winner implications.

If the Panthers win their final two games, they win the NFC South, as they already beat the Buccaneers earlier this season.

And the Buccaneers know if they win this game, the division is theirs, so both teams will be playing their starters as they normally would.


What’s at Stake?

The Browns have been eliminated from the playoffs, but head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked if any starters would be rested, and he responded with a hard “no.”

As for the Commanders, they’re still trying to earn an NFC Wild Card spot, so they have plenty on the line on Sunday.


What’s at Stake?

The 49ers have a chance to still catch the Vikings for the #2 spot in the NFC, but it remains to be seen how important that is for head coach Kyle Shanahan.

He was asked about resting players prior to Wednesday’s practice.

“We're trying to make sure everyone stays healthy for the playoffs now in terms of guys who aren't healthy. And then we feel it's a risk. We can be very smart with that. It's not worth risking that when you know you're in the playoffs, but the goal isn’t just being healthy in the playoffs, it's we think we're a really good team and we want to make sure that continues and we also think there's room to get better and if anything happens, we want to make sure we're better, not worse. It's really hard just to put people on hold in football and expect you'll be the same team or definitely expect you'll be better, so every week we're just trying to keep, whether it's practice field, whether it's the game, there are opportunities to get better and that's how we look at it and it's great that there's an opportunity to get the two seed. We'll see what it is after this week. Hopefully we can win but then we'll see what the situation is the next week, but we're not going to risk guys who we think are putting a lot of risk to how their bodies are at now, but I also think it's a big risk to have guys who have been going and playing football at a high level just to tell them don't play for three weeks and then make sure you play at that high level for three and a half hours when everything's on the line, so we're just balancing that out and we'll see how it continues.”

So, it sure seems like Shanahan wants to win this game with his best and healthy players and resting them for this game isn’t in the cards based on what he says here. Week 18, however, could be a different story, so hopefully your championship game is this week.

As for the Raiders, they actually have a very slim chance to earning the last AFC Wild Card spot to start the day, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see rookie RB Zamir White get some carries in back of Josh Jacobs, who is set to become a free agent in March.


What’s at Stake?

Both teams are still alive for a Wild Card spot in their respective conference, so they have something to play for to at least start the day. And the Seahawks actually could still lose and have a chance—albeit small, to still earn the NFC’s last spot.

As for veteran WR Tyler Lockett (hand surgery), indications are that he will be able to play and HC Pete Carroll was asked Friday about if Lockett was dealing with any pain while catching passes in practice.

“There were no indications of anything bothering him catching the ball, right from the first time he came out here. He started with Nerf balls, and he was fine.”


What’s at Stake?

If the Eagles win earlier in the day, the #1 seed would be out of reach, but the Vikings would still have something to play for—securing the #2 seed. They have a one game lead over the 49ers heading into Sunday’s games.

However, you should be aware that HC Kevin O’Connell was asked this week about reducing starter snap counts for this game.

“Yeah, I think you saw some of that last week. It’s a balance between making sure we’re doing everything we can to still win football games. There’s a lot out in front of us as a team. We’ve been able to clinch the division and we know we’re going to be a part of the playoffs, but there’s still a lot to be said for trying to give ourselves an opportunity for the most amount of home games we possibly can, while also making sure we’re taking care of our roster and really projecting what it looks like, from a snap count standpoint, to be fresh when we get those opportunities come January. I think there’s a lot that goes into it, I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in some of these young players you’re seeing, getting more opportunities and their role, may be not only in helping with the snap counts across the board, but their role in helping us win and continuing to grow and develop and that player development is a huge thing for us. And if you can do it while still winning football games and providing your roster with a chance to continue to grow, I think that’s a really good thing for our team and our organization. But I give those guys that did get more snaps and will continue to see snaps so much credit for being ready when their number was called, and going out there and having some real production for us.”

So, it’s clear that some starters may not see as much playing time, but he also didn’t indicate resting any of them--meaning not playing them.

As for the Packers, they are still alive for an NFC Wild Card spot. Even if the Commanders and Giants win earlier on Sunday, the Packers would still be alive, but barely, for the final Wild Card spot when they take the field.


What’s at Stake?

The Rams don’t even own their 1st-round pick next year (Lions own it as a result of the Matthew Stafford trade), so they’re not going to tank and based on how well they have been playing of late, HC Sean McVay clearly has his players playing hard and there’s no indication of working other players in the lineup and they have a very difficult injury situation anyway.

While the Chargers finally earned a Wild Card spot, they can still earn the #5 seed in the AFC if they can win out and finish with a better record than the AFC North loser of the division (Bengals or Ravens). And the #5 seed will play the AFC South winner in the first round on the road. Obviously, that would be a better opponent than other possibilities, but whether HC Brandon Staley cares about that remains to be seen. Staley gave a possible hint to how he’ll handle playing time in this game on Wednesday when asked about the Chargers appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

“I think it’s the right step. That is how I would characterize it. I wouldn’t say it’s a big step, it’s the right step. You have to make the playoffs in order to be a world champion. I think that is a good place to start. That’s where we expected to be. I think our path to get here. No one could have predicted that. That’s what I am happy about, is that we were able to earn our way there. The way that we earned our way there, I think that is significant. It’s about playing our best here at the end of the season. That is still out there for our team and that’s where our focus has got to be. That’s why we have to treat this week like it has a life of its own because this is a really good team that we are playing and there is still a lot of room for us to improve. Certainly, the way we played the other night, that wasn’t our best stuff. That wasn’t our best stuff and our team knows that and that’s why we have to get to work tomorrow and have a great practice.”

OC Joe Lombardi was asked about the plan for the final two games since they have the playoff spot secured.

“I think we are trying to find our rhythm a little bit. We have had some good drives over the last few games, but we haven’t been real consistent. The guys that have been coming back, getting them worked in and just finding our rhythm. We are approaching it like any other game. We are trying to win these games and get the best game plan together, but also focusing on finding our battle rhythm a little bit better so we can be more consistent.”

As for the rotation for Austin Ekeler and Josh Kelley?

“We don’t want Austin to take too many hits. We want him to be healthy, especially as we get into the playoff push. I think Josh has been playing well. Austin probably got a little north of where we wanted him this last game by maybe two, three, or four touches. We have a lot of trust in Josh, so we will balance that out a little bit better, I think, moving forward. We had a few more runs this game maybe than normal and I think whoever our third running back is, it was Larry (Rountree III) this last time, probably could have got him in for a couple of touches, as well.”

Just based on that, one could infer that Ekeler’s role could be reduced at least by a little bit due having his 3rd highest touch total of the season (22) against the host Colts. Plus, they’re working on a short week being that they played on Monday night and didn’t get home until early Tuesday AM.


What’s at Stake?

The Steelers are still miraculously alive for the last AFC Wild Card spot despite posting a record under .500 to date, so they still have something to play for.

However, as fate could have it, they actually could be eliminated from the playoff hunt if the Dolphins win at the Patriots earlier in the day. Still, there’s no indication that head coach Mike Tomlin would rest his players, plus, he needs to win the final two games to avoid his first losing season.

And Ravens are still alive for the AFC North Division crown and the they could be playing for the division the next week if the Bengals lose to the Bills on Monday night.


What’s at Stake?

The Bills already won their division, but they have bigger things in mind—getting the only AFC first-round bye, so they have plenty to play for in this game. And they have the first tiebreaker (head-to-head) over the Chiefs and both teams are currently at 12-3.

And the Bengals could enter the picture since they have already beaten the Chiefs earlier this season, so again, they have plenty to play for in addition to winning the AFC North.

Additional Notes: From what I understand, 3rd-year WR Gabe Davis has just recently gotten over the ankle injury which he suffered very early in the season. While he hasn’t been listed on their injury report since Week 6, he had discomfort with it for several weeks, but is over it now, so hopefully he shows that in the game on Monday night.