Let’s call a spade a spade: Week 17 championships suck. If you’re still playing in Week 17, hopefully it’s a two-week long championship, a one-week league, or you’re just playing DFS.
This week, these start or sit calls are going to center around which teams still have something to play for. Here’s a rundown of teams that are resting starters, have injury/playing time concerns or are still motivated:
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.
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.
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.
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? Key defensive players Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett are battling injuries.
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 a full game and risk injury in a meaningless game? Star tackle Laremy Tunsil also might sit.
- Lions — Matthew Stafford has been battling a slew of injuries and likely won’t play. Also, Kenny Golladay’s season is over as he looks forward to free agency.
- Jaguars — James Robinson (ankle) is confirmed out. D.J. Chark (shin) might sit, too. Mike Glennon is starting again.
- 49ers — Jimmy Garoppolo will not return and Brandon Aiyuk (ankle) is out.
- 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 and Robby Anderson missed practice Wednesday.
- 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 might miss the finale.
- Bengals — Tyler Boyd (concussion) and Tee Higgins (hamstring) are both banged up.
- Jets — Frank Gore is out and La’Mical Perine is on the COVID list after testing positive.
Start: Ryan Tannehill at Texans
After getting embarrassed on the road against the Packers, the Titans can wrap up the division with a win over the 4-11 Texans. After hitting a bit of a mid-season lull, Tannehill has turned it back on as of late and has finished as a QB1 (top-12) in four of his last six starts with at least 17 fantasy points in every start in this span. With their playoff lives on the line, expect the Titans to come out and be aggressive against the Texans’ bottom-3 secondary.
Start: Deshaun Watson vs. Titans
Even though the Texans are dead for the playoffs and clearly only thinking of 2021, Watson doesn’t strike me as someone who will want to ride the bench in the season finale. If his arm injury ends up not being a big deal and he’s good to go, you’re starting him.
Sit: Josh Allen vs. Dolphins
Allen has been a bonafide league-winner and finished the true fantasy season (Week 1-16) averaging a ridiculous 25.4 fantasy points per game. Just how good is that? Oh, it’s just the sixth-best season ever by a quarterback. That’s all. However, Allen enters Week 17 with major concerns about just how much he’ll play. The Bills can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win or a Steelers loss and Pittsburgh is already planning to rest their key starters. If the Browns get up big early on the Steelers, the Bills will protect Allen and keep him healthy for the opening round of the playoffs. In a similar spot last year, HC Sean McDermott rested Allen after a few possessions in Week 17 against the Jets.
Sit: Drew Brees at Panthers
How much are the Saints going to have to throw to beat up on the Panthers? With Carolina giving up the fourth-most yards per carry to RBs, expect an extremely run-heavy game plan with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray dominating touches.
Start: Jonathan Taylor vs. Jaguars
Behind Derrick Henry, you could make the argument Taylor is the best RB play on this slate. The Colts have the second-highest implied scoring total (31.8) on the slate behind the Titans (32) against a Jaguars team that just locked down the No. 1 pick. Since getting benched in Week 10 after losing a fumble, Taylor has come roaring back over his last five games with 21.5 fantasy points and 116.6 scrimmage yards per game.
Start: Myles Gaskin at Bills
After missing two games out with COVID, Myles Gaskin got his normal role back in Week 16 against the Raiders. Even with Salvon Ahmed healthy too, Gaskin handled a 76% snap share, 19 touches, and promptly went off for 169 scrimmage yards and two TDs. With Tua Tagovailoa back under center, expect the Dolphins to lean heavily on the run game to forge their path to the playoffs against a weak Bills run defense that is giving up the fifth-most rushing fantasy points per carry.
Start: Malcolm Brown vs. Cardinals
With Darrell Henderson on I.R. and Cam Akers (ankle) shaky to play, the Rams might be down to just Malcolm Brown and Raymond Calais as their main two backs on Sunday. If that’s the case, Brown will be a strong mid-range RB2 and a DFS value play against Arizona. Jeff Wilson went off for 204 scrimmage yards and a score in this matchup last week.
Sit: Kareem Hunt vs. Steelers
I’m starting to wonder if Hunt is hiding an injury or playing at less than 100%. Over the last three weeks, he’s handled just 6, 7, and 4 carries while Nick Chubb has 43 attempts total in this span. Even with all of their receivers out last week, Hunt only saw five targets and was in his normal 60/40 snap split with Chubb. Sure, the Steelers are resting starters, but with such limited usage Hunt is just a fringe FLEX play.
Start: Brandin Cooks vs. Titans
If Deshaun Watson plays, you’re playing Cooks as a borderline WR1 in the season finale. The Titans have gotten hammered by big performances against wide receivers in five-straight games as T.Y. Hilton (4/81/1), Rashard Higgins (6/95/1), Jarvis Landry (8/62/1), Keelan Cole (7/67/1), Marvin Jones (10/112/1), and Davante Adams (11/142/3) all went nuts in this matchup against the Titans. Since the Bill O’Brien firing, Cooks is averaging 6 receptions and 84.6 yards per game.
Start: Vikings WRs
Even if the Vikings take it easy on offense in the season finale, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are still locked in WR1’s. This matchup with the Lions is just too good to pass up. Over the last five weeks, Detroit has given up 13.5 or more fantasy points to 10 different wide receivers.
Sit: Steelers WRs
Two words, one name: Mason Rudolph. Enough said. But, seriously — Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool all might see limited snaps with the Steelers resting starters. You can’t trust any of them.
Sit: Stefon Diggs vs. Dolphins
Again, it will feel weird to bench Josh Allen and Diggs in Week 17 if you have them. Especially after Diggs just went nuts for 9/145/3 against the Patriots. But there is a real chance he only plays a few drives on Sunday ahead of Buffalo’s playoff run. We have Diggs buried as a low-end WR3 play in our projections.
Sit: Tyreek Hill vs. Chargers
Hill has been dealing with a nagging hamstring strain and they can give Hill basically two weeks off by resting him in Week 17, which is exactly what they should do. And Chad Henne is going to start in place of Patrick Mahomes.
Sit: Marvin Jones vs. Vikings
Since Matthew Stafford is likely out, the Lions will be forced to start Chase Daniel in the season finale. Jones has been a great WR2 with Kenny Golladay sidelined (and he’s out once again) but the downgrade from Stafford to Daniel is just too big to really trust Jones beyond boom/bust WR4 status for Week 17.
With no Travis Kelce this week, the only true must-start tight ends are Darren Waller, George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Logan Thomas. After those four, you’re looking at an extended tier of options between TE5 and TE20 in our projections. Here are a few ideas:
Zach Ertz has seven targets in back-to-back games and will be an excellent option for fantasy this week if Dallas Goedert (calf) misses.
Robert Tonyan flopped last week, but the Packers are going to be all out against the Bears in order to lock down the No. 1 seed. Chicago has allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends this season.
Dalton Schultz has been held under 35 yards in five of his last six games as Andy Dalton continues to funnel most of his looks to Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb.
Jimmy Graham scored twice last week, but Cole Kmet once again out-targeted him. Over their last four games, Kmet has 22 targets to Graham’s 13.