In seasonal leagues, we avid fantasy players strive to avoid week 17 play just due to the uncertainties of player usage and other foolishness. This does give us who play daily a little bit of an advantage in reducing our research, or at least our focus. We can now ensure we are focused on the games with seeding implications. The NFL has cleverly scheduled most of the games in such a way that very few of the early games have any impact on teams playing for something. We can use that to our advantage to minimize parity in our lineups while utilizing the other games for some potentially low-ownership contrarian options.
Ben Roethlisberger – $7000 vs Browns
We have picked on the Browns all season long, so why not this week when the Steelers have a thin chance at the 1 seed. The Browns have been 4th worst in pass DVOA, fantasy points to QBs on the season and 2nd worst over the last 4 weeks. The Steelers didn’t have the greatest outing against Houston last week, but they still produced a solid fantasy performance. Ben has been about 7 fantasy points better at home than on the road, so we should have no problem with him as a cash play.
Philip Rivers – $6600 vs Raiders
Do not be fooled by the Raiders performance on defense on Christmas Day. As an Eagles fan, it was one of the worst offensive performances the team has had this season. Rivers and company should be able to put up a solid performance against this terrible defense that ranks 6th worst in pass DVOA and 5th worst in points to tight ends. It is conceivable that Rivers and Gates have one last hurrah as they chase their thin chance at the post season.
- Tom Brady – $6800 vs Jets – Jets are giving up the 5th most fantasy points to passers, they have given up 8 20+ point performances to wide receivers, and the most fantasy points to QBs over the past 4 weeks. The Patriots still need to win to lock up home field advantage.
- Russell Wilson – $6900 vs Cardinals – The matchup numbers certainly don’t line up for Wilson and the Seahawks, but they are playing for their playoff lives, and this could be a contrarian play if good Russell Wilson shows up.
Jameis Winston – $5800 vs Saints
Over his last 4 games, Winston has averaged more than 25 points, including 2 TDs and 9.5 yds per attempt. The matchup looks bad like it did against Carolina, but Winston has been 8 points better at home since week 12. On thing that gives us some encouragement, however is the fact that this New Orleans defense has given up 6 20+ point performances to wide receivers this season. Other than that, this is a stab in the dark for tournaments, but one I could see panning out in this divisional matchup.
JaCoby Brissett – $5500 vs Texans
Brissett has nothing to play for, but this is possibly the last time that he will get to showcase what talent he has. Fortunately for him, he gets to do this against a Texans defense giving up the most Draft Kings points to passers and the 5th most points to receivers, and 7th most points to tight ends. The Texans haven’t gotten any better lately as they give up the 7th most points to QBs over the last 4 weeks. It’s is almost a guarantee that Brissett will be low-owned, and with this matchup. This could be part of a super low-cost stack for a great tournament play.
Le’Veon Bell – $10000 vs Browns
Bell has the solid floor and the consistency we desire for cash plays. While he is facing the 3rd ranked rush defense in DVOA, we know full well that Bell is about as matchup proof as you can get. Don’t over think this in your cash games, and consider him an option for the foundation of a tournament lineup.
Mark Ingram – $7500 / Alvin Kamara – $7900 @ Buccaneers
Since week 12, Kamara has averaged over 20 fantasy points per game while Ingram has had a steady average of ~18 points for the season. The Saints entire offense is built around these two backs so there is no reason to doubt their matchup-proof ability. While the Bucs have only given up the 11th most points to running backs, the Saints do have the best matchup in the trenches (o-line vs d-line). This should mean plenty of second-level opportunities for these two running backs. If you want a chalk option without the 10k price tag, these are it.
Alex Collins – $5600 vs Bengals
Divisional games always feel like traps where our expectations based on numbers ultimately fall short. However, it is really hard to pass on Alex Collins with the way he has been running and how bad the Bengals have been against the run (2nd most fantasy points given up to backs over the last 4 weeks). Collins has been averaging 18 touches per game since week 12 and converted those opportunities into ~16 points per game during that span. Baltimore has plenty to play for and their game plan should remain consistent with their run-pass ratio.
Jamaal Williams – $5200 @ Lions
In this highly volatile week 17, we must look for tournament opportunities hidden in personal motivations. Jamaal Williams has the personal motivation of gaining a strangle hold on that starting job. Against the Lions he has a great opportunity against a defense 5th worst in DVOA against the run while giving up the 2nd most points to running backs (5th most points in last 4 weeks). Green Bay has a solid matchup in the trenches (10th according to my rankings), and we know that Hundley is going to need to be helped by running the ball. This should be a good tournament play with many owners looking to fade these matchups that “don’t matter”.
Michael Thomas – $7700 @ Buccaneers
Since week 12, Michael Thomas has averaged 9 targets, 6 receptions, ~80 yards and the occasional score. Tampa Bay has given up the most yards and fantasy points on the season to wide receivers. People may be slightly down on Thomas due to his scoreless 4-catch performance last week against Atlanta, but the Falcons defense is far better. Tampa Bay should not pose as much of a challenge to Thomas which could give us a slight edge in tournaments, but he can still provide a solid foundation for cash lineups as well.
Marvin Jones – $6500 vs Packers
To save a little bit of cash we have to go to a game with no playoff implications, but there is an opportunity to get discounted upside with Jones this week. Jones ownership could be down because his targets over the last 3 games haven’t eclipse 5 in any single game. However, when Jones visited the Packers he walked away with 7 receptions for 107 yards and two scores on 11 targets. Here’s to hoping for a repeat performance with home field advantage. Let’s end this year with a bang!
T.Y. Hilton – $5900 vs Texans
Hilton has been so boom or bust this season, but this pick requires the vision to believe that he can go out on the upswing. The last time he saw the Texans he absolutely exploded. This was partly due to Houston being the 10th wosrt pass defense in DVOA while giving up the 5th most fantasy points to receivers on the season. The cherry on top is that Houston has the 2nd worst DVOA against the primary receiver. Hilton should be low owned since he has only averaged 9 PPR points per game over his last 5 contests making him a great tournament play.
Keelan Cole – $5700 @ Titans
This dude has exploded onto the scene in a full blown inferno. Over his last 3 games he has averaged more than 22 points per game. This is the kind of production we want, but it seems that his price still hasn’t been adjusted. People are reasonably expecting Bortles to fall off, thus affecting Cole’s production. People are likely equally concerned about opportunities swinging back to Westbrook. This is a low-cost, high-upside option to invest in for our tournament lineups.
Devin Funchess – $5600 @ Falcons
It seems that Greg Olsen’s return has negatively affected Funchess’ fantasy production as Funchess has only had 4 targets in each of the last two games. While it’s easy to buy into this narrative, it is important to realize that Funchess has been dealing with a shoulder injury since week 13 just after hitting his peak in targets (12) for the season. If it’s true that this was impacting his production then we should feel comfortable that he will be productive against the Falcons who have given up the 4th most points to receivers over the last 4 weeks. In addition to that, Damiere Byrd, who was taking some looks from Funchess in recent games, was put on IR. Funchess was on the rise before the injury so we would be looking for a bounce back from him. Carolina could still potentially get the #2 seed if they win and the Vikings, Rams, and Saints lose, so there is plenty of motivation to bank on for Panthers players.
Mohamed Sanu – $5400 vs Panthers
I know… Matt Ryan has been a shell of himself from last year. While the expectation of pressure is more likely to work against him, the possibility that it could inspire a stellar performance is reason enough to look at his receiving options for our fantasy lineups. The Panthers have given up the most fantasy points to receivers over the last 4 weeks so this seems like a ripe opportunity for Atlanta’s receivers. Julio has been targeted more in the red zone than Sanu (18 targets to 11), but Sanu’s efficiency and scoring is far superior (Sanu has ~63% catch rate to Julio’s ~23% and Sanu has 5 TDs to Julio’s 1). The over/under in this game is floating around 45 points, but there should be more points in this game if the Falcons make a real push. Sanu has averaged 14 points in each of his last 3 home games, so this looks like an opportunity for us in GPPs.
This week you are paying up for Gronk if you decide to spend up at this position. Kelce has a better matchup, but Gronk and the Patriots have to play to secure the 1st seed. Pat Mahomes will be getting his first start for the Chiefs indicating they don’t feel they need this game which means Kelce could get pulled early.
Charles Clay – $3700 @ Dolphins
Buffalo needs this game as part of a formula for entering the post season, therefore there is an expectation of the starters playing their hearts out to extend their season into January. The most dependable receiver the Bills have seems to be Charles Clay. Since Tyrod Taylor leans on him quite a bit to move the chains Clay’s opportunities will be present, and the matchup is nice too since the Dolphins yield the 2nd most fantasy points to tight ends on the season (10th most over the past four weeks). The only thing Clay has been lacking is TDs, but if the Bills want to win they have to get Clay productive in the red zone.
Jesse James – $4000 vs Browns
James’ singular target last week was inexplicable being that Houston has been pretty bad against the tight end on the season. Maybe that just wasn’t the game plan. The Steelers couldn’t be fading his usage because of the Patriots game, could they? This wouldn’t make sense since they are without AB this week due to that calf injury. Since the Browns are giving up the 3rd most points to the position, it just makes too much sense to go to James for some portion of the game. Unlike the Texans, the Browns have been pretty solid in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers making tight end the sweet spot for the Steelers to work.
Minnesota Vikings – $3900 vs Bears
The Vikings have allowed the least points to QBs over the last four weeks and Mitch Trubisky still has plenty of room for growth. Although he has made some steps forward this season, it has been against lesser defenses. The Vikings have to win so we can expect their starting defense to play most of the game if not all of it. Trubisky threw three picks two weeks ago against Detroit, and with the Vikings being a better defense we could look forward to generation of turnovers.
Dallas Cowboys – $2300 @ Eagles
It pains me to write anything positive about Dallas as an Eagles fan, but it is entirely possible that the Eagles starters will only play a half which means we will see Nate Sudfeld’s capabilities of a passer. As a fan I want so badly to be good, but as a realist daily player, I expect him to look like a rookie. Dallas’ defense has been improving as they have been the 11th best defense against passers lately. Their pass rush has also been getting more and more solid all season. This could be an opportunistic play considering that Nick Foles regressed to his 2015 version against Oakland which makes it ripe for tournaments.