It’s been coming for weeks, but now, the end is finally here. Season-long championships are either complete or stupid, and the real NFL playoffs will be starting next week. Week 17 is a fickle beast, and the best bet is to expect the unexpected. Just one year ago, Orleans Darkwa and Albert Wilson were the leading rusher and receiver. Deshone Kizer threw for 314/2/1 while rushing for another 61. Exactly like we all expected.
Playoff Implications & How to Use Them
Trying to figure out everyone who might pop up and surprise everyone can drive you crazy. What is easier, for DFS roster construction purposes, is identifying matchups that offer some certainty. Currently, there are five teams that need to win to secure a playoff spot, or at least improve their chances. Another seven can improve or secure their seeding.
Really it’s easier to figure out who has nothing to play for and ignore them. Only two of the teams that have clinched a playoff spot are locked in: New Orleans and Dallas. Expect their starters to rest, but don’t ignore their games.
This week, things are going to be a little different from my usual format. I’ll look at the matchups of the non-locked playoff teams and teams looking to clinch, highlighting the best plays from those games. Roster builds should start with these players, as their workloads should be consistent with their work up until now. Good luck this week, and enjoy the last full slate of the season.
Week 17 Targets:
New York Jets @ New England Patriots
One of just two early games with some playoff implications, this AFC East showdown doesn’t offer much in the value department. The best bets for value are the RBs for both teams and New York’s rookie tight end.
James White ($5,100) has seen a major drop off in both production and price in the second half of the season. The skill is still there, though, and given the way the NE offense looked in their first game post-Josh Gordon, he could have some real value. A run-heavy game plan could again be how NE attacks their opponent, meaning a lot of work for all of their RBs. Given that White has the highest ceiling, I like him here at his price. Sony Michel ($5,200) is coming off a good game against the Bills last week, but he could see some extra rest prior to the playoffs. This could mean more work for Rex Burkhead ($3,500).
For the Jets, I like Elijah McGuire ($5,300) to again dominate the RB touches against a defense that been consistently hurt by RBs in the second half of the season. He also should be the main passing option out of the backfield. This could be very important for NY, as Robby Anderson will likely draw shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore.
Another very interesting pass-catching option for the Jets is Chris Herndon ($3,400). New England has also shown a vulnerability to TEs in coverage, but have been faced with a mediocre slate of opposing TEs. Despite that, NE still gives up the 11th most points per game to TEs. Herndon is skilled enough to expose this flaw.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
While this game does have playoff seeding implications for Houston, I think this one is a fairly easy to avoid. Jacksonville still has a very good defense, and Houston would be better served to keep everyone healthy against a hard-hitting and aggressive defense. Pricing keeps Deshaun Watson ($6,600) and Deandre Hopkins ($8,100) out of consideration. If you want some exposure here, maybe Hopkins is the play, but it’s not recommended. Overall, I would avoid this game.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos
LA needs this game to keep their AFC West title hopes, and a potential bye week and home field advantage throughout, in play. They will be going after this game, but not all the plays here are great. Philip Rivers ($6,400) might be a decent cash game option, but is a little pricey. Better options are out there. Keenan Allen ($7,900) is another guy I’ll probably avoid, given his recent health scare with his hip. LAC knows he needs to be healthy in the playoffs for them to reach their potential. Same goes for the RBs, Melvin Gordon ($8,400) who is too expensive for consideration, and Austin Ekeler ($5,400) who is a little too banged up.
The best play here is Justin Jackson ($4,200). Denver is fresh off of giving up Doug Martin’s best game of the season and appears to have checked out on head coach Vance Joseph. LAC likely gets up in this game, and Jackson could be tasked with running it out. Given what we’ve seen from him earlier, he can do more than just kill the clock. I like Jackson as a value RB.
Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas will be motivated to win if they want to keep their top seed. I think this is a good week to pay down at QB, so Patrick Mahomes ($7,100) is out. But, Travis Kelce ($7,200) is a very viable play at the black hole of production that is TE. I like some other options at the position, but Kelce is almost never a bad play. Tyreek Hill ($8,400) is just a little too high for me because of likely game script concerns. We can do better at WR this week, but if you have the salary left, he’ll likely reach double-digit points, but his ceiling could be limited. Hope for a big play or two early before things get out of hand.
The backfield for Kansas City should be somewhere we can leverage some value, but there are a couple of things keeping this from being a great play. Spencer Ware ($6,200) is too expensive for a guy likely to split work and who has a bad hamstring right now. Damien Williams ($6,100) has been great lately but seems to be the preferred RB in KC right now. As such, he might get the starter treatment, and be the most protected RB of this group. Tough to trust these two this week, even with the nice match up.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
LA is only after one thing here, and that is securing a bye for Wild Card weekend. For them it’s very simple, win and they stay the #2 (they could also do this with a Bears loss). New Orleans is locked as the top seed, so they don’t need to worry about that. Sean McVay and the Rams will be going after this game, but will still need to be smart.
Newly minted top RB C.J. Anderson ($5,400) could return decent value again, with Todd Gurley already ruled out. The price is low enough that a decent drop in production from last week wouldn’t destroy your hopes of cashing. A 15 point day is a reasonable target, and he will be given ample opportunity against a rush defense allowing 26.6 points per game to RBs this season.
The other name I like in this contest is the other likely starting RB, Jeff Wilson Jr. ($4,400). Like Anderson, he is filling in for an injured starter and in line for a heavy workload. Wilson had a decent run in Weeks 13 and 14 (15.5 point average) as the main guy for SF. Additionally, he is mostly game script proof thanks to his pass-catching ability, and a lack of other options for the Niners.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
A great example of a fantastic real-life game, but a potential fantasy stinker. This game features two good defenses and two flawed offenses. Many agree as this game has one of the lowest totals of the week. Between price and recent ineffectiveness, a lot of the high priced names are out of play here, including both starting QBs (Trubisky and Cousins), and the big name WRs (Thielen, Diggs, and Robinson). I don’t trust any of them to return value, at least not enough to use them.
Also, given Chicago’s situation, it is very likely they see the Rams up big at halftime, and pull starters. The most interesting play in this game, then, is Dalvin Cook ($6,300). With how run-heavy Minnesota has looked the last two weeks, Cook is a nice combination of talent, opportunity, and team need.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
As much as I love the Steelers to win this game, given the matchup, I worry about how split the work could be. Jaylen Samuels ($6,800) would be a lock if James Connor ($7,500) were definitely out. All signs point to Connor playing, however, limiting the ceiling for both players. Pittsburgh should have this game wrapped up early, leaving the amount of work the top Steelers receive up in the air.
Speaking of up in the air, the WRs here are in a similar situation. Juju Smith-Schuster ($8,300) is going to split work with Antonio Brown ($8,700). AB hasn’t practiced all week due to rest and a knee injury. These two have co-existed all year, but if it’s late and they are up big, I would expect to see both rested. But, if AB is scratched from this game, Juju could be good enough in 3/4 of a game that he’s worth his price. Keep an eye on this moving forward.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle really only has their seeding at stake here, and even then it’s only a matter of having the 5 or 6. Not a huge motivation for Seattle so they could be resting a lot of people. This makes the Seattle backfield interesting though. Both Mike Davis ($3,800) and Rashaad Penny ($3,600) are great potential values. Seattle loves to run, and Arizona has surrendered more than 2,000 rushing yards to RBs. One of these guys will likely be a huge value, it’s just a matter of which one. Right now, I’d lean Davis because Penny has been dealing with a knee injury. It doesn’t seem like something serious, but it could be enough to tip the scales towards Davis.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins
There are some great plays in this game. Philly has to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and are coming in hot. I don’t have any concerns about playing time in this one, and workload issues don’t really come in to play for some of the best plays.
This matchup is driven by a trio of Eagles who will be seeing a good amount of action in my lineups. Nick Foles ($5,900) and Zach Ertz ($6,700) are chalk plays at their positions this week. Foles was a key to cashing last week in a great performance against the Houston Texans. Philly should stick with their pass game, meaning Foles will see plenty of opportunities.
Aside from being the best receiver on the team, Ertz is chasing history. He has a chance to be the first TE to lead the league in receptions since Tony Gonzalez did it in 2004. Even if it doesn’t look like the Eagles postseason dreams will come true, they could want Ertz to reach this milestone.
In addition to Ertz and Foles, I think Darren Sproles ($4,400) could be a sneaky good play. He’s the best RB Philly has and has been a solid pass target the last three weeks. On the season, Washington has given up the seventh most targets to RBs and ninth most receptions. Given his price and skill profile, I think he’s worth contemplating as a cheap RB.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
In a great matchup of rookie QBs, I have some concerns. Baltimore has looked like they always do on defense, which is very good. They’ve allowed more than 27 points once in their last seven games, and that was 27 to Kansas City. After handling the Los Angeles Chargers last week, they’ll be riding high and wanting to secure their AFC North title with a win at home. Because of the defense and their game scripts, the RBs are the targets here. Gus Edwards ($4,400) seems underpriced, but this is about where he’s been priced for a while. I would feel good using him against a rush defense that has only held four teams to under 100 yards rushing against them all year. There are no usage concerns given how late a start Edwards got as the lead back.
I also wouldn’t blame anyone from using Kenneth Dixon ($3,800) as a cheap RB option. If Edwards does get some rest, Dixon could see an increase in touches. After a long lay off due to injury, Dixon could do with some additional work prior to a playoff game next week. He’s been the primary backup to Edwards since his return in Week 13 and is the preferred option to Ty Montgomery.
That’s it. The playoff-bound or eligible teams on the main slate this weekend. Be sure to check for late roster announcements, as fresh value could emerge prior to kickoff. Check in on non-playoff bound teams as well, just be aware that usage there could be a little screwy. Lastly, be sure to check around for underfill in tournaments. Lots of people bail on DFS this week, so be ready to leverage that to your advantage. Good luck everyone!