It’s hard to believe we’ve hit the regular season finale. Sixteen weeks have come and gone in the blink of an eye, with just one last full slate on the docket. Playoff DFS is still a great time and isn’t as stressful from a player news perspective, so this weekend doesn’t have to signal the end of fantasy football. Of all weeks this season, now is the most important time to study up on weather (it’s still too early to dig into that, but Kevin Roth’s weekly report on RotoGrinders is a great Sunday morning read), player news and playoff situations, so the Week 17 primer will differ quite a bit from the regular setup.
For those who are new to the FanDuel Primer this season, I’ll be breaking down the week ahead using a variety of DFS research tools available on RotoGrinders.com. We’ll start Week 17 with a breakdown of what each team has to play for in their season finale. If you haven’t been paying attention to the standings – something plenty of DFS players are guilty of throughout the year – now is a great time to familiarize yourself. Understanding which players should see the field for all four quarters isn’t necessarily something we have to closely study most weeks, but it’s vital to success in Week 17.
Note that just because a team is out of playoff consideration doesn’t mean they aren’t going to play their starters for a full complement of snaps. Teams that have just slipped out of the race in the last week may be slightly more likely to do so, but teams without motivation to rest players don’t have any real reason to do so with a long offseason ahead. One main caveat to that point is that rebuilding teams may want to get a look at some young, back-of-the-depth-chart type players to see if they are worth keeping around. That’s still just speculation. We’ll start with playoff-bound teams and work out from there.
AFC Playoff Teams – New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Kansas City, Miami
New England – We’re fully aware of the six teams that will be in the AFC playoffs this season, Week 17 will simply decide the seeding. The Patriots should be a full-go with home field throughout the playoffs in limbo – if they win, they lock it up. New England can still back into home field if Oakland loses, but the Raiders play in the late-afternoon slate while the Patriots kickoff at 1 PM ET. Proceed normally.
Oakland – They’ll need to win regardless of New England’s outcome. A loss could potentially shoot them down to the #5 seed with the Chiefs overtaking the #2 spot, so the Raiders will be fully motivated. Derek Carr’s injury throws a major wrench into the equation and the current unpredictability of the backfield makes this a GPP-only spot for the most part despite the Raiders having everything to play for.
Pittsburgh – The #3 seed is locked up by the Steelers, and they’ll rest Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown as a result. Fitzgerald Toussaint is the most likely beneficiary of Bell’s absence, as DeAngelo Williams hasn’t seen game action in a while and it seems unlikely the Steelers would thrust him into any kind of heavy workload before the playoffs begin. He’s their best insurance policy in case of an injury to Bell. Targeting the passing game will be very risky despite the great draw against a barely-there Cleveland defense. It’s unclear how much time Eli Rogers will see, but a guy like Cobi Hamilton has some deep GPP appeal. Jesse James is also squarely in play if Ladarius Green sits.
Houston – They’ve locked up the #4 seed. It’s still hard to imagine them playing it too safe with the starters given that they are acclimating to Tom Savage at QB, so the passing game still possesses some GPP upside against a Titans secondary that has been gashed by the pass all year. Lamar Miller will almost certainly sit, giving way to Alfred Blue.
Kansas City – As mentioned above, the Chiefs can move up to the #2 seed and earn a bye if they win and the Raiders lose. Don’t expect any changes here.
Miami – The Dolphins still have a lot to play for as they could avoid Big Ben and the Steelers with a win and a Chiefs loss. They’d much rather face Tom Savage and the Texans, so proceed normally.
NFC Playoff Teams – Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, New York; Green Bay, Detroit, Washington, Tampa Bay
Dallas – Four teams have already locked up playoff berths, while four others will fight for two remaining spots. Dallas is firmly entrenched in the top spot, and they’ve already noted that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, likely along with plenty of other offensive starters, will only see modest playing time. Mark Sanchez and Darren McFadden are expected to see the bulk of the work at QB and RB, but without a clear picture of playing time it’s hard to trust anyone on the Dallas side for DFS purposes.
Atlanta – Not only do the Falcons draw a nice matchup with the Saints, they also have motivation to win on Sunday. A win clinches a first-round bye, so the Falcons will have all hands on deck. Target them confidently.
Seattle – Seattle has a first-round bye to play for, so they should be a full go. A blowout – or a blowout in the Atlanta game which favors the Falcons – could lead to some second-half rest, but it’s hard to count on that.
New York – The Giants are locked into their playoff seed, which is good news for the Redskins but bad news for anyone hoping to roster Eli or Odell. Steer clear of the Giants starters, but the backups have some GPP appeal, mainly a guy like Paul Perkins.
Green Bay – Onto the teams that are still fighting for their playoff lives. The Packers have all the motivation in the world and happen to have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league, so looking in that direction seems wise.
Detroit – The same goes for the Lions, albeit with a slightly less imposing aerial attack. Green Bay has been a sieve to passing games for most of the season, and this game will be played indoors, so Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate are still recommended options.
Washington – They’ll face off with an uninspired Giants team, giving the offense all the upside you could ask for. Kirk Cousins still spreads the ball around so it’s not easy to find a trustworthy stacking option, but you’ll want exposure to this passing game.
Tampa Bay – It’s almost a little unfair to include them here, but they do have a mathematical shot at a playoff berth, so they’ll be playing hard. That shot is less than 0.01%, but I’m telling you there’s a chance. There’s also an injury to a particular RB on the Tampa side, and his absence secures playing time for Jacquizz Rodgers. His name is on the tip of my tongue... It starts with an S… let’s see. Swim? Swammi? Slippy? Slappy? Swanson? Sims? Samsonite! If you don’t get the reference, know that Petey the Parakeet is coming for you.
As for the non-playoff teams, they aren’t any particular teams that look likely to rest multiple starters, so targeting them is safe. It’s still a team-by-team situation and you’ll want to closely track statuses through Sunday morning. Veterans are at a higher risk of being eased up on later in games, and some could also lose time to younger players that coaches are interested in getting game-action experience.
Let's move to the Targets Page, where you’ll find a breakdown of touches, targets, red-zone targets and percentage of workload. It’s an invaluable tool that can help you find players who are in the best positions to succeed; it’s no secret that you want players on your fantasy team who are heavily involved in the offense, especially those that are also key cogs in the red-zone. Since the playoff scenario section above is a lot to read through and contains some recommendations in itself, I won’t go into detail for each player, but will still be making recommendations using the stop light system.
RBs averaging at least 4.00 targets through 16 weeks:
Le’Veon Bell (0.67 RzTar/Gm) – 7.83
David Johnson (1.00 RzTar/Gm) – 7.73
Theo Riddick (1.40 RzTar/Gm) – 6.70
James White (0.47 RzTar/Gm) – 5.47
Duke Johnson (0.40 RzTar/Gm) – 4.93
Bilal Powell (0.67 RzTar/Gm) – 4.80
Darren Sproles (0.79 RzTar/Gm) – 4.71
DeMarco Murray (1.07 RzTar/Gm) – 4.40
Melvin Gordon (0.62 RzTar/Gm) – 4.38
Ty Montgomery (0.75 RzTar/Gm) – 4.25
LeSean McCoy (0.50 RzTar/Gm) – 4.07
Devonta Freeman (1.07 RzTar/Gm) – 4.00
WRs averaging at least 9.00 targets through 16 weeks:
Odell Beckham (1.27 RzTar/Gm) – 10.80
Mike Evans (1.07 RzTar/Gm) – 10.67
Antonio Brown (1.00 RzTar/Gm) – 10.27
A.J. Green (1.00 RzTar/Gm) – 10.00
Julian Edelman (0.93 RzTar/Gm) – 9.80
Jordy Nelson (1.93 RzTar/Gm) – 9.73
Larry Fitzgerald (1.27 RzTar/Gm) – 9.60
T.Y. Hilton (0.87 RzTar/Gm) – 9.53
DeAndre Hopkins (0.60 RzTar/Gm) – 9.33
Julio Jones (0.46 RzTar/Gm) – 9.23
TEs averaging at least 6.50 targets through 16 weeks:
Greg Olsen (0.93 RzTar/Gm) – 8.33
Kyle Rudolph (1.47 RzTar/Gm) – 7.80
Travis Kelce (1.07 RzTar/Gm) – 7.67
Jordan Reed (1.00 RzTar/Gm) – 7.55
Antonio Gates (1.33 RzTar/Gm) – 7.08
Dennis Pitta (0.80 RzTar/Gm) – 7.00
Zach Ertz (0.92 RzTar/Gm) – 6.92
Eric Ebron (0.42 RzTar/Gm) – 6.58
Welcome back to Value town, parts unknown. I won’t be recommending the Drew Brees’ of the world here, but instead will highlight some players with price tags that don’t add up to their level of talent, opportunity and/or matchup. The ultimate goal is to find players at the bottom of the salary chart who have the upside to produce at an elite level.
Potential Cash QBs at or under $7,500: E.J. Manuel
Potential GPP QBs at or under $7,500: Landry Jones
Manuel sits at minimum price against a Jets team that gave up weeks ago, so it’s hard to envision him struggling enough to not at least hit value. There isn’t a ton to get excited about but if you really want to pay up at multiple RB/WR spots, he’s a potential outlet. Landry Jones’ matchup is even more appealing, and Cleveland may be able to keep things competitive enough to keep Jones throwing late.
With Charles Sims ruled out, Rodgers can be counted on to receive the lion’s share of the backfield work, making him cash game playable at $5,200. Carolina tends to struggle more with the pass but the volume for Rodgers should be enough to overcome a less than ideal draw. As long as it doesn’t appear that DeAngelo Williams will eat into much of the backfield work on Sunday, pencil in Fitzgerald Toussaint as an across the board play against one of the league’s worst rushing defenses. Cleveland has allowed the second-most rushing yards per game and second-most FPPG to RBs. What a world we live in when Rex Burkhead is a potential cash game play. Jeremy Hill doesn’t appear likely to suit up, which leaves Cedric Peerman as the only other healthy back on the current roster. The matchup isn’t good, but at $4,500 it’s tough to argue with what should be 18-25 touches. Toussaint is the preferred minimum price option assuming Williams isn’t going to play much (if at all).
Prior to the Tennessee game, Allen Robinson had been stuck in some tough matchups to go along with shaky play at QB. Blake Bortles had by far his best game in recent weeks this past Sunday and the Colts Defense isn’t much more imposing, so Robinson remains a strong play at his depressed price tag. Cameron Meredith has continued rolling with Matt Barkley under center and that doesn’t figure to stop this week. Meredith has seen 25 targets over the past two weeks, so Alshon Jeffery’s return isn’t going to negate any value that he holds. Jeffery’s presence may actually bode well for Meredith this week as it could lead to less Xavier Rhodes for the latter. In a must win (or tie!) situation for Detroit, expect another heavy dose of Golden Tate. His matchup couldn’t get a whole lot better and he had seen double-digit targets in three straight games leading up to last Sunday (six targets in a brutal offensive performance from the Lions).
Potential Cash TEs at or under $5,500: None
If Jesse James is able to suit up and isn’t expected to be limited, he’s a viable option against a Cleveland defense that has allowed the most TDs and FPPG to TEs. James’ value also hinges on Ladarius Green’s status, but it seems unlikely that the Steelers would risk the health of a notoriously injury-prone player like Green in a meaningless contest. If James also ends up being ruled out to rest – this would be surprising but could happen if the Steelers aren’t confident in Green’s health heading into the playoffs – Xavier Grimble would become a potential GPP punt play. Grimble is dealing with a rib issue, so his status is worth tracking if you’re considering rolling the dice on a Steelers TE.