The final week of the regular season is upon us, and we have some interesting daily fantasy options on the horizon for this week's games. The only teams I am avoiding because they have playoff spots secure with nothing to play for are Seattle and Washington. It is also a good week to give a little extra boost to players whose teams have something extra to play for in terms of playoff spots or seeding. Let's take a look at some quarterbacks and running backs to target (and avoid) in this final week.
*Note – FanDuel prices in parentheses
Five to target
1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers ($9,100)
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($8,900)
3. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers ($8,800)
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets ($7,800)
5. Eli Manning, New York Giants ($7,500)
Surprisingly, the 14-1 Panthers still have home field advantage to play for in their final regular season game. Cam Newton struggled last week against the Falcons in what was arguably his worst game of the season. A bounce-back game should be in the cards against an exploitable Tampa Bay defense. The Panthers scored 37 points against them in the first meeting, and they got out to a big lead which held Newton to 22 passing attempts. Hopefully there is more action this time around. It’s close, but Newton is still the top fantasy choice in Week 17.
The Patriots still have something to play for in Week 17, as they have not yet clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs. Tom Brady should be a fine fantasy asset in a favorable matchup against a Miami defense that has disappointed all year long and has gotten even worse over the second half of the season. Brady may be missing some of his offensive weapons, but he should still perform well in a game where New England has some motivation to win and Miami does not.
Ben Roethlisberger was highly-owned last week and disappointed in a favorable matchup against the Ravens. He has also been under the weather with the stomach flu this week and has missed some practice time. All indications are that he will be good to go come Sunday. The Steelers need to win to have a shot at the playoffs, and the offense should have their way with Cleveland's porous defense. Expect Roethlisberger to rebound nicely from his poor effort last week in a head-scratching loss to the Ravens.
If you are feeling a little more frisky in a tournament, give the always under-appreciated Ryan Fitzpatrick a look. He has been a consistent option under center for the Jets, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he has two quality receiving weapons at his disposal in Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall. I also like having exposure to teams who find themselves in a must-win scenario in Week 17. The Jets find themselves in that very spot. Expect them to play with urgency in this game, and I like the passing attack to do some damage.
There are some intriguing options down lower in the pricing at quarterback this week, and Eli Manning is definitely one of them. He showed off his downside last week in a dreadful performance against the Vikings, but this home date with an Eagles team in disarray should be a recipe to get back on track. Philadelphia’s corners will likely be exposed early and often in this game, and Manning has good odds at garnering a 300-yard passing day at a very favorable DFS price point.
Two to avoid
1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($8,200)
2. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins ($7,700)
The rationale for both of the “avoids” this week is the same. As I mentioned in the introduction to the piece this week, both Seattle and Washington are pretty much locked into their playoff positioning. Washington will be the #4 seed in the NFC regardless of the events this week, and Seattle is locked into a wild card spot and a first round road game. There is no reason for these teams to push their starting quarterbacks in Week 17. For those reasons, there are definitely better daily fantasy options this week than Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins.
Five to target
1. Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons ($8,800)
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings ($8,300)
3. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($7,700)
4. Tim Hightower, New Orleans Saints ($7,000)
5. Rashad Jennings, New York Giants ($5,800)
Atlanta draws the always-favorable matchup against the Saints “defense” in Week 17. He has logged an encouraging 47 carries over the past two weeks and is coming off a solid game against the tough Panthers Defense a week ago. He should thrive against the Saints, and his ownership percentage will likely spike just a little bit here. It's been a while since we have seen Freeman's massive upside, but it should be on display here in the final week of the season.
Again, I like taking players from teams with something to play for. Judging by his post-game comments last week, Adrian Peterson is clearly motivated by the chance to win the rushing title. In addition, his team is playing for the NFC North title and a first round home playoff game. That’s plenty of extra motivation, and Peterson has a good matchup against a Packers Defense that has been falling apart at the seams in recent weeks and is also much weaker against the run.
Most fantasy players will be quick to jump off the David Johnson bandwagon this week, even though he is still riding a streak of impressive fantasy performances. His work in the passing game has been a very pleasant surprise. This is admittedly a tough matchup against Seattle’s top rush defense, but the Seahawks don’t have much to play for here. They are locked into a wild-card spot and a first round road game, so I don’t expect a focused performance. In addition, the Cardinals still have an outside shot at the #1 seed in the NFC. There is some risk here, but his guaranteed volume and immense talent should have him priced higher than he actually is.
Drew Brees banged up and the Saints have turned to Tim Hightower as their top offensive player in recent weeks. He has logged a whopping 68 carries over the last three games and has even put up respectable numbers in the passing game to boot. His price tag remains a very fair $7,000 on FanDuel, and he should perform well once again with a matchup against an Atlanta rush defense that has allowed a league-high 19 rushing touchdowns this season.
If you are feeling extra frisky with a tournament lineup this weekend, Rashad Jennings could be a high-risk, high-reward choice. He seems to have cemented himself as the clear-cut early down back in New York, and he would have had more than 14 carries last week had the game not turned into a blowout. That total of 14 was his lowest total of the last three weeks, and this is a favorable matchup against Philadelphia. You could do much worse than this for the cheap price tag.
Two to avoid
1. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears ($7,800)
2. Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars ($6,400)
Matt Forte has been respectable when healthy this year, but the problem is that he hasn't been healthy all that often. His carries have varied wildly over the past month, and he is currently operating at far less than 100% health. Expect the Bears to split their carries once again this week, as Jeremy Langford has been effective this year as well. That leaves the whole backfield as a hands-off situation for daily fantasy purposes.
Denard Robinson was a popular value play over the past two weeks, and he disappointed in each outing. The Jaguars fell way behind last week and had to abandon the run early in the game, and that contributed to Robinson getting just six carries. The Jaguars are on the road this week against a Texans team that is playing for a playoff spot, and I will be staying far away from Robinson even if T.J. Yeldon remains sidelined in Week 17.