The 2020 regular season is in the books and fantasy football is officially wrapped up, excluding playoff competition and daily fantasy. As far as crazy years go, this one takes the cake. Fittingly, Week 17 was wild and unpredictable as the playoff picture comes into focus.
First, let’s give a tip of the hat to RB Derrick Henry who reached 2,000 rushing yards on Sunday against the Texans. This was also his third time rushing for over 200 yards against Houston. He finished with 250 yards and two touchdowns in a nail-biting game that came right down to the final seconds.
A lot of playoff dreams were both made and crushed yesterday, but the evening game between the Washington Football Team and the Philadelphia Eagles was a battle to determine the fate of the NFC East. The Giants faced off against the Dallas Cowboys and prevailed 23-19 earlier that day, but they needed Washington to lose to advance. All of New York’s eyes were on the night game where the Eagles were trailing Washington by only three points at halftime.
In an interesting turn of events, the Eagles pulled QB Jalen Hurts in favor of backup Nate Sudfeld for the entirety of the fourth quarter while still only trailing by three points. Sudfeld went on to throw an interception and then fumble. They would then punt after Washington kicked a field goal which basically led to the end of the game.
Needless to say, the Giants players and fans were both dumbfounded and upset. HC Doug Pederson argued that he believed Sudfeld should have his opportunity to get some snaps, yes - it was his decision, no - he wasn't trying to lose the game. If the Eagles would have won the game, they would have the ninth pick in the draft. Since they lost, they now have the sixth pick.
Let’s take a look at some of the fantasy studs who pulled through for you if you played your championship in Week 17. Hopefully, you kept on top of the playoff picture so you knew who had to play all four quarters and who was resting their starters.
Cam Newton showed up to play against the New York Jets with 242 passing yards, three touchdowns, 79 rushing yards, and even one reception (from WR Jakobi Meyers) for a receiving touchdown. He tops our QBs with 38.48. Kirk Cousins took full advantage of the Detroit Lions with over 400 passing yards and three touchdowns to finish with 34.3 points and was a popular DFS play this week. Justin Herbert (32.98), Tom Brady (30.26), and Ryan Tannehill (28.44) make up the rest of our top-five quarterbacks. Herbert finally won against the Chiefs after nearly beating them in his surprise NFL debut while Brady and Tannehill were both playing for playoff seeding or an appearance in the postseason.
For our running backs, believers in Jonathan Taylor can rejoice. He exploded against Jacksonville with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) and 38.4 points as our RB1. We already know that Henry crushed it, finishing with 35 points. The Kansas City Chiefs were without Clyde Edwards-Helaire, but Darwin Thompson took over with 45 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown along with seven receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown to finish with 30 points. The Vikings' Dalvin Cook was absent but Alexander Mattison stepped in against the Lions with 95 rushing yards, a rushing touchdown, three receptions, 50 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown for 29.5 points. Finally, David Montgomery continued to shine as he had in the last four weeks with 28.2 points on 69 rushing yards and a touchdown plus an impressive nine receptions for 63 yards in the Bears’ loss to the Packers.
The Titans-Texans game was back and forth to the bitter end and QB Deshaun Watson (25.8) relied heavily on our WR1, Brandin Cooks. He finished just shy of 40 points with 39.6 on 11 receptions, 166 yards, and two touchdowns. The Vikings-Lions game, despite having zero playoff implications, was a high-scoring affair for both sides and Marvin Jones capitalized with eight receptions, 180 yards, two touchdowns, and 38 points. Antonio Brown cracked our top-five in the absence of Mike Evans who was banged-up early in the game. Brown scored 36.8 points on 11 receptions, 138 yards, and two touchdowns while his counterpart Chris Godwin finished just outside the top-five with five receptions, 133 points, and two touchdowns for 30.3 points. Surprisingly, Sterling Shepard ended up as our WR4 with a whopping 33.6 points and even rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett reappeared on our top-five list. Lockett had 12 receptions for 90 yards and two touchdowns to finish with 33 points as our WR5.
It should come as no surprise to see Raiders TE Darren Waller as our TE1 with 26.7 points in their close win against the Broncos. However, did you expect to see Chris Herndon or Pharaoh Brown? Welcome to Week 17. Herndon rekindled his connection with QB Sam Darnold for seven receptions, 63 yards, and a touchdown to end an exceedingly quiet season. Brown broke the hearts of Jordan Akins’ managers with five receptions, 48 yards, and a touchdown to finish with 15.8 points. Saints TE Jared Cook stepped up after Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray were ruled out due to COVID and WRs Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan still on injured reserve. He finished with 43 yards on four receptions and a touchdown for 14.3 points. Cowboys Dalton Schultz wraps up our top-five tight ends with seven receptions for 70 yards and 14 points.
The Playoffs - Wild Card Weekend
A lot of games this weekend had some sort of implications for the playoffs. Only the Chiefs secured a first-round bye and were awarded the luxury of resting their starters. Next weekend starts the Wild Card weekend with games on both Saturday and Sunday.
Colts-Bills Saturday 1/9 @ 1:05 PM EST
The Colts did not have control over their destiny to get in the playoffs despite their 10-5 record. Even a win against the Jaguars wouldn’t be enough to get them in. However, the Bills helped them take care of that issue after crushing the Miami Dolphins who needed to lose for Indianapolis to advance. The Bills embarrassed Miami’s defense who has been on fire in recent weeks by dropping 56 points and making it look distressingly easy. Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie had himself a day with six receptions, 65 yards, two touchdowns, and even had a punt return for a touchdown for 30.5 points in PPR. The Colts will have their work cut out for them facing the Bills in Buffalo.
Rams-Seahawks Saturday 1/9 @ 4:40 PM EST
This is a rivalry that will forever endure in the NFL and this will be the third time these two franchises face off this year. The Seahawks are the NFC North champions and will host the Rams who have split the series this season with each team winning in previous matchups at home. Backup QB John Wolford dazzled the Cardinals, who were missing QB Kyler Murray for a majority of the game. The Rams were going to make the playoffs either way, but their win means they face Seattle as the sixth-seed.
Buccaneers-Washington Saturday 1/9 @ 8:15 PM EST
Thanks in part to Pederson playing Sudfeld for an entire quarter, Washington advances to playoffs and will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a daunting task, especially of WR Mike Evans is healthy enough to play and complete the three-headed monster of the WR corps with Godwin and Brown. Evans, however, was injured early in the game against the Falcons and did not return. Several people may have questioned HC Bruce Arians' decision to roll out his starters for fear of injury when they made the playoffs already. However, a win against Atlanta meant they would face the winner of the NFC East. So, that decision made total sense given that the division is a hot mess. The Falcons also didn’t just lie down for the Buccaneers. It was a close game that didn’t see Tampa pull away for the victory until the fourth quarter.
Ravens-Titans Sunday 1/10 @ 1:05 PM EST
The Ravens didn’t find much resistance in their matchup against the Bengals who couldn’t get a touchdown the entire game. They only kicked one field goal in their 3-38 loss. QB Lamar Jackson was pulled early after the game was a run-away. The Titans, however, had the opposite problem against the Texans who didn’t go down without a fight. It was an incredible game that saw Henry achieve his 2,000 rushing yard season and the game came down the final seconds of the game on the back of a fill-in kicker. The kick was even dramatic with a doink off of the upright that went in for the win. The Titans will need to rely on much more than a backup kicker to get the job done against the Ravens who have caught fire in the past few weeks if they want to advance.
Bears-Saints Sunday 1/10 @ 4:40
It’s no secret that Aaron Rodgers likes to play at home in the cold tundra that is Lambeau Field. It’s also no secret that he is very, very good at football. The Bears didn’t stand a chance against Rodgers making his MVP campaign for the 2020 season and flipping the proverbial bird to drafting his replacement. I will give it to Chicago, though. They did fight hard but lost bitterly at home. All hope was not lost, however. A win would have made it happen, but so would a loss for the Cardinals. The Rams came out swinging with Wolford and Murray went down early with an ankle injury while battling a leg injury all week. He did come back in for a dramatic finish in the fourth quarter driving them down the field to the red zone in short order. It wasn’t enough to get enough points for the win so the Bears were gifted with a playoff spot against the Saints in New Orleans.
Browns-Steelers Sunday 1/10 @ 8:15 PM EST
If you’re a Browns fan, you likely breathed a huge sigh of relief after their win against the Steelers on Sunday. Then, you likely puckered once again to learn that your team is playing none other than the full roster of the Pittsburgh Steelers next week. It’s strange how these things work sometimes. The Steelers were in the playoffs no matter what, so HC Mike Tomlin decided to rest starters like Ben Roethlisberger and T.J. Watt. The Browns still barely got the win against Mason Rudolph and hardly any heavy hitters on defense. The Browns will need to fire on all cylinders in Pittsburgh next week and not stall out as they did on Sunday. The Steelers and the Browns are bitter division rivals so this game should be epic to close out the wild card weekend.
***In completely unrelated news, the New York Jets have finally fired HC Adam Gase. I thought this warranted a mention in this piece since we’ve been saying this should happen for awhile.
I hope your fantasy season was a success this year and it was a pleasure to be a part of the crazy 2020 journey with you.