Happy New Year's Eve!
We're one day from 2016, but the fantasy year keeps on moving.
Just like typing out the new year as we wrap up an old one, Week 17 is always weird. Teams that are already out of the playoffs want a long look at young prospects or players that may be on the roster bubble for the future while teams that are in the dance have to be smart about player usage. It’s certainly an interesting dynamic to navigate if your fantasy league extends its championship game into the final week of the regular season or if you’re looking to wade into the daily waters to fulfill that fantasy thirst.
In any event, let’s recap Wednesday’s news.
Jonathan Stewart (foot) did not practice on Wednesday and has not practiced since Week 14. In all likelihood, the Panthers will hold out J-Stew for the season finale. Carolina can secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win against Tampa Bay, but they may not necessarily need Stewart at home against a weaker division foe. For what it is worth, Fozzy Whittaker (ankle) has already been ruled out for Week 17. Cameron Artis-Payne is now in line to start against a Bucs’ defense that has permitted just 79.8 rushing yards per-game (22nd most) to opposing backs over their last five games. Artis-Payne has played 41 and 39.6 percent of Panthers’ snaps in their last two games without Stewart and should see a snap share increase without Whittaker.
The Cowboys placed Dez Bryant on season-ending injured reserve with foot and ankle injuries on Wednesday. Bryant suffered a Jones’ fracture in his foot in Week 1, underwent surgery, and returned to action just under two months later. Per Dallas Morning News’ Brandon George, Bryant was so limited by his various foot, ankle, and knee injuries, he couldn’t run certain routes after his Week 8 return. After a lost season, it will be interesting to see how the fantasy community values Bryant in re-draft leagues this coming summer. I’d imagine he will be a screaming bargain in some shops.
Bills’ coach Rex Ryan said, “it doesn’t look good” regarding LeSean McCoy’s (knee) status for Week 17 against the Jets. Ryan may dance around the question, but McCoy isn’t playing in the season finale. In McCoy’s absence in Week 16, Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee performed amicably. Williams had 19 touches for 96 total yards and a score while Gillislee had 11 touches for 109 total yards. Williams out-snapped Gillislee 39:22. I’d love to fire up this Bills rush attack in Week 17, but this is a running back by committee – even though it seems like Williams is the “1A” to Gillislee’s “1B”. Still, this matchup with a Jets run defense that has allowed the league’s lowest 50.2 rushing yards per contest to opposing running backs in their last five games isn’t confidence invoking.
Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, ending his season. Jeffery appeared in just nine total games while battling a calf injury he sustained in the pre-season and the aforementioned hamstring ailment. He’s due to be a free agent in March. Despite playing in just nine games and not being 100% healthy all year, Jeffery cleared 90 yards receiving in five contests and had four “WR1” (top-12) scoring weeks (PPR). That is the same amount of top-12 scoring weeks as Larry Fitzgerald currently has and one less than Allen Robinson (5) on the year. If Jeffery is back in the Windy City, I'd imagine he'll be a bargain along with Bryant above.
Tyler Eifert (concussion) has cleared concussion protocol and will play in Week 17 against the Ravens. Eifert probably won’t be restored to his full snap share in the season finale against the Ravens with the playoffs looming. Even if he’s at 50-60% of snaps, Eifert will be a low-end “TE1” (top-12) due to his red zone usage and scoring prowess. He’s been an elite scorer in terms of efficiency all year, but Eifert has cleared 50 yards receiving in just one game since Week 6. I’ll note here A.J. McCarron (wrist) is fine for Week 17.
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After tearing his Achilles in Week 8, Steve Smith Sr. has decided to return for the 2016 season. He turns 37 in May of 2016. … Brian Hoyer (concussion) has been cleared and will start in Week 17 against the Jaguars. … Jags’ OC Greg Olson said the “plan” is to “get a good look” at Jonas Gray in Week 17. Denard Robinson has not played well in his two starts without T.J. Yeldon (knee). … Johnny Manziel (concussion) did not practice on Wednesday and is not expected to play in Week 17. … Matt Jones (hip) returned to practice. … The Bucs’ placed Vincent Jackson (knee) on season-ending injured reserve. … This isn’t a surprise, but Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) has been ruled out for Week 17. … Finally, Bucs' OC Dirk Koetter said Wednesday that he'll "lobby hard" for the team to re-sign impending free agent Doug Martin.