If you’re playing head-to-head season-long fantasy football into Week 17, I suggest you get on your league-mates next year and change the rules. This week will be more about figuring out who is motivated rather than who has the best combination of usage, talent and matchup. The first step in that is processing all the playoff scenarios.
* Teams eliminated from the playoffs: 49ers, Bears, Bucs, Eagles, Giants, Rams, Redskins, Saints, Vikings.
* The Panthers at Falcons game will decide the NFC South. Winner hosts a playoff game, loser goes home. Both teams motivated.
* The Lions at Packers game will decide the NFC North. Winner gets a first-round bye, loser could fall as low as the No. 6 seed. Both teams motivated.
* The Cowboys are virtually locked into the No. 3 seed. The only way they can earn a first-round bye is by beating the Redskins and netting both of these unlikely outcomes: Seahawks lose at home to Rams, Cardinals lose at 49ers. Questionable motivation for Cowboys.
* The Cardinals are still fighting for a bye and playoff seeding. They will be motivated.
* The Seahawks are still fighting for a bye and playoff seeding. They will be motivated.
* Teams eliminated from the playoffs: Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Raiders, Titans.
* The Patriots have clinched the No. 1 overall seed and home field throughout the playoffs. Questionable motivation.
* The Chiefs are still fighting for a playoff spot. They will be motivated.
* The Texans are still fighting for a playoff spot. They will be motivated.
* The Ravens are still fighting for a playoff spot. They will be motivated.
* The Chargers can clinch a playoff spot with a win. They will be motivated.
* The Colts are essentially locked into the No. 4 seed. Questionable motivation.
* The Broncos must win to earn a first-round bye. They will be motivated.
* The Bengals and Steelers will likely be fighting for playoff seeding by the time this 8pm ET game rolls around. They will be reasonably motivated, even if neither can earn a bye. The Broncos can lock up the first round bye earlier in the day by beating the Raiders.
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In this week’s Waiver Wired, I’ll have some quick notes on lightly owned guys that might be worthy of a spot start in Week 17. This will be very fluid throughout the week because injuries and players on eliminated teams getting held out will be key.
WEEK 17 PLUG-N-PLAYS
1. Teddy Bridgewater (vs. CHI) – Quietly elevating his play sharply, Bridgewater has a 9:5 TD-to-INT ratio over the last five weeks and is averaging a robust 294.3 passing yards per game over the last three weeks. The Bears defense gave it all it had in Week 16 against the Lions and will be very vulnerable.
2. Joe Flacco (vs. BAL) – Upgrade Flacco significantly if Joe Haden (shoulder) can’t go. The Browns are flailing at corner with No. 8 overall pick Justin Gilbert essentially benched for poor performance.
3. Robert Griffin III (vs. DAL) – The Redskins aren’t mailing it in (ask the Eagles), are on a long week and Dallas games are their Super Bowl. The Cowboys could also rest players.
4. Case Keenum (vs. JAX) – Keenum fared far better than expected against the Ravens. His final numbers (185 passing yards, zero TDs, one INT) were ugly because he settled for six field goals. Expect better red-zone efficiency against the Jags.
5. Josh McCown (vs. NO) – I can’t imagine a bigger letdown spot for the Saints. They put everything into Sunday’s narrow loss to the Falcons and are now eliminated from playoff contention. It’s hard to see them showing up at Tampa on either side of the ball.
1. Joseph Randle (at WAS) – As noted above, the Cowboys are almost certainly locked into the NFC’s No. 3 seed. It would make a ton of sense to hold out DeMarco Murray (hand) or play him sparingly. Randle out-carried Lance Dunbar 13-2 in Week 16.
3. Devonta Freeman (vs. CAR) – Unfortunately for the Falcons, Steven Jackson (quad) is expected to return for Week 17. We’ll see. S-Jax is slow to recover from soft-tissue injuries at this point in his career.
4. C.J. Spiller (at NE) – Spiller immediately assumed No. 2 RB duties upon his Week 16 return, netting eight touches. He’ll get a boost if the Patriots rest some of their defensive starters.
6. Fitzgerald Toussaint (vs. CLE) – Justin Forsett can’t get over his knee and ankle woes. He’ll likely start, but Toussaint could see work against the league’s worst run defense. Toussaint has passed Bernard Pierce on the depth chart.
1. Albert Wilson (vs. SD) – Donnie Avery has been a healthy scratch for a few weeks now. Meanwhile Wilson is playing on 77.4 percent of the snaps for the last three weeks and has produced 12-209-0 during that span.
2. Doug Baldwin (vs. STL) – When offenses can pass protect against the Rams, there are massive holes to exploit in the secondary. Baldwin gets a boost with Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) not expected to play.
3. Terrance Williams (at WAS) – We love to target wideouts against David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland. Williams will get a volume boost if Dez Bryant takes it easy in this somewhat meaningless game to the Cowboys.
4. Eddie Royal (at KC) – With Keenan Allen (ankle, collarbone) sidelined, Royal piled up 10 catches on 12 targets against the 49ers Saturday. The game flow is unlikely to be so solidly in his favor again, but there’s enough volume here to take notice.
5. Paul Richardson (vs. STL) – Richardson is undersized, but has serious wheels. His snap count will rise sharply with Kearse sidelined.
1. Luke Willson (vs. STL) – It’s chasing a bit as Willson has seen a total of five targets across the last three games. But Seattle’s tight end room and Jermaine Kearse are banged up, leaving some hope for Willson’s volume.
1. Texans (vs. JAX) – With the Texans still having a shred of hope at the playoffs, they’ll be jacked up to get all over the Jags.
3. Dolphins (vs. NYJ) – Big-time letdown spot for the Jets after Rex Ryan’s Super Bowl against the Patriots in Week 16.
4. Vikings (vs. CHI) – Quietly turning into a playmaking defense with three touchdowns and two blocked kicks over the last month. Now they get the Bears, who have been forced to turn back to Jay Cutler.