Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate: Week 17 and Way Way Too Early 2023 Rankings
The best part about Week 17 is, well, it’s the championship. The title game. The Super Bowl. Playing for all the marbles. Etc etc.
Meanwhile, the worst part of Week 17?
It’s basically for two people. Whoever made the finals in your league. They have something to play for and thus, they have a reason to read this column.
But what of the others? What about all the people, through bad luck or injuries or, in some cases, just making the wrong moves are NOT in the playoffs? That is a much, much, much larger audience than the audience of folks that made the finals of their leagues.
As such, the question remains the same. How do I drive traffic to the column in the final week of the fantasy football season? How do I give folks a reason to click and hopefully read up? How can I get one last push to impress my new bosses at NBC?
The answer, as always, is rankings. People LOVE rankings. They love to debate them, argue about them, yell at me about them and discuss them. So, because it’s Week 17, because it’s tradition, because it’s the most obvious way to entice readers who might otherwise not read the article to, in fact, read the article, and because it’s, a “Love/Hate” tradition... here, are my Way, Way Too Early 2023 Rankings.
Some caveats, of course.
I’m ranking folks based on PPR scoring and I am ranking them as it stands right NOW in the NFL. Obviously, this will change significantly over the next months as we head towards August 2023, but these take into account a bunch of assumptions. First, that NFL teams remain exactly the same as they are now (obviously won’t happen) so, for example, with these rankings I am assuming Josh Jacobs is back with the Raiders and they haven’t added any significant RB that would take away his massive workload. I am also assuming that every injured player comes back fully healthy by opening day. Not just the Cooper Kupp‘s of the world but also, like, Kyler Murray for DeAndre Hopkins’ ranking.
Enough caveats for you? Good. Here we go.
Matthew Berry’s Way Way Too Early Top 50 for 2023
- Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, SF
- Cooper Kupp, WR, LAR
- Tyreek Hill, WR, MIA
- Austin Ekeler, RB, LAC
- Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Bengals
- Stefon Diggs, WR, BUF
- Saquon Barkley, RB, NYG
- Travis Kelce, TE, KC
- Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, DET
- Davante Adams, WR, LV
- Travis Etienne, RB, JAX
- CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL
- A.J. Brown, WR, PHI
- Josh Jacobs, RB, LV
- Derrick Henry, RB, TEN
- Kenneth Walker, RB, SEA
- Joe Mixon, RB, CIN
- Josh Allen, QB, BUF
- Patrick Mahomes, QB, KC
- Jalen Hurts, QB, PHI
- Dalvin Cook, RB, MIN
- Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, NE
- Tee Higgins, WR, CIN
- Jaylen Waddle, WR, MIA
- DK Metcalf, WR, SEA
- Garrett Wilson, WR, NYJ
- Javonte Williams, RB, DEN
- Breece Hall, RB, NYJ
- Chris Godwin, WR, TB
- DeVonta Smith, WR, PHI
- Nick Chubb, RB, CLE
- Mark Andrews, TE, BAL
- DeAndre Hopkins, WR, AZ
- Deebo Samuel, WR, SF
- Amari Cooper, WR, CLE
- James Conner, RB, AZ
- Terry McLaurin, WR, WSH
- Joe Burrow, QB, CIN
- Justin Fields, QB, CHI
- Alvin Kamara, RB, NO
- Dameon Pierce, RB, HOU
- Chris Olave, WR, NO
- Mike Williams, WR, LAC
- Keenan Allen, WR, LAC
- Tony Pollard, RB, DAL
- Tyler Lockett, WR, SEA
- T.J. Hockenson, TE, DET
- Aaron Jones, RB, GB
What do you like? What did I get wrong? Please let me know, loudly, in all caps, repeatedly, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and SnapChat where I am @MatthewBerryTMR or on the Fantasy Life App where I am merely @MatthewBerry.
In the meantime, let’s get to this week’s Love/Hate. Some quick housekeeping before we do so. Obviously, tune in this Sunday’s Fantasy Football Pregame at 11am ET on Peacock. We go all the way till kickoff. Next, if you happen to be in Las Vegas next week we will be broadcasting LIVE from the MGM Grand at 9am local time next Tuesday January 3 all the way through Friday, January 6. Please come by and say hey. I mean… it’s the last week of the season and I’ll have been in Vegas all week. I don’t know what we are going to do, I just know it won’t be boring and BetMGM has set the odds that it’s my last week at NBC at -140.
Speaking of lasts, this is the last Love/Hate of the year. There will still be rankings next week and, of course, the daily Fantasy Football Happy Hour show along with the usual Fantasy Football Pregame show on Sunday at 11am on Peacock but this is the last column of the season. I was super nervous leaving ESPN after 15 years and coming over to NBC/Rotoworld for a variety of reasons. But one of them was if people would find this column after seeing it on the front page of ESPN for a decade and a half. And I know a lot of people bailed on the column after it went behind a paywall the last two years at ESPN. So… after a year at Rotoworld and looking at the numbers it’s very clear people found the column in droves and I can’t tell you how eternally grateful I am for that. More than you’ll ever know.
I’m also incredibly appreciative of my producer Damian Dabrowski, who came over to NBC with me from ESPN and has been instrumental to, well, everything, but especially this column’s success. So thank you Damian!
It’s my birthday today (Thursday, December 29) so my birthday wish is that you win everything you’re playing for this week. And if not… we will see you in the new year!
For the last time in 2022, let’s get to it:
Quarterbacks I Love in Week 17:
Justin Fields at Detroit
Bears fans might be a year away from seeing Justin Fields play meaningful games in January, so for now they’ll have to take watching Fields play for fantasy championships. And there aren’t too many other quarterbacks I’d want for Week 17. I know, he didn’t run that much last week – I think he was banged up – but assuming he’s a go for Chicago this week, he’s a go for me. Not only is Fields QB5 in PPG on the season, this week he’s facing a Lions defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks – including 39.4 fantasy points to Fields in Week 10. The Lions have surrendered 19-plus fantasy points to six of the last seven quarterbacks they’ve faced, and six different quarterbacks have rushed for 40-plus yards against the Lions this season. Don’t forget: Fields himself ran for 147 yards and two scores on the Lions back in Week 10. I have him as my QB 4 for Week 17.
Jared Goff vs. Chicago
Following Detroit’s game in Charlotte last week, Jared Goff ripped the playing surface at Bank of America Stadium, saying it felt like “cement.” Look, I get the criticism, but those of us in the fantasy community actually appreciate hard floors. Goff’s floor, for example, has been set at 14 fantasy points or higher for five consecutive games, and in three of his past four games he has 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns. The Over/Under of 52 for this game is the highest on the Week 17 slate and Goff has put up at least 17.5 fantasy points in seven of the 10 games he’s played this season that went over 50 points. And then there’s Home Goff. During the eight games played this season at the friendly confines of Ford Field, he’s averaging 21.3 PPG. Give me Goff as a Top 5 quarterback this week.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Minnesota
If the Packers win-out and Washington loses just once, Green Bay is in the playoffs. But I’m not here to talk about the collapse my favorite team will almost certainly complete. [Sobs uncontrollably for 27 minutes.] I’m here to talk about Aaron Rodgers’ Week 17 fantasy prospects. Get this: nine of the last 11 quarterbacks to face Minnesota this season have scored at least 17 fantasy points, and the Vikings have allowed at least 300 passing yards in six of their last seven games. Over that same span, teams facing the Vikings are averaging an absurd 40.6 pass attempts per game. I have Rodgers as a Top 10 quarterback for Week 17. I’m very confident in him this week. Not as confident as I am in Washington letting me down like they always do, of course, but still very confident.
Others receiving votes: Since the Giants’ Week 9 bye, Daniel Jones has put up at least 17 fantasy points in four of six games. He also has 30-plus rushing yards in three of his last four. This week he’ll face a Colts defense that has allowed four rushing scores to quarterbacks this season, tied for fifth-most. … Las Vegas is allowing 18.9 PPG to quarterbacks this season, sixth-most in the NFL. And that’s without having played future Hall of Famer Brock Purdy. (Kidding?) Since taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo four weeks ago, Purdy is averaging 17.1 PPG and has multiple touchdown passes in every game. Also, in case you missed it, the Raiders appear to be in full-on tank mode… Most of the country didn’t get a white Christmas, but we are getting a Mike White (playing-seven-days-after) Christmas. How festive! In his three starts this season, White is averaging 43 pass attempts and 317 passing yards. This week he gets a Seattle defense allowing passing touchdowns at the fifth-highest rate. White is a very viable streamer in Week 17.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 17:
Justin Herbert vs Los Angeles Rams:
Do I have Justin Herbert on the hate list because his luscious hair reminds me of my sadly balding dome? Or do I have Herbert on the hate list because his 0 TD/ 2 INT stinker of a performance against the Titans in Week 15 knocked me out of the playoffs in a league? Or is it because he has one or fewer touchdown passes 6 of the last 8 games? Well, why does it have to just be one reason? With a NFL high 83% red zone rush rate the last two weeks, they just aren’t giving Herbert a chance at touchdown passes and for all the struggles the Rams have had this year, their secondary hasn’t been one of them. They have allowed multiple touchdown passes in only one of their past five games. Weirdly a dink and dunker for much of the year (on the year, of qualified QB’s, only Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield have a lower average depth of target than Herbert). He’s a very good real life QB with a ton of weapons, so let’s not get crazy here. I still have him as a borderline QB1 this week. But chances are if you’re in the finals, it’s in spite of Herbert recently, not because of him. I also worry about both his floor and upside in this crucial week.
Geno Smith vs. New York Jets
The Geno Smith Revenge Game. For those of you who are unaware, Geno Smith was drafted by the Jets in Round 2 of the 2013 draft, lost his job in 2014 and moved on after the 2016 season. And everyone knows what happened next: the Jets never again wasted an early pick on a quarterback. It’s been straight success at the quarterback position for the J-E-T-S. Yes, sirree. Anyway, fast-forward to 2022 and as much as Smith probably wants to light up his old franchise, it’s a tall task. The Jets have not allowed multiple touchdown passes in a game since Week 3 and, since Week 4, the only two quarterbacks to post 15-plus fantasy points against the Jets did it on the strength of rushing scores. Smith might get a win against the Jets on Sunday, but I don’t see him winning many fantasy championships. I have him outside my Top 15 quarterbacks this week.
Running Backs I Love in Week 17:
James Conner at Atlanta
This has been a tough season for the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray got hurt. J.J. Watt is retiring. And Kliff Kingsbury could be dispatched in just over a week. Maybe it’s time to build the entire franchise around James Conner. Conner now has six straight games with a touchdown, 19-plus touches in five of those games, and four straight games with at least 20 receiving yards. This week he gets an Atlanta defense that has allowed 95-plus total yards to a running backs in five of their past six games. In fact, since Week 10, Atlanta is allowing 156 scrimmage yards per game to backs. Give me James Conner as a Top 3 back in Week 17.
Cam Akers at Los Angeles Chargers
Who could have guessed in late October – when Cam Akers seemed on the verge of being dealt away from the Rams and Baker Mayfield was backing up P.J. Walker in Carolina – that Akers and Mayfield would be leading a resurgent, high-scoring, Cooper Kupp-less Rams offense late in the season? (I mean, I knew, of course. I just forgot to tell everyone.) But here we are. And here Cam Akers is ready to be a fantasy league winner. Akers has six touchdowns over his past four games and is RB5 in PPG (19.0) since Week 13. After getting just 19 total receiving yards in his first 11 games, he has 64 over the past two weeks. Considering the Chargers allow a league-high 5.5 YPC to running backs this season, as well as the second-most rushing yards allowed to the position, I see Akers following up a Super Bowl championship last season by winning a whole bunch of fantasy championships this season. Because nothing makes sense this year, the drafted too high, then dropped, then picked up, then dropped again, then picked up by, like, the third team in your league, is my RB 11 in Week 17.
Brian Robinson vs. Cleveland
Washington has a quarterback controversy on its hands (at just a super time of year for a football team to try to figure out who its quarterback should be, I must say). But it’s clear that Brian Robinson is the Washington running back you want in fantasy. Robinson has 20-plus touches in three of his last four games, and now Antonio Gibson is dealing with an injury. Heavy usage for Robinson against the Browns this week will go a long way. Backs who receive 15-plus touches against the Browns this season are averaging 19.1 PPG, and each one of those backs have scored at least 12.5 fantasy points. Cleveland also ranks bottom-three in YPC and rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs. Big Hat Brian Robinson is inside my Top 20 running backs this week.
Others receiving votes: It’s back-to-back games with 18-plus touches and 115-plus total yards now for Tyler Allgeier. He also had a season-high 59% snap rate in Week 16, besting Cordarrelle Patterson, 42-26. This week Allgeier faces an Arizona defense that has allowed 100-plus rushing yards to running backs in three straight games. … The Vikings have allowed 120-plus rushing yards in four straight games, which is good news for AJ Dillon. Green Bay’s supposed second-string back has 13-plus touches in each of his last three games, as well as a rushing score in four straight. Add in the fact that Aaron Jones looks to be clearly at less than 100%, this feels like a Dillon week… Last week Isiah Pacheco out-snapped Jerick McKinnon for the first time since Week 12. Pacheco now has 15-plus touches in every game since Week 10, and three straight games with 90-plus total yards. This week he faces a Denver defense that has allowed a rushing score in four of its last five games, including three rushing touchdowns just last week to Cam Akers and seems to have given up completely on defense but refusing to guard anybody, including Tyler Higbee, who some people were facing in a fantasy playoff and by some people I mean me. I was facing him. What the hell Denver?? Let’s ride? Let’s ride to hell. How about that?? I, uh, am sorry. Got carried away there. Anyways, I like Pacheco this week. … The return of Michael Carter hasn’t cut the workload of Zonovan Knight. In the three games since Carter returned, Knight has 73% of the Jets’ running back carries. Mike White‘s return is also good news for Knight. Knight has multiple receptions in every White start this season. (White/Knights is an early leader for 2023 fantasy team name of choice among Jets fans.) It’s a good matchup for Knight this week, too, as Seattle has allowed 160-plus rushing yards in five of their past six games. They’ve allowed nine rushing touchdowns over that span, as well.
Running Backs I Hate in Week 17:
Aaron Jones vs. Minnesota
Any fantasy manager who knows anything knows that the Aaron Jones fantasy experience is a rollercoaster. You just hope that come playoff time, the rollercoaster doesn’t derail, plow through a merry-go-round full of children and run over the theme park’s beloved mascot, Mr. Snickles, killing him (it?) instantly on impact. Alas, Mr. Snickles is dead. Last week, Jones posted just 5.4 fantasy points. This week, I fear it won’t be much better. As I mentioned with A.J. Dillon above, Jones is clearly banged up. He’s been on the injury report every week since Week 10. Last week, he didn’t get a single snap for an entire 13-minute span of the third quarter. And that wasn’t just a one game aberration: Jones now has less than 40% of the snaps in two of his past three games, as well as less than 40 rushing yards in four of his last five. I’m sure the Jones’ rollercoaster will reach new heights again … next season. But I’m out on him in Week 17. #RIPMrSnickles
Devin Singletary at Cincinnati
If Devin Singletary was playing at home in Buffalo this week, he’d definitely be on the Hate list. Because as a fantasy expert, I know it’s hard for someone to run well in 27-feet of snow. But even away from Buffalo, I’m out on Singletary in Week 17. Since Week 10, Cincinnati is allowing the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game to backs. In fact, Cincinnati hasn’t allowed more than 66 rushing yards to a running back in five straight games, with only one back scoring 15-plus fantasy points against them over that stretch. And it’s not like Singletary is exactly entering this game on fire. Prior to last week, he had less than 55 rushing yards in three straight. With James Cook emerging and Josh Allen always a threat to run at the goal line as well, I have Singletary outside my Top 30 running backs.
J.K. Dobbins vs. Pittsburgh
Baltimore has made it clear they’re not quite ready to give J.K. Dobbins a true RB1 workload. That’s not due to anything John Harbaugh or anyone else has said, It’s the snap count that tells the story. In all three of his games since returning, Dobbins has received under 45% of the snaps. And when he is on the field, he’s not being used in the passing game. Get this: in four of his last five games, Dobbins has zero targets. Now Dobbins gets a Pittsburgh defense that has stiffened of late. Pittsburgh has allowed less than 60 rushing yards in back-to-back weeks, and those were games against Josh Jacobs and D’Onta Foreman. The Steelers have also surrendered just two rushing scores over their past seven games. All that keeps Dobbins outside of my Top 30 running backs for Week 17.
Pass Catchers I Love in Week 17:
Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Chicago
St. Nick brings toys for good little boys and girls, whereas Amon-Ra St. Brown brings fantasy points for good little fantasy managers (who were patient with him during his production dip in the middle of the season and didn’t trade him away). Everyone has their preference, but you can guess which Saint I prefer. Get this: in St. Brown’s healthy games this season, he has a 31% target share and is averaging 10.5 targets in those games. Now, he faces a Bears defense that allows the highest catch rate to the slot. Don’t forget, St. Brown caught 10 passes for 119 yards on 11 targets against the Bears in Week 10. He also had 77 YAC in that first matchup … which isn’t a huge surprise, since the Bears also allow the second-most YAC to the slot. I have St. Brown as a Top 3 WR in Week 17, well ahead of St. Nick (who is on bye until next December).
Jerry Jeudy at Kansas City
Anyone who drafted a Russell Wilson-Jerry Jeudy stack before the season I know is not reading a Week 17 Love/Hate column because, well … their season ended a long time ago. In fact, they likely swore off fantasy football forever, sold all their belongings and now live off the grid in a cabin in the foothills of a remote mountain. So there’s no way for them to read this column even if they wanted to. My point: Russell Wilson has had a bit of a rough season. My second point: Don’t let Wilson scare you away from Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy has 16-plus fantasy points in four of his past five full games. He also has at least seven targets in his last seven healthy games, earning a 25% target share. Facing a Chiefs defense this week that allows the seventh-most fantasy points to receivers, I like Jeudy to keep things going in Week 17. Remember: Jeudy scored three times against the Chiefs earlier this season and it wasn’t a fluke; KC is tied for the second-most touchdowns allowed to receivers. Give me Jeudy as a Top 15 wide receiver this week.
Garrett Wilson at Seattle
It’s an ironclad fantasy football rule: “You never play Wilson when Wilson is playing, but always play Wilson when Wilson is not playing.” So now that (Zach) Wilson is not playing, you want (Garrett) Wilson back in your lineups. Simple, right? In Mike White‘s three starts this season, Garrett Wilson is averaging 21.5 PPG with 30 targets in those games. I love his upside this week against a Seahawks defense that has allowed a wide receiver to score in five of their last seven games. I have Wilson inside my Top 15 receivers this week.
Cole Kmet at Detroit
Last week, Cole Kmet led the Bears in receptions and targets. I know, leading the Bears in receptions and targets is kind of like being named Sexiest Man at the Old, Balding Guy Convention. (Screw you, Ed Harris! I deserved that title!) But it’s still something. And here’s more of something: Since Week 9, Kmet leads all tight ends with a 25.8% target share. Considering Detroit has allowed the most touchdowns to tight ends this season, I have Kmet as Top 10 at his position in Week 17.
Others receiving votes: … Minnesota has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, which means good news for Allen Lazard managers (especially with Christian Watson banged up). Lazard has double-digit fantasy points in every game this season in which he has received six-plus targets, and last week he got a season-high 11 targets. … Jahan Dotson earned a team-high 26.5% target share last week and he should benefit as much as anyone from the move to Carson Wentz. Why? Good question! It’s because Dotson reeled in four touchdowns in his four games playing with Wentz. Dotson also has 16-plus points in five of the six games this season in which he’s had five or more targets. Oh and this isn’t a fantasy stat, but is just a fact. Dotson is a straight-up baller. Love that kid. Just awesome… Jacksonville has allowed the fourth-most touchdowns to wide receivers this season. That means there’s a decent chance Brandin Cooks sees the end zone in Week 17. He had a team-high 31% target share last week in his first game since Week 12. … Somewhere in an alternate universe, Dr. Strange is leading mathematical discussions about Richie James being valuable in deeper leagues. And I support these conversations in every universe because James has 13-plus fantasy points in four of his last six games. This week he gets a Colts defense that has allowed 229 yards to the slot over the past two weeks. … Someone who has been discarded as much as Baker Mayfield in the last year probably needs a security blanket, and Tyler Higbee has proven to be a pretty good one for him in Los Angeles. Higbee has three touchdowns in his last two games (two of them last week against me, er, Denver, but I digress) and a team-high 39% target share in Week 16. This week he gets a Chargers team that ranks bottom-10 in yards allowed to tight ends. … Give me some Tyler Conklin, too. It’s a big week for Tyler TEs. Conklin has a double-digit target share in five of his past six games and now he takes on a Seattle defense that has surrendered the most yards to tight ends on the season.
Pass Catchers I Hate in Week 17:
Terry McLaurin vs. Cleveland
While Jahan Dotson‘s stock rises with Carson Wentz‘s return to the starting job, Terry McLaurin‘s falls. In Wentz’s six starts this season, McLaurin averaged just 11.1 PPG on a 16% target share. And if anything, McLaurin’s prospects got worse last week. On Wentz’s 16 pass attempts in relief of Taylor Heinicke, just one went McLaurin’s way. Almost as bad as Wentz’s return for McLaurin is his Week 17 matchup. Cleveland is tied for the fourth-fewest receptions allowed to wide receivers this season and has given up the seventh-fewest yards. All that, means I have McLaurin outside my Top 20 wide receivers in Week 17.
Zay Jones at Houston
Zay Jones got a lot of people into the fantasy playoffs in Week 15 with his 34.9-point performance … and then knocked a lot of them right out in Week 16 by putting up just 2.1 points. For those who survived, it’s probably time to end the Zay Jones Experience entirely. In games in which he’s seen fewer than eight targets this season, Jones is averaging just 5.9 PPG. And now he faces a Houston defense that has allowed the fewest receptions and touchdowns to wide receivers this season, as well as the third-fewest fantasy points to the position (when you can run all over a team, why pass?). Add into it that Jacksonville has nothing to play for this week (well, beyond giving us sweet, sweet fantasy points), and I have Jones outside of my Top 25 receivers.
Adam Thielen at Green Bay
Touchdown-dependent tight ends are one thing … but touchdown-dependent wide receivers? No, thank you. In games this season in which he doesn’t score, Adam Thielen is averaging just 8.1 PPG. (Green Bay, by the way, ranks Top-5 in fewest touchdowns allowed to wide receivers.) Thielen also has fewer than 50 receiving yards in five of his last seven games, including a 3-36-0 line against the Packers in their first matchup. I have Thielen down at WR 43 in Week 17.
Darren Waller vs. San Francisco
Among Derek Carr‘s sins: getting nothing out of Darren Waller. Las Vegas’ supposed star tight end hasn’t had more than five targets in a game since Week 2, and in both of his games since returning from injury he has received less than 50% of the snaps. There’s also no reason to think things will get better this week. Not against a 49ers defense that allows the fourth-fewest yards to tight ends. And not with Jarrett Stidham – a guy with two touchdowns and four interceptions on 61 career pass attempts – making his first start. With your fantasy season on the line, can you start a struggling tight end with an unproven quarterback throwing him the ball against a great defense? You cannot. That’s right, I’m saying you shouldn’t start’em, you should … wait for it … Stidham. (Yeah, that’s right, I’m ending the season on an absolutely terrible joke. After reading me for all these years, you should expect nothing more. Thank you! Thank you! See you next year!)
Matthew Berry – The Talented Mr. Roto – thanks for you coming along on the ride this year, more than ever.