Fantasy Football QB1 Primer: Week 17
So, you’re one of those psychopaths who plays in Week 17? Alrighty then, I’m here for you.
The first thing to note about this week is it projects to be extremely low scoring. Only two games have an over/under above 45 points, whereas five games have an over/under below 40 points. That means it’s not going to take a ton of points to finish as a QB1 this week.
The second thing is that while motivation does matter, don’t overthink it. Last year Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Andrew Luck were all QB1s in Week 17. Football is violent, so if a quarterback is out there at all, he’s probably going full throttle.
Finally, before we get to the Week 17 QB1 predictions, let me say a quick thank you for reading throughout the year. It’s entertaining to write about fantasy, and even more fun when someone reads it, so I do appreciate it.
As a reminder, this isn’t a pure start/sit column. Weird stuff happens every week, so there are a few far-fetched but plausible QB1 predictions sprinkled in.
1) Russell Wilson (SEA): vs. Arizona
Wilson must have carried a ton of teams to the playoffs only to drop them on their face. With just 11.6 and 14.6 fantasy points in his last two games, he and the Seahawks are limping to the finish line. And yet, they’re still in the playoff hunt.
It won’t be an easy match-up on Sunday. Arizona’s defense has righted the ship after a tough start to the season, currently ranking fourth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. Still, Seattle is big favorites in a must-win game against a team with nothing to play for and a lame duck coach. Despite his recent play, I’d ride or die with Wilson.
2) Cam Newton (CAR): @ Atlanta
Among my worst calls this season was writing off Newton. I thought he was trending downward as a rusher after registering just 90 attempts for 4.0 YPC and five touchdowns last season, all career lows. Instead, he’s likely to set a new career high for attempts while averaging 5.4 YPC, his highest since 2012.
This is the only game where both teams have something to play for, and Vegas actually projects points with an over/under of 46. There’s a risk we don’t get four quarters of Newton, but as noted at the top, if a star quarterback is playing at all in Week 17, he’s likely a start for your fantasy team.
3) Philip Rivers (LAC): vs. Oakland
The Raiders have allowed only 11.9 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in five games since firing DC Ken Norton, Jr. Perhaps Norton was the problem and they’ve righted the ship.
Or perhaps they’ve had the good fortune to face Paxton Lynch, Geno Smith, Dak Prescott, and Nick Foles in four of those five games. I’m going with the latter, making Rivers (10 QB1 finishes this season) a good bet at home in a must-win game for the Chargers.
4) Matt Ryan (ATL): vs. Carolina
This falls somewhere between stupid and insane, given Ryan has yet to finish better than 10th at quarterback in any week this season. But as Graham Barfield notes, the Panthers have allowed the most passing yards per attempt over the last five weeks.
In Week 17, you want to bet on a home quarterback in a good match-up in a must-win game. Plus, since fantasy football is the worst, it would be so fitting if Ryan finally shows up the week after most leagues are finished.
5) Tom Brady (NE): vs. New York Jets
I got some start/sit questions for Brady last week, and I get it. He hasn’t hit 16 fantasy points all month and has fewer touchdowns (four) than interceptions (five) since you started pulling chocolates from your advent calendar.
But the Patriots need a win to maintain home field advantage, and the match-up sets up nicely for Brady. The Pats have been leaning on their running game lately, but the Jets defense is much better against the run than the pass. It’s going to be freezing in Foxborough on Sunday, but cold weather alone doesn’t stunt offenses. I’m optimistic Brady finishes strong.
6) Jimmy Garoppolo (SF): @ Los Angeles Rams
Given how the Jaguars have played this season, there may not have been a more impressive fantasy performance than Jimmy G’s 22 point outing last week. The 49ers have nothing to play for, but with a four-game winning streak, they aren’t tanking down the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Rams are resting starters, so this sets nicely for another strong game from Garoppolo. Or given how 2017 has gone, Garoppolo will blow out his knee in the 2nd quarter.
7) Kirk Cousins (WAS): @ New York Giants
For the most part, I think analysis based on narratives is flimsy and should be avoided. In Week 17, however, I’m willing to drive 100 miles per hour down Narrative Street. So with that in mind, I think both Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins-both likely looking for new homes in 2018-will be motivated to end 2017 with a bang.
The Giants will be more than obliged to help. Their defense has been a bad soap opera all season. The latest drama saw their star safety calling last year’s first-round pick a cancer; the former promptly went on IR while the latter became the third cornerback the Giants have suspended this season.
For a defense that barely works when it’s trying, I don’t see much resistance coming from the Giants in this meaningless game. Bonus points for the Giants needing a loss to lock up the No. 2 overall pick in the draft.
8) Drew Brees (NO): @ Tampa Bay
The Saints are seven-point favorites in a game with the highest over/under of the week. Tampa Bay has the 30th ranked pass defense per Football Outsiders. It all adds up to a big week for Brees.
The only problem is we’ve already seen multiple Saints blowouts where Brees is a fantasy afterthought. With only four QB1 finishes all season, I can’t get him higher 8th.
9) Matthew Stafford (DET): vs. Green Bay
There are no playoff ramifications in this game, so it’s hard to tell who shows up to play and who’s just going through the motions. I’d guess Stafford’s probably going to throw a ton regardless because what else can the Lions do? As touchdown favorites, at home, playing a bad secondary, and with no running game, this is a textbook play.
As for Green Bay, that whole sequence of rallying to beat Cleveland in Week 14, Aaron Rodgers returning to save the season in Week 15, except not really, and then Rodgers going back on IR…that seemed to take the wind out of Green Bay’s sails last week. They had no spark against Minnesota, and I see them rolling over for another division rival to end the season.
10) Jameis Winston (TB): vs. New Orleans
With a lame duck coach and nothing to play for, I expected the Buccaneers to fade into Bolivia. Not so.
They’ve challenged the Falcons and Panthers in back to back weeks. Can they keep it going against their last NFC South rival?
I think so, though the matchup is not great for Winston. Back to full strength, the Saints shut down the Falcons last week. It’s been an amazing turnaround for this defense, jumping from 31st in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last season to seventh heading into Week 17.
On the other hand, Winston is on a mini-hot streak over his last four games. He’s completed 72% of his passes and thrown eight touchdowns to two interceptions in that span.
Plus this is one of the few games where Vegas is projecting scoring, with by far the highest over/under of the week (51). There’s Saints blowout potential for sure, but if Tampa keeps it close, this turns into a nice little Winston/Brees duel.
11) Case Keenum (MIN): vs. Chicago
I’m not too worried about Keenum’s struggles last week, his first bad game since Week 7. Returning to the dome in a game Minnesota needs to win, he should be back to low-end QB1 status.
It helps that his opponent is yet another team with a lame duck coach and nothing to play for. Week 17 is fun.
12) Jacoby Brissett (IND): vs. Houston
One last go around with the Texans defense, because why not? They’ve allowed the most points per game in the NFL by a lot, and the third most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks on the season. Brissett has cooled off considerably since flashing competence earlier this season, but his best game of the year came against Houston in Week 9 when he threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns.
In a normal week, I wouldn’t touch this one, but 15 fantasy points is probably enough for a QB1 week. With the match-up and running ability, I think Brissett can get there.