Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 17 (2020)
As the calendar shifts to 2021, not everyone will have wrapped up their 2020 fantasy football leagues. Things could get weird for those playing through Week 17.
In some cases, managers will need to ditch the stars that have carried them to championship contention if their actual teams are redirecting their focus to the real playoffs. Uncertain playing time creates extra volatility, which means gamers might need to make some unorthodox choices for the season’s final Sunday.
The Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) cited below were taken on Tuesday evening and apply to half-PPR formats. Be sure to keep following news throughout the week to get a better idea of which teams plan to take Week 17 easy or put their best foot forward.
Start: Kirk Cousins (MIN) at DET: QB11 ECR
There are no playoff ramifications for this showdown between Minnesota and Detroit. Unless there are any reports otherwise before kickoff, this is still a golden spot for the Vikings to ease the sting of a three-game losing streak before heading home. The Lions have relinquished an NFL-high 35 passing touchdowns and 8.4 yards per pass attempt this season. Their opponent has finished as a top-three quarterback in four of the last five weeks, and Tom Brady only needed two quarters to compile his 348 yards and four touchdowns last Saturday. Cousins, meanwhile, is 11th in fantasy points per game (18.7) among full-time starting quarterbacks. He’s offered at least 17 points in each of his last seven matchups, starting with a three-touchdown outing against Detroit in Week 9.
Start: Philip Rivers (IND) vs. JAC: QB12 ECR
Plenty of fantasy quarterbacks will need to replace a resting or injured quarterback. For those scouring the waiver wire, Rivers entered the final free-agent window available in 60% of Yahoo leagues. Last reaching 20 fantasy points in Week 11, the 39-year-old doesn’t offer week-winning upside. Yet the Jaguars have relinquished 23.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and 17 to Rivers in Week 1. The Colts need a win and help to make the playoffs, providing gamers with the perfect mix of matchup and motivation for a Week 17 play.
Sit: Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) vs. GB: QB13 ECR
Trubisky can clinch a playoff berth and cement his grip on Chicago’s starting job next year with a Week 17 win over Green Bay. He’s looked like a new man over the last four games, accruing 1,001 passing yards, eight touchdowns (one rushing), and two interceptions with a sterling 72.4% completion rate. The Bears might fall for it, but you don’t have to. His last four opponents all rank 24th or worse in passing defense. That stretch includes the bottom-three units (Houston, Jacksonville, and Detroit) in yards allowed per pass attempt. Playing him against the Jaguars made perfect sense, but there’s huge risk in using him against the Packers, who sport the sixth-best passing defense and need a win to wrap up the NFC’s No. 1 seed. While he limped to 20.7 fantasy points in an ugly Week 11 loss at Lambeau Field, all of his production came in garbage time.
Sit: Patrick Mahomes (KC) vs. LAC: QB27 ECR
Mahomes hasn’t reached 300 passing yards in each of the last two games. Once a weekly cheat code, he’s finished better than QB9 just once since Kansas City’s Week 10 bye. Making matters worse, he’s last deposited a rushing touchdown all the way back in Week 5. It’s time to kick this overrated bum to the curb.
But seriously, the Chiefs have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Andy Reid said backup quarterback Chad Henne will likely play at some point Sunday, which means Mahomes could potentially get pulled after one drive or benched from the get-go. You’re better off securing some points from a streamer playing a meaningful game such as Rivers or Andy Dalton (at NYG). The same logic applies to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
Start: Wayne Gallman Jr. (NYG) vs. DAL: RB23 ECR
Gallman continued his late-season slide last week, collecting 53 yards on just six carries and two catches. It marked the fourth straight game in which the midseason standout’s carries dipped. Even if the 5-10 Giants don’t swindle their way into the playoffs, Saquon Barkley‘s replacement can conclude the season with an exclamation point. Despite playing better in recent weeks, the Cowboys have still permitted an NFL-worst 161.1 rushing yards per contest. Gallman had yet to take the job when New York faced Dallas in Week 5, but Devonta Freeman posted 87 yards and a score on 19 touches.
Start: J.D. McKissic (WAS) at PHI: RB26 ECR
After Washington released Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith will start the final game of the regular season is able. Per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, Head coach Ron Rivera is “optimistic” about the veteran quarterback suiting up for a must-win clash with the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Smith’s return would be welcome news to McKissic, who caught 31 of 45 targets in five full games together. McKissic abdicated his newly gained rushing workload back to Antonio Gibson in Week 16, but he also saw 10 targets with Smith out of action. He scored a 29-yard touchdown reception from Taylor Heinicke, who will start if Smith cannot.
Start: Gus Edwards (BAL) at CIN: RB29 ECR
The Ravens are 12.5-point favorites to clinch a playoff berth by beating the Bengals, who have allowed 4.8 yards per carry. Edwards has run for 277 yards and two touchdowns during Baltimore’s four-game winning streak, maxing out at 15 carries in last week’s win over the Giants. He’s even factored into the passing game with 36 and 37 receiving yards (both career-highs) in the last two contests. Expect double-digit touches with a prime opportunity for red-zone looks as the Ravens ground-and-pound their way into the postseason.
Sit: Mike Davis (CAR) at NO: RB25 ECR
Davis looked like a more than adequate replacement for Christian McCaffrey before running into the Saints in Week 7. The tenacious defense, currently ranked fourth against the run, stymied him to 12 rushing yards on seven carries with 24 receiving yards. From that point forward, Davis has offered 10 or more half-PPR fantasy points in just two of his last nine games. The Saints should play everyone since they still have a shot at a first-round bye with a win and losses from the Packers and Seahawks, all of whom have a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff. Davis has struggled in tough matchups all year, so don’t expect a different result this Sunday.
Sit: Tony Pollard (DAL) at NYG: RB32 ECR
After winning Week 15 matchups in Ezekiel Elliott‘s absence, Pollard mustered just 20 yards on 10 touches once his star teammate returned last weekend. Elliott played just four more snaps, but gained 139 yards on 23 touches. Well, it was fun while it lasted. Elliott is once again the play as an RB2 while Pollard would need to break off a touchdown or one massive gain to pay off in the flex spot.
Sit: Darrell Williams and Le’Veon Bell (KC): RB33 and RB35 ECR
In theory, this could be the perfect opportunity for Kansas City to ignite its lethargic running game prior to the playoffs. Henne should hand the ball off more than Mahomes to whoever lines up in the backfield. Williams played 47 snaps to Bell’s 20 last week, but that doesn’t mean he’ll line up more with the second team in Week 17. Bell, meanwhile, is averaging just 8.4 touches and 39.2 yards per game since joining the Chiefs.
Start: Marquise Brown (BAL) at CIN: WR22 ECR
Back when he was struggling early in the season, Brown snagged seven of 10 targets and his first touchdown of the season in Week 5’s win over the Bengals. He’s scored in four of the last five games, offering 98 yards in the other contest. While Hollywood hasn’t drawn double-digit targets again in 2020, the second-year wideout should see high-quality looks in a must-win contest.
Start: Curtis Samuel (CAR) vs. NO: WR25 ECR
Samuel is averaging 11.3 fantasy points per game to D.J. Moore‘s 11.9. Samuel has also delivered as many fantasy points per game (13.8) as D.K. Metcalf since the start of Week 7. With double-digit points in seven of his last nine contests, Carolina’s dynamic playmaker has earned everyone’s trust as a strong WR3. He caught all six targets for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Saints in their first meeting.
Start: Sterling Shepard (NYG) vs. DAL: WR35 ECR
No team has allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Cowboys. Shepard, meanwhile, snapped out of a Colt McCoy-induced funk to set season-highs in targets (12), catches (nine), and receiving yards (77) and his first touchdown in two months. He reached those marks in an early Week 16 loss to a stout Baltimore defense. Now NFC East mediocrity will be on grand display in a game that would send the winner to a home playoff game if Washington loses later that evening.
Sit: All Pittsburgh Steelers WRs at CLE
Only one team gets a bye in each conference, so there’s no longer much difference between the Steelers finishing as the No. 2 or 3 seed. Mike Tomlin signaled his intentions for Sunday’s game against Cleveland (a possible playoff opponent) by declaring Mason Rudolph the starting quarterback in place of Ben Roethlisberger. While he may not sit anyone else, there’s no reason to take a chance on Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Chase Claypool receiving limited or no reps with Rudolph under center.
Sit: Tyler Lockett (SEA) at SF: WR22 ECR
Here are some wide receivers averaging more fantasy points per game than Tyler Lockett since his 200-yard, three-touchdown bonanza in Week 7: Shepard, Michael Gallup, Darnell Mooney, Breshad Perriman, and Zach Pascal. This dreadful second half started with just 33 yards against the 49ers, who rank fourth in passing defense. Unless you’re an underdog chasing upside, there are safer WR3 options floating around the waiver wire.
Sit: Tim Patrick (DEN) vs. LV: WR39 ECR
Patrick had the makings of a burgeoning waiver-wire gem. Instead, he has caught just 13 of 17 targets for 133 yards in their last four games. Jerry Jeudy, currently ranked three spots lower in the ECR, amassed 15 targets last Sunday alone. Another pass-catcher is also getting more attention in the Mile High City recently, so Patrick has regressed into a touchdown-dependent dart throw.
Start: Noah Fant (DEN) vs. LV: TE7 ECR
After playing just five snaps prior to exiting Week 14’s game with an illness, Fant has captured 14 of 20 targets for 133 yards in the last two games. He picked up 57 yards in Week 13 and 55 in Week 11. (The Broncos were without all of their quarterbacks in Week 12.) That’s a steady floor at tight end, even if Fant has found the end zone just once since scoring in each of the season’s first two games. He has at least one red-zone target in the last five games when removing Week 14 and the Kendall Hilton fiasco, so that drought could expire against the Chargers.
Start: Mike Gesicki (MIA) at BUF: TE8 ECR
Gesicki could be challenging for a top-five spot had the Dolphins stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will go back to the bench after orchestrating a monumental comeback win. On his first drive replacing Tua Tagovailoa last Saturday, Fitzpatrick connected with Gesicki on two of four tries for 48 yards. Yet the tight end’s fantasy value is no longer strictly tied to the veteran passer; he registered 153 yards and three touchdowns alongside Tagovailoa in Weeks 13 and 14. He’s fourth in average depth of target (11.6) among tight ends and seventh in fantasy points per game (10.8). Furthermore, the Bills have already locked up the AFC East.
Sit: Austin Hooper (CLE) vs. PIT: TE12 ECR
The Jets presented a good matchup for Hooper before four of Cleveland’s top wide receivers were kept out of action as close contacts to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Those receivers have tested negative as of this writing, so they could return for a win-and-in matchup against Pittsburgh. If so, Hooper won’t sniff last week’s 15 targets. Baker Mayfield had looked his way 17 times in the previous five games combined. While the Steelers likely won’t present their starting defense at full strength, they have given up just 3.9 receptions per game with two total touchdowns to tight ends.
Sit: Jimmy Graham (CHI) vs. GB: TE23 ECR
Graham topped all tight ends in Week 16 scoring with 69 yards and two touchdowns. Although not perceived as a viable starter for most of 2020, he’s the TE9 on the strength of eight trips to the end zone. Even in a must-win matchup against his former team, Graham still can’t be trusted. Teammate Cole Kmet has played more snaps in each of the last six games. Graham, as a result, has just 13 catches for 149 yards throughout that time frame, which includes zeroes in both Weeks 10 and 13. Because of his red-zone involvement, both he and Kmet are unreliable TE2 choices.
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