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The Primer: Week 17 Edition (2021 Fantasy Football)

Dec 30, 2021
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Do you know the feeling of finishing a good book? Not one that you had to read for class or maybe as a training course for work, but one that you picked up for fun and you simply could not put down. It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? You thoroughly enjoyed the rises and falls of the story, but you became so attached to the characters and their development throughout your time reading it that it’s sad when it’s all over.

That’s how I feel today writing the final intro for the 2021 version of The Primer. When Pat Fitzmaurice and I stepped up together this season to take on this massive article each and every week in relief of our dear friend Mike Tagliere, we knew that it was going to be a challenge. All of last year, I got to witness up close and personal the blood, sweat, and tears that Tags would pour into this article. The article that he built from the ground up into a massive offering that hundreds of thousands of people came to rely on each and every week as they set their lineups.

While it was certainly a grind this year, I thoroughly enjoyed – and I know Pat would say the same – being able to carry on our friend’s legacy and continue his amazing work. I know that we didn’t do it to the same level that he did – because no one else can – but it was my joy to be able to bring you all relevant information week in and week out for your fantasy football lineups.

However, we’re now at the conclusion. We’re at the point of the story where things are beginning to wrap up and the end is drawing nearer and nearer. The Primer hasn’t been the same this year without Tags and it never will be the same again without him here on this earth with us. We miss him tremendously. For me personally, the holidays just weren’t the same this year, and I found myself often thinking about him and the impact that he had on my life. I miss him.

There are days where it seems difficult to know what to do or where to go next without him here. But I suppose the best that we can do is try to be the best version of ourselves, right? Tags always called us to something bigger than being great at fantasy football throughout his countless Primer intros, and I thought that would be the most fitting way to end this year. We’re meant for more than just this game that we are all so incredibly passionate about. We’re meant to not be complacent with where we are today, but we’re meant to strive to be better tomorrow. A better friend, a better husband, a better son, a better daughter, a better wife, a better parent, a better neighbor, a better co-worker…whatever the title that you want to place on yourself and your current stage of life, we can’t be complacent. Tags wouldn’t want us to be.

I hope that you have enjoyed this wacky and wild 2021 fantasy football season. Thank you for sticking with us and supporting us as we grieved the loss of our dear friend. We hope that The Primer has continued to be an invaluable tool for you as you worked your way to a fantasy football championship this year!

Go win one for Tags.

If you feel so inclined to donate a portion of your fantasy football championship winnings to the Tagliere Family GoFundMe, you can find that here.

MATCHUP LINKS:

NYG vs. CHI | JAC vs. NE | TB vs. NYJ | ATL vs. BUF | KC vs. CIN | MIA vs. TEN | LV vs. IND | PHI vs. WAS | CAR vs. NO | DEN vs. LAC | HOU vs. SF | LAR vs. BAL | DET vs. SEA | ARI vs. DAL | MIN vs. GB | CLE vs. PIT |

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New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears

Date/Time: Sunday January 2, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Bears -6
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 37 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Bears 21.5, Giants 15.5

Quarterbacks

Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm: Will it be Glennon or Fromm making the start against the Bears this week? Does it matter? Glennon made two less-than-impressive starts in Weeks 13 and 14, then was benched for Fromm after throwing three interceptions in a Week 15 loss to the Cowboys. Fromm started against the Eagles in Week 16 and was benched for Glennon after completing 6 of 17 passes for 25 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. Whichever Giants quarterback makes the start will be the 32nd-ranked quarterback this week.

Andy Dalton: Justin Fields still isn’t ready to come back from an ankle injury, so Dalton has been named the Bears’ Week 17 starter. He’s nothing more than a desperation option in superflex leagues.

Running Backs

Saquon Barkley: This has been a disappointing season for Barkley investors. If you managed to make it this far despite burning an early draft pick on Barkley, you might have to make a hard decision about whether to use him in Week 17. Since returning from an ankle injury in Week 11, Barkley has scored one touchdown and has averaged 63.3 yards from scrimmage per game. He’s provided a decent floor but not much of a ceiling. Even that floor seemed to crumble away last week, however, as Barkley had 15-32-0 rushing and one catch that went for a 4-yard loss. Devontae Booker played 41 snaps last week in the Giants’ 34-10 loss to the Eagles and Barkley played 26 snaps. If the Giants get trucked by the Bears in Chicago this weekend, will Barkley play reduced snaps again? The Giants’ QB situation is a disaster with Daniel Jones out for the season, and their offensive line is a sieve. Barkley’s TD outlook is grim. He’s a high-end RB3 this week, and it’s worth considering other options in season-long leagues.

David Montgomery: Montgomery gives his stakeholders some of the most bankable touch volume in fantasy football. Since coming back from a knee injury in Week 9, he’s averaged 20.9 touches a game. The Bears have leaned on Montgomery even more heavily than usual since the start of December. He’s averaged 24.0 touches and 102.8 yards from scrimmage this month and has been the RB2 in fantasy scoring for December. Consider him a mid-range RB1 this week in a good matchup against the Giants.

Wide Receivers

Kadarius Toney: Toney was back in action last week after missing four games with an oblique injury, posting 4-28-0 against the Eagles on a team-high nine targets. Toney is now dealing with a shoulder injury and has been ruled out for Week 17.

Kenny Golladay: Golladay’s first season with the Giants has been a washout. The Giants’ passing game has been a train wreck, Golladay has dealt with injuries, and he’s struggled to consistently separate from defenders. Golladay hasn’t scored a touchdown all season and hasn’t had more than 53 receiving yards in a game since Week 4. Don’t use him.

Darnell Mooney: Allen Robinson may be back for the Bears this week, but it doesn’t matter. Mooney is the Bears’ No. 1 receiver and has been all season. For fantasy purposes, he’s the only Bears’ receiver who matters. Mooney is the WR27 on the year despite quarterbacking that’s been uneven at best. He has 62-860-3 on the season, but only 11-166-0 over his last four games. Consider Mooney a mid-range WR3 this week.

Tight Ends

Evan Engram: Engram scored the Giants’ lone touchdown last week in a 34-10 loss to the Eagles, and he’s had four receptions in each of his last two games. Still, Engram’s production this year has been spotty at best. He’s averaging 5.9 fantasy points per game (0.5). The Giants’ quarterbacking is terrible, and Engram will be facing a Bears’ defense that’s been tough on tight ends. Engram is the TE20 this week.

Cole Kmet: Kmet has had 10 catches for 120 yards over his last two games, and his target volume has been fairly bankable all season. But Kmet hasn’t scored a touchdown this season, and his longest catch of the season covered just 25 yards. He’s a mid-range TE2 against the Giants.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots

Date/Time: Sunday January 2, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Patriots -15.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 41.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Patriots 28.5, Jaguars 13

Quarterbacks

Trevor Lawrence: Dare we say that Lawrence actually looked pretty good last week in a 26-21 loss to the Jets? He completed 26 of 39 passes for 280 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions. Lawrence averaged a respectable 7.2 yards per pass attempt, and the yardage total was his highest since Week 6. Still, with just one TD pass in his last eight games, Lawrence is unplayable this week in a bad matchup against the Patriots.

Mac Jones: Although Jones’ rookie season has been a resounding success, it’s hard to trust him for fantasy. He’s averaging 13.6 fantasy points per game, which puts him behind the likes of Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield in that category. New England has been run-heavy this season, running on 46% of its offensive snaps. (The league average is 42%.) The Patriots might have the luxury of being even more run-heavy than usual this week since they’re favored by more than two touchdowns at home against the lowly Jaguars. Jones is a low-end QB2 this week.

Running Backs

Dare Ogunbowale: Here’s an unlikely secret weapon for championship week. With James Robinson tearing his Achilles last week, Ogunbowale could be poised for a heavy workload Sunday against the Patriots. The fifth-year veteran out of the University of Wisconsin has mostly been a pass-catching back. His career stats: 66-233-3 rushing and 53-397-0 receiving in 49 games. The Patriots haven’t been that bad a matchup for opposing RBs, and Ogunbowale’s pass-catching ability should make him somewhat immune to a negative game script – which is good because the Jaguars are heavy underdogs. Ogunbowale should be viewed as a high-end RB3 this week. He’s a good bet to get 15 or more touches, but he could very well average less than 4 yards per touch.

Damien Harris: With Rhamondre Stevenson on the COVID-19 list last week, Harris pounded out 18-103-3 on the ground in a 33-21 loss to the Bills. Harris had 28.3 fantasy points to finish as the RB3 in half-point PPR fantasy scoring for the week despite seeing zero targets. Stevenson is back to share the rushing load, but there should be plenty of carries to go around with the Patriots favored by more than two touchdowns in a home game against the 2-13 Jaguars. Consider Harris a mid-range RB2 in half-point PPR formats.

Rhamondre Stevenson: Stevenson spent Week 16 on the COVID-19 list. In Week 15, he seemed poised for a big game against the Colts since Damien Harris was out, but Stevenson finished with 10-36-0 rushing and 1-4-0 receiving. Even with Harris healthy, Stevenson is a good bet to get double-digit carries this week against the Jaguars. He’s had double-digit carries in five of his last six games, and he’s averaged 12.6 carries in the last five games that he and Damien Harris have played together. The Patriots have one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league, and they might be especially run-heavy this week as 15.5-point home favorites in a cold-weather game against the hapless Jaguars. Stevenson lands at RB37 in this week’s rankings.

Wide Receivers

Marvin Jones: Jones had a season-high 13 targets against the Jets last week and finished with 8-74-0. It was Jones’ highest yardage total since Week 6. The Week 16 usage spike doesn’t do much to enhance Jones’ appeal. He’s gone nine games without a touchdown, and he has a skull-and-crossbones matchup against Patriots CB J.C. Jackson this week. Jones is no more than a high-end WR5.

Kendrick Bourne: Bourne had been remarkably efficient on a per-target basis and as a TD scorer for much of the season, but he’s fallen back down to earth in recent weeks, with just 5-77-0 over his last three games. (Granted, one of those games was a wind-blown affair in which the Patriots attempted only three passes.) Consider Bourne a low-end WR4 this week against the Jaguars.

Jakobi Meyers: There’s a safe PPR floor here. Only once this season has Meyers failed to catch at least four passes. But the ceiling with Meyers is pretty low. He’s averaging 48.2 receiving yards per game, he’s exceeded 70 receiving yards only twice this season, and he’s scored one touchdown in 44 career games. Meyers is the WR45 this week against Jacksonville.

Tight Ends

Hunter Henry: Henry’s fantasy value continues to be largely TD-dependent. He’s averaging 32 receiving yards per game and has topped 42 receiving yards only twice all season, but he’s scored nine touchdowns, tying him with Mark Andrews and Dawson Knox for the most among tight ends. The TD potential is enough to make Henry a low-end TE1 for Week 17.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New York Jets

Date/Time: Sunday January 2, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Buccaneers -13
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 45.5 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Buccaneers 29.25, Jets 16.25

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady: A soft Week 17 matchup against the Jets is manna from the heavens for Brady investors. Brady’s marvelous season took a turn for the worse in Week 15 when WR Chris Godwin tore his ACL and WR Mike Evans injured his hamstring. Without his top two wide receivers and facing a relentless pass rush from the Saints, Brady threw for 214 yards in that game with no touchdowns and one interception. Last week, Brady got WR Antonio Brown back from an ankle injury and a suspension but turned in mediocre fantasy numbers, throwing for 232 yards with one TD and no interceptions against the Panthers. Even without Godwin and Evans, Brady should be able to feast on a Jets’ pass defense that ranks 31st in opponent passer rating and 32nd in DVOA. Opposing quarterbacks have completed 69.7% of their passes against the Jets and have averaged 8.2 yards per attempt. Brady is the QB5 this week.

Zach Wilson: Wilson turned in his best fantasy finish of the season last week, scoring 23.2 fantasy points to end up as the QB4. He scored nearly half of those points on one play, a swerving 52-yard TD run in the first quarter of a 26-21 win over the Jaguars. Wilson had only 102 passing yards, but his 91 rushing yards more than doubled his season total. Wilson has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games, and he’s averaging 183 passing yards. He’s the QB28 this week against the Buccaneers.

Running Backs

Ronald Jones: The Buccaneers face the Jets this week in what should be a smash matchup for Jones. The Jets have given up a league-high 27 TD runs, and only the Steelers have yielded more rushing yards. The Jets are allowing 26.7 fantasy points per game to running backs, more than any other team in the league. Starting in place of the injured Leonard Fournette last week, Jones had 20-65-1 rushing and 2-16-0 receiving in the Bucs’ 32-6 win over the Panthers. It wasn’t an especially good performance aside from a 7-yard TD run, but Jones still finished as the RB12 for the week. The Week 17 setup is even better. Jones lands at RB6 in the rankings and is a must-start for championship week.

PRISTINE MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Each week, we’ll pick a matchup of the week, presented by Pristine Auction. For Week 17, Ronald Jones is our Pristine Matchup of the Week.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Earlier this week, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was asked if he thought Vaughn had a future as a third-down back. Arians said he believes Vaughn has a future as a lead back. It was an encouraging endorsement for a young player who’s had trouble gaining traction with the Buccaneers. Vaughn might get a chance to justify Arians’ praise this week when the Bucs face the Jets. Ronald Jones will operate as Tampa Bay’s lead back, but Vaughn could see double-digit carries if the Buccaneers get out to a comfortable lead in a game where they’re heavily favored. Vaughn had 7-70-1 rushing last week against the Panthers, highlighted by a 55-yard TD run in the first quarter. He checks in as the RB40 for Week 17.

Michael Carter: Last week, in his second game back from a high-ankle sprain, Carter ran for a season-high 118 yards in a 26-21 win over the Jaguars. Carter played 74% of the Jets’ offensive snaps and had 18 touches. The rookie has a tough matchup this week against a Buccaneers defense that’s yielding only 14.8 fantasy points per game to running backs, but Carter’s beefy role and his run-catch versatility still make him a high-end RB3 and a viable fantasy option for championship week.

Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown: Brown hadn’t played since Week 6 due to an ankle injury and a suspension for having a fake vaccination card, but he came back with a bang in Week 16. With WR Chris Godwin out for the year with a torn ACL and WR Mike Evans sidelined with a hamstring injury, Brown saw a team-high 15 targets against the Panthers last Sunday and finished with 10-101-0. With Evans expected to be out for at least another week, Brown should be busy again in a favorable matchup against the Jets, whose young cornerbacks could be exposed by one of the best receivers to ever play the game. Brown is the WR6 this week. He’s only $6,100 on DraftKings, making him a must-have in cash games.

Elijah Moore: Moore has missed the last three games with a quad injury. For a while this week, it seemed as if he might have a chance to return against the Buccaneers, but the rookie has been ruled out.

Jamison Crowder: Crowder missed Week 16 with a calf injury and is considered doubtful for Week 17.

Braxton Berrios: With Elijah Moore (quad) and Jamison Crowder (calf) both out, Berrios might be worth a Week 17 dart throw. He’s had 12-115-0 over his last three games and had an electrifying 102-yard kickoff-return touchdown last week.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski: With Buccaneers WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both injured, it was surprising that Gronk didn’t play a bigger role in the Buccaneers’ 32-6 win over the Panthers last week. Over a four-game stretch from Week 12 to Week 15, Gronkowski had no fewer than eight targets in any game. Last Sunday, Antonio Brown had 15 targets for the Bucs, while Gronk was targeted only twice and caught one pass for 23 yards. That trend is unlikely to continue. Gronk is the TE4 this week against the Jets.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Buffalo Bills

Date/Time: Sunday January 2, 1:00pm ET
BettingPros Consensus Spread: Bills -14.5
BettingPros Consensus Over/Under: 44 points
Implied Vegas point totals
: Bills 29.25, Falcons 14.75

Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan: Ryan has gone seven straight games without throwing multiple TD passes. It’s either the longest such drought of his career or tied for the longest, depending on whether you’re willing to count his final six games of 2017 plus his first game of 2018 as a unified streak. Ryan has averaged 199.7 passing yards over those last seven games, finishing with under 200 passing yards four times during that stretch. The Falcons’ passing game has been toothless, and it’s not advisable to roll out Ryan this week against a Buffalo pass defense that’s allowing a league-low 13.4 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Ryan is the QB25 this week.

Josh Allen: A Week 16 matchup against the Patriots had some Allen investors nervous, but he demonstrated why he should never be benched under any circumstances, throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns, with an additional 64 rushing yards for good measure. Allen is the QB1 in fantasy scoring this year, averaging 24.7 fantasy points per game. He gets a much softer matchup this week against a Falcons pass defense that ranks 27th in opponent passer rating and 29th in DVOA. Allen is the overall QB1 for Week 17 and a good DraftKings value even at a premium price ($8,000).

Running Backs

Cordarrelle Patterson: There’s no way around it: The trends for Patterson are worrisome. Through Week 14, Patterson was averaging 15.8 fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR) to rank RB10 in that category. Over the last two weeks, he’s averaged 5.6 fantasy points. A two-game sample size is small, of course, but the change in Patterson’s usage dates back further. Patterson simply hasn’t been used much as a pass-catcher since the start of November. Over his first eight games, he averaged 5.9 targets, 4.8 receptions, and 57.4 receiving yards. In the six games since, Patterson has averaged 3.2 targets, 1.8 receptions, and 10.7 receiving yards. He’s being used almost exclusively as a runner, and he’s not even running that often. Over the last two weeks, Patterson has 18 carries on 62 offensive snaps. Falcons RB Mike Davis has played more snaps than Patterson in four of Atlanta’s last five games. Once a slam-dunk weekly RB1, Patterson is now merely a low-end RB with a rickety floor.

Devin Singletary: Singletary owns the Buffalo backfield now. He’s played a 68% or greater snap share in four of Buffalo’s last five games. The greater usage hasn’t necessarily translated into needle-moving fantasy value, however. Singletary has been the RB19 over that stretch, averaging 10.6 fantasy points per game. Consider him a low-end RB2 this week in a reasonably good matchup against the Falcons.

Wide Receivers

Russell Gage: Over a four-game stretch from Week 12 to Week 15, Gage averaged 9.3 targets, 7.3 receptions, and 86.8 receiving yards, with at least 62 yards in each of those games. Gage let his investors down a bit with a 4-39-0 performance against the Lions in Week 16. But at least he wasn’t held without a catch, as he was in Weeks 8 and 10. Gage gets a nasty matchup this week against a Bills’ pass defense that’s remained stifling even after a season-ending injury to CB Tre’Davious White. The Bills have given up the fewest passing yards of any team in the league (2,597), the fewest TD passes (11), and the fewest passing plays of 20 or more yards (28). Regard Gage as a low-end WR3 for Week 17.

Stefon Diggs: He hasn’t given us as many explosive weeks as he gave us in 2020, but Diggs has been rock-steady this year. He’s had only four weekly finishes in WR1 range, but he’s finished as either a WR1 or WR2 in 10 of 15 games, and he almost never comes up empty. His worst game of the season was a 4-51-0 performance in a Monday-night loss to the Bills when the wind in Buffalo was howling. Diggs is the WR6 this week even though he figures to run some of his routes against Atlanta’s A.J. Terrell, who has become one of the better cover men in the league.

Gabriel Davis: Davis missed Week 16, and even though he’s reportedly unvaccinated, he’ll be back this week now that the NFL has changed its COVID-19 protocols. Davis has scored four touchdowns in his last three games, but acceptable target volume isn’t guaranteed in an offense with so many capable pass catchers. He’s a boom-or-bust WR4.

Cole Beasley: The NFL’s new COVID-19 protocols may give Beasley a chance to play this week, even though he’s unvaccinated. But did Isaiah McKenzie earn more playing time with an 11-125-1 performance last week? If Beasley plays, view him as a low-ceiling WR4 with some low-level appeal in PPR leagues.

Isaiah McKenzie: With Cole Beasley on the COVID-19 last week, McKenzie erupted for 11-125-1 on 12 targets. When Beasley missed Week 17 in 2020, McKenzie had 6-65-2 on nine targets. Now that the NFL is changing its COVID-19 protocols, it’s possible Beasley and Gabriel Davis are both back for the Bills, in which case McKenzie would be unusable in Week 17 for fantasy purposes. If Davis and Beasley remain out, McKenzie would be an interesting WR3 option.

Emmanuel Sanders: Even with WRs Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis both on the COVID-19 list last week, Sanders wasn’t able to break out of the slump he’s been in since Week 10. He had 2-20-0 against the Patriots last week and has been held under 30 receiving yards in six straight games. Sanders hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5. Don’t use him this week.

Tight Ends

Kyle Pitts: The rookie has perked up lately, with 15-240-0 over his last three games. He’s coming off a 6-102-0 performance against the Lions – his first 100-yard game since Week 7. But Pitts has a tough Week 17 matchup against a smothering Buffalo pass defense that’s giving up just 4.6 fantasy points per game to tight ends. He’s the TE10 this week and not a recommended option in DFS

Dawson Knox: It seemed reasonable to think Knox would get a target bump last week with WRs Cole Beasley and Gabriel Davis both on the COVID-19 list. It didn’t happen. Knox saw only three targets Sunday and finished with 2-11-1. His day would have been a bust if not for a touchdown on a 2-yard flip pass from Josh Allen with just 2:30 left as the Bills put the finishing touch on a 33-21 victory. (In fairness, Knox had another TD catch called back on a penalty for an illegal lineman downfield.) The TE6 in fantasy scoring, Knox should still be considered a mid-range TE1 this week vs. the Falcons.

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