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10 Risky & Safe Starts: Week 17 (2023 Fantasy Football)

10 Risky & Safe Starts: Week 17 (2023 Fantasy Football)

We made it, folks. It is Championship Weekend, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you have a team in a game where it means something or possibly everything this weekend. For one last time this season, these are the riskiest and safest starts heading into Week 17. If you’ve enjoyed this column and found it useful, you can always find me on Twitter at @NFL_Tstrack.

10 Risky & Safe Starts: Week 17

Risky Starts

Antonio Gibson (RB – WAS) vs Niners

The Commanders are slowly creeping up the 2024 Draft order after losing six straight games. Washington would have the third overall pick as things stand with potentially both teams ahead of them considering not taking a quarterback. In Week 16, Gibson saw nine carries and one reception, which was one less than the 11 touches that rookie Chris Rodriguez received. The Commanders are in evaluation mode, and it makes sense that they see Rodriguez being a guy they’d want to involve more. Even if Brian Robinson misses out, how much success can Gibson have against one of the league’s best-run defenses, the San Francisco 49ers?

Tony Pollard (RB – DAL) vs Lions

After a disappointing first half of the season, Tony Pollard turned things around over the second half, posting four games with over 16 points. However, since Week 15, Pollard has been back to his single-digit ways, scoring no more than 7.70 points. Pollard has now scored less than 10 PPR points in seven games this year and will take on a Lions defense allowing a league-low 16.2 points per game to running backs and a league-low 58 rushing yards per game. Pollard might find a way to get home but it’s a risky play through and through.

Kyler Murray (QB – ARI) vs Eagles

Since Murray’s successful return from his 2022 ACL tear, he’s posted three games of 20 or more points and three games below 18. Murray is posting career lows in completion rate at 62%, compared to his career average of 66%. We can speculate on that being an after-effect of his injury or put it down to a lack of top-tier options. Still, one way or the other it’s clear that Murray isn’t as productive as he once was and now faces one of the best defensive lines in the league who needs to stay hot after their win against the Giants. The Eagles have been friendly to quarterbacks in fantasy this year, but this looks like a game they could dominate.

Stefon Diggs (WR – BUF) vs Patriots

It’s now been nine games since Stefon Diggs had a 100-yard receiving game, and Diggs has delivered single-digit performances in five of the last six games at a point where fantasy managers need him the most. Diggs has had under 35 yards in four of the last six games and has only finished as a top-40 wide receiver once in that spell, with the Bills finding greater success focusing on the running game in recent weeks. The Patriots have slowed down WR1s all season, allowing just one game over 16.9 PPR points since Week 9. Diggs is a touchdown-or-bust option this week.

Davante Adams (WR – LV) vs Colts

The Colts have been strong against wide receivers this year, allowing the sixth-fewest points to the position and giving up only two games of 16 or more points since Week 8. Since the Raiders benched Jimmy Garoppolo, Davante Adams has been very boom or bust with three games below sixty yards and only two touchdowns. The Raiders have an outside chance at the playoffs and need to win, but after having a single catch for four yards in Week 16 can you trust Adams?

Safe Starts

Matthew Stafford (QB – LAR) vs Giants

Over the last five games, Matthew Stafford has put it all together, and if the season were any longer we might start to hear MVP whispers involving his name. Earlier on in the season, Stafford was playing well but not getting the passing touchdowns. That hasn’t been an issue lately with multiple touchdowns in all of Stafford’s last five games, seeing returns of at least 18 points in all of those games. The Giants have allowed both Derek Carr and Jalen Hurts to score 20 points or more against them in consecutive games, and Stafford should again prove too much for them.

Justin Jefferson (WR – MIN) vs Packers

With the sad news that TJ Hockenson tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 comes a greater opportunity for Justin Jefferson, who has seen 10 targets in each of his last two games since returning from injured reserve. The Packers’ defense has been struggling lately, giving up their worst performances of the year to Chris Godwin (25.5 points) in Week 15 and DJ Chark (27.8 points) in Week 16. If you drafted Justin Jefferson you’ve probably needed some luck to make the final, but if you do have him on your roster, you’re feeling pretty good right now.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR – SF) vs Commanders

It’s been a tricky year for Brandon Aiyuk with him undeniably playing excellently, but with only four touchdowns since Week 1. Aiyuk has struggled to find his way into the top 20 wide receivers, with only three top 20 finishes all year. Aiyuk, however, comes into this game hot off an impressive performance against the Ravens and now faces a Commanders team allowing the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers, along with the second-most yards per game and the second-highest yards per reception. The Commanders are stronger against players in the slot than out wide, which should play perfectly into Aiyuk’s hands.

Travis Etienne (RB – JAC) vs Panthers

Since Week 8 Travis Etienne has scored two touchdowns, a notable drop-off from the eight Etienne had scored before that point. Fortunately for Etienne, the Panthers allow a league-high 1.3 rushing touchdowns per game to running backs, with no other team over 1.0. Week after week the Panthers get taken to town on the ground and with Trevor Lawrence dealing with a litany of injuries every week, leaning on the ground game would make sense for whichever Jaguars quarterback is playing in Week 17.

Travis Kelce (TE – KC) vs Bengals

It’s now been four weeks since Travis Kelce finished inside the top five tight ends, and on the season Kelce has as many finishes outside the top five as he does within it. Fortunately for Kelce, he faces a Bengals team allowing the second-most fantasy points to the position, allowing six different tight ends to finish inside the top 10 at the position since Week 8 alone. Kelce and the Chiefs simply have to get right before the playoffs, and this could provide the opportunity to do so.

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