As predicted, there are a lot of updates to sift through and even more changes are likely to come as we approach kickoff tomorrow at 1ET and even for 4:30 ET. We're doing our best to updates the projections to reflect what we think will happen with the various playing time situations, but if you disagree with our view on some players, feel free to alter the projections by double clicking on the field you'd like to change. Your changes will reflect in the optimizer when you run your lineups.
-We mentioned the Saints cannot improve their playoff situation, so in a move that shouldn't surprise anyone, Drew Brees will sit in favor of Teddy Bridgewater on Sunday. Bridgewater has previous starting experience in the NFL and should be considered one of the better backup options in the NFL. Should the Saints sit some of their other key starters like Kamara / Ingram / Thomas, then Bridgewater will be playing with largely the same players he's been working with on the second team in practice. If paying down at QB is your prerogative, Bridgewater is one of the better options, although probably not necessary since there are so many other values (see below).
-We didn't talk a whole lot about Jared Goff or Matt Ryan in the initial podcast, but the upon further review, both viable options if you wanted to get off Mahomes for ownership purposes (we don't recommend it, but it's a good MME strategy). Goff hasn't played well recently, but with Todd Gurley already ruled out (more on that below), the Rams offense will be without their top playmaker so Goff will likely play a large role in a game that could either result in a first round bye or a wild card round game. Ryan faces a Tampa defense we've picked on all season long and as long as Julio plays, he and Julio form a great way to stack a reasonably priced quarterback with an elite receiver.
-Aaron Rodgers ownership at 4% is way too low given his price and exeptional matchup, not to mention his home game. This game is an under-the-radar shootout and would make sense to get some exposure to a game stack here.
-We addressed that uncertainty surrounding the high end running backs in the podcast, but we probably didn't emphasize it nearly enough. There are very real questions regarding the Cowvoys desire to play their starters in this game and while Jerry Jones has already said they will play, there's also a pretty good chance they do not play the entire game. With that said, Rod Smith is pretty much the only viable backup on the Cowboys depth chart, so there aren't a long list of other options here. Nonetheless, Zeke is risky, but Smith really can't be trusted either. He's GPP viable, but certainly not a salary relief play in cash games.
-We talked about the Christian McCaffrey heavy workload in Week 16, but the team has come out and said they might take it easier on McCaffrey in the final meaningless game of the season. He's at risk for losing snaps.
-Melvin Gordon will be a tantalizing play because while the Chargers still have a shot at overtaking the Chiefs, they play at the same time and the Chiefs have a far softer matchup against Oakland. If Kansas City gets out to a big lead in the second half, there is some risk that Gordon could sit in favor of Ekeler, etc.
-The one back in the high tier that should see a big workload is Saquon Barkley, who doesn't have anything to play for but could technically overtake Ezekiel Elliott for the rushing title if he rushes for 238 yards. It's definitely a long shot, but it's in play if Zeke sits. Sits they are in the same game, it makes this narrative slightly more plausible for the teams to track.
-With Todd Gurley already ruled out, CJ Anderson emerges as one of the safest value plays of the week at an otherwise questionable position. Vegas expects the Rams to put up a ton of points and as home favorites, the game script will be heavily in Anderson's favor.
-If the Saints indeed sit both Alvin Kamara (who we expect to see a lighter load) and Mark Ingram (it's possible they let him play), then Dwayne Washington will see the bulk of carries for the Saints. Hopefully news will break to further clarify this situation.
-Another option we didn't talk about but is actually getting the highest projected ownership of the week is Royce Freeman who is expected to take over the lead role for the Broncos without Phillip Lindsay. His ownership is exceptionally high and as more values emerges due to news flow, it will probably come down, but he's a minimum priced punt play with solid volume. He's probably slightly better on FanDuel since Devontae Booker may steal some targets out of the backfield.
-James Conner is trending towards playing after practicing all week. We're still concerned about a split in workload with Jaylen Samuel, but Samuel is no longer in consideration as a play this week.
-We mentioned Ted Ginn Jr and Keith Kirkwood, but didn't explicitly talk about Tre'Quan Smith, who could actually serve as the top receiver of the week for the Saints.
-Antonio Brown had to undergo further testing on his knee on Friday after failing to practice all week. He's a game time decision. If he misses, Juju Smith-Schuster becomes an elite play in a must win game for the Steelers against a poor Bengals defense. Brown could break the record held by Marvin Harrison for the most receptions in a nine-year span, if he can catch 9 passes per Steelers Depot. In the same article, they also talk about how Brown can set the record for the most touchdowns in a season if he hauls in two.
-We highly recommend getting exposure to one high volume wide receiver this week, regardless of matchup. Those high volume players include DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown/Juju Smith-Schuster, and Davante Adams.
-It looks like DeSean Jackson will miss Sunday's game, so that means Chris Godwin would instantly emerge as a viable option without his biggest nemesis (not really - but he is far more productive without DJax). Adam Humphries could also benefit. As we mentioned in the podcast, neither player is especially cheap, but it's an interesting avenue to explore if stacking this game.
-With the now projected heavy ownership on Royce Freeman, both Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are interesting leverage plays on the high ownership for the running back. Neither will be highly owned.
-Both Travis Kelce and George Kittle can set the single season yardage records for tight ends. Kelce needs 54 yards, while Kittle needs 100 yards. Both are narratives to track and could be ones to take advantage of with all the values present at the running back position this week.
-Zach Ertz can also be included in this top tier since the Eagles are fighting for the right to stay alive in the playoff hunt. He's a tremendous play on Draftkings where his heavy volume gets rewarded.
Our podcast page is officially up and running in the members section! Click here for a direct link and for an even deeper ananlyis than the summary notes below.
0:00 - Welcome
1:02 - Playoff Scenarios
8:27 - Quarterbacks
19:24 - Running Backs
28:35 - Wide Receivers
38:59 - Tight Ends
47:01 - Defense
While we encourage you to listen to the podcast to get the full benefit of hearing the discussion and analysis between our experts, below is a written summary of the highlights. Click here for a link to the optimizer and projections.
The most important aspect of playing Week 17 DFS is knowing the playoff implications from each of the teams that your player's play for. Luckily, we only have three teams that have made the playoffs AND the outcome of games will have little to no impact to their playoff seeding. In other words, rostering players from these three games is rather risky since players may be rested to avoid injuries heading into the playoffs, etc. These teams include New Orleans, Seattle and Dallas.
Here are the other playoff scenarios to watch:
2018 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 17
New Orleans Saints - NFC South division title and home-field advantage
Los Angeles Rams - NFC West division title
Chicago Bears - NFC North division title
Dallas Cowboys - NFC East division title
Seattle Seahawks - playoff berth
LOS ANGELES RAMS (12-3) (vs. San Francisco (4-11), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Los Angeles clinches a first-round bye with:
- LAR win or tie OR
- CHI loss or tie
CHICAGO BEARS (11-4) (at Minnesota (8-6-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Chicago clinches a first-round bye with:
- CHI win + LAR loss
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-6-1) (vs. Chicago (11-4), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Minnesota clinches a playoff berth with:
- MIN win or tie OR
- PHI loss or tie
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-7) (at Washington (7-8), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, FOX)
Philadelphia clinches a playoff berth with:
- PHI win + MIN loss
Kansas City Chiefs - Playoff berth
Los Angeles Chargers - Playoff berth
New England Patriots - AFC East division title
Houston Texans - Playoff berth
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (11-4) (vs. Oakland (4-11), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
Kansas City clinches AFC West division title and home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
- KC win OR
- KC tie + LAC loss or tie OR
- LAC loss + NE loss or tie + HOU loss or tie OR
- LAC loss + NE loss or tie + KC clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over HOU
Kansas City clinches AFC West division title and a first-round bye with:
- LAC loss + NE loss or tie OR
- LAC loss + HOU loss or tie
- LAC loss + KC clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over HOU
Kansas City clinches AFC West division title with:
- LAC loss OR
- KC tie + LAC tie
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-5) (vs. New York Jets (4-11), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)
New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
- NE win + KC loss + LAC loss
New England clinches a first-round bye with:
- NE win OR
- NE tie + HOU loss or tie OR
- BAL loss or tie + HOU loss + TEN loss or tie
HOUSTON TEXANS (10-5) (vs. Jacksonville (5-10), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS)
Houston clinches AFC South division title and home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
- HOU win + NE loss or tie + KC loss + LAC loss + HOU clinches a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over KC
Houston clinches AFC South division title and a first-round bye with:
- HOU win + NE loss or tie OR
- HOU win + KC loss + LAC loss + HOU clinches a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over KC OR
- HOU tie + NE loss OR
- IND-TEN tie + NE loss + BAL win + HOU clinches a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over BAL
Houston clinches AFC South division title with:
- HOU win or tie OR
- IND-TEN tie
BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-6) (vs. Cleveland (7-7-1), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
Baltimore clinches AFC North division title and a first-round bye with:
- BAL win + NE loss + HOU loss + IND-TEN does not end in a tie OR
- BAL win + NE loss + HOU loss + BAL clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over HOU
Baltimore clinches AFC North division title with:
- BAL win OR
- PIT loss OR
- BAL tie + PIT tie
Baltimore clinches a playoff berth with:
- BAL tie + IND-TEN tie
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (11-4) (at Denver (6-9), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
Los Angeles clinches AFC West division title and home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:
- LAC win + KC loss or tie OR
- LAC tie + KC loss
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-6) (at Tennessee (9-6), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)
Indianapolis clinches AFC South division title with:
- IND win + HOU loss
Indianapolis clinches a playoff berth with:
- IND win OR
- IND tie + PIT loss or tie OR
- IND tie + BAL loss
TENNESSEE TITANS (9-6) (vs. Indianapolis (9-6), Sunday night, 8:20 PM ET, NBC)
Tennessee clinches AFC South division title and first-round bye with:
- TEN win + HOU loss + NE loss + BAL loss or tie
Tennessee clinches AFC South division title with:
- TEN win + HOU loss
Tennessee clinches a playoff berth with:
- TEN win
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-6-1) (vs. Cincinnati (6-9), Sunday, 4:25 PM ET, CBS)
Pittsburgh clinches AFC North division title with:
- PIT win + BAL loss or tie OR
- PIT tie + BAL loss
Pittsburgh clinches a playoff berth with:
- PIT win + IND-TEN tie
The Oakland defense has gotten hit with the reputation of being one of the worst defenses in the league. While that's still predominately true, they have made strides over the last 8 weeks and now rank 12th in passing yards allowed and 9th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Some of this makes sense in the context of expected game flow, especially when your add in that they rank 26th in rushing yards allowed and 29th in passing touchdowns allowed. When opposing teams have large leads against the Raiders, they tend to run the ball more to chew more clock, making it unnecessary to throw the ball, except potentially around the end zone. Four of the five losses the Raiders have suffered over the last 8 weeks have been by two scores or more - fitting into this narrative. While you can write this stat off as being due to game flow, it's important to realize the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes are just as likely to fall "victim" to a similar type of expected game flow. However, even if the Chiefs get out to a big lead, they have a lot on the line in this game and it's a must-win for them to keep their playoff hunt as favorable as possible. As a result, Mahomes not only ranks as our top scoring option on DraftkIngs, but he's also the top value at the position to an ideal matchup and opportunity.
On DraftKings, the best alternative value option is Nick Mullens, who sees his price all the way down to $4,700 after failing to score a touchdown in Week 16. Nonetheless, at that price point he only needs to throw for 250 yards and 1 touchdown to return 3x value, which is something he has managed to do in all but two games this year. Additionally, his matchup against the Rams pits him up against the 20th ranked defense in terms of passing yards allowed and 31st in passing touchdowns. The Rams can clinch a first round bye with either a Bears loss or a win of their own and both games will be happening simultaneously, so they should be playing with full steam for most of this game, something that should indirectly benefit Mullens in terms of volume.
Both Ben Roethlisberger and Nick Foles must win to make the playoffs and both face defenses that rank in the second half of the league. With both teams dealing with injuries at the running back position, both teams have relied heavily on the passing game in recent weeks with the Eagles throwing the ball 70% of the time in Week 16 and the Steelers throwing it an eye-popping 75%. Both are high volume plays, but while Big Ben is the safer of the two playing at home, he's just $100 less than Mahomes and priced $1,100 more than Foles. Utilmately your decision will come down to preference between Roethlisberger and Mahome, with Ben having slightly more motivation, but the decision between Ben and Foles will come down more to how you want to construct the rest of your lineups.
In tournaments, taking some shots on some players in good spots, but nothing specific to play for include Aaron Rodgers, Jameis Winston, and Josh Allen. Rodgers projects as our second highest scoring option of the week after exploding against the Jets in Week 16. Rodgers faces a depleted Lions secondary that could see Slay cause trouble for Davante Adams, but otherwise should struggle to contain other of the other Green Bay options. Rodgers and his other receivers will make for nice under-owned stacks in tournaments where lots of the "alive" playoff teams will be heavily represented. Likewise, Jameis Winston is also in a favorable situation against Atlanta, except he's out to prove to the Buccaneers that he's worth retaining beyond this season. Winston has thrown for just 1 touchdown over the last 2 weeks, but this week's matchup against Atlanta is a homefield reboot of the best game of his 2018 where he threw for 395 yards and 4 touchdowns. Finally, Josh Allen is an interesting play because while his actual statline didn't reflect it, he was mere inches away from 299 passing yards and 2 touchdowns instead if 217 yards and 1 touchdown had rookie WR Robert Foster reeled in a 82 yard touchdown pass that got lost in the sun. Allen remains a MUCH more interesting quarterback in fantasy than real life, but there's certainly upside in Week 17, particularly since Miami has struggle to contain opponent's rushing attacks all season long.
Some other quarterbacks that have playoff implications on the line, but are generally not the high-upside GPP winning players we would target in tournamnets include Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. The appeal is that they are both HOFers or borderline HOFers who will do whatever it takes to win their games. There's plenty of volume risk with both.
There's plenty of risk surrounding the expensive running backs this week, but the same two that we liked in Week 16 pop back into the analysis for Week 17. Both Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott are once again in play this week. Elliott has had back-to-back "disappointing" games, but in reality, he simply hasn't scored a touchdown, but if he had, he would have had 25 touches and 25.8 points and 23 touches and 21.9 points, respectively. As for McCaffrey, he predictably saw a huge workload with Newton out, seeing 33 touches. If he plays (there's some talk he may be held out), another big workload could be expected, but a difficult matchup against the Saints excellent run defense would be a drag on his efficiency. Saquon Barkley is an incredible value at $8,200 after seeing 35 rushing attempts and 17 targets over the last 2 games, but also averaged just 2.1 yards per carried. In cash games, we like the strategy of sticking around the mid-tier to seek values in cash games with several players in nice situations.
Damien Williams, Sony Michel and Jaylen Samuels (if Conner is out) headline our cash game choices, largely because of their respective team's drive to improve their playoff outlook, but also because each of their opponents have struggled more at defending against the run than the pass, meaning their teams will likely try to exploit this weakness with their running back. Williams continues to be a "plug-and-value" source of value at running back with the Chiefs feeding him copious amounts of touches. Michel is the riskiest of the group due to the way the Patriots handle their committee of backs, but Michel was utterly dominant in Week 16 and the Jets were just diced by Jamaal Williams. Michel also carries the lowest price of the bunch. Finally, Samuels is in the cash game consideration at $6,800, if Conner is out. Should James Conner, who practiced in full on Wednesday, be active for this game, neither he nor Samuels can be safely played in anything but tournaments due to the snap share risk.
Tevin Coleman's team doesn't have anything to play for, but Coleman is set to become a free agent after the season and will be auditioning to prospective teams to prove he can be an every down back. Coleman has run better than last couple of weeks and this week draws an extremely favorable matchup against Tampa Bay. At $4,700, he's another strong value at the position, but lacks the upside in tournaments, meaning he would be cash game only.
In tournaments, Melvin Gordon is an interesting play because he faces an extremely tough matchup, but should also play a growing role in his second game back in an important game for the Chargers.
Jamaal Williams rates as a nice value and a way to get exposure to a Packers offense that's projected with a high game total, but a tough matchup against Detroit and DT Damon Harrison dampers some of his luster. Nonetheless, he's a high volume play and a way to access one of the expensive backs.
Another high volume play, especially on FanDuel, is Adrian Peterson who has seen 21 and 27 touches each of the last two games. Philadelphia has been beatable by the run over the last 8 weeks, ranking 19th in rushing yards allowed, while 28th in rushing TDs.
Kenneth Dixon is another interesting tournament play against a Cleveland defense that has had stretches where they had struggled against the run and other games where they have been highly efficient. The biggest issue with Dixon is the fact he is only seeing around 10 touches per game, so he needs to score a touchdown in order to hit value.
There are several high end receivers that are attractive options this week, headlined by Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill. Brown ended any questions swirling about his status as the best receiver in football last week with his 14-catch, 19-target performance against the Saints. Juju Smith-Schuster is a worthy consolation prize, however, and as we mentioned earlier, the Steelers threw the ball 75% of the time last week so both are high usage upside plays. They face arguably As for Tyreek Hill, he also draws a strong matchup against Oakland and will likely be featured in the passing attack led by the best quarterback in fantasy, who makes for a natural stack pairing. One thing to consider is that the Raiders, while in general are not good at defending the pass, having rated #2 in DVOA against WR1 this season. If stacking the Chiefs, this isn't enough to get us off Hill, but if not, use that as a tiebreaker against other possible options. Finally, the last option in the high tier is Davante Adams, who will be covered by CB Darius Slay, but his target volume has been incredible that he has largely been the entire Packers offense over the last several weeks. Even with slightly less efficiency, he has a strong chance for a touchdown.
There's also a strong mid-tier this week with Kenny Golladay, Alshon Jeffery, Robert Woods and Julian Edelman all fitting in the category as WR1 producers with strong expected production. They all lack the target upside of the tier above, but the extra $2-3K of savings will be important this week. For Golladay, he faces GB who ranks 24th against WR1, Jeffery faces a Washington defense that ranks 14th in against WR1 and finally, Woods faces a SF defense that ranks 31st against slot receivers. Julian Edelman has averaged 11 targets over his last 3 games and has scored touchdowns in 2 of those 3. The Jets rank 21st in DVOA against slot receivers.
Robby Anderson remains priced in the mid-tier despite back-to-back strong games and signs that he and rookie Sam Darnold are building a strong chemistry with each other. The Patriots have a tendency to take away their opponent's best player and Anderson would fit that description, but given their 18th DVOA ranking against opposing WRs, Anderson remains an alluring mid-tier option. Sterling Shepard is priced around the same price point and finally showed strong signs of life in Week 16 producing on his increased target volume for the first time since Odell Beckham Jr's injury.
Marquise Goodwin is priced below $4K on DraftKings and saw the highest number of targets he has seen all year in Week 16 against Chicago
In tournaments, the Vikings receivers are both intriguing stacking options with Kirk Cousins in a must-win game. They're both priced down and while the Bears defense is scary, they do play better at home than on the road.
Julio Jones, if he plays, will be a great tournament target in what 's sure to be a high scoring affair in Atlanta. Jones will be an injury risk, but he has 7 touchdowns over his last 8 games and Tampa Bay's defense ranks 26th against opposing WR1s.
Another interesting avenue to take is targeting the players from playoff teams that have been injured because they will likely want to shake off the rust. Players that fit in this category include Sammy Watkins and Ted Ginn Jr. In fact, if the Saints do sit their players, Ginn Jr could operate as the Saints top receiver. In that same vein, if the Saints rest their starters, Keith Kirkwood may also see some starts.
Other viable alternatives in tournaments that have unstable floors, but nice ceilings include Brandin Cook, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen.
Travis Kelce is on a tier by himself at the tight end position this week against the Oakland Raiders, who rank dead last in DVOA against tight ends. Kelce is extremely expensive, but can produce like a WR1, so when you compare the pricing on wide receivers to Kelce, it's a much more reasonable price to pay.
If Odell Beckham Jr misses again, Evan Engram will once again be in for a busy day as is a nice way to get a safe floor without spending all the way up for Kelce / Ertz.
From a value perspective, Jimmy Graham and Austin Hooper are both priced in the mid-tier but play as secondary options on teams with high implied team totals. While neither have shown great production in recent weeks, the Lions rank 31st in DVOA against tight ends, while the Buccaneers rank 29th in DVOA against tight ends. Both are nice ways to get exposure to these offenses.
Elsewhere, Chris Herndon is another value choice and has emerged as the Jets second receiving option behind Robby Anderson. He could also see additional work if the Patriots succeed at taking Anderson out of the game. As a pure punt, Jeremy Sprinkle may see more work with both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis banged up.
In tournaments, George Kittle and Zach Ertz always provide tremendously high ceilings, while taking a stab on CJ Uzomah against the 30th ranked Pittsburgh defense vs tight end is another route you can take.
At defense, both the Bears and the Saints stand out as sub-$3K plays that you can leverage, if you have enough money. The Saints defense could have some risk if they choose to sit some starters, but the Bears defense should be good to go full force in a game they need to win to earn a bye.
One nice value on DraftKings is the Jaguars at $2,300 who face the sack-happy Texans who are riddled with injuries throughout their offense. It's a road game, but the Jaguars remain the most talented group in this range.
In the mid-tier, the Chiefs at $2,600 seem like a safe bet against the offensively challenged Raiders in an important game for the Chiefs at home in Arrowhead, one of the toughest places to play in the NFL.
On near minimum price on both FanDuel and Draftkings, the Giants could be in play if the Dallas Cowboys choose to bench their starters this week. Stay tuned for the weekend update.