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Week 17 Matchups - Fantasy Football Game Breakdowns (Part 1)


Welcome to our Week 17 matchups analysis and starts/sits column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every matchup from every Sunday game to help you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. We'll also be updating this as injury reports come in so check back often.

This article will cover the early slate of games, beginning at 1 PM ET on Sunday. Also, check out our late-game matchups analysis.

Check back here each week to get advice for your toughest start/sit decisions and take a look at our consensus rankings each week. Find me on Twitter @pfunk00 for more insight and help to your start/sit questions.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

Matchups Analysis - 1:00 PM ET Games

It's the final week of regular season football for 2018 and those who are still playing in fantasy leagues are vying for a championship. With no games on Thursday, Saturday or Monday this week, there are seven games in the early slate and nine in the later slate. Set those lineups in time by analyzing each matchup below to gain the best advantage!

 

Falcons at Buccaneers

Matchups We Love:

Jameis Winston (QB, TB)
We've seen a more refined Winston since he regained the starting job (again) back in Week 11. Over the last six games, he's thrown just three INT compared to nine TD. It hasn't resulted in a winning record, but the Bucs have more problems than instability at quarterback. This week, it may not matter if the Bucs win but Winston is playing for a future contract now that his four-year deal is done. Expect Winston to throw it often and put up big numbers against a Falcons defense that is fourth-worst against the QB this year, even worse than Tampa's own defense.

Brian Hill (RB, ATL)
While Tevin Coleman could play, he may not get a full workload in as he returns from a groin injury. If Coleman is held out, Hill should see a career-high in carries against a defense yielding 150 rushing yards per game over the last eight contests. There's little track record to draw on but Hill ran for 115 last week on just eight carries and looks to be a homerun threat. He was already a strong flex play this week with all the other running backs sitting out, but if Coleman is ruled out then Hill is a high-end RB2.

Mike Evans (WR, TB)
Evans is ending the season on a high note with 99 yards per game over the last three and that should continue against a team he's always had success against, averaging 5.6 receptions and 83.3 yards in nine games. Evans doesn't figure to miss any snaps this game so keep him in all lineups.

Adam Humphries / Chris Godwin / DeSean Jackson (WR, TB)
In the first matchup with Atlanta back in Week 6, all three of these receivers found some degree of success; Humphries came away with 82 yards, Jackson 77, and Godwin posted 56 yards and a touchdown. This could very well be the last game for D-Jax in Tampa, so he may go out with a bang or a whimper, ever remaining the boom-bust play. Last year, Godwin enjoyed the best game of his career in the season finale, but that might not necessarily mean anything. Humphries is the safest, if least exciting of this trio, all of which can be considered as WR3/flex plays this week.

Austin Hooper (TE, ATL)
Hooper has been a total dud for three weeks running, not scoring or surpassing 37 yards in any of those games. He gets a reprieve, facing a Tampa Bay defense allowing the seventh-most receiving yards to tight ends. Given the nature of the position and possibility for some Falcons starters to rest, Hooper should see an uptick in targets.

Matchups We Hate:

Matt Ryan (QB, ATL)
The most underreported stat of the second half is Tampa's vastly improved pass defense. Six of the last seven opponents have failed to even reach 200 passing yards. This is not a great matchup, despite outward appearances. We also don't know how much of Ryan we'll see, since the Falcons have nothing to play for and no reason to risk their franchise QB getting hurt in the second half of Week 17.

Other Matchups:

Tevin Coleman (RB, ATL)
The matchup is great (see above) but Coleman left last week's game early and is questionable for this matchup. He is a risky start that would be hard to bench if he plays.

Peyton Barber (RB, TB)
At this point, we can't blame lack of opportunity for Barber's mediocre numbers any longer. Barber has averaged 17 carries and nearly two catches per game in the last six games since Winston was re-inserted as starter but is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry in that stretch. Four touchdowns have kept his value afloat, fortunately. This is a great matchup on paper, except that we know he won't see 20+ carries (he hasn't done that all year) and without a touchdown may fail to deliver the type of numbers fantasy owners need.

Julio Jones (WR, ATL)
It would be easy to see the Falcons shut Jones down with the various ailments to his hip and ribs. He hasn't been ruled out just yet though, so Jones owners must keep him slotted in the lineup. Just be prepared to pull the trigger on Plan B before gametime.

Calvin Ridley / Mohamed Sanu (WR, ATL)
Based of the previously mentioned scenarios, it's possible Ridley and Sanu see more targets if Julio Jones sits. It's also possible some of those targets come from Matt Schaub. Nevertheless, each receiver gets a bump up to the low-end WR2 tier if Jones doesn't play.

Cameron Brate (TE, TB)
Brate fell off the map at the worst possible time for fantasy owners, combining for three catches and 17 yards with no TD in the last two weeks. His ceiling barely scratches double-digit fantasy points and that's if he reaches the end zone. That said, he's got as good a chance as any TE outside the top-five to score so he can't be dismissed altogether.

 

Cowboys at Giants

Matchups We Love:

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL)
The Giants allow the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs and Elliott brings a league-high 1,434 rushing yards into the season's final contest. The Cowboys have clinched the NFC East but you know Zeke wants that rushing title. Ride him as you have all season with confidence.

Saquon Barkley (RB, NYG)
This game could be the Saquon show. Rather than subjecting a nearly 38-year-old Manning to more sacks, the team will likely let Barkley loose to see what he can do. The Cowboys do rank as the sixth-best defense vs RBs but remember they were just eviscerated by Marlon Mack to the tune of 139 yards and two TD in Week 15 and play far better at home. Barkley is a solid top-five fantasy RB this week.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)
The biggest beneficiary of Beckham sitting out is always Engram. He was a non-factor in fantasy leagues all season until Week 14, not coincidentally when OBJ started missing time with injury. Engram has averaged 5.7 receptions and 79.7 yards the last three games and could deliver similar numbers in Week 17, keeping him in the TE1 tier.

Matchups We Hate:

Eli Manning (QB, NYG)
Odell Beckham won't be on the field (again), the team has nothing to play for, and the Cowboys present a stiff test defensively. Manning can't be trusted even if he does play all four quarters.

Cole Beasley / Michael Gallup (WR, DAL)
The Giants have done a good job limiting damage by wideouts, allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Dealing Eli Apple seems to have had a positive effect on the secondary so far. Both Gallup and Beasley are marginal flex plays at best.

Other Matchups:

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL)
A rushing score salvaged an otherwise disappointing game in Week 16 when fantasy owners expected big things out of Prescott against the Bucs. The Giants are a middle-of-the-road defense against which Prescott posted very boring numbers back in Week 2 (160 yds, one TD, 45 rush yds). He shouldn't jump into starting lineups this week.

Amari Cooper (WR, DAL)
Boom or bust. That was Cooper in Oakland and it remains the case in Dallas. He's had two enormous games as a Cowboy but the last two games have been flops when fantasy owners needed him most. Cooper will be shadowed by Janoris Jenkins on Sunday, which isn't a kiss of death but also isn't an easy matchup for him. Cooper doesn't need to be benched but it wouldn't be surprising if he left us wanting more again.

Sterling Shepard / Corey Coleman / Bennie Fowler (WR, NYG)
OBJ is out, so there are more targets to go around for the other Giants receivers. At least that's the conventional wisdom that fooled some into buying Coleman as a sleeper. Neither he, Fowler or any other Giants receivers has fantasy value. Shepard has been either great or disappointing when Beckham has been out. He came down with 113 yards last week but only 37 the week before. This is a tough matchup that could have both teams featuring the run, so keep Shepard in mind as a WR3 but temper expectations.

 

Panthers at Saints

Matchups We Love:

Tre'Quan Smith / Keith Kirkwood (WR, NO)
Wouldn't it be fitting if Smith ended his rookie year with a huge game after being mostly invisible over the last four weeks? The Saints clearly don't trust him in important situations yet, as both his big games came in blowout victories. This game isn't important for them and many starters could be sitting out, so bet on Smith seeing more targets than usual. Kirkwood's ceiling is far lower but he could be a sneaky play in full PPR leagues.

Matchups We Hate:

Kyle Allen (QB, CAR)
You might not want to start the Panthers' third-string quarterback against one of the hottest defenses in the league. Carolina has no choice, but fantasy owners do.

Drew Brees (QB, NO)
A look back at Brees' history of Week 17 performances is utterly confusing. In some instances, he played less than a quarter before being pulled, which is the fear heading into this matchup. In other cases, he put up huge games when it seemingly wasn't even needed. With home field advantage locked up and Brees now barely two weeks away from celebrating the big 4-0 birthday, it would be a miracle if he saw the field more enough to throw it more than a handful of times.

Alvin Kamara / Mark Ingram (RB, NO)
Like Brees, it's likely both running backs get a breather in this one, making them risky starts. This is why you should play fantasy finals in Week 16.

Curtis Samuel / D.J. Moore / Jarius Wright (WR, CAR)
We simply can't recommend any receiver catching passes from a QB who hadn't thrown a pass in an NFL game until last week. Moore has struggled without Cam Newton, catching two balls each of the last two weeks. Samuel saw an impressive 13 targets last game but it only resulted in 41 yards. Wright is way too deep down the list to consider in most weeks - that is amplified in this situation.

Benjamin Watson (TE, NO)
The Panthers allow the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends but Watson has been a complete non-factor in fantasy over the second half of the season. Watson hasn't scored or reached 30 yards in a game since Week 9. You can do better.

Other Matchups:

Teddy Bridgewater (QB, NO)
While Teddy B could be an intriguing streamer, we don't know how much he'll play. Brees could see one series or one quarter. We also don't know if Taysom Hill will see more time behind center than usual. Bridgewater is best left for DFS tournaments as a punt play.

Christian McCaffrey (RB, CAR)
There is a real chance that McCaffrey doesn't play in Week 17, so those who'd been riding him through the fantasy playoffs may be without their RB1. If he plays at all, he must be in fantasy lineups.

Michael Thomas (WR, NO)
While his quarterback won't log a full game's worth of snaps, Thomas could see at least a half of action. That could be enough to take advantage of CB James Bradberry who, while improved from last year, isn't going to slow down Thomas much. He posted modest stats against Carolina two weeks ago (seven catches, 49 yards) but is always a threat to put up huge numbers, especially in the final game against a team packing it in for the season.

Ted Ginn (WR, NO)
Ginn played last week and looked sharp, coming away with 74 yards on five receptions. He is still limited in practice and may not be out there for a meaningless game as the team prepares for the playoffs.

Ian Thomas (TE, CAR)
Often the tight end or slot receiver becomes a safety valve for inexperienced quarterbacks. Thomas served that role to some extent last week, catching four of five targets for 45 yards and a touchdown as he was the primary red zone target for Taylor Heinicke. This week he could get similar opportunities, although the risk is real that this Carolina offense stalls out before reaching the red zone. He is a marginal TE1.

 

Jets at Patriots

Matchups We Love:

Tom Brady (QB, NE)
You might think Brady would get some rest in the final game of the season but that's unlikely. That was what we all expected last year and Brady wound up playing the whole game, throwing it 37 times against this same Jets team despite the fact he could have easily rested at some point. The Patriots are playing for a bye and should keep the foot on the gas pedal all game long. Brady should be a top-10 QB facing a Jets team that allows the seventh-most passing yards.

Sony Michel (RB, NE)
The best game of Michel's rookie season came in Week 12 against these very Jets when he ran for 133 yards. He should get plenty of run and figures to be a low-end RB1 in Week 17.

Julian Edelman (WR, NE)
Edelman has been a rock-solid WR2 in fantasy nearly every week since returning from suspension. The loss of Josh Gordon just amplifies his importance in this offense. Edelman went for 84 yards and a TD the first time these teams met and he could easily replicate those numbers.

Chris Herndon IV (TE, NYJ)
The rookie has gotten stronger as the year comes to a close, catching six passes for 82 yards and a TD last week. The matchup is slightly above average but game script could work in Herndon's favor, as the Jets have been forced to be more pass-happy lately thanks to a multitude of injuries. The loss of Quincy Enunwa and probable absence of Jermaine Kearse this week leave Herndon as one of the few targets that Darnold has a strong rapport with.

Matchups We Hate:

James White (RB, NE)
White's usage has been lacking recently, leaving him as little more than a touchdown-dependent flex play over the last few weeks. We know the team is saving him for the playoffs when he will again be a focal point of the offense. The Jets don't give up many receiving yards to running backs either, so it might be best to keep him benched.

Chris Hogan (WR, NE)
Hopefully you didn't fall into the trap of thinking Hogan would see more action in the absence of Josh Gordon. Hogan didn't see a single target in Week 16, marking the fourth time in the last seven games that he went without a reception. He is not an important part of this offense and shouldn't be counted on in fantasy. Bonus fact: in 10 career games against the Jets, Hogan has zero touchdowns.

Robby Anderson (WR, NYJ)
Anderson has been on fire lately, helping many a fantasy owner to a championship last week with nine catches, 140 yards, and a touchdown. He gets an extremely negative WR/CB matchup this game, however, as Stephon Gilmore is expected to shadow him. Anderson was held to 22 yards in Week 12 when these teams met, so it could be a screeching halt to his fortunate run.

Other Matchups:

Cordarrelle Patterson (RB/WR, NE)
Patterson has become the wild card on this team, playing all over and popping the occasional big play. He can't be counted on for consistent touches but those in search of a cheap boom play might take a chance here.

Elijah McGuire (RB, NYJ)
McGuire has been a nice pickup for fantasy owners down the stretch, mainly on the strength of four touchdowns in the last three games. Take away those scores and he's a marginal RB3, averaging 79.7 scrimmage yards and three catches over those three games. He should get enough touches to keep him in the RB2 conversation but be warned that the Pats have allowed the third-fewest rushing touchdowns to running backs this season.

Rob Gronkowski (TE, NE)
Is this Gronk's last regular season game as a Patriot? We'll let the local papers speculate about that. For now, his matchup in Week 17 is less than ideal, as the Jets have allowed 34.8 yards per game and five total touchdowns to tight ends this year. One of those TDs came at the hands of Gronk, however, and he's always a threat to score which makes him hard to bench since there are so few better options at TE.

 

Dolphins at Bills

Matchups We Love:

None

Matchups We Hate:

Ryan Tannehill (QB, MIA)
This could be Tannehill's final game as a Dolphin, if you believe recent reports that the team may be ready to move on from him this offseason. He's never been much of a fantasy asset anyway but a matchup against the team that allows the fewest fantasy PPG to quarterbacks should guarantee his tenure as Miami's signal caller ends in lackluster fashion.

Danny Amendola / Devante Parker / Kenny Stills (WR, MIA)
This trio has a ton of talent yet each has underachieved all season. The Bills are one of the toughest pass defenses around, eliminating any hope that a Dolphins receiver might end on a high note.

Other Matchups:

Josh Allen (QB, BUF)
Allen is finding out he won't be free to run up and down the field when things break down, as teams are adjusting to his scrambling style. He had put up 99+ rushing yards in three straight games, only to drop down to 46 rushing yards over the last two weeks combined. The Dolphins allow the eighth-most rushing yards to QBs this year but the Pats are worse in that area and just held Allen to 30 yards last week while picking him off twice. The Dolphins are second in the league in interceptions, increasing the chance Allen hands it over at least once. He had a nice game in his first matchup with the Dolphins but is uncertain to take this team by surprise again, making him more of a high-end QB2.

LeSean McCoy (RB, BUF)
Shady hasn't been a factor lately due to injuries but could start in Week 17 with a whole offseason to rest afterward. He only managed 52 yards against the Fins in Week 13 and is always a threat to aggravate one of his many nagging body parts mid-game so consider him a flex play if you don't have a more reliable option.

Kalen Ballage / Kenyan Drake (RB, MIA)
Coach Adam Gase seems to have an aversion to allowing his most talented players actually play. Ballage rolled up 123 yards on eight carries in Week 15 after Frank Gore was injured, only to see four carries the next week in a must-win situation. With nothing to lose in Week 17, it would only make sense to see what Ballage can do, which is why we can't assume Gase will follow through with that logic. Drake has been hamstrung by his coach all year, averaging 10.5 touches per game. In a tough road matchup that could feature inclement weather, both running backs are hard to trust.

Zay Jones / Robert Foster / Isaiah McKenzie (WR, BUF)
All three receivers face plus WR/CB matchups this week, as the Dolphins are still without top cornerback Xavien Howard. Not all of these players can have a good game by typical fantasy standards, given the type of offense they play in. Jones scored twice against the Dolphins four weeks ago and has seen the most targets of all these receivers over the last few weeks, making him the best option. Foster has a high ceiling but is dependent on the long ball, which can't be relied on. McKenzie could bring owners in full PPR leagues a few points but hasn't scored a touchdown this year and is best left on benches.

 

Jaguars at Texans

Matchups We Love:

None

Matchups We Hate:

Blake Bortles / Cody Kessler (QB, JAX)
It really doesn't matter who plays quarterback for Jacksonville - you don't want any part of it. The Texans won't roll over and let the Jags put up points on them and neither QB has been able to account for even 200 passing yards since Week 10.

Leonard Fournette (RB, JAX)
Fournette is trending toward a DNP in Week 17 after missing practice on Thursday. Regardless, he's barely been effective since the team ditched their offensive coordinator and switched quarterbacks. Fournette hasn't run for more than 46 yards the last three games, winding down an altogether disappointing season. Even if the Jags don't keep him on the shelf, fantasy owners should. Carlos Hyde isn't a viable pivot, as he's averaged 3.67 Y/A with no touchdowns since joining the Jaguars.

Deandre Carter / Vyncint Smith (WR, HOU)
Normally, these might be intriguing sleepers given the opportunity to start due to injuries across the receiver corps. Facing Jacksonville, there is far too much risk to trust either of these players.

Dede Westbrook / Keelan Cole (WR, JAX)
Westbrook is probably the only Jags receiver that is on fantasy rosters at this point in the season. He gets a tough matchup with Kareem Jackson on the other side and managed just 17 yards the first time these teams met, back before Jacksonville fell apart at the seams. Cole can be ignored as usual.

Other Matchups:

Deshaun Watson (QB, HOU)
The Texans have plenty to play for in terms of playoff seeding, as they could finish anywhere between 1-6 in the AFC. Watson has been hot, he's far better at home, and he plays a team that has been inconsistent lately, even on defense. Don't let the matchup with the Jags scare you off since circumstances are very different than Week 7 when Watson struggled to 139 yards against this team. Not having Demaryius Thomas or Keke Coutee hurts his chances to be a top fantasy finisher though, so play at your own risk.

Lamar Miller / D'Onta Foreman (RB, HOU)
Miller's status is still up in the air after missing last week's game and taking just three carries in Week 15. He could play in limited capacity, which handicaps his fantasy value naturally. Miller owners might want to pivot to a waiver wire option like Brian Hill or Jeff Wilson if possible. There's also Foreman, who looked healthy last week, even if he was ineffective as a runner. Foreman could see more work if Miller doesn't play but the matchup isn't ideal, as Jacksonville yields the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU)
Hopkins will be shadowed by Jalen Ramsey, as he was back in Week 7. Nuk is matchup-proof, as he showed by bringing in a touchdown pass that game. With Demaryius Thomas out, Hopkins will just get more targets. He is a must-start and should retain WR1 value even against Jacksonville.

Donte Moncrief (WR, JAX)
If you really want to tempt fate by starting a Jacksonville WR, Moncrief has the best odds of succeeding. He was the leading receiver in Week 7 when these teams played, catching seven of 10 targets for 76 yards. He also gets the best WR/CB matchup, facing former Jag Aaron Colvin.

 

Lions at Packers

Matchups We Love:

Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB)
Think Rodgers isn't motivated by the media, fans, and former players questioning his leadership? Rodgers came through with an epic performance for those who started him in playoff matchups last week, throwing for 442 yards and two touchdowns while running for two more scores. That marked his best game of the season, but barely. Rodgers put up identical passing yardage in Week 5 against the Lions, along with three TD. While we can't necessarily expect 400+ yards, the precedent is there.

Kenny Golladay (WR, DET)
Golladay will keep getting a ton of targets because, frankly, the Lions have nobody else worth throwing the ball to. He put up 98 yards and a TD the first time facing Green Bay, back when he was the WR3 on Detroit. Since Week 9, Golladay averages 9.4 targets, five receptions, and 73.3 yards per game. He should sustain that value once again.

Davante Adams (WR, GB)
Like his QB, Adams also had his second-best game of the season in the first matchup with Detroit. He has been a weekly WR1 and should put up big numbers one more time this season.

Matchups We Hate:

Matthew Stafford (QB, DET)
Here are some alarming stats that show how quickly Stafford fell off the fantasy radar once Golden Tate was traded after Week 8. In the last eight games, Stafford has thrown a total of five touchdowns and five interceptions, averaging less than 200 yards per game. Obviously, Marvin Jones going on IR has a lot to do with that too. Stafford's ceiling is minimal, even against an average defense.

Jimmy Graham (TE, GB)
A disappointing season comes to a close with a mediocre matchup. It may not matter, as Graham is averaging less than three catches and 30 yards per game since the team's bye back in Week 7. Fantasy owners should have moved on from Graham long ago.

Other Matchups:

LeGarrette Blount / Zach Zenner (RB, DET)
If we could have our way, Blount would ride the pine and Zenner would get a chance to turn his 5.1 yards per carry average into a fully productive game. Sadly, Matt Patricia seems to enjoy mixing up long runs with Blount's two yards and a cloud of dust just to keep the defense on their toes. Zenner could put together a decent game given the chance, but there's no guarantee that will happen. Either could turn a short goal-line run into a score, so standard-league owners can consider them as desperation plays.

Jamaal Williams (RB, GB)
Detroit had clamped down on run defense big time since acquiring Damon Harrison but have slipped a bit recently, allowing back-t0-back 100+ yard rushing games. Williams had perhaps his best all-around game as a pro last week and still has the backfield to himself, so it would be foolish to sit him even if the matchup isn't quite as good this time around.

Equanimeous St. Brown / Marquez Valdes-Scantling / Jake Kumerow (WR, GB)
The key as to which Packers receiver might fit into your WR4/flex spot is St. Brown's health. He remains in the concussion protocol and may not play in Week 17. If that is the case, both MVS and Kumerow make for intriguing deep-league options, with Valdes-Scantling holding the obvious edge due to his past performances.

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