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Week 17 NFL Matchups Analysis: Start/Sit for Fantasy Football Playoffs

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsAt the tail end of the football season in Week 17, one of the hardest things to figure out is whether a team will choose to sit or start the stars in advance of a postseason berth (or lack thereof). For those reading, please make sure to check the latest news on your players before your games start to make sure you're not caught in a situation where a player you assumed would be playing is on the bench.

Below, you will find our Week 17 NFL matchups & fantasy football start/sit analysis, which should help you prepare your lineups to win this week and in your playoff matchups, if they're still going on.  It’s essential to analyze the weekly NFL matchups to find lineup sleepers and potential waiver wire gems, while also avoiding those players who may turn out to be busts.


Browns @ Ravens

Matchups We Love

Justin Forsett, RB, Ravens

Even though the Browns have experienced a renaissance this season, recording one of the best years in recent team history, one of their major weaknesses has been their inability to stop the run. Ranking last in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (as in, they've allowed the most), Forsett's own renaissance will trump that of the Browns.

Matchups We Hate

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, Steve Smith, WR, Ravens and Torrey Smith, WR, Ravens

On the flip side, Cleveland's pass defense has had a fairly easy time mugging receivers. Torrey is the safer play, since it's much more likely that Steve Smith draws Joe Haden in coverage, but I truly expect this game to turn on Forsett's legs. At least Baltimore is playing at home, so maybe that might help their chances if you're stuck playing one of these guys.

Isaiah Crowell, RB, Browns and Terrance West, RB, Browns

The Ravens run defense will finish the season allowing one of the fewest yards per carry and yards per game averages in the league. It's recommended to look elsewhere, but if you're forced to stick to one of these two RBs, it looks like Crowell is the one to pick.

Notable Players

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns Jordan Cameron, TE, Browns and Whoever Is Starting At QB For The Browns

Gordon and Cameron are facing a team with a completely empty defensive backfield. Through injuries and sheer poor play, everyone on this defense has struggled in the backend, and as a result, Gordon finds himself in a dream matchup. Unfortunately, though, the Cleveland QB situation murky. Manziel showed that he's not exactly ready for Sunday football, yet. Hoyer is limited by a shoulder injury. So now, either UDFA rookie Connor Shaw or the recently signed Tyler Thigpen will be starting this week. I don't doubt that whoever gets the nod will try to put together a good game, but playing Gordon is leaving your finals in the hands of faith, because the floor goes really low here.

Ravens Defense

If the Browns aren't starting Brian Hoyer (and maybe even if they are), I'm almost certainly buying into the Ravens defense this week.

Cowboys @ Redskins

Matchups We Love

Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys, Demarco Murray, RB, Cowboys and Dez Bryant, WR Cowboys

The latest news report on the Cowboys triplets has them all as starting this Sunday. As long as that holds true, theres absolutely no way the Redskins defense can handle the three of them. I know I've said that before and eaten my words, but on paper, I wouldn't bet on Washington being able to stop this team twice.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys

Witten's in a different spot because unlike the others, who face good matchups, Witten's facing a great matchup. Coby Fleener had his incredible 30-point game against the Redskins defense. Larry Donnell had his three-touchdown game against the Redskins defense. See where I'm heading here? Witten's got big-time potential, as long as the starters are kept in.

Matchups We Hate

Nothing's out of play.

Notable Players

The Redskins Offense

Piling up this entire group of players, including names like Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, is justified because their fates all lie in RG3's hands. The Cowboys defense is middling-- beatable, but somewhat competent--- rendering all the Redskins offensive guys in play. As of last week, it looked like RG3 was back and ready to put on a Week 17 show, but inconsistent QBs have these moments. The entirety of the Redskins offense is playable, but there's substantial risk involved, as well as substantial upside.

Colts @ Titans

Matchups We Love

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts and T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts

The Colts offense looked dreadful without Hilton, who will probably point to this game when his contract negotiations come up for why he deserves elite WR money. The Titans pass defense is amongst the worst in the league-- just recently they've given up a 100-yard game to the dreadful Jets. Current reports have Pagano saying he wants to keep the team playing so they go into the playoffs with momentum, so that should (hopefully) keep the Colts driving down the field all game.

Matchups We Hate

Kendall Wright, WR, Titans and Nate Washington, WR, Titans

The strongest part of the Colts coverage is their CBs, specifically Vontae Davis, who's set to shut out either one of the WRs that faces him. On top of that, Charlie Whitehurst is the planned starter, and his weaknesses are glaring, so there's a limited ceiling already in place.

Notable Players

Dan "Boom" Herron, RB, Colts

I hope you remain the starter next year Herron-- I love a nickname. The Titans aren't very good on the ground, but the Colts aren't entirely committed to the ground game, either. Herron's got a good low-RB2 floor, so he's definitely playable.

Delanie "The Most Surprising TE1 of the Year" Walker, TE, Titans

Walker's facing the easiest of the Colts coverage, and he has had a pretty decent track record of success with Whitehurst at the helm. He's still in play as a TE2 for Week 17.

Saints @ Buccaneers

A note here: Sean Payton has not been scared to bench players for the final week of the season. Don't be surprised if he does so here.

Matchups We Love

Jimmy Graham, TE, Saints

The Buccaneers have allowed about 60 yards per game to tight ends, and those tight ends aren't nearly as good as Graham. If he's playing, he's a confident start.

Drew Brees, QB, Saints

As long as he's active, he's a QB1.

Matchups We Hate

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints

The Buccaneers run defense really turned a corner at some point in the season, and is now allowing fewer than four yards per carry. They've gotten better, they're playing at home and they face off against their hated rivals in the Saints-- Ingram is going to face an uphill battle to reach RB2 value.

Notable Players

Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers and Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers

After some hot weeks from both of these receivers, they've died down in the last few games, as the Buccaneers offense has struggled. Still, the Saints defense is horrible, so it's likely they each see at least eight targets, and there's a good chance they'll be able to make something of the opportunity.

Doug Martin, RB, Buccaneers

A quick jump back into the conversation for Martin ended with a hush against the Packers. Although such a short-lived time back in the light hasn't likely brought Martin into actual starting territory, the Saints matchup is a huge plus, and for those desperate or in deeper leagues, he has some value as a starter.

Eagles @ Giants

Matchups We Love

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants

The Eagles can't cover someone like Beckham. There's just no way. Nuh-uh. Impossible. If they do, I'm eating a shoe. Beckham's a clear WR1.

Matchups We Hate

Eagles Defense and Giants Defense

Not a game I expect to go lightly, even with both teams playing for jack squat.

Notable Players

Andre Williams, RB, Giants

As of right now, it seems like Rashad Jennings might be sitting this one out. As a result, Williams, of all players, probably has the most to play for this game. With a chance to show that he should be the Giants #1 back moving into next season, he might run his hardest of the year. Philadelphia does have a pretty good run defense, led by breakout Fletcher Cox, but motivation might beat the matchup here.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles and Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles

Both players have their upside capped with Mark Sanchez at the helm. It's hard to rely on either guy to have big returns, but they'll have WR3 floors if they're playing. The Giants passing defense is very beatable.

Zach Ertz, TE, Eagles

One of the favorites during the preseason here at RotoBaller, Ertz finally had his breakout, way too late. For anyone who might have to start Ertz, the Giants don't have the coverage to stop TEs-- they're allowing 59 yards per game, and don't have a single positively graded linebacker or safety in pass coverage. If you're stuck rolling the dice on Ertz, another big game could be in the works.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Eagles and Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Who would have expected to see these two QBs as viable fantasy starters? As QB1 fantasy starters at that? Two QBs who've had their careers marked by inconsistency challenged everyone's perception of them this year, as they both managed to put together some great fantasy efforts, and great on-the-field efforts, too. Like Andre Williams, I expect Sanchez's motivation to be the driving factor in this game, as he's a FA at the end of the season and will need more to pad his resume for his next potential gig. For Eli, he's facing one of the worst passing defenses in the league. They're both on QB1 radar.

Bills @ Patriots

As of right now, the Patriots have secured a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. There's a chance some starters rest.

Matchups We Love

No one's in a positive matchup.

Matchups We Hate

Every Single Receiver Not Named Rob Gronkowski

The Bills and Patriots have been two of the top defenses this season when it comes to stopping the pass. The Bills are third in fewest yards per game allowed, and the Patriots have Darrelle Revis taking out the only receiver on the Bills worth starting.

Notable Players

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots and Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

If Brady and Gronkowski are active and playing the whole game, I don't care what the matchup is. Brady doesn't care either. He's going to take that as more motivation to put up a three-TD game, just because he can. Play both with confidence, if reports don't indicate that they'll be limited.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills and C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills

The Patriots are beatable by ground, but the Bills might not feel the need to run Jackson as much, given his age and injury this season. As a result, it's hard to tell you that he's worth starting-- reports don't currently indicate anything one way or the other. If Jackson's in, Spiller's out of your lineups, and if Jackson's out, Spiller should be active, as he'll be using this game as the final line of his resume for the upcoming free agency period.

Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots, LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots and Jonas Gray, RB, Patriots

With the first seed clinched, I'm expecting Blount to be given a rest. Gray and Vereen will be the likely workload carriers here, and the Bills run defense has really let up after being among the best all season long. Vereen looks to be the guy to benefit the most, but whenever this happens, it seems like he's always the one that doesn't show up. Still, I'm sticking with the process and endorsing Vereen as the safest play, with a RB3 floor.

Jaguars @ Texans

Matchups We Love

Marqise Lee, WR, Jaguars

This is a really risky play. But given how many former studs are injured and potentially sitting, Lee becomes a great random big week candidate. The Texans secondary has gotten worse throughout the season-- they're currently allowing the ninth-most yards per game through the air. Lee's emerged as the best passing option on the Jags.  How good the Jaguars passing offense will actually be this week is a mystery, but Lee and Bortles still have something to play for, since they're trying to prove their value for next year's roster.

Matchups We Hate

No one is out of play, unless he isn't playing.

Notable Players

Arian Foster, RB, Texans, Andre Johnson, WR, Texans, and DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans

The Texans still have a chance to get into the playoffs this week, although a very small one, so they'll still be playing to win. As such, all three of these guys are in play, and while the matchups range from good to neutral, the turning point will be in the performance of Case Keenum. Game flow should dictate that Foster will receive the bulk of the work, so he should be the safest play of this group. Johnson and Hopkins are a huge punt for your fantasy team, since Keenum's as likely to pass for 90 yards as he is to pass for 200, but at least the Jaguars secondary and pass rush isn't particularly scary.

Chargers @ Chiefs

Matchups We Love

Brandon Oliver, RB, Chargers

Going with the assumption that Ryan Mathews will be out on Sunday, Oliver has the potential to put in some work. Both teams are still in the playoff running, so they'll be plenty motivated to play hard, and Oliver is by far the best back remaining. The Chiefs have struggled to contain the ground game, and they're now allowing 4.7 yards per carry and the fifth-most yards per game on the ground.

Matchups We Hate

Dwayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs

Expectations are that he'll see Brandon Flowers all game. On top of that, he doesn't get targeted.  Avoid.

Notable Players

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs

Of all the players I've been wrong about this season, Charles has been the most painful. He's proved to be the most elite of fantasy RBs, completely ignoring  matchup limitations all season long and putting up crazy numbers despite playing on a weak squad (22nd in the league for total offense). Those points will likely still come this week, despite last week's blunder.

Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers and Dontrelle Inman, WR, Chargers

I'm going to put both receiver's yardage floors at 60 yards. The Chiefs suspiciously allow the fifth-most yards per game to opposing WR2s, while still allowing more than league average to opposing WR1s. Both have some upside, but realistically Rivers likes to spread the ball around. You'll be hoping for a touchdown from either, but if you're desperate, there isn't necessarily a reason to shy away. Inman, specifically, is an interesting player, since Floyd's role didn't expand with the loss of Keenan Allen (who's likely out another week). He's a former CFL star and only 25 years old, and he showed bright flashes during the preseason.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers

In Week 17, you're just looking for players who are motivated, since many of them aren't anymore. With a playoff on the line, I'd believe in Philip Rivers to pull off a QB1 week. The Chiefs passing defense is weak and the Chiefs passing rush is strong, but Rivers has a huge motivation to play well.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers

With Keenan Allen likely out, Gates becomes the de facto #1 target on this offense. The Chiefs aren't giving up a lot of yards to TEs (in fact, they're well below league average), and though their coverage grades for linebackers/safeties on PFF are decent, the volume Gates can expect should even out the numbers. He's also only one touchdown away from 100 career TDs, and you'd expect the coaching will try to get the ball to him.