Breakdowns

Fantasy Football Week 17 Starts and Sits

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It’s time for our Week 16 Starts and Sits! Remember, we’ll do our best to predict outcomes based on what’s given to us. That’s diving into the numbers, digging through the juicy matchups, examining trends, watching the film, and collecting data that should lean towards certain players being better starts than others. While it won’t always play out that way, fantasy is a game of what’s most “likely” to happen and we need to attack it that way.

Every week we try to make some of your decision-making easier with what we’ve collected, but ultimately it’s your call on what you want to do with your team. I’ll try to avoid the slam-dunk stud plays and focus more on players you’re teetering with putting in your starting lineups. We’re going to discuss Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends on each week’s slate, and I hope that we can win you the week!

Now, let’s win those fantasy championships.

Quarterbacks to Start:

Jalen Hurts | Philadelphia Eagles: The Philadelphia Eagles at 8-7 still have some slim chances of making the playoffs this season. Down starting running back Miles Sanders (hand) and potentially their back up in Jordan Howard (stinger), this is a team that’s going to need its quarterback to step up over the last two games. Jalen Hurts hasn’t looked good recently, as he’s scored under 20 fantasy points in two of the last three games. The QB6 on the season is set to take on a bigger rushing load this week presumably going against a team truly reeling.

That team is the Washington Football Team, who have given up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over the last four weeks and the most overall this season. Hurts scored 28.6 against this same team just two weeks ago and just gave up 48 points to the position last week against Dallas. Hurts should have a nice bounce-back game in this one.

Kirk Cousins | Minnesota Vikings: I get the primetime Kirk Cousins narrative and it could be difficult to trust him in your fantasy championship. Cousins has been tough to trust, as he has failed to score more than 17.3 fantasy points in three straight games. I still like rolling with Cousins here as he’s scored 20 or more fantasy points in seven games this season and has a nice matchup against the Packers.

The Packers have given up an average of 29.8 fantasy points over Weeks 11 through 15 to opposing quarterbacks, including Cousins 25.2 in Week 11. In eight career games vs the Packers, Cousins has 18 touchdowns and 5 interceptions with a 110 QB rating. I like him as a sneaky start this week.

Trey Lance | San Francisco 49ers: This here is the one that’s becoming the talk of Week 17. Trey Lance is set to potentially step in as the 49ers starting quarterback with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo having a torn UCL in his thumb on his throwing hand. As of this writing, Jimmy G still has a chance to go but if not, it should be the Lance show. In Lance’s only start this season he completed 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with an interception. While that’s not too impressive, he was able to add 89 rushing yards and was stopped on a designed quarterback run on the 1-yard line in that game. That managed to still net Lance over 15 fantasy points. In the only other game Lance saw action this season, he went 9 of 18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns, while adding seven carries for another 41 yards.

The Texans haven’t actually been bad against quarterbacks this season, having given up only 17.7 fantasy points per game to the position this season and only 14.9 over the last four games. Keep in mind the last four opponents of the Colts, Seahawks, Jaguars, and Chargers don’t have a quarterback of Lance’s magnitude when it comes to rushing the football, which I expect to be the real difference here. Lance’s rushing floor makes him a QB1 this week and he should produce in a must-win game for the 49ers.

Quarterback to Sit:

Derek Carr | Las Vegas Raiders: As a team, you have to be impressed with the Raiders, who have been able to squeak out wins against the Browns and Broncos in consecutive weeks. In fantasy football, however, this offense has not been as impressive as we’d like it to be. That starts with the quarterback in Derek Carr who has only topped 250 passing once in his last four games, has not thrown for more than one touchdown since Week 10, and has an 8:7 touchdown to interception ratio since Week 9. This has led to Carr scoring more than 20 fantasy points just once since Week 7. Since Week 13 Derek Carr is QB23.

It doesn’t get much easier for Carr as he’s set to face the Indianapolis Colts, who over the last four games have given up under 15 fantasy points per game to the position. This defense has also shut down Josh Allen, Tom Brady, and Kyler Murray to the tune of five touchdowns and five interceptions over the three games between them, with none of them throwing more than two touchdowns. Still missing some of his best pass catchers from the beginning of the season and in a matchup where I expect the Colts to bleed the clock with Jonathan Taylor, look elsewhere for your quarterback.

Running Backs to Start:

Rashaad Penny | Seattle Seahawks: Rashaad Penny is ready for you to nickname him Rashaad  Dollar with the amount of money he should be able to win you this week in your fantasy championship. Penny has recorded double-digit carries over the last four games and has looked incredible over the last three games especially. In his most recent game against the Bears, Penny recorded 17 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown. Two times in the last three games he’s running for at least 135 yards and scored at least 19.5 fantasy points. He also is the RB1 in standard scoring and the RB2 in PPR over the last three games.

Penny faces the Detroit Lions who have given up 20 or more PPR points to running backs in three of their last six games, including 43 to the Denver Broncos in Week 14. The Lions are giving up 26.5 fantasy points to opposing running backs on average this season and just over 25 over the last four games. The Lions have also allowed five total touchdowns over their last four games to running backs and allowed a running back to record a touchdown or gain at least 100 total yards in six of their last eight. Penny could be a major piece of what wins you a title.

Damien Harris | New England Patriots: This is a guy that early in the season would have never been in this article, but with the emergence of Rhamondre Stevenson, became more of a flex play over recent weeks. If you started Harris in Week 16, congratulations as his 18 carries for 103 yards and three-touchdown performance probably rocketed you into the finals. Harris has been on fire of late, scoring at least 17 fantasy points in back-to-back games, and has given you a great floor as he’s scored in double-digits in all but one game since Week 6. Add to that the fact that Harris has five rushing touchdowns in his last three games and has scored at least once in every game he’s played since Week 5 outside of Week 11.

Rhamondre Stevenson returning from COVID will be something we need to monitor but the matchup is exciting for the Patriots and Harris as they face the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Jacksonville may only be giving up 22.6 fantasy points per game to running backs this season, they have surrendered an average of 123.5 rushing yards per game, which ranks 24th in the NFL. Not just that, the Jaguars have allowed a running back to get in the endzone or reach 100 rushing yards on the ground in three of the last four games. I’m firing up Harris even if Stevenson is active.

Darrel Williams | Kansas City Chiefs: As it stands right now, Clyde Edwards-Helaire is banged up and considered week-to-week. His chances of playing this Sunday look bleak which opens the door for our guy Darrel Williams. Williams last week in a part-time role recorded 11 carries for 55 yards and caught all three of his targets for another 30 yards. The biggest part of this is that his main competition for touches in Derrick Gore played under 30 percent of the snaps. We’ve seen the production from Williams in games where Edwards-Helaire misses as Fantasypros’ Pat Fitzmaurice notes, wherein the five games that Edwards-Helaire was inactive, “Williams recorded  69-244-2 rushing and 24-226-1 receiving, averaging 15.4 fantasy points per game (0.5 PPR) over that stretch.” In those games, Williams scored at least 16 PPR points in three of them and scored double-digits in four of them.

While his matchup this week against the Bengals doesn’t seem too promising (14th against opposing running backs allowing 23.5 per game and 4th-worst over the last four weeks at 16.3 per game), the Bengals allowed Devonta Freeman to score in Week 16 and both Broncos running backs each recorded 50+ yard rushing days. Williams has receiving upside in his profile, along with 15-20 touches seemingly guaranteed. You should feel good about plugging in Darrel Williams as a high-end flex or low-end RB2 this week.

Running Back to Sit:

Rex Burkhead | Houston Texans: Burkhead is coming off a career game that saw him record 22 carries for 149 yards and two rushing touchdowns Sunday against the Chargers. Many may look at this performance and will want to chase his production but definitely reconsider. I can even understand how it’s more tempting considering that his lone competition in David Johnson is currently on the COVID list and is questionable for Sunday. Let’s take a look at the facts. Before this game, Burkhead hadn’t rushed for more than 41 yards or scored more than 13.8 PPR points in a game this season. He also faced the Los Angeles Chargers who allow the fifth-most points per game to the position and have allowed over 450 yards and four touchdowns to running backs over the last month.

I don’t sense the same success or game script for the Texans against the 49ers this week. The Niners have been stingy against the run and allow 22.5 points per game to the position (19th). In fact, they’ve been so stingy lately, running backs over the last three games against the Niners have scored nine, four, and 12 fantasy points. In a one-week must-win game, I wouldn’t rely on Burkhead.

BONUS: D’Onta Foreman | Tennessee Titans: I get the appeal. Foreman has put up double-digit PPR points in three of the last four games and would’ve been four of four had it not been for a touchdown called back against the 49ers. He’s had the bulk of the work in the Derrick Henry role, getting 63 carries over the last four games and two scores in his last three.

His opponent is the problem. The Dolphins have not allowed a running back to score a TD since Week 7. RB’s have only scored double-digit fantasy points as a team twice since Week 8. That’s against CMC, Alvin Kamara, and Saquon Barkley. Barkley in Week 13 was the only RB in that time period to score more than 9 PPR points. They’ve only allowed 4 20+ yard runs since Week 5. The Dolphins have Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler both ranked in the top 7 Interior Lineman according to PFF and have really stuffed the run. Leave him on your bench.

Wide Receivers to Start:

K.J. Osborn | Minnesota Vikings: With Adam Thielen set to miss the rest of the season after undergoing ankle surgery, Osborn is ready to step in and shine once again for your fantasy team. Osborn has scored at least 14.7 PPR points in three of his last four games, which coincides with Thielen not being on the field. When Osborn gets the targets, the production is there as in the seven games where he has received at least six targets this season, he’s scored at least 14 PPR points in six of those games.

Osborn will face the Packers, in which he did not do much in the first meeting where he caught one ball on four targets for 19 yards, but expect a better result here. Osborn has a shot to receive six or more targets easily in this one and the Vikings will most likely be facing a negative game script to where they’ll need to throw. Arguably the top cornerback in the league Jaire Alexander is expected to be activated for this game and will most likely be tasked with covering Justin Jefferson, which should leave Osborn with a much friendlier matchup. Osborn should be a worthy flex play.

Odell Beckham Jr. | Los Angeles Rams: This pick starts with the quarterback throwing Beckham the ball who before his last two games, had put up at least 23 fantasy points in four-point per passing touchdown leagues three games in a row. I expect him to bounce back partly because of the defense which I’ll get to in a second. We know Kupp will get his, but Beckham should be a part of this game and eat as well. Beckham has scored double-digit PPR points in four of his last five games, scoring four touchdowns over that stretch as one of the guys Stafford consistently looks at in the red zone. Beckham is also getting work outside the red zone as he’s averaged 6.5 targets over his last five with two of those games he reached 77 or more receiving yards as well and has seemed to emerge as the true #2 to Cooper Kupp.

The Rams now face a Ravens’ defense that in all honesty seems like they’re suiting up practice squad players at this point. The Ravens have allowed Derek Carr, Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, and Ben Roethlisberger to all score over 20 fantasy points against this defense. In the last two games alone, they’ve given up 75 combined points to quarterbacks between Aaron Rodgers and Joe Burrow in six-point per passing touchdown leagues. That’s obviously correlated well for wide receivers as wide receivers have scored eight touchdowns over the last four games with three of those games being multi-score games. That includes last week’s 22 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns between Tee Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tyler Boyd. The Baltimore Ravens have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers over the last four weeks and fifth-most on the season at almost 38 per game. Beckham should have a very solid week and you’ll be glad you played him.

Christian Kirk | Arizona Cardinals: Since DeAndre Hopkins went down (2 games), Kirk has 16 receptions on 21 targets for 142 yards and a score. He also has scored at least 11.6 PPR points in his last three games. In games Kirk has scored a touchdown, he’s averaged 20.4 fantasy points per game and seems due to having only scored once in his last eight games. He’s been the go-to target for Kyler Murray which should bode well in a potentially high-scoring affair against Dallas at Jerry World.

Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports notes that “There have been 12 times this season where the Cowboys faced a receiver with at least eight targets, and 10 times that receiver has scored at least 12 PPR points, including eight times with at least 19 PPR points.” Considering Kirk has seven targets in back-to-back games, I think Kirk can reach this threshold as well.

Wide Receiver to Sit:

D.J. Moore | Carolina Panthers: I’m going to preface this pick by saying that I know this is the fantasy championship week and it’s going to be incredibly hard to sit D.J. Moore. I probably wouldn’t do this outside of 10 team leagues where you start only two wide receivers but if that’s your league set up, I’m a little nervous. Sure Moore has five straight games with double-digit PPR points and four straight games with double-digit targets. Volume is king in fantasy football and I won’t deny that. Let’s look at the setup here though. In 2021 New Orleans ranks fourth in terms of percentage of rushing plays at 47.29%. In the last three games, they’re third at 54.75%. Over their last three games, New Orleans ranks 12th in terms of the time of possession at just over 31 minutes while Carolina ranks 26th around 27 minutes.

You have the mix of bad quarterback play that has been hampering D.J. Moore all season to his already lack of touchdowns (scored just once in his last 11 games) and that New Orleans will attempt to run the ball as much as they can and I’m potentially scared of trusting Moore here.  He also faces a Saints defense that has only given up 50 or more yards to different wide receivers over the last three games and two touchdowns over their last four. In shallow leagues, I might consider going a different route.

Tight End to Start:

Gerald Everett| Seahawks: What a world we’re in where I’m advocating you to start Gerald Everett in a win-or-go-home game in Week 17. There’s a method to my madness, however, as Everett has scored double-digit PPR points in now three straight games and five of his last seven. He also has scored three touchdowns in his last five games and is getting nearly six targets a game over his last seven. Not only that, he has a touchdown or 60+ receiving yards in four of his last five games to boot. Everett has now entered the TE1 discussion.

This only gets better this week with his matchup against the Lions who have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends over the last four games and rank ninth-worst on the season. Since Week 10, the Lions have allowed over 10 targets and 7.5 receptions per game to opposing tight ends, along with three touchdowns. Start Everett with confidence.

Tight End to Sit:

Jared Cook | Los Angeles Chargers: The TE18 on the year is not someone you want to look to start this week. Cook has seen more than five targets in a game just once since Week 8 and has scored double-digit fantasy points just twice over that stretch, with his most recent game of that being Week 12 against the Broncos. What’s made matters worse is that this is all with games missed at some point or another from Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, and Keenan Allen during that stretch. Cook has now scored 9.4 PPR points or less in four straight games and I don’t think that changes this week.

His opponent the Denver Broncos have allowed only 8.4 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends with a league-low one touchdown allowed to the position. No tight end has scored more than 11 PPR points against Denver this season and that includes the likes of Darren Waller, Dalton Schultz, Dallas Goedert, and even Mark Andrews. Cook does have the only tight end touchdown against the Broncos this season but I would not expect a repeat performance.

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