Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: One final week of championships
Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Week 17 (cont.)
Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Week 17 (cont.)
Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Week 17 (cont.)
Those who are playing in their league's championship in Week 17 -- the most unpredictable week of the NFL regular season -- are probably sick of hearing about how leagues with Week 17 championship games are oddballs.
Below is a set of suggestions on who to start this week, but make sure you watch the Sunday morning pregame shows this week, to see exactly which stars will be sitting and which fantasy regulars will be shut down early. You might also come across a gem or two that gets a start that would never have been able to help you in a Week 16 championship.
These Week 17 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
• Panthers: Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, Greg Olsen, Graham Gano, Panthers DST
The Panthers can earn a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win at Atlanta, so the starters will be giving it their all. Newton tweaked his ankle recently, but he's fine for the regular season finale. Williams should continue to get carries, with Jonathan Stewart (knee) doubtful again.
• Falcons: Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez
This offense is picking up at the right time for fantasy owners in Week 17 championship games. White is officially healthy, tallying 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers, and expect Tony Gonzalez to be targeted often in what is expected to be his final NFL game. He has scored a touchdown in each of his past four games, and Matt Ryan will try and get him another one in the finale.
• Panthers: Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr.
Smith suffered a sprained PCL in Week 16, which means he might not play this week. LaFell should see more targets, with Ginn starting on the opposite side, but counting on LaFell as anything more than a WR3 might be a mistake.
• Falcons: Matt Ryan, Jacquizz Rodgers, Harry Douglas, Matt Bryant, Falcons DST
The Falcons were thought to be Super Bowl contenders this season before injuries hit. In their final home game, they will be playing for pride, hoping to knock the Panthers out of a first-round playoff bye.
• Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Mason Crosby
This is a loaded game, as both teams are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and the winner of this game wins the NFC North. I would recommend starting Aaron Rodgers, but don't expect a huge game from him. His return should be a big boon to Nelson and Jones, though. Lacy aggravated an ankle injury in Week 15, but he'll likely give it his best to get back out there against a Bears team that allowed him to run for a season-high 150 yards in Week 9.
• Bears: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
The Bears are sticking with Cutler as their starter, despite his mediocre return from injury. He has three interceptions in his past two games, but the Packers are weak against the pass. A touchdown catch Monday saved Marshall's night, but he had a season-low 36 receiving yards, despite getting nine targets. He caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Packers in their last meeting.
• Packers: James Starks, Jarrett Boykin, Packers DST
If Lacy is unable to play, Starks becomes a great play against the Bears defense, which is one of the worst against the run this season.
• Bears: Michael Bush, Robbie Gould, Bears DST
The Bears defense had their way with the Packers the last time they played, but Rodgers broke his collarbone in the opening series of that game.
• Texans: Jonathan Grimes, Andre Johnson, Ryan Griffin
Dennis Johnson (hip) might give way to Jonathan Grimes this week due to injury. Whoever starts will get most of the carries, which makes him a decent flex or low-end RB2 against the Broncos. If Garrett Graham (hamstring) is out again, Griffin becomes a fantasy option. With Matt Schaub under center, Griffin led the Texans with six catches for 66 yards in Week 16.
• Titans: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Titans DST
Johnson had a nice game against the Jaguars, but he is losing some touches to Shonn Greene. Wright was held to just four catches last week when Ryan Fitzpatrick targeted Nate Washington for most of the game. The Texans are actually pretty good against the pass, but Wright should bounce back in his sophomore season finale. He'll also be a breakout candidate in Year 3, once the Titans figure out their quarterback situation. The Texans stand to earn the No. 1 overall draft pick outright if they lose the season finale. That bodes well for a Titans DST that held Jacksonville to 16 points in Week 16. Plus, the Texans are injured and in disarray.
• Texans: Case Keenum, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Dennis Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Keshawn Martin, Garrett Graham, Randy Bullock, Texans DST
This game will be Keenum's last chance to convince Texans management they should spend their top draft pick on a quarterback (namely Teddy Bridgewater). It's tough to rely on most of the Texans players this week.
• Titans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Justin Hunter, Rob Bironas
Fitzpatrick is an option for some leagues, but in standard 12-team leagues, look elsewhere. Consider him and/or Greene/Washington if the price is right in weekly tournaments.
• Browns: Josh Gordon
The last time Gordon saw the Steelers, he posted 237 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 12. You can't expect similar numbers, especially the way the Browns have played recently, but he remains a great fantasy start each week.
• Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers DST
Bell had the best game of his rookie season in Week 15, rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown against the Packers. It's safe to say Brown is doing well without Mike Wallace across from him, as the former Central Michigan product has broken Yancey Thigpen's single-season franchise receiving yards mark -- with one game to go.
• Browns: Jason Campbell, Edwin Baker, Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Cameron, Greg Little, Billy Cundiff, Browns DST
The Browns expected McGahee (knee, concussion) to play in Week 16, but he was a no-go in the end. That makes him -- and all Browns running backs -- questionable plays in Week 17. Baker rushed for a career-high 64 yards on Sunday. So he's an option if you lost out on some of your stars due to injury or playoff circumstances.
• Steelers: Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham
Sanders hurt his knee and might not be able to play this weekend. Miller hasn't scored since Week 7, and he has had just four targets in each of his past three games. Suisham has just four field goals in his past four games, although, he does have 14 extra points in that span.
• Redskins: Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon
The Giants held Morris to just 26 rushing yards in Week 13, but Morris has heated up recently.
• Giants: Jerrel Jernigan
Jernigan saw a lot more action with Victor Cruz (knee) sidelined, and the third-year receiver led the Giants with six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown last week. He should be a good flex player against the Redskins this week.
• Redskins: Kirk Cousins, Roy Helu, Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed, Kai Forbath, Redskins DST
Cousins didn't perform against the Cowboys that we had all hoped last week, and now he faces a Giants team that has allowed an average of just over 200 passing yards per game in their past five games.
• Giants: Eli Manning, Andre Brown, Michael Cox, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
After getting lit up in the first half of the season, the Redskins pass defense has improved greatly. This unit hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer in their past seven games, after allowing four of them in the first eight. The Giants went for just 286 total yards against Washington in Week 13, and that is probable again in the finale. Brown suffered a concussion on a fumble in overtime against the Lions, which is literally like adding insult to injury. If he can't go against Washington, which has allowed an NFL-high 22 rushing touchdowns this season, then consider Michael Cox as a possible flex option.
• Ravens: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta
The defending champion Ravens are coming off their most lopsided loss since 1997, and the most disappointing season of Ray Rice's career continues. The Ravens need to win to stay in playoff contention, and they'll need their main guys, Rice and Smith, to step it up in the finale against a defense that is stronger against the run than the pass. Smith (thigh) didn't practice early in the week, so check his status as we get closer.
• Bengals: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Bengals DST
Dalton came through big-time against the Vikings in Week 15, but the Ravens pose a tougher problem. Even so, he is the first quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs in his first three years in the NFL since Joe Flacco -- his counterpart this week. BGE and Bernard continue to share touches, but it seems to work for both.
• Ravens: Joe Flacco, Bernard Pierce, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Justin Tucker, Ravens DST
Flacco wore a knee brace after suffering an injury in Week 14 and he finished with two interceptions and no touchdown passes against the Vikings. He'll wear the knee brace again in Week 17, which could continue to affect him.
• Bengals: Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent
Eifert missed the second half of Week 16 with a pinched nerve in his neck. Sanu scored his second touchdown of the season against the Vikings, but he has just 90 receiving yards in his past four games combined.
• Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Brown
MJD continues to deal with hamstring issues, and he's questionable to play again in the team's season finale. If he plays, he's worth a gamble as a flex, and the same goes for Todman if MJD doesn't play. The Colts defense held the Jaguars to just three points in Week 4, but this is a different Jaguars club than the one from September. Brown stepped up with Cecil Shorts (groin) on injured reserve, and he could be a nice sleeper play in Week 17.
• Colts: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Adam Vinatieri, Colts DST
Luck had one of his best games of the season against the Jaguars in Week 4, throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Hilton has been more "miss" than "hit" this season, but the Colts should finish the season on a winning note, with the help of their passing game.
• Jaguars: Chad Henne, Jordan Todman, Ace Sanders, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars DST
Henne threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in back-to-back games, and he has two touchdown passes in each of his past four games. Even so, there are at least 20 better quarterback options this week.
• Colts: Trent Richardson, Da'Rick Rogers, Griff Whalen, Coby Fleener
While Richardson had more touches than Brown, it was the latter that performed better on the ground and through the air. While Whalen has performed well in back-to-back games (he led the Colts in receiving against the Chiefs), it's tough to recommend him outside of PPR leagues this week. Fleener and Whalen are former teammates of Luck's at Stanford, but Fleener's fantasy value is going the other way.
• Jets: Chris Ivory
Ivory rushed for 109 yards against the Browns in Week 16, but he'll be facing a tough Dolphins defense this week. He's a workhorse back, who will likely see almost twice as many touches as Bilal Powell, making him a good RB2 this week. The Dolphins held him to just 61 rushing yards in Week 13, though.
• Dolphins: Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Dolphins DST
Nothing went right for the Dolphins in Buffalo last week, and now they host the grumpy Jets, who are playing for their coach's job. Miami needs this game to keep other teams from stealing their playoff spot. The Dolphins defense had its best game of the season against the Jets in Week 13, forcing three turnovers, getting four sacks and allowing just 177 total yards.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Bilal Powell, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Kellen Winslow, Nick Folk, Jets DST
Smith had a big Week 16, but the rookie is too inconsistent to rely on in the final week of the regular season. The Dolphins need to win this game to have a shot at the playoffs, and they should bring everything against the rookie signal-caller.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, Caleb Sturgis
Tannehill threw for over 300 yards a month ago when he faced the Jets, but after watching his offensive line give up a season-high seven sacks, you can't trust him as your starter this week. Miller rushed for 72 yards in that game, but he's coming off an 8-yard game -- and he led the team in rushing!
• Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Calvin Johnson
Stafford's owners might be leery of starting him again, after posting two stinkers back-to-back. But it's funny how the Vikings pass defense can turn a zero into a hero. Bush fumbled for the fourth time in eight games in Week 16, and Joique Bell ended up leading the Lions in rushing and receiving. Megatron was used mostly in the red zone and on third down against the Giants, but his knee and ankle injuries stunted his fantasy value. You can't sit him if he plays for the Lions this week.
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Blair Walsh
Peterson was pulled out of Sunday's game against the Bengals because of a foot injury, which could certainly impede his fantasy value in the final game of the season. We should know if he's in or not before the game begins, but his replacement, Toby Gerhart is not as favorable of a play. Kickers have seen more success against the Lions than any other team this season, with 27 extra points and 37 field goals through 15 games.
• Lions: Kris Durham, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, David Akers, Lions DST
Stafford hit eight different receivers in Sunday's game against the Giants, which hurts most of the players not named Calvin Johnson. Pettigrew's (ankle) season is over.
• Vikings: Matt Cassel, Toby Gerhart, Matt Asiata, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, John Carlson, Vikings DST
Patterson scored last week on a nice run, but if not for that 35-yard touchdown dash, he would have been held to just 17 total yards.
• Bills: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller
No matter who starts at quarterback, when the Bills have two healthy running backs, they're dangerous, and they proved that again in Week 16 against the Dolphins. Both players went for over 100 total yards, and they look like good starts against a Patriots defense that is average against the run.
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Legarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Stephen Gostkowski
Brady had a disappointing Week 16, but now he ends it like he started it -- against an overmatched Bills team. In the season opener, he threw the ball a season-high 52 times, but that was when he was still trying to figure out his receiving corps, which has changed over the past few months. An interesting non-fantasy note: Brady has led his team to 11 division titles -- which is two more than any other starting QB in NFL history. We now return you to your fantasy-related column.
• Bills: E.J Manuel, Thad Lewis, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Scott Chandler, Dan Carpenter, Bills DST
It's tough to recommend any non-running back on this offense, mostly because of injuries. Manuel (knee) might not play again this season. Carpenter had a big game against his former team, but he's a mediocre play this week. The Bills defense has 54 sacks on the season, after notching seven last week, and they passed their previous team record of 50 set back in 1964.
• Patriots: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden, Josh Boyce, Michael Hoomanawanui, Patriots DST
Vereen injured his groin in Week 16, so if he doesn't play, starting one of the other backs, like Blount, is a good idea. Granted, Brandon Bolden would see more catches out of the backfield, the Patriots would likely just lean more on the rushing game. Blount scored twice against the Ravens.
• Buccaneers: Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson
It's becoming riskier and riskier relying on any Buccaneers players in fantasy this season. Last week, Jackson was the only real value, nearly hitting the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season. Rainey did score a touchdown against St. Louis, but he rushed for just 37 yards.
• Saints: Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Saints DST
The Saints had some serious trouble stopping the Panthers defense from getting into their offensive backfield, and while the Bucs defense is good -- they're nowhere near as good as Carolina's. The Saints are 7-0 at home and they host the season finale. Brees has 23 touchdown passes and just three interceptions at the Superdome this year. Colston is averaging over 80 receiving yards per game in seven home games, with four touchdowns. Compare that to his seven road games, where he averages about 44 yards, with just one touchdown catch.
• Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Tiquan Underwood, Tim Wright, Rian Lindell, Buccaneers DST
Glennon hasn't thrown for over 200 yards since he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in November, and he has just four touchdown passes in his past four games. Wright has two touchdowns in his past two games, but the Saints defense is pretty tough on tight ends.
• Saints: Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Shayne Graham
Ingram had a big game against the Panthers, making Thomas and Sproles even more of an afterthought. But the Buccaneers are pretty good against the run, although, they did give up 104 rushing yards to Zac Stacy in Week 16.
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Matt Prater, Broncos DST
Manning already earned the NFL record for touchdown passes in a single season, breaking Tom Brady's old mark, in Week 16. Now, he's going to be tracking down Brees' single-season record for passing yardage, which Manning is just 265 yards short. The Broncos have already clinched the division and a first-round bye, so we might not see the starters for the entire game. They are working on wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, however. And playing in the Mile High City is definitely an advantage to the home team. The Broncos defense lost Von Miller (knee) to injured reserve, but they should still have an easy time with the Raiders.
• Raiders: Rashad Jennings
The Raiders are going back to Terrelle Pryor as their starting quarterback in the final week of the season. While Jennings gave way to Darren McFadden for a short touchdown run, the Raiders are still using Jennings about twice as much as McFadden. Running backs have had great success against the Broncos lately, with over 570 yards and six touchdowns in their past five games.
• Broncos: Montee Ball, Wes Welker, Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme
Welker is still battling a concussion, the second he has suffered in four weeks, and it's very possible he'll miss his third consecutive game this week.
• Raiders: Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders DST
Fantasy owners should only look to Pryor for help in large tournaments in weekly leagues. McFadden and Rivera could be interesting plays in weekly fantasy league tournaments, since both could see red-zone touches this week. Streater almost came down with a 39-yard touchdown pass, but he was unable to pull it in.
• Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald
The Cardinals are on the outside looking in, needing the Saints to falter in the day game to make the playoffs. Either way, Ellington continues to be one of their best playmakers, so we expect a heavier dose this week with win-or-go-home possibilities. He scored his first touchdown run of the season against the 49ers in Week 6. Fitzgerald didn't do much against the Seahawks in Week 16, but his only 100-yard game of the season came against San Francisco.
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Phil Dawson, 49ers DST
The 49ers have already clinched a division title, but the defending NFC Champions are still hoping to win a first-round bye. They'll be going all out against the Cardinals, against whom they scored 32 points earlier this season.
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Jay Feely, Cardinals DST
Palmer threw four interceptions in Week 16, and he has just three touchdown passes over his past three games. He threw for 298 yards in his first game against the Niners this season, but you have much better options at quarterback this week. The Cardinals defense has been red hot, but they had a lot of trouble against the 49ers a few months ago.
• 49ers: Kendall Hunter
Hunter has averaged 45 rushing yards in his past two games, and he could be fed a few more carries this week, if the 49ers can get a decent lead in the second half, which will be tough.
• Chiefs: Knile Davis, Ryan Succop
Davis should see plenty of action, since the Chiefs have already clinched the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs. The rookie has proven to be quite talented in limited action, sitting behind one of the best players in the NFL. Head coach Andy Reid plans to rest his starters for much of the game, and he has had backup players splitting reps with the first-teamers in practice this week. The Chiefs roster will be a great place to dip into for some all-or-nothing players in weekly fantasy tournaments.
• Chargers: Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Keenan Allen, Nick Novak, Chargers DST
The Chargers need the Dolphins and and Ravens to lose in the early games in order to have a chance to make it into the playoffs. But even if things don't work out in their attempt to reach the playoffs, their starters will be going full tilt this week in a divisional rivalry game. Mathews is finally healthy, and he set a career high already with 1,111 rushing yards this season.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Fasano, Chiefs DST
The Chiefs defense will be working to slow down the Chargers, who scored 41 points against them back in Week 12. That was the worst showing for this tough defense all season.
• Chargers: Danny Woodhead, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green
The Chargers are leaning heavily on Mathews these days, so Woodhead is seeing just 10 touches per game lately. Gates hasn't scored in over five weeks, and now he faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed just four touchdown passes to tight ends all season.
• Rams: Zac Stacy
Stacy is a top-six fantasy running back over the past few weeks, although, he's averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in that time span. Ryan Mathews is the only player with more carries in those three games, too. That means the Rams feed Stacy -- and they just keep feeding him until he makes something happen. The Seahawks are a tough defense, but there's no way you can sit down the team's top player.
• Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks DST
Seattle has the top record in the NFC, and they're tied with the Broncos for the top record in the NFL. They're still fighting for the first-round bye, though, as well as the division title, with San Francisco. Both the Seahawks and 49ers will be playing at the same time, so neither team will be able to rest their starters too much.
• Rams: Kellen Clemens, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook, Greg Zuerlein, Rams DST
DE Robert Quinn broke the Rams' franchise record with 18 sacks in a single season last week, and now he faces a pretty good Seahawks offensive line. Seattle remains the toughest place to play this season, so the Rams are in for a tough afternoon.
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Steven Hauschka
Tate holds some value as a possible flex play, considering he caught five passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns against the Rams in Week 8. But he caught just a couple passes in each of the past two games for the Seahawks.
• Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Brent Celek, Alex Henery
Fantasy owners were quite appreciative of Eagles head coach Chip Kelly for refusing to sit his starters Sunday night, despite the fact that the game meant nothing in the playoff race. This week, a division title and a playoff spot hangs in the balance as these two teams meet again. The Cowboys are still having issues on defense, which makes most of the Eagles good plays in Week 17, including TE Brent Celek, who led the team in receiving with 58 yards and a score last week.
• Cowboys: Demarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey
With Tony Romo (back) expected to be done for the season, the Cowboys will likely lean more on their running game in a win-or-go-home battle against the Eagles. Murray was a must-start before this news, and now he's a top-three running back for Week 17. The Eagles defense also gives up a lot of yards to running backs through the air. Witten is in for a tough day against an Eagles defense that has given up just two touchdown passes to the position this season -- an NFL low.
• Eagles: Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
If Tony Romo (back) is indeed sidelined, the Eagles defense make for an interesting play this week, but more as a gamble in weekly fantasy leagues.
• Cowboys: Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, Jon Kitna, Terrance Williams, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, Cowboys DST
With Romo sidelined, the Cowboys will turn to Kyle Orton under center, which might hurt the passing game a bit. But Bryant's going to get his no matter what, which makes Williams the guy that likely drops in production compared to Week 16, when he led the team with 84 receiving yards. The team also signed Jon Kitna earlier this week to serve as Orton's backup.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 17 start 'em, sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.