Week 17 is usually a crapshoot, with several teams resting starters or coasting into the off-season. Typical “no-brainer” starters aren’t so obvious this week, while seldom-used backups get their moments in the sun. In short, it’s a terrible week to contest your fantasy Super Bowl.
In my leagues, we play a “Free for All Bowl,” in which everyone except the champ sets one final lineup. Highest points gets a token share of the pot.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 17 of the 2017 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers at Rams. Garoppolo is exactly the kind of guy who soars in Week 17. Not only has he taken the league by storm, winning all four of his starts as a 49er, but he humbled the league’s most fearsome defense (Jacksonville) last week. With the Rams resting Aaron Donald, and probably other defensive starters, Garoppolo will have a perfect opportunity to end his season on a very high note.
Alex Collins, RB, Ravens vs. Bengals. Not only is Baltimore battling for a wild card spot, but they’re facing the rushing doormats from Cincinnati. Collins needs 105 yards for his first 1,000-yard season, and that’s well within his reach in this matchup, despite the nagging presence of Buck Allen and Danny Woodhead.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins vs. Bills. Drake put up a semi-stinker in Week 16 against the Chiefs, but he is a near lock to shine in the finale against the horrid Buffalo run defense. Miami would love to play spoiler to their division rivals’ postseason hopes, and Drake will be the key ingredient in their winning recipe. Look for copious touches – both running and receiving – for the Dolphins’ emerging workhorse.
Jamison Crowder, WR, Redskins at Giants. Cousins has one more chance to impress the scouts before entering free agency again. Look for him to exploit a depleted and demoralized Giants secondary with the help of his only reliable wideout, Crowder, and TE Vernon Davis, who has scored twice over the last three weeks despite catching just two passes each game.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts vs. Texans. Hilton has been the model of inconsistency this season, so perhaps we’d be wise to overlook his 175-yard, 2-TD outburst in Week 9 against the Texans. But that seems silly. That was also Jacoby Brissett’s best performance of the season, and Houston’s defense has only gotten worse since then.
More thumbs up: QBs Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Philip Rivers; RBs LeSean McCoy, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, Bilal Powell, Carlos Hyde, Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Williams, Frank Gore, Dion Lewis; WRs Kelvin Benjamin, Marvin Jones, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, Marquise Goodwin, Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen.
Roll ‘em back
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles vs. Cowboys. We’ve been told that Foles will start, mostly due to his sub-par outing last week. But it would be foolish for the team to risk their only viable QB’s health for long, given their hopes for a deep playoff run. Be prepared for Foles to get an early hook if he (a) gets knocked around by the Dallas pass rush, (b) looks sharp or (c) leads a scoring drive or two.
Charcandrick West, RB, Chiefs at Broncos. In all likelihood, Kareem Hunt will see little – if any – action in this meaningless contest. That should mean the majority of the touches would go to West, the next man up. But don’t be surprised if West gets an early hook, too, and Akeem Hunt takes over. Regardless, they all will face the stout Denver run defense. Avoid this backfield entirely, if at all possible.
Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals at Ravens. Over the last few weeks, Bernard has resembled the fantasy stud he once was. With Joe Mixon still troubled by a tender ankle, Bernard should again see the lion’s share of the carries. But they will come against a stalwart, highly motivated Baltimore run defense.
Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks vs. Cardinals. Baldwin has just five receptions for 41 yards (and 1 TD) over the last two games, and his slump is likely to continue. Arizona sports one of the league’s stingiest secondaries, and Baldwin will inevitably draw elite CB Patrick Peterson in Sunday’s rematch.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders at Chargers. Crabtree left Monday night’s game early with a hamstring issue and a big, fat Christmas goose egg. He’s not on the injury report this week, but look for another disappointing outing against one of the NFL’s top coverage units. It’s a must-win game for the Chargers, while Crabtree and friends are just hoping to get through the game unscathed.
More thumbs down: QBs Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota, Jay Cutler, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning, Brett Hundley, Joe Flacco; RBs Marshawn Lynch, Kerwynn Williams, Jay Ajayi, DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte, Samaje Perine, Mike Davis, Wayne Gallman, Mike Gillislee, Aaron Jones; WRs Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Kendall Wright, Amari Cooper, Eric Decker, DeSean Jackson, Paul Richardson, DeVante Parker, Randall Cobb, Dez Bryant, Josh Gordon, Robby Anderson, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Devin Funchess, Sterling Shepard, Chris Hogan, Jeremy Maclin.
TAKING A FLIER
Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars at Titans. Cole has been en fuego throughout December as Allen Hurns, and then Marqise Lee, were sidelined. Look for the rapidly emerging rookie to build on his stellar month in Tennessee. Though the Jags could pull their starters early, Cole may not be one of them, given his inexperience and the team’s depleted WR corps.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … assumes your stalwarts will suit up as usual this weekend. The Rams, Chiefs and Steelers have already signaled they will sit their stars, while playmakers on the Eagles and Jaguars may see only minimal action. Other teams with nothing on their minds but the offseason could choose to limit their stars’ exposure to potential injury in inconsequential games. Plan accordingly.
Ladd Biro is a two-time winner and five-time finalist of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).