Start 'EM Sit' EM Week 17
Week 17 Start 'Em Sit 'Em
The final push for the playoffs created utter chaos across the National Football League during Week 16. The holiday weekend began with a Tennessee Titans upset over the red-hot San Francisco 49ers and ended with the Dallas Cowboys throttling Washington in a 56-14 rout. There were upsets everywhere, including Houston, who scored 24 points in the fourth quarter to earn their biggest win of the season over the Los Angeles Chargers. COVID protocols forced other players to step into more prominent roles, which is how Buffalo Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie finished as the WR4 in PPR formats.
Reflecting on my Week 16 Start/Sit recommendations, several prospects delivered in a big way, including Sony Michel (RB8) and Zach Ertz (TE5). At the same time, Tony Pollard and Russell Gage fell outside of the top-36 in their respective positions. Of all five recommended sits, only Devin Singletary outperformed his perceived value, finishing as the RB10 by converting a two-yard rushing touchdown to seal Buffalo's win over New England. Taysom Hill hit the league's COVID-19/Reserve list and DeVante Parker failed to draw a single target, so both of these recommendations fell flat as well.
Week 17 is the championship week for most fantasy leagues. Congratulate yourself for making it through the gauntlet but prepare for the final win of the season to claim a year's worth of bragging rights and the top payout. I've collected a dozen players who pose difficult start/sit decisions and will explain why each one deserves to be added into lineups or left on the bench. Fantasy managers all have different preferences, tendencies, and strategies, but I prefer to focus on the upside a player offers instead of their floor, especially during championship week. These players either possess the upside needed for validation in lineups or fall short of this upside due to their usage, matchup, or health.
Without further ado, let's dive into these player outlooks for Week 17.
Rashaad Penny (RB) Seattle Seahawks
Rashaad Penny has been fully unleashed in the Seattle backfield. Despite losing to Chicago at home during the final seconds in Week 16, the fourth-year running back ran rampant against a talented Bears defense, averaging 7.9 YPC and finding the end zone to finish as the RB9 in PPR leagues. He handled a healthy 70.8 percent of the Seahawks' rushing share, ceding targets to DeeJay Dallas but countering it with an astounding 135 rushing yards on Sunday.
Two weeks ago, against a bad Houston Texans run defense, Penny experienced his breakout, scoring a pair of touchdowns and finishing with 137 yards. He gets a similar opportunity against the Detroit Lions in Week 17. The Lions run defense ranks as the seventh-best matchup for fantasy running backs in PPR leagues, so keep Penny plugged into your lineups. Seattle is now eliminated from the playoffs, so expect head coach Pete Carroll and first-year OC Shane Waldron to give Penny another 18-20 touches to evaluate his future with the Seahawks. He did have a down week against a good Rams defense in Week 15, but don't let that scare you off of Penny in a plus-matchup. Penny is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside at home against Detroit in Week 17.
Darrel Williams (RB) Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has evolved its backfield into a three-headed tandem, with Darrel Williams playing a pivotal role. The shoulder injury Clyde Edwards-Helaire sustained against the Pittsburgh Steelers is considered week-to-week, but it plays right into Williams' lap in terms of ample opportunities as a ball carrier and receiver. He caught all three of his targets and added 30 receiving yards to his total output last week, finishing with 85 scrimmage yards while averaging 5.0 YPC. Derrick Gore played under 30 percent of snaps despite the blowout win over the Steelers, so he isn't much of a concern for Williams' upside against the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in Week 17.
Darrel Williams has played half the snaps and has more touches than CEH right now— Michael F. Florio (@MichaelFFlorio) December 26, 2021
Williams has scored a receiving touchdown once every three weeks across the last six games and is due to score entering a game against a relatively vulnerable Bengals run defense. Despite facing only 16 carries against third-string quarterback Josh Johnson in Week 16, the Bengals allowed Devonta Freeman to score a two-yard rushing touchdown when the game was still competitive. Against the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati allowed both Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams to rush for at least 50 yards. This means Darrel Williams, who will likely handle a heavier workload with Edwards-Helaire banged up, could see 15-18 touches against the Bengals in the Queen City on Sunday. Plug him into lineups as an RB2 with RB1 upside.
Jamaal Williams (RB) Detroit Lions
Jamaal Williams' return against the Atlanta Falcons was relatively pedestrian, but he did receive a 57 percent rushing share while splitting snaps with Craig Reynolds. This is a good sign, especially with head coach Dan Campbell morphing into the play-caller and finding success with the Lions' running game. Williams fared much better than Reynolds against a bad Atlanta Falcons run defense, averaging over four yards per carry, but he did not receive any targets, as four were directed to Reynolds and two others to Jason Cabinda. Seattle's run defense is a welcome sight for running backs, as they rank second-worst against fantasy running backs this season. Williams will need a touchdown to hit his upside, which he has not done since Week 3. However, in a matchup against another eliminated team that cannot stop the run, Williams is worth deploying in lineups for the chance he can deliver his upside via a rushing touchdown. It will also benefit Williams to have Jared Goff back under center, assuming he can be activated off of the league's COVID-19 list. D'Andre Swift has not played in four weeks, and with only two games remaining, it is unknown whether he will return. Williams needs a few targets from Goff to raise his floor to a safe RB3 value. However, I'm recommending him for his rushing upside against a bad run defense. His scoring drought has dragged on for weeks, and it will come to an end in Seattle on Sunday. Roll Williams into lineups as a high-end RB3 with RB2 upside.
Tyler Boyd (WR) Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals offense goes as Joe Burrow goes. In the last two weeks, In the last two weeks, Tyler Boyd has been outperforming his expected production, finishing with at least 85 yards and a touchdown on six or fewer targets. This is the type of hyper-efficiency that elevates the sixth-year wideout into a WR3 floor against a talented but at times vulnerable Kansas City Chiefs defense. They rank just outside the top-ten toughest matchups for opposing fantasy wideouts, but the absurd depth at wide receiver for Cincinnati means that Boyd should be the one running free or seeing the weakest coverage, as Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins present massive problems for the defense. Boyd was the WR2 in terms of snaps in Week 16 but had his target share tripled by Higgins. Boyd only had two touchdowns before his two-week stretch, entering a highly-anticipated home game against the Chiefs in Week 17. Burrow has found Boyd for a touchdown against two drastically different secondaries in Denver and Baltimore, so the Chiefs will be a welcome challenge for Boyd to extend his streak. He has at least 50 receiving yards in four straight games, three of which have seen him surpass 80 yards, so plug Boyd in as a WR3 with WR2 upside in one of the best games on the Week 17 slate.
Jakobi Meyers (WR) New England Patriots
New England continues to rely on its running game to compete in games, but third-year wideout Jakobi Meyers remains the WR1 in terms of target share. Meyers saw 26 percent of targets from Mac Jones in a loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, while N'Keal Harry played 95 percent of the snaps and soaked up 20 percent of the remaining targets. He's a product of a conservative offense, so don't hold it against Meyers that he struggles to clear 60 receiving yards. However, the reason why he's a lock as a WR3 in Week 17 is due to the upside he gets facing the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars' defense is tenth-worst against fantasy wide receivers, and Meyers has at least four receptions in five straight games. He is the definition of reliable and consistent but the inability to score a touchdown outside of garbage time leaves something to be desired. Still, Meyers is a high-floor WR3 with WR2 upside at home against the Jaguars in Week 17.
Michael Gallup (WR) Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys are rolling after a 56-14 rout of the Washington Football Team on Sunday Night Football in Week 16. Fourth-year wideout Michael Gallup was not a massive contributor during the point-a-palooza, but he did mirror the same target share as CeeDee Lamb at 12.5 percent, hauling in two receptions for 53 yards. He's been quiet since hauling in a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints back in Week 13. He played slightly fewer snaps than Lamb and Amari Cooper in Week 16 and should see great opportunities against the Arizona Cardinals secondary in Week 17. Surprisingly, Arizona is the sixth-worst defense against fantasy wide receivers this season, and they have lost all of their momentum from the first half of the season. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are steamrolling teams, and Gallup will be a beneficiary of this momentum at home in Week 17. Gallup is a high-floor, low-ceiling WR3 if he draws five targets for the third week in a row. If he can get back to eight or nine targets, he has a much better chance of returning value and finding the end zone. I like Gallup to deliver a solid performance in a prominent spot against a desperate Cardinals defense that will be preoccupied with tracking Lamb and Cooper.
Tyler Higbee (TE) Los Angeles Rams
In November, the Los Angeles Rams ended their losing streak and have not looked back since, rattling off four straight wins. Tyler Higbee has been a steady piece of the puzzle for Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford, seeing at least five targets in four consecutive games. Higbee has been efficient with these targets, often coming on screens or intermediate crossing routes, setting him up to deliver chunk plays after the initial reception. Higbee has over 40 yards and five receptions in back-to-back weeks and will get a plus-matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 17. The Ravens defense is a top-five fantasy matchup for tight ends. The Rams are the total opposite of the Ravens, surging up the NFC playoff race into the third seed. They still have plenty left to compete for, with Dallas and Tampa Bay also sitting with an 11-4 record, so Higbee should continue to be peppered with five to six targets. He last managed to haul in a touchdown back in Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers, who are one of the toughest tight end matchups. Higbee is a top-eight tight end in Week 17 and a must-start due to his touchdown upside in a favorable matchup.
Kirk Cousins (QB) Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins could not lead the Minnesota Vikings to victory against a talented Los Angeles Rams team in Week 16, but he did throw for over 300 yards. Without Dalvin Cook and the Vikings defense getting scorched on the ground by Sony Michel, Cousins threw 38 passes, his highest pass attempts in four weeks. A well-thrown ball to K.J. Osborn bounced off of the wideout's hands and into the hands of a Rams defensive back at the goal-line, flipping the momentum of the game as well as Cousins' stat line. Cousins finished Week 16 as the QB15 despite only one touchdown and the goal-line interception, Cousins finished Week 16 as the QB15 despite facing Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald. The last time Cousins played the Green Bay Packers this year. He outdueled Aaron Rodgers to earn a massive win in overtime. The Packers defense is playing well behind Rasul Douglas, but they are allowing the tenth-highest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Cousins demonstrated this in Week 11 against the Packers, where he completed 24 passes for 341 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. The availability of Adam Thielen is undoubtedly something to monitor, but K.J. Osborn, Tyler Conklin, and potentially Dalvin Cook could be enough to preserve Cousins' QB1 value at Lambeau Field in a big divisional showdown. Ignore the prime-time narrative and insert Cousins into your lineups as a low-end QB1.
Chuba Hubbard (QB) Carolina Panthers
Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard has had an uphill battle to climb in Carolina this year. The firing of OC Joe Brady mid-season stalled any momentum and consistency developed during the offseason and first half of this season, while Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, and P.J. Walker are all auditioning for a future role with the Panthers or elsewhere. The past two weeks against good run defenses, Hubbard has failed to surpass 45 scrimmage yards and has been held without a touchdown since Week 14 against a bad Atlanta run defense. Hubbard has only one target in each game during this slump and he will face yet another challenge against the New Orleans Saints run defense, which is ranked as the most difficult defense for opposing fantasy running backs. With Hubbard ceding targets to Ameer Abdullah and Reggie Bonnafon while being restricted to a 40 percent rushing share that yielded an atrocious nine rushing yards. Spare yourself the disappointment and keep Hubbard on the bench on the road in New Orleans during Week 17. He is safe to drop to league waiver wires as well if you'd like to make room for another high-upside prospect.
Julio Jones (WR) Tennessee Titans
Unfortunately, it is time to call it quits on Julio Jones this season. The superstar wideout was traded from Atlanta this offseason and the hype surrounding the acquisition grew to a frenzied screech. To be fair, injuries to Jones, Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, the team's core nucleus of offensive talent, completely derailed the season. Or so it appeared. Somehow, the Titans are 10-5 and sitting atop the AFC South, clinging onto their overtime win over the Indianapolis Colts back in October. Jones played fewer snaps than Nick Westbrook-Ikhine by 12 percent against the 49ers in Week 16, which is alarming. Since his return to the lineup in Week 14 against Jacksonville, Jones has 40 receiving yards across three games, operating as a short route decoy for A.J. Brown to take the top off of a defense. Ryan Tannehill only had eyes for Brown to pull off an upset win over the 49ers, so expect him to continue with this approach against a vulnerable Miami Dolphins pass defense in Week 17. Jones is no longer a viable option in fantasy lineups and should be left on the bench.
Christian Kirk (WR) Arizona Cardinals
Christian Kirk has stepped into a bigger role in light of the season-ending injury to DeAndre Hopkins. While he has collected 16 targets across the last two games, Kirk only produced one touchdown in garbage time against the Detroit Lions. He saw nine targets against the Colts in a massive prime time home game on Christmas but he only finished with seven receptions for 48 yards. Zach Ertz and Chase Edmonds also saw at least nine targets during the game and this was without James Conner in the lineup. Once Edmonds and Conner are both healthy enough to play together, expect Kyle Murray to funnel targets to them out of the backfield using his mobility to evade pressure in the pocket. Running backs and tight ends typically make for easier targets due to their proximity to the quarterback, which is why Murray is likely favoring them instead of trying to fit throws into tight windows on the perimeter to Kirk and A.J. Green. He is a risky WR3 that could fall into WR4 territory against a Dallas Cowboys defense that is ranked 15th against fantasy wide receivers.
Jared Cook (TE) Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers experienced an embarrassing 41-29 loss to the Houston Texans in Week 16, sinking their playoff chances in the process. Jared Cook, a veteran tight end who is in his second season with the Chargers, has increased opportunity since the scary injury suffered by Donald Parham Jr. in Week 15. Cook only saw four targets and finished with three receptions for 44 yards against a Houston defense that has failed to stop tight ends all season. Cook demonstrated he still has the ability to win contested jump balls in the end zone, snagging a late-game touchdown against the New York Giants in Week 14 but he does not capitalize on the 12 red-zone targets and seven end zone targets he's seen this season, which both rank inside the top-12 for the tight end position. The Denver Broncos are a difficult matchup for tight ends, so keep Cook benched in favor of Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper, or Tyler Higbee.
Derek Carr (QB) Las Vegas Raiders
While it's been impressive to watch the Las Vegas Raiders squeak out low-scoring, narrow victories over Cleveland and Denver the last two weeks, Derek Carr is not the play during fantasy championship week. He will travel to Indianapolis to face a Colts defense that is looking sharper each week but still allowing the 11th-most fantasy points to the quarterback position this season. Carr offers zero rushing upside and has not thrown two touchdowns since Week 10. He also has four straight games under 300 passing yards and is forced to pass to Zay Jones, DeSean Jackson, and Foster Moreau while star tight end Darren Waller heals up from a knee injury. The personnel is very lackluster and the Colts defense has momentum from their big win over Arizona on Christmas in the Desert, so keep Carr benched on the road in Week 17.
STAY IN TOUCH
Sign up for FantasyData's newsletter and get awesome content sent to your inbox.
We'll never share your email address and you can opt out at any time, we promise.
Matt is an avid writer and enjoys analyzing the game within the game that is fantasy sports. Music is another constant in his daily life. Matt loves spending time with his fiancé and three pets, which typically involves some type of outdoor exercise or adventure. He likes to read, listen to Podcasts, and is constantly motivated to create the most accurate and engaging content in the fantasy sports industry. Pat McAfee is a massive inspiration to Matt, along with his parents and friends. He is guilty of ordering the same menu item at restaurants.