Week 17 is a difficult week because determining which teams are going to play their staples a normal amount of snaps is an additional step in the research process. Some teams may just play their starters a half similar to a preseason game while others desperately need a victory. Without further ado, here is a list of players that all deserve fantasy consideration in the final season of the 2016 NFL regular season:
Matthew Stafford, Lions, $11,300 – One of the few Week 17 games in which both teams have something to play for is a tilt between the Packers and Lions. The winner of this contest will finish the season as the NFC North Champion, so while both teams may have clinched a playoff berth by the time this game starts, there is no risk of either team resting players. Like most QBs, Matthew Stafford has preferred playing at home over the past two seasons although the differential has been less substantial than the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. Last year, Stafford registered a 102.2 QB rating at home compared to 91.9 on the road and this season Stafford has produced a 96.7 rating in Ford Field versus 95.0 away from home. Coincidentally, Stafford’s previous meeting against the Packers proved to be his best fantasy performance of the season as he threw for 385 yards and three TDs en route to 30.50 fantasy points. Coming off a fine fantasy showing on Monday Night Football, Stafford should be able to keep it rolling against a secondary that has struggled all season long.
Le’Veon Bell, Steelers, $19,600 – Writing about this guy is basically pointless by now because everyone knows what a phenomenal player he is. After scoring twice against a stout Ravens defense last week (ranked first in rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric), Le’Veon Bell is simply matchup proof. Having said that, he will now face a Browns defense that has allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing backs and ranks dead last in rushing DVOA. Even at this insane price tag, fading him just is not smart on a week filled with question marks due to teams having clinched the playoffs, etc. UPDATE: Apparently the Steelers are considering holding him out of this weekend’s contest. If so, DeAngelo Williams would become a prime value on the slate.
Bilal Powell, Jets, $12,300 – Of all backs who have received at least 100 carries, Bilal Powell ranks second in yards per carry (YPC) behind only LeSean McCoy. The Jets season has been a disaster and therefore the team has no reason to rush back Matt Forte. Since Powell is only the team’s second string back, there is no reason for him to hold back on his workload. Additionally, the team will square off against a Bills defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing backs both over the course of the season and during the last two weeks combined. Jay Ajayi just rushed for 200-plus yards against this defense last week after Duke Johnson Jr. caught five passes for 62 yards against them the week before (his third highest fantasy output of the season). What do Johnson and Powell have in common? Well, both are weapons in the passing game out of the backfield. In fact, Powell has actually caught two more passes than Johnson this year. In a game where the Jets should feature Powell, he should be in an excellent spot to succeed as both a runner and a receiver.
Mike Evans, Buccaneers, $15,000 – One team needing a win badly on Sunday is the 8-7 Buccaneers. With no Thursday Night Football game this week and the Buccaneers playing an early game (1:00pm ET), they will not know their fate prior to the end of the game. In other words, the team will need to focus on winning the game before they can even begin to consider the scenarios of how they actually get into the playoffs. When attempting to beat the Panthers, throwing to a number one WR is an intelligent game plan considering they rank 25th in DVOA against the position. In the first meeting between these two teams, Evans caught 6-12 targets for 89 yards and a TD and that game was played on the road. All three of Evans’ best games this season have come at home whether it be by coincidence or the fact Tampa Bay rarely has to deal with weather concerns. Sure James Bradberry has been playing better football recently but he still grades outside the top 25 at the cornerback position (per Pro Football Focus) and Evans moves around the formation. All-in-all, this is a stellar spot for a player trying to propel his team to the playoffs and that is the ideal setup for starting a player in Week 17.
Brandon LaFell, Bengals, $8,800 – What the hell is up with this price tag for Brandon LaFell? After seeing 19 targets over the course of the last two weeks, he clearly has emerged as the team’s top receiving option in the short term with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert done for the season. The team will solely be playing for pride against a divisional opponent but LaFell does not exactly qualify as a young asset they need to protect so he should see play a normal allotment of snaps. The Ravens secondary is no walk in the park but they are also the weakness of the defense so Dalton should likely come close to the 48 passing attempts he accumulated in the first meeting against this team. If so, LaFell should once again see plenty of volume against a defense that will probably be missing their top corner once again (Jimmy Smith). In Week 16, Antonio Brown torched this defense for 10-96-1, and while LaFell is not Brown, he should still be in a fine spot to at least out-produce this meager price tag.
Vernon Davis, Redskins, $6,400 – With Jordan Reed looking questionable at best for the team’s regular season finale, Vernon Davis emerges as a premiere value against a beatable defense in his absence. If Reed were to play he would prove to be a viable play as well but trusting him to suit up is like trusting a spam e-mail to be the cure for your financial troubles. The Giants defense overall had been playing well until their Thursday Night flop against the Eagles last week. On paper, the susceptibility of the defense is against opposing TEs as they rank 26th in DVOA against the position compared to the top eight against all receiver and top three against RBs in the passing game. Looking at Davis’ line last week is a bit misleading because Davis barely missed a TD catch that hit the tip of his fingers. A disappointing outcome very easily could have been respectable had he hauled that pass in. Against a defense that should be forgiving to him, expect a bounceback (especially if Reed is inactive).