In the final week of the season, teams with something to play for are far less likely to rest their regulars are therefore are less nerve-racking fantasy targets. Here are a list of teams I have identified as fantasy relevant that also will have playoff implications of some sort on the line in Week 17:
Green Bay Packers
Players to Target: Aaron Rodgers, Ty Montgomery, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams
Week 17 is a pivotal week for the NFC North as the Packers and Lions will battle for the division title in Ford Field. The Packers head into this game on a five game winning streak and the Packers won the first tilt 34-27. Vegas expects another shootout in this game as the game opened with a 48.5 point over/under. For the season, the Lions have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing QBs but had been playing better lately…until last week. The team lost Darius Slay Jr. to a hamstring injury and the Cowboys went on to torch them for 42 points including three passing TDs. Aaron Rodgers leads all QBs in fantasy points per game (FPPG) but he is also priced as the most expensive this week. With the team needing a win, and getting to avoid the weather conditions in the dome, expect a big day from the passing offense (including Jordy Nelson who leads the league in receiving TDs).
Players to Target: Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron
The other half of the aforementioned game is their opponent: the Lions. In each of the last two seasons, Matthew Stafford has posted a superior QB rating at home, so this is an excellent spot for him as well. In his first meeting against the Packers, he threw for 385 yards and three TDs en route to his best fantasy output of the season (30.50 fantasy points). Additionally, the Packers’ best corner, Ladarius Gunter, left Sunday’s game against the Vikings and may or may not play this weekend. Since the Packers rate as the 11th best rushing defense according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) metric, it is unlikely the Lions will be able to establish the run with their weak duo of backs (Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner). Therefore, one can reasonably expect Stafford to exceed 40 passing attempts once again like he did in the first meeting. With Theo Riddick likely out again, the entire remainder of the passing game is in play against a Packers secondary that has allowed the most fantasy points to WRs and the 12th most to opposing TEs.
Players to Target: Kirk Cousins, Vernon Davis, Chris Thompson (GPP only)
A win and the Redskins are in the playoffs so they have all the motivation in the world to play well quite obviously. Recently, the Giants were looking like a dominant defense as they had allowed 13 combined points in their two previous games heading into Week 16…and then the lowly Eagles torched them on Thursday Night Football. If the Eagles can do it, one would think the Redskins can as well. Hell, the Redskins dropped 29 points on the Giants in Week 3 although they also had a healthy Jordan Reed at their disposal. Now, the team will have to rely on Vernon Davis to exploit the weakness in the defense; the Giants rank 26th in DVOA. Otherwise, the Giants are a difficult defense to crack considering they rank first in DVOA against opposing number on WRs, eighth against number twos and eighth against “other” WRs as well. Furthermore, they rank fifth in rushing DVOA. In essence, the Redskins may need to get creative once again this week and get Chris Thompson some work after he scored two TDs last week on four total touches. This is a difficult matchup for the Redskins offense but the additional motivation may be enough for them to factor into the fantasy conversation this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Players to Target: Jameis Winston, Jacquizz Rodgers, Mike Evans
Although the Buccaneers need other teams to help them out in order to get into the playoffs, they need to win first and foremost. With their game scheduled for 1:00pm ET, they will not know the results of any other game prior to their kickoff so they just have to focus on winning. According to DVOA, the Panthers rank 15th in passing DVOA and eighth in rushing DVOA but Jacquizz Rodgers should draw the start once again at an extremely reasonable price ($9,700). In the previous meeting against the Panthers, Mike Evans caught six passes for 89 yards and a TD and that was with a healthy Cameron Brate. Sans the team’s starting TE, even more targets will need to funnel through the top option in the passing attack. Considering the Panthers rank 25th in DVOA against number one WRs, pairing Winston with Evans makes a ton of sense if you are considering rostering the Buccaneers QB.
New England Patriots
Players to Target: Tom Brady, LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell
The Patriots are playing for the top seed in this game and Coach Bill Belichick has not made it a happen to sit starters in Week 17 anyways. In his career, Julian Edelman has topped 17 fantasy points in three out of four Week 17s with the Patriots and he draws another excellent individual matchup against Bobby McCain this week. None of the Dolphins corners are overly imposing so Malcolm Mitchell could easily find the end zone as well. Even beyond the passing game, the Dolphins rank 22nd in rushing DVOA and LeGarrette Blount has been the epitome of consistency out of the backfield this year. Blount’s 17 rushing TDs actually lead the league, edging out David Johnson (16) and Ezekiel Elliott (16). Look for the Patriots to pour it on the Dolphins this week in order to lock up the number one seed they have their eye on.
Players to Target: Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel
By winning this game, the Falcons would lock up the number two seed so the team will be playing for more than pride. With this offense having something to play for, literally all of the usuals are worth playing. This game opened with a 56.0 point over/under and Vegas implies the Falcons will score a slate best 31.3 points against a subpar Saints defense. Julio Jones was on a snap count last week but he should be full-go in this one which should open up the entire offense. Remember, the last time these two teams squared off both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman topped 29 fantasy points as Freeman rushed for 152 yards and scored a receiving TD while Coleman found the end zone thrice himself. Fading this team completely is a risky proposition and one that is absolutely not recommended.
Honorable Mention(s): Browns and 49ers
Currently, the Browns single-handedly possess the worst record in the league at 1-14. The 49ers are only a game back and they hold the tie-breaker for the number one overall pick due to their lighter strength of schedule. Therefore, a Browns victory and 49ers loss would lead to the 49ers getting the pick. I’m not sure how this affects how their players will play but it is worth noting that this is an underlying narrative of Week 17.