The final week of the fantasy football season has arrived. No matter what happens this Sunday, you won’t be screaming at Vernon Davis or Brandon Marshall on your TV again until next August. It’s sad, really.
Week 17 is tricky for one simple reason: you can’t always count on your players to actually play. Not in an I’ve-built-my-whole-season-around-Andrew-Luck-and he-proceeded-to-have-the-worst-game-he’ll-ever-have-in-his-entire-career-right-in-the-middle-of-my-fantasy-playoffs-and-subsequently-ruined-my-holidays sort of way. No, in Week 17, big-name players literally just sit out sometimes. That’s why many fantasy leagues end in Week 16.
That means there’s one simple rule for those of us who are still playing in the final week of December: make sure you’re starting guys who have a reason to suit up.
Sometimes you simply don’t have an option. Even if you only get a half out of Rob Gronkowski, that’s better than hitting the waiver wire to pick up Clay Harbor or something embarrassing like that. But if you’re debating between T.Y. Hilton, who is already banged up and on a Colts team that can’t really move up or down at this point, and someone fairly comparable who is fighting for a playoff spot or a first-round bye, you may need to lean toward option B.
And, as always, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strong players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 17:
QB: Tony Romo, DAL (@ WAS). Somewhere along the line, someone decided to schedule this game for Week 17 because they thought it would be a pivotal matchup. As it turns out, Washington completely melted down nine weeks ago and Dallas is already in. So there is definitely some concern that the Cowboys don’t really have all that much to play for here. Then again, they’ve shown a willingness to just run Romo out there anyway in the past, regardless of the importance of the game or how he’s feeling (see: Week 10 against Jacksonville. In London. Like 12 days after he fractured bones in his back). Romo has been on fire during the second half of the season, throwing three or more touchdowns in five of his last six games, with a 17:0 TD:INT ratio in those outings. If they start him, so do you.
Sleeper: Eli Manning, NYG (v PHI). I honestly never thought Eli Manning’s name would appear in this blog at any point ever. But he’s quietly been serviceable lately. Over the last two weeks, he’s tossed six TDs and zero interceptions. Or, to put it another way, Odell Beckham Jr. is on his team now and it’s impossible to overthrow him. Either way, now he faces an Eagles secondary that allows the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Just to be clear: no one’s telling you that you have to start Eli Manning. That would be mean. But he’s at least an option.
RB: Le’Veon Bell, PIT (v CIN). This almost seems too easy. Bell might very well be the first player taken in fantasy drafts next season, and his best game of the year (235 total yards and three TDs) came three weeks ago against these very same Bengals. Now he gets them again. At home. On Sunday Night Football. With the division on the line.
Sleeper: Matt Asiata, MIN (v CHI). Going undrafted in most leagues at the start of the season is one thing, being available on the waiver wire in Week 14 is another level entirely. Asiata could be the ultimate sleeper. He popped up on radars earlier in the year, but then disappeared for awhile, as the Vikings tried to sort out their offense. He’s been decent again lately though, managing 163 total yards and three scores over the last two weeks. He’s also averaged four receptions per game since Week 9 — a nice bonus if you’re in a PPR league. Most importantly, he’s facing the Bears on Sunday.
WR/TE: Odell Beckham Jr, NYG (v PHI). He’s so good that he’s brought Eli Manning back into the conversation of “potentially usable fantasy QBs” again. And if the Eagles couldn’t cover DeSean Jackson last week, what makes you think they can cover Beckham this week?
Sleeper: Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (@ ATL). While someone like Dez Bryant may make more sense here, there’s also the possibility that a guy like that is on a limited snap count to preserve him for next week. The Panthers don’t have that luxury. They have to beat the Falcons, and probably need to lean on Cam Newton to make that happen. Newton really only has two dependable targets to throw to. Benjamin, of course, is the main one. He hauled in nine catches for 109 yards and a score the last time he faced Atlanta.
D/ST: Seattle Seahawks (v STL). The Seahawks are on an absolute tear right now, and the defense is spearheading the attack. With home-field throughout the postseason on the line for Seattle, it’s tough to envision the Rams’ offense standing in the way. St. Louis has been better lately, but that’s because of their defense, not because of Shaun Hill.
Sleeper: Houston Texans (v JAX). True, we’ve picked against the Jaguars’ offense a lot this season, but it has worked pretty much every time. Jacksonville has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defenses all year long and, while that alone might not be a good enough reason to start Houston, adding J.J. Watt into the equation certainly is.
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