Fantasy Football

Week 17 Start ’em Sit ’em: Midnight Hour


Welcome back to the final edition of Start ’em Sit ’em in the 2016 season. I hope everyone had a great Christmas weekend. Hopefully some of you were able to being home some championships. For you weirdos (kidding, I love all of you) playing Week 17 championships, you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks to everyone who stuck around all season. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing.

One last time, let’s look back at my results from last week.

For the second week in a row, I chose the most targeted Chargers WR. For the second week in a row, another WR produced more with fewer looks. Dontrelle Inman saw 10 targets, but turned it into just 44 yards. Travis Benjamin is due a turn, right? On second thought, no. I wouldn’t bet on it.

Rob Kelley had a respectable day, gaining 82 total yards while coming a half yard short of a touchdown, which Kirk Cousins promptly ran in. He briefly left the game with a knee issue but later returned and seemed fine. However, he is day-to-day with a sore knee this week.

Julian Edelman didn’t find the endzone, but hauled in five passes for 89 yards. It was his third highest receiving total of 2016. Since Week 8, Edelman has been a consistent high floor WR2.

Latavius Murray had his second straight dud, racking up just 51 yards against a struggling Colts defense. He lost significant carries to DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Like Kelley, he failed to cash in a goal line opportunity, tanking his week. It’s likely that the Raiders will let Murray walk in the offseason. DeAndre Washington makes for a sneaky late season add in keeper leagues.

Ben Roethlisberger started off slow, but ended the day with his best Fantasy performance since Week 10. Home cooking is real for Big Ben.

Tevin Coleman was on his way to being a justifiable sit before the Panthers defense forgot how to tackle, letting Coleman score his 55-yard touchdown. Fire him up against the Saints.

Another late game touchdown tanked one of my sit predictions, as Stefon Diggs caught a three yard touchdown to save his day. He totaled just 26 yards on his other five targets.

No value saving touchdown for Thomas Rawls in Week 16. He missed the second half of the game with a shoulder injury, but rushed for just eight yards on eight carries before exiting. That Seattle o-line needs serious help.

I went back to the well with Matthew Stafford, and once again he produced a dud in crunch time, failing to throw a touchdown for the second straight week. He can redeem himself against the Packers at home in Week 17.

Ladarius Green was ruled out shortly after last weeks column was published, so he doesn’t count.

Week 17 Start ’em Sit ’em

Start ’em

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills

Watkins finally made a lasting impression on the 2016 season, catching seven passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. He was catching long bombs all day, highlighted by a 36-yard TD in the second quarter. It was nice to see Watkins and Tyrod Taylor rediscover the chemistry they developed at the end of last season. Everyone knows how good Watkins is when healthy. Seemingly back to full strength, Watkins can be fully deployed against the Jets‘ awful secondary.

When I use awful to describe the Jets, it’s only because I can’t use a stronger word without getting in trouble. New York ranks last in DVOA against the pass. They have also surrendered 30 touchdowns through the air, tied for 31st in the league. The Jets have been slightly better at defending opposing WR1, ranking 26th in the league. Still awful, but much better than their league worst defense against WR2. Without a proven secondary option, more targets should be funneled in Watkins’ direction.

Starting Watkins is often a leap of faith due to the inconsistency of the Bills passing game. Fortunately, The Jets’ defense against the run has been as solid as ever. If they manage to take away the Bills’ running game, or at least slow it down, Watkins should see plenty of opportunity to shine. As always, whoever the Jets start at QB will turn the ball over plenty, providing the Bills with more offensive chances. Watkins is a high ceiling option this week.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

In Week 17, many owners will be scrambling for a QB, especially with injuries to Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr, as well as possible rest for Ben Roethlisberger and Dak Prescott. Despite serious regression from last season, Bortles has been a top 10 QB (Yahoo! standard scoring) this season. Bortles isn’t the most trustworthy option, however, his solid performance in Week 16 (325 yards, passing TD, receiving TD) provides some hope that he can finish the season on a high note against the Colts.

While Bortles probably won’t catch another TD pass, he has a great chance to throw a few against the 24th ranked pass defense in the league (260.8 YPG). The Colts actually rank worse in DVOA against the pass, 27th in the league. These two teams scored a combined 57 points in their first meeting this season, so there should be plenty of opportunity for Bortles to rack up the stats.

Under interim coach Doug Marrone, Jacksonville decided to move Allen Robinson around the formation last week, resulting in his best game of the season. If Robinson can continue to be used to the best of his abilities, it will be a huge boost for Bortles and the entire Jags offense. It’s a leap of faith to start one of the most inconsistent QB in the league, but in a desperation situation, Bortles will be a suitable starter in Week 17.

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For the second time this season, Rodgers will have sole control of the Tampa Bay backfield. Doug Martin has been suspended four games for a positive Adderall test, while Charles Sims has been placed on IR, ending his season. The last time Rodgers was lead back, he turned massive volume into three very solid performances. One of those performances came against the Panthers, who he’ll play against Sunday. In that game, Rodgers took a ridiculous 31 carries for 101 yards, while adding 28 receiving yards.

While it’s a reach to assume Rodgers will see 30 carries again, it’s likely that he will receive upwards of 15 carries. His ability as a receiver further increases his value. Owners shouldn’t expect an explosion from Rodgers, as the Panthers defense has been good against the run. However, they are prone to slip-ups, as evidenced by Tevin Coleman’s TD run last week. They have also been vulnerable to pass-catching backs, allowing 11 catches between Coleman and Devonta Freeman last week. In Week 15, they allowed nine catches between Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson.

As the Panthers have a solid front seven, don’t expect Rodgers to have a very efficient day. However, his versatility and volume should help him reach RB2 value.

Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants

Since Week 9 Shepard has established himself as a very solid redzone threat. In eight games since the Giants’ bye, Shepard has six touchdown catches. Outside of an incredible zero target game against the Browns, the rookie has averaged over seven targets per game. Although he won’t see 11 every week, his target floor hovers around five, and he is a solid bet to get work each week.

In the final week of the regular season, Shepard will have a prime matchup to continue his TD streak. The Redskins have been quite friendly against the pass, giving up 263.9 yards per game through the air, good for 28th in the league. While they have to deal with Odell Beckham Jr. wreaking havoc, Shepard can take advantage of their significantly worse defense against opposing WR2 (ranked 27th in DVOA).

If you’re playing Shepard, the basic hope is that Eli Manning is competent enough to get him the ball that day. It’s been a pretty safe bet lately and I’m willing to go all in once again against a poor defense.

Jesse James, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers

If you’re an owner who’s been streaming TE to get to a championship, James could be your next lottery ticket. Without Ladarius Green in the lineup, James has proven himself to be a decent receiving TE. While he isn’t the most talented receiver at the position, James is a solid redzone option and will have extra opportunities to shine on Sunday.

When given the chance, James has shown he can be a decent boom-or-bust option. Before Green returned, he averaged 4.3 targets per-game and scored three touchdowns. Without Green, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio brown in the lineup, James should see an spike in targets. He will have a perfect matchup to take advantage of, as he’ll be up against the Browns, who rank last in DVOA against TE. Cleveland has given up a four touchdowns in the last three games to tight ends and continue to struggle with their defense over the middle, giving up 66 YPG to TE.

Championship contenders looking for a boom-or-bust TE option should look at James this week. Just beware of his incredibly low floor.

Sit ’em

DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins

Jackson has been on a roll over the last month and a half. In his last six games, Jackson has hit 100 yards receiving four times, adding a touchdown in the three of those games. His big play ability has been consistently on display and he’s been fantastic for owners down the stretch. His run will be in jeopardy against the Giants’ elite defense.

In the two games prior to giving up 24 points to the Eagles (thanks Eli), the Giants had held their opponents to a combined 13 points. The Giants rank third in the league against the pass in DVOA. Even worse news for Jackson, New York is the stingiest defense in the league against opposing WR1. He did torch the Giants to the tune of 98 yards and a TD in their first meeting, but look for things to be different in the rematch.

Jackson is also dealing with a jaw injury he suffered against the Bears, and is labelled day-to-day. He did return late in the game, but Jay Gruden did go out of his way to note it on Monday. Jackson will likely play, but it’s always worth noting something that could effect his performance. The Giants are incredibly stingy when it comes to passing TD having given up just 14 all season long. If the Giants can keep Jackson out of the endzone, he will end up on the bad end of his “boom-bust” profile.

Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers

Without a competent running game, you would expect Rivers to turn increased volume into production. Unfortunately, Rivers has mostly struggled since the loss of Melvin Gordon. In essentially three full games without Gordon, Rivers has thrown nearly as many interceptions (five) as touchdowns (six). Notably struggling against the poor secondaries of Carolina, Oakland and Cleveland. Granted, he did throw for 322 yards against the Browns, but it’s tough to excuse his inability to win the game.

After a run of seemingly easy defenses, Rivers will face a very tough test against the division rival Chiefs. Kansas City ranks fourth in DVOA against the pass and have surrendered the tenth fewest points to QB this season. Over the last three weeks, the Chiefs have been on an absolute tear, holding Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota and Trevor Siemian to less than seven Fantasy points. Rivers has historically struggled against Kansas City, having thrown just three touchdowns to five interceptions in their last five meetings.

Expect a Fantasy performance similar to his Week 1 total of 14 points. However, I expect Rivers to throw at least one interception this week. He’ll be a QB2 in the season finale.

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

I’m going to put Gurley in my sits so he can let me down one last time. I want him to succeed so badly but it’s not going to happen behind that sieve he calls an offensive line. To his credit, Gurley has come through for patient owners lately, scoring touchdowns in two of his last three games. Behind the touchdowns, his YPC remained terrible, averaging 3.15 yards per carry over those games. Owners should resist the temptation to chase the points and leave Gurley on the bench this week.

Despite facing the worst run defense in the league last week, Gurley managed just 67 yards on 23 carries. If he can’t be efficient against the 49ers, I don’t see any way he has a respectable performance against the Cardinals. Going into Week 17, Arizona has given up the fewest points to running backs. Surrendering just 3.6 yards per carry, the Cards rank first in DVOA against running backs.

Gurley’s ceiling is already limited by his inefficiency, but this week, he will need a touchdown to even salvage RB2 value. I see him as a FLEX option at best, but he is bench worthy if you’re competing for a title.

Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders

I think this is a sit that everyone should have seen coming. There are so many things working against Cooper these days that I can’t see anyone starting him with confidence in Week 17. First, his performance has been spotty lately, finishing with less than 30 yards in three of his last five games. In addition, Michael Crabtree has been the most targeted Raiders WR lately, out targeting Cooper in four of their last five games.

Second, the Raiders offense will be without Derek Carr as the start sophomore recovers from a broken fibula. While Matt McGloin isn’t the worst QB the Raiders could be starting (looking at you, Osweiler), I don’t see him coming close to replicating Carr’s production. McGloin holds a career 76.1 QB rating and has thrown 11 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.

Finally, the Raiders will be going up against the Broncos defense. By now, I hope everyone realizes that starting a WR against the Broncos is gambling with your Fantasy life. Unless it’s Tyreek Hill, Denver is a place where WR production goes to die, Broncos rank first in just about every defensive metric against the pass except for DVOA against WR1 (2nd) and interceptions (12th). With all the things working against him, Cooper (and Crabtree for that matter) should not be in anyone’s lineup come Sunday.

Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans

Walker is tough to sit in Championship week, but there are so many things going against him that I wouldn’t feel safe with him in my lineup. First and most pressing, is that he will be up against the Texans defense, who rank first against tight ends in DVOA. They have allowed just one double digit performance to tight ends this season, and allow an average of just 35 yards per game to the position.

The next issue facing Walker is his new QB. With Marcus Mariota out for the season, Walker will rely on Matt Cassell to throw him the ball. If Cassell’s stint in Dallas is any indication, the Titans will need to rely heavily on Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry to move the ball. If the Titans move to a more run focused attack (is that possible?) to hide Cassell, Walker will see fewer opportunities. In the likely event that Cassell leans on his TE, Walker will be used more as a safety blanket on short routes than a downfield threat.

The combination of tough defense and backup QB make Walker a sit candidate this week. If you start him, you’re looking at low yardage and hoping for a touchdown.

About Jonathan Chan

Winning fantasy leagues since 2004. Losing them for much longer. Follow Jonathan on twitter @jchan_811 and he'll be ready for all your questions!

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