This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
Week 17 Strategy
In general, what is your Week 17 DFS strategy? Do you play less than usual because of the unpredictability of some teams playing for nothing? Do you play your same amount but focus most of your energy on teams with something at stake?
Phil Alexander: It makes a lot of sense to put less of your bankroll in play during Week 17 due to unpredictable playing time and potentially unmotivated players causing wonky game scripts. Personally, I won't be scaling back because I have an edge over casual players who will do far less research. One thing I will be doing differently is avoiding cash games entirely and focusing on harnessing all the uncertainty Week 17 brings when constructing GPP lineups. I'll definitely be building my core of players around teams with something to play for this week, but it's going to be equally important to nail at least one player no one sees coming from a game the rest of crowd is scared to touch. To do so, you'll need to know the playoff scenarios left, right, upside-down and backwards, stay glued to the news cycle, keep an eye out for movement on the Vegas lines throughout the week, and do your best to interpret coach speak.
Jeff Pasquino: I think you have to play less than usual, unless you can find just the right game scripts to key in on. Even if you do find those, wackiness reigns supreme in Week 17 every year, so it is very hard to predict. Guys who played all season long take a seat while younger guys get evaluated. Veterans rest especially if a Wild Card game looms next week. I would stick to a tournament lineup or two and just enjoy the week off otherwise.
Justin Howe: I'm on board with Phil and Jeff. I'll be putting less bankroll (about 10%, rather than 20-25%) into play, and focusing it entirely on GPPs. Phil put it great; there's no way I'm going to be playing cash games for stable floors when some teams will be sitting. And there's a land mine in even the best-laid Week 17 plans. Some coaches may play their starters for four quarters, sure, but they may scale back or even completely flip the gameplan. If they don't want to provide their playoff opponents with film, they might run a suboptimal, contrarian gameplan that we never saw coming.
Like Phil, any play I do will be focused on tournaments. I'll be looking for the uncertain games, the ones which nobody really knows what to predict, and finding stacks and low-owned guys to capitalize on.
BJ VanderWoude: I agree with the general strategy laid out by Phil. With so much uncertainty, it makes sense to lower your buy-ins and focus 100% on GPPs and qualifiers.
With that said, I am also paying close attention to the market conditions. If a large majority of players are decreasing their week 17 exposure, there could be an opportunity for large overlays, in which case I would play up to my normal amounts.
Philadelphia-New York (Giants) is tied for the highest over/under of the week. But neither team has any postseason motivation. Diagnose what you'll do with this game.
Will you stay away? Will you target it lightly (just a player or two across a couple different lineups)? Or will you go after it heavily thinking that a lack of motivation could simply be on the defensive sides?
Phil Alexander: Before I looked at the Vegas lines, I had a feeling I'd be all over this game, and seeing the over/under come in above 50 (52 to be exact) was very encouraging. Who cares if the Giants and Eagles defenses are motivated for this game? They both stink whether they're trying hard or not. Philadelphia's outside cornerbacks Eric Rowe and E.J. Biggers are both weak players, which points to a huge game from Odell Beckham Jr, who I assume will be motivated to change the narrative swirling around him in the wake of his one-game suspension. A nuclear day from Beckham makes Eli Manning worth a look, and I'd even take a flier on Rashad Jennings, who has scored double-digit fantasy points in each of his last three games. The Eagles have let up a startling 64.3% more fantasy points to opposing running backs than the league average over the last five weeks.
The Philadelphia player I'm most intrigued by is Jordan Matthews, who has rebounded in a big way from a mid-season swoon. Matthews has scored in four of his last five games, and has gone over 100 yards in each of his last two. Matthews will match up in the slot with Giants cornerback Trevin Wade, who ranks bottom-10 in ProFootballFocus' fantasy points allowed per route defended metric. Like the Eagles, the Giants have been a sieve against the run recently, but unfortunately, Philadelphia's backfield has devolved into a four-way timeshare, making it impossible to trust Ryan Mathews or Darren Sproles.
Jeff Pasquino: I'll back what Phil said - sticking with Odell Beckham as a top play. One name to throw out as well is Zach Ertz, who has seen more and more usage lately. And the Giants are not good against tight ends at all. I like for him to end on a high note with a touchdown in Week 17.
Alexander: That's a great call on Ertz, Jeff. He's the TE2 over the past three weeks, yet he's priced as the TE8 on FantasyAces (with a great matchup to boot). He's an even better value on other DFS sites where I've seen him priced as low as TE13. There's no question I'll have heavy exposure to Ertz this week. Come to think of it, a Bradford-Matthews-Ertz GPP stack will be a cheap, low-owned combination with plenty of upside.
Justin Howe: I love what the fellas have brought to the table here. I'm not scared off by this game. There's a ton of transition in play for these two teams: quite possibly Tom Coughlin's last hurrah, and a chance for the Eagles brass to get one more look at "almost-NFL-QB" Sam Bradford for next season. The front offices should treat this game as one last diagnostic chance.
Aside from the top-salaried Beckham, I'd say Matthews and Ertz look like the strongest plays. Phil did a great job of pointing out Wade's poor slot metrics, and in a game that projects to 75-80 attempts against poor cornerbacks, Matthews looks like garbage time gold again. And Ertz probably represents the rest of the passing game at this point. He's not the 10-touchdowns-per-season threat I thought he'd be at this point in his career, but he's a PPR machine on the shorter routes, and of course his touchdown chances go up in such a high-paced, high-scoring matchup.
Bj VanderWoude: I am in total agreement here. This may be a case of two teams playing for nothing, but neither team will rest starters. The Giants vs Eagles matchup features an over/under of 50, good for second highest of the week. There are some storylines to boot, Beckham's return from suspension, the firing of Chip Kelly, and perhaps the last game of Tom Coughlin's career with the Giants.
Jeff mentioned Ertz, and that is a call I like a lot. His salary has not caught up with his production, which includes a two-week total of 21 receptions for 200 yards and a touchdown. Ertz has Bradford locking in on him, as well as a Giants defense that has been very generous to opposing tight ends this year. He is a guy I will be building my lineups around in week 17.
On the Giants side, I am looking at a Manning-Beckham stack. This will most likely be a preferred stack for the week, as Manning's salary is fair considering his upside, and he is the type of quarterback that will look to help Beckham redeem himself. The Eagles defense has struggled all season and is fresh off allowing 365 yards passing and four touchdowns to Kirk Cousins. Manning should easily exceed 300 yards passing and at least two passing touchdowns.
Targeting Low Total Games
Conversely, Oakland-Kansas City has a low game total that opened at just 43 points. However, Kansas City is playing for a potential division title while Oakland has provided attractive passing game options all year long. Would you be more willing to use players from this particular game than you would from a typical 43-point over/under game?
Jeff Pasquino: I'm only looking for players with good matchups. Kansas City does have something to play for, and I like both Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin against that Oakland secondary. Tight ends have been in play all year long against the Raiders, and Kelce scored last week. Maclin has also been on fire of late. I would not be hesitant to use Alex Smith either and would consider a Chiefs passing game stack as Oakland is reasonably sturdy against the run.
Phil Alexander: This isn't a game I really have my eye on. The Chiefs have allowed a league-low 16.7 points per game at home this season, and Oakland hasn't scored more than 24 points in a game since Week 8. Kansas City is favored by 6.5 points, which would ordinarily have me excited about using their starting running back, but Charcandrick West struggled in a great matchup against Cleveland last week, and I'd expect Spencer Ware's snaps to tick back up as he gets closer to full strength. I'll have low exposure to West and will also consider Maclin on the Chiefs side of the ball. Maclin lit up Oakland's dismal secondary for nine catches, 95 yards, and two touchdowns when these teams met in Week 13.
The only Oakland player I'd want any part of is Amari Cooper. I'm not convinced Kansas City has completely solved its problems defending perimeter receivers (see Kamar Aiken's 8-128-1 receiving line in Week 15), and Cooper should come low-owned after scoring only two fantasy points last week.
Justin Howe: Like Jeff, I'll consider a few Kansas City guys in a tournament setting, Maclin and Kelce in particular. But I'm in no rush to make them centerpieces this week as there are better combinations available for cash contests. Few teams skew more conservatively than Kansas City, and that's especially true with a hefty lead. As 6.5-point favorites, it's likely they'll sit on a lead for much of the game. That shortens things tremendously and cuts down snap counts, And there's still no answer as to how the running game - which can be dominant and swing fantasy contests - will be divvied up.
Even though some teams have nothing to play for, there will be some players chasing some milestones or records this week. Which "milestone watch" players are you targeting this week?
I'll get the conversation started and provide a couple of examples: Drew Brees is 453 passing yards from 5,000; Blake Bortles is five passing touchdowns away from 40; Doug Martin is 146 rushing yards short of 1,500; and Julio Jones needs 16 receptions to tie the all-time record in a season.
Phil Alexander: The milestone narrative I believe in most is Martin chasing the rushing title, because Lovie Smith came right out and said it's a goal of Tampa Bay's coaching staff to close out the season. Unfortunately for Martin and Lovie, Tampa Bay plays Carolina on the road as 10.5-point underdogs this week -- not an implied game script that points to many rushing attempts.
That leaves Jones vying for the all-time single season receptions record. While 16 catches in one game is a tall order for any receiver not named Antonio Brown, the matchup is certainly in Jones' favor. As you're surely aware by now, the Saints pass defense is an historic atrocity. Jones will be one of the two highest-owned wide receivers (with Odell Beckham Jr being the other), but this is not the week to fade him.
Justin Howe: I'm with Phil here; Martin's milestone is probably the most relevant for our purposes since his head coach has already announced it, but how likely is he to see that kind of yardage in Carolina? Jones' run at the receptions record is the only other one listed that would really move the needle (Brees has how many 5,000-yard seasons already?). If the Matt Ryan-Jones connection is humming along against an undermanned Saints secondary, and the two have hooked up seven or eight times by halftime, then I could get on board with the narrative. The Steelers have quite clearly pushed hard to get Brown and Hines Ward into the record books, so it's clearly a priority to some, if not all, teams and players.
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