Trendspotting: Week 17

Examining player and team-based trends that could identify valuable DFS options

Something Different This Week

This week, we're going to change the regular format of this article. With Week 17 being so "wonky" due to many teams resting star players, other teams in must-win situations, and some teams even tanking (though of course not openly admitting it), we're going to focus on the motivation levels of each NFL team. This should help us identify and (perhaps more importantly) disqualify DFS targets.

The tables below should be self-explanatory for the most part. The only item that may be unclear is the "Motivation Level" column. That's on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest level of motivation. Some teams have even been given a "0" here just to really drive home that they are basically playing this week like a preseason game or flat out tanking.

This column is very much "eye of the beholder," which, in this case, is just me. So if you disagree with anything, feel free to drop me a line on Twitter or e-mail. When in doubt, I generally leaned towards a lower level of motivation. Even though these players are professionals, it's hard to get 100% hyped for a day of work when you know there's nothing on the line. I think this tweet from the always fantastic Rich Hribar says it best.

This week, we'll discuss the following topics:

NFC

TeamOpponentTimePostseasonMotivation Level
Dallas (1) at Philadelphia 1:00pm Clinched NFC #1 1
Atlanta (2) vs. New Orleans 4:25pm Chance for NFC #2 5
Seattle (3) at San Francisco 4:25pm Chance for NFC #2 5
New York Giants (4) at Washington 4:25pm Clinched NFC #5 1
Green Bay (5) at Detroit 8:30pm Need win for NFC North 5
Detroit (5) vs. Green Bay 8:30pm Need win for NFC North 5
Tampa Bay (6) vs. Carolina 1:00pm Need win and help 3
Washington (7) vs. New York Giants 4:25pm Win and In (basically) 5
Carolina (8) at Tampa Bay 1:00pm Out of contention 2
Chicago (9) at Minnesota 1:00pm Out of contention 2
Minnesota (10) at Chicago 1:00pm Out of contention ?
Philadelphia (11) at Dallas 1:00pm Out of contention 4
New Orleans (12) at Atlanta 4:25pm Out of contention 3
Arizona (13) at Los Angeles 4:25pm Out of contention 3
Los Angeles (14) vs. Arizona 4:25pm Out of contention who cares?
San Francisco (15) vs. Seattle 4:25pm Out of contention 1

Commentary

See notes below:

  1. Dallas has said they will play their starters limited reps, but Jerry Jones has said it's not worth playing Tony Romo, meaning the team has the protection of any and all important assets on its mind. The point spread (Philadelphia -3.5) also suggests that the smart folks in the desert think Dallas will be less-than-motivated to win.
  2. Atlanta gets the two-see with a win (or a Seattle loss). With Seattle visiting a putrid San Francisco team, Atlanta will be playing for the win.
  3. Seattle gets the two-seed with a win and an Atlanta loss, so they have very much for which to play. Russell Wilson should be high on your list of quarterbacks this week, regardless of contest type.
  4. The Giants are locked into the five-seen regardless of outcome. Expect less-than-full games from their key players.
  5. Green Bay and Detroit have been "flexed" to the Sunday Night game. The winner wins the NFC North. If Green Bay loses, they can earn a Wild Card with a Washington loss, but as described above, Washington plays the Giants, who have little motivation to win. Detroit could be the two-seed or out altogether.** What they would need to get the two-seed is a tall order (see below), so it's more likely they're also relying on a Washington loss if they are to lose. By the time 8:30 pm EST comes around, this is probably a "loser goes home" game.
  6. Tampa Bay needs an incredible amount of help*, so there's a chance they get a look to the future instead of going all out. But that's not generally in the DNA of NFL teams, players, and coaches.
  7. "Basically" because if Washington wins and Green Bay and Detroit tie, Washington would still miss the playoffs. But Washington has all the motivation in the world against a Giants team that likely won't play critical pieces for the entire game. Kirk Cousins is a nice play. Rob Kelley is as well in a game in which Washington is at home and favored by more than a touchdown (another factor that suggests the Giants won't be giving full effort here).
  8. Good luck figuring out this Carolina team. In Week 14, they went into Washington on Monday Night Football and got a win against a playoff-hopeful team. Then last week, they come home and lay a huge egg against division rival Atlanta. 
  9. Chicago still has young players playing for their futures and a head coach looking to remain with the team next year. It could be argued that their "2" is a bit low.
  10. Minnesota's first-round pick belongs to Philadelphia, so losing for a draft spot isn't a motivator to the organization. But it's hard to peg the motivation of a team that staged a "mutiny" last week and then subsequently denied it.
  11. Despite being out of contention, Philadelphia has a rookie quarterback and head coach looking for something to build upon. And their first-round pick also belongs to another team, meaning a loss does nothing positive for them. With Dallas having little motivation and Philadelphia (particularly on offense) wanting to build for the future, multiple Eagles players (particularly Darren Sproles and Jordan Matthews) are attractive. Ryan Mathews will miss Week 17 with a herniated disc, leaving Sproles and rookie Byron Marshall as the main backs.
  12. Sean Payton may be eyeing other jobs, but Drew Brees has never been one to shy away from an opportunity to put up huge numbers and fight for a win.
  13. Arizona has been really disappointing this season for a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Typically, this would be a spot where a similar team might fold up shop. But Arizona has a veteran quarterback, an established head coach, and generational player having an unbelievable season. Fire up David Johnson one last time.
  14. Were you really going to use any Rams, even if this game had "it's their Super Bowl" implications?
  15. What organization has less stability than San Francisco? The number one pick could be in play as well if Cleveland beats Pittsburgh earlier in the day.

* Tampa needs: a win against the Panthers, a Colts win over the Jaguars, a Cowboys win over the Eagles, a Titans win over the Texans, a 49ers win over the Seahawks, a tie between the Giants and Redskins, and a Lions win over the Packers.

** Detroit's situation: (1) Clinch a first-round bye with a win over Green Bay, plus a Seahawks loss or tie and a Falcons loss; (2) Clinch the NFC North with a win against the Packers. (3) Clinch a wild card berth with a tie against the Packers OR a Washington loss or tie to the Giants.

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AFC

TeamOpponentTimePostseasonMotivation Level
New England (1) at Miami 1:00pm AFC #1 with win 5
Oakland (2) at Denver 4:25pm AFC #2 with win; chance at #1 5
Pittsburgh (3) vs. Cleveland 1:00pm Clinched AFC #3 0
Houston (4) at Tennessee 1:00pm Clinched AFC #4 1
Kansas City (5) at San Diego 4:25pm Chance at AFC #2 5
Miami (6) vs. New England 1:00pm Chance at AFC #5 4
Baltimore (7) at Cincinnati 1:00pm Out of contention 3
Cincinnati (8) at Baltimore 1:00pm Out of contention 1
Tennessee (9) vs. Houston 1:00pm Out of contention 1
Jacksonville (10) at Indianapolis 1:00pm Out of contention 2
Indianapolis (11) vs. Jacksonville 1:00pm Out of contention 2
Buffalo (12) at New York Jets 1:00pm Out of contention 0
New York Jets (13) vs. Buffalo 1:00pm Out of contention 0
Cleveland (14) at Pittsburgh 1:00pm Out of contention 1
Denver (15) vs. Oakland 4:25pm Out of contention 3
San Diego (16) vs. Kansas City 4:25pm Out of contention 4

Commentary

See notes below:

  1. It's always difficult to get inside the head of a mastermind, but New England has been bitten by not having home field advantage in past years (as recently as last season's AFC Championship Game loss at Denver). They're likely to go out and get it. The only risk in starting Tom Brady and company is a quick hook if they get out to a big lead.
  2. Aside from the huge delta between the two-seed and the five-seen, Oakland will be working Matt McGloin, so they will be working hard to show the league (and even themselves) that they can still make some noise in the postseason without Derek Carr.
  3. Pittsburgh is basically playing Week 4 of the preseason.
  4. Houston is locked into the four-seed, but they may want to get Tom Savage more reps to boost his confidence heading into the postseason.
  5. Kansas City can jump all the way to the two-seed with a win and an Oakland loss at Denver.
  6. Often times, it seems that once they've clinched, teams would rather rest players than fight for a seed. And a team would never admit to wanting to avoid one opponent to face another for fear of "disrespect" or "bulletin board material." But going to Houston sounds a lot easier than going to Pittsburgh. Miami would be able to do just that with a win. They won't know the results of their fellow Wild Card candidates as Kansas City and Oakland play after them.
  7. They're out of contention, but Baltimore is a proud franchise, they want a winning season, and they'd like to send Steve Smith out in style after his retirement announcement.
  8. A.J. Green won't play, Tyler Eifert has already been sent to I.R., and Jeremy Hill will reportedly miss Week 17. They likely want to see what they have in Rex Burkhead, and he'll basically be the last man standing.
  9. They lost to Jacksonville last week, lost their chances at the postseason, and lost Marcus Mariota. In weeks like this one, I'm much more inclined to use players from teams who have been out of contention for a long time, as opposed to those who just had their seasons end more recently.
  10. Unlike Tennessee, Jacksonville has been in "meaningless game mode" for much of the season. Blake Bortles could be playing for his job, and Allen Robinson is out to prove this season wasn't entirely a lost one.
  11. The Colts have veterans at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and head coach. Hopefully they at least feel like getting into a shootout.
  12. This is our second "0" rating. Buffalo just fired its Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator and announced they're benching their best quarterback. You could make a DFS case for EJ Manuel, I suppose, but LeSean McCoy is probably the only feasible asset here.
  13. The Jets haven't been trying for weeks; why start now?
  14. They showed effort last week in getting one in the "W" column. But do they have the will to get a second? At least they'll be playing second-stringers when they try.
  15. Denver is still the defending champ. And the main infrastructure (head coach, quarterback) will be returning and want something to build on. Note: Denver is likely to mix in both quarterbacks, though, so it could be an "avoid" situation.
  16. San Diego is full of veterans and has a few #NarrativeStreet items to play for with Antonio Gates and the tight end touchdown record and Melvin Gordon's 1,000 rushing yards.

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This Week's Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Kirk Cousins $6500 17.9 WAS vs. NYG
Russell Wilson $6800 18.7 SEA at SF
Matt Ryan $7400 20.4 ATL vs. NO
Aaron Rodgers $7700 21.2 GB at DET
Rob Kelley $4400 12.1 WAS vs. NYG
Isaiah Crowell $4400 12.1 CLE at PIT
Eli Rogers $4000 11.0 PIT vs. CLE
Marqise Lee $4600 12.7 JAX at IND
Steve Smith $4900 13.5 BAL at CIN
Travis Kelce $5000 13.8 KC at SD

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This Week's GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetTeamOpponent
Russell Wilson $6800 25.5 SEA at SF
Joe Flacco $5500 20.6 BAL at CIN
Rex Burkhead $3500 13.1 CIN vs. BAL
Darren Sproles $4000 15.0 PHI vs. DAL
Shaun Draughn $3200 12.0 SF vs. SEA
Jordan Matthews $4700 17.6 PHI vs. DAL
Bryan Walters $3000 11.3 JAX at IND
C.J. Uzomah $2500 9.4 CIN vs. BAL

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Looking Back

In order to keep myself honest and not just dish out wild prognostications with no repercussions, I'll list my Cash Games and GPP Plays from last week's column . I'm going to aim for a 55% hit rate on Cash Game Plays (with a target of 2.75x per $1,000) and a 20% hit rate on GPP Plays (with a target of 3.75x), as those tend to correspond with cut lines in those contest types. Players who left their game due to injury or had notable injury situations that would have decreased confidence in playing them will be noted and won't count towards the final total.

Cash Game Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Derek Carr $6800 18.7 12.0 No
Cam Newton $6600 18.2 23.0 Yes
Andrew Luck $7000 19.3 18.8 No
Colin Kaepernick $5700 15.7 17.4 Yes
Ty Montgomery $5900 16.2 33.3 Yes
Frank Gore $4800 13.2 18.5 Yes
Jordan Howard $6300 17.3 21.3 Yes
Michael Crabtree $6100 16.8 18.0 Yes
Ted Ginn $4500 12.4 16.4 Yes
T.Y. Hilton $7800 21.5 7.5 No
Jordy Nelson $7000 19.3 22.4 Yes
Greg Olsen $5200 14.3 14.5 Yes
  • Last Week: 9-for-12 (75%)
  • Season: 63-for-124 (51%)

GPP Plays

PlayerSalaryTargetActualHit?
Derek Carr $6800 25.5 12.0 No
Russell Wilson $6300 23.6 21.4 No
Matt Barkley $5000 18.8 21.5 Yes
Frank Gore $4800 18.0 18.5 Yes
Jordan Howard $6300 23.6 21.3 No
Tyler Lockett $4800 18.0 29.0 Yes
Ted Ginn $4500 16.9 16.4 No
Jared Cook $3000 11.3 14.5 Yes
Daniel Brown $2500 9.4 1.8 No
  • Last Week: 4-for-10 (40%)
  • Season: 30-for-106 (28%)

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Questions, comments, suggestions, and other feedback on this piece are always welcome via e-mail hester@footballguys.com