The final week of the regular season is upon us, and it’s generally one of the more challenging weeks for DFS purposes. We have some teams that still have plenty to play for, many that are merely playing for pride, some that are already looking ahead to the 2017 season, and a few teams that have their playoff futures mapped. As such, teams in the latter category will likely be resting starters, or only playing them on a limited basis.
Add it all up, and it looks like a pretty daunting week from a research perspective. However, the same tried and true principles of DFS success can still be effective, and it’s important to trust the process - even when you have to dig a little deeper to get to the desired results. There will also still be plenty of plays that the masses flock to in abundance. Sometimes it makes sense to go along with the crowd and include these players on our rosters, while other times there may be equally appealing options that will be owned at a lesser percentage. That’s what this column aims to help you sort through on a weekly basis.
Before we dig into the week’s top chalk selections and how to approach them, let’s take a look at the games that everyone will have on their radar this week.
Chalk Games Of The Week
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
There’s always a chance that a meeting of these two squads will devolve into a track meet, and we need to look no further than this game’s projected total for confirmation. At a whopping 56.5 points as of this writing, this tilt is by far the highest projected scoring affair of Week 17. There’s a good chance you’ll want some exposure to players from this game, and there’s plenty of different ways to attack it.
For starters, there will be plenty of lineups this week that are anchored by either Matt Ryan or Drew Brees. Both signal callers are a little pricey by DraftKings standards, but they could also both be easily be well worth the investment if the track meet scenario comes to fruition. This being Week 17, there are plenty of other ways to gain differentiation for your lineups, and that points us towards not hesitating to pull the trigger on either Ryan or Brees.
Stacking options are slightly trickier, at least on the Saints side, but Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks are at the top of the list. All three players bring multiple-touchdown upside potential to the table, as well as a plethora of catches and yardage. Willie Snead and Taylor Gabriel are the top lower-cost contrarian ways to gain exposure to this tilt, but there’s more than enough value to be found on this slate. You should have no trouble fitting the higher-priced options into your lineups, and some safety in the face of an unpredictable week is always a welcome sight.
Gaining exposure to this tilt via the respective teams rushing attacks is certainly a viable approach, and you should keep room on your shortlist for Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram and Tevin Coleman. The workload split between Freeman and Coleman can make things a little tough to predict, but both players are capable of delivering a nice return - sometimes even in the same game. Ingram enters this game off of a two-touchdown effort against the Buccaneers, and he offers similar upside in this matchup.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
The final game of the regular season is typically the one remaining game that has the biggest stakes, and this year’s entry is no exception. The Packers and Lions will meet up in Detroit with a division crown on the line, and possibly a playoff berth, depending on how the rest of the day shakes out. We won’t be shy about selecting players from this game for our lineups, and both starting quarterbacks should take up residence on your short list.
Outside of the Week 15 snow game against the Bears, Aaron Rodgers has been on fire. He’s thrown for multiple touchdowns in every game since Week 7 outside of that one, and he’s tossed three or more touchdowns six times over that time frame. The Lions have also been pretty fantasy friendly to opposing quarterbacks over the past two weeks, and that just bolsters the case for Rodgers even further.
Matthew Stafford has had himself a fine season on the field, but that hasn’t translated to a ton of fantasy success. He’s still in play this week, but we’re not as enthusiastic about his upside. Jordy Nelson and Golden Tate are the safest stacking options, and once again we’re more intrigued by one of them. Rodgers has connected with Nelson for five scores over the past four games, and he’s receiving a boatload of targets to boot. Tate is not lacking on the target front, but finding the end zone has been challenging for him this season.
The low-cost stacking options are Davante Adams, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin, Eric Ebron, and Jared Cook, but the game sets up perfectly well for both of the respective teams top targets. For the running games, Ty Montgomery has been a revelation this season, and he brings nice upside to the table. The Lions running game is a little bit of a question mark, but Zach Zenner is an intriguing youngster that found the end zone a pair of times last week.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top chalk plays and how we can approach them for our lineups, starting with the quarterback position.
QB Aaron Rodgers, $7,700. Despite being the week’s priciest quarterback, there’s plenty of reasons to roster Rodgers this week. Strong recent play, an incredibly high-stakes game, and a high projected total are a few, and there’s a good chance that many users will bite the bullet and pay up. We’ll agree with that decision. Rodgers is a fine play this week, and there’s no reason to look elsewhere if you’re completely sold on his prospects. There are plenty of ways to gain differentiation for your lineups on a weekly basis, and that’s definitely the case for a week that looks to be pretty unpredictable at first glance.
Beyond Rodgers, the next two most expensive quarterbacks are Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. We can expect both of them to be heavily-owned as well, as they are squaring off in a projected shootout. There’s no red flags to throw up on either one of them, and you can feel free to roster Brees and Ryan as you see fit. Next up on the salary chart is Tom Brady, and we’ll throw up a small caution flag. The Patriots are still playing for homefield advantage, but we can easily see them lifting Brady if this game gets out of hand one way or the other.
There’s plenty of intriguing options at the sub-$7,000 level, namely Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Kirk Cousins. There’s also a couple of interesting plays at the under-$6,000 mark, including Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. In short, there’s a lot of different ways you can go at quarterback each week, and Week 17 is no different. Rodgers is at the top of the charts for several reasons, and leaning on a high-level quarterback with something to play for should pay some dividends. For single lineup folks, Brees and Ryan would be next on the list of safe options, while Cousins and Bortles look particularly appealing for those looking to mix things up.
RB David Johnson, $9,800. Johnson is an incredibly popular play each week regardless of salary, and that’s due to the fact that he generally delivers a really nice return. The only small concern for this week is the Cardinals could show a little caution with the franchise back in a meaningless tilt, but we’ll approach that concern with a different mindset entirely. It’s been a disappointing season for a preseason Super Bowl contender, and we’ll look for the Cardinals to close out the season on a high note. While there’s plenty of questions heading into the offseason, the talent is there for the Cardinals to be back in a big way in 2017.
They could kick that off with a personal ‘statement’ game in Week 17, and what better opponent to have on the docket than the Rams to make that theory a reality. The Rams are challenged on both sides of the ball, and there’s zero reason why Johnson can’t cap off his impressive season in a big way on Sunday. We’ll go with the masses on this one: Johnson is a strong play, and there’s no valid reason to fade him - outside of late breaking news that the Cardinals will be playing things safe.
There are several ways to gain uniqueness this week without fading Johnson, and there’s also a ton of value at the running back position to make fitting his salary in a little less challenging than it’s been in recent times. If you lock Johnson in at your RB1 spot, you can complement him with a low-priced RB2 such as Darren Sproles, Rex Burkhead or Chris Ivory, to name a few. There’s also plenty of value in the mid-tier range from players such as Bilal Powell, DeMarco Murray and Mark Ingram. On the pricier side, Devonta Freeman could be used as a pivot from Johnson, as he has tremendous upside in a potential track meet against the Saints.
WR Jordy Nelson, $8,100. The salary makers are finally catching on to the fact that Nelson is having an outstanding season, and he checks in at his priciest point of 2016. We won’t let that deter us from rostering him this week - and neither will the masses. If we expect Rodgers to be the most popular quarterback of the week, it’s only natural to expect to see plenty of Rodgers-Nelson stacks. There’s no reason to fade him, unless your plan is to avoid the Packers-Lions tilt entirely. Outside of that, there’s plenty of ways to save some coin and fit him in with ease this week.
Cameron Meredith, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Eli Rogers are just four of this week’s low-cost wide receivers that appear to be in great spots. Meredith has been targeted a bunch over the past two weeks, and he’s facing off against a vulnerable Vikings squad. Smith says this will be his final game, so we should expect some fireworks and for Joe Flacco to look for him early and often. LaFell should also be heavily targeted in the absence of AJ Green and Tyler Eifert, while Rogers should see a bump in targets due to the Steelers resting starters.
For direct pivots away from Nelson, we can look towards Julio Jones and Mike Evans in the same salary range, but we can expect both to be heavily-owned as well. Cheaper pivots including T.Y. Hilton, Doug Baldwin and Brandin Cooks make a ton of sense this week based on their matchups, as do mid-priced options such as DeSean Jackson, Jordan Matthews and J.J. Nelson. On the Nelson front, we’ll add in the caveat that there’s an outside chance that Larry Fitzgerald could hang up the cleats for good on Sunday as well, and that would pique our interest in him substantially, while we would be less enthusiastic about Nelson.
TE Travis Kelce, $5,000. Since Week 11, Kelce has exceeded 100 yards five times. He’s delivered at least 3x value in all five of those games, and exceeded that number in a big way several times. There’s been only one dud performance over that timeframe, so we’ll view his chances at another strong performance as pretty high. The general public will as well, and we can expect Kelce to be the most highly-owned tight end of Week 17. There’s not a large amount of standout plays at the position for the week, so we’ll be inclined to click the plus sign next to his name.
However, there’s a couple of other directions you can go if you want some extra uniqueness for your lineups. Greg Olsen is more expensive at $5,500, but he’s shooting for a career-best mark in receiving yardage. Jimmy Graham is cheaper at $4,500, and he’s facing off against a defensively-challenged squad in the form of the 49ers. One other name to note is Zach Ertz, who will be facing off with a Cowboys squad with nothing to play for. He’s been seeing a good amount of targets - with the exception of last week - and the Cowboys have had their fair share of struggles against opposing tight ends of late.
D Seattle Seahawks, $3,700. We’ll look towards one of the week’s biggest favorites to be one of the more popular selections, and that team just happens to be facing off with the aforementioned 49ers. It’s been a rough season in San Francisco, and it’s not going to get any easier on Sunday against a Seahawks squad that still has a shot at a first-round bye. It’s not too hard to envision a wealth of sacks and turnovers, and the Seahawks make for a fine way to fill your defense spot in Week 17.
For a team with similar upside, we can stay in the same division and save a little money. The Cardinals face off against the Rams, which is another club that has some serious deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. Sacks and turnovers could be in the forecast here as well, and we can expect the Cardinals to be pretty popular. For an outside the box approach to attacking defense this week, take a look at the Titans. They blew a golden opportunity to be playing for a division crown this week by losing to the Jaguars, and there’s a good chance they’ll be welcoming the Texans to town with a foul attitude. Look for the Titans to take out their frustrations on a squad that is locked into a playoff spot and has nothing to gain by exerting effort this week.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 17. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.