Before constructing your own GPP lineups, it’s important to consider how most of your opponents will be making theirs. Due to the salary cap, figuring out the most common roster construction each week isn’t necessarily as simple as looking at a list of projected ownership percentages for individual players.
A few points to consider as it relates to this week’s common roster construction:
- Week 17 is more about avoiding landmines than which positions to spend up at, game stacking, ownership leverage, or any other widely accepted GPP strategy. With very few exceptions, your core players should either come from teams with something to play for or teams that have long since been eliminated and are therefore unlikely to make significant personnel changes.
- Of course, this doesn’t mean ownership can’t be leveraged this week. Some games may be meaningless, but their stats count all the same. Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in one or two players per lineup from teams most others will avoid -- just make sure there isn’t a clear path for your core exposures to get benched in-game.
- Don’t be afraid to leave more salary on the table than you would in a normal week. With so many big names expected to rest, paying up in salary won’t always optimize points in your lineups.
- Teams with something to play for - Ravens, Titans, Chargers, Bills, Saints, Panthers, Falcons, Seahawks.
- Teams with something to play for but could pull starters early in easy wins - Patriots, Vikings.
- Playoff teams with nothing to play for resting (or likely to rest) starters - Steelers, Jaguars, Chiefs, Eagles, Rams.
- Teams eliminated for several weeks and unlikely to rest starters - Colts, Browns, Bears, Texans, Dolphins, Cardinals, Buccaneers, Washington, Bengals.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHALK?
Assuming you plan on making multiple GPP lineups each week, your decision on highly-owned players usually isn’t whether to fade them completely, but rather how much exposure you want to them in comparison to their projected ownership.
Some suggestions on how to treat this week’s chalk plays (ownership percentages based on our Steve Buzzard’s projections). Be sure to check back on Saturdays for updated ownership projections. This week especially, ownership percentages may change drastically from the initial projections.
QB: Tom Brady (vs. NYJ, $6,800, 12% owned) - Brady becomes super-risky as a chalk play now that we know the Steelers will be benching key starters. If the Patriots know the Steelers aren’t playing to win against Cleveland, it becomes more likely Brady gets a quick hook if/when New England gets out to a big lead on the Jets.
It’s a shame. In a normal week, Brady would deserve to be the chalk with New England favored by 15.5 points at home. Given the Patriots slate-high 30-point implied team total and New York’s standing as the second-most generous defense to opposing quarterbacks when normalized for strength-of-schedule, he would have the best odds on the slate of throwing at least three touchdowns, if we could safely project him to play the full game.
Is there a chance the scrappy Jets treat this like their Super Bowl and keep things competitive? Perhaps, but in that scenario, it’s far more likely New York’s defense forces Brady into a bad game than Bryce Petty having a hand in a shootout. If you’re playing Brady this week, you’re hoping he’s so dominant through three quarters (or less if the Browns are beating Landry Jones in Pittsburgh), they’re able to reach value before getting rested. It’s a chance worth taking in a few lineups but warrants half as much exposure as the field.
RB: Dion Lewis (vs. NYJ, $6,800, 17% owned) - Lewis’ GPP-winning performance in Week 16 (35.3 fantasy points) will make him popular despite an $800 salary increase and the sudden uncertainty surrounding New England’s motivation to play their starters. While he projects as a fine play in what should be a lopsided Patriots win, his odds of hitting 25+ fantasy points appear much lower than they did last week.
A major reason for Lewis’ Week 16 explosion was his season-high 72% snap rate -- the result of both Rex Burkhead and James White missing the game due to injury. White returned to a limited practice on Wednesday, presumably putting him on track to suit up. Provided White is good to go, we can expect Lewis’ snaps to dip back down to the 50% range, capping his workload in the usual 15-18 touch territory.
Considering the way New England managed Lewis’ touches this season (prior to last week’s must-win game), he’s also at clear risk for an early hook if the Patriots are winning a blowout. Lewis’ chances of reaching value mid-way through the third quarter are much lower than Brady’s against the Jets, who rank 23rd against the pass, but 12th against the run (DVOA). Unless White (or Mike Gillislee) is declared inactive, go lighter than the field.
RB: Derrick Henry (vs. JAX, $5,500, 24% owned) - The fantasy community has been waiting to see what Henry will look like with a 20-carry workload, and should finally get their wish in the Titans win-and-in game against the Jaguars. DeMarco Murray has a torn MCL, and while Mike Mularkey has refused to rule him out, it would make little sense for Tennessee to play Murray on one leg when they have Henry (4.68 yards per carry) ready to carry the load in a must-win game. Henry has seen at least 14 carries four times in his career. In those four games, he has posted rushing lines of 16-60-1, 15-65-1, 14-92-1, and 19-131-1, respectively.
DraftKings saw Murray's potential to scratch coming and raised Henry's price by $1,000, but he still costs too little for a highly-skilled, unquestioned bell-cow playing on a home favorite, even if Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone is serious about resting his starters (there’s no way the line would be Tennessee -3 if the bookmakers believed Jacksonville was playing to win). Henry is mispriced by at about $1,500 making him a great play regardless of his percent owned.
WR: Julio Jones (vs. CAR, $8,200, 18% owned) - The Falcons are another team in a win-and-in scenario and you can bet if Atlanta loses, their coaching staff will not want to answer questions about why they didn’t give their best player enough opportunities. Jones being underutilized this season is a fallacy anyway. His 34.3% team target market share is tops in the league over the last five weeks, and on the season, the only players with a higher percentage of their team’s targets are Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins. Jones has also received 18 red zone targets, which is 8 more than he received all of last season.
Simply stated, Jones is too much for young Carolina cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley. When these teams met in Week 9, Jones hung a 12-6-118-0 receiving line on the duo, and their struggles have continued since. Over the last five weeks, the Panthers have allowed 35.7 normalized fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, which is over 23% more than the next-closest team. Lock Jones into at least 25% of your lineups.
WR: T.Y. Hilton (vs. HOU, $5,900, 15% owned) - Hilton’s 12-6-100-0 receiving line last week in Baltimore came just in time to put him back on our collective radar for a choice matchup with the Texans. Houston has allowed a staggering 60% more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than league average over the last three weeks. When these teams met in Week 9, Hilton helped win GPPs with a season-high 37.5 fantasy points (9-5-175-2).
At only $5,900, Hilton has high-end WR1 upside, yet he’s priced in the same territory as receivers like Dez Bryant and Martavis Bryant, neither of whom have flashed a ceiling all season. While the value is too great to ignore, pushing for more than the field on Hilton is dangerous due to his all-or-nothing production and game flow concerns. With DeAndre Hopkins expected to scratch, it remains to be seen whether or not Houston can move the ball well enough to keep Jacoby Brissett throwing.
TE: Rob Gronkowski (vs. NYJ, $7,000, 23% owned) - Gronkowski has scored 100 DraftKings points since Week 12 -- 28 more than any other tight end -- despite missing a game due to suspension. In a normal week, this would be a matchup to max out your Gronkowski exposure with zero hesitation. As previously mentioned, the Patriots are huge home favorites with the highest implied team total on the slate, and the Jets have been vulnerable to tight ends this season (evidenced most recently by Antonio Gates’ 6-81-1 line in Week 16). When Gronkowski faced New York in Week 6, he reached the end zone twice.
It’s clear the Jets have no answer for him, but the Patriots should have two goals this week -- to win and get Gronkowski out of harm’s way the moment the game is decided. While he obviously carries the risk of getting pulled, Gronkowski’s touchdown potential makes him a stronger bet to hit value than Brady or Lewis by the time Bill Belichick can think about pulling his starters. Gronkowski still has an unmatched ceiling at the position. If you’re making 30 lineups, he belongs in at least four.
D/ST: Seattle Seahawks (vs. ARI, $3,400, 16% owned) - Even the Giants, in a 23-0 road loss, managed an acceptable seven fantasy points against the Cardinals last week. Drew Stanton is an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert, but he remains inaccurate, sack-prone, and by extension, likely to turn the ball over about twice per game. The Cardinals are the second-lowest scoring road team in the league this season (14.6 points per game) and now travel to Seattle to face a Seahawks team playing for their postseason lives. This has all the trappings of a squash match for Seattle. Make them one of your top team defense exposures.
MORE CHALK PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Russell Wilson||QB||ARI||$6,900||10%||If Seattle reaches 24-point implied total, the counting stats will be there.|
|Cam Newton||QB||@ATL||$6,800||7%||Carolina playing to win, but could be scoreboard watching.|
|Alvin Kamara||RB||@TB||$7,900||20%||Soaks up good portion of Bell/Gurley ownership. Smoked TB in Week 9.|
|Malcolm Brown||RB||SF||$3,900||17%||Bell cow in what could still be competitive, high scoring game in LA.|
|Keenan Allen||WR||OAK||$7,800||16%||Has cooled off recently, but will carry offense if Melvin Gordon III cannot.|
|Michael Thomas||TE||@TB||$7,700||16%||Overall WR1 potential if hamstring is right.|
|Eric Ebron||TE||GB||$4,500||12%||On a heater w/ at least 14 fantasy points in each of last 3. Watch knee injury.|
|Baltimore Ravens||D/ST||CIN||$3,800||11%||Double-digit home favorite leads NFL with 2.2 takeaways per game.|
These players fall in the middle-to-upper-middle ownership tiers. Each has a path to top-5 numbers at their respective positions or a strong chance to exceed their salary-implied point expectation. You want more of them than your opponents.
QB: Matthew Stafford (vs. GB, $6,300, 7% owned) - The Lions did not make the list of “teams eliminated for several weeks and unlikely to rest starters”, making Stafford especially risky at high exposure. But with Jim Caldwell on the hot seat in Detroit, his proclamation the Lions won’t rest Stafford feels like something we can hang our hats on. The Packers have been punching bags for opposing quarterbacks during the latter part of the season, allowing 35% more fantasy points than league average to the position over the last five weeks. Green Bay’s depleted secondary is so bad, they even allowed DeShone Kizer to pass for three touchdowns in high winds three weeks ago. Look for Stafford and his wide receivers to have their way with the cast of undrafted free agents in the back end of the Packers secondary en route to a high-scoring win.
RB: Jamaal Williams (@ DET, $5,200, 13% owned) - If Stafford and his receivers put up big numbers against Green Bay, how does that correlate to a huge day for Williams? Detroit’s 28th-ranked rush defense is Charmin-soft. Since Week 13, they’ve allowed Isaiah Crowell and Peyton Barber to crack 100 rushing yards and gave up 136 scrimmage yards and a touchdown to Christian McCaffrey.
If we can believe head coach Mike McCarthy, the Packers are going to Detroit to win. While this doesn’t mean injured players like Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and (most importantly for Williams) Aaron Jones will suit up, it does suggest Green Bay doesn’t plan on treating Week 17 like it’s the preseason.
With nearly all of their playmakers sidelined, the offense will fall squarely on Williams’ shoulders. When Jones was out (or extremely limited) from Weeks 11-13, Williams had at least 24 total opportunities (targets + rushes) in every game and averaged 79 rushing yards, 39 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown per contest. Williams could see a bigger workload than the more highly-owned Derrick Henry, will be more involved in the passing game, faces a far easier matchup, and costs $300 less.
RB: Marshawn Lynch (@ LAC, $4,400, 11% owned) - Even with significant workloads opening up for several cheap backups (Malcolm Brown, Stevan Ridley, and Charcandrick West to name a few), Lynch remains one of the top dollars per projected touch values on the slate. The Raiders are a team that could take a look at some of their younger players, but they brought in Lynch -- the hometown hero -- primarily to cater to their fanbase. While this week’s game is not in Oakland, it is in LA, which remains predominantly a Raiders town. Oakland may look to put on a show for and/or become inspired by what amounts to a home-field crowd, paving the way for a massive workload for Lynch against LA’s terrible rush defense. The Chargers have allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL this season and were shredded by Kareem Hunt (206 total yards and 2 TDs) and Bilal Powell (19-145-1) in each of their last two games.
Lynch’s 27 touches in last week’s meaningless game prove the Raiders are not concerned with preserving Lynch’s health or keeping him from reaching major incentives in his contract. Lynch needs 10 more rushing yards to trigger a $600,000 kicker and can earn another $250,000 if he’s able to score two touchdowns. Oakland may not have anything to play for, but Lynch clearly does.
WR: A.J. Green (@ BAL, $6,300, 10% owned) - Last week’s win over Detroit shows the Bengals haven’t thrown in the towel just yet and the team should be motivated for a chance to knock the division rival Ravens out of the playoffs, in what is probably longtime head coach Marvin Lewis’ last game with the team. Green’s play has slipped over the last few games, but he’s had to deal with the overall poor play of the team and some difficult cornerback matchups (most recently Darius Slay and Xavier Rhodes).
Green has enjoyed some monster games against the Ravens throughout his career and has an advantageous matchup with cornerback Jimmy Smith sidelined. Baltimore has allowed four of the last five WR1s they faced to reach at least 100 receiving yards but have been lucky to keep wide receivers out of the end zone. Over the last five weeks, the Ravens have allowed the fourth-most normalized passing yards in the league but the sixth-fewest passing touchdowns. Green is just the type of dominant WR1 to kick Baltimore’s inevitable touchdown regression into gear.
TE: Charles Clay (@ MIA, $3,700, 9% owned) - It’s predictably taken Clay some time to return to his early season form following October knee surgery, but he’s finally come around. Clay is dominating targets for the Bills like he was prior to getting hurt. His 24 targets over the last three games are good for a 30% target market share. For context, only eight wide receivers have a higher percentage of their team’s targets this season and Travis Kelce is the only tight end above 25%.
Clay was good for a 4x salary multiple when he faced Miami (revenge game alert!) two weeks ago (9-5-68-0) and even though his price has risen by $700 since then, he remains capable of reaching value for tournaments against the Dolphins. Opponents target tight ends vs. Miami on a league-high 26% of their pass attempts and the Dolphins allow 7.4 yards per attempt to the position, which ranks inside the bottom-10. Given Miami’s vulnerability to the position, it makes sense for Tyrod Taylor to lean on his most trusted target in a must-win game for the Bills.
D/ST: Indianapolis Colts (@ HOU, $2,900, 5% owned) - Outside of the game they played in a foot of snow, there hasn’t been a reason to click on the Colts defense all season. But with the announcement DeAndre Hopkins will miss the first game of his career, it’s fair to wonder if T.J. Yates and the Texans are capable of moving the ball against any NFL defense. Yates has been a gift for opposing defenses in his two games as a starter. He’s been sacked 11 times, completed a pathetic 40% of his passes, and turned the ball over three times as a result. Both defenses that faced Yates scored double-digit fantasy points (Steelers and Jaguars). Without Hopkins, even the Colts can make it three in a row.
MORE CORE PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Kirk Cousins||QB||@NYG||$6,200||5%||NYG allowed 9 combined TDs to Prescott, Foles, Stanton last 3 games.|
|Tyrod Taylor||QB||@MIA||$5,300||5%||27.5 fantasy PPG vs. Miami in 5 games since 2015.|
|Mark Ingram II||RB||@TB||$7,500||13%||Near-lock for at least one TD in potential highest scoring game on the slate.|
|C.J. Anderson||RB||KC||$6,000||7%||Averaging 26 touches per game in previous 3 games.|
|Kenyan Drake||RB||BUF||$7,200||10%||Poor game script last week. Should get back to 25-points vs. terrible BUF rush D.|
|Josh Gordon||WR||@PIT||$5,800||5%||PIT getting burned deep recently and aren't too concerned with winning.|
|Josh Doctson||WR||@NYG||$4,400||7%||NYG allowing 36% more FF pts. to WRs than league average over last 5 weeks.|
|Marquise Goodwin||WR||@LAR||$6,600||6%||Throw out last week vs. JAX pass D. Combined 33 targets in 3 games prior.|
|Antonio Gates||TE||OAK||$4,200||7%||Matchup allows for another turn back the clock stat line.|
|Washington||D/ST||@NYG||$2,900||5%||Between 9 and 14 fantasy points in 4 of last 5 games. Giants are a mess.|
These players will appear in a small percentage of your opponent’s line-ups. They're high variance plays, but the greater your exposure, the farther your teams will separate from the pack if they have big games.
QB: Sean Mannion (vs. SF, $4,500, 1% owned) - Mannion is probably not very good, but “probably not very good” would have been considered a compliment for Jared Goff coming into the season. Sean McVay’s tutelage turned Goff into an instant top-10 fantasy quarterback and it’s worth a GPP flier to see if he’s had a similar effect on Mannion, especially against the 49ers horrid pass defense.
San Francisco has allowed the fourth-most normalized fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks over the last five weeks, including multiple touchdowns to T.J. Yates, Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota (this year’s version), and Blake Bortles. With the Rams resting key starters on defense and Jimmy Garoppolo playing exceedingly well, this game can easily turn into the same type of 41-39 shootout we saw when these teams last met in Week 3. Stack him with Josh Reynolds.
RB: Bilal Powell (@ NE, $4,700, 2% owned) - Rostering Powell might feel like point chasing after he erupted for 23.5 fantasy points last week, but the Jets have refused to roll over for teams despite being out of the playoff hunt for most of the second half. New York is traveling to Foxborough with the goal of playing spoiler and their game plan will not be for Bryce Petty to go toe-to-toe with Tom Brady.
Matt Forte recently admitted he’s played all season “on one leg”. Forte hadn’t practiced as of Thursday and it would make sense for the team to hold the veteran out. Even with Forte active and splitting snaps, Powell still accumulated 19 touches against the Chargers last week. If the coaching staff rewards his effort with a featured role against the Patriots, he can be in a better spot than it appears on paper. New England has let up massive yardage totals to running backs in each of their last three games, including 15 catches for 203 receiving yards to the combination of Kenyan Drake, Le'Veon Bell, and LeSean McCoy. Powell will be shaded by the abundance of running back value on the slate, making him an ideal pivot play.
WR: Marvin Jones Jr (vs. GB, $6,500, 4% owned) - Player vs. team stats have little place in fantasy football due to the annual revolving door of coaching staffs, schemes, and players. But if there were ever a case for a player performing exceedingly well when his opponent is wearing a yellow and green uniform, Jones has made it emphatically since joining the Lions.
In three games against the Packers since the start of last season, Jones has averaged 9.3 targets, 6 receptions, 129.3 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. The current incarnation of Green Bay’s pass defense is particularly abysmal, as stated in the Matthew Stafford blurb above. Despite losing targets to Kenny Golladay and Eric Ebron in the last three weeks, Jones has made the most of his opportunities, averaging over 22 yards per catch. The Packers opponent completion rate on passes that travel 20-25 yards downfield is well below league average, which makes the matchup for Jones fit like a glove.
TE: Vance McDonald (vs. CLE, $2,700, 1% owned) - Yes, the Steelers will be resting some starters, but McDonald is shaping up to be an important part of the passing game for the team’s playoff run and he can use the reps after appearing in only nine games this season.
He has quietly exceeded a 3x multiple of his current salary in each of his last three appearances and now faces the Browns -- essentially an auto-start matchup for opposing tight ends. Maybe McDonald isn’t worth the playing time risk with backup tight ends in the same price range like Rhett Ellison and Demetrius Harris slated for a full complement of snaps, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see him operate as the preferred target for quarterback Landry Jones, even if he only plays about 40% of the team’s snaps
D/ST: New England Patriots (vs. NYJ, $3,500, 5% owned) - Opposing defenses have scored 18, 6, and 13 fantasy points vs. the Jets in Bryce Petty’s three extended appearances. It’s strange more people aren’t talking about playing New England, with the Patriots likely to force a pass-heavy game script on the poorly equipped Petty.
MORE CONTRARIAN PLAYS
|Player||Pos||Opponent||Salary||Proj. Own %||Comment|
|Case Keenum||QB||CHI||$6,000||2%||Vikings playing for bye, favored by 12 at home.|
|Patrick Mahomes II II||QB||@DEN||$4,700||3%||Not much need to pay down at QB, but Mahomes throws deep and runs.|
|Jerick McKinnon||RB||CHI||$5,100||6%||Better suited than Murray to exploit Bears defense.|
|Wayne Gallman||RB||WAS||$4,200||3%||Price has barely budged despite 24 targets in last 3 games.|
|Kenny Golladay||WR||GB||$3,300||3%||8 targets last week, more snaps than Tate in each of last 3.|
|Martavis Bryant||WR||CLE||$6,200||4%||Only player who can say they hung a 6-178-1 line with Landry Jones at QB.|
|Chester Rogers||WR||HOU||$3,000||1%||Hilton leverage. Excellent matchup on slot routes vs. CB Kareem Jackson.|
|Josh Reynolds||WR||SF||$3,000||2%||Watkins and Woods won't play much, leaving RZ target Reynolds as WR1.|
|Ben Watson||TE||CIN||$3,800||2%||Involved again. 10 targets last two weeks, CIN is plus TE matchup.|
|George Kittle||TE||@LAR||$2,800||1%||Developing rapport w/ Garoppolo, running most routes of SF TEs in last 2.|
|Demetrius Harris||TE||@DEN||$2,500||2%||Big, fast, former basketball player set for heavy playing time.|