It’s hard to believe it, but the fantasy football season is coming to a close. Most leagues should have their championship week next week, so congratulations if you’re reading this article, as (I hope) that means you’ve made the big dance! With only one week of seasonal fantasy action left, I’m going to take a little different approach this week. There’s no time to be “keeping an eye on usage” or “waiting to see who steps up after the injury,” so I’ll just be focusing on the immediate Week 17 impact of Week 16’s action. 

New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

  • Miles Sanders apparently fractured a bone in his hand and may miss next week’s contest. Jordan Howard carried the load initially after Sanders went out but suffered an injury of his own, leaving Boston Scott to lead the backfield. Sanders has been ruled out for Week 17, making Howard a solid play against a reeling WFT, and the same goes for Scott if Howard is unavailable.
  • Saquon Barkley was outsnapped 26 to 41 by Devontae Booker. Even given that many of Booker’s snaps came with the game out of reach, that’s not good. Saquon still has the big-play upside to be startable, but don’t be afraid to bench the fantasy first-rounder if you have other solid options.
  • Despite playing just 51% of snaps, Kadarius Toney led the Giants in targets with nine. If we assume he was being eased back in and sees a fuller complement of reps next week; the electric rookie could be a huge upside play. Proceed with caution, however, as he only caught four passes for 28 yards on those nine targets this week, and the Giants have generally struggled to get anything going on offense. 

Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings

  • If you’re a Van Jefferson manager and managed to survive his one-catch six-yard performance to advance in the playoffs, you might have to put your faith in him one last time. Obviously, his output was terrible, but he still led Rams receivers in snaps and next week gets a matchup with an incredibly depleted Ravens secondary. (The same likely goes for Matthew Stafford, but he lost me a dynasty semifinal, so I don’t blame anyone who rage-drops him.)
  • Adam Thielen’s return from an ankle injury means K.J. Osborn is likely back on many fantasy waivers, but his subsequent re-injuring of that ankle makes Osborn a must-add. Osborn has consistently produced when Thielen misses time and belongs in flex consideration next week.
  • This is Sony Michel’s backfield. Darrell Henderson and Jake Funk combined for just seven snaps and two touches. And before you ask, no, Cam Akers isn’t a magical super-healer, and he’s not going to play a relevant role in Week 17. Most reports indicate Akers was only activated in order to ensure 2021 counts as a season played on his record, a nice gesture by the Rams’ brass but not fantasy relevant. Start Sony everywhere.

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots

  • I’m going to suggest slight caution with Isaiah McKenzie in Week 17. Yes, he led Bills WRs in every stat (snaps, targets, receptions, yards, he even had a carry!), but Cole 
    Beasley is likely to return next week. Beasley should reclaim his slot role, leaving McKenzie to fight with Emmanuel Sanders for WR2 snaps behind Stefon Diggs. Buffalo has consistently preferred Sanders in that role, and I wouldn’t want to rely on them changing their minds in a fantasy championship.
  • Hello to everyone with Damien Harris, as I assume you all won your matchups in Week 16 and are preparing for the finals. Don’t worry too much about Rhamondre Stevenson’s likely return from the COVID list. Don’t get me wrong, Stevenson will steal a non-negligible amount of touches, but there should be plenty to go around: They’re playing the Jaguars, after all. 
  • Dawson Knox was the only tight end active for Buffalo yesterday, and he played every single offensive snap. Despite that, he only caught two passes, one of which luckily went for a touchdown. The Patriots defense is by far the best against tight ends, so we can expect more volume for Knox next week as his role in this offense remains huge.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

  • What is up with Rob Gronkowski? He has had back-to-back games with under 30 receiving yards and yesterday saw a season-low two targets. However, his 90% snap share was a season-high, and he led the team in routes run with 28, more even than Antonio Brown. He should still easily rank as a top-10 TE in Week 17.
  • If you’re in a deep league and relying on Chuba Hubbard or Ameer Abdullah, don’t worry about Reggie Bonnafon. All of his snaps came late with the game out of reach. On the other hand, do worry about a matchup with the Saints excellent run defense in Week 17, as well as the Panthers’ general offensive incompetence. Neither is more than a desperation start.
  • With no Mike Evans or Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown saw more targets than the rest of the Buccaneers combined. Start him, obviously. Don’t, however, start Cyril Grayson, who surprisingly filled the WR2 role opposite Brown. There’s a good chance Breshad Perriman reclaims that slot in his return from the COVID list, and regardless Grayson’s production was uninspiring.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New York Jets

  • James Robinson is done for the season with an achilles injury, and with Carlos Hyde already on IR, Dare Ogunbowale is next up for the Jaguars. He saw essentially every look after Robinson went down. Ogunbowale is a risky play despite a surprisingly solid matchup with the Patriots as the Jaguars often struggle to move the ball, but that kind of volume will always merit a roster slot and flex consideration.
  • Michael Carter’s 74% of snaps was a season high, as the rookie has finally earned a place above Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson. He, unfortunately, draws a hard matchup with Tampa Bay next week, who allow the third-least points to opposing running backs. However, he’s shown the receiving chops to be involved even in negative game scripts, so you can trust him as a flex option if needed.
  • I have to acknowledge that Marvin Jones saw 13 targets, tied for the most in Week 16. However, you still shouldn’t start Jones, or any Jaguar receiver, in Week 17. Jacksonville’s passing offense is too anemic to support more than at most one solid performance each week, and there’s no predicting who it will be, as Jones and Laquon Treadwell consistently see similar snap counts, with Laviska Shenault (replaced by Tavon Austin this week due to COVID) not far behind.

Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons

  • Jamaal Williams returned yesterday, abruptly ending the Craig Reynolds hype train. Unfortunately, D’Andre Swift’s return is likely to do the same thing to Williams’ hope of fantasy relevance in Week 17. If Swift doesn’t make it back in time to face the Seahawks, Williams is a flex option.
  • For some inexplicable reason, the Falcons have stopped using Cordarrelle Patterson as a receiving weapon, and it’s being reflected in his fantasy production (or lack thereof). The former WR has just five receptions for five total receiving yards over the last three games and continues to split carries evenly with Mike Davis. It feels insane to suggest, but I’d consider benching the RB8 on the year if you have better options, especially given the Falcons travel to Buffalo in Week 17.
  • Over the past four weeks, Amon-Ra St. Brown is the WR4, behind just Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson. He’s seen at least 11 targets and eclipsed 70 yards in each of those games, despite catching passes from Tim Boyle and Jared Goff. He deserves a spot in your lineup next week. 

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Los Angeles Chargers @ Houston Texans

  • Rex Burkhead had a remarkable game, but don’t rush to insert him into your lineup next week. Royce Freeman still saw 12 carries to Burkhead’s 22, and David Johnson will likely return to muddy the waters even further in Week 17. Just as important, the Chargers’ run defense is historically bad, and it’s unlikely the Texans and Burkhead have anywhere close to a similar outing next week against San Francisco.
  • Hold onto Justin Jackson until Austin Ekeler is officially cleared from the COVID list, but don’t even think about starting him once Ekeler returns. His two-touchdown 30-point outing was incredible, but this is Ekeler’s backfield. 
  • Unlike Ekeler, Mike Williams will certainly be out next week as well. Jason Moore led Chargers’ receivers in yardage yesterday and Jalen Guyton is likely to return, but Josh Palmer is still the WR you most want to start outside of Keenan Allen. He played more snaps than anyone, Allen included yesterday, and also played more than Guyton when Allen missed Week 14.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

  • For the first time this season, Rashod Bateman saw WR2 usage despite Sammy Watkins being active. Watkins missed the entire week of practice on the COVID list and played just three snaps after being activated on Sunday. With Watkins back with the team, expect Bateman to slide back down to WR3 status and leave him on your bench in Week 17.
  • Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense were the story of the day Sunday, as the second-year QB passed for 525 yards and four TDs for 38.1 fantasy points. Burrow was one of FIVE Bengals to exceed 15 half-PPR points, along with Tee Higgins (37.4), Joe Mixon (28.5), Ja’Marr Chase (16.0) and Tyler Boyd (16.0). In what should be a shootout with the Chiefs next week, all five Cincinnati stars belong in lineups.
  • It’s time to bench Devontae Freeman. Regardless of who plays at QB, the Ravens are throwing early and often, in part thanks to their decimated secondary letting up points at will. Combine that with Latavius Murray returning to take roughly a third of snaps, and Freeman is a weak TD-dependent flex play against a strong Rams defense next week.

Chicago Bears @ Seattle Seahawks

  • Rashaad Penny is for real and is nearly a must-start next week against the Lions. Alex Collins, who served as the lead back at times earlier this season, was a healthy scratch. DeeJay Dallas will serve as the third-down back, but Penny has seen double-digit carries in four straight weeks and should do so again against a weak Detroit run defense.
  • After putting together a solid stretch in the middle of the season, Darnell Mooney has now gone four straight games without a double-digit fantasy outing. He continues to lead the Bears in snaps, routes and targets but isn’t turning that usage into much production. Volume plus a solid matchup with the Giants keeps him on the radar in Week 17, but hopefully, you have better options.
  • While yesterday was technically his best fantasy performance since Week 10, it wasn’t particularly encouraging for DK Metcalf. He saw five targets, his lowest since Week 12, and gained all of his yards on a single 41-yard TD play. I wouldn’t blame anyone who benched him in Week 17, but he clearly is still one of the league’s best big-play receivers, and his upside is sky-high.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire left Sunday’s game early with a shoulder injury, although not before providing perhaps its biggest highlight as he sat down a much larger Steeler defender en route to a one-yard TD. If CEH can’t play next week, Darrel Williams is a must-start, as he was the RB5 when Edwards-Helaire sat out Weeks 6 through 10 earlier this season.
  • After playing an average of 62% of snaps over the last three weeks, Chase Claypool returned to a more healthy 82% snap count against the Chiefs. He still produced just 41 yards, but this role puts him at least back on the fantasy radar. If you’re struggling with COVID or injuries, you could do worse, as Claypool has had some big games this year.
  • Don’t worry about Tyreek Hill playing just 42% of snaps. He was on the field his usual amount early in the game, but the Chiefs clearly chose to rest him with the game out of hand late, likely because he missed most of the week’s practices on the COVID list. He should be back to his usual role next week.

Denver Broncos @ Las Vegas Raiders

  • Both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams let fantasy managers down yesterday. Williams salvaged his day with a TD, but Gordon’s seven rushes for NEGATIVE four yards likely killed many playoff runs. If you’re still alive with either Denver RB rostered, you should throw this week away and start both with confidence in Week 17. Their 50/50 split remains intact, and the Chargers’ run defense is so very, very bad. Gordon and Williams combined for 28 fantasy points in their Week 12 matchup with LA, and I expect similar production, if not more, next week.
  • With Bryan Edwards on the COVID list, Zay Jones led Las Vegas’ WRs in snaps and caught six of eight targets for 50 yards. There’s a chance Edwards will miss the next game as well, which would make Jones an option, but only in the absolute deepest of leagues.
  • This is your weekly reminder from me not to start Broncos receivers. I don’t care if Teddy Bridgewater comes back next week. Cortland Sutton has yet to reach double digits in a week, with Jerry Jeudy active. For his part, Jeudy hasn’t scored double digits since Week 1. Tim Patrick sees five targets on average per game, less than players like Evan Engram, Cole Kmet and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Don’t do it.

Washington Football Team @ Dallas Cowboys

  • There’s not much to take from this game, as it was over so early that snap counts and touches for starters on both sides should be taken with huge grains of salt. This applies to both Ezekiel Eliot and Tony Pollard, as well as Antonio Gibson
  • One thing we can take away from this game is that Dalton Schultz managed to produce despite all three-star Dallas receivers being active, catching a team-high eight passes for 82 yards and a TD. His production has been up-and-down since Michael Gallup’s return, but he is still a respectable TE play in Week 17.
  • Terry McLaurin hasn’t seen double-digit targets since Week 7, and without that volume his production has clearly suffered. Scary Terry is still a special talent so don’t sit him for the Rex Burkhead’s of the world, but if you have solid pivot options, go ahead and leave him out for this one.

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