Welcome to the weekly Start/Sit column! Each week I’ll aim to analyze upcoming games, research team injury reports, and check-in on any depth chart movement – all to offer you weekly start/sit recommendations.
I’m taking a slightly different approach this week. Since your league should have been determined last week, I’ll be putting more of a DFS spin on the column this week. The spirit of the article remains the same; I’ll highlight some players that I think will outperform their consensus rankings. They’d usually be my must-starts, but this week they could also be considered foundational pieces of a DFS lineup. Likewise, the must-sits will be players that I’m expecting to underperform compared to the consensus and should be avoided in DFS.
The unpredictability of week 17 is precisely why you should decide your league’s champion before week 17. Variables include the locked in playoff teams resting starters, teams with nothing to play for giving more snaps to their young talent, and early game results affecting how teams in the later games will choose to compete. With all that in mind here are the players I like, and don’t, for the NFL regular season finale.
Must Starts (Get them in your DFS lineup)
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives this week, needing a win and some help to get in. They also happen to be playing at home against the Bengals, who rank 30th in the NFL against the pass. Big Ben has been on fire lately, including the 380 yards and three touchdowns he put up last week despite losing in New Orleans. There’s no guarantee that James Conner can return this week, so look for Roethlisberger to carry the Steelers offense again. He’s an obvious must-start if you’re still playing this week and is worth the high price tag in DFS, especially if Conner is ruled out.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks don’t have much to play for this week, but I still love Chris Carson this week. They play the Cardinals in the season finale, who have given up a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns this year. Pete Carrol claims that they’re still playing they’re starters, and while I don’t exactly believe him, I still like Carson to rack up enough fantasy points to be worth getting in some lineups this week.
Jake Kumerow, WR, Green Bay Packers
I usually like to stay away from meaningless games like the one in Green Bay between the Packers and Lions this week, but sometimes they can be an opportunity to find hidden value. Kumerow, who played his college football at Division III powerhouse UW-Whitewater, bounced around NFL practice squads before making a splash this preseason with the Packers. A shoulder injury kept him out until week 13, but he’s been coming on strong ever since.
Last week he played on a season-high 63% of the offensive snaps while catching all three of his targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. If you’re playing a championship game in week 17 and need a replacement, he could be your guy, but I like him even better as a DFS value this week.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
I’m including Ertz this week because he’s worth paying up for in DFS this week. If you’ve been paying attention this season, you know how vital it is to have a reliable tight end in your lineup. The Eagles need to beat Washington to have a chance at the playoffs, Nick Foles is looking to repeat the magical playoff run from last year, and Ertz is the best weapon on the Eagles offense. There are plenty of places to save salary in your DFS lineups, find a way to fit in Ertz.
Defense/Special Teams: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks can still improve their playoff seed, they’re playing at home in front of the 12s, and they take on a Cardinals offense that is historically inept. They’re the defense you want this week.
Other Good Starts
The Chargers still have a chance to get the number one playoff seed, so I love Philip Rivers against the Broncos this week. That means Keenan Allen should be in play as well. I also think Melvin Gordon will fair much better against Denver than he did against the Ravens last week.
The Rams were so dominant early in the season that it’s had to believe they need to win this week against the 49ers to secure a first-round bye. It’s possible that Todd Gurley sits again, so I’m expecting a good performance from Jarred Goff and Robert Woods through the air.
The Patriots have an outside chance to clinch the number one seed in the AFC, but could also fall as far as the number four seed, so they have plenty to play for this week. They host a Jets team that ranks 26th against both the pass and rush, and just got torched at home by the Packers last week. Tom Brady, Sony Michel, and Julian Edelman should all be in line for great outputs this week. James White will still have his pass-catching role and is always a threat to score. Rob Gronkowski makes an intriguing DFS tournament play. His cost and ownership will both be down given his goose egg last week, but we all know Gronk is always a threat to score a touchdown or two.
If it’s confirmed that the Saints are resting their starters with the top seed already locked up, Teddy Bridgewater becomes a fascinating play against the Panthers. Stacking him with Tre’Quan Smith could yield some huge results.
I mentioned Roethlisberger as my must-start quarterback of the week, but Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster also need to be mentioned, not because of any year-long fantasy implications, but because they should both be worth their price in DFS. I’d go with JuJu to save a little salary, but if I have some money to spare in my lineup I’m paying up for Brown.
Speaking of the Saints-Panthers game, if you’re looking for some cheap starters, you won’t find any cheaper than the Panthers latest starting quarterback Kyle Allen. He completed all four of his passes last week…so there’s that. Cameron Artis-Payne would likely start and see workhorse volume if Christian McCaffery is held out in this meaningless game.
Must Sits (Avoid in DFS)
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins and Bills don’t technically have anything to play for in the season finale, but Tannehill and head coach Adam Gase may have their futures with Miami on the line. They aren’t in a good spot, traveling to Buffalo to take on a defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. The future for Tannehill in Miami looks iffy at best, and he has no place in any fantasy lineup in any format.
Alfred Blue, RB, Houston Texans
Blue seemed in a good spot last week with Lamar Miller out against a mediocre Eagles defense, but he only managed 40 total yards. D’Onta Foreman played in the game as well, and while he didn’t impress either, he did at least find the end zone. If Miller returns, Blue likely slides to third on the depth chart behind Foreman. It may not even matter, as Houston takes on Jacksonville. Other than getting steamrolled by Derrick Henry week 14, the Jaguars haven’t allowed over 100 yards or a touchdown on the ground since week 7. Blue isn’t a viable fantasy option anywhere this week.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
The Bears have plenty to play for this week as they try to wrap up a first-round playoff bye and Anthony Miller found the end zone for the seventh time of the season last week, but that doesn’t make him a good start this week. Miller hasn’t seen more than four targets since week ten. The matchup on the road in Minnesota this week is brutal; the Vikings give up the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Miller should be shelved until next season when he could have a breakout year.
Tight End: NA
I’m still boycotting tight end sits until next year. There are a few tight ends you should play, but none that you need to avoid entirely. Case in point; MyCole Pruitt was a top ten tight end last week. Moving on.
Defense/Special Teams: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are in the playoffs, and win or lose they’re locked into the number four spot. The Giants will only be playing for pride, but with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, they have enough talent to put up some points on the Dallas backups. Eli Manning has plenty of pride and would love to prove that he can continue to start next season; he’d love nothing more than to light up the Cowboys to end the season.
Others to Avoid
With New Orleans comfortably locked into the number one playoff seed in the NFC, you can’t trust any of their usual starters. Head coach Sean Payton has been coy so far, but I’m not playing Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, or Alvin Kamara this week.
As stated earlier, the Cowboys have nothing to play for this week. Dallas claims they’ll play starters, but again, I’m not trusting anything in week 17. I’m avoiding Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and Amari Cooper this week.
I hope you found my start/sits useful this season, and maybe I helped you once or twice with your lineups. Soon I’ll be breaking down and recapping my starts and sits from the season, so make sure to watch for that. As we transition into the fantasy offseason, I’m always happy to interact on Twitter @aalarson.