While always unique, Week 17 is even more of an oddity than usual this season, bringing us a main slate with all 16 games after a full year of mostly being limited to 11 or 12 contests. On top of that, the usual stockpile of rest situations is complemented by a slew of crucial running back injuries, with Melvin Gordon (ankle), DeMarco Murray (knee), Mike Gillislee (knee) and Joe Mixon (ankle) all uncertain as of Friday morning.
Branden Oliver, Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and Giovani Bernard would all stand to benefit from the aforementioned injuries, while Malcolm Brown, Charcandrick West, Corey Clement and Steven Ridley could cash in on expanded workloads in the absence of healthy teammates who are being rested. Iíll stick with recommendations Iím confident in as of Friday morning, but keep in mind that itíll be more important than ever to monitor news in the hours leading up to kickoffs. Oliver and Lewis, in particular, are players Iíll want in lineups if theyíre positioned for huge workloads.
Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. GB), $6,300 - My initial instinct was to use Kirk Cousins ($6,200), but the expectation for cold and windy weather throughout the Northeast instead leads me to Stafford for a second straight week. The cold in Cincinnati likely played a role in last weekís disappointment, and he should have a much easier time back home in Detroit, facing an injury-depleted Packers defense in one of four dome games this weekend. There are also contests in Tampa Bay, Miami and two in Los Angeles, but the other eight games will need to monitored for weather, with the temperature and wind speeds potentially both landing in the teens in Pittsburgh, Foxborough, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Even Nashville, Denver and Seattle bear watching, though not quite to the same extent. Getting back to Stafford, the Lions are tied for the fourth highest implied total (25) of the week and still donít have any kind of running game. Itís reasonable to expect 250 yards and a pair of scores, with the possibility for much more if the Packers can muster some points of their own to keep the game reasonably competitive. I prefer Kenny Golladay ($3,300) and Jamaal Williams ($5,200) as the partners for a stack, hoping to take advantage of the combination of cheap price tags and lofty snap counts.
Other options: Philip Rivers, LAC (vs. OAK), $6,600; Kirk Cousins, WAS (at NYG), $6,200; Tyrod Taylor, BUF (at MIA), $5,300
Derrick Henry, TEN (vs. JAX), $5,500 - Jags head coach Doug Marrone said he wonít hold out any healthy starters despite having nothing to play for in terms of seeding, but he presumably at least has enough sense to limit the workloads of star players like Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith. On the other side of the coaching equation, Mike Mularkey has yet to rule out DeMarco Murray even though the veteran back suffered a torn MCL last week. Assuming both coaches come to their senses, Henry will be positioned for a three-down workload in a home game the Titans are favored to win by three points. His running ability has never been questioned, and heís also shown signs of being a competent pass catcher, an aspect of his game the Titans hyped during the offseason but simply havenít needed with Murray in the lineup. Henry has caught 23 of 30 career targets for 207 yards, while third-stringer David Fluellen is a special teamer with just four NFL carries and zero receptions to his name. Henry could very well be headed for a 90-percent snap share, 15-25 carries and a handful of targets, with some of that work potentially coming against backups.
Carlos Hyde, SF (at LAR), $4,900 - Hyde has yet to produce a big game with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, despite getting at least 14 carries in each of the quarterbackís four starts. The locked-in volume should finally translate into stellar production this week, as the Niners are favored by 3.5 points against a Rams team that plans to hold out star DT Aaron Donald and likely will limit the workloads of other key defenders. Carrying his lowest price since the second week of the season, Hyde is one of the few players whose per-game production (14.3 DK points) makes him a clear bargain at his Week 17 salary. Devonta Freeman ($5,600) is the only running back cheaper than $6,700 whoís averaging more points than Hyde, and the Falconsí star runner has to contend with a Carolina defense thatís allowed the fewest DK points to the position.
Other options: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (at PHI), $8,700; LeSean McCoy, BUF (at MIA), $8,000; Mark Ingram, NO (at TB), $7,500; Dion Lewis, NE (vs. NYJ), $6,800; Christian McCaffrey, CAR (at ATL), $6,700; Jamaal Williams, GB (at DET), $5,200; Wayne Gallman, NYG (vs. WAS), $4,200
Julio Jones, ATL (vs. CAR), $8,200 - I typically avoid Jones when I know heíll be highly owned, as his big games are tough to predict and often donít come with a touchdown. That was the case last week when he parlayed 11 targets into seven catches for 149 yards against an excellent New Orleans secondary, pushing him over 1,300 yards for the season without adding to his lackluster total of three scores. You may remember that he uncharacteristically dropped what shouldíve been an easy 39-yard TD in a Week 9 loss in Carolina, yet still finished with six catches for 118 yards on 12 targets against a defense thatís given up the fourth most DK points to wideouts on the season. The Panthers have surrendered the fewest points to running backs and fifth fewest to tight ends, giving Jones and Mohamed Sanu a massive comparative advantage over Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Austin Hooper for a game in which Atlanta has an implied total of 24.5 points. Jones put up receiving lines of 12-300-1 and 9-178-1 in home games against the Panthers the past two seasons, and the advantage of playing in a dome is heightened when so many other top receivers will have to contend with sub-freezing temperatures and/or wind. Even if we rightfully operate under the assumption of high ownership, Jones deserves to be a lineup staple this week.
A.J. Green, CIN (at BAL), $6,300 - Carrying his lowest price in recent memory for the second time in three games, Green will take aim at a Baltimore secondary thatís given up a 200-yard performance to Antonio Brown (calf) and a 100-yard outing to T.Y. Hilton in the three weeks since top cornerback Jimmy Smith suffered a torn Achilles. The forecast in Baltimore is worrisome for passing efficiency, but Iím guessing Green makes up for it with massive volume and a touchdown. Heís accounted for one-third of Cincinnatiís red-zone targets this season, and he emerged from a slump last week with six catches for 81 yards on 10 targets in a matchup against Lions cornerback Darius Slay. The Ravens lack a similarly talented cover man to put on Green, who has produced four games with more than 25 DK points even while struggling through a down season by his own lofty standards. Heís far from a sure thing, but the combination of price and ceiling is awfully alluring.
T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs. HOU), $5,900 - Hilton finally came through in a non-prime matchup last weekend in Baltimore, catching six of 12 targets for 100 yards to leave him just 48 yards shy of what might end up being the most unusual 1,000-yard campaign in NFL history. Heís compiled 64 percent of his yards in four out of 15 games, including 175 and two of his four touchdowns in a Week 9 win over the Texans. Completely incompetent against the pass since J.J. Watt (leg) and Whitney Mercilus (pectoral) went down for the season, Houston has surrendered a league-high 9.4 yards per target to wide receivers. Five teams have allowed more DK points to the position, but thatís only because opponents havenít needed to do much passing after halftime ever since Houstonís playoff hopes gave out at the same time as Deshaun Watsonís knee. With so much value available at RB and D/ST, this is an ideal week for ceiling plays like Hilton, Jones and Green at wide receiver. Doubly so if the big-play threat is in a dome, as will be the case for both Jones and Hilton on Sunday.
Other options: Keenan Allen, LAC (vs. OAK), $7,800; Marquise Goodwin, SF (vs. LAR), $6,600; Stefon Diggs, MIN (vs. CHI), $6,000; Jamison Crowder, WAS (at NYG), $5,800; Randall Cobb, GB (at DET), $4,700; DeVante Parker, MIA (vs. BUF), $4,400; Josh Doctson, WAS (at NYG), $4,400; Kelvin Benjamin, BUF (at MIA), $4,300; Rishard Matthews, TEN (vs. JAX), $4,100; Roger Lewis, NYG (vs. WAS), $3,600; Kenny Golladay, DET (vs. GB), $3,300; Josh Reynolds, LAR (vs. SF), $3,000
Delanie Walker, TEN (vs. JAX), $4,400 - Walker logged his three highest snap shares of the season (all above 83 percent) the past three weeks, but he somehow was held to 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown on 24 targets in that stretch. Looking at the increased workload along with his absence from the injury report, Walker finally seems to be healthy after struggling with nagging injuries throughout most of the year. He also carries his lowest price since Week 3, set to face a Jacksonville defense that may end up resting key players before the end of the game. The oddsmakers seem to be on board with this expectation, as the Titans are favored by three points against a team thatís clearly superior when both are at full strength. With Tennessee boasting an implied total 22.5 points and Murray (knee) likely absent, all of the teamís key skill-position players seem a bit underpriced. I might even consider using Walker and Henry in the same lineup without stacking them alongside Marcus Mariota.
Other options: Rob Gronkowski, NE (vs. NYJ), $7,000; Greg Olsen, CAR (at ATL), $5,600; Jack Doyle, IND (vs. HOU), $4,700; Eric Ebron, DET (vs. GB), $4,500; Antonio Gates, LAC (vs. OAK), $4,200; Charles Clay, BUF (at MIA), $3,700; Cameron Brate, TB (vs. NO), $3,300; Demetrius Harris, KC (at DEN), $2,500
San Francisco 49ers (at LAR), $2,100 - Terrible throughout most of this season, the 49ersí defense has finally emerged as a semi-respectable unit in December, even recording double-digit DK points for the first time all year in last weekís 44-33 win over the Jaguars. Of course, I still wouldnít have any interest in the Niners if Jared Goff were playing, but it just so happens that Rams head coach Sean McVay has already ruled out Goff, Todd Gurley, LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan. Itís fair to assume Cooper Kupp (knee) also will be held out, and thereís not much chance Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins handle their usual workloads. With Sean Mannion set to make his first NFL start while largely surrounded by other backups, itís easy to see why the Rams jumped from 6.5-point favorites to 3.5-point underdogs. The spread should probably be even larger, given that the Niners have looked like a playoff-caliber team since Garoppolo took over. The Rams have a fantastic roster, but itís not so good that the second-string units are comparable to a decent teamís starters.
Other options: New England Patriots (vs. NYJ), $3,500; Seattle Seahawks (vs. ARI), $3,400; Washington Redskins (at NYG), $3,200; Denver Broncos (vs. KC), $2,900; Dallas Cowboys (at PHI), $2,300