Web Analytics
Binge, Stream and Skip: Fantasy football Week 17 viewer's guide ‣

Binge, Stream and Skip: Fantasy football Week 17 viewer's guide

Game environment is the foundational starting point in making fantasy decisions. As such, I’m going to break down each game on the slate into three categories: Binge, Stream and Skip.

Games you want to “binge” are like the show you can’t miss; you’re watching as soon as it goes live and might just crush all the episodes in one weekend. These are the start-all-your-guys fantasy games and ones with season-defining storylines.

Games you want to “stream” are like the shows you certainly watch start to finish, but perhaps you’re finishing it over time instead of one shot. While these games might not feature a ton of “must-starts,” we can pick and choose our spots, and the teams are likely to matter in the NFL playoff picture.

Lastly, the games you want to “skip” are like the shows you’re leaning toward passing on, but you might catch an episode here and there (or might stick to reading recaps online to stay up with the culture). There will be a non-obvious player or two who stands out in these games, but overall, they aren’t the best environment for fantasy football.

Let’s dive into my Week 17 Fantasy Football Viewer’s Guide.

BINGE

DETROIT LIONS at DALLAS COWBOYS

The Lions enter Week 17 riding high off the emotional boost of winning the division for the first time in 30 years. Jared Goff and co. will take the good vibes to Dallas, where a Cowboys team that’s been markedly better at home awaits.

Simply put, this will need to be a massive statement game for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ passing unit. Detroit has an apparent matchup problem with its elite run game against a floundering Dallas rush defense. Sure, Dan Quinn and co. can look to cause chaos for Goff and hunt for turnovers but with the Lions’ offensive line fully healthy, they’ll have every chance to control the script on the ground.

That will put the game in the hands of Prescott and CeeDee Lamb. The Lions defense has fallen apart in the secondary. There will be easy pitch-and-catch lanes for those two all evening. Dallas will need an MVP-type performance from Prescott and that means bringing along another pass-catcher besides Lamb for the ride. We’ve seen Jake Ferguson barrel over weaker safety teams for YAC this year. Michael Gallup has provided big plays against similarly weak cornerback rooms like the Eagles. Brandin Cooks’ usage has been sporadic but no one on that defense can run with him. We should see Prescott picking his spots with all of these guys early and often.

Bet MGM has this game with a 52-point projected total. Those types of games combined with super concentrated offenses like Detroit and Dallas are ideal for fantasy. Break ties in favor of getting players from this game into championship fantasy lineups, DFS contests, overs on your prop bet parlays, etc.

Biggest Storyline: Injuries in Dallas. The Cowboys team we’ve seen the last few weeks is not the same crew we watched at the mid-point of the 2023 season.

Injuries on the defense have made this already lightweight unit even more dilute. Jonathan Hankins’ absence at defensive tackle has taken the beef out of the front line and no one has stepped up to add more size and “oomph” at linebacker. That’s not to say there aren’t great players on defense but there’s an overload of small defenders who can fly around the field and cover a lot of ground in the passing game. The injuries have just tilted the equation too far in that direction. Dallas ranks 30th in rushing success rate allowed since Week 11 and that could not be more of a mismatch with the Lions coming to town. Detroit has the fourth-highest yards per carry on zone concept runs, per Fantasy Points Data, and has scored the second-most touchdowns (11) on man/gap concepts. That latter style is where Dallas really struggles.

That’s not the only issue Dallas is dealing with right now. Tyron Smith’s absence at left tackle and Zack Martin playing through injury last week put this rhythm-based passing game under siege. If you can throw off Prescott’s timing of his drops with the receiver routes, you can throw this unit into chaos and break it down. Dallas needs to block it up better in the pass game in Week 17 to be able to exploit the obvious mismatches they’ll have against the Lions secondary.

Stat you need to know: Jahmyr Gibbs is averaging 6.8 yards per carry over the last four weeks but just 2.5 yards per target. There was plenty of fantasy football enthusiasm for Gibbs in the offseason. It took a minute but that is being realized, as he’s been one of the top-scoring players across the board since Week 7. However, how he’s winning isn’t in the fashion most believed he would as a rookie.

The Lions have yet to fully maximize Gibbs as a receiver and it’s hard to blame them because he’s been so electric on the ground. I can’t say enough how much I love that Jamaal Charles comparison. When Gibbs was way behind David Montgomery in the rushing workload to start the season, Austin Ekeler and I discussed how he could improve as a runner:

You see plain as day in Gibbs’ film how he’s made those tweaks and adjustments. This is a great reminder that we can take it slow with rookies out of the gate and not make sweeping judgments on their first few games. The NFL has slowed down for Gibbs and he’s ripping through just about every team he sees. That should not stop this week against Dallas in the face of their crumbling run defense.

Player in a smash spot: David Montgomery. Of course, Gibbs is in a great spot in this game for all the reasons outlined above. However, it’s hard to imagine the Lions getting out of this game without giving Montgomery 15-18 grinder rush attempts. The Cowboys struggle mightily to defend power runs up the middle. Montgomery is no stranger to such work. He’s a guy I would not consider benching in fantasy football. He has excellent odds for a touchdown with this game’s projected total so high and has a matchup advantage as the early-down banger against a light run-stop unit. That looks like a green light to me.

MIAMI DOLPHINS at BALTIMORE RAVENS

The gravity of this game cannot be overstated. If the Ravens win, they clinch home-field advantage and lock up the AFC’s No. 1 seed. That result would also set up a pivotal Week 18 matchup between Miami and Buffalo that could decide the AFC East if the Bills take care of business this week. Should the Dolphins emerge victorious, they would have a 60% chance to be the top team in the conference, per the New York Times playoff simulator.

Lamar Jackson is playing at an MVP level and would gain a ton of ground in winning the award by locking up the top seed. The Dolphins offense got back Tyreek Hill last week but won’t have Jaylen Waddle this week. Miami doesn’t have a ton of receiver depth behind their top two guys so we may see players like De’Von Achane take on a bigger role as the stretch run game replaces some of the juice. Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t cleared 300 yards since Week 11 and he’s had multiple passing touchdowns just once in that five-game span. The aerial attack is as efficient as ever, but the voluminous production hasn’t been there.

Headline players must shine bright in big moments for the winner to eventually seal this thing. Yet, the game may be decided and fantasy heroes crowned based on the ability of play-callers on either side to pick holes into two of the top three defenses over the last month.

Biggest Storyline: Dolphins offense vs. the Ravens defense. This isn’t to undersell what’s a tremendous unit-on-unit matchup when the Ravens have the ball but how Mike Macdonald and Mike McDaniel’s groups square off is just so compelling. The Ravens defensive coordinator has had to deal with some of the most taxing offenses in the league from a preparation and versatility standpoint the last few weeks with wins over the Rams and 49ers. McDaniel and the Dolphins are, obviously, cut from the same cloth. Macdonald changes the picture on offenses almost more than any other coordinator in the league — and does so to great success.

That defense is so sound and employs so many intelligent players who can handle the communication and intense mixed coverage looks. Miami puts more stress on defenses with the variety of full-speed motions and deception in its playbook. Baltimore can feel confident in its ability to stand up to the task after just taking down the architect of this offense in Kyle Shanahan last week. However, the pure speed of Tyreek Hill on those motion plays is just a whole different ball game.

Stat you need to know: The Ravens rank third in neutral pass rate since Week 14. These aren’t your same old Ravens. They can let Lamar Jackson grip it and rip it to attack teams at all field levels in the passing game when they want to. They have so many players they can throw at you in key spots, whether it’s rookie Zay Flowers on designed plays, Odell Beckham Jr. or Rashod Bateman on the perimeter and they’re getting great play down the seam from Isaiah Likely. Make no mistake, they can still pound the rock and may well go that route this week against a Miami team that plays the lightest boxes on defense. However, this version of the Ravens has proven in the last month that they know they’re different offensively and their quarterback has stepped up to the challenge of evolution.

Player in a smash spot: Zay Flowers. The Cowboys missed a big opportunity last week. They ripped off big plays whenever they put CeeDee Lamb in the slot against Dolphins corner Kader Kohou. Lamb had 94 yards and a touchdown on his four catches lined up inside. They just didn’t go back to that well often enough. It’s a clear weak point for Miami’s defense since their perimeter corners don’t travel inside, as was proven last week. Flowers isn’t a primary slot receiver but the Ravens will move him inside to get favorable looks. We saw it last week against the 49ers where four of Flowers’ nine catches came inside, including his touchdown. Getting him on motion and then lining up in the slot could be a big matchup tilter in this game.

STREAM

GREEN BAY PACKERS at MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Biggest Storyline: Vikings change quarterbacks again. Minnesota had a 15% dropback rate over expectation (per Fantasy Life Data), easily their highest of the post-Kirk Cousins era. That does not feel like the type of game plan they will roll out with Jaren Hall back under center. We didn’t get a long look at him before an injury took him out and placed Joshua Dobbs into the lineup. However, I’d expect a more conservative approach. The Packers defense can be beaten in any which way you want. We could see Ty Chandler pop back up in a more neutral game script like we got during his 23-carry, 132-yard eruption against the Bengals.

Stat you need to know: Jordan Love the last two weeks: ninth in adjusted net yards per attempt and eighth in passer rating. We were all riding high on the Jordan Love train after the Sunday Night Football win over the Chiefs and then he suffered through some shaky performances in the couple of games to follow. He’s gotten right back on track, though. Overall, Love has shown way more good than bad in his first season as a starter. He has a ton of young talent to grow alongside in 2024 and beyond.

Player in a smash spot: Jayden Reed. He missed last week so keep an eye on his practice reports. However, if he’s out there, he should be a big factor this week. Reed has been the quick-hitting receiver and designed-touches option for Green Bay. Those are the types of plays that Detroit used to beat the blitz with Amon-Ra St. Brown last week. Reed can be deployed in a similar fashion.

CINCINNATI BENGALS at KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Biggest Storyline: Can Kansas City get their offense rolling? Last week was the first time all season that I doubted it would ever happen. The Chiefs ranked 10th in plays per drive in Week 16 but 23rd in yards per drive. There is no big play juice to this team nor can they routinely move the ball within structure. It’s a mess and it’s starting to impact Patrick Mahomes.

Last week was his worst performance of the season. You can only play in this environment with the sloppy skill-position players and bad pass protection for so long before you develop bad habits. I fear that’s where Mahomes finds himself now. The Bengals defense has been a bottom-five unit in EPA per play and success rate allowed all season. So if they were ever going to mount a good offensive performance with this Chiefs crew, this is the week.

Stat you need to know: Tee Higgins only had a 21.4% target share in Week 16, per Fantasy Points Data, tied with Andrei Iosivas. Higgins was tied up with Joey Porter Jr., the Steelers’ shadow rookie corner, for most of the evening, so Jake Browning was going elsewhere. If Ja’Marr Chase returns for this game, he’ll get the matchup with L’Jarius Snead. That would get Higgins back on softer coverage and likely more passes sent his way.

Player in a smash spot: Travis Kelce. It took until the last two weeks but Rashee Rice’s receiving yard prop line on Bet MGM has finally surpassed Kelce’s. It currently sits at 63.5 to 62.5 in favor of the rookie. This does look like a good rebound spot for Kelce, though. The Bengals defense has been ripped apart up the middle and down the spine all season. Cincinnati is the only team in the league to allow over 1,000 yards to tight ends this year.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at BUFFALO BILLS

Biggest Storyline: Setting up Week 18. If the Bills win this week and the Dolphins lose, we will have a matchup between the two teams for the AFC East title. The Bills can’t afford to look ahead, however. They lost to this same Patriots team earlier in the year and they just pulled off an upset over the Broncos last week. This is still a quality defense for all the flaws in the New England operation. Buffalo has more answers at their disposal on offense with the emergence of James Cook and some ancillary receivers but it’ll still be a challenging matchup, even with a double-digit spread.

Stat you need to know: Stefon Diggs had the highest target share and first-read target share among all pass catchers in Week 16. Over the last two games, Diggs has played on 46% and 60% of the snaps. That’s well below Diggs’ typical baseline and at least has my eyebrow raised at the possibility of an unreported injury. Still, the idea that he’s just not a factor in the offense right now isn’t true. The underlying metrics are still there that show this is a critical player to the Bills’ playoff push and when I chart his routes the last couple of games, I don’t see a player who has lost a step. Week 17’s matchup with a Patriots’ man-coverage defense Diggs has a history of tormenting provides a reasonable rebound spot.

Player in a smash spot: Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke’s 27.2% target share ranks 12th among all pass catchers in the last three weeks. That is just outright crazy. Bailey Zappe loves throwing to Elliott. Rhamondre Stevenson is not likely to play again this season so it’s Zeke’s gig the rest of the way. He’s not the same “smash” play as other guys in this section but he can claw his way to a double-digit fantasy point outing.

LAS VEGAS RAIDERS at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Biggest Storyline: Will Michael Pittman Jr.’s return boost the offense? It’s no coincidence that Pittman’s absence last week coincided with a season-low 4.22 adjusted yards per attempt for Gardner Minshew. The Colts have won games with him but Minshew has played recklessly all season. Taking away his clear-cut top read on those critical crossing routes puts the offense at risk. Pittman has shown himself to be a difference-maker in the NFL. Indianapolis needs him out there.

Stat you need to know: The Raiders defense ranks first in EPA per play allowed and 15th in success rate since Week 13. Those results have also bled over into fake football:

Some of those takeaways to score plays are volatile and they’re living on the right side of variance. Still, Antonio Pierce has these guys hunting on that side of the ball and flying to tackles. Everything he’s done shows he’s installed an identity with this team and deserves the head coaching job full-time.

Player in a smash spot: Josh Jacobs or Zamir White. The Raiders took it very close to kickoff to let the news out that Josh Jacobs was going to miss Week 16. So it’s hard to be confident in his availability this week. We could be looking at another week of Zamir White, who was the only running back to record a carry for the team last week — and he ripped off 100 yards. The Colts have allowed the eighth-most rushing yards per game since Week 11 and 4.52 yards per carry. We know what the Raiders want to do on offense and the Colts should give them the lanes they need to establish the run.

LOS ANGELES RAMS at NEW YORK GIANTS

Biggest Storyline: The Rams offense continues to march. There are not many more-dangerous units when the Rams have all their top guys out there.

All of those four are must-start players in fantasy and can each take over a game. Los Angeles is even getting the best out of DeMarcus Robinson as the third wideout. Matthew Stafford is just completely on fire right now. The Rams are 5.5-point road favorites going to New York and this is a must-win game. If they come out victorious, they have an 87% chance of making the postseason, per The New York Times playoff simulator. A loss drops them to 16%. The Rams have a high-flying offense that should lighten up this man-coverage and pressure-heavy defense. No slip-ups allowed.

Stat you need to know: Tommy DeVito took 36 sacks this season. Tyrod Taylor was sacked zero times in Week 16. If there’s one reason to go back to Tyrod Taylor it’s that one. DeVito has had some fun moments but when he’s under siege in the pocket, he takes drive-killing sacks like no other. Taylor at least allows the coaching staff to see what these receivers can do and gives Saquon Barkley a chance at staying in positive down and distance.

Player in a smash spot: Kyren Williams. As if you needed me to tell you. He’s the most trusted Rams running back Sean McVay has employed since Todd Gurley and it shows in the usage. Since Week 11, the Giants have allowed 140.2 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns. Williams can obviously cut this team up on the ground. He should be a huge factor as an outlet receiver, as well, when New York brings the blitz.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS at TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Biggest Storyline: The Last Stand for the Saints. New Orleans’ season is hanging on life support. If they lose this game, they will be eliminated from the playoffs and a win only nets them a 29% chance, per The New York Times. In this last stand, it should be a positive night for the Saints passing game. The last time we saw Derek Carr and co. go against the beatable Bucs secondary, we got the 13-catch-for-33-yard Alvin Kamara game. However, Carr had come back with, perhaps too much, haste from a shoulder injury. Even if it’s not winning football, Carr has shown the last few weeks he can push the ball downfield to guys like Rashid Shaheed and, of course, Chris Olave. Those two are certainly fantasy starters in Week 17 and even tight end Juwan Johnson is a nice deep play.

Stat you need to know: Over the last three weeks, Baker Mayfield leads all quarterbacks who have started all three games in passer rating and adjusted yards per attempt. Easily the player — and consequently the team — I was wrong about this season was Baker Mayfield. I didn’t have faith he could do this. I missed on it. As the season has come to a close, this has become a super fun offense to watch. Mayfield deserves credit for turning his career around and this has been a standout coaching job by offensive coordinator Dave Canales.

Player in a smash spot: Rachaad White. If it wasn’t made clear enough last Thursday by Kyren Williams, the Saints run defense has collapsed to end the season. Since Week 11, New Orleans has allowed 4.85 yards per carry, the fourth-highest figure in the NFL. White has 17 carries in back-to-back games and has held the feature gig for Tampa Bay all year.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS at WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Biggest Storyline: How do the 49ers and their quarterback respond? This looks like a classic get-right moment for the San Francisco offense. It sounds like Brock Purdy avoided a serious shoulder injury and should suit up for this game. While the Sam Darnold possibility is a sick fascination on Football Twitter, no one can seriously say he’d bring the same output as Purdy. The Commanders’ pass defense is a perfect spot to put up points and regain some momentum after a tough loss to the Ravens.

Stat you need to know:

It’s been between hilarious and enlightening to see Jacoby Brissett enter games the last two weeks and immediately mount touchdown drives for a struggling Commanders offense. As I’ve said consistently this season, this offense isn’t well-designed and is especially overloaded by a young, inexperienced quarterback in Sam Howell. A veteran who has seen it all like Brissett is much more capable of making the full-field, precise reads this passing game requires in a heavy dropback world.

Player in a smash spot: Any 49ers pass-catcher. The Commanders defense has been lit up like a Christmas tree in the back half of the season. On the year, they rank fourth-worst in pressure rate and allow the second-most passing yards in the league. It’s hard to imagine a more forgiving rebound spot for any 49ers player who produced under expectations last week against the Ravens.

TENNESSEE TITANS at HOUSTON TEXANS

Biggest Storyline: The return of C.J. Stroud. The rookie quarterback looks set to return after missing two games in the concussion protocol. It feels like a long time since we’ve seen the rookie balling out there so this is a welcome sight. Stroud made this Texans offense go as an accurate passer in structure and a creative showman off-script. He’s an immediate QB1 for fantasy in Week 17.

Stat you need to know: Ryan Tannehill ranked 29th in adjusted net yards per attempt in Week 16. This Titans offense is just so much more interesting with Will Levis under center. He brings more downfield juice; even if it’s volatile, it’s better for the pass catchers. There’s still some talk about Tannehill as a starting option for teams next season. Based on how he’s played this year, that’s a bit of a stretch.

Player in a smash spot: Nico Collins. Collins was fourth on the team in routes run in Week 16 but trailed only Dalton Schultz in targets per route run. It was clear that the Texans were both trying to ease Collins back in coming off a calf injury and trying to get him the ball when he was on the field. With Stroud back in the mix and Collins another week healthier, he should go to work against a pass defense that ranks 29th in dropback success rate allowed.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS at SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Biggest Storyline: A massive game for playoff odds. According to The New York Times simulator, the Seahawks have an 87% chance of making the postseason if they win but drop to 40% with a loss. The Steelers, meanwhile, will see their odds jump to 92% if they win out. Both of these teams have been frustrating this season, especially on offense. However, there is enough talent here to make a Wild Card game competitive if they can make it in.

Stat you need to know: George Pickens has six games under 40 receiving yards but four games over 100. He’s coming off a massive week in the wake of a ton of deserved criticism but has been a volatile producer this season. Part of that is the miserable offensive environment he played in but some of “where he wins” and his overall skill set lends itself to volatility. Pickens does thrive against press coverage and Seattle plays a ton of physical coverage at the line. You can use that to chase him again this week … if you’re brave enough.

Player in a smash spot: Tyler Lockett. Tee Higgins had a 21.4 % target share in Week 16, tied with Andrei Iosivas. Higgins got loose on one play where he wasn’t lined up against Joey Porter Jr. but otherwise dealt with that shadow matchup, forcing Jake Browning to look elsewhere. You’d imagine DK Metcalf will get that same treatment, which could open things up for the other receiver on this team. Lockett leads the team in first-read target share (25.5%) since Week 13.

SKIP

ATLANTA FALCONS at CHICAGO BEARS

One reason to maybe watch: Justin Fields against a team that may be in the market for his services in 2024. We all know Fields is likely playing elsewhere next year with the Bears on track to get the No. 1 overall pick. The Falcons may be one of the teams that get in the mix. They’ll likely be picking too late for one of the top quarterbacks but clearly need an upgrade. Fields presents a possible unique solution for such teams. He remains one of the most dangerous runners at the quarterback position and cut back on both his sack and interception rate this season.

Stat you need to know: Jonnu Smith tied Drake London with a 21.1% first-read target share in Week 16. This is Falcons ball. No matter how much we may want it to end, it never will. The designer plays to guys like Jonnu Smith are actually good. There just aren’t enough “meat and potatoes” plays to this offense where the best players get the ball.

ARIZONA CARDINALS at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

One reason to maybe watch: From a real football standpoint, nothing the Eagles do the next couple of weeks matters. They should make light work of the Cardinals this week and get to face the beatable Giants again in Week 18. We won’t learn anything new about them until the playoffs. From a fantasy angle, you can conceive a smash performance from just about anyone in this offense. Arizona’s outside cornerbacks have been vulnerable all year so there’s no reason A.J. Brown and/or DeVonta Smith can’t put up a big number. The Cardinals are also 30th in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to running backs. If D’Andre Swift is allowed to get touchdown opportunities, he can turn in another RB1 performance.

Stat you need to know: Kyler Murray has a 6.4 average depth of throw the last two weeks. Running backs accounted for 14 of his 38 throws (37%) in Week 16. Murray’s passing stats don’t look great but you have to remember he’s throwing to a substandard wide receiver room with Marquise Brown and Michael Wilson dealing with injuries during his starting tenure. Tight end Trey McBride has been his one reliable option. The Eagles secondary is more than generous to passing games so Murray should be able to pick his spots here if his weapons can cooperate.

CAROLINA PANTHERS at JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

One reason to maybe watch: The Jaguars vault up to an 84% chance to make the playoffs with a win in this game, per The New York Times playoff simulator. They’ll have to go to war with, at best, a very hobbled version of Trevor Lawrence, who didn’t practice on Thursday due to his shoulder injury. The entire Jaguars team feels like it’s limping toward the finish line but they merely need to take care of business against the Panthers this week to get into a position to lick their wounds prior to the postseason.

Stat you need to know: We got multiple season-best numbers for Bryce Young last week. They included a 9.78 adjusted yards per attempt figure and a 110-passer rating. How much of that was Young taking a big leap forward to turn in the most promising start of his career or simply a matchup against an unserious Packers defense? Only time will tell. The Jaguars have the pass rushers up front to put the rookie passer back into some of the same miserable situations he has been in previously, but their secondary has spots to pick on.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS at DENVER BRONCOS

One reason to maybe watch: To see if this Broncos offense looks any different with someone else under center. The discourse around Russell Wilson’s benching has been pretty eye-roll-worthy overall the last few days. Wilson hasn’t been unplayable like he was at times in 2022, but he hasn’t played at a top-15 quarterback level so the team wants to move on from his contract. It’s a pretty clear-cut case. All that said, I don’t know that Jarrett Stidham is about to suddenly find more success in this offense in the last two games. Courtland Sutton leaving last week’s loss early revealed this is an extremely light pass-catching group.

It’s not like they’ve been a highly effective rushing offense either. All this shows us is that not only will the quarterback position look different for Denver in 2024, but beyond Sutton and some of the running backs, this entire offense is headed for a makeover.

Stat you need to know: Austin Ekeler played 43 snaps in Week 16. Isaiah Spiller played 15 and Joshua Kelley played seven. Both backups had single-digit carry share and target share marks. There are no concerns about Ekeler’s playing time down the string of a lost season. He has plenty of motivation to go out there and put out good tape as he heads into free agency. Meanwhile, the Chargers don’t exactly have a young upside back whom they need to get a look at heading into 2024. Kelley will also hit free agency this offseason, and Spiller is not starting material.