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The amount of information you need to sift through on a weekly basis to build some competitive lineups can seem overwhelming. You’re in the right place to get through all of that information in no time, and we have another tool for you to add to your arsenal. Each week, we’ll break down the best and worst rushing and passing matchups for Sunday’s main slate of games.
This will allow you to quickly zero in on the top anchors for your lineups, and we’ll also point out which players you’ll want to avoid as you fill out the rest of your roster. There’s a ton of choices to examine on a weekly basis. The goal of this article is to help you narrow the field of targets down substantially.
Let’s get right to it, starting with the week’s top matchups.
Matchups to Exploit
New England Patriots Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense
The New England Patriots enter Week 17 with a simple edict: win and they’ll have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. It’s safe to say that Bill Belichick will have the troops properly motivated to do just that. Barring any unforeseen situations in which the Patriots decide to rest starters, the team looks to be one of the safer places to lean on for fantasy production in a week that’s typically on the unpredictable side. The Patriots are huge 15.5-point favorites as of this writing, and the club isn’t usually in a rush to call the dogs off.
Tom Brady is in the midst of another MVP-caliber season - 30 touchdowns vs. 8 picks, 4,387 passing yards, and most importantly, 12 wins so far - and it’s safe to say he’ll be looking to close out the season on a high note against a hated rival. The New York Jets have struggled against the pass for the majority of the season, and the club has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in 10 games. For stacking options, Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski remain the top two options until we see some continued health and consistency from the Patriots complementary receivers. Cooks has been a little on the hit or miss side, while Gronkowski has been playing like a man on a mission over the past few weeks.
Washington Redskins Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense
When looking for options to focus on in Week 17, it’s always wise to spend some extra time looking at the teams with something to play for. Teams that are out of the hunt can sometimes put in sluggish performances in the final game of the season, and the game script can be a little unpredictable as coaches attempt to get a look at other pieces of the puzzle before the season comes to a close. That said, there are situations in which a player on a club with nothing to play for has a whole lot to play for on the individual front, and Kirk Cousins certainly falls into that category. The Washington Redskins still have not pulled the trigger on anointing Cousins as the franchise quarterback, and he remains without a long-term deal.
If the Redskins don’t make it happen, someone else will, as Cousins has clearly demonstrated that he’s a viable starter in the league. Cousins and company finish out the season against a New York Giants team that comes into the game with a secondary that’s both atrocious and in disarray. It’s not too hard to envision Cousins putting an exclamation point on his fine season. Jamison Crowder is the most consistent option for stacking purposes, but Josh Doctson is an interesting salary saver option for those looking for a contrarian approach.
Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense
After a disappointing start to the regular season, the Baltimore Ravens have turned things around and morphed into a playoff contender. The club has won five of its last six games, and they’re facing a win and in scenario against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The Ravens have all the makings of a team that no one wants to face in the postseason, as the club’s defense has really come along over the second half of the season. While the offense has been relatively lackluster on an overall basis, there are some bright spots to focus on.
Alex Collins is at the top of the list in that regard. He’s had a rough go of things in his last two outings against the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, but that’s partially because the rest of the league has received the memo that he’s a dynamic offensive weapon. Prior to those two tilts, Collins found the end zone in four consecutive games, including a two touchdown outing in Week 13 against the Detroit Lions. The Bengals are clearly in playing out the string mode, and the run defense has been getting worse as the season has moved along. Collins deserves a spot on your shortlist as you build your Week 17 lineups.
Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense
Since taking over as the lead back for the Miami Dolphins, Kenyan Drake has really made a splash. He burst into the national spotlight with an impressive outing against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 14 when he produced 183 combined yards. Drake has added some other impressive games to his resume as well, and he’s averaging 92.3 yards per game over his last four, including two in which he broke the 100-yard threshold. While it’s clearly been a disappointing season for the Dolphins, we all now know why they were so confident when they traded Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Drake and company will close out the season against a Buffalo Bills team that is still in the mix for a playoff berth. The Bills will be leaning heavily on the engine that makes their offense go in the form of LeSean McCoy, and we can expect the Dolphins to do the same with Drake. Over the second half of the season, the Bills have been absolutely abysmal against the run. Over the past four weeks alone, opposing backs have been having their way with the Bills. Drake just so happens to be one of those backs, as he produced 113 combined yards and a score against the Bills in Week 15. There’s nothing to suggest he won’t be able to do the same - or more - this week.
New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense
When a team with a dynamic duo at running back faces off against a club that’s porous against the run, it can be tough to pinpoint which of the pair will have the better day for fantasy purposes. While those fears can certainly arise when we’re talking about Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, the good news is that the both have an equal chance of going off, and games in which they both pull the trick are not out of the question. There is legitimate 100+ yard upside on the table for both players each week, and that’s a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators to contend with.
To make things even more appealing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs on the season. Kamara and Ingram combined for a productive day against them in Week 9, but Kamara stole the show that time around by finding the end zone twice. Ingram has been the more productive of the pair over the past three weeks, but that’s partially because opponents are realizing that Kamara is a legitimate home run threat nearly every time he touches the football. If you’re paying up at running back this week, both Ingram and Kamara deserve serious consideration.
Matchups to Avoid
Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense
We have no idea if Mitchell Trubisky is a viable starter in the league as of yet, and that’s because head coach John Fox hasn’t taken the kid gloves off of him just yet. Since taking over as starter in Week 5, Trubisky has exceeded 200 passing yards just three times. He’s thrown seven touchdowns and seven picks over that span, and the Bears offense remains devoid of playmakers in the passing game. There’s nothing to suggest that Trubisky’s fortunes will change this week when he faces off against one of the toughest defenses in the league. The Minnesota Vikings are on a mission to lock down the second seed in the NFC, and that’s more than enough motivation for them to keep the offensively-challenged Bears in check. You can safely pass on the Bears passing attack in Week 17.
New York Giants Passing Offense vs Washington Redskins Passing Defense
It’s been an incredibly long season for the New York Giants, and at least part of that can be traced back to the fact that the passing attack has been completely riddled with injuries. Losing Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall was devastating enough, but they head into the final week of the season with a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, and Tavarres King. Eli Manning could close out the regular season with his primary receivers being Roger Lewis and Rhett Ellison. The Washington Redskins secondary has been playing well over the last five weeks, and they’ve had little trouble shutting down weak passing games. Since the Giants fall into that category, we should expect similar results.
Tennessee Titans Passing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense
While the Jacksonville Jaguars essentially don’t have much to play for in the final week of the season, signs point to them not resting any players for the final tuneup for the playoffs. We’ll have to monitor the news to see if anything changes on that front, but it’s an easy call if the Jaguars are running with the first team: avoid the Tennessee Titans passing game. Yes, Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers found success last week, but that was a unique situation in which a new starter is playing lights out football in an offense that suits his game perfectly. Marcus Mariota and the Titans passing game has been disappointing on the season as a whole, and there’s nothing to suggest they’ll turn it around against the league’s top passing defense.
Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense
As we mentioned earlier, the Ravens defense has really rounded into form over the latter part of the season. The team has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 7, and they’ve given up the sixth-fewest yards to opposing backs since that point. The Ravens face off against a Bengals team that hasn’t exactly been clicking on offense, and uncertainty rules the day in the backfield as well. It’s unclear if Joe Mixon will be able to give it a go after injuring his ankle in Week 16, and that could leave the workload on the shoulders of Giovani Bernard. While Bernard is certainly capable of making things happen on the ground, he faces an uphill battle against an imposing defense. We can pass on the Bengals rushing attack this week.
Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense at Denver Broncos Rushing Defense
While the Kansas City Chiefs have not made any formal announcements about resting Kareem Hunt this week, it looks to be a safe guess to say he won’t see his normal workload if he plays at all. The Chiefs are handing the keys to rookie Patrick Mahomes for the regular season finale, as they’ve locked up the AFC crown. If Hunt is limited, we could see heavy doses of Charcandrick West and Akeem Hunt. Both players are fine complementary backs, but there’s obviously a drop off in talent from the explosive rookie they would be replacing. When you add in the fact that they’ll be facing off against a Denver Broncos team that has been closing out the season strong against the run, Chiefs backs are an easy fade in Week 17.
Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime via email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.