Between teams having already clinched a playoff berth (and resting players) and guys having checked out (ready for that offseason vacay) your fantasy football championship being decided in Week 17 just seems unjust. However, it’s an unfortunate reality for many.
Hopefully you planned ahead, identified these potential rest situations, and have formidable replacements to bring you all of the fantasy glory you deserve. However, determining the playoff scenarios can be a bit trigonometric. So, if you didn’t (or you did, but guessed wrong) you’re not alone… And, I got you.
Now that we have a much clearer picture, let’s put a twist on the waiver wire, and look at the games to target/avoid this week instead of individual guys to pick up. Some matchups are more likely to be competitive, while others… Not so much. And seeing how your season could come down to this, you don’t want to blow it by having one of your starters play limited downs… No pressure.
Chances are, you’re playing your ballers, and don’t have justifiable replacements. But, sometimes food for thought is good for the soul, so here you go…
So, who’s in?
Remember those trigonometric playoff scenarios I mentioned earlier? Well, buckle up. Four teams have clinched playoff berths in the NFC – Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle, and New York – and only the Cowboys have clinched a first-round bye, and home field advantage throughout.
The NFC North is still up for grabs – making Sunday night’s Packers at Lions “winner takes all” matchup, the game of the week. The loser would still be in the playoff hunt (depending on the early game results), which leaves us with 3 teams vying for one NFC playoff spot – Detroit/Green Bay, Washington, and Tampa Bay.
The Falcons, Seahawks, and Lions are all in contention for a first round bye, but I won’t get into all of the scenarios – Too many if this team ties, and this team kicks “x” field goals, while this team loses by more than “x” points, and the temperature is under “x” degrees… You can find all that nonsense here.
The AFC playoff picture is a bit less complex than the NFC, as all 6 playoff teams have been determined… It’s just a matter of seeding, and home field advantage at this point. The Patriots, Steelers, and Texans have all won their divisions while the Raiders, Dolphins, and Chiefs have all locked up at least a Wild Card appearance.
And, who’s Out?
Everyone else. Meaning the Saints, Vikings, Cardinals, Panthers, Eagles, Rams, Bears, 49ers, Ravens, Titans, Broncos, Colts, Bills, Bengals, Chargers, Jets, Jaguars, and Browns can merely play spoiler, or increase their draft stock.
Games to Target…
Alright, now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at the games which actually matter, and should produce the most predictable fantasy outcomes – as they’re least likely to have players resting or going through the motions. After all, that’s why you’re reading this… Right?
Packers @ Lions
This is the only game which both teams find themselves in a must win situation… Kind of. Depending on what the ‘Skins, and Bucs do, either could actually lose (or they could tie), and still get in, but I can guarantee you the W is the objective. I can also guarantee you no one rests (barring a blowout). So, you can roll out all of your guys from these teams per usual, with no concerns. Oh, and the opening total is set at 48 – Vegas is expecting a shootout.
Patriots @ Dolphins
With a win, the Patriots clinch home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and avoid the Steelers in the Divisional round… You can bet the house that Belichick and co. are well aware. In the Brady-Belichick era, the Pats are 15-3 at home in the playoffs, and that’s about all the motivation they need.
On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins could potentially lock up the #5 seed with a win; meaning they’d face the Texans instead of the Steelers in the Wild Card round. Nobody will come out their face and say it, but they’d rather play Houston… Trust.
Saints @ Falcons
With this being a division rivalry, you better believe the Saints would love to make things more difficult on the Falcons. I can assure you that Drew Brees, and the Saints won’t pack it in until the final whistle, and Atlanta needs this W to clinch the first round bye (the easiest method). This should be a competitive, high-scoring affair, with plenty of fantasy goodness. And with the highest opening point total for the week, 56, Vegas agrees.
Additional Games/Teams to Target: Ravens @ Bengals, Chiefs @ Chargers, and the Buccaneers should be safe
Games to Avoid…
Texans @ Titans
Back-up QBs, neither team has anything to play for… No thanks.
Browns @ Steelers
Landry Jones is starting for Pittsburgh, and you can bet that the rest of the starter’s time will at a minimum be limited.
Bills @ Jets
The Bills are starting EJ Manuel, just fired Rex Ryan, and the Jets packed up a few weeks ago. Good luck projecting this one.
Cowboys @ Eagles
Garrett says it’s business as usual, but even the most successful businesses must adjust to retain competitive advantage. So, the Cowboys starters may play, but how much is the question?
Good luck this week, and as always, be sure to check me out on Instagram/Facebook: maximizeyourodds, and Twitter: maxingyourodds or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org for additional fantasy advice.