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Kam Nedd/Minnesota Vikings

Week 17 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

For all your start/sit decisions, our weekly rankings are updated as needed through Sunday morning, or you can ask any question you have with Fantasy Consigliere. Week 17 is tougher to write an article for with some teams/players resting, so some sections are a bit condensed.




Thumbs Up of the Week: Tom Brady (v ATL)

The final week of the season can always be a concern in terms of starters not playing for teams looking to rest before the playoffs, but Bruce Arians was adamant that they want to finish 11-5 and get the No. 5 seed, which is obviously good news for Brady’s outlook. Don’t be surprised to see TB12 come out slinging to potentially reach 4,500 yards (266 away) and 40 touchdowns (four away).


Thumbs Up: Kirk Cousins (@ DET)

Detroit was obliterated last week with Tampa Bay pass-catchers running open all over the place, and now they will have to get things together quickly for a matchup versus Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr. Minnesota being without Dalvin Cook (COVID-19 protocols) easily makes Cousins is a top-end streamer with big upside.


Thumbs Up: Mitchell Trubisky (v GB)

Trubisky turned it over three times in a loss to Green Bay last month, but Chicago has scored 30+ points in four games since then (3-1 record), and the weapons are there to put up numbers for a win-and-in game. Getting past a Packers defense that has historically given Trubisky problems would be huge; we’ll see if he also does damage as a runner to move the ball on Sunday.


Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (@ DEN)

The first matchup against Denver was nothing to write home about in terms of Carr’s numbers (154 yards, zero touchdowns, zero turnovers), but Las Vegas didn’t have to throw with the defense forcing Drew Lock to toss four interceptions, and the game should be more back-and-forth this weekend (third highest over/under of Week 17). Also, the weather will notably cooperate with clear skies and 50-degree temperatures despite being played in Denver.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tua Tagovailoa (@ BUF)

Whether or not the Bills play top defensive stars like Tre’Davious White, the unit is going to have enough starters that they’ll remain stout, and Tagovailoa—as we just saw on Saturday night—isn’t even a lock to finish the game with Ryan Fitzpatrick available to orchestrate a possible comeback. To me, the upside is lower compared to most signal-callers available as streamers, so Tua falls outside the top 20 at the position.


Thumbs Down: C.J. Beathard (v SEA)

Beathard was great in his first start of the season last week by throwing for three touchdowns in an upset win over Arizona, but now the team will be down Brandon Aiyuk (ankle), and it should be noted that Seattle has contained George Kittle perhaps better than anyone (45.5 yards per game with zero touchdowns in six career meetings). In general, the pass defense of the Seahawks has gone from historically bad in the first half of the season to a strength—allowing just 12.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in the second half of the year.


Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v PIT)

A handful of defensive starters could be out for the Steelers this week to soften Mayfield’s matchup, but I would be shocked if Cleveland didn’t have a run-heavy game plan after 53 pass attempts in Week 16—especially since the aggressive and opportunistic mentality will still be there for Pittsburgh. Those in the second week of a championship matchup might be better off targeting a quarterback with more upside.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: D’Andre Swift (v MIN)

Not having Matthew Stafford (ankle) for most of the game hurt Detroit’s offense last week, but Swift totaled a respectable 70 yards on 14 touches, and he will hope to close out his rookie campaign on a high note after a lost fumble in back-to-back games. After what Alvin Kamara just did to the Vikings, Swift is firmly in the top ten at running back whether it’s Stafford or Chase Daniel at quarterback.


Thumbs Up: Ezekiel Elliott (@ NYG)

As stated when he’s usually a “Thumbs Down” option, you are probably starting Elliott no matter what, but the confidence should be much higher after perhaps his best game of the season in a must-win versus Philadelphia. Although he didn’t score, Zeke went for 139 total yards on 23 touches, and he looked more explosive after a week off. I have Elliott ranked as a borderline top-15 option for the finale.


Thumbs Up: Darrel Williams (v LAC)

The Chiefs will rest Patrick Mahomes and likely other key offensive players this weekend, so Williams—who just set season-highs across in the board as both a runner and receiver—should be able to stay hot as the possible centerpiece in Andy Reid’s offense. For what it’s worth, the veteran handled 13 touches and was able to find the end zone in a matchup last year versus Los Angeles after Damien Williams was forced to leave early.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Kenyan Drake (@ LAR)

A hot touchdown streak (six scores over the past six games) has basically saved Drake’s fantasy season for those that have stuck with him, but I’d be worried about Arizona’s offense on Sunday for a game that the Rams—without Jared Goff (thumb)—would love to make a slugfest. Despite success finding the end zone recently, Drake has averaged 3.3 yards per carry over the six-game span, and he’s more of a low-end RB2 for me.


Thumbs Down: Salvon Ahmed (@ BUF)

Ahmed actually drew the start last week for Miami, but Myles Gaskin re-emerged in the backfield with a career day—which I would assume means them going back to more of a one-back system. Again, the Bills aren’t going to be an easy matchup as a well-coached defense, and a handful of touches won’t be enough to make Ahmed a recommended FLEX.


Thumbs Down: Mike Davis (v NO)

Receiving contributions helped lift Davis to RB1 heights earlier in the season, but he’s combined for just two targets, two receptions, and two scoreless yards over the past two games, and now he gets a difficult matchup versus New Orleans. In the previous meeting, the Saints held Davis to 36 yards on 12 touches; it might take a short touchdown return more than decent FLEX value. [Update: Davis isn’t expected to play, and Rodney Smith won’t be a highly recommended start due to the matchup]


Wide receiver 


Thumbs Up of the Week: Robert Woods (v ARI)

Not having his quarterback could be reason for some to be hesitant about Woods, but with Cooper Kupp (COVID-19) also out, I think Sean McVay will center everything around the last full-time starter standing—who we know is also given carries (career-high 24 of them in 2020). In five matchups versus the Cardinals since McVay was hired, Woods has gone for lines of 6/81, 6/89/1, 13/172, 7/67/1, and 10/85.


Thumbs Up: Antonio Brown (v ATL)

The fact that Mike Evans was on the field deep into a blowout last week is further evidence Tampa Bay will play their starters if you don’t want to take Bruce Arians at his word, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brown get a few more targets than usual to completely knock off the rust before the playoffs. Just two weeks ago, AB caught five passes for 93 yards and a touchdown versus Atlanta, and Brady seems to give him a deep shot in every game.


Thumbs Up: Nelson Agholor (@ DEN)

A clutch performance against Miami last week has Agholor sitting at a 47/839/8 line heading into the finale, and it will be interesting to see if Las Vegas does what they can to get him to 1,000 yards for the first time. There is concern about Denver limiting Agholor in the first meeting (one reception on four targets), but the big-play upside certainly puts him on the WR2 map.


Thumbs Up: Michael Gallup (@ NYG)

The loss of Dak Prescott (ankle) combined with Andy Dalton being in and out of the lineup has led to Year 3 disappointment for Gallup in terms of overall numbers compared to 2019, but he remains a legitimate difference-maker at receiver—as evidenced by a 121-yard, two-score performance last week against the Eagles. In five career matchups versus New York, Gallup has averaged 12.8 yards per target.


Others: Marquise Brown (@ CIN), Henry Ruggs III (@ DEN)


Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (@ LAR)

He finished with 52 yards and a touchdown after being peppered with short targets in the second half, but Hopkins was held without a catch in the first 30 minutes of the previous battle against Jalen Ramsey, and I would bet defensive coordinator Brandon Staley will have some different looks in store to stop the underneath stuff on Sunday. As always, you probably can’t afford to bench Hopkins in a season-long league, but he should be faded in DFS play.


Thumbs Down: Jamison Crowder (@ NE)

Crowder did it all last week in New York’s upset win over the Browns, but that makes it all the more likely that Bill Belichick and the New England defense will be keying on him—as is usually the case with yardage totals of 25, 26, and 26 in three career matchups since the veteran joined the Jets. Assuming everyone in the Patriots secondary is healthy, I expect a much better performance than the previous matchup when Joe Flacco threw the ball all over the yard.


Thumbs Down: Diontae Johnson (@ CLE)

It’s unclear if Johnson might be one of the players to rest this week, but if he suits up, I highly doubt Mason Rudolph would feed him targets like Ben Roethlisberger does, so the dynamic wideout needs to be downgraded. Furthermore, Johnson was limited to just three receptions on nine targets (for 31 scoreless yards) last year against Denzel Ward and the Browns.


Others: Bengals WRs (v BAL)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ BUF)

If there is one thing that Tua Tagovailoa took from watching Ryan Fitzpatrick orchestrate a comeback victory last week, it was hopefully “throw the ball to Gesicki.” Earlier this year, the big-bodied tight end went for an 8/130/1 line against the Bills, and they could struggle to stop him again this week—particularly if linebacker Matt Milano is rested to stay healthy for the playoffs.


Thumbs Up: Irv Smith Jr. (@ DET)

Not only is Smith Jr. coming off a two-touchdown performance on Christmas, but also two scores versus Detroit last month, and the second-year tight end provides plenty of upside in Week 17. Plus, Smith Jr. saw a career-high nine targets against the Saints, and no Kyle Rudolph (foot) makes him an important complementary option to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.


Thumbs Up: Tyler Higbee (v ARI)

Higbee didn’t come close to reaching his 2019 numbers, but he’s actually averaging a career-high 8.6 yards per target, and it isn’t too late for him to have a monster game for those still playing this week. Look for the veteran to operate as the No. 2 option in the passing game behind Robert Woods and security blanket for John Wolford in his first career NFL action.


Thumbs Down of the Week: None

Florida tight end Kyle Pitts won’t play in the Cotton Bowl tonight, but I am going out on a limb to say his first appearance in this article will be in the “Thumbs Up” section.



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