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Week 17 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Jared Goff (v CHI)

Goff came through with 25.7 fantasy points for anyone that used him on the road last week, and now he gets a tremendous matchup at home versus a Chicago defense that has been prone to busts in coverage and just placed top cornerback Jaylon Johnson (finger) on injured reserve. Averaging 303.4 passing yards per game with an 11:0 touchdown-interception ratio over the past five weeks, Goff should be a no-doubt QB1 option this weekend.


Thumbs Up: Aaron Rodgers (v MIN)

The first matchup against the Vikings didn’t go well for Rodgers and Green Bay—but it’s fair to wonder how things would have changed if Christian Watson caught the early deep ball in the 23-7 loss. Since then, Minnesota has mostly struggled to defend the pass, and Rodgers has gained confidence in his pass-catchers as the season has progressed, so I’d have more faith in him as a top-ten play in what amounts to a must-win for the Packers.


Thumbs Up: Mike White (@ SEA)

New York will have White back under center this week, and his five-game sample size dating back to last season has been impressive enough both in terms of the eye test and the numbers to feel good about him as a quality streamer. In five career starts with at least 90% of the snaps played, White has averaged 321.6 passing yards per game, and Seattle is allowing the 11th-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Those looking for a streamer can view White as a strong QB2.


Thumbs Up: Carson Wentz (v CLE)

The Commanders are turning back to Wentz as the starter to fight their way into the postseason, and a big performance from him is definitely possible throwing to Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel. In five healthy games as the starter this year (so, excluding when he broke his finger against the Bears), Wentz had 313+ passing yards and multiple scores in three of them—with the other two being matchups versus the league-best defenses of Philadelphia and Dallas. I think a case can be made for him as a top-15 play.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tom Brady (v CAR)

Although being at home should help, Brady and the Bucs were nearly shutout with a 21-3 loss to the Panthers back in October—and the passing attack has simply been unable to get on the same page this season. Perhaps a win-and-in game will unlock a pinpoint, unstoppable TB12 for 60 minutes, but fantasy owners can’t rely on that being the case with Tampa Bay often being lost until needing to orchestrate late comebacks. Brady is outside the QB1 ranks.


Thumbs Down: Deshaun Watson (@ WAS)

Watson actually made a couple of accurate throws with a chance to tie the game last week—but it was almost as if his pass-catchers were surprised by them based on how poorly he’s played through four starts. Now taking on a Washington defense that’s allowed fewer than 18.0 fantasy points in all but four games this season (Jared Goff, Justin Fields, and Jalen Hurts twice), Watson remains a low-end QB2 that will need another rushing score to pay dividends.


Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (@ LAC)

For as well as Mayfield has played in three games with Los Angeles, the passing production has been modest (190.3 yards per game), and Sean McVay will continue to want balance versus a Chargers defense that’s much more vulnerable on the ground than through the air. Furthermore, the philosophy of the Brandon Staley is to let opponents run on them, so it’s unlikely that Mayfield will suddenly put up big numbers in Week 17.


Thumbs Down: Teddy Bridgewater (@ NE)

The value of Bridgewater—starting in place of Tua Tagovailoa (concussion)—is difficult to nail down because of the gamebreakers on Miami’s offense, but taking on the Patriots will be tough. In the season opener, New England was able to limit Tagovailoa to 270 yards and one touchdown despite never seeing Mike McDaniel’s offense in action, so Bridgewater could have a modest fantasy day even if Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle produce for the star-centric attack of the Dolphins.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Cam Akers (@ LAC)

As stated, the Chargers are content with letting opponents run on them in order to prevent chunk plays in the passing game, and Akers has looked like a different player in recent weeks—averaging 16.0 carries, 71.3 rushing yards, and 1.5 rushing touchdowns over his past four games. During that same stretch, the former Florida State standout has played at least 72% of the team’s offensive snaps in three games, so he’s vaulted towards the RB1/RB2 ranks for the fantasy championship.


Thumbs Up: David Montgomery (@ DET)

The return of Khalil Herbert didn’t lead to a decreased role for Montgomery—who handled 20 touches in last week’s loss and gets a great matchup this week versus a Detroit defense that just allowed 43.0 fantasy points to the Carolina backfield. Unless the lost fumble against the Bills is held against Montgomery, he should be positioned for RB2 production with four touchdowns over his past five games.


Thumbs Up: Zack Moss (@ NYG)

Indianapolis being a run-heavy offense under Jeff Saturday didn’t happen on Monday night, as despite Moss consistently churning out positive yards (13 touches for 70 total yards), the passing game was a clear focus (29 attempts for Nick Foles, plus seven sacks). Still, the Colts trusted Moss by playing him on all three downs, and the Giants are allowing an NFL-high 5.4 yards per carry. If you need a solid FLEX, I’d recommend Moss as a start.


Thumbs Up: Ezekiel Elliott (@ TEN)

Tony Pollard (thigh) might at least see his workload scaled back on a short week with Dallas having a good chance of staying in the No. 5 seed for the playoffs, so Elliott is primed for a heavier workload as he looks to extend his touchdown streak to nine games. Tennessee is much stingier versus the run than the pass, but Dallas should play from ahead, and Zeke has high touchdown potential once again.


Thumbs Down of the Week: D’Onta Foreman (@ TB)

Foreman was a Thumbs Down last week and went off against a previously stout Detroit run defense, but can fantasy owners rely on his hot-and-cold play to hit again? I would be very surprised if Tampa Bay—after allowing 15 carries for 118 yards to Foreman in Week 7—doesn’t come out ready to stop the run, and Carolina using a backfield committee makes the 26-year-old (who didn’t start last week) a low-floor option.


Thumbs Down: Cordarrelle Patterson (v ARI)

The Falcons have turned to rookie Tyler Allgeier as the top option at running back in recent games—resulting in Patterson seeing just eight touches for 31 yards in last week’s loss. Arizona can be exposed by running backs both on the ground and through the air as shown on Christmas, but Patterson has been severely underutilized as a pass-catcher with 13 receptions (on 20 targets) for 79 scoreless yards in 2022.


Thumbs Down: Latavius Murray (@ KC)

Game flow is key for Murray coming through as a FLEX option, and the previous matchup versus the Chiefs (11 touches for 31 yards) and last week versus the Rams (nine touches for 40 yards) showed the downside if Denver falls behind. Maybe the firing of Nathaniel Hackett will result in the offensive line being sparked to open holes, but the veteran needs to be downgraded for Week 17,


Thumbs Down: J.K. Dobbins (v PIT)

Dobbins was extremely efficient facing the Steelers with 15 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown in the first matchup this season, and his success against them dates back to his rookie season with 15 carries for 113 yards in his only other career appearance in the AFC North rivalry. That said, Pittsburgh was able to tighten up the run defense versus Josh Jacobs on Christmas Eve, and Mike Tomlin’s squad should come out fired up with the postseason on their mind. Despite the success, Dobbins is more of a borderline top-24 play at running back.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Michael Gallup (@ TEN)

I love CeeDee Lamb this week as arguably the top overall option at wide receiver, but there is room for others to produce on the Dallas offense with Tennessee allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. Gallup caught a touchdown last week against the Eagles, and he should mostly avoid rookie Roger McCreary (typically stationed at left cornerback) to face off against Tre Avery and Joshua Kalu. Consider him a low-end WR2/FLEX option with major upside.


Thumbs Up: Jahan Dotson (v CLE)

Dotson has gone with lines of 5/54/1, 4/105/1, and 6/76/1 on a healthy 8.0 targets per game over the past three weeks, so he’s firmly in the WR3 ranks for the fantasy championship. If anything, the switch to Carson Wentz at quarterback might be a positive after the two formed a strong connection in the offseason, and the rookie notably had four touchdowns in three-and-a-half games together with Wentz to begin his career. I believe the Browns—now eliminated from playoff contention—will have difficulty covering Dotson on Sunday.


Thumbs Up: D.J. Chark (v CHI)

There was a one-catch performance against the Jets mixed in, but Chark has gone for 94+ yards in three of the past four games—and the Bears being without Jaylon Johnson is a substantial upgrade to his outlook. I also like first-round pick Jameson Williams as an upside flier, but Chark has close to a full-time role and is up to 9.8 yards per target on the season.


Thumbs Up: DeAndre Hopkins (@ ATL)

I won’t put Davante Adams here because he’s locked in as a high-end WR1 despite the struggles (and people wondering if he should be benched), but Hopkins is in a similar position coming off a one-catch performance—with the difference being that he doesn’t have his starting quarterback (edit: not true, with Derek Carr now benched). Still, the talent level should keep Hopkins in play as a high-end WR2, and he’s seen target totals of 11, 11, and ten over the past three weeks. Start him if you’re still alive in your league.


Others: Elijah Moore (@ SEA), Romeo Doubs (v MIN)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Courtland Sutton (@ KC)

Sutton missed the first matchup with the Chiefs, but they’ve had his number in the past—limiting the big-bodied wideout to 19 receptions (on 37 targets) for 323 yards and zero touchdowns in six career meetings. Especially with Jerry Jeudy emerging as the No. 1 target for Russell Wilson, fantasy owners shouldn’t have a ton of trust in Sutton finally breaking out with a big game against his division rival on the road.


Thumbs Down: Brandin Cooks (v JAX)

Cooks returned last week after nearly a month out of the lineup, and he promptly caught a touchdown pass—which ended up being the game-winner—while seeing a team-high nine targets. However, the Jaguars limited Cooks to 20 scoreless yards in the first meeting, and they should key on Houston’s top offensive weapon without Dameon Pierce (ankle) on the field. I’d rather roll with another upside option like George Pickens or D.J. Chark.


Thumbs Down: Jakobi Meyers (v MIA)

Meyers had a very productive day last week in the comeback attempt with six receptions (on seven targes) for 83 yards and a touchdown, but I’m concerned about his role declining with DeVante Parker (concussion) potentially back and Kendrick Bourne showing he deserves more playing time. That combined with Hunter Henry (knee) hopefully not missing time could make Meyers a risky start as a complimentary piece on a struggling offense.


Thumbs Down: Curtis Samuel (v CLE)

Washington has gotten Samuel more involved since a zero-catch performance to close out November—resulting in touch totals of nine, eight, and six with 10.5 fantasy points per game over his past five outings. I’m expecting the offense to run through Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, though, and the Commanders should get the running game going to avoid mistakes with a playoff spot still in their control.


Others: Tyler Boyd (v BUF), Van Jefferson (@ LAC)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: David Njoku (@ WAS)

Rather than feeding Nick Chubb and playing through Njoku underneath, the game plan for Cleveland was essentially the opposite of what I thought it’d be last week with them being aggressive in wintry conditions. But for those anticipating a bounce back from Njoku, the Commanders just allowed a 6/120/2 line to George Kittle, and being the No. 6 defense against opposing fantasy tight ends is a bit misleading based on the schedule they’ve faced. I’d roll with Njoku again in the fantasy championship.


Thumbs Up: Juwan Johnson (@ PHI)

Johnson being limited to one catch last week can probably be written off as an outlier due to the weather, and the former college wideout has scored seven touchdowns over his previous six healthy outings. Facing a smaller group of linebackers and safeties, I like Johnson’s chances of finding the end zone for those seeking an answer at tight end.


Thumbs Up: Logan Thomas (v CLE)

Carson Wentz was in the game for not even ten minutes last week, but Thomas still saw six targets from him in the comeback effort—and you could feel the difference in regards to his role when the quarterback switch occurred. The Browns will be focused on stopping the talented trio of wideouts for Washington, so Thomas should be boosted into the top 20 at the position to close out a mostly quiet 2022 season.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Hayden Hurst (v BUF)

Hurst (calf) is set to return on Monday night, and he was an important part of the offense before getting injured in Week 13. Unfortunately for those wanting to get him back in lineups, the Bills are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (6.4)—making Hurst a low-end TE2 that should probably be avoided if possible in his first game back.


Thumbs Down: Cade Otton (v CAR)

I’m still very high on the long-term outlook for Otton, but the connection with Tom Brady was clearly off last week—and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cameron Brate get more snaps at the rookie’s expense. Even after catching four passes for 64 yards in the first matchup against Carolina, I’d rather rely on another option at tight end for Week 17.


Thumbs Down: Daniel Bellinger (v IND)

Bellinger has hauled in an impressive 27-of-32 targets this season, but the combination of emerging wideouts for New York, increased opportunities in the passing game for Saquon Barkley, and the Colts having just held Gerald Everett to zero receptions keeps the rookie outside the top 24 at the position. Since his return from a significant eye injury, Bellinger has yet to reach 5.0 fantasy points in any of his four appearances.