This is 10 Must Start Players for the all-important Championship Week 17 in fantasy football!
The Big Game
Welcome to Week 17 where bragging rights are earned, money is won, and the biggest loser is crowned. Whether you’re playing for a championship or trying to avoid the “biggest loser” title, we can all agree this is the most important week of the fantasy season. Let’s take a look at some players that are set up to smash in the big game.
Matthew Stafford (@NYG)
Stafford has thrown for multiple touchdowns in five straight games, scoring 20+ fantasy points in four of those.
This Rams offense is scorching hot, averaging over 32 points per game in this span.
The Giants rank middle of the pack against QBs but have allowed 20+ points in back-to-back weeks against Derek Carr and Jalen Hurts. Vegas is giving the Rams a 24.25 implied point total, a hefty number. Stick with the hot hand of Stafford in Week 17.
Brock Purdy (@WAS)
Brock Purdy has scored 20+ fantasy points in five of his last seven games, throwing for three-plus TDs in four of those games. Now he gets to play the Commanders’ defense that is allowing the No. 2 most points to QBs.
Purdy abuses easy matchups. He’s posted 23+ points against the Jaguars, Buccaneers, Eagles, and Cardinals who all rank bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to QBs. This week should be no different as the Commanders allow 273 passing yards and 2.2 passing TDs per game.
Don’t let the Christmas night debacle fool you. Purdy has a historically good 2.87 career TD/INT ratio (No. 7 all-time among guys who have played 16+ games).
Travis Etienne (vs. CAR)
The Etienne train has come to a screeching halt since the Jaguars Week 9 Bye. He’s recorded double-digit fantasy points in just three of seven games in half-point PPR scoring and failed to rush for 60+ yards in a single game.
However, it’s important to note that he’s had a gauntlet of a schedule over this stretch. He’s faced the 49ers, Browns, Ravens, and Buccaneers. All of these teams rank in the top 12 in fantasy points given up to RBs.
Two factors pointing to Etienne being a smash this week are his receiving utilization and his matchup. Etienne has been used heavily as a receiver out of the backfield, averaging nearly four catches and 30 yards per game over the last five weeks. This week, he gets to play the Panthers who have allowed a league-high 23 rushing touchdowns through 15 games. Lead RBs are a lock for a TD against the Panthers.
Josh Jacobs (@IND)
Josh Jacobs has seen his opportunity share skyrocket since the Raiders made a QB change in Week 9. He’s averaging over 22 opportunities and 13 fantasy points in that span.
Now he gets to play against a run-funnel defense in the Colts. They’re allowing the No. 3 most fantasy points to RBs, but the No. 7 least to WRs. This looks to be a smash spot for Jacobs given the identity of this Raiders offense and a dream matchup.
D’Andre Swift (vs. ARI)
No team is allowing more points to RBs this season than the Cardinals. Swift has now seen 20 touches in back-to-back games. His recent slump can be directly correlated to the Eagles’ losing streak. Since Week 2 (when he started seeing significant volume), Swift has averaged 14.2 points in Eagles wins.
Players who got tackled at the one-yard line and did NOT score a TD on the same drive in Week 16: pic.twitter.com/c81g1wNB1N
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 26, 2023
As 10.5-point favorites with an implied team total of 29.25 points, this game projects to be a win for the Eagles and a smash spot for Swift. He’s also been a frequent flyer on the “tackled on the one-yard line but didn’t score on the same drive,” list, indicating that there may be some positive TD regression in his future.
Nico Collins (vs. TEN)
Collins has been a monster this year when both he and C.J. Stroud are healthy. He’s racked up 100+ yards and a TD in each of their last two healthy games together. Collins ranks No. 3 in yards per route run in the league. Yards per Route Run is the holy grail of WR metrics. Everything about this duo screams elite.
Now he gets to play the Titans who are allowing the No. 6 most points to WRs at home with a playoff spot on the line. Collins projects to be a top 10 play at the WR position this week.
Rashee Rice (vs. CIN)
It took a while, but the Chiefs have found their WR1. Over the last five weeks, Rashee Rice is averaging 10 targets per game and has three WR1 finishes. The Bengals have been getting torched through the air lately, allowing the No. 3 most points to WRs in the last month. Vegas expects the Chiefs to score often with a 25.75 implied team total, and I’d expect Rice to contribute six of his own.
Terry McLaurin (vs. SF)
The Commanders announced that Jacoby Brissett will start this week against the 49ers, and that is great news for Terry McLaurin managers. Unlike Sam Howell, Brissett actually looks to target his WR1 and allows him to make plays. McLaurin had his best game of the season when Brissett came in against the Rams, posting a 6-141-1 stat line, and fell just inches short of a second TD. McLaurin leads the team in target share at 22.7 percent when Brissett plays this year.
Target shares from Jacoby Brissett:
Terry McLaurin 22.7%
Jahan Dotson 18.1%
Curtis Samuel 18.1%
Logan Thomas 13.6%
Antonio Gibson 9%
— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) December 27, 2023
While the matchup may not look great on paper, the 49ers are most susceptible to outside WRs where McLaurin lines up 85 percent of the time. The Niners are allowing 20.9 fantasy points to outside WRs over the last six weeks. Now is the time to get McLaurin into your lineup.
Jake Ferguson (vs. DET)
Jake Ferguson has seen eight targets for four straight weeks now. He’s had 70+ yards or a TD in all but one home game this season. The Lions are a pass funnel defense with a stout run defense and a wavering secondary.
They’re allowing the No. 7 most points to TEs this season, and this game has the highest over-under on the week at 53.5 points. Plus, the Cowboys are averaging 39.9 points at home this year. What is there not to like about Ferguson this week?
Isaiah Likely (vs. MIA)
Isaiah Likely is the TE5 in on a PPG basis since Mark Andrews went down in Week 11. A key component to Likely’s success is his ability to gains yards after catch. He leads all TEs in YAC in this span with 141 yards after the catch. This game projects to be a high scoring back and forth affair with the Ravens slightly favored in a 47 point over-under. With a strong pass rush and a combined ten sacks over the last two weeks, look for Lamar Jackson to get the ball out quickly in the screen game to Likely.
Bring It Home
Good luck to all who are still playing a meaningful fantasy matchup this week. Setting your lineup for championship week can be hard, but always remember to trust your gut and enjoy the process!