Fantasy Football Rankings: Week 17 Matchups to Consider
It’s finally here! Championship week is not for the faint of heart and every lineup decision can make the difference in taking home gold or silver in your league this season. The Ballers have their Week 17 rankings out and I’m ready to dive into a few from each position to help make your lineup decisions. Since it’s the last week, I’m adding a bonus player to look at for each position.
Dak Prescott (DAL) at Tennessee
There’s a good chance that if you’re playing for a championship in Week 17, Dak Prescott played a large role in getting you there. Prescott posted an overall QB1 finish in Week 16 behind his biggest passing total on the season with 347 yards. What’s propelled Dak into potential “league winner” status has been his TD production. In his first six games, Dak only had 10 total passing TDs but has matched that total in his last four throwing three TDs in three separate games.
In theory, Tennessee is a great championship week matchup for Dak to carry teams to a crown. What the Houston Texans are to opposing fantasy QBs because of their awful run defense, the Titans are the same due to their terrible pass defense. The Titans give up the second-most passing yards per game and TDs on the season so there’s plenty to go around for fantasy purposes. However, in their last ten games, the Titans have only allowed three top-12 QB finishes. Granted, they were all QB2 or better, but it should give a little pause to fantasy managers that if the early TDs aren’t through the air, there’s a chance Dak could leave you out in the cold.
It’s a tough call to sit Dak after he’s been great through the fantasy playoffs, but it’s worth considering if you’re playing for a championship.
Kurt would prefer to play: Jared Goff (QB5)
Gardner Minshew (PHI) vs New Orleans
Getting a starting QB like Gardner Minshew in an offense as potent as the Eagles off the waiver wire is a rarity in fantasy football. Fantasy managers who had to shift from Jalen Hurts in Week 16 were understandably cautious to start Minshew against the Cowboys’ defense. All Minshew did was finish as the QB5 on the week while throwing for 355 yards – the most any QB has thrown for against Dallas in a game this season.
Taking on the Saints in Week 17 is another tough test for Minshew. On the season, New Orleans has allowed the fourth-fewest passing TDs and the second-fewest passing yards per game. Through 15 games, the Saints have only allowed a top-12 QB in seven games, and have only allowed one in the last five weeks. New Orleans hasn’t allowed a passing TD in two straight weeks, but those games were against two of the teams in the bottom 10 for passing TDs, so Minshew having a repeat performance may hinge on getting into the end zone.
Obviously, if Jalen Hurts were to return this week, Minshew isn’t a factor, but his return is still considered questionable.
Kurt would play Minshew over: Geno Smith (QB12)
Aaron Rodgers (GB) vs Minnesota
It’s surprising to know that Aaron Rodgers has only had two games this season where he’s been a top-12 QB. What’s maybe more surprising is that Rodgers hasn’t put up more than 20 points in a given week after averaging 20.8 points per week in 2021. Fantasy managers considering Rodgers for their championship matchup should be encouraged that the Packers are finally seeming to find some rhythm on offense; they’ve scored at least 24 points in four-straight games.
The Vikings are allowing plenty of passing yards on a weekly basis, and over the last seven games are allowing 30.2 points per game. More importantly for fantasy managers, Minnesota’s defense has allowed six top-10 QB finishes in that same stretch of games after allowing just two in their first eight. Opposing QBs haven’t had to get into the end zone for big fantasy days, since the Vikings have only allowed multiple passing TDs once in their last four games.
Kurt would play Rodgers over: Trevor Lawrence (QB7)
James Cook (BUF) at Cincinnati
The backfield in Buffalo has been hard to predict over the last month since James Cook has seen an increase in snaps alongside Devin Singletary. Cook has turned in a top-30 RB finish in three of his last four games even though he hasn’t seen more snaps in a single week than Singletary over the last four weeks. The two backs are averaging the exact same number of fantasy points per game during that stretch. Even with less opportunity, Cook is averaging more yards per carry and seeing more red zone carries.
Buffalo’s matchup with the Bengals in Week 16 isn’t an easy one for either of the Bills’ RBs. Cincinnati is allowing the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game in the league, giving up just 106 yards on the ground each week. Over the last three weeks, the Bengals haven’t allowed a top-24 RB finish or a rushing TD, and given the high number of points expected in this game, Cook continuing his run of strong fantasy finishes may depend on getting into the end zone for just the third time this season.
Kurt would prefer to play: Latavius Murray (RB37)
AJ Dillon (GB) vs Minnesota
The pre-season hope that AJ Dillon could be a great fantasy asset has finally started to emerge over the past month. Since Week 12, Dillon has finished inside the top-20 RBs every game, possibly due in part to getting into the end zone five times during that stretch. The biggest worry for fantasy managers leaning on Dillon over the back stretch of the season is how many opportunities he gets compared to fellow Packers RB Aaron Jones. In their last four games, Dillon has only seen more opportunities than Jones once but had two weeks where he saw more carries.
While Minnesota’s defense gives up plenty of passing yards, they haven’t been quite as terrible against the run. Still, the Vikings are giving up plenty of good fantasy production to opposing RBs. Over their last six games, Minnesota has allowed five top-15 RB finishes. With plenty of scoring likely in a game with an expected 48 points, Dillon should be considered a solid RB2 this week.
Kurt would play Dillon over: Najee Harris (RB23)
Tyler Allgeier (ATL) vs Arizona
It seems the Falcons’ change at QB has been a good one for Tyler Allgeier. Since Desmond Ridder took over as the starting QB in Atlanta, Allgeier has back-to-back top-12 RB finishes. What’s most impressive about how Allgeier has gotten into RB1 range is that he’s done it two different ways. In Week 15, the rookie did most of his damage on the ground against a good Saints defense, racking up a career-high 139 rushing yards. While he was still effective on the ground in Week 16, Allgeier added four receptions for 43 yards to get back into the top 12. In consecutive weeks, Allgeier has set career highs in rushing attempts, so it’s clear the Falcons are committed to getting him involved in the offense.
Getting the Cardinals in Week 16 provides a chance to extend Allegier’s streak in the top 12. The Cardinals’ defense has allowed six top-15 RB finishes in their last four games and three inside the top 10. What may be the most encouraging for Allgeier’s upside this week is that Arizona has given up six total TDs – rushing or receiving – to opposing RBs in that same stretch, so there’s plenty of high-end upside this week.
Kurt would play Allgeier over: Brian Robinson Jr. (RB20)
Zonovan Knight (NYJ) at Seattle
Easy to say, the last two weeks have been really rough for fantasy managers who were riding the Zonovan Knight wave. Over the last two games, Knight has a total of 21 rushing yards to go with RB59 and RB67 fantasy finishes. The only encouraging thing for fantasy managers considering Knight this week has to be the return of Mike White as the starting QB for the Jets. In the three games that White started for New York in Weeks 12 through 14, Knight was a top-24 RB and averaged nearly 100 total yards per game.
When you add on a great matchup with a struggling Seattle defense, Knight becomes a very good play for fantasy managers competing for a title this week. Seattle is nearing Houston as the worst rushing defense in the league, allowing 155 yards per game and the fourth most rushing TDs on the season. If the Jets’ offense functions at the high efficiency that it did with Mike White at the helm previously this season, Knight should be a great start in Week 17.
Kurt would prefer Knight over: J.K. Dobbins (RB27)
Brandon Aiyuk (SF) at Las Vegas
The injury to Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 has had the biggest downgrade on Brandon Aiyuk’s fantasy output in the 49ers’ offense. Aiyuk has only finished inside the top-24 WRs once since Brock Purdy took over under center and is averaging just three receptions per game compared to the five he was seeing with Jimmy G.
Taking on the Raiders has typically been a treat for fantasy WRs this season, but not so much over the last several weeks. In their last three games, the Raiders’ secondary has only allowed one top-24 WR finish and just two passing TDs. Aiyuk has only been a top-24 WR once this season without getting into the end zone. What may be worse for the 49ers’ passing game is the change at QB for Las Vegas provides uncertainty as to how much the Raiders will be able to score and keep the 49ers going to the air.
Fantasy managers should proceed with caution if Aiyuk is someone that you’re considering this week.
Kurt would prefer to play: DJ Moore (WR23)
DJ Chark (DET) vs Chicago
Over the last month, DJ Chark has been a happy surprise for fantasy managers, finishing inside the top 24 WRs in three of four games. In the games where Chark has been successful, he’s caught five passes and averaged 100 yards per week. What may be most impressive about Chark’s fantasy finishes is that he’s getting into the WR2 range without getting into the end zone.
The Bears’ defense only allows just over 200 passing yards per game, but that’s mainly due to their horrid run defense. Still, the Bears have given up four top-15 WR finishes in their last four games and allowed six TDs through the air. The Lions being at home means weather won’t be a factor this weekend, and fantasy managers should play Chark as a FLEX option with top-15 upside.
Kurt would play Chark over: Diontae Johnson (WR33)
Terry McLaurin (WASH) vs Cleveland
The person perhaps least excited about the return of Carson Wentz for the Commanders is Terry McLaurin. In the first six games of the season, McLaurin had just one top-24 fantasy finish with Wentz as the starting QB. With Taylor Heinicke under center for nine games, McLaurin finished inside the top 24 five different weeks and averaged 3.5 more fantasy points per game.
Cleveland’s defense was one fantasy managers could target early in the season, but the Browns have tightened things up over the back half of the year. Over the last three weeks, Cleveland has allowed a combined 23 points and they haven’t given up more than 20 points in a game since Week 12. Granted, the weather has played a large factor, but the Browns haven’t given up double-digit fantasy points to opposing WRs in back-to-back weeks, making it hard to believe in McLaurin’s fantasy prospects for Week 17.
Kurt would prefer to play: Christan Kirk (WR20)
Isaiah Hodgins (NYG) vs Indianapolis
Out of necessity, Isaiah Hodgins has emerged over the last month for the Giants’ passing game. Since Week 13, Hodgins has been a top-24 WR in three games, including a WR7 finish last week against the Vikings. The name of the game for Hodgins is volume. He’s seen nearly seven targets per game in the last four weeks and has all but one of the Giants receiving TDs in that stretch.
The Colts’ defense has been dreadful in recent weeks, giving up an average of 34 points per game over their last four contests. Indianapolis has only given up 20 passing TDs on the season but seven came in the last three weeks. The biggest question for fantasy managers considering playing Hodgins as a FLEX in Week 17 will be if the Colts can stay close enough with the Giants to keep targets coming his way for four quarters.
Kurt would play Hodgins over: George Pickens (WR39)
Tyler Higbee (LAR) at LA Chargers
The Rams’ blowout of the Broncos on Christmas Day was highlighted by Tyler Higbee’s huge fantasy performance. Higbee finished as the TE3 on the week, his highest finish on the season, behind 94 yards and two TDs. What may be the most impressive about Higbee’s big week was his 43.5% target per route run, which finished as the second-highest in the league among players who ran at least 15 routes.
Higbee will have a tough matchup ahead of him to string together his third-straight top-10 TE finish with the Chargers. LA’s defense has only allowed double-digit points to opposing TEs once in their last five games. If Higbee is going to produce for fantasy managers, chances are he’ll have to do it through volume again, since the Chargers haven’t allowed a TE to score a TD since Week 11.
Kurt would play Hibee over: Pat Freiermuth (TE9)
Dallas Goedert (PHI) vs New Orleans
It wasn’t the return from injury that fantasy managers were wanting for Dallas Goedert in Week 16. Goedert finished outside the top-12 TEs but still managed 67 yards in the Eagles’ passing game. Obviously, the change at QB for Philadelphia makes the return for Goedert that much more difficult to get worked back into the offense.
Things don’t get any easier for Goedert heading into fantasy championship week against the Saints. New Orleans’ defense has only allowed opposing TEs to score double-digit points twice all season and has allowed the fourth-fewest passing TDs on the season as a whole. While I love the Eagles’ offense for fantasy, without Jalen Hurts starting I’d be shifting to another TE option this week.
Kurt would prefer to play: Dawson Knox (TE10)
Cole Kmet (CHI) at Detroit
It’s been a reality check for Cole Kmet over the last two weeks, finishing TE24 and TE25 with a combined 9.7 points. What’s encouraging for Kmet is that the targets seem to still be coming his way from Justin Fields, averaging six targets per game over the last four weeks. Kmet hasn’t seen the end zone since Week 10, which capped a three-week stretch where he scored five TDs.
Detroit’s defense is a chance for Kmet to get back on track for fantasy managers. In their last 10 games, the Lions have allowed double-digit points to opposing TEs six times. As for finding pay dirt, in their last four games, Detroit has allowed TEs to catch a TD three times, resulting in three top-10 TE finishes. The first time Kmet took on the Lions, he finished as the TE1 on the week, so I’d be willing to bet on the high-end upside again.
Kurt would play Kmet over: Darren Waller (TE13)