“Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same. And now it’s here.”
The fantasy football championship (unless you are one of those crazy people playing into Week 18). The 2021 fantasy (and NFL) season has been as unpredictable as ever, so for good time sakes, let’s try to predict what will happen in Week 17. Here’s what you need to know to secure your fantasy championship.
Risky Rex... Burkhead rewarded those who inserted him into their Covid-stricken lineups last week, taking advantage of the weak Chargers’ run defense to post the third most fantasy points of all running backs (28.9). The veteran has been the lead back in Houston for several weeks now, but will have a tougher matchup this week against the 49ers. He’s a FLEX candidate in deeper leagues, but a quality backup to roster with Covid-19 uncertainty,
Kansas City committee... After injuring his collarbone in Week 16, it appears unlikely Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be available for the fantasy championships. Without Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams saw an increased role on the ground, while handling his usual role in the passing game. Derrick Gore also saw more work on the ground, leading all Chiefs’ rushers with 12 rush snaps after Edwards-Helaire’s injury in the third quarter. It should be noteworthy that the Chiefs were leading 23-0 at halftime and 30-0 midway through the third quarter, so perhaps the snaps will be divided differently in what should be a more competitive matchup against Cincinnati this upcoming weekend. Either way, Williams should be inserted into lineups, while Gore has very risky FLEX appeal.
Start Stafford... Stafford appeared to be getting back on track after Los Angeles’ Week 12 bye, throwing three touchdowns in three straight games. However, things have come crashing down when he's been needed the most, as Stafford has thrown four interceptions and just three touchdowns the past two weeks — leading to a dreadful 9.68-point performance last weekend. However, if you've survived Stafford’s last two duds, he may be primed to win you a championship this weekend. He’ll face a depleted Baltimore defense that ranks last in points allowed per drive since Week 14.
Run with Rashaad... Penny has been extremely up-and-down of late, recording 35- and 39-yards in Weeks 13 and 15, while breaking off for 130-plus yards and three total scores in Weeks 14 and 16. When the game script is in Seattle’s favor, Penny remains the clear early-down option. In a Week 17 matchup against Detroit, he should have a positive game script and plenty of touches. Feel confident with him in your championship lineups.
Action Jackson... With Austin Ekeler on the Covid-19/reserve list, it was Justin Jackson’s moment to shine, and that’s exactly what he did. Jackson took on lead back responsibilities in the Chargers’ offense, leading the team in both rushing and receiving yards, while finding the end zone twice. If Ekeler remains out next week, Jackson is again a must-start, even against a tougher Broncos defense.
Double-dog Dare... With James Robinson suffering a torn achilles in the first quarter last week, it was Dare Ogunbowale who dominated the Jaguars’ running back snaps. Ogunbowale ran the ball 17 total times and found the end zone, while maintaining his usual role as a pass-catching back (34 routes run, four targets). In what should be a negative game script against New England, Ogunbowale should have some starting lineup appeal, especially in PPR formats.
Win with Brown... Not A.J., not Antonio, but Amon-Ra St. Brown is winning people fantasy championships. Amon-Ra has now recorded 11 or 12 targets and eight-plus receptions in four straight games for the Lions, while finding the end zone three times as well. It also didn't matter that Tim Boyle was under center this week, but Jared Goff will be back for Week 17. Either way, the workload alone makes him a fantasy championship starter, and a matchup against Seattle should lead to another productive outing.
Move on from Myles... The Myles Gaskin season-long frustration rolls on, as the back saw just four touches Monday night against New Orleans. Gaskin is in a full-out committee with recent newcomers Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay, as Miami clearly views Gaskin as a pass-catching option (even though Johnson and Lindsay share a chunk of pass snaps). With declining touches and point totals in Miami’s last three games, Gaskin is off the fantasy radar in Week 17, and could be dropped for a higher upside play (Burkhead, Ogunbowale, etc.)
Chargers’ receivers... With Mike Williams landing on the Covid-19/reserve last before last week’s matchup, he is likely to miss Week 17 as well after reports of him being unvaccinated. With Williams, Ekeler, and receiver Jalen Guyton out last week, rookie Joshua Palmer worked as the Chargers’ top receiver, hauling in five of six targets for 43 yards and a score. With Guyton potentially returning for Week 17 and a much tougher matchup against the Broncos on tap, Palmer likely shouldn't be counted on again this week.
Championship defenses... Defenses can make or break your championship matchup, which is why you could have been stacking them on your bench the last few week’s of the regular season. If you weren't able to get your hands on a New England vs. Jacksonville or Tampa Bay at New York Jets, let’s look at some streaming options... New Orleans (vs. Car.) has given up just one touchdown over the last weeks, and has a home matchup against a Panthers’ offense that has resorted to rotating Cam Newton and Sam Darnold. ... On the flip side, Carolina (at NO) should be easily available coming off a matchup with Tampa Bay. The Panthers defense has been tough to pass against all year, and who knows what the Saints quarterback situation will look like this week. Either defensive unit could be a strong play in a likely low-scoring affair. ... Chicago (vs NYG) will get whatever is left of the New York Giants’ offense. That includes a bottom-five offensive line and either Jake Fromm or Mike Glennon under center. Chicago has been strong at generating pressure this year (leading the NFL in sack percentage entering Week 16), so they should have their way against the Giants’ offense at Soldier Field.
That is all for this week’s recap. Best of luck in your championship matchups and leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter @iambrianhines if you have any questions about your fantasy team!