It’s Fantasy Championship Week. Congratulations to everyone who made it this far. My first piece of advice to anyone still alive in the playoffs is simple – keep doing what you’re doing. Run your reps, follow your routines.
I’m here to offer a few tidbits and pieces of advice, but I realize I’m speaking to the group that might need help at least.
And away we go. Time to get you that parade.
Playing Hard or Hardly Playing?
Let’s take a moment to consider who needs to play hard this week, and who might step off the gas. You’ll need to read the tea leaves every week with some of these situations.
• The Bills, Bengals and Chiefs all have a shot at the AFC’s No. 1 seed. No one’s decelerating here. The Ravens remain alive to win the AFC North, so they’re motivated.
• The Titans are in a weird spot — they can still win the AFC South, but all that matters is their Week 18 game against Jacksonville. So the Titans, who have already listed Derrick Henry as doubtful, could easily pull back key personnel Thursday against Dallas.
• The Jaguars have a small chance to make the playoffs as a wild card, combining a Week 17 win with a loss to Tennessee. The division will come down to next week’s Jacksonville-Tennessee game. Doug Pederson is talking like the Jags will play to win this week at Houston.
• The Chargers can’t win the AFC West, so anyone borderline on their injury report bears close watching.
• The Patriots, Dolphins, Jets and Steelers are still alive, so they’ll be gunning to win. The Raiders are also alive, although they’ve decided to bench Derek Carr for Jarrett Stidham — with an eye toward moving on from Carr next year.
• The Texans, Broncos, Colts, and Browns are all eliminated from the playoff hunt. No signs of any of these teams fully tanking — although Houston could lose the No. 1 overall pick with another victory — but any lame-duck team is dangerous to trust.
• The Eagles need another victory to secure the NFC’s No. 1 seed (and that lone first-round bye). With Gardner Minshew a capable backup, they don’t necessarily have to rush Jalen Hurts back, but Hurts might still play this week. Elite right tackle Lane Johnson is aiming for a playoff return.
• The Vikings and Niners probably want to keep the foot on the gas, as the No. 2 seed is better than the No. 3 seeds. If either team were to pull back, I don’t think we’ll see it until next week.
• The Buccaneers and Panthers have decent shots to win the NFC South, and the Saints maintain a small chance, so no motivation worries there. Atlanta has been eliminated.
• The Cowboys would take the NFC East if they won twice and the Eagles dropped both of their games. That’s highly unlikely, and Dallas can’t fall past the No. 5 seeds. The Pokes most likely will open the playoffs at the NFC South winner. Tony Pollard is someone to closely monitor before Thursday’s game at Tennessee.
• The Giants can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Colts, so they’ll be highly motivated this week. The Commanders are currently the NFC’s seventh seed, but need to keep winning.
• The Lions, Packers, and Seahawks are still alive for the playoffs and will play to win. In addition to Atlanta, the Bears, Cardinals, and Rams have been eliminated.
The Safest Weather Spots
It’s unlikely the northern games will be as messy as they were a week ago, although we’ll want to check the weather all week. But if you want your kicker to be in the safest possible environment, here are the games scheduled for domes or warm-weather sites.
• Cardinals at Falcons
• Bears at Lions
• Panthers at Buccaneers
• Jaguars at Texans
• 49ers at Raiders
• Rams at Chargers
Defense Wins Championships
I’ve always found that expression a little trite and overly convenient, but we want to steal points anywhere we can. When considering your DST options, I always suggest you look at the point spread first. Big favorites usually set up for big DST potential.
Here are your double-digit point favorites for Week 17:
• Cowboys -11 at Titans
• Chiefs -12.5 vs. Broncos
• 49ers -10 at Raiders (and Stidham)
If you have to jump down a tier, there are still some appealing, and available, possibilities:
• Lions -6 vs. Bears
• Giants -6 vs. Colts (Chargers had a sack party Monday)
• Eagles -6.5 vs. Saints
• Jaguars -4.5 at Texans
• Chargers -6.5 vs. Rams
A Word About Friendliest Loss
This should come as a review, but we’ll tack it on at the end. Start the players you think will score the most points. That’s it. It doesn’t matter about Hall of Fame legacies or what draft pick you used on the player in August or how much FAB you spent on somebody. If you think Brock Purdy is better than one of the HOF-bound guys like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, that’s fine. If you can’t take another week of Mike Evans and you have a frisky replacement ready, that’s fine. There’s no kissing of the ring here. There are no good legacy auto-starts. If a player isn’t performing consistently right now, I don’t care what we thought about him four months ago, or four days ago. Just make good decisions — and never let your decision be decided by “this is the losing scenario I’d be most at peace with.”
Play to win. You got this.