Fantasy Football Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: Week 17 lineup advice, best matchups, DFS picks

By | December 29, 2021

Congratulations — you’ve made it to the end of another long fantasy football season. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re playing for money and likely a league championship this week. It’s also possible you’re trying to avoid a last-place punishment. Either way, the stakes are high, and we know how important every start ’em, sit ’em decision is. That’s why we’re here to help you navigate these murky waters with Week 17 fantasy lineup advice. 

Obviously, all of the advice below is subject to change, as players can be snatched up by the reserve/COVID list without warning. With the NFL’s new protocols in place, more players, such as Gabriel Davis, Mike Williams, and even Carson Wentz, could be available this week, but injuries and other issues figure to leave fantasy owners sweating out more than a few game-time decisions. Nobody said winning a league title would be easy, so let’s sift through the matchups, trends, and stats to figure out the best plays based on what we do know. 

If you’re no longer competing in your season-long league, don’t worry, we have you covered with some NFL DFS advice sprinkled throughout the column. 

Fantasy Football Week 17 Start ‘Em: Quarterbacks

QB must-starts

  1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (vs. MIN)
  2. Josh Allen, Bills (vs. ATL)
  3. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (at CIN)
  4. Matthew Stafford, Rams (at BAL)
  5. Joe Burrow, Bengals (vs. KC)
  6. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (vs. ARI)
  7. Jalen Hurts, Eagles (at WAS)
  8. Tom Brady, Buccaneers (at NYJ)
  9. Justin Herbert, Chargers (vs. DEN)

Stronger starts

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (vs. DET). They will have success running again, but that will open the downfield passing game for plenty of big plays for Wilson and his wideouts.

Trey Lance, 49ers (vs. HOU). Lance will likely be filling in for Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb), and he will do well running and passing, playing off his major weapons. He might not give the job back even if Jimmy G should be healthy in the playoffs.

Taysom Hill, Saints (vs. CAR). Hill should be cleared from the reserve/COVID to go back to his usual dual-threat domination, and the wilting Panthers won’t be a match for his speed and quickness.

Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at GB). He’ll be either game for a shootout in desperation or put up enough pass-happy points in garbage time opposite Aaron Rodgers on Monday night.

Ryan Tannehill, Titans (vs. MIA). He has revenge on his mind, and he has A.J. Brown back in his receiving corps. Tannhill will boom in a big AFC game.

Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (at TEN). Tua should be on point and needed to do more against a weak Titans’ pass defense that will stuff Miami’s running game.

Justin Fields, Bears (if he returns, vs. NYG). Fields (ankle) can have a dream running and passing performance at home should he return to take on the completely faded Giants.

DFS Bargains/Streamer Specials

Davis Mills, Texans (at SF, $5,500 on DraftKings, $6,400 on FanDuel). Mills has been looking great of late and returns near his college stomping grounds at Stanford to put up good garbage numbers against a depleted secondary.

Mac Jones, Patriots (vs. JAX, $5,300 on DraftKings, $6,800 on FanDuel). Mac will not be losing to Trevor Lawrence in a big spot, and the Patriots know they need to get him warmed up in the passing game for the playoffs despite the rushing success they can enjoy again.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Fantasy Football Week 17 Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks

Weaker starts

Lamar Jackson, Ravens (vs. LAR). He might not play again anyway because of ankle injury, but he’s hard to trust against a defense that’s contained the running QB below and is nasty against the pass.

Kyler Murray, Cardinals (at DAL). Maybe this will motivate him to put up fantasy-viable numbers again, but given how well the Cowboys’ defense plays at home, you can’t feel comfortable deploying Murray.

Derek Carr, Raiders (at IND). He’s regressed badly during this season with dwindling weapons, and the Colts’ defense won’t give him a break.

Carson Wentz, Colts (vs. LV). Wentz (reserve/COVID) won’t need to put up big numbers should he be cleared, as this game screams Jonathan Taylor going off, so the best you can hope for is a couple cheap red-zone scores with low volume.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (vs. CLE). Don’t play into the sentimental storyline because the skillset and matchup isn’t there to help you win a big fantasy matchup.

Zach Wilson, Jets (vs. TB). The rookie’s running might inspire for some streaming appeal against an injury-hampered back seven, but you can’t go there.

Cam Newton, Panthers (at NO). The Sam Darnold mess makes him unstartable, unfortunately.

Jared Goff, Lions (at SEA). You might think he can do something well with his newfound wideouts when cleared from the reserve/COVID list, but you can’t trust him on the road.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Fantasy Football Week 17 Start ‘Em: Running backs

RB must-starts

  1. Jonathan Taylor, Colts (vs. LV)
  2. Nick Chubb, Browns (at PIT)
  3. David Montgomery, Bears (vs. NYG)
  4. Aaron Jones, Packers (vs. MIN)
  5. Joe Mixon, Bengals (vs. KC)
  6. Alvin Kamara, Saints (vs. CAR)
  7. Damien Harris, Patriots (vs. JAX)
  8. Ronald Jones, Buccaneers (at NYJ)
  9. Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (vs. DET)
  10. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (if cleared, at GB)
  11. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (if cleared, vs. DEN)
  12. Najee Harris, Steelers (vs. CLE)
  13. Antonio Gibson, Washington (vs. PHI)
  14. Sony Michel, Rams (at BAL)
  15. Javonte Williams, Broncos (at LAC)
  16. Melvin Gordon, Broncos (at LAC)
  17. Saquon Barkley, Giants (at CHI)
  18. Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons (at BUF)
  19. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (vs. ARI)

Stronger starts

D’Andre Swift, Lions (at SEA). There’s a good chance he returns from his shoulder injury this week. Otherwise, Jamaal Williams would be a nice RB2 play again.

Darrel Williams and Derrick Gore, Chiefs (at CIN). They both have great appeal as a 1-2 punch in a pretty favorable road spot to support Patrick Mahomes with Clyde Edwards-Helaire (shoulder) ailing.

AJ Dillon, Packers (vs. MIN). The Vikings have become just that bad against the power running game.

Jordan Howard, Eagles (vs. WAS). The Eagles ran all over WFT just two weeks ago, and Howard will be busy first if he can play through his neck injury with Miles Sanders (hand) out. If not, Boston Scott would have the RB2 appeal.

Tony Pollard, Cowboys (vs. ARI). Pollard should be like Dillon and get good work against a reeling defense as a different type of change-of-pace back.

Rex Burkhead, Texans (at SF). He’s a volume-based play coming off the monster game, and the 49ers are a so-so run defense.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Buccaneers (at NYJ). He has flex appeal behind RoJo, as the Buccaneers should remain relentless running to support Tom Brady.

DFS bargains

Devin Singletary, Bills (vs. ATL, $5,400 on DraftKings, $6,000 on FanDuel). Singletary is coming off two nice games as Buffalo’s default lead back. He should be busy running over the Falcons in a positive game script.

Jeff Wilson Jr., 49ers (vs. HOU, $5,600 on DraftKings, $6,700 on FanDuel). Wilson has run well enough to give Elijah Mitchell (knee) more time to return, so if Mitchell misses another game, JWJ would be a terrific value in an awesome matchup.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Sit ‘Em: Running backs

Weaker starts

Josh Jacobs, Raiders (at IND). He’s totally reliant on rushing production and volume, as the catches and TDs have dried up and this matchup is tough.

Chase Edmonds and James Conner, Cardinals (at DAL). They are great plays when they are alone, but in a committee against the Cowboys’ brutal front, they are bound to disappoint.

Devonta Freeman, Ravens (vs. LAR). There’s just not enough work and success here, and the matchup stinks.

Michael Carter, Jets (vs. TB). The kid will need to get it done with receiving, as the Bucs are the anti-Jags against the run.

D’Onta Foreman, Titans (vs. MIA). They went back to situational (and random) committee last week, and that’s not good against a much-improved Dolphins run defense.

Dare Ogunbowale, Jaguars (at NE). James Robinson’s replacement, best known for his receiving, steps into a negative script against the Patriots.

Justin Jackson, Chargers (at DEN). Ekeler’s one-week supersub won’t get the same type of dominant work in a tougher matchup.

All Panthers (at NO). No, no and no.

All Dolphins (at TEN). Don’t put up your Duke or Myles or Phillip.

MORE WEEK 17 DFS: Best stacks | Best values | Lineup builder

Fantasy Football Week 17 Start ‘Em: Wide receivers

WR must-starts

  1. Cooper Kupp, Rams (at BAL)
  2. Davante Adams, Packers (vs. MIN)
  3. Deebo Samuel, 49ers (vs. HOU)
  4. Justin Jefferson, Vikings (at GB)
  5. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (at CIN)
  6. Stefon Diggs, Bills (vs. ATL)
  7. A.J. Brown, Titans (vs. MIA)
  8. Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins (at TEN)
  9. Tee Higgins, Bengals (vs. KC)
  10. Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals (vs. KC)
  11. Diontae Johnson, Steelers (vs. CLE)
  12. Brandin Cooks, Texans (if he returns, at SF)
  13. Hunter Renfrow, Raiders (at IND)
  14. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (vs. DET)
  15. DK Metcalf, Seahawks (vs. DET)
  16. Amari Cooper, Cowboys (vs. ARI)
  17. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (vs. ARI)
  18. Keenan Allen, Chargers (vs. DEN)
  19. Mike Williams, Chargers (vs. DEN)
  20. Antonio Brown, Buccaneers (at NYJ)

Stronger starts

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions (vs. SEA). Three straight great games for the rookie says go for one more in a solid spot.

Odell Beckham Jr., Rams (at BAL). He keeps on finding away to produce off Cooper Kupp, and it happens here, too.

Michael Pittman Jr. Colts (at LV). He’s definitely a strong play again should Carson Wentz (reserve/COVID) start, but the matchup is good enough to be playable with Sam Ehlinger.

DeVonta Smith, Eagles (at WAS). The rookie got going against the Giants and will do much better this time around against Washington.

Van Jefferson, Rams (at BAL). He wasn’t needed much last week, but he makes a couple big plays this week.

Darnell Mooney, Bears (vs. NYG). Mooney will be schemed open better against a secondary that’s lost any mojo it once had.

Michael Gallup, Cowboys (vs. ARI). He converts on a score off a shot play for Dak Prescott.

Christian Kirk, Cardinals (at DAL). He has good history in this matchup and comes through while avoiding Trevon Diggs.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals (vs. KC). It’s hard to bench any of their wideouts when Joe Burrow is on fire and throwing often.

Jarvis Landry, Browns (at PIT). He was solid in the first game against Pittsburgh in PPR leagues, and he stays busy against a Steelers defense that struggles with quick route-runners.

DFS bargains

Robby Anderson, Panthers (at NO, $4,900 on DraftKings, $5,700 on FanDuel). He still was peppered with targets last week despite the limited results, and he should be operating away from Marshon Laittmore this week. He also can shine no matter who’s quarterbacking.

DeVante Parker, Dolphins (at TEN, $5,200 on DraftKings, $5,900 on FanDuel). Parker got the Lattimore treatment and wasn’t targeted in Week 16, but that should change against a weak and inexperienced Titans’ cornerback group in what could be a sneaky high-scoring game.

Kendrick Bourne, Patriots (vs. JAX, $5,000 on DraftKings, $5,500 on FanDuel). Bourne’s identity as a reliable WR3 has been wiped of late, but he regains that status as New England lets Mac Jones loose against a Jaguars defense that can’t cover Bourne’s versatility.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Sit ‘Em: Wide receivers

Weaker starts

Marquise Brown, Ravens (vs. LAR). He’s ice-cold and about to see plenty of Jalen Ramsey.

D.J. Moore, Panthers (at NO). He’s about to get the Lattimore treatment.

Terry McLaurin, Washington (vs. PHI). This is trying to get him back on the WR3 radar, but he will be seeing more Big Play Slay.

Russell Gage, Falcons (at BUF). This secondary still erases wideouts despite losing Tre’Davious White (knee).

Chase Claypool, Steelers (at CLE). It’s just not happening this season.

A.J. Green, Cardinals (at DAL). He misses DeAndre Hopkins (knee) eating up coverage outside.

K.J. Osborn, Vikings (at GB). This is pretty tough for him against a secondary showing great depth.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard, Packers (at MIN). The matchup is great, but it’s still boom-or-bust with both.

All Jets (vs. TB) and Jaguars (at NE). Facing Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in different ways, there’s not much here.

All Giants (at CHI). The matchup helps, but it’s stretch to force Kenny Golladay or others in there.

All Broncos (at LAC). The matchup is bad, and the QB situation is worse.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Start ‘Em: Tight ends

TE must-starts

  1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (at CIN)
  2. George Kittle, 49ers (vs. HOU)
  3. Mark Andrews, Ravens (vs. LAR)
  4. Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (at NYJ)
  5. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (at WAS)
  6. Dawson Knox, Bills (vs. ATL)
  7. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys (vs. ARI)
  8. Kyle Pitts, Falcons (at BUF)
  9. Pat Freiermuth, Steelers (if he returns, vs. CLE)

Stronger starts

Hunter Henry, Patriots (vs. JAX). He’ll rebound big-time against a defense that has no one to cover him.

Zach Ertz, Cardinals (at DAL). He could be the best thing in their passing game again.

Noah Fant, Broncos (at LAC). Fant came close to doing big things against the Raiders, and they come more to fruition this week.

Foster Moreau, Raiders (at IND). They’ve underused him without Darren Waller (knee), and that should change here.

Cole Kmet, Bears (vs. NYG). The Giants have been very giving to the position of late.

Gerald Everett, Seahawks (vs. DET). He had his best game and can keep it going as a stream.

DFS bargain

Mo Alie-Cox, Colts (vs. LV, $2,800 on DraftKings, $5,300 on FanDuel). The factors to consider here are a worrisome injury to Jack Doyle (knee, ankle) and rookie QB Sam Ehlinger potentially needing a security blanket. Cox also got involved well again vs. the Cardinals last week.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Sit ‘Em: Tight ends

Weaker starts

MIke Gesicki, Dolphins (at TEN). A second straight brutal matchup doesn’t help.

Jared Cook, Chargers (at DEN). Keep him in the fridge and not on the stove.

Tyler Higbee, Rams and Tyler Conklin, Vikings (at BAL and at GB). Stop trying to make Tyler happen (again).

Evan Engram, Giants (at CHI). He scored last week but isn’t doing much with the QB mess.

C..J. Uzomah, Bengals (vs. KC). The wideouts and Joe Mixon are taking care all of the production.

James O’Shaughnessy, Jaguars (at NE). That’s a n’o g’o after doing nothing last week.

All Browns (at PIT). Unless you like playing slot machines.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Start ‘Em: Defenses

Defense must-starts

  1. Patriots (vs. JAX)
  2. Buccaneers (at NYJ)
  3. Bills (vs. ATL)
  4. Saints (vs. CAR)
  5. Eagles (at WAS)
  6. Cowboys (vs. ARI)
  7. Bears (vs. NYG)
  8. 49ers (vs. HOU)
  9. Rams (at BAL)

Stronger starts

Dolphins (at TEN). Miami has been solid lately and will make some plays here.

Titans (vs. MIA). This game has points, but it also has mistakes and big plays from defense.

Seahawks (vs. DET). The matchup is great for a defense eager to rebound at home.

Chargers (vs. DEN). The matchup is great for a defense eager to rebound at home.

Browns (at PIT). They can turn this into an ugly slop fest.

Steelers (vs. CLE). The Steelers will join in the slop with emotional home prime-time bump.

DFS bargain

Colts (vs. LV, $2,900 on DraftKings, $3,900 on FanDuel). The Colts’ defense will deliver at home with or without Carson Wentz, as it’s built perfectly to stop what the Raiders try to do well.

Fantasy Football Week 17 Sit ‘Em: Defenses

Weaker starts

Chiefs (at CIN). You can’t go here vs. Burrow.

Bengals (vs. KC). You can’t go here vs. Mahomes.

Giants (at CHI). The numbers say yes. The team says no.

Broncos (at LAC). Not on the road vs. Herbert.

Packers (vs. MIN). They will give up some points, and the Vikings don’t make many big mistakes.

Cardinals (at DAL). Not against Dak.

Panthers (at NO). No, no, no.

Get more of Vinnie Iyer’s in-depth fantasy football advice for Week 16 by subscribing to the Locked On Fantasy Football podcast.