A thesis paper – including a sidebar with bullet points on how your league commissioner should be reprimanded – could be written on why it’s silly to have fantasy football championships in Week 17. But, in the holiday spirit, let’s focus on how you can win a title. If there was ever a time to focus on favorable matchups, this is the week because some teams have locked up real-life playoff berths and will rest key players.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville (at Tennessee)
Similar to his 35 passing touchdowns in 2015, if Bortles played all season like he has the past four games he would be selected too early in 2018 fantasy football drafts. In Weeks 13-17 against Houston, Seattle, Indianapolis and San Francisco, Bortles posted QB1 numbers with 1,285 passing yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Minus Sunday’s game against San Francisco, Jacksonville has the league’s best defense, meaning Bortles should have many possessions. Plus, Tennessee has the fifth-best rushing defense (89.1 yards, 3.6 average), so Bortles will probably be relied on to lead the offense, if he plays.
Bilal Powell, RB, New York Jets (at New England)
Powell rushed for 145 yards (7.6 average) and a touchdown Sunday. New England has nothing to play for after clinching a first-round bye. New England will not use some starters all game, while removing others early. There is no reason to say anything else. This is what happens when championship games are played in Week 17.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami (vs. Buffalo)
If the familiar saying “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is true, what would fool me five times classify as? Stubborn is a polite way to put it, because that’s what will likely happen if a team owner continues to ignore logic. Not only did Drake rush for 78 yards on 19 carries (4.9 average), one touchdown and catch six receptions for 35 yards at Buffalo in Week 15, he’s been killing it since a 23-carry performance on Dec. 3 at Denver. Drake is a pass-catching threat. In his past four games, he has 14 receptions for 135 yards and 369 yards rushing. Buffalo’s rushing defense, ranked 30th, allows 126.7 yards per game and a league-worst 21 touchdowns. In a 12-team league of mine, I drafted Amari Cooper over Rob Gronkowski thinking Gronkowski was an injury risk and Oakland’s third-year wide receiver was going to have a breakout season. Don’t live the upcoming offseason with regret. If you own Drake, start him in the championship game.
Marquise Goodwin, WR, San Francisco (at Los Angeles Rams)
Stunning good looks aside, is Jimmy Garoppolo the franchise quarterback in San Francisco? Goodwin sure hopes so, because Garoppolo targets him often. Aside from Sunday’s tough matchup against Jacksonville’s top-ranked defense, Goodwin caught 24 receptions on 33 targets for 319 yards in Garoppolo’s three previous starts. The Rams have the sixth-best passing defense at 212.2 yards per game. The more important aspect is Los Angeles’ top-ranked offense. The Rams score 31 points per game and the 49ers allow 24.7 points per game. When the Rams get a big lead, Garoppolo will throw a lot of passes to Goodwin. That is not a fact, but it’s been true in his early NFL career.
Sterling Shepard, WR, New York Giants (vs. Washington)
Remember when Eli Manning was benched after throwing for 113 yards, one interception and 48.2 completion percentage at Washington on Nov. 23? Since returning, he had 434 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception against a formidable Philadelphia defense on the road in Week 15. In that game Shepard, on 16 targets, caught 11 receptions for 139 yards and a touchdown. Shepard did not play in the previous game against Washington. Shepard had five receptions for 45 yards against Arizona on Sunday. This is the last game of the season, so Manning will say the hell with it and have more than 50 pass attempts. He threw 57 passes against Philadelphia, 46 in his return to the starting lineup against Dallas the previous game and 45 on Sunday.
Other Players to Like
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams (vs. San Francisco)
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants (vs. Washington)
Alex Collins, RB, Baltimore (vs. Cincinnati)
Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco (at Los Angeles Rams)
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina (at Atlanta)
Mike Wallace, WR, Baltimore (vs. Cincinnati)
Antonio Gates, TE, Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Oakland)
Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit (vs. Green Bay)