Monday - Jan 18, 2021

Home / Commentary / RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 17


Welcome to the Week 17 edition of “Red Light, Green Light,” a matchup guide for all of this weekend’s NFL contests (and Monday night).

In each NFL Week 17 game profile below, I will choose a total of three players to highlight as green-, yellow- or red-light options.

green-light Green Light: Players who have a great matchup. These guys are rock solid fantasy options and can be counted on as a strong source of fantasy production.
yellow-light Yellow Light: Players with just an OK matchup and/or usage concerns. These guys are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire.
red-light Red Light: Players with serious matchup/usage concerns, thus requiring lowered expectations for the week, and/or they should just be avoided altogether if possible.

Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow- or red-light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them but more of an indication they may not carry your team to victory.

As always, the information conveyed below is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, but can be used to evaluate those decisions as well.

Note: Fantasy points allowed statistics are based off of the Fantasy Sharks default points per reception (PPR) scoring system. Point Spreads and Over/Unders are based off the Fantasy Sharks consensus analysis.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2020 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Falcons Buccaneers
Quarterback 1st 16th
Running Back 23rd 27th
Wide Receiver 3rd 12th
Tight End 2nd 9th
Defense/Special Teams 16th 27th
Vegas Line: Buccaneers -6.5
Vegas Over/Under: 50.5

green-light Green Light – Tom Brady (QB, Tampa Bay)

With Tampa Bay not expected to rest key starters for this contest, expect Brady to be full-go assuming this contest doesn’t turn into a blowout the same way Week 15 against Detroit did. Only Seattle has allowed more passing yards than Atlanta.

yellow-light Yellow Light – Hayden Hurst (TE, Atlanta)

Though his usage has not really increased with Julio Jones (hamstring) out of the lineup, Hurst comes into this contest on a two-game scoring streak. Atlanta’s pass-happy ways figure to continue with its run-game nearly non-existent.

red-light Red Light – Ronald Jones (RB, Tampa Bay)

Jones’ injury status (finger) looks like a non-issue after the running back spent two weeks in the NFL’s COVID protocol, and he figures to slot right back in as Tampa Bay’s primary rusher. Tampa Bay is the only team that has allowed fewer rushing yards to opposing backfields than Atlanta.

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2020 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Cowboys Giants
Quarterback 14th 30th
Running Back 9th 11th
Wide Receiver 5th 19th
Tight End 25th 18th
Defense/Special Teams 12th 1st
Vegas Line: Cowboys -2.5
Vegas Over/Under: 45

green-light Green Light – Darius Slayton (WR, New York Giants)

Slayton has been targeted 25 times over the Giants’ last three games, but has just nine catches for 131 yards (no touchdowns) to show for it over that span. Look for Slayton’s box score statistics to catchup to his usage on Sunday. No team has allowed more than Dallas’ 25 receiving scores to opposing wideouts.

yellow-light Yellow Light – Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Dallas)

Elliott rewarded fantasy managers who stuck with him through a rough second half of 2020 by putting up a season-high 139 total yards last Sunday against Philadelphia. The Giants allowed 105 total yards and two scores to Elliott back in Week 5, though Dallas had Dak Prescott was under center for most of that contest.

red-light Red Light – Amari Cooper (WR, Dallas)

The Giants and cornerback James Bradberry held Cooper to one of his worst fantasy performances of the season (2 catches, 23 yards on four targets) back in Week 5. Assuming Bradberry sticks to Cooper again, Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton won’t feel the need to force the ball to his No. 1 wideout.

New York Jets at New England Patriots

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2020 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Jets  Patriots
Quarterback 4th 23rd
Running Back 14th 12th
Wide Receiver 9th 25th
Tight End 1st 30th
Defense/Special Teams 2nd 8th
Vegas Line: Patriots -3
Vegas Over/Under: 40

green-light Green Light – New England D/ST

While the Jets have been playing some inspired football (for them) as of late, they remain the NFL’s lowest scoring team at 15.3 points for per game, and are ranked ninth for most sacks allowed.

yellow-light Yellow Light – New York Jets D/ST

The fact that this unit is even being brought up in this space just goes to show how far the New England offense has fallen. New England is currently the NFL’s fourth-lowest scoring team at 19.9 points for per game, and there’s a chance that backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham sees playing time in this contest as the Patriots look to evaluate for the future.

red-light Red Light – Sony Michel (RB, New England)

Damien Harris (ankle) looks set to miss his third straight game, so Michel remains the team’s primary ball carrier. While the former first-round draft pick has run well, New England’s lack of a passing attack has really curbed the offense’s ability to sustain drives, and in those rare opportunities the team does get into scoring range, quarterback Cam Newton is the one handling goal-line carries.

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2020 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Vikings Lions
Quarterback 18th 2nd
Running Back 6th 2nd
Wide Receiver 8th 2nd
Tight End 17th 19th
Defense/Special Teams 14th 9th
Vegas Line: Vikings -7
Vegas Over/Under: 54.5

green-light Green Light – Alexander Mattison (RB, Minnesota)

Mattison gets the start with Dalvin Cook (personal) out for Week 17. The second-year running back’s last stint as “the guy” in Week 6 didn’t go so swimmingly (30 total yards on 11 touches), thought that came before it was quite apparent that Atlanta had a great rush defense, and Detroit resides on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

yellow-light Yellow Light – Marvin Jones (WR, Detroit)

With the exception of last week’s blowout loss to Tampa Bay, Jones has been thriving on volume as Detroit’s de facto No. 1 wideout. Minnesota has allowed the ninth-most receiving yards to opposing wideouts.

red-light Red Light – Matthew Stafford (QB, Detroit)

Stafford (thumb, ribs, ankle) only lasted a few offensive series in Week 16 against Tampa Bay, and he is all sorts of banged up at the moment. Even if he’s able to go, there’s a real risk that he’s yanked mid-game if he doesn’t feel right or re-aggravates one of his many maladies.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2020 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Steelers Browns
Quarterback 31st 8th
Running Back 31st 26th
Wide Receiver 24th 11th
Tight End 31st 3rd
Defense/Special Teams 22nd 24th
Vegas Line: Browns -7
Vegas Over/Under: 42.5

green-light Green Light – Nick Chubb (RB, Cleveland)

Pittsburgh has nothing to play for and is resting key starters, while Cleveland needs a win to ensure its playoff aspirations remain intact. Look for Cleveland to get back to their bread and butter by pounding the rock with Chubb.

yellow-light Yellow Light – Jarvis Landry (WR, Cleveland)

Likely anxious to get back in action after missing Week 16 as a COVID close contact, Landry will again be relied to gobble up short-to-intermediate targets, but with playoff hopes on the line, don’t expect Cleveland to rely heavily on the pass game if it doesn’t need to.

red-light Red Light – Pittsburgh Wide Receivers

Ben Roethlisberger (rest) is being held out, which means Pittsburgh will go back to former 2018 third-round pick Mason Rudolph. Pittsburgh’s wideouts were virtually un-usable with Rudolph at the helm for much of the 2019 season, and there has been nothing thus far to suggest that won’t continue to be the case.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.