Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 17
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Even throughout Cooper Kupp's historic, unflappable season, he was the top wideout for the week just three times in 2021. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may pop in terms of fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
Note: All predictions are for half-PPR formats (and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks).
1. Fields of Dreams: Justin Keeps His Record Hopes Alive with 100+ Rushing Yards in Detroit
He needs 196 rushing yards to eclipse Lamar Jackson's single-season record by a quarterback. It'll likely take a pair of near-100-yard games to get there, yet as absurd as that sounds, Fields is wholly capable, eclipsing 85 yards rushing on five separate occasions this year.
He draws the Lions this week, and it's not as if I have to speculate if he can dent Detroit's defense. He ran for 147 yards and 2 scores against them in Chicago earlier this year. After all, Detroit is numberFire's worst rushing defense in the NFL after last week's pounding by Carolina.
Fields appears moderately healthy entering this one on eight days' rest, and in a lost year for his squad, he's still got some motivation to run up and down fields -- pun fully intended.
2. Touchdown Travis: Etienne Ends His Scoring Drought With a Pair in Houston
You wouldn't know it by his box score, but Travis Etienne has one of the best running back roles in fantasy football right now.
In the past four weeks, it's been Etienne's show in the Jacksonville backfield. He's fifth in the NFL in snap rate during that time (75.7%), and he's bitten off a hearty 22.5 adjusted opportunities in that time despite two severely negative scripts for the Jags in those four contests.
He just hasn't scored. This week, that could change in a huge way.
Etienne draws the Houston Texans, who have ceded the most yards (2,104) and touchdowns (18) to opposing running backs this year. Jacksonville is also just a moderate, 4.5-point favorite, so it should be decently competitive.
There is one giant "but" that could ruin this prediction. The Jags don't need to compete in this game to win the division. However, assuming Etienne is active, he's struggled a bit with efficiency in recent weeks. I could see Jacksonville using this as a confidence booster for their top back.
3. Hairy Terry: McLaurin's Slide Continues with Single-Digit Fantasy Points Versus Cleveland
It was nice to have Terry McLaurin for as long as we did.
McLaurin has been Taylor Heinicke's main man during his tenure as Washington's starting quarterback. McLaurin has posted 15.8 fantasy points on 6.5 targets per game in his nine contests with Heinicke, but Taylor's benching in Week 16 quells his outlook quite a bit this week.
Carson Wentz was much more willing to spread it around. McLaurin drops to 9.3 fantasy points per game in starts with Wentz on a reduced 6.2 targets per contest. Plus, McLaurin's downfield target volume (4.0 with Heinicke) takes a huge downturn with Wentz (3.3).
Cleveland isn't a great matchups for wideouts as is. They've allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. With quarterback uncertainty in the mix, McLaurin might be worth benching in this week where winners will take all.
4. You Belly, Bro? Bellinger Eclipses 8 Fantasy Points Against Indy
Tight end is incredibly sad when I'm excited to project eight fantasy points for someone, but streaming the position is that brutal at present.
Daniel Bellinger might be worth a flier. The Giants tight end won't leap out of the box score -- or anywhere close -- with fewer than five fantasy points in five straight games. However, there's a recipe that leads me to believe he's worth a dart here.
Of course, New York is anything but settled at the wide receiver position. Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Richie James have been a modest trio, but none of those names are dominant target-earners in their own right. It'll be a tough task for them against Indianapolis, whose modest secondary allows the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts.
The Colts allow the 14th-fewest to tight ends, so Bellinger has the easiest matchup of his fellow route runners. Depsite the low target volume, he's doing that. I promise. He's run 75.9% of the routes in those same five contests but just not seen many looks.
The athletic rookie hit this mark in three of his first five games. Perhaps a funnel to his area of the field helps him return to that production level in Week 17.
5. Packing Heat: Green Bay Sacks Kirk Cousins 4+ Times
Though this game was flexed away from Sunday night, it still has plenty of meaning to the Green Bay Packers.
The Pack's slim-and-almost-none playoff hopes have returned back to the "slim" category. We've got them as 31.6% likely to make the playoffs at the moment, but thos hopes requires a win over Minnesota to stay alive. Their defense should be able to help.
Green Bay actually is numberFire's 13th-best rated pass defense, and the mismatch here with their front seven is evident. The Packers' 32% pressure rate (tied for seventh in the NFL) is a worrisome sign for a Minnesota offensive line that's ceded a 30% rate (tied for second-highest) themselves.
I'd expect Dalvin Cook to have some success versus our 28th-ranked rush D, but with top-shelf motivation, the Green Bay D/ST is an interesting dart for sack points in fantasy football this weekend. Plus, they scored four takeaways last week in Miami, and the Vikings are due for quite a bit of regression in that department.