Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 17

With Cecil Shorts ruled out for Week 17, Nate Washington could be a sneaky option at wide receiver.

It's been a nice, long season full of these start-sit columns. And to be honest, after writing this thing each week over the last 17 weeks, I feel like we've -- you, the reader, and me -- built an open and honest relationship.

So on that note, let me ask you a personal question.

Why are you playing season-long fantasy football in Week 17?

Look, I know it might not be your choice -- your commissioner was the one who set up the league, and he or she placed Week 17 as the final week of the playoffs. But, please, if you're in a league where this is the case, make sure this is the last season you're playing under these rules. Because with teams locked into the playoffs and other squads resting starters, your perfect season can turn into a nightmare simply because of the time of year.

How is that fair?

If you're playing in Week 17, though, here are some guys to start and sit.

Quarterbacks to Sit

Philip Rivers (at Denver): Only three quarterbacks have ranked in the weekly top 10 at the position this season against Denver. Two of those quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, have much higher points per game averages than Rivers this season, while the other is Andrew Luck, who's always capable of a big game.

Rivers has a depleted team around him and, as a result, has just two usable performances since the team's Week 10 bye. He's an easy sit in Week 17.

Derek Carr (at Kansas City): Back in November, I wrote about Derek Carr being an NFL outlier -- his Year 1 to Year 2 efficiency numbers, at the time, were borderline unfathomable. Since that piece was written, math has struck, as Carr has regressed pretty dramatically. He now sits in the bottom third among all passers in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back.

That's translated to fantasy football. Since the end of Week 10, Carr has just one top-12, QB1 performance, while averaging just 15 fantasy points per game. He'll be in Kansas City this weekend to face a Chiefs defense (and team) that's been playing great football, having surrendered just one QB1 performance since Week 4. 

Other quarterbacks to sit: Kirk Cousins (limited playing time, at Dallas), Jameis Winston (at Carolina)

Start These Quarterbacks Instead

Eli Manning (vs. Philadelphia): I can almost guarantee fantasy owners won't feel great about using Eli after last week's debacle, but the matchup against Philadelphia is too perfect to pass up. Over the Eagles' last eight games, four quarterbacks have scored 30 (approximately) or more points against them. The average signal-calling score over this time is a little over 25 points. That's high-end QB1 territory. With Odell Beckham back in the mix, expect Manning to bounce back nicely.

Matthew Stafford (at Chicago): Since Detroit's Week 9 bye -- which gave them time to adjust to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter -- Stafford has averaged over 21 fantasy points per game, never scoring fewer than 15.78 fantasy points. He'll face a Chicago secondary that he torched earlier in the season for four touchdowns, one that's now allowed five top-10 quarterback performances over their last six games. And they've done so against quarterbacks like Brock Osweiler, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston and Blaine Gabbert. Stafford makes for both a great floor and ceiling play.

Other quarterbacks to start: Brian Hoyer (if healthy, vs. Jacksonville), Ryan Fitzpatrick (at Buffalo)

Running Backs to Sit

Matt Forte (vs. Detroit): It's tough to bench any running back seeing even 10 carries per game, so it's understood if Forte can sit for you squad this week. But I'm not in love with his situation. He's averaged just 9.67 carries per game over Chicago's last three contests, and saw eight fewer carries than Jeremy Langford this past Sunday. And while his receiving volume is there, his touchdown upside hasn't been -- Chicago's been using an annoying committee approach closer to the goal line.

With Detroit holding all non-Todd Gurley running backs in check over the second half of the season, Forte is more of a lower-end RB2 this week.

Other running backs to sit: Isaiah Crowell (vs. Pittsburgh), Donald Brown (at Denver)

Start These Running Backs Instead

Bilal Powell (at Buffalo): Powell ended up playing 62% of the Jets' snaps on Sunday, which means he's effectively been the team's top running back in five of New York's last six games. As a result, Powell has finished as a top-20 back in four contests during this span, scoring fewer than 13.9 PPR points just once. The Bills, according to our numbers, have the 31st-ranked schedule-adjusted rush defense -- even if Powell sees fewer than 10 carries, they should be efficient. With his five-plus targets -- a number he's hit in every contest during this six-game stretch -- as well, he should be just fine.

Frank Gore (vs. Tennessee): After two straight performances where Frank Gore failed to score just seven PPR points, he exploded against the Dolphins last week, scoring twice en route to a 23.5 point day. The Colts take on the Titans this week, a team that's been relatively good against the run, but Indy will more than likely ride Gore again -- after all, he's seen double-digit carries in all but two games this year. And that's saying something at such a disaster of a position. If he runs like he did last week, he should be a reliable RB2.

Other running backs to start: Tim Hightower (at Atlanta), Charcandrick West (vs. Oakland)

Wide Receivers to Sit

Randall Cobb (vs. Minnesota): If you're looking for ceiling, Cobb isn't your man. This season, he's finished as a top-10 receiver just once, while two-thirds of his contests have resulted in a non-WR2 (top-24) game. Minnesota is a little banged up, sure, but what has Cobb shown to make you feel confident using him in Week 17?

Brandon LaFell (at Miami): Similar to Cobb, LaFell just doesn't warrant a start, regardless of his matchup. After averaging 8 targets per game from Weeks 7 through 14, LaFell has seen 5 and 1 target over his last two games, respectively. And in a game that could get away from Miami early, resulting in Tom Brady resting on the sidelines, there's no chance I'd be throwing LaFell out in a championship matchup.

Other wide receivers to sit: Markus Wheaton (at Cleveland), Stefon Diggs (at Green Bay)

Start These Wide Receivers Instead

Nate Washington (vs. Jacksonville): Cecil Shorts is out for this weekend's game, which is great news for Washington and his owners. In his two games played without Shorts this year, Washington has averaged 11 targets and 1.5 touchdowns per contest. Sure, the sample size is small and the Texans aren't as pass-happy as they once were, but a matchup against Jacksonville -- our 30th-ranked pass defense -- puts Washington in a great spot.

Jordan Matthews (at New York): The Eagles have struggled over the last two weeks, which has forced more of a pass-friendly approach. That, in turn, has forced 19 balls Jordan Matthews' way, resulting in two top-eight PPR performances for the up-and-down wide receiver.

While we would expect that type of volume to eventually regress to the mean, the Eagles are set up this week to face a Giants team in a game with a big over/under, according to Vegas. If this becomes a shootout, which could easily happen, J-Matt should be a nice play.

Other wide receivers to start: Kamar Aiken (at Cincinnati), Golden Tate (at Chicago)

Tight Ends to Sit

Jordan Reed (at Dallas): The one team with a locked-in seed entering Week 17 is Washington, meaning the team is going to be tough to trust in fantasy. That includes Jordan Reed, who's been the top PPR tight end in each of the last three weeks. Unfortunately, if you have him, you probably shouldn't use him. (This is exactly why you shouldn't play fantasy football in Week 17, by the way.)

Other tight ends to sit: Owen Daniels (vs. San Diego)

Start These Tight Ends Instead

Zach Miller (vs. Detroit): Miller has now averaged close to seven targets over his last three games as the Bears' starting tight end, which is great usage for a player at the position. He'll face a Lions defense this week that has surrendered the fourth most fantasy points to the tight end position this year. If he finds the end zone, he could easily be a top-five option.

Zach Ertz (at New York): Ertz has 30 targets over his last two games (not a typo), and has now ranked as a top seven tight end option in PPR leagues in each of his last three weeks. Not only did I mention the Eagles-Giants game could be high scoring, but the Giants are the second worst team against tight ends in fantasy this year. It all comes together as a perfect matchup for Ertz.

Other tight ends to start: Delanie Walker (at Indianapolis), Benjamin Watson (at Atlanta)

Defenses to Sit

Seattle Seahawks (at Arizona): Arizona is a pretty heavy favorite against Seattle this week, which is a huge turnoff when using a defense in fantasy. The Cardinals are also no cakewalk of a matchup -- this year, all but four defenses have ranked 21st or worse in weekly defensive scoring against Carson Palmer's offense. It's time to sit the Seahawks.

Other defenses to sit: Buffalo Bills (vs. New York), Minnesota Vikings (at Green Bay)

Start These Defenses Instead

Indianapolis Colts (vs. Tennessee): Zach Mettenberger has started nine games in his young career, and he's thrown 19 or more passes in 10 games. In each of those contests, he's thrown at least one interception. The Colts are at home in a must-win situation, and while the defensive unit is nothing to write home about, they're in a great spot for defensive streamers.

Other defenses to start: Pittsburgh Steelers (at Cleveland), Carolina Panthers (vs. Tampa Bay)