Waiver Wire Watch: Wacky Week 17
Editor’s Note: We’re happy that 4for4 Contributor Pat Fitzmaurice (formerly of Pro Football Weekly) is back on the Waiver Wire Watch this year. He will continue to work in conjunction with Senior Editor John Paulsen to compile this list of the top pickups each week.
We’ve reached Week 17, the final week of the regular season, and most season-long fantasy leagues have ended. Not all season-long leagues, mind you. Some of you are playing championship or consolation games this week, and if you’re among those with something still at stake in a season-long league, stick around for a look at some sub-premium players who have the potential to be assets. But first, give me a moment to make a brief case for a 17-week fantasy season.
The argument for ending season-long leagues in Week 16 is that Week 17 weirdness could mar the purity of a championship game. I understand the argument and acknowledge that unpredictable rest issues could have an impact. But here’s the thing: The unpredictable nature of the NFL wreaks havoc with fantasy football results every week. Trying to ensure a “pure” result in fantasy football is folly.
Yes, there are some Week 17 rest issues. Some are unpredictable, but many are fairly obvious, and keeping the waiver wire open is the easy solution. Some of the self-styled purists might find it unpalatable to let waiver claims play a prominent role in settling a championship. But how many fantasy owners have trotted out Tim Hightower, Denard Robinson, Christine Michael or Karlos Williams for playoff games? In most leagues, those guys were late roster additions. David Johnson carried some owners to championships after being a late-season pickup. So it’s OK to grab a key contributor off the waiver wire in Week 14, but it’s not OK to grab a key contributor off the waiver wire in Week 17?
I’d also contend that rest issues have less of an effect than is widely believed. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, but I’m in a 16-team league that has been playing a 17-week season since 1993, and in those 22 years, we've had just two instances where Week 17 weirdness has arguably affected the outcome of the championship game. In the vast majority of cases, there's been no discernible effect. Some would argue that even twice in 22 years is too often to have early-rest issues affect a title game. But one could also make the case that a 14-game regular season is a fairer test than a 13-game regular season, giving the better teams an additional week to help mitigate the effects of injuries, bad luck, etc.
Here’s the best argument for going the full 17 weeks in season-long leagues: It’s more fantasy football for a greater number of owners. In 16-week leagues, about half of the owners are done after Week 13, and Week 14 is reserved for just one or two wild-card games. A 17-week season extends the regular season by an extra week – more fantasy football for more people. Is it worth sacrificing a week of fantasy football for every owner in your league in the futile pursuit of a “pure” result in your championship game? An extra week of fantasy football is an extra week of enjoyment for every owner.
But I’m sure you’ve made up your mind on the subject already. For those of you who already see it my way and have something riding on Week 17, let’s take a look at some lesser players who could be potentially useful fantasy contributors this week.
Matt Ryan has been a mess for much of the season, but he played well against the Panthers last weekend and has the chance to end the season on a positive note with a home game against the Saints. The New Orleans defense has allowed 43 TD throws and is giving up 8.7 yards per pass. When Ryan faced the Saints in Week 6, he completed 30-of-44 passes for 295 yards, with two TDs and no INTs. He’s a top streaming option for Week 17.
Sam Bradford says he wants to return to the Eagles next year, but he’s about to hit free agency, and it’s not entirely clear whether Chip Kelly wants him back – or, for that matter, whether Kelly himself will be back. Bradford could prove a point to the Eagles or other potential offseason suitors with a strong Week 17 showing against the Giants, who are giving up a league-high 297.9 passing yards per game. The Giants basically laid down for the Vikings last week, so it’s hard to imagine they’ll be fired up for a meaningless season finale against the Eagles.
The last time Johnny Manziel faced the Steelers, he completed 73.3% of his passes and threw for 372 yards, with one TD and one INT. The Pittsburgh pass defense just let Ryan Mallett complete 68.3% of his passes and throw for 274 yards in his first start with the Ravens, so it’s not far-fetched to think that Manziel could have another big yardage day against the Steelers this weekend.