Wacky Week 17: Waiver Pickups & Sneaky Starts

Wacky Week 17: Waiver Pickups & Sneaky Starts

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Dec 26, 2012

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

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Most fantasy football leagues (wisely) hold their championships in Week 16 or earlier for a reason. Week 17 of the NFL season can be very difficult to predict due to the varying levels of team motivation and player participation throughout the league. When setting one's Week 17 lineup, it's important to look at the week through that prism.

In the NFC, the Falcons have nothing to play for, so Atlanta could bench their key players at halftime (or earlier). This is especially true for Roddy White, who has been banged up all season. All of the other playoff-bound teams (or those teams still fighting for a berth) have something major to play for, so we're expecting players on the Packers, 49ers, Redskins, Seahawks, Vikings, Bears, Cowboys and Giants to "play to win."

In the AFC, four teams -- Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and New England -- could potentially rest their starters, but the Colts and Bengals have already stated that they will go full bore. The Ravens would need the Patriots to lose to the Dolphins at home to have a chance to move up to the #3 seed, so there's a good chance that they rest their key offensive players. The Pats play in the late round of games, and if the Texans beat the Colts, they won't have anything to play for, though Bill Belichick is the type to play to win no matter the situation.

For more detail, check out So Who's Motivated? by the one and only Josh Moore.

With all of this in mind, here are a few players at each position that could be startable this week for those owners dealing with the uncertainty of Week 17.


It looks like Michael Vick will get the start against the Giants, who have been very mediocre against QBs this season. The Eagles figure to play to win in order to put the final nail in the Giants' playoff coffin, so Vick could certainly have a nice statistical day.

Ryan Tannehill hasn't throw for much yardage recently, but has two TDs in each of his last two games and is starting to run the ball regularly (averaging 34 rush yards in the last five games). He should be forced to throw quite a bit against a Patriots team that may or may not be motivated.


Montell Owens turned 14 touches into 119 total yards against the Patriots on Sunday, and should see at least that many touches against a Titans defense that is last in the league in RB aFPA over the last 10 weeks.

In Week 16, Jackie Battle saw 20 touches (versus Ronnie Brown's seven) and should once again see the lion's share of work in a nice matchup with the Raiders (#27 in RB aFPA). He has been productive before in that role.

Alex Green may make his return this week, but if he sits out again (or even if he plays), expect Ryan Grant to see 10-15 carries after his stellar performance against the Titans last week. The Vikings are #22 in RB aFPA.


Justin Blackmon should be a very solid start again this week in a nice matchup with the Titans (#23 in WR aFPA), especially with Cecil Shorts out with a concussion. Double digit targets are well within reach.

Brian Hartline caught five passes for 84 yards in his Week 13 meeting with the Patriots (#30 in aFPA) and is in line for a heavy workload as the Dolphins likely play catch up.

Brandon LaFell turned seven Week 16 targets into five catches for 38 yards, so he's a sneaky start against the Saints, who are #26 in WR aFPA. In their Week 2 meeting, LaFell caught six passes for 90 yards against New Orleans.



Jermichael Finley has gained 50+ yards in five of his last six games and has 14 targets in his last two games. He figures to stay involved given the injuries to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.

Marcedes Lewis could benefit from the absence of Cecil Shorts and a general lack of passing options for QB Chad Henne. He has averaged 5.4 targets in his last five games.


The Patriots (vs. MIA), Chargers (vs. OAK), Giants (vs. PHI) and Bills (vs. NYJ) all have favorable matchups at home this week.

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