Fantasy football: Who to start and who to avoid in Week 17

Most respectable yearlong fantasy football leagues have concluded their seasons. But I know there are still some owners out there that have to face Week 17 with a championship on the line. There are also daily fantasy sports competitions going on this week as well. This is probably the most volatile time to make calls for your lineup, given that a lot of teams have nothing to play for on Sunday. I’m here to help, however, so here’s who should start—and who you should avoid—in Week 17.

START THESE GUYS

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins: Cousins doesn’t have much to play for, but he hasn’t for a while. Still, he tossed three touchdowns last week and has a great matchup against the Giants this week.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: The 49ers are looking to get things started on the right foot for next season. Garoppolo showed what he could do against a top defense last weekend and he should do it again against a disinterested Rams team this week.

Case Keenum, QB, Vikings: Though he has a tough matchup against a Bears defense that is good at limiting fantasy scoring for quarterbacks, I expect him to perform well. The Vikings need to win to guarantee a first-round bye and he’s been a model of consistency for most of the season.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers: He has a good matchup against the Lions and scored the last time he faced them. He’s getting a lot of carries, at least 10 in each of the last eight games.

Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers runs for yards during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on December 23, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Vikings won the game 16-0. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: The last time Drake faced the Bills he rushed 16 times for 78 yards and caught six passes for 35 yards. He also scored in the game, making him a solid start this week against a bad Bills defense.

Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots: The Patriots want home-field advantage and that means Lewis should perform well. Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will both miss the game and James White is questionable.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: It’s unbelievable that the Titans still have a shot at the playoffs. With DeMarco Murray ruled out of action, Henry finally gets a turn to shine. I think he gets the job done against the Jaguars’ run defense.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: With hope of gaining a No. 1 seed and Antonio Brown out, I expect Smith-Schuster to pick up the slack and put in a WR1 type of week against the Browns.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: He faces a Seahawks defense that isn’t what it once was. The last time he faced them he caught 10 of his 14 targets for 113 yards.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-0. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Lions receivers: Marvin Jones and Golden Tate should both do well against a Packers defense that gives up a lot of big pass plays.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Hunter Henry is out so Gates has another opportunity to pay off. With the Chargers needing a win for a shot at the playoffs, I expect him to be solid against the Raiders.

STARS WITH SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: He’s gunning for the No. 1 seed in the AFC so he’ll probably put up solid numbers and won’t sit unless the game gets out of hand.

Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, Seahawks: The Seahawks need to win to get in. Wilson has been great late in the season the past few years and Doug Baldwin has been a big part of that.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: If Pittsburgh wins, they have a shot at the No. 1 seed, but they need the Pats to lose to the Jets. Might be tough to start Big Ben if you’re worried he might be pulled at halftime, but a good first half against Cleveland may be just enough.

Falcons big three: It’s a must-win game for the Falcons. So Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones won’t see any rest.

Saints cornerback P.J. Williams upends Falcons running back Devonta Freeman during the second half Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in New Orleans. The Falcons won, 23-13. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen, Chargers: They’ll need to play well for the Chargers to have a chance at making the postseason.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: The Panthers are in, but they can clinch the NFC South title with a win and a Saints loss.

Saints running backs: The Saints are trying to take the NFC South title and both running backs, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, should do well against the Bucs.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: The Bills will need McCoy to put up a solid game against Miami if they hope to get into the playoffs.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: Getting the No. 1 seed is a long shot, so Bell may sit if the Patriots pull away from the Jets and Mike Tomlin is scoreboard watching. But again, it’s a good matchup against the Browns.

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens: All the Ravens need to make the playoffs is a win. Collins has been solid and is just 105 yards from a 1,000-yard season.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: He’s in the same boat as Brady and should produce like he usually does.

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots catches a touchdown pass as he is defended by Micah Hyde #23 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

Vikings receivers: The Vikings need a win to get a first-round bye. Case Kenum will do his best to get Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs involved.

AVOID THESE GUYS

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: Foles could use the reps, but the last thing the Eagles need is their quarterback to go down with injury. They already have have home-field advantage in the playoffs and a bye week to get him more reps. Even if he starts, he probably won’t stay in there for long.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: To be honest, I don’t want to start anyone in that Cowboys-Eagles game. The season can’t end soon enough for Prescott, who is in much need of a reset button. He was terrible against the Eagles last time out and Tyron Smith won’t be there to help protect the quarterback.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: The matchup with the Ravens is too tough and the Bengals have had a nightmare of a season. Dalton threw four picks the last time he faced Baltimore.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Alfred Blue is getting most of the touches in Houston these days. Miller doesn’t look like an enticing play this week against a Colts defense that is decent against the run.

Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) carries the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mike Marshall)

Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles: The Eagles have nothing to play for and should rest up their top running back.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: Atlanta is still fighting for a playoff spot, but Coleman has a tough matchup and Devonta Freeman will likely get the higher share of action.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles: Same reason I wouldn’t start Ajayi, plus he hasn’t had the best chemistry with Foles so far.

Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: He’s got a terrible matchup against the Chargers this week. The Raiders have been a major disappointment this season and Cooper has played a role in that. He had five catches for 28 yards the last time he faced the Chargers.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Why should he start playing well now? With the Cowboys out of playoff contention, it will be interesting to see how Jason Garrett handles playing time for Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Bryant. I don’t expect them to be in harms way for too long.

STARS WITH NOTHING TO PLAY FOR

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: He was given the week off in favor of Patrick Mahomes.

Rams offensive leaders: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the Rams receivers aren’t likely to play. Goff and Gurley are definitely resting. Cooper Kupp is dealing with a knee while Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins probably won’t see much action.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: The Chiefs clinched the No. 4 seed and there’s no reason to put Hunt in danger after he’s found a grove once again.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: The Jaguars can’t improve their spot, so I think Fournette will use the time to heal up.

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Sure, his team technically has a shot to win the No. 1 seed, but he’s still recovering from injury and Tomlin won’t risk him being unavailable for the playoffs.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: He’s nursing a calf injury and has no reason to risk playing on Sunday.

Davante Adams, WR, Packers: The newly re-signed Adams suffered two concussions this season and shouldn’t suit up against the Lions.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: With a locked up seed for the playoffs and Patrick Mahomes starting at quarterback, the Chiefs would do well to sit Hill.

Fantasy football Week 16 recap and DFS targets

With less than a minute to play, Jake Elliott nailed a 48-yard field goal to put the Eagles ahead of the Raiders on Monday night. That wasn’t the final play of the game, however. The Eagles scored a defensive touchdown on a desperation play by the Raiders to end Week 16’s action and the fantasy football playoffs for most leagues.

It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to realize someone’s fantasy championship contest turned on that final field goal, or that final defensive touchdown.

It’s also probably safe to assume that an extremely high percentage of fantasy champions had Todd Gurley on their rosters.

Gurley has to be the sure fire fantasy MVP, not only given his year-long production, but also due to his performances during the fantasy playoffs. He held his best game for last, gaining 118 yards rushing and 158 yards receiving to go with two scores. It was the first time anyone has gained 100-plus yards rushing and 150-plus yards receiving in a game since Herschel Walker did so in 1986.

Gurley’s performance in Week 16 was highlighted by an 80-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass that he took the distance. That’s the kind of play that makes a quarterback look good.

Jared Goff had the best fantasy performance by a quarterback this week, throwing for 301 yards and four touchdowns. Other than connecting with Gurley on two scores, Goff also hit Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins with touchdown passes. He didn’t hook up well with Robert Woods, who looked like he was going to regain his spot as the No. 1 receiver for the Rams. He had just three catches for 33 yards in a disappointing start.

The biggest disappointments at wide receiver had to be Alshon Jeffery and Michael Crabtree. Each was shut out in the Monday night contest. What a time for that to happen with championships on the line. Nick Foles underwhelmed, after a solid outing last week for the Eagles, and failed to get the ball to Jeffery on two targets. I suggested you sit Derek Carr in Week 16, and he proved me right with a poor performance in which he couldn’t get Crabtree involved at all.

This week’s top receivers, outside of Todd Gurley, were Larry Fitzgerald, Jakeem Grant and Julio Jones. It was a real assortment of talent levels and experience.

Fitzgerald, once again topped 100 catches and 1,000 yards this year as he caught nine passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. We keep expecting him to fall off after 14 seasons, but he keeps putting up solid numbers.

Jakeem Grant is just in his second year and has now scored twice in the last three weeks after not being a factor all season. He caught four of his six targets from Jay Cutler for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Julio Jones caught seven passes for 149 yards in a bounce back from Week 15’s lackluster performance. If his owners were lucky enough to survive that week, they were rewarded in Week 16.

Outside of Goff, Kirk Cousins and Blake Bortles had he best days for quarterbacks. Both Cousins and Bortles continue to prove that you can get quality fantasy production out of a quarterback who is having a bad game. Cousins hit just 51 percent of his passes but threw for 299 yards and three scores.

I predicted Bortles would help a team win a fantasy championship, and if he was started on Sunday, he probably did. Bortles had three interceptions against the 49ers but also threw for 382 yards and two touchdowns. Add to that his 31 rushing yards and you have great fantasy production.

Also in that game, Jimmy Garoppolo convinced me to never doubt him again. The quarterback, who is now 6-0 as a starter, had 242 yards passing and two touchdowns. He rushed for another touchdown as he didn’t let the league’s top pass defense slow down his momentum.

If you were out of your fantasy playoffs entering the week, these are the kinds of performances you should stow away heading into next season. Fantasy owners tend to forget about the last couple of weeks of action, especially if they’ve been eliminated from contention. It’s a good idea to take notes for next season, though.

Someone you should be paying attention to is Dion Lewis. I had him listed as one of my starts for Week 16 and he delivered by rushing for 129 yards and a touchdown. He added five catches for 24 yards and another score on his way to having the second best day by a running back.

Gio Bernard also had a great day, though his upside beyond next week is extremely limited. He rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. It was Bernard’s third straight week of scoring in double digits in fantasy points. If Joe Mixon remains sidelined in Week 17, Bernard could start again.

Bilal Powell and C.J. Anderson can also be filed under, “productive running backs on teams with nothing to play for.” Powell rushed 19 times for 145 yards and a touchdown while Anderson gained 133 yards from scrimmage and scored.

Speaking of running backs who no longer have anything to play for, Ezekiel Elliott made his return to the field after his six-game suspension. Things were set up perfectly for the Cowboys, who had a good shot at making the playoffs if they had just won their final two games.

Elliott performed well, even, rushing for 97 yards and catching four passes for 21 more. The Cowboys couldn’t pull off the win, however, and it might make sense to shut down their franchise back in a meaningless Week 17 game with the Eagles.

While Week 17 is meaningless for most of the NFL, it should be meaningless to all season-long fantasy football leagues everywhere. Any fantasy league that has Week 17 as a factor in determining its fantasy champion is doing a tremendous disservice to its owners. Some think a two-week final is appropriate, in which the championship is played across Week 16 and 17. I’m not one of those people, especially given the fact that real NFL teams often have different goals in Week 17.

With that in mind, that’s why I won’t be suggesting waiver wire pick ups for Week 17. Instead I’m providing inexpensive options for those interested in daily fantasy sports and one-week competitions.

DFS targets for Week 17

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: This should be an easy call by now. If he can do what he did to the Jaguars, he can do it to the Rams.

Keelan Cole, WR, Jaguars: Though the Jaguars have nothing to play for, as their seeding is locked in, Cole may still end up seeing a lot of action. Jacksonville has injury issues at the position and Cole has been on fire.

Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals: There won’t be a rush to bring Joe Mixon back and Bernard has the versatility to put up nice numbers given the opportunity.

Alfred Blue, RB, Texans: He’s getting more carries than Lamar Miller and is doing more with them. He faces the Colts in Week 17.

Jakeem Grant, WR, Dolphins: Grant is impressing, but he does have a tough matchup with the Bills in Week 17.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars: Jacksonville won’t risk injuring Leonard Fournette before the playoffs. Yeldon gets to face a Titans defense that got killed by Gurley.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: An alternate set of Week 1 rankings

Earlier this week, Cat Vasquez laid out his player rankings for Week 1 as well as a list of start ’em/sit ’ems.

Here are my own Week 1 player rankings, by position:

QUARTERBACKS

1. Tom Brady

2. Aaron Rodgers

3. Russell Wilson

4. Matt Ryan

5. Drew Brees

6. Dak Prescott

7. Marcus Mariota

8. Eli Manning

9. Derek Carr

10. Matthew Stafford

11. Cam Newton

12. Eli Manning

13. Kirk Cousins

14. Ben Roethlisberger

15. Carson Palmer

16. Alex Smith

RUNNING BACK

1. Ezekiel Elliott

2. David Johnson

3. LeVeon Bell

4. Todd Gurley

5. Dalvin Cook

6. Devonta Freeman

7. Melvin Gordon

8. Lamar Miller

9. LeSean McCoy

10. Jordan Howard

11. DeMarco Murray

12. Ameer Abdullah

13. Ty Montgomery

14. C.J. Anderson

15. Kareem Hunt

16. Carlos Hyde

17. Isaiah Crowell

18. Paul Perkins

19. Marshawn Lynch

20. Matt Forte

21. Jonathan Stewart

22. Mark Ingram

23. Joe Mixon

24. Christian McCaffrey

25. Leonard Fournette

WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Antonio Brown

2. A.J. Green

3. Odell Beckham Jr.

4. Julio Jones

5. Michael Thomas

6. Doug Baldwin

7. Dez Bryant

8. Amari Cooper

9. Jordy Nelson

10. Michael Crabtree

11. DeAndre Hopkins

12. Kelvin Benjamin

13. Demaryius Thomas

14. Golden Tate

15. Tyreek Hill

16. Stefon Diggs

17. Keenan Allen

18. Pierre Garcon

19. Emmanuel Sanders

20. Martavis Bryant

21. Larry Fitzgerald

22. Marvin Jones

23. Ted Ginn Jr.

24. Jamison Crowder

25. Chris Hogan

TIGHT ENDS

1. Rob Gronkowski

2. Greg Olsen

3. Travis Kelce

4. Delanie Walker

5. Jimmy Graham

6. Jordan Reed

7. Jason Witten

8. Martellus Bennett

9. Zach Ertz

10. Kyle Rudolph

11. Tyler Eifert

12. Charles Clay

13. Jack Doyle

14. Eric Ebron

15. Jared Cook

KICKERS

1. Stephen Gostkowski

2. Dan Bailey

3. Chris Boswell

4. Matt Bryant

5. Blair Walsh

6. Dustin Hopkins

7. Justin Tucker

8. Brandon McManus

9. Matt Prater

10. Ka’imi Fairbaim

11. Mason Crosby

12. Kai Forbath

DEFENSES/SPECIAL TEAMS

1. Steelers

2. Texans

3. Panthers

4. Cardinals

5. Bills

6. Broncos

7. Vikings

8. Chargers

9. Falcons

10. Redskins

11. Rams

12. Bengals

NFL playoff fantasy football rankings: Conference Championships

If you’re playing NFL.com’s fantasy football challenge get ready to set your lineups for the Conference Championship rounds. If you started Aaron Rodgers two weeks in a row, you were rewarded with a win against the Cowboys, which means his points will triple in the NFC Championship. Here’s a look at how the other skill players stack up.

Quarterbacks

After Rodgers, you really have to just go with who you think will make the Super Bowl so you can multiply their points in that game. Tom Brady is the odds on favorite to advance.

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
3. Matt Ryan, Falcons
4. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Running backs

Le’Veon Bell can score triple points this week if you started him in the previous two rounds. The Patriots went away from LeGarrette Blount as Bill Belichick used the dynamic Dion Lewis a lot more effectively.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) runs against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

1. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
2. Devonta Freeman, Falcons
3. Dion Lewis, Patriots
4. LeGarrette Blount, Patriots
5. Tevin Coleman, Falcons
6. Ty Montgomery, Packers
7. James White, Patriots
8. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
9. Aaron Ripkowski, Packers
10. Christine Michael, Packers

Wide receivers

Antonio Brown has to start since you probably had him going the previous two weeks. Julio Jones could have an amazing game given the Packers secondary isn’t very good. Speaking of the Packers, I’m not sure Jordy Nelson has an impact even if he does play. When breathing is a chore with the kind of injury he has, it’s not likely he’ll have a good game if he plays.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) scores on a 7-yard touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) scores on a 7-yard touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter of the NFC Divisional Playoff on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

1. Antonio Brown, Steelers
2. Julio Jones, Falcons
3. Julian Edelman, Patriots
4. Randall Cobb, Packers
5. Davante Adams, Packers
6. Malcolm Mitchell, Patriots
7. Mohamed Sanu, Falcons
8. Eli Rogers, Steelers
9. Michael Floyd, Patriots
10. Geronimo Allison, Packers
11. Taylor Gabriel, Falcons
12. Chris Hogan, Patriots
13. Cobi Hamilton, Steelers
14. Jordy Nelson, Packers

Tight ends

Jared Cook has been great in the postseason, but if you started Martellus Bennett last week you might as well bank on his double points.

1. Martellus Bennett, Patriots
2. Jared Cook, Packers
3. Austin Hooper, Falcons
4. Jesse James, Steelers

Kickers

As I predicted last week, Chris Boswell will be able to start multiple weeks for you after the Steelers upset the Chiefs. Gostkowski is at the top of the list since you’ll be able to double his points when he plays in the Super Bowl, which I’m expecting.

1. Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots
2. Chris Boswell, Steelers
3. Matt Bryant, Falcons
4. Mason Crosby, Packers

Defense/special teams

At this point, this is basically a prediction of who you think will last another game so you can double their points during the Super Bowl.

1. Patriots
2. Falcons
3. Steelers
4. Packers