Which players are sitting out Week 17? Finding fantasy sleepers, busts based on NFL playoff picture

If you’re in a fantasy football league that plays through Week 17, the final week of the NFL’s regular season could be challenging for you. Late in the year, teams with nothing to play for often sit their starters. Whether that’s because they’re out of playoff contention or locked into a specific seed, it doesn’t matter. The NFL playoff picture still has some moving parts, especially this year with an extra wild card spot, but some owners will have to find some sleepers and avoid busts in key start ’em sit, ’em decisions.

The best way to assess who will be available is by loooking at what’s at stake for each team, so let’s get to it.

WEEK 17 STANDARD RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

2020 NFL playoff picture, how it affects fantasy football

The following is a team-by-team breakdown of what teams have to play for in Week 17. Below each team is a look at how various fantasy values are affected by the potential of teams resting players. As news comes out throughout the week about players sitting out, the analysis will be updated to reflect that.

AFC Playoff Picture

Kansas City Chiefs: Will Patrick Mahomes start in Week 17?

By virtue of their win over the Falcons in Week 16, the Chiefs officially locked up the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That means that Andy Reid could opt to rest his starters in Week 17, as the Chiefs have already clinched home-field advantage and the conference’s lone first-round bye.

Obviously, the biggest name affected by this development is Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs haven’t officially said that they would sit their starters, but Reid has long chosen to rest players and keep them fresh and healthy for the playoffs when they have nothing to play for. In fact, we saw that happen back in Mahomes’ rookie year 2017; he made his first start while the team rested Alex Smith ahead of the playoffs.

If Mahomes doesn’t play, that likely means that Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and the already banged-up Sammy Watkins will sit as well. It’s a bit less clear what would happen at RB with Clyde Edwards-Helaire already out, but Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams could end up sitting or taking a backseat to Darwin Thompson. Obviously, this will have a massive impact on fantasy leagues, so if you have members of the Chiefs on your team, stay tuned for Reid’s decision, but assume that Mahomes and Co. will have most — if not, all — of Week 17 off.

WEEK 17 PPR RANKINGS:
Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Buffalo Bills: Week 17 fantasy outlook for Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs

The Bills will either be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC playoff race. Since the No. 2 seed doesn’t come with a bye this postseason, the Bills could opt to sit their starters late in the game if they want to get them a little rest, especially a guy dealing with a minor foot injury like Stefon Diggs. That said, they could also be looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed, which they would clinch with a win, so they get to face the No. 7 seed and stay at home if they win in the wild-card round. Also, beating the Dolphins could knock them out of the postseason race, so surely, Sean McDermott’s Bills will be motivated to win this one.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger sitting, Mason Rudolph outlook

The Steelers can only be the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs. Because there is no first-round bye for the second seed this year, they are opting to sit starting QB Ben Roethlisberger to get him ready for the playoffs. That means Mason Rudolph will start in place of Big Ben and will have a chance to function as a solid streaming option against a Browns defense that has been porous on the back end, at times.

This move is a little bit odd considering that the Steelers would’ve at least had a chance to move up to the No. 2 seed with a win and a Bills loss, and that would’ve given them a shot at two home games. The team is probably just prioritizing the health of the 38-year-old Roethlisberger as they get ready to make a potential postseason run. Obviously, if Roethlisberger is out, then his WRs lose value, and it could be a sign that more of Pittsburgh’s key players on both offense and defense will rest for at least part of this game.

WEEK 17 DFS CASH LINEUPS: DraftKings | FanDuel

Playoff picture for Titans, Colts, Browns, Ravens, Dolphins impacts fantasy start/sit

Each of these teams is fighting to get into the playoffs. The Titans can clinch the AFC South with a win, and the Colts can clinch with a win and a Titans loss. The Colts can also clinch a playoff spot with a win and a loss by one of the Browns, Ravens, and Dolphins. Like the Titans, each of the Browns, Ravens, and Dolphins clinches a wild-card berth with a win.

None of these teams will sit starters in their contests unless they aren’t healthy enough to go. Again, the only team that needs help getting in, the Colts, just needs to win and have one of these four teams to lose, so there is no reason for them to sit their starters. 

WEEK 17 DFS TOURNAMENT LINEUPS: DraftKings | FanDuel

NFC Playoff Picture

Green Bay Packers: Week 17 determines No. 1 seed in the NFC

The Packers are in the driver’s seat in the NFC for the coveted bye week, and they can earn it just by beating the Bears. If that wasn’t a good enough reason for them to play their starters, they can potentially eliminate the Bears from playoff contention by beating them, and another strong performance from Aaron Rodgers should seal an MVP for him. There’s no reason for the Packers to sit anyone — at least before this game becomes a blowout.

New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara pushing for first-round bye

It’s possible that the Saints could end up with the No. 1 seed, as well. They would need the Packers to lose, but it remains a possibility. If they win, they should clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC at the very least. That means Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and the rest of the Saints starters should be in action as the team tries to set themselves up to play indoors as much as possible this postseason.

Seattle Seahawks: No concerns about players sitting out

Like the Saints, the Seahawks still have a shot at the No. 1 seed (and No. 2 seed). They would also need the Packers to lose and get some help via tiebreakers, but either way, the Seahawks will have a chance to clinch the top spot in the conference. Given the importance of that first-round bye for the No. 1 and home-field advantage in at least the second round for the No. 2 seed, expect Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett to be on the field if healthy.

Washington Football Team: A win claims the NFC East for Alex Smith, Antonio Gibson

For the second straight week, the Washington Football Team has a win-and-in scenario to clinch the NFC East. There are questions about who will start at quarterback with Alex Smith banged-up and Dwayne Haskins having been released, but the rest of the starters should suit up if they can. Terry McLaurin (ankle) is the big one to keep an eye on along with Smith (calf), as his presence would have a big impact on Washington’s chances of beating the Eagles and their weak secondary.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Still playing for the No. 5 seed

The Buccaneers can clinch the No. 5 seed and get a chance to take on the NFC East representative in the first round of the playoffs, so they are definitely playing for something. They have clinched a playoff berth, but they shouldn’t be resting their starters, as playing a team with a losing record, like whichever team comes out of the NFC East, would be a nice way to start the playoffs from Tom Brady and Co. Maybe Brady and Rob Gronkowski will rest late against the Falcons, but after getting the second half off against the Lions last week, they should be well rested and ready for this one.

Playoff picture for Rams, Cardinals, Bears, Giants, Cowboys impacts fantasy start/sit

Much like the AFC, the NFC’s final wild-card spots are wide open. The Rams, Cardinals, and Bears all have a chance to make the postseason but are vying for two spots. As such, they’ll all play their starters and hope that they can get the win needed to get their teams to the postseason. That said, the Rams will be without Jared Goff (thumb) and Darrell Henderson (ankle), so they won’t quite be at full strength.

Meanwhile, the Giants and Cowboys are playing each other and are still in contention for the NFC East. The winner of that game would get in with a win and a Washington loss, so both teams should be going all-out in that one, especially with Washington playing the Sunday Night Football game hours after this contest finishes up.

Non-playoff teams shutting players down

We can assume that players like Julio Jones, Kenny Golladay, Christian McCaffrey, and Joe Mixon won’t be returning to action this week after multiple missed games for non-playoff teams. Aside from that, any banged-up player on a team out of contention will probably be shut down, too.

Brandon Aiyuk. Kyle Shanahan has declared that Aiyuk (ankle) will be out in Week 17 after suffering an injury against the Cardinals. This isn’t a surprise, but it will leave the 49ers shorthanded at WR with Deebo Samuel already out.

Matthew Stafford. Given how beat-up Stafford has been in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine him playing this week. He exited early against the Bucs and will likely be shut down until next season.

Julian Edelman. Edelman (knee) reportedly isn’t likely to be activated from IR in Week 17. That will end his season and put his career in limbo ahead of his age-35 season.

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