This article is part of our DraftKings NFL series.
I don't like Week 17 for season-long fantasy purposes, but it's a fun and challenging week for DFS with several teams jockeying for playoff seeding, and others getting prolonged looks at backups for the future, often with significantly discounted prices. It's always important to keep a close eye on the news between the time this article is posted and lineup lock at 1 p.m. EST Sunday for the Main Slate, but there will be more moving parts than usual given the circumstances of the season's final week.
Yet again, the weather around the league doesn't look bad for December, but the biggest potential trouble spot approximately 72 hours before kickoff appears to be in Green Bay, where sustained wind of 15-20 mph would have at least a slight impact the passing game for the Packers and Lions.
Here's a quick rundown of the Implied Totals based on the point spread and over/under total for each of the Main Slate matchups:
Without Thursday, Saturday or Monday Night games, only one standalone contest is removed (Titans-Colts) from the main block, leaving 30 teams to build from on the Main Slate.
The point spreads and over/unders are great indicators of how much some teams headed to the playoffs are expected to rest this week with their seeds completely settled (the Cowboys), or subject to change only in the event of unlikely help (i.e. the Bears).
The four teams atop the Implied Totals chart this week are all double-digit home favorites, with minimal resistance expected as they attempt to secure first-round byes (Chiefs, Rams, Patriots), or merely a playoff berth (Steelers). Particularly in cash games, building lineups around the teams (and individual players) with incentives to play well across their typical volume of snaps is a great starting point.
At the bottom of the list, the Cardinals sit with the lowest Implied Total I've ever seen for an NFL team (12.5), in what might be Larry Fitzgerald's final NFL game on the road in Seattle.
Patrick Mahomes, KC vs. OAK ($7,100) - The Chiefs can secure home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs with a win over the Raiders on Sunday. With Andy Reid likely keeping the foot on the gas pedal, paying up for Mahomes at home against one of the league's worst defenses is even more appealing than usual. While there is some risk of a blowout steering Mahomes to the sidelines at some point in the fourth quarter, that scenario would likely include the Chiefs' passing game going off early to open up the requisite huge lead. No team has allowed more passing scores than the Raiders this season (34), who allowed four to Mahomes in their first meeting back in Week 13 (23-for-38, 295 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT). Since the price difference between Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger is only $100, I prefer to lean on the Kansas City offense with the slightly higher Implied Total (33) even though both offenses are in great spots this week.
Lamar Jackson, BAL vs. CLE ($5,600) - The Browns are hardly a layup matchup for the Ravens, but with Baltimore at home, and Jackson's low price compared to the other quarterbacks on teams with a shot at clinching a playoff spot, there is plenty to like here in tournaments. The Ravens could earn a first-round bye, or they could miss the playoffs entirely if they tie, the Steelers win, and the Colts-Titans game also ends in a tie. While that's extremely unlikely, the chance to have a first-round bye and a home game in the Divisional Round (and possibly beyond if the top-seed falls), the Ravens will be going full throttle in their regular season finale. Jackson topped 200 passing yards for the first time in six starts in Saturday's win over the Chargers, and while his range out scoring output has been surprisingly narrow (low 16.1 DraftKings points in Week 16, high 22.2 DraftKings points in Week 12 against Oakland), he has a path to do a lot of damage with 20-plus passing attempts and 10-plus rushing attempts being the normal game plan each week. The dream scenario for tournaments entails Jackson putting up three or more touchdowns, with at least one of those coming on the ground, and it's possible that the Baltimore defense will give the Ravens' offense good field position throughout Sunday's game.
Also Consider: Tom Brady ($6,000) at home against the Jets. He appears in this article on a weekly basis, because he continues to sit around the $6K price point with a steady volume of pass attempts each week. The Patriots' offense is less scary with the current iteration of Gronk and the absence of Josh Gordon, but just as the Chiefs can secure the top seed in the AFC by beating the Raiders, the Patriots can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over the Jets, who allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw for more than 400 yards last week.
Saquon Barkley, NYG vs. DAL ($8,200) - The Giants are facing a Dallas defense that has nothing to play for, and while the Cowboys kept Barkley in check on the ground in their first meeting, he was heavily targeted in the passing game and still put up a lot of points in PPR settings. The path is much clearer this time around given the circumstances, and questions about workload and health linger with most of the other elite running backs on the board this week, which leaves Barkley as the rare elite talented positioned to get his usual share of touches.
Also consider: Melvin Gordon III, LAC at DEN ($8,400)
Chris Carson, SEA vs. ARI ($6,500) - Carson has a season-high price tag for the final regular season slate of 2018, but he appears to be worth every dollar against one of the league's softest run defense as the Cardinals head to Seattle. Arizona has allowed 4.8 YPC this season (tied for the third-worst per-carry average in the league), and their futility on the offensive side of the ball allows opponents to pile up extra attempts and yardage along the way (153.1 YPG, worst in the NFL). The Seahawks are a double-digit home favorite, giving Carson a path to another 20-plus carry day, even with the potential return of Rashaad Penny to the backfield mix. While the Seahawks are guaranteed a playoff berth and a road trip somewhere on Wild Card weekend, a win Sunday against Arizona would send them to Dallas as the No. 5 seed in the NFC instead of Chicago or Los Angeles as the No. 6 seed.
Joe Mixon, CIN at PIT ($6,700) - The Bengals should rest Mixon given the circumstances, but the Bengals are doltish, so he'll probably get another heavy workload. Mixon exploded for 27.8 DraftKings points against the Chargers on the road in Week 14 in a similar setup, albeit against a run defense that has been much more vulnerable than Pittsburgh's in recent weeks. The price puts Mixon in position to return 4x value if he finds a way to go off even with the Steelers positioned to load the box and overplay the run, and he'll likely be ignored with a lot of viable value plays at the position in Week 17, which makes him a sneaky (and risky) GPP option to think about.
Royce Freeman, DEN vs. LAC ($3,500) - Phillip Lindsay's season ended one week early due to a wrist injury, leaving Freeman in a position to see an increased carry load against the Chargers on Sunday. Even after a dismal road showing in Oakland on Monday night, the Broncos are 6.5-point underdogs at home against a Chargers team with plenty left to play for. In order to keep it close, the Denver offense will likely need to have success on the ground against a defense that has been surprisingly generous to opposing backs over the last eight games (28.0 DKPPG). Freeman may still yield passing-down opportunities to Devontae Booker, but the rookie should get 15-plus carries for the first time since Week 1. The price is low enough where the ownership rate might swell since the savings on Freeman open up significant upgrades elsewhere.
Rod Smith, DAL at NYG ($5,500) - Ezekiel Elliott thinks he's going to play in Week 17, but the Cowboys have nothing to play for, and exposing their best offensive weapon to injury unnecessarily would be foolish. Smith should get a lot of work against a Giants run defense that has been atrocious since trading Damon Harrison to the Lions after Week 7. Over their last eight games without Harrison, the Giants have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (30.8 DKPPG). The higher price compared to other backups in line for heavy workloads might be enough to keep the ownership rate very low.
Brian Hill, ATL at TB ($3,900) - The availability of Tevin Coleman heading into the weekend is critically important regarding the use of Hill, but if Coleman sits out the season finale with his groin injury, Hill could absorb the bulk of the available touches after he piled up 115 yards on eight carries in relief of Coleman on Sunday against Carolina.
Also consider: Dalvin Cook, MIN vs. CHI ($6,300) - The Bears might rest key players on both sides of the ball, while the Vikings are still trying to win and secure a Wild Card. Cook should be heavily involved, with a path to 20-plus touches, and facing a watered down version of what is typically a very good run defense.
Robert Woods, LAR vs. SF ($6,900) - Woods should probably cost $1,000 more given his overall production and a very favorable Week 17 matchup against a San Francisco defense that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. The Rams are still playing for a first-round bye, and Woods has done everything in his power to show that his breakout last season with the Rams wasn't a fluke, topping his YPT mark from a year ago (9.4 YPT) en route to his first career 1,000-yard season.
Julian Edelman, NE vs. NYJ ($7,600) - Last week, the Patriots had a very skinny tree of pass-catchers against Buffalo, and in similar conditions as heavy home favorites in Week 17, it would hardly be surprising to see Edelman finish with 10-12 targets even if another run-heavy attack is the design. Edelman turned 10 targets into six catches, 70 yards and a TD last week against Buffalo, and the absence of Josh Gordon might lead to a heavier concentration of targets throughout the playoffs as well.
Also Consider: JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT vs. CIN ($8,300), Davante Adams, GB vs. DET ($8,000), Mike Evans, TB vs. ATL ($7,700), Keenan Allen, LAC at DEN ($7,900), Doug Baldwin, SEA vs. ARI ($6,100), Robby Anderson, NYJ at NE ($5,600)
The high-priced receivers with something to play for might still be lower owned than they should be. This group includes:
I'll focus my efforts on finding a few cheaper options capable of offering a huge return this week to mix and match with the aforementioned price top-end receivers.
Robert Foster, BUF vs. MIA ($5,100) - Foster posted back-to-back 20-plus point efforts in Weeks 14 and 15, and while he saw seven targets in the Week 16 loss to the Patriots, he was limited to four catches for 52 yards. The 4x upside he offers at this price came with an ownership rate under 5 percent last week (in the Slant, a $9 big-field GPP), and matching up against a Miami secondary that could be without Xavien Howard is a nice spot for him. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen has plenty of flaws, but he has the arm strength necessary to take advantage of Foster's ability to beat defenders deep. Foster's average depth of target is a whopping 22.9 yards this season, which is a big part of his low catch rate (57.5 percent)
Chris Godwin, TB vs. ATL ($4,300) - Godwin has turned 19 targets into four catches for 52 yards in his last three games, which has dropped his season YPT mark to 8.5 through 15 games. He's been nothing short of terrible, but that's often a great time to take a tournament shot on a talented young receiver, especially since he's continues to play a very large share of the snaps (at least 76 percent in each of the last four games). For the season, seven of his 53 catches have gone for 20-plus yards, and while I'm inclined to pay up for Mike Evans to get the bulk of my exposure to the Tampa Bay offense, Godwin was only 2.4 percent owned in the Slant last week, and he should remain under 5 percent.
Hail Mary: Nelson Agholor, PHI at WAS ($3,900) - Agholor has outsnapped Golden Tate 251-107 the last four weeks, and he posted his first 100-yard game of the season with five catches for 116 yards on seven targets in Week 16 against Houston. He was targeted eight times in the Eagles' first game against Washington (his highest target load since the Eagles acquired Tate) in Week 13, and Agholor moves around enough to avoid regular matchups against Josh Norman on the outside.
George Kittle, SF at LAR ($6,300) - Kittle is nearly $1,000 less than Travis Kelce, and $400 less than Zach Ertz, and the Niners' game script against the Rams will likely include a heavy volume of passes in the second half in their bid to keep the game close, as they're 10-point underdogs. Even with the Rams handling the Niners in a blowout scenario during the first meeting in Week 7, Kittle turned eight targets into five catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in one of his four 20-point efforts this season. Even in more difficult matchups in recent weeks, Kittle has been leading the way among San Francisco pass-catchers, and his ability to elude defenders after the catch continues to make him a threat to go off at any time.
Everett has been targeted 20 times in the Rams' last three games, making him a viable punt option for cash-game lineups (and tournaments).
Ian Thomas, CAR at NO ($3,300) - I think you can eat chalk at tight end this week and play from the cash-game pool above this week, but if you're looking for another potential low-owned option for large tournaments, Thomas is in play. Third-string QB Kyle Allen is starting for Carolina, but tight ends are often targeted by inexperienced passers seeking big targets closer to the line of scrimmage. The Saints are on autopilot with the No. 1 seed in the NFC secured, leaving Thomas in a nice spot as he's been targeted at least five times in three of the Panthers' last four games.
Packers vs. Lions ($2,400) - In my initial lineup builds, I ended up near the bottom of the price list after putting the rest of my roster together, and while the Packers' secondary has struggled to force turnovers (seven interceptions in 15 games), the pass rush has racked up 43 sacks this season. More importantly, the Lions yield plenty of sacks (40), and their toothless offense could be forced to play catch-up if things play out as the point spread suggests (Green Bay is favored by eight), nudging up Matthew Stafford's dropbacks, and the sack opportunities for the Packers' pass rush alike.
Also Consider: Chiefs vs. Raiders ($2,600), Giants vs. Cowboys ($2,100)