• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Fantasy Football: Week 17 starts, sits and sleepers

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Fantasy football is a passion for many. Sometimes that passion causes fantasy managers to make emotional decisions even when the data suggest otherwise. Each week during the 2023 NFL season Liz Loza will attempt to strike a balance between what the data states and what the heart wants. This is called Facts vs. Feelings.

Anyone else wake up hungover on Tuesday? Not because of the nog (though, there was that) but because of “gestures wildly at the air” all the things? The travel logistics, the present prep, the house cleaning, the meal planning, the activity organizing, the out-of-town family receiving, and the general magic-making.

Was it worth it? For one day? I’m not sure I’m brave enough to answer that question honestly.

This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. That doesn’t mean, however, that it doesn’t come without grumps and groans. Anyone who refuses to admit that obligatory gathering and forced gift-giving (come on, you know you don’t really want that one cousin to show up at dinner and, also, how many No. 1 dad mugs can you stash or sneakily dump) isn’t, at least partially, a waste of a day off is, as the kids say, “delulu.” That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the tender moments or hold a space of gratitude for the joy that peaks through the lists of chores, though.

Seeing my kids’ faces on Christmas morning is, of course, everything. They’re sweet and kind and appreciative little humans. It’s cliché because it’s the most honest trope in existence … those little gremlins are my sun, my moon, and my stars. I would, however, like to enjoy them and be charmed by their laughter without having to clean up the capitalism that has thrown up all over my living room. (Or get into an argument with my father-in-law who has yet to see “Barbie” but has plenty of opinions on its frivolous messaging. Or watch my mom tap her middle after every meal, exclaiming how she just can’t swallow another bite, like a hat tip to generational scarcity and a lifetime of disordered eating.)

I don’t ever say those last parts out loud. And I probably shouldn’t be so audaciously vulnerable as to write them in a column for public consumption. Because life is hard enough and nobody wants to sit in the truth of every situation. We all still want to believe in Santa. That’s why we frantically shuffle elves and leave out cookies and chase carrot chunks with milk at midnight. We want to keep the fantasy alive.

That’s also why Week 17 is such a bummer. I mean, I’m assuming, if you’re reading this you’re probably still alive in your league’s postseason. So, congrats! That’s awesome! I am so proud of and pumped for you! If you’ve been eliminated, however, thanks for reading and also, I feel you. We’ve still got DFS tourneys and props to keep us entertained/distracted.

This week’s list of players are all fantasy stars either coming out of or entering less-than-clear situations. We’re going to dive into which facts can be trusted as you feel your way through the final week of fun. And, I hope that even if the process doesn’t yield perfection that we’re all still able to find genuine appreciation for the work we’ve done and the complexion of this year’s campaign.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Dolphins: Tua has been an enigmatic character since college. Apologists and detractors have long (and loudly) debated their beliefs surrounding his attributes and the reality of their existence. To me, the current iteration of Tua is a strong-armed, accurate, and above-average game manager who’s surrounded by elite weapons and a creative play caller who knows how to squeeze every bit of excellence out of his players. Unfortunately, a league-winning fantasy QB, that does not make.

Tua has underwhelmed from a fake football P.O.V.; Tagovailoa hasn’t managed a game of at least 20 fantasy points since Week 8. He’s also registered just 8 passing scores over his past 7 games. And the rushing upside is just not present. In fact, Tua has scampered for fewer than four rushing yards per game. Managers expected a boost with Tyreek Hill back in the lineup, but a pair of maladies suffered by Jaylen Waddle prevented Tua from achieving a significant rebound, as he finished outside of the top 20 fantasy players at the position in Week 16.

It’s unlikely that Tagovailoa delivers on QB1 numbers in Week 17. Not only is Waddle dealing with an ankle sprain, but the matchup is brutal. Baltimore embarrassed the almost-always pristine Brock Purdy, picking off the 49ers QB a season-high four times on Christmas Night Football. And he’s not the only one. The Ravens have allowed 15 passing scores while forcing 16 INTs over the team’s last 15 outings. In fact, only two QBs have reached 17 fantasy points (and only three have recorded multiple passing TDs) when facing the Ravens nest. Consider Tua a middling QB2 for fantasy purposes this weekend.

Travis Etienne Jr., RB, Jaguars: Etienne was all about that pumpkin spice life, finding the end zone seven times and recording 108.3 fantasy points over a four-game span in October. In the seven games since, however, he’s managed just two TDs and 79.0 fantasy points. It appears as though the grind of the season took its toll on the second-year back, as he’s failed to reach 60 rushing yards in a game since before the team’s Week 9 bye.

On the plus side, Etienne has been active in the passing game, hauling in at least three grabs in all but two games this season. There’s additional room for optimism given his matchup during the championship weekend. The Jaguars are 6.5-point home favorites over the Panthers. Moreover, Carolina has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs (25.8 FPPG) with six RBs registering at least 20 fantasy points while facing the Panthers. I suspect ETN will be the seventh, as he’s poised to deliver top-10 positional numbers for fantasy purposes on Sunday.

D’Andre Swift, RB, Eagles: Swift has put together a head-scratching season. On the one hand, he’s bucked the injury prone label, staying healthy all season while averaging a voluminous 14 carries per game (RB13). On the other hand, his utilization as a receiver has been curious, as he’s recorded just five catches since Week 12. To that end, he’s coming off of a 20-tote effort (his highest number of carries since Week 2) in which he failed to draw a single target. It appears as though the Eagles are content to lean on Swift’s legs significantly more than his hands.

That doesn’t figure to change versus the Cardinals in Week 17. Arizona has allowed the most fantasy points (29.0 FPPG) to running backs. Additionally, opposing teams’ lead backs have logged 15+ fantasy points in 10 of 15 games versus the Cardinals. Furthermore, eight of those RBs have cleared 19 fantasy points. Given the facts of Swift’s new(ish) role, his sneaky TD equity (his 22 goal-to-go rushes are tied for the sixth most in the NFL this season), and a favorable matchup it feels like the former Lion is in for a top-15 position finish come Sunday.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Bills: Diggs is, arguably, the best route runner in the NFL. He’s also posted single-digit fantasy points in five of his past six games. The latter does not negate the former. Simply, the switch from Ken Dorsey to Joe Brady has negatively impacted Diggs’ workload — he’s drawn 1.6 fewer targets per game under Brady — and high-value opportunities. But not his talent. That, however, doesn’t help fantasy managers trying to win a ‘ship.

The change in offensive philosophy has yielded positive results. Buffalo has won four of the team’s last five games. Therefore, I don’t foresee a change in Diggs’ usage. And definitely not versus New England. Bill Belichick has a penchant for taking away the opposing team’s No. 1 asset.

It worked back in Week 7 when the Pats bested the Bills by four points. Diggs did manage 17 fantasy points in that game, but a TD saved his outing, as he was otherwise held to 6 of 12 for only 58 yards. Furthermore, New England has allowed only three WRs to hit 18 fantasy points all season (including Tyreek Hill and Jalyen Waddle in the same game). So, yes, you’re staring Diggs. But, no, you’re not expecting hero numbers. Consider him a solid WR2 for fantasy purposes.

Davante Adams, WR, Raiders: Adams may have been a scrooge for fantasy purposes in Week 16 but the Raiders defense had Vegas fans screaming “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Monday night. Don’t look now, but the Silver and Black have upset divisional foes in back-to-back efforts, keeping their playoff hopes alive. It’s reasonable to believe, then, that the surrounding momentum propels Adams into a monster outing at Indianapolis (especially noting that a win would allow the Raiders to jump the Colts in the standings).

I completely understand the internal tumult associated with a 1-4-0 stat line in Week 16. However, we all knew L’Jarius Sneed would put the clamps on Adams (and that Aidan O’Connell wouldn’t appreciate the ensuing teeny tiny windows). But those matchups are out of the way now. Adams has recorded 10-plus looks in four straight games that weren’t against the Chiefs/Sneed, which indicates solid volume this coming weekend. Furthermore, Indy is one of the fastest-paced teams in the league (19% no-huddle rate leads the NFL), again hinting at an increase in offensive opportunities for Adams. I know last week was tilting, but if you made it this far then let Adams make it up to you with a top-10 position showing in the finals.

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs: I’m not here to debate whether or not Kelce is washed or distracted or both. All I know is that he’s posted single-digit fantasy points in back-to-back games for the first time in more than two years (and just the second time since 2017). That stings. But I’m also not terribly worried. Because he’s still Patrick Mahomes‘ favorite (or second-favorite) target. He’s also recorded five red zone looks over his last pair of outings.

Most importantly, he’s in a prime spot to bounce back in a plus matchup at Arrowhead on Sunday. Cincinnati has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game (15.6) to opposing tight ends. In fact, a total of seven tight ends who have drawn at least six looks versus the Bengals (Kelce has managed 7 targets in back-to-back games and is averaging 8.5 per contest) have posted an average of 17.6 fantasy points per game. Kelce may not be next year’s TE1 but he is this week’s best fantasy play at the position.

Gerald Everett, TE, Chargers: What an on-brand journey it’s been for the Chargers this season. From the fall of Brandon Staley to the demise of nearly every offensive skill position player, Los Angeles is in full meltdown mode. Beneath a heap of unmet fantasy potential, however, there remains one glimmer of virtual hope. With Keenan Allen (heel) likely to be put on ice for the remainder of 2023, Joshua Palmer in the concussion protocol, and Donald Parham probably cruising toward another healthy scratch, Gerald Everett is L.A.’s last (good) man standing.

Everett has drawn a season-high eight looks for three consecutive outings. And he’s converted at least 5 balls in each of those efforts. It’s likely he’ll record another five grabs at Mile High on Sunday. Afterall, he posted a 5-39-0 stat line when he faced off against the Broncos (with Keenan active) back in Week 14. Additionally, Denver has allowed the fourth-most catches, second-most yards, and a whopping 10 TDs to opposing TEs. The feelings are ick but the facts point towards a low-end TE1 performance for Everett.

Follow Liz on social @LizLoza_FF



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