A look at the players you may need to replace for your Week 17 Super Bowl
For those of you playing in Fantasy Super Bowls in Week 17, you have my sympathy. However, you have known this time would come, so hopefully you are at least mentally prepared for it: NFL teams that have clinched playoff berths (or been knocked out) may rest their players. Luckily, plenty of significant Fantasy squads like the Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers and Colts still have something to play for.
There is one big name that won’t be on this list (at least if he has his way): Aaron Rodgers, who came up big last week despite playing in a meaningless game and said immediately afterwards that he plans on playing in Week 17. If only your other Fantasy starters were so bold…and had enough organizational power to get their long-time, Super Bowl-winning head coach fired, let alone get themselves to start no matter what.
Saints (Drew Brees, Michael Thomas, Possibly Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram): New Orleans is the only team fully locked into home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Usually, that makes for an obvious benching scenario, something that Sean Payton has done in years past. However, this season is a little more muddled. Drew Brees is just eight yards away from continuing his streak of 4,000-yard seasons, which has gone on for as long as he has been in New Orleans. Michael Thomas is 24 yards away from 1,400 yards, which isn’t a true milestone, but people like round numbers. And, biggest of all, a Saints win means they finish the year a franchise-best 14-2. But despite all of that, I predict only a quarter for Brees and Thomas against a flat-lining Panthers team. Kamara and Ingram, on the other hand, are a little harder to predict, as the only other back listed on their depth chart is Dwayne Washington. The two spell each other enough that the worries about wear and tear—especially on Ingram, who missed the first four games of the season—may be lessened.
Cowboys (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper): You never would have guessed it at the midway point of the season, but the Cowboys are the NFC East Champions. They fact, that they have nothing to play for in Week 17 except for pride and the ever-elusive “momentum.” You may think that would make the decision to sit their starters easy, but of course Jerry Jones loves pride and momentum and has already said they will play in Week 17. However, I’m a little skeptical; if the three of them do play, I wouldn’t expect it to be for long. While the Cowboys have won the NFC East three out of the last five years, they haven’t won a playoff game since the Wild Card round in 2014 and last made it past the Divisional round in 1995 (when they won Super Bowl XXX). I don’t think even Jones wants to risk one of his top players getting hurt.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams: Prior to the Rams’ Week 16 matchup with the Cardinals, Gurley looked to be full-speed in pre-game warmups and on track to return from his knee injury. But the team chose to play it safe, and C.J. Anderson once again proved that scheme and blocking matters more than the actual man running the ball, picking up 167 yards and a score. While a win (or a Chicago loss) means a bye, Anderson’s success should make the Rams focus more on making sure their top back is as healthy as possible in the playoffs, much to the chagrin of Fantasy players. However, if you’ve made it this far without him, you’ve been pretty shrewd and hopefully already have a strong replacement.
Replacement Options: C.J. Anderson, Elijah McGuire
Seahawks (Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Chris Carson): While a win and a loss by the Vikings will give Seattle the fifth seed over the sixth, they will have to weigh the pros of that against playing their starters in Week 17. While Pete Carroll has said they will not be benching the starters, he did hint at sitting them as the game went on. Facing the lowly Cardinals—who would clinch the top overall pick in the draft with a loss—that shouldn’t be an issue. The most likely to sit once the Seahawks get up is Chris Carson, who has struggled with injuries all season and could be spelled by Mike Davis, who has been productive when filling in. Also likely to get at least extra rest is Doug Baldwin, who has been notably injury-plagued and is finally looking healthy. The Seahawks already don’t throw the ball a whole lot, so an even more conservative game plan could hurt the productivity of Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett as well. Starting any of these players will be a huge risk, because there’s no guarantee how long they stay in, especially since the Seahawks will need some help even if they do win, further lessening the importance of the game.
More Possible Sits
These are players that could reasonably spend Week 17 on the bench, but there is nothing suggesting either way just yet.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have been eliminated from postseason contention and Jones has been dealing with hip and rib injuries, going as far as being a game-time decision in Week 16. While he looked fine, he did only have four catches for 28 yards and a score, his second-lowest yardage output of the season. The only thing Jones has to play for is the receiving yards lead. He is currently up on DeAndre Hopkins 1,539 to 1,425, a gap that he could surmount considering your drunk uncle is lining up in the slot for the Texans. There’s a chance he plays, but the smart move for the Falcons would be to at least hold him out for a half.
Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s been a mostly-lost season for Fournette, the Jaguars and Fournette’s owners in Fantasy. After a 1,000-yard rookie season, he has struggled with injuries for the majority of 2018, playing in just eight games and logging under 500 yards so far. After a weird Week 15 when he had just one carry in the second half in order to allegedly see what David Williams had, he logged 18 carries and another three catches for 71 total yards and a score in Week 16. However, the Jaguars are well out of contention, have placed four of their five starting linemen on injured reserve and are facing the Houston Texans, who have the best DVOA against the run in the NFL. With his foot injury nagging him as recently as the start of the Week 16 practices, I would not be surprised if the Jaguars sat him.