Happy 2017! I can't believe the season has come and almost gone already. Thank you for making my first season at NFL Media a lot of fun. I truly appreciate it and look forward to bringing even more number strategies to the team next season. Every football fan knows that Week 17 is messy when it comes to projecting player and team performance. Do I love my projections this week? Nope. But I do believe that thinking through the strategies teams might use is a good way to give yourself the best opportunities to pick the right players. As such, the stats I have added in are meant to give you some context for the games where something is on the line still. Good luck!!
Note: These projections are based on my stat-line projection for each player translated into standard fantasy scoring. These are the median values.
Tip: Use the order and points as a way to compare ... e.g. if a running back is projected to earn 1.5 points more than the guy behind him, but only 0.15 points less than the guy in front of him, take the magnitude into consideration. Also, asterisks (*) mean watch out for injury report changes, but always do that anyway, even if there doesn't happen to be an asterisk.
2) Over the past five weeks, no team has a better turnover differential than the Green Bay Packers (+13)
Not only does the offense have the fewest giveaways over this time period with one but -- and maybe even more importantly -- the defense has 14 takeaways. I am especially interested in the matchup between the Lions receivers and the Packers defensive secondary as they are almost back to full health (only Sam Shields, who is on IR, is missing). What's more is that the Packers' have scored 55 points off of these 14 turnovers, which also paces the NFL over this time period.
The Lions have given the ball away only six times in their past five games (which is tied for 10th fewest giveaways over this time) but this is a little more concerning than it seems because they only had eight in their first 10 games. So think of it like this: their rate went from eight giveaways in 10 games (0.8/game) to six giveaways in five games (1.2/game).
Fantasy Impact: With running back Theo Riddick out and center Travis Swanson doubtful, this could add some extra volatility to the Lions' game plan (read: turnovers). Also, cornerback Darius Slay and linebacker DeAndre Levy are also questionable, which could mean additional production for the Packers receivers. As far as playoffs are concerned, if Washington wins in the early window then the winner of Packers-Lions is not only the NFC North champ but also earns the very last playoff spot. (If Washington loses to the Giants then the loser of GB-DET will be the sixth seed). If this becomes a must-win for both teams, the total number of points I project for the whole game escalates and so does the risk. What does this mean? It means that in addition to being sure to play Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jordy Nelson and Golden Tate, you could think of this game as very boom or bust. Let's say you are behind in a two-week final, maybe you take a shot with Marvin Jones or Davante Adams to try to capture some potential upside. The point is, this is risky. Part of the risk is that we won't know how important this game is until after Washington plays and part of it lies in the game script.
Washington's offense ranks first in yards per touch over the past five games with 8.7 yards, a full 1.1 yards over the league average over this time (7.6 yards is the average). The Giants defense is tough all around but softest to opposing tight ends. Watch injuries here but I have a nice projection for Vernon Davis, and Pierre Garcon appears among my top-10 wide receivers list this week (median projection).
4) Two more snacks
Matt Ryan has the league's best passer rating 115.5 and Drew Brees is fourth at 103.1. Brees is also a mere 142 yards away from a 5,000 passing yard season ... Now that you have your trivia fix, target this game for a high point total overall. The Falcons' could (and in my projection should) secure the No. 2 seed with a home win but I expect the Saints to make them earn it.
Do you know why the Rose Bowl isn't played on New Year's Day when the New Year falls on a Sunday? Hint: to avoid competing against the NFL is not the answer, though probably a happy side effect. The answer is because a long time ago, horses were used to carry the floats for the parade. They parade organizers were worried that the horses would get spooked by the church bells that only are rung on Sundays, and potentially trample the parade spectators. Now it's a tradition.
5) Injuries and rest:
Keep a really good eye on this. I will do my best to keep Tweets coming Sunday morning! It's going to be a cluster, so try to enjoy the chaos!