Congratulations to those that made it this far! If you are still playing, you are likely competing for your leagues championship and that is a great honor. The only issue is players such as Patrick Mahomes and Ben Roethlisberger have already been ruled out. There are other teams that have not yet announced whether they will play their starters. This is why you should have the season end in Week 16, not 17, to avoid these weird shenanigans.
But if you do play this week, you very likely need a deeper option or two to plug a hole from players sitting. One QB who is still available in over half of NFL.com leagues is Kirk Cousins, who has the upside to win you your league this week. First, Cousins probably doesn't get the fantasy credit he deserves as he is the QB11 in terms of points per game this season. But the Vikings will be without Dalvin Cook this week and in the only game Cook sat out this year, Cousins threw for 343 yards and three TDs, en route to scoring nearly 24 fantasy points. And if you're still not sold, he gets the Lions against whom he scored 21 earlier this season. Detroit also allows the most fantasy PPG to QBs this season (23.13). And the best part? You do not have to worry about him getting rested either this week. He is a QB1 with a high ceiling this week.
John Wolford, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Jared Goff had to undergo surgery to repair a broken thumb, so it will be Wolford getting his first NFL start in a game the Rams need to win. We do not know a whole lot about Wolford or what Sean McVay's game plan for him will be, but we do know he can run. In college, he twice rushed for over 500 yards in a season, including going for 683 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games as a senior. Then in the AAF he rushed for at least 23 yards in half his games. With the Rams being without Goff, Cooper Kupp, Darrell Henderson and maybe Cam Akers, I am expecting McVay to get creative and have Wolford use his athleticism to run and pick up yards. He is a sneaky deep league option or DFS value.
Darrel Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have already announced that Mahomes will sit, and the expectation is that many other starters will as well. The one fear I have with Williams is he gets the starter treatment, since he did play 71 percent of the snaps last week and had 10 carries and six targets, while Le'Veon Bell has just eight touches. Still, with Bell being the veteran and them still holding out hope CEH can be ready in two weeks, it would not surprise me at all if Williams went out this week and was asked to really carry the load for this offense this week. You know when starters sit, and a third string RB has like a 100-yard day? Williams is in a prime spot to be that RB this week.
Malcolm Brown, RB, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams will be without Henderson this week and while Akers is up in the air, even if he plays, I would expect him to be limited. He has a high ankle sprain that he suffered just two weeks ago and those tend to linger. Brown could be in store for the vast majority of touches in a week the Rams will be without Goff and Kupp. That should translate into a lot of volume in a must win game. For those of you who are still playing in Week 17, Brown is a name to grab off the waiver wire and start this week.
Ty Johnson, RB, New York Jets
Frank Gore suffered a lung contusion in Week 16 and will not play in Week 17. I have a feeling we haven't seen the last of Gore, but just in case, it's been an amazing career. La'Mical Perine is currently on the reserve/COVID-19 list -- leaving Johnson and Josh Adams as the Jets' healthy backs. Johnson was asked to lead the Jets backfield once earlier this season and he put up 19.7 fantasy points (117 yards, TD) on 24 touches. He also has a six-catch, 17+ fantasy points performance two weeks ago. If nothing else, he gives you volume, which is more than a lot of other RBs can say in Week 17.
Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans
Coutee has been playing good ball the last month. He's shown to have a floor around 10 fantasy points and a ceiling over 20. But this week could be a ceiling week against the Titans who have allowed the third-most fantasy PPG to WRs this season (43.72). They've also allowed the eighth-most fantasy PPG to slot WRs (14.26), which is where Coutee runs 66 percent of his routes. Coutee is a top-15 WR this week with many big names up in the air.
Zach Pascal, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Pascal has stepped up as of late going for 24.9 and 15.4 fantasy points the past two weeks. He has six targets in both of those games, including three touchdowns in those two combined. Last week he did so in a tough matchup against the Steelers. This week the matchup is much more favorable against the Jaguars, who have allowed 39.56 fantasy PPG to WRs since Week 10, the eighth-most in that span. That includes 177 yards per game and nine touchdowns to the position in that span. He is a borderline WR3 with upside in a must-win game for the Colts.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are very depleted this week. With Kupp not being active this week, there is opportunity for Reynolds to step up. We only have the time Kupp tore his ACL as a sample size, but in nine career games without Kupp, Reynolds has averaged 10.66 fantasy PPG, compared to 5.32 when Kupp plays. Reynolds has flashed at times this season, but the Rams offense will be unlike anything we ever saw with Walford starting at QB. Reynolds is a boom-or-bust option in this offense, but he should be on the field all game long, which is more than a lot of other receivers can say this week. He is a flex option with some volume upside.
Irv Smith, TE, Minnesota Vikings
I can tell you already that I am going to be all over Smith next year as the next breakout tight end. But I like him for Week 17 as well as Smith has scored five TDs in his last five games combined. He has topped 15 fantasy points in three of his last four games. In fact, he had two touchdowns and 15 fantasy points against the Lions in Week 9. Since that week, the Lions have allowed a top-eight fantasy tight end in five of their eight games. I like Smith's chances of having a strong repeat performance and once again finishing as a top-10 fantasy TE in a game the Vikings likely must throw more than usual with no Dalvin Cook. Smith is a low-end TE1 with upside this week.
The Chargers defense is out there on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues and I get it, with a matchup against the Chiefs who would pick them up for this matchup. But with the news that Mahomes, and likely other starters, are expected to sit this week, the matchup suddenly gets a whole lot better. Rather than dealing with Mahomes, it will be Chad Henne leading the Chiefs offense. The Chargers have finished as a top-12 fantasy defense in four of their past six games and they have a strong chance of making it five of seven this week against the backup QB.
Good luck this week and thank you so much for reading and watching my work all season! And because it is never too early to get ready for next season, make sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, @MichaelFFlorio.