As the NFL heads into its final week of regular season play only six games hold no playoff implications.
The first weekend of football in 2016 brings NFL fans a rare occasion in which only two teams – New England and Washington – are locked into their playoff seeds in the season’s final week. Despite the entire NFC field being set, there is still positioning to take place.
Not only does this make the games exciting for fans, fantasy commissioners will have an almost full palette of players to choose from.
In his return from a concussion, quarterback Brian Hoyer will need a sharp game to maintain his Houston Texans’ seed in the playoffs. Facing a Jacksonville Jaguars defense allowing the fourth-most points to opposing quarterbacks (19.2), and having one of the league’s most explosive wide receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, available, Hoyer is an excellent value play.
Allowing just a half-point less per game to the position than the Jaguars, the Cleveland Browns face a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that has been nearly unstoppable with Ben Roethlisberger under center. “Big Ben” is averaging more than 326 passing yards per game played this season, though his touchdown-interception ratio (18-14) leaves something to be desired.
Needing a win and some help, it’s a safe bet that one of the most clutch performers of this era will find the end zone. Start Roethlisberger if you can afford it.
Having posted double-digit fantasy point performances in each of the past four games, New England Patriots running back James White is a wise value play against a Miami Dolphins defense allowing the most fantasy points to the position (21.9 per game).
Along with the Dolphins, only the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints give up more than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. With Todd Gurley likely to miss his matchup with the 49ers, Devonta Freeman is a clear start against the Saints. Despite being listed as probable, Freeman was a participant in practice all week and will likely see a normal workload on Sunday.
The Oakland Raiders are one win away from a .500 season, their first since 2011. After moving the ball successfully against the Kansas City Chiefs in a Dec. 6 matchup in Oakland, look for rookie standout Amari Cooper to do his part in producing similar yardage but more points. With a big game, Cooper could not only help his team to an 8-8 record, he could claim the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award as well.
With Roethlisberger set to explode in Week 17, he will likely hook up with pro-bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown again and again. Brown is a lock to help the Steelers make a run at the playoff berth.
Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge has been a dependable performer all season. In what may end up being an offensive slugfest between AFC North rivals, Barnidge is a great value play for the tight end position.
Needing another win to clinch the NFC’s number one seed, Carolina Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen will need one more supreme performance for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Bank on him doing exactly that.
In what will almost certainly be a back-and-forth matchup between the Saints and Atlanta Falcons, either kicker is due for an outburst. Atlanta’s Shayne Graham has been the more reliable all season and thus a smarter start this week.
The Denver Broncos need a win or a Chiefs loss to clinch the AFC’s number two seed. In a Week 13 showdown with the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos defense allowed only three points, forcing three turnovers and scoring a touchdown on an interception return en route to a 23-point performance. Facing those same Chargers this week, in Denver this time, a similar performance is to be expected.