While most fantasy football championships were determined in Week 16, there are many leagues that continue into the last week of the NFL season, whether through extended playoffs, rotisserie leagues, or other non-standard formats. I actually play in a league that spans a full 17 weeks for the fantasy regular season, with the playoffs coinciding with the NFL playoffs. However you might have arrived at this point in the fantasy season, Week 17 almost always poses problems for fantasy owners, with teams that are locked into the playoffs and those that have nothing to play for often resting many of their best players. Here are some of the premiere players that you might be forced to do without on Sunday, along with replacement options that are still available in a lot of leagues.
Big Names to Avoid
RB – Kansas City Chiefs
With the Chiefs locked into the five seed in the AFC playoffs, Jamaal Charles is someone for fantasy owners to be worried about in Week 17. Despite his ascension to the top of the running back ranks in 2013, Charles likely won’t do you much good when he plays a series or two and then watches the rest of the game from the sideline. If it’s do-or-die time for your fantasy team, you simply can’t count on Charles giving you much of a workload this week.
RB – Minnesota Vikings
After missing Week 15, Adrian Peterson returned to the field last Sunday, but clearly was hampered by foot and groin injuries that have nagged him for a while now. After recording just one carry in the second half of last week’s blowout loss to Cincinnati, it’s no sure bet that Peterson will even suit up for Week 17. Even if he guts it out, Peterson hasn’t produced noteworthy fantasy numbers since Week 13, and with the exception of the snow game in Philadelphia, teams have had difficulty running on the Lions.
WR – Carolina Panthers
Steve Smith has had a disappointing season in 2013, but in deeper leagues and particularly in PPR formats, he’s probably been a player that fantasy owners continued to insert into their starting lineups. However, after a knee injury in Week 16, it seems likely that Smith will miss this week’s game against the Falcons. It would otherwise be a nice matchup, but Smith is not someone that you want to take a chance on in this one.
Have An Alternative Ready
RB – Green Bay Packers
After another strong outing against the Steelers in Week 16, Eddie Lacy is questionable this week with an ankle injury. Lacy sat out the fourth quarter of last week’s game after aggravating an ankle injury and his status for Week 17 is up in the air at this point. If Lacy plays, you will want him in your lineup against Chicago’s league-worst rush defense, but with the Packers kicking off at 4:25 PM on Sunday, fantasy owners could find themselves in a bind. Watch those practice reports closely through the end of the week and make sure you have a backup plan.
WR – Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson is considered by many to be the best wide receiver in football, but he continues to have problems with his knee and there is speculation that he is dealing with a partially torn PCL. After playing limited snaps in last week’s loss to the Giants, the Lions don’t have much to gain in pushing Megatron to play in a meaningless Week 17 contest against Minnesota. Detroit has been eliminated from the playoff hunt and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them rest or at least limit Johnson in the season finale.
RB – Kansas City Chiefs
Knile Davis is one of my favorite replacement players this week, as he potentially steps in for Jamaal Charles against the Chargers. San Diego has given up at least one rushing touchdown in five of their last six games, and Davis has been effective when given an extended workload. The rookie has touchdowns in each of the two games that he received nine or more carries, and he figures to be heavily involved this week after the Chiefs pull their starters from a game that means nothing for their playoff seeding.
RB – Cleveland Browns
While leading the Browns in carries hardly guarantees fantasy success, Edwin Baker has done just that in each of the last two weeks. And the second-year pro has taken advantage of those opportunities, recording rushing touchdowns in back-to-back games to go along with 102 yards on 25 carries. With only three teams giving up more rushing touchdowns than the Steelers this season, Baker has a decent chance at running his scoring streak to three games, as he once again figures to be Cleveland’s primary ball carrier in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
RB – Green Bay Packers
After replacing Eddie Lacy last week, James Starks ran for 47 yards on 10 carries and he would be the primary beneficiary if Lacy were to miss Week 17’s matchup with Chicago. The Bears have given up 920 rushing yards and eight touchdowns to opposing running backs over the last five weeks, and Starks found the end zone when these teams played in Week 9. If Lacy is ruled out ahead of Sunday’s game, you can start Starks with confidence.
WR – Buffalo Bills
Following five catches for 82 yards and a score in Week 15, Robert Woods was on his way to another solid outing last Sunday before he was ejected in the third quarter for throwing a punch against the Dolphins. Woods still led the team with three catches for 70 yards and the rookie is likely to see extended action in Week 17, with Stevie Johnson and Marquise Goodwin likely to be inactive. While he may draw coverage from the Patriots’ Aqib Talib this week, his recent performances and increased targets make Woods a decent flyer for fantasy owners looking to fill lineup holes.
WR – New York Giants
Little-known Jarrel Jernigan has led the Giants in targets, receptions, and receiving yards in each of the last two games, and the third-year player from Troy scored in last week’s victory over Detroit. Jernigan has 13 catches on 20 targets since Victor Cruz went down with a season-ending knee injury and he’s actually the Giants’ receiver that I would trust the most at this point. A matchup against Washington’s poor pass defense in Week 17 makes Jernigan an interesting fantasy option as a WR3 or flex play.