If your Fantasy league plays into Week 17, that first waiver run of the week might mean even less than it usually does. Not that there aren't interesting potential pick ups for the final week of the season coming out of Sunday's games, because there are. The problem is, as always with Week 17, there are going to be several teams that might sit their starters this week, and we may not find out about that until later in the week.
This is why we always suggest ending your season in Week 16, but hey, I get it; tradition is tradition. Or maybe you just like the challenge. Either way, those of you playing in Week 17 know you need to know the playoff scenarios so you can know who might be resting their starters, so here is every team that will have something to play for:
Fighting for a playoff spot
- AFC: Titans, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns (win division with win over the Steelers), Colts
- NFC: Washington, Cowboys, Giants (all fighting for NFC East), Rams, Bears, Cardinals
All of these teams need a win in Week 17, so you can be pretty sure they'll be playing their starters the whole way through. These are the teams you can definitely rely on.
Fighting for playoff seeding
So, that's 17 teams with something real at stake in Week 17, which is a good start. And, on the NFC side, the No. 1 side is still up for grabs, and that's more important in 2020 with only one first-round bye for each conference. Unfortunately, the Chiefs are the one playoff team with nothing to play for -- they've locked up that lone first-round bye on the AFC side of the bracket -- and they have a history or resting starters. Remember, Patrick Mahomes' first start came in 2017 when the Chiefs rested their starters in Week 17, and Andy Reid did the same thing in 2013. According to the Kansas City Star, Reid faced four situations where he had nothing to play for in Week 17 and rested at least some of his starters each time. So, you can bet on some kind of limitations for Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Le'Veon Bell and the rest against the Chargers.
How much, and whether you'll need to avoid them entirely, remains to be seen, but you need to have a backup plan ready now. Darrell Williams could be a must-start player if he gets to lead the backfield -- he essentially did Sunday, finishing with 11.3 PPR points, and he should be a high priority on waivers heading into Week 17.
Where things get really complicated is with the other 14 teams that truly don't have anything but pride to play for. Don't be surprised if a team like the Patriots gives Jarrett Stidham a start at QB to see what they've got, or if teams like the Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, or Bengals just let injured players Julio Jones, Christian McCaffrey, James Robinson and Joe Mixon just take the week.
We'll know more as the week goes along, and hopefully teams won't leave us up hanging too long on their plans one way or the other. The only thing worse than knowing you'll be without your starter is finding out you'll be without your starter after eight plays.
Before we learn all that, here's an early look at the top waiver targets for Week 17:
Early Waiver Targets
DEN Denver • #25
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Perine has played a significant role now in two of the past three games, and he split touches fairly evenly in the second-half Sunday, both as the Bengals were going back and forth with the Texans and then as they were trying to close them out. At 25, Perine could be an option for the Bengals as Joe Mixon's backup in 2021, and they could opt to continue to give him extended run in Week 17 to see what he can offer.
HOU Houston • #33
Age: 29 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Ogunbowale surprisingly dominated work for the Jaguars on Sunday, playing 38 of 54 snaps and getting 14 of the team's 16 carries. He added three catches on five targets, while Devine Ozigbo had a single target and one carry. It's clear who is the replacement for James Robinson, and it helps that Ogunbowale ran the ball very efficiently against a tough matchup. If Robinson is out for Week 17 against the Colts, Ogunbowale could be in the No. 2 RB discussion.
Ito Smith RB
DAL Dallas • #43
Age: 28 • Experience: 4 yrs.
The Falcons weren't bluffing when they said Smith was their lead back, as he led the team with 46 yards on his 10 carries. Brian Hill and Todd Gurley were still involved, so Smith isn't likely to see 25 touches or anything in Week 17, but if the Falcons opt to rest Gurley, he could be worth starting.
Irv Smith TE
CIN Cincinnati • #81
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
You'd like to see more consistency, but if Smith was consistent, he wouldn't be available on waivers. He had a huge Week 16, catching a season-high six passes in his two-touchdown game. Kyle Rudolph's foot is still causing him problems, and if he can't play in Week 17, Smith could have another big performance against the lowly Lions.
BUF Buffalo • #1
Age: 36 • Experience: 13 yrs.
In two games since Michael Thomas was sidelined by injury, Sanders has caught eight passes for 159 yards and added a 12-yard carry. In six games without Thomas on the season, he is averaging 5.2 receptions for 74.7 yards, giving him 13.6 PPR points per game despite scoring just one touchdown. He's been an efficient option for Drew Brees and could be useful if you are missing anyone for Week 17.