Sunday 4:25 p.m. update: The Packers, Saints, and Seahawks all won to secure the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 positions in the NFC. The Titans won to clinch the AFC South and the Colts won to claim the last wild card spot, knocking Miami out of the playoff picture.
Sunday 1 p.m. update: The wrap of the early games has finalized a few playoff teams. The Ravens and Browns both won and clinched a playoff berth. The Dolphins lost, which means they now have to wait and see if the Colts win or loss. If Indy wins, Miami is headed home for the offseason. The Bucs beat the Falcons to clinch the No. 5 seed.
Week 17 of the NFL season is always fraught with obstacles for those playing DFS and season-long fantasy football. Some teams will be locked into a playoff position and a win or loss will be meaningless to their next step in the playoffs. Some players won’t be 100 percent and could rest because they have nothing to play for. Some younger players might see more playing time to help evaluate where they are in live action. And some players might be going for bonus incentives tied to a statistic like yardage accumulated.
But, there are teams that very much need to win their Week 17 game for a chance to make the playoffs. We’ll start with those, as teams that must win, will play their starters and go all out.
Must win teams and matchups
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants (1:00 pm)
The winner of this game will make the playoffs if Philadelphia can beat Washington on SNF. The Cowboys have taken a big step offensively of late, while the Giants have taken a big step down defensively. There is fantasy upside in the Cowboys passing game this week.
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1:00 pm)
The Browns still control their playoff future despite losing to the Jets last week. A win against the Steelers would get them in the tournament. The last time these teams met Baker Mayfield and company were dominated by Pittsburgh’s defense. The good news for the Browns is that their defense isn’t quite what it was due to some injuries and Cleveland has played better of late.
The Steelers are set in either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed depending on what the Bills do against the Dolphins — who are in a must-win situation — in Week 17. That means the Steelers have a shot at the No. 2 seed when they play this game against the Browns. Is it enough to go all out?
UPDATE: Opening odds for this game have the Browns favored by 7.5 points. That appears to be factoring in the Steelers not playing their starters for a full game.
UPDATE: Mike Tomlin says that Mason Rudolph will start Week 17 against the Browns, per Bob Pompeani.
Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills (1:00 pm)
The Dolphins have several ways to get into the playoffs, but the one they will focus on is winning this game. If they beat the Bills, they’re in the big dance. The Bills don’t have nearly as much to play for, but they will get the No. 2 seed with a win and the No. 3 seed if they lose. With the Chiefs possessing the one bye this year, the Bills could rest their starters for a part of this game.
These teams haven’t played since Week 2, so we might not be able to glean all that much from that game, but Josh Allen went off for 412 yards and four touchdowns.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 pm)
If the Ravens beat the Bengals, they’re in the playoffs. That shouldn’t be a problem, but we did just see the Steelers lose to Cincinnati two weeks ago. In reality, Lamar Jackson and company should have good fantasy upside in this matchup.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Rams (4:25 pm)
Whoever wins this game is in the playoffs, so they will be going all out. Kyler Murray isn’t 100 percent and going against the best defense in the league. Jared Goff broke his thumb and is likely going to be replaced by John Wolford. Both offenses will have trouble, making this game tough for fantasy.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (4:25 pm)
If the Colts win they have a very good shot at making the playoffs and a slim shot at winning the AFC South. And like the Ravens, they get an easy matchup against the one-win Jaguars. Of course, that one win came against the Colts, but back in Week 1. I expect Indianapolis will roll and Jonathan Taylor to be the main roller.
Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans (4:25 pm)
If the Titans beat the Texans, they win the AFC South and a trip to the playoffs. The last time these two teams met in Week 6 Derrick Henry rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns while catching two passes for 52 more yards. The Titans pulled that game out in overtime 42-36. The Texans aren’t the same team they were then, but fantasy points shouldn’t be hard to come by.
Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers (4:25 pm)
The Packers need to win to keep the No. 1 seed and a bye, while the Bears punch their ticket to the playoffs with a win. These two teams met in Green Bay in Week 12 and there were plenty of fantasy points to go around.
Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles (8:20 pm)
If Washington can pull out a win, they win the NFC East and a playoff berth. These teams played in Week 1 with completely different quarterbacks starting for each team. This time around Washington looks like they’ll get Alex Smith back and rookie Jalen Hurts (fantasy football Komani Code) will continue to start ahead of Carson Wentz.
Clinched playoff spot, but chance for bye
New Orleans Saints vs. Carolina Panthers (4:25 pm)
At worst, the Saints clinch the No. 2 seed with a win, which would guarantee being home in the Divisional Round, but they also still have a shot at the No. 1 seed. That should be enough to get their motivation engines churning. These teams met in Week 7 and the Saints won by a field goal. The Saints looked back on track last week against the Vikings, as Alvin Kamara rushed for six touchdowns and they’ll look to keep that offensive momentum going in their final regular season game.
Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers (4:25 pm)
The Seahawks have a chance to get to the No. 1 seed, but their chance is the least likely of the three teams vying for the spot. Still, with just one bye this season, that chance is still valuable and I would expect the Seahawks to play all out until they have no chance left.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears (4:25 pm)
The Packers currently hold the No. 1 seed and if they win, they get the single NFC bye. Rodgers threw four touchdowns against the Bears earlier in the season, so we should feel good about their chances of putting up fantasy numbers in what they will consider a must-win game.
Clinched playoff spot, but chance to play NFC East winner
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons (1:00 pm)
Tampa Bay needs a win to secure the 5th seed, which would then give them a road game against the winner of the NFC East. That’s enough of a carrot to get that old horse Brady up to a steady gallup.
Brady and company have put together some big offensive numbers over their last two games and that includes a game against the Falcons in Week 15. Brady completed 31-of-45 passes for a season-high 390 yards and two touchdowns while Matt Ryan completed 34-of-39 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Get your fantasy pieces ready to play in this one.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers
The Chiefs have no motivation to play their starters and coach Andy Reid has already said that Chad Henne will see a lot of work.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
Ben Roethlisberger will not play in this matchup. We will likely see some starters play, but predicting who and for how long is tough and I’d rather just fade all Steelers in fantasy.
Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins
With the Steelers not playing Roethlisberger, the Bills have a better shot at the No. 2 seed even if they lose to the Dolphins. We can’t trust Josh Allen and company to play a full game this week.
This looks like it will be one of the best Week 17s for fantasy football we’ve had in a while. Every team in the playoffs other than the Chiefs, Steelers and Bills have something to play for while eliminated teams won’t be that worried about injuries with a whole off-season to heal. There will likely be injured players who could tough through their injuries in more important matchups who end up sitting. But, for the most part, we should see a good helping of starters doing what they do best in Week 17.