Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet: All you need to know to win in Week 17

  • Fantasy football, baseball and college basketball contributor.
  • Author of book, “Yes, It’s Hot in Here.”

So much changes from week to week around the NFL, and we’re here to make sure you’re on top of it all heading into Week 17 of the 2022 season.

The weekly fantasy football cheat sheet provides a rundown of the best tips from all the fantasy football content ESPN has posted over the past seven days. You’ll find answers to the biggest start/sit questions of the week and other pertinent matchup advice from our team, including Field Yates, Mike Clay, Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Seth Walder, Kyle Soppe, Eric Moody, Liz Loza, Daniel Dopp and ESPN Insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, plus all of NFL Nation. It’s all the best advice in one handy article.

Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 17 in the NFL:

Who will be in the huddle?

Whether it is due to injury or simply the quirks of the NFL schedule that make some Week 17 games almost irrelevant to certain teams’ chances of making the postseason, there are a lot of question marks as to who might be starting at quarterback this weekend. Names such as Jalen Hurts, Trevor Lawrence, Aaron Rodgers all have some uncertainty attached to them. Who do our experts recommend leaning on for this all-important week of fantasy football? Read on!

  • The Dolphins will turn to Teddy Bridgewater with Tua Tagovailoa unable to play in Week 17, relying on a steady veteran who has previously filled in earlier this season. Bridgewater threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings in a game in which he came off the bench. The Dolphins offense is exceedingly explosive, as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the only teammates in the NFL who each have at least 20 catches of 20-plus yards. This offense should still be able to function with Bridgewater — a respected and experienced veteran — and I have no concerns about starting Hill or Waddle in a championship matchup. — Yates

  • Jared Goff has been one of 2022’s quintessential matchups quarterbacks, averaging 20.0 fantasy points in his four games against top-eight, schedule-adjusted positional matchups, compared with 11.2 in his four games against those that graded bottom-eight (those accounting for seasonal totals rather than the past five weeks alone). While Goff scored a so-so 14.84 fantasy points in these teams’ last meeting, in Week 10, the Bears defense is a considerably softer matchup now than it was back then, with safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Jaylon Johnson on injured reserve and the team leaning heavily upon rookies in the starting lineup. Quarterbacks have averaged 22.8 fantasy points against the Bears in their five games since that meeting, second-most in the league. — Cockcroft

  • Add Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew. Coming off the bench to throw for 355 yards and two touchdowns last week versus Dallas was commendable. The Saints are on deck and rank second in pass defense (190.4 pass yards allowed per game), but the Eagles’ versatile attack is QB-friendly regardless of the opponent. — Fowler

  • When combined with the amount of traffic I assume will be on Saquon Barkley this week, Daniel Jones provides a solid tournament pivot at a bargain-basement price for the combined stack. Jones has logged a completion of 30-plus yards and a double-digit-yard run in three of his past four games. The matchup against the Colts is extremely solid for quarterbacks as they allow the second-highest completion percentage in the league and the 10th-highest passing TD rate on red zone passes. — Al Zeidenfeld

  • We all love Chargers star Justin Herbert, but it seems relevant that he has totaled 14.22 PPR points over his past two games. In fact, he has just one 20-point performance since Week 4. Don’t simply close your eyes and play your early-round pick if there are better options. … You bet new Commanders starter Carson Wentz is on the hot seat for future employment these final few weeks. The Commanders might sneak into the playoffs anyway, but I don’t know how a fantasy manager could rely on Wentz. — Karabell

  • Geno Smith has managed just one TD pass in each of his past two starts, and the Week 17 matchup versus the Jets doesn’t point to a bounce-back game. That New York defense allows just 195.5 passing yards a game. And we see it in fantasy scoring too, with the Jets surrendering 14.4 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Robert Saleh’s unit is very defined from a coverage perspective, and that pass rush can get home. I dropped Smith to my QB16 this week. — Bowen

Looking for the latest injury news leading up to kickoff? Check out all of the Week 17 inactives here.

Which backs should you back?

It’s not just the players taking the snaps who can impact your chances at winning your league’s fantasy crown in Week 17. Unless you’re in a league with very bizarre lineup construction, running backs are also going to be key to your team’s success. Our NFL Nation team takes a look at some of the options you may be considering using this weekend for those fantasy managers not lucky enough to have an Austin Ekeler or Christian McCaffrey to rely upon for their all-but-guaranteed RB points.

  • Can James Cook (108 yards and a touchdown against the Bears) be a league-winner this Monday night in Cincinnati? He certainly can be, but relying on a Bills running back remains a dicey proposition, even with the team going to the ground game more, especially against a better run defense in the Bengals (seventh-fewest rushing yards per game allowed). The Bills would like to keep their offense balanced, and they have shown how much that can do for the unit. Cook could certainly be worth the gamble after his recent success. Against the Bears, the Bills ran for 254 yards, their most in any game in exactly six years. Guaranteeing that same amount of production in this type of game is unrealistic, but Cook has seen an uptick in production in the past few games. Cook will be involved, but the remaining gamble is to what extent for an offense that is running the ball more but goes through Josh Allen. — Alaina Getzenberg

  • The Panthers ran all over a Lions defense that had been elite for the previous two months. Is D’Onta Foreman (165 yards and a touchdown) a locked-in starter this weekend in Tampa Bay? He’s not a lock to start. It will depend on the opening play selection, as it did against the Lions, whether Foreman or Chuba Hubbard gets the first carry or two. But Foreman should continue to get the bulk of the carries. He has averaged 19.6 carries the past six games, including a team-high 21 against the Lions. Hubbard has averaged 9.3. That trend should continue, although if Hubbard gets the hot hand early, he could steal carries from Foreman. — David Newton

  • Cam Akers dismantled the Broncos on Christmas Day (147 total yards and three touchdowns) and has been trending up for a month now. What should fantasy managers expect in an advantageous spot in Week 17 (at LAC) and moving into next season? There’s no reason to bet against Akers, who had six rushing touchdowns in December, which was the most in the NFL. Although he was away from the team for almost a month while Los Angeles attempted to find him a fresh start elsewhere, he has impressed in his return. Akers has clearly shown he’s RB1 for the Rams down the stretch, and it seems he’s played himself into a role next season, as well. — Sarah Barshop

  • James Conner has not practiced for two consecutive days, and his status for the Sunday game against the Falcons is unclear. Fantasy managers shouldn’t be concerned right now, but if his illness persists, he may be limited this weekend. Since Kyler Murray is out for the season because of a torn ACL, Conner has had to step up and take on a bigger role in the offense. Conner has had 16-plus touches in six consecutive games, including two with over 24. He has also scored 20 or more fantasy points in four of them. You’re starting Conner if he’s active. Corey Clement and Keaontay Ingram would take over the backfield if he is ruled out Sunday. Ingram is my preferred option in that scenario. — Moody

Quick hits, starts and sits

  • The Vikings have taken over as the defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Congrats to them. The Vikings also rank second in points surrendered to the perimeter and ninth in points allowed to the slot. They’ve allowed the most receptions and yards to the position. Patrick Peterson and Cameron Dantzler Sr. (if healthy) or Duke Shelley will work the perimeter against Christian Watson, Allen Lazard and Romeo Doubs, with ex-Packer Chandon Sullivan matching up with Randall Cobb in the slot. Upgrade Green Bay’s receivers across the board. — Clay

  • Commanders rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson has scored a touchdown in each of his past three games. Trust the talent of Dotson here — even with Washington making a quarterback change. Dotson can get open for Carson Wentz versus the Browns. He’s an upside WR3 play for me. — Bowen

  • Downgrade Ja’Marr Chase. This one is pretty easy to figure out: The various two-high safety coverages the Bills run frequently compared with other teams (Cover 2 man, Cover 2 zone and even the occasional Tampa 2) all make life harder for a deep-threat receiver such as Chase. Chase runs a lot of deep fades and corners, which are relatively ineffective against one or both of those aforementioned Buffalo coverages. He runs a lot of deep outs, too, which are efficient routes no matter what but less so against Cover 2 zone. — Walder

  • For managers in a deeper league or someone looking for a Hail Mary play, I could be talked into Chris Moore and maybe even Parris Campbell. Moore has averaged 7.6 looks per game over the past three games and has a favorable matchup against a Jaguars defense that has allowed the third-most yards to slot receivers. Campbell is a deeper dig, but his speed and big-play ability is something to consider. It’s even more noteworthy when thinking about Nick Foles’ need for a security blanket. — Loza

  • DJ Chark has averaged 12.7 PPR fantasy points and 5.0 targets in his past five games, and his matchup against the Bears is favorable enough to make him a streaming option in larger leagues. — Cockcroft

  • Given the inconsistency of the tight end position in fantasy, I’m really just taking a flier on Taysom Hill given his usage as a runner. Hill has posted three straight games with at least 10 PPR points, logging 19 carries and two rushing scores over that stretch. These are designed runs (power schemes), as the Saints get “plus one” at the point of attack with Hill aligned at quarterback. Take the rushing volume and upside of Hill seeing carries in the red zone (he had four carries inside the 20-yard line last week) against an Eagles defense allowing an average of 4.55 yards per carry over its past four games. — Bowen

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