The last week of the NFL regular season is upon us. It always seems to go by too fast. When it comes to Week 17 of the NFL season you need to go with your gut more than any other week of the season. Some teams are fighting for a playoff spot or home-field advantage while others already have their bags packed looking forward to the offseason.

So this week’s column will have a different spin to it. I will still project each team’s play distribution along with their rushing and passing projections based on the season-long data and trends, but I will also offer my “gut call” for how I expect each team to perform given their situation going into the final game of the regular season. Week 17 is a time to follow your gut and if you don’t trust your gut then feel free to follow mine.

So let’s get right to the numbers, analysis, and gut calls…

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
New York Jets 66 38 57.6% 247 1.9 28 42.4% 116 0.7 22.7
Buffalo Bills 63 32 50.8% 210 1.6 31 49.2% 137 0.7 20.0

The Jets are playing for their playoff lives, if they win they are in. So, expect the Jets to play all their normal players and execute their typical game plan. I expect the Jets to lean on their passing game in a must-win game as it has been the most consistent and reliable part of their offense all season. This could result in an increase in passing production, especially with multiple touchdown passes.

The Bills are out of the playoffs, but I expect them to put up a good fight in a divisional game where they could bump the Jets out of the playoffs. That said, I don’t expect the Bills to have too much success on the offense. The running game will see a significant decrease in production while the passing game should perform about at their typical level.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets passing game (Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker) (+)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 65 37 56.9% 222 1.3 28 43.1% 119 0.7 19.0
Carolina Panthers 67 33 49.3% 233 2.0 34 50.7% 140 0.9 27.7

The Buccaneers have been eliminated from the playoffs. I still expect the Buccaneers to put in a good effort this week with Jameis Winston finishing up his rookie season in a divisional game. I think the Buccaneers keep this one close which should allow the offense to stay balanced between the run and pass. However, both the running and passing game will be less productive than usual against a good defense.

The Panthers need to win or a Cardinals loss to secure the top seed in the NFC. The Panthers and Cardinals play at the same time so there could be some scoreboard watching. If the Panthers get out to a big lead or the Cardinals are losing there is a threat that the Panthers starters do not play the entire game. However, I think the Panthers will come out flat coming off their first loss of the season last week and will need to play their starters the whole game pull out the victory. Along with injuries to the running game, I expect Cam Newton to need to put on the Superman cape once again to secure the victory for the Panthers.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Cam Newton (passing and rushing) (Greg Olsen) (++)

New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
New England Patriots 68 43 63.2% 317 2.4 25 36.8% 103 0.9 27.6
Miami Dolphins 64 43 67.2% 269 1.6 21 32.8% 90 0.6 18.2

The Patriots need to win or have the Broncos lose to secure the top seed in the AFC. Expect the Patriots to play all their healthy players for the entire game, unless they get out to a huge lead. With so many injuries at wide receiver, look for the offense to focus on short passes to the running backs and, of course, Rob Gronkowski in the first half before shifting to the running game in the second half.

The Dolphins are out of the playoffs. While this is a divisional game, I have a hunch that they will not show up this week. Expect them to be down big and put up some passing numbers in garbage time in the 2nd half. With the garbage time production the passing game will put up their typical output, but look for the running game to have a decrease in production.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Tom Brady and the Patriots passing game (Rob Gronkowski and James White) (+)
  • Patriots running game (They might try to get Steven Jackson rolling in the 2nd half to grind out the clock) (+)
  • Patriots defense (+)

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Baltimore Ravens 66 43 65.2% 255 1.2 23 34.8% 92 0.4 16.9
Cincinnati Bengals 64 33 51.6% 238 1.8 31 48.4% 123 1.0 24.9

The Ravens are out of the playoffs and will to start Ryan Mallett at quarterback again this week. Last week the Raven put in a good effort at home to beat the Steelers. I have a feeling that was their “Super Bowl” and their level of intensity and production will not be the same this week. The Bengals defense is good and the Ravens just don’t have enough healthy talent on offense to keep the game close. Overall the offense will see a decrease in their production. The one place where I can see the Ravens putting up some numbers is with dump-off passes to the running backs, in particular, Javorius Allen.

The Bengals still have a chance for the #2 seed in the AFC with a win and some help, so they will be playing to win. I expect the Bengals to try to grind out a win in this one, but playing it safe with AJ McCarron at quarterback again. The passing game will have some success, but look for the running game to see an increase in production for yardage and their opportunity for multiple rushing touchdowns.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Javorius Allen (receiving) (+)
  • Bengals running game (Split backfield but Jeremy Hill has been seeing more of the workload recently and is more likely to score) (++)

New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
New Orleans Saints 67 43 64.2% 308 1.8 24 35.8% 96 1.1 23.4
Atlanta Falcons 66 39 59.1% 311 2.3 27 40.9% 129 0.9 27.0

The Saints are out of the playoffs. In a game with two divisional teams that are out of the playoffs and both have good offenses and bad defenses this game could be a shootout. However, while I think it will be fairly high scoring, I don’t think it will be crazy. The Saints will be effective both in the air and on the ground, but since I expect the game to remain close, look for the Saints running game to be the biggest benefactor.

The Falcons have been eliminated from the playoffs. As I stated above it should be a good game for offenses, but not a crazy shootout. Both the passing game and running game will be productive for the Falcons with the biggest increase in opportunity going to the passing game while the running game will also see a slight increase in production.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Tim Hightower (++)
  • Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game (Julio Jones) (++)
  • Devonta Freeman (+)

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Jacksonville Jaguars 64 42 65.6% 249 2.0 22 34.4% 89 0.4 20.6
Houston Texans 71 40 56.3% 280 2.4 31 43.7% 120 0.4 24.4

The Jaguars are out of the playoffs. However, I expect them to continue to put in a good effort this week. The passing game for the Jaguars will perform below their typical level of production against a good Texans defense. The running game will also be limited in their productivity in a tough matchup. I would not be shocked if the Jaguars win this game.

The Texans are close to clinching the division and will get in with a win, so expect them to play all of their players including the return of Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Expect the Texans to focus a little more on the passing game this week as they try to get Hoyer back into the swing of things as they prepare for the playoffs. Hoyer will likely be a little rusty early and I expect the Jaguars to keep this game close and possibly be in the lead early on. So, Hoyer and the passing game should be productive with an increase in passing yards and likelihood for at least two touchdown passes. The running game will perform in line with their typical production.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Brian Hoyer and the Texans passing game (DeAndre Hopkins and Nate Washington (++)

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Pittsburgh Steelers 64 39 60.9% 313 2.1 25 39.1% 124 0.9 26.8
Cleveland Browns 65 42 64.6% 275 1.7 23 35.4% 90 0.4 18.3

Following a surprising loss last week the Steeler find themselves outside of the playoff at the moment. They need a win and some help to make the playoffs, so they will be going all out to win this week. I am expecting a huge game from the Steelers passing game this week following last week’s let down. Look for huge passing yardage and passing touchdown production this week. The running game will still perform well, but closer to their typical level of production.

The Browns are out of the playoff and will be starting Austin Davis this week against the Steelers. I expect the Browns to get crushed this week, so the running game will have limited opportunities. The passing game could put up some yardage in garbage time, but not enough to warrant consideration.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers passing game (Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant) (+++)
  • Steelers defense (+)

Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Oakland Raiders 65 42 64.6% 248 1.9 23 35.4% 89 0.4 19.2
Kansas City Chiefs 65 35 53.8% 235 1.3 30 46.2% 139 1.2 24.1

The Raiders are out of the playoffs. However, I expect them to put up a good fight this week in a divisional game against the Chiefs. Any damage the Raiders do will be through the air and I expect them to perform along the line of their typical level of production. The running game will have a hard time moving the ball and will see a decrease in productivity.

The Chiefs have clinched a playoff spot and can still win the division with a victory and a Broncos loss, so they will be have something to play for on Sunday. The Chiefs will likely continue with their typical game plan that has led them to nine straight wins. Look for both the passing game and running game to see a small uptick in production this week.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Alex Smith and the Chiefs passing game (Jeremy Maclin) (+)
  • Chiefs running game (Continue to see split carries between Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, slight edge to West, but probably should just avoid the situation) (+)

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Tennessee Titans 65 41 63.1% 257 1.9 24 36.9% 91 0.4 19.3
Indianapolis Colts 65 40 61.5% 271 1.7 25 38.5% 99 1.0 22.5

The Titans are out of the playoffs and will be starting Zach Mettenberger at quarterback this week. This could be an ugly game which makes it hard to recommend any part of the Titans offense. That said, the Titans passing game could perform okay with a slight increase in production. The running game will produce their typical yardage and low chance for a rushing score.

The Colts need a win and a lot of help to try to sneak into the playoffs. Still an open question who will be the starting quarterback for the Colts this week as it could be any of four different players. Regardless of who starts the Colts will need to lean heavily on the running game which should allow it to have an increase in rushing yardage and likelihood for a rushing score. The passing game will likely struggle no matter who the quarterback is despite a good matchup.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Zach Mettenberger and the Titans passing game (Delanie Walker) (+)
  • Frank Gore (++)

Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Washington Redskins 64 39 60.9% 248 1.4 25 39.1% 92 0.7 19.3
Dallas Cowboys 63 35 55.6% 245 1.4 28 44.4% 140 0.7 20.5

The Redskins have clinched the division and the #4 seed in the NFC. Since they are locked in they will likely rest many of their starters this week. As a result, the entire offense will see a decrease in production both passing and running and should be avoided from a fantasy perspective.

The Cowboys are out of the playoffs and will start Kellen Moore at quarterback again this week. Look for the Cowboys passing game and running game to both see a slight increase in production with the Redskins resting many starters.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Kellen Moore and the Cowboys passing game (Brice Butler) (+)
  • Darren McFadden (+)

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Detroit Lions 64 42 65.6% 279 2.3 22 34.4% 93 0.4 22.1
Chicago Bears 65 35 53.8% 236 1.5 30 46.2% 122 1.1 23.3

The Lions are out of the playoffs. Look for a very basic gameplan from the Lions they play out the final game of the season on the road in Chicago. The Lions should have some success in the air with a slightly increased chance for more than two touchdown passes with their typical yardage. The running game will have their typical limited production.

The Bears are eliminated from the playoffs. I expect the Bears to focus on the running game this week to grind out the regular season. With the increase in rushing attempts, the running game should be productive with an increase in yardage and likelihood for at least one rushing touchdown. The passing game will be limited due to injuries and fewer attempts.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Matthew Stafford and the Lions passing game (+)
  • Bears running game (Both Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford could be in line for 75+ yards and a TD each) (++)

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Philadelphia Eagles 71 43 60.6% 299 1.8 28 39.4% 116 0.9 23.5
New York Giants 69 42 60.9% 296 2.6 27 39.1% 117 0.6 25.5

The Eagles are out of the playoff and fired their head coach, Chip Kelly, this week. I don’t expect the Eagles to show up at all this week. That said, they will likely be down which could lead to some garbage time production for the Eagles passing game. The running game will not be productive with their limited attempts.

The Giants are out of the playoffs. The Giants did not show much fight last week without Odell Beckham Jr., but I expect them to put in more effort than the Eagles this week which should lead to increased opportunities for the Giants offense. Look for the passing game to exploit the Eagles defense, especially in the first half and put up some good numbers. The running game could be productive in the second half as the Giants work with the lead and grind out the clock.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Sam Bradford and the Eagles passing game (Zach Ertz) (+)
  • Eli Manning and the Giants passing game (Odell Beckham Jr.) (++)
  • Rashad Jennings (+)

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
San Diego Chargers 68 44 64.7% 245 1.4 24 35.3% 73 0.4 17.3
Denver Broncos 64 37 57.8% 272 1.4 27 42.2% 127 1.0 22.9

The Chargers are out of the playoffs. I thought the Chargers would throw in the towel on their season last week, but they came out fighting and I expect them to put in a good effort again this week in a divisional game against the Broncos. While the effort will be there, the production will not as I expect the Chargers to struggle to move the ball on the Broncos defense both on the ground and in the air.

The Broncos and clinch a first-round bye with a win so they will be very motivated this week. Look for the Broncos to do the most damage on the ground where they should have success putting up an increase in rushing yardage and likelihood for at least one touchdown run. The passing game will perform in line with their typical production.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Broncos rushing game (Still a split backfield between Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson, I prefer Anderson who has looked like the better running back recently) (++)
  • Denver defense (+)

St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
St. Louis Rams 63 33 52.4% 220 1.0 30 47.6% 133 1.2 20.2
San Francisco 49ers 65 39 60.0% 245 1.2 26 40.0% 105 0.5 16.7

The Rams are out of the playoffs. In a game with a very low Vegas total (37.5) and Todd Gurley looking very questionable to play in, I would downgrade the entire Rams offense even in a good matchup with the 49ers.

The 49ers are out of the playoffs. In a game with a very low Vegas total (37.5) against a solid defense, look for the 49ers offense to struggle to move the ball consistently as both teams are just looking to grind out the last game of the season.

Increase Opportunities:

  • Rams kicker (Greg Zuerlein) and Defense (+)

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Seattle Seahawks 63 33 52.4% 226 1.8 30 47.6% 126 0.4 20.8
Arizona Cardinals 64 35 54.7% 269 1.7 29 45.3% 125 0.9 24.4

The Seahawks have clinched a playoff berth and will be either the #5 or #6 seed in the NFC. Despite not having much to play for, I expect the Seahawks to play their starters the whole game as they try to beat a division rival and a team they may have to face in the playoffs. With a limited running game, the Seahawks will be forced to pass often to keep up with the Cardinals. With an increase in attempts, the Seahawks passing game should perform close to their typical level of production. The running game will see fewer carries than normal and will not be effective.

The Cardinals have clinched a first round bye but can still get the top seed if they win and the Panthers lose. Both teams play at the same time so there could be some scoreboard watching that comes into play. The Cardinals may rest players if they fall way behind or if the Panthers are winning big. While those are possible scenarios the most likely scenario is that the Cardinals play this game to win with their starters playing the whole game. Their overall offensive production will see a slight decrease in production, but I expect them to perform the best in the passing game.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing game (Doug Baldwin) (+)
  • Carson Palmer and the Cardinals passing game (Larry Fitzgerald) (+)

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Projected Plays Pass Pass% Pass Yards Pass TD Run Run% Rush Yards Rush TD Score
Minnesota Vikings 64 34 53.1% 224 1.1 30 46.9% 138 1.0 20.7
Green Bay Packers 65 37 56.9% 250 1.9 28 43.1% 131 0.6 22.6

The Vikings have clinched a playoff berth and can win the NFC North division with a win this week. Look for the Vikings to execute their typical run heavy game plan this week. Look for both the passing game and running game to perform in line with their typical level of production with the possibility that the running game has an increase in productivity if the Vikings get out to an early lead.

The Packers have clinched a playoff berth and can win the NFC North division with a win this week. The Packers will also look to run their typical play distribution this week. Look for the entire Packers offense to see a slight increase in productivity, especially the passing game as they look to put the ball in Aaron Rodgers hands.

Increased Opportunities:

  • Adrian Peterson (always seems to rise to the occasion especially against the Packers) (+)
  • Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game (James Jones) (+)

Hopefully, this gives you some potential fantasy football sleepers and GPP picks for the week or gets you to think about some of your own favorite gut calls based on the data and analysis.

 

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