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The Shadow Knows Week 17 2018
THE SHADOW KNOWS: Week 17
If your fantasy football league holds its championship game in Week 17, then you need to make a New Year's resolution.
Either change the rules, or find a new league.
Simply put, an extra week in your league isn't worth the chaos that a Week 17 title game can wreak on a league. There's a very real chance that come Sunday the No. 7 quarterback in fantasy football(Drew Brees of the Saints), the No. 4 and No. 5 running backs (Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys and Alvin Kamara of the Saints), the No. 4 wide receiver (Mike Thomas) and the No. 5 wideout since Week 11 (Dallas' Amari Cooper) will all be watching the day unfold—there's no reason for the Cowboys or Saints to risk injuries in a meaningless game.
Never mind the teams that could pull players early depending of how both their games and the day's other contests play out. The Chicago Bears. The Los Angeles Chargers. So on and so forth.
Then there's the nicked-up players with nagging injuries who would otherwise play who won't in Week 17 because what's the point? If you think Odell Beckham, Julio Jones or Tyler Boyd are playing this week, I have some sweet oceanfront property in Bisbee you'd love.
But the wonk-factor of a Week 17 title game is a problem for another day. Right now, the business at hand in winning that wonky SOB. So, let's get to it, with a look at some of the biggest WR vs. CB matchups among the guys who will actually see the field.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers (Darius Slay vs. Davante Adams)
Adams is another star receiver who is iffy to play with an injured knee, but with numerous franchise records in sight it sounds like he wants to give it a go. "It stiffened up a lot after the game, so I'm just trying to keep a close eye on it and look out," Adams said, via ESPN. "He landed on top of me and just kind of tweaked it, made it feel a little funny. I see myself being out there. I'm always going to be optimistic. A little sore right now, but we'll play it throughout the week and see how it feels."
To be honest, I'm not sure if Adams is going to play or not—the smart move for the team long-term is to sit him, but interim head coach Joe Philbin might also believe a Week 17 win might help strengthen his case for coaching the Pack full-time (hey, a guy can dream). Adams' health is a much bigger factor than the matchup with Slay and the Lions—Adams torched Detroit for nine receptions, 140 yards and a score back in Week 5.
Panic Level: 8 (It would be a 2 if he was healthy—if he plays you have to start him)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins)
Hopkins was held in check by Ramsey back in Week 7—sort of. His 50 yards was his second-lowest total of the year in that regard, but one of his three catches went for a touchdown and he also had a 31-yard highlight-reel grab. Ramsey admitted to the Florida Times-Union that it's always possible Hopkins will do the latter. “I’m sure he will make a good catch again this coming Sunday,” Ramsey said. “When it’s a good battle and it’s good coverage on a good route, then sometimes you have to make a spectacular catch, and he’s capable of making plenty of them.”
The Jaguars are simply playing out the string on a wildly disappointing season, but there are considerable stakes for the Texans—a win over the Jags will lock the Texans in as the No. 2 seed in the AFC and earn them a week of rest in the playoffs. Given that, if Hopkins exits early it will because Houston's either winning big or getting blown out. The former's more likely, and if that's the case you have to think Hopkins would already have had a big day.
Panic Level: 2 (He's the top fantasy wide receiver of Week 17 west of Pittsburgh)
Chicago Bears Minnesota Vikings (Kyle Fuller/Prince Amukamara vs. Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs)
As Kyle Ratke pointed out for Vikings Wire, Thielen and Diggs are on the verge of seating more than a few franchise records Sunday. "The Vikings have two of the best receivers in the league with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who have a chance to hit some significant milestones in team history," he wrote. "If Diggs has six catches on Sunday against the Bears, he and Thielen will be the first duo in Vikings history with 100 catches in a season. If Diggs finishes with 26 receiving yards, he and Thielen will be the first duo in Vikings history with 1,000 receiving yards since Randy Moss and Cris Carter in 2000. Thielen, meanwhile, has an outside chance of setting the team record for catches in a season. Thielen already has 110 catches on the season. If he can catch 13 against a tough Bears defense, he’ll pass Carter’s mark of 122 in 1994 and 1995."
Thielen isn't going to catch Carter (I think), but other than that the Vikings pass-catchers are going to eat well. The Vikings are fighting to play again in a week—probably for the chance to do this all again in Chicago. The Bears, on the other hand, can only move up to the No. 2 seed if they win and the Rams lose at home to the 49ers. Throw in that a Minnesota loss would probably get Chicago the red-hot Eagles instead of a Vikings team they drubbed at Soldier Field earlier this year, and while no NFL team would ever try to lose (perish the thought), Vikings (who are playing arguably their best football of the season) have a lot more to gain by winning than Chicago has to lose by losing.
Panic Level: 2 (Vikes are at home, desperate, and the Bears aren't a bad WR matchup (14th) anyway)
Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins (Alshon Jeffery vs. Josh Norman)
Since Nick Foles took over at quarterback in Philly, Jeffery's production has exploded—17 receptions for 292 yards and a score over the last three weeks and 50-yard receptions in each of the last two. He told NBC Sports Philadelphia that the reason's simple—Foles throws him the ball. "Nick did a hell of a job just finding me, just finding me, just making plays," Jeffery said). "Whoever’s out there, it doesn’t matter. If it’s Carson (Wentz), Nick, (Zach) Ertz, me, Nelly (Nelson Agholor). We’re just trying to make plays. It doesn’t matter who’s catching it and who’s throwing it. I’m just patient, man. I’m just trying to control what I can control. I tell Nick and Carson all the time just throw it up. I’m going to catch it and no one else is going to catch it."
Over that three-week span, Jeffery ranks 12th among all receivers in PPR fantasy points after being a non-factor most of the season. There isn't a real sample size of Jeffery vs. Norman matchups to draw from with Foles at QB—the Eagles and Redskins had already played twice last year by the time Carson Wentz tore up his knee. But for what it's worth, Jeffery's last three outings against the Redskins have been rather meh. Of course, the Redskins are also 10th in fantasy points allowed to receivers this year. So there's that, too.
Panic Level: 3 (There's a bit of concern, but desperation trumps trepidation)
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (Patrick Peterson vs. Tyler Lockett)
Peterson made the Pro Bowl again this year, but while Pro Football Focus graded 2018 as the best season of Peterson's career, he told the team's website that he respectfully disagrees. "I don’t know how those guys grade people’s play, because I feel that although I’m playing a little bit more off (in coverage), I’m not getting much action,” Peterson said. “I’m not complaining at all but I’m just trying to figure out how this is my better year when I’ve played way better in previous years. But those guys are behind the screen and pushing the pencil, so thank you.”
The Cardinals and Seahawks met all the way back in Week 4, and in that 20-17 win by Seattle both Lockett (5/53/0) and Doug Baldwin (5/41/0) were held in relative check. Lockett had a decent game last week against the Chiefs (4/93/0), but as Doug Baldwin gets healthier it appears Russell Wilson is leaning on him more—Baldwin had an even bigger game (7/126/1) and out-targeted Lockett 12 to seven. With Lockett drawing Peterson in coverage in a game the Seahawks need to keep the No. 5 seed and (probably) avoid the Bears next week, that pendulum may swing that much farther in Baldwin's direction.
Panic Level: 8 (The Lockett Express was fun while it lasted)