The Waiver Wire Wizard Week 17 2020

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano

"And to all a good night" were the final words of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore, the oft-recited poem heard in households during the holidays. In the poem it represented a conclusion, a finale of an action-packed night where Santa both came and went, causing a clatter in the process. In most formats, Fantasy championships were concluded as of last evening, with a dead split of both elation and heartbreak. True, some leagues do still use Week 17 as the finale, but it is universally considered a bad idea to have that be the case, as NFL teams that have already clinched a playoff spot occasionally rest their starters - the very same ones who carried teams this far to begin with.

Personally speaking, I was on both sides of the coin this past weekend - I was both knocked out and clinched a championship on Sunday, so the day was bittersweet. Week 16 was highlighted by a number of ridiculous performances that single-handedly won owners the week, starting on Christmas Day with the Kamara-bomb - 22 rushing attempts for 155 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, coupled with three receptions for 17 yards. Kamara scored nearly 60 points by himself in my home league (we use a full PPR setting) - thankfully his owner was already knocked out.

Myles Gaskin was another present under the running back tree, totaling nearly 170 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the hapless Las Vegas Raiders. I highlighted him in a prior column as someone to consider with upside, but needless to say that I didn't expect that.

Tom Brady completed 22-of-27 attempts for 348 yards and four touchdowns - all in the first HALF. Tampa Bay dismantled the Detroit Lions, who failed to show up whatsoever for this contest. The primary beneficiary of Brady's dominance was Mike Evans, who caught 10 receptions for 181 yards and two scores.

Surely that had to be the best wideout performance of the week though, right? Wrong. Aaron Rodgers and the stat-padding Green Bay Packers threw to Davante Adams over and over and over… leading to 11 receptions for 142 yards and three scores. Adams was incredibly dominant from start to finish, and was the primary reason that I was knocked out of my home league. Tennessee had no answers, though they also never attempted to give Adoree Jackson additional help covering him. Yes, I'm obviously still bitter.

So, big names across the board did phenomenal at the first few positions, which means that Travis Kelce and Darren Waller were the top finishers at tight end, right? Wrong! That title actually went to Minnesota Viking Irv Smith Jr., who caught 6-of-9 targets for 53 yards and two scores in catch-up time against the New Orleans Saints. He was one of the few bright spots for the Purple People Eaters. Jimmy Graham was right behind Smith Jr., in a game where many felt that rookie Cole Kmet would be featured instead.

The reason that I made a point to highlight these performances? More than any championship week that I can recall in recent memory, the 2020 finals really came down to either owning one of the players mentioned above, or not. Additionally, there were a NUMBER of disappointing performances in smash matchups that looked great on paper. Derrick Henry, D'Andre Swift, Le'Veon Bell, Robert Woods, D.K., Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Marvin Jones, Brandon Aiyuk included. And those were just the ones that I recalled off the top of my head! Hopefully, readers of this column are on the right side of the coin.

So, to conclude - fingers crossed that you brought home the bacon. Hopefully I was able to aid you in your quest for a title this year, and my advice steered you in the right direction. If so, shoot me a message on Twitter so I can give you words of congratulations.

For the small minority who are still playing for something in Week 17, there are a number of factors to consider.

First and foremost? If you have Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce - look elsewhere for help. The Kansas City Chiefs have already clinched the AFC West and the only bye in the conference with their 14-1 record. Head coach Andy Reid has historically given key players rest in the final week of the season if the game isn't a true factor for seeding purposes. Again, this is a reason why Week 17 shouldn't factor into championships. Arguably the best QB, TE and top-4 WR won't be on the field.

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand during the second-half of Week 16, and he has already been ruled out for next week. This is unfortunate not only because he was a starting option to many, but the Rams need to win this game to get into the playoffs. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee all take a significant hit with…

::takes glasses off::

John Wolford. Someone named John Wolford under center.

Aaron Jones was banged up during this past week against Tennessee, and in his absence (coupled with that of Jamaal Williams), rookie A.J. Dillon went BONKERS, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns. With Green Bay already clinching a playoff spot, Jones may be in for a reduced workload if the game gets out of hand.

Those who started Le'Veon Bell this past week were already looking for a pivot play after he royally bombed in Week 16 as the supposed "starter" with Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the shelf. Bell was out-touched and out-snapped by Darrel Williams, who I would anticipate leading the backfield once again in carries. Bell has clearly lost a step at this point in his career, and his best days are unquestionably behind him.

Not that anyone was starting Dwayne Haskins in the first place, but after his off-field idiocy and on-field struggles, the Washington Football Team cut their former first-round piece, and have shifted to Taylor Heinicke. There is the possibility that Alex Smith (calf) still isn't ready to go, and one has to wonder what sort of chemistry Terry McLaurin, J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson have with him.

All of the Cleveland Browns wideouts who missed this last week due to "close contact" COVID issues should return, namely Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. Baker Mayfield will receive a notable bump-up on available talent to work with, which should provide to a much bigger statistical day than what he had.

George Kittle returned for the San Francisco 49ers this past week and appeared to my eyes like his old self. He was able to break plenty of tackles after catching the ball, blocked efficiently and drew a ton of defensive coverage. With his return to the field coupled with Brandon Aiyuk projected to miss the final week, there is a chance that he finishes as the top tight end on the week.

James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars was inactive in Week 16 due to injury, and in his absence Dare Ogunbowale was the featured back. As Robinson missed every practice and didn't even get in a limited session, owners who rode him into the playoffs might be able to get his services for the finale.

As it is currently Tuesday, there are many variables that could present themselves prior to kickoff on Sunday. Will COVID issues flareup and bench star players? Will other teams opt to bench their starters as well in the late games after the playoff slots are finalized? Stay tuned!

With those few points made, owners who have something to play for in Week 17 should contact me on Twitter with any and all lineup decisions that they face. As always, you can find me @Roto_Wizard ! Wishing everyone all the best and enjoy your New Years! Fingers crossed that the 2021 season will be free and clear of all things pandemic related, top draft selections actually stay healthy and we see another great rookie class!