If you are competing for a fantasy championship this week, then you will be contending with the unique challenges that exist when leagues schedule their fantasy Super Bowls during Week 17. Of course, this season has already provided more obstacles in terms of player availability than we are normally forced to navigate. Which means that if your team has survived, then you can simply view any trials and tribulations that might emerge this week as just another hurdle or two to negotiate in your attempt to capture a fantasy championship. This column is here one last time in 2015 to assist in your efforts to determine your starter at the quarterback position. With these Week 17 rankings, followed by analysis of the best and worst matchups. Good luck to everyone this week. And remember to enjoy the experience.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Cam Newton vs. Buccaneers
Carolina’s Week 16 loss in Atlanta assured that the Panthers must win their regular season finale in order to secure home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. That will keep Newton under center in Week 17, which is outstanding news for owners who can now utilize him during their championship game. If that applies to you, then you are fortunate to have survived Newton’s performance against the Falcons. His 142 passing yards were the fewest since Week 4, and he failed to throw for a touchdown after generating a whopping 13 in Weeks 13-15. He did rush for 46 yards and his eighth score of the year. Newton and the Panther offense should be more focused and proficient this week, which will result in much better numbers.
2. Tom Brady at Dolphins
Brady was relegated to working with Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin as his primary wide receivers in Week 16, and did not produce a touchdown until less than two minutes remained in regulation. While that continued his streak of generating a touchdown in every game this season, it was just the second time that he has failed to produce at least two. However, the good news for owners is that he is likely to perform in Week 17, since the Patriots need a win to secure home field advantage. There is nothing about Miami’s secondary, or their recent level of effort, that would suggest that he will have difficultly accumulating excellent numbers against the underachieving and poorly coached Dolphins.
3. Drew Brees at Falcons
His status for the Week 16 matchup with Jacksonville was uncertain due to his foot issue, which forced owners to strongly consider alternatives for their lineups. Ultimately, he lined up against Jacksonville, and systematically shredded the Jaguars for 412 yards and three touchdowns. That provided a sizable reward for those who chose to use him. Brees has now assembled 23 touchdowns in his last eight games, and 11 in his last four contests. He burned the Falcons for 312 yards in Week 6, and will be highly productive against the Saints’ NFC South rival this week.
4. Ben Roethlisberger at Browns
Roethlisberger owners fell victim to one of the most dreaded scenarios that can occur during the fantasy postseason, as the quarterback that they have relied upon throughout the year inexplicably delivered a nightmarish performance in Week 16. Roethlisberger only managed 215 yards, which was far below his 337 YPG average. Worse, he did not produce a touchdown, and tossed two interceptions. It was a complete disaster for owners who had been anticipating high quality production against a burnable Baltimore pass defense. If you are among them, and have still survived his horrid outing, he could still come through for you this week. He roasted the Browns for 379 yards and three touchdowns in Week 10, and is fully capable of delivering similar numbers.
5. Eli Manning vs. Eagles
The return of Odell Beckham Jr. after a one week absence, coincides with Manning's exceptional matchup, to provide an opportunity for him to assemble high quality numbers this week. Manning only managed 235 yards and one touchdown during his Beckham-less Week 15, and also threw three costly interceptions. All of which underscores how anemic Manning's weaponry is beyond his primary target. Manning did accumulate 21 touchdowns in his previous seven games, and should provide a bounce back performance this week. Philadelphia’s pass defense has been shredded repeatedly in recent weeks, and that scenario will continue during this matchup.
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick at Bills
The ongoing connections between Fitzpatrick and primary weapons Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker have kept the 11-year veteran consistently productive, and maintained his viability as a QB1 during these final weeks of the regular season. After locating his receiving tandem for three scores in Week 16, Fitzpatrick has built an 18:5 TD/INT ratio since Week 9, and a 29:12 ratio for the year. 24 of his touchdowns have been garnered by Marshall (13) and Decker (11). Fitzpatrick should collect multiple scores against this week, versus a Buffalo pass defense that has already yielded 28 touchdowns.
7. Carson Palmer vs. Seahawks
After generating 265 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers in Week 16, Palmer heads into his final regular season matchup with the NFL’s fourth highest yardage total (4,542) and is third among all quarterbacks with 34 touchdowns. He has remained dependable throughout the year, which should help counteract concern about this week’s encounter with NFC West rival Seattle. The Seahawks will be formidable, as they have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (17 PPG). However, Palmer gashed them for 363 yards and three touchdowns during their Week 10 encounter in Seattle, and has earned the trust of his owners.
8. Matthew Stafford at Bears
In Week 6, Stafford torched the Bears for a season high 405 yards and four touchdowns. That performance ignited his current 10-game stretch, in which he has generated 23 touchdowns, while reclaiming his standing among the QB1s. He assembled 301 yards and two scores against San Francisco in Week 16, which was the fifth consecutive game in which he has produced multiple touchdowns. He is only 36 yards away from attaining 4,000 yards for the fifth consecutive year, and can reach 30 touchdowns by manufacturing just one this week. He should deliver over 250 yards and multiple scores during his rematch with the Bears on Sunday.
9. Russell Wilson at Cardinals
Wilson’s statistical explosion from Weeks 12-16 has been well-chronicled, as he built a 19:0 TD/INT ratio during that span. But he could not maintain that level of excellence in Week 16, as he registered 289 yards, and two touchdowns versus the Rams. His second score occurred with just 17 seconds remaining, and he tossed an interception for the first time since his Week 10 matchup with Arizona. While Wilson produced 240 yards and one touchdown during that initial encounter with the Cardinals, Seattle’s NFC West rival will be extremely formidable this week. They completely overpowered Rodgers and the Green Bay offense in Week 16, and Wilson owners should not expect him to produce a high quality outing in the desert.
10. Blake Bortles at Texans
Bortles concluded a seven game sequence of very favorable matchups against the Ravens, Titans (twice), Chargers, Colts, Falcons, and Saints, by shredding New Orleans for 368 yards and four touchdowns in Week 16. That continued his streak of producing at least one score in every contest this season, and was the third time in the past five games that he has surpassed 300 yards. He has now amassed 35 touchdowns, which trails only Brady. Unfortunately for owners, the Texans will pose a sizable challenge, and limit him to only moderate numbers this week in Houston.
11. Brian Hoyer vs. Jaguars
Hoyer has been cleared to return, which makes him a viable streamer for any owners who are searching for an alternative in Week 17. He generated multiple touchdowns seven times between Weeks 4-13, before being sidelined with a concussion in Week 14. One of his most productive outings occurred in Week 6, when he produced 293 yards and three touchdowns in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are ranked just 25th against the pass, and have surrendered 28 scores through the air. They have also yielded the fourth highest number of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. He is definitely a feasible choice if you do not feel comfortable with your most recent starter.
12. Aaron Rodgers vs. Vikings
Anyone who drafted Rodgers as the first or second signal caller in their drafts has already endured frequent disappointment this season. However, his Week 16 output created even more anguish, as he delivered an unsightly 151 yards, one touchdown, and three turnovers. He also was perpetually under siege, as the Cardinals sacked him eight times. This week he must contend with a Minnesota defense that has already generated the NFL’s eighth highest number of sacks (38), and ranks 10th versus the pass. He did produce 212 yards and two scores against the Vikings in Week 11, but it will be difficult for him to match those numbers this week.
13. Matt Ryan vs. Saints
14. Brock Osweiler vs. Chargers
15. Derek Carr at Chiefs
16. Sam Bradford at Giants
17. Alex Smith vs. Raiders
18. Jay Cutler vs. Lions
19. Tyrod Taylor vs. Jets
20. Jameis Winston at Panthers
21. Teddy Bridgewater at Packers
22. Kellen Moore vs. Redskins
23. Philip Rivers at Broncos
24. Ryan Mallett at Bengals
25. Ryan Tannehill vs. Patriots
Eli Manning vs. Eagles
Philadelphia is an anemic 26th in scoring defense, and is being gashed for 27 PPG. The Eagles have also yielded the third most fantasy points to opposing signal callers this season (25 PPG), and have surrendered a gargantuan 34 touchdowns through the air. That unsightly total has been exceeded only by New Orleans. In their last eight contests, they have permitted 24 passing touchdowns to enemy quarterbacks, including four by Cousins in Week 16. Fire up Manning against this vulnerable unit if you have him, and he will reward you during this season finale.
Tom Brady at Dolphins
Brady amassed 356 yards and four touchdowns when New England throttled the Dolphins in Week 8. Even with a lineup that has been impacted by injuries, he should achieve similar results. The Patriots will be extremely motivated in this rematch, and will be facing an underachieving divisional foe whose commitment has been questionable for weeks. Miami is currently 27th in both total defense (258 YPG), and scoring defense (25 PPG). The Dolphins have also surrendered 31 touchdowns through the air, which is the league’s fourth highest total. Rivers, Hoyer, and Taylor all passed for three scores when they faced this burnable unit, while Manning and Fitzpatrick joined Brady in collecting four. Given the relative ease in which Miami’s opponents have generated yardage and points, Brady owners have every reason to eagerly anticipate this matchup.
Matt Ryan vs. Saints
While those who drafted him have primarily experienced lingering disappointment throughout the season, Ryan did deliver his first 300-yard performance since Week 9, when he accumulated 306 against Carolina last Sunday. Now, he will have the opportunity to generate multiple touchdowns against the extremely hospitable defense of long-time rival New Orleans. The Saints have surrendered an almost unfathomable 43 touchdowns through the air, which easily leads the NFL, and have unsurprisingly given up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This should be one of Ryan’s most productive games in an otherwise substandard year.
Carson Palmer vs. Seahawks
Seattle’s recent performances against the pass, have resembled the level of proficiency that was they displayed in 2013 and 2014. The Seahawks currently rank second in pass defense, and are allowing 211 YPG. They have only surrendered 13 touchdowns passes all season, which leads the NFL. Only three quarterbacks have generated multiple touchdowns against the Seattle, while just three signal callers have reached 300 yards when facing this unit. However, Palmer happens to be among both of those selective groups, which should supply owners with sufficient confidence to start him.
Blake Bortles at Texans
After lining up against a conga line of vulnerable defensive units since Week 10, Bortles will now encounter a significant roadblock to conclude his season. Houston’s second ranked pass defense has only allowed one signal caller to generate 300 passing yards this season, which ironically was Bortles. However, that occurred in Week 6. But since Week 8, the Texans have yielded just 205 YPG to opposing quarterbacks, and have constructed an 8:7 TD/INT ratio. While Bortles is likely your best option, that comfortable ceiling of recent weeks will lower considerably.
Philip Rivers at Broncos
While Denver's pass defense has not been quite as impenetrable recently, this is hardly the time to overthink, by inserting Rivers into your starting lineup. The Broncos still possess the NFL's top ranked unit versus the pass, are allowing only 199 YPG, and have still surrendered just 17 touchdowns to opposing passers. While eight of those were generated by Brady, Carr and Roethlisberger between Weeks 12-15, those contests were sandwiched around Denver’s initial matchup with Rivers, in which he was held to 202 yards and no touchdowns. The Broncos are also yielding the fewest fantasy points to enemy signal callers (17 PPG), and have the personnel to contain Rivers this week.