-- Week 17 can most certainly be a headache for fantasy football owners, as the playoff picture creates more uncertainty than usual for many big-name players around the league. You have to pay extra close attention to who is playing, who is resting and who might be on a limited snap count with the playoffs looming right around the corner.
This is the week to place greater value on players on teams that have something to play for, because those are the ones who you can count on to be on the field while players like Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Dak Prescott are being rested in preparation for the playoffs.
For the rest of your roster decisions this week, be sure to take advantage of our Roster Advisor tool to get an edge on your opponents. And for those still alive in the Eliminator Challenge, you can get an edge here, too, with the Survivor Guide.
Our weekly ESPN Insider cheat sheet provides a rundown of the greatest hits from all of our Insider fantasy football content. In this file, you'll find answers to the top questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Mike Clay, Scott Kacsmar and Jim McCormick. It's all the best tips, distilled into one handy file.
Here's what our experts are saying about Week 17:
Rodgers is always one of the top quarterback options but this week is a little different -- facing Detroit on a week when the position is watered down, Rodgers is in a tier of his own. Jim McCormick explains.
"The quarterback position is undoubtedly compromised by players resting and injuries, thus Rodgers stands above the crowd as a premier building block at the position," writes McCormick. "Amid the Packers' five-game winning streak, Rodgers has produced 11 touchdowns while enjoying the second-longest stretch of completions without an interception of his career. Earlier this season, Rodgers produced four touchdowns hosting Detroit at Lambeau Field. The Lions, meanwhile, have yielded the seventh-most points per drive to opponents and claim the lowest pressure rate on opposing passers in the NFL, producing a sack, hit, or hurry on just 19.8 percent of dropbacks. Rodgers has the fourth-highest touchdown rate when afforded a clean pocket. In a game with the second-highest implied total of the slate and with the division crown on the line against a generous defensive opponent, Rodgers is worthy of the premium price tag."
If Johnson's snaps aren't limited in a week where the Cardinals no longer have anything but pride to play for, there are plenty of reasons to expect another monster week out of Arizona's star.
"This scrimmage maven has produced at least 100 total yards in every game this season and is the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 to tally at least 2,000 total yards and 20 touchdowns," McCormick writes. "Fittingly, Johnson's average of 25.8 fantasy points per game in ESPN PPR formats is second only to Tomlinson's 2006 opus out of all backs during the past decade and is seventh-best since 2001 among tailbacks. The Rams have yielded the fifth-most points per drive and the second-highest rate of touchdowns per drive to opponents over the past five weeks. With Le'Veon Bell resting, Johnson is fittingly the chalk play of the week among backs, if not all skill players."
Jones was limited to 60 yards on four receptions in his return last week against Carolina, but things set up much better this week against the Saints. Mike Clay details why the star receiver has a big opportunity to come up big.
"Jones moves around the formation quite a bit, so expect him to see plenty of B.W. Webb, Sterling Moore and Ken Crawley," Clay notes. "Of course, Jones runs 45 percent of his routes wide to the left, so his primary matchup will be against Webb.
"The Saints have allowed the third-most fantasy points to players lined up wide to the left this season. They've also allowed the ninth-most to players lined up wide to the right, which is where Jones will be on 30 percent of his routes. The Falcons will go all-out for a win in an attempt to lock down a first-round bye in the NFC, so expect Jones to be busy in what is a great matchup. Taylor Gabriel can also be upgraded against Crawley and Webb."
Playing the matchups
Nelson has four touchdowns in the past three games and his season totals (91 receptions, 1,191 yards and 14 touchdowns) exceed the loftiest of expectations coming off a missed 2015 season. This week he faces Detroit, which he dominated for 101 yards and two touchdowns earlier this season, and McCormick explains why the Lions will have a hard time keeping the ball away from him.
"Rodgers has a ridiculous passer rating of 148.9 -- a perfect rating is 158.3 -- throwing to Nelson during the past five games," he writes. "Nelson has hauled in 80.9 percent of his targets in this sample and has five touchdowns and 528 yards as a result. The Lions have allowed a 72.9 completion percentage to opposing passers, on pace for the highest allowance in league history."
Matt Forte has been ruled out for the regular-season finale, which creates another big opportunity for Powell to thrive as the lead back for the struggling Jets.
"Powell has emerged nicely in Forte's absence," explains Scott Kacsmar, "and has a juicy matchup against the bottom-ranked Buffalo defense that has allowed three 200-yard rushing performances this season. Powell is also a skilled receiver, and will have Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback this week instead of Bryce Petty."
Benjamin matches up against an opponent that continually gets picked on, and this is the week to take advantage of that. Clay explains.
"I pick on Vernon Hargreaves III seemingly every week, but it's hard not to, considering the fantasy production continues to flow," writes Clay. "Updating last week's totals, Hargreaves has allowed the most targets (115), receptions (78), yardage (1,152) and fantasy points (145) at the cornerback position this season. No other corner has allowed more than 1,000 receiving yards.
" Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks combined to post 10 targets, seven receptions and 147 yards on 26 routes against Hargreaves in Week 16. This week, Kelvin Benjamin will run roughly half his routes against Hargreaves. Benjamin will run the other half of his routes against Brent Grimes and Javien Elliott, who have both performed fairly well. Benjamin is heavily targeted and always a threat for a touchdown, so even though he'll see Hargreaves only half the time, he needs to be upgraded."
Baldwin has touchdowns in back-to-back games, with 18 catches and 206 yards against the Rams and Cardinals, and that sets up well for the regular-season finale against the 49ers.
"The 49ers have had their troubles defensively this season, and defending slot corners has been one of the biggest problem areas," Clay writes. "In fact, they've allowed the second-most fantasy points to players lined up in the slot this season. Jimmie Ward went on injured reserve last week, and Reaser is filling in. Baldwin lines up in the slot on 78 percent of his routes, which means he'll see a lot of Reaser this Sunday. Seattle is vying with Atlanta for the aforementioned second seed in the NFC, so expect their top offensive weapon to be very busy."
Hurns (hamstring) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against Indianapolis, but he indicated Friday that he's still very sore and "very unlikely" to play.
Earlier in the week it was feared that Ware might need to miss Sunday's game against San Diego, but his ribs checked out OK and he was able to practice Wednesday. This bodes well for his chances of being out there when the Chiefs take on the Chargers.
Tate hasn't scored in the last three games, but he has been targeted 30 times and hauled in 20 receptions in that span. Facing a Packers defense that has given up 30 passing touchdowns this season, Tate is worth a long look.
"After a sluggish first six weeks of the season, Tate has consumed a rewarding 25.2 percent stake of Detroit's targets en route to 28 percent of the team's receptions and 30.1 percent of the Lions' receiving yardage since Week 7," McCormick writes. "The Packers rate 29th in pass coverage on Pro Football Focus, thus shares of Tate at such reasonable pricing could pay off."
The Seahawks' running game has been a disaster in recent weeks, but there's a chance that Collins could start in Week 17 against a San Francisco defense that ranks among the worst in the game, writes Tristan H. Cockcroft.
"A shoulder injury threatens Thomas Rawls' Week 17 status, but even if Rawls is able to play, he's coming off a pair of supremely disappointing performances, totaling 47 yards on 31 total touches (that's an awful 1.5-yard-per-touch average)," he explains. "The Seahawks are playing for a first-round playoff bye, but they also might want to get a look at their running back depth as they align their playoff roster, with Collins perhaps serving in a critical role for them. What better time to do it than against a San Francisco 49ers defense that has afforded 4.2 more fantasy points per game to running backs than any other team this year. In fact, the 49ers have afforded a double-digit score to the position in each of their past 14 games."
Another player with a good matchup who might be off the radar of most is Clay, according to Cockcroft, who writes:
"You'd think that three consecutive games of double-digit fantasy points might make Clay an obvious Week 17 pick, but he's still available in more than one-third of ESPN leagues as of publication time. His odds of extending that streak are excellent facing the New York Jets, who have afforded 25 fantasy points to Dwayne Allen (Week 13), 15 to Dion Sims (Week 15) and 14 combined to Martellus Bennett and Matt Lengel (Week 16) in the past four weeks. In addition, for those concerned about the quarterback change from Tyrod Taylor to EJ Manuel, consider this: In Manuel's two starts in 2015, Clay managed a combined 12 receptions for 88 yards on his 18 targets."
Palmer isn't usually a QB1 but with so many other starting quarterbacks out this week, his value rises in a favorable matchup against the Rams, a team that has given up 29 touchdowns through the air this season.
"The middle tiers of the quarterback position have thinned entering Week 17, either due to injury ( Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota) or teams likely resting playoff-bound starters for some portion of their games ( Eli Manning, Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger), leaving Palmer as one of the stronger choices from outside the position's consensus top five," writes Cockcroft. "Though Palmer has had an up-and-down season, plays for a Cardinals team that has leaned on David Johnson all year, and scored a mere 11 fantasy points against these Rams in their last meeting in Week 4, this is a favorable matchup that should propel him into the week's top-10 scoring quarterbacks.
"The Rams, after all, have collapsed defending the pass recently, with four of their past five opponents scoring 20-plus fantasy points. During that five-week span, the Rams have afforded the second-highest completion rate (71.8 percent), fifth-most yards per attempt (7.7) and most touchdowns (14, tied with two other teams)."
Big question of the week
Who will play and who won't?
That's always the hardest part of playing in fantasy leagues that extend through Week 17. Eric Karabell goes over what is known and what is still up in the air regarding the status of some key players.
"We might think we know which non- Pittsburgh Steelers players will get the chance to play a full 60 minutes and aid fantasy owners to their fullest potential, but nobody really knows," he writes. "At least Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is giving us clarity. Yeah, it stinks that Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, among others, have been deemed "done" for the regular season, but at least we can plan accordingly. With several key Cowboys, Giants, Patriots, Raiders -- and perhaps Seahawks -- we don't really know for sure, at least as of Friday morning. Check the news on Sunday morning and go with your gut.
"Hopefully those relying on Tom Brady will get 60 minutes of Tom Brady. While we have relative clarity with several running back situations on also-ran teams like the Jets and Buccaneers, who could let Bilal Powell and Jacquizz Rodgers approach or surpass a combined 50 touches, we await word on the Chargers, Seahawks and the Lions with Riddick. It would be nice if Melvin Gordon can return from his hip and knee woes and ends up topping 1,000 rushing yards, but it would be nicer if we knew for sure he was playing on Sunday morning!"