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Fantasy Football Start’ Em, Sit ‘Em For NFL Week 17

Last Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Welcome to Week 17 Start/Sit for the 2023 NFL fantasy football season. I will be publishing this article every week throughout the season to help you make your start/sit decisions.

Scroll through my top starts and sits at each position. I do my best to avoid picking elite players for “Start ‘Em” to make it more fun and informative. (And don’t miss my Fire & Ice chart at the bottom of this page.)

Don’t forget to use this and our terrific fantasy football rankings to help you set your lineups this week.

Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks

QB Start ‘Em

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers (at WAS)

It was a disastrous performance from Purdy against a very tough Ravens defense last week. The good news is that he should bounce back in a massive way in a much easier matchup this Sunday.


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The Commanders have allowed the most fantasy points and passing touchdowns among all teams to quarterbacks this season. If you made it through your matchup alive last week with Purdy, plug him back in with confidence this week. If you were eliminated in your league, play him in DFS.

Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NO)

Mayfield has scored 20 or more fantasy points in each of the last three weeks, while putting up nine touchdowns and zero interceptions during that span. The Saints’ defense has struggled on the road as of late — allowing 27 points per game and 403 total yards per game to opponents over their last four road games.

The Saints allowed Matthew Stafford to score 21 fantasy points against them in Week 16; Mayfield should find similar success in Week 17.

QB Sit ‘Em

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins (at BAL)

After a fire start to the season, Tagovailoa has been extremely disappointing over the second half of the year. Since Week 9, Tagovailoa is averaging a measly 13.5 fantasy points per game and has finished as the QB20 or worse in four of the last five weeks.

The Ravens’ defense is no joke — they are allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season and just stifled Brock Purdy and the 49ers’ beastly offense last week.

Joe Flacco, Cleveland Browns (vs NYJ)

Flacco has been a very solid fantasy producer, as he has put up multiple touchdowns in each of his four starts in 2023. However, he has also been a turnover machine, and he offers no upside as a rusher to provide a safety net for fantasy points.

Plus, he gets the worst possible matchup in Week 17 — the Jets have allowed a league-low 12.2 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Since Week 7, the Jets have allowed just one QB to score more than 13 fantasy points against them (Josh Allen).

Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Running Backs

RB Start ‘Em

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers (at SEA)

It is a wild time to be alive when you can honestly say that Mason Rudolph offers the Steelers offense hope. Last week, Harris put up 78 rushing yards and a touchdown on a season-high 19 carries.

If he gets a similar volume this Sunday, he should have no issue providing his fantasy managers with a solid performance. The Seahawks have given up the third most fantasy points per game to the running back position since Week 8 while allowing nearly 158 rushing yards per game during that span.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs (vs CIN)

Edwards-Helaire is seeing more and more work as a receiver, recording over 40 receiving yards in back-to-back games, and now he should see more carries on the ground in Week 17. Isiah Pacheco is in concussion protocol, and Jerick McKinnon is on IR, which leaves Edwards-Helaire as the lone man left in the Chiefs’ backfield.

This is a great matchup for any RB that is going to see high volume on the ground, as the Bengals are allowing the fifth most yards per carry to running backs in 2023.

RB Sit ‘Em

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys (vs DET)

Pollard has been one of the biggest busts in the 2023 fantasy season – he has had few big performances and has absolutely stunk it up in the fantasy playoffs. Unfortunately, things likely won’t get better for him in this week’s matchup.

As shocking as it may seem, the Lions have actually been the toughest defense against running backs this season, allowing the fewest points per game to the position among all teams in 2023.

Jerome Ford, Cleveland Browns (vs NYJ)

The Jets are a favorable matchup for fantasy running backs; however, that still doesn’t make me interested in starting Ford on Thursday night. Ford is splitting snaps with Kareem Hunt, while losing the majority of goal-line snaps to him.

Ford was even fortunate enough to score a touchdown last week and still didn’t hit double-digit fantasy points. His efficiency has been absolutely atrocious, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry over the last four weeks. His floor and ceiling are way too low to risk starting him in your fantasy championship.

Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Wide Receivers

WR Start ‘Em

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs NO)

After being a ghost for the majority of the season, the Buccaneers are finally getting Godwin more involved in the game plan. After a season-low 3 targets, and 0 receptions in Week 13, the Buccaneers vowed to get Godwin more targets moving forward, and that is exactly what has happened — Godwin has 10+ targets in each of the last three weeks.

The Saints have consistently limited Mike Evans, holding him to fewer than 70 receiving yards in each of their last nine matchups. The Saints’ focus on Evans forced Baker Mayfield to shift to Godwin in their Week 4 matchup — Godwin led the Buccaneers with 11 targets, 8 receptions and 114 receiving yards in that game.

Rashid Shaheed, New Orleans Saints (at TB)

Per Next Gen Stats, Shaheed has the third most deep receiving yards (20+ air yards) among all players in the NFL in 2023, behind only Tyreek Hill and Amari Cooper. Not only have the Buccaneers allowed a league-high 264 passing yards per game in 2023, but they have been very suspect covering deep passes — they have allowed the seventh most receiving yards and second most receiving TDs on deep targets this season.

Shaheed has a great chance to have a few long receptions (and hopefully and touchdown) in this matchup.

WR Sit ‘Em

Drake London, Atlanta Falcons (at CHI)

London has scored fewer than seven fantasy points in three of the last four weeks. To make matters worse, the Falcons will be on the road this week, where their offense legit forgets how to play football.

London is averaging 7 fantasy points & 34 receiving yards per game on the road in 2023 compared to 15 points and 82 receiving yards per game at home. Plus, this Bears defense has really stepped up as of late. There is no part of me that could trust London in my starting lineups in my fantasy football championship game.

Garrett Wilson, New York Jets (at CLE)

Wilson saw 15 targets from Trevor Siemian last week against the Commanders — but that somehow turned into just 76 receiving yards against the softest secondary in the NFL. Now, he has to face one of the toughest secondaries in the league.

There is no defense that is more dominant playing at home than the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have allowed just 16.6 fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position at home, while every other team is allowing over 21 points per game at home to WRs in 2023. That is an insane gap.

Week 17 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Tight Ends

TE Start ‘Em

Hunter Henry, New England Patriots (at BUF)

Henry is back at practice after missing Week 16 with a knee injury. If he plays this week, he should be in your starting lineup. Henry has shown a strong connection with Bailey Zappe, scoring 19 fantasy points in back-to-back games in Weeks 14 and 15.

The Bills have allowed double digit fantasy points to a TE in each of the last three weeks (Travis Kelce, Gerald Everett and Jake Ferguson).

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys (vs DET)

It has been an up-and-down season for Ferguson, but he has the potential to put up a huge fantasy performance in Week 17. The Cowboys are coming back home, where their offense averages an absurd 40 points per game.

Ferguson has averaged 12.6 fantasy points per game at home compared to just 8.5 on the road in 2023. The Lions are a tough run defense but can be beat through the air – I expect Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and Ferguson to all have huge numbers on Saturday night.

TE Sit ‘Em

Dalton Kincaid, Buffalo Bills (vs NE)

Kincaid has completely disappeared — he has 4 targets, 1 reception, 7 receiving yards over the last two weeks combined. On the other hand, the Patriots have been one of the stingiest defenses against tight ends, allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to the position this season.

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (at TB)

Hill has scored 1.7 total fantasy points over the last two weeks. He isn’t being utilized as a rusher or receiver and has played on fewer than 20% of the Saints’ offense snaps over their last two games. Could Hill sneak into the end zone and steal some fantasy points? Sure. But he has far too low of a floor to trust him in your starting lineups during fantasy championship week.

Fire & Ice Fantasy Football Plays

Here, I categorize every relevant fantasy player into five different buckets: (1) fire starts (best starts of the week); (2) thumbs up (good starts); (3) Risky players with upside (sleepers); (4) Ice starts (predicting bad performance from good player); (5) Stop (must sits).

Note: If a player/defense is not listed, I am not considering starting them in Week 17.

Fire 🔥

  • QB: Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, Brock Purdy, Josh Allen
  • RB: Christian McCaffrey, Kyren Williams, Rachaad White, Jahmyr Ribbs, James Cook, D’Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor
  • WR: Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill, Chris Olave, Brandon Aiyuk, AJ Brown
  • TE: Travis Kelce, George Kittle, Evan Engram, David Njoku, Jake Ferguson, Trey McBride
  • DEF: Browns, 49ers, Jets, Chiefs, Bears

Thumbs Up 👍

  • QB: Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes
  • RB: Raheem Mostert, Bijan Robinson, Alvin Kamara, Ken Walker, Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley, Aaron Jones, Ty Chandler, David Montgomery, Breece Hall, Ezekiel Elliott, Najee Harris, Josh Jacobs/Zamir White, James Conner, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (if Pacheco is OUT)
  • WR: Puka Nacua, Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf, Rashee Rice, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, DeVonta Smith, Amari Cooper (if he plays), Davante Adams, Michael Pittman Jr., DJ Moore, Tee Higgins, Nico Collins
  • TE: Sam LaPorta, Isaiah Likely, Hunter Henry, Dalton Schultz, Cole Kmet, Tucker Kraft
  • DEF: Ravens, Bills, Eagles, Cowboys, Broncos, Colts

Upside 📈

  • QB: Derek Carr, C.J. Stroud, Kyler Murray, Jordan Love
  • RB: Travis Etienne, Derrick Henry, Devin Singletary, Austin Ekeler, De’Von Achane, Chuba Hubbard, Gus Edwards, Kareem Hunt
  • WR: Stefon Diggs, George Pickens, Courtland Sutton, Noah Brown, Jayden Reed, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Rashid Shaheed, Zay Flowers, Tyler Lockett, Brandin Cooks, KJ Osborn, Terry McLaurin, Adam Thielen
  • TE: Dallas Goedert, Gerald Everett, Darren Waller, Kyle Pitts, Juwan Johnson
  • DEF: Rams, Jaguars, Texans, Steelers, Raiders

Ice 🥶

  • QB: Tua Tagovailoa, Joe Flacco, Jake Browning, Trevor Lawrence (if he plays)
  • RB: Tony Pollard, Jerome Ford, Javonte Williams, Jaylen Warren, Khalil Herbert
  • WR: Calvin Ridley, Garrett Wilson, DeAndre Hopkins, Joshua Palmer, Gabe Davis, Diontae Johnson, Jordan Addison (if he plays)
  • TE: Dalton Kincaid
  • DEF: Saints, Dolphins

Stop 🚫

  • QB: Gardner Minshew, Geno Smith, Nick Mullens, Taylor Heinicke
  • RB: Antonio Gibson, AJ Dillon
  • WR: Drake London, Josh Downs,
  • TE: Taysom Hill, Pat Freiermuth
  • DEF: Bengals, Lions

How to Make Start’Em, Sit’ Em Decisions For NFL Week 17

Use Matchup Stats

Check the team defensive stats of a player’s opponent. For example, if deciding between quarterbacks, check how many passing yards and passing touchdowns each opponent allows per game.

Check Injury Reports

Is one opponent dealing with many injuries, particularly to a position group?

For example, in 2022, the Eagles led the NFL with 70 sacks. If the Eagles faced an offensive line with multiple injuries, that could be a bad recipe for the opposing quarterback.

It’s also possible that an offense is beset with injuries, which can lead to more opportunities presented to another player.

For example, San Francisco RB Elijah Mitchell was injured from Weeks 2 to 8 and again from Weeks 13 to 17. Jeff Wilson Jr. was the primary beneficiary over the first span, while Christian McCaffrey took over after Week 7.

Check the Snap Counts

After every week, the NFL releases how many snaps (or plays) each player participated in. Sometimes, you notice a backup getting more and more playing time over time.

Watch the Games

Build up your eye for the game by simply watching with an attention to detail. Highlights don’t tell the full story.

Good players pop off the screen. They give the extra effort; they turn a 5-yard gain into a 10-yard gain; they make a defender miss; they make that spectacular throw, catch, run, tackle, etc.

Learn More About the Xs and Os

Who is on the field in a 12 personnel? What is Cover 0? What is the 3 technique? What is a route tree? What is outside leverage? If you don’t know the answer to these questions—it’s okay—but there may be some blind spots in your football knowledge.

Embrace these challenges and branch out by learning how the pros play the game.

Author

Michelle Magdziuk

Michelle is an editorial researcher for NFL Network and fantasy writer on http://NFL.com. She began her fantasy football career by creating the "BallBlast" brand and continues to co-host the BallBlast Fantasy Football Podcast with her wife, Kate. Michelle also co-hosts the daily fantasy football podcast on the LockedOn Podcast Network (“LockedOn Fantasy Football”).

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