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NFL Week 17 DFS Primer: Matchups, injury notes and game stacks to target

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) carries the ball during the second half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In this week’s preview of the Week 17 NFL slate, I'm breaking down each game from a DFS perspective.

I hit on every home team’s DFS prospects in PFF’s huge NFL Week 17 Preview, so most of the attention here will be on the road teams. Still, I won’t leave the home teams totally hanging since I'll also call out my favorite DFS plays and game stacks. Stacking has been a tried-and-true approach to winning tournaments — if the right stack hits, then it’s an instant print fest.

Along with pertinent injury notes, I’ll also highlight which teams could be sitting starters while looking past Week 17 — we don't want to be paying premium prices for guys who might play less than a half of football. 


Calvin Ridley ($8,500 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel) has been on absolute fire over his last four games. He has gone over 100 yards in each game, and that’s because Matt Ryan is targeting him like crazy. The Falcons wide receiver has commanded a 31% target share (fifth) and league-leading 54% air yards share the past four weeks, all but ensuring he is going to continue to see high-value targets downfield.

His production has also been extremely sustainable. Ridley leads all WRs in expected fantasy points per game (22.5) over the last month. That average is just 0.4 fantasy points more per game than what Ridley has actually scored, so there’s clearly still room for Ridley to outperform his already high expectations. 

Ridley lit up this Buccaneers’ defense the first time he played them for 35.3 fantasy points, so it’s hard to imagine him not putting up a repeat performance. Ridley also leads the league in end-zone targets (eight) over the past month but has only two touchdowns to show for it. 

Tampa's top cornerback, Carlton Davis, might miss this game due to injury, which would create a WR/CB mismatch in favor of Ridley — he will see plenty of coverage versus Sean Murphy-Bunting on the outside. SMB is by far the team’s lowest-graded cornerback this season (50.1 PFF coverage grade). 

Russell Gage ($5,100 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) might look appealing at his price, but I truly question the upside he can bring operating as the No. 2. Gage has averaged 13.1 fantasy points per game in his last four games but has not exceeded 20 fantasy points since Week 1.

The Buccaneers also might not be the same plus-matchup in the slot for Gage. Tampa Bay has allowed the fewest targets and second-fewest catches to slot WRs over the past four weeks. 

He is a much better player on FanDuel because his salary is much cheaper. 

Hayden Hurst ($3,700 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) has a plus-matchup versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but I wonder if his recent production has been unsustainable. He ranks second among TEs over the past two weeks in fantasy points scored above expectation, creating a strong likelihood that the production comes crashing back down to Earth. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers almost have nothing to play for (they will be the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC regardless of what transpires Sunday), yet Bruce Arians has explicitly stated that they will not be resting any starters.

That quote from Arains completely contradicts something he said about Mike Evans‘ quest for 1,000 receiving yards after Week 16’s win: “I was hoping he’d get it today and we wouldn’t have to play him next week, but next week will take care of itself.”

This has me hesitant to buy into the ancillary Falcons players like Gage and Hurst or to fully game stack this contest because we may not get the shootout environment that the 50.5 projected total would indicate if the Tampa Bay starters don't play a full game.

My only true interest in the Buccaneers is Evans ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel) because the team seems dead-set on getting him his record. He’s 40 yards shy of becoming the first player in NFL history to start their career with seven consecutive 1,000 yard-seasons. 

He is strictly a GPP play because they could just take him out after he gets his 40 yards. 

Stay tuned to how players in this game shake out in terms of ownership projections, as a super-lowed Evans is extremely intriguing. If he plays a full game he could easily flirt with 30-plus fantasy points.

For what it is worth, I agree that Arians should play his starters and try to win this game because it would ensure a date with the winner of the NFC East in the first round of the playoffs. 

I’d bet they’d much rather face a 7-9 or even 6-10 division winner than potentially the L.A. Rams, who already defeated them earlier this season. 

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