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NFL Week 17 fantasy football start ’em, sit ’em

2TAY7YP Houston Texans wide receiver Nico Collins celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

• Start Jared Goff: The Detroit Lions quarterback has not been consistent from a fantasy football perspective, but he should have one of his better games against the Dallas Cowboys.

• Sit Javonte Williams: The Denver Broncos running back has not played well in recent weeks, and his playing time has dipped as a result.

• Start Darren Waller: The New York Giants tight end was more involved in the offense when Tyrod Taylor took over at quarterback, and Taylor is set to start in Week 17. 

Estimated Reading Time: 16 minutes

Deciding who to start or sit in fantasy football can be as easy as looking at the PFF rankings and going with the higher-ranked player. This start ’em, sit ’em column digs a step deeper, looking into why someone you might typically start might not have a good week or why someone overlooked might have a good week. In many cases, the usual starters should star, but we want to explore the borderline players, too.

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Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
  • Goff has put up big numbers recently, as he has thrown for 250-plus yards in his last two games.
  • He has not always come through for fantasy managers this season because he has not thrown enough passes — and, at times, touchdowns — in games the Lions have won. 
  • Goff takes on the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, and the Lions are underdogs. The veteran quarterback has thrown at least 35 passes in each of the Lions' losses this season, and even if the Lions win, the nature of this game should allow him to throw plenty of passes. 
  • The Cowboys have allowed a touchdown on 4.3% of passes against them, a bottom-10 rate among defenses.
  • Goff has graded better against man coverage than zone coverage over the last two seasons, with a 22-2 touchdown to interception ratio against man compared to a 22-16 ratio against zone.
  • The Dallas Cowboys have lined up in man coverage at the second-highest rate in the league. 
  • Goff is a risky play this week — as he’s been every week — but there are better odds he puts up big numbers this week. He has a ceiling of being a top-five fantasy quarterback.

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams
  • Stafford has scored 110.3 fantasy points over the last five weeks, second-most among quarterbacks over that span. He’s played arguably the best football of his career over the last two weeks and earned 90.0-plus PFF grades in each game.
  • He’s facing a New York Giants defense that has been average at allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks, but that’s partially due to the quarterbacks they’ve faced. The list includes Joshua Dobbs, Sam Howell twice, Zach Wilson, Aidan O’Connell and Mac Jones, all of whom are either backups now or started the season as backups.
  • Over the last two weeks, the Giants have faced Derek Carr and Jalen Hurts, both of whom finished as top-10 fantasy quarterbacks in those weeks.
  • Stafford could be considered a top-five quarterback this week. The only reason he isn’t is that the Giants use man coverage more than anyone, and Stafford has generally played better against zone coverage than man coverage.
  • Stafford still plays well enough against man coverage that he should finish among the top 12 quarterbacks this week.


Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins
  • Tagovailoa was great at the start of the season, logging three top-three finishes in the first six weeks. However, he’s finished as QB20 or worse in four of his last five games.
  • He’s throwing for 220 yards each week, but he provides no rushing value and has been held to one or zero touchdowns in more games than not.
  • He’s produced double-digit rushing yards just once this season in a three-carry, 15-yard performance. He hasn’t run for a touchdown this season.
  • The Dolphins have the third-worst matchup for quarterbacks this week, according to our strength of schedule tool. The Baltimore Ravens have allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
  • Baltimore has also allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (15), which is remarkable, given that they have faced the second-most pass attempts this season (576).
  • The Dolphins will need to throw plenty of passes to keep up with the Ravens, and Tagovailoa should surpass the 200-yard mark again, but that won’t be enough for him to be a fantasy starter unless he can score multiple touchdowns.
Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers
  • Love caught fire during the middle of the season, earning four 74.0-plus grades during a five-game stretch. He’s cooled off some over the last three weeks, having earned PFF passing grades between 65.0 and 73.0.
  • He’s been able to remain a fantasy starter more often than not, thanks to a high touchdown rate. But it will be harder for him this week, partly due to injuries and partly due to their opponent.
  • Christian Watson, Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks have all been dealing with injuries that forced them to miss some (if not all) of last week's game.
  • The Packers play a Minnesota Vikings defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks over the last four weeks.
  • Love has graded better against man coverage than zone coverage this season, with a 77.0 grade against man compared to 71.9 against zone. Nine of his 11 interceptions have occurred against zone defenses this season. 
  • The Vikings run zone defense at the eighth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Love finished as the QB19 the last time he took on Minnesota, one of his worst performances of the season.
  • Love has a relatively high floor, but the chances are that we will see a repeat of his last game against the Vikings. 



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