Most fantasy leagues wrapped up on Christmas day, but there are of course a few out there that play to Week 17 and some that even find ways to keep going into the playoffs. And of course, there is daily fantasy, which is always a bit precarious in Week 17 as well.
Below, I will take a look at the playoff scenarios to see which teams are in, which are out, which have room for seeding improvement, and so forth and so on. Always remember that unless a team is in a must-win situation, a player with even the slightest injury could be inactive or worse, see limited work.
Let's check out the top guns and go from there.
New England Patriots:
The Patriots are set up pretty well to keep their No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs, but they still need to win their game to do so. The Jets with Bryce Petty at the helm likely won't put up a big fight, but you never know what will happen. The Patriots will play all their healthy starters as usual, but if they happen to get up by 30 at halftime, I'd expect some players to get a rest. But that would mean the Patriots put up 30 points with their best fantasy plays on the field. I'm using Patriots as normal in a good matchup.
The Eagles are locked into the No. 1 seed no matter, so they can rest their starters if they want to. Coach Doug Pederson has been somewhat non-committal as to his plans, but he did say they would "be smart" about Nick Foles. There is a strong chance Foles won't work past halftime, which means other key players would likely see some rest as well. I'm staying away from all Eagles players against the Cowboys.
The Steelers still have a shot to move up to the No. 1 seed, but they'll need the Patriots to lose to the Bryce Petty-ized Jets and the Steelers must beat the winless Browns. Of course, beating the Browns shouldn't be that hard, but the Jets will have big trouble beating the Patriots. Both games are at 1 p.m., so I'm sure we'll see the Steelers start the game with their starters, but some scoreboard watching could push them to sit players late in the game. It's not a bad situation though, as the Steelers will be at home against a weak pass defense and should put up decent numbers, however the situation unfolds.
If the Vikings beat the Bears, they keep the No. 2 seed. If they lose, there is only one scenario that would push them to the No. 3 seed, which is also a 49ers win over the Rams, the Falcons beating the Panthers and the Buccaneers beating the Saints. The odds of that happening are quite slim, but there is that possibility, and the Vikings play an early game, while all the other games they'll be watching if they were to lose, start in the afternoon. That should push the Vikings to go all out to win, so they don't have to worry about it.
The Jaguars have clinched the No. 3 seed and can't fall or advance in the seeding. Coach Doug Marrone could play his guys all out against the Titans, but I doubt they will show them much, as there is a decent chance they could end up playing them in the wild-card round. I will likely stay away from Jacksonville players this week.
Los Angeles Rams:
If the Rams beat the 49ers, they win their division and the No. 3 seed. If they were to lose, they would need the Falcons to beat the Panthers and the Buccaneers to beat the Saints to keep the No. 3 seed, which would be tough. But, with the Eagles losing Carson Wentz, yet still keeping the No. 1 seed, the Rams would probably be better off losing this game and moving down to the No. 4 seed, because if they beat whomever the No. 5 wild-card team is, they would then go to Philadelphia instead of Minnesota. The question is, will an NFL coach lose a game on purpose to get a lower seeding to possibly play a team they won't play unless they win in the first round? I really don't know the answer to that, but if McVay says the Rams will play their starter, I'll tend to believe him.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Kansas City has clinched the No. 4 seed and can't move up or down in the seeding. Coach Andy Reid was non-committal on if he would rest any starters, which is enough for me to shy away in fantasy.
New Orleans Saints:
The Saints are in the playoffs, but they have a slim chance to get the No. 3 seed over the Rams if they beat the Buccaneers, but the more likely scenario would be the No. 4 seed, which would come with a win and a Rams win over the 49ers. But if the Saints lose and the Falcons win, they'll lose the division championship and would have to play on the road in the wild-card round. New Orleans will play all out in a strong matchup in Tampa Bay.
The Ravens could lose and still get the No. 6 seed, but they'd have to rely on the Jaguars to beat the Titans, and who knows if the Jaguars will even play their starters. So, the Ravens are very much in a must-win situation against the Bengals, as a win puts them into the playoffs without a doubt.
If the Panthers lose to the Falcons, they get the No. 5 seed, but if Panthers win, they could get the second, third, fourth or fifth seed. The key game for them to move above the fifth seed will be if Tampa Bay can beat New Orleans, which is going to be tough, but the Ravens will still play normally for the slight chance of moving all the way up to the No. 2 seed, so play Carolina players as usual.
The Titans need to win to get into the playoffs and have a couple of unlikely scenarios that could get them in with a loss, so they will be playing with full effort against a Jacksonville team that will likely be resting some key players.
Los Angeles Chargers:
The Chargers must beat the Raiders to have any chance to make the playoffs, so they will be going full-tilt in a strong matchup. The NFL really does do a good job of changing the times of games in Week 17 to keep teams from knowing their fates before they play their games, so when there are multiple ways for a team to get in, we can feel good about that team not knowing how the other scenarios will play out.
Like the Chargers, the Seahawks must win to have a chance to get into the playoffs. In their case, it's a simple scenario: if the Falcons beat the Panthers, the Seahawks are out, even if they beat the Cardinals. There will be some overlap, as these two games start at the same time, but at least the Panthers/Falcons game should be close enough to not push Seattle to rest anybody based on the outcome. Play your Seattle players as usual.
The Bills have a tough assignment to get into the playoffs, but there is a chance, and that will push them to play all out against the Dolphins in Miami. I won't go through all the scenarios, but I don't see anything happening that would push them to rest guys.
No other team has a shot of making the playoffs, so there will be a few players rested who you don't expect to be rested. It could be based on just a slight injury that someone would usually play through in a meaningful game or possible a star player the team wants to keep safe for next season, even though that rarely happens, because they'll say he has a sore hamstring to cover.
We will get more news as we get closer to Sunday, which should be good enough to keep us informed on any fantasy players that will sit. That news will also help us find any backups who will become useful this week in fantasy, which will likely be a number of players.
But if you are looking to start players from highly motivated teams in good matchups, I really like the Chargers and Saints, with the Steelers and Patriots one tier below. Melvin Gordon looks like he'll be out, and Austin Ekeler will probably only play special teams, so Branden Oliver is likely going to be an extremely valuable DFS play for his price. And with Hunter Henry done, Antonio Gates and Tyrell Williams gain some value. I do wish the Saints were at home, but they've played better on the road this season due to their defense, which has helped even out Drew Brees' highs and lows. I expect a solid game from all of New Orleans' studs, especially if Michael Thomas gets full practices in. The Steelers will likely go to the air against a bad Cleveland pass defense, giving Martavis Bryant, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald a boost with Antonio Brown out again. Finally, the Patriots should be able to get Dion Lewis going in a game they should lead, while Rob Gronkowski appears to be the only shoe-in play in the receiving game of late.
The Titans are in a great situation, as the Jaguars have nothing to play for, but I can't say I feel good about Marcus Mariota's recent play for his offense, but if DeMarco Murray is out, Derrick Henry would be a strong start. The Bills have a good matchup and will be motivated, but they aren't the same team on the road and LeSean McCoy will be my only strong DFS play from Buffalo. I'm really going to need some confirmation that the Rams will be playing their starters all game, but if they give that assurance, the matchup is too good not to give Jared Goff and company a look. The Seahawks are on this list of highly motivated teams, but they have been unbelievably bad of late. They can turn it around at home, but I'm still more wary than usual and I'll find it hard to roster any of them in cash lineups. The Panthers' fantasy players have been too inconsistent for me for the most part. I can see playing Christian McCaffrey with some confidence in PPR formats, but Cam Newton is still very boom or bust. The Vikings could rest some guys, so it's worth keeping an eye on the news, but as long as the reports say they'll all play, I think you have to look at their core offensive starters. I really don't want anything to do with the Ravens playing the Bengals with Vontaze Burfict back.