It’s all come down to this. Week 17 often brings the championship round in season-long formats. This means unlimited trash-talking and priceless bragging rights on the line in home leagues. It’s been one hell of a ride in 2023; let’s finish it off right with the four matchups below!
The elites outside – Week 17 WR and TE matchups
Detroit Lions vs. Dallas Cowboys
The Lions will continue their push for the NFC’s top seed in week 17 as they travel to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.
Amon-Ra St. Brown comes in third overall in receptions this season at receiver with 106, trailing only Keenan Allen and his counterpart in this game, CeeDee Lamb (PFF). It’s well documented that St. Brown plays from any spot on the field, setting up snaps against Dallas corners DaRon Bland, Stephon Gilmore, and Jourdan Lewis.
Buy Amon-Ra St. Brown; with the elite Lions receiver taking 55.8% of his snaps from the slot in 2023 (PFF), he will spend the majority of his day against Jourdan Lewis. Lewis maintains a reception rate of 70.0% on targets he defends, setting up St. Brown for a field day with respect to his reception total. St. Brown comes in as the second most efficient receiver this season, converting targets to receptions on 75.2% of his looks from Jared Goff this season (PFF). On the outside, St. Brown will be more challenged by Bland and Gilmore, but his aDoT of 7.5 will bring them up from their usual depth to make plays on St. Brown in the open field (PFF). St. Brown is third in YAC this season at receiver, with 560 total yards in the category in 2023 (PFF). This syndicate of Dallas corners has allowed 10 touchdowns on the year, if Amon-Ra can find the paint he should be adding to significant production between the 20s (PFF).
Sam LaPorta will mix in a few snaps from the slot and on the outside between plays from his most frequent alignment, inline. This is likely to draw Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse, along with linebackers Damone Clark and Markquese Bell. Buy Sam LaPorta; Jayron Kearse and Damone Clark both allow receptions on more than 80.0% of the targets they defend (PFF) in addition to conceding passer ratings of 102.5 and 103.1, respectively (PFF). Markquese Bell will present the best challenge for the rookie tight end in coverage, but with his aDoT coming in at just 2.0, LaPorta will have some chances to test him out of his comfort zone, as he himself carries an aDoT of 7.5 (PFF).
CeeDee Lamb has had a first-team all-pro type season, the majority of his snaps coming from the slot at a rate of 58.8% (PFF). This will bring Lions rookie corner Brian Branch over to him more often than not on Sunday, with a mix of looks from outside corners Cameron Sutton and Jerry Jacobs as well.
Buy CeeDee Lamb: Brian Branch comes into this game inside the top 10 at corner in touchdowns allowed on the season with five and carries an aDoT of 7.2 in comparison to 10.8 for Lamb (PFF). Lamb will have opportunities to beat Branch down the field and will remain one of Dak Prescott’s top targets inside the 20. On the outside against Sutton and Jacobs Lamb should be winning as well. He outgrades both Dallas corners in receiving vs. coverage. Sutton and Jacobs are also inside the top 15 in touchdowns allowed at corner in 2023, with their teammate Branch conceding four and seven scores, respectively (PFF).
Jake Ferguson continues his near-even split between the inline and the slot in his second season in Dallas. Most of his game will be spent matched up with linebackers Alex Anzalone, Derrick Barnes, and Jack Campbell of the Lions. Buy Jake Ferguson; Jack Campbell allows receptions on 82.9% of the targets he defends and a passer rating of 125.8 (PFF). Pair this with 88.9% and 114.5 from Barnes and 73.8 and 91.4 from Anzalone, and you find a matchup that is fertile for fantasy output on nearly every snap Ferguson is on the field (PFF).
Matchup Winners: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, CeeDee Lamb, Jake Ferguson
Matchup Losers: Those who love defense. Total 53.5 (ESPN BET)
Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens
After making a statement on Christmas Day against the 49ers, the Ravens look to defend their NFL-best 12-3 record against the explosive offense of the Dolphins in week 17.
Tyreek Hill finds himself in his longest touchdown drought of the season, having not found the end zone for the past two weeks. With the Ravens biggest coverage threat literally and figuratively, safety Kyle Hamilton, working in the slot expect Tyreek to spend most of his game on the outside against corners Brandon Stephens and Marlon Humphrey.
Buy Tyreek Hill; this Baltimore defense is excellent at nearly every level, but with Hill’s explosiveness and the statistical log he has composed in 2023, it’s difficult to question his ability to produce. Tyreek’s aDoT of 11.2 puts him right in between that of Stephens and Humphrey, but his contested catch rate of 40.0% should allow him to compete for catches even if these corners are able to stick with him (PFF). Brandon Stephens has allowed 223 YAC in 2023, which is outside the top 50 among all corners on the year (PFF). This is not a good match with the 633 YAC from Hill this season, unquestionably the most in the NFL (PFF). To top it off, Tua Tagovailoa maintains a passer rating of 131.8 while targeting Hill on the year (PFF).
Jaylen Waddle works on the outside at an even higher clip than his teammate Tyreek Hill. He comes in taking 74.3% of his snaps out wide, surely setting up most of his plays across from Stehpens and Humphrey (PFF). Fade Jaylen Waddle; his aDoT of 10.4 (PFF) will not stretch the coverage of either Brandon Stephens or Marlon Humphrey. Waddle has logged 72 receptions on the year in comparison to his teammate Hill’s 106 and, therefore, will be forced to be very efficient against two corners who do not allow receptions on more than 63% of the targets they defend (PFF). Waddle also has just one touchdown in his last seven games (PFF).
Zay Flowers is likely to match up with Dolphins corners Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard on the outside this week. Fade Flowers; his aDoT 8.5 (PFF) will make him targeted in front of both Ramsey and Howard making the Ravens receiver production more dependent on YAC. Xavien Howard has allowed 195 YAC on 472 coverage snaps this season, and Ramsey just 40 YAC on 303 coverage snaps (PFF). It is likely these plays will be harder to come by this week.
Isaiah Likely has emerged as a viable fantasy tight end in the past three weeks, scoring two touchdowns and averaging just under 70 receiving yards in those games (PFF). He has taken the majority of his snaps from the slot at a rate of 55.6% (PFF) and will move to the inline occasionally. Likely can be expected to match up with Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker and safety DeShon Elliot. Buy Likely to extend his hot streak; each of these Miami defenders have weaknesses the second-year tight end should be able to expose. Against Baker, Likely should be able to accumulate catches with him, allowing them on nearly 88% of the targets he defends (PFF). Elliott has some of the higher splits defending the box and the slot in coverage for Miami, but while doing so, he has allowed a passer rating of 124.9 and two touchdowns (PFF).
Matchup Winners: Tyreek Hill, Isaiah Likely
Matchup Losers: Jaylen Waddle, Zay Flowers
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The NFC South title is still on the table, but the Bucs look to close the window a little further this week in a divisional matchup with their rivals from New Orleans.
Chris Olave leads the Saints in targets by a landslide at 129 on the year (PFF). He has commanded those looks primarily on the outside but will move to the slot in certain situations. He will see the three primary corners of the Bucs, including Carton Davis III on the outside and Christian Izien in the slot. Buy Chirs Olave; Carlton Davis III has allowed five touchdowns on the season, and a passer rating of 113..0 (PFF). Izien, on the other hand, has allowed three scores with a 78.6% reception rate on the targets he defends (PFF). Olave’s aDoT of 14.2, good for 6th overall this season at receiver, will stretch the comfort zone of both Bucs corners throughout the game. With productive catches, a high reception rate, and scoring opportunities all in play, expect Olave to follow up his strong performance from week 16 against Tampa Bay.
With the absence of Michael Thomas and the tight ends in New Orleans not contributing much, Rashid Shaheed has emerged as the second receiver and target for Derek Carr. Shaheed has flashes of being an explosive deep threat, but is also the definition of streaky. Fade Shaheed; his touchdown last week was his first since week 8 (PFF). His touchdown capability is completely dependent on catches on deep routes over 20 yards. Expect the Bucs to play a deep zone to keep these strikes to the second-year receiver out of play. Shaheed also plays the majority of his snaps on the outside, where he could see Zyon McCollum. The Tampa Bay corner carries a reception rate of just 54.7% on targets he defends, good for 12th overall among corners this season (PFF).
Mike Evans has caught more touchdowns than any other player in the NFL this season, with 13 (PFF). Evans is doing the majority of this damage on routes over 20 yards, with 7 of his scores coming from that segment of the field (PFF). Out wide this week, he will see the excellent Saints corner Paulson Adebo and Isaac Yiadom, who continues to fill in for the injured Marshon Lattimore.
Buy Mike Evans; with his nemesis Lattimore out, Evans should be able to take advantage of Yiadom on some of these deep looks from Baker Mayfield. Isaac Yiadom has allowed three touchdowns on the season and will be asked to defend Evans, who carries an aDoT of 14.9, the second deepest among all receivers this season (PFF). Expect the Bucs to game-plan the matchup with Yiadom to avoid Evans seeing Paulson Adebo on the other side. Adebo is yet to concede a touchdown this season, and allows a passer rating of just 60.5, the fifth lowest at corner in 2023 (PFF).
Chris Godwin will be splitting his snaps between the slot and outside, meaning he will see both Yiadom and Adebo, along with Alontae Taylor inside. Buy Godwin; in Week 4, he lit the Saints up for 114 receiving yards on eight receptions (PFF). Godwin was able to produce against both Yiadom and Taylor in the first game and may have more chances to expose Taylor inside in particular this time around. Alontae Taylor has allowed four touchdowns on the season and has allowed the second-most YAC of any corner in the NFL this season. Godwin will certainly have an advantage here, and while he has just one touchdown in 2023, this game is an opportunity for him to double his season total.
Matchup Winners: Chris Olave, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin
Matchup Losers: Rashid Shaheed
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings
Both the Packers and the Vikings are down in the NFC playoff race but not quite out. They will face each other in a win-or-go-home type game in Minnesota on Sunday.
The Packers have become an interesting team at receiver, they use three primarily; Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Christian Watson.
With Vikings corner Byron Murphy Jr.’s status up in the air for this game, Doubs and Watson will play on the outside against Vikings corners Akayleb Evans and Mekhi Blackmon. Buy Doubs and Fade Watson; Evans and Blackmon have allowed five touchdowns as a tandem this season (PFF), and there should be room for a Packers score through the air with a total of 43.5 (ESPN BET). Through 16 weeks, Doubs has scored eight touchdowns to Watson’s five and received 86 targets to his teammate’s 53 (PFF). He seems to be the more likely option for Jordan Love. Jayden Reed will work out of the slot against Vikings safety Josh Metellus.
Buy Reed; the ceiling on receptions for the Green Bay wideout could be very high, with Metellus carrying a reception rate of 87.8% on targets he defends. Metellus has also allowed three touchdowns on the year (PFF).
Justin Jefferson has managed to tally 823 receiving yards and four touchdowns in just eight games this season (PFF). He will mix snaps between the slot and outside, drawing looks from Packers corners Keisan Nixon, Carrington Valentine, and now Corey Ballentine, with Jaire Alexander recently suspended. Buy Justin Jefferson; if he draws Nixon out of the slot, there should be additional production built into JJ’s fantasy upside this week. Nixon has a reception rate of 80.6% on the targets he defends (PFF), and Jefferson outgrades both corners on the outside in receiving vs. coverage (PFF) significantly. Justin Jefferson is an all-pro talent who was cut short on appearances this season, his aDoT of 13.4 (PFF) will be deeper than all three of these Packers defenders, opening the door for a touchdown in a big game for his Vikings.
Jordan Addison will look to build on what looks like an excellent start to his NFL career this week out wide primarily. Fade Addison; he will not have the same advantage in receiving vs. coverage as Jefferson, and with rookie Jaren Hall as this week’s starting quarterback in Minnesota, there could be a cap on fantasy output through the air. The trio of Packers corners have allowed just three touchdowns as a group this season (PFF).
Matchup Winners: Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Justin Jefferson
Matchup Losers: Christian Watson, Jordan Addison
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