If you’re serious about DFS, you should be around when inactives come out every Sunday to adjust lineups if necessary. That’s especially true in Week 17, when teams have all different levels of motivation and are apt to sit starters.
I’ll update this article as needed leading up to kickoff.
Editor's note: January 2 and 3 updates in bold.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings ($6,300)
Cousins has quietly (unless you’ve been listening to Schauf) had a nice fantasy season, averaging 20.1 DraftKings points per game. That’s jumped to 23.1 over the past 8 games, with Cousins averaging 278 yards and 2.5 TDs during that stretch.
Now Cousins gets a Lions defense that’s thrown in the towel on the season. Detroit coughed up 32.9 DK points to Tom Brady last week … in the 1st half. Blaine Gabbert racked up 15.2 points in the 2nd half.
RB Dalvin Cook’s absence takes away 1 of Minnesota’s better pass-catchers — but also makes it less likely Cousins is hurt by low passing volume.
The Vikings are currently implied for 30.5 points, 3rd highest on the week.
Derrick Henry, Titans ($9,400) and Alvin Kamara, Saints ($9,500)
The way this slate is setting up, I think it’s optimal to play 2 of Henry, Kamara and Davante Adams ($9,200). I tend to lean toward paying up at RB and playing both of these studs.
I’m definitely playing Henry vs. a Texans squad that sits 30th in Football Outsiders’ run defense rankings and dead last in adjusted fantasy points allowed to RBs. Henry demolished Houston for 264 total yards and 2 scores back in Week 6. Note that he needs 223 rushing yards on Sunday to hit 2,000 for the season. I think he’s got a shot.
Kamara has been priced way up after his 6-TD explosion last week, but I still think he’s a nice play. The Saints still have a shot at the NFC’s #1 seed with a win coupled with a Packers loss. And they draw a Carolina defense that Football Outsiders ranks 21st against the run and 29th in RB coverage. Kamara scored 22.8 DraftKings points in his 1st meeting with the Panthers, despite not finding the end zone.
Malcolm Brown, Rams ($4,300)
Dare Ogunbowale ($4,500), Ty Johnson ($4,300) and Rodney Smith ($4,000) are also in play as cheap RBs. (And you could play 2 cheapies if you want Davante Adams.) But I feel best about Brown.
Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson’s absences leave the Rams with Brown, Raymond Calais and Xavier Jones in the backfield. The latter 2 have combined for 0 NFL carries. So in a win-and-in game, the Rams are unlikely to mess around with Calais and Jones. Brown could garner 100% of the team's RB touches.
He’s a middling talent, will be playing alongside QB John Wolford and gets an neutral matchup vs. the Cardinals. But Brown is a nice play just based on price and projected volume.
Latavius Murray, Saints ($5,600)
He's the freest of free squares with Alvin Kamara out for Week 17 due to COVID. In the 2 games Kamara missed last season, Murray racked up 48 carries and 18 targets. He scored 30.0 and 30.7 DK points. As mentioned above, Sunday's matchup vs. the Panthers is a good one.
Alexander Mattison, Vikings ($6,100)
Mattison isn't listed on the final Week 17 injury report and has been cleared from his concussion to play vs. the Lions on Sunday. He's the favorite to lead the backfield in touches -- and even 15 or so opportunities in this matchup would make him a nice play. It's worth noting, though, that Mattison has had an appendectomy, sustained that concussion and played just 6 snaps over the past month. There's some risk that he underwhelms from a volume standpoint this weekend, so I don't think he's a must in cash.
* SUNDAY UPDATE *
What started as a deep pool of cash-viable RBs has really thinned out. Latavius Murray joined Alvin Kamara on the COVID list, while Malcolm Brown will be out of cash consideration if Cam Akers ends up active.
We're now down to Derrick Henry, Ty Johnson ($4,300) and Ty Montgomery ($4,000) as our top cash plays.
Johnson should operate as the Jets' lead back today with both Frank Gore (lung) and La'Mical Perine (COVID) sidelined. He racked up 117 total yards back in Week 13 when Gore exited early and gets a Patriots squad that Football Outsiders ranks dead last in run defense.
Montgomery is suddenly left as the Saints' top back, with only practice-squad call-up Tony Jones behind him. New Orleans might expand Taysom Hill's role, so we're not projecting big rushing volume for Montgomery. But the former WR should do enough in the passing game to pay off his dirt-cheap price tag.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts ($5,800)
I want a piece of the Colts offense, which is implied for 31.75 points. RB Jonathan Taylor ($7,400) and WR Zach Pascal ($4,200) are viable. But I’m leaning toward using Hilton.
He’s cooled off a bit over the past 2 weeks but still scored 11.1 and 9.0 DK points in those games on 13 total targets. He’s averaging a solid 7.2 targets over his last 5 outings.
Now Hilton is in a must-win home game against a bad and beat-up Jaguars secondary. Jacksonville has allowed at least 1 WR to reach 20 DK points in 7 of the last 8 games.
Laviska Shenault, Jaguars ($4,200)
Flipping to the other side of the Colts-Jaguars game, Shenault looks like a nice volume play. The rookie has totaled 16 catches on 24 targets over his last 3 games. He’s also carried 3 times during that stretch and has at least 1 rushing attempt in 10 of 13 games.
The Colts have been dropping in the adjusted fantasy points allowed to WR rankings lately and now sit 19th.
Jerry Jeudy, Broncos ($4,200)
Jeudy’s performance last week might have been the worst I’ve ever seen from a WR. He was charged with 5 drops — and you could argue he had a couple more.
But I’m still a believer in this guy and expect him to bounce back on Sunday. The good news from his Week 16 was that he racked up a whopping 15 targets. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Broncos have told QB Drew Lock to hone in on Jeudy to get him going heading into the offseason.
So the rookie is a good target bet for the price and gets a plus matchup vs. the Raiders’ 17th-ranked WR defense.
Davante Adams, Packers ($9,200)
With Murray opening up salary if you were planning to play Kamara, it's much easier to fit Adams into lineups. I don't need to tell you why he's a strong play.
Irv Smith, Vikings ($3,900)
I’m expecting Minnesota’s passing game to have a big one vs. Detroit on Sunday, and Smith is a way to get a cheap part of it. He’s averaged 5.7 targets, 4.3 catches, 51 yards and 1 TD over last 3 weeks without TE Kyle Rudolph, who remains out for the finale.
The Lions have allowed double-digit DK points to a TE in 4 straight games. And they coughed up a combined 50 yards and 2 TDs to Vikings TEs earlier this season.
Donald Parham, Chargers ($2,900)
I still prefer Irv, but Parham is plenty viable if you need the $1,000 in savings. TE Hunter Henry (COVID) is out again this weekend, leaving Parham as the Chargers' pass-catching TE. Although he caught just 2 of 3 targets last week, he ran a route on 72% of pass plays. He gets a Chiefs defense that figures to be resting some starters on Sunday.
This is the biggest no-brainer at DST we’ve had all season. The Browns are super cheap for a matchup against a Steelers team resting at least QB Ben Roethlisberger and C Maurkice Pouncey. Expect other starters to be sidelined or limited in this one with Pittsburgh conceding the AFC’s #2 seed to Buffalo.
Cleveland got QB Mason Rudolph last season and racked up 4 sacks and 4 INTs.