Week 17 :: The Intro
It’s funny. There are 15 games on the Main Slate this week (which means 15 games to dive into for the NFL Edge, and to sort through for the Player Grid); and yet, this little writeup will ultimately end up being the most important piece I put together this week.
Week 17 is always a strange one, and understanding the scenarios we are dealing with is vital to understanding how to attack the slate. The “big picture” name of the game here is to focus on teams OR OFFENSES that have something to play for.
In terms of “teams that have something to play for,” we’ll cover this below.
In terms of “offenses that have something to play for”…well, what I basically mean is this :: a few years ago, the Chiefs used Week 17 to give Patrick Mahomes his first career start. He had something to play for; and therefore, the players around him had something to play for. We want to keep an eye out for situations like this during Week 17, and we also want to keep in mind offenses that have been out of the running for a while but are continuing to play starters, and are continuing to compete at a high level (for example: if you liked Deshaun Watson and his pass catchers over the last month, nothing has changed this week). This will be a heavy focus in the NFL Edge this week, as we sort through the spots where maximum effort can be expected.
Finally :: where there is unnecessary guesswork, we want to also recognize that A) there are 15 games on the Main Slate this week (i.e., there are tons of games to choose from), and B) there is plenty of overlooked upside to tap into without needing to take on unnecessary guesswork. Will the Bucs play starters their entire game when they’re already in the playoffs and will be playing on the road in the first round regardless? I don’t know. You don’t know. And if we still don’t know by the weekend, you could say, “Why take on the unnecessary guesswork?” The name of the game is making decisions that maximize our expected returns over time — and Week 17 is ripe for such thinking.
As always, this week’s approach on-site will adjust to account for the unique elements at play on this unique slate — with less of a focus on strict matchup elements, and more of a focus on potential game flow, potential upside, and potential downside. Week 17 is a different game than other weeks — so make sure you treat it as such!
Below, we’ll detail the big-picture elements we’re dealing with at the moment (playoff scenarios, and key players resting — as known at the moment). Throughout the NFL Edge (and of course: in the Angles Pod and Player Grid), we’ll be covering everything else.
Finally, remember :: first place is all that matters in tourneys! Don’t settle for “merely good” plays this week. Hunt for players // offenses // game environments with potential to top the slate.
Week 17 Angles
For the explorations below, we’ll A) focus on playoff scenarios, and B) ignore scenarios in which a tie comes into play (i.e., there are a lot of “win or tie” type of setups; to simplify our understanding, and to approach things the way these teams will be approaching things, we’ll ignore tie-driven setups).
AFC Playoff Scenarios & More ::
The Chiefs are the 1 seed already, and have already said they will be resting Patrick Mahomes. We should expect all core skill position players to play limited or zero snaps. Chad Henne will be the quarterback — sinking the value of this entire team. (The Chiefs are currently implied for only 20.25 points.)
The Bills could finish with the 2 seed or the 3 seed, but with John Brown expected to miss, Cole Beasley “week to week,” and a home game locked up for the first round of the playoffs regardless, it’s unlikely the Bills risk the health of Josh Allen or other core members. Vegas has given the Bills an implied team total of only 23.0, leaning toward the likelihood of core starters playing minimal snaps (if any).
The Steelers could finish with the 2 seed or the 3 seed, but they have already said they are resting Ben Roethlisberger this week, which indicates that most other core skill position players will also rest (or play limited snaps). The Steelers are implied for only 16.5 points. Mason Rudolph will be under center vs Myles Garrett and the Browns.
The Titans need a win or an Indy loss to take down the AFC South. If they lose and Indy wins, they can also make the playoffs with a Baltimore loss or a Miami loss. Baltimore and Miami play early, while the Titans play late; but even if both those teams lose, expect full-on effort from the Titans, as the NFL has scheduled the Colts for the late time slot alongside Tennessee, and the division title and lack of first-round travel are worth competing for.
The Colts, meanwhile, need some help :: a win and a Tennessee loss for the division, or a win and a loss from the Ravens, Browns, or Dolphins for a playoff spot. Either way, “a Colts win” is a big part of their needs here, so expect them to go all out vs Mike Glennon and the Jags. The Colts and Titans are both carrying Vegas-implied team totals of 31.75 at the moment.
The Ravens need a win to make the playoffs. If they lose, they can get in with a Cleveland loss or a Miami loss. The Ravens play the Bengals in the early time slot, so all-out effort should be expected.
The Browns need a win to make the playoffs. If they lose, they can get in with an Indy loss. The Browns play the Rudolph-led Steelers in the early time slot, so all-out effort should be expected.
The Dolphins need a win to make the playoffs. If they lose to a Bills team that will potentially be giving starters some rest, they can make the playoffs with a Baltimore loss, a Cleveland loss, or an Indy loss. The Dolphins play in the early time slot (note: the NFL does this on purpose — ensuring maximum entertainment for fans by attempting to minimize opportunities for teams to coast in Week 17), so all-out effort should be expected.
Elsewhere around the AFC, Keenan Allen is not expected to play for the Chargers, and James Robinson will be held out for the Jags.
The only teams not jockeying for a playoff spot or for playoff positioning that have a Vegas-implied team total above 21.25 are the Texans (24.25), the Chargers (23.75), the Raiders (26.75), and the Broncos (24.25). All four teams should be expected to play with maximum effort, though players who are iffy with injuries could be held out. News tends to trickle out on such spots deeper into the week.
Core teams to target in the AFC (from an “effort” // “weapons” standpoint) are the Titans // Colts // Ravens // Browns // Dolphins // Texans // Chargers // Raiders // Broncos.
NFC Playoff Scenarios & More ::
The Packers need a win or a Seattle loss to land the 1 seed. Naturally, the NFL has scheduled the Packers and Seahawks in the same time slot (the late games), so all-out effort should be expected from Green Bay this week.
The Saints need a win, a Packers loss, and a Seahawks win to force a three-way tie atop the NFC that would net them the 1 seed. The Saints play the depleted Panthers in the same late time slot in which the Packers and Seahawks are playing. All-out effort should be expected.
The Seahawks need a win, a Packers loss, and a Saints loss to force a tie atop the NFC with the Packers in which they would own the tie-breaker. All-out effort should be expected.
The winner of the Cowboys and Giants game will take down the NFC East if Washington loses on Sunday Night Football. To put that another way: the Cowboys and Giants have major incentive to win here, so expect all-out effort from both teams.
The Buccaneers have a Vegas-implied team total of 28.75 against the Falcons, but they also have more to gain by resting players than by playing them. It would be in the nature of a Tom Brady team for Bucs starters to play this entire game regardless, but keep in mind that A) this team spreads the ball around enough that there is already plenty of guesswork, B) the Falcons defense (as explored at length last week) is quite a bit better than people seem to think, and C) there is additional risk that the Bucs won’t go all-out the entire game. These players technically fall into the “all-out effort expected” bucket, but this comes with obvious caveats and risks.
The Bears are in the playoffs with a win over the Packers OR an Arizona loss to the depleted Rams. All-out effort should be expected.
The Cardinals need to beat the Rams to reach the playoffs, while the Rams need a win over Arizona or a Chicago loss to the Packers. As always: these teams are all playing in the same time slot (late games), so we should expect all-out effort from both teams (albeit with the Rams missing Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, Darrell Henderson, and likely Cam Akers).
Elsewhere in the NFC, the 49ers are expected to be without Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk, and the Panthers are expected to be without Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis (Robby Anderson also missed practice on Wednesday this week). The Vikings will be without Dalvin Cook, while Alexander Mattison is still questionable.
Here are the top Vegas-implied team totals for NFC teams this week ::
30.5 — Vikings
28.75 — Bucs
28.25 — Packers
27.0 — Saints
26.25 — Seahawks
23.5 — Lions
23.25 — Cowboys
Slotting in the AFC teams, here are our top Vegas-implied team totals on the slate ::
31.75 — Colts
31.75 — Titans
30.5 — Vikings
28.75 — Bucs
28.5 — Ravens
28.25 — Packers
27.0 — Saints
26.75 — Raiders
26.25 — Seahawks
25.5 — Browns