The Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for Week 17 of the 2021 NFL season. The column will break down key matchups for the most important players each week to provide tips for NFL DFS, player prop bettors and season-long fantasy football setting lineups on Yahoo, ESPN, Sleeper and CBS. Let’s dive into the all the NFL DFS tips matchups and daily fantasy football lineup decisions.
Week 17 Daily Fantasy Football Matchups & Player Props
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford
Stafford was far from perfect last weekend against Minnesota. Despite the Vikings ranking among the league’s worst defenses against quarterbacks and wide receivers, Minnesota frustrated Stafford for much of the day, forcing three interceptions and leading Stafford to throw for a season-low 5.3 yards per pass attempt and 197 yards. Stafford has now thrown nine interceptions in his last seven games and has three multi-interception games during that span. But while his turnover-worthy plays have increased dramatically in the second half of the season, Stafford’s overall numbers compared to the rest of his position still look very strong. He ranks top five at the position in total EPA, total QBR and adjusted yards per attempt. His 20.7 fantasy points per game still rank top 10 at the position.
This week, facing a Ravens secondary that has been decimated by injuries and now ranks dead-last in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks, Stafford should have a chance to earn a statement win as the Rams march closer to a division title. Over the last three weeks no team has allowed more yards per pass attempt than Baltimore, which is why Awesemo’s projections are bullish on Stafford’s yards passing this weekend. Stafford and the Rams project for nearly 300 yards passing this weekend, making the over on his current passing prop of 287.5 yards an easy over bet. According to Awesemo’s player props tool, Stafford hits that number 55% of the time.
Quarterback: Dak Prescott
Prescott was masterful last Sunday night, playing arguably his best game of the season in an all-out demolishing of Washington. Prescott threw for 8.5 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and zero interceptions, something he has accomplished twice this season, and threw for 330 yards, his first time topping 300 yards passing since his 375-yard game against the Raiders on Thanksgiving. Prescott has been especially lethal under pressure and in the red zone, ranking top 10 at his position in completion percentage in both scenarios. His true completion percentage, which factors out drops and throwaways, now ranks fifth in the league.
This week Dallas faces the Cardinals, who have lost three straight games and look like a shell of their former selves. During that span the Cardinals defense has allowed the second-most yards per pass attempt and the eighth-most points per play in the NFL, which means there could be another massive performance from Prescott and the high-flying Cowboys passing attack. With Dallas on the rise and Arizona’s defense struggling to stop anyone at all, Awesemo’s projections see Prescott’s prop lines of 278.5 yards passing and 1.5 touchdowns as easy over bets. Prescott hits 288 or more yards passing in six out of every 10 simulations in Awesemo’s current run of projections.
Running Back: David Montgomery
The Bears may be out of playoff contention, but they have once again found ways to feature Montgomery, who for the second straight season is proving he is the most talented player on the Chicago offense. With Nick Foles at the helm last week, Montgomery had one of his best performances of the season, earning 106 total yards on 31 total opportunities. His nine targets in Week 16 tied for his career high as well. Montgomery has now topped 24 total looks in three of his last four contests, and his opportunity count has topped 30 twice in that four-game span. The 33 targets he has seen over his last four games is by far the most Montgomery has ever seen in a four-game span in his career. And this week Awesemo’s projections are bullish on Montgomery regardless of who ends up under center for the Bears come Sunday afternoon. If Foles or Andy Dalton get the start, Montgomery’s target projection would get a boost, but even if Justin Fields gets the start, the Bears could allow Montgomery to win the game himself, facing a Giants defense that is significantly easier to run against than to beat via the pass. Montgomery has prop lines in the 68.5-yard range, and Awesemo’s projections suggest that makes almost no sense at all. He projects for nearly 90 yards, making the over one of the simplest bets of the entire weekend.
Running Back: Ezekiel Elliott
While every single starting running back in the NFL is nicked up by Week 17, Elliott is clearly still hampered by swelling in his knee. The flare-ups have been less significant in recent weeks, but it is still affecting the play-calling decisions in Dallas, made even easier by Dallas’ impressive defense and top-notch passing attack. Since Week 12 Elliott has only earned 51% of Dallas running back carries. While Elliott still leads the team in red-zone rushes during that span, Prescott has half as many attempts inside the opponents 20-yard line during that same span. Things do not look much better inside the 10 either, as Elliott has a paltry 2-1 lead over Tony Pollard in goal-line carries over his last five starts.
Dallas is a heavy favorites once again this week, facing a reeling Cardinals team that has struggled against strong offenses for much of the season’s second half. But do not expect Elliott to suddenly become a focal point this weekend despite the plus matchup, as Elliott has just one game with 20 total opportunities since Week 8. He is a stay-away option in DFS this weekend. In fact, the only savvy way to bet on Elliott might be to simply take the over on his middling 15.5 yards receiving prop. Elliott has seen three or more targets in every single game except for one since Week 4 and is averaging 6 yards per reception this season.
Wide Receiver: DeVonta Smith
The Eagles were heavy favorites against the Giants last weekend but did not pull away until they started getting Smith heavily involved in the passing game. Lined up against the Giants top cornerback, James Bradberry, for much of the game, Smith had no problem beating one-on-one coverage and earned a target on 28% of routes run. Smith’s five receptions last weekend are tied for the most his had since Week 9, and Week 16 marked the first time Smith had seen 90-plus air yards in back-to-back weeks in over a month.
Smith and Eagles face another division rival, Washington, who have arguably an even worse defense than the Giants, particularly against opposing passing attacks. Washington ranks 30th in yards allowed per pass attempt over the last three weeks and 31st in points allowed per play, meaning if the Eagles want to solidify their playoff chances this weekend, they will likely need to beat Washington via the air. However, Awesemo believes Philadelphia might be stubborn, opting instead for their preferred run-heavy offensive approach. While Smith is certainly capable of shooting way past his current yards receiving prop line of 56.5 yards, Awesemo’s projections are suggesting the under may be a savvy bet here. Smith fails to reach that total in 57% of Awesemo’s latest simulations.
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Wide Receiver: A.J. Brown
The Titans are depleted by injuries throughout their offense, so they did the most rational thing they could against the 49ers on Sunday, throwing it to A.J. Brown at every possible opportunity, and Brown responded with one of the best games of his entire career. Brown was targeted 16 times last Thursday night, more than any other player in the NFL, and saw 215 air yards, 49 more than the next-most utilized receiver, Amari Cooper. Brown’s 79% air yards share was by far the highest share of team air yards by a player this season.
The Titans face the Dolphins, the hottest team in football. Miami has moved into the top six in PFF’s team defensive grades this season and are 10th against opposing passing attacks this season. Still, Brown’s prop lines have not fully adjusted for the clear adjustments that the Titans made last weekend, as Brown’s receiving prop line of 68.5 yards makes no sense after the type of game he had last week. Brown projects for north of 80 yards receiving, and that seems conservative. Smash the over on that mistake of a prop line and move right along.
Wide Receiver & Tight End: Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki
The Dolphins were not overly impressive offensively last Monday night but did more than enough to out-score the Ian Book-led Saints at home. Tua Tagovailoa condensed the Dolphins passing attack of Waddle, Gesicki and DeVante Parker into a two-player game, with Waddle and Gesicki earning over 60% of the team’s looks. Parker, blanketed by Marshon Lattimore for much of the evening, did not earn a single target all game long. For some, this target distribution might look like a trend worth acting upon. Many casual bettors will flock to the over on Waddle’s receptions prop, and even the over on 70.5 yards receiving might look appealing to some. But Awesemo’s projections for Week 17 suggest an extremely different story, especially with the Dolphins as road underdogs against the Titans. While Tennessee ranks just middle of the road this season against opposing passing attacks, the Dolphins struggle to muster any significant production through the air, so the Dolphins skill players are not value options in DFS lineups this weekend. Waddle and Gesicki’s receiving prop lines are also strong bets, making both under 70.5 yards receiving for Waddle and under 41.5 yards receiving for Gesicki savvy bets.
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