Congratulations to those who have made it this far in the fantasy season. You are one win away from being crowned league champion. Or, for others, you are playing to avoid a last-place punishment. Whether you’re playing for rewards or pride, the Dallas Cowboys versus the Detroit Lions on Saturday night will surely be a treat for NFL fans. The Lions won the NFC North, and the Cowboys still have an outside chance of taking the NFC East title away from the Philadelphia Eagles. Here are the key lineup start/sit advice to bring you a Week 17 win.
QB, Dak Prescott – Start ‘em
Last week, I had advised against placing Dak Prescott in your starting lineups. Prescott got 30 fantasy points but left a lot on the table. I also recommended considering Joe Flacco, who went nuclear for 50 fantasy points. However, start Prescott confidently in this matchup. Dallas’ game against Detroit should be a shootout. Though talented along the defensive front, the Lions’ defense yields many points to fantasy quarterbacks.
Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions gave up 31 fantasy points to Nick Mullens. Per lineups.com, the Lions allow the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (21.1) per game. Further on their statistics, the Lions allow 267 yards per game and 30 rushing yards per game to quarterbacks; that’s a shade below 300 scrimmage yards allowed to fantasy quarterbacks and nearly two passing touchdowns per game.
Both Detroit and the Cowboys are playing for pivotal playoff seeding, and you can expect Dak Prescott to light up the scoreboard. Also, Prescott is playing in the comfortable confines of AT&T Stadium. Prescott for the win.
RB, Tony Pollard – Sit ‘em
Last week’s game against the Dolphins was a microcosm of much of Tony Pollard’s season for fantasy managers. Having the backfield all to himself, Pollard was expected to be in RB1 territory for the 2023 season. The fact that Pollard has been getting the bulk of red zone touches for the backfield up to this point and remains healthy this season without substantial impact is disappointing.
Pollard being stopped short at the goal line against the Dolphins is what agonizes fantasy managers about Pollard. So close, yet so far away, encapsulates Pollard’s 2023 season. On the next play, the team gave his goal line carry to Hunter Leupke, who mishandled the exchange for a turnover. The coaching staff giving the carry to Leupke instead of giving Pollard a chance to redeem himself could signify a change of guard and look elsewhere for somebody to cash in those short goal-to-go situations. Pollard’s fantasy value was becoming touchdown-dependent, and if that role is taken away from him, that makes Pollard difficult to trust in championship week.
Further making Pollard a less appealing option is his dwindling involvement in the passing game. The waiver wire will not be favorable this week as no better options are less touchdown-dependent than Pollard. If you’re debating Pollard over these names: Najee Harris (at Seattle), Javonte Williams (vs. Los Angeles Chargers), or D’Andre Swift (vs. Arizona), start all of them over Tony Pollard.
WR, CeeDee Lamb – Start ‘em
Without question, you start CeeDee Lamb this week. Lamb is in a prime matchup to do serious work for your fantasy team. Although Lamb had a 32% target share against Miami, ten targets fell flat for his start last week. After Lamb’s catch and run in the first quarter, Lamb’s involvement vanished until the fourth quarter. Oddly enough, Lamb has been targeted precisely ten times in the last three games. That isn’t likely to happen again, and Lamb should remain engaged throughout Saturday’s game and have a high volume.
Expect his targets to increase in what is sure to be a fast-paced game. Lamb should get at least fourteen targets, and they will be premier targets. The Lions’ defense allows the fourth-most average target depth in total defense at 8.7 yards per target. Look no further than Justin Jefferson in Week 16. He torched the Lions for six catches for 141 yards on ten targets. Lamb could surpass that.
TE, Jake Ferguson – Start ‘em
At this time of the fantasy season, consistency is vital. Red zone issues aside, the Cowboys are an elite offense in the NFL with a high-scoring upside. Prescott will find Ferguson in the soft spots if teams defend the Cowboys in zone coverage. If teams defend the Dallas offense in man coverage, Ferguson down the seams is always a possibility. Ferguson has drawn 32 targets over the last four games, and that should keep him in your lineups this week.
Unless you have a better option already rostered, start Ferguson. The waiver wire has slim options to choose from. The most attractive option is Chigoziem Okonkwo (available in 63% of Yahoo leagues), but starting him has some volatility. He has a good matchup against the Texans but seems dependent on whether Ryan Tannehill or Will Levis starts for the Tennessee Titans. If Tannehill gets the nod, start Okonkwo.
DEF/ST – Sit ‘em
Based on the game script, do not start the Dallas defense this week. Detroit is the fourth-toughest matchup for fantasy defenses, and that isn’t likely to change. The Cowboys have had difficulty stopping the run recently, and Detroit has an excellent two-back attack. With Dallas and Detroit having a lot on the line for this game, you can bet both teams will be much more aggressive once their offenses cross midfield. Refrain from starting the Cowboys’ defense.
There are good streaming alternatives for Week 17. The Jacksonville Jaguars defense (49% available in Yahoo leagues) is set up to bounce back against Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have struggled to protect Young, and the Jaguars have a good pass rush led by Josh Allen. The Los Angeles Rams (available in 69% of Yahoo leagues) are playing the New York Giants, who have allowed the most points to opposing fantasy defenses, and it makes no difference that Tyrod Taylor is starting over Tommy DeVito.