Kickoff: Sunday, January 3rd at 4:25 PM ET
Location: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Betting Odds: LV -2.5, 51 total via Oddsshark
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr (Sit)
Derek Carr returned from a groin injury last week and played well against the Dolphins, and is a solid enough play this week against a Denver defense lacking the talent in the secondary that they started the year with. Head coach Jon Gruden said that “Derek will start and finish the season, just like we anticipated he would.” But then he also added, “Whether Marcus (Mariota) has a role in this, we’ll wait and see.” It would make total sense for the Raiders to want another look at Marcus Mariota, so there’s enough question as to whether Carr finishes the game that he is a sit for me. There are worse options among the teams with nothing to play for, as the Raiders seem to be generally playing their starters in Week 17 as they push for a .500 record. But in most leagues, I would be looking for a QB option with a more guaranteed chance of playing the entire game.
Josh Jacobs (Start, RB2), Devontae Booker (Sit), Jalen Richard (Sit)
Josh Jacobs doesn’t thrive in the passing game and has lacked explosive big plays in 2020, making him very volume dependent. That worries me in Week 17 when the Raiders are eliminated from playoff contention, as it feels unwise to give him a big workload with nothing but a .500 record to play for. I have him ranked as my RB14 for now, as this Broncos defense has given up the fourth-most rushing yards per attempt on the year and running backs, in general, are a mess in Week 17. Keep a close eye on Gruden’s gameplan for this one in his press conferences this week. If Jacobs starts he’s the only one you can consider starting, if he were to sit, Devontae Booker could be interesting. Booker was out-snapped by Jalen Richard last week and Theo Riddick in Week 15, so his role has certainly diminished lately. But Richard and Riddick are primarily pass-catchers, making Booker more likely to get the bulk of the rushing work. If Jacobs were to sit this one out, Booker might be an interesting flex play in Week 17.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Darren Waller (Start), Nelson Agholor (Start, WR3/Flex), Hunter Renfrow (Sit), Henry Ruggs III (Sit)
Tight end Darren Waller is seven catches away from breaking Hall of Famer Tim Brown‘s single-season Raiders’ record of 104 receptions, and Gruden knows it. I would expect the Raiders to push to get Waller that record, and he is my TE1 this week. One positive for the Raiders’ pass-catchers is that even if Carr does go to the bench in the second half, Mariota is one of the more capable backups in the league, so overall this passing game doesn’t lose much value in Week 17. Nelson Agholor has been boom/bust this year but the volume has been better down the stretch, with 6 or more targets in each of his last 6 games. He’s also not such a crucial part of the Raiders’ future that I would expect him to get rested, so start him if you need him. He’s a WR3 for me and a decent flex option, and depending on how many players get rested across the league he could rise closer to the WR2 ranks as the week progresses. Hunter Renfrow has just two touchdowns on the year and just four games over 50 receiving yards all season. He’s no more than a floor play in deep leagues. It would make sense for the Raiders to get Henry Ruggs III more involved in what has been a wasted season, but with just 23 reception on the year, you certainly can’t trust him. Ruggs did see a 69% snap share last week, higher than Renfrow, so he may be interesting as a GPP play in DFS, but even that is likely pushing it.
Drew Lock (Sit)
As a fantasy option in Week 17, Drew Lock has a few things working in his favor. For one, I would expect Lock to play the whole game. Lock has plenty to work on in his development as an NFL quarterback, and one would think that Denver would rather give reps to Lock as opposed to backups Brett Rypien or Jeff Driskel. While Lock may not be the long-term future at quarterback for the Broncos, he certainly is their only option at the moment. The second positive for Lock in Week 17 is that he faces a Raiders defense that has allowed the ninth-most yards per attempt through the air and the fourth-most points scored in the NFL. Now, of course, Lock’s play has been an issue all year, keeping him out of fantasy consideration most weeks. Lock has more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) on the year, has thrown for less than 200 yards in two of the past four weeks, and against the Raiders earlier this year threw four interceptions. Lock is my QB19 and a viable Week 17 starter in 2-quarterback leagues as he should play the whole game and has a nice matchup. But in your typical single-quarterback league, Lock should be left on waivers.
Melvin Gordon III (Start, RB2), Royce Freeman (Sit)
With Phillip Lindsay placed on IR after Week 15, Melvin Gordon III received 66% of the Broncos offensive snaps in Week 16. Royce Freeman chipped in for 23% and Levante Bellamy played at 10% last week, so barring a change Gordon should see a big workload in the finale. There has been little word on resting starters in Week 17, but Gordon currently sits 107 yards shy of 1,000 for the year, so that could be a goal the team tries to achieve with Gordon. Gordon will be back on the team next year for the final year of his contract, so there is a chance he is preserved in the second half of the game. Watch news out of Denver for hints, but as of now Gordon looks primed for a large workload, making him my RB15 this week. Freeman would only be interesting if Gordon sat out entirely. The Raiders defense has allowed the eighth-most yards per attempt on the ground this year, making this a matchup worth targeting.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Noah Fant (Start), Jerry Jeudy (Sit), Tim Patrick (Sit)
With Lock’s struggles on the year, Noah Fant is the only option I would consider in the passing game. Fant has seen 7+ targets in each of his past three games and a combined 20 targets over the past two weeks. He’s yet to reach 100 yards this year and has just 3 touchdowns, so Lock’s struggles have certainly held him back. But at the wasteland position of tight end, Fant is a solid PPR option and is my TE6 this week. Otherwise, Jerry Jeudy saw an encouraging 15 targets last week but struggled with drops, and only turned those opportunities into 6 catches for 61 yards. Jeudy had only caught 4 passes total in the three weeks prior, so it would be hard to count on him in Week 17. Tim Patrick has had his moments this year but hasn’t topped 5 targets or 44 yards over the past four weeks. Patrick does have 6 touchdowns on the year, and rookie receiver K.J. Hamler is currently in concussion protocol, potentially opening up more looks in the passing game. But you should have better options than Patrick, even in a good matchup against the Raiders.
-Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL on Twitter, truebest on Reddit)