Kickoff: Sunday, January 3 at 1:00 PM ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
Betting Odds: CLE -10, 42 Total via Oddsshark
Mason Rudolph (Sit)
Starting Mason Rudolph would be a total shot in the dark, especially playing against a team with everything to play for in the Browns. If you are still playing in Week 17, you probably abandoned Big Ben a long time ago so you have someone other than Rudolph. The story heading into this one will be his run-in with Myles Garrett and the helmet incident last year, but that doesn’t have anything to do with us here. He averaged under 200 yards per game and has a low floor and low ceiling, especially given the options he will probably have at wide receiver.
James Conner (Start if active, Flex), Benny Snell (Start if no Conner, Flex)
At this point of the week, we simply don’t know who is starting and who isn’t for the Steelers, but whoever starts at running back is a good bet to give back flex value on a volume basis with the quarterback situation and nothing of significance to play for. The Browns have been up and down from a rushing defense perspective, but have generally been stout which settles the options here as simply flex plays.
Diontae Johnson (Start if active, WR2), JuJu Smith-Schuester (Start, Flex if active), Chase Claypool (Sit), Eric Ebron (Start if active, TE1)
Again, we have no clue of the status of the starters for the Steelers as they are locked into their playoff spot. Even if they are active, there are going to be limitations with Rudolph taking over at quarterback. Yes, Big Ben has been mostly terrible, but he at least has chemistry with the top guys. Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuester have the talent to still produce on a lower scale with Rudolph, but will probably see lower quality targets. Chase Claypool is talented, but he will be too far behind in target share with the downgrade. Eric Ebron looks good regardless of the quarterback as a tight end is generally a safer option with a QB change.
Baker Mayfield (Start, QB1)
While the opposition doesn’t have anything to play for, the Browns have everything to play for which will lead to a motivated offensive performance against a lot of backups more than likely. Baker Mayfield is coming off 285 scoreless yards against the Jets (yuck), but in a must-win game, you can expect an inspired performance. The hope is that there is a lack of starters on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers which would lead to a game with multi-touchdown upside for Baker. Start with confidence this week.
Nick Chubb (Start, RB1), Kareem Hunt (Start, Flex)
Last week was an all-around bad week for the Browns, but don’t be fooled Nick Chubb is still an RB1 for the Week 17 must win. With 959 and 11 touchdowns on a short season, Chubb is primed to easily surpass 1,000 yards and increase his touchdown total on the year. Kareem Hunt has seen production fall in the second half, but he has two double-digit games in his last three weeks and should see his normal passing game involvement in the must win game. He should provide double-digit opportunities which should translate into flex value.
Jarvis Landry (Start, WR2), Rashard Higgins (Start, Flex), Austin Hooper (Start, TE1)
Jarvis Landry was on the Covid-19 list along with several other Browns wideouts which led to a really bad week from the Browns offense. The hope is that all of the receivers will be back by Thursday which would put them on track to play this week. Landry had been putting together a solid second half with double digits in his last four games before being put on the shelf. Look for him to return WR2 value with upside this week. Rashard Higgins had similarly been putting together a nice home stretch with three double-digit games in a row before being sat down and should hop back into his role of an average of 8 targets as the second WR on this squad. Austin Hooper had 7/71 last week as the only viable pass-catcher last week but should see a step back in the target department with Landry and Higgins back. Regardless, he should be involved enough to be a middle of the pack TE1 for the Browns.
-Matt Dean (@MattDeanQBList on Twitter, mdean8 on Reddit)