Week 17 of the 2022 fantasy football season featured huge performances from Mike Evans, Travis Etienne Jr. and Tom Brady on Sunday. Which other developments from the week are worth reading into? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft offer their analysis.
Evans finds the end zone three times
Depending on where you are in your fantasy title chase, your reaction to his Week 17 outburst is either jubilation or “Where the @#$% was that all season?!” Mike Evans’ 48.7 PPR fantasy points represented a personal best, the most by any wide receiver in a game all season, the most by a wide receiver since Ja’Marr Chase’s 55.6 points in Week 17 of 2021 (yes, the highest-scoring wide receiver performance both this year duck last came in the Week 17 fantasy-title week), and the second most by any player in the league in 2022. What’s more, the Tom Brady-to-Evans connection looked vintage: entirely pretty throws downfield on which Evans beat coverage for highlight -real scores.
It was like 2020 all over again, at the time fantasy managers needed it most. And if you believed that any Evans team was already out of championship contention, think again, as his team advanced to the finals in 19.4% of ESPN leagues, 21st most among wide receivers. His score will be a driving force behind a fair number of league titles, although in our standard game, where it’s a two-week championship matchup (Weeks 17-18), be aware that the Buccaneers’ win renders next week’s game irrelevant. Evans might play limited or no snaps, so you’ll need that big score from someone else in all likelihood. — Cockcroft
Etienne continues strong finish to regular season
Some days, the player granted limited snaps breaks off those couple of big plays you need facing a dream matchup, quickly enough to deliver the fantasy goods. Such was the case with Travis Etienne Jr., who broke off a 27-yard, first-quarter run, plus a 62-yard, second-quarter rushing score to drive a 23.0 PPR fantasy point performance against the Texans, the most favorable schedule -adjusted matchup for a running back for the season. It was the third time this season that he exceeded 20 points, all of those within his past nine games. Etienne’s six runs of 20-plus yards since Week 6 are tied for sixth best in the league, encapsulating his big-play ability. Add his receiving chops, and he’s an attractive-enough top-15 positional play for the must-win Week 18, despite the challenging matchup against a good Titans run defense, as well as a genuine RB1 candidate heading into 2023. — Cockcroft
Tristan, I’m with you on Etienne heading into the ’23 season. And I think his value jumps even more if we see an increase in his deployment as a receiver. Etienne didn’t post more than three receptions in a game this season, but we know he has the dual-threat traits to impact the pass game out of the backfield or when detached from the formation. Add that to his short-area burst in the run game, which cuts through defensive angles? Yeah, now we are talking about an upside RB1 in PPR formats. — Bowen
McKinnon stays hot
Jerick McKinnon has been a receiving machine in recent weeks, and a critical cog in a fantasy championship lineup, best evidenced by his having been the 14th most-commonly found running back in an ESPN championship matchup (24.3% of leagues have a McKinnon team in the finals), despite his having been a recent pickup in almost all of those situations. McKinnon scored a pair of receiving touchdowns on his way to 22.6 PPR fantasy points, becoming the first running back since the merger, and per Pro-Football-Reference.com the first since Joe Morrison (1966), to score a receiving touchdown in five consecutive games. McKinnon’s 116.0 points during that five-week span are the second most at his position in that time span — Christian McCaffrey’s 128.8 points is first — and his 28 targets in that time are tied for third behind only Leonard Fournette’s 33 and Saquon Barkley’s 30 McKinnon’s hefty receiving usage makes him a strong fantasy play for Week 18, when his Chiefs will face the Raiders with the AFC’s top seed still up for grabs, as well. — Cockcroft
Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down Jerick McKinnon’s production during the fantasy playoffs.
Tristan, McKinnon changes the dynamic of the Chiefs’ pass game. He’s a versatile target for Patrick Mahomes, and Andy Reid can scheme up the running back in multiple ways to attack defenses. Screens, unders, flats, more. Give him space to work with. — Bowen
Brady comes up big
That was vintage Tom Brady in the Week 17 win over Carolina. Take the deep ball one-on-ones with Evans. Deliver the ball with touch and pace there. Hit the second-level concepts, too. And take the throws that are available underneath versus zone coverage. Brady posted a season-high 37.68 fantasy points in this one (only his second game of 20 or more points this season), completing 34 of 45 passes for 432 yards with three scores (all going to Evans). With the Bucs clinching the NFC South today, there’s a strong possibility Brady will sit in Week 18. But there’s no question that we just watched the veteran play his best football game of the season. He was dialed in. — Bowen
Brady’s 37.68 fantasy points were actually his fourth most in any of his 332 career NFL starts. He now owns nine of the 14 games worth 30-plus points by a player aged 40 or older (since 1950). — Cockcroft
Danny Dimes notches career-best fantasy performance
Daniel Jones dropped a career-best 36.18 fantasy points on the Colts’ defense in Week 17. Efficient as a thrower, he completed 79.2% of his passes in this one — with two scores. Pepper the zone windows. And find the voids in the red zone. Clear reads here. And Jones’ deployment as a runner (11 carries, 91 yards, two touchdowns) allowed the quarterback to test the perimeter of the Indy defense, boosting his fantasy totals. With the Giants clinching an NFC playoff spot on Sunday, it’s doubtful that we see Jones in Week 18 versus Philly. But if you play in a 17-week league and start Jones today, you might be in line to claim that fantasy title. — Bowen
Tristain H. Cockcroft analyzes Daniel Jones’ Week 18 fantasy performance and what he expects from him next season.
Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings: His Week 17 might’ve undermined a good number of his fantasy teams, after Jefferson found himself on finalists’ rosters in a league-leading 43.4% of ESPN leagues. In large part due to the extraordinary coverage by Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander, who held Jefferson to one target and no catches on the receiver’s 20 routes in which Alexander was the nearest defender, Jefferson scored a career-worst 2.5 PPR fantasy points. It’s one of those bum-luck performances, and Jefferson — if the Vikings choose to give him a full slate of Week 18 snaps — could challenge his 30.32 points of Week 5 against the Bears in next week’s rematch. — Cockcroft
Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders: On the season as a whole, he has been excellent, his 323.3 PPR fantasy points ranking him third at the position. Adams’ path there has been inconsistent, however, as he scored 34.3 points in Week 17 — the second-best total among wide receivers that week and the fifth time this season he has exceeded 30 — after he totaled 20.4 in the previous three weeks. Adams had been the 13th-most-common player found on ESPN playoff teams’ rosters (58.0% of leagues had him on a playoff roster), but his Weeks 15-16 slump dropped him to only the 19th-most-common wide receiver on finalists’ rosters (19.6%). — Cockcroft
Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: Both the second-most-common running back found on ESPN playoff teams (62.5% of leagues had a playoff team with him on it) and finalists (34.4%), Ekeler scored 32.1 PPR fantasy points in Week 17, the fourth time this season he has exceeded 30 and ninth he has scored 20-plus. In the past 14 weeks, Ekeler is fantasy’s top-scoring running back (320.8 PPR points). — Cockcroft
Jarrett Stidham, QB, Las Vegas Raiders: In his first pro start — and facing the No. 1-ranked 49ers defense — Stidham posted 26.0 fantasy points, passing for 365 yards with three touchdowns. He produced on pocket throws and plays outside of structure, and showed a physical element to take hits. An overtime interception from Stidham put the 49ers in a position to win this one. But looking at his résumé from the entire game, Stidham will be a top streaming option in deeper leagues for the Week 18 matchup versus the Chiefs. — Bowen
Jared Goff, QB, Detroit Lions: One of our favorite streaming options this season, Goff delivered again in the fantasy playoffs, posting his second straight game with at least 22 points (and three touchdown throws) in the Week 17 win over the Bears. This was a matchup play for Goff against the subpar Chicago defense on Sunday. An easy start in your lineup. Goff completed 72.4% of his passes in this one too, hitting the play-action windows and taking the man-matchups. The Lions quarterback, who has now posted 20 or more fantasy points in four of his past five starts, gets the Packers’ defense in Week 18 at Lambeau Field. — Bowen
Deshaun Watson, QB, and Amari Cooper, WR, Browns: For the first time in Watson’s five 2022 starts, the quarterback brought back visions of his bigger scores with the Texans, as he scored 22.86 fantasy points to inflate Cooper’s score to 25.0 PPR fantasy points, Cooper’s most since Week 11. The two had good chemistry in this game, even if Watson turned a small number of throws into a hefty level of production. Nevertheless, that’s a good development considering teams have thrown with decent success against the Steelers, the Browns’ Week 18 matchup. Watson might finally be shaking off some of the rust, and with continued momentum next week he could place himself back in the QB1 conversation for 2023 drafts. — Cockcroft
Gardner Minshew, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: A week after he dropped 22.4 fantasy points on the Cowboys’ defense, in a game where I thought Minshew didn’t flinch, the Eagles backup quarterback struggled with accuracy and ball placement in the loss to the Saints. Minshew finished with 12.96 fantasy points here, was sacked six times, and his late pick-six essentially ended it for the Birds. Have to know the personnel you are throwing against there. Marshon Lattimore was on that slant route from the jump. With Jalen Hurts (shoulder) expected back next week for the game against the Giants, Minshew will take a seat in Week 18. — Bowen
Matt, one bright spot off that Minshew stinker — and something that came to mind for me, especially, as a manager of both AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith on one title-game team — is that it assures the Eagles’ Week 18 game matters, whereas it pretty much does not for the opposing Giants. We could get some fantasy goodness from the trio accordingly, and Hurts, Brown, the Eagles’ defense/special teams and Smith all rank among the 40 players most commonly found on finalists’ rosters in ESPN leagues. — Cockcroft
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings: After three straight games with 24 or more fantasy points, Cousins scored just 7.9 points in the Week 17 loss to the Packers. That’s his second lowest total of the season. Ball security was a major issue here, as Cousins tossed three interceptions, while also losing a fumble. And with the Packers defense erasing Jefferson from the route tree, the Vikings simply didn’t have answers in the pass game. Cousins will look to rebound in Week 18 with a very positive matchup versus the Bears defense. — Bowen