Editor’s note: The players listed below have been valuable contributors in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is not an endorsement to bench them in Week 17. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some players who helped many make it to fantasy title games.
Josh Jacobs vs. San Francisco 49ers
Jacobs has been arguably the fantasy MVP this year, but he has a few obstacles to overcome in Week 17. He gets a 49ers defense allowing by far the fewest fantasy points to running backs, YPC (3.3) and yards per play on the road this season. No running back has reached 60 rushing yards versus San Francisco. The 49ers rank first in run defense DVOA, and Javon Kinlaw only recently returned last week.
Derek Carr being benched for financial reasons might be even more concerning for Jacobs’ fantasy value this week. Carr has thrown too many interceptions but has the Raiders top-10 in yards per play this season; instead it will be Jarrett Stidham making his first career start on New Year’s Day. Stidham has looked bad while getting 5.6 YPA with a 2:4 TD:INT ratio during his brief NFL action and is likely to be a significant downgrade. It also can’t be an ideal locker room situation, and Jacobs sounds ready to move on already. The Raiders’ implied team total has dropped to the second-lowest of the week with the QB move. By no fault of his own, Jacobs is in an incredibly tough spot in the fantasy championship.
Terry McLaurin vs. Cleveland Browns
McLaurin’s target rate falls from 29% with Taylor Heinicke down to 14% with Carson Wentz, and his yards per route run takes a similarly significant hit. The Browns have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, thanks in part to opponents sporting the second-lowest pass rate when facing Cleveland on the road. With Brian Robinson in a smash spot and Deshaun Watson likely to struggle against a strong Washington defense, game script shouldn’t require too much passing from the Commanders.
Jahan Dotson has quickly emerged as an alpha, and Wentz already failed to target McLaurin properly, so be wary of Terry this week.
Geno Smith vs. New York Jets
Smith has gotten just 5.4 YPA in back-to-back games and has fallen back to earth while ranking 21st in EPA/dropback since Week 10 (h/t Matt Harmon). He gets a tough Jets defense this week that’s allowing the fewest yards per play (4.8) and an NFL-low 13 passing touchdowns this season. Mike White’s return could help the game script, but Tyler Lockett, Marquise Goodwin, Will Dissly and Noah Fant are all banged up to varying degrees (Smith would get a further downgrade should Lockett sit again). The Jets secondary has ceded the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers and has grown even more dominant lately, as no WR has scored a touchdown against them over the past three games (when they’ve faced Josh Allen, Jared Goff and Trevor Lawrence).
Also for what it’s worth (maybe nothing!), Smith has gotten 9.7 YPA while averaging 2.7 touchdowns indoors this season and 7.1 YPA/1.7 TDs outdoors. Either way, Smith’s comeback story is likely to hit another snag this week against a surging Jets defense, making options like Gardner Minshew, Aaron Rodgers and Brock Purdy viable alternatives in your fantasy championship.
J.K. Dobbins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Dobbins split carries close to evenly (12-11) with Gus Edwards last week and didn’t see a fourth-quarter carry. Dobbins is rarely targeted (he has one catch since Week 4), recently admitted his left leg remains “lagging behind” after surgery and is further hindered by Tyler Huntley limiting Baltimore’s offense. Huntley has been a huge downgrade from Lamar Jackson, and Sunday night he’ll face a Pittsburgh defense that’s especially tough when T.J. Watt is healthy. The Steelers have yielded just 4.0 YPC and the second-fewest rushing touchdowns (seven) this season.
Dobbins hasn’t seen more than 15 carries during any game in his career, and he’ll be sharing backfield work in a Baltimore offense with one of the lowest implied team totals of the week. Start Tyler Allgeier, D’Andre Swift or AJ Dillon instead.