Using Week 17 as a window into what to expect for the 2021 fantasy football season

Dalton Del Don
·15 min read

The new playoff format made for an exciting Week 17 (and an extremely intriguing upcoming wild-card weekend that features back-to-back triple-headers), which culminated in the highest-scoring season in NFL history.

With fantasy football leagues wrapped, I’m examining Sunday’s action with an eye on what we could expect next season.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

David Montgomery was unquestionably helped by an incredibly easy schedule down the stretch and saw a big increase in targets thanks to Tarik Cohen’s season-ending injury (Cohen will be back with the team in 2021), but he also no doubt impressed while totaling 824 yards with eight touchdowns over the final six games. Montgomery will require a high fantasy pick next year with so few workhorses in the league right now … Darnell Mooney made a terrific catch Sunday and had a much better rookie season than his numbers indicate … Allen Robinson had zero catches at halftime and finished with a quiet game thanks to Jaire Alexander, while Marquez Valdes-Scantling had an MVS game, combining a long TD catch with a brutal drop preventing him from having another (Aaron Rodgers shouldn’t complain too much, as Chicago dropped multiple interceptions Sunday as well).

With Patrick Mahomes electing to sit out Week 17 and Rodgers openly campaigning for the award, his four-TD performance to secure the all-important No. 1 seed Sunday in Chicago against a tough Bears defense while missing LT David Bakhtiari (who tore his ACL in practice last week) likely locked up the trophy … Davante Adams somehow recorded an NFL-high 18 touchdowns while missing 2.5 games and will be the first pick in many PPR drafts next year … Aaron Jones is likely to re-sign in Green Bay, but he and Jamaal Williams enter the offseason as free agents, and AJ Dillon is a fantasy beast in waiting.

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JANUARY 03: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates with Aaron Rodgers #12 after scoring a touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter in the game at Soldier Field on January 03, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Coming off an 18-touchdown season, Davante Adams could be the top pick in 2021 PPR drafts. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Russell Wilson used to be known as a slow starter who really turned it on over the second half of seasons, but the opposite has been true lately, and Sunday featured a stretch without a first down by Seattle for nearly two quarters. Still, even with Seattle’s offense sputtering over the second half of the season, the Seahawks set a franchise record in points scored, and Russell Wilson set a team-record with 40 touchdown passes (after never eclipsing 35) … Tyler Lockett’s 100th catch of the season also happened to be a game-winning toe-tapper on fourth down, and the positive about DK Metcalf’s slow second half is that it will lower next year’s ADP … I want to call Rashaad Penny a sleeper next year, but he couldn’t finish this game after leaving with cramps and was outplayed by Alex Collins, not exactly easing durability concerns.

Last year’s NFC Champs finished the season with the NFL’s second-worst turnover ratio (-11), and San Francisco is now 24-9 with Jimmy Garoppolo and 7-27 without him since 2017. It would be a major surprise if he isn’t brought back as the team’s starter next season given the franchise’s situation … River Cracraft decided to take a “safety first” approach with this fair catch.

Raheem Mostert, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle (what a catch Sunday) all enter 2021 with huge fantasy upside but with equal injury risk. Especially if the team is able to re-sign Trent Williams, Mostert becomes arguably the biggest boom/bust player in fantasy football (Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon won’t be back). Jeff Wilson Jr. just finished with one of the quieter 10-touchdown seasons in recent memory, and he’ll be one of the top fantasy backup RBs at 2021 draft tables … The 49ers end a bizarre season ruined by injuries strangely with more wins in MetLife Stadium in New Jersey than they had at home all season. Josh Rosen is an interesting dynasty deep-league flier, while Brandon Aiyuk is the 49er to target in fantasy drafts next year.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts

Jonathan Taylor ended his rookie season getting 6.7 YPC and scoring eight touchdowns over the final five games, setting the Colts single-game record with 253 rushing yards Sunday. The back continued to impress and had a third TD called back thanks to a questionable penalty. Taylor is going to be a top-five pick in 2021 fantasy drafts … Laviska Shenault is going to be a fun fantasy player with Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback … Jacksonville beat the Colts in Week 1 — and then didn’t win again all season …

I can only assume Rodrigo Blankenship’s brother is Kenny … James Robinson helped win many fantasy leagues this year when he became the fastest undrafted player in NFL history to reach 1,000 rushing yards despite playing for a team that finished 1-15. Entrenched as Jacksonville’s lead back and with Lawrence as his quarterback, Robinson is going to be worth an awfully high fantasy pick in 2021.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

Andy Dalton ran for more yards than Ezekiel Elliott, who at least had his first rushing touchdown since Week 5. CeeDee Lamb suffered a costly drop with 1:30 left, and Mike McCarthy inexplicably didn’t challenge a clear non-catch that could’ve cost them a playoff spot, as the Cowboys’ massively disappointing season came to a fitting end … The refs ruled this a fumble recovery for the Giants, whose luck would run out later Sunday night … New York drafting Andrew Thomas over Mekhi Becton and Tristan Wirfs looks like a potentially disastrous mistake … Don’t forget about Blake Jarwin, who will be a top-five fantasy tight end in 2021.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb led the NFL in elusive rating by a wide margin this season and didn’t disappoint Sunday, helping the Browns make the postseason for the first time in 18 years (and setting up a rematch with the Steelers) … Diontae Johnson “led” the league in drops this season but pulled down a really nice grab, while Mason Rudolph and Myles Garrett appeared to make nice after the game … Kevin Stefanski has a strong argument to be Coach of the Year, and I can’t imagine Cleveland bringing back Odell Beckham Jr. next season. Baker Mayfield saw his YPA (and fantasy points) increase with Beckham off the field despite a three-game stretch of terrible wind conditions that suppressed passing a ton.

Never again, James Conner.

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

Derrick Henry entered Week 17 with more yards after contact (1,303) than all other backs had rushing yards (other than Dalvin Cook), and the Big Dog ate Sunday, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards against the same opponent three straight games. Henry had another touchdown called back by a shaky holding penalty, stepped out of bounds by an inch during another near score and lost two rushing TDs to Ryan Tannehill. Still, Henry became the first player since 1967-68 to lead the NFL in carries, rush yards and rush touchdowns in consecutive seasons and the eighth player ever to rush for 2,000 yards, finishing as fantasy’s No. 3 RB in PPR leagues despite recording just 19 catches …

Speaking of remarkable performances, Deshaun Watson dealt with terrible coaching, lost DeAndre Hopkins and later Will Fuller yet finished with the most passing yards in the NFL. He also led the league in YPA (8.9) by more than a half yard, as the Texans somehow led the NFL in yards per play this season despite ranking #30 in rushing offense in DVOA. Watson would be one of the first 3-5 picks if starting an NFL franchise today … A.J. Brown left injured early but returned and made the biggest play of the game. He likely won’t last past Round 2 in fantasy drafts next year, especially with Corey Davis set to enter free agency. Davis, meanwhile, had a brutal game Sunday that featured multiple bad drops, but he entered second in the NFL in yards per route run (behind only Davante Adams). The Titans/Ravens matchup should be good.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Kirk Cousins had 260 passing yards (10.0 YPA) with three TD strikes at halftime (and somehow none were to Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen or Irv Smith), and he later even attempted the Griddy after rushing in a score. Cousins had an underrated season, shattering his career-high with 35 TD passes while finishing second in the NFL in YPA (8.3). Dalvin Cook staying healthy prevented Cousins from having an even bigger fantasy season … There’s no stopping Chad Beebe, only hopes of containing him … Adrian Peterson had a 48-yard run during his revenge game, followed shortly by a boss TD run … Marvin Jones had 180 yards and two touchdowns but a third TD was inexplicably overturned despite overwhelming evidence the call was correct in the first place, as NFL refs are easily the shakiest in sports … Thielen tied for the NFL lead with 13 red-zone touchdowns this season, while Jefferson broke the rookie receiving record despite opening the year behind Bisi Johnson, Thielen staying healthy all year, and playing for a run-heavy team. Jefferson quite clearly surpassed Thielen on Minnesota’s depth chart and won’t make it out of Round 2 in 2021 fantasy drafts.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady recorded the most passing yards over an eight-quarter stretch over the last 30 years and while his situation certainly helped, it really can’t be understated just how impressive his performance was this season at age 43. Unprecedented would be an understatement, as Brady reached 40 passing TDs for just the second time during his career, helping Tampa Bay make the postseason for the first time since 2007 … One play after setting the NFL record with his eighth straight 1,000-yard season to open his career, Mike Evans dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone while suffering a knee injury that would force him to leave the game (but reports suggest it’s not serious). Still, Evans set a career-high with 13 touchdowns and gets it done no matter who’s throwing him the ball … Hopefully (for fantasy purposes) the Falcons spend an early pick on a running back, while I’d draft Younghoe Koo before Todd Gurley in 2021 … Scotty (Miller) doesn’t know his TD catch was about to be stolen by Antonio Brown … The 4-12 Falcons finished with a point differential (-18) not much worse than the 11-5 Browns (-11).

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

Lamar Jackson became the first QB ever to rush for multiple 1,000-yard seasons, as the Ravens became just the second team in the Super Bowl era to rush for more than 400 yards in a game Sunday … Marquise Brown had a bad drop but scored twice anyway, ending the season with six TDs over the final six games despite never seeing more than eight targets over that span … Tee Higgins exited screaming in pain after a 39-yard catch that was also called back by a penalty, adding insult to injury. Still, Higgins is Cincinnati’s new Ocho Cinco and will be a wide receiver to target in 2021 … Maybe Joe Mixon will be ready next week … J.K. Dobbins’ draft value went up after a big Week 17, but he’ll be worth it …

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills

The Bills scored 56 points in a game Josh Allen sat out the second half against a Dolphins team with its season on the line, as Miami missed the playoffs despite winning 10 games. Allen passed Drew Bledsoe for the single-season franchise record for passing yards and goes down as the NFL’s most improved player while likely finishing third in MVP voting. Allen is also one of the most fun players to watch in the league, and the Bills look like they have the best shot at upsetting KC in the playoffs … Stefon Diggs played 16 games for the first time in his career, somehow leading the NFL in catches and receiving yards after switching teams. He still can’t be trusted though … With the (limited) evidence we’ve seen from Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins have a real decision to make having the third overall pick (from the Texans) in the draft.

New York Jets @ New England Patriots

Cam Newton is likely one-and-done in New England, but he ended his disappointing 2020 with a huge finish, recording the longest run ever by a Patriots quarterback while also becoming the first QB in franchise history to catch a TD. What the Patriots do at the quarterback position will be one of the bigger offseason storylines ... Ty Johnson had a nice first half but mostly disappeared in the second, losing a goal-line TD to Josh Adams in the process, as Adam Gase gave DFS players one final going away present (while trolling season-long players with Chris Herndon). Don’t forget about the Gase (after) effect next year.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ defense had been playing well lately, so it was extra impressive to see a hobbled Drew Brees go outdoors and toss three touchdowns without Michael Thomas and his entire running back room (Ty Montgomery came through in DFS). Taysom Hill will almost certainly replace Brees next year, and he should be drafted as a top-10 fantasy QB … It could be a big switch for Alvin Kamara, who finished first in WOPR among running backs this year … DJ Moore made a terrific catch Sunday, but Russell Okung had the best week among all Panthers.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs

Justin Herbert broke nearly all the rookie passing records and knowing Anthony Lynn, almost certainly wouldn’t have played a snap this season if not for a bizarre injury. I’ll blindly bet the Chargers’ Over next year with Herbert and a new coach … Darwin Thompson looked like what we thought Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be, and don’t forget Damien Williams’ return will further cloud KC’s 2021 RB situation … Jalen Guyton dropped an easy 50-plus yard touchdown on a beautiful deep throw from Herbert, while Byron Pringle brought down a circus grab. Mecole Hardman was a big disappointment (two targets, one fumble lost) given the expanded snaps ... Travis Kelce absolutely has an argument to be the No. 1 pick in fantasy leagues in 2021, but as a 32-year-old tight end coming off a career-best performance, I’ll probably be passing at his ADP (which will be top-10) … Patrick Mahomes set an NFL-record this season in dropped interceptions, but the Chiefs are likely to turn back to him in the playoffs after Chad Henne couldn’t lead the team to victory Sunday.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Jerry Jeudy bounced back from last week’s dropfest and cashed in some of his unrealized air yards (in which he led the NFL), but I’m taking Courtland Sutton ahead of him in fantasy drafts next year … On a franchise that featured Tim Brown, Darren Waller set the Raiders record for catches this season with 107. Of course, the league is completely different now and comparing stats between eras is meaningless, but it’s still an impressive feat by a tight end during a season in which the position was especially dreadful … No one dominated the preseason and Week 17 (and those weeks alone) quite like Bryan Edwards, while Nelson Agholor was one of the season’s biggest surprises.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams

It’s too bad the Rams go limping into the playoffs, and it’s not surprising Sunday’s winner was the team that didn’t throw a pick-six considering it was mostly John Wolford vs. Chris Streveler. With the playoffs on the line, the Cardinals punted down 18-7 with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, further revealing Kliff Kingsbury to be a fake sharp … Jalen Ramsey shut down DeAndre Hopkins, who was as big of a fan of the officiating Sunday as I was. Cam Akers turned 21 carries into just 34 yards and lost a fumble, but he also led the team in receiving yards, and most importantly, Sean McVay clearly values him greatly (giving him a heavy workload while playing through a high-ankle sprain), something that shouldn’t be forgotten during 2021 fantasy drafts.

Washington Football Team @ Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Hurts wasn’t lighting it up passing, but his removal from Sunday night’s game was clearly some gamesmanship, and Doug Pederson is now enemy No. 1 to Giants fans. Hurts should be drafted aggressively next year thanks to his rushing ability, likely as a top-five fantasy QB.

Washington finished 7-9 and will host a playoff game. The last two teams to make the postseason with a losing record won in wild-card weekend, including Ron Rivera’s 2014 Panthers.

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