Week 17 is a different beast. With many teams mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and others fighting hard to get in, team motivation is a big factor for a lot of daily fantasy players.

I’m of the belief that figuring out how actual motivation affects production on the individual level is a really difficult task and one that might not be worth considering. Am we really supposed to know if Player X on Team Y that’s eliminated from the playoffs is going to perform worse than normal and, if so, how much that might be?

I think what’s important in Week 17 isn’t determining which teams/players are instrinsically motivated to perform their best, but rather figuring out which teams are motivated to give their starters full snaps. We know that the players in the Panthers/Falcons game, for example, are going to be on the field for the entire game since the reward (a playoff berth) is so clear.

I’m also not against using players on teams that are out of the playoffs. In most cases, the starters get full work. Rather, it’s the players on teams that are in the playoffs but don’t have as much to play for that scare me. We saw that with Andrew Luck last week. I don’t think anyone could have accurately predicted Luck’s horrific game, but the fact that Indy already clinched a playoff spot was surely a factor in Luck getting pulled just after halftime.

When assessing Week 17’s quarterbacks, the first thing to think about is “How likely is it that this player is on the field for the entire game?”


Top Five Quarterbacks

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis at Tennessee, $8700 – This is a situation that really scares me. The Colts have already clinched the AFC South, but they can’t get a first-round bye. There’s not a whole lot to be gained from a win, so it’s very possible that Indy 1) gets Luck out of the game early or 2) doesn’t play him at all. Dream matchup, in theory, but probably a situation to avoid.


Peyton Manning, Denver vs Oakland, $8600 – Manning has been horrendous of late, but I think he and the Broncos are going to have a shift in strategy when things are really on the line. The Broncos can capture a first-round bye with a win or a Bengals loss. Cincy doesn’t play until Sunday night, so Denver will be playing their starters the entire game, in all likelihood. There’s certainly risk in rostering Manning, but I think the potential reward could be outstanding given what Denver is playing for.


Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay vs Detroit, $8600 – Green Bay has clinched a playoff spot, but they need a win to get home-field advantage. The matchup against the Lions is a tough one, especially since this game is for the NFC North title. I prefer Manning at the same price tag, actually, but Rodgers is still in play.


Drew Brees, New Orleans at Tampa Bay, $8400 – At 6-9, the Saints are out of the playoff picture. Again, that doesn’t mean that Brees is necessarily a bad play. My thinking is that he could actually be underutilized since many people are going to avoid him thinking there’s “no motivation” here. Well, there’s “no motivation” on either end, so as long as it looks like Brees will play a full game, he’s a potential value + against-the-grain choice.


Tony Romo, Dallas at Washington, $8000 – I think there’s an outside chance that Romo comes out of this game early if the score gets out of hand in either direction. That’s a risk, but in all likelihood, the Cowboys will be playing him the whole game. Dallas can clinch a bye with a win and losses from Seattle and Arizona. The chances of that aren’t good, but the Cowboys won’t know about the outcomes of those games when they play at 1pm. They have to try to win just in case the Seahawks and Cardinals lose.


Five Mid-Priced Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England vs Buffalo, $7800 – With the Denver loss on Monday night, New England clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. I have no idea how long, if at all, Brady will play, but I know that there’s a good chance he won’t be in the game until the end. I don’t think it’s out of the question to just use one Brady lineup in GPPs, if it looks like he’s going to play, just because he’s going to be low-usage, but there’s probably not much upside here since there’s little incentive for New England to keep him in the game.


Matt Ryan, Atlanta vs Carolina, $7700 – This is the game that has the most obvious playoff implications; if Atlanta wins, they’re in, and if Carolina wins, they’re in. Ryan is probably accurately priced at $7700 against a mediocre Panthers defense, but he holds a lot more value in that you know he’s going to in the entire game and the Falcons will probably be airing it out early and often.


Cam Newton, Carolina at Atlanta, $7500 – This is a similar situation to Ryan, so it’s just a matter of which quarterback you prefer. I think Ryan will be in more lineups, but Newton has been running the ball quite a bit lately. He also makes for an obvious pairing with Kelvin Benjamin. In reality, both quarterbacks are in play, and I’m a fan of loading up on this game quite a bit with something like Ryan/Julio/Roddy/Benjamin all in one lineup.


Russell Wilson, Seattle vs St. Louis, $7500 – The Seahawks need a win or a Cardinals loss to clinch the NFC West and a first-round bye. Arizona plays at the same time, so the only way Wilson will come out of this game is if Seattle is up big or Arizona is down big. St. Louis’s pass defense has been pretty good of late (minus Week 16), but Wilson has tons of value against any opponent because of his legs. Fire him up in Week 17.


Jay Cutler, Chicago at Minnesota, $7400 – Neither the Bears nor the Vikings have any playoff life, but I kind of like Cutler coming back. I’m not normally one to buy narratives without data, but I definitely think there’s something to the idea that Cutler is going to perform at a high level after getting benched. Maybe I’m wrong – Cutler doesn’t seem to be the best at dealing with adversity – and I won’t have a ton of exposure, but he’s probably a decent contrarian play at just $100 cheaper than Wilson.


Five Value Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers, San Diego at Kansas City, $7300 – With Denver’s loss, the Chargers can now make their way into the playoffs with a win over Kansas City. The Chiefs can still wiggle their way into the playoffs, too, but the important part is that Rivers will be playing the entire contest.


Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs Cincinnati, $7300 – Pittsbugh will clinch the AFC North with a win over the Bengals, who are coming off of a short week. Cincy is still very much in play for a first-round bye, too. The Bengals have the sixth-best pass defense and I think there are some better quarterback options at a cheaper cost, but Roethlisberger always pairs nicely with Antonio Brown.


Eli Manning, NY Giants vs Philadelphia, $7100 – Manning is on fire of late thanks to the emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. Manning and Beckham remind me a lot of Stafford and Megatron in that one player is good and the other isn’t (just kidding, kind of) and their play is very connected. If Manning has a big game, Beckham will, too. Playing for pride in Philly, I like Manning quite a bit this week against a horrific Eagles secondary.


Matthew Stafford, Detroit at Green Bay, $6800 – I’m not sure how Stafford is priced this low in a game against a mediocre defense that’s for the NFC North crown. I think Stafford is going to be the most popular quarterback on DraftKings this week, and Stafford-to-Johnson will be the most high-usage stack. I think you need to have some exposure to Stafford no matter how much you’re playing.


Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota vs Chicago, $5900 – Bridgewater makes for a really interesting play this week against a Chicago defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing passers in 2014. Bridgewater will give you a little bit on the ground, but he’s also been good as a passer with at least 259 yards in three straight games and two passing touchdowns in four of the past five. I actually like him quite a bit as a cheap value play in cash games if you go big at other positions.