Well, it's Week 17, and this week's Barometer has to be much more narrative-based than any other besides Week 1 because of the uncertainty heading into this weekend. Some teams are mentally checked out, as they just want to see the season end, while others will try to make a positive impression going into the offseason. Of course, there will be plenty of teams fighting for playoff spots, seeding and bye weeks. Please note that this week's article is simply my projection for Week 17 alone, and is clearly not meant to be read into beyond that.
Matt McGloin, QB, OAK
McGloin will start at quarterback for the Raiders after Derek Carr broke his leg last week, and he'll be counted on to help the Raiders beat their division rivals, the Broncos, on the road. Since Denver was eliminated from playoff contention last week, it'll be difficult to tell how motivated they'll be — they could look to knock the Raiders out of the bye, or they also could just mail it in after a long season. Should Denver play hard, it's difficult to see McGloin having much success against an elite pass defense, but if the Broncos just go through the motions, the quarterback could be in line for a solid day. Regardless, those in a pinch for a fantasy option in two-quarterback leagues, have to consider him, as he'll be available as a waiver-wire addition in almost every league.
Allen Robinson, WR, JAC
There's no denying Robinson took advantage of one of the worst pass defenses last week in the Titans, so not a lot can be read into his 147-yard effort on a team-high 12 targets. However, in Week 15, he lost a long touchdown reception when a defender dragged him down in the end zone, resulting in a pass interference penalty, and last week he had a couple of insanely athletic plays that reminded everyone of the force Robinson can be. It's clear the Jaguars are playing very hard after former coach Gus Bradley was fired, and it appears the players realize they need to prove something to ownership. He has an excellent matchup this week against the Colts, who are eliminated from playoff contention and likely to rest some of their nicked-up defenders. Robinson is a decent bet to end the season on a high note.
Antonio Gates, TE, SD
Gates took the dreadful Browns defense to the woodshed last week, posting 94 yards and a touchdown. Although that was no great accomplishment, he's now just a single touchdown from tying Tony Gonzalez's all-time record by a tight end. It's possible this could be the last game of Gates' career, and this also could be the last game the Chargers ever play in San Diego, so Philip Rivers will be plenty motivated to get him two touchdowns this week to give his great teammate sole possession of the record. That potential upside makes him a great lineup option this week.
DuJuan Harris, RB, SF
Yes, this is really a reach, but with Carlos Hyde out with a knee injury, Harris could be a sneaky option in PPR leagues this week in a home gain against the Seahawks. After Hyde left last week's game, he caught his only target for 14 yards, and although Shaun Draughn has been the backup and likely will start this week, it's difficult to imagine he'll have much success moving the ball against the interior of the Seattle defense. However, Harris' ability as a receiver makes him the better fantasy reach in Week 17, as he had some success in that role earlier in the season. In addition, he certainly hopes to have a chance to be more of a factor next season, whether it's with the 49ers or someone else, so he clearly has much to play for if given the opportunity.
Matt Cassel, QB, TEN
With Marcus Mariota injured, Cassel is a reasonable starting option this week in leagues that start two quarterbacks. It's understood he's not a good quarterback, but he is at home facing a Texans squad that has absolutely nothing to play for this week before a home playoff game wild-card weekend. It's possible Houston sits its gimpy players, making this a good spot for Cassel to cobble together some production. In relief of Mariota last week, he completed less than half of his passes for 99 yards and a touchdown, and hoping for at least 150 yards and a score this week is a reasonable starting point.
DeAndre Washington, RB, OAK
After Latavius Murray lost snaps in Week 15 by fumbling twice, Washington was given a much more prominent role in the Raiders' must-win situation, and he responded with 117 total yards and a pair of scores. There's no guarantee he'll get enough work to be a strong fantasy option, but if the coaching staff chooses to ride the hot hand, he could see plenty of work against the Broncos this week, which would be good news, as Denver has had its share of struggles containing rushing attacks. In addition, Denver is eliminated from playoff contention and might not show up with a winning attitude Sunday. Consider Washington a high-risk, high-reward fantasy option in Week 17.
Derrick Henry, RB, TEN
This is another speculative lineup option for Week 17 after Henry had just four carries in Week 16. However, with the Titans out of the playoff picture, it's possible they use Henry more this week both to see him work with increased opportunities and to give DeMarco Murray a bit of a break after a ton of touches this season. During his rookie season he's rushed for 4.5 yards per carry while scoring four times in his last seven games, showing he can be an effective option when given opportunity. Should he see increased work, it's possible he'll face a Texans defense resting players who are dealing with injuries, as they've already cemented their playoff seeding. Because his role is uncertain, Henry is a risky fantasy play, but one with excellent upside.
Darren McFadden, RB, DAL
It wouldn't be surprising if the Cowboys decided to severely limit the work they give to Ezekiel Elliott as the team prepares for a Super Bowl run. If that's the case, McFadden could see a heavy workload against an Eagles defense that's out of playoff contention. Philly has nothing to play for, especially since it can't even play spoiler, as Dallas has home-field advantage all sewn up, so it's increasingly likely that the Eagles won't be fully focused for this week. In Week 15, he backed up Elliott ahead of Alfred Morris, and since he carried the ball just three times for 10 yards, the team might want to get him some work to see if it can count on him to contribute in the playoffs.
Andy Dalton, QB, CIN
Not only do the Bengals have nothing to play for this week, neither does their opponent, the Ravens, so it's tough to imagine Dalton will find himself in a shootout. In addition, it seems likely the team will be without both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. Dalton has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes in six of his last eight games, which doesn't give him much upside this week. Of course, for those in leagues that start two quarterbacks, he'll remain in play, as there's no reason to think the team would hold the veteran out of the game.
Lamar Miller, RB, HOU
Miller dealt with ankle injuries for much of the second half of the season, and after being shut down last week, it's hard to believe the Texans would consider putting him back on the field in a game that's absolutely meaningless. Houston is locked into the AFC's fourth seed, playing a home game wild-card weekend, and needs Miller as close to 100 percent healthy as possible to advance in the playoffs. Don't expect him to be active in Week 17.
Ladarius Green, TE, PIT
After suffering a concussion in Week 14, Green didn't play last week, and even if he's cleared to play this weekend, it doesn't seem likely the Steelers would risk him getting hurt again in a meaningless game. He's had a troubling history of concussions, so the extra week of rest would certainly be helpful before the Steelers play at home wild-card weekend, having already locked up the AFC's third seed. Even if he's active Sunday, he's not a good fantasy option.
Jeremy Hill, RB, CIN
Hill played Week 16 despite a knee injury, though after gaining just eight yards on seven carries, it probably wasn't wise for him to be in the lineup. The Bengals have a completely meaningless game this weekend, as both they and the Ravens are eliminated from playoff contention, so there's no need to risk further injury to their starters. In addition, Cincinnati is expected to be without both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, so it would be a surprise if Hill saw much, if any, work in Week 17.