The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 17: Key quarterbacks will pass on playing

UPDATE: 10:51 a.m. Saturday
We’re roughly 24 hours from a slew of Week 17 games, and the ranks of quarterbacks are as thin as at any time this season.

Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (knee) and Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) have already been ruled out. And Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts (shoulder) is considered very doubtful.

Who should you grab on waivers at this late hour. The Eagles’ Gardner Minshew might be your best option. Or maybe Carson Wentz returning to the starting lineup for Washington. And as we said earlier with our Deepest Sleeper: the Rams’ Baker Mayfield.

One other key roster decision: The Commanders have ruled out RB Antonio Gibson, which makes Brian Robinson a solid choice for your No. 2 RB position.

ORIGINAL POST: 10:47 a.m. Wednesday

There are many years when the most valuable player in the National Football League, and the most valuable fantasy football performer, are two different dudes.

That’s probably not the case this year. Because when all the MVP votes are tallied next month, we’re guessing the winner will be the same guy who has most exceeded his fantasy draft day value.

That’s Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.

While not considered one of the top four quarterbacks heading into the season, the former Alabama and Oklahoma standout proved there’s more in his arsenal than just the ability to squat press 600 pounds (you could look it up on The YouTube).

His shoulder injury has made him a non-factor in the final two weeks of the fantasy playoffs, but he played a huge role in getting countless teams into their championship bracket. He stands at 3,472 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 747 rushing yards and 13 more TDs on the ground.

Here’s the rest of our picks for this year’s fantasy all-stars:

Geno Smith (Seaahawks QB) – He was the 33rd-ranked QB in the 32-team league before the season, and he stands seventh now for a Seattle team in surprising playoff contention. Nobody saw his 3,886 yards and 27 touchdowns coming, after he tallied just over 1,300 yards and only nine scores in the past six years COMBINED.

Josh Jacobs (Raiders RB) – He has been the No. 3 RB after starting in the mid-20s. He really picked up in midseason and has amassed more than 1,900 total yards and 11 TDs for a Las Vegas offense in desperate need of both most of the season.

Tony Pollard (Cowboys RB) – Dallas’ best running back is No. 8 in the league after starting the year in the mid-30s. Imagine if he weren’t sharing duties with Ezekiel Elliott. Still has more than 1,350 total yards, and he has 12 TDs after getting just 10 in his first three seasons.

Rhamondre Stevenson (Patriots RB) – Being in a timeshare most of the year with Damien Harris did not stop Stevenson from rising from the mid-30s to the No. 10 slot. The sophomore will more than double his rookie output, as he stands at just over 1,300 total yards and six TDs.

Amon-Ra St Brown (Lions WR) – Detroit’s breakout star rose from No. 31 to sixth despite dealing with some midseason injuries. But he’ll be posting career-bests as, with two games to go, he has 96 receptions for 1,050 yards and six TDs.

Jaylen Waddle (Dolphins WR) – Tyreek Hill’s presence hasn’t stopped this former Alabama standout from breaking out. He’s No. 9 in the league this year after barely making the preseason top 20. With 67 catches for 1,260 yards and eight TDs, his 18.8-per-catch average is nearly double his 9.8 average as a rookie in ‘21.

Evan Engram (Jaguars TE) – He’s the No. 4 tight end after falling short of the top 20 in the summer rankings. He has four TDs among his 68 receptions, and his 723 yards total is already a career high after five years of underperforming with the Giants.

Eddy Pineiro (Panthers K) – The 32nd-ranked preseason kicker stands at No. 2 for the revived Panthers. He has made 31 of 33 field goals on the season and has made all but one kick over 40 yards on the year.

Sitting stars

San Francisco’s defense is playing at such a high level now that neither Raiders WR Davante Adams nor tight end Darren Waller are obviously safe picks this week. … It goes without saying, but there are no zero Colts you should consider starting, even against the Giants. … And there are a number of quarterbacks we would be hesitant to start this week were our season on the line: Chicago’s banged-up Justin Fields vs. Detroit, Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins in Green Bay, Denver’s Russell Wilson against the Chiefs (duh!) and whoever Washington starts against Cleveland, be it Carson Wentz or Taylor Heinicke.

Matchup game

We’re big on running backs who need to have big games for their playoff-seeking teams, so we like Seattle’s Kenneth Walker against the Jets and Baltimore’s J.K. Dobbins vs. the Steelers. … Arizona’s offense has been a mess, but we see WR DeAndre Hopkins getting a lot of targets against the Falcons’ meager pass defense. … Philly’s Devonta Smith will continue his hot streak vs. the Saints. … Same goes for 49ers tight end George Kittle against the Raiders. … Rams TE Tyler Higbee and Cam Akers will post more good numbers against the Chargers. … And quarterbacks we like in Week 17 include the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers vs. the Vikings, Dallas’ Dak Prescott vs.Tennessee and Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence against Houston.

Injury watch

The focus is on the top two injured quarterbacks. Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is a better bet to return this week than Philly’s Jalen Hurts, if for no other reason than the Ravens need a victory much more than the Eagles as they’re still trying to chase Cincinnati in the AFC North. … The list of questionables is led by Tennessee RB Derrick Henry, though we’d bet the farm he plays in their must-win game against Dallas. … Other questionables include Green Bay RB Aaron Jones, Dallas RB Tony Pollard, Detroit RB Jamaal Williams, San Fran WR Deebo Samuel, Seattle WR Tyler Lockett, New Orleans wideout Chris Olave and Cincinnati tight end Hayden Hurst.

The deepest sleeper

Hard to believe we’re typing this sentence, but Baker Mayfield could be a good choice for an emergency quarterback if your starter’s status is shaky for this fantasy season finale. The Rams’ fourth starting QB of the season completed 24 of 28 for 230 yards and two touchdowns in their Christmas rout of what had been a solid Denver defense. He’s facing a Chargers team playing on a short week after locking up its playoff berth. Oh, and Mayfield is trying to impress potential 2023 employers. Don’t be surprised if the Progressive commercial standout racks up his first rushing TD since his season opener against Cleveland.

The Thursday pick

Cowboys at Titans (+9½): Pick: Cowboys by 14

Bonus College Football Playoff picks

Texas Christian vs. Michigan (-7½): Pick: Michigan by 11

Ohio State vs. Georgia (-6½): Pick: Ohio State by 3

You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at kcusick@pioneerpress.com.

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