Yet again, rotation will start to be an issue in some of the larger squads as managers look to keep their star players fresh for the myriad matches they'll play over the coming weeks. Keeping that in mind, let's take a look at the player picks who are most likely to start and perform well.
Simon Mignolet - Liverpool have found clean sheets hard to come by since starting the season with three consecutive wins to nil, but they got back on track with a thumping 5-0 victory over Tottenham at the weekend. The Belgian keeper didn't have a whole lot to do on the day, but the Reds will take the confidence boost heading back to what should be a buzzing Anfield crowd against Cardiff.
Boaz Myhill - After a few difficult weeks for West Brom, Myhill's price has plummeted to a bargain-basement £4.21M. At home against a faltering Hull attack may be the perfect remedy for his recent backslide.
David De Gea - He's pricy after last week's clean sheet against Aston Villa, but could very well be in line for another automatic 10 points against a West Ham side that struggles for goals, especially away from home.
Costel Pantilimon - This is a very risky pick in my opinion, but the City keeper will nevertheless be a popular pick this week. After conceding in consecutive League matches, the Romanian has returned to a mid-price keeper option at a very affordable £7.94M. However, City are missing one of their best defenders in Pablo Zabaleta and face a Fulham side that have been in much better form since the departure of Martin Jol. Buyer beware.
Joel Ward - I managed to talk myself out of starting him against Chelsea after holding him for four consecutive weeks leading up to the match, and boy do I wish I had those 16 extra points. Last weekend's match should have made it clear to all of us that he's going to put up solid to spectacular numbers week in, week out. Perhaps a bit of a tough one to get to at retail, but he'll likely be worth the long-term investment even at his current price.
Phil Jones - His ability to play in multiple positions increases Phil Jones' value, despite being on a rotation-heavy Manchester United side this season. Whether he's deployed in central midfield or defense, Jones has proven he'll deliver solid points. With the visit of goal-shy West Ham, the clean sheet potential makes him a top, top pick for this week.
Mathieu Debuchy - Another defender like Ward who has spent too much time making me look bad for putting him on the bench. Even if Crystal Palace and new Blog Favorite Marouane Chamakh manage to get on the scoresheet for a third consecutive week, you can bank on Debuchy for some solid phantom points.
Martin Olsson - With consistent players like Ward and Debuchy earning permanent places in our starting lineups, it's easy to overlook other players who have been delivering the goods. Since establishing himself as the first-choice left back for Norwich, Olsson has consistently delivered positive returns. As a fullback who likes getting involved in the attack, I think he's a good bet as a differential pick this week against a Sunderland squad who may be a bit tired after their exertions in their extra-time victory over Chelsea midweek.
Gareth McAuley - I keep waiting for him to have a breakout week like he did on occasion last season, and it nearly happened last weekend when he had his goal-bound header cleared off the line. The West Brom man is brilliant in the air and always poses a threat from set pieces. Add in the possible clean sheet against Hull and you have to like his chances of a double-figure week.
Bryan Oviedo - More of a hold-at-discount if you've got him recommendation, but you wouldn't put it past Ovi to punish us with another huge performance if we bench him after his paltry 2 points last weekend, would you? Swansea haven't traveled well and Everton have been one of the toughest back lines to break down this season. I'm strongly considering playing four at the back and giving him another chance.
David Silva / Yaya Toure - With Sergio Aguero missing, it will be up to City's other superstars to lead the team. I feel both players are solid choices against Fulham this week, even with City's away woes. You should strongly consider at least one of these two for your team, and I wouldn't blame you if you opted for both.
Jordan Henderson - In the absence of Steven Gerrard, most of us guessed that the attacking onus from midfield would come from Coutinho, but instead Jordan Henderson delivered on all of his potential to put on an imperious display against Spurs. Playing in the hole behind Luis Suarez and covered by Lucas and Joe Allen, Henderson was able to focus his incredible energy and workrate to the attacking side of the game, and he delivered with a goal and an assist. I don't expect the same returns from him this weekend, but he still represents excellent value in his new role.
Philippe Coutinho / Raheem Sterling - Liverpool's other attacking midfielders also put in solid displays against Tottenham, though Coutinho's fantasy returns didn't reflect what we expected of him. He should have an easier time of it at home against Cardiff (and not facing off directly with Kyle Walker who, as much as I hate him, is one of the best right backs in the league this year), so he's in my thoughts again for Week 17. Ditto for young Sterling, who has been back to his best form since the West Ham game. I expect him to cause all sorts of trouble with his pace and confidence taking on defenders.
Nathan Redmond - The youngster is doing his best to make it difficult for Robert Snodgrass and Anthony Pilkington to get back in the starting lineup with his dynamic performances from the wing. He's been among the most in-form players recently, averaging more than 10 points per game over the past five game weeks.
Morgan Amalfitano - The Frenchman hasn't quite been on-song since being a fantastic differential pick early in the season, but he always looks a threat from the wing. If you don't trust him to get more than 45-60 minutes, Chris Brunt or Stephane Sessegnon also represent solid options from the West Brom midfield this week.
Michu - It's a good thing Michu proved he was worth more than his price tag in 2012, because he's been riding on the coattails of those performances for the entirety of 2013 (seriously, take a look at his points chart). Still, he's bound to rediscover his attacking prowess at some point, right? I don't want to write him off just yet, and this feels like the appropriate number of matches after injury for him to pop up with a goal.
Mile Jedinak - Something tells me this is the week the ghost (only phantom points all season) contributes with a goal or assist. I don't know that I'll be able to commit to it, but it's bound to happen one of these weeks, right? If not, you can still likely count on a bevy of intercepted passes and victorious challenges from the Aussie.
Luis Suarez - Just when I felt sure dropping Mesut Ozil was going to be my biggest mistake of the season, Suarez put up another 40+ points against a team Liverpool haven't beaten away from home since Fernando Torres was in his prime. It made perfect sense to move the captaincy to Wayne Rooney, right? What's that...I'm an idiot? Oh, yeah...got it. He should be your captain every week, barring injury or suspension. The potential for huge hauls is too high to ignore. Don't learn the same hard lesson I had to.
Alvaro Negredo - It's anyone's guess as to what the absence of Sergio Aguero means for Negredo's attacking influence for Manchester City, but if he basks in the limelight shone on him in the absence of his diminutive strike partner, the Spaniard could be in for a big game against a Fulham side potentially still missing their best defender and captain, Brede Hangeland.
Danny Welbeck - He was the source of much frustration for fantasy managers (myself included) who were banking on Wayne Rooney playing the lone striker role, but the England hopeful did himself a favor with a strong performance, albeit against an abject Aston Villa squad. He could find it more difficult to breach the staunch West Ham defense, but represents decent value if he's going to continue as the main striker for United's favorable run of fixtures over the holiday period.
Kevin Mirallas - With Gerard Deulofeu out until the new year, Mirallas has a chance to prove to Roberto Martinez why he deserves to keep the starting role ahead of the Barcelona loanee. Many people will opt for the frustratingly inconsistent Romelu Lukaku this week--and he'll probably score a hat-trick--but I'm thinking Mirallas may be due for a big game.
Shane Long - There's a lot of love for West Brom players in my picks this week, which makes me a bit nervous considering they've just lost their manager and Hull is capable of big performances (see: Liverpool), but the Irish striker is having a good season so far and should be first choice to lead the line.
Loic Remy - He's been awfully quiet recently, but we all know he's capable of adding to his goal tally at any point. I'm a bit wary of this one now that Crystal Palace have solidified their defense under the tutelage of Tony Pulis, but I'd be remiss if I didn't put Remy in my picks in a week where there aren't too many standout picks at striker.
Since I have some considerable ground to make up, I've decided to stop overthinking things and to listen to my gut. It's served me well in seasons past, and I've found myself being either overly critical or too easily influenced by the decisions of others with my team selections recently. My current team is as follows:
Mignolet, Ward, P. Jones, Debuchy, Sterling, Silva, Redmond, Coutinho, Long, Suarez (c), Mirallas
Bench: Henderson, Oviedo, Kelly, Gazzaniga
I've yet to decide which Liverpool midfielders I want to include, hence having all three. I'll likely only opt for two by the weekend, but I haven't figured out who to replace just yet. Other considerations include starting Oviedo, drafting in Negredo and giving McAuley or Olsson a spot in defense at the expense of Jones or Debuchy.
If you aren't feeling brave enough to take my advice, you're in luck! Both K.M. and Stall Express have weighed in with some great picks of their own for Week 17, so feel free to follow their lead instead!
How is your team coming together? Do I have to ask who you'll be captaining? Let's discuss in the comments. Good luck with your choices!