Five up, five down for Week 17
Who can you count on to play a full game and produce in Week 17? Our Nathan Zegura shares his top choices for the final weekend of the 2012 season.
If you are still playing in Week 17, you are likely going to have to try and win without getting a full game from many of the guys who got you here. Such are the perils of a Week 17 Fantasy Football Championship, but I will do my best here to give you some players to snag off the wire to help bring you a Fantasy title.
Get 'em active ...
Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (vs. OAK)
Current own/start %: 87/26
I'd start him over: Colin Kaepernick (vs. ARI), Jay Cutler (at DET), Matt Schaub (at IND)
If you are the owner of Matt Ryan this week and all of the usual suspects have been scooped up and you missed out on Michael Vick, I think Philip Rivers can help you win in Week 17. Rivers himself has multiple touchdown passes in two of his last three games and five of his last eight. He will be taking on an Oakland pass defense that has allowed 20.87 points per game to quarterbacks this year, sixth most in the NFL. Five of the last eight quarterbacks against the Raiders have produced 21 or more Fantasy points with the only exceptions being Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Peyton Manning on a Thursday night point killer. With Danario Alexander scoring just about every week and Antonio Gates finding the end zone in back to back games, Rivers should hit multiple touchdowns once again in Week 17 and is a great sleeper option for you at quarterback if the usual suspects are unavailable.
QBs with favorable matchups: Robert Griffin III (vs. DAL), Tony Romo (at WAS), Russell Wilson (vs. STL), Andrew Luck (vs. HOU), Eli Manning (vs. PHI), Michael Vick (at NYG), Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CLE), Jay Cutler (at DET), Josh Freeman (at ATL), Matthew Stafford (vs. CHI)
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles (at NYG)
Current own/start %: 99/29
I'd start him over: Darren McFadden (vs. SD), Frank Gore (vs. ARI), Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. PHI)
LeSean McCoy returned to action with a strong showing against the Redskins in Week 16, amassing 122 total yards on 22 touches. That was McCoy's ninth game this year with 10 or more Fantasy points, which is pretty impressive when you consider that he has played only 11 games all year. Now he gets to take on a Giants team that has been limping to the finish line of the 2012 season. Opposing running backs have had their way with the G-Men down the stretch, averaging 29.3 points per game over the last three weeks alone. In those three games, the Giants have allowed four running backs to produce 11 or more Fantasy points. Furthermore, the Giants have allowed 165 yards rushing per game on 5.5 yards per carry and have also surrendered 66 yards receiving per game. On the whole, opposing runners have netted 231 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game against the G-Men, so I am expecting a big game from McCoy, who torched the Giants for a season-high 123 rushing yards in their first meeting.
Other RBs with favorable matchups: Alfred Morris (vs. DAL), DeMarco Murray (at WAS), Stevan Ridley (vs. MIA), Reggie Bush (at NE), Knowshon Moreno (vs. KC), C.J. Spiller (vs. NYJ), Shonn Greene (at BUF), Mark Ingram/Darren Sproles (vs. CAR), Chris Johnson (vs. JAC), DeAngelo Williams (at NO), Darren McFadden (vs. SD), Sleepers: Ahmad Bradshaw/David Wilson (vs. PHI), Rashard Mendenhall (vs. CLE), Montell Owens (at TEN), Jackie Battle (vs. OAK), Mike Tolbert (at NO)
Justin Blackmon, WR, Jaguars (at TEN)
Current own/start %: 84/36
I'd start him over: Michael Crabtree (vs. ARI), Brandon Lloyd (vs. MIA), Miles Austin (at WAS)
With Cecil Shorts III out for the year, there is no question that Justin Blackmon will be the top target for Chad Henne when the Jaguars take on the Titans this week. Blackmon is coming off of a strong game against the Patriots where he caught seven of his 11 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. Blackmon has at least 11 targets and six catches in three straight games and should see another generous target volume this Sunday. Blackmon has five or more catches in five of the six games with Henne at quarterback, so he is a safe PPR option as well. In his first meeting with the Titans back in Week 12, Blackmon scored a touchdown and finished with a very solid 13 Fantasy points on only six targets. I am expecting more this week given that the Titans have seven receiver touchdowns in their last five games and seven receivers have hit 10 or more points during that span. Opposing top targets are averaging over 13 points per game against this Titans pass defense and I expect a very solid game from the rookie receiver, who has really turned it on since Henne took over at quarterback. He is a great No. 3 receiver for your teams and is a quality No. 2 option this week as well.
Other WRs with favorable matchups: Danario Alexander (vs. OAK), Pierre Garcon (vs. DAL), Eric Decker (vs. KC), Larry Fitzgerald (at SF), All Green Bay Wide Receivers (at MIN), T.Y. Hilton (vs. HOU), Michael Crabtree (vs. ARI), Kenny Britt (vs. JAC), Miles Austin (at WAS), Sleepers: Antonio Brown (if Mike Wallace plays; vs. CLE), Jordan Shipley (at TEN), Sidney Rice/Golden Tate (vs. STL), Danny Amendola (at SEA), Brian Hartline (at NE), Alshon Jeffery (at DET), Santana Moss (vs. DAL), Randy Moss (vs. ARI)
Delanie Walker, TE, 49ers (vs. ARI)
Current own/start %: 3/2
I'd start him over: Jermaine Gresham (vs. BAL), Dennis Pitta (at CIN), Owen Daniels (at IND)
If you survived the Tony Gonzalez disaster of Week 16 or perhaps you lost Heath Miller and need a tight end for Week 17, I think Delanie Walker is worth a look off of the waiver wire. Walker has scored in each of the last two games and has become a trusted option for Colin Kaepernick. With Vernon Davis knocked out of last week's game, Walker was targeted a season-high seven times and caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. He has produced at least eight Fantasy points in three of the last five games with Kap under center and could make it three in a row against the Cardinals. In their last four road games, the Cardinals have allowed three tight end touchdowns and are giving up an average of 11.3 points per game to the position. Walker is already the No. 2 target in the pass game for the 49ers and with Davis likely out, he will play an even bigger role. I think he is as good a pickup and play option for you out there at the tight end position for critical Week 17.
Bills DST (vs. NYJ)
Current own/start %: 37/17
I'd start them over: Giants (vs. PHI), Bears (at DET), Falcons (vs. TB)
Hopefully you did not have to watch last week's Jets game but if you did, you saw Greg McElroy take 11 sacks in the team's loss to the Chargers. In that game, the Chargers scored 29 Fantasy points and were the top scoring Fantasy defense for Week 16. The week before that, the lowly Titans defense scored 22 points against the Mark Sanchez-led Jets and now seven of the last nine defenses have scored 18 or more points against this pathetic offense. The Jets have been held under 300 yards of total offense with at least two turnovers in four straight games and while the Bills are no defensive juggernaut themselves, they are a great start against the league's most inept offense. With Sanchez starting again and no passing game to speak of other than interceptions, the Jets will be in big trouble once again. I expect the Bills to be able to shut down everyone in green other than maybe Shonn Greene and if a touchdown is scored on a pass from Sanchez, it will likely be a pick six. They are a great pickup and play this week and look for Mario Williams to rack up a sack or three on Sunday.
Some DSTs with favorable matchups: Broncos (vs. KC), Chargers (vs. OAK), Steelers (vs. CLE), Jets (at BUF), Patriots (vs. MIA), Packers (at MIN)
Ride the pine ...Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals (vs. BAL)
Current own/start %: 96/31
I'd rather start: Philip Rivers (vs. OAK), Russell Wilson (vs. STL), Michael Vick (at NYG)
Andy Dalton has just three passing scores in his last four games and might not even play a full game in Week 17 against the Ravens. When you consider that Dalton is averaging just 12.25 points per game and has seven total turnovers over the last four, there is little to be excited about even if Dalton was a 60-minute man. After all, the Ravens have held the Manning brothers to a combined 26 Fantasy points over the last two weeks and only one quarterback in the last six against this defense has even topped 15 Fantasy points. Even if Dalton does play a full game, he has not been the same since Mohammed Sanu was lost for the year with a foot injury. There are plenty of higher upside options for you at quarterback this week and Dalton is not a recommended Week 17 option.
Vick Ballard, RB, Colts (vs. Texans)
Current own/start %: 84/39
I'd rather start: Shonn Greene (at BUF), Mark Ingram (vs. CAR), DeAngelo Williams (at NO)
Vick Ballard is getting a solid workload of around 20 touches per game as the starter in Indianapolis, but has not scored a single touchdown and will need 100 yards against the Texans to get back to 10 points in Week 17. I know he was only the second runner this year to hit 100 yards against the Texans in Week 15, but I do not see history repeating itself. The Texans need to win this game and just held Adrian Peterson to 85 yards on 25 carries in Week 16. Chris Johnson ran for 144 yards against the Texans in his first go around, but was held to just 51 yards in the rematch. I fear that Ballard could suffer a similar fate after being held to just 69 yards on 20 carries against the Chiefs in Week 16 himself. Ballard has just one catch for 10 yards in his last three games combined, so this really is a rush or bust type of Fantasy situation, which is not great news against the Texans, who have allowed only three runners all year to top 80 yards on the ground. I would stay away from Ballard and consider him a desperation flex only because of his guaranteed workload.
Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (vs. TB)
Current own/start %: 99/64
I'd rather start: Mark Ingram (vs. CAR), Rashard Mendenhall (vs. CLE), Steven Jackson (at SEA)
'The Burner' is averaging just 38.2 yards per game rushing over the last seven games, and that is with him playing the full game! One of the games during that stretch was an impressive 13-carry, 17-yard effort against these very Buccaneers. He saved that day with a touchdown to get to the massive total of seven Fantasy points, but if he is only playing half of a game, he could really struggle. The Bucs enter this game giving up a league-low 72.4 yards per game on the ground to running backs on an NFL best 3.5 yards per carry. I know that last year under similar circumstances, Turner roasted these very same Bucs for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, but this is not the same Burner and these are not the same Bucs. Turner has seen 17 or more carries in only four games this year and has reached 70 yards (let alone 170) in just one of them. With plenty of other full-game options capable of reaching 70 yards and scoring a touchdown, it is time to throw some water on Turner and send him to the bench.
Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals (at SF)
Current own/start %: 75/20
I'd rather start: Montell Owens (at TEN), Jackie Battle (vs. OAK), Mike Tolbert (at NO)
Beanie Wells has 28 Fantasy points in six career starts against the San Francisco 49ers and has been held to three or fewer points in four of those games. In other words, this is not a great matchup for Wells, who has scored five touchdowns at home and none on the road. In fact, Wells has not topped six Fantasy points in any road game this year and faces the 49ers, who allowed just 17 Fantasy points to running backs and no touchdowns in their last two home games combined. The 49ers need to win this game, which Wells has called his audition reel for 31 other NFL teams. Unfortunately for Wells, this is going to be more like a lowlight reel rather than a highlight reel. The 49ers are angry and will look to take that out on the Cardinals, who were held to just 29 yards rushing on 19 carries against the Bears last week. I know you may have limited options this week, but I would gamble on plenty of other runners when scraping the bottom of the barrel before I'd use Beanie.
Other RBs with tough matchups: Green Bay running backs (at MIN)
Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals (vs. BAL)
Current own/start %: 95/62
I'd rather start: Delanie Walker (vs. ARI), Antonio Gates (vs. OAK), Kyle Rudolph (vs. GB)
Jermaine Gresham is in a little bit of a slump with no touchdowns in three straight games and a paltry average of 4.3 Fantasy points per game during that span. This week he takes on a Ravens team that held him to three catches for 30 yards on eight targets back in Week 1. The Ravens have allowed a league-low two touchdowns all season to opposing tight ends and are giving up just 5.8 points per game to the position, fourth lowest in the NFL. Now, it should also be noted that five of the last six tight end groups to face the Ravens have been held to three points or fewer, with Heath Miller's big game being the lone exception. Over the last three weeks, tight ends have five points total against the Ravens and that group includes Martellus Bennett, both Denver tight ends and the Redskins group as well. This is not a great matchup for Gresham to begin with and he might not even play the whole game, so I would not put him into my lineup if I could avoid it this Sunday.
Some WRs and TEs with tough matchups: Josh Gordon (at PIT), Antonio Brown (if Mike Wallace is out; vs. CLE), Brandon Gibson/Chris Givens (at SEA), Kris Durham (vs. CHI), Tony Scheffler (vs. CHI), Brandon Myers (at SD), Dallas Clark (at ATL)
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