Awwwwwwww yeah, fantasy ballers, it's the start of the playoffs! (Unless you're in one of those barbaric leagues that has it's championship round in Week 17. In which case, shame on your commissioner.) If you're still in the title hunt, congratulations! Hopefully my sleeper picks helped you get to this point. If you're battling just to stay out of last place...I'm sorry. And hopefully my sleeper picks didn't put you in that situation.
Now, just because it's playoff time, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be turning over every stone to find some sneaky plays. Folks have a tendency to play it safe this time of the year, solely because they don't want to look stupid for starting a relatively unknown commodity like Marquise Goodwin over a stud like Doug Baldwin. (Even though you definitely should this week.) You have to be a little bold to win championships. Here are some bold options:
Blaine Gabbert, ARI (vs. TEN)
There aren't many QBs that we can really consider "sleepers" at this point in the season. We all know Case Keenum is a beast. There should be no doubt that Josh McCown is a legit force this year. But one guy fantasy players are still (rightfully) hesitant about is Blaine Gabbert, who's doing his best to fill in for the injured Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton. Gabbert has been, how you say...quite poopy in a limited showing, putting up as many turnovers as interceptions in 2 of his 3 starts. That said, 6 TDs in that timeframe is nothing to sneeze at, and the guy's posted at least 220 yards in each contest.
Meanwhile, the Titans are looking more and more like a mirage every week. This is a very beatable defense, and it should be a close enough game that Gabbert can keep throwing the ball without having to force bad throws downfield. Tennessee's D has given up an average of 2 touchdowns and has held just 2 opposing QBs to less than 200 yards: Jay Cutler in Week 5 and Jacoby Brissett in Week 12, who just missed the cut with 196 passing yards. Don't expect Gabbert to look like a world beater, but he should have a nice, safe stat line this week.
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Marlon Mack, IND (vs. BUF)
Those of you still holding onto Mack as Frank Gore's handcuff have likely been disappointed by the rookie's output thus far. Despite being the more explosive back in Indianapolis -- and it's really not even close -- Mack has remained second banana to Gore, who's getting mushier by the day. (His 3.6 yards per carry average is a career low.) With the Colts unofficially out of the playoff picture, you'd think the coaches in Indy would like to test Mack out as a workhorse to see what they have for next year. The rookie did out-snap Gore last week, so maybe that's on the horizon. (It should help that Gore just moved into the #5 spot on the all-time rushing list. Maybe he'll "bow out" after notching that milestone, a la Antonio Gates?)
Even if the backfield remains a timeshare this week, I still like Mack's odds against a Buffalo defense that's surrendered more touchdowns to running backs than any other team in the league. He's got massive upside against the Bills, who give up 120 yards per game to opposing backs.
Mike Wallace, BAL (vs. PIT)
I know how this looks. Wallace is about as far away from a "sexy" pick as you can get, which is weird considering his big-play potential. In fact, here's some trivia that might make him more alluring: Mike Wallace is the only player this season to post 100+ yards in the first half of a game...twice. Since Week 4 (and not including games where he was limited due to a back injury or out with a concussion), Wallace has averaged 4 receptions for 65 yards. His touchdown potential is low, but in PPR formats his target share makes him a sneakily safe receiver with a strong possibility to boom.
Pittsburgh lost Ryan Shazier -- the glue for the Steelers unit -- for the season, and that will have a significant impact on the defense, who was already giving up the 8th-most fantasy points to receivers since Week 6. Look for Flacco to test them early and often with a deep ball, making Wallace a solid flex play with monster upside.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (vs. DEN)
Confidence in ASJ has certainly wained over the past couple of weeks, as the tight end has recorded just 4 catches for 34 yards and 0 touchdowns over this span. But let's not forget that was against two top-5 defenses against the position. Seferian-Jenkins is due to recapture his early season form when he takes on the Broncos, who are 3rd-worst against opposing tight ends. Josh McCown has proven himself a very reliable quarterback who's capable of exploiting the flaws in a defense, and that should mean plenty of work for ASJ.
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