For some of you, Week 17 represents the final step in your drive toward fantasy championships. Our weekly rankings are continually being updated in order to provide you with a dependable resource that should help with those difficult lineup decisions. And if you are willing to utilize sleepers, here is a look at some players that I believe could boost your scoring during this extremely critical week.
Andy Dalton vs. Ravens
Fantasy owners who have placed their faith in Dalton have often been burned. The third-year signal caller frequently leaves big plays on the field, and is a very streaky performer. But that could bode well for owners who entrust him in this week’s lineups, as he just torched Minnesota for a season high 366 yards and four TDs in Week 16. While the Ravens are far more capable at defending the pass than the Vikings’ 32nd ranked unit, Dalton could perpetuate the momentum by generating more high quality results. All of Dalton’s previous 300-yard games this season occurred in four consecutive starts from Weeks 6-9. He averaged 343 YPG during that span, which supplies the basis for believing that he might ignite for an extended period once again. Any owners who are in need of a sleeper can do far worse this week.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Jets
The second-year signal caller failed miserably in Week 16 after an impressive streak of productive performances. Tannehill had amassed 12 TDs between Weeks 10-15, with multiple TDs in three straight games before managing just 82 yards and no scoring throws during his dreadful outing in Buffalo. He was not alone in delivering disappointment, as his struggling offensive line contributed to Tannehill being sacked seven times, and Brian Hartline was extremely drop-prone. But this week, he has an excellent opportunity to rebound against the 24th ranked pass defense of New York. The Jet have allowed 25 TDs through the air, and Tannehill carved them up with a season high 331 yards and two TDs in Week 13.
James Starks at Bears
During the third quarter of Green Bay’s Week 16 matchup with Pittsburgh, Eddie Lacy reinjured what has become an extremely pesky right ankle last Sunday, which propelled Starks into a prominent role for the Packers from that point forward. The fourth-year back amassed 47 yards on 10 attempts, which was his most extensive workload since Week 3, and his best production since Week 8. Starks has been effective in his limited appearances this season, averaging 5.2 YPC. If Lacy is sidelined for this week’s showdown with Chicago, Starks becomes an exceptional starting option. The Bears are anchored into last among all teams in run defense, while yielding an unsightly 161.5 YPG.
Edwin Baker at Steelers
Baker almost made it into this column after he produced 84 total yards and a TD on 12 touches in Week 15. But in the aftermath of his Week 16 performance, in which he took advantage of his 17 carries to rush for 64 yards and another score, the second-year back has earned legitimate sleeper consideration. Particularly for owners who are searching for a new option at RB3 or the flex. Baker’s role expanded sizably last Sunday, as he carried the ball a whopping 17 times, while Chris Ogbonnaya’s lone carry was the only attempt generated by a Cleveland back other than Baker. Plus, even though his receiving yardage declined from 46 in Week 15 to 12 last Sunday, his target total only dropped from four to three. All of which bodes well for Baker maintaining a significant role again this week.
Shonn Greene vs. Texans
The Titans remained firmly committed to utilizing their rushing attack in Week 16, and that elevated Greene into the most prominent role that he has experienced this season. He had only carried the ball 52 times heading into last Sunday, but Greene garnered 19 attempts against Jacksonville, and proceeded to manufacture his best numbers as a Titan. Not only did he accrue a season high 91 yards, but he scored his fourth TD of the year. Three of those scores have occurred during December, and he is a candidate to penetrate the end zone at least one more time this week. The 24th ranked Houston rush defense is permitting 121 YPG, and should be exploitable in the season finale. Greene would be sharing touches with Chris Johnson, but the success that was attained last Sunday should have earned him another healthy workload.
Jeremy Kerley at Dolphins
Kerley had the potential to be the Jets’ most effective weapon this season. However, the dislocated elbow that he suffered in Week 9 temporarily derailed his efforts. But last Sunday, he delivered his most sizable contribution to the offense since Week 8. Kerley received a team high 11 targets, which helped him pace the team in receptions (five) and yardage (70). This week’s matchup with Miami could be challenging, as only six teams have permitted fewer fantasy points to WRs. But Kerley provides Geno Smith with a dependable option in the slot, and should accumulate a reasonable numbers of catches this week as a result.
Ted Ginn at Falcons
In the aftermath of Steve Smith’s sprained PCL, Ginn will be elevated into Carolina’s starting lineup, and take over Smith’s spot as the X receiver. That will enable Brandon LaFell to continue in his current position. While this supplies the potential for increased production from both Panther wideouts, the belief from here is that Ginn is the better starting option for your lineups. Throughout the regular season, he has been the more explosive receiver despite receiving 20 less targets than LaFell. Ginn has doubled LaFell’s total for receptions of 20+ yards (10/5), has nearly matched him in TDs (4/5), and his team high 16.2 YPC average easily surpasses LaFell’s 12.8. Regardless of how often the ball is distributed to each WR this Sunday against Atlanta, Ginn is more capable of delivering big plays than the drop prone LaFell. Making him worthy of consideration as a WR3.
Steadman Bailey at Seahawks
He entered Week 13 with just two targets and two receptions throughout the entire regular season. But his role has been expanded since that time, resulting in at least four targets in four consecutive games. As a result of the increased opportunities, the rookie has now been thrust into the conversation regarding potential Week 17 starters. He garnered a team high five targets last Sunday against Jacksonville, and responding by collecting three passes for 44 yards. Plus, he also ran for a 27-yard TD to culminate a double reverse. While the Seattle defense will be formidable during this week’s home finale, Bailey has sufficient talent to assemble yardage. And even if Tavon Austin returns from his ankle, it should not negatively impact Bailey’s value. His increased snaps have come at the expense of other Ram wideouts, and he should remain productive again this week.
Marcedes Lewis at Colts
Heading into Week 15, Lewis had received just 28 targets, as a troublesome calf injury has played a significant role in limiting his availability, and his effectiveness when he was able to perform. But Chad Henne has launched 13 passes toward Lewis during Jacksonville’s last two contests, which has enabled the eighth-year TE to collect eight receptions for 104 yards, along with two TDs. That includes the four catches and 50 yards that he produced against Tennessee in Week 16. Lewis has also scored in four consecutive contests, and could extend that streak this week. While Indianapolis has not been overly charitable to opposing TEs, Lewis should once again receive opportunities to produce yardage. And, he should garner targets in the red zone, as Lewis now represents a rare reliable weapon within an injury depleted offense.
Ryan Griffin at Titans
The 6’6”, 250 pound Griffin could provide an effective solution for owners who are willing to stream their TE in Week 17. He entered December with just six targets all season, but has received 11 during Houston’s last two contests. The rookie sixth-round draft selection caught all of them, including the five that he garnered in Week 16. That helped him assemble a season high 66 yards. Not only did he lead the team in that category, but it also enabled Griffin to surpass 60 yards for the second straight game. He is fully capable of extending that streak during this week’s matchup with Tennessee, and could also discover the end zone. The Titans have allowed opposing TEs to score in three consecutive contests.