We all knew back in August that Ryan Mathews was going to be a key cog toward winning a Fantasy championship. Of course we did.
In the crazy and unpredictable season of 2013, Mathews was a star in Week 16 after he started the year as a Fantasy pariah. He was a Top 10 Fantasy running back for the scoring period and came through as our Start of the Week.
Some of our other good calls for Week 16, including sleepers, were three Top 5 quarterbacks in Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Ben Roethlisberger, three Top 20 running backs in DeAngelo Williams, Chris Ivory and BenJarvus Green-Ellis and three Top 20 receivers in Pierre Garcon, Cordarrelle Patterson and Michael Crabtree.
Our big misses for the week all came from one game as the Falcons surprised the 49ers with Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Steven Jackson each playing well. Ryan was a Top 10 quarterback for Week 16, White was a Top 5 receiver and Jackson was a Top 20 running back.
We hope you enjoyed our weekly look back at each Start 'Em and Sit 'Em. Now, before we close the door on this Fantasy season, we'll give you one more edition of the column for those of you playing in Week 17. Good luck, and we hope your final championship week is prosperous.
|Player||Fantasy Pts. (proj.)||Fantasy Pts. (actual)||Start %||Pos. rank|
|Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers||19||17||67||8|
|Colin Kaepernick, QB, 49ers||30||24||59||4|
|Pierre Garcon, WR, Redskins||16||20||96||3|
|Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Vikings||9||11||43||13|
|Marques Colston, WR, Saints||9||6||65||42|
|Andre Brown, RB, Giants||7||3||56||49|
|Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins||19||3||18||32|
|Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks||21||11||60||17|
|Montee Ball, RB, Broncos||12||3||38||47|
|Kendall Wright, WR, Titans||11||2||57||66|
|Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons||16||21||39||7|
|Roddy White, WR, Falcons||8||20||50||4|
|Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons||8||11||64||18|
Start of the Week: Jay Cutler, QB, Bears
Arguably the biggest game of the week is the Packers at Bears. Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) is back for the Pack, and the NFC North title is on the line for these bitter rivals. And Jay Cutler should have the chance to shine.
The perception is Cutler folds in games of this magnitude, but we expect him to rise to the occasion at home. Clay Mathews (thumb) is out, which hampers the pass rush for Green Bay, and Cutler should have no problems with this defense.
|Russell Wilson||vs. STL|
|Colin Kaepernick||at ARI|
|Matthew Stafford||at MIN|
|Matt Ryan||vs. CAR|
|Andy Dalton||vs. BAL|
The Packers have allowed three of their past four opposing quarterbacks to score at least 22 Fantasy points with all four of those passers throwing multiple touchdowns over that span. And in Week 9, Josh McCown started for the injured Cutler and had 272 passing yards and two touchdowns at Lambeau Field.
Cutler is coming off a down game in Week 16 at Philadelphia with 222 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also has a terrible history against the Packers with five touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his past five meetings, with only one game with more than 225 passing yards over that span.
But this isn't the same defense that has frustrated Cutler in the past, especially with Matthews out. And he's a different quarterback playing for Marc Trestman with the talent around him in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. There is also the potential for a shootout now that Rodgers is playing.
We expect Cutler to play well, and he should help the Bears advance to the playoffs. All he has to do is limit the mistakes, get the ball to Marshall and Jeffery and rise to the occasion of a big moment with the season on the line. No pressure Jay, no pressure.
Andrew Luck (vs. JAC): Luck has a good history against the Jaguars with multiple touchdowns in all three previous meetings and at least 18 Fantasy points in each game. In Week 4 at Jacksonville, Luck had 257 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and two carries for 26 yards. The Colts are still alive for either the No. 2 or 3 seed in the AFC, so this game is important, meaning Luck should go all out. And the Jaguars have allowed nine quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points this season, which bodes well for Luck's fortunes this week.
Tom Brady (vs. BUF): This could easily be a game where the Patriots run all over the Bills. We saw it last week at Baltimore where New England had 34 carries while Brady attempted only 26 passes, which was his lowest total since Week 8. But Brady's history against Buffalo suggests he should play well. He has at least two touchdowns in each of his past five meetings with the Bills, and he's passed for at least 285 yards in four of those outings. In his past three games at home, Brady is averaging 398 passing yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. Buffalo has allowed five of seven quarterbacks to pass for at least two touchdowns on the road this season, including Geno Smith, Mike Glennon and Chad Henne. Also, in Brady's last three regular-season finales, he is averaging 274 passing yards with seven touchdowns and one interception.
Andy Dalton (vs. BAL): Can Dalton stay hot for one more week? He's scored at least 23 Fantasy points in each of the past three games with nine touchdowns and no interceptions over that span. The Bengals and Ravens have a lot on the line in this matchup with Cincinnati fighting for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and Baltimore clinging to the final wild card spot. We like Dalton's chances in this matchup. The Ravens have allowed a quarterback to score at least 22 Fantasy points in two of the past four games, and it likely would have been three if Brady passed more than 26 times in Week 16. Dalton is averaging 255 passing yards in seven home games with 18 touchdowns and five interceptions over that span. He's the No. 3 quarterback in standard leagues, and I'd trust him for one more week.
Philip Rivers (vs. KC): The No. 4 quarterback in standard leagues? That's Rivers, who has seven games with at least 22 Fantasy points this season, including Week 12 at Kansas City when he scored 33. He passed for 392 yards and three touchdowns in that game when the Chiefs went all out. This time around, Kansas City is likely going to rest most starters since the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. The lone concern with Rivers is he's become a game manager of late with only one game above 20 Fantasy points in his past four outings. Still, with Kansas City lining up a bunch of backups, Rivers should have the chance for a big outing. Stick with him if you're still alive this week.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CLE): Roethlisberger was one of the few quarterbacks to come through in Week 16 with 23 Fantasy points at Green Bay. He's now scored at least 20 points in five of his past six games, including Week 12 at Cleveland when he passed for 217 yards and two touchdowns. The Browns have allowed the past 10 opposing quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns with eight scoring at least 20 Fantasy points. They're a mess defensively, and the Steelers are clinging to slim playoff hopes with a win. We expect Roethlisberger to end the season on a high note, and he's a must-start Fantasy option this week.
Stand by your man: Aaron Rodgers (at CHI): He's been cleared to return in the season finale after being out the past seven games with a broken left collarbone. He was injured in the first meeting with the Bears in Week 9, but he should be ready to dominate with the NFC North title on the line. Rodgers has a great history against the Bears with at least three touchdowns in three of his past four meetings prior to this year. And in Chicago, Rodgers has eight total touchdowns, two interceptions and at least 290 passing yards in his past three trips there. The Bears have allowed two of their past three opposing quarterbacks to score 22 Fantasy points, and we expect Rodgers to come back playing at a high level in a shootout with Cutler.
|Ryan Tannehill||(vs. NYJ)||He had 25 Fantasy points vs. NYJ in Week 13 and just needs to avoid sacks.|
|Terrelle Pryor||(vs. DEN)||He had 20 Fantasy points vs. DEN in Week 3 and could easily reach that total again.|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick||(vs. HOU)||HOU has allowed at least 19 Fantasy points to quarterbacks in the past four games.|
Carson Palmer (vs. SF): Palmer is obviously not 100 percent, and the Cardinals are winning in spite of him. He's dealing with elbow and ankle injuries, and in his past three games against St. Louis, Tennessee and Seattle has three touchdowns and four interceptions, with his yardage declining in all three outings from 269 to 178. The 49ers were picked apart by Ryan in Week 16, and Palmer scored 19 Fantasy points at San Francisco in Week 6. But he was healthy then, and he's not trustworthy now, which is why you should keep him reserved.
Matt Ryan (vs. CAR): Ryan reminded us all how good he can be with his performance against the 49ers. He had 348 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (one was tipped for the pick-six and the other was on a Hail Mary). But that was the first time we've seen that quarterback since Julio Jones went down. It's nice to have White back at 100 percent, and Tony Gonzalez is playing (potentially) his final game. But the Panthers also have a lot at stake with the playoffs and limited Ryan to eight Fantasy points in Week 9. Only one quarterback -- Drew Brees at home -- scored more than 19 Fantasy points against Carolina, and Ryan should struggle this week. Next year, however, with a healthy Jones back, look for Ryan to rebound as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback.
Kirk Cousins (at NYG): Cousins went from stud to dud in a hurry with his performance in Week 16 against Dallas. After scoring 27 Fantasy points at Atlanta, he fell on his face against the Cowboys with 12 points. It's impossible to trust him now against the Giants, who have held Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford to a combined 23 Fantasy points the past two weeks. Robert Griffin III had 22 Fantasy points against the Giants in Week 13, but he ran for 88 yards in that meeting. On his passing merits alone, Griffin would have scored 14 Fantasy points that week. We'll see if Cousins can rebound in his final audition to be a starter in 2014, but we're not confident. He's just a No. 2 quarterback at best in two-quarterback leagues.
Kyle Orton (vs. PHI): Orton will start for the injured Tony Romo (back), but please don't think for a minute he will play at Romo's level. He's a backup for a reason, and he will look like it against the Eagles. Yes, Philadelphia has allowed seven quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points, but they also held Romo to 14 points in Week 7. And Romo has scored 20 Fantasy points just twice in the past six games. The Cowboys should lean on DeMarco Murray this week since he's their best chance to win the NFC East. Orton is not someone to consider at a crucial point in your Fantasy season.
Alex Smith (at SD): Smith heads into Week 17 as the No. 12 Fantasy quarterback in standard leagues – one spot ahead of Brady with 284 points. The problem with Smith is he might be stuck with that point total since the Chiefs could sit their starters heading into the playoffs. Kansas City is locked into the No. 5 seed and has no need to get Smith injured. Even if Smith starts he might not last long. He's been great of late with at least 25 Fantasy points in four of his past six games, including Week 12 against the Chargers when he scored 27, but the risk of him not playing a full game should keep him reserved in all formats.
Bust alert: Colin Kaepernick (at ARI): We predicted Kaepernick would play well in Week 16 against Atlanta, and he rewarded Fantasy owners with 24 Fantasy points. There's a strong pattern with him this season that when he faces good matchups -- Green Bay, Jacksonville, Washington, Tampa Bay and Atlanta -- he does well since those are his only games with more than 19 Fantasy points. In tough matchups his points have been limited, including 19 Fantasy points against Arizona in Week 6. The Cardinals have allowed just two quarterbacks to score more than 15 Fantasy points in the past six games, and they limited Wilson to 11 points last week. I consider Kaepernick just outside the Top 12 quarterbacks this week, and he's not a guaranteed starter depending on who else you have.
Andre Brown (vs. WAS): Brown is on track to play despite suffering a concussion in Week 16 at Detroit. We're glad he is because this is a great matchup against the Redskins. Brown's last good game was Week 13 at Washington when he had 17 Fantasy points on 14 carries for 35 yards and two touchdowns and three catches for 23 yards. The Redskins have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in four games in a row with nine total touchdowns over that span. For the season, Washington has allowed 23 touchdowns to opposing running backs and 14 have reached double digits in Fantasy points. This should be a good game for Brown to end his season on a high note.
DeAngelo Williams (at ATL): Since Jonathan Stewart (knee) went down in Week 14 we've seen Williams take over. He has 34 Fantasy points in his past two games against the Jets and New Orleans with a touchdown in each game. This is the second year in a row Williams is closing the season strong since he scored at least 11 Fantasy points in three of his final four games in 2012. Williams struggled against the Falcons in Week 9 with 13 carries for 42 yards and two catches for 12 yards when Stewart was active, but he scored in the three previous meetings with Atlanta. And the Falcons have allowed a running back to score or rush for 90 yards in nine games in a row.
Fred Jackson (at NE): Jackson has been one of the best surprises of 2013. We all thought C.J. Spiller was going to dominate this season, but Jackson remained the better Fantasy running back this year with much less hype. He has nine games with double digits in Fantasy points, including last week against Miami when he had 19 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 7 yards. He's dealing with a rib injury, so keep an eye on his status, and I don't mind Spiller this week also as a flex, whether Jackson is healthy or not. Jackson also has a good history against the Patriots with at least nine Fantasy points in four of the past five meetings, including Week 1 when he had 108 total yards. Last year at New England, Jackson had 16 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 35 yards. The Patriots have allowed 11 running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, so Jackson has another chance to play well.
Donald Brown (vs. JAC): Brown continues to show he can excel when the matchup is right, and this is one of those weeks. He has four games with double digits in Fantasy points in the past six games he was able to finish (he left Week 15 against Houston with a stinger), and he struggled with tough matchups at Arizona and at Cincinnati. This week he faces a Jaguars run defense that has looked better of late but has still allowed nine running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points, including Trent Richardson in Week 4. Last week, the Titans had Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene combine for 181 rushing yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville, so Brown should have another strong performance in a plus matchup.
Rashad Jennings (vs. DEN): Jennings had a down game in Week 16 at San Diego with just six Fantasy points, and he lost a touchdown to Darren McFadden. But prior to that, he had at least nine Fantasy points in five of his previous six games, with six touchdowns over that span. There have been 12 running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points against Denver this season, including McFadden in Week 2 when he ran for a touchdown and passed for another. The Broncos have allowed 19 touchdowns to running backs, and Jennings could easily score -- as long as McFadden doesn't get in the way. Continue to start Jennings as at least a No. 2 Fantasy running back this week.
Stand by your man: Reggie Bush (at MIN): You can comfortably start both Lions running backs this week, so consider Joique Bell a No. 2 Fantasy running back as well. But don't give up on Bush even though he was miserable last week against the Giants with two Fantasy points, and he lost another fumble. The last time Bush faced the Vikings was Week 1 when he had 21 carries for 90 yards and four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. He has at least nine Fantasy points in seven of the eight indoor games he's been able to finish (he left Week 2 at Arizona with a knee injury), and the Vikings have allowed 14 running backs to score double digits in Fantasy points. Bell also had a big game against Minnesota in Week 1 with 20 Fantasy points, and we expect both Lions running backs to be successful this week.
|Knile Davis||(at SD)||He should get plenty of playing time with Jamaal Charles expected to rest.|
|Jonathan Grimes||(at TEN)||He should get plenty of work vs. a bad TEN run defense.|
|Shonn Greene||(vs. HOU)||He has at least 15 Fantasy points in two of his past three games.|
|LeGarrette Blount||(vs. BUF)||A running back has reached double digits in Fantasy points vs. BUF in five of six games.|
|Edwin Baker||(at PIT)||A running back has reached double digits in Fantasy points vs. PIT in three straight.|
Frank Gore (at ARI): The Cardinals have allowed just four running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season, and Gore was one of them in Week 6 when he had 25 carries for 101 yards. In the past four games they have held McCoy, Zac Stacy, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch to 80 rushing yards or less, and Gore has just two games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past six outings. The 49ers need to win this game and have Seattle lose to St. Louis to move up to the No. 1 seed. Since that's not likely to happen, the team could ease back on Gore's workload to be ready for the playoffs next week. I'd only use Gore as a flex in this matchup.
Steven Jackson (vs. CAR): The Panthers have been the definition of a lockdown run defense all season with only four touchdowns (three rushing) allowed to running backs and five scoring double digits in Fantasy points. Jackson had 13 carries for 57 yards and three catches for 19 yards in their first meeting in Week 9, and you should expect another game with single digits in Fantasy points in the rematch. Jackson has been great of late with double digits in Fantasy points in four of his past five games with six touchdowns over that span. But we're not expecting a big performance with the Panthers trying to lock up the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
Pierre Thomas (vs. TB): Thomas continues to be relevant as a receiver out of the backfield, but his rushing totals have been disastrous of late. In his past four games he has combined for 43 yards on just 23 carries. He does have at least four catches in each of those games, and he's caught at least four passes in 13 games this season, which keeps him viable in PPR formats. But he hasn't scored a touchdown in seven games, and he struggled against Tampa Bay in Week 2 with five carries for 29 yards and four catches for 19 yards. The Buccaneers have allowed just Stacy last week to reach double digits in Fantasy points against them in the past five games, and Thomas and Darren Sproles are only worth using as PPR flex options.
Lamar Miller (vs. NYJ): Miller isn't talked about as one of the biggest busts this season because he's overshadowed by guys like Spiller and Richardson. But he's not far behind based on preseason expectations and regular season failures. He only has four games with double digits in Fantasy points (none since Week 9) and two touchdowns. One of his better games was Week 13 at the Jets when he had 22 carries for 72 yards and one catch for 13 yards, but that was when Daniel Thomas was out with an ankle injury. Thomas is back now and continues to limit Miller's workload, which included three carries for 8 yards last week at Buffalo. The Jets have allowed a running back to reach double digits in Fantasy points in three consecutive games, but it's hard to count on Miller being the one to make it four in a row with his consistent lack of production all year.
Ray Rice (at CIN): I hope the Ravens miss the playoffs this season to help Rice's Fantasy value for next year. He could use the rest. It's clear the Ravens need to fix their running game this offseason, and we hope Rice can rebound and play at the elite level we saw before this down year in 2013. He comes into Week 17 with just four games with double digits in Fantasy points, and he should struggle against the Bengals. In the first meeting against Cincinnati in Week 10, Rice had 18 carries for 30 yards and six catches for 26 yards. The Bengals have allowed just five running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points and one since Week 9, which was Le'Veon Bell in Week 15. They should be able to contain Rice at home, and hopefully 2014 will be a rebound year for Rice, who was a bust this season.
Bust alert: Jamaal Charles (at SD): Like Smith, Charles might play sparingly if he plays at all against the Chargers. The Chiefs could give Charles a series or two, and as we know with someone of his caliber that might be all he needs to have a solid Fantasy game -- like 40 rushing yards and a touchdown. He dominated San Diego with 14 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns and four catches for 42 yards in Week 12. But he could also get a carry or two and then sit to be ready -- and healthy -- for the playoffs. It's up to you if you gamble on Charles this week, but we'd use caution and start backup Knile Davis instead. He should be better in three-plus quarters then Charles in a series or two.
Riley Cooper (at DAL): We stick with Cooper, and he lets us down. We go away from him, and of course he scores against the Bears. We're counting on him to get hot again with this matchup against the Cowboys. Cooper was the lone bright spot in the passing game for the Eagles in the first meeting with Dallas in Week 7 when he had six catches for 88 yards. Since then, the Cowboys have allowed nine receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points with nine touchdowns. Cooper's best games have come on the road this season at Tampa Bay in Week 6, at Oakland in Week 9 and at Green Bay in Week 10. We're expecting another solid outing this week with the NFC East title on the line, and Nick Foles will likely lean on Cooper again in this matchup.
Julian Edelman (vs. BUF): Edelman looked like he was going to be a star in Week 1 at Buffalo when he had seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns. He tailed off after that, but he re-emerged in Week 12 against Denver and hasn't gone away since with double digits in Fantasy points in four of his past five games. The Bills have allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing receivers and 14 to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Edelman also has three touchdowns in his past two home games, and we expect the Patriots to finish strong as they look to head into the playoffs playing at a high level, especially with their passing game.
Mike Wallace (vs. NYJ): Wallace beat up the Jets in Week 13 in New York, and we're expecting a similar result in the rematch. He had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, which was part of a stretch where he's scored in three of his past five games heading into Week 17. He's scored in his past two home games against Carolina and New England, and the Jets have allowed a receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in five of their past six games with six touchdowns over that span. Brian Hartline also scored in the first meeting with the Jets, and we like him as a sleeper in the rematch as well.
Jordy Nelson and James Jones (at CHI): It's been a gamble to trust the Packers receivers since Rodgers got hurt. Nelson has one touchdown and one game with 100 receiving yards in his past seven outings, and Jones only has one touchdown without Rodgers. But now that he's back, dial up all the Packers receivers for this matchup, meaning Jarrett Boykin or Randall Cobb (left) if he's healthy. Jones scored three touchdowns at Chicago last year, and Nelson started the season with double digits in Fantasy points in five of his first seven games with no less than eight points in any outing. This should be a fun game to watch now that Rodgers is back, and the Green Bay receivers should benefit.
Cordarrelle Patterson (vs. DET): Patterson doesn't have a chance at Fantasy rookie of the year because of guys like Keenan Allen, Lacy, Stacy and Bell. But his play over the past four games suggests he'll be a viable Fantasy option heading into 2014 along with the rest of his classmates. Patterson has scored in each of the past four games with two receiving touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. He's showing his dynamic playmaking, and we like his opportunity against the Lions at home. Detroit has allowed 18 touchdowns to opposing receivers and 16 to reach double digits in Fantasy points. I like Greg Jennings as a sleeper this week also, and the Minnesota receivers should finish the season strong with Matt Cassel doing a nice job getting them the ball in recent weeks.
Stand by your man: Marques Colston (vs. TB): Colston is getting hot at the right time, and it appears like Brees has faith in him again. After no games with double digits in targets through 13 weeks, Colston has 10 or more targets in three consecutive games. He's responded with 22 catches for 280 yards and three touchdowns, and we expect another quality performance at home. The expected matchup with Darrelle Revis could be tough if they line up opposite each other, but Colston at home has been solid. He has at least seven Fantasy points in six of seven games in New Orleans with four touchdowns, and we would still start Colston as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver this week.
|T.Y. Hilton||(vs. JAC)||JAC has struggled with deep threats of late, and Hilton has the chance for a big game.|
|Ted Ginn||(at ATL)||Ginn and Brandon LaFell have increased value this week with Steve Smith (knee) out.|
|Marvin Jones||(vs. BAL)||He has at least eight Fantasy points in three consecutive games.|
|Jerrel Jernigan||(vs. WAS)||He's taken over for Victor Cruz (knee) with 20 Fantasy points the past two games.|
|Nate Washington||(vs. HOU)||HOU secondary is a mess, and he has 26 Fantasy points the past two weeks.|
Michael Crabtree (at ARI): We expected Crabtree to play well in Week 16 against Atlanta, and he didn't let us down with five catches for 102 yards on seven targets. He appears close to 100 percent after missing the first 11 games with an offseason Achilles tear. But this is a tough matchup against the Cardinals and Patrick Peterson, who has locked down most No. 1 receivers all season, including Anquan Boldin in Week 6 (three catches for 28 yards) when Crabtree was out. The only outside, No. 1 receivers to have success against the Cardinals were Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson, and they have four of the eight receiving touchdowns scored against Arizona this year. Consider Crabtree more of a No. 3 receiver this week, and hopefully he can avoid Peterson enough to still make plays.
Torrey Smith (at CIN): Smith has struggled the past three games heading into Week 17. He hasn't scored during that stretch, and he hasn't topped 70 receiving yards in any game. Last week against New England, with Joe Flacco dealing with an injured knee, Smith was held to three catches for 69 yards on eight targets. He had 10 Fantasy points against the Bengals in Week 10 with five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets, and Cincinnati has allowed a receiver to reach double digits in Fantasy points in five of the past six games. But Flacco looked off against the Patriots, which could be because of his knee, and I'd be hesitant to start Smith this week as anything more than a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues.
Michael Floyd (vs. SF): Floyd scored the game-winning touchdown at Seattle last week, which gave the Cardinals a shocking win against the Seahawks. It was a great moment, but it was Floyd's only catch of the game. He now has just five catches in his past three games and hasn't gone above 35 receiving yards over that span. Now, he did play well at San Francisco in Week 6 with five catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, but he wasn't battling a nagging ankle injury then and Palmer was also healthy. He also has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points at home, which was Week 12 against Indianapolis, and the 49ers typically struggle with No. 1 receivers and not secondary options. We hope Floyd closes the season strong, but his past three games have us concerned that he can underperform again.
Hakeem Nicks (vs. WAS): I hope I'm wrong on Nicks because I'd love to see him get one great game in heading into free agency. I still think he has the talent to be an elite-level receiver, but this has been a disastrous season for him. He's now gone 17 games in a row without a touchdown, and he has just one home game with double digits in Fantasy points, which was Week 5 against the Eagles. He had just two catches for 34 yards at Washington in Week 13, and he's combined for five catches and 57 yards in his past two games against Seattle and Detroit. We'll see what happens with Nicks this offseason and where he ends up, but he has a lot to prove before Fantasy owners can count on him again as a starting option.
Andre Johnson (at TEN): Johnson is struggling coming into this game, and it's hard to trust him with his overall lack of production and poor quarterback play. He dropped a touchdown last week against Denver, but between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum, there has been a total lack of rapport. He has seven Fantasy points in his past two games combined against Indianapolis and Denver with eight catches for 81 yards over that span despite 23 targets, which shows the attempts are there but the connection is not. He's gone six games without a touchdown and has still scored in just two games this season. He also has a bad history against the Titans with just 24 catches for 267 yards and one touchdown in his past five meetings. He left Week 2 against Tennessee with a concussion after catching eight passes for 76 yards, and the Titans have allowed just five receivers -- three from Denver -- to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season with six touchdowns. I'd still start Johnson in PPR leagues, but you should consider him just a No. 3 receiver in standard formats this week.
Bust alert: Roddy White (vs. CAR): It was great to see the Roddy White of old last week at San Francisco. He dominated the 49ers with 12 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets. He now has double digits in targets in three of his past four games, and he's caught at least 10 passes for 140 yards in two of his past four outings. He missed the first game at Carolina, but the Panthers should be able to contain White this week. Only four receivers have reached double digits in Fantasy points against Carolina this season with five touchdowns allowed. We would still start White as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver this week, but don't consider him a guaranteed starter based on last week's performance. The Panthers have a better secondary than the 49ers, and they will focus on shutting down White in what could be a huge game for their playoff status.
Delanie Walker (vs. HOU): Walker struggled in Week 16 at Jacksonville with four catches for 35 yards on seven targets. He continues to be involved with at least seven targets in the past five games where he's been healthy, which is what you want to see, and the Titans should lean on him again in Week 17. Walker scored at Houston in Week 2, and the Texans have allowed a tight end to score in three of the past four games. Also, Walker has a touchdown in each of his past four home games.
Charles Clay (vs. NYJ): Clay has now gone two games in a row with minimal production with three Fantasy points combined against New England and Buffalo, but we expect him to rebound against the Jets. He had seven catches for 80 yards in Week 13 at the Jets on 10 targets, and the Jets have allowed a tight end to score at least eight Fantasy points in three of the past four games. For the season, 11 tight ends have scored at least seven Fantasy points against the Jets, and the Dolphins will lean on Clay in their quest for a playoff spot.
Marcedes Lewis (at IND): Lewis is hot heading into Week 17 with a touchdown in four games in a row. Over the past three games, Lewis is tied with Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez with the most Fantasy points at tight end with 32. That's special company, and Fantasy owners looking for a home run play at tight end should buy into Lewis. He has at least six targets in the past two games, which coincides with Cecil Shorts (groin) being out. And the Jaguars will likely be chasing points against the Colts. Indianapolis has only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this season, but Lewis is everything you can ask for in a sleeper tight end in Week 17.
Stand by your man: Greg Olsen (at ATL): Olsen, like Cam Newton, has hit a lull of late with nine Fantasy points or less in five consecutive games. He has one touchdown over that span, and he hit a low with three Fantasy points last week against New Orleans. With Smith out, Newton should lean on Olsen even more, and he did well against the Falcons in Week 9 with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown. The great news is Olsen has scored a touchdown in each of the past four meetings with Atlanta, and the Falcons have allowed a tight end to score in three of their past five games.
|Joseph Fauria||(at MIN)||Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) is out, and MIN has struggled with tight ends all year.|
|Ryan Griffin||(at TEN)||He has 11 catches for 128 yards in the past two games and could help in PPR leagues.|
|Martellus Bennett||(vs. GB)||He has 11 catches for 156 yards in the past two games since Cutler is back.|
Coby Fleener (vs. JAC): Fleener's best game of the season was Week 4 at Jacksonville when he had five catches for 77 yards and a touchdown. That seems like a decade ago because Fleener has just 10 catches for 89 yards and no touchdowns in his past four games. In his past two outings against Houston and Kansas City, Fleener combined for two catches and 8 yards on four targets. The Jaguars have only allowed one tight end to score in the past six games, and with the way Fleener has been used -- or lack thereof -- he shouldn't be counted on for any Fantasy owners playing in Week 17.
Heath Miller (vs. CLE): The Browns have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends in the past six games, but none of them have reached double digits in Fantasy points. Only two tight ends have scored double digits in Fantasy points against Cleveland this season, and Miller is still looking for his first game with double digits this year. Miller has one touchdown this season, and he scored just one Fantasy point at Green Bay in Week 16. He had five catches for 41 yards at Cleveland in Week 12, and we're nervous about using Miller at this point in the season. He might score, but based on Cleveland's recent games it doesn't guarantee he'll reach double digits in Fantasy points.
Timothy Wright (at NO): Wright had a down game in Week 16 at St. Louis with four catches for 27 yards on six targets. This is one of the few times he hasn't scored seven Fantasy points when getting at least five targets. He could struggle again this week since the Saints have only allowed two tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points. New Orleans held Olsen to seven Fantasy points combined in two meetings since Week 14, and Jason Witten, Vernon Davis, Martellus Bennett and Gonzalez were all held to single digits in Fantasy points against the Saints. Wright should follow suit and is not worth starting this week.
Bust alert: Dennis Pitta (at CIN): Pitta got off to a hot start in his first game back from offseason hip surgery with 10 Fantasy points against Minnesota in Week 14. Since then he's combined for five Fantasy points against Detroit and New England with six catches for 58 yards. His playing time has been limited, and he had just 11 targets the past two games. The Bengals have allowed four tight ends to reach double digits in Fantasy points this season, but only one since Week 6. With Flacco at less than 100 percent with his knee we'd avoid most of the Ravens this week, including Pitta since he's obviously not all the way back to himself following the preseason injury.
Bengals (vs. BAL): The Bengals DST is coming off a solid performance against Minnesota in Week 16 with 26 Fantasy points thanks to a touchdown, three interceptions, four sacks and a fumble recovery. It coincides with the Ravens giving up three interceptions, four sacks and a fumble while scoring just seven points against New England at home. The Bengals DST scored 21 Fantasy points at Baltimore in Week 10 with two interceptions, five sacks and a fumble, and Flacco's knee problem could again lead to some turnovers and sacks. We like the Bengals DST as a must-start option this week.
Chiefs (at SD): The Chiefs DST struggled in Week 16 against Indianapolis at home with three Fantasy points, and that's when they were at close to full strength. They also scored just one point against the Chargers in Week 12. The past three opposing DST units against San Diego – the Giants, Denver and Oakland – have 17 Fantasy points combined with only one interception, five sacks and three fumbles over that span. And with Kansas City expected to rest some starters you should keep the Chiefs DST rested in all leagues.
|Nick Novak||vs. KC|
|Blair Walsh||vs. DET|
|Caleb Sturgis||vs. NYJ|
Adam Vinatieri (vs. JAC): Vinatieri has been excellent all season, and he comes into this game with at least 11 Fantasy points in three of his past four games. He's scored at least 11 Fantasy points in each of his past three home games, and he scored 13 points at Jacksonville in Week 4 with three field goals and four extra points. He has multiple field goals in three of his past four games overall against the Jaguars, and Jacksonville has allowed multiple field goals in each of the past three games against Randy Bullock, Dan Carpenter and Rob Bironas.
Greg Zuerlein (at SEA): Zuerlein has been great the past two games with 22 Fantasy points combined against New Orleans and Tampa Bay with five field goals and five extra points. But on the road is where Zuerlein has struggled with eight Fantasy points or less in all seven games. Outdoors, Zuerlein has just four field goals and two extra points at Carolina and San Francisco. He had nine Fantasy points against Seattle in Week 8, and he scored seven points at Seattle last season. The Seahawks have only allowed two kickers to score double digits in Fantasy points this season, and both were on the road with Phil Dawson at San Francisco and Jay Feely at Arizona.
Disclaimer ... Please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you with the tough decisions.