Fantasy Football Week 16: Breaking Down the Biggest Championship-Week Sleepers

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

Dec 16, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Vick Ballard (33) rushes against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

It's a universal fact of fantasy football that no one makes it to the championship game without finding a sleeper. Whether it was Robert Griffin III in the fifth round, his teammate Alfred Morris in the 11th or Randall Cobb on the waiver wire, every championship-worthy squad needs at least one breakout star.

Just because it's championship week doesn't change that rule. By taking a look at the underlying statistics to find solid matchups and giving yourself a gut-check, Week 16 has a few top-tier sleepers worth considering.

These aren't guys you would start over the Griffins, Morrises and Cobbs of the world. Instead, they are players worth a look if you're one of the unfortunate souls who got to the championship game despite Matthew Stafford's bombing last week.

With that in mind, here is a look at a few sleepers for Week 16. 


Sam Bradford (QB, St. Louis Rams—at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Don't look now, but Bradford has been a quietly consistent fantasy option throughout much of 2012. The Rams signal-caller has not scored fewer than 10 fantasy points since Week 4 against the Seahawks and has done so just twice all season.

That may not seem like an impressive feat, but only Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo can say the same thing. 

Bradford also seems to be coming off a massive performance fantasy-wise. Though St. Louis lost a critical game to the Vikings last week, the former Oklahoma star threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception. That performance was good for 27 points, which was better than anyone not named Russell Wilson or Drew Brees.

Another top-shelf fantasy day should be in store for Bradford on Sunday. The Buccaneers head into Week 16 as by far the worst pass defense in the NFL. Teams average 310.6 yards per game through the air, complete 66.4 percent of their passes and have thrown for 27 touchdowns against Tampa Bay this year. All of those statistics rank in the bottom three of the league.

To put it bluntly, some matchups are just too good to pass up.


Vick Ballard (RB, Indianapolis Colts—at Kansas City Chiefs)

Much like Bradford, Ballard gets a nice matchup just as he's starting to ascend as a fantasy option. Since Donald Brown's 2012 season was finally taken out to pasture, the rookie back has taken the RB1 reins and excelled.

The past two weeks, Ballard has gained 199 yards rushing yards and has looked markedly better than his initial run as the Colts' starter. Last week's 105-yard performance came against the Texans, a defense that ranks fifth in the NFL against the run in terms of yardage and has consistently stopped top-tier backs all season.

This Sunday, Ballard gets a massive reprieve from that tough matchup against the Chiefs. Kansas City allows 136.4 rushing yards per game on the season, good for 28th in the league coming into this week. And though the Chiefs have given up just nine touchdowns on the ground thus far, Trent Richardson got in for two in Week 14.

That's no guarantee that Ballard scores, but he should have a better-than-average chance with Kansas City assuredly focusing its game plan on stopping Andrew Luck. Ballard won't be a top-five running back or anything, but he has a distinct possibility of winding up top-10 with a touchdown. 


Danario Alexander (WR, San Diego Chargers—at New York Jets)

While the previous two names are guys with great matchups and are coming off a great game, Alexander is quite the opposite. He dropped a massive goose-egg on fantasy owners' faces last week and has a battle against the Jets' stellar secondary in Week 16. 

New York is second in the NFL against the pass, giving up just 191.7 yards per game and has allowed only 17 touchdown passes thus far.

With Philip Rivers' wild inconsistencies continuing to rear their ugly head following an abhorrent performance last week against Carolina, it's easy to be skeptical about this choice.

Simply put, I'm going on a hunch. 

Before last Sunday's zero-point bombing, Alexander had averaged 15.4 fantasy points over his previous five games while emerging as the Chargers' top receiving option. It may not be an ideal matchup, but one bad game doesn't suddenly undo Alexander's five weeks of greatness.

Look for him to get into the end zone and crack double-digit points easily on Sunday.