Fantasy Football Week 17 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
We have reached the end, our friends, and we have exhausted all angles to help you bring home a fantasy championship. It is the final week of the NFL regular season, the finale of fantasy football and our last 2013 edition of Bleacher Report's Saturday morning staple, the Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.
We break down all the starts, sits, news items and rankings by position in this must-read, six-part slideshow. Study up for your final exam, and best of luck to you this Sunday and in 2014.
Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers' Return Makes Him an Immediate Must-Start Option
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
It is fairly academic. Rodgers starts for the Packers; he starts for his fantasy owners in crunch time. You got by with your replacement, but Rodgers has had ample time to heal and will be slinging it in a winner-take-all game against the Chicago Bears. This isn't a Lovie Smith Bears defense-minded team. This game is going to get as loose as any this week.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
Granted, the Dallas Cowboys should slow the pace down on the ground with DeMarco Murray—at least try to—but Chip Kelly's Eagles are going to fight like heck to speed it back up when they have the ball. Foles hasn't been always been a home run of a play for fantasy owners, but he should be here against that much-maligned Cowboys defense that has been one of fantasy's worst against quarterbacks and second worst against the pass this season.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford has been below the water mark for a fantasy starter this season, particularly the last few weeks. He will also be without Brandon Pettigrew, who was placed on season-ending IR, and likely Calvin Johnson (knee). You have to love a quarterback with a chip on his shoulder and nothing to lose against a Minnesota Vikings defense that has wound up being the worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks, per FFToday.com.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
It isn't the matchup, injuries or effectiveness that will keep anyone from trusting the Chiefs this week. It is Andy Reid and his history of resting players with no potential impact remaining on his team's playoff seed in the final week of the season.
Smith will likely play longer than Jamaal Charles, because Smith needs to keep his timing down, but he will be playing without Dwayne Bowe (concussion) and might only get a few series. Smith is too difficult to trust under those circumstances.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Palmer has had his moments this season, but his fantasy-worthy ones haven't come of late. Blame it on his recent injuries perhaps, or teams adjusting to Bruce Arians' downfield attack, but we consider the matchups the least common denominator in the equation. It has spelled mediocre numbers for Palmer. A matchup against the 49ers defense doesn't bode well for fantasy championship-caliber numbers here either.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
He has been so awful this season that sitting him should go without saying, but fantasy owners love to play the matchups. The Washington Redskins improved against the pass as the season wore on, but they remain a bottom-feeder against fantasy quarterbacks. With the way the season has gone for this Manning, his offensive line and receivers, there shouldn't be a matchup in the world that should make you feel confident in using this quarterback in fantasy crunch time.
|1||Peyton Manning||Den||at Oak||1||0|
|2||Aaron Rodgers||GB||at Chi||6||+4|
|3||Drew Brees||NO||vs. TB||3||0|
|4||Cam Newton||Car||at Atl||4||0|
|5||Nick Foles||Phi||at Dal||2||-3|
|6||Andrew Luck||Ind||vs. Jac||8||+2|
|7||Tom Brady||NE||vs. Buf||10||+3|
|8||Russell Wilson||Sea||vs. StL||12||+4|
|9||Matthew Stafford||Det||at Min||7||-2|
|10||Philip Rivers||SD||vs. KC||11||+1|
|11||Kirk Cousins||Was||at NYG||18||+7|
|12||Andy Dalton||Cin||vs. Bal||15||+3|
|13||Jay Cutler||Chi||vs. GB||5||-8|
|14||Colin Kaepernick||SF||at Ari||13||-1|
|15||Matt Ryan||Atl||vs. Car||21||+6|
|16||Ryan Tannehill||Mia||vs. NYJ||14||-2|
|17||Ben Roethlisberger||Pit||vs. Cle||9||-8|
|18||Joe Flacco||Bal||at Cin||25||+7|
|19||Eli Manning||NYG||vs. Was||28||+9|
|20||Kyle Orton||Dal||vs. Phi||19||-1|
|21||Matt Cassel||Min||vs. Det||23||+2|
|22||Matt McGloin||Oak||vs. Den||33||+11|
|23||Alex Smith||KC||at SD||22||-1|
|24||Carson Palmer||Ari||vs. SF||27||+3|
|25||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Ten||vs. Hou||16||-9|
|26||Matt Schaub||Hou||at Ten||32||+6|
|27||Chad Henne||Jac||at Ind||34||+7|
|28||Chase Daniel||KC||at SD||31||+3|
|29||Jason Campbell||Cle||at Pit||20||-9|
|30||Thaddeus Lewis||Buf||at NE||30||0|
|31||Geno Smith||NYJ||at Mia||29||-2|
|32||Mike Glennon||TB||at NO||37||+5|
|33||Kellen Clemens||StL||at Sea||38||+5|
Running Backs: James Starks Is a Solid Start, Regardless of Eddie Lacy's Status
James Starks, Green Bay Packers
The week's most-added player, as we outlined in Wednesday's Fantasy Notebook at Bleacher Report is a solid start even if Eddie Lacy (ankle) is active and starting Sunday. Lacy admits his ankle "still hurts," according to a tweet from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne, and he likely won't be able to handle a full workload.
Even if Lacy could, the Chicago Bears have the worst run defense in football, which would make Starks a sleeper play. Expect Aaron Rodgers to jack up the offense and Starks to reach the end zone at least once, no matter how many touches the Packers have planned for him.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills
This has been a frustrating timeshare, but only for Spiller owners. Jackson has been a consistent force among the top 25 fantasy running backs. Against the New England Patriots this week, a team that ranked in the bottom five against the run all season, both Bills running backs are solid fantasy plays. Spiller should combine for over 100 yards rushing and receiving, while Jackson should be able to rack up 60 yards and a touchdown.
DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart (knee) threatened to cut into the playing time and touches of these two fringe fantasy backs in the second half of the season, but Williams instead took off and looked nothing like a 30-year-old running back. You can trust him against the Atlanta Falcons defense, which is in the bottom 10 against fantasy running backs and second worst against the run. Also, Tolbert, the touchdown vulture, can be considered a good play for his potential to reach pay dirt once or twice here.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts
Trent Richardson might be Indianapolis' short-yardage workhorse and potential touchdown vulture, but Brown has flashed game-breaking ability. The Colts like their Thunder-and-Lightning Lite group, and Brown is the better fantasy play of the two. The Jacksonville Jaguars have routinely been punished by fantasy backs (10th worst, per FFToday.com), so Brown is a great bet to crack double digits here.
Knile Davis, Kansas City Chiefs
The once-ballyhooed prospect out of Arkansas flashed his potential at times this season, even if it has been hard to get touches in an Andy Reid offense behind 2013's No. 1 fantasy running back, Jamaal Charles. Well, with no potential improvement or demotion of the Chiefs' playoff fate at stake, expect Charles to get some well-earned rest. That should open up Davis for a surprising fantasy-worthy final week to the tune of 15 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Here's a mea culpa: Charles opened the week No. 1 in this writer's rankings for the final week. He ends the week out of the group of starters. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise at all to see Reid rest his workhorse entirely for the postseason, which starts next week for Kansas City. Charles' body could use some rest.
Even if he plays, don't expect it to be more than a series or two. If you play Charles in fantasy, you are gambling that not only will the Chiefs get a touchdown in one of those few drives, but Charles will be the one who scores. While that has been a good bet of late, we wouldn't put your fantasy championship on it here.
Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons
Jackson's owners have gotten something out of him in the second half of the season, but they don't project to get much out of him against that Carolina Panthers run defense. The Panthers are one of the best against the run and fantasy backs, and the Falcons have the worst rushing offense in football this season. If you're in the finals, you must have another viable option over Jackson by now.
Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Like Jackson above, Sproles has been a bust of a 30-year-old fantasy running back. He isn't even impacting the passing game with Drew Brees like he used to. We admit Ingram hasn't become the feature back like expected either. No one should be starting a Saints running back with any confidence, particularly against a talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers run defense (sixth best against fantasy running backs, per FFToday.com).
Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins
Rex Ryan's New York Jets have been a mixed bag this season, but their defensive play against the run is their one constant. The Jets have the third-best run defense in football, and Miami's offensive line has been notoriously leaky. Miller's sophomore season hasn't been the bonanza some expected it would be, so you should not trust him nor Daniel Thomas in fantasy crunch time against Ryan's squad.
BenJarvus Green Ellis, Cincinnati Bengals
BJGE stayed in the fantasy conscience this season because of his usage and short-yardage touchdowns, but he is a plodder who shouldn't excite anyone seeking a fantasy football championship. His touchdowns bailed him out of some bad weeks, but you shouldn't expect those to come against the Baltimore Ravens run defense. Only five teams have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to running backs.
Also, John Harbaugh's Ravens always seem to come through in must-win games.
|Rank||Running Backs||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||LeSean McCoy||Phi||at Dal||1||0|
|2||Matt Forte||Chi||vs. GB||2||0|
|3||DeMarco Murray||Dal||vs. Phi||3||0|
|4||Knowshon Moreno||Den||at Oak||7||+3|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||Sea||vs. StL||5||0|
|6||Le'Veon Bell||Pit||vs. Cle||6||0|
|7||Ryan Mathews||SD||vs. KC||9||+2|
|8||Zac Stacy||StL||at Sea||8||0|
|9||Alfred Morris||Was||at NYG||10||+1|
|10||Chris Johnson||Ten||vs. Hou||12||+2|
|11||Eddie Lacy||GB||at Chi||4||-7|
|12||C.J. Spiller||Buf||at NE||21||+9|
|13||Frank Gore||SF||at Ari||19||+6|
|14||Giovani Bernard||Cin||vs. Bal||18||+4|
|15||DeAngelo Williams||Car||at Atl||17||+2|
|16||Fred Jackson||Buf||at NE||14||-2|
|17||Rashad Jennings||Oak||vs. Den||13||-4|
|18||Bobby Rainey||TB||at NO||16||-2|
|19||Joique Bell||Det||at Min||23||+4|
|20||Donald Brown||Ind||vs. Jac||27||+7|
|21||Reggie Bush||Det||at Min||11||-10|
|22||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at Mia||22||0|
|23||Andre Brown||NYG||vs. Was||15||-8|
|24||Ray Rice||Bal||at Cin||28||+4|
|25||Danny Woodhead||SD||vs. KC||32||+7|
|26||Knile Davis||KC||at SD||29||+3|
|27||LeGarrette Blount||NE||vs. Buf||33||+6|
|28||Jonathan Grimes||Hou||at Ten||35||+7|
|29||Maurice Jones-Drew||Jac||at Ind||20||-9|
|30||Jamaal Charles||KC||at SD||34||+4|
|31||Trent Richardson||Ind||vs. Jac||41||+10|
|32||Montee Ball||Den||at Oak||31||-1|
|33||Edwin Baker||Cle||at Pit||30||-3|
|34||Shonn Greene||Ten||vs. Hou||47||+13|
|35||James Starks||GB||at Chi||40||+5|
|36||Lamar Miller||Mia||vs. NYJ||46||+10|
|37||Jordan Todman||Jac||at Ind||50||+13|
|38||Steven Jackson||Atl||vs. Car||25||-13|
|39||Darren Sproles||NO||vs. TB||45||+6|
|40||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Cin||vs. Bal||44||+4|
|41||Mike Tolbert||Car||at Atl||48||+7|
|42||Shane Vereen||NE||vs. Buf||26||-16|
|43||Stevan Ridley||NE||vs. Buf||39||-4|
|44||Rashard Mendenhall||Ari||vs. SF||38||-6|
|45||Dennis Johnson||Hou||at Ten||43||-2|
|46||Brandon Bolden||NE||vs. Buf||72||+26|
|47||Michael Cox||NYG||vs. Was||49||+2|
|48||Daniel Thomas||Mia||vs. NYJ||52||+4|
|49||Kendall Hunter||SF||at Ari||60||+11|
|50||Andre Ellington||Ari||vs. SF||36||-14|
|51||Bryce Brown||Phi||at Dal||54||+3|
|52||Chris Ogbonnaya||Cle||at Pit||57||+5|
|53||Pierre Thomas||NO||vs. TB||37||-16|
|54||Chris Polk||Phi||at Dal||76||+22|
|55||Matt Asiata||Min||vs. Det||42||-13|
|56||Marcel Reece||Oak||vs. Den||66||+10|
|57||Bernard Pierce||Bal||at Cin||59||+2|
|58||Robert Turbin||Sea||vs. StL||70||+12|
|59||Willis McGahee||Cle||at Pit||58||-1|
|60||Roy Helu||Was||at NYG||61||+1|
|61||Benny Cunningham||StL||at Sea||77||+16|
|62||Bilal Powell||NYJ||at Mia||56||-6|
|63||Mark Ingram||NO||vs. TB||55||-8|
|64||Michael Bush||Chi||vs. GB||62||-2|
|65||Brian Leonard||TB||at NO||74||+9|
|66||Jason Snelling||Atl||vs. Car||75||+9|
Wide Receivers: You Have to Love the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers Back
Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
The audible cheer you heard in the distance earlier this week was from the fantasy owners of Green Bay Packers wide receivers. The news Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) is returning has the tendency to do that. Rodgers will likely be rusty early against the Chicago Bears, but that game should get ridiculously loose with two offensive-minded head coaches matching wits in a winner-take-all match for the NFC North.
Heck, even Randall Cobb (knee) might be active and an option Sunday.
Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson's potential loss for the season finale to his lingering knee issue is Burleson's gain. The veteran receiver is likely to be a large part of the Lions' game plan, even if Johnson plays in the limited capacity he did a week ago. The Minnesota Vikings defense has been one of the most abused units in fantasy against wide receivers, so if you need a fill-in option, feel confident in the targets Burleson—and perhaps even Kris Durham—will get here.
Riley Cooper, Philadelphia Eagles
Cooper's season started precariously, but it will finish with him impacting your fantasy championship. Nick Foles has turned up the gas on Chip Kelly's high-octane attack, and Cooper has been the alternative to throwing to DeSean Jackson all the time.
What is most likely to lure you into starting Cooper this week, though, are the struggles the Dallas Cowboys have had against the pass and wide receivers in fantasy. Cooper looks headed for a clutch double-digit week.
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots
Despite the disappointing Week 16 performance against the Baltimore Ravens, Amendola still appears to be the leading option to pick up the slack for Rob Gronkowski's (knee) loss for the season. Amendola's best production has come with Gronk out. Against the Buffalo Bills—a team in the bottom 10 of fantasy against wide receivers and one that couldn't stop Amendola in the season opener—feel confident starting the veteran slot receiver in all fantasy leagues.
Brandon LaFell and Ted Ginn, Carolina Panthers
This week lines up nicely for the secondary options in Cam Newton's passing attack. First, Steve Smith is out, giving more regular snaps and targets to LaFell and Ginn. Then, the Panthers are facing an Atlanta Falcons defense that has been in the bottom 10 of fantasy against wide receivers all season.
LaFell or Ginn shouldn't be receivers you're anxious to get in your lineup during crunch time, but the circumstances have combined to make them at least viable options.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
You should fully prepare to be without Megatron for your fantasy finale, regardless of his "questionable" status. He is only listed that way after not practicing this week to give his opponents something to prepare for, we say. Megatron has tried to downplay reports he played through a PCL tear, but he's clearly not 100 percent healthy. The Lions shouldn't risk him seriously damaging that knee for 2014 with absolutely nothing to play for—save for coach Jim Schwartz's job.
If Schwartz plays Megatron here and something bad happens, he might never be a head coach in the NFL again. Expect Johnson to be held out.
Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Austin Pettis, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey, St. Louis Rams
Just the mere menagerie you see here is enough to sit all of these guys. Having Kellen Clemens as the quarterback and the Rams' emphasis on the running game with Zac Stacy don't help either.
Oh, and by the way, the Seattle Seahawks are at home, coming off a loss and really, really good. Seattle is No. 1 against the pass, No. 1 against fantasy wide receivers and absolutely a defense to sit anyone against—particularly these marginal guys in fantasy crunch time.
David Nelson, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, New York Jets
The Jets will try to play spoiler in Miami to attempt to save Rex Ryan's job, but their best chance of attacking the Dolphins defense will be to run right at it. It might open up something in the play-action game perhaps—like it did in Nelson's recent two-touchdown performance—but you cannot trust Geno Smith against a decent defense. The Dolphins are at least that. They have been one of the best in fantasy against wide receivers all year, too.
Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan and Louis Murphy, New York Giants
If we've learned anything from the 2013 fantasy season, it has been to be afraid, very afraid, of starting Eli Manning's wide receivers. Even with Victor Cruz (knee) out for the season, Nicks hasn't been trustworthy. Randle has been banged up, too.
Jernigan is coming off a productive week, and the Washington Redskins have been in the bottom 10 against fantasy wideouts, but sit all of your Giants receivers to keep your sanity this Sunday.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
The second-year receiver has blossomed into a reliable NFL and fantasy starter this season, but you cannot run him out there with any confidence this week. Not only has Carson Palmer been banged up physically and less productive statistically, the San Francisco 49ers defense is still one you don't want to mess with if you can avoid it. You should have better options on your bench than Floyd this week.
|Rank||Wide Receivers||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Dez Bryant||Dal||vs. Phi||4||+3|
|2||Brandon Marshall||Chi||vs. GB||2||0|
|3||DeSean Jackson||Phi||at Dal||9||+6|
|4||A.J. Green||Cin||vs. Bal||3||-1|
|5||Josh Gordon||Cle||at Pit||1||-4|
|6||Demaryius Thomas||Den||at Oak||5||-1|
|7||Alshon Jeffery||Chi||vs. GB||6||-1|
|8||Pierre Garcon||Was||at NYG||7||-1|
|9||Jordy Nelson||GB||at Chi||13||+4|
|10||Eric Decker||Den||at Oak||10||0|
|11||Andre Johnson||Hou||at Ten||14||+3|
|12||Julian Edelman||NE||vs. Buf||12||0|
|13||Danny Amendola||NE||vs. Buf||31||+18|
|14||James Jones||GB||at Chi||27||+13|
|15||Roddy White||Atl||vs. Car||20||+5|
|16||Mike Wallace||Mia||vs. NYJ||18||+2|
|17||Antonio Brown||Pit||vs. Cle||8||-9|
|18||Vincent Jackson||TB||at NO||15||-3|
|19||Keenan Allen||SD||vs. KC||11||-8|
|20||Marques Colston||NO||vs. TB||16||-4|
|21||Larry Fitzgerald||Ari||vs. SF||17||-4|
|22||Torrey Smith||Bal||at Cin||22||0|
|23||Anquan Boldin||SF||at Ari||29||+6|
|24||Kendall Wright||Ten||vs. Hou||25||+1|
|25||Michael Crabtree||SF||at Ari||24||-1|
|26||Brandon LaFell||Car||at Atl||37||+11|
|27||Riley Cooper||Phi||at Dal||21||-6|
|28||Greg Jennings||Min||vs. Det||28||0|
|29||Mike Brown||Jac||at Ind||52||+23|
|30||Jarrett Boykin||GB||at Chi||36||+6|
|31||Doug Baldwin||Sea||vs. StL||35||+4|
|32||Calvin Johnson||Det||at Min||19||-13|
|33||Golden Tate||Sea||vs. StL||38||+5|
|34||Cordarrelle Patterson||Min||vs. Det||30||-4|
|35||T.Y. Hilton||Ind||vs. Jac||23||-12|
|36||Rod Streater||Oak||vs. Den||43||+7|
|37||Brian Hartline||Mia||vs. NYJ||26||-11|
|38||Randall Cobb||GB||at Chi||58||+20|
|39||Robert Woods||Buf||at NE||44||+5|
|40||DeAndre Hopkins||Hou||at Ten||62||+22|
|41||Miles Austin||Dal||vs. Phi||78||+37|
|42||Hakeem Nicks||NYG||vs. Was||33||-9|
|43||Mohamed Sanu||Cin||vs. Bal||82||+39|
|44||Ace Sanders||Jac||at Ind||61||+17|
|45||David Nelson||NYJ||at Mia||74||+29|
|46||Harry Douglas||Atl||vs. Car||39||-7|
|47||Andre Holmes||Oak||vs. Den||53||+6|
|48||Santonio Holmes||NYJ||at Mia||79||+31|
|49||Nate Washington||Ten||vs. Hou||45||-4|
|50||Emmanuel Sanders||Pit||vs. Cle||46||-4|
|51||Da'Rick Rogers||Ind||vs. Jac||51||0|
|52||Lavon Brazill||Ind||vs. Jac||93||+41|
|53||Marquise Goodwin||Buf||at NE||92||+39|
|54||Marlon Brown||Bal||at Cin||67||+13|
|55||Rueben Randle||NYG||vs. Was||42||-13|
|56||Tavon Austin||StL||at Sea||97||+41|
|57||Michael Floyd||Ari||vs. SF||32||-25|
|58||Justin Hunter||Ten||vs. Hou||64||+6|
|59||Marvin Jones||Cin||vs. Bal||34||-25|
|60||Donnie Avery||KC||at SD||72||+12|
|61||Nate Burleson||Det||at Min||48||-13|
|62||Terrance Williams||Dal||vs. Phi||63||+1|
|63||Jerricho Cotchery||Pit||vs. Cle||50||-13|
|64||Chris Givens||StL||at Sea||101||+37|
|65||Ted Ginn||Car||at Atl||55||-10|
|66||Tiquan Underwood||TB||at NO||89||+23|
|67||Jerome Simpson||Min||vs. Det||83||+16|
|68||Jeremy Kerley||NYJ||at Mia||65||-3|
|69||Lance Moore||NO||vs. TB||75||+6|
|70||Santana Moss||Was||at NYG||73||+3|
|71||Kenny Stills||NO||vs. TB||77||+6|
|72||Andre Roberts||Ari||vs. SF||85||+13|
|73||Greg Little||Cle||at Pit||95||+22|
|74||Kris Durham||Det||at Min||47||-27|
|75||Vincent Brown||SD||vs. KC||86||+11|
|76||Darrius Heyward-Bey||Ind||vs. Jac||107||+31|
|77||Jason Avant||Phi||at Dal||81||+4|
|78||Rishard Matthews||Mia||vs. NYJ||71||-7|
Tight Ends: Expect Vernon Davis to Rebound and Joseph Fauria to Step Forward
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers
Davis is coming off a frustrating Monday night shutout, but you have to keep him active in all leagues. First, your options at tight end have dwindled all season due to injury, and the ones that have stayed healthy have proven inconsistent. Davis and Colin Kaepernick remain a better bet than almost any combo in football.
Oh, the Arizona Cardinals just happen to be the absolute worst team in fantasy against tight ends, too. This lines up to be a huge week for Davis.
Joseph Fauria, Detroit Lions
Brandon Pettigrew has officially been placed on season-ending IR and Calvin Johnson (knee) appears to be on the wrong side of questionable this Sunday. It should open up snaps, targets and red-zone opportunities for your early-season touchdown vulture, Fauria. This perfect storm makes Fauria not only an intriguing sleeper, but potentially a must-start option for the fantasy owners who don't have an elite tight end.
Ryan Griffin, Houston Texans
Back-to-back solid weeks and injuries to the tight ends ahead of him on the depth chart have made Griffin a fantasy-pertinent name of late. He is dealing with his own knee issue, but we should expect him to play and be productive against a Tennessee Titans defense that has given up the eighth-most points in fantasy against tight ends.
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
Cook's season started off promising, but it is finishing with a whimper. Blame it on Kellen Clemens having to take over for Sam Bradford (knee) and a tough schedule against the defenses of the NFC West. Well, Clemens is still the quarterback, and the Seattle Seahawks are the opponent in the season finale. It is a tough week to trust Cook with so much on the line in fantasy.
Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks
The veteran had his moments this season, most of them coming on short-yardage touchdown receptions, but you cannot trust him against a solid St. Louis Rams defense in Week 17. The Rams have allowed just four touchdowns to tight ends this season and are fourth best against tight ends in fantasy. If you're in the finals, you must have a better option than Miller on your bench or on the waiver wire.
Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You can be happy with Wright's production as a rookie and be excited about his future, but you cannot trust him against the New Orleans Saints in the season finale. Rob Ryan's defense is No. 2 against the pass and sixth best against fantasy tight ends. Wright is a sit in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues this week.
|Rank||Tight Ends||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Jimmy Graham||NO||vs. TB||1||0|
|2||Julius Thomas||Den||at Oak||3||+1|
|3||Vernon Davis||SF||at Ari||2||-1|
|4||Greg Olsen||Car||at Atl||4||0|
|5||Jason Witten||Dal||vs. Phi||7||+2|
|6||Tony Gonzalez||Atl||vs. Car||5||-1|
|7||Antonio Gates||SD||vs. KC||10||+3|
|8||Martellus Bennett||Chi||vs. GB||6||-2|
|9||Charles Clay||Mia||vs. NYJ||9||0|
|10||Ryan Griffin||Hou||at Ten||12||+2|
|11||Joseph Fauria||Det||at Min||14||+3|
|12||Dennis Pitta||Bal||at Cin||11||-1|
|13||Delanie Walker||Ten||vs. Hou||8||-5|
|14||Heath Miller||Pit||vs. Cle||18||+4|
|15||Coby Fleener||Ind||vs. Jac||15||0|
|16||Andrew Quarless||GB||at Chi||21||+5|
|17||Zach Miller||Sea||vs. StL||27||+10|
|18||Michael Hoomanawanui||NE||vs. Buf||30||+12|
|19||Tim Wright||TB||at NO||16||-3|
|20||Jermaine Gresham||Cin||vs. Bal||28||+8|
|21||Marcedes Lewis||Jac||at Ind||13||-8|
|22||Jared Cook||StL||at Sea||26||+4|
|23||Zach Ertz||Phi||at Dal||20||-3|
|24||Logan Paulsen||Was||at NYG||25||+1|
|25||Rob Housler||Ari||vs. SF||38||+13|
|26||Brandon Myers||NYG||vs. Was||19||-7|
|27||Brent Celek||Phi||at Dal||22||-5|
|28||Ladarius Green||SD||vs. KC||35||+7|
|29||Scott Chandler||Buf||at NE||24||-5|
|30||Jeff Cumberland||NYJ||at Mia||37||+7|
|31||Jacob Tamme||Den||at Oak||29||-2|
Defense/Special Teams: Matchup Reality Makes for Some Easy Decisions This Week
Even before Adrian Peterson was ruled out, the Lions were going to be a recommended play against a Minnesota Vikings team that has been the fourth-most generous team in fantasy, regardless. Peterson's absence is just icing on the cake for those going with a streaming defense in crunch time.
Von Miller's (knee) loss impacts the Broncos' Super Bowl hopes, but it isn't enough to scare you off them in the season finale, not with so much at stake for AFC home-field advantage. The Oakland Raiders have been the seventh-most favorable matchup for fantasy defense/special teams. Consider the Broncos a solid start in all leagues.
Speaking of favorable matchups, you have to love the Dolphins at home in a must-win game against the error-prone Geno Smith and the New York Jets. The Jets have been the third-worst team against fantasy defense/special teams, making the attacking Dolphins front a potentially game-changing play here.
What a difference a year and a head-coaching change make. Under Lovie Smith, the Bears were a proud defense worthy of fantasy consideration. Under West Coast guru Marc Trestman, they are a unit to take advantage of in fantasy the other way—by starting players against them. You cannot trust the shaky Bears defense against the Green Bay Packers in the long-awaited return of Aaron Rodgers.
OK, if you look at the yardage and points-against numbers, the Cowboys are one of the worst defenses in football. In fantasy terms, though, they have been (quietly) a top-eight unit in standard-scoring leagues. You have to absolutely hate the matchup against Chip Kelly's potent Philadelphia Eagles attack, though. Look away.
Like the Bears, changes over the past year have changed the effectiveness of this unit in fantasy. The Ravens are not only out of the top 15 fantasy units this season, but they are also facing a Cincinnati Bengals team that had been in the top 10 against opposing defenses for most of the season.
|Rank||Defenses and Special Teams||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Seattle Seahawks||Sea||vs. StL||1||0|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||SF||at Ari||2||0|
|3||Carolina Panthers||Car||at Atl||3||0|
|4||Cincinnati Bengals||Cin||vs. Bal||4||0|
|5||New England Patriots||NE||vs. Buf||6||+1|
|6||Miami Dolphins||Mia||vs. NYJ||5||-1|
|7||Detroit Lions||Det||at Min||20||+13|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||at SD||12||+4|
|9||Denver Broncos||Den||at Oak||10||+1|
|10||Indianapolis Colts||Ind||vs. Jac||7||-3|
|11||Tennessee Titans||Ten||vs. Hou||9||-2|
|12||St. Louis Rams||StL||at Sea||13||+1|
|13||Arizona Cardinals||Ari||vs. SF||11||-2|
|14||Cleveland Browns||Cle||at Pit||17||+3|
|15||New Orleans Saints||NO||vs. TB||8||-7|
|16||New York Jets||NYJ||at Mia||22||+6|
|17||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pit||vs. Cle||15||-2|
|18||Green Bay Packers||GB||at Chi||27||+9|
|19||San Diego Chargers||SD||vs. KC||16||-3|
|20||Baltimore Ravens||Bal||at Cin||25||+5|
Kickers: Greg 'The Leg' Zuerlein Has to Be Greg the Sit at the Seattle Seahawks
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
As much as you might hate the fact the Vikings will be without Adrian Peterson (foot), you conversely should like Walsh's matchup. The Detroit Lions have allowed the most field goals in football this season. Walsh kicking in dome conditions in a good matchup is a solid play.
Graham Gano, Carolina Panthers
Like Walsh, Gano might not be a weekly fantasy option in most leagues, but the matchup is too favorable to ignore. The Atlanta Falcons have given up the second-most points to kickers. Gano is a nice fallback option.
Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins
Sturgis has been up and down just like the Dolphins have all season, but they are facing a New York Jets team that has nothing but spoiler hopes. The Jets have given up the third-most points to fantasy kickers, so if you have been looking to make a change at the position, he is one of the three best stopgaps.
Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals
Feely posts big fantasy numbers from time to time, but his inconsistency, Carson Palmer's banged-up status and the matchup against the San Francisco 49ers defense combine to make Feely a must-sit. The 49ers are the best team in fantasy against kickers this year.
Dan Carpenter, Buffalo Bills
Carpenter is a much better fantasy option when the Bills are at home with crowd noise helping the cause. Playing against the New England Patriots on the road, Carpenter is as likely to be shutout as he would be a potential double-digit threat.
Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
Legatron and Greg the Leg has cool nicknames. He has a cold fantasy matchup in Week 17 at the Seattle Seahawks. That is the sixth-best team in fantasy against kickers. Don't bother with him here, no matter what you think of his leg strength.
|1||Stephen Gostkowski||NE||vs. Buf||2||+1|
|2||Matt Prater||Den||at Oak||1||-1|
|3||Steven Hauschka||Sea||vs. StL||5||+2|
|4||Dan Bailey||Dal||vs. Phi||6||+2|
|5||Justin Tucker||Bal||at Cin||7||+2|
|6||Phil Dawson||SF||at Ari||10||+4|
|7||Mason Crosby||GB||at Chi||13||+6|
|8||Nick Novak||SD||vs. KC||4||-4|
|9||Blair Walsh||Min||vs. Det||16||+7|
|10||Ryan Succop||KC||at SD||14||+4|
|11||Alex Henery||Phi||at Dal||15||+4|
|12||Adam Vinatieri||Ind||vs. Jac||3||-9|
|13||Graham Gano||Car||at Atl||11||-2|
|14||Caleb Sturgis||Mia||vs. NYJ||19||+5|
|15||David Akers||Det||at Min||9||-6|
|16||Robbie Gould||Chi||vs. GB||17||+1|
|17||Shaun Suisham||Pit||vs. Cle||20||+3|
|18||Rob Bironas||Ten||vs. Hou||22||+4|
|19||Shayne Graham||NO||vs. TB||8||-11|
|20||Sebastian Janikowski||Oak||vs. Den||24||+4|
|21||Greg Zuerlein||StL||at Sea||31||+10|
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game.
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