Are you struggling with match-up decisions or dealing with an injury-depleted roster? Here are my sleeper picks worthy of starting for your team this week.
Texans vs Jaguars: Garrett Graham; Gary Kubiak, begone! Houston’s disappointing year finally sees a suitable bookend (albeit, seemingly knee-jerk decision) with Wade Phillips(!) now assuming head coaching duties. With the quarterback situation currently in flux with neither Matt Schaub or Case Keenum expected to be the future of the organization, it certainly poses big questions for Andre Johnson (age) and Arian Foster (health) and their projected effectiveness next year. In the meantime, continue rolling Graham out as long as Owen Daniels continues to recover from a foot injury; Houston’s offense loves the TE position. Otherwise, the Jaguars also have quarterback dreams of their own and Maurice Jones-Drew (despite my encouragement to abandon him early in the season) continues to be quietly effective for his next big contract with or without Jacksonville.
Bills vs Buccaneers: Marquise Goodwin; Goodwin didn’t play with Robert Woods healthy, but in a game where E.J. Manuel (4 INT) and the Buffalo offense sputtered against a rejuvenated Bucs team that’s now won 4 of its last 5 games, there were few takeaways for the Bills. C.J. Spiller saw more touches than Fred Jackson, but you won’t be completely convinced by anything until he’s had an entire offseason to get completely healthy and no choice but to establish Spiller as the lead back with Jackson on the final year of his contract. The Bucs continue to be unimpressively impressive, so much so that Greg Schiano may have saved face in Tampa Bay! With Mike James and Bobby Rainey having so much success in the running game, the Doug Martin question continues to loom.
Vikings vs Ravens: Ravens D/ST; A seemingly good play including and excluding that wacky 4th quarter. I’m curious to know if Toby Gerhart, who’s in the final year of his rookie contract, would experience as much success as he does in relief work for Adrian Peterson if he were in another system. Speaking of Adrian Peterson, if he remains inactive for the remainder of the season, do we finally get to see Josh Freeman? Cordarrelle Patterson’s utilization for the rest of the season should be interesting to track. Dennis Pitta made his presence felt immediately and should be the priority for those who lost Rob Gronkowski.
Browns vs Patriots: Julian Edelman; In theory, the loss of the Gronkowski should mean an uptick in usage for Danny Amendola, but with an upcoming matchup against the Dolphins, I have greater expectations for Stevan Ridley to see a greater slate of work in order to build back his confidence leading into the playoffs. Regardless of how he plays the rest of the season, Josh Gordon should be drafted as a low-end WR1 next year.
Colts vs Bengals: Andy Dalton; It’s a little ridiculous to think in a game where Andrew Luck has a better fantasy day than Dalton and neither QB commits a turnover, the Colts lose by two scores. Bengals WRs not named A.J. Green aren’t worth paying attention to and LaVon Brazill and Da’Rick Rogers are nothing more than speculative players to watch.
Lions vs Eagles: Nate Burleson; Well, I’m glad. The dome-less Lions had Reggie Bush’s absence and an extreme case of butterfingers to contend with as LeSean McCoy made Detroit’s vaunted run defense look, well, like they were playing in six inches of snow. A fluke game statistically.
Falcons vs Packers: Roddy White; Even with Tony Gonzalez retiring, Atlanta’s offense should be alright next year. It’s every other aspect of their team (offensive line, defense, confidence) that I’m concerned about, along with the possibility that Mike Smith may lose his job before his contract extension officially wraps up. Whatever the outcome, you get one more shot at striking gold in the playoffs with Steven Jackson and Roddy White facing an absolutely dysfunctional Redskins team next week. With the Packers still in playoff contention, perhaps an Aaron Rodgers return may be possible.
Chiefs vs Redskins: Anthony Fasano; A game where I had such little confidence in the Redskins that I confidently benched Alfred Morris for Eddie Lacy and played the Chiefs D/ST. I’ll have greater faith in RGIII and Washington next year, but until all the Shanahanigans are settled, no Redskin is a safe fantasy play.
Dolphins vs Steelers: Brian Hartline; Slightly overshadowed by the play of Charles Clay (who may be an intriguing bargain TE1 next year), Hartline has been a major benefactor of Ryan Tannehill’s improved play lately, and continues to the raise the stock of Dolphins players next year. The same can be said for Ben Roethlisberger, whose love-hate relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Haley continues to produce numbers, but not wins.
Raiders vs Jets: Raiders D/ST; Yeah, good luck trying to call anything related to the Raiders or Jets.
Titans vs Broncos: Kendall Wright; Are the Titans in firesale mode? If you forecast the possibility that they may lose its head coach, starting quarterback, “franchise” running back, and Kenny “He hasn’t been cut yet?” Britt, things aren’t looking good so hot in Tennessee. If you haven’t already picked up Montee Ball, even if you’re not a Knowshon Moreno owner, shame on you.
Giants vs Chargers: Ladarius Green; Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen will be interesting draft picks next year. How about Ryan Mathews? Talk about a comeback year. The Giants are just sad, and I don’t see things improving much for Eli Manning next year, which means they’ll win the Super Bowl.
Seahawks vs 49ers: Doug Baldwin; Everything you expected out of a game between the two NFC West giants.
Rams vs Cardinals: Jared Cook; Has there been an instance yet this season where a player has burned the same team in both meetings? Rashard Mendenhall looks, dare I say, sharp, and the Cardinals D/ST has one more shot at elite production before facing the leaders of their division.
Panthers vs Saints: Saints D/ST; Always bank on the Saints at home. Nothing to overreact on with Cam Newton, although, his performance probably cost you in the first round of your playoffs.
Cowboys vs Bears: Martellus Bennett; The Cowboys would’ve kept the game closer if they’d stuck to DeMarco Murray and the run, but late TD drives by Cade McNown, I mean, Josh McCown before the end of the first half and a lengthy Bears TD drive coming out of the half made for awkward 4th quarter for Tony Romo; Dallas’ defense is absolutely pitiful. Let the Jay Cutler franchise tag discussions resume!
Always remember: Start your studs, play the match-ups, and don’t be afraid to make the trade!