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Week 14 Defensive Trends and Fantasy Football Sleepers

The best sleepers are guys who have quietly been trending up and are going into a highly favorable matchup against defenses that are trending down.

Carson Palmer fantasy football
Carson Palmer fantasy football

Dec 1, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) passes the ball during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles defeated the Cardinals 24-21. Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The best sleepers are guys who have quietly been trending up and are going into a highly favorable matchup. Defenses aren’t consistent though. If you look at our chart of how many fantasy points each team gives up to opposing quarterbacks, you’ll see the Rams have been fairly tough on opposing quarterbacks, ranking as the 13th toughest quarterback matchup on the season. What that ranking doesn’t show is that the Rams have given up three huge games in the past three weeks, largely driven by the fact that Kellen Clemens’ offense often goes three-and-out and gets little time of possession. Suddenly, a hot Carson Palmer looks like a better start against the Rams than Drew Brees against the Carolina Panthers.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some sleepers who have been trending up who are facing defenses that have been trending down.

Quarterback Sleepers:

Carson Palmer vs. STL (Started in 16 percent of Yahoo leagues): Palmer has thrown for at least two touchdowns in each of his last five games and in six of his last seven. He’s also averaging 345 passing yards per game over his last three weeks. Over the Rams’ last three weeks, they’ve allowed 353 yards and a touchdown to Andrew Luck, 352 yards and two touchdowns to Josh McCown, and 275 yards and a touchdown to Colin Kaepernick (his season high). The Cards are rolling right now and Palmer should be in a lot more lineups than he’s in.

Josh McCown vs. DAL (Started in 26 percent of leagues): Jay Cutler isn’t likely to play and McCown has done an excellent job in his absence. He has put up 350+ yards and two touchdowns in back-to-back games and owns a 103.6 passer rating on the season. He’ll face a Cowboys defense that has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than any other team in the league, averaging 22.6 per game. They have given up 15+ fantasy points in four of their last five weeks and in all but three weeks all season. They have also given up 20+ fantasy points six times. Roll with the hot Bears QB this week.

Running Back Sleepers:

Rashard Mendenhall vs. STL (Started in 23 percent of leagues): Andre Ellington is likely to miss his second straight game this week which would leave Mendenhall as the feature back once again. Mendenhall has been better of late, putting up a touchdown in two of his last three weeks and in three of his last five. With Ellington out on Sunday, Mendenhall ran 18 times for 76 yards against the Eagles. This week, Mendenhall faces a Rams defense that has given up six touchdowns to opposing running backs in their last four games. He’ll be touchdown-dependent but it’s a perfect matchup of a goal-line back against a defense that gives up a lot of rushing scores.

Bobby Rainey vs. BUF (Started in 30 percent of leagues): On the season, the Bills have given up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. In the last few weeks, however, the Bills haven’t been able to stop anyone. Last week, Buffalo gave up 84 yards and two touchdowns to Steven Jackson and 38 yards and a touchdown to Antone Smith. The previous week they gave up 98 yards and a touchdown to Chris Ivory. The previous week, they gave up 137 offensive yards and a touchdown to LeVeon Bell and Jonathan Dwyer. The week before that, they gave up 96 yards to Jamaal Charles. You get the point.

Rainey has been held to under 100 combined rushing yards over his last two games but that was against the vicious run defenses of the Panthers and Lions, on the road. In two games before that, he shred the Falcons and Dolphins for 223 offensive yards and four touchdowns.

Wide Receiver Sleepers:

Rod Streater (Started in 8 percent of leagues) and Andre Holmes vs. NYJ (1 percent): The Jets run defense has been amazing. The Jets pass defense has been pathetic. They not only allow a ton of points to every number one receiver they face, they get killed by just about every number two receiver as well. Last week, the Jets gave up 127 yards and a touchdown to Brian Hartline and 82 yards and a touchdown to Mike Wallace. The previous week, they gave up a combined 177 yards and a touchdown to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. The previous game they gave up a combined 155 yards and two touchdowns to Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham. We can keep going, it’s been a running trend all season, down to a monster game by A.J. Green and Marvin Jones for 237 yards and four touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Streater has averaged a solid 78 yards per game over his last three weeks with Matt McGloin while Holmes has stepped up for the injured Denarius Moore, catching seven of his 11 targets last Thursday for 136 yards.

Jacoby Jones vs. MIN (Started in 9 percent of leagues): Jones has been improved of late, catching eight passes for 156 yards and a touchdown over his last two weeks while Marlon Brown has basically disappeared. Jones has 13 carries over those two weeks to Torrey Smith’s 14 so they are being targeted at about the same rate. Jacoby faces a Vikings defense that have been terrible all season but have especially struggled against number two/three wide receivers of late. They allowed a monster 249 yard game and two touchdowns to Alshon Jeffery last week, a combined 140 yards and a touchdown to Jarrett Boykin and James Jones (both had more yards than Jordy Nelson), and 63 yards and a touchdown to Doug Baldwin over their last three weeks. Not only is it a good matchup, Jacoby always has a chance to bring back a kickoff for a score.

Tight End Sleepers:

Anthony Fasano vs. WAS (Started in 1 percent of leagues): Fasano is barely owned anywhere but has scored a touchdown in three consecutive weeks and has been targeted more over those three weeks than he was in his previous five games. He’ll face a Redskins defense that gave up 61 yards and a touchdown to Brandon Myers last week, 70 yards and a touchdown to Vernon Davis the previous week, 73 combined yards to the Eagles tight ends, and 98 yards and a touchdown to John Carlson over their last four games. You certainly don’t need to be a stud to beat this defense.

Ladarius Green vs. NYG (Started in 8 percent of leagues): The Chargers are now essentially using a two tight end base offense which means both Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green are startable ends. Green has really come on strong of late, catching nine passes on 16 targets for 206 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games. The Giants have given up three touchdowns to tight ends over the last two weeks and have surrendered double-digit fantasy points to Logan Paulsen, Jason Witten (twice), Brent Celek, Sean McGrath, and Julius Thomas this season.

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