Week 17 Defensive Trends and Fantasy Football Sleepers

Joseph Fauria fantasy football (2)
Joseph Fauria fantasy football (2)
Nov 24 2013 Detroit MI USA Detroit Lions tight end Joseph Fauria 80 celebrates after catching a pass for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field Andrew Weber USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback Fantasy Football Sleepers:

Kyle Orton vs. PHI: It’s official. Tony Romo is out and Kyle Orton will start the Cowboys’ NFC East championship game on Sunday night. While Orton isn’t likely to put up a Romo-esque amount of yards, he’s also less likely to turn the ball over against a beatable Eagles defense. The Eagles have allowed big days to fringe quarterbacks all season, including 30 fantasy points to Matt Cassel in Week 15, 20 points to Carson Palmer in Week 13, 19 points to Terrelle Pryor in Week 9, and 20 points to Mike Glennon in Week 6. If we subtract that ridiculous blizzard game against the Lions, the Eagles are giving up an average of 22.37 fantasy points to the last four opposing quarterbacks they’ve seen and the Cowboys will certainly be fighting hard for their first playoff berth since 2009.

Ryan Tannehill vs. NYJ: Last week’s game against the Bills was a disaster but Tannehill has been much better at home than on the road. It’s easy to get down on him after one game but he had been averaging 288 yards per game over his previous four. He had also scored at least two touchdowns in three straight games before running into Buffalo and saw his highest yard total of the season in Week 13 against the Jets. In that game, Tannehill passed for 331 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception and added another 22 yards on the ground.

The Jets got the best of Jason Campbell last week (or really, his receivers got the best of him) but had allowed an average of 20.45 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks over seven games prior to Cleveland. They have allowed 18+ fantasy points to the likes of Matt McGloin and EJ Manuel of late and continue to put forth a shaky secondary with a habit of giving up big plays. The Dolphins are still in the playoff hunt so they’ll be bringing it on Sunday.

Running Back Fantasy Sleepers:

DeAngelo Williams vs. ATL: Williams suffered from Mike Tolbert’s touchdown stealing early in the season but has now scored in two straight games and is averaging 99 total yards per game over his last three weeks. With Steve Smith out this Sunday, Williams will be an even bigger part of the Panthers offense as they face a woeful Falcons run defense.

Few teams have been more beatable on the ground than Atlanta in the second half. In Week 9, they gave up a combined 156 yards and a touchdown to Carolina’s then three-headed backfield. In Week 10 it was 194 yards and a score to Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael. In Week 11 it was 167 yards and two scores to Bobby Rainey. In Week 13 it was 235 yards and three touchdowns to C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. Last week it was 154 yards and a touchdown to Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. Everything is lining up to provide DeAngelo with a big fantasy day to close out 2013.

Edwin Baker vs. PIT: Last week against the Jets, Baker had 19 touches to Chris Ogbonnaya’s two. More importantly, they continued to run with him despite a tough first half and the first-time starter ended up with 76 total yards and a score. With no running game all season, the Browns are guaranteed to give Baker a long hard look in their season finale and 20 touches seems like a near guarantee.

The solid showing last week was against a strong Jets run defense. This week, he’s face a Steelers defense that gave up 172 total yards and three touchdowns to Green Bay’s three backs last week and have given up double-digit fantasy days to Gio Bernard, Daniel Thomas, Baltimore’s two backs, and Joique Bell over their previous five games.

Wide Receiver Fantasy Sleepers:

Brian Hartline vs. NYJ: If we’re rolling with Tannehill, we have to get one of his receivers. Mike Wallace is a great bet after putting up 82 yards and a touchdown on the Jets last time they played but Brian Hartline killed the New York secondary in that game with 127 yards and a score of his own. Although Tannehill didn’t have much luck on Sunday against the Bills, he targeted Hartline 10 times in that game and has targeted him an average of 10.25 times per game over his last four.
Since Week 8, the Jets have given up double-digit fantasy points to A.J. Green (11.5), Marvin Jones (36.2), Marquise Goodwin (15.8), T.J. Graham (13.1), Jacoby Jones (16.3), Hartline (18.7), Wallace (14.2), Rod Streater (19), and Josh Gordon (11.9).

Jerrel Jernigan vs. WAS: With Victor Cruz out, Jernigan stepped up and caught six passes on a season-high 12 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown. In the previous game against the Seahawks, Jerningan caught seven passes on eight targets for 67 yards after Cruz got hurt. That means he has now led the Giants in receptions, targets, and yards in back-to-back games and should see the same amount of action against the Skins this week.

Since Week 8, the Redskins are giving up 246 passing yards per game and are giving up the 11th most fantasy points to opposing receivers on the season. They’ve also allowed opposing quarterbacks to score a touchdown against them in every single game this year and have given up two or more passing touchdowns in nine of their 15 games.

Tight End Fantasy Sleepers:

Joseph Fauria vs. MIN: With Brandon Pettigrew out and Calvin Johnson expected to miss Sunday’s season finale, look for Fauria to step up once again – especially in the endzone. When Megatron was dealing with a knee injury earlier this year, it was Fauria who was Stafford’s main redzone target as he caught three touchdowns against the Browns. With Pettigrew hurt, he saw a season-high seven targets on Sunday against the Giants and is liable to see considerably more this week against the lousy Vikings defense.

Not only will Stafford be missing two big targets, he’ll face a Vikings defense that is giving up 65 yards and a touchdown to opposing tight ends over their last three games. They’ve also allowed 12 passing touchdowns over their last four games while allowing 348.5 passing yards per game over that stretch. I’m definitely banking on Fauria this week.

Ryan Griffin vs. TEN: Griffin has quietly been a go-to guy for the Texans with Garrett Graham out and will start once again on Sunday against the Titans. Over his last two games, Griffin has caught 11 passes on 11 targets for 128 yards. Meanwhile, the Titans have given up a touchdown to opposing tight ends in three straight games and have given up the eight-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends on the season.

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Igor Derysh
Igor Derysh is Editor-at-Large at XN Sports and has been featured in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and FantasyPros. He has previously covered sports for COED Magazine, Fantasy Alarm, and Manwall.com.