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Week 17 Sleepers

This article is a weekly look at players generally ranked outside the realm of every week starters. The players covered here usually fall into two categories: those with a good matchup or those who have an opportunity to start because of an injury to a teammate. On the other hand, sometimes a player may be considered if he is normally a starter, but has a bad matchup. Each position is covered in descending order beginning with the players who are better gambles and finishing with those who are certifiable reaches. Your mileage may vary, but the idea is to discuss these players and provide you with some analysis that might help you make those difficult lineup decisions a bit easier. Good luck and always keep in mind that your feedback and comments are welcome.


Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

QB Kyle Boller - BAL (at CLE)

Boller has proven to be an effective option the last two weeks, but heís still not someone you want to hang your hat on for your fantasy title hopes. That said, Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason are playing extremely well and so is Todd Heap. Everyone is healthy finally, plus Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor are running strong and keeping defenses honest and off Bollerís back. He may not match his production from the last two weeks, but heís in a good spot

QB David Carr - HOU (at SF)

Carr seems like a gamer so he should be a decent reach in this game. This game as much a battle of futility as it is a character check for each team to see how bad they want to win, or cast their vote in the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. Carr could be good for 200+ yards and a TD or two against the 32nd ranked pass defense in the league.

QB David Garrard - JAX (vs TEN)

Assuming Byron Leftwich does not return to the lineup this week, then Garrard remains one of the best fantasy starts in just about any league. Heís been on fire the last few weeks and the Titans are one more easy matchup for him in front of the home crowd. Garrard couldnít have asked for a better schedule from a fantasy perspective. Use him with confidence unless Leftwich is named the starter.

QB Josh McCown - ARI (at IND)

The Colts are packing their bags for a potential Super Bowl run while the Cardinals are just playing for a job next year, especially McCown, who will be a free agent during the offseason. The Colts will be without many of their defensive playmakers in this game and McCown is starting for the NFLís top ranked passing attack (based only on yds/gm). McCown should be good for 250+ yards and at least one TD.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Gus Frerotte - MIA (at NE)

The Patriots may be cruising through this game, so Frerotte and the Dolphins have a chance to put up solid numbers in this game. Chambers has simply been on fire over the last month, so Frerotte has a great go-to guy in the red zone and a good running game going to keep the Patriots honest. Of course, Gus is extremely risky with the bad thumb and Sage Rosenfels healthy and able to take over at any given time.

QB Jamie Martin - STL (at DAL)

Martin gets the starting nod for the season finale. He threw for over 300 yards last week, but that was against San Francisco (worst pass defense in the league). The Rams offense is setup for the QB to throw for a lot of yards and potentially TDs, too. Martin has an opportunity, but it wonít be an easy path against a well-coached and motivated Cowboys team playing at home under the light on national television for a playoff spot.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Jon Kitna - CIN (at KC)

If Carson Palmer doesnít play this week, then Kitna is a nice pick up and play option to finish the season for the Bengals. He could be throwing to Chris Henry, Kelley Washington, Kevin Walter and Tab Perry. The Chiefs defense makes for a decent matchup, but on the road, this certainly is not a slam-dunk and Kitna is still a bit of a reach.

QB Bradlee VanPelt - DEN (at SD)

If Jake Plummer doesnít play this week, then Van Pelt is an excellent gamble. Heís a gamer. Van Pelt will be eager to throw his first NFL pass and just as willing to tuck the football and run for a first down. The Chargers pass rush will probably flush Van Pelt from the pocket frequently on passing downs giving Van Pelt some added potential with some strong rushing totals (30+ yards). The Chargers are eliminated from the playoffs and their secondary is the weakest link defensively. Van Pelt might be able to put up some decent numbers if Shanahan doesnít decide to run the football 40+ times and tune up for the playoffs.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

QB Rex Grossman - CHI (at MIN)

Since regaining the starting job Rex Grossman has not been shy about going for the deep ball, making more big plays and giving the Bears some duality to their conservative offense. The Vikings are beatable against the pass, but they are an opportunistic group with Darren Sharper back there picking off passes left and right. Grossman is a risky option, but as a deep reach, he might suffice.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Frank Gore - SF (vs HOU)

For the second straight week the 49ers have a great matchup for their running game only this week it is at home against the Texans. Gore and Hicks should finish the season on a strong note. He could top 100 yards and find the end zone in this game. Heís not 100% and heíll need off-season surgery on both shoulders, but he carries 10 times for 68 yards with two TDs last week against the Rams. Another good matchup and probably good results again, but Maurice Hicks will also get a chunk of the carries and limit Goreís upside.

RB Maurice Hicks - SF (vs HOU)

For the second straight week the 49ers have a great matchup for their running game only this week it is at home against the Texans. Gore and Hicks should finish the season on a strong note. He could top 100 yards and find the end zone in this game. Heís not 100% and heíll need off-season surgery on both shoulders, but he carries 10 times for 68 yards with two TDs last week against the Rams. Another good matchup and probably good results again, but Maurice Hicks will also get a chunk of the carries and limit Goreís upside.

RB Dominic Rhodes - IND (vs ARI)

Edge probably wonít see more than a couple of series in this game, if that much, so Rhodes has a good chance to carry the ball 20+ times and rack up around 100 yards with a possible score, This is the week youíve been waiting all season to play him, if you own him.

RB Jonathan Wells - HOU (at SF)

Once again, if Domanick Davis is inactive then Wells becomes a solid plug-n-play option as your RB2/RB3. Itís a good matchup, too. Wells give the Texans a solid plugger between the tackles and an effective goal line back who can also catch the ball.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Zack Crockett - OAK (vs NYG)

If LaMont Jordan doesnít play Crockett is a solid RB2/RB3 to gamble on in the closing week of the season. Heís great around the goal line and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. That means heís a good three down option if Jordan is inactive or limited. The Giants run defense has been good all year, so itís not a good matchup, which limits his upside a bit.

RB Cedric Houston - NYJ (vs BUF)

The Bills run defense has been poor all year. The Jets offensive line has been just as bad. This matchup will be like the broken down against the downtrodden. It might be the equivalent of watching an episode of Bum Fights. Houston could come away with some solid numbers, but heís splitting some touches with B.J. Askew and thereís no guarantee heíll come close to 20 or 25 carries. That said, heís still a good option to reach for if youíre left shorthanded for the final week.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (at IND)

The Colts are coasting to the playoffs so donít look for any ferocious intensity from their defense this week. Shipp should see enough touches to possibly finish with around 60 to 80 yards and an outside shot of scoring a TD.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Ron Dayne - DEN (at SD)

See Tatum Bell. Not a great matchup against a tough Chargers run defense, but Dayne had a big game on Thanksgiving against a decent Cowboys defense, too. Itís all about opportunity for Dayne and any back that gets a chance to tote the rock for the Broncos. Dayne has a good shot to carry the ball 10 or more times this week.

RB Verron Haynes - PIT (vs DET)

The Steelers should be able to jump all over the Lions at home for the season finale. Last week they pounced on the Browns and Haynes was able to get plenty of action in the second half. Look for more of the same this week. Jerome Bettis could see some goal line action and Haynes could potentially be good for around 60+ yards and a possible score in the second half.

RB Maurice Morris - SEA (at GB)

Shaun Alexander probably wonít play the entire game this week, but it wouldnít be surprising to see him go back onto the field near the end zone. Morris could be a solid sleeper in terms of rushing yards and he just might break off one for a TD, too.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

RB Tony Fisher - GB (vs SEA)

Fisher will split time with Noah Herron in the season finale, but neither one looks like a promising play given that the Seahawks run defense is among the better groups in the league. The Packers offense has been horrible since Samkon Gado went down and theyíve been suffering all year from a less than average offensive line and no healthy WRs. Fisher could end up with 50 or 60 yards and a 3 to 5 catches if thatís helpful enough as a deep reach.

RB LaBrandon Toefield - JAX (vs TEN)

Greg Jones is limited by a neck injury making LaBrandon Toefield a solid gamble if youíre in a TD heavy league. He scored twice last week and he could get an opportunity for some more goal line action this week against the Titans.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Mark Clayton - BAL (at CLE)

Weíll continue to ride this pony while heís hot. Since returning from injury and ascending to the starting lineup, Clayton has been a steady performer. He and Derrick Mason form a strong 1-2 punch for Kyle Boller, especially with Todd Heap roaming the middle of the field worrying opposing safeties and linebackers. Claytonís upside makes him one of the more inviting players in this group to gamble on.

WR Chris Henry - CIN (at KC)

Henry figures to get plenty of action in this game once the Bengals rest a bit and let their backups and younger players get into the game. The Chiefs secondary is once again among the better matchups in the league and Henry, despite being a rookie, has been a strong factor all season long in the red zone. He has a great chance to score this week and possibly put up some big yards as well.

WR Samie Parker - KC (vs CIN)

Parker, like Mark Clayton, is another repeat offender in this column over the past few weeks. Heís playing great football right now and he can be safely used as a WR3/WR4 or flex option in the lineup. Parker is arguably the #1 option in the Chiefs passing attack right now with Eddie Kennison ailing.

WR Amani Toomer - NYG (at OAK)

In the second half of the season, Toomer has been a reliable WR3 that you could use regularly with solid results. He had a 36 yard TD catch called back last week on a phantom holding call and heís been a regular visitor to the end zone in the last two months. Against the Raiders, Toomer could continue his hot streak and finish the season with another TD and 60 to 80 yards.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Arnaz Battle - SF (vs HOU)

Battle just inked a contract extension with the 49ers so heís not going anywhere after the season. Battle appears to be the real deal, but he has struggled to stay healthy this year. Heís often compared to Hines Ward for good reason. Heís tough, runs well after the catch and he played QB early in his collegiate career at Notre Dame. Heís even a couple inches taller than Ward is. That said, he has a long ways to go before heís as productive as Hines Ward is. This weekís matchup is as good as it gets and Battle should be able to play this week. So keep him in mind if youíre willing to reach a bit. Battle could be a sneaky play.

WR Bernard Berrian - CHI (at MIN)

Berrian once again has emerged this year after missing a long stretch of games due to injury. Heís the Bears best deep threat and Rex Grossman likes to take some shots with him each week. Against the Vikings, he should get a few deep balls and possibly come away with a big play and a TD with some luck.

WR Corey Bradford - HOU (at SF)

Bradford is the prototypical boom or bust pick. Itís an outstanding matchup and just the kind where Bradford could snap off a 50+ yard TD. If you are looking for the home run swing then Bradford might be able to deliver. Just remember that he ends up striking out more often than not.

WR D.J. Hackett - SEA (at GB)

The Seahawks have home field throughout the NFC playoffs so look for them to take it easy on their starters and give their younger players like Hackett and even veterans like Joe Jurevicius and Peter Warrick more opportunities. Hackett is definitely a reach, but he should see enough playing time to post useful numbers for PPR leagues of 12 teams or more.

WR Troy Walters - IND (vs ARI)

The Cardinals present a good matchup for WRs, but they are a bit tougher since Antrel Rolle returned to the lineup after missing about two months with a knee injury. Stokley took advantage of the extra playing time last week producing over 100 yards before tweaking his knee. That leads us to Troy Walters and Aaron Moorehead. I don't know that you can start them with great confidence, but they could be productive. You'll have to put some faith in Jim Sorgi getting it done since Peyton Manning wonít be long for this game.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Charlie Adams - DEN (at SD)

The Broncos could rest their starters for part or most of their week 17 finale in San Diego. Adams is probably the best bet although Todd DeVoe will also likely see plenty of reps as will TE Wesley Duke. Adams has been with the team long enough to understand the offense and benefit the most this week against a vulnerable Chargers secondary.

WR Marty Booker - MIA (at NE)

Booker hasnít been a consistent performer this year, but he does have games when heís worthwhile as a reach or gamble for your lineup. The Patriots have been beaten deep numerous time this year. While their defense has improved greatly in the last 4-5 weeks, they have little to play for (like the Dolphins) and they may be a bit more vulnerable in this game.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

WR Drew Carter - CAR (at ATL)

Carter came on strong over the past two games, especially last week with Steve Smith being ejected in the third quarter. Carter has excellent speed and good size, but heís struggled terribly trying to stay on the field and avoid injuries. Heís healthy now and he could be a decent reach given his home run potential and the fact that DeAngelo Hall and the Falcons secondary will be overcompensating for Steve Smith. Also, keep an eye on Ricky Proehl, who is like the Mr. December amongst veteran NFL receivers.

WR Quincy Morgan - PIT (vs DET)

Morgan has long been a thorn in the backside of almost every fantasy owner thatís ever given him an opportunity. So, be forewarned that heís one of those classic players that meet the eyeball test, but repeatedly underachieves on the field. He has great speed and size, but inconsistent hands. He could get some extra reps this week if the Steelers donít have anything to play for, so keep an eye on that situation and only use Morgan in the most desperate of situations.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Jerramy Stevens - SEA (at GB)

Stevens could be a solid play this week. The Packers have struggled against TEs, but Stevens is a slight risk knowing that Mike Holmgren could shut him down early to keep him healthy for the playoffs. Heís a great red zone threat, so even if he plays less than a full game heís always a threat to score, especially against the Packers injury riddled LBs and young secondary.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Donald Lee - GB (vs SEA)

The Seahawks have been a good matchup for opposing TEs in the second half of the season. Lee has been sporadic, but productive at times. Bubba Franks and David Martin are out this week so Lee has as good a chance as anyone outside the usual top 10 or 15 tight ends to produce solid numbers.

TE Alex Smith - TB (vs NO)

Smith finally had the kind if game weíve been waiting to see all year since he scored 2 TDs in the season opener. Within the next year or two, Smith will probably be a top 10 fantasy TE. Jon Gruden says heís the most gifted TE that heís coached in the NFL. Heís still risky and thereís no guarantee heíll be targeted as frequently as last week, but we like his odds as a player that is ranked outside the top 15 who could put up top 10 numbers this week.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - NYG (at OAK)

Shiancoe is better known as Jeremy Shockeyís backup, but he could get more playing time this week. The Giants are headed to the playoffs and Shockey could use a little rest to get healthy for the games that mean something. Shiancoe caught a few balls last week when Shockey was briefly sidelined and the Raiders have struggled against TEs all year long.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

TE Adam Bergen - ARI (at IND)

Bergenís production has increased in the last month. The Cardinals have been targeting their young TE more in the second half of the season, but heís still like the 4th wheel in the Cardinals passing game. If youíre reaching this far, then youíre hurting bad, but he just might be able to help in some capacity.

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