Taysom Hill (at Atlanta)
Hill was highly successful in both starts against the Falcons last year. Their defensive personnel and coaching staff has changed, but in a week where it is tough to find sure things at quarterback, the combination of his running ability and the Saints possibility of making the playoffs is enough to make him a preferred start outside of the obvious strong fantasy quarterbacks with something to play for this week.
Derek Carr (vs Los Angeles Chargers)
Carr hasn’t been lighting it up from a fantasy perspective, but he could get Darren Waller back this week, his chemistry with Zay Jones and Hunter Renfrow has been peaking, and Justin Herbert could turn this game into a shootout, like last year’s matchups when both teams went over 26 points in both games.
Taylor Heinicke (at New York Giants)
Heinicke came out of the gate red hot against the Eagles last week and could do the same this week against a morose Giants team. He is still under contract next year and Washington has no long term plan at quarterback, so after an up and down season, he is playing to finish on a high note and have the chance to begin the 2022 season as the starter.
Kenneth Gainwell (vs Dallas)
Jordan Howard and Boston Scott both landed on the covid list this week and Miles Sanders isn’t healthy, so this could be a game where the Eagles give the rookie all he can handle. The Cowboys say they are going to play their starters and approach this like a typical game, but that could be coachspeak and subject to change during the game.
Samaje Perine (at Cleveland)
Joe Mixon landed on the covid list earlier this week and the Bengals already seem inclined to rest their starters in anticipation of the chance to win their first playoff game in 31 years. Perine is a true three-down back and Najee Harris just rocked the Browns defense on Monday night with physical inside running.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn (vs Carolina)
Ronald Jones II is unlikely to play because of his injured ankle, so Vaughn should be in line to lead this backfield against the Panthers. Vaughn broke a 55-yard touchdown run two weeks ago and could be the focus of the offense if the Bucs decide to rest their starters with little to gain in the playoff standings. If the Bucs do leave their starters in most or all of the game, that will increase Vaughn’s touchdown chances.
Rhamondre Stevenson (at Miami)
Damien Harris left last week’s game with an aggravation of his hamstring issue, so Stevenson is in line to start with the Patriots still alive for the division title. They could decide to use Stevenson sparingly if Harris’s injury is worse than we have been informed, or if they just believe that the Jets aren’t up to the upset, but even a few series against the Dolphins defense that D’Onta Foreman shredded could be enough.
Jakobi Meyers (vs Miami)
The Patriots will suit up with a theoretical chance to win the division against a Dolphins team that has had their number since Brian Flores took over in Miami. The Dolphins have a strong pair of outside corners and love to blitz, so Mac Jones preference should be to target Meyers in the middle of the field on high percentage shorter routes.
Auden Tate (at Cleveland)
The Bengals appear to want to rest their starters in Week 18, which should get the impending free agent Tate more playing time with the team likely to get Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins some rest in preparation for the playoff opener. Tate won’t have the benefit of catching passes from Joe Burrow for most of all of the game, but he should also be the most viable target out there against the Browns.
Marquez Callaway (at Atlanta)
Callaway has riffed with Taysom Hill as much as any Saints receiver. He has put 6-97 and 6-112 lines in his last two games with Hill and he scored in the first matchup with the Falcons. The 23-year-old has done enough this year to project as a starting receiver for the Saints next year.
Zay Jones (vs Los Angeles Chargers)
Jones has successfully got his career on track in the last month, with at least six catches and 50 yards in each of the last three games. He isn’t so much a sleeper as a player who has broken out and shown that he is on the same page as his quarterback under the radar because the Raiders aren’t exactly a marquee offense.
Antoine Wesley (vs Seattle)
Wesley scored twice and appears to be prominent in Kyler Murray’s vision in the red zone. He has led the Cardinals wide receivers in red zone targets each of the last three weeks and Arizona should be visiting that part of the field at least a few times against the Seahawks with a shot at the division title on the line.
Jared Cook (at Las Vegas)
Cook was cleared from the covid list this week and should be ready to go for the quasi-playoff game against the Raiders. His best game of the season to date was a 6-70-1 line in the first matchup against Las Vegas.
Kenny Yeboah (at Buffalo)
Yeboah had a season high 61% snap share last week and should continue to get an extended audition for a future role with a team that has no entrenched starter at tight end. The team’s #1 receiver last week, Braxton Berrios, has been missed practice with a quad contusion which he could play through, but it could also free up some targets for Yeboah and others. Yeboah has a wide receiver skill set and can make plays downfield.
Cameron Brate (vs Carolina)
Brate could be a featured target for Tom Brady (or Blaine Gabbert) against the Panthers if the team decides to rest Rob Gronkowski after he suffered a few injuries this year. Brate has been a solid red zone target for Brady and he is a quality pass catcher even though the Bucs haven’t needed him to be one when their offense was fully stocked. After the release of Antonio Brown and loss of Chris Godwin to an ACL tear, they most definitely are not as they head to the playoffs.