Nick Foles (at Washington) - It’s difficult to call Foles a sleeper after his performance last week. He is moving up the list with some QB1s in danger of resting for part of Week 17, and Foles is also facing a Washington defense that just released a starting safety. Now that Darren Sproles is back at full speed, the Eagles pass offense is very difficult to defend and they are the only team with something to gain in this game.
Derek Carr (at Kansas City) - The Raiders offense has come alive in December, sparked by a close loss to the Chiefs in Week 13. Carr threw for 285 yards and three scores against Kansas City, part of a five-week streak of quarterbacks throwing for at least two scores against them coming into this week. Carr has also been riffing well with a healthier Jordy Nelson lately, which should help him in the effort to keep up with Patrick Mahomes II.
Jameis Winston (vs Atlanta) - Winston had his best passing performance since Week 7 last week, and he’s still playing to endear himself to a franchise that is on the fence about his future and his head coach’s future. The Falcons have been one of the most generous pass defenses week in, week out, including over 300 yards passing to the Panthers second and third-string quarterbacks last week.
Rod Smith (at New York Giants) - No matter what Jerry Jones says, it’s highly likely that Ezekiel Elliott and other key starters for the Cowboys sit for most of their Week 17 game against the Giants. In Week 17 of 2016 under similar circumstances, Cowboys backups combined for 24 touches and over 100 total yards. This year, Smith is the primary backup with no Darren McFadden or Lance Dunbar on the roster to split the work, although the team recently added Darius Jackson. The Giants have given up multiple touchdowns to opposing backs in four of the last eight games.
Royce Freeman (vs Los Angeles Chargers) - Phillip Lindsay will be out with a broken wrist, so Freeman will get a full audition in Week 17. The Chargers have given up three touchdowns to opposing running backs in three of the last five games, including the first matchup against the Broncos in Week 11. There is also the possibility that the Chiefs jump out to a big enough lead against the Raiders to give the Chargers the green light to rest their starters and give Freeman an extended opportunity against a defense of mostly backups.
Brian Hill (at Tampa Bay) - Hill relieved Tevin Coleman after Coleman suffered a groin injury last week and posted over 100 rushing yards on only eight carries. He is in line to get a big opportunity this week with Coleman probably limited and the Bucs surrendering big numbers to opposing backs for the entire second half of the season. Four backs have had 100-yard games against them in the last six games, and five different running backs have scored against them during that span.
Dwayne Washington (vs Carolina) - Washington is a pick for the deepest of leagues or DFS lineups, but he could get a lot of run in an offense that will likely be piloted by one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league - Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints are likely to rest their key starters for most of the game, and Washington could get a lot of touches against a defense that just made Brian Hill look like Devonta Freeman last week.
Jalen Richard (at Kansas City) - Richard has been one of the most explosive backs in the league this year on a per touch basis, and he’s facing a defense that he lit up for 126 yards on nine touches back in Week 13. He could also be a bigger part of the offense this week if the Raiders fall behind at Arrowhead Stadium. Richard converted on a goal to go carry last week and could get more looks near the goal line this week.
Sterling Shepard (vs Dallas) - Odell Beckham Jr is looking like a scratch for Week 17, which should set up Shepard to be the #1 receiver against a team looking ahead to the wild card round. Shepard broke out of a late season slump last week with a 6-113 line and he’s facing a Cowboys defense that has allowed at least 50 receiving yards to opposing #1 receivers in each of the last three weeks, and touchdowns in two of those weeks. Eli Manning is also still auditioning to hold onto the starting quarterback job for the Giants next year, which should only help Shepard this week.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow (vs Detroit) - The Packers pass offense came alive last week against the Jets and they should have another strong day catching passes from a rejuvenated Aaron Rodgers against the Lions. Davante Adams is banged up and may see a lot of Darius Slay and Equanimeous St. Brown is in concussion protocol. The highest value targets based on matchup should go to Kumerow and Valdes-Scantling, who are both coming off of strong games (MVS 5-75, Kumerow 3-68-1)
DeAndre Carter (vs Jacksonville) - With Demaryius Thomas out for the year and Keke Coutee a game-time decision at best, Carter is in line to be the #2 receiver for Deshaun Watson in a game to lock up the division title. Jalen Ramsey is likely to give DeAndre Hopkins all he can handle and Carter is coming off of a week where he caught six of seven targets for 61 yards - a week after he had a 50-yard reception at a key juncture to help the Texans overcome the Jets in Week 15.
Tre’Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood (vs Carolina) - This pair of rookie receivers should get the majority of wide receiver targets this week with the Saints likely giving their starters only a token series or two to keep them from sitting for two weeks before their playoff opener. Smith and Kirkwood have been responsible for big plays and touchdowns at various times this year, but Michael Thomas has been hogging targets and Ted Ginn Jr recently returned to take up most of the slack. The Carolina secondary gave up scores to three different Falcons wide receivers last week and Teddy Bridgewater is certainly good enough to hang a few more on the Panthers this week via Kirkwood or Smith.
Jordy Nelson (at Kansas City) - Nelson has been a high volume and productive receiver in December, including a 10 catch, 97 yard game against the Chiefs back in Week 13. He has caught at least six balls in every game since then, and has at least 75 yards in two of those games. The Chiefs secondary has allowed a wide receiver touchdown in each of the last five weeks, including one against the run-heavy Ravens and Seahawks.
Mark Andrews (vs Cleveland) - If his long touchdown against the Chargers wasn’t enough to get Week 17 streamers on Andrews this week, the Browns recent track record against tight ends should be. Tight ends have scored in four of the last six weeks now, and in the two weeks a tight end didn’t score, CJ Uzomah went for 6-39 and Ian Thomas went for 9-77. Ravens tight ends also caught five passes in the first matchup with Cleveland.
Jeremy Sprinkle (vs Philadelphia) - The second-year tight end should be a big part of the offense this week with Jordan Reed on injured reserve and Vernon Davis coming back from a concussion. The Eagles have had trouble defending tight ends lately, allowing at least four catches to opposing tight ends in every game since week 8, including solid games by Gerald Everett (5-46), Rhett Ellison (4-77) and Blake Jarwin (7-56).
Vance McDonald (vs Cincinnati) - McDonald has been quiet lately, but his highest catch total of the year came against Cincinnati in the first meeting, and the Bengals have given up 10 touchdowns to tight ends this year, and five in the last five games. Steelers tight ends caught 14 balls in all in the first matchup and the Bengals linebacker group has only gotten thinner since then.
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