With the NFL regular season coming to a close and fantasy playoff dreams ending for so many we’re left to wonder what do with our Sundays. Sure there are some great playoff games this weekend but I’ve come to realize that football games without fantasy matchups are like wings without beer…. like baseball without hot dogs; sure it’s good, but it’s just not the same. For others like me there is still hope, one week fantasy leagues through sites like Fanduel and Draft Kings are an awesome way to keep the fantasy thrill going regardless of what happened to your team. Setting a line up in these leagues can be a challenge and with a limited number of games in playoff weeks setting the perfect line up can require you to search deep into rosters to find those break out sleepers nobody else is thought of. Finding these low priced high value picks could be the key to bringing home the glory you missed out on 2 weeks ago. So who are the sleeper picks for this week?
Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers: Cam’s had a rough year this season and over the past few years he hasn’t been able to bring back the consistency of his rookie campaign when he threw for over 4,000 yards and scored 35 total touchdowns. That being said Cam played much better down the stretch with his team’s playoff hopes on the line. Cam has rushed for a TD in each of the past three games while rushing for 83, 63, and 51 yards respectively and has thrown the ball much better with a 3:1 TD/INT ratio over the past 4 games. His passing numbers likely won’t be dynamic but in a game where his defense (facing Arizona with all their QB issues) will keep getting the ball back in his hands look for Cam to put up strong rushing and passing numbers. I look for Cam to run for at least one TD this week and throw for a few more.
Johnathan Stewart RB Carolina Panthers: Sticking with the Carolina Panthers theme Johnathan Stewart sits right now at the 7th and 8th most expensive back in Fanduel and Draft Kings leagues respectively. At a value cost of $5,300-$6,500 Stewart has put up 19+ fantasy points in two of the last 4 weeks averaging 100.5 yards per week in that span while averaging 5.07 yards per carry. At over $3,000 cheaper than top back Demarco Murray Stewart provides a great upside as a value pick in a game the Carolina should control from the start.
Giovani Bernard RB Cincinnati Bengals: As the second best running back on the Bengals Bernard isn’t a sexy pick but with great PPR value in what will likely be the highest scoring game of the weekend Bernard could be a great sleeper. While Hill has gotten the publicity in recent weeks as he passed Bernard on the depth chart Bernard has scored 11.8, 16.6, and 15.9 in Fanduel leagues over the past three weeks thanks mainly to his PPR value. Hill will continue to get the bulk of the carries but Bernard’s work out of the backfield against a suspect Indianapolis defense combined with 7-10 carries make him a solid value pick this wek.
Steve Smith Sr. WR Baltimore Ravens: For the most part I’m avoiding the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game for a number of reasons but mainly it’s the 40 degree temperatures, 20 MPH wind gusts, and 100% chance of rain. All that being said I have to like Steve Smith Sr. in this game; Baltimore will rely on the running game in an attempt to neutralize the weather and keep Big Ben on the sideline but that doesn’t mean the gritty veteran Steve Smith Sr. won’t get loose a few times in the Pittsburgh secondary. This guy is gamer who steps up in the biggest moments and the biggest games. With Pittsburgh stacking the box to stop Justin Forsett and rolling coverage to the suddenly hot Torrey Smith look for Smith Sr. to be a PPR stud this week. The yardage totals and yards per catch may not stand out but Smith Sr. should see plenty of targets and hopefully find the end zone.
Heath Miller TE Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Ben has a lot of weapons in this new and improved Pittsburgh Steelers offense but with Le’Veon Bell out for the game and the weather slowing down the speed of Antonio Brown on the outside look for Heath Miller to work as a safety outlet for Ben as Ravens sack masters Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs close in. Miller’s always been a solid performer for the Steelers but look for his role to increase if Dre Archer and Ben Tate can’t penetrate a stout Ravens Defense. The Steelers could use a short passing game to overcome the poor field conditions which means quick screens to the receivers and short passes to Heath over the middle. While the rest of the league jumps all over Greg Olsen as the top tight end this week you can save a few bucks against the cap with Heath.
A few long shots: Along with the players I love there are a few long shots that can be had on the cheap that could give you a jolt as the only person in your league with them in the line-up. Ravens WR Marlon Brown scored 7 TD’s a year ago as a rookie but went his entire sophomore campaign without finding the end zone once. Marlon is a big target at 6’5” with great hands and if playoff Joe Flacco shows up today (105 QB rating in his last 8 playoff starts dating back to 2010) Marlon could find some space in the end zone for the first time all year and Brown can be had for next to nothing in one week leagues. As much as I hate discussing Arizona Cardinals RB Kerwynn Williams based on the goose egg he gave me in my championship that I lost by 3 points he is a guy who could give you good value production today costing only $5,200 in Fanduel and $3,800 in Draft Kings but getting 15 or more carries in 3 of the last 4 weeks. Unfortunately for me the one week he had 2 carries for 4 yards was my championship with Andre Ellington, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Ryan Matthews all out with injuries but I’m trying hard not to hold that against him. Continuing on the theme of guys that have absolutely screwed me in the past Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush another week removed from injury (and hopefully not getting hurt again this week) could provide strong PPR value similar to Giovani Bernard. Bush won’t get more than 8 carries spelling Joique Bell but he could get loose out of the backfield with 6-9 catches and as we know with Reggie it only takes one electric play to make this former first round pick to become fantasy gold… assuming he can stay healthy for 60 minutes.
There we go… line up set… beer on ice… time for playoff football!