Week 17 matchups to exploit or avoid

Posted Dec. 28, 2011 @ 12:48 p.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

As I said last week, let's focus on the mid-tier players. Those are always the toughest ones, and I've worked some of the numbers to come up with players you may or may not be able to use. Remember, these are recommendations. Based on the depth of your roster, you will determine if you use them. You don't bench a stud for a mid-tier player simply because the mid-tier player has the matchup. Let's not overanalyze, but do slot them accordingly.


QB Matt Flynn, Packers (vs. Lions)
Head coach Mike McCarthy and QB Aaron Rodgers both hinted at resting players for the final week of the season. Flynn has seen limited time on the field and not enough time this season to give you a grade on his play, but he did play the Patriots in Week 15 in 2010 and almost beat them, throwing for 251 yards and three TDs with one interception. He also went 3-13-0 with his legs. Over the past four weeks, the Lions are allowing 301.8 yards and two TDs per game to the position, plus 30.5 yards rushing. While Flynn is not Cam Newton or Tim Tebow, he can move in the pocket and score with his legs. He can exploit this matchup.

RB Dexter McCluster, Chiefs (at Broncos)
McCluster had a great game as a dual-threat RB in Week 16, going 3-15-0 rushing and 5-89-0 receiving on seven targets. His good fortune is due mostly to QB Kyle Orton, a seasoned veteran who can spread the ball around and keep defenses honest. Over the past four weeks, the Broncos are allowing 168 yards from scrimmage to running backs and, despite a committee backfield with Thomas Jones and Jackie Battle, McCluster is the one with the pass-receiving hands. He can exploit this matchup. But as you're aware, there's risk here based on his per-game average of 9.7 utilizations for 50.5 yards from scrimmage and 0.07 TDs. Mind you — that's not 0.7, but 0.07, as he only has one TD this year.

RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots (vs. Bills)
Ridley (13-64-0) now has led the team for two weeks in carries and could be taking over as the primary back. With the Bills coming to town allowing 181 rushings yards and 1.3 rushing TDs over the past four weeks, he can exploit this matchup if he gets the start. Stay tuned for updates throughout the week on who will start or see most of the touches.

WR Malcom Floyd, Chargers (at Raiders)
Floyd had a great Week 16 game after being so inconsistent. He went 6-95-1 on 13 targets and took advantage of an injured Vincent Jackson (groin). Remove a disappointing Week 14 (2-29-0), and he has a three-game average of five catches for 99.7 yards and one TD. Combined with the injury to Jackson and the Raiders allowing 213.5 yards and 1.8 TDs to WRs the past four weeks, he can exploit this and possibly for big numbers. 

WR Santonio Holmes, Jets (at Dolphins)
Holmes (4-50-0 on nine targets) is not posting the numbers we thought he could this year, but he has a two-game average of four catches for 45 yards and 0.5 TDs on 7.5 targets. While not great, he has four TDs in the last five games and went 3-63-1 against the Dolphins in Week Six. His last two games against them he's averaging 2.5 catches for 60 yards and 0.5 TDs. The Jets are playing for their playoff lives and Holmes is coming off a nine-target game and will have a few opportunities to exploit this. A high-risk, high-reward play, though. 

WR Brandon LaFell, Panthers (at Saints)
If you're in a larger league and need a body, LaFell had a stellar Week 16, going 3-103-1 on three targets and faces a Saints team allowing 212 yards and 0.5 TDs to opposing WRs over the last four games. Now that Legedu Naanee is out with a broken foot, LaFell should result in a few extra targets. Look for the Saints to focus everything they have on Steve Smith, leaving their porous secondary ripe for a good fantasy performance by LaFell. Ignore his overall numbers up to this point. He's a high-risk, high-reward player, but he is one of the better boom-or-bust options this week. He should be able to exploit this matchup.

TE Jacob Tamme, Colts (vs. Jaguars)
Colts TE Dallas Clark (neck) did not play last week, and there's little reason for him to go this week with a lost season. Tamme went 6-75-0 on eight targets in Week 10 against the Jaguars and QB Dan Orlovsky looked for him often in the fourth quarter when he came in to replace Curtis Painter. The Jaguars are banged up in the secondary and are allowing 77 yards and 0.3 TDs per game to the position over the past four games. In larger leagues, Tamme warrants consideration, as he can exploit this matchup.



QB Rex Grossman, Redskins (at Eagles)
Grossman was "Good Rex" for a fourth game out of the seven he's started since regaining the job in Week 10. In Week 16, he threw for 284 yards two TDs and one interception. Since coming back, he has a seven-game average of 251.9 yards and 1.3 TDs with 1.4 interceptions. Not quite the numbers you want, but in four out of the seven games he has two TDs, including two of the last three games. However, the Eagles are playing like the team many thought they could be. The last time he faced the Eagles, Grossman threw for 143 yards, zero TDs and four interceptions. Right now the Eagles are allowing 176 yards and 1.25 TDs and getting to the QB 4.8 times per game over the past four weeks. Phenomenal defense right now, so avoid him.

RB Chris Johnson, Titans (at Texans)
Johnson had another bad game for his owners, going 15-56-0 and had to take a pain-killing injection prior to kickoff. It was his second straight week and he now has a three-game average of 20.7 utilizations for 77 yards from scrimmage and zero TDs. Those are not necessarily bench-play numbers, but the Texans are only allowing 89.8 rushing and 13.3 receiving yards and 0.5 TDs to RBs the past four weeks — one of the best showings in the league. If you can, avoid this matchup do so.

RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals (vs. Seahawks)
Wells had another subpar game going 14-53-0 rushing and 1-8-0 receiving and it's obvious his knee is getting worse or he simply has nothing left to give him the power and ability to move the pile, cut back or make defenders miss. He maintains a weekly maintenance of the injury and has a three-game average of 14.7 attempts for 43.7 yards and 0.3 TDs. The Seahawks are allowing 116 yards AND 0.75 TDs per game to RBs the past month. However, Wells may not have the ability to take advantage of it and with the team out of the playoff hunt, he could be limited in Week 17. With nothing to play for, why not just allow him to begin the healing process? His knee is why you need to avoid this matchup.

WR Andre Roberts, Cardinals (vs. Seahawks)
Roberts had his second straight solid game, going 6-75-0 on 10 targets and has a two-game average of six catches for 67.5 and 0.5 TDs. The last time he faced the Seahawks, in Week Three, he went 4-38 and right now they're allowing 103.3 yards and no TDs per game to WRs over the past four week. As good as he's been the last two games, he has been subpar for most of the year with 3.1 catches for 37.5 yards and 0.1 TDs per game. Not someone you want to count on in the season finale.

WR Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (vs. Chiefs)
Thomas (4-76-0 on eight targets last week) has a four-game average of 5.5 catches for 103.5 yards and 0.75 TDs. Despite the nice four-game run, he's defying the odds based on QB Tim Tebow's lack of accuracy. Most teams will play him, but Thomas is also a waiver-wire pickup. With the Chiefs allowing 101 yards and 0.8 TDs over the past four games, Thomas may not have enough to post elite numbers, especially with QB Tim Tebow regressing. If you can, avoid this matchup. At the very least, temper your expectations, as he's a true boom-or-bust play this week.

WR Antonio Brown, Steelers (at Browns)
Brown (3-34-0 on six targets in Week 16) has been in a two-game rut to coincide with Ben Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain. His production is tied to the arm of Big Ben. However, Big Ben may play for a half, giving Brown some value but with a two-game average of four catches for 46.5 yards and no TDs on eight targets he has risk. The Browns have CB Joe Haden and though Brown got open the last time they played (5-151-1 on eight targets), it was after Haden slipped. Regardless, the Browns' secondary faltered at times over the past month, but they're still one of the best, allowing 129.5 yards and 0.8 TDs to WRs the past four weeks. With Big Ben not 100 percent and the Browns rushing attack allowing 152.5 yards and 0.75 TDs per game, look for the Steelers to rely on Rashard Mendenhall to carry the load this week. If you can, avoid this matchup.

TE Owen Daniels, Texans (vs. Titans)
Daniels had one of his worst games of his career for fantasy owners in Week 16, going 1-4-0 on two targets. Now he faces a Titans defense that is allowing 53.3 yards and no TDs to the position over the past four weeks. Combine that with QB T.J. Yates' poor play and the potential return of WR Andre Johnson, and Daniels may not see enough targets. That's not to mention TD vulture Joel Dreessen (4-38-0 on four targets), who has six for the year. There are too many factors that could hurt Daniels' production this week. Avoid this matchup if you can.