PFW's late-week fantasy tips for wide receivers:
The Patriots will still have something to play for on Sunday afternoon against the Dolphins, as they play at the same time as the Broncos, who have a one-game lead for a bye in the AFC. That means all skill-position starters should be in fantasy lineups, including Wes Welker, who has torched the Dolphins throughout his career. Welker had 12 catches for 103 yards and one touchdown vs. Miami in Week 13.
In what’s expected to be Norv Turner’s final game as the Chargers’ head coach, expect his team to try to send him out in style against a poor Raiders team. Malcom Floyd went 4-66-1 vs. Oakland in Week One and Danario Alexander has been stellar in the last two months. They both have solid matchups in this season finale.
Lions WR Calvin Johnson returned to practice on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday with knee and ankle injuries. He needs 108 yards for 2,000 on the season and is the safest of starting options in Week 17.
Ravens WRs Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin are within range of 1,000 receiving yards. Smith needs 155 to reach the mark for the first time in his career, while Boldin needs 79. Both look like solid plays in Week 17 vs. Cincinnati.
It’s hard to recommend Browns WRs Josh Gordon and Greg Little with much confidence if Cleveland has to start No. 2 QB Colt McCoy or No. 3 QB Thaddeus Lewis on Sunday at Pittsburgh. McCoy has a shoulder injury, as does starter Brandon Weeden, opening the door for Lewis to potentially make his first NFL start.
If you’re looking for a deep sleeper in the final week of the season as an injury fill-in, Bills WR Brad Smith has some fantasy value — at least, more than usual. With TE Scott Chandler out, the Bills’ offense will need to shake things up a bit, which could mean more “Wildcat” looks fro Smith, who did catch a touchdown pass last week against Miami.
He has only produced 98 yards in his past three games, but Saints WR Lance Moore is still worth a start as a low-end No. 2 receiver in deeper formats this week, even in a matchup against a Carolina defense that has played the pass well of late against some lousy offenses (Oakland, San Diego, Kansas City). Moore has caught a touchdown in each of the past two games. He’s going to get his share of targets and the fact that QB Drew Brees is looking for him in the red zone bodes well for his fantasy prospects.
Whether or not Packers WRs Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and Randall Cobb (knee/ankle) are able to play in the regular-season finale vs. Minnesota, neither of them shape up as very worthy fantasy prospects in Week 17, even though Nelson’s numbers in his last 32 full games (including playoffs) — 143-2,399-25 — might dictate otherwise. Nelson was looking like a good bet to be able to return to the starting lineup for the regular-season finale, but the possibility of him being a bit rusty should be considered. A decision on Cobb isn’t expected until Friday’s practice (check status), but if there’s the slightest hint that he’s not right, it’s a good bet the Packers will tread lightly with his usage. The fantasy prospects for Packers WRs James Jones and Greg Jennings, on the other hand, are a lot brighter. The red-hot Jones (five TDs in the last four games, 7-100-1 receiving last Sunday) had a TD catch (2-40-1) in Green Bay’s victory over the Vikings in Week 13. Jennings, who caught his second TD pass of the year last week and looks like he could be ready to break out with a big fantasy game, had 4-46 receiving vs. Minnesota in his first game back from a prolonged groin injury.
With Niners WR Mario Manningham done for the season (knee), the fantasy opportunities have at least increased for veteran Randy Moss, who has become the team’s undisputed No. 2 receiver behind Michael Crabtree. A pass-heavy attack does not seem likely for the Niners this Sunday, though, vs. a Cardinals defense that has been much more effective defending the pass than the run.
Colts WR Donnie Avery (shoulder) was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, putting him on track to start Sunday against Houston. Avery has been slightly inconsistent from a fantasy standpoint, but he is having a career year and is always a deep threat and big-play candidate in the NFL’s most vertical passing offense.
With Cecil Shorts’ season coming to an end just 21 yards shy of 1,000, the Jaguars will lean heavily on rookie WR Justin Blackmon against the Titans. With double-digit targets in three consecutive games and coming off one of his better games of the season against New England, Blackmon is ending the season on a positive note. He is a solid play Sunday and will be an interesting player to keep an eye on heading into next season, though what kind of moves the Jaguars make under center will obviously have a big effect on his 2013 fantasy value.
It seems that every season, Texans fans pine for another consistent receiving threat outside of Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and Arian Foster. In 2012, it’s the same old story, with first-year player Lester Jean and rookie Keshawn Martin both showing signs of being that guy at times, but rookie DeVier Posey has moved to the front of the line in recent weeks. Posey has been targeted nine times in the past two games, parlaying those opportunities into four catches for 52 yards. Fairly pedestrian, but his increased chances say a lot about his fantasy outlook for next season, especially as stalwart Kevin Walter’s playing time decreases simultaneously.
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks (knee) will play and makes a lot of sense against the struggling Eagles secondary.