Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Tim Tebow, Kahlil Bell and Darrius Heyward-Bey lead the way for championship week
It’s Week 16 — fantasy football championship week for most of you, fantasy semifinals for some. Needless to say, if you’ve made it this far, you are biting your nails on which players you might be able to pick up to help get you that final push and either win a title or get to the title game. Surprisingly, there are still some names, albeit not household names, that could get you there.
Here are about 2,500 words on who can help you. Good luck in the playoffs.
Tim Tebow, Denver
This is just a heads up that Tebow is still available in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues. If you need a starting QB that has scored no lower than 16 points in six-point TD leagues since Week 4 and is going against a Buffalo defense that’s ranked 23rd against fantasy QBs, then Tebow’s your man.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota
He’s had games of 18.2, 10.9, 29.44, 14.34 and 22.54 in his last five outings and gets a Washington Redskins team, that although it held Eli Manning and New York to no passing TDs, are still 18th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks. Manning managed 257 yards passing with three interceptions. He was the first QB not to throw a TD pass against the Redskins since Matt Moore in Week 10. The four QBs in between Moore and Manning averaged 240 yards, 2.3 scores and .5 interceptions. It’s a deep play, but one that could pay off with Percy Harvin on the other end as a receiver, two capable tight ends and backs that score as pass catchers out of the backfield. Ponder is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Matt Moore, Miami
Even with a concussion, Moore threw for 271 yards and two TDs en route to a 19.68-point day against Miami. This week he gets the worst pass defense in the league in the New England Patriots. With Brandon Marshall as the No. 1, Davone Bess roaming around, Anthony Fasano at TE and Reggie Bush out of the backfield, Moore has plenty of option to get to the 17.8 he’s averaged over the last seven weeks, especially against this New England defense. He’s available in 82 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Kyle Orton, Kansas City
In his first start for the Chiefs, Orton completed 23-of-31 passes (74.2 percent) for 299 yards and managed just 11.46 fantasy points. But this week, he gets an Oakland team that is third-worst against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks and has allowed Matthew Stafford (391 yards and four scores), Aaron Rodgers (281 yards and two scores), Matt Moore (162 yards and two scores), Caleb Hanie (254 yards and two scores), Christian Ponder (211 yards and three scores) and Philip Rivers (274 yards and two scores) to have success. The Raiders have also racked up eight interceptions in that time, but the yardage and TDs allowed outweighs that for a QB like Orton that could get you the 16 to 18 points you need to win a title or advance to the Week 17 finals.
John Skelton, Arizona
He’s had fantasy days of 26.78 and 17.22 in his last two weeks in replacing the injured Kevin Kolb, who is still battling his concussion injury. The Cardinals travel to Cincinnati in Week 16 and the Bengals are 20th against fantasy QBs over the last five weeks, two of them being backups in T.J. Yates (300 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and Kellen Clemens (229 yards and 1 TD). Moral of the story: Skelton has Larry Fitzgerald and you could do worse at QB. Skelton is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
He totaled 167 yards — 91 rushing and 76 receiving — and had two touchdowns against the Miami’s third-ranked rush defense. Now the Bills get a Broncos team that has allowed the last three “feature” backs they’ve faced to gain 336 yards rushing and 79 yards receiving on 11 catches but just one touchdown, and just allowed four New England running backs to rush for 123 yards and two score and 44 receiving yards. Spiller is available in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis
Here we go again with Donald Brown. He was already having a decent day against the Titans and then busted off an 80-yard TD run to make it that much better. He finished with 16 carries for 161 yards and the score. It was Brown’s third game in double digits in the last four weeks. This Thursday night, the Colts get the Texans, who were just embarrassed by the Panthers. Houston is still No. 2 in the league against fantasy RBs, but over the last four weeks it has allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to run for 99 yards and get 67 receiving yards, Cedric Benson 91 yards rushing and DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart 104 yards rushing and one TD. Brown is available in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Kahlil Bell, Chicago
In the week we were trying to determine which backup would have the best week — Ricky Williams, John Kuhn or one of the Saints’ trio — it was Bell who killed it. He had 15 carries for 65 yards and 43 yards receiving on five catches with a score. The Bears travel to Green Bay for the lone Sunday game of the week, and if Bell is going to continue to get games of 14 and 20 touches like he’s had the last two weeks then he’s a decent flex play for the second week in a row. He’s available in 92 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
Leslie Frazier said in advance of the Week 15 game against New Orleans that Adrian Peterson would be worked back in. His work was just 10 carries for 60 yards and a six-point fantasy day after three weeks off with a high ankle sprain. Gerhart didn’t get much of a workload either, but he scored 19.8 points thanks to two receiving scores, 46 yards on four catches and just 12 rushing yards. This is another desperate flex play for those owners that have been killed at the RB position by injuries or complete lack of performance. Gerhart is available in 55 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Lance Ball, Denver Broncos
Ball’s just a player to keep an eye on. Willis McGahee has been banged up and had to leave Sunday’s game against New England for a time. Ball had 11 caries for 64 yards and a score and added two catches for 41 yards. Keep an eye on McGahee’s status for Week 16 against Buffalo — ranked 29th against fantasy RBs. Ball is available in 88 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Christopher Ivory, New Orleans
It’s hard to know which Saints RB to trust, but in the last three weeks, Ivory has had at least 13 carries and at least 53 yards. He’s gone 15-for-67, 13-for-53 and 18-for-74 to lead the team Sunday against Minnesota. If Mark Ingram (turf toe) continues to be sidelined and you need a flex back because injuries have decimated your lineup, you could do a lot worse than Ivory. The Saints play host to a tough Falcons run defense this week, but Maurice Jones-Drew just managed 92 yards against them in a blowout. Ivory is available in 96 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Sammy Morris, Dallas
Signed off the streets after the season-ending injury to DeMarco Murray last week, Morris got more work than probably expected Saturday against the Buccaneers. He had 12 carries for 53 yards and was targeted twice out of the backfield. The Cowboys are not going to let Felix Jones be the bell cow, so there is work to be had for Morris. So again, this is another desperation play for those dying at RB, but one that could come through with 15 or so touches. He is available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Demaryius Thomas, Denver
He’s still available in 66 percent of Yahoo leagues probably because of our distrust in Tim Tebow’s arm. But he was going up against one of the worst pass defenses in recent memory in the New England Patriots and came through with seven catches for 116 yards on a team-high 13 targets. That was a week after seven catches for 78 yards and a score against Chicago and two weeks after a four-catch, 144-yard performance against Minnesota. Now the Broncos get a Buffalo team that is ranked 16th against fantasy receivers.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland
The Raider receiving corps can’t seem to all be healthy at once and Heyward-Bey is reaping the benefits. He has had fantasy days of 9.8, 11.3 and 24.5 in the last three weeks and had a four-week run in Weeks 4-7 where he scored no less than 11.2 points. That’s seven days of at least 9.8 points and six of at least 11. That’s a number I would take as a flex considering the injuries and inconsistencies at the position this season. Playing against Kansas City’s two Brandons — Carr and Flowers — and the Chiefs being fourth-best against fantasy WRs does present a problem in Week 16, however. Heyward-Bey is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Greg Little, Cleveland
The rookie had the best day of his career in Week 15 when he caught five balls for 131 yards and a score. It was a 21.6-point day and his best by 6.1 points this season. He can thank a 76-yard TD reception in the third quarter for the bulk of his points, but he’s still the most targeted Brown by far (108) this season. The Browns travel to play a Baltimore team this week that was picked apart by Philip Rivers. It’s unlikely the Browns will do that, and a repeat of the 4.3-point performance Little had in Week 13 against the Ravens is much more likely than the 21.6-point effort from Sunday. He is available in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Malcom Floyd, San Diego
A model of inconsistency throughout his career, Floyd has had two 18-point fantasy days sandwiched around a 3.9-point day over the last three weeks. This week, the Chargers travel to play a Detroit team, ranked 23rd against fantasy receivers, that Carson Palmer just threw for 365 yards and a score and overthrew two more long-ball scores against the Lions with the Raiders’ lackluster receiving corps. Floyd is available in 49 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Nate Burleson, Detroit
Here we go again. Is it going to be Burleson or Titus Young as the opposite to Calvin Johnson? It seems to be one or the other every week. Burleson has posted four double-digit days in the last six games, including 17.6 points against the Raiders in Week 15 (7-81-1). But his last four games have been 17.6, 4.1, 11.8 and 7.5. In the two down games, Young had 16.7 and 8.1. The Lions get San Diego in Detroit this week and the Chargers have been solid against receivers, ranking seventh in the league vs. the position this season. Burleson is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Andre Roberts, Arizona
A complete reach, but Roberts has had fantasy days of 15.7, 8.8 and 14.1 in the last three weeks, grabbing 16 of 21 targets during that time. He had a season-high 10 targets, catching six balls for 60 yards and a score against a stingy Browns pass defense. Now the Cardinals travel to play a Bengals team that is ranked 15th against fantasy receivers.
Dez Briscoe, Tampa Bay
He got back into the starting lineup in Week 15 because of injury to Arrelious Benn — and should’ve been there all along. He’s caught 26 of 39 targets for 328 yards and four scores this season. One fear is that Carolina is ninth-best against fantasy receivers because its defense against the run is bad. So this could be a LeGarrette Blount-Kregg Lumpkin type of game, but you can’t trust them, either. And it’s not as if the Bucs’ defense will put up much of a fight; so Briscoe might have more opportunities. Briscoe did have a score against the Panthers in Week 13 as five targeted receivers combined for 188 yards and Briscoe’s score.
Jabar Gaffney, Washington
The connection with Rex Grossman continues to be there and Gaffney continues to come through as a good flex. He caught a team-high six balls for 85 yards against the Giants for a 12.5-point fantasy day in Week 15. He has had at least five catches and 72 yards in four of the last five games. This week, the Skins play host to a Vikings team that is ranked 30th against fantasy receivers. Gaffney is available in 46 percent of Yahoo leagues.
David Nelson, Buffalo
In a full-PPR he could be a good play against the Broncos in Week 16. Denver should have no trouble against the bad Buffalo defense, and Steve Johnson should draw Champ Bailey in coverage. Again, only a PPR play, but Nelson caught six balls for 60 yards against Miami in Week 15 and has always been a red zone target for QB Ryan Fitzpatrick this season. He is available in 58 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Brent Celek, Philadelphia
He had five catches for 156 yards, including a 73-yard catch he took to the 1-yard line. After being invisible the first five weeks, he has scored at or above nine points in six games. Celek gets a Dallas team in Week 16 that is 24th against fantasy TEs. Somehow he’s still available in 63 percent of Yahoo leagues when he should have been scooped up by midseason.
Anthony Fasano, Miami
He’s had three TDs since Week 9, including one in Week 15 against tbe Bills. It was one of just two catches for 28 yards, so the TD helped. The two weeks prior, Fasano had 56 and 66 yards receiving. The Dolphins travel to New England to take on the worst pass defense in the league in Week 16. Fasano is available in 93 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Jared Cook, Tennessee
The epitome of talent gone to waste thus far for the Titans. Cook has reached at least nine points just three times this season and Sunday was one of those games. He caught a season-high nine catches for 103 yards against the Colts. Obviously, you can’t trust him, but if Jake Locker starts for Matt Hasselbeck then there is the old “tight end’s a young QB’s best friend” theory. Tennessee plays host to Jacksonville this week, which is ranked 25th against fantasy tight ends. Cook is available in 74 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Jeremy Shockey, Carolina
Like Fasano, Shockey had just two catches and one went for a score in Week 15. That is back-to-back weeks with touchdowns for Shockey, and now the Panthers play a Tampa Bay team that is middle of the road against the tight end position, but have allowed 77 yards to the position each of the last two weeks. He splits time with Greg Olsen, but if you are desperate for a TD Shockey is available in 94 percent of Yahoo leagues.
By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter