Adam Levitan

Waiver Wired

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Waiver Wire: Week 17 & Awards

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Most years, playing into Week 17 is unbelievably silly. This year, it’s just slightly frustrating.

That’s because the only teams that are realistic candidates to rest healthy players in Week 17 are the Chiefs and Colts (Bang it here for the full playoff scenarios). So for owners still grinding, you’re going to be able to use many of your normal players. Don’t get it twisted though and think your league is smart because you complete the full marathon. Most years, the below list of Week 17 plug-n-plays will make up your starting lineups.

* It’s award season. Check out Page 2 of this column for a look back at the Waiver Wired year that was.

WEEK 17 PLUG-N-PLAYS
QUARTERBACK
Ryan Tannehill (vs. NYJ) – Let’s not overreact to Tannehill’s Week 16 stinker at the Ralph. The entire team never got off the bus as they were in an obvious letdown spot off three straight wins. Tannehill will right the ship in a home game against the Jets’ No. 24 pass defense.

Terrelle Pryor (vs. DEN) – The coaches appeared to have soured on Pryor, but out of nowhere they named him the Week 17 starter. It’s the right choice, of course (see more in the awards section). In his first seven games of this season, Pryor averaged 7.5 catches for 69.2 yards with one touchdown. He’ll be a borderline QB1 for me this week and any week he starts in the future because of his legs.

Kyle Orton (vs. PHL) – Orton is far better than some of the stiff backups around the NFL. He’s started 69 career games, has two 3,000-yard seasons and two 20-touchdown seasons. Orton will be facing one of the league’s weakest secondaries in what projects as a high-scoring game.

Matt Flynn (at CHI) – We likely won’t know until Friday if Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) will be back for this “win or go home” game.  We do know that Flynn has gone over 200 yards in three straight and has tossed six touchdowns during that span.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. HOU) – The Texans have packed it in weeks ago. Over the last four weeks, they’re giving up 30.7 points per game. Fitzpatrick is an excellent bet for multiple touchdowns.

RUNNING BACK
James Starks (at CHI) – Eddie Lacy aggravated his right ankle sprain again in Week 16. This time, it was severe enough to keep him out of the game. Capable backup Starks came on for 70 yards on 11 touches. The Bears’ run defense continues to perform at historically poor levels.

Edwin Baker (at PIT) – With the season in the tank, the Browns have finally given up on Willis McGahee. In Week 16, Baker played on 50-of-69 snaps while McGahee/Fozzy Whittaker combined for just two snaps. The Browns clearly want to see what they have in Norv Turner’s former prospect from the Chargers as they head into the offseason. He’ll carry the load again in Week 17.

Knile Davis (at SD) – Andy Reid has a long history of resting players ahead of the playoffs. I’d expect him to apply that right now, as the Chiefs are locked into the AFC’s five seed. Davis has been solid in limited opportunities as Jamaal Charles’ backup, showing good burst and pass-catching ability while shaking his fumble-prone reputation from college.

Jonathan Grimes (at TEN) -- Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim are all likely out. The best thing we can say for Grimes is that he's healthy and looking at volume. I do not expect the Texans to show up for this finale though, making him a true desperation option.

Michael Cox (vs. WAS) – Both Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis are in the concussion protocol, leaving Cox as the only healthy back on the roster. The Giants have loathed to trust him before, but they might not have a choice now in this plus matchup.

Joe Banyard (vs. DET) – Adrian Peterson (foot, groin), Toby Gerhart (hamstring) and Matt Asiata (ankle) are all in serious doubt for the meaningless finale. If all three sit, Banyard would step in as a feature back against a lame duck Lions team.

WIDE RECEIVER
Jerrel Jernigan (vs. WAS) – Across the last two weeks, Jernigan has 13 catches for 147 yards and one touchdown on 20 targets. Victor Cruz’s backup has stepped right into his slot role and ran with it, gaining plenty of trust from Eli Manning right away. Jernigan is a safer play than Rueben Randle.

Marvin Jones (vs. BAL) – Jones’ snap count continues to run high. Even though the Bengals were blowing out the Vikings on Sunday, he played on 55-of-83 snaps. That comes on the heels of a 51-of-71 outing in Week 15. With that kind of usage, big box scores are going to follow because Jones is a serious playmaker.  

Ted Ginn (at ATL) – Steve Smith’s PCL sprain turns the vastly improved Ginn into a starter. He’ll be playing in a dome against a sub-par secondary and figures to get at least a few hitches/screens thrown his way. Ginn is a reasonable bet to break off a couple big plays.

Mike Brown (at IND) – Brown will be playing every snap in a dome against a Colts team only fighting for seeding. He’s averaging 6.6 targets per game over the last three and put a 5/71/1 line on the Titans in Week 16.

Kris Durham (at MIN) – I’d be surprised if Calvin Johnson (knee, ankle) suited up for this one after he was so limited in Week 16. Durham is already playing a ton of snaps, but his targets will bump in a big way as a “No. 1” wideout. The Vikings secondary is both inept and banged up.

TIGHT END
Ryan Griffin (at TEN) – At this point, the Texans should see that Griffin is a better player than Garrett Graham. Griffin has seen 11 targets in the past two weeks and caught 11 balls for 128 yards. He’s the No. 2 option behind Andre Johnson for Matt Schaub.
 
Marcedes Lewis (at IND) – It’s time to take Lewis seriously. He has a touchdown in four straight games as the depleted Jags are desperate for anyone to catch the ball. Again, the Colts are just playing for seeding.

Jermaine Gresham (vs. BAL) – Tyler Eifert and Gresham have been canceling each other out all year. On Sunday, Eifert sustained a neck stinger and is questionable for Week 17. If he sits, Gresham can bank on 4-6 targets.

Joseph Fauria (at MIN) – With Brandon Pettigrew down, Fauria expanded his role away from strict red-zone threat. Against the Giants, he caught three passes for a season-high 43 yards on a season-high seven targets.

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS
Chargers (vs. KC) – As mentioned above, Andy Reid is likely to rest his starters with the Chiefs locked into the No. 5 seed. That means Chase Daniel and the rest of the backups will get swallowed up against a hungry San Diego team.

Titans (vs. HOU) – Owners that streamed Tennessee in for fantasy’s Super Bowl week fared reasonably as they held the Jags to 16 points, blocked a kick and sacked Chad Henne twice. The spot this week is even better as they’ll be at home against a Texans team that is mailing it in.

Steelers (vs. CLE) – Somehow, the Steelers have an outside shot a playoff berth. And since they play at 1pm ET, they’ll be going all-out to win. Jason Campbell has gone back in the tank of late, averaging just 225.5 yards over the last two weeks with one touchdown and four picks.

KICKER
Nick Novak (vs. KC) – Owners that have been riding Novak lately have been rewarded. It’s the simple good kicker, good weather, good offense mix that has led to 17 field goals in the last seven weeks.

Shayne Graham (vs. TB) – Graham stepped right into Garrett Hartley’s shoes in Week 15, going 2-of-2 on field goals. Now he gets to kick in the calming confines of the Superdome in a game that will yield tons of opportunities.


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Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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