It’s crunch time! Most leagues are into their playoffs as we get ready for kickoff in Week 14. Because of the raised intensity of the weekend, our sleepers come to you a day earlier than usual so you can get your final lineup locked in before Sunday morning hits. To check out our previous posts to see how our picks have done: click here for last week, or click here for week 12.
All the players below are unowned in at least half of ESPN leagues, but have the potential to contribute to your team’s win this weekend. Check out who’s available in your league if you have a need at one of these positions since getting a player in the right matchup can make all the difference between extending your season another week or going home early. (All scoring references use ESPN Standard Scoring for continuity’s sake)
1. Russell Wilson-Seattle Seahawks: (21.3% owned in ESPN leagues) Wilson faces the Cardinals in Seattle and has thrived in his home games so far this year. He’s had 15 or more fantasy points in each of his last five games and offers the bonus points from being able to move the ball on the ground. The only concern with Wilson is that the Cardinals offense has been so bad it doesn’t take much to secure the win (see last week’s 7-6 stinker against the Jets). Wilson may not be asked to do too much, but he’s been executing at a high level making him a solid QB2 or emergency QB1 this week.
2. Jake Locker-Tennessee Titans: (7.4%) If you’re on the waiver wire looking for a home run, Locker is a high-risk pickup but could be a high reward payout. He and the Titans travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts on Sunday. Locker didn’t play the first time these teams met but was able to throw for 300+ yards last week against the Texans. He could likely hit that number again as the Colts passing defense has allowed at least 300 for three of the last four weeks. Indy hasn’t held any QB they’ve faced under 10 fantasy points, and I expect a big day from Locker in the new offense installed by Dowell Loggains. Locker has a higher upside than Russell Wilson for this week, but Wilson is the safer pick. Choose between the two based on what you need for this week.
3. Brandon Weeden-Cleveland Browns: Weeden and the Browns face their former signal-caller as Brady Quinn leads the Chiefs into Cleveland. Only the Saints and Eagles have allowed more fantasy points to opposing QBs than the Chiefs and Weeden has had three 300+ yard passing games and five weeks of 15 or more fantasy points. He’s a solid QB2 based on his matchup for week 14.
1. Jonathan Dwyer-Pittsburgh Steelers: (43.0%) Dwyer has emerged at least as the primary back in Pittsburgh, although he isn’t on the field for every down. He scored his first rushing touchdown of the year last week in Baltimore as the Steelers found a way to win. With Big Ben returning and the Steelers at home against the Chargers, I’d expect an even better week from Dwyer. San Diego has allowed over 120 yards rushing the last three weeks although they have kept opposing backs out of the endzone. Dwyer is a good pickup for the rest of the year and is in line for a solid week this week.
2. Bilal Powell-New York Jets: (2.7%) While the Jets offense has been a mess, Powell has amassed double-digit caries in each of his last three games and found the endzone three times. He’s getting the goalline chances for New York, so if Mark Sanchez (or whoever replaces him) can move the offense this week in Jacksonville, Powell could be in line for a decent game. The Jags have allowed the fourth most fantasy points to opposing backs and were gashed for 186 yards and a touchdown last week by the Bills.
3. Alex Green-Green Bay Packers: (30.0%) Green isn’t a secret, but he is in line for most of the carries as the Packers host the Lions. Detroit’s run defense isn’t extra-special, but the Packers should be able to move the ball through the air which may limit Green’s value. He is the Packer back to own, but don’t expect too much from him this week. He’ll probably get about 12-15 carries for 50-65 yards which isn’t bad if he can make his way to the endzone for the first time this season.
1. Josh Gordon-Cleveland Browns: (35.8%) Gordon had 116 yards and a touchdown last week in Oakland and has 15 catches in three games since the Browns bye-week. Gordon is definitely Brandon Weeden’s favorite receiver and should be ready to post another big game this week against the visiting Chiefs.
2. Donnie Avery-Indianapolis Colts: (14.6%) With all the buzz over T.Y. Hiton, it was Avery who led the Colts in targets in Andrew Luck’s fourth-quarter comeback against the Lions. Avery hauled in five passes for a total of 91 yards and a pair of scores including the game-winner. Avery is a downfield threat but can also be used over the middle. He usually is a much bigger part of the passing game than Hilton. Hilton definitely has talent and can make a big splash when he does get his hands on the ball like he did while Avery was injured, but I’d rather have a healthy Avery than Hilton this week as the Colts face the Titans who allow the 14th most points to opposing wide receivers per game.
3. Kendall Wright-Tennessee Titans: (14.2%) On the other side of the field from Avery, Kendall Wright has emerged as the most-targeted Titans receiver. The Colts allow the third-most points to opposing wide receivers and Wright should be able to star in the shootout that I expect to emerge in Lucas Oil Stadium this Sunday.
1. Dennis Pitta-Baltimore Ravens: (29.6%) No team in the league has given up more points to opposing tight ends than the Redskins. Pitta had a tough matchup last week against the Steelers and had a predictably low-scoring week, but don’t let that deter you from grabbing him if you need a TE as the Ravens travel to the nation’s Capital for Sunday’s game.
2. Marcedes Lewis-Jacksonville Jaguars: (19.6%) Lewis and the Jags face the Jets this Sunday. Lewis has been steadily increasing his yardage each week since Chad Henne has been under center. He could have another nice week this week as the Jags look to take advantage of Rex Ryan’s reeling Jets.
3. Benjamin Watson-Cleveland Browns: (4.4%) Watson was targeted nine times and finished with six catches last week against the Raiders. The Browns should be able to move the ball and find the end zone against the Chiefs, but Watson’s role is in flux form week-to-week so he’s still a risky play.
1. Cincinnati Bengals D/ST: The Bengals have scored 12 or more in each of the past four weeks against the Giants, Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers. This week they host the Cowboys who can put up points but can also be turnover-prone. Depending on how stiffly your league penalizes points and yards allowed, they may be worth a gamble since big plays will most likely be on the table with Tony Romo under center for Dallas.
2. Cleveland Browns: (28.3%) Continuing with a Cleveland-heavy week of sleepers, the Browns defense scored 20 fantasy points just two weeks ago against the Steelers but put up a disappointing one-point week last week in Oakland. They’ll return home for the Chiefs who give up the second-most points to opposing D’s. The reason they aren’t #1 on this list is their performance last week and the fact that the Chiefs didn’t allow any points last week to the Panthers D in their best performance of the season.
3. Buffalo Bills: (27.9%) The much-hyped Bills defense started woefully slow but has been playing well as of late with 36 points over the last three games. They’ll face the Rams in Buffalo this Sunday in a game that could be rainy and cold which could help their cause against Sam Bradford and company.