Here it is. The final week of the fantasy regular season. One last chance to get your fantasy minds and lives right to make your way into the playoffs. This week is like the final boss of the fantasy regular season. Thanks to byes and injuries, your inventory is low. It's high stakes and you might only have one shot to get this right.
That means this week's sleeper calls are as crucial as they come. Hitting on the right options could make the difference between you playing in Week 15 or planning for next season.
Enough jibber-jabber. Here are some names.
I know the term “sleeper” can be nebulous. But when you’re sitting outside the top 12 quarterbacks, you qualify. Kirk Cousins in 2022 has been everything Kirk Cousins has long been reputed to be. Which is to say, he’s been mostly average. In good matchups, he’s been passable. In bad matchups, he’s been awful. This week looks like a good week -- on paper, at least.
We’ve spent the entire season picking on the Lions defense in about every way imaginable. They’ve allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks all season long. That number has been even worse over the past four weeks -- even with Trevor Lawrence not reaching 17 points in Week 14. Cousins notched a respectable 18 points against Detroit earlier this season. If you’re streaming the Minnesota quarterback, you’d be happy with at least that many this week.
Tannehill would have to get hot to aspire to Cousins’ level in 2022. The Tennessee signal-caller has yet to touch 20 fantasy points in a game, though much of it can be owed to a moribund receiving corps. Treylon Burks, Robert Woods, and Nick Westbook-Ikhine aren’t exactly causing sleepless nights for opponents. Why bother when you have Derrick Henry?
This week, they might have to bother. It’s a matchup of two of the NFL’s better run defenses versus two of its most questionable secondaries -- and one that seems destined to be contested through the air. A healthy Burks would mean a world of difference for Tannehill. Even without, he boasts enough upside to warrant starts in 2QB leagues.
While fears of a Chuba Hubbard takeover aren’t completely unfounded, Foreman still appears to be the top cat in Carolina. With Hubbard healthy in Week 12, Foreman still saw more than 50 percent of the snaps and most of the rushing attempts. With the Panthers running 60 percent of the time over the last few weeks, those opportunities add up.
The Seahawks’ run defense has been gounded and pounded all season long. It’s been particularly bad during the recent slump that nearly saw them lose three in a row. Josh Jacobs’ 303-scrimmage yard explosion came in between big outings from Rachaad White and Cam Akers. Between the matchup and the number of backs on a bye this week, Foreman could sneak into the top 12 this week.
The once and future Dolphins starter reclaimed his spot atop Miami’s running back throne last week against San Francisco, playing 60 percent of the snaps. Not that it did him any good when it led to seven touches for 30 yards. Is this a (re)changing of the guard in South Florida? Who really knows?
That might only matter incrementally against the Chargers run defense. The Bolts have allowed a 100-yard rusher in three straight games, with each game being worse than the one that preceded it. With two backs sharing the work, it might be hard to top Jacobs’ 144 yards from Week 13, but there is room for both Dolphins backs to have good days.
Last week’s advocating for Jones didn’t work out as hoped. Call it a lack of execution rather than a lack of opportunity. Jones played 81 percent of the snaps and had seven targets. Unfortunately, it resulted in just two catches for 16 yards. Process. Results. You know the spiel. Which is why I'm willing to go to the well again in Week 14.
Jones has clearly earned the trust of Lawrence in an offense that has been incredibly pass-heavy for the past three weeks. It’s just the kind of trend that holds well against Tennessee. The Jaguars' aerial attack hasn’t been quite as potent as the Philly passing game that tattered the Titans, but it should be able to penetrate that already severely dented secondary’s armor.
It’s been awhile since we could tout Thielen as a worthwhile start. After years of predicting touchdown regression, it’s finally hit. He’s also experienced reception and yardage regression at the same time. It’s what happens when you combine age with being teamed up with the NFL’s top young wideout. But that might not matter so much this week.
Why, you ask? Because Lions. Detroit has been better against receivers over the past month, but still awful. The Lions have allowed the fifth-most receptions and yards to wideouts in the last four weeks, which feels like an improvement for the NFL’s third-worst defense against fantasy receivers. Alas, it still ain’t good. In a game that projects to be one of the higher-scoring of the weekend, Thielen could be in line for one of his more productive outings.
For as much as Detroit has succeeded offensively and for as much as we’ve loved using their assets in fantasy, there hasn’t been another pass catcher we’ve coveted. Makes sense. T.J. Hockenson hasn’t played for the team since Week 8, yet he’s still second on the team in receiving yards. We’re excited about the prospect of Jameson Williams, but it’s still aspirational. Then there’s Chark.
In games he’s played, he’s behind only Amon-Ra St. Brown in target share, while dominating the air yards at a nearly 36% clip. Jared Goff is trying to find a consistent No. 2 target. It’s been difficult because the Lions receiver room just hasn’t been able to stay consistently healthy. But with a potential track meet coming against the Vikings, Chark is back in play as the guy.
Whenever the Raiders throw it to Not Davante Adams, I always wonder why they didn’t throw it to Davante Adams. But in the interest of keeping opposing defenses honest -- and keeping the rest of your teammates involved -- Derek Carr targets other people from time to time. More often than not, “other people” means Hollins. He’s second on the team with a 17% target share, which he’s turned into 45 catches, 566 yards and three touchdowns. All three stats pale in comparison to Adams’ prodigious totals, but Hollins is second on the team, nonetheless.
This week, the Raiders visit a directionless Rams team just trying to paddle its way to shore. Los Angeles runs the league’s most zone-heavy defense -- a big statement in a league that's defenses mostly feature zone looks. While Hollins' catch rate over expectation is lower against zone defenses than against man coverage, he is more of a downfield threat in those situations. Not to mention that when the Rams decide to play man, it’s likely going to be Adams who faces off with Jalen Ramsey. Hollins might only have deep league appeal, but there is at least some appeal.
The dream of Henry as a consistently startable tight end was on life support even as he scored nine touchdowns last season. You could say that the nine scores were the respirator that maintained any semblance of fantasy value in 2021. In 2022, Henry has all but flatlined in an offense that makes downfield passing look extremely difficult. But this week, the Cardinals offer one last hope for fantasy prosperity to an otherwise downtrodden fantasy player.
The 2022 season has brought plenty of uncertainty and shifting narratives. One thing has stayed true: The Cardinals are terrible against tight ends. No team has given up more catches, more yards and more touchdowns to tight ends than the Redbirds. Over the past four weeks, their standing has somewhat improved. They’re only the third-worst team against the position. Though some of that might be attributed to Arizona having a bye. If you’re ever going to roll the dice on Henry, this is the week to do it.
The always-excellent Rich Hribar recently tweeted his disdain for the fantasy DST position. I don’t bring it up to debate his sentiment, but rather to highlight the altruism. We don’t really pick defenses for the sake of the defense. We do it based on who the defense is playing that week. Sure, some units like the Cowboys, Eagles or 49ers hold enough self-worth that you don’t have to think about plugging them in. For nearly everyone else, it’s a matter of who’s lining up across the way.
That’s what gets us to the Chiefs this week. The Broncos offense has been rock bottom all season. It scores the fewest points of any team in the league and has allowed the fourth-most sacks. You wonder how bad things might have been if Denver didn’t have the league’s best defense. Regardless, Kansas City should be able to score enough to make the Broncos one-dimensional and put up a decent defensive number.