Here we go! Week fourteen kicked off Thursday night and so do the fantasy football playoffs. There can be only one and this week begins the thinning of the herd. Lineups are being tweaked and re-tweaked as fantasy owners everywhere are wringing their hands in anticipation of this week’s action.
Paralysis by over-analysis runs rampant this time of year and has cost many a fantasy owner an opening round victory. Start your studs, they are studs for a reason and unless an injury is going to prevent them from playing they belong in the lineup. Don’t get cute and start trying to outmaneuver talent with ‘gut feelings.’
If your usual starters are nicked up, game time decisions or have already been declared out for this week then let ’53 Deep’ offer up some solutions to that dilemma with this weeks dose of sleepers.
David Hawthorne, SLB, NEW ORLEANS, at NEW YORK GIANTS: Hawthorne is still a part-time player on the Saints defense and logged only 31 snaps in the week twelve loss at Atlanta. A hamstring injury has really limited him this season (he has 24 total tackles in seven games) but he did manage three solo tackles last week and the Giants are an above average matchup for linebackers from a fantasy standpoint. If they are going to get their moneys worth out of Hawthorne then the Saints are going to play him more down the stretch and that will start this week against New York.
Nick Roach, MLB, CHICAGO, at MINNESOTA: Roach is expected to move into the middle of the Bears defense with the news that Brian Urlacher could miss three weeks or so with a hamstring injury. Roach will be sliding over from the strong-side position, where he has amassed 35 total tackles, one forced fumble and a sack and a half. He’s averaged 36 snaps a game to date in 2012 and that number will increase dramatically as he fills in for Urlacher. The Vikings are a decent matchup from a fantasy perspective as they will be feeding running back Adrian Peterson the ball plenty this week. Roach has excellent value as a fantasy sleeper while manning the middle for Chicago.
Don’t’a Hightower, SLB, NEW ENGLAND, vs. HOUSTON: Hightower managed two solo tackles last week against the Dolphins while playing the highest number of snaps (42) that he had played in a game since week three. The Texans allowed 17 combined tackles to Tennessee linebackers Tim Shaw, Zach Brown and Will Witherspoon in week thirteen. Hightower still struggles in coverage but does have three sacks on the season and should see plenty of tackle opportunities this week.
Erin Henderson, WLB, MINNESOTA, vs. CHICAGO: It appeared that Henderson had worked himself back into an every down role for Minnesota heading into last week. Alas, he was leaving the field again in certain sup packages and played only 41 snaps. All was not lost as he did manage a respectable eight total tackles in his limited playing time. In the showdown with the Bears this week Henderson is worth plugging in fantasy lineups as he went for nine total tackles in their first meeting this season. There will be plenty of tackle opportunities to go around for the Vikings linebackers as Chicago pounds the rock.
Dezman Moses, OLB, GREEN BAY, vs. DETROIT: Moses has stepped up the last two weeks in helping the Packers replace the injured Clay Mathews as he’s posted 11 total tackles and a sack. He’s averaging 54 snaps in the past four games and that looks to continue this week as the Detroit Lions come to town. The Colts failed to register a sack against Detroit last week but the Packers sacked Matthew Stafford five times in their week 11 win in Detroit. In that game Moses had one solo tackle with a sack and a forced fumble. He is primed for a big week against a Lions offense that throws the ball an average of 46 times a game and will offer up plenty of big play potential.
Michael Boley, WLB, NEW YORK GIANTS, vs. NEW ORLEANS: Boley was marginally effective as a sleeper for us last week with six total tackles but failed to register a big play against Washington. The Saints are not the best matchup for the linebacker position but Boley is playing well enough to still warrant a start. He leads New York in combined tackles and has three interceptions while also forcing two fumbles and scoring a defensive touchdown. His ability in coverage will boost his fantasy value this week against a Saints team that will be putting the ball in the air plenty.
Craig Robertson, WLB, CLEVELAND, vs. KANSAS CITY: Robertson is having an outstanding year as a part time player for the Browns. He has racked up close to 60 total tackles, one sack and two interceptions. He’s only averaging 38 snaps per game overall in 2012 but look for him to have a big week fourteen against the Chiefs. Kansas City is the number one team in allowing fantasy points to linebackers and Robertson will see plenty of tackle opportunities in trying to contain Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, who carried the ball a combined 39 times last week.
Whitney Mercilus, OLB, HOUSTON, at NEW ENGLAND: Mercilus joins Boley as a back-to-back member of the sleeper list off of his two-sack performance against the Titans last week. At this stage of his career the rookie is a one trick pony, a pure pass rushing specialist and nothing more. While his sacks may not be of the picture perfect variety they do still count for fantasy purposes and he’s averaged over 70 snaps a game the last two weeks. New England will struggle to contain the rookie out of Illinois and he belongs in fantasy lineups.