December 29 2010 Last updated at 08:00 AM ET
Week 17 Sleepers: Rookie Running Back Offered Chance at Redemption
Tolbert suffered neck and shoulder injuries in Week 16's loss to Cincinnati, and with him already being ruled out for the final game of the season, Mathews is in a great position to play the role of lead back. A heavier workload won't be a stretch for the rookie, as he's received 15 touches or more in each of the last three games.
On Sunday, Mathews faces the Broncos, who are 31st in the league defending the run with nearly 154 yards allowed on the ground per game. Denver has allowed the most rushing TDs in the league by far -- their total of 23 leads the next worst team by four scores.
The above matchup stats along with the abscence of Tolbert leads me to believe Mathews is in for a monster day. He has a real shot at totaling 150 yards and scoring multiple times, and his play as the feature back on Sunday will likely influence the team's possible plans for a 2011 committee at running back. Expect Mathews to earn Rookie of the Week honors with a 20-plus point fantasy day.
Week 17 Sleepers
Shaun Hill, QB, DET
The Lions' passing offense has been pretty stout this season, and Hill has been the man under quarterback for a majority of 2010. After missing three weeks with a finger injury, Hill returned in Week 16 to throw for 222 yards as well as two TDs. Throwing out the two games where Hill only played limited minutes, he's scored 20 points per game this season. The team is hot, and Hill should score another 20 against the Vikings in the season-ender.
Sam Bradford, QB, STL
After starting the season with 17 TDs and only nine INTs, Bradford -- who is almost a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year at this point -- faltered, throwing five picks and no TDs in his next three games while averaging less than 200 yards in each. On Sunday, he was back, with 292 yards, one TD and no interceptions against the 49ers while completing over 75 percent of his passes. The Rams are looking for a trip to the playoffs, and Bradford has regained his stride. He's a quality QB2 this week, especially with uncertainty surrounding better QBs that may rest for the playoffs.
Correll Buckhalter, RB, DEN
Lance Ball appeared to have passed Buckhalter on the depth chart in recent weeks, but when Knowshon Moreno was again knocked out of the game, it was Buckhalter receiving a majority of the looks. He totaled 92 yards on 14 touches, scoring twice. I doubt any fantasy team had him going in last week's playoff game, but he could do some good for lineups if Moreno is deemed inactive in Week 17. The Chargers defense may be a bit soft after their playoff hopes ended last week.
John Kuhn, RB, GB
Can you say goal-line back? Kuhn scored three times from short range on Sunday, which gives him five trips across the goal line in his last four games. As the short-yardage back, he's likely not going to give fantasy teams a lot of yards in Week 17, but he has about as good a chance to score a TD as any running back in the league right now. Owners in TD-heavy or TD-only leagues will want to use him this week against the Bears, who have given up 14 rushing TDs this season.
Jason Snelling, RB, ATL
Owners looking for a desperation play should give consideration to Snelling. He's been excellent when given the opportunity to get into a rhythm, destroying the Cardinals back in Week 2 and averaging 4.4 yards per carry during the next two games. Of course, when you have Michael Turner, the backup RB isn't going to see much work, but Snelling has another chance at double-digit carries this week. The Panthers aren't expected to put up much of a fight, and the Falcons could have the No. 1 seed locked up by halftime. If that's the case, Carolina would get a heavy dose of Snelling in the second half. Deep league owners should give the Atlanta back consideration.
Danario Alexander, WR, STL
We've featured Alexander a few times this season, and again, his stock is trending upward. He's set season highs in snaps played in each of the Rams' last two games, and he was heavily involved in the passing attack on Sunday, posting 99 yards on six receptions. The team's best chance to win a crucial NFC West matchup in Week 17 rests on Alexander stretching the defense. I expect him to come through with his first 100-yard game of the season, and I also like his chances at a TD. The Seahawks have allowed 31 passing TDs this season, one short of the league-worst mark.
Jerome Simpson, WR, CIN
We had the team right for a surprise breakout receiver in Week 16, but unfortunately we pegged Andre Caldwell as our Bengal sleeper last week. While Caldwell did a good job, with four catches and 87 yards a week after his four-catch, 89-yard breakout, Simpson was the star of the show. The third-year receiver out of Coastal Carolina caught six passes, taking two for TDs while adding 124 yards against a very good San Diego pass defense. Be honest, you'd take half of that this week against the Ravens, and Simpson should be good for at least that, which would give him a double-digit fantasy day.
Jason Hill, WR, JAC
Hill failed to make a mark with San Francisco, with the team ultimately waiving him on November 16. The Jaguars snapped him up and liked him so much that they started him over Mike Sims-Walker in a critical Week 16 game. Hill suffered some drops but still managed to catch four balls for 77 yards. He has 40 yards or more in each of the Jags' last three games, and he also scored a TD back in Week 15 against the Colts. The Jaguars are still fighting for a playoff spot, and they'll get the benefit of facing the worst pass defense in the league on Sunday. Houston has allowed 290 yards per game through the air. Hill should have no problem replicating his Week 16 line.
Owen Daniels, TE, HOU
The Houston tight end has been a fantasy disappointment this season, battling knee and hamstring problems throughout 2010. Week 16 marked the first time all year that Daniels didn't appear on the injury report, and with Andre Johnson inactive, the TE regained his spot in the offense, catching eight passes for 73 yards and a TD. It was his first score all season, and the eight catches were a season high. If Johnson misses another game this week -- and really, Houston doesn't have much incentive to play him unless he's 100 percent -- Daniels could put up his third big line in his last four games.
Atlanta Falcons, TM, ATL
All season we've had success picking on the Panthers, so why change things now? The Falcons roughed up Carolina for five sacks and two turnovers back in Week 14, giving up just 10 points on the day. With Atlanta fighting for the NFC South title as well as a No. 1 seed, they're going to need to be on top of their game. The defensive unit has accumulated four double-digit performances in a row, and they should easily have another on Sunday.
Good luck in your championship!
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