Usually in this space every week during the hours before kickoff on Sunday, I venture out deep into the prediction abyss and either advise you against starting a sort-of stud who usually gets that treatment with little thought, or chuck some dice with a sleeper while trying to identify a matchup that can be pounced on. When it’s the latter, sometimes there are wide, swinging whiffs (where you at, Ryan Fitzpatrick?), but ’tis the nature of this here fantasy game when we’re mining for nuggets in the lowers depths of nothingness.
With stakes at their highest today during semi-final showdowns, I thought we should continue in the sleeper scavenging spirit today, especially since many of you right now are dealing with the finality that not only is your first overall pick Adrian Peterson out, but Toby Gerhart is too after you spent a whole whack of waiver dollars on him. No worries, because among the top three Week 15 sleepers, there’s a life raft that’s still widely available even at this late hour.
Oh, and there’s plenty to cure whatever wide receiver outage ails you.
1. Chris Ogbonnaya (percentage owned: Yahoo – 29%, ESPN – 17%
Generally, I try to stay away from anything I can’t pronounce or spell properly on the first try, a life rule that especially applies to food, and the names of fantasy running backs. But we all need to make an exception this week for Ogbonnaya, because the Bears defense could make him look like the second coming of Jim Brown. Willis McGahee didn’t practice all week and has been ruled out with a concussion (quick related aside: McGahee could be out for the rest of the season, making our boy here a fine flex option next week too). That leaves Ogbonnaya as the next man up ready to shoulder the load.
You’ve heard this stat all week, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. The Bears defense has given up a +100 yard rusher in six straight games, most recently allowing DeMarco Murray to chug for 146 yards at a pace of 8.1 per carry. If we take only the opposition’s top rusher from those games and exclude any secondary contributions and quarterback scrambling, we still end up with this: 763 total rushing yards allowed over that six-game stretch, and an average of 127.2 per game. So yes, I’m quite confident Rudolph could post 150 on this still Lance Briggs-less defense, and I’ve been told he has a shiny red nose that’s easily spotted. He’s also a reindeer.
Overall the Bears are allowing 5.2 yards per car on the ground and 157.0 per game, both league lows and it’s not close (that’s especially true for YPG, with the Patriots still awful but well ahead in 31st at 135.8). There’s an added PPR league bonus with Ogbonnaya too, as he’s quite capable as a pass catcher out of the backfield with his 291 receiving yards on 41 catches despite often limited use. So go ahead and pull this emergency rip chord, Peterson owners, because it’s either Ogbonnaya or someone named Matt Asiata.
There’s a catch, though, because of course there is when we’re dealing with lower-tier ilk like Ogbonnaya. He has a mild touch of fumbleitis, turfing and losing two over the Browns’ last four games despite a moderate 36 touches over that time. A quick fumble today could end our sleeper dreaming in a hurry, with head coach Rob Chudzinski summoning Fozzy Whitttaker (best name since Ozamataz Buckshank).
2. Da’Rick Rogers (percentage owned: Yahoo – 11%, ESPN – 5%)
Seriously, go do something about those ownership numbers right now (well, after you finish reading this post, because my existence must be justified). As expected, LaVon Brazill has been ruled out for the Colts today in their game against Houston, and of course Reggie Wayne is long gone. That leaves Rogers to step up again alongside T.Y. Hilton, and last week we saw what happened when he was asked to do that: he was targeted a team high nine times, catching six of them for two touchdowns and 107 yards, 69 of which came on one play.
He’ll face a tougher challenge today against a Texans secondary allowing only 183.6 passing yards per game, though that mattered little when Andrew Luck last deep tossed against them in early November. Luck continually aired it out to the similarly speed burning Hilton for three second-half touchdowns and 271 passing yards.
3. Ace Sanders (percentage owned: Yahoo – 5%, ESPN – 1%)
I could have put Mike Brown in here, as both he and Sanders would look mighty fine in your flex spot with Cecil Shorts ruled out, and the Jaguars surely set to lean heavily on Chad Henne’s arm (*shudders forever*) with Maurice Jones-Drew shelved too. But it’s much easier to have a better feeling about Sanders that goes beyond the simple fact that he’ll be featured more today against a Bills secondary that’s given up 25 passing touchdowns (tied for third worst in the league). Mostly, we can look at how often he’s been used as the slot guy even with Shorts healthy
Over the last four games Sanders has seen an abundance of leather while running short-to-intermediate routes. He’s been targeted 32 times in the past month, which he’s turned into 215 receiving yards (an average of 53.8). So even when he was the third option, that was already fine production in deep-ish leagues to have in your flex spot, which means Sanders now ascends to become a WR3 with an increased role today.