Fantasy Football Sleepers: Twas the Night Before Championship Week

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18: Fans hold a sign showing their christmas wish during the Indianapolis Colts 27-13 win over the Tennessee Titans in the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Do you belieeeevvveee in minor miracles?!

The Colts couldn't score a touchdown all night long against the upper-tier defense of the Texans... up until they had no timeouts left with under two minutes to play, with Dan Orlovsky at quarterback, and 78 yards from the end zone. Penalties against Houston proved critical and Reggie Wayne caught the game-winning touchdown with only seconds left to give Indianapolis the 19-16 victory.

Two weeks ago, when Indy was 0-13, I said I just wanted the Colts to win their last three games just to make everybody who had Andrew Luck/Peyton Manning as a foregone conclusion look like idiots. Maybe "idiot" was too strong of a word, but before the season was over and the draft order decided, we had to hear about Archie Manning and Oliver Luck and "What will the Colts do?!" stories. I HATE Archie Manning stories, no matter the context. I wanted to laugh and see Indy "collapse" at the end and fall out of the top spot.

We're almost there.

The real miracle and unbelievable finish would be to see the Minnesota Vikings or St. Louis Rams wind up with the top pick and have Indy picking second or even third in 2012. Then there will be no discussion of drafting a quarterback, especially with Matt Barkley returning to school. Minnesota finishes with games at Washington and against Chicago at home.

The Rams travel to Pittsburgh this week and then face the 49ers to end the year, while the Colts play at Jacksonville next week.

Coming off of a high note, it wouldn't be surprising to see Indianapolis win next week and move to 3-13 while the Rams and Vikings have much tougher schedules. Especially the Rams, a team that really does look like the worst in the league anyway. What would the Vikings or Rams do if they wind up with a chance to draft Andrew Luck?

My best guesses after the jump...

Let me know if I'm wrong, but I believe the Colts still have the inside track on the top pick if all three teams wind up tied for worst. The Rams have the toughest schedule though and should go 2-14. The 49ers shouldn't be resting any players as they still fight for a better seed.

People will tell you that Sam Bradford is "expensive" but that's not really the case. All of his money is tied into $50 million in guaranteed bonuses. His cap hit is under 8 million dollars for the next four seasons and what the Rams need to do is get him some help, not replace him. Bradford is still a good QB prospect, but he needs an offensive lineman and the Rams could have the opportunity to do that with top LT prospect Matt Kalil.

They could trade down a few spots to a team desperate for Luck, like Miami, Washington, or Cleveland, depending on who is offering the best deal. That might take them out of Kalil range, but it might not. They have so many holes and they need so much help, that they should take a bounty for the top pick. Would the Browns give up both first round draft picks that they have (the other from Atlanta.)?

If the Vikings wind up with the top pick, they should also trade down. Christian Ponder isn't having a great rookie season, but what help does he have either? Percy Harvin is awesome, but he should NOT be your number one wide receiver. He should be the number three. You should have two reliable players on the outside and use Harvin as your explosive third option. That's not a knock on Harvin, it's just where he would be better suited. The Vikings could trade down a few spots and draft Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State.

That being said both the Vikings and Rams could use either one of Kalil or Blackmon. It just depends on how things finish. As for the Colts, if they aren't picking first then they should really consider getting a star on defense. That's what cornerback Morris Claiborne of LSU would represent.

I know, you want to talk about sleepers and other junk. Sorry, I just really love the draft and once the off-season kicks in, that's what I'll be spending some time on.

Here's some Christmas Eve sleepers and whatnot.

Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the league

Rex Grossman was sleeping, the Vikings defense bleeds...

Ehhh, desperate? If you're starting Grossman in championship week, I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but Grossman ain't one. However, quarterbacks have a QB rating of 110.8 against Minnesota. Part of that is due to the fact that the Vikings have faced pretty much every elite QB in the league not-named-Brady, but they're also not very good. (The Vikings could also draft Claiborne if they trade down far enough. Or Dre Kirkpatrick.)

Did you know that the 31-year-old Grossman has now had the second-most playing time of his career for a season? The most was back in 2006 when he went 15-4 as the Bears starter and went to the Super Bowl. Yes, Rex Grossman went to a Super Bowl. He should come close to 250 yards on Saturday with two touchdowns. But let's be honest, if you're in the championship game, you don't need Grossman. You probably have a good QB.

The stockings were hung, by the chimney with care

Jonathan Stewart is scoring, the Bucs do not scare

These teams, two of the worst defenses in the league, met a few weeks ago. Stewart ran in for a score while Cam Newton ran in for three of his own. DeAngelo Williams was held in check. I'd expect at least 3 touchdowns on the ground to be scored by somebody on Carolina.

The NFL fans, all snug on their couches

Watch Jackie Battle score against the slouches

Kansas City faces Oakland this week and the Raiders allow 5.1 yards per carry. You might have thought that Battle was a rookie, but he's actually a fifth year player out of Houston. He had 41 total carries coming into this season but has taken over most of the carries for the Chiefs this year with Jamaal Charles out. Battle is not spectacular, but you're looking for sleepers right? He might get 50 yards and a TD.

And Mamma brings nachos, and I get a beer

Here is Damian Williams, have no fear

I had Williams as a pre-season sleeper and he's had a nice season. 488 yards and five touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at for a third-round pick in his second season. He's come on and had some very nice games. The Titans must win out to have a chance at the playoffs and they face a Jaguars defense that has struggled against number two wide receivers. Williams was held to two catches last week for 15 yards, but not this week. I mean, I really don't think he'll have exactly 2 catches for 15 yards, so that's not really a stretch. If you're really in dire straights, Williams isn't a bad play.

When in the living room, there arose such a clatter

Jeremy Maclin scores and my pockets got fatter

My two favorite pre-season "breakout candidates" at wide receiver were Kenny Britt and Maclin. I was certain that Britt would become one of the top five in the league, while Maclin would be a solid WR1. So much for that. Both have struggled with injuries, with Britt missing most of the season obviously on IR, but Maclin hasn't been able to get it going consistently. He has just four catches in his last two games. Against the Cowboys though, I could see him having a good day. Dallas is 30th against number two wide receivers in terms of DVOA, so if they focus on DeSean Jackson, it could leave Maclin open for 5 catches. He had 54 yards and a touchdown in their first meeting this season.

Away to the internet to post some smack

"Kellen Winslow bitches!" I was on attack

The Panthers are the worst in the NFL against the tight end per DVOA. Winslow has only two touchdown catches on the year, but could play up to par as a TE1 this week. He only had 4 catches for 41 yards in their first meeting, but I expect him to do better on Saturday.

Players I Don't Like This Week

And in the big apple, with new fallen snow

Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks put on no good show

A lot of hype around the Giants and Jets game. Too much hype. But whatever, I'll still watch. The Jets are a top pass defense and Darrelle Revis and company have shut down number one wide receivers. You could make the case that Victor Cruz is the #1 WR? but I won't. I expect Nicks to showdown with Revis.

When to my wondering eyes should appear

Beast Mode was stopped, my eyes start to tear

Marshawn Lynch is on the greatest run of his career, scoring at will and having no mercy. Meanwhile, the 49ers are the first team in NFL history to not allow a rushing touchdown in their first 14 games. The Dolphins have allowed the second fewest rushing scores in the league, and they've allow six. The Niners are the best run defense in the league across the board and have allowed only three runs greater than twenty yards. I want to say that Lynch will score. My gut tells me he will. But I have to go with my head on my picks and say he does not do so well.

It was a nightmare to watch, something like Craven

Seeing Peyton Hillis try to run on the Ravens

Hillis is kind of starting to get it going, finally, at the end of the year. Did wait all year and now you can start him to try to win the championship? Good luck with that. Ravens are 2nd best run defense in the league. It shouldn't happen for him this week. And by "it" I mean anything. Few yards, no score.

More rapid than light, once thought to bust

Darrius Heyward-Bey is not one to trust

Al Davis couldn't live long enough to see his speedy wide receiver develop into the legit option that he now is. Coming off of a career game, it would seem that this is the best time to start DHB, but he's about to meet Brandon Flowers. Well, he already may have met him and he had 89 yards in their first game against Kansas City, but this week will be different! I would rather start somebody else at a WR2 spot.

Players I Want for Christmas

"Now Newton, now Tebow, now Calvin, Matt Ryan!

On Marshall! Gronkowski! On Ray Rice and Dez Bryant!"

I am not in any finals for money. To those of you who are, good luck and congratulations. At least no matter what happens, you're probably cashing in. I wish. I have a lot of good match ups this week. What can you do? Like Tupac says, that's just the way it is.

Follow me on twitter @casetines

MORE NOTES

  • Please win Seahawks and lose Lions. Please. All I really want for Christmas is another trip to the playoffs. It seems like the Seahawks go to the playoffs more times than people realize. We've been to the playoffs more times in the last twenty years than the Bears.
  • In the beginning of the year, Seattle was consistently called one of the worst two or three teams in football. A real chance to Suck for Luck. It just goes to show how little we know that early. Yes, Seattle was 2-6 to start the season, but then you look back and realize that the Niners, Steelers, and Falcons are not slouches. Those are teams Seattle should lose to. Well, I hope not "should" since we play San Francisco tomorrow.
  • The real worst teams? St. Louis, Minnesota, and Indianapolis. I was talking to a buddy about how many extra wins Peyton Manning would have been worth to the Colts this year. Six? Seven? Ten? It's not crazy. Think about before last night when the Colts had thrown 12 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions all year. Hell, they still only have thirteen touchdown passes. How many TD passes would Manning have? 25? 30? More? How many extra wins is that worth? Indy has lost six games by eight points or less.
  • I really hope that the Vikings lose out. I don't want the Rams to get the top pick and I think it would be funny if the Colts didn't.
  • Anyone who thinks teams "TANK IT" to get a top draft pick is an idiot. A moron. I'm sorry but that's a stupid thing to think. If that was true, then all Indy had to do was lose last night and they'd pretty much be guaranteed the top pick. What were they thinking then? Maybe you think it's bad for a franchise to win one extra game that gets them the number two pick instead of the number one, but look at the 53 man roster of the Colts. Look at it. How many of those guys give a crap about the "health of the franchise"? If you guessed zero, you were right. It's not that they don't CARE, because they all CARE in one way or another, but most of those guys, including Jim Caldwell, don't know if they're going to be around past December. So the best thing they can do for themselves is play to win the game. You play to win the game.
  • The game last night was pretty cool.
  • Matt Barkley staying may give more incentive for Robert Griffin III to enter the draft. Or it might not. Either way, the draft order and the mocks will be interesting to watch develop and change. I wanted Seattle to try and get Barkley one way or another, but that definitely won't happen now. I still have a major man-crush on RG3 though. He could be as much of a fantasy stud as Cam Newton. RG3 almost qualified for the Olympics in track and field and has a great arm and a great football mind.
  • Trent Richardson will be drafted by someone, someone at the top of the NFL draft, and then be a high pick in fantasy drafts next year. I don't love that philosophy, but he's really good. Who might take him? How about Tampa Bay? The Buccaneers suck in a lot of areas and have LeGarrette Blount, but he's the most one-dimensional back in the league. The Chiefs? Ehh.. they should shore up a hole on defense and have faith that Jamaal Charles, Battle, Dexter McCluster, Thomas Jones, somebody, can handle the job as a team. A new head coach isn't going to put his first big draft pick into a running back. (RG3?)
  • It's interesting how few teams have a need for a running back near the top of the draft. It seems like RBs will have a harder and harder time getting drafted in the first round. Seattle might actually make sense with Marshawn Lynch becoming a free agent. Even if they re-sign him, Seattle could use another top back to spell Lynch and as insurance. Though they should focus on QB/DE/LB.
  • I wouldn't be surprised to see Richardson be the "slip" of the 2012 draft. How about the Bengals as a replacement for Cedric Benson? That could be a team that I don't see Richardson falling past.
  • I know a lot of Bears fans gave up hope after Jay Cutler got hurt. They might be able to officially give up after travelling to play the Packers as the only Sunday game. How on earth would Caleb Hanie be able to win this? How on earth did Tyler Palko?
  • Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night! Merry Christmas everybody!

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