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Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Consistency Ratings: Week 17

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

Anything goes in Week 17.

The NFL history books are littered with examples of teams resting starters in the regular season's final week to get them prepared for the playoffs, and this season sure has a healthy share of playoff seeds already locked up.

The AFC's six playoff teams are already decided, the race for first-round byes between the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New England Patriots the only truly compelling battle remaining, while the NFC has four spots decided, the primary remaining competitions being the East Division title and the No. 2 seed (and a first-round bye).

As such, fantasy owners need to be creative with their final-week lineups, in some instances slotting lesser-known, free-agent pickups over players who had carried them this far. So now let's use our "Consistency Ratings" to identify some lesser-heralded Week 17 options, going position-by-position as in the past few weeks:

Quarterback

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (@NYG)
(Owned in 74.2 percent of ESPN leagues; 27th among QBs in fantasy points)

With Nick Foles sidelined for the season's final week due to a hairline fracture in his right hand, Vick will be thrust back into the Eagles' starting lineup, only three weeks after Vick was formally declared a backup through year's end. It'll happen in a classic "spoiler's" game, and against a reeling New York Giants defense; the Giants have afforded an average of 18.3 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in their past nine games, and six "Start"-worthy fantasy performances. Vick has made four starts against the Giants during his Eagles career, averaging 20.5 points in those contests.

Running back

Jackie Battle, San Diego Chargers (OAK)
(Owned in 15.7 percent of ESPN leagues; 49th among RBs in fantasy points)

In the Chargers' first game following Ryan Mathews' season-ending collarbone injury, Battle dominated the backfield, leading the team in carries (19), touches (20) and snaps played (33) in Week 16, hinting at a similar role for the finale against the Raiders' poor run defense. Though the Oakland Raiders have afforded opposing running backs only the fifth most fantasy points this season, they've also allowed an NFL-high six "Stud" games to the position, three of those in the past five weeks combined (BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Week 12; Trent Richardson, Week 13; Knowshon Moreno, Week 14).

Vick Ballard, Indianapolis Colts (HOU)
(Owned in 73.9 percent of ESPN leagues; 29th among RBs in fantasy points)

Ballard has exactly one 100-yard rushing game in his career, and it came against these very Houston Texans, just two weeks ago (105, Week 15). That resulted in one of only seven fantasy performances of 10-plus points by a running back against the Texans this season, yet one of the six "Start"-worthy fantasy games the team has allowed to the position in 2012. The Colts, locked firmly into the No. 5 playoff seed, might aim to rest Ballard, as well as other key starters, but without official word to that effect, the matchup shouldn't be feared.

Wide receiver

Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville Jaguars (@TEN)
(Owned in 74.5 percent of ESPN leagues; 38th among WRs in fantasy points)

Cecil Shorts is out for the season -- he was recently placed on injured reserve -- due to a concussion, paving the way for rookie Blackmon to make a big final-week statement. Despite Shorts' performance the past several weeks, Blackmon's own efforts shouldn't be ignored; he has averaged 9.8 targets, 5.0 catches and 65.0 snaps played in Chad Henne's five starts -- and understand that excludes Blackmon's stats from his 29-point explosion in Henne's Week 11 relief appearance. Most importantly, Blackmon has eight red zone targets in those five games, and now he benefits from a matchup against the Tennessee Titans, who have allowed seven "Start"-worthy fantasy performances to wide receivers the past five weeks combined, most in the league.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (@DET)
(Owned in 5.6 percent of ESPN leagues; 78th among WRs in fantasy points)

Call it a super-deep, Hail Mary-style pick, but this one's all about one thing: the matchup. The Detroit Lions have been getting slaughtered by opposing wide receivers the past five weeks, allowing seven "Start"- and three "Stud"-worthy performances, both of those most in the league. The Bears remain in the hunt for a wild-card spot, and Jeffery, a 15-point fantasy performer from Weeks 2-4 whose season has since been derailed by knee surgery, could provide a useful weapon against their division rival.

Tight end

Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams (@SEA)
(Owned in 1.5 percent of ESPN leagues; 18th among TEs in fantasy points)

Kendricks' production has seen an uptick of late; he has 43 fantasy points in his past five games, three of them "Start"-worthy outings, and has 21 targets the past four weeks combined, two of them in the red zone. In a season that has seen both inconsistency and numerous injuries at the tight end position, certainly some fantasy owners might be digging deep for fill-ins at this spot. Kendricks warrants a look, considering that the opposing Seattle Seahawks have allowed two "Stud"-worthy fantasy games in the past five weeks combined (Charles Clay, Week 12; Delanie Walker, Week 16).

Consistency Ratings chart

Players are initially ranked in order of their Consistency Rating, calculated as the percentage of the player's scheduled games -- not games played, scheduled games -- in which his fantasy point total registered a "Start" score. All categories are sortable both ascending and descending; just click on the headers to sort. Players must have met at least one of the following minimums for inclusion in the chart: 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in standard scoring leagues, 20.0 percent Consistency Rating in PPR formats. All defense/special teams are included, regardless of whether they met those minimums.

These statistics are for 2012 only. Statistics for games since 2010 can be found here.