The NFL regular season is winding down, which means that your fantasy league is nearing the end of the playoffs. A winner will be crowned soon and if you want any shot at being that guy, you'll likely need perfect games from just about everyone on your roster.
The Arizona Cardinals head east for a Christmas Eve matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams feature defenses that are superior to their offenses, but there will still be plenty of options within this game that could be starters for your fantasy team. Let's take a look at a few after the jump.
Let's start with my sleeper option of the week. Todd Heap finally seemed to find a stride last week after dealing with hamstring injuries throughout most of the 2011 season. He caught seven passes for 69 yards and was targeted a total of nine times by John Skelton. Skelton will be facing tons of different blitz packages against an aggressive Bengals defense this weekend, so starting Heap --Skelton's security blanket-- may not be such a terrible idea. He is owned in only 8% of Yahoo! fantasy football leagues, so he should be available on your waiver wire.
This start is a no brainer. Fitz has been dynamite during the Cardinals unexpected win streak, so benching him at this point in time would be foolish. Skelton has been targeting Fitzgerald in big time situations lately, including the big catch in overtime last weekend against the Browns that set up the game winning field goal. The Bengals will likely match Nate Clements on Fitzgerald as well, who he may be familiar with due to Clements' time in San Francisco. Cincinnati falls in the middle of the pack in terms of allowing fantasy points to receivers, so there should be no restraint in starting Fitz.
Rhodes made his return to the playing field last week after missing a few weeks with a broken foot. He played well in the nickel situations and could return to his starter role against the Bengals. Cincinnati has allowed the sixth most fantasy points to opposing safeties this season, so given Rhodes' proneness to ball hawk, he becomes a great start for IDP leaguers.
Peterson will be matched up against rookie receiver A.J. Green (the guy that was picked one spot ahead of him in the 2011 NFL draft) and should see plenty of passes coming his way. Not only does Peterson hold tremendous value as a cornerback on defense, but he also is one of the premiere punt returners in the league. He has already tied the NFL record for punt return TDs with four and would surely love to break that this week on the road.
Green is a bit wounded right now with a shoulder injury, but is expected to play tomorrow against Arizona. He and fellow rookie Andy Dalton have created a special connection already, which is evident in the fact that he has already eclipsed 1,000 yards this season. The Cardinals allow the sixth most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers, so Green is a really great option at the wide receiver spot for your fantasy team.
The Cardinals have a propensity to send plenty of pressure at the opposing quarterback, so covering tight ends gets lost in the shuffle at times for their defense. That said, Gresham could see a few targets this week not only as a hot route receiver, but also because of Green's mild injury. If Green is forced to miss any snaps at all, Gresham immediately becomes the best available option for the Bengals through the air.
Atkins currently leads the Bengals in sacks with eight and he also has two forced fumbles. He has already become one of the better pass rushing interior linemen in just his second year in the NFL. The Cardinals' offensive line has a tendency to let pressure get to their signal caller, so Atkins becomes another good sleeper for IDP players. He is currently owned in only 9% of Yahoo! leagues.
Maualuga is just one more of the elite defenders that the Bengals have on their roster. Playing at the middle linebacker position, Maualuga has collected 76 tackles and three forced fumbles this season. The Cardinals have given up the 5th most points to opposing linebackers, so there's another bonus. The best part is that he is not a popular name among IDP players. He will assuredly be available in your league, so if you are in need of a linebacker this week, think about Maualuga as one of your options.
If you want more help with your fantasy team, make sure to visit the SB Nation fantasy blog, Fake Teams.
Fantasy Stats from Yahoo! Sports.