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5 must-read stats: Mike Evans to finish strong

Happy Week 17!

I can't believe we're here already. Thank you so much for the fun this season, I genuinely appreciate it. Let's do this one last time! To reflect the differences in the end of the season, I've changed this up a little. I'm going to give five stats still, but each point will be about the fantasy positions (QB, WR, RB, TE and DEF) with an extra ceiling pick or two at the end, this week I'm most focused on "Perfect Challenge" style games and lineups. Let's give it a try, let me know how you feel about it.

The "rules" for this article are as follows:

  1. Not super obvious.
    1. As exclusive as possible to this article.
    2. You give me feedback and we evolve it together. Twitter (@cfrelund) is the best for this, unless you are creepy then just stick to rules 1 and 2.

Got all that? Let's go!!!

1. 5.9 percent

That's the Bills defensive pressure rate for the season, the lowest in the NFL. Under pressure this season, Jay Cutler has a 34.6 completion percentage (29th) compared to 68.2 percent (tied-15th) when not facing pressure. Last week, the Bills were only able to pressure Tom Brady on 1.6 percent of drop backs. With Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines returning and factoring in that Cutler hasn't thrown for more than 286 yards (last week against the Chiefs), starting him is a very upside-y (risky) pick. However, the Dolphins opened up the playbook against the Chiefs last week, which means they could use some new looks to play spoiler to the Bills' playoff hopes.

Three more ceiling picks: Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Jimmy Garoppolo

2. 118.8

That was Jameis Winston's passer rating when targeting Mike Evans on passes of 20-plus air yards last week against the Panthers, up from 69.6 in Weeks 2-15. Further, Winston has averaged a 149.4 passer rating and two touchdowns against the blitz in the past two weeks compared with 80.6 in Weeks 1-14. While Evans faces the elite cornerback duo of Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley (AND Lattimore held Evans to one catch on three targets for 13 yards in their first meeting), the Saints defense has been more generous to deep passes since Week 11 (86.8 passer rating allowed versus 44 passer rating in Weeks 3-10). I have the Bucs playing from behind, logically projecting an increase in passing volume for Evans and Co.

Three more ceiling picks: Josh Reynolds, Marquise Goodwin, Larry Fitzerald

3. 128.5 yards per game (31st)

That's what the Bengals rushing defense is allowing to opposing backfields this season. Meaning the Ravens, who should be playing with a healthy lead, could likely rush even more than their 44.3 percent season average (13th highest). Running back Alex Collins should be a strong contender with a safe floor in your lineup. I know I know, I'm going to hear "But Cynthia, I played him against the Browns and ugh." My counter is that he's earned a first down on almost 30 percent of his rushing touches (4.8 per game on 15.1 rushes per game) and averages almost three runs or receptions of 10-plus yards per game over the past four games (11 runs and receptions of 10-plus in four games).

Three more ceiling picks: Kenyan Drake, Jamaal Williams, Carlos Hyde

4. 25.9 percent

That's the Eagles third down conversion rate over the past two weeks, down from 45.3 percent (third) in Weeks 1-14. Between the Cowboys and Eagles not having much to gain and Doug Pederson coming from the Andy Reid coaching tree ... do you get where I am going here? (Spoiler alert: many of the starters likely won't play the full game.) Basically, I am saying I have this as a situation to avoid. I am projecting Zach Ertz to be a huge reason the Eagles will improve on third down going forward, but this isn't the game where I would use that as solid floor logic (or Nick Vannett for that matter). Unless you're making your perfect challenge lineup work with Gronk, I would look to a better "sneakier" play like Charles Clay and Tyler Kroft, if that helps add context.

Two more ceiling picks: Antonio Gates, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

5. 34.7 percent

Washington's defense has the highest pressure rate for the season at 34.7 percent (12.5 pressures per game), just edging out the Rams, Jags, Seahawks, and Eagles. If you want to be riskier, Tennessee's defense has averaged the third-most sacks (16) and a defensive touchdown over their past four games (despite losing three of those games). They've also given up the second fewest big plays (runs 10-plus, passes of 20-plus) on the season (4.3 per game).

Two more ceiling plays: Steelers, Chargers

Follow Cynthia Frelund on Twitter @cfrelund.

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