NFL Fantasy Picks: Justin Fields headlines potential unexpected league winners

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For most fantasy leagues, Week 17 brings the end of the campaign.

The number of players traditionally held out of action to protect against injury in the raft of games with no playoff implications in Week 18 means it is too risky to hold fantasy championships on the final week of the regular season.

Hence, most fantasy title games will take place this week, and those involved may spend the days prior to the upcoming kick-offs agonising over which players to put in their line-up.

Often players who appeared unlikely fantasy stars at the start of the year emerge as league winners, and here Stats Perform picks out four such players and a defense whose contributions could decide the destination of fantasy titles.

Quarterback: Justin Fields, Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

The dynamism Fields brings as a runner always gave him potential fantasy upside and he has harnessed that spectacularly in 2022. Fields had been a top-10 fantasy quarterback every week since Week 6 before he was held in check by the Buffalo Bills last Saturday.

While the Lions are in the mix for a playoff spot, their defense, which gave up an astonishing 320 rushing yards to the Carolina Panthers last week, is not well-equipped to slow down Fields, who should be expected to bounce back and deliver a championship-game tilting display.

Running Back: Brian Robinson Jr, Washington Commanders vs. Cleveland Browns

Robinson was frustrated by the San Francisco 49ers' outstanding defense last time out, but he is unlikely to meet much resistance from a Cleveland defense that is allowing the seventh-most yards per rush (4.87) in the NFL.

Between Weeks 12 and 15, only Miles Sanders (5.98) averaged more yards per carry than Robinson (5.69) among running backs. He hit a large speed bump in the Bay Area but, back in the friendly confines of FedEx Field against an opponent already eliminated from playoff contention, Robinson is in a good position to get back on track in a must-win game for the Commanders.

Wide Receiver: Garrett Wilson, New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks

Wilson's production was submarined by the struggles of namesake Zach Wilson against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

In a game the Jets cannot afford to lose, they will have Mike White back at quarterback in Seattle, setting Wilson up for a bounce-back game against an opposing defense that is very amenable to passing attacks.

Since Week 12, Wilson has racked up 24 receptions for a first down, tied for the third-most in the NFL. The Seahawks have allowed the seventh-most passing plays of at least 20 yards (49) and, despite possessing some talented rookie cornerbacks, do not have the means to stop White and Wilson rekindling their rapport.

Tight End: Evan Engram, Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans

Engram received one of the more modest deals during the Jaguars' free agency splurge, but his signing has paid dividends over the last three games, in which only two players – Justin Jefferson and A.J. Brown – can claim to have tallied more receiving yards than his 337.

The Texans are playing hard down the stretch and claimed only their second win of the season in Tennessee last weekend, but their defense is still the 10th-worst by yards per pass play allowed. Look for Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence to take advantage with an aerial attack that will heavily involve Engram.

Defense/Special Teams: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos

Despite being very inexperienced in the secondary, the Chiefs' defense sits an impressive 11th in the NFL by yards per play and, as Kansas City look to keep pace with the Buffalo Bills in the race for the one seed in the AFC, gets a favourable matchup with Denver's dismal offense.

The Broncos' 33.9 per cent Success Rate on offensive plays is the worst in the NFL and a Chiefs defense that has forced the third-most negative plays (103) in the league should relish going against Denver's beleaguered attack.