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Week 2 Sleepers

This article is a weekly look at player generally ranked outside the realm of every week starters. The players covered here usually fall into two categories: those with a good matchup or those who have an opportunity to start because of an injury to a teammate.
On the other hand, sometimes a player may be considered if they are normal a starter, but have a bad matchup. Each position is covered with in descending order beginning with the players who are better gambles and finishing with those who are certifiable reaches. Your mileage may vary, but the idea is to discuss these players and provide you with some analysis that might help you make those difficult lineup decisions a bit easier. Good luck and always keep in mind that your feedback and comments are welcome.


Best bets

Byron Leftwich, Jac at IND
If the Ravens can throw for 355 yards against the Colts, then why shouldn't we expect a productive game out of Byron Leftwich this Sunday? The Colts were neither a good nor bad matchup for QBs a year ago allowing 249 yds/gm with 25 TDs, but Leftwich had strong numbers in both games against Indy in 2004. In week 4, he threw for 318 yards and a TD. In week 7, he threw for 300 yards with 2 TDs and one interception. It's safe to say Leftwich is in a more QB-friendly offense this year with better weapons around him, too. He completed 17-of-31 for 252 yards with two TDs to Jimmy Smith last week. Leftwich looks like a solid bet for top 10 numbers this week knowing the Colts will almost certainly hang points on the scoreboard early and often prompting Leftwich to throw more frequently than a week ago.

Carson Palmer, CIN vs Min
Clearly, Carson Palmer has enough talented players surrounding him to make him a viable consideration each week. He completed 26-of-34 for 280 yards against the Broncos with 2 TDs and one interception. His matchup against the Vikings doesn't look particularly bad, or good. The Vikings allowed 213 yards to Brian Griese along with two TDs and two interceptions, but keep in mind the Bucs were playing with a lead and didn't need to pass frequently. Palmer should remain on target this week. He doesn't look like a sure thing as a starter, but he's a good bet to put you in the ball park of the top 10 fantasy QBs with respectable numbers.

Drew Brees, SD at DEN
The Broncos pass defense didn't look all that good against the upstart Dolphins and Gus Frerotte last week. Granted, Champ Bailey left the game with a shoulder injury, but giving up 275 yards and 2 TDs with a 67% completion rate is a bit much. Brees welcomes back Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates from his one week suspension, but will it be enough? There are mixed signals in this matchup. Last year, the Broncos did a stellar job of shutting down Brees. He threw for 121 yards and ran for a TD in week 3. He managed only 106 yards and no TDs in his second crack at the Broncos. Which Broncos defense shows up this week? The one that stifled Brees on both occasions last year, or the one the Dolphins had their way with last week?

Worth a gamble

Kurt Warner, ARI vs Stl
We shouldn't expect to see Warner drop back to pass 56 times this week unless the Rams jump out to a huge lead like the Giants did a week ago. Warner completed 32 of those attempts for 316 yards with a TD and two interceptions. The Rams secondary is vulnerable and Tim Rattay took advantage despite only throwing 16 passes. Rattay completed 11 of them for 165 yards with a TD to each of his starting receivers. Knowing the Rams ability to put points on the board, this looks like another good spot for the Cardinals passing game as they could either be playing chase or at least be able to make big plays and turn this one into a bit of a shootout since they don't appear to be able to run the ball effectively at all.

Trent Dilfer, Cle at GB
Is the Packers defense really as good as they looked against Detroit last week? They sure don't seem all that tough on paper. Then again, last we checked games aren't won on paper, but on the field. The Pack did a reasonable job against Joey Harrington. Despite allowing two touchdowns (the difference in the game) they held him to 15-of-28 for 167 yards. A year ago, the Packers were the third worst defense against the pass allowing opposing QBs 271 yds/gm with a league-high 36 TDs. Dilfer, forced to throw almost every down in the second half playing from behind, completed 26-of-43 for 278 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions against the Bengals. One should expect the Packers to rebound at home this week, despite losing Javon Walker. There's a decent chance the Browns could be behind the eight ball again this week and Dilfer could throw 35 to 40 passes. If that turns out to be the case, then he's worth a shot in deeper leagues.

Worth a shot, but definitely a reach..

Anthony Wright, Bal at TEN
This matchup is a little tough to read. The Titans allowed 252 yds/gm and 30 TDs to opposing QBs a year ago (8th most fantasy pts in the league). They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to hang 218 yards with 2 TDs on them a week ago, despite only attempting 11 passes. Chances are the Ravens will throw more than 11 times. Wright draws the start this week with Kyle Boller sitting out with a hyper-extended big toe. Wright mopped up last week completing 19-of-31 for 214 yards with 1 TD and 2 interceptions against the Colts and a steady pass rush. How often will we see the Ravens throw 54 times for 355 yards? That was the cumulative numbers of Wright and Boller. Don't expect nearly as much throwing this week, but Wright should be able to top 200 yards with a TD or two likely. He might be one of the best deep sleepers on the board this week given the solid matchup and his live arm.

Drew Bledsoe, DAL vs Was
There's no question the Redskins defense is not a good matchup for the Cowboys or Drew Bledsoe this week. They were the 4th toughest in the league a year ago against QBs (fantasy pts allowed) and they allowed the fewest fantasy pts in week one, too. Of course, that's not necessarily saying much having played the Bears and rookie QB Kyle Orton. Bledsoe is quite a bit better than Orton. He looked good in his first game as the Cowboys QB. He completed 18-of-24 for 226 yards with three TDs and only one turnover (a lost fumble). The Cowboys came from behind to win and featured a lot of three receiver sets. It's hard to say if that will continue this week, but even then with a run/pass ratio of 29/28, we might expect Bledsoe to at least throw as many passes. The question becomes whether he can be as effective against a tougher defense.

Eli Manning, NYG at NO
Over the past few years, there are few matchups that looked better for a QB than facing the New Orleans Saints. They ranked 6th in fantasy pts allowed last year (279 yds/gm with 25 TDs). Jake Delhomme managed 19 completions in 31 attempts for 212 yards with a TD and two interceptions falling short in a come from behind bid. Eli Manning, meanwhile, comes off a 10-of-23 performance for 172 yards with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Technically, it's a road game, but it's really a home game for Manning and the Giants (seems unfair, no?). It shouldn't come as a surprise if Manning throws for 200+ yards with another pair of touchdowns. At the same time, it's tough to expect much more knowing the Giants should be able to run the ball effectively. Manning also much improve his completion percentage since 10-of-23 isn't going to cut it for fantasy purposes.

Getting desperate

Kyle Orton, CHI vs Det
If Brett Favre could muster only 201 passing yards on 27-of-44 passing with 2 interceptions and a lost fumble, then why would Orton have any better chance to produce against the Lions? He doesn't and almost certainly won't fare any better. Orton was 15-of-28 for 141 yards with an interception and lost fumble himself last week in Washington. At least he'll be at home this week. Are the Lions really that much better defensively? They ranked 13th last year allowing 218 yds/gm with 28 TDs to opposing QBs. Defenses generally don't play as well on the road either. Orton's not really someone you want to pencil into the lineup unless you're in a 14 or 16 team league and he's your lone backup. Last year, Rex Grossman threw for 227 yds and no TDs in week 1 against Detroit while Chad Hutchinson managed a meager 114 yards with a TD in week 16. Orton should fall somewhere in between.

Running Backs

Best bets

Willie Parker, Pit at HOU
Who is kidding who? Fast Willie Parker™  (FWP) really isn't much of a sleeper after last week's freak show. The Texans allowed 131 rushing yds to the Bills backs last week, but ranked among the four toughest against RBs a year ago (fantasy pts allowed). At this time, Staley is listed as questionable and Bettis doubtful. Cowher stated that FWP won't lose the starting job this week, but if Staley dresses, then he would see some carries. Parker could have another strong performance and seal the deal for keeping the job, too.

Jamal Lewis, Bal at TEN
The Titans gave up the house last week to Fast Willie Parker
and the Steelers allowing 36 rushes for 196 yards and two TDs (not to mention a 48 yard reception by FWP). Lewis was held in check by the Colts last week, but the Titans look to be a little better matchup. Lewis might see 20 carries this week after running just 16 times against the Colts.

Reuben Droughns, Cle at GB
Droughns improved his stock with coach Romeo Crennel with his week one performance. Droughns only needed 15 touches to reach the century mark. He didn't score, but 100 yards is a nice grab for just 12 carries and 3 catches. If the Browns hadn't fallen behind by a couple TDs and OC Maurice Carthon went to the pass almost exclusively. The same thing could happen this week. Droughns should get at least another 15 touches though, possibly closer to 20. He could find the end zone this week or at least produce 80+ combined yards.

Ronnie Brown, Mia at NYJ
The Jets allowed 199 yards rushing to Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson last week. Granted, the Chiefs run the ball a LOT better than the Dolphins and the Jets defense is a hard spot for Brown on their home turf. Losing Jason Ferguson hurts more than expected. Brown looks like he's going to get a pretty solid workload. He carried 22 times in his debut. He dinged up his shoulder but appears to be no worse for the wear. This game could have a much different flow than the season opener, especially in New York. Start Brown, but have mild expectations and you won't be disappointed.

Larry Johnson, KC at OAK
The Raiders did a solid job containing Corey Dillon and the Patriots ground game last Thursday. Dillon got into the end zone twice, but rushed for just 63 yards on 23 carries (93 total yds). Kevin Faulk didn't fare much better with 5 carries for 11 yards (29 yds total). Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson provide a tougher test for Rob Ryan's defense. Johnson is a big play waiting to happen. He hung major numbers, but keep in mind it was on 9 carries and 1 catch. Ten touches won't produce 24 fantasy pts every week. If the Raiders stuff the Chiefs running attack this week, then we know they are for real. Seriously. It's probably not going to happen. Johnson is a great sleeper pick simply because of his explosiveness. He's capable of a long TD run every other game - or better.

Stephen Davis, CAR vs NE
Davis ran well in his return to regular season action gaining 81 yards on 13 carries with a 1 yard TD. He's not a three-down back and he's splitting carries with DeShaun Foster, but Davis could get his groove on if he gets 12 to 15 carries this week, too. Lamont Jordan rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries. The Patriots allowed 12 rushing TDs to RBs last year. Clearly, starting Davis is done with the expressed purpose of him finding the end zone because 50 to 75 yards all by itself isn't getting it done for a RB2.

Worth a gamble

Tatum Bell, DEN vs SD
The Chargers run defense did a solid job against the Cowboys allowing 102 yards on 29 carries with a TD. The Broncos struggled at the point of attack last week against the Dolphins. Miami's 3-4 defense seemed to give the Broncos fits. Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor were in the Broncos backfield all day long. The Chargers also attack with a 3-4 defense. Bell's opportunity this week continues to be dependent on the status of Mike Anderson. The Marine has a painful rib injury and it's unclear whether or how much he'll be able to play this week. If he does, let's assume his workload is less than usual. Either way, Bell picks up the slack unless we see Ron Dayne active, in which case it could be a Shanahan surprise. If Bell starts, he's a decent gamble, but no sure thing. If he doesn't start, buyer beware. Last year, the Chargers held the Broncos backs to 43 total yards in their first game, then Bell himself to 31 yards and a TD in the second game.

Chris Brown, TEN vs Bal
Brown had a solid game against a rock solid defense. The Steelers were the 3rd toughest defense against RBs last year (by fantasy pts). Brown gained 63 yards on 11 carries and led all NFL backs with 200 or more carries a year ago with 4.8 yards per carry. Travis Henry had 10 carries, but much of those came when the game was out of hand and Jeff Fisher pulled McNair, Brown and others. The Ravens offense is awful, so there's a chance the Titans offense could keep this close against the tough Ravens defense. Hopefully, it will be closer than the 34-7 lashing last week. Brown should see 12 or more carries in this game and maybe a couple catches. The key is finding the end zone. The Ravens allowed 9 rushing TDs to RBs a year ago and kept Edge out last week.

Thomas Jones, CHI vs Det
The Lions were up to the task of stopping Ahman Green last week, so what makes us or anyone think that Thomas Jones and the mighty Bears offense can do any better? We don't really. One interesting note, and perhaps it's partially due to the flow of the Packers/Lions game, is the Packers RBs caught 13 passes against the Lions last week. The Lions held Green and company to 58 yards rushing on 15 carries, but allowed 78 yards receiving. Jones, of course, is strong in that department, so maybe he'll produce a solid effort. In week 16 (2004), Jones ran for 109 yards and had 34 receiving yards against Detroit. In last year's season opener, Jones produced 105 total yards with two TDs against the Lions. Jones isn't a good start, but he's not a bad gamble either. He's clearly the starter, plus he pass protects and catches the ball far better than Benson.

J.J. Arrington, ARI vs Stl
Arrington was overwhelmed last week against the Giants. This week might not be much better. The Rams put a stop on the Niners ground attack allowing just 39 yards on 18 carries. From that stand point, it's difficult to judge which team - Arizona or San Francisco - has a better running game. It's hard to expect much, if anything, out of Arrington considering that he split carries with Marcel Shipp almost equally in week one. This appears to be a bad spot for him, but Denny Green is stubborn and will stick with his young back. In deeper leagues, he's worth a shot. And keep in mind, that he'll catch some passes week, too. He caught four balls for 22 yards in the first game.

Worth a shot, but definitely a reach..

Chester Taylor, Bal at TEN
Taylor broke off a 23 yard run against the Colts last week and had 2 catches for 22 yards. He'll catch 2 or 3 pass nearly every week as the team's third down back. What he does with his handful of carries each week is the difference. Last week, he had four carries for 27 yards - almost all of it on the one run. The Titans appear to be a much better matchup. Chester's good for 40 to 50 yards, but if he can pump it up to 60 or 70 yards he becomes interesting especially in pts-per-reception (PPR) leagues.

DeShaun Foster, CAR vs NE
Foster ran the ball 9 times in the opener compared to 13 times for starter Stephen Davis. Foster is a better receiver than Davis and caught 3 balls last week for 15 yards. The Raiders backs combined for 90 yds rushing and 40 yds receiving against New England last week. Davis definitely looked good, but clearly Foster is in the picture and the Panthers could combine for 120 yards rushing again this week or better. Foster is a good bet for around 50 yards or more, but he's also a guy who will break off a long run every now and then, so he should have solid upside each week despite not being the Panthers lead back.

Brandon Jacobs, NYG at NO
After Jacobs' preseason work and his debut last week, it's no longer speculation whether or not Jacobs will be an integral part of the Giants offense. Tiki Barber will still get the majority of touches, but Jacobs appears to be everything Ron Dayne never was for the G-men. He's stronger than an ox and his effectiveness in short-yardage situations is unquestioned. Jacobs looks like a decent gamble each week for a possible TD and 5 or more carries. The Saints are a good matchup, too. They allowed 124 yards rushing to Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster last week on 23 carries with a TD.

Getting desperate

Alvin Pearman / LaBrandon Toefield, Jac at IND
There's a good chance the Jags could find themselves trailing quickly in this game. The Colts defense looks good and they get after the quarterback as good as any team in the league. We know they can score, that's never been an issue. If such circumstances play out on Sunday, then Fred Taylor could be rendered almost useless since he usually heads to the sidelines on third downs and passing situations. That would leave either Alvin Pearman or LaBrandon Toefield to be potential vultures this week. If you're in a points-per-reception (PPR) league with 12 or more teams, it would be a huge reach, but starting one of these two guys could at least get you something.

Ron Dayne, DEN vs SD
If Mike Anderson is inactive this week due to his injured ribs, then Dayne could be activated and would have an outside chance of carrying the ball more than Tatum Bell. Dayne was inactive last week. If Anderson takes the needle, then Dayne might continue to be a game-day inactive. So, if the circumstances dictate starting Dayne as a flex or 3rd back in deeper leagues might make sense. In 10 or 12 team leagues, it's probably a long shot, if not a complete reach.

Cedric Benson, CHI vs Det
Even though Benson is looking good in practice and entered the game last week after Thomas Jones struggled, Benson remains a real long shot to produce anything worthwhile soon. The Lions defense held Ahman Green and the Packers in check last week and look well prepared to defend the Bears young offense. That might actually work in Benson's favor. If Jones struggles out of the gate again, maybe Benson sees more than three or four carries this week. If hard to expect much because Jones has the respect of the coaches and teammates for his hard work and ability. Thus, starting Benson is a major reach, but he could get into the game and do something in the 2nd half.

Wide Receivers

Best bets

Ashley Lelie, DEN vs SD
The Chargers allowed too many big plays to the Cowboys receivers last week. They were 9th most inviting matchup for receivers last year (166 yds/gm with 12 TDs) and last week allowed 196 yds and 3 TDs. Historically speaking, Lelie fared well against San Diego last year. He caught 4 passes for 67 yards and a TD in week three against the Chargers, while going for 105 yards on 4 catches in week 13. Lelie was targeted a team-high 12 times last week, but only caught two passes for 17 yards. When you see that kind of discrepancy something's gotta give. The Broncos are at home and coming off a stinging loss to the Dolphins. Look for a rebound game here with Lelie being a primary contributor.

Eddie Kennison, KC at OAK
The Raiders are obviously an explosive offensive team. Against a soft secondary like the Chiefs, they promise to be quite productive. Therefore, it doesn't take much extrapolation of data to predict a higher number of passing attempts for the Chiefs this week, which means there's a solid chance Eddie Kennison's targets will be high enough to make him an attractive option. Kennison was targeted five times last week catching four passes for 76 yards. In his two games against Oakland last year, he was targeted 12 times and 10 times each. He produced 8 catches for 149 yards and a TD in the first meeting, then 6 for 79 yards in the second. Oakland allowed 16 receptions for 186 yards and 2 TDs to the Patriots and allowed an average of 159 yds/gm with 13 TDs a year ago making them the 13th best matchup for WRs. Add it all up and Kennison looks like a darn good bet this week.

Greg Lewis, PHI vs SF
The 49ers ranked 8th last year in most fantasy pts allowed to WRs. This year, they allowed a league-high 38.7 pts to the Rams. Granted, it was against the Rams and Mike Martz is significantly pass-happy. Lewis will draw a decent matchup as the 49ers roll their coverage towards Terrell Owens. He managed five catches for 44 yards while being targeted nine times on Monday night. All four of the Rams receivers had strong games last week. That means T.O. should be sick against his former team and Lewis looks like a strong bet to produce something worthwhile especially given the nice matchup.

Donte Stallworth, NO vs NYG
The Giants gave up a ton of passing yards to the Cardinals last week (almost all of which went to Larry Fitzgerald). That makes Joe Horn an intriguing starter this week, but also puts Donte Stallworth into a potentially good matchup. Stallworth was targeted five times last week compared to eight for Horn. He caught 4 passes for 47 yards, but this week he could do even better.

Antonio Bryant, Cle at GB
Bryant was targeted 10 times last week against the Bengals. Arguably, he's facing a much more favorable matchup in Green Bay this week. The Packers did a solid job defending the Lions receivers last week limiting Roy Williams and Charles Rogers, but how much of it was good defense and how much of it was Mariucci's game plan to stubbornly stick to the ground game and grind out a win? It's hard to say, probably a little of both. The Browns also prefer to run the ball, but in Green Bay they may not be in a position to do that if Favre rebounds at home. Bryant caught 5 passes for 65 yards last week. Bryant is a solid sleeper and the matchups should be more favorable this week for him to possibly break out a little, maybe even score a TD.

Worth a gamble

Reggie Williams, Jac at IND
The Colts were the fourth best matchup for opposing WRs a year ago allowing 163 yds/gm and 20 TDs. The Jags threw for 300+ yards in both games against Indy last year, too. Williams was targeted five times (making 4 catches for 40 yards) in the season opener on 25 total targets to receivers, not great, but chances are those targets will increase this week as the need for the Jags to throw increases facing the Colts. Williams had a strong preseason and perhaps this is the week he finds the end zone.

Eric Parker, SD at DEN
In the season opener Parker produced a solid 5 catches for 75 yards against the Cowboys on 10 targets (compared to 14 targets for Keenan McCardell). Parker may have a difficult time repeating those numbers with Antonio Gates returning to action, but the matchup is decent (especially with Champ Bailey not 100%). The Broncos allowed 15 catches for 212 yards to the Dolphins receivers last week including a 60 yd TD where Marty Booker got behind Lenny Walls. The Broncos allowed 147 yds/gm and 17 TDs last year to opposing WRs. Clearly, McCardell is a better option than Parker, but if Bailey is covering McCardell (or even Gates) then Parker could be Johnny-on-the-spot. There's two ways to look at it. He'll have a more favorable matchup, but will he be targeted enough with Gates returning to be worthwhile from a fantasy standpoint. That's why he's a gamble, but worth a shot in deeper leagues or leagues that require a flex or 4th receiver.

Mark Clayton, Bal at TEN
The Titans were the 2nd best fantasy matchup for WRs a year ago and judging by the Steelers production on just 11 pass attempts last week, not much has changed. Clayton, in his first pro game, caught 5 passes for 44 yards. He has much less fan fare than the other rookies like Braylon Edwards, Mike Williams or Troy Williamson, but he might very well outperform all of them this year. He was targeted eight times last week and it's reasonable to believe he could see about the same number of targets this week. The Titans secondary is young and ripe for the picking. The only problem here is the Ravens target Derrick Mason the most and Clarence Moore (who also had 8 targets) is a much more inviting red zone target. It's possible that Clayton could get squeezed, but ironically, last week Clayton had 2 red zone targets compared to 1 for Mason and none for Moore.

Michael Jenkins, Atl at SEA
The Seahawks allowed veteran Pro Bowl WR Jimmy Smith to scorch them a week ago. Meanwhile, Michael Jenkins made a nice splash in his debut in the starting lineup nearly scoring a TD while finishing with 3 catches for 80 yards against a tough Eagles defense. He was targeted 4 times (out of 10 WR targets total) and this week faces a Seahawks defense that was ripped by the Jags WRs for 14 catches, 207 yards and 2 TDs. Jenkins is clearly the Falcons best receiving option (not counting Alge Crumpler) and this week he could produce solid numbers once again, possibly finding the end zone.

Robert Ferguson, GB vs Cle
Javon Walker's injury obviously hurts the Packers tremendously, but it also opens the door for Robert Ferguson to finally emerge as a bon-a-fide fantasy option. The Browns allowed 18 catches for 213 yards and a TD to the Bengals receivers last week, but were the 3rd toughest matchup for receivers a year ago. That was mostly due to their run defense being so poor. If last week was any indication, the Packers running game is definitely not firing on all cylinders and maybe the loss of their two starting guards is indeed more painful than many wanted to believe.  With a full game, it's possible that Ferguson could have enough targets to be quite productive. He was targeted three times last week (Walker 5 times) compared to seven targets for Driver. Until we see Ferguson in action as a starter, it's a gamble to expect him to produce in your lineup. Then again, the matchup is decent and the opportunity is there, so take a chance if your other options are not as appealing.

Worth a shot, but definitely a reach..

Arnaz Battle, SF at PHI
Battle is the 49ers No. 1 receiver, but this is a tough spot for the 49ers passing game on the road against the Eagles, who are coming off a stinging defeat on Monday Night Football. Battle will have his opportunities. He was targeted a team-high six times in Rattay's 16 pass attempts. He just might throw a pass, or two, and run the ball, too. The problem is the Eagles are a tough customer. They allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy pts to WRs last week (vs. the Falcons) and were the 5th toughest in the league a year ago (132 yds/gm with 10 TDs). Battle is a nice sleeper for this year, but this week might not be the time to gamble on him considering the matchup.

Clarence Moore, Bal at TEN
The Titans were the 2nd best fantasy matchup for WRs a year ago and judging by the Steelers production on just 11 pass attempts last week, not much has changed. Moore was targeted 8 times last week and certainly he's an inviting red zone target with his 6' 5" frame and soft hands. The Titans secondary is young and ripe for the picking, but Moore will share his playing time with rookie Mark Clayton and the Ravens also utilized their tight ends predominantly. So, it might be a reach for Moore to be targeted eight times again. Ironically, Moore was also not targeted in the red zone last week while Clayton was twice and Mason once.

Bryant Johnson, ARI vs Stl
Johnson was targeted 11 times last week, two more times than Anquan Boldin. Granted, the Cardinals threw 56 passes and that's probably not going to happen again. Still, Johnson emerged during the preseason as a solid sleeper candidate and has earned the trust of QB Kurt Warner. If he continues to see a high number of targets, particularly against a soft Rams secondary, it might only be a matter of time before he produces solid numbers. The 49ers did some damage in only 16 pass attempts. The Cardinals are likely to double those attempts which means Johnson could also be worthwhile along with Fitz and Boldin as a starter on the back end of your receiving corps.

Getting desperate

Matt Jones, Jac at IND
The Jaguars didn't waste any time
finding creative ways to get the ball into their rookie playmaker's hands. Jones caught just two passes, but he also ran twice and finished with 50 combined yards while being targeted 5 times. Since he's technically not starting, it would be a major reach to count on him in that capacity for your fantasy team, but given his incredible size/speed ratio and the likelihood the Jags will continue to make him part of the offense, Jones is a threat to score each week - even if his overall targets are limited. Certainly he's more palatable as a sleeper in deeper leagues that require 3 or even 4 receivers or a flex player. Otherwise, it's probably best to keep him on the bench until we know how consistently he'll be utilized from week to week. Against the Colts, the Jags threw for 300 yards in both contests last year, so the opportunity looks good, but we're just not sure how often he'll touch the football, so be cautiously optimistic for now.

Mike Williams, Det at CHI
You can't knock Mike Williams for making the most of his opportunities. Last week, in his first pro game, he was targeted just once but made it count as he caught a TD to seal the Lions victory against the Bears. Of course, Williams is known for his 30 TDs in just two collegiate seasons (as a true freshman and sophomore at that). To say he's a red zone maven is an understatement. The Bears secondary is talented, but not extremely deep. The major question is how much will Williams be on the field? He's serving as the team's No. 4 receiver and the Lions frequently made use of two receiver, two tight end formations last week trying to run the ball and control the clock against the Packers defensive personnel. They probably won't use the same approach against the Bears this week. Williams is without question a major reach, but given his size and ability to score in the red zone, he's certainly a decent option in deeper leagues that require 3 or 4 receivers or a flex.

Samie Parker, KC at OAK
Parker is without question a major reach. He was targeted just three times last week catching 2 balls for 23 yards. He faced Oakland once last year in week 16 when he was targeted four times catching 3 balls for 35 yards. Surely, putting the diminutive 2nd year receiver in the starting lineup takes some guts. Realistically, it's probably not a very good idea. Parker hasn't proven himself to be a reliable, consistent threat and he'll be lucky to finish with more than a handful of targets after Gonzo and Kennison get their touches. Still, he'll face a better matchup than Kennison and it's possible the Chiefs could make him a slightly bigger part of their game plan this week, especially if the Raiders run defense holds up anywhere close to their stunning performance against the Pats last week.

Mark Bradley, CHI vs Det
Midway through the season opener the Bears turned to rookie Mark Bradley to replace Justin Gage in their standard two receiver set starting opposite Muhsin Muhammad. He was targeted four times and had one catch for 22 yards. Muhammad had 12 targets (no surprise there) but Bradley was clearly Orton's second favorite target on the day. That may bode well moving forward, but when we're talking about a rookie QB and a rookie WR, anything could and probably will happen. It's a major, major reach counting on Bradley this soon, but take note that he's in the starting lineup and could emerge quickly - possibly this week - with some noteworthy stats. He's clearly on the fast track in the Bears offense and appears to have beaten out Gage and Bernard Berrian for the starting gig.

Tight Ends

Best bets

Chris Baker, NYJ vs Mia
Last week we hit our mark with Baker. After his 7 catch, 124 yards and 1 TD he's not as much of a sleeper now. He'll be started in a lot of leagues this week, but keep in mind that from a consistency standpoint he's still unproven. That said, there are some strong indicators working in his favor. As we pointed out last week, the Jets OC Mike Heimerdinger loves throwing to his tight ends. Baker was targeted 8 times last (4th most in the league), but a good chunk of that, including his TD, came in what we like to call garbage time. Meanwhile, the Dolphins allowed 7 catches and 67 yards to Jeb Putzier (who was targeted a league-high 12 times). It's hard to say how close Baker will come to approaching the same number of targets this week, but realistically we can't expect him to see the ball as frequently or produce another 100 yard game with a TD. Conservatively, Baker could be among the team's leading receivers though. His 8 targets was only topped by Laveranues Coles (who had 10).

Ben Watson, NE at CAR
Much to our surprise, Ernie Conwell played a big role for the Saints passing game last week against the Panthers. Ben Watson started off with a bang against Oakland, but finished with just two catches for 55 yards. This week, he might pick up where he left off after the Pats watch film and see Ernie Conwell's production. Watson isn't your typical tight end either. He stretches the field and makes big plays, not just underneath stuff where he takes what the defense gives. The problem with Watson is that Tom Brady and the Patriots spread the ball around, so he's still a gamble, but at the tight end position most of the players you start are gambles to some degree once you get past the top 5 to 7 players.

Worth a gamble

Courtney Anderson, OAK vs KC
Of course, Anderson struck it rich last week with two TDs in three catches against the Patriots. With all the talent the Raiders have offensively, Anderson will see more than his fair share of single coverage and in the red zone teams will be forced to double and triple team Randy Moss - or take their chances. The Chiefs allowed 51 yds/gm and 7 TDs to TEs in 2004. They allowed the 6th most fantasy pts to TEs in the league. Chris Baker certainly had his way with them last week, so maybe Anderson can be a repeat offender. Anderson won't see nearly as many targets as other TEs, but when it comes to opportunities in the red zone to cash in, he may have few peers simply because of the Randy Moss factor. That makes him a decent gamble, especially in leagues with 14 teams or more.

Jerramy Stevens, SEA vs Atl
There are a few factors working in Stevens' favor right now. Itula Mili, still listed as the team's starter, wasn't able to play last week and might not be ready this week either. Stevens was targeted seven times against the Jags catching three passes for 41 yards. Not great, but certainly respectable production from a tight end all things considered. His seven targets were only slightly less than the 9 targets each to Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. Plus, Holmgren likes to utilize his tight end in the red zone. Stevens didn't have any red zone targets last week, but the Seahawks as a team only had two total anyway. Atlanta allowed 8 TDs to TEs a year ago and an average of 44 yds/gm. That ranks them as the 9th most favorable matchup on paper using last year as a benchmark.

Bubba Franks, GB vs Cle
With Javon Walker out for the year it's easy to look towards Robert Ferguson as the primary benefactor when it comes to increased targets and opportunity to produce more fantasy points. However, Franks is a player that must be considered, too. The Browns aren't particularly a great matchup when looking back at fantasy pts allowed to opposing TEs. Franks could see more targets and have a better opportunity to impact the box score, especially knowing how often the Packers looks his way in the red zone. He was targeted six times last week and could be a sneaky play this week.

Worth a shot, but definitely a reach..

Ernie Conwell, NO vs NYG
Conwell was among the bigger surprises in week one. He was targeted six times, catching all six passes for 71 yards despite leaving the game in the third quarter with a dislocated jaw and slight concussion. There in lies the rub. This article is published prior to the weekly injury report, so Conwell could be out this week and obviously not be an option for your lineup. If he's "healthy" and starting, then he's probably worth a gamble, but keep in mind we're going off one week's worth of stats. That's hardly enough of a sample set to consider Conwell much more than a gamble. The Giants were a decent matchup for TEs last year (38 yds/gm and 9 TDs) and last week's results really aren't a good comparison since the Cardinals don't typically target or utilize their tight ends much.

Jimmy Kleinsasser, Min at CIN
In the post-Randy Moss era it looks like one of the developing trends is more check downs and shorter passes from Daunte Culpepper. The Vikings already featured Jermaine Wiggins exclusively last year with Moss. Without Moss and with Kleinsasser back in the fold, both of the Vikings TEs were busy last week. Wiggins is definitely, without question, the better play. He was targeted 8 times compared to 4 for Kleinsasser. Wiggins also had two TDs called back on penalty flags (one of which was a blown call). Kleinsasser caught all four of his targets for 42 yards. The Bengals last year allowed the 4th most fantasy pts to TEs (54 yds/gm with 7 TDs). If you're in a deeper league, Kleinsasser isn't a terrible reach, but he isn't a very good option in 10 or 12 team leagues.

Heath Miller, Pit at HOU
There's something to be said about efficiency. If you only have one target there's reason to be concerned, but if you catch a TD with that target, then all is fine. Miller is an interesting gamble. The Steelers, like last year, may not have to throw the football enough to warrant Miller being a consideration for the lineup in most leagues. Obviously, leagues geared more towards TDs and less towards yards or receptions would help Miller as would deeper leagues. The Texans, for what it's worth, allowed 9 TDs to opposing TEs last year and an average of 45 yds/gm. They were beaten for a TD by a tackle eligible in Buffalo last week for crying out loud. Knowing that, Miller has a reasonable chance to produce another score knowing that he just might be the Steelers best red zone target outside of Hines Ward.

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