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Week 3 Sleepers

This article is a weekly look at players 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 he is normally a starter, but has a bad matchup. Each position is covered 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.


Quarterback

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

QB Drew Bledsoe - DAL (at SF)

Not only is Bledsoe playing well through the first two games (487 yards, 4 TDs and no INTs) but heís facing a 49ers defense that allowed 362 yards to Marc Bulger in week one and 458 yards to Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in week two. McNabb carving up the 49ers defense is one thing, but allowing Mike McMahon and Koy Detmer to go 10-for-10 for 116 yards is taking it to another level. The matchup is great, but the 49ers do have a solid pass rush and Bledsoe isnít exactly mobile.

QB Drew Brees - SD (vs NYG)

Brees is off to a rocky start following his stellar 2004 season. The good news is this weekís matchup against the Giants could mean an upturn in Breesí numbers. The Giants allowed 316 yards to Kurt Warner (1TD, 2 INTs) and 375 yards to Aaron Brooks (1 TD, 3 INTs). What the Giants are allowing in yardage they are making up for with interceptions. Playing at home Brees should get back on track with 200+ yards and a TD or two this week. Letís hope he avoids the turnovers, since heís thrown three interceptions in the first two games and the Giants defense has proven to be opportunistic.

QB Brian Griese - TB (at GB)

The Packers faced Joey Harrington and Trent Dilfer in two games and theyíre allowing 252 passing yds/gm and 2.5 TDs/gm with no interceptions (4th most fantasy pts allowed to QBs). Meanwhile, Griese has thrown for just 347 yards in two games, but he has completed 66.7% of his passes. The Packers gave up two long TDs this past week that helped contribute to Dilferís high yardage totals. The Bucs may be able to exploit the Packers defense equally as well.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Jake Delhomme - CAR (at MIA)

Delhomme struggled against the Patriots in week two. In two games, he has thrown three interceptions to just one TD while completing just 52.6% of his passes. Meanwhile, the Dolphins pass defense is allowing 221 yds/gm, 1.5 TDs/gm and 1 INT/gm after facing Denver (at home) and the Jets (road). This is not a great matchup for Delhomme, but he should be able to rebound with better numbers than what heís produced in the first two games.

QB Trent Dilfer - CLE (at IND)

Dilfer has been incredibly productive in his first two starts with the Browns. Last week, he carved up the Packers defense at Lambeau Field on his way to 336 yards and 3 TDs on 21-of-32 passing. This week, he faces a Colts defense that is among the best in the league through two weeks. The matchup isnít necessarily attractive if youíre projecting TDs for Dilfer. The Colts have allowed just one passing TD in two games with three interceptions. On the flipside, theyíve allowed 553 yards in two games. If this game goes as we expect (with the Browns playing from behind) then Dilfer may produce strong yardage totals.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Eli Manning - NYG (at SD)

Manning looked solid on Monday night. He did a nice job finding his receivers with accurate, crisp passes, but didnít produce a ton of stats because the Giants had a lead through the game. This week, that might not be the case. The Giants travel to San Diego to face a Chargers offense that should keep pace with the Giants. San Diego allowed 226 yds and 3 TDs to Drew Bledsoe while keeping Jake Plummer out of the end zone but allowing 248 yards through the air. Manningís definitely a reach in most leagues, but maybe heís worth a gamble.

QB Tim Rattay - SF (vs DAL)

The 49ers were humbled in week two after traveling across the country only to be pounded into submission by the Eagles. This week, they are back at home and hosting a Cowboys defense that allowed 291 yds and two TDs to Mark Brunell as the Redskins rallied to beat them in the waning minutes of Monday nightís game. In week one, Drew Brees passed for 209 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Rattay is a decent reach in deeper leagues, but we hope most owners have a better backup plan than Rattay in 10 or 12 team leagues.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

QB J.P. Losman - BUF (vs ATL)

Without question, starting J.P. Losman is a risky proposition. However, in deeper leagues or those that start two QBs, Losman may be a consideration this week. Heís a reach, but the Falcons have allowed 269 yds/gm, 1.5 TDs/gm and 0.5 INTs/gm so far after facing the Eagles and Seahawks. Losman definitely isnít in the same class as McNabb or Hasselbeck, but heís playing at home and that usually helps a little.


Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Larry Johnson - KC (at DEN)

It doesnít take an eye for talent to realize that Larry Johnson looks like the Chiefs best RB on their roster. Priest Holmes is their starter, but if youíre sitting on LJ itís awfully difficult to keep him on the bench knowing heís a good bet to score most weeks and carry the ball around 10 times with good results. In leagues that use a flex player, if you own Priest and LJ, then starting both backs probably makes a lot of sense. You wonít find a more productive backup RB in the league than Johnson right now.

RB Mewelde Moore - MIN (vs NO)

After two games, the Saints have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Of course, hoping or expecting the Vikings to produce anything at this point seems like a lost cause, so take it for what itís worth. The Vikings are at home this week and the matchup is favorable. Those are two good factors if you have any semblance of faith left in the Vikings offense. The Panthers RBs ran for 124 yards and 1 TD while the Giants ran for 88 yards and 2 TDs (Barber also caught a TD). Michael Bennett appears to have lost his job after losing two fumbles on Sunday. If thereís any sanity left in this world, Moore will get a fair shot at starting this week. Whether or not you can trust Mike Tice with your starting line is a whole different question and a conundrum of its own.

RB Fred Taylor - JAX (at NYJ)

Taylor isnít a scoring threat when it comes to finding the end zone, but heís capable of racking up a lot of yardage. Itís hard to gauge how tough the Jets run defense is after two games. The Chiefs are perhaps the best running team in the NFL and the Dolphins (so far) appear to be one of the worst. Consequently, the Chiefs ran all over the Jets and the Dolphins werenít able to generate anything on the ground. With Byron Leftwich hurting after last weekís loss, the Jags could lean on Taylor a bit more than usual leading to a strong day statistically.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Mike Anderson - DEN (vs KC)

I donít know which one is tougher to believe. The Chiefs run defense allowing an average of just 59 yds/gm to opposing RBs, or Mike Anderson and the Broncos ground attack looking merely average through two games. Anderson was on the sidelines for the Broncos game-winning drive last week, but Mike Shanahan claims it was a ďplannedĒ rest for him. Anderson has yet to find his stride in the first two weeks after looking great in the preseason. Playing in front of the home crowd might help the Broncos get back on track this week, or maybe Anderson will feel re-energized watching Ron Dayne gunning for his starting job.

RB Derrick Blaylock - NYJ (vs JAX)

Whether Curtis Martin plays or not, Blaylock expects to see an increased workload this week against the Jaguars. The Jags did a solid job limiting Shaun Alexander in week one (14 carries, 73 yards, 0 TD), but Edgerrin James had no problems running through the Jags for 128 yards on 27 carries. Blaylockís sleeper status completely depends on Curtis Martinís status, but regardless of the MRI outcome, it looks like Herman Edwards will either hold Martin out or limit his carries making Blaylock either a sneaky play or a disappointment if Martin does end up playing.

RB Lamar Gordon - PHI (vs OAK)

The Raiders defense is improved this year, but they remain vulnerable to good running teams. The Eagles arenít known as a power running team by any means, but Lamar Gordon appears to be filling the Correll Buckhalter role nicely after joining the Eagles just weeks ago. Heís a decent bet to score a rushing TD each week and he could run the ball as many as 8 to 12 times. As such, heís a decent gamble in deeper leagues or those that are TD heavy.

RB Brandon Jacobs - NYG (at SD)

Jacobs is a great option in TD-heavy leagues. Heís proving to be an effective goal line and short yardage back giving the Giants a deadly 1-2 punch with Tiki Barber as their primary back. In other leagues, Jacobs is a reach. However, if he scores a TD then itís not a bad gamble and something you might consider. In some leagues, it might even be worthwhile to start both Barber and Jacobs if a bye week leaves your squad short-handed.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Ron Dayne - DEN (vs KC)

Tatum Bell sprained his ankle this week. Bellís injury opened the door for Dayne to earn a bigger role as he carried eight times for 44 yards giving the Broncos a boost on their final drive to help defeat the Chargers. Dayne should benefit this week as well. Heís expected to see more carries, but be careful. Mike Shanahan says Tatum Bell is still the teamís primary backup. If Bell is able to practice on Thursday and Friday, then itís hard to say how Shanahan might use all three backs. Obviously, the Broncos RBs are like playing with fire right now. Be careful, else you might get burned.

RB Reuben Droughns - CLE (at IND)

The Colts shut down Jamal Lewis and the Ravens ground game in week one. At the time, it looked like quite an achievement, but after watching the Ravens lay an egg in Tennessee, maybe it wasnít so much the Colts, but the Ravens just plain stinking. The Jags RBs (led by Fred Taylor) ran for 110 yards on 19 carries against the Colts on Sunday. Meanwhile, Droughns isnít exactly lighting up the scoreboard. After a strong first game (12 rushed for 78 yards, 3 catches for 22 yards), Droughns stumbled against the Packers combining for 79 yards while averaging just 2 yds/attempt. Watch to see if Lee Suggs is active this week, too. Suggs could cut into Droughns workload if heís able to play. If not, Droughns might be a decent reach in 12 or 14 team leagues, especially those that score points for receptions as Droughns is being utilized consistently as a receiver out of the backfield so far.

RB Travis Henry - TEN (at STL)

Chris Brown suffered a concussion last week prompting Travis Henry to take over and finish the game. Henry isnít as productive as Brown, but he is probably a little more durable. The Rams run defense looks great on paper allowing just 39 yds to the 49ers RBs and 57 yards to Marcel Shipp and the Cardinals. Those two teams donít exactly make for a good measuring stick, so perhaps the Titans will have a little more success after they ran for 97 yards against Baltimore. If Brown is slow to respond from the concussion this week, then Henry could be in line for more touches. After two games, the Rams run defense is certainly improved over last year, but just how much remains to be seen. The Titans will be a much better test for them and Henry could be a sneaky play, but only if he gets a few more touches.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (at SEA)

Shipp started last week with J.J. Arrington on the shelf due to some sort of stomach virus. Shipp didnít overwhelm the defense by any stretch, but he was more effective than Arrington and should still see close to 50% of the carries this week with Arrington back on the field. The Seahawks are allowing 76 rushing yds/gm to opposing backs with one TD through two games. By no means is this a strong matchup, but he might be helpful for someone in dire straights or those in 14 or 16 team leagues.


Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Arnaz Battle - SF (vs DAL)

The Cowboys are allowing 12.5 catches, 214.5 yards and 2 TDs per game to opposing receivers. Santana Moss and Keenan McCardell each caught a pair of TDs against them. Moss torched Aaron Glenn deep twice on national television. Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd are targeted almost equally (13 and 12 respectively). Lloyd is used more often as a deep threat while Battle is utilized as a possession receiver and trick-play extraordinaire. The 49ers receivers are in a good spot to produce this week with a good matchup and a home game.

WR Lee Evans - BUF (vs ATL)

We are making an educated guess here, but DeAngelo Hall will probably be covering Eric Moulds. Not that it matters much. Hall was burned by Terrell Owens (despite playing good coverage most of the game) in the season opener, then again last week by Darrell Jackson. Each teamís No. 2 receivers did reasonably well, too. Greg Lewis produced 5 catches for 44 yards on 9 targets against Atlanta, while Bobby Engram had 5 catches for 77 yards on 8 targets. Lee Evans has only been targeted five times in each of the Bills two games Moulds was targeted seven times in each game. The primary concern with starting either receiver is J.P. Losman and if either one will have enough of an opportunity to make plays.

WR Ashley Lelie - DEN (vs KC)

Lelie doesnít have a great track record against the Chiefs, which may seem surprising given the Chiefs problems defensively the past few years. In 2004, Lelie produce a 4-88-0 box score week 1 in Denver, then a 3-37-0 in Kansas City in week 15. Heís yet to score a TD in six career games against KC. To the Chiefs credit, theyíve allowed only one TD reception to an opposing WR in two games (Randy Moss). Patrick Surtain will almost certainly cover Rod Smith leaving Lelie to feed on Dexter McCleon and company. Lelie has been targeted more often then Smith (22 to 21) in the first two games, but heís not producing numbers that are even close. Surprisingly, Lelieís been targeted in the red zone three times to Smithís one. The matchup of Lelie against McCleon seems too tempting for Shanahan and Plummer to resist. Lelie is bigger, faster and seems like a big play waiting to happen.

WR Travis Taylor - MIN (vs NO)

Taylor is a nice sleeper this week not so much because of the matchup, but more so because of increased opportunity. Taylor emerged last week with 12 targets. Nate Burleson had the 2nd most targets with six before he left the game with a sprained knee. Taylor should continue to be the teamís most targeted receiver again this week. The Saints didnít allow much receiving yardage last week simply because the Giants didnít need to throw much. In week one, Steve Smith had a field day against them. The Vikings have been nothing short of abysmal thus far, but they are back at home against a Saints defense that is improved, but still exploitable.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Keary Colbert - CAR (at MIA)

If youíre worried about Colbertís lack of production through the first two games, rest a little easier knowing that he was targeted seven times this week (leading the team). He didnít catch one of them, but at least heís heavily involved in the teamís game plan. Colbert will produce sooner or later. This week might not be that week, but the Dolphins secondary isnít quite as scary since they dealt Patrick Surtain in the offseason. If Sam Madison covers Steve Smith, then Colbert should be productive working against former Panther Reggie Howard. Ashley Lelie produced 6-62-0 against Miami and Justin McCareins 5-87-0 against them. Colbert is capable of matching that production.

WR Terry Glenn - DAL (at SF)

Glenn exploded on Monday night and could make it two big weeks in a row this week against San Francisco. Glenn was targeted only 5 times (3 catches, 42 yards) in the season opener, but he reeled in six balls (9 targets) for 157 yards and a TD this week. Glenn leads the Cowboys with 14 targets. The 49ers already faced Philadelphia and St. Louis Ė two of the leagueís best passing teams. Likewise, theyíve allowed more fantasy pts to WRs than any other team. Glenn and Bledsoe had a good rapport in New England and it looks like the two arenít missing a beat after being reunited in Dallas.

WR Greg Lewis - PHI (vs OAK)

Lewis continues to be a steady performer in his first season as a starter. Heís been targeted 16 times in two games (9 and 7) producing 5-44-0 and 4-39-0. Not quite starter quality, but the way that Terrell Owens, L.J. Smith and Brian Westbrook are tearing through teams, beggars canít be choosy. Only Owens has been targeted more often than Lewis, so thatís a good sign that Lewis could be due for a slight breakout game sooner rather than later. Charles Woodson will draw Terrell Owens leaving first-year starter Nnamdi Asomugha on Lewis in what looks like a solid matchup on paper. The Raiders allowed another first-year starter Samie Parker 86 yards on three catches this past week.

WR Brandon Lloyd - SF (vs DAL)

The Cowboys are allowing 12.5 catches, 214.5 yards and 2 TDs per game to opposing receivers. Santana Moss and Keenan McCardell each caught a pair of TDs. Moss torched Aaron Glenn deep twice on national television. Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd are targeted almost equally (13 and 12 respectively). Lloyd is used more often as a deep threat while Battle is utilized as a possession receiver and trick-play extraordinaire. The 49ers receivers are in a good spot to produce this week with a good matchup and a home game.

WR Eric Parker - SD (vs NYG)

Both Donte Stallworth and Joe Horn produced huge numbers against the Giants. Two weeks ago, Larry Fitzgerald posted monster numbers against them. Chances are, this week Keenan McCardell could do the same thing, but Eric Parker is also a player thatís capable of breaking a long TD against this vulnerable Giants secondary. With Antonio Gates back in the lineup neither Parker nor McCardell are seeing as many targets. Through two weeks, McCardell has 22 targets and Parker has 13. As a bye week No.3 receiver, Parkerís not a bad option considering the solid matchup.

WR Marcus Robinson - MIN (vs NO)

Robinson should see more balls this week with Nate Burleson ailing. He might be the teamís best receiver in the red zone. Robinson has 15 TDs with 84 total receptions, so heís able to score and this week could be the week he does. First things first, Daunte Culpepper needs to gets his store in order, so to speak. Once that happens, then Robinson might be worthwhile. Right now, heís clearly a bit of a reach. At least this week the Vikings are at home with a decent matchup.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Braylon Edwards - CLE (at IND)

Edwards obviously had his coming out party last week against the Packers. Heís not even starting for the Browns. Likewise, heís still not worthy of starter consideration in your lineup either unless youíre in a deeper league or one that is TD-heavy. Edwards was targeted 4 and 5 times in each game. The Colts figure to have a lead early in this game. The Browns pulled a fast one in Green Bay, but it would be a minor miracle if they do it again this week against Indianapolis in the noisy dome atmosphere. Edwards is only going to get better and have more opportunities as the season roles along. This week, the Browns should be passing even more than the first two weeks. Edwards should see at least 5-or-6 targets, so if youíre looking for a true reach thatís could be a home run swing, then here he is.

WR Bryant Johnson - ARI (at SEA)

Johnson has been targeted almost as many times as Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but with far less impressive results. Johnson has a whopping four receptions for 42 yards on 17 targets. Fitz has 20 and Boldin has 18 for comparison. Either that is an incredibly bad sign, or it means good things are coming for Johnson. The Seahawks have three decent corners after signing Andre Dyson and Kelly Herndon in the offseason to pair with Marcus Trufant. Johnson has the opportunity. Can he capitalize on it?

WR Koren Robinson - MIN (vs NO)

All of the Vikings receivers get a bump this week due to the unfortunate injury to their teammate and No. 1 Nate Burleson. Robinson, who signed just weeks ago, figures to be active this week and involved in the game plan. "Because Nate is a little hobbled, I think you can speculate that he'll have some kind of role," Head coach Mike Tice said of Robinson. "That role will be based on how quickly he can pick things up this week." Robinson has the talent to be a big-time receiver. He could get a nice opportunity in Minnesota if everything goes perfectly, but nothing has gone perfectly for Robinson for a long time, so be forewarned. He could see extended playing time this week and heís a guy you could start out of sheer desperation and hope to get something.

If you're desperate (worth a look in deeper leagues)

WR Mark Bradley - CHI (vs CIN)

The Bengals are a nice matchup for opposing receivers. The problem Bradley has now that heís earned a starting role is getting enough targets. Muhsin Muhammad has 21 targets, Bradley has five and Justin Gage four. The Bengals have allowed 200+ yards to receivers in both games and 33 receptions combined. Bradley is a deep, deep reach considering heís got just two games under his belt, but heís been productive when given the opportunity and he might get some shots this week.


Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Ernie Conwell - NO (at MIN)

The Vikings allowed solid production to opposing TEs in each of the first two weeks. Against Tampa Bay, they allowed five catches for 41 yards and two TDs. Last week against Cincinnati, they allowed four catches for 43 yards and a TD (and the Bengals donít utilize their TEs frequently either). Conwell was targeted six times (6 catches, 71 yards) in week one before leaving early and four times this past week (no catches). Chances are, Conwell will be targeted enough against Minnesota to make him a possible top 10 tight end this week.

TE Alex Smith - TB (at GB)

Steve Heidenís breakout game last week sure seems like a Ďone week wonderí, but the week before the Lions Marcus Pollard also scorched the Packers for 5 catches, 58 yards and a TD. Alex Smith is the Bucs primary receiving threat from the TE position while Anthony Becht fills more of a blocking role. Smith, of course, caught two TDs against the Vikings in week one, but finished with only one catch this last week. Itís hard to say how consistent Smith will be as a fantasy TE because heís a rookie, but under Jon Gruden the Bucs have utilized their TEs regularly in the red zone and Smith has more talent than anyone Grudenís had to work with.

TE Ben Watson - NE (at PIT)

The Patriots love to keep their opposition guessing. Not only are they quite good at mixing up their offensive game plan from week to week, but the way they spread the ball around also keeps us guessing in the fantasy football world. Watson looked like he was off to the races in the first game catching two balls for 55 yards in the first couple drives. Since then, heís almost disappeared. As a defensive matchup, the Steelers are a little tough to chart also. They allowed 11 catches and 108 yards with a TD to the Titans tight ends, but allowed just one catch to Houstonís TEs last week. Granted, Houston doesnít use their TEs much, so look for Watson to re-emerge this week and provide a spark for the Patriots with a big play or two.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Steve Heiden - CLE (at IND)

The Colts allowed the Ravens tight ends to catch 15 passes for 146 yards and a TD in week one. Last week, the Jags TEs had two catches for 53 yards. Heiden is coming off a career day against the Packers. He caught six passes for 104 yards with two TDs while being targeted eight times. Through two weeks, Heiden has been targeted 13 times Ė a high number for a TE who was undrafted in almost every league. As long as Aaron Shea is hurt, Heiden should continue to see more targets than usual. This week should be no different, though the Colts will probably be prepared for him after his big game last week.

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (vs KC)

The Chiefs defensive numbers are skewed by Chris Bakerís performance in week one against them. Then again, even though it was in ďgarbage timeĒ it was against the Chiefs defense. On the flip side, Courtney Anderson didnít catch a ball against the Chiefs in week two. Putzier was targeted 7 times against Miami and just once last week against San Diego. Judging by the targets and the Chiefs defensive matchup, Putzier could be either a home run or a strike out in your lineup this week. In two games against KC a year ago, Putzier caught two for 25 yards and three for 30 yards.


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