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Week 10 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 Kelly Holcomb - BUF (vs KC)

Holcomb has a great opportunity to produce some solid stats this week. The Chiefs are allowing 273 passing yds/gm (2nd worst in the league) with 16 TDs and 5 INTs through 8 games. On the road, they are even worse. Holcomb and the Bills had an extra week to rest and prepare for this game, too.

QB Brad Johnson - MIN (at NYG)

Johnson didn’t play all that well last week against the Lions, but he wasn’t horrible either. The Giants secondary is allowing 261 yds/gm. They’ve also allowed 26 completions of 20 yards or longer – 5th most. On one hand, Johnson won’t be in the cozy confines of the dome. On the other hand, it’s a nice matchup. He should be able to throw for over 200 yards and with any luck a couple of scores, too. The Giants score a lot of points, especially at home, so Johnson will more than likely need to throw more than he did last week, so look for solid yardage first, and hopefully a couple of TDs will follow.

QB Michael Vick - ATL (vs GB)

Vick is coming off one of his better passing performances in recent memory and this week he faces a Packers defense that has allowed 2 or more TDs to 6 different QBs in 8 games. Included in that mix are Joey Harrington, Trent Dilfer and Brian Griese. The Packers opponents are completing 61.1% of their passes for 201 yds/gm with 14 TDs compared to only six INTs.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Kyle Orton - CHI (vs SF)

We’re nine weeks into the season and every QB to play the 49ers has thrown for at least 250 yards and a TD. Orton’s best was 230 yards two weeks ago against the Lions. Expecting 250 yards and a TD might prove to be too wishful, but the 49ers opponents are completing 67% of their passes with 17 TDs, only 8 INTs and an average of 325 yds. They’ve allowed 35 passing plays of 20+ yards and 9 plays of 40+ yards. If you’re going to take a flyer on Orton, Muhammad or Justin Gage then this is the week to do it.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Gus Frerotte - MIA (vs NE)

The Patriots have allowed 240 yards passing in five straight games including 263 yards and a TD to Kelly Holcomb and 298 yards with 3 TDs to Matt Schaub. Jake Delhomme is the only QB to throw for under 200 yards, and ironically, the only QB not to throw a TD pass against New England. Frerotte’s been spotty lately. He’s ok in some games and has been horrible in others. He’s definitely not the kind of guy you want to plug into the lineup, but if you need to dig deep he might be a semi-productive option. The Patriots are giving up more big plays through the air than any team in the league aside from San Francisco. Chambers and/or Booker could both be nice surprises.

QB Kurt Warner - ARI (at DET)

Assume for this article that Kurt Warner is going to start this week for Arizona. It’s still relatively early in the week, so anything could happen on that front. If Josh McCown gets the nod, then you can safely insert his name in place of Warner’s and (for the most part) everything still applies. The Lions are still without Dre Bly and they allowed 230 yards and a TD to Kyle Orton two weeks ago. Last week, Brad Johnson threw 2 TDs and passed for 136 yards, but he didn’t throw much in the second half either. The Cardinals don’t have a ground game to rely on, so look for either Warner or McCown to have a solid day at Ford Field.

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

QB Brooks Bollinger - NYJ (at CAR)

The Panthers were all over Chris Simms last week. They have a strong pass rush, but they still give up far too many big plays. Simms still threw for 259 yards and threw a 50 yd TD to Joey Galloway. In fact, the Panthers have allowed 8 plays of 40 yards or longer (2nd most) and 28 plays of 20 yards or longer (3rd). Bollinger is more mobile than Vinny Testaverde and he played reasonably well in the second half of last week’s game against San Diego. He’s definitely a guy you’d only turn to as a last resort, but he could produce some big plays in this game.


Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Tatum Bell - DEN (at OAK)

We’ve seen all the statistics about Tatum Bell. Seven yards per rush and he’s scored 5 TDs in his last four games in just 47 carries. He’s rushed for 60 yards in each of the last five games and topped 100 in three of them. Compare that to the Raiders run defense. They are allowing 101 rushing yards, 55 receiving yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing backs. Bell is definitely a swing for the fence kind of player, but when he’s matched up against the Raiders, it’s more like moving the fences in about 50 feet and throwing nothing but fastballs.

RB Michael Bennett - MIN (at NYG)

Michael Bennett could get the start this week if Mewelde Moore’s wrist doesn’t allow him to properly grab and hold onto the football. Bennett ran for 106 yards last week and caught a TD pass, too. The Giants aren’t a great matchup statistically, but Bennett is a decent sleeper simply because of the opportunity. Keep an eye on Moore’s status. If he’s unable to play, look for Bennett to be a decent play in most leagues, but if you’re in a TD-only league then you should be looking at Ciatrick Fason, who scored his first TD in the NFL last week.

RB Duce Staley - PIT (vs CLE)

The Browns are allowing 120 rushing yds/gm to opposing RBs. Only Ahman Green and Kevin Jones failed to rush for 90 or more yards against them. Jerome Bettis was inactive last week and Willie Parker has a sprained ankle. Both could be sidelined again allowing Duce to get loose for the second straight week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Cedric Benson - CHI (vs SF)

The 49ers are only allowing 3.7 yds/carry, but they’re giving up 110 rushing yds/g and they can’t keep teams out of the end zone allowing 12 rushing TDs (2nd most). They’ve allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to RBs this year. Benson stands to get a lot of carries this week if the Bears hold out Thomas Jones and his bruised ribs, but don’t forget about Adrian Peterson, too. Peterson is playing very well and making the most of his opportunities. Both backs will see carries if Jones doesn’t play, so that might limit both players, but at the same time each one might be able to seize the opportunity and be a sneaky play, particularly in deeper leagues.

RB Sam Gado - GB (at ATL)

Gado looks like he’ll be starting for the Packers this week against a Falcons defense allowing 109 rushing yds/gm to opposing RBs with 8 combined TDs. Gado isn’t flashy, but he showed that he’s determined and that he can run with decent power, too. The Falcons are allowing 4.6 yds/carry so maybe Gado could spark a bit of a running game for the Packers (something that’s been missing all year).

RB Adrian Peterson - CHI (vs SF)

The 49ers are only allowing 3.7 yds/carry, but they’re giving up 110 rushing yds/g and they can’t keep teams out of the end zone allowing 12 rushing TDs (2nd most). They’ve allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to RBs this year. Benson stands to get a lot of carries this week if the Bears hold out Thomas Jones and his bruised ribs, but don’t forget about Adrian Peterson, too. Peterson is playing very well and making the most of his opportunities. Both backs will see carries if Jones doesn’t play, so that might limit both players, but at the same time each one might be able to seize the opportunity and be a sneaky play, particularly in deeper leagues.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (at DET)

J.J. Arrington could possibly miss this week’s game leaving Shipp as the primary back. He should see a few more carries than normal against the Lions. Michael Bennett ran for 106 yds against Detroit last week. Two weeks before that Reuben Droughns ran for 100 as well. The Lions have been without their best two defensive players (Shaun Rogers and Dre Bly), too. Shipp is a great sleeper play in PPR leagues, but otherwise he’s still pretty average knowing how badly the Cardinals offensive line has played this year.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Marion Barber III - DAL (at PHI)

It looks like Julius Jones will be back in the lineup this week. Barber should get some carries either way against the Eagles. Clinton Portis ran for just 67 yards and a TD against them and they did put the kibosh on LT in week 7, but in between those games, they also allowed 100+ yards and at least 1 TD to both Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson. The first time these two teams played in week 5, Jones ran for 72 yards and Tyson Thompson broke loose for 75 yards. If Barber starts, he should be a solid play and potentially hang another 100 yards and a TD on the board.

RB Ciatrick Fason - MIN (at NYG)

See Michael Bennett. Fason is serving as the team’s short yardage and goal line back in place of Moe Williams. He scored last week and if Mewelde Moore is unable to play, there’s a distinct chance that Fason could see an even larger role this week. Don’t forget that Bennett was benched once this year for poor performance and not protecting the football. At a minimum, Fason could have a decent chance to score a TD, but he could also end up getting a decent amount of carries and be a nice surprise play.

RB Greg Jones - JAX (vs BAL)

Fred Taylor’s currently in a walking boot after injuring his ankle last week and not finishing the game. The Ravens are without Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, but they remain a solid run defense for the most part. Jones is the best bet to handle the bulk of the rushing load in Taylor’s absence (should he not play), but he’s also the team’s best bet in short yardage situations.

RB Jonathan Wells - HOU (at IND)

The Colts have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this year and the Texans probably won’t be the team to produce one this week either. That said, Domanick Davis sat out last week to rest his knee giving Wells his first start of the season. At this point in the season, if you can grab a player like Wells off the waiver wire knowing that he’s starting for a team, then all the better. Davis almost ran for 100 yds in week 7 against Indy, but came up just shy with 98 yards. Wells is a solid runner, but he definitely lacks Davis’ playmaking ability. He’s not a good start by any means against this defense, but at least he’s starting, so you could do worse if you’re in a bind.

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

RB Shawn Bryson - DET (vs ARI)

Pinner and Bryson both make for decent, if not desperate options this week if Kevin Jones is unable to play. Bryson is the better play in PPR leagues, but in other leagues Pinner is probably the back you want to play. The Cardinals are one of the best fantasy matchup for RBs, too. They’re allowing 119 rushing yds/gm with 12 TDs to RBs in 8 games.

RB Brandon Jacobs - NYG (vs MIN)

This game has the potential to get ugly fast. If the Giants put up a bunch of points early in this game like they’ve done in other home games this year, then we could see a lot of Ward and Jacobs in the second half. Jacobs is a decent bet to score a TD regardless, but Ward benefits more when the Giants are able to coast in the second half with a comfortable lead.

RB Artose Pinner - DET (vs ARI)

Pinner and Bryson both make for decent, if not desperate options this week if Kevin Jones is unable to play. Bryson is the better play in PPR leagues, but in other leagues Pinner is probably the back you want to play. The Cardinals are one of the best fantasy matchup for RBs, too. They’re allowing 119 rushing yds/gm with 12 TDs to RBs in 8 games.

RB Derrick Ward - NYG (vs MIN)

This game has the potential to get ugly fast. If the Giants put up a bunch of points early in this game like they’ve done in other home games this year, then we could see a lot of Ward and Jacobs in the second half. Jacobs is a decent bet to score a TD regardless, but Ward benefits more when the Giants are able to coast in the second half with a comfortable lead.


Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Reggie Brown - PHI (vs DAL)

What’s not to like here? Reggie Brown is playing in T.O.’s role in the Eagles offense and he produced a nice day last week including a long TD. The Cowboys secondary has improved since the beginning of the season, but they remain vulnerable to big plays. This is one part “great opportunity” and one part “good matchup”.

WR Nate Burleson - MIN (at NYG)

The Giants rank 7th in (most) fantasy points allowed to opposing WRs even after shutting down the 49ers, Redskins and Broncos receivers the last three weeks. Over the first six weeks of the season, they allowed 5 100-yard WRs. In five of their first six games, both opposing WRs topped 60 yards. That was then and this is now, so it’s hard to say what Burleson and the Vikings might produce, but Burleson made some plays last week and the Vikings will probably need to throw a whole lot to keep pace with the Giants in this game making Burleson and Marcus Robinson decent sleepers and Troy Williamson a nice deep sleeper given his ability to break off a long TD.

WR Joe Jurevicius - SEA (vs STL)

The Rams have allowed 13 TDs to opposing WRs – most in the league. Jurevicius has 5 TDs so far this year. The last time they played in week 5, Jurevicius produced 137 yards and a TD. What else needs to be said?

WR Muhsin Muhammad - CHI (vs SF)

It’s almost a miracle that Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer didn’t score a TD last week. The 49ers are allowing over 200 yards/gm to opposing WRs and 10 TDs in 8 games. Muhammad is the Bears’ playmaker in the passing game so look for him to be productive this week – possibly in a big way.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Bobby Engram - SEA (vs STL)

Engram was back in the lineup last week, but didn’t produce much as far as stats. That could change this week as the Seahawks face their budding rivals. The Rams might be overly focused on stopping Shaun Alexander and Joe Jurevicius leaving Engram open for a nice game.

WR Lee Evans - BUF (vs KC)

Evans has been a non-factor this year, so it would take a lot of faith to insert him into the lineup at this point, but don’t count him out completely. The Bills may not be winning under Kelly Holcomb, but at least they are producing better numbers in the passing game. Eric Moulds has been the primary benefactor, but Evans is not a guy the Chiefs can overlook. He’s still the same dangerous WR we saw last year, but he just hasn’t been getting the rock. That could change this week.

WR Bryant Johnson - ARI (at DET)

Johnson is set to make his 2nd straight start filling in for the injured Anquan Boldin. Johnson produced 66 yards on 6 catches last week with a TD, but he could’ve done even better. The Lions have given up some big plays in the last 4 or 5 games. The Cardinals will undoubtedly be throwing a lot, too. If you own Johnson, you might as well take advantage of him while you can. Once Boldin is back, it will be back to the bench for Johnson, too.

WR Greg Lewis - PHI (vs DAL)

Lewis caught 3 balls for 36 yards the last time the Eagles faced Dallas. That was when T.O. was on the field. Now Lewis could stand to catch a few more balls and be a decent play in PPR leagues. He caught 5 balls for 57 yards last week without Owens in the lineup.

WR Amani Toomer - NYG (vs MIN)

Toomer is a one of the best sleepers almost every week, but especially when the Giants are at home against a soft pass defense like this week (vs Minnesota). He came within a foot or so of scoring a TD last week and he’s been playing well over the last month producing 143 yards on 13 catches with 1 TD in the last three games. Plaxico will probably explode this week (and especially Shockey – TEs against Minnesota are like golden tickets for Willie Wonka), but Toomer may very well get into the act, too. The Vikings have allowed 100 yds or more to an opposing WR in three straight games – including Scottie Vines of the Lions last week.

WR Ernest Wilford - JAX (vs BAL)

Wilford has played so well over the last two games that Jack Del Rio named him the starter this week regardless of Reggie Williams’ availability. This isn’t a great matchup by any means, but if Chris McAllister covers Jimmy Smith then Wilford could be quite productive working against Samari Rolle. The Ravens allowed just 1 TD reception to an opposing WR through 7 games, but they allowed two last week to the Bengals. Ironically, neither one went to Chad Johnson.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Marty Booker - MIA (vs NE)

The Patriots have allowed a ton of big play this year in the passing game. They’ve allowed five 100-yard WRs in the last four games. They’ve allowed 11 TDs in 8 games to opposing WRs. Booker isn’t nearly consistent enough to start and he’s probably not even rostered in many leagues, but this week he could be a nice player to pick up off waivers and gamble on in your lineup.

WR Doug Gabriel - OAK (vs DEN)

Randy Moss is far from 100% and Gabriel is getting a lot of playing time in place of Moss in the past few games. The Broncos have allowed 5 100-yard WRs in 8 games. Jerry Porter is the best bet here, of course, but Gabriel and Kerry Collins also have a good amount of chemistry so Gabriel might be worth a look in deeper leagues this week.

WR Scott Vines - DET (vs ARI)

Who is kidding who? Scottie Vines is the best WR on the Lions right now. That’s pretty sad considering all the first round picks burned in the last three years on WRs who aren’t producing anything at the moment for the Lions. Vines produced a nice game last week going for 109 yards on 9 catches and nearly scoring a TD, too. Mike Williams ankle could sideline him this week and we’re just not sure when Roy will pony up and get back on the horse. The Lions could be starting Charles Rogers and Scottie Vines this week – and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see either one or both put up decent (but not great) stats.

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

WR Roscoe Parrish - BUF (vs KC)

Parrish is healthy again after breaking his wrist in the preseason. He hasn’t really made an impact yet as he’s only played in one game. Now that he’s healthier and had two full weeks of practice with the bye, Parrish could be the Bills secret weapon this week against the Chiefs terrible secondary. Don’t be surprised if Parrish breaks out to some degree this week.

WR Charles Rogers - DET (vs ARI)

Rogers was activated on Monday and the Lions probably need him to be in the lineup this week whether he has a good week of practice, or not. He’s definitely a long shot to put up any sort of numbers, but the matchup is solid and let’s remember that Rogers caught 2 TDs in his first NFL start against Arizona in 2003 to open the season. Of course, that game was more memorable for the freakshow Anquan Boldin put on, but Rogers had a big game, too.


Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Dallas Clark - IND (vs HOU)

Clark has been very much hit and miss this year, but he could be a sneaky play this week. He produced 51 yards and a TD in week 7 against Houston. He also had a breakout game against them last year going for 102 yards with 2 TDs. He’s still hit or miss this week, but when he does hit it’s usually a dandy.

TE Doug Jolley - NYJ (at CAR)

The Panthers have struggled at times this year covering the tight end. They’ve allowed at least 30 yards or a TD in every game this year to an opposing TE. Ernie Conwell, David Martin and Marcus Pollard all had big weeks against them. Jolley is now starting for the Jets since Chris Baker broke his ankle, so he’s a great player to reach for this week considering you could probably grab him off waivers and put him right into the lineup.

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (vs ARI)

With the Lions WR corps seriously banged up, Pollard is being counted on to pick up the slack as a receiver. Last week he produced 42 yards and a TD against Minnesota (not surprisingly) and he should be productive again this week. The Cardinals allow 41 yds/gm to opposing TEs.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Desmond Clark - CHI (vs SF)

Opposing tight ends have either produced 30+ yards or scored a TD in every game against the 49ers this year except the Cardinals. In the last four weeks, Shockey (77 yds, 1 TD), Alex Smith (43 yds), Chris Cooley (48 yds) and Dallas Clark (36 yds) were all productive against the 49ers. Even Brandon Manumaleuna caught a TD against them in the season opener.

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (at OAK)

Five different TEs have produced 40 yards or more against the Raiders – Ben Watson (55), Tony Gonzalez (44 and 70), L.J. Smith (50), Jason Witten (49) and Erron Kinney (69). Putzier isn’t in the same class as those five, but he has produced 30+ yards in three of the last four games. He also had a nice game last year against Oakland catching 3 balls for 52 yards with a TD.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Mark Campbell - BUF (vs KC)

The Chiefs are allowing 60 yds/gm to opposing TEs with 7 TDs. We’ve highlighted several Bills in this week’s column, but realistically not all of them will be worthwhile, but a couple of them are likely to breakout of their season long slumps. Campbell has never been much of a fantasy factor, but there’s a chance this week he could be a one-week wonder.

TE Michael Gaines - CAR (vs NYJ)

Kris Mangum sprained his knee in last week’s game giving Gaines a prime opportunity this week if Mangum isn’t able to play. The Jets are allowing 60 yds/gm to opposing TEs with 1 TD on the season. Only Mark Campbell (34 yds) and Brian Jones (8 yds) didn’t have productive games against the Jets – and the Bills and Jags don’t even utilize their TEs much. All of the other TEs have produced at least 39 yards (Heap) so if Gaines starts for the Panthers this week, he might be worth a gamble.

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

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - NYG (vs MIN)

I’d like to say I’m completely joking when I right this, but honestly, I’m only halfway joking. The reality is that the Vikings are so darn bad at covering tight ends and keeping them out of the end zone that it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Giants (like every other team in front of them this year) run some sort of waggle near the goal line and toss a cheap TD to either Shiancoe or Berton. Seriously. The Vikings have allowed a TE to score a TD in every game but one this year.




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