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Week 11 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.


Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

QB Aaron Brooks - NO (at NE)

How far the champions have fallen. The Patriots defense is allowing 265 passing yds/gm. They’ve allowed 18 passing TDs and have only intercepted 4 passes. They’re getting beat deep consistently. Only San Francisco has allowed more big plays (20 yds or longer), while New England has allowed 34 completions of 20+ yards and a league high 10 completions of 40 yards or longer. Brooks hasn’t been very good this year either, but Joe Horn is healthy again and the Saints are coming off their bye week. In the last few weeks, Gus Frerotte threw for 360 yards and 2 TDs against them and Kelly Holcomb produced 263 yards and a TD.

QB Byron Leftwich - JAX (at TEN)

The Titans are allowing their opponents to complete 64.7% of their passes for 227 yds/gm with 18 TDs and just 6 interceptions. Trent Dilfer threw for 272 yards and a TD against them in week 9. Not only does Leftwich look good this week, but he could be one of the top QBs to outperform expectations down the stretch, too. Leftwich is also helped by the emergence of Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones as viable playmakers in the last few games.

QB Chris Simms - TB (at ATL)

Just when the Bucs season appeared to be taking a turn for the worse, they turned it all around by coming from behind to beat the Redskins last week. Chris Simms has thrown for 250+ yards in three straight games. Meanwhile, the Falcons have allowed 250+ passing yards in six of their nine games this year. The three who didn’t do well were J.P. Losman, Vinny Testaverde and Gus Frerotte. If Simms could get it done against the Redskins, we have to think he’ll be reasonably productive against the Falcons. It’s on the road, though, so noise could be a factor.

QB Kurt Warner - ARI (at STL)

These two teams squared off week 2 in the desert and Kurt Warner threw for 327 yards, but didn’t throw a TD. The Cardinals hope to get Anquan Boldin back into the lineup this week, which would obviously be a boost for Warner as well. The Rams are allowing 252 yds/gm through the air with 17 TDs and only 7 INTs. They’ve allowed 31 completions of 20+ yards in nine games and a 61.7% completion rate. Warner may not be as great in TD-heavy leagues, but he should be able to throw for a ton of yards and making himself useful in most leagues.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB David Carr - HOU (vs KC)

If J.P. Losman can spark the Bills offense and throw a couple of TDs against the Chiefs, then David Carr has to be looking better this week. The Chiefs are allowing 261 passing yds/gm with 18 TDs and only 5 INTs. Carr probably won’t throw for that many yards, but he promises to be more productive than usual. Whether that amounts to top 15 numbers or not this week is anyone’s guess, but he could be a worthwhile gamble if your other options are thin.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Trent Dilfer - CLE (vs MIA)

The Dolphins are allowing 229 passing yds/gm with 11 TDs and 6 INTs. Mike Vick threw for 228 yards and a TD against them two weeks ago and Tom Brady had 275 yards with 2 TDs last week. Dilfer isn’t as talented as those two, but he might be able to produce 200+ yards and a TD. That isn’t great production by any stretch, but that’s why he’s a reach. At this point, you’re simply trying to mitigate risks.

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

QB Brooks Bollinger - NYJ (at DEN)

Bollinger was awful last week. The Panthers intercepted him four times and it got so bad that Herm Edwards simply called nine running plays in a row to end the game instead of continuing to air it out. The Broncos have allowed 200+ yards and at least 1 TD in every game but one this year. Bollinger might be able to bounce back a little in this game, but obviously, if you’re reaching this deep into the well, you just might fall in. Tread lightly.

QB J.P. Losman - BUF (at SD)

Losman threw two TDs last week and if Kelly Holcomb isn’t able to go, he’ll start for the Bills against the Chargers. The Chargers are #1 against the run and #31 against the pass. On the flip side, the Bills can’t stop anybody from running the ball. In San Diego, this game should be lopsided and the Bills will almost certainly be on the wrong end. Losman could be throwing often against a soft pass defense allowing 269 yds/gm, a 62% completion rate and 12 TDs to just six interceptions. The question is… can Losman do something with it.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Tatum Bell - DEN (vs NYJ)

The Jets are allowing 135 rushing yds/gm with 12 TDs (2nd most). Three of the last four opposing RBs have rushed for 100+ yards against them. Six of the nine RBs to face them have scored TDs against them. Bell is obviously a gamble each week given that his touches are limited, but with his speed and big play ability, he could be a nice play this week.

RB Ronnie Brown - MIA (at CLE)

The Browns are allowing 133 rushing yards/gm on the season. Brown splits carries with Ricky Williams, but he’s the more explosive option who seems like he’s on the verge of breaking a few long runs at any time. Williams is also worth a gamble this week given that the Browns run defense can be exploited, but Brown remains the better option of the two.

RB Heath Evans - NE (vs NO)

The Saints are alllowing 139 rushing yds/gm with 11 TDs this season. Heath Evans surprised everyone last week rushing 17 times for 84 yards and catching 3 passes for 18 yards against the Dolphins. Corey Dillon started last week, but lasted just one play. Evans looks like he could get the start this week, but be careful. The Patriots are not forthcoming when it comes to injuries until the last possible second, so be as sure as possible before starting Evans. He’s a fullback by trade and even though this is an outstanding matchup, he’s still a gamble on many levels.

RB Samkon Gado - GB (vs MIN)

Gado celebrated his birthday last week by rushing for 103 yards and scoring 3 TDs against the Falcons in his first NFL start. This week, Gado faces a Vikings run defense allowing 127 yds/gm and 11 TDs. Tiki Barber combined for 206 yards and a TD against them last week. The Vikings are one of the worst road teams in the NFL this year, so look for Gado and the Packers to have another solid outing.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Greg Jones - JAX (at TEN)

Depending on Fred Taylor’s status, Greg Jones might be a lot better than a gamble this week against the Titans. It’s hard not to like what Greg Jones has done when he’s been called upon to start for the Jags. The Titans aren’t a great matchup necessarily, but if Taylor is inactive come Sunday, then Jones is worth a look simply because he’ll be given an opportunity to run 20+ times and he gets all the goal line carries, too.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (at STL)

Shipp has not scored a TD in almost two years. If he’s going to cross the goal line this would be the week to pin the tail on the donkey. The Rams have allowed 11 rushing TDs in their last six games with all but one starting RB rushing for 119+ yards against them. The Rams are allowing 4.7 yards per carry, too. Shipp produced 93 total yards against them in week 2, so he’s worth a gamble at the very least. The downside is that J.J. Arrington is getting more touches now, so it’s hard to expect Shipp to be productive when the Cardinals haven’t been able to run the ball well all season long.

RB Antowain Smith - NO (at NE)

In the last four games, three of the Patriots opposing RBs have rushed for 100 yards. In two of those games, the opposing team had two different RBs score a TD. Smith is performing about as well as one might expect given the circumstances, but in this game, he should be able to produce 70+ yards rushing with a decent shot of scoring a TD. Of course, Aaron Stecker could also be worthwhile, but Smith seems to be the favored back near the goal line.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB J.J. Arrington - ARI (at STL)

The Rams have been giving up HUGE yardage on the ground in the last six games. The only starting RB not to rush for 119 yards or more was Antowain Smith in week 7. They’ve allowed 11 TDs in those six games (5 to Shaun Alexander). Arrington has been a big disappointment as a rookie, but he’s been getting more touches lately. With any luck, he just might be able to produce 50 to 70 yards this week with a better than usual shot of finding the end zone.

RB Maurice Morris - SEA (at SF)

This game could out of hand quickly. The 49ers can’t seem to score and the Seahawks have no problem getting into the end zone. Shaun Alexander might get a full day’s work in the first half alone leaving Morris to clean up on the 49ers in the second half. Morris could wind up with 10+ carries this week and there’s a decent chance he could find the end zone.

RB Adrian Peterson - CHI (vs CAR)

Thomas Jones is expected to return to the lineup this week, but Cedric Benson is sidelined for 3 to 6 weeks with a sprained MCL. Peterson is an excellent change of pace option for the Bears and he promises to get plenty of work again this week. The Panthers have an outstanding pass rush and the Bears will do everything they can to limit how many times Orton drops back to throw. Look for Jones give way to Peterson semi-frequently with Peterson potentially getting around 10 (possibly more) carries with 40 or 50 yards. Of course, if Jones doesn’t finish the game again, then there’s a chance Peterson could see a lot more carries and produce much better numbers.

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

RB Ciatrick Fason - MIN (at GB)

Michael Bennett was horrible last week and Mewelde Moore will be playing with a sprained wrist that’s not yet 100% healed. Fason might end up with just a couple of touches this week simply because of the Mike Tice factor. His man love for Bennett is difficult to understand. That said, Fason could see goal line carries, and with any luck, he could get a handful of touches and be a decent option if you’re truly desperate.

RB Michael Turner - SD (vs BUF)

Turner is another potential play based on the high likelihood that the Chargers could blow out the Bills and have a significant lead in the second half of this game. Turner has proven to be a capable runner when giving LT a rest. The Bills can’t stop anyone either. Opponents are averaging 5 yds/carry against them. If Turner is able to get 8 or 10 carries in the second half, he just might break a long run and be a solid gamble.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Andre Johnson - HOU (vs KC)

Johnson is back and this is a prime matchup for him to exploit. The Chiefs have allowed 29 receptions of 20+ yards this year and 4 TDs to opposing WRs in the last two games. In six out of nine games, the Chiefs opponent has scored a TD with their No. 1 receiver. In the three games where the No. 1 WR did not score, they produced 66, 73 and 26 yards. Johnson is very overdue and this matchup is too good to ignore if you’ve been sitting on him this long.

WR Joe Jurevicius - SEA (at SF)

The 49ers are the #3 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs. They’re allowing 201 yards per game with 10 TDs. We’ll discount last week’s numbers because of the 50 MPH winds that severely limited both teams. Seven different WRs have topped 100 yards against San Francisco and they’ve allowed 17 TD receptions (2nd most in the league). Jurevicius has a good shot of making it eight. The gamble here is that Shaun Alexander could go wild in the first half and the Seahawks may only need to throw the ball 15 or 20 times.

WR Donte Stallworth - NO (at NE)

The Patriots defense has been torched repeatedly for long pass plays this year. They’ve allowed eight 100-yard games to opposing WRs. In the last four games, Lee Evans is the only starting receiver not to score a TD or produce at least 81 yards. Stallworth has been decent this year, but both he and Joe Horn could be super plays this week.

WR Ernest Wilford - JAX (at TEN)

If Wilford’s shoulder doesn’t limit him this week, then he could be an excellent play against the Titans. Tennessee has allowed 18 TD catches this year, which is tied for the most in the league. Wilford’s size and hands make him a great target for Leftwich. It’s too early to tell if his shoulder will be an issue this week. He left last week’s game in the 4th quarter, so check his status and if he’s active and good to go, then you’ll want to take a chance with him. If he’s limited or inactive, then Matt Jones and Reggie Williams both become excellent sleepers.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Bobby Engram - SEA (at SF)

See Jurevicius. Engram is a much better possession receiver and he’s not caught a TD yet this year, but this could be the week where he gets into the end zone. Engram isn’t as much of a big play receiver as Jurevicius is, but he might be more consistent in PPR leagues. The 49ers are the #3 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs. They’re allowing 201 yards per game with 10 TDs. Seven different WRs have topped 100 yards against San Francisco and they’ve allowed 17 TD receptions (2nd most in the league).

WR Lee Evans - BUF (at SD)

Evans finally broke out a little last week catching two TDs from J.P. Losman, so there’s definitely the “strike while he’s hot” mentality to consider here. The real reason he remains a nice option this week is that he faces a Chargers secondary that has allowed the 2nd most passing yards in the league and 29 completions of 20 yards or longer (4th most in the league). Ironically, the Chargers have allowed only one 100 yard receiver in 9 games. Evans is still a bit of a gamble knowing that J.P. Losman will likely start for the Bills. That said, the Bills should fall behind quickly in this game making Eric Moulds and Lee Evans both nice plays despite Losman being the QB.

WR Robert Ferguson - GB (vs MIN)

Let’s see if Ferguson is able to play first. Assuming he does return this week, this is a great matchup for him to succeed. He caught two balls for 52 yards in week 7 against Minnesota before leaving with a knee injury. This would be his first time back on the field since that injury. The Vikings are certainly an inviting target having allowed three 100-yard receivers in the last four games and five TDs in that span. In their last meeting, Antonio Chatman had 31 yards and a score while Donald Driver produced 114 yards and a TD.

WR Bethel Johnson - NE (vs NO)

Starting Johnson would be a complete gamble this week, but not without some merits. The downside is obvious for anyone that watched the Vikings last week. It was a valiant effort for the Vikings just to get a first down against the Giants. The Packers defense play aggressively under coordinator Jim Bates, so Johnson’s lack of mobility could be a problem. On the flip side, the Packers are allowing their opponents to complete almost 62% of their passes with 16 TDs and only 6 INTs.

WR Bryant Johnson - ARI (at STL)

Let’s play a game of “ifs”. If Anquan Boldin doesn’t play this week and if Bryant Johnson has recovered enough to play himself, then he will definitely be worth a gamble. The Rams are allowing more fantasy points to opposing WRs than any other defense in the league. In week two, Bryant Johnson only had 15 yards against them, but Boldin had 119 and Fitzgerald had 70 (even the infamous Charles Lee had 40 yards). This time around, if Johnson is healthy enough to play, he could be more productive. Let’s see how those “ifs” pan out before making any decisions though.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Braylon Edwards - CLE (vs MIA)

In ten games, only six WRs out of 20 opposing WRs did not produce at least 50 yards against the Dolphins. On the flipside, only one of them produced 100+ yards (Steve Smith) and only five have TDs. Edwards is a work in progress, but if you’re going to reach for a starter, then try to grab someone like Edwards that has big play potential. He could breakout for a big game at any time whether he’s starting or not.

WR Az-zahir Hakim - NO (at NE)

See Donte Stallworth above. Joe Horn is finally healthy enough to play now, so Hakim is no longer the super spot starter he was a month ago. Still, this matchup is just begging for an Aaron Brooks breakout with potentially several big plays. Hakim is definitely capable of hitting a home run from the slot, so if you’re in a deeper league he might be a solid reach.

WR Chris Henry - CIN (vs IND)

Henry is a TD machine. It’s just too bad most of them seem to get called back on a penalty or reversed by instant replay. The Colts will put a lot of pressure on the Bengals to match big plays and put points on the board. Henry is an intriguing option in the slot and he could be paired up with the Colts talented rookie corner Marlin Jackson. Henry’s upside is a big reason why he’s a favorite in this column. Whenever the matchup is favorable, he’s worth a reach. You’re better of reaching for a guy who scores TDs than a guy who catches 5 balls for 50 yards but never scores.

WR Matt Jones - JAX (at TEN)

Jones had his first 100 yard game last week and he was already a hot commodity given all the draft hype and eye popping measurables. Yet the simple fact is that Tennessee has allowed 18 TD catches this year, (tied for) most in the league. Wilford might not be 100% this week and Reggie Williams, despite looking good on some plays, just hasn’t become a consistent or productive player yet. For that matter, hasn’t Jones done that either, but he’s a TD waiting to happen in a matchup like this.

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

WR Isaac Bruce - STL (vs ARI)

There’s nothing better to cure your aches and pains than playing the Cardinals. Ask Joey Harrington and Roy Williams! Bruce isn’t 100% and probably won’t be this year, but he doesn’t have to be to do something against Arizona. Torry Holt and Kevin Curtis are much better options obviously, but don’t completely discount Bruce against this soft secondary.

WR Brandon Lloyd - SF (vs SEA)

Jabar Gaffney had 87 yards in week 6 against Seattle. Brian Finneran had 35 yards and a TD in week 2. Neither the Texans nor the Falcons can be considered a good offensive team if we’re talking about throwing the football. The 49ers are the worst in the league since they benched Tim Rattay. As such, Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle are both good long shots. Depending on who starts at QB, one of these guys could be a nice gamble. Lloyd seems to be healthier and he caught the 49ers only completion last week for 28 yards.

WR Justin McCareins - NYJ (at DEN)

The Broncos have allowed 6 TDs to opposing receivers in the last 4 games. That’s a stark contrast to the Jets 5 TD passes for the entire season. McCareins has yet to score a TD this year, but there’s no better time than this week. The Broncos are one of the best fantasy matchups for opposing WRs, but the way the Jets offense has been playing, it’s hard to count on anyone for anything.

WR Josh Reed - BUF (at SD)

The Chargers allow more passing yards than any team in the league except for the 49ers. Reed scored last week and he continues to hold off Roscoe Parrish as the team’s No. 3 WR. San Diego has allowed 29 completions of 20 yards or longer (4th most in the league) and there’s a high likelihood that the Bills will be spreading the field and playing catch-up for much of this game. Reed could be a prime candidate for garbage time stats.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Dallas Clark - IND (at CIN)

Clark’s on a bit of a roll lately, but he’s still very much a boom/bust type of starter. The Bengals are allowing 42 yds/gm with 3 TDs to tight ends. In four of the last five games, a tight end has produced 50+ yards, or 40 yards with a TD against them. Those players include Bubba Franks, Heath Miller, Erron Kinney and George Wrighster. Clark has scored in two of the last three games while producing 30+ yards in four of the last six games.

TE Bubba Franks - GB (vs MIN)

Bubba Franks against the Vikings D. What’s not to like here? The Vikings have been abused by tight ends all year. Franks produced 38 yards against them in week 7. David Martin had 30 yards and Donald Lee had 21 yards. Franks should score this time around. If stats mean anything, then Franks should be like clockwork this week.

TE Jerramy Stevens - SEA (at SF)

The 49ers have allowed the third most fantasy points to TEs – 55 yds/gm and 4 TDs. In the last few weeks, Desmond Clark produced 43 yards against them, Jeremy Shockey had 77 yards and a TD, Alex Smith had 43 yards and Chris Cooley had 48 yards. Stevens is probably a better play at tight end than Bobby Engram is at receiver, because he’s more likely to catch a TD.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (vs NYJ)

The Jets are allowing 55 yards per game to opposing TEs, but with just 1 TD. Of course, Putzier almost left the Broncos after signing a contract offer from the Jets only to have the Broncos surprisingly match it.

TE Bo Scaife - TEN (vs JAX)

This isn’t much of a statistical play as far as matchups go or the Jaguars defense. It’s all about Scaife’s opportunity with Ben Troupe recovering from a high ankle sprain. The Titans and Steve McNair throw to the tight end more frequently than any team in the league. Scaife is a good bet regardless of the opponent.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Desmond Clark - CHI (vs CAR)

The Panthers have struggled covering tight ends this year and Desmond Clark seems to be a decent surprise more often than not lately. He’s far from consistent or even considering as a regular starter, but if the matchup is right, you could do worse than reaching for Clark.

TE Alex Smith - TB (at ATL)

Smith was shut out last week, so obviously he’s not consistent enough to be a reliable source for points yet. That said, he’s still producing some nice games. More often than not, he’s good for 30 or 40 yards. The Falcons have allowed a few big games to TEs this year, but they’ve also done a solid job against players like Randy McMichael, Jermaine Wiggins and L.J. Smith.

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

TE Donald Lee - GB (vs MIN)

If David Martin is able to play this week, then he automatically jumps out as a nice sleeper against the Vikings. Otherwise, if Martin does not play, then keep Donald Lee on your short list of guys to pluck off the waiver wire and put into the lineup.

TE David Martin - GB (vs MIN)

If David Martin is able to play this week, then he automatically jumps out as a nice sleeper against the Vikings. Otherwise, if Martin does not play, then keep Donald Lee on your short list of guys to pluck off the waiver wire and put into the lineup.

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