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Week 12 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 Trent Green - KC (vs NE)

Green hasn’t been a solid starter this year, but he promises to be useful this week against the Patriots defense. New England has been a regular victim of opposing quarterbacks having allowed 20 TDs and 273 passing yds/gm on the season. Injuries have taken their toll on the Patriots secondary as they’ve allowed 42 receptions of 20+ yards (7 more than the next closest team). Unlike the Texans, the Patriots can score, keep the game close or even win it.

QB Byron Leftwich - JAX (at ARI)

Just in case you haven’t noticed, Leftwich is now ranked around the top 10 or higher in most leagues and there’s no signs that he’ll be letting up this week either. The Cardinals are an easy target for a hot QB like Leftwich, so don’t even think about getting off this train yet. The Cardinals are allowing 234 yds/gm with 14 TDs and a completion rate of 63.8%.

QB Steve McNair - TEN (vs SF)

The 49ers are allowing 290 yds/gm through the air with 18 TDs. Just about every QB that has faced the 49ers has thrown for 250+ yards with at least 1 or 2 TDs. McNair has the added benefit of a healthy Chris Brown and a healthier Drew Bennett and Brandon Jones, too. Unless McNair gets knocked out of this game, he should have no problems putting up good stats against the 49ers.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Drew Bledsoe - DAL (vs DEN)

Bledsoe is well known for his second half swoons and this year doesn’t appear to be any different than in the past. On Thanksgiving Day, Bledsoe has a good chance to reverse that trend against a Broncos defense that is much more forgiving against the pass than against the run. The Broncos are allowing 254 yds/gm with 14 TDs, but they are #2 in the league against the run. At home, Bledsoe won’t have to deal with things like crowd noise and communication problems, so look for him to be quite productive.

QB Mark Brunell - WAS (vs SD)

The Chargers defense is #1 in the league against the run, but 30th against the pass allowing 259 yds/gm. In the last two games, the Chargers held the Jets to 204 passing yards with 2 TDs and J.P. Losman to 168 yards with 1 TD. Now, that’s the Jets and Bills. Brunell may be cooling off in the last month, but he’s clearly more dangerous than those two. Brunell should have a decent day in terms of yardage and he should throw for at least one TD, too.

QB David Carr - HOU (vs STL)

In eight of the last nine games, the opposing QB has thrown for 2 or more TDs against the Rams. Similarly, in eight of those nine games the QB threw for 200+ yards; five of them threw for 250+ yards and seven had 230+ yards. That speaks volumes about the Rams pass defense. Unfortunately, Carr has only thrown for 200 yards in one game this year (at Jax) and he’s yet to throw for more than one TD in a game this year. Obviously, someone’s streak is going to come to an end in this matchup. Andre Johnson and Domanick Davis are back in the lineup, so perhaps this is the week that Carr finally puts together a decent game for us fantasy geeks.

QB Mike McMahon - PHI (vs GB)

The Packers don’t necessarily give up a lot of passing yards, but they’ve been beaten by opposing QBs for 16 TDs in only 10 games. McMahon is a tricky player to evaluate, too. He’s inconsistent as a passer and not exactly the kind of guy you want to rely on heavily down the stretch. That said, he could still be a pleasant surprise given his current opportunity. Just don’t expect another 300 yard game with a rushing TD as a bonus. He’s much more likely to throw for around 200 yards with a TD and maybe even an interception or two.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Ken Dorsey - SF (at TEN)

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. That’s the case we can make for Dorsey. He’s been atrocious in past starts, but last week he played surprisingly well. He’s always been hyped as a good leader and a “winner”, but that doesn’t get you very far in the NFL. If he can put together another solid performance against a soft Titans pass defense this week, then maybe we’ll start to give him a little more credit. First, we need to make sure he’s good to go and healthy to start. He had a lingering injury on Monday and coach Mike Nolan hasn’t committed to him as the start for week 12 yet. So, assuming that’s all fine, Dorsey is still a reach. The Titans defense is allowing a ton of fantasy points to opposing QBs – 230 yds/gm with a league leading 21 TDs. If you’re really in a bind, maybe Dorsey can help you. Probably not, but it might be worth a shot.

QB Jamie Martin - STL (at HOU)

Marc Bulger is down for another stretch of games, possibly even the season, giving Martin another shot at the starting job. Against the Texans, Martin actually might be a worthwhile gamble. The Texans are allowing 225 yds/gm with 17 TDs and an astounding 68.7% completion rate.

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

QB Trent Dilfer - CLE (at MIN)

In the last five weeks, believe it or not, Brett Favre’s 227 yards represents a low mark for opposing QBs that have faced the Vikings. You need to go back to week 6 when Kyle Orton threw for 117 yards and 2 TDs to find someone with worse stats than Favre’s. On the season, Minnesota is the third best matchup for fantasy QBs allowing 256 yds/gm with 20 TDs. They’ve also allowed 9 plays of 40 yards or longer (2nd most in the league). Dilfer’s been hit or miss this year, but mostly miss. However, in recent weeks, he’s thrown for 253 yards and a TD against Pittsburgh (tough matchup) and 272 yards and a TD against Tennessee (easy matchup). If you need to dig deep and start Dilfer, at least you can point towards those two games to keep you optimistic.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Stephen Davis - CAR (at BUF)

Technically, he’s not a sleeper at all, but Davis was a non-factor last week against the stingy Bears defense. This week promises to be a completely different story. The Bills are allowing an average of 4.9 yds/carry. They 31st in rushing yards allowed in the NFL with 160.6 yards per game and an equally bad 15 TDs allowed (worst in the league). As long as Davis gets a healthy workload, he’ll be worth starting. There’s always a chance that DeShaun Foster could get a healthy amount of carries, thus limiting Davis’ fantasy impact.

RB Curtis Martin - NYJ (vs NO)

Martin has a chance to produce his best game of the season this week against the Saints weak run defense. New Orleans is allowing 121 rushing yds/gm with 10 TDs to opposing RBs. Last week, the tandem of Patrick Pass and Heath Evans combined for 127 rushing yards and 57 receiving yards. Don’t be surprised if Martin finishes with 125+ yards and a TD. He could very well be one of this week’s top 5 or top 10 backs.

RB Mewelde Moore - MIN (vs CLE)

Moore ran for 122 yards on MNF against the Packers. This week, he faces a Browns defense that allowed 139 combined rushing yards to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. The week prior they allowed 133 rushing yards to the Steelers trio of Staley, Haynes and Bettis. The Browns are allowing 123 yards/gm on the ground with a total of 8 TDs to opposing RBs. Moore’s value is hurt slightly by Ciatrick Fason getting carries near the goal line, but he’s still one of the more consistent yardage backs in the league.

RB Antowain Smith - NO (at NYJ)

The Jets run defense is the 2nd best fantasy matchup for RBs allowing 134 yds/gm with 13 TDs. Last week, Mike Anderson ran roughshod over them to the tune of 113 yards and 3 TDs. Warrick Dunn ran for 155 yards against them in week 7. Stephen Davis produced 81 yards and a TD while DeShaun Foster combined for 63 yards against them in week 10. Smith is splitting touches with Aaron Stecker, so both backs deserve consideration this week in most leagues. Stecker is a better option in deeper leagues or those with PPR scoring.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Maurice Hicks - SF (at TEN)

If Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore are not healthy enough to play this week, look for Maurice Hicks to get the starting nod against Tennessee. The Titans are not one of the best matchups from a statistical perspective, but Hicks was productive last week when he was thrown into the fire. The Titans are allowing 106.6 rushing yds/gm but have allowed only 5 TDs. For Hicks, it’s all about opportunity. Keep an eye on the status of Barlow and Gore, whoever gets the nod may be worth a look as a RB2 or flex starter.

RB Aaron Stecker - NO (at NYJ)

The Jets run defense is the 2nd best fantasy matchup for RBs allowing 134 yds/gm with 13 TDs. Last week, Mike Anderson ran roughshod over them to the tune of 113 yards and 3 TDs. Warrick Dunn ran for 155 yards against them in week 7. Stephen Davis produced 81 yards and a TD while DeShaun Foster combined for 63 yards against them in week 10. Smith is splitting touches with Aaron Stecker, so both backs deserve consideration this week in most leagues. Stecker is a better option in deeper leagues or those with PPR scoring.

RB Chester Taylor - BAL (at CIN)

Last week, Taylor finally received a larger workload against the Steelers. Jamal Lewis was completely ineffective, as he’s been most of the year. Taylor only gained 59 yards, but he was clearly the more productive of the two. Both backs are set to be free agents at season’s end and with Lewis not performing up to expectations, the team is finally leaning more on Taylor. The Bengals run defense is allowing 105 yds/gm with 8 TDs to opposing backs, so it’s not a good matchup, but it’s not a bad one either.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB T.J. Duckett - ATL (at DET)

Duckett will be playing in front his family and ”home crowd” on Thanksgiving as the Falcons travel to Detroit. He’s finally healthy again and coming off a short week, so there’s a slight chance that he could handle a larger work load. The Lions linebacking corps is injury-riddled and they are allowing 106 rushing yds/gm with 6 TDs. Statistically, the Lions aren’t a great matchup. They’ve been solid for most of the season against the run, but the injuries aren’t helping and they’ve recently allowed 106 yards to Michael Bennett. Duckett could be good for 40 to 60 yards and a TD at the very least.

RB Marshall Faulk - STL (at HOU)

The Texans were steamrolled by the Chiefs on Sunday night. They are dead last in rushing yards allowed at 160.6 yds/gm with 15 TDs. With Marc Bulger out, the Rams should rely more heavily on the running game, which means a ton of Steven Jackson, and quite possibly, a decent amount of Marshall Faulk throughout the game, too.

RB DeShaun Foster - CAR (at BUF)

The Bills are allowing an average of 4.9 yds/carry. They 31st in rushing yards allowed in the NFL with 160.6 yards per game and an equally bad 15 TDs allowed (worst in the league). Foster has been very productive with his touches, so look for him to be potentially very good this week. Don’t be surprised if he breaks out for 100 combined yards and possibly even a TD.

RB Patrick Pass - NE (at KC)

The Chiefs are actually fairly tough against the run, but Pass has been productive nearly every time Bill Belichick has called his name. He was hurt and missed several games, but he returned last week and combined for 89 yards. Dillon doesn’t look like he’s ready to return to action yet, so Pass could be in line for another 10 to 15 touches this week. Just don’t expect as many yards since the Chiefs are much better against the run than the Saints are.

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

RB Ron Dayne - DEN (at DAL)

Tatum Bell has a bruised chest and he is listed as questionable for the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas. That means Dayne will be active if Bell doesn’t dress. Cecil Sapp got some action in the fourth quarter against the Jets, but only because Dayne wasn’t active. Dayne isn’t a very good option against a tough Cowboys run defense, but if you’re reaching deep, then he’s someone to look at.

RB Heath Evans - NE (at KC)

Evans has done a nice job of filling in for the Patriots injury depleted backfield. He combined for 95 yards last week against the Saints. Patrick Pass and Heath Evans are likely to split touches this week, so look for both of them to be reasonably productive.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Andre Johnson - HOU (vs STL)

Johnson is healthy again and this week’s matchup is just what the doctor ordered. The Rams are the #1 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs allowing 189 yards with 16 TDs. Last week, they allowed 100+ yards and a TD to both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. If Johnson can’t get anything going this week, then the Texans coaching staff should be fired on the spot. Seriously.

WR Brandon Lloyd - SF (at TEN)

Lloyd made Sports Center last week with two incredible catches and he finally produced another big game for the first time in almost two months. Don’t blame Lloyd though. The 49ers QB play has been abysmal. Ken Dorsey provided a spark last week. He and Lloyd have a chance to produce two solid weeks in a row against a Titans defense allowing 153 yds/gm with 15 TDs to opposing WRs.

WR Ernest Wilford - JAX (at ARI)

The Cardinals are allowing 171 yards/gm with 13 TDs to opposing WRs. Wilford has been a TD machine in the last month, so look for him to continue making big plays this week. He has a better than average shot of scoring a TD and producing solid yardage against the Cardinals smaller corners.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Braylon Edwards - CLE (at MIN)

Edwards is playing good football now and this is just the kind of matchup that he could exploit. He’s much bigger and faster than either Winfield or Smoot, so look for the Browns to get him even more involved this week. He’s coming off a six catch, 90 yard performance against the Dolphins. The Vikings are allowing 149 yds/gm with nine TDs to opposing WRs.

WR Jabar Gaffney - HOU (vs STL)

The Rams are the #1 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs allowing 189 yards with 16 TDs. Last week, they allowed 100+ yards and a TD to both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Andre Johnson is the obvious play here, but Gaffney could also be worth a look here.

WR Brandon Jones - TEN (vs SF)

The 49ers are allowing an astounding 201 yards/gm to opposing WRs with 11 TDs. Last week, D.J. Hackett produced 67 yards with a TD while Bobby Engram had 93 yards. Jones may not be 100% yet, but he could still be worth a look in deeper leagues as a WR3 or flex starter.

WR Matt Jones - JAX (at ARI)

Jones has scored a TD in four of the last five games. The Cardinals have allowed six TDs in the last two games to opposing WRs. He’s a much better play in TD heavy leagues, but he’s still a nice sleeper in just about any format because of his big play ability.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Taylor Jacobs - WAS (vs SD)

They say timing is everything and that might be true for Jacobs. David Patten is out for the year and Taylor Jacobs finally has a starting job. The Chargers defense is playing well overall, but their weakness is defending the pass. They’re 30th against the pass allowing 259 yds/gm and 16 TDs. Jacobs might be worth a gamble in PPR leagues.

WR Roddy White - ATL (at DET)

White is on the rise. He probably would’ve have won a starting job in training camp if he hasn’t held out. He was then setback by injuries, but now he’s healthy and last week he started in place of Brian Finneran producing 108 yards on four catches. White’s still a gamble given his lack of experience, but he’s a potential star in the making.

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

WR Andre Davis - NE (at KC)

Davis finally broke off one of his vintage long TDs last week as he caught a 60-yarder from Tom Brady against the Saints. This week, there’s a decent chance he could do it again. The Chiefs secondary is giving up their fair share of big plays. They are allowing 159 yards/gm with 11 TDs to opposing WRs. Keep in mind that Davis is still a fringe player, but David Givens, Troy Brown and Tim Dwight have all been banged up recently, so he could get another shot this week.

WR D.J. Hackett - SEA (vs NYG)

The Giants defense has played some great football this year, but they continue to give up big plays. Last week, Reggie Brown produced 88 yards and a TD while Greg Lewis contributed 64 yards. The Giants were beaten repeatedly early in the season, but they seemed to clamp down over the last month holding all WRs under 65 yards up until last week. Hackett has scored in each of the last two weeks, but he’s far from a reliable option, so use him accordingly.

WR Samie Parker - KC (vs NE)

The Patriots are giving up more big plays through the air than any other team in the league. Parker returned to the starting lineup last week and caught a TD amongst two catches. This week, he has a legitimate shot to repeat the feat and maybe produce even better stats.

WR Reggie Williams - JAX (at ARI)

Recently we’ve seen the emergence of Matt Jones into a semi-reliable fantasy threat as he’s scored 4 TDs in 5 games. Likewise, Ernest Wilford has broken into the lineup and produced even better stats. Reggie Williams was the highest drafted of the three, but for whatever reason, he simply hasn’t been as productive. The Cardinals are an outstanding matchup for the Jags WR corps this week, so maybe Williams can put something together this week.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Bubba Franks - GB (at PHI)

Franks only caught one pass for 9 yards against the Vikings last week. A disappointing effort against the best team that’s been abused week in and week out all year long by TEs, but Franks has a chance to redeem himself this week against the Eagles. Franks is no slam-dunk though. Jeremy Shockey was held to just one catch, which was a TD, against them. On the season, the Eagles have allowed 52 yds/gm with 3 TDs making them the 7th best matchup for tight ends.

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (vs ATL)

The Falcons are the 12th best fantasy matchup for TEs. They’ve allowed 30 or more yards to Alex Smith, Donald Lee and Bubba Franks in the last two weeks. The Lions feature Pollard more frequently than any of those tight ends are featured in their offenses, so that bodes well for Pollard. He’s one of Joey’s favorite targets and he’s produced 35 or more yards in three of the last four games. He might be a nice surprise for Turkey Day.

TE Ben Watson - NE (at KC)

Watson is taking advantage of the Patriots injury depleted WR corps. He caught four balls last week for 66 yards becoming a more consistent part of the offense. He’s caught three or more balls in each of the last three games and he’s combined for 139 yards and two TDs in that span. The Chiefs are the second best matchup for opposing TEs allowing 53 yds/gm with seven TDs. The Patriots are tough to predict and Watson has disappointed before, but he’s been rolling lately, so look for more of that continue in this game.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Daniel Graham - NE (at KC)

See Ben Watson. Graham has been questionable in the last few weeks and he was a surprise inactive in week 10. The Chiefs are the second best matchup for opposing TEs allowing 53 yds/gm with seven TDs, so if Graham is able to play then he’s definitely worth a gamble, especially in deeper leagues.

TE Steve Heiden - CLE (at MIN)

The Vikings are the easy target allowing 50 yds/gm with 9 TDs, the most fantasy points allowed to TEs by any team. Steve Heiden is a 50/50 proposition. He’s ranked around 12th in fantasy points scored this season because of one huge week. Otherwise, he’s produced 30 or more yards in four out of nine games. He’s caught a pass in every game, but usually it’s just 2 or 4 balls for Heiden. Against the Vikings, he could be a nice sleeper with one of those going for a TD.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Ben Troupe - TEN (vs SF)

Troupe is probably at least a week or two away from being 100%. High ankle sprains don’t heal overnight, so he’s a gamble for sure. The 49ers are a tempting target. They are allowing 53 yards/gm with four TDs – the fourth best matchup for TEs. If Troupe is not active for some reason, then Bo Scaife becomes a great plug and play.

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

TE Zachary Hilton - NO (at NYJ)

Hilton had his breakout game against the Patriots last week, but he’s been on the watch list for some time. The Jets are allowing 53 yds/gm with one TD to opposing TEs. Jeb Putzier had 26 yds last week. Michael Gaines had 11 yards in week 10. Mark Campbell had 34 yards in week 6. Alex Smith had 46 yards in week 5. The Jets allowed much more to players like Gates, McMichael, Gonzalez and Heap, but Hilton’s closer to the others in terms of fantasy potential and talent.

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