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Week 13 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 Mark Brunell - WAS (at STL)

Brunell seems to be getting his second wind now (or maybe itís simply because heís facing defenses that are easier to throw against). Whatever the reason, the Rams are definitely a team thatís easy to throw against. They are allowing 241 yds/gm with 21 TDs on the season. If thereís any question about how soft the Rams pass defense is just look at David Carrís box score from last week. Brunell to Moss should be clicking just fine this week.

QB Kurt Warner - ARI (at SF)

If youíre sitting on Warner, then you might want to put him into the lineup this week knowing that the Cardinals are facing the leagueís 32nd ranked pass defense allowing 295 yds/gm with 21 TDs. McNair picked them apart last week for 343 yards and 3 TDs. Warner is already averaging about 300 yds/gm over the last few games and Josh McCown erupted for 385 yds and 2 TDs when these two teams met in week 4.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - STL (vs WAS)

Fitzgerald isnít a sleeper so much because of the matchup, rather the opportunity he has to possibly start for the Rams this week. If he does start, then heís worth consideration as a starter if youíre one of many to lose QBs due to injury in recent weeks. Of course, the Rams are the top passing offense in the league and Fitzpatrick threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs last week. Fitzpatrick wonít do THAT again, but he should prove to be useful against the Redskins and ultimately he could be a solid starter if Jamie Martin isnít able to play.

QB Chris Simms - TB (at NO)

Ok, if Brooks Bollinger can throw for 249 yards and a TD against the Saints, Chris Simms should be able to produce at least similar numbers, right? Right? Seriously, Simms hasnít been the most consistent of QBs, but he does have enough talent around him to produce solid numbers in this matchup. The Saints are allowing only 189 yds/gm with 15 TDs via the air, but some of that can be chalked up to their poor run defense. Gruden canít help himself from throwing the football, so unless Cadillac goes totally crazy, Simms should throw enough to be useful in deeper leagues.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Brooks Bollinger - NYJ (at NE)

Bollinger was surprisingly productive last week throwing for 251 yards and a TD against the Saints. This week, he faces an injury-riddled Patriots defense that has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs this year. They are allowing 278 yds/gm (31st) with 21 TDs and only 5 interceptions and 16 sacks. Bollinger, typically an afterthought as a fantasy QB, could be worth a look in this matchup.

QB David Garrard - JAX (at CLE)

Brad Johnson touched up the Browns for 3 TDs and 207 yards on Sunday, but donít get too excited. The Browns stymied the Dolphins and Steelers (Ok, Batch and Maddox to be perfectly clear) in the previous two weeks. The game is in Cleveland, so that makes it a bit tougher for Garrard, who is no Byron Leftwich (even if his college coach tries to tell you so). Garrard is a productive runner though and he could easily make up for his lower passing stats with some bonus rushing stats. Heís a reach this week and the Browns defense has played pretty well of late, especially at home, so tread lightly, but if your other options are slim and none, then run with Garrard.

QB Mike McMahon - PHI (vs SEA)

McMahon has only started two games for the Eagles and weíve already seen how wildly his performance can fluctuate from play to play, or even game to game. The Seahawks are a solid defense, but they can be very forgiving against the pass allowing 244 passing yds/gm with 14 TDs. In the last two games, Eli Manning torched them for 344 yards with 2 TDs and Ken Dorsey threw for 249 yards with a TD. Starting McMahon is like playing darts blindfolded after youíve been spun around a few times. He might completely miss the board, or he could serve you up a bullís eye.

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

QB Kyle Boller - BAL (vs HOU)

Even blind squirrels find some nuts once in a while. That might be the case with Boller. Last week, Boller ďexplodedĒ for 211 yards and 3 TDs against the Bengals (weíll overlook his three turnovers for now). This week, Boller has an even softer matchup against the Texans, who were promptly beaten by the Rams and rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 310 yards and 3 TDs while not even starting the game. Take it in stride, the Texans are bad defensively, but Boller is perhaps almost as bad. He should be able to produce decent stats this week, but given his track record heís clearly a gamble.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

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

If J.J. Arrington is going to make himself useful, then this would be the week to do it against the 49ers. San Francisco enters this game having allowed more fantasy points to opposing RBs than any other team: 157 combined yards per game and 18 total TDs. Arrington has scored a TD in two of his last three games and heís been getting more work lately, so look for him to get enough touches this week to almost make himself a legitimate starting fantasy RB in most leagues.

RB DeShaun Foster - CAR (vs ATL)

Foster has an excellent opportunity over the next four games to earn himself a nice payday and become a featured back for the Panthers, or perhaps another team. This week, he faces a Falcons run defense that is allowing 134 total yards/gm to opposing RBs and a total of 10 TDs. Foster figures to get the majority of the carries this week and the Panthers like to line him up outside and throw him the ball, too. If youíve been holding onto Foster this long, and your other starters have tough matchups, donít be shy and pull the trigger. Foster should have a solid week.

RB Jamal Lewis - BAL (vs HOU)

With Chester Taylor slowed by an ankle injury, Jamal Lewis has an excellent chance to produce another big game this week against the Houston Texansí 32nd ranked run defense allowing 159 yds/gm with 16 TDs and an average of 4.8 yds/carry. They are the 2nd best fantasy matchup for RBs. Even if Chester is able to play, Lewis should be a solid reach. If Chester is limited or doesnít play, then Lewis could be huge. Monitor Taylorís status accordingly.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Kevan Barlow - SF (vs ARI)

Barlow hasnít been very productive at all this year, but he could be useful this week against the Cardinals. Arizona is allowing 109 rushing yds/gm with 13 TDs to opposing RBs. They are the 9th best fantasy matchup for RBs. Barlow has been in good situations before this year and he didnít produce, so be careful. The last time these teams met in week 4, Barlow combined for 55 yards and no TDs. Itís clearly a good matchup, but itís not clear whether or not Barlow can take advantage of the situation.

RB Kevin Jones - DET (vs MIN)

Playing Jones this year has been the equivalent of playing Russian roulette. At least, now, you canít kick the dog or blame it on Steve Mariucci not playing him. With Mooch gone and Dick Jauron taking the reigns of the Lions team, itís still not clear just how Jones will be utilized. The Vikings are allowing 94 rushing yards, 42 receiving yards and 10 TDs to opposing backs. If Jauron gives Jones 20+ carries in this game, chances are, heíll be productive. The million dollar question is Ė will he? There in lies the rub.

RB Mewelde Moore - MIN (at DET)

Michael Bennett ran for 108 yards when these two teams squared off during week 9 in Minnesota. Mewelde Moore combined for 75 yards and Ciatrick Fason scored a TD. Granted, that was against the Lions in Minnesota and the Lions were without Dreí Bly and Shaun Rogers, their two best players defensively. On the season, the Lions rank 11th in fantasy points allowed to RBs. Theyíve allowed 114 rushing yds/gm, 46 receiving yds/gm with 10 combined TDs. As long as Moore doesnít suffer anymore injuries, he should be very productive in this matchup.

RB Ricky Williams - MIA (vs BUF)

Williams broke loose last week rushing for 82 yards and a TD against the Raiders. This week, he faces one of the most desirable matchups a RB could ask for: Buffalo. The Bills are allowing 128 rushing yds/gm with 13 combined TDs to opposing RBs. Even though Ricky splits carries with Ronnie Brown, both of these guys have a shot to produce starter-like numbers in this game.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Greg Jones - JAX (at CLE)

You know the drill by now. If Fragile Fred is feeling fragile Sunday morning, then Jones immediately becomes a solid starter if the matchup is right. This week, the matchup is right. The Browns are allowing 129 rushing yds/gm. With David Garrard playing QB, they should lean even more heavily on Jones (or Taylor) to carry the offense.

RB Patrick Pass - NE (vs NYJ)

Itís too early to tell if Corey Dillon will be ready to play this week, but the early smoke signals out of New England may be a positive sign since Mike Cloud was released. If Dillon isnít able to play (and we probably wonít know this right up until game time), then Pass once again would be an excellent spot starter. He didnít do much last week in what was a tough matchup, but this week is quite different as the Jets are the 3rd best matchup for RBs allowing 131 rushing yds/gm with 15 total TDs and 28 receiving yards/gm.

RB Chester Taylor - BAL (vs HOU)

It all depends on Taylorís ankle. If Taylor is able to play this week then Brian Billick is on record saying he would stick with the RB rotation he employed in the past few games. Obviously he broke away from that this last week because Taylor didnít play. The Texans are as close to a slam dunk matchup as youíll find for the Ravens this week, so keep an eye on Taylorís status and if heís good to go, then use him accordingly.

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

RB Mike Alstott - TB (at NO)

Alstott has scored 5 TDs in his last 4 games. That ought to get our attention right away. If youíre not in a TD-heavy league, then Alstott isnít of much use, but knowing that heís a rock solid threat to score every week (at this point) he could be of some minimal value for those of you desperate enough to be seeking his help. Heís probably not going to rush for much yardage. He might catch a few passes, but if youíre optimistic he could score 1-2 TDs and provide some help. The Saints run defense is horrible and theyíve allowed 137 rushing yds/gm with 10 TDs.

RB Heath Evans - NE (vs NYJ)

See Patrick Pass. Everything hinges on Dillonís availability. If he goes, Pass is still worth a look in deeper leagues, but if Dillon sits, then Evans becomes a decent reach capable of 60 to 80 yards while splitting touches with Pass.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (at SF)

See J.J. Arrington. There is no better time to even consider playing one of the Cardinals RBs then this week. The last time these two teams played, Shipp combined for 94 yards. Unfortunately, heís seeing fewer carries now, so he probably wonít match that kind of production, but he could still be of some value for desperate owners in deeper leagues.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Mark Clayton - BAL (vs HOU)

Clayton might be the best bet amongst this group. The Texans have been abused the last three weeks by three of the best passing offenses in the league Ė Indy, KC and St. Louis. Seven different WRs on those three teams scored a TD. Strangely, Reggie Wayne was the only starter who didnít score. Clayton, Mason and Heap are all better plays than usual this week, but Clayton in particular seems to be heating up at the right time.

WR Taylor Jacobs - WAS (at STL)

Jacobs caught four passes for 42 yards against the Chargers last week. This week, the Rams are an even better matchup. As a matter of fact, they are the #1 matchup for WRs. So maybe you could squeeze 50 or 60 yards out of him against Ronald Bartell and Chris Johnson. Thatís who started for the Rams last week at corner because of injuries. Only one starting WR has failed to produce 70 yards or score a TD against the Rams this year.

WR Samie Parker - KC (vs DEN)

The Broncos are a solid matchup for WRs allowing 171 yards/gm with 10 TDs. Theyíve allowed the 9th most fantasy points to WRs. Parker caught two balls for 21 yards and a TD in week 3 against Denver. Parker has scored 7 or more points in each of the last two weeks with 23 yards and a TD against Houston (his first game back from injury) and five for 76 yards last week against New England. As a matter of fact, Parker has a nice schedule the rest of the way, too.

WR Mike Williams - DET (vs MIN)

Williams has 10 catches for 127 yards in the last two games against Dallas and Atlanta. This weekís matchup against Minnesota looks like it could be even more rewarding. The Vikings are allowing 146 yds/gm with 10 TDs to opposing WRs. One of the reasonís Matt Millen cited for Mariucciís exit was a lack of developing their young players. You have to believe Dick Jauron knows what his marching orders are. Play Kevin Jones. Play Mike Williams. Get these kids into the action. If youíre going to lose, you might as well do it with your best players. Williams is in a position to shine in the last four weeks and this matchup is looking like a great place to start.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Arnaz Battle - SF (vs ARI)

Battle was originally targeted as a ďprime cutĒ for this week, then Mike Nolan announced Alex Smith would start at QB. Battle immediately was downgraded. Itís a great matchup. Battle is perfectly capable, but the confidence factor goes down a lot with Smith back in the saddle. Battle could still thrive if Smith can hit him with the short stuff, but his upside is questionable with Smith, so he becomes a very risky gamble.

WR Reggie Brown - PHI (vs SEA)

The Seahawks are allowing 159 yards/gm with 10 TDs to opposing WRs. Itís a good matchup, but there are some obvious warning signs. McMahon and Brown are both unpredictable, but highly productive at times. Brown was shut out last week, but he had 88 yards and a TD in week 11.

WR Brandon Lloyd - SF (vs ARI)

Like Battle, Lloyd would be a much better sleeper had Ken Dorsey remained the teamís starting quarterback in this game. Thatís not to say that Alex Smith will be a complete flop, but the fact is that he hasnít looked very good at all this year. The Cardinals are certainly a matchup where he could show some of his vast potential, so anything is possible. It also gives you just a glimmer of hope that Lloyd could be on the receiving end of yet another big play this week. The Cardinals have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to WRs Ė 165 yds/gm with 13 TDs.

WR Justin McCareins - NYJ (at NE)

McCareins is coming off a nice game last week catching 3 passes for 71 yards with a TD against the Saints. The Patriots are an outstanding matchup for McCareins this week. The Patriots have allowed 16 TDs and 188 yds/gm to opposing WRs. 10 of the last twelve WRs to play against New England in the last four games have produced 60 yards or more. Five of them scored TDs. McCareins came up short several times this year in what appeared to be good matchups, so just know thisÖ While this matchup is extremely good on paper, there is nothing safe about relying on the Jets passing game this year.

WR Roddy White - ATL (at CAR)

White is on the verge. You can just sense that heís about ready to make some big plays with Michael Vick looking better throwing the ball of late. Maybe Vickís sudden improvement has something to do with Michael Jenkins and Roddy White getting healthy and back in the lineup. The Panthers have good corners, but they are beatable. Justin Gage had 81 yards and Muhsin Muhammad had 49 yards with a TD two weeks ago against Carolina. The Panthers have played many top notch passing offenses over the last month, so Vick and his young receivers could surprise.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Jerricho Cotchery - NYJ (at NE)

Letís revisit the stats for WRs against the Patriots. They have allowed 16 TDs and 188 yds/gm and 10 of the last twelve WRs to play against New England in the last four games have produced 60 yards or more. Five of them scored TDs. Cotchery is on the verge of breaking through. Heís going to be a solid receiver in the league and this weekís matchup is simply outstanding. The main drawback is pinning your hopes on Brooks Bollinger to get him the ball. The Jets got it going last week against the Saints and the Patriots are just as beatable, if not more so. So, itís hard to say what will go down.

WR Matt Jones - JAX (at CLE)

Marcus Robinson scored three TDs against the Browns last week. The Jags might want to watch some of that tape and find ways to exploit Jonesí size and speed to produce similar results. Jones, Ernest Wilford and Jimmy Smith are all extremely risky plays this week with David Garrard behind center. The Jags are not at home and Clevelandís defense put the clamps on Miami in their last home game. Jones is a TD threat in every game, so that alone makes him a worthwhile gamble in deeper leagues.

WR Greg Lewis - PHI (vs SEA)

Lewis has been unproductive of late, but then again, this whole offense has been sporadic of late. The Seahawks are allowing 159 yards/gm with 10 TDs to opposing WRs. McMahon has the ability to make big plays, but itís hard to rely on him. Lewis is a long shot at this point, but the Seahawks can score a bunch of points, so itís probably safe to say the Eagles will be throwing plenty of passes, too.

WR Courtney Roby - TEN (at IND)

Make no mistake about it, playing at Indianapolis in that dome can be a harrowing experience for a young receiver. The Colts secondary is physical and itís hard to hear anything in that dome. The Steelers were terribly disrupted and were never able to generate any kind of passing game. The Colts will come after McNair hard, too. That said, the Titans will be throwing the ball because theyíll almost certainly be trailing in this game. Courtney Roby and Roydell Williams will both see the field a lot this week, but keep an eye out for whoever gets the starting nod opposite Drew Bennett. One of these rookies will be a good player to reach for this week.

WR Scott Vines - DET (vs MIN)

Hey, donít laugh. Scottie Vines caught 9 balls for 109 yards in Minnesota on week 9. Vines has caught 5 or more passes in 4 games this year. He had 6 for 70 yards against Atlanta on Thanksgiving. The Vikings are a great matchup and, ironically, Vines might be the Lions most reliable receiver right now.

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

WR LeRon McCoy - ARI (at SF)

The Cardinals have such an outstanding matchup this week that even LeRon McCoy gets a callout. Josh McCown threw for 385 yards in their last meeting. Boldin and Fitz both went over 100 yards, Bryant Johnson had 50 yards and Charles Lee had 28 yards. Lee is gone and Johnson isnít 100%. McCoy could produce 3-4 catches this week with an outside shot at the end zone.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Heath Miller - PIT (vs CIN)

The Bengals have been hit hard by tight ends recently. In the last two games, theyíve allowed 4 TDs and 228 yards to TEs alone. Those two games catapulted Cincinnati to be 3rd in fantasy points allowed to TEs this year. Overall, theyíve allowed 56 yds/gm with 7 TDs. Heath Miller produced 58 yards and a TD against them in week 7 and Ben Roethlisberger is back, which means Miller should be, too.

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (vs MIN)

You know the fire drill here. Pollard is facing the Vikings, so you want to start him. Last week, Steve Heiden was good for 55 yards for crying out loud. Pollard had 42 yards and a TD against them in week 9, so thereís a good chance he could do something similar this week, too. The Vikings are allowing 50 yards/gm with 9 TDs to TEs on the season.

TE Jerramy Stevens - SEA (at PHI)

The Eagles have been vulnerable to opposing TEs this year and overall they rank 5th in fantasy points allowed to them. Theyíve allowed 53 yds/gm with 4 TDs, all of which came in the last six games. Stevens has been remarkably quiet of late. Thereís a good chance that he makes some noise in this game. The Eagles defense is spent.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Doug Jolley - NYJ (at NE)

Since Chris Baker went down for the year, Jolley really hasnít picked up the slack and taken advantage of the situation. Then again, the Jets have been a revolving door at QB, so itís hard to lay blame here. Jolley did produce 62 yards last week on four catches, so perhaps thatís a good sign and he can keep it up. The Patriots are allowing 50 yards/gm to opposing TEs with 3 TDs on the year. They are the 8th best matchup for TEs. If Bollinger can get it done then Jolley should be in the mix.

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (at KC)

Putzier has 30 or more yards in three of the last four games, but he still has not scored a TD this year. He also didnít catch a pass against KC in week 3 when they played. Itís his only game this year where he didnít catch a pass. Thatís a bit strange considering the Chiefs are the 2nd best matchup for TEs allowing 53 yards/gm with 8 TDs.

TE Ben Troupe - TEN (at IND)

Troupe is getting healthier each week, but heís still not quite 100%. He caught 4 balls for 34 yards in their last meeting (week 4) and he had 4 balls for 28 yards last week in his first game back. The Colts have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to TEs giving up 48 yds/gm with 4 TDs. Troupe is a solid gamble, but Erron Kinney is even better because heís healthier.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Zachary Hilton - NO (vs TB)

This isnít a matchup in the sense of the Bucs not covering TEs well. Itís just that we need to take a second to recognize the recent strides made by Hilton. Heís produced 11 catches for 118 yards with a TD in the last three games. Since Ernie Conwell went down again. Hilton will get some action, but the Bucs are a solid defense and a tough matchup overall.

TE Ben Watson - NE (vs NYJ)

Watson is coming on of late and the Jets are a decent matchup. They rank 10th in fantasy points allowed to TEs at 51 yds/gm with 2 TDs. Watson gets the mention here, but we always must keep in mind that the Patriots are an equal opportunity employer for their TEs. Last week, Christian Fauria caught a TD. This week, it could be Watson or Daniel Graham. Itís a nice matchup, but Tom Brady spreads the love so while we list Watson, equal consideration goes to Graham if both players are healthy.

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

TE David Martin - GB (at CHI)

Not a good matchup at all but the neck injury to Bubba Franks could keep the door open for David Martin to be productive for the second straight week. Letís see what he can do against the tough, swarming Bears defense. If he passes the test this week, then heís got my respect. As for Franks, there are now reports that he could return to the field this week. Thatís good news, of course, but it means that Martinís shine loses some of its luster.

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