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Week 14 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 Drew Bledsoe - DAL (vs KC)

Everyone knows that Bledsoe has been mostly dreadful of late, but quarterbacks and receivers particularly tend to right the ship when facing the KC Chiefs. The Chiefs have allowed 254 passing yds/gm with 19 TDs and 12 interceptions to opposing QBs making them the 5th best fantasy matchup. Last week, Jake Plummer threw for 276 yards and a TD against them and the week before Tom Brady threw for 248 yards and a TD. Bledsoe’s not quite as productive as those two, but he should be able to produce over 200 yards and a TD in this game.

QB David Carr - HOU (at TEN)

The Titans have allowed 223 passing yds/gm and a league-high 25 TDs to opposing QBs with only 8 interceptions. Ken Dorsey managed 192 yards and a TD against them two weeks ago. Byron Leftwich threw for 258 yards and 3 TDS (he ran for another) in week 11. Trent Dilfer threw for 272 yards with a TD in week 9. Carr only produced 131 yards and a TD against them in week 5, but he’s playing a little better later in the season and he has a solid chance to be productive this week.

QB Brad Johnson - MIN (vs STL)

Johnson looked great against the Lions, but in most of the games he’s played since taking over for Culpepper midseason, he’s looked more average than good. Then again, who could argue with the results since the Vikings are winning now? This week, they host the Rams – a team that was beaten up and down the field two weeks ago by David Carr for 293 yards and 3 TDs. Mark Brunell didn’t exactly take advantage of the matchup last week throwing for 156 yards and a TD, so perhaps Johnson isn’t a great play, but he’s still qualifies as a good looking sleeper. The Rams are the 7th best matchup for QBs allowing 250 passing yds/gm with 22 TDs and just 8 INTs. They’ve also allowed 40 completions of 20 yards or longer (4th most in the league).

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Kyle Boller - BAL (at DEN)

The Broncos are one of the best run defenses in the league, but they are beatable through the air judging by the 252 yds/gm they’ve allowed along with 18 TDs and 16 INTs. In the past four weeks, Kerry Collins threw for 310 yds and 2 TDs. Drew Bledsoe produced 232 yards and 2 TDs. Trent Green produced 253 yards and 2 TDs. Obviously, Boller isn’t in the same class as those QBs from a production standpoint. He passed for only 198 yards against the Texans (2nd best matchup), but he did run for a TD. Against the Bengals, Boller threw for 211 yards with 3 TDs and 2 INTs. You’re playing with fire if you start Boller, but the Ravens have a better chance of moving the ball through the air then they do on the ground against the Broncos D.

QB Ryan Fitzpatrick - STL (at MIN)

The Vikings sure looked good against the Lions last week, but we’ll throw that out since it can’t possibly be used as a valid comparison to any other NFL QB or franchise. The Vikings have allowed 229 passing yds/gm with 19 TDs and 18 INTs to opposing QBs. Trent Dilfer threw for 214 yards and a TD against them two weeks ago. Fitzpatrick has looked reasonably good in the two games he’s played. The Vikings are probably a bit closer to the Redskins as a valid comparison defensively than the Texans, so if you’re satisfied with around 175 to 200 yards and probably 1 or 2 TDs then Fitzpatrick might be worth a look.

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

Losman played a whole game against the Dolphins last week in the first quarter. The 2nd year QB has been up and (mostly) down this year, so clearly his production last week doesn’t guarantee another big game this week. Yet when we look at the Patriots as the matchup, we can’t help but recognize how often they’ve been toasted by their opponents for big plays. Kelly Holcomb threw for 263 yds and a TD against them in week 8. Gus Frerotte threw for 360 yds and TDs. Aaron Brooks threw for 343 yards and 2 TDs. Overall, they are the 3rd best matchup allowing an average of 266 yds/gm with 21 TDs and only 6 INTs. They’ve been beaten deep for 12 completions of 40+ yards (2nd most) and 47 completions of 20+ yds (2nd).

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Charlie Frye - CLE (at CIN)

Frye made his first NFL start last week and he started with a bang throwing 2 TDs in the first half to fellow rookie WR Braylon Edwards. This week, he won’t have the luxury of throwing to Edwards due to a season-ending torn ACL. This game will almost certainly feature the Bengals jumping out to an early lead with the Browns playing catch up. If so, Frye will have to deal with a Bengals defense that leads the league with 26 INTs, but if he can keep the turnovers to a minimum, he should be able to produce some decent yards and perhaps a TD or two. The Bengals are allowing 229 yds/gm with 16 TDs on the season.

QB David Garrard - JAX (vs IND)

Garrard is more of an opportunity play than a matchup play this week. The Colts are generally one of the tougher defenses in the league for opposing QBs, especially at home. Fortunately, Garrard does enough damage with his legs that even if he doesn’t throw for many yards or TDs, he still has a chance to produce decent fantasy points because he can run for 20, 30 or 40 yards (maybe more). Basically, Garrard is a reach, but he’s athletic enough to be able to make things happen when the Colts pass rush gets after him and turn less appealing options.

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

QB Gus Frerotte - MIA (at SD)

It looks like Nick Saban is sticking with Gus Frerotte despite the "heroics" of backup Sage Rosenfels last week leading the Dolphins on an improbable come from behind win against Buffalo throwing for 272 yards and 2 TDs. Frerotte left last week’s game with a concussion after being tackled in his own end zone for a safety prompting Rosenfels to take over for him and lead the comeback. This week's game is in San Diego, so the Dolphins will have their work cut out for them traveling across the country, but the Achilles heel of the Chargers defense is their pass defense. They’ve allowed 252 yds/gm with 15 TDs. Frerotte is a shaky play without question, especially in a playoff scenario, but if you're playing out the string in a Toilet Bowl bracket, then Gus might be worth a gamble.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Chris Brown - TEN (vs HOU)

Brown isn’t really much of a sleeper, but with Travis Henry eating into his carries in the past two games and his penchant for not finishing games, there’s always some level of risk associated with him in the lineup. Plus, Brown produced only 89 combined yards without a TD the last time these teams met. On the season, Houston is the 5th best matchup for RBs having allowed 139 rushing yds/gm with 15 combined TDs.

RB Samkon Gado - GB (vs DET)

Judging by the two games Michael Bennett turned in against the Lions, Samkon Gado figures to be quite productive in this matchup. The Lions are now the 8th best matchup for opposing RBs, 3rd over the last five games. Bennett produced 89 yards and 2 TDs against them last week in their own crib. On Thanksgiving, T.J. Duckett went for 72 yards and a TD while Warrick Dunn produced 116 rushing yards. The wee before that, Julius Jones ran for 92 yards while Marion Barber produced 53 yards and 2 TDs. Needless to say, the stars are aligning for Gado to potentially have another big game providing he doesn’t short circuit and begin fumbling again first.

RB Curtis Martin - NYJ (vs OAK)

Herman Edwards stated goal is to get Curtis Martin 1,000 rushing yards. The Raiders provide a good matchup this week to help Martin attain that goal, too. They have allowed 107 rushing yds/gm with 16 combined TDs. Their run defense wasn’t too shabby until Warren Sapp went down a few weeks back. Since then teams have been running with more success. Look for Martin to get every opportunity to produce this week.

RB Ryan Moats - PHI (vs NYG)

Brian Westbrook is done for the year, so Moats figures to be the Eagles (most) featured back for the last four games. Moats carried the ball 10 times for 26 yards on Monday night and lost a fumble. He was productive in the preseason and he had a better game two weeks ago, so anything is possible. The Giants are sound defensively against the run, but Westbrook was able to produce 123 combined yards in week 11 against them, so Moats has a shot to be productive.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB DeShaun Foster - CAR (vs TB)

The Bucs defense is definitely not a great matchup, but Foster is looking for a new contract and he’s getting an opportunity to earn one. The Panthers are riding him into the playoffs and he responded last week with a huge game. The last time these two teams met the Panthers RBs combined for 77 yards and 2 TDs on the ground with Stephen Davis leading the way with 48 yds and 2 TDs. Foster is getting the bulk of the work now, so look for him to be around 70 to 80 yards with a probable score. On the season, Tampa is allowing 79 yards rushing per game with 10 combined TDs to opposing backs.

RB Greg Jones - JAX (vs IND)

The Colts defense is certainly not a good matchup, but Fred Taylor ran for 81 yards and produced 18 yards receiving against them in week 2 while Greg Jones ran for another 29 yards. It’s too early to tell whether Taylor will be available for this week’s game, so we might be looking at yet another start for Jones. If Jones gets the nod, then you might expect similar results. He could be good for 70 to 90 yards and possibly a TD, but don’t count on it.

RB Mewelde Moore - MIN (vs STL)

It’s incredibly difficult guessing which Vikings RB may be worth starting in this game. There is the Mike Tice factor. There are Moore’s injuries to be concerned with considering he started last week against the Lions, but lasted about one play. If Moore starts this week, as he stated following Sunday’s game, then he should be worth a look. Unfortunately, he’s extremely risky because the Vikings are so unpredictable. The Rams, on the other hand, are an excellent matchup for RBs. They’ve allowed 129 rushing yds/gm with 16 combined TDs. Last week, both Clinton Portis and Rock Cartwright rushed for 100+ yards against them. If Moore doesn’t play, then take your chances with Michael Bennett. Whoever starts for Minnesota should be worthwhile.

RB Antowain Smith - NO (at ATL)

Antowain Smith continues to split carries with Aaron Stecker, but he promises to be semi-productive in this game considering the Falcons have allowed 114 rushing yds/gm with 15 TDs to opposing RBs. The last time these two teams met, Smith rushed for 88 yards and 2 TDs while Aaron Stecker ran for 86 yards. Look for something similar out of these two again this week.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB J.J. Arrington - ARI (vs WAS)

Arrington isn’t exactly kicking butt and taking names, but he is getting more carries thanks to Marcel Shipp getting hurt. The Redskins are a solid defense overall, but they’ve been vulnerable on the ground allowing 101 rushing yds/gm with 14 TDs. Keep in mind that they stifled the Rams and Steven Jackson last week and they very well could devise a similar game plan for this week. Blitz Warner up the middle, force him to get rid of the ball, and in the process, clog up the running lanes for Arrington. It worked last week, so if you’re considering Arrington, just be forewarned that he’s definitely a reach and he’s yet to produce a big game yet this year against lesser opponents.

RB T.J. Duckett - ATL (vs NO)

Duckett didn’t play much in the last game between these two clubs, but FB Justin Griffith filled in well and produced a receiving TD on 15 combined yards while Warrick Dunn ran for 100 yards and a score. Duckett is healthy now, so look for him to get more carries and potentially another 40 to 70 yard effort with a possible TD. The Saints are allowing 121 rushing yds/gm to opposing RBs with a total of 12 TDs allowed.

RB Travis Henry - TEN (vs HOU)

Henry should handle the ball around 5 to 10 times in this game so look for anywhere between 20 and 50 yards with a possible TD. The Texans are the 5th best matchup for opposing backs allowing 139 rushing yds/gm with a total of 15 TDs. Chris Brown appears to be healthy, but we all know that can change in a hurry.

RB Aaron Stecker - NO (at ATL)

Antowain Smith continues to split carries with Aaron Stecker, but he promises to be semi-productive in this game considering the Falcons have allowed 114 rushing yds/gm with 15 TDs to opposing RBs. The last time these two teams met, Smith rushed for 88 yards and 2 TDs while Aaron Stecker ran for 86 yards. Look for something similar out of these two again this week.

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

RB Maurice Morris - SEA (vs SF)

The way the Seahawks waxed the Eagles on MNF, we might expect a similar drubbing of 49ers when they play in Seattle this week. That means Maurice Morris could once again get plenty of carries in mop up duty once Shaun Alexander and the Seahawks jump out to a big early lead.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Drew Bennett - TEN (vs HOU)

It seems like the rest of the Titans receivers are hurt, including TE Erron Kinney, who was leading the team in receptions. The Texans are an excellent matchup for WRs. They’ve allowed the 5th most fantasy points (169 yards/gm, 14 TDs). Roydell Williams and Brandon Jones are shelved along with Kinney leaving Bennett, Courtney Roby and Ben Troupe as McNair prime targets.

WR Mark Clayton - BAL (at DEN)

Some of the receivers to be reasonably productive against the Broncos in recent games include Justin McCareins (73 yds), Dante Hall (55 yds, 1 TD), Alvis Whitted (53 yards) and Doug Gabriel (58 yds, 1 TD). Obviously, that’s a strange sampling, but the point is that none of these guys are star caliber players and they had decent games against Denver. Clayton probably has more talent than any of those receivers, but he’s a rookie. He’s been coming on strong since he’s returned to the lineup from injury and he could be useful if you’re in a pinch and need a receiver that’s worth gambling on this week.

WR Lee Evans - BUF (vs NE)

After watching Evans explode in the first quarter last week for 3 TDs, it’s arguable whether Evans even qualifies as a sleeper. Evans seems to be hitting his stride with Losman behind center and this matchup should prove to be like spearing fish in a barrel. The Patriots have allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing WRs (177 yds/gm, 16 TDs). They’ve allowed more big plays than any team except the 49ers. The last time these two teams played Eric Moulds finished with 125 yards and a TD, but that was with Kelly Holcomb at QB. Losman seems to prefer Evans, so look for the 2nd year speedster to produce a few more big plays this week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Reggie Brown - PHI (vs NYG)

In week 11, Brown caught a TD and finished with 88 yards against the Giants with Mike McMahon at the helm. It’s difficult guessing what the Eagles might be able to do offensively this week after watching their last two games. That said, Brown is probably their best weapon downfield and with Brian Westbrook possibly sidelined, Brown and L.J. Smith will need to pick up the slack. Brown is a risky play, certainly, but he got it done against the G-men once this year, so we know he’s got it in him. The Eagles QB is another story altogether.

WR Isaac Bruce - STL (at MIN)

Since Bruce returned from his prolonged turf toe injury he’s been sporadically productive. Against the Vikings, Bruce could be ready to produce some big plays even with Fitzpatrick starting at QB. The Vikings have improved greatly over the last 4-5 weeks, but Bruce is a decent gamble if you’re looking for a 4th WR or flex player in the lineup.

WR Brandon Lloyd - SF (at SEA)

When these two teams squared off in week 11 Brandon Lloyd finished with 119 yards and a TD. The Seahawks young defense is playing well, but they have been vulnerable to teams through the air. Lloyd is the 49ers best bet downfield, so he might be a solid gamble this week. Granted, Alex Smith is at QB now, so it’s difficult to predict if he’ll be productive or not. He showed flashes last week, so maybe he can build on that and connect with Lloyd for some big plays.

WR Koren Robinson - MIN (vs STL)

Two weeks ago it was Marcus Robinson with a huge game. Last week it was Koren Robinson with the breakout game. Koren is essentially playing for a contract next year and the Vikings are giving him an extended look now as he’s started the last two games. The Rams are #1 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs, so he’s got another excellent opportunity if he can take advantage of it. The Rams are allowing 180 yds/gm with 18 TDs to opposing WRs.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Patrick Crayton - DAL (vs KC)

Crayton is back in the lineup and he could be the hot read for Bledsoe against a vulnerable Chiefs secondary this week. The Chiefs have allowed the 9th most fantasy points to WRs. Crayton is the team’s third WR, so obviously Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn are the better bets, but Crayton has been productive when healthy and Bledsoe had a knack for finding him for big plays earlier in the season.

WR Courtney Roby - TEN (vs HOU)

The Titans receivers might need to get their own infirmary the way this season is going. Roby is probably the best bet beyond Drew Bennett considering that Tyrone Calico just doesn’t seem to be 100% after successive knee injuries the past couple years. Roby’s speed and size should be an intriguing combo for McNair against a soft Texans secondary that’s allowed the 5th most fantasy points to opposing WRs.

WR Wes Welker - MIA (at SD)

With Marty Booker hobbled, Wesley Welker could be more productive again this week. The Chargers are a nice matchup and Welker could see plenty of action if the Chargers decide to double up on Chambers following his monstrous game last week.

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

WR Robert Ferguson - GB (vs DET)

It seems like everybody is having a house party against the Lions lately. Donald Driver is usually the guy who kills the Lions, but Ferguson could also get in on the party this week. He’s not quite 100% healthy, but he’s a decent reach in TD-heavy leagues in particular.

WR Dennis Northcutt - CLE (at CIN)

The Bengals can and most likely will score a bunch of points in this game which means there a very good chance the Browns will throwing a lot in this game while playing from behind. Don’t be too proud to accept garbage time presents from the Browns if you’re in need of a WR. Antonio Bryant is the better bet, but you can probably snag Northcutt off waivers and play him if you’re hurting for a receiver.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Zachary Hilton - NO (at ATL)

Hilton is on a roll. Technically, he’s probably not even much of a sleeper since he’s put together three consecutive games in a row with good stats. Brooks is looking to him and he’s delivering, so why not ride this guy while he’s hot. He’s rounding into shape at the right time just like Boo Williams did with the Saints two years ago.

TE Doug Jolley - NYJ (vs OAK)

The Raiders have allowed at least 40 yards or a TD to 10 tight ends through 12 games. Jolley is definitely a gamble considering the Jets offense has been sporadic at best, but he’s facing his former team so the added incentive makes Jolley a nice sleeper pick this week.

TE Jerramy Stevens - SEA (vs SF)

Stevens started Monday night’s game with a bang catching three balls in a row before cooling off. The 49ers are a great matchup allowing 50 yds/gm with 5 TDs to opposing TEs. Look for him to get into the action again this week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Steve Heiden - CLE (at CIN)

Heiden produced 32 yards against the Bengals in week 1. Cincinnati has been beaten badly by TEs in the last month or so. They’ve allowed the third most fantasy points to TEs on the season giving up 57 yds/gm with 7 TDs (3rd most in the league).

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (at GB)

Pollard had a strong game against the Packers in the season opener finishing with 58 yards and a TD. Green Bay has allowed the 8th most fantasy points to opposing TEs, too. Pollard is obviously a stretch because the Lions are one of the worst teams in the league to rely on for production, much less TDs, but Pollard remains one of the better targets they have in the red zone so he’s always a consideration if you’re reaching for a TE.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Alex Smith - TB (at CAR)

In week 9, Smith produced 41 yards against the Panthers, who have allowed 38 yds/gm with 4 TDs to opposing TEs on the season. Smith is inconsistent, which is why he’s a gamble, but the Panthers have been vulnerable to the tight end this year so Smith could be a decent reach this week if you’re looking for a player to gamble on with some upside.

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