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Week 5 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 David Carr - HOU (vs TEN)

The Titans are allowing an amazing 70.1% completion rate with 10 TDs compared to just two interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 218 yds and two TDs against Tennessee. Anthony Wright threw for 212 yards with a TD and an INT in week two. It’s just not right comparing Marc Bulger or Peyton Manning for the sake of projecting David Carr’s matchup. It’s like apples and oranges. The Titans remain one of the best fantasy matchups for QBs in the league this year. In fact, they’re allowing the third most fantasy pts to QBs. Carr is obviously a risky play, but he’s been productive in his last two starts against Tennessee. His 2004 box scores look like this: Week 12 vs Ten – 21-for-30, 201 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and 10 rushing yards, Week 6 @Ten – 16-for-26, 266 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

QB Steve McNair - TEN (at HOU)

If J.P. Losman can throw for 170 yards and a TD without throwing an interceptions against Houston; imagine what a seasoned veteran like McNair might produce (even if he’s only dumping off to his tight ends). The Texans are allowing opposing QBs to complete 67.5% of their passes for over 233.3 yds/gm with four TDs and no interceptions so far. The Texans are searching for a pass rush, too. They have a combined four sacks on the year. They’ve allowed three 40+ yard pass completions in as many games. Ben Roethlisberger produced 254 yards and two TDs against Houston in week two, while Carson Palmer threw for 276 yards with a TD in week four. McNair has a great shot to be productive, especially without facing a steady pass rush.

QB Ben Roethlisberger - PIT (at SD)

Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence are playing well in coverage for the Chargers, but they aren’t making enough plays on the ball. They’ve allowed over 250 yds/gm, 6 TDs and 3 INTs and a completion percentage of 62.3%. They’ve allowed the 10th most fantasy points to opposing QBs. Roethlisberger’s main drawback is knowing that most games the Steelers won’t need to throw the ball but a handful of times (if that) in the second half. This week, that shouldn’t be an issue. The Chargers have an explosive offense of their own. Ben should be a safe play knowing the Chargers could not only give them a game, but also win it. After all, they are at home. Instead of handing the ball off in the fourth quarter, Ben might be chucking it around leading the Steelers to a comeback.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Drew Brees - SD (vs PIT)

The Steelers defense isn’t a “good matchup” by any stretch of the imagination. However, good QBs have fared reasonably well against them, particularly when the Steelers aren’t playing at home. Tom Brady threw for 372 yards in week 3, but failed to get into the end zone. The Steelers have allowed only two passing TDs, but an average of 253 passing yds/gm with a 69.1% completion rate. Brees will face a strong pass rush, but with safety valves like Antonio Gate and LaDainian Tomlinson, he should be fine and produce good enough numbers to use him as a bye week QB or spot starter this week if you have such a need.

QB Jake Delhomme - CAR (at ARI)

The Cardinals secondary hasn’t played badly this year, but they just lost their top corner Antrel Rolle for likely the rest of the year. The Cardinals pass rush will keep Delhomme honest, but David Macklin and rookie Eric Green have their hands full containing Steve Smith. Delhomme should be a solid start assuming the Cardinals are able to put points on the board. There’s the rub. If the Panthers defense stifles the Cardinals, Delhomme will be handing off the ball more than passing it downfield.

QB Byron Leftwich - JAX (vs CIN)

Amazingly, the Bengals have 12 interceptions in only four games. Then again, they’ve played Daunte Culpepper and Kyle Orton. By no means are the Bengals a “good matchup”, but Leftwich is a much better quarterback than the last two the Bengals faced (ok, maybe three). David Carr threw for 174 yards, 1 TD and didn’t have a pick against them last week. Going back to week one, Trent Dilfer (at home) completed 26-of-43 for 278 yards, one TD and two interceptions. Leftwich should be productive as far as yards and completions; the question is whether he can get more than a TD considering the Bengals have allowed only two passes for TDs in four games.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Mark Brunell - WAS (at DEN)

Brunell might catch a slight break if Champ Bailey doesn’t play this week. Otherwise, the Broncos are a respectable defense. They allow 227.8 passing yds/gm (with a 60% completion rate), one TD and one INT to opposing QBs. Last week, Byron Leftwich threw for 240 yards, a TD and two INTs against Denver. In week 3, Trent Green had 221 yards and a TD. Brees had 175 and a pick, while Gus Frerotte’s 275 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs lend hope for anyone looking for any production out of Brunell. In Brunell’s defense, he’s been reasonably solid. In two starts, he has 291 yards, 2 TDs and an INT at Dallas. Last week against Seattle, he threw for 226 yards with 2 TDs and a pick. Brunell’s even looked spry at times reverting to his younger days when he was a threat to run, too. The Broncos are a tough matchup, but the Skins will have a tougher time running the ball. Look for Brunell to throw another 30 to 35 times against this week with possibly similar results.

QB Josh McCown - ARI (vs CAR)

McCown has a couple good things going for him. Kurt Warner is out for a few more weeks probably and he’s coming off a highly productive game (and a win). Unfortunately, no other team is even comparably as bad on pass defense as San Francisco, so don’t expect a repeat performance. The Panthers have a better pass rush than their sacks show on paper. They’ll make McCown get rid of the ball quicker than the 49ers, but they are still allowing plenty of passing yards. They’ve allowed the 11th most fantasy pts to QBs – 234 yards, 1.8 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game. Gus Frerotte managed 171 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT against them in Miami week 3. Tom Brady and Brett Favre did much better, but McCown compares more favorably to Gus. One thing overlooked with McCown vs. Warner, McCown is mobile and can make plays on the run where Warner can’t The Cardinals line is bad, but at least McCown can scramble for some extra bonus pts. One last note: The Panthers are coming off a high after beating Green Bay on MNF. They have a short week to prepare and still have to travel across the country to play in the desert heat. The Cardinals and McCown could be a sneaky play here.

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

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

Losman has been awful all year. To say he’s a desperate reach is painfully obvious. Starting Losman against the Dolphins and Jason Taylor seems crazy. The Bills seem ready to change horses and go with Kelly Holcomb, so there’s always the potential that Losman bombs out of the gate again and Holcomb replaces him before the half. Looking strictly at the matchup, the Dolphins are allowing 242 passing yds/gm and six TDs and three INTs in three games. They’ve allowed the eighth most fantasy pts to opposing QBs. For comparison, Jake Delhomme threw for 285 yds, 3 TDs and 1 INT in Miami (week 3). In week two, Chad Pennington threw for 190 yards and two TDs (no INTS). Jake Plummer produced 251 yds with one TD and two INTs in Miami on opening day. Losman isn’t in the same class as any of those players, but at least he’s at home.

QB Kyle Orton - CHI (at CLE)

After Orton threw five interceptions a couple weeks ago, one would have to be out of his/her mind to start Orton this week – especially being on the road. That said, he’s coming off a bye and the Browns are an excellent matchup from a fantasy perspective. They have only three sacks and they are allowing 283.3 yards/gm with five TDs and four INTs (fifth most fantasy pts allowed to QBs). Opponents are completing a league-best 76.2% of their passes against Cleveland. Backed by a solid running game, Orton might finally have some time to settle into the pocket and find his receivers for a decent game. Obviously, he’s a desperate play, but ironically might be a better play than at least 10 or 12 starting quarterbacks this week.

Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Chris Brown - TEN (at HOU)

The Texans allowed two straight 100-yard rushers to open the season (McGahee – 117, Parker – 111) and Rudi Johnson (94 yards) almost made it three straight in week 4. Brown didn’t produce much last week against the Colts, but the Texans run defense is a much better matchup. He should have a better chance to carry the football 20 times this week. Look for Brown to have his first strong game of the year possibly.

RB Ronnie Brown - MIA (at BUF)

Before the season started, this matchup looked like an incredibly bad matchup for the Dolphins and rookie RB Ronnie Brown. After four weeks, now it actually looks like a promising matchup. The Bills lost Takeo Spikes to injury. Even before that, their defense was struggling against the run. In week 2, Cadillac Williams steamrolled the Bills defense for 128 yards and a TD. The next week, Warrick Dunn ran for 97 and T.J. Duckett ran for 75 yards with a TD. Last week, Deuce McAllister wore them down running for 130 yards. Brown is a good shot to combine for 100 yards and possibly score.

RB Stephen Davis - CAR (at ARI)

Arizona has allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing RBs, an average of 111.8 yards/gm and 1.8 TDs/gm. Opponents are averaging 4.5 yards/carry against them. The seven TDs allowed are a league high. If it they didn’t play San Francisco last week, they’d probably be 1st in points allowed. Davis has six rushing TDs in four games with between 52 and 81 combined yards each week. With a nice matchup like this, Davis should be a strong play and score in double digits.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Reuben Droughns - CLE (vs CHI)

Facing the Bears defense isn’t your classic “good matchup”, but that doesn’t mean they are invincible either. Rudi Johnson ran for 84 yards in week three, while in week one, Clinton Portis ran for 121 yards and Ladell Betts 41 yards. Droughns will have his work cut out for him, but the improvements the Browns made in the middle of their offensive line are paying off this year. Droughns could be a solid play yardage-wise, but they haven’t allowed any TDs to opposing RBs yet.

RB Michael Pittman - TB (at NYJ)

If Cadillac Williams doesn’t play this week then Pittman is an excellent sleeper, not just “worth a gamble”. The Jets have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to RBs – an average of 33.5 rush attempts, 124.2 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Pittman’s an excellent option in PPR or flex leagues and should still have value whether Cadillac goes or not. It’s just that if he doesn’t go, then Pittman goes from being a solid sleeper to a pretty darn good start, period.

RB Marcel Shipp - ARI (vs CAR)

The only reason you’d want to gamble on Shipp this week would be if you’re in a deeper league or a PPR league. The Panthers are doing a solid job against the run, so Shipp’s not the classic matchup play. Ahman Green and Corey Dillon were both stuffed by the Panthers for the most part. Neither the Packers nor the Patriots ran for more than 46 yards with their RBs. Deuce McAllister didn’t fare much better as the Saints amassed 69 yds rushing in week 1, but at least Deuce scored twice. Ronnie Brown is the only back to run for 100+ yards so far against Carolina. Don’t look for Shipp to be the second either. He could combine for 70 to 90 yards though and catch 3 or 4 balls. In three starts, Shipp has rushed for 54, 41 and 42 yards, but he has also produced 39, 16 and 52 yards receiving.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Najeh Davenport - GB (vs NO)

Davenport’s a giant sleeper if Ahman Green’s bruised knee limits him this week, or keeps him sidelined. Davenport hasn’t broken out yet this year, but if he’s given more than the 3-or-4 carries he’s seeing right now, then he’s easily worth a look in deeper leagues. If Green is questionable or isn’t 100% next week, then Davenport could easily see 10 or more carries and get into the end zone against New Orleans. The Saints have allowed the 12th most fantasy pts to opposing RBs – 23.8 carries, 105.5 yards and 1 TD per game.

RB DeShaun Foster - CAR (at ARI)

See Stephen Davis’ analysis. This is a great matchup for the Panthers running game. Davis will get more carries, but Foster’s been showing signs that he’s ready to break out for a big game at any time. Foster is catching a few balls consistently each week and he’s carried the rock between seven and 10 times in every game. He’s combined for 56, 60, 75 and 93 yards in the first four games. That’s a solid upward trend and with an excellent matchup on tap this week, look for that trend to continue. The good news is that Foster hasn’t fumbled (yet). He’s been a notorious fumbler in the past. This week, Foster could blow over the 100-yard mark (combined) and steal a TD from Davis.

RB Patrick Pass - NE (at ATL)

Kevin Faulk’s leg injury opened the door for Patrick Pass last week. He took Faulk’s place as the team’s main receiving threat out of the backfield. Pass only ran once for six yards, but he caught eight passes for 55 yards against SD last week. There’s a fair chance the Falcons stuff Corey Dillon this week. They stuffed the Eagles and Vikings ground games, but they were trampled by the Bills and Seahawks. If Dillon struggles again, chances are, the Falcons will have a lead in this game. That means plenty of Pass and another solid game consisting of several catches and possibly another 50+ yards. Keep in mind, Pass is only an option as a reach in deeper leagues or PPR leagues primarily.

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

RB Cedric Benson - CHI (at CLE)

Rumor has it the Bears will utilize some formations using Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson at the same time. Thomas Jones has done nothing to lose the starting job, but Benson could begin to earn a few more carries this week. It’s a risky proposition going with Benson considering he didn’t carry the football in the last Bears game, but the Browns soft run defense is allowing a league-high 113 rushing yds/gm to opposing backs. Jones will get his touches and yards and maybe Benson can produce 30 or 40 yards. For comparison purposes, Chris Perry combined for 48 yards and Najeh Davenport 36 rushing yards against Cleveland.

Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Lee Evans - BUF (vs MIA)

After four weeks in the season, everyone who believed the Bills offense would continue to play at the same level as last season with J.P. Losman at the helm is now being helped up off the ground after crashing back to Earth. It’s been a harsh dose of reality, but the writing was on the wall for those who looked close enough. Don’t blame Moulds either. It’s not his fault. He’s a veteran receiver, but hardly at the age yet where he’s lost a proverbial step. If there’s a week where Moulds and fellow receiver Lee Evans might turn things around and make an impact, then maybe it’s this week. Moulds has owned the Dolphins in the past. To make matters worse for Miami, their two starters have struggled. Sam Madison is having problems in Nick Saban’s defensive scheme (which requires zone coverage and less man-to-man where Madison thrived in the past). Moulds will probably draw Madison leaving Evans against rookie Travis Daniels. The Dolphins are the seventh best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 12 receptions, 169.3 yards and 1.3 TDs per game. Moulds scored a TD in three of his last six games against Miami. Lee Evans scored two TDs in one game against Miami as a rookie last year. Losman sure has stunk up the joint so far, but Mularkey might have a quick hook ready if he starts poorly this week. Either way, the Bills receivers are in a better spot this week and they are at home, which always helps a little.

WR Joe Jurevicius - SEA (at STL)

Bobby Engram’s status looks very questionable (at best) for week five against the Rams. He cracked two ribs in last weeks game, but kept playing up until the injury became too painful and he was forced to the sidelines. To make matters a bit worse, Darrell Jackson’s balky knee began flaring up, too. If Engram doesn’t play this week, Joe Jurevicius will be in-line to make the start opposite D-Jax. Jurevicius scored twice already and in this matchup, he could be a solid play. The Rams are the fourth best fantasy matchup for WRs allowing 13 receptions, 194 yards and 1.5 TDs per game. Amani Toomer even caught a TD against them last week (his first in over a year!). The week before, the Titans rookie, Brandon Jones caught his first NFL TD on the Rams’ watch. In three of the Rams’ four games, the opposing team’s No. 2 receiver caught a TD. Jurevicius is already a red zone presence because of his super size. With increased opportunity, Jurevicius makes an excellent sleeper pick this week.

WR Greg Lewis - PHI (at DAL)

Lewis continues to be consistently targeted each week (9, 7, 9 and 6 targets through four games). He’s behind T.O., Westbrook and L.J. Smith in red zone targets, but he’s still getting about one look in the red zone each week. You have to take what you can get when you’re Lewis. Still, Lewis is tied for second on the team with 31 receptions and has no fewer than six in any game so far. As for Lewis’ matchup against the Cowboys? The Cowboys are the second best matchup in terms of fantasy pts allowed for opposing WRs, who have scored seven TDs against them in four games. The surprising thing is they allowed all seven of those TDs in the first three games, then somehow kept Randy Moss and Co. out of the end zone last week. Stranger things have happened. Look for the Eagles to help them revert to normal this week. Lewis remains a dark horse every week to catch a TD, but even if he doesn’t, he remains one of the safer sleeper picks because of his consistent targets, catches and utilization from week to week.

WR Eric Moulds - BUF (vs MIA)

See the analysis for Lee Evans. The same analysis applies to Moulds and is covered there in full detail.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Keary Colbert - CAR (at ARI)

The Cardinals secondary is extremely vulnerable with corner Antrel Rolle possibly out for the rest of the year. The 8th pick in the 2005 NFL draft was already the Cardinals best corner. David Macklin had a bad September and now he and rookie Eric Green are starting making matters just a bit more challenging for Dennis Green. Teams will try to mimic the Packers coverage. Double Steve Smith and whatever else happens, then so be it. We haven’t heard the last of Colbert. He’s still being targeted frequently and he responded last week with a solid effort on MNF. His rebound should continue this week in the desert.

WR Jabar Gaffney - HOU (vs TEN)

Gaffney is starting to get into a rhythm this year, slowly but surely. His targets are climbing each week (from 1 to 5 to 6) as his playing time and role in the offense slowly increases. Remember, Gaffney was slow getting back into the offense after rehabilitating his injuries in the offseason. He started last week and caught all six balls thrown in his direction to produce 88 yards. In one game against Tennessee last year, Gaffney caught five balls for 85 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, the Titans youthful secondary remains a solid matchup for QBs and WRs this year. They’ve allowed the 3rd most fantasy pts to WRs through four games – 11.2 catches, 160 yards and 1.8 TDs. Andre Johnson would appear as a “prime sleeper” this week, but it’s kind of difficult to consider Johnson a sleeper given his high profile in the fantasy football world. As such, we present to you Jabar Gaffney, who is a whole lot more under the radar. Opposing No. 2 receivers have scored a TD in three of the Titans four games – Antwan Randle El in week one (89 yds, TD), Kevin Curtis in week three (56 yards, 1 TD) and Reggie Wayne (48 yds, 1 TD). Gaffney might not be as good as any one of those players, but he still has a legitimate shot to be worthwhile this week.

WR Michael Jenkins - ATL (vs NE)

The Patriots secondary is riddled with injuries and they’ve been repeatedly beaten deep this year going back to the first game of the season. Randy Moss did it to them. Hines Ward followed suit in week three. Last week, Reche Caldwell and Keenan McCardell hit pay dirt. Jenkins is still very much a hit-and-miss fantasy receiver. He’s suffering from the occasional drop, but he’s the Falcons best deep threat and he’s been targeted consistently (4 to 6 times in the first three games). Last week, we can throw out because the Vikings feel behind so quickly the Falcons didn’t need to throw much after the 2nd quarter. This week should be vastly different as Tom Brady and the Patriots are sure to keep things interesting. Jenkins has the size, speed and talent to be a decent play. The question is whether he’ll cash in, or not. Brian Finneran is also worth a look. He’s actually been targeted more frequently (than Jenkins) in the red zone and third downs, so he deserves consideration, too.

WR Brandon Jones - TEN (at HOU)

With Drew Bennett almost certainly drawing coverage from Dunta Robinson, look for Jones to be coverage by either DeMarcus Faggins or Philip Buchanon. Jones is consistently working his way into the offense more with every passing week. The rookie receiver is earning Steve McNair’s trust. This game promises to be a good matchup for both teams to throw the ball well. Jones is a solid gamble this week to produce 40 to 50 yards with an outside chance of finding the end zone. He’s a slightly better play in PPR leagues, but if you’re looking for a player to roll the dice with, then Jones might not be a bad place to start.

WR Antwaan Randle El - PIT (at SD)

The Chargers have allowed the 5th most fantasy pts to opposing receivers so far (14.8 receptions, 190.2 yards and 1.5 TDs per game). Hines Ward is still not 100% after injuring his hamstring two weeks ago at the end of the game. Even with a bye week, Ward is questionable for this game, but says he’ll play. All that means is he might be a nice decoy for Roethlisberger to use as he connects more frequently with Randle El.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Braylon Edwards - CLE (vs CHI)

The Bears defense is playing good football overall, but they are being picked on by opposing receivers with better success than we anticipated in the first three games. They rank sixth in fantasy pts allowed to opposing WRs (11 receptions, 143.3 yards and 1.3 TDs per game). In their last game (week 3), rookie Chris Henry beat the Bears deep for a TD and finished with four catches for 51 yards. Antonio Bryant deserves a long look, too, this week. Teams are picking on the Bears’ top corner Charles Tillman and having decent success. Chad Johnson caught 2 TDs against him in week 3. Still, with Braylon Edwards working in the slot against Jerry Azumah, we can’t help but think Trent Dilfer won’t try to pick on his matchup at least a few times. In his first three games, Edwards still isn’t starting, but he’s been targeted 5, 4 and 7 times. His receptions have increased with each game. After a full bye week, look for Edwards as a surprise pick this week.

WR Chris Henry - CIN (at JAX)

Henry is a sleeper pick this week not so much because of the stats or matchup with the Broncos. He’s a sleeper because the Bengals keep going to him each week for big plays. For the 2nd time in the last three weeks, Henry caught an apparent TD only to have it over-ruled – this time by instant replay. His other TD came back because of a penalty. Palmer obviously has confidence and trust in the rookie receiver. It’s easy to see why. He’s 6’ 4” and runs like a deer. In college, he was a TD machine on the field, but somewhat of a dimwit off the field. His past problems haven’t been an issue yet in Cincinnati and the Bengals are frequently using him in three WR sets with T.J. Houshmandzadeh moving inside to the slot in those situations. Henry is a threat to score almost every week.

WR Brandon Stokley - IND (at SF)

If you look at Stokley’s targets it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. They are dwindling over the last few weeks in large part because the team has been content with running the football and playing defense. The team isn’t utilizing as many three WR sets as last year, too. Stokley’s targets go from 10 in week one to 5 in week 2 to just 1 in week three. That said, if Stokley is to break out of his funk, then this is the week to do so. This game should be like a walk in the park for the Colts. The 49ers are hands down the worst secondary in the league right nw. Opposing receivers have combined for no less than 250 yards and a TD in every game this year. Granted, that means Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison are in line for a house party, but maybe there’s enough love to go around and Stokley is able to pad his stats, too.

WR Peter Warrick - SEA (at STL)

See Joe Jurevicius’s analysis above and check Bobby Engram’s injury status accordingly. If Engram doesn’t play then Warrick will probably be involved as the team’s slot receiver and he could get plenty of looks. If Darrell Jackson is limited at all because of his ailing knee, then Warrick might see even more playing time in a game ideally suited for Hasselbeck and the Seahawks’ receivers.

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

WR Mark Bradley - CHI (at CLE)

Instead of listing Mark Bradley here, we should simply list the WR-by-committee the Bears tend to use at their WR2 spot. Bradley has started for the Bears, but Justin Gage, Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian also get a lot of reps on the field, too. It would truly be a reach of epic proportions to think you might extort any fantasy production out of Bradley this week. It could just as easily be Gage, Berrian or Wade that put up decent numbers – or none of them. The Browns are the seventh best matchup for opposing WRs in terms of fantasy pts allowed (16 completions, 206 yards and 1 TD per game). Muhsin Muhammad is certainly a good bet this week, but any one of the other Bears might also jump up and produce a solid game, too… Bradley just happens to be riding shotgun on the depth chart along side Muhammad, so he gets the honors.

WR Devery Henderson - NO (at GB)

The Packers secondary was beaten by the opposing team’s slot receiver for TDs in each of their first two games. The Lions’ Mike Williams scored on a 1-yard TD while fellow rookie Braylon Edwards went untouched for an 80-yard TD strike the next week. Henderson has the speed to keep the Packers corners honest and he could be worth a look in larger leagues if you’re really getting desperate.

WR Matt Jones - JAX (vs CIN)

Opposing team’s No. 3 receivers have been successful against the Bengals this year. Frisman Jackson, of course, had the huge game in the season opener. In week two, Travis Taylor produced 75 yards and Bobby Wade 47 yards in week three. Despite making a few highlight reels so far, Jones still hasn’t produced anything worthwhile from a fantasy perspective. Maybe he breaks into the scoring column this week.

WR Cedrick Wilson - PIT (at SD)

Two times in the Chargers first three games they were burned for TDs by the opposing team’s slot receiver. Patrick Crayton had his 89 yd, 1 TD breakout against the Chargers, and then Charlie Adams produced 31 yards followed by David Tyree’s 52 yds and a TD. Wilson is capable of doing the same. The Steelers will probably need to throw the ball a bit more than usual this week, too. Wilson is without question a huge reach, but in deeper leagues or TD only leagues, maybe you can justify him this week.

Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Dallas Clark - IND (at SF)

The 49ers defense is struggling to cover anyone, not just tight ends. For the second straight season, their secondary is decimated by injuries. Opposing tight ends are averaging 5.5 receptions for 63.8 yards and 0.8 TDs through 4 games. Most of that damage came from L.J. Smith in week two, but Jason Witten also had a solid game. The Rams and Cardinals don’t utilize their tight ends either. Clark’s been spotty this year, and that’s being nice. He’s been a huge disappointment and still hasn’t found the end zone. That might change this week, Peyton Manning should shred the 49ers defense producing a full game’s worth of stats in the opening half.

TE Ernie Conwell - NO (at GB)

Conwell has a great matchup this week. When Michael Gaines and Kris Mangum each score TDs, then you know the Packers have problems keeping up with opposing TEs. Remember Steve Heiden went off against them in week two with over 100 yards and two TDs. In week one, Marcus Pollard did the honors. Conwell didn’t do much last week, but look for a rebound, especially if Joe Horn is back in the lineup to pull coverage towards the outside giving Conwell free reign over the middle of the field. The Packers are the second best matchup statistically allowing 4.2 catches, 55.2 yards and 1.2 TDs per game to opposing TEs on the season.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Chris Cooley - WAS (at DEN)

In the first three games opponents were consistently picking in the Broncos defense by going to their tight ends. Then again, maybe it’s just a statistical anomaly knowing the three teams just happened to have Randy McMichael, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. Facing those three players three weeks in a row would cause any defense to be vulnerable to tight ends. The stats in this case might not tell the whole story. Last week, the Broncos clamped down and allowed only one catch for 6 yards to the Jaguars TEs. Cooley is a solid red zone threat and he finally made is mark last week with four catches for 61 yards. He’s being targeted consistently (6, 3 and 6 times) in the Redskins first three games, too.

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (vs BAL)

There are a few factors working in Pollard’s favor right now. Charles Rogers’ suspension puts Pollard into a position where he might see an increase in targets over the next month. With Rogers unavailable, Mike Williams moves into the starting lineup and Kevin Johnson stays in the slot. Harrington looks towards his TE a lot, always has. If the Ravens mount a good pass rush, Harrington may be looking to Pollard even more, especially with Chris McAllister and Samari Rolle providing coverage on the outside. Of course, all this means is that Pollard might catch 4 or 5 balls (on a good day) while Ed Reed catches a couple of his own. The Ravens allowed the 10th most fantasy pts to opposing TEs. Certainly not a great matchup, but not a terrible one either. Ben Utecht caught a 26 yard TD in week one against them for the Colts. The Jets TEs caught five balls for 44 yards last week with Brooks Bollinger tossing the rock.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Ben Watson - NE (at ATL)

There are two bad angles that are often discussed, but usually overrated. The first is when a player is playing back “at home”. The second is when a player’s “due” as in he’s been in a slump and DUE to breakout. There are all sorts of these “false positives” used to justify decisions and a couple of them are in play with Graham this week. He’s back in Georgia and he’s definitely DUE. For comparison’s sake, consider that Jerramy Stevens produced 49 yards and a TD vs. Atlanta in week two. L.J. Smith had 29 yards and the Vikings Jermaine Wiggins didn’t produce anything noteworthy. Watson is your typical Patriots TE like Daniel Graham last year. You might hit a home run or you might strike out and walk away empty handed.

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

TE Teyo Johnson - ARI (vs CAR)

The Panthers have allowed 4 TDs to opposing TEs through four games. Last week, the Packers Donald Lee and David Martin had the honors. Who, you ask? Exactly. Teyo entered the radar last week with a pair of catches in his first legitimate playing time with the Cardinals. This week he has a solid matchup considering that TEs have been burning the Panthers consistently this year.

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