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Week 6 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.


Quarterback

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

QB Drew Bledsoe - FA ( FA)

It’s hard to have much confidence in Bledsoe after watching him struggle badly against the Eagles this past week, but he’s been doing this same sort of hot/cold routine for years. The key to Bledsoe has always been not starting him bad situations, like any combination of a road game, poor weather or against a team with a strong pass rush. Follow that script, and Bledsoe can be a productive member of your very own QBBC. Stray from it, and you’re bound to get burned. This week, looks like a “go” week for Bledsoe. He’s facing a Texans defense that’s allowed more fantasy production to QBs through the first five weeks than any other team. In four games, every opposing QB (McNabb, Manning, Brunell and Culpepper) has thrown for a minimum of 249 yards and 1 TD (Culpepper setting the low marks there). It averages out to 306 yds/gm and 2 TDs/gm with only one interception.

QB Drew Brees - NO (vs ATL)

The Raiders are allowing 280 passing yards/gm to opposing QBs with 5 TDs and just 2 interceptions. Two of the four QBs they’ve faced produced 300 or more yards (Brady, McNabb). One of the best things about Brees is his consistency. He’s thrown for no less than 175 yards and no more than 248 yards in each game so far with at least 1 TD in four out of five games. Don’t forget the HUGE game he had last year against Oakland either – 22-for-25 for 281 yards with 5 TDs. At Oakland, he produced 18-of-34 for 226 yards with 1 TD, no INTs and a rushing TD. Brees has a solid track record against Oakland and he’s a great bet to exceed his established level of production in the first five games.

QB Aaron Brooks - FA ( FA)

If you haven’t run out of patience with Brooks by now, then maybe this week he’ll pull the rabbit out of the hat and produce something worthwhile against his cousin Michael Vick. Brooks has been reasonably effective against Atlanta in the past. Last year, Brooks and the Saints beat the Falcons 26-13 at home. Brooks threw for 227 yards with 1 TD, 2 INTs and a rushing TD. In Atlanta, the Saints lost 24-21 as Brooks went for 189 yards with 1 TD, 2 INTs and another rushing TD. In 2003, Brooks had mixed success against the Falcons. At home, he threw for 228 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs, but in Atlanta, he erupted for 352 yards, 3 TDs and no INTs. Enough history, let’s look ahead to the matchup and what the Falcons have done defensively this year. Opposing QBs average 243 yards with 7 TDs and 5 INTs, but they’ve been sacked 18 times (2nd most in the NFL). Keep in mind, most of those INTs came via Daunte Culpepper, but Brooks is also prone to the pick. He’s thrown 2 or more INTs in three of the Saints five games this year while topping 200 yards just once so far. It’s been a grim season for Brooks’ owners. Look at it this way. McNabb, Culpepper, Brady and Hasselbeck all threw for at least 250 yards and a TD against Atlanta. The only QB who didn’t fare well was J.P. Losman. If you don’t get physically ill at the thought of trotting Brooks out this week in your lineup, then give him one more shot to emerge from his funk. Of course, getting Joe Horn back into the lineup would help immensely now that Deuce McAllister is lost for the season.

QB Mark Brunell - NYJ (at BUF)

The Chiefs defense is better in 2005, but opposing QBs are still picking them apart at a pretty good rate (64.8% completion rate, 284 passing yds/gm with 6 TDs and just 2 INTs and 7 sacks). Meanwhile, Brunell has been on fire since taking over the starting gig for the Skins. In three starts (two on the road) against reasonably good defenses, Brunell has thrown 2 TDs in all three games with 291, 226 and 322 yards. He’s also rushed for 35, 16 and 17 yards surprisingly. The Skins pass protection has improved, too. He’s been sacked just twice in the last two games and he’s thrown only 2 INTs in his three starts. For comparison’s sake, each QB that has faced the Chiefs has thrown for at least one TD, and all but Jake Plummer has thrown for 263 yards or more. Plummer managed only 152 yards with 1 rushing TD and 1 passing TD. The downside of this matchup is playing KC at Arrowhead where the fans are noisy and tend to fire up the Chiefs defense. In addition, the Chiefs are well rested coming off their bye. Still, Brunell looks like a solid sleeper given the matchup and trends on both sides.

QB Jason Campbell - FA ( FA)

If Campbell isn’t already in your lineup every week, he should be this week. Campbell faces a weak Rams defense allowing 261 yards and 2 TDs per game with a completion rate around 64% and only one INT this year. Only the Lions have allowed more fantasy production to QBs. Facing the Cowboys and Eagles the past two weeks, Campbell has produced 176/0.0 against Philly and 231/2/0 against Dallas. The concern with Campbell this week is precisely what happened last week. The Redskins had so much success running the ball that they stuck to the ground and protected their lead thereby limiting Campbell’s production. The Rams are the 2nd best matchup for QBs, but they’re also the 2nd best matchup for RBs, too. Campbell has reliably produced around 200 or more yards each week (without a single INT) and, up until last week, he threw at least 1 TD in every game. He should be able to accomplish both this week, especially if he continues to throw the ball 20 to 35 times a game with a 60+% completion percentage. After the first game of the season, Campbell has been in the zone and he should have no problem getting comfortable in this game.

QB Jason Campbell - FA ( FA)

If it seems like Campbell has appeared regularly in the sleeper column, it is because he has. I’m not sure if that’s more of an indictment for the consistently soft matchups that Campbell has faced so far, or that he hasn’t been able to take full advantage of them. Campbell enters this week at the league’s mid-point, ranked about 16th among fantasy QBs. Since throwing for 340 yards and 2 TDs against the Lions, Campbell has been painful to watch throwing for a two-game total of 315 yards, 2 TDs and 4 INTs. Nevertheless, Campbell remains on the radar with another nice matchup. At some point, a nice matchup becomes irrelevant if a player isn’t able to take advantage of it. Opposing QBs averaged 277 yds, 2 TDs and 0.4 INTs against the Kans City Chiefs in their first five games. It would be worse if the Chiefs didn’t play JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders in Week 2. All other QBs have thrown for 292+ yards and 2-3 TDs.

QB Joe Flacco - BAL (vs CLE)

It’s no secret that the Patriots pass defense has struggled through the first month of the season. They’re allowing an average of 282 yards per game with nine TDs and seven INTs, a 69.1% completion rate and a passer rating of 91.2. By contrast, Joe Flacco had a slow start due to a brutal schedule that featured three road games in their first four against the Jets, Steelers and Bengals. Despite that, Flacco is averaging a solid 223 yards per game with a modest five TDs to six INTs thrown (and let’s tack on his rushing TD last week). He comes into this week as QB18 year to date, but if he plays as well as I expect against the young Patriots secondary, then he could move up as much as four spots. Keep in mind the Patriots rank third in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs despite having played mostly average to below average quarterbacks: Carson Palmer, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne. Flacco is arguably the best QB that the Patriots will have seen in the young season. All four quarterbacks have this much in common against the Patriots: all threw for 220 yards and two TDs or more. Look for Flacco to match, or possibly exceed, his Week 3 outburst against Cleveland (22-31-262-3).

QB Gus Frerotte - FA ( FA)

Frerotte owners should be licking their chops this weekend. Outside of maybe the Rams, there is no better target for opposing fantasy players right now than the Lions. They are the top matchup statistically for opposing QBs and fourth for opposing RBs and WRs. Opposing QBs are averaging 253 yards and 2 TDs per game while completing 67% of their passes without a single interception yet. Since Gus took over for Tarvaris Jackson in week 3, he has thrown for 204/1/1 vs Carolina, 266/0/1 at Ten and 222/1/0 at NO. Against tougher defenses, Frerotte is averaging ~230 yds/gm. In Minnesota and against the Lions, Frerotte should be good for 230 to 250 yards (conservatively) and probably at least a pair of TDs, too. Sidney Rice was a last minute scratch against the Saints. If he’s available along with Bernard Berrian, Frerotte is looking like a plum candidate for solid to strong fantasy production.

QB Matt Hasselbeck - FA ( FA)

Admittedly, it’s not much of a stretch to run with Hasselbeck in your lineup in most leagues. That said, he’ll be without both starting receivers and he is coming off a miserable performance against a strong Steelers defense (13-of-27 for 116 yards, 1 INT). On the positive side, Hasselbeck has a much better matchup against an ailing Saints pass defense this week and the game is at home. The Saints are allowing 220 yards, 2 TDs and 0.5 INTs per game to opponents. They did a nice job against the Panthers last week, but that was David Carr and this is Matt Hasselbeck. Big difference. In the previous two games, Vince Young produced 164 passing yards and 2 TDs while Jeff Garcia threw for 243 yards and 2 TDs despite completing only 10 passes.

QB Matt Hasselbeck - FA ( FA)

Owners of Matt Hasselbeck rejoice. A week after facing a Jaguars defense that is softer a baby’s bottom, he draws another excellent matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona’s defense isn’t bad, but they give up a lot of yards and TDs through the air. Last week, they bottled up Matt Schaub reasonably well during the first half only to see him rally the Texans from a 21-0 deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Schaub wound up throwing for 371 yards on 35-of-50 passing with two TDs and an interception. That comes two weeks after Peyton Manning completed 24-of-35 for 379 yards, 4 TDs an interception in Week 3. So much for fixing their leaky secondary during their bye week. Hasselbeck is off to a great start this year, despite missing time with three cracked ribs. He is completing better than 60% of his passes again, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt and his 7 TDs to 2 INTs is ratio that is conducive to winning football games. Needless to say, get Hasselbeck in your lineup this week.

QB J.P. Losman - MIA (at TB)

Last week, we tried the “start ‘em all” approach to the Lions defense and it didn’t work very well. That’s why they play the games. Let’s look more closely at the numbers here. Losman has thrown at least 1 TD in the last four games. Since the Bears are MUCH tougher than the Lions, let’s compare his performance against the Vikings and Jets, for the sake of projecting his numbers this week. Losman threw for 328 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT (23-for-38) against the Jets while producing 222 yards and 1 TD (23-of-32) against the Vikings. By contrast, all five QBs that faced the Lions so far threw for at least 201 yards and only Hasselbeck didn’t throw a TD. The Lions are the 3rd best matchup statistically – allowing 275 yds, 2.2 TDs and 0.2 INTs per game with an average of 25-of-34 passing (more than 70% completion rate). Ouch.

QB Eli Manning - NYG (at DAL)

Manning goes into Week 6 as a nominal fantasy starter ranking on the low end of QB1 status at QB10 on the strength of three above average games and two below average games. Manning’s story as a fantasy QB has been one of inconsistency from game to game, but when it’s all said and done, consistently top 10 to 15 stats. Manning is on pace to challenge his career highs in pass attempts, yards, TDs and (yes) even interceptions. Some of that can be attributed to the rapid development of Hakeem Nicks into one of the league’s elite receivers. Enter the Detroit Lions – this week’s opponent and one of the better possible matchups from a fantasy perspective. The Lions defense has improved up front and even in the secondary. After allowing 556 yards, 4 TDs and intercepting only pass in the first two games against Michael Vick and Jay Cutler, the Lions have settled down allowing slightly less than 200 yards per game with 4 TDs against 6 INTs (2 in each of those three games) against the likes of Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford. If this game were at Ford Field, I’d worry about it being a trap, but since it’s in the Giants new stadium, with the Lions coming off a huge 44-6 win, Manning looks like a strong QB1 option this week even though he could become the fourth QB in a row to throw a pair of INTs against the Lions.

QB Philip Rivers - SD (at OAK)

The key to using Rivers is predicting whether the Chargers will be challenged enough to be in a position where Rivers actually has to throw enough passes to be useful. The Chargers defense is playing excellent football. That’s great if you’re a fan, but not if you own Rivers and you’re counting on him for production. Witness Monday night, Rivers had to throw more frequently for the Chargers to win that game – and he came threw with 242 yards and 2 TDs. Opposing QBs average 241 yds, 2 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game against the 49ers. The last two weeks are good measuring sticks comparing the production of Damon Huard and Andrew Walter. Let’s assume we all agree that Rivers _should_ easily produce more than these two. Huard went 18-of-23 for 208 yards with 2 TDs. Walter (and Tuiasosopo) combined for a stat line of 18-of-32 for 216 with 2 TDs (and 4 INTs). Apply this to Rivers and it’s reasonable to believe that he can produce around 225+ yards with 2 TDs.

QB Kurt Warner - FA ( FA)

Barring injury, Warner will be the Cardinals starting QB for the rest of the season. Warner has not started a game yet this year, but he’s played extensively in each of the team’s last three games completing 43-of-69 for 580 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. He even rushed for his first TD since the 2004 season last week and second of his career. Warner faces a Panthers defense that picked off Drew Brees twice last week and didn’t allow a passing TD, but did allow 252 yards on 29-of-47 passing. In the Panthers first four games, they didn’t record an interception but allowed 5 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD and 237 yds/gm. Joey Harrington shred them for 361 yards and 2 TDs and Matt Schaub 227 yards and 2 TDs. Warner may get Anquan Boldin back into the lineup this week as an added bonus. Bottom line, Warner has played well this season and the glass is looking more half full than half empty.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Derek Anderson - CAR (at DET)

Anderson has thrown for 200+ yards in four straight games since taking over the starting job from Charlie Frye in week two. He’s thrown 10 TDs against 7 interceptions, but he’s completed just 53% of his passes in those starts and he’s made some poor decisions at times leading to turnovers in situations where they were in a position to put points on the board. Such was the case last week against the Patriots, perhaps the best defense in the league right now. Anderson threw for 287 yards, 2 TDs and 3 interceptions. This week’s opponent is the Dolphins and it’s at home. The Dolphins are allowing 180 yards and 1.2 TDs per game – hardly great numbers, but they’re ranking in Fantasy points allowed was skewed by Daunte Culpepper’s 5 TDs (3 rushing) against them in week 4. Last week, Matt Schaub produced 294 yards, no TDs and an interception against them. The Dolphins’ Achilles heel has been their run defense, but with Zach Thomas back last week and Ron Dayne starting for the Texans, they fared much better in that department leading to Schaub throwing more than expected. Look for similar results here. Jamal Lewis isn’t 100%, but likely to start. If he gets going early, it could limit Anderson’s production, but chances are the Browns will get Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow involved throughout the game and Anderson will remain productive and put up 200+ yards for a fifth straight week.

QB Mark Brunell - NYJ (at BUF)

Last week, perhaps unfairly, Brunell had lofty expectations against the Giants defense on the road. This week, Brunell and the Skins are back at home facing a Titans defense that has allowed the 5th most fantasy points to QBs: 20-of-29 for 214 yds, 1.4 TDs and 0.4 INTs per game. The strange thing about those numbers is that both Peyton Manning threw for just 166 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT against them – at home in Indy, too. Yet, Chad Pennington threw for 319 yards and 2 TDs and Philip Rivers went for 235 yards and a TD against them. It doesn’t add up. What it means is that Brunell is no better than a gamble this week - a roll of the die. Brunell has thrown for 200+ yards or at least 1 TD in 2 out of 5 games, but the good thing is he’s thrown only two interceptions in those games.

QB Matt Cassel - TEN (vs CIN)

Matt Cassel has one strong game and three miserable games to his credit this season. With a date against the Houston Texans this week, we strongly suspect that he will add another strong game. The Texans pass defense is wretched, allowing 344 yards per game (33 more than the next team) along with 11 TDs compared to just four INTs. The sarcastic side of me says the Texans defense has actually improved over the last three games allowing only 284/2/0 to Tony Romo, 278/2/2 to Bruce Gradkowski and 297/3/2 to Eli Manning after being toasted for back-to-back 400+ yard efforts by Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb. The Texans come in just behind the Jags when it comes to allowing big plays (19 plays of 20+ yards and 6 of 20+ yards) while opponents have a passer rating of 104.0, an 8.3 yards per attempt average and a completion rate of 68.9%. If there is a week when you want to test fate and start Dwayne Bowe, this is the one. While you’re at it, give Cassel, Tony Moeaki, and possibly Chris Chambers or Dexter McCluster a shot depending on your league’s size and lineup requirements.

QB Brett Favre - FA ( FA)

Brett Favre and Joe Flacco will reprise an episode of The Young and The Restless when the Vikings host the Ravens this weekend. Both teams are among the very best in the NFL at running the football and stopping the run. Both teams also have quarterbacks that have the arm strength to keep the other defense honest and enough desire to run the football to keep their play-action offense credible. The Ravens are allowing 254 yds, 1.2 TDs and 1.4 INTs per game to opposing QBs while the Vikings are allowing 247 yds, 1.4 TDs and 1.2 INTs per game. The Ravens have been decidedly more pass-happy in their last two games while Favre continues to shake off the rust looking better with each passing game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both QBs throw for 250 to 300 yards and a TD or two.

QB Joe Flacco - BAL (vs CLE)

Brett Favre and Joe Flacco will reprise an episode of The Young and The Restless when the Vikings host the Ravens this weekend. Both teams are among the very best in the NFL at running the football and stopping the run. Both teams also have quarterbacks that have the arm strength to keep the other defense honest and enough desire to run the football to keep their play-action offense credible. The Ravens are allowing 254 yds, 1.2 TDs and 1.4 INTs per game to opposing QBs while the Vikings are allowing 247 yds, 1.4 TDs and 1.2 INTs per game. The Ravens have been decidedly more pass-happy in their last two games while Favre continues to shake off the rust looking better with each passing game. It wouldn’t be a surprise if both QBs throw for 250 to 300 yards and a TD or two.

QB David Garrard - NYJ (at BUF)

In his first five games of the 2008 season; Garrard is averaging right around 200 yds and 1 TD per game (slightly less actually) and adding a little something with his legs more often than not. In his last two games, he kicked it up a notch averaging 218 yds and a TD. He has a nice matchup this week against the Broncos, who are allowing 264 yds, 1.6 TDs and 0.4 INTs per game to QBs on 25-of-34 passing. Garrard faced the Broncos on one other occasion. Last year, he completed 14-of-20 for 154 yards and 1 TD, though he also added 52 yards rushing. The Broncos pass rush is among the weakest in the league. Garrard’s mobility should serve him well and allow his receivers the extra couple of seconds to get open down field. Damon Huard was able to complete 21-of-28 for 160 yds, 1 TD and no picks two weeks ago. The Broncos played better last week when they sprung a surprise on the Bucs and played cover-2. Jeff Garcia and Brian Griese still combined for 181 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT while completing 26-of-36 in their traditional dink and dunk method of attack. Garrard should do no worse than that – probably around 200-220 yards and 1-2 TDs.

QB David Garrard - NYJ (at BUF)

David Garrard has played like the AFC’s version of Jason Campbell. Like Campbell, Garrard has appeared more often than not in this weekly column due to a string of strong matchups in the first month of the season. This week is no different. Mike Sims-Walker should return to the lineup to give Garrard a credible target, and they’re back in the Sunshine State facing a Rams teams allowing 248 passing yards, 1.6 TDs and 0.6 INTs to opponents. Garrard is painful to watch sometimes. Poor protection has been a big part of it, but Garrard could be much more accurate, too. Against soft defenses, Garrard is usually solid, but the Seahawks were nowhere near soft last week. They dominated the Jaguars in the trenches and Garrard had no time. This week, he should have more time, but Garrard is a calculated gamble. He has shown us his downside in Week 1 against the Colts and last week. Expect a decent rebound for Garrard this week.

QB Brian Griese - FA ( FA)

Opposing quarterbacks average 224 yards/gm with 7 TDs and 3 INTs vs. Miami. It’s a solid matchup for Griese, especially playing at home, but he will have to deal with the Dolphins pass rush (10 sacks in 4 games). Kelly Holcomb managed 169 yards with 1 TD against Miami last week while making his first start of the season for the Bills. Jake Delhomme fared much better with 285 yards and 3 TDs in Miami the previous week. Chad Pennington threw for 190 yds and 2 TDs in week two. The Bucs will probably have Cadillac Williams back in the fold giving them a legitimate running attack. Cadillac’s presence should help keep the Dolphins pass rush a little more honest and could potentially open up the field for Griese. Then again, it could signal a return to pounding the football with Griese throwing fewer passes. Griese’s no slam-dunk, but he’s in a good situation this week to produce 200+ yards and possibly toss a pair of TDs. Let’s look at it this way. Griese has thrown for 200+ yards three times in five games; he’s also thrown for 2 TDs in three games. With a better than average matchup, Griese has roughly a 60+% chance to be a productive fantasy starter going strictly by the numbers. The key with Griese is avoiding turnovers and Miami has only three INTs, so Griese looks like a relatively safe play.

QB Brian Griese - FA ( FA)

The Vikings are a difficult team to run against, and let’s face it, Cedric Benson hasn’t been terribly impressive so far as the Bears featured back either. In the last two games, the Vikings have allowed 344/2/0 to Brett Favre and 206/1/0 to Damon Huard. In week two, the Lions Jon Kitna and J.T. O’Sullivan produced a combined 393/2/3. Griese’s #1 target Bernard Berrian isn’t completely healthy this week, so that hurts a little, but look for the Bears to open up their attack in this matchup and for Griese to be productive enough to be a reasonable gamble as your starting QB in leagues with 12 teams or more. In his two starts, he has produced 286/2/3 and 214/2/1.

QB Byron Leftwich - PIT (vs JAX)

Knowing the kind of pass rush the Steelers generate with their zone blitzing schemes - 15 sacks through the first 4 games - it might surprise you to read that opposing QBs are completing 65.9% of their passes against them. The Steelers are allowing 244 yards/gm to opposing QBs, but they have only 3 TDs with 4 INTs. Tom Brady raised the curve, so to speak. Brees and McNair each threw for 219 yards with a TD against Pittsburgh; David Carr 167 yards and a TD. Brady threw for 372 yards, but failed to throw a TD. Leftwich is a good bet to throw for around 200 or more yards with a TD, maybe two but that might be pushing it. Against Pittsburgh last year, Leftwich went 16-for-27 for 268 yards with a TD, but that was at home and this week they’ll be in Pittsburgh. All in all, not a great matchup, but Leftwich should be in a position to throw often. That will help him rack up yards, but it also puts him in the crosshairs of the Steelers pass rush.

QB Eli Manning - NYG (at DAL)

The $1,000,000 question this week is… Which Cowboys defense will show up this week when Manning and the Giants visit? The Cowboys allowed solid production to Drew Brees (209 yds, 2 TDs), Mark Brunell (291 yards, 2 TDs) and Tim Rattay (269 yards, 3 TDs) to start the season. Only Brunell’s stats came in Dallas, the others came against the Cowboys defense playing on the road. In week 4, something clicked, or so it may seem on paper. Kerry Collins was held out of the end zone and limited to just 218 yards. Then last week, the Cowboys held Donovan McNabb to just 131 yards and no TDs. Granted, McNabb is/was hurt, but that’s two weeks against (arguably) the league’s two most dangerous receivers and passing offenses. Enter Eli Manning and the upstart Giants passing attack in week 6. Eli is on a tear with 688 yards and 6 TDs in his last two games. Remember, he closed the 2004 season on a high note (in NY) with 144 yards and 3 TDs against the Cowboys. If the Giants can keep the Cowboys pass rush at bay (16 sacks), then Eli is a solid sleeper. This game will be a good test for how far Eli has progressed in his second year. It’s his first tough road game against a divisional rival this season. So, the question becomes once again… Which Cowboys defense will show up this week? The one that played the first three weeks and allowed a lot of yards and TDs or the one that shut down Oakland and Philly.

QB Kyle Orton - FA ( FA)

Since Kyle Orton was booed after throwing a few picks during the preseason; it seems like he has done no wrong. He and the Broncos are 5-0. He has thrown for an average of 247 yards per game, completed better than 60% of his passes with seven TDs to only one interception. He draws a reeling Chargers defense that allowed Ben Roethlisberger to complete 26-of-33 for 333 yards and 2 TDs in their last game. Opponents are running the ball down the Charger’s throats since Jamal Williams went down. The Broncos will do plenty of that, too. The good news for Orton is that a) the Chargers pass defense isn’t that good either and b) Brandon Marshall’s bad deeds aside, he is a monster in the red zone. Orton has wisely began looking for him and connecting with him for 4 TDs in the last three games. Eddie Royal appears to be back in the groove, too. All that bodes well for Broncos offense, which could be firing on all cylinders this week.

QB Carson Palmer - ARI ( FA)

A week after Palmer sat out with a sore elbow, he emerged from Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys having thrown for 217 yards with 2 TDs and an interception on 23-of-39 throwing. Despite the sore throwing elbow, he said he felt good. As long as Palmer’s elbow holds up, then he should not have many problems putting up respectable numbers against a Jets pass defense allowing a league-high 284 yards/gm. The Jets opponents are throwing the ball an average of 37 times each game, completing 25 of them for 7 TDs against 5 INTs. The Bengals have shown glimpses of sustainable offense in the past few games, but they remain anything but a sure bet. After Palmer’s first two games resulted in 233 yds, 0 TDs and 3 INTs, he has produced 503 yds, 3 TDs and 1 INT in the last two. While Kurt Warner’s 472/2/3 line impacted the Jets numbers against the most, Philip Rivers (250/3/1) and Chad Pennington (251/2/1) also had strong outings against them. It’s not a one week thing. Palmer could have his best game of the year this week, but proceed cautiously and monitor his elbow situation closely all the way up to game-time.

QB Chad Pennington - MIA (at TB)

In the last three games, Pennington has quickly fallen back to the pack statistically after beginning the season with back-to-back 300 yard games. Granted, the Bills, Colts and Jaguars are all better than average pass defenses. Miami isn’t that good, but their not terrible either. Three of the five QBs have thrown for 200+ yards against Miami, all of them threw at least 1 TD and 3 of them scored 2 or more TDs. Last week, Tom Brady only produced 140 yards with 2 TDs (no INTs). David Carr threw for 230 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT each, and a rushing TD. Kerry Collins produced 269 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. J.P. Losman did nothing against Miami, but Charlie Batch threw for 209 yards and 3 TDs in the season opener.

QB Vince Young - CLE (at BAL)

Opposing QBs are averaging 243 yards, 1.8 TDs and 0.4 TDs per game against the Redskins (6th most). All of the QBs to face Washington have topped 200 yards and thrown at least 1 TD. Granted, streaks are meant to be broken, but that’s a good sign for Young’s potential this week. The Redskins haven’t faced a QB as inexperienced as Young yet, but Brad Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, David Carr and Byron Leftwich also aren’t your typical top 10 fantasy QBs either. With Shawn Springs out, the Redskins secondary is more vulnerable. By the same token, it sure would be nice if Drew Bennett is healthy and able to play this weekend, too. At this point, Young is worth a gamble, especially if you’re without a starter this week due to the bye and have other injuries complicating your decision.

QB Vince Young - CLE (at BAL)

If Vince Young had thrown for just 200 yards in one of his first five games, then he would be at the top of this week’s QB sleeper list, but he hasn’t. On the other hand, last week’s 173 yards and 2 TDs translated to 20 fantasy points – which is tied for his best fantasy production of the season. He is currently just 23rd amongst his peers (year to date), but he could easily move up the list this week going against the weak Jaguars pass defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 220 yards, 3 TDs and no picks last week was a barometer of sorts for how Young might project this week. Previously, the Jaguars gave up no less than 290 yards in each game, but it was to a group of top notch QBs including Kyle Orton, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Peyton Manning. Young’s stats were nearly padded by a long TD to Kenny Britt, but he was ruled down by contact (barely). Opposing QBs have a 108.4 passer rating against the Jags, sporting a 66.9% completion rate, 8.8 yards per attempt (most in the league) with 12 TDs against only four interceptions. They’ve also allowed the most long pass plays in the league – 22 plays of 20+ yards and 8 of 40+ yards. Update Young along with Nate Washington, Kenny Britt and possibly even Damian Williams in super deep leagues after he made his debut last week as the team’s No. 3 receiver.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Marc Bulger - FA ( FA)

All signs point to Marc Bulger returning to the Rams lineup this week. After the Vikings sufficiently battered Kyle Boller around the pocket, Bulger entered Sunday’s game, and then completed seven straight passes including a 27-yard TD to Donnie Avery. It was almost enough to be snookered into thinking that Bulger isn’t washed up after all, but not quite. The Rams remain a bad team, but the Jags may be even worse. Opposing teams are averaging 278 passing yards, 2.2 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game against them. Last week, Matt Hasselbeck returned to the lineup to throw for 241 yards and four TDs against the Jags. That was the low-mark for the passing yards against the Jags in their first five games. Bulger should have more time than usual to throw since the Jaguars pass rush is anemic at best. Even better, Bulger is available in plenty of leagues since he has missed the last several games due to injury.

QB Matt Cassel - TEN (vs CIN)

Facing a Chargers defense that is allowing 280 passing yards per game (2nd most in the league), Matt Cassel is definitely a solid reach this week. The Chargers defense has been on the field a lot this year allowing an average of 41 pass attempts by opposing QBs per game (2nd highest in the league). They’re also allowing a league-high 2 TDs per game. Chad Pennington’s 22-of-29 for 228 yards and 1 TD last week against San Diego represents the low mark for opposing QBs. JaMarcus Russell completed 22-of-37 for 277 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Favre was 30-of-42 for 271 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INTs. Cutler was 36-of-50 for 350 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT. Jake Delhomme was 23-of-41 for 247 yards, 1 TD and no INTs without Steve Smith. Cassel holds onto the ball too long and he’s making plenty of mistakes. You can bet on the Chargers capitalizing on one/more of them this week. That said, Cassel seems certain to throw the ball 30+ times this week, probably closer to 35 to 40, and have his first multiple TD game of the season. It won’t be easy though. The Chargers defense can make big plays and pressure Cassel, so he carries a certain amount of risk, too.

QB Jake Delhomme - HOU (at SEA)

Perhaps this week’s matchup is just what the doctor ordered for Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith. The Panthers offense struggled through the first five weeks, but now they face a Bucs defense being burned regularly by the deep ball. Donovan McNabb hit Jeremy Maclin deep twice for long TDs in the first half last week against Tampa. Trent Edwards had arguably his best game of the season (21-31-230-2-1) against the Bucs in Week 2 (and has been terrible since then). All five QBs have thrown two or more TDs against the Bucs. Delhomme is a relatively safe reach this week, and with any luck, Steve Smith will break out of his funk, too.

QB Joey Harrington - FA ( FA)

It might not matter how great the matchup looks on paper. Some folks simply won’t be able to muster the thought of putting Joey Harrington in their starting lineup after his mostly dreadful performance so far this season. Who could blame them? Let’s recap Harrington’s season as a reality check before we delve into the inviting numbers that make this matchup at least semi-intriguing. Harrington has struggled to complete better than 50% of his passes in every game. He still hasn’t cracked the 200-yard barrier and he’s thrown 2 TDs in only one game. In three of his four games, his passer rating has been below 70. Ouch. And, of course, he’s struggling to average better than his career mark of around 5.5 yards per attempt. To add insult to injury, or vice versa, Roy Williams is hurt and Mike Williams struggled to stay on the field last week battling back spasm among other ailments. Oh yeh, Charles Rogers couldn’t put down the Buddha and he’s serving a four game suspension. If you’re still interested, let’s see what Harrington might be able to do against this Panthers defense. They’ve allowed the 3rd most fantasy pts to opposing QBs – 266 yds/gm with 9 TDs, 6 INTs and amazingly just 5 sacks. They’ve allowed 5 completions of 40 yards or more in as many games (2nd most in the NFL) and 19 completions of 20 yards or longer (3rd most). Something has to give this week. Either Joey is up for the task or the Panthers will respond and their defense will suddenly look a whole lot better in Detroit.

QB Damon Huard - SF ( FA)

When Carson Palmer threw four TDs against Pittsburgh in week 3, we might have written if of as, well, Carson freaking Palmer doing his thing. Yet even Daunte Culpepper threw for 262 yards (though he didn’t throw a TD and had 2 INTs) and Byron Leftwich beat the Steelers with 260 yards (but no TDs and 1 INT). Fast forward to last Sunday night when Philip Rivers completed 24-of-37 for 242 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT against the Steelers. While the Steelers are allowing some passing yards and TDs, they’re pass rush appears to be as effective as ever. The positive note for the Steelers is that this game is at home, where the defense usually “brings the noise”. On the other hand, Huard has been unusually productive since replacing the injured Trent Green. In the last two games, he’s completed 44-of-61 for 496 yards and 4 TDs with no picks. That run will probably come to a halt this week, but don’t be surprised if he manages around 200 yards with a 1-2 TDs – also expect at least 1 INT and a few sacks, too.

QB Josh Johnson - NYG (at DAL)

After facing an aggressive Eagles defense that harassed him regularly last week, Josh Johnson welcomes their divisional rival Carolina Panthers to town this week. The Panthers are among the league leaders in passing yards allowed (180), but that is partially due to their struggling run defense. They’re also allowing 1.5 TDs and just 0.5 INTs per game to opposing QBs. Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Jason Campbell have combined for an impressive 61-of-83 passing against the Panthers over their last three games. That’s good news for Johnson who was plagued by dropped balls last week while completing 26-of-50 for 240 yards, a pair of TDs and three INTs.

QB Cleo Lemon - FA ( FA)

With Trent Green sidelined for this week and perhaps much longer, if not permanently, following a bad concussion last week, Lemon gets the starting nod this week against the most porous pass defense in the league. Cleveland is allowing 272 passing yards, 3 TDs and 0.6 INTs per game and opponents are completing over 60% of their passes against them. Lemon completed 15-of-27 for 151 yards and an interception last week against Houston. Lemon is certainly no ringer considering his lack of experience as a starter and because he’ll be in a noisy, road game environment. It’s still a great matchup. Steve McNair has not been very productive this year but he put up 307 yards and a TD against Cleveland in week 4 and the Raiders Daunte Culpepper and Josh McCown combined for 226 yards and a TD in week 3. The other three QBs were more experience and savvy, but Carson Palmer produced 401-6-2, Tom Brady 265-3-0 and Ben Roethlisberger 161-4-0.

QB Kyle Orton - FA ( FA)

Continuing a string of solid performances, Orton faces a young Falcons secondary this week that has allowed 607 yards, 5 TDs and 1 INT in the last two weeks against Aaron Rodgers and Jake Delhomme. Jon Kitna produced 262 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT against them in the season opener. Orton is coming off his first 300-yard game of his career against the Lions despite playing without starter Brandon Lloyd. Orton’s last three starts – 268/2/2 against Tampa Bay, 199/3/2 against Philadelphia and 334/2/0 against Detroit – have been good enough to move him into the #11 spot amongst fantasy QBs (year to date). Since Orton has produced against better defenses (Tampa and Philadelphia) he looks like a solid reach against the Falcons this week.

QB Mark Sanchez - DAL (vs NYG)

With each passing week, those of you who own Mark Sanchez must feel like you’re playing the old game show Press Your Luck. No Whamies! No Whamies! Amazingly, Sanchez has not thrown a single interception in his first five games after throwing 20 as a rookie (and two more in the Jets three playoff games). After a poor outing against a stellar Ravens pass defense in the season opener, Sanchez has thrown for 207 yards per game with 8 TDs. He faces a Broncos defense this week that is among the top seven in the leagues in fantasy points allowed. It marks his third such matchup this year. In his previous two, Sanchez delivered the goods with 220/3/0 against the Patriots and 161/2/0 against the Bills (which could’ve been worse, but they barely threw the ball in the second half). Toss in the bonus of having Santonio Holmes in the lineup and Sanchez should have another fine day against the Broncos even if it’s a road game. After all, Sanchez lit up a pretty tough Dolphins defense for 256/3/0 in Week 3 in Miami. The Broncos have intercepted only three passes (all courtesy of Matt Hasselbeck) and recorded just 5 sacks in five games. Making matters worse for the Broncos, they lost their two best edge rushers to injury (Elvis Dumervil first, then Robert Ayers). We don’t even need to consult the Magic 8 Ball to know that “all signs point to yes“ for Sanchez extend his steak of games with no interceptions. He may not throw for much more than 200 yards and a couple TDs, but he looks like one of the safer plays this week.

QB Matt Schaub - ATL (at NO)

Schaub had a solid game in week 4 against the Jaguars (29-of-40 for 307 yds and 3 TDs, 24 yds rushing) but then he sat out last week’s game due to illness. Sage Rosenfels took the reins and produced 246/1/1 and 16 yds rushing, too. Just when Houston was embracing for another QB controversy, Rosenfels short circuited down the stretch with turnovers, ensuring Schaub’s spot in the lineup. Assuming Schaub is good to go this week, his matchup is attractive against the Dolphins. The Dolphins opponents are averaging 221 yds, 1.8 TDs and 0.2 INTs against them on 18-of-28 passing. Just keep in mind that the Dolphins defense is physical and they could pose some challenges for the Texans. They gave the Chargers fits last week limiting Rivers to 159 yards and 1 TD. The Texans offense seems to be turning the corner, especially now that Andre Johnson is involved, but as a matchup, the Dolphins look good on paper, but they’re far from a given. Schaub is a gamble, but there’s some upside worth exploring this week.

QB Alex Smith - KC (vs WAS)

Like the Broncos, the Raiders have one of the top shutdown/cover corners in the league, but that alone won’t get the job done against NFL teams with a reasonably good group of skilled offensive players. The 49ers certainly have the talent at the key positions, but how well they produce for fantasy owners rests largely on the inconsistent throwing arm of Alex Smith. While Smith has produced reasonably good stats for passing yards and TDs, it is his 9 interceptions that leave Head Coach Mike Singletary and all of his fantasy owners beyond frustrated. The good news is that Smith just might exceed lowered expectations this week against a Raiders defense that has intercepted only two passes this year (Smith nearly averages that PER GAME). Just as positive, opposing QBs have thrown 10 TDs while averaging 213 yards per game against the Raiders. While Philip Rivers broke the mold of the first four opposing QBs being held to less than 200 yards (Rivers had 431), all five of them threw two TDs. The idea of starting Smith may give you goose bumps, but he looks like a safe play for around 200+ yards and 2 TDs this week. We can’t offer any guarantees when it comes to interceptions, though.

QB Anthony Wright - NYG (at DAL)

Wright didn’t look particularly good against the Lions last week as he fell victim to Dre’ Bly on two occasions. If it weren’t for good old garbage time stats, Wright would’ve been abysmal in the box score. This week, Wright will be back at home and facing a Browns defense that has forced a turnover in 17 straight games. The Browns have allowed 242 passing yards/gm with 6 TDs and 4 INTs to opposing QBs while sacking them 7 times. Opponents are completing an amazing 73.2% of their passes against them (surely not a good sign). Wright is obviously not a consideration for 90% of fantasy owners, but if your situation is bleak, keep in mind that even Kyle Orton went 16-for-26 (61.5%) for 117 yards with a TD against Cleveland (on the road, too) last week. That sort of puts Wright’s chances into perspective. Comparing Wright to Brett Favre (342 yds, 3 TDs), Peyton Manning (228 yds, 0 TDs) and Carson Palmer (280 yards, 2 TDs) just doesn’t make much sense. Wright might be a worthwhile reach in deeper leagues. Obviously, he’s not a great player to gamble on, but the matchup is above average, he’s at home and the Ravens are coming off a stinging loss in Detroit where the team’s defense self-destructed. Look for Baltimore to rebound this week at Cleveland’s expense. Eat your heart out, Art Modell.

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

QB Jason Campbell - FA ( FA)

Whether it is Bruce Gradkowski or Jason Campbell for the Raiders this week, you might consider using them in really deep leagues or those that require two starting quarterbacks. Opposing QBs are averaging about 20 fantasy points per game against the 49ers with alarming consistency. The worst game turned in against the 49ers was Matt Ryan in Week 4 with 26-of-43 for 273 yards, a TD and two INTs. Last week, Kevin Kolb managed to throw for 253 yards and a TD, no picks and he added 17 yards rushing, too. Quarterbacks are completing 67.3% of their passes against SF with nine TDs and only four interceptions. Gradkowski is a shaky play if he starts, simply because of his shoulder. He could be knocked out with one good hit as he was last week. On the other hand, Campbell may actually be a better play because a) he is healthier and b) he looked pretty good against the Chargers, who are shaping up as one of the top five defenses in the NFL after one month.

QB David Carr - FA ( FA)

The Seahawks could be without half of their starting secondary. Michael Boulware suffered a potentially serious back injury last week and Andre Dyson has a hamstring injury. The Seahawks allow 228 passing yds/gm with 7 TDs through five games. Mark Brunell threw for 226 yards and a pair of TDs in week 4 against them, Kurt Warner and Josh McCown combined for 202 yards and no TDs. The later result is more likely for Carr, especially if he’s without top WR Andre Johnson. Carr has been terribly disappointing all year, but he does add 3-4 pts per game running the football and the Seahawks will almost certainly have the Texans playing from behind in this matchup. With Carr, it’s sad to say, you’re forced to become reliant upon garbage time to salvage any fantasy points. That might be the case this week, but if you ain’t too proud to beg… you can roll with Carr and take your chances.

QB Brodie Croyle - FA ( FA)

Earlier in the week it was reported that Brody Croyle would make his first NFL start this week against the Bengals because Damon Huard has been ruled out due to a shoulder contusion suffered last week against the Jaguars. Huard has not been ruled out, as of Wednesday, and the team is awaiting further tests on his should. So, be sure to check on Huard’s status before making the call either way with Croyle or Huard, but know this – the matchup this week is extremely favorable for the Chiefs passing game as the Bengals have allowed an average of 257 yards, 2.8 TDs and 1.5 INTs per game. The low mark of opposing QBs was Steve McNair (along with Kyle Boller) in week one. The Ravens combined for 222 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Since then, Derek Anderson produced 328/5/1, Matt Hasselbeck 248/3/2 and Tom Brady 231/3/1. The Bengals will also be without starting corner Jonathan Joseph, who was suspended by the league for one game.

QB Daunte Culpepper - FA ( FA)

Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz is a graduate in the Bill Belichick school of disclosing injuries. The conventional wisdom is that Matthew Stafford will not be available to play this week against the Packers. Culpepper played well enough against the Steelers, so why risk rushing Stafford back when they have a bye the following week. The Packers aren’t a particularly good matchup, but they’ll give up big plays as well as make big plays. They’ve allowed nine TDs, but have also intercepted seven passes in four games. Culpepper is always a huge risk due to his penchant for coughing up the ball and throwing picks, but also because Calvin Johnson may not be ready to go either. To Culpepper’s credit though, he is in decent shape and his knee appears sound. He may lose you a few points on turnovers, but as long as he starts, he should be good for around 200 yards, 20+ rushing yards and a TD or two.

QB David Garrard - NYJ (at BUF)

I think I’ve sworn off including David Garrard in this column several times, but he’s like the persistent cough I have been dealing with for the last two weeks. He just won’t go away and I’ve fresh out of Nyquil. Here’s the deal. We all loathe Garrard as a starting quarterback, but he can be semi-reliable if the game is in Jacksonville and the opponent is as soft as a baby’s bottom. He managed to pull off the rare feat of being fantasy relevant last week despite being on the road as he produced 178/3/1 against the Bills (one of the league’s five best defensive matchups for QBs). The Broncos are seventh and Garrard produced 170/3/0 against them in the opener at home. The Titans are this week’s opponent and they’re moving up the ranks of favorable defenses with each passing week after shutting down their first two opponents. Garrard is not of the same ilk as Tony Romo, Eli Manning or Kyle Orton, but all three of those QBs have thrown for 341 yards or more against the Titans. On the downside, they’ve combined for 6 INTS, too. That is where we have trust issues with Garrard, home or not. He should break the seal with his first 200+ yard game this season, and he should throw two TDs, but he could just as easily fall short of 200 yards again, throw only 1 TD and complete a couple of passes to the wrong colored jerseys, too. He’s risky, but then again you already knew that.

QB Bruce Gradkowski - FA ( FA)

This is definitely not a “good matchup” angle here. The Bengals are a ball-hawking team defensively that can frustrate opposing QBs and force them to make mistakes. Gradkowski did well on the road last week making his first start in the NFL. He went 22-of-37 for 245 yards with 2 TDs, no picks and 19 yards rushing. Expect an interception of two in this game from Gradkowski, but don’t be at all surprised if he manages to produce 200 to 225 yards with 1-2 TDs either.

QB Bruce Gradkowski - FA ( FA)

Whether it is Bruce Gradkowski or Jason Campbell for the Raiders this week, you might consider using them in really deep leagues or those that require two starting quarterbacks. Opposing QBs are averaging about 20 fantasy points per game against the 49ers with alarming consistency. The worst game turned in against the 49ers was Matt Ryan in Week 4 with 26-of-43 for 273 yards, a TD and two INTs. Last week, Kevin Kolb managed to throw for 253 yards and a TD, no picks and he added 17 yards rushing, too. Quarterbacks are completing 67.3% of their passes against SF with nine TDs and only four interceptions. Gradkowski is a shaky play if he starts, simply because of his shoulder. He could be knocked out with one good hit as he was last week. On the other hand, Campbell may actually be a better play because a) he is healthier and b) he looked pretty good against the Chargers, who are shaping up as one of the top five defenses in the NFL after one month.

QB JaMarcus Russell - FA ( FA)

It might not seem like it, but JaMarcus Russell has actually produced decent fantasy numbers in three of his four starts this year. Amazingly, he’s done it despite throwing the ball a combined 99 times in four games. Tom Cable, the team’s interim head coach, promises more of a balanced attack going forward along with (insert your trademark Al Davis tag line here) a few more shots down field each game. The Raiders had an extra week to prepare as they come off their bye and they face a Saints defense that is allowing 257 passing yards, 1.2 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game. Gus Frerotte led a similar run-heavy, pass-challenged Vikings offense to 222 yards and a TD against the Saints on Monday Night Football. Every QB the Saints have faced this year has attempted at least 34 passes and produced at least 221 yards and a TD. The extra week also gave Darren McFadden time to rest his turf toe and Justin Fargas time to rejoin the lineup for this week’s game. Russell is still a reach, but his opportunity to produce appears to have improved with the coaching change and the favorable matchup – not to mention his first trip back to Louisiana as a pro.

QB Matt Ryan - ATL (at NO)

Even though Matt Ryan seems to be playing well beyond his years, most fantasy owners are probably a little reluctant to roll the dice on the top rookie. There is no doubt that Ryan has played well to date, perhaps even better than someone like Peyton Manning or Eli Manning when they broke into the league. He has more TDs (4) than INTs (3) and his consistency (161, 158, 192, 158 and 194 passing yards each week) are endearing qualities, though as a fantasy QB, he still hasn’t thrown for 200+ yards in any game. This week’s opponents, Chicago, is an interesting matchup since they’ve allowed a league-high 43 passing attempts per game along with 245 yards, 0.8 TDs and 1.2 INTs. Peyton Manning, Brian Griese and Donovan McNabb attempted 49, 67 and 41 passes against them respectively, while Jake Delhomme produced a meager 12-of-21 for 128 yards and no TDs against them (sans Steve Smith). Ryan is a on run-first team that knows its identity and, therefore, he probably won’t join the group of QBs to throw 40+ times against the Bears. He could still throw 25 to 30 passes and produce 175 to 200 yards with a TD. Not exactly starter quality fantasy numbers, but it’s a better than average matchup and he could have one of his better games of the year this week.

QB Mark Sanchez - DAL (vs NYG)

The Bills defense is a mess. Last week’s game wiped out their linebackers after they were already down two. Two weeks ago, they lost both safeties to injury, too. They may need to pull someone off the street to start at linebacker against the Jets this week. That obviously bodes well for Mark Sanchez, but it looks even better for Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and probably even Shonn Greene. The risk here is that Sanchez may be reduced to handing off the football in the second half. The Bills mustered only a field goal last week against a pretty bad Browns team. The Jets could make short work of the Bills this week and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sanchez throws less than 25 passes, which limits his ceiling to around 200 yards and 1 or 2 touchdowns.


Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Tatum Bell - FA ( FA)

Each of the last two RBs to face the Raiders ran for 100 yards. The Raiders are the 2nd best fantasy matchup for RBs allowing an average of 141 rushing yds, 46 receiving yards and 1 TD per game. Last week, Frank Gore rambled his way to 134 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards. Maurice Hicks added a 33 yard reception for a TD, too. Bell is ranked around 23rd-24th in PPG, so he’s right on the cusp of a fantasy starter. He has rushed for 100 yards in 2 of the 4 games he’s played, but he’s yet to score a TD. Look for that to change this week. 100+ yards and a TD are in the forecast given this week’s matchup – at home – against the Raiders.

RB Chris Brown - FA ( FA)

Patience is a virtue if you’re a Chris Brown owner, or it could be a curse if you’re falling behind the 8-ball in the W/L columns. Brown has yet to score a TD this year or run for 100 yards in a game. It’s not that he doesn’t look good or is playing poorly, it’s that the Titans offense is spreading the football around and they’ve used other backs at or near the goal line. This week, Brown has a solid matchup at home facing the Bengals defense. Though improved, the Bengals remain a beatable on the ground (10th most rushing yards allowed). They’ve allowed opposing backs 105 rushing yds/gm and 21 receiving yds/gm, but just 2 TDs combined. Fred Taylor ran for 132 yards on Sunday night. Domanick Davis combined for 112 yards two weeks ago and Thomas Jones combined for 114 yards and a rushing TD against them in week 3. If Brown doesn’t run for 100 yards this week, then he’ll be close, and maybe there’s a chance he gets into the end zone.

RB Michael Bush - FA ( FA)

Say what you want about the Raiders, but they have been producing a staggering amount of fantasy points from the RB position this year. Before succumbing to injury in Week 4, Darren McFadden produced well over 100 yards in all four games with two TDs. Bush took the reins last week against a good Chargers defense and he kept the rhythm going to the tune of 135 yards and a TD. Bush and the Raiders have a softer matchup this week against their bay “rivals”, who are allowing 26-101-0.4 and 7-60-0.2 to opposing RBs. Playing with a broken rib, LeSean McCoy combined for 138 yards and a TD against the 49ers on Sunday night. Given the consistent production that the Raiders have generated from their talented backfield, Bush owners should be excited for another strong game of 100 to 150 combined yards and a likely TD to boot providing that Darren McFadden remains sidelined for the second week in a row. Be careful, though, as McFadden practiced a little on Wednesday. If he’s able to practice two days in a row, then Bush’s upside may be limited slightly, but HC Tom Cable has already named Bush as his starting back and said that McFadden will be his backup if he’s active (as he’s not close to 100% yet).

RB Stephen Davis - STL (at IND)

Davis may be ranked in the top 5 or 10 in most fantasy leagues, but his 7 TDs are carrying him. He seems to be losing steam and slowly, gradually slowing down every week since reminding the world he’s still a viable tailback in the season opener, even after micro-fracture surgery. This week, even if he’s not a classic sleeper, there’s still enough doubt associated with Davis and a good-looking backup right on his heels in DeShaun Foster, that there’s reason to include him in this week’s column. If he keeps scoring TDs at his current pace, this might be his last appearance here. The Lions are the 4th best matchup for RBs regarding fantasy points allowed. After doing a solid job on Ahman Green in week 1 (92 combined yards, no TDs), Thomas Jones ran all over them in week 2 for 139 yards and 2 TDs (heck, Benson even had 49 yards). Michael Pittman then carried the torch in week 3 with 126 combined yards (96 yds receiving) including a 41-yard TD reception. Last week, in an extremely physical game, Jamal Lewis ran for 95 yards, added 17 yards receiving and a TD reception to boot. Chester Taylor even had 70 combined yards. If Davis get his typical workload (15 to 20 carries), he should produce around 75 to 100 yards and likely score another TD or two.

RB Brandon Jacobs - NYG (at DAL)

Jacobs was back on the field last week. He started slowly with a lost fumble and then he was injured briefly, but he finished the game with a bang rushing for 100 yards and scoring a TD while splitting carries with Derrick Ward. Jacobs seemed to get better as the game progressed, so look for that momentum to continue forward into this week against a Falcons defense allowing 25/103/0.4 and 5/38/0.4 to RBs.

RB Thomas Jones - KC (vs WAS)

The Bills were already without LBs Paul Posluzny and John DiGeorgio because of injuries, but then they lost backups Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs to season-ending injuries on Sunday. Making matters worse, they’ve been without both starting safeties for the last two games, and they will probably without them for this week’s game, too. They were already allowing an average of 30 carries for 138 yards and 1.4 TDs to opposing RBs, which means that only Oakland, Cleveland and San Diego have allowed most fantasy points than they have. The Jets spread the ball around in their backfield, which minimizes the ceiling for Thomas Jones. This week’s matchup looks too appealing for Jones not to take advantage. There just might be enough love to go around for Leon Washington and even Shonn Greene to be decent reaches as a RB3/flex.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew - FA ( FA)

On a year over year basis, it’s hard to categorize either of the Jags RBs as sleepers. Fred Taylor is one of the league’s all-time rushers despite the misnomer “Fragile Fred” tag that has been applied to him in the past. Yet the reality through 5 weeks of the 2008 season is that neither player has been particularly useful in a starting capacity as a fantasy RB. MJD is barely ranked within the top 25 RBs. He enters this week as RB23 year to date, while Taylor is well outside that “starter” range at RB45. With the Broncos on tap for this week, expect both players to shoot up that list since opposing RBs have gotten over on Denver consistently this year to the tune of 24 carries, 132 yards and 1 TD per game, not to mention 9 receptions, 69 yards and 0.4 TDs per game receiving. Taylor’s only productive game came against the helpless Colts run defense (130 total yards). Otherwise, he has yet to score this year or top 50 yards rushing in any game. MJD’s log is similar – best game against the Colts (166 yards, 1 TD), otherwise, he’s been held under 50 yards in every other game. In three of the Broncos’ five games, there have been 2 backs on the other team produce 50+ yards. In the other two games, Larry Johnson went for 198 yards and 2 TD and Reggie Bush combined for 148 yards and 2 TDs while Pierre Thomas only ran for 15 yards but scored twice. MJD should get plenty of yards, catches and score this week while Taylor should also get enough touches to produce solid yardage and possibly even find the end zone for the first time this year. Start both Jaguars backs with confidence.

RB Jamal Lewis - FA ( FA)

Lewis is only the 29th ranked fantasy RBs after five weeks, but don’t let the slow start and low ranking fool you. Lewis scored a TD in each of the last two games while combining for 193 yards. Meanwhile, the Browns are in for trouble this week. The Ravens are in a foul mood after getting physically beaten by the Detroit Lions en route to a mental meltdown. Lewis should be running downhill all day against the Browns run defense, which ranks 3rd in most fantasy points allowed (126 rushing yds/gm, 48 receiving yds/gm with 5 combined TDs). Three of the four starting backs ran for 100 yds or more against Cleveland. Ahman Green was the exception and he combined for 99 yards. Lewis should romp this week.

RB Jamal Lewis - FA ( FA)

The Dolphins have allowed the 2nd most rushing yards in the league through the first five weeks of the season. Fortunately for them, Zach Thomas returned to the field last week to help stop the bleeding. The Dolphins responded with a better effort as they limited the Texans Ron Dayne and Samkon Gado to a combined 59 yards on 24 carries. Granted, Jamal Lewis is much more dangerous than the Dayne/Gado tandem, so let’s see whether they hold up again with Thomas manning the middle. Lewis sprained his foot last week, but the x-rays were negative and he’s going to be evaluated throughout the week. If for any reason Lewis is inactive, then plug Jason Wright into the lineup in his place and expect reasonable production.

RB Willis McGahee - FA ( FA)

Even though McGahee ran for just 64 yards against the Titans, it marked the first time this season that he led the team in rushing attempts. LeRon McClain carried 11 times to McGahee’s 22 rush attempts. This week, the Ravens running game meets the Colts defense, which has allowed opposing RBs 36 carries and 180 yds per game – both represent the most in the league. They’re allowing 1.2 TDs per game and an average of 5-35-0 receiving. Both figure to get plenty of carries considering the Ravens have given their top two backs 41, 32, 29 and 33 carries in their first four games against tougher defenses. In a matchup like this, McGahee could get 25+ carries and McClain 15 to 20. McClain has caught more balls than McGahee and he is also the team’s preferred runner at the goal line. Both players should be productive this week and both could find the end zone and/or go for 100 yards.

RB Knowshon Moreno - FA ( FA)

Moreno has a chance to maximize his opportunity for the second straight week with another excellent matchup. Correll Buckhalter picked a bad time to get hurt. Moreno needs to do a better job of protecting the football. Otherwise, he should enjoy a banner game this weekend in San Diego. The Chargers are the top fantasy defensive matchup for RBs whether it’s standard or PPR scoring. Moreno ran for 88 yds and caught four balls for 36 yards against a good Patriots defense. This week he should have his first 100-yard rushing game in his NFL career, score at least once if not twice, and catch a few balls for good measure.

RB Maurice Morris - DET (vs CAR)

The Rams enter this week as the 11th ranking for fantasy points scored by opposing RBs, but when you look closely they are more of an upgrade than a neutral matchup. All five starting RBs to face the Rams so far have rushed for 93+ yards and all but one (Tatum Bell) scored, but Mike Bell scored so that almost doesn’t count either. Look no further than Noah Herron’s 20 rushes for 106 yards, five receptions for 20 yards and a TD last week against the Rams. That’s probably the best comparison because Herron is also a backup RB, not the team’s normal starter. Morris should get the bulk of the work this week as long as Alexander doesn’t have a “miracle” cure between now and Sunday.

RB Adrian Peterson - MIN (at CHI)

Peterson isn’t really much of a sleeper but there might be more questions than normal for his owners due to Chester Taylor being healthy and likely to get some of the carries this week as well. This is more of a reminder not to over-think these situations. AD Peterson is a stud. Furthermore, the Bears run defense looked extremely vulnerable to a Packer team that has struggled to generate any running game all year long last Sunday night. The Vikings run the ball with authority compared to the Packers. Taylor will probably see enough carries to warrant flex consideration in bigger leagues, but don’t look beyond Peterson. He should come out of the bye week with a little extra hop to his step and the Bears defense will have their hands full this week after allowing 121 yards and a TD on 22 carries to the Packers (not to mention 8 receptions for 61 yards).

RB Fred Taylor - NE (at DEN)

On a year over year basis, it’s hard to categorize either of the Jags RBs as sleepers. Fred Taylor is one of the league’s all-time rushers despite the misnomer “Fragile Fred” tag that has been applied to him in the past. Yet the reality through 5 weeks of the 2008 season is that neither player has been particularly useful in a starting capacity as a fantasy RB. MJD is barely ranked within the top 25 RBs. He enters this week as RB23 year to date, while Taylor is well outside that “starter” range at RB45. With the Broncos on tap for this week, expect both players to shoot up that list since opposing RBs have gotten over on Denver consistently this year to the tune of 24 carries, 132 yards and 1 TD per game, not to mention 9 receptions, 69 yards and 0.4 TDs per game receiving. Taylor’s only productive game came against the helpless Colts run defense (130 total yards). Otherwise, he has yet to score this year or top 50 yards rushing in any game. MJD’s log is similar – best game against the Colts (166 yards, 1 TD), otherwise, he’s been held under 50 yards in every other game. In three of the Broncos’ five games, there have been 2 backs on the other team produce 50+ yards. In the other two games, Larry Johnson went for 198 yards and 2 TD and Reggie Bush combined for 148 yards and 2 TDs while Pierre Thomas only ran for 15 yards but scored twice. MJD should get plenty of yards, catches and score this week while Taylor should also get enough touches to produce solid yardage and possibly even find the end zone for the first time this year. Start both Jaguars backs with confidence.

RB Ryan Torain - FA ( FA)

Torain has experienced the full gambit of life in the NFL in the span of one month. He was cut by the Redskins at the end of the preseason, passed through waivers where he languished for a short time before he was resigned by the Redskins to the practice squad. Clinton Portis went down with a significant groin injury and shortly thereafter Torain leap frogged Keiland Williams from the practice squad to the Redskins primary backup before Portis went down. In the last three games, Torain has totaled 181 yards while sharing the backfield with Portis and Williams. He took over for Portis as the lead back in Week 3 and he will continue in that role barring injury or further Shenanigans™. Torain combined for 67 yards against a tough, but injury riddled Packers defense last week and his numbers should only improve this week against the Colts injury-depleted, but feisty run defense allowing 142 rushing yards per game, 4.8 ypc and 5 TDs in as many games. Torain figures to get get between 15 and 20 carries this week with perhaps some utilization in the passing game as well (he caught 4 for 27 yards last week), so pencil him in for RB2 production of around 80 yards and a possible score.

RB Cadillac Williams - FA ( FA)

Last week, we suspected that Cadillac might break out of his season-long funk with his first useful game of the year. One down. This coming week, Williams faces a Bengals defense allowing 115 rushing yds, 4.8 receptions, 52 receiving yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing RBs. That makes them the 3rd best matchup for RBs compared to 23rd for the Saints (last week’s matchup). Even with last week’s effort, Williams is the 36th ranked RB (PPG basis, FBG scoring). The last two backs scored 2 TDs each and ran for 133 yards (Willie Parker) and 125 yards (Laurence Maroney) against the Bengals. That said, Williams looks like a safe start this week with hopefully a strong outing similar to last week, if not better perhaps.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Mike Anderson - FA ( FA)

Who knows what Mike Shanahan will do with regards to Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell this week? We know this much. The Patriots are ripe for the picking when it comes to their run defense, or lack there of, this season. Losing Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson stripped the Patriots of their best defensive player. Not to mention, NT Keith Traylor is gone and All-Pro DE Richard Seymour couldn’t go last week due to injury. Mike Anderson did nothing last week against a tough Redskins defense, while Tatum Bell broke out in a big way for two long TD runs and over 100 yards rushing. Does that mean Anderson has to worry about his starting job now? Probably not, but it’s not a good sign – for Anderson or the owners of both Broncos RBs. Anderson will most definitely carry the ball 10 or more times. He’s averaging 14.6 carries for just over 60 yards per game this season. The scary part is that Bell has more yards and TDs with fewer carries. The Patriots are allowing 113 rushing yds/gm with 5 TDs and 31 receiving yds/gm with a TD to opposing RBs this year. They’re the 6th best matchup in fantasy terms. Unfortunately, there’s no way of predicting what Shanahan will do, but since Anderson remains the starter until otherwise noted by Shanahan, he remains a good start this week.

RB Jerome Bettis - FA ( FA)

The Jaguars have allowed the 4th most rushing yards in the league (per game basis). While they are allowing 122 rushing yds/gm to opposing RBs, they only rank as the 22nd best matchup because they’ve allowed only 2 TDs to RBs. It’s difficult to predict whether Bettis will get 15 to 20 carries, enough to be a solid starter, or not. For comparison’s sake, opponents have been successful with 2 RBs against them in four out of five games. Partially a fluke, Ran Carthon scored a TD, while Edge combined for 167 yards in week 2. Curtis Martin was shut down to just 71 combined yards, but FB Jerald Sowell had a 1-yard TD plunge. In week 4, Mike Anderson ran for 115 yards and had 27 yards receiving, while Tatum Bell combined for 66 yards. Finally, last week Rudi Johnson combined for 83 yards and Chris Perry 76 yards. Bettis looked like he was in mid-season form Sunday night in his season debut. He has fresh legs and he could potentially batter the Jags run defense in the second half in typical Bettis fashion. The Steelers will likely give both backs (Bettis and Parker) an ample amount of carries. Bettis is more likely to score a TD while Parker is more likely to gain more yards.

RB Chris Brown - FA ( FA)

The Bucs are the 2nd best matchup for opposing RBs through the first five weeks of the season. They’ve allowed an average of 29/114/0.8 on the ground and 7/52/0.4 receiving to opposing RBs. Last week, with Joseph Addai sidelined, Kenton Keith boosted those numbers last week by rushing for 121 yards, 2 TDs and catching 5 balls for 37 yards. Steven Jackson, prior to injury, had his most productive effort of the season against Tampa, too. Jackson totaled 30/115/0 and 4/18/0 in week three. It’s difficult to predict or count heavily on either Brown or White, but there’s a good chance that both could get around 15, possible more, touches this week.

RB Reggie Bush - BUF (vs NYJ)

Entering this week, Deuce McAllister is ranked 11th in FBG scoring for PPG while Reggie Bush is 34th. If you change the criteria to a PPR scoring format, then it’s quite different and Bush is easily amongst the top 15 or 20 backs. Taking a look at how opponents have fared against the Eagles this year, let’s focus solely on targets and receptions since that’s Bush’s sweet spot. Opposing RBs are averaging 7.2 receptions per game for 43 yards against the Eagles. Vernand Morency, Frank Gore and Tiki Barber caught 6, 6 and 7 passes respectively against the Eagles. If you’re considering Bush as a starter in a non-PPR league, this is a better than average matchup for Bush to produce 85 yards (his average in 5 games). Whether he scores his first TD of the year from scrimmage remains to be seen.

RB T.J. Duckett - FA ( FA)

The Saints are the 8th best matchup for opposing RBs in terms of fantasy points allowed (100 rushing yards/gm, 30 receiving yards/gm and 7 TDs). Opponents are averaging 4.3 yards/carry and have ripped off 5 gains of 20 yards or longer in as many games. Duckett has scored a TD in four of the Falcons’ five games and he’s averaging 8.6 carries for 35.6 yards per game. Every starting RB has scored a TD against the Saints save for Mewelde Moore – no surprise there. As a comparison, Brandon Jacobs scored a TD against them in week 2 while DeShaun Foster ran for 41 yards on 9 carries while backing up Stephen Davis. Duckett ran 12 times for 58 yards against them last year in his only game against them. Warrick Dunn is a great start, but if you have Duckett, he may be worth your while as a RB2. He’s a good bet to score a TD and run for around 40 or 50 yards.

RB Travis Henry - FA ( FA)

As a sleeper play, Henry is more about opportunity than the matchup this week. Early reports indicate that Henry will remain in the starting role when the team goes to Washington with Chris Brown remaining inactive and LenDale White in the backup role. That’s good news for Henry’s owners. The Redskins have been at least average, if not slightly better than average, against RBs this year, but Tiki Barber burst their bubble last week with 123 rushing yards. Facing the Jags and Texans possibly helped them pad their stats, too. Julius Jones ran for 94 yards (Barber chipped in 39 yards and a TD) and Chester Taylor combined for 131 yards against the Redskins.

RB Felix Jones - FA ( FA)

Heading into the Cowboys bye week, Jerry Jones talked about getting Felix Jones more involved in the offense. Against the Titans, the Cowboys made good on their declaration by giving him a total of 19 touches, roughly double than what he had in any of the previous three games. Marion Barber touched the ball a total of 6 times; Tashard Choice none. One game may be flimsy evidence to form an opinion, but the Cowboys offense did function better and usually what Jerry, Jerry gets. Moreover, Felix responded with 126 combined yards, which is more combined yards than they totaled in the three previous games with Barber getting the most touches. This week, the Cowboys face a Vikings defense that has struggled more than usual against the run. They remain a solid overall run defense, but they’re allowing 103 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs and 151 on Monday night to the Jets. Jones isn’t a good bet for 100 rushing yards this week, but his total yards could be close making him a solid reach as a RB2/flex option.

RB Thomas Jones - KC (vs WAS)

The Jets running game should be in store of its best game of the season against the Bengals. Cincinnati is allowing an average of 35 carries, 150 yards and 0.8 TDs per game to opposing RBs and another 4/32/0 as receivers per game. Jones started the season with 22/101/1 but since then has run for 17/70/0, 10/37/0 and 18/46/0. Barring any surprises, coaching decisions or injury, Jones should be in line for 25+ carries this week and a 100-yard game. One thing to be leery of is the activation of Jesse Chatman from a 4-game suspension. Chatman could figure into the mix as a goal-line runner. Leon Washington could see another increase in touches, too. Jones ran for 67 yards on 19 carries when he faced them last year, but we expect a bigger game from him this time around as long as Washington and Chatman don’t get a bigger piece of the pie this week.

RB Jamal Lewis - FA ( FA)

Lewis is the 37th ranked RB (FBG scoring) on a PPG basis after five weeks. So far, it’s not exactly the renaissance season that his fervent backers were expecting. Lewis looks good running the ball, but the Ravens offensive line isn’t nearly as good as it was when he rushed for 2000 yards. This week’s opponent, Carolina, enters the game as a neutral matchup allowing 109 rushing yds, 35 receiving yds and 0.4 TDs per game to RBs. Warrick Dunn and Chester Taylor both ran for 100+ yards against the Panthers in the first two weeks. Since then, Cadillac Williams ran for 48 yards and a TD, Deuce McAllister produced 39 yards and a TD and Reuben Droughns managed only 65 yards last week. It’s safer to compare Lewis to these last three and set your expectations accordingly. The game’s in Baltimore, so that should help, but Lewis and the Ravens may struggle to generate much push up front against a strong Panthers front seven. That’s probably the biggest difference between the first two opponents and the last three for Carolina. Minnesota and Atlanta’s offensive lines are much better than those in Tampa, Cleveland and New Orleans. The Ravens are somewhere in between.

RB Marshawn Lynch - FA ( FA)

Peter Carroll hasn’t come out and named Marshawn Lynch as the team’s starter yet, but he has stated that he has no concerns about Lynch’s knowledge of the playbook or using him extensively in his first game as a Seahawk. Starting Lynch is inherently a gamble without having seen him in a Seahawks uniform, but we expect that he’ll get most, if not all, of the early down work and share third down duties with Justin Forsett. The trouble is that the Bears are a solid run defense. Outside of Ahmad Bradshaw (129 yards, 1 TD) and Brandon Jacobs (62 yards, 1 TD), all of the other backs ran for 51 yards or less against the Bears – including DeAngelo Williams, Jahvid Best and Marion Barber. Lynch has limited upside this week due to the matchup, but he’s starting now and he could be worthwhile as a RB2 in deeper leagues or as a flex option in others.

RB Deuce McAllister - NO (vs ATL)

Just when it appeared that McAllister was back following his 20-73-1 in week 4, HC Sean Payton seemed to let his foot off the gas pedal. McAllister had just 6 carries and produced only 13 yards against the Vikings. Granted, the Vikings run defense is far stronger than the 49ers. The Saints face the Raiders this week, which is an above average matchup. Opposing RBs are averaging a league-high 1.8 TDs/gm along with 24 carries and 98 yards per game. McAllister is back to reprise his role as the team’s goal line runner and three different backs have scored 2 TDs against the Raiders this year – LT, Marshawn Lynch and Michael Pittman. McAllister looks like a good gamble this week with a better than usual chance of scoring a TD and producing around 50 yards rushing.

RB LeRon McClain - FA ( FA)

Even though McGahee ran for just 64 yards against the Titans, it marked the first time this season that he led the team in rushing attempts. LeRon McClain carried 11 times to McGahee’s 22 rush attempts. This week, the Ravens running game meets the Colts defense, which has allowed opposing RBs 36 carries and 180 yds per game – both represent the most in the league. They’re allowing 1.2 TDs per game and an average of 5-35-0 receiving. Both figure to get plenty of carries considering the Ravens have given their top two backs 41, 32, 29 and 33 carries in their first four games against tougher defenses. In a matchup like this, McGahee could get 25+ carries and McClain 15 to 20. McClain has caught more balls than McGahee and he is also the team’s preferred runner at the goal line. Both players should be productive this week and both could find the end zone and/or go for 100 yards.

RB Rashard Mendenhall - FA ( FA)

It is too early to tell if Willie Parker (turf toe) will be able to return for the Steelers Week 6 game against the Cleveland Browns. Parker wasn’t exactly upbeat when he said that he wasn’t sure either and that turf toe isn’t something you want to mess with, but then Head Coach Mike Tomlin said he expected Parker to practice on Wednesday. Practicing might not be the true test, but if he does and then he is able to practice again the next day, then he may be able to return. We’ll see. Even if Parker plays, Mendenhall would presumably get enough carries to be worthwhile as a flex option. The Browns are a great matchup, even if they held the Bills to 99 yards rushing and no TDs on the ground last week. Mendenhall is looking to cash in on his third straight start and continue to prey on another below average defense. In two starts, Mendenhall has 44 carries, 242 yards and 3 TDs along with 4 catches for 42 yards. As long as the Steelers don’t stray from the run, as they did in the second half against the Lions last week, Mendenhall has a good chance for 20+ carries, 80-100 yards and another TD.

RB Mewelde Moore - IND (vs STL)

Moore is always worth a shot in PPR leagues, but he’s not the classic sleeper this week in the sense of having a good matchup. The Bears defense is among the tougher RB matchups possible in standard leagues. They rank 3rd toughest allowing 91 rushing yards and 18 receiving yards per game without a TD to opposing RBs. That should’ve affect our projections of Moore since he’s yet to score a rushing TD as the Vikings “feature” back dating back to his brief tenure last season. Moore is strictly a yardage machine, sort of like Domanick Davis. In two starts, Moore has combined for 104 yards (vs NO) and 120 yards (at Atl). By comparison, Reuben Droughns carried 17 times for 72 yards and caught 4 balls for 21 yards last week against the Bears. Rudi Johnson rushed for 84 yards in week 3. If you’re in a TD-only league, don’t bother with Moore. If you’re in a PPR and/or yardage-based leagues, Moore looks like a solid RB2 play this week.

RB Willie Parker - FA ( FA)

The Jaguars have allowed the 4th most rushing yards in the league (per game basis). While they are allowing 122 rushing yds/gm to opposing RBs, they only rank as the 22nd best matchup because they’ve allowed only 2 TDs to RBs. It’s difficult to predict whether Parker will get 15 to 20 carries, enough to be a solid starter, or not. For comparison’s sake, opponents have been successful with 2 RBs against them in four out of five games. Partially a fluke, Ran Carthon scored a TD, while Edge combined for 167 yards in week 2. Curtis Martin was shut down to just 71 combined yards, but FB Jerald Sowell had a 1-yard TD plunge. In week 4, Mike Anderson ran for 115 yards and had 27 yards receiving, while Tatum Bell combined for 66 yards. Finally, last week Rudi Johnson combined for 83 yards and Chris Perry 76 yards. Does that mean Parker will be worthwhile or has a better chance knowing that Bettis is back in the fold (and possibly Staley)? It might not mean anything, but the Steelers will likely give both backs (Bettis and Parker) an ample amount of carries. Bettis is more likely to score a TD while Parker is more likely to gain more yards.

RB Antowain Smith - FA ( FA)

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Saints running game this week. Antowain Smith is set to replace Deuce McAllister, but he’s been strictly a 2-down back throughout his career. Aaron Stecker is ideally suited for the third-down role. Will he also see enough carries to dilute Smith and marginalize both players’ fantasy value? Stecker was quite productive in a short stint last year when McAllister was sidelined. He could be the Chris Perry to Antowain Smith’s Rudi Johnson. The Falcons allow 110 rushing yds/gm with 3 TDs and 42 receiving yds/gm with 1 TD to opposing RBs (11th best matchup). For comparison’s sake, Corey Dillon ran for his first 100-yard game this year against Atlanta last week. Patrick Pass chipped in 40 combined yards and a TD. Mewelde Moore combined for 120 yards in week 4, while Willis McGahee and Shaun Alexander trampled them for 140 yards and 144 yards respectively, both scoring TDs as well. Brian Westbrook combined for 111 yards and a score in week 1. The Falcons opponents are averaging 4.6 yds/carry – 4th highest in the league. Smith clearly isn’t on par with the last three backs mentioned, but if he gets 15 carries (McAllister averaged 18.6 in 5 games) then he should be productive along the lines of 55 to 75 yards and a possible score.

RB LenDale White - DEN (vs NE)

The Bucs are the 2nd best matchup for opposing RBs through the first five weeks of the season. They’ve allowed an average of 29/114/0.8 on the ground and 7/52/0.4 receiving to opposing RBs. Last week, with Joseph Addai sidelined, Kenton Keith boosted those numbers last week by rushing for 121 yards, 2 TDs and catching 5 balls for 37 yards. Steven Jackson, prior to injury, had his most productive effort of the season against Tampa, too. Jackson totaled 30/115/0 and 4/18/0 in week three. It’s difficult to predict or count heavily on either Brown or White, but there’s a good chance that both could get around 15, possible more, touches this week.

RB Cadillac Williams - FA ( FA)

The Bucs are now 0-5, but it looks as though they are as committed as they’ve been all year to Cadillac Williams as their starting tailback. Last week, Williams continued to get about two series for every one of Derrick Ward’s, but there was little room for either back to run against the Eagles defense. This week should be a different story. The Panthers have struggled to stop the bleeding on defense. Hurting in the middle, they signed Hollis Thomas off the street and then inserted him into the lineup at DT about a week later. Opposing RBs are averaging 26-129-0.8 rushing and 4-25-0.8 receiving against them through four games. Last week, Clinton Portis managed to score twice and produce 74 total yards, which is solid considering how badly Portis has faded since the middle of last season. Look for Cadillac to produce similar results – around 80 yards with a possible TD.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB Marion Barber - CHI (vs MIN)

The Cowboys face the Texans this week, who just happen to be the #1 matchup for opposing RBs. Julius Jones is a great start, obviously, but Marion Barber deserves consideration, too. Barber has scored a TD in three straight games and he’s averaging 53 combined yards per game on the season with about 8-10 touches each week. For comparison’s sake, consider the Colts tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes. Addai combined for 104 yards and a 1TD while Rhodes produced 59 yards and a TD. The Redskins had even better production. Portis produced 164 yards and 2 TDs. Ladell Betts turned out 151 yards and 1 TD.

RB Tatum Bell - FA ( FA)

Who knows what Mike Shanahan will do with regards to Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell this week? We know this much. The Patriots are ripe for the picking when it comes to their run defense, or lack there of, this season. Losing Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson stripped the Patriots of their best defensive player. Not to mention, NT Keith Traylor is gone and All-Pro DE Richard Seymour couldn’t go last week due to injury. Bell exploded last week, but that doesn’t mean he’ll suddenly emerge as the new feature back for the Broncos. He’ll probably see 10 or more carries. He’s averaging 11.2 carries for just over 70 yards per game this season. The Patriots are allowing 113 rushing yds/gm with 5 TDs and 31 receiving yds/gm with a TD to opposing RBs this year. They’re the 6th best matchup in fantasy terms. If Bell were to be featured (20+ carries) he’d probably be a lock-down top 5 fantasy back. Unfortunately, there’s no way of predicting what Shanahan will do, so the owners of Bell and Anderson are forced to roll the dice.

RB Cedric Benson - GB ( FA)

See Adrian Peterson’s analysis. Benson is a risky play even if Thomas Jones is out this week. Peterson is still better at blitz pickups, blocking and catching the football, so if Jones is unable to play, Peterson is probably the better gamble, though Benson would certainly see some carries and could be the better option at the goal line.

RB Cedric Benson - GB ( FA)

There are two main reasons why Benson is worth a look in a starting capacity this week despite not starting for his own NFL team – the Bears. This week’s opponent (Arizona) is the 4th best matchup for RBs allowing 98 rushing yds, 68 receiving yards and 1.2 TDs per game. For his part, Benson has at least 10 rushing attempts in each of the Bears four games this season. If you’re looking for signs that his role could increase then look at this week’s box score. Benson scored his first TD of the season – scoring twice – and he caught his first two passes on the year, too. This game could get ugly early, so don’t be surprised if Lovie Smith gets Benson an opportunity to pad his stats in the second half.

RB Ladell Betts - NO (vs ATL)

There’s no doubt that Ladell Betts is one of the league’s best backup RBs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean much with respect to his fantasy potential unless Clinton Portis goes down. Betts is getting a consistent workload of around 8 to 10 touches each week and he might get a few more this week against a poor Rams defense that is allowing the 3rd most fantasy points to RBs – 32 carries, 160 yards and 1.8 TDs per game along with 4-18-0.5 receiving. In the past, Betts got plenty of work in the red zone. While he’s not exactly a sniper this year (no TDs in the first 5 weeks), he has gotten some work inside the 20s and he could see a few more carries in that area this week. Portis had 31 touches last week, so maybe Betts will get a few more to prevent overworking Portis, but also because there’s a good chance that the Skins could have a healthy lead allowing Portis/Betts to control the second half and run the clock. Other teams that have faced the Rams this year have produced some solid stats out of their backup RBs, too. In the Rams last game (week 4), Fred Jackson combined for 55 yards and a TD on 10 touches. The previous week, the Seahawks built a huge lead, then turned to backup T.J. Duckett in the second half and he responded with 19 carries, 79 yards and 2 TDs. In week two, the Giants produced not one, but two backups with fantasy impact – Ahmad Bradshaw had 70 yards and 2 TDs on 6 touches and Derrick Ward finished with 66 yards on 9 touches. Tony Hunt found the end zone for the Eagles in the season opener, but he only touched the ball 3 times. If Betts is able to get into the double digit range for touches, he should be able to replicate the success of these other backs and finish with 50 to 100 yards and a decent chance for a TD.

RB Correll Buckhalter - FA ( FA)

Brian Westbrook did “some work” during Tuesday’s practice and the Eagles are keeping his status relatively close to their vest regarding his availability for week six. One report that surfaced, that HC Andy Reid denied, has Westbrook with an abdominal tear. Westbrook was inactive in week four, but the Eagles were on the bye in week five. Even if Westbrook plays, there’s a good chance that Buckhalter could have a slightly bigger role to help prevent any unnecessary setbacks or further injury to Westy. The Jets can be moved around defensively against the run, too. They’re allowing 30/122/1.2 and 3/31/0.4 to opposing RBs. Last week, Brandon Jacobs (20-100-1) and Derrick Ward (13-56-1, 3-8-0) both had productive games against them. If Westbrook sits this week, be sure to insert Buckhalter into your lineup if you’re one of many fantasy owners who are scouring for any help they can find at the RB position amidst the many injuries so far in this 2007 season.

RB Correll Buckhalter - FA ( FA)

Brian Westbrook entered last week’s game with an ankle injury and a questionable status, but he left the game with a pair of broken ribs and even more question marks for this coming week. Look for Buckhalter to get more touches this week. Even if Westbrook goes, he won’t be 100% or even close. If he isn’t active, then Buckhalter would be a definitely plug-n-play option. The 49ers are an above average matchup for RBs allowing 31 carries, 122 yards and 1.2 TDs along with 5 receptions, 29 yards and 0.2 TDs per game. In weeks 3 and 4, Buckhalter produced solid results against a pair of tough defenses in Pittsburgh and Chicago. Against the 49ers, Buckhalter could easily top 100 combined yards, catch a handful of passes and score a TD or two.

RB Brian Calhoun - DET (vs CAR)

This is a little bit out of the norm for this column, but keep an eye on the status of Kevin Jones when looking ahead to this week’s games, especially if you’re reaching hard for a solution at RB. Jones got his bell run hard last week in Minnesota and his status has not been declared for next week yet. If Jones is limited or held out of this game, then Calhoun would be a player you may target on the waiver wire to insert him right into your lineup against the Bills. Buffalo is the 12th best matchup for RBs allowing 105 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and 1 TD per game. If Jones ends up being fine, then no need making a move on Calhoun, unless you own Jones and you want to protect your backside.

RB DeShaun Foster - FA ( FA)

The Lions defense is the 4th best matchup for RBs regarding fantasy points allowed. They’re allowing 111 rushing yards/gm with 2 TDs and 66 receiving yds/gm with 2 TDs to opposing RBs. Of course, Stephen Davis is more likely to shoulder the rushing load, but Foster is consistently getting a good workload every week. He’s carried no less than 7 times and no more than 9 times in every game with steady production ranging from 27 to 42 rushing yards. He’s also averaging 2.4 catches for 37.6 yards per game. You get the picture. In just over 10 combined touches per game, Foster is averaging around 70 yds/gm, with several near TDs, too. This could be his lucky week where he scores a TD or breaks a long run or catch. Like Chris Perry, Foster will likely be a repeat offender in this column throughout the season, especially when the matchup is favorable.

RB Shonn Greene - TEN (vs CIN)

Ray Rice emerged from his mini-slump with a 159 yards and a pair of TDs last week against Denver. The Broncos had been defending the run rather well coming into last week. They held Chris Johnson in check with only 64 yards. Joseph Addai had only 39 yards. Justin Forsett 52 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew fared better with 113 yards. Before Rice and Willis McGahee got into the end zone, none of those previous runners managed to score. Perhaps we can chalk up some of the Broncos’ suddenly weaker run defense to the losses of LB Robert Ayers and SS Brian Dawkins. Regardless, the Jets, like the Ravens, have one of the best running games in the league. LaDainian Tomlinson re-emerged as a top 10 back and Shonn Greene is rounding back into shape after two costly fumbles earned him a backup spot. Since his dubious season opening game, Greene has touched the ball 16, 10, 22 and 10 times – all wins. If you like the Jets chances to control the clock and beat the Broncos in their house this weekend, give Greene a shot. The Broncos defense is dealing with some key injuries making it a tall task for them to deal with the Jets powerful RB tandem. Tomlinson will certainly get his, but Greene is also a decent bet for 50+ yards.

RB Brandon Jacobs - NYG (at DAL)

Ahmad Bradshaw has a stranglehold on the Giants starting RB job, barring injury of course, but Brandon Jacobs has shown up in the last two games with 107 yards and 2 TDs combined. In the season opener, Jacobs also produced 65 yards on 14 touches. All three of those games, the Giants won and played with a lead throughout. In their two other games, both losses, Jacobs touched the ball four times in each producing a high of 18 yards. With the Lions coming to town this week, I like the chances of a) the Giants winning, and b) Jacobs getting double-digit touches, and possibly scoring for the third game in a row. The Lions are giving up 4.8 ypc and the second most fantasy points to opposing RBs. After allowing 2+ TDs to each of their opponents starting RBs in their first three games, the Lions have kept the Packers committee and Steven Jackson out of the end zone. Neither of those should be considered grand feats. Look for the Giants RBs to find the end zone more than once against the Lions, with Jacobs able to extend his TD streak to three games.

RB LeSean McCoy - BUF (vs NYJ)

Andy Reid continues to say he is committed to a time-share between Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy to keep Westbrook healthy and give McCoy more opportunities to contribute. This week, they just might be able to feast enough on the Raiders to both be starter-worthy. The Raiders are allowing a woeful 34 carries for 145 yards and 1.2 TDs per game to opposing RBs. In all five of their games, the Raiders’ opponents produced two different backs with 55 or more yards. It’s a great matchup and the Eagles should not have many problems getting production from both of their backs.

RB Chris Perry - FA ( FA)

Ok, let’s just face the facts. Chris Perry is going to be a good gamble almost all year long, unless Rudi Johnson goes down, in which case Perry immediately vaults into the top 10 fantasy backs. However, the Titans have been particularly vulnerable RBs who can catch the ball this year – for whatever reason. Willie Parker burned them on a 48-yard TD catch & run in week 1. Jamal Lewis had 32 yards and Chester Taylor 21 yards in week two catching the football. In week 3, Marshall Faulk caught a TD pass and had 31 yards. Edgerrin James had a TD catch and 12 yards in week 4. Last week, Domanick Davis had 43 receiving yards. Coincidence? Maybe, but probably not. There’s no question that Perry is an explosive back. When the Chris’s (Perry and Henry) are on the field this year, the Bengals offense takes on a different dimension they never had in season’s past. Perry is averaging 52.2 combined yards per game on 5.2 carries and 3.6 receptions. Against the Titans, in what amounts to a solid matchup, Perry looks even better than usual. In fact, he’s probably a solid RB2 in PPR leagues, especially during the bye weeks.

RB Adrian Peterson - FA ( FA)

We don’t yet know if Thomas Jones will play this week with a sprained knee (LCL) or not. He’s listed as day-to-day and we’re still awaiting the opinion of noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Should Jones not play, Adrian Peterson might very well be the shark play. The Vikings are an excellent matchup for opposing RBs. They rank 7th in fantasy points allowed (136 rushing yds/gm with 4 TDs and 19 receiving yds/gm). The Vikings allow an average of 5.4 yds/carry, which is the worst in the NFL. Maybe that’s because they’ve allowed 8 rushes of 20 yards or more, which is 2nd most in the league despite only playing four games. Even Peterson is more adept at blocking and blitz pickups than the rookie Cedric Benson. That’s why Benson’s anything but a slam-dunk to replace Jones if he does not play. If Jones does play, there’s still a good chance Peterson and Benson could see some action, but it would likely diminish any possible fantasy value for all three if that were the case (even with such an excellent matchup).

RB Michael Pittman - DEN (vs NE)

Selvin Young tweaked his groin in last week’s game, which has led to speculation that Michael Pittman could see an increased workload this week against the Jaguars. Young may be no worse for the wear by Sunday, but it does pique our fantasy interest considering that Pittman has been the “Leatherman” amongst the Broncos RB stable. His hard-running and toughness have endeared him to HC Mike Shanahan as the team’s favored back at the goal line and he’s also been useful out of the backfield on passing downs. If you insert Pittman into your lineup it has to be on the assumption that he will garner more touches this week. He has touched the ball 7, 7, 6, 6 and 8 times this year. He scored TDs in each of the first three games. If he doesn’t find the end zone, his value is very limited. He’s not a player with a huge upside unless he suddenly got 10, maybe 15 touches. We know Shanahan can be cryptic with his RBs and he rarely, if ever, shows his true hand. Here’s what he said regarding Pittman’s recent performances and potential for more touches. "He played very well. I think everybody saw a tough, hard-nosed runner who made some big-time plays," Shanahan said. "He ran over some safeties, ran over some corners. Obviously, the better you play, the more time you're going to get." It’s a decent matchup this week, so keep your eyes peeled on Young’s status and be prepared to gamble on Pittman if warranted. The Jags are allowing an average of 23 carries, 99 yards and 0.8 TDs per game on the ground and 5 receptions, 48 yards and 0.4 TDs per game receiving to opposing RBs.

RB Jonathan Stewart - CAR (at DET)

Stewart found the end zone last week for the first time this season and the Panthers got their first win, too. This week, Stewart and the Panthers are looking to do the same against a winless Buccaneers team allowing 28-129-0.6 rushing per game to opposing RBs. The Giants talented tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw had a strong game against the Bucs when they met in Week 3. Jacobs rumbled 26 times for 92 yards and a TD while Bradshaw ran 14 times for 104 yards. That is perhaps the best comparison for the Panthers duo of DeAngelo Williams and Stewart. The Panthers need to build on the confidence gained from last week’s win against the Redskins. Stewart may only get 10 to 15 carries, but he has a good chance for 50+ yards and a decent chance to score again.

RB Chester Taylor - ARI ( FA)

The Browns run defense ranks 3rd in most fantasy points allowed (126 rushing yds/gm, 48 receiving yds/gm with 5 combined TDs). Taylor is getting just enough work to be a consideration some weeks, but not enough to be a consistently good fantasy back – unless Jamal Lewis goes down, of course. Through five games, Taylor is averaging 6.8 carries for 27.5 yards with 2.8 catches for 22.8 yards, but no TDs yet. He could get more carries this week if the Ravens could just score a few points and run the ball to protect a lead in the 2nd half. That’s something they’ve not yet been able to do this year, except against the helpless Jets with Brooks Bollinger two weeks ago. This week, they will be at home following a tough loss to the Detroit Lions. The Ravens defense is ripe and this matchup smells like a rebound for the Ravens and a great opportunity for more carries for Taylor as well.

RB Mike Tolbert - CAR (at DET)

Even though Ryan Mathews is getting healthier, Mike Tolbert is still expected to remain a part of the Chargers ground attack after proving to be an effective option in all phases of the game. He is an effective runner between the tackles, a good blocker, an able receiver and still the team’s preferred option at the goalline. Granted, he was bottled up completely by the Raiders on Sunday, but Mathews didn’t practice on Wednesday and HC Norv Turner said recently that he wants to see Mathews turn in a full week of practice before reinserting him as the team’s primary back. Tolbert is also the better bet to find the end zone, too. Until Mathews is fully healthy, Tolbert will remain in the picture and worth consideration as a RB2/flex option depending on your league’s size and scoring.

RB Michael Turner - FA ( FA)

Turner is averaging just over 10 carries per game, almost *7* yards per carry and 70+ combined yards per game serving as a change-of-pace to LaDainian Tomlinson. Last week, Justin Fargas broke loose for 63 yards on eight carries against the 49ers – the Chargers opponent this week. In the 49ers three previous games they allowed 100+ rushing yards to all three backs – 124 combined yards to Steven Jackson, 164 yards and 3 TDs to Brian Westbrook and 142 yards and 2 TDs to Larry Johnson. The Chargers could have this game securely in hand by halftime giving Turner ample opportunity to generate some solid numbers like he did against Tennessee in week 2 (155 combined yards, 2 TDs).

RB Derrick Ward - HOU (at SEA)

I’ll admit that I almost feel dirty including Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw into the sleeper column. The way the Giants offense is humming along, particularly with their talented trio of RBs, they could easily be a part of this column on a weekly basis, regardless of the opponent. When Brandon Jacobs leaves the game, opponents can’t catch their breath or get any breaks. Jacobs wears them down with his punishing style, then Ward or Bradshaw take the field and beat them with their multi-faceted skills – catching the ball, running between the tackles or bouncing it outside. As a matchup, the Browns are average – not particularly good or bad. They’re allowing an average of 27/114/1.5 and 3/13/0 per game to opposing RBs. In their four games played, two of their opponents have produced strong stats from the backup position. Baltimore got 70 yards and 2 TDs from Le’Ron McClain and 75 yards and a 1TD from Willis McGahee. Dallas gave the rock to Felix Jones nine times and he turned out 62 yards and a TD in the first game of the season. Ward is the better option based on the consistency of his touches and production from week to week. He has produced (touches, yards) 11-60, 9-66, 12-106 and 9-50, but he hasn’t found the end zone yet this season.

RB Leon Washington - FA ( FA)

Head Coach Rex Ryan said in the preseason that he planned to use all three of his backs this year. So far, he’s keeping true to his word. While that has diminished the fantasy value of Thomas Jones, it has helped Leon Washington become a viable flex option, particularly in PPR leagues or deeper leagues. Washington had 11 touches last week to Jones’s 13, and Shonn Greene is being sprinkled into the mix as well. The difference is primarily touchdowns: Jones has 5, Washington none. Against the Bills injury-depleted defense this week, both backs should see enough touches to be in your lineup as a RB2/RB3/flex depending on the league size and scoring. Consider the benchmarks. Jamal Lewis returned from his hamstring injury to run 31 times for 117 yards against the Bills. Ronnie Brown (20-115-2) and Ricky Williams (16-85-1, 1-11-0) both had strong games against them in Week 4. Pierre Thomas (14-126-2) did all his damage in the second half in Week 3 while Reggie Bush (81 yds) and Lynell Hamilton (24 yds, 1 TD) produced when called upon. If you have the guts to start Washington knowing he hasn’t found the end zone yet, you just might get rewarded.

RB Kenny Watson - FA ( FA)

Midway through the week and it still looks like Rudi Johnson’s status for this week’s game against the Chiefs is up in the air. Johnson injured his hamstring in week three’s game against the Seahawks. He didn’t dress in week four and the Bengals had their bye in week five. Johnson didn’t practice on Monday or Tuesday, so monitor his status later in the week before making any lineup decisions regarding Watson. The Chiefs are a good matchup for the Bengals RBs, whether it is Watson or Johnson. They are allowing 28/123/0.6 on the ground and 6/42/0 receiving to opposing RBs. Watson’s numbers in week four weren’t particularly impressive against a stout Patriots run defense. He ran for 55 yards on 13 carries and caught two balls for 8 yards. Last week, Maurice Jones-Drew broke out of his early season funk to produce 112 combined yards and a TD. Fred Taylor chipped in 60 total yards as well. The Chiefs opponents produced a 100-yard rusher in each of the three previous games (LT, Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson). If Johnson is inactive, Watson becomes a pretty strong play.

RB LenDale White - DEN (vs NE)

White is getting more touches as the season wears on and it’s common thought that he will, at some point, take over the starting job from Henry/Brown as the Titans keep losing games. He’s carried the ball 8-9 times in 3 of their four games averaging ~ 40 yds/gm. The Redskins have allowed some moderate production to backup RBs, too. Brandon Jacobs combined for 41 yards on 11 touches last week. Maurice Jones-Drew produced 56 yards and a TD on 6 touches. Marion Barber produced 65 yards on 9 carries. You might consider White if you’re reaching for straws with injuries and six NFL teams on the bye this week. As far as NFL backups go, he’s got a solid chance to outperform in this spot.

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

RB Ladell Betts - NO (vs ATL)

Ladell Betts didn’t do himself any favors last week with the costly mistakes he made on the football field against the Cardinals. The Saints signed veteran Julius Jones and waived DeShawn Wynn on Tuesday. Pierre Thomas seems almost certain to miss another game. So, you’re thinking could be Chris Ivory’s big chance? Not so fast. Ivory may be the best option from the standpoint that may be the most talented (and healthy) runner left standing in the Saints backfield. Unfortunately, he’s not up to speed as a blocker and it goes without saying that the Saints don’t want to put Drew Brees in harm’s way, so look for Ivory’s role to stay about the same. The Saints have a great matchup against the Bucs run defense, but with Jones added to the mix, one must be willing to take a big risk with a relatively limited reward to play Betts, Ivory or Jones this week. If pressed, I’d say go with Betts, but pay attention to your Tweet Deck as the week rolls on to see if the Saints tip their hand on how they plan to use their newfound committee. In TD-heavy leagues, Ivory is still the best option, but in PPR leagues you probably want to stick with Betts.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw - FA ( FA)

I’ll admit that I almost feel dirty including Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw into the sleeper column. The way the Giants offense is humming along, particularly with their talented trio of RBs, they could easily be a part of this column on a weekly basis, regardless of the opponent. When Brandon Jacobs leaves the game, opponents can’t catch their breath or get any breaks. Jacobs wears them down with his punishing style, then Ward or Bradshaw take the field and beat them with their multi-faceted skills – catching the ball, running between the tackles or bouncing it outside. As a matchup, the Browns are average – not particularly good or bad. They’re allowing an average of 27/114/1.5 and 3/13/0 per game to opposing RBs. In their four games played, two of their opponents have produced strong stats from the backup position. Baltimore got 70 yards and 2 TDs from Le’Ron McClain and 75 yards and a 1TD from Willis McGahee. Dallas gave the rock to Felix Jones nine times and he turned out 62 yards and a TD in the first game of the season. Bradshaw’s production has been spotty. He didn’t get into the game in week 1, but then he reeled off a pair of TDs and 70 yards on 6 touches the next week. Then, he disappeared again with 3-7-0 the next game before reappearing in week 5 with 11-65-0.

RB Kevin Faulk - NE (at DEN)

Look for the Patriots to go pass-heavy against the Titans struggling secondary this week. Everyone else is, why not the Patriots, who hardly need an excuse to throw the ball 50 times in a game. Last week, Joseph Addai caught 10 balls as the Colts barely tried to run the ball against the Titans. If the Patriots spread the field and throw the ball, not only will Sammy Morris continue to thrive, but Kevin Faulk becomes an interesting play. The Titans are typically a terrible matchup for opposing RBs, but Faulk is not your typical RB; he is more like a receiver. And we all know to start your receivers against the Titans.

RB Earnest Graham - TB (vs MIA)

The Bucs are running out of options in their backfield after Cadillac Williams and Michael Pittman went down with major injuries in each of the last two weeks. Graham is now the team’s primary back, and if something happens to him, it falls to Ken Darby. Based on opportunity alone, Graham is a reasonable sleeper and a good fill-in. Unfortunately, he’s facing one of the toughest run defenses in the league this week in Tennessee. The Titans have allowed 50 rushing yards or more to exactly one runner so far this year (Joseph Addai, 81 yards). Reggie Bush produced 2 TDs but ran for only 15 yards. Maurice Jones- Drew and Fred Taylor were stumped completely as both backs combined for a meager 48 yards rushing. Last week, Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood combined for 50 yards on 16 carries. Graham will be productive this year, but it’s probably not going to happen this week.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis - FA ( FA)

While LaDainian Tomlinson, Cedric Benson, Peyton Hillis and Rashard Mendenhall all had varying degrees of success against the Ravens defense, we should also point out that Laurence Maroney managed only 27 yards and Correll Buckhalter 25 yards against the Ravens last week. Case in point, the Broncos ground game is nowhere near as effective as those other four, and the Patriots are likely somewhere in between. With Fred Taylor still sidelined with a toe injury, BenJarvus Green-Ellis will get another start for the Patriots. Benson and LT each combined for 78 yards against the Ravens. Green-Ellis has totaled 174 yards and two TDs in his two starts against the Bills and Dolphins. The Ravens are tougher than those two defenses, which means BJGE might be good for around 60 to 75 yards with a TD possible, but less likely. That’s not starter material for most leagues, but as a flex option in deeper leagues, it might suffice.

RB Chris Ivory - JAX (at PIT)

Ladell Betts didn’t do himself any favors last week with the costly mistakes he made on the football field against the Cardinals. The Saints signed veteran Julius Jones and waived DeShawn Wynn on Tuesday. Pierre Thomas seems almost certain to miss another game. So, you’re thinking could be Chris Ivory’s big chance? Not so fast. Ivory may be the best option from the standpoint that may be the most talented (and healthy) runner left standing in the Saints backfield. Unfortunately, he’s not up to speed as a blocker and it goes without saying that the Saints don’t want to put Drew Brees in harm’s way, so look for Ivory’s role to stay about the same. The Saints have a great matchup against the Bucs run defense, but with Jones added to the mix, one must be willing to take a big risk with a relatively limited reward to play Betts, Ivory or Jones this week. If pressed, I’d say go with Betts, but pay attention to your Tweet Deck as the week rolls on to see if the Saints tip their hand on how they plan to use their newfound committee. In TD-heavy leagues, Ivory is still the best option, but in PPR leagues you probably want to stick with Betts.

RB Vernand Morency - FA ( FA)

The Redskins appear to be vulnerable to opposing backs who can catch the ball well out of the backfield. Derrick Ward, Brian Westbrook, Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman all caught 6 or more balls against the Redskins in various games this year. The problem is that Morency is involved in a time-share situation with DeShawn Wynn and to a lesser extent Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson would also be part of that committee if he were healthy. Wynn has emerged as the most productive runner of that group, especially after breaking loose for 78 yards and a TD on 13 carries last week against the Bears. Morency is working his way through a sore knee and he’ll probably be limited throughout the week in practice. After returning to the field following a sprained knee in the preseason, Morency has caught 10 balls for 81 yards in his first two games of action while also rushing for 48 yards last week on 9 carries. If Morency continues to be limited later in the week, look for Wynn to pick up even more of the carries with Grant becoming the next guy in line to get some action.

RB Patrick Pass - NE (at DEN)

The Broncos are definitely not a great fantasy matchup. Either way, Patrick Pass is an intriguing player to throw into the lineup if you’re looking for one of those shots in the dark. Strangely, the Broncos have allowed 4 TDs to opposing RBs with half of those going to another back besides the opponent’s starter. Since Kevin Faulk got hurt, Pass has been a large part of the offense along side Corey Dillon. Pass combined for 61 yards (with 8 catches) two weeks ago against a good Chargers defense. Last week., he tallied 34 yards rushing with his first TD and caught a 6-yard pass. If Dillon isn’t 100%, he suffered an undisclosed leg injury Sunday, then Pass might be called upon to play an even larger role for the Patriots. They also signed Amos Zereoue, who could work himself into the rotation. Even if Dillon is good to go, Pass will likely serve as his primary backup and because he’s the team’s only fullback, he still gets to play frequently enough that he warrants consideration in deeper leagues and PPR leagues as a deep sleeper.

RB Aaron Stecker - FA ( FA)

See Antowain Smith’s analysis. Antowain Smith is set to replace Deuce McAllister, but he’s been strictly a 2-down back throughout his career. Aaron Stecker is ideally suited for the third-down role. Will he also see enough carries to dilute Smith and marginalize both players’ fantasy value? Stecker was quite productive in a short stint last year when McAllister was sidelined. He could be the Chris Perry to Antowain Smith’s Rudi Johnson. The Falcons allow 110 rushing yds/gm with 3 TDs and 42 receiving yds/gm with 1 TD to opposing RBs (11th best matchup). If Stecker is able to get around 8 to 12 touches combined, then he could be a worthwhile option. He’s more of a home run threat than Smith is, but he’s not as durable or rugged between the tackles either.

RB Derrick Ward - HOU (at SEA)

The Bucs are now 0-5, but it looks as though they are as committed as they’ve been all year to Cadillac Williams as their starting tailback. Last week, Williams continued to get about two series for every one of Derrick Ward’s, but there was little room for either back to run against the Eagles defense. This week should be a different story. The Panthers have struggled to stop the bleeding on defense. Hurting in the middle, they signed Hollis Thomas off the street and then inserted him into the lineup at DT about a week later. Opposing RBs are averaging 26-129-0.8 rushing and 4-25-0.8 receiving against them through four games. Last week, Clinton Portis managed to score twice and produce 74 total yards, which is solid considering how badly Portis has faded since the middle of last season. Ward isn’t getting enough touches to be worthwhile in most leagues, a huge disappointment for anyone that draft him, but he might be worth a reach as a flex option this week.

RB Leon Washington - FA ( FA)

Make no mistake about this situation. It’s a bad matchup. The Dolphins, despite their woes this year, remain a stout defense against the run checking in as the 4th toughest matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed for RBs. The key to Washington is his growing role in the Jets offense. He went from almost no touches in the first two games to 9 touches for 77 yards in week 3 to 10 touches for 41 yards in week 4 to 24 touches for 109 yards last week against a tough Jags defense. The Dolphins are probably not as tough as the Jags, but using Washington has to be entirely based on the chance that Eric Mangini will use him similar to the way he was used last week. That game was a blowout, this game might not be. If not, Barlow could see more touches, but that’s the risk you’ll have to take until their roles are more clearly defined.

RB Chris Wells - ARI ( FA)

Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Monday that he plans to get Wells more involved in the passing game over the remainder of the season, in part because the offense becomes predictable with Wells on the field. That doesn’t mean that he will suddenly be infused into the two-minute offense this week, not with Tim Hightower performing so well in those packages. The Seahawks defense controlled the line of scrimmage against the Jaguars last week, so the Cardinals don’t have a favorable matchup necessarily. That said, Wells is running with conviction and they’ll be smart to run more to keep the Seahawks passing attack off the field as much as possible.

RB Cadillac Williams - FA ( FA)

Good luck figuring out the Bucs running back by committee. We’ve heard about an increased workload for LeGarrette Blount, but so far, it hasn’t materialized. Cadillac Williams continues to get the most carries with Earnest Graham figuring into the mix from the fullback position. They have a good matchup against the Saints, who are allowing 149 total yards and 1.2 TDs per game to opposing RBs. It didn’t work out for the Cardinals last week – Beanie Wells managed only 35 yards on 20 carries. Other teams obviously had much more success, but the Bucs are more comparable to the Cardinals than the Vikings, 49ers, Falcons or Panthers ground attacks. Given Raheem Morris’ statements about getting Blount and Kareem Huggins more involved, we advise owners to stay away from this situation completely. However, if you have Williams you might consider using him as a last resort.

RB DeShawn Wynn - NO (vs ATL)

The Redskins appear to be vulnerable to opposing backs who can catch the ball well out of the backfield. Derrick Ward, Brian Westbrook, Ronnie Brown and Jesse Chatman all caught 6 or more balls against the Redskins in various games this year. The problem is that Morency is involved in a time-share situation with DeShawn Wynn and to a lesser extent Ryan Grant. Brandon Jackson would also be part of that committee if he were healthy. Wynn has emerged as the most productive runner of that group, especially after breaking loose for 78 yards and a TD on 13 carries last week against the Bears. Morency is working his way through a sore knee and he’ll probably be limited throughout the week in practice. After returning to the field following a sprained knee in the preseason, Morency has caught 10 balls for 81 yards in his first two games of action while also rushing for 48 yards last week on 9 carries. If Morency continues to be limited later in the week, look for Wynn to pick up even more of the carries with Grant becoming the next guy in line to get some action.


Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Donnie Avery - FA ( FA)

After being slowed by injury in the preseason, Avery is finally rounding into shape. Avery was frequently targeted in last week’s loss to the Vikings as he finished with five catches, 87 yards and a TD. His best game of the year. He probably won’t repeat those numbers this week, but going against a Jaguars defense that allowed two TDs to Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh last week, he might. Avery is consistently targeted between 6 to 8 times each game and the Jaguars have allowed a ridiculous 16 catches (league-most), 205 yards (same) for 1.8 TDs (3rd) to opposing receivers. Eight of the 10 receivers that have faced the Jaguars have produced 86 yards or caught a TD. The other two produced 8-69-0 (Boldin) and 3-24-0 (Garcon), both came in the first two weeks of the season. In the last three games, opposing WRs are averaging over 13-fantasy pts/game. If Avery matches last week, he’ll be right about where the average starting receiver has been against the Jaguars.

WR Drew Bennett - BAL (vs CLE)

The Redskins, Tennessee’s foe this week, are the 10th best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 11.6 catches, 155.8 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Obviously, none of this matters if Bennett isn’t healthy enough to play, so be sure to check his status before using him. If he’s not able to go, then keep Brandon Jones in mind as a deep sleeper. Bennett has some obvious factors working against him – his healthy being foremost, but also Vince Young’s inexperience. Bennett was targeted 17, 6 and 10 times in the first three games compared to 2 times in week 4. Last week he was targeted once, but he didn’t play the full game either. Every week one of the opposing WRs topped 75 yards against Washington. If Shawn Springs is out again, then Bennett (or Jones) looks even better.

WR Marty Booker - FA ( FA)

The matchup for the Dolphins WRs this week is excellent. The Browns are allowing 13 receptions, 177 yards and 1.8 TDs per week to opposing WRs. Six of the ten starting WRs to face the Browns this year so far have found the end zone. Amazingly, and this is why we love statistics, Randy Moss was not among that group. Go figure. Eight of those WR receivers produced 50 or more yards. Again, Randy Moss is not in that group. Booker, meanwhile, has produced 3-20-0, 4-79-1, 5-60-0, 1-8-0 and 5-45-0 and he’s been targeted 6 or more times in all but one game (1-8-0 on 4 targets in week 4).

WR Deion Branch - IND (vs STL)

The Seahawks are coming off a bye to face the St. Louis Rams, who just happen to be the 4th best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 12+ receptions, 192 yards and 1 TD per game. The extra week gives Branch more time to work into his role on the Seahawks and develop some rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. To help his cause, Bobby Engram has been slowed this week due to some illness/sickness which could affect his role this weekend. If Engram isn’t better by Sunday, Branch could get his first start with Seattle. Regardless, expect Branch to play a larger role this week. Given the matchup, he could produce some strong numbers. Four straight WRs have gone over 100 yards against the Rams. In two of those games, the team’s other starting WR caught a TD or two. Needless to say, Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch look great this week.

WR Kenny Britt - STL (at IND)

The Jags pass defense is simply brutal this year. Vince Young may not be throwing many yards this year, but it would be a shock if he weren’t able to get over the 200-yard hurdle this week for the first time this season. The Jags have allowed the the most yards and TDs to opposing WRs and they are fifth in receptions allowed. They’ve also allowed the most long pass plays in the league – 22 plays of 20+ yards and 8 of 40+ yards. Nate Washington may have a better grip on a starting job since Kenny Britt got his first start of the season last week due to Justin Gage being sidelined. I prefer Britt to Washington for fantasy purposed, but honestly both of the Titans receivers deserve to be in the lineup this week. If Steve Johnson (5-46-2) and Lee Evans (5-87-1) can get the job done against the Jags then you should give the Titans WRs the green light, too. Legedu Naanee is the ONLY starting WR that faced the Jags this year to not score a TD or produce 100 yards.

WR Bobby Engram - FA ( FA)

The Seahawks are coming off a bye to face the St. Louis Rams, who just happen to be the 4th best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 12+ receptions, 192 yards and 1 TD per game. The extra week gives Branch more time to work into his role on the Seahawks and develop some rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. To help his cause, Bobby Engram has been slowed this week due to some illness/sickness which could affect his role this weekend. If Engram isn’t better by Sunday, Branch could get his first start with Seattle. Regardless, expect Branch to play a larger role this week. Given the matchup, he could produce some strong numbers. Four straight WRs have gone over 100 yards against the Rams. In two of those games, the team’s other starting WR caught a TD or two. Needless to say, Darrell Jackson and Deion Branch look great this week.

WR Bobby Engram - FA ( FA)

There are a few really good reason for Engram to be productive this week. For starters, Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett are both nursing injuries and will not be active this weekend. Increased opportunity is always a good indicator for improved fantasy production. The matchup is also favorable against a Saints secondary missing starting corner Jason David. They are allowing 8 catches, 159 yards and 1.8 TDs per game. That’s almost 20 yards a pop for WRs. Not bad. The number one WR for the opposing team has scored in all four games against the Saints and six out of eight starters have produced 70+ yards or scored against them. Look for #84 to be targeted frequently and produce solid numbers again this week.

WR Chris Henry - FA ( FA)

T.J. Houshmandzadeh was hurt last week giving Henry the opportunity to start for the Bengals. He ended up leading the team with 85 receiving yards and a TD. The talented rookie has been productive in every game he's played. He's scored 2 TDs, but he's also had 2 more TDs either called back on a penalty flag or overturned by instant replay. In other words, he's 'scored' a TD in every game he's played ' as a rookie. At 6' 4', 200 lbs, Henry's a first round talent that the Bengals got on the cheap due to character issues. He's proving to be a handful for opponents, too. The Titans are a very good matchup for WRs ' allowing 143 yds/gm with 8 TDs. Whether Houshmandzadeh plays or not, Henry is a solid sleeper play. Palmer looks for him in the red zone and he's gone to him every game in that area.

WR Joe Jurevicius - FA ( FA)

Jurevicius is red-hot following last week’s game against the Rams. However, he could cool off this week if he draws Dunta Robinson in coverage. The Texans did a good job on Chad Johnson in week 4 holding him to 67 yards, but Houshmandzadeh went for 105 yards. Hines Ward had 84 yards and 2 TDs. Drew Bennett produced 99 yards and a TD last week. If Bobby Engram is able to play this week, it would certainly help. If not, Jurevicius could have a tougher road with D.J. Hackett becoming a more intriguing candidate. Both players have a good opportunity with Jackson and Engram hurt, but Jurevicius seems to be one of Hasselbeck’s favored targets.

WR Eddie Kennison - STL (at IND)

Kennison enters this week as the 40th ranked WR using FBG scoring (PPG basis). The Steelers are the 3rd best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 14.5 catches, 182 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Kennison was targeted just 7 times in the first two games, but 17 times in the last two games producing 10 catches for 154 yards and a TD. Eric Parker looked good against the Steelers on Sunday night as he caught 5 passes for 86 yards. In week three, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry each caught 2 TDs against them and, the previous week, Reggie Williams produced 8-95-0 and Matt Jones 6-73-0. If you’re on the fence with Kennison, come on down this week and start him with more confidence than usual.

WR Ashley Lelie - FA ( FA)

The Patriots have been prone to the big catch this year. They’ve allowed 5 receptions of 40 yards or more (2nd most) and 18 for 20 yards or more (4th most) through five games. More to the point, opponents are averaging a league-high 15.1 yds/catch against New England. Now, honestly, Lelie shouldn’t be considered a sleeper given where he was drafted, his lofty expectations and subsequent (average) draft position this year, but he’s underperformed through the first month of the season falling out of favor, and in some cases off the roster for some impatient owners. Lelie could be worth a shot this week though. He caught only one pass last week, but it’s note worthy since it was a 5-yard TD. Lelie rarely, if ever, has been targeted in the red zone. That’s traditionally been exclusively Rod Smith’s turf; or the FBs and TEs with all their bootlegs. The Broncos will take their deep shots downfield with Lelie this week against the Patriots. They do every week. Knowing the success other team’s are having against the Pats, Lelie just might hit pay dirt this week, especially if they continue running the ball well to set up their play-action game.

WR Derrick Mason - HOU (at SEA)

After the Jags and Texans, perhaps the next best matchup for fantasy WRs is the New England Patriots. Anytime opposing QBs are completing 69% of their passes, it’s a good sign for the receivers, especially a wily veteran like Derrick Mason who knows a thing or two about route running and separation. Mason has finished among the top 30 fantasy WRs in nine of the last 10 years, but he comes into this week’s game undervalued as WR48 after coming up with less than 5 fantasy points in three of his first five games. Mason has still been targeted no less than 6 times in each of the last four games, so look for him to bounce back with a strong game this week even if Anquan Boldin blows up. Actually, Mason has caught one more ball and produce more yards than Boldin has in their last two games, so stick with Mason this week and expect solid WR3 numbers or better.

WR Santana Moss - FA ( FA)

Moss has three games of 44 yards or less with no touchdowns and two games with 74 yards and a TD and 178 yards and a TD. His fantasy production has been a tale of two extremes. If there’s a distinction between good and great matchups, then Moss’s two best games came against two teams who have been great matchups for opponents throwing the ball – Tampa and Detroit. Two of his worst games came against the league’s two defenses allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs – Carolina and NY Giants. With Kansas City on deck this week, Moss must be giddy. The Chiefs have been killed over the last three games by receivers going yard. Miles Austin (10-250-2) broke tackles and ran free to the end zone twice, but still dropped two other TD passes last week against the Chiefs. Steve Smith of the Giants caught 11 passes for 134 yards and 2 TDs against them, although Hakeem Nicks had a nice 54-yard TD catch and Mario Manningham caught a 41-yard pass. In Week 3, it was DeSean Jackson’s 6-149-1 that made highlight reels. The Redskins don’t have many other playmakers outside of Chris Cooley, so look for Moss to have a big game. Starting Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas would be gutsy, but the potential is there for even the Redskins receivers to take advantage of the Jags. Just about everyone else has.

WR Samie Parker - FA ( FA)

Eddie Kennison returned to the lineup last week, but he probably could’ve used another week or two since it didn’t take long for him to re-aggravate his hamstring injury. Now, he’s back on the sidelines and Samie Parker is back in the starting lineup opposite the rookie sensation Dwayne Bowe. The Bengals, this week’s opponent, is allowing more fantasy production to wide receivers than any team in the league – 14-177-2 on average. Parker is more of the sleeper at this stage since Bowe, despite being a rookie, has established himself as a guy you simply need to have in your lineup week in and week out. Bowe could have a monster game considering that Randy Moss produced 9-102-2 in week four and Braylon Edwards 8-146-2 in week 2. The Seahawks Bobby Engram, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch all caught 5 or more passes for 60+ yards and a TD against the Chiefs in week 3. Also, worth noting is that Bengals starting corner Jonathan Joseph is suspended and will not be in the lineup this week. It’s not often you’ll hear anyone say this, but ladies and gentlemen – start your Chiefs receivers this week!

WR Antwaan Randle El - FA ( FA)

The Redskins passing game should be able to make some big plays against the Rams this week. Santana Moss is the most likely player to get behind the Rams for a long TD, though Randle El or even rookie Devin Thomas could do the same. Randle El was targeted 10 times last week, though he wound up with only 3-34-0 (along with a nice TD pass to Chris Cooley). The Rams are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing WRs – 12 receptions, 211 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Randle El’s baseline this year has been 3-4 catches and 30-35 yards each week, but look for him to take better advantage of his targets this week. The other #2 receivers have been able to against the Rams: Josh Reed (4-47-0), Michael Bumpus (2-29-1), Amani Toomer (6-67-1) and Hank Baskett (2-102-1). Nine different WRs have produced 60 yards or scored against the Rams in four games. Devin Thomas might be able to do something this week, too, but he’s still way too far on the bleeding edge of sleeperdom.

WR Sidney Rice - SEA (vs HOU)

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing for the Lions – that they are allowing 10 receptions, 169 yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing WRs (4th most fantasy points allowed) or that they’ve allowed that much despite being down 17 to 20 points by the 2nd quarter in every one of those games. Teams are jumping on them early like an uppercut in the first round from a youthful Mike Tyson. Last week, the Bears got 5-66-1 from Devin Hester and 6-97-0 from Rashied Davis. Isaac Bruce caught an early TD, but finished with only 2-19-1 due to having a 21 point lead. Greg Jennings (6-167-0) and Donald Driver (7-52-1) had field days as the Packers rolled out to a 21-0 lead, but because the Lions mounted a comeback, James Jones (4-29-1) and Jordy Nelson (29 yd TD) go into the act, too. Roddy White had a 2-54-0 warm-up game against the Lions in the season opener while Michael Jenkins was the first player to cross the ticker across the bottom of my screen with his 62-yard TD catch. Needless to say, if Rice is able to play this week, the Vikings will finally have their starting WRs healthy, so expect them to take same shots deep early in this game and possibly jump out to an early lead, ride Peterson and let their defense pin their ears back. If Rice remains inactive, insert Bobby Wade with a fair degree of confidence as a bye-week fill-in or spot starter in deeper leagues. Berrian should have his fourth consecutive solid game with possibly another 100-yard and a TD game.

WR Travis Taylor - DET (vs CAR)

Taylor may be the team’s #1 receiver this week if Nate Burleson is unable to play. While that may or may not be relevant, opposing #1 WRs have been in the groove against the Bears the past few weeks. Antonio Bryant came alive with 2 TDs to help the Browns defeat the Bears last week while finishing with 83 yards. Chad Johnson burned the Bears for 77 yards and 2 TDs. Roy Williams had 96 yards and a TD. Santana Moss got the ball rolling in the season opener with 96 yards, but he didn’t score. Taylor probably isn’t as talented as those other receivers are, but he’s been a good target for Culpepper so far this year. Counting on Culpepper on the road, or any of his WRs, is definitely risky business, but Taylor is probably the surest bet of the Vikings lot. Now, let’s see what he can do against the physical, but often beat (this year anyway) Charles Tillman.

WR Bobby Wade - FA ( FA)

I’m not sure what’s more embarrassing for the Lions – that they are allowing 10 receptions, 169 yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing WRs (4th most fantasy points allowed) or that they’ve allowed that much despite being down 17 to 20 points by the 2nd quarter in every one of those games. Teams are jumping on them early like an uppercut in the first round from a youthful Mike Tyson. Last week, the Bears got 5-66-1 from Devin Hester and 6-97-0 from Rashied Davis. Isaac Bruce caught an early TD, but finished with only 2-19-1 due to having a 21 point lead. Greg Jennings (6-167-0) and Donald Driver (7-52-1) had field days as the Packers rolled out to a 21-0 lead, but because the Lions mounted a comeback, James Jones (4-29-1) and Jordy Nelson (29 yd TD) go into the act, too. Roddy White had a 2-54-0 warm-up game against the Lions in the season opener while Michael Jenkins was the first player to cross the ticker across the bottom of my screen with his 62-yard TD catch. Needless to say, if Rice is able to play this week, the Vikings will finally have their starting WRs healthy, so expect them to take same shots deep early in this game and possibly jump out to an early lead, ride Peterson and let their defense pin their ears back. If Rice remains inactive, insert Bobby Wade with a fair degree of confidence as a bye-week fill-in or spot starter in deeper leagues. Berrian should have his fourth consecutive solid game with possibly another 100-yard and a TD game.

WR Mike Wallace - BAL (vs CLE)

The return of Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers offense immediately boosts the fantasy value of both Ward and Wallace. The Browns secondary has been suspect in the first quarter of the season, too. They rank eighth in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs. Eric Wright has been burned numerous time this year. Sheldon Brown hurt his shoulder on Sunday, left the game briefly, and then he was promptly burned by Roddy White for a 45-yard TD. Needless to say, Ben Roethlisberger loves to take his shots deep down the field and the Browns are the perfect matchup for his return to the field. Start Ward and Wallace with confidence this week.

WR Kevin Walter - FA ( FA)

While Andre Johnson had his coming out party of 2008 last week, Kevin Walter seemed to be lost in the shuffle. He was targeted just four times after getting 9 in each of the previous two games. With Matt Schaub back this week, perhaps Walter will once again be more of a factor. The Dolphins have allowed the most TDs to opposing receivers in the league (1.8 per game) to go with 10 receptions and 169 yards per game. Nearly every starter to face the Dolphins this year has produced 50+ yards or scored a TD. Oddly, Randy Moss is the exception (4-25-0), though Jabar Gaffney (6-51-1) and Wed Welker (6-55-0, 19 yds rushing) had solid games. Walter has 3 TDs in four games, though he’s scored in two of the three games that Schaub started and averaged 5 receptions and 44 yards.

WR Hines Ward - PIT (vs JAX)

The return of Ben Roethlisberger to the Steelers offense immediately boosts the fantasy value of both Ward and Wallace. The Browns secondary has been suspect in the first quarter of the season, too. They rank eighth in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs. Eric Wright has been burned numerous time this year. Sheldon Brown hurt his shoulder on Sunday, left the game briefly, and then he was promptly burned by Roddy White for a 45-yard TD. Needless to say, Ben Roethlisberger loves to take his shots deep down the field and the Browns are the perfect matchup for his return to the field. Start Ward and Wallace with confidence this week.

WR Nate Washington - NE (at DEN)

The Jags pass defense is simply brutal this year. Vince Young may not be throwing many yards this year, but it would be a shock if he weren’t able to get over the 200-yard hurdle this week for the first time this season. The Jags have allowed the the most yards and TDs to opposing WRs and they are fifth in receptions allowed. They’ve also allowed the most long pass plays in the league – 22 plays of 20+ yards and 8 of 40+ yards. Nate Washington may have a better grip on a starting job since Kenny Britt got his first start of the season last week due to Justin Gage being sidelined. I prefer Britt to Washington for fantasy purposed, but honestly both of the Titans receivers deserve to be in the lineup this week. If Steve Johnson (5-46-2) and Lee Evans (5-87-1) can get the job done against the Jags then you should give the Titans WRs the green light, too. Legedu Naanee is the ONLY starting WR that faced the Jags this year to not score a TD or produce 100 yards.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Dwayne Bowe - FA ( FA)

Going into Week 6, I suppose the last thing you want to hear is that this could be Dwayne Bowe’s week, but it could be. Bowe has criminally underperformed this year, but it’s not all his fault (unlike the TD catch that bounced off his hands last week). Bowe came into this season in better shape – physically and mentally - and he even managed to escape HC Todd Haley’s doghouse. It would be nice if Charlie Weiss would call Bowe’s number more on quicker developing plays as opposed to utilizing him more on intermediate and deep routes, but this week, it’s probably a good thing as the Chiefs face the league’s worst pass defense. Only the Jaguars have allowed more fantasy points than the Texans have. The Raiders are the only team that didn’t have a receiver produce 19 fantasy points (PPR) or more against Houston – and that was only because TE Zach Miller did while Louis Murphy played, but could barely lift his arms over his shoulders. Hakeem Nicks, Miller, Santana Moss and Austin Collie all caught 10 or more balls against the Texans. Roy Williams went for 117 yards and two TDs. Even though Bowe deserves to be on your team’s bench, like I wrote about Lee Evans last week, if you’re going to take a chance on him and go back to the well, this is definitely the week to do it.

WR Kenny Britt - STL (at IND)

Chris Johnson will test the speed on the Patriots defense this week after being bottled up by the Colts quick defense last week. Opposing teams have been opening up their offense against New England increasingly over the last few games, too. Johnson’s presence should help the Titans receivers get open. Last week, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal were very productive against the Patriots. The Ravens top three receivers were also active the week before. Britt has been inconsistent in his rookie year, most are, but he could get it going this week. Britt currently leads the Titans receivers with 19 catches and 289 yards, but he hasn’t caught his first TD yet. He’s worth the gamble; he’s all upside.

WR Reggie Brown - TB (vs MIA)

Reggie Brown, Phi at NYJ Call it a hunch or a sneaky suspicion, but Reggie Brown has been a big disappointment through the Eagles first four games and he’s on the verge of becoming a complete bust for his draft position. His best production has been 27 yards in week two, or 3 receptions in week four. That is nothing to get excited about even in larger leagues. He’s been targeted 6, 8, 2 and 7 times compared to Kevin Curtis (5, 11, 14 and 4). Opposing WRs have been productive against the Jets, so they are definitely vulnerable. The question is whether Brown will be targeted frequently enough to take advantage of the matchup. Plaxico Burress produced 5-124-1 last week against the Jets, though much of that damage came on one play and a missed tackle to boot. Chris Chambers produced 6-101-0, Lee Evans 6-72-0 and Derrick Mason 8-54-0. Brown probably won’t catch 6-to-8 balls, but he could be a big play candidate and possible find the end zone for the first time this year against the smaller Jets corners.

WR Reggie Brown - TB (vs MIA)

It’s safe to say that after two weeks, Reggie Brown is healthy and back into consideration for your starting lineup again. He’s been McNabb’s top target in the last two games, along with DeSean Jackson, while producing 4-84-0 against a very good Redskins secondary and 6-79-0 against the Bears. This week’s opponent is the 49ers, who are allowing 12 receptions, 172 yards and a TD each week to WRs. Randy Moss broke out with a 5-111-1 game against them last week. Lance Moore had his 7-101-2 game against them two weeks ago, not to mention Robert Meachem’s 2-99-1 and Devery Henderson’s 81-yard reception. Brown seems to be in a groove with McNabb, though he will probably draw coverage from Nate Clements (the 49ers best corner), too.

WR Kevin Curtis - KC (vs WAS)

This is actually not a good matchup play at all. The Colts are the stingiest defense in the NFL for opposing WRs. They’re allowing just 111 yards/gm and not a single TD through five games. Tony Dungy is finally instilling his style of play into the Colts defense, but particularly their secondary. They are a physical group from their rugged safety tandem of Mike Doss and Bob Sanders to rookie corner Marlin Jackson (must be a Big Ten thing). Curtis has been consistently productive filling in for the injured Isaac Bruce. This week, he’s not looking as good as he has in the past few, but even without Mike Martz calling plays, he’s still a strong sleeper given his penchant for big plays and scoring TDs.

WR Rashied Davis - FA ( FA)

In the last three games, five of the six WRs to start against the Falcons have scored TDs. The exception was Devard Darling, say no more. The Falcons are allowing 11 receptions, 160 yards and 1.2 TDs per game to opposing WRs. The question with the Bears WRs is whether Brandon Lloyd will be active after missing last week with a knee sprain. It looks like he could be limited again this week, which means Marty Booker will likely start in his place. Either way, Rashied Davis will start and probably see the most targets, too. He was the most targeted last week and he produced 6-97-0 against the Lions “D”. Devin Hester will also see action after producing 5-66-1 on a season-high 6 targets. Davis is the safer reach of the two, though Hester certainly has the allure of the big plays and value as a return man if your league rewards that stuff.

WR Pierre Garcon - WAS (at KC)

The Redskins have given up a ton of fantasy points to opposing WRs, but I don’t think their defense is quite as bad as the numbers portray, but that doesn’t mean they are good either. They didn’t allow the third most fantasy points to WRs through five weeks by chance, but their numbers are heavily skewed by huge performances out of the Texans and Cowboys receivers in Weeks 1 and 2. Since then, they have fared much better against the Rams, Eagles and Packers – holding all of those receivers scoreless and to only Mark Clayton topped 70 yards. Pierre Garcon missed two games because of injury, but he returned last week to catch 6 balls for 57 yards against the Chiefs. The Colts running backs are banged up and it’s not as if Peyton Manning needs much of an excuse to go away from the ground game and air it out against teams like the Redskins. Garcon didn’t practice Wednesday, so keep an eye on him in the event that he suffers a setback, but if he’s good to go by Sunday, then consider putting him in your lineup. He is overdue for one of those long TDs that we saw so frequently out of him last year.

WR Kevin Johnson - FA ( FA)

The Panthers secondary has been light up the past few weeks. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s this week against the Lions. The Lions passing attack might feature Kevin Johnson, Marcus Pollard and just about any other warm body the Lions can find… like former practice squad, now active WR Scottie Vines. The Lions could be without Mike Williams, Roy Williams and Eddie Drummond. Charles Rogers is suspended. Kevin Johnson might be the team’s leading receiver this week. On the other hand, knowing Mooch, it could be FB Shawn Bryson. Johnson is a risky play simply because of how bad Harrington has been.

WR Matt Jones - FA ( FA)

Every time I’ve sat down to watch the Jags this year I have to remind myself that yes, that is Matt Jones in the lineup and yes, that last nice looking catch was also Matt Jones. Stranger things have happened, I guess, but Jones has finally turned the corner and he’s been targeted 10, 10, 4, 7 and 6 times in each of the Jags’ five games producing 50 yds or a TD in three of the five. The Jags are a difficult team to find a starting-level fantasy WR from, but Jones has been solidly in the mix for targets. Jones started well last week, but Mike Walker was the man with the hot hands in the second half. Unfortunately, Walker tweaked his knee and may not be available this week. If Walker is indeed out, then Jones becomes a solid reach against a Broncos secondary allowing 11/139/1.0 per game to opposing WRs. Antonio Bryant, another reclamation project of sorts, produced 7-58-0 against Denver last week; Ike Hilliard 4-29-1. Dwayne Bowe, armed with terrible QB play and all, managed 7-85-0. Chris Chambers (4-83-2) and Vincent Jackson (6-73-0) enjoyed solid games. The Raiders nondescript combination of Ronald Curry (2-29-1) and Ashley Lelie (3-37-1) also did better than expected. If Walker is healthy, he’s your #1 guy here. He was just emerging as the new go-to guy for Garrard when news broke about his knee. If he’s not in there, then Jones should continue to fill that role nicely.

WR Johnny Knox - CHI (vs MIN)

Knox was high atop most fantasy owners’ lists of preseason sleepers this year. After catching only 13 passes and not a single TD in the Bears’ first 5 games, most owners are probably a little gun-shy about keeping him in the lineup on a weekly basis if they have alternative options. He’s only WR47 coming into this week’s game against the Seahawks, but Marcus Trufant isn’t 100% and the Seahawks are one of the most favorable matchups going for WRs. They’re allowing 14 catches, 193 yards and 1 TD per game. In their last three games, all of the starting receivers produced better than 50 yards and four of them caught TDs. I’m calling my shots now – Johnny Knox and Dwayne Bowe both broke into the scoring column this week.

WR Eric Moulds - FA ( FA)

Moulds enters this week as the 37th ranked WR on a PPG basis using FBG scoring. The Cowboys have done a solid job, mostly, against opposing WRs, but last week Hank Baskett beat them for a 87-yard TD en route to a 112-yard game. Reggie Brown caught four balls for 79 yards and a TD. The Cowboys put a lid on the Titans and Redskins WRs in the previous two games, so Moulds is definitely not a safe play by any stretch. Going back to game one, however, the Jaguars WRs all produced 50+ yards or scored a TD. Andre Johnson is definitely the guy to start from Houston, but Moulds has been targeted 21 times (6, 4, 5 and 6) catching at least 4 passes in every game producing 68 yards and a TD, 59 yards, 27 yards and 76 yards. That means just one poor game, two average/mediocre games and one good game.

WR Muhsin Muhammad - FA ( FA)

Bernard Berrian will probably play this week, but he likely won’t be 100% after hurting his foot/toe on Sunday night against Green Bay. Muhammad should benefit and the Vikings are allowing 14-172-1.2 to opposing WRs. The Packers produced four receivers with 50 or more yards and two of them caught TDs last week. Muhammad has exactly one produce game out of five this season. He produced 5-49-1 against the Lions in week four, but otherwise he hasn’t topped 2 catches or 21 yards in any of the other four games. If Berrian is inactive this week look for Muhammad to pick up the slack and produce his second “useful” game of the year. He’s a reach by all means, but the opportunity looks ripe for Muhammad to do something.

WR Muhsin Muhammad - FA ( FA)

Nobody expected Muhsin Muhammad to re-emerge as a top 20 fantasy WR this year, but through the first five weeks of the season he is right in the mix. Call it the retro Muhsin. Whatever. He’s producing after scoring in each of the last two games and producing 11 catches and 218 yards in the process. The Bucs will be more worried about Steve Smith, and rightfully so, which makes Muhammad a dangerous, super-sized target on the opposite side of the field for Jake Delhomme. The Bucs are allowing 10 receptions, 145 yards and 1.2 TDs per game to opposing WRs, which makes them an above average statistical matchup. They are prone to big plays and in recent weeks Greg Jennings, Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Stokley and Devery Henderson have made some. Maybe Muhammad can keep it up? Based on Muhammy’s recent spate of success, the Panthers re-emergence as the Panthers of old and the Bucs proving to be vulnerable through the air, Muhammad makes this week’s list.

WR Muhsin Muhammad - FA ( FA)

Despite being targeted consistently between 7 and 10 times, Muhammad’s stats remained steady between 4 and 6 catches and between 39 to 51 yards each week. This week the Panthers arguably have their best matchup of the young season for Delhomme and gang. The Bucs have seen a parade of big plays and big games against their defense. Last week, it was Jeremy Maclin with 6-152-2. Before that, Santana Moss went for 2-74-1, the other Steve Smith (7-63-1) came up big, Terrell Owens and Lee Evans both caught touchdowns (only time this year) and Patrick Crayton (4-135-1), Roy Williams (3-86-1) and Miles Austin (1-42-1) all dialed in a long ball. Suffice to say, Steve Smith is overdue for a huge game and so is Delhomme and Muhammad.

WR Eric Parker - FA ( FA)

The Raiders defense has allowed the 13th most fantasy points to opposing receivers (166 yds/gm and 4 TDs). Parker had a big game against them last year with 6 receptions, 91 yards and a TD. In the other game, he put up just 2-25-0 (in Oakland). Parker has three decent to solid games this year (50+ yards) and two less than desirable games (< 40 yards). It’s a good matchup, but Parker’s about fourth in the pecking order for Drew Brees behind LT, Gates and McCardell so adjust your expectations accordingly.

WR Eric Parker - FA ( FA)

The Chargers face the 49ers this week. As a fantasy matchup, the 49ers are the 6th best allowing 12 catches, 163 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Parker was largely invisible in the first two games with just 2 catches on 3 targets. In the last two, he’s come alive with 13 targets producing 9 catches for 123 yards (5-86-0 last week). If you need any further signs of encouragement, then consider the Raiders got solid production from both Randy Moss (5-52-1) and Ron Curry (4-94-0) last week with Andrew Walter tossing the rock. The week before, Eddie Kennison (6-86) and Dante Hall both caught TDs. In week three, sans Dante Stallworth, Reggie Brown produced 5-106-0. The Chargers WRs are hard to predict. Keenan McCardell’s name is barely called these days while Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson have caught 3 TDs – compared to 0 for Parker and McCardell. Parker seems to be the hot hand right now, so given the matchup, you might want to roll the dice with him and hope he can sustain the momentum or even kick it up a notch.

WR Samie Parker - FA ( FA)

See Eddie Kennison. Parker enters this week as the 71st ranked WR using FBG scoring (PPG basis). The Steelers are the 3rd best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 14.5 catches, 182 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Parker has been targeted 19 times in four games. He caught his first TD of the season last week, but he’s still yet to produce more than 37 yards in a game. Opposing #2 WRs have been successful against the Steelers. Eric Parker looked good on Sunday night with 5 passes for 86 yards. In week three, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (#2) and Chris Henry (#3) each caught 2 TDs against them and, in the previous week, Reggie Williams produced 8-95-0 and Matt Jones 6-73-0. Parker isn’t a slam dunk starter, but this looks like a good spot to use him, especially in a PPR league.

WR Jerry Porter - FA ( FA)

Five weeks into the season and Jerry Porter still doesn’t have a TD. The Chargers have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to opposing WRs, so maybe this is his week. On the flipside, the Chargers haven’t allowed a 100-yard WR yet this year. That might change this week, too, with Randy Moss on deck. Porter didn’t do much damage last year in two games against San Diego. He produced a 5-63-0 box score at home and had 4-50-0 at SD in 2004. Porter seems to be lost in the shuffle with Moss, Jordan and even TE Courtney Anderson producing more big plays, but it’s only a matter of time.

WR Jerry Porter - FA ( FA)

Ronald Curry has been the more active and productive Raider receiver so far this year, but when Daunte Culpepper took over for Josh McCown it was Jerry Porter who broke out with three catches, 52 yards and 2 TDs against the Dolphins. Prior to that, Porter had just 4 catches, 92 yards and a TD on 15 targets compared to 15 catches, 217 yards and 2 TDs on 21 targets for Curry. The matchup against the Chargers secondary is better than average as they’re allowing opposing WRs an average of 13 catches, 186 yards and 1 TD per game. The greatest risk that will affect your decision to start Porter, or Curry, is Daunte Culpepper. Porter was productive against Miami, but Culpepper completed only 5 passes in that game. That represents considerable risk if you’re looking for production from Porter or Curry.

WR Eddie Royal - CHI (vs MIN)

After going four games with a grand total of 9 catches, 58 yards and no TDs, Eddie Royal had a wow-game. Finally. Kyle Orton and Josh McDaniels both claim something to the effect that they aren’t neglecting him but they aren’t going to force the issue either. Last week, something changed. He was targeted 15 times against the Patriots. He caught 10 balls for 90 yards. He more than doubled his fantasy production in one game in Week 5. Amazing. The Chargers haven’t been scorched by receivers this year, but that might have more to do with the success teams are having on the ground against them. Hines Ward produced 8-113-0 against them in their last game while Davone Bess caught 7 for 54 in Week 3. Louis Murphy (4-87-1) and Kelley Washington (4-58-1) had solid games against them. Royal produced 5-37-1 and 11-76-0 in two games against the Chargers last year. Maybe he turned the corner and Kyle Orton will continue to look his way more frequently.

WR Amani Toomer - FA ( FA)

The Cowboys rank 4th in fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers. Surprisingly, Terrell Owens didn’t blow up against them last week, but we blame that on an injured (and ineffective last week) Donovan McNabb. In the first four games, the Cowboys allowed a 100-yard receiver each week. Three of those four 100-yard WRs also caught 2 TDs. It’s not as if they were torched by just Randy Moss, but Brandon Lloyd, Santana Moss and Keenan McCardell. Toomer started slowly, but now teams are forced to focus more on Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey. Of course, that can work both ways. Toomer isn’t the most targeted player in the offense, but he’s coming off two good weeks in a row (4-84-0 @SD, 3-20-1 vs STL). Historically, Toomer has been productive against Dallas – 6-66-0 last year, 7-126-1 vs Dallas in 2003, 5-66-0 at Dallas in 2003, 5-98-1at Dallas in 02, and 6-99-0 vs Dallas in 02.

WR Wes Welker - STL (at IND)

The Dolphins play the Jets in New York this week. Not a great matchup on paper, but Welker simply deserves to get into someone’s lineup, especially in PPR leagues, because of his week-to-week consistency and production. Welker’s targets and actual production through five games look like this: 8 (4-67-0), 5 (5-41-0), 6 (5-59-0), 7 (4-55-0) and 12 (9-77-0). With Marty Booker possibly out of the lineup this week, Welker could be leaned on more heavily like he was last week (notice the up-tick in his targets and stats). If he’s still on your waiver wire, pick him up and play him if you’re in a pinch.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Danny Amendola - NE (at DEN)

After Mark Clayton tore his patellar tendon on Sunday, Sam Bradford turned his attention to Danny Amendola in a huge way. The poor man’s version of Wes Welker reeled in 12 catches for 95 yards on a ridiculous 19 targets. Amendola’s big game moved him up to WR40 year to date. The only problem with this week is a super tough matchup against the San Diego Chargers who are allowing only 8 catches and 95 yards to opposing WRs each week with just 1 TD allowed in their first five games. That should sufficiently dampen your expectations for Amendola putting up another huge PPR game, but he remains the favorite as Sam Bradford’s new favorite target. Even if Mardy Gilyard gets first crack at flanker, where Clayton lined up, Amendola is a fixture in the lineup at this point as the team’s top option in the slot. Consider Amendola a strong sleeper in PPR leagues, but only an average one otherwise.

WR Drew Bennett - BAL (vs CLE)

The Ravens mighty defense has proven to be vulnerable through the air so far this season. They’re allowing 12 receptions, 172 yards and 1.4 TDs per game to opposing WRs. Isaac Bruce was inactive last week allowing Drew Bennett to start in his place. Bennett responded by catching a TD and producing 2 catches for 32 yards on 6 targets against a pretty good Cardinals defense. It’s too early to tell if Bruce will be active this week, but keep Bennett on your speed dial list for possible fill-ins should Bruce be inactive. Nine out of ten starting WRs have produced 50+ yards or scored a TD against the Ravens. If Bennett gets the start, he stands as good of a chance as any of those ten.

WR Steve Breaston - NO (vs ATL)

With Anquan Boldin likely sitting out another week, Breaston remains an excellent sleeper with his big play ability as a return guy and his ability to gobble up passes in the slot. In the last two weeks, Breaston has been targeted 18 times producing 16 catches and 199 yards. Warner has shown his confidence in him and Breaston has responded with solid results. His quickness and ability to get off the line freely in the slot add to his effectiveness. Antonio Chatman produced 7-55-0 in the slot last week, Moss and Randle El both had productive games the previous week as did Greg Jennings and Donald Driver the week before that against Dallas. Early Doucet is even worth a look as a desperate reach after catching 6 balls for 42 yards last week. Look for Breaston and Doucet to both see plenty of targets and catches for the second week in a row.

WR Nate Burleson - FA ( FA)

Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu will both see increased playing time and therefore have a better opportunity to produce useful fantasy stats this week due to the Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett being inactive. The matchup is also favorable against a Saints secondary missing starting corner Jason David. They are allowing 8 catches, 159 yards and 1.8 TDs per game. Burleson will get the starting nod, but whether Obomanu starts opposite him and Bobby Engram remains in the slot, or vice versa, remains to be seen. Regardless, all three receivers could be produce something worthwhile against a soft Saints defense this week.

WR Patrick Crayton - SD (at OAK)

The Giants secondary is suspect at best. They’re the 2nd best matchup for WRs allowing 260 yards/gm with 5 TDs. Shaun McDonald caught 9 balls for 121 yards against them in week 4 playing in the slot. Bryant Johnson produced 27 yards and Devery Henderson 42 yards from the slot. Crayton is productive playing in the slot. Bledsoe seems to be comfortable with him, too. Crayton has 2 TDs in five games with an average of 2.8 catches for 45.2 yards per game. Against a soft secondary like the Giants, the Cowboys passing game should be flying high in their home stadium.

WR Kevin Curtis - KC (vs WAS)

Curtis scored a TD last week, but it’s usually not a good idea to chase stats in the box scores, so that alone isn’t a good reason to warrant using Curtis. Add in a strong matchup against a Seahawks defense that ranks 5th best in fantasy points allowed to WRs and you have a better reason to make that leap. The Hawks are allowing 1.5 TDs/gm to opposing WRs (tied for 2nd most).

WR Craig Davis - FA ( FA)

Davis steps into the Chargers lineup this week in lieu of the injured Chris Chambers. You know – the same guy that has 5 TDs despite having only 11 receptions year to date with a YPC north of 20. Davis faces a Patriots secondary that has allowed 9 receptions, 122 yards and a TD per week to opposing WRs. As matchups go, they are slightly below average, but they are vulnerable considering that Isaac Bruce caught 2 TDs last week (3-49-2) and the Dolphins receiver combo of Ted Ginn (5-49-0) and Greg Camarillo (4-60-0) were moderately productive in week 3 against them. Other evidence of vulnerability comes from Devard Darling’s 68 yard reception against them in the season opener. I’m only being half serious, but has Darling caught another ball all year long? Davis is a viable reach as a starter, though not as strong of a play as Domenik Hixon, who was last week’s pick up and play special order.

WR Jabar Gaffney - MIA (at TB)

Gaffney has scored in 2 of the 3 games he’s played against the Chargers in the last two years as a Patriot. It’s a bit feast or famine though – 1-6-0 (week 2, 2007), 1-12-1 in the AFC Championship game last year and 10-103-1 in the AFC playoffs the previous year. The Chargers are allowing a pleasant 17 receptions, 162 yards and 1 TD per game to opposing WRs. Gaffney didn’t do a thing in the first two games of the season, but then he got on the board quickly in week 3 with 9 targets and 6-51-1. Last week, he was targeted three times finishing with 3-35-0. Here are some comparable receivers and their production against San Diego this year – Greg Camarillo 6-68-1, Johnnie Lee Higgins 4-35-0, Chansi Stuckey 6-42-1, Brandon Stokley 3-47-0 and Dwayne Jarrett 2-36-0. Ok, reality check, Gaffney is arguably better than every player on that list. With a solid matchup and a game that may force the Patriots to throw the ball more this week, Gaffney is someone to keep an eye on as a WR3/WR4/flex option in deeper leagues.

WR D.J Hackett - FA ( FA)

Hackett stepped into the Bobby Engram’s starting spot last week and produced 44 yards on 5 catches. He’ll probably have the best matchup in terms of coverage this week assuming Dunta Robinson covers Joe Jurevicius and DeMarcus Faggins takes Hackett. Matt Hasselbeck is throwing the ball well whether Jackson, Jurevicius or Hackett is playing receiver. The Texans are a solid matchup, too.

WR Darrell Jackson - FA ( FA)

Jackson is expected to fill the injured rookie Eddie Royal’s spot in the starting lineup this week against the Jags. If Brandon Marshall is locked up by Rashean Mathis most of the game, Jackson should have a good opportunity for some big plays in this game, especially the way Cutler is throwing the football. Case in point, in the first game of the season, Jackson took the field for one play when rookie Eddie Royal needed a break. He caught a 48-yard TD. It’s his only catch of the season. The Jaguars are allowing 11/140/1.2 per game to opposing WRs, which makes them about average though most recently, Nate Washington (6-94-1), Hines Ward (7-90-1) and Santonio Holmes (4-65-0) all had productive games against them on Sunday night. Kevin Walter exploited them for 2 TDs two weeks ago (8-76-2). Marvin Harrison produced 4-40-1 against them in week 3. Jackson is worth a roster spot for a week, and even a spot in your lineup as WR3/flex. If he’s not available, perhaps Brandon Stokley is out there. He, too, is worth a look as a last resort reach.

WR Ashley Lelie - FA ( FA)

The Giants are the 7th best matchup for opposing WRs, but most of the numbers they allowed were all in one game (at Seattle – 18 catches, 184 yards, 4 TDs). Beyond that game, they’ve allowed only 2 TDs and only three WRs to go over 40 yards (in three games). Lelie is really a boom-or-bust play. His career average is 18 yards per catch. In his last two games, Lelie caught a 48-yard pass against the Saints and a 51-yard pas against the Cardinals. Eventually he’s going to make good on one of those and score a long TD.

WR Jeremy Maclin - KC (vs WAS)

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham each caught TD passes against the Raiders last week and Maclin is quickly emerging past Kevin Curtis as the team’s No. 2 receiver opposite DeSean Jackson. Curtis has not been able to get back to his pre-injury form, struggling with swelling in his knee and other nagging injuries. Meanwhile, Maclin is more explosive and a bigger receiver to pair with Jackson. The Raiders have a decent secondary, but Maclin’s big play ability is hard to ignore. The Eagles could give him even more playing time this week if this gets ugly early.

WR Mario Manningham - FA ( FA)

Last week, Manningham posted a goose egg for the second week in a row. He suffered a concussion in Week 3, but he appears to be fully healthy going into Week 6 against the Detroit Lions. Manningham has just three targets in those last two games, but he was targeted 4, 6 and 9 times in the previous three games, suggesting that perhaps the concussion might have been a bigger factor than I originally estimated in last week’s article. The Lions defense is playing better than expected lately, but their secondary remains razor thin when it comes to talent and depth. A healthy Manningham is a nice matchup for Eli Manning to target in single coverage against the Lions No. 3 corner.

WR Shaun McDonald - FA ( FA)

McDonald might be the Rams 4th receiver but he’s already caught at least 5 balls in three different games. Unfortunately, he disappeared in the other two almost completely. In the last two games with Isaac Bruce hurt, McDonald has produced 14 catches for 176 yards and no TDs. The Colts are definitely a tough matchup this week. They’ve allowed the fewest fantasy points in the league to opposing receivers, but they haven’t faced the Rams yet either. The Colts physical style will probably cause the Rams some frustration, but if this game were at Indy you might worry a bit more. The game’s in St. Louis, so look for the Rams to be productive in the passing game without Bruce and without Mike Martz calling the plays. McDonald is a solid sleeper and a good bet to remain productive in this game. However, it’s worth noting the Colts haven’t allowed a TD catch yet to an opposing WR.

WR Robert Meachem - FA ( FA)

It’s a crapshoot each week trying to figure out which of the Saints receivers might explode for a long TD. Even Marques Colston isn’t immune to long periods of underwhelming fantasy production. Of the Saints three other receivers, Lance Moore has been highly productive (as well as inconsistent) with Reggie Bush sidelined, while Devery Henderson plays the most snaps and Robert Meachem the least. Against a Bucs defense allowing 1.5 TDs per game to opposing WRs, any one of these three are worth a reach. However, it’s worth noting that last year Robert Meachem was the flavor of the week in both games against the Bucs. Meachem caught a pair of TDs in their first meeting in Week 11 at Tampa, and then 5 for 66 yards and a TD in Week 16 at home.

WR Hakeem Nicks - NYG (at DAL)

The Giants are doing their best to get both of these talented, young receivers involved in their passing game. While Steve Smith is having a career year, Manningham and Nicks continue to produce big plays on a weekly basis. Nicks is coming on though. There’s a chance that he supplants Manningham in the lineup opposite Smith soon, but until then, the Giants will continue to work him into the mix as much as possible. He keeps making big plays. The Saints are one of the tougher matchups for receivers, but Eli is throwing the ball well (despite his heel) and Nicks keeps making plays. They’ll likely need to throw the ball to win this week in New Orleans. Given the immense talent that Nicks has, he’s an easy guy to roll the dice on knowing that he could pop off for a long TD or his first 100-yard game at any time.

WR Ben Obomanu - FA ( FA)

Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu will both see increased playing time and therefore have a better opportunity to produce useful fantasy stats this week due to the Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett being inactive. The matchup is also favorable against a Saints secondary missing starting corner Jason David. They are allowing 8 catches, 159 yards and 1.8 TDs per game. Burleson will get the starting nod, but whether Obomanu starts opposite him and Bobby Engram remains in the slot, or vice versa, remains to be seen. Regardless, all three receivers could be produce something worthwhile against a soft Saints defense this week.

WR Peerless Price - BUF (vs NYJ)

The Lions are the ninth best matchup for opposing WRs. Until last week, they were being beaten with regularity, but somehow they pulled it together against the Vikings to stop the bleeding. In the previous two games, they allowed three WRs to go for 100+ yards and four different WRs to score TDs. Price and Reed have both been semi-productive this year. Lee Evans is the one to play, obviously, but Reed and Price might be worth a look if you’re hurting for a player to grab this week. You might be able to get either one off waivers as an short-term solution this week.

WR Antwaan Randle El - FA ( FA)

The Titans are allowing 1.2 TDs/gm to opposing WRs and they rank as the 11th best matchup overall. Randle-El is always a good player to gamble, but the Redskins passing game has been inconsistent this year. Randle-El has been consistently targeted 3-to-5 times each game and he’s caught 2-to-5 passes in each game. Those aren’t good fantasy stats by any stretch, but considering that Brandon Lloyd has been like vapor in a uniform, Randle-El seems like a better bet. Last week, Brandon Stokley (Colts No. 3 WR) caught 5 passes for 57 yards. Wesley Welker produced 5-59-0 in week 3. Vincent Jackson caught a TD in week 2 against Tennessee.

WR Josh Reed - FA ( FA)

The Lions are the ninth best matchup for opposing WRs. Until last week, they were being beaten with regularity, but somehow they pulled it together against the Vikings to stop the bleeding. In the previous two games, they allowed three WRs to go for 100+ yards and four different WRs to score TDs. Price and Reed have both been semi-productive this year. Lee Evans is the one to play, obviously, but Reed and Price might be worth a look if you’re hurting for a player to grab this week. You might be able to get either one off waivers as an short-term solution this week.

WR Sidney Rice - SEA (vs HOU)

Rice is consistently overshadowed by his teammates, Bernard Berrian and rookie Percy Harvin, but he’s quickly developing into an intriguing red zone option for Brett Favre. Rice has more size than either one of his counterparts and Favre seems to be taking notice. He has three straight games of 56, 70 and 61 yards with two TDs in that span. The Ravens remain one of the league’s top defenses, but they’ve also been beaten for big plays. The Bengals produced three WRs last week with 9+ fantasy points – Chad Ochocinco, Andre Caldwell and Chris Henry. Berrian has been targeted 33 times this season compared to Harvin’s 25 and Rice’s 27. Of the three, Rice has been targeted the most consistently from week to week. Knowing that both teams could struggle running the football in this game, they’ll still keep trying if only to make the play-action more effective. That’s where Rice may come into play.

WR Brandon Stokley - FA ( FA)

Stokley re-appeared last week in the Colts offense. The Rams secondary is on deck this week and they are almost as vulnerable as San Francisco’s. The Rams have allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to WRs – 195 yards/gm and 7 TDs. Stokley is not the reliable player he was last year, but he caught 6 balls for 59 yards and opened the season with a 7-83-0 box score. The matchup is solid, so if you have Stokley and you’re short on options, this might be as good of a spot to play him, as you’ll have moving forward.

WR Troy Williamson - FA ( FA)

Maybe Troy Williamson will follow in the steps of fellow rookie Chris Henry and beat the Bears for a TD this week. Chicago is the 12th best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 134 yds/gm and a surprising 6 TDs. Antonio Bryant beat them twice in the 4th quarter last week in a come-from-behind win for the Browns. Williamson is a “swing for the fence” style of play. He might not do anything, or he could catch a 60-yard TD. He’s scored in his last two games and he’s probably the Vikings best deep threat already.

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

WR Corey Bradford - FA ( FA)

The Seahawks are allowing 164 yards/gm with 5 TDs to opposing receivers. They’ve allowed the 10th most fantasy points, so there’s a super long shot that either Gaffney or Bradford could be worthwhile this week. Not outstanding, but passable. The reality is that both Gaffney and Bradford are unreliable. Neither one is consistent from week to week. Gaffney is the more reliable player if you’re in a PPR league, however, in TD-only leagues, then Bradford is the better bet. Both are long shots, but somebody has to catch the ball in Houston besides Domanick Davis at some point.

WR Mark Bradley - FA ( FA)

If Bernard Berrian is limited or inactive this week, keep Bradley in mind as a possible waiver wire pick up and play option. Bradley got into last week’s game against Green Bay when Berrian was injured and he caught a 17-yard pass. If Berrian is inactive, then the Bears would probably lean on Bradley more, but also Rashied Davis and even Devin Hester. Bradley is without question a major reach and one that you should not consider unless Berrian is not able to go on game day. As of Wednesday, Berrian had not practiced but he is still expected to be part of the game plan for the Vikings game.

WR Keenan Burton - STL (at IND)

Like Donnie Avery, Burton got off to a slow start to the season, but with Marc Bulger likely returning to the lineup things could be looking better for Burton’s production. At the very least, he has a tremendous matchup against a Jaguars defense that allowed two TDs to Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh last week. The Jaguars have allowed a ridiculous 16 catches (league-most), 205 yards (same) for 1.8 TDs (3rd) to opposing receivers. Eight of the 10 receivers that have faced the Jaguars have produced 86 yards or caught a TD. The other two produced 8-69-0 (Boldin) and 3-24-0 (Garcon), both came in the first two weeks of the season. Burton was targeted a season-high 9 times last week producing 5-42-0 (also season highs). He could outperform those numbers again this week though.

WR Deon Butler - SD (at OAK)

Now that the Seahawks unloaded Deion Branch, the door is finally open for Deon Butler to move into the starting lineup and for Golden Tate to get more playing time as well. The Seahawks are expected to use a rotation amongst Butler, Tate and even veteran Brandon Stokley, but when they go to three wides, Butler is expected to slide inside to the slot. Butler has shown flashes of big play ability in training camp and preseason games. He should be a priority on the waiver wire this week for owners looking to boost their WR depth and h has a chance to hit the ground running against the Bears this week, too. The Bears aren’t one of the better matchups for WRs and Matt Hasselbeck doesn’t inspire us, but if you’re depleted due to injuries and the bye week, Butler just might be your best option available.

WR Greg Camarillo - FA ( FA)

In four games this year, Camarillo has slowly established himself as Chad Pennington’s possession receiver du jour. He’s been targeted 6, 8, 5 and 8 times producing 3-37-0, 4-49-0, 4-60-0 and 6-68-0 – notice the upward trend? The Dolphins have done a nice job of getting the ball outside to Camarillo and Ted Ginn in each of the last two games. As a matchup, Houston is about average or slightly lower allowing 10/132/1 per game. If he continues to get 6 to 8 targets, then he should be a safe bet for 4-5 catches and around 50-60 yards. There may not be as much upside with Camarillo, but he’s a decent reach in PPR leagues if you’re desperate.

WR Patrick Crayton - SD (at OAK)

Legedu Naanee suffered a hamstring injury last week forcing him to leave the game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and it looks like he could sit out this week allowing Buster Davis a chance to start opposite Malcom Floyd for the league’s top offense after five weeks. Unfortunately, Davis also sat out practice on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons – although we suspect it could be due to his hands after he dropped two balls on Sunday – one of which could have been a long TD with the game in the balance. If Davis is unable to go for some reason, keep Patrick Crayton on speed dial. While neither of these two receivers are players you’d normally consider for your starting lineup, you could do much worse than gamble on whoever gets the start. After all, the Rams won’t be rolling coverage towards them with Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd having Pro Bowl seasons. For good measure, the Rams are allowing slightly more than the average defense to opposing WRs – or 11 catches, 162 yards and 1 TD per game.

WR Craig Davis - FA ( FA)

Legedu Naanee suffered a hamstring injury last week forcing him to leave the game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and it looks like he could sit out this week allowing Buster Davis a chance to start opposite Malcom Floyd for the league’s top offense after five weeks. Unfortunately, Davis also sat out practice on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons – although we suspect it could be due to his hands after he dropped two balls on Sunday – one of which could have been a long TD with the game in the balance. If Davis is unable to go for some reason, keep Patrick Crayton on speed dial. While neither of these two receivers are players you’d normally consider for your starting lineup, you could do much worse than gamble on whoever gets the start. After all, the Rams won’t be rolling coverage towards them with Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd having Pro Bowl seasons. For good measure, the Rams are allowing slightly more than the average defense to opposing WRs – or 11 catches, 162 yards and 1 TD per game.

WR Malcom Floyd - FA ( FA)

The Chargers face the 49ers this week. As a fantasy matchup, the 49ers are the 6th best allowing 12 catches, 163 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Both Randy Moss (5-52-1) and Ron Curry (4-94-0) were productive against the 49ers last week with Andrew Walter tossing the rock. The week before, Eddie Kennison (6-86) and Dante Hall both caught TDs. In week three, sans Dante Stallworth, Reggie Brown produced 5-106-0. The Chargers WRs are hard to predict. Despite starting, Keenan McCardell has been a non-factor this year. Meanwhile, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson have caught 3 TDs while Parker and McCardell have none. It’s a real stretch counting on either of these 6’ 5” mammoth WRs, but with 2 TDs for Floyd in his last two games and one for Jackson, there’s a reasonable chance one of them could go for 6 again this week.

WR Jabar Gaffney - MIA (at TB)

The Seahawks are allowing 164 yards/gm with 5 TDs to opposing receivers. They’ve allowed the 10th most fantasy points, so there’s a super long shot that either Gaffney or Bradford could be worthwhile this week. Not outstanding, but passable. The reality is that both Gaffney and Bradford are unreliable. Neither one is consistent from week to week. Gaffney is the more reliable player if you’re in a PPR league, however, in TD-only leagues, then Bradford is the better bet. Both are long shots, but somebody has to catch the ball in Houston besides Domanick Davis at some point.

WR Devery Henderson - FA ( FA)

Henderson is the classic “boom or bust’ fantasy WR. Last week, we saw what Henderson is capable of doing with his 4 catches, 104 yards and a TD. Twice this year Henderson has caught only one ball in a game and it went for 80+ yards. In two other games he produced 2-6-0 and 2-42-0. Last week, Henderson was targeted 11 times, which seems like an anomaly compared to the four previous games in which he was targeted 2, 4, 3 and 2 times each. In the write up for Darrell Jackson, I mentioned his one play appearance against the Raiders in which he caught a 48-yard TD. With Marques Colston still ready, Henderson should have plenty of chances to drop the one-time on the Raiders this week. Considering that he’s done it in three of the Saints five games this year, he’s roughly a 60% gamble to produce something of the boom variety.

WR Vincent Jackson - TB (vs MIA)

The Chargers face the 49ers this week. As a fantasy matchup, the 49ers are the 6th best allowing 12 catches, 163 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. Both Randy Moss (5-52-1) and Ron Curry (4-94-0) were productive against the 49ers last week with Andrew Walter tossing the rock. The week before, Eddie Kennison (6-86) and Dante Hall both caught TDs. In week three, sans Dante Stallworth, Reggie Brown produced 5-106-0. The Chargers WRs are hard to predict. Despite starting, Keenan McCardell has been a non-factor this year. Meanwhile, Malcom Floyd and Vincent Jackson have caught 3 TDs while Parker and McCardell have none. It’s a real stretch counting on either of these 6’ 5” mammoth WRs, but with 2 TDs for Floyd in his last two games and one for Jackson, there’s a reasonable chance one of them could go for 6 again this week.

WR Brandon Jones - FA ( FA)

The Redskins, Tennessee’s foe this week, are the 10th best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 11.6 catches, 155.8 yards and 1.2 TDs per game. If Drew Bennett doesn’t play this week, then consider using Brandon Jones. He took over for Bennett last week and caught three balls for 40 yards on 6 targets. Every week one of the opposing WRs topped 75 yards against Washington. If Shawn Springs is out again, then this becomes an even better situation to consider using Jones.

WR Dennis Northcutt - FA ( FA)

The Lions may very well be without Calvin Johnson when they face the Packers this weekend. Johnson left last Sunday’s game early and Northcutt replace him. Daunte Culpepper targeted him 8 times for 5 catches and 70 yards with a 25-yard TD. If you prefer Bryant Johnson to Dennis Northcutt, fine. Neither one is particularly trustworthy as a fantasy option, but for my money, Northcutt will probably be targeted more frequently and produce better numbers.

WR Donte Stallworth - FA ( FA)

For the first time this season, Stallworth appears to be healthy and ready to go for this week’s game against the Giants. It will mark the first time that Derek Anderson has his full repertoire of skilled players at his disposal, too. Of course, we should get our hopes up too quickly since anyone that has ever owned Stallworth can attest to the old pre-game hamstring twitch. As long as Stallworth is good to go, and he’s active, then he’s a worthwhile reach simply because of his home run ability after the catch. He should see plenty of single coverage sharing the field with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, too.

WR Brandon Stokley - FA ( FA)

Please see Darrell Jackson’s analysis first. The Jaguars are allowing 11/140/1.2 per game to opposing WRs, which makes them about average except that Nate Washington (6-94-1), Hines Ward (7-90-1) and Santonio Holmes (4-65-0) all had productive games against them on Sunday night. The previous week, Kevin Walter exploited them for 2 TDs and 8-76-2 overall. Marvin Harrison produced 4-40-1 against them in week 3. Keep in mind, Jackson is not the team’s #1 option, but neither was Walter, Washington or Harrison. The Jaguars can be exploited in the secondary and Jay Cutler is highly capable of doing just that this weekend whether it is working with Jackson on the outside or Stokley on the inside. If you’re looking for a one-week plug-in and play option, look at Jackson first, Stokley second.

WR Javon Walker - FA ( FA)

Honestly, Walker hasn’t shown me enough to warrant starting him in anything but the most desperate of lineups. Yet, perhaps he is worth a gamble this week knowing the opportunity this week is one that should result in more passing attempts for Oakland and a definite likelihood that they’ll be playing from behind against the Saints. To further that argument, the Saints have allowed the 5th most fantasy points to WRs – or 14 receptions, 188 yards and 1 TD per game. Other receivers that haven’t started every week or necessarily been productive, but were against the Saints, include Bobby Wade (8-64-0), Arnaz Battle (7-120-0) and Ike Hilliard (6-45-1). New Head coach, Tom Cable, says the Raiders will be more balanced and they’ll take a few more shots than previously. That could dovetail into Walker’s game, though it remains to be seen if Walker has the tenacity, discipline and conditioning to make the most of this opportunity. He’s been lethargic, at best, this year. Ronald Curry may get a few looks as well, though the player that figures to benefit the most is probably TE Zach Miller.


Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Courtney Anderson - FA ( FA)

Anderson is already a borderline starter most weeks with opponents paying so much attention to Randy Moss, LaMont Jordan and Jerry Porter. Anderson has the middle of the field to himself in most games. The tight ends that’ve played San Diego average 40 yards and have scored 1 TD in five games. In four games, Anderson caught two TDs in one game, topped 100 yards in another game and came up empty in another. That covers the full spectrum, which is about what you might expect from Anderson. Consistency might be an issue, but there will be some explosions along the way.

TE Desmond Clark - FA ( FA)

The Vikings have been a good opponent for tight ends so far this year allowing an average of 7-75-0 each week. Clark has been consistently productive, too. He’s caught a TD in each of the last two games and produced 10 catches and 106 yards on 14 targets. While Greg Olsen’s role is growing within the offense as the season progresses, do not underestimate the steady and consistent production that Clark currently brings to the table – especially if Bernard Berrian is limited by the toe injury he suffered last week.

TE Chris Cooley - FA ( FA)

Cooley had a monster game last week as far as tight ends go and he might continue his hot streak this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City has allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing TEs (55 yds/gm with 3 TDs). They were torched by Chris Baker primarily (124 yds/1 TD) but L.J. Smith rung up 67 yards and a TD in week 4 on their watch. Cooley might not quality for this column much longer if he continues to produce at his current clip. He’s averaging 4.2 catches, 49.2 yards and 0.2 TDs per game. He’s topped 60 yards the last two weeks and this week might make three in a row.

TE Owen Daniels - FA ( FA)

Tony Gonzalez went off against the Jags last week for 7-100-0. Daniels went off last week, too, for 6-96-0 against the Dolphins. Interestingly, Miami and Jacksonville had allowed the 3rd and 4th fewest fantasy points to TEs prior to last week. Daniels had a quiet season opener, but since then he’s been on fire producing 5-58-0, 7-56-0, 5-69-0 and 6-96-0. Amazingly, he doesn’t have any TDs yet this year. Next to Andre Johnson, Daniels is basically Matt Schaub’s #2 receiver in the offense. He’s been featured even more prominently with Johnson sidelined, so expect that to continue against the Jags who are now allowing an 4-50-0 to opposing TEs each week.

TE Todd Heap - FA ( FA)

Heap is having his best season in several years, so it’s not a huge reach for him to be in your starting lineup this week. Against the Vikings, he’s essentially a no-brainer. The Vikings are this year’s version of the Chargers. Even tight ends that have no real fantasy value have been reasonably productive against the Vikings this year. Last week, Randy McMichael (3-45-0) and Daniel Fells (5-45-0) both had solid games. In Week 4, Jermichael Finley had the breakout game we’ve been waiting all season for with 6-128-1. Vernon Davis broke out with his best game as a pro with 7-96-2. And the same goes on with Brandon Pettigrew and Robert Royal. Far be it for Todd Heap to break the string of fantasy goodness.

TE Eric Johnson - FA ( FA)

The Chargers are a decent matchup for TEs (9th overall) allowing 3.5 catches, 42 yards and 0.5 TDs per game, but this isn’t about the matchup as much as it is Johnson’s increased production with Vernon Davis on the sidelines. Since Davis got hurt in the third game, Johnson has been targeted 22 times (in three games) catching 13 passes for 124 yards and a TD. In each of the last two weeks, he caught three passes but produced only 14 and 23 yards respectively. The 49ers will probably need to throw more than usual in this game, so Johnson could see an increase in targets and overall production.

TE Billy Miller - FA ( FA)

In Jeremy Shockey’s absence, the Saints have used Billy Miller consistently each week. He has produced 2-41-0, 3-30-0 and 4-61-0 in the last three games on 2, 5 and 6 targets respectively. Shockey isn’t expected back for another couple weeks, so Miller looks like a safe option to keep using in his stead. The Raiders are an above average matchup for TEs, too. Their opponents are averaging 4 catches, 52 yards and 0.5 TDs per game at the position. Tony Scheffler produced a 72-yard catch against them in the season opener (his only catch) and the Bills Robert Royal caught 4 balls for 34 yards. Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez caught TDs and produced 5-58 and 5-39 accordingly, but that’s the type of production expected from those future Hall of Famers. Miller isn’t on that level, but he should be able to continue making plays in the passing game for the Saints, especially with the level at which Drew Brees is currently playing.

TE Tony Moeaki - CHI (vs MIN)

Not only is Tony Moeaki leading the Chiefs in receptions (16) and TDs (2), but he is tied with Dwayne Bowe for the most targets (23), too. Going against the Texans porous defense this week, Moeaki is a solid TE1 play. The Texans are equally as bad at defending tight ends as they at defending receivers, allowing 8 catches, 92 yards and 0.6 TDs per game.

TE Marcus Pollard - ATL (at NO)

Pollard is a great play this week simply because the Lions may not have ANY better options. It’s ridiculous. Pollard short-armed two passes last week and drawing scorn from fans and the announcers, but he’s still the veteran leader of the Lions offense. Believe it or not, it’s true. The Panthers have proven vulnerable to TEs. They’ve allowed the 8th most fantasy points (34 yds/gm and 4 TDs). In the Panthers’ last three games, Daniel Graham, Randy McMichael, David Martin and Donald Lee have caught TDs. Pollard can hang with most of those guys. As shaky as Harrington is, he’s always looked for his tight end frequently. Pollard should be a top 10 TE this week out of necessity.

TE Jeremy Shockey - FA ( FA)

Jeremy Shockey has been a consistent performer so far this year. He’s a borderline TE1/TE2, but this week he faces his former teammates, so the juices should be flowing. Even better, the Giants have been touched up by tight ends in the last two weeks. Zach Miller overcame the JaMarcus Russell syndrome to catch four balls for 69 yards while Sean Ryan came up with 5-58-1 against them. Shockey is well rested and the Saints have an extra week to prepare for this game.

TE Alex Smith - WAS (at KC)

The Bengals are the third best matchup for TEs allowing 6 catches, 60 yards and 0.5 TDs per game. Granted, Tony Gonzalez skewed those numbers with his 10-81-1 season opener performance. Since week one, the Bengals defense has done a better job. Kellen Winslow produced 4-42-0, Heath Miller 3-34-0 and Daniel Graham 4-34-1. As for Smith, he started slowly but his production has been solid in the past two games – 4-72-0 and 5-16-1. Bruce Gradkowski targeted him six times last week.

TE Ben Watson - BAL (vs CLE)

For those of you who haven’t been reading this column on a weekly basis (what’s up with that?), let’s stop and give you the Cliff Notes. There’s one simple rule we follow with respect to TEs this year. Start whoever is playing the Chargers. This week that player is Ben Watson, who returned to the Patriots lineup in week 5 following the team’s bye week. He wasn’t particularly productive with his 6 targets since it resulted in only 2 catches and 11 yards. Expect that to change this week. The Chargers have allowed an average of 7 receptions, 85 yards and 1 TD per game to opposing TEs. Last week, Anthony Fasano brought down that average with a modest 3-47-0 (though David Martin caught a 25-yard pass, too). Every other TE to face the Chargers this year caught a TD (or two) and every TE (Fasano included) has produced 40+ yards; three 60+ yards and two 90+ yards. If you’ve been holding onto Watson, then this is the week you’ve been patiently waiting for, so use him with confidence.

TE Kellen Winslow Jr - FA ( FA)

Winslow is off to a relatively slow start this season coming into this week as TE22. The low ranking is mostly due to not having any TD catches yet. Only 1 tight end ahead of him has no touchdowns (Aaron Hernandez). Winslow is second on the team in catches, targets and receiving yards. He faces a TE friendly defense this week as the New Orleans Saints come to town. Winslow had mixed success against them last year with 5-29-0 in their first meeting and 4-76-0 in the second. The Saints have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to opposing TEs despite having faced a pair of teams (Carolina and Arizona) in their last two games that hardly utilize their TEs. In their first three games, the Saints were beaten by Tony Gonzalez (8-110-1), Vernon Davis (4-78-0) and Visanthe Shiancoe (4-76-1) regularly for big plays. Look for Winslow to produce more along the lines of those three than Ben Patrick (5-30-0) and Dante Rosario (2-17-0).

TE Jason Witten - DAL (vs NYG)

Opposing TEs are averaging 5.2 catches and 50.5 yards per game with 1 TD after five weeks against Houston. Witten’s numbers have been disappointing in the first quarter of the season (13-148-0). This could be the game where he gets back on track. Randy McMichael used the Texans for his own resurgence in week 4 (4-54-0). Chris Cooley caught four balls, but for only 18 yards in week 3. Dallas Clark (3-26-0), Ben Utecht (1-26-0) and Bryan Fletcher (2-15-1) combined for some good production for the Colts and L.J. Smith produced 6-56-0 in week one. Last week, Witten was targeted six times catching four balls for 51 yards – his best day of the season. He could carry that momentum forward against the Texans.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Chris Baker - SEA (vs HOU)

For the second year in a row, Baker caught a TD in the season opener, and then he disappeared only to resurface every so often – just enough to sustain some interest and perhaps maintain a roster spot in some leagues. Baker produced 4-34-1 in week 1 and 3-15-1 in week 3. Otherwise, he’s caught two balls for 11 yards in the other three games. Ouch. This week, he faces a Dolphins team that has surrendered 2.8 catches, 48.4 yards and 0.4 TDs per game to TEs (8th best matchup). Each starting TE, except for Robert Royal, produced 33 yards or more against Miami in four games.

TE Brent Celek - PHI ( FA)

Everyone knows that it’s bad karma to hope for a player to be injured, but Brent Celek’s owners are in no hurry to see Michael Vick return to the lineup. While Vick didn’t ignore Celek in the first three games, Celek has caught a TD in each of his last two games with Kevin Kolb behind center and he has been targeted 7 and 9 times accordingly. Vick will be on the sidelines once again this week, so if you’re a Celek owner, let the good times roll.

TE Dallas Clark - FA ( FA)

Clark has done next to nothing this year. However, the Rams have allowed TDs and 50+ yards receiving to opposing tight ends in three consecutive games (Troupe, Shockey and Stevens). The Titans Erron Kinney had 64 yards receiving while Troupe had 22 yards and a TD against the Rams. Last week looked like a great spot for Clark to have a breakout game against the challenge 49ers secondary, but maybe this is the week.

TE Ernie Conwell - FA ( FA)

The Falcons are still trying to devise a way to stop the Patriots tight ends after last week. Daniel Graham and Ben Watson combined for 152 yards and 2 TDs. Conwell has been a decent sleeper so far this year, but he’s been a miss a couple weeks, too. Brooks is checking down to his tight ends more this year (but maybe not as much as the coaches would like). It’s a good matchup and Conwell could be a good 50-yard play if Brooks can put it back together again upstairs.

TE Ernie Conwell - FA ( FA)

Last week, we informed you that Conwell might be a solid gamble. He went without a catch in the first three games. He was targeted just once. In week four, he was targeted seven times, caught 5 balls for 37 yards. Against the Bucs last week, he delivered making the most of his four targets by catching a TD amongst 2 receptions and 14 yards.

TE Dustin Keller - FA ( FA)

It’s already been pointed out a few times in this week’s article, but lest we point out once again just how decimated the Bills linebackers and secondary is right now. They’re without five of their seven starters and even a couple key backups. Going into this week’s game, they’ve allowed an average of 5-52-0.8 to opposing TEs, too. Keller has been super quiet of late and the addition of Braylon Edwards can’t be seen as a positive for Keller’s value either. That being said, Braylon Edwards may very well be double-teamed this week and Jerricho Cotchery re-injured his hamstring when he played on Monday night against the Dolphins. Keller could be the one to benefit, so roll the dice on him if you’re willing to gamble a little.

TE David Martin - BUF (vs NYJ)

Martin hasn’t been very productive this year, but he has been consistently targeted about three times each week producing at least one catch week, but no more than three. His best game was in week three against the Jets (3-31-0). The good news is that he’s facing Cleveland this week. The Browns have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing TEs in the league – 6-62-1 on average each week. When Todd Heap got hurt in week four, Quinn Sypniewski stepped into Heap’s role and caught 6 balls for 34 yards and a TD – mostly in the second half of the game. John Madsen produced a season-high 3-61-0 against them in week three and the Steelers Heath Miller and rookie Matt Spaeth each caught a TD against them in the season opener. Maybe Martin can break the mold this week and be somewhat worthwhile.

TE Zach Miller - FA ( FA)

Miller got off to an awfully slow start this year, as did the Raiders passing game in general. In their last game, Miller finally broke out with a 5-95-1 game against the aforementioned TE-friendly San Diego Chargers defense. With a bye week to work on timing and “balance” within the Raiders offense Miller’s role should continue to grow as the season progresses. The Saints are the opponent on deck this week and they’re allowing an average of 4-41-0.4 per game to TEs. Last week, Visanthe Shiancoe caught a TD even though he only finished with 2-16-1. The Broncos triumvirate of TEs combined for 6-53-1 in week 3 against the Saints.

TE Greg Olsen - CAR (at DET)

The Bears have an excellent combination of tight ends at their disposal with veteran Desmond Clark and the young, but impressive Greg Olsen coming on strong. In Olsen’s last two games, he has produced 4-35-1 and 3-87-0 on a combined 10 targets. This week, the Bears and Olsen face a Falcons defense that is well above the league average in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs – an average of 4 catches, 48 yards and 0.6 TDs per game. Last week, the Packers Donald Lee produced 4-25-1 and his backup Tory Humphrey also had a solid game of 4-67-0. Other no-name TEs like Casey Fitzsimmons and John Gilmore caught TDs against them in the first two weeks of the season. The tricky part with Olsen is whether he will get the end zone love, or if his counterpart Desmond Clark will get it.

TE Greg Olsen - CAR (at DET)

While Mike Martz may be known for being not so friendly for tight ends, Greg Olsen has seen more red zone targets (4) in their first four games than any of the Bears receivers save for Earl Bennett (4). Also noteworthy, Olsen has 23 targets, which ties him with Johnny Knox for the most on the team. He also leads the Bears receivers with 15 receptions (only Forte has more) and 2 TDs (Forte has 3). While many pundits would have you believe that Olsen is dead and buried in the fantasy football graveyard under Martz’s watch, it’s just not true. He may not be as solid of a TE1 as he has been in the past, but he enters this week as TE12 and he is facing a Seahawks defense that is allowing 6-71-0.3 to opposing TEs.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - FA ( FA)

The Bears have been a good matchup for opposing TEs allowing 6 receptions, 69 yards and 0.4 TDs each week. Shiancoe, for his part, has been a consistent, if not underwhelming performer so far. He has produced 2-18-0, 3-51-0 and 4-38-0 and he put up a goose egg in week two against the Lions. With Tarvaris Jackson likely returning this week, there is an added risk with Shiancoe since he seemed to thrive a little more playing with Kelly Holcomb. He’s a major reach but if you’re thin and looking for another option, he might be worthwhile against a Bears defense that has struggled of late.

TE Ben Troupe - FA ( FA)

The Redskins are the 5th best matchup for opposing TEs allowing 5.2 catches, 52 yards and 0.4 TDs per game. Troupe’s production has been disappointing with just seven catches for 105 yards and a TD in five games. He has caught more than 2 passes just once (3-39-1 against Dallas). In three of the last four games, the Skins opponents have combined for solid numbers though – last week the exception. In week four, the Jaguars George Wrighster (5-53) and Marcedes Lewis (2-40) combined for seven catches and 93 yards. The week before, the Texans threw 2 TDs to their TEs (Mark Bruener and Owen Daniels). In week two, Jason Witten (4-45-0) and Anthony Fasano (3-39-0) had solid games. Starting Troupe is a reach these days, but maybe this is one of those weeks that he puts it together.

TE Ben Watson - BAL (vs CLE)

The Titans can’t stop anyone through the air and that extends to opposing tight ends, too. They’re allowing seven catches for 72 yards and 0.6 TDs per game to tight ends through their first five games. Watson remains too inconsistent to use on a regular basis, but he has plenty of upside considering his potential in the red zone. He has produced two 50+-yard games this year and scored in two of the five games he has played. Against the Titans, Watson is well worth the risk and he could easily produce his third game of 50+ yards and score to boot. Four of the five (starting) TEs that have faced Tennessee this year have produced 60 or more yards.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE John Carlson - FA ( FA)

Carlson mysteriously disappeared from the Seahawks box score last week as he didn’t catch a single pass. He wasn’t even targeted once. Still, his production during the first three games makes him a consideration for a reach – 4/52/0, 6/78/0 and 2/38/0. He’s caught 12 balls on his 15 targets, which is fairly impressive, and he faces a Packers defense that is allowing 5/52/0.4 to opposing TEs. Heck, last week Justin Peelle caught a short TD against them. The previous week Alex Smith produced 2-26-1. Casey Fitzsimmons had 3-32-0 and Garrett Mills had 3-49-0 against them. The Packers secondary has been battered through the first five weeks with injuries – Al Harris remains out, Charles Woodson is bothered by a toe injury, Atari Bigby has missed a couple games, Nick Collins missed some time and Aaron Rouse was on the sidelines last week. The Seahawks got Deion Branch back last week, and then lost him indefinitely with a bruised heel. All of the passes can’t go Bobby Engram’s way, so look for Carlson to re-emerge this week with a solid showing against the Packers.

TE Brent Celek - PHI ( FA)

With L.J. Smith on the shelf, the Eagles have turned to Matt Schobel and Brent Celek for production out of the tight end position. Schobel has caught 1, 2 and 1 ball in the last three games, while Celek broke into the stat column for the first time last week with a 3-31-0 line on three targets. The Jets are allowing 5-45-0.8 each week to opposing TEs, which ranks them 5th highest in the league. Jeremy Shockey broke out of his season-long slump last week against the J-E-T-S for 2-33-1. In week four, the hearty combination of Michael Gaines (4-20-1) and Robert Royal (3-31-0) produced decent results. David Martin produced his best game of the year in week three (3-31-0) and Todd Heap nailed them for 7-76-1 in week two.

TE Jermichael Finley - FA ( FA)

The Lions are the only team in the league allowing more than a TD per game to opposing tight ends. Last week, Heath Miller continued his strong start with five catches for 54 yards and a TD. The previous week, Jay Cutler tossed a touchdown to both of his tight ends – Greg Olsen and Kellen Davis. Finley broke out against the Vikings in Week 4 with career-best numbers – 6 catches, 128 yards and a TD. It could have been even better if the Vikings hadn’t produced a goal-line stand that included a TD-saving tackle on Finley. If you’ve been holding onto Finley and missed his breakout game, don’t feel bad chasing those points this week as he matches up very well against the Lions.

TE Todd Heap - FA ( FA)

Nearly every time I have watched the Ravens play this year, I’ve been surprised that Todd Heap hasn’t put up better numbers than he has. That might explain why he appears as often as he does in this column. Heap is just TE23 year to date despite being targeted 32 times in 5 games. Unfortunately, he’s dropped some of those passes and caught only 18 of them for 210 yards and no TDs. The good news is that Flacco is starting to call his number in the red zone again. After no targets there in the first three games, he has been targeted 3 times in the last two (trailing Anquan Boldin). He faces a Patriots secondary that has struggled this season. Against tight ends, they’re allowing 5-59-0.5 per game. Last week, Anthony Fasano had a solid 5-67-0. In previous games, Jonathan Stupar had 3-27-0, Dustin Keller 7-115-1 and Jermaine Gresham 6-25-1. Allowing a TD in two of their four games, I think this is the week that Heap breaks into the scoring column.

TE Marcedes Lewis - JAX (at PIT)

It’s hard to rely on Lewis. He’s been terribly inconsistent in his career and last week he allowed a touchdown pass go right through his fingers. He still has produced two solid games (out of 5) this year in which he produced 60+ yards and caught a TD. The Rams are certainly a nice matchup for both Garrard and Lewis. They’ve allowed touchdowns in their last two games to Visanthe Shiancoe and Vernon Davis. The Jaguars are a wreck right now, but they’ve been able to put up decent numbers against poor matchups, which the Rams certainly are, so use him and hope for the best if you’re in a pinch.

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (vs NE)

The Patriots were just hammered by Antonio Gates (108 yards) and Alge Crumpler (99 yards, 1 TD) in the last two weeks. Courtney Anderson touched them for 2 TDs in the season opener. DO you think Mike Shanahan is paying attention? The Broncos love their bootlegs near the goal line, but that’s not where Putzier is most dangerous. Down there, it might be FB Kyle Johnson, T/TE Dwayne Carswell or Stephen Alexander. Putzier is used more to split the seams downfield and make big plays. This week, he looks like a good play with the Patriots secondary riddled with injuries.

TE Andrew Quarless - FA ( FA)

The most obvious reason to look at Andrew Quarless this week is the injuries to Jermichael Finley and backup Donald Lee. Beyond that, the Dolphins are a decent matchup for tight ends allowing 5-59-0.5 per game. Last week, they did a solid job to hold Aaron Hernandez (5-29-0) and Rob Gronkowski (1-4-0) in check, although Hernandez did have a 35-yard reception come back on a holding call. In the Dolphins previous two games, Dustin Keller torched them for 6-98-2 and Visanthe Shiancoe 6-86-0. After Quarless was pressed into action last week, he didn’t take long to make an impact. He caught four balls for 51 yards, fought hard to get extra yards after each catch and seemed to have solid rapport with Aaron Rodgers. Quarless will be a priority waiver-wire pickup this week and he has a decent chance to help fill the giant void created by Finley’s injury.

TE Bo Scaife - CIN (at TEN)

The Redskins are the 7th best matchup for TEs, who are averaging 5.2 receptions, 52.2 yards and 0.4 TDs per game against them. Just when we thought Scaife was becoming reliable, he pitched a goose egg last week with just one target. In the three previous games, he caught three balls for 53, 53 and 40 yards with 1 TD. He was targeted 4, 4, 3 and 5 times in the first four games before last week’s “shut out”.

TE Daniel Wilcox - BAL (vs CLE)

The Panthers are allowing the sixth most points to opposing TEs – 5.6 catches, 54.4 yards and 0.4 TDs per game. In each of the Panthers’ games, there has been TE production. They allowed TDs in each of their first two games to TEs. In the next three, Alex Smith went for 4-72-0 followed by Ernie Conwell’s 5-37-0 and Kellen Winslow’s 8-55-0 last week. The Ravens like to use their tight ends frequently and certainly, QB Steve McNair is no stranger to the TE dump off. Wilcox is major reach, but this is a good situation for McNair and his TEs to bounce back.

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

TE Desmond Clark - FA ( FA)

The Vikings have allowed more fantasy points to opposing TEs than any team in the league. Tight ends are averaging 44 yards/game with 5 TDs in only four games. In week one, Alex Smith caught two TDs in his first NFL game. Week two was Matt Schobel’s turn with 36 yards and a TD. Week three brought Ernie Conwell and 65 yards with a TD. In week four, Alge Crumpler had the honors with 16 yards and a TD. If Desmond Clark has a pulse and can lace up his shoes, he’s got at least a fighting chance to do something this week.

TE Anthony Fasano - TEN (vs CIN)

Fasano nearly doubled his year-to-date production last week by catching 5 balls for 67 yards against the Patriots. He now has 10 catches for 127 yards and a TD on the season to rank as TE25 and he has a chance to keep it going against the Packers, who will be without several key starters on defense. SS Morgan Burnett is done for the year with a torn ACL. LB Nick Barnett may be gone for the year. LB Clay Matthews and DL Ryan Pickett are both expected to miss this week. The Packers were already vulnerable to tight ends having allowed an average of 6-69-0.2 to them per game. In their last three games alone, Chris Cooley (7-69-0), Brandon Pettigrew (8-91-0), Tony Scheffler (6-63-0) and Greg Olsen (5-64-1) have all been productive against the Packers. Why not Fasano?

TE Casey Fitzsimmons - FA ( FA)

Because the Lions receivers are so injury-riddled, don’t be surprised if they line up with Fitzsimmons at receiver if they need to spread the field with 3 or 4 receiver formations. Fitzsimmons is more of a pass-catching TE than a true in-line blocker anyway. If you need to dip this low, you’re probably in serious trouble, but in a pinch, check the injury report and see who is inactive. If the Lions are as short as they appear to be now at receiver, then maybe Fitzsimmons is worth a look-see. The Panthers are 8th in fantasy pts allowed to opposing TEs (34 yds/gm and 4 TDs).

TE Brandon Pettigrew - DET (vs CAR)

Calvin Johnson may not be able to go this week and the Lions don’t have a tremendous amount of depth at the wide receiver position. The Packers are allowing an average of 4-43-0.8 per game to opposing tight ends, too. Pettigrew hasn’t been reliable enough to use in fantasy leagues, but he has flashed his potential. Visanthe Shiancoe (3-18-1) and Daniel Fells (2-35-2) both scored TDs against the Packers in the last two weeks, so perhaps Pettigrew could take advantage of potentially more targets. It’s a reach, for sure, but Pettigrew is capable and he has caught 9 passes for 118 yards over his last three games.

TE Dante Rosario - FA ( FA)

The Bucs welcomed Tanard Jackson back to the lineup last week following a 4-game suspension, but they have been beaten regularly by opposing receivers and tight ends for big plays all year. Jackson’s return should help their secondary, but they remain questionable until proven otherwise. Rosario found the end zone in Weeks 2 and 3, but he’s a tough player to depend on for regular, consistent production. The Panthers don’t throw enough to their tight ends to justify playing him, but it’s a plus matchup for Jake Delhomme, so even Rosario may be worth a long shot if you’re desperate enough.

TE Robert Royal - CLE (at BAL)

The Lions have allowed three different TEs to score TDs against them (4 TDs in all). Opposing TEs are averaging 4.6 catches, 50.6 yards and 0.8 TDs against the Lions. The sub-header says, “If you’re desperate”. We mean REALLY desperate in this case. After all, Royal has only four catches for 50 yards in 5 games. Then again, the Lions have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing TEs, so if there’s a week you’d ever use him, this would be that week.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe - FA ( FA)

Shiancoe generally flies under the fantasy radar because he’s never used enough to be considered as anything other than potentially a spot starter or bye week fill-in. However, this year he seems to be on the verge of being “rosterable” after scoring twice in the last three games and producing 4-47-0 on 8 targets in the other game amongst those three. He faces a soft Lions defense this week that has allowed an average of 3-56-0.2 to TEs this year despite not playing many offenses that are TE friendly (SF and ATL). That being said, Delanie Walker had his best game of the season against the Lions (3-44-1) as did Greg Olsen last week (3-87-0).

TE Alex Smith - WAS (at KC)

Smith caught two TDs last week, which is almost like the kiss of death for anointing him as a sleeper this week – even if it is a desperate option. Smith has been erratically productive as a fantasy TE. He’s a good bet for 2 to 4 catches and his game log reads like this: 2-23-0, 2-45-0, 3-27-0, 4-17-0 and 2-6-2. Here’s one possible angle for Smith if you are to expect any increase in targets or production. With Earnest Graham starting at running back, the team may need to get their tight ends more integrated into the short passing game and keep things a little more simple for Graham. Graham has five career receptions and 36 career rushing attempts. Smith could pick up the slack in that area, but he’s still a major reach.




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