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Week 8 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 Brees - SD (vs KC)

The Chiefs are the 4th best matchup going into week 8 and Brees is already a border-line starter every week in many leagues, but for smaller leagues he’s probably a platoon guy. At any rate, Brees has a great matchup this week. The Chiefs are allowing 264 passing yds/gm with a 60.4% completion rate, 1.7 TDs/gm and 0.5 INTs/gm. We’ll overlook how bad Gus Frerotte looked last week knowing that Mark Brunell torched them for 331 yds and 3 TDs the previous week. After all, it didn’t take Sage Rosenfels long to make an impact after he replaced Frerotte completing his only pass against them for a 77 yard TD strike to Chris Chambers. Plus, Brees will be playing at home.

QB Byron Leftwich - JAX (at STL)

The Rams are allowing 62.6% completion rate and the 4th most passing yards allowed, but they also have 10 INTs and 21 sacks and they’re playing in the dome. The Rams have allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing QBs – 246 yds, 2 TDs and 0.6 INTs per game. The Rams have allowed 24 completions of 20 yards or more (2nd most in the NFL). Leftwich and the Jaguars have an extra week to prepare, too.

QB Chris Simms - TB (at SF)

This game and matchup almost seems too good to be true from the Bucs’ side. It almost looks like a setup, but going into week 8, the 49ers are clearly the worst secondary in the league statistically. They’re allowing 329 yds on 69.3% passing with 2.5 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game. The 49ers are in a class of their own defensively. They do have 16 sacks and several big plays to their credit so far, but they are routinely beaten each week for a lot of yards and TDs. Simms should be fine.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

QB Jake Delhomme - CAR (vs MIN)

The Vikings ranks 12t in fantasy points allowed to QBs. They’re allowing 204.5 passing yards, 1.8 TDs and 1 INT per game with a completion rate of 61.1%. Brett Favre threw for 315 yds and 2 TDs this past week and even Kyle Orton managed 2 TDs and a meager 117 yards the previous week. Delhomme is a reasonably good start this week since the Panthers are at home and coming off the bye week to boot.

QB Trent Dilfer - CLE (at HOU)

The whispers are starting about Trent Dilfer possibly being replaced by rookie Charlie Frye, but until the Browns are officially out of the playoff picture, don’t look for that to happen. Dilfer has a good chance to bounce back this week against the Texans even though it’s a road game. Houston is allowing the 9th most fantasy pts to QBs – 214 yds, 1.5 TDs and 0.3 INTs. They’ve sacked the QB only 9 times in 6 games while QBs are completing over 70% of their passes.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

QB Steve McNair - TEN (vs OAK)

McNair probably won’t be 100% going into this game, but the Raiders secondary is in considerably worse shape after losing CB Charles Woodson and SS Derrick Gibson to injury last week. The Raiders enter this game 7th in fantasy points allowed giving up 228 yds, 1.5 TDs and 0.3 INTs per game. Of course, injuries work both ways and the Titans have their fair share to deal with at WR. Brandon Jones is probably out as is Drew Bennett. All things considered, McNair is probably an average option at best, but this remains a solid statistical matchup.

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

QB Kelly Holcomb - BUF (at NE)

Relying on Kelly Holcomb is a risky proposition. However, if you’re pressed into making such a decision, you should take a little comfort knowing the Patriots are allowing the 3rd most fantasy points to QBs. They’re allowing 228 yds/gm, 2 TDs and 0.2 INTs per game. They’ve allowed 21 completions of 20 yds or more (5th most) and 7 completions of 40 yds or more (tied for 1st).


Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

RB Ronnie Brown - MIA (at NO)

The Saints have allowed 126 rushing yds per game with 10 TDs through the first seven weeks. Warrick Dunn and Steven Jackson both combined for 100+ yards and scored. Najeh Davenport ran for 54 yds and scored twice. Mewelde Moore is the only starting RB to not score against them, but he still ran for 101 yards (no surprise there). Even with Ricky Williams splitting carries in the Dolphins backfield, Brown’s a solid bet to score and rush for good yardage (80+ yds).

RB Reuben Droughns - CLE (at HOU)

The Texans have allowed 166.7 rushing yds per game (1st), 10 rushing TDs (2nd) and 5.0 yds/carry (2nd). Droughns ran for 100 yds last week against the Lions and should do even better this week against Houston’s soft run defense.

RB Antowain Smith - NO (vs MIA)

The Dolphins are allowing 116 rushing yds/gm with 5 TDs in their first six games. Smith is running well the past couple games and could see more carries this week after Aaron Stecker re-aggravated his ankle injury on Sunday. In the Dolphins last three games, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson each ran for 90+ yds and scored (Holmes twice). Michael Pittman reeled off 127 rushing yds with a TD. Willis McGahee rushed for 86 yards and a TD.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

RB Stephen Davis - CAR (vs MIN)

The Vikings are allowing 142 rushing yds/gm and 4.6 yds/carry with 7 TDs through 6 games on the ground. They’ve allowed 9 rushes for 20 yards or longer – 2nd most in the league. The Vikings shut down the Packers ground game last week, but who hasn’t done that. In previous games, Thomas Jones rushed for 89 yds and 2 TDs. Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett each scored TDs while Dunn ran for 126 yds and Duckett ran for 40 yds. Davis had the bye week to get healthier and he should be a solid play this week.

RB Tony Fisher - GB (at CIN)

The Bengals are allowing 132 rushing yds/gm and an average of 4.8 yds/gm. This would appear to be a solid matchup for opposing RBs. However, the Packers limp into this game without their top two RBs, 2 of their top 3 WRs and an offensive line that’s struggling badly. Fisher gets the start this week, but he’s far from a slam dunk and will split carries to some extent with ReShard Lee.

RB Travis Henry - TEN (vs OAK)

It’s too early to tell if Chris Brown will be limited or not in this week’s game. If his shoulder does limit him against Oakland, then don’t fall asleep on Travis Henry. He rejoins the team this week following his four game suspension and could possibly be the team’s starter and featured back. The Raiders are allowing 112 rushing yds/gm with 1.3 rushing TDs/gm. Be sure to check Brown’s status on the injury report. If he’s cleared then starting Henry is definitely more of a reach. If Brown’s questionable, then Henry becomes a much better option unless Jeff Fisher decides to go with Jarrett Payton.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

RB DeShaun Foster - CAR (vs MIN)

See Stephen Davis above. He wasn’t healthy going into the bye week. At the time of this writing, it’s too early to say if he’ll be limited in this game. As long as he’s not questionable or worse, he’ll be a decent reach.

RB Patrick Pass - NE (vs BUF)

Dillon’s status is anything but clear, but even if he start this week the Patriots will make use of Patrick Pass as a receiver and change of pace runner. The Bills have been gashed on the ground this year for 5.1 yds per carry, 159 yds per gm and 11 TDs. They’ve allowed 12 carries for 20 yards or more to opponents – worst in the league. There’s a certain amount of risk that Pass might not see enough touches to be worthwhile. Amos Zereoue could play a larger role now that he’s been with the team for a couple weeks, but barring the unforeseen Pass seems like a reasonable reach given how he’s been used in recent games and because Dillon hasn’t been close to 100%.

RB Michael Pittman - TB (at SF)

The 49ers are allowing 124 yds/gm on the ground with 10 TDs. They’ve been beaten regularly by opposing RBs in the passing game, which happens to be Pittman’s area of expertise. Going into week 7 the last four backs produced 28 receiving yards or more. Then last week, Mike Sellers caught 2 TDs for 21 yds against them. Cadillac is back this week, so Pittman is a risky play, but there’s certainly a decent trend here that Pittman may be able to exploit.

RB Chester Taylor - BAL (at PIT)

At some point one has to believe that Chester Taylor will begin to get more carries than Jamal Lewis. Lewis simply isn’t getting the job done and he’s running tentatively and appears to be going at it less than 100%. Taylor is just the opposite. He’s running with a purpose and he’s clearly the more productive player, but Brian Billick remains stubborn and has stuck with Lewis so far. That could change soon, but that’s pure guess work. The Steelers certainly aren’t a good matchup, so watch for any news or any sort of hint from Billick that Taylor could see an increase in carries moving forward. If so, play Taylor with a little bit more confidence.

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

RB Ricky Williams - MIA (at NO)

See Ronnie Brown above. The Saints are giving up a lot of rushing yards and Ricky may have just a tad bit more incentive this week going against his former team.


Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

WR Michael Clayton - TB (at SF)

If there’s a week where Clayton might finally come alive this would be it. The 49ers are horrible against the pass and are the #1 fantasy matchup for opposing WRs. Clayton has not been 100% this year as he’s playing with a bum shoulder and he’s got a new QB to work with, too. There’s definitely risk involved, but if you’re holding onto him this long into the season, you might as well give him a shot to redeem himself in this matchup.

WR Eric Moulds - BUF (at NE)

The Patriots are allowing 162 yds per game with 7 TDs to opposing WRs. Moulds is showing signs of life since Kelly Holcomb took over as the Bills QB and this week he could be in-line for a big play or two. The Patriots are routinely getting beat for big plays down field and have allowed four different 100 yard WRs in 6 games. In the last three games, opposing WRs have four TDs against them.

WR Muhsin Muhammad - CHI (at DET)

The Lions are allowing 136 yds/gm with 5 TDs to opposing WRs. They’ll also be without their top corner Dre’ Bly. Muhammad is a far cry from his stud WR status a year ago knowing that Kyle Orton is throwing him the ball, and the game will be in Detroit. Regardless, Muhammad is looking better than usual this week and should also benefit from Bly’s absence.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

WR Braylon Edwards - CLE (at HOU)

Edwards made a surprisingly fast return to the Browns lineup and he could be a decent gamble in deeper leagues with a nice matchup on tap against the Texans. Houston is allowing 162 yds/gm with 5 TDs. They’ve allowed 100 yds or a TD to a starting WR on the opposition in all but one game this year (against Buffalo with J.P. Losman at the helm).

WR Lee Evans - BUF (at NE)

The Patriots are allowing 162 yds per game with 7 TDs to opposing WRs. Evans might finally break a big play or two this week. The Patriots are routinely getting beat for big plays down field and have allowed four different 100 yard WRs in 6 games. In the last three games, opposing WRs have four TDs against them.

WR Jabar Gaffney - HOU (vs CLE)

The Browns are allowing a high percentage of completions, Johnson isn’t 100% and Gaffney is the most reliable and productive WR the Texans have outside of Johnson. While that’s not saying a lot, it might be enough to warrant starting Gaffney in deeper leagues or if you’re pressed to make a decision with your other choices being slim. The Browns have faced teams struggling to pass the ball in the last three weeks. Detroit’s Mike Williams had 95 yards against Cleveland last week while Derrick Mason produced 85 yards in week 6 and Muhsin Muhammad 52 yards in week 5. Gaffney is a decent gamble, but that’s about it at this point.

WR Ashley Lelie - DEN (vs PHI)

The Eagles have allowed 152 yds per game and 6 TDs to opposing WRs. In their last four games, Keenan McCardell produced 78 yds and a TD and Reche Caldwell had 97 yards. Terry Glenn had 118 yards with 2 TDs, Eddie Kennison 109 yds with a TD and Dante Hall even chalked up 45 yards with a TD. Doug Gabriel had 35 yards and a TD. Needless to say, the players on that list aren’t exactly Pro Bowlers (McCardell being the exception) so Lelie could be worth a look.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

WR Doug Gabriel - OAK (at TEN)

The Titans sure did a nice job against the Cardinals receivers last week, so Doug Gabriel, Randy Moss and Jerry Porter are a far cry from being “must starts”. That said, they’ve allowed 10 TDs to opposing WRs on the season (2nd highest in the league). Gabriel was productive last week even though Randy Moss was able to play. He could be a nice sleeper play this week, too.

WR Az-zahir Hakim - NO (vs MIA)

As long as Joe Horn remains sidelined with a bad hamstring, Hakim is probably a little better than a solid reach. He’s probably a good WR3. However, with Horn’s status not yet known, Hakim could either be a solid play or a reach. It all depends on whether Horn is playing or not. The Dolphins are a good matchup allowing 156 yds/gm with 6 TDs to opposing WRs.

WR Mike Williams - DET (vs CHI)

Roy Williams says he’ll try to go this week, but how effective he might be remains to be seen. I wouldn’t bet the farm on him being a factor, but Mike Williams looks like he’s perfectly capable of having a solid game for the 2nd week in a row. The Bears are allowing only 119 yds/gm to opposing WRs with 6 TDs. It’s not a stellar matchup, but Williams looked good last week with Jeff Garcia starting and he’s a decent reach at the very least in front of the home crowd.

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

WR Matt Jones - JAX (at STL)

The Rams secondary has been abused in recent weeks. They are the third best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 183 yds/gm and a league high 11 TDs. Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford are both long shots to put up strong fantasy numbers, but both players are equally capable of scoring a TD. Both players are big targets in the red zone and Matt Jones is like a big play waiting to happen in this game.

WR Ernest Wilford - JAX (at STL)

The Rams secondary has been abused in recent weeks. They are the third best matchup for opposing WRs allowing 183 yds/gm and a league high 11 TDs. Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford are both long shots to put up strong fantasy numbers, but both players are equally capable of scoring a TD. Both players are big targets in the red zone and Matt Jones is like a big play waiting to happen in this game.


Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

TE Erron Kinney - TEN (vs OAK)

In five of the Raiders six games an opposing TE produced either 44+ yards or scored a TD. Mark Campbell, last week, is the only opposing TE failing to meet that criterion. With the Titans WR corps missing both starters look for Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe to see even more targets and production.

TE Kris Mangum - CAR (vs MIN)

The Vikings are the best fantasy matchup (by far) for opposing TEs. They’re allowing 48 yds/gm with 7 TDs through their first six games. Last week, the Packers used all three of their TEs due to injuries amongst their WR corps – and they produced 30 yds, 38 yds and 21 yds respectively. Ironically, they were the first opposing tight ends NOT to score a TD against Minnesota this year. Mangum is a sneaky play when the matchup is right and this week it’s better than alright. It’s a great matchup. He’s still a gamble but you can be sure that the Panthers coaching staff is well aware of the Vikings deficiencies and will try to exploit this if they can.

TE Ben Troupe - TEN (vs OAK)

In five of the Raiders six games an opposing TE produced either 44+ yards or scored a TD. Mark Campbell, last week, is the only opposing TE failing to meet that criterion. With the Titans WR corps missing both starters look for Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe to see even more targets and production.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

TE Marcus Pollard - DET (vs CHI)

In the Bears last three games opposing TEs have produced 65 or more yards in each game. For the season, the Bears are allowing 53 yds/gm to opposing TEs. Pollard has been inconsistent, but the Lions WR corps is depleted by injuries leaving Pollard as the most experienced player to catch balls from Jeff Garcia. Look for him to have a solid game. In week two, he produced 31 yards in Chicago.

TE Jeb Putzier - DEN (vs PHI)

Last week, Antonio Gates scored the first TD by an opposing TE against the Eagles. However, in four of the Eagles six games an opposing TE produced 50+ yards. Putzier isn’t a great red zone threat, but he’s a decent play in most leagues, especially those with PPR scoring.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

TE Alex Smith - TB (at SF)

The 49ers defensive problems against the pass are well documented. They are allowing 56 yds per game with 3 TDs to opposing TEs. Every TE (except the Cardinals) has either scored a TD or produced better than 35 yards against the 49ers. You never know what will happen when a team starts a new/different QB, so maybe Smith will see a few more targets this week. It’s a nice matchup, but Smith remains a gamble until he unseats starter Anthony Becht and develops some consistency.

TE George Wrighster - JAX (at STL)

Opposing TEs have played well against the Rams this year. Unfortunately, Wrighster isn’t the kind of player you can rely on consistently. He’s not even the Jags starter yet, but he’s probably their best pass-catching TE. The Rams are allowing 38 yds/gm with 3 TDs on the season to TEs. Four different TEs have produced 30+ yards and three of them 55+ yards.

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

TE Matt Schobel - CIN (vs GB)

On one hand, the Bengals rarely utilize their TE Matt Schobel, so he’s without question a huge reach. On the other hand, the Packers are the 2nd best matchup for TEs allowing 52 yds/gm with 5 TDs. In six games, three different TEs have produced 50 yards or more, four have scored TDs and three managed both feats. Last week, Jermaine Wiggins produced 56 yards.




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