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Week 3 Sleeper Report

  Posted 9/18 by Bob Henry, Exclusive to Footballguys.com


Quarterback

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Matt Hasselbeck - SEA - Hasselbeck isn't playing like himself so far this year. He has just 1 TD and 3 INTs while throwing for 379 yards and completing less than 50% of his passes. Every one of his normal receivers is out due to injuries leaving the team so desperate that they dealt for Keary Colbert this week and signed Koren Robinson. Despite all of the problems at WR, Hasselbeck faces a Rams defense that has been carved up in the first two weeks by Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb. Both QBs threw for 3 TDs and between them averaged 23-of-34 passing for 337 yards without a single INT. A year ago, the Seahawks abandoned their running game and embraced the pass due to their ineffectiveness between the tackles. Ironically, this year is shaping up to be the exact opposite due to similar personnel issues. Robinson and Colbert may help, but Hasselbeck should fare a bit better in this matchup and he'll likely continue to lean on rookie TE John Carlson.

J.T. OSullivan - SF - After two games, O'Sullivan is ranked within the top 12 fantasy QBs with 516 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT on 34-of-52 passing, largely due to his 33 yards rushing. He has a firm grip on the job, but he is still a guy that could throw for 300 yards and a couple scores or turn the football over 3-4 times any given week -- or both. The good news here is that O'Sullivan and Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz are playing against the Lions, their former employers prior to coming to the bay. And the Lions defense remains abysmal, allowing 328 yards and 3 TDs to Aaron Rodgers last week and 161 yards and 1 TD to Matt Ryan in his first NFL start despite only throwing the ball 13 times. Martz and O'Sullivan will probably play down any talk of added incentive, but don't kid yourself, Martz will look for every opportunity to show off his shiny new toy against the team that laid much of their 2007 offensive failures on him.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Trent Edwards - BUF - In the Bills' first two games this year, Edwards has looked remarkably poised and consistent behind center throwing for 215/1/0 and 239/1/0 against Seattle and Jacksonville respectively. Both defenses were in the bottom half of the league last year in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs. While they may not be the same as last year, the point is that Edwards and the Bills offense has taken a step forward in 2008. They face a Raiders defense that among the 6 worst matchups for QBs last year, but through two games this year has allowed 234 yards per game with 3 TDs and 2 INTs. Knowing what we know now, we might expect Jay Cutler and the high flying Broncos passing attack to amass 299 yards and 2 TDs against them in the season opener. By contrast, the Chiefs Tyler Thigpen (14-of-33 for 151 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and Damon Huard (2-of-4, 17 yds, 1 INT) didn't fare nearly as well, but they are also one of the most dismal offensive teams in the league this year. The Bills have shown much more promise. The game is in Buffalo, Edwards is currently the 13th ranked fantasy QB (YTD) and his 2-week average is consistent with the Raiders averages of yards and TDs allowed. With Jason Peters getting comfortable the Bills line should continue improving and Edwards looks like a solid gamble to use this week.

Brett Favre - NYJ - The Chargers defense was shredded by the red hot Jay Cutler last week, and in the season opener, Jake Delhomme had a solid game on the Chargers home field. All told, the Chargers pass rush has been lacking with Shawne Merriman sidelined for the season and Antonio Cromartie has also struggled. They've allowed an average of 298 yds in the two games on 30-of-46 passing with 5 TDs and 1 INT. Favre has been solid so far with the Jets, but he is still learning the system and getting comfortable behind center. This week, Favre will likely be throwing the ball a little more than usual knowing the Chargers still have the ability to hang 30 points on the scoreboard. Philip Rivers has been hot himself and Favre will likely need to throw 30 to 40 times to keep pace with the Chargers offense.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Matt Cassel - NE - In two games, the Dolphins have allowed 5 passing TDs and have yet to intercept a pass. Kurt Warner had a field day last week throwing for 361 yards on 19-of-24 passing with 3 TDs. Sensing an opportunity to build confidence, HC Ken Whisenhunt even got Matt Leinart some brief playing time after the outcome was well in hand. In the season opener, Brett Favre completed 15-of-22 for 194 yards with a pair of scores. Cassel has thrown for a modest 317 yards so far while completing 29-of-41 with 1 TD. He can also add some bonus points with his legs. In two games, he has 20 yards rushing. The downside with Cassel in this game is the potential for the Patriots defense to lock up the Dolphins offense allowing Cassel to simply turn and hand the ball to their plethora of running backs in the stable, thereby limiting his fantasy potential this week.

Kerry Collins - TEN - Collins has been solid thus far after taking over the reins of the Titans offense following Vince Young's injury and subsequent melt down. Collins has completed 16-of-23 for 193 yards with 1 TD. The Texans have played only one game, but allowed 2 TDs and 137 yards on 13-of-18 passing without an interception against the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger. Keep in mind that game was well in hand by half-time, allowing the Steelers to ride Willie Parker and rest Big Ben's throwing arm in the second half. Collins may ultimately be limited by similar circumstances in this game as well, but he is clearly more productive as a passer than Young and he can throw the ball outside the hash marks and down the field with more zip and accuracy than Young.

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

Tyler Thigpen - KC - Assuming Thigpen gets the call this week, he is an intriguing long-term option for the Chiefs. Let's face it. They have nothing to lose but another 10 straight games. Thigpen has the potential to develop into a solid starter perhaps, but he also has the athletic ability to add a little bonus points with his legs. He has completed just 14-of-33 for 151 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT, but the Falcons corners are vulnerable and gaining experience the same way as Thigpen, baptism by fire. He's definitely not a guy you want to gamble on if you have better options. Most teams do this early in the season, but in 2-QB leagues he may be worth a shot as your 2nd starter.


Running Back

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Julius Jones - SEA - The Seahawks wide receiver corps is completely decimated by injuries. Matt Hasselbeck is not playing like his normal self and the team is finally opening up lanes for the running game, despite defenses recognizing their intent on running the football. Last week, Julius Jones ran the ball 26 times for 127 yards and a TD. He also caught 3 balls for 14 yards. Jones finally ran with the level of confidence and toughness that he showed as a rookie in Dallas. This week, with Maurice Morris still not back from his sprained knee, he expects to get the ball a lot again. The Rams defense is an inviting target, too. The Rams have allowed opposing RBs an average of 28-156-1.5 per game along with 4-18-1 receiving. Last week, Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 70 yards and 2 TDs in a backup role (6 touches) while Brandon Jacobs produced 95 yards and Derrick Ward 65 yards. Jones figures to get the bulk of the touches for the Seahawks and they are quite likely going to feature the run more than the pass for the 2nd straight week while hoping street free agents like Koren Robinson and Billy McMullen can add something to the passing game. Ultimately, this is a great situation for Jones to set himself up to be the Seahawks primary back for the rest of the season if he can produce big numbers for the 2nd straight week. It's the classic combination of opportunity, a great matchup and incentive that should lead to another 100-yard performance and at least 1 TD for Jones this week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Fred Taylor - JAX - Taylor came into the 2008 season as a ripe 32 years old coming off another excellent season in which he continued to ward off Father Time and put at bay all questions about his eventual decline as one of the league's most productive and tenured RBs. After two games, the whispers have begun about his production decline amidst the Jaguars numerous injuries along the offensive line and overall struggling offense. He has run for just 67 yards on 23 carries (<3 ypc). Meanwhile, this week's opponent -- the Indianapolis Colts -- enter the game having allowed 180 combined yards to Adrian Peterson last week and 141 combined yards (and a TD) to Matt Forte in the season opener. The Colts run defense is struggling badly and their lynch pin, safety Bob Sanders, left last week's game with an injury putting into question his availability for this week's divisional tilt. Historically, Taylor has been average, or better yet hit or miss against the Colts. Last year, he ran 11 times for 55 yards in week 7 against Indy, then turned in a 14-104-0 performance against them in week 13. In 2006, Taylor produced 21-74-0 and 9-131-1 against the Colts. He's a gamble, especially considering the Jags offensive line struggles, but the Colts defense is struggling just as badly and they also have some injuries which had reduced their effectiveness. Taylor is a gamble, but the matchup is strong and this game could be a good barometer for those who wonder if he's finally started to decline or if he'll bounce back and remain a solid RB2/RB3 for the rest of the season.

LenDale White - TEN - With the emergence of Chris Johnson as a big play threat in the Titans backfield, White has taken on more of a supportive role with a reduced workload. Being that Johnson is RB9 after two weeks, it's inappropriate to consider him much of a sleeper. White is RB19, and also somewhat of an established commodity as a 1,000 yard rusher last year, but he clearly is no longer as dependable as he was when he was a year ago. The Texans have played only one game, but in it they allowed the Steelers backs to run 35 times for 166 yards and score 3 TDs. The Titans should be able to pound the rock this week and provide Kerry Collins with much needed balance to remove pressure off him in the passing game. White remains the favored goal line back and he has 33 rushing attempts in two games, though he's yielding a meager 3 ypc with them. Look for White to get another 15-to-20 carries with a strong chance for his 3rd and possibly 4th TDs of the year in this game.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Tim Hightower - ARI - Hightower has started his NFL career with a bang -- a TD in each of this first two games along with a combined 34 yards and 44 yards respectively. Granted, those aren't feature back numbers, but he is not a featured back -- at least not yet. As the backup to Edgerrin James and the team's seemingly designated goal line runner, Hightower looks like a strong candidate as a flex option this year or for those of you in TD-heavy scoring systems. Hightower also looks like a better receiving option out of the backfield than Edge. This week, the Cardinals face a Redskins defense allowing 24-100-0.5 per game on the ground and 7-64-0 receiving. Hightower is in a desirable role, for a backup, and the opportunity looks good this week against the Redskins. He'll likely be a hit or miss candidate this year, but he certainly is getting valuable touches right now and with Kurt Warner playing well the Cardinals are moving the football and getting him touches near the goal line. At this point, it seems like a good idea to ride him while he's got the hot hand if your scoring system or league fits his style (flex option in TD heavy, or perhaps PPR leagues).

Jerious Norwood - ATL - Through the first two games of the year, Norwood has accumulated 111 yards on 20 carries (5.5 ypc) to go with 3-14-0 receiving. That makes him RB26 year-to-date, despite being the complimentary back to Michael Turner. This week the Falcons face a Chiefs defense that has allowed 205 yards per game rushing to opposing RBs along with 3 TDs and an average of 4-27-0 receiving per game. The Raiders backfield combo of Darren McFadden (21-164-1) and Michael Bush (16-90-1) are a suitable comparison since the Raiders, like the Falcons, have a questionable passing attack with a coaching emphasis around running the football, controlling the clock if possible and establishing a 2-back attack to keep both players productive and the offense moving. Norwood, like McFadden, is explosive and a big play threat, though he is the team's secondary option to Turner. With Turner having a slightly sprained ankle from last week's game, Norwood could see a slightly increased role this week. Turner says his ankle is fine, and it very likely is ok, but there is still a slightly better chance that he could aggravate it in this week's game or need some rest allowing Norwood an increase in touches against on the league's most challenged run defenses so far this season.

Derrick Ward - NYG - The Giants have one of the strongest backfield in the NFL with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. That's a great thing for Giants fans and HC Tom Coughlin. However, the tricky part for us fantasy owners is figuring out when and if Bradshaw or Ward may be utilized to take advantage of their obvious talents, but inconsistent or limited opportunities. This week, the G-men face a Bengals defense allowing 40-164-0.5 on the ground to opposing RBs along with 4-34-0 receiving. Last week, Bradshaw exploded for 2 TDs and 70 yards while Ward rambled for 60 yards. In the opener, Bradshaw got lost in the shuffle, while Ward produced 66 yards. Ward seems like the safer option of the two, but last week Bradshaw emerged as a viable weapon for the Giants in the red zone after Coughlin admitted he forgot to get Bradshaw onto the field the previous week. One thing seems certain; the Giants should be able to run the ball successfully against the Bengals front seven. Each of their first two opponents produced two productive backs -- Tennessee (Johnson 121 yds, White 59 yds, 1 TD) and Baltimore (Rice 83 yds, McClain 110 yds). Jacobs should get his production, for sure, though Ward looks like a great bet to top his average of 63 yds/gm and Bradshaw could also be an option in deeper league or as a flex option following his performance last week.

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

Ahmad Bradshaw - NYG - The Giants have one of the strongest backfield in the NFL with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw. That's a great thing for Giants fans and HC Tom Coughlin. However, the tricky part for us fantasy owners is figuring out when and if Bradshaw or Ward may be utilized to take advantage of their obvious talents, but inconsistent or limited opportunities. This week, the G-men face a Bengals defense allowing 40-164-0.5 on the ground to opposing RBs along with 4-34-0 receiving. Last week, Bradshaw exploded for 2 TDs and 70 yards while Ward rambled for 60 yards. In the opener, Bradshaw got lost in the shuffle, while Ward produced 66 yards. Ward seems like the safer option of the two, but last week Bradshaw emerged as a viable weapon for the Giants in the red zone after Coughlin admitted he forgot to get Bradshaw onto the field the previous week. One thing seems certain; the Giants should be able to run the ball successfully against the Bengals front seven. Each of their first two opponents produced two productive backs -- Tennessee (Johnson 121 yds, White 59 yds, 1 TD) and Baltimore (Rice 83 yds, McClain 110 yds). Jacobs should get his production, for sure, though Ward looks like a great bet to top his average of 63 yds/gm and Bradshaw could also be an option in deeper league or as a flex option following his performance last week.

Steve Slaton - HOU - The Titans are an awful defense for a RB to go up against, especially if DT Albert Haynesworth is healthy and on his game. That being said, Slaton is likely to start for the Texans when they face Tennessee this week and he's also the most likely of the Texans stable to catch passes and be on the field during third down situations. Ahman Green was hurt in the first game and unlikely to play (though check our FBG Blogger to be sure), though Chris Taylor seems likely to split some carries and possibly even get some touches near the goal line if they have any such opportunities. Still, Slaton has the most bounce and versatility of the Texans backs and if the Texans fall behind quickly in this game (as we suspect will happen), then consider Slaton as a possible flex/RB3 starter, especially in PPR leagues, as he could garner 15 or more carries and catch 3-to-5 passes in this game. . Let's take a peek at two possible comps for Slaton. In week two, DeDe Dorsey caught two balls out of the backfield for 49 yards as a backup for the Bengals. In the season opener, Greg Jones (3-13-1) and Maurice Jones-Drew (4-37-0) enjoyed some success catching the ball out of the backfield against the Titans.


Wide Receiver

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Isaac Bruce - SF - Isaac Bruce was essentially a no-show in the season opener, but then he rebounded quickly to be a big factor in last week's game against Seattle. Bruce had catches of 63, 33, 30 and 27 yards and he was targeted in the red zone four times. This week, Bruce faces a Detroit Lions defense that is allowing an average of 10 receptions, 196 yards and 2 TDs per week to opposing WRs. Four different WRs have scored against them, including three of the Packers WRs last week. The way Bruce was targeted last week, and knowing that Mike Martz will do his utmost best to upstage the team that fired him unceremoniously following last season's collapse, Bruce (along with Bryant Johnson) are must starts this week.

Derrick Mason - BAL - In the last two years, D-Mase has put on a clinic against the Browns corners. Last year, he was targeted 13 times and produced 10 catches for 78 yards in week 4. Later, in week 11, Mason was targeted 12 times and came away with 6-83-0. In 2007, Mason produced 7-132-0 on 9 targets and then 2-20-0 on 4 targets. In 2005, he produced 8-85-0 (8 targets) and 3-73-0 (10 targets). Call it what you want, but Mason has produced 5 solid games in his last 6 against the Brownies. The Browns corners are young and vulnerable this year after they dealt Leigh Bodden to the Lions during the off-season. In their first two games, all four of the opposing WRs to start against them have produced 80 or more yards and two have scored. If you have Mark Clayton, then consideration him as well though his track record isn't nearly as impeccable against the Browns as Mason's is.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Laveranues Coles - NYJ - Coles is off to a slow start this year, yet there are enough signs that he is turning the corner that it would be prudent to stick with him this week against the Chargers. Coles only caught 1 ball for 5 yards in the opener, but he was still developing chemistry with Brett Favre after sitting out almost all of the preseason and he still wasn't 100%. Last week, Coles improved to 3 catches for 72 yards, yet his production could've easily been higher. He dropped one pass and had another ball bounce off his finger tips. This week, he faces a Chargers secondary that suddenly became more susceptible after their pass rush lost much of its teeth when Shawne Merriman went on injured reserve. Brandon Marshall dominated the Chargers last week with 18 receptions, 166 yards and a TD. Eddie Royal produced 5-37-1. The Panther's Muhsin Muhammad (6-56-0) and D.J. Hackett (5-48-0) were average, at best. Coles may be on the verge of bigger production now that he has some game-time with Favre under his belt and this game could be tailor made for the Jets to throw frequently in the second half. Coles isn't a great start, but we're optimistic that he could continue improving his bottom line and it's a good situation for him to do just that.

Muhsin Muhammad - CAR - The argument to consider Muhammad may seem counterintuitive at first, but it's really common sense if you consider the circumstances. Steve Smith returns to the lineup this week for the Panthers. One must think that he will undoubtedly be the most targeted WR by Jake Delhomme. During Smith's absence, Muhammad produced 6-56-0 (15 targets) and 5-59-0 (6 targets); he also had a 32-yard TD catch last week only to have it called back on a penalty. The Vikings defensive strength is against the run, so the Panthers will take their chances through the air, especially if they are stonewalled up front. With the Vikings keying more on Smith, Muhammad should see plenty of targets and possibly produce his best game of the young season.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Matt Jones - JAX - Jones has produced consistent numbers in the first two weeks of the season (6-80-0 against Tennessee and 5-50-0 against Buffalo), so it seems plausible that he could sustain such numbers this week against the Colts despite it being one of the worst matchups possible from a statistical/paper standpoint. The Colts have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing WRs through two games and they were one of the toughest matchups in 2007, 2006 and 2005 as well. This is no coincidence. That said, Tennessee and Buffalo haven't been easy matchups for WRs either and Jones has been targeted consistently (10 times each game) this year. Jones has never produced anything of note against the Colts despite having faced them five times previously. His best production to date was 3-28-0 in 2005 on 5 targets. Still, Jones has 2x more targets than any other Jaguars WR this year, so consider him if you're willing to take a risk.

David Patten - NO - With Marques Colston sidelined, David Patten became one of the primary targets for Drew Brees last week, though his production didn't necessarily tell the tale of a WR with a golden opportunity. Patten caught one pass in the first week, a 39-yard TD. Last week, against Washington, Patten caught five balls for 55 yards. This week, he faces the Broncos, and potentially Champ Bailey -- which isn't a good indication at all. However, if Jeremy Shockey is lining up on the outside in Colston's spot, as he did occasionally last week, then Bailey could wind up covering him and leaving the very beatable Dre' Bly to cover Patten (a great sign). Last week, both of the Chargers WRs were productive against the Broncos -- Vincent Jackson had 6-73-0 and Chris Chambers 4-83-2. The previous week, the daunting task of the Raiders WRs proved to be a challenge for the Broncos as Ashley Lelie (3-37) and Ronald Curry (2-18) each caught TDs. Patten is a gamble this week knowing that Champ Bailey could blanket him all day, but the Broncos pass defense is far from impenetrable and Patten is someone to consider if only because the Broncos are hanging up a ton of points each week and the Saints have yet to prove they can establish the run consistently.

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

Dane Looker - STL - The Rams started Dane Looker at receiver last week and he produced 2 catches for 29 yards against the Giants. This week, he may start opposite Torry Holt once again, though he seems to be a third option at best. Looker is competing with Holt, Steven Jackson and TE Randy McMichael for targets in the passing game, so he's clearly a long shot at best. The Seahawks defense has been accommodating, though, allowing 12 receptions, 214 yards and 0.5 TDs per game to WRs. Lee Evans (4-102-0), Isaac Bruce (4-153-0) and Bryant Johnson (6-78-1) all produced worthwhile games against Seattle. Arnaz Battle (4-44-0) made himself relevant for the first time this year. If you're truly desperate, and you'd have to be to lean on a Rams WR not named Holt at this point, then consider the situation as Looker may not see another start once Donnie Avery is healthy enough to displace him. If Avery is good to go this week, then he may very well be worthwhile as a flyer and you should replace Looker with Avery.

Courtney Taylor - SEA - Quite honestly, it's hard to get overly excited about Courtney Taylor or any of the other Seahawks receivers at this point. During the preseason the competition to replace the injured Deion Branch held the eye of many fantasy owners seeking to find a potential hidden gem, or sleeper. However, what has transpired thus far has turned out to be uneventful. Taylor has produced 2-19-0 against Buffalo and 2-20 against San Francisco. The Seahawks WRs have turned into the equivalent of watching a NASCAR race for the wrecks. Every week another one goes down. Taylor is left standing, for this week anyway, and he faces a Rams secondary that has allowed the 16 receptions, 292 yards and 1.5 TDs per game to their first two opponents this season (Philadelphia and the NY Giants). Using standard FBG scoring, they've allowed 10+ fantasy points to five different WRs in only two weeks. Seems the odds are in Taylor's favor to do something this week. If you Taylor has one last gasp of air remaining as a fantasy WR with aspirations, then this is the week for him to cash in on his social capitol. Otherwise, stick a fork in him. Engram and Branch will be back soon enough.


Tight End

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

John Carlson - SEA - Despite being a rookie, Carlson enters his third NFL game with 10 catches and 130 yards under his belt and he's quite likely going to be Matt Hasselbeck's #1 target since just about every player to don a Seahawks jersey has been injured this year. Carlson has been targeted 12 times, second only to Courtney Taylor, yet he has produced him in catches (10 to 4) and yards (130 to 39). Last week, the Rams didn't allow a catch to the Giants TEs, though they were not targeted, while the Eagles' L.J. Smith had 5-39-1 in the season opener.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Randy McMichael - STL - McMichael is off to a decent start this year after a disappointing campaign a year ago. He has been targeted 12 times through the first two games (2nd most on the team behind Steven Jackson's 14) and he has produced 7-101-0; 5-77-0 against Philly and 2-24-0 against the Giants last week. The Seahawks allowed 6-52-1 to Robert Royal in week one while Vernon Davis didn't register a single catch against them last week, though he was not targeted either.

Heath Miller - PIT - Miller has produced a modest 5-59-0 on 5 targets in the first 2 games, but this week he faces an Eagles defense that has allowed a league-high 107 yds/gm to opposing TEs thanks to Jason Witten's Monday night performance (7-110-0) and Randy McMichael's week one production (5-77-0).

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

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

Dustin Keller - NYJ - Keller is a longshot, without a doubt, as he enters his third NFL game. However, he was a frequent star for the Jets in training camp and the preseason only to get lost in the shuffle thus far in the regular season. His time will come and maybe this will be the week for him to break through with something meaningful. The Chargers have been killed by opposing TEs this year, and we're not talking about Tony Gonzalez or Jason Witten either. They allowed Dante Rosario 7-96-1 in the opener and then 6-64-2 to Tony Scheffler last week. Keller has just 1 target this year, which resulted in a 19 yard catch last week. His role should grow slowly, but he is still in a time share situation with Bubba Franks and Chris Baker. As such, he's a desperate reach, but he's a kid with great talent, skills and a heckuva nice matchup to boot this week.