Sleepers - Week 7
By Bob Henry
October 20th, 2011

This weekly article looks at a variety of players at each position that have an opportunity to outperform their normal production, or at least expectations. Each position is analyzed by looking at the schedule, matchups, injuries and other factors such as coaching decisions or game conditions.

Be forewarned. Not all of the players covered in this article are traditional sleepers. Some may be starters in your league who have a tricky matchup, while others might be deep sleepers in smaller leagues. Realizing that leagues and roster sizes vary wildly; your mileage may vary as well. Simply put, we do our best to identify a broad range of players that we hope will benefit all owners and league variances.

Ultimately, we hope the analysis provided here will help you make those difficult lineup decisions just a little bit easier. Good luck and please know that your comments are always welcome.

Email me at or follow me on Twitter @bobhenry.


Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Tim Tebow, Den at MIA
This week marks the first start of the season for the Broncos wunderkind as he goes up against a Dolphins pass defense that has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points in the league through six weeks. With a healthy Vontae Davis back in the lineup, the Dolphins defense is probably quite a bit better than the story the stats tell. They came out of the gate slowly, but last week they did a decent job against Mark Sanchez limiting him to 201 yards and 2 TDs. With Sanchez slumping it's hard to tell if it was the Dolphins that have improved or if it was merely Sanchez regressing, or both. The Dolphins still only have two interceptions and six sacks to their credit, while allowing 10 TDs and an average of 293 passing yards per game, but it's hard to size up Tebow with typical stats. He doesn't fit any of the classic definitions of what we expect an NFL quarterback to be. Even though QBs have compiled the third highest passer rating against Miami, that's not the reason everyone loves Tebow. It's because he wins and he makes plays. So throw out the stats, even if they are in Tebow's favor, sit back and enjoy what is likely to be an entertaining game with Tebow mixing his running and passing skills against a Dolphins defense that is still trying to find its stride.

Josh Freeman, TB vs. Chi
Low and behold, the giant awoke last week against the Saints. Freeman avoided the Saints frequent blitzes, he wasn't sacked and he didn't commit any turnovers either. This week, he faces a Bears defense that has allowed an average of 293 yards per game along with 9 TDs and 4 INTs and a passer rating of 94.9. Of course, the Bears have faced a who's who of QBs including Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford, but Freeman appears to out of his slumber and ready to roll. With 25+ fantasy points in two of his last three games, Freeman looks like a great play this week either as a bye week fill-in or as the player you drafted ambitiously to be your starter. If Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder can combine for 28-of-42 and 276 yards, then I believe Freeman is good for at least that and probably a touchdown or two as well.

If any of you believe that Ben Roethlisberger isn't worthy of QB1 status this year, then he belongs in this group. Protection is going to be a concern for him all year, but he should be fine against a Cardinals defense with just 4 picks and 11 sacks. The Cardinals rookie corners have played reasonably well, all things considered, but if Mike Wallace's mild hamstring concern is good-to-go, then Ben should be a strong option this week.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Colt McCoy, CLE vs. Sea
The Browns offense this year is almost as pass happy as Mr. Popper likes his penguins. McCoy has thrown 40, 32, 39, 61 and 45 passes in the first five games to yield an average of 240 yards and 1.6 TDs per game yet somehow McCoy ranks just 20th amongst his peers in fantasy points year to date. The Seahawks defense is solid against the run, but not so good against the pass. Quarterbacks are completing 67% of their passes against Seattle while averaging a healthy 8.2 YPA and they've been sacked only 8 times and picked 5 times in as many games. McCoy generally does a good job of playing within his game and avoiding costly mistakes, so he looks like a safe, if not a downright strong play with decent upside. With Greg Little now in the starting lineup as the "X" WR and Evan Moore starting to get a few more snaps, the Browns appear to be finally starting to utilize their most talented players, which should mean good things for McCoy. Helping the cause, Seattle's top corner Marcus Trufant is also out for the year now.

Joe Flacco, Bal at JAC
Jacksonville isn't the best matchup for opposing QBs, but it's definitely not the worst either. Just look at how Ben Roethlisberger fared last week. He was well on his way to a big day in the first half, but he struggled to complete a pass in the second half and wound up with just 12-of-23 passing for 200 yards and 1 TD. The Ravens offer Flacco more pass protection than the Steelers do for Roethlisberger, and the Jags pass rush from their front four is one of the weaker ones in the league. I think Flacco will have time to find his second and third receivers as well as take some shots deep. The Jags allowed a handful of big pass completions in the first half to the Steelers. While improved since last year, the Ravens have the size (Boldin) and the speed (Smith/Evans) to do damage. With three of the top seven QBs on their bye this week, Flacco is one of the safer plays going. He doesn't have much of a downside outside of the Ravens defense pouncing on Blaine Gabbert and the game turning into a blowout. Flacco should have no problem putting up 18 to 25 fantasy points in standard leagues.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Matt Cassel, KC at OAK
The Raiders opponents have thrown the most pass attempts in the league (44 per game) resulting in an average of 299 yards, 2 TDs and 0.8 INTs per game. All six of the opposing QBs have topped 20 points. Ironically, Tom Brady is the only QB not to attempt at least 43 passes against Oakland. He the ball only 30 times but still managed 23 points, while Matt Schaub (29), Mark Sanchez (35), Ryan Fitzpatrick (31) and Kyle Orton (21) all had solid, if not better games than usual. Colt McCoy produced 24 against them last week despite only throwing for 215 yards on 45(!) pass attempts. They've allowed at least 2 TDs and 215 yards in each of their last five games. Coming out of their bye, Matt Cassel and the Chiefs will hopefully have cured what ails their offense. It won't bring Jamaal Charles back, but with an extra week to prepare and get healthier, the Cassel-to-Bowe connection at the very least should be in effect. Cassel has back-to-back games of 250 yards with a combined 5 TDs. Expecting similar production this week isn't a pipe dream, it's actually plausible.

Matt Moore, MIA vs. Den
One thing I like about Moore is that the guy is a gamer. He didn't shy away from Darrelle Revis one bit on Monday night. I like the confidence, but it's a bit scary when he's throwing picks in the end zone that go 99-yards the other way for a pick-six. Moore was hurt by several drops, but he should have better luck this week against a more beatable Broncos secondary. Champ Bailey is back, which should make for a fun matchup with Brandon Marshall, but it shouldn't deter Moore from going to his top receiver, and it's reassuring that no defense has allowed more fantasy points to QBs than Denver's. Quarterbacks have a league-best 106.5 passer rating against them allowing 8.4 YPA, a 68.3% completion rate, a league-high 6 completions of 40+ yards and 10 TD passes with only three INTs. Moore is still a reach, but the last four quarterbacks, including rookie Andy Dalton in his second NFL start, have thrown for at least 250 yards and a TD. Look for Moore to be reasonably productive, enough to be worth a spot start in deeper leagues.

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

John Beck, Was at CAR
Well, it finally happened last week. Rex Grossman's season-long downward trend finally flamed out with a spectacular 4 interception meltdown. You saw it coming from the moment Mike Shanahan named him the starter in the last week of the preseason. The Panthers have intercepted only three passes and recorded only 9 sacks in six games (among the worst in the league in both categories) while allowing a an average of 230 yards and 1.3 TDs per game. Something to be way of, opponents have attempted only 27 passes per game (second lowest in the league) against Carolina, but like their own Cam Newton-to-Steve Smith connection, they are getting a lot of mileage out of them completing 64% for a league-high 8.5 YPA and a passer rating of 99.8. Look for Beck to get off to a decent start in his first game as the starter. It's not a difficult matchup for him, and I think Santana Moss and Fred Davis could bust loose for some big plays, but he's the kind of guy where you want to see him do it first, then think about putting him in the lineup later.

A few other quarterbacks that you may need to consider are probably all on the waiver wire in your league(s). The first is Curtis Painter, who will face a blitz-happy defense in a noisy dome atmosphere this week in New Orleans. If Painter and the Colts can dial some counter options to the Saints creative blitzing, they should connect for some big plays. The Saints apply the pressure, but they get burned, too. Last week, Josh Freeman coped with their pressure and beat them consistently throughout for a mistake-free game. That's less likely to happen in the dome, but the Painter/Garcon connection could be worth a shot this week. The Saints have been giving up big plays all year long.

Two other desperate options are rookie Christian Ponder and Carson Palmer. Ponder matches up with a Packers defense allowing 319 yards and 1.7 TDs per game, but you'd have to be a bit crazy to start him. The Packers also have 15 sacks and 11 INTs. The Vikings figure to be playing from behind, but that works both ways for a young quarterback with limited weapons. He could end up with a fair amount of yards, but expect plenty of sacks, picks and mistakes in his first NFL start.

It looks like Palmer will actually get the start this week for the Raiders. Palmer draws a nice matchup against a Kansas City defense allowing 255 yards and 2.4 TDs per game (most in the NFL). They have only 5 sacks and 5 INTs in as many games, too. Palmer isn't a great reach without having seen him play yet and with just a few practices under his belt, even in a nice matchup because the Raiders may not need to throw the ball more than 20-to-25 times to win this game. If you're reaching for a second QB in a 2-QB league, then maybe, but otherwise Palmer is a last resort type of desperation.

Running Backs

Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, NO vs. Ind
Indianapolis has been a favorite target for opposing RBs and fantasy owners for a long time running, but this year they've become an elite matchup without Peyton Manning. The Colts haven't been able to keeping the score close like they could with Peyton, leading to teams capable of scoring in bunches with the opportunity to strike early and then run the ball and the clock out in the second half. The Saints fit that description, but they really haven't shown themselves to have that kind of a team to do that. Ingram is finally getting into the end zone with more regularity, and Sproles continues to be a juggernaut in space. He's been everything they wanted Reggie Bush to be and more. Thomas gives them a swing player with the ability to perform as a runner or receiver equally as well. Ingram needs a heavy workload to deliver the fantasy payoff owners expected on draft day. I suppose he has a chance to do something like that this week, but Sproles is the surest thing here. Ingram remains best used as a flex/RB3 option while Thomas is in that same area of usefulness, just a bit more inconsistent. Just grab your ankle and pray that you don't see Jed Collins' name scroll across the ticker. The Colts are yielding a league-high 30 rushing attempts per game to opposing RBs for an average of 162 combined yards and 1 TD.

Marshawn Lynch, Sea at CLE
Cleveland is tied with the Colts for allowing the rushing attempts per game to opposing RBs (30 per game). On that premise alone, I like Lynch's upside more than usual this week. Lynch is a lunch bucket back, but nothing special. Perhaps his special trait is his ruggedness. He's exactly the kind of back that Pete Carroll needs to lean on when his starting QB may be limited, if he plays, and they're on the road against a defense allowing 147 yards and 0.6 TDs per game to opposing backs. At best, Lynch is a low-end RB2 in deeper leagues. This week, I think he could get the opportunity to make something happen with one of his better games of the season coming. The Browns aren't soft against the run as much as teams had run the ball a lot against them (and they've been very good against the pass). Joe Haden is out again this week, though, so the Seahawks offense could have some sneaky value. Four of the five backs that started against them got 20 to 25 carries. Of those four the lowest production was Chris Johnson's 112 yards and no TDs, the other three scored and produced 93, 122 and 123 yards. One of those three was Cedric Benson, who just might be as good a comp for Lynch as there is. Lynch's high this year is 19 carries, so a 15-to-20 carries for 60-to-100 yards and a better than 50% shot of scoring looks about right.

Ryan Torain, Was at CAR
There isn't a better matchup out there for running backs than the Panthers. Carolina is allowing a whopping 184 yards and 1.5 TDs per game to opposing RBs. They've allowed 10 runs of 20 yards or more (most in the league) and 3 of 40+ yards (almost tied for most). Michael Turner turned back the clock a couple years against them last week rumbling 27 times for 139 yards and 2 TDs. The Bears packed it in and ran Matt Forte 25 times for 205 yards and a TD against the overwhelmed and depleted Panthers run defense. Remember Beanie Wells mildly surprising start with 102 yards and a TD in Week 1? It was against the Panthers. Now, we know this matchup couldn't be any better, so the question now turns to the other side of this equation. Will Ryan Torain get the carries he needs to to go into his rhythm and romp mode? The whole team came up incredibly small against an equally as good matchup against the Eagles last week. Torain should at least get the first crack at being the hot hand. If he gets rolling, look out. If he doesn't, look for Roy Helu to seize whatever opportunity is given to him. I think the Redskins will bounce back with a reliable running game this week. Only Mike Shanahan is capable of screwing it up and that is always a risk that goes with his backs - any one of them could get almost all of the carries, or none.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Daniel Thomas, MIA vs. Den
Denver's run defense remains suspect this year even after their switch over to a 4-3 this year. Opposing RBs are averaging 25 carries for 110 yards against them. They just haven't found the end zone. Sounds like a perfect fit for the Dolphins offense. Miami can't seem to punch it into the end zone either, but Daniel Thomas should get some opportunities to do that this week. Reggie Bush left Monday's game with a neck injury in the fourth quarter, so Thomas might even see a bigger workload than last week. In Denver's last game before their bye, Ryan Mathews lit them up for 24 carries and 125 yards. With Ryan Grant sidelined in Week 4, James Starks produced 63 yards rushing and 38 yards receiving. Look for Thomas to product somewhere in between with a 100-yard game very possible, but we'll have to wait and see about the TDs.

Jackie Battle & Dexter McCluster, KC at OAK
The Raiders have allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing RBs, but they're a bit of an odd fit. They're allowing only 20 carries for 102 yards and 0.7 TDs per game to RBs. That would put them around the middle of the league if it weren't for how badly they've been beaten by RBs in the passing game. Arian Foster and LaDainian Tomlinson each caught five passes for 116 yards against the Raiders. Heck, even Shonn Greene racked up seven catches for 47 yards against them. What that tells me is that Dexter McCluster has a chance to break something off. His sample size for touches is smaller each week, but I think the Chiefs should try to get him into space to make plays against this defense. Thomas Jones isn't effective anymore, so Jackie Battle was given a chance to be the Chiefs workhorse in their last game and he cashed in. There's no guarantee that he'll get all of the carries this week, but it would be a surprise if he didn't. The Raiders are also allowing over 5 YPC to RBs and the second-most runs of 20+ yards (9) among NFL defenses, so look for Battle first & McCluster second as solid reaches capable of producing RB2 numbers in deeper leagues.

Willis McGahee, Den at MIA
McGahee has a neutral matchup against the Dolphins, but the presence of Tim Tebow could help/hurt McGahee's value. On one hand, Tebow might be able to keep drives alive and yield McGahee more carries in the process, but on the other end of the spectrum Tebow's goal-line prowess lowers our expectations for McGahee utilizing his own goal-line talents. McGahee is a shaky start, but he should be a solid flex/RB3 option until we see more of Tebow in action and determine if the Tebow effect hurts or helps McGahee.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Mike Tolbert, SD at NYJ
With Ryan Mathews ascending into more of a featured role (and a place among the elite fantasy backs), Mike Tolbert's fantasy value went from a steady, but solid RB2/flex option to more of a spot start or bye week replacement. He still has the potential to find the end zone and contribute in the passing game, but you can no longer expect more than a handful of carries. His ceiling is much lower as a result. The Jets are a strong matchup for the Chargers RBs. I expect the Chargers to lean on their running game a lot this week, but especially if Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates are unable to go. Rivers has been shakier than usual this year. Their pass protection hasn't been as good and the Jets are strong against the pass anyway. I thin Norv Turner goes run heavy if he can, which could mean a healthy number of carries for both Mathews and Tolbert. The Jets are among tied with three other teams with 8 rushing TDs allowed (most in the NFL) and 132 rushing yards per game.

Michael Bush, OAK vs. KC
Filling in for the injured Darren McFadden last year, Bush rambled all over the Chiefs defense in the season finale last year with 25 carries, 137 yards, 1 TD and four receptions for another 34 yards. The Chiefs are allowing an average of 1.4 TDs per game to opposing RBs, a statistic that bodes well for Bush and his role again this year. It looks like Carson Palmer may end up starting this week after all. Regardless, I expect the Raiders to emphasize the running game even more than they did already against this Chiefs defense. Bush finds the end zone more than your average backup RB, so in a strong matchup, he makes for a nice bye week gamble/reach.

Earnest Graham, TB vs. Chi
LeGarrette Blount sat out of last week's game with a sprained MCL and there is a very good chance that he will be kept out through the Bucs' bye next week. Earnest Graham is the team's starter in his absence, and last week Graham combined for 131 yards against the Saints. While the Bears run defense has been a formidable matchup in the past, they're allowing 20-111-0.3 and 6-39-0.2 per game to RBs this year, including 5.4 YPC and 3 runs of 40+ yards, both of which lead the league. Keep an eye on Kregg Lumpkin, who is Graham's immediate backup with Blount sidelined and rookie Allen Bradford waived last week. The only other realistic option short of a street free agent is Mossis Madu, who could be activated from the practice squad.

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

Delone Carter, Ind at NO
Joseph Addai could return to the lineup this week as his hamstring injury was minor in nature. That said, while the Saints run defense isn't a scary matchup, there is a very good chance that this game could unfold in such a way that would severely limit the potential impact of the Colts ground game. The Colts could find themselves trailing quickly, so carries could be limited for Addai and Carter. If Addai is inactive again, then move Carter up the list, but know that Donald Brown will handle most of the touches that would have gone to Addai. I still don't think he'll get enough carries to hold much value for owners in normal leagues, unless he is fortunate enough to get some opportunities at the goal line. Opposing RBs are averaging only 17 carries per game against the Saints, which is second fewest in the league and only the Packers allow less. On the flip side, the Saints are giving up 5.2 YPC and have allowed three runs of 40+ yards through five weeks (tied for most in the league). While those two stats are nice, it's probably not enough to buoy Carter's value to the point where he makes a decent RB2 reach. In deeper leagues, desperate owners might consider him a RB3/flex option.

Isaac Redman, Pit at ARI
The Steelers should be able to get their ground game going a bit this week. If Mendenhall delivers the goods, Redman's touches could be limited to a series per half and perhaps a few short yardage opportunities. If Mendenhall comes out of the gate slow, Redman could see more carries and have a better opportunity to deliver some fantasy value for speculative owners in deep leagues. The Cardinals have allowed the most rushing TDs (8) along with 110 rushing yards per game to RBs. Mendenhall should be just fine, but so might Redman.

Wide Receivers

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Pierre Garcon, Ind at NO
For many owners, Garcon could be a luxury right now. He currently has solid WR2 value in favorable matchups, but WR4/WR5 in bad ones. Even better, you probably drafted him as your WR4/WR5. So, if you did well on your first three or four WR picks, Garcon may not be in the lineup every week, but you probably want him in there this week. The Saints should score at will against the Colts defense and their defense has been giving up big plays in the passing game all year long. Last week, it was Arrelious Benn that burned them for a 65-yard TD. They've allowed 8 TDs in six games to opposing WRs. Garcon is Curtis Painter's favorite target. In three of the Colts' five games Garcon produced 5 or fewer points. In the other two he exploded. This should be one of those weeks that he goes off.

Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi, CLE vs Sea
The Browns are throwing a ton and they should continue to do just that against the Seahawks, especially after Seattle lost their top corner Marcus Trufant for the season. Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond will be covering Little and Massaquoi, and that's a pair of matchups that I think the Browns will focus on. Victor Cruz (8-161-1) and Hakeem Nicks (4-65-1) performed well against Seattle as did Julio Jones (11-127) and Roddy White (6-78-0). In his first start last week, Little was targeted a team-high 12 times catching 6 for 72 yards. He was targeted 8 times the previous week for 6-57-0. Massaquoi leads the team with 35 targets for the season, but Little is closing fast and it certainly looks like he'll be the top target in the passing game for McCoy going forward. McCoy, Little and Massaquoi all look like solid plays this week. The Seahawks solid run defense should help tilt the Browns offense towards the passing game, too.

Antonio Brown, Pit at ARI
Starting a pair of rookies, the Cardinals secondary has been under fire this year. They're allowing 13 catches for 185 yards and 0.8 TDs per game. The Steelers take their fair of shots downfield and I suspect that Ben Roethlisberger has another big game in store. The key for Roethlisberger remains how well the line plays in front of him. Mike Wallace didn't practice on Tuesday or Wednesday to rest his slightly tweaked hamstring. Even if he goes this week, I still liked Brown, but if Wallace is limited or inactive, then Brown is an even better play and Emmanuel Sanders becomes an excellent sleeper to boot. Eight out of the 10 top receivers the Cardinals faced produced at least 60 yards, and all of them scored double digits in PPR leagues. Hines Ward is still good for spot start duty, too, but if Wallace goes then Sanders isn't worth the risk. He's obviously capable of scoring any given week, but with just 20 targets and no game with more than two catches, he stays on your bench.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Danario Alexander, Stl at DAL
With the arrival of Brandon Lloyd, the Rams have a more legitimate and reliable downfield threat to help Sam Bradford establish the vertical passing game. Of course, Bradford has to shed his walking boot and play this week, or you're probably better off walking away from this matchup completely. A.J. Feely scares the bu-jeez-us out of me, but if Bradford goes then Alexander is an intriguing option again this week. The Cowboys should bounce back after another tough loss last week with vigor at home. Look for the Rams to throw often in this game. Alexander should benefit from Lloyd playing opposite him and as long as his knee is healthy he is as good a bet as anyone to be productive. He has proven to be a playmaker whenever he's healthy and given the opportunity.

Damian Williams, TEN vs. Hou
The Titans have been just one of many teams that have been decidedly pass happy during the first month of the season. Williams moved into the starting lineup in Week 4 following Kenny Britt's season-ending knee injury. Williams has a touchdown in each game, but more importantly his targets went from 4 to 11 last week. That could be a byproduct of Ike Taylor's coverage on Nate Washington, but Williams cashed in with 6-66-1. A similar trend could happen this week if Jonathan Joseph sticks with Washington. Williams would benefit by drawing Kareem Jackson, who returned to the starting lineup last week against the Ravens. Torrey Smith made some plays against the Texans last week (3-84-0) as did Anquan Boldin (8-132-0). Washington is more of a deep threat like Smith, while Williams is more of a possession receiver like Boldin. Darrius Heyward-Bey produced a strong 7-99-1 against the Texans in the previous week as Joseph locked down on Denarius Moore holding him catchless. Other comparable players and their performance against the Texans include Antonio Brown (5-67-0) and Lance Moore (9-88-1).

Darrius Heyward-Bey & Denarius Moore, OAK vs. KC
In the last three games, Heyward-Bey has been targeted 28 times for 17 catches, 296 yards and a TD. In that span, he emerged as the top receiving threat for the Raiders, but now Jacoby Ford, Louis Murphy and Chaz Schilens are all healthy and Denarius Moore is probably the most talented player among the group. Still, DHB has established himself as the team's most consistent (and targeted) receiver. Moore may be more explosive, but between the two at this point you'll start DHB over Moore in all leagues except those with TD-heavy scoring. The Chiefs happen to be allowing the fourth most fantasy points to WRs and the second most TDs per game (1.6). In four of the Chiefs five games the opposing WRs scored 2 TDs. We'll have to see who Carson Palmer prefers this week, which makes both of these guys really risky, but one or both could hit.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Steve Breaston, KC at OAK
The Chiefs are coming out of their bye week, which gives Breaston an extra week to build his rapport with Matt Cassel and get even more in the groove in the Chiefs struggling offense. Breaston wasn't even on the radar earlier in the season, but he has three straight games with at least 5 targets and 50 yards and he caught a pair of TDs in Week 5. Nine different receivers have caught a TD or produced 70 or more yards against the Raiders in six games. That makes Dwayne Bowe a near certainty, but as long as Breaston is healthy and active, he's a solid gamble as a WR4/flex in this week's matchup where he may end up going against rookie corner DeMarcus Van Dyke.

Doug Baldwin, SEA vs. Cle
The Browns secondary will be without Joe Haden this week. That's a boost to the Seahawks passing game, but particularly for Sidney Rice. The Browns secondary isn't terrible without Haden, but it's definitely not as formidable and their depth could be more exposed allowing a player like Doug Baldwin to continue his climb up the fantasy ranks. Baldwin has been highly productive out of the slot and he matches up favorably against the Browns, even though they've allowed the third fewest fantasy points in the league to WRs. Rice will command the most attention. Assuming Big Mike Williams returns that leaves Baldwin in the slot. If Charlie Whitehurst starts in place of Tarvaris Jackson, give Baldwin a slight bump as the two developed a nice rapport working together on the scout team - and it was evident two weeks ago in their comeback win against the Giants.

Torrey Smith, Bal at JAC
The longer Lee Evans takes to get healthy the more opportunity this explosive deep threat gets to work with Joe Flacco. He has been targeted 19 times in three games for 9 catches, 237 yards and 3 TDs. After disappearing against the Jets in Week 4, he resurfaced against the Texans with 3-84-0. He's a boom/bust play all the way, but while the Jags defense isn't among the worst in the league this year, they are giving up passing yards in big chunks. The Steelers receivers racked up 171 yards on 7 catches last week. A.J. Green caught 5 balls for 90 yards in the previous week.

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

Demaryius Thomas, Den at MIA
With Tebow-Time ready for launch this week, there is no better time for this raw, but highly talented receiver to make some noise. Thomas is finally healthy after missing the bulk of his year and his rookie year with one injury after another. It's a plus matchup, and Tebow nation will be in full attendance since the Gators aren't playing this week. Tebow has the ability to run around and extend plays. Thomas has the ability to get open downfield for big plays. I'd like to see Thomas play first before thrusting him in the lineup, but he's a great pre-emptive waiver pickup this week that could pay off even earlier than expected starting this Sunday.

Titus Young & Nate Burleson, DET vs. Atl
The Falcons have allowed the third most fantasy point to opposing receivers (14-202-1.4) and 24 receptions of 20 yards or longer (also third most amongst NFL defenses). Young's snap count continues to increase as he gains experience in the Lions offensive system, mostly at Burleson's expense. He's a poor man's DeSean Jackson, but a kid that can make big plays if the Lions continue to increase his opportunities to do so. It's a strong matchup, but the reality is the Lions pecking order in the passing game starts with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew and Jahvid Best with Young and Burleson competing for scraps. While Burleson's value appears to be waning, Young's needle is pointing up. With Best a question mark this week, we could see fewer passes going to the backfield and more targets towards these two.

Davone Bess & Brian Hartline, MIA vs. Den
The Dolphins are a tough place to go looking for fantasy production beyond Brandon Marshall in the passing game. Bess has been a decent PPR reach in the past, but he hasn't produced up to that level this year. Hartline is a player you can swing for the fence with because he is capable of making big plays, but he isn't consistent enough otherwise to roster. A matchup with a Broncos defense allowing the second most fantasy points is enough to give these two a look. Champ Bailey will probably follow Marshall around. With winnable matchups against Andre' Goodman and Cassius Vaughn, Hartline and Bess offer more upside than usual.

Jason Hill, JAC vs. Bal
Jacoby Jones (4-76-1) had some success last week and so did Brandon Gibson (5-55-1) in Week 3 against the Ravens. Hill seems to have the trust of rookie Blaine Gabbert, and possibly a growing rapport. Hill has a touchdown catch and in each of the last two games and 7-147-2 combined, but he's just as likely to return to anonymity this week with the return of Mike Sims-Walker, and Hill is averaging fewer than five targets per game. Mike Thomas has seen nearly twice the targets (53 to 29) making him a solid reach in PPR leagues, but Hill has produced just as many fantasy points YTD.

Tight Ends

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

Kellen Winslow, TB vs. Chi
With no touchdowns in the first six games, Winslow has slipped all the way to TE23 YTD despite catching 27 passes for 257 yards (4.5-44-0 per game). He's as tough a player as you'll find in the league considering his six knee surgeries and ability to play through what has to be constant pain. Winslow draws a Bears defense this week that has allowed an average of 7-75-0.8 per game to opposing TEs. That's the most fantasy points allowed to TEs. The following stat lines are from the starting TEs that have faced Chicago: 5-72-0, 6-79-0, 7-85-3, 5-50-1, 4-39-1 and 5-45-0 - which translates to 11.2 fantasy points per game. That's high TE1 material if Winslow is up to the task. With Freeman coming around, Winslow could be a week behind him.

Ed Dickson, Bal at JAX
Dickson and Dennis Pitta both see quite a bit of action in the Ravens offense. Dickson still appears to be the better and more reliable fantasy TE, but Pitta flip-flops with him every now and then and gets more targets. It just makes them both a bit tricky to play, but Dickson is the one I'd roll with as a spot starter, especially this week against a Jaguars defense allowing the third most points to TEs. Heath Miller snapped a four game TD streak of opposing TEs, so maybe Dickson can start a new one.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

Lance Kendricks, Stl at DAL
Call me crazy, but I think Kendricks will pan out before the year is through. He just might be one of those guys that struggle throughout his rookie campaign only to turn it on in the last month of the season. Kendricks' hands have failed him numerous times this year, and again last week, but he broke loose in the Ram's opening series for a 45-yard gain on a short pass that he stiff-armed a defender and gained most of the yards after the catch and contact. The Cowboys have struggled against tight ends, too. They've allowed the second most fantasy points (7-84-0.6) and with defenses now forced to adjust to a legitimate deep threat in Brandon Lloyd, perhaps Hendricks will clean up underneath similar to Brandon Pettigrew in Detroit.

Dallas Clark, Ind at NO
Clark also showed some signs of life last week after producing so poorly with Curtis Painter at the helm, that he was easy waiver fodder in many 10- and 12-team redraft leagues. He faces a Saints defense that has struggled in coverage this year allowing a number of big plays and the seventh most fantasy points to TEs. What a nutty season to even consider a former elite TE like Clark as a viable sleeper, but that's how far this former star has fallen without Peyton Manning. With a strong matchup, he's a great bye week spot start or if you've been unable to find a suitable starter after drafting him, then at least you have a good chance of cashing in for the second week in a row if you stick with him.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

Kevin Boss, OAK vs KC
It's hard to count a TD reception off of a fake punt, but if you're like me, then you'll take the points any way you can get them. Boss turned in one of the flukiest stat lines of the season last week when he had just that one catch that went for a 35-yard TD. With Carson Palmer probably starting with less than one week of practice, who knows? Boss might find himself as a frequent target of noodle armed dump offs. The Chiefs are solid matchup, too, allowing 4-54-0.6 per game to opposing TEs.

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

Kellen Davis, Chi at TB
Davis is a big-time reach for most leagues and owners, but like a good Mike Martz tight end he is good for a TD every few games due to the way Martz features them in the red zone. The Bucs have allowed 0.8 TDs per game to opposing TEs, second most in the league.

Daniel Fells, Den at MIA
The Dolphins have also allowed almost a TD per game to opposing TEs, which makes Daniels Fells another player to reach for off waivers or in deep leagues. He's definitely a risky play because there is a chance that Julius Thomas could play this week. Fells is not targeted frequently enough anyway, but it's nice matchup and maybe Tebow will sprinkle a little of his magic Fells' way.

Joel Dreessen could be another option for owners in deep leagues. With Andre Johnson out, he has seen a few more targets along with Owen Daniels. The Titans are a good, but not great matchup for tight ends allowing 4-51-0.6 and Dreessen is a capable player who could find some seams with defenses focusing more on the Texans running game and Daniels.

Defense/Special Teams

Prime Cut (Great matchup, strong sleeper)

If there's any chance the Dallas Cowboys are out there, pounce on them. I doubt it, though. With the Rams coming to town and Sam Bradford nursing a high ankle sprain, it could be tee time for DeMarcus Ware and gang.

NEW ORLEANS vs. Indianapolis
The Saints love to blitz and when they are at home they can feed off the home crowd noise and create problems for opposing QBs more so than they're able to do on the road which is where they've been for the last three weeks. Gregg Williams will dial it up once again against a struggling Colts offense. Painter has improved enough to probably exploit some of those blitzes for big plays, but the Saints should get some sacks, force some turnovers and create some punt return situations for Darren Sproles to do this thing.

Worth a Gamble (Good matchup, solid sleeper)

OAKLAND vs. Kansas City
The Raiders defense played well last week and I like their chances of forcing some turnovers or making something happen defensively against this Chiefs offense. Matt Cassel has played better in his last two games, but he's still a bit shaky and the Chiefs aren't nearly as scary without Jamaal Charles. If this game were in Arrowhead, I'd pass, but it's in the Black Hole, so I'd definitely take my chances with them if I were using a defense by committee/waiver wire approach.

Solid Reach (backup / situational player with upside)

CLEVELAND vs. Seattle
The Browns might be facing Charlie Whitehurst this week at home in what could be a windy, rainy day on Lake Erie. If that scenario unfolds, I really like the Brown's chances of making something happen defensively. Marshawn Lynch could pose problems for them, but Whitehurst could be a gift, too. Plus, you get Joshua Cribbs on special teams, which is usually a bonus.

© 2011 Footballguys - All Rights Reserved