Passed Out at Your Desk: Return of the Backs, and Eight Other Sleepers
Week 9 brought us big games for POaYD sleepers Matt Cassel (262 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT), Bryant Johnson (35 yards and a TD) and the Falcons defense, as well as great games from deep-league 4th and 26 players Rashad Jennings (29 yards and a TD) and Josh Freeman (205 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT). I liked those guys so much, I decided to reach back into last week and bring forth a few sleepers (from both columns) that didn't quite get it going last week.
Chester Taylor, RB, MIN vs. DET
If you're an Adrian Peterson owner that also has Taylor, you're just fine with how this season has gone. "Purple Jesus" has shown why he was so highly regarded heading into the draft, rushing for 790 yards and nine TDs in the first half of the season. He's even caught 19 balls for 189 yards. This means that Taylor has taken even more of a backseat than normal, and he's averaging just one catch a game over his last three. So why is he a great play? The Lions are comin' to town! Peterson could receive extra rest here, which would give Taylor more touches to put up points.
Mark Sanchez, QB, NYJ vs. JAC
This has been an up-and-down season for the rookie (like it usually is for first-year players). The lowest of lows came in Week 6, when Sanchez threw five interceptions and no TDs while barely topping 100 yards against Buffalo. Two weeks later, he had his best game as a pro, completing 20 passes for 265 and two TDs while rushing for one more score against Miami. The Jets then received two weeks to prepare for the second half of the season, starting with the beatable Jaguars secondary. The only thing that could hold Sanchez back in this matchup would be inclement playing conditions.
Mike Bell, RB, NO at STL
Meet the first of our repeat sleepers for Week 10. The New Orleans back has actually been moving steadily away from fantasy relevance, rushing for 49 yards on 17 carries in Week 8 before receiving just five carries last week. The difference here is that the Saints are battling the Rams, and Drew Brees and company won't be playing from behind in this one like they have been lately. The Saints see Bell as a "closer," wanting his fresh legs in the game in the second half to move the chains against tired defenses. That should be exactly what plays out this Sunday.
Laveranues Coles, WR, CIN at PIT
After Week 5, it was past time to give up on Coles. After all, Andre Caldwell (also a decent sleeper this week) had far more upside after a hot start to the season, and Coles had just 10 catches for the 4-1 Bengals. Why change a formula that's working? Over the past month, Coles has made the formula work for him. Despite receiving few looks, he caught touchdowns in back-to-back weeks before Cincinnati headed into a bye. Emerging in Week 9, Coles caught six balls for 72 yards, both season highs. With Chris Henry out, Coles should take on more of the workload moving forward.
A Good Night's Sleep
Mark Clayton, WR, BAL at CLE
In his first game against the Browns, Clayton totaled 50 yards. Cleveland hasn't become a better team since then, so I think we can call that the floor for Clayton this week. He's struggled the last two weeks against good secondaries (Denver and Cincinnati); again, no one would call the Cleveland secondary good. I'm thinking he gets his 50-60 yards and adds a trip to the end zone this time around while the defense concentrates on Derrick Mason. This makes Clayton a sneaky WR3 or flex play in Week 10.
Alex Smith, QB, SF vs. CHI
We had to take a Thursday night guy in honor of the first mid-week game of the season (discounting the Kickoff), because I wanted to make sure you knew to make lineup decisions on your 49ers and Bears early this week. Chicago comes away from Week 9 in tatters after a beatdown by the Arizona Cardinals. While Smith is no Kurt Warner, he should be able to take advantage of Chicago's secondary in a similar way. It'll take more than four days to fix what ails Chicago, and traveling west for a nationally-televised game isn't going to help. Smith should be a great QB2 play for you this week.
Justin Fargas, RB, OAK vs. KC
Is Darren McFadden coming back? Probably. Even though he was the No. 1 option in the running game over the first three weeks, he racked up just 196 total yards and one TD. Over Fargas's last three games, he's racked up 268 yards and a TD. Do you think Fargas could do better than 55 yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs? That's all McFadden was able to manage in Week 2. Yes, McFadden will be back, but I don't think it's going to matter, at least not this week. I see the coaches leaning on Fargas for the rest of the season and saving McFadden for 2010.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA vs. TB
Greg Camarillo, WR, MIA vs. TB
These two guys just combined for 127 yards on 11 catches against the Patriots. Take a second to soak that in. Following the demotion of Ted Ginn, Bess and Camarillo saw a quick bump in fantasy value. Bess finds his way onto a roster in many more leagues than Camarillo, but they hold similar value. The Buccaneers will spend a good portion of practice prepping for the wildcat look, and the two Miami wideouts should benefit.
Kolby Smith, RB, KC at OAK
Ever since the Larry Johnson escapade, I've been looking for a reason to be sold on Jamaal Charles. After all, he's a Texas alum. Yet the Chiefs have been very reluctant to give Charles a significant workload at any time, even when the perfect opportunity has presented itself. They haven't had that problem with Smith. Getting his legs back underneath him, Smith saw five touches to Charles's nine. I wouldn't be surprised to see them draw even this week. The Raiders haven't stopped anyone on the ground this season, so there's probably room for both in lineups.
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, DET at MIN
Limelight, meet Brandon Pettigrew. The rookie TE finally came through with a breakout game in Week 9, catching seven balls for 70 yards and a touchdown against Seattle. No one gets lit up by tight ends quite like Minnesota, as they've allowed 53 catches and 602 yards to the position (both league highs) as well as six TDs (tied for second behind these very Lions). The Lions need Pettigrew to emerge as a quality second option behind Calvin Johnson; otherwise, their offense can't move forward in the future. With so much invested on his progress, expect them to keep throwing the ball his way.
Chiefs Defense, TM, KC at OAK
There a good chance that the Chiefs defense is available in your league, and there's a good reason for it: they don't score many points. Much of the time with fantasy defenses, it's not how you've played, it's who you play next. For the Chiefs, they'll be looking to avenge an embarrassing loss to the Raiders in Week 10. Scoring should be low, and this could devolve into a contests between the kickers.
Sebastian Janikowski, PK, OAK vs. KC
Speaking of, might as well nab Janikowski while we're at it. The Chiefs are just one of two teams that have allowed 20 field goal attempts. Janikowski should be able to convert two or three FGs in this game, though he might not get the chance to hit any extra points. It bears noting that the Oakland kicker is perfect on the season thus far.