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Sleepers for Week 2

Sep 11, 2014

FootballGuysBob Henry breaks down his top sleeper picks for week 2.    

 

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This article takes a look at players from each of the positions in your starting lineup who have interesting matchups. Not all players covered are your classic sleepers who might outperform expectations. Some are nominal starters with tricky matchups or players who might be starters in larger leagues, but deep sleepers in smaller leagues. Realizing that leagues and roster sizes vary wildly; your mileage could vary, too.
 
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QUARTERBACKS

 

Andy Dalton, Cin vs. Atl

It’s a sign of the times when your quarterback throws for 301 yards and a touchdown, but doesn’t even finish among the top 12 players of the week. Dalton finished as QB16 last week, demonstrating the depth and quality of players at the position. He completed 66% of his passes and averaged a healthy 7.92 yards per attempt against what most expected to be a quality Ravens defense. This week, Dalton will be without Tyler Eifert (shoulder) but he faces a Falcons pass defense that wasn’t very good last year against the pass and they began this season by allowing 333 yards and a TD.

 

Jake Locker, Ten vs. Dal

Like Dalton, Colin Kaepernick finished last week as only QB17 despite completing 70% of his passes, averaging 8.74 YPA and throwing for 2 TDs and 201 yards. Both quarterbacks were efficient and (more importantly) winners. Kaepernick’s efficient performance came against a Cowboys defense that we’ve all pegged as a dream matchup this year after injuries and free agency took away the few defensive playmakers they had. Meanwhile, Locker looked good in the Titans opener – efficient, poised, patient. He did it against a shaky Chiefs secondary and I suspect he’ll continue to do more of the same this week in the Titans’ home opener.

 

Carson Palmer, Ari at NYG

The Giants are coming off a short week after being soundly beaten by Matthew Stafford and the high-powered Lions attack. Palmer finished as a top 4 QB in the opener leading the pass-happy Cardinals offense with 304 yards and a TD. Expect more of the same on the road this week. Palmer was tabbed by many pundits in the preseason as a nice sleeper and his schedule is shaping up nicely with several good-looking matchups.

 

Alex Smith, KC at Den

Smith didn’t look particularly good last week nor has he ever been confused for a strong-armed, aggressive downfield thrower. But he did have plenty of success against a below-average Bronco pass defense last year producing games of 293-2-1 for 26 points and 230-2-0 for 24 points. It was his 98 yards rushing in those two games that boosted his fantasy bottom line, but he still produced top-10 stats in those games. The Broncos allowed the 8th most points to QBs last year and in the opener they allowed the 2nd most points, thanks to Andrew Luck’s comeback attempt. He’s not a sexy pick, but he gets Dwayne Bowe back and Andy Reid should exercise his Game 1 demons with Jamaal Charles and get him more involved, too.

 

RUNNING BACKS

 

Terrance West, CLE vs. NO

With Ben Tate out this week with a knee sprain, Westdraws the start for the Browns with Isaiah Crowell as his change-of-pace. The Browns offensive line looked good last week as the offense took off in the second half gashing the Steelers defense for several big runs. West looked the part (and so did Crowell). The Saints were a quality run defense last year, but they began the 2014 season by allowing a combined 181 yards and 2 TDs to the Falcons running back foursome. West should be a trusted RB2 option this week in all formats. Crowell got the two touchdowns last week, but there is little evidence to suggest that he will be the team’s goal-line runner aside from the fact that he aced his first test in that capacity. Both backs are quality talents and the opportunity is a good one for West to take advantage.

 

Mark Ingram, NO at CLE

Ingram has been running angry since late last season. He performed well in the red zone scoring twice last week and he has even displayed some receiving skills during the preseason. He’s also in a contract year with a little added incentive. He’ll continue to lose touches to Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas, but as long as he has a decent shot of finding the end zone the he’ll be worth a shot as a RB2/flex. The Browns allowed two scores last week to La’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount along with a combined 207 yards. I like the Saints’ chances of playing with a lead in this game with Ingram as a benefactor with a few extra touches and better-than-average chance of getting into the end zone after scoring twice on Sunday.

 

Shonn Greene, Ten vs. Dal

Greene may be a plodder, but he runs hard and he executes the plays called and his assignments well. Against a Cowboy defense without Sean Lee, he should continue to do just that. Greene won’t catch many passes but he’s a good bet for another 15+ carries, 60+ yards and a better-than-average chance of crossing the goal line making him a poor man’s RB2 in deeper leagues or a reasonable flex in standard leagues.

 

Justin Forsett, BAL vs. Pit

With Ray Rice out of the picture and Bernard Pierce benched for fumbling last week, Forsett appears to be the first/next man up going into Thursday’s game against a Steeler defense that was put in their place by an upstart Browns running attack in the second half of their game on Sunday. Forsett has some three-down skills, but he’s been mostly a backup throughout his career, fighting for roster spots in his last couple of seasons. While we expect him to get the first crack this week, Pierce remains in the picture along with rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro. This could end up being a full-on committee approach for the Ravens making all three backs irrelevant, but we’ll give Forsett the nod this week. Just don’t expect a big box score as much as he could be a solid PPR flex if you’re in a pinch.

 

Chris Ivory, NYJ at GB

Ivory looked good in the opener and the Jets will continue to feed him the rock as the 1b to Chris Johnson’s 1a in their two-pronged rushing attack. The Packers run defense was easily one worth questioning heading into the season after they lost NT B.J. Raji for the season to injury. They allowed 207 yards rushing, 5.6 YPC and 2 touchdowns to the Seahawks last week. The Jets won’t maul them quite as much as the Seahawks, but they also play with a physical edge and Ivory should continue to see about 10 or so carries with an outside chance of breaking another long run or getting into the end zone.

 

Jeremy Hill, CIN vs. Atl

Hue Jackson chalked up last week’s distribution of carries to having more trust in Gio Bernard while not wanting to put too much onto Hill’s shoulders in his first game. He then asserted that going forward Hill will get more touches. The Falcons run defense has been gutted by injuries and they allowed 139 yards rushing, 3 TDs and 5 YPC to the Saints last week. It might be a bit early to take Jackson at his word after just four carries last week, but this rookie has a bunch of talent and I think we’ll see the Bengals try to play more of a possession game this week to control the clock, tempo and keep Matt Ryan off the field.

 

WIDE RECEIVERS

 

Justin Hunter, Ten vs. Dal

It’s like Déjà vu when you get to this section of the article because Hunter and four other receivers return for the second straight week after producing in Week 1. All of them continue to have decent matchups and their play in the opener is enough to secure another shot. Hunter has as much upside as any receiver in this section and he draws an extremely vulnerable Cowboy defense that was abused last week by the old bully himself – AnquanBoldin. Hunter’s game is much different, of course, but he remains the headliner in this group with Jake Locker playing well and having confident in Hunter by throwing it to him frequently and even when he’s covered. Look for Hunter to possibly break out with a long TD or some more big plays against the Cowboys.

 

Brandin Cooks, NO at Cle

Cooks didn’t disappoint in his first game as a pro catching seven passes for 77 yards and a TD while adding another 18 yards on the ground. He will probably draw an advantageous matchup this week, too, with Joe Haden more likely to be in coverage against Marques Colston allowing him to pair up with rookie Justin Gilbert, who has been torched throughout the preseason and again last week by Cooks’ former college teammate Markus Wheaton.

 

Andrew Hawkins, CLE vs. NO

The Browns will have a difficult time keeping pace with the Saints this week without throwing the ball around the yard a bit. While Jordan Cameron (shoulder) appears to be on target to play, Hawkins is clearly Brian Hoyer’s top target in the passing game. The Saints allowed a ridiculous 23-356-1 line to the Falcons receivers with Devin Hester and Harry Douglas eating up catches underneath as they mounted their second half comeback. Hawkins caught 8 of his 10 targets in the opener and he’s a good bet to continue seeing a steady stream of targets in this good all-around matchup.

 

Rod Streator, OAK vs. Hou

Streator, like Hawkins and Cooks above, were both featured in this article last week and all three players came through with strong games. While James Jones was dubbed the Raiders #1 receiver after signing as a free agent, it’s Streator that has more of my attention. He’s been a steady, consistent producer for the Raiders since donning the Silver and Black. The Texans secondary is their defensive weakness and Streator is the receiver that I expect to be the most consistently productive threat on this Raider team.

 

Mike Evans, TB vs. Stl

The Rams struggled to contain Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings last week as they each scored and combined for 186 yards receiving/rushing. The Bucs never got their passing game going as the Panthers front seven manhandled their offensive line. The Rams front four is about as good as any in the league, but they’ll be without DE Chris Long this week and Evans is a prime candidate for more targets and perhaps a few down the field for some big chunk plays as well. He’s a mismatch in the making who should see his fair share of single coverage playing opposite Vincent Jackson.

 

Allen Hurns, Jac at WAS

A week after going for 4-110-2 in his first NFL game, Hurns was likely the #1 waiver wire pickup in most leagues. If you’re thinking that Hurns might be another Kevin Ogletree or Eddie Royal, I’m not. Hurns has the most experience and knowledge of OC JeddFisch’s offense having played for him as a Miami Hurricane. Hurns also has a good chance to continue in the starting lineup. Cecil Shorts returned to practice on Wednesday, but Marqise Lee pulled a hamstring and was unable to finish. Hurns flashed throughout the preseason playing against the 1s and 2s and working with both Chad Henne and Blake Bortles. He’s legit as an NFL receiver and the Redskins are a decent matchup. Both Texans receivers produced good games against them last week and Hurns is on a roll. Don’t be afraid to jump on this train and ride him while he’s hot.

 

Robert Woods, BUF vs. Mia

Sammy Watkins gets all the hype, and deservedly so, but Woods is also a player worth rostering and even starting in deeper PPR leagues. Woods is seeing plenty of targets and he seems to have a decent rapport with E.J. Manuel. He was targeted six times for four catches and 78 yards against the Bears. The Bills don’t really have a dynamic offense, though, so there’s less upside with Woods as other receivers listed above.

 

Mohamed Sanu, CIN vs. Atl

The Falcons defense looks like it will struggle once again this year against the pass although getting beaten by a strong group of Saints receivers and Drew Brees isn’t anything to hang your head in shame over. Sanu caught four balls for 36 yards on five targets last week, but I like Andy Dalton and the entire Bengals offense this week in this matchup. Sanu is mostly a possession receiver, but he’s also known for trick plays because of his versatility. Don’t be surprised to see Sanu strike pay dirt with one of those big plays this week.

 

Brian Quick, Stl at TB

It’s hard to go all-in on any of the Rams receivers without seeing more from Shaun Hill or Austin Davis, but Quick turned in a strong week 1 effort almost breaking the 100-yard mark with seven catches on nine targets. Quick was utilized all over the field and his strong week one production comes on top of a strong preseason. The coaches have raved about his improvement all offseason, but we’ve been reticent to believe all the hype. At this point, he’s well worth a shot in deeper leagues, but I’d wait to see more out of their quarterback(s) before using him in standard leagues.

 

TIGHT ENDS

 

Zach Ertz, Phi at Ind

Even though we’ve played just one regular season game, it’s enough to realize that the coach speak we heard during the offseason about Ertz’s red zone usage is playing out just as suggested. Ertz caught a touchdown in the opener and he gets a Colts defense this week that just gave up 100+ yards and three touchdowns to Julius Thomas. Ertz looks like the Eagles top target in the red zone and he’s arguably the tight end with the most upside that began the season with an ADP/rank outside the top ten.

 

Larry Donnell, NYG vs. Ari

The long line of Eli Manning-produced fantasy tight ends began a new chapter last week. Larry Donnell emerged from the wide-open competition during the preseason as the Giants starter. He was targeted a team-high 8 times for 5-56-1 against the Lions, prompting calls from Rueben Randle and Victor Cruz to get more balls thrown their way going forward, essentially calling out Donnell as a non-playmaker while anointing themselves as such. We’ll see if it happens. Eli has always relied on his tight ends and he’s still trying to find his comfort zone in Ben McAdoo’s newly installed West Coast-based offense. The Cardinals were abysmal against TEs last year and they allowed 8-105-0 on Monday night. Donnell might not be a bad play as a flex/TE2 in PPR leagues after all.

 

Travis Kelce, KC at Den

Maybe Andy Reid learned some valuable lessons that we as fantasy owners hold dear – always play your studs. Beyond getting Jamal Charles involved, Kelce continues to flash his immense talent on a weekly basis. Logical coaching would lead to an increased role, but we have no real reason to think that will happen overnight. The Broncos allowed a 7-85-1 combined line to Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleenor last week. Dwayne Bowe’s return means fewer potential targets for Kelce, but he is arguably already the Chiefs’ second most dangerous weaponand this game should feature plenty of passing for Alex Smith.

 

Jermaine Gresham, CIN vs. Atl

With Tyler Eifert out for the first half of the season, Gresham’s targets and fantasy value get a slight, but immediate bump. The Falcons defense will be keying on A.J. Green as well as their two-headed running attack leaving Gresham as a nice sleeper option for Dalton in the middle of the field and as a sneaky red zone target.

 

Levine Toilolo, Atl at Cin

Toilolo isn’t much of an option in standard leagues, but he already caught a touchdown in the opener and he was targeted a reasonable six times lining up both in-line and as a move tight end similar to Tony Gonzalez’s former role. He also faces a Bengals defense that gave up 14 catches for 117 yards to Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels. Toilolo won’t be used in the same fashion as a tight end in a Gary Kubiak offense, but he could easily catch another 4-to-6 balls and remain a viable target for Matt Ryan in the red zone.

 

Niles Paul, WAS vs. Jac

Consider this a pre-emptive call out for Paul if Jordan Reed (hamstring) is unable to go. The Jaguars allowed a 6-92-1 to the Zach Ertz/Brent Celek and Paul is expected to play an expanded role in the event that Reed can’t go. If that’s the case, keep Paul on speed dial in deeper leagues as a waiver wire pick up and play option.

 

DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS

 

Tennessee vs. Dallas

The Titans defense gave Alex Smith fits last week, sacking him four times and intercepting three times. The Cowboys have more fire power offensively than the Chiefs, but Romo is far more likely to commit turnovers than Smith and he played poorly in the opener as the 49ers returned a fumble for a touchdown and picked off three of Romo’s offerings to boot.

 

Arizona at NY Giants

Last week, seven of the top 10 scoring defenses were teams that played on the road. The Cardinals defense lost a ton of firepower during the offseason and they lost their best pass rusher (John Abraham) to a concussion on Monday night. The cupboard would appear to be getting bare for Arizona, but they do have a strong matchup against a flailing Giants passing attack. Eli Manning is playing like he’s washed up and the offensive line can’t seem to stop the bleeding. The Cardinals might lay an egg traveling across country on a short week, but until Eli and his receivers demonstrate they are on the same page and this offense operates more effectively, even this depleted Cardinals defense could make some noise.

 

Green Bay vs. NY Jets

If you believe in the old “up/down” NFL theory, then the Packers are a prime candidate test it out this week. After a stinging, humiliating loss to the Seahawks on the road, they return home to face a Jets team that beat up on a weak Raiders team that traveled across the country. The Packers can generate plenty of pressure and Geno Smith, while improved and he played well last week, remains a suspect road quarterback. The Packers will need to stop the run first, and that’ll be a challenge, but if they can jump out to an early lead and make the Jets play from behind then Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews and company should generate some sacks and turnovers.

 

Houston at Oakland

Derek Carr actually played reasonably well in his first NFL start with a pair of touchdown passes and no turnovers, but the Raiders only totaled 158 yards and scored just 14 points against the Jets. The Texans lost top pick Jadeveon Clowney to a torn meniscus, but they still have enough to pressure Carr and be one of the better overall plays this week against this Raiders offensive line after shutting down the Redskins in the opener.

 

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