Now that we’ve finished processing the various performances of Week 8, it is time to examine the Week 9 sleepers in fantasy football. They have not previously appeared in your starting lineups, but could now provide a scoring boost if you use them this week.
As always, this week’s sleepers are players that were either drafted toward the latter half of your fantasy drafts, or spent time residing on your league's waiver wires until this week. Either way, a combination of their ability, and their specific matchups, has propelled them into a position to enhance your scoring total should you decide to start them.
With that, here are the sleepers for Week 9:
Carson Palmer vs. Buccaneers
The decision by Oakland’s HC Dennis Allen and OC Greg Knapp to transition from a blocking system that helped fuel a very successful rushing attack, to a system that ignores the strengths of Darren McFadden and his offensive line, has frequently stifled the Raiders’ rushing attack, and created an extensive reliance upon Palmer and the passing game. As a result, he has averaged nearly 38 attempts per game, while generating 1,941 yards and nine TDs. Now, he will line up against a Buccaneer defense that enters the contest with 10 days of rest. However, Tampa Bay’s two best corners now both sidelined due to suspensions, and their 31st ranked pass defense is permitting 310 YPG. Palmer should be able to locate Denarius Moore and his other preferred targets with regularity, and exceed 300 yards for the third time this season.
Brandon Weeden vs. Ravens
Weeden makes another appearance in this column, so that owners avoid an overreaction to his output in week 8, and focus instead on his steady development throughout the season. He generated the sixth highest yardage total among all QBs from Weeks 5-7 (786), and also produced at least 230 from Weeks 2-7. His production had elevated him into the top 10 in yardage for the season, prior to a temporary setback last week that was fueled by inclement weather, and multiple drops by his receivers. He will now matchup with a Baltimore unit that has experienced a sizable decline this season, which was accelerated by the season ending injury to shutdown corner Lardarius Webb. The 24th ranked Ravens pass defense is now extremely vulnerable, and Weeden should throw for at least 250 yards, along with multiple TDs.
Pierre Thomas vs. Eagles
Darren Sproles' hand injury has elevated Thomas into a much higher level of relevancy for his Monday Night matchup. He has been reasonably productive with the chances that he has been given thus far, leading the Saints in rushing with 257 yards on 58 carries (4.4 YPC), while also accumulating 145 yards on 15 receptions. But his touches and overall production should increase considerably this week, even if Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory also have their collective roles expand. Particularly if Thomas is utilized more frequently as a receiver, assuming some of the role that Sproles has garnered while collecting 39 passes from Drew Brees. Thomas has now vaulted from a reasonable flex option into a solid RB2, and all fantasy owners who have him should start him without reservation.
Isaac Redman vs. Giants
He appears set to return after missing the past two games with a high ankle sprain. Blend that with the fact that both Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer are considered doubtful, and the result is an excellent chance that Redman will assemble respectable numbers. Which makes him a viable option for any owners who have been scurrying to find a back for this week's lineup. He has only manufactured 127 yards with the 50 attempts that he has been allotted this season (2.7 YPC). Although he has added 150 yards with his 10 receptions, which was fueled by a 55-yard catch at Tennessee. Thomas is a better roster addition than Redman if both are somehow still available in your leagues. But Redman will provide a flex option who can deliver some points.
It has been somewhat of a statistical roller coaster ride for Thomas, along with any fantasy owners who have included him on their rosters at any point along the way. He has also suffered two concussions, which forced him to miss action in Week 2 and Week 6, yet he has also garnered double digit carries in three contests. That includes Week 8, when he manufactured 42 yards with his 15 attempts (2.8 YPC), and scored for the third time this year. His YPC will remain unimpressive for the remainder of the season, but he has secured a role as Miami’s short yardage back. Plus, his value becomes enhanced because of the opportunities that he is supplied with near the goal line, and he should continue to pilfer TDs from Reggie Bush.
Dexter McCluster @ Chargers
I actually stashed McCluster on several rosters last week, because it was clear that the Chiefs’ decision makers simply had to inject some octane into their disappointing offense. That meant increased employment of the shifty McCluster, who could then provide relief to either of Kansas City’s beleaguered QBs. That remains the case again this week in San Diego, as the Chiefs should be desperate to instill some form of life into their attack, which averages just 17 PPG. 12 of McCluster’s 27 receptions have occurred in the past two games, and he has amassed 93 yards and his lone TD of the season during that span. He might be listed as a RB in your league, or as a WR, or possibly both. Regardless, he should deliver fantasy points to those who need a flex.
He was listed among WR sleepers last week, yet he somehow remains available on many waivers wires. While Maurice Jones-Drew’s foot injury and Rashard Jennings’ subsequent ascension into fantasy relevance had previously been the only noteworthy stories that were associated with Jacksonville’s undistinguished offense this season, Shorts has suddenly emerged as an explosive and consistent playmaker. Which has also made him a legitimate option for fantasy owners in the process. In two games since his insertion into the starting lineup, Shorts has been targeted a whopping 22 times. That has enabled him to collect 12 receptions from quarterback Blaine Gabbert, while amassing 195 yards and a TD. He should remain Gabbert’s preferred choice against Detroit, because he is easily their most reliable option.
Dallas Clark @ Raiders
After five games this season, Clark only collected nine catches on 14 targets. But in the past two contests, he has garnered eight receptions and nine targets. 91 of the 172 yards that he has amassed this year were also accumulated in those last two matchups versus New Orleans and Minnesota. Plus, he scored for the time this year against the Saints. His recent momentum should continue in Oakland, where the Raiders have surrendered 246 YPG this season, and rank 20th versus the pass. They have permitted opposing TEs to amass 35 catches and five TDs this season. Plus, they yielded a combined 75 yards on seven receptions to Kansas City’s Tony Moeaki and Jake O’Connell in week 8. Clark is a safe play, who should supply owners will respectable numbers.
Logan Paulsen vs. Carolina Panthers
He had garnered a grand total of three targets during Washington's initial six contests this season. But the season ending injury to Fred Davis elevated Paulsen into a prominent role within the Redskins' offensive strategy. As a result, he has accumulated 12 targets in his two most recent games, and has taken full advantage of newfound opportunities by catching eight of those passes for 139 yards. Not too bad for a third year TE who had only manufactured 170 yards since his arrival in 2010. While RG3 will utilize all of his weapons, Paulsen will remain in the mix, and should collect enough receptions to make him an alternative to those seeking TE help.
Lions @ Jaguars
Detroit is yielding just 136.5 YPG on the road which is actually over 100 yards less per game than what they have permitted during their three home contests (247.5). But of course, much of the appeal regarding this matchup concerns the through ineptness of Jacksonville’s offense, beyond the emerging Cecil Shorts. Their dubious resume includes a ranking of dead last in scoring (14.7 PPG), also being the NFL’s worst in passing (164 YPG), and 27th in rushing (87 YPG). The Lions have generated 17 sacks, and their pressure should get to Blaine Gabbert both physically and mentally. Expect Detroit to collect a reasonable number of fantasy points, and become a viable option for owners this week.