Our weekly rankings are in the process of being updated, and will once again provide you with a dependable resource to make those difficult lineup decisions. Here is a look at some additional players that I believe could help you this week, if you are inclined to utilize sleepers in your starting lineups.
Carson Palmer at Eagles
After managing just eight TD passes with 13 INTs in his first seven games as a Cardinal, Palmer has helped revive the team’s aerial attack during the past four weeks. He has thrown eight more scoring passes during that span, by producing two in each of those contests. He has only served up two INTs during that time, ose contests, and has averaged 325 YPG in Arizona’s last three games. Now, he will face a Philadelphia pass defense that ranks dead last, while allowing an even 3000 YPG. While the Eagles have had an additional week to prepare for the matchup, the Cardinals possess enough weapons for Palmer to continue his recent surge. He has done an excellent job of involving Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and Rob Housler as part of Bruce Arians’ highly coveted vertical attack. That process should continue. So should his viability as an alternative for owners in their drive for the fantasy playoffs.
Ryan Tannehill at Jets
His second season has been largely disappointing. But the second-year signal caller has a genuine opportunity to provide owners in deeper leagues with favorable numbers this week. While the Jets remain highly formidable versus the run, they have encountered extreme difficulty containing opposing aerial assaults, and have now plunged to 23rd against the pass. They surrendered a 66-yard TD to Jacoby Jones last Sunday, which continued a recent trend. In Week 11, Gang Green’s secondary was burned by T. J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin for 34 and 43 yard scores respectively. While the 51-yard score that they yielded to Jimmy Graham in Week 10 is more understandable, the four TDs that they allowed to Andy Dalton and Marvin Jones in Week 9 are not. The complete list of big scoring plays through the air is much longer, as the Jets have now surrendered 20 for the season. Miami should be the latest team to eschew ill-fated attempts to run the ball, in lieu of opportunities to attack the Jets’ clear weakness. The oft-criticized Mike Wallace should find success getting behind this unit, and If Tannehill can launch the ball with accurately, then the tandem will generate several mammoth connections. Plus, Rishard Matthews will find space while operating in the slot. All of which will enable owners in 2 QB leagues who are searching for a second option, to reap the benefits of Tannehill’s enticing matchup.
Benny Cunningham at 49ers
He was thrust into an expanded role when fellow rookie Zac Stacy suffered a concussion against Chicago. Stacy had already gouged the Bears’ highly vulnerable run defense for 87 yards on a mere 12 attempts before being forced to the sidelines in the second quarter. But the St. Louis ground game continued its relentless accumulation of yardage, as Cunningham amassed 109 yards and his first career TD on 13 attempts (8.4 YPG). While Cunningham’s value this week is vastly dependent upon Stacy’s ability to progress through the league’s concussion protocol, he has demonstrated the ability to generate favorable results when he is provided with the opportunity. The Rams’ fortunes improved significantly this season, once Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer chose to rely heavily upon establishing their ground game. That will supply Cunningham with an abundance of carries, should Stacy be unable to perform. Even though San Francisco’s 12th ranked run defense does not provide the easiest matchup, that should not prohibit you from starting Cunningham, if the Rams do.
Dennis Johnson vs. Patriots
Johnson entered Houston’s Week 12 matchup with Jacksonville after Ben Tate had managed all of one yard on his first seven attempts. The rookie took full advantage of a career high 13 carries, by gashing the Jaguars for 74 yards. It was easily the best game of Johnson’s brief career, as he did not even garner his first touch until Week 9. Not only did he have an initial burst that exceeded anything that Tate had exhibited, but he also ran with a purpose that appeared to provide the Texans with a much needed spark. Houston’s highly unexpected nine game losing streak has sent the team’s season spiraling downward at an accelerated rate. At this point, the Texans’ decision makers should have a thorough understanding of what they have in Tate both for better and for worse. As a result, it makes complete sense to supply Johnson with an expansive workload, so that it can be determined whether he can be an effective contributor in the future. That vaults him into sleeper consideration for this week’s matchup versus New England’s 31sth ranked run defense.
Michael Crabtree vs. Rams
Just as Colin Kaepernick’s ascension into the starting lineup propelled Crabtree’s production and fantasy value to unprecedented levels last season, the fifth-year wideout now has the opportunity to awaken San Francisco’s ranked 32nd ranked passing attack, while reestablishing himself as a must start WR in the process. 595 of the 1,105 yards that Crabtree amassed last season were generated through connections with Kaepernick during the final seven weeks of the regular season, then Crabtree collected 20 more receptions for 285 yards and three TDs in the 49ers’ three postseason contests. The torn Achilles’ tendon that he suffered in late May delayed the opportunity for this duo to provide a repeat performance in 2013, but with Crabtree about to be activated from the physically unable to perform list, the fortunes of both players and their owners is about to change. While there is the possibility that Crabtree will be eased into the lineup during this week’s matchup with St. Louis, it is just as likely that he will be allotted enough snaps to be effective. That would provide him with sufficient opportunities to exploit the Rams’ 22nd ranked pass defense that has already yielded 20 TDs.
Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Bears
After receiving 28 targets through the first 10 games of the season, the rookie has garnered 20 in the past two weeks. 11 of those occurred in Week 12, and he took advantage of the sustained opportunities to establish new career highs in receptions (eight) and yardage (54). He also narrowly missed collecting a game-winning TD during overtime when he failed to coral a throw into the back of the end zone. While he has not exploded for significant production as a result of the enhanced targeting, he certainly possesses the speed to burn opposing defenders, and generate big plays. He is certainly a high risk start until he displays the ability to capitalize on his chances with greater frequency. But he should be target repeatedly once again against Chicago, and his abundant natural ability could deliver substantial rewards.
Marquise Goodwin vs. Falcons
Goodwin is an incredible athlete who captured two national long jump championships as a collegian, and represented the United States in that event during the 2012 Olympics. He also possesses blazing speed, as his 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine will attest. After receiving just four targets through the first seven games of the season, he has garnered 22 during Buffalo’s last four games. As a result, the rookie has accumulated at least 56 yards in three of those contests, accentuated by the season best 81 that he amassed in Week 11. He also collected six passes, and exploded for an 81-yard TD. That was his first opportunity as a starter, due to the collective absence of Steve Johnson and Robert Woods. Even though Johnson and Woods appear poised to return for the Bills on Sunday, Goodwin’s potential to blow by defenders will keep him involved within the strategic approach. While he still might split snaps with Woods, his big play ability could provide dividends versus an Atlanta pass defense that has surrendered 23 TDs.
Ladarius Green vs. Bengals
The second-year TE entered Week 12 having accumulated just 11 catches all season. However, he did so amid an undercurrent of discussion that he had the potential to explode at any time. That certainly occurred in Kansas City, as he bolted for 80 yards on three receptions. Even though it was the second straight week that Green has manufactured at least 80 yards, it was his exceptional catch and run through the Chiefs for a 60-yard TD that should now firmly entrench him into the fantasy landscape. There is risk in employing Green in your lineups, because Antonio Gates is San Diego’s most targeted receiver, and justifiably remains a vital component within the Chargers’ attack. However, Green is not your standard backup TE. He provides Rivers with a 6’6”, 240 pound target, who can utilize his blazing speed to explode beyond overmatched defenders for sizable yardage. Owners who are consistently frustrated with their production at the TE position can consider Green week, providing that his high risk/high reward status is taken into account.
Timothy Wright at Panthers
The rookie appeared in this column earlier this season, when he became an emerging factor within Tampa Bay’s passing attack. But after he garnered 16 targets between Weeks 4-8, his role had diminished to the point that Mike Glennon only threw three passes toward him in Weeks 10 and 11 combined. However, he easily led the Buccaneers in that category during their Week 12 win at Detroit, which enabled him to collect a season eight receptions for 75 yards. While Tiquan Underwood led Tampa Bay in receiving yards, the belief from here is that Wright is the more likely candidate to be Glennon’s second option behind Vincent Jackson when the Bucs travel to Carolina. The Panthers’ have stifled opposing rushers, which will force Tampa Bay to the air. Where Carolina has been slightly more susceptible toward allowing fantasy points TEs than they have to WRs.