Our weekly rankings have just been updated. And as always, they will provide you with a dependable resource to help with those difficult lineup decisions. Here is a look at some additional players that I believe could provide you with high quality production this week, if you are inclined to utilize sleepers in your starting lineups. For a look at defenses to grab from your waiver wire check out my column here.
Carson Palmer vs. Falcons
He was supposed to invigorate an Arizona passing attack that ranked 28th in 2012, while averaging only 188 YPG. But Palmer has manufactured just eight TD passes, while tossing 13 INTs in his first seven games as a Cardinal. However, the former Bengal and Raider, who was selected first overall in the 2003 NFL Draft, is currently 12th among all QBs with 1,741 passing yards. And there are legitimate reasons to believe that Palmer will deliver very favorable results this week. He will face Atlanta’s 23rd ranked pass defense, which has already surrendered 14 TDs. While Palmer's deficient offensive line has been an ongoing issue, the Falcons do not possess a formidable pass rush, having generated only 14 sacks all season. Palmer is currently available in an incredibly high 91% of all ESPN leagues. With Philip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, and Joe Flacco on their byes, and Jay Cutler now unavailable for the foreseeable future, Palmer could help needy owners both this week, and in the weeks ahead.
Christian Ponder vs. Packers
During a week in which several potential sleepers have their bye weeks, a very thin pool of signal callers who qualify in that category actually includes Ponder. He is not normally a QB that elicits positive analysis in this or any other column. And he is the same guy who was reduced to the role of spectator while both Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman performed under center. But there are a convergence of factors that could enable the former first-round draft pick to deliver a respectable performance, and help owners who are beset by QB issues this week. Particularly for those who reside in deeper leagues, and are in massive need of a second signal caller. In the aftermath of last Monday loss, which can charitably be characterized as a debacle, Freeman chucked up 53 errant passes, while our planet’s best RB was relegated to blocking for him. It is highly unlikely that the Vikings will replicate a pass heavy game plan, lest they risk a borderline riot from the home crowd. Instead, I expect OC Bill Musgrave to rely heavily upon said RB (Adrian Peterson). In hopes that an established ground game can set up Ponder for short throws to what should be an extremely motivated Greg Jennings, along with Jerome Simpson. Then Ponder’s arsenal of weaponry will have the opportunity to turn those tosses into long gains. That is how Minnesota generated their scoring in Week 4, when the team captured its lone victory of the year. Also, it should be noted that Ponder generated 234 yards, three TDs and no INTs in his last encounter with Green Bay during Week 17 of the 2012 regular season. Again, this is not to suggest that Ponder is anything more than a potential QB2. But he can supply owners with an alternative in a week that includes six byes. Particularly in deeper leagues.
Mike James vs. Panthers
When Doug Martin’s shoulder injury forced him to the sideline in Week 7, James was suddenly thrust into his first significant workload of his career. The rookie amassed 45 yards on 15 carries (3.2 YPC), and collected three receptions for eight yards against Atlanta. He will receive his first career start on Thursday Night, although he must navigate through Carolina’s fourth ranked rush defense. Still, he will have a sizable opportunity to generate yardage, and should be the ultimate enticement among RBs on this week’s waiver wire. If you are among those who is successful in securing him, it is important to remember that James does not necessarily offer eye-opening talent, and nobody will confuse the Buccaneers’ offense with the NFL’s more prolific units. But he should be performing as a feature back. And fantasy owners are not often supplied with an opportunity to add an RB who is garnering a sizable number of touches at this point of the season.
Chris Ivory at Bengals
From 2010-2012, Ivory exhibited an impressive combination of speed and power while receiving an underwhelming workload with New Orleans. But it appeared that he had been provided with a long awaited opportunity to excel when the Jets signed him last March. Unfortunately, the former Saint entered Week 7 with a total of 34 rushing attempts this season, and just 12 since Week 2. But that total doubled after he was allotted 34 carries during the Jets’ matchup with New England. He responded by manufacturing 104 yards, which was his highest output since the 2011 regular season. His expansive opportunity came at the expense of Bilal Powell, who had accumulated 87 carries through six contests, but only ran three times for a meager six yards last Sunday. Ivory’s unimpressive 3.1 YPC last Sunday should be noted. And he may not garner such a hefty percentage of touches against the Bengals. But it is likely that he earned enough carries to supply owners with a feasible option for this week’s lineup.
Roy Helu at Broncos
Alfred Morris received a season high 18 carries in Week 7, and generated 95 yards. But despite his productive outing, his owners were forced to endure the reality of Helu pilfering a trio of TDs that could easily have been added to Morris' point total. While that established a career high that is unlikely to be matched anytime soon by Helu, he has amassed 40+ yards in three consecutive games. Plus, he has averaged 10 rushing attempts during that span, which has thrust him into relevance as a feasible RB3 or flex option. The Redskins should move the ball consistently against Denver, and will need to score with frequency in order to remain competitive. That increases the likelihood that Helu will be deployed for red zone carries, and as a receiver. All of which makes him an appealing sleeper.
Percy Harvin at Rams
His inclusion is based upon reports that he could be activated from the physically unable to perform list this week. The Seahawks have three weeks to execute that maneuver, and certainly do not need to rush him back for Monday’s matchup with the Rams. However, nobody who is associated with the team has ruled out that possibility. Harvin has missed the past few months due to surgery that repaired a torn labrum, and his recovery time was originally described as six to eight months. But he is well ahead of schedule. And if he is able to practice at full speed, and can demonstrate that his timing and health have both been regained, then he could be in the lineup this week. Seattle will perform on Monday Night, which complicates any decision to start him. But anyone who has stashed him could soon reap the benefits of having a high end WR2, who has the potential to be even more. But it is essential that Harvin’s status be monitored intensely as the weekend approaches.
Marvin Jones vs. Jets
The second-year WR failed to generate 40 yards in Cincinnati’s initial five contests, and never exceeded three catches in any of those games. But he has assumed an expanding role within the Bengals’ offense during the past two weeks, with 11 of the 23 targets that he has received this season occurring during that span. He has responded by collecting seven of those throws, and accumulating 128 yards. Most importantly, he scored in each contest, while providing Andy Dalton with an additional weapon that the Bengals have desperately needed to complement the highly productive A. J. Green. Mohamed Sanu only received two targets last Sunday while Jones appears to have emerged as Cincy’s second No. 2 WR. He is also a viable WR3 this week, for owners who are scrambling due to injuries and bye weeks.
Ben Watson vs. Bills
Yes, that Ben Watson. The former Patriot and Brown, who has resurfaced with New Orleans, while making only modest contributions to the Saints’ high octane attack. But the 10-year veteran might ascend into fantasy relevance, if Jimmy Graham’s foot injury negates his ability to perform against Buffalo this week. Watson certainly cannot replicate the unique skills that Graham has delivered while repositioning how we value TEs. But he could be productive if Graham is unable to line up on Sunday, as Drew Brees would target him repeatedly within the framework of Sean Payton’s strategic approach. Graham’s status should be monitored as we progress toward game time. But his owners should strongly consider adding Watson as an insurance policy, who could be utilized instantly if events warrant.
Rob Housler vs. Falcons
While he has only received 17 targets this season, 12 of those have taken place in Arizona’s last two contests. That includes the season high seven passes that Palmer launched in his direction during the Cardinals’ Week 7 matchup with Seattle. Housler responded by collecting all of those passes, amassing 53 yards, and establishing new season highs in both categories. Even though Larry Fitzgerald will command most of Palmer’s attention, and Michael Floyd will also be targeted extensively, Housler now possesses a legitimate opportunity to maintain a consistent role in Bruce Arians’ offensive approach. Particularly since the team’s 26th ranked running game appears destined for perpetual struggles. For those of you who owned Jermichael Finley, or are searching for a bye week replacement, Housler has now become a feasible option.