You guys and gals know the drill by now. Here are a dozen possible sleepers – some of them deeper than others – for this weekend’s 14-game slate. Two teams are on their bye weeks: the Panthers and Packers.
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Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Vikings: The Vikings, Redskins, and Packers have allowed the most touchdown passes in the league through three weeks. All three defenses have allowed eight touchdowns through the air. The Vikings have surrendered the fifth-most passing yards. They also haven’t been getting to the quarterback. Big Ben threw for 406 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 9.9 YPA last week against the Bears. The Steelers are getting Le’Veon Bell back from a foot injury this week. If Bell can pick up some yards on the ground, it should help open up additional passing lanes for Roethlisberger. Big Ben is a high-end QB2 this week. Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers are on their bye weeks.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco vs. Bills: Flacco is right there with Roethlisberger this week. Both are high-end QB2s with potential to be quality spot-start options. The Bills remain severely banged up in the secondary. Stephon Gilmore (wrist) is out, while Jairus Byrd (plantar fasciitis) and Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) aren’t 100 percent and may not even play. Look for Flacco to take plenty of shots to Torrey Smith against Justin Rogers, Ron Brooks, and company. Smith could post a monster stat line and finally secure his first touchdown of the season. Watch out.
Chiefs QB Alex Smith vs. Giants: I wouldn’t start the master of the check down unless I was completely desperate, but Smith does have a favorable matchup. The Giants have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Top cornerback Corey Webster is battling a hip injury and may not suit up for the second week in a row. Look for Smith to pepper Jamaal Charles with targets out of the backfield. Hopefully for Dwayne Bowe owners, Smith will get the big-money receiver more involved this week. Smith isn’t a start-able option in standard 10- and 12-team leagues, but he’s on the 2QB league radar in Week 4.
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Saints RB Pierre Thomas vs. Dolphins: Thomas has taken control of early-down work in the New Orleans backfield. Mark Ingram is no longer a factor. On top of that, Ingram is dealing with a toe injury. Thomas is also catching passes out of the backfield. He’s on pace to set a new career-high in receptions. The Dolphins are banged up on defense. Stud nose tackle Paul Soliai is battling a knee injury. Cameron Wake also has a balky knee. All three starting linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi, and Phillip Wheeler left last week’s game against the Falcons with injuries. Thomas is squarely on the flex radar along with guys like Daryl Richardson, Rashard Mendenhall, and Ahmad Bradshaw.
Chargers RB Danny Woodhead vs. Cowboys: After touching the ball just two times in the season opener, Woodhead has seen 29 touches the past two weeks. He’s passed Ronnie Brown on the depth chart as the main passing-down back. Woodhead saw a team-high eight targets last week. The Cowboys have allowed opposing running backs to catch 21 passes through three games. That’s the third-most in the league. Ryan Mathews doesn’t play third downs. Woodhead will be a strong flex play in PPR this week.
Eagles RB Bryce Brown vs. Broncos: This one is more of a shot in the dark. Brown has seen just 15 carries in three games. He hasn’t been on the field much, surprisingly. The Broncos and Eagles are one-two in total offensive yards after three weeks. This has potential to be a high-scoring affair. LeSean McCoy tweaked his ankle last Thursday against the Chiefs, so it could give the Eagles’ coaching staff a reason to give Brown a few more reps. Brown is a natural pass catcher and also possesses plenty of shakes and agility. The Broncos have been stout against the run, but they’re allowing backs to catch passes and find the end zone. Denver has surrendered three touchdowns -- the most in the league -- to running backs through the air. Brown isn’t a recommended start, but he could come back to life this week.
Cardinals WR Michael Floyd vs. Bucs: Floyd has yet to find the end zone this season, while he also hasn’t topped more than four catches in a game through three weeks. However, the second-year pro has seen six targets inside the opponent’s ten-yard line. Floyd is due for a breakout. With Larry Fitzgerald likely to see a lot of Darrelle Revis, Floyd and Andre Roberts will be working against Leonard Johnson and Johnthan Banks for much of the afternoon. Floyd will be up against the rookie Banks more often than not. He’ll be a borderline WR3/4 this week.
Raiders WR Rod Streater vs. Redskins: Streater has posted back-to-back three-catch and 42-yard efforts. He saw four targets in each of those games after seeing eight balls come his way in the season opener. I like his chances of seeing 7-10 targets this week against a soft Redskins defense. Washington allowed a ton of space behind the linebackers and in front of the defensive backs in last week’s loss to the Lions. That’s the area of the field Streater thrives. His game won’t change much even if Matt Flynn ends up getting the start in place of Terrelle Pryor (concussion). Flynn has a pop-gun arm that can’t push the ball down the field. Pryor looks like he’s on track to start, however. Nate Burleson shredded the Redskins for 116 yards on six catches last week. Washington can’t stop anyone. Streater will be a decent WR4/5 play.
Bills WR Robert Woods vs. Ravens: The Ravens are one of nine teams that have allowed five touchdowns through the air to opposing wide receivers. That’s the most in the league. Baltimore’s secondary is its weakness. Woods plays every down. He’s missed just six snaps this season. The rookie’s targets have steadily increased from two to six to nine over the season’s first three weeks. Woods quickly and easily passed T.J. Graham on the depth chart. Stevie Johnson will likely see a lot of Lardarius Webb, leaving Woods to work against guys like Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith. Woods has WR4 upside this week.
Steelers TE Heath Miller vs. Vikings: This is an absolutely juicy matchup for Miller. The Vikings have been getting killed by tight ends, surrendering a whopping six touchdowns to them already. Miller made his season debut last week but played on just 39-of-66 snaps against the Bears. The Steelers are expected to remove his snap count restrictions this week. Miller is Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red-zone target and safety blanket over the middle. He’s a high-end TE2 with a very real shot to post TE1 numbers this week.
Jets TE Kellen Winslow vs. Titans: Winslow’s numbers have predictably regressed each week since reeling in seven passes for 79 yards and a score in Week 1. He caught two balls in Week 2 and wasn’t even targeted last week. Winslow and Jeff Cumberland split snaps last week because Winslow's knee flared up in practice. I like Winslow to see a handful of targets and maybe visit the end zone versus Tennessee. The Titans have allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Winslow and Cumberland are no more than back-end TE2 options at best.
Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar vs. Chargers: Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dwayne Harris (hip) are looking extremely iffy for Week 4. If they don’t play, it could mean more two-tight end sets with Escobar and James Hanna getting some run from the slots. Escobar cashed in on a 24-yard touchdown last week against the Rams. He’s been running more routes than Hanna and also hasn’t dropped a pass after struggling in the preseason. Escobar is returning home to San Diego, so he could have extra motivation to make some plays in front of friends and family. The second-round rookie is a guy to keep an eye on.