Another crazy week in the NFL. Week 3, it’s all about the injuries. The biggest hit was certainly to the Patriots, losing anchor Rodney Harrison. More on that later. With the injury bug hitting both sides of the ball, targeting weekly sleepers becomes increasingly important. Good luck this week. Oh, and for all you Niner and Cardinal fans: ole’!
This Week’s Sleepers
Jamie Winborn (SF) – Check out the tackle stats for the Niner linebackers. It’s pretty impressive. Sure, their offense was supposed to stink and the defense was going to be on the field a lot. But that’s not why their linebackers have such impressive tackle totals. They’re just making plays when given the opportunity. The pass protection from the Cardinals will most likely shift over to Julian Peterson, creating opportunities for Winborn and DE Marques Douglas to get to QB Josh McCown.
Ryan Nece (TB) – It’s no secret that LB Shelton Quarles is outperforming long-time stud LB Derrick Brooks for the Buc defense. What you may not know is Nece, playing opposite Brooks, is also performing well (and outperforming Brooks). The well-rested Detroit Lions come to Tampa on Sunday, and Brooks will most likely be assigned to covering Lion TE Marcus Pollard. That’s good news for Nece owners looking for big tackle numbers, as Nece will be asked to provide run support. Expect the Lions to try and get RB Kevin Jones going early, so Nece (and Quarles) could be very busy.
Brian Simmons (CIN) – News flash: the Houston Texans’ offense is not very good. But, they certainly have talent at the skill positions, and have had a week off to adjust. Expect the Texans to come out and challenge the Cincinnati defense. Simmons has only averaged a meager 3 tackles a game, but already has an INT in this young season. Expect Simmons to build on his tackle total and put pressure on Texan QB David Carr all day.
Others to consider: Coby Bockwoldt (NO), Jeff Posey (BUF), Robert Thomas (GB)
Terrell Suggs (BAL) – Alright so maybe Suggs doesn’t classify as a true sleeper, as he’s probably on someone’s bench in your league. But if he’s on YOUR bench, it might be time to activate him in time to start against the Jets, who will most likely start QB Brooks Bollinger on Sunday. If not Bollinger, then perhaps the 42-year old, recently-signed Vinny Testaverde will get the nod. Either way, Suggs will most likely get his first sack of the season and may rack up a good number of tackles.
Raheem Brock ( IND) – Fellow Colt DE Dwight Freeney is having a big start to the season, and is getting all the pub. But Brock is quietly having a nice start, too (in 3 games: 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery). Expect Tennessee to focus on stopping Freeney on Sunday; and Brock could have a solid game.
Mike Rucker (CAR) – Rucker has been mentioned in this column before, and with uber-stud DE Julius Peppers on the other side, he will be continually tagged as a sleeper, especially when the matchup is right. The matchup is going to be right on Monday night, as the hapless Green Bay Packers travel south to Carolina. The focus will be on stopping Peppers, so the vet Rucker might just have several opportunities to sack Packer QB Brett Favre.
Others to consider: Ryan Pickett (STL), Grant Wistrom (SEA), Marques Douglas (SF)
Eugene Wilson (NE) – The Patriots, in their huge win against their AFC rivals, suffered a huge loss as well. SS Rodney Harrison tore his knee up and is out for the season. Who will step in at SS is a bit unclear, but what is more than likely is Eugene Wilson, currently the Pats FS, steps his game up. He had 5 assisted tackles and recovered a fumble this past Sunday. If the Patriots are to not miss a beat, Wilson will have to step up as the leader of their secondary. It all starts this Sunday against the resurgent Chargers. He’ll be plenty busy in helping contain Charger studs TE Antonio Gates and RB LaDainian Tomlinson.
Darrent Williams (DEN) – I’ve been touting this guy since the preseason and he finally came through with a big game on MNF against the Chiefs. This week, the Broncos travel to Jacksonville (perhaps with a gimpy Champ Bailey) to face a Jaguar team that might not throw as much as the Chiefs, but Williams certainly has merit as a sleeper this week, especially in leagues that reward for return yards.
Nick Harper ( IND) – Harper had a solid outing this past week against the Browns. Expect the Titans to do their fair share of passing come Sunday, so Harper could easily duplicate his 5 solo tackle, 1 pass defended game of a week ago.
Others to consider: Keion Carpenter (ATL), C.C. Brown (HOU), Will Allen (NYG)
Last Week’s Sleepers – Report Card
Brad Kassel (TEN)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle
The Skinny: Alright, Mr. Kassel is not yet exempt from this column after his weak Week 3 effort. He remains as the starting MLB, but fellow LB Keith Bulluck is obviously the most consistent playmaker on the Titan defense.
Junior Seau (MIA)
The Fat: 2 solo tackle and 5 assisted tackles
The Skinny: I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights. Fellow Dolphin Zach Thomas had “one of those games”. Tackles upon tackles, sacks, fumble recoveries. Heck, he probably served up hot dogs and watered-down beer at the concession stands when he wasn’t on the field. Anyways, at least the veteran Seau helped out with 5 assisted tackles. As Miami’s defense continues to improve, you might consider Seau as a deep, weekly sleeper.
Akin Ayodele (JAX)
The Fat: 2 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles
The Skinny: Stud LB Mike Peterson was all over the field on Sunday. Ayodele’s gonna have decent games; this just wasn’t one of them. Should Peterson ever go down with injury, look to Ayodele (not incumbent Darryl Smith) to replace Peterson as the leader of this underrated LB corps.
Carlos Emmons (NYG)
The Fat: 6 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles
The Skinny: Very nice. Emmons led the Giant defense in tackles. The Chargers made a concerted effort to involve stud RB LaDainian Tomlinson in the short passing game; as a result, the Giant WLB had a solid fantasy outing.
Lofa Tatupu (SEA)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle
The Skinny: The Seattle defense completely controlled the Arizona offense on Sunday; opportunities for gaudy tackle numbers were just not there. Tatupu’s firmly entrenched as the starter in the middle of the Seahawk linebacking corps. He’s worth a shot as a regular 3 rd LB or bench filler for bye weeks or injuries.
Rod Davis (MIN)
The Fat: Not a darn thing
The Skinny: Veteran MLB Sam Cowart was able to make the start this Sunday. As a result, Davis, who had a solid outing in Week 2, was relegated to special teams duties. Keep an eye on Davis, especially if Cowart spends more time Trainer Phil’s column.
Kevin Carter (MIA)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle and 1 sack
The Skinny: In my recommendation for Carter last week, I said his role is clearly defined: stuff the run and rush the opponent’s QB. As expected, Carter came up with several run-stuffing tackles and got to Panther QB Jake Delhomme once. Keep an eye on the savvy vet, especially as super-stud DE Jason Taylor continues to put up huge numbers. Offensive linemen may forget about the sack-happy Carter.
Bryce Fisher (SEA)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles and 1 sack
The Skinny: Pretty solid numbers, especially since Arizona’s offense was going three-and-out more often than not. Keep an eye on Fisher, especially in leagues that give more-than-normal points for sacks.
Shaun Ellis (NYJ)
The Fat: 6 solo tackles
The Skinny: Big game for both Jet defensive ends. Higher-touted John Abraham had a monster game (8 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 sack and 1 fumble recovery), but sleeper Shaun Ellis chipped in with 6 solo tackles of his own. Very respectable, especially for a defensive lineman.
Chad Lavalais (ATL)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle, 1 assisted tackle and a half sack
The Skinny: Seeing that Lavalais was pegged as a pretty deep sleeper, these are decent numbers. At least he was able to get to the shifty rookie Bill QB J.P. Losman.
Aaron Smith (PIT)
The Fat: Not a darn thing
The Skinny: Extra gaudy numbers from the Steeler DBs and LBs this past Sunday led to Smith throwing a goose egg up on the box score. Smith will always be classified as a huge talent on a team with incredible, tackle-gobbling and play-making linebackers. His value is limited, fantasy-wise, as a result.
Luis Castillo (SD)
The Fat: 1 pass defended
The Skinny: The big rookie D-lineman will have to wait another week for his breaking-out party, apparently. Sunday night was all about LB Donnie Edwards and DB Terrence Kiel. IDP vets should already know that would be the case, though. At least the rookie Castillo got his big paw on an Eli Manning pass. Dynasty owners should pay attention – the Chargers’ staff rave about Castillo and fellow rookie Merriman. They’ll be anchoring the Bolt D for years to come.
Dwight Smith (NO)
The Fat: 5 solo tackles and 1 solo tackle
The Skinny: Not bad; was helped by the fact that Viking QB Daunte Culpepper completed 21 of 29 passes. Plenty of tackling opportunities in the secondary. Strange numbers from the NO/MIN box score: Smith led all DBs and LBs in tackles and the leading Saint tacklers were DE Darren Howard and DT Brian Young.
John Lynch (DEN)
The Fat: 3 solo tackles, 1 assisted tackle and 2 passes defended
The Skinny: Lynch wasn’t quite as busy as he could have been. The Broncos simply dominated the Chiefs in Denver on Monday night. A little more of a hard fought battle and Lynch’s stats could have been a bit more gaudy. If he’s on your league’s waiver wire, he’s certainly worth a look.
Chris Crocker (CLE)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle, 2 assisted tackle
The Skinny: What’s up with the Colts? Only 23 pass attempts for Peyton Manning? Odd game. Keep a watch on Crocker, as the SS in Romeo Crennel’s defensive scheme typically puts up good numbers.
Terrence Newman (DAL)
The Fat: 4 solo tackles
The Skinny: The Cowboy defense locked down in the second half and as a result, the defenders fantasy stats weren’t very impressive.
Robert Griffith (ARI)
The Fat: 8 solo tackles, 1 pass defended
The Skinny: Holy moly. The entire Cardinal secondary had an incredible fantasy outing. Expect more games like this out of Griffith and the rest of the Cardinal defenders; with their offense stalling, the defense will be on the field a lot and will have to produce in order for them to have a ghost of a chance at winning.
Jermaine Phillips (TB)
The Fat: 1 solo tackle and 3 assisted tackles
The Skinny: Savvy Packer QB Brett Favre picked on Buc nickel back Juran Bolden all day and as such, Phillips’ assisted tackle numbers were high. Keep an eye on Phillips in deeper leagues, as the Buc SS traditionally puts up decent numbers.
Got a comment? Suggestion? Deep sleeper I’m missing or should keep an eye on? Email me at email@example.com.