Fantasy games whether season-long or daily leagues, are won and lost by utilizing that “X” factor if you will. The player just on the radar, begging for you to slide him in at the flex position or more. It is that player, providing the unexpected that separates the guys hoisting the league trophy from those sweeping up behind the fantasy elephants.
It is not about over thinking, mind you. We all know how I feel about that line of thinking. It is about making that small strategic move, based on smart analysis as well as that good old fashioned gut feeling that can make a world of difference.
Let’s take a look at a few players who may make that difference for you in Week Three!
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs – Given the state of the Eagles defensive unit, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone. Smith is unspectacular, but should find plenty of open receivers down field against a challenged Eagles secondary. A balanced attack with RB Jamaal Charles will add to Smith’s comfort level for sure. Look for Smith to be a factor with both his arms and his legs.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins – The Atlanta Falcons are not exactly the 1985 Chicago Bears on defense. With each game, you can see Tannehill putting things together with his offensive weapons with favorable results. The Falcons have surrendered almost 350 yards passing per game thus far, and I would expect Tannehill to do some damage.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams – One of these weeks, Bradford will graduate from the “Sleeper” section to the just plain “Get Him In There” section. He’s a strong-armed QB on a pass-first team, he has speedy receiving options at his disposal, and the Cowboys can be beat through the air. Seems like a slam dunk to me.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears – Do my eyes deceive me, or is Cutler buying into a system and actually making smart late game decisions ultimately leading his team to victory? Well campers that would be correct. Despite the Steelers issues on the offensive side of the ball, which have been well, offensive, the Steelers are still a pretty stout defensive unit. That said, Cutler should be up to the task in this legendary matchup.
David Wilson, New York Giants – Yes, I am doing it again. The Giants will realize sooner as opposed to later that Wilson is their best option in the backfield. Last week he was beyond tentative and the nervousness over ball security was obviously overwhelming. Bottom line is RB Brandon Jacobs is not the answer, nor is RB Da’Rel Scott. Just give Wilson the rock and let him do his thing and this week against the Carolina Panthers is a great week to utilize him correctly and finally drop one in the win column.
Chris Ivory, New York Jets – Regardless of the presence of RB Bilal Powell and the tepid fantasy relevancy he seems to generate, I still believe Ivory is the more talented running back and this is the week he proves it. Buffalo has been relatively soft on run defense this season and Ivory will step up and deliver in this intrastate match up. Again, while neither Ivory nor the Buffalo defense is much to hold a parade for, Ivory has the slight edge to make an impact, especially since Powell is surprisingly listed as questionable with an illness.
Bobby Rainey, Cleveland Browns – I like the underdog, plain and simple. In this match up, that would be ex-Baltimore Ravens RB Bobby Rainey. Yes, he sounds like he should be driving the Tide Detergent Dodge in a NASCAR event, but for this week he is the starting tailback for the Cleveland Browns against the Minnesota Vikings. Firstly, with the pending signing of free agent RB Willis McGahee, this is Rainey’s time to shine. Couple that with a banged up Vikings defensive line allowing 120 yards on the ground and that spells “sleeper” with a capital “S”. ***NOTE*** That aforementioned “shine” has lost some luster, with the news that the newly signed McGahee will play this Sunday. With his knowledge of some of the offense, being familiar with Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski from his time in Miami, we could be talkin’ bout Willis on Monday morning.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals – While everyone is calling RB Rashard Mendenhall the sleeper in this week’s game against the Saints, I am leaning to the rookie to have another solid effort. He has his fans in the front office and in head coach Bruce Arians and will continue to get opportunities to impress. Mendenhall is a nice player, but the Cardinals are looking to the future at the position and Ellington will look to make more strides against a New Orleans Saints defense that has given up over 120 yards on the ground so far in 2013.
Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins – A top waiver wire selection a week ago, fantasy owners saw Hartline’s production dip just a bit in week two. However, he could very well be in for production resurgence as the Dolphins face the Atlanta Falcons. You can expect WR Mike Wallace to get a fair amount of attention down field, ultimately opening things up underneath and allowing Hartline the opportunity to make plays.
Donnie Avery, Kansas City Chiefs – Notice the trend here? WR2 options playing against less than stellar defensive units whose quarterbacks I also think will flourish. If CB Cary Williams, incidentally one of the distinct few capable defenders the Philadelphia Eagles possess, is lined up against Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, Avery could be in for a solid Thursday evening as the Eagles will literally not have an answer for the shifty wideout.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans – Lets do the personnel math. WR Kenny Britt has been a lazy malcontent and is in head coach Mike Munchak’s doghouse. WR Kendall Wright is dealing with concussion issues and is questionable for this week’s contest against the San Diego Chargers. That leaves Washington, a sure-handed reliable and healthy option for QB Jake Locker who should have himself a solid afternoon when all is said and done.
Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders – While the Raiders stand little or no chance of winning this game against the Denver Broncos, fantasy owners only care about stats and plenty of them. This shouldn’t be an issue this Monday night when these two long time AFC West rivals come to play. The Raiders should instantly be in catch-up mode in this game, and when you consider the Broncos have given up an average of 344 passing yards in two weeks, look for the aforementioned Streater and his teammate WR Denarius Moore to post some solid numbers.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals – Even if WR Larry Fitzgerald wasn’t nursing a handstring injury I would be pretty high on Floyd this week against the New Orleans Saints. He is big target who is getting multiple looks from inside the 20 yard line. It is only a matter of time until he hits his stride and really makes some fantasy noise. He’s been held out of the end zone thus far in 2013, but look for that to change this Sunday afternoon.
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts – With his teammate and target vulture TE Dwayne Allen officially gone for the season, the stage is set for Fleener to take over at the position for the Colts. While I agree that the match up is not the greatest, Fleener is a big kid with soft hands who will prove quite useful to QB Andrew Luck against a solid San Francisco 49ers squad.
Charles Clay, Miami Dolphins – Stepping up in unexpected ways to quell the sting of the loss of TE Dustin Keller, Clay is turning some heads in the world of fantasy. Barely a blip on the pre-season fantasy radar, Clay has asserted himself and should be in line for a solid outing against the Atlanta Falcons. With the myriad of question marks that always surround the fantasy TE, Clay is proving himself worth the risk.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – With WR Desean Jackson stretching the field for the Eagles, look for both Ertz and TE Brent Celek to find more room to roam in the middle against the Chiefs Thursday night. I mention Ertz here and not Celek only because the latter left last week’s game with a shoulder injury and his status this week is unclear.
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