Fantasy Football

Avant, Avery sleepers in Week 3

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Michael Harmon

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This is the week that lineup decisions get crazy. Fantasy owners have watched their squads for two weeks and may have thrown their hands up in frustration. Those one-proud, once-dominant options have been either been shut down, phased out or continue to be affected by various ailments.

Who’s your guy? Is it Larry Fitzgerald? Dez Bryant? Are you struggling with Wes Welker (back-end WR2)?

Let’s see if we can’t allay some of those concerns in this week’s edition of “Lineup Calls.”

Next week, I’ll expand the “Exclusion” list. For now, let’s turn our attention to the remaining 15 games of Week 3. There’s still hope. Don’t let the lackluster efforts put forth by Steve Smith and Victor Cruz deflate you.

Heroes

(Exclude: Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, A.J. Green, Roddy White, Brandon Marshall and Julio Jones)

Dwayne Bowe at NO: It was an ugly start to Week 2 between the Bills and Chiefs, but Dwayne Bowe owners breathed a big sigh of relief as Matt Cassel went into frantic comeback mode in the second half. Bowe finished with 102 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the blowout loss.

Bowe represents a top-5 option on the board this week in what is expected to be a high-scoring affair. Opposing quarterbacks have completed nearly 72% of pass attempts for 275 passing yards per game with three touchdowns.

Mike Wallace at OAK: Wallace logged his first big play of 2012, a 37-yard touchdown strike from Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2. It’s the first of many to come in 2012, and I anticipate a big game against the Raiders. Opponents have completed two-thirds of passing attempts against the Raiders, and I suspect that Roethlisberger opens things up to try and jumpstart the Pittsburgh running game.

The Pittsburgh defense will rule the day, producing short fields and opportunities for Roethlisberger to capitalize.

Reggie Wayne vs. JAC: The Texans ran the ball in Week 2 against the Jaguars and didn’t bother to air it out. The Colts don’t have Foster/Tate. As a result, I look for more shots downfield out of Andrew Luck in a winnable home game.

Wayne is targeted for the second-most targets in the NFL through two weeks with 25. He caught 15 of those targets for 206 yards. I look for a big effort against the injury-depleted Jacksonville secondary. He returns to WR1 status for a week.

Dez Bryant vs. TB: Bryant posted a strong opener against the Giants before getting shut down by the Seahawks. Seattle schemed to take away Romo’s big target, limiting Bryant to three receptions for 17 yards. He rebounds with a big performance this week against the Tampa Bay secondary. We watched both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz run free and clear in the secondary in Week 2. Look for Bryant to be physical at the line of scrimmage and create big plays downfield.

Stevie Johnson at CLE: There’s no Joe Haden in the Cleveland secondary (suspension), and Sheldon Brown is injured. As a result, I’m calling for the Fitzpatrick-Johnson combination to continue its magic on the road. I know that Johnson has only caught six of his 15 targets to date. However, he’s scored twice.

Larry Fitzgerald vs. PHI: Fitzgerald represents a difficult proposition for fantasy owners this week. He was basically made invisible in Week 2 against the Patriots, and the Eagles boast a pair of strong cornerbacks. The Cardinals have to try and get him involved in this one, right?

You can look in his history to view the success against the Eagles historically (101 yards and 1.7 touchdowns per game). Although he highlighted the “Sits” video on FOXSports.com this week, it always comes down to an issue of matchups. Fitzgerald sits at No. 19 on my ranking sheet this week. I suspect that they try to attack former Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and get Fitzgerald involved early.

Brandon Lloyd at BAL: The deployment of the New England receiving corps has been a huge subject of debate across the NFL and fantasyland. Lloyd’s role has not been part of that discussion. He’s been targeted 21 times in two weeks, producing 13 receptions for 129 yards. I don’t expect fireworks in this game, but Lloyd does add a speed element that has been missing against the Ravens. Ed Reed’s going to have to choose between Lloyd and Gronk a few times downfield.

Kenny Britt vs. DET: Speed kills. Britt is reportedly ready to take on a much larger snap count and workload in Week 3 against the injury-depleted Detroit secondary. I’m anticipating that this becomes a high-scoring affair and that Jake Locker uncorks a few deep balls in his direction.

Sleepers

Michael Crabtree at MIN: Does he still count as a “sleeper?” Since he hasn’t had that breakthrough contest just yet, I’ll put him on the board for this week against the Minnesota secondary. Crabtree has benefitted from the improved efficiency of Alex Smith, piling up 13 receptions in 16 targets for 143 yards. He’s in strong consideration for a WR2 slot this week.

Jason Avant at ARI: The loss of Jeremy Maclin puts Avant back into a prominent role against the Cardinals. I love what the Arizona defense has done through two weeks, and I’m not anticipating a huge day out of Michael Vick. However, Avant warrants a look-see for a third receiver slot, particularly for those owners in PPR leagues.

Donnie Avery vs. JAC: I trumpeted Reggie Wayne as a WR1 this week. Avery warrants a slot as your WR3 against Jacksonville. He’s been targeted 18 times by Andrew Luck through two weeks, producing 12 catches for 148 yards with a touchdown.

Alshon Jeffery vs. STL: It’s hard to trust Jeffery and the Chicago offense after last week’s disappearing act. After all, Mike Tice is now charged with solving the pass-rushing problem that includes Chris Long and Robert Quinn. I digress.

I expect the Bears to shore up protection and commit to the run early, thereby setting up play-action opportunities for Jay Cutler as the game progresses. He’s a dice roll, but I’m anticipating a nice rebound from the Chicago passing game at home.

Andrew Hawkins at WAS: Hawkins failed in PPR mode last week, but it’s awfully hard to discount that nifty catch-and-run that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown. He’s an extension of the running game and warrants WR3 consideration this week in what could become a shoot-out against the banged-up Washington defense. Hawkins is willing to work over the middle, and the loss of Brian Orakpo has been circled as an area to attack.

Kevin Ogletree vs. TB: Ogletree caught one pass for 26 yards against the Seahawks, a disappointing follow-up to his breakout performance against the Giants. He’s a difficult play, to be sure, but I’m anticipating a huge bounce-back performance from Tony Romo in Jerry’s palace. The attention afforded Bryant, Austin and a healthy Witten make Ogletree an interesting home run threat.

Flops

Torrey Smith vs. NE: Smith has been limited to two receptions in back-to-back games by the Bengals and Eagles. Yes, he’s produced catches of 52 and 40 yards in those games, respectively, but I need more consistency and continuity between Smith and Joe Flacco to play him this week against the Patriots. Dennis Pitta is the lone sure play in this receiving corps right now.

Eric Decker vs. HOU: Decker’s still a third option in PPR leagues. Through two weeks, Decker has amassed nine receptions for 106 yards. However, he’s a tenuous play in standard leagues, as it’s evident that Peyton Manning has eyes for Demaryius Thomas. I can’t anticipate that he breaks a long one against the disciplined Houston secondary.

Vincent Jackson at DAL: Despite the myriad injuries in the New York secondary, I anticipated that they’d concentrate on taking Jackson away in Week 2. If Josh Freeman were more accurate, Jackson might have doubled up his 128 receiving yards.

This is a formidable task for Freeman and the Buccaneers. The Dallas pass defense has yet to surrender a touchdown to a wide receiver, with tight ends Martellus Bennett and Anthony McCoy recording the lone touchdown receptions against them. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have performed well on the edges. I remain fearful of a connection or two on the deep ball, but Jackson won’t see the free releases he received in Week 2.

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cardinals, Steelers, Texans, Reggie Wayne, Steve Smith Sr., Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Vincent Jackson, Alex Smith, Jason Avant, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Stevie Johnson, Brandon Carr, Mike Wallace, Michael Crabtree, Kevin Ogletree, Dez Bryant, Eric Decker, Victor Cruz, Andrew Hawkins, Torrey Smith, Andrew Luck

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