SleepersSeptember 3, 2012

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Sleeper Watch

By Bradley Cooper

The first day of September marks the official start of the fantasy football season. All your preparation comes into play right now as the preseason’s final games trickle into Monday night. Fantasy owners shouldn’t forget that the Cowboys and Giants kick off the official start of the season on Wednesday nighth. There are some key sleepers to watch in Week 1 that could make a huge impact for fantasy owners.

Philip Rivers (QB) vs. Oakland Raiders

With Ryan Mathews out with a broken collarbone, the offense will have to rely on the passing game. Rivers will be the driving force behind anything the team does, so all the stats will come through him. His main target should be Antonio Gates, but keep an eye on Malcom Floyd, who has been his favorite target during the preseason. Hopefully three touchdowns aren’t out of the question, and Rivers has a shot at 300 yards passing. His value was low after a rough preseason, but fantasy owners should feel confident starting him.

Russell Wilson (QB) vs. Arizona Cardinals

An outstanding preseason helped propel Wilson to the top of the depth chart above Matt Flynn. The Cardinals have one of the weaker defenses in the league, and Wilson should expect a nice day. A dual threat with his running and passing ability, he can be considered a QB1 this week in standard formats.

Kevin Smith (RB) vs. St. Louis Rams

The ankle injury scared everybody with regards to Kevin Smith, but the matchup against the Rams could lead to a huge day. He’s a solid flex option and could be considered a low-end RB2. Fantasy owners should monitor the Chris Ivory trade talks, but either way Smith is still a great fantasy option come Sunday. Over 100 yards and at least one touchdown should be feasible.

Stevan Ridley (RB) vs. Tennessee Titans

The New England Patriots will rely on Ridley early and often against the Titans as the passing game continues to mesh. The coordinators will want to build confidence in him early, so a touchdown is certainly not out of the question. The Patriots will most likely have a lead later in the game and they’ll expect Ridley to come in and help move the chains to kill the clock. The Pats have an extremely easy schedule, so get use to seeing him.

Torrey Smith (WR) vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Even though the Bengals aren’t a favorable matchup, Joe Flacco came out hot last year and the Ravens have developed a more up-tempo offense. Flacco has had a great preseason and Smith is on his way to a break-out season. In the third preseason game, Smith had over 100 yards; he has developed into Flacco’s number one target. Another 100-yard game isn’t out of the question against the Bengals.

Justin Blackmon (WR) vs. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings present a tough task for Rashad Jennings, and the Jaguars will look to use the passing game if the running game stalls. Blackmon will be Blaine Gabbert’s go-to receiver. A touchdown and at least 75 yards should satisfy fantasy owners for the rookie’s first game. Feel comfortable using him as a flex option, but do not use him as anything more.

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