I recently discussed that Brandon Marshall is not at 100 percent healthy, and that Matt Forte owners need to be concerned with that fact. Marshall will play the season opener for the Chicago Bears when they host the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
I try to limit my sleeper picks to fantasy players who are owned in less than 60 percent of leagues I can monitor. Alshon Jeffery is owned in 54 percent, and could be a sleeper pick this week.
If I was Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, I would be looking at accomplishing two things this week: stopping Marshall and Forte. Zimmer is a very good defensive coordinator and I suspect he will have Terrence Newman covering Marshall with help from Reggie Nelson.
I think the second phase to his defensive game plan will be to stack the box with the remaining players and attempt to limit what Forte can do. Essentially, he is going to dare the Bears to beat the Bengals with Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Bennett is not what I would be gambling on if I was Marc Trestman.
This all bodes well for Jeffery. Reports out of Chicago are indicating that Jeffery is not the player he was last season. Words such as comfortable, polished and refined are being spoken in reference to Jeffery this preseason.
Jeffery hauled in a solid eight passes for 90 yards this preseason, and could benefit on Sunday from the attention that Marshall and Forte will likely garner. At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, Jeffery is a sizable red zone threat. Quarterback Jay Cutler will likely be looking Marshall’s way first, but should Marshall struggle to beat the coverage, Jeffery should be locked in as Cutler’s second option.
On the negative side, Chicago’s offensive line is still questionable at best, and Cutler might not have much time to get the ball out. The Bengals’ defensive front is as good as they come in the NFL and could provide some issues for the Bears.
Cincinnati also finished seventh in passing defense in 2012, an impressive feat without a true top-tier shutdown corner. Jeffery could also lose touches to goal line vulture Michael Bush in short yardage and goal situations, something to consider before starting him as your third wide receiver or flex option.
Taking all of that into consideration, it wouldn’t be a reach to say that he could haul in 3-5 passes for somewhere around 40-60 yards. I would bank on Jeffery getting closer to 40 yards than to 60. If you start Jeffery this week, you are relying on him getting into the end zone.
With Marshall getting the attention and a solid defensive front for the Bengals, Jeffery could hit pay dirt this weekend.
As always, I welcome your comments. If you think I’m wrong, I’m willing to listen. Just back it up with some facts and solid evidence. Thanks for reading and good luck this season.
Read more from Dustin here.