- Falcons QB Matt Ryan is bouncing back nicely from a sophomore slump. He’s tossed five touchdowns in his last two games with zero interceptions. Unless you also own a top 5 QB, Ryan should be in your starting lineup this week against the 49ers. San Francisco will make a long road trip to Atlanta and the Niners have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to QBs in 2010. Bank on Ryan becoming the third “Matt” to throw for multiple touchdowns against San Francisco this year. Matt Hasselbeck threw two against them in the season opener and Matt Cassel put up three last week.
- The Texans have the worst pass defense in the NFL and the second-best run defense. Exploit this imbalance by giving Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski a spot start this week if you need to dig deep for a QB. Gradkowski took over for Jason Campbell midway through Oakland’s Week 2 game against the Rams. In a game and a half of action, Gradkowski has posted two touchdowns with yardage that averages out to about 275 yards per game. Considering the favorable matchup, I like his chances of putting up a minimum of 270 yards with a touchdown or two.
- New England’s defensive backfield takes pride in being aggressive but that approach has led to more downs than ups so far in 2010. The Patriots have been lit up by Carson Palmer (345-2), Mark Sanchez (220-3) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (247-2). Looking at those numbers, you have to like the chances of Chad Henne this week. After being held back by conservative game plans the first two weeks of the season, Henne hit his stride on Monday night throwing for 363 yards and two touchdowns. If you’re shorthanded at QB, roll with Henne and look for 275 yards and two scores.
- On Sunday, Texans QB Matt Schaub will face the Raiders for the third time in as many seasons. He tossed just one total touchdown in those two previous meetings and completed just 51.7% of his passes — well shy of his 65.6% career completion percentage. You shouldn’t bench Schaub but you should lower your expectations. With Andre Johnson not running at full speed, the Texans will likely work hard to establish the running game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Bruce Gradkowski, Chad Henne, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford
- A Week 4 matchup against the Steelers will test the resolve of every Ray Rice owner that subscribes to the “Always Start Your Studs” theory. The Steelers have already held Michael Turner and Chris Johnson in check. Does a gimpy Rice (knee contusion) stand a chance? Of course. For a RB with Rice’s reputation, there’s always a chance. But given that: a) he’s not running at 100%, b) he’s typically not in goal-line packages, and c) the Steelers have allowed the fewest fantasy points to RBs this season, Rice is no better than a low-end RB2 this week. Don’t expect more than 75-80 total yards.
- Maurice Jones-Drew owners aren’t getting anything near what they expected when they spent the number three or four overall pick on him. But a Week 4 matchup against Indianapolis might be the light at the end of the tunnel. Jones-Drew is a Colt killer. In eight career matchups against Indy, MJD has averaged 129 yards and over one touchdown per game. The Colts defense has settled in since getting lit up by Arian Foster in the opener. However, Jones-Drew should put up 100+ all-purpose yards and a score here.
- If you’re coming up with a list of the most surprising fantasy players so far, Oakland’s Darren McFadden has to rate near the top. Plagued by injuries his first two years in the league, McFadden is finally healthy. Through Week 3, he’s averaged 146.7 all-purpose yards per game with two touchdowns. With production like that, it’s tough to sit McFadden. However, a Week 4 matchup against the Texans could put the skids on his hearty numbers. Houston has not allowed an opposing rusher more than 55 yards this season. McFadden may have a chance to find the endzone this week, Houston has allowed three rushing scores, but even if he does he’s unlikely to achieve his average production. Lower your expectations.
- After a one-week hiatus, it’s time to dust off San Diego’s Ryan Mathews. The rookie has indicated he feels great and appears to be a full go for Sunday’s sexy matchup against the Cardinals. Arizona’s defense is in disarray, having allowed the third most fantasy points to date. The Cardinals are surrendering 146.3 yards per game on the ground — second most in the NFL. I like Mathews’ chances of scoring his first NFL touchdown this weekend.
This Week’s Sleepers: John Kuhn, Shonn Greene, Laurence Maroney and Joseph Addai
- The Seahawks are one of the NFL’s worst road teams. In their last nine road games, Seattle has yielded 301 points or 33.4 points per game. Much of that damage has come through the air by way of 18 passing touchdowns (two per game). It’s time to stop hitting the snooze button on St. Louis sleeper Mark Clayton. He’s ready for your starting lineup and should put up at least 80 yards and a touchdown.
- If you’re mapping the trends this week, the arrow is pointing down for Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward. The veteran wideout has just one touchdown in his last 13 meetings against the Ravens. Baltimore hasn’t allowed a WR score this season. If you have a viable alternative this week, it’s probably worth exercising it.
- After getting shut down last week by Broncos DB Champ Bailey, Reggie Wayne should bounce back nicely against the Jaguars. The Colts top wideout has posted 100 yards and/or a touchdown in six of his last seven meetings with Jacksonville. The Jags also happen to rank 29th in the NFL against the pass and they’ve allowed a league high seven passing touchdowns. The fact that three of those TDs have come from 45+ yards out should bode well for Wayne, who is Peyton Manning’s best deep threat with Pierre Garcon hobbled. Bank on a top five fantasy performance from Wayne.
- Packers wideout James Jones had a costly fumble and was the goat in Monday night’s loss to the Bears. Look for him to redeem himself this weekend against the Lions. Jones, who has the same number of receptions as Greg Jennings this season, has scored in three of his last four meetings against Detroit. The Lions have a below average pass defense. Look for Aaron Rodgers to tally at least three touchdowns — one of them to Jones.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mark Clayton, James Jones, Kevin Walter, Johnny Knox and Legedu Naanee
- Get Oakland’s Zach Miller some work this week against the Texans, who have allowed the second most fantasy points to TEs this year. Miller got off the schneid by scoring a touchdown in Week 2. It’s no coincidence that game happened to be QB Bruce Gradkowski’s first full game this year under center. The duo played well together in 2009, connecting on 21 receptions and one touchdown over a four-game stretch in November and December. Miller is one to start this week and one to watch going forward.
- The Colts allowed the fewest fantasy points to TEs in 2009. That success has carried over to 2010. So far, they’re again allowing the fewest fantasy points to the position. It’s clearly worth looking in a different direction if you’ve been starting Jacksonville’s Marcedes Lewis. Lewis has just one touchdown in eight career games against Indy and he’s never exceeded 55 yards.
This Week’s Sleepers: Zach Miller, Aaron Hernandez and John Carlson
- Saints kicker Garrett Hartley is reportedly headed to the bench. Be sure to remove him from your active lineup. The Saints picked up veteran John Carney, who offers a worthwhile pickup-and-play opportunity. The Saints will face a Carolina defense that has allowed 23.7 points per game. With RB Reggie Bush (leg) out and Pierre Thomas (ankle) hobbled, it’s possible New Orleans could have some drives stall out in Carolina red zone. Carney may not be able to drill many field goals of the 50-yard variety anymore but he should get at least a couple short or intermediate attempts in this game.
- Give New York’s Nick Folk a shot this week against the Bills. Every kicker that has faced Buffalo this year has posted at least seven points. Meanwhile, Folk is averaging eight points per game and has connected on six of seven field goal attempts. His only miss came from long range. With the Jets offense clicking and the Bills defense struggling, Folk should be busy come Sunday.
This Week’s Sleepers: Nick Folk and John Carney
Team Defense / Special Teams
- The New Orleans Saints ranked among fantasy football’s highest-scoring defenses in 2009, scoring eight defensive touchdowns (best in the NFL). Although they’ve gotten off to a slow start this season, look for them to regain their swagger this week against the Panthers. In his first NFL start last week, rookie QB Jimmy Clausen fumbled four times but he only threw one interception. He may have benefited from a close score, which allowed the team to stay conservative. Clausen likely won’t have that luxury against the Saints. When New Orleans establishes a big lead, look for the mistakes to begin piling up for the young QB.
- If you’re in a deep league and need to scour the bottom of the barrel to find a defense, you could do worse than the Indianapolis Colts. Indy should chip in some points against a bad Jacksonville team that has given up eight sacks and seven turnovers in the last two games. The Colts are known for their pass rush and have seven sacks on the season. Look for them to get after QB David Garrard.
This Week’s Sleepers: Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons
This Week's Six-Pack: Grand Cru Flemish Red Brown Ale
Brewed by: Brewery Rodenbach, Belgium
Price: $8.99 (one 750 ML bottle)
Appearance: This Flemish Ale comes in a 750 ML bottle topped with a cork. The label explains the beer is a blend of “young” ale and ale that has been matured in oak casks for two years. After an aggressive pour, my pint glass was capped by a fizzy cola-like head that climbed quickly and faded into near nothingness. The color was dark brown with ruby highlights.
Smell: I took a long inhale and was almost startled by a peculiar sour smell that reminded me of red wine vinegar. I had to double check the label to assure myself this was indeed beer. Hints of dried dark fruits (cherries, plums and raisins) lurked in the background.
Taste: Holy $%&! This is some crazy stuff. It tastes sort of like those Sweet Tart candies that my kids’ will no doubt get trick-or-treating only to forget about until I find them under their beds in March. The experience is complete with the Sweet Tart pucker effect. Once you get past the sweet-sour bite, there is some interesting complexity with malt, fruit and woodiness. After drinking it for awhile, you’re left with a white-wine-like aftertaste.
Drinkability: It has 6% ABV, which is lower than I was anticipating for a 750 ML bottle priced at $9. The relatively low ABV makes it easy to get through such a large bottle. It’s hard to categorize the drinkability overall though because it’s such a polarizing beer. Many people will no doubt want to spit it out.
Last Call: Rodenbach Grand Cru is the oddest beer I’ve ever sampled. At first I was put off by it but I have to say midway through my second glass, it actually started to grow on me. And by the third glass, I was thirsty for more. If you enjoy trying unique beers, you’ll definitely want to give this one a try. Four stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Humming Ale (Anchor Brewing)