- Don’t look now but the Rams are in the thick of the playoff picture and they’re playing good football. Rookie QB Sam Bradford has wasted no time in becoming a relevant fantasy QB. He’s posted at least one touchdown in every game this season. Exploit Bradford’s advantageous matchup this week against the Lions. Detroit has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to QBs this year. And they’ve given up at least one passing touchdown in 24 straight games. Seriously, 24! Bradford is a safe, savvy option this week. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him put up the first 300-yard game of his career.
- Does anyone else find it odd that there’s only one divisional matchup this week: San Diego vs. Oakland? Weird. It’s challenging to write an article that’s based in part on trends when there’s only one game with substantial history involved. But I digress . . . Phillip Rivers is a no-brainer start every week but keep your expectations in check. Rivers has played eight career games against Oakland but only has two performances with multi-touchdown stat lines. He’s also averaged just 178 yards passing per game — never exceeding 252 yards. It’s clear the Chargers have traditionally preferred to pound the Raiders with a rushing attack. Don’t be shocked if that trend continues this week; the Raiders have the second worst rush defense in the NFL.
- Give Ravens QB Joe Flacco a start this week against the Broncos. Flacco has fallen short of expectations so far but he should get on the right track against a Denver defense that has ceded the fifth most fantasy points to QBs. Also consider that the Broncos have allowed 10 passing touchdowns in their last four road games. The third-year QB ought to put up a multi-TD performance.
- Brett Favre’s fantasy prospects went up exponentially when the team traded for Randy Moss. Don’t be gun shy about rolling with Favre this week against the Jets. While I don’t anticipate a monster performance, he should put up decent enough numbers. New York’s pass defense has been malleable. They’ve allowed two passing touchdowns in each of their last three games (against Tom Brady, Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick). Yes, shut down corner Darrelle Revis missed a couple of those contests. He will return this week; however, Revis is unlikely to shadow Moss the entire game so #84 will get plenty of looks. Set your expectations at 225 yards and two scores Favre.
This Week’s Sleepers: Sam Bradford, Brett Favre, Eli Manning, and Ryan Fitzpatrick
- The Saints have a favorable matchup that fantasy owners will want to exploit this week. Arizona has allowed six RB scores in their last three games. If Pierre Thomas (ankle) returns to the field, he will make up for lost time with a quality stat line. But keep a watchful eye on his health status. The Saints have been tight-lipped about the severity of his ankle sprain. If it looks like he’ll be limited or will miss the game, don’t be afraid to roll with Christopher Ivory, who adds an explosive dimension to the offense. Ivory has been close to breaking free for long runs on a couple occasions. The Six-Pack likes him as a clutch fill-in option.
- Cardinals RB Beanie Wells is a risky play against the Saints for a few reasons. First, Tim Hightower is much better in pass protection. Given that the Cardinals are starting rookie Max Hall, it would stand to reason that they want to protect him as best they can. Second, Arizona’s defense has been terrible this year, which means there’s a high probability the Cardinals will be playing catch-up in the second half against the Drew Brees-led Saints. Hightower catches the ball better out of the backfield, so if the team abandons the run, they will lean on him to catch dump-offs and screens. Finally, Wells publicly criticized his role in the offense after last week’s game. It wouldn’t be surprising to see coach Ken Whisenhunt further reduce Wells’ workload as a punishment for his insubordination. If I own both Wells and Hightower, I’d lean toward Hightower.
- Don’t wait around to see how Ryan Torain fares as a starter. Go ahead and activate him this week against a surprisingly vulnerable Packers run defense. Green Bay is allowing 5.2 yards per carry and one of their leading tacklers, Nick Barnett is out with a wrist injury. With Clinton Portis (groin) expected to miss six weeks or more, look for head coach Mike Shanahan to lean on Torain. Bank on at least 20 carries. As a starter, Portis had plenty of fantasy shortcomings but one area he did standout was redzone touches. He’s tied for third in the NFL with 14 redzone carries. Torain will inherit that role and has a good chance to score.
- The Chargers have allowed the third fewest fantasy points to RBs but I still think you can get away with starting Oakland’s Michael Bush this week. In two of their last three games, San Diego has jumped out to an early lead and their opponents abandoned the run. In the other contest, they were facing the Seahawks, who lack a credible running game. Neither scenario will apply with Oakland. The Raiders run the ball well and they managed to keep the score close against the Texans last week. I like their chances of doing the same against the Bolts. It’s also worth noting that the Raiders have 124 rush attempts this season — tied for third most. If Darren McFadden sits, Bush should get a heavy workload.
This Week’s Sleepers: Christopher Ivory, Michael Bush, Ryan Torain, Felix Jones and Tim Hightower
- If I owned Larry Fitzgerald, I’d start him this week but I wouldn’t be happy about it. Fitzgerald has just two touchdowns this season. Both were thrown by Derek Anderson, who will be on the bench Sunday. Instead, Max Hall will get the start. With the rookie QB under center, Fitzgerald will likely struggle to put up useful numbers against a Saints defense that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to WRs. New Orleans has held #1 WRs to an average of 37.25 yards per game with one touchdown. Look for another sub-par effort from Fitz.
- It’s New York’s turn to pick on Houston’s porous pass defense so start your Giants wideouts this week. The Texans have allowed 115 receptions this year, second most in the NFL. From a fantasy perspective, those catches have translated into the fifth most fantasy points to WRs. Hakeem Nicks has an excellent chance to post a multi-TD game. Houston has had some difficulty defending against physical wideouts. Dallas’ Roy Williams burned them for two scores. Steve Smith will get back to business for PPR leaguers and even Mario Manningham should get a couple deep looks.
- Have a little faith in Kansas City’s receiving unit if you need a boost at WR this week. Dwayne Bowe and Dexter McCluster have some sneaky good upside against a depleted Colts secondary. Indianapolis has allowed the seventh most fantasy points to WRs this year. Sure, the Chiefs are geared toward the ground game these days but it wouldn’t be difficult to envision a scenario in which KC needs to abandon the run to play catch up. Bowe had his best game of the year in Week 3 prior to Kansas City’s bye, posting 61 yards and a touchdown. McCluster is a threat to score any time he touches the ball.
- Avoid Devin Hester and Johnny Knox this week against the Panthers. Jay Cutler is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, so Chicago will start backup Todd Collins. As a result, the offense will likely be run heavy. Carolina’s secondary has settled in since getting torched by Eli Manning in the season opener. The Panthers have allowed just 211.7 passing yards per game in their last three outings. This Chicago vs. Carolina matchup has all the makings of a 9-6 snooze fest. Stay away.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mario Manningham, Derek Mason, Dwayne Bowe, Santonio Holmes and Danny Amendola
- Cowboys TE Jason Witten has been slumping all year and faces an uphill battle this week against the Titans. Tennessee hasn’t allowed a TE touchdown all year and no TE has caught more than four passes against them. Witten is at best a low end starter this week and is probably better off on your bench.
- The Jets defense gets so much media coverage that when you have a player who’s facing them, you might automatically be concerned. Don’t let that be the case with Minnesota’s Visanthe Shiancoe. Rex Ryan’s crew has been generous to opposing TEs this season. They’ve allowed a touchdown and/or 70+ yards to a TE every week. TEs who have given the Jets trouble include: Todd Heap (6-72-0), Aaron Hernandez, (6-101-0), Anthony Fasano (2-14-1) and David Martin (1-4-1). With Randy Moss drawing double teams, Shiancoe should get plenty of looks from Brett Favre. Pencil him in for 60 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jeremy Shockey and Brandon Pettigrew
- Jacksonville kicker Josh Scobee is riding high after he nailed a game-winning 59-yard field goal against the heavily favored Colts. That’s not reason enough to start him but his confidence should carry forward to a favorable matchup against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to kickers this season. Every kicker that has faced them thus far has put up seven or more points. With Maurice Jones-Drew advancing the ball against Buffalo’s weak run defense, Scobee should have a busy afternoon.
- Chicago’s Robbie Gould opened the season scoring seven or more points in three straight games. Despite the early productivity, it’s a good time to go to the waiver wire to find an alternative. Chicago’s offense is likely to struggle this week with Jay Cutler (concussion) out. Swapping Gould for another kicker with upside could net you 5-6 more points this week, which is often the difference between a win and a loss.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh Scobee, John Carney and David Buehler
Team Defense / Special Teams
- For the second week in a row, the New Orleans Saints defense will face a rookie QB. Their performance against Jimmy Clausen and the Panthers wasn’t as lucrative as fantasy owners would’ve hoped for (3 sacks and 2 turnovers) but stick with them. The Cardinals announced this week that undrafted rookie Max Hall will get the start. Hall has dropped back to pass about 22 times. Six of those drop backs have resulted in sacks and one has resulted in an interception. What I’m telling you is with Hall under center, roughly 31% of Arizona’s pass plays have resulted in a bad outcome. The Saints are an exceptional fantasy defense this week.
- The St. Louis Rams haven’t had a relevant fantasy defense in quite some time but the Six-Pack advises fantasy owners to keep the Rams on their radars. In fact, they make an intriguing start this week against the Lions. St. Louis ranks in the top half of the league in most key defensive categories, including sacks (9th), interceptions (13th), forced fumbles (1st) and points allowed (4th). They’ll rack up some points against a Lions team that has ceded six turnovers, four sacks and a defensive touchdown in their last two games. Start them if you’re looking for a plug-and-play opportunity.
This Week’s Sleepers: St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers
This Week's Six-Pack: Anchor Humming Ale
Brewed by: Anchor Brewing, San Francisco
Appearance: This beer comes in a torpedo-shaped brown bottle, which is the hallmark of all beers from this brewery. The label on the neck explains the word “humming” is an ancient term used to describe ales and beers. The beer is bright orange and clear — with no sediment or cloudiness. A dense head formed and stuck around for the duration of my tasting.
Smell: The aroma was light with hints of grains, citrus fruit and freshly mown grass.
Taste: Humming has some interesting characteristics that do a dance on the palette. It starts out with a savory biscuit flavor. That gives way to a hoppy bite but it wasn’t overly bitter. The finish has an herbal essence that sticks with you into the aftertaste. Carbonation in this beer is quite high but not overly bothersome. It did at times remind me of sparkling mineral water.
Drinkability: This is a medium-bodied beer with a low ABV. It’s easy to knock back a couple in a session.
Last Call: Humming Ale wasn’t my favorite offering in the Anchor family but it’s a worth try. It doesn’t quite have the backbone or complexity to qualify as a beer you want to spend a great deal of time sipping and savoring. And while there are some interesting standalone characteristics, they don’t come together in a way that makes this beer rise above others in this category. Three stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Big Sky IPA (Big Sky Brewing)