- Even though he’s coming off a concussion, Jay Culter has some upside this week. The Seahawks have given up multiple passing touchdowns in three straight games. So far they’ve allowed the sixth most fantasy points to QBs. What’s more, they’re a terrible road team. In 2009 and 2010 combined, Seattle has yielded an average of 31.1 points per road game, compared to 15.6 points per game at home. Cutler should rank among the top 12 fantasy QBs this week.
- Texans QB Matt Schaub has failed to eclipse 200 yards passing in each of his last two games. With WR Andre Johnson (ankle) and TE Owen Daniels (knee) not fully healthy, Schaub is struggling to put up the numbers fantasy owners were expecting. Unfortunately, owners of the Houston QB shouldn’t count on a return to form this week. Kansas City has one of the best young secondaries in the NFL. They’ve allowed just four passing touchdowns this season — tied for fifth fewest in the NFL. The Chiefs are also coming off a gutty, confidence-boosting performance in which they held Peyton Manning out of the endzone for the first time this season. Lower your expectations for Mr. Schaub.
- There’s no compelling reason to bench Kyle Orton this week against the Jets. New York will likely be without top cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring). Plus, the Jets have allowed nine passing touchdowns and 250.8 passing yards per game in their last four outings. Orton leads all QBs with 1,733 yards passing. He’ll continue his hot start with another 300-yard effort at home against New York.
- Normally I like to let players who have been on a long hiatus knock off the rust for a week before plugging them into my fantasy lineup. Not so with Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben returns to action this week against the Browns. Cleveland’s pass defense has been a mixed bag this year. They got touched up by Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer for multiple touchdowns. Roethlisberger should be able to add his name to that list. The last time the Steelers hosted Cleveland, Roethlisberger hung 417 yards and two scores on them.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jay Cutler, Vince Young, Josh Freeman and Donovan McNabb
- BenJarvus Green-Ellis owners shouldn’t necessarily fear the Ravens defense. Baltimore has had some difficulty stopping the run this season. They gave up useful fantasy numbers to Rashard Mendenhall (25-79-2), Peyton Hillis (22-144-1) and Cedric Benson (23-78-0). With Fred Taylor still hobbled, BJGE figures to get 12-17 carries. He ought to be in line for at least 70 yards and has a decent chance for a touchdown.
- Arian Foster owners shouldn’t fuss after their stud RB was held to just 25 yards last week. Yes, Foster faces a Kansas City defense that has been solid against the run but they’re not impenetrable. KC has allowed a RB to put up a touchdown or 100 yards in each of the last three games. Besides, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak seems committed to the running game. On Wednesday, Kubiak stated, “If you look at our three victories this year, the run game has been huge to us and in the two we’ve gotten beat, we’re throwing it too darn much.” Bank on Foster getting his 20-25 touches on Sunday and putting up a quality stat line.
- Ronnie Brown hasn’t had more than 13 carries in any game this season. For all intents and purposes, the Dolphins backfield is a 50/50 split between Brown and Ricky Williams. The timeshare puts both players at risk any time a decent run defense is on the schedule. This week, Miami hosts a Packers outfit that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to RBs. Lower your expectations for both Brown and Williams. They deserve no better than low-end RB2 or flex-play consideration.
- I’m going against the grain with Felix Jones and recommending him as a viable starter against the Vikings. Some pundits say the Vikings run defense is too tough and they’ll bring their A-game at home with their backs against the wall. But the bottom line is Minnesota has given up some quality numbers to RBs this season. If you’re going to attack them with success, it will be on the outside, away from Pat Williams and Kevin Williams. Jones has the speed to get to the corner. I like his chances of putting up at least 80 yards with a good chance to break a long touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jason Snelling, Ryan Torain and Mike Tolbert
- The Falcons pass defense has only allowed one WR to score a touchdown this season (Lance Moore). Benching DeSean Jackson seemed unthinkable at the beginning of the year but with Michael Vick out and knowing Atlanta is tough on WRs, fantasy owners have to at least entertain the move. Jackson has been dreadful with Kevin Kolb under center. Last week, Kolb threw DJax’s way just three times. That’s not going to cut it. Consider Jackson a WR3 until Vick is back under center.
- It’s time for fantasy owners to re-acquaint themselves with Hines Ward. The veteran wideout has posted over 1,000 yards two seasons in a row. But outside of a solid opening week performance, Ward has been a nonfactor. The return of Ben Roethlisberger makes Ward relevant again. Based on the historical matchups, Ward should perform well against Cleveland this week. He has posted 70 yards and/or a touchdown in eight of his last nine meetings with the Browns. Look for Ward to make a solid contribution — somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 yards and a touchdown.
- Sit Oakland wideout Louis Murphy this week against the 49ers. The Raiders will likely start Jason Campbell at QB. That’s bad news. Murphy has made significant fantasy contributions with Bruce Gradkowski under center. In fact, four of Murphy’s five career TDs were thrown by Gradkowski. While the sample size with Campbell under center is much smaller, what we have seen isn’t good. Campbell rarely takes chances down the field, which kills Murphy’s value. Don’t expect anything more than 3-4 catches from Oakland’s top wideout against a decent San Francisco secondary.
- Look to the Windy City if you’re desperate for WR help. The Bears will face a Seahawks pass defense that has given up the fifth most fantasy points to WRs. Chicago’s wideouts have yet to live up to the lofty expectations created when offensive coordinator Mike Martz joined the team. Johhny Knox and Devin Hester should make some fantasy noise this week though. Opponents are averaging 43.5 pass attempts per game against the Seahawks, second most in the NFL. Look for Knox and Hester to each get plenty of looks. I like their chances of combining for 175 yards and two TDs. Both scored in last year’s meeting with the Seahawks.
This Week’s Sleepers: Johnny Knox, Pierre Garcon, Kenny Britt, Davone Bess and Danny Amendola
- Rookie TE Aaron Hernandez already leads the Patriots in receiving yards and he stands to see a spike in targets with Randy Moss now catching passes in Minnesota. Hernandez should be considered starter material at this point. He faces a Ravens defense that has ceded the third fewest fantasy points to TEs. However, those numbers might be inflated considering they haven’t faced an elite TE since Dustin Keller in the opener. I love Hernandez’s potential going forward, especially in PPR leagues. Tom Brady will likely return to his pre-Moss “dink and dunk” ways, which should consistently lead to 7-10 targets per week for Hernandez. To date, Brady has thrown Hernandez’s way 20 times. Hernandez caught 18 of those 20 attempts. Amazing.
- Count on a bounce-back performance from Jets TE Dustin Keller this week against the Broncos. Denver is banged up in their defensive secondary. Starters out with injuries include safety Brian Dawkins, defensive back André Goodman and linebacker Robert Ayers. With shutdown corner Champ Bailey shadowing Braylon Edwards or Santonio Holmes, Keller will be a mismatch for whoever covers him (most likely a safety or linebacker). A similar scenario played out four weeks ago when the Jets faced a New England defense that plays a comparable scheme to Denver. Keller ended that contest with 115 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Aaron Hernandez, Heath Miller and Tony Moeaki
- The 49ers have given up seven or more points to kickers in every game this season. If you’re desperate for kicking help, consider Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, who ranks fourth in the league in scoring among kickers. The Raiders have been able to rush the ball effectively but have seen plenty of drives stall out. As a result, Janikowski has attempted 16 three-point kicks this season — most in the NFL.
- Kansas City’s Ryan Succop makes a nice sleeper play this week against the Texans. Houston is allowing 27.2 points per game, fourth most in the NFL. Three of the last four kickers to face Houston have tallied nine or more points. In the climate controlled Reliant Stadium, Succop should have no problem putting up at least seven points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Sebastian Janikowski, Ryan Succop and Jeff Reed
Team Defense / Special Teams
- Could the stars be aligned any better for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense? Not only are the Steelers coming off a bye but they’re also facing the Browns. And not just the Browns, but the Browns with rookie QB Colt McCoy under center. And not only will the Browns be starting a rookie, third-string QB, they also might be without top RB Peyton Hillis who hasn’t been practicing this week. Oh, and the Steelers are at home. Look for Pittsburgh’s defense to tee off on McCoy and rack up some serious stats. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pitch a shutout.
- The New York Jets defense is a no-brainer play every week but be sure to temper your expectations. Denver QB Kyle Orton doesn’t make many mistakes or get sacked often. Especially at home. Orton has been intercepted just one time and sacked twice in two home games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and Chicago Bears
This Week's Six-Pack: Big Sky IPA
Brewed by: Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, Montana
Appearance: Big Sky IPA comes in a brown longneck with a mildly cheesy label that features an illustration of a deer. The beer itself is orange, rust color. It was topped by a picturesque pancake batter head that was initially a few fingers thick but collapsed quickly.
Smell: Bright and hoppy on the nose. Punctuated by a tropical smell (pineapple and flowers).
Taste: The taste followed in lockstep with the smell. It started out with pointed, grassy hop flavors, which gave way to the pronounced citrus and pineapple notes. This isn’t a hop bomb like many of the other IPAs that have come out in recent years. The hops are bold as they should be, but not jarring to the point of being a turn off.
Drinkability: Balanced, drinkable and tasty.
Last Call: I went into this review not expecting much based on the label and unassuming brewery. I was pleasantly surprised. This beer has some backbone and complexity. Well done. The moral of the story: don’t judge a beer by its bottle. Four stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (England)