- Atrocious. Dreadful. Rancid. Pick your adjective; Joe Flacco’s Monday night performance made his fantasy owners want to retch. He passed for just 137 yards and a touchdown as the Ravens offense struggled mightily against the underdog Jaguars. Despite Flacco’s underwhelming effort, fantasy owners shouldn’t be too quick to dispatch the Baltimore QB to the bench. Arizona’s 28th-ranked pass defense is coming to town on Sunday. Only five teams have allowed more fantasy points to QBs than the Cardinals. With six teams on bye, Flacco is playable as a low-end QB1.
- In their last five games, the Jaguars have allowed just one QB to throw multiple touchdown passes. And it isn’t as if they’ve been facing the Sisters of the Poor. The Jags managed to hold Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger to substandard fantasy numbers. Dial back your expectations for Matt Schaub this week. Schaub will be fortunate to put up 225 yards and two scores.
- San Francisco QB Alex Smith has been a serviceable stopgap during this brutal stretch of bye weeks but the Six-Pack recommends using him only as a last resort on Sunday. Cleveland has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to QBs. Some of that has to do with matchups but the Browns secondary is no joke. Look for Smith to finish with around 200 yards and a score.
- During the bye weeks in deep leagues, you sometimes just need to play the matchups and cross your fingers. That’s the strategy this week when it comes to Redskins QB John Beck. Even though there are plenty of tick marks in the “negatives” column for Beck—including the fact that he’ll be without Santana Moss— he is worth a shot against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the third-most fantasy points to QBs this season. Bank on 275 yards and a score or two from Beck.
This Week’s Sleepers: Joe Flacco, John Beck, Matt Hasselbeck and Tim Tebow
- The Six-Pack considers this a make-or-break week for Chris Johnson. Johnson and the Titans meet the Colts, who rank second-to-last in the NFL in run defense. They allow 150.9 rushing yards per game and they’ve ceded nine rushing scores this season—tied for most in the NFL. If Johnson fails to put up 100 yards and a touchdown in this game, he will officially become bench material. Instead of CJ2K, we will need to start calling him CJ750. The good news is he has scored or recorded 100 total yards in four of his last five games against Indy. Give him the benefit of the doubt and start him on Sunday.
- Eagles RB LeSean McCoy is clearly a no-brainer start every week. But keep your expectations at a reasonable level. McCoy has never scored against the Cowboys in four career meetings. Plus Dallas offers up the NFL’s stingiest run defense. They allow a meager 69.7 rushing yards per game.
- The Six-Pack has never shied away from an opportunity to bet against Knowshon Moreno and his dried-up rubberband hamstrings. Moreno will get yet another chance to start this week. Despite the favorable matchup against the Lions, he’s nowhere near a sure thing. The coaching staff doesn’t seem to trust him and will no doubt put him on a short leash. The Six-Pack actually prefers Lance Ball and projects he will be the only Denver RB to post useful numbers. Detroit allows the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL. Look for Ball to net 70 yards with a possible score.
- Fantasy owners would be wise to steer clear of Browns RBs Montario Hardesty and Petyon Hillis in Week 8. Cleveland travels to the west coast to face the 49ers, who own the NFL’s No. 2 rush defense. The numbers don’t lie. San Francisco hasn’t allowed a single rushing score this season. Opponents’ starting RBs have averaged a miniscule 35.2 rushing yards per game against them. Avoid all parts of Cleveland’s run game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Lance Ball, Pierre Thomas, Delone Carter and Roy Helu
- Essentially every single frontline, No. 1 WR to face the Dolphins has turned in a strong fantasy showing. This includes Wes Welker (8-160-2), Andre Johnson (7-93-1), Vincent Jackson (3-108-1) and Santonio Holmes (3-63-1). Even Mohamad Massaquoi and Demaryius Thomas, who you could argue were their team’s No. 1 WRs at the time, scored touchdowns against Miami. Hakeem Nicks has been a top 10 WR this season but he hasn’t had that monster multi-TD game yet. Look for him to get it this week.
- Dust off Tennessee’s Nate Washington for a spot start if you need WR help. Indianapolis has been lit up for five touchdowns by opposing No. 1 receivers in their last three games. The Colts have allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs. Washington is a useful option as a WR3 of flex play.
- Although the Giants have given up the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs this season, the Six-Pack doesn’t see Brandon Marshall having much of an impact in Week 8. The Giants are finally healthy and will have key defensive players like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Boley and Kenny Phillips back at full strength. Look for QB Matt Moore to buckle under an intense pass rush and throw for no more than 160 yards, which will greatly limit Marshall’s contribution.
- Take a flier on Ravens wideout Torrey Smith as a boom-or-bust WR3. Baltimore faces a Cardinals defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to receivers. Speedy wideouts like Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Santana Moss and Victor Cruz have toasted Arizona this season. Smith has an excellent chance to haul in a long touchdown pass. If you have a losing record, plug him in and go for broke.
This Week’s Sleepers: Nate Washington, Jabar Gaffney, Jerome Simpson, Antonio Brown and Michael Crabtree
- The matchup this week is ripe for Cowboys TE Jason Witten to post the type of stat line that can carry fantasy squads. In 2010, Jason Garrett’s gameplan was to attack the Eagles with Witten, who scored three times in the two meetings. Expect Garrett to use a similar formula on Sunday. Philadelphia has struggled against elite TEs. Tony Gonzalez, Vernon Davis and Fred Davis each posted quality numbers against the Eagles. The Six-Pack sees Witten flirting with double-digit receptions with a touchdown or two.
- The fact that the Steelers have ceded the eighth fewest fantasy points to TEs is probably a bit of a mirage. The only above-average TE the Steelers have faced this season is Owen Daniels. Daniels did just fine, recording 69 yards and a touchdown. Fantasy owners should have no reservations about starting Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Patriots QB Tom Brady has carved up Pittsburgh’s defense throughout his career. Expect Hernandez and Gronkowski to factor heavily in the box score as usual.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jake Ballard, Jermaine Gresham and Visanthe Shiancoe
- Opposing kickers have averaged 11.25 points per game against the Redskins in their last four outings (not including bonus yardage points). Buffalo’s Rian Lindell isn’t a bad option coming off the bye week. The game is being played in Toronto in a dome so weather won’t be a factor.
- San Francisco kicker David Akers ranks eighth in fantasy scoring at his position. He’s a good option at home against the Browns this week. Cleveland has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to kickers. The Six-Pack thinks this game could be a field goal fest with Akers connecting on at least three three-pointers.
This Week’s Sleepers: Rian Lindell, David Akers and Lawrence Tynes
Team Defense / Special Teams
- Bank on a big number this week from the New Orleans Saints. Their blitzing defense should have little difficulty racking up points against the Rams. St. Louis has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing DST units. The Saints defense notched three turnovers, one sack and a touchdown in Monday’s blowout win over the Colts. They have a good chance to match or exceed that production against the Rams, who will likely start backup QB A.J. Feeley again.
- The Cincinnati Bengals defense should be in line for a great performance this week against Seattle. Seahawks QBs have been sacked 24 times—most in the NFL. It’s unclear which QB will start for Seattle but it doesn’t really matter. The Bengals will apply pressure and coax Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst into mistakes. The Bengals have recorded defensive touchdowns in two straight games and they have a good chance to make it three in a row on Sunday.
This Week’s Sleepers: New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals
This Week's Six-Pack: Stone Levitation Ale
Brewed by: Stone Brewing Company, Escondido, California
Appearance: Levitation Ale pours from your typical brown longneck. Instead of a paper label, the bottle has its information etched or sandblasted onto the glass. The beer is dark amber and offers up a generous billowy head. Interestingly, much of the carbonation clung to the side of the glass like a magnet. From top to bottom and all around the pint glass, were a billion tiny bubbles. Sort of strange. Nonetheless, this brew looks terrific in the glass.
Smell: Not especially strong on the nose, but there’s a nice mix of hops, citrus and bready malt.
Taste: This beer is richly flavored and offers nice complexity. A variety of bitter hops are the dominant player. Some malt flavor peeks through along with spice and caramel notes. The aftertaste isn’t nearly as bitter or potent as an IPA. An excellent , well-balanced flavor profile.
Drinkability: Extremely drinkable. With a 4.4% ABV, this is a beer you can easily bring to a poker night or a Sunday football-watching party and drink several in a session.
Last Call: I love everything about this beer. It doesn’t sacrifice flavor for a low ABV and that is a rarity. Five stars out of five.
Up Next: Bell’s Oarsman Ale, Bell’s Brewing, Comstock, Michigan