- Ben Roethlisberger has come on strong of late, throwing 11 touchdowns in his last four games. Given his hot streak, you’re probably not going to bench him unless you have a topnotch alternative. However, you should lower your expectations. In his last six games against the Ravens, Roethlisberger has failed to throw more than one touchdown pass and has averaged 247 passing yards per game. Baltimore has also allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs in 2011.
- Show some confidence in Josh Freeman, who has thrown for at least 255 yards and two scores in his last two meetings against the Saints. After a sluggish start to the season, Freeman has delivered two straight useful stat lines. He should make it three in a row in what should be a high-scoring game.
- It hasn’t always been pretty but Jets QB Mark Sanchez has managed to score multiple touchdowns in six out of seven games this season. Only the Ravens completely shut him down. Give Sanchez the starting nod against the Bills. Prior to erasing Washington’s John Beck last week, the Bills had been generous to most of the opposing QBs they’ve faced. If guys like Jason Campbell and Andy Dalton put up solid numbers against the Bills, Sanchez has a good chance to do the same. Buffalo has allowed the ninth most fantasy points to QBs this year.
- After some early struggles and scrutiny, the Eagles defense has started to gel. They’ve held the last three quarterbacks they’ve faced to iffy passing numbers. Don’t expect Bears QB Jay Cutler to carry your team. The Bears figure to go with a run-heavy offense, following the lead of most of the other teams that have faced the Eagles. Only three clubs have seen fewer pass attempts per game than Philadelphia. Look for Cutler to finish with around 235 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh Freeman, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez and Sam Bradford
- Get Michael Bush some work against the Broncos. He has scored four touchdowns in his last four meetings with Denver. That’s noteworthy production for a backup RB. With starter Darren McFadden (foot) unlikely to play, Bush will have the benefit of a full load this time around. Although the Broncos have allowed the ninth fewest fantasy points to RBs, the numbers are deceiving. The best RBs they’ve faced this season were McFadden and Ryan Mathews. Both players racked up over 125 yards rushing. Bush is a good bet to mark at least 80 yards and a score—and his upside is top 10 RB stats.
- You’d think a matchup against the 0-7 Dolphins would be great news for a fantasy RB. That’s not necessarily the case. Starting RBs have, for the most part, come up empty against the Dolphins defense this year. In the last five games, not a single No. 1 RB has scored a touchdown or exceeded 81 yards on the ground against Miami. Chiefs RB Jackie Battle is at risk of a substandard week. Still, he’ll get you 15 or more carries and should be in your lineup unless you have excellent RB depth.
- After serving out a one-game suspension, Cedric Benson will return to the field this week. He also should return to your lineup. The Titans have allowed a touchdown or 100 yards to an opposing RB in every game this season except one. There’s a good chance Benson crosses the stripe. Tennessee has given up the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs.
- Keep Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer on the bench this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati ranks second in the NFL versus the run, allowing just 85.4 yards rushing per game. The last five starting RBs the Bengals have faced averaged just 44.2 yards per carry. This includes the likes of Maurice Jones-Drew, Fred Jackson and Frank Gore. About the only chance that Johnson and Ringer have for value is via a rushing touchdown, but who will score it? The situation is too uncertain to take a chance.
This Week’s Sleepers: Michael Bush, Brandon Jacobs, Mike Tolbert and Marion Barber
- The Colts have been lit up by opposing No. 1 WRs for seven touchdowns in the last four games. Look for Atlanta’s Roddy White to go off for some thick numbers. If he doesn’t put up his first stat line of the year with over 100 yards and touchdown, it will be a major disappointment.
- Tough, physical receivers have given the Seahawks fits this season. Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones, and Hakeem Nicks put up strong numbers against Seattle—as did deep threats Mike Wallace, Victor Cruz and A.J. Green. The Six-Pack likes the Cowboys wideouts this week, especially Dez Bryant, who has recorded three touchdowns in the three home games he’s played this season. Seattle will start two rookie cornerbacks against Dallas. Look for Bryant to take advantage of their lack of experience and put up over 100 yards with a touchdown.
- The Cardinals are likely to be without QB Kevin Kolb this week. Having backup John Skelton under center might be disconcerting for Larry Fitzgerald owners at first blush, but the Skelton-to-Fitzgerald connection was productive in 2010. In the four games Skelton started last year, Fitzgerald twice put up 125 yards and once went over 70 yards. The other game was a dud, but hey, two out of three isn’t bad. The bottom line is Skelton had the stones to force the ball to Fitzgerald last year, which has been a major shortfall of Kolb. The Six-Pack expects Fitzy to get plenty of targets and contribute solid numbers against the Rams.
- Look for Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson to break out of his mini-slump this week. Jackson always shows up on Monday night. In four career MNF appearances, he has four plays that have gone 57 yards or longer. He has a great chance of recording another explosive play or two against a Bears defense that has had trouble stopping small, fast wideouts. Steve Smith, Greg Jennings and Devery Henderson all check in at under six-feet tall. All three went over 100 yards against the Bears.
This Week’s Sleepers: Arrelious Benn, Jonathan Baldwin, Malcom Floyd, Victor Cruz and Jerome Simpson
- Don’t chase Heath Miller’s 7-85-0 stat line from last week. Miller drifts in and out of fantasy relevance more than any other TE this side of Dustin Keller. Besides he rarely has success against the Ravens. Miller hasn’t scored in a regular season game versus Baltimore since 2007, a streak of nine straight outings. Only once did he put up over 45 yards in that nine-game stretch.
- Houston TE Owen Daniels has gone four straight games without a touchdown. That streak will end in Week 9 against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to TEs this season. The Browns have surrendered nine passing touchdowns in 2011—over half of those (five) went to TEs. Daniels should check in with 80 yards and a score on Sunday.
This Week’s Sleepers: Brent Celek and Dallas Clark
- During their three-game skid, the Redskins have allowed opposing kickers to post 11.3 points per outing. San Francisco’s David Akers is a lock for an above-average stat line this week. He’s drilled multiple field goal kicks in four of his last five games.
- Take a flier on Arizona’s Jay Feely, who will face the Rams this week. You wouldn’t know it just by looking at their record, but the Cardinals have posted 30+ points in four straight games. And that was against the Ravens, Steelers, Vikings and Giants. It’s possible that Arizona isn’t as bad as their record. It’s probable that they score at least 30 again this week and Feely accounts for at least nine.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jay Feely and Matt Bryant
Team Defense / Special Teams
- The Six-Pack likes the Dallas Cowboys this week against the Seahawks. Seattle QB Tarvaris Jackson has looked surprisingly competent this season but he’s taking far too many sacks. In the six games he’s played, Jackson has been sacked 20 times—fifth most in the NFL. Dallas rates near the top of the league in sacks recorded, so look for them to register at least four on Sunday. A couple turnovers will vault them to the top of the leaderboard for defensive scoring in Week 9.
- Ride the red hot Cincinnati Bengals this week. The Bengals DST has scored four touchdowns in their last three games. That’s goes along with eight sacks and six turnovers during the same stretch. Cincinnati faces the Titans on Sunday. Although Tennessee has played clean football on most weeks, the Bengals are too good to sit.
This Week’s Sleepers: Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders
This Week's Six-Pack: Bell’s Oarsman Ale
Brewed by: Bell’s Brewing, Comstock, Michigan
Appearance: This beer pours from a standard brown longneck with an illustration of a man rowing a boat. The label indicates this beer is a Berliner Weissbier brewed using traditional sour mash methods. The color is very light and golden with a slight haze to it. A thin soapy head forms and disappears in the blink of an eye.
Smell: Not a lot happening in the aroma department. I’d equate it to the smell of water with a lemon wedge in it. Even a few brisk swirls of the glass reveals very little.
Taste: The taste is reminiscent of Sweet Tart candy—slightly fruity and tart with a little sweetness. Some corn and wheat flavors build on the backend but sour/tart are the dominant flavors. By the midway point of this sampling the carbonation was lifeless and flat. All in all, I found the flavor a little strange. It is somewhat crisp and refreshing, which earns it a rare high mark.
Drinkability: With a 4.0% ABV, you can certainly enjoy a few of these in a session. However, the tartness would probably be a turnoff after a couple.
Last Call: Bell’s Oarsman isn’t a bad brew but just isn’t my thing. Two stars out of five.
Up Next: Ovila Saison, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico, California