- Entrust your championship dreams to Eli Manning, who has posted multiple touchdowns in six of his last seven meetings with the Cowboys. Dallas ranks 14th in the NFL against the pass, and they probably aren’t quite that good. The Cowboys haven’t faced an above-average passer since October. Look for Manning to go for 300 yards and 2-3 scores.
- Starting Mark Sanchez in December is usually a bad idea. Sanchez has passed for just 177.5 yards and .5 touchdowns per game in his career in the final month on the calendar. He also has never recorded a multiple touchdown game in December but he has averaged two INTs per outing. Stay away from Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs. Kansas City’s defense has played surprisingly well over the last month, holding guys like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger below their average output.
- While Sanchez has struggled in December, Phillip Rivers has flourished. In his last 13 December games, Rivers has tossed 29 touchdowns—and average of 2.23 per game. Rivers seems to be putting his early-season struggles behind him. He ripped the Jaguars for three touchdowns on Monday night. Another multi-TD stat line is likely against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the tenth-most fantasy points to QBs this year. They’ve also been torched for ten passing scores in their last three road games.
- Given the state of the quarterback position today, it’s awfully tough to name more than 12 QBs who have more fantasy upside than Rex Grossman this week. Try it for yourself. Just don’t get “upside” confused with “certainty.” Grossman is by no means a lock to put up useful numbers. However, if your QB depth chart has been ravaged by injuries, Grossman is worth a long, hard look. New England has given up quality lines to every QB they’ve faced this season save Tyler Palko. Look for Grossman to put up 300 yards and one touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Rex Grossman, Matt Moore and Tarvaris Jackson
- Falcons RB Michael Turner has been a disappointment for the last two games, averaging just 52 rushing yards per outing with zero touchdowns. It’s possible his heavy workload this season has caught up with him but don’t sweat this week’s matchup against the Panthers. Turner has been money in the bank the last six times he’s faced Carolina. Over that six-game stretch he’s put up five 100+ yard games and scored an eye-popping 11 touchdowns. Considering no team has allowed more fantasy points to RBs this season than Carolina, there’s a good chance Turner is a top fantasy performer in Week 14.
- Dial back your expectations for Michael Bush this week against the Packers. Darren McFadden will miss the game, which obviously helps Bush’s cause. However, when the Packers get ahead (not if, when), Bush’s fantasy potential will be crippled—just as it was last week. Pray for a touchdown because the yardage won’t climb above 70.
- Ryan Mathews is a no brainer this week against a Bills defense that has given up the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs. He has a streak of two straight 100-yard performances and should push that to three. Owners in deeper leagues might even be able to squeeze a quality line out of Mike Tolbert. The Six-Pack sees San Diego jumping out to a big lead with Tolbert grinding out the clock in the fourth quarter.
- Get Chicago’s Marion Barber in your lineup if you’re shorthanded at RB. Barber should get a minimum of 20 carries in what will most likely be a low-scoring game against the Broncos. Denver’s run defense has really been punched in the mouth the last two weeks, allowing 314 rushing yards. Barber projects out with at least 85 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Marion Barber, Mike Tolbert, Ricky Williams and Maurice Morris
- Brandon Lloyd owners need to pore over the reports out of St. Louis on Friday and Saturday. If No. 1 and No. 2 QBs Sam Bradford and A.J. Feely miss practice, the team will likely start third-stringer Tom Brandstater. Under that scenario, Lloyd becomes a monumental risk. He’s coming off his worst output as a Ram, posting just one catch for 34 yards last week. Consider Lloyd a low-end WR3 at best this week if Brandstater is under center. Since the Rams play on Monday night against Seattle, acquiring a guy like Golden Tate makes sense as a Plan B.
- The Six-Pack predicted last week that having Dan Orlovsky under center would make Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon fantasy relevant again. Although Garcon’s beefy stat line was impressive, let’s not get delusional. Nearly all of his production came in garbage time against the Patriots. In Week 14, he’ll go up against a Ravens defense that has allowed the eighth fewest fantasy points to WRs. Baltimore is even tougher at home, where they’ve ceded just four scores to WRs. Keeping Garcon on the bench is probably for the best.
- The Patriots have allowed the most fantasy points to WRs this season. An awful lot of that production has gone to No. 2 or No. 3 WRs. Take a look at some of the WR numbers they’ve given up over the past month and a half: Pierre Garcon (9-150-2), Jason Avant (8-110-1), Steve Breaston (6-73-0), Plaxico Burress (3-39-1), Jeremy Kerley (4-79-0), Victor Cruz (6-91-0) and Antonio Brown (9-67-1). Savvy fantasy owners can exploit the knowledge by giving Jabbar Gaffney a spot start. Playing Gaffney many seem too risky since he was held catchless just last week. However, in Weeks 11-12, he recorded 12 receptions for 187 yards and a score. He has a great chance to bounce back and reward fantasy owners who start him as a WR3.
- Anquan Boldin has averaged a disappointing 38 yards per game over the last four weeks. Although your patience may be wearing thin, give Boldin the benefit of the doubt against the Colts. Indianapolis allows the sixth-most fantasy points to WRs. Yes there’s a risk that Baltimore will go run heavy, but the Ravens will have plenty of drives that go deep into Indianapolis territory. The Six-Pack sees Boldin breaking his scoring drought with a TD reception.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jabbar Gaffney, Titus Young, Damian Williams, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Golden Tate
- Not a single TE has done anything noteworthy against the Bengals since mid-October. Cincinnati’s defense has ceded the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position this season. Owen Daniels and Joel Dreesen are poor TE options this week. See if you can find a better option on your waiver wire.
- Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew has been a liability for fantasy owners over the second half of the season. In the last six games, Pettigrew has just one decent line. Despite the downward trend, he’s worth a shot against Minnesota. The Vikings have given up 24 passing touchdowns this year, most in the NFL. The last time he faced Minnesota, Pettigrew hauled in 11 receptions. Pencil him in for 6-75-1 this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ed Dickson and Anthony Fasano
- Chicago’s Robbie Gould is the NFL’s fourth-highest scoring kicker but the effect of his team’s injuries should not be ignored by fantasy owners. With Jay Cutler and Matt Forte done for the remainder of the fantasy season, the Bears could be hard pressed to move the football. Case in point: Last week Chicago only had three drives that went beyond their opponent’s 35-yard line (in other words, into field goal position). On a positive note, the Bears face a Denver outfit that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to kickers. Maybe you can squeeze another decent number out of Gould. Maybe.
- Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff won’t be quite as good as you think this week against the Colts. He has missed five field goals in the last five games and now he’s dealing with a calf injury on his plant leg. Leg injuries and kickers are never a good mix. If he plays, look for a bunch of extra points and little else.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dan Carpenter and Rob Bironas
Team Defense / Special Teams
- The Denver Broncos defense is a must-start this week against the Bears. In his two starts this season, Chicago QB Caleb Hanie has been sacked 11 times and thrown six interceptions. Denver is tied for fifth in the NFL with 33 sacks. If they can pressure Hanie, they should rank among the top five fantasy defenses in Week 14.
- If you’re still trotting out the Philadelphia Eagles defense, it’s time to abandon that sinking ship. The Eagles sure looked like they quit last week against Seattle. In Week 14, Philadelphia travels to Miami. The Dolphins have turned the ball over just once in their last three games. Scoring opportunities will be few and far between for Philly.
This Week’s Sleepers: Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins
This Week's Six-Pack: Southern Tier 2XIPA
Brewed by: Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
Appearance: Poured from a brown longneck with a plain, copy-heavy label, 2XIPA is a golden, honey color with a slight haze. It appeared to be oddly flat with a miniscule head and scarce slow-moving carbonation.
Smell: The aroma is bright and hoppy, dominated by wafts of orange zest with some slight pine in the background. Quite refreshing on the nose.
Taste: A hoppy kick plays the lead role for this beer. It’s not surprising since the label states the beer is brewed with four varieties of hops. Key flavors are pine and grapefruit. As the beer warmed, sweet malts became more distinguishable. The finish is dry with some spicy notes. A robust 8.2% ABV is well hidden but you can feel it on your breath after awhile. It’s a well-balanced, tasty double IPA.
Drinkability: The high ABV will limit the amount of these you can have in a session. But since the hops aren’t obnoxious, you won’t need to shut it down after just one. Although the carbonation wasn’t visible to the eye, 2XIPA didn’t come off as flat.
Last Call: 2XIPA wasn’t nearly as hoppy as the name implies. It’s not weak by any stretch but I’ve had stronger IPAs. It’s still a well-executed beer that’s worth a thorough sampling. Four stars out of five.
Up Next: Newcastle Winter Ale, Caledonian Brewery, Edinburgh, UK