Each week, Paul Sandy takes you inside each of the
six key fantasy football positions (QB, RB, WR, TE, PK
and DEF), providing news, notes, predictions and sleepers.
Plus, as a sidebar to the fantasy insight, he reviews
one beer per week and encourages readers to join the
At 1-2, the New Orleans Saints are one of the NFL's most
perplexing teams. I get the feeling the Saints could go
6-10 just as easily as they could 10-6. The offense ranks
25th in the league and is averaging just 17.6
points per game. While it would be easy to put the blame
on Aaron Brooks, who has been terribly inconsistent
in the past, Brooks has actually been quite solid in 2003.
He's only thrown one interception this year and ranks fifth
in the league with a 92.6 quarterback ranking. Still, Brooks
isn't living up to his full fantasy potential. He has four
touchdown passes, but the real disappointment is that he
only has 14 rushing yards on the season. Look for Brooks
to improve both his passing and rushing stats Sunday night
against the Colts. - Is this the week? Is this the week
that Donovan McNabb finally busts out and plays
to his potential? In a word: Yes. McNabb knows this is
a must-win game. Although the Eagles face a tough Buffalo
defense, McNabb is up to the challenge. The best news for
fantasy owners is that he's indicated he's prepared to
get outside the pocket and make plays with his legs. Write
it down: McNabb will get his first three touchdowns of
the year this week, two passing and one rushing. - Don't
be shocked if Daunte Culpepper plays Sunday.
The word out of Minneapolis is that he made tremendous
improvement between Wednesday and Thursday. He's fantasy
football's leading quarterback and should be in your lineup
every time he takes the field.
This Week's Sleepers: Jon Kitna and Jeff Blake
The injury bug reared its ugly face this weekend as stud
running backs Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James, Corey
Dillon, Clinton Portis and Travis Henry all
suffered injuries ranging from minor muscle pulls to broken
bones. While Faulk is definitely out and Dillon is likely
to play, the prospects of the other three suiting up are
less clear. Owners will have to deal with the dreaded "game-time
decision" for the first time this year. Do not wait until
Sunday 15 minutes before kickoff to consider other options.
My feeling is Portis, James and Henry will likely play
injured, but be ineffective and/or on the bench in favor
of healthier backs by the second half. - Stephen Davis is
averaging 126.5 yards per game. This week's opponent, Atlanta,
is giving up 135.3 yards on the ground per game. It all
adds up to another big game for Davis owners. Count on
110 yards and a pair of scores (Davis' first two of the
year). - The Bears are coming off a bye and should keep
their game against the rival Packers close. Chicago's best
offensive lineman, Chris Villarrial, is expected to return
from an injury he suffered in Week 1. As a result, look
for Anthony Thomas to turn in his best performance
of the season in a game that will be competitive into the
fourth quarter. - Hey Michael Bennett owners. Are
you still holding onto your man in hopes that he will provide
your team with a late-season point surge? Good luck with
that. Moe Williams is averaging 94.3 yards per game
and is proving to be quite capable of shouldering the load.
If Bennett returns, he will definitely see some action.
However, head coach Mike Tice isn't likely to mess with
what's working. Williams faces a tough 49ers defense in
Week 4, but his versatility will push him over 100 all-purpose
yards once again. - Ladell Betts and Trung Canidate owners
have been trying to figure out for the first few weeks
how Redskins head coach Steve Spurrier will distribute
the carries. Unfortunately, Spurrier has thrown another
wrench into the fantasy machine. He indicated this week
that fullback Rock Cartright will be his team's
goal line back. It's time to consider trading away Betts
and Canidate or benching them if you have a better option.
This Week's Sleepers: Thomas, Correll Buckhalter
and Curtis Martin
A friend and I had a debate this week about which NFL
team has the strongest receiving corps in the league. I
quickly cast my vote for the Pittsburgh Steelers, with
the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams running a distant
second and third. To my surprise, my friend argued that
the Dallas Cowboys should at least be in my top three.
He suggested the trio of Joey Galloway, Terry
Glenn and Antonio Bryant is unrivaled in terms
of speed and game-breaking ability. At the time, I scoffed
at the idea, but I have since reconsidered. So far in 2003,
Galloway and Glenn each have a 100-yard game under their
belts, while Bryant almost reached the benchmark with 98
yards in Week 2. This week the Cowboys face the Jets. Galloway
and Bryant are excellent plays, while Glenn can be used
as a sleeper. - Issac Bruce needs just 37
yards to reach 10,000 for his career. In his early days,
Bruce frustrated owners with chronic hamstring problems.
However, he's been reasonably injury-free ever since and
should have another big day against an Arizona defense
that has already given up big fantasy days to Darrell
Jackson and Charles Rodgers. - Vikings receiver D'Wayne Bates is
out for this Sunday's game against the 49ers. That means Kelly
Campbell will once again get the start. If you have
players on bye or need a receiver, don't hesitate to start
Campbell. With Moss dealing with a back injury, Campbell
is a lock for at least 85 receiving yards.
This Week's Sleepers: Glenn, Campbell, Rod Gardner
and Muhsin Muhammad
After a disappointing 2002 season, Freddie Jones has
reemerged as one of the better tight ends in fantasy football.
Jones had a big first week, finishing with 65 yards and
a touchdown. Although he has tailed off a bit, Jones is
still a major contributor to Arizona's offense. Look for
another 50-yard performance this week as the Cardinals
return to their former home in St. Louis. - Another tight
end who has quietly had a few strong games is Ernie
Conwell. The former Rams starter likely won't do anything
to carry your team, but he seems to provide enough production
not to hurt it. Conwell is a solid one-week replacement
for Jeremy Shockey or Randy McMichael. Expect 40 yards
and a goal line opportunity.
This Week's Sleepers: Conwell and Dallas Clark
The last time Billy Cundiff took the field he kicked
seven field goals, tying the league record. Although Cundiff
looks like he should be kicking for North Dallas High,
he is a viable starting option in 2003 and especially this
week against the Jets. - The byes have owners missing some
reasonably prominent kickers this weekend, including Martin
Gramatica and Olindo Mare. If you're
searching your free agent pool for replacements, consider
Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed. The Steelers face the Titans
in what could be a kicking contest. If Reed's not available,
another option is Carolina's John Kasay who still
has a long-range leg and will score 8-10 points against
This Week's Sleepers: Cundiff and Kasay
The Denver Broncos defense frustrated and confused
the Oakland Raiders Monday night, sacking quarterback Rich
Gannon five times, containing Charlie Garner and Justin
Fargas, and holding Jerry Rice and Tim Brown to just 72
yards receiving. While the team doesn't boast a single
player that can take over a game like Ray Lewis or Warren
Sapp, the Broncos have an excellent group of linebackers
to go along with a decent defensive line and a secondary
that over achieves. Look for another big game this weekend
when the Detroit Lions come to town. In fact, I'd be surprised
if Detroit manages 10 points. - Any team that faces Kordell Stewart is
worth starting. The Green Bay Packers defense is
good for at least a few turnovers Monday night.
This Week's Sleepers: Green Bay Packers and Dallas
Last Week's 6-Pack: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (SNPA)
Price Paid: $6.49
What the Bottle Tells Us: Each bottle contains
a fine layer of yeast as a result of the traditional bottle
conditioning process, which produces carbonation naturally.
SNPA is 5.6% alcohol by volume.
What I Say: Unlike the first two beers we sampled,
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale comes in an unassuming brown bottle.
None of the snobbishness here. As I poured my first brew,
I immediately noticed the beautiful copper color and lively
carbonation. The head was frothy and about one-finger thick,
but it dissipated rather quickly. In the glass, the beer
has a hint of haziness, presumably from the traditional
conditioning process that leaves yeast remnants in the
bottle. One whiff and I could immediately tell SNPA is
a serious beer, offering a big hop aroma with slight hints
of sweetness. As for the taste, it is assertive but not
overpowering to the palate. The hops dominate your taste
buds, coating them with a pine-flavored aftertaste that
is a touch on the bitter side. However, it's not insane-hoppy
like an India Pale Ale. After a holding the beer in my
mouth for several seconds, I also enjoyed a hint of citrus
(a bit like grapefruit). These complex flavors make for
an excellent beer. SNPA is the new king of this 6-pack
experiment and I look forward to drinking it more frequently.
It seems like the perfect "house beer" - combining an affordable
price, high availability and an excellent taste. Plus,
it's light enough to drink after a long day working in
the yard, but it's got enough kick to hold up in the winter.
Cheers to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Although distribution
spans into Europe, the company seems to have maintained
its microbrew roots.
Reader Comment: Tim Huckaby of Grand Prairie, Texas
writes, "This turned out to be an unusual experience.
With a name like Pale Ale I was expecting another
watered-down domestic and instead I was pleasantly
surprised with the dark texture and high hop flavor
that hit me. It was a wonderful taste going down, but it
did leave a slightly bitter after-taste in its passing.
By the end of the six-pack the aftertaste was hardly noticeable.
Keep up the good work." Tim's Texas counterpart Jacob Bass
of Austin summed it up even better, stating, "Sierra Nevada
is the nectar of the god's." A couple of Texans digging
on a California brew. Can you feel the camaraderie?
This Week's 6-Pack: Newcastle Brown Ale
After a couple American beers, it's time to head back
across the pond. Pick up a six-pack of Newcastle to enjoy
during this weekend's games and let me know if the Brits
know beer or if they should stick to sipping tea.