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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
September 25, 2003
 

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 festivities.

Quarterback

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

Running Back

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

Wide Receiver

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

Tight End

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

Kicker

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 Atlanta.

This Week's Sleepers: Cundiff and Kasay

Defense

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 Cowboys

The 6-Pack

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.