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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
October 24, 2003
 

Quarterback

Rich Gannon was waived in one of my leagues on Tuesday. The owner who dropped him acquired Danny Kanell. What's even more amazing is that Gannon has gone unclaimed as of the time of this writing. I would acquire Gannon myself, but I already have Jon Kitna as my backup quarterback. Take a moment to let that soak in. It's been an interesting year for fantasy quarterbacks and I can't wait to see how the second half unfolds. - Owners looking for a fill-in for Brett Favre or Patrick Ramsey should shy away from Vinny Testaverde even though the veteran quarterback has put up improved numbers in recent weeks. At some point, Chad Pennington will see some action in this game, rendering both players virtually unplayable this week. - San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia showed some life last week against the vaunted Tampa defense. Garcia passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns in an upset win. Although the Buccaneers have been disappointing, they are clearly a stronger defensive team than the Arizona Cardinals, Garcia's opponent this week. Count on Garcia tossing another two touchdowns and 250 yards as the 49ers re-establish themselves as playoff contenders. - After starting the season as one of fantasy football's hottest quarterbacks, Matt Hasselbeck has come back down to earth. In his last three games, Hasselbeck only has two touchdowns. His spotty performances have owners wondering whether he's going to be the every-week quarterback they drafted. The answer is yes. I write that with confidence because his accuracy hasn't dropped. In fact, Hasselbeck has higher completion percentages in his last three games than he did in his first three. The touchdowns will come and they'll come as early as this week. The stingy Bengals have only allowed six passing touchdowns in six games, but they gave up two last week to Baltimore's Travis Taylor as they concentrated on stopping the running game. Look for a similar result this week as Hasselbeck throws for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

This Week's Sleepers: Jake Delhomme, Jon Kitna and Donovan McNabb

Running Back

If your team is hovering around .500 and you're desperate for spark to help you make a late-season playoff push, consider trading for Curtis Martin. Martin has been gaining momentum after a slow start. The nine-year veteran has racked up 77 and 88 yards on the ground in the last two games. With Chad Pennington slated to see his first action of the year Sunday against the Eagles, you get the feeling the Jets could make a playoff run of their own. If you're hesitant to grab the aging Martin, consider his stats in November and December of last year. He scored five touchdowns and gained 938 all-purpose yards in nine weeks, an average of 104.2 yards per game. This compares quite favorably to his 74.0 yards per game in September and October of 2002. Look for him to duplicate his late-season success this year. - Many owners who acquired Arlen Harris this week are wondering whether or not to start him this week against the Steelers. Pittsburgh is giving up less than 100 yards per game on the ground, which ranks eighth in the league. Even so, I still like Harris as a sleeper. Despite being stout against the run, the Steelers are deplorable in red-zone defense. Opponents have found their way into the Pittsburgh red zone 20 times in six games this season and have scored a touchdown on 16 occasions. That's awful. Harris should see plenty of carries Sunday, which will result in a touchdown and 100 all-purpose yards. - Look for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to try and make good with Corey Dillon this Sunday by feeding him the ball 20+ times. It would be a first in 2003 and go a long way in pacifying one of the team's top offensive playmakers. Earlier this week, Dillon requested the Bengals trade him to the Cowboys and hinted that he didn't think the Bengals were calling his number enough times. Ironically, this displeasure was all voiced after a win over the Ravens . not a loss. Dillon should have no problem turning those 20+ carries into 85-95 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks. - Jerome Bettis will make his first start of the year this week in what should be an intriguing matchup against the Rams, the team that originally drafted him. The Bus is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this year, but don't let that deceive you into thinking he's washed up. Bettis is the type of back that punishes opponents and often needs a lot of carries to be effective. He should see more rushing attempts this week than he's had all year and that will lead to a decent day for a guy who feels like he has something to prove. Bettis gets 70-80 yards and a goal line plunge in a Steelers victory. - If Kevan Barlow has been picking up dust on your bench, consider activating him this week if your other options don't seem too attractive. While Garrison Hearst has been the better back in 2003, game-time temperatures in Arizona are predicted to climb above 100 degrees. Both backs will see extensive work in order to stay fresh and Barlow will finish with 80 yards and a touchdown.

This Week's Sleepers: Arlen Harris, Jerome Bettis and Kevan Barlow

Wide Receiver

The Tennessee Titans have officially made the switch from a run-first team to a pass-first team. The Titans rank second in passing offense (behind the Rams) with 277.3 passing yards per game. With such strong passing numbers, you'd think they'd offer the fantasy football community some quality receivers. Unfortunately, the fantasy scoring has been divvied up between wideouts Derrick Mason, Justin McCareins, Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico. While Mason is clearly an every-week starter, even he has given owners his share of poor performances, including a 0-point, 3-point and 4-point game (by Huddle scoring). The remaining three receivers are worthy of the occasional start, but it is impossible to tell which is going to score on any given week. Look for the Titans passing game to frustrate fantasy owners all season long because a clear number two target isn't likely to emerge. - As if Plaxico Burress owners weren't frustrated enough, here's a little salt in the wounds. In his last 13 regular-season games, Burress has scored two touchdowns. This meager production comes from a man who is supposed to be the prototypical red-zone receiver, tall and able to out-jump smaller defensive backs. When the Rams come to town Sunday, expect Burress to see more opportunities than in recent weeks. I'm predicting he'll finish with his first 100-yard game since Week 2 but once again fail to score. - After starting the season with 305 yards and two touchdowns in his first three games, Amani Toomer has fallen on hard times. In the last three weeks, the eighth-year receiver has averaged less than 45 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown. Moreover, the Giants haven't had a passing play more than 27 yards since they played Washington back in Week 3. The problem can be attributed to a weakened offensive line, which has been a sieve in recent weeks. Look for more struggles from Toomer this week as the Giants travel to the raucous Metrodome to face a Vikings squad that leads the leagues in interceptions and ranks near the top in sacks. Toomer may sneak a score during garbage time at the end of the game, but I'm figuring he'll end up with 60 yards and zero touchdowns.

This Week's Sleepers: Jerome Pathon, Reggie Wayne, James Thrash and Tai Streets

Tight End

It's starting to look pretty bleak in the world of tight ends. If you're in a 10- or 12-team league and don't own one of the top five or six guys, you've probably accepted that you're not likely to get more than three points from that position each week. Your strategy can either be to stick with one tight end no matter how ugly it gets or platoon among your league's free agents, starting a different tight end each week. I prefer the second route because it gives me a chance to coach myself to a couple extra points. This week, I like Anthony Becht's chances against the Eagles. Philadelphia's defense has given up three touchdowns to tight ends in six games. Another reason the Jets tight end is a good bet this week is that he's averaging more than 14 yards per catch in his last two games, an excellent statistic for a tight end. Acquire Becht this week and count on 40 yards with a possible redzone score. - Although Randy McMichael only has one touchdown in 2003, he's elevated his game in the last few weeks and now ranks among fantasy football's elite tight ends. McMichael, who is in his second year with the Dolphins, had a huge 102-yard performance last week and is averaging more than 46 yards per game on the year. Look for another big performance this week against the Chargers, a team that has surrendered touchdowns to tight ends in four of their last five games. McMichael is good for 60 yards and a touchdown in this week's Monday night matchup.

This Week's Sleepers: Anthony Becht and Itula Mili

Kicker

Ryan Longwell, Jay Feely, Sebastian Janikowski and John Hall are idle this week. If you need a replacement, consider acquiring Owen Pochman or Olindo Mare. Both kickers have had their share of struggles; Mare even cost his team a victory last week with two missed field goals. However, Pochman's 49ers face the Cardinals and Mare's Dolphins square off against the Chargers this week, favorable opponents to say the least. Arizona and San Diego rank among the league's worst defenses in terms of yards and points given up. It's a safe bet that Pochman or Mare will score your team a minimum of eight points.

This Week's Sleepers: Owen Pochman and Olindo Mare

Defense

Owners who have a bye week conflict likely scrambled this week to acquire the San Francisco 49ers defense. As previously stated, the 49ers have a favorable game this week against the Arizona. While I agree that San Francisco will log a few sacks and turnovers, they aren't the only quality pickup for Week 8. The Detroit Lions should have their best defensive showing of the year this week against the Bears, who will start 38 year-old Chris Chandler. Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Chandler threw two interceptions, fumbled once and was sacked three times. The Bears scored a respectable 17 points, but only managed 211 yards of total offense. Look for Detroit to keep Chicago's offense grounded again this week and hold them to under 20 points. The Bears will likely be without starting running back Anthony Thomas and backup Adrian Petersen. Marty Booker may also sit another week out.

This Week's Sleepers: Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers

The 6-Pack

Last Week's 6-Pack: Shiner Bock

Price Paid: $6.49

What the Bottle Tells Us: The label tells the tale of how the Spoetzl Brewery was established back in 1909. In addition, we get a hint of the origins of the beer. "Shiner Bock is the perfect union of traditional Bavarian and American style brewing," and "the beer has a flavor all its own."

What I Say: Shiner Bock is presented in an unassuming brown bottle with a bright yellow label depicting a ram (one from the animal kingdom as opposed to the St. Louis variety). The beer swirls into the glass with plenty of carbonation and pours to an impressive deep rust color. It actually resembles iced tea quite a bit. The head was thick and frothy, but it faded too quickly to appreciate. After several minutes of smelling, sniffing and otherwise inhaling this beer, I concluded there wasn't a whole lot in the way of aroma. My final analysis on the scent was that it somewhat resembled a fruity wine. That might be a tad insulting to Texans who seemed to have made this beer a Lone Star state icon; however, it's the best I could come up with. As for the flavor, it is quite tasty with hints of sweet malt flavor and toffee undertones. My only complaint is the name. In my mind, a true bock should be dominated by a bold hop flavor and a thicker head. Shiner Bock delivered neither. That's not to say I was disappointed in my 6-Pack. On the contrary, I polished off the entire 6-Pack by the end of ESPN's NFL Primetime show and enjoyed every one. This is a good beer, but don't be fooled. It's a stretch to call it a bock.

Reader Comment: In what has to be one of the funnier and more graphic e-mails I've received this year, Jacob Favre of Texas writes, "Be careful with the Shiner Bock.  I used to drink it regularly until I figured out that it gave me the worst time in the bathroom the morning after. My wife didn't like me so much either. Get plenty of matches ready for Monday morning."

This Week's 6-Pack: Pilsner Urquell

It's time to head to Eastern Europe to the place where pilsner beer was invented. Pilsner Urquell is brewed in the Czech Republic and claims to be "the original golden pilsner beer." Go out and grab yourself a 6-Pack this week and send me your comments. Pilsner Urquell should provide an excellent contrast to American-style pilsners like Bud, Miller and Coors. Cheers.