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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
October 31, 2003
 

Quarterback

It's time to dust off Donovan McNabb. This is a make-or-break week for the former Chunky-Soup endorser. If he doesn't put up at least 250 yards and two touchdowns against Atlanta, he probably deserves to be released in most fantasy leagues. In a statistic that has become all too painful for his owners, McNabb hasn't thrown a single touchdown all year to a wide receiver. But that should change in Week 9. The Falcons are giving up a league worst 266.9 passing yards per game and have already allowed 14 passing touchdowns on the year. It's no wonder they've benched practically their whole starting secondary, including Ray Buchanan and Tyrone Williams. If McNabb can regain his confidence against Atlanta's weak pass defense, this game could be a launch pad for a strong second half of the season. - San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia has a partially torn tendon in his ankle and is out this week against the Rams and possibly longer. While Tim Rattay would seem like a logical replacement, I recommend looking elsewhere for a starter this week. The Rams field an above average defense that could give Rattay fits. Instead, pick up Marques Tuiasosopo or even Chris Chandler. Each quarterback faces a defense that gives up passing touchdowns by the bushel. - In what should be a good old fashioned slug fest, the Packers and Vikings continue their bitter rivalry Sunday night at the Metrodome. While the media frequently hypes Brett Favre's struggles inside domes, the three-time MVP has thrown at least two touchdowns in each of his last three trips to Minneapolis. He'll toss another pair of scores in a game that should see 50+ combined points. - Jon Kitna has thrown for multiple touchdowns in three of his last four games. This Sunday, the Bengals travel to Arizona to face an average Cardinals defense. Expect Kitna to find plenty of success and hook up with his excellent receivers for two touchdowns and 225 yards. - Patience is wearing thin for Mike Vick owners. Earlier this week, Vick indicated he didn't want to return until December 7th. He has since revised that statement and now says he will return November 30th. Either way, he probably won't help owners until the fantasy playoffs. And, at this point, Vick owners need to ask themselves whether he will be worth starting against Carolina in Week 14 or against Tampa in Week 16? My feeling is probably not. If you're not in a keeper or dynasty league, consider cutting your losses and freeing up a roster spot.

This Week's Sleepers: Donovan McNabb, Marques Tuiasosopo and Chris Chandler

Running Back

As predicted in this space last week, rookie Arlen Harris proved to be a worthy fantasy starter even against Pittsburgh's formidable run defense. Harris scored three times and gained 81 yards on the ground. But Harris will return to the bench this week, right? Well, not so fast. Marshall Faulk saw a heavy dose of work in practice on Thursday and all signs point to him playing this weekend against the 49ers. Even so, if you are desperate for a running back this week, using Harris remains a viable option. Rams head coach Mike Martz indicated he didn't want to push Faulk too hard. "We're very happy with [Harris]," said Martz, "and obviously that allows us to take our time somewhat with Marshall, to make sure he can work back into this thing." Martz even attributed Faulk's struggles last year in part to his returning too early from a high ankle sprain. Expect Harris to share the load and see 12-15 touches Sunday and perhaps more if the Rams jump out to a big lead. - Tampa dialed up Michael Pittman's number 30 times on Sunday against the Cowboys. The former Arizona Cardinals tailback responded, gaining 113 yards. Pittman has developed into a reliable number two running back in leagues of any size. For five consecutive weeks, he has logged 80+ all-purpose yards. Pittman's only shortcoming appears to be a lack of touchdowns; he has only one on the year and it came on a catch and run. Pittman should notch another strong game this week against the New Orleans Saints, who rank 28th in run defense and have been rushed on more times than any other team in the league. Count on 120 total yards of offense and a touchdown. - Adrian Murrell is expected to see playing time this week against the Redskins. If you're relying on Troy Hambrick as your number two running back, it's time to start worrying. Murrell is a "Parcells guy" and could figure into the Cowboys offense for the rest of the year if Hambrick's struggles continue. - The Atlanta Falcons defense has given up a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns this year. The next closest team has allowed nine. Word out of Atlanta is the team will shift from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 scheme. It likely won't make much of a difference. Start Correll Buckhalter this week. After Brian Westbrook suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday against the Jets, Buckhalter took over the game, amassing 100 yards and two touchdowns. Donovan McNabb might steal a goal line score in this one, but expect Buckhalter to rack up 110 yards and a touchdown. - Edgerrin James returned to action last week and provided owners with 104 rushing yards. While the performance was promising, James will have a tougher time finding holes this week against the Dolphins, who give up a league low 73.9 rushing yards per game. Fantasy owners need to hope for a big receiving game from the gold-toothed tailback. Check out LaDanian Tomlinson's stats from his Monday night game against Miami, 24 carries for 62 yards and 11 receptions for 80 yards. Unfortunately, the Colts have stronger receivers and tight ends than the Chargers, making passing to the running back less necessary. Expect James to finish with no more than 90 total yards.

This Week's Sleepers: Arlen Harris, Rudi Johnson, Rock Cartwright and Shawn Bryson

Wide Receiver

Look for Steve's Smith's hot streak to continue this week when the 6-1 Panthers, travel to Houston. Smith has strung together three straight 100-yard games. Meanwhile, the Texans defense has been giving up huge fantasy performances to receivers in recent weeks, including multiple touchdown and/or 100-yard games to Derrick Mason, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss and Troy Edwards. - If possible, move Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie to the bench this week. Danny Kanell will get another start against New England and he's likely to struggle against a Patriots defense that has given up a league low three passing touchdowns. - The quarterback change in Miami has pushed Chris Chambers' value up a few notches. With Brian Griese under center, Chambers caught four passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. Look for Chambers and Griese to continue to build a rapport Sunday against the Colts and connect for another touchdown. - While Rams wideout Isaac Bruce has been putting up decent stats, he hasn't scored a touchdown in the last four games and only has one score on the season. Things should brighten up a bit for Bruce owners this week. The 49ers have allowed two or more passing touchdowns in four of their last five games against the Rams. With Jeff Garcia out, this game could very easily become a blowout. Marc Bulger will continue to roll and is overdue to sync up with Bruce for a big game. Look for the duo to connect for two touchdowns. - Start Jerry Porter this week against the Detroit Lions. Porter was the target of 10 passes in Week 7, his first game since returning from hernia surgery. He should figure significantly into Oakland's gameplan against an opponent that ranks near the bottom of the league in passing defense. Ninety yards receiving and a touchdown should be about right for Porter, who is now fully recovered. - Randy Moss owns the Green Bay Packers. In his first ever meeting against Green Bay as a rookie, Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two touchdowns. Then there was the 1999 meeting in Minnesota, wherein Moss finished with 131 yards and two scores. In Week 1 this season, Moss was his usual dominant self, catching nine passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. In 11 career games against the archrival Pack, Moss has 1,126 yards and 10 touchdowns, an average of more than 100 yards and nearly one touchdown per game. You'd be hard pressed to find any receiver that has dominated a team more than Moss has against the Packers. Look for "the Freak" in a box score near you on Monday morning.

This Week's Sleepers: Jerry Porter, Donald Driver, Todd Pinkston and Bobby Engram

Tight End

Factoring in Randy McMichael's second quarter touchdown grab Monday night, the San Diego Chargers have now given up a score to a tight end in five of their last six games. I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest owners ride this gravy train again in Week 9 when the Chargers face the Bears. Desmond Clark is Chicago's normal starter at tight end, but he's missed time with a toe injury and is listed as questionable this week. His replacement, Dustin Lyman, picked up the slack Sunday, gaining 42 yards on six receptions. Lyman was Chris Chandler's favorite target on the day and should be a safe start this week if Clark sits out as expected. - Raiders tight end Doug Jolley was benched this week in favor of Teyo Johnson. Adjust your roster accordingly. Johnson faces a porous Lions defense this week and could be a nice safety valve for the inexperienced Marques Tuiasosopo. Expect the rookie tight end to finish with around 40-50 yards. - Of the big name tight ends, Todd Heap should have strong game this week and score his second touchdown of the year. The Jaguars have given up 12 passing touchdowns this year.

This Week's Sleepers: Dustin Lyman and Teyo Johnson

Kicker

Despite being the first kicker selected in many fantasy drafts this year, David Akers has been an enormous disappointment. Through Week 8, Akers has only attempted seven field goals, which ranks well outside the top 25 kickers. That said, if Akers has been dropped in your league, he is worthy of a start in Week 9. The Eagles should be able to score at least 24 points against a terrible Falcons defense. Count on Akers getting your team 8-9 points. - In addition to Akers, fantasy owners who are looking for a one-week fill-in could find luck with Chicago's Paul Edinger and Cincinatti's Shayne Graham. Both kickers rank near the top of the league in kicking accuracy. More importantly, their respective teams face a couple of below average defenses that seem to welcome opposing offenses into their red zone. Start Edinger against San Diego and Graham against Arizona, and count on both kickers to score 7-8 points.

This Week's Sleepers: David Akers, Paul Edinger and Shayne Graham

Defense

The Carolina Panthers are likely to turn in one of their strongest defensive performances of the year this week against the Texans. With David Carr out for this contest, Houston will turn to journeyman Tony Banks. Banks has a well-documented history of turning the ball over and is especially prone to fumbling. Count on Carolina to hold their opponent to less than 17 points and don't be surprised if the Panthers return a fumble or an interception for a touchdown. - If you typically start the idle Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, Buffalo Bills or Cleveland Browns on defense, there are plenty of replacement choices from which you can choose. Start by looking at the teams who lost a starting quarterback within the last two week. These squads will have to rely on inexperienced passers who will likely be prone to making mistakes and who may struggle to move their respective offenses. Based on this criterion, the best options are the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and St. Louis Rams.

This Week's Sleepers: Eagles, Patriots and Rams

The 6-Pack

Last Week's 6-Pack: Pilsner Urquell

Price Paid: $6.25 (on sale)

What the Bottle Tells Us: Packaged in a green 12-ounce bottle with gold foil, the label bills Pilsner Urquell as "The Original Pilsner." Apparently, a visionary brewmaster in Pilsen Czech created the first golden beer. This formula revolutionized the brewing process and delivered an "intensely rewarding taste."

What I Say: This is the granddaddy of all pilsner beers, so I was excited to crack open my first bottle. The smell was dominated by what I thought resembled freshly ground black pepper - a very spicy aroma. This came as a definite surprise because I had never detected this smell in a beer before and I was half expecting hints of skunk due to the green bottle. The beer poured to a golden color, considerably darker than the watery swill put out by the American macro-brewers. The head was light and frothy, about two fingers thick, and left traces of foam as I drained my glass. What struck me most about Pilsner Urquell's taste was the feeling it had in my mouth. Oddly enough, I liken it to Pop Rocks candy, very prickly and jolting to the tongue. Beyond the sharp carbonation, this beer definitely a bit bitter flavor, but in its defense it doesn't leave the metallic aftertaste that turned me off to Heineken. Several readers indicated Pilsner Urquell was skunky, but I think it is more likely the intended hoppy flavor. I found it to be quite drinkable and didn't have any major complaints. This is a beer worthy of moderate praise and its complexity is a nice contrast to the everyday lagers that kept me warm during my years in college. If I see Pilsner Urquell at a discounted price again, I won't hesitate to stock my fridge with another 6-pack.

Reader Comment: Rick Miller of Effingham, Illinois was less impressed and seemed put off by Pilsner Urquell's odd flavor. "I don't know Czechoslovakian but after drinking this beer I do know that Urquell must be the Czech word for skunk. That stuff was just awful. I still have 4 bottles in my fridge." Rick, you'll be interested to know that "Urquell" actually means "original source," which presumably refers to the authenticity and origin of the beer. The word skunk loosely translates into "Heineken."

This Week's 6-Pack: Murphy's Irish Stout

Several chaps of Irish decent have voiced their dismay that the Weekly 6-Pack is in its eighth week of existence and yet I haven't reviewed a beer from the Emerald Isle yet. Now that the weather has turned a bit chilly here in the Midwest, I am much obliged to pick up a 6-Pack of one of Irelands finer stout beers. While Guinness is the favorite choice of stout drinkers, I think I'll go with the underdog this week. Join me and grab a 6-Pack of Murphy's Irish Stout (actually I think they come in packs of four cans), root for the underdogs on Sunday, and let me know what you think about this robust beer.