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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
November 14, 2003
 

Quarterback

If your fantasy squad is playing the role of spoiler at this point and you're looking for a high-risk, high-reward type quarterback, consider starting Jake Plummer. Plummer will return to action this week after four-game hiatus due to a foot injury. While there's a good chance that Plummer could show signs of rust and flop, he's facing the Chargers . so he's got that going for him. San Diego has given up a league-worst 19 passing touchdowns. My feeling is by the end of the first quarter, Plummer should have his legs under him and he'll throw for 240 yards and three touchdowns. -After a stretch of really awful games, Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox is on a bit of a roll. Maddox has thrown six touchdowns in his last three games, and hasn't been intercepted in two weeks. I like Maddox's chances again this week. The Steelers face San Francisco in what could shape up to be a Monday night shootout. - Drew Bledsoe ranks 31st in the NFL in passing touchdowns and has poisoned fantasy squads with his lack of production. If you've been holding onto the veteran quarterback in hopes of a recovery, it's probably time to face reality. At this point, you can go ahead and drop him. The Bills are struggling to cope with the blitz and they're missing receiver Peerless Price. While I expect Bledsoe to post some decent numbers this week, about 210 yards and a touchdown, there is likely a better quarterback on your waiver wire or even on your bench. - There's a quarterback controversy brewing in San Francisco. In his first NFL start, Tim Rattay threw three touchdowns, paving the way for an upset win over the rival Rams. Last week, during the bye, people in the Bay Area didn't have much to talk about besides the quarterback situation. Not surprisingly, many called for a change. Jeff Garcia responded, saying, "The fickleness of things never surprises me. It's the way things are." Look for things to get even a bit more "fickle" this week, when Rattay posts another two touchdowns and 240 yards against the Steelers. - Aaron Brooks had his best performance of the year four weeks ago when the Saints visited Atlanta. He threw for more than 350 yards and three touchdowns. This week, Brooks will look to recreate a little of that magic as the Saints face the Falcons again. Top receiver Joe Horn continues to be hampered with injuries, but Brooks will once again exceed 300 yards passing.

This Week's Sleepers: Jake Plummer, Tommy Maddox and Tim Rattay

Running Back

William Green has been suspended for three more games by the NFL due to a repeat violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He won't return until December 8. James Jackson should continue to light it up (excuse the pun) in Green's absence. Expect 80 yards and a touchdown this week against a decent Cardinals run defense. - The last time the Saints met the Falcons, New Orleans racked up 507 yards of total offense. In that game, Deuce McAllister rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns. This week, the Saints are well-rested and coming off a Week 10 bye. Count on at least 130 total yards from McAllister and a touchdown as Atlanta regresses after last week's surprising upset of the Giants. - Sunday night, Marshall Faulk had one of the strangest fantasy performances you'll ever see. He scored two touchdowns in the first five and a half minutes and proceeded to gain about 40 yards the rest of the night. Faulk should find the endzone again this week against the Bears, but don't be surprised if he's held well below 100 yards again. St. Louis frequently struggles on the road, and this cold weather game should be no different. - One last pot shot at owners who drafted Michael Bennett and then I'm finished. Prior to the season, I suggested keeping Bennett off your draft cheatsheets. Those who ignored that advice and spent a seventh, eighth or ninth round pick on Bennett have received exactly 66 yards rushing in 10 weeks. This infinitesimal production doesn't even begin to account for the roster spot that Bennett has absorbed up until now, a roster spot that could've been used to acquire a top free agent like Steve Smith, Peter Warrick, Santana Moss or Rudi Johnson. Even if he erupts these next few weeks, I sincerely doubt Bennett was worth drafting. It's just something to keep in mind when you're pondering drafting a severely injured player next year. - Charlie Garner will likely miss Sunday's game against Minnesota with a neck injury. As a result, Tyrone Wheatley is a worthy of a start in all leagues and Justin Fargas deserves consideration in larger leagues. After Garner was sidelined last week, Wheatley and Fargas split carries and both posted solid numbers. This week the team faces a Vikings defense that has been bloodied in recent weeks, giving up more than 470 yards rushing in the past two games. Assuming Garner is sidelined, Wheatley is a lock for 90 yards, while Fargas should net 65 yards. - I'm tired of the talking heads at ESPN and Fox proclaiming Steve McNair as a lock for this year's MVP award. I don't see how you can't mention Ahman Green among the candidates. Green leads all players with 1,376 yards from scrimmage and has scored 13 touchdowns. At the same point last year, Priest Holmes had 1,353 yards and 16 touchdowns. Fumbles not withstanding, Green deserves MVP consideration. Look for another big week from him this week when the Packers travel to the rival Buccaneers, 150 yards and two touchdowns seems about right.

This Week's Sleepers: Tyrone Wheatley, Justin Fargas, Garrison Hearst and James Jackson

Wide Receiver

Marvin Harrison is listed doubtful to play this week. Harrison's absence would be a major blow to owners who have received consistent production out of the receiver all year. His replacement, Troy Walters, is worthy of starting consideration this week while Harrison is on the bench. Walters had five catches for 73 yards last week and should post similar numbers Sunday against the Jets. - My Sleeper of the Year ballot hasn't been punched yet, but Santana Moss is a dangling chad away from getting my vote. Moss has been money lately, posting at least one touchdown in five straight games. This week, the Jets travel to Indianapolis to face an above average pass defense. Despite the tough matchup, count on another 100-yard, one-touchdown game from Moss. The speedy receiver is the team's only reliable passing target with Wayne Chrebet out for the year. - It's obviously been a difficulty year for owners who drafted David Boston. Boston was one of fantasy football's biggest busts over the first half of the season. But things are looking up. The decision to start Doug Flutie last week set off an electrical surge that reverberated throughout the entire Chargers offense. Boston and Flutie hooked up for seven receptions, 82 yards and a touchdown. While those numbers are somewhat pedestrian when compared to Randy Moss or Tory Holt, Boston is definite starter material and could be in for a big second half of the season. Count on another touchdown reception this week against the Broncos. - Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller is out for the year with a thigh injury. In a surprising move, Ravens head coach Brian Billick will start former third-string quarterback Anthony Wright instead of backup Chris Redman. I actually think the move bodes well for Travis Taylor, who never had much success with Redman at the helm. This week's matchup against the Dolphins could very easily turn into a field goal kicking contest. Even so, I like Taylor to finish with more than 75 yards for the first time since Week 7. - Broncos receiver Ashley Lelie hasn't had more than 43 yards receiving in any game since Week 4. If he was cast onto the scrap heap in your league, now is the time to acquire him. With Jake Plummer set to make his return this week, Lelie should see an increase in his opportunities. Expect the second-year receiver to tally 90 yards and a touchdown against a weak Chargers defense. - Talk about turmoil. The Browns suspended William Green and released receiver Kevin Johnson all in one week. Green and Johnson were arguably Cleveland's best offensive weapons. With Johnson gone, look for Dennis Northcutt to stake his claim as this team's best pass catcher this week. I foresee 90 yards and a touchdown for Northcutt.

This Week's Sleepers: Troy Walters, Ashley Lelie, Dennis Northcutt and Travis Taylor

Tight End

Colts tight end Marcus Pollard turned in his best performance of the year last week against the Jaguars, catching three passes for a team-high 92 yards plus a touchdown. With Marvin Harrison expected to be sidelined, Pollard will once again play a major role in the Indianapolis offense. Expect him to catch at least four passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. - New England Patriots fans aren't ready to crown him as the next Ben Coates, but tight end Daniel Graham has posted back-to-back quality games. His 110-yard performance in Week 8 and 39-yard, one-touchdown showing in Week 9, played a major role in New England extending their winning streak to five games. If Graham is to have success this week, it will have to come against the league's toughest pass defense. The Dallas Cowboys are giving up just 149.4 passing yards per game. Start Graham, and look for him to find the endzone but put up mediocre yardage.

This Week's Sleepers: Daniel Graham and Jim Kleinsasser

Kicker

Last week against the Ravens, St. Louis kicker Jeff Wilkins booted five field goals and two extra points. Wilkins' success can largely be attributed to the Rams offense, which is suddenly sputtering. Don't count on a repeat performance this week because the Rams aren't likely to be gifted seven turnovers. Wilkins should net around seven points in a game that will be closer than many are expecting. - The Seattle Seahawks have given up two or more field goals in five straight games. Jason Hanson has kicked seven field goals in his last two games. See where I'm going with this? Start Hanson this week.

This Week's Sleepers: Jason Hanson and Morten Andersen

Defense

The Tennessee Titans have scored a defensive touchdown in three of their last four games. They have a great chance to post another score this week against the visiting Jaguars. Last time the two teams met, Jaguars rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich threw three interceptions. If Fred Taylor struggles early against the league's best run defense, the Jaguars will have to turn to the passing game. That's when things will likely get ugly for Leftwich. Expect Tennessee to cause at least three turnovers. - I'm not sure if Brad Johnson is injured or if he's lost some confidence, but he doesn't look like the same quarterback that started the season so hot. He continues to post quality fantasy numbers and has a touchdown throw in every game this season. Even so, his interceptions are up and his quarterback rating is down over the past four weeks. In that span of four games, he's thrown six INTs, fumbled five times, and been sacked on 11 occasions. Johnson's carelessness plays right into the hands of a Green Bay Packers defense that has a strong secondary. Look for two sacks from Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and a touchdown return from Darren Sharper.

This Week's Sleepers: Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks

The 6-Pack

Last Week's 6-Pack: Stella Artois

Price Paid: $6.99

What the Bottle Tells Us: Stella Artois is "Belgium's Original Beer" and "has been brewed in the same noble tradition since 1366. It's the Doug Flutie of beers.

What I Say: This beer is packaged in a green bottle with a paper wrapper that envelops the cap. It gives Stella a slightly upscale look. After peeling off the seal and popping the top, I inhaled for a few moments. Lagers often don't give off a distinctive aroma, but for some reason, while in the bottle, this one smelled a bit like an apple-flavor Jolly Rancher candy - sort of a tart, artificial apple fragrance. When poured into a glass, Stella is pale yellow and offers up very little head. However, the thin layer of suds that did appear was persistent and left traces of foam on the side of my glass until I had finished. Tiny bubbles materialized from beginning to end - this beer definitely has a fizzy quality to it. By the time I had finished taking notes on the smell and appearance, I had already finished my first bottle. To me, that was the clearest indication of the smoothness and sheer drinkability of this Belgian brew. As a lager, it's obviously not as complex and bold as some of the darker beers we've sampled. But Stella Artois puts beers like Bud and Coors to shame. On the mouth it boasts a bright malt flavor with subtle hints of hops that linger in the background. Each of my bottles of Stella finished with a dry, pleasantly bitter flavor. There were no off-putting skunk or metallic flavors to speak of. If you have the means, I would recommend adding Stella Artois to your beer-drinking repertoire.

What Readers Say: There was quite a bit of dissention among the ranks of Huddlers when it came to rating Stella Artois. Forrest Orswell of Colorado agreed with me writing, "I couldn't have been more pleased or surprised with this Belgian lager. Out of a bottle or in the glass this beer is smooth and full of taste. It flavors the tongue without being too heavy.  How the heck did the American brewers turn the tradition of a wonderful Lager like this to the swill produced today? I would drink this over a Heineken any day." Conversely, David Fisher of Maryland says, "(Stella's) got an unpleasant skunky aftertaste and I don't know how it is marketed as a "premium" beer here in the US." Meanwhile, in the most interesting of reviews, Trey Kinney of Atlanta was trying to catch up and purchased Anchor Steam, Hacker-Pschorr, Pilsner Urquell and Stella Artois all in one weekend. He had a happy weekend and best I could tell he enjoyed each of his beers, including Stella.

This Week's 6-Pack: Tsingtao

It's time to venture outside the U.S. and Europe to try an Asian beer. Tsingtao hails from China. Sure they're communist, but that doesn't mean they don't know beer. Besides, I like fortune cookies as much as the next guy. Pick up a 6-Pack this week and e-mail me your comments at paul.sandy@frontiernet.net.