It was supposed to happen in Week 5. Then it was delayed
until Week 7. Then Week 10. Eventually, rumors swirled
that it might not happen at all. But alas, it's finally
here: Michael Vick's first start of 2003. So should
you start him against the Panthers? If you have a quarterback
who has been consistently scoring two touchdowns or 250
yards, it's probably a good idea to keep Vick on your bench.
However, if the weak spot on your roster is at the quarterback
position, go ahead and plug him into your lineup. I predict
200 yards passing, one touchdown and 55 yards rushing - not
great, but not too shabby either. - Jon Kitna is
starting to get mentioned as a potential MVP candidate.
Either the apocalypse is coming or the Bengals are starting
to look like a playoff team. While MVP is a bit of a reach
right now with Peyton Manning and Steve McNair continuing
to post huge numbers, don't underestimate Kitna as a darkhorse.
He marched his team on a game-winning 52-yard touchdown
drive last week. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning failed to get
his team in the endzone from inside the five yard line.
Don't you dare bench Kitna this week against Baltimore.
In Week 7 against these very same Ravens, Kitna posted
one of his best games, passing for nearly 275 yards, three
touchdowns and no interceptions. Many people are picking
the Ravens in this game, but I like Kitna's leadership
and poise right now. I anticipate a Bengals victory with
250 yards and two touchdowns from Kitna. - Start Brett
Favre this week against the Bears. Yes, he is struggling
with turnovers because of his broken thumb. But historically
Favre has done very well against Chicago. Dating back to
2001, Favre has faced the Bears five times. In those five
meetings, he has four multiple touchdown games and an 11:4
touchdown to interception ratio. I expect two touchdowns
and 210 yards passing from the three-time MVP. - The playoffs
typically aren't the time to go scrounging around for sleeper
quarterbacks. However, if you've made it this far by platooning
passers, take a look at Joey Harrington. The former
Oregon Duck has had a miserable season so far and is leading
the league with 20 interceptions. But this week Harrington
faces San Diego at home and every quarterback throws at
least two touchdowns against the Chargers. Start Harrington
and expect two touchdowns and 240 yards passing.
This Week's Sleepers: Joey Harrington, Tommy Maddox
and Doug Flutie
Ahman Green owners who made the playoffs should
feel free to take this opportunity to erupt into their
best evil laugh. From Weeks 14-16, Green faces three of
the league's worst defenses: Chicago, San Diego and Oakland.
Don't be surprised to see Green roll off three straight
20-point games. This week he should be good for 140 total
yards and two touchdowns. - The last time Shaun Alexander faced
the Vikings he scored five touchdowns and racked up more
than 230 all-purpose yards. Minnesota is giving up more
than 130 yards per game to running backs. In the last four
games alone, they've allowed eight touchdowns to running
backs. If you own Alexander, he should carry your team
to a Week 14 victory. Count on 150 yards and one touchdown
from Alexander, with full back Mack Strong stealing
some yardage and a touchdown later in the game. - Is Jamal
Lewis starting to wear down? Since posting six 100+
yard games in the first seven weeks, Lewis has accomplished
the feat just twice in his last five starts. Two factors
could be playing a role in Lewis' slight decline. First,
he's probably wearing down a bit from a heavy workload.
Second, the passing game has opened up with the emergence
of Anthony Wright and Marcus Robinson. Lewis maintains
a 49-yard edge on Deuce McAllister for the NFL rushing
title and a 59-yard lead over Ahman Green. Look for McAllister
and Green to surpass Lewis by the end of Week 15. Lewis
should have a solid but unspectacular performance in a
crucial game against the Bengals this week. He'll net about
100 yards and a touchdown. - New England running back Kevin
Faulk appears to have finally wrestled away the featured
back role from Antowain Smith. Smith was put on
the inactive list last week, allowing Faulk to get 20 touches.
I expect Faulk could be a difference maker before the fantasy
season is over. However, he'll struggle this week against
a Dolphins defense that knows how to shut down the run.
Faulk will get about 100 total yards this week, but half
of it will come through the air. - There's good news and
bad news for Domanick Davis owners. The good news
is that the Texans placed Stacey Mack on injured
reserve, ending his season. With Mack out of the equation,
Davis should be all set to assume the goal line carries
for the remainder of the season. The bad news is that Davis
has a thigh injury that might hold him out of Sunday's
game against Jacksonville. If Davis can't go, Tony Hollings will
get the start, but he isn't worth using in your fantasy
league until all other options have been explored. - The
Atlanta Falcons have given up 100 or more yards on the
ground in every game this season. There's no reason to
believe the trend won't continue in Week 14. Atlanta faces Stephen
Davis, who gained 153 yards and a touchdown the last
time in a Week 4 game back in September. Bank on 130 yards
and a pair of touchdowns from Davis. - Even though Thomas
Jones gets the goal line carries, consider using Michael
Pittman this week against New Orleans. Last time out
against the Saints, Pittman racked up 100+ yards and scored
This Week's Sleepers: Jerome Bettis, Michael Pittman
and Mack Strong
Consider benching Joe Horn this week against the
Buccaneers. Horn was one of fantasy football's most consistent
receivers over the first half of the season, scoring six
touchdowns in the first eight games. But he has since disappeared.
In the last four weeks, Horn has averaged just 36.5 yards
per game and he doesn't have any touchdowns. Keep him on
your bench if you have better options. - He may be 34 years
old, but Jimmy Smith still brings a lot to the table
in terms of fantasy production. The Jacksonville receiver
notched his best game of the season last week when he grabbed
10 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown. Be sure to
get Smith in your lineup this week against the Texans and
consider starting his counterpart Kevin Johnson. Houston's
offense is crippled right now with quarterbacks David Carr
and Tony Banks likely out for this week's game. That puts
undue pressure on a defense that was already struggling.
Look for Smith and Johnson to both post solid numbers this
week, 100 yards and a score for Smith and 85 yards for
Johnson. - For the past 11 weeks, Plaxico Burress has
had an every-other-week thing going on. He hasn't delivered
solid back-to-back performances since Weeks 1 and 2. In
Week 13 he was solid, producing 112 yards. That means Burress
is due for a stinker this week. Keep him on your bench,
not only because of the pattern, but also because the Denver
Broncos defense has been brutally tough since returning
from a Week 10 bye. In their last three games, the Broncos
have held opponents to 10 or less points. Moreover, they
haven't allowed any receiver to gain more than 50 yards.
I'd be surprised if Burress finishes this game with more
than 30 yards receiving. - If you can't afford another
two-point performance from your number three or four receiver
this week, I beg you to pick up Az-zahir Hakim.
He's finally healthy and has three straight games over
60 yards. I'm predicting big things for Hakim and will
be disappointed if he doesn't come through with 90 yards
and a touchdown against the Chargers - Isaac Bruce has
scored in two straight games and should be in your lineup
in Week 14 against the Browns. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger
regained his confidence last week against the Vikings and
I expect him to have a two touchdown game on Monday night.
Bruce should account for one of those scores and 75 yards
receiving. - Start your Seahawks receivers this week, including Darrell
Jackson, Koren Robinson and even Bobby Engram.
Seattle's offense is the hottest in the NFL, while Minnesota's
defense is colder than Lake Minnetonka in February. The
Seahawks should have no problem scoring 35 points in this
game. That equates to three passing touchdowns and plenty
of yards. Look for Jackson to lead the way with 125 yards
and a touchdown.
This Week's Sleepers: Az-zahir Hakim, Bobby Engram,
Kevin Johnson and Marcus Robinson
Cowboys rookie tight end Jason Witten has 14 receptions
in his last two games. He figures to continue to see a
lot of work because the running game isn't working right
now. This week Witten faces the Eagles, who have been vulnerable
to tight ends in the past. In Week 12, Philadelphia gave
up 110 yards and a touchdown to the Saints Boo Williams.
While I don't expect Witten to duplicate Williams' efforts,
I won't be surprised if the tight end plays a major role
in Bill Parcells' game plan. I expect Witten to finish
this game with 50-60 yards receiving. - Todd Heap has
cooled down, going four straight games without a touchdown.
Even worse, he's finished three of the last four games
with less than 50 yards receiving. With Marcus Robinson
as the featured receiver there are fewer balls to go around.
But don't despair, I have a feeling Heap is in for a big
game this week against the Bengals. Last time out against
Cincinnati, Heap caught seven passes for 129 yards and
added a two-point conversion. He should finally establish
some continuity with Anthony Wright this week and hook
up for 65 yards and a touchdown.
This Week's Sleepers: Jason Witten, Freddie Jones
and Bubba Franks
Jason Hanson booted five field goals Thanksgiving
Day against the Packers. If you took the Weekly 6-Pack's
advice last week and started him, you were rewarded with
16 points. Go ahead and start Hanson again this week. The
Lions face the Chargers, a team that gives up a league-worst
28.5 points per game. Hanson should again reward owners
with another 9+ point effort. - Jeff Wilkins has
12 field goals in his last four games, including a streak
of four straight games with two or more field goals. It's
a huge advantage to be a Wilkins owner right now and there's
no reason to think his hot streak won't continue this week.
The opposing Browns have allowed two or more field goals
for six straight weeks. Wilkins is a lock for 8-10 points.
This Week's Sleepers: Jason Hanson, Josh Brown
and Olindo Mare
The St. Louis Rams have forced a league-leading
35 turnovers. The team's pass rush was also in top form
last week, sacking Daunte Culpepper eight times. Now they
rank near the top of the league in that category, too.
Start the Rams this week against the Browns. Cleveland
allowed four sacks last week and their offense has stalled,
scoring just six points in the last two games. - Last week,
I recommended the Jacksonville Jaguars as a sleeper
defense. While they didn't score a touchdown or force may
turnovers, they did hold Tampa to 10 points and only 221
total yards of offense. Look for another big game from
the Jaguars in Week 14 against the Texans. Houston may
be forced to start rookie Dave Ragone, a quarterback whose
value plummeted in the draft due to poor mechanics. The
Jaguars should finish this game with a minimum of three
turnovers and three sacks, and they will very likely hold
the Texans to under 12 points.
This Week's Sleepers: Jacksonville Jaguars, New
Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers
Last Week's 6-Pack: Boddingtons
Price Paid: $5.99 (4-pack)
What the Bottle Tells Us: Established in 1778,
Boddingtons Brewery is located in Manchester, England.
Boddingtons Pub Ale uses the Draughtflow System, which
gives the beer a creamy head and pub-like appearance. Boddingtons
has earned the nickname "the cream of Manchester."
What I Say: Like the Murphy's Irish Stout reviewed
in this space a few weeks ago, Boddingtons is packaged
using the nitrogen infused Draughtflow system. As a result,
popping the top sets off a minor explosion. When poured,
a pint of Boddingtons looks like a beer should. It's characterized
by a puffy, whipped-cream-like head that rests upon a golden
pedestal of ale. This is a beautiful beer to behold. The
thick head offers tremendous staying power due to the nitro
infusion. In terms of aroma, Boddingtons lacks substantiality.
What little smell there is resembles cider with hints of
malt. I am just getting over a cold, which may hinder my
taste buds. Even so, I feel very confident in my assessment
that this beer is completely void of flavor beyond a light
sweetness. It's lifeless and quite boring on the palate.
Worse, it has a mild metallic aftertaste that leaves you
feeling like you chewed on a penny - nothing too extreme,
but still upsetting. I give Boddingtons some respect because
it feels good in the mouth, luxuriously silky. No doubt
it lives up to the nickname "the cream of Manchester." Give
it a try if you like your beer plain and simple on the
tongue. Personally, the only time I would ever buy Boddingtons
again is if on some rare occasion I wanted the creaminess
provided by a nitro infused beer without the heaviness
of a stout.
What Readers Say: For the first time in many weeks,
the majority of readers disagreed with me about a beer.
People seemed to enjoy Boddingtons. Maybe they were suckers
for the nitro can, but some even called it flavorful. Ken
Garron e-mailed and wrote, "I find it to have a rich, smooth,
almost creamy flavor that lingers nicely. Get yourself
a frosty mug, pour in a Bodi and let it settle awhile,
when the head shrinks to about a half inch take a long
draw. You will be rewarded with a nice upper lip cover
that would get your photo on any milk billboard." Perhaps,
but I think a more satisfying way to get a milk mustache
might be to drink milk.
This Week's 6-Pack: Redhook ESB Amber Ale
After a couple weeks in England,
it's time to head back home for some American ale. Redhook
is headquartered in Seattle, home of Matt Hasselbeck. This
week I will be hoisting a Redhook ale and toasting another
strong performance by Hasselbeck, who happens to be my
quarterback in two fantasy leagues. Join me an e-mail me
your comments this week at: firstname.lastname@example.org.