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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
December 12, 2003
 

Quarterback

IMichael Vick didn't throw a touchdown pass in Week 14, yet he finished as fantasy football's second ranked quarterback in terms of points scored (by Huddle scoring). Many owners probably thought Vick might be a bit gun-shy after such a long layoff. However, he was his usual marvelous self, rushing for 141 yards. Get Vick in your lineup this week. If he had that kind of success against a quality run defense like that of the Panthers, he should fare well against the Colts, who give up 4.6 yards per carry and nearly 118 rushing yards per game. This contest could quickly develop into a shootout, so I expect Vick to post two touchdowns, 200 yards passing and 70 yards rushing. - It's tough to bet against a gritty competitor like Steve McNair, especially when his team is coming off a loss. However, I don't like his matchup this week against the Bills. Buffalo allows just 170.5 passing yards per game and they've limited quarterbacks to just 11 passing touchdowns this season (tied for second best in the NFL). What's more, they've held opponents to 17 points or less in every game since their bye back in Week 9. If you can afford to bench the hobbled McNair, do so this week. I don't expect more than 180 yards passing and one touchdown. - In a pinch, use Jake Delhomme this week against Cardinals. Although the Panthers are on a three-game losing streak, Delhomme has strung together three straight weeks with at least one passing touchdown. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were last seen surrendering six total touchdowns to Jeff Garcia. I expect Delhomme to finish with solid stats Sunday, two touchdowns and 210 yards passing. - Very quietly Brett Favre has posted 23 passing touchdowns this season and he ranks tops in the league in that category. While Favre's yardage statistics are down, he still can be counted on for quality starts most weeks. Activate him for Sunday's game against the Chargers. The warm weather should help his injured hand get a better grip on the ball and San Diego's pass defense is the league's worst. I expect 175 yards and three touchdowns from Favre.

This Week's Sleepers: Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson and Anthony Wright

Running Back

Colts running back Edgerrin James needs just 82 yards to reach 1,000 on the season. I wouldn't be surprised if he comes close to that mark shortly after halftime. The Falcons haven't been able to stop many running backs this season. More importantly for James owners, Atlanta has given up a league-high 20 rushing touchdowns. While the firing of Dan Reeves and the return of Michael Vick may bring some added intensity to the Falcons, I still expect James to find a lot of success. He should finish with 130 all-purpose yards and two scores. - Cheers to Travis Henry. Henry rushed for a career high 169 yards in Sunday's win over the Jets. It was his second straight 100-yard game. That's not too shabby for a guy who's playing with a cracked bone in his leg. With double-digit touchdowns, Henry is the type of running back who likely should be in your lineup every week. Even so, Henry owners face a difficult decision this week because Henry visits Tennessee. The Titans have allowed just one 100-yard rusher in their last 24 games and zero in their last 27 home games. Start Henry this week unless you have a strong backup, but don't expect more than 70 yards rushing. - The top sleeper play this week is Thomas Jones of the Buccaneers. Last week, Jones carried the ball 20 times for 89 yards. He didn't score a touchdown, but don't let that concern you too much because he has been Tampa's goal-line back for several weeks. Sunday they face the Texans, who just gave up 200+ yards last week to the Jaguars. I'd be surprised if Jones didn't finish this game with at least 90 yards and a touchdown. - If Jerome Bettis has been idling on your bench this season, now would be a good time to rev up the Bus. Bettis has scored in two straight games and he posted his first 100-yard performance of the season last week against the Raiders. He's a strong play again this Sunday when Pittsburgh travels to New Jersey to face a Jets defense that ranks dead last against the run. Bettis should be good for 90 yards and a touchdown this week.

This Week's Sleepers: Thomas Jones, Jerome Bettis and Jamel White

Wide Receiver

After a scorching five week stretch in which he racked up 514 yards and four touchdowns, Steve Smith has cooled off and has averaged less than 70 yards in his last four games. But keep Smith in your lineup. He should find some success this week against an Arizona defense that has given up an average of 38 points in the last four games. In fact, the Cardinals have been so awful lately that the on-again off-again Muhsin Muhammad should have a good game, too. Look for 100 yards and a touchdown from Smith and 70 yards and a score from Muhammad. - Keenan McCardell has become the poor man's Hines Ward. While he won't always get you 80 yards and a touchdown, more often than not he'll get you one or the other. McCardell has averaged more than seven receptions per game over the past five weeks. Activate him for Sunday's game against the Texans and expect no less than 90 yards and a touchdown. - While Seattle gets a bad rap for playing poorly on the road, no one is worse than the 49ers, a team that hasn't sniffed a road victory all season. In their last two road games, the 49ers have given up 64 points and four passing touchdowns. Keep your Bengals receivers in your starting lineup this week and bank on good performances. Chad Johnson should bounce back nicely after posting just 15 yards last week. I expect 90 yards and two touchdowns for Johnson and 85 yards for Peter Warrick. - With both David Carr and Tony Banks injured, keep Andre Johnson and the rest of the Houston receivers as far away from your starting lineup as possible. Johnson has just two receptions in his last two games and can no longer be trusted. - Even though they've maintained their number one ranking in pass defense, the Cowboys have given up six passing touchdowns in the past two weeks. That's a good sign for Laveranues Coles, who typically has his best games at home, where he'll be Sunday. Start him and look for at least 75 yards and a touchdown. - I could be wrong, but this could very well be the first time in 15 years that the Green Bay Packers don't have a fantasy receiver ranked among the top 20 wideouts in the league (or even the top 30 for that matter). While you can't count on him to post the touchdowns of Sterling Sharpe or the yardage of Robert Brooks, Javon Walker is turning out to be a quality fantasy player. Walker has scored a touchdown in three straight games and is Brett Favre's go-to-guy. This week, the Packers travel to San Diego to face a Chargers defense that has given up 29 passing touchdowns this season. Start Walker this week. He has an excellent chance to post his first 100-yard game of the season Sunday.

This Week's Sleepers: Javon Walker, Robert Ferguson, Muhsin Muhammad and Curtis Conway

Tight End

Shannon Sharpe needs 67 yards this week to reach 10,000 on his career. With the unabashed tight end potentially retiring after this season, Week 15 could mark his final home game in Denver. (The Broncos are on the road for the final two weeks of the regular season and they're unlikely to host a postseason game.) Sharpe certainly isn't showing his age. He's ranked second in the league among tight ends with 643 receiving yards. He's been rock solid all season for fantasy owners, really only posting two poor games in all of 2003. Look for another strong game this week against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed a touchdown to a tight end in three of their last four games. Sharpe has a good chance to finish Sunday with 70 yards and a touchdown. - If you could use some added points from your tight end position this week, consider Wesley Walls. Brett Favre has thrown his way 10 times in the last two weeks, including once in the endzone in Week 14. The week the Packers face a Chargers defense that continues to be victimized by tight ends. They've given up six scores to tight ends in their last four games. While a touchdown pass could very well go to Bubba Franks, Walls gets more looks from Brett Favre and is a safer choice.

This Week's Sleepers: Wesley Walls and Alge Crumpler

Kicker

Baltimore's Matt Stover ranks third in the league among kickers with 116 points. He trails only Jeff Wilkins and Mike Vanderjagt, who are in a league of their own. Last week, Stover failed to connect on multiple field goals for the first time in six games. Look for a bounce back performance from him this week against the Raiders, a team that has allowed 22 or more points in five of their last six games. Stover should finish with 8-10 points - Shayne Graham continues to be one of my top sleeper kickers. Graham isn't likely to get you a dozen points, but he won't hurt you either. That's often all you can ask from a kicker. Look for another quality performance this week when Graham faces the 49ers. I expect a minimum of seven points.

This Week's Sleepers: Shayne Graham, Morten Andersen, and Martin Gramatica

Defense

If your defense has been merely average all year, don't hesitate to stir the pot a bit and acquire a new team for the playoffs. In particular I like the New Orleans Saints this week against the Giants. New York quarterback Kerry Collins is out for Sunday's game, leaving Jesse Palmer to take the reins. Last week in limited action, Palmer was sacked five times and coughed up a fumble behind a terrible offensive line. Look for the Saints to frustrate Palmer this weekend and finish with at least three turnovers and four sacks. - The Green Bay Packers were recommended here last week and they satisfied owners by causing five turnovers, racking up three sacks and scoring a touchdown. Start Green Bay again this week against the Chargers. Word out of San Diego is that Drew Brees may start this week. In his last full game, Brees threw three interceptions and was sacked six times. While I expect San Diego will score some points with LaDainian Tomlinson, count on at least two turnovers and three sacks by the Packers. - Look for the ball hawking Minnesota Vikings defense to feast on rookie quarterback Rex Grossman this week. Minnesota has an excellent chance to score a defensive touchdown and should cause a minimum of three turnovers.

This Week's Sleepers: New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings

The 6-Pack

Last Week's 6-Pack: Redhook ESB Amber Ale

Price Paid: $6.29

What the Bottle Tells Us: Redhook is brewed by the Redhook Ale brewery and uses 100% barley malt.

What I Say: Redhook ESB is presented in a basic brown longneck and adorned with a bright yellow and red label. This is a microbrew that has grown up and is now distributed on a national scale. Along the way, I suspect it has been transformed and probably cheapened. Even so, Redhook has a lot to offer the beer drinker. It's a moderately aromatic ale that brings a fresh, grassy smell to the nose. In the glass, Redhook pours to an airy head that fades quickly into a thin white layer of foam. The beer itself is very clear with no yeast remnants and features an orange/rust color; it's a nice looking ale. My first sip of Redhook felt a bit like a slap upside my head delivered by my mother after I made an ill-advised comment. It took me off guard. Expansive hop flavor along with malt, caramel and citrus undertones make for a raucous combination of tastes. Also of note: There's something about this beer makes it slick on the tongue. Most of the flavor seems to be experienced on the back of your throat, rather than your taste buds. It's an interesting quality that actually makes the beer go down fairly well despite the hard-hitting flavors. Redhook does leave a mildly bitter aftertaste resembling citrus rind and tea, thus the name ESB (Extra Special Bitter). It may turn off some beer drinkers, but not this one. On the downside, Redhook doesn't have a signature characteristic that would make it a staple in my fridge. However, it's a good beer in this price range and its sheer drinakability has persuaded me to purchase and partake again.

What Readers Say: Scott Schroeder of Detroit chimed in this week. Like me, Scott was impressed with Redhook's complex flavors. He writes, "I have had many occasions to take a swig, slam the bottle down on the table and exclaim, 'Damn! There's a LOT going on in this here bottle!' Hopefully you will enjoy the experience as much as I have."

This Week's 6-Pack: Beck's

It's been awhile since we sampled a German beer and I want to get one more in before the season is over. Beck's seems like the logical choice since it's by far Germany's number one exported beer. This week go out and grab a 6-Pack of Beck's to enjoy with your fantasy team's playoff victory and e-mail me your comments this week at: paul.sandy@frontiernet.net.