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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
December 19, 2003
 

Quarterback

While you might be looking at his matchup against Minnesota and thinking that Trent Green is a solid start this week, you should think again. In their last two home games, the Vikings defense has six interceptions and they've allowed just one passing touchdown. Put Green in your lineup if you don't have better options, but don't expect him to light up the Vikings. I expect about 200 passing yards and a touchdown. - My best sleeper quarterback this week is Denver's Jake Plummer. With running back Clinton Portis injured, Mike Shanahan will be forced to rely on the passing game more than he has in any recent game. As a result, Plummer should go over 270 yards passing. I also anticipate two touchdowns in what should be a high scoring game. - Look for Jon Kitna and Mark Bulger to trade punches and passing touchdowns on Sunday in what should quickly develop into a shootout. I expect the Rams to come out victorious, but both quarterbacks will score plenty of points for fantasy owners. Count on a minimum of two passing touchdowns for Bulger and Kitna. - The Steelers were shut out last week against the Jets, but don't expect their scoring slump to continue. This week they welcome the San Diego Chargers, who seem to be the antidote to every team's offensive woes. The Chargers were last seen giving up four passing touchdowns to Brett Favre, helping him make a final push to a Pro-Bowl nomination. Tommy Maddox isn't likely to find quite as much success, but I still like his chances to post a multiple touchdown game. He should hook up with Hines Ward for a pair of scores and turn in a solid game for fantasy owners.

This Week's Sleepers: Jake Plummer and Tommy Maddox

Running Back

Reports out of Denver suggest Clinton Portis is 50-50 for Sunday's game against the Colts. Continue to monitor the news, but understand that Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan is notoriously fantasy football's least trusted person. Key to Portis' situation is that he plays on Sunday night. That puts his owners in a very sticky situation. Do you risk waiting until kickoff for what will undoubtedly be a game-time decision? Or do you play it safe and turn to your top backup, who will play earlier in the day or even on Saturday? I suggest the latter. Starting Portis is much too risky considering he has a sprained ankle and knee. Plus, he plays on turf. Best case scenario, you own backup Mike Anderson and can therefore afford to wait until game time. If Anderson starts, I expect him to finish with 85 yards and a touchdown. - If you made a late-season acquisition of Thomas Jones, he should follow up last week's 134-yard game with another strong performance. The Buccaneers square off against the Falcons, a team that gives up 146.9 rushing yards per game. - Kansas City's Priest Holmes needs three touchdowns in the final two games to tie the all time record of 25. While he may not be getting the huge yardage like Jamal Lewis or Clinton Portis, Holmes is still the king of fantasy running backs. I anticipate a multi-touchdown game against a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks second to last in rushing touchdowns allowed (19). - I left Cowboys running back Troy Hambrick for dead a few weeks ago, but this guy just won't go away. He carried the ball 33 times for 189 yards Sunday against the Redskins and is now within striking distance (90 yards) of reaching 1,000 for the season. Start him this week if your normal second running back is injured or facing a stout defense. Hambrick should finish with about 80 yards and a touchdown. - The best sleeper play this week is DeShaun Foster of the Carolina Panthers. The team will very likely sit starter Stephen Davis (is it me or is Davis always hurt at the end of the season?). With the speed to get outside, Foster should find plenty of big play opportunities against the Lions. Detroit is in the midst of a 22-game road losing streak

This Week's Sleepers: DeShaun Foster, Rock Cartwright and Troy Hambrick

Wide Receiver

Torry Holt is within striking distance of the "triple crown" of wide receivers. If the St. Louis wideout can overtake Randy Moss in touchdowns while maintaining his lead in receptions and yardage, he will own the title. Holt needs four scores to pass Moss. He should make a move toward that goal this week at home against the Bengals. Cincinnati fields a below-average defense that has given up 30+ points in consecutive games. With Isaac Bruce ailing, I expect Holt to steal the spotlight and rack up two touchdowns on 120 yards receiving. - In their last three road games, the Arizona Cardinals have given up a combined 122 points, just over 40 points per game. In the same span, their defense allowed over 920 yards passing. Start Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson in leagues of any size and don't be afraid to use Bobby Engram as a number three receiver. I expect Jackson will lead the way with 110 yards and a touchdown while Robinson and Engram should finish with 70-80 yards apiece and once score between them. - Be sure to keep Amani Toomer on your bench in Week 16, especially if Jesse Palmer gets the start again as expected. The Giants face a rejuvenated Cowboys defense on the road. - Unless he shows significant improvement today or tomorrow, Steve McNair will be out for this week's game against the Texans. That leaves Derrick Mason and Justin McCareins owners in a bit of a pickle. The Titans will start the recently acquired Neil O'Donnell, a guy who hasn't taken a snap (even in practice) all season. Start both receivers against a pitiful Texans defense, but expect a dip in production as O'Donnell will take some time to shake off the rust. - After making headlines earlier in the season, the Dallas passing game has since gone into a shell. Quincy Carter has posted only 98 and 103 yards passing in his last two games. Even so, I like Terry Glenn as a potential number three wideout this week. His last time out against the Giants, Glenn caught eight passes for 113 yards. Start him this week. The Giants have the look of a team that has altogether quit.

This Week's Sleepers: Dane Looker, Charles Lee, Bobby Engram and Terry Glenn

Tight End

After a slow start to the season, Tony Gonzalez has scored touchdowns in eight of his last 11 games. With 797 yards receiving on the year and just two games remaining, he probably won't make it to 1,000. Nonetheless, he has provided a huge competitive advantage to owners who spent an early pick on him this season. He should post his usual stats this week against the Vikings, about 60 yards and a touchdown. - In one of this year's biggest snubs, Shannon Sharpe didn't make the Pro Bowl roster this year. Despite losing his starting quarterback for a four-game stretch, Sharpe still has managed 740 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, second in the NFL in both categories. Instead of Sharpe, voters selected Baltimore's Todd Heap. Heap is no doubt a talented player, but he's only scored three times and trails Sharpe by more than 60 yards. Look for the outspoken tight end to prove them wrong this week. Sharpe should tally 80 yards and a score.

This Week's Sleepers: Itula Mili and Erron Kinney

Kicker

Last week Green Bay kicker Ryan Longwell connected on one field goal and five extra points, surpassing Don Hutson as the Packers all-time leading scorer. Although he's posted merely average numbers for most of the season, Longwell has gotten hot in recent weeks. He's scored 22 points in has last two games and should see more success Monday night against the Raiders. Oakland has allowed two field goals in three of their last four games. - It's championship week for most leagues and if you're the underdog, don't be afraid to plug in a new kicker in an attempt to get a couple additional points. This week, I like Billy Cundiff as a solid sleeper. Last time the Cowboys took the field against the Giants, Cundiff connected on seven field goals (including a 52-yarder). Cundiff has been mediocre for most of the season, but he kicked two field goals last week. Moreover, Dallas should be able to move the ball well against a Giants team that has lost six straight, giving up 20 or more points in all but one of those losses.

This Week's Sleepers: Billy Cundiff and Paul Edinger

Defense

Last week against Oakland, the Baltimore Ravens registered zero sacks and zero turnovers. To say they're hungry would be a tremendous understatement. That's not a good sign for Tim Couch, who has thrown six interceptions and been sacked seven times in his last three meetings against Baltimore. Start the Ravens and expect them to play ferocious defense. They should finish with a minimum of three turnovers and three sacks. - Although they've been painfully average on the road, the Seattle Seahawks' defense and special teams have been rock solid at home. In their last two home games, the Seahawks have logged five turnovers, five sacks and a touchdown. Start them this week against the Cardinals, a team that has given up seven turnovers, a defensive touchdown and a safety in the last two weeks.

This Week's Sleepers: Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears

The 6-Pack

Last Week's 6-Pack: Beck's

Price Paid: $7.19

What the Bottle Tells Us: Beck's is brewed under the German purity law of 1516 and won some awards in the late 19th century.

What I Say: Germany's number one exported beer is packaged in a green bottle and decked out with a silver foil label. Upon opening my first bottle, I was met with a musty aroma. Had the smell been stronger, it would've been unpleasant. However, it was very low key and therefore didn't turn me off. Beck's pours to a fair head that fritters away soon after it has taken shape. I was struck by how pale and clear this beer is. In fact, it's so light and so clear that if not for the carbonation, you'd think you were drinking a glass of chardonnay. While the aroma and appearance are classically average, Beck's does offer an enjoyable flavor - albeit mellower than I had expected. To me it's like a hopped up Miller Lite. That's not necessarily a knock. In my opinion, Miller Lite is one of the more appealing American macrobrews. Like its American pilsner counterpart, Beck's is very light and drinkable. And yet it adds some nice complexity, a vigorous hop flavor with some subtle grain/barley undertones. All in all, Beck's isn't a beer that I would actively seek out. It's a fine beer, but not great. However, if you're looking to expand your horizons from the mass-marketed American brews, Beck's is an excellent choice.

What Readers Say: Eric Teasley writes, "Becks. I used to work in a German restaurant/bar that featured over 100 German beers and this was always my fave." Eric describes the beer as "very light in body, with crisp acidity and big, big flavors." As for the smell that I noticed straight away, Eric suggests that the "slight skunky nose becomes an old friend by the end of the bottle!"

This Week's 6-Pack: Pete's Wicked Ale

Next week is the final installment of the Weekly 6-Pack, and we'll close it out with an American brew. Pete's Wicked Ale is the flagship product of Pete's Brewing Company and is marketed as America's Original Brown Ale. Whether you've been eliminated from the playoffs or you're still vying for a championship, enjoy this week's games with a 6-Pack of Pete's and e-mail me your thoughts to paul.sandy@frontiernet.net. Cheers!