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The Weekly 6-Pack
By Paul Sandy
December 26, 2003
 

Quarterback

Michael Vick now has three games under his belt since returning from a broken leg. The results have been mostly unspectacular, with the exception of a huge rushing performance against the Panthers. Even so, if you can afford to gamble, get Vick in your lineup this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has one of the better run defenses in the league, but they are vulnerable against the pass. Look for Vick to post 240 yards passing, two touchdowns and 50 yards rushing. - Brett Favre is coming off one of the most impressive performances of his career (or any career for that matter). Favre threw four touchdown passes less than 24 hours after learning of his father's death. The inspiring performance should carry forward to this week's game against the Broncos, where Green Bay will fight for their playoff lives. I expect Favre to turn in another strong performance, two touchdowns and 225 yards passing. - I wasn't high on Rex Grossman coming out of college, but the former Florida Gator his been impressive in his first two starts. He should see more success this week against the Chiefs, a team that doesn't seem to have a personality on defense. Start Grossman and look for the rookie to rack up another two touchdowns and 240 passing yards.

This Week's Sleepers: Rex Grossman and Jake Delhomme

Running Back

Bengals running back Rudi Johnson is just 95 yards shy of 1,000 for the season. Start him this week in a must-win game for the Cincinnati. While head coach Marvin Lewis continues to say all the right things about Corey Dillon, Lewis privately has to know that Johnson gives his team the best chance to win. The rookie running back is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and gets stronger and stronger as games wear on. This week Johnson should net 130 yards and a touchdown. - After facing unfair media criticism last year, Anthony Thomas has quietly had himself a fine 2003 season. Despite being sidelined with injuries and illnesses for parts of the season, Thomas has 963 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He should be in your lineup this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City is terrible against the run, giving up a league-worst 150 yards per game. I expect Thomas to close out the season with 120 yards and one score. - Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook has been one of fantasy football's biggest surprises in 2003. Despite playing in an offense that features a running back by committee approach, Westbrook has 924 total yards of offense and 11 touchdowns. Over the last 3-4 weeks, he's faced some of the league's toughest run defenses. However, he finally catches a break in the regular season finale against the Redskins. Washington allows 142.3 rushing yards per game. Start Westbrook and bank on him gaining 115 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. - With Clinton Portis sidelined, running backs Mike Anderson and Quentin Griffin split the carries for Denver last week. Griffin led the way with 28 carries for 136 yards. Despite Griffin's eye-opening performance, I expect Anderson to be the better back in Week 16. My feeling is Griffin was given the bulk of the carries last week because his speed played well on the RCA Dome's fast surface. This week's game is in frigid Lambeau Field, which fits Mike Anderson's power style of rushing better. Anderson should finish the game with 85 yards and a touchdown.

This Week's Sleepers: Rudi Johnson, Anthony Thomas and Mike Anderson

Wide Receiver

Here's one final salute to this year's probable rookie of the year, Anquan Boldin. While fellow rookie receiver Andre Johnson hit a wall a few weeks ago, Boldin smashed right through it. On the year Boldin has an incredible 1,350 yards and eight touchdowns. With Minnesota coming to town, Boldin is poised to close out the year with another big game. The Vikings rank 26th in the league against the pass, and they're particularly weak on the road. Start Boldin and expect no less than 130 yards and a touchdown. - For a few weeks, Baltimore's Marcus Robinson was a touchdown machine. But since scoring six touchdowns in a three-week span, he's stumbled a bit. Robinson caught just three passes last week for 27 yards. Despite this drop in production, I think he'll close out the year with a strong game. Ironically, the Ravens close out the season against the same the same team with which they opened the season: the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers defense will be intent on preventing Jamal Lewis from breaking the all-time single season rushing record. That should open up the passing game and allow Robinson to post 100 yards and a touchdown. - With Terrell Owens out for the season because of a broken collar bone, a couple sleeper options are available this week in San Francisco. Among the best candidates are Tai Streets, Cedrick Wilson and rookie Brandon Lloyd. As the team's remaining leading receiver, Streets is definitely starter material this week. Of the remaining two, I'd go with Lloyd. The 49ers have been eliminated from the playoffs, so they will likely want to get a good look at Lloyd can do, especially since Owens will probably not be with the team next year. Lloyd is unproven so he's a risky play. Still I predict he'll catch a long touchdown pass and finish with 85 yards.

This Week's Sleepers: Marcus Robinson, Tai Streets, Todd Pinkston and Brandon Lloyd.

Tight End

Jed Weaver has been a significant contributor to the San Francisco offense in recent weeks. Last Sunday Weaver caught three passes for 61 yards. With Terrell Owens sidelined for the final game of 2003, expect the tight end to play an even larger role in the gameplan. Start Weaver and count on him catching 4-5 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. - If your tight end has been struggling in recent weeks, acquire and start Antonio Gates for the final week of 2003. Gates has been streaky lately, but posted a five-catch 64-yard performance Sunday. Drew Brees seems to favor throwing to the tight end, whereas Doug Flutie locked in on David Boston. Gates should have another strong game this week against the Raiders, a team that surrendered two touchdowns to tight ends Monday night against Green Bay.

This Week's Sleepers: Jed Weaver and Antonio Gates

Kicker

Look for Jeff Wilkins to close out the season with another double-digit game. Wilkins and the Rams travel to Detroit this week to face the Lions. St. Louis always plays well in domed stadiums and this week should be no different. Detroit has given up 65 points over the last two games. - Start Paul Edinger this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City has given up 20 or more points in six of their last seven games. Meanwhile, Edinger is having himself a fine fantasy football season. Despite playing on an offense that goes through quarterbacks like Michael Irvin goes through suits, Edinger ranks eighth in the league in scoring among kickers. He's a lock to score 7-9 points this week.

This Week's Sleepers: Paul Edinger and Sebastian Janikowski

Defense

If you own the Carolina Panthers defense, you should be a happy guy or gal come Sunday afternoon. The Panthers face the reeling New York Giants this week. The Giants haven't scored more than seven points in the last four weeks. The team's quarterbacks have been sacked 14 times in the last three games. It all adds up to a big week for the Panthers. I expect Carolina to keep the Giants out of the endzone and rack up at least four sacks. - If you need a boost in production from your defense for the championship game, consider starting the Cincinnati Bengals. Despite being led by a defensive-minded coach, most of Cincinnati's success is attributed to the team's offense, not the defense. But I like their chances this week against the Browns. Cleveland was shut out last week and their offense is struggling to get in synch. Start the Bengals and count on three turnovers and three sacks.

This Week's Sleepers: Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins

The 6-Pack

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

Price Paid: $6.49

What the Bottle Tells Us: Very little. Pete's markets itself as "The Original American Brown Ale."

What I Say: Pete's is bottled in a deep brown container with a black label. The smell is dominated by sweet and fruity aromas with hints of malt. The beer pours to a modest ivory head that maintains its shape for a minute before disappearing. In the glass, Pete's offers a striking brown and amber color. It's a beverage worth admiring before you take your first drink. With good looks and scents, I was hoping for some impressive flavors. Unfortunately, Pete's has a bit of an empty taste and is somewhat flat on the tongue. While the hops make you instantly realize you're not drinking a Bud, it's not as bold as I had anticipated. Other recognizable flavors include hints of spice and caramelized fruit. Its finish is a bit weak and slightly acidic. Pete's has enough complexity to keep you interested, but isn't overly impressive. As a brown ale, I'd rate it above Newcastle and below Samuel Smith's. In this price range, you can probably find a more enjoyable beer. However, if you're in the mood for a sweeter beer, give Pete's a shot.

This Week's 6-Pack: None.