- Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has completed an astounding 75 percent of his passes in 2004 – best in the NFL. He’s thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions. This week he’ll face his toughest test of the season when the Jets travel to Miami. The Dolphins rank number one in passing defense, giving up just 112.7 yards through the air per game. Those numbers may have Pennington owners considering other QB options, but I expect another strong performance from the former Marshall QB. Miami’s stats might be a bit skewed since they played in the midst of two hurricanes and faced two young QBs (Palmer and Roethlisberger). I’m projecting 220 yards and a pair of TDs for Pennington.
- Daunte Culpepper and Matt Hasselbeck owners rejoice. This is a great week to have your starting QB on bye. There are plenty of replacements to choose from. Kerry Collins, Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Tim Rattay, Kyle Boller and Jay Fiedler were available on most waiver wires at the beginning of this week. Each faces a favorable match-up in Week 4. Look for Collins, Roethlisberger and Rattay to lead the way with at least 200 yards and two touchdowns.
- Will the real Michael Vick please stand up? Vick looked like the guy in the clever Nike amusement park TV ad in Week 2 when he rushed for 100+ yards and passed for more than 175 yards. But last week, he finished with a 46.9 QB rating and threw no touchdowns. Can he bounce back Sunday? Maybe, but the outlook isn’t good. Carolina is coming off a bye week. They will be well prepared. Don’t put Vick on your bench unless you have an excellent backup. However, don’t count on one of Vick’s huge performances.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kerry Collins, Ben Roethilisberger and Tim Rattay
- Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher is questionable for this week’s game against Philadelphia. The team is in desperate need of their defensive MVP’s services because they were dissected last week by Minnesota Vikings RB Onterrio Smith. Smith ran for 94 yards and added 104 yards on receptions. Philly’s Bryan Westbrook is an even better receiver than Smith out of the backfield, so he could be in for a busy afternoon. Look for Westbrook to check in with his biggest fantasy performance of the season – 160 yards and two scores.
- Green Bay running back Ahman Green is having another strong season, but he has yet to bust off a long touchdown run. Look for that to change this week against the Giants. New York can be run on. They give up an average of 124.3 yards per game on the ground. If Cleveland’s William Green can gain 91 yards on New York, his Green Bay namesake should be spectacular. Count on 140 yards and two touchdowns (one 30+ yards) from Green as the Packers return to their bread and butter – the running game.
- Fred Taylor has rushed for nearly 275 yards in his last two games against Indianapolis. As long as the Jags heralded defense can keep this game close, I expect another huge performance from Taylor. The Colts could be primed for a bit of letdown after last week’s offensive clinic against the Packers. Look for Taylor to cross the century mark and score a touchdown.
- Saints running back Aaron Stecker will continue to reward owners who were fortunate to pick him up. This week New Orleans will travel to Arizona to face a Cardinals defense that is easily worst in the league against the run. They give up more than 180 yards per game on the ground. Obviously plug Stecker into your lineup this week. In recent years, this has been the type of game the Saints lose. I expect it to be tight until the final possession, but Stecker will get his yards. Count on at least 120 yards.
This Week’s Sleepers: Emmitt Smith, Duce Staley and Tyrone Wheatley
- It’s only Week 4, but many Plaxico Burress owners have already thrown in the towel on his season. All indications are that he isn’t going to have that bounce-back year many people were projecting. (He has fewer yards than Ricky Proehl.) However, if there’s a glimmer of hope, it could come this week against the Bengals. Burress has historically done will against his division rival. In his last meeting with Cincinnati in 2003, he caught a season-high eight passes for 112 yards. The Steelers will likely focus on the run game, but I still believe Burress will put up some good stats this week. Look for 85 yards and a touchdown.
- With Deion Branch and Troy Brown battling injuries, now is a great time to be a David Givens owner. QB Tom Brady has a knack for spreading the ball around, but the injuries have limited the number of targets a bit. That works in Givens’ favor. If you can get him into your lineup this week, do so. In his last meeting with Buffalo, Givens had a fine day, catching seven passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
- I expect Steve McNair to start this week against the Chargers. I think he’d play with an amputated passing arm. However, even if he sits out, keep Derrick Mason in your active lineup. The last time backup QB Billy Volek started, he hooked up with Mason on nine receptions for 137 yards. While Mason has been a bit of a disappointment so far, it’s worth noting he did get robbed on a TD catch a couple weeks ago. Expect him to get into the action this week with 100 yards and a score against a Chargers defense that’s second worst in the AFC.
- The Panthers are coming off a bye week and should be well-prepared for this week’s match-up against the Falcons. Look for receivers Keary Colbert and Muhsin Muhammad to show signs of becoming reliable fantasy starters this week as they settle into life without Steve Smith. The Falcons have a stiff run defense, second-best in the NFL, but they do give up a lot of passing yardage. It’s a good bet Colbert and Muhammad will have around 75-85 yards and one TD each.
- The last time Torry Holt traveled to Candlestick…3Com…err Monster Stadium, he blew up, catching 11 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. The Holt and Bulger connection heated up last week when they hooked up for a long TD pass. Look for continued success this week for the duo. I’m banking on two touchdowns.
This Week’s Sleepers: Keary Colbert, David Givens, Plaxico Burress and Jerry Porter
- Be sure to get 49ers tight end Eric Johnson into your starting lineup this week. Johnson is second in the NFL among tight ends with 18 receptions. This week San Francisco faces the Rams, a team that’s given up three touchdowns to tight ends in the last six games. Tim Rattay hooked up with Johnson in Week 1 for eight receptions. Rattay returns this week from injury. Look for him to quickly reestablish that rapport with Johnson and connect with him for 50-60 yards and a possible score.
- San Diego tight end Antonio Gates has tapered off significantly since his 123-yard performance in Week 1. Don’t get too disheartened if you’re a Gates owner. He should return to form this week against the Titans. Tennessee has given up a touchdown to a TE in every game they’ve played this season. Gates has a good chance to continue that trend in Week 4.
- If you need a promising sleeper at TE this week, consider grabbing Tennessee’s Ben Troupe. The Titans thought enough of Troupe to pick him in the second round of this year’s draft. The team’s starter, Erron Kinney, is out indefinitely with a calf injury. This week, the Titans will go up against the Chargers, who give up an average of more than 25 points per game. With their power-running game, Tennessee should have little trouble moving the ball. That will lead to plenty of opportunities for Troupe. I’m predicting 50 yards and a score.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ben Troupe and Bubba Franks
- New Orleans kicker John Carney had one of those five field goal performances last week that boosted the spirits of his fantasy owners and broke the spirits of those who faced him. Casey should have another multi-field goal game this week against the Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Dennis Green has managed to light a fire under Arizona’s defense. It’s interesting to look at their defensive stats; they only give up 15.3 points per game, yet they surrender huge amounts of yardage, 370 yards per game. That bend-but-don’t-break defensive philosophy should lead to a big day for Carney.
- Owners who spent a mid-round draft pick on Indy kicker Mike Vanderjagt should finally be rewarded this weekend. The Colts will face a stingy Jacksonville defense. With the number one offense in the league and superstars like Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James, this team will move the ball. However, Jacksonville has as good of a chance as any team in the league to keep them out of the endzone. That will work heavily in the favor of Vanderjagt.
This Week’s Sleepers: Sebastian Janikowski and Jeff Reed
- Start the Denver Broncos defense this week against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have struggled to move the ball all season, with the exception of a couple garbage time TDs last week against the Raiders. This week Tampa will be without the only player on its offense who was gaining yardage with any degree of consistency, Charlie Garner. The team gets Michael Pittman back this week, but I don’t expect an immediate impact. There’s a good chance Denver will hold Tampa under 10 points this week.
- The Green Bay Packers defense was shell shocked last week against the Colts. Look for them to bounce back in Week 4 against the Giants. They will continue to blitz and put pressure on the quarterback. The difference this week is they won’t be facing Peyton Manning and company. Count on at least three sacks and a couple interceptions against Kurt Warner who was hobbled a bit in last week’s match-up against the Browns.
This Week’s Sleepers: Green Bay Packers and New York Jets
Last Week's 6-Pack: Spaten Oktoberfest
Price Paid: $7.99
Presented in a green long-neck bottle, Spaten Oktoberfest is the world’s first Octoberfest beer. The aroma isn’t overly intense, but it has what I would describe as a freshly-baked biscuit scent – a toasty, wheat smell. The beer pours to a huge soapy head that maintains good shape for a couple minutes and leaves traces down the side of the glass as you drink it. I was quite impressed with the booming cooper hue, really striking. But as much as the appearance and smell impressed me, I was left a bit under whelmed by the flavor. It was more subdued than I had expected, but not altogether disappointing. It started out a bit on the sweet side of the spectrum, with what can best be described as a weak pear flavor. I might even describe the feeling in the mouth as a bit watered down. Once swallowed, Spaten Oktoberfest finishes with pleasant malt tones and a dry, slightly bitter or even metallic taste. That shouldn’t discourage you from trying this seasonal beer. It’s a good but not great beer that can definitely be enjoyed in the presence of loud polka music, men in lederhosen and short-skirt-wearing waitresses who can hold a dozen steins of beer at the same time.
This Week's 6-Pack : Blue Moon Belgian White
From Germany we head to Belgium, home of some of the world’s most revered beers. Blue Moon came on recommendation from several readers. I’ve never had this one before, so I’m eager to get to next week’s review. Please join me and enjoy a 6-pack for yourself.