- Count on a 20+ point performance from Daunte Culpepper this week. In his last three games coming off a bye week, Culpepper has passed for a combined 857 yards and six touchdowns with one rushing score to boot. He faces a Houston Texans defense that has given up an average of two passing TDs per game.
- Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has opened the eyes of fantasy owners. He has four touchdowns in less than three games and looks like he can be trusted for the occasional start. Even so, you may want to consider keeping “Big Ben” on your bench this week against the rival Browns. Cleveland has allowed just one passing touchdown all season.
- Peyton Manning is untouchable at home. In his last five games at the RCA Dome (including playoffs), Manning has 19 touchdowns and one interception. That includes four games in which he threw 4 or more TDs. Incredible. Count on more fireworks this week as the Colts play host to the Raiders. Oakland’s secondary has been decent, but the fact is they’ve faced some pretty average passing attacks, including Buffalo, Tampa and Houston. They’ll get a quick dose of reality this week when Manning passes for another three touchdowns.
- Start Steve McNair this week against the Packers. McNair has been a bust so far in 2004, but he’s a good bet to break out of his shell in Tennessee’s primetime Monday night match-up against Green Bay. Last year’s co-MVP has just one passing touchdown this season and is only averaging about 160 yards per game. That’s not cutting it for fantasy owners, but there’s no better team to right the ship against than the Packers. Green Bay’s defense has given up a league-worst nine passing touchdowns. Expect 225 yards and two touchdowns from McNair.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh McCown and David Carr
- I like Michael Pittman this week. The Buccaneers will be starting quarterback Chris Simms against the Saints. While Simms won’t be afraid to use his big arm to test the New Orleans secondary, I also expect the second-year QB to dump off plenty of passes to Pittman, who is one of the best pass-catching tail backs in the NFL. Pittman will find some decent running lanes as well because the Saints give up 159.5 yards per game on the ground, worst in the NFC. He’s a lock to finish this game with 100+ total yards and may even find the endzone.
- It’s tough to start a player who only sees action inside the five yard line, but I wouldn’t hesitate to plug Jerome Bettis into your lineup this week if your backfield has been decimated by injuries. Pittsburgh’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, have given up five touchdowns in their last three games. Bettis should rumble his way into the endzone at least once this week and may even see some carries outside the redzone since starter Duce Staley (toe) was downgraded to questionable.
- While I wouldn’t recommend benching him unless you have a great alternative, Marshall Faulk hasn’t seen a lot of success in the Pacific Northwest lately. In his last two trips to Seattle, Faulk has a combined 44 rushing yards, 23 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. He’s averaged less than two yards per carry. What’s worse is Seattle’s run defense is holding it’s own in 2004. The Seahawks give up just over 71 yards per game. And if that wasn’t enough, they’re coming off a bye week and should be well prepared. All signs point to a down week for Faulk.
- Travis Henry has been a major disappointment so far in 2004 but things seem to be turning around. Last week, Henry carried the ball 24 times for 98 yards against the Patriots. While he hasn’t crossed the stripe yet this season, that may change this week against the Jets. New York looks like a decent run defense when you peek at the stats, but the truth is they’ve been relatively untested. Their only real challenge this season came against the Chargers. They held LaDainian Tomlinson to 87 yards and a TD, but San Diego was playing catch-up for the entire second half. Buffalo should be able to keep this one close and expose New York’s overrated rush defense, which is giving up 4.3 yards per carry. Look for 100 yards and a touchdown from Henry.
- The “Over 30” club continues to impress. Last week, Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk and Emmitt Smith rushed for more than 100 yards. Oddly, I like the eldest representative’s chances best for a repeat performance this week. Smith will visit the 49ers. Arizona’s offense awoke last week, posting nearly 375 yards of total offense. With injuries mounting, San Francisco shouldn’t put up much of a fight. Look for Smith to rack up 90 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Michael Pittman, Jerome Bettis, Emmitt Smith and Richie Anderson
- Darrell Jackson has scored a touchdown in his last three games against the Rams. The last time these two NFC West combatants faced off, he ended the day with 99 yards and one touchdown. Expect more of the same for Jackson this week. The Rams have made opposing receivers look good in their last two meetings, so Seattle’s top wideout is a lock to finish the day with 90 yards and a touchdown.
- New Orleans receiver Joe Horn has 100+ yards in three of his last four meetings with Tampa. Start him this week and look for the Saints to bounce back after last week’s disappointment in the desert. Horn should connect with Aaron Brooks for 105 yards and a touchdown.
- If your waiver wire has been stretched a little thin this week and you need to dig deep for a receiver, consider Minnesota wideout Nate Burleson or Houston’s Jabbar Gaffney. This week’s Vikings vs. Texans match-up promises to be a high-scoring affair. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in total defense, each giving up more than 20 points per game. Pass defense in particular has been a week spot for the Texans and Vikings. Houston has ceded eight touchdowns through the air already this season, while Minnesota gives up nearly 275 passing yards each game. Burleson should be a lock for 70 yards. Gaffney carries a higher risk, particularly if Corey Bradford (shoulder) plays, but he has a great chance for a touchdown reception.
- Eric Moulds has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2003 campaign in which he battled injuries and finished with less than 800 yards receiving. So far this season, the All-Pro wideout has 242 yards, including three straight games with a touchdown. Unfortunately for Moulds owners, I see his hot streak coming to a halt in Week 5. The Bills travel to face the Jets and New Jersey hasn’t been good to him lately. In his last two visits to the Meadowlands, Moulds posted identical 24-yard games.
- Peerless Price has less receiving yardage than Eddie Kennison. That says a lot about the Atlanta passing game. So be it. I’m going out on a limb and recommending Price this week. The Lions give up an NFC-worst 277 passing yards per game. Falcons QB Michael Vick has been taking some heat from the media about not using his receivers. He’ll break out of his funk against the Lions, the team he had his career best passing game against two years ago (337 yards and 2 TDs). Price should be good for around 80-90 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Nate Burleson, Jabbar Gaffney, Earnest Wilford and Peerless Price
- Arizona tight end Freddie Jones has had a disappointing season by all accounts. It’s difficult to live up to expectations when your quarterback hasn’t thrown a single passing touchdown all season. If ever there was a week for the Cardinals to unleash an aerial assault, it’d be Week 5 against the 49ers. San Francisco lost starting cornerback Mike Rumph when he broke his arm last week. The team has given up six passing touchdowns in its last three games and already has surrendered two touchdowns to tight ends in 2004. If you’re a Tony Gonzalez owner who is desperate for some tight end help, Jones deserves some serious consideration. At a minimum, he should be good for 40-50 yards.
- Start Cowboys tight end Jason Witten this week against the Giants. He has at least three receptions in every game this year, making him a decent option on any week. The last time he faced the Giants, Witten scored the game’s only touchdown. New York has given up two scores to tight ends in their first four games, so Witten should have a great chance of catching a TD pass this week. Look for 50 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Freddie Jones and Bubba Franks
- If you’re searching for a decent kicker this weekend, give some consideration to Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee. Jacksonville will face the Chargers this week and San Diego has given up two or more field goals in three out of four games this season. Scobee has been hit or miss so far for fantasy owners this season because Jacksonville’s offense has been unpredictable, but he did connect on field goals three times last week against the Colts. Look for the Jaguars to have some success moving the ball this week against the Chargers. Scobee should finish the day with 7-8 points.
- Owners who have had some hard luck with their kickers so far in 2004 would do well to acquire Houtson’s Kris Brown. Brown has kicked three field goals in each of his last two games and is the fourth highest-scoring kicker in the NFL. A favorable match-up this week against the Vikings, should yield another 10 point game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh Scobee, Kris Brown and Neil Rackers
- My top defensive sleeper this week is the Arizona Cardinals. The Cards have been one of the NFL’s surprise team defenses this season, giving up an average of just 14 points per game. Look for the trend to continue in Week 5, when they travel to San Francisco to face one of the league’s worst offenses. Arizona will register at least a couple turnovers and hold their opponents to under 17 points.
- Despite a horrible showing last week against Arizona, I like the New Orleans Saints defense to make some noise this week against the Buccaneers. Tampa will start a young, inexperienced quarterback in Chris Simms. The last time Simms saw action was back in Week 2 against the Seahawks. He was sacked four times and tossed one interception. Look for the Saints to throw lots of blitzes at the untested second-year QB this week. The results should be at least three sacks, a couple turnovers and a possible defensive touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints
Last Week's 6-Pack: Blue Moon Belgian White
Price Paid: $6.29
First, a big thank you to the several readers who corrected me on the origin of Blue Moon. In last week’s column, I wrote that it comes from Belgium. In reality, Blue Moon is a “Belgian-style” ale brewed in the USA by Coors. This beer comes packaged in a brown long-neck with an attractive blue and cream label. After popping off the cap, I took a long whiff and was taken aback by the aroma. Blue Moon features one of the oddest smells I’ve ever experienced in my days of drinking beer – an extremely potent citrus/orange and clove scent. While I’m not a huge fan of fruity beers, it wasn’t a turnoff. Just different than what I was used to. The beer pours nicely and forms a two-finger thick head that fades slowly to a thin froth, which has above average staying power. In the glass, Blue Moon is about the same color of a quart of Quaker State oil, a murky orange/gold. I give it an A- for appearance. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t jive with my palate. Let me preface by stating that I cannot think of a more repulsive flavor than apricot. Give me brussel sprouts. Give me cough syrup. Let me chew on a mouthful of aluminum foil. Anything but apricot and that’s exactly what Blue Moon Belgian White tastes like. There is complexity there; you can pick up some yeast, wheat and blueberry tones, but predominantly this beer tastes like apricot and that’s not a good thing (at least not for me). In terms of how it feels in the mouth, it’s quite smooth and goes down easy. To conclude, I think many readers may actually enjoy Blue Moon. It’s certainly worth a try if you enjoy wheat-style ales, and, honestly, it gets high marks on my scorecard for all criteria except the one that matters most: taste. For me, the sad reality is Blue Moon was the first beer I’ve had in some time that I couldn’t finish.
Reader Comment: Avid fantasy fanatic and Huddle.com subscriber Charlie Deal chimed in with his opinion on Blue Moon this week. He wasn’t quite as turned off by this ale as I was, but still didn’t shower it with praise. “It's a fine enough beer, I suppose,” writes Deal, “but there are certainly better examples of that style of beer both here and abroad. I find it a bit sweet for my taste.”
This Week's 6-Pack : Beamish Irish Stout
Last year, I reviewed Murphy’s Irish Stout and gave it high praise. Since the inception of this column, Guinness has been one of the most highly regarded and requested beers. We’ll get there in due time, but let’s go with a less widely known Irish Stout. Pick yourself up a 6-pack of Beamish (actually, more likely a 4-pack of nitro cans) to enjoy with this weekend’s fantasy action.