- Broncos QB Jake Plummer has hit the skids lately. In the last two weeks, he’s thrown zero touchdowns and six interceptions. What a mess. However, this week’s match-up against the Chiefs is too good to pass up. Kansas City was embarrassed against Billy Volek in front of a primetime audience. A short week of preparation won’t help their league-worst pass defense. Start Plummer and consider anything less than two touchdowns and 250 yards a disappointment.
- Peyton Manning single handedly led plenty of fantasy owners to the playoffs. All those Manning owners are holding their collective breaths this week. Manning will face his toughest test of the season when he faces the Ravens. Baltimore has allowed just 10 passing touchdowns this season, the best mark in the NFL. More telling is that Pro Bowlers Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady were held to some of their lowest fantasy outputs of 2004 versus the Ravens. Don’t do something foolish like bench Manning. I expect him to put up some good stats. Just don’t count on a five-touchdown performance. Two TDs and 280 yards seem more likely.
- I’m a big fan of riding the hot hand, so you won’t be surprised that I’m recommending Billy Volek again this week. He’ll square off against an Oakland Raiders defense that has allowed 34 and 35 points in the last two weeks respectively. Anything less than 250 yards and two touchdowns would be a shocker.
- Week 14 was a solid week of prognosticating for The Weekly 6-Pack. But one glaring mistake was suggesting owners keep Matt Hasselbeck on the bench against the Vikings, who had shut down many a QB at home. Hasselbeck threw three touchdowns against Minnesota. Call me stubborn, but I’m still not convinced. Hasselbeck burned me one too many times this season. He’s going to remain firmly on my bench in the one league in which I own him. Hasselbeck faces the Jets, who yield less than 190 passing yards per game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Billy Volek, Jake Plummer and Brian Griese
- After fielding a respectable run defense for much of the season, the Browns have had a tough go of it in the past three weeks. In that span, they’ve given up more than 400 rushing yards. They now rank 31 st in the NFL in run defense. It won’t get any easier this week when Cleveland plays host to the Chargers and LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a lock for 140 all-purpose yards and at least on score.
- If you’re desperate for RB help this week, consider pulling Emmitt Smith off your bench (or the waiver wire if he was dumped). Smith opened what has turned out to be an impressive 2004 season against the Rams with 87 yards and a touchdown. After battling his way back from injury, Smith is ready to face St. Louis once again. This time at home. The Rams allow 137.5 yards per game on the ground, so we can expect at least 70 yards and a touchdown from Emmitt.
- The return of Duce Staley has cut into the fantasy production of Jerome Bettis. The Bus has just 64 yards over the last two games. But I’d consider activating him this week against the Giants. Head coach Bill Cowher downgraded Staley to questionable yesterday, indicating that Staley aggravated his hamstring last week. Even if Staley does play, Bettis should be receive a minimum of 15-17 carries against a Giants team that gets run on an average of 31 times per game. Look for Bettis to finish the day with more than 70 yards and two touchdowns.
- Rookie running back Kevin Jones is 141 yards shy of 1,000. The way the Minnesota Vikings defense is playing, he may get his thousand yards before halftime. The Vikings have allowed a 100-yard rusher in six of their last seven games. Put any concerns about Minnesota getting an early lead and Detroit having to pass most of the second half aside. The Vikings defense is so shoddy that the chances of them allowing their offense to get a big lead are minimal. Jones gets his 1,000 in this game and adds a touchdown to boot.
- It’s looking like Larry Johnson will not only get the start this week against the Broncos, but he’s going to likely get nearly all the carries. Backup Derrick Blaylock won’t play at all according to head coach Dick Vermiel in his weekly Q&A session on kcchiefs.com. Johnson has had two big games in a row in a reserve role. He’s a must-start this week as he should get a minimum of 25 carries.
This Week’s Sleepers: Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis, Larry Johnson and Reuben Droughns
- It’ll be interesting to see who makes the Pro Bowl among NFC receivers this year. One deserving player is Muhsin Muhammad, who has had an amazing stretch of performances over the last seven week. During that span, he’s recorded nine touchdowns and six games with 90 or more receiving yards. This week, he’ll likely continue his hot streak against the Falcons, a team he had 114 yards against earlier in the season. The Falcons do a good job of keeping WRs out of the endzone (including their own), but Muhammad and QB Jake Delhomme are just too good right now. Look for 110 yards and a score from the Carolina wideout.
- Keep receivers Brandon Lloyd and Cedrick Wilson on your bench this week against the Redskins. Lloyd and Wilson have been occasional starters for many owners this season, but Washington poses too big of a challenge. In the last six weeks, the Redskins have allowed more than 17 points just once.
- I can’t recommend Roy Williams this week. I want to, but I just can’t. Not even against the Vikings. Williams has been held out of the endzone for six straight weeks. While the Vikings do rank near the bottom of the NFC in pass defense, QB Joey Harrington just isn’t playing with any confidence at this point. I expect around four catches for 60 yards.
- One rookie WR who you can trust for double-digit fantasy points this week is Bills wideout Lee Evans. Evans has scored four touchdowns in the last three games and has become an important part of the Bills offense. This week he’ll face an average Cincinnati defense that has given up many long pass play this season, including the year’s only 99-yard touchdown pass. It’s a good bet that Evans finishes this game with at least 75 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Lee Evans, T.J. Housmandzadeh, David Patten and Laveranues Coles
- You can’t bench Tony Gonzalez this week, but don’t count on him catching a touchdown. The Broncos haven’t allowed a single TE to spike the ball in the endzone all year. Gonzo was blanketed by cornerback Champ Bailey in a Week 1 meeting between these teams. I’m not sure if we can expect a similar strategy this week, but Gonzalez isn’t likely to have more than 60-70 yards.
- The Oakland Raiders allow more TE touchdowns than any team in the NFL, so the Tennessee Titans are a good place to look for a sleeper this week. Normally, Erron Kinney would get my pick, but he’s nursing an ankle injury. So I’ll go with Shad Meier instead. QB Billy Volek seems to like throwing to Meier. The duo has hooked up for touchdowns in two games this season.
- Todd Heap is back … finally. Heap burned the Giants last week for two touchdowns. Although the Colts defense has been much improved over the last few games, Heap remains Baltimore’s more reliable passing target. And with Jamal Lewis battling through an ankle injury, Heap is the Ravens best bet to score.
This Week’s Sleepers: Shad Meier and Chris Cooley
- I love Mike Vanderjagt’s chances of kicking multiple field goals this week against the Ravens. After a huge season in 2004, Vanderjagt ranks just ninth in scoring among kickers. But things are starting to look a little brighter for the “idiot kicker.” He booted three field goals last week against the Texans and had two the prior week against the Titans. Indy will be able to move the ball against the Ravens, but I’m counting on at least a few drives stalling out in the redzone. Look for three field goals from Vanderjagt.
- If you need a boost from your kicker during the playoffs, consider picking up Buffalo’s Rian Lindell. The Bills have scored 37 or more points in each of their last four games, so Lindell is getting his share of opportunities. He should be a lock for 7-8 points this week against the Bengals, a team that’s surrendered 118 points in their last three games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Rian Lindell and Jeff Reed
- The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t scored a defensive touchdown in four weeks. They’re due. Look for them to make their mark this week against rookie QB Eli Manning. Manning has just one touchdown compared to six interceptions. I’m banking on the Steelers to cause four turnovers and hold Manning and the Giants to fewer than 12 points.
- Owners needing a sleeper defense could have some luck starting the Chicago Bears this week. Sure, Brian Urlacher is out. But this week’s opponent, the Houston Texans are terrible on the road. They’ve scored 14 or fewer points in their last three games away from Reliant Stadium. In addition, the Bears are tied for the league lead with five defensive touchdowns. Cold weather won’t help QB David Carr.
This Week’s Sleepers: Arizona Cardinals and Chicago Bears
Last Week's 6-Pack: Gösser
Price Paid: $6.99
I found Gösser in a Cost Plus World Market, an excellent store where you can always come across interesting microbrews and imports. The beer hails from Austria and is packaged in a green bottle. Even with a blind sampling, it wouldn’t be hard to peg this beer as an imported European lager before the first drop hit your tongue. It has that sulfur aroma that often gets categorized as skunkiness. Personally, I don’t find it as off-putting as some. In the glass, the first thing you’ll notice is the crazy carbonation. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought someone snuck an Alka-Seltzer tablet in the glass when I went to the kitchen for some wings. It’s ultra-fizzy. Color is pretty standard for lagers, a nice pale gold. The head is above average for a beer in this category. It starts out thick before fading into a thin layer of froth that lasts for quite awhile. Surprisingly, Gösser didn’t seem to be quite as fizzy in the mouth as it was in the glass. It only feels slightly prickly and gets to be pretty smooth midway through the glass. The taste is quite light and refreshing. It has more flavor and substance than its American counterparts and less metallic harshness than the more popular import Heineken. I really enjoyed the subtle hoppy aftertaste, which provides just the right amount of bitterness. What I like best about Gösser is that it’s light enough that you can consume several without feeling like a lard-ass, but it also has some character. For that, I give it a strong rating.
This Week's 6-Pack : Labatt Blue
Back to the great white north for our second Canadian beer of the year. I reviewed Moosehead a few weeks ago and thought it was average or slightly above. Labatt is distributed on a wider scale, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a 6-pack.