- If your regular starter is on bye or hasn’t been performing as you had hoped, Steve McNair is a nice plug and play option this week against the Texans. McNair has been a model of consistency in 2005, throwing at least one touchdown and finishing in the vicinity of 200 yards passing in every game. Although Houston’s passing defense isn’t as bad as in recent years, they rank fifth worst in the AFC. The outlook is good for McNair to finish with an above average 250-yard, two-touchdown performance.
- What looked like a promising game for Matt Hasselbeck owners this week is requiring a bit more thought. Both of Seattle’s starting wideouts, Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram, are expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Rams shoddy pass defense. A second-string WR corps makes playing Hasselbeck iffy. Look for other options if you can’t live with a 220-yard, one-touchdown game.
- The Chargers have the seventh-best run defense and the seventh-worst pass defense in the NFL. In two home games this season, they’ve surrendered an average of 289 yards and a total of five touchdowns through the air. Expect the Steelers to sling the ball around a bit more frequently than usual in what should be the best game of the week. Ben Roethlisberger has the potential to put up 225 yards and a pair of scores.
- I took a lot of heat when I called Byron Leftwich a one week wonder in my Free Agent Forecast column after he had a solid Week 1 performance against the Seahawks (252 yds. and 2 TDs). The season is still young, but I maintain there are likely better quarterbacks available in your league to have on your roster at this point. Since the opener, Leftwich has as many interceptions as touchdowns (3) and is averaging just a hair over 200 yards per game. To make matters worse, he’s getting no support from his running game, and his schedule in the coming weeks isn’t promising (CIN, PIT, Bye). Count on more disappointment Sunday against a Bengals defense that has given up just two passing touchdowns all season.
- It might be best to keep Jake Delhomme on the bench this week against the Cardinals. Arizona has been tough at home versus opposing quarterbacks. Combined, Marc Bulger and Tim Rattay averaged 171 yards and produced just one touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Steve McNair, Ben Roethlisberger, and David Carr
- Sunday will mark the last game for Ronnie Brown before Ricky Williams returns from suspension. Brown had his best game as a pro two weeks ago, carrying 23 times for 132 yards and touchdown. He could be in for another big performance this week against a Bills defense that ranks 31st in the league against the run.
- Don’t be afraid to put a little faith in Julius Jones this week despite an intimidating match-up against the Eagles. In 11 career starts, Jones has never had fewer than 22 carries. The consistent workload on the ground and a steady contribution in the passing game—12 receptions in four games—should put Jones somewhere over 100 yards. It’s a mark he crossed in his only career start against Philly.
- If you are planning to use Reuben Droughns as a bye week replacement, you may want to explore other options. The Bears give up just 3.0 yards per carry and haven’t surrendered a rushing touchdown all year. Add in the fact that Lee Suggs will likely see more action because he had a week to rest his injuries, and chances are good that Droughns will fail to meet your expectations.
- Ahman Green owners can’t catch a break. Green has a great match-up this week against a New Orleans Saints defense that allows 130 yards per game on the ground and he’s questionable to play due to a knee injury. Monitor Green’s situation. He has an opportunity to post 100 all-purpose yards and his first touchdown if he plays. If not, consider activating backup Najeh Davenport.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ronnie Brown, Chris Brown, Michael Pittman, and Chris Perry
- If you’re facing some bye week or injury issues at the wide receiver position, Buffalo receivers Eric Moulds and Lee Evans have good upside. The word out of Buffalo is that J.P. Losman is headed to the bench in favor of Kelly Holcomb. Moulds and Evans will likely post their best stats of the season with the veteran QB under center. Holcomb is historically a fast starter. In his first start of 2004, he lit up the Bengals for 415 yards and five touchdowns. In his first start of 2002, he racked up 363 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, consider that Evans and Moulds combined for three touchdowns in their last meeting with the Dolphins.
- Many fantasy owners would argue that Andre Johnson has been the most disappointing receiver this season. I disagree. In my book, Ashley Lelie has been about as useful as a box of condoms in a convent. At least Johnson’s owners can look at his tough schedule so far and have some optimism that things will get better. Lelie has posted bad numbers against average defenses. Keep him firmly planted on your bench this week against the Redskins, who play solid all-around defense.
- When Rex Grossman went down with an injury during the preseason, many fantasy owners figured it doomed Muhsin Muhammad to a season of mediocrity. But Muhammad has fared better than expected with rookie Kyle Orton under center. He’s averaging six receptions per game this season and should be primed for his best output of 2005 this week against the Browns. Cleveland ranks 29th in the league against the pass. I expect Muhammad to finish with 100 yards and a score.
- The Jets signing of Vinny Testaverde gives new hope to Laveranues Coles owners. Coles has been a big disappointment after looking so good during the preseason. In the last two weeks, his production has languished and he’s finished with fewer than 20 yards. As the season progresses, look for better stats from Coles. Just be sure to keep him on ice this week. He’s not a good play against a Buccaneers defense that holds opponents under 160 yards passing.
This Week’s Sleepers: Eric Moulds, Muhsin Muhammad, Drew Bennett, and Joe Jurevicius
- Many owners are in desperate need of a tight end this week with Jeremy Shockey, Tony Gonzalez, and Jermaine Wiggins on bye. If you fit in that category, give Ernie Conwell a look as a deep sleeper. The veteran Saints TE has done an admirable job of filling the shoes of Boo Williams, who suffered a season-ending injury. He currently ranks 12th in the NFL in receiving yardage among tight ends. But what should really interest you about Conwell is that his opponent this week, the Packers, have ceded five touchdowns to tight ends in four games.
- Randy McMichael is one of the top tight ends in football, so you have to start him almost every week. But know that he has historically struggled mightily against the Bills. In his last five starts against the division rival, McMichael has averaged 22.6 yards receiving per game and posted zero touchdowns. Lower your expectations.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ernie Conwell and Jerramy Stevens
- After starting out the season slowly, Jason Elam has come on strong. The Broncos kicker has booted seven field goals in his last three games. His streak of success should continue this week against the Redskins, who gave up multiple field goals in their only previous road game this season.
- I like Miami’s Olindo Mare this weekend as a sleeper play against the Bills. Buffalo is coming off a game in which they gave up four field goals to New Orleans. Although they haven’t given a lot of points this season, it can be attributed to the so-so offenses they’ve played to date. The fact is the Bills rank 31st against the run. Miami should be able to move the ball and get Mare in a position to kick 2-3 field goals.
This Week’s Sleepers: Olindo Mare and Ryan Longwell
- The Indianapolis Colts will have one of the league’s highest scoring defenses in Week 5. The team faces off against 49ers rookie quarterback Alex Smith in his first start. San Francisco couldn’t even stop the Arizona Cardinals last week, so they figure to be playing catch up for much of the game. A young quarterback forced to throw on nearly every down has the makings of a disaster. Three or more turnovers and a touchdown are not out of the realm of possibility for the Colts.
- If you’ve been playing the platoon game with your defenses so far this season, Week 5 requires some thought. I like the Miami Dolphins defense against the Bills, but I was more excited about Nick Saban’s crew when J.P. Losman was starting. They still should be good for two or three sacks and a turnover. I also like the Cleveland Browns, who are coming off a bye and face the Bears. Cleveland earned some respect a couple weeks ago, holding the Colts to just 13 points. They have the potential to cause some turnovers this week since Chicago QB Kyle Orton threw five interceptions in his last start.
This Week’s Sleepers: Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Dos Equis
Price Paid: $6.49
Dos Equis hails from Monterrey, Mexico and dates back to 1897. It comes in a green bottle with a label that tells the story of the brand. Dos Equis was given its name to commemorate the arrival of the 20th century—the roman numerals “XX”—which in Spanish translate to Dos Equis. That’s two weeks in a row that drinking beer has made me more knowledgeable. A few more beer reviews and I may even become smart enough to realize that Michael Vick is not reliable fantasy quarterback. But back to the beer. Dos Equis has an almost imperceptible corn aroma to it. Beyond that, it’s difficult to pick up much of anything. In my pint glass, this beer was pretty standard. It looks like any other lager. Straw, yellow color … check. Fast collapsing head … check. As for the taste, it fortunately made a better impression. Although Dos Equis is a light-bodied beer, there is a fair amount of complexity in the flavor. The most prevalent taste I pinpointed was a light sweetness, but it has some grainy flavors and a just a touch of hops, as well. Carbonation is average for a lager. And the aftertaste is clean and dry, which makes it easy to drink a few of them at a time. All in all, Dos Equis is one of the better Mexican beers that I’ve had, which isn’t saying a lot. I give it two stars and recommend it as a Cinco de Mayo alternative to Corona.
Next Week's 6-Pack : Peroni
I’ve reviewed many European beers in this column, but next week will be the first venture into Italy. Peroni is a beer that I’ve never tried before. I suppose that’s because whenever I’m in an Italian restaurant, I order wine. When I saw it in the liquor store it intrigued me. Grab a 6-pack and fah -getta `bout it.