- If it weren’t for his team’s disappointing 1-5 record, Brett Favre would likely be the frontrunner for MVP honors. In six games this season, Favre has thrown for 1,571 yards and 14 touchdown passes. It puts him on a pace to pass for 4,188 yards and 37 scores, which would be on par for the stats he put up in his three previous MVP seasons. Talk of his retirement is premature, especially given how well he’s performing with a weak supporting cast. Favre owners should be richly rewarded again this week. A match-up against the Bengals has shootout potential, and with the Packers backfield decimated, Favre is likely to throw 40 passes. Expect a 300-yard, 2-touchdown game.
- While on paper the match-up looks favorable, I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and suggest that Panthers QB Jake Delhomme will have a disappointing afternoon against the Vikings. Sure Minnesota has given up 11 passing touchdowns this season, but Delhomme had his bell rung a couple weeks ago. In fact, he was knocked unconscious. My fear is that the Panthers QB will be a bit gun-shy in his first game back and rush his throws. Start him if you please, but don’t be shocked if he finishes with fewer than 200 yards.
- Continue to ride QB Mark Brunell’s hot hand this week against the 31st ranked pass defense of the New York Giants. Brunell, another surprising candidate for MVP, has taken the fantasy world by storm. He has 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. In his last five games, he’s tossed 2+ touchdowns, including hat tricks in his last two outings. Pencil Brunell in for another two TDs and 240 yards against his division foe.
- If you’re a Marc Bulger owner who acquired Jamie Martin in hopes that the Rams backup would be serviceable, it’s time to re-evaluate that thinking. Martin looked vanilla last week and is faced with the grim prospect of going head to head against the second-ranked pass defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars without his top two wideouts (Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt). He’ll get you 160 yards and a touchdown at best.
This Week’s Sleepers: Drew Brees, Chris Simms and Kelly Holcomb
- With Julius Jones looking iffy at best for Sunday’s game against the Cards, Cowboys rookie Marion Barber is an excellent plug and play option. The Cardinals historically struggle on the road, particularly against the run. In this season’s road games, they’ve given up an average of 142.0 yards and 2.0 touchdowns per game on the ground. While the Dallas backfield has been a bit unsettled since Jones went down, owners who muster up enough trust in Barber should be rewarded with a 90-yard, 1-touchdown performance.
- The uncertainty surrounding Corey Dillon’s injury has his owners in a pickle. The Patriots face a Buffalo Bills defense that is 31st in the league against the run. It’s a run defense that is reeling after giving up 122 yards and three touchdowns to Lamont Jordan. A healthy Dillon would be a virtual lock for a 100-yard, 1-touchdown game. To add to the angst, New England plays the Sunday night game so we won’t know whether Dillon is playing until well after all the day games are in the books. As painful as it is, I think you almost have to keep Dillon on your bench. That is, unless you own both Dillon and Patrick Pass, and your league rules permit you to make a game-time lineup change. Regardless of Dillon’s situation Pass figures to play a prominent role. Start him if you need a bye week or injury replacement, and look for a good contribution if Dillon plays and a great one if he doesn’t.
- Last year’s surprise running back Reuben Droughns is very quietly having another nice year. Through six games this season, he’s averaging 90+ all-purpose yards per game. Droughns hasn’t gotten into the endzone this year, but should cross the stripe this weekend against the Texans. Houston ranks last in the NFL in rush defense. They’ve given up a lofty 10 touchdowns in six games.
- Keep 49ers running backs Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore far away from your lineup this week against Tampa. The Buccaneers defense has regained the knock-you-to-the-ground, punch-you-in-the-mouth form that they became famous for in the early part of the decade. Tampa squanders just 62 yards per game on the ground to opposing offenses.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reuben Droughns, Patrick Pass, Tony Fisher, and Stephen Davis
- After missing two games, T.J. Houshmandzadeh appears to be fully recovered from a hand injury. Last Sunday, he caught seven passes for 75 yards. Get him in your lineup this week against the Packers, where he’ll likely draw coverage from Ahmad Carroll, who is frequently picked on by opposing quarterbacks. Anything less than seven or eight catches and a touchdown would be a disappointment.
- Jaguars wideout Jimmy Smith has been relatively quiet in his last two outings, averaging just 37.5 yards per game with zero touchdowns. He should return to form this week against the Rams, a team that’s given up the second most passing touchdowns in the NFL (14).
- After three solid statistical performances in a row, Doug Gabriel has earned starting consideration in leagues of all sizes. Gabriel figures to be a major part of the offense again this week with Randy Moss running at less than 100% due to various injuries. A match-up against Tennessee’s young cornerbacks should result in a 90-yard performance with a decent shot at a touchdown.
- While he’s a risky play this week, I think Michael Clayton’s fantasy season is about ready to turn around. Clayton, one of the many second-tier wide receivers who’ve disappointed in 2005, should benefit from several key factors. The Buccaneers are coming off a bye week, they changed quarterbacks, and they’ll face an opponent that’s horrible against the pass. Look for Clayton’s best production of the year against the 49ers—90 yards and a score.
- Give all the Patriots receivers a rest this week against the Bills. Buffalo gives up just 153 yards per game through the air. Combine this low average with QB Tom Brady’s tendency to spread the ball around and it’s hard to imagine David Givens, Deion Branch, or Troy Brown finishing with more than 80 yards receiving individually.
This Week’s Sleepers: Doug Gabriel, Tyrone Calico, Antonio Bryant, and Antonio Chatman
- Dolphins TE Randy McMichael appears to have slipped into his annual funk. He has just eight receptions in his last four games. The inconsistent play of QB Gus Frerotte certainly isn’t helping his cause, and neither will a match-up this week against the Saints. New Orleans has only given up touchdowns to tight ends in one game this season (vs. Green Bay). Exhaust all your options before relying on McMichael.
- The injuries continue to mount in the Titans receiving unit. Both Drew Bennett and Brandon Jones are likely to miss Sunday’s game. As a result, you have to figure that tight ends Erron Kinney and Ben Troupe will see increased action—and a spike in statistical production. Either one of them can be used this week against the Raiders if you’re in a pinch. Oakland ranks 25th in the NFL in pass defense. I anticipate Troupe will have a better yardage day while Kinney will catch more passes and find the endzone.
This Week’s Sleepers: Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe and Kris Mangum
- Sebastian Janikowski got is groove back. After an awful start to the season, Janikowski has been true on all of his field goals dating back to Week 4. Get him in your lineup against a Tennessee defense that has surrendered seven field goals in their last three games.
- Tampa kicker Matt Bryant is a nice play this week against the 49ers. San Francisco gives up 35.3 points per game, worst in the NFL. If Bryant is on your bench or on your waiver wire, get him in your lineup this week for what should be a busy afternoon. I expect 2-3 field goals and a handful of extra points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Bryant and Lawrence Tynes
- Rams QB Jamie Martin didn’t throw any interceptions last week against the Saints, and he was only sacked once. That’s not likely to be the case this week against a much tougher Jacksonville Jaguars defense. The Jags rank seventh overall in total defense and second versus the pass. I expect them to put the clamps down on running back Steven Jackson and force Martin to put the ball in the air. The result will be at least two interceptions and 3-4 sacks.
- The 49ers made a quarterback change this week, replacing rookie Alex Smith with Ken Dorsey. What does this mean for owners of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense? Well, instead of four interceptions and five sacks, you probably have to lower your expectations to three interceptions and five sacks. Get them in your lineup and enjoy the points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Guinness
Price Paid: $7.99 (4-pack)
First a disclaimer. I’m a bit biased when it comes to Guinness. I frequented an Irish pub called the Dubliner in St. Paul, Minnesota while in college and drank more of this beer than I care to admit. I traveled to Ireland for my honeymoon and took the Guinness tour in Dublin. I guess you could say I’m a Guinness junky. For this review, I picked up a four-pack of Guinness Draught cans. It’s also available in a couple other presentations, namely Guinness Draught in bottles (similar to the cans) and Extra Stout in bottles (quite different that either of the Draught versions). Thanks to a “floating draught system”, pouring this beer is a bit of a spectacle. A plastic widget inside the can injects the beer with nitrogen and causes it to cascade in the glass, forming a ¾” thick creamy head that remains in tact almost indefinitely. Guinness is essentially black in color and perfectly opaque. While it’s relatively light in smell, the scent of burnt grains and malt were clear. On the palate, Guinness has no peer—it’s incredibly creamy and smooth. Carbonation is very low, almost the point of being nonexistent. That makes it easy to drink. While the taste of stouts is polarizing—either you love it or hate it—you owe it to yourself to give this beer a shot. Guinness isn’t quite as strong as some of the other beers in this category. It has notes of coffee and chocolate, and it finishes with a dark malt flavor in the back of your throat. It gets a solid four stars from me. To get the five star Guinness, you really need to enjoy it in a smoky Irish Pub with a bodhran thumping in the background.
Next Week's 6-Pack: Old Speckled Hen, Moreland Brewery, UK