- The Ravens used to have one of the most feared defenses in the NFL. Not the case anymore—especially with their best defenders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed on the sidelines. They currently rank #2 against the pass, but that number is inflated due to inferior competition (TEN, NYJ, CLE, DET, and CHI). A match-up this week against the Bengals will be their toughest test since Week 1 when they faced the Colts. Start Carson Palmer with confidence; he should be good for 250 yards and two scores.
- Consider your alternatives before trotting Matt Hasselbeck out onto the field this week. He hasn’t been the same quarterback since Darrell Jackson has been out of the lineup. In the last two starts he’s averaging under 200 yards passing per game with just two touchdowns. What’s more, he has historically struggled against the Cardinals, averaging 202 yards and one touchdown in his last three starts. With Arizona struggling against the run, I anticipate this came will quickly become the Shaun Alexander show.
- Whether out of desperation or intention, the Chiefs finally utilized their passing game last week against the Chargers. Trent Green threw two touchdowns and compiled nearly 350 yards through the air. I wouldn’t hesitate to use him again this week against the Raiders. Oakland gave up decent numbers to Kelly Holcomb and Steve McNair the last two weeks. Green will exploit a weakened secondary for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
- More than 1/3 of Michael Vick’s touchdown passes have gone to tight ends. The Miami Dolphins haven’t given up a touchdown to a TE all season. It’s probably for the better if you leave Vick on the bench unless you don’t have a choice.
This Week’s Sleepers: Trent Green, Steve McNair, and Jeff Garcia (check injury status)
- Earlier this week, Dolphins head coach Nick Saban indicated he’d like to get running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams around 20 carries each per game. He came close to hitting that mark in Week 8 against the Saints when Brown toted the rock 23 times and Williams 17. Both players had nice fantasy afternoons. Can we expect more of the same? I don’t see why not, especially against struggling run defenses, including that of this week’s opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Although the Dirty Birds stifled Curtis Martin two weeks ago, the memory of being gouged by Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker for 200+ yards is fresh. The Dolphins should keep this one close, so look for Brown to have an exceptional afternoon and Williams to score his first touchdown.
- Corey Dillon has been giving owners indigestion for the past few weeks, but he should be a safe play this week against the Colts. Dillon didn’t get the start last Sunday yet came on in relief of Patrick Pass and proved healthy enough to score two touchdowns and grind out good yardage on New England’s final two drives. In two meetings with Indy last year, Dillon posted 220 total yards. With Pass nicked up, Dillon should cross the century mark again with the help of an increased role in the passing game.
- It’s been feast or famine for Antowain Smith since franchise RB Deuce McAllister was mothballed for the season because of a knee injury. If you have better options, consider moving him to the bench against the Bears. Chicago has given up just one rushing touchdown all season and ranks fourth in the NFL against the run.
- Fred Taylor has been doing the time warp of late, flashing the form that made him an on-again, off-again first round fantasy pick back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His average in Jacksonville’s last two tilts is 148.5 yards per game. With his offseason knee injury now a non-factor, Taylor has become a must-start for owners who may have originally drafted him as a backup. I don’t want to get carried away here, but looking ahead at Taylor’s schedule (HOU, BAL, @TEN, @ARZ, @CLE, IND, @SF, @HOU, TEN), he could make a run at the rushing title ala Curtis Martin last year. He’s an excellent start this weekend against a Houston Texans run defense that’s worst in the NFL.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ricky Williams, Jamal Lewis, Larry Johnson, and Kevin Jones
- If you believe in trends and need a wide receiver or flex player this week, Keary Colbert is a sneaky little play. Colbert finally came alive last week snaring his first touchdown of the season. This week he’ll square off against a Tampa team that he scored three touchdowns on in two games last season.
- Ironically, Jerry Porter picked Halloween weekend to rise from the dead. After a miserable first half of the season, Porter erupted for 123 yards and two touchdowns in Week 8. Before writing the performance off as an aberration, know that Porter has historically been a late bloomer. In 2004, he averaged just 54 yards per game and scored one touchdown over the first eight weeks. In the second half of the season, his numbers improved substantially—71 yards per game with eight touchdowns. Give him the start this week against the Chiefs, a team he scored against in both match-ups last year.
- Terrell Owens absolutely killed me last week in two leagues in which I played against him. 154 yards and a touchdown on just three receptions—are you freakin’ kidding me? I’m tempted to put some kind of a voodoo hex on him, but it seems I may not need to this week. He’s all but ruled himself out for the Sunday night contest against the Redskins because of an ankle injury. If you’re needy at the WR position, Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown are worthy plug and play options as they have decent potential to post 70-80 yards.
- To beat the Steelers, you need to throw the ball. Pittsburgh ranks 20th in the league versus the pass, so look for a heavy dose of Green Bay’s Donald Driver and Antonio Chatman. Both are decent plays in a game that many owners will consider benching them. I expect Driver and Chatman to combine for 160 yards and a touchdown in a game that the Packers could easily pull off the upset if Ben Roethlisberger sits.
This Week’s Sleepers: Keary Colbert, Greg Lewis, Antonio Chatman, and Courtney Roby
- Early in the season, it looked like Carnell “Cadillac” Williams would literally run away with Rookie of the Year honors. But just past the midway point, Steelers TE Heath Miller has emerged as an unlikely candidate for the award. Miller has become a crucial piece of the Steelers puzzle, catching five touchdowns in his last four games. Start him this week—even if Charlie Batch gets the start—against the Pack. Green Bay gives up close to 50 yards per game to tight ends and has allowed five TE scores in seven games. Miller has a good shot to keep his streak alive.
- As stated earlier, Miami hasn’t given up a touchdown to a TE all season so temper your expectations for Alge Crumpler this week. Keep him in your lineup, but don’t expect any more than he’s given you for the past two games. Around 55 yards without a touchdown seems about right.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dallas Clark, Erron Kinney, and Marcus Pollard
- Jaguars place kicker Josh Scobee is a solid play this week against the Texans, particularly if you’re facing a Jeff Wilkins or Jason Elam bye issue. Houston has allowed 34+ points in three of their last four games.
- If your regular kicker has been inconsistent, consider snagging Jason Hanson off the waiver wire. Hanson has sent multiple kicks through the uprights in three straight games. That trend should continue and possibly improve. As Jeff Garcia finds his rhythm and the offense gets healthy, Detroit’s scoring is apt to climb. A game this week against the Vikings will help his cause in the near term. Playing seven of the next nine games in domed stadiums or good weather cities will help in the long term.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh Scobee and Jason Hanson
- Look for the Chicago Bears to feast on Saints QB Aaron Brooks on Sunday. Brooks has looked frazzled in his last two outings, giving up 10 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 safety, and 1 defensive touchdown.
- With Terrell Owens likely out for this week’s game and Donovan McNabb’s medical chart growing in length, the Washington Redskins have a lot of upside. The Redskins have been playing stout defense all season, but they haven’t rewarded owners with much in the way of sacks and turnovers. That could change this week if the Eagles take the field without one or both of their two best players. Monitor the statuses of Owens and McNabb. If one of them sits, the Redskins could be gold.
This Week’s Sleepers: Washington Redskins and New York Giants
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Old Speckled Hen
Price Paid: $8.49
Old Speckled Hen is an English style ale brewed by Morland Brewery in the UK. According to the label, the beer was named after “an unusual, speckled, vintage MG car.” It’s packaged in unique clear bottles that seem to be substantially taller and somehow more upscale than your average beer bottle. Old Speckled Hen had an aroma that I can best describe as club-soda-like. Also present was a light herbal quality. The ale poured to a thick soap like head that rested on top of a tea-colored body. The head eventually faded to a thin ring that remained for the duration of my sampling. Upon the first sip, I was greeted with a buttery smoothness that made Old Speckled Hen it quite easy drink. The taste was dry. Perhaps as dry as any beer I’ve sampled. It was dominated by biscuit and faint citrus flavors up front, but those gave way to bitter hops. Behind it all was a musty/earthy tone it that is strangely enjoyable—it almost resembled whiskey. Overall, Old Speckled Hen is a highly drinkable beer that offers some interesting and unique flavors. I’d love to try it with a big plate of fish and chips. Three stars out of five.
Next Week's 6-Pack : Chimay Ale (Red), Belgium