- Although San Francisco ranks last in the NFL in pass defense, be careful about being lulled into starting Matt Hasselbeck this week if you have another decent quarterback on your roster. The 49ers have held opposing passers, including both of the Manning brothers, to just one touchdown in each of the last three home games. Hasselbeck will likely continue his pattern of mediocrity until Darrell Jackson returns from knee surgery. Look for around 240 yards and one touchdown.
- In his last four regular season starts against the Vikings, Brett Favre has thrown 12 touchdowns passes and averaged 277.5 yards per game. Despite his recent downward trend in production, give Favre the benefit of the doubt this week against Minnesota.
- Michael Vick has been hot of late, accounting for four touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) and an average of 200+ yards passing in his last two outings. However, consider moving him back to your bench this week. He has historically struggled against the division rival Buccaneers. In his last four starts versus Tampa, he averaged just 126.5 yards passing and one touchdown per game. In the most recent meeting between these two teams, the Bucs tormented Vick, registering five sacks and two interceptions en route to a shutout victory.
- Kurt Warner returns to St. Louis for a homecoming appearance against the team he twice led to the Super Bowl. Warner has thrown for 327+ yards in the last three full games he’s played and is an excellent start this week. The Rams defense ranks 27th in the NFL against the pass. The expected return of WR Anquan Boldin will give a boost to the Cardinals passing attack and could spur the team to an upset win.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kurt Warner, Drew Bledsoe, and Tommy Maddox
- After the first three games of the season, it looked like Tampa’s Cadillac Williams had a realistic shot at breaking the record for most rushing yards by a rookie. A Week 4 injury smashed that idea, but look for Williams to return to form this week against the Falcons. Atlanta has surrendered at least one rushing touchdown in each of their last five games, including two last week (plus one receiving) to Green Bay’s Samkon Gado. While Mike Alstott could vulture Cadillac’s goal line carries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the rookie cross the century mark and find the end zone on a 15+ yard run.
- The Jets have fielded some pretty tough defenses in recent years, but they’ve been slipping as of late. Over the last four games, New York has given up an average of 154 rushing yards per game and they’ve allowed seven touchdowns on the ground. Start Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell this week. Both players will find their way across the stripe in what should be a Denver romp.
- Keep Mewelde Moore and Michael Bennett on the bench this week against the surprisingly efficient Green Bay defense unless you have no other viable alternatives. Former Dolphins defensive coordinator Jim Bates has squeezed every bit of talent out of the Packers. His squad has allowed just one running back to go over 100 yards rushing in 2005. And they’ve only ceded three touchdowns to RBs on the ground all season.
- The dreaded running back by committee approach reared its ugly head last week for a few different teams. Dallas, Philadelphia, and Detroit were seen dividing carries—a tactic they had seldom used previously in 2005. It doesn’t bode well for owners who rely on Julius Jones, Brian Westbrook, and Kevin Jones. Of the three, I think you can only comfortably start Westbrook, who does much of his damage on receptions. And even he’s no sure thing against a Giants defense that’s held opposing starting running backs to an average of just 35 all-purpose yards per game in the last three weeks.
This Week’s Sleepers: Carnell Williams, Tatum Bell, Samkon Gado, and J.J. Arrington
- Packers wideout Donald Driver has averaged 138 yards and a touchdown in his last two regular season meetings against Minnesota. Look for him to fare well again in a game in which the Packers will seek to avenge their last second loss to the Vikings in Week 7.
- Vikings receiver Nate Burleson is averaging just 15 yards per game with Brad Johnson under center. Time to move him to the bench if you haven’t already. Burleson will likely be blanketed by Al Harris, and was held to 37 yards and zero touchdowns against the Packers back in Week 7.
- Don’t be surprised if Chris Chambers has some success this week against the Browns. Miami will likely start backup QB Sage Rosenfels. Conventional wisdom says a backup QB will hurt a receiver’s numbers, but Rosenfels and Chambers have a history of success together. Earlier this year, the combo hooked up for a 77-yard touchdown pass against Kansas City. In the final game of 2004, they hooked up for 146 yards and a 76-yard TD.
- Consider sliding Chargers WR Keenan McCardell to the bench this week in anticipation of a dip in production versus the Bills. Buffalo ranks #2 in the NFL against the pass and DB Nate Clements is the type of player that can completely shutdown an opposing receiver. McCardell will be lucky to crack 50 yards receiving.
This Week’s Sleepers: Andre Johnson, Deion Branch, Keyshawn Johnson, and Matt Jones
- Steelers TE Heath Miller was held without a reception last week versus the Browns, but he could return to form this week against the Ravens. Baltimore was burned by Miller for two touchdowns earlier this season. Oh, and don’t worry about Tommy Maddox possibly getting the start. Miller and Maddox hooked up for 72 yards and a touchdown back in Week 7 against the Jaguars.
- The Bills defense is rock solid against tight ends. In 2005, they’ve only ceded a tight end score in one game. This despite facing some of the league’s premier pass-catching TEs (Tony Gonzalez and Alge Crumpler). Keep San Diego’s Antonio Gates in your lineup, but don’t be shocked if he’s held in check on Sunday.
This Week’s Sleepers: Heath Miller and Donald Lee
- As the weather turns cold, be wary of how the climate will affect place kickers not accustomed to kicking in cold weather. For example, Carolina kicker John Kasay will likely find that the conditions in the Windy City make it more difficult to drive long field goals through the uprights. The forecast for Chicago calls for a rain and snow mix on Sunday. Other players who could struggle include John Carney, who will visit New England, and Olindo Mare, who’s on the road in Cleveland.
- Two kickers who aren’t likely to struggle in the face of poor conditions are Green Bay’s Ryan Longwell and Minnesota’s Paul Edinger (who kicked in Chicago for five years). The two veteran kickers combined for five field goals when their teams met earlier this season in Minneapolis.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ryan Longwell, Paul Edinger, and John Hall
- Throughout the 2005 season the Cincinnati Bengals have boasted one of the best fantasy defenses. Their ball-hawking defenders have picked off a league-leading 20 passes. But fantasy owners are better off scouring the waiver wire for alternative choices for Week 11. The Bengals will face a Colts team that’s scored 28 or more points in six straight weeks. Plus, Peyton Manning rarely turns the ball over or gets sacked, so the Bengals defense will be hard pressed to get many points for your fantasy squad.
- I absolutely love the New York Giants defense at home against Philly. They shut down the Minnesota Vikings in Week 10, giving up just three offensive points and 137 total yards. In fact, the Giants haven’t given up a touchdown to an opposing offense in 13 quarters. With the Eagles forced to start Mike McMahon, Michael Strahan and company have to be licking their chops. Count on a minimum of four sacks and two turnovers.
This Week’s Sleepers: Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Denver Broncos
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Sapporo Premium Beer, Japan
Price Paid: $7.49
Several weeks ago I reviewed Bass, which claims to have the oldest trademark in England. This week’s beer makes a similar claim. Sapporo’s gold star logo is apparently the oldest brand in Japan. Impressive considering both countries are known for drinking tea. But onto the review. I purchased Sapporo in a six-pack of brown longnecks, although it is more commonly sold in tall silver cans. The beer smelled identical to any of the widely-distributed American lagers. That is to say, it had very little smell. I could perhaps pick up a hint of malt or grain, but even those aromas passed quickly and were only occasionally perceptible. Sapporo poured to a pale, yellow color that resembled ginger ale. It was capped off by a decent head that faded quite quickly. The taste was off the mark for what I consider to be the normal light-bodied lager flavor. It was a similar feeling to what you might experience if you took a swig of beer after it had been sitting out all night on an end table after a college keg party. Just a really stale, unpleasant flavor. About the only good thing this beer had going for it was that it didn’t have much aftertaste, so I was able to put it out of my mind quickly. In conclusion, avoid Sapporo. Avoid it like two week old sushi. This beer was worse than Bud or Miller, and perhaps falls short of some of the discount domestic beers like Old Milwaukee and Natural Light. One star out of five.
Next Week's 6-Pack : Sierra Nevada Stout