- Playoff contenders who lost Marc Bulger last week could find salvation in backup Jamie Martin. Martin faces a favorable match-up this week against the Texans. With the Rams receiving unit now at full strength, Martin will have little trouble picking apart the NFL’s 22nd ranked pass defense. Count on 225 yards and two touchdowns.
- Although the Jacksonville Jaguars are tops in the league against the pass, owners would be wise to think twice before moving Cardinals QB Kurt Warner to the bench. The Cardinals have overtaken the Eagles for most pass attempts per game (42.0). Regardless of how well the Jags have fared against opposing QBs, the volume of attempts will lead to another fine afternoon for the former NFL MVP.
- Look for Tom Brady to continue his hot streak this week against the Chiefs in what promises to be a high scoring affair. Brady leads the entire NFL in passing yards with 2,782 and has tossed eight touchdowns in the last three games. Kansas City’s 29th ranked pass defense will have a tough time taming an offense that seems to grow more pass-oriented with each passing week.
- As rotten as their offense has been lately, the Jets continue to stifle opposing QBs. In fact, New York has allowed just two passing touchdowns total in the last four games, shutting down QBs from Jake Delhomme to Jake Plummer. As a result, I’d suggest keeping Aaron Brooks on your bench even though he’s coming off his best game of the year.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jamie Martin, Kurt Warner, and Steve McNair
- Saints RB Antowain Smith is a decent play this week against the Jets. New York ranks 30th in the NFL against the run, and they’re coming off a game in which they were stampeded by Larry Johnson for 200+ yards. With an anemic offense that struggles to move the chains, the Jets defense gets worn down quickly. Smith and the Saints should be able to run roughshod. Expect a 100-yard effort from Smith unless the recently acquired Anthony Thomas gets activated and plays.
- Raiders RB LaMont Jordan had a disappointing performance in Week 11, rushing for just 52 yards. But don’t let that discourage you. He should bounce back nicely this week against a Dolphins team that will be without Zach Thomas. Miami is giving up an uncharacteristic 121.7 rushing yards per game and they were just battered by Reuben Droughns last weekend for 166 yards.
- Don’t look for much output from Clinton Portis this week against the Chargers. San Diego has turned up the heat on defense in the last few weeks and they now rank #1 in the NFL against the run, allowing just 78.1 rushing yards per game. Consider it a good day if Portis ends up with 80 yards.
- It took all of 11 weeks for Chester Taylor to wrestle the top RB spot away from the underachieving Jamal Lewis, but he finally did it last week against the Steelers. Taylor amassed 85 all-purpose yards on 23 touches against a stingy Pittsburgh defense. He should fare better this week against the Bengals, who rank 25th against the run. Taylor caught five balls against Cincy a few weeks ago in limited duty. I anticipate he’ll be right around 100 total yards this time around.
This Week’s Sleepers: Antowain Smith, Chester Taylor, Mewelde Moore, and Chris Brown
- Titans receiver Drew Bennett returned from a thumb injury last week and figures to find his groove this week against the 49ers. San Francisco ranks dead last in the NFL in pass defense and will be without top pass rushing specialist Bryant Young, who suffered a knee injury and may miss the remainder of the 2005 season. It’s a good bet that Bennett will catch at least 6-7 passes this week and tally 80-90 yards with a score.
- Joey Galloway owners were trying to figure out what to make of the receiver’s complete disappearance last week against the Falcons. Galloway didn’t have a single reception and was seen on the sideline for much of the day as the Buccaneers frequently used a two tight end set. While I certainly don’t think we’ve seen the last of the speedy receiver, you might consider keeping him on the bench this week if you have other options. Galloway will have a tough day against the 2nd-ranked pass defense of the Bears. Chicago has allowed a league-low seven passing touchdowns in 2005.
- Stay away from the Jets passing game and Laveranues Coles this week against the Saints. New Orleans runs a pretty tight ship when it comes to pass defense. They rank #3 in the NFL in the category.
- Eddie Kennison should follow up his 2-touchdown performance last week against the Texans with another solid effort in Week 12. The Chiefs will square off against a Patriots defense that is having all sorts of trouble versus the pass. Last week, Aaron Brooks took the defending champs to task, tossing two touchdowns and amassing 343 passing yards. Consider Kennison a lock for 80 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Drew Bennett, Robert Ferguson, Antonio Bryant, and Jabar Gaffney
- New England TE Ben Watson has solidified his role as an every-week fantasy starter. The second-year TE is averaging 51.5 yards over the last two games and has scored two touchdowns. He’s seemingly eclipsed Daniel Graham for the top TE slot. A match-up this week against the 29th ranked pass defense of the Kansas City Chiefs should help Watson keep his hot streak alive.
- The Raiders Courtney Anderson has been quiet of late with just three receptions in his last two games. But I like his chances for a resurgence this week against a Dolphins defense that has given up 15 receptions and two touchdowns to tight ends over the last three weeks. If you’re out of the playoff hunt and playing the role of spoiler, Anderson could be a nice sleeper pick.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ben Watson, Courtney Anderson, and Steve Heiden
- The Arizona Cardinals have ceded two field goals in each of their last four games. That makes the underappreciated Josh Scobee, kicker for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and nice value play in Week 12.
- John Kasay let owners down last week with a three-point effort against the Bears in the Windy City. Kicking conditions won’t improve much this week as Carolina travels to Buffalo. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s with rain showers. Kasay may get his opportunities against a mediocre Bills defense, but whether or not he can capitalize remains to be seen.
This Week’s Sleepers: Josh Scobee, Phil Dawson, and John Hall
- As tough as the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has been all year, I’d rather get a prostate exam from Rush Limbaugh than start them this week against the Colts. Indy has found their rhythm on offense and will be tough to stop, especially in the friendly confines of the RCA Dome. Look for an alternative.
- The Tennessee Titans defense could be good for a token start this week at home against the 49ers. San Francisco has averaged just 7.25 offensive points per game in four road contests. While the team showed promise in last week’s hard-fought battle against the Seahawks in which they scored 25, the numbers don’t lie. San Francisco is a different team on the road.
This Week’s Sleepers: Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Sierra Nevada Stout
Price Paid: $7.99
I’m a fan of Sierra Nevada products. Their porter is one of two beers to earn a perfect five star rating on the Weekly 6-Pack, and their pale ale earned a solid four stars. It’s no surprise that I was excited to give their stout a try. This beer came packaged in a stubby brown bottle with a yellow label that indicates Sierra Nevada Stout is “entirely handmade” and “brewed in the old world tradition.” After opening the bottle and taking a whiff, I noticed that this beer doesn’t overpower with a burnt/roasted grain aroma like many other stouts. That characteristic was certainly detectable, but it was a more complex smell. Perhaps the most dominant scent was similar to baker’s chocolate or dark chocolate. In addition, a nice waft of hops was present in the background. Sierra Nevada Stout poured to a dense tan foam head that lasted for the duration of my tasting, leaving nice rings around the glass with every sip. When held up to light, Sierra Nevada Porter was a deep inky black color and 100% opaque. It was a beer worth marveling at in my pint glass. As for the taste, it surpassed my expectations, exploding in my mouth with a rich espresso flavor. As the beer warmed slightly, it got even tastier. That chocolate flavor that was perceptible to the nose began to come to the forefront. Not sweet like milk chocolate, rather bitter like dark chocolate. All along the way, the taste was made more complex and wonderful by a kick of hops. Best of all, the beer has the perfect level of carbonation, which makes it silky and smooth with a touch of aggressiveness that amplifies the flavor. This is an exceptional stout that out-performs the smoother, less complex Guinness, which was reviewed here a few weeks ago. I give it an enthusiastic five stars out of five.
Next Week's 6-Pack : Paulaner Hefeweissen