- Don’t let Miami’s improbable 4-game win streak cloud your judgment about Steve McNair’s potential this week. Yes, the Dolphins have scored a lot of points, but they’ve also given up a boatload of touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Brooks Bollinger, Drew Brees, and J.P. Losman averaged 278 yards passing and tossed seven scores against the fish over the last three weeks. Because they’ve been proven to be susceptible to the pass, McNair should make a nice sleeper play in Week 16.
- It’s decision time for Peyton Manning owners. To play or not to play, that is the question. While I’m usually an advocate for the “ride-the-horse-who-brought-you-there” philosophy, it’s difficult to imagine Manning posting any more than 200 yards and 1-2 touchdowns on Saturday. One thing’s for sure, backup Jim Sorgi will be the QB who finishes the game. If you have a QB in reserve who faces a favorable match-up this week, I doubt you’ll be kicking yourself if you bench Manning.
- Despite a favorable match-up against the 29th-ranked pass defense of the Broncos, Oakland’s Kerry Collins is not a reliable option this week. The Raiders offense has stumbled of late, averaging fewer than 10 points per game over the last three weeks. The prospect of a game without the rushing skills of LaMont Jordan adds pressure to Collins, who hasn’t had a two touchdown game in five weeks.
- Drew Brees has been on fire lately, tossing five touchdowns in his last three games. I love his potential for another big game on Saturday against the Chiefs, a team he tattooed for 324 yards passing and three touchdowns on October 30. Kansas City has been a wreck against the pass this season. They have surrendered 24 touchdowns through the air, fourth most in the league. Start Brees with confidence in a game that could easily see 50+ points scored.
This Week’s Sleepers: Steve McNair, Drew Brees, and Jake Plummer
- The Houston Texans defense has been surprisingly effective in recent weeks, holding their last three opponents to fewer than 20 points. Much of their success can be attributed to their focus on swarming opposing running backs. During that three week span, they’ve limited teams to an average of 68.3 rushing yards per game. With that in mind, it’s probably a good idea to keep Fred Taylor, who still seems a bit gimpy, on your bench for Week 16.
- If you need a boost this week from your rushing attack, Frank Gore is a more than adequate starter. He accounted for 63% of San Francisco’s offense in Week 15 against the Jaguars and figures to play a prominent role in Saturday’s game against the Rams. In fact, don’t be surprised to see the rookie record his first career 100-yard rushing performance.
- Bank on continued success from Eagles tailback Ryan Moats this week against Arizona. The rookie out of La. Tech has logged three touchdowns in his first two starts. Meanwhile, the Cards have been gutted lately on the ground, giving up seven rushing touchdowns in their last four games. Moats should finish this game in the neighborhood of 100 yards and a score.
- Falcons RB Warrick Dunn has never had a 100-yard rushing performance against the Buccaneers in five career starts. In fact, he’s averaged just 44.4 rushing yards per game against his former team. Lower your expectations for the speedy running back.
This Week’s Sleepers: Frank Gore, Ryan Moats, and Dominic Rhodes
- With Marvin Harrison sporting a broken bone in his hand and the Colts playoff ticket already punched, you have to like the potential of Brandon Stokley to put up some nice number in Week 16. Stokley’s best game this year came all the way back in Week 1 when he caught seven passes for 83 yards. He’s a good bet to eclipse those numbers and could record his first 100-yard game of the season.
- Pittsburgh ’s Hines Ward lit up the Browns in Week 10, catching eight passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. While a repeat performance isn’t likely, especially considering QB Ben Roethlisberger has been battling a sore thumb, I’m optimistic about his chances to find the endzone again this week. The Steelers are still fighting for their playoff lives and should come ready to play in this important divisional match-up.
- It’s high time to move Packers wideout Donald Driver to the bench. Green Bay’s miserable season reached a new low last week when they scored just three points against Baltimore and lost promising rookie RB Samkon Gado for the season. Without Gado, the Bears figure to drop more men into coverage. That will limit Driver’s effectiveness. Don’t expect more than 60 yards receiving from Green Bay’s top receiver.
- The 49ers offense has been stagnant since rookie Alex Smith resumed the QB duties. However, even they should find success against a hapless Rams defense that ranks last in pass defense. That makes Brandon Lloyd (neck) a serviceable starter if he plays. The streaky wideout has three 100-yard games in the books this year, but also has the same number of 1-catch afternoons. He scored a touchdown and amassed 65 yards in a Week 1 meeting with the Rams.
This Week’s Sleepers: Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, and Eric Parker
- The Dolphins have been torched by opposing starting tight ends over the last two weeks. They gave up a combined 22 receptions, 225 yards, and two touchdowns to Doug Jolley and Antonio Gates. The crease in Miami’s defense should lead to a big afternoon for Ben Troupe, who’s coming of a 116-yard effort last week. Start Troupe with confidence.
- The Bears are the only team in the NFL that hasn’t allowed a tight end score in 2005. Don’t fight the trend. Move Green Bay’s David Martin and Donald Lee to your bench.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ben Troupe
- Texans kicker Kris Brown has very quietly strung together a few nice games. He has booted 11 field goals in the last four weeks. Brown is an excellent sleeper play against a “bend-but-don’t-break” Jaguars defense that has given up nine three pointers in the last two weeks.
- The Oakland Raiders continue to give up big performances to kickers. They’ve ceded nine field goals in the last three games. That means you can count on a double-digit performance from Broncos kicker Jason Elam, who sent three field goals and two PATs through the uprights in his last meeting against the Raider Nation.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kris Brown and Olindo Mare
- The last time Green Bay faced the Chicago Bears, the Bears held the Packers to seven points, caused three turnovers, and scored a defensive touchdown. Look for a similar set of stats come Sunday. Without Samkon Gado, Green Bay’s offense will be predictable—something Brian Urlacher and company are certain to take advantage of.
- The New England Patriots defense is an absolute must-start this week against the Jets. The Pats have regained their Super Bowl form. They have given up just 10 total points in the last three weeks, which includes a shut-out performance in Week 15 against Tampa. In their first meeting with New York just three weeks ago, they held the Jets offense to just 164 yards. I’d be shocked if New England gave up more than 10 points this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Full Sail Wassail
Price Paid: $7.99
Full Sail Brewing is independently owned and operated out of Hood River, Oregon. A lot of America’s best brews come from the Pacific Northwest, so I was optimistic about this winter ale. Full Sail Wassail came in traditional brown longneck bottles, each adorned with a label that touted the company’s quaintness and independence. The beer itself smelled quite good, though the aroma was certainly not robust. My nose detected roasted malts mixed with a subtle spiciness. The appearance of Full Sail Wassail is best categorized as kind of a dirty amber. It was not quite red, but wasn’t exactly brown either. The head was of average thickness, but seemed to linger long enough to leave a moustache on my upper lip with most pulls. Most impressive was the flavor. My first sip was met with a piercing hoppy bitterness. After holding it in my mouth for a second or two, the hops gave way to a swirl of complexity. Foremost, there was a chocolaty sweetness that provided some warmth and made this a terrific brew for the blustery Wisconsin winter weather outside my door. Amidst it all, there were some real earthy flavors that just made this beer a pleasure to drink. Don’t let the winter months pass you by without picking up a six-pack of Full Sail Wassail. I give it a solid four stars out of five.
Next Week's 6-Pack: Corona