- With many of the league’s premier quarterbacks likely to rest this week, owners who are alive in their fantasy playoffs will be forced to dig deep for a starter at this important position. Fortunately, there are plenty of options. First, consider Kyle Boller, who has thrown three touchdowns in each of the last two weeks. Boller is essentially auditioning for a job with the Ravens (or another team) next year. He should perform well again this week against the Browns, who were schooled last week by Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch (257 yds. and 2 TDs combined).
- Another QB worth starting is David Carr. The former #1 draft pick threw for 295 yards and two scores last week against the Jags. A match-up this week versus the 32nd ranked pass defense of the 49ers bodes well for the Texans QB.
- Don’t buy into the hype about Kerry Collins wanting revenge against the Giants because they dumped him a couple seasons ago. The numbers on Collins don’t lie. He’s been awful, throwing two touchdowns in his last four games versus five interceptions.
- Vikings QB Brad Johnson will have crosshairs on his chest this week against a Bears front four that puts more pressure on passers than any team in the NFL. Although Chicago has clinched the division title, they’ll have little trouble getting up for this always intense rivalry. I expect them to pester Johnson all day and limit him to around 200 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kyle Boller, David Carr, and Brett Favre
- Despite splitting the load with Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker has been pretty consistent during the past four weeks. He’s averaged 80+ all-purpose yards over that stretch, culminating with a 130-yard, 1-touchdown performance last Saturday against the Browns. Be sure to activate him for the Steelers regular season finale against the Lions, who rank in the bottom half of the league versus the run.
- Look for Frank Gore to pass Kevan Barlow as the 49ers leading rusher this week and stake his claim for the 2006 starting slot at RB. Gore trails Barlow by 81 yards and should have little difficulty eclipsing that mark against Houston. The Texans rank 31st in the NFL against the run.
- Cowboys RB Julius Jones had his best game of the season in last week’s upset win over the Panthers. Jones carried the rock 34 times for 194 yards and two touchdowns. The performance is a clear indication that fantasy owners shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss Jones as a viable fantasy starter in 2006. He’s a solid play this week versus the Rams. St. Louis has given up seven rushing touchdowns in the last three weeks.
- Pull Reuben Droughns out of your lineup this week against the Ravens, a team that’s been playing much better football over the last couple weeks. Opponents have averaged just 81.6 rushing yards per game with zero touchdowns during the last three weeks.
This Week’s Sleepers: Frank Gore, Julius Jones, Chester Taylor, and Maurice Morris
- I fully expect Panthers wideout Steve Smith to come up big one week after getting thrown out of last Saturday’s embarrassing home loss to the Cowboys. Smith will square off against the rival Falcons, a team he scored on back in Week 13. With the Panthers in a must-win situation, look for Smith to turn up his intensity and finish with 120+ yards and at least one score.
- Consider sliding Lee Evans to the bench this week against the Jets. While Evans is coming off a 107-yard, 1-touchdown performance, he’s likely to experience a dip in production when the Bills travel to the Meadowlands. The last time these two teams met, Buffalo managed just 164 yards passing and Evans accounted for just two of those yards.
- Activate Houston receiver Andre Johnson for Sunday’s tilt against San Francisco. Johnson has been a frequent target of QB David Carr over the past two weeks, catching 14 balls. His 119-yard, 1-touchdown effort last week proves that his impressive rookie campaign wasn’t just a flash in the pan. The 49ers give up the most passing yards and second-most passing touchdowns in the NFL, so don’t be surprised if Johnson is once again in the neighborhood of 120 yards and a TD.
- Sure Roy Williams has strung together three solid performances, but I doubt you want to start the Lions wideout against a hungry Steelers squad this week. Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed a touchdown in three weeks, holding opponents to an average of four points per game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Andre Johnson, Sammie Parker, Joe Jurevicius, and Keyshawn Johnson
- Todd Heap re-established himself as one of the premier tight ends in fantasy football this season. He’s one of just four TEs with seven or more touchdowns in 2005. Be sure to get him in your lineup this week against the Browns because Heap has been red hot lately, pummeling opponents for 140 yards and three touchdowns over the last two weeks.
- The Panthers have done an excellent job containing Falcons TE Alge Crumpler over the past three seasons. Crumpler hasn’t scored in his last five games against Carolina. Keep him in your lineup this week, but don’t expect him to cross the stripe against the rival Falcons.
This Week’s Sleepers: Zach Hilton and Jeb Putzier
- Bench Seattle kicker Josh Brown this week against Green Bay. Although the Packers defense has surrendered 72 points in the last two weeks, I anticipate a low-scoring game this week at Lambeau. The Seahawks will likely rest most of their starters. Plus, the weather forecast calls for snow with temperatures hovering right around freezing. Brown likely won’t fare well on the limited opportunities he gets.
- While Heinz Field is notoriously the most difficult stadium for kickers, I’m recommending Pittsburgh’s Jeff Reed at home against the Lions. Reed has sent five field goals through the uprights in the last two weeks and has a sweet match-up against Detroit in an important game. The Lions have ceded nine field goals in their last three games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jeff Reed and Kris Brown
- I like the Washington Redskins as a sleeper play against the Eagles. Philly QB Mike McMahon had an interception returned for a touchdown and was sacked four times Saturday against the Cardinals. Although the Eagles managed to score 21 points, the final score didn’t tell the whole picture. Two of their touchdowns came in what was essentially garbage time. The Redskins want to head into the playoffs with a full head of steam. Look for them to hold the their division rivals to fewer than 13 points.
- Bank on a strong defensive showing in Week 17 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they vie for a playoff-clinching win against the Saints. Since Todd Bouman took over as starting QB two weeks ago, New Orleans has eight turnovers compared with one offensive touchdown. This game has shut-out potential for the Bucs.
This Week’s Sleepers: Washington Redskins and New York Jets
Last Week’s 6-Pack: Corona Extra
Price Paid: $5.99
A product of Mexico that’s widely distributed in the U.S., Corona is familiar to pretty much anyone who’s hoisted a beer. It comes in a clear bottle with the label printed right on the glass. I downed many of these beers on Cinco de Mayo when I used to live in Southern California, but never really paid much attention to the flavor. Perhaps it had something to do with the lime wedges I had jammed down the neck of the bottles. My first impression of Corona during this review was that it has a grungy smell to it. It essentially gave off a corn husk and hard-boiled egg odor that make me wince. Since this beer is typically consumed in the bottle, that’s the way I handled my review. For my first beer I went without a lime. For the second I added a wedge. Turns out Option B is the only acceptable way to drink Corona. Without the citrus lime flavor, the beer started out as fairly bland with a subtle corn and malt flavor, and it became almost undrinkable as it warmed up. On the other hand, adding the lime masked many of those off-putting characteristics and honestly gave it a refreshing flavor. But, again, this is a beer that needs to be served ice cold. Overall, I can’t give Corona more than one star out of five because it only became drinkable when its flavor was veiled by a lime.
Next Week's 6-Pack : Thanks for another great year. Hope to see you next season for more banter and beer. Cheers!