- Don’t think yourself out of starting Peyton Manning this week because of a tough match-up against the Broncos. Denver’s defense has been getting a lot of press lately, but the reality is the schedule has been tilted in their favor. That assessment is sure to draw the ire of Broncos fans, but it’s the truth. They played St. Louis in Week 1 — the Rams’ first game in a new offense — and lost. Then they met Kansas City in the Chiefs’ first game without Trent Green (head). Next onto New England, a team that at the time was still trying to find their identity with a new set of receivers. And finally they played the dregs of the NFL’s offenses—Baltimore, Oakland, and Cleveland. I could be way off base on this, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see the Colts tattoo 30-35 points on a good but overrated Denver defense.
- While I’m not a believer in Denver’s defense just yet, one team that has earned my respect is that of the Minnesota Vikings. The Purple have bottled up good offensive units like the Panthers, Bears, Lions, and Seahawks. Although it’s not advisable to bench Tom Brady (particularly in a primetime match-up where he’s been light’s out lately), you should lower your outlook a notch or three. The Vikings have allowed just four passing scores in 2006—and no more than one in any game.
- Despite Green Bay’s injury-depleted WR corps, I wouldn’t hesitate to start Brett Favre this week against the Cardinals. Arizona looks like a team that’s on the brink of self-implosion. They gave up 263 yards passing to Andrew Walter last week . . . the same Andrew Walter who had 68 yards passing against the Browns a few games ago. Look for Favre to yield about 220 yards with a pair of touchdowns in a game that will see temperatures in the low 40s – well outside the comfort zone of the warm-blooded visitors.
- The Cleveland Browns defense plays well at home. They’ve held all of their visitors to 19 or fewer points in 2006. Opposing QBs have been held in check, each throwing no more and no less than one TD and averaging just 214 yards per game. The recent rash of QB injuries/benchings may force you to start Chad Pennington this week, but keep your expectations at a reasonable level.
This Week’s Sleepers: Brett Favre, Damon Huard, and Seneca Wallace
- The Chicago Bears present a formidable challenge for any NFL running back on a normal week. This week it just so happens to look even more grim for San Francisco’s Frank Gore. The Bears are: A) at home, B) well-rested coming off a bye, and C) pissed off that they were scored on at will by the Cardinals in the first half two weeks ago. Gore will feel luckier than an Irishman at happy hour if he escapes Week 8 with more than 70 all-purpose yards.
- The much-maligned Green Bay offensive line is beginning to look more comfortable in the zone-blocking scheme. Ahman Green, who played in a similar system at Nebraska, makes the unit that much better. I love Green’s match-up this week against the Cardinals. Arizona’s run defense has been miserable on the road, giving up beefy rushing yardage to Oakland (137), Atlanta (262), and Seattle (146). With rookie Greg Jennings (ankle) doubtful, the Packers may lean more heavily on Green both as a runner and a receiver. Expect him to touch the ball around 25 times. That should translate into around 110 yards and a score.
- Browns RB Reuben Droughns has been a supreme disappointment this year. However, he’s worth a look in Week 8 going up against the Jets. New York has allowed an NFL-worst 12 rushing TDs this year. The firing of offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon could lead to other Cleveland RBs getting work (including rookie Jerome Harrison), but Droughns’ job appears safe for the short term. Look for around 80-90 yards and a score this week.
- The New York Giants defense has held five of the six starting RBs they’ve faced this season under 100 yards rushing. Although Carnell Williams has finally found a rhythm (95.6 ypg in his last three starts), he’s not necessarily a guy I’d want to be counting on this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ahman Green, Reuben Droughns, Leon Washington, and Cedric Benson
- Keep your eye on how the Dallas QB change plays out starting this weekend. My gut feeling is Terry Glenn’s value could take a hit. Glenn has been a really nice fantasy player with Drew Bledsoe under center for the Cowboys. He amassed over 1,100 receiving yards last season with seven touchdowns. This year he’s been solid in spite of Bledsoe’s struggles. He has at least four receptions in every game and three scores on the year. It may be an ominous sign though that Glenn had his worst performance of 2006 (4-41-0) last week when Bledsoe played only one half.
- Despite the meltdown in Oakland last week, get Anquan Boldin and Bryant Johnson in your lineup against the Pack. This could be one of the highest scoring games of the week. Vegas certainly thinks so. The oddsmakers have the over/under at 44.5 points. If Arizona is going to put points on the board, they’ll likely come through the air. Green Bay has been torched by opposing wideouts of late, giving up two TDs to WRs in four of their last five games.
- I’m eager to see how the firing of offensive coordinator Jim Fassel will impact Baltimore’s offense. Head coach Brian Billick has reportedly made some tweaks and added some wrinkles to the playbook. Billick’s stirring of the pot is a good thing for wideouts Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton. Their struggles with consistency are directly attributed to QB Steve McNair’s difficulty adapting to the offense. If Billick simplifies things, Mason’s and Clayton’s respective values could see a significant spike in the coming weeks. Keep both on the bench for now, but be mindful of the change.
- A match-up against Tennessee looked like money in the bank a few weeks ago for Andre Johnson owners, but the Titans have been playing hard-nosed defensive football of late, particularly against the pass. They held both Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne under 30 yards receiving back in Week 5. Then they followed it up by shutting down Santana Moss (50 yds). Johnson hasn’t had much success against Tennessee in his career either—just one TD in six meetings. You can’t bench him, but don’t set your hopes too high or you’ll likely be disappointed.
This Week’s Sleepers: Muhsin Muhammad, Bryant Johnson, Donte Stallworth, and Keyshawn Johnson
- Bears TE Desmond Clark started out the season red hot with 80+ yards in each of his first two games and a touchdown to boot. Clark has tailed off since then and hasn’t found the endzone in his last four games. There’s a good chance that’ll change this week against the 49ers. San Francisco has allowed TE scores in three of their last four games. Clark was bitten by the injury bug a couple weeks ago but the bye gave him a week to get healthy and isn’t on the injury report. Start him and look for 60-70 yards and a score.
- If you need a sleeper TE this week, take a look at the Vikings and Packers. Due to extensive injuries, both teams are looking for warm bodies at the receiver position. Minnesota’s Jermaine Wiggins will likely receive more looks than usual if Marcus Robinson (back) sits. Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor also suffered concussions last week and aren’t locks to play. Meanwhile, Green Bay may be without starter Greg Jennings (ankle), which is significant because the team already lost Koren Robinson (suspension) and Robert Ferguson (foot) for the year. As a result, David Martin will continue to be a factor in the passing game.
This Week’s Sleepers: David Martin, Jermaine Wiggins, and Joe Klopfenstein
- The Raiders have given up two or more field goals in all but one game this season. If your regular kicker has been stinking up your roster, pluck Pittsburgh’s Jeff Reed off the waiver wire and plug him in. Regardless of whether or not Ben Roethlisberger plays, Reed should be good for 9-11 points.
- Green Bay’s Dave Rayner is available in most leagues, but it’s not because he’s not producing. It’s more a product of people not knowing who he is. Rayner ranks ninth in scoring for kickers and he has the leg to connect on long-range field goals. He’s already nailed a 54-yard kick and booted another 50+ yard attempt last week that was negated because Miami committed a penalty that led to a Green Bay first down. Rayner should be a good play this week against the Cardinals who have given up 22 or more points in four straight games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jeff Reed, Dave Rayner, and Lawrence Tynes
- Look for the Carolina Panthers to fare well this week against Tony Romo, who will start his first NFL game. Romo can make some plays with his feet, but Julius Peppers can run down most NFL running backs and receivers. He should have little trouble tracking down Romo behind Dallas’ mediocre offensive line. The pressure will likely rattle Romo and lead to four or more sacks and a couple interceptions.
- The Kansas City Chiefs are a decent sleeper play this week against Seattle. The Seahawks will start Seneca Wallace this week, who figures to make a mistake or two in his first NFL start. Kansas City plays exceptionally well at home. In their last two games at Arrowhead, the Chiefs have recorded a combined eight sacks, four interceptions, four fumble recoveries, and a shutout.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, and Indianapolis Colts
This Week's 6-Pack: Lowenbrau Original
Origin: Munich, Germany
Appearance: Lowenbrau is packaged in a green bottle with a classic blue and gold label. It poured to a honey golden color with a thick frothy head that lacked persistence. Put it side by side with your favorite American pilsner and you’d be hard-pressed to identify the difference.
Smell: The smell is not unlike most European lagers. Reminded me of Becks, which I reviewed a couple years ago. A musty malt and grain aroma with a slight sweetness beneath it all. You could classify it as skunky, but you’d be wrong. It’s supposed to be that way.
Taste: Crisp and refreshing. This beer won’t overpower you with big flavors, but there were some nice characteristics that gave it some zing. The hops were much more prevalent here than in the smell. Not bitter though. They gave way to a reticent sweet malt flavor. There was also a subtle pepper flavor that gave it a little bite. After I took a gulp, I could feel the warmness of the alcohol on my breath.
Mouth-feel: Not fizzy. Not flat. Just right.
Drinkability: All in all, a highly drinkable lager. Tasty and satisfying. What was most important to me is that it was really light on the palate, which made easy enough to tip a few back in one sitting. That’s critical because when I’m drinking this style beer, I’m usually having more than one.
Last Call: Lowenbrau won’t make you want to sing of its greatness from a balcony, but it will quench your thirst. It is definitely a step in the right direction from the ordinary big American beers and it’s better than its German counterpart, Becks. Lowenbrau is the type of beer that is worth stocking in your fridge. It’s not overly expensive. It’s magnificently easy to drink—whether you’re having one or eight. And it has no aspirations to be so complex that it dumbfounds you with so many flavors. Three stars out of five.
Next Week’s Beer: Widmer Brothers Hefeweisen