- The Texans are coming off a game in which they gave up over 300 yards passing to J.P. Losman—Losman’s first career 300-yard game. The temptation might be there to start Chad Pennington against the same defense. I urge you to proceed with caution. Prior to last week’s meltdown, Houston was actually defending the pass quite well. They allowed just two passing scores in their previous three games. During his last three games, Pennington had just one passing TD compared to five interceptions. He’s slumping badly. Bottom line: With all the QB injuries out there, Pennington is an option . . . just not as good of an option as you might have thought.
- Drew Brees had his worst outing of 2006 in Week 3 against the Falcons (191 yds. 0 TDs), but that’s not reason enough to bench him when he faces them again this week. Atlanta’s defense is hurting and Brees is absolutely en fuego. There’s no reason to expect he won’t put up 300 yards and a couple of TDs.
- Rust or no rust, Matt Hasselbeck is a good play this week against the Packers. Green Bay is awful against the pass, giving up 241.3 ypg through the air—second most in the NFL. While I doubt Hasselbeck can equal Tom Brady’s 4-TD performance last week at Lambeau, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him post 250 yards and a pair of scores. The only thing that could derail Hasselbeck in this game is if his knee suffers a setback in practice or pregame warm-ups. Be sure you have Seneca Wallace on your bench just in case.
- The New Orleans Saints have given up 12 touchdowns through the air in the last five weeks. Even though Michael Vick has been off his game in recent outings, give him a look in Week 12. The Vegas oddsmakers believe this will be the highest scoring game this week with an over/under of 47.7 points. Vick should play a part in at least 12 points. I expect at least one passing TD and one rushing TD.
This Week’s Sleepers: Michael Vick, Jake Delhomme, and Charlie Frye
- At the beginning of the season, the Redskins boasted the NFL’s 5th best run defense. They’ve gotten progressively worse as the season has worn on and now rank 19th. In their last two games, Washington has allowed 181 yards and 146 yards rushing, respectively. And those disappointing efforts were against Tampa and Philly, teams not known for churning out such big rushing performances (at least not in 2006). The downward trend in run defense for the ‘Skins makes rookie DeAngelo Williams an intriguing play this week. Williams had a breakout 140-yard game last week in replace of the injured DeShaun Foster. Regardless of whether Foster suits up, I think Williams can get your fantasy team 100 all-purpose yards.
- Edgerrin James has rightfully earned the title of fantasy football’s biggest bust in 2006. His pathetic 3.1 yards per carry average is even worse than J.J. Arrington posted in 2005. He’s become a spot starter at best and a game this week against the Vikings is definitely not a spot worth considering him. Anchored by Pat Williams and Kevin Williams, Minnesota is the best in the NFL against the run. They give up a paltry 60.3 yards per game on the ground. James won’t sniff 100 all-purpose yards.
- The running back who has surprised me the most this season is, without question, Fred Taylor. Watching Taylor Monday night and in a couple previous games, I was blown away by the speed and nifty moves Taylor is showing. Some of his cuts are downright violent. Toss out one clunker game against Washington early in the season, and he’s never dropped below 73 all-purpose yards in a game. And thanks to the contributions of Maurice Jones-Drew, Taylor is healthy. Get him in your lineup this week against the Bills who rank 25th in the NFL against the run.
- Avoid Washington running backs Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett this week if possible. The Redskins will square off against a Carolina defense that is finally playing the shut-down style of defense many expected entering the 2006 season. They held the Rams to just 111 yards in Week 11 (31 rushing yards) and stifled the Bucs the week before. It’d be a surprise if Betts and Duckett combined for 75 yards.
- Texans head coach Gary Kubiak has indicated he plans to split the carries between Wali Lundy and Samkon Gado “right down the middle”. A 50-50 running back by committee split is rarely a good thing for fantasy enthusiasts, but it could play out well for owners on a week when several RBs are out with injuries. Lundy and Gado are worth a look this week against the Jets, who have given up more rushing scores than any team in the NFL. New York was blasted by Thomas Jones and the Bears last week after coming off an emotional win versus their arch-rivals, the Patriots, in Week 10. Expect more difficulty stopping the run this week. Lundy and Gado should combine for 160-170 all-purpose yards and two TDs.
This Week’s Sleepers: DeAngelo Williams, Wali Lundy, Samkon Gado, Ahman Green, and Joseph Addai
- Don’t lose faith in the slumping Torry Holt. He’s due for a bounce-back performance this week against the 49ers. Holt has had a great deal of success against his division rivals of late, exceeding 100 yards or scoring a TD in four straight contests against San Francisco. Look for the Rams to end their five game skid on the wings of a 2-TD performance from Holt.
- A matchup against Baltimore looks a little tenuous for Hines Ward owners, but I don’t see any reason to keep the sure-handed wideout on the bench this week. Ward has historically been an important part of the gameplan for the Steelers when these two teams meet. In six of his last eight games against the Ravens, Ward has hauled in five or more passes. That includes a few huge performances (6-151-1, 9-91-2, and 8-97-0). Play him with confidence and look for another fine effort, particularly if you play in a points-per-reception league.
- Larry Fitzgerald hasn’t scored a touchdown in five weeks, but I love his matchup against the Vikings on Sunday. Minnesota’s pass defense has tanked over the last several weeks and now ranks 26th in the league. Also consider that Fitzgerald is a Minneapolis native and will certainly have a section of friends and family in attendance for this game. Finally, don’t forget that Dennis Green, who left the Vikings on a sour note, will go the extra mile to stick it to the team and the city that turned on him. Look for Fitz to post 100 yards and a score.
This Week’s Sleepers: Terrance Copper, Michael Jenkins, Ernest Wilford, and Braylon Edwards
- Jeremy Shockey is the igniter of the New York Giants offense. With the team coming off consecutive losses, look for them to make a concerted effort to get their fiery TE involved early against the Titans. Tennessee has been whipped by TEs lately, allowing five TE scores the last five games. In terms of TE production for Week 12, Shockey is as big of a lock as you’re likely to find.
- It’s tough to bench Todd Heap, who is one of the most reliable TEs in fantasy football. I wouldn’t suggest doing so unless you have a great backup. However, the fact is that the Steelers do a great job of containing Heap. He hasn’t found the endzone or even exceeded 40 receiving yards in his last five games against the Ravens. Temper your expectations for the Pro Bowl TE.
This Week’s Sleepers: Eric Johnson and George Wrighster
- San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding hasn’t even attempted a field goal in his last two games. During that stretch, all 12 of his points have come on extra points. As a Kaeding owner myself, I know it’s hard to stomach seeing the Chargers put up over 80 points in the last two weeks with none of them being the result of a field goal. However, I’m optimistic about Kaeding’s chances this week against the Raiders. He has connected on multiple field goals in three straight games against Oakland.
- A dome game in November looks like the ideal setting for Philadelphia kicker David Akers to have success, but lower your expectations for him this week. With Donovan McNabb out for the year, there’s no telling how the Eagles offense will respond. Plus consider that Indianapolis gives up the fourth fewest points to kickers in the league.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ryan Longwell, Josh Brown, and Phil Dawson
- Give the Indianapolis Colts defense a shot this week against Jeff Garcia and the Eagles. I expect the Colts to get an early lead on a Philadelphia defense that was beaten badly by the Titans last week. If Garcia has to throw 40-45 times against the NFL’s third-best pass defense, things could get ugly.
- Although the Seattle Seahawks were gutted by Frank Gore for 200+ yards last week in an embarrassing loss to the 49ers, I wouldn’t hesitate to start them in Monday night’s tilt against the Packers. Brett Favre is apparently still feeling tingles in his throwing hand. Favre has had trouble hanging onto the football when he had full strength in his hands, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him cough up the football a couple times if the Seahawks can apply any semblance of pressure.
This Week’s Sleepers: Indianapolis and Seattle
This Week's 6-Pack: Warsteiner Dunkel
Appearance: Packaged in a brown longneck with a silver foil label. It poured to a rich brown color that appeared ruby red when held up to the light. The head was negligible and what little foam there was faded rapidly.
Smell: The aroma resembled Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate and also had hints of toasted grains and almonds. Couldn’t detect any hops.
Taste: The taste was hearty and deliciously complex. Upfront, Warsteiner is dominated by toasty sweet malts. Also present was a licorice-like flavor. Unfortunately, the beer was dragged down a bit by a harsh, bitter finish that lingered with me for awhile. It resembled baker’s chocolate.
Mouth-feel: Interestingly, I found Warsteiner to be quite fizzy, perhaps too much so. Not what I had expected considering the absence of any head.
Drinkability: The depth and complexity made this enjoyable enough, but with prickly carbonation and an overpowering bitter aftertaste, this one may be best enjoyed one bottle at a time.
Last Call: There’s a lot to like about Warsteiner Dunkel. Unfortunately, there are also a few things not to like, as well. Overall, I’d rate it as a middle of the road Dunkel. It challenges your palate enough to make it a worthwhile sample, but it just doesn’t stack up to some of the upper echelon brews the Weekly 6-Pack has tested. Three stars out of five.
Next Week’s Beer: Bridgeport India Pale Ale