- It’s a good time to be a Peyton Manning owner. After demoralizing the Bengals on Monday night, Manning draws another favorable opponent in the Texans. Houston ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass. Manning put up 400 yards and three TDs in their previous meeting this season and now has two straight games against the Texans with three scores. With the Colts still jockeying for the #1 seed in the playoffs, Manning will play the entire game. A 350-yard, 3-TD performance would not be surprising.
- Rookie QB Jay Cutler is worth a start this week against the Bengals. Cincy’s weak secondary was exposed last week by the Colts. Cultler has been a solid fantasy QB since taking over for Jake Plummer. He has thrown two touchdowns each of the last three weeks. There’s a great chance that trend continues against the Bengals, who rank dead last in the NFL versus the pass.
- Jacksonville’s defense has shut down opposing QBs over the last half of the season. They’ve only given up three passing TDs since Week 8. If you have a reasonable alternative to Tom Brady, don’t be timid about making the switch.
- Chiefs QB Trent Green has just one passing TD in his last three starts against the Raiders. And since returning from a concussion, he has had just once decent fantasy performance. There’s no reason to play him this week in what should be a Larry Johnson-led attack.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jay Cutler, Matt Leinart, Jeff Garcia, and Eli Manning
- I can’t get enough of Ladell Betts. The guy is a player and will be a top 10 fantasy running back within the next 2-3 years. Yes, I know Clinton Portis is still in town but I also know that Betts is too good to keep on the bench. He should have little trouble cracking the 1,000-yard benchmark this week against the Rams. St. Louis ranks 31st in the NFL against the run. Look for Betts to put up somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 yards and a TD.
- Bank on a big performance from Frank Gore on Sunday against the Cardinals. Gore pasted 170 all-purpose yards and two scores on Arizona back in Week 1. In his five previous meetings with NFC West opponents this season, Gore has averaged a mind-blowing 177.6 all-purpose yards per game with five TDs.
- Don’t be afraid of Rudi Johnson’s matchup this week against the Broncos. Denver has allowed at least one rushing score in seven straight games—and 12 overall during that stretch. In eight of his last nine games, Johnson has scored a TD and/or exceeded 100 yards. With that kind of consistency, it’d be unwise to lose faith in Johnson now.
- The Redskins are pretty fierce against the run. They have given up just two rushing scores since Week 8. Although Steven Jackson is a must-start every week, you might want to lower your expectations a bit. Otherwise you might be disappointed when he ends up with around 110 yards but no touchdowns.
- Marion Barber should be in your lineup this week when he faces off against the Eagles on Monday night. I’m not impressed with Philly’s run defense, which ranks 28th in the NFL. Plus Dallas head coach Bill Parcells might finally be realizing what fantasy owners have known for a month or so. Barber is a much more explosive RB than Julius Jones. The coach gave Barber 15 touches last week against the Falcons—the second-most he’s had all season.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ladell Betts, Marion Barber, Travis Henry, and Ron Dayne
- Andre Johnson made the Pro Bowl this week, but he’s been killing fantasy owners recently. Although he still leads the NFL in receptions with 97, he hasn’t exceeded 68 yards receiving or scored a touchdown over the last three games. Benching him at this point might be tough to stomach, but with the Colts up next, it might be the wise thing to do. Indianapolis ranks second in the NFL against the pass. They held Johnson to just 56 yards in their earlier meeting this season (albeit with a TD).
- Cardinals wideout Anquan Boldin has scored a touchdown or surpassed 100 yards receiving in six straight games against the 49ers. He’s numbers have been inconsistent with Matt Leinart under center, but a big performance this week seems likely.
- Hines Ward might not be the best option for your team this week when he faces the Ravens. Baltimore seems to have Ward’s number. They’ve held him out of the endzone in four straight games. Plus, with the way the Ravens are playing, Ward isn’t likely to get many red zone opportunities and that’s where he brings the most value for fantasy owners. Baltimore has given up just 6.8 points per game over the last five weeks.
- Don’t be surprised if Laveranues Coles follows up his 12-catch, 144-yard performance last week against the Vikings with another solid effort. Coles has bedeviled the Dolphins throughout his career. He has scored in four straight games against Miami. Earlier this season, he posted his best fantasy stats against Miami—111 yards and two touchdowns.
This Week’s Sleepers: Laveranues Coles, Rod Smith, Joe Jurevicius, D.J. Hackett, and Devery Henderson
- The Tampa defense has given up six TE scores over the last five weeks. Although he’s tailed off a bit, Cleveland’s Kellen Winslow is a strong play this week. Keep him activated and look for 70 yards and a score.
- With WR Darrell Jackson expected to be sidelined once again this week with a turf toe injury, Jerramy Stevens is a solid play. He put up 64 yards and a score last week with Jackson out. Stevens should fare well against the Chargers, who give up more receiving yardage to TEs than any other team in the NFL. San Diego has given up three TE touchdowns in their last three games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ben Utecht and Desmond Clark
- If you need a kicker for your championship game this week, consider Martin Gramatica of the Cowboys. Gramatica’s accuracy is perhaps a bit of a concern; he’s connected on 6 of 8 kicks. But Gramatica should get plenty of opportunities against an Eagles defense that has played well in the redzone over their last couple games. Philly has given up seven field goals in their last two outings.
- You’d think that a fracture in his right foot would’ve slowed Jay Feely down. Not the case. The Giants kicker has connected on two or more field goals in three straight games. Feely is a good play this week against the Saints—and he’s not on the injury report any more.
This Week’s Sleepers: Martin Gramatica, Neil Rackers, and Shaun Suisham
- The New York Jets could be a sneaky play this week against the Dolphins. The Jets have held their last three road opponents to 14 or fewer points. Miami is coming off their worst offensive showing of the season—a shutout at the hands of the Bills. In that game, Joey Harrington took a few steps backward, throwing a couple interceptions. New York also has everything to play for with the playoffs a very real possibility—while the Dolphins are already making tee times for January.
This Week’s Sleepers: New York Jets and Buffalo Bills
This Week's 6-Pack: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
Price: $4.99 (one bottle)
Appearance: Offered up in a clear 550 ml bottle. It had an almost completely opaque, inky black body capped off with a rich layer of khaki colored foam. Held up to the light it had the slightest twinge of ruby tones.
Smell: The smell is best described as earthy. It offered up scents of molasses, coffee, and toasted nuts.
Taste: Superb taste overall. The flavor was dominated a sharp mocha/coffee bite. Also present were undertones of molasses, roasted nuts, and biscuity yeast. The aftertaste was like a nibble of unsweetened chocolate. I got the feeling that this beer is made with quality ingredients because the flavors were so diverse, complex, and in my face.
Mouth-feel: Big and bold on the palette. Slightly chewy. The carbonation may have been slightly on the high side.
Drinkability: Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout was a bit like a meal in a bottle. I couldn’t drink more than one, but loved every sip of the bottle I drank while watching the Packers and Vikings. It was perhaps the perfect match for a cold, blustery night.
Last Call: If your only experience with stout beers is the nitrogen infused varieties like Guinness and Murphy’s, I highly encourage you to give Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout a try. It is bigger, bolder, and more complex than those beers. Everything about it is enjoyable—from the scintillating aroma to its classic stout appearance, and of course the dynamic rich flavor. Five stars out of five.
Next Week’s Beer: Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse