- Give Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger a start this week against the Bengals. Cincy has allowed six passing scores in the last two games and they rank 31st in the NFL in passing defense.
- My Packers, playoff contenders? Who ‘da thunk it? Even though this week’s tilt between the Bears and Packers has huge meaning for Green Bay and little meaning for Chicago, Brett Favre isn’t a good option. The Bears defense has owned the future Hall of Famer in recent meetings. The last three times out against Chicago, Favre has zero TDs and eight INTs.
- After a midseason slump, Rams QB Marc Bulger has bounced back. He has exceeded 300 yards passing in three of his last four outings. A matchup this week against the Vikings, who have been eliminated from playoff contention, should lead to solid stats once again from Bulger. Minnesota ranks 32nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed.
- Entering the season I had high hopes for Kurt Warner. The weapons surrounding him were second to none. But things quickly unraveled. Now Warner gets a second shot this week with rookie Matt Leinart (shoulder) out. Unfortunately, Warner will face the red hot Chargers, who have held their last two opposing QBs to no TDs and fewer than 190 yards passing. Keep Warner benched in what could be his last NFL game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Phillip Rivers, Tony Romo, Jeff Garcia, and Tim Rattay
- The Steelers always score a rushing touchdown against the Bengals—they’ve done so in nine of their last 10 games dating back to 2002. In those 10 games, Pittsburgh RBs have punched the ball in 14 times. Start Willie Parker who has scored in three of his last four meetings with Cincy, including a 2-TD effort earlier this season.
- Continue to ride the Ron Dayne freight train. His opponent this week, the Cleveland Browns, have given up mind-blowing 199.3 yards per game over their last three contests. RBs have scored a touchdown in each of those three games. Dayne should find himself in the vicinity of 100 yards and a score when the day is over.
- Larry Johnson’s stats have paled in comparison to those of LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, particularly over the second half of the season. But don’t think yourself out of playing him this week against a tough Jaguars defense. LJ has averaged 153.3 all-purpose yards with 11 TDs in seven games at Arrowhead this season. This includes matchups against tough run defenses like the Ravens, Broncos, Raiders, and Chargers.
- The Vikings rank #1 in the league against the run. The Rams rank #31. When the teams collide this week in the Metrodome, the popular opinion will be that Chester Taylor will run all over St. Louis while Steven Jackson has a down game. I don’t think so. With the raw Tarvaris Jackson under center for the Vikings, the Rams don’t have to respect the passing game. They’ll stack the line and stifle Taylor, much like Green Bay did last week holding Taylor to just 49 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, look for S. Jackson to do some damage through the air and put up 115 all-purpose yards and a score.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ron Dayne, Marion Barber III, Mike Bell, and Jamal Lewis
- Chad Johnson’s confidence appears shaken after dropping several catchable balls over the last few weeks. He’s tough to bench, but look for a below average performance against the Steelers this week. Johnson hasn’t scored in four straight games against the arch- rival Bengals and is averaging under 60 yards per game.
- Look for another solid performance from Broncos wideout Javon Walker this week. Walker’s QB, Jay Culter, has tossed two touchdowns in each of his four NFL starts. As Denver’s top wideout, Walker has been one of the primary beneficiaries. He has scored a TD in two straight games. Look for the tandem to exploit a mediocre San Francisco pass defense, which has given up 24 passing scores this season and nearly 225 passing yards per game.
- Green Bay’s pass defense was heavily ridiculed during the first half of the season, but they’ve had the last laugh in 2006. They’ve given up just one passing TD in their last three outings. Add in the fact that the Bears playoff seed is already locked up, and it makes wideouts Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian risky plays.
- The high quality of play by the Raiders pass defense hasn’t gotten much coverage this season, but they rank #1 overall, giving up just 150 yards per game through the air. It may be a good time to bench Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery if you have other options.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ronald Curry, Vincent Jackson, Donte Stallworth, and Deion Branch
- Chris Cooley has experienced an upward trend in numbers with Jason Campbell under center. He’s averaged 60.3 yards per game with three scores in Campbell’s six starts. He’s a great start against the Giants this week. While Cooley didn’t find the endzone in the October meeting between these two clubs, he has scored in three of his last five games against New York. Also keep his late-season surge in mind next year when you’re formulating your cheat sheet.
- The Philly defense has tightened down the screws on opposing TEs. The Eagles haven’t ceded a TD to an opposing tight end in their last five games—and they’ve given up just two TE scores in all of 2006. Weigh your options before starting Alge Crumpler, who has been a non-factor for much of the second half of the season.
This Week’s Sleepers: Chris Cooley and Tony Scheffler
- Jets kicker Mike Nugent has connected on eight field goals in the last three games. He’s worth a start this week against the Raiders. Oakland’s bend-but-don’t-break defense has given up multiple field goals in three of its last four games.
- Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers was the darling of the 2005 edition of fantasy football. Earlier this season he wasn’t getting enough opportunities and struggled with consistency. He’s come on of late and now ranks third in field goals made. Rackers has nailed 12 field goals in has last five games, and booted multiple three pointers in all five of those contests. Ride his hot hand . . . err foot . . . this week against the Chargers. San Diego plays stout defense, but they’ve given up six field goal kicks in their last three games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mike Nugent and Neil Rackers
- Minnesota rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson looked out of his league in his first NFL start last week against the Packers. He completed just 10 passes for 50 yards with no touchdowns, one interception, and three sacks. If you’re desperate for a team defense, you could do worse than the St. Louis Rams. Look for them to hold Minnesota under 14 points while stirring up a few turnovers.
- In their last three games, the Philadelphia Eagles have registered six interceptions, six sacks, two fumble recoveries, and two defensive touchdowns. Philly’s domination on defense should continue at home this week against Michael Vick and the Falcons. In his last December road game in a cold weather city, Week 15 last year against the Bears, Vick put up a 25.8 QB rating and led his team to just three points.
This Week’s Sleepers: St. Louis Rams, Philadelphia Eagles, and Indianapolis Colts
This Week's 6-Pack: Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse
Price: $2.49 (one 1 PT .9 FL OZ. bottle)
Appearance: This beer came packaged in a tall brown bottle adorned with gold foil around the neck and a classic looking label that features a monk. I made a rather aggressive pour into my Weizen glass and the result was a mammoth, marshmallow-like head. The beer itself was murky and had a tangerine hue. A more careful pour down the side of the glass is recommended.
Smell: Wheat was the dominant smell, but I also detected hints of banana and vanilla.
Taste: Franziskaner had a clean, unassuming taste to it. The banana tones picked up in the aroma carried through but overall the flavors are somewhat muted. Yeast flavors were also present, particularly toward the end of the bottle because the yeast had collected on the bottom. There was also a very subtle sourness in the background that added some dimension. It tasted good, but for me the flavors never came to a crescendo. I wasn’t turned off by anything about this beer, but I had expected a bit more.
Mouth-feel: Perfect, tight carbonation. Not fizzy. Not flat. A great representation of this category of beers.
Drinkability: A smooth drinking beer that I probably would’ve enjoyed a bit more in the summer. It was refreshing, had a good taste, and a nice finish. I could knock back a few of these in a sitting.
Last Call: It wouldn’t be my default choice for a hefe-weissen, but Franziskaner is definitely worth your time and money. Pick up a bottle when the weather starts getting warmer. Three stars out if five.
Next Week’s Beer: See you next season!