- Look for Donovan McNabb to build on his impressive four-touchdown performance last week. In his last four meetings against the Giants, McNabb has averaged 310 yards per game and put up 10 touchdowns. With New York’s secondary giving up a beefy 266.3 passing yards per game and the second most passing TDs in the NFL, the table is set for another outstanding afternoon for McNabb. I expect 300 yards and two scores.
- If poor QB play has crippled your fantasy franchise through the first three weeks of the season, it’s not too early to consider a platoon approach. Rotating QBs into your lineup each week based on favorable matchups can help close the gap between your QB production and that of the competition. While I don’t think the Bears will be a source of big offensive points on most weeks, Brian Griese is a serviceable “platoon” option this week against the Lions. It might seem risky to plug in Griese in his first start as a Bear, but there’s plenty of upside. The Monsters of the Midway will be without two starting cornerbacks and a safety, so they’ll have their hands full with Detroit’s high-powered offense. I expect the Lions to score at will through the air, causing the Bears to play catch-up. Look for at least 275 yards and a touchdown from Griese against Detroit’s 31st-ranked pass defense. Oh, and bet the over.
- Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck was given the green light here last week and he delivered with three touchdowns and nearly 250 yards. Don’t be afraid to plug him in again this week against the 49ers. Hasselbeck plays well versus San Francisco. Yes, they added Nate Clements in the offseason, but you can’t argue with Hasselbeck’s efficiency. In his last eight games against the niners, he has thrown for 17 touchdowns — an average of more than two per game. In those eight starts, he never put up fewer than 200 yards or one score. Play him with confidence.
- If you were planning on relying on Matt Leinart this year, it’s time to put a contingency plan into effect. The Cardinals are apparently adding a new term to the fantasy lexicon: Quarterback by Committee (QBBC). Arizona will reportedly continue to use backup Kurt Warner whenever the team uses the no-huddle offense. The move makes the idea of starting Leinart about as appealing as a porta-pottie on the last day of a Lollapalooza festival. The way I see it, Leinart won’t be on the field during key situations where a QB would normally rack up some of his best fantasy production (two-minute drills and garbage time). Leinart should be riding the pine this week against a tough Steelers defense.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Hasselbeck, Brian Griese, Chad Pennington and Trent Green
- I was serving up the DeShaun Foster Kool-Aid last week, but I’m pouring it down the drain today. Foster was one of the top performers in Week 3, posting 135 all-purpose yards and two TDs. The temptation is there to chase Foster’s impressive outing and reward him with a start. And if your other options are grim, he’s certainly worth considering. However, don’t expect a repeat of last week. He has had limited success against Tampa. In six career meetings against the Bucs, Foster has averaged just 46 yards per game. He has never rushed for more than 82 yards against them and has never scored a TD. Lower your expectations for Foster.
- Marion Barber III leads all RBs with five touchdowns. He is a must-start player every week . . . especially this week against the Rams. St. Louis ranks 28th in the NFL against the run and has given up five rushing scores in their last two games. Last week, they made special teams specialist Earnest Graham look like the second coming of Emmitt Smith. In fact, the Rams are so bad against the run, that I’d even toy with the idea of starting Julius Jones, who’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry. I expect Barber to find the endzone twice while Jones puts up 80+ yards.
- Don’t sour on Frank Gore after his meager 39-yard effort last week against the Steelers. He should bounce back like a super ball this week against the Seahawks. In his two career starts against Seattle, Gore has averaged 208 all-purpose yards per game. Start him with confidence.
- Vikings rookie RB Adrian Peterson will get his first taste of the Green Bay / Minnesota border-battle rivalry this Sunday. He’s been a relatively consistent producer thus far, but the competition is about to stiffen. The Packers defense ranks 10th in the NFL despite already facing two of the NFL’s premier rushers (LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook). Peterson will find holes are a bit harder to come by than they were against the Lions, Falcons and Chiefs. Plus, with Chester Taylor set to re-claim his starting job, Peterson might see a reduction in carries. Don’t expect much from Peterson this week and you won’t be disappointed.
This Week’s Sleepers: Julius Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Ron Dayne and Sammy Morris
- Packers WR Donald Driver has been a Viking killer throughout his career. He’s scored five touchdowns in his last six games against Minnesota, averaging 121 yards per outing. Driver is surprisingly even better on the road in Minneapolis. In his last three games at the Metrodome, Driver has posted an astounding 156 yards per game with three touchdowns and 25 receptions. You might as well pencil in 100 yards and a touchdown.
- I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to start Darrell Jackson this week against his former team, but if your other options are vanilla, he’s worth a look. Jackson was bitter his last couple seasons in Seattle and would like nothing more than to stick it to GM Tim Ruskell. I drafted Jackson in a couple of my leagues thinking he’d play an important role on an offense that was improving. Unfortunately, the play calling has been awfully conservative. The media has been applying the pressure on offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, so don’t be shocked if the team opens things up. Jackson is the team leader in receptions and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him catch 7-8 passes this week, especially with TE Vernon Davis injured. I’m forecasting 85 yards with a possible score.
- If you’re a Braylon Edwards owner, a quick look at the schedule might cause your palms to get a little sweaty. The Ravens are coming to town. Even so, don’t make a rash decision and move Edwards out of your lineup. Baltimore hasn’t had much success stopping him. Edwards has scored touchdowns in both of his two career meetings against the Ravens. With Kellen Winslow looking iffy for Sunday, Edwards may get even more looks than normal.
- It sounds like David Carr will be under center for the Panthers this week against Tampa but don’t have any second thoughts about starting Steve Smith. Smith has rolled off four straight games against the Bucs with 100+ yards.
This Week’s Sleepers: Darrell Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Santonio Holmes, Wes Welker and Derrick Mason
- Ravens TE Todd Heap is always a big part of the gameplan when Baltimore meets Cleveland. He has caught five or more passes in five of his last six meetings with the Browns. Cleveland has given up an NFL-worst 11 passing touchdowns this year, so there’s a good chance Heap reaches pay-dirt at least once on Sunday.
- The New York Giants have given up more fantasy points to TEs than any team in the NFL. It’s a good idea to look to New York’s next opponent to find a potential diamond in the rough at this position. Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s starting TE, L.J. Smith, is out with a groin injury. Is backup Matt Schoebel worth a look? That would be a reach, considering Schoebel has just three receptions this year. Still, the Eagles would be wise to exploit this apparent weakness in the Giants defense. I can’t help but think Schoebel’s name may figure prominently in the boxscore. He’s worth a look in leagues with 14+ teams or in situations where the waiver wire pickings are slim.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Schoebel, Owen Daniels and Ben Watson
- The Bears and Lions rank 31st and 32nd respectively in points allowed to kickers. Robbie Gould and Jason Hanson are both worth a start. I like Hanson a little bit better because I think the Lions will be able to move the chains with passes but they may have several drives stall in the red zone, where short passes and runs won’t work nearly as well against Chicago’s front seven.
- As you’re scouring the waiver wire for a kicker this week, give special consideration to Packers rookie Mason Crosby. Last year, Green Bay’s kicker booted six field goals in two meetings against the Vikings. Also consider that Minnesota has ceded two or more field goals in six of their last seven games. If your league gives a bonus for longer field goals, Crosby could come up big for you. He has a thunderbolt leg and should fare well in Minnesota’s domed stadium.
This Week’s Sleepers: Robbie Gould, Jason Hanson and Mason Crosby
- If you drafted the Chicago Bears defense, you probably did so thinking they would give your team a 6-7 point advantage every week. Turns out they may be more of a liability than an asset. Chicago has fallen victim to injuries. On Sunday against the Lions, they’ll be without starting cornerbacks Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman as well as defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Plus the team already lost safety Mike Brown for the season. Meanwhile Adam Archuleta and Lance Briggs are nicked up with various injuries. Many of these guys are key playmakers, who have done most of the scoring for fantasy owners in the past. I wouldn’t go so far as benching the Chicago defense this week because the Lions are susceptible to turnovers. However, I suggest that you keep the panic button within arm’s length.
- Give the Dallas Cowboys defense a start this week against the Rams. The Cowboys have gotten progressively better since their opener against the Giants in which they allowed 35 points. In their last two games, Dallas has recorded five sacks, seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries and one defensive touchdown. The upward trend figures to continue this week against St. Louis, a team that will be without two of its premier offensive players (Orlando Pace and Steven Jackson). Without Pace in the starting lineup, QB Marc Bulger has been sacked seven times and thrown three interceptions. Even worse, he’s only led his team on one TD drive.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets
My apologies. I indicated last week that Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout would be this week’s beer of choice. Turns out I had already reviewed it (last season, no less). I guess after 4+ years, it’s time for me to put together a complete list of my beer reviews rather than going by memory. It’s something readers have been requesting for a long time. View the complete list here along with last year’s Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout commentary.
This Week's 6-Pack: Spaten Optimator (doppelbock)
Origin: Spaten Optimator, Munich, Germany
Appearance: This beer is packaged in a green bottle, though it looks brown on the shelf because the beer within is so dark. It has a plain looking label that is in serious need of a makeover. (I’m not even sure what the image is on the label . . . looks like two shovel heads.) Don’t judge Optimator by its cover though. In the glass, it’s a rich nutty brown color that shows off ruby highlights when held up to the light. The head was a dense tan foam but it completely disappeared within a minute.
Smell: The scent was a little odd. It actually reminded me of a box of raisins more than anything. Some herbal or earthy undertones, as well, I suppose.
Taste: My initial impression of Spaten Optimator was that it’s chocolaty. Have you ever had a glass of chocolate milk that’s made with the malted milk powder from Carnation? The aftertaste of Optimator is somewhat similar but it also has the slightest hints of a quality dark chocolate. It’s an interesting flavor that is derived from the dark roasted malt, which is an essential ingredient in all bock beer. While the chocolate flavor is dominant, focusing on that one attribute wouldn’t do this beer justice. It’s deep on character and has a ton of backbone. I detected spicy notes as well as toasted nuts and sweet raisins (which carried over nicely from the aroma). Minimal hops.
Mouth-feel: Initially creamy and rich, but that gives way to an oily sensation on the tongue after you swallow.
Drinkability: This is about as far as you’ll get from a light beer. It’s bold, packed with flavor, and is quite filling. It also has its share of alcohol (7.2%). I couldn’t see myself drinking more than one of these in a sitting. It’s worth noting that this beer got markedly better and more flavorful as it warmed. I suggest letting it sit outside the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.
Last Call: I’m on the fence about Spaten Optimator. On one hand, I know that I’ve had better dopplebocks. On the other hand, I recognize that Optimator brings a unique interpretation to the table. I give it a weak four stars out of five.
Next Week's 6-Pack: Smithwicks, Kilkenney, Ireland
If you have a favorite beer you’d like to see reviewed, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.