- Even without Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett last week, Matt Hasselbeck still managed to turn in a great fantasy line. He posted 362 yards passing with two scores. With Seattle’s ground attack struggling, Mike Holmgren is leaning heavily on the pass. Hasselbeck has attempted 30 or more passes in four games this year, peaking with 43 throws in Week 6. Activate him this week at home against the Rams. In his last four meetings versus St. Louis, Hasselbeck has averaged 292 yards and two touchdowns per game.
- With the way the media is genuflecting to Tom Brady right now, it’s borderline blasphemy predict anything but success for him. But Brady’s recent history against the Dolphins isn’t great. Last season, Brady averaged a paltry 109 passing yards per game against Miami. He has a career completion percentage of 62.5%, but it’s just 55.3% against Miami. Starting Brady is a no-brainer but understand that the Dolphins will play their best game against the Patriots and probably prevent him from posting his usual 4+ touchdown game—expect 250 yards and two scores.
- Owners who have a QB on bye might be tempted to start Chad Pennington against the Bengals, who have the 28th-ranked pass defense. Normally I’d give the move a green light, but I’m waffling a bit here. On one hand, Cincinnati has given up 13 passing TDs in their last four games. On the other hand, Pennington is just an eyelash away from being benched. If he has slow start or an early interception, it might cause head coach Eric Mangini to make a QB change and the spoils would go to Kellen Clemens. That makes Pennington a risky play albeit one that has the potential to pay huge dividends. Just know what you’re getting into before you activate him.
- Put your confidence behind Jeff Garcia this week against the Lions. Detroit has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four out of five games this season. With Tampa’s RBs dropping like flies, Garcia had his highest yardage output of the season last week. Look for continued reliance on the passing game as head coach Jon Gruden begins to work the newly acquired Michael Bennett into the mix.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Hasselbeck, Jeff Garcia, Drew Brees and Jason Campbell
- Count on a solid contribution from Larry Johnson this week against the Raiders. It’s remarkable that Johnson has scored at least one touchdown in every game he’s played against the Silver and Black. All told, in six career meetings with against Oakland, Johnson has 10 TDs. He went over 100 all-purpose yards in all but one of those games. Considering that the Raiders rank 28th in the NFL against the run, it’s not unreasonable to expect LJ to finish with around 130 yards and two scores.
- Look for New England’s defense to pour a bucket of ice water on Ronnie Brown’s hot streak. Brown has topped the century mark in four straight games, but opposing starting RBs have been stifled by the Patriots this year and are averaging just 54 yards rushing per game. I don’t see Brown putting up more than 80 all-purpose yards in this game.
- The Indianapolis Colts didn’t have an answer for Maurice Jones-Drew last season. In two games, Jones-Drew averaged an incredible 9.6 yards per carry against Indy with three touchdowns. After a slow start to the season, he’s just getting warmed up. Jones-Drew has scored three times in the last two games. Start him and count on something special.
- This week don’t be surprised if Reggie Bush has that breakout performance people have been waiting for ever since he came into the league. Bush displayed good patience and vision last week against the Seahawks and gouged them for some long runs. With the passing game starting to click, Bush should find more room to run. The Falcons rank 24th in the NFL against the rush. If Bush gets 25 or more touches, I could see him finishing the day with 120 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Earnest Graham, Thomas Jones and Heath Evans
- After averaging 109.7 yards per game over the first three weeks, Terrell Owens has struggled in Dallas’ last three contests, putting up just 41.3 yards per game. It may surprise you that T.O. doesn’t even lead the Cowboys in receiving anymore (Jason Witten has one more yard than him). Don’t lose faith though. Owens should bounce back nicely this week against the Vikings, who slipped to the 32nd-ranked pass defense in the NFL last week. Minnesota has ceded eight passing scores in their last four games. Look for Owens to put up a nice stat line—around 110 yards and a touchdown.
- Javon Walker will undergo knee surgery this week and could be out for a few more weeks. If you don’t have an IR system in your league, consider cutting Walker or trading him to a team that’s already sewn up a playoff spot. In the meantime you’ll also want to bench Brandon Stokley and Brandon Marshall because the Steelers are tough to score on. Pittsburgh allows just 9.4 points per game to opponents. Exactly zero #1 or #2 WRs have scored a touchdown against the Steel Curtain.
- If you have decent alternatives at the WR position, be sure to kick around the idea of moving Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald to your bench. The Cardinals will likely find it difficult to put points on the board on the road against the Redskins. Washington ranks fifth in the NFL against the pass and they’ve surrendered just two passing scores all year (best in the NFL). Regardless of whether Kurt Warner or third-stringer Tim Rattay is throwing the ball, it could be a long, unproductive day for both Boldin and Fitzgerald.
- Kevin Curtis and even Reggie Brown (if you’re that desperate) are solid plays this week against a beat up Bears defense. Chicago has given up 34 or more points in three of their last four games. Their linebackers and safeties have been about as relevant as a Bob Dylan tuning fork—in the last two games, the Bears have given up five TDs over 35 yards. A lot of that can be attributed to Adrian Peterson, but don’t lose sight of the fact that speedy wideouts like Greg Jennings and Troy Williamson have given the Bears fits, as well. Look for Curtis to take another deep ball to the house while Brown produces an 80+ yard effort.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Brown, Ike Hilliard, Derrick Mason, Jerricho Cotchery and Bobby Wade
- The Denver Broncos defense is among the league’s best at shutting down wide receivers. Opposing play callers recognize this and tend to attack the Broncos with the tight end. In their last three games, Denver has given up 77.7 yards per game and three touchdowns to starting TEs. It’s safe to say Heath Miller should be in your lineup this week.
- The Vikings have been burned by tight ends for 111, 99 and 96 yards over the last three games, respectively. Jason Witten, one of the NFL’s top TEs through seven weeks, should have little difficulty exploiting this apparent weakness in the Minnesota defense. Look for him to approach 100 yards receiving.
This Week’s Sleepers: Heath Miller, Chris Baker and Vernon Davis
- The Miami defense continues to be a kicker’s best friend. In their last two games, the ‘Fins have given up 27 points to kickers alone. Look for another big afternoon from New England’s Stephen Gostkowski, who has scored double-digit points in each of the last three games.
- The Arizona Cardinals have given up multiple field goals in five of their six games this season. If you’re looking for a sleeper play at the kicker position this week with Nate Kaeding and John Kasay idle, consider Washington’s Shaun Suisham. The Redskins shouldn’t have trouble scoring against a Cards team that allows 26 points per game on the road.
This Week’s Sleepers: Shaun Suisham, David Akers and Jeff Reed
- Give the Philadelphia Eagles defense a look this week against the Bears. Philly has held its last two opponents to 16 points or less and they haven’t allowed an offensive touchdown in their last six quarters. Chicago has been scoring decent points lately, which might scare you away. However, they’ve come in garbage time for the most part. The bottom line is Chicago has given up eight turnovers, nine sacks, and two defensive / special teams scores in the last three games.
- Play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week against the Lions. Detroit has allowed 20 sacks in their last three games. Plus they’ve been hit with a safety and two defensive / special teams scores over the same stretch.
This Week’s Sleepers: Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs
This Week's Six-Pack: St. Peter’s English Ale
Price: $3.99 (for one 1 pint .9 oz bottle)
Origin: St. Peter’s Brewery, United Kingdom
Appearance: St. Peter’s English Ale comes in a unique oblong green bottle that resembles a flask. It’s pretty hip and would surely draw looks if you ordered one in a tavern. The label indicates the beer is made with organically grown hops and barley. Because of the oddly shaped bottle, it pours out in an abnormal fashion and makes a “glug-glug-glug” sound. Its appearance in the glass is a brassy orange color with a slight haze. The head is white and foamy but doesn’t last more than 20 seconds.
Smell: While not over-powering, this beer has some distinctive and interesting smells. Foremost are the hops which have a flowery scent. It also has wisps of herbs that remind me of black tea.
Taste: The dominant characteristic is a sharp, bitter hop bite. The hops aren’t as robust as an American pale ale, but prevalent nonetheless. As the beer warms a bit, the flavor gets even more pronounced. Also detectable are some bread and yeast flavors as well as butterscotch. The finish is dry and fruity with a lingering hop aftertaste—it sort of resembles orange zest.
Mouth-feel: Carbonation is lively but light. Starts out as creamy but has an oily quality that tends to linger on the palette.
Drinkability: The hops are at about the right level, which gives this beer some heartiness without being overly aggressive. Highly drinkable.
Last Call: St. Peter’s is my first experience with an organic beer. I can’t say there was anything in particular that distinguished if from a non-organic. However, it’s a solid all-around beer. I was a little worried that the bottle would be the best thing St. Peter’s has to offer, but it’s a tasty ale with just the right amount of verve. Good stuff. I give it four stars out of five and look forward to trying some of the other St. Peter’s varieties.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA, Delaware, USA