- Owners who rode Brett Favre to their championship game should know that Mr. 3-Time MVP hasn’t had much fantasy success against the Bears recently. Favre has just one multi-TD game versus Chicago since 2003 (a span of eight games). Considering the explosiveness of the Packers passing game, it’d be difficult to bench him. Just make sure your expectations are at an appropriate level.
- If there’s one team Phillip Rivers can be counted on to play well against, it’s the Broncos. Rivers has tossed two scores in each of the last three games he’s played against Denver. Despite their big-name cornerbacks, the Broncos have allowed the seventh most passing scores this season. Although I don’t anticipate Rivers will throw for much more than 200 yards, a multiple-TD game seems likely.
- Forget his miserable performance last Sunday against the Panthers and activate Matt Hasselbeck. Since Week 3, Hasselbeck has thrown 15 touchdowns in Qwest Field, including at least two in every outing. That trend figures to continue this week against the Ravens. Baltimore is reeling right now. They’ve allowed quality fantasy performances to QBs in each of their last four games. The Ravens rank 23rd in the NFL against the pass.
- In recent weeks, Philadelphia’s blitz packages combined with textbook bump-and-run coverage have proved frustrating for opponents who have offenses geared toward the pass. The Eagles shut down Pro-Bowlers Tom Brady (one TD) and Tony Romo (zero TDs). New Orleans QB Drew Brees has likely earned the right to start in your championship game; however, if you have a viable alternative, you might consider making a switch.
This Week’s Sleepers: Phillip Rivers, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner and Vince Young
- Consider activating Kenny Watson as a sneaky play this week against the Browns. Rudi Johnson’s hamstring is acting up again. Johnson carried the ball just seven times for 16 yards last week against the 49ers. If it looks like Watson will get the start or the majority of the carries, don’t be afraid to activate him against Cleveland. The Browns rank 28th in the NFL against the run. As he proved earlier this year, Watson is a versatile RB who can catch the ball as well as move the pile. One hundred all-purposed yards would not be out of the question.
- Chicago ranks a pedestrian 25th in the NFL versus the run, and the Bears have allowed two scores to RBs in four straight games. Ryan Grant remains an excellent start for fantasy purposes. Look for 90-100 yards and two touchdowns.
- Don’t bench Earnest Graham this week, but realize that the 49ers defense has clamped down on opposing starting RBs lately. In their last three games, San Francisco has held Rudi Johnson to 16 yards, Adrian Peterson (MIN) to 3 yards, and DeShaun Foster to 58 yards. You may have thought Graham was a lock for 120 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns — but 85 yards and a 50/50 chance for a score might be more realistic.
- I chalk up the Raiders shutdown performance against Joseph Addai last week more to an uninspired Colts effort and an ill-advised gameplan. Addai only attempted 15 rushes and was never able to find a rhythm. There’s no reason why Fred Taylor shouldn’t post his fifth straight 100-yard rushing performance. Oakland ranks 31st in the NFL against the run and they’ve given up by far the most rushing scores (21). Taylor deserves a start and Maurice Jones-Drew should also receive strong consideration. Both players have a good chance to surpass 100 all-purpose yards and post a TD.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kenny Watson, Fred Taylor, Jerious Norwood and Kevin Jones
- I’m not basing this on any factual evidence, but I believe this week will mark the last game in which Chad Johnson will play in Paul Brown Stadium while wearing Cincinnati orange and black. The Bengals organization is badly in need of a shakeup and my hunch is Johnson could be the first player shown the door. That said I like Johnson’s chances this week against the Browns. Ocho Cinco has been en fuego against Cleveland recently. In his last three games against the cross-state rival, Johnson has recorded 24 receptions for 410 yards and three TDs.
- Even though the #2 seed set in stone, Colts head coach Tony Dungy has indicated he will play his starters “as he normally would” in the interest of keeping an edge. In post-game interviews this week, QB Peyton Manning appeared adamant that he needs more game action with his teammates. Although he didn’t call him out specifically, the implication is that he wants to make sure he’s on the same page as rookie wideout Anthony Gonzalez come playoff time. Manning has thrown Gonzalez’s way 17 times the last two games, hooking up for a trio of touchdowns. There’s no reason why the aerial show won’t continue this week against a middle-of-the-row Houston Texans pass defense. Look for 90 yards and a score.
- You’d be hard pressed to find a more consistent WR over the last half season than Marques Colston. In his last eight games, the Saints wideout has recorded seven outstanding fantasy performances (including seven touchdowns and four 100-yard games). That could come to a screeching halt this week against an Eagles secondary that has stifled some of the NFL’s top wide receivers in recent weeks. Over the last four games, Philly held Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Deion Brach under 45 yards. None of them scored a touchdown. Start Colston but lower your expectations.
- I know Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown haven’t been the most reliable wideouts this season, but they both deserve strong consideration this week against the Saints. New Orleans has allowed multiple receiving TDs in six of their last seven games. All told, they’ve allowed 26 scores through the air, second most in the NFL. Look for Curtis to score on a deep TD and post close to 100 yards while Brown catches 5-6 passes and puts up around 70 yards with a possible TD.
This Week’s Sleepers: Anthony Gonzalez, Kevin Curtis, Chris Henry, Joe Jurevicius and Jerricho Cotchery
- I’m not sure what to make of Antonio Gates at this point. In his last three games, the Chargers all-pro TE has posted two one-catch performances and ended the day with fewer than 10 yards in both. It’s tough to bench him this week particularly against the Broncos, a team he usually torches. Gates has two straight 100-yard games against Denver. In those two contests, he posted three TDs. Play him and hope he continues that streak.
- Bears TEs Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen scored in a matchup against the Packers earlier this year. If you lost Jeremy Shockey and need an emergency fill-in either one could suffice. Only Cleveland and Denver have allowed more fantasy points to TEs this season that the Packers. Give Clark or Olsen a look, but know that their chances are probably better with Brian Griese under center versus Kyle Orton.
This Week’s Sleepers: Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Kevin Boss and Ben Watson
- Arizona’s Neil Rackers is an outstanding play this week against the Falcons. Atlanta has given up 28 or more points in five straight games. Over that five-game stretch, kickers have averaged more than eight points per game against the dirty birds. The Cardinals seem like a lock to score 30+, so look for Rackers to approach double-digits.
- If you don’t trust your cold weather kicker, and there are eight of them this week, consider plugging and playing Tampa’s Matt Bryant. Bryant has connected on multiple field goals in three of his last four outings. At matchup this week against the 49ers looks enticing. San Francisco has given up seven or more points to kickers in four straight games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Bryant, Nate Kaeding and Josh Brown
- The Arizona Cardinals defense should be a no-brainer this week at home against Atlanta. Last week, Tampa scored two defensive / special teams touchdowns before the end of the first quarter. The Bucs also recorded a sack and two fumble recoveries. Don’t be surprised if Arizona’s defense scores a TD this week.
- Get the Jacksonville Jaguars defense some work this week at home against the Raiders. The word on the street is Oakland might start rookie JaMarcus Russell. Even if he doesn’t get the start, he figures to see a fair amount of action. That’s be a good thing for the Jags. Also know that Justin Fargas is out, which will greatly limit the offense’s effectiveness. Considering none of Jacksonville’s players made the Pro Bowl, I think they’ll come out fired up and try to make some noise.
This Week’s Sleepers: Arizona Cardinals and Jacksonville Jaguars
This Week's Six-Pack: Founders Pale Ale
Origin: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Appearance: Packaged in a shorter-than-normal brown bottle, Founders Pale Ale features a green label with a goddess-like woman front and center. As you pour it, a monster head races to the top of the glass. The head is creamy white foam that is impressively persistent, remaining a couple fingers thick for most of the sampling. It rests upon a golden/amber brew that’s slightly cloudy. This is certainly one of the more eye-catching beers, I’ve reviewed.
Smell: Like most pale ales, this one has an aroma resembles that of a fresh cut Christmas tree (piney) from abundant hop content. Perhaps not as strong of a smell as other pale ales but it’s robust nonetheless.
Taste: Abundantly delicious. Founders Pale Ale has just the right amount of bite. Hops are the predominant flavor characteristic. There’s a citrus zest quality that comes into play, as well — especially when the beer warms a touch. Finishes dry with slight bitterness.
Mouth-feel: Medium-bodied. It has an oily feel to it with well-balanced carbonation.
Drinkability: As far as pale ales are concerned, this is about as smooth as it gets. The hop content is hearty enough to satisfy hop heads, but not so strong that it’ll make your palate feel as if you swigged a shot of PineSol.
Last Call: Everything a pale ale should be. Five stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Summit Great Northern Porter