Fire up the grill and tap the keg. Another year of football is upon us and there’s no better way to enjoy the game than with a cold beer by your side. The Weekly Six-Pack celebrates that reality each week—previewing a six-pack of fantasy positions (QB, RB, WR, TE, PK and DST) and reviewing a six-pack of beer.
- Consider resting Jay Culter if you have other options. He’s been miserable in two career starts against the Raiders with a 1:4 TD-to-interception ratio. Although two games is admittedly a small sample size, there are a couple additional knocks against Cutler. Top receiving target Brandon Marshall will be serving out a one-game suspension, which leaves Cutler with few reliable passing targets. Also, Oakland possesses one of the NFL’s best pass defenses. In 2007, the team allowed just 17 passing scores—among the fewest in the NFL. The secondary only got better in the offseason, adding DeAngelo Hall to an already stellar defensive backfield anchored by Nnamdi Asomugha.
- Give Aaron Rodgers a look this week against the Vikings. The offseason acquisition of Jared Allen by the Vikings should help them put more pressure on opposing QBs, which will improve what was by all accounts a poor pass defense in 2007. However, I think Green Bay’s short-passing game and quick throws will negate the impact of Allen and Minnesota’s talented front four to some extent. Look for the Packers to attempt 35-40 passes and put 2-3 touchdowns on the board through the air.
- I like Tony Romo’s chances of starting the season as fantasy football’s top scoring passer—especially with the question marks surrounding Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Romo should feast on a Browns defense that will struggle to contain Dallas’ many receiving weapons. Cleveland surrendered 29 passing scores in 2007, tied for second-most in the NFL. It’d surprise me if Romo doesn’t put up three scores.
- Consider pulling Matt Hasselbeck out of your lineup this week against the Bills. Hasselbeck averaged just a shade over one touchdown per game on the road last year. In Week 1, the Seahawks travel to Buffalo and will be forced to play without a full deck at WR. Starters Bobby Engram and Deion Branch are expected to miss the game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Aaron Rodgers, Jon Kitna, Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia
- The Bengals have allowed at least one touchdown to Baltimore RBs in four of their last five meetings. With Willis McGahee questionable to play, seize the opportunity to start Ray Rice. Rice averaged 5.6 yards per carry during the preseason and even showed some skill as a receiver out of the backfield. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Rice post a 100-yard performance in his first NFL start.
- I’ve sensed a lot of anxiety on the part of Ryan Grant (hamstring) owners. While I don’t believe there’s much cause for concern about Grant’s health, it still might be a good idea to bench the 2007 waiver wire wonder in Week 1. Minnesota’s fearsome run defense is coming to town. The Vikings gobbled up opposing RBs in 2007, allowing just 74.1 yards rushing per game. Grant did manage to hang a 119-yard, one-touchdown game on the Purple last year, but I don’t see it happening again. With the Packers playing on Monday and the potential that Grant could be a limited, it’s a good idea to explore other options before going with Grant.
- Get Michael Turner some action in Week 1 against the Lions. Detroit lost some key defenders during the offseason, including Shaun Rodgers. The parade of ex-Buccaneers defenders the team brought in to fill the gaps includes a bunch of “character” guys, but they likely won’t live up the expectations on the field. Detroit allowed the second-most rushing TDs in the NFL last year. Turner figures to get close to 30 carries as the team eases rookie QB Matt Ryan into action. Look for him to break at least one 30+ yard run and find his way into the endzone.
- I wouldn’t blame you if you took a wait-and-see approach with Ricky Williams to start the season, but just know that the trends work in his favor this week. Williams has faced the Jets six times in his career and scored in all but one meeting. With Ronnie Brown coming off reconstructive knee surgery, Williams should be the workhorse and looks primed to be the comeback player of the year. He’s an outstanding flex play this week, but could also be used as a RB2 if you’re in a pinch.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ray Rice, Ricky Williams, LaMont Jordan and Darren McFadden
- Joey Galloway gives the Saints fits. He’s faced New Orleans seven times since becoming a Buccaneer and scored at least one touchdown or posted 100+ yards in every meeting. Galloway has been nursing a groin injury during the preseason, but if he plays, he should be in your lineup.
- Lower your expectations for Torry Holt this week against the Eagles. I think Holt was an underrated fantasy receiver during the preseason. However, I don’t see him performing well against the Eagles, who should have an improved defense in 2008—particularly in the secondary. Holt scored seven touchdowns last year but just one of them came on the road. The chances of him going off in Lincoln Financial Field appear slim.
- Although you may have drafted him as a reserve, consider giving Cowboys wideout Patrick Crayton the starting nod this week against the Browns. Cleveland was horrible against the pass last year and did little to improve their secondary in the offseason. In fact, the team traded away its best cornerback in Leigh Bodden. Look for Crayton, Terrell Owens and Jason Witten to feast on the over-matched Browns.
- Randy Moss loves opening day. He’s scored a touchdown in five of his last six Week 1 games, including a nine-catch, 183-yard, one-TD effort in his Pats debut in 2007. Play him with pride.
- Jags wideout Reggie Williams has never fared well against the Titans. In seven career meetings, he has zero touchdowns and five one-catch games. Williams is recovering from a bum knee and the latest word out of Jacksonville is he also has a tender hamstring. Might want to keep this guy on the bench until he’s healthier and has a more favorable matchup.
This Week’s Sleepers: Joey Galloway, Patrick Crayton, Muhsin Muhammad, Jabar Gaffney and Dwayne Bowe
- Heath Miller is worth a start in Week 1 if you don’t have a strong alternative. In 2007, Houston ranked dead last in defending TEs from a fantasy perspective. While the Texans defense has improved and matured since last year, I like Miller’s chances to reach paydirt this week. He’s historically been a fast starter and has managed to score a TD in every opening week game that he’s played in his three-year career.
- Antonio Gates will likely be limited Sunday against the Panthers, which may have some owners scrambling to find a fill-in. One serviceable option might be Tony Scheffler. It might seem like an odd pick since I already voiced my distaste for Jay Culter (see above). However, the strength of the Raiders pass defense is their corners, so Scheffler might play a big role. He’s posted two good fantasy performances in his last two outings versus Oakland.
This Week’s Sleepers: Heath Miller and Tony Scheffler
- In two games against the Ravens last year, Bengals kicker Shayne Graham booted a whopping nine field goals. He’s a strong start against a bend-but-don’t-break Baltimore defense that gave up the second-most points to kickers in 2007.
- Mason Crosby fared extremely well in the two meetings versus the Vikings during his rookie campaign. Crosby scored double-digit points in both games and didn’t miss a kick. Play him with confidence and look for at least a few opportunities to kick some three pointers.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mason Crosby, John Kasay and Mike Nugent
- With an offense that lacks moxie at the QB position and firepower from the other skill positions, the Bears are going to have trouble moving the ball this season. If you play in a league that rewards defenses that hold a team under a certain threshold in points, consider plugging in the Indianapolis Colts. Indianapolis should clamp down on Chicago and might be able to cause some turnovers if they can rattle Kyle Orton. In 2007, the Colts picked off 22 passes—tied for second most in the NFL.
- The Tennessee Titans may finish the year with a top 10-12 fantasy defense, but I’d keep them on the bench this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has averaged 28.1 points per game over their last 10 games (including the playoffs). They’ve scored 20 or more points in 12 straight games. If that wasn’t bad enough, they have a QB who doesn’t throw interceptions and running backs who rarely fumble. In short, there likely won’t be many opportunities for the Titans to score defensive points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals
Beginning next week, the Weekly Six-Pack will review a different beer each week. If you have a beer recommendation, post a message or send me an e-mail. Over the last five years, the Weekly Six-Pack has reviewed 80 beers. View the ratings to see how your favorite beer stacked up.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Liberty Ale, Anchor Brewing Co.