- There’s a good chance we see the Peyton Manning of old in Houston on Sunday. Manning has historically had tremendous success against the Texans. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns versus them in seven of the last eight meetings. A look at the defensive standings shows Houston ranked a respectable ninth against the pass. Don’t sweat it though. Thus far, Houston has faced Pittsburgh, Tennessee and Jacksonville—all have offenses geared toward the running game.
- When a QB regularly throws for 350+ yards, he’s not someone you want to move to the bench. However, Kurt Warner has a couple strikes against him this week. First, he may be without one of his top receiving targets in Anquan Boldin. Second, the Bills come to town with the sixth-ranked pass defense—a unit that’s ceded only two passing scores this season. Keep Warner active but lower your expectations.
- Although Tony Romo and Kyle Orton recorded strong performances against them, the Eagles defense is a strong unit. Romo and Orton had their success in the friendly confines of their own respective home stadiums. QBs are less comfortable in Philly’s Lincoln Financial Field. Marc Bulger and Ben Roethlisberger have had miserable performances there this season. In fact, the Eagles have allowed just one passing score and an average of 8.5 points in their last four home games. So even though Washington’s Jason Campbell has been hot, it’s worth exploring alternatives this week.
- Given the question marks surrounding his shoulder injury, Aaron Rodgers is a risky play this week . . . but it’s a risk worth taking if he starts. After a couple rough fantasy performances against the Bucs and Cowboys, Rodgers should have a nice bounce-back against the Falcons. Atlanta’s secondary was relatively untested before last week against the Panthers. As predicted by the Six-Pack, QB Jake Delhomme finally had a breakout game, exploiting a weak secondary. Rodgers should have little difficulty doing the same. Look for a minimum of 225 yards and two scores.
This Week’s Sleepers: Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Orton and Brian Griese
- Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor has no trouble getting up for rivalry games against the Steelers. In his last seven outings versus Pittsburgh, Taylor has exceeded 98 all-purpose yards and/or scored a touchdown. Start him if you normally would or if your regular RB faces a particularly difficult matchup.
- Bears rookie running back Matt Forte hasn’t been flashy this season but he leads all NFL rushers with 92 carries. As if that wasn’t enough, he ranks third in RB receptions with 18. Look for a steady dose of Forte this week against the Lions. Detroit ranks dead last in the NFL against the run. They’ve given up some absolutely monster games to RBs this year, including 220 yards and two touchdowns to Michael Turner in the opener. Count on 100 yards and a touchdown from the rookie.
- As tough as it is to swallow, Green Bay’s Ryan Grant should probably be in your lineup this week against Atlanta. The Falcons rank 23rd in the NFL against the run. They’ve allowed a minimum of one rushing TD in every game this year. Grant had a decent performance against the Vikings defense in Green Bay’s home opener. Cross your fingers for another good Lambeau showing this week.
- Ronnie Brown owners face a tricky decision this week. Do you bench a guy who put up five touchdowns in his last outing? Brown faces the Chargers this week. San Diego has surrendered just one rushing touchdown this season and zero 100-yard RB performances. Making matters more complex is that’s they’ve been even better lately. In their last two games, San Diego has allowed an average of just 56.5 rushing yards per game. Brown is not a must-play unless you have a bye or injury issue in your regular starting backfield.
This Week’s Sleepers: Fred Taylor, Le’Ron McClain, Sammy Morris and Derrick Ward
- Hines Ward has slumped a bit since scoring three touchdowns in the first two games. However, he’s a decent start this week against the Jaguars. Ward has historically fared well against the Jags, posting six quality fantasy starts in the last eight meetings. This includes a 10-catch, 135-yard effort in last season’s playoff game.
- Since he came to Baltimore three years ago, wideout Derrick Mason has faced his former team, the Titans, twice. In both games, he recorded eight receptions and a touchdown. Mason also happens to be coming off his best performance of the year—an 8-catch, 137-yard effort last week against the Steelers. He’s clearly QB Joe Flacco’s favorite target. Look for the duo to hook up for at least 70 yards with a possible score.
- Disgruntled Lions wideout Roy Williams has posted a minimum of five receptions in his last five games against the Bears. Within that five-game streak, he’s racked up at least 70 yards in all but one outing. While the matchup may not look good at first blush, the Bears currently rank 28th in the NFL against the pass. Consider Williams a fair play versus Chicago. I like his chances coming off a bye week during which the Lions had plenty of time to figure out how to get him more involved in the offense.
- Give Amani Toomer a start this week with Plaxico Burress serving out a suspension. Toomer had been relatively reliable with Burress in the lineup—surpassing 60+ yards in two straight games with a TD to boot. He should factor in even more heavily as Eli Manning’s most familiar remaining target. In deeper leagues, consider rolling the dice with Domenik Hixon or Steve Smith. The Seahawks rank 25th in the NFL versus the pass so with or without Burress, the Giants should find success throwing the football.
This Week’s Sleepers: Derrick Mason, Amani Toomer, Domenik Hixon, Bobby Engram and Lance Moore
- The fantasy football world hasn’t heard much from Dallas Clark this season, but there’s a good chance that changes in Week 5. The Colts are coming off a bye, which hopefully gave them time to get healthy. Clark has been laboring with a knee injury. However, he’s given the Texans fits recently, notching seven touchdowns in seven career games against them. In his last two games alone, Clark has tormented Houston for three scores.
- Chicago has actually shown some viability in the passing game and I like their potential this week against the Lions. Bears TEs scored in both games versus the Lions last year. Given the fact that Chicago’s top receiver Brandon Lloyd might miss the game with a sprained knee, Greg Olsen has a good chance to put up some quality numbers.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dallas Clark and Greg Olsen
- Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell seems poised for a big week. Minnesota faces the Saints on Monday night and New Orleans has ceded multiple field goal kicks in their last three games. Meanwhile, Longwell has attempted at least two three-pointers in every game this year.
- The Atlanta Falcons have only had two field goals successfully converted on them this season. That’s pretty amazing given that they allow 20.8 points per game. That stat alone isn’t necessarily reason enough to move Mason Crosby to the bench. However, with the question marks the Packers have at the QB position, it might not hurt to look elsewhere for a kicker this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ryan Longwell, Robbie Gould and John Carney
- The New England Patriots defense should provide some easy points this week against the 49ers. The combination of San Francisco QB J.T. O’Sullivan hanging onto the ball too long and Mike Martz being not totally committed to protecting his passer has resulted in 15 sacks over the last three games.
- The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn’t been as good as many fantasy experts predicted at the beginning of the season. In fact, they’re one of only two teams in the NFL without an interception this year. That’ll change this week against the Bengals, who are expected to start Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. In his Bengals debut last week, Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and was sacked three times. The Cowboys are likely to make up for their disappointing start. Get them in your lineup.
This Week’s Sleepers: New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills
This Week's Six-Pack: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
Origin: Michigan, USA
Appearance: Comes in a standard brown long-neck with a label that has a trout on it. The label looks like it could’ve been designed by my mother. Yes, this is definitely from a smaller brewery. Dark orange, almost copper color. The head is off-white and lasted perhaps five minutes before retreating to a fine film.
Smell: The smell is dominated by citrus aromas. Overall not the strongest smelling pale ale in the history of beerkind. Not bad. Just perhaps a little weak.
Taste: After a somewhat disappointing performance in the aroma category, the taste hit hard. Hops. Hops. Hops. This is a classic pale ale with robust citrus and pine flavors that do a dance on the tongue. It’s all backed a slight bread/grain taste.
Drinkability: Pale ales aren’t meant to be consumed one after another after another. The hops just get to be too much after awhile. That’s certainly the case with Two Hearted Ale. However, this brand seems to coat the palate nicely and leaves a relatively pleasant aftertaste. The carbonation level is appropriate, which also helps this beer’s cause.
Last Call: Bell’s Two Hearted Ale isn’t my favorite pale ale but it’s a worthy brew nonetheless. Certainly merits a try if you’re a hophead who happens to find himself/herself in the Midwest. Three stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Beck’s Dark