- Don’t be surprised if you start hearing Eli Manning’s name kicked around in the MVP conversation. Coming off a 267-yard, 2-TD effort against the Seahawks, the younger Manning may not have the stats of some other QBs, but he’s led his team to a 4-0 record. Manning is an outstanding play this week against the Browns. Yes, Cleveland has done an admirable job against the pass this year (allowing just 187.0 passing yards per game), but they’ve only been tested once this season—by Dallas. In that game, they gave up 320 yards and a TD to Tony Romo. (They also shut down Ben Roethlisberger, but it was in a wind storm.) I expect at least two passing TDs from Manning on Monday night.
- There’s a lot of bad blood between the Chargers and Patriots. The teams have met three times since 2006, twice in the playoffs. QB Phillip Rivers was average in one of those contests, connecting for two TDs but just 179 yards. In the other two games, he fared much worse, ending without any scores. All three games resulted in San Diego losses. Because New England currently ranks eighth in the NFL against the pass and San Diego will be without one of its top receiving targets (Chris Chambers), it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rivers post his third consecutive box score this season without more than one TD.
- If Aaron Rodgers can post three TDs against the Falcons while nursing a bum throwing shoulder, a fully healthy and confident Kyle Orton has an excellent chance to reward fantasy owners this week. In their last two games, Atlanta has allowed five airborne scores and an average of 303.5 passing yards per game. Get Orton some work this week and count on 250 yards and two scores.
- Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has a gimpy knee and he’s only thrown one touchdown in his last three games. While that doesn’t instill much confidence, things should turn around this week against the Packers. Falcons rookie Matt Ryan posted his first multi-TD game last week against Green Bay, proving the Packers are very beatable without Al Harris. Hasselbeck’s safety valve Bobby Engram has a week under his belt and I expect the duo to have a big day. When it’s all said and done, Hasselbeck should have around 225 yards with one or two scores. Not huge, but certainly acceptable if your regular QB is out.
This Week’s Sleepers: Kyle Orton, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning and Gus Frerotte
- Over the last three games, the Saints defense has risen to the occasion and contained two of the NFL’s elite RBs—Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore. They also bottled up Denver’s Selvin Young. The team’s sudden emergence should give you pause before inserting any Oakland RB in your lineup this week. Justin Fargas is scheduled to return to the field this week, but isn’t 100%. Darren McFadden is still laboring with a toe injury. Michael Bush fared well while they were out but likely won’t see as much playing time. Of the three, Fargas seems like the safest bet, but don’t expect a quality performance from any Raiders RB this week.
- Get Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor in your lineup against the Broncos. Denver’s porous run defense gives up 134.0 rushing yards per game and they’ve been a godsend for RBs lately. Warrick Dunn and Earnest Graham combined for 167 all-purpose yards last week. Larry Johnson absolutely blew up the Broncos two weeks ago. Reggie Bush was effective both in the rushing game and passing game. The Jaguars remain committed to establishing the run, so both Jones-Drew and Taylor should get plenty of opportunities to bust loose. I expect Jones-Drew to post 130 all-purpose yards with a score. Taylor might not be quite that effective, but should get decent enough yardage.
- Two of the better run-stopping teams will take the field this week when the Panthers and Bucs meet. Carolina has allowed just one rushing score this season and Tampa hasn’t allowed any. Both teams hold opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing per game. Given the split work loads for DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart and Earnest Graham/Warrick Dunn, none of these players is a recommended start. Of the four players, Williams provides at least a sliver of upside because the Bucs have been susceptible to RBs who can catch the ball. Even so, look for alternative RBs with better matchups unless you can live with 50-60 yards and no touchdowns.
- At some point in the near future, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Thomas Jones get bumped down the depth chart by a combination of Leon Washington and Jesse Chatman. However, I recommend giving Jones the benefit of the doubt this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati ranks 29th in the NFL against the run, allowing 171.0 yards per game on the ground. They’ve allowed a rushing touchdown in all five games this season. Jones may not have a huge game, but I bet he ends with at least 80 yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Maurice Jones-Drew, Thomas Jones, Michael Pittman and Ladell Betts
- The Tampa defense has had tremendous success shutting down big, physical-type receivers this season. So far they’ve negated Marques Colston (3-26-0), Roddy White (4-59-0) and Brandon Marshall (3-25-0). They have, however, been burnt by the smaller, shiftier types including David Patten (1-39-1), Devery Henderson (1-84-1), Brandon Lloyd (6-124-1), Greg Jennings (6-109-2) and Brandon Stokley (6-52-1). This trend is predictive of a big game for the 5’9” Steve Smith and a weaker performance for the 6’2” Muhsin Muhammad.
- In five career games against the Ravens, wideout Reggie Wayne has only surpassed 60 yards receiving once and has just one touchdown. Baltimore is the best in the NFL versus the pass. So far they’ve allowed just 128.5 yards per game through the air. Wayne was lucky to get a touchdown last week after a surreal turn of events in Houston. Don’t expect another miracle this week. Lower your expectations for Wayne.
- In their last three games, the 49ers have allowed four passing scores of 30 yards or longer. Whether it’s poor tackling, poor angles or poor coverage, San Francisco has been vulnerable to big plays. Philadelphia’s playmaker in the passing game is rookie DeSean Jackson, who has two receptions of 47 yards or longer. In Week 5 against the Redskins, Jackson was a non-factor in the passing game for the first time in his NFL career. He ended the day with just one reception for eight yards (although he did add a punt return TD). Keep him in your lineup and look for a bounce back.
- Torry Holt has just one touchdown in his last 15 road games. He hasn’t posted a 100-yard game in an outdoor venue since Week 1 of 2005 (not including Arizona’s or Houston’s retractable roof stadiums). Putting him on your bench against the Redskins seems like a good idea.
This Week’s Sleepers: DeSean Jackson, Steve Breaston, Devin Hester, Brandon Stokley, Greg Camarillo and Antwaan Randle El
- If Houston’s Owen Daniels is your regular TE, consider scouring the waiver wire for a suitable replacement this week. Miami has crushed TEs this year allowing zero TDs to the position. In fact, no TE has even exceeded 34 yards receiving against them, including Antonio Gates, who was held to just one reception for 12 yards last week.
- Owners desperate for a TE this week should look for either Visanthe Shiancoe of the Vikings or Daniel Graham of the Broncos. Shiancoe faces the Lions, who rank 29th in the NFL against the pass. The Minnesota TE has scored in two of the last three games. Daniel Graham will get the start in place of the injured Tony Scheffler. Graham faces a Jacksonville defense that has given up a touchdown or 80+ yards receiving to a TE in two straight weeks.
This Week’s Sleepers: Visanthe Shiancoe and Daniel Graham
- Look for a productive boxscore from Neil Rackers this week against the Cowboys. Dallas has allowed 10 or more points in four straight games to kickers. The Cowboys defense may have been highly rated entering the 2008 season, but they’ve allowed 22.2 points per game this season. Rackers should have plenty of opportunities to kick field goals and extra points on Sunday.
- Opposing place kickers have scored double-digit points against the Seahawks in three out of four games this season. The only one that did not is former Seattle kicker Josh Brown, who now plays for the woeful Rams. Brown still managed to record a respectable seven points. Get Green Bay’s Mason Crosby into your lineup and set your expectations at about 10 points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mason Crosby, Neil Rackers and Shaun Suisham
- Count on a prosperous performance from the Philadelphia Eagles defense the week against the 49ers. The Philly defense is tied for the league lead with 18 sacks. San Francisco QB J.T. O’Sullivan has been sacked 20 times this season, more than any other QB in the NFL. O’Sullivan has also thrown five INTs in his last two games.
- The Minnesota Vikings defense has scored four defensive or special teams touchdowns in their last four games against the Lions. If you own Minnesota’s DST, play them this week and consider yourself lucky.
This Week’s Sleepers: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets and Washington Redskins
This Week's Six-Pack: Beck’s Dark
Appearance: The box boasts that Beck’s Dark is the number one imported German dark beer. It comes in a slender, green bottle with a silver foil label. Despite a rapid pour, the beer didn’t reward me with much foam. What little head there was disappeared in a matter of seconds. The color resembled that of a cherry cola, mostly dark brown with a slight amber tone.
Smell: Beck’s dark smelled like well-toasted rye bread.
Taste: With my first sip of Beck’s Dark, the thought that immediately crossed my mind was that it tasted like black liquorice-flavored mineral water. It wasn’t the most pleasant combination of flavors. However, as the beer warmed a bit, the complexity built and it became less offensive overall. There were some nice toasty malt flavors that crept through. The aftertaste was peppery and somewhat metallic.
Drinkability: Beck’s Dark has heavy carbonation that came off as a little too prickly. Again, it reminded me of mineral water, which I loathe. This dragged down the overall drinkability. However, if served somewhat warm, it’s more tolerable.
Last Call: This beer is neither repulsive nor delectable. There are some nice flavors in there but you have to work to hard to find them. I’d never turn one down, but the remaining four that are in my fridge will likely be pawned off on unsuspecting members of my poker club in a trade for higher-quality brew. Two stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Bohemia Classica, Monterrey, Mexico