- After three ho-hum performances in a row, it’s time for a bounce back game for Eli Manning. Get him some work this week against the Cowboys. Manning has thrown two or more TD passes against Dallas in four of his last five meetings. The Cowboys still rank inside the top 15 in fewest passing yards allowed but it’s mostly because they haven’t faced many quality opponents over the last five games other than the Cardinals. Bank on 240 yards and two TDs for Eli.
- Look for Donovan McNabb’s dominance over the NFC West to continue this week against the Seahawks. McNabb has averaged 319.5 yards per game with five TDs in two games against NFC West opponents this season. He will have his three top wideouts (DeSean Jackson, Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis) healthy for the first time this season. With a complete set of WRs at his disposal, McNabb should have little difficulty torching a Seattle pass defense that allows 245.3 yards per game.
- Start Minnesota’s Gus Frerotte this week at home against the Texans in a game that has a high potential to turn into a shootout. The odds makers list the over/under at 47. I think that’s realistic. Both offenses are coming off a game in which they scored 35 or more points. Frerotte has quietly put up over 290 yards in two straight outings. He should be a lock for 225 and two scores.
- Patriots QB Matt Cassel has been playing better of late, but I’d sit him down this week against the Colts if you have another viable option. Cassel has thrown just one TD in three road games this year . . . compared to three INTs. The Colts rank second in the NFL in pass defense and have allowed just two passing scores all season—and none at home.
This Week’s Sleepers: Eli Manning, Gus Frerotte, Marc Bulger and David Garrard
- Willis McGahee has faced the Browns three times since he joined Baltimore. In each game, he surpassed 120 yards rushing or scored a touchdown. Activate him this week. After a slow start, McGahee has scored in back to back weeks. Although they managed to slow down the Jaguars last week, the Browns can be run on. They rank 24th in the NFL in rush defense.
- It’s been a frustrating year for Earnest Graham owners. Graham has been victimized by the addition of Warrick Dunn to the offense. The two have split carries down the middle, which hasn’t allowed Graham to find any rhythm. With Dunn questionable with a pinched nerve in his back, this is a prime opportunity to insert Graham into your lineup. The Bucs face a miserable Chiefs run defense that allows nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Start Graham and count on his best fantasy performance to date. And if your RB cupboard is completely bare . . . and I mean completely . . . consider plugging in Michael Bennett should Dunn sit out. He could get 10 carries and is always a threat to break a long run.
- Texans RB Steve Slaton hasn’t been a yardage machine lately. He’s failed to exceed 80 yards on the ground in each of the last three weeks. On the bright side, he’s managed to find the endzone in two straight games. That trend could continue this week against the Vikings. Minnesota only yields 70.7 rushing yards per outing. However, they’ve allowed an average of one rushing TD per game this season. Consider him a low-end RB2 or flex option this week. Taking into account how well Houston has been moving the ball lately, Slaton has a decent chance of finding the endzone, especially if Ahman Green (groin) doesn’t play. Look for about 65 yards with a high probability of a TD.
- Rumors are swirling in Arizona that Tim Hightower will soon seize the starting RB role. With the Rams on tap, I’d get him in the lineup, but I also wouldn’t shy away from Edgerrin James. St. Louis has allowed 14 touchdowns to RBs this season—an average of two per game. Plus the Rams yield over 150 rushing yards per game. This may be one of the few games this year in which the Cardinals don’t completely abandon the running game. Look for Hightower and James to combine for two scores and 130 yards in this game.
This Week’s Sleepers: Earnest Graham, Tim Hightower, Ricky Williams and Fred Taylor
- Lower your expectations for Green Bay’s Greg Jennings this week against Tennessee. Opposing #1 WRs haven’t done jack against the Titans all year. This includes: T.J. Houshmandzadeh (3-26-0), Andre Johnson (2-29-0), Bernard Berrian (5-78-0), Derrick Mason (5-38-0), Dwayne Bowe (5-86-0) and Reggie Wayne (3-29-0). Cortland Finnegan is the very definition of a shutdown corner. Anything more than 70 yards receiving would be a surprise for Jennings.
- Big, physical wideouts have tormented Miami this season. Three games ago they were abused by Andre Johnson for 10 catches, 178 yards and a touchdown. Before that it was Anquan Boldin who posted 140 yards and three TDs. That trend bodes well for the 6’4” Brandon Marshall. All told, the Dolphins have allowed nine WR scores in seven games. Look for 110 yards and two scores from Marshall.
- Over the first three games of the season, Jaguars QB David Garrard averaged 28.3 passing attempts per game. Since then, the number has spiked to 35 attempts per game. Injuries to Jacksonville’s offensive line have stymied their once powerful running game. As a result, the wide receiving corps could provide bountiful fantasy production going forward. Matt Jones has been the top producer. He’s worth a start against the Bengals this week if he doesn’t get suspended. Also give Reggie Williams a look. Williams caught his first TD of the year last week. I like Jones and Williams as quality plays against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed 13 passing TDs in eight games this season.
- The Steel Curtain has been impenetrable recently on Monday nights. In their last three Monday night contests, the Steelers held opponents below double digits—in fact, opponents averaged just 5.3 points in those MNF contests. As fantasy football’s highest scoring WR in most systems, Santana Moss is a must-start every week. Just pray you don’t need a major contribution from him this week. Pittsburgh has allowed just one WR TD in their last six outings.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Williams, Rashied Davis, Donnie Avery and Sidney Rice
- Regardless of whether he tries to gut it out and play with a cracked rib, Dallas TE Jason Witten probably belongs on your bench this week. The Giants haven’t allowed an opposing TE to score this season. None have exceeded 60 yards through the air. Even worse for Witten, in his last three trips to the Meadowlands, he’s averaged just 30 yards per game with zero TDs. With a poor QB, limited upside and the risk that he takes himself out of the game due to pain, it just doesn’t make much sense to start Witten.
- Bears TE Greg Olsen has turned in two quality fantasy performances in his only two career starts against the Lions. Activate him this week and don’t be afraid to lean on Chicago’s #2 TE Desmond Clark. Detroit has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to TEs this season. Opposing TEs have posted 70+ yards or a TD in three of the last four games against the Lions.
This Week’s Sleepers: Desmond Clark and Donald Lee
- Green Bay’s Mason Crosby is an every week kicker, but the chances of a good game this week appear slim. Opposing kickers are averaging just 3.9 points per game against the Titans this season. Only one kicker has connected on multiple field goals. I expect Crosby to beat that 3.9 point average but he’s unlikely to put up more than seven points.
- Falcons kicker Jason Elam is worth a shot this week against the Raiders. Prior to last week’s poor showing in Philly, Elam had drilled 10 field goal kicks in the previous three games. Oakland has allowed 8.5 points to kickers in their last four contests.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jason Elam, Kris Brown and Rian Lindell
- If you’re desperate for help on defense consider picking up and starting the Cleveland Browns this week against the Ravens. The Dawg Pound always gets a little nastier when Baltimore comes to town. The added energy of the 12th man might be enough to get into rookie QB Joe Flacco’s head. Cleveland has been playing tough defense lately. They haven’t allowed more than 17 points in a game in their last four outings.
- Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been bullied by upper echelon defenses in recent weeks. Let’s toss out the game against the Bengals a couple weeks ago and crunch some numbers. In the most recent four games minus that one, Big Ben has been sacked 19 times (once for a safety) and thrown seven interceptions (one for a touchdown). Although the Washington Redskins don’t have a great defense, they’re not too shabby. Look for a solid performance this week for Washington. They should be able to get to Roethlisberger at least 3-4 times.
This Week’s Sleepers: Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins and Jacksonville Jaguars
This Week's Six-Pack: Budweiser American Ale
Origin: St. Louis, Missouri
Appearance: Not to be confused with Bud American Lager, this ale is a relatively new offering from Anheuser Busch. It comes in a brown longneck with a maroon label that has the company’s traditional eagle emblem. The packaging provides an upscale look. An aggressive pour into my pint glass resulted in a mammoth three-finger-thick head of cream colored froth pocked with indentations. As the head slowly retreated, it left a nice lace pattern on the side of the glass. The beer itself is amber in color. Quite brilliant in this category overall.
Smell: The aroma is dominated by malt with some faint grapefruit scents.
Taste: Huh, not too bad. I anticipated they’d tone down the bitterness for the mass market. And I was correct. It’s not completely devoid of hop flavors but I was hoping for just a little more chutzpah in that department. Still, there’s enough flavor here to keep your attention. The sweet malt flavors dominate with hints of toffee and caramel. Oddly, somehow underneath it all there’s a distinct “Bud” flavor.
Drinkability: I believe it’s Bud Light that has an ad campaign touting its drinkability. How does this offering from the same company stack up? You can easily drink 4-6 of these without getting turned off. So, yeah, it’s high on the drinkability scale. The mouthfeel is somewhat thin and borders on watery, helping it go down all the more smoothly.
Last Call: I don’t know what to do with this beer mostly because I don’t have much to compare it to. It’s technically not a pale ale so putting it up against Sierra Nevada would be unfair. And the fact that it’s from a macro brewery competing in a micro space puts it into a category unto itself. I generally don’t like to put too much emphasis on price, but the fact that you can get this for $6.99 (and probably closer to $6.00 if you shopped around) makes it worthy of your time. Particularly with the economy being what it is. I’ll give it three stars out of five—even though it’s probably not quite in the same class as the other beers that I’ve given the same mark.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Gösser Dark