- Although he’s coming off his best performance of the 2008 season, don’t count on another monster effort from Donovan McNabb. The Eagles QB has traditionally struggled at the Meadowlands. In five career starts versus the Giants on the road, McNabb has averaged just 145.8 passing yards per game and has just three total touchdowns through the air.
- Having spent his entire career in the AFC East, Chad Pennington has faced the Bills nine times. In those nine meetings, he’s never thrown more than one touchdown in a game. You can probably find a better option to start this week.
- Give Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck a look against a Patriots defense that has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four straight road games and three straight games overall. With a couple outings under his belt since returning from injury, Hasselbeck should be primed for a two-touchdown game. New England has allowed the eighth most fantasy points to QBs in 2008.
- Roll the dice with San Francisco’s Shaun Hill this week if you’re desperate for a QB with upside. The Jets have the third-worst pass defense in the NFL and they’ve given up the fourth most fantasy points to QBs. Prior to last week’s yawner in Buffalo, Hill had thrown multiple touchdowns in three straight games. He should get back on track at home against a New York team that has allowed an incredible 1,000 passing yards over their last three games (an average of 333.3 per week). Think Mike Martz isn’t frothing at the mouth about that stat?
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Hill, Daunte Culpepper and Matt Cassel
- Rookie Tim Hightower has disappointed fantasy owners who were looking for him to emerge as an every-week contributor after he took the starting job from Edgerrin James. While there have been bright spots, Hightower is averaging fewer than three yards per carry. Still, he’s worth a shot this week against the Rams, a team against which he recorded his only 100-yard game of the season. St. Louis has allowed nine scores to RBs in their last four games.
- Chiefs RB Larry Johnson has been a beast against the Broncos throughout his career. He’s surpassed 125 yards rushing in five of his last six outings versus Denver. Over that six-game stretch, he’s crossed the stripe seven times. Start Johnson with confidence against a Broncos rush defense that ranks 28th in the NFL against the run.
- Rams RB Steven Jackson has just one touchdown in seven career meetings against the Cardinals. Considering how pathetic Arizona’s defense has been over the years, that stat is quite stunning. I wouldn’t have any qualms about benching Jackson if I had a decent alternative this week. Arizona allows fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. They’ve given up 10 rushing scores this season but only three have come at home and one of those was on a QB sneak.
- The Seattle defense has allowed six touchdowns to RBs in their last four games. In 2008, they’ve given up the 11th most fantasy points to RBs. Give Patriots RB Sammy Morris a nod this week if your other options aren’t looking good. Morris has averaged 4.5 yards per carry the last two games against tough run defenses. He even managed to score a touchdown last week against the Steelers, who rarely give up rushing scores. I like Morris’ chances of finishing with 100 all-purpose yards and a score.
This Week’s Sleepers: Tim Hightower, Sammy Morris, Peyton Hillis and Pierre Thomas
- Rams wideout Torry Holt has been one of the more disappointing fantasy players this season, but he’s at least worth a look this week against the Cardinals. Despite his free fall in production, Holt has been remarkably consistent against Arizona. Get this: Holt has faced the Cards 13 times in his career. In all 13 meetings, he’s exceeded 90 yards or scored a touchdown. This includes a 6-catch, 58-yard, 1-TD effort earlier this season.
- Suspended New York wide receiver Plaxico Burress has faced the Eagles seven times since joining the Giants. He scored or exceeded 100 yards in all but one game. I like Domenik Hixon’s chances of filling Burress’ shoes this week and hauling in a touchdown reception—even though Philly ranks 9th in the NFL against the pass.
- Avoid Bengals wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Ocho Cinco this week against the Colts. The Indianapolis defense has yielded just one receiving touchdown to wide receivers in their last eight games. Both Houshmandzadeh and Ocho Cinco have been held scoreless in their last two outings.
- Terrell Owens has come on like gangbusters since the return of Tony Romo, but lower your expectations for him this week. He’ll go up against a Steelers defense that is the best in the NFL at defending the pass. Pittsburgh has negated many big-play receivers this season including Randy Moss, Santana Moss, Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards. It’ll be surprising if Owens goes for more than 85 yards—particularly if the weather is bad.
This Week’s Sleepers: Torry Holt, Domenik Hixon, Deion Branch, Donald Driver and Jerricho Cotchery
- The Jets have had trouble slowing down tight ends in recent weeks. Last week, Denver’s Tony Scheffler put up 90 yards. Three weeks ago New England’s Ben Watson posted 88 yards and a touchdown. The team is second only to the Chargers in most fantasy points allowed to TEs. Consider San Francisco’s Vernon Davis a sneaky play this week. Davis has scored a touchdown in two of his last three games.
- Chiefs TE Tony Gonzalez has been en fuego over the last four weeks. He’s posted 100+ yards in three of his last four outings and scored three touchdowns over the stretch. Look for him to continue his hot streak against the Broncos, a team he’s scored against in two straight games. Denver also happens to have allowed the third most fantasy points to TEs this season.
This Week’s Sleepers: Vernon Davis and Kevin Boss
- You’d think a matchup against the Lions would be a cakewalk for a kicker. However, since he came to the Vikings, Ryan Longwell has averaged just 5.8 points per game against Detroit—and he’s never exceeded eight points in any one contest. It’s okay to keep Longwell in your lineup, but don’t count on double figures.
- The Sunday weather forecast in Pittsburgh is calling for wind in excess of 20 mph, snow and temperatures below freezing. Steelers kicker Jeff Reed and Cowboys kicker Nick Folk recorded strong showings in Week 13, but they might struggle this weekend. Be sure to have Plan B in place for your kicker position in case the weather looks like it’ll be a factor at Heinz Field.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dan Carpenter and Matt Stover
- The Tennessee Titans defense absolutely dominated the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day, registering four sacks, three turnovers and a touchdown. With the Browns coming to town with Ken Dorsey under center, the Titans look poised for another big game. Dorsey will be starting his first game since 2005. It would be a surprise if the Browns score more than 10 points.
- Give the Indianapolis Colts defense a spot start this week against the Bengals, who haven’t scored more than 13 points over the last three weeks. During that futile three-game stretch, Cincinnati QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sacked 12 times. Dwight Freeney and company should be in for a productive afternoon.
This Week’s Sleepers: Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins
This Week's Six-Pack: Celebrator Dopplebock
Price: $10.99 (four-pack)
Origin: Ayinger Brewery, Germany
Appearance: The first thing you’ll notice about Celebrator Dopplebock is that it comes with a plastic trinket in the shape of a ram around the neck of each bottle. The little plastic tokens didn’t do anything for me, but my two little girls loved them. The label, affixed to an 11.2 oz. brown longneck, features two rams hoisting a glass of beer. The brew pours to a rich, almost inky black color with faint ruby highlights. It’s nearly opaque. The head, which is tan in color, is substantial with fair staying power.
Smell: The smell is dominated toasted malt backed by molasses, brown sugar and hints of raisins.
Taste: Celebrator is rich, robust and delicious—and it gets better as the temperature warms a bit. Roasted malt flavors are bold and in your face. The roasted qualities give way to a complex interwoven pattern of molasses, bread and nuts. The aftertaste shares some similarities with the roasted bitterness of coffee. Brilliant complexity.
Drinkability: The label indicates Celebrator is 6.7% ABV, which is right for this style. It’s nice that you don’t notice the alcohol on the palette (although you will notice its potency later). The beer has a luxurious, comforting quality to it that plays well with the winter weather.
Last Call: If you enjoy dopplebocks, this one sets the standard. Five stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: 2 Below Ale, New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, Colorado