- Matt Schaub has shown the ability to produce against quality pass defenses over the past couple games. There’s no reason to bench him this week against the Raiders. Oakland ranks among the top 10 defenses versus the pass but they’ve shown signs of weakness over their last two games. Matt Cassel and Phillip Rivers tattooed the Silver and Black for seven passing scores. Look for Schaub to record another fine fantasy performance.
- Assuming the Broncos hang onto their lead in the AFC Worst Division . . . I mean AFC West Division . . . they might be the least-deserving NFL team to make it to the postseason in recent history. There was the whole controversy around the Ed Hoculi call that gave them an extra win but even if you put that aside and examine the team for what they are, you’ll quickly realize the Broncos just aren’t very good. Denver ranks 29th in total defense and 15th in total offense. About the only thing they do well at this point is throw the football and even that might be a struggle this week against a Bills defense that has held opposing QBs to one or fewer passing touchdowns in seven of their last eight games. Jay Cutler is far from a sure thing. However, if he’s the horse who brought you to the championship game, ride him.
- Consider your alternatives before playing Tony Romo this week against the Ravens. Romo has been contributing multiple touchdowns on most weeks, but Baltimore is best in the NFL against the pass and they’ve allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to QBs. There’s also the question of how healthy Romo is after suffering a back contusion last week. If Baltimore can get some hits on him, Romo could be limited. Don’t bank on much more than 220 yards and a touchdown.
- One glaring omission from the Six-Pack’s sleeper list this week is San Francisco’s Shaun Hill. That’s not an oversight. The opposing Rams have proven to be surprisingly capable pass defenders. They haven’t allowed a QB to throw multiple touchdown passes in their last four outings. This includes holding Kurt Warner to 279 yards and one touchdown. Although St. Louis has allowed 17 passing scores in 2008, just five have come over the last six games. Keep Hill on your bench.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Schaub, Dan Orlovsky, Seneca Wallace and Brett Favre
- New Orleans RB Pierre Thomas figures to be perched near the top of all fantasy players for scoring in Week 16. Thomas will be a true every-down back with Reggie Bush on the IR. He should abuse a Lions defense that has given up the most fantasy points to RBs in 2008. Detroit has ceded 15 touchdowns to RBs in their last six games—over two per outing. You’d be crazy not to activate Thomas this week.
- Green Bay’s Ryan Grant isn’t a terrible play this week versus a Bears team against which he’s traditionally fared well. Grant has faced the Bears twice in his career and on both occasions rushed for 100 yards and scored a touchdown. Chicago’s defense has yielded at least one touchdown to RBs in seven of their last eight contests. Play Grant if you normally would.
- Michael Turner owners got a gift when Pat Williams went down with a shoulder injury last week. Williams, who anchors Minnesota’s top-ranked run defense, will miss this week’s game against the Falcons. Without the beefy defensive tackle to plug the middle, Turner should have room to run. Look for Turner to approach 100 yards with a touchdown. There’s no reason to bench him this week.
- The Steelers defense has allowed just five rushing scores this season. All five of them have been of the goal-line variety (inside the four-yard line). Since Titans rookie RB Chris Johnson rarely gets touches in that territory, his chances of scoring a touchdown this week appear slim. Don’t count on anything more than 60-70 all-purpose yards from him.
This Week’s Sleepers: DeShaun Foster, Darren McFadden, Ricky Williams and Kevin Smith
- Braylon Edwards might have newfound confidence after his 102-yard effort on Monday night against the Eagles. If you don’t trust your regular starters, roll the dice with Edwards against the Bengals. He’s recorded five touchdowns in his last three games versus the division rival. The Bengals have allowed the fourth most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2008.
- Temper your expectations for Santana Moss this week against the Eagles. Moss has faced Philly six times since he’s been a Redskin. Over that period he’s never scored a touchdown or exceeded 90 yards receiving in a game.
- Antonio Bryant has been a machine lately, posting four touchdowns and 371 yards in his last three outings. Look for his marvelous streak to continue against the Chargers, who have allowed 28 touchdowns—tied for most in the NFL. Only Oakland’s wideouts have failed to score a touchdown against San Diego in their last three games. Bryant should be good for 100 yards and a touchdown here.
- Bills wideout Lee Evans has been awful for the last couple games but he should re-emerge this week with QB Trent Edwards back under center. The Edwards-to-Evans hookup has worked well this season, particularly on the road. In five of the six road games with Edwards at the helm, Evans exceeded 70 yards. Three of Evans’ four 100-yard games have come on the road, as well. Look for 80 yards and a score from him against the Broncos.
This Week’s Sleepers: Lee Evans, Chad Johnson, Lance Moore, Bryant Johnson and Kevin Walter
- You can’t bench him, but you should recognize that Tony Gonzalez will be going up against the team that has allowed the fewest fantasy points to TEs this season. The Dolphins have held opposing TEs in check and that includes decent players like Antonio Gates, Zach Miller and John Carlson. Don’t be stunned if Gonzalez has a down week . . . of course a “down week” could still mean 60 yards and a touchdown for Gonzo.
- Seattle has been somewhat vulnerable to opposing TEs lately, allowing three TE scores in their last three games. Although Jets TE Dustin Keller has seen a dip in production over the last two games, he might be worth the risk this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dustin Keller and Jeremy Shockey
- If Titans kicker Rob Bironas has carried you this far, you could make a strong case for keeping him active. However, the Six-Pack will play devil’s advocate and tell you why he might be better on your bench. Pittsburgh’s defense allows just 13.7 points per game, the fewest in the NFL. Although the Steelers have allowed multiple field goal kicks in both of their last two outings, the point-scoring opportunities are scarce for every opponent. Four of their last five opponents have scored 10 points or less. The Titans don’t have the weapons to put up more than 13 points in this game; that makes Bironas a risky play.
- Inclement weather has ripped across the country over the last week, which is putting some notable kickers at risk for fantasy purposes. If you need a fill-in look to the comfortable confines of Ford Field. New Orleans kicker Garrett Hartley figures to post at least seven points this week when the Saints face the Lions. Detroit has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to kickers this season. Heck, you could even get by with Jason Hanson because the Saints have allowed the sixth most.
This Week’s Sleepers: Garrett Hartley, Jason Hanson and Joe Nedney
- Lower your expectations for the Minnesota Vikings defense for Sunday’s game against the Falcons. The Purple will be without key run stopper Pat Williams, which means Michael Turner could have room to run. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has done a remarkable job protecting the football this season; he’s thrown just nine interceptions. Ryan also rarely takes a sack. In fact, he’s only been sacked 14 times this season. Scoring opportunities for the Vikings could be few and far between.
- The temptation might be there for some owners to put in a waiver claim for the New Orleans Saints defense this week and play them against the Lions. However, QB Dan Orlovsky has doesn’t make as many mental mistakes as you’d think. He’s thrown an interception in just one of his last five games. The Saints probably aren’t as good of a fantasy play as you may have thought they were.
This Week’s Sleepers: Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks
This Week's Six-Pack: Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter, England
Price: $9.99 (four-pack)
Appearance: A dark brown embossed bottle with gold foil gives Taddy Porter an upscale look. The pour was excellent with the jet black and completely opaque beer capped by a tan head that resembled pancake batter. The head reduces slightly but lingers just enough to leave a nice lace after each gulp.
Smell: Relatively tame aromas of coffee and bakers’ chocolate. There’s also sort of a roasted (almost burnt) nut smell.
Taste: Strong coffee flavor along with chocolate tones. The intermingling of those two tastes resembles a chocolate covered espresso bean. I pulled my first Taddy Porter out of the fridge and immediately began drinking. That was a mistake because this beer gets much more flavorful the closer it gets to room temperature. The aftertaste is bitter at first but the bitterness fades and you’re left with a flavor resembling an oatmeal cookie with walnuts.
Drinkability: Taddy Porter full-bodied and filling. The ABV is surprisingly low at 5 percent, making this a beer of which you could easily have more than one.
Last Call: Porters originate from England, which may make my preference of Sierra Nevada Porter (rated five stars a couple seasons ago) seem like sacrilege. Nonetheless, Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter gets a respectable, but not perfect, four stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Longhammer IPA