- If you haven’t checked out The Huddle’s new Strength of Schedule tool, do yourself a favor and play around with it. It will continue to become more relevant as the season wears on. Right now there are some anomalies that will correct themselves once another game or two are in the books. The Seahawks are one such example. Their defense has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs in 2009. Don’t read too much into that figure though. This is the same team that gave up the second-most points to QBs last year. Chalk up their success this season to the fact that they’ve only faced Marc Bulger and Shaun Hill. Bears QB Jay Cutler is a whole different animal. After a shaky start in the opener against the Packers, Cutler settled down nicely against the Steelers, completing 71.7 percent of his passes and throwing two touchdowns. He’ll be good for another pair of scores on Sunday.
- Don’t feel like you absolutely need to bench Bengals QB Carson Palmer this week against the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s pass defense has yielded a couple passable fantasy performances to QBs already this season. Kerry Collins threw for 244 yards and a touchdown. Jay Cutler posted 236 yards and two touchdowns. While he’s unlikely to carry your squad this week, Palmer should flirt with top 12 QB stats against the ‘Burgh. Start him unless you have a clear alternative.
- Prior to the season, if I would’ve compiled a list of QBs I would never draft for fantasy purposes, Eli Manning most definitely would’ve been on the list. Last season, he passed for fewer than 200 yards in 10 games. He threw zero or one touchdown in 11 games. That’s mediocrity. Times are changing. Although I think the Giants will try to get their running game going this week, Manning is still a good start against the Bucs. Tampa has allowed five passing scores this season — every one of them 32 yards or greater in distance. Bank on 240 yards and two scores from the younger Manning.
- The Detroit Lions have allowed the most fantasy points to QBs. No surprise there. Even so I don’t see Jason Campbell as a wise sleeper play this week. Washington’s offense is so vanilla it’s sick. Campbell’s longest play this season was a 35-yard pass completion to Antwaan Randle El and it came on a short pass that Randle El turned into a big play. I wonder who has more job security, Campbell or head coach Jim Zorn. If the Redskins lose, both of them may get called into Danny Snyder’s office come Monday morning.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jake Delhomme, David Garrard and Brett Favre
- Owners who were expecting to get Pierre Thomas back this week may have to stomach another game without him in their starting lineups. While Thomas is likely to be active Sunday against the Saints, second-year back Lynell Hamilton shared first team reps with Thomas and Reggie Bush. Hamilton may see significant carries versus the Bills but both he and Thomas are risky starts against Buffalo unless it’s clear how the carries will be divided. Reggie Bush would seem to be the primary beneficiary and is playable in all formats. He looks fully healthy and is getting plenty of looks and touches (redzone touches, no less). Buffalo has allowed 18 receptions to RBs in two games, including one touchdown. It’s also worth noting that QBs are averaging 50+ passes per game against them. Bush figures to get 100+ yards with a possible touchdown, much of it coming through the air.
- Last week all of the Huddle writers received a venomous e-mail from a subscriber demanding a refund because various site contributors told him Maurice Jones-Drew was in-line for a good game against the Cardinals. MJD did okay but not great, which pushed this reader over the edge. At the risk of getting flamed, I’m going to suggest MJD will turn in a top 3 fantasy performance this week. The Texans have allowed the most fantasy points to RBs to date. This game feels like it could be a shootout. Dating back to 2007, the last four meetings between the Texans and Jaguars have seen the teams combine for an average of 57 points per game. It’d be surprising if MJD didn’t serve up 130 all-purpose yards and a touchdown or two.
- Baltimore RBs have tormented the Browns lately. In 2008, they posted 384 total yards and four touchdowns in two meetings. Under most common fantasy scoring systems that’s 31 points per game. Has Cleveland’s defense markedly improved since last season? Nope, through two games they’ve given up the second-most fantasy points to RBs. Many owners hold both Ray Rice and Willis McGahee and are beating themselves up over the decision about which one to start on a given week. As luck would have it, those owners can comfortably start both in Week 3.
- It’s a good news, bad news story for Marion Barber owners this week. The good news is his injury doesn’t look serious enough to keep him out of this week’s game against the Panthers on Monday night. The bad news is the Cowboys look like they’ll limit his carries by spelling him often with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. If you have a decent bench option (and that would include Jones), I’d roll with him over the Barbarian. Barber figures to get about 10-12 touches, which puts him right on the edge of being playable.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Bush, LeSean McCoy, Tim Hightower and Donald Brown
- This is a good week to deactivate Seahawks wideouts T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson. QB Matt Hasselbeck has a broken rib and is expected to miss the game against the Bears. Even if he plays, Chicago’s secondary has been rock solid this year other than the meltdown at the end of the Packers play that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown. I don’t see Seattle scoring more than 13 points in this contest, which will make scoring opportunities for Houshmandzadeh and Burleson scarce.
- Steelers wideout Hines Ward has burnt the Bengals for five touchdowns in his last four games against the Bengals. He should be active this week. The Steelers running game is M.I.A, which means more passing. QB Ben Roethlisberger averaged 29 passes per game in 2008. He’s averaging 39 so far in 2009. If the trend continues, both Ward and Santonio Holmes will continue to out-perform their average draft positions.
- The Cowboys secondary will experience some déjà vu on Monday night. Last week they were torched for 134 yards and a touchdown by Steve Smith of the Giants. This week look for another fat performance, this time from Steve Smith of the Panthers. Smith should enjoy Jake Delhomme both as a person and as a QB on Monday. Dallas ranks 30th in the NFL versus the pass. They’ve been burnt by four passes over 30 yards this season against wideouts, none of whom are generally not considered to be especially dangerous downfield threats. Look for Smith to get a couple chances on deep throws and capitalize on at least one.
- Eddie Royal is a wide receiver who I think will eventually re-emerge, but I’d keep him out of your lineup for another week. Royal had an outstanding game in his last trip to Oakland, recording nine catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, but he’s not quite on the same page as QB Kyle Orton. The good news is it’s not for a lack of trying. Royal was targeted nine times last week. This despite missing the third quarter while receiving an IV in the locker room. The duo also had a near miss in the endzone for a touchdown. With a matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha and the Raiders, another disappointing game seems likely but come Tuesday, resist the temptation to dump him.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mario Manningham, Bernard Berrian, Johnny Knox and Devery Henderson
- Give New York’s Dustin Keller a nod this week. Tight ends have snared 17 receptions against the Titans so far in 2009. The tight end play this season has been outstanding as a whole so Keller is getting overlooked by a lot of people. He’s quietly gone two-for-two in posting quality fantasy performances, including a touchdown last week.
- Saints TE Jeremy Shockey is worth a spot start this week against a Bills team that’s already allowed four TE touchdowns in 2009. Shockey hauled in two touchdown receptions in Week 1 and followed it up with four receptions for 49 yards in Week 2. Another quality contribution and Shockey will officially be back as a regular fantasy starter.
This Week’s Sleepers: Dustin Keller Jeremy Shockey and Jermichael FInley
- The Browns defense has allowed nine or more points to kickers in both games this year. Although he’s been making most of his money on extra points, I like Baltimore’s Steven Hauschka this week. The Ravens have put up 31 or more points in all of their games so far. That trend should continue against a middling Browns defense. Hauschka is good for at least eight points.
- Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding is a perfect five for five on field goal kicks in 2009 and is the fourth-highest scoring NFL kicker. If you’re fortunate enough to own him, he could make a difference for you this week with a double-digit effort. Miami has allowed the ninth most fantasy points this season and would rank much lower had Jason Elam not missed two kicks in the opener. Look for the Chargers to move the ball but have a few drives stall out in Miami territory and result in FGs, especially if LaDainian Tomlinson rests again.
This Week’s Sleepers: Steven Hauschka and Kris Brown
- Owners of the Chicago Bears defense might be optimistic about their chances this week if Seneca Wallace starts, but I’d temper those expectations. Wallace played in nine games last year. He threw an interception in just two of those games. He also is a mobile QB, which could help him avoid the rush. Start the Bears if you normally would. Just don’t think you’re getting any extra edge if Wallace is under center.
- Marc Bulger hasn’t thrown an interception or lost a fumble in 2009. I would bank on that changing this week against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions this year and one of them was returned for a touchdown. Green Bay’s offense should get out of neutral this week because the Rams have zero pass rush (one sack), which is what’s hampered Aaron Rodgers this year. If the offense gets the lead, which seems likely, the defense could feast on Bulger.
This Week’s Sleepers: Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos
This Week's Six-Pack: Lagunitas IPA, Laguanitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, Calif.
Appearance Lagunitas IPA (pronounced ‘lah-goo-KNEE-tuss’) comes in a stubby brown bottle with a rather plain label. An aggressive pour was answered by a frothy off-white ½-inch thick head. The head held up nicely. The beer was clear with no cloudiness. Copper in color. Huge amounts of carbonation clung to the side of my glass.
Smell: A swirl of my pint glass revealed a big, robust aroma of grapefruit and crushed pine needles.
Taste: The smell suggested this beer would deliver a brilliant hop bite. Even the label proclaims it to be a “homicidally hoppy beer.” Maybe the bar was set too high before I took my first sip, but it left me wanting more. Yes, the hops are the leading characteristic; they just aren’t as intense as they could (or should) be for an IPA. The flavors made me think of pine sap and mandarin oranges. Things seemed off the mark at the end of every sip and I was left with an herbal or astringent aftertaste.
Drinkability: The beer isn’t too powerful, which makes it go down smooth. However, the slightly objectionable aftertaste brings it down a few notches though.
Last Call: All in all, a solid entry-level IPA but it would be easy to find something better. Three stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Maredsous Triple Ale, Belgium