- Brett Favre is having an MVP-type season and no one would fault you for playing him this week against the Bears. Just don’t underestimate Lovie Smith’s ability to shut down a Favre-led offense. Chicago hired Smith in 2004. Since that time, he’s faced Favre on eight occasions. Favre threw for two scores in one of those meetings . . . in all the rest he was held to a single touchdown or no touchdowns. I’ll grant you that all of those games took place when Favre was playing for the Packers, but whatever Smith did in those previous contests worked. Start Favre if you normally would but don’t be surprised if he is held in check this weekend.
- November has been a tough month for Matt Ryan. He’s hasn’t had a multi-touchdown performance over the last four games, but look for him to break out of his slump this week against the Buccaneers. Tampa has allowed the third most fantasy points to QBs this season. Plus the Bucs just fired their defensive coordinator this week and they’ll be switching defensive schemes. Get Matty Ice some work and bank on 250 yards and two scores.
- Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes in four of his last five games against the Redskins. In 2009, Washington’s stingy defense has allowed just one QB to throw multiple touchdown passes against them. They’ve also allowed the second fewest fantasy points to QBs. This is no doubt a good week to bench McNabb.
- The Jaguars defense ranks 26th in the NFL against the pass and they’ve allowed at least one passing touchdown in every game this year, which makes 49ers QB Alex Smith a safe plug-and-play option in Week 12. Smith has thrown multiple touchdowns in three out of the five games he’s played this season, proving he’s capable of delivering a big game for fantasy owners. Look for 200+ yards and two scores.
This Week’s Sleepers: Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Vince Young and Josh Freeman
- San Diego has bottled up opposing RBs lately. They haven’t allowed a rusher to post more than 80 yards on the ground in five games and they’ve only yielded one RB touchdown over that stretch. Jamaal Charles delivered a useful fantasy stat line last week against the Steelers by way of a two-yard touchdown reception, but I don’t like his chances here. Look for the Chargers to establish an early lead and force the Chiefs to throw.
- When you think of Steelers versus Ravens, the first thoughts that come to mind are likely defense and hard-nosed running. It may surprise you then to learn that Pittsburgh has just one rushing touchdown in their last 10 games against Baltimore. As good as Rashard Mendenhall has been since taking over the starting role, it might be worth exploring other options if you have them. Mendenhall will have a hard time producing against a Ravens defense that has yielded the sixth fewest fantasy points to RBs. He may also be a bit more reluctant to pound the ball up the gut knowing that Ray Lewis shattered his shoulder the last time he ran against Baltimore.
- The Redskins defense has allowed the fifth fewest points to running backs but LeSean McCoy is still a viable fantasy option this week. Washington will likely be without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth missed last week’s game against the Cowboys and Dallas ripped off 153 yards on the ground. Play McCoy if you normally would and expect him to approach or cross the century mark.
- The Carolina Panthers have given up 11 rushing scores this season and at least one RB touchdown every week. They were abused last week by Miami’s Ricky Williams for three touchdowns and over 130 total yards. Thomas Jones has exceeded 100 yards in four of his last five games and he should make it five out of six with a touchdown to boot.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jason Snelling, Julius Jones, Darren Sproles and Steve Slaton
- Steelers wideout Santonio Holmes hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and has by all accounts been a fantasy disappointment in 2009. I’ll vouch for him this week against the Ravens though. Holmes has been nothing short of spectacular throughout his career against the Ravens. Oddly, he’s had more big games against Baltimore than any other team. Dating back to 2007, Holmes has played five games against the Ravens and he’s scored at least one touchdown in every game, including last year’s AFC Championship. Don’t be afraid to roll with Holmes this week.
- San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree scored his first NFL touchdown last week against the Packers. There’s a good chance he’ll make it two in a row and he has the upside to turn in a multi-TD game against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have allowed the second most fantasy points to receivers this season and they’ve ceded at least one WR score in every game this season. Last week, the 49ers passed for 222 yards in the second half when they almost exclusively put QB Alex Smith in the shotgun and went to the spread offense. Look for the team to go with that look earlier on Sunday, which should result in at least 10 targets for Crabtree.
- Don’t underestimate the revenge factor for Chris Chambers this week when he goes up against the Chargers who traded him to KC earlier this season. Chambers has tallied two quality fantasy performances in three games since joining the Chiefs. With Dwayne Bowe out for a few more games because of a suspension, Chambers should continue to see plenty of targets. Look for a minimum of 70 yards this week with a possible score. That makes him a decent WR3 or flex play.
- After being the invisible man for the first half of the season, Carolina’s Steve Smith has re-surfaced with a couple useful fantasy stat lines in a row. Despite the surge in production, Smith is bench-worthy this week against the Jets and shut-down cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Jets have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to WRs this season. It’s also worth noting that Smith has scored just one touchdown in his last 15 road games. This game will be played on the road in the Meadowlands.
This Week’s Sleepers: Michael Crabtree, Chris Chambers, Antonio Bryant and Malcom Floyd
- Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez is a no-brainer start on any week but I like his chances of turning in a top three TE performance against the Bucs. Tampa has allowed a TE touchdown in four of the last five games. They also fired their defensive coordinator this week and will make a mid-season switch back to the Tampa 2 defensive scheme. Even when it’s played at its best, the Tampa 2 defense leaves the middle of the field vulnerable to TEs running seam routes. Look for Gonzalez to exploit the holes in the Buccaneers defense as they re-adjust. A monster performance could be in store for Gonzo this week.
- Examining the same game, Tampa TE Kellen Winslow Jr. should also be activated for Sunday’s tilt against the Falcons. Atlanta has yielded a TE touchdown or 70+ yards to TEs in five of their last six games. The Falcons rank 29th in the NFL versus the pass. Winslow leads all Buccaneers pass catchers with 47 receptions and has a three game streak with four or more. Look for him to have one of his better games of the season this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Bo Scaife
- The Colts vs. Texans matchup figures to be a high-scoring affair. Vegas sets the over/under at 48 points. The temptation might be there to insert Houston’s Kris Brown into your lineup but it’s a situation to avoid. Brown has missed three kicks in his last two outings—including two at the end of the fourth quarter that would’ve sent both games to overtime. He’s rattled and shouldn’t be trusted until he regains some confidence.
- Start Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham this week against the Browns. In addition to having the fifth worst scoring defense in the NFL, Cleveland has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to kickers. The Bengals should be able to move the ball easily against the Browns, giving Graham at least 2-3 field goal attempts. He’s a lock for 8+ points.
This Week’s Sleepers: Shayne Graham and Rob Bironas
- I thought the streak might come to and end against the woeful Chiefs, but lo and behold Jamaal Charles returned the opening kick 97 yards for a touchdown. The Steelers have now allowed a defensive or special teams touchdown in a ridiculous eight straight games. To all the owners of the Baltimore Ravens defense, be sure to give thanks on this Thanksgiving weekend for the interception or kick return touchdown you’re likely to get on Sunday.
- Fantasy owners scouring the wire for a sleeper defense can consider plugging and playing the Carolina Panthers this week against the Jets and rookie QB Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has thrown six interceptions in the last two games. New York has allowed three defensive or special teams scores in their last three outings. While Carolina’s defense is vulnerable to the run, their secondary has some ball hawks. They’ve picked off 11 passes in 2009, tied for eighth most in the NFL.
This Week’s Sleepers: Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers
This Week's Six-Pack: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale
Brewed by: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery, Tadcaster, England
Price: $3.29 (one 550 ml bottle)
Appearance: Rather than a six-pack, I purchased a single 550 ml bottle of Old Brewery Pale Ale. The brown bottle was topped off by a foil cover on the neck and a plain label. This beer was a looker in the glass—copper in color topped by a majestic, symmetrical tan head.
Smell: Extremely light on the nose. So light that it was difficult to detect much of anything. Maybe there were some hints of bread and citrus.
Taste: The taste wasn’t as weak as the aroma, but it wasn’t as robust as I was anticipating either. There were some toasty notes up front with hints of caramel. It also had some buttery characteristics. A mild hop bitterness finally came out in the aftertaste along with a general earthy flavor.
Drinkability: Because of a somewhat watery consistency and low hop levels, this beer was highly quaffable. I had no trouble getting through the entire tall bottle. If you want a pale ale that allows you to drink one after another, start here.
Last Call: Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery Pale Ale is a quality pale ale. At first it seemed to lack complexity and depth. That’s probably because I was comparing it to some of the hop-bomb American pale ales I’ve reviewed here before. When I got past that and started considering Samuel Smith’s for what it is, an English-style pub ale, I started to see the virtue of this beer. This would be a good choice when you’re sitting down for some fish and chips. Still I can’t go higher than three stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Domaine DuPage, Two Brothers Brewing, Warrenville, IL