- I’ve seen some fantasy writers compiling lists of the biggest fantasy busts for 2009. How about adding Tom Brady to those lists? This is a guy who was generally one of the first three QBs off the board in drafts this fall. In his last five games, Brady has posted just one multi-TD game. That’s not cutting it. The good news is if you survived last week in spite of his foul fantasy performance, you should benefit from a bounce back against the Jags. Jacksonville has allowed the sixth most fantasy points to QBs this year. Play Brady and hope he turns things around.
- The Panthers pass defense has been a blight on opposing QBs for the last several weeks. The club hasn’t allowed a multi-TD passing effort to a QB in seven weeks. No QB has thrown for over 225 yards in six weeks. If you were counting on Eli Manning for your championship game, it might be worth a look on the waiver wire to see if you can find a better matchup.
- After tossing multiple touchdowns in four straight games, 49ers QB Alex Smith took a step back in Week 15 against the Eagles. He threw for just 177 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Don’t lose faith now though. Not with the Lions coming to town. Detroit has allowed the most fantasy points to QBs this season. Smith should be good for 250 yards and two scores.
- The San Diego bandwagon has reached a point where it’s standing room only. Many people consider them the favorite to come out of the AFC. However, for fantasy purposes the Chargers defense shouldn’t be feared—especially when it comes to the passing game. The Bolts have allowed three straight above average fantasy stat lines to QBs. Scan their box scores this season and you’ll see that every time they’ve faced a decent QB, that QB has had a good day. Play Tennessee’s Vince Young with confidence.
This Week’s Sleepers: Alex Smith, Vince Young, Chad Henne and David Garrard
- The Houston run defense has held the last four starting RBs it’s faced to 82 yards rushing or less. This includes guys like Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew and Joseph Addai. In fact, going back 11 weeks, no RB other than Tennessee’s Chris Johnson has more than 82 yards rushing against the Texans. Temper your expectations for Miami’s Ricky Williams this week and hope for a TD plunge because yardage could be hard to come by.
- Atlanta’s Jason Snelling is worth a matchup-based start against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the most fantasy points to RBs in 2009. Starter Michael Turner continues to be limited with a high ankle sprain. Even if Turner attempts to play, Snelling should get his fair share of carries. With Buffalo allowing nearly five yards per rush attempt, it won’t take too many touches for Snelling to turn in a useful fantasy stat line.
- Consider seeking an alternative to Joseph Addai in Week 16. The Colts will play host to a Jets run defense that has allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points to RBs this season. Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell has been mum on how much playing time the starters will see. There is some risk that Addai, who has shown a tendency to get nicked up, will rest late in this game to preserve him for the playoffs. Even if he gets his typical 15-16 carries, he may struggle to rack up quality fantasy numbers considering the Jets defend the run well.
- Roll the dice with Oakland RB Michael Bush or consider deploying Darren McFadden as a flex option. The Raiders should find plenty of holes in a Cleveland run defense that ranks 29th in the NFL. The Browns have been bludgeoned by opposing rushers this season. Last week, Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles hung 170 total yards and a touchdown on them. Bush was a forgotten man for most of the season in Oakland but finally got his chance last week. He ran the ball 18 times for 133 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos. McFadden chipped in 74 yards. Look for both players to figure prominently into the gameplan against Cleveland.
This Week’s Sleepers: Michael Bush, Larry Johnson, Mike Bell and Fred Jackson
- Steelers wideout Santonio Holmes will look to keep his improbable streak of good fortune against the Ravens alive this week. Holmes has scored a touchdown in six straight games against the Ravens (including last year’s playoff meeting). Obviously make sure you have him active for your championship game.
- In recent years, the Colts pass defense has been stingy, ranking near the top of the league in preventing fantasy production for WRs and QBs. However, they’ve been vulnerable over the last four games, allowing multiple passing scores in each outing. It’s not a bad time to dust off Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards. Both receivers have had their moments in 2009 and with Mark Sanchez back under center last week, they both caught five or more passes. Look for useful stat lines from Cotchery and Edwards this week.
- It’s a good news, bad news situation for Bills WRs Terrell Owens and Lee Evans. The Buffalo receiving duo will face an Atlanta pass defense that ranks 30th in the NFL. On the other hand, the Bills will trot out Brian Brohm at QB. It will be Brohm’s first NFL start. He was a second round draft pick by the Packers a few seasons ago but the team unceremoniously dumped him after he fell far short of expectations. Because so little is know about Brohm, starting Owens or Evans is a risky proposition. Exhaust all your options before going to battle with either wideout.
- Green Bay isn’t a bad place to look if you need some help in your receiving corps this week. The Packers face a Seahawks defense that has yielded multiple passing touchdowns in eight of their last nine games. Seattle also ranks 29th in the NFL against the pass, giving up 250 yards through the air each week. Greg Jennings and Donald Driver are no-brainer starts. Take a chance on James Jones or Jordy Nelson if you’re desperate.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jerricho Cotchery, Bernard Berrian, Josh Morgan, James Jones and Devery Henderson
- Packers TE Jermichael Finley is one to watch in 2010 but he’s also one to start in Week 16. Green Bay hosts the Seahawks this week. Seattle has ceded a TE touchdown in two of their last three games. Over the same three-game stretch, Finley has been en fuego, recording 70+ yards in each outing with three touchdowns. Consider the athletic Packers TE a lock for five receptions and 70+ yards with a good chance at reaching paydirt.
- The historical numbers don’t add up for Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller against the Ravens. Miller has never exceeded 35 yards receiving against Baltimore. Earlier this season, he had just one catch for two yards against the division rival. While Miller has scored a few touchdowns versus the Ravens, his lack of receptions and yardage is disconcerting. Find another option if you can.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jeremy Shockey and Anthony Fasano
- Acquiring and starting Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham is an easy way for fantasy owners to pick up a few more points in their championship game. The Bengals face a Kansas City team that has allowed 40+ points in three of their last four games. The Chiefs have also yielded the second most fantasy points to kickers in 2009. Pencil in Graham for double-digit points.
- Despite a favorable matchup against the Seahawks, it might be time to jump ship on Packers kicker Mason Crosby. Crosby has missed a kick in four straight games. The weather forecast in Green Bay calls for flurries and temperatures below freezing, which will shorten Crosby’s range. Expect something in the neighborhood of 3-4 extra points and a field goal for the erratic Green Bay place kicker.
This Week’s Sleepers: Shayne Graham and Joe Nedney
- The Atlanta Falcons defense hasn’t done much to inspire confidence for fantasy owners this season. With 11 interceptions, 15 forced fumbles, 25 sacks and two defensive touchdowns, they’re no better than a middle-of-the-road fantasy defense. That said, the Six-Pack recommends owners take a chance on them against the Bills. Buffalo is going to start third-string QB Brian Brohm. Any time a young QB gets his first NFL start, there’s usually an opportunity for the opposing defense to make some plays. Consider the Falcons a sneaky pickup and play option for Week 16.
- Following the same principle that inexperienced QBs generally give up big performances to fantasy defenses, the San Francisco 49ers DST is worth a spot start against the Lions. Detroit will trot out third-string QB Drew Stanton. Stanton has seen action in two games this season and has thrown three interceptions compared to zero touchdowns. He’s also been sacked three times.
This Week’s Sleepers: Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers
This Week's Six-Pack: Anchor “Our Special Ale 2009”
Brewed by: Anchor Brewing Company, California
Appearance: This beer, from one of my favorite North American breweries, came in a brown torpedo-shaped bottle. The label featured a tree and a holiday greeting. Anchor’s Special Ale has been available every holiday season since 1975—albeit with a different recipe each year. The 2009 edition pours to a nearly opaque dark, chestnut color. A modest pancake batter head rested atop the brew and lingered for most of the sampling.
Smell: Abundant aroma. Predominant smells are nutmeg and brown sugar. As it warms, a few swirls and sniffs made me draw a comparison to Worcestershire sauce.
Taste: This ale packed a malty punch. Rich and full of flavor from beginning to end. The strong malt backbone was complimented nicely by a variety of tastes from bitter dark chocolate to cinnamon. Amidst it all was sort of a woodsy quality. The finish resembles gingersnaps.
Drinkability: This isn’t a beer to drink in mass quantities. Two is plenty but every sip was a pleasure.
Last Call: A fabulous winter ale. I can’t wait to see what they come up with in 2010. Four stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, North Coast Brewing, California