- It may seem blasphemous to consider resting Drew Brees for your Week 17 championship game. After all, Brees is likely a key reason you made it to the big dance in the first place. The reality though is the Saints have home field advantage locked up. Brees will play but he won’t likely see much time beyond the first half. Making matters worse, the Saints have to deal with a Carolina defense that has for all practical purposes neutered three of the NFL’s best QBs over the last three games, allowing Eli Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady to combine for just two touchdown passes. If you can find a promising alternative to Brees, it’s not a bad idea to at least entertain the idea.
- A matchup this week against the Bucs looks good on paper for Falcons QB Matt Ryan. However, fantasy owners should take note that the second-year QB has started three games against Tampa in his career and has a putrid 0:4 TD-to-interception ratio. The Buccaneers, who knocked Ryan out of the game in the meeting earlier this year, appear to have his number. Proceed with caution.
- With Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and potentially several other elite QBs expected to rest this week, a QB like Jay Cutler, who would normally be on your bench, becomes very fantasy relevant. Cutler regained some confidence and swagger during last week’s upset of the Vikings and he’s thrown six touchdowns in his last three games. Give him a start this week against the Lions. Detroit has allowed the second most fantasy points to QBs in 2009.
- Miami’s Chad Henne looks legit and deserves starting consideration in deeper leagues. He’s exceeded 300 yards in three of his last four starts. It’d be nice to see him throw a few more touchdowns—he’s only had two multi-TD games this season—but he’s a safe bet for at least 250 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed 2 or 3 passing touchdowns in three of their last four games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton, Matt Moore and Chad Henne
- Denver’s backfield duo of Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter are worth activating against the Chiefs. Kansas City’s diseased run defense has three strikes against it: 1) They’ve allowed the second most rushing yards in the NFL; 2) They’ve allowed the third most fantasy points to RBs this year; 3) They were gutted by Moreno and Buckhalter earlier this season for a combined 214 yards and two touchdowns. Look for both Broncos RBs to chip in useful fantasy stat lines in Week 17.
- Get Colts RB Donald Brown a spot start this week against the Bills. Brown figures to handle the bulk of the carries against a Buffalo club that has allowed fantasy points to RBs by the boatload. In fact, the Bills have allowed a RB to post quality fantasy numbers in 13 of their last 14 games. This includes some monster multi-TD games to guys like Ryan Moats, Thomas Jones and Pierre Thomas. Look for Brown to flirt with 100 yards and a touchdown.
- Bengals RB Cedric Benson has tallied 100 total yards or more in three out of four games since returning from a midseason injury. Still, I wouldn’t touch him this week against the Jets. With their playoff lives on the line, New York will bring their A-game. On the other hand, the Bengals don’t have anything to gain by playing their starters. Benson seems unlikely to play more than one half. Without a full load, he will struggle to put up more than 60 yards versus a Jets defense that has allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points to RBs.
- When a RB has a matchup against the Vikings, it has traditionally been a situation to avoid. However, Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw is a sneaky good play this week. The Minnesota run defense has shown cracks of late. In the last three games, Cedric Benson posted 100 total yards, Jonathan Stewart racked up 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Matt Forte posted 74 rushing yards in a game heavily slanted toward the pass. Bradshaw will get the start this week in place of Brandon Jacobs who underwent knee surgery this week. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of numbers Bradshaw puts up with a full workload. I like his chances of amassing 100+ all-purpose yards and a touchdown.
This Week’s Sleepers: Correll Buckhalter, Donald Brown, Ahmad Bradshaw and Maurice Morris
- By now if you haven’t recognized the incredible ability of Darrelle Revis to shut down the top wideout from every team the Jets have faced, you must have been sleeping under a rock all season. Revis is a marvel at rendering the stat lines of elite level receivers like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Randy Moss, Steve Smith and Andre Johnson useless. Fantasy owners should steer clear of Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco—no matter how bold and brash his claims are on Twitter. Even if he plays a full game, #85 is unlikely to produce for your fantasy squad.
- Despite a favorable matchup, the Six-Pack recommends avoiding Titans WRs Kenny Britt and Nate Washington against the Seahawks. Sure, Seattle has allowed the fourth most fantasy points to WRs but Tennessee will likely do everything possible to get RB Chris Johnson over 2,000 yards. Look for Johnson to flirt with 30 carries this week. The emphasis on the running game could leave few opportunities for the wideouts to make an impact.
- Get Mike Wallace some work this week against the Dolphins. In their last eight games, Miami’s defense has yielded 10 passing touchdowns of 20 yards or longer. In fact, they’ve been burned by the long ball in seven of the last eight contests. Their tendency to give up the big play bodes well for Wallace and Santonio Holmes. Both players have the ability to stretch the field. And with Hines Ward gimpy with not one but two hamstring injuries, Wallace and Holmes figure to get plenty of looks.
- Bench your Colts receivers for this week’s game against the Bills. Indianapolis rested its key starters last week and will definitely do so again. There’s no question that Peyton Manning will be on the bench by the start of the second quarter. Even if Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie play into the second half, they’re highly unlikely to produce a quality stat line. Not with Curtis Painter under center. Not against Buffalo’s #3 ranked pass defense.
This Week’s Sleepers: Mike Wallace, Devin Aromashdodu, Muhsin Muhammad and Mohamed Massaquoi
- Cowboys TE Jason Witten has scored just one touchdown this year but look for him to end the 2009 regular season on a high note and cross the stripe against the Eagles. Witten has historically fared well against Philly. In his last five games against the division rival, Witten has recorded either 7+ receptions or scored a touchdown. It doesn’t hurt Witten’s outlook that the Eagles have allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs this season.
- Minnesota TE Visanthe Shiancoe is questionable for this week’s game against the Giants with thigh and ankle injuries. If he can’t suit up, put Jimmy Kleinsasser on your sleeper list for Week 17. New York has allowed the most fantasy points to TEs this season. Over their last four games, the Giants have allowed a TE to either score a touchdown or exceed 150 yards receiving. Ouch. Kleinsasser is a sneaky plug and play choice for desperate owners.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jim Kleinsasser and Heath Miller
- Chicago’s Robbie Gould merits starting consideration this week against the Lions. Gould has solid upside against a Detroit team that has ceded the most points to kickers in 2009. It’ll help matters that the game is in the Motor City, which means weather won’t be a factor. Gould shrugged off a four game slump last week and put up double digits against the Vikings. A repeat performance should be in store on Sunday.
- Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff has quietly been a solid fantasy performer since taking over the kicking job for the Ravens. He’s scored at least seven points in five of his last six outings. Cundiff should have little difficulty chipping in at least 8-9 points on Sunday against the Raiders. The Silver and Black have allowed nine field goals in their last three games.
This Week’s Sleepers: Robbie Gould, Billy Cundiff and Matt Prater
- Consider the Buffalo Bills defense a viable plug and play option for Sunday’s tilt against the Colts. Indianapolis will trot out Curtis Painter early in the first half of the game. Painter saw limited action in Week 16 against the Jets. He attempted 11 passes and was sacked twice and picked off once. Granted, New York has one of the better defenses in the NFL but Buffalo has some ball-hawking cornerbacks and safeties. The Bills have picked off 26 passes—tied for second most in the NFL.
- Somewhere along the way Matt Hasselbeck morphed into an awful NFL QB. In his last three games, he has thrown three touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. In his last four games, he’s been sacked 12 times. Hasselbeck’s bad luck and bad decision-making point to a successful week for the Tennessee Titans defense. The Titans have flirted with fantasy relevance over the second half of the season but you can bank on a top 5-7 performance this week.
This Week’s Sleepers: Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans
This Week's Six-Pack: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Brewed by: North Coast Brewing, California
Appearance: Old Rasputin came in a stubby brown bottle with a label that featured a black and white illustration of a bearded man. The beer offered a majestic pour. An inky black body was capped off by a unique chocolate milk colored head. The head lasted as long as any beer I’ve ever sampled, clinging to the side of the glass. It was likely thick enough to hold a pencil straight up if I’d placed one in my glass. Based on looks alone, this beer is a winner.
Smell: Intense aromas of espresso beans and roasted malts. Everything you’d expect from a stout.
Taste: The aromas carried forward into the taste with espresso and roasted malts dominating up front. The beer had a sort of a rich, velvety quality to it—almost like drinking chocolate mousse. The finish delivered hints of licorice and heat from the 9% ABV. A wonderfully complex and tasty beer.
Drinkability: All things considered, this beer went down quite smoothly for a stout. The alcohol will catch up with you if you don’t watch out.
Last Call: I am in awe of this beer. Old Rasputin is a kick ass stout. Plain and simple. If you enjoy stouts and see this sitting on the liquor store shelf, don’t pass it up. Five stars out of five.
Next Week's Six-Pack: See you next year!