- I was wrong about Donovan McNabb. I counted myself among his doubters during the preseason. I didn’t think he had enough weapons around him and was disappointed when he started shying away from using his legs to make plays. On Monday night, we all saw shades of the old McNabb—two passing TDs, two rushing TDs, and over 330 yards of offense. The injuries to key offensive teammates, including Brian Westbrook, Reggie Brown, and Donte Stallworth, mean McNabb is likely going to need similar performances in order for the Eagles to continue their winning ways. Start him with confidence this week against the Cowboys and look for another gusty effort.
- If you’re desperate for QB points this week, consider picking Minnesota’s Brad Johnson off the scrap heap. The Vikings offense has been sputtering this season; the team hasn’t broken 20 yet. But that should change in Week 5 when the team welcomes the Lions to the Metrodome. Detroit has allowed an NFL high 10 passing TDs. Johnson should finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 yards and two TDs.
- Think twice before starting Matt Leinart this week against the Chiefs. KC ranks second in the NFL against the pass, and they haven’t given up a TD through the air this season. The future looks bright for the former USC star. Unfortunately, his first NFL start is likely to be rougher than the five o’clock shadow on his face.
- Patience is a virtue. Rams QB Mark Bulger started out with just two TDs in his first three games—a far cry from what fantasy owners are used to. But he finally started to look comfortable in head coach Scott Linehan’s offense last week, throwing for three scores and 328 yards. He should follow up the big performance with another huge effort against the Packers. Green Bay has allowed multiple passing TDs in their last three games. The team’s secondary is a bit shorthanded after cutting cornerback Ahmad Carroll, so look for Bulger to throw three TDs.
This Week’s Sleepers: Brad Johnson, Alex Smith, Mark Brunell, and Byron Leftwich
- After making owners who drafted him look like geniuses in the first two weeks, 49ers RB Frank Gore has stumbled a bit. He’s averaged just 58.5 rushing yards per game since Week 3. He should return to form this week against the Raiders. Opponents average 38 carries per game against the Silver and Black. Gore should get enough touches this week to post around 125 yards and a TD.
- Both Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes are strong plays this week against the Titans. Not only does Tennessee rank dead last in the NFL against the run, but they will also be without arguable their second-best defensive lineman, Albert Haynesworth. Look for Addai and Rhodes to post around 200 yards of total offense with two scores.
- Bills RB Willis McGahee leads the NFL in rushing with 389 yards. You can make a pretty strong case that he should be in your starting lineup every week, but I’d give a whole lot of thought before I trotted him out against the Bears. Chicago hasn’t given up a TD to a running back all season. Starting RBs are averaging just 39.5 yards per game in Soldier Field. If the Bears get an early lead in this game, McGahee is going to struggle to get 80 yards because he’s rarely used as a receiver.
- The Steelers come off their bye week well rested and well prepared to tangle with the Chargers. After dropping two of their first three games this season, they’ll be itching to get back in the win column. I expect them to do a good job containing LaDainian Tomlinson on the ground; however, LT should do enough damage on flares, swing passes, and screens to make an impact for his owners. Look for around 100 all-purpose yards, but not much more.
This Week’s Sleepers: Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, LenDale White, and DeShaun Foster
- Looks like Packers wideout Greg Jennings has fully earned the trust of QB Brett Favre. Favre has targeted the rookie 16 times in the last two games, connecting for 187 yards and a touchdown. He’s proven himself to be worthy of a start on most weeks. A Week 5 rendezvous with the Rams is certainly no exception. St. Louis was sliced and diced by wideouts Roy Williams and Mike Furrey last week to the tune of 17 receptions and two scores.
- A couple interesting trends in the WAS vs. NYG game: New York’s Plaxico Burress was shut down last year in both meetings against the Redskins, averaging just 41 yards per game with zero scores. Burress is said to be fully recovered from a back injury, but don’t count on healthy numbers from the Giants’ top wideout. Keep him in your lineup, but lower your expectations. On the other hand, Santana Moss has been a bit of a Giant killer throughout his career. He’s faced New York three times (once as a Jet) and posted two 3-TD games. He’ll be one of the top fantasy performers again this week.
- A lot of fantasy owners who bought into the Matt Jones hype this preseason might be feeling like they took a sucker punch below the belt right now. Jones is averaging just 39.3 yards per game with zero TDs. Meanwhile, Reggie Williams, who went undrafted in a lot of leagues, has had three great performances in four games. Bench Jones this week. He’s doubtful with groin and hamstring injuries. Because he’s unlikely to play, Williams figures to become an even more important part of the offense and should be started in all leagues. He’ll face off against a Jets pass defense that ranks 27th in the NFL. Earnest Wilford could be a sleeper worth considering in deep leagues.
- Neither Marvin Harrison nor Reggie Wayne has found the endzone yet this season. That will change this week when the Colts play host to the Titans. Tennessee is reeling right now and they were manhandled by the Cowboys in Week 4. Don’t be surprised if Harrison and Wayne combine for three TDs in a route.
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Williams, Greg Jennings, Arnaz Battle, Doug Gabriel, and Greg Lewis
- The Detroit Lions have been bloodied by opposing tight ends this season. They’ve allowed four TDs to TEs in the last three games. That trend means Minnesota’s Jermaine Wiggins has a lot of upside if you’re looking for a sleeper pick. Wiggins is coming off his best performance of the year, a six-catch 59-yard effort last week against the Bills.
- Fantasy owners who spent a third or fourth round pick on Antonio Gates will likely have to wait another week before the selection really starts to pay dividends. This week’s opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have been stingy against TEs this season. They’ve only allowed five receptions to TEs all season—with no TDs. Although covering Gates presents a far greater challenge than covering most any other TE in the league, it’s not likely that he will have his coming out party against a defense like the Steelers.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jermaine Wiggins, Chris Cooley, and Eric Johnson
- The historical trends favor New York’s Jay Feely this week. Feely booted seven field goals against the Redskins last year. In addition, Washington has ceded multiple field goals in three of their four games in 2006. Get the picture? Feely is worth a start in Week 5.
- A hard-nosed defensive effort isn’t in the cards for the Packers and Rams this weekend. Both teams allowed 31 or more points in Week 4. Likewise, both team’s offenses have been moving the ball efficiently. Vegas predicts 47 points will be scored between the two teams. Look for another big performance from Jeff Wilkins, who leads the NFL with 18 field goals and 50 points. If your regular kicker is on bye, don’t sleep on Green Bay’s Dave Rayner, who drilled three field goals on Monday night, including one from 54 yards.
This Week’s Sleepers: Jay Feely, Dave Rayner, and Lawrence Tynes
- Three rookie QBs will be starting in Week 5 (Matt Leinart, Vince Young, and Bruce Gradkowski). That gives fantasy owners plenty of options when it comes to team defenses. I love the New Orleans Saints this week against the Bucs and Gradkowski. The sixth-round draft pick looks promising, but will line up behind a depleted offensive line. Owners smart enough to green light the Saints this week should be rewarded with a huge score. I project three sacks, three turnovers, and a defensive TD.
- You also can’t go wrong with the Kansas City Chiefs who face the Cardinals and Matt Leinart in his first NFL start. The Chiefs have allowed just 19 points this season and with a veteran secondary that includes Ty Law and Patrick Surtain, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pick Leinart off two or three times.
This Week’s Sleepers: New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs
This Week's 6-Pack: Orval Trappist Ale
Price: $5.99 for an 11.2 oz. bottle
Appearance: Orval comes packaged in a unique vase-like brown bottle. At this price, I thought it best to sip and savor so I opted for a goblet. It poured to a light hazy amber color with a thick head that faded quickly.
Smell: The aroma was unmistakably like the zest of a lemon or other citrus fruit. In addition, there were hints of yeast. A very pleasant combination of smells.
Taste: Incredibly original flavor here. It was almost tangy. The citrus scents picked up in the nose carry over here. In addition, there’s a certain spice or earthiness that was tough to get my arms around, perhaps like tea. The aftertaste reminded me of those Sweet Tarts families give away at Halloween. It had a definite bite to it that I wasn’t sure I enjoyed at first, but after awhile it definitely grew on me to a point where I wish I had another bottle.
Mouth-feel: Prickly carbonation that was a bit harsh, like sparkling water. The alcohol had strong has a cleansing affect (6.9% ABV).
Drinkability: Some of the other sweet/citrus beers I’ve sampled me want to scrub my tongue over 120-grit sandpaper. Not the case here. Orval didn’t have that effect. It was crisp and thirst-quenching. The many layers of complexity made it an enjoyable beverage.
Last Call: There’s something special about drinking a beer that’s brewed by Trappist monks who have sworn themselves to an oath of silence. You just know you’re getting a quality beer that someone has poured their heart and soul into. But that enjoyment comes at a cost. Orval is at the same time the most expensive and most unusual beer I’ve ever reviewed. It’s not the superstar Belgian Ale I was hoping for, but it was tasty nonetheless. The depth of complexity makes it a fine sipping beer, but probably one that would be better appreciated in the summer. As unique as Orval is, it’s hard to make the case that it’s worth $5.99 for one bottle. Three stars out of five.
Next Week’s Beer: Sunshine Wheat Beer, New Belgium Brewing, Colorado