- For many leagues, the playoffs begin this week. When it comes to setting a starting lineup, I advise most owners who are in the postseason to “ride the horse that brought them there”. Unless of course that horse is tired and sickly looking. If you don’t trust your regular QB and you need a sleeper to get your team to the next round, consider Tennessee’s Vince Young. The rookie has been on fire of late and is a great option against a Houston defense that ranks 27th in the NFL against the pass. Add in the fact that Young will be playing in front of his hometown fans, and it adds up to what should be a 2-3 TD afternoon.
- Don’t let Trent Green’s 3-TD performance last week against the Browns lull you into starting him in Week 14. He won’t have as much success against a ferocious Ravens unit that ranks second in the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 13.3 points per game. The Chiefs are likely to ride Larry Johnson more heavily in an effort to control the clock and win with defense.
- It might be tough to bench Matt Hasselbeck this week, but you need to know that his recent history against the Cardinals hasn’t been pretty from a fantasy perspective. In has last five starts against Arizona, Hasselbeck has averaged just 198.2 passing yards per game with a 71.3 QB rating. Even worse, he has four TDs compared to seven interceptions in those games stands.
- Jeff Garcia is worth a look if your regular starter can’t be trusted this week (i.e. Marc Bulger vs. the Bears). Monday night’s win over the Panthers was a confidence-builder for Garcia, who threw for three touchdowns and over 300 yards. While I doubt we’ll see a repeat performance, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him put up 225 yards and two scores against Washington. The Redskins pass defense has shown signs of improvement over the past few weeks, but they’ve still given up a league-high 23 passing scores.
This Week’s Sleepers: Vince Young, Jeff Garcia, and Tony Romo
- It wouldn’t shock me to see Ladell Betts carry a lot of teams to a 2006 fantasy football championship. He busted the Falcons for 155 yards and a touchdown in Week 13. If you were smart enough to pick him up after Clinton Portis got injured, don’t hesitate to plug him into your lineup. Betts faces perhaps the softest schedule of any RB through Week 16 with games against the Eagles (ranked 28th vs. the run), Saints (26th), and Rams (31st).
- Don’t dismiss Cedric Houston’s 2-TD effort against the Packers as a fluke. There’s a good chance he’ll back it up with another big performance this week against the Bills. Buffalo ranks 29th in the NFL against the run. In the last three games alone, they’ve allowed 166.3 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns to RBs. Look for Houston to reach pay-dirt at least once.
- If you made it to your league’s playoffs in spite of having Shaun Alexander weighing down your roster for much of the season, he might just carry you to the big dance. Alexander has been a Cardinal-killer throughout his career. In his last four games, Alexander has averaged 141.3 all-purpose yards per game with an unreal 10 TDs. He’s my pick to be this week’s top fantasy RB.
- Consider the alternatives before leaning on Joseph Addai this week. He may have trouble getting things going against the Jaguars. Jacksonville’s defense hasn’t given up a 100-yard rushing performance to a RB in eight weeks. Indianapolis starting RBs have scored just one TD against the Jags in their last nine meetings.
This Week’s Sleepers: Ladell Betts, Cedric Houston, Ahman Green, Carnell Williams, and Ciatrick Fason
- Reggie Wayne stinks against the Jaguars. Plain and simple. Here are Wayne’s stats in his last six games against Jacksonville (catches-yds.-TDs): 4-82-0, 4-81-0, 3-19-0, 2-28-0, 2-20-0, and 6-46-0. That averages out to about 43 yards per game with zero scores. Would I bench him? Nope. Wayne is a top five fantasy wide receiver this season. But just don’t throw a brick through your television in the fourth quarter when he has 65 yards and no scores.
- Pull up the defensive stats for passing and you’ll see the Bengals in the cellar as the 32nd ranked team. That should make Randy Moss a solid play this week, right? I doubt it. Cincinnati had a bad stretch during the middle of the season, but they seem to have righted the ship. Their last two opponents have averaged just 206.5 passing yards per game with one TD. Use Moss only as a last resort.
- It’s tough to figure out Minnesota’s schizophrenic pass defense. One week they give up 405 yards passing to Matt Leinart. The next they hold Rex Grossman to just 34 yards through the air. Regardless of what defense shows up, I would be surprised if Roy Williams has a huge fantasy day. In his last three games against the Vikes, he’s averaged an alarmingly low 13.7 yards per game.
- Reggie Brown owners who thought their wideout was going to tank with Jeff Garcia under center have to be pleasantly surprised. Brown has scored a TD in back-to-back weeks with the journeyman QB at the helm. He is an above average play this week against the Redskins, who have allowed the fourth most fantasy points to wide receivers this season (standard Huddle scoring).
This Week’s Sleepers: Reggie Brown, Drew Bennett, Antonio Bryant, and Lee Evans
- The Buccaneers have surrendered four TE TDs in their last three games. Their struggles work to the benefit of Alge Crumpler this week. The fantasy world didn’t hear much from Crumpler for a few weeks, but he resurfaced last week with his best performance since October (62 yards and a touchdown). Dust Crumpler off and get him back in your lineup if you’ve had him on your bench.
- Take a flier on Vernon Davis this week if you’re desperate for a TE. Davis has replaced the injured Eric Johnson in the lineup and should fare well against a Packers defense that has been whipped by TEs for five scores (4 TDs and 1 two-point conversion) in the last three games. Davis only caught one pass last week, but was targeted downfield a few times.
- Antonio Gates hasn’t scored a touchdown in his entire career against the Broncos. You obviously can’t bench him, but you should recognize going into this weekend’s games that Gates isn’t likely to be a difference maker for your squad.
This Week’s Sleepers: Vernon Davis and Bo Scaife
- San Francisco’s Joe Nedney has connected on 11 field goals in his last five games. This includes seven kicks of 30 yards or less. That means the 49ers are moving the ball into their opponent’s redzone regularly, but they are having difficulty punching it across the goal line. It’s an ideal situation for a fantasy kicker. With the Packers coming to town, there should be no shortage of offense for San Francisco. Green Bay’s defense is struggling in all facets. Look for a minimum of 10 points from Nedney.
This Week’s Sleepers: Joe Nedney, Jason Hanson, and Jay Feely
- I love the Tennessee Titans defense this week against the Texans. In their last two games, Houston has allowed nine sacks, two fumbles, an interception, and a defensive touchdown. Over the same stretch the Titans have recorded four interceptions and held two of the league’s better offenses—the Colts and Giants—to 21 points or fewer. The last time these two teams met, Tennessee collected five turnovers, four sacks, and a punt return. They should have little difficulty rattling the Texans.
- Any time a team has a QB change it’s usually a good opportunity for an opposing defense. It’s one reason I like the New York Giants this week against the Panthers, who are likely to be without QB Jake Delhomme. Delhomme’s replacement, Chris Weinke, hasn’t started a game since 2002. In fact, he’s only attempted 13 passes since 2002. Give the Giants a look this week and look for them to exploit the rusty Weinke.
This Week’s Sleepers: Tennessee Titans and New York Giants
This Week's 6-Pack: Czechvar
Origin: Czech Republic
Appearance: Czechvar comes in a tall green bottle with gold foil enveloping the cap. It poured to a two-finger thick head with dish-soap consistency. It dissipated down to a thin layer of white foam rather quickly. The coloring was at least a couple shades darker than your standard pilsner.
Smell: The aroma was faint overall with subtle hints of grass and spice.
Taste: Wow. This was an eye-opener. Definitely not your average, everyday, ordinary pilsner. It all starts with the malt, which came across as slightly sweet. It was balanced out by a bold but not overpowering hop flavor resembling citrus and coriander spice.
Mouth-feel: Smooth, crisp, and dry. Anything but watery. The carbonation is a bit on the harsh-side but it’s definitely tolerable.
Drinkability: Quite refreshing and light. Yet at the same time challenging enough on the palate to command your attention. I could knock back an awful lot of these in a day.
Last Call: Beer history buffs know that this beer is the one that the American macro-brews originally fashioned themselves after. In Europe, it’s called Budvar. But after a lawsuit by Budweiser, the beer was forced to change the name of the American product. It is light and refreshing but at the same time it’s not watery like your standard American brew. The flavors are head and shoulders above almost every other pilsner I’ve sampled with Pilsner Urquell—ironically another Czech pils, perhaps being its notable equal. This is what a pilsner is all about. Four stars out of five.
Next Week’s Beer: Fredrick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager