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Fantasy soda: Packers likely to cool passing attack of Giants' Manning


If Sunday's loss to Philadelphia wasn't bad enough, the Giants must now travel to bitter cold Lambeau Field to face a Packers defense playing about as well as can be expected at this point in the season. Green Bay's front line is getting pressure from stud lineman B.J. Raji, and Clay Matthews is still a contender for defensive player of the year. Those two may make life miserable for top five fantasy passer Eli Manning -- my STUD TO SIT for Week 16. On Sunday, the Packers held Tom Brady in check for much of the evening, and at present Green Bay's pass defense ranks third in yards allowed, tied for fourth in touchdown passes allowed, and fifth for opposing quarterback completion percentage (56.7). If you have another option, sit Manning and save yourself from a miserable performance.

BREAKING NEWS: Seattle coach Pete Carroll has refused to pick Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst as his starting quarterback for next week's game against Tampa Bay. Fantasy owners everywhere refuse to care.

CALL ME CRAZY but I'm putting my full faith in Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe this week. In the last three games, the NFL's leader in touchdown catches hasn't so much as sniffed the end zone (just three catches for 56 yards). But now that Matt Cassel is healthy, Bowe should begin to get back on track. Plus, Tennessee ranks 26th in passing yards allowed and has been out-scored 82-42 in its last three road games combined.

I like the SHORT ODDS, so give me the following tight ends to catch at least one touchdown this week: Kellen Winslow, Owen Daniels and Jacob Tamme.

Don't let the numbers fool you: Even though the Buffalo Bills rank among the top 10 in passing yards allowed, it doesn't mean they defend the pass well. The most telling stat is 431 -- the number of attempts the defense has yielded, among the fewest in the NFL. This means opponents have been able to keep the ball on the ground against Buffalo. But New England uses its receiving corps to move the ball as much as it does its no-name backfield, which is why I'm telling fantasy owners to DOUBLE DOWN on rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez and wide receiver Deion Branch this week. The Bills have allowed 23 touchdown passes this year -- tied for 23rd -- which is good news for Hernandez, who has caught six (two on Sunday). Branch, meanwhile, has registered 100-plus receiving yards in each of his last two road games.

A little BASIC MATH tells us Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez should catch a ton of balls in next Monday night's clash with division foe New Orleans. In his last four games against the Saints (including a 2008 contest while Gonzalez was still with the Chiefs) the future Hall of Fame tight end has averaged 6.25 receptions. And in the two teams' Week 3 contest, Gonzalez had his best fantasy performance of the 2010 season: eight catches, 110 yards and a touchdown.

THE BREAK ROOM (industry experts share their thoughts): Looking ahead, who do you believe will be the consensus No. 1 pick in 2011 fantasy drafts?

As expected, answers varied for this one. What all of the respondents did agree on is that there will probably not be a consensus top pick come next summer. senior football writer Matt Schauf thinks Houston's Arian Foster "will be the most common first pick," but offered up several other contenders: Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson (with a quarterback), Peyton Hillis (if Montario Hardesty isn't ready) -- even LeSean McCoy or Darren McFadden.

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Says Schauf, "I just hope that folks don't overreact to Michael Vick and draft him there ... unless they're in my leagues."

The five players Fantasy Editor Michael Fabiano believes will be targeted at the No. 1 spot are Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Foster, Johnson and Peterson. Says Fabiano, "The decision between these five players will come down to their individual strength of schedule, not to mention your fantasy league's scoring system." Senior Fantasy Writer Jamey Eisenberg thinks 2010's most popular No. 1 pick will remain in that slot for 2011.

"Johnson is going to finish with more than 1,500 total yards and double digits in touchdowns, and that's in a supposed down year," says Eisenberg. "I'll take my chances with his 2,000 total-yard potential in that bad division where we know the Colts, Texans and Jaguars can't defend the run. If you're inclined to take a running back at No. 1 overall, then Johnson should still be your man."

Johnson isn't the top back for fantasy writer Will Carroll, who believes the popular choices will be Peterson and Jones-Drew. Offers Carroll, "If you look a little deeper, both at production this year and at the team that should take another step forward next year, the guy you have to consider is Peyton Hillis. He's a power back, durable, and is involved in the passing game more than you'd think, with only two fewer catches than Dwayne Bowe on the season."

Lots of names, lots of guessing.

Sums up Fabiano, "One thing is for sure -- having the first pick in 2011 isn't going to be as easy a decision as in seasons past."


Kyle from Ohio writes: "Early on I traded Jahvid Best for Darren McFadden. In the playoffs and (the other guy) is not." ... The lesson here? Never overpay for rookie backs, no matter how hot they start the season.

Mike Beacom is a contributing writer for Send him your questions and "sucker trade" entries at Include a full name and your home state, please.