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Inside the Matchup
Week 10

By: Damon Autry | Sal Marcoccio | Chris Eakin | Kyle Smith



NE @ NYJ | DEN @ KC | BAL @ SEA | NYG @ SF

 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Autry 22 9 71.0
2 Eakin 22 10 68.8
3 Marcoccio 22 10 68.8
4 Smith 22 13 62.9

Raiders @ Chargers - (Eakin)

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +22.4%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +11.9%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -26.0%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -8.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Eventually Carson Palmer’s play will transition from excuses of rust into genuine concern. We are probably a week, maybe two away. In his first start he did what fantasy owners needed by showing he can make the Oakland receiving corps relevant. What has been the case for some time is the guessing game on who will be the guy. For Palmers first start, it was speedster Jacoby Ford. A change from a four week stretch in which Darrius Heyward-Bey seemed to have established himself as a legitimate player. So now we are back to square one because there is no telling if Palmer and Ford will establish a connection consistently or if this was a one game wonder. What is clear is once one of these wideouts is established with Palmer, Oakland will have their first usable fantasy producer in years at the wide receiver position.

The Chargers are the 4th ranked pass defense in yards allowed per game but do represent a favorable matchup for fantasy QBs. He’ll be be a borderline QB1 in Week 10.

Running Game Thoughts: From what I have read on the status of Darren McFadden, he may suit up and even play this week, but he won’t be an viable option for fantasy purposes given his health and the numbered snaps he might play. That leaves an even split or possible majority of carries to Michael Bush again. Bush will face an average run defense, ranked 16th in yards allowed. He posted a solid 19 carries for 96 yards in a loss. Those are pretty good estimates again this week so long as Oakland doesn’t get blown out early.

Carson Palmer: 275 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 Int
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 65 yds receiving
Jacoby Ford: 80 yds receiving / 1 TD
Denarius Moore: 45 yds receiving
Michael Bush: 95 yds rushing / 1 TD

OAK FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.4%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -10.6%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +35.2%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +0.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite the Chargers giving the undefeated Packers their closest challenge of the season, they continued to show the same struggles that have been prevalent all year. Rivers threw for a lot of yards (385), but again turned the ball over too often with four interceptions. Floyd didn’t play, but I was wrong in assuming Patrick Crayton would be the leading beneficiary. Instead, rookie Vincent Brown played the bigger role with 4 receptions for 79 yards. According to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, Malcom Floyd is unlikely to suit up for this Thursday’s game. This makes Brown and Crayton interesting again, and worth a shot if you’re desperate. Beyond Brown, both Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, who have been disappointing all year, had great days against the Pack – a good sign that this offense may be coming together for it’s typical late season explosion. San Diego should have big passing numbers against Oakland’s 20th ranked pass defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Reports are that Ryan Mathews is expected to play after missing last week with a groin pull. Groins are fickle like quads and hamstrings. We saw last week with Miles Austin that aggravations can occur any time. I would avoid Mathews if possible until his health and reps are confirmed. I expect San Diego to have a bounce back game and I can see them winning easy and getting to rest Mathews a bit and let Mike Tolbert play the bell cow one more week. Tolbert ran for 87 yards in Mathews’ absence against a good Green Bay run defense, so depending on carries, Tolbert could be a good play and score even with Mathews back.

Philip Rivers: 320 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Vincent Brown: 70 yds receiving
Antonio Gates: 55 yds receiving / 1 TD
Mike Tolbert: 80 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Chargers 31, Raiders 20 ^ Top

Titans @ Panthers

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: + 11.3%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 41.0%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: + 35.9%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 52.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Titans signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck is coming off a strong game against the Bengals in which he had 272 yards through the air with a pair of touchdown throws and no interceptions. It was his best game since early October, and he did it by spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. Five different players had at least six targets, with tight end Jared Cook receiving the most with eight. Twice in their last five games the Panthers have allowed a tight end to accumulate double-digit fantasy points, so Cook may be a quality fantasy option this week.

Carolina is 13th in the league against the pass, but part of the reason for that is because they are so porous against the run. The Panthers are allowing 8.3 yards per pass attempt, which is the second-highest in the league, and three separate quarterbacks have thrown for over 300 yards against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners across the nation were hoping that Chris Johnson would get it going soon, and he offered a glimmer of hope last week against the Bengals. Though he ran for only 64 yards, he did it on 14 carries for an average of 4.6 yards per carry, which is the highest he’s had in any game this season. He also caught four passes for 46 yards, so his fantasy owners got a solid if unspectacular day out of him.

Johnson has the opportunity to reach even greater heights this week against the Panthers, who are 27th in the league in run defense, and who have allowed 11 rushing scores this year – tied for the most in football. Not only have the Panthers allowed seven different backs to gain at least 85 yards, they’ve also allowed three different backs to gain at least 40 receiving yards through the air, so a dual threat like Johnson could be in for a heavy (and hopefully productive) workload.

Matt Hasselbeck: 235 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Nate Washington: 60 yds receiving
Damian Williams: 55 yds receiving
Jared Cook: 45 yds receiving
Lavelle Hawkins: 25 yds receiving
Chris Johnson: 115 yds rushing, 2 TD / 35 yds receiving

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: + 26.7%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: + 5.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: + 73.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 28.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton and the Panthers had a bye last week, but in Week 8, he had a great game against the Vikings in which he threw for 290 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He hasn’t thrown a pick over his last two games, and had a QB Rating over 100 in each of them. Newton has relied heavily on wideout Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen, and the pair – especially Olsen – could be in line for even more good things for their fantasy owners this week.

That’s because the Titans, who are 15th in the league in pass defense, have given up either 75 yards or a touchdown to a tight end in each of their last five games. And three separate receivers for the Bengals (who the Titans played last week) had at least eight fantasy points.

Running Game Thoughts: The running game for the Panthers went from a two-headed attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to a three-pronged attack with Williams, Stewart and Newton. Newton is tied for third in the league in rushing touchdowns with seven. Stewart has gotten more carries than Williams over the team’s past two games, but neither is getting enough to be anything more than a flex play.

Tennessee’s run defense is just 24th in the league, so there should be opportunities available for all three of Carolina’s runners. The Titans allowed both Arian Foster and Ben Tate to gain 100 yards in Week 7, and six different backs have accumulated double-digit fantasy points against them.

Cam Newton: 265 yds passing, 2 TD, 2 INT / 30 yds rushing, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Greg Olsen: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Legedu Naanee: 35 yds receiving
Jeremy Shockey: 30 yds receiving
Brandon LaFell: 15 yds receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 50 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
DeAngelo Williams: 35 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds receiving

Prediction: Titans 24, Panthers 21 ^ Top

Texans @ Buccaneers - (Smith)

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: + 10.6%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 8.1%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: + 54.9%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 65.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: The numbers say Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is having a good season – ninth in the league in passing yards, tied for eighth in touchdown throws, eighth in QB Rating – but he hasn’t delivered the big games that fantasy owners may have expected out of him. Schaub has just two games with at least 300 passing yards, and just one game with more than two touchdown passes. He had his worst passing game of the season last week against Cleveland, with 119 yards and no touchdowns, but his numbers could be buoyed this week if receiver Andre Johnson returns, which is still a question mark at this point.

Schaub has a good opportunity to put up some of his best numbers of the season this week against a Tampa pass defense that is 28th in the league, and who has allowed at least 20 fantasy points to a quarterback in six of the eight games they’ve played. The Bucs have been vulnerable against tight ends as well, with six players at that position accumulated at least seven fantasy points against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster and Ben Tate are arguably the most dangerous running back tandem in the NFL. Each had over 100 rushing yards last week against the Browns, and it was the second time in three games that they accomplished that feat. Foster has now run for over 110 yards in each of his last three contests.

It’s likely that Foster will once again reach that threshold this week against Tampa. They are 26th in the NFL against the run, and have allowed three separate running backs to gain 120 or more yards. Five different runners have compiled at least 14 fantasy points against the Bucs.

Matt Schaub: 275 yds passing, 2 TD
Owen Daniels: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Andre Johnson: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 40 yds receiving
Jacoby Jones: 25 yds receiving
Arian Foster: 120 yds rushing, 1 TD / 30 yds receiving
Ben Tate: 45 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving

HOU FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: - 26.8%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 21.4%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: - 44.5%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: - 32.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: After a sluggish start, Josh Freeman has begun to turn things around. He’s thrown for at least 260 yards in each of his past three games, and in two of those games did not throw a pick. Receiver Mike Williams has been a disappointment this season with just one touchdown, but he’s caught six passes in each of his past three contests, and it just feels like a breakout is coming eventually.

It may be tough for that breakout to happen this week, however. The Texans are second in the NFL in pass defense, second in passer rating allowed, and have allowed the lowest completion percentage in the league. Just three quarterbacks have thrown for even 200 yards against them, and since Week 1, just one wide receiver has had a 100-yard day when playing Houston.

Running Game Thoughts: Running back LeGarrette Blount played last week for the first time since Week 5, and had a respectable day, with 72 yards on 13 carries (5.5 ypc), though he did fumble once. He doesn’t catch the ball well out of the backfield, but will occasionally give fantasy owners a point or two in that aspect of the game.

Houston is fourth in the NFL against the run, but they have allowed six rushing scores, which is tied with many other teams for 12th in the league, so it’s not impossible for Blount to pick up his first touchdown in over a month. Only three running backs have had at least 18 carries against the Texans, and two of those players gained 100 yards, so if Blount gets enough carries, he should be able to do some damage.

Josh Freeman: 220 yds passing, 2 TD, 2 INT
Mike Williams: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kellen Winslow: 50 yds receiving
Preston Parker: 40 yds receiving
Arrelious Benn: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dezmon Briscoe: 15 yds receiving
LeGarrette Blount: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD

Prediction: Texans 27, Buccaneers 21 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Colts - (Smith)

IND FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: + 28.8%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: + 47.7%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: - 7.4%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 40.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has not been good statistically to start his career. He hasn’t thrown for even 100 yards in either of his past two games, and hasn’t gone over 110 in any of his last three. He has limited weapons to throw to, with top receiver Mike Thomas not having broken 40 yards in any of his past three games.

The Colts, however, may alter that due to their defensive incompetence. They are 24th in the NFL against the pass, and have allowed the most passing scores in the NFL. Every starting quarterback they’ve faced has thrown for at least 210 yards and a touchdown, and six have thrown for at least 250 yards. Receivers have murdered them as well, with four separate wideouts having scored two touchdowns in a game against them, and six accumulating at least 15 fantasy points.

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Maurice Jones-Drew is really the only player on Jacksonville’s squad that fantasy owners should have on their roster. He is currently sixth in the NFL in rushing yards, and has utterly dominated the Colts over the course of his career. In 10 games against Indy, he has run for over 100 yards five times, and has at least 90 yards on seven different occasions. He’s also run for nine scores against the Colts, with the touchdowns coming in seven different contests.

Indianapolis isn’t likely to break the streak of Jones-Drew’s great games against them this season. They are second-to-last in the league in run defense, and are tied for the most rushing scores given up. Six different backs have compiled at least 85 rushing yards against the Colts, and a whopping 11 have gained at least 55 yards.

Blaine Gabbert: 165 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Mike Thomas: 55 yds receiving
Jason Hill: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jarett Dillard: 25 yds receiving
Marcedes Lewis: 20 yds receiving
Maurice Jones-Drew: 120 yds rushing, 2 TD / 15 yds receiving

JAX FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: - 16.9%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 13.1%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: - 6.9%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: - 9.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Colts quarterback Curtis Painter is capable of doing some halfway decent things, but he’s also really struggled at times. He threw for only 98 yards last week against the Falcons, and twice in his past three games he’s failed to break 100 yards through the air. Wideout Reggie Wayne hasn’t gained at least 75 receiving yards in his last four games, and he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Adding to the misery for fantasy owners of Colts players, tight end Dallas Clark got hurt last week and will possibly miss the rest of the season.

Indy’s players won’t have it easy this week, either. The Jaguars are eighth in the NFL against the pass and haven’t allowed more than 225 passing yards in any of their last four games. Jacksonville also hasn’t allowed a 100-yard game by a wideout since Week 1, and have held receivers without a touchdown catch in each of their past two games.

Running Game Thoughts: The Colts’ running game is a mess. Joseph Addai has been hurt and hasn’t carried the ball in two games, and Donald Brown and Delone Carter have not given them much production, though it should be noted that Brown ran for 70 yards last week against the Falcons. Addai may not be in the lineup once again this week, leaving the bulk of the work to Brown and Carter yet again.

That doesn’t bode well for the fantasy owners of those two players – if there are many – because the Jaguars are 11th in the league against the run, despite giving up over 100 yards in two of their past three contests. But the players to accomplish that feat were Rashard Mendenhall and Arian Foster, and Brown and Carter don’t compare in any way to those two.

Curtis Painter: 185 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Reggie Wayne: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Pierre Garcon: 45 yds receiving
Austin Collie: 25 yds receiving
Jacob Tamme: 20 yds receiving
Donald Brown: 55 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Delone Carter: 30 yds rushing

Prediction: Jaguars 21, Colts 13 ^ Top

Saints @ Falcons - (Smith)

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: - 9.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 6.5%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: - 8.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: - 38.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Saints quarterback Drew Brees is the NFL’s leader in passing yards with 3,004 (301 more than Tom Brady, who is second), and is second with 21 touchdown throws. He hasn’t thrown for 270 yards in either of his last two games, and has a total of just three touchdown passes in those contests, but remains an elite fantasy signal-caller. His weaponry is also outstanding, starting with tight end Jimmy Graham. Though Graham has not had more than seven fantasy points in either of his last two games, he is the top scorer at the position. Brees has a plethora of wideouts to throw to, and fantasy owners should take note that Lance Moore has a touchdown catch in each of his past two contests.

The Falcons are 19th in the league in pass defense, but have played very well of late, having held quarterbacks to just one touchdown throw over their past three games, and no QB has thrown for more than 235 yards in that time. But wide receivers have had success against Atlanta, with three gaining at least 115 yards and a touchdown this season.

Running Game Thoughts: The running game for the Saints should be very interesting this week. With Mark Ingram likely playing after missing two games, that gives them four backs who can make plays in Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles. There is no telling who will get the most carries among the group of four, but there is no doubt that Sproles will continue in his role as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Atlanta is seventh in the league against the run, with opponents rushing for 4.0 yards per carry, a solid mark which is ninth in the NFL. They haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, and since Week 3, no running back has gained more than 70 yards against them.

Drew Brees: 325 yds passing, 3 TD, 2 INT
Jimmy Graham: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Marques Colston: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 40 yds receiving
Robert Meachem: 35 yds receiving
Devery Henderson: 20 yds receiving
Chris Ivory: 40 yds rushing
Pierre Thomas: 30 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Mark Ingram: 25 yds rushing
Darren Sproles: 20 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving, 1 TD

NO FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: - 7.0%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: + 0.0%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: - 25.0%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 7.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had his most productive overall game of the season last week against the Colts, with 275 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was only the second time this year that he threw more than one scoring pass, and two of those were to rookie wideout Julio Jones, who had 131 yards in the game. Roddy White managed 76 yards, which was his highest total in four weeks, but he has a good history against the Saints, having caught a touchdown pass against them in each of their games last season.

The Saints are 14th in the NFL in pass defense, but have given up 14 touchdowns through the air, which is tied for 20th in the league. Three different quarterbacks have thrown for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns against New Orleans, and six different wide receivers have accumulated at least 11 fantasy points against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Michael Turner, who ran for 71 yards and a touchdown last week, is seventh in the league in rushing and tied for third with seven rushing scores. In his past five games against the Saints, he has at least 95 yards and a touchdown in three of those games, and has scored in four of the five games.

New Orleans is 17th in the league against the run, but are the worst team in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at 5.3 yards per rush. The Saints have given up three 100-yard rushing games to opposing backs this season, and six backs have gained at least 80 yards against them. All this sets up a potentially very good day for Turner.

Matt Ryan: 225 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT
Roddy White: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Julio Jones: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 55 yds receiving
Michael Turner: 115 yds rushing, 2 TD

Prediction: Falcons 31, Saints 28 ^ Top

Bills @ Cowboys - (Marcoccio)

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -6.5%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -18.2%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +56.3%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +10.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bills’ passing game is coming off its worst showing of the season against a tough Jets defense. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was unable to get in synch for most of the game due to the heavy pass rush and tight coverage by the Jets’ secondary. The Bills, outside of Stevie Johnson, just don’t have enough playmakers in their passing game, and Darrell Revis was able to keep Johnson relatively quiet. Donald Jones and David Nelson are big and strong wide receivers who each possess adequate speed but aren’t dynamic enough to beat good coverage. Scott Chandler has hauled in six touchdowns on the season, but he’s really a glorified practice-squad type, who uses his body well to present a target and has sure hands but does not really create matchup problems in the open field. Fitzpatrick is a fiery leader who is smart and accurate and possesses better-than-average mobility, but his lack of arm strength gets him in trouble at times when the coverage is tight. He has, however, shown enough ability and intangibles to get things turned back around. It wouldn’t be wise to write the Bills off yet.

The Dallas pass defense has been up and down all season, which is why they sit in the middle of the pack in passing defense statistics. They have allowed 232.5 ypg and 11 touchdowns on the season. DeMarus Ware has been the Cowboys biggest impact defender, with 12 sacks on the season. He’ll be going up against the most difficult quarterback to get to, however, as Fitzpatrick’s quick release and the improved O-line has the Bills allowing the least amount of sacks in the league with 9—with one of those coming against Brad Smith in the Wildcat formation.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson is coming off his worst game of the season, but even with that, he still managed to gain over 100 total yards on the day. In just eight games, he’s already at 1,194 total yards from scrimmage on the season—second only to Matt Forte— and has scored six touchdowns. He has proven to be one of the most complete backs in the league, and the improved O-line has been opening holes for Jackson this season instead of making him do all the work to gain yards.

The Cowboys were gashed last week by Jackson’s former backfield mate Marshawn Lynch, but prior to that, they have mostly kept opposing runners in check this season. The loss of linebacker Sean Lee evidently hurt the run defense last week, but he is expected to be back this week. Overall, the team is giving up only 102.4 ypg and just five rushing touchdowns on the season. Jackson won’t be able to take Dallas by surprise, and Rob Ryan is surely scheming to stop Jackson, the most dangerous Bills’ player.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 245 yds passing 1 TD, 1 Int. / 35 yds rushing
Steve Johnson: 85 yds receiving
Donald Jones: 55 yds receiving
David Nelson: 20 yds receiving
Scott Chandler: 30 yds receiving, 1 td
Fred Jackson: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds receiving
C.J. Spiller: 15 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving

BUF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -4.3%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +3.3%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -12.8%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +11.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week I wrote about how the Cowboys offense has become far too conservative, following some early-season meltdowns by Tony Romo. Perhaps it had something to do with his rib injury, which has finally healed up, but even with that, I wouldn’t expect things to change much this week. Miles Austin suffered his second hamstring injury of the season and is expected to be out for the next 2-4 weeks. His loss creates an opportunity for the talented Laurent Robinson, who has played well for the Boys this season. Making Robinson even more attractive to fantasy owners is the fact that Dez Bryant has been slowed by injuries as well. If healthy, however, Dez should be the first or second look (after tight end Jason Witten) for Romo over the next coupe of weeks with Austin out.

The Bills can create turnovers with their ball-hawking style, which has accrued 15 interceptions this season with three of those returned for touchdowns, so perhaps Garrett would be wise to stick with the conservative attack this week. Tony Romo can be sloppy with the ball, and the Boys will be without one of their major weapons in the passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: Since replacing the injured Felix Jones, rookie DeMarco Murray has compiled 466 yards rushing over the last three weeks. “Starter” Felix Jones started practicing again this week, but Murray has likely done enough to retain a major role in the running game even if Jones returns—which looks unlikely at this point. Murray is solidly built and tough to tackle, especially when he gets a head of steam behind his elite straight-line speed. Jones may be better suited to the role he played with Marion Barber still on the team anyway, since he hasn’t ever been able to establish himself as a feature back.

The Bills have presented an easy matchup for running backs for much of this season, which will give Murray another opportunity to add to his impressive numbers. However, the Bills moved rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus inside to nose tackle two weeks ago, with very positive results so far—so things may just turn around for their run defense as the season progresses.

Tony Romo: 255 yds passing 1 TD, 1 Int. / 10 yds rushing
Laurent Robinson: 55 yds receiving
Dez Bryant: 65 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Phillip Tanner: 20 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
DeMarco Murray: 80 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Cowboys 20, Bills 17 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -11.7%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -6.3%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -34.9%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: This should have been the game where Kevin Kolb made his return to Philadelphia to face the team that traded him away this offseason. The parting was amicable, of course, but it would have made an interesting backstory to this matchup. Instead we’ll see former Fordham Ram John Skelton make his second start of the season. Last year Skelton was putrid in his starts, but he was adequate last week against the Rams, completing 20 of 35 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team in rushing yards. Skelton does have a rocket arm and should continue to lock in on Larry Fitzgerald, so Fitzgerald’s owners don’t need to panic because of the backup quarterback getting a start. Let’s face it, Kolb wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire anyway.

The Eagles’ all-star secondary unit was starting to round into shape after a slow start to the season, prior to last week’s Monday Night contest. They performed reasonably well in that contest as well, but the defense failed to get to Cutler at all—a rare occurrence for a Bears’ opponent. On the season the Eagles are allowing only 211.8 yards per game, but they have allowed 14 passing touchdowns. Eight of those touchdowns, however, came in a two-game stretch against Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. So they have been slowing down opposing passing games for the most part. One thing that may give Fitzgerald owner’s pause is that he should see a ton of Nnamdi Asomugha, and perhaps even some double teams. Outside of Early Doucet, the Cardinals have not established any other threats in their passing game to take any pressure off Fitzgerald, which has been a problem for him all season long.

Running Game Thoughts: Beanie Wells played through a knee injury and suffered a stinger in last week’s game, leading to a very disappointing game against a poor Rams defense. Still, he is having a very strong season and has developed into an excellent feature back at this level. One of the knocks on him early in his career was his inability to play through injures effectively. But part of learning the ropes as an NFL running back is learning to play well through injuries, and this season two of his bigger games came when his status was in doubt earlier in the week. Those who got burnt last week may have reservations, but this is an intriguing matchup for the talented Wells.

The Eagles have been abysmal against opposing running backs all season. The team is allowing 124 yards per game and has given up seven rushing touchdowns. They’ve been particularly susceptible to power running games up the middle, and Wells is big and strong enough to be effective against the soft middle of their defense. In fact, the knee injury has made it tougher for him to get to the outside, with some of his speed being sapped, which has forced the Cardinals to send him up the middle more than usual.

John Skelton: 185 yds passing 1 TD, 2 Ints. / 20 yards rushing
Larry Fitzgerald: 55 yds receiving
Early Doucet: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 10 yds receiving
Todd Heap: 20 yds receiving
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 15 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
Beanie Wells: 80 yards rushing, 1 TD / 5 yards receiving

ARI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -1.6%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +19.3%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -22.4%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +25.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Eagles’ staff seems determined to keep Michael Vick in as a pocket passer, thus limiting the scrambling that has made him so dangerous in the past. This may actually be hurting the team, as the offense hasn’t looked nearly as explosive as it did in 2010. Surprisingly, Vick hasn’t scored one rushing touchdown this season. After seeing Vick knocked out of games twice during the early part of the year, and seeing what backups Vince Young and Mike Kafka brought to the table, I guess no one can blame Andy Reid for trying to keep Vick healthy. DeSean Jackson has regressed a bit this season, due to his inability—or lack of desire—to run routes over the middle. While he’s still every bit as explosive, teams have learned that if they can limit him on deep routes, they can take him out of the game. Tight end Brent Celek has taken up some of Jackson’s slack and is starting to get more and more involved as a pass catcher after spending most of the early season as a blocker.

The Cardinals have been one of the worst pass defenses in the league from a yardage standpoint (272.0 ypg); however, they have somehow managed to allow only nine passing touchdowns. Patrick Peterson has been amazing as a kick returner but has struggled in coverage, and the team has been unable to pick off many passes, with only six interceptions on the season. Vick should certainly be able to get the passing game back on track this week.

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy is having an MVP caliber season, and Andy Reid has finally made the run a big part of the Eagles’ offensive game plan. McCoy has 825 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground so far. He is also a large part of the passing game, having grabbed 28 receptions for 184 yards and another two touchdowns. McCoy is lightening quick and has added a “power” element to his game despite his smaller stature, aided by his balance and acceleration. He has been almost unstoppable this season and is likely the RB for many fantasy teams that are currently leading their leagues.

The Cardinals will not provide much resistance in stopping the McCoy freight train, as they are overmatched defensively against most of their opponents. Second-year linebacker Daryl Washington has developed nicely for the team, but right now there just isn’t enough beef up front for Arizona to disrupt their opponents’ blocking schemes.

Michael Vick: 295 yds passing, 3 TDs, 1 Int. / 35 yds rushing
DeSean Jackson: 60 yds receiving
Jeremy Maclin: 85 yds receiving, 2 TDs
Jason Avant: 20 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 60 yds receiving
LeSean McCoy: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dion Lewis: 10 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: Eagles 31, Cardinals 17 ^ Top

Redskins @ Dolphins - (Marcoccio)

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +8.9%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +9.6%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -24.0%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -32.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: The John Beck experiment has been a disappointment, and a once promising start to the season has gone down the drain in Washington. Beck hasn’t been terrible, but just being mediocre isn’t cutting it in the passing league the NFL has become. In Beck’s defense, when Jabar Gaffney is your best wide receiver, mediocre is pretty tough to surpass. Fred Davis is a very talented tight end, but teams are going to quickly realize, if they haven’t already, that he’s the one player that needs to be stopped in this passing attack. Perhaps rookie Leonard Hankerson out of Miami University will step up and becomes a threat that opposing teams need to account for. Hankerson got his first start last week and played fairly well for a guy seeing his first real action. He isn’t physically elite, but he has the size and strength to be a very productive player in the NFL.

Miami is allowing 265.3 passing yards per game and have allowed nearly two passing touchdowns per game. Cornerback Vontae Davis is expected to be back after a one-game suspension handed down by the team for allegedly showing up to a practice severely hung over and for starting a fight with wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Davis is the most talented member of the secondary and can only help improve the unit—provided he doesn’t hit the bars (or Brandon Marshall) the night before the game.

Running Game Thoughts: This section of the piece is getting comical to write each week, as Shanahan has been up to his old tricks in rotating his running backs. The roulette wheel has now stopped on Roy Helu it seems. Last week the rookie got the start and, thanks to “Captain Checkdown” John Beck, caught 14 passes, but the team was still ineffective running the ball. Shanahan stated this week that Helu would start and, going forward, incumbent Ryan Torain would only see carries when Helu was tired. He later backtracked and said that a two-back system was needed to be successful in this league. What does it all mean? Expect recently claimed, former Cowboy Tashard Choice to see the bulk of carries this week…or maybe they’ll call down the guy selling Bud Lite in the stands to take a few carries.

Miami has allowed only three rushing touchdowns on the season. They have played very inspired football the last two weeks, despite their winless record heading into those contests. Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett have stepped with safety Yeremiah Bell to make running the ball on this defense a difficult task. Looking at the Shanahans’ track record of benching backs, Helu had better impress if he wants to experience any longevity as a feature back.

John Beck: 235 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 30 yds rushing
Leonard Hankerson: 35 yds receiving
Jabar Gaffney: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Niles Paul: 15 yards receiving
Fred Davis: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roy Helu: 50 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving
Ryan Torain: 35 yds rushing

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +12.1%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.3%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +14.8%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -1.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Moore tossed three touchdown passes last week and finally provided a spark to an offense that lacked any inspiration during their first seven games. As I’ve said before, Moore is a gunslinger type that could be just what the doctor ordered for Miami fans, after years of watching the checkdown prone Henne. While he’s most likely not the future in Miami, Moore did and may continue to make it tougher for Andrew Luck to be that future. Since he’s been under center, Moore has tried to feed Brandon Marshall—almost exclusively—but last week it was little-used tight end Anthony Fasano that was the star of the passing game. Fasano scored two touchdowns, including a beautiful catch and run down the sideline for a 35-yard score. Fasano of course can’t be trusted on a week-to-week basis, but perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come. More likely. however, Marshall will remain the only member of this passing game that fantasy owners can trust.

The Redskins enter Week 10 as the 11th-ranked pass defense in yards allowed per game (218.8) and have allowed eight passing touchdowns in their eight games. They have improved on their ability to rush the passer from last season and are third in the league with 25 sacks. With only Marshall to be concerned with in the passing game, expect DC Jim Haslett to dial up some blitzes and force some turnovers. The defense will need to carry this team if there’s any hope of getting the season turned back around.

Running Game Thoughts: This may be arguably Reggie Bush’s best season ever as a running back. While he was used more as a glorified slot receiver in New Orleans, and managed a few impressive seasons catching as such, he is finally putting his head down and running hard. Bush isn’t going to break many tackles or push piles, but at least he now runs hard on a north to south plain instead of dancing around and trying to make big plays on every carry. He remains better built for running sweeps and being used on screens, but he at least looks like an NFL running back now. Rookie Daniel Thomas has been a pleasant surprise as well, when he’s managed to be healthy, but was used sparingly last week after sitting out the prior game after a reoccurrence of his early season hamstring woes.

Washington has allowed 122.6 ypg and six touchdowns on the ground through their first eight games. London Fletcher continues to lead the team in tackles at an age (36) where most other linebackers are washed up. The team continues to play hard, as they did against a strong San Francisco rushing attack last week, so it will not be an easy task for the Dolphins offense in their triumphant return home after their first win on the season.

Matt Moore: 195 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 INT / 10 yds rushing
Brandon Marshall: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 30 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 20 yards receiving
Anthony Fasano: 15 yds receiving
Daniel Thomas: 60 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Reggie Bush: 60 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving, 1 TD

Prediction: Dolphins 17, Redskins 14 ^ Top

Patriots @ Jets - (Marcoccio)

NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -35.1%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -16.1%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -6.9%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -0.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: I mentioned last week how the lack of a deep threat is hurting the Patriots’ passing attack (with “hurting” being a relative term, of course). Chad Ochocinco could still become that threat, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope. If he remains ineffective, perhaps youngster Taylor Price can step up once he gets healthy and is given the chance. In the meantime, no one needs to shed any tears for Tom Brady and the passing game. It still thrives on the underneath routes run by its pair of second-year tight ends and Wes Welker (who this year just may break the single-season record for receptions). A field stretcher would only open up the underneath stuff even more though.

Unfortunately for the top-10 ranked Jets pass defense, the Patriots are built perfectly to avoid the Jets’ strengths on defense. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie don’t come into play as much when the Patriots’ outside receivers are only the fourth or fifth looks in the passing game. The Jets, however, have improved in covering tight ends and slot receivers over last season, where they really struggled at it. Also, Revis may spend a larger amount of time covering Wes Welker in the slot than he did during this previous matchup. Revis kept Welker mostly in check when he was assigned to him in one-on-one coverage in Week 5. Welker had one long reception up the middle with Revis starting out covering him, but it appeared that the Jets were in zone coverage and Revis was looking to turn Welker over to safety Erik Smith, who failed to get into position. The Jets’ passing defense has allowed only 196 ypg and five passing touchdowns on the season. They will need to keep Brady in check to stay in the game—something they have been able to do at times, and other times not so much.

Running Game Thoughts: Because of their excellent run blocking, the Patriots can be very effective running the ball, despite lacking any dynamic backs (Shane Vereen may be that guy when he sees adequate playing time). BenJarvis Green-Ellis scorched the Jets for over 100 yards and two scores in their last meeting and should see significant carries this week in light of that. Kevin Faulk missed last week after surprisingly seeing significant snaps during Week 8 against Pittsburgh, after he was activated from the PUP list. He should be back this week, but the extent of his usage is of course unknown. Belichick could keep Danny Woodhead in the “Faulk” role again this week, as he probably enjoys rubbing the Jets’ decision to cut him in their faces. Frankly, at this point Woodhead has more to offer than Faulk anyway.

The Jets’ run defense has fared much better since that Week 5 contest, but they are still the weak link of the defense. They have allowed 123 ypg and nine touchdowns on the season. The Jets should get defensive lineman Mike DeVito back this week, which only helps their run defense. He is the best lineman they have against the run. The battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball will be the key to this game.

Tom Brady: 255 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Chad Ochocinco: 15 yds receiving
Wes Welker: 45 yds receiving
Deion Branch: 20 yds receiving
Aaron Hernandez: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
BenJarvis Green-Ellis: 55 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Kevin Faulk: 20 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +11.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +17.7%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +20.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -10.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Jets have returned to running the football and setting up play-action passes for Mark Sanchez, which has helped both him and the offense get back in synch after some early-season embarrassments. Plaxico Burress had his best game as a Jet last week (yes he did score three touchdowns the Week before), in the win over the Bills. He looks as though he finally has his legs back under him and he is using his size to get separation—something that had been an issue for him in the early going. Sanchez will need to be smart with the football for the Jets to split the season series with the Pats. He doesn’t need to try too much against an over-matched secondary, and he needs to take advantage of the matchups, which favor his two wideouts against a depleted Pats secondary.

An already poor secondary took another hit when the team placed rookie Ras I Dowling on IR and released veteran Leigh Bodden prior to its game against the Steelers. They held up well against the Giants last week until late in the game when they collapsed and allowed Eli Manning to drive the field twice for key scores. The Patriots have been the worst pass defense in the NFL this season, allowing an incredible 314.0 ypg against them while giving up 14 passing touchdowns. In the last contest, the coaching staff lacked faith in Sanchez and did not attack the New England secondary. This week they must.

Running Game Thoughts: Shonn Greene has been effective running between the tackles and LaDainian Tomlinson has had some nice plays as a receiver since the Jets have returned to “ground and pound.” The running game has gained steam and confidence. and that will need to continue.

The Pats have allowed 102.3 ypg and six rushing touchdowns on the season. They released Albert Haynesworth this week, but that will not matter since he’s hardly been playing in recent weeks anyway. The Pats have their share of run stoppers across the front seven, but if the Jets want to commit to the run, they should be able to move the ball.

Mark Sanchez: 245 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int. / 10 yds rushing
Santonio Holmes: 65 yds receiving
Plaxico Burress: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jeremy Kerley: 20 yards receiving
Dustin Keller: 55 yds receiving
Shonn Greene: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
LaDainian Tomlinson: 20 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: Jets 23, Patriots 17 ^ Top

Broncos @ Chiefs - (Eakin)

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +3.9%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +6.8%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +20.5%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +17.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tebow rebounded from the dismal Lions game by throwing two touchdowns against the Raiders last week. Denver’s passing game is still limited with him, however, as he threw for just 124 yards on 10 of 21 passing attempts. When teams are struggling to stop the Broncos from running the ball, Tebow can hit some play action. But this creates a consistency problem, as the passing game is completely dependent upon the success of the running game. For this matchup, the Broncos will need to show they can attack the middle of the Chief’s defense. Kansas City has good corner play in Carr and Flowers but is vulnerable at the safety position without Eric Berry. And Tebow’s favored targets have been Eric Decker and Daniel Fells, who both have the ability to work and challenge the middle of the Chiefs’ defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Denver caught Oakland by surprise with a new option package designed to maximize Tebow’s running prowess, as the quarterback went for 118 yards and McGahee chalked up 163. That should knock Oakland’s run defense down a notch or two. Those kinds of rushing numbers make Tebow a top five fantasy QB…if he can keep it up. There lies the concern. How long can Tebow take these hits, and how long can the zone option work once teams start game planning for it? It may run the course of the wildcat, having limited success for a while, so you might as well ride it out until you get bucked off. The Chiefs are 19th in rushing yards allowed, making Tebow and McGahee both solid bets for another big game.

Tim Tebow: 125 yds passing / 1 Int / 75 yds rushing / 2 TDs
Daniel Fells: 55 yds receiving
Eric Decker: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Demaryius Thomas: 45 yds receiving
Willis McGahee: 115 yds rushing / 1 TD

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +30.5%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +34.2%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -25.6%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs should be fired up after allowing the winless Dolphins to dominate them last week. The passing game wasn’t all that bad; Cassel threw for 253 yards with no scores but also no interceptions. And his usual suspects posted decent numbers: Dwayne Bowe, 6 for 81; Steve Breaston, 7 for 115. Those numbers mean you can continue trusting the Chiefs, but there is concern over how much opportunity they will get if the Broncos can show equal prowess in dominating time of possession. Denver has given up the 23rd most passing yards per game, so this matchup is certainly favorable. On the negative, rookie Jonathan Baldwin failed to follow up on his breakout performance, catching one pass out of five targets. He will remain a high-upside risk this early in his career. No other Chiefs warrant fantasy consideration.

Running Game Thoughts: Just as we anoint Jackie Battle a fantasy starter, he reminds everyone why he is a career backup. Battle is talented enough to take what his line provides, but not much more. The Dolphins have a good front that limited him to 2.9 yards per tote, but the Chiefs are average (ranked 15th against the run), so expect average results for Battle. This week he’s a marginal RB2 that will have limited time of possession because the opposing team likes to run the ball.

Matt Cassel: 260 yds passing, 2 TD / 1 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Steve Breaston: 70 yds receiving
Jonathan Baldwin: 45 yds receiving / 1 TD
Jackie Battle: 85 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Broncos 21

Ravens @ Seahawks - (Eakin)

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -0.9%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +2.1%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -2.0%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -13.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: This game has all the trimmings of a letdown underdog victory. An East Coast team traveling east after a rivalry game victory. A raucous home crowd that can make line adjustments difficult. This is a game where Flacco has to show growth since Seattle could very well shut down the run. Joe will have to be consistent enough to carry his team on an off day. Luckily for him, he will face a depleted Seattle secondary missing two starters. Seattle also lacks speed except with free safety Earl Thomas, who is a great young player but can occasionally play overly aggressive on runs and play action. Torrey Smith can have a good day here as the Ravens deep threat since all he needs is an instant to get behind the Seattle secondary. It falls on Flacco to take advantage of the three or four shots they get. When he is off, he tends to lack a bit of touch on the deep ball. Boldin will likely battle physical Seattle corner Brandon Browner. But Boldin is a physical player in his own right who won’t let Browner control him with hand checking. He matches up well and should have a good game. The Ravens have established enough of a threat deep with Smith that their young tight ends, Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta, should have more room to operate underneath. The offense needs to make a more concerted effort to keep them active in the game flow. They have shown teases.

Running Game Thoughts: Ray Rice will face a stiff Seattle run defense, though not stiff enough that you should bench the fourth leading fantasy rusher, mind you. After all, Demarco Murray had success on them last week. The Seattle defense is tough to run on because of the numbers 323, 311, 325, and 255. That’s the weight of their starting defensive line. They have a lot of size up front, with basically three tackles and one end. As part of that massive front, Red Bryant is a little-known name but an excellent run stuffer. David Hawthorne, Seattle’s starting middle linebacker, has struggled with knee soreness through the first half of the season, but he looks to be rounding into form of late. The best route for Rice to the end zone will not be a straight line, but rather an around-the-end approach.

Joe Flacco: 265 yds passing 2 TDs / 1 Int
Anquan Boldin: 75 yds receiving / 1 TD
Torrey Smith: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Ed Dickson: 45 yds receiving
Ray Rice: 75 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -28.1%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -2.3%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -55.1%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -34.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Seattle offensive is no juggernaut and will certainly have a tough task in generating drives against what may be the league’s best defense. That said, I have to admit I’ve been burned a few times this year putting too much credence on matchups. So here’s my positive spin on Seattle’s passing game: Knowing they can’t sustain drives, Seattle will take a few more shots downfield to Sydney Rice and hope he can use his height advantage to make a big play or two. They will also want to at least threaten the whole field to give the running game some chance. Doug Baldwin has actually been their best weapon to date, but the return of Mike Williams and the possible emergence of tight end Anthony McCoy will eat a bit into his production. Baldwin works the slot, though, and when the Ravens blitz, Tavaris Jackson will look his way on the hot routes. I’d rather start Rice and would prefer avoiding all Seattle weapons but, hey, there’s your positive spin.

Running Game Thoughts: No positive spin here for Lynch. He is a physical runner facing a more physical defense. Few have success running against the Ravens, even fewer when trying to run over or through them. If the Seattle defense holds up, and if the Ravens do experience a letdown, Lynch has a shot at marginal to low-end RB2 numbers. But few make a living betting those odds.

Tarvaris Jackson: 190 yds passing 1 TD / 1 INT
Sidney Rice: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Doug Baldwin: 50 yds receiving
Anthony McCoy: 30 yds receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 65 yds rushing

Prediction: Ravens 24, Seahawks 16 ^ Top

Giants @ 49ers - (Eakin)

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +4.4%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +6.0%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -0.4%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -42.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning is a bit of a streaky player, but right now he’s red hot. After struggling out of the gates with a new tight end and slot receiver, he has found some consistency with Jake Ballard and Victor Cruz complimenting—and even, at times, outshining—Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. Ballard currently sits as the 10th best fantasy TE, and Cruz is the 12th-ranked WR. The 49ers have a great defense, but that’s mostly because of their run-stopping ability. They are just 22nd in pass defense while the Giants are sixth in passing, so New York will likely attack through the air. If you own Cruz, Ballard, or Manningham, play them. Nicks is questionable with a hamstring, but he practiced Wednesday and is expected to play, barring a setback from Friday’s practice. Keep tabs on his progress, but you have to trust him if he’s active.

Running Game Thoughts: While Nicks looks likely to play, Bradshaw seems less so. There were positive reports early in the week thinking he could go, but he has yet to practice. Given his questionable health plus his splitting carries with Brandon Jacobs, avoid Bradshaw this week. Given a tough matchup against the league’s best run defense, it may be best to avoid the Giants running game altogether.

Eli Manning: 325 yds passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Victor Cruz: 85 yds receiving
Mario Manningham: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Hakeem Nicks: 75 yds receiving / 1 TD
Jake Ballard: 40 yards receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 55 yds rushing

NY FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -0.5%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +9.9%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -15.2%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +9.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers offense matches up well against the Giants. They play a safe passing game that uses a lot of max protect and gets the ball out quick. This could serve to limit the Giants’ most effective weapon, their pass rush. San Francisco has used this strategy to post wins on the road in Philadelphia and Detroit, who both have teams with similar defensive lines that excel in pressuring the quarterback. The improved play of Alex Smith has made the enigmatic Michael Crabtree a consistent WR3 play, which has caused tight end Vernon Davis to slow down from years past. Davis will get his fifty yards more often than not, but the balance the Niners have created between him, Crabtree, and Braylon Edwards, while great for the team, is not ideal in the fantasy world.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore has churned out five games in a row of over 100 yards. He’s dealing with a sore ankle this week but will almost certainly be fine come Sunday. The Giants have suffered heavily from injuries to their linebacking corps, causing their typically good run defense to struggle and, as a result, rank second in yards allowed per game. As per usual, the Niners will ride the running of Gore and Kendall Hunter to keep Eli off the field and dominate the pace of the game…and I’m not convinced the Giants will be able to stop it.

Alex Smith: 220 yds passing, 1 TD
Braylon Edwards: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Michael Crabtree: 70 yds receiving
Vernon Davis: 65 yds receiving / 1 TD
Frank Gore: 105 yds rushing / 1 TD / 30 yds receiving

Prediction: Giants 24, 49ers 20 ^ Top

Lions @ Bears - (Autry)

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -13.5%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -15.4%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -1.9%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -17.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford and the Lions return from their bye to take on the Chicago Bears in a crucial NFC North showdown. Stafford’s ankle injury that he sustained in week 7 didn’t limit him too much in the team’s Week 8 dismantling of the Broncos. The bye week should have given him ample time to heal up for the stretch run. Detroit’s passing game begins and ends with the Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection. Johnson’s 11 TD receptions are five more than any other player in the league. He’s reached 100-plus yards receiving in five of the team’s last six games, and the game in which he missed the mark, Megatron totaled 96 yards. Needless to say, Johnson has been a beast and will continue to be in the second half of the season.

No team has had to defend as many passes as Chicago’s defense. On average, teams throw 41 times per game against the Bears secondary—the most in the league. Even though they held Philly’s passing offense in check last Monday night, the Eagles had a few chances. The Monday night contest, by the numbers, was actually Chicago’s best effort this season defending the pass. They will have a difficult time duplicating that effort against an offense that is familiar with their defense; oh, and one other thing. Philly has no one that can match the play-making ability of Megatron.

Running Game Thoughts: Detroit is so desperate for running back help that they signed free agent Kevin Smith during the bye. Smith was the Lions starting RB from 2008 – 2010. This signing perhaps says more about concerns regarding the prospects of Jahvid Best returning any time soon than anything else. Without Best, the Lions running game has been less than stellar. Smith, nor Keiland Williams, nor Maurice Morris should be in your line-up this week.

Before the Eagles found success on the ground against Chicago, the Bears actually limited both the Vikings and the Buccaneers running game the previous two weeks—limiting both teams to a TOTAL of 83 yards. I would suspect the Lions will find similar limitations in their production. Detroit will rely on the passing game to move the ball offensively against the Bears. Again, keep all Lions RBs on the bench this week.

Matthew Stafford: 285 yards passing / 2 TDs
Calvin Johnson: 120 yards receiving / 1 TD
Nate Burleson: 55 yards receiving
Titus Young: 25 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Maurice Morris: 35 yards rushing

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +10.0%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -7.4%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +44.9%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -4.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: In 76 career games, Jay Cutler has tossed 85 interceptions. That’s not a very good ratio, obviously. But he’s recently tightened things up a bit, only throwing two picks in his last four games. Cutler’s ascension to becoming a consistently productive fantasy QB should be fortified by Earl Bennett’s return. Bennett made plays all over the field against Philly, so he should remain an important cog in Chicago’s passing attack. The other options—Devin Hester, Roy Williams, Johnny Knox—have proven inconsistent beyond comprehension, so stay away from those players.

Detroit has been a solid pass defense this year. They are sixth in the league defending the pass, and they’ve held the last three opponents (San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver) under 199 yards . Cutler will have his hands full trying to navigate around this defense. His Monday night stats could be repeated this week, but don’t expect him to go two straight games without a turnover or sack.

Running Game Thoughts: Matt Forte is on many people’s list for first half MVP honors. Not that that makes much of a difference in early November, but it underlines the value of the multi-dimensional RB. His two fumbles last week aside, Forte is the most reliable and explosive player on Chicago’s offense. He had a solid game the last time these two teams met in week 5, rumbling for 116 yards on the ground and another 35 on the ground. Expect similar production this week against a pretty tough Lions defense.

Detroit’s run defense has been thrashed practically all season. They’ve surrendered 176 yards per game over the last three, including San Francisco’s 203 yards in week 6. As much as they have been beat up on the ground, strangely, opponents have only scored three rushing TDs against Detroit. Forte will be a threat both in the running and passing game. Expect him to be the top-5 fantasy RB he’s been all year.

Jay Cutler: 215 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Earl Bennett: 65 yards receiving
Johnny Knox: 40 yards receiving
Devin Hester: 30 yards receiving
Roy Williams: 25 yards receiving
Matt Forte: 110 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 1 rushing TD / 1 receiving TD

Prediction: Bears 20, Lions 17 ^ Top

Steelers @ Bengals - (Autry)

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -22.6%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -4.1%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -2.1%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -28.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Steelers have a 70-to-30 pass/run ratio through the first nine weeks. That’s a departure from this team’s historic identity, but it’s music to the ears of fantasy owners who rely on Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, et. al., on a weekly basis. Ben, in particular, has lit it up of late. He’s averaged 352 yards passing with six total TDs and only two INTs in his last three games. He’s on fire. While he may not top 300 yards for the fourth consecutive game, he should at least put up numbers worthy of his QB1 status.

Cincinnati’s defense has been one of the bigger surprises this season. They’re a top-10 pass defense and have only given up eight passing TDs all year—third best in the NFL. They’ve been stingy giving up yards, but the Bengals have been unimpressive in sacking the opposing QB. They have only three on the season. If Ben is not pressured, he will pick the secondary apart all afternoon. They had better make him uncomfortable in the pocket if they’re to stop the potent, down-the-field passing attack.

Running Game Thoughts: Pittsburgh’s dedication to the passing game obviously limits the opportunities in the running game. Rashard Mendenhall has only 39 carries combined in his last three games with one rushing TD. Mendenhall’s lack of receptions hurts his chances of supplementing his declining value in the running game, but he remains a mid-level RB2 in fantasy football. Just keep in mind that if Pittsburgh starts throwing it all over the field, his overall value during the game will take a significant hit.

Cincy’s No. 2 rush defense gives further proof that Mendenhall could have a rough outing. The Bengals have held seven of eight opponents under 100 yards on the ground, including teams that rely heavily on the ground in Buffalo and Jacksonville. This will indeed be Cincy’s toughest test on the season, but they’ve shown now for half the season that they are a formidable foe. Temper your expectations for Mendenhall this week.

Ben Roethlisberger: 240 yards passing / 2 TDs
Mike Wallace: 95 yards receiving / 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Hines Ward: 30 yards receiving
Heath Miller: 50 yards receiving
Rashard Mendenhall: 55 yards rushing

PIT FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -18.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.2%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -5.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -12.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie Andy Dalton had the best game of his young career last week, tossing three TDs in the victory against Tennessee. His development, coupled with that of fellow rookie A.J. Green, has made him a low-end QB2 fantasy player. What’s under the radar regarding the Cincy’s passing game is the depth at WR. Jerome Simpson and the Andre Caldwell complement Green’s ability very well. Caldwell is the possession WR, but it is Simpson’s 15.8 yards per reception that leads the team. Quietly, Simpson has become a fairly productive WR3.

Pittsburgh somehow couldn’t get off the field defensively last week against Baltimore. Joe Flacco found success against the league’s 3rd-ranked pass defense to the tune of 289 yards. While the Steelers have a top-5 defense again this year, they’ve struggled forcing turnovers. They’ve forced a league-low four turnovers through nine games. Pittsburgh could force the rookie into a few mistakes, and if the Steelers game against fellow rookie Blaine Gabbert and Jacksonville is any indication, Dalton will run into problems. Gabbert was limited to 76 yards passing. Dalton has produced nicely this season and probably won’t struggle as much as Gabbert did, but reasonable expectations should be the message of the day relative to Cincy’s passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: Look up RB2 fantasy RB in the dictionary and there you will find a picture of Cedric Benson. Benson isn’t flashing, isn’t overly productive. He’s simply a steady source of production worthy of a weekly look at a RB2. However, he could be limited in this contest. In six games against the Steelers as a Bengal, Benson has only two rushing TDs. Don’t expect much from him this game.

Pittsburgh’s run defense has been the stellar unit it’s always been. Not since week 6 against New England have the Steelers given up more than 100 yards on the ground. They even held Ray Rice to a paltry 2.4 yards per carry average last week. This will be a slugfest for the Bengals, who may find the going tough on the ground.

Andy Dalton: 185 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
A.J. Green: 75 yards receiving
Jerome Simpson: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Andre Caldwell: 35 yards receiving
Cedric Benson: 50 yards rushing

Prediction: Steelers 17, Bengals 10 ^ Top

Rams @ Browns - (Autry)

CLE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.7%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +22.0%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -53.5%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +26.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Sam Bradford returned last week after missing several games with an ankle injury. It was an okay performance for Bradford against Arizona, but nothing spectacular—typical of his career so far. Brandon Lloyd, since being reunited with his old head coach in Denver, Josh McDaniels, has blossomed in St. Louis. Seventeen catches for 207 yards and a score in his three contests as a Ram have put Lloyd back on the fantasy map after falling off the table in Denver during the first half of the season. He will have a tough test this week, however.

Defense is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when the Browns are mentioned. Yet, the team has the top-ranked pass defense in the league. Yes, Cleveland Browns have the best pass defense in the league through nine games. They have not relinquished more than 178 passing yards in the last four games, although Houston could have pretty much done anything to them last week. The Texans chose to run the ball down their throats to the tune of 261 yards. So the 119 passing yards they held Houston to is a bit skewed. The Rams, at any rate, will still have a tough time passing against Cleveland’s defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson has resembled his old self the last couple of games. He’s averaged 120 yards over the last three games with three total TDs. He remains a big target in the passing game as well, having caught 17 passes over the last five. What makes Jackson’s exploits all the more impressive is how devoid of talent the Rams are overall on offense. Lloyd’s presence has certainly helped, but it makes you wonder how a team with one clear-cut playmaker seems to always carve out production. I guess as fantasy owners, we needn’t ask why; just get him in your line-up and expect good things.

As good as Cleveland has been against the pass, they’ve struggled a bit defending the run. They are 30th in the league stopping the run, including the aforementioned 261 tail-whippin’ applied by the Texans last week. Teams don’t have those kinds of struggles often; so don’t expect anything near what Houston was able to do. But Jackson should still be able to make it worthwhile to start him as a solid RB1 this week.

Sam Bradford: 210 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Brandon Lloyd: 70 yards receiving
Brandon Gibson: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Austin Pettis: 20 yards receiving
Lance Kendricks: 35 yards receiving
Steven Jackson: 90 yards rushing / 35 yards receiving / 1 rushing TD

STL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -28.5%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +9.3%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +10.3%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -40.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Perhaps no other team in the league has more of a nondescript passing game than Cleveland. Since the departure of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, this team has struggled to find a true identity in the passing game. Colt McCoy is solid. He’s a good, young player. But I think at some point he will need Greg Little to get on the fast track to maturity and have Josh Cribbs add a more consistent threat on offense. Until those things happen, I think what we’ve seen from the Browns the last several years will unfortunately continue.

The Rams have faced some pretty good offenses so far this season: New Orleans, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Baltimore. They’ve put up a good fight in most of the games, but it’s the Baltimore game (553 total yards) and the Green Bay game (309 passing yards) that stick out. It should be noted, too, that the Rams actually stepped up and played solid defense against the Saints, holding them to well under 300 yards of total offense. So there’s potential on that side of the ball. The only problem is no one knows when that Rams team will show up.

Running Game Thoughts: The Cleveland running game has become a hot, steamy mess. Madden cover boy Peyton Hillis has apparently jumped the shark and become a nuisance in the locker room. He’s out this week. Montario Hardesty is battling a lower leg injury, and he’s also out. That leaves the running duties up to Chris Ogbonnaya, a player that was waived from the Texans earlier in the year. He was a non-factor last week against his former team, rushing for 28 yards on 13 attempts.

The Rams, however, have the league’s worst rushing defense. They’ve given up 168 yards or more on the ground four times this season, including two games in which the opposition torched them for well over 200 yards. Only six teams have more rushing attempts against them than the Rams, so they should expect a heavy dose of the running game and Ogbonnaya.

Colt McCoy: 190 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Greg Little: 65 yards receiving
Josh Cribbs: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ben Watson: 45 yards receiving
Chris Ogbonnaya: 70 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Browns 17, Rams 14 ^ Top

Vikings @ Packers - (Autry)

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.3%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: 0.0%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +3.8%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +18.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: In redraft leagues, Christian Ponder is far from being worth a roster spot at this point. But he’s shown that he belongs and has looked appreciably better than the quickly aging Donovan McNabb did running the same offense. The rookie has shown mobility and the proficiency to be accurate while on the move. His presence alone has elevated the fantasy relevance of both Percy Harvin and TE Visanthe Shiancoe. They have both become low-end options at their respective positions, so feel confident to start them if you need to. Green Bay has had trouble stopping most everybody through the air this season, and they’ve given up the most TD passes in the league with 16. So if ever there’s a week when you feel like taking a gamble with a Minnesota receiving option, this is indeed the week.

As mentioned above, the Packers have struggled mightily defending the pass. Last week’s game in San Diego was Exhibit A on their struggles. They gave up 375 passing yards and four TDs to the Chargers and looked bad doing it. Sure, they got up big, but there were receivers open all over the field due to missed assignments in the secondary. This could be a shoot-out, so the Packers D-backs could be in for another long day.

Running Game Thoughts: In addition to LeSean McCoy and Fred Jackson, Adrian Peterson has been one of the most reliable and consistent fantasy RBs this season. He’s scored in each of the last four games—six times total. And what probably has AP owners even more giddy is he was finally utilized in the passing game in week 8 against Carolina. His five receptions were the most he’s had since week 7 last year in New England. Continue to expect top-notch production from football’s best RB.

Green Bay’s rush defense ranking (no. 8) is a bit of smoke in mirrors. Teams pass on the Packers because they have to. Opponents get down big against them and have to throw their way back in the game—a la San Diego last week. That probably won’t be the case this week. Minnesota will only go as far as AP takes them, so expect his third consecutive game with more than 20 carries.

Christian Ponder: 220 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Percy Harvin: 65 yards receiving / 1 TD
Michael Jenkins: 40 yards receiving
Devin Aromashodu: 30 yards receiving
Visanthe Shiancoe: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Adrian Peterson: 90 yards rushing / 1 TDs

MIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +29.7%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.0%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +25.0%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +32.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers is embarrassingly good. It’s ridiculous. He’s had at least three passing TDs in six of eight games this year; only one game with less than 300 passing yards (297 vs. Chicago); only four INTs this season. It’s not only Rodgers. His receivers have come through for him and been hugely productive for fantasy owners. Jennings. Nelson. Finley. Jones. Driver. You’re not quite sure who’s going to do the damage week after week. Suffice it to say, however, that if you have a player on this offense, Super Glue him to your starting line-up.

Minnesota has been an average defense against the pass. They’re 30th in the league in that category. Rodgers torched them just several weeks ago, tossing 335 yards and three TDs. The Vikings one calling card on defense, though, is their ability to put heat on the QB. They sacked Rodgers four times in their first meeting this season while putting pressure on him another half dozen times. They will need that same kind of effort to slow down the fast-charging Packers passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: James Starks? Ryan Grant? Who’s Green Bay’s running back? Honestly, does it matter? Neither has done much to warrant starting consideration up to this point. They have one total TD between them and really no “money carries” when it matters. Only in the deepest of leagues should either of these guys be in anyone’s starting line-up.

Teams haven’t had much success on the ground against Minnesota. They’re fifth in the league against the run, but even Green Bay carved out 114 yards on the ground as a team in week 7. Green Bay’s running game will take a back seat to its passing game, much like they’ve done the majority of the season. Unless the Packers are up big late in the game, I wouldn’t expect much of a role for either Starks on Grant.

Aaron Rodgers: 315 passing yards / 3 TDs
Greg Jennings: 95 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jordy Nelson: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
James Jones: 45 yards receiving
Donald Driver: 35 yards receiving
Jermichael Finley: 50 yards receiving / 1 TD
James Starks: 45 yards rushing
Ryan Grant: 35 yards rushing

Prediction: Packers 27, Vikings 21 ^ Top