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Inside the Matchup
Week 11

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


CAR @ DET | TB @ GB | OAK @ MIN | SD @ CHI


 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Autry 25 10 71.4
2 Marcoccio 24 12 66.7
3 Smith 25 14 64.1
4 Eakin 22 14 61.1

Jets @ Broncos - (Eakin)

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +24.7%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +24.1%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -30.4%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -2.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Statistically Mark Sanchez put up decent numbers despite making a fatal error that cost his team the game versus the Patriots Sunday night. He threw for over 300 yards, with a TD to Plaxico Burress. Granted, the Patriots boast the league’s worst pass defense. The red zone TD to Burress makes 4 touchdown receptions in three weeks. Its clear Burress is Sanchez’s favorite target in close, making Plax a good play for the week. Denver will probably puts Champ Bailey on Santonio Holmes, leaving Burress with 5’10 Andre Goodman. Goodman’s scouting report says he struggles with big wide receivers and Plaxico stands 6’5” tall. I’m not as high on Santonio Holmes even though he is the Jets best wide receiver. Champ is still playing at a high level, making for a tough matchup.

Tight End Dustin Keller started the season hot, but as is his MO, he has faded of late and is inconsistent. Burress has taken away his red zone looks, and new slot starter Jerome Kerley (knee) has emerged enough to take some of the short hot route targets away. Kerley caught four balls for 79 yards last week. A final word of caution in using Keller, the Bronco’s have played opposing TEs very tough in points allowed as the FFToday SOS Tool shows.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets rushed for 106 yards last week making the ground and pound a mirage - they rank 24th in rushing. Averaging 98 yards per game would be good production if it came from one player; however this is the entire team average. Split that between Greene and Tomlinson, and neither player makes for an attractive weekly fantasy option. It looks like Tomlinson will not play this week though I don’t think Greene benefits from this. Joe McKnight should take over Tomlinson’s role on passing downs. McKnight has been expected to gain more touches over several weeks. If he finds some success, the Jets will certainly be open-minded to cutting further into Greene’s role.

Mark Sanchez: 275 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 Int
Plaxico Burress: 65 yds receiving / 1 TD
Santonio Holmes: 60 yds receiving / 1 TD
Dustin Keller: 30 yds receiving
Shonn Greene: 75 yds rushing / 1 TD

NY FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -22.1%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -23.0%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +17.8%
NY FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +2.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: If a tree falls in the woods… The Broncos pass attack last week consisted of 2 of 8 attempts for 69 yards. I am wondering if that is some sort of modern day record…? Tebow had a few sporadic misses, and then made a perfect over the shoulder strike to a streaking Erik Decker for a 56-yard score. Facing the Jets’ 4th stingiest defense to opposing Quarterbacks, should we assume they will pass for less than 69 yards? No. The Jets are the best team Tebow has faced. The Jets travel west on a short week, so I don’t think they will shut the Broncos down but I also don’t think Denver will enjoy playing with the lead all 4 quarters. Eventually, Tebow will have to throw to stay in the game. Decker is the only receiving consideration, but not recommended for anything more than a desperation play.

Running Game Thoughts: The ground and pound of the Jets pales in comparison to the Broncos offense. They make the Jets offense look positively modern. The Broncos gained almost 100 of their 244 yards rushing last week on the Tebow option package. I think Denver is going to make life difficult for the Jets here. We saw last week in the Ravens-Seattle game what can happen to East Coast teams traveling west after playing their rival. Denver has an offense completely different from anything the Jets have seen. They presumably have had little time to game plan and prepare for it. They will bring Eric Smith up from safety and crowd the box but this game will come down to which team is the most physical and you’d have to expect Denver to be the more motivated team.

The Bronco’s running game will move on without the services of Knowshon Moren who tore his ACL. Willis McGahee is questionable, but expected to play but could be limited. He will platoon with Lance Ball. Ball rushed for 96 yards on the Chiefs last week, but needed 30 chances averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. With McGahee in, his value is negligible.

Tim Tebow: 100 yds passing / 60 yards rushing / 1 TD
Eric Decker: 40 yds receiving
Demaryius Thomas: 20 yds receiving
Daniel Fells: 15 yds receiving
Willis McGahee: 80 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Jets 24, Broncos 20 ^ Top

Titans @ Falcons - (Smith)

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: - 11.0%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 17.2%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: + 13.2%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: - 40.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite not having a treasure trove of receivers to throw to, Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has put together a solid season, with 2,233 passing yards (12th in the NFL) and 14 touchdowns (t-10th). He’s completed 61.9 percent of his passes (10th) and has a quarterback rating of 89.1 (also 10th). While his overall numbers are solid, fantasy owners haven’t been getting big games from him of late, as he’s thrown for more than 225 yards just once in his last four games, and thrown more than one touchdown just once in his last five games. Those touchdown throws have mainly gone to wideout Damian Williams, who had 107 yards and a score last week, and who has three touchdown receptions over his last five games, and he’s certainly someone that should at least be considered as a flex option.

The Falcons pass defense is 23rd in the league, but they’ve only allowed 12 touchdown throws, which is tied for 12th in the NFL, and they have 10 interceptions, which is also tied for 12th. They’ve been somewhat inconsistent however, having allowed four quarterbacks to throw for at least 310 yards and two touchdowns, but also holding three QBs to fewer than 185 yards. Four different wide receivers have gained at least 110 yards against Atlanta, and seven have had games with double-digit fantasy points.

Running Game Thoughts: After a hideous start to the season, running back Chris Johnson put together his best overall game of the season in Week 10, with a season-high 130 rushing yards, one rushing score and 44 receiving yards. His touchdown run was only his second of the year, and his average of 4.8 yards per carry in the contest was his best mark.

Johnson’s big game last week was against the Panthers and their 28th-ranked run defense, and he’ll have a much bigger challenge this week against Atlanta, who comes into the game with a run defense that is third in the NFL. The Falcons have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this year, and only two backs have gained more than 70 yards against them, but none since Week 3.

Matt Hasselbeck: 255 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Damian Williams: 85 yds receiving
Nate Washington: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jared Cook: 35 yds receiving
Lavelle Hawkins: 20 yds receiving
Chris Johnson: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: + 11.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: - 17.1%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: + 41.6%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: + 20.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Quarterback Matt Ryan threw two touchdowns and compiled 351 passing yards last week in the team’s loss to the Saints, which represented not only a season-high for the fourth-year signal-caller, but a career-high as well. Yet he remains outside the top-10 this year in passing yards (2,309 – 11th in the NFL), completion percentage (60.1 – 21st) and quarterback rating (83.0 – 15th), though his 14 touchdowns do place him in a tie for 10th. Receiver Roddy White continues to disappoint the fantasy owners that spent a high pick on him. He had only 62 receiving yards against the Saints, and has had just one game with at least 80 yards this year. On the other hand, Harry Douglas had a big game against New Orleans, with 133 yards on eight catches, but a lot of that was on the team’s final drive in the fourth quarter when the Saints simply didn’t cover him in the slot. Tight end Tony Gonzalez also represents a bright spot for fantasy owners, as he’s among the leaders at his position in fantasy points, and has scored in each of his past two games.

Tennessee’s pass defense is 15th in the league, but part of that is due to the fact that they didn’t allow a 200-yard passer in any of the season’s first three weeks. But they’ve allowed at least 250 passing yards in four of their last six games, and multiple touchdown throws in three of their last five games. But to a large degree the Titans have stifled wideouts, with none gaining even 85 yards in a game. Tight ends have had success against them, at least when it comes to catching touchdowns, as they’ve allowed a player at that position to score in four of their last six contests.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner has enjoyed a strong season, including running for 96 yards last week against the Saints. He is sixth in the NFL in rushing with 788 yards, and his seven rushing scores are tied for the third-most in the league. His fantasy owners have to love his consistency, as he’s accumulated double-digit fantasy points in all but one game this year.

The Titans are just 22nd in the league against the run, and are allowing just over 125 yards per game on the ground. Four different backs have gained at least 95 yards against them, but Tennessee has also given up just four rushing touchdowns this season, and only two squads have allowed fewer.

Matt Ryan: 265 yds passing, 2 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roddy White: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Harry Douglas: 55 yds receiving
Julio Jones: 30 yds receiving
Michael Turner: yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Falcons 27, Titans 20 ^ Top

Bengals @ Ravens - (Autry)

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -18.2%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -10.0%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -8.4%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -8.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton is one of several rookie QBs who is making himself into a worthy fantasy option any given week. Dalton is leading a team that’s one of the top in the AFC. His stats are not eye-popping, but he’s a solid fill-in on most weeks. Although he’s only averaged 200 yards passing per game over the last five, Dalton has thrown multiple TDs in four of them. Fellow rookie A.J. Green has blossomed into the best first-year WR in the league. His availability is highly questionable heading into this contest; a knee injury sustained against Pittsburgh last week may keep him out. In his absence, underrated Jerome Simpson can be a sleeper. His 15.8 yards per catch leads the team; his big play ability will be counted on as long as Green is out.

Which Baltimore defense will show up this week? The one that allowed both Tennessee and Pittsburgh to throw for well over 300 yards, or the unit that held Arizona and Jacksonville under 100 yards through the air? Their inconsistency has been mind-boggling, but they remain the 6th best squad against the pass while allowing a league-low six TD passes. The Ravens are also third in the league with 27 sacks, so the rookie signal-caller had best have his head on a swivel in this game.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson is about as nondescript a fantasy RB as you can get. Not much excitement, not much potential for huge games. In fact, he’s only scored multiple TDs in a game twice in his 84 game career. Certainly, he gets his opportunities. The last two contests against the Ravens he had more than 20 rushing attempts; he just doesn’t seem to get much production out of those opportunities. Consider Benson a low-end RB2 this week.

Benson will find the running lanes tough to come by against Baltimore. The Ravens field the third best rush defense and have given up only three rushing TDs. However, further evidence of the Ravens’ Jekyll and Hyde mentality was allowing Marshawn Lynch to rumble for 109 yards on 32 carries. The Bengals ordinarily dedicate themselves to such a rushing attack, so perhaps Benson could carve out some semblance of production. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Andy Dalton: 210 yards passing / 2 TD / 1 INT
Jerome Simpson: 65 yards receiving
Andrew Hawkins: 45 yards receiving
Andre Caldwell: 35 yards receiving
Jermaine Gresham: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Cedric Benson: 55 yards rushing

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -29.0%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -26.2%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -54.1%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -5.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Joe Flacco has been a surprisingly average fantasy QB. After tossing seven TDs through the season’s first three games, he has bottomed out to the tune of three TOTAL touchdown passes in the last six games. He’s had three games in which he’s thrown for more than 300 yards during that stretch, but Flacco’s lack of scoring tosses is dragging down his fantasy value big time. Meanwhile, Flacco’s TD drought has directly affected Anquan Boldin. His two TD receptions in his last 13 games leaves a lot to be desired. Boldin remains a WR2, but it’s games like last week’s 2 reception, 22-yard stinker against Seattle that makes his owners weary. Baltimore hopes that TE Ed Dickson can build on his 10 catch, 79 yard, two TD gem against Seattle last week.

Cincinnati is a top-5 defense overall and No. 10 against the pass. The loss of CB Leon Hall for the season, however, will undoubtedly hamper the unit’s productivity. Even though they are among the league leaders in sacks, fumble recoveries and defensive TDs, Cincy’s defense ranks last with four interceptions. Hall’s absence won’t fix that dilemma. Expect Flacco to snap out of his TD drought with multiple scoring tosses this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Even though Ray Rice hasn’t had more than 63 yards on the ground over the last four games, he more than makes up for it with his receiving ability. He’s second in the league at RB with 46 receptions. And last week, he added passing to his repertoire. His TD pass to Dickson salvaged what was an otherwise pedestrian game for Rice. But if you recall, his last poor outing this year (28 yards rushing against Jacksonville) was followed by a three-TD resurgence against Arizona. Even though the Bengals have the second best rushing defense, he could still have a similar rebound game.

Cincy gave up 105 yards on the ground last week to Pittsburgh, but it was the first time in the last seven that they surrendered more than 100 yards. Baltimore likes to get the ball in Rice’s hands, but they aren’t forced to do so simply by handing it off to him. His touches, as mentioned above, come from receptions too. So while surpassing the century mark strictly on the ground may end up being difficult for Rice to reach, he could easily get to that milestone by combining both rushing and receiving yards. Rice should provide you with nice numbers this week despite the tough defense they will face.

Joe Flacco: 240 yards passing / 2 TDs
Anquan Boldin: 85 yards receiving
Torrey Smith: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ed Dickson: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ray Rice: 65 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving

Prediction: Ravens 20, Bengals 14 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Browns - (Autry)

CLE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -15.1%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.7%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +24.9%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -26.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: This game will more than likely rival the Browns/Rams game last week as the snoozefest of the season. Jacksonville has the league’s worst offense and has only reached 20 points once this season. Whether it’s the struggles of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert or the lack of WR options outside, the fact remains this is one of the most boring teams to watch. Gabbert is a work in progress in every sense of the word. A sub-50 percent completion percentage, on multiple TD games, one game of over 200 yards…all of it paints an unattractive picture of an offense starved for production. You may want to consider a hobby other than fantasy football if you’re relying on Gabbert or any of his receiving options.

The only bright spot for the Browns is its pass defense. No team since Tennessee in week 4 has passed for more than 200 yards against Cleveland. It hasn’t necessarily been a who’s who of QB royalty (Jason Campbell/Kyle Boller, Charlie Whitehurst, Alex Smith, Sam Bradford), but that kind of defense needs to be acknowledged regardless of the opponent. Gabbert and his collection of practice squad-quality receivers will be limited once again this week.

Running Game Thoughts: The fact that Maurice Jones-Drew has been as productive as he’s been gives further credence to his greatness. This dude is literally the only spec of top-notch talent offensively on this team, but yet he still finds production on the ground. Conventional wisdom says teams should just stack the box on the Jags. They often do, but MJD is still able to maneuver through defenders while maintaining his relevance in fantasy football. Continue to start MJD as the RB1 he is.

As solid as Cleveland has been defending the pass, they’ve been contradictorily bad against the run. Only once have they held a team under 100 yards on the ground this season. MJD should easily have his third 100-yard rushing game in his last four. Start him with confidence.

Blaine Gabbert: 145 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Mike Thomas: 55 yards receiving
Jason Hill: 35 yards receiving
Marcedes Lewis: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Maurice Jones-Drew: 120 yards rushing / 1 TD

JAC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -29.0%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +7.3%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +4.0%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -39.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Five TDs in Colt McCoy’s first three games of the season have given way to production such as two TD passes in his last four games. Well-below average numbers like that render players such as McCoy waiver wire fodder. McCoy’s not the only Cleveland Brown struggling to make his way in fantasy circles. Rookie Greg Little has shown some ability, but he’s yet to score; Josh Cribbs is a highly-celebrated return specialist moonlighting as a WR; Mohamed Massaquoi’s next big game in the NFL, when he returns from injury, will be his first one. This team is a mess offensively, and they’ve yet to really recover from inextricably ridding themselves of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow.

Much like Cleveland, Jacksonville’s pass defense has been the lone bright spot on the team. They’ve limited just about every team they’ve faced, including holding four of their last five opponents to less than 200 yards passing. Only Tennessee in the season opener and New Orleans in week 4 did anything of significance against the Jags. Expect another game where Jacksonville limits its opponent to miniscule production through the air.

Running Game Thoughts: While Montario Hardesty and Peyton Hillis continue to battle an assortment of injuries, Chris Ogbonnaya will once again be the one-trick pony in Cleveland’s backfield. After rushing for a paltry 65 yards combined in his first two starts for the Browns, Ogbonnaya tallied 90 yards against St. Louis last week. For those who may be a bit desperate with Rashard Mendenhall or Arian Foster on bye, Ogbonnaya can be a nice one-week sleeper.

Jacksonville is a middle-of-the-road kinda defense, but they have the potential to stymie even the toughest of rushing teams. They held Baltimore to 34 yards rushing in week 7 and Cincinnati to 77 yards in week 5. So while Ogbonnaya will have the workload to put up numbers, he could just as easily hit a brick wall going up against Jacksonville. Keep your expectations in check.

Colt McCoy: 180 yards passing / 0 TDs / 1 INT
Greg Little: 70 yards receiving
Josh Cribbs: 40 yards receiving
Ben Watson: 35 yards receiving
Chris Ogbonnaya: 60 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving / 1 TD

Prediction: Jaguars 17, Browns 10 ^ Top

Panthers @ Lions - (Autry)

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -6.0%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +42.3%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -3.8%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -22.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week’s game against Tennessee was Cam Newton’s first NFL game without a TD. Whether or not that’s a foreshadow of things to come remains to be seen. But we shouldn’t be surprised at such an occurrence. While Newton has indeed taken the NFL by storm, we all have to ask ourselves if it will last. He will have his ups and downs, sure. But the fact that he’s a multi-dimensional player who can rack up fantasy points in a multitude of ways makes him—surprisingly—one of the most solid fantasy QBs to have in 2011. Steve Smith is enjoying his best season since his 2005 campaign of 1,563 receiving yards and 12 scores. Smith also has his highest average per reception (18.6) of his career. Who saw this coming? Continue to start both Newton and Smith as No. 1 players at their respective positions.

One of the concerns about Detroit’s defense heading into the season was its secondary. Well, nine games, statistics show the backend of the defense has fared better than the more publicized front seven. The Lions are 4th in the league against the pass, and only three teams have given up fewer TD passes than Detroit’s four. The Lions will be tested for sure this week. The dual threat of Newton will call for them to remain diligent in their assignments and not allow Smith to get behind them. He is the most explosive receiver they will face through the first 10 games of the season, so it will be interesting to see how well they defend him.

Running Game Thoughts: What was once a potent one-two RB punch with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart has morphed into a pedestrian running game with both having scored only three TDs combined this season. If not for Newton’s contribution to the running game, we’d be talking about one of the league’s most inept running teams. Beyond their below average numbers, Williams and Stewart seem to have fluid roles in the offense; i.e., non-defined roles that makes it even more difficult to justify starting either in any given week. Only those scrapping the bottom of the RB barrel should fool around and start either of these two with confidence.

The Lions, with all the preseason hype about their indomitable defensive line, have struggled defending run. Only five teams struggle more than Detroit with stopping the run. As much as they’ve been run on, though, the Lions have only given up four rushing TDs—third best in the league. If they surrender a rushing TD, chances are great that it will be Newton who cashes in. Don’t expect much from the once-dynamic duo of Stewart and Williams.

Cam Newton: 245 yards passing / 55 yards rushing / 1 passing TD / 1 rushing TD
Steve Smith: 75 yards receiving
Legedu Naanee: 55 yards receiving
Greg Olsen: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jeremy Shockey: 30 yards receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 45 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving
DeAngelo Williams: 35 yards rushing

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -17.9%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.7%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -11.7%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -18.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford’s four interception debacle last week was his worst game since his Thanksgiving performance against Green Bay two years ago when he also tossed four INTs. Putting his meltdown last week in Chicago in further perspective, his four interception game was his first multiple turnover game since week 12 of the 2009 season. Stafford has been a consensus QB1 all season long, and his poor game last week should be chalked up as just one of those things. It is a bit disconcerting knowing they were coming off a bye and put up such a performance. But all and all, this week should be a nice rebound game for Stafford and the entire Detroit passing game. Their biggest concern, however, should be improving their third down conversion. The Lions are currently one of the worst in the league in the category.

Carolina fields the 28th-ranked pass defense in the league. Green Bay and New Orleans had productive games through the air against them, so did Arizona and Washington. The Panthers are in the bottom third in league rankings in interceptions and sacks, so Stafford should be able to snap back into form this week. Expect a solid game from both Stafford and Calvin Johnson.

Running Game Thoughts: Jahvid Best’s explosive potential is greatly missed in this offense. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams simply don’t have the playmaking ability that Best has, and that missing ingredient has zapped Detroit’s offense of both balance and diversification. Even though this is a pass-first offense, the threat of the run helps keep defenses at bay. That’s what they had with Best. As it relates to fantasy, neither Morris nor Williams warrant starting consideration—although Morris should be stashed deep on your bench for depth purposes.

It’s too bad Detroit can’t run. Carolina hasn’t stopped many people this season and even allowed Chris Johnson to find his mojo last week, surrendering 130 yards and a score—his best game since week 14 last year. Only two opponents have been limited to less than 100 yards on the ground against them—Washington and Arizona. Again, this apparent weakness can’t and won’t be exploited by Detroit.

Matthew Stafford: 260 yards passing / 3 TDs
Calvin Johnson: 120 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Titus Young: 55 yards receiving
Nate Burleson: 30 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Maurice Morris: 45 yards rushing
Keiland Williams: 25 yards rushing

Prediction: Lions 24, Panthers 17 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Packers - (Autry)

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +6.1%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +44.3%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +14.5%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +5.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: I was a seller of Josh Freeman heading into this season. I just didn’t think he could or would duplicate his extraordinary play from 2010. Talk about taking a step back…. Freeman has regressed to the extent that it looks like his rookie season all over again. Interceptions come in bunches for him—seven in his last three games. And his 170 passing yards last week against Houston was his lowest figure since week 11 last season versus Baltimore. You have to be a glutton for punishment if you decide to start this guy. After struggling through more than half the season, chances are he won’t turn it around in time this year to salvage his plummeting fantasy value. Bench him until further notice.

Even though Green Bay is far from where they were defensively last season, they feasted on Minnesota last week. The Vikings couldn’t get out of their own way on Monday night, and Christian Ponder looked like the wide-eyed rookie that he is. Green Bay leads the league in interceptions, so couple that with Freeman’s propensity to toss it to the other team and what you have is a recipe for disaster. The only silver lining to this cloud is Freeman may be forced to throw 50 times in this contest, so if you’re hurting at QB with Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger on bye, cross your fingers and hope Freeman can translate quantity for production.

Running Game Thoughts: LeGarrette Blount returned in week 8, but it’s as if he hasn’t. He has 23 rushing attempts for 106 yards in his last two games. Part of the issue, though, is the Bucs have gotten behind so much so fast that it has rendered the running game useless. Blount is not a receiving threat, so he’s standing on the sideline when the Bucs go into their up-tempo offense. This could be another one of those games. If he doesn’t get his numbers early, forget it.

Green Bay is a top-10 rush defense, but that’s more a byproduct of how much and how fast they jump out on the opposition. Teams table the running game in lieu of the pass in an effort to climb back into the game. As a result, Blount could be useless this game and little known Kregg Lumpkin could actually put up better numbers with his receiving ability. But do yourself a favor and bench your Tampa Bay RBs.

Josh Freeman: 235 yards passing / 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Mike Williams: 65 yards receiving / 1 TD
Arrelious Benn: 50 yards receiving
Dezmon Briscoe: 35 yards receiving
Kellen Winslow: 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kregg Lumpkin: 40 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving
LeGarrette Blount: 30 yards rushing

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +23.0%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.9%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +22.5%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +24.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s getting ridiculous what Aaron Rodgers is doing to the opposition. The last off game that he’s had, and it can’t really be classified as such because he got hurt, was week 13 against Detroit. Excluding that game, Rodgers hasn’t thrown for less than 229 yards since week 8 last season. He’s had at least three TD passes in four straight with only one INT in that stretch. Not much else can be said about what he’s doing. If you have Rodgers, just feel fortunate that you do. As it relates to the other components of the passing game, Rodgers spreads the ball around perhaps as well as any QB in the league. While that’s great from an NFL standpoint, it could be maddening for fantasy players. That being said, continue to treat Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael as no-brainer weekly starters.

Rodgers gets to go up against the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense—a defense, by the way, that just gave up 242 passing yards last week to Matt Schaub on only 11 completions. Rodgers may have 11 completions by the end of the first quarter. It will be a long, dreadful day for the Bucs secondary.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Grant and James Starks are complementary pieces in an offense that throws the ball 56 percent of the time. A simple eyeball test reveals Starks is the better of the two. He averages one full yard more than Grant, plus he’s more involved in the passing game. Honestly, though, neither is a recommended start. They have one TD between them, and both could lose the coveted goal line carries to John Kuhn anyway. Veer away from this situation altogether.

Tampa hasn’t stopped many people on the ground this year. They’re 29th against the run and have given up 186 yards per game on the ground over the last three contests. Houston racked up 185 yards last week but could have gotten much more than that if they really needed to. Don’t expect those kinds of numbers this week, as Green Bay is destined to concentrate on picking apart the Bucs defense through the air. Starks is a low-end RB2 option this week, but Grant and Kuhn should be kept on the bench.

Aaron Rodgers: 320 yards passing / 3 TDs passing / 1 TD rushing
Greg Jennings: 110 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Jordy Nelson: 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Donald Driver: 40 yards receiving
James Jones: 20 yards receiving
Jermichael Finley: 55 yards receiving
James Starks: 60 yards rushing
Ryan Grant: 30 yards rushing

Prediction: Packers 34, Buccaneers 14 ^ Top

Raiders @ Vikings - (Autry)

MIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.0%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +26.6%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -3.8%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +5.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Carson Palmer settled in nicely last week after a horrid start. He threw six interceptions in his first two contests with the Raiders. Late in his tenure with the Bengals, Palmer put up nice yardage numbers but tossed his share of interceptions. Palmer is forging a good rapport with WR Denarius Moore. The rookie speedster’s ascent, his week 2 explosion against Buffalo notwithstanding, has coincided with Palmer’s emergence. The veteran QB will continue to look for the rookie to serve as his go-to guy. Both are startable options this week. Jacoby Ford’s availability is in doubt, further solidifying Moore’s value this week.

Minnesota statistically is one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Only two teams have surrendered more yards through the air. As much as the Vikings have struggled defending the pass, they’ve been an absolute terror rushing the passer. They are third in the league in sacks with 27, and DE Jared Allen is among the league leaders with 13.5. If the Raiders struggle containing Allen, it could be a long day for Palmer.

Running Game Thoughts: It’s easy to forget how good Michael Bush was when he came out of college. He was a Heisman candidate at Louisville before breaking his leg during his senior year. With a few struggles early in his career, coupled with Darren McFadden’s emergence, Bush was pushed to the backburner. Bush is getting his opportunity now that McFadden is out, and he’s making the most of it. He’s averaging 118 yards in the last three and has been the battering ram that many thought he’d be. Bush is a solid RB2 this week. Start him with confidence.

The Vikings are 6th in the league defending the run. Games against San Diego (77 rushing yards), Arizona (77 rushing yards) and Detroit (20 rushing yards) help with that ranking, because they’ve been gashed a couple times this year (Chicago 119 rushing yards; Carolina 140 rushing yards). Minnesota will indeed be tested this game, as Bush could get 25 carries. Expect a very competitive game.

Carson Palmer: 240 yards passing / 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Denarius Moore: 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 40 yards receiving
Kevin Boss: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Brandon Myers: 30 yards receiving
Michael Bush: 85 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving / 1 rushing TD

OAK FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +25.1%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -0.1%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +4.1%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +26.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Christian Ponder had it rough last week against Green Bay. No TD passes, less than 200 yards passing and a sub-50 percent completion percentage are all telltale signs of a young, struggling QB. Ponder does give this offense the mobility on offense that was painfully lacking when Donovan McNabb was under center. Ponder will come around at some point. Whether or not he will become fantasy-relevant in 2011 is highly questionable. But at least he’s given TE Visanthe Shiancoe new life; and Michael Jenkins, too.

The Raiders struggle all over on defense. They’re in the bottom-third in the league defending the pass, but this unit gave the struggling Philips Rivers all he could handle last week. Other than a couple second half TD passes, Oakland made Rivers look average. Ponder could experience a similar fate. Minnesota will most assuredly unleash a conservative passing offense. As a result, Ponder’s numbers will be limited.

Running Game Thoughts: There were whispers in a few places—including this site—that insinuated Adrian Peterson’s production would take a dip with the rookie QB. Some thought the eight in the box mentality that defense will most certainly employ would hinder Peterson. Well…not quite. Sure, A.P. has had a few stinkers from a yardage perspective (51 against Green Bay; 39 against Chicago), but he’s still scored in five straight games—seven TDs in all. Peterson is tied with Philly’s LeSean McCoy as the league leader in rushing TDs with 10. Expect much of the same this week.

Oakland limited San Diego to 75 yards last week but was torched and embarrassed the previous week by Denver to the tune of 299 yards. Former QB Rich Gannon indicated on his SiriusXM radio show that he believes Peterson will finish the game with closer to 200 yards than 100 yards. That very well could be. Peterson will certainly get his carries. Whatever the case, A.P. will continue to put up the RB1 numbers that has made him the crowning jewel of many fantasy teams.

Christian Ponder: 190 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Michael Jenkins: 70 yards receiving
Percy Harvin: 40 yards receiving
Visanthe Shiancoe: 50 yards receiving / 1 TD
Adrian Peterson: 110 yards rushing / 2 TDs

Prediction: Vikings 27, Raiders 24 ^ Top

Chargers @ Bears - (Autry)

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +4.2%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -4.2%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +5.3%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers leads the league in interceptions with 15, but he does have five games in which he’s thrown for more than 300 yards. That feast or famine production has driven his owners crazy, no doubt. He got off to a slow start last week against Oakland but managed to make a respectable game of it from a fantasy perspective. Vincent Jackson’s owners are probably more frustrated than Rivers’ owners. Jackson followed up an absolute ridiculous game against Green Bay with a one catch, 22-yard stinker against Oakland. It’s a maddening experience for those with Jackson, which is why I packaged him in a deal for Mike Wallace. I couldn’t take his dramatic dips in production after all-world performances, especially coming up on the most important portion of the fantasy season.

The Chicago Bears defense held in check a Detroit Lions offense that was coming off a bye and was primed to sweep the Bears. San Diego brings in a similar attack. The Bears picked off Matthew Stafford four times and should be able to force turnovers by the surprisingly mistake-prone Rivers. The Bears have struggled defending the pass this year, so it’s not a total lost cause for Rivers. He should be able to move the football against Chicago and put up good numbers. Remember, only three teams have surrendered more yards via the air than the Bears.

Running Game Thoughts: Mike Tolbert leads the San Diego Chargers in receiving. Let me repeat. A 245 lbs. converted fullback leads a top NFL team in receiving after nine games. I’m not sure whether that says more about Tolbert or the Chargers passing attack as a whole. But Tolbert has proven valuable. Meanwhile, Ryan Mathews, Mr. Fragility himself, carves out production whenever he’s not nursing injuries. This is a bona fide RBBC, so good luck with trying to determine who’s the most startable week after week. For my money, I’d go with Tolbert. Even though Mathews leads the team in rushing yards, I simply don’t trust him.

Teams have only run on Chicago 188 times this season—lowest in the league. The Bears are 13th in the NFL defending the run, and the fact that they’ve held three of their last four opponents to 80 yards or less on the ground doesn’t hurt that ranking. Chicago will look to continue that domination this week.

Philip Rivers: 260 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Vincent Brown: 50 yards receiving
Patrick Crayton: 35 yards receiving
Antonio Gates: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Mike Tolbert: 55 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving / 1 rushing TD
Ryan Mathews: 30 yards rushing

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +10.3%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.0%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +49.7%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Chicago’s defense was so dominant last week that Jay Cutler had only 19 pass attempts against the Lions. That game extended the longest mistake-free stretch of football of Cutler’s career. He has only two interceptions in the last five games, and the team has won four of them. It’s not a coincidence that the team has improved overall with Cutler’s improved play. Meanwhile, Earl Bennett has returned from injury and given the team a much-needed infusion of explosive play on the outside. Roy Williams and Johnny Knox have been fairly useless all year, and neither should be counted on. Bennett, however, is a solid low-end WR2. Cutler is an option for those with Brees or Roethlisberger on bye.

The Chargers allowed Carson Palmer to resurrect his production last week to the tune of 299 yards. After only once allowing more than 176 yards passing through the first six games, the Chargers have since surrendered at least 232 yards through the air in the last three. The Bears have made a concerted effort to rely less on Cutler and more on Matt Forte and the running game. Cutler should still carve out some level of production, but he’s due for a mistake or two.

Running Game Thoughts: Simply put, Matt Forte IS Chicago’s offense. He has 720 more rushing yards than anyone else on the team and 20 more receptions. The Bears go as Forte goes. Not including the game last week in which the defense and special team took over, Forte averaged 137 yards rushing per game in the previous five. There’s no reason to believe he won’t pick up the pace once more. Expect solid numbers from your RB1.

San Diego had their worst outing of the year defending the run last week. Paced by Michael Bush’s 157 yards, Oakland rumbled for 191 yards. Forte will challenge the Chargers at every level of the defense and force them to remain vigilant in their responsibilities. Forte will be used all over the field. Consequently, fantasy owners can once again count on stellar production.

Jay Cutler: 195 yards passing / 1 TD
Earl Bennett: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Johnny Knox: 35 yards receiving
Roy Williams: 25 yards receiving
Matt Forte: 135 yards rushing / 55 yards receiving / 1 TD rushing

Prediction: Chargers 24, Bears 17 ^ Top

Bills @ Dolphins - (Marcoccio)

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +2.0%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +8.5%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -25.7%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -35.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bills’ passing game is starting to unravel. This should be a little disturbing to management, as they just gave quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a rather nice contract extension before the decline. The passing game has been unable to get in synch at all over the last two weeks. The Bills, outside of Stevie Johnson, don’t have big-time playmakers in their passing game, but Donald Jones and David Nelson are big, strong receivers who would provide adequate support if Fitzpatrick were firing on all cylinders. The issue is that teams are starting to take advantage of some of the Harvard grad’s shortcomings, the main one being his lack of arm strength. Without the ability to go deep consistently or fit the ball into tight spaces, the passing game has its limitations. If the Bills are able to turn C.J. Spiller into a slot receiver—something they have experimented with—it could provide a big boost, as he has the speed, quickness and agility to make things happen in space. With December coming on quickly, however, things may actually start to get worse for a team on the verge of a major collapse after starting out so surprisingly hot.

Miami is allowing 256.3 passing yards per game and have allowed 14 passing touchdowns on the season. Cornerback Vontae Davis was back with the team after a one-game suspension and provided a boost to the struggling unit.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson has been trying to carry the offense on his back the last two weeks, and the weight seems to be slowing him down a bit. Through nine games he’s already at 1,309 total yards from scrimmage and has scored six touchdowns, but he hasn’t made it to the endzone in the last two games and has “only” managed to gain 235 total yards. That’s not exactly a pair of poor performances, but he is falling off from the torrid pace he was on through the first seven weeks. He is still one of the most complete backs in the league, and if the passing game does get back on track, he should finish the season as a top-5 fantasy RB. In a “must win” game for a Bills team that is heading in the wrong direction, expect them to continue to ride on the back of their best offensive player.

The Dolphins have allowed only three rushing touchdowns on the season, so Fred’s scoring drought might just continue in Miami. The Phins have played very inspired football the last three weeks and have managed to win two games after their horrendous start to the season. As they start getting accustomed to winning, expect Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, and safety Yeremiah Bell to continue flying all over the field making tackles.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 245 yds passing 1 TD, 1 Int. / 15 yds rushing
Steve Johnson: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 35 yds receiving
David Nelson: 40 yds receiving
Scott Chandler: 20 yds receiving
Fred Jackson: 95 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving
C.J. Spiller: 25 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

BUF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -10.6%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +4.8%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +1.7%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +27.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: After tossing three touchdowns the week prior, Matt Moore came back down to earth and failed to throw one against the Redskins in Week 10. However, he did manage to move the ball and guide Miami to a victory. There’s no doubt that he has provided a spark to an offense that lacked one through their first seven games. While he’s most likely not the future in Miami, he’ll continue his audition to land a backup role either in Miami or somewhere else next season. He and Brandon Marshall have clicked, and tight end Anthony Fasano has become fantasy relevant over the last two weeks. While Marshall is still probably the only member of this passing game that fantasy owners can truly trust, at least it’s not the barren wasteland that it was earlier this season.

The Bills were absolutely picked apart by the Dallas passing game last week, and it could have been far worse if the Cowboys hadn’t taken their foot off of the gas in the second half. Buffalo is ranked 27th in the league, allowing 256.3 ypg and 14 touchdowns on the season. They do have playmakers in the secondary that can take the ball away, however, and they have managed to grab 15 interceptions, with three of those going the other way for scores. Moore is a gunslinger, and the Bills can take advantage of him if he’s not careful.

Running Game Thoughts: Reggie Bush’s best season as a runner continued last week when he gained 47 yards on the ground and scored twice. He isn’t going to break many tackles or push piles, but at least he now runs hard and moves forward with the ball instead of dancing around and trying to make big plays on every carry, as he was wont to do in New Orleans. He’s still better built for running sweeps and catching screens, but he can gain yards inside if necessary. Rookie Daniel Thomas looked to be on the verge of surpassing Bush as the main ball carrier, but hamstring injuries have caused him to be used sparingly over the last couple of weeks, and Bush has taken advantage. Expect a heavy dose of both backs in what may be a surprisingly defensive battle in Miami.

The Bills have presented an easy matchup for running backs for much of this season, and rookie DeMarco Murray took advantage of them last week. On the season they have allowed 125.4 ypg and 11 rushing touchdowns. While they added personnel in the offseason in an attempt to shore up this major weakness, they haven’t really started putting it together for any long stretches. If they hope to remain in playoff contention, they will need to do just that.

Matt Moore: 225 yds passing 1 TD, 2 INTs
Brandon Marshall: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 40 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 20 yds receiving
Anthony Fasano: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Daniel Thomas: 40 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Reggie Bush: 70 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: Dolphins 17, Bills 13 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Redskins - (Marcoccio)

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +5.8%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -13.3%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +11.6%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +5.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: I’ve been using this space to rail against the Dallas offense becoming far too conservative the last couple of weeks, and my protests seem to have been heard by head coach Jason Garrett. Ok, I’m fairly certain I had nothing to do with it, but they opened up the offense big time last week. Tony Romo came out on fire and threw three first-half touchdowns, one to Dez Bryant sandwiched between the two Laurent Robinson hauled in. In the second half, the team understandably got a little more conservative in protecting a big lead. Romo has finally recovered fully from his broken rib, and he looks ready to lead the Cowboys on a run into the playoffs. He has one of the quickest releases in the league and the mobility to buy time to find his big, fast targets downfield. Robinson was released by the Rams last season and by San Diego this preseason, but he has looked fantastic during his stint in Dallas. He has nice speed and has been able to gain separation from the lesser corners assigned to him. While the team would love to have Miles Austin back, Robinson’s breakout has made the loss of the former Monmouth star a little more palpable.

The Redskins enter Week 11 as the ninth-ranked pass defense, having allowed only 216.7 ypg and eight passing touchdowns on the season. The defense has not been an issue for this team. Led by linebacker Brian Orakpo and former Ram washout Adam Carriker, they have relentlessly put pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season.

Running Game Thoughts: According to most fans and pundits, Cam Newton’s early-season exploits practically handed him the Rookie of the Year trophy. However, fellow rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has come on strong in recent weeks, and now Demarco Murray has thrown his hat into the ring as well. Since replacing the injured Felix Jones, Murray has accrued 621 yards rushing with two touchdowns over the last three weeks. Felix Jones started practicing this week, but Murray has done enough to retain a major role in the running game, and Jones is expected to be used as a third-down and change-of-pace back. Murray is solidly built and tough to tackle, especially when he gets a head of steam behind his elite straight-line speed. Jones will return to the role he played when Marion Barber was still on the team, a role where he was much more effective than he was as a feature back. With an improving young O-line and two speedy running backs, the Cowboys should be one of the league’s better running teams going forward.

Washington has allowed 120.4 ypg and eight touchdowns on the ground through their first nine games. The team’s two leading tacklers are solid veterans London Fletcher and Rock McIntosh, but they have talent throughout their front seven, along with one of the best run-stopping safeties in the league in LaRon Landry. Expect sound, hard-hitting play from this underrated unit in a game against their most hated rival.

Tony Romo: 285 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yds rushing
Laurent Robinson: 65 yds receiving
Dez Bryant: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Felix Jones: 20 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
DeMarco Murray: 105 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -8.1%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -13.5%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +37.6%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +5.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: The John Beck experiment, which ended before Week 10, was a disappointment. Beck wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t able to lead the team to a win after Rex Grossman earned three of them early in the season. Grossman is tremendously turnover prone, but he has a big arm and can deliver the ball anywhere on the field effectively. Earlier this season, he had good chemistry with his fellow Florida alumnus Jabar Gafney. With the Skins’ wideouts dropping like flies, Grossman and Gafney will need to build that back up. I opined last week that rookie Leonard Hankerson could become a threat that opposing teams need to account for, and he did just that in Week 10. Unfortunately, he also suffered a serious hip injury that forced him to the IR, ending his rookie season. Fred Davis is now the only player opponents have to focus on in this passing attack, and they will likely continue to do so.

The Dallas pass defense has allowed 221.8 ypg and 12 touchdowns and have been very up and down all season. At times they have looked fantastic, at other times, pathetic. Last week’s game against the Bills was one of those fantastic performances. With DeMarcus Ware leading the way, the team can bring pressure, and this week that pressure can lead to turnovers, as a flustered Rex Grossman has been mistake prone. Look for Rob Ryan to blitz a lot this week, especially since the Washington receivers won’t be running any patterns that can make Dallas pay if Grossman somehow beats the blitz.

Running Game Thoughts: And now for some comic relief. It seems Mike Shanahan hates fantasy football and loves to mess with the minds of those who play it. After stating during the week that rookie Roy Helu would start and incumbent Ryan Torain would only see carries going forward when Helu was tired, he later backtracked and said that a two-back system was needed to be successful in this league—all this before finally announcing that Torain would get the start. Former Cowboy Tashard Choice may be healthy enough to join the mix to further muddy the waters. However, the bottom line is that the Washington running game hasn’t been worth the headache that deciphering Shanahan’s intentions can cause. Just do yourself a favor and stay away.

Making it easier to keep your distance this week is the fact that the Redskins will be facing the Cowboys’ 11th-ranked run defense. Dallas has given up only 106 ypg and just five rushing touchdowns on the season. It’s also very likely that the Cowboys will get out to an early lead, negating the Skins’ ability to establish the run.

Rex Grossman: 260 yds passing, 2 TDs, 2 INTs / 10 yds rushing
Anthony Armstrong: 35 yds receiving
Jabar Gaffney: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Donte' Stallworth: 25 yds receiving
Fred Davis: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roy Helu: 30 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving
Ryan Torain: 45 yds rushing

Prediction: Cowboys 28, Redskins 17 ^ Top

Eagles @ Giants - (Marcoccio)

NYG FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +9.4%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.6%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +48.0%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +0.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Mike Vick suffered two broken ribs in the game against Arizona last week, and there seems to be a very good chance that he will miss this week’s game. That leaves Vince Young as the projected starter. Young is very similar in style to Vick, but he’s not nearly as fast when he takes off to run. Young was highly successful winning games during his years in Tennessee and should be able to hold down the fort for a week or two in what seems to be a lost season for the Eagles anyway. The Eagles’ offensive game plan shouldn’t change much with Young under center. They will get the explosive but malcontent wide receiver DeSean Jackson back this week after a team-imposed suspension for missing a meeting, but they will likely be without Jeremy Maclin, who separated his shoulder last week. Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, and Steve Smith would see action in Maclin’s place, but all are limited in what they can do after the catch. Smith looked a little hesitant last week in his first extensive action since recovering from a major knee injury. He lacked explosiveness in his cuts and uncharacteristically had trouble hanging onto the ball. Avant is a fine possession receiver who caught only one ball last week, but that nearly went for a touchdown as he was stopped inches short of the goal line. He’s probably the better option for those with bye-week or injury issues.

The Giants’ pass defense has looked overmatched at times (even Alex Smith had success against them last week), but they do show up big some weeks. On the season, they have allowed 237.3 ypg and ten touchdowns through the air. They played the Eagles tough in Week 3, picking off backup Mike Kafka twice in crunch time when Vick was forced out of the game. Expect Osi Umenyiora, Jacques Pierre-Paul, and Justin Tuck to have a field day against the porous Eagles O-line, leaving Young to try to make some plays with his legs. While he is not as dangerous as Vick, Young can be effective running the ball. However, the pressure could also cause him to get flustered and make mistakes that the Eagles can ill afford.

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy would surely garner MVP consideration if the Eagles were managing to win games. He’s as quick as any player in the league once he turns upfield, and he has seamlessly replaced Brian Westbrook in this offense, a vital part to the success of the Andy Reid style of attack. One has to think that the Eagles will attempt to run more than usual in order to ease Vince Young into his first extensive action in a while—and also to keep the Giants’ pass rush at bay.

The Giants’ run defense was outstanding last week, keeping Frank Gore from gaining a single yard before he left with an injury. However, Gore was dealing with an ankle injury that looked to be the main factor in his ineffectiveness, and the Giants were obviously geared up to stop the run, showing little respect for the 49ers’ passing game. On the season, the Giants have allowed 121.6 ypg and ten rushing touchdowns. And LeSean McCoy was able to run very effectively against them in Week 3, gaining 128 yards and scoring a touchdown. Expect close to the same this week.

Vince Young: 225 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int. / 35 yds rushing
DeSean Jackson: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 30 yds receiving
Jason Avant: 60 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 25 yds receiving
LeSean McCoy: 115 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving
Ronnie Brown: 20 yds rushing

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +11.7%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +31.2%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -25.7%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -30.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Although he has no chance at what is clearly Aaron Rodgers’ award this year, Eli Manning is having an MVP-caliber season, and he almost led his team to another come-from-behind victory on the road against a tough opponent. Victor Cruz continues to impress as a big-play threat and has seen his role increase even when Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are healthy. The passing offense is clicking so well that all three wideouts, as well as unheralded tight end Jake Ballard, are legitimate fantasy options, even against tough defenses. Cruz had his coming-out party in Week 3 against Philly as Nnamdi Asomugha was abused by the undrafted second-year receiver from UMass.

The Eagles’ signing of shutdown corner Asomugha and trade for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie this offseason, when combined with incumbent Asante Samuel, was supposed to form the best cornerback trio in the NFL. The new-look pass defense is allowing only 217.4 yards per game through nine weeks but have allowed an astonishing 17 touchdowns to be thrown against them—including four by Eli in Week 3. DRC is likely out this week, making matters worse for a defense that allowed the formerly unimpressive John Skelton to beat them up last week.

Running Game Thoughts: Brandon Jacobs should be relied on heavily this week against a Philly defense that is vulnerable up the middle. Ahmad Bradshaw is listed as questionable, but he has missed the last two games with a fractured foot and is likely to be out for at least another week. Jacobs should be able to bull his way through the Eagles’ defense with must more ease than the stout San Francisco run defense showed him last week.

The Eagles have been susceptible to power running games for the last couple of years, and that has continued into this season. They are currently the 17th-ranked run defense after allowing 120.0 ypg and seven rushing touchdowns on the season. However, they have improved over the last several weeks from their early season start where they couldn’t stop anybody. Nevertheless, it would make little sense for the Giants not to use Jacobs early and often this week.

Eli Manning: 285 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Hakeem Nicks: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 40 yds receiving
Jake Ballard: 45 yds receiving
Danny Ware: 15 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Giants 27, Eagles 20 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Patriots - (Marcoccio)

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +28.9%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +27.6%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +32.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -11.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Cassell injured his hand in Week 10, which not only will cost him his chance to return to Foxboro as the starting quarterback on an opposing team, but will also likely cost him his season. In steps Tyler Palko, a four-year veteran out of Pittsburgh with 13 career regular-season passes. He’s completed only 54 percent of his preseason passes and has throw for only five touchdowns against 12 interceptions in preseason action. In other words, it’s time to downgrade Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jonathan Baldwin. Palko has good mobility but a very weak arm. While he gets his first start against an awful bad pass defense, no one should expect to see much out of him.

New England’s pass defense has been historically bad, allowing 308.9 ypg and 15 touchdowns on the season. They held up well against the Jets last week, but that was due more to Mark Sanchez’s ineptness than anything they did. They lost their best coverage corner, Devin McCourtey, during the game in New Jersey, leaving an already depleted secondary extremely thin. They would be in serious trouble if they weren’t facing practice-squad type talent this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Jackie Battle is a career backup that was finally given a chance after Jamal Charles’ season-ending knee injury and Thomas Jones’s ineffectiveness, and he has done a nice job of running between the tackles. However, he’s limited in what he can do because he lacks the speed and agility to be a difference maker. He also loses touches to scatback Dexter McCluster, who is quick and shifty but lacks the straight-line speed and power to be effective in a larger role. The aforementioned Thomas Jones, who has seen his better days, gets his share of carries too. Battle is the type of back the runs like a battering ram and could wear down a defense by the fourth quarter, but unfortunately the team has fallen behind quickly in most of his starts and has been forced to abandon the run. With Palko under center and the Pats offense on the opposite sideline, the Chiefs plan will be to run the ball and kill some clock, but it’s very likely they will be forced to abandon that strategy by the second quarter.

The Pats have allowed only 103.1 ypg and seven touchdowns on the season, simply because most teams do have to abandon the run early to keep up with them. The Pats have their share of run stoppers in the front seven, but the 4.3 yards per carry they allow shows that they can be run on if a team should commit to it.

Tyler Palko: 155 yds passing, 2 Ints. / 40 yds rushing
Dwayne Bowe: 45 yds receiving
Steve Breaston: 25 yds receiving
Jonathan Baldwin: 20 yds receiving
Leonard Pope: 15 yds receiving
Dexter McCluster: 35 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving
Jackie Battle: 80 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -2.5%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -21.4%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +5.4%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +12.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady got back on track last week against the Jets despite having his most dependable target, Wes Welker, practically taken out of the game by Darrelle Revis. While Welker was held to only 46 yards, the Jets had no answer for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who accounted for 113 yards and two touchdowns. There was even a Chad Ochocinco sighting, as #85 gained 65 yards on the night, despite catching just two balls.

The Kansas City passing defense managed to hold their opponent to a mere two completions last week. That’s very impressive. What, Tim Tebow only threw eight passes on the day and is the most inaccurate quarterback in the league? Defensive back Brandon Flowers did however manage to get burned for a 56-yard touchdown on one of those completions. On the season the team has allowed 230.3 ypg and 16 passing touchdowns—including the 69-yard effort by the Broncos last week—so Tom Brady and crew should have little issue marching up and down the field on the Chiefs.

Running Game Thoughts: The Patriots can be very effective running the ball because of their excellent run blocking. But with their game-plan-specific packages, it’s always a challenge to guess which of their running backs will get the workload. Even worse for fantasy owners, many times that workload is so chopped up among the stable of backs that none of them are capable of a truly big day. For instance, last week Danny Woodhead was the most used back, but he saw only seven carries. BenJarvis Green-Ellis was starting to look like the closest thing the Pats had to a workhorse before a toe injury really limited him the past few weeks. Kevin Faulk returned against the Jets after sitting out for a week—one week after his activation from the PUP list—but was mostly ineffective. Throw in a few carries here and there to rookie Steven Ridley, and it’s a situation that rivals Washington’s cluttered backfield. Fantasy owners should avoid it if at all possible.

The Chiefs’ run defense was absolutely pummeled last week, but that will happen when a team runs an option–style offense and rushes 52 times on the day. After last week’s debacle, Kansas City has allowed 134 ypg and has given up nine touchdowns.

Tom Brady: 325 yds passing 3 TDs
Chad Ochocinco: 45 yds receiving
Wes Welker: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Deion Branch: 40 yds receiving
Aaron Hernandez: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
BenJarvis Green-Ellis: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Danny Woodhead: 40 yds rushing / 25 yds receving

Prediction: Patriots 37, Chiefs 10 ^ Top

Cardinals @ 49ers - (Eakin)

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.2%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +13.4%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -4.9%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -39.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Cardinals may get previous starter Kevin Kolb back from injury this week, but his replacement, John Skelton, has won two in a row, including a big win last week at Philadelphia. Statistically, both quarterbacks have a completion percentage of around 55. Kolb has eight touchdowns and eight interceptions; Skelton has four touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Long term, Skelton looks like he has the higher ceiling with his size arm strength, but Kolb is the immediate play due to experience and contract. Speculation is that Kolb will retain his starting job if able. Larry Fitzgerald had his best day of the year last week in Philly with Skelton at the helm, however, catching seven passes for 146 yards and two scores. This week he will likely see a lot of Carlos Rogers, who has enough size and speed to be one of the more difficult matchups Fitz will see. Early Doucet has been the most consistent wingman to Fitzgerald under Kolb, though he took a backseat to Andre Roberts the last two weeks with Skelton. Both of Fitzgerald’s sidekicks could chip in around fifty yards for owners in desperate need. The Cardinals may be forced to pass more than usual because of the Niners’ strong run defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Over his last five games, Beanie Wells has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and has not reached the 100-yard mark once. And several of those games saw him get over twenty carries. Given his lackluster production and a matchup against the league’s best run defense, Wells is at best a flex play this week. He is being replaced on passing downs by LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had 40 yards receiving last week on just two targets. While that’s nice yardage, the touches aren’t enough to feel comfortable relying on.

John Skelton: 255 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 Int
Larry Fitzgerald: 85 yds receiving / 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 60 yds receiving
Early Doucet: 45 yds receiving
Jeff King: 30 yards receiving
Beanie Wells: 60 yds rushing

ARI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +6.2%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -23.0%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +17.8%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +3.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: How many times has someone reviewed a 49ers game and given Alex Smith the positional advantage checkmark? He gets the nod over Skelton this week, but it’s close. Smith is attempting about 20-25 passes per game for 200 yards and a score. Michael Crabtree has been a consistent option since returning but will have a tough draw in Patrick Peterson. I like the San Francisco tight ends Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis in this matchup. The Cardinals are vulnerable up the middle and Smith certainly likes making those safe throws to his two athletic ends.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore is questionable, and with a big lead in the division, logic would dictate the Niners not rush him back into action. Plus, they have one of the better young backups in Kendall Hunter. The explosive rookie out of Oklahoma State is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He could be a bit small as the heir apparent to Gore, but only time will tell if he can hold up as an NFL back. If Gore sits out, Hunter will certainly have to be rated as a top 15-20 option this week. After all, the Cardinals are 21st in rushing defense, allowing 123 yards per game. Hunter may have to cede goal-line carries to the much larger Anthony Dixon; otherwise, he could easily be a top-ten option.

Alex Smith: 220 yds passing / 2 TD
Michael Crabtree: 50 yds receiving
Braylon Edwards: 50 yds receiving / 1 TD
Vernon Davis: 75 yds receiving / 1 TD
Kendall Hunter: 80 yds rushing / 1 TD / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: 49ers 24, Cardinals 16 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Rams - (Eakin)

STL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +2.8%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +20.5%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -51.6%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +16.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Seattle’s two leading receivers, Sydney Rice and Doug Baldwin, are both questionable after suffering concussions and will be game-time decisions this week. If they don’t play, Marshawn Lynch and Golden Tate stand to benefit the most. Tate is a promising prospect that has lost his chance to break out with the emergence of Baldwin. But he is fast and has enough skill to take advantage of the opportunity this week. Lynch saw seven passing targets last week, in part because of the aforementioned injuries. Earlier in the year, Leon Washington and Justin Forsett were covering those duties.

Overall, the Rams have the advantage here. They are solid against the pass, giving up just 220 yards per game. The Seahawks have gotten better play out of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson of late, but the bar was set pretty low based on his start to the season. Still, Seattle is ranked 22nd and averages just 202 yards passing per game.

Running Game Thoughts: The Seahawks will continue to lean on Marshawn Lynch. Last week marked the first time in his career he rushed for over a 100 yards in back-to-back games. More impressively, he did so against the tough Baltimore Ravens defense—even though it took 32 carries to get there. Nevertheless, any one player getting close to 40 total touches per game is a valuable commodity. Playing on the road versus the league’s worst run defense makes Lynch a must-start.

Tarvaris Jackson: 175 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 Int
Golden Tate: 85 yds receiving
Mike Williams: 60 yds receiving / 1 TD
Zach Miller: 35 yds receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 125 yds rushing / 1 TD / 30 yds receiving

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -1.2%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -5.6%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +23.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -15.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Even with the return of Sam Bradford, the Rams passing offense remains stagnant. The only positive has been the addition of Brandon Lloyd, who saw twice the targets (9) of any other receiver last week. That was good enough for 48 yards and a score. Keep Mark Clayton on your radar, however. He returned from the PUP list last week and saw one target that went incomplete, but he and Bradford started last year hot, and his presence could give the Rams their first legitimate receiving corps of the Bradford era.

Running Game Thoughts: The Rams offense is pretty similar to the Seahawks. They are struggling to throw the ball and riding the hot hand of their running game. Steven Jackson is much more talented than Lynch, but Seattle has a better run defense with a lot more size. Jackson will need to break more runs outside to have success, but the fact that he was able to run well on the Browns defense last week is an indication of his potential for this week. Cleveland isn’t as good as Seattle at stopping the run, but they are similar in that they have a big defensive front that relies more on power than speed. The key matchup to watch here will be middle linebacker David Hawthorne versus Jackson. Hawthorne isn’t a physically gifted as some of the NFL’s elite linebackers, but he compensates with determination and smart pursuit angles. He is the heart and soul of the Seattle defense.

Sam Bradford: 220 yds passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Brandon Lloyd: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Austin Pettis: 40 yds receiving
Lance Kendricks: 45 yds receiving
Steven Jackson: 95 yds rushing / 1 TD / 30 yds receiving

Prediction: Rams 20, Seahawks 17 ^ Top