Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Inside the Matchup
Week 12

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




 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Autry 28 13 68.3
2 Marcoccio 27 13 67.5
3 Smith 26 14 65.0
4 Eakin 23 16 59.0

Packers @ Lions - (Autry)

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +24.0%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -11.3%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +27.3%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +26.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: We all know that Aaron Rodgers has gotten off to one of the best starts ever for a QB. But in addition to his consistent, high-level play, he’s also been one of the best in terms of protecting the football. Rodgers has played in 64 games so far in his career, yet he’s only thrown multiple interceptions in a game six times. Six times. And he hasn’t done so since week 7 of last year against Minnesota. So not only is he putting up insane numbers, but he simply doesn’t make mistakes. Incredible. Meanwhile, Jordy Nelson has become Rodgers’ go-to guy. Nelson has 16 receptions, 291 yards and five TDs over the last three games. Continue to start him as a high-end WR2.

Detroit has the fifth-best pass defense and has given up only 10 TD passes; only two teams have surrendered fewer. Rodgers has had success against Detroit. Not including last year’s game at Ford Field in which Rodgers was injured, he’s thrown eight TDs and three INTs over his last three games against the Lions. Detroit has held four of its last five opponents’ QB to less than 200 yards passing. While there’s a great chance of that not happening against Rodgers, it at least shows the potential for Detroit’s defense to play stellar football.

Running Game Thoughts: James Starks’ availability for Thursday is in question because of knee and ankle issues. He sat out Monday’s practice but returned on Tuesday. At best, it sounds like he will be limited. Ryan Grant would pick up the slack if Starks doesn’t play. When both backs are healthy, Starks is the better option of the two. Starks receives all the important carries and has a huge role in the passing game. So if Starks sits out, it stands to reason that Grant would become a sleeper option as a RB3.

Detroit’s run defense has had quite a few struggles so far in 2011. They’re ranked 27th against the run and have yet to hold an opponent under 100 yards on the ground since the season opener. Since the Packers don’t rely too heavily on the ground game (only two games over 100 yards rushing in the last six), chances are that the Lions will break that streak. Only start Grant and/or Starks if you’re in desperate mode.

Aaron Rodgers: 310 yards passing / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Greg Jennings: 95 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jordy Nelson: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Donald Driver: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 50 yards receiving
Ryan Grant: 55 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving
James Starks: 20 yards rushing

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +23.0%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -10.8%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -17.6%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -17.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford has gotten off to ridiculously slow starts in games this year. His owners last week (myself included) almost jumped through the television after he tossed his second interception in the first quarter—this, remember, coming on the heels of his four interception stinker in Chicago the week before. But Stafford got his stuff together and promptly ripped Carolina’s defense for five TDs. Perhaps the best part of his five TDs is that none of them went to Calvin Johnson. Sure, that’s an issue for Johnson owners, but the one complaint many had about this offense was that it relied too much on Megatron’s ability. So the fact that others stepped up their game only makes the prospects better for this offense improving as a whole as we move toward the home stretch of the fantasy season.

After 11 weeks of the NFL season, a team is what it is. Consequently, the Packers are what they are: an inextricably porous defense that gives up yardage and TDs in bunches. Even though they picked off Josh Freeman twice last week, Green Bay’s defense still allowed the struggling third year QB to throw for a career high 342 yards while completing 74 percent of his passes. Stafford and the passing offense should put up huge numbers this week. Start all your usual suspects for Detroit.

Running Game Thoughts: Kevin Smith, former and now current RB for Detroit, infused a high degree of much-needed production out of the backfield last week. After not being signed during the first half of the season, the Lions picked up their former third round draft pick as a free agent after they realized the running game was going nowhere fast with Jahvid Best on the sideline. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams will remain part of the running game, but Smith’s performance against Carolina has put him firmly in the mix.

Thanks to Tampa Bay’s LaGarrette Blount, Green Bay’s run defense will forever be highlighted while showcasing some of the best runs of all time. Blount’s 54-yard, tackle-breaking TD run in the second quarter last week was an embarrassing display of how to stop a running back. That aside, though, Detroit has no one that matches Blount’s physical style. But they have productive enough backs to still be productive against Green Bay. While it wouldn’t be my first option to start a Detroit RB this week, at least there will be enough offense to perhaps make it a difficult decision.

Matthew Stafford: 280 yards passing / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Calvin Johnson: 135 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Nate Burleson: 55 yards receiving
Titus Young: 35 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kevin Smith: 50 yards rushing / 1 TD
Maurice Morris: 35 yards rushing

Prediction: Lions 34, Packers 30 ^ Top

49ers @ Ravens - (Autry)

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +2.8%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -40.7%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -12.1%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +11.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: At some point, isn’t Alex Smith going to resort back to the Alex Smith who’s been on the verge being exiled from San Francisco several times? Is he? Well, while this game alone won’t answer that question, but it can be the litmus test to see how far, in fact, he’s come. It’s not that Smith has put up eye-popping numbers—his two-TD game was his first multiple TD game in the last five—it’s that he hasn’t made the huge boneheaded decisions that came to define his career. Smith is still not a recommended fantasy option, but at least his presence under center doesn’t bring down the value of those around him. At some point, though, Smith will be counted on to single-handedly win a game. I’m just not convinced yet he’s capable of doing so.

Baltimore has a top pass defense and has surrendered the fewest TD passes in the league (7), but they allowed Cincinnati’s rookie QB Andy Dalton to throw for 364 yards last week—and that was without star WR A.J. Green. San Francisco doesn’t have that kind of offensive philosophy, though. In fact, they have the fewest pass attempts in the entire league. That fact alone should make Baltimore’s defense an even stronger option for your starting line-up than they typically are.

Running Game Thoughts: Even though Frank Gore battled a minor knee injury last week, he still toted the rock 24 times for 88 yards. He didn’t score in the contest, but Gore is still enjoying one of his best seasons. Between weeks 4 – 8, Gore rushed for 100-plus yards in five consecutive games and scored in all but one of them. Perhaps no other player on the team NOT named Alex Smith has benefited more from new head coach Jim Harbaugh’s presence than Gore.

Baltimore is a top-5 rush defense and has given up only six rushing TDs all season. They’ve also limited RBs to a league-low 3.3 yards per carry. Gore will find running room limited, but he’s still a no-brainer start this week as a RB1. Expect Gore to see 20-25 touches and reward owners with a solid game.

Alex Smith: 220 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Michael Crabtree: 75 yards receiving
Kyle Williams: 35 yards receiving
Braylon Edwards: 30 yards receiving
Vernon Davis: 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Frank Gore: 70 yards rushing / 1 TD

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -23.4%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -18.8%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -51.8%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: 0.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week’s two TD performance against Cincinnati was Joe Flacco’s first multiple TD game since week 3 at St. Louis. He’s put up three 300-plus yard games since then, but the TD totals have lagged behind. Flacco’s lack of scoring tosses has directly affected Anquan Boldin. Boldin has only two TDs in his last nine games, and after his seven catch, 145-yard performance in week 7, he has only 10 catches for 145 yards COMBINED in the three games since. Inconsistency has been the order of the day with the Ravens passing game. Torrey Smith has emerged as a nice late-season addition. Add him if you can for depth.

After surrendering more than 300 yards against the New York Giants in week 10, the 49ers pass defense rebounded nicely last week. While they did face an overmatched QB in Arizona’s John Skelton and an unprepared backup in Richard Bartel, the fact that they limited the Cardinals to 149 passing yards speaks directly to them being able to take advantage of an inferior opponent. Baltimore is far from being inferior, but their hit-or-miss passing game could be limited going up against the high-flying San Francisco defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Ray Rice is a solid fantasy RB, we all know that. But he often gets caught up in the inconsistency that is the Baltimore offense. Following his dreadful performance in Seattle in week 9 that saw him run for 27 yards on five carries, Rice came back with a vengeance last week. On 20 carries, he rushed for 104 yards and chipped in five receptions for 43 yards. His role in the passing game makes him an even more attractive start each week. He has at least five receptions in six straight games.

Don’t expect much on the ground from Rice. The 49ers have the league’s stingiest run defense. Only once this season have the 49ers given up more than 100 rushing yards in a game, and that was way back in week 4 in Philadelphia when they surrendered 108 yards on the ground. Rice will make his mark in the passing game as a receiver, not on the ground as a rusher. Still, expect starter-quality numbers from Rice this week.

Joe Flacco: 210 yards passing / 2 TD / 1 INT
Anquan Boldin: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Torrey Smith: 55 yards receiving
Ed Dickson: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ray Rice: 55 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving

Prediction: Ravens 20, 49ers 14 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Cowboys - (Marcoccio)

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -5.0%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.0%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -1.8%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +2.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Against Buffalo last week, Matt Moore had his second three-touchdown game in the last three weeks and has breathed new life into the Dolphins’ passing attack. In the last two installments, I’ve written that Moore is “likely not the future in Miami,” but if he keeps this up, he could at least find himself back as a stop-gap option while the team grooms a young rookie. He could also be auditioning for a starting gig somewhere else next season. Moore is playing with great confidence and isn’t afraid to attack defenses downfield. Brandon Marshall was very quiet last week, but he has otherwise been a big part of the offense since Moore took over for the injured Chad Henne. Tight end Anthony Fasano caught another touchdown last week and is proving to be a valuable target. Tight end/fullback hybrid Charles Clay also caught a touchdown from Moore and has been taking on a bigger role each week. The Dolphins are hot right now, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they go into Dallas and put some points up on the board.

The Dallas passing defense has allowed 227.2 ypg and 14 touchdowns on the season. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, like his brother Rex, makes the blitz a big part of his game. But unlike Rex, Rob has a player in DeMarcus Ware who can get to the passer on his own. The Cowboys secondary has been banged up all season, and cornerback Michael Jenkins looks like he may miss yet another game. Brandon Marshall will be looking to play the “Randy Moss” role in a remake of that Thanksgiving Day game back in ’98.

Running Game Thoughts: Reggie Bush scored on the ground once again last week and continues to be a touchdown threat—a surprising development so far in 2011. Rookie running back Daniel Thomas, who is built more like a goal-line threat than the diminutive Bush, was back in the mix for carries and had a much better day on the ground than his backfield mate, though he did not manage to find the end zone. Both backs saw 15 carries against the Bills, but Thomas gained 50 yards on his while Reggie managed only 32. Expect the carries to continue to be split fairly evenly going forward, as each back offers a different dynamic. Bush is the more explosive player (despite last week’s results), while Thomas is more of a grinder, even though he does have exceptionally quick feet for a 240-pound back.

The Cowboys’ run defense has steadily fallen down the rankings after sitting at the top of the list earlier this season. Linebacker Sean Lee missing a game and subsequently being slowed down by injury has evidently hurt the run defense, and he’ll be playing on short rest this week. However, the team has given up 101.4 yards per game and just six rushing touchdowns on the season and is still ranked in the Top 12. It will be a tough matchup for the Phins.

Matt Moore: 245 yds passing 2 TDs
Brandon Marshall: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 20 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 30 yds receiving
Anthony Fasano: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Daniel Thomas: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Reggie Bush: 40 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -9.3%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.1%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -22.4%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -42.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Over the last couple of weeks, Tony Romo has played as well as any quarterback in the league. Losing Miles Austin to his second hamstring injury of the season has not been a hindrance to the passing game, as Laurent Robinson has grabbed three touchdowns in the last two games in Austin’s place. Tight end Jason Witten is sometimes forgotten in the “golden age of tight ends,” but he’s consistently been one of the better tight ends in the league for many years and has been the glue to the Cowboys’ passing attack over that time. Romo loves him some Witten. Dez Bryant sometimes seems to be inexplicably left out of the gameplan. But just when you forget about him, he’ll make some noise with a big play that shows how dominant he could be if he were fed a steady diet of footballs each Sunday.

Miami has not played the pass well this season. They have allowed 251.3 passing yards per game and 14 touchdowns through the air. They have fared better when cornerback Vonte Davis is healthy, and they kept the struggling Bills passing attack down last week. They’ll hope to do the same again on Thanksgiving, but they’ll likely find that to be a much tougher task this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Last week against Washington, rookie DeMarco Murray had his worst game of the season since becoming the starting running back for Dallas—but he still managed to gain 79 yards on the day (albeit at only 2.9 ypc) and ran as hard as usual. He’s been a workhorse for Dallas and has relegated former starter Felix Jones to a change-of-pace role. Murray is solidly built and delivers punishment when he runs. He possesses elite speed on top of his toughness, giving him a unique skill set that Dallas hasn’t seen in years. He’s as safe a bet as there is for production going forward this season.

Miami has allowed only three rushing touchdowns on the season and is giving up only 98.7 yards per game on the ground. This is a solid run defense. Yeremiah Bell is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league and provides solid run support.

Tony Romo: 305 yds passing 3 TDs, 1 Int. / 15 yds rushing
Laurent Robinson: 55 yds receiving
Dez Bryant: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Felix Jones: 20 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving
DeMarco Murray: 90 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Cowboys 27, Dolphins 24 ^ Top

Texans @ Jaguars - (Smith)

JAX FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -25.5%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -30.0%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -12.1%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -17.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: With Matt Schaub sidelined due to a foot injury, Matt Leinart makes his first start since 2009. He hasn’t had much success in his career, obviously, and has thrown just one touchdown pass since Week 3 of the 2007 season. His arm strength is suspect, at best, but he can be very accurate on shorter throws, and will have wideout Andre Johnson back this week, and tight end Owen Daniels could be a prime target on underneath routes. We aren’t saying Leinart will light the world on fire, but the personnel around him should help make him serviceable.

The Jaguars will stand in Leinart’s way however, as they bring the league’s fourth-ranked pass defense into the game. Just two quarterbacks have thrown for more than 225 yards against them, and none have since Week 4. They’ve also stifled wideouts, with just three having gained at least 75 yards against them this year, though two tight ends have gained 100 yards against Jacksonville. But Johnson didn’t suit up when the two teams met in Week 8, and he’ll present their toughest challenge to date.

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster and Ben Tate make up one of the most dangerous running back tandems in the league, and Foster in particular has been absolutely devastating the past four weeks. He has a rushing score in each of his last four games, and twice in that time has added a receiving touchdown. He had 112 yards and a touchdown in his last meeting with the Jaguars in Week 9.

Jacksonville isn’t as good against the opposition’s running game as it is against the pass. They are 15th in the NFL in run defense, and tied for 14th with seven rushing scores allowed. Chris Ogbonnaya ran for 115 yards and a touchdown against them last week, and Foster is obviously the highly superior player and should be in line for a good day for his fantasy owners.

Matt Leinart: 215 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Andre Johnson: 80 yds receiving
Owen Daniels: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 30 yds receiving
Jacoby Jones: 20 yds receiving
Arian Foster: 95 yds rushing, 2 TD / 25 yds receiving
Ben Tate: 35 yds rushing

HOU FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -38.5%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -41.9%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -29.5%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -46.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie Blaine Gabbert has certainly looked the part of a young signal-caller throughout most of this season. He’s completing just 48.9 percent of his throws, which is dead last among qualifying quarterbacks. He’s hindered by the team’s lack of legitimate receiving options, as Mike Thomas leads the team with only 357 yards and 35 catches. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is an utter non-factor after being fantasy-relevant last season, and that’s probably being polite.

Meanwhile, Houston brings the second-ranked pass defense into the game, and the 11 touchdowns they’ve allowed through the air are tied for the fifth-fewest in the league. Only three quarterbacks all season have thrown for even 200 yards in a game against them, and no receiver has broken the 50-yard mark against them since Week 6.

Running Game Thoughts: Maurice Jones-Drew remains the only current Jaguars player who is relevant player to fantasy owners. He is second in the NFL in rushing yards with 941, and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry. He had 63 yards and a touchdown against the Texans in Week 8, and for his career has 10 rushing scores in nine games against Houston, though he’s run for at least 100 yards in just three of those contests.

The Texans are fourth in the NFL in run defense, and have given up six rushing scores this year, which is tied for sixth-fewest in the league. Only two running backs have gained even 65 yards against them this season, and they’ve gone up against some good runners. Darren McFadden had only 51 yards against them, Rashard Mendenhall gained just 25 and Chris Johnson managed only 18 yards.

Blaine Gabbert: 160 yds passing, 0 TD, 2 INT
Mike Thomas: 45 yds receiving
Jason Hill: 35 yds receiving
Marcedes Lewis: 25 yds receiving
Jarett Dillard: 20 yds receiving
Maurice Jones-Drew: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: Texans 27, Jaguars 13

Vikings @ Falcons - (Smith)

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -11.4%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +3.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -6.8%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -55.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Minnesota’s rookie quarterback, Christian Ponder, has had his moments in his inaugural campaign, with at least 210 yards in three of his first four starts, and multiple touchdown throws in two of those contests. But he lacks a dynamic receiving corps, with Percy Harvin being the best of the bunch, but he still hasn’t had a game with at least 80 receiving yards this year, and has broken 75 yards just one time. Running back Adrian Peterson is likely to miss this game as well, which will cause even more problems for the Minnesota passing attack.

However, there is some hope for Ponder and Harvin, because the Atlanta pass defense is below average statistically. They are 26th in the league against the pass, and have allowed four different quarterbacks to accumulate at least 310 passing yards in a game, and six quarterbacks have thrown for at least two touchdowns. They’ve also allowed wide receivers to go off, with five having days of at least 110 yards, and even tight ends have gotten into the mix, with a trio of them having days of 60 or more receiving yards.

Running Game Thoughts: As we mentioned, Adrian Peterson isn’t likely to play this week, though as of this writing that was not set in stone. Still, it would be a surprise if he suited up, and that will leave the bulk of the work to former Stanford bruiser and second-round pick Toby Gerhart. The second-year pro has only run the ball 24 times this season, but he is averaging a healthy 4.9 yards per carry, and can certainly be a respectable replacement.

The problem for fantasy owners who handcuffed Gerhart to Peterson is that he’ll be facing a Falcons team that is among the best in the league against the run. They are second in the NFL in run defense, and have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. In fact, no runner has broken the 80-yard mark against them since Week 3, and just four running backs have managed to score a touchdown when playing Atlanta.

Christian Ponder: 235 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Percy Harvin: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Michael Jenkins: 55 yds receiving
Devin Aromashodu: 40 yds receiving
Visanthe Shiancoe: 35 yds receiving
Toby Gerhart: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving

MIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +55.3%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +36.6%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +38.8%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -0.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan continues to have a solid yet unspectacular season, ranking 10th in the NFL in passing yards and tied for ninth in touchdown throws. He has put up better numbers for his fantasy owners of late, with back-to-back games of at least 300 yards, and 275 yards in each of his last three games. Wide receiver Roddy White has disappointed fantasy owners with his lack of scoring, having caught only three touchdown passes this year, but he had a season-high 147 yards last week and is 14th in the league in yards. Meanwhile, veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez continues to deliver, and his seven touchdown receptions are second among all tight ends and tied for fourth-most in the NFL.

The Vikings have a poor pass defense, ranking 28th in the NFL in yards allowed, and tied for last in the league in touchdown throws given up. Only one quarterback has thrown for fewer than 230 yards against the Vikings, while eight different wide receivers have gained at least 90 yards against them, and three tight ends have had games of at least 70 yards against the Vikings.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner is all about the number eight. He has 888 rushing yards this season and has scored eight touchdowns. He has five games with at least 100 rushing yards on the year, and has run for 95 or more yards in four of his last five contests. Needless to say, he’s a fantastic fantasy option on a weekly basis, including this week against the Vikings, despite their relatively strong run defense.

Minnesota is ninth in the NFL against the run, and is allowing only 3.7 yards per carry. But they have allowed good games to a number of runners, including 71 yards and two touchdowns to Tampa’s LeGarrette Blount, 75 yards to Green Bay’s James Starks, 87 yards to Chicago’s Matt Forte and 109 yards and a touchdown last week to Oakland’s Michael Bush.

Matt Ryan: 265 yds passing, 2 TD
Roddy White: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Harry Douglas: 45 yds receiving
Julio Jones: 40 yds receiving
Michael Turner: 90 yds rushing, 1 TD

Prediction: Falcons 24, Vikings 14

Panthers @ Colts - (Smith)

IND FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.0%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +18.1%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +4.6%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +56.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Carolina took a 27-14 lead into halftime last week against Detroit, but couldn’t hang on and lost, in no small part due to Cam Newton’s four interceptions. He is now tied for third in the league with 14 picks, but also sixth in the NFL in passing yards, having thrown for at least 250 in three of his last four games. Wideout Steve Smith continues to be his top target, but he’s been held in check over his last two games, with a total of just 74 receiving yards. Nonetheless, he is second in the league in receiving yards and fantasy owners who selected him in the middle rounds of their drafts got a steal.

The Colts are in no position to slow down Newton or Smith this week, not with a pass defense that is ranked 22nd in the league and who has allowed 19 touchdowns, which is tied for the most in all of football. Every starting quarterback who has played against them has thrown at least one touchdown pass, and six have thrown for 250 yards or more. Six different wideouts have gained 95 or more yards against Indy, and four different receivers have caught two touchdowns in a game against them. The lone bright spot for the Colts’ pass defense is that they’ve done fairly well against tight ends, with just two gaining 50 or more yards, though they have allowed three touchdowns to players at that position over their last four games.

Running Game Thoughts: The Carolina running game features DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Newton. Newton is the team’s goal line back, and has scored nine times this year on the ground. That’s six more times than Williams and Stewart combined, leading to frustration from fantasy owners who were expecting a much larger output from the duo. Neither back has done much in terms of yards either, with Williams averaging 47 rushing yards per game and Stewart averaging 37.

Indianapolis is bad against the pass, and they’re even worse against the run, ranking 31st in the NFL in that category. They’ve allowed 12 rushing scores, which is tied for 28th in the league. Seven different backs have gained 88 or more yards against the Colts, who even allowed 119 yards to Kansas City’s Jackie Battle.

Cam Newton: 280 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT / 35 yds rushing, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Greg Olsen: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Legedu Naanee: 40 yds receiving
Brandon LaFell: 25 yds receiving
DeAngelo Williams: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 45 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +24.7%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.1%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +48.0%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +50.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Curtis Painter is a backup quarterback for a reason. He is completing 54.7 percent of his throws this season, has a quarterback rating of 67.4, hasn’t thrown for 100 yards in three of his past four games, and has twice been replaced by Dan Orlovsky. Reggie Wayne simply hasn’t gotten going at all, with only one touchdown this season (in Week 1), and 43 yards over his last two games. Pierre Garcon had been playing well, but has fewer than 35 yards in three of his last four games.

The Panthers aren’t great against the pass, with the 17th-ranked defense in that category, but they don’t really need to be against Indy. Four quarterbacks have thrown for 300 or more yards against the Panthers, but there’s little danger of that happening this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Joseph Addai has missed time due to a hamstring injury, but he seems to be healthy now, and should at least split time with Donald Brown and Delone Carter. Brown has performed much better than Carter in recent games, with 123 yards in his last two contests, and if he does get about half of the carries, he should be able to make at least a little bit of noise against the Panthers.

Carolina has a terrible run defense, with only two squads having allowed more rushing yards than they have. They are allowing 4.8 yards per carry, and no team has given up as many rushing scores as the 14 that they have. Almost incomprehensibly, five different running backs have gained 120 or more yards when facing the Panthers and Matt Forte ripped them for 205 yards back in Week 4. Carolina has also given up at least two touchdowns (rushing and receiving) to three different backs, including Detroit’s Kevin Smith last week.

Curtis Painter: 190 yds passing, 0 TD, 1 INT
Pierre Garcon: 55 yds receiving
Reggie Wayne: 45 yds receiving
Jacob Tamme: 35 yds receiving
Austin Collie: 20 yds receiving
Donald Brown: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD
Joseph Addai: 45 yds rushing

Prediction: Panthers 28, Colts 13

Buccaneers @ Titans - (Smith)

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.6%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -12.5%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +48.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +17.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tampa couldn’t quite knock off the Packers last week, but they came closer than many expected, and a lot of that was due to the 342 passing yards and two touchdowns by Josh Freeman. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he also threw two picks in the contest, and is second in the league with 15 interceptions. He’s tossed six touchdowns and nine interceptions over his last four games even though he’s also thrown for at least 260 yards three times in that span. Receiver Mike Williams had his best game of the season last week, with a season-high 83 yards and his first touchdown catch since Week 1. Tight end Kellen Winslow also came up big, with 132 yards on nine receptions.

Tennessee is as average as average can get against the pass, coming in at 16th in the 32-team NFL in that statistic. Though they’ve only allowed four quarterbacks to throw for at least 250 yards, they’ve also given up five touchdowns in a game to Ben Roethlisberger, and three to Andy Dalton. The Titans hadn’t allowed a 100-yard receiver until last week when Roddy White went off for 147 yards, but they’ve been especially vulnerable to tight ends, with five players at that position gaining 70 yards or scoring a touchdown (or both).

Running Game Thoughts: LeGarrette Blount had 107 yards and scored a touchdown last week against the Packers, and it was his third game in five weeks with 70 or more yards. But he simply doesn’t get the ball enough to appease his fantasy owners, as he’s gone four consecutive games without 20 carries, and he’s had more than 13 carries in a game just three times this season.

If the Buccaneers are going to start giving Blount the rock more often this week would be a good time to start, because the Titans are only 22nd in the NFL against the run. They’ve allowed five separate runners to gain at least 95 yards, and even allowed 100-yard runners in the same game when Arian Foster and Ben Tate did it.

Josh Freeman: 250 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT
Kellen Winslow: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mike Williams: 75 yds receiving
Arrelious Benn: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Preston Parker: 30 yds receiving
LeGarrette Blount: 90 yds rushing, 1 TD

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.2%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +11.7%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -28.8%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +84.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Hasselbeck was injured last week, and rookie Jake Locker came in and lit things up, but Hasselbeck is supposedly fine for this week’s game and the team has said that he will be their starting quarterback. Fantasy owners are probably ambivalent about that, because it’s unlikely he’s the starter for many teams at that position. On the other hand, wideouts Nate Washington and Damian Williams are flex or WR3 options for many squads, and Washington rewarded those owners with 115 yards and two touchdowns last week. Williams had plenty of opportunities in the game with 11 targets, but managed only one reception. Still, he scored in each of the previous two games before that and is someone that should be considered for fantasy owners this week.

That’s at least partially because the Bucs are deficient in pass defense, ranking 28th in the NFL. They’ve allowed 18 passing scores, and only three teams have given up more. Five different quarterbacks have thrown for at least 280 yards against Tampa, six have thrown multiple touchdowns, and all but one threw for at least 225 yards. Of course, that’s led to some monster games by opposing wideouts, with five having games of at least 115 yards, and nine with games of 75 or more yards.

Running Game Thoughts: What Chris Johnson is doing is utterly baffling to fantasy owners. He had 130 yards two weeks ago, but followed that up with just 10 percent of that total against the Falcons last week (13 yards for you non-math majors). Just when you figured his breakout was here, he flopped, but we still maintain confidence in a rebound this week. It’s not exactly just a hunch, it’s also because the Tampa run defense is almost as bad as its pass defense.

The Bucs are 26th in the NFL against the run, and the 13 rushing scores they’ve allowed this season ranks 31st in the league. They’ve allowed three running backs to gain 120 or more yards, and everyone from Anthony Dixon to Derrick Ward has found the end zone against them. If Johnson can’t get his mojo going against Tampa, then who knows when he might do it again.

Matt Hasselbeck: 230 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Damian Williams: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Nate Washington: 65 yds receiving
Jared Cook: 35 yds receiving
Lavelle Hawkins: 15 yds receiving
Chris Johnson: 110 yds rushing, 2 TD / 20 yds receiving

Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Titans 21

Giants @ Saints - (Smith)

NO FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -15.0%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -13.5%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -13.1%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +23.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning is having a very good year, ranking sixth in the league in passing yards, sixth in touchdown throws and sixth in quarterback ranking (sense a theme here?). He’s dealt with a lot of injuries at the skill positions, but receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz have come through, with Cruz ranking eighth in the league in receiving yards. Even tight end Jake Ballard has played well, as his 443 receiving yards are third on the team behind the aforementioned receivers.

The Saints are just 19th in the league against the pass, and have had a problem getting turnovers, with only five interceptions, which is tied for second-to-last in the league. They’ve allowed four 300-yard passers this season, but did hold the duo of Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky to 102 yards, so they have that going for them. New Orleans struggled against wideouts early in the year, but have clamped down on them of late, with just one touchdown allowed to a wideout sine Week 6. On the other hand, they’ve allowed two touchdowns to tight ends over that time, and three different players at that position have gained at least 70 yards against them this season.

Running Game Thoughts: The team’s leading rusher, Ahmad Bradshaw, has been out with an injury, and it looks as if that may be the case again this week, though as of this writing that was still unclear. Brandon Jacobs has filled in and been decent, though he stumbled to just 21 yards on 12 carries against the Eagles last week. But he had 127 yards in the two games before that, and though he scored just once in that time, he’s a beast to bring down.

Though New Orleans is 19th in the NFL in rushing yards given up, they are tied for last in the league in yards per carry allowed at 5.2. You can clearly see their struggles to contain big plays, because although seven different backs have run for 80 or more yards in a game against them, just two have carried the ball 20 or more times when facing the Saints.

Eli Manning: 265 yds passing, 2 TD, 2 INT
Hakeem Nicks: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jake Ballard: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 55 yds receiving
Mario Manningham: 35 yds receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw: 30 yds rushing

NYG FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.2%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -12.3%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +66.3%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -19.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Saints were on a bye last week, but Drew Brees held on to the top spot in terms of passing yards this season with 3,326. He scuffled a bit in Weeks 9 and 10, with fewer than 270 passing yards in each (if you call that scuffling), but bounced back in Week 11 with 322 yards and two touchdowns. His weaponry is unmatched, with tight end Jimmy Graham currently the team’s top weapon as he’s fifth in the league in receiving yards. But Marques Colston has played well recently too, and there’s always Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Devery Henderson and Darren Sproles for him to throw to.

New York will have its hands full, and are just 18th in the NFL in pass defense. They’ve allowed three different quarterbacks to throw for 300 or more yards, though you can make that four if you count the duo of Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, who combined for 315 yards in Week 5. The Giants have also been prone to some big games allowed to pass-catchers, with three wideouts having games of at least 120 yards, and seven with games of 75 or more yards. That doesn’t even include tight ends, two of which have had 100-yard days against New York, which bodes very well for Graham.

Running Game Thoughts: The now four-headed monster at running back for New Orleans makes it difficult to project who will do what. One of them had been out with an injury in every game this season, but Chris Ivory looks like he’s good to go this week, and each will be healthy so we’ll see how the running game shakes out. Right now, it’s anybody’s guess, but in terms of carries you’d have to think that it would go like this: Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, and Darren Sproles. Of course, nobody knows for sure, and we don’t even think Sean Payton knows.

The Giants will prepare for each back, and though none are likely to go off, New York does have just the 21st ranked run defense in football. They’ve allowed 10 rushing scores, which is tied for 23rd in the league, and six different backs have had games with 98 or more rushing yards against them.

Drew Brees: 335 yds passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jimmy Graham: 95 yds receiving, 2 TD
Marques Colston: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 60 yds receiving
Robert Meachem: 40 yds receiving
Devery Henderson: 25 yds receiving
Mark Ingram: 45 yds rushing, 1 TD
Pierre Thomas: 30 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Darren Sproles: 15 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving

Prediction: Saints 31, Giants 27

Jets @ Bills - (Marcoccio)

NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -3.2%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -33.2%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +56.3%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -37.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been only four weeks since Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a rather large contract extension, but there’s already talk of how the Bills can get out of it by cutting him as soon as the 2012 season begins. Will they do that? It’s unlikely, but Fitzpatrick has turned in poor performance after poor performance since Week 8, and the Bills have not won a game since. With colder weather on the horizon and starting wideout Donald Jones looking like he’s lost for the season with his second high ankle sprain, it’s not going to get any better. Stevie Johnson has been banged up a bit, which certainly doesn’t help the situation, as he’s the only thing resembling a true big-time playmaker in the passing game. The coaching staff was attempting to turn C.J. Spiller into a slot receiver, thinking he would help with depth at the position and perhaps provide a big boost with his speed, quickness, and agility. But with Fred Jackson’s injury, they will need to move Spiller back to running back. This isn’t the week to expect a bounce-back from Fitzpatrick, as the Jets pass defense has been very good and absolutely shut the Bills down just three weeks back. Fitzpatrick managed only 191 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in that last meeting.

Stevie Johnson owners are already frustrated, and now they must beware of Revis Island. Johnson actually performed reasonably well back in Week 9 (3 receptions for 84 yards), but his biggest play came against some loose coverage by Revis when the Jets were in prevent mode. Overall, the Jets are ranked sixth in the NFL against the pass. They are allowing only 200.1 yards per game and have given up only eight passing touchdowns while accumulating 13 interceptions. You could probably do better than starting any member of the Buffalo passing attack this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Fred Jackson’s calf is “very, very sore” according to head coach Chan Gailey, and his status is in doubt for this matchup. C.J. Spiller has been getting the first-team reps at practice and will be the lead back should Jackson miss the game. Spiller has great speed and can turn a corner quickly, but he has shown no ability to run the ball up the middle and has been easy to take down. The Bills O-line has shown vast improvement this season, but when the Bills attempt to run inside, Spiller should be little match for the Jets’ interior line and linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris. Expect Buffalo to get creative in the run game—perhaps using backup quarterback Brad Smith even more in Wildcat packages should Jackson miss the game. If Jackson is not be able to go, it will be a devastating blow to the Bills’ chances of finally getting back into the win column.

The Jets’ run defense, which was a strong suit in 2010, has been a major disappointment in 2011. They have shown improvement since their really bad start to the season, but they can still be vulnerable against good rushing attacks. Fred Jackson gained 84 yards on 16 carries when these teams last met. They should fare better against Spiller, however. The Jets are ranked 17th against the run, having allowed 116.9 yards per game and 10 touchdowns on the season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 215 yds passing 2 TDs, 2 Ints. / 35 yds rushing
Steve Johnson: 45 yds receiving
David Nelson: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Scott Chandler: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Johnny White: 45 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving
C.J. Spiller: 45 yards rushing / 35 yds receiving

BUF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -5.5%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -3.8%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +31.6%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +7.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jets fans are starting to get frustrated with Mark Sanchez after two extremely poor showings in back-to-back losses. Sanchez started out the season looking much improved, but after getting brutalized by the Ravens in Week 4, he has regressed. He has shown little pocket presence and has made maddeningly poor decisions—he has thrown two devastating pick-sixes over the last two games. Sanchez has started to fall back to avoid the rush instead of trying to step forward to make plays. The coaching staff has been hesitant to unleash the passing game, and the Jets have rarely taken any shots downfield, despite Sanchez possessing a better-than-average arm. Going forward, the team will continue its commitment to the run game, which will limit the overall passing statistics. It’s tough for fantasy owners to rely on guys like Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress due to their quarterback’s inconsistencies, but each have had their share of big games, making them tempting options. Sanchez did play reasonably well the last time he faced the Bills, throwing for 230 yards and a touchdown. But now that bye weeks are over, he is nothing more than a bench option, even against poor pass defenses. However, the rest of the passing game options offer reasonable risk-reward this week.

The Bills are ranked 24th against the pass and have allowed 250.0 yards per game and 17 touchdowns on the season. Nonetheless, they have been able to create turnovers with their ball-hawking style, accruing 15 interceptions. Mark Sanchez has been sloppy with the ball, and if he continues that trend, the Bills could keep their faint playoff chances alive. It’s possible that a Sanchez interception goes for another defensive touchdown this week, as the Bills have managed to do just that three times already this year.

Running Game Thoughts: Since Rex Ryan announced his intention to return the Jets back to their “ground and pound” identity on offense, the line has done a much better job of creating running lanes, and the running game has improved. Last week Shonn Greene suffered a rib injury early in the contest and could not return. With LaDainian Tomlinson already out, second-year runner Joe McKnight stepped in and performed very well. McKnight has an explosiveness that is lacking in Greene or LT, and his “audition” last Thursday might just have earned him a bigger role in this offense. Greene is expected back this week and should regain his role as the lead back, and the Jets have run well against the Bills traditionally, but bear in mind that McKnight could eat into the workload.

The Bills have presented an easy matchup for running backs for much of this season—they are allowing 122.4 yards per game on the ground and have given up 12 rushing touchdowns. They have improved a bit after moving rookie defensive tackle Marcell Dareus inside to nose tackle, but the Jets, with Nick Mangold at center, should be able to control Dareus and keep their running game motoring.

Mark Sanchez: 235 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 15 yds rushing
Santonio Holmes: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Plaxico Burress: 45 yds receiving
Jeremy Kerley: 20 yds receiving
Dustin Keller: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Shonn Greene: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Joe McKnight: 40 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: Jets 24, Bills 17

Patriots @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +4.6%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +44.4%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -54.3%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady got off to another slow start on Monday night but recovered and ended up with a typical big game. Wes Welker has been missing practices during the last couple of weeks due to a knee injury and has been “missing” from the stat sheets as well. He caught only two balls for 22 yards last week, and while he claims the knee was not an issue, the Pats are notoriously tight- lipped about injuries. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, on the other hand, continued to be the focal point of this offense, grabbing another two touchdowns, including a catch-and-run for over 50 yards to get things started in Foxboro. Chad Ochocinco, unfortunately, did not build off of his first “big” game with the Pats, where he gained 65 yards against the Jets. Number 85 once again become an afterthought and was likely dropped back to waivers by those who picked him up thinking he may have finally broken out.

The Eagles’ all-star secondary unit was on display last Sunday night, holding the red-hot Eli Manning to a single touchdown pass. The Philly pass rush put tremendous pressure on Eli and will need to do the same against Brady—as pressure up the middle has been the one “kryptonite” that has slowed down New England’s Superman over the last couple of seasons.

Running Game Thoughts: It was back to the Law Firm bearing the burden of the rushing attack on Monday night. After giving way to Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead the previous two weeks, BenJarvus Green-Ellis got the bulk of the carries once again. BJGE has amazingly never lost a fumble in his career, and it’s that dependability and workman-like production that Bill Belichick seems to like about Green-Ellis. Little-used rookie Shane Vereen got an audition in garbage time and looked very good in that small sample size. He gained over 30 yards and scored a touchdown. Vereen could just be what this offense is missing, as he is a dynamic runner capable of breaking off a big play at any time. Keep an eye on him.

The Eagles have been abysmal against opposing running backs all season, but they made Brandon Jacobs look like a statue on Sunday night. The team held the power back to 21 yards on 12 carries and smothered him every time he touched the ball. On the season, the Eagles are allowing 110.9 yards per game and have given up seven rushing touchdowns.

Tom Brady: 285 yds passing 2 TDs
Chad Ochocinco: 25 yds receiving
Wes Welker: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Deion Branch: 40 yds receiving
Aaron Hernandez: 50 yds receiving
Rob Gronkowski: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
BenJarvis Green-Ellis: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Danny Woodhead: 20 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +12.0%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +21.7%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +2.3%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s looking like Vince Young will get another start this week as Michael Vick recovers from his broken ribs. Young played well on Sunday night in an offense designed around short passes and screens. He has a very respectable winning percentage as a starting quarterback and should keep things humming along with Vick out. Desean Jackson, returning from a team-imposed suspension, could be looking at a league-imposed one after intentionally bumping a referee during his otherwise nice night. Surprisingly, it was Riley Cooper—who entered the game with zero catches on the season—who led the way for the Eagles in Week 11. Cooper caught five balls for 75 yards while replacing Jeremy Maclin in the starting lineup. Cooper may have benefited from sharing practice reps with Young all season as part of the second unit of the offense. His ceiling is limited, as he lacks the speed and athleticism of Maclin or Jackson, but he received 12 targets last week, so he’s a guy that fantasy owners may consider if Maclin is out again—which seems likely at this point.

New England’s pass defense has been miserable this season, having allowed 299.5 yards per game and 15 touchdowns. They were able on Monday night to contain Tyler Palko, a career journeyman making his first NFL start, but that doesn’t mean they have somehow turned a corner. In fairness, they have played better in recent weeks despite being seriously under-manned, but they are still vulnerable, and Vince Young is good enough to take advantage.

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy failed to score a touchdown for the first time last week, but he was still a big part of the offense, gaining 113 yards rushing (albeit 60 of those came on one run with under two minutes left in the game). He is having an MVP-caliber season and should continue to be a focal point in the offense, especially with Vick and Maclin out—that is, if Andy Reid wants to keep his winning streak of one game going.

The Pats are allowing only 103.1 yards rushing per game and seven touchdowns on the season, but that’s because most teams have to abandon the run early to keep up with them. They 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. In fact, the Chiefs were able to find some gaping holes and bust off some big runs despite trotting out a career backup, a scat back, and an old man.

Vince Young: 225 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 35 yds rushing, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Riley Cooper: 40 yds receiving
Jason Avant: 25 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving
Dion Lewis: 10 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving

Prediction: Eagles 31, Patriots 24

Browns @ Bengals - (Autry)

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -30.7%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +7.4%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +1.8%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -40.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: After starting the year with five TD passes through the first three games of the season, Colt McCoy has regressed a bit. He’s thrown for only six TDs in the last seven. McCoy is a work in progress indeed, and his play doesn’t warrant much fantasy consideration—for himself, or those receiving options around him. Rookie WR Greg Little showcases his ability from time to time, and Josh Cribbs is a threat in the open field, but neither is skilled enough at this point to make things easier for McCoy from a passing perspective.

Cincinnati continues the process of trying to make up for the loss of starting CB Leon Hall to a season-ending injury. They feasted early in the season on teams that have struggled for the most part throwing the football—Denver, San Francisco and Indianapolis were all held under 200 yards passing. In the last four games, however, the Bengals have surrendered an average of 273 yards per game through the air. The Browns don’t have an explosive offense, so Cincy’s pass defense should be able to limit what they do through the air.

Running Game Thoughts: Montario Hardesty is once again very questionable this week. He’s missed the last three games due to a calf injury, meaning Chris Ogbonnaya will get the start. Ogbonnaya over the last two games has averaged more than 100 yards on the ground and has averaged five yards per carry. He’s been a nice addition to the backfield after the controversy that surrounds Peyton Hillis surfaced. It’s my contention that Hillis won’t play again this season, so now’s the time for Ogbonnaya’s value to spike. I think he’s a nice RB3 the rest of the way.

The Bengals have given up 105 yards on the ground in each of their last two games. But in the six previous games, no team reached the century mark on the ground against them. As a result, their No. 3 ranking against the run means the Browns will find the running lanes difficult to come by. Ogbonnaya’s fantasy stock is rising, especially with the recent injuries to some of the league’s top backs. He will have the opportunities; the question is, how will he respond. I think he will be serviceable.

Colt McCoy: 195 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Greg Little: 60 yards receiving
Josh Cribbs: 30 yards receiving
Mohamed Massaquoi: 25 yards receiving
Ben Watson: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Chris Ogbonnaya: 60 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving / 1 TD rushing

CLE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -16.1%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -3.4%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -14.9%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -2.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton is growing into his role as a solid NFL starting QB. He’s even become a worthy backup fantasy QB as well, depending on the matchup. However, his turnovers have become a nuisance. Dalton has five interceptions over the last two games after throwing only seven picks in the last eight. Meanwhile, A.J. Green will probably miss his second straight game while dealing with a knee injury. In his place, Jerome Simpson performed well last week, finishing the contest against Baltimore with eight catches for 152 yards. If Green misses this game, Simpson could once again put up solid numbers.

Cleveland’s CB Joe Haden is maturing into one of the top young defensive backs in the league. He’s the leader of a defense that ranks No. 1 in the league against the pass. They have only given up more than 200 yards through the air twice this season and haven’t done so since week 4 against Tennessee. So the rookie Dalton will be tested considerably this week, as will the entire passing attack of the Bengals.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson ran for multiple TDs in a game last week for the first time since week 12 last year. Benson is Cincy’s bell cow at RB, but he will have to average more than the paltry 3.8 per carry he’s been averaging this year. His improved play would directly affect the development of Dalton and make the Bengals’ offense one of the best young units in the league.

As tough as the Browns are at limiting the pass, they’ve been fairly easy to run against. Currently ranked as the 29th-ranked run defense, Cleveland has given up more than 100 yards on the ground in every game this year but one. That bodes well for Benson and the running game of the Bengals. Benson could very well reach 100 yards for the first time since week 4. Start him as a solid RB2 this week.

Andy Dalton: 220 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Jerome Simpson: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Andre Caldwell: 40 yards receiving
Andrew Hawkins: 35 yards receiving
Jermaine Gresham: 55 yards receiving
Cedric Benson: 110 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Bengals 17, Browns 14

Cardinals @ Rams - (Eakin)

STL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -1.8%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +19.7%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -55.3%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +19.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb is optimistic he will play after taking nearly all the reps in practice Wednesday. The Cardinals have done a good job staying balanced in the passing game, and both Early Doucet and Andre Roberts have shown the ability to make big plays when teams focus too much attention on Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals have struggled in pass blocking, however. Chris Long has eight sacks and will be a problem for the Cards to block. Given that Kolb could be limited in mobility and hasn’t shown good pocket presence, they will want to draw up a lot of quick routes, run the ball, and hope to catch the Rams on some play-action shots. I like Early Doucet as a good WR3 bet this week. He tends to run more of the short routes and gets lots of targets.

The Rams have done a good job limiting big pass plays. They get a good pass rush and keep their safeties deep, both of which will help keep Fitzgerald from getting deep. They key for them will be tackling. All three of the Arizona receivers can hurt them in the open field if they miss on the initial tackle.

Running Game Thoughts: The same shell defense that can help keep the Arizona receivers in check will make the Rams vulnerable to the run, so this game comes down to the Cardinals’ running game. Beanie Wells continues to play but has struggled since hurting his knee. He needs to take advantage of the league’s worst run defense, which allows 132 yards per game. It’s tough to bank on Wells, however, and that gives the Rams the edge in my mind.

Kevin Kolb: 270 yds passing, 2 TD / 1 Int.
Larry Fitzgerald: 80 yds receiving / 1 TD
Early Doucet: 80 yds receiving / 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 55 yds receiving
Beanie Wells: 65 yds rushing / 1 TD

ARI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +6.5%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +12.8%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +1.5%
ARI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +3.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams need to get some offence from sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford. who isn’t getting the protection he needs to get the ball downfield. They have averaged just eleven points per game over the last three weeks. A game against the Cardinals could offer a remedy to that, as they rank 28th in passing yards allowed and struggle at covering the deep middle with weak play at the safety position. However, the Rams can’t take advantage of that if they can’t get time for the deeper throws to develop. If they can protect Bradford, Brandon Lloyd will be the likely beneficiary. He has consistently been their leader since arriving just before the trade deadline. Last week they targeted him 14 times, which produced 65 yards and their only score on the day. To create some balance, they need to continue gradually involving Mark Clayton. He’s getting about five targets per game as he shakes off the rust. Clayton and Brandon Gibson could have the advantage when the Rams spread Arizona out.

Running Game Thoughts: This looks like another big game for Steven Jackson, as Arizona is 24th in rushing yards allowed. The best way for the Rams to keep Bradford protected is to establish a power run game early so they can run play action off of it. Jackson was limited last week when they fell behind Seattle early. But then the Seahawks are much better than the Cardinals in stopping the run anyway. St. Louis will look to get Jackson back on track as the passing game struggles.

Sam Bradford: 235 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 INT
Brandon Lloyd: 70 yds receiving / TD
Brandon Gibson: 50 yds receiving / TD
Mark Clayton: 45 yds receiving
Steven Jackson: 115 yds rushing / TD / 30 yds receiving

Prediction: Rams 24, Cardinals 21

Bears @ Raiders - (Eakin)

OAK FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +15.6%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +4.0%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +0.4%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +21.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Caleb Hanie, who played in the Bears’ 21-14 playoff loss to Green Bay last year, will start in place of Jay Cutler this week. Hanie has managed the game well when he’s subbed for the injured Cutler, completing 65 percent of his mostly short and intermediate passes. He also showed an ability to break out of the pocket and scramble around. It will be interesting to see how the Raiders defend him. They have always been a man coverage team through the insistence of Al Davis. Since his passing, they have at times played a bit more zone, which can be more effective with a scrambling young quarterback because the secondary can keep their eye on the quarterback and make reads on the ball when he stares down his targets. The Bears will look to combat the zone with safe, short passes and hope they can avoid putting their defense in bad situations. With new quarterbacks, the offense’s favored target often changes. With those short and intermediate routes, I’d expect Earl Bennett in the slot and Roy Williams on the outside to see the most targets, rather than deep threats Johnnie Knox and Devin Hester. The critical matchup will be the Bears’ offensive line versus the Oakland front seven. Oakland is sixth in the league with 28 sacks. The get good inside pressure from the likes of Richard Seymour, and Kamerion Wimbley has been a beast from the outside. The much-maligned Chicago line has played better during their five-game win streak, but they have been aided by the change to those quicker pass routes.

Running Game Thoughts: Matt Forte touches the ball on a higher percentage of plays than any back in the league. He is arguably the most important non-quarterback offensive player, and his worth will only increase with the loss of Cutler. Forte currently leads the league with 1,391 yards from scrimmage, while the Raiders have struggled against the run, allowing 131 yards per game. The matchup certainly looks good on paper, but the loss of Cutler means even more focus on Forte, and the Raiders should be at the top of their game after two home losses in a row have left them with only a one-game lead in the division and the hard-charging “Team Tebow” nipping at their heels.

Caleb Hanie: 175 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 Int.
Roy Williams: 55 yds receiving
Earl Bennett: 60 yds receiving / 1 TD
Johnny Knox: 35 yds receiving
Matt Forte: 90 yds rushing / 1 TD / 45 yds receiving

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +9.6%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -0.5%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +50.3%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Throw out his first showing when the Raiders threw Carson Palmer from the couch straight into the fire, and Palmer has a 102 passer rating with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s played better than many expected but will have two big hurdles this week. His receiving corps is severely depleted, with Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore, and Darrius Heyward-Bey all questionable to play. Palmer’s lack of time in Oakland means he will have had even less work with backups than most quarterbacks. The other problem is the Bears’ defense. Chicago has a physical front seven that will collapse the pocket. And Palmer doesn’t like to move around, so expect linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher to blitz up the middle to make him uncomfortable and prevent him from stepping up in the pocket. Also, Charles Tillman is an absolute ball hawk on the outside and is terrific at punching balls while making tackles. Where the Bears have struggled is the safety position. They benched their starters in favor of two young players, Major Harris and Chris Conte. Their inexperience can be taken advantage of, but they have added speed to the defense. The Raiders would have the perfect offense to exploit them over the deep middle with their young speedsters, but it remains to be seen if they will be available. And even if they are healthy enough to play, Oakland will have to find a way to block Julius Peppers and rising star Henry Melton long enough to get the ball downfield. I don’t like their chances of having much success.

Running Game Thoughts: All indications are that Darren McFadden will sit out another week. Oakland doesn’t lose much though, as Michael Bush and Marcel Reece combined for 154 yards against the Vikings last week. Both are big guys with good feet who can run through and around defenders. With the injuries in the passing game, they should see a lot of work in what should be a great matchup of strength on strength with the Bears’ run defense. By sheer volume of carries, Bush is a top-10 or top-15 option for fantasy, but the Bears will make things difficult. They are disciplined and aggressive, and they will circle the wagons on defense, knowing points will be at a premium with Cutler out. Bush will need to show good ball security. He fumbled once last week, and the Bears will be raking at it all game as they look to force turnovers.

Carson Palmer: 230 yds passing, 1 TD / 1 INT
Chaz Schilens: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Louis Murphy: 60 yds receiving
Kevin Boss: 45 yds receiving
Michael Bush: 100 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Raiders 20, Bears 17

Redskins @ Seahawks - (Eakin)

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -5.0%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -5.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +13.4%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -20.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Redskins went back to Rex Grossman after the failed experiment with John Beck. Grossman is an all-or-nothing guy, and I don’t like him on the road in the loud Seattle stadium. To beat Seattle at home you must play mistake-free football, and managing games isn’t Grossman’s strength. He also has a tendency to make throws that require a rocket arm, which he doesn’t possess. Where he can be effective is intermediate routes to Jabar Gaffney and his tight end, Fred Davis. Gaffney has stepped up as the go-to guy since they lost Santana Moss. He caught seven balls for 115 yards versus Dallas last week. Furthermore, the Seattle secondary can be thrown on. They have suffered a rash of injuries in the secondary but have steadied the ship, and they currently rank 16th in passing yards allowed. The key matchup here is Grossman versus safety Earl Thomas. Thomas is an excellent young player with good speed who plays centerfield well. Grossman will need to recognize where he is at pre-snap and avoid forcing the ball into his area.

Running Game Thoughts: We’ve all heard the jokes concerning the running back carousel with Mike Shanahan, but one has to wonder what really goes on in his head. I understand not wanting to give his opponents a leg up on whom to gameplan for, but his insistence in constantly throwing curve balls seems to be counterproductive. He says he likes to go with the hot hand, but from my perspective he does exactly the opposite. Early on when Ryan Torain rushed for over a hundred yards, he started Roy Helu the next game. About the time the rookie Helu looked like he was settling in, he switched back to Torain. Then Tashard Choice starts, gets just six carries, and is cut. I don’t know of many running backs who don’t need a fair amount of carries to get comfortable in an offense. Maybe more than any position besides quarterback, running backs need repetition to develop the field vision it requires to make instinctive cuts to find the open holes. Without repetition, they tend to think before making cuts, and by that time it’s usually too late. Shanahan’s constant shuffle prevents all of his runners from being effective. Clearly his weekly surprise over who will get the bulk of the carries isn’t working. The result is that Washington ranks 30th in rushing yards per game with no continuity 11 weeks into the season. Helu looks like the best talent, but just this week Shanahan opined that he didn’t believe Helu was ready for full-time duties. In the anti-gravity world of Shanahan, where up is down, that suggests to me that Helu will no doubt get full-time duties this week. His strength is the off-tackle run, where he can use his good speed. He’s also great at catching the ball out of the backfield. But even if he does get the carries this week, he will have a difficult matchup against the Seahawks’ eighth-ranked run defense. In a PPR league, however, he may catch enough balls to be a serviceable flex play.

Rex Grossman: 275 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 Int.
Jabar Gaffney: 85 yds receiving / 1 TD
Donte' Stallworth: 60 yds receiving
Fred Davis: 65 yds receiving / 1 TD
Roy Helu: 65 yard rushing / 30 receiving

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -4.9%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.7%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +11.5%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -7.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tarvaris Jackson is an athletic guy with good speed for the position and good arm strength when throwing deep, but he is just not very precise on the short timing routes. He struggles with consistency and tends to turn the ball over. On the year, he has six touchdowns to 11 interceptions. The Seahawks have overcome their poor passing offense with two straight wins, thanks in large part to their defense and running game. Jackson’s favorite target has been rookie slot receiver Doug Baldwin, but they like to spread the ball around, having completed passes to nine different guys last week. Sydney Rice and Mike Williams start outside and Rice is the more dangerous, but he has suffered from Jackson’s inconsistency. The matchup against the Redskins doesn’t look favorable, with Washington ranked 10th in passing yards allowed. They get a good pass rush from Bryan Orapko and rookie defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, but despite that, the Redskins have not created many interceptions. They need better play from DeAngelo Hall and LaRon Landry, the leaders of their secondary.

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch continues to produce adequate starting fantasy numbers of late as the bell-cow in the Seattle backfield. His per-carry average is poor, but few backs consistently get the 30 carries a game Lynch does. The thing you have to like is that this means Seattle will patiently stick to the running game even when they’re not getting great results early. Their philosophy involves finding big, fast athletes and hoping that will translate to winning games late by wearing down opponents. The Redskins are led by the seemingly ageless middle linebacker, London Fletcher. At 36 years old, he leads the team with 96 tackles and two interceptions. This should be a great physical battle of smash mouth all game between Fletcher and Lynch.

Tarvaris Jackson: 190 yds passing, 1 TD / 1 INT
Sidney Rice: 60 yds receiving / 1 TD
Doug Baldwin: 60 yds receiving
Mike Williams: 50 yards receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 95 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Redskins 17

Broncos @ Chargers - (Eakin)

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +7.8%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +2.6%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +4.5%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -3.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Broncos run the ball so much that they can make the play action game effective for the occasional big play, but they will need to expand the passing attack to continue their three-game win streak. Tebow is not an efficient passer from the pocket, but Denver can compensate for this weakness with designed rollouts, screens, or just relying in Tebow’s ability to create when plays break down. The Jets made a big mistake in blitzing Tebow during his fourth-quarter drive to victory Monday night. An all-out blitz is the last thing to do against a guy that struggles to throw and relies on his running ability. As we saw, a secondary in man coverage has their backs to the play, so once Tebow broke containment, it left practically no second level of defense. All the talk after that loss was on Tebow and Sanchez when it should have focused on the Jets’ terrible defensive play calling. Look for San Diego to stay in more zone coverage, where the secondary and linebackers can face Tebow and read and react when he scrambles. I would assume San Diego’s leading tackler, Donald Butler, will shadow Tebow and try to force him into throwing into the zone coverage.

Running Game Thoughts: The Broncos will have to run the football to control the clock and win ugly. Lead back Willis McGahee struggled with a hamstring injury recently but is listed as probable and looks to be at full strength. With Denver running 70 percent of the time, he should see a ton of carries. He is in line for a big day against the Chargers 22nd-ranked rush defense. Lance Ball will return to his role as the second option but should get into the mix plenty. He’s averaging over four yards per carry, so projecting him with 10-12 carries makes him an emergency option in deep leagues—with great upside if McGahee re-aggravates his hamstring.

Tim Tebow: 125 yds passing / 50 yds rushing / 2 TDs
Eric Decker: 65 yds receiving
Demaryius Thomas: 40 yds receiving
Daniel Fells: 35 yds receiving
Willis McGahee: 115 yds rushing / 25 receiving yds / 1 TD
Lance Ball: 40 yds rushing

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +17.9%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +17.9%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -32.5%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -3.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: In contrast to the mania of anointing Tebow, Phillip Rivers is mired in speculation concerning their five-game losing streak and his worst season as a pro. San Diego is fourth in passing yards but still struggles with turnovers and red zone scoring. With Malcom Floyd out, Vincent Brown still inexperienced, and tight end Antonio Gates just not looking healthy, they need a big game from Vincent Jackson. He will have a difficult matchup with Champ Bailey, however. And Bailey has an advantage, having faced Jackson and the Chargers so many times. Jackson won’t find a great deal of separation, so he will have to use his tremendous size and ball skills to come up with a couple of big plays. One reason for Rivers’ struggles, besides the loss of weapons, is pass protection. He is similar to Brett Favre in that he’s such a supreme competitor that he often forces the issue rather than living to fight another series. The Broncos have a dominant pass rush now that Elvis Dumervil has returned to combine with rookie Von Miller. The Chargers recently lost their best lineman, Kris Dielman, for the season, and they will also be without Marcus McNeil and Louis Vasquez. That’s just too much to overcome against a good pass rush.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Mathews needs to establish himself early on to slow down the Denver pass rush. Without a good run game, they won’t have time to get the ball downfield to Jackson. But Mathews could also have a tough time because of the depleted offensive line. He struggled against the Bears last week, running for just 37 yards on 13 carries. The Chargers need to take advantage of his speed and versatility by getting him outside on stretch plays and short passes. Mike Tolbert continues to see a reduced role when Mathews is healthy, and he is not getting enough touches to be used as a flex now that he isn’t in on passing downs. The Broncos are deceptively ranked 16th in rushing yards allowed. They have been playing better than their ranking during this win streak and should be considered a tough matchup for Mathews.

Philip Rivers: 265 yds passing, 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Vincent Jackson: 85 yds receiving / 1 TD
Vincent Brown: 50 yds receiving /
Antonio Gates: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ryan Mathews: 80 yards rushing / 25 receiving yds / 1 TD

Prediction: Chargers 23, Broncos 17

Steelers @ Chiefs - (Eakin)

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +2.8%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -5.8%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +30.6%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +19.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: These are the kind of games that good quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger are supposed to win. They’re traveling west to a loud stadium, but they have the more talented team. A win here will show the consistency that their rival Ravens failed to display in their loss to the Seahawks a couple of weeks ago. With Mike Wallace established as perhaps the best deep threat in the game, and with the recent emergence of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, the Steelers have their best pass attack of the era. They now have youth, speed, and depth to go along with the experience of Hines Ward and tight end Heath Miller. The Steelers are a passing team and won’t shy away from challenging the Chiefs defense with the vertical attack. Kansas City has three good cornerbacks to match up with the Steelers’ spread attack, but they have lacked adequate safety help over the top since the loss of Eric Berry. His replacement, Jon McGraw, missed last week but is expected back. McGraw has experience but will struggle to keep up with the Steelers’ overall speed.

Running Game Thoughts: Rashard Mendenhall hasn’t lived up to preseason expectations as a top-ten fantasy back. The Steelers are no longer the grinding run offense of old, and Mendenhall’s per-carry average has declined partially because of blocking struggles and probably because of his heavy workload last season. However, he can still be an effective fantasy option because of the many scoring opportunities playing in a high-powered offense. I like him this week more than most. The Steelers should dominate possession with Tyler Palko starting for the Chiefs and with the Chiefs ranking 28th in rushing yards allowed. Also, with Roethlisberger having a broken thumb, they may also be forced into a more conservative game plan.

Ben Roethlisberger: 300 yds passing, 2 TD / 1 Int.
Mike Wallace: 90 yds receiving / 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 80 yds receiving / 1 TD
Heath Miller: 45 yds receiving
Rashard Mendenhall: 85 yds rushing / 1 TD

PIT FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -21.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -26.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +2.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs picked up Kyle Orton of waivers this Thursday, but he probably needs at least a week to learn the offense and take first-team reps in practice. Tyler Palko will start. He is a bit small, has limited arm strength, and made a few poor decisions last week. He can’t have any turnovers if the Chiefs have any chance to win. Palko’s start wasn’t devoid of positives, however. He seemed to have a good command of the offense and showed confidence in what he was doing, and what I really liked from him was his ability to go through his progressions. He completed several passes where he clearly checked down from his first and second options. That said, he’s got quite a challenge against the aggressive and confusing blitz schemes of the Steelers. I think the pressure will lead to his floating some balls with his limited arm strength, which will give the Pittsburgh secondary chances to create some turnovers.

Running Game Thoughts: The Chiefs will want to run the ball, as they are sixth in the league in rushing yards per game. It looks like Jackie Battle has lost his lead-back role in favor of an equal rotation between him, Thomas Jones, and Dexter McCluster. The changes make none of the Chiefs runners’ valuable for fantasy numbers. If you had to gamble on one this week, I’d roll the dice on McCluster simply because I don’t think Battle or Jones will have much success in their power run game between the tackles. Plus, McCluster has the speed to get chances in space and try for a homerun. The Steelers aren’t the dominant run defense of years past, but with little threat from the passing game, they can crowd the box and shut Kansas City down.

Tyler Palko: 185 yds passing, 1 TDs / 2 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 60 yds receiving / TD
Steve Breaston: 50 yds receiving
Leonard Pope: 35 yds receiving
Thomas Jones: 35 yds rushing
Dexter McCluster: 40 yards rushing / 30 yds receiving

Prediction: Steelers 24, Chiefs 21