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

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Inside the Matchup
Week 16

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



DAL @ PHI | OAK @ KC | SF @ SEA | SD @ DET

 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Autry 40 15 72.7
2 Marcoccio 39 16 70.9
3 Smith 36 20 64.3
4 Eakin 35 23 60.3

Texans @ Colts - (Smith)

IND FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +8.8
IND FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.8%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +74.5
IND FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +3.2

Passing Game Thoughts: Rookie T.J. Yates has been Houston’s starter for their last three games, and has played well enough for the team to win two of those games. He failed to come through last week however, throwing for 212 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions as the Texans fell to Carolina. Wideout Andre Johnson’s injury caused him to miss last week’s game, and he’ll be out again this week, meaning Yates will need to connect with receivers Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and Bryant Johnson, as well as tight end Owen Daniels. None of those players came through against Carolina, but they should have a much easier go of it this week when facing the lowly Colts, and that’s especially true of Daniels, who is just one game removed from a 100-yard performance.

Indianapolis is 24th in the league in both pass defense and passing scores allowed. Eleven of the 14 quarterbacks they’ve faced this season have thrown for at least 220 yards against them, and nine different wide receivers have gained at least 75 yards when facing Indy. But the Colts have been especially vulnerable against tight ends in recent weeks. They allowed 107 yards and two touchdowns to the New England combination of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in Week 13, 48 yards and one touchdown to the less-than-heralded duo of Baltimore’s Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson in Week 14, and last week allowed Jared Cook to catch nine passes for 103 yards. Unless fantasy owners have someone like Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Tony Gonzalez, they should seriously consider inserting Daniels into their lineups this week if possible.

Running Game Thoughts: Houston has the league’s number two rushing offense with 2,125 yards. Arian Foster is sixth in the NFL with 1,066 yards (with nine touchdowns), while Ben Tate is 20th in the league with 846 yards. Foster ran for 109 yards and a touchdown last week against the Panthers, and it was the seventh time in eight games that he ran for at least one score. He added 58 receiving yards, and has five games this season with at least 50 yards through the air. Unfortunately, Foster also lost a fumble for the second consecutive week and the third time in four games. That should be of little concern for fantasy owners if Foster is able to match what he did against the Colts last season. In two games against them, he ran for 333 yards and four touchdowns with 10 catches for 72 yards. Foster missed Houston’s Week 1 meeting with Indy this season, but in that game Tate scampered for 116 yards and one score.

It hasn’t gotten much better for the Colts’ run defense since Week 1. They are currently 28th in the league, allowing nearly 140 rushing yards per game, and only Tampa Bay has given up more rushing scores than Indianapolis. Though they held Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 55 yards last week, he caught eight passes for 54 yards, and is one of five running backs who didn’t run for 100 yards against the Colts bud did have over 100 rushing/receiving yards. Considering that Foster is as effective a dual threat as there is in the game, his fantasy owners should be salivating over the possibilities this week.

T.J. Yates: 235 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Owen Daniels: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 55 yds receiving
Jacoby Jones: 40 yds receiving
Bryant Johnson: 25 yds receiving
Arian Foster: 120 yds rushing, 2 TD / 30 yds receiving
Ben Tate: 40 yds rushing

HOU FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -20.1%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -22.9%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +2.9%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -20.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Colts pulled off an upset of the Titans last week, but they did it with their running game, as quarterback Dan Orlovsky managed only 83 passing yards, though he did throw a touchdown pass in the contest. Behind Orlovsky and, earlier in the season, Curtis Painter, Indianapolis has the league’s 30th-ranked passing offense, and have thrown only 12 touchdowns all season, which is 29th in the NFL. Fantasy owners that drafted Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark or Austin Collie have felt the impact, as each player has been largely ineffective for most or all of the season. That trend is almost certain to continue this week against Houston, who brings one of the best defenses in the NFL into the game.

Houston is second in the league in pass defense, tied for fifth in passing scores allowed, tied for sixth in interceptions, tied for seventh in sacks, and have allowed the lowest completion percentage in the NFL. What we’re saying is, it could be tough for Orlovsky to move the ball through the air in this one. And while it’s true that Reggie Wayne had 106 yards and a touchdown against Houston back in Week 1, fantasy owners should not expect a repeat performance. From Week 6 on, only tight end Tony Gonzalez has gained more than 82 yards in a game against the Texans.

Running Game Thoughts: Indianapolis has the league’s 23rd-ranked rushing offense, but Donald Brown ran for 161 yards and a touchdown last week against the Titans, with an 80-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter helping seal the team’s first victory of the season. It was Brown’s third rushing score in his last four games, and the third time in six games that he had at least 70 yards on the ground. Joseph Addai is healthy, but he ran for only 20 yards on 11 carries last week and is now firmly behind Brown on the team’s depth chart. It was an odd ascent up that depth chart for Brown, as the former first-round pick started the season behind Addai and Delone Carter, and amid talks that he may have difficulty keeping his spot on the roster. But Brown has performed well when given an opportunity, and fantasy owners who picked him up mid-season have to appreciate what he’s given them. He didn’t see any action in Week 1 when the Texans and Colts played, with Addai running for 39 yards and Carter rushing for 25, but that’s going to change in a big way on Thursday night.

Unfortunately, Brown’s not likely to give them a whole lot that evening. The Texans are just too good against the run – only six different running backs have managed to accumulate double-digit fantasy points against Houston this season. They are fifth in the NFL in rushing defense, tied for sixth in rushing scores allowed, and just four running backs have gained 65 or more yards when facing the Texans, though none of them managed to run for a touchdown.

Dan Orlovsky: 140 yds passing, 0 TD, 1 INT
Pierre Garcon: 50 yds receiving
Reggie Wayne: 35 yds receiving
Austin Collie: 25 yds receiving
Jacob Tamme: 15 yds receiving
Donald Brown: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD
Joseph Addai: 15 yds rushing

Prediction: Texans 27, Colts 13 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Titans - (Smith)

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -12.6%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -3.3%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -6.0%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +11.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jacksonville has no passing game to speak of. They are last in the league in passing offense, completion percentage, quarterback rating, and yards per attempt. Only the hideous offense of the Rams has fewer touchdowns through the air than the Jaguars. As far as fantasy options at quarterback, receiver or tight end, forget it. Jacksonville’s leading receiver last week against Atlanta was Taylor Price, who had been with them all of 10 minutes, and the wideout with the most targets in the game was someone named Chastin West, though we should give West his due for catching a touchdown pass with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter, cutting Atlanta’s lead to 41-14. We probably don’t have to say it, but fantasy owners should just go ahead and look somewhere else – anywhere else – for help at the skill positions.

Tennessee is 15th in the NFL against the pass, but has mediocre numbers in other areas of pass defense. The Titans are 17th in touchdown throws given up, tied for 24th in interceptions, 27th in completion percentage allowed, and 29th in sacks. This game is a re-match from Jacksonville’s Week 1 win, but it was Luke McCown at quarterback in that contest and not Blaine Gabbert. But don’t expect much out of the struggling Gabbert, even though the Titans have allowed quarterbacks to throw for at least 285 yards in three of their last four games.

Running Game Thoughts: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – Maurice Jones-Drew is the only Jacksonville player worthy of being on a fantasy roster. He ran for 117 yards last week against the Falcons, continuing a fantastic season in which he’s run for fewer than 84 yards in a game just once. MJD is also a receiving threat out of the backfield, with at least 50 yards through the air in three of his last four games. Unfortunately, he’s nursing an ankle injury and has missed practice this week, so fantasy owners need to be sure to check his status before game time.

The Titans bring the game’s 23rd-ranked run defense into the contest. Opponents are toting the rock at a clip of 4.4 yards per carry, which is 22nd in the NFL, but Tennessee clamps down when it matters most. They’ve only allowed seven rushing scores this season, which is tied for the third-fewest in the league. One of those touchdowns came from MJD, who had 97 yards on the ground when these two squads faced off in Week 1. The Titans have been especially vulnerable against the run in the last five weeks, with Michael Turner rushing for 100 yards and a score in Week 11, LeGarrette Blount galloping for 103 yards and adding 56 receiving yards in Week 12, C.J. Spiller darting for 83 yards and a touchdown in Week 13, the New Orleans triumvirate of Chris Ivory/Darren Sproles/Pierre Thomas running for a total of 108 yards with 93 receiving yards in Week 14, and Donald Brown scampering for 161 yards and a score last week.

Blaine Gabbert: 200 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Chastin West: 45 yds receiving
Mike Thomas: 40 yds receiving
Marcedes Lewis: 30 yds receiving
Jarett Dillard: 25 yds receiving, 1 TD
Taylor Price: 15 yds receiving
Maurice Jones-Drew: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 30 yds receiving

JAX FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -3.3%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +9.7%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -26.3%
JAX FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +9.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Though Matt Hasselbeck has struggled of late, he will apparently be Tennessee’s starter this week. He’s thrown just one touchdown and four interceptions over his last five games, and with rookie Jake Locker breathing down his neck and ready to go should Hasselbeck struggle, the veteran should not be considered an option for fantasy owners. Nate Washington, on the other hand, should be. He’s caught a touchdown pass in each of his last two games, and has 13 receptions for 192 yards in that span.

The Jaguars have the NFL’s fourth-ranked pass defense, and are tied for 12th in scoring passes allowed. When these two teams played in Week 1, Matt Hasselbeck threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns (with one interception), but 136 of those yards and both touchdowns were to wideout Kenny Britt, who has been out for most of the season. Britt’s 25 fantasy points were the most that Jacksonville had allowed to a wide receiver all season until Roddy white amassed the same amount with 135 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Jags have allowed four receivers to gain at least 70 yards with a touchdown in their last three games, but are still aren’t allowing quarterbacks to throw for loads of yards, with only three QBs all season having collected more than 225 yards in a contest.

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Johnson had 15 carries for 55 yards last week against the Colts, but if it weren’t for a 35-yard run, his numbers would have looked much, much worse. Thankfully, he’s a receiving threat and had 54 yards on eight receptions, helping buoy an otherwise mediocre day. His season has been downright confusing, and it’s nearly impossible for fantasy owners to predict what Johnson will offer from week to week, and that is especially true this week because he’s dealing with a sore ankle that has him officially listed as questionable. He may be somewhat limited this week, which is something fantasy owners need to keep in mind before inserting Johnson in their lineups.

Jacksonville’s run defense is opposite to foe Tennessee’s. While the Titans give up lots of yards and opponents have a high YPC average, they don’t give up many touchdowns. Whereas the Jaguars are solid in terms of yards allowed and YPC, teams are still finding ways to score via the run. Jacksonville ranks 14th in the NFL against the run, and opponents have run for just 4.0 yards per carry (ninth in the league) but they have allowed 13 rushing scores, which is 23rd in football. But like Tennessee, the Jaguars have struggled to stop the run in their last five games – in each of those contests a running back has rushed for at least 60 yards and one score, with two backs gaining more than 110 yards.

Matt Hasselbeck: 235 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Nate Washington: 80 yds receiving
Damian Williams: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lavelle Hawkins: 35 yds receiving
Jared Cook: 25 yds receiving
Chris Johnson: 90 yds rushing, 2 TD / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: Titans 24, Jaguars 17 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Panthers - (Smith)

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +16.3%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +19.8%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +5.2%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +20.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman didn’t throw an interception last week against the Cowboys, which is something to be celebrated, because it was only the third time in his 13 games this season in which he didn’t throw a pass to the wrong team. Freeman threw for 148 yards and one touchdown, and it was his third consecutive game having failed to reach 200 passing yards. Tampa doesn’t have dynamic pass catchers outside of Mike Williams, which certainly hinders Freeman, but fantasy owners have to be highly disappointed in what was supposed to be a great year for the young quarterback.

Even a quick glance at the number will tell you that the Panthers have a below-average pass defense. They are 18th in the NFL against the pass, rank 20th in touchdown passes allowed, 21st in interceptions, and 25th in both sacks and completion percentage allowed. Twice in the last five weeks they’ve been lit up for at least 320 yards and four touchdowns, and they’ve also allowed three receivers to gain at least 100 yards and score a touchdown in that time. Josh Freeman didn’t play when these two teams met just a few weeks ago in Week 13, but wideout Mike Williams had 93 yards on five receptions.

Running Game Thoughts: LeGarrette Blount can be one of the better backs in football, but has to improve his consistency. Over his last three games, he’s run for 19, 74, and 21 yards, respectively. He usually offers fantasy owners next to nothing in the receiving department, so for him to become the RB1 in the future that he seems capable of being, he’ll have to become more reliable find the end zone more often – he has just five scores this season, which is the same amount of fumbles he’s had (three lost fumbles).

Carolina’s run defense is among the worst in all of football. They are 25th in the league against the run, 24th in yards per carry allowed (4.6), and tied for 29th in rushing scores given up (16). Though they shut down Blount the last time these two teams played – holding him to 19 yards on 11 carries – that’s one of their few success stories against a running back this season. Eleven different backs have rushed for at least 80 yards when facing the Panthers this year, and five have run for 120 or more yards. Carolina can’t stop backs from becoming receiving threats either, as six different runners have accumulated 40 or more receiving yards against them.

Josh Freeman: 235 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 INT
Mike Williams: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kellen Winslow: 50 yds receiving
Dezmon Briscoe: 40 yds receiving
Arrelious Benn: 30 yds receiving
Preston Parker: 25 yds receiving
LeGarrette Blount: 110 yds rushing, 1 TD

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +28.1%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +3.0%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -2.2%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +26.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton is almost certain to be the offensive rookie of the year, and for good reason. His running ability is established, but he’s also shown growth as a passer, which not only benefits him but his fantasy owners as well. Newton has not thrown in interception in three of his last four games, but has tossed five touchdowns in that span. And although tight end Greg Olsen has been nearly useless to fantasy owners in recent weeks, wideout Steve Smith has shined in his past two contests, with 11 catches for 207 yards and one touchdown. Don’t let the fact that he only had 32 yards against Tampa in Week 13 fool you – he’s an excellent play this week.

Tampa’s entire defense is bad, and while we’ll get to their run defense in a moment, let’s take a look at how they do against the pass. It’s not pretty. They’re 26th in the league in pass defense, tied for 27th in scoring passes allowed, and tied for 30th in sacks. The Bucs have allowed multiple touchdown throws by a quarterback in five of their last seven games, and the only reason Newton threw just one in Week 13 is because he scored three times on the ground.

Running Game Thoughts: Newton is the team’s goal-line back, and has been since the season began. DeAngelo Williams has scored in each of his last two games while picking up 148 rushing yards, but that’s been to the detriment of fellow back Jonathan Stewart, who has only 72 yards over the last two games with no touchdowns; his last score was in Week 13 against the Bucs.

While Carolina’s run defense is bad, Tampa’s is hideous. Only two teams have given up more rushing yards this season than the Buccaneers, and no team has allowed more rushing touchdowns. They’ve given up a total of 19 scores to running backs (15 rushing, four receiving), and also allowed four rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks, including the aforementioned three by Newton during Week 13. Like Carolina, Tampa is also prone to running backs having huge games against them – four different backs have gained 120 or more yards in a contest when facing the Bucs.

Cam Newton: 295 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT / 35 yds rushing, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 90 yds receiving, 2 TD
Brandon LaFell: 65 yds receiving
Greg Olsen: 35 yds receiving
Jeremy Shockey: 30 yds receiving
Legedu Naanee: 25 yds receiving
DeAngelo Williams: 55 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 45 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving

Prediction: Panthers 31, Buccaneers 20 ^ Top

Falcons @ Saints - (Smith)

NO FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +25.5%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +20.4%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -42.8%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +8.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has picked a great time to play his best football of the season. He threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns against the Jaguars last week and in his last six games, starting in Week 10 against New Orleans, Ryan has thrown for an average of 290 yards and more than two touchdowns per contest. Wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, as well as tight end Tony Gonzalez, can each be considered strong plays this week by their fantasy owners.

New Orleans has the game’s 28th-ranked pass defense, but part of that is due to the fact that opponents simply have to throw to keep pace with their offense. The Saints are tied for 20th in touchdown throws allowed, and their eight interceptions this season is tied for 28th, but they are holding opponents to a completion percentage of 56.9, which is sixth in the league. When these two teams met in Week 10, Ryan threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns. New Orleans then gave up over 400 yards passing in each of their next two games, and over 300 to the combination of Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker in Week 14. Only last week did they finally slow down an opposing quarterback, with Minnesota rookie Christian Ponder only throwing for 120 yards, but adding a pair of touchdowns. The Saints have had their difficulty against wideouts of late also, as two have posted at least 130 yards and a touchdown in their last three games.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner has labored a bit recently, with a high of 76 rushing yards in his last four games while not reaching even 3.7 yards per carry in any of those contests. He did have 96 yards in Week 10 against the Saints, but has only one 100-yard outing in his last seven games, and three touchdowns over his last eight games.

The Saints are a respectable 13th in the league in rushing defense, and have allowed 10 rushing scores, which is tied for 13th. But they are 30th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed, with opponents running at a clip of 4.9 yards per rush. New Orleans has really only had one back go off on them, when Steven Jackson rolled to 159 yards and two scores in Week 8. Other than that, there have been plenty of decent performances by runners, but nothing outlandish, with only two other backs having 100-yard games. Though as we mentioned, Turner got close the last time these two teams met.

Matt Ryan: 285 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT
Roddy White: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Julio Jones: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 50 yds receiving
Harry Douglas: 40 yds receiving
Michael Turner: 80 yds rushing, 1 TD

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -10.5%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -12.3%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +12.9%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -18.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Saints have the NFL’s top passing game, and Drew Brees should easily break Dan Marino’s single-season record for passing yards. He may do it this week, in fact, against a Falcons team that he burned for 320 yards and two touchdowns in Week 10. Brees has thrown for at least 330 yards with multiple touchdowns in each game since then. Wideout Marques Colston has 196 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games, and tight end Jimmy Graham is second only to New England’s Rob Gronkowski in fantasy scoring at the tight end position this season.

The Falcons have a respectable if unremarkable pass defense. They are 17th in the NFL against the pass, tied for 12th in scoring passes given up, 15th in both interceptions and opponents’ completion percentage, and tied for 19th in sacks. Though Atlanta has allowed four quarterbacks to throw for 300 or more yards this season, the last to do it was Drew Brees in Week 10. The position that’s been most successful against the Falcons of late is tight end. Graham had seven receptions for 82 yards and one touchdown against them in Week 10, and in the five games since then, Atlanta has allowed three more touchdowns to tight ends.

Running Game Thoughts: Mark Ingram has missed the last two games with turf toe, and his status for this week is unknown at this point. Chris Ivory has filled in nicely, with a total of 126 rushing yards in those contests. Pierre Thomas is also involved in both rushing and receiving, but usually not enough to be impactful for fantasy owners. The same can’t be said for Darren Sproles, because even though he usually doesn’t pile up rushing yards, he had 79 receiving yards and a touchdown catch last week and is essentially another wideout coming out of the backfield.

Atlanta employs one of the staunchest run defenses in football, ranking fourth in the league and allowing fewer than 97 yards per contest. They are tied for eighth in rushing scores given up, and are 11th in yards per carry allowed (4.0). Just two running backs have had games with at least 100 yards this season against Atlanta, and only five have compiled more than 70 yards. However, it’s worth mentioning that of those five backs to have gained 70+ yards, three of them came in the last three weeks.

Drew Brees: 340 yds passing, 3 TD
Jimmy Graham: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Marques Colston: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 50 yds receiving
Robert Meachem: 25 yds receiving
Devery Henderson: 20 yds receiving
Chris Ivory: 50 yds rushing
Pierre Thomas: 35 yds rushing, 1 TD / 25 yds receiving
Darren Sproles: 30 yds rushing / 50 yds receiving, 1 TD

Prediction: Saints 34, Falcons 27 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Patriots - (Marcoccio)

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +16.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +44.3%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -44.7%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore is now 5-5 as the starter, which is obviously nothing special, but it’s a little more impressive when you consider he took over an 0-4 team. The Miami passing game has been a much more effective unit since Chad Henne went down for the season. Unlike his predecessor, Moore is not afraid to throw the ball downfield. And that deep passing game has helped the team’s running, since opening up the passing game gives opposing defenses something else to consider. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has excelled under the downfield attack, as it has made him more than just a possession receiver. He isn’t a blazer, but his size and leaping ability make him a dangerous vertical target when a quarterback is able to trust him as a deep threat.

New England’s pass defense started the year off allowing Chad Henne to pass for 400 yards. They have performed almost that poorly since (allowing 296.7 ypg) and are still undermanned, with Patrick Chung and others sidelined. Last week, the Pats suffered another serious injury when their only legit pass rusher, defensive end Andre Carter, was lost for the season. His absence will make it even harder for them to control opposing passing games.

Running Game Thoughts: Last week Reggie Bush added another 203 yards to what was already a career high in rushing yards. He has finally had the season that everyone thought he could when New Orleans made him the second overall pick in the 2006 draft. He also tied a career high in rushing touchdowns (6) last week and has been one of the best running backs in the league since Week 8. The two weeks before that it was looking as though rookie Daniel Thomas would steal the feature back role from Bush, but there’s little doubt who is in the driver’s seat of the Miami backfield now.

The Pats have played the run well statistically, having allowed 117.6 ypg and 12 touchdowns on the season, but they struggled to stop the Denver running game last week—although the presence of Tim Tebow at quarterback makes that a difficult task for most teams. The Pats’ excellent offense usually causes teams to abandon the run early to keep up with their scoring, so it’s rare to see their run defense truly tested.

Matt Moore: 305 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Brandon Marshall: 110 yds receiving, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 40 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 55 yds receiving
Anthony Fasano: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Daniel Thomas: 30 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving
Reggie Bush: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -6.9%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +0.5%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -40.3%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -7.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week, the Denver defense game-planned to take Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady’s most consistent weapons, out of the game. Both players consistently drew double coverage for most of the game. That left New England’s other second-year tight end, Aaron Hernandez, the chance to shine, and he had the best game of his career (9 catches for 129 yards and a touchdown). The lesson to other teams is that Tom Brady is able to take what the defense gives him—and the Pats are pretty loaded at the skill positions. Even Chad Ochocinco got into the action, opening up the scoring with a long touchdown reception down the sideline. However, he soon returned to his role as the “invisible man” for the rest of the game.

Miami has allowed 247.6 passing yards per game and 21 passing touchdowns on the season. They are a better unit with cornerback Vontae Davis on the field, but he has missed time due to injuries and a one-game suspension. Davis has statistically been one of the best cover corners in the league and may find himself matched up with Wes Welker this week if former defensive backs coach, now head coach, Todd Bowles chooses to be creative with his best defender.

Running Game Thoughts: While Bill Belichick has never reached Mike Shanahan’s level of Shanahanigans with his running backs, he has traditionally made it difficult for fantasy owners by using different backs for different game plans. For a good part of the midseason, the Law Firm headed the rushing attack, but last week rookie Steven Ridley and the diminutive Danny Woodhead saw the bulk of the work. Ridley just may be the most complete back in the current rotation, but Belichick does have an affinity for BenJarvus Green-Ellis, so the pendulum could swing back his way this week.

Miami has allowed only six rushing touchdowns on the season, making the decision to start a New England back that much more difficult. The team did allow the inconsistent C.J. Spiller to have a relatively big game against them last week, and Danny Woodhead is the back most similar to Spiller on the Pats’ roster. That doesn’t mean that the staff will prepare Woodhead as the bell cow—but it could be back-to-back nice games for the former NCAA-leading rusher.

Tom Brady: 305 yds passing 3 TDs
Chad Ochocinco: 35 yds receiving
Wes Welker: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tiquan Underwood: 40 yds receiving
Aaron Hernandez: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
BenJarvis Green-Ellis: 45 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Danny Woodhead: 60 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Patriots 34, Dolphins 27 ^ Top

Giants @ Jets - (Marcoccio)

NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -0.7%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -20.0%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +10.4%
NYJ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -22.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Giants will travel all the way to East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the Jets this week. Eli Manning was having an MVP-caliber season until last week when he had one of his worst games as a pro. It didn’t help that Hakeem Nicks dropped a deep pass that most likely would have been a touchdown, but the Giants offense never got in synch last week. With the season on the line, Manning will need to get back on track if the team wants the local “bragging rights” and, more importantly, to play in a meaningful game in Week 17. Nicks’ drop was uncharacteristic and he’ll need to get back to being the nearly uncoverable wide receiver that he is when he’s on the top of his game. His strength on the ball and his run ability after the catch will make him a difficult matchup even for Darrelle Revis.

Last week Revis spent most of his time covering one side of the field rather than sticking to one receiver. The Jets have shown that strategy before, especially when the opposition has more than one above-average wide receiver (i.e. Dallas). In fact, they employed the strategy during the preseason game against the Giants—which is always the Jets’ third game of the preseason and the closest thing to a “must win” that you’ll find in a preseason game. Antonio Cromartie may see time on Nicks this week, and while he’s a good corner, he can surely be beaten. The Jets’ have been very vulnerable against opposing tight ends, but Jake Ballard is likely to miss this week’s game. That will allow them to focus more on covering the wideouts.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t looked as dynamic since returning from his cracked foot, making the Giants rushing attack far less effective. Brandon Jacobs just hasn’t been able to show any real consistency from game to game; he has looked very good one week and very slow and plodding the next. Jacobs should be pumped up to play the cross-town rivals, however, and he is at his best when he’s playing with some anger.

The Jets’ run defense has steadily improved after a very poor start to the season. They are ranked seventh against the run, having allowed 112.9 ypg and 15 touchdowns. They have a lot more difficulty with speedy backs, given that Bart Scott and David Harris have slowed a bit. Fortunately for them, Bradshaw was never all that speedy, even at his best, and is now slowed with his injury. As for Jacobs’s speed, well, you know…

Eli Manning: 285 yds passing 2 TDs, 2 Ints.
Hakeem Nicks: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 75 yds receiving
Mario Manningham: 40 yds receiving
Travis Beckum: 25 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 65 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 40 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving

NYG FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +45.7%
NYGFF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +60.1%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +43.6%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +7.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: For all of his faults, quarterback Mark Sanchez will end the season with close to 30 overall touchdowns (he has five rushing touchdowns thus far) and has shown some progress in his third season. He still shows poor pocket presence and has made some maddeningly poor decisions, however. The Jets would love to continue with their commitment to the run, but with the defense not nearly as sharp and with less-than-dynamic backs, the burden will fall on Sanchez’s shoulders perhaps more than Rex Ryan would like. Santonio Holmes is finally emerging as Sanchez’s go-to guy and is capable of making big plays, but otherwise the Jets lack dynamic weapons. Plaxico Burress may be motivated to show up his old team, but he hasn’t been able to separate from coverage and has generally been a disappointment outside of the red zone.

The Giants’ banged-up secondary has been highly susceptible to the pass all season. Rookie cornerback Prince Akmukamara missed most of the year and has played poorly since he’s been back. He was abused badly by Rex Grossman and Jabar Gaffney last week. Still, the Giants can generate a pass rush and should be able to force Sanchez into the mistakes that have marred his season. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is shaping into one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and will be a tough assignment for the struggling Wayne Hunter when he’s lined up on the Giants’ left side. If the Giants are able to wreak havoc in the Jets backfield, this game could get ugly for the home team.

Running Game Thoughts: Shonn Greene was looking really good in the early going last week in Philadelphia before two mistakes by Santonio Holmes put the Jets in a huge hole. The O-line has been blocking much better for Greene, and he’s hit the holes hard and is a tough runner to take down once he gets into the second level. Expect a heavy dosage of Greene and LT this week in order to keep the Giants’ pass rush at bay.

The Giants’ run defense isn’t all that much better than their pass defense. They have allowed 127.6 ypg and 14 rushing touchdowns on the ground. They’ll have a tough time with the Jets O-line now that it’s playing near the level it reached over the last couple of seasons rather than like the unit that struggled early this season.

Mark Sanchez: 245 yds passing, 2 TDs, 2 Ints. / 15 yds rushing
Santonio Holmes: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Plaxico Burress: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jeremy Kerley: 20 yds receiving / 10 yds rushing
Dustin Keller: 40 yds receiving
Shonn Greene: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
LaDainian Tomlinson: 30 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: Jets 24, Giants 20 ^ Top

Vikings @ Redskins - (Marcoccio)

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -2.6%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -12.0%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +70.4%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -0.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Christian Ponder has played very well for a rookie quarterback—which may have been overlooked in a season where most rookie quarterbacks are playing like veterans. Ponder is smart and accurate and can throw the ball downfield fairly well; he is also athletic enough to pick up yardage when he scrambles from pressure. The Vikings lack any serious weapons in the passing game outside of Percy Harvin, and picking up a big, fast target for Ponder would do wonders for his development. The team has started to phase out veteran tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in favor of rookie Kyle Rudolph, which should help Rudolph’s chemistry with Ponder for next season. Rudolph is sure-handed and a huge target—and could quickly become the young quarterback’s best friend.

The Redskins enter Week 13 as the 14th-ranked pass defense (220.7 ypg) and have allowed an average of a little over one passing touchdown per game. The team has improved greatly in its ability to rush the passer from last season, with 37 sacks behind Brian Orakpo and the resurgent Adam Carriker. Expect defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to dial up some blitzes to put some pressure on the rookie—although Ponder has shown that he can handle pressure fairly well.

Running Game Thoughts: Adrian Peterson returned from an ankle sprain but was limited to 10 carries and watched backup running back Toby Gerhart score two touchdowns last week. Peterson should see his carries increase this week and is obviously an elite talent when healthy. He will surely be looking to break out against Washington, as he was not pleased with being used so sparingly last week.

Washington has allowed 112 ypg and 12 touchdowns on the ground this season. Their defense has played hard all year and has not given up despite being all but eliminated from playoff contention for most of the season.

Christian Ponder: 225 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int. / 25 yds rushing
Percy Harvin: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Devin Aromashodu: 55 yds receiving
Visanthe Shiancoe: 20 yards receiving
Kyle Rudolph: 50 yds receiving
Adrian Peterson: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Toby Gerhart: 20 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

MIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +24.3%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +19.0%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +38.6%
MIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +14.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Rex Grossman has done a good job in relying on veteran wideouts Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney after promising young tight end Fred Davis was suspended for the year. Both receivers had nice games against New England and the Giants the last two weeks. There has been some talk that Grossman may stick around as the “bridge” quarterback for Washington next season, and he’ll be using these next two weeks to further those chances. Grossman hasn’t been terrible under Shanahan, and when he does manage to limit his mistakes, he is a serviceable NFL quarterback—but he’s very likely not the long-term future in Washington, even if he continues playing as well as he has since he took the starting job back.

Grossman will see his third terrible pass defense in as many weeks when the Vikings come to the nation’s capitol. Minnesota is ranked 30th against the pass—ahead of only Green Bay and New England—having allowed 260.4 ypg and an incredible 31 touchdowns. Grossman will not have trouble finding open receivers.

Running Game Thoughts: Just when Roy Helu looked like he finally put the Skins’ running game carry distribution worries to rest, he went and had his worst game since getting the bulk of the carries. He looked pedestrian and plodding against a less-than-solid Giants run defense. He is clearly banged up. Mike Shanahan has stated he may need to limit Helu’s carries since he is suffering through toe and knee injuries. Against the Vikings’ fairly strong run defense (105.6 ypg and 10 touchdowns allowed), Helu could be a risky start.

Rex Grossman: 285 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 5 yds rushing
Santana Moss: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jabar Gaffney: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Donte Stallworth: 55 yds receiving
Roy Helu: 40 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving
Evan Royster: 45 yds rushing

Prediction: Redskins 20, Vikings 17 ^ Top

Broncos @ Bills - (Marcoccio)

BUF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -4.8%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -21.7%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +97.8%
BUF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +27.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tim Tebow, to his credit, has shown much improvement as a passer since looking way overmatched in that regard a few weeks back. He is not and will likely never be a conventional drop-back passer, but he throws the ball well while on the move and has tremendous field vision in finding the open man. Despite his flawed mechanics, his arm strength is up there with any quarterback in the league. Second-year wide receiver Eric Decker was Tebow’s target of choice earlier in the season, but lately fellow second-year wideout Demaryius Thomas has been the target hound. Thomas hasn’t shown any ill effects from the Achilles tendon rupture he suffered last season and is a physical presence in the mold of Calvin Johnson, who incidentally was also a Georgia Tech product. The Broncos are not going to put the ball in the air much if they can help it, but at least in recent weeks they have shown they can have an effective passing game when needed.

The Bills are ranked 16th against the pass and have allowed 230 ypg and 26 touchdowns on the season. The team can be opportunistic at times in creating turnovers, but they also surrender big plays and big days to opposing passers. The best thing the Buffalo pass defense has going for it is that the run defense cannot stop opposing running games either.

Running Game Thoughts: Willis McGahee has looked resurgent after spending a few seasons as Ray Rice’s backup in Baltimore. While his 30-year-old legs have looked fresh, his 30-year-old body has defied him often, as he’s suffered various nagging injuries this season. He sustained another hamstring strain last week, which limited his production, but he’s practicing this week and is expected to play. Of course the Denver rushing attack is not limited to just discussing the running back position; quarterback Tim Tebow is known more for his running ability than his arm. Head coach John Fox has successfully morphed the Denver offense into a spread/option attack with many plays designed for Tebow to run the ball. And he’s been very productive when doing so. While he isn’t all that fast, he’s plenty athletic and plenty strong with the ball in his hands.

The Bills will have a difficult time slowing down the Broncos, as they have been bad against even “normal” rushing offenses. On the ground they have allowed 139.5 ypg and have given up 16 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Tim Tebow: 165 yds passing, 1 TD / 55 yds rushing 1 TD
Demaryius Thomas: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Eric Decker: 35 yds receiving
Matt Willis: 30 yards receiving
Daniel Fells: 15 yds receiving
Willis McGahee: 115 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Lance Ball: 20 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -3.8%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -19.8%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +45.2%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +15.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have to protect the ball better if he wants to see the entire first year of his freshly inked long-term contract extension. He has now thrown 19 interceptions and has fumbled seven times on the season. Steve Johnson suffered a mid-season slump that may have been a result of injury, but he’s finished the season up strongly and has two more games to show he’s deserving of a big-money extension as well. Johnson isn’t a burner, but he plays the game fast enough and is a good route runner who is strong to the ball and after the catch.
Johnson may find himself matched up with Champ Bailey this week, but after two successful games against Darrelle Revis, the match up with Bailey doesn’t seem so daunting. Denver’s defense has played very well overall this season, but their pass defense hasn’t been all that stout, as they have allowed 238.4 ypg and 24 touchdowns through the air.

Running Game Thoughts: C.J. Spiller has been very up-and-down since taking over for the injured Fred Jackson four games ago. Last week was an “up” week as he gained 91 yards on the ground and scored both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. He has great speed, and can turn a corner quickly, but he has shown little ability to successfully run the ball up the middle. Head Coach Chan Gailey has stated that he needs to limit Spiller’s carries, as he’s worried about the inside runs wearing down the diminutive back. Former Cowboy Tashard Choice should see the carries that don’t go to Spiller.

The Broncos are ranked 20th against the run, allowing 125.4 ypg, but they have allowed only nine touchdowns on the ground this season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 265 yds passing 3 TDs, 2 Ints. / 15 yds rushing
Steve Johnson: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
David Nelson: 45 yds receiving
Scott Chandler: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Tashard Choice: 25 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving
C.J. Spiller: 65 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving

Prediction: Broncos 27, Bills 24 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +9.6%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +15.8%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -19.5%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -12.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Michael Vick and the Eagles passing game is starting to hit their stride and look more like the 2010 version of the team than they have all season. Vick’s resurgence may just be enough to push the Eagles into the playoffs. The speed and skills of Vick and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will make them a difficult out if they manage to make it in. Tight end Brent Celek was asked to stay in and block on a large percentage of the passing plays earlier in the season, but in recent weeks he’s been the hottest pass-catcher for the Birds. Celek isn’t as athletic as some of the new-breed tight ends, but he does possess decent speed and great hands and finds a way to get open. Jeremy Maclin has struggled the last two weeks since coming back from hamstring and shoulder injuries, but he should start to heal up and become a big part of the offense once again.

The Dallas secondary has been banged up at times this season, but even when healthy, it’s left a lot to be desired. The team is ranked 19th against the pass, having allowed 235.3 ypg and 19 touchdowns on the season. Michael Vick was able to light this defense up for 279 yards and two touchdowns the last time they met, and it’s not a stretch to think he can be even better now with the way the team has been playing.

Running Game Thoughts: The NFL rarely gives the MVP to running backs anymore (they should probably just call it the MVQB award), but LeSean McCoy should garner serious consideration. He has all the quickness, lateral movement, and deceptive strength of his predecessor Brian Westbrook, who was also the unsung hero of the Eagles of the 2000s. McCoy has 1,579 total yards and 20 total touchdowns on the season. But the most surprising stat concerning the Philly running game just might be that Vick has only one rushing touchdown this season—and it came just last week against the Jets. Unfortunately for McCoy, Vick will likely get more MVP votes.

The Cowboys’ aggressive run blitzes have kept most opposing runners in check this year. They are currently a top-10 run defense, having given up only 98.1 ypg and just nine rushing touchdowns. McCoy may be the best running back they have faced this season, however, and he gained 185 yards and two touchdowns against them in Week 8.

Michael Vick: 295 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 35 yds rushing
DeSean Jackson: 80 yds receiving
Jeremy Maclin: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jason Avant: 30 yds receiving
Brent Celek: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 115 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving
Dion Lewis: 10 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -7.1%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +4.6%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +3.0%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tony Romo seems to take a lot of heat when he “costs” the Cowboys a win, but I haven’t seen him get too much credit for the wins he’s earned for the team. As ESPN’s Steven A. Smith says on local radio in these parts, “Tony Romo is ballin’” this season. Between Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten, there may not be a more talented trio of receivers for opposing defenses to deal with. And when Austin was out earlier this season, Laurent Robinson stepped up and was at times the best Dallas receiver on the field. It seems odd that the Rams and Chargers found no use for Robinson earlier this season—but Jason Garrett is probably thankful that they didn’t.

The Eagles’ all-star secondary is one of the few groups that should be able to matchup well with the Cowboys’ arsenal. The Philadelphia pass defense hasn’t been as “shutdown” as expected; they have somehow given up the fourth-most passing touchdowns in the league with 25,but they have limited passing yardage against them (only 213.8 ypg).

Running Game Thoughts: In typical fantasy football fashion, your league’s champion this year may just win the trophy behind a huge game from 34-year-old running back Sammy Morris, who came off his couch two weeks ago to join the Cowboys. Felix Jones is banged up with a hamstring injury and could miss this week’s game, and with rookie DeMarco Murray and Philip Tanner already on IR, Morris is the Cowboys’ only option at running back. He looked surprisingly spry last Saturday against Tampa Bay and was always a solid option when called upon during his days in New England and Buffalo.

The Eagles present a decent matchup for opposing running backs. The team has allowed 113.6 yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season. However, they have shown improvement since struggling big time earlier in the season.

Tony Romo: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yds rushing
Miles Austin: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dez Bryant: 50 yds receiving
Laurent Robinson: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 60 yds receiving
Sammy Morris: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 25 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving

Prediction: Eagles 27, Cowboys 21 ^ Top

Raiders @ Chiefs - (Eakin)

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -3.5%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -49.9%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -2.9%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +6.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Losers of three straight, the spiraling Raiders take their act to the home field of a team that just ended the Packers’ 18-game win streak. The Chiefs were the first team to make Aaron Rodgers look human this entire season, and they did so with tremendous pressure from the front seven, most notably off the edge from Tamba Hali, and good coverage from the secondary. The Brandon’s—Flowers and Carr—along with rookie nickel back Javier Arenas are one of the league’s most talented cornerback groups. They should be able to cover the sporadic Oakland receivers. The Raiders’ Darius Heyward-Bey re-emerged last week with eight catches for 155 yards against a pretty solid Lions secondary. Heyward-Bey has to be the key for Carson Palmer. He is their most talented receiver and has shown brief stretches of dominance this year. He still is a risky proposition, however, given the inspired play of the Chiefs and the very hostile environment at Arrowhead. If the Chiefs’ play from last week is the players’ way of fighting for interim coach Romeo Crennel, it means two things: ex-coach Todd Haley was as difficult a personality as rumored, and the Raiders are in trouble.

Running Game Thoughts: Well, Michael Bush will remain the starter, as Darren McFadden is not expected to return for this game. Bush seems to have cooled off a bit, averaging just 60 yards per game over his last four. Some of that is scouting (teams now know how the Raiders like to use him), and some is from the Raiders’ having fallen behind in games. The Chiefs defense is best defending the pass. They can be run on, with opponents averaging 130 yards per game on the ground. Oakland must resist the urge to give the game plan over to passing, with Palmer at the helm, and return to their roots of running the football consistently and passing off of play action. Given the good matchup, Bush is a good to strong RB2 this week.

Carson Palmer: 245 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 INT
Denarius Moore: 55 yds receiving
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Kevin Boss: 35 yds receiving
Michael Bush: 80 yds rushing / 1 TD

OAK FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +29.6%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +43.3%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +17.8%
OAK FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -9.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Kyle Orton replaced the struggling Tyler Palko and created new optimism for the Chiefs and their fans after the big win over the Packers. Orton efficiently moved the chains all game, passing for 300 yards with no turnovers. He has arguably the best tandem of wide receivers in his career with Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. Orton also made tight end Leonard Pope relevant, as he led the team with 72 yards. Orton will have the added advantage of familiarity with an Oakland defense that has struggled stopping the pass, now ranking 24th and allowing 243 yards per game.

Running Game Thoughts: I mentioned last week that with coaching transitions, you never know how personnel usage will change, so it was unclear who would be the favorite between running backs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones. As it turned out, Jones started over Battle and got the 10- to 15-carry advantage. Neither back did much to separate himself from the other, nor at this point should either be relied upon for fantasy purposes. Battle happened to score, Jones did not. But both are pedestrian talents at this point and still mired in a time-share, negating a good matchup versus a weak Oakland run defense that is allowing 135 yards per game.

Kyle Orton: 300 yds passing, 1 TDs / 1 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 95 yds receiving / 1 TD
Steve Breaston: 80 yds receiving
Leonard Pope: 35 yds receiving
Thomas Jones: 50 yds rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Chiefs 24, Raiders 20 ^ Top

49ers @ Seahawks - (Eakin)

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -22.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -30.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -42.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +10.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers are not likely to let off the gas this week, as they are just a game ahead of the Saints as the No. 2 seed behind Green Bay. In a game where both teams could struggle to run the ball, this matchup comes down to the quarterbacks. Alex Smith showed his improvement Monday night by moving the ball up and down the field on the Steelers’ top-rated pass defense. But he also showed why he should not be a Pro Bowl consideration by continuing to struggle in the red zone. This game should be a low-scoring affair. The team that has success in the red zone will win. Coach Jim Harbaugh discussed the extra time the team has spent improving in this area over the last few weeks. Given his success at everything else, I like the Niners to improve here by utilizing play action to Gore and targeting big tight ends Delanie Walker and Vernon Davis to make the difference.

Running Game Thoughts: One place where the 49ers have shown a slightly noticeable release off the throttle has been in their use of Frank Gore. He’s been less effective and used less in recent weeks. Over the first eight weeks of the season, Gore averaged 20 carries per game. Through the last six games he has averaged 15. He will have a tough matchup in Seattle against a stout run defense that will benefit from the return of middle linebacker David Hawthorne. The Seahawks are 11th against the run, allowing 105 yards per game. At least some of those 105 yards will go to backup Kendall Hunter, making Gore a high-end RB2 this week, just outside of a top-10 option.

Alex Smith: 265 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 INT
Kyle Wilson: 85 yds receiving / 1 TD
Michael Crabtree: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Vernon Davis: 45 yds receiving
Frank Gore: 80 yds rushing / 40 yards receiving / 1 TD

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -21.7%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +1.0%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -47.4%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -52.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: In many ways, Tavaris Jackson and the Seahawks are a poor man’s 49ers. They are built around running the ball and the play action pass. And they don’t throw often. They both have quarterbacks with poor histories who have improved and probably haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. The problem for Seattle: they are the liberal little brother to San Francisco. They aren’t quite as good stopping the run, and Tavaris Jackson doesn’t have quite the weapons of Alex Smith. Jackson has two fewer attempts than Smith on the year, 46 fewer yards, and four fewer touchdowns. His starting wide receiver, Mike Williams, was placed on IR, but Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, and Ben Obomanu are all playing better of late. Of those three, I like Tate as the most dangerous game-breaker. He is getting enough targets now that opposing teams can focus on stopping Baldwin. Defensive end Aldon Smith of the Niners is just a sack away from breaking the all-time rookie record of 14 set by “The Freak”, Jevon Kearse. In tandem with Justin Smith, the San Francisco Smith’s are better pass rushers than anyone the Seahawks have. Jackson will have to work under duress.

Running Game Thoughts: This matchup has already been dubbed by pundits across the league as the old irresistible force versus the immovable object. Marshawn Lynch is still riding a seven-week, Skittle-induced sugar bender in which he has averaged 107 yards per game. He has also scored in ten straight games. However, the 49ers are on a historical run themselves, having not allowed a single, solitary rushing touchdown all year. Three teams in history share the record of allowing two rushing touchdowns in a season. Those three played only 14 games in their seasons, so the Niners have asterisked that feat already. Lynch, great runner. Niners, historically great run defense. Advantage, Niners. Besides, those sugar highs always lead to a crash at some point.

Tarvaris Jackson: 225 yds passing, 2 TDs / 1 INT
Doug Baldwin: 55 yds receiving / 1 TD
Golden Tate: 70 yds receiving / 1 TD
Zach Miller: 35 yds receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 50 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Prediction: 49ers 21, Seahawks 17 ^ Top

Chargers @ Lions - (Autry)

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +3.0%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -8.2%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -1.4%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -6.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers has improved his play in the last month or so. After throwing an interception in nine of the first ten games of the season, he has yet to turn the ball over in the last four, while tossing eight TDs in that stretch. His play has certainly rewarded those fantasy owners who remained patient with him through his struggles. It’s been awhile since Vincent Jackson has had a big game. That bodes well for the inconsistent WR. He should be a solid start this week. So too, is Antonio Gates. Even though Gates was held to only 31 yards against Baltimore last week, his play should pick up against Detroit. He’s from the Motor City, plus he’s closing in on becoming the franchise’s leading receiver, so expect Gates to be the centerpiece of the passing game.

The Lions have allowed more than 300 passing yards in two of the last three games. They allowed Carson Palmer to rebound nicely last week after he struggled miserably against Green Bay the previous week. Only three teams have more interceptions than the Lions’ 18 interceptions, so Rivers had better be mindful of the vulnerable, yet ball hawking secondary.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Mathews is finally starting to show his ability on a more consistent basis. He still battles through a fumbling problem, but his two TD performance against a tough Baltimore defense paid huge dividends for his owners in the playoff round that more than likely catapulted them to the Super Bowl. Mike Tolbert will steal carries and be a viable option for those in deeper leagues. He’s most valuable, though, if the Chargers fall behind. He’s a quietly efficient receiver out of the backfield. I could think of worse flex options than Tolbert this week.

Detroit is allowing a league-worst 5.2 yards per carry, meaning both Tolbert and Mathews—especially Mathews—could be huge for fantasy owners. It’s ironic that the run defense is Detroit’s greatest weakness on the team. Part of the problem could be how wide their defensive ends are just before the snap. Those gaps naturally create running lanes for opposing RBs, which makes it even more confusing that the Lions choose to stick with that philosophy. As long as they continue that nonsense, owners should continue starting their RBs against this defense.

Philip Rivers: 280 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
Malcom Floyd: 55 yards receiving
Vincent Brown: 30 yards receiving
Antonio Gates: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ryan Mathews: 75 yards rushing / 1 TD
Mike Tolbert: 35 yards rushing

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +5.8%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.0%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -14.5%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -1.0%

Passing Game Thoughts – Allow me a personal moment. Matthew Stafford single-handedly won my game for me last week, so I have a serious ‘bromance’ with No. 9. That aside, Stafford now has the most TD passes by any Detroit QB in the franchise’s history. I know, that’s not saying much. But something has to be said about him being only 23 years old and playing in his first full season in the NFL. He’s a top-5 fantasy QB for the next half-dozen years. Calvin Johnson also catapulted many fantasy owners into Super Bowls with his play last week. While both may not match their ridiculous production from last week, each should help their fantasy owners put up very respectable numbers.

San Diego is a top 10 pass defense, and the 201 passing yards they surrendered to Baltimore last week was the first time they allowed more than 200 yards in four games. The Chargers limit opposing offenses pretty well, but teams are still capable of scoring through the air against them. They’re 24th in the league in TD passes allowed. Expect a good game from Stafford in a high-scoring affair.

Running Game Thoughts: Detroit passes the ball 58 percent of the time and runs it 42 percent. That’s the second-biggest discrepancy in the league. Simply put, the Lions realize their weakness and choose to not have it as part of their offense. Kevin Smith and Keiland Williams have attempted to replace Jahvid Best as best they could, but they simply don’t have the skill set that Best has. I’m not going out on the limb with this, but there should be no interest in any of Detroit’s RBs.

The Chargers defense has really picked up its play lately. They held both Buffalo and Baltimore to less than 100 yards on the ground and have yet to surrender more than 16 points in the last four games. This will be a challenge on many levels, but certainly expect them to limit whatever the Lions try to do on the ground.

Matthew Stafford: 310 yards passing / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Calvin Johnson: 115 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Nate Burleson: 55 yards receiving
Titus Young: 40 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kevin Smith: 45 yards rushing
Keiland Williams: 20 yards rushing

Prediction: Lions 31, Chargers 27 ^ Top

Rams @ Steelers - (Autry)

PIT FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -10.1%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +18.2%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -57.1%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +12.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Only twice has St. Louis scored more than 16 points this season, and five times they’ve been held under 10 points. This offense, and particularly the passing offense, has been one of the worst in the league all year. Kellen Clemens is once against slated to start as both Sam Bradford and A.J. Feeley battled through injuries this week. Somebody has to catch the passes in this offense, right? Enter Brandon Lloyd. He won’t put up much production, but if you’re desperate, at least you are assured that he will be a primary part of the offense.

The Steelers bring the best pass defense in this game, and this game could not come at a better time for those who own the Pittsburgh DST. This unit should have a field day against the inept passing offense of the Rams. Combine cold weather, on the road, wrapping up a miserable season and we have the recipe for St. Louis to fold really quickly. That doesn’t happen consistently in this league, but that’s always a possibility. Suffice it to say, though, Pittsburgh’s DST is the unit to have this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson is the bell cow of the St. Louis Rams, and it is his shoulders that this offense is built from. He enjoyed a nice three-game stretch earlier this season in which he ran for more than 100 yards in all three contests, but he’s struggled a bit since. Only one TD in the last seven games makes deciding to start Jackson a difficult decision week to week. He serves as a low-end RB2 this week, so keep your expectations in place if you have to rely on him.

Kellen Clemens: 150 yards passing / 0 TDs / 2 INTs
Brandon Lloyd: 55 yards receiving
Danario Alexander: 30 yards receiving
Lance Kendricks: 40 yards receiving
Steven Jackson: 60 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving

STL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -26.9%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -15.9%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +0.3%
STL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -30.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger tried to show us how tough he was last week by playing in spite of an injured ankle. All he did was probably prevent his team from winning. Now with him sitting out this week, old man Charlie Batch is likely to take over. With Batch under center, the Steelers could very well get back to the method that’s won this franchise many games: run the football. Mike Wallace, even though he has four times as many receiving TDs than anyone else on the team, has only one game with more than 100 yards receiving in the last 11. And if Ben doesn’t play this week as expected, that streak will extend to one in the last 12.

The one real strength of this St. Louis team is its pass defense. They can get pretty good pressure on the QB, which is another reason why Ben should sit this one out. The Rams also kept a pretty solid Cincinnati offense from doing much last week. Players such as Wallace and Antonio Brown remain solid options this week; just don’t be too surprised if their production is limited.

Running Game Thoughts: Rashard Mendenhall is one of those RBs that needs to score TDs in order to carve out production. He’s nonexistent in the passing game, and his ability to surpass the century mark on the ground is curiously limited, especially when you consider he’s a bona fide starter on his NFL team. He could reach 20 carries in a game this week for the first time since week six if Ben doesn’t play. Maybe those opportunities will translate into production; if so, expect a score for Mendenhall.

The Rams field the worst rushing defense in the league. They’ve given up more than 200 yards on the ground three times this year, so if Mendenhall’s owners can’t pencil in 100 yards and a score this week, then they’ll never be able to.

Charlie Batch: 180 yards passing / 1 TDs / 1 INT
Mike Wallace: 65 yards receiving / 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 50 yards receiving
Jerricho Cotchery: 20 yards receiving
Heath Miller: 35 yards receiving
Rashard Mendenhall: 130 yards rushing / 2 TDs

Prediction: Steelers 24, Rams 9 ^ Top

Bears @ Packers - (Autry)

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +1.0%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -8.0%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +17.5%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -5.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh McCown hasn’t started a game since 2009, but even that fact wasn’t enough to keep head coach Lovie Smith from making the switch from the dreadful performances by Caleb Hanie. Hanie tossed three INTs in a game in three separate occasions this year. And oh by the way, he’s only played in four games. It’s probably too late to salvage what was a promising season just a month ago, but Smith and fantasy owners of Bears’ players alike hope that McCown can infuse some productivity in an offense that has turned into one of the worst in the league.

Too bad the anemic offense of the Bears can’t take advantage of one of the worst pass defenses (statistically) in the league. Only one team has given up more yards through the air this year, but again, Chicago needn’t worry about being exploited this week. In fact, Green Bay may very well get its first shutout this season.

Running Game Thoughts: Marion Barber is battling through an injury this week, so his availability is in doubt. If he is sidelined, expect Kahlil Bell to get the nod. Bell led the team in both rushing and receiving last week, but a lot of that had to do with the check-down throws of Hanie. This offense is way too subpar right now to recommend anybody on it.

Green Bay started off the season as one of the top-3 run defenses in the league. They’ve fallen off a bit, but they remain solid. Part of that has to do with teams not running on them. Only three teams in the league have had to defend fewer run plays than Green Bay. That being said, the running game will be rendered useless early on for the Bears. They will get down early, which means they’ll have to rely on the skills and passing ability of McCown. Good luck with that.

Josh McCown: 170 yards passing / 1 TD / 3 INTs
Earl Bennett: 45 yards receiving
Dane Sanzenbacher: 35 yards receiving
Roy Williams: 20 yards receiving
Kellen Davis: 35 yards receiving / 1 TD
Kahlil Bell: 50 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +17.4%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -1.6%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +31.8%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +17.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week’s game against the Chiefs was the first time Aaron Rodgers didn’t throw for multiple TDs since last year’s regular season finale against Chicago. It was also the fewest yards he’s thrown in a game since that Chicago contest. The last time Rodgers went two consecutive games without throwing multiple TDs was last season in weeks 5 and 6. Suffice it to say, he’s usually not limited for a long stretch of time. Rodgers continues to spread the ball around in the passing game. Greg Jennings will miss his second consecutive game, meaning Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver should once again play more prominent roles in the passing game. Hopefully Jermichael Finley rids himself of the dropsies that have plagued his year.

Rodgers had a very productive game the first time these teams played this season. He threw for almost 300 yards and three scores in that game. The Bears, though, remain a top-10 pass defense and have had a tendency to create turnovers. Rodgers, meanwhile, has been one of the best this year at protecting the football, so something’s got to give. It won’t be an easy, up-and-down-the-field affair for Rodgers against this team. He will still get his usual production; just expect the otherworldly numbers he’s put up this year.

Running Game Thoughts: Ryan Grant has taken over the running duties since James Starks’ injury. While Grant’s performance doesn’t bring back memories of his fabulous 2009 season, he has been okay enough to give Rodgers a competent complementary running game. He’s only had 35 rushing attempts in the three games since Starks’ injury, so his opportunities are limited. Grant is not a recommended starter this week.

The Bears limited a hot Marshawn Lynch last week, holding the Seahawks running back to 42 yards on 20 carries. They’ve been a top rush defense all season and will look to hold the Packers down from running the football.

Aaron Rodgers: 270 yards passing / 2 TDs
Jordy Nelson: 80 yards receiving
Donald Driver: 65 yards receiving / 1 TD
James Jones: 45 yards receiving
Jermichael Finley: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ryan Grant: 60 yards rushing

Prediction: Packers 20, Bears 10 ^ Top

Browns @ Ravens - (Autry)

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -25.3%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +12.2%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +5.4%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -28.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Colt McCoy will sit this game out with concussion-like symptoms from the James Harrison hit several weeks ago. In his place, Seneca Wallace will be the sacrificial lamb against a tough Baltimore defense. Regardless of who’s under center for the Browns, it’s going to be tough trying to lead an offense that’s ranked 29th in the league. Only two teams have scored fewer points than the Browns, and a lot of that has to do with the limitations of the passing game. There are no real threats on the outside, so Baltimore will look to stifle an offense that hasn’t had any relevant pass catching components since Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow played there.

Baltimore’s fifth-best pass defense has given up the fewest TD passes in the league (10). A few teams have had their way with the Ravens—San Diego last week being the latest—but they’ve put a beatdown on those teams that have struggled passing the football this year. San Francisco, Cleveland and Indianapolis have all felt the wrath of Baltimore’s defense. It’s a no-brainer that Cleveland’s receivers must remain out of your line-up during this fantasy Super Bowl week.

Running Game Thoughts: Cleveland’s running game this year has been disappointing, but Peyton Hillis showed flashes of his breakout season of 2010 last week against Arizona. His 99 yards were the most he’s run for since week 13 last season. If the Browns were playing anybody else, Hillis would be a nice start this week. But since it’s Baltimore and its 2nd-best rush defense, Hillis is probably better left on the bench this week.

The 145 yards Baltimore surrendered last week to the Chargers were the most since week 11 against Cincinnati. They had held three straight opponents under 74 yards before last week’s game, but don’t’ be surprised if the Ravens are again stingy against the run in this week’s contest. Cleveland is devoid of any real offensive threat, which only makes the chances of the Ravens dominating them even more likely a possibility.

Seneca Wallace: 180 yards passing / 35 yards rushing / 0 TDs / 2 INTs
Greg Little: 50 yards receiving
Mohamed Massaquoi: 40 yards receiving
Jordan Cameron: 30 yards receiving
Peyton Hillis: 65 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving

CLE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -26.8%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -19.1%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -37.4%
CLE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -11.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Joe Flacco has thrown for multiple TDs in consecutive games for the first time this season. Two TDs in each of his last two games places Flacco in the hottest stretch of the season for him. He will be without Anquan Boldin for the rest of the regular season, so Torrey Smith and Lee Evans will have to step up their game. Smith will be the player to have in this scenario. Another player to look out for is TE Ed Dickson. He could be a viable start in TE-mandatory leagues.

Cleveland continues to be one of the best pass defenses in the league. They contained Larry Fitzgerald last week but allowed the less heralded WRs of the Cardinals to beat them. With Boldin out, that means Cleveland’s secondary should have the advantage against a very young and relatively inexperienced bunch of pass catchers.

Running Game Thoughts: Boldin’s absence also affects Ray Rice. Rice already leads the team in receptions with 71 entering the game, and the loss of their top WR threat should translate into even more opportunities for Rice. He ran for more than 200 yards the last time these teams met. While he may not reach that level, you should expect 25 to 30 touches for Rice this week.

It was that 200-yard game that helped Cleveland become one of the worst rush defenses in the league. They limited Arizona to 74 yards last week as a team, but that’s been the exception rather than the rule this year for that defense. Expect a solid effort from Rice.

Joe Flacco: 220 yards passing / 1 TD
Torrey Smith: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Lee Evans: 40 yards receiving
Ed Dickson: 35 yards receiving
Dennis Pitta: 25 yards receiving
Ray Rice: 120 yards rushing / 35 yards receiving / 1 TD rushing

Prediction: Ravens 20, Browns 3 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Bengals - (Autry)

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -2.5%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.2%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -10.6%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +10.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: John Skelton gets the nod again with Kevin Kolb still battling through injuries. It’s a shame that the prime of Larry Fitzgerald’s career is being dragged down by the putrid play at the QB position. Although Skelton has tossed for more than 300 yards in two of his games this year, his play is best judged by watching the game, not looking at the box score. He routinely misses plays when they’re there to be made. Fitz owners can only hope that this is the week when Skelton remembers that Fitz is on the team.

Cincy’s defense has taken a huge hit since its mid-season ranking as one of the top units in the league. Injuries in the secondary have robbed this team of tremendous play-making ability. They are 11th in the league stopping the run, so look for Fitzgerald to rebound from an average performance last week.

Running Game Thoughts: Beanie Wells has scored in three of the last four games, including that 200-plus yard performance a month ago against St. Louis. He’s been limited in practice this week but is listed as probable. Start him this week and expect at least a short run for a TD.

After limited opponents to less than 100 rushing yards in seven of the season’s first eight games, the Bengals have given up more than 100 yards on the ground in five of the last six. This 180-degree turnaround certainly has those who banked on this unit to keep up the early-season production a bit nervous heading into this week’s Super Bowl. Don’t expect a whole lot from Cincy’s defense this week.

John Skelton: 220 yards passing / 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Larry Fitzgerald: 95 yards receiving / 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Early Doucet: 30 yards receiving
Todd Heap: 45 yards receiving
Beanie Wells: 70 yards rushing / 1 TD

ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -11.7%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -5.5%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -13.8%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -0.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton’s production has sort of hit the wall. He hasn’t thrown for more than 189 yards nor thrown for more than one TD in any of the last three games. Whether it’s the proverbial “rookie wall” or the notion that defenses have figured him out, the fact remains his production has leveled off considerably lately. Thankfully for AJ Green owners, Dalton’s recent struggles haven’t necessarily affected his fantasy value. Green remains a must-start, low-end WR2, and that is indeed the case this week as well.

Arizona’s pass defense is a vulnerable unit, as it is ranked 22nd in the league. But even though teams gain yards through the air, the Cardinals have only given up 14 passing TDs—good for fourth best in the league. Look for them to concentrate on limiting Green’s effectiveness this week. Whether or not they will be successful doing so remains to be seen. Either way, Green should be started with confidence this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson is as unspectacular it they come, but he quietly puts up numbers to the extent that he’s a solid week-in and week-out RB2 regardless of the opposition. He’s averaging less than 4 yards per carry this year, but this team is dedicated to running the football. As such, you should be determined and confident placing Benson in your line-up this week.

Arizona is a middle-of-the-road run defense that last week saw Peyton Hillis look like his old self. The Bengals will be as dedicated to the run as the Browns were, so the Cardinals should be ready to see 20 to 25 carries from Benson.

Andy Dalton: 210 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
A.J. Green: 80 yards receiving
Jerome Simpson: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Andrew Hawkins: 30 yards receiving
Jermaine Gresham: 55 yards receiving
Cedric Benson: 60 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Cardinals 20, Bengals 17 ^ Top