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

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Inside the Matchup
Week 4

By: Damon Autry | Sal Marcoccio | Nick Caron | Kyle Smith

NO @ JAX | PIT @ HOU | IND @ TB | SF @ PHI



 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Eakin 9 3 75.0
2 Marcoccio 8 4 66.7
3 Autry 6 5 54.5
4 Smith 7 6 53.8

Saints @ Jaguars - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Through the season’s first three games, Saints quarterback Drew Brees is second in the NFL in passing yards with 1,059, and tied for second in touchdown passes with nine. New Orleans utilizes their entire offensive personnel as well as any team in the NFL, as evidenced by the fact that their top three pass-catchers in terms of receiving yards play different positions – wide receiver Devery Henderson, tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Darren Sproles. The team has six players who have received at least 10 targets in the passing game, and that’s not even counting wideout Marques Colston, who should return to the lineups of his fantasy owners this week after missing the last two games with an injury.

The much-maligned Jacksonville secondary has stepped up this season, and is currently seventh in the NFL in pass defense. They’ve played the Titans, Jets and Panthers, and though those teams have in recent years been more geared to run the football, each is currently in the top-10 in the league in passing offense, so it’s not as if the Jags have gone up against teams who haven’t tried to throw. Still, the Saints have a far more potent aerial attack than either of those teams, so this may be a truer test of Jacksonville’s skill.

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints run the ball just enough to be effective, though it’s really a way for them to keep defenses honest for their passing attack. Fantasy owners finally got a touchdown last week from running back Mark Ingram, but he continues to share time with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, and Ingram has averaged a less-than-exceptional 3.6 yards per carry on the season.

The Jaguars run defense, much like their pass defense, has been very good this season. They are fifth in the NFL against the rush, and are allowing opponents to run for just 3.4 yards per carry, which is ninth in the league.

Drew Brees: 320 yds passing, 3 TD, 1 INT
Robert Meachem: 75 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jimmy Graham: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Marques Colston: 50 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 35 yds receiving
Devery Henderson: 30 yds receiving
Mark Ingram: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD
Pierre Thomas: 35 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Darren Sproles: 15 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: Last week, in a contest played in pouring rain, Jaguars rookie signal-caller Blaine Gabbert did about what you might expect out of a rookie playing in his first NFL game. He was 12-for-21 passing for 139 yards with one touchdown and one pick in a loss to the Titans. Jacksonville lacks offensive firepower, and the only player that fantasy owners should have on their squad other than running back Maurice Jones-Drew is wideout Mike Thomas, who is also the only Jaguars player with more than six catches on the year. That includes tight end Marcedes Lewis, who had a breakout season in 2010, but has been a huge disappointment to fantasy owners this season. He has four catches for 43 yards this year, and likely hit the waiver wire in many leagues after last week’s game.

The Saints have not been good against the pass, ranking 27th in the league in that category, but you can forgive them for that to some extent considering they’ve played Green Bay, who is ninth in the NFL in passing offense, and Houston, who ranks 12th in the league in the same category. New Orleans has also given up seven passing scores this year, and only three teams have allowed more.

Running Game Thoughts: As we mentioned, Maurice Jones-Drew is one of just two Jacksonville players who fantasy owners should currently have on their roster, and even he comes with some concerns. Though he is third in the league in rushing so far this year, he’s scored just one touchdown, and his 66 carries are tied for the most in the league. You have to wonder if the smallish back will last the season with so many touches, as he’s also involved in the team’s passing game.

The Saints are currently ninth in the NFL in run defense, though you have to take into account the opponents they’ve squared off against in the season’s first three weeks. The Packers, Bears and Texans have combined to run the ball just 64 times against the Saints, which is tied for the fifth-fewest rushing attempts against any defense in the league. Opponents are running for 4.2 yards per carry against the Saints this year.

Blaine Gabbert: 155 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Mike Thomas: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Marcedes Lewis: 35 yds receiving
Jason Hill: 30 yds receiving
Maurice Jones-Drew: 90 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
Deji Karim: 20 yds rushing / 10 yds receiving

Prediction: Saints 34, Jaguars 17 ^ Top

Steelers @ Texans - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger may be tied with Tony Romo for sixth in the NFL in passing yards with 942, but his fantasy owners have not gotten nearly the expected return on their investment through the season’s first three games. The reason for that is because Big Ben has thrown only three touchdown passes, which is fewer than the likes of Colt McCoy, Chad Henne and Colt McCoy, and he’s turned the ball over eight times, with four interceptions and four lost fumbles. Subsequently, he’s 25th among quarterbacks in fantasy points, trailing 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Ugh. Thankfully, fantasy owners can still depend on receiver Mike Wallace, who is second in the league in receiving yards with 377, and tied for second with 21 receptions. Hines Ward has disappeared from the radars of fantasy owners, and he has just 117 yards through three games, which is fewer than Antonio Brown.

There may not have been a unit on offense or defense that was worse in 2010 than Houston’s secondary. And though they currently rank ninth in the league against the pass this season, they did play a Colts team that was without Peyton Manning in Week 1, and in Week 2 they squared off against a Dolphins team that features Henne under center. When they faced a potent passing attack last week against the Saints, Drew Brees shredded them for 370 yards. So while their pass defense surely isn’t as rotten as last season’s version, it is still one that can be exploited.

Running Game Thoughts: When NFL fans and fantasy owners think Steelers, they likely think of a power running attack. That hasn’t been true this season, as Pittsburgh ranks just 23rd in rushing offense so far this year, and is running the ball for only 3.3 yards per carry. Fantasy owners have to be a little concerned with Rashard Mendenhall, who has averaged just 3.0 YPC and has just one rushing score this year. Still, it’s early, and this is definitely not the week to bench him, because Houston can be run on.

The Texans are giving up 4.8 yards per carry to the opposition this season, and only four NFL teams have allowed more. Each feature back that Houston has faced this season has run for at least 4.2 YPC against them, and the two rookies they’ve faced – Miami’s Daniel Thomas and New Orleans’ Mark Ingram – have each had their best games of the season against the Texans.

Ben Roethlisberger: 310 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT / 10 yds rushing
Mike Wallace: 105 yds receiving, 2 TD
Antonio Brown: 55 yds receiving
Hines Ward: 45 yds receiving
Heath Miller: 40 yds receiving
Emmanuel Sanders: 35 yds receiving
Rashard Mendenhall: 90 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Schaub is 16th in the NFL in passing yards so far this season, which is likely below where fantasy owners thought he might stand, but he’s also seventh in the NFL in touchdown throws with six. He torched the Saints for 373 passing yards and three touchdowns last week, and has arguably the best wide receiver in the game in Andre Johnson to throw to. Johnson is tied for second in the league in receptions with 21, and is fourth in the league with 316 receiving yards. Tight end Owen Daniels is also getting involved more, which is good news for the fantasy owners who expected him to become a premium player this season.
The Steelers do stand in the way of that Houston passing attack, and it will be a test for Schaub and Co. that is sure to make fantasy owners nervous. That’s because Pittsburgh leads the NFL in pass defense, leads the league in opponents’ yards per attempt (5.5), is second in completion percentage allowed (56.1) and is tied for fifth in touchdown passes given up (three).

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster is supposedly just fine and will resume a full workload, which is both good and bad for fantasy owners. It’s good for the volumes who selected him first overall in their drafts, but it’s not so good for those who were wise enough to pick up Ben Tate. Tate has done a wonderful job in Foster’s stead, and is fifth in the league with 301 rushing yards. But after what Foster did last season, the team simply has to put him on the field, and if he’s fully healthy, Tate’s workload is going to suffer greatly, though he’s still likely to get a number of carries.

Tate is leaving the starting lineup just in time to see the Steelers come to town, though Pittsburgh’s run defense hasn’t been as ferocious so far this season as it has been in the recent past. Pittsburgh is 12th in the league against the rush, but they’ve given up 4.6 yards per carry to the opposition, which ties them for 23rd in the league.

Matt Schaub: 265 yds passing, 2 TD, 1 INT
Andre Johnson: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 55 yds receiving
Owen Daniels: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jacoby Jones: 30 yds receiving
James Casey: 15 yds receiving
Arian Foster: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 40 yds receiving
Ben Tate: 25 yds rushing

Prediction: Texans 27, Steelers 24 ^ Top

Colts @ Buccaneers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Kerry Collins is having problems with a concussion, leading to the possibility that Curtis Painter could start for the Colts this week in Tampa. Either way, Indianapolis hasn’t been getting much from their passing game, and that isn’t likely to change no matter who the starter is. The Colts are 27th in the NFL in passing offense, and are averaging a league-worst 5.0 yards per attempt. The fantasy owners who are suffering throughout all of this are the ones who spent premium picks on Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Wayne is currently 23rd among wide receivers in receiving yards, and players like Eric Decker and David Nelson have more. Clark, meanwhile, has only 83 receiving yards through three games, and is looking more and more like a fantasy bust.
The Buccaneers won’t present a huge test to Painter if he does start, as they are 23rd in the league in pass defense, in part because they have just six sacks on the season, which ranks 20th in the NFL. Both Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan threw for more than 300 yards against Tampa, and while neither Collins nor Painter are likely to do that, at least Wayne and the rest of the team’s playmakers have an opportunity for some decent numbers.

Running Game Thoughts: With the troubles that Collins has had so far this season, you would think that the Colts would become a more ground-centric team, but that just hasn’t happened, they are 30th in the league in rushing attempts and 21st in the league in rushing yards. Joseph Addai has actually been pretty good, running for 189 yards on the season, which is tied for 14th in the NFL. Delone Carter is also getting some carries and passed former first-round pick Donald Brown on the depth chart in the preseason, but Carter hasn’t done much, with 82 yards on 22 carries, for a YPC average of 3.7.

The Buccaneers are not only 23rd in the league against the pass, they are 23rd in the NFL against the run as well. Tampa is allowing its opponents to run for 4.1 yards per carry, which is 18th in the league. However, they’re a bit difficult to gauge in this respect, because one week after Adrian Peterson throttled them for 120 yards and two touchdowns, they held Michael Turner to only 20 yards on 11 carries.

Kerry Collins: 170 yds passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Reggie Wayne: 60 yds receiving
Pierre Garcon: 50 yds receiving
Dallas Clark: 25 yds receiving, 1 TD
Austin Collie: 20 yds receiving
Joseph Addai: 70 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Delone Carter: 15 yds rushing

Passing Game Thoughts: Quarterback Josh Freeman had a poor game last week against the Falcons, throwing for only 180 yards, while also failing to throw a touchdown but tossing a pair of interceptions. He has just two touchdown passes this season along with four interceptions, and he ranks just 21st in the league in passing yards. Needless to say, fantasy owners expected more – a lot more – out of Freeman this season than they’ve been getting. You could say the same thing about receiver Mike Williams, who has just 10 catches on the year and fewer than 90 receiving yards.

However, if the Bucs are to get it going, this week against Indy would be a good place to start. They are 18th in the league against the pass, which is okay, but they’ve also allowed opponents to throw for 8.5 yards per attempt, which is 29th in the league. Surprisingly, the Colts haven’t been able to generate much pressure on the quarterback either, and rank 23rd (tied) in the NFL with just five sacks.

Running Game Thoughts: After saying he wanted more carries, running back LeGarrette Blount received them last week against the Falcons, carrying the rock 24 times for 81 yards. It wasn’t a great day for him, but those 24 carries were six more than he had in Weeks 1 and 2 combined, and that has to make his fantasy owners breathe a little easier. Blount’s 167 rushing yards so far this season put him at 18th in the NFL in that category, and the Colts come to town as an opponent that he could have a big day against.
Indianapolis is 22nd in the NFL in run defense, and they’ve given up four rushing scores so far this season, which ranks 30th in the NFL. The team has also just lost linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt for the season to injuries, and both players were starters.

Josh Freeman: 260 yds passing, 2 TD / 20 yds rushing
Mike Williams: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Kellen Winslow: 75 yds receiving
Arrelious Benn: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Preston Parker: 20 yds receiving
LeGarrette Blount: 105 yds rushing, 1 TD
Earnest Graham: 15 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving

Prediction: Buccaneers 24, Colts 13 ^ Top

49ers @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Alex Smith has been asked to play the role of a game manager this year and has handled that role reasonably well. Frankly, with Smith’s shortcomings as a quarterback and his injury-depleted receiving corps, head coach Jim Harbaugh really has no choice but to run a conservative offense. Free agent signee Braylon Edwards underwent knee surgery following Week 1, and third-year wideout Michael Crabtree has been limited by a foot injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason, leaving the team very thin at receiver. Tight end Vernon Davis has grumbled about his role, which was more that of a blocking tight end during the first two weeks than the dynamic downfield threat he has shown he can be. With the offensive line playing poorly, Harbaugh has had little choice but to call it that way. If they truly want to compete for a playoff spot, even in the perennially weak NFC West, the team will need to find a way to get Davis more involved, as they did last week when he caught eight balls for 118 yards.

In one of the more surprising developments of this season, the Eagles’ prized offseason acquisition, Nnamdi Asomugha, was abused by undrafted second-year receiver Victor Cruz last week. The vaunted Eagles secondary as a whole did not perform well, as the struggling Eli Manning was able to break out for four touchdown passes on the day. This week, however, a bounce-back performance is all but guaranteed, if only because the San Francisco passing attack is so limited.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore has looked like a shell of his former self thus far in 2011 and was further limited last week by an ankle sprain. He finished the day with only 42 yards on his 17 carries. The injury opened the door for exciting rookie runner Kendall Hunter, who managed to score on an 11-yard run but otherwise struggled as badly as Gore has all season. In Hunter’s other eight carries, he gained only 15 yards. The O-line has yet to mesh, an issue for a team that wants to establish the run and play good defense.

The Eagles have been susceptible to the power running game for the last couple of seasons, and this year is no different. This plays perfectly into the Forty-Niners’ game plan, which will be to attack the Eagles up the gut, control the clock, and keep Philly’s high-flying offense (in theory at least) off the field. The Eagles are currently the 30th-ranked run defense after allowing 131.3 ypg and two rushing TDs through the first three weeks—and last week both Giants running backs scored on receptions. Steven Jackson ran for a 46-yard touchdown on the first play of the season against the Eagles, and Cadillac Williams, Michael Turner, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Brandon Jacobs have had their way with the soft middle of the Philadelphia defense. Expect the Niners to follow the Giants’ game plan of last week by using their two runners early and often.

Alex Smith: 175 yds passing 1 TD, 1 Int.
Michael Crabtree: 25 yds receiving
Josh Morgan: 40 yds receiving
Vernon Davis: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving
Kendall Hunter: 35 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: Michael Vick has been unable to finish either of his last two games, something that has to be a concern for his owners. At least the injury suffered to his right hand against New York turned out to be only a deep bruise, not a break as was originally thought. Vick is expected to play this week. He has taken a high number of hits already and will likely continue to spend some time on the sidelines throughout the course of the season. On top of his injuries, he’s also just not been as effective throwing the ball as he was during his incredible 2010 run. Despite the offense returning mostly intact, with few new faces, the team’s passing game just hasn’t been able to get in synch. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a hamstring injury at the end of last week’s game, and his status is uncertain for Week 4. Former New York Giant Steve Smith would step into the starting role should Maclin not be able to go. Smith himself is still recovering from a terrible knee injury and hasn’t looked as quick or sudden as he did while with the Giants. The team will need the inconsistent Desean Jackson to step up. Jackson is one of the most exciting players in the league with the ball in his hands, but he has a tendency to disappear from the stat sheet some weeks. This cannot be one of them.

The San Francisco pass defense has been adequate but is nothing that Andy Reid should fear in his quest to kick-start the passing game. The Niners are allowing 243.7 yards per game and have given up five passing touchdowns through three games. They have been able to pull in five interceptions on the season, however—something Vick will need to keep in mind.

Running Game Thoughts: In an offense filled with big names like Vick and Jackson, LeSean McCoy just may be the most valuable piece. He has seamlessly replaced Brian Westbrook in this offense, becoming a vital part to the success of the Andy Reid style of attack, and has improved enough to be considered one of the best young backs in the league. McCoy is averaging 6.1 ypc and has scored five total TDs during the first three weeks of the 2011 season. If he were featured more as a runner, he would be a candidate to lead the league in rushing yards; however, in Reid’s West Coast offense, his role as a pass catcher is equally as important as his running abilities.

McCoy will face a stiff challenge this week as the league’s third-ranked run defense comes into Lincoln Financial Field. San Francisco, led by Pro-Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis, plays a hard-hitting, relentless form of defense that closes running lanes in a hurry. The team has allowed only 62.7 ypg and has not given up a rushing touchdown this season. It doesn’t take much to convince Andy Reid and Marty Morningweig to abandon the run, but fortunately for McCoy owners, his lack of carries will be offset by his touches in the passing game.

Michael Vick: 245 yds passing, 1 TD / 25 yards rushing, 1 TD
DeSean Jackson: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 35 yds receiving
Jason Avant: 30 yards receiving
Brent Celek: 20 yds receiving
LeSean McCoy: 75 yds rushing / 45 yds receiving
Ronnie Brown: 20 yds rushing

Prediction: Eagles 27, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Lions @ Cowboys - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have been on fire this year. Johnson has scored two touchdowns in every game so far, setting his owners up for a disappointment when he manages to grab only one in the near future. Stafford looks all the part of the No. 1 overall pick that he was three years ago, showing a strong arm, smarts, and leadership for what was once a floundering franchise. Lions fans and Stafford’s fantasy owners are likely praying each night that he doesn’t land on one of his glass shoulders anytime soon. While Johnson is the big fish in the pond, the Lions’ secondary pass catchers (Nate Burleson, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, and Tony Scheffler) have all had their moments as well. The passing game is clicking on all cylinders and will face a banged-up opponent this week.

Michael Jenkins reinjured his shoulder in Week 3 and has been in and out of games most of the season. Orlando Scandrick hasn’t been healthy either, leaving the Dallas secondary under-manned for most of the last three weeks. They’ve still managed to rank as a top-12 passing defense, however, allowing 226.7 ypg and five TDs on the season. But after having faced the Jets, Forty-Niners, and Redskins, they meet their stiffest competition yet this week. DeMarcus Ware lining up against struggling left tackle Jeff Backus has to be a scary thought for Lions’ fans.

Running Game Thoughts: At times during his brief career, Jahvid Best has flashed the talent that made him a first-round pick, but injuries and Detroit’s offensive schemes have made him an inconsistent running back. He’s quick, agile, and shows god vision, but his lack of power makes it difficult for him to run inside against stout run defenses. While Best is a very effective weapon in the passing attack, the team surely misses rookie Mikel LeShoure, who was expected to add a power rushing element to the offense. As explosive as the passing game has been, the Lions will need to establish a running game for late-season outdoor games and, dare I say it, potential playoff matchups.

The Cowboys’ aggressive run blitzes have kept Shonn Greene, Frank Gore, and Tim Hightower mostly in check over the first three weeks. They are currently the second-ranked run defense, giving up only 61.3 ypg and only a single rushing touchdown (to Gore). The Detroit O-line isn’t likely to get enough push against the aggressive Dallas front seven, making their offense one dimensional once again.

Matthew Stafford: 285 yds passing, 3 TDs, 1 INT / 10 yards rushing
Calvin Johnson: 90 yds receiving, 1 TD
Nate Burleson: 35 yds receiving
Titus Young: 30 yards receiving
Brandon Pettigrew: 55 yards receiving
Tony Scheffler: 25 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jahvid Best: 55 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Tony Romo failed to throw a touchdown last week but did put the Cowboys in position to score six field goals, which was enough for a victory. With Miles Austin out and Dez Bryant in and out of the game with his leg injury, the receiving corps was not looking too formidable. Kevin Ogletree is decent in the slot but over-matched on the outside. Former Ram Laurent Robinson was just re-signed prior to the game and looked pretty good on his opportunities; he could push Ogletree aside even when Austin and Bryant are at full health. Jason Witten was banged up as well but, as always, he’s a favorite target of Romo’s and should have a big role this week if he’s back at full strength.

The Lions’ secondary has long been a soft spot but has shown improvement as a unit so far this season, allowing only 188 ypg and two TDs. It should be noted, however, that the team has faced two of the worst quarterbacks in the league this year (statistically speaking) in Matt Cassel and Donovan McNabb. On the positive side, they did make Josh Freeman look out of synch in Week 1, and they can get to the quarterback. Tony Romo may want to keep that Kevlar vest and those pain-killing injections handy this week, as he could find himself taking some serious hits from the aggressive front line of the Lions.

Running Game Thoughts: Lost in all the talk of the heroic Tony Romo playing with a cracked rib was the fact that Felix Jones had his best game of the season while playing with a separated shoulder. Jones rushed for 115 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter after aggravating his shoulder. He looked fantastic this preseason, and many expected a breakout campaign from the former Razorback. The Cowboys will need him to run effectively in order to take a little bit out of the Lions pass rush.

The Lions’ run defense has not fared as well as their pass defense as they are ranked 21st in the league, allowing 113 ypg but only one rushing touchdown. Adrian Peterson was abusing them last week before head coach Leslie Frazier inexplicably abandoned the run, despite having a 20-point halftime lead. The return of rookie interior lineman Nick Fairly should add more nastiness to the defensive line and could make the Lions that much more difficult to run on.

Tony Romo: 265 yds passing 1 TD / 20 yards rushing, 1 TD
Kevin Ogletree: 35 yds receiving
Dez Bryant: 70 yds receiving, 1 TD
Jason Witten: 90 yds receiving
Felix Jones: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 20 yds receiving
DeMarco Murray: 20 yards rushing / 35 yards receiving

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Lions 21 ^ Top

Jets @ Ravens - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: Don’t look now, but Mark Sanchez has been a solid—dare I say startable?—fantasy QB through the first three weeks of the season. He’s average almost 300 yards per game with 2 TDs. Not bad for a QB who was a fantasy afterthought by a vast majority of owners. While we’re talking about surprises, what about TE Dustin Keller leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving TDs? Crazy. Nothing seems to be predictable about this “supposed” run-first offense.

Meanwhile, the Ravens rebounded nicely last week in St. Louis. They throttled the overmatched Rams and made them look like a WAC conference offense in their own stadium. Week three’s performance was a far cry from a week earlier when Tennessee embarrassed the Ravens through the air, piercing the once-vaunted pass defense for well over 300 yards. Expect the Ravens to get back to their roots and Sanchez to take step back from his torrid start. If you have another option on your bench, use him.

Running Game Thoughts: So much for the Ground ‘n Pound, huh? Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments so far this fantasy season is the non-existence of the Jets running game. Many thought (myself included) that Shonn Greene would take the proverbial next step especially after head coach Rex Ryan anointed him the “bell cow” during the preseason. He has a 2-to-1 advantage over LaDainian Tomlinson relative to number of carries , but Greene still seems to have a difficult time beating out a clearly-aging LT. It’s too early to throw in the towel on Greene for the 2011 season, but this matchup doesn’t look favorable.

The Jets only have two rushing TDs this year, and Sanchez has half of that total. Baltimore has only given up one rushing TD. Those are good enough reasons for me to suggest Greene should find a comfy place on your bench this week. Even with the hurting the Ravens put on the Rams last week, St. Louis still became the first team all year to reach the century mark on the ground against Baltimore. Don’t expect a repeat performance.

Mark Sanchez: 195 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
Santonio Holmes: 65 yards receiving
Plaxico Burress: 50 yards receiving / 1 TD
Derrick Mason: 25 yards receiving
Dustin Keller: 30 yards receiving
Shonn Greene: 45 yards rushing
LaDainian Tomlinson: 30 yards rushing / 25 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: A total stinker of a game against Tennessee in Week 2 notwithstanding, Joe Flacco has gotten off to a solid start - three passing TDs in Week 1 and three passing TDs last week. That, coupled with the surprising emergence of WR Torrey Smith last week as a deep threat, makes Flacco an intriguing fantasy QB. Smith’s 30 yards-per-reception average is ridiculous and certainly won’t continue, but his presence while veteran Lee Evans is out should continue to give the Ravens passing attack a nice dynamic. I wouldn’t get carried away and start him just yet; but do keep Smith on your radar, however.

Even though the Jets have yet to play a passing attack of any substance, they’re still doing what all of us have come to expect from them: tough pass defense. They’re 6th in the league against the pass, and no team has given up fewer passing TDs (2). It should be interesting to see who Darrelle Revis ends up covering … the speedster Smith? Probably not. More than likely he will match up against veteran Anquan Boldin. Either way, don’t expect a repeat performance from Flacco in Week 4.

Running Game Thoughts: This just in: Ray Rice is the real deal. Even though his scoring outbursts aren’t as numerous or as frequent as Priest Holmes from back in the day, Rice’s dual threat makes him the preeminent fantasy RB that Holmes once was. Even though he’s sixth in receptions for RBs with 14, he’s the only one who’s as productive on a consistent basis. Expect a heavy dose of Rice in this potentially low-scoring contest.

Only one team has struggled more than the Jets in stopping the run. New York was able to stymie Dallas’ run game in Week 1, but since then, teams have had their way. Jacksonville reached the century mark in Week 2, and the Oakland Raiders simply man-handled the Jets defensively to the tune of 234 yards on the ground. Rice will be the lead dog in the assault against the on-their-heels Jets run defense, so expect a solid performance from R-Squared.

Joe Flacco: 210 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Anquan Boldin: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Torrey Smith: 45 yards receiving
Derrick Mason: 20 yards receiving
Ed Dickson: 35 yards receiving
Ray Rice: 65 yards rushing / 35 yards receiving / 1 receiving TD

Prediction: Ravens 17, Jets 13 ^ Top

Bills @ Bengals - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: Funny how a guy who went undrafted in most leagues is now tied for second in passing TDs with nine. Ryan Fitzpatrick, I’m sure, is making things difficult for his fantasy owners. What to do with a guy on your team that, more than likely, is outperforming the QB you drafted as your starter? Some may be thinking the clock will strike midnight at some point. I say ride him until he begins to falter—if that happens at all. He’s gotten off to slow starts in games, but he more than makes up for those anxious moments with late-game heroics that no doubt have saved many a fantasy team. Steve Johnson and David Nelson have been handfuls for opposing defenses and should continue their stellar play against Cincinnati.

The Bengals fifth-ranked passed defense has been bolstered by playing offenses such as Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco. They have yet to see the kind of pressure the Bills passing attack can put on. The Bengals-D have nine sacks this season and It will be crucial for them to put pressure on Fitzpatrick. If Fitzpatrick is allowed to survey the field without much resistance up front, it will be a long day in Cincy defensively this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Count me as cynical when it came to Fred Jackson. I have him on my team and have yet to start him, thinking that at some point he will falter and leave me in the lurch. Well guess what? He’s in my line-up this week alongside Adrian Peterson. So far, he’s one of the best and most consistent fantasy backs out there. He’s a startable option every week regardless of the opponent. However, only Denver has been able to muster more than 83 yards on the ground against the Bengals. Even if Cincy is able to limit Jackson on the ground, his ability as a pass catcher gives him great value.

As mentioned above, the Bengals have held opposing running games at bay so far. Both Cleveland and San Francisco found it difficult doing much of anything on the ground. Regardless of their early-season success stopping the run, I think the Buffalo offense is on a role and will enjoy mild success on the ground.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 240 yards passing / 2 TDs
Steve Johnson: 110 yards receiving / 1 TD
David Nelson: 50 yards receiving
Scott Chandler: 35 yards receiving / 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 80 yards rushing / 40 yards receiving / 1 rushing TD
C.J. Spiller: 40 yards rushing / 10 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: After an apparent coming-out party in Week 2 against Denver when he threw for more than 300 yards and two scores, rookie Andy Dalton came back to earth with a thud last week. His 149-yard, zero TD, two INT stinker only made those with San Francisco’s defense grin with pleasure. The Bengals will have to score to stay in this game and if the last two contests are any indication, the Bills will be more than willing to do their part. They’ve given up 35 points and 31 points the last two weeks, so there should be an opportunity or two for Cincy to do some damage offensively.

Luckily for the Bills defense they have an offense that has been one of the tops in the league. The Bills-D have a difficult time containing opposing QBs, giving up an average of 355 yards passing in weeks 2 and 3. One of Buffalo’s problems on defense is their inability to get pressure on the QB. They have the fewest sacks in the league (2), but inextricably lead the league in interceptions … go figure. It’s difficult to say whether or not a rookie QB will shine. All I will say about the Bengals passing game is A.J. Green looks to be the best option for those daring—or desperate—owners.

Running Game Thoughts: All signs point to Cedric Benson playing this week, despite a pending suspension from the league. He hasn’t done much the last two games after going for well over 100 yards in week 1, making it a weekly crapshoot deciding to start him. I’ll save some of you the trouble… barring injury, which may lower this observation, look at Benson as a low-end RB2 for the balance of the season.

The Bills own the 26th-ranked defense; 24th against the run. Even those numbers don’t entice me enough to suggest with any level of confidence that you start Benson. Kansas City, Oakland and New England have all run for more than 100 yards as a team against Buffalo. I just don’t trust Cincy enough to think that they’ll make in four in a row. This gme could easily turn into a Buffalo route, rendering the running game and Benson useless in the process.

Andy Dalton: 195 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INTs
A.J. Green: 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jerome Simpson: 45 yards receiving
Andre Caldwell: 30 yards receiving
Jermaine Gresham: 40 yards receiving
Cedric Benson: 45 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Bills 24, Bengals 17

Broncos @ Packers - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: After three games last year, Kyle Orton was averaging 360 yards passing. This year, 210 per game. Is that a change in offensive philosophy? Not quite. He’s thrown the ball only 15 fewer times through three games this season. Who knows why his numbers have fallen off so drastically despite essentially the same number of opportunities… Tebow effect perhaps? Whatever the case, Orton is no better than a low-end QB2 at this stage of the season. The one pleasant surprise is WR Eric Decker. He has better numbers across the board than last year’s surprise Brandon Lloyd, and Decker has 11 more targets as well. Take those figures for what they’re worth.

Green Bay’s pass defense, once lauded as one of the league’s best, has been embarrassingly bad so far in 2011. The 31st-ranked pass defense has given up an average of 360 yards passing per game—a sampling that includes rookie Cam Newton and erratic veteran Jay Cutler. Maybe Green Bay’s defense will improve playing at Lambeau. Who knows? Their recent history, though, suggests that both Decker and Lloyd are playable this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Knowshon Moreno is on track to return this week after not playing the last two weeks due to a hamstring injury. Willis McGahee proved worthy in his place, toting the rock 50 times during the two games. That kind of production only muddies the water in Denver, as the situation now becomes a full-blown RBBC. That’s going to render both useless, although I’d probably want McGahee over Moreno since he will more than likely get the goal line carries. Plus, it’s no secret that Moreno can’t stay healthy.

Green Bay “supposedly” has the league’s best run defense. That’s only because teams have gashed them through the air on a regular basis. Why throw when you can beat ‘em by passing? As insinuated above, it’s anybody’s guess who will be the bell cow in Denver. I’d actually hold off starting either of the Denver backs until the dust settles on how head coach John Fox will use them.

Kyle Orton: 235 yards / 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Brandon Lloyd: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Eric Decker: 60 yards receiving
Daniel Fells: 35 yards receiving / 1 TD
Knowshon Moreno: 40 yards rushing / 30 yards receiving
Willis McGahee: 35 yards rushing

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers has been the steady, consistent and productive fantasy QB his owners expected. This dude has only three INTs in his last 11 regular season games. How’s that for being the mistake-free leader of your fantasy squad? TE Jermichael Finley is the beast we all expected him to be after returning from a knee injury last season, but the one player that’s becoming more and more intriguing is Jordy Nelson. Donald Driver is another year older and his days as reliable WR3 fantasy player are over thanks to the continued emergence of Nelson. While Nelson is certainly a major cog in the Green Bay passing attack, he’s still only a spot starter in my opinion.

Defensive stalwarts Champ Bailey, D.J. Williams and Elvis Dumervil returned to practice this week after missing the last few games in which Denver was toasted via the air. If these three players return, as expected, it will make it more of a challenge for Green Bay’s passing attack, but certainly not enough to lose much sleep over it.

Running Game Thoughts: Head coach Mike McCarthy insinuated that Ryan Grant (bruised kidney) may not play this week. The bulk of the carries would then go to James Starks. The running responsibilities in Green Bay have been literally split down the middle, as both Starks and Grant have each run the ball 32 times. Only 10 yards rushing and two total receptions separate the backs, making it virtually impossible to foresee who will be productive any given week. As it stands now, Starks looks like he will get the call in Week 4.

I would temper my expectations, since the Broncos have given up only one rushing TD this season. After getting thrashed by Oakland in the opener for 190 yards, Denver has given up only 110 yards combined over the last two games. It may prove to be tough sledding for whoever is the primary ball carrier for Green Bay this week.

Aaron Rodgers: 275 yards passing / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Jordy Nelson: 110 yards receiving / 2 TDs
Greg Jennings: 70 yards receiving
Donald Driver: 40 yards receiving
Jermichael Finley: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
James Starks: 55 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Packers 31, Broncos 10

Titans @ Browns - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: Who in the world expected Matt Hasselbeck to pretend as if he’s five years younger? He has been balling out and has made himself fantasy-worthy once again. He’s averaging 300 yards passing per game, including dismantling the Ravens for 358 yards in Week 2. Losing Kenny Britt for the year with a blown out knee could affect him, but he still threw for 295 yards last week when Britt went down early in the contest. Nate Washington is expected to ascend to the WR1 in Tennessee. He’s not Britt, but somebody has to catch the passes from Hasselbeck. Also, keep an eye on TE Jared Cook.

Cleveland has played Miami, Indianapolis and Cincinnati—three teams who struggle throwing the ball with any consistency. That may explain why they possess the 3rd best pass defense in the league. CB Joe Haden is slowing morphing into a solid cover corner and will shadow Nate Washington attempting to limit his production. It will be up to Cook to help compensate for Britt’s loss.

Running Game Thoughts: I’m sure those who drafted Chris Johnson are kicking themselves, wondering why they drafted a player who was holding out. That has always been my rule, and Johnson’s early season struggles confirm that approach. Perhaps most disturbing aspect about the 98 total rushing yards he has on the season is brutal 2.1 ypc. He’s not even a recommended start nowadays. Maybe he will turn it on at some point, maybe he won’t… history says he will struggle most of the season. Perhaps not a 2.1 ypc, 32 yards per game-type of struggling, but these numbers aren’t worthy of any serious consideration for starting him right now. If you got lucky and selected a productive RB later in the draft (Fred Jackson, Ryan Mathews, Beanie Wells), I’d start either of them over Johnson right now.

The only saving grace for Johnson this week is seeing how Cleveland has struggled against the run. Three teams have given up more rushing yards, but no team has given up fewer TDs. Regardless of what obscure stat I may unearth and share with you regarding Cleveland’s run defense, I would bench Chris Johnson with confidence and see when (or if) he gets his act together.

Matt Hasselbeck: 210 yards passing / 2 TDs
Nate Washington: 80 yards receiving /1 TD
Lavelle Hawkins: 40 yards receiving
Damian Williams: 20 yards receiving
Jared Cook: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Chris Johnson: 55 yards rushing / 10 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: Colt McCoy enters this game as the poster child for a game-managing QB. He leads an offense that’s averaging 20 points per game but offers little as a fantasy options from a passing game perspective. It says a lot about your ability as a passing offense when your converted FB who missed a game STILL leads your team in receptions. Mohamed Massaquoi and rookie Greg Little must start showing signs of production. Until then, there’s no one on this team worthy of any serious fantasy consideration. Look elsewhere.

Tennessee has the league’s top-ranked defense and the second-ranked pass defense. They should give the Browns all they can handle in the passing game. The Titans haven’t given up more than 184 yards passing in a game this year, so don’t expect McCoy to do much beyond that.

Running Game Thoughts: Peyton Hillis (strep throat) missed last week’s game but should play this week. Hillis’ true value is his dual threat out of the backfield. I’m still clueless how he fell in so many fantasy drafts this season. There aren’t many other RBs who have such large roles in their team’s offense. He carves out production a multitude of ways, making him as solid a RB2 in any league.

Whatever kind of production Hillis carves out this week will be well earned. The Titans haven’t given up much on the ground this year - only one rushing TD. But again, understand that Hillis, with the dearth of talent at receiver, is the best and only option in this offense. Start him with confidence, despite the illness that kept him out of last week’s game.

Colt McCoy: 200 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Mohamed Massaquoi: 55 yards receiving
Greg Little: 45 yards receiving
Josh Cribbs: 25 yards receiving
Ben Watson: 35 yards receiving / 1 TD
Peyton Hillis: 60 yards rushing / 35 yards receiving

Prediction: Titans 20, Browns 13

Panthers @ Bears - (Autry)

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton produced like a rookie QB last week against Jacksonville. He threw for 60 percent fewer yards than he did the first two weeks, but his team squeaked out a victory for the first time this year. Lost in most of the Newton hysteria is Steve Smith’s apparent rise back to prominence in fantasy football. A player that fell off the map last year has already matched his 2010 TD total and is only 200 yards short of his receiving numbers from a year ago. Both TEs, Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen, have been reinvigorated, and youngster Brandon LaFell has surprised. Overall, the Carolina passing game is not the fantasy wasteland many thought it would be in 2011. While none are no-brainer every-week starters, each one warrants careful consideration before hitting the SUBMIT button on your line-up.

Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay have all passed for at least 264 yards against the Bears. Each one of those teams has an established QB however. Newton is far from that right now, so he may not pose a big threat, especially when you consider there is now three games worth of film for defensive coordinators to decipher and formulate a plan to limit the rookie’s effectiveness. Newton will get his first true test of going against a Hall of Fame-caliber pass rusher. It should be interesting how he reacts.

Running Game Thoughts: Also lost in the hoopla of Newton-mania is the lack of a solid running game in Carolina. What was once the calling card of this organization has now taken a back seat to a rapidly-developing signal caller. There have been a grand total of two rushing TDs scored for the Panthers and each one has been by Newton himself. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have gotten off to horrendously slow starts, and each one is not a recommended start this week or any week in the near future.

Here’s a fact that should make your decision whether or not to start either RB a simple one: Chicago has yet to give up a rushing TD. Even though the Bears have allowed 100 rushing yards to each aforementioned team and have a 4.6 ypc against them, they’ve been at their best in the stat the means the most. Look elsewhere for RB help this week.

Cam Newton: 185 yards passing / 30 yards rushing / 1 passing TD / 1 INT
Steve Smith: 70 yards receiving
Brandon LaFell: 40 yards receiving
Greg Olsen: 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jeremy Shockey: 25 yards receiving
Jonathan Stewart: 45 yards rushing
DeAngelo Williams: 35 yards rushing

Passing Game Thoughts: Jay Cutler has thrown at least one INT in six of his last seven regular season games. Yes, he’s a turnover waiting to happen. It’s not totally his fault. He doesn’t have a playmaker at receiver and his offensive coordinator thinks protecting the passer comes second to throwing the football down the field. Cutler continues to get pummeled in the pocket, and that can only serve as a reminder to fantasy owners that his days as a reliable fantasy option are questionable. I’d say also that it’s about right now that the Bears are scratching their head, wondering what they were thinking bringing in loud mouth Roy Williams to help fortify perhaps the worst receiving group in the league. Williams is only putting lipstick on a pig. Only in the deepest of leagues is he a viable option in the passing game for Chicago from a fantasy perspective.

A team that resembles Chicago’s anemic passing offense, the Jacksonville Jaguars, was held to 129 yards net passing by this Carolina defense last week. I’d expect only a slight improvement from the Bears, only because they’re at home. But overall, Chicago will struggle to get the ball consistently down the field. Williams, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester…they’re all fantasy afterthoughts. Don’t waste your time here.

Running Game Thoughts: It is both depressing and exhilarating knowing that Matt Forte is literally the entire Chicago offense. He leads the team in rushing and has more than twice as many receptions as anybody else on the team. You stop Forte, you stop the Bears. Seems simple enough, but by and large, neither Atlanta, New Orleans nor Green Bay have succeeded. For those who may have lucked up and secured Forte as your fantasy RB, congrats. Let’s just hope he can withstand the punishment from opposing defenses he is sure to get as the Bears’ are a one trick pony.

Carolina has given up an average of 124 rushing yards a game over the last two to Green Bay and Jacksonville. Maurice Jones-Drew went for 122 yards on the ground to go with 45 yards receiving last week. Those numbers are attainable for Forte, so expect at least that kind of productivity.

Jay Cutler: 220 yards passing / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Johnny Knox: 85 yards receiving / 1 TD
Devin Hester: 40 yards receiving
Roy Williams: 25 yards receiving
Matt Forte: 80 yards rushing / 55 yards receiving / 1 receiving TD

Prediction: Bears 17, Panthers 7

Vikings @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: To say that it’s been a tough start to the season for Minnesota’s passing game and quarterback Donovan McNabb would be an understatement. Through three games, McNabb has thrown just two touchdown passes and is on pace for barely 2,500 yards. On the bright side, he has only thrown one interception and has been able to contribute at least one fantasy point per game in rushing yardage. But his lack of passing success has made every Vikings receiver a poor start.

On the bright side, McNabb will have the benefit of playing against a 25th-ranked Kansas City pass defense that has already surrendered eight touchdowns on the year. However, in a somewhat surprising turn of events, the Chiefs were able slow down the high-powered Chargers passing game in Week 3, holding Philip Rivers without a touchdown pass.

Running Game Thoughts: As the best running back in the NFL, Adrian Peterson has worked his way into fantasy relevance in spite of being on one of this year’s worst offenses. He is currently averaging almost 100 yards per game on the ground and is still contributing, albeit minimally, in the passing game.

This seems like the perfect time for Peterson to have one of his famous monster games, as he will be up against the 31st-ranked run defense. In three games, the Chiefs have allowed an average of 120 rushing yards per game and have already given up five touchdowns on the ground.

Donovan McNabb: 170 yards passing / 1 TD / 10 yards rushing
Percy Harvin: 60 yards receiving / 15 yards rushing
Michael Jenkins: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Visanthe Shiancoe: 20 yards receiving
Kyle Rudolph : 20 yards receiving
Adrian Peterson: 160 yards rushing / 1 TD / 15 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: If you thought Minnesota’s passing game was bad, wait until you get a load of this… Through three games, the Chiefs are averaging just 142 yards passing with only three total touchdowns. What’s worse is that quarterback Matt Cassel has already thrown five interceptions and fumbled twice. Dwayne Bowe is the only receiver in this offense doing anything, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better anytime soon.

One positive for Cassel is that the Vikings have struggled against the pass. They have allowed five passing touchdowns, and opposing quarterbacks are averaging well over 300 yards per game against them. Of course, those numbers are to be expected from a team that has squandered three straight double-digit leads at halftime, mainly by giving up yards through the air. In a game which should be a bit closer throughout, look for the Chiefs to utilize a more balanced attack.

Running Game Thoughts: Who would have thought that, four weeks in, we would be talking about the Chiefs as one of the worst rushing attacks in the entire league? Sometimes one player does that much for a team. With Jamaal Charles gone, we got a glimpse of how things are going to be—and it doesn’t look good. Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster combined for just 48 yards rushing against the Chargers last week.

The Vikings’ run defense has been traditionally excellent, but their 2011 numbers have not been great. Then again, those numbers were a bit inflated given the monster performance that both San Diego running backs had in the passing game in Week 1. The Vikings have not yet allowed an opponent to reach 100 yards on the ground, and it’s safe to assume that the Chiefs’ pathetic running game won’t even get close.

Matt Cassel: 180 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Steve Breaston : 40 yards receiving
Dexter McCluster: 45 yards receiving / 30 yards rushing
Thomas Jones: 30 yards rushing

Prediction: Vikings 20, Chiefs 17

Giants @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Quarterback Eli Manning had a tough Week 1 in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass, but he has bounced back nicely in each of the past two weeks, combining for a total of six touchdowns. And his performance against the vaunted Eagles secondary last week was unbelievable, even more so because he was without his No. 2 target, Mario Manningham. Four touchdowns and over 250 yards passing without an interception made Manning one of the top QBs of Week 3.

Better yet, Manning has a great matchup this week against one of the league’s worst secondaries in Arizona. The Cardinals have allowed just four touchdowns thus far, but they were abused by a rookie quarterback (Cam Newton) making his professional debut, a less-than-stellar Rex Grossman, and even Tarvaris Jackson looked somewhat competent against them. This could be open season for Manning, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham (if he plays), or Victor Cruz if Manningham sits.

Running Game Thoughts: Thunder and Lightning may be making a return in 2011, as the duo of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have been more than effective for the Giants. Unfortunately, the split of carries has made it tough for either player to be an excellent fantasy start, although both have been decent enough. Their task this week looks surprisingly difficult on paper, given that the Cardinals currently rank sixth in stopping opposing running backs. But that number is deceiving; the offenses they’ve faced—Carolina, Washington, and Seattle—all have mediocre running games. Still, Arizona has not allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season. Expect that to change this week, as the Giants should be able to beat them up on the ground as well as through the air.

Eli Manning: 265 yards passing / 2 TD
Hakeem Nicks: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 40 yards receiving
Victor Cruz: 20 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw : 80 yards receiving / 15 yards receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 35 yards rushing / 1 TD / 10 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: So much for the preseason critics who proclaimed that Kevin Kolb was a fantasy bust waiting to happen. He has thrown for over 250-yards in each game and has five touchdowns to just three interceptions. His connection with Larry Fitzgerald has been great for the receiver, who has now risen back to elite fantasy consideration. Unfortunately, Kolb hasn’t been able to consistently get things going with any of his other receivers.

Running Game Thoughts: Usual starter Beanie Wells missed Week 3 with a hamstring injury that coaches claim he could’ve played through; however, they didn’t want to re-aggravate it and cause it to linger as these injuries often do. Alfonso Smith took the bulk of the carries with Wells out and should do the same again this week if Wells is again unable to go. No matter who is running, though, they could have a difficult outing against an always tough New York defense. The Giants did get beat up by LeSean McCoy and the Eagles running game this past week, but the Cardinals running backs are not quite on that level, nor are their surrounding offensive weapons as good. Expect Arizona to have trouble running the ball, especially if Wells doesn’t play. Still, Alfonso Smith could be worth a start for those in need of help at running back.

Kevin Kolb: 270 yards passing / 2 TD / 1 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 110 yards receiving / 1 TD
Early Doucet: 35 yards receiving
Andre Roberts: 30 yards receiving
Jeff King: 20 yards receiving
Todd Heap: 35 yards receiving
Chris Wells: 55 yards rushing

Predictions: Giants 24, Cardinals 17

Redskins @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The resurgence of Rex Grossman in 2011 has been a fantasy surprise, but his fall back to earth may be on its way. Grossman’s three-game streak of 250-plus yards and at least one touchdown continued last week against the Cowboys, but he has also seen his fantasy numbers decline each week. Receivers Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney have been the most consistent targets in the offense this year, but tight end Fred Davis has also been a contributor.

Look for Grossman to have a bounce-back game this week against a struggling Rams defense that just allowed Joe Flacco to throw for nearly 400-yards on them and has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in every game this year.

Running Game Thoughts: Tim Hightower has been a productive runner thus far in 2011, contributing three straight double-digit fantasy days to start the season. But the emergence of rookie running back Roy Helu has to be a concern. Helu should not be in fantasy starting lineups just yet, but his increased playing time is a hit to Hightower’s fantasy value.

Hightower and Helu could both have a chance to be productive this week, though, as they will be going up against an unimpressive St. Louis defense which has allowed over 130 yards rushing in each game this season. They have also been abused by running backs in the passing game, so look for Hightower to get some increased fantasy value as a pass-catcher this week.

Rex Grossman: 260 yards passing / 2 TD / 1 INT
Santana Moss: 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Jabar Gaffney: 50 yards receiving
Fred Davis: 40 yards receiving / 1 TD
Chris Cooley: 20 yards receiving
Tim Hightower: 65 yards rushing / 1 TD / 40 yards receiving
Roy Helu: 40 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: Many predicted the fantasy emergence of second-year quarterback Sam Bradford this season, as he was expected to have a significantly upgraded group of receivers. But through three games, we have not yet seen that upgrade in fantasy scoring. In fact, in two of those three games, Bradford has been flat-out bad, failing to reach even double-digit fantasy points. He has not yet achieved a comfortable relationship with any of his young receivers.

There’s always the chance that Bradford could get things going, but this week doesn’t look like a great opportunity, as he’ll be going up against a top-10 fantasy defense when it comes to shutting down opposing quarterbacks. New York has allowed only two passing touchdowns on the year, so don’t look for a weak Rams passing offense to explode in this one.

Running Game Thoughts: Injuries to Steven Jackson have left the St. Louis running game in shambles. Sure, Cadillac Williams has over 200 yards rushing through three games, but he has failed to get into the end zone and his yards-per-carry average is just barely cracking the 4.0 mark. What’s worse is that both Jackson (quad) and Williams (hamstring) are now listed as questionable for this weekend’s game, making an already mediocre running game even more pathetic.

Whoever ends up suiting up at running back for the Rams will have a tough time, as not only have the Rams as a team struggled to move the ball on offense, but the Redskins have been pretty good at stopping the run. They did get gouged for over 125 yards by the Cowboys last week, but the majority of those yards came on long runs by Felix Jones. Neither Jackson nor Williams (especially when injured) has that kind of breakaway speed, so look for the Redskins to contain whoever ends up getting the majority of the carries.

Sam Bradford: 215 yards passing / 1 TD / 2 INT
Danario Alexander: 60 yards receiving
Brandon Gibson: 50 yards receiving
Mike Sims-Walker: 35 yards receiving
Lance Kendricks: 25 yards receiving
Steven Jackson: 40 yards receiving / 20 yards receiving
Cadillac Williams: 25 yards receiving

Prediction: Redskins 17, Rams 13

Falcons @ Seahawks - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan was supposed emerge as an every-week fantasy starter in 2011, but through three games, the former NFL Rookie of the Year has failed to live up to those expectations. Ryan currently sits outside the top-20 quarterbacks and, aside from a masterful four-touchdown performance in Week 2, has been a big flop for fantasy owners. Receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones have also been very up-and-down, while Tony Gonzalez remains the only real source of consistency in Atlanta’s passing game so far.

The Falcons have a tough game ahead of them as they head to Seattle to face a top-10 pass defense that has allowed just two touchdowns on the year. Yes, Seattle has looked awful thus far in 2011, but their offense, not their defense, has been the biggest source of their problems. Temper your expectations for Matt Ryan and the Falcons passing game in this one.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner has established himself as one of the most consistent fantasy running backs during his tenure in Atlanta, but his Week 3 performance against Tampa Bay was certainly not one of his shining moments. After rushing for 100-plus yards in each of his first two games, Turner checked out with just 20 yards on the ground against his division foe.

What might be worse is the chance that lead-blocker Ovie Mughelli could miss this game. Seattle struggled in Week 2 to stop the Pittsburgh backs, but they essentially shut down both the 49ers’ and the Cardinals’ running backs. Turner does have a better chance at success than either of those teams’ backs, but the number of carries he took in both the opening game (10) and last week (11) are a concern.

Matt Ryan: 265 yards passing / 2 TD / 2 INT
Roddy White: 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
Julio Jones: 50 yards receiving / 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 45 yards receiving
Michael Turner: 80 yards rushing / 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: As many experts predicted, the passing game in Seattle has struggled significantly with the transition from Matt Hasselbeck to Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson threw two touchdowns in the NFL’s opening weekend, but he has failed to throw a single touchdown in either of the past two games, and he hasn’t reached even 200 yards passing in any game this year.
Jackson does have an opportunity to increase his statistics with Sidney Rice now back. The duo hooked up for eight passes and over 100 yards last week in Rice’s first appearance of the season. Defenses will key in on Rice and eventually be able to stop him, but Atlanta’s secondary has struggled at times this season, allowing over 300 yards and multiple touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in two of three games.

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch, are you still there? The running game in Seattle has been absolutely terrible this season. Lynch has not even reached 75 yards on the ground in any game yet, and he has not scored a single touchdown on the year. Unfortunately, Lynch is the only guy who is getting any touches, so it doesn’t look like anyone else is going to be threatening him for playing time in this backfield.

Lynch will have a chance this week against one of the worst run defenses of this season so far. Opposing teams have rushed for at least 80 yards per game against Atlanta, but what’s surprising is that opposing running backs have actually been very successful in the passing game, too. Unfortunately, Lynch has not proven to be much of a factor in the passing game and has just 17 total yards as a receiver this year.

Tarvaris Jackson: 190 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Sidney Rice: 90 yards receiving / 1 TD
Golden Tate: 20 yards receiving
Zach Miller: 20 yards receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 75 yards rushing

Prediction: Falcons 24, Seahawks 13

Patriots @ Raiders - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s a beautiful thing to see Tom Brady’s name listed on your roster right now. The top-scoring fantasy player through three games has been none other than the Patriots’ signal caller. Brady has tossed the ball for over 1,300 yards and an unbelievable 11 touchdowns already. He is currently on pace for an absurd 7,000 passing yards and 59 touchdown passes…Yeah, it’s that ridiculous.

Brady did throw an uncharacteristic four interceptions against the Bills last week, but don’t let that stop you from putting this amazing quarterback in your lineup each and every week. Almost every option in the New England passing game should be in your lineup whenever possible, in fact. Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski have been particularly incredible this year, with each currently ranked as the top player at their respective position. And it gets better…This week, the Patriots will be facing the 28th-ranked pass defense as they head to Oakland to battle the Raiders.

Running Game Thoughts: As productive and consistent as the Patriots’ passing game has been, their running game has been equally inadequate and inconsistent. Starting running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a touchdown in each of the first two weeks, but his lack of ability in the passing game has led him to give up playing time to the duo of Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley. It’s hard to tell who—if anyone—will be productive in this backfield, but the smart money is still on “The Law Firm.”

The Raiders have had their struggles when it comes to stopping opposing running backs this season. Both the Bills (yeah, the Bills!) and the Jets—thanks mainly to LT’s 116 receiving yards—have destroyed them. It hasn’t just been one player, either—Oakland opponents have been spreading the ball around and getting numerous players involved, which could mean good things for more than one of these Patriots’ backs.

Tom Brady: 360 yards passing / 3 TD / 1 INT
Wes Welker: 110 yards receiving / 1 TD
Deion Branch: 70 yards receiving
Chad Ochocinco: 35 yards receiving
Rob Gronkowski: 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 45 yards / 1 TD
Danny Woodhead: 15 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving / 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 20 yards rushing

Passing Game Thoughts: If you’re in a bind at quarterback, there are worse options than Oakland’s Jason Campbell this week. Campbell was productive in the shootout with Buffalo in Week 2, when he threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He has also been very safe with the ball this year, having thrown only one interception, which came on the final play of the Buffalo game on a Hail Mary.

He’ll have a chance to increase his numbers this week when he goes up against one of the absolute worst secondaries in the league. The Patriots have allowed multiple touchdowns and over 350 yards passing to every quarterback they’ve played this season, and only one of them (Philip Rivers) was considered an every-week, starting-caliber quarterback coming into the season. Unfortunately, we’re just not sure which of this group of Oakland receivers is going to do well from week to week.

Running Game Thoughts: Darren McFadden has absolutely blown up this year and is currently ranked as the top-scoring running back in the entire league. McFadden has already scored four times this season and has put up over 140 total yards in each of his three games. Even Michael Bush has been a decent fill-in, scoring touchdowns in each of the past two games.

This week, the Raiders’ backfield has a chance to continue their nice run as they go up against an awful Patriots’ defense that has allowed the 26th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. They have held opposing teams to under 100-yards rushing, but that is to be expected when considering how bad they’ve been in the secondary and at linebacker. They have been destroyed by running backs in the passing game, as well. Look for both McFadden and Bush to contribute in some way this week.

Jason Campbell: 250 yards passing / 2 TD
Denarius Moore: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD / 15 yards rushing
Jacoby Ford: 60 yards receiving
Derek Hagan: 25 yards receiving
Darren McFadden: 80 yards rushing / 1 TD/ 30 yards receiving / 1 TD
Michael Bush: 25 yards rushing / 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 31, Raiders 27

Dolphins @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Miami quarterback Chad Henne has fallen back to earth a bit after an absolutely monster Week 1 performance against the Patriots. The former Michigan Wolverine has since thrown for one touchdown and one interception in each of the last two weeks. He has been connecting with Brandon Marshall regularly, but his statistics have trailed off in each consecutive week.

On the bright side, Henne will be throwing against the 19th-ranked Chargers defense, which hasn’t quite been what it normally is. San Diego beat up the Vikings and Donovan McNabb in Week 1, but they couldn’t seem to stop Tom Brady and Matt Cassel in Weeks 2 and 3, allowing a total of five touchdown passes in those two games.

Running Game Thoughts: The Miami Dolphins running game is a confusing one. It looked as if Reggie Bush was going to be an effective fantasy back this season following a nice Week 1 performance. But then came the emergence of Daniel Thomas, who has gone over 100 total yards in each of the past two games, easily supplanting Bush as the Dolphins’ top ball carrier. Worse yet for Bush’s production is that the Dolphins just signed former Texans running back Steve Slaton out of free agency. He could potentially get some of the snaps in obvious passing downs that Bush would have otherwise received.

Thomas has been effective since he’s been healthy, but this won’t necessarily be the week to put him in your lineup if you’ve been stashing him away. The Chargers have been very good against the run again this year; having allowed just one rushing touchdown, they currently rank fourth at shutting down opposing running backs. That number includes a game against the game’s best back, Adrian Peterson, who racked up some yardage but was unable to score.

Chad Henne: 230 yards passing / 1 TD / 1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Davone Bess: 55 yards receiving
Brian Hartline: 50 yards receiving
Daniel Thomas: 80 yards receiving / 10 yards receiving
Reggie Bush: 20 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving
Steve Slaton: 10 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving

Passing Game Thoughts: The normally consistent Philip Rivers has been anything but this season, throwing for just four touchdowns in three games while tossing an uninspiring six interceptions, two in each game. Being without Antonio Gates has taken away Rivers’ safety blanket, and while Vincent Jackson had a monster game against the Patriots in Week 2, he and the rest of the San Diego receivers have been wildly inconsistent otherwise. Rivers again finds himself with an incredibly banged-up group of receivers—just like last year—with Gates, Jackson, and Malcom Floyd all listed on the injury report.

If his receivers do play, though, Rivers will have an opportunity to get himself back into the top fantasy scorers at his position as he goes up against the 30th-ranked Miami pass defense. The Dolphins have been destroyed by all three quarterbacks they’ve played this season, even surrendering multiple touchdowns to Colt McCoy and the Browns last week. Rivers has been successful even without his top receivers in the past, but it would certainly help if Gates, Jackson, and Floyd—or any combination of two of them—would be able to play this year.

Running Game Thoughts: It has been a few years since the Chargers have had a productive running game, but it appears they are on their way to getting things going on the ground. The combination of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert has been dominant thus far in 2011, but it has been Mathews getting most of the production over the past two weeks. Not only has he been productive as a between-the-20s runner, but he also scored two red zone touchdowns last week against the Chiefs and has been very impressive as a receiver.

The Chargers’ backs will face a tougher task this week against a Miami defense that has surrendered only one rushing touchdown this season. Then again, those numbers might be a little misleading given that they played the Texans, without a healthy Arian Foster, and the Browns, who were completely without Peyton Hillis. Given the situation, Tolbert likely remains a flex-play option while Mathews has emerged as a top-level RB2 or low-level RB1.

Philip Rivers: 275 yards passing / 2 TD / 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: 70 yards receiving / 1 TD
Patrick Crayton: 50 yards receiving
Malcom Floyd: 35 yards receiving
Randy McMichael: 20 yards receiving
Ryan Mathews: 65 yards receiving / 40 yards receiving
Mike Tolbert: 20 yards rushing / 1 TD / 35 yards receiving

Prediction: Dolphins 16, Chargers 24