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Eli Mack, Sal Marcoccio, Chris Eakin, Joe Kilroy

Inside The Matchup: Wk 9



WAS @ ATL | HOU @ IND | GB @ TB | KC @ JAX

 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Kilroy 20 7 74.1
2 Marcoccio 22 9 71.0
3 Mack 20 10 66.7
4 Eakin 18 10 64.3

Dolphins @ Patriots (Marcoccio)

Chad Henne/Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams
Ted Ginn Jr./Brian Hartline/Davone Bess/Anthony Fasano (vs. NE)

NE FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -20.1%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -10.4%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -7.2%
NE FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -54.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Dolphins offense had major trouble dealing with the Jets attacking defense last week, but still managed to grab a win behind two 100 yard kick off returns by Tedd Ginn, Jr. Ironically (maybe in the Alanis Morrisette sense of the word) Ginn was “benched” for this game as a result of numerous drops the week before. This performance may get him his starting WR spot back as the coaching staff has to be salivating about Ginn’s ability in open spaces. Henne did not do much (112 yards and a TD), but hasn’t played too badly for a young QB and nearly delivered on a potential deep TD pass to rookie WR Brian Hartline. Expect HC Tony Sparano to play it safe with the young Henne and keep the ball grounded against the Patriots.

As he’s done in the past, Bill Belicheck, has taken a couple of other team’s castoffs and polished them up and made them look good. Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden who have been disappointing in the past, have been a rather formidable CB duo in 2009. The Pats are the 6th ranked pass defense, allowing only 176.8 ypg and 8 TDs through 7 games (after allowing the second most passing TDs in the league last season).

Running Game Thoughts: As I’m sure everyone reading this piece knows, the “Wild Cat” debuted during the first Dolphins-Patriots matchup last season and Miami has been perfecting it ever since. They have the perfect personnel for it, in two big and fast backs together in the backfield and young mobile o-line men who are adept at pulling out in front of the runners. It’s become a staple of the offense for the Dolphins and expect a heavy dosage this week as the ‘Phins will be more than happy to control the clock and keep Brady and his boys on the sideline as long as possible.

The Patriots have played the run very well despite losing many impact players to offseason migrations and to in-season injuries. So far this season they are allowing only 109.4 yards per game and have only allowed Michael Turner to cross the endzone stripe. Jerrod Mayo has developed into one of the more complete linebackers in the league and should only get better with experience. Vince Wilfork clogs up the middle of the line and will look to get penetration into the Miami backfield in an effort to disrupt the timing of the Wild Cat offense. The Jets laid out a pretty good blueprint on how to defend Miami’s running game last week, and I’m sure Billy Boy will be spending some time watching that tape.

Chad Henne: 205 yards, 1 TD, 2 Ints.
Ted Ginn Jr.: 65 yds receiving
Brian Hartline: 30 yds receiving, TD
Davone Bess: 25 yds receiving
Anthony Fasano: 50 yds receiving
Ronnie Brown: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 10 yds rec.
Ricky Williams: 20 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving

Tom Brady/ Laurence Maroney/ Kevin Faulk
Randy Moss/Wes Welker/Ben Watson (vs. MIA)

MIA FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +16.2%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -15.7%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -3.2%
MIA FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +32.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: After a slow start to the 2009 season, Tom Brady seems to have hit his stride, as the future Hall of Famer tossed 9 TDs in the last two games prior to his Week 8 bye. While talk of a return to the 2007 Patriot offense is likely premature (after all Tennessee and Tampa Bay are two of the worst pass defenses in the league), it does seem like Brady, Moss and Welker are once again players that you want in your line-up. Welker faces his former team where he was known to be a tough as nails, pesky slot WR but not the star that he has become with Brady as his QB. Moss should be able to roam free all day in the depleted Dolphin secondary which lost their best cover corner prior to last week’s game.

Miami has been very poor against the pass and as mentioned above has now lost starting CB Will Allen for the season. They allowed the inconsistent rookie QB Mark Sanchez to throw for 265 yards and two TDs (with a rushing TD as well) last week so one could imagine that Tom Brady may be licking his chops as you’re reading this. Overall, Miami has allowed 236.5 yards per game and 9 TDs on the season.

Running Game Thoughts: Sammy Morris followed Fred Taylor to the trainer’s room, leaving Laurence Maroney as the main ball carrier in New England by default in Week 6 and he responded with a big game in the snow. Maroney has major league talent, but has not been able to put it together since his outstanding rookie season. He has cut down on his dancing behind the line (which seemed to put him in the doghouse in the past) and has looked more aggressive in his runs, but he still managed to disappear against a poor Tampa Bay run defense in London in Week 7. It may be time for Belicheck to turn old favorite Kevin Faulk this week.

The Dolphins are the sixth ranked run defense (92.4 ypg) and have allowed 8 rushing TDs this season – in the last two weeks 3 of the rushing TDs have been scored by opposing QBs. Channing Crowder, Joey Porter and Akin Ayodele are a hard hitting a line backer corp. and Jason Ferguson is a load in the middle of the line making this a difficult team to run against. Combine the Dolphin’s poor pass defense with their banged up RB group and the Pats will have an excuse for throwing early and often in New England this week.

Tom Brady: 365 yds passing 4 TDs
Randy Moss: 125 yds receiving, 2 TDs
Wes Welker: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Ben Watson: 45 yds receiving
Laurence Maroney: 45 yards rushing
Kevin Faulk: 25 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving, 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 31 Dolphins 14 ^ Top

Chargers @ Giants (Marcoccio)

Philip Rivers/LaDainian Tomlinson/Darren Sproles
Vincent Jackson/Malcolm Floyd/Antonio Gates (vs. NYG)

NYG FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -8.5%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +4.5%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -16.8%
NYG FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +17.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers is the only QB out of the “Big 3” from the class of 2003 to not win a Super Bowl, but he just may end up being the most prolific passer out of the bunch. San Diego is now Philip Rivers’ team, as they have become a passing offense under the previously conservative Norv Turner due to Rivers’ development coupled with Tomlinson’s decline. Vincent Jackson presents a difficult match up for any defensive back as he has elite deep speed in a 6’5”, 230 pound frame. San Diego has cut ties with the underachieving Chris Chambers inserting another big fast WR, Malcolm Floyd, in his starting spot. The middle of the field should be wide open for premiere TE Antonio Gates with those two giant WRs taking the coverage deep, making him even more dangerous than usual. Of note the Giants allow opposing TEs to put up big fantasy numbers, not that you needed to have a reason to start Gates.

The injury depleted Giants secondary is starting to get exposed, now that they have faced better passing offenses. Aaron Ross’ lingering hamstring injury and the loss of Kenny Philips to the IR has taken a toll, and the pass rush just hasn’t been as effective as in years past. Justin Tuck still seems to be bothered by the sore shoulder he suffered after being tripped up in the Dallas game. The book on how the beat the Giants was written during the Saints game: Brees got the ball out so quickly that it completely neutralized the front 4 pass rush. No pass rush meant that the defense could no longer hide the injuries in the secondary. The Cards and Eagles followed suit. Donovan McNabb lit them up last week to the tune of 240 yards and 3 scores. It should be noted that, Philip Rivers is a lot closer to the QBs that have had success against the unit, Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb and Kurt Warner than those that have struggled against it, Matt Cassell, Byron Leftwich and JaMarcus Russell.

Running Game Thoughts: LaDainian Tomlinson is no longer the elite back he was in past seasons, but isn’t quite finished yet. He still uses his jump cuts effectively and still has some of the burst that once made him a star, but he just doesn’t have enough to dominate defenses like his owners and fans are use to. The o-line isn’t doing him any favors as he’s often met in the backfield by defenders, but he spent many of his early years behind a terrible o-line and still produced. The diminutive Darren Sproles shows flashes of greatness at times, but struggled when he was asked to carry the full load earlier this season when Tomlinson missed a couple of games.

New York is ranked 14th in the league in run defense and has allowed 12 TDs in 8 weeks including one each to Leonard Weaver and LeSean McCoy last week, both coming on long runs. Without Michael Boley on the field their line backing corp. is mediocre at best – Boley does have a chance to play this week however. Don’t be surprised to see Sproles break a long one.

Philip Rivers: 245 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int.
Malcolm Floyd: 40 yds receiving
Vincent Jackson: 95 yds receiving, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 75 yds rushing, 1 TD / 35 yds receiving
LaDainlian Tomlinson: 65 yds rushing / 5 yds receving

Eli Manning/ Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw
Steve Smith/Mario Manningham/Hakeem Nicks/Kevin Boss (vs. SD)

SD FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -19.5%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +19.2%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -31.3%
SD FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +14.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning had a poor game for the third consecutive week. This time he threw 2 more interceptions. He claims that the pain from his plantar fasciitis is not bothering him or forcing him to change his delivery but coach Tom Coughlin hinted that may actually be the case. He certainly hasn’t looked as sharp as he was during the first five weeks of the season. Mario Manningham missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, but he should be back this week. Steve Smith has drawn extra attention since leading the league in receiving yards earlier in the season and hasn’t been as much as a factor. That needs to change as he is the best all around receiver on the team right now and could help get the offense back on track.

San Diego is ranked sixth in the league in pass defense allowing 178.4 ypg and 9 TDs on the season. Shawn Merriman finally came alive last week against Oakland, recording 2 sacks and the Chargers will need him to help Shaun Phillips get after opposing QBs. Eli has been rattled into making mistakes in recent weeks, so expect the Chargers to blitz against the Giants.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw who was diagnosed with a cracked metatarsal bone two weeks ago has, either as a result of the injury or coincidently, lost some of his explosiveness that made him so dangerous earlier this season. He did manage to score on a 1 yard run last week however. Brandon Jacobs on the other hand has run with a lot more determination in recent weeks and is starting to accumulate yards if not TDs. This should be a good matchup for Jacobs as SD has shown to be soft up the middle.

San Diego has not recovered from the loss of NT Jamal Williams, and their run defense has really suffered. They are the 27th ranked run defense, allowing 132.1 ypg and 7 TDs on the season. Teams have attacked the vacancy left by Williams running straight up the gut against the Chargers, which seems to indicate that Brandon Jacobs is a good start this week.

Eli Manning: 245 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 Int.
Steve Smith: 60 yds receiving, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 20 yds receiving
Hakeem Nicks: 70 yds receiving
Kevin Boss: 20 yds receiving
Brandon Jacobs: 110 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 45 yds rushing / 30 yds receiving

Prediction: Chargers 24 Giants 17 ^ Top

Cowboys @ Eagles (Marcoccio)

Tony Romo/Marion Barber/Felix Jones
Roy Williams/Miles Austin/Jason Witten (vs. PHI)

PHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: 0.0%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -13.4%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -26.2%
PHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +63.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: Tony Romo has stepped up his game and has looked like the “good” Romo, without any of the “bad” Romo popping up the last two weeks. Romo threw for 256 yards and 3 TDs against the Seahawks – and what was really impressive was his ability to spread the ball around, connecting with different WRs for each TD. Youngsters Miles Austin and Sam Hurd as well as disappointing veteran Roy Williams (who’s still the No. 1 in Dalls, in his mind at least) all hauled in short TDs. Perhaps the Cowboys do not need to replace TO’s production with one player and can instead take advantage of their young talents. The numbers above indicate that this may be the week that somewhat disappointing TE Jason Witten breaks out.

The Eagles’ defense has really harassed division opponents Jason Campbell and Eli Manning the last two weeks, forcing them each into multiple turnovers. The blitz happy Eagles will now look to continue that trend and bring out the “bad” Romo by forcing him into a few of his patented turnovers this week. The Eagles have more interceptions (14) than TDs allowed (11) this season, so Romo will need to be as careful with the football as he’s been in recent weeks to give the Boys a shot on the road.

Running Game Thoughts: Marion Barber has been the most valuable Cowboy RB to own in fantasy leagues over the last couple of weeks and expect that trend to continue this week. Philly allowed a similar bruising runner, Brandon Jacobs, to average 4.3 ypc last week. The middle of the Eagle defense has been vulnerable for most of the season, but recently added MLB Will Witherspoon is expected to help in that regard. Felix Jones has not looked as explosive since returning from his knee injury, but as he gets healthier, he should start getting more and more chances to show his wares. This would be a good week for the Cowboys to try and not abandoned their running game so quickly, since a couple of big runs by Barber and Jones could help slow down the Philadelphia pass rush.

Tony Romo: 285 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 15 yds rushing
Roy Williams: 45 yds receiving, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 60 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 85 yds receiving, 1 TD
Felix Jones: 20 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Marion Barber: 65 yds rushing, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Donovan McNabb/Brian Westboork/LeSean McCoy
DeSean Jackson/Jeremy Maclin/Brent Celek (vs. DAL)

DAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +9.5%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.7%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +17.6%
DAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -12.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Donovan McNabb finally has the speed at the WR position to utilize his greatest strength as a QB – his ability to throw a very nice deep ball. McNabb’s never been all that accurate on short passes, but he’s got a strong arm and can attack downfield as well as any QB in the league. Desean Jackson is a tremendous runner and a special playmaker and rookie Jeremy Maclin has shown big play ability as well. Jason Avant and Brent Celek can handle the middle of the field in order to keep defenses honest, making this the best group of pass catchers that McNabb has had at his disposal since he’s been in the league. TO may have been the best WR that Philly has ever had (although Jackson may be more dynamic), but as a group this unit is unsurpassed.

It will be very tough for the Cowboy secondary to deal with the speedy Philly WRs if they don’t get pressure on McNabb. Luckily the Cowboys have been more effective in that regard in recent weeks and the Eagles have struggled in pass protection recently. Dallas is allowing 237.1 ypg and has given up 12 passing TDs so it is a vulnerable unit.

Running Game Thoughts: Brian Westbrook missed last week’s contest, but rookie LeSean McCoy and FB Leonard Weaver were able to run all over the Giants. Each scored on long TD runs of 66 and 41 yards, respectively. Westbrook has been cleared to play this week – and will be a game time decision (odd, huh?) – and while he is still a valuable piece of the Philly offense he is no longer the game changing back he once was. Andy Reid would be wise to mix McCoy and perhaps even Weaver into the mix to keep Westbrook fresh and the Dallas defense off balance.

Dallas has been playing the run well this season, allowing 105 ypg, with only 3 rushing TDs allowed. Line backers Keith Brooking and Bradie James lead the team in tackles and FS Ken Hamlin has offered strong run support from the secondary. The Eagles generally are a pass first offense, but the Cowboys should be up to the task when they do keep the ball on the ground.

Donovan McNabb: 305 yds passing 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yds rushing
Jeremy Maclin: 60 yds receiving
DeSean Jackson: 115 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brent Celek: 55 yds receiving, 1 TD
LeSean McCoy: 35 yds rushing / 15 yds receiving
Brian Westbrook: 55 yds rushing / 40 yds receiving

Prediction: Cowboys 24 Eagles 17 ^ Top

Steelers @ Broncos (Eakin)

Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward/Santonio Holmes/Heath Miller
Rashard Mendenhall (vs. DEN)

DEN FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -31.3%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -19.7%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -23.9%
DEN FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -50.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: With Big Ben in his sixth year with the Men of Steel, and now their most dangerous weapon, the Steelers have officially handed over the offensive reigns. Roethlisberger is throwing more than ever and is on pace to rewrite the storied franchises’ passing marks in yards, attempts, touchdowns, completion percentage, and just about any passing mark you care to measure or track. He is now not only a “real world” winner but also a legitimate “fantasy” winner as well. His top target is the ageless wonder, Hines Ward. Ward leads the team in both yards and receptions despite forecasts of Santonio Holmes taking over the top spot this year. Holmes and out of nowhere third WR Mike Wallace are field stretchers with plenty of speed to keep opposing safeties on their heels. TE Heath Miller is Ben’s sure-handed safety valve and favorite redzone target with a team high four TD receptions.

The Broncos have transformed themselves from a joke in 2008 to a top five unit in points allowed, run, and pass defense in less than a year. A remarkable turnaround. NFL sack leader Elvis Dumervil is an outside speed rusher that will make life tough on the Steelers mammoth tackles Max Starks and Trae Essex. I think Essex and Starks are too big to handle the quickness of Dumervil. The problem for Dumervil and co. will be what to do when they get to Ben. Few QBs, if any, are better at shacking off rushers and buying time. If the rush becomes a problem, the Steelers may need to keep RB Mewelde Moore or Heath Miller in to help out, which will limit their ability to get one on one matchups on the outside because it means on less receiver in pass routes to cover. The Steelers could counter by spreading the Broncos out in three and four wide sets. The Broncos have been getting great play out of starting CBs Andre Goodman and Champ Bailey but can prize rookie CB Alphonso Smith stay with deep threat WR Mike Wallace? That may determine who gets the upper hand in this game. As a football fan, the match-up of Champ Bailey and Hines Ward will be great to watch. Two all-time savvy veterans and still among the best in the business, going head to head.

Running Game Thoughts: If RB Rashard Mendenhall can avoid the Slaton syndrome, fumbling his job away, he is in a great position from here on out as the main RB in a very good offense. He has clearly surpassed Willie Parker on the field and the depth chart averaging a healthy 5.2 yards per carry. The Steelers use RB Mewelde Moore on passing downs for now, but last week when both Mendenhall and Parker fumbled away possessions, Moore carried the load to preserve the lead.

The Broncos Defense is tough to run on allowing just 107 yards rushing per game. They are small up front and rely on discipline, pursuit, and gang tackling. The Ravens showed that a consistent physical rushing attack can wear them down but the Steelers have not shown the kind of commitment to the run to think that scenario will play out. Until shown otherwise, Mendenhall will remain a RB2 play against tougher run defenses such as Denver’s.

Ben Roethlisberger: 245 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Hines Ward: 80 yds
Santonio Holmes: 60
Heath Miller: 35 yds/1 TD
Mike Wallace: 45 Yds/1 TD
Rashard Mendenhall: 70 yds rushing/1 TD
Mewelde Moore: 20 yds rushing/20 yds rec

Kyle Orton/Brandon Marshall/Eddie Royal/Tony Scheffler
Correll Buckhalter/Knowshon Moreno (vs. PIT)

PIT FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -4.6%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -34.5%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. WR: -0.9%
PIT FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +0.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Denver struggled to score against the aggressive Ravens defense last week, and may struggle again facing a similar Pittsburgh defense. While Orton can avoid costly mistakes caused from blitzing by getting the ball out quick, his short passing attack will also invite the Steelers closer to the line of scrimmage to jam receivers and hamper timing routes. Denver requires long sustained drives in order to score, and that is tough to do against the elite defenses. WR Brandon Marshall is the go-to target while the rest of the WR core seems interchangeable. Marshall is getting increased targets and production but his YPC is down from last year. He remains a dangerous redzone target but will need to make some big plays after the catch to produce a great fantasy day because they just don’t give him many deep balls chances.

The Steelers may have to go without starting S Ryan Clark. Clark has a sickle cell condition that is aggravated by the altitude in Denver. He is 50/50 to start but would be replaced with Ryan Mundy if he sits. Clark is a quality player but the Broncos don’t really challenge safeties deep much so the greatest impact will be the coverage on TE Tony Scheffler. Scheffler has good speed for a TE and can present a challenge for safeties to cover. Look for Denver to test Mundy with Scheffler if Clark sits.

Running Game Thoughts: RBs Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno continue to split reps relatively evenly. Moreno does more work between the tackles while Buckhalter likes to attack the edge. They will certainly get plenty of work but few teams can make a living running against the 2009 version of the Steel Curtain ranked first in RB FPTs allowed.

The Steelers will have to compensate for injuries to both starting DEs. Expect SS Troy Polamalu to play the part of a 5th LB at the line of scrimmage to limit Denver’s ability to run the ball consistently.

Kyle Orton: 220 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 70 yds/1 TD
Eddie Royal: 40 yds
Tony Scheffler: 40 yds
Knowshon Moreno: 40 yds/25 yds rec/1 TD
Correll Buckhalter: 30 yds/10 rec yds

Prediction: Steelers 24 Broncos 20 ^ Top

Titans @ 49ers (Eakin)

Vince Young/Nate Washington/Justin Gage/Bo Scaife
Chris Johnson/LenDale White (vs. SF)

SF FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +3.5%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -7.8%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +14.9%
SF FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -12.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Vince Young was efficient enough in his first start to stay out of Chris Johnson’s way, allowing the Titans their first win of the year. The biggest news was that Young looked confident and like he was back to having fun. It’s been a long road for him and that was the biggest hurdle. He tucked the ball and got first downs when it was there, he didn’t force it, nor stubbornly stay in the pocket to prove he can be a prototypical pocket QB. He found Nate Washington for a TD and didn’t turn the ball over. Young will never be confused for a Manning, but at some point, the Titans need to let him loose and see what he has. He can manage the game, sure, but the season is lost and the reason he’s in is to see if he can be “the guy” before entering next years draft. Throwing the ball 18 times will not provide many answers. Let’s see if Jeff Fisher loosens the leash a little more this week or waits for his owner to force him to again.

San Francisco lost a defensive leader in CB Nate Clements last week. Clements is out 6-8 weeks with a broken scapula. Clements is a tough, aggressive tackler that excels at run support, which will be missed versus a Titan team that will want to get Chris Johnson on the edge as much as possible.

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Johnson has established himself as one of the games most feared game breakers with his 225 yard trouncing of Jacksonville. Johnson has great speed yet is very patient with the ball. He does a great job of setting up blockers then bursting through the hole to the open field where no one short of Usain Bolt has any hope of catching him.

If you want to catch a stallion, or Titan in this case, you don’t chase it, you corral it. That’s what the 49ers need to do with Johnson. The Patrick Willis led LB core cannot be overly aggressive. If they stay in their lanes and avoid over pursuit, they can control Johnson and the outcome of the game.

Vince Young: 140 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Nate Washington: 50 yds
Justin Gage: 35 yds
Bo Scaife: 30 yds/1 TD
Chris Johnson: 110 yds/25 rec/1 TD
LenDale White: 40 yds

Alex Smith/Michael Crabtree/Isaac Bruce/Vernon Davis
Frank Gore (vs. TEN)

TEN FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +55.1%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -4.8%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +73.6%
TEN FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +18.7%

Passing Game Thoughts: A curious battle between two consecutive first round QB busts, getting a second chance to resurrect their career, with the same team that drafted them. A rare spectacle indeed. Smith looks rejuvenated with his repaired shoulder. He has more zip on the ball than last year. Now he has what looks like a potential superstar in Michael Crabtree to target and a suddenly game-breaking TE in Vernon Davis. Davis has four TDs in the game and a half Smith has played. Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan have been rotating in since Crabtree’s emergence but neither can be trusted as a fantasy starter in an offense that is based on power running.

The Titans look to put their pass defense struggles behind them with the return of CB Cortland Finnegan and nickel back Vince Fuller. They may also see the return of starting CB Nick Harper from a broken forearm to help bolster a secondary that shut down David Garrard last week. The Titans will attack the left side of the 49ers offensive line with LT Joe Staley out. If successful, they can make Smith uncomfortable and force mistakes.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore has been living off the big play with three runs over fifty yards. Take those big plays away and Gores production looks incredibly average. The recent injuries to his offensive line could compound the problem. The Titans run defense has been solid, despite missing Albert Haynesworth, until Maurice Jones-Drew gouged them for 178 on just eight carries last week. They will need to shore things up since Gore has shown himself to be equally dangerous in breaking long runs.

Alex Smith: 235 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Michael Crabtree: 75 yds/1 TD
Isaac Bruce: 40
Josh Morgan: 35 yds
Vernon Davis: 65/1 TD
Frank Gore: 70 yds/40 rec yds/1 TD

Prediction: San Francisco 24 Tennessee 17 ^ Top

Lions @ Seahawks (Eakin)

Matthew Stafford/Calvin Johnson/Bryant Johnson/Brandon Pettigrew
Kevin Smith (vs. SEA)

SEA FF Points Allowed vs. QB: -2.0%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. RB: -4.3%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +23.7%
SEA FF Points Allowed vs. TE: -32.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Lions chances may rest upon the right knee of Calvin Johnson. If healthy, he will be the best player on the field. No one outside of the organization is quite sure what his specific injury is, but he is practicing this week and will be the a game-time-decision.

Johnson is capable of taking over a game and delivering the big plays a struggling Lions team needs to pull off an upset. That said, Johnson has missed a lot of time with injuries and may not be at 100 percent yet. He only has one TD reception this year and could need some reacquainting with QB Mathew Stafford before they can start challenging opposing defenses.

The Seahawks have been stymied with the injury bug for a second straight year but they did get their best CB Marcus Trufant back last week. Trufant will be responsible for preventing Johnson from getting back on track. He will need a steady pass rush on Stafford to help. Seattle rookie OLB Aaron Curry is a legit edge pass rusher that LT Jeff Backus could struggle to match-up with.

Running Game Thoughts: Kevin Smith remains the featured back despite a lack of big play production. Smith is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry and has not broken a run longer than 20 yards all season. Smith plays a big role the Lions passing game, which makes him a more valuable commodity in PPR leagues even when facing a tough opposing run defense. He is questionable to play with a sore shoulder so there’s a good chance his backup, Maurice Morris, will see increased touches against his former team.

The Seahawks, ranked 20th if RB FPTs allowed, will be without the services of MLB and defensive captain Lofa Tatupu for the rest of the year. He will be replaced by David Hawthorne, an aggressive, physical tackler that proved capable of stepping up earlier in the year with a 15-tackle performance against the Bears. Hawthorne can be too aggressive in pursuit at times, and is vulnerable to cut backs, which is where Kevin Smith excels. Seattle needs to stay in their lanes to keep Smith in check.

Mathew Stafford: 220 yds/1 TD/1 INT
Calvin Johnson: 70 yds/1 TD
Bryant Johnson: 50 yds
Brandon Pettigrew: 40 yds
Kevin Smith: 90 yds/25 rec/1 TD

Matt Hasselbeck/Nate Burleson/T.J. Houshmandzadeh/John Carlson
Julius Jones/Justin Forsett (vs. DET)

DET FF Points Allowed vs. QB: +30.3%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. RB: +17.3%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. WR: +20.4%
DET FF Points Allowed vs. TE: +57.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Inconsistent Seattle pass offense has revealed two emerging patterns. First, similar to Jacksonville, they play much better at home than on the road. Second, they struggle against aggressive defensive front that pressure their M.A.S.H. unit offensive line. The ‘Hawks put LT Walter Jones on IR but the rest of their O-line is finally healthy and they should be improved for the stretch run. They will be at home and have the bodies to keep Detroit’s vanilla pass rush at bay. With time in the pocket, the Lions will be administered a lethal dose of Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Burleson, Housh, Carlson, Branch and Forsett, in that order.

Running Game Thoughts: Well we are halfway through the season and Julius Jones still holds the starting job, which I predicted he would lose by this point. Instead, the Seahawks released back-up Edgerrin James and promoted Justin Forsett 2nd string. I still like Forsett to begin seeing an increased load because he is averaging 5.7 yards per carry to Jones’ 3.9, especially in passing situations, where he is a more explosive in space.

Matt Hasselbeck: 320 yds/3 TDs/1 INT
Nate Burleson: 90 yds/1 TD
T.J. Houshmandzadeh: 70 yds/1 TD
John Carlson: 60 yds/1 TD
Julius Jones: 65 yds/20 rec/1 TD
Justin Forsett: 35 yds/35 rec

Prediction: Seattle 31 Detroit 17 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Bears (Mack)

Kurt Warner / Chris Wells / Tim Hightower
Larry Fitzgerald / Steve Breaston / Jerheme Urban (vs. Chicago)

CHI FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +6.2%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -4.8%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: 0.0%
CHI FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +2.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: Kurt Warner’s stink bomb, 5 INT game last week against Carolina was his worst game since he tossed 5 INTs in week 13 of the 2007 season. The Panthers had Warner and the entire Cardinal passing game on lock. Warner looked nothing like the poised and confident QB we’ve grown accustomed to watching. Strangely, I’m sure many fantasy owners that count on Arizona players week after week weren’t too pained with the 28-7 halftime deficit last week. That kind of score is usually the catalyst for those late-game garbage points we all cherish. That never materialized in the Carolina game, and that cost many owners valuable points.

Larry Fitzgerald entered the season as the #1 fantasy receiver on many cheat sheets, and while he’s been far from disappointing, the fact remains he has only one 100 yard game this season (a 13 catch, 100 yard performance in week 5 vs. Seattle). He had four such games at this point last season. Fitz remains one of the top fantasy receivers in the game, and the fact that Anquan Boldin will more than likely sit out this game increases his role in the passing game a bit. Steve Breaston will take Boldin’s spot in the line-up and should produce solid numbers. And the last time the Bears played a real QB (Carson Palmer in week 7), they were torched for 5 TDs. While I don’t see Warner going off like that, Arizona should rebound and provide fantasy owners with healthy production throughout the line-up.

Running Game Thoughts: The 2008 Cardinals were looked at as an aberration, a team that made it all the way to the Super Bowl despite the league’s worst running game. The coaching staff and front office (supposedly) addressed that concern by drafting Chris Wells in the first round of this year’s draft. The result: again the league’s worst running game through 7 games. They pass the ball 68 percent of the time, which goes a long way in figuring out why running the football is such a tough task.

Chris Wells and Tim Hightower are both fairly productive backs, but their presence and roles in the game plan limit their fantasy relevance. Wells is a decent player for depth and for insurance if the Cards ever realize that running the football is a vital component to consistently winning games. Hightower, though, has developed into a nice weapon out of the backfield. His 39 receptions are the most for a RB in the NFL, so he’s great in PPR leagues—not to mention his presence as the team’s goal line runner. Chicago’s formidable run defense seems to be a distant memory now, so they can be had. I’d stay away from Wells, but Hightower is a nice low-end RB2 or flex option this week.

Kurt Warner – 290 yards / 3 TDs / 1 INT
Tim Hightower – 45 yards / 1 TD / 40 yards rec
Chris Wells – 35 yards
Larry Fitzgerald – 120 yards / 2 TDs
Steve Breaston - 75 yards / 1 TD
Jerheme Urban – 35 yards

Jay Cutler / Matt Forte
Devin Hester / Johnny Knox / Earl Bennett / Greg Olsen (vs. Arizona)

ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +2.3%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -6.6%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +14.0%
ARZ FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -2.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: I’m sure Jay Cutler hasn’t been the most favorite player on many fantasy owners’ roster lately. He didn’t throw a TD last week, due in large part to the total dominance of the Bears’ running game against Cleveland. But in the last three games, Cutler has 3 TDs and 6 INTs and has pissed off fantasy owners in the process. Some of his decisions leave us wondering if he even has his eyes open when he releases the football. He’s a true talent to be sure, and when he’s on he’s on. But when he’s off, he’s off. The challenge as a fantasy owner who counts on him is to keep a rabbit’s foot in your pocket and hope the week that you start him he decides he wants to play the way he’s capable of.

Don’t look now, but Devin Hester is slowly turning into a reliable fantasy option. He has 21 catches for 265 yards in the last three games—not bad for someone still learning on the job. Hester remains a good start this week. Earl Bennett, a sleeper heading into this season, apparently continues to hit the snooze because he appears to be sleepwalking through the season. Johnny Knox has surprised and is producing the kind of numbers most of us expected of Bennett. He’s tailed off in the last couple weeks, but at least he’s shown a few flashes. Neither of the young receivers, however, are recommended starts this week. Greg Olsen hasn’t been the surprise player at TE that I thought, but he’s a serviceable player.

Running Game Thoughts: It’s been a real feast or famine year for Matt Forte and his fantasy owners. His 90-yard, 2 TD performance last week was preceded by two games in which he rushed for a total of 47 yards and zero TDs. This from a guy picked in the top 5 in most fantasy leagues. The one thing that’s salvaging a borderline bust season is his continued role in the passing game. He has at least four games this year with at least 4 receptions, so at least owners can partially rely on points in the receiving game to supplement for what he’s not getting in the running game.

But this week’s opponent is probably not the best time to hope Forte strings two good games together. Arizona brings the league’s 8th best rush defense to town. Forte is way too valuable and his owners spent way too heavy a price to not start him on a weekly basis. He has a very good chance of struggling again this week; just hope that, like all the other weeks in which he played poorly, he gives you something as a receiver.

Jay Cutler – 225 yards / 2 TDs / 2 INTs
Matt Forte – 55 yards rushing / 30 yards rec.
Devin Hester – 70 yards / 1 TD
Johnny Knox – 55 yards
Earl Bennett – 20 yards
Greg Olsen – 40 yards / 1 TD

Prediction: Arizona 31, Chicago 20 ^ Top

Ravens @ Bengals (Mack)

Joe Flacco / Ray Rice
Derrick Mason / Mark Clayton / Todd Heap (vs. Cincinnati)

CIN FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +18.0%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -17.5%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +2.8%
CIN FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +13.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: When Denver paid a visit to Baltimore last week, there were some who thought Joe Flacco would struggle against one of the toughest defenses in the league so far in 2009. Well, Flacco didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he completed 80 percent of his passes while throwing for a score. His yardage totals were modest (175 yards), but he was efficient enough for the Ravens to win—sort of like the 2008 version of Flacco.

But by now we all know that the new and improved 2009 version of Flacco is capable of doing more—a lot more than last season. This week’s game against the Bengals is for first place in the division, and Flacco may be counted on to do the heavy lifting on offense. The Bengals have surrendered the 6th fewest points in the league, but they rank 30th in pass defense. Cincy has proved to be tough against the run, so again, Flacco will the main cog that drives the Ravens this week. Look for Mason to have a big week, with Clayton targeted on a deep throw or two in an attempt to keep the defense honest. Todd Heap has been ok but not spectacular. He’s a good play in TE-required leagues but could be a reach play in all others.

Running Game Thoughts: Former NFL head coach Marty Schotterheimer said on his Sirius NFL Radio show this week that Ray Rice reminded him of a young Emmitt Smith. A little hyperbole perhaps, but it must be noted that Rice is starting to take his skill to another level. With each passing week, he takes over more and more of the running responsibilities. Remember those 5 rushing TDs Willis McGahee had through the first 3 games of the season? Well, he hasn’t hit pay dirt since week 3 and is quickly becoming an afterthought in Baltimore’s running attack, running for a mere 11 total yards in the last four games COMBINED.

But what’s been bad for McGahee and his owners has been money for Rice and his. Not only does he lead the team in rushing, he’s also the Ravens’ leading receiver. He’s a big play waiting to happen, and Baltimore has been creative trying to figure out ways to get the ball in his hands in the open field. Cincy has the 5th ranked run defense and have only allowed 3 rushing TDs all year, but Rice is a solid RB2 right now and is a no-brainer start each week.

Joe Flacco – 240 yards / 2 TDs
Ray Rice – 65 yards / 50 yards rec / 1 rec TD
Derrick Mason – 70 yards / 1 TD
Mark Clayton – 45 yards
Todd Heap – 50 yards

Carson Palmer / Cedric Benson
Chad Ochocinco / Andre Caldwell / Laveranues Coles / Daniel Coats (vs. Baltimore)

BAL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +3.0%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -14.0%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +2.9%
BAL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -16.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Let’s be honest, before Carson Palmer’s impersonation last week of the Carson Palmer from 2005, he was having what many would consider an average year from a fantasy perspective. But his 5 TD performance put lipstick on a pig and sort of masked the pedestrian numbers Palmer was putting up in the weeks leading up to last week. Now, Palmer wasn’t Jake Delhomme-average, but considering where he was picked in most leagues, he’s counted on as a starter. So how should we look at Palmer moving forward? Is the average fantasy QB he’s portrayed in most weeks this year, or has he found the missing mojo that will bring him back to fantasy prominence? I think the answer can be found somewhere in the middle.

With all that said, Palmer had a decent game when these two teams met the first time. It probably didn’t single-handedly win many fantasy games in week 5, but it certainly wasn’t the primary cause of many losses either. Baltimore’s secondary doesn’t present the challenge it once did. Sure, Ed Reed remains a force as the roving safety, but the Ravens have the 19th ranked defense. They have shown that they can be thrown on, so expect Palmer to have similar numbers to last time. There won’t be many points scored in this game, but there could be yardage points to be had. Chad Ochocinco is a solid start, and watch out for Andre Caldwell. He has good size and can use his athleticism to make nice catches along the sideline. He’s a sneaky start. As for Laveranues Coles, well, he’s probably better off on your opponent’s team.

Running Game Thoughts: I’ve made it no secret that I’m rooting for Cedric Benson to do well. Even though he’s a starter on the team I’m battling in my league, it’s nice to see a story such as Benson. Whether or not Bears fans harbor any regret for the way his tenure in Chicago fizzled, they at least should acknowledge that Benson does, in fact, have the skill set necessary to build a running game around. But as far as fantasy owners are concerned, the RB3 that most projected him to be is long gone. He’s putting up RB1 numbers now, and his owners should be smiling.

Benson has scored in three straight games and four of the last five, including a 120 yard, 1 TD gem against the Ravens in week 5. Baltimore still has playmakers on defense, but as Benson showed in that week 5 contest, this is not the Ravens defense we remember from several years ago. Benson shoulders the load on offense for the Bengals. That recipe will not change this week. Expect another 20-25 carries from Benson and an all-around solid performance.

Carson Palmer – 190 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Cedric Benson – 90 yards / 1 TD
Chad Ochocinco – 75 yards / 1 TD
Andre Caldwell – 45 yards
Laveranues Coles – 20 yards
Daniel Coats – 30 yards

Prediction: Baltimore 20, Cincinnati 17 ^ Top

Redskins @ Falcons (Kilroy)

Jason Campbell / Clinton Portis / Santana Moss
Devin Thomas / Antwaan Randle El / Fred Davis (vs. Atlanta)

ATL FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +13.1%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +1.5%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +4.6%
ATL FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +37.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: The loss of Chris Cooley is a big dent in the Washington Redskins aerial attack, but 2008 second round pick Fred Davis is a viable replacement. Atlanta has had trouble defending the pass this year, yielding more than 250 yards per game through the air. Washington’s offense hasn’t been all that spectacular themselves though when it comes to passing - they currently rank 20th on offense in that category with a mark of 202.6 passing yards per game.

Santana Moss should be able to break free for a few nice gains during this contest and Devin Thomas might provide another surprise outing now that he’s supplanted Malcolm Kelly as the starting flanker at wide receiver. Starting either player as a number three receiver might pay off, but Jason Campbell should probably remain on your bench.

Running Game Thoughts: Atlanta has held opponents to just five rushing touchdowns on the season, but they currently rank 23rd in the league against the run by allowing 121.7 yards per game on the ground. Washington’s offense is only averaging 93.4 rushing yards per game with two touchdowns scored, but they are coming off the bye. Meanwhile, Atlanta will be playing on short rest after following a tough loss against the New Orleans Saints Monday night.

Taking those factors into account one should expect a fairly productive day from Clinton Portis. He may not reach the end zone on this contest, but he should rush for 80 or more yards and maybe able to total 100 on the day.

Jason Campbell – 225 yards passing / 1 TD
Clinton Portis – 85 yards rushing / 0 TDs / 10 yards receiving
Santana Moss – 80 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Devin Thomas – 45 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Antwaan Randle El – 30 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Fred Davis – 50 yards receiving / 1 TD

Matt Ryan / Michael Turner
Roddy White / Michael Jenkins / Tony Gonzalez (vs. Washington)

WAS FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -25.3%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -29.1%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -14.9%
WAS FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -43.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan had some solid outings through the first four games of the season. His last three outings have been a bit of a disappointment however. During that span he’s thrown 5 touchdown passes, but has been picked off 7 times. He’s also been held to under 200 passing yards in two of the three contests and completed a dismal 51.8% of his attempts. Going against the number two ranked Washington Redskins secondary isn’t likely to change his misfortunes. He should be able to find a target or two in the end zone, but the yardage might be hard to come by.

Running Game Thoughts: Turner’s string of six straight games with at least one touchdown has kept his fantasy owners happy. Prior to his bust out performance against the Saints however (20 carries, 151 yards rushing, 1 TD), Turner was struggling to get things going on the ground as he had only two outings with more than 65 yards rushing. This week he faces a Washington defense ranked 22nd in the league against the run and given how well the Redskins are defending the pass, along with Matt Ryan’s recent struggles, Turner should see plenty of action.

Washington has allowed just 3 touchdowns via the ground this season, but there is a good chance Turner will reach pay dirt for a seventh consecutive outing. There’s also a very strong possibility of cracking the century mark in this one.

Matt Ryan – 175 yards passing / 1 TD
Michael Turner – 110 yards rushing / 1 TD
Roddy White – 50 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Michael Jenkins – 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Tony Gonzalez – 50 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction: Atlanta 17, Washington 10 ^ Top

Texans @ Colts (Kilroy)

Matt Schaub / Steve Slaton
Ryan Moats / Andre Johnson / Kevin Walter (vs. Indianapolis)

IND FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -28.5%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -9.2%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -20.6%
IND FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -46.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Houston is averaging an impressive 282.0 passing yards per game and their 16 touchdown passes is tied for most in the league. Indianapolis’ secondary has defended the pass well this year however, and the loss of Owen Daniels from the Texans offensive arsenal could prove to be a big hindrance as they play in Indianapolis this Sunday. Given that the Colts will likely force Houston to play from behind for most of this contest however, Matt Schaub should have plenty of opportunities to post yardage through the air. Steve Slaton may also warrant some extra looks out of the backfield this week due to the loss of Daniels.

Running Game Thoughts: As we all know by now, Steve Slaton is having serious issues protecting the football this season. Last week, following his fifth lost fumble of the year, Gary Kubiak decided to send a clear and strong message to his star running back by making him watch from the sidelines for the majority of the game after the fumble occurred in the first quarter. Back-up Ryan Moats stepped in, rushed for 126 yards on 23 carries, scored 3 touchdowns, and added another 25 yards on 2 receptions and now has Slaton owners in a panic over whether or not he’ll remain the starter in Houston. My advice, relax.

Yes, it’s clear that Slaton will not remain on the field if he doesn’t correct his fumbling issues, but he’s still going to factor into the Texans offense as long as he corrects that problem. It’s also worth noting that Ryan Moats’ breakout performance came against the worst ranked defense against the run this year, making it doubtful he’ll have another performance like that in the games ahead. Last Sunday’s outing will warrant him more looks on offense, but it’s my belief the starting running back position is still Slaton’s to lose. I’d play him with confidence as a number two fantasy back this week and consider Ryan Moats more of a number three option who may be forgotten by the time Houston returns from their bye in Week 11.

Matt Schaub – 220 yards passing / 2 TDs
Steve Slaton – 60 yards rushing / 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Ryan Moats – 30 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Andre Johnson – 85 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Kevin Walter – 45 yards receiving / 1 TD

Peyton Manning / Joseph Addai / Donald Brown
Reggie Wayne / Pierre Garcon / Austin Collie / Dallas Clark (vs. Houston)

HOU FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -7.9%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +0.8%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -3.0%
HOU FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -9.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: Peyton Manning is playing spectacularly this season, even exceeding the lofty expectations that have been placed upon him year after year. This week’s outing against the Texans should prove to be no different. The Colts air attack is top ranked in the league and will be facing a Texans unit yielding 213.2 yards per game through the air. Manning was held without a touchdown for the first time this season as he threw for 347 yards against the 49ers last week, but expect him to find targets in the end zone at least once or twice this Sunday as he spreads the ball around among his many options.

Running Game Thoughts: Indianapolis’ ground game has been lacking, but against the Texans they should manage to get some semblance of rushing attack going. Houston’s currently ranked 20th in the league against the run surrendering and average of 113.2 yards per game on the ground. The 11 rushing touchdowns they’ve allowed also happens to be third most in the league, so expect either Joseph Addai or Donald Brown (if not both) to punch one in this Sunday. Brown did not play in Week 8 due to a shoulder injury and may be a game time decision this week, but as of Wednesday he was not listed on the Colts injury report for Week 9.

Peyton Manning – 315 yards passing / 2 TDs
Joseph Addai – 55 yards rushing / 1 TD / 10 yards receiving
Donald Brown – 20 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving
Reggie Wayne – 100 yards receiving / 1 TD
Pierre Garcon – 55 yards receiving / 1 TD
Austin Collie – 65 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Dallas Clark – 60 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Houston 14 ^ Top

Packers @ Buccaneers (Kilroy)

Aaron Rodgers / Ryan Grant / Greg Jennings
Donald Driver / Donald Lee / Spencer Havner (vs. Tampa Bay)

TB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +19.4%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +17.2%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +30.3%
TB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +13.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: With Tampa Bay having already given up 16 touchdown passes this season (third most in the league), there’s plenty of reason to expect a strong outing from Aaron Rodgers and his receivers this Sunday. Although Rodgers (sprains in both feet) and Donald Driver (stinger) have missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday both are expected to play Sunday in this favorable match-up. Jermichael Finley continues to miss practice as well due to an injured knee, but the chances of him playing are less likely. As a result, Donald Lee and little known Spencer Havner will split the playing time at tight end. Havner has totaled 4 receptions for 80 yards and 3 touchdowns during the last two weeks and could be in line for another score this Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Running Game Thoughts: Tampa Bay ranks 30th in the league against the run – one of only 4 teams yielding 160 or more yards a game via the ground. With Aaron Rodgers expected to play despite dealing with sprains in both his feet, there’s a good chance Green Bay will lean heavily on running back Ryan Grant this Sunday. Grant’s had three games with 90 or more yards rushing and should be able to plow well past that mark this week in Tampa Bay. He stands of fair chance of punching one into the end zone also.

Aaron Rodgers – 215 yards passing / 3 TDs
Ryan Grant – 125 yards rushing / 1 TD / 10 yards receiving
Greg Jennings – 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Donald Driver – 60 yards receiving / 1 TD
Donald Lee – 30 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Spencer Havner – 20 yards receiving / 1 TD

Josh Freeman / Carnell Williams / Derrick Ward
Antonio Bryant / Sammie Stroughter / Kellen Winslow (vs. Green Bay)

GB FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +1.7%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -27.0%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +2.3%
GB FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +6.8%

Passing Game Thoughts: There isn’t much to like about anything involving the Tampa Bay offense, and with rookie Josh Freeman making his first NFL start this week, that statement’s as true as it has been at any point in this season. Green Bay’s defense is limiting opponents to 184.0 passing yards per game this year and already has 11 interceptions. With that in mind one should expect a very poor outing from the rookie with his receivers’ performances likely to suffer as a result.

Running Game Thoughts: Again, there’s not much to like here. Carnell Williams has had a few productive outings scattered amongst many poor ones and free agent signee Derrick Ward has done little to provide a spark for this offense. Green Bay ranks 9th in the league against the run, limiting opponents to under 100 rushing yards per game, and has allowed just 3 touchdown runs on the season. Expect it to be a long and unproductive day for all of the Buccaneers offense this week.

Josh Freeman – 140 yards passing / 0 TDs
Carnell Williams – 50 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Derrick Ward – 25 yards rushing / 10 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Antonio Bryant – 45 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Sammie Stroughter – 35 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Kellen Winslow – 35 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Tampa Bay 6 ^ Top

Chiefs @ Jaguars (Kilroy)

Matt Cassel / Jamaal Charles/ Dwayne Bowe
Bobby Wade / Mark Bradley / Chris Chambers (vs. Jacksonville)

JAC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +16.3%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +2.9%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +36.8%
JAC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -32.4%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jack Del Rio chose a very opportune time to dig into his defense for their lackluster play this year following a 30-13 loss against the Tennessee Titans. Not only did he have reason to because of their poor play last week, but there is every reason in the world to expect the Jaguars to bounce back at home with a strong outing against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jacksonville is currently allowing teams to throw for 242.4 yards per game against them and have yielded 13 touchdown passes on the season. The Chiefs offense, however, is among the worst in the league when it comes to moving the football through the air with an average of 150.3 passing yards per game.

Matt Cassel should manage to total a bit more yardage than that this Sunday, but not much. The Jaguars will be revved up with something to play for as they attempt to make a push for the playoffs over the second half of the season while the Chiefs will simply be playing out the remainder of the year because they have to. That’s not a good situation for any quarterback to be in.

Running Game Thoughts: Jamaal Charles gets the start this week as the result of Larry Johnson serving yet another organizational imposed suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. For the season Charles has totaled 116 yards on 23 carries, with another 120 yards posted on 14 receptions. Those numbers are solid, but the sampling size is too small to make anything of it. Charles should manage some level of success against the Jaguars this Sunday, but don’t expect much. It’s also worth noting Kansas City is yet to score a rushing touchdown this year, making it doubtful Charles will do any scoring this weekend.

Matt Cassel – 175 yards passing / 1 TD
Jamaal Charles – 80 yards rushing / 20 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Dwayne Bowe – 65 yards receiving / 1 TD
Bobby Wade – 45 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Mark Bradley – 20 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Chris Chambers – 20 yards receiving / 0 TDs

David Garrard / Maurice Jones-Drew / Mike Sims-Walker
Torry Holt / Mike Thomas / Marcedes Lewis (vs. Kansas City)

KC FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +19.0%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +11.0%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +28.8%
KC FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +3.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chiefs defense hasn’t really faired any better than their offense. They are currently allowing opponents to throw for more than 250 yards per game against them and have come away with just 3 interceptions on the season. David Garrard has struggled himself a bit recently in going three straight games without a touchdown pass, but he should manage at least one of them in this contest. Mike Sims-Walker, having been limited to 2 receptions for 9 yards last week against the Titans, should bounce back with a strong outing himself. Torry Holt, Mike Thomas, and Marcedes Lewis may also find themselves involved in the mix.

Running Game Thoughts: After getting just 8 carries last week, albeit for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns, expect to see a lot more of Maurice Jones-Drew this Sunday. The Kansas City Chiefs are allowing 131.0 yards per game on the ground this season and yielded 6 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Jaguars rank 8th in the league with 135.6 rushing yards per contest and 4th in the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. They figure to get on top early and then work the clock as Jones-Drew wraps things up throughout the remainder of the game.

David Garrard – 230 yards passing / 2 TDs
Maurice Jones-Drew – 115 yards rushing / 1 TD / 25 yards receiving
Mike Sims-Walker – 80 yards receiving / 1 TD
Torry Holt – 65 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Mike Thomas – 45 yards receiving / 1 TD
Marcedes Lewis – 15 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Kansas City 10 ^ Top

Panthers @ Saints (Kilroy)

Jake Delhomme / DeAngelo Williams
Jonathan Stewart / Steve Smith / Dwayne Jarrett (vs. New Orleans)

NO FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -13.2%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -3.5%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +7.1%
NO FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -39.2%

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite his struggles, head coach Jon Fox continues to stick with Jake Delhomme as his starting quarterback. Delhomme is yet to have a multi-touchdown game and has thrown for more than 220 yards in an outing just twice this season. Against the Saints he faces an opponent that is allowing 223.9 yards passing per game and allowed just 6 touchdowns to be thrown for against them. They’ve also come away with a league leading 16 interceptions, and considering Delhomme has already thrown 13 of his own this year it’s likely he’ll be picked off at least a time or two this Sunday.

To put it bluntly, Delhomme’s yardage may be up this week (which isn’t saying much), but it’s doubtful he’ll connect with anyone in the end zone. And if your league penalizes for interceptions it’s only more of a reason not to bother with the Panthers signal caller. Steve Smith is the only worthwhile play amongst Panthers receivers with Muhsin Muhammad expected to miss his second straight game due to an injured knee.

Running Game Thoughts: It may be too little, too late for the Panthers this year (although their still in the running at 3-4 with half the season left to play), but their rushing attack has finally kicked it into high gear. After a sluggish start, DeAngelo Williams has come on strong during the last 3 games going over the 150 yard rushing mark in two of them while totaling 3 touchdowns. His counterpart, Jonathan Stewart, has also gotten things going as he’s scored three times within the last three weeks and produced outings of 110 yards rushing on 17 carries in Week 6, and 87 more on 17 carries in Week 8.

New Orleans has done a fair job against the run, ranking 11th in the league with an average of 102.1 rushing yards allowed per game. They have given up 9 rushing touchdowns via the ground however, which makes it very likely that Williams, Stewart, or both of them will reach pay dirt this Sunday in New Orleans.

Jake Delhomme – 150 yards passing / 0 TDs
DeAngelo Williams – 90 yards rushing / 1 TD / 15 yards receiving
Jonathan Stewart – 40 yards rushing / 1 TD / 10 yards receiving
Steve Smith – 75 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Dwayne Jarrett – 20 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Drew Brees / Pierre Thomas / Mike Bell / Reggie Bush
Marques Colston / Devery Henderson / Jeremy Shockey (vs. Carolina)

CAR FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -10.1%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +11.6%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -32.7%
CAR FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -13.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Carolina has defended the pass very well this season (ranked 1st in the league), but it’s partly due to the fact they’ve been weak against the run. Aside from that, anyone who’s watched the Saints knows their air attack can take off at any moment regardless of their opponent. Although the Panthers are limiting the opposition to just 160.6 passing yards per game, Drew Brees and company should be able to manage a bit better than that at home this Sunday as they host Carolina.

Brees may not perform at the same level he has the last two weeks, but he should have another successful outing that translates into solid production from his primary receivers.

Running Game Thoughts: As mentioned above, the Panthers defense has been struggling this year against the run. Opponents are averaging 127.6 yards per game against them via the ground and have punched it into the end zone 7 times. The Saints offense meanwhile ranks 4th in the league with an average of 153.3 rushing yards per game. Their 14 touchdowns via the ground is tops in the NFL.

When these facts are taken into consideration, it gives good reason to expect another strong outing from the Saints duo of Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell. Reggie Bush will get a handful of touches as well as he tries to string together a fourth consecutive outing with a touchdown.

Drew Brees – 210 yards passing / 1 TD
Pierre Thomas – 85 yards rushing / 1 TD / 10 yards receiving
Mike Bell – 50 yards rushing / 0 TDs
Reggie Bush – 10 yards rushing / 1 TD / 15 yards receiving
Marques Colston – 75 yards receiving / 1 TD
Devery Henderson – 40 yards receiving / 0 TDs
Jeremy Shockey – 55 yards receiving / 0 TDs

Prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 17 ^ Top