NFL Skinny: Week 9 Preview

Roddy White(notes) is on pace for more than 120 catches, 1,700 yards and 11-12 TDs. I wish we lived in a world where his talents were discussed ad naseum. But instead, we get Randy Moss(notes), who has now gone 16 games (including one ’09 postseason contest) without catching more than five passes or surpassing 81 yards. While the drama builds in regards to where Moss will land next, this week’s Skinny offers a momentary respite from this overwrought analysis. So sit back and relax as I explain how I see Week 9 playing out.

Note: Denver, Tennessee, St. Louis, San Francisco, Washington and Jacksonville are on bye in Week 9. Also note that I went 6-7 in Week 8 game predictions. That’s about par for course for me this season – or should I say, double bogey.

Week 9 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 9 matchup

 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ ATLANTA FALCONS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BUCS – 5.2 YPC | 6.9 YPA
FALCONS – 4.1 YPC | 7.8 YPA

What to watch for: In a six-team bye week with ATL going against a TB defense that allows the eighth-most yards per game in the league, there really isn’t a strong argument against any of the Falcons’ main four fantasy contributors. … ATL has been stout against the run and it has held up well against power-forward RBs like TB RB LeGarrette Blount(notes) (see CIN RB Cedric Benson(notes) in Week 7). ATL allows the league’s second-lowest YPC (2.9) on rushes up the gut. And in the past five games, the Falcons have not allowed a rushing TD or more than 70 rushing yards to an opposing RB. I’m yellow when it comes to starting Blount this week. As for QB Josh Freeman(notes) and his main targets, WR Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow(notes), bring it on. ATL allows the third-most YPA in the league (7.8) and three of the past five QBs the team has faced walked away from the matchup with at least 325 passing yards and 3 TD passes. … For what it’s worth, no team has scored more than 24 points in the past four meetings of these teams.

Michael Turner(notes), Roddy White, Matt Ryan(notes), Tony Gonzalez(notes), Josh Freeman, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow
LeGarrette Blount, Atlanta Defense, Michael Jenkins(notes)
Tampa Bay Defense, Carnell Williams(notes), Michael Spurlock
Sleeper:
Key Injuries:
Prediction: Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 19

 CHICAGO BEARS @ BUFFALO BILLS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BEARS – 3.6 YPC | 6.0 YPA
BILLS – 5.0 YPC | 7.5 YPA

What to watch for: BUF plays host to CHI in Toronto’s domed Rogers Centre for this one, something to keep in mind if you like picking up kickers that are playing indoors – CHI K Robbie Gould(notes) looks pretty good this week. CHI QB Jay Cutler(notes) might actually perform alright indoors, as well. He has a career QB Rating of 100 in games under roofs and BUF only has 11 sacks in seven games, offering some hope that Cutler will actually have time for Mike Martz’s suicidal seven-step drops. But Martz would be remiss if he didn’t make RB Matt Forte(notes) the offensive focal point this week, especially after head coach Lovie Smith recently mandated an increased emphasis on getting Forte and backup RB Chester Taylor(notes) more involved. BUF allows 5.0 YPC and, for that reason, its defense sees more rush attempts per game (37.7) than any other defense in the league. BUF also allows the most FAN PPG to TEs, so it’s hard to sit on CHI TE Greg Olsen(notes) this week. … I could tell you that I’m not a big proponent of BUF QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) or BUF WR Steve Johnson(notes) this week given that CHI allows the third-fewest FAN PPG to QBs and has yielded the second-fewest (3) TDs to WRs. But I’m well aware that Fitzpatrick leads all QBs in FAN PPG and Johnson has caught a TD in five straight games. So, I’ll understand if you want to ignore what the paper says this week. I have a hunch that rookie RB C.J. Spiller(notes) might finally have a big highlight or two on the Rogers Centre fast track. Last week, he had double digit touches for just the second time this season. And while CHI is the only team to not have allowed a 40-yard play from scrimmage, it has given up the most rushing plays of 20-plus yards (10).

Matt Forte, Jay Cutler, Greg Olsen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Steve Johnson, Johnny Knox(notes), Chicago Defense, Buffalo Defense, Fred Jackson(notes)
Lee Evans(notes), Devin Hester(notes), Buffalo TEs
Sleeper: Chester Taylor, C.J. Spiller
Key Injuries: BUF CB Terrence McGee(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Chicago 29, Buffalo 26

 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
PATS – 3.9 YPC | 7.4 YPA
BROWNS – 3.9 YPC | 7.6 YPA

What to watch for: CLE HC Eric Mangini is planning on playing musical chairs at QB the rest of the season, and we should care less. For fantasy purposes we’ve really only cared about RB Peyton Hillis(notes) and TE Benjamin Watson(notes) going on several weeks now. For Hillis, he’s pretty much earned every-week start status. For Watson, you still have to be a bit concerned with how the matchup lines up. And this week, it looks excellent, as NE has allowed the fourth-most FAN PPG to TEs. And, you can’t discount the motivational factor of Watson facing his former team. … NE has been much more balanced on offense this season, having thrown more than 36 times just once in seven games compared to four times in the first seven games of ’09. In the backfield, RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) and Danny Woodhead(notes) having been splitting roughly 20-24 carries per week, with Green-Ellis the safe bet to get the majority and score a TD in the process (he’s scored in five straight games). But BGE may have a hard time keeping his TD streak alive against CLE, a defense that has allowed just 1 TD on the ground this season despite having faced some very reputable rushing attacks. I suspect that NE breaks away from offensive balance in this game and leans heavily on QB Tom Brady’s(notes) arm. CLE is not strong at getting after the QB and Brady is one of the best-protected QBs in the league. Given ample time in the pocket, Brady can pick apart this CLE secondary that is allowing the fourth-most FAN PPG to WRs and 11th-most to TEs.

Peyton Hillis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker(notes), Benjamin Watson, Aaron Hernandez(notes), New England Defense
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Tate(notes), Deion Branch(notes)
Cleveland WRs, Cleveland QBs, Cleveland Defense
Sleeper: Rob Gronkowski(notes)
Key Injuries: NE WR Deion Branch
Prediction: New England 28, Cleveland 16

 NEW YORK JETS @ DETROIT LIONS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
JETS – 3.4 YPC | 6.6 YPA
LIONS – 4.9 YPC | 7.3 YPA

What to watch for: In terms of rush offense and defense, this game is a dream matchup for the NYJ and a nightmare for DET. The Jets rank third in rush offense and fourth in rush defense. DET ranks 30th in rush offense and 27th in rush defense. Given those numbers and considering the speed of the Jets defense, there’s no way you can feel good about DET RB Jahvid Best(notes) or Kevin Smith(notes) this week. In fact, I’d rather roll out Jets backup RB Shonn Greene(notes). DET is going to have to try to go up top to WR Calvin Johnson(notes) as much as it can, but look for TE Brandon Pettigrew(notes) to figure more heavily in the game plan. The Jets have been fantastic against the TE position of late, but it has hardly seen a legit TE threat since it gave up a combined 173 receiving yards to TEs Todd Heap(notes) and Aaron Hernandez in the first two weeks of the season. … Ornery after a 9-0 loss at home to GB last week, look for the Jets to sock DET in the mouth in this one with a relentless barrage of RBs LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) and Shonn Greene. When the Jets go to the pass, look for them to attack across the middle – DET has been solid defending to the outside but slot types have torched the Lions. That bodes well for WR Jerricho Cotchery(notes) and TE Dustin Keller(notes).

LaDainian Tomlinson, Calvin Johnson, NY Jets Defense, Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller
Matthew Stafford(notes), Brandon Pettigrew, Santonio Holmes(notes), Braylon Edwards(notes), Mark Sanchez(notes)
Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Nate Burleson(notes), Detroit Defense
Sleeper: Jerricho Cotchery
Key Injuries: DET WR Calvin Johnson (shoulder); DET S C.C. Brown(notes) (knee)
Prediction: NY Jets 24, Detroit 10

 NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
SAINTS – 4.1 YPC | 6.5 YPA
PANTHERS – 3.6 YPC | 6.0 YPA

What to watch for: Believe it or not, both CAR (301.7) and NO (287.2) allow fewer yards per game than PIT (302). And when these teams faced each other in Week 4, defense prevailed – the Saints won 16-14. In terms of bankable assets in this contest there’s not much to offer outside of NO QB Drew Brees(notes). NO WR Marques Colston(notes) has been shutdown by CAR CBs Chris Gamble(notes) and Richard Marshall(notes) in each of his past three meetings and the NO running game is a beleaguered, undefined crapshoot right now. Outside of Brees, if I’m gambling on anyone for NO, it’s probably TE Jeremy Shockey(notes), who had a 6/58 line in the last meeting. … No team has been tougher in fantasy against QBs and WRs than NO. Part of that is a product of who the Saints have faced, but there have been some pretty decent QBs that have been left wanting against NO as well (Brett Favre(notes), Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger(notes)). This is a fairly long-winded, unnecessary way for me to suggest that you have nothing to do with CAR QB Matt Moore(notes) this week. I’m tempted to throw caution to the wind and go green with CAR WR Steve Smith, who has averaged 10 targets with Moore under center this year. But his 2/11 line against NO in Week 4 gives me pause. So, while I do think he’ll come away with at least one big gainer on Sunday, I’m going to run him under the yellow banner here – consider him chartreuse. CAR operated one of the three most productive fantasy backfields in each of the past two seasons but ranks just 27th in that category this season. RB DeAngelo Williams(notes) has a good chance to miss his second straight game with a foot injury and RB Jonathan Stewart(notes) is averaging 2.8 YPC. Neither player can be trusted this week.

Drew Brees, Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Defense
Steve Smith, Lance Moore(notes), Marques Colston, Chris Ivory, Jonathan Stewart
Matt Moore, David Gettis(notes), Carolina TEs, Ladell Betts(notes), Robert Meachem(notes), Devery Henderson(notes), Carolina Defense
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: CAR RB DeAngelo Williams (foot); CAR RT Jeff Otah(notes) (knee); NO RB Chris Ivory (concussion); NO RB Reggie Bush(notes) (knee); NO CB Jabari Greer(notes) (shoulder); NO CB Tracy Porter(notes) (knee)
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Carolina 14

 MIAMI DOLPHINS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
DOLPHINS – 3.8 YPC | 7.0 YPA
RAVENS – 4.2 YPC | 6.7 YPA

What to watch for: Like CAR (above), the MIA backfield has gone from being a major strength to a major weakness. And on Sunday it travels to face a BAL defense that has allowed just 4 TDs to opposing RBs. There’s no upside for RBs Ronnie Brown(notes) or Ricky Williams(notes) this week. MIA QB Chad Henne(notes) has been serviceable this season and he’s only committed 2 TOs in four road games (all wins). Look for him to air it out more than usual – BAL has allowed an average of 42 pass attempts, 329 passing yards, and a total of 7 TD passes, in its past three games. … BAL QB Joe Flacco(notes) is hitting his stride after a tough start to 2010. In his past five games, he’s produced 10 TDs (9 pass, 1 rush) and only 1 INT. And he’s thrown for 250-plus yards in four of those contests. Against a MIA defense that is improving against the run with each passing week (45% fewer FAN PPG allowed to RBs than the league average for the past three weeks), Flacco is likely to have to utilize his aerial talents. Go-to WR types like Greg Jennings(notes), Hines Ward(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes) have torched MIA in recent weeks. BAL WR Anquan Boldin(notes) doesn’t look like he’ll disappoint in this one. TE Todd Heap has 3 TDs in his past two games, but MIA has tightened up considerably against the TE position and Heap is still trying to get right after his Week 6 helmet-to-helmet hit by NE DB Brandon Meriweather(notes). I’m putting him down as a yellow light option, but consider him chartreuse.

Ray Rice(notes), Anquan Boldin, Joe Flacco, Brandon Marshall(notes)
Chad Henne, Davone Bess(notes), Derrick Mason(notes), Todd Heap, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Baltimore Defense
Anthony Fasano(notes), Miami Defense
Sleeper: Willis McGahee(notes), Brian Hartline(notes)
Key Injuries: MIA LB Channing Crowder(notes) (thumb); BAL WR Derrick Mason (finger)
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Miami 18

 SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ HOUSTON TEXANS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
CHARGERS – 3.5 YPC | 6.3 YPA
TEXANS – 4.1 YPC | 7.8 YPA

What to watch for: The injury report has been the most important thing to watch for in regards to the Chargers this season. It could be that SD QB Philip Rivers(notes) will still be without WRs Malcom Floyd(notes), Legedu Naanee(notes) and Buster Davis this week. If that’s the case, show WR Patrick Crayton(notes) the love, and also consider Fresno rookie WR Seyi Ajirotutu(notes) a sleeper – he went 3/48 with those receivers out last week. Just know that HOU allows the third-most FAN PPG to WRs and anyone who Rivers figures to prominently target on Sunday has a really good chance to succeed. HOU also is softening up against the run, having allowed 27 percent more fantasy production to RBs than the league average over the past five weeks. SD TD-machine Mike Tolbert(notes) dinged has ankle a bit in Week 8, which could mean a little more work for rookie RB Ryan Mathews(notes). But I’m tired of predicting greener pastures for Mathews and watching him consistently come up short. I’m putting him under the caution flag. Just know that if Tolbert becomes a late-week scratch (which seems unlikely), Mathews clearly becomes a green light. … You’re going to have to keep it pretty simple with the HOU lineup decisions considering that SD is the No. 1 defense in the league. Despite the matchup, green lights have to be given to first-round quality fantasy entities RB Arian Foster(notes) and WR Andre Johnson(notes). But the others, and that includes QB Matt Schaub(notes), fly under the caution flag. Schaub has thrown for 201 yards or less in four of seven games. And only one QB has thrown for more than 220 yards against SD.

Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates(notes), Patrick Crayton, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson
Ryan Mathews , Mike Tolbert, Matt Schaub, Owen Daniels(notes), Houston Defense, San Diego Defense
Kevin Walter(notes), Jacoby Jones(notes)
Sleeper: Seyi Ajirotutu, Darren Sproles(notes)
Key Injuries: SD RB Mike Tolbert (ankle); SD TE Antonio Gates (toe); SD WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring); SD WR Legedu Naanee (hamstring); SD WR Buster Davis (ribs)
Prediction: San Diego 29, Houston 27

 ARIZONA CARDINALS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
CARDS – 4.4 YPC | 7.1 YPA
VIKES – 3.9 YPC | 6.6 YPA

What to watch for: This is shaping up to be a showdown between RBs Adrian Peterson and Beanie Wells(notes), which really isn’t much of a contest. But considering ARI has generated the fewest fantasy points through the air and MIN has been vulnerable against the run the past five weeks, it stands to reason Wells will play a big role this week as head coach Ken Whisenhunt tries to limit time of possession for Peterson against an ARI run defense that has allowed the fourth-most FAN PPG to RBs. ARI WR Larry Fitzgerald(notes) remains a victim of circumstance, but at least he’s fairly regularly targeted in the red zone. He’s holding steady in a state of perma-chartreuse. … ARI has been generous in fantasy to opposing TEs, and MIN TE Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) is probably the only safe bet in the MIN passing game given the injury state of QB Brett Favre and WR Percy Harvin(notes) and the release of WR Randy Moss.

Adrian Peterson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Beanie Wells, Minnesota Defense, Larry Fitzgerald
Percy Harvin, Steve Breaston(notes)
Brett Favre, Bernard Berrian(notes), Derek Anderson(notes), Tim Hightower(notes), Arizona Defense, Arizona TEs
Sleeper: Greg Camarillo(notes)
Key Injuries: MIN WR Percy Harvin (ankle); MIN QB Brett Favre (Chin, ankle); ARI RB Beanie Wells (back)
Prediction: Minnesota 23, Arizona 13

 NEW YORK GIANTS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
GIANTS – 3.5 YPC | 6.2 YPA
HAWKS – 3.9 YPC | 7.4 YPA

What to watch for: The SEA defense had been making noise for its improved run defense, but the loss of DE Red Bryant(notes) for the season to a knee injury in Week 8 could topple the Seahawks’ defensive front. He was a major reason for the improved run defense. But Bryant or not, NYG RB Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) has been too consistently good to bench. If further bad luck befalls SEA and it is determined SEA DT Colin Cole(notes) (ankle) is also out this week, move NYG backup RB Brandon Jacobs(notes) up from yellow to green. SEA has allowed 290-plus passing yards to a QB in five of its past six games, so the NYG passing components look fruitful, as well. … As you can see below, SEA dominates the injury section and it has serious issues on the offensive line as well as the D front. SEA has struggled on offense as it was. With an OL in pretty bad shape and facing one of the toughest defenses in the league, it’s going to be a long afternoon (and short time of possession) for the Seahawks.

Ahmad Bradshaw, Eli Manning(notes), Hakeem Nicks(notes), Steve Smith, NY Giants Defense
Brandon Jacobs, Mike Williams, Marshawn Lynch(notes), Seattle Defense
Kevin Boss(notes), Matt Hasselbeck(notes), Deion Butler, John Carlson(notes)
Sleeper: Mario Manningham(notes), Justin Forsett(notes)
Key Injuries: SEA WR Golden Tate(notes) (ankle); SEA OLs Tyler Polumbus(notes) (leg), Ben Hamilton(notes) (concussion), Russell Okung(notes) (ankle); SEA DE Red Bryant (knee); SEA DT Colin Cole (ankle); NYG C Shaun O’Hara(notes) (foot)
Prediction: NY Giants 24, Seattle 10

 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
CHIEFS – 3.8 YPC | 6.5 YPA
RAIDERS – 4.7 YPC | 7.0 YPA

What to watch for: This might be the first time in recorded Skinny history that I’m going to green light four RBs from the same game. Such is the case when the two most successful run offenses collide. Not only are the Chiefs and Raiders ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in rushing yards per game, but they also clock in at 1 and 2 in rush attempts per game. OAK also allows 4.7 YPC, which certainly helps the KC backfield cause. The Chiefs are stingier in terms of run defense, but they do allow the 13th-most FAN PPG to RBs, and OAK has pretty much been able to run successfully against all comers. This will be a ground war, and I’d shy aware from all passing components here save KC WR Dwayne Bowe(notes) (who could catch a break if OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) has to sit because of a sore ankle) and OAK TE Zach Miller (who is expected to play despite an injured foot), although their upside is limited more than usual.

Jamaal Charles(notes), Thomas Jones(notes), Darren McFadden(notes), Michael Bush(notes)
Dwayne Bowe, Zach Miller, Tony Moeaki(notes), Oakland Defense, Kansas City Defense
Matt Cassel(notes), Jason Campbell(notes), Oakland WRs, Terrance Copper(notes)
Sleeper: Marcel Reese
Key Injuries: OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle); OAK WR Louis Murphy(notes) (lung); OAK TE Zach Miller (foot); KC WR/RB Dexter McCluster(notes) (ankle)
Prediction: Oakland 20, Kansas City 17

 INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
COLTS – 4.9 YPC | 6.5 YPA
EAGLES – 4.0 YPC | 6.7 YPA

What to watch for: The IND backfield is a bigger question mark than usual this week as No. 3 RB Mike Hart(notes) injured his ankle on MNF in Week 8. That means Javarris James(notes), Edgerrin James’(notes) cousin, could wind up with a lead backfield role. It’s not the greatest of matchups as only one RB has surpassed 90 YFS against PHI this season, but deep leaguers and those with bye issues will gladly take anyone with a prominent spot in a Peyton Manning(notes)-led offense. Speaking of Manning, count on this being another game in which he throws 40-plus times. While most would worry about that approach against the blitz-happy PHI defense, Manning is probably the best in the league at reading a defense and making a snap decision. Figure Dallas Clark(notes) replacement TE Jacob Tamme(notes) to step up once again. Philly, who has long struggled against TEs, has allowed the seventh-most FAN PPG to the position. … QB Michael Vick(notes) returns behind center for PHI this week. He’s produced elite fantasy numbers in the three games in which he’s seen significant action and there’s too much upside, even against a good IND pass defense, to sit Vick. WR DeSean Jackson(notes) is a different story. He sounds like he might be a game-time decision (concussion) and this is a late game, which makes it tough for his owners. But given that IND is one of the best in the business at limiting explosive pass plays, I’d probably error on the side of caution and sit Jackson one more week. WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) has caught 4 of Vick’s 6 TD passes and he’s the WR I’d bank on here. But look for RB LeSean McCoy(notes) to be the star of this show. He’s the team’s rushing leader and paces the team in receptions, as well. IND has allowed the fifth-most FAN PPG to RBs.

Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne(notes), LeSean McCoy, Pierre Garcon(notes), Jacob Tamme
Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek(notes), Anthony Gonzalez(notes), Philadelphia Defense
Indianapolis Defense
Sleeper: Javarris James, Jason Avant(notes)
Key Injuries: PHI RB LeSean McCoy (Ribs); PHI LT Jason Peters(notes) (knee); PHI WR DeSean Jackson (concussion); IND RB Joseph Addai(notes) (shoulder); IND WR Austin Collie(notes) (hand); IND RB Mike Hart (ankle); IND RB Donald Brown(notes) (hamstring); IND CB Jerraud Powers(notes) (foot)
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Indianapolis 27

 DALLAS COWBOYS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BOYS – 4.5 YPC | 8.0 YPA
PACK – 4.6 YPC | 6.6 YPA

What to watch for: DAL is allowing 8.0 YPA, second-worst in the league behind JAC. It has allowed a combined 8 TD passes to QBs Eli Manning and David Garrard(notes) in the past two games. It’s a good week for GB QB Aaron Rodgers(notes), who is nursing a sore ankle, to get it going again via the pass after being shutout of the end zone by the NYJ last week. If WR Donald Driver(notes) can’t go because of a quad injury (very likely), bump WR James Jones(notes) into the WR top 30 and Jordy Nelson(notes) into the top 40. I’m not as bullish about the GB rushing offense even with DAL allowing a healthy 4.5 YPC. RB Brandon Jackson(notes) has rushed more than 15 times just once and has topped 63 rushing yards just once. He’s the definition of a caution flag. And you should also consider that DAL has faced six of the top 12 RBs in fantasy and yet it has allowed just the 12th-fewest FAN PPG to RBs. … DAL is not the kind of team to go on the road into a tough environment and grind things out with a tough ground-heavy approach. It averages the second-fewest rushing attempts this season and has been below average in that category for the entirety of Wade Phillips runs in DAL. We saw QB Jon Kitna(notes) throw it 49 times last week in a loss to JAC and he’s likely to be throwing heavily in this one, too, given the Packers’ ability to score points and shut down the run game – fourth-fewest FAN PPG to RBs. GB ranks third in the league in sacks and INTs, so Kitna’s situation is fraught with peril. Look for him to lean heavily on short-range, safety options like TE Jason Witten(notes) and RB Felix Jones(notes) in the passing game – I’d be tempted to green light Jones in PPR set-ups.

Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Miles Austin(notes), Jason Witten, Green Bay Defense, James Jones
Brandon Jackson, Jon Kitna, Felix Jones, Dez Bryant(notes)
Roy Williams, Marion Barber(notes), Dallas Defense, Green Bay TEs, John Kuhn(notes)
Sleeper: Jordy Nelson
Key Injuries: GB QB Aaron Rodgers (ankle); DAL CB Terence Newman(notes) (rib); DAL RB Felix Jones (forearm, ankle)
Prediction: Green Bay 27, Dallas 16

 PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS 
Key Stats
(Defense)
:
STEELERS – 2.6 YPC | 6.8 YPA
BENGALS – 4.5 YPC | 6.5 YPA

What to watch for: In his past four meetings with PIT, CIN QB Carson Palmer(notes) has thrown for 205 yards or less and 1 TD or less. That said, you have to consider Palmer at least a borderline play this week given the likelihood that CIN RB Cedric Benson is going to get stepped on from the get-go. Palmer has more weapons at his disposal than his previous efforts against the Steelers, and PIT has shown some generosity to QBs this season, having allowed four consecutive QBs to eclipse 255 passing yards. Palmer is one of the best protected QBs in the league and I’m guessing he’ll be good for 250-plus passing yards and 2 TD passes on Monday night, and probably 2-3 TOs. I’ll take the league’s most-targeted WR, Terrell Owens, to outproduce WR Chad Ochocinco(notes) in this one, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if rookie slot man Jordan Shipley(notes) ends up with the best tally of the group. … CIN hopes to get CB Johnathan Joseph(notes) (ankle) back this week. His return will impact PIT WRs Hines Ward and Mike Wallace(notes) as it was no coincidence that CIN went from allowing slightly less than the league average in FAN PPG to WRs with Joseph to nearly 30 percent more in the past two games without Joseph. Look for PIT to get RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes) back over the 20-carry mark after he handled just 15 carries in each of the past two games. CIN is allowing 4.7 YPC to RBs and has yielded double-digit fantasy points to a RB in four straight games. Given his ability to see the field, shed a pass rush and make something out of nothing, you’ll rarely see me drop QB Ben Roethlisberger outside the weekly top 12 at QB. But he has recorded a lot of modest outputs on his history card against CIN and you probably shouldn’t get your hopes too high for him this week.

Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall, Carson Palmer, Pittsburgh Defense
Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Mike Wallace
Jermaine Gresham(notes), Cedric Benson, Heath Miller(notes), Cincinnati Defense
Sleeper: Jordan Shipley
Key Injuries: PIT DE Brett Keisel(notes) (hamstring); CIN DT Tank Johnson(notes) (knee); CIN CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle); CIN S Roy Williams (knee)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 25, Cincinnati 17

Note: YPC stands for Yards Per Carry; YPA stands for Yards Per (Pass) Attempt