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NFL Skinny: Week 10 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I'll take the Mr. Yuck sticker for an 8-5 record with my Week 9 game predictions. That leaves me at 71-26 overall since I started making picks in Week 3. I keep a running tally of my totals because you asked. Frankly, I couldn't care less about my winning percentage. That's reality, and I'm here to talk fantasy. Speaking of which, here's how I imagine Week 10 playing out:

Week 10 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 10 matchup

CHICAGO BEARS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Key Stats: BEARS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 207 YPG passing allowed
49ERS – 3.4 YPC allowed | 241 YPG passing allowed

What to watch for: Hard to believe the traditionally blue collar Bears have the 2nd-fewest rush attempts per game in the league. And, although Chris Johnson ran wild on SF last week, I wouldn't count on RB Matt Forte(notes) to get many opportunities against a 49ers defense that is allowing a league-low 3.4 YPC and is sure to be grumpy after a loss to TEN last week. If Forte has any success, it's likely to be out of the backfield as a receiver – SF has allowed the 4th-most receiving FAN PTS to RBs and Forte compiled a season-high 74 yards on 6 catches last week. QB Jay Cutler(notes) has been a turnover machine in four road games (10 INTs) and his pass protection is getting worse by the week (sacked a combined 8 times by CLE and ARI the past 2 games). That said, he's a good bet to throw upwards of 40 times this Thursday and, after finding TE Greg Olsen(notes) for 3 TDs in Week 9, don't be surprised if he leans on speedy WR Devin Hester(notes) in this one. SF is without CB Nate Clements(notes), S Michael Lewis is hurting and the team enters this contest having allowed the 9th-most pass plays of 20+ yards. WR Earl Bennett(notes) put up nice yardage last week, but he's running under the caution flag from now until CHI finally lets him get even a sniff of the end zone.

CHI has allowed 5 TD passes to two of the past three teams it has faced, with utterly inept CLE being the one team to not join the pass party going on against the Bears. Obviously, the matchup looks good for QB Alex Smith. But SF lost last week to TEN thanks, in large part, to four turnovers from its former No. 1 overall pick. Smith throwing the ball 45 times is not an ideal situation for head coach Mike Singletary. At least the team now can pose a threat in the passing game with TE Vernon Davis(notes) and WR Michael Crabtree(notes). Not coincidentally, RB Frank Gore(notes) has come back to life in the past two games with Smith at the helm, averaging 146 YFS and scoring in each contest. I suspect SF will lean on Gore for 20+ carries in this one and I hold the opinion that Gore will get somewhere in the neighborhood of 146 YFS once again. TE Vernon Davis is now the highest-scoring TE in fantasy. I finally made the decision to sit TE Tony Gonzalez(notes) for Davis last week and it turned out just fine. CHI has allowed the 11th-most FAN PPG to TEs (50), so party on, VD. No. 1 WRs have gone wild against CHI this season, but WR Michael Crabtree is only three games into his NFL career and, as I said, I expect SF to play it more conservatively with Smith this week. I'm putting Crabtree down as a "yellow light," but he's really more of a "chartreuse" option. I've liked WR Jason Hill(notes) (2 TDs in Week 9) since his days at Washington State and he looks like he'll be seeing the field at the expense of WR Isaac Bruce(notes) going forward.

Devin Hester, Jay Cutler, Greg Olsen, Vernon Davis, Frank Gore
Michael Crabtree, Alex Smith, San Francisco Defense, Earl Bennett, Matt Forte, Johnny Knox(notes), Chicago Defense
Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan(notes)
Sleeper: WR Jason Hill
Injuries: CHI RB Garrett Wolfe(notes) (kidney) is out; CHI TE Desmond Clark(notes) (neck) could be questionable; CHI DT Tommie Harris(notes) (knee) could be questionable; CHI CB Charles Tillman(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; SF RB Glen Coffee(notes) (concussion) is out; SF TE Vernon Davis (shoulder) could be questionable; SF WR Jason Hill (ankle) could be questionable; SF WR Isaac Bruce (ankle) could be questionable; SF DT Demetric Evans(notes) (shoulder) is out; SF CB Nate Clements (shoulder) is out; SF SS Michael Lewis (quad) is questionable;
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Chicago 19
ATLANTA FALCONS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

Key Stats: FALCONS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 246 YPG passing allowed
PANTHERS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 181 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: ATL ran 37 times in Week 2 when it beat CAR 28-20. The run allowed QB Matt Ryan(notes) to be highly effective with his modest amount of pass attempts (20-for-27, 220 yards, 3 TDs). Given the way RB Michael Turner(notes) has been steamrolling opponents of late, expect a similar game plan as Week 2. WR Roddy White(notes) and TE Tony Gonzalez were solid in the earlier matchup, both catching TD passes and it'll be a rare day if you ever see me calling them anything but "green light" plays in this forum. Start both receivers, but QB Matt Ryan is a borderline starting option. As I said, I don't expect him to throw often, and he's had turnover issues – 9 TOs in his past four games. He's also been sacked 10 times in the past three contests following a four-game sackless run. CAR has held PHI, WAS and BUF to less than 150 passing yards in each of its three home contests. Yes, Ryan's got to fly under the caution flag this week. On the sleeper front, keep an eye on the ATL backup RB. If either Jason Snelling(notes) or Jerious Norwood(notes) can play, they'd likely get a few carries as a benefit of a run-heavy approach. And CAR has given up nice receiving production to RBs of late. For the record, Snelling scored in the last meeting.

Like ATL, CAR has bunkered down with the running game and RB DeAngelo Williams(notes) has exploded to the tune of 137 rushing yards per game and a combined 5 TDs in his past four games. Both Williams and backup RB Jonathan Stewart(notes) should be rock-solid against an ATL defense allowing 4.5 YPC. And the threat of a CAR running game clicking on all cylinders should make ATL even more prone to giving up big plays in the passing game – ATL has allowed a league-high 31 pass plays of 20+ yards. I'd wager that WR Steve Smith comes up with a catch of 40+ yards for the 4th consecutive week en route to his first 100-yard receiving game since Week 2 (against you-know-who). Because TE Jeff King(notes) has been roped into some duty at FB with Brad Hoover(notes) out and given TE Dante Rosario's(notes) current tenuous health, I'd avoid any thoughts leading you to buy into a CAR TE as a sleeper. Play the big guns for CAR, and forget about the outliers.

Michael Turner, DeAngelo Williams, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Steve Smith
Matt Ryan
Carolina Defense, Atlanta Defense, Jake Delhomme(notes), Michael Jenkins(notes), Dwayne Jarrett(notes), Dante Rosario
Sleeper: Jason Snelling
Injuries: ATL LT Sam Baker(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; ATL RBs Snelling (hamstring) and Jerious Norwood (hip) could be questionable; CAR FB Brad Hoover (ankle) could be out; CAR WLB Thomas Davis(notes) (ACL) is out for the year; CAR WR Muhsin Muhammad(notes) (knee) and TE Dante Rosario (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Carolina 24, Atlanta 21
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

Key Stats: BUCS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 217 YPG passing allowed
FINS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 247 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: He needs some work on his accuracy, but rookie QB Josh Freeman(notes) showed nice pocket presence in his debut start against GB. Freeman created extra time to throw the ball by slipping into open areas of the pocket as the pass rush closed in on him. In the end, he was sacked just once and threw 3 TD passes. Frankly, I was impressed with the K-State product. He shows nice poise and awareness. MIA brings a lot more pressure on the QB than the Packers, however. But if TB can keep Freeman upright, there should be opportunities in the passing game. MIA allows a league-high 14.2 yards per catch and its 30 pass plays of 20+ yards allowed is 2nd-most in the NFL. Freeman talked about his expectations of teams blitzing him and he at least looked prepared for the pressure in Week 9. If he can get WR Antonio Bryant(notes) back this week – Bryant felt like his knee was good to go last week but team doctors overruled him – I'd actually look at both players with yellow-colored glasses. MIA CB Vontae Davis(notes) has a sore hip which could further hinder the MIA pass defense efforts. TE Kellen Winslow(notes) delivered as I expected in Week 9, catching a TD to go with 57 yards. MIA has allowed the 7th-most FAN PPG to TEs, so I wouldn't shy away from Junior this week. WR Sammie Stroughter(notes) is one of my favorite sleepers. He was a joy to watch in his college days at Oregon State and he has the versatility to hurt you in multiple ways. I was in a tight spot late morning last week when I had to replace WR Anquan Boldin(notes) in my starting lineup in a deep league. I rolled with Stroughter and he delivered a TD. If you are in a similar pinch, consider the former Beaver. With MIA MLB Channing Crowder(notes) and DT Jason Ferguson(notes) out last week, NE enjoyed a rare successful ground game (4.5 YPC) against the MIA defense. That said, even if both players miss this Sunday's game, don't bank on a TB RB. MIA will surely stack the box on the rookie QB. And rhyme or reasons have been elusive when it comes to figuring out the platoon of RBs Carnell Williams(notes) and Derrick Ward(notes).

TB has allowed 14.0 yards per catch (3rd-most in the NFL) and 10 pass plays of 40+ yards (2nd-most in the NFL). But it's the 3rd-most run on team in the league thanks to a healthy 4.8 YPC allowed clip. You just can't get excited about the MIA passing attack given that its WR stable is full of a bunch of No. 3 possession types (Davone Bess(notes), Brian Hartline(notes), Greg Camarillo(notes)) and one true speed demon with truly awful hands in Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) You can expect that someone from the group will net out well as the change-up option to the running game (be it Wildcat or traditional). But MIA WRs don't score TDs (just 2 total), so why even bother trying to guess who it might be this week. MIA averages the 2nd-most rush attempts in the league and RBs Ronnie Brown(notes) and Ricky Williams(notes) will be busy yet again on Sunday. Start them both. At QB, Chad Henne(notes) is a game manager and he'll be lucky to make it inside my top 25 QBs for any given week. And an increased Wildcat role for backup Pat White(notes) (6 carries, 45 rushing yards in Week 9) only marginalizes Henne even more. I would call White a sleeper, but not as a fantasy QB (where his eligibility lies).

Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Kellen Winslow
Josh Freeman, Antonio Bryant
Carnell Williams, Derrick Ward, Maurice Stovall(notes), Michael Clayton(notes), Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, Brian Hartline, Ted Ginn Jr., Chad Henne, Anthony Fasano(notes)
Sleeper: Sammie Stroughter
Injuries: TB WR Antonio Bryant (knee) could be questionable; TB S Will Allen (thumb) could be questionable; TB CB Elbert Mack(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; MIA CB Vontae Davis (quadriceps) could be questionable; MIA DT Jason Ferguson (elbow) could be questionable; MIA MLB Channing Crowder (shoulder) could be questionable
Prediction: Miami 28, Tampa Bay 16
DETROIT LIONS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Stats: LIONS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 263 YPG passing allowed
VIKES – 4.1 YPC allowed | 238 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: No rest for the weary, as QB Matt Stafford heads to MIN after throwing 5 INTs at SEA in Week 9. Stafford was only good for 152 passing yards and a TD in the previous meeting with MIN, a 27-13 loss in Week 2. The rookie was also sacked twice and threw 2 INTs in that contest. MIN leads league with 31 sacks and DET has allowed the 4th-most sacks (26). Things could get ugly fast in the Metrodome. WR Calvin Johnson(notes) returned from a knee injury against SEA but was rusty and clearly out of synch with Stafford (2 catches, 27 yards on 9 targets). Still, it must be noted that MIN has allowed 30 pass plays of 20+ yards (2nd-most in the NFL) and Johnson has scored in four of five career games against the Vikings. I'd have to have an impressive crop of WRs to consider benching an active Megatron. Even when he broke free for a 31-yard run at SEA last week, RB Kevin Smith(notes) looked sluggish. Not sure if health is an issue for him, but the upside has faded away. I'm putting a stop sign in front of Smith this week against a MIN defense allowing the 2nd-fewest FAN PPG to RBs. MIN does, however, allow the most FAN PPG to TEs, which is a feather in TE Brandon Pettigrew's(notes) helmet. The rookie had his best day as a pro, catching 7 passes for 70 yards and a TD last week. Stafford actually targeted TEs Pettigrew (8) and Casey Fitzsimmons(notes) (11) a combined 19 times in the contest.

DET allows the highest QB rating in the NFL (107.3). It ranks among the top 5 most generous in FAN PPG allowed to QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs. Take inventory of MIN players available to you this week and start them. That means QB Brett Favre(notes) (who would have expected he would have the fewest INTs among regulars this season?), RB Adrian Peterson, WRs Percy Harvin(notes), Sidney Rice(notes), Bernard Berrian(notes) and TE Visanthe Shiancoe(notes). And you could easily convince me that backup RB Chester Taylor(notes), who has 50 of his 69 touches this season when MIN has a lead, is a solid sleeper play.

Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Calvin Johnson, Minnesota Defense
Brandon Pettigrew
Matthew Stafford(notes), Kevin Smith, Bryant Johnson(notes), Casey Fitzsimmons, Detroit Defense
Sleeper: Chester Taylor
Injuries: DET LB Ernie Sims(notes) (hamstring) is likely to be out; DET WR Calvin Johnson (knee) could be questionable; MIN CB Antoine Winfleld (foot) could be questionable
Prediction: Minnesota 34, Detroit 13
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ NEW YORK JETS

Key Stats: JAGS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 242 YPG passing allowed
JETS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 165 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB David Garrard(notes) has been a nightmare fantasy play in road contests this season, and this week could be more of the same. The Jets allows just 10.2 yards per catch, 2nd-fewest in the NFL. And the Jaguars have but one dangerous vertical threat in WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes). He's an emerging talent, but with only him for the NYJ secondary to worry about, you can expect CB Darrelle Revis(notes) to eat his lunch – only one WR has topped 70 receiving yards against the Jets (Julian Edelman(notes) in Week 2). Let Andre Johnson(notes), Randy Moss(notes) and Marques Colston(notes) be cautionary tales for starting Sims-Walker. Expect JAC to try to employ RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) heavily on the ground and in the passing game. JAC is getting 5.1 YPC on offense, tied for 2nd-best in the league. If the team can get the ball in MoJo's hands 30+ times, it will – the NYJ's loss of DT Kris Jenkins(notes) certainly helps. Go MoJo, and avoid the other cats.

If the Jets wanted to take its shots in the passing game, there's plenty of reason to believe they'd be successful. JAC has just 8 sacks, fewest in the league. And the Jags also have amassed just 5 INTS, 4th-fewest in the league. But the NYJ operate the most run-heavy offense in the league (36.9 carries per game). And there's not a serious reason to doubt that it will be able to be successful on the ground against JAC. QB Mark Sanchez(notes) should be in full game-manager role, but WRs Braylon Edwards(notes) and/or Jerricho Cotchery(notes) could find a ripe opportunity mixed in. Put them both down as high upside "yellow lights" but be cautious about resurgent TE Dustin Keller(notes). JAC has allowed the 3rd-fewest FAN PPG to TEs, holding all TEs it has faced to fewer than 40 receiving yards, including Dallas Clark(notes), Owen Daniels(notes) and John Carlson(notes).

Thomas Jones(notes), Maurice Jones-Drew
Mark Sanchez, Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, New York Defense
Mike Sims-Walker, Torry Holt(notes), Marcedes Lewis(notes), David Garrard, Dustin Keller, Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper: Shonn Greene(notes)
Injuries:
Prediction: New York 24, Jacksonville 10
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Key Stats: BENGALS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 242 YPG passing allowed
STEELERS – 3.7 YPC | 215 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: PIT is the least run on team in the league, facing just 19.2 carries per week. It allows the fewest FAN PPG to RBs. However, RB Cedric Benson(notes) did run 16 times for 76 yards (4.8 YPC) and a TD against the Steelers in Week 3. And Benson twice topped 100 yards against BAL, ran for 141 yards against a GB defense allowing just 3.5 YPC and opened the season with 76 yards and a TD against a DEN defense that had been extremely stingy up to this past Monday night. You can't really bench Benson. He's scored in four straight games and has 33 more carries than any other RB in the league. QB Carson Palmer(notes) finished under 200 passing yards and threw just 1 TD pass in the previous matchup with PIT and he's probably not a good bet for more than 225 passing yards and a TD in this one, either. I have WR Chad Ocho Cinco(notes) on the weekly play list, but he had his worst game of the season against PIT (5/54/0). PIT CB Ike Taylor(notes) is a formidable matchup, so temper expectations. WR Laveranues Coles(notes) is developing some chemistry with Palmer finally and Coles could be used to pick on PIT CB William Gay(notes) much like DEN did with WR Eddie Royal(notes) (5/74). With WR Chris Henry out with an arm injury, there should be more opportunities for both Coles and No. 3 WR Andre Caldwell(notes) (6/52/1 v. PIT in previous contest). Both are reasonable flyers this week.

QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) isn't pretty to watch sometimes, but he's effective nonetheless. He's No. 5 among QBs in FAN PPG despite ranking just 13th in pass attempts. And he hasn't really let fantasy owners down in any of his past six meetings with CIN, including 276 passing yards, 1 passing TD and 1 rushing TD against the Bengals in Week 3. The fact that CIN doesn't have DE Antwan Odom(notes) only bolsters optimism for Big Ben in this one. Bracket attention paid to WR Santonio Holmes(notes) limited him to just a 1/18 line in the first meeting and WRs Hines Ward(notes) (4/82) and Mike Wallace(notes) (7/102) reaped the benefits. CIN will probably play more straight-up coverage this week. CIN allows the 7th-most pass plays of 20+ yards and I have a feeling Holmes will get CIN back with a big play in this one. CIN has had the 2nd-fewest rush attempts against and rushing yards have been very hard to come by against CIN in recent weeks as Ray Rice(notes) (twice), Steve Slaton(notes) and Matt Forte have been held to under 70 rushing yards in the past four contests. But, if you watched PIT at DEN on Monday night, you have to feel good about RB Rashard Mendenhall's(notes) chances in any situation. However, Mendenhall nearly lost a fumble for the 3rd straight game on MNF, and considering how much receiving production CIN allows to RBs (2nd-most receiving yards), backup RB Mewelde Moore(notes) is a sneaky deep-league flyer. TE Heath Miller(notes) is averaging just 28 receiving yards and is scoreless in his past two. He also had just 20 yards and did not score in the Week 3 contest at CIN. But CIN has allowed the 4th-most receptions to TEs (50), and it could be without LB Keith Rivers(notes) this week, so consider Miller more a chartreuse option when you see him listed under the "yellow light" plays below.

Ben Roethlisberger, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall, Cedric Benson, Chad Ocho Cinco
Heath Miller, Carson Palmer, Laveranues Coles, Pittsburgh Defense
J.P. Foschi(notes), Cincinnati Defense
Sleeper: Mike Wallace, Mewelde Moore, Andre Caldwell
Injuries: CIN WR Chris Henry (arm) is out; CIN LB Keith Rivers (calf) could be out
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 21
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

Key Stats: SAINTS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 220 YPG passing allowed
RAMS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 239 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: Like the MIN fantasy contingent facing DET this week, it's fairly defensible to start all of the Saints' starting offensive skill players this week. STL has allowed healthy production to the QB, RB and TE positions, while it has come out looking decent against WRs mostly because its faced a Calvin Johnson-less DET squad, a Shaun Hill(notes)-led/Michael Crabtree-less SF team and a Jim Zorn-led WAS offense. Admittedly, STL S O.J. Atogwe is a legit stud, but you don't bench WR Marques Colston because of his presence here. And I'd roll with WR Robert Meachem(notes) if Lance Moore(notes) misses another game with injury. If not, I might avoid the Moore/Meacham/Devery Henderson(notes) quagmire all together. After all, QB Drew Brees(notes) probably plays it a bit conservatively as NO leans heavily on (first half) Pierre Thomas(notes) and (second half) Mike Bell(notes).

Start RB Steven Jackson – NO has been hemorrhaging in rush defense with DT Sedrick Ellis(notes) and LB Scott Fujita(notes) out. Dismiss all other Rams – since WR Laurent Robinson(notes) went down, this has been a fairly tried and true outcome for STL.

Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey(notes), New Orleans Defense, Steven Jackson
Reggie Bush(notes), Devery Henderson, Lance Moore
Randy McMichael(notes), Daniel Fells(notes), Marc Bulger(notes), Donnie Avery(notes), Keenan Burton(notes), St. Louis Defense
Sleeper: Robert Meachem
Injuries: NO LB Scott Fujita (calf) could be out; NO WR Lance Moore (ankle) could be questionable; NO DT Sedrick Ellis (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: New Orleans 38, St. Louis 14
BUFFALO BILLS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

Key Stats: BILLS – 5.1 YPC allowed | 199 YPG passing allowed
TITANS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 278 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: I'm trying really hard, but I just can't muster any excitement for the return of QB Trent Edwards(notes) from a concussion this week. In my mind, it just means that WRs Lee Evans(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes) fade back into fantasy oblivion – with Edwards behind center, the two receivers haven't topped 60 receiving yards and they had just 1 TD each. So, it's really somewhat irrelevant that TEN has allowed 30 pass plays of 20+ yards – 2nd-most in the NFL – or that TEN has more pass attempts against than any other team in the league. There's a big reason that BUF has averaged the 3rd-fewest pass attempts per game. Forget about the BUF passing game in this one. TEN has allowed 42% more fantasy production to RBs the past five weeks than the league average. BUF is almost assuredly going to try to lean heavily on RBs Marshawn Lynch(notes) and Fred Jackson(notes), who have combined for 28 touches per game in the three road contests they have played together. Jackson was a pet favorite of Edwards' in the first five weeks and I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson returns to a more even split of the workload. Jackson could be particularly active out of the backfield (he averaged 4 receptions per week with Edwards) as TEN has allowed 50+ receiving yards to a RB in three of the past four games. The TE has been ignored by backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes), as he's targeted the position just 6 times in the past three games. By contrast, Edwards threw to TEs 33 times in his first five games. TEN has allowed the 3rd-most receptions to TEs (52). Don't be shocked if rookie TE Shawn Nelson(notes), practicing for the first time in three weeks, surprises with either a TD catch or solid 40-50 yard production.

So far, so good for QB Vince Young(notes). He's doing exactly what TEN wants him to do – game manage to the hilt. He's completed 73% of the 18.5 passes he's averaged the past two weeks. And he didn't turn the ball over in those contests. He's not a QB you want to start in fantasy, but he's doing enough to keep the offense in business and allow RB Chris Johnson to do his thing. Johnson could turn in another amazing performance (he's had three games with at least 160 YFS and 2 TDs) against a BUF defense that is allowing a league-high 5.1 YPC. Everyone in the stadium will know that Johnson is going to get the ball repeatedly, yet it is still doubtful that BUF will be able to stop him. And now that Johnson has taken on goal line work, you can't get excited about RB LenDale White(notes). BUF gives up healthy production to TEs, so you could talk me into believing in TE Bo Scaife(notes) as a sleeper. But this is the Chris Johnson show and the rest of the team is just garnish.

Chris Johnson
Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Tennessee Defense
Trent Edwards, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Vince Young, Justin Gage(notes), Kenny Britt(notes), Nate Washington(notes), LenDale White, Buffalo Defense
Sleeper: Shawn Nelson, Bo Scaife
Injuries: BUF SS Donte Whitner(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; BUF QB Trent Edwards (concussion) could be questionable; BUF FB Corey McIntyre(notes) (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Tennessee 27, Buffalo 16
DENVER BRONCOS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Key Stats: BRONCOS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 183 YPG passing allowed
SKINS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 160 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: After turning the ball over just once in his first seven games, QB Kyle Orton(notes) threw 3 INTs on Monday night against PIT in Week 9. Luckily, he'll face a WAS defense that has produced the 2nd-fewest INTs in the league (4). That said, no defense allows fewer passing yards per game (160) than the 'Skins and you can't consider Orton this week given the matchup and his rough performance last week. Besides, you can be assured that DEN is going back to a run-heavy approach on Sunday. Orton has averaged less than 30 passes in four road games, while RBs Correll Buckhalter(notes) and Knowshon Moreno(notes) have combined for an average of 24 rush attempts in those contests. Buckhalter has been the more productive of the two backs and was actually back in a starting role in Week 9. Consider Buckhalter slightly ahead of Moreno at this point, and consider both of them for a starting role against a WAS defense that was lit up by RB Michael Turner last week for 166 rushing yards on 18 carries. After the 11-catch, 112-yard performance against PIT CB Ike Taylor on Monday night, it's hard to sit WR Brandon Marshall(notes). He may not have a great day, though, and I'd consider him a slightly dimmed "green light." I'd shy away from WR Eddie Royal considering the matchup and would completely forget about TE Tony Scheffler(notes), who was non-existent on Monday night and is facing a WAS defense that is inhospitable to TEs.

WAS has yet to score more than 17 points in a game, and its average of 14.1 PPG is 4th-worst in the league. To make matters worse, it faces a DEN defense that allows just 15.5 PPG, 3rd-fewest in the league, and it will do so without RB Clinton Portis(notes). Every way you look at it, WAS appears to be in trouble. The Redskins have allowed the 3rd-most sacks in the league (28) and the DEN defense has tallied the 3rd-most sacks (26). This doesn't bode well for QB Jason Campbell(notes) and the WAS passing game. The only WAS player I'd consider this week would be backup RB Ladell Betts(notes), who'll fill in for the concussed Portis. Betts had 15 carries for 70 yards and a TD last week at ATL. And his value as a receiver could come in very handy this Sunday against a DEN defense that has allowed the 6th-most receptions (45) and 5th-most receiving yards (362) to RBs.

Correll Buckhalter, Brandon Marshall, Denver defense, Ladell Betts
Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Royal
Jason Campbell, Santana Moss(notes), Devin Thomas(notes), Antwan Randle El, Fred Davis(notes), Kyle Orton, Tony Scheffler, Washington Defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: WAS QB Jason Campbell (chest/ankle) could be questionable; WAS RB Clinton Portis (concussion) is doubtful; WAS RB Ladell Betts (ankle) could be questionable; WAS RT Mike Williams (ankle) is out; WAS S Chris Horton(notes) (toe) is out; WAS S Reed Doughty(notes) (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Denver 20, Washington 9
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats: CHIEFS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 252 YPG passing allowed
RAIDERS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: In Week 2, this battle of two of the six most inept offenses in the league ended as a 13-10 win for OAK. Last week, KC showed signs of life offensively with a 24-21 loss at JAC. In that contest, newly-acquired WR Chris Chambers(notes) scored the team's two TDs. And while the running game, with RB Jamaal Charles(notes) in the lead, is still a lost cause, there are reasons to believe in the KC pass attack this week. Oak allows 13.2 yards per catch (4th-most in the NFL). OAK has also allowed 8 pass plays of 40+ yards, 4th-most in the NFL and has just 5 INTs (4th-fewest in the league). The Raiders have had the most rush attempts against in the league, but that's typically a result of teams milking big leads. KC has too many issues on offense to enjoy a luxury like that – KC is last in the league in 3rd-down conversion percentage (22%) and has the 2nd-most sacks allowed (30). This should be a good matchup for QB Matt Cassel(notes), who now has plenty to choose from in the passing game (WRs Dwayne Bowe(notes) and Chambers, and RB Jamaal Charles). Consider Cassel a borderline starter this week in 12-team leagues. I'd also roll with Bowe, who has been at least serviceable against CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) and the Silver-and-Black attack in four of his five meetings. Chambers and Charles are cautionary plays, however.

Words don't adequately express how poor the KC secondary has been this season. KC allows 14.1 yards per catch (2nd-most in the NFL). It has allowed 12 pass plays of 40+ yards, most in the NFL, and ranks last in the league with just 3 INTs. Certainly its last line of defense gets no help from its first line of defense – its 10 sacks is the 2nd-fewest in the league. But QB JaMarcus Russell(notes) can only be trusted to take advantage of favorable SEC matchups, not juicy NFL ones. He was just 7-of-24 for 109 yards in his previous meeting in Week 2. And his best option, TE Zach Miller, was shutout in that contest. OAK is last in the league in Time of Possession (26:38), but it is likely to get RB Darren McFadden(notes) back from a knee injury this week. Plan on OAK trying to finally chew on some clock with a heavy dose of McFadden and RB Justin Fargas(notes). KC allows the 7th-most FAN PPG to RBs and, given the QB it's saddled with, you have to expect OAK to put forth its best effort to rock the running game.

Dwayne Bowe, Matt Cassel, Darren McFadden
Jamaal Charles, Chris Chambers, Kolby Smith(notes), Justin Fargas
Sean Ryan(notes), Louis Murphy(notes), Chaz Schillens, Johnnie Lee Higgins(notes), Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes), Kansas City Defense, Oakland Defense
Sleeper: x
Injuries: OAK WR Chaz Schilens(notes) (foot) could be questionable; RB Darren McFadden (knee) could be questionable; OAK OL Cornell Green(notes) (calf) and Robert Gallery(notes) (leg) could be questionable
Prediction: Kansas City 17, Oakland 16
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

Key Stats: HAWKS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 220 YPG passing allowed
CARDS – 3.9 YPC allowed | 247 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) was shell-shocked by ARI in Week 6, getting sacked 5 times and repeatedly harassed en route to a 27-3 drubbing. The key for SEA, since it won't likely be able to run the football (3.5 YPC is 3rd-worst in the NFL), is to buy Hasselbeck time to take advantage of an ARI defense that allows the 4th-most passing yards per game (247) and the 6th-most pass plays of 20+ yards (29). Expect Hasselbeck to continue to explore RB Julius Jones(notes) as a dump-off option in the passing game – Jones had 78 receiving yards last week and a RB has picked up 59+ receiving yards against ARI in three of the past six games. And TE John Carslon, who had 55 yards against ARI in the last meeting, is intriguing against the 5th-most generous defense in fantasy to opposing TEs – you just don't know if he'll have to be used primarily in pass protection, though. WR Nate Burleson(notes) is the No. 16 WR in fantasy and given that ARI has allowed the 7th-most FAN PPG to WRs, you almost have to take the leap of faith with him that Hasselbeck will have at least some time to operate. But WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) has finished with 6 FAN PTS or less in five of eight games and it's time to stop giving him the benefit of the doubt. Basically, I'm tempted to go yellow fever with the Seattle starters and put them all under the caution flag. But I'm feeling slightly optimistic for Burleson.

If you remove two long Frank Gore runs against SEA in Week 2, the Seahawks are allowing just 3.6 YPC for the season. ARI averaged just 2.4 YPC on 26 carries against SEA back in Week 6. RB Beanie Wells(notes) has averaged 61 rushing yards and 5.3 YPC in the three games since that meeting, but he's getting little goal line love or work in the passing game. If you are going to lean on a RB here, stick with Tim Hightower(notes), who is 2nd among RBs with 40 catches and has a TD in four of the past five games. In the Ken Whisenhunt era, the Cardinals have averaged 42 pass attempts in five meetings with SEA. QB Kurt Warner(notes) dissected the Hawks in Week 6, connecting on 32 of 41 passes for 276 yards and 2 TDs. WR Larry Fitzgerald(notes) recorded his 3rd consecutive 100-yard game against SEA in that contest. WR Anquan Boldin is still dealing with a high ankle sprain, but he took exception to being held out last week by Whisenhunt. Expect him to try to take his frustration out on a SEA team that he hung a 13/186 line on in Week 11 last season. No. 3 WR Steve Breaston(notes) had his best performance of the season against SEA in the previous meeting, going 7/77/1. He's proven to be at least serviceable even when Boldin does play, and he's almost a no-brainer when Boldin is out. Color him chartreuse this week.

Nate Burleson, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Tim Hightower, Anquan Boldin
Steve Breaston, Matt Hasselbeck, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Julius Jones, John Carlson, Arizona Defense
Seattle Defense, Deion Branch(notes), Ben Patrick(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: ARI WR Anquan Boldin (ankle) is likely to be questionable
Prediction: Arizona 30, Seattle 20
DALLAS COWBOYS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Key Stats: BOYS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 234 YPG passing allowed
PACK – 3.5 YPC allowed | 186 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: GB is one of the worst defenses in the league at sacking the QB (13 sacks in 8 games). DAL QB Tony Romo(notes) should have the kind of time to operate that is essential for him being able to avoid mistakes. GB does have talented pass defenders and ranks 4th in the league with 12 INTs. But, again, Romo should have time to throw and there could be some deep-ball opportunities as GB has allowed the 9th-most pass plays of 20+ yards (25). WR Miles Austin's(notes) fantasy points keep falling each week since his 250-yard, 2 TD breakout in Week 5, but he's still managed to string together four straight games with a TD. GB has not allowed a 100-yard receiving game to a WR, but it has allowed the position to score 9 TDs, 6th-most in the NFL. Keep rollin' with Austin, but WR Roy Williams, who has caught a sickly 42% of intended targets, seems likely to disappoint. DAL used him for more short stuff last week and he caught 5 passes for 75 yards. But that limits his upside and I think GB has the talent in its secondary to keep him in check. DAL is one of just three teams picking up more than 5 yards per carry (5.1). But GB is allowing just 3.5 YPC. RB Marion Barber(notes) has been fairly fruitless for fantasy purposes since his health went south after Week 2. Last week at PHI, he showed glimpses of his old self and he looks like he might be finally ready to turn the corner. As mentioned, the Packers have acquitted themselves well in rush defense, but they did allow 100-yard games to big, physical runners like Cedric Benson and Steven Jackson earlier in the year, and Barber fits the type. I wouldn't be surprised if DAL commits Barber to a heavier workload than usual, at the expense of backups Felix Jones(notes) and Tashard Choice(notes). TE Jason Witten(notes) has been a big disappointment this year, but he is still delivering a steady 40-50 yards a week. GB has been on the generous side to TEs this year, so start Witten if that's what you usually do.

GB has allowed the most sacks in the league (37), and it's not even close. To make matters worse, it has injury issues on the offensive line that has helped keep the problem festering. DAL ranks 7th in the league with 21 sacks, and QB Aaron Rodgers(notes) will have to particularly beware of DE DeMarcus Ware(notes) and DT Jay Ratliff(notes), who have a combined 8 sacks in the past four games. Rodgers will have to hope TE Jermichael Finley(notes) can make it back from a knee injury this week to offer that safety valve option that proved so valuable at MIN in Week 4 (6/128/1). DAL has two superb talents at CB in Terence Newman(notes) and Mike Jenkins(notes), and the two could give WRs Greg Jennings(notes) and Donald Driver(notes) serious problems if they have to break off their routes because of the lack of time afforded Rodgers. I'd lean on the possession skills of Driver over the deep talents of Jennings – both have been targeted 59 times this season, with Driver delivering 3 FAN PPG more than Jennings on average. RB Ryan Grant(notes) has been beating up 90-pound weaklings of the NFL of late, facing TB, CLE, DET and STL in four of his past six games. For fantasy purposes, he's the definition of average. He's getting 12 fantasy points per game and I could see him delivering to his average in the same boring, yet serviceable, manner he did in Week 1 against CHI (16/61/1). No. 3 WR James Jones(notes) has scored in three of his past four, but he's averaging just 2 receptions per game in that span and WR Jordy Nelson(notes) could be back on Sunday. I probably wouldn't press my luck with Jones this week.

Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Miles Austin, Jason Witten
Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Roy Williams, Green Bay Defense, Dallas Defense, Jermichael Finley
James Jones, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice
Sleeper: Patrick Crayton(notes)
Injuries: DAL CB/KR Allen Rossum(notes) (hamstring) is questionable; GB TE Jermichael Finley (knee) could be questionable; GB WR Jordy Nelson (knee) could be questionable; GB C Jason Spitz(notes) (back) is out for the year; GB OT Mark Tauscher(notes) (sprained knee) is out; GB LB Aaron Kampman(notes) (concussion) is likely to be out; GB LB Brandon Chillar(notes) (hand) could be questionable
Prediction: Dallas 26, Green Bay 21
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Key Stats: EAGLES – 3.6 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
BOLTS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 180 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: On paper, the best way to attack SDG has been on the ground. The Bolts have allowed 4.2 YPC and the 8th-most FAN PPG to RBs. But PHI averages the 7th-fewest rush attempts per game – it prefers to air it out. And it might be able to still do that against SDG, as the Chargers have benefitted in half of its games by facing bottom-5 pass offenses (OAK twice, KC, MIA). Opponents are completing a healthy 63% of their pass against SDG, and I'd count on QB Donovan McNabb(notes), WR DeSean Jackson(notes) and TE Brent Celek(notes) like I normally would. However, I'd avoid rookie WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) as SDG has allowed the 2nd-fewest pass plays of 20+ yards (15) and only one pass of 40+ yards. The backfield situation is clouded by RB Brian Westbrook's(notes) health at the moment. It sounds like his concussion symptoms have subsided, but now his surgically-repaired ankle is acting up. If he makes a return on Sunday, it's likely to be in a full-on timeshare with rookie RB LeSean McCoy(notes), who has been the No. 16 fantasy RB for the past three weeks. If McCoy ends up splitting the pie with Westbrook this week, I'd be inclined to rank both RBs outside the positions top 20 for the week. If Westbrook doesn't play, start McCoy with confidence and consider FB Leonard Weaver(notes) a strong sleeper – he has carried eight times in each of the past two weeks with Westbrook out.

SDG operates the worst rushing offense in the league (3.1 YPC). RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) is clearly at the end of his road, and you want to avoid him against a stout PHI run defense. SDG is going to have to go up top often with QB Philip Rivers(notes) in this one. PHI is a heavily blitzing defense and it is second in the league with 27 sacks and 15 INTs. I don't think it is a coincidence that the Eagles defense has allowed the 2nd-most receptions to TEs. Expect TE Antonio Gates(notes) to be a heavily-utilized blitz relief option, and I also think backup RB Darren Sproles(notes) will play a heavy roll in that regard, too. WR Vincent Jackson(notes) has proven over and over this season that he is a must-start wideout, scoring 10+ FAN PTS in seven of eight contests. And the fact that PHI has injury issues in its secondary should only make you feel better. I'd avoid new starting WR Malcom Floyd(notes). PHI is tough enough as it is, and Floyd has yet to catch more than 3 passes or surpass 65 receiving yards.

Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson
Darren Sproles, LeSean McCoy, Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Defense, San Diego Defense
Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant(notes), LaDainian Tomlinson, Malcom Floyd
Sleeper: Leonard Weaver
Injuries: PHI LT Jason Peters(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; PHI DL Victor Abiamiri(notes) (knee) could be questionable; PHI LB Chris Gocong(notes) (quad, hamstring) could be questionable; PHI LB Akeem Jordan(notes) (knee) could be questionable; PHI S Quintin Demps(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; PHI CB Asante Samuel(notes) (neck) could be questionable; PHI CB Ellis Hobbs(notes) (neck) could be out
Prediction: Philadelphia 27, San Diego 24
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Key Stats: PATS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 179 YPG passing allowed
COLTS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 195 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: What a time for IND to be depleted in the secondary. The Colts are without regular starters S Bob Sanders(notes) and CBs Marlin Jackson(notes) and Kelvin Hayden(notes), which will be a thorny issue facing Tom Brady(notes) and company. If you had any concerns about Brady and WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker(notes), this certainly helps you relax. In addition to starting the Pats' fantasy power trio, RB Laurence Maroney(notes) also seems like a solid starting option. Clearly the Colts' focus will be on limiting Brady. And with that kind of defensive focus and the fact that he's the fully-featured top dog in the backfield with injuries to RBs Sammy Morris(notes) and Fred Taylor(notes), Maroney has averaged 16 carries, 83 rushing yards and has scored 3 TDs in his past three games. Another 16/83/1 type outing is plausible for Maroney. IND has been murder on TEs and even with a depleted secondary, I'd avoid TE Benjamin Watson(notes) this week. It's worth mentioning the history card with backup RB Kevin Faulk(notes), who has delivered respectable deeper league sleeper value in each of the past three seasons against IND, especially for PPR leagues.

NE yields the 4th-fewest passing yards per game, much of the credit going to its offense for dominating Time of Possession (Pats lead the league in that department). But IND has a highly efficient offense as well and if you are coming to this forum looking for someone to tell you to bench QB Peyton Manning(notes), WR Reggie Wayne(notes) or TE Dallas Clark, you've come to the wrong place. You just can't concern yourself with the defense in regards to those three. As for RB Joseph Addai(notes), it's hard to fault someone that has scored 7 TDs in eight games and is averaging 76 YFS, even if the production wasn't tallied in the prettiest fashion. WR Austin Collie(notes) is dealing with a neck injury and WR Pierre Garcon(notes) has been wildly inconsistent. I'd stick with Indy's Fantastic 4 only this week.

Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney
Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Benjamin Watson, New England Defense, Indianapolis Defense
Sleeper: Kevin Faulk
Injuries: NE RBs Sammy Morris (knee) and Fred Taylor (ankle) could be questionable; NE WR Julian Edelman (forearm) could be out; NE T Matt Light(notes) (knee) could be out; NE C Dan Koppen(notes) (knee) could be questionable; NE DL Jarvis Green(notes) (knee) could be out; IND WR Austin Collie (head) could be questionable; IND RB Donald Brown(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable
Prediction: New England 31, Indianapolis 28
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Key Stats: RAVENS – 3.5 YPC allowed | 226 YPG passing allowed
BROWNS – 4.9 YPC allowed | 239 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: BAL can feel free to choose its own path to pay dirt on Monday night. CLE allows 13.0 yards per reception – 5th-most in the NFL. CLE has also allowed 30 pass plays of 20+ yards – 2nd-most in the NFL – and it has garnered just 4 INTs, also 2nd-fewest in the league. But, for all its vulnerability against the pass, CLE has encountered the 2nd-most rush attempts against in the league, and has allowed an average of 4.9 YPC. In scoring 34 points against the Browns in Week 3, the Ravens opted for a balanced approach – 28 rushes, 35 passes. I imagine BAL will keep with the same approach, but will likely swing the favor to the rushing side this time around. The main cogs of the BAL offense (QB Joe Flacco(notes), RB Ray Rice and WR Derrick Mason(notes)) are obvious plays, and I think RB Willis McGahee(notes) could re-emerge this week after not touching the ball in Week 9. He had 7 carries for 67 yards and 2 TDs in the previous meeting and he could play the milk man role in this one, letting Rice take it easy on the sidelines late with the Ravens holding on to a comfortable lead. WRs Mark Clayton(notes) and Kelley Washington(notes) are a weekly crapshoot, either one capable of a big play or a donut, with little predictability as to what is coming next. Know the risk if you plan to start either one. CLE has been decent against opposing TEs, allowing just 4 catches per game to the position, the number of balls Todd Heap(notes) had against the Browns in the first meeting (41 yards, too). Heap hasn't scored a TD or topped 51 receiving yards since Week 2. There's at least 10-12 TEs I like better this week.

CLE head coach Eric Mangini has named QB Brady Quinn(notes) the starter once again. This isn't big news in fantasy circles. This is an offense averaging 9.8 points per game. It put three points on the board against BAL in Week 3. Whether it is Derek Anderson(notes) or Brady Quinn, it doesn't make RB Jamaal Lewis or WR Mohamed Massaquoi(notes) any more attractive, and right now they look like Chris Farley dressed up like a lunch lady. The only Browns player I'm intrigued about is hybrid Joshua Cribbs(notes). He had a beefed-up Wildcat role in Week 8 before the bye and it's likely that CLE used the bye week to add new wrinkles to his role. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets 10-plus touches for the first time in his career. He's the most dangerous player the team has and, well, what do you have to lose, Man-genius?

Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, Baltimore Defense
Todd Heap, Mark Clayton, Kelley Washington
Jamal Lewis(notes), Mohamed Massaquoi, Cleveland Defense, Steve Heiden(notes), Chansi Stuckey(notes), Cleveland Quarterback
Sleeper: Joshua Cribbs, Willis McGahee
Injuries: BAL DT Haloti Ngata(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; BAL FS Ed Reed(notes) (neck) could be questionable
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Cleveland 13
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