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NFL Skinny: Week 11 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I was a paltry 9-6 in game predictions last week which brings my yearly tally (starting from Week 3) to 80-32. Honestly, I wanted to go back in last Saturday and switch my pick in the Dallas/Green Bay game to the Packers, but I figured it would violate the sanctity of the forum. This column is all about looking ahead, so let's move forward with an imagining of how the Week 11 games might play out.

Week 11 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 11 matchup

MIAMI DOLPHINS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

Key Stats: DOLPHINS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 239 YPG passing allowed
PANTHERS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 186 YPG passing allowed

What to watch for: MIA and CAR employ two of the most successful platoon backfields in the league, and both teams rank among the top three in the league in rushing attempts per game. MIA will be without lead fish RB Ronnie Brown(notes) this Thursday, however, as a foot injury will keep him sidelined at least this week and possibly beyond. "Backup" RB Ricky Williams(notes) blazed a trail in Brown's absence, handling 9 carries for 53 yards in the 4th quarter after Brown went down against TB last week – 27 of those yards, though, came on the final carry that set up the Dolphins' game-winning field goal. Needless to say, Williams is a must-start against a Panthers defense that is allowing a healthy 4.6 YPC – ATL RB Michael Turner(notes) needed just 9 carries to rush for 111 yards against the Panthers last week. MIA has said Williams could handle some of Brown's wildcat duties this week, but I'd expect rookie QB Pat White(notes) to also get more snaps in that role. And FB Lousaka Polite(notes) could be a vulture threat around the goal line with Brown out. None of Williams' 6 TDs have come from inside the 4-yard line, while five of Brown's TDs have. Polite has been a stud in short-distance conversion attempts this season and the possibility that he'll poach a TD is strong. Per usual, forget about the passing game. With 32 QBs in action this week, there's no way I can argue QB Chad Henne(notes) into the top 16. And if you are in a pinch at WR, Davone Bess(notes) is your best bet, albeit not a good one against a CAR defense allowing the 3rd-fewest FAN PPG to WRs. Bess, however, has seen an average of 8 targets the past four games. TE Anthony Fasano(notes) could sit (hip), and this is another situation to avoid.

Like MIA, you can count on CAR to pound the rock on the ground. RB DeAngelo Williams(notes) was said to be dealing with a "tweaked knee" last week, but he still came through with 19 carries for 92 yards vs. ATL. "Backup" Jonathan Stewart(notes) also contributed in a big way once again with 11 carries for 82 yards and 2 TDs. Both will face a stiffer test than usual this week against a MIA defense allowing just 3.7 YPC, especially without the services of OT Jordan Gross(notes) (out for the year). As the top cat in the backfield, you don't consider benching Williams, but I'd be a little leery about Stewart with the likelihood that he gets 6-8 fewer touches than Williams. Color Stewart chartreuse this week. MIA has allowed 9 pass plays of 40+ yards (3rd-most in the NFL) and a league-high 14 yards per catch. QB Jake Delhomme(notes), who threw 2 TDs to WR Steve Smith last week, should have some play-action opportunities with Smith this week. Smith didn't catch a 40-yard pass last week, but that ended a three-game streak in which he had. Because of his use around the goal line (both TDs were from inside the 5-yard line last week) and the deep-ball issues of the MIA secondary, Smith is someone to have in your lineup this week. Delhomme, however, barely ranks inside my top 25 QB rankings this week – it's just the nature of the offense and his own proclivity for blunders. No CAR No. 2 WR, and only 1 TE, has topped 10 FAN PTS in a game this season. You can't make a living mining the outer regions of this offense.

DeAngelo Williams, Ricky Williams, Steve Smith
Jonathan Stewart, Jake Delhomme, Carolina Defense, Muhsin Muhammad(notes), Miami Defense
Chad Henne, Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo(notes), Ted Ginn Jr.(notes), Brian Hartline(notes), Dante Rosario(notes)
Sleeper: Lousaka Polite
Injuries: MIA RB Ronnie Brown (foot) is likely out; MIA OG Justin Smiley(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; MIA FS Gibril Wilson(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; MIA TE Anthony Fasano (hip) could be out; CAR LT Jordan Gross (broken ankle) is out for the year; CAR DLs Julius Peppers(notes) (hand), Charles Johnson(notes) (pectoral) and Damione Lewis(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; CAR FS Charles Godfrey(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; TE Dante Rosario (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Carolina 21, Miami 16
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

Key Stats: COLTS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 214 YPG passing allowed
RAVENS – 3.5 YPC allowed | 209 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: IND just hung 35 points on NE, a defense that has been strong across-the-board in fantasy. That BAL is also a well-balanced fantasy defensive unit should not dissuade you from starting the usual Colt suspects, especially since the one area that the Ravens occasionally struggle (pass defense) is where the strength of the IND offense lies. Go green with QB Peyton Manning(notes), WR Reggie Wayne(notes) and TE Dallas Clark(notes). RB Joseph Addai(notes) ranks 4th among RBs in red zone touches (40) and has scored in seven of nine games this season, including 3 TDs through the air. He doesn't fit the profile of the type of RB that can put up good rushing yardage totals against the Ravens, but his use close to the goal line as well as his potential as a receiver (BAL has allowed the 4th-most receptions to RBs) makes him no worse than a yellow-light play. WR Pierre Garcon(notes) has been targeted 20 times in the past two weeks, but he continues to be worse than a coin-flip proposition for catching the ball (has caught just 26 of 56 intended passes this season). He brings deep-play potential to the table and BAL has allowed a healthy number of deep passes, so Garcon has to be considered. But I wouldn't be surprised if WR Austin Collie(notes) gets more love from Manning this week after Garcon dropped a few last week – by comparison, Collie has caught 12 more passes than Garcon despite seeing the same number of targets (38 of 56). Backup RB Donald Brown(notes) still isn't 100 percent and he was pulled early last week, so it would be a tough roll of the dice to gamble on him this week considering the matchup.

Where have you gone, Joe Flacco(notes)? The BAL QB has finished with less than 200 passing yards in each of the past three games and has just 1 TD pass in that span. He hasn't attempted a lot of passes during that stretch, but fantasy owners can only worry about the bottom line, and he's simply not delivering. That said, he might pick things up a bit this week. True, IND has allowed the 6th-fewest FAN PPG to QBs, but its secondary is decimated by injuries, a situation that was exploited by QBs Matt Schaub(notes) and Tom Brady(notes) the past two weeks (combined 85 pass attempts, 686 passing yards and 4 TD passes). IND has been decent against RBs in fantasy of late but, to be honest, you haven't really lost money by starting a RB against the Colts the past 4 games (Steven Jackson, Frank Gore(notes), Steve Slaton(notes), Ryan Moats(notes), Laurence Maroney(notes) and Kevin Faulk(notes) were all serviceable plays in that span). Of course, this is my usual long-winded way of stating the obvious – Ray Rice(notes) is a solid-gold (green) play. Like a groundhog, Backup RB Willis McGahee(notes) emerged from his hole last week to handle 13 carries. He apparently saw his shadow, however, gaining just 35 yards, and it's likely he won't be seen much again at least until a Week 14 matchup with DET. WR Derrick Mason(notes) was the only WR to catch a pass against CLE on Monday night, and he's the only WR you can consider for BAL in this one. IND allows the fewest pass plays of 20+ yards (16), and if not for catching the occasional deep ball, WRs Mark Clayton(notes) and Kelley Washington(notes) are pretty much useless to fantasy owners. Mason had 70 yards in his matchup with IND last season and I'd bet he has at least that many yards this week. No team allows less FAN PPG to TEs than IND, and you really have to have a favorable matchup to play TE Todd Heap(notes) considering his middling production to-date. Take a pass.

Peyton Manning, Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark
Joe Flacco, Joseph Addai, Baltimore Defense
Pierre Garcon, Todd Heap, Willis McGahee, Mark Clayton, Kelley Washington, Donald Brown, Indianapolis Defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: IND WR Anthony Gonzalez(notes) (knee) is likely to be out; BAL DT Haloti Ngata(notes) (ankle) could be out; BAL LB Terrell Suggs(notes) (sprained knee) could be out
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Indianapolis 24
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Key Stats: SKINS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 227 YPG passing allowed
BOYS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 163 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: RB Ladell Betts(notes) was the story for the WAS offense in Week 10, filling in for injured RB Clinton Portis(notes) with 26 carries, 114 rushing yards and a TD. Expect the sequel to flop in Dallas, however. The Cowboys have been excellent in rush defense, allowing just one rushing TD (to Michael Turner) since Week 1. In fact, other than the score, the Cowboys did a great job on Turner (18 carries, 50 yards). Last week, GB RB Ryan Grant(notes) rushed for 79 yards against DAL, which was the most it has allowed to a RB since Week 1. It's only his ability as a receiver out of the backfield that has me casting Betts in a yellow light this week. QB Jason Campbell(notes) has averaged 290 passing yards and has thrown 4 TD passes in his two career contests at Dallas. And he's actually played alright from a fantasy perspective in his past three games. He's finished with a QB rating north of 90 in each of those contests and has averages of 224 passing yards, 21 rushing yards and 1.3 TD passes in that span. Campbell also gets the yellow designation. WR Santana Moss(notes) has made a career out of torching the Cowboys in Big D. In his four contests in his career that he's had to travel to Dallas, he's averaged 6.5 catches, 123.5 receiving yards and has scored 3 TDs. The history card is one of the most overrated tools of fantasy advice, but it's really tempting to roll with a player that has enjoyed that much success, especially against a defense allowing the 8th-most FAN PPG to WRs. The fear, though, would be Dallas employing the bracket coverage that it used to stymie CAR WR Steve Smith earlier this year. The potential for something like that has me feeling more chartreuse about Moss than a full-blown green – which is why he's flying under the caution flag below. You simply can't start another WAS WR. And, while DAL has been middle of the road against TEs from a fantasy perspective, it has faced a slew of quality TEs. TE Fred Davis(notes) is not in my top 15 TEs for Week 11.

DAL ranks 2nd in the league with 5.1 YPC on offense. That could be very problematic for a WAS defense that could very well be without DT Albert Haynesworth(notes) (ankle) this Sunday. Sans the league's premier run stuffer, expect DAL to pound away between the tackles, assuming RB Marion Barber's(notes) sore thumb doesn't give him issues like it did last week. The injury and game plan in Week 10 afforded Barber just 5 carries, and he's just No. 43 among RBs in FAN PPG over the past five weeks, so regardless of Haynesworth's status, don't go thinking Barber is a slam dunk. That the Cowboys backfield ranks just 14th in FAN PPG despite it's per carry success is beyond me. It's a shame that such fertile real estate is a muddled mess. QB Tony Romo(notes) is averaging 297 passing yards and has thrown 7 TD passes the past two times he's faced WAS at home. He's riding a seven-game streak in which he's thrown for at least 250 passing yards, and he has an 8:2 TD-to-INT ratio in his past four contests. That said, WAS has been brutal on QBs in fantasy (only the Jets have been tougher) and, while I think Romo will perform much better than the average QB has against the 'Skins this season, I have Romo down towards the bottom of my startable QBs for Week 12. In Week 10, WR Miles Austin(notes) finally touched terra firma (4/20/0) after a gradual descent from his 10/250/2 performance at KC in Week 5. In fact, in the past 3 games, WR Roy Williams has been the better fantasy player. Considering the matchup, I've got a yellow-colored view of both players – willing to concede that one of them could do well, but also confident that one will leave you wanting. Frankly, I don't own either player, and this is a week where I'm thankful of that. TE Jason Witten(notes) has just 4 red zone targets this season and ranks just 14th among TE in FAN PPG. He's never been a great red zone TE, and the matchup is also tough for him this week. It is fine to roll him out there this week, but purge any lingering thoughts that he's a weekly "must" play. He's far from it at this point.

Tony Romo, Dallas Defense
Santana Moss, Marion Barber, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Jason Witten, Jason Campbell, Ladell Betts
Felix Jones(notes), Devin Thomas(notes), Patrick Crayton(notes), Fred Davis, Washington Defense
Sleeper: Tashard Choice(notes)
Injuries: WAS RB Clinton Portis (concussion) could be out; WAS DT Albert Haynesworth (ankle) could be questionable; DAL OT Marc Columbo (broken leg) is out for the year; DAL FS Ken Hamlin(notes) (high ankle sprain) is out; DAL RB Marion Barber (thumb) could be questionable; DAL CB Mike Jenkins(notes) (bruised biceps) could be questionable
Prediction: Dallas 30, Washington 17
CLEVELAND BROWNS @ DETROIT LIONS

Key Stats: BROWNS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 228 YPG passing allowed
LIONS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 272 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: It's really hard to get excited about any CLE offensive player considering the team averages a league-low 8.7 PPG – I don't care if it is facing DET. I can see some justification for RB Jamal Lewis(notes) against a defense allowing the 5th-most FAN PPG to RBs. But the Browns are actually averaging fewer passing yards (116 YPG) than OAK (119). That should tell you everything you need to know. Moving on …

At least DET knows how to lose in a fantasy-friendly way. Despite averaging just 15.9 PPG, there's potential in this offense, especially this week against a CLE defense allowing 25 PPG. The Browns are particularly inept at stopping the run and they have allowed the 2nd-most FAN PPG to RBs. RB Kevin Smith(notes) has looked a little lifeless in recent weeks, but he actually had some productive runs in the first half last week against a stout MIN run defense. I'd be willing to bet that Smith gets back on track this week with a TD, a 100-yard game, or both. WR Calvin Johnson(notes) had 8 catches for 84 yards last week, an excellent sign that his knee is feeling better. You don't sit him when he's healthy, and I'd write him into the lineup this week. Opponents don't generally throw a lot against CLE because CLE doesn't put scoreboard pressure on the opposition and teams can generally get the job done against them on the ground. So don't look for much more than Johnson to standout in the DET passing game.

Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson
Jamal Lewis, Matthew Stafford(notes), Detroit Defense
Brady Quinn(notes), Mohamed Massaquoi(notes), Robert Royal(notes), Brandon Pettigrew(notes), Bryant Johnson(notes), Cleveland Defense
Sleeper: Mike Furrey(notes)
Injuries: DET CB Phillip Buchanon(notes) (knee) could be questionable; DET SS Marquand Manuel(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; DET G Stephen Peterman(notes) (ankle) is likely to be out; CLE WR/KR Joshua Cribbs(notes) (concussion) is likely to be out; CLE TE Steve Heiden(notes) (ankle) could be questionable
Prediction: Detroit 20, Cleveland 13
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Key Stats: 49ERS – 3.3 YPC allowed | 248 YPG passing allowed
PACK – 3.5 YPC allowed | 189 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: RB Frank Gore has been elite the past three weeks, averaging 139 YFS and scoring 3 TDs in that span. That gravy train could get robbed this week as Gore faces a GB defense that has allowed the 3rd-fewest YFS to RBs. With QB Alex Smith regressing since his '09 debut in Week 7, GB should be able to comfortably set its sights on shutting down Gore while leaving excellent CBs Charles Woodson(notes) and Al Harris(notes) on an island to handle the SF WRs – the 49er WRs have scored the 3rd-fewest FAN PTS, so why not? TE Vernon Davis(notes) had just 3 catches for 16 yards in Week 10, the second time in three games he's had no more than 3 catches and 20 yards or less. This casts some doubt on him this week against a GB defense that, while allowing 6 TDs to TEs, has let just one TE top 50 yards this season. I have Davis as a green light because he's the No. 2 scoring fantasy tight end, but temper your expectations going in. Same goes for Gore.

QB Aaron Rodgers(notes) is the No. 1 fantasy QB at the moment, and there is nothing with this matchup to suggest he won't continue posting elite numbers. In fact, SF allows the fewest YPC (3.3) and has one of the most anemic pass rushes in the league (17 sacks), so Rodgers may be asked to throw it often at the expense of RB Ryan Grant. That said, Grant has delivered at least 8 fantasy points in all but one game and he's the No. 15 RB in terms of FAN PPG, and he's delivered in a few tough spots this season. So, it's not completely insane if you decide to use him this week. Among GB WRs, Donald Driver(notes) has been as consistent as the tides this year (No. 14 fantasy WR) and he's a viable play this week, but I like Greg Jennings(notes) better given the 49ers' propensity for giving up the deep ball (7th-most pass plays of 20+ yards allowed) and its inability to get after the QB – Rodgers should have the pocket time needed to let Jennings shake free downfield. It looks like TE Jermichael Finley(notes) could return from a sprained knee this week. SF has allowed the 3rd-most YPG to TEs over the past 5 weeks, so put Finley down as a sleeper if he's cleared to play.

Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Green Bay Defense
Ryan Grant
Alex Smith, Josh Morgan(notes), Isaac Bruce(notes), Michael Crabtree(notes), San Francisco Defense
Sleeper: Jermichael Finley
Injuries: SF LB Takeo Spikes(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; GB DE Cullen Jenkins(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; GB LBs Aaron Kampman(notes) (concussion) and Brady Poppinga(notes) (quad) could be questionable; GB TE Jermichael Finley (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Green Bay 26, San Francisco 19
BUFFALO BILLS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Key Stats: BILLS – 5.1 YPC allowed | 200 YPG passing allowed
JAGS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 239 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: BUF averages the 5th-fewest PPG (15.6) and its hard to get excited about the team's prospects of improving on that mark with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell taking over the reins of the team after Dick Jauron was fired this week. It will be interesting to see if he keeps with a backfield platoon that leans to the Marshawn Lynch(notes) side or if Fred Jackson(notes) gains favor. If one were to get a clear majority of touches this week, they'd be viable against a JAC defense allowing 4.3 YPC. But until the situation becomes clear one way or the other, I'd run both Lynch and Jackson under the caution flag. JAC has allowed the 2nd-most FAN PPG to WRs and its switch to a 4-3 defensive alignment last week in an effort to pump some life into the league's worst pass rush (8 sacks) netted nary a sack against the Jets. This looks like a pretty good matchup for WR Terrell Owens(notes), who caught a nice 46-yard bomb from QB Trent Edwards(notes) last week among his 3 catches for 85 yards. WR Lee Evans(notes) scored twice against the Jets, giving him 4 TDs in his past 4 games. JAC will be without CB Rashean Mathis(notes), so both WRs are looking better than usual.

QB David Garrard(notes) has averaged 301 passing yards, 31 rushing yards and has thrown 6 TD passes in four home games this season. That helps offset the concerns of facing a BUF defense that has allowed the 4th-fewest FAN PPG to QBs. Yes, the team has faced some dogs at the signal-caller position in recent weeks, but you still have to be impressed with the fact that the Bills have yielded just 2 TD passes in their past seven games (and there was a Drew Brees(notes) and Matt Schaub in that mix). Garrard should be able to throw for serviceable yardage and I'm guessing he'll net the equivalent of a TD pass be it by actually throwing for a score or rushing for 30+ yards. RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) is the No. 2 fantasy RB and he faces the most generous defense in fantasy to opposing RBs. No need to say more … well, I'll just say that backup RB Rashard Jennings could also get invited to the party with 6-8 touches in an expected run heavy approach by JAC. BUF hasn't allowed a WR to top 10 FAN PTS since Randy Moss(notes) did it in Week 1. The suppressed group of opposing WRs include Andre Johnson(notes), Steve Smith (Car), Marques Colston(notes) and Braylon Edwards(notes). WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes) has delivered in all but one week he's played, but he's a cautionary play this week because of what BUF has been able to do in pass defense – and because opponents average 34 rushing attempts per game. TE Marcedes Lewis(notes) had 58 yards on 2 catches last week and he's a serviceable option, if not a top 12 TE play, against a BUF defense that has been mediocre against the position in fantasy.

Lee Evans, Maurice Jones-Drew
Mike Sims-Walker, Terrell Owens, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Trent Edwards, Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard, Buffalo Defense
Torry Holt(notes), Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper: Rashard Jennings
Injuries: BUF OT Demetrius Bell(notes) (knee) is likely to be out; BUF FS Donte Whitner(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; BUF CB Ashton Youboty(notes) (sprained ankle) could be out; JAC CB Rashean Mathis (groin) is likely to be out
Prediction: Buffalo 24, Jacksonville 21
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Key Stats: STEELERS – 3.4 YPC allowed | 208 YPG passing allowed
CHIEFS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 234 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: KC ranks among the 10 most generous teams in terms of FAN PPG allowed to QBs, RBs and WRs. And the Chiefs have yet to hold a good offense down. It's full speed ahead for QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes), RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes) and WRs Hines Ward(notes) and Santonio Holmes(notes). And don't be surprised if No. 3 WR Mike Wallace(notes) bounces back after a 1/16 performance in Week 10 against CIN. Wallace is tied for 6th in the league with 3 receptions of 40+ yards and KC has allowed a league-high 12 pass plays of 40+ yards. TE Heath Miller(notes) ranks just No. 41 at his position in FAN PTS over the past three weeks and KC has done a commendable job against TEs since PHI TE Brent Celek(notes) went for 104 yards and a TD in Week 3. Miller is always a red zone threat, but he's not the most optimistic play this week.

WR Dwayne Bowe(notes) is out for the next four weeks because he was taking diuretics that were on the NFL's banned substance list. He's now worth drop consideration as he won't be able to help fantasy teams until Week 15. In his wake, WRs Chris Chambers(notes) and Lance Long(notes), among others, will try to pick up the slack. Frankly, the group is uninspiring, especially against PIT this week. It's hard to buy into Chambers as a go-to guy, but he's caught 6 of 9 targets from QB Matt Cassel(notes) in his first two games as a Chief, combining for 130 yards and 2 TDs. Of the entire Chiefs aerial attack, Chambers is the only one worth even remotely considering. RB Jamaal Charles(notes) has performed as I expected he would as the KC lead back, and he topped 100 yards and found pay dirt last week in OAK. But he's facing fantasy's toughest defense for opposing RBs this week. He's flying under a fantasy flag that's a red as the helmet on his head this week. Same goes for his teammates.

Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Defense
Chris Chambers, Heath Miller
Matt Cassel, Lance Long, Jamaal Charles, Sean Ryan(notes), Kansas City Defense
Sleeper: Mike Wallace, Mewelde Moore(notes)
Injuries: PIT SS Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee) is likely to be questionable; KC WR Dwayne Bowe (suspended) is out; KC LB Mike Vrabel(notes) (knee) is questionable
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Kansas City 10
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Stats: HAWKS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 233 YPG passing allowed
VIKES – 4.2 YPC allowed | 234 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: The SEA pass protection issues will be glaring this week as it faces a MIN defense that leads the league with 34 QB sacks. Ever since QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) was overwhelmed by blitzing ARI defenders in Week 6, the Seahawks have done a better job at game planning the passing attack to combat that heat. The team has still struggled to keep Hasselbeck upright, but at least Hasselbeck seems to understand what to expect now and he's the No. 8 QB in fantasy for the past three weeks despite taking 8 sacks in that span. All of this is to say that Hasselbeck could be on his backside a half dozen times on Sunday, and he might be forced into a turnover or two, but he might still post his third straight 300-yard passing game – MIN allows healthy fantasy production to QBs (7th-most). RB Justin Forsett(notes), taking over for an injured Julius Jones(notes), won't likely churn out much value on the ground against the 2nd-toughest fantasy run defense. But he could be especially valuable to Hasselbeck as blitz relief. Same goes for TE John Carlson(notes) (MIN allows the most FAN PPG to TEs), who scored last week for the first time since Week 1. MIN is one of just 6 teams that has allowed 30+ pass plays of 20+ yards. Right now, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) seems to have Hasselbeck's favor at the moment, as he's been targeted 26 times the past two games. But don't be surprised if WR Nate Burleson(notes) comes up with a big play against his former team after getting shutout last week.

SEA has some skilled defensive players and it has been respectable in spots, but those spots have all been at home. On the road, it is a disaster, having allowed an average of 31.5 points in four contests away from Seattle. I'm bullish about the MIN skill position players this week, save WR Bernard Berrian(notes), who is still not all the way back from his hamstring injury, and TE Visanthe Shiancoe(notes), who I have just lukewarm feeling for given the Seahawks' solid linebacker crew.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Defense, Brett Favre(notes), Percy Harvin(notes), Sidney Rice(notes)
Nate Burleson, Matt Hasselbeck, John Carlson, Justin Forsett, Visanthe Shiancoe
Bernard Berrian, Chester Taylor(notes), Seattle Defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: SEA RB Julius Jones (lungs) is out
Prediction: Minnesota 34, Seattle 21
ATLANTA FALCONS @ NEW YORK GIANTS

Key Stats: FALCONS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 241 YPG passing allowed
GIANTS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 168 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: ATL suffered a major blow when RB Michael Turner sprained his ankle in Week 10, an injury that could cost him anywhere from two weeks to the remainder of the regular season. RB Jason Snelling(notes) looks like he'll get the first big shot in the backfield with Turner out as Jerious Norwood(notes) wouldn't likely be able to take on a major role in his first week back from a three-game absence because of a hip injury. Snelling offers toughness and versatility and I wouldn't be surprised if he's able to manage something similar to what he was able to do in a relief role in Week 10 at CAR (93 YFS, TD) against a NYG defense that has yielded 4.5 YPC this season. It's a tough week for ATL to shift gears to more of a passing emphasis considering the Giants allow the 2nd-fewest passing yards per game (168) and QB Matt Ryan(notes) is second to only CHI QB Jay Cutler(notes) with 10 INTs over the past five weeks (Cutler has 12). That said, the Giants have allowed 48% more fantasy production to WRs than the league average the past five weeks and WR Roddy White(notes) is generally matchup proof. I think Ryan and White do some quality work together on Sunday, while TE Tony Gonzalez(notes) chips in with another solid, if not spectacular effort (the Giants allow the 8th-most FAN PPG to TEs). WR Michael Jenkins(notes) has gone 17 straight regular-season games without a TD. Why bother?

The Giants have focused in recent weeks on giving RB Brandon Jacobs(notes) the type of power running plays that best suit his style. The result has been a YPC average north of 5.0 in his past four games. Jacobs getting on track on the ground spells trouble for an ATL defense allowing 4.6 YPC, especially with Jacobs fresh coming off a bye. Backup RB Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) sat out Monday's practice as his problematic foot injury still lingers. With Bradshaw still limited, Jacobs should be good for 20+ totes and something in the neighborhood of 90-100 yards and a TD. The bye week was especially welcome relief for QB Eli Manning(notes), who has been dealing with a plantar fascia injury. He claims the off week has made the foot a non-issue and, if true, he has a nice opportunity this week against an ATL defense that has allowed the most pass plays of 20+ yards – Manning is 8th among QBs in pass plays of 20+ yards. WRs Mario Manningham(notes) and Hakeem Nicks(notes) have been the "big play" receivers but with both healthy, they can cannibalize each other's stats. I have both listed below as cautionary plays, but consider both of them as chartreuse options with the possibility that one of them really goes off. WR Steve Smith has been Manning's most steady hand and the No. 8 fantasy wideout is a definite play. TE Kevin Boss(notes), who has scored in two straight, is also a justifiable option against an ATL defense that has allowed the 4th-most FAN PPG to the position.

Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Eli Manning, Steve Smith, Brandon Jacobs
Matt Ryan, Jason Snelling, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss
Michael Jenkins, Atlanta Defense
Sleeper: Danny Ware(notes)
Injuries: ATL RB Michael Turner (high-ankle sprain) is likely to be out; NYG RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot/ankle) could be questionable; NYG CB Aaron Ross(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable
Prediction: NY Giants 26, Atlanta 17
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Stats: SAINTS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 228 YPG passing allowed
BUCS – 4.9 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB Drew Brees has been a bit rocky the past month – 10 turnovers, 9 sacks in the past four games – but he should be just fine against a TB defense that has allowed the 3rd-most FAN PPG to QBs and has struggled to put opposing signal-callers on their back. TB also allows the 6th-most FAN PPG to RBs, the 3rd-most production to WRs and is the 10th-most generous to TEs. Sure, STL put a scare into NO last week and once gain proved that on any given Sunday, anything can happen. But that close call should only have the Saints focused for what looks like another potential cakewalk. NO has the most productive backfield in fantasy and you could make a case for playing any of its three main backfield components – Reggie bush(notes), Pierre Thomas(notes) and Mike Bell(notes) – in this one. Bush has 5 TDs in his past five games as the team has looked to him from in close to the goal line recently. Thomas is good for a standard 15 touches or so a week and Bell gets in on the act when the team is sitting on a second half lead or to give Thomas a breather. They all rob fantasy value from each other, but there should be enough production available this week that none will starve. At WR, Lance Moore(notes) has missed the past couple weeks with an ankle injury and backup Robert Meachem(notes) has exploited the opportunity, scoring a TD in both contests. His 23.1 yards per catch is the highest mark in the league among those with at least 10 receptions. If Moore sits again, I'd play Meachem against a TB defense that has allowed the 2nd-most pass plays of 40+ yards (10). WR Devery Henderson(notes) has topped 70 yards in five games, but he hasn't scored since Week 1. However, history card enthusiasts should note that 5 of his 15 career TDs have come against TB. Go-to wideout Marques Colston has suffered through two lackluster weeks, which has mirrored the Saints' performance in general. Count on Colston seeing double digit targets this week. TE Jeremy Shockey(notes) is scoreless in his past four games but this could be the week that streak comes to an end. TEs have scored against TB in three of the past four games.

The knee injury that has kept NO DT Sedrick Ellis(notes) out of action of late has really made a mark on the Saints' run defense. The team has allowed 36% more fantasy production to opposing backfields than the league average over the past five weeks. Over the past four games, three backs have topped the 100-yard mark on the ground and RBs have accounted for 8 rushing TDs. This is good news for RB Carnell Williams(notes), who has maintained the lead role in the backfield platoon with RB Derrick Ward(notes), touching the rock at least 13 times in eight of nine contests. With his usual 13-16 touches, Williams should post low-end, green-light worthy numbers. That QB Josh Freeman(notes) has played the part of a viable passing threat only helps, and NO could have to pay even more attention to the pass than usual if shutdown CB Jabari Greer(notes) and/or FS Darren Sharper(notes) miss another game with injury after both sat last week – and CB Tracy Porter(notes) has already been ruled out this week with a knee injury. WR Maurice Stovall(notes) has been Freeman's favorite target, but the WR group lacks upside unless Antonio Bryant(notes) plays – he'll be a question mark once again this week. TE Kellen Winslow(notes) has been far and away Freeman's preferred target and, although NO has yet to allow a TD to a TE, you can't sit Junior at the moment.

Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey, Carnell Williams, Kellen Winslow
Devery Henderson, Mike Bell, Josh Freeman, Antonio Bryant, Derrick Ward, New Orleans Defense
Maurice Stovall, Michael Clayton(notes), Tampa Bay Defense
Sleeper: Robert Meachem
Injuries: NO WR Lance Moore (ankle) could be questionable; NO DT Sedrick Ellis (knee) could be out; NO CB Tracy Porter (knee) is out; NO FS Darren Sharper (knee) could be questionable; NO CB Jabari Greer (groin) could be questionable; TB WR Antonio Bryant (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: New Orleans 33, Tampa Bay 19
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

Key Stats: CARDS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 253 YPG passing allowed
RAMS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 236 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: ARI ranks in the top 5 in passing yards, passing TDs and passing attempts per game. Against a STL defense that has allowed the 4th-highest QB rating to opposing QBs (91.7), there's every reason to keep starting all the ARI aerial components in this one. And STL has also allowed the 4th-most FAN PPG to RBs, and that's now a meaningful statistic in ARI as the Cards have an emerging ground game thanks to rookie Beanie Wells(notes), who has averaged over 5.0 yards per carry in his past four games on an average of just shy of 13 carries per contest. RB Tim Hightower(notes) still has a grip on passing situations and most of the goal line work, and the combination has really given the ARI balance it has been missing for some time. There's likely to be a disappointment within the ARI offensive contingent, but ARI has been excellent on the road and all are defensible starts this week, save the tight end.

At 11.1 PPG, STL has the 3rd-worst offense in the league. Outside of RB Steven Jackson, there are no guarantees. WR Donnie Avery(notes) is getting closer, as he's scored 4 TDs in his past five games, including 2 TDs last week. Avery was handled by ARI in two meetings last season (combined 5/44), but Avery is still worth running out there against an ARI secondary that has allowed the 7th-most FAN PPG to WRs in '09. STL lost WR Keenan Burton(notes) for the season to a knee injury last week. Rookie 6th-round pick Brandon Gibson(notes) filled in with 7 catches for 93 yards, but he's too much of an unknown to gamble on in this offense unless it's a very deep league. The sleeper for STL could be TE Daniel Fells(notes) who sits just outside the top 20 TEs this season in terms of FAN PTS. He has a TD and a 43.5 YPG average over the past two games and ARI has given up a ton of production to the TE position.

Kurt Warner(notes), Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Anquan Boldin(notes), Steve Breaston(notes), Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower, Steven Jackson, Donnie Avery, Arizona Defense
Marc Bulger(notes),
Ben Patrick(notes), Danny Amendola(notes), St. Louis Defense, Randy McMichael(notes)
Sleeper: Daniel Fells, Brandon Gibson
Injuries: STL WR Keenan Burton (knee) is out for the year
Prediction: Arizona 27, St. Louis 14
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ DENVER BRONCOS

Key Stats: BOLTS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 208 YPG passing allowed
BRONCOS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 187 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB Philip Rivers(notes) was an efficient 20-of-33 for 274 yards and a passing TD in a Week 6 loss to DEN. He was, however, sacked 5 times and lost a fumble in the process. But DEN seems to be losing steam on both sides of the ball, and Rivers is just starting to roll, having thrown for 9 TDs in his past four games. He's the No. 6 fantasy QB, and he should be good for top 10 placement at the position this week. Along with Rivers, TE Antonio Gates(notes) and WR Vincent Jackson(notes), coming off a 1/10 performance in Week 10, are both valid plays – both were viable against DEN in Week 6, and the Broncos have been more generous to both positions over the past three weeks than the league average. RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) had 100 YFS (his season high) against DEN in the previous meeting and it looks like his O-line is finally starting to click – and it could be further boosted by the return of C Nick Hardwick(notes) this week. A RB has reached 100 YFS in five straight games against DEN, and Tomlinson could very well reach the century mark in that department once again. I've been bullish on RB Darren Sproles(notes) a few times in the past weeks, but head coach Norv Turner has proven very loyal to Tomlinson, true to his preseason words. Sproles hasn't seen more than 8 touches in a game in the past six contests, and he had just 4 YFS in the previous meeting with DEN. I'd steer clear until it looks like his role is going to expand.

The DEN offense has hit the skids, as the team has averaged just north of 11 points during its current three-game slide. QB Kyle Orton(notes) is dealing with an ankle injury that has his availability for Sunday in question. Backup QB Chris Simms(notes) looked terrible in relief of Orton last Sunday and against a SDG defense that has been tough on both the QB and WR positions, only the extreme talents of WR Brandon Marshall(notes) are worth gambling on. DEN should try to go ground heavy as it did at SDG in Week 6 (33 rushes). RB Knowshon Moreno(notes) took back the lead backfield role last week and nearly reached 100 rushing yards (97) for the first time in his career. But he managed just 2.4 yards on 18 carries against the Chargers in the previous meeting and the SDG speed on defense has been strong at limiting the quicker type backs. RB Correll Buckhalter(notes), who offers more of a power approach, could be the more successful back (as he was last time) as the Chargers have been bullied by more powerful RBs. That said, I'd consider both backs cautiously this week. A DEN TE hasn't scored more than 3 FAN PTS in any of the past three games, but TE Tony Scheffler(notes) is a notorious Charger killer (6 of his 14 career TDs have come against SDG) and this is one history card I'd probably play this week.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Brandon Marshall
Malcom Floyd(notes), Correll Buckhalter, Knowshon Moreno, San Diego Defense, Denver Defense
Kyle Orton, Darren Sproles, Eddie Royal(notes)
Sleeper: Legedu Naanee(notes)
Injuries: SD OT Jeromey Clary(notes) (foot) could be questionable; SD C Nick Hardwick (ankle) could be questionable; DEN QB Kyle Orton (ankle) is questionable; DEN OT Ryan Harris(notes) (toe) is out; DEN LB D.J. Williams(notes) (neck) could be questionable
Prediction: San Diego 24, Denver 20
NEW YORK JETS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Key Stats: JETS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 170 YPG passing allowed
PATS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 195 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: In a Week 2 loss to NE, QB Mark Sanchez(notes) was asked to throw just 22 times. He finished with 163 yards and a TD (0 INTs). Sanchez will likely be limited again against a Patriots defense that allows the 10th-lowest QB rating to opposing QBs (78.4) and has intercepted 9 passes in the past six games. In such a crucial divisional contest, expect RB Thomas Jones(notes) to once again see a sizeable workload advantage over rookie RB Shonn Greene(notes) – TJ has gone 22 straight games without a fumble lost. Jones should see 20+ carries for the fifth straight week, and pay dirt is also likely to be in the cards for Sunday. WR Jerricho Cotchery(notes) has at least 7 FAN PTS in every game in which he was healthy from start to finish and he was good for 87 yards against NE in the previous meeting. He's Sanchez's go-to guy and I'd trust him before I trusted the more volatile Braylon Edwards, who has caught just 11 of 24 passes thrown his way in the past four games. No TE has scored more than 8 FAN PTS against NE this season, which is what Dustin Keller(notes) netted against the Pats in Week 2. Understand that that is his upside if you decide to give him the nod this week.

You're going to start QB Tom Brady and WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker(notes) every week unless you have an absolutely loaded roster. That said, Moss owners should be concerned about NYJ CB Darrelle Revis(notes). Moss has been held to under 30 receiving yards in each of his past three meetings with the Jets. I'll have Moss among my top 20 WRs this week, but not my top 10. RB Laurence Maroney shared the backfield workload with RB Kevin Faulk last week but found pay dirt for the 4th consecutive week. I'd expect Maroney to regain the lion's share of the backfield work this week and he'd be the one other Pats player besides Brady, Moss and Welker that I'd role with this week.

Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Laurence Maroney, Thomas Jones, Jerricho Cotchery, New England Defense
Benjamin Watson(notes), Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller
New York Defense, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene
Sleeper: Kevin Faulk
Injuries: NYJ LB Vernon Gholston(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; NYJ SS Jim Leonhard(notes) (thumb) is likely to be out
Prediction: New England 27, NY Jets 20
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats: BENGALS – 3.9 YPC allowed | 231 YPG passing allowed
RAIDERS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: CIN is not yet ruling RB Cedric Benson(notes) officially out this week with a hip injury, but you should. No game is a given in the NFL, but CIN has to like its chances this week even without Benson. OAK has allowed the 2nd-most FAN PPG to RBS, so rookie RB Bernard Scott(notes) becomes a player of definite interest in the likely event that Benson sits, and FB Brian Leonard(notes) has solid sleeper potential. I wouldn't gamble that newly acquired RB Larry Johnson(notes) gets anything more than a handful opportunities in this one, if any. QB Carson Palmer(notes) hasn't thrown the ball more than 35 times in any of his past five games and he won't likely top that mark on Sunday – OAK has the 4th-fewest pass attempts against – assuming the running game is effective. But OAK is not strong at getting after the QB and has the 3rd-fewest INTs (6) in the league, so Palmer should be effective when he does go to the air. I have Palmer as just inside my top 12 this week, and as Palmer's go-to guy, I'd start WR Chad Ocho Cinco(notes) as usual (OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) typically plays a side of the field, not a select WR). WR Laveranues Coles(notes) has stepped it up of late with WR Chris Henry out, but I'd only role with him in deeper PPR leagues.

Justin Fargas(notes), Darren McFadden(notes), Michael Bush(notes)? Who knows. JaMarcus Russell(notes), Bruce Gradkowski(notes)? Who cares. Consider TE Zach Miller, but only in leagues of 12 teams or more.

Bernard Scott, Carson Palmer, Chad Ocho Cinco, Cincinnati defense
Zach Miller, Laveranues Coles
Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, Oakland quarterback, Oakland receivers, Oakland Defense, Andre Caldwell(notes)
Sleeper: Brian Leonard
Injuries: CIN RB Cedric Benson (hip) could be out; CHI DT Tommy Kelly(notes) (ribs) could be questionable; OAK FS Michael Huff(notes) (ankle) could be questionable
Prediction: Cincinnati 23, Oakland 13
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ CHICAGO BEARS

Key Stats: EAGLES – 3.7 YPC allowed | 206 YPG passing allowed
BEARS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 195 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: It looks like PHI could be without RB Brian Westbrook(notes) for a while, and that opens the door for rookie RB LeSean McCoy(notes) to assume featured back duties against a CHI defense allowing 4.2 YPC. PHI doesn't run much, but McCoy's versatility should make him a serviceable fantasy option this week. CHI ranks among the 13 most generous in fantasy points allowed to the QB, WR and TE positions, and it is dealing with some injuries in the secondary. As PHI is one of the most pass-happy offenses in the league, you should feel good about all the starting components of the aerial attack. But forget about a strong encore performance from No. 3 WR Jason Avant(notes) (8/156 last week). CHI has week after week, allowed big days to the opponents' No. 1 WR (hello, DeSean Jackson(notes)) while typically shutting down ancillary options.

No QB has thrown more INTs (12) than Jay Cutler the past five weeks. Cutler has also been sacked 11 times in that span, and both developments are ominous considering that PHI ranks 3rd in the league in INTS (15) and 2nd in sacks (29). The volatility factor is too high for Cutler this week, but I'd be willing to keep rolling the dice on WR Devin Hester(notes), who has caught at least a half dozen passes in five consecutive contests. PHI has been strong in fantasy against WRs, but it could be without CB Sheldon Brown(notes) and S Quintin Demps(notes) this week, and I think that Hester should be at least serviceable and has the potential to break a big one. The attacking style of the PHI defense leaves it extremely vulnerable to TEs and TE Greg Olsen(notes) is a fantastic option this week. RB Matt Forte(notes) has withered in every tough matchup he's seen this year and this game qualifies – PHI allows just 3.7 YPC. As usual, though, you're playing Forte in PPR leagues – he's only a modest play in standard formats.

Donovan McNabb(notes), DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, LeSean McCoy, Devin Hester, Greg Olsen, Philadelphia Defense
Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Earl Bennett(notes), Chicago Defense
Jason Avant, Johnny Knox(notes)
Sleeper: Leonard Weaver(notes)
Injuries: PHI RB Brian Westbrook (concussion) could be out for the year; PHI WR DeSean Jackson (ankle) could be questionable; PHI OT Jason Peters(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; PHI CB Sheldon Brown (hamstring) could be out; PHI S Quintin Demps (ankle) could be questionable; CHI TE Desmond Clark(notes) (neck) could be questionable; CHI OT Orlando Pace(notes) (concussion) could be questionable; CHI CB Zack Bowman (abdominal) and S Al Afalava(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable
Prediction: Philadelphia 26, Chicago 20
TENNESSEE TITANS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

Key Stats: TITANS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 270 YPG passing allowed
TEXANS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 224 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: There is but one absolute for TEN: RB Chris Johnson. The top fantasy RB dropped 284 YFS and 3 TDs on HOU in a Week 2 meeting and he's logged four consecutive 100-yard performances on the ground. HOU allows 4.7 YPC and you can bet we'll be seeing plenty more of Johnson on Monday night. QB Vince Young(notes) has been excellent in game manger mode since taking over, but I'll never view him with green-colored glasses in this forum because there's not enough predictable upside to his game, especially in this offense. WR Nate Washington(notes) has scored in two of his past three games with Young at QB and he scored in the previous meeting against HOU. He's seventh among WRs in red zone targets, so he's the most viable of the TEN receiving contingent.

TEN has improved in pass defense in recent weeks, but the fact remains that through 10 weeks of the season, the Titans have been the most generous in fantasy to the QB and WR positions. QB Matt Schaub threw for 357 yards and 4 TDs in the Week 2 matchup and you'd have to try awfully hard to talk yourself out of rolling with Schaub this week. Same goes for WR Andre Johnson. WR Kevin Walter(notes) went into the break last week following a hopeful 5/67 performance at Indy. But he's been held to 15 yards or less in his past three meeting with TEN and he's been held scoreless six consecutive weeks so handle him with care. HOU seems committed to getting RB Steve Slaton back on track, using the bye week as an opportunity to work extensively on Slaton's ball protection issues. Don't be surprised if Slaton takes two-thirds of the backfield workload this week, with RB Ryan Moats role diminishing – assuming Slaton doesn't cough up the ball early in this contest. Consider Slaton as a chartreuse option this week, and a green-light option in PPR leagues. I'm steering clear of Moats this week as I expect HOU to let Slaton have a big opportunity at redemption.

Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub
Steve Slaton, Kevin Walter, Vince Young, Nate Washington, Tennessee Defense
Kenny Britt(notes), Bo Scaife(notes), Joel Dreessen(notes), Ryan Moats, Houston Defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: HOU WR Jacoby Jones(notes) (calf) could be questionable; TEN WR Justin Gage(notes) (back) is likely out
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Houston 23

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