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NFL Skinny: Week 14 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

In my highest priority league, the one with my local buddies, we play things out through the end of the season. As I've said before, we don't like to leave meat on the bone. If the NFL is playing regular season games, we want to be there to have fantasy action riding on the outcomes. The argument against playing Week 17 is obvious. Non-playoff teams sit regulars and give unproven youngsters a test drive, while playoff teams rest starters for, well, the postseason. But, if you accept those realities for what they are and know that come Week 17, the two owners still standing will have to be prepared for a bit of a circus-like juggling act, it's really not that big of a deal. Nobody in my league cried foul when I won the league last year with Tim Tebow(notes) at QB, Joe McKnight(notes) at RB and Joe Webb(notes), the Vikings starting QB for Week 17, at WR. My opponent also had some Week 17 strings that he was trying to pull. It just turned out that mine worked out better. No matter how good a fantasy team is, letting one week in the NFL decide a fantasy championship opens the door to the "Any given Sunday" randomness of the game – just go check out how your team's scores have deviated from week-to-week throughout the year. One of my greatest fantasy teams ever compiled missed out on playing for a championship because I lost by 0.2 points in Week 15 of '07 when my QB Tom Brady(notes) failed to record a TD pass for the only time all season (that was the year he threw 50). The point is, whether it's Week 1, Week 16 or Week 17, you can't guarantee that things will go as expected for your fantasy team. And if that's the case, why not tack on another week to this great game we call fantasy football.

Alright, best of luck to those still with a pulse. Let's jump into the Week 14 matchups, Skinny-style (players in parentheses are chartreuse plays, stuck somewhere between a green and yellow light):

Total Week 14 green-light plays by position: 14 QBs; 24 RBs; 27 WRs; 11 TEs; 10 Defenses

CLEVELAND BROWNS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Browns are the fifth-worst scoring offense and the Steelers are the fourth-best scoring defense. Simply put, there's not a Browns player that I'd feel even remotely good about playing this week. … The Browns have the stingiest defense in fantasy against QBs and WRs. I consider Ben Roethlisberger(notes) starting material in even the toughest of matchups because of his ability to extend plays and his big arm. I’ll have him and Mike Wallace(notes) in their usual QB1 and WR1 spots, but just temper your enthusiasm for them going in. The Browns are bad against the run and Rashard Mendenhall(notes), who has had a tough year (largely because his O-line has been bad) will likely see a big role in this game and I'm more optimistic about his potential than I've been in a long time.
Ben Roethlisberger; Rashard Mendenhall; Mike Wallace; (Antonio Brown(notes)); Pittsburgh Defense
Heath Miller(notes)
Cleveland Offense/Defense
Isaac Redman(notes)
Browns: QB Colt McCoy(notes) (knee); RB Peyton Hillis(notes) (hip); RB Montario Hardesty(notes) (calf)
Steelers: LB LaMarr Woodley(notes) (hamstring); G Ramon Foster(notes) (ankle)
Headline: Steelers throw the Curtain over Browns in dominating win
Final score: Steelers 26, Browns 7
HOUSTON TEXANS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

T.J. Yates(notes) didn't look half bad running the show for the Texans in Week 13. He has nice pocket awareness and nifty feet. The Bengals took a big hit when top corner Leon Hall(notes) was lost for the year a few weeks back, and the Bengals have allowed 2 TD passes in three straight games. But Cincy's potentially exploitable pass defense might not come into play. Houston is the most run-heavy team in the league and was even more run-inclined in Yates' first start, finishing with 44 rush attempts in Week 13. Expect more of the same this week. If Andre Johnson(notes) plays (tweaked hamstring last week; being described as a day-to-day injury), the fact that he was 4/97 in a game against Atlanta that sets up similarly to that of the Bengals matchup is encouraging. … The Texans did a number on a good Atlanta offense last week, continue to support the argument that this might be the best defense in the league. It allows a league-low QB Rating of 60.7, easily distancing itself from Baltimore's 67.5 mark, the next closest team in that department. A.J. Green(notes) has proven time again that he can make a play against anyone, and Andy Dalton(notes) has shown time and again that he's willing to throw it up and let Green make a play in traffic, so I'm not sitting Green. But I'm leery of all other Bengals.
Arian Foster(notes); A.J. Green; Andre Johnson (health?)
Andy Dalton; T.J. Yates; Cedric Benson(notes); Jacoby Jones(notes); Jermaine Gresham(notes); Cincinnati Defense; Houston Defense
Jerome Simpson(notes); Kevin Walter(notes)
Ben Tate(notes)
Texans: WR Andre Johnson (hamstring); LB Brian Cushing(notes) (knee)
Bengals: QB Andy Dalton (hip); OT Andre Smith (ankle)
Headline: Bengals shock Texans with late, game-winning field goal
Final score: Bengals 19, Texans 17
MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ DETROIT LIONS

The Lions have allowed huge production to the QB position the past couple weeks, but let's cut them some slack. They've faced Aaron Rodgers(notes) and Drew Brees(notes), so their struggles against the pass were a given. Detroit allows the seventh-lowest QB Rating and fourth-lowest Yards Per Attempt, impressive numbers. For a rookie QB playing a divisional road game against a team fighting for their playoff lives and coming off an embarrassing performance (What the hell were you thinking, Titus Young(notes)?) on Sunday night, it's a very tall order. I'm avoiding the Christian Ponder(notes) bandwagon this week. Adrian Peterson once again hopes to return this week. We probably won't know his status until very late in the week. If he can't go, you're well aware by now what that means for Percy Harvin(notes), and it's all good. And Toby Gerhart(notes) would also have RB2 upside if Peterson sits. For the unawares, he showed his pass-catching skills last week, and that would pair nicely with a heavy load of carries against a Suh-less Lions defense that has allowed 4.8 YPC. And for what it's worth, Devin Aromashodu(notes) led the league with 15 targets last week. For the Hail Mary hunters this week, that's a meaningful stat. … Like Minnesota, it's unclear who will lead the way in Detroit's backfield this week. Kevin Smith's(notes) ankle injury flared up in Week 13, and he sat the second half against New Orleans. If Smith does play, you've witnessed the potential downside (early exit), and the indoor artificial surface (like New Orleans) certainly won't help. I'd want to hear fantastically positive reports about Smith's ankle before I started him in what is the first round of the fantasy playoffs for most. As for the Lions passing game, it's hard not to be heady with anticipation. The Vikings are third-most generous in fantasy to the QB and WR positions. You have to love Matthew Stafford(notes) and Calvin Johnson(notes). And there's nothing wrong with Nate Burleson(notes), assuming he doesn't get the same referee in this game that called all those ridiculous offensive interference penalties against him last week. Brandon Pettigrew(notes) is a problem, however. Despite some really decent matchups (on paper), he's scored just once in his last six games and hasn't topped 42 receiving yards since Week 4. He's drained me of any confidence I once had for him.
Matthew Stafford; Adrian Peterson (health ?); Calvin Johnson; Percy Harvin; (Nate Burleson)
Christian Ponder; (Kevin Smith – health ?); (Toby Gerhart); Devin Aromashodu; Brandon Pettigrew; Detroit Defense; Minnesota Defense
Titus Young; Visanthe Shiancoe(notes)
Maurice Morris(notes)
Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson (ankle); QB Christian Ponder (hip); DE Brian Robison(notes) (concussion)
Lions: RB Kevin Smith (ankle); DT Nick Fairley(notes) (foot)
Headline: Stafford guns down Vikings, Lions stay in playoff hunt
Final score: Lions 27, Vikings 17
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS

I'm not sure how you can trust BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) this week. The "Law Firm" didn't touch the ball in the second half in Week 13, despite the Patriots holding a 17-3 halftime lead and a 31-3 lead at the end of the third quarter. Stevan Ridley(notes) got eight second-half carries in the contest, so either BJGE's toe was bothering him again, or Bill Belichick just hates us (the latter, most likely). Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski(notes), Wes Welker(notes), Aaron Hernandez(notes) … these guys are bankable, even against decent defenses like Washington. Everyone else is garnish. … Roy Helu(notes) continues to take us down a road that we are loathe to travel – confiding in a Mike Shanahan-controlled running back. But after back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against staunch run defenses in Seattle and the Jets, it's really hard to believe that Shanahan would try to pull the rug out from under us at this point. Helu's a stud, and a must-start at this point. Also, count on healthy production from the 'Skins passing game this week, even without Fred Davis(notes), who was slapped with a season-ending four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance policy. The Pats have allowed the most fantasy points to QBs and WRs, and an insane 62 pass plays of 20-plus yards. Santana Moss(notes) saw a healthy amount of targets last week, and this is the week he turns the attention into meaningful production.
Tom Brady; (Rex Grossman(notes)); Roy Helu; Wes Welker; (Santana Moss); Rob Gronkowski
BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Jabar Gaffney(notes); Deion Branch(notes); (Aaron Hernandez); New England Defense
Logan Paulsen(notes); Washington Defense
Stevan Ridley
Patriots: None of significance
Redskins: QB Rex Grossman (shoulder)
Headline: Pats survive scare, beat Redskins with late Brady TD toss
Final score: Patriots 27, Redskins 23
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ NEW YORK JETS

Like the Browns, I'm throwing the entire Chiefs offense under a red flag blanket. This is a team that has scored one TD under Tyler Palko(notes), that being a gift 38-yard Hail Mary TD grab by Dexter McCluster(notes) last week. With Kyle Orton(notes) dealing with a dislocated finger, Palko is expected to get another turn behind center. And, that being the case, I can't make an argument for Dwayne Bowe(notes) (Revis Island) or any other Chiefs player. … The Chiefs are terrible on offense, but they can play defense. Pittsburgh and Chicago combined for just 16 points against KC in the past two weeks. The Chiefs have been especially good against the pass, ranking among the stingiest in fantasy against the QB and WR positions. They have been generous, however, to opposing RBs and TEs, so Shonn Greene(notes), coming off a 3-TD performance, and Dustin Keller(notes), who is averaging 60 yards and has scored all of his 4 TDs at home, are viable plays. But I'd try to circumvent Mark Sanchez(notes) and the Jets receivers.
Shonn Greene; (Dustin Keller); NY Jets Defense
Mark Sanchez; Santonio Holmes(notes); (Plaxico Burress(notes)); Kansas City Defense
Kansas City Offense
LaDainian Tomlinson(notes)
Chiefs: QB Kyle Orton (finger); LB Tamba Hali(notes) (hand); S Kendrick Lewis(notes) (knee)
Jets: RB Joe McKnight (elbow); RB LaDainian Tomlinson (knee); LB David Harris(notes) (ankle)
Headline: Jets defense stifles Chiefs
Final score: Jets 20, Chiefs 6
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

I can't explain why Sean Payton has suddenly fallen in love with his least dynamic running back, but Mark Ingram(notes) holds a 37-to-16-to-14 carries advantage over Pierre Thomas(notes) and Darren Sproles(notes), respectively, the past three games. The Saints have the most productive fantasy backfield and the Titans have been especially bad against the run of late, so there'll be ripe production for the picking in this contest. There's no reason to think Ingram won't see another 12 carries, and Sproles should get his usual 5-6 carries/5-6 catches. So, the biggest question mark is how Thomas will fit in. He's the riskiest play of the trio. As for the passing game, Drew Brees, Marques Colston(notes) and Jimmy Graham(notes) are in the circle of trust. The other WRs are so interchangeable that Payton rotates who starts among Lance Moore(notes), Robert Meachem(notes) and Devery Henderson(notes). And Brees seems to rotate who gets his favor from week-to-week. The Titans are strong against the pass, so don't bother venturing outside of the Big Three among the Saints aerial attack. … Chris Johnson is on a nice roll, both seeing some running room and showing some of his old burst. The Saints allow 4.9 YPC, so even if the Titans have to play catch-up, I'd want to make sure I had Johnson in the game. It's a good setup for him to break a long one via a draw play or on a wheel route or screen. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) has been held to under 225 passing yards and 1 TD pass or less in six of his past seven games. It's hard to buy heavily into a decent matchup for the Titans passing game given that meager recent production. Damian Williams(notes) has a nice rapport with Hasselbeck, especially in the red zone. And with Nate Washington(notes) questionable because of an ankle injury, Williams is not a bad risk to take. But he's probably the only Titan I'd offer an opportunity to this week outside of Johnson.
Drew Brees; Chris Johnson; Darren Sproles; Marques Colston; Jimmy Graham
Matt Hasselbeck; Pierre Thomas; (Mark Ingram); (Damian Williams); Lance Moore; Jared Cook(notes); New Orleans Defense
Nate Washington (health ?); Devery Henderson; Robert Meachem; Tennessee Defense
Lavelle Hawkins(notes)
Saints: None of significance
Titans: WR Nate Washington (ankle); CB Jason McCourty(notes) (concussion)
Headline: Saints stumble, but Brees-to-Graham connection bails them out at Tennessee
Final score: Saints 24, Titans 23
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

As I mentioned last week, Dan Orlovsky(notes) can throw the ball a little bit. He showed a preference for Pierre Garcon(notes) in his first start last week, targeting him 12 times compared to just six looks for Reggie Wayne(notes). Most likely the Colts, like last week, will be forced to the air. And, if so, you have to like Garcon a bit more than Wayne after how things played out last week. The Ravens are not a matchup that I'd want to mess with if I owned a Colts RB or needed a QB (Orlovsky). Jacob Tamme(notes) had a decent 5/49 last week and Orlovsky definitely showed love for his tight ends when he held the reins of Detroit's offense back in '08, but the Ravens have been Grim Reapers against the TE position, so Garcon is the only Colt I'd even consider. … If you own Ravens, you love this matchup against the Colts. All Ravens, save the tight ends, look better than usual. And Ricky Williams(notes), who picked up 16 carries last week, could collect some quality garbage in this contest.
(Joe Flacco(notes)); Ray Rice(notes); Anquan Boldin(notes); (Torrey Smith(notes)); Baltimore Defense
(Pierre Garcon); Reggie Wayne; Ed Dickson(notes)
Dan Orlovsky; Indianapolis Running Backs; Austin Collie(notes); Jacob Tamme; Indianapolis Defense
Ricky Williams
Colts: LB Pat Angerer(notes) (knee); CB Terrence Johnson(notes) (arm); CB Jerraud Powers(notes) (elbow)
Ravens: LB Ray Lewis(notes) (toe)
Headline: Ravens run wild in route of Colts
Final score: Ravens 28, Colts 13
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

The Eagles expect to get Michael Vick(notes) and Jeremy Maclin(notes) back this week. Miami's defense has stepped up big-time of late, holding seven straight opponents to 20 points or less. The Dolphins are still most susceptible against the pass, but not nearly as much as they were early in the year. Frankly, besides the ever-green LeSean McCoy(notes), Vick and Maclin are the only Eagles I'd consider, and I would want plenty of mind-easing positive reports about their health before I decided to venture down those roads. … I warned you to be careful about Matt Moore(notes), because his solid fantasy production of late has not been built on a passing yards foundation – more than 244 yards just once this season, 209 yards or less seven times. Relying on TD passes or rushing production to bail you out is a dangerous game – he's only twice had more than 1 TD pass or more than 1 fantasy point of rushing production. This isn't a particularly tough matchup for Moore, by the numbers, but if you want to avoid disappointment, consider him in the 15-20 range at QB this week and not the 10-15 range. Reggie Bush(notes) is a fabulous play against the wide-9 defensive look of the Eagles, which has served up 4.7 YPC to RBs this season. And the Eagles have also allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to RBs, another feather in Bush's helmet. As for the passing game, I don't really ever consider benching Brandon Marshall(notes). He's like Andre Johnson in that his physicality can get him by even in the toughest of situations. And this isn't one of those situations, as six WRs have gone for 95-plus yards in the past six games against Philly. Anthony Fasano(notes) is the No. 7 fantasy TE in the past five weeks. That's worth noting, but I'd only use him if I was in dire straits at TE this week because he typically only sees a few targets per week.
Michael Vick; LeSean McCoy; Reggie Bush; Brandon Marshall; Jeremy Maclin
(Matt Moore); Daniel Thomas(notes); DeSean Jackson(notes); Davone Bess(notes); Brent Celek(notes); Anthony Fasano; Miami Defense
Jason Avant(notes); Philadelphia Defense
Riley Cooper(notes)
Eagles: QB Michael Vick (ribs); RB LeSean McCoy (toe); WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring, shoulder); CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) (concussion, knee); S Colt Anderson(notes) (knee)
Dolphins: None of significance
Headline: Bush lays hurt on Eagles, Dolphins wins for fifth time in past six games
Final score: Dolphins 26, Eagles 23
ATLANTA FALCONS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

Here's your deeply-insightful advice in regards to your starting skill position players for the Falcons: Start 'em all. That advice didn't work out for the Bucs last week, but that was because Josh Johnson(notes) was forced into action behind center and the Bucs fell behind, rendering LeGarrette Blount(notes) useless. Atlanta's offense is much better than the Bucs' and shouldn't suffer the same fate. … Cam Newton(notes) stole three rushing TDs away from the Carolina RBs last week, but at least Jonathan Stewart(notes) still splashed pay dirt and carried 14 times for a healthy 80 yards. Atlanta's very tough against the run, so neither Stewart nor DeAngelo Williams(notes) (a very disappointing 11/29 line against the Bucs last week) look particularly good. But Stewart had the carry advantage last week and has been a consistent factor in the passing game, so he's worth a reach if you have few viable options. But I wouldn't touch Williams in this matchup. Steve Smith had just a 5/66 line against Atlanta back in Week 6, and that was with CB Brent Grimes(notes) in action for the Falcons, who can match Smith's speed and athleticism very well. Without Grimes (knee), Smith should be able to pick on the Atlanta secondary. He could have a huge day.
Cam Newton; Matt Ryan(notes); Michael Turner(notes); Roddy White(notes); Steve Smith; (Julio Jones(notes)); Tony Gonzalez(notes)
(Jonathan Stewart); Legedu Naanee(notes); Greg Olsen(notes); Atlanta Defense
DeAngelo Williams; Carolina Defense
Jacquiz Rodgers
Falcons: RB Michael Turner (groin); CB Brent Grimes (knee)
Panthers: LG Travelle Wharton(notes) (back)
Headline: Turner bowls over Panthers once again as Falcons get back in the win column
Final score: Falcons 29, Panthers 24
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Josh Freeman(notes) (shoulder) believes he'll be able to play this week, and the Bucs could use him after the offense sputtered a bit last week under the direction of backup QB Josh Johnson. Jacksonville's defense has been mostly strong across the board this year, but you wouldn't have known it based upon their Monday night performance against San Diego (38 points allowed). Perhaps the firing of head coach Jack Del Rio and the loss of William Middleton(notes), their third starting CB lost for the year, are to blame. At any rate, I would view this Jaguars defense as vulnerable, and I'd be willing to roll with LeGarrette Blount, Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow(notes), assuming Freeman plays. As for Blount's dud performance in Week 13, don't stew on it too much. He's had big bounce-back efforts after each of his two other subpar performances this year and the Jags have allowed more than 14 fantasy points (default scoring) to a RB in four of their past five games. … Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) should have a field day against a terrible Bucs defense. But there's no way I'd recommend starting any other Jaguars player in a fantasy playoff game.
Maurice Jones-Drew; Kellen Winslow
Josh Freeman (Health ?); (LeGarrette Blount); (Mike Williams); Marcedes Lewis(notes)
Blaine Gabbert(notes); Josh Johnson; Arrelious Benn(notes); Jacksonville Wide Receivers; Jacksonville Defense; Tampa Bay Defense
None of significance
Bucs: CB Aqib Talib(notes) (hamstring); QB Josh Freeman (shoulder); QB Josh Johnson (shoulder)
Jags:
Headline: Despite huge effort from MJD, Bucs win battle of Central Florida
Final score: Bucs 23, Jaguars 17
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ ARIZONA CARDINALS

If you're willing to start a hobbled Beanie Wells(notes) against a 49ers defense that hasn't allowed a rushing TD or more than 64 rushing yards to a RB all season, you're a braver man than I am. As Andy Behrens wrote in Target Practice, Kevin Kolb(notes) hasn't been good for Larry Fitzgerald's(notes) fantasy game, but he's still the only player to believe in for the Cardinals. Andre Roberts(notes) was Kolb's main man last week (6/111), but he's only a deep league gamble in PPR leagues. … Michael Crabtree(notes), Vernon Davis(notes) and Kyle Williams all had at least 11 fantasy points when they faced the Cardinals in Week 11. Crabtree is the No. 11 fantasy WR in the past three games, starting with his 120-yard effort against the Cardinals. He's a solid play this week. And Davis, given the Week 11 history card and a high-volume of targets, is certainly defensible. As for Williams, he just doesn't see enough targets to feel good about despite a couple nice games of late. Frank Gore(notes) had 88 yards on 24 carries in Week 11. He hasn't scored in five straight games and he's been completely forgotten in the passing game, averaging just above a catch per game. The Cardinals have been pretty good against the run (4.0 YPC). You have to think about Gore more as a low-end RB2 at this point.
Larry Fitzgerald; (Michael Crabtree); (Vernon Davis); San Francisco Defense
Alex Smith; (Frank Gore); Beanie Wells
Kevin Kolb; Early Doucet(notes); Kyle Williams; Arizona Tight Ends; Arizona Defense
Andre Roberts
Niners: LB Patrick Willis(notes) (hamstring); WR Braylon Edwards(notes) (knee/shoulder)
Cardinals: RB Beanie Wells (knee, wrist)
Headline: Defense leads way in Cards' fifth win in past six games
Final score: Cardinals 16, 49ers 13
CHICAGO BEARS @ DENVER BRONCOS

The Bears offense took a huge hit last week with the loss of Matt Forte(notes) (knee) for 2-4 weeks. Marion Barber(notes) had provided solid relief work before the Forte injury, but he's not well-equipped to be a lead back at this point in his career. He's expected to split the workload with Kahlil Bell, who carried four times for 34 yards last week. Bell will likely handle most of the duties on passing downs, which makes him a player worth grabbing and stashing. Mike Martz offenses generate a lot of production for RBs in the passing game and it would not be a surprise to see Bell emerge as the more valuable fantasy RB. I wouldn't want to gamble on Bell this week unless the situation really forced my hand. Same goes for Barber, but with him you at least can bank on 12-15 carries and goal-line work. The Bears passing game is avoidable, although it's worth mentioning that Johnny Knox(notes) has been targeted 18 times in two games with Caleb Hanie(notes) under center, more than double any other Bears receiver. Denver does allow the fifth-most fantasy points to WRs, so Knox has FLEX appeal. … The Bears pose a serious threat to Tim Tebow's style of play this week. Chicago has outstanding linebackers that can cover from sideline to sideline, and the defensive front has both size and speed. I'm not bullish about anyone on the Broncos this week, though Willis McGahee's(notes) expected volume of carries and his ability to grind away between the tackles makes him at least RB2 material.
(Willis McGahee); Chicago Defense
Tim Tebow; (Marion Barber); Johnny Knox; Denver Defense
Caleb Hanie; Eric Decker(notes); Demaryius Thomas(notes); Roy Williams; Earl Bennett(notes); Denver Tight Ends
Kahlil Bell
Bears: RB Matt Forte (knee); S Major Wright(notes) (shoulder)
Broncos: WR Eddie Royal(notes) (concussion, toe, knee)
Headline: Defensive battle ends in favor of Broncos once again
Final score: Broncos 15, Bears 13
OAKLAND RAIDERS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

The Raiders were dominated by the Dolphins last week, and they aren't expected to get any help by way of a Darren McFadden(notes) (foot) return this week. The Packers allow 6.3 yards per play, which is the most in the league, so you have to feel good about a rebound performance from Michael Bush(notes). And Carson Palmer(notes) should be forced to the air often in an attempt to keep pace with Aaron Rodgers and company. The Raiders have a mess of injuries at WR, so it's not clear who will be starting this week. But I'd be interested in the Raiders WR starters this week, especially Denarius Moore(notes), who has a good chance to return. … Obviously, the key elements of the Packers passing attack are must-starts every week. So the tough call here lies in the backfield, especially given the injury to James Starks(notes) (ankle). Ryan Grant(notes) is as about as uninspiring as it gets. Since Week 5, Grant has averaged 2.6 YPC on 60 carries, averaging less than 20 rushing yards per game and failing to find the end zone. That meager production makes third-stinger Brandon Saine(notes) someone to ponder. He picked up 45 YFS while filling in for Starks last week. And, because of his excellent receiving skills, he's a better fit for a Packers offense that throws it nearly 60 percent of the time.
Aaron Rodgers; Carson Palmer; Michael Bush; Greg Jennings(notes); Jordy Nelson(notes); (Denarius Moore – health ?) Jermichael Finley(notes); Green Bay Defense
(Chaz Schilens(notes)); (Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes))
Ryan Grant; Oakland Defense
Marcel Reece(notes); Brandon Saine
Raiders: RB Darren McFadden (foot); WR Jacoby Ford(notes) (foot); WR Denarius Moore (foot); WR Chaz Schilens (foot); TE Kevin Boss(notes) (hip); DT John Henderson (knee)
Packers: CB Charles Woodson(notes) (head); RB James Starks (ankle)
Headline: Packers outpace Palmer, Raiders to remain undefeated
Final score: Packers 38, Raiders 27
BUFFALO BILLS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

C.J. Spiller(notes) enjoyed his best day as a pro on Sunday, compiling 102 YFS and a TD against the Titans. The best thing I can say about Spiller is that he's heavily involved in the Bills offense now with Fred Jackson(notes) out, averaging 19.5 touches the past two weeks. He's not an ideal leading man, but he should push 20 touches again this week against a so-so San Diego defense, and that makes him worth top 25 RB consideration. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) has averaged more than 40 passes the past three weeks and if San Diego's offense remains in the high gear that it was in on Monday night, Fitzpatrick is likely to have to throw it 40-plus times again. The Chargers allow the fourth-highest QB Rating (94.7) and the seventh-most yards per pass attempt (7.8), so there's reason to be optimistic about Fitzpatrick and the Bills passing game (which is likely to be without Scott Chandler(notes) because of an ankle injury). … The Chargers offense is as healthy as it has been in a long, long time, with Malcom Floyd(notes) back in the mix and Ryan Mathews(notes) looking very spry the past two weeks. San Diego put up 38 points at Jacksonville on Monday night, looking like the well-oiled offensive machine we all expected them to be. The Bills are a generous defense across the board, and injury-riddled in the secondary, so the owners of Chargers should feel better than usual about this matchup.
Philip Rivers(notes); (Ryan Fitzpatrick); Ryan Mathews; (C.J. Spiller); (Mike Tolbert(notes)); Stevie Johnson(notes); Vincent Jackson(notes); (Malcom Floyd); Antonio Gates(notes)
David Nelson(notes); San Diego Defense
Buffalo Tight Ends; Buffalo Defense
Brad Smith(notes)
Bills: TE Scott Chandler (ankle); PK Rian Lindell(notes) (shoulder); CB Aaron Williams(notes) (knee)
Chargers: None of significance
Headline: Mathews, Rivers keep the offense charged up in win over Bills
Final score: Chargers 30, Bills 21
NEW YORK GIANTS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Dallas has been decent against the pass, but not good enough that you fear playing Eli Manning(notes), Victor Cruz(notes) or Hakeem Nicks(notes). These guys have been consistent money earners in fantasy, and even Jake Ballard(notes) (13th among TEs in fantasy) could get into the act, as Dallas has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to TEs. Ballard has slowed down a bit the past month, though, and he's more of a top 15-20 tight end as opposed to a serious top 12 contender. As for the running game, Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) returned for 11 uneventful carries in Week 13. On three fewer carries, Brandon Jacobs(notes) nearly doubled Bradshaw's rushing yards (59 to 38) and also found the end zone. A straight-up platoon split on the road in Dallas doesn't get me excited about either back considering how bad these Giants have been in the run-blocking department. … The Giants are the only team in the league ranked among the 10 most generous teams in fantasy to each of the four skill positions. Tony Romo(notes), DeMarco Murray(notes), Jason Witten(notes) and Dez Bryant(notes) all belong somewhere in the solid-to-fantastic category. The one question is how much Miles Austin(notes) will play, if at all, as he hopes to return from a hamstring injury. The late Sunday night timing of this game could be problematic for both Austin and Laurent Robinson(notes) owners. Hopefully we'll get clarity regarding his status before kickoff of early games Sunday. If Austin starts, you have to consider Robinson as more of a FLEX flyer than a WR2/WR1 tweener – that said, I'd expect his No. 3 role to be larger than it was before Austin was injured. As for Austin, if the reports are good on his health, I'll likely have him just inside top 25 WRs for the week.
Eli Manning; Tony Romo; DeMarco Murray; Victor Cruz; Hakeem Nicks; Dez Bryant; (Miles Austin – health ?); Jason Witten
Ahmad Bradshaw; Brandon Jacobs; (Laurent Robinson); (Jake Ballard); Dallas Defense
NY Giants Defense
Felix Jones(notes)
Giants: S Kenny Phillips(notes) (knee); WR Hakeem Nicks (ankle); OL Stacy Andrews(notes) (pulmonary embolism); LB Spencer Paysinger(notes) (hamstring)
Cowboys: FB Tony Fiammetta(notes) (illness); WR Laurent Robinson (shoulder); WR Miles Austin (hamstring); TE Martellus Bennett(notes) (rib); LB DeMarcus Ware(notes) (neck/back)
Headline: Cowboys running game overcomes Giants aerial assault for big division victory
Final score: Cowboys 28, Giants 25
ST. LOUIS RAMS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Sam Bradford(notes) missed Week 13 because of his sprained ankle, and Brandon Lloyd(notes) suffered for it. Lloyd had scored in the previous three straight games with Bradford behind center, but had just one catch for 34 yards last week with A.J. Feeley(notes). Bradford hopes the extra day of rest this week (Monday night game) will allow him to play, and Lloyd owners would likely be happy of a repeat performance of the Week 11 matchup with Seattle, when Bradford connected with Lloyd five times for 67 yards and a TD. The only other Rams player to consider is Steven Jackson, who posted a modest 61 YFS without a score against Seattle in Week 11. S-Jax hasn't scored since Week 8 and he's averaging just 42 rushing yards in his past three games. Seattle is a stout run defense, especially at home. Consider S-Jax no better than a low-end RB2. And, really, he may not be much use to his owners the rest of the year – Seattle this week, followed by Cincy, Pittsburgh and San Francisco in Week 17. … Shockingly, the Rams are the only team in the past five games to hold Marshawn Lynch(notes) under 100 yards (88). But that's a meaningless stat – you wouldn't (shouldn't) consider benching Beast-Mode, the top running back in fantasy for the past five weeks. Lynch carried 27 times against the Rams last time out, as Seattle went with its usual conservative approach on offense, to go with strong defensive support. Expect a similar approach on Monday night. Someone might make a play in the passing game, and Golden Tate(notes) is intriguing now that Sidney Rice(notes) is out, but you can't get excited about a unit that didn't have a player see more than four targets last week. And the loss of OT Russell Okung(notes) on Tarvaris Jackson's(notes) blind side certainly doesn't help the situation.
Marshawn Lynch; Brandon Lloyd; Seattle Defense
(Steven Jackson); Doug Baldwin(notes); Zach Miller; St. Louis Defense
Tarvaris Jackson; St. Louis Quarterback; Mike Williams; St. Louis Tight Ends
Golden Tate
Rams: Sam Bradford (ankle); QB A.J. Feeley (thumb); G Jacob Bell(notes) (knee); DE Eugene Sims(notes) (ankle); CB Justin King(notes) (hip)
Seahawks: LT Russell Okung (pectoral); WR Sidney Rice
Headline: Lots of Lynch and strong defense a successful recipe once again for Hawks in win over Rams
Final score: Seahawks 27, Rams 16
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