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NFL Skinny: Week 14 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

Alright, it's likely the first week of the playoffs or the last week of the regular season for the vast majority of Yahoo! leagues. Expect my analysis to focus less on outlier players now that natural selection is trimming the audience down each week from here on out.

Before we get to this week's analysis, though, I will reveal that I was 11-5 in game predictions last week, same as the week before. That puts my record at 112-46 since Week 3 … I think (somebody in the comments last week claimed I had an accounting error and that I'm actually two games better overall). Either way, I don't have time, nor do I care to, look it up again. I only list my record here because many of you requested early on that I do so. I'm completely indifferent about this aspect of the column, so please don't waste your time commenting about my record in the forum below. Let's focus on the fantasy …

Good luck this week, folks!

Week 14 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 14 matchup

PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

Key Stats: STEELERS – 3.6 YPC allowed | 220 YPG passing allowed
BROWNS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 246 YPG passing allowed

What to watch for: I don't think anyone predicted PIT losing to OAK and KC in the past three weeks and losing four straight games in total. But as bad as it has been, the impact on the Steelers fantasy skill position players has been negligible. WRs Hines Ward(notes) and Santonio Holmes(notes) both rank among the top 10 fantasy wideouts the past five weeks, and RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes) counts among the top dozen RBs in that span. And, in the past meeting with CLE (Week 6), the whole gang (QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and Heath Miller(notes) included) delivered for their owners. Don't let the losing streak lead you to an irrational decision – go green with your Steelers this week against the Browns. And, if Ward can't go because of a hamstring injury, No. 3 WR Mike Wallace(notes) becomes an extremely viable WR option for owners this week.

CLE is the 3rd-worst offense in the league, but it is showing some promise of late. CLE is letting QB Brady Quinn(notes) open things up and he has responded with the 4th-best fantasy tally among QBs in the past three weeks. PIT has allowed the 10th-most fantasy PPG to QBs in that span. Looking at the recent paper trail, Quinn looks like an arguable flier. But it's playoff time for most leagues, and starting Quinn … or choosing how the backfield work gets meted out between RBs Chris Jennings(notes) (if he plays – sore shoulder) and Jerome Harrison(notes) … or gambling on WR Mohamed Massaquoi(notes), who has caught more than two passes just once in his past six contests … or looking to double-down on TE Evan Moore's(notes) out-of-nowhere 6/80 performance in Week 13 … is high-stakes fantasy roulette. I'd try really hard not to be in a position where I'd have to spin that chamber – consider Quinn, Mohamed and Harrison (assuming he gets lead backfield duties on Sunday) as extremely soft yellow-light plays.

Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Heath Miller, Pittsburgh defense
Brady Quinn, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jerome Harrison
Chris Jennings, Brian Robiskie(notes), Joshua Cribbs(notes), Chansi Stuckey(notes), Evan Moore, Cleveland defense
Sleeper: Mike Wallace
Injuries: CLE RB Chris Jennings (shoulder) could be questionable; CLE FB Lawrence Vickers(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; CLE DE Kenyon Coleman(notes) (knee) could be out; CLE LB Kamerion Wimbley(notes) (knee) could be questionable; CLE WR Brian Robiskie (toe) could be questionable; PIT CB William Gay(notes) (concussion) is expected to be out; PIT RB Rashard Mendenhall (ankle) could be questionable; PIT S Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee) is expected to be out; PIT WR Hines Ward (hamstring) could be out;
Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Cleveland 13
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Stats: SAINTS – 4.5 YPC allowed | 230 YPG passing allowed
FALCONS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 255 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: In fantasy, ATL is a green-light defense across the board – it gives up plentiful production to opposing QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs. It allowed 35 points, 296 passing yards and 146 rushing yards to the Saints in a Week 8 meeting. You're not sitting QB Drew Brees(notes) and WR Marques Colston(notes) (especially with both ATL starting CBs banged up), and it's hard to dismiss RB Pierre Thomas(notes) given that he's handled the rock at least a dozen times in this high-powered offense for six consecutive weeks – he netted 100 YFS and 2 TDs in the previous meeting with the Falcons. WR Robert Meachem(notes) has 7 TDs in his past five games so, despite the fact that the ATL game was the last time he didn't score a TD, you sit him at your own risk.

The ATL offense looked a bit dysfunctional in Week 13 against PHI. WR Roddy White(notes) and TE Tony Gonzalez(notes) managed to get it done with QB Chris Redman(notes) at the controls, but the backfield tandem of Jason Snelling(notes) and Jerious Norwood(notes) combined for 53 rushing yards on 21 carries. If RB Michael Turner(notes) comes back from his ankle injury this week, I probably wouldn't hesitate to move him back into my lineup against a NO defense that has really been hemorrhaging against the run for the past month and a half. Otherwise, steer clear of the undefined Snelling/Norwood situation. As for White and Gonzo, the NO secondary is tattered and torn at the moment – as if you needed a reason to start them. I could see Redman actually coming out of this one alright, but I'd prefer to lean on more established options at QB.

Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Shockey(notes), Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner
New Orleans defense, Chris Redman, Devery Henderson(notes), Mike Bell(notes)
Atlanta defense, Michael Jenkins(notes), Jason Snelling, Jerious Norwood, Reggie Bush(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: ATL QB Matt Ryan(notes) (toe) is expected to be out; ATL WR Michael Jenkins (ankle) could be questionable; ATL RB Michael Turner (ankle) could be questionable; ATL CBs Chris Owens (shoulder) and Chris Houston(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; NO LB Scott Fujita(notes) (staph infection) could be out; NO WR Lance Moore(notes) (ankle, hamstring) is expected to be out; NO CBs Tracy Porter(notes) (knee), Randall Gay(notes) (hamstring), and Jabari Greer(notes) (groin) could be questionable
Prediction: New Orleans 31, Atlanta 26
DETROIT LIONS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

Key Stats: LIONS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 275 YPG passing allowed
RAVENS – 3.5 YPC allowed | 215 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: You probably don't need me to tell you to sit RB Kevin Smith(notes) and roll with WR Calvin Johnson(notes) on the DET side of this matchup equation. BAL has been mediocre against the pass, but it allows just 3.5 YPC and only four teams have allowed fewer than the 6 TDs its afforded RBs this season. QB Matthew Stafford(notes) is a big question mark this week because of a shoulder injury and, if Daunte Culpepper(notes) is forced into action, it should probably give owners pause on MegaTron. But I wouldn't likely move him outside my top 25-30 receivers in the Week 14 rankings even with Culpepper in play, which means he'd still be a green light option.

For BAL, the scrumptious DET matchup means you're starting RB Ray Rice(notes) and WR Derrick Mason(notes) and you're at least considering QB Joe Flacco(notes), TE Todd Heap(notes) and, maybe, WR Mark Clayton(notes). Flacco is the type of signal-caller I was referring to (above) when I said I'd prefer a more "established option" over ATL QB Chris Redman. He's been all over the map this season, and has just 3 TD passes in the past six games, but you'd expect him to capably handle the Lions – arguably the worst secondary in the league. Desperately needing a win, I don't expect BAL to come out flat in this contest.

Ray, Rice, Derrick Mason, Calvin Johnson, Baltimore defense
Joe Flacco, Todd Heap, Mark Clayton, Matthew Stafford,
Kevin Smith, Daunte Culpepper, Bryant Johnson(notes), Will Heller(notes), Detroit defense
Sleeper: Kelley Washington(notes), Willis McGahee(notes)
Injuries: DET QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder) is questionable; DET LB Ernie Sims(notes) (hamstring) could be out; DET CB Will James (neck) could be questionable; BAL LB Terrell Suggs(notes) (knee) could be out; BAL S Ed Reed(notes) (hip) could be out
Prediction: Baltimore 33, Detroit 14
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ CHICAGO BEARS

Key Stats: PACK – 3.6 YPC allowed | 186 YPG passing allowed
BEARS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: GB won this divisional battle in the Week 1, 21-15. RB Ryan Grant(notes) and WR Greg Jennings(notes) accounted for the Packers' 2 TDs in that contest. Since ascending to a featured role, Grant has delivered in spades for his fantasy owners in each of his four career matchups with the Bears. And Jennings has a nice little run going against CHI, as well. This is not your father's Bears defense and I wouldn't really shy away from playing any of the Packers that you typically lean on. And CHI has allowed 31 percent more fantasy production to TEs than the league average the past five weeks, so breakthrough artist Jermichael Finley(notes) can be strongly considered even though the game is not on Monday night, when he shines brightest.

The splits favor QB Jay Cutler(notes) tremendously at home this season compared to the road. But he threw four picks against GB in the Week 1 meeting, he's been under 200 passing yards in his past two home contests (and past three overall), and he's dealing with a sore hand suffered after he was hit by STL DE Leonard Little(notes) last week (he claims it was a factor in his anemic passing numbers in that contest). I'm having my playoffs decided this week in one of my leagues and I have Cutler backing up HOU QB Matt Schaub(notes), who is questionable this week with a shoulder injury. Let's just say that if Schaub has to sit this week, I'll be scared to death with Cutler at the helm. RB Matt Forte(notes) has shown no ability to overcome tough paper matchups, and this contest certainly qualifies. Forget the nice numbers against STL last week, which was fully expected. GB is a whole different animal than STL when it comes to run defense. Both WRs Devin Hester(notes) and Earl Bennett(notes) put forth solid efforts against GB in Week 1, and Bennett found the end zone for the first time last week – this despite ranking 13th in catches of 20+ yards (no other receiver in the top 13 has fewer than 3 TDs). GB is a tough place to go fishing for WR points, however, and I'd be more inclined to believe that TE Greg Olsen(notes) will play the central role in the passing game this week as the position is the clear area of weakness for GB and CHI is likely to make an extra effort to look to Olsen after he caught just 2 passes for 1 yard last week.

Aaron Rodgers(notes), Donald Driver(notes), Greg Jennings, Ryan Grant, Greg Olsen, Green Bay defense
Jermichael Finley, Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Chicago defense
Matt Forte, Khalil Bell
Sleeper: James Jones(notes), Johnny Knox(notes)
Injuries: CHI QB Jay Cutler (hand) could be questionable; CHI WR Devin Hester (calf) could be questionable
Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 19
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ HOUSTON TEXANS

Key Stats: HAWKS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 244 YPG passing allowed
TEXANS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 214 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: SEA has scored 20+ points in four of the past five games, but don't let those numbers fool you – this is an offense that is struggling. RB Julius Jones(notes) is, maddeningly, getting preferred treatment over dynamic backup Justin Forsett(notes). He (Forsett) would be a player to get excited about this week if Jones were rightfully demoted to the backseat. But head coach Jim Mora remains stubbornly loyal to Jones, so don't get your hopes up in regards to the SEA backfield. QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is averaging less than 200 passing yards and has just 3 TD passes in five road games. You can have success throwing on HOU, but I think Hasselbeck's issues away from Qwest Field are the trump card here. HOU has allowed just one 100-yard game to a WR this season and WRs Nate Burleson(notes) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) haven't even combined for 100 yards in either of the past two contests. I suspect Houshmandzadeh might step up this week, but there's no concrete argument to be made for that and he has to be considered no better than a cautionary option. TE John Carlson(notes) could have some opportunities if SEA chooses to explore that avenue. HOU has struggled against the position this season and as it is one of the worst teams in the league at sacking the QB, you'd think SEA would be willing to lighten his pass protection load this week. Consider him a chartreuse-colored option.

QB Matt Schaub is dealing with a dislocated left shoulder, but it currently appears likely that he'll play on Sunday. That's good news for his owners as SEA has been riddled in the passing game. WR Andre Johnson(notes) could put forth massive fantasy production as the Seahawks secondary is not that physical and Johnson's size will present big problems. It's a seemingly good matchup up for WR Kevin Walter(notes), too, but he came up short (4/54) in as good, if not better, a setup last week against JAC. I'd like RB Steve Slaton(notes) if I knew he was going to play this week. Numbness in his arm kept him out last week and he'll be questionable, at least, this week. SEA hasn't allowed a TD reception to a RB, but it has allowed the 3rd-most receptions (73) to the position and Slaton could do some PPR damage. No matter what the matchup is, I just can't get excited for RB Chris Brown – he' where upside goes to die.

Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub
Steve Slaton, Chris Brown, Kevin Walter, Matt Hasselbeck, Justin Forsett, Julius Jones, Nate Burleson, John Carlson, Seattle defense, Houston defense
Joel Dreessen(notes), Deion Branch(notes)
Sleeper: Jacoby Jones(notes)
Injuries: SEA QB Matt Hasselbeck (shoulder) could be questionable; SEA DL Cory Redding(notes) (concussion) could be questionable; SEA RB Justin Forsett (quad) could be questionable; HOU RB Steve Slaton (shoulder, thumb) is expected to be questionable; HOU DT Shaun Cody(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; HOU QB Matt Schaub (shoulder) is expected to be questionable;
Prediction: Houston 24, Seattle 23
DENVER BRONCOS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Key Stats: BRONCOS – 3.9 YPC allowed | 180 YPG passing allowed
COLTS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 224 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: If this game was in DEN, I'd be tempted to pick the upset. I think DEN sets up well against IND. The Broncos have gotten back to the run-heavy approach of the early season and RBs Knowshon Moreno(notes) and Correll Buckhalter(notes) look like they are starting to hit a groove. And the IND pass defense, while limiting big plays, gives up a lot of short stuff underneath, which caters to QB Kyle Orton's(notes) style. WR Brandon Marshall(notes), who excels in picking up yards after the catch, could be a PPR star this week.

This should be a good test for the vaunted IND passing attack this week. Obviously, QB Peyton Manning(notes) doesn't take a backseat unless you have an embarrassment of riches at the QB position. But the DEN secondary has yet to allow a 100-yard game to a WR or TE, and only five WRs, and no TEs, have scored 10+ fantasy points (standard scoring) against DEN this season. You probably aren't going to sit time-tested studs like WR Reggie Wayne(notes) and TE Dallas Clark(notes), but gambling on the lesser experience of WRs Pierre Garcon(notes) and Austin Collie(notes) is fairly risky this week. RB Joseph Addai(notes) has the 4th-most red-zone carries (41) and the most red-zone targets (11) among RBs – he's a great bet to score even when the yardage outlook doesn't look great.

Brandon Marshall, Knowshon Moreno, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark
Kyle Orton, Correll Buckhalter, Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis defense
Austin Collie, Donald Brown(notes), Tony Scheffler(notes), Eddie Royal(notes), Denver defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: DEN RT Ryan Harris(notes) (toe) could be questionable; IND RB Donald Brown (chest) could be out; IND DE Robert Mathis(notes) (quad) could be out
Prediction: Indianapolis 27, Denver 23
MIAMI DOLPHINS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Key Stats: FINS – 4.1 YPC allowed | 243 YPG passing allowed
JAGS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 242 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: MIA really let QB Chad Henne(notes) go to work last week – 29-for-52, 335 passing yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. That's encouraging considering JAC is a juicy matchup for any aerial-inclined QB. That said, the team is last in the league in yards per catch (10.1) and has the 5th-lowest yards per pass attempt (5.9). WR Davone Bess(notes) broke out in a big way last week (10/117/1) but it was just his 2nd TD in 28 career games and his first 100-yard performance. The team is full of low-upside possession receivers and I can still only advocate RB Ricky Williams(notes) from this offense.

You have to like QB David Garrard's(notes) set-up this week. MIA allowed an average of more than 20 fantasy points to QBs Josh Freeman(notes), Jake Delhomme(notes), and Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) in Weeks 10-12, and those efforts were sandwiched between two 300-yard passing performances from NE QB Tom Brady(notes). MIA not only gives up healthy production through the air but has also allowed a league-high 5 TDs on the ground to opposing QBs. Consider Garrard a justifiable option in 12-team leagues this week, and you have to like the chances of WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes) getting back on track after just one catch last week – at least he was targeted eight times. TE Marcedes Lewis(notes) has gone for 40+ yards in four straight games and he's got a chartreuse glow about him this week against a MIA defense that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy PPG to the TE position. And, of course, you're rolling with RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes).

Maurice Jones-Drew, Ricky Williams, David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker
Marcedes Lewis, Chad Henne, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano(notes), Miami defense
Greg Camarillo(notes), Brian Hartline(notes), Ted Ginn Jr.(notes), Torry Holt(notes), Jacksonville defense
Sleeper: Mike Thomas(notes)
Injuries: JAC DL John Henderson(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable; JAC CB Rashean Mathis(notes) (groin) could be questionable; MIA LG Justin Smiley(notes) (hand) could be questionable; MIA LB Jason Taylor(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable
Prediction: Jacksonville 24, Miami 20
BUFFALO BILLS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Key Stats: BILLS – 4.9 YPC allowed | 188 YPG passing allowed
CHIEFS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 251 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: The offenses of BUF and KC have combined for 32 PPG this season, which is less than the average of the Saints offense alone (36.7). But both defenses rank among the 10 most generous teams in the league in terms of yards allowed, so there should be some decent fantasy efforts to emerge from this Toilet Bowl. In particular, both team's backfields look attractive as BUF has allowed the most fantasy PPG to RBs (go, Jamaal Charles(notes), go!) and KC has allowed the 5th-most production to opposing backfields – RB Fred Jackson(notes) is still expected to get the most cracks at the Chiefs defense despite RB Marshawn Lynch(notes) finally kicking it into Beast-Mode last week (6/60/1). And while BUF has been a locked door to nearly all comers in the passing game (forget about Chris Chambers(notes)), KC has been equally bad in pass defense as it has been against opposing ground attacks. In fact, no team has allowed more pass plays of 40+ yards (15). It's hard to say who will take the most advantage of this week's situation between WRs Terrell Owens(notes) and Lee Evans(notes), but physical receivers have been a big problem all year for KC and I'd probably put my money on T.O. – although it's certainly possible that both come out smelling like roses.
Jamaal Charles, Fred Jackson, Terrell Owens,
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Lee Evans, Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo defense
Matt Cassel(notes), Chris Chambers, Bobby Wade(notes), Lance Long(notes), Leonard Pope(notes), Buffalo TEs, Kansas City defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: BUF CB Terrence McGee(notes) (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Buffalo 23, Kansas City 14
CINCINNATI BENGALS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Stats: BENGALS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed
VIKINGS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 227 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: CIN is the 2nd-most run heavy team in the league and it quickly got back to its preferred smash-mouth style with RB Cedric Benson(notes) back in the lineup last week after a two-week hiatus because of a hip injury. Benson handled 36 carries against DET, the 3rd time he's topped 30 carries in his past four games. MIN allows the fewest fantasy PPG to RBs, but don't expect that to faze CIN. Benson averaged 30.5 carries in his two meetings with BAL earlier this season and had 29 carries against GB in Week 2. Both of those teams rank in the neighborhood of MIN in terms of toughness against the run. MIN can be susceptible against the pass, but I don't expect QB Carson Palmer(notes) to air it out much more than 30 times. I think he'll pick his spots with WR Chad Ochocinco(notes) – MIN has allowed the 7th-most pass plays of 20+ yards (41) and No. 85 ranks 8th in that category (14) among receivers. But, otherwise, expect it to be all Benson in an attempt to keep the MIN offensive machine off the field.

CIN has one of the best defenses in the league, especially in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing skill positions. Matt Schaub and Bruce Gradkowski(notes) are the only two QBs to toss multiple TDs against the Bengals this season, and the past five QBs to face CIN have come away with less than 200 passing yards. It's seems very possible that this contest comes down to a war of RBs between Benson and Adrian Peterson, and QB Brett Favre(notes) could emerge with one of his most modest fantasy totals in a while. I'll put Favre down as a green-light play, but consider him more as a fringe starter this week. CIN hasn't had too many instances this season where two WRs have hurt it in the same week. Usually, it can bracket out a top WR. My guess is that Sidney Rice(notes) probably garners the most attention this week, and I think WR Percy Harvin(notes) is the safer play as he can more easily be moved around.

Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson, Chad Ochocinco, Percy Harvin, Brett Favre
Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe(notes), Carson Palmer, Minnesota defense, Cincinnati defense
Bernard Berrian(notes), Laveranues Coles(notes), Andre Caldwell(notes), J.P. Foschi(notes)
Sleeper: Chester Taylor(notes)
Injuries: CIN DT Domaka Peko (knee) is out; CIN FS Chris Crocker(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; MIN CB Antoine Winfield(notes) (foot) could be questionable; MIN RG Anthony Herrera(notes) (concussion) could be questionable; MIN S Tyrell Johnson(notes) (concussion) could be questionable
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Minnesota 21
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Key Stats: CATS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 192 YPG passing allowed
PATS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 214 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: The CAR rushing attack generates the 3rd-most YPC (4.8) in the league, and it is the 4th-most run-heavy unit in the league. If RB DeAngelo Williams(notes) (ankle) plays, you play him. If he doesn't, then RB Jonathan Stewart(notes) becomes the back of necessity. NE has only allowed 3 rushing TDs to RBs, but it yields a healthy 4.3 YPC and there's mild optimism for at least the CAR lead back in this one. Against the pass, the Pats have been the most generous defense in the league to WRs over the past five weeks, in terms of fantasy PPG allowed. WR Steve Smith has a good chance to overcome his QB situation in this one.

I threw out the stat last week that of the 11 RBs that had touched the ball at least 11 times in a game against the Panthers, each of them had scored at least 10 fantasy points. And then TB RB Carnell Williams(notes) delivered with 106 YFS (19 touches) against CAR last week to make it a perfect 12-for-12. RB Laurence Maroney(notes) was shutdown last week (13/41/0) and held out of the end zone for the first time since Week 5. But he's going to get 15+ touches against this woeful CAR run defense, and it'd be really hard to keep him on the sidelines given the matchup. CAR has allowed just 3 TDs to WRs, which is the fewest in the league. But you're probably not going to bench this season's most lucrative fantasy receiving duo or the No. 4 fantasy QB.

DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Laurence Maroney, Tom Brady, Randy Moss(notes), Wes Welker(notes)
Jonathan Stewart, New England defense
Benjamin Watson(notes), Matt Moore(notes), Muhsin Muhammad(notes), Dante Rosario(notes), Carolina defense
Sleeper: Sam Aiken(notes)
Injuries: CAR RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle) could be questionable; CAR DE Tyler Brayton(notes) (head) could be questionable; CAR SLB Na'il Diggs(notes) (ribs) could be questionable
Prediction: New England 28, Carolina 17
NEW YORK JETS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Stats: JETS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 167 YPG passing allowed
BUCS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 206 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: NYJ brings the most run-heavy offense in the league to TB and that bias could be even more pronounced than usual given the tenuous health of QB Mark Sanchez(notes) (knee) and the fact that TB allows a charitable 4.8 YPC. Not only is RB Thomas Jones(notes) a slam-dunk play, but desperate owners have to consider what backup RB Shonn Greene(notes) might do with a dozen touches. WR Jerricho Cotchery(notes) is the safest bet in a conservative passing attack. TB allows the 5th-most fantasy PPG to WRs, so even a modest passing approach can be lucrative for Cotchery – color him chartreuse. WR Braylon Edwards(notes) scored a TD last week, but he's been under 50 yards for three straight weeks and hasn't seen more than 6 targets in the past month. I think he'll be the bigger casualty of the passing game slight. TE Dustin Keller(notes) saw just one look last week (1/5) and he's no better than a mellow-yellow play this week despite TEs having decent success against TB.

Well, I think you pretty much have to write off the TB passing game this week. The NYJ allow the fewest fantasy PPG to the QB and WR positions, and are the 4th-stingiest against opposing TEs. I might be willing to role out TE Kellen Winslow(notes), but forget about WR Antonio Bryant(notes), who is sure to draw NYJ CB Darrelle Revis(notes). RB Carnell Williams should get his usual 12 touches and 50-70 YFS. And backup RB Derrick Ward(notes) could wind up having a prominent role as his skills as a receiver could be called into focus against the heavy blitz schemes of the Jets. But the upside is very limited for both backs.

Thomas Jones, Kellen Winslow
Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, Carnell Williams, Braylon Edwards, NY Jets defense
Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Antonio Bryant, Maurice Stoval, Tampa Bay defense
Sleeper: Derrick Ward, Shonn Greene
Injuries: NYJ CBs Dwight Lowery(notes) (ankle) and Donald Strickland(notes) (concussion) could be questionable; NYJ QB Mark Sanchez (knee) could be questionable; TB DT Roy Miller(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; TB CB Aqib Talib(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; TB WR Michael Clayton(notes) is expected to be out
Prediction: NY Jets 20, Tampa Bay 13
ST. LOUIS RAMS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

Key Stats: RAMS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 218 YPG passing allowed
TITANS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 267 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB Kyle Boller(notes) has thrown 1 TD pass in his four starts and a STL WR hasn't topped 87 receiving yards all season. Now more than ever, RB Steven Jackson stands alone as the only viable play in the Rams offense.

The loss of FS O.J. Atogwe (shoulder) is a major blow to the STL secondary, and he was a big reason that the Rams' pass defense numbers aren't terrible. Of course, that teams can run all over STL is also another reason the Rams' pass defense numbers aren't terrible. TEN should run all day long on Sunday and QB Vince Young(notes) and the passing components will have muted values if only because RBs Chris Johnson and LenDale White(notes) could combine for 40+ carries. TE Bo Scaife(notes) is averaging over 60 yards the past two weeks and had a score this past Sunday. STL has been sketchy against the TE position, and I see Scaife as more chartreuse compared to the yellow tint of the rest of the Titans passing game this week.

Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Tennessee defense
Bo Scaife, Vince Young, Kenny Britt(notes), Nate Washington(notes)
Kyle Boller, Donnie Avery(notes), Brandon Gibson(notes), Danny Amendola(notes), Randy McMichael(notes), St. Louis defense
Sleeper: LenDale White
Injuries: STL WR Donnie Avery (shoulder) could be questionable; STL OT Jason Smith(notes) (concussion) is expected to be out; STL FS O.J. Atogwe (shoulder) is out; TEN FB Ahmard Hall(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; TEN DT Jason Jones(notes) (shoulder) is out; TEN WR Justin Gage(notes) (back) could be questionable; TEN FS Michael Griffin(notes) (shoulder) could be questionable
Prediction: Tennessee 28, St. Louis 10
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats: SKINS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 190 YPG passing allowed
RAIDERS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 220 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: QB Jason Campbell(notes) is the butt of a lot of jokes and gets little respect in the fantasy community, but the fact is that QBs Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco and Matt Hasselbeck, among others, have all been less than his equal in terms of fantasy PPG. And, as the team has opened up the passing game, he ranks as the No. 6 fantasy QB for the past three weeks. He's not top 12 material this week, but he's worth considering among the next half dozen viable QB plays this week against a decent OAK pass defense. The real opportunity, though, lands with RB Quinton Ganther, who was named the starter on Tuesday in place of RB Rock Cartwright. Against an OAK defense that has allowed the 3rd-most fantasy PPG to RBs, Ganther, who has a combined 13 carries for 78 yards the past two weeks, stands a good chance to net at least those totals on Sunday alone. But the "unknown" factor has me feeling more chatreuse about Ganther than full-on green. TE Fred Davis(notes) been a nice story of late, but I wouldn't try to mine his territory this week. OAK has allowed the fewest receptions to TEs (37) and is the only team that has not allowed a TD to the position. I'd prefer to gamble on a big play or two from WRs Santana Moss(notes) or last week's breakout star Devin Thomas(notes) (7/100/2) – OAK has allowed the 4th-most pass plays of 20+ yards.

I was completely dismissive of the OAK fantasy prospects last week, and then QB Bruce Gradkowski made me eat crow. Once bitten, twice shy, right? Wrong. Gradkowski and WR Louis Murphy(notes) may have breathed some life into the OAK attack last week, but I'm not any closer to being optimistic about this unit going against a WAS defense that allows the 9th-fewest yards per game and put a serious scare in the Drew Brees Gang last week. It's playoff time, and I'm not going to battle with a Raider.

Quinton Ganther, Jason Campbell, Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Washington defense, Justin Fargas(notes), Zach Miller
Bruce Gradkowski, Louis Murphy, Chaz Schilens(notes), Darren McFadden(notes), Michael Bush(notes), Fred Davis, Oakland defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: OAK LG Robert Gallery(notes) (back) could be questionable; OAK C Samson Satele(notes) (calf) could be questionable; WAS DL Albert Haynesworth(notes) (ankle) could be out; WAS FB Mike Sellers(notes) (thigh) could be questionable; WAS CB DeAngelo Hall(notes) (knee) could be questionable;
Prediction: Washington 21, Oakland 15
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Key Stats: BOLTS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 204 YPG passing allowed
BOYS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 226 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: Hard to believe given the way things looked early in the season, but the SD backfield has been the most lucrative in fantasy for the past six weeks, scoring 12 TDs in that span. RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) has accounted for 8 of those TDs, but he'll have his work cut out for him against a DAL defense that has allowed RBs just 1 rushing TD in the past six weeks and nary a 100-yard rusher all season. This is a good week to pull the LT bandwagon into a rest area. QB Philip Rivers(notes) has back-to-back 300-yard passing efforts and he's completed at least 72 percent of his passes in four straight games. I'm buying into another 300-yard performance from Rivers and nice contributions for aerial components WR Vincent Jackson(notes) and TE Antonio Gates(notes). And watch out for RB Darren Sproles(notes) (or Mike Tolbert(notes) again?) in the passing game. DAL gives up a lot of receiving production to RBs – anyone see that Brandon Jacobs(notes) catch last week?

SD allows 4.4 YPC and is the 9th-most friendly unit to opposing RBs in fantasy. If I was the DAL offensive coordinator … and I was one of two teams in the league generating 5.0+ YPC on offense … and I wanted to keep the 3rd-highest scoring offense off the field … and I wanted to quiet the talk about how my team can't win in December … I would give RB Marion Barber(notes) 20+ carries, find a way to give backup RB Felix Jones(notes) another 10+ carries and mix in a half dozen different-look touches for RB Tashard Choice(notes). And when I do throw the ball, it would be conservative, chain-moving type tosses to TE Jason Witten(notes). Forget about the big-play stuff to WRs Miles Austin(notes) and Roy Williams – SD allows the 2nd-fewest pass plays of 20+ yards (25). And forget about QB Tony Romo(notes) waltzing around in the pocket – DAL isn't particularly good at pass protection and SD is very adept at getting to the QB.

Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, Marion Barber
LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Dallas defense, San Diego defense
Malcom Floyd(notes)
Sleeper: Darren Sproles, Felix Jones
Injuries: SD DE Luis Castillo(notes) (calf) could be questionable; SD LB Shawne Merriman(notes) (foot) could be questionable; SD C Nick Hardwick(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; SD LT Marcus McNeill(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; SD DT Alfonso Boone(notes) (knee) could be questionable; DAL FS Ken Hamlin(notes) (ankle) could be questionable;
Prediction: Dallas 20, San Diego 17
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ NEW YORK GIANTS

Key Stats: EAGLES – 3.8 YPC allowed | 205 YPG passing allowed
GIANTS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 199 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: PHI scored 40 points in drubbing the Giants back in Week 8, but the team takes a lot of question marks to the Meadowlands this week. In particular, WR DeSean Jackson(notes) and RB Brian Westbrook(notes) could be coming back from concussion injuries. If Westbrook does play, he probably splits time with RB LeSean McCoy(notes), hindering the fantasy value of both backs. Jackson says he's back to feeling normal and, if so, you have to roll with him against a NYG defense that he hung 78 receiving yards and a TD on in the past meeting. WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) is pretty banged up and I think I'd shy away from him with Jackson back. NYG has allowed 50+ yards to a TE for five straight weeks and TE Brent Celek(notes) counts himself among that group. Like his uniform, he's all green this week. FB Leonard Weaver(notes) keeps coming up with big plays and had 75 rushing yards on 8 carries in the last meeting. I've said this before, but he's athletic enough to be a team's featured back and I wouldn't be shocked if he pleasantly surprises once again. He's obviously a deep-league flyer, but there's certainly upside with him in this offense.

A couple big plays – a 74-yard TD reception by RB Brandon Jacobs and a kickoff return TD by WR Domenik Hixon(notes) – really bailed out the Giants last week against DAL. This week, I'm not particularly optimistic about most of the Giants' offensive attack save TE Kevin Boss(notes) – PHI allows the most fantasy PPG to TEs. I can see WR Steve Smith being serviceable, like he was in the last meeting (8/68). But I would steer clear of QB Eli Manning(notes), who has a very spotty history against PHI and is not that healthy right now. And forget about Jacobs' long TD reception last week – that was a Haley's Comet type of event. He hasn't rushed for more than 39 yards in the past three weeks, and I'm flying him under the caution flag this week.

Donovan McNabb(notes), Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Boss, Steve Smith
Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, Eli Manning, Mario Manningham(notes), Hakeem Nicks(notes), NY Giants defense, Philadelphia defense
Jason Avant(notes), Ahmad Bradshaw(notes)
Sleeper: Leonard Weaver
Injuries: NYG RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot, ankle) could be questionable; NYG G Chris Snee(notes) (knee) could be questionable; PHI WR DeSean Jackson (concussion) could be questionable; PHI WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) could be questionable; PHI LT Jason Peters(notes) (head/shoulder) could be questionable; PHI RB Brian Westbrook (concussion) could be questionable;
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, NY Giants 17
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Key Stats: CARDS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 258 YPG passing allowed
49ERS – 3.6 YPC allowed | 251 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: These teams met in Week 1 and neither team was able to generate more than 40 rushing yards (not a misprint). Of course, both teams have seen their ground games come a long ways since then, but the nature of this matchup remains conducive to the passing game on both sides. SF allows just 3.6 YPC and it only looks so bad against opposing RBs in fantasy (12th-most fantasy PPG to RBs) because it has allowed a league-high 649 receiving yards to RBs. If you have both ARI RBs (Tim Hightower(notes) and Beanie Wells(notes)), Hightower is the one to play this week. Hightower should put up decent receiving production, as should the usual suspects WRs Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and Anquan Boldin(notes).

SF has been going with a spread look on offense to better play to QB Alex Smith's strengths. That's made life more difficult for RB Frank Gore(notes), who is averaging just 11 carries and 33 rushing yards the past three weeks. He can be considered only a moderate play these days, but he usually finds a way to do something positive against the Cards – 2 TDs in Week 1. Consider him somewhere on the color spectrum between green and chartreuse this week. TE Vernon Davis(notes) could have a field day against an ARI defense that allows the 7th-most fantasy PPG to TEs.

Kurt Warner(notes), Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Tim Hightower, Frank Gore, Alex Smith, Vernon Davis
Michael Crabtree(notes), Josh Morgan(notes), Arizona defense, Steve Breaston(notes)
San Francisco defense, Ben Patrick(notes)
Sleeper:
Injuries: ARI QB Kurt Warner (hip) could be questionable; ARI LT Mike Gandy(notes) (pelvis) could be out; SF LT Joe Staley(notes) (knee) could be questionable; SF CB Nate Clements(notes) (shoulder) is out;
Prediction: Arizona 31, San Francisco 24
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