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NFL Skinny: Week 14 preview

It sounds as if Mother Nature will share her dark side with us this week, as weather could be nasty in at least a few NFL stadiums this Sunday. It's just another thing to consider, even if it is often an overblown detriment, on our march towards a fantasy title. Savvy owners know that nothing is guaranteed in this game and everything should be laid out on the table when it comes to filling out a starting roster, especially come playoff time. Sit Dwayne Bowe(notes) in favor of Malcom Floyd(notes) or Michael Crabtree(notes)? Maybe. Start James Starks(notes) over Brandon Jacobs(notes) or Cedric Benson(notes)? Possibly. You never know who is going to play December hero, but considering all options with an open mind certainly gives you a better chance of figuring it out before it's too late. …

Alright, let's start considering our options for Week 14 – (players bolded under the yellow-light designation are considered borderline green-light options. Or, as you know I like to say, chartreuse) …

Note: The Skinny hiatus the past two weeks was unintended, and was the unfortunate bi-product of a three-day power outage and a laptop meltdown surrounding Thanksgiving travel. I apologize that those of you who look forward to this column were left hanging, but I was (literally) powerless to do anything about it.

Week 14 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 14 matchup


COLTS (1 = most; 32= least): 24 7 25 27
TITANS (1 = most; 32= least): 17 13 28 8

What to watch for: Peyton Manning(notes) has been unprecedentedly generous to the opposition in his past three games, throwing 11 INTs. But I'm expecting him to turn things around this week, even with Austin Collie(notes) and Joseph Addai(notes) expected to remain sidelined. Tennessee, despite being adept at creating INTs, has allowed five QBs to top the 300-yard passing mark this season. In the backfield, Indy is the league's worst rush offense and that meager pie was split three ways last week. But I'm intrigued by Javarris James(notes) with Addai and Mike Hart(notes) out, and Donald Brown(notes) seemingly always less than 100 percent. In deeper leagues, he's a solid sleeper. … While Indy has the worst rush offense, it is only slightly better in defending the run, allowing the fourth-most rushing yards per game. Titans RB Chris Johnson could use a Downy soft matchup as he has struggled to a combined 189 rushing yards and 0 TDs in his past three games. That said, those games came against the less-than-stout defenses of Washington, Houston and Jacksonville, so nothing is guaranteed for Johnson this week. But I'm not expecting him to disappoint against the Colts. Indy is a finesse defense and the Titans O-line should be able to create enough of a push to get Johnson rolling. In fact, it's imperative that Tennessee gets Johnson on track this week because its passing game is a joke right now and Indy presents one of the toughest challenges in the league against the pass. If the team gets Kenny Britt(notes) back, as expected, that could help. But he'll be a question mark out of the gates because of his layoff.

P. Manning; C. Johnson; Reggie Wayne(notes); Pierre Garcon(notes); Jacob Tamme(notes)
J. Addai; K. Britt; Tennessee Defense
K. Collins; D. Brown; M. Hart; N. Washington; R. Moss; Bo Scaife(notes); Indy Defense
Sleeper: Javarris James; Blair White(notes); Jared Cook(notes)
Key Injuries: IND RBs Joseph Addai (shoulder), Donald Brown (ankle) and Mike Hart (ankle); IND WR Austin Collie (concussion); IND WR Reggie Wayne (knee); IND TE Jacob Tamme (hamstring); TEN DLs Tony Brown(notes) (knee), Jason Jones(notes) (shoulder) and Dave Ball(notes) (hip);
Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Tennessee 17

BROWNS (1 = most; 32= least): 14 21 19 7
BILLS (1 = most; 32= least): 15 3 22 2

What to watch for: This couldn't be any more straightforward for fantasy owners in regards to the Browns offense. The only two Browns worth serious consideration throughout this entire season have been Peyton Hillis(notes) and Benjamin Watson(notes). And it just so happens that Buffalo has struggled mightily to limit RBs and TEs – the Bills rank among the three worst against each position in fantasy. Same as it ever was: Start Hillis, strongly consider Watson, forget the rest. … I like Buffalo to pull this game out at home and I'd be tempted to ride Fred Jackson(notes) if I owned him (I don't). Jackson struggled last week at Minnesota, but we've seen him get the job done in recent weeks against Pittsburgh and Chicago, so he's not entirely matchup dependent. The Browns have allowed 27 percent more than the league average to opposing backfields the past three weeks against the RBs of Jacksonville, Carolina and Miami. Furthering the case of the versatile Jackson is that Cleveland has allowed the fourth-most receiving yards to RBs. The Buffalo passing game has been sporadically dynamic under the direction of Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) but it has sputtered much more than it has delivered in the past seven games. In that span, Fitzpatrick has produced two games with 4 TD passes and 300-plus yards and five games with just 1 TD and less than 300 passing yards. Stevie Johnson(notes) has been a waste of starting roster space in three of his past four games, although we all know that he'd have looked fabulous in the dud against Pittsburgh had he been able to squeeze the would-be game-winning can of corn deep ball that Fitzpatrick put in his ends at the end of that game. Johnson's explosiveness makes him a chartreuse consideration in even the more pessimistic of times. In general, I'm lukewarm on the Buffalo passing game, especially as the early forecast calls for snow in Buffalo from pretty much now until 2011.

P. Hillis; F. Jackson; B. Watson;
S. Johnson; R. Fitzpatrick; Lee Evans(notes); Cleveland Def,; Buffalo Def.
Jake Delhomme(notes); Cleveland WRs; Buffalo TEs;
Sleeper: David Nelson(notes)
Key Injuries: BUF C Geoff Hangartner(notes) (knee); BUF G Kraig Urbik(notes) (knee); BUF LB Antonio Coleman(notes) (knee); CLE TE Evan Moore(notes) (hip);
Prediction: Buffalo 22, Cleveland 17

PATS (1 = most; 32= least): 2 11 7 11
BEARS (1 = most; 32= least): 29 26 27 25

What to watch for: On paper, a matchup against New England doesn't pose a strong threat to Matt Forte(notes), as the Patriots allow the 11th-most fantasy PPG to RBs. But the problem is that Tom Brady(notes) has the Pats' offense purring on all cylinders and if Chicago can't limit Brady's destruction, the Bears running game could become moot early. And you can't trust that the Bears defense can handle it, because New England hung 39 points on Pittsburgh and 45 points on the Jets in the process of averaging 40 points in the past four games. I'd plan for Chicago to get caught up in an aerial shootout and that should work out well for Jay Cutler(notes), as the Pats have been the second-most accommodating fantasy defense to QBs. But the Pats have only allowed one pass play of 40-plus yards, and that could mean more of Earl Bennett(notes) than Johnny Knox(notes), like we saw last week. And I'll go green on Forte because he's capable of making big plays in the passing game (Pats allow the most receiving yards to RBs) if that's the way the offense has to lean. … Tom Brady pitched a perfect game (QB Rating of 158.3) in Week 12, and he followed that up with near-perfection (148.9) on Monday night against the vaunted Jets defense. With a deep and selfless (read: no more Randy Moss(notes)) cast of skill position players at his disposal, there's no one player that the Bears can key on in an attempt to kink Brady's mojo. Take Wes Welker(notes) out (which has once again become a tall order), and it's Deion Branch(notes), Aaron Hernandez(notes) or Swiss Army knife Danny Woodhead(notes) that will deliver the hurt. And BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) continues to benefit from defenses loosened up by the passing attack, as he's averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in five of the last six games. He's also benefitting from the offense getting into the red zone often, as he now has seven rushing TDs of five yards or less. You can feel no worse than cautiously optimistic about all the key contributors to this juggernaut right now.

T. Brady; J. Cutler; M. Forte; BJ Green-Ellis; W. Welker
E. Bennett; D. Woodhead; D. Branch; J. Knox; A. Hernandez; G. Olsen; NE Defense
Devin Hester(notes), Chicago Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: –
Prediction: New England 29, Bears 23

BUCS (1 = most; 32= least): 22 10 21 19
SKINS (1 = most; 32= least): 5 8 6 21

What to watch for: Washington hasn't allowed a receiving touchdown in the past three games, but it's still a fact that DeAngelo Hall(notes) and Carlos Rogers(notes) rank among the most generous cornerback units in the league. Rookie wideout Mike Williams only has one 100-yard game, but he's typically delivered when the matchup has been favorable, and even a couple times when it wasn't. Despite a recent crackdown on receivers, I'd still feel good about Josh Freeman's(notes) clear-cut go-to guy. Washington seems to have shifted emphasis to efending the pass at the expense of the run defense. In the past five weeks, the Redskins have allowed 59 percent more fantasy PPG to opposing backfields than the league average. LeGarrette Blount(notes), given his usual 18-20 carries, should be just fine this week. One thing to note about Freeman is that he averages a modest 17.9 fantasy points per game and has only once strayed beyond 3.3 points (above or below) of that number. No matter what the matchup, expect Freeman to finish with conservative results. … Washington is expecting Ryan Torain(notes) to return from a hamstring injury this week and he could reap immediate dividends against the 10th-most generous fantasy run defense. Torain fits the Mike Shanahan running game like a glove and if it is known that he's back in charge in the backfield, you have to feel good about his chances this week. The Buccaneers pass defense suffered a serious setback when corner Aqib Talib(notes) landed on the IR on Monday. He and teammate Ronde Barber(notes) had produced one of the five lowest QB Ratings in the league among CB tandems on passes thrown their way. Santana Moss(notes) has been almost non-existent in three of his past four games, but the loss of Talib will make life much easier for him on Sunday. Actually, it will make life easier for Anthony Armstrong(notes), as well. I'm running both Moss and Armstrong under the caution flag, but both are decent flyers if you are pressed into having to consider them.

L. Blount; R. Torain; M. Williams
J. Freeman; S. Moss; A. Armstrong; C. Cooley; K. Winslow; Tampa Bay Defense
D. McNabb; Washington Defense
Sleeper: Arrelious Benn(notes)
Key Injuries: TB CB Aqib Talib (hip); TB C Jeff Faine(notes) (triceps); WAS OT Trent Williams(notes) (shoulder);
Prediction: Washington 23, Tampa Bay 21

FALCONS (1 = most; 32= least): 10 31 4 14
PANTHERS (1 = most; 32= least): 28 5 30 4

What to watch for: Panthers WRs have scored just 1 TD in the past five games and if not for the fluky 88-yard scoring strike to David Gettis(notes) in Week 11, we'd be looking at a scoreless unit with no receiver over 54 yards in that span. That said, there's at least some hope for Steve Smith this week. Carolina is going to have a very hard time running like it has in recent weeks against the second-best fantasy ground defense in the league. The Falcons' defensive front can easily match the physicality of the Carolina ground attack. So, unfortunately for Carolina fans, Jimmy Clausen(notes) is going to have to throw it a fair amount on Sunday. That is where the hope springs up for Smith, who has owned the Falcons in his past four meetings (combined 429 yards and 3 TDs). I'll put him down as chartreuse, which is about as good as it gets for the Carolina passing game. … Atlanta is the fifth-most heavy rush offense in the league and it's natural to assume that Michael Turner(notes) will see plenty of work on Sunday against a Panthers defense that has allowed 10 TDs to RBs in the past five weeks. In stark contrast is a Panthers secondary that has yielded just 3 TDs to WRs in their past eight games. And that's not a bi-product of teams not having to throw against Carolina – the Panthers rank in the middle of the pack in terms of passes thrown against them, and they have held opposing QBs to the seventh-lowest QB Rating (78.5). It's enough to cause concern for Matt Ryan(notes) owners and it should at least temper the enthusiasm of Roddy White's(notes) owners. The Panthers have long struggled against TEs, so Tony Gonzalez(notes) should be good to go so long as his ankle is good to go. He tweaked it last week, which explains his chartreuse rating here. Bump him up if late-week reports are positive.

M. Turner; R. White; Atlanta Defense
J. Stewart; S. Smith; T. Gonzalez; M. Ryan
J. Claussen; M. Jenkins; B. LaFell; Carolina TEs; Carolina Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: CAR RB Mike Goodson(notes) (shoulder); ATL TE Tony Gonzalez (ankle)
Prediction: Atlanta 27, Carolina 14

RAIDERS (1 = most; 32= least): 12 9 24 12
JAGUARS (1 = most; 32= least): 5 17 5 6

What to watch for: Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) has served up five straight 100-yard rushing games and he's a good bet to make it six straight on Sunday against the ninth-most generous fantasy run defense. But he's the only good fantasy bet for the Jaguars, who have been extremely volatile in the passing game this season, and just downright unproductive the past two weeks. Maybe David Garrard(notes), or Mike Thomas(notes), or Mike Sims-Walker(notes) (returning from a high ankle sprain) steps up with a big performance on Sunday. But for fantasy owners trying to make the playoffs, or trying to win a first round game, I'd certainly be exhausting all my other options before I turned to them. … Oakland is pretty much a one-horse town, as well, with Darren McFadden(notes) re-merging last week with 127 total yards against San Diego. The Jags defense represents much less of a challenge than the Chargers did for McFadden, and even more so for the Raiders' passing game. But don't go overboard on Jason Campbell(notes) and company based on the Jags' points allowed numbers. If you've watched Jacksonville in the past three weeks, you know that they've looked much improved against the pass. And with Zach Miller clearly struggling (he may not even be the most productive Zach Miller in this game) with plantar fasciitis, the Raiders lack a go-to receiving threat. Of course, Jacoby Ford(notes) keeps finding ways to make his mark and, improvement or not, the Jaguars have still allowed the second-most pass plays of 40-plus yards. If I were going to roll the dice on any Raider besides McFadden, it would easily be Ford.

MoJo; D. McFadden; M. Lewis; Oakland Defense
J. Ford; D. Garrard; J. Campbell; M. Thomas; M. Sims-Walker; L. Murphy;
Z. Miller; Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper: Michael Bush(notes); Rashard Jennings
Key Injuries: JAC S Courtney Greene(notes) (shoulder)
Prediction: Oakland 20, Jacksonville 17

PACK (1 = most; 32= least): 26 29 29 10
LIONS (1 = most; 32= least): 7 4 14 24

What to watch for: Many of you went out and bought James Stark off the waiver wire this week, and his new owners couldn't really ask for a much better matchup. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy has given lip service to the fact that Brandon Jackson(notes) is still their main guy in the backfield, but don't buy it. Jackson is not a sustaining runner and he's gone over 63 rushing yards just once all season. He's a third-down back by definition and is ill-suited to a lead role. Starks is the back to bank on down the stretch for Green Bay. And if you think McCarthy will be hesitant to lean on a sixth-round rookie down the stretch, take a look back at what undrafted rookie Ryan Grant(notes) did for the Packers' '07 squad that wound up playing two playoff games that season. … Drew Stanton(notes) survived a matchup with Chicago, coming away with an impressive, if unspectacular, 102.4 QB Rating. But I'm still expecting the Packers to eat Henson's lunch. That doesn't mean Calvin Johnson(notes) and Brandon Pettigrew(notes) won't be able to come away with something usable for their fantasy owners, because they seem to do so regardless of the situation and quarterback throwing them the ball. But those are the only Detroit risks you should take against a Green Bay defense that ranks sixth in pass defense, allows just 3.7 YPC to RBs and has more combined sacks (35) and INTs (15) than any other team in the league.

A. Rodgers; G. Jennings; C. Johnson; B. Pettigrew; Green Bay Defense
D. Driver; J. Starks; B. Jackson;
D. Stanton; Detroit RBs; Nate Burleson(notes), Green Bay TEs; Detroit Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: GB FB Korey Hall(notes) (knee); GB DE Cullen Jenkins(notes) (calf); DET CB Alphonso Smith(notes) (arm)
Prediction: Green Bay 28, Detroit 17

GIANTS (1 = most; 32= least): 22 25 23 27
VIKES (1 = most; 32= least): 21 28 14 23

What to watch for: Steve Smith hopes to return for the Giants this week, and they can definitely use him. Minnesota has been below average against WRs in fantasy and Smith's return will be welcome news for Eli Manning(notes), who has thrown for 226 yards or less in the past three games without Smith (and two of those without Hakeem Nicks(notes)). While you have to feel better about the Giants passing game this week, don't count on RBs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) to go crazy like they did last week against Washington. Only three RBs have scored more than 11.8 fantasy points against the Vikings this season, and only one (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) has managed to top 100 rushing yards. In the last five weeks, Minnesota hasn't allowed a TD to a RB. Because of his tenacity and versatility, I'd favor Bradshaw, who has held on to the ball in each of his past two games, over Jacobs. despite Jacobs still owning the starter title. … The Giants don't really have a weakness defensively, capably handling all skill positions in fantasy. Obviously, Adrian Peterson showed last week that he's healthy enough with that sore ankle to still get the job done. But he's the only slam dunk for the Minnesota offense this week. The QB situation is up in the air because of Brett Favre's(notes) health, and if Percy Harvin(notes) returns from his migraine issues, as expected, you have to wonder if that will take away value from Sidney Rice(notes), who went off last week sans Harvin. I like Rice more than Harvin this week, but I'm not real sure how much I like either of them, in general. Both should be considered with caution, but I typically can't help myself when it comes to Rice.

E. Manning; A. Peterson; S. Rice; S. Smith;
A. Bradshaw; M. Manningham; B. Jacobs; P. Harvin; K. Boss NYG Def.; Minnesota Def.
B. Favre; V. Shiancoe
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: MIN QB Brett Favre (shoulder); MIN RB Toby Gerhart(notes) (hamstring); NYG WR Hakeem Nicks (leg); NYG WR Steve Smith (pectoral); NYG OT David Diehl(notes) (hamstring); MIN S Tyrell Johnson(notes) (knee)
Prediction: NY Giants 26, Minnesota 20

BENGALS (1 = most; 32= least): 25 14 8 20
STEELERS (1 = most; 32= least): 19 32 17 17

What to watch for: In the first meeting between these teams back in early November, a 27-21 Pittsburgh victory, Rashard Mendehall (130 YFs, TD) and Mike Wallace(notes) (110 receiving yards, TD) led the way for the Steelers. They're two players that should be in line for solid follow-up performances as the Bengals allow 4.6 YPC and have yielded the third-most pass plays of 40-plus yards (9), a category that Wallace ranks second in the league in with six such catches. Hines Ward(notes) caught just three passes for 10 yards in the last meeting, but he scored a TD. And he's likely to be more involved this time around, particularly over the middle, as Heath Miller(notes) is out with a concussion. … Cedric Benson posted the second-best fantasy mark against the Steelers when last they met, compiling 74 yards and a TD. But one thing he's been fairly consistent about all year is underperforming on the road, where he owns a 2.9 YPC average despite facing run softies like Indy, New England and Carolina. Don't be surprised if he gets roughly half the fantasy total of his last game with Pittsburgh. Terrell Owens(notes) had his second-best performance of the season (10/141/2) against the Steelers in Week 9. Pittsburgh CBs Ike Taylor(notes) and Bryant McFadden(notes) have been nothing special this season, and there's good reason to believe TO can come through again. It's hard to ignore the history card for Chad Ochocinco(notes) though. He's been shutdown in each of his past three meetings with Pittsburgh and has just 3 TDs in 18 career meetings.

R. Mendenhall; T. Owens; M. Wallace; Pittsburgh Defense
B. Roethlisberger; H. Ward; C. Palmer; C. Ochocinco; J. Gresham
C. Benson; M. Spaeth; Cincinnati Defense
Sleeper: Isaac Redman(notes)
Key Injuries: PIT TE Heath Miller (concussion); PIT OT Flozell Adams(notes) (ankle); PIT DE Aaron Smith(notes) (triceps)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Cincinnati 17

RAMS (1 = most; 32= least): 20 22 10 29
SAINTS (1 = most; 32= least): 32 16 32 16

What to watch for: For as much as we like to anoint Sam Bradford(notes) the next great NFL quarterback, we (I) have to remember he's still got a lot to learn and last week, in what should have been a good matchup for the rookie at Arizona, he looked pretty bad. The Saints are the toughest in fantasy against QBs and WRs and I'd steer clear of Bradford and the Rams WR platoon. This is a Steven Jackson-only situation for the Rams. … Even if RB Pierre Thomas(notes) returns this week, he's probably going to stand on the sideline for most of the game watching Chris Ivory, who is running like his dreadlocks are on fire these past three weeks (combined 5 TDs). The threat of Thomas does, however, push Ivory into the chartreuse realm as you simply can never trust Sean Payton. The Rams allow the 10th-most fantasy points to WRs and its secondary is very beat up at the moment, which is not only a nice setup for Marques Colston(notes), but Robert Meachem(notes), as well. Meachem has a 50-yard catch in three of his past five games. He's not heavily targeted, but you can count on Drew Brees(notes) to test things deep at least a couple times with Meachem. He's the "go big or go home" option among the fringe receivers.

D. Brees; S. Jackson; M. Colston;
C. Ivory; R. Meachem; R. Bush; P. Thomas; L. Moore; New Orleans Defense
S. Bradford; STL WRs; STL TEs; J. Shockey; STL Defense
Sleeper: Jimmy Graham(notes)
Key Injuries: NO RB Pierre Thomas(ankle); STL QB Sam Bradford (ankle); STL OT Jason Smith(notes) (ankle); STL LB Na’il Diggs(notes) (pectoral); STL LB Chris Chamberlain(notes) (wrist); STL CB Ronald Bartell (shoulder); STL S Craig Dahl(notes) (knee);
Prediction: New Orleans 27, St. Louis 20

HAWKS (1 = most; 32= least): 9 5 2 26
49ERS (1 = most; 32= least): 13 23 13 31

What to watch for: Seattle dominated the first meeting of these teams back in Week 1 (31-6). But that was back when Seattle had a healthy defensive line that was able to handle Frank Gore(notes) (17 carries, 38 yards). Since the loss of DL Red Bryant(notes) and Colin Cole(notes) in Week 8, Seattle is allowing almost 55 more rushing yards per game. Rookie Anthony Dixon(notes) could be in line for a big day as the 49ers look to set the tone early with a smash-mouth attack against the troubled front line of the Seahawks' defense. And if the running game is clicking, the passing game, led once again by Alex Smith, should fall into place. The Seahawks allow the second-most fantasy points to WRs and don't really have a good answer for Michael Crabtree, who had his head in the clouds in the last meeting but should be more mentally prepared this time around. … It's fair to assume that Seattle will attack the weakness of the 49ers, which is their pass defense. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is benefitting from the improving health of his offensive line and after being sacked a combined 13 times in Weeks 7 and 8, he's been sacked just five times combined in his past four games. He's only thrown 4 TD passes in that span, but he has averaged 303 passing yards. With Mike Williams likely to sit with a foot injury, Ben Obomanu(notes), if he can play through a nasty cut on his hand sustained last week, could once again be Hasselbeck's primary target. Marshawn Lynch(notes) scored 3 TDs last week, but the 49ers can handle his between-the-tackles style. Look for Seattle to employ Justin Forsett(notes) more often in this one as Seattle will be geared for the pass all afternoon. Forsett looked fantastic in limited use last week against Carolina.

A. Dixon; M. Crabtree; V. Davis;
M. Hasselbeck; A. Smith; B. Obomanu; B. Westbrook; D. Butler; Seattle Def.; SF Def.
M. Lynch; J. Morgan; J. Carlson;
Sleeper: Justin Forsett; Golden Tate(notes)
Key Injuries: SF DT Aubrayo Franklin(notes) (groin); SF CB Tarell Brown(notes) (ankle); SEA WR Michael Williams (ankle); SEA WR Ben Obomanu (hand); TE John Carlson(notes) (hip)
Prediction: San Francisco 24, Seattle 20

FINS (1 = most; 32= least): 27 24 26 21
JETS (1 = most; 32= least): 11 30 10 13

What to watch for: Man, I wouldn't want to be Miami this week, having to go into East Rutherford after the Jets got stomped on by Tom Brady and Co. last week. The Dolphins scored 23 in a loss to the Jets at home in Week 3. I think they'll be lucky to get half that this week. Chad Henne(notes) and Brandon Marshall(notes) stepped up huge in the first meeting, but Henne has thrown a pick in nine straight games, including 7 INTs in his past three on the road. And Marshall hasn't scored a TD since that game, and has missed the last two with a hamstring injury. Frankly, I'm keeping any Miami player I own on the bench this week. … LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) hasn't scored since Week 6 and he hasn't gained more than 57 yards on the ground in that span, either. In fact, he's received less carries than Shonn Greene(notes) in each of the past four games. But Greene's TD drought is longer than Tomlinson's. For the third-most rush heavy offense, one averaging 4.5 yards per carry, this is one very unproductive fantasy backfield. Against a strong Miami run defense, both RBs are avoidable. Santonio Holmes(notes) has quickly developed into Mark Sanchez's(notes) go-to guy. He has at least five catches in five straight games, and he's the No. 8 fantasy receiver in that span. He's unbenchable right now. And, given the history cards of Braylon Edwards(notes) (6 TDs in past four games against Miami) and Dustin Keller(notes) (combined 14/174/3 line in past two meetings with Miami), they are hard to ignore this week.

M. Sanchez; S. Holmes; B. Edwards; D. Keller; NY Jets Defense
D. Bess; C. Henne; S. Greene; L. Tomlinson; B. Marshall; A. Fasano
R. Brown; R. Williams; Miami Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: MIA WR Brandon Marshall (hamstring); MIA WR Brian Hartline(notes) (finger); MIA OT Vernon Carey(notes) (knee); MIA DE Kendall Langford(notes) (head)
Prediction: NY Jets 24, Miami 12

BRONCOS (1 = most; 32= least): 4 2 16 3
CARDS (1 = most; 32= least): 18 1 9 14

What to watch for: Don't let the Week 10 crazy garbage time production from KC's Dwayne Bowe fool you, Champ Bailey(notes) is legit. Look at how No. 1 receivers in every other game have fared against Denver (including a goose-egged Bowe in Week 13) and you'll come to the same conclusion as me – Larry Fitzgerald(notes), with the potential of John Skelton(notes) at QB, is in trouble this week. Denver is among the top five most generous defenses in fantasy to the QB, RB and TE positions. But given the state of its offense, Arizona is not in a good position to take advantage. Tim Hightower(notes), who continues to run ahead of Beanie Wells(notes) in the Cards backfield, is probably the Cards’ best looking option this week, but he's something slightly less than green here. … Former running back coach Eric Studesville replaces Josh McDaniels at head coach this week for Denver, and that shouldn't be anything but a positive for Knowshon Moreno(notes), who has averaged at least 4.5 YPC in each of the past four games and ranks as the No. 5 fantasy RB in that span. He's a no-brainer against the worst fantasy run defense in the league. Teams haven't had to throw very often against Arizona in recent weeks, as the ground game has been so lucrative. But consider Kyle Orton(notes), looking to bounce back from his worst performance of the year in Week 13, to be at least serviceable against a Cards defense that allows nearly 243 passing yards per game. And despite a subpar line from Brandon Lloyd(notes) in Week 13, he still leads the NFL in catches of 20-plus yards (20), and Arizona has allowed the third-most 20-yard pass plays. Put those hands together.

K. Orton; K. Moreno; B. Lloyd;
T. Hightower; L. Fitzgerald; S. Breaston; J. Gaffney; E. Royal; Arizona Def.; Denver Def.
Arizona QBs; B. Wells; Denver TEs; Arizona TEs
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: DEN LB D.J. Williams(notes) (elbow); DEN LB Joe Mays(notes) (knee); ARI QBs Max Hall(notes) (shoulder) and Derek Anderson(notes) (head)
Prediction: Denver 19, Arizona 16

CHIEFS (1 = most; 32= least): 16 18 12 30
BOLTS (1 = most; 32= least): 31 18 31 9

What to watch for: Antonio Gates(notes) has played with his plantar fascia injury the past two weeks and was good for 63 yards and a TD last week. But he said he is in so much pain that he can't keep this up. That's an ominous quote for his owners. Obviously, we now know that he can be productive with this injury if he does decide he can play on it. It remains all about the "will he or won't he?" questionable tag. Malcom Floyd just missed a game-winning TD grab in his Week 1 meeting with KC and as the team's only regular receiver that is at least semi-healthy, he could be in line for a very big day, especially with top KC corner Brandon Flowers(notes) less than 100 percent because of a hamstring injury. There's probably another sleeper play at WR for the Chargers, but you might have to wait and see who lines up opposite Floyd on Sunday. The early leader looks like Seyi Ajirotutu(notes). Rookie Ryan Mathews(notes) is expected to finally get back on the field this week. He's still going to take a backseat to Mike Tolbert(notes), but his presence devalues Tolbert a bit and makes him something less than a green light this week against a KC defense that has been at least respectable against the run. … Jamaal Charles(notes) went for 100 YFS and a TD in the Week 1 meeting with San Diego and, as the dynamic leader of the league's top rushing attack, you can't really consider benching him. Simply put, there's not another green light on the Chiefs this week, and that includes Dwayne Bowe, who had just one catch against the Chargers in Week 1 and is coming off a Week 13 effort in which he was shutout. San Diego is second-best in the league at limiting the fantasy points of opposing receivers. I own Bowe on one of my playoff teams, and I'll have him in the lineup over Percy Harvin and Brandon Marshall, but those with better replacement options will have to think hard about the realities of Bowe's situation this week.

P. Rivers; J. Charles; M. Floyd; T. Moeaki
D. Bowe; M. Tolbert; T. Jones; A. Gates; KC Defense; San Diego Defense
M. Cassel; R. Mathews; D. McCluster
Sleeper: Seyi Ajirotutu
Key Injuries: SD RB Darren Sproles(notes) (head); WR Vincent Jackson(notes) (calf); KC CB Brandon Flowers (hamstring)
Prediction: San Diego 27, Kansas City 21

EAGLES (1 = most; 32= least): 7 12 18 5
COWBOYS (1 = most; 32= least): 3 18 1 18

What to watch for: Philly is among the most aggressive defenses in the league, which is why it ranks second in the league in combined sacks and INTs. But Philly's gambling ways on defense have come at a cost, as opposing offenses are averaging more than 23 points per game against the Eagles. Jon Kitna(notes) has been respectable in place of the injured Tony Romo(notes) and, even without Dez Bryant(notes), he has the weapons to put up borderline starting numbers this week. Don't hold his past two mediocre outings against him. Indy and New Orleans are among the very best in the league at limiting QB fantasy points. The TE has long made out against the blitz-happy Eagles, so Jason Witten(notes), if he is able to play through a sore ankle, is looking especially good. Tashard Choice(notes) was a revelation for the Dallas running game last week. He's going to split the load with Felix Jones(notes), but you get the feeling that the most meaningful carries (like in the red zone) will mostly go to Choice. I like him as an RB2 this week. … Dallas has been much improved under head coach Jason Garrett, but you're still not going to worry about Michael Vick(notes) or the Eagles passing game against what has been, perhaps, the worst pass defense in the league this season – although Houston might have something to say about that.

M. Vick; L. McCoy; D. Jackson; J. Maclin; M. Austin; J. Witten; Philly Defense
J. Kitna; T. Choice; F. Jones; R. Williams
B. Celek;
Sleeper: Jason Avant(notes); Martellus Bennett(notes)
Key Injuries: DAL TE Jason Witten (ankle); DAL WR Dez Bryant (leg); DAL CB Orlando Scandrick(notes) (head)
Prediction: Philadelphia 28, Dallas 20

RAVENS (1 = most; 32= least): 29 27 20 31
TEXANS (1 = most; 32= least): 1 15 3 1

What to watch for: Houston has a pretty straight-forward fantasy set-up. Arian Foster(notes) and Andre Johnson(notes) are unbenchable. And Matt Schaub(notes), although an overall disappointment this season, still warrants a starting nod more often than not. This week, though, the alarms are going off in regards to Schaub. He's facing a Baltimore defense allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to QBs, and he's playing at home – he is averaging just 216 passing yards and has thrown a mere 6 TD passes in six home games compared to a 299-yard average and 11 TDs in six road games. I'll likely have Schaub in the 12-15 range among QBs this week. You might as well forget about the rest of the Texans. Joel Dreessen(notes) has been making himself heard in recent weeks at tight end, but Baltimore has defended the TE about as good as anyone this season, and it sounds like Owen Daniels(notes) will finally play this week. … The Houston defense ranks below average against every skill position in terms of fantasy points allowed, and it is the absolute worst against QBs and TEs. There's not much analysis needed here. You're starting the usual Ravens suspects – Joe Flacco(notes), Ray Rice(notes), Anquan Boldin(notes) – and you're certainly giving Derrick Mason(notes) strong consideration. TE Todd Heap(notes) would also be a fantastic play this week, but he's been ruled out because of a hamstring injury. Heap owners are going to want to get acquainted with backup Ed Dickson(notes) real fast. He's likely to be a sneaky good surprise this week.

Joe Flacco; A. Foster; R. Rice; A. Johnson; A. Boldin
M. Schaub; D. Mason; E. Dickson Baltimore Defense
K. Walter; Houston TEs; Houston Defense
Sleeper: T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes)
Key Injuries: BAL FB Le’Ron McClain(notes) (ankle); BAL TE Todd Heap (hamstring); HOU TE Owen Daniels (hamstring)
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Houston 17
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