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NFL Skinny: Week 15 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

What happens in September stays in September. It's playoff time, which means you don't get to take your record with you. Sure, maybe it earned you the added value of a first-round bye. But if you're going to win your league title, it's all about these next two (or three) weeks, and not a lick about what has happened in the past.

I was reminded of that last week when my September/October juggernaut squad in the RotoArcade Pro-Am League (16 teams) went down with a whimper in the first-round of the playoffs. I was arrogant in my belief that a backfield of Chris Johnson and Arian Foster(notes) in a 16-team league was a sure-fire champion. But, of course, there are no guarantees.

Thankfully, I have another dog still in the fight in another league. And I take nothing for granted, which is why I'm thinking hard about putting Minnesota's likely starting QB this week, third-stringer Joe Webb(notes), into my lineup … as a receiver. For more on that twist and the rest of the potential plays for Week 15, let's get The Skinny started in here:

Note: The red light has been eliminated this week (we don't waste time in the red-light district during the playoffs). Fantasy points allowed numbers have been trimmed down to a "past 10 games" view (further emphasizing the September doesn't matter theme). And players bolded under the yellow-light designation are considered borderline green-light options. Or, as you know I like to say, chartreuse.

Week 15 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 15 matchup

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
49ERS (1 = most; 32= least): 17 27 6 32
BOLTS (1 = most; 32= least): 31 19 32 14

What to watch for: Take a look at those pass defense stats for San Diego. In terms of shutting down QBs and WRs in fantasy, it's arguable that nobody does it better. Vernon Davis(notes) is a safe play because the Chargers have long struggled against the position, and Davis has been red-hot of late. The other 49ers, outside of Davis, don't look promising. But, in case you might need him, I'd bet on Brian Westbrook(notes) winning the majority of the backfield workload. Anthony Dixon(notes) has been the team's milkman, getting a vast majority of his carries in the fourth quarter with the team nursing a lead. That seems like an unlikely scenario on Thursday. … The Niners will have to worry about the Twin Towers (Vincent Jackson(notes) and Malcom Floyd(notes)), but probably will dodge Antonio Gates(notes) (toe). Don't bother with backup Randy McMichael(notes). The Niners are tops in the league against TEs, and the odds only favor transcendent TE talents like Gates in this kind of a matchup. But Vincent Jackson, who moved around very well last week despite just modest numbers, and Malcom Floyd, who scored 2 TDs last week despite a sore hamstring, should be enough of a handful for the Niners, who have been burned often by big pass plays. The Chargers running game is a bit up in the air as Ryan Mathews(notes) is healthy and active once again, meaning carries will be split against a tough Niners run defense. But if 49ers LB Patrick Willis(notes) (hand) misses the game, you can feel better about rolling with Mike Tolbert(notes), who still owns the lead role. If you believe that this will be another blowout for the Chargers, like last week, then Mathews enters viable territory.

Philip Rivers(notes), Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Vernon Davis, San Diego Defense
Mike Tolbert; Brian Westbrook; Ryan Mathews
Sleeper: Ryan Mathews
Key Injuries: SD WR Malcolm Floyd (hamstring); WR Patrick Crayton(notes) (wrist); SD TE Antonio Gates (toe/foot); SD LT Marcus McNeill(notes) (knee); SD G Louis Vasquez(notes) (neck); SD DE Jacques Cesaire(notes) (knee); SD NT Antonio Garay(notes) (ankle); SD LB Brandon Siler(notes) (rib); SF K Joe Nedney(notes) (knee); SF OLT Joe Staley(notes) (leg); SF G Mike Iupati(notes) (shoulder); SF ILB Patrick Willis (hand); SF ILB Takeo Spikes(notes) (hand);
Prediction: San Diego 28, San Francisco 16
CLEVELAND BROWNS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
BROWNS (1 = most; 32= least): 16 18 23 3
BENGALS (1 = most; 32= least): 24 15 2 23

What to watch for: As you can see, Cincy has been the second-most generous fantasy defense to WRs in the past 10 weeks. It's too bad Cleveland WRs are the most irrelevant receiving unit in all of fantasy. Peyton Hillis(notes) remains one of the safest plays in fantasy and probably the only Brown you can feel good about this week. Benjamin Watson(notes)? Go figure, his best games have come on the road against tough defenses (BAL, PIT, MIA) that do a good job of defending the TE. He's been a rollercoaster the past two weeks, but I think he'll bounce back to at least a serviceable level. QB Colt McCoy(notes) is hoping to return from an ankle injury. His biggest fantasy impact, though, is to take Cincy out of consideration as a possible defensive play against turnover machine Jake Delhomme(notes).Carson Palmer(notes) and Terrell Owens(notes) had a field day in a Week 4 loss at Cleveland. The history card is probably enough to make the case for each player this week. But Palmer is one of the most erratic QBs in fantasy this season, so he certainly shouldn't get VIP lineup treatment. Cedric Benson(notes) has managed to consistently find the end zone despite averaging 3.0 YPC or less in five of the past six games. Cleveland has been very good at keeping RBs out of the end zone, so Benson earns a "dubious" tag this week.

Carson Palmer, Peyton Hillis, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco(notes)
Benjamin Watson; Cedric Benson; Cleveland Defense
Sleeper: Jermaine Gresham(notes)
Key Injuries: CLE QB Colt McCoy (ankle); CLE LB David Bowens(notes) (head); CIN FS Tom Nelson(notes) (ill); CIN S Chinedum Ndukwe(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Cincinnati 20, Cleveland 17
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
SKINS (1 = most; 32= least): 7 8 15 15
BOYS (1 = most; 32= least): 1 16 1 24

What to watch for: While his rushing totals have been erratic, Felix Jones(notes) has been an elite receiving RB in the Jason Garrett era. In fact, in the past five weeks, only LeSean McCoy(notes) has more receiving fantasy points from the RB position. Washington has allowed the sixth-most receiving yards to RBs, so the set up works well for Jones. The passing game sets up well for all Cowboys, actually. Jon Kitna(notes) has been the No. 8 fantasy QB the past five weeks, and he's used Jones and Jason Witten(notes) almost exclusively, especially with the loss of Dez Bryant(notes). Miles Austin(notes) has been mostly awful under Kitna, but my gut tells me Austin will be a worthwhile play in this one. I won't blame you if you look elsewhere, but you have to consider how bad Washington's secondary is, as well as the 9-plus catches that Austin has recorded against the 'Skins in each of his past two meetings. … If there was any doubt about Mike Shanahan's love for Ryan Torain(notes), or Torain's fit in Shanahan's one-cut system, they were erased in Torain's 24/172 return from injury performance last week against Tampa Bay. The Dallas defense should not dissuade an owner from looking Torain's direction this week. As for the Redskins' passing game, Donovan McNabb(notes) struggled in the Week 1 meeting. And he's apparently a few bad plays away from being benched. So he's too risky against even the most generous fantasy air defense of the past couple months. Santana Moss(notes) is the only element of the Washington passing game I'd invest in.

Jon Kitna, Ryan Torain, Felix Jones, Santana Moss, Jason Witten
Miles Austin; Tashard Choice(notes); Anthony Armstrong(notes); Chris Cooley(notes)
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: WAS PK Graham Gano(notes) (ribs); WAS FS LaRon Landry(notes) (Achilles);
Prediction: Dallas 24, Washington 23
HOUSTON TEXANS @ TENNESSEE TITANS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
TEXANS (1 = most; 32= least): 2 11 7 10
TITANS (1 = most; 32= least): 8 14 13 4

What to watch for: Kerry Collins(notes) is a nice bet for at least couple of TD passes this week. He had 3 TD passes last week. And the Texans have allowed at least 2 TD passes in all but two games. Houston allows the most fantasy points to QBs, and it's not even that closely contested. Who Collins utilizes in the passing game, though, is anyone's guess. But, with a week under his belt after returning from a hamstring injury last Thursday night, I'd roll the dice on Kenny Britt(notes) given the sensational matchup. Britt has caught 4 TDs from Collins, which is saying something considering the limited time they've had together. … Matt Schaub(notes) is the No. 4 fantasy QB over the past five weeks and has back-to-back 300-yard games. He joins Arian Foster and Andre Johnson(notes) as rubber stamp starts among the Texans crowd. And given the amount of targets he saw last week, and the amount of fantasy points yielded by his opponent, Owen Daniels(notes) has ventured back onto the radar.

Matt Schaub; Arian Foster; Chris Johnson; Andre Johnson; Owen Daniels
Kerry Collins; Kenny Britt
Sleeper: Bo Scaife(notes)
Key Injuries: HOU OG Mike Brisiel(notes) (calf); HOU DE Mario Williams(notes) (hernia); TEN C Eugene Amano(notes) (shoulder)
Prediction: Tennessee 24, Houston 21
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
JAGS (1 = most; 32= least): 12 10 11 8
COLTS (1 = most; 32= least): 19 7 31 9

What to watch for: Indy (and Yours Truly) hopes to get Austin Collie(notes) back from a concussion injury this week. It's a nice matchup for Collie, who scored a TD to go with 39 yards in the previous meeting with Jacksonville. In that contest, Reggie Wayne(notes) was out of his mind, catching 15 passes for 196 yards. Peyton Manning(notes) has thrown for 300-plus yards in four straight against the Jags so, really, you have to love any of the starting receiving options this week for the Colts. Asking for a return of both Collie and Joseph Addai(notes) is probably too much to wish for and, although Addai has practiced a bit this week, don't count on him. In deep TD-heavy leagues, Javarris James(notes) remains a decent option, but the Colts backfield is best avoided. … Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) has destroyed Indy in his career and his seventh straight 100-yard rushing game looks probable – he went for 105 rushing yards and scored twice against the Colts in Week 4. As for Rashard Jennings, he's a talented player on a nice roll – TDs in three straight. But I wouldn't try to make more of it than it is. In other words, you're talking about someone that is likely to get around six carries, and banking on him scoring (for the fourth straight game) on one of those precious few (non-goal line) carries, even against the Colts, is asking for trouble.

Peyton Manning; Maurice Jones-Drew; Reggie Wayne; Pierre Garcon(notes); Jacob Tamme(notes)
Austin Collie; Marcedes Lewis(notes); David Garrard(notes)
Sleeper: Javarris James
Key Injuries: IND RB Joseph Addai (neck); IND WR Austin Collie (concussion); IND CB Kelvin Hayden(notes) (neck)
Prediction: Indianapolis 28, Jacksonville 21
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
CHIEFS (1 = most; 32= least): 14 12 8 30
RAMS (1 = most; 32= least): 21 23 12 22

What to watch for: Matt Cassel(notes) can't give a percentage likelihood that he'll play after having his appendix removed last week. But I'm guessing it's a better bet that he will play. The KC offense was atrocious with Brodie Croyle(notes) at QB and KC needs a win on Sunday to keep its AFC West division lead. I wouldn't play Cassel even if he does play, but his presence will make St. Louis respect the passing game more, which should make life easier for RBs Jamaal Charles(notes) and Thomas Jones(notes). And it offers hope for Dwayne Bowe(notes), who has been AWOL the past two weeks (1 catch for 3 yards). I have to make a choice between Bowe, Austin Collie and Brandon Marshall(notes) for one of my teams, and if Cassel sits, it's makes my decision much easier. … Yes, Sam Bradford's(notes) future is so bright, he definitely has to wear shades. But the fantasy reality is that he's scored below the weekly fantasy total of an average QB in 10 of 13 games. If I'm choosing between Bradford and Jon Kitna (I am), I'm definitely going Kitna. Steven Jackson remains your only legit Rams hope.

Steven Jackson; Jamaal Charles
Sam Bradford; Thomas Jones; Dwayne Bowe
Sleeper: Brandon Gibson(notes)
Key Injuries: KC QB Matt Cassel (appendix); STL OG Jacob Bell(notes) (knee); STL LB David Dixon (hand); STL CB Ronald Bartell (stinger)
Prediction: Kansas City 21, St. Louis 17
BUFFALO BILLS @ MIAMI DOLPHINS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
BILLS (1 = most; 32= least): 22 5 25 6
FINS (1 = most; 32= least): 27 25 26 29

What to watch for: The Buffalo offense has generated less than 20 points in six of the past seven games and faces a Miami defense that it scored just 10 points against in Week 1. The Dolphins rank among the eight best in fantasy since Week 4 at limiting points to each of the four skill positions. The honeymoon for Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) and Stevie Johnson(notes) is over. You can still make a case for Fred Jackson(notes) because he's versatile, gets plenty of touches and is a high-motor, find-a-way type. With Lee Evans(notes) out for the year, David Nelson(notes) is a solid flyer in deep leagues. … Miami ran it 36 times in the first meeting of these teams and, given the play of Chad Henne(notes), don't be surprised if the Ronnie Brown(notes)/Ricky Williams tandem pushes 40 carries once again. Brandon Marshall had just two catches last week in his return from injury, but he did score a TD at the goal line, which is encouraging. He won't be a good bet in this offense until offensive coordinator Dan Henning is fired. But I have a feeling he finds his way to a 5/50/1 type of performance.

Fred Jackson; Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams(notes); Brandon Marshall; Stevie Johnson; Davone Bess(notes); Miami Defense
Sleeper: David Nelson; Anthony Fasano(notes)
Key Injuries: BUF WR Lee Evans (ankle); BUF TE Shawn Nelson(notes) (migraines); BUF C Geoff Hangartner(notes) (knee); MIA OT Vernon Carey(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Miami 24, Buffalo 19
DETROIT LIONS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
LIONS (1 = most; 32= least): 10 17 17 13
BUCS (1 = most; 32= least): 23 9 22 17

What to watch for: Shaun Hill(notes) is hoping to return from a broken finger this week, but it sounds like Drew Stanton(notes) will make another start at QB for the Lions. Calvin Johnson(notes) has a TD in two of Stanton's three games of significant action, and he did have a 44-yard catch last week, even if it was his only catch. MegaTron should be fine this week, as should Brandon Pettigrew(notes), who has 11 catches in Stanton's past 10 quarters of play. As for Stanton and the rest of the Lions den, I'm not interested. But in leagues where 60-70 yards from scrimmage and a few catches is an impact tally, Maurice Morris(notes) is a worthwhile option. … Josh Freeman(notes) has been like Sam Bradford in that they've been much better than their fantasy totals would lead you to believe. Tampa Bay is always going to lean on the run over the passing game when it can, and it can this week. LeGarrette Blount(notes) is the only sure-fire Buc as a conservative approach and the emergence of Arrelious Benn(notes) makes the passing game a crapshoot as far as who will step up, if anyone at all. I'll still lean Mike Williams, but it could certainly be Benn and Kellen Winslow(notes) again like last week.

LeGarrette Blount; Calvin Johnson; Brandon Pettigrew
Maurice Morris; Mike Williams ; Josh Freeman; Kellen Winslow; Tampa Bay Def.
Sleeper: Arrelious Benn
Key Injuries: DET QB Shaun Hill (finger); DET QB Matthew Stafford(notes) (shoulder); DET DE Cliff Avril(notes) (rib); DET LB Landon Johnson(notes) (neck); DET CB Brandon McDonald(notes) (arm); DET S Amari Spievey(notes) (ribs); TB DT Gerald McCoy(notes) (biceps); TB LB Quincy Black(notes) (forearm)
Prediction: Tampa Bay 23, Detroit 16
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ CAROLINA PANTHERS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
CARDS (1 = most; 32= least): 25 3 16 16
CATS (1 = most; 32= least): 30 4 30 2

What to watch for: I'm not even going to try to put too much lipstick on this pig. It's Jimmy Clausen(notes) vs. John Skelton(notes). Obviously, the ground components are the point of emphasis here. Tim Hightower(notes) has been a borderline top 20 fantasy back in the past five weeks, and Jonathan Stewart(notes) and Mike Goodson(notes), in the past three weeks, have flashed the vintage platoon prowess that we grew to know and love about Carolina. All three backs have what can only be called a ripe matchup with this contest, but you can, for the most part, forget about all things passing here. Larry Fitzgerald(notes), like Calvin Johnson but less so, has managed to get by despite a QB carousel. In PPR leagues, he's likely to still turn a profit.

Jonathan Stewart; Tim Hightower
Mike Goodson; Larry Fitzgerald
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: CAR OG Travelle Wharton(notes) (toe); CAR DE Everette Brown(notes) (wrist); CAR LB Jason Williams(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Carolina 19, Arizona 16
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
SAINTS (1 = most; 32= least): 32 21 29 31
RAVENS (1 = most; 32= least): 15 26 4 25

What to watch for: You have to give it up to the Saints pass defense. They have consistently slammed the door on QBs, WRs and TEs all season. It certainly dampens the enthusiasm for Joe Flacco(notes), Anquan Boldin(notes) and the Baltimore receiving contingent this week. That said, Ray Rice(notes) could be in line for a big day as the Saints allow healthy production to RBs in the passing game, and Rice is among the best in that regard. … Drew Brees(notes) and Marques Colston(notes) are the only green light options for the Saints as the New Orleans backfield is a tossup with the return of Pierre Thomas(notes) coinciding with a hamstring tweak for Chris Ivory. Don't be surprised if Reggie Bush(notes), who showed signs of life last week, is the Saints' top RB producer (especially PPR leagues). But I'm never eager to put my money where my mouth is whenever Sean Payton is involved.

Drew Brees; Ray Rice; Marques Colston
Joe Flacco; Derrick Mason(notes); Anquan Boldin; Reggie Bush; Lance Moore(notes)
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: NO RB Chris Ivory (hamstring)
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Baltimore 24
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ NEW YORK GIANTS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
EAGLES (1 = most; 32= least): 4 20 14 1
GIANTS (1 = most; 32= least): 26 31 27 27

What to watch for: Michael Vick(notes) has clocked above the league average at QB in fantasy points in every game he's played, save the Week 4 game against Washington in which he was knocked out early. The consistency of LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson(notes) with Vick under center has been nearly as good. The question marks are Jeremy Maclin(notes) and Brent Celek(notes). But Maclin's 9/120 line in the previous meeting with New York certainly casts him in chartreuse light. … Steve Smith is out for the year after returning last week to grab one catch for 12 yards. Mario Manningham(notes) is dealing with a hip injury, so Hakeem Nicks(notes) and Kevin Boss(notes) will be the highlighted targets of Eli Manning(notes). The Eagles have been kind in the passing game and Nicks could have a huge game as Philly has to focus its attention on a Giants backfield that has two running backs that are averaging 100 rushing yards in the past two games. The loss of LB Stewart Bradley(notes) only complicates things further for Philly. I bathe Bradshaw in chartreuse only because of his sore wrist.

Michael Vick; LeSean McCoy; Brandon Jacobs(notes); Hakeem Nicks; DeSean Jackson
Eli Manning; Ahmad Bradshaw(notes); Jeremy Maclin; Kevin Boss; NY Giants Defense
Sleeper: Derek Hagan(notes)
Key Injuries: PHI QB Michael Vick (hand); PHI WR DeSean Jackson (foot); PHI DE Brandon Graham(notes) (knee); PHI LB Stewart Bradley (elbow); NYG RB Ahmad Bradshaw (wrist); NYG WR Steven Smith (knee); NYG WR Mario Manningham (hip); NYG DE Justin Tuck(notes) (ribs); NYG LB Clint Sintim(notes) (knee)
Prediction: NY Giants 30, Philadelphia 26
ATLANTA FALCONS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
FALCONS (1 = most; 32= least): 9 30 3 20
HAWKS (1 = most; 32= least): 5 2 5 28

What to watch for: Nobody is more excited for the expected return of Mike Williams than Matt Hasselbeck(notes), who threw for 300 yards in each of Williams' past two full games played. The Hasselbeck-to-Williams connection is the only potential bright spot for the Seahawks as Atlanta should have no problems stuffing the meager Seattle running game. … Seattle's LB crew is solid, and rookie safety Earl Thomas(notes) can fly to the ball. It's the reason the team has been so good against TEs. That clouds things for Tony Gonzalez(notes) on Sunday, but Michael Turner(notes) and Roddy White(notes) are in a position to absolutely dominate. Move both to the top of your Week 15 cheat sheet.

Matt Ryan(notes); Michael Turner, Roddy White, Mike Williams
Matt Hasselbeck; Ben Obomanu(notes); Tony Gonzalez; Atlanta Defense
Sleeper: Jason Snelling(notes)
Key Injuries: ATL RB Jason Snelling (hamstring); ATL LB Coy Wire(notes) (head); SEA WR Michael Williams (foot); SEA WR Ben Obomanu (hand); SEA WR Deon Butler(notes) (leg); SEA WR Brandon Stokley(notes) (hamstring)
Prediction: Atlanta 34, Seattle 24
DENVER BRONCOS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
BRONCOS (1 = most; 32= least): 6 1 24 5
RAIDERS (1 = most; 32= least): 3 6 21 11

What to watch for: Darren McFadden(notes) and Michael Bush(notes) combined for 261 yards from scrimmage and five TDs against Denver in Week 7, a big reason why the Broncos rank as the worst defense against RBs since Week 4. Count on Oakland leaning heavily on those two once again. Champ Bailey(notes) will shut down whichever receiver he goes up against and it would be a tenuous move to roll the dice on Louis Murphy(notes) or Jacoby Ford(notes). Zach Miller, however, looks like his foot pain is letting up. He was finally an active participant in the Oakland passing game last week, and that bodes well against a Denver defense that has struggled against the TE – Miller went for 3/65/1 in the previous meeting. … Brandon Lloyd(notes) has gone the way of Dwayne Bowe, disappearing the past two weeks. And he was good for just one catch in the previous tango with Oakland. Suddenly Knowshon Moreno(notes) is the only trustworthy fantasy source in Denver, and that's the case this week.

Darren McFadden; Knowshon Moreno; Zach Miller; Oakland Defense
Kyle Orton(notes); Michael Bush; Brandon Lloyd; Jason Campbell(notes); Louis Murphy
Sleeper: Marcel Reese
Key Injuries: DEN QB Kyle Orton (rib); DEN LB Kevin Alexander(notes) (ankle); DEN FS Brian Dawkins(notes) (knee); DEN FS Darcel McBath(notes) (leg); DEN S Kyle McCarthy(notes) (knee); DEN S David Bruton(notes) (ribs); OAK LB Rolando McClain(notes) (foot);
Prediction: Oakland 24, Denver 16
NEW YORK JETS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
JETS (1 = most; 32= least): 13 28 20 18
STEELERS (1 = most; 32= least): 20 32 18 12

What to watch for: With 5 INTs and just 1 TD pass in his past three games, it's fair to say that Mark Sanchez(notes) is suffering a crisis of confidence as he heads to the Steel City. It's unfortunate timing as the passing game is the only viable avenue for success against Pittsburgh. Shonn Greene(notes) has a pinched nerve in his neck and LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) is clearly feeling his age in the second half of the season, so you can write them off safely against the top run defense in the league. The only Jet I'd be willing to get behind this week is Santonio Holmes(notes), who knows a thing or two about this Pittsburgh secondary. … The Jets have been dealing with injury issues at safety and that could open the door for some potential big plays to Mike Wallace(notes), and Heath Miller(notes) (back from concussion) could do some damage underneath. Either way, Ben Roethlisberger(notes) should have a big day as Pittsburgh won't be able to lean on Rashard Mendenhall(notes). I look at Mendenhall like I do Cedric Benson: A decent chance to score a cheap TD, but a mediocre option in general.

Ben Roethlisberger; Mike Wallace; Santonio Holmes; Pittsburgh Defense
Rashard Mendenhall; Hines Ward(notes); Dustin Keller(notes); Heath Miller
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: NYJ RB Shonn Greene (neck); NYJ OT Damien Woody(notes) (knee); NYJ DT Trevor Pryce(notes) (hip); NYJ S Eric Smith(notes) (head); NYJ SS James Ihedigbo(notes) (leg); PIT TE Heath Miller (concussion); PIT OT Flozell Adams(notes) (ankle); PIT LB Keyaron Fox(notes) (elbow); PIT SS Troy Polamalu(notes) (leg); PIT CB Bryant McFadden(notes)(hamstring)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, NY Jets 17
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
PACK (1 = most; 32= least): 28 29 28 7
PATS (1 = most; 32= least): 11 13 9 19

What to watch for: I made the mistake of thinking that Mother Nature could handle Tom Brady(notes) last week. But "The Mailman" delivered in spades despite brutal conditions in Chicago last week. He faces another daunting opponent in Green Bay, but you simply have to view Brady and all his skilled helpers independent of the matchup. Brady decides who goes off from week to week, although his TEs Aaron Hernandez(notes) and Rob Gronkowski(notes) certainly have the numbers on their side when looking at Green Bay's defensive weaknesses, which are few. That said, if you own Deion Branch(notes), Wes Welker(notes), BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes), Danny Woodhead(notes), et al, consider them just the same as you would any other week. … If it's Matt Flynn(notes) in place of Aaron Rodgers(notes) this week, which seems likely, all bets are off for a Green Bay offense that could muster just three points at Detroit last week with Rodgers on the sideline. I might still hazard a Greg Jennings(notes) play, but that's where it ends.

Tom Brady; BenJarvus Green-Ellis; Wes Welker; New England Defense
Greg Jennings; Deion Branch; Aaron Hernandez; Danny Woodhead
Sleeper: Rob Gronkowski
Key Injuries: GB QB Aaron Rodgers (head); GB G Daryn Colledge(notes) (knee); GB DE Cullen Jenkins(notes) (calf); GB LB Frank Zombo(notes) (knee); NE DE Ron Brace(notes) (head); NE DL Gerard Warren(notes) (knee); NE CB Devin McCourty(notes) (ribs)
Prediction: New England 28, Green Bay 17
CHICAGO BEARS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

FAN. PPG ALLOWED (past 10 games) QB RB WR TE
BEARS (1 = most; 32= least): 29 24 19 26
VIKES (1 = most; 32= least): 18 22 10 21

What to watch for: Third-stringer Joe Webb is looking like Minnesota's starting QB this week, which is bad news for Vikings receivers Sidney Rice(notes) and Percy Harvin(notes). But fantasy owners may want to consider starting Webb in place of either of those two players as Webb was drafted by Minnesota with deigns on him becoming a receiver, thus he has WR eligibility in fantasy. If this were Houston or Dallas, the WR loophole would be looking real nice. But Chicago, when not facing Tom Brady in blizzard conditions, is a force to be reckoned with against QBs. But holding a QB to 10 points is an accomplishment. But if that QB gets points at the WR position, a bad day suddenly becomes a solid day. Something to consider. I've already made the move in one of my leagues. … Minnesota has handled the finesse rush offenses that it has faced, and I think Chicago qualifies. Jay Cutler(notes) threw 3 TD passes in the last meeting against the Vikings and I look for him the test the airways yet again. There's not a particular receiving option for Cutler that you can bank on, but Earl Bennett(notes) has been the most consistent in recent weeks.

Adrian Peterson; Matt Forte(notes); Chicago Defense
Jay Cutler; Joe Webb; Sidney Rice; Percy Harvin; Earl Bennett; Johnny Knox(notes); Minnesota Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: CHI RB Chester Taylor(notes) (knee); MIN QB Brett Favre(notes) (shoulder); MIN Tarvaris Jackson(notes) (toe); RB Adrian Peterson (knee); MIN WR Percy Harvin (migraines); MIN DE Ray Edwards(notes) (ankle); MIN CB Chris Cook(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Chicago 21, Minnesota 13
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