NFL Skinny: Week 16 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo! SportsDecember 22, 2010

If you're reading, you're still alive. If so, congratulations. I still have one team with a heartbeat (two Week 15 casualties); unfortunately I have to live through another week if I'm to have a championship shot. But I'm a Week 17 title game kind of guy. I know the fantasy community is divided on that, and probably more lean to the side of this being the deciding week. Personally, I hate to leave a week of football on the board. In my mind, if it's a regular season game, then you should put a fantasy football ring on it.

Regardless of what predicament you find yourself in this week, I wish you the best of luck and a happy holiday. I'll return after Christmas for a Skinny-lite in Week 17 for those that subscribe to the notion of a 17-week marathon.

Note: The red light remains 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 11 games" view (September just seems so long ago). And players bolded under the yellow-light designation are considered borderline green-light options. Or, as you know I like to say, chartreuse.

Week 16 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 16 matchup

PANTHERS (1 = most; 32= least): 30 5 30 3
STEELERS (1 = most; 32= least): 21 32 19 13

What to watch for: Jonathan Stewart(notes) has rushed for 90-plus yards in four consecutive games, but Pittsburgh has not even allowed a 90-yard back this season. The Steelers are the toughest in fantasy on opposing RBs and they are going to be extra surly following a tough loss at home to the Jets last week. I'm expecting this one to get ugly fast for the Panthers. … The Panthers' pass defense is legit and they've held some solid passing games to mediocre performances. This doesn't shape up to be a great day for the Pittsburgh WRs given the '10 track record of the Panthers air defense and the likelihood that Rashard Mendenhall(notes) is going to enjoy a sizeable workload. But I think there'll be enough red zone opportunities here to roll the dice on Ben Roethlisberger(notes) finding the end zone at least a couple times. Heath Miller(notes) would be a nice option under normal circumstances. But he's struggled to get back from a concussion suffered a couple weeks ago. It sounds like he'll be good to go but, if you plan on using him, you have to monitor his status all the way up to kickoff.

Rashard Mendenhall; Pittsburgh Defense
Ben Roethlisberger; Jonathan Stewart; Hines Ward(notes); Mike Wallace(notes)
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: PIT TE Heath Miller (concussion); PIT OT Jonathan Scott(notes) (stinger); PIT DE Aaron Smith(notes) (triceps); PIT S Troy Polamalu(notes) (Achilles); CAR CB Chris Gamble(notes) (leg)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Carolina 10
BOYS (1 = most; 32= least): 1 15 1 23
CARDS (1 = most; 32= least): 27 3 20 16

What to watch for: This is never much of a road game for Dallas given the abundance of Cowboys fans in Arizona. And the fight is pretty much gone from the Cardinals as it is. Given the myriad of problems (Derek Anderson(notes), Max Hall(notes), John Skelton(notes)) that Arizona has endured this season, you have to at least consider that this might be Larry Fitzgerald’s(notes) finest season given that he's actually going to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark when it's all said and done. Coming off a 9/125 line against last week and going against the most generous defense in fantasy against WRs, Fitzgerald is the only Card I'd play. … Jon Kitna(notes) is the No. 7 fantasy QB for the past six weeks. Don't fret him too much against Arizona because of the Cards' solid numbers against QBs. Arizona has seen very few upper level signal-callers, and it has allowed at least 20 fantasy points to the three top 10 QBs it has faced. The Cardinals have allowed seven RBs to surpass 100 yards on the ground. The Cowboys are splitting duties in the backfield with Felix Jones(notes) and Tashard Choice(notes), but both are a good bet to touch the ball at least 15 times again given Arizona's rush defense struggles and the likelihood that the RBs will have to figure heavily into the passing game because of the injuries at WR. That said, I'm putting both among the chartreuse ranks because of the potential for Marion Barber(notes) to return to action and infringe on the backfield workload, if only a little bit.

Larry Fitzgerald; Jason Witten(notes); Dallas Defense
J. Kitna; F. Jones; T. Choice; Miles Austin(notes); Tim Hightower(notes); Arizona Defense
Sleeper: Sam Hurd(notes)
Key Injuries: DAL RB Felix Jones (leg); DAL RB Marion Barber (calf); DAL WR Roy Williams (groin); DAL LB Sean Lee(notes) (concussion); DAL S Gerald Sensabaugh(notes) (concussion); ARI RB LaRod Stephens-Howling(notes) (hamstring); ARI WR Early Doucet(notes) (hip); ARI LB Joey Porter(notes) (triceps)
Prediction: Dallas 26, Arizona 17
PATS (1 = most; 32= least): 7 12 9 24
BILLS (1 = most; 32= least): 25 4 23 7

What to watch for: The Patriots have scored 30-plus points in five consecutive games, including contests against the Jets, Green Bay and Pittsburgh – among the five teams in the league allowing the fewest points per game. Now that we know that Tom Brady(notes) is impervious to Mother Nature, there's not a compelling reason to sit any of the central figures of the New England offense that you might normally use. … Count on Buffalo to at least make this interesting. It's kind of the team's MO this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) plays his best when his team is trailing. In the previous meeting he threw for 247 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs in a 38-30 loss. I think he could be good for something similar this week, although I wouldn't be surprised if he had a few more yards passing. I'm a David Nelson(notes) admirer, who has stepped up in Lee Evans'(notes) absence. He's been more sure-handed than Stevie Johnson(notes) and he provides a nice target in the red zone – he's scored a TD in three straight. I would not be surprised if he outshines Johnson in this one, but both are quality options. Buffalo ran effectively against New England in the first meeting, but that was back when its backfield was a three-piece pie. Fred Jackson(notes) has taken things over for the most part since then and I'd put him down for a minimum of (but not much more than) 100 yards from scrimmage on Sunday.

T. Brady; R. Fitzpatrick; BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes); Wes Welker(notes); Aaron Hernandez(notes)
F. Jackson; S. Johnson; D. Nelson; Danny Woodhead(notes); Deion Branch(notes); New England Defense
Sleeper: C.J. Spiller(notes); Rob Gronkowski(notes)
Key Injuries: BUF C Geoff Hangartner(notes) (knee)
Prediction: New England 34, Bills 24
JETS (1 = most; 32= least): 12 27 18 17
BEARS (1 = most; 32= least): 29 24 22 27

What to watch for: It's expected to be a white Christmas in Chicago, but Jay Cutler(notes) and Co. managed the elements just fine last week after floundering against the Patriots in the snow the previous week. What I noticed on Monday night, though, was a Minnesota defense that looks like it has checked out for the year. I could see the heavy-blitz package of a highly-motivated Jets defense forcing Cutler into a handful of bad decisions. Matt Forte(notes) is the No. 13 RB in fantasy but, even though emphasis has shifted his way in the season's second-half, he ranks only 23rd among RBs since Week 7. He's far from matchup proof and, as the numbers will tell you, this is a terrible matchup. Frankly, I'm avoiding all Bears this week. … I have a little voice in the back of my head trying to convince that Shonn Greene(notes) is due for a breakout performance and that he could be a slightly better version of what we saw from Toby Gerhart(notes) last week against Chicago (95 YFS). But I'm not currently planning to start him in my semi-final game (starting Thomas Jones(notes) instead), so I can't very well suggest that you go that direction. Like the Bears, there's risk for all Jets here facing a tough defense in tough conditions. I'm warm to Santonio Holmes(notes) considering he's caught at least five passes in six of his past seven games. It's that consistency that lands him a slight edge over Braylon Edwards(notes), who is coming off an 8/100 line against Pittsburgh last week but had finished with less than 40 yards in each of the previous three games. I'm also intrigued by Dustin Keller(notes), who has been in a drought for a couple months. Chicago has allowed more receptions to TEs than any other team in the league. And Keller ranks among the top 5 TEs in targets and red-zone targets. Opportunities should be there for him, but he hasn't been on the same page with Mark Sanchez(notes) for, as I said, months.

NY Jets Defense; Chicago Defense
Santonio Holmes; Dustin Keller; Jay Cutler; Mark Sanchez; Matt Forte; Shonn Greene; LaDainian Tomlinson(notes); Braylon Edwards; Johnny Knox(notes); Earl Bennett(notes); Greg Olsen(notes)
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: CHI LB Pisa Tinoisamoa(notes) (knee); NYJ QB Mark Sanchez (shoulder)
Prediction: NY Jets 17, Chicago 13
RAVENS (1 = most; 32= least): 13 29 2 19
BROWNS (1 = most; 32= least): 19 16 26 5

What to watch for: Anquan Boldin's(notes) standing as a top 20 (No. 19) fantasy WR this season was built largely off his Week 3 line of 8/142/3 against Cleveland. He's been quiet for the past couple weeks, but I don't think you can pass him up this week even with Cleveland having defended WRs so well of late. You have to attribute some of that success to facing some soft receiving units in recent weeks (Jacksonville, Carolina and a Brandon Marshall(notes)-less Miami). Ray Rice(notes) is rolling finally and he's been huge in the passing game the past two weeks (combined 13 receptions). He should be good for at least something in the neighborhood of what he did in the Week 3 meeting (96 YFS). … I'm subscribing to the theory that Peyton Hillis(notes) has slowed down in recent weeks because of the tremendous load (and pounding) he has absorbed this season. He was huge in the Week 3 meeting with Baltimore (180 YFS, 1 TD), but I'm slotting him somewhere between 13-20 among RBs this week. Benjamin Watson(notes) scored a TD in the Week 3 meeting and he's stepped up in a big way against divisional foes – 60 yards and/or a TD in each of his four divisional meetings.

Joe Flacco(notes); Ray Rice; Peyton Hillis; Anquan Boldin; B. Watson
Derrick Mason(notes); Todd Heap(notes); Baltimore Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: CLE CB Eric Wright(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 14
TITANS (1 = most; 32= least): 8 18 12 4
CHIEFS (1 = most; 32= least): 20 13 13 30

What to watch for: Jamaal Charles(notes) owners can breathe easy knowing that he was only dealing with leg cramps last week and nothing more serious. He's been one of the most consistent RB entities in fantasy this season. And he's a solid play this week – PPR owners note that he could figure heavily into the passing game with Tennessee having allowed 95 receptions to RBs, thus far. For whatever reason, platoon partner Thomas Jones has been much better in home games, where he's averaged 86.7 YFS (32 YFS more than road games). I'm figuring him as a solid RB3 this week, falling somewhere in the mid-to-late 20s on my RB rankings. The big question for KC is the viability of Matt Cassel(notes) and Dwayne Bowe(notes). I'm a Bowe owner and I tend to subscribe to the "you can't keep a good man down for long" theory when it comes to Bowe. He doesn't have a touchdown in his past three games, but he scored 13 TDs in a seven-game span before that. I'm rolling the dice on Bowe, but I think Cassel is going to, for the most part, cater to the backfield in this one and I'd look for someone with higher upside at your QB spot. … Chris Johnson has come back online in time for the playoffs with back-to-back 100-yard/TD performances. And Kenny Britt(notes) showed that he's healthy last week with a 6/128 effort. KC has struggled with big, physical wideouts and another double-digit fantasy point effort from Britt seems more likely than not. Johnson and Britt are the only two Titans I'd bank on this week. Kerry Collins(notes) could be decent, but he's injury prone and he won't be asked to throw a high volume of passes if the score is close – I think it will be.

Jamaal Charles; Chris Johnson; Dwayne Bowe; Kenny Britt
T. Jones; Matt Cassel; Kerry Collins; Nate Washington(notes); Tony Moeaki(notes); KC Defense
Sleeper: Jared Cook(notes)
Key Injuries: –
Prediction: Kansas City 23, Tennessee 19
49ERS (1 = most; 32= least): 15 25 5 32
RAMS (1 = most; 32= least): 22 20 14 22

What to watch for: San Francisco still has a sliver of hope for the playoffs, so it should come to St. Louis with plenty of motivation. The 49ers pulled out a 23-20 victory against the Rams in Week 10 thanks to Troy Smith's(notes) late-game heroics. But Mike Singletary isn't letting on as to which Smith (Troy or Alex) will start this game. Under Troy, five different receivers went for 60-plus yards against the Rams. And, while Michael Crabtree(notes) caught Smith's only TD pass, Crabtree and Vernon Davis(notes) both had TDs pulled off the board because of penalties. Crabtree was a handful for the Rams in that game and I'm seeing him as chartreuse no matter who plays QB. Brian Westbrook(notes) has been producing at a top 20 RB level in the past month and if Anthony Dixon's(notes) ankle limits him again this week, Westbrook belongs among the greenish-yellow along with Crabtree. … Other than perhaps Danny Amendola(notes) (in a PPR league), you can't feel good about going to battle in Week 16 with any Ram outside of Steven Jackson. Sam Bradford(notes) hasn't thrown a TD pass in the past three games, and he was good for only one TD pass in the previous meeting with San Francisco.

Steven Jackson; Vernon Davis
M. Crabtree; B. Westbrook; S. Bradford; D. Amendola; Josh Morgan(notes); St. Louis Defense; San Francisco Defense
Sleeper: Brandon Gibson(notes)
Key Injuries: STL FB Brit Miller(notes) (knee); STL TE Michael Hoomanawanui(notes) (knee); STL DL George Selvie(notes) (toe)
Prediction: San Francisco 20, St. Louis 17
LIONS (1 = most; 32= least): 10 14 15 14
FINS (1 = most; 32= least): 26 26 21 31

What to watch for: Detroit is dealing with three injured QBs and hopes that one of them will be healthy enough to play on Sunday. This isn't the matchup for you to bother waiting around to find out about them. You're starting Calvin Johnson(notes) regardless. Maurice Morris(notes) is once again a nice sneaky option for 70-100 yards from scrimmage if his health checks out come week's end. But the QB situation and the tough matchup make everyone else involved a major risk. … It was nice to see Brandon Marshall producing like the Brandon Marshall of old last week (11/106/1). He's a hard one to sit down this week after that performance (and a TD the previous week). But this could be a game where Davone Bess(notes) outshines him. He had nine receptions last week and has at least six in three of his past four games. And Detroit has consistently struggled against slot machines (check the totals of Danny Amendola, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Earl Bennett, among others). Miami has generated the ninth-fewest fantasy points from its backfield and it's a platoon at that. At their absolute best, Ronnie Brown(notes) or Ricky Williams(notes) hasn't done better than 16 fantasy points. And each player has topped 10 fantasy points just three times in 14 games. You hate to roll in a key playoff matchup with such limited upside.

Calvin Johnson; Brandon Marshall
D. Bess; Chad Henne(notes); Mo Morris; R. Brown; R. Williams; Anthony Fasano(notes); Miami Defense
Sleeper: –
Key Injuries: DET QBs Drew Stanton(notes) (shoulder), Shaun Hill(notes) (hand) and Matthew Stafford(notes) (shoulder); DET S Amari Spievey(notes) (neck); DET S Louis Delmas(notes) (concussion)
Prediction: Miami 24, Detroit 19
VIKINGS (1 = most; 32= least): 17 23 8 25
EAGLES (1 = most; 32= least): 3 22 11 1

What to watch for: As I mentioned previously, Minnesota played defense on Monday night like it didn't want to be there. And that kind of mindset is a recipe for further disaster against Michael Vick(notes) and Co. I saw nothing that would dissuade me from starting the usual suspects of the Philly offensive attack (Vick, LeSean McCoy(notes), DeSean Jackson(notes), Jeremy Maclin(notes)). Brent Celek(notes), despite a big play in Week 15, is the one caution flag for the Eagles. … Whether you agree with Joe Webb(notes) being WR-eligible or not, you have to take advantage of his receiver status. In less than three quarters of action in miserable blizzard conditions against an extremely stingy foe in his first serious taste of NFL action, Webb scored enough fantasy points to finish in the top 20 at the WR position in Week 15. At Philly in Week 16 is a less daunting setup. Adrian Peterson owners are going to have to sweat out his leg injuries. Minnesota has nothing to gain by his playing hurt the final two weeks. Adrian Peterson has nothing to gain, either. If he decides to sit again, Toby Gerhart is kind of that poor man's Peyton Hillis that can grind out 60-70 yards against most anyone, as we saw on Monday night (16/77). With Webb at QB, Sidney Rice(notes) and Percy Harvin(notes) take a big value hit. I like Harvin more than Rice because Harvin is more versatile and can be moved all over the field and distributed the pigskin in a variety a manners. But neither is ideal.

M. Vick; J. Webb; L. McCoy; D. Jackson; J. Maclin; Philly Defense
Adrian Peterson; Percy Harvin; Sidney Rice; Brent Celek; Visanthe Shiancoe(notes)
Sleeper: Jerome Harrison(notes)
Key Injuries: PHI LB Keenan Clayton(notes) (hamstring); PHI S Nate Allen(notes) (knee); PHI WR Jason Avant(notes) (concussion); MIN OG Steve Hutchinson(notes) (thumb); MIN FS Madieu Williams(notes) (head); MIN QB Brett Favre(notes) (a variety of things); MIN RB Adrian Peterson (leg)
Prediction: Philadelphia 33, Minnesota 16
HAWKS (1 = most; 32= least): 5 2 4 28
BUCS (1 = most; 32= least): 24 10 17 20

What to watch for: Marshawn Lynch(notes) is averaging 80 YFS and has scored 4 TDs in his past three games. He was able to churn his way to 60 rushing yards and a TD last week against a stout Atlanta run defense. This week is a much easier challenge, at least on paper. Consider him a lower end No. 2 RB this week. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) survived a Week 15 benching to get another start on Sunday. That's good news for Seattle's version of Mike Williams, who has caught 24 passes from Hasselbeck in his past three full games. … Mike Williams vs. Mike Williams looks like a close call. Tampa's Williams has a better matchup on paper, but RB LeGarrette Blount(notes) is likely to be a ball hog on Sunday against the second-worst fantasy run defense since Week 4. But clear go-to type WRs have torched Seattle all season long, regardless of whether the team was also dominating them on the ground or not. I'll give the Bucs' Williams the edge over Seattle's, but both will most likely be in my WR top 20 this week. Exercise caution with Kellen Winslow(notes). Seattle has done very well at defending TEs, and Tony Gonzalez(notes) was held to just 26 yards last week. Josh Freeman(notes) should be just fine, but he always tends to settle in the middle of the pack and rarely runs too hot or too cold in fantasy. He's someone who won't lose your fantasy playoff game for you. But he won't throw you to victory, either.

L. Blount; M. Lynch; Mike Williams(x2); Tampa Bay Defense
Josh Freeman; M. Hasselbeck; Kellen Winslow
Sleeper: Arrelious Benn(notes)
Key Injuries: SEA CB Marcus Trufant(notes) (back); SEA CB Roy Lewis(notes) (knee); TB RT James Lee (ankle)
Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, Seattle 20
SKINS (1 = most; 32= least): 6 6 16 10
JAGS (1 = most; 32= least): 11 11 10 9

What to watch for: Other than three duds early in the season, David Garrard(notes) has been a fantasy rockstar. In his past seven games, he's thrown 13 TD passes and rushed for three more scores. Along with Maurice Jones-Drew(notes), Garrard is a green machine given his recent production and the aerial generosity of the Redskins. Mike Sims-Walker(notes) has been the recipient of 3 TDs from Garrard the past two weeks. But he's a spotty yardage play, and the Redskins have allowed less than 10 catches to WRs in each of the past five games after allowing 10-plus catches to WRs in eight of the first nine games. WRs have also scored just 1 TD against the Skins in the past five games, so Sims-Walker, who is dealing with a bit of a sore ankle, is far from a slam dunk. Marcedes Lewis(notes) seems like the safest of Garrard's options. Washington has yielded very healthy production to Kellen Winslow and Jason Witten the past couple weeks and Lewis has 50-plus yards and/or a TD in nine of 14 games. … Rex Grossman(notes) was a surprise breakout performer in Week 15, throwing for 322 yards and 4 TDs. He's still a turnover machine, but in Yahoo! default leagues a negative-1 tally for an INT isn't that much of a deterrent if he's going to be airing it out like he did in Week 15. Jacksonville has allowed 290-plus passing yards to the opposition in seven of 14 games, so Grossman is worth doubling down on – he's the opposite of Josh Freeman, huge risk/reward. Ryan Torain(notes) continues to wear Mike Shanahan's offense like a maroon-colored pimp's coat. He's reached 100 YFS in four of his past five games and he has 4 TDs in that span. And Jacksonville's run defense is nothing to lose sleep over. Ride on …

D. Garrard; MoJo; R. Torain; Santana Moss(notes); Chris Cooley(notes); M. Lewis; Jacksonville Defense
R. Grossman; Anthony Armstrong(notes); Mike Sims-Walker; Mike Thomas(notes)
Sleeper: Rashad Jennings(notes)
Key Injuries: WAS DE Phillip Daniels(notes) (abdomen); WAS LB Brian Orakpo(notes) (hamstring, groin); WAS LB Rocky McIntosh(notes) (hamstring); WAS S Reed Doughty(notes) (head); JAC QB David Garrard (hand); JAC WR Mike Sims-Walker (ankle)
Prediction: Jacksonville 31, Washington 24
COLTS (1 = most; 32= least): 18 7 29 8
RAIDERS (1 = most; 32= least): 4 9 24 12

What to watch for: Oakland employs the most fruitful fantasy backfield in the league. Darren McFadden(notes), Michael Bush(notes) and fullback Marcel Reece(notes), a former WR at the University of Washington who has the third-most receiving fantasy points among RBs since Week 8, are a dynamic 1-2-3 punch and against a lightweight Indy run defense, this trio could explode yet again. Run-DMC is a no-brainer, Bush is a RB 2-3 tweener and Reese is a deep league Hail Mary that has a good chance to answer your prayers (Indy allows 6.3 receptions per game to RBs, third-most in the league). Don't expect much out of the passing game, where Indy is a big-play killer. But if you can't help yourself with the Silver Bullet Jacoby Ford(notes), I understand. I love the guy too. … Oakland has allowed 26 TD passes, fourth most in the league. And super-CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) is dealing with a sore ankle that puts his participation on Sunday in question. That would certainly be a boost in value for Indy's WRs. But you're starting Reggie Wayne(notes) regardless. And Pierre Garcon(notes), who has 19 catches and 3 TDs in his past three games, has to get strong consideration with Austin Collie(notes) out with a concussion again. Indy enjoyed a rare potent running game last week, as Donald Brown(notes) rushed 14 times for 129 yards and a TD. With Oakland having to focus on Peyton Manning(notes), Brown could put forth another strong effort, although I definitely think it will fall well short of his Week 15 point total.

P. Manning; D. McFadden; R. Wayne; J. Tamme
M. Bush; D. Brown; P. Garcon; J. Ford; Zach Miller
Sleeper: Marcel Reece; Blair White(notes)
Key Injuries: OAK QB Jason Campbell(notes) (stinger); OAK OT Langston Walker(notes) (head); OAK DE Richard Seymour(notes) (hamstring); OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle); IND WR Austin Collie (concussion); IND FS Al Afalava(notes) (ankle); IND CB Mike Newton(notes) (neck)
Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Oakland 23
TEXANS (1 = most; 32= least): 2 8 7 11
BRONCOS (1 = most; 32= least): 9 1 25 6

What to watch for: This is a huge opportunity lost for Arian Foster(notes) owners if Foster can't roll in this contest. He's expected to at least give it a go and if he can hold up with his sore ankle and hip, the production should flow like Tom Brady's hair. Denver is the worst fantasy run defense, and it's not really close. In fact, Denver is lousy in almost all things defense, although Champ Bailey(notes) has done a good job of saving face for the team against opposing WRs. Not that you'd sit him, but Bailey is a bit worrisome for Andre Johnson(notes) owners. Other than Dwayne Bowe in Week 10 garbage time, there hasn't been a great performance by a go-to type WR against Denver. Kevin Walter(notes) or Jacoby Jones(notes) could step up again to pick up the slack, like last week. But I like Owen Daniels(notes) for another big performance against a Denver defense that has allowed the seventh-most receiving yards to TEs. … Many will look at Tim Tebow's(notes) matchup against the most generous fantasy defense to QBs and assume that he's a great flyer this week. But much of what Tebow brings to the table is in his running ability. And Houston has done an excellent job at containing QBs, having allowed just 131 rushing yards and 1 rush TD to QBs. And that includes some solid scrambling QBs – Michael Vick, David Garrard, Matt Cassel, Donovan McNabb(notes), Mark Sanchez, and Tony Romo(notes) among them. Given his limitations as a passer, I'd look to some other fringe options at the position first (Grossman, Garrard, Fitzpatrick, for example), before I went with the Tebow X-factor. It's hard to get excited for Lance Ball(notes), who had just 15 carries for 20 yards with Knowshon Moreno(notes) knocked out of action last week. Moreno has sore ribs and he'll be questionable for Sunday. No matter who plays at RB, you have to expect Tebow to poach the goal line carries.

Matt Schaub(notes); A. Foster; A. Johnson; Brandon Lloyd(notes); Owen Daniels
Knowshon Moreno; Tim Tebow; Kevin Walter; Jacoby Jones
Sleeper: Derrick Ward(notes)
Key Injuries: DEN RB Knowshon Moreno (ribs); DEN FB Spencer Larsen(notes) (ankle); DEN FS Brian Dawkins(notes) (knee); DEN PK Matt Prater(notes) (groin); HOU RB Arian Foster (hip, ankle)
Prediction: Houston 27, Denver 20
GIANTS (1 = most; 32= least): 16 31 27 26
PACK (1 = most; 32= least): 28 28 28 2

What to watch for: Green Bay has been the stingiest defense in the league to opposing QBs since Week 7, allowing 191 passing yards per game in that span. And only 49 percent of passes intended for WRs have been completed against the Packers. Tom Brady was only human last week against Green Bay, and Eli Manning(notes) could be something less than that this week. Kevin Boss(notes) is the only one of Manning's aerial options that looks good on paper. Of course, Hakeem Nicks(notes) would be hard to sit against anyone. But Mario Manningham(notes) owners would be wise not to live in the memory of the Week 15 past. I like Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) much better than Brandon Jacobs(notes) this week. He hasn't fumbled in three weeks. And as long as he's got Tom Coughlin's confidence, he's the more likely of the two RBs to overcome the matchup. … Aaron Rodgers(notes) has been cleared to play, which is a huge boost for the Packers, obviously. He makes Greg Jennings(notes) a considerably safer play. But in this tough matchup, the addition of Aaron Rodgers doesn't do anything to make me want to mess with Brandon Jackson(notes).

Aaron Rodgers; Greg Jennings; Hakeem Nicks; Green Bay Defense
A. Bradshaw; K. Boss; E. Manning; B. Jacobs; B. Jackson; D. Driver; M. Manningham; NY Giants Defense
Sleeper: James Jones(notes)
Key Injuries: GB QB Aaron Rodgers (concussion); GB LB Diyral Briggs(notes) (ankle); NYG DE Dave Tollefson(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Green Bay 23, NY Giants 21
CHARGERS (1 = most; 32= least): 31 21 32 18
BENGALS (1 = most; 32= least): 23 19 3 15

What to watch for: Ryan Mathews(notes) has worked his way back into the running back mix. But Mike Tolbert(notes) owns the goal line work and is likely to get the majority load in closely contended scenarios. Like I said last week, don't bank on Mathews unless you feel that the Chargers will roll in this one, which is certainly possible. It looks like Antonio Gates(notes) will rest his foot for the rest of the regular season. and Malcom Floyd(notes) missed the first practice of the week because of his sore hamstring. It all adds up to another huge day for Vincent Jackson(notes), who caught 3 TDs last week. … The numbers don't favor Carson Palmer(notes) and the Bengals passing game in this one, especially without Terrell Owens(notes). Look for the team to roll heavy with Cedric Benson(notes), like it did last week (31/150). He's the only Bengal I can conjure optimistic thoughts for this week.

Philip Rivers(notes); C. Benson; M. Tolbert; V. Jackson
C. Palmer; R. Mathews; Chad Ochocinco(notes); Jordan Shipley(notes); M. Floyd; Jermaine Gresham(notes); Randy McMichael(notes); San Diego Defense
Sleeper: Darren Sproles(notes)
Key Injuries: SD LB Larry English(notes) (foot); SD TE Antonio Gates (foot); SD WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring); CIN FB Brian Leonard(notes) (ankle); CIN WR Terrell Owens (knee)
Prediction: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 17
SAINTS (1 = most; 32= least): 32 17 31 29
FALCONS (1 = most; 32= least): 14 30 6 21

What to watch for: Drew Brees(notes) is scorching hot, throwing 13 TD passes and averaging 307 passing yards in his past five games. In Week 3, he burned Atlanta for 365 passing yards and 3 TD passes. Brees and go-to guy Marques Colston(notes), who has 7 TDs in his past eight games, are obvious elite-tier plays in Week 16. The Saints entire backfield is forgettable this week with the likelihood that Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas(notes) and Reggie Bush(notes) will all be seeking touches against an Atlanta defense that stuffs the run. Lance Moore(notes) certainly has the history card on his side, posting a 6/149/2 line on Atlanta in the first meeting. He's scored a half dozen times since then despite limited yardage and he's not a terrible corner to be backed into this week. … Matt Ryan(notes) threw for 228 yards and 2 TDs against New Orleans in Week 3, and that's about as good as any QB has thrown the ball against the Saints this year. The Saints have consistently held down the opposing passing game and you can't be optimistic for a big day from Ryan on Monday night. Serviceable, maybe. Atlanta's other big guns (Michael Turner(notes), Roddy White(notes) and Tony Gonzalez(notes)) are all justifiable plays, and all performed more than adequately in the Week 3 meeting. Gonzo has at least six catches in his three meetings with the Saints as a member of the Falcons. Turner has no worse than 12 fantasy points in any of his four meetings with New Orleans as a Dirty Bird. And White has 12-plus fantasy points in four of his past five meetings.

D. Brees; M. Turner; M. Colston; R. White; T. Gonzalez
Matt Ryan; Lance Moore; Chris Ivory; Reggie Bush
Sleeper: Jimmy Graham(notes)
Key Injuries: NO RB Chris Ivory (hamstring); NO CB Jabari Greer(notes) (knee)
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Atlanta 24