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NFL Skinny: Week 6 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I went 11-3 in Skinny game predictions in Week 5, which is really neither good nor bad, in my opinion. For the three weeks I've been making picks, I'm 37-7, which I'm inclined to believe is pretty solid. Of course, you can feel free to think what you want of it. I'm just providing accountability for my picks, as you requested. I'm here to serve … speaking of which, here's the Week 6 matchup breakdowns, as I see them playing out.

Week 6 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 6 matchup

HOUSTON TEXANS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

Key Stats: TEXANS – 5.2 YPC allowed | 222 YPG passing allowed | 6 sacks
BENGALS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 229 YPG passing allowed | 14 sacks

What to watch for: CIN has allowed a league-high 20 pass plays of 20+ yards. It did a good job of frustrating BAL QB Joe Flacco(notes) in Week 4, but the fact remains that it has allowed a TD pass in every game and a QB to surpass the 240-yard passing plateau in four of five contests. HOU has produced the 4th-most pass plays of 20+ yards on offense (19) and has the second-worst YPC average (3.0) in the league. So, yes, it's all systems go for the HOU aerial assault, with one caveat: Andre Johnson(notes) owners beware. If you saw how Dallas used bracket coverage against Carolina WR Steve Smith to shut him down a couple weeks ago on Monday night, you can understand how CIN has managed to absolutely slam the door shut on opposing No. 1 WRs this season – it has held Greg Jennings(notes), Braylon Edwards(notes) and Derrick Mason(notes) to 0 catches, and Santonio Holmes(notes) and Brandon Marshall(notes) combined for 5 catches and 45 yards. If you think Johnson is too talented for such concerns, consider that his three mediocre performances this season have come against Darrelle Revis(notes), Nnamdi Asomugha(notes) and Rashean Mathis(notes). Yes, matchups matter for him too.

What a difference a year has made for RB Steve Slaton(notes). In '08, he led all RBs in red zone touches (77). This year, he has just 11 touches in the red zone, an average of just over 2 per game – roughly three fewer RZ attempts per game than last season. The HOU run blocking has been terrible and Slaton has lost trust of the coaching staff because of fumbling issues. He won't come close to validating his top 15 value on draft day until he regains that trust and starts seeing glory work again. He remains a flexible fantasy play (especially in PPR leagues) because of his receiving prowess. CIN has given up nice production to versatile backs of a similar ilk to Slaton (Jerome Harrison(notes) and Ray Rice(notes)) in recent weeks, so I'd be inclined, despite putting him under the caution flag, to roll the dice once again on the struggling HOU back. Backup RB Chris Brown is 4th in the NFL in rushes inside the 5-yard line, and head coach Gary Kubiak is sticking with him in short yardage situations despite mixed results, thus far. For that reason, he's an arguable deep-league flyer.

It feels bizarre to say it, but CIN RB Cedric Benson(notes) has officially entered must-start territory and will likely land in the top 12 on my next Big Board. I've mentioned here before that he looks like a completely different back than what we've seen in the past. And, after becoming the only RB to rush for 100+ yards against BAL in the past 40 games in Week 5 (at BAL, to boot), there is simply not a scenario that can be conjured in which you'd want to sit Benson right now. Of course, HOU has allowed 5.2 YPC and a league-high 8 rushing plays of 20+ yards (3 of 40+ yards is also tops in the NFL), so Benson was a no-brainer regardless of his Week 5 statement. CIN has played it fairly conservative on offense this season, so Benson should see major work at the expense of QB Carson Palmer's(notes) pass attempts. Don't expect Palmer to throw much more than 30 times, especially since he's dealing with a sore thumb. WR Chad Ocho Cinco(notes) should be fine, but I'd leave all the others alone.

Matt Schaub(notes), Kevin Walter(notes), Owen Daniels(notes), Cedric Benson, Chad Ocho Cinco, Cincinnati Defense
Steve Slaton, Andre Johnson, Carson Palmer
Houston Defense, Laveranues Coles(notes), Andre Caldwell(notes), Chris Henry, Daniel Coats(notes)
Sleeper: Chris Brown
Injuries: CIN QB Carson Palmer (thumb) could be probable
Prediction: Cincinnati 23, Houston 17
DETROIT LIONS @ GREEN BAY PACKERS

Key Stats: LIONS – 4.9 YPC allowed | 245 YPG passing allowed
PACK – 3.5 YPC allowed | 223 YPG passing allowed | 5 sacks/7 INTs
What to watch for: The wind beneath the Lions' wings, WR Calvin Johnson(notes) is dealing with a knee injury that puts his Week 6 participation in slight question. Same goes for rookie QB Matthew Stafford(notes), who sat in Week 5 while nursing a sore right knee. With MegaTron out early in Week 5, backup QB Daunte Culpepper(notes) spread the wealth in the passing game, completing throws to eight different players. WRs Bryant Johnson(notes) and Dennis Northcutt(notes) received the biggest piece of the pie, with both seeing eight targets. (Calvin) Johnson has absolutely owned the Packers in his short career, averaging 92 receiving yards and scoring 5 TDs in four meetings. If he doesn't go (I'm guessing he will and Stafford won't), it's hard to like any of the other receivers on the roster against the solid GB corners, although someone would likely emerge from the crowd simply because DET should have to throw often in this one while playing catch-up. RB Kevin smith(notes) is one of the most heavily-utilized backs in the league, averaging 22.6 touches per game. You can count on DET trying to eat clock early with Smith, but likely have to use him more for his receiving skills after halftime – there's a reason why he has more receptions (7) than rushes (6) in the final quarter this season. Either way, he'll get used a lot, and I'd have him in my lineup this week. GB allows the 11th-most FAN PPG to TEs, but no TE has touched them up for more than 3 catches or 35 receiving yards, so you'd really have to be counting on TE Brandon Pettigrew(notes) scoring a TD if you rolled the dice with him. I'd avoid.

DET has allowed the highest QB rating (119.7) to opponents – QBs are completing a league-high 73.3 percent of their passes against the Lions. DET has also allowed 7 rush plays of 20+ yards. And the pass protection concern for GB (league-high 20 sacks allowed) is alleviated a decent amount by the fact that DET has just 10 sacks in five games. So, really, is there an offensive skill-position player to be worried about in this one? Not on paper. Sure, one of them could wind up disappointing (it's the NFL, it happens), but the odds are in your favor going in.

Kevin Smith, Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers(notes), Ryan Grant(notes), Greg Jennings, Donald Driver(notes), Jermichael Finley(notes), Green Bay Defense
Daunte Culpepper
Bryant Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, Dennis Northcutt, Detroit Defense
Sleeper: Jordy Nelson(notes)
Injuries: DET QB Matthew Stafford (knee) could be questionable; WR Calvin Johnson (knee) could be questionable; DET DE Jason Hunter(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; GB SS Atari Bigby(notes) (knee) is expected to be questionable; GB RB Brandon Jackson(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; GB OT Chad Clifton(notes) (ankle) is likely questionable;
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Detroit 17
ST. LOUIS RAMS @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Key Stats: RAMS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 237 YPG passing allowed
JAGS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 273 YPG passing allowed | 4 sacks
What to watch for: JAC is just awful against the pass. Opponents have moved the chains against the Jags by way of a pass a league-high 73 times. That said, the STL passing game is diseased and you simply can't count on it to exploit a glaring weakness. QB Marc Bulger(notes) and WR Donnie Avery(notes) (5/87/1 in Week 5) have to be considered cautionary plays, but there's considerably more hope for them than usual because the STL pass protection issues shouldn't be such a concern against a JAC defense that has generated a mere 4 sacks – consider Avery to be a chartreuse-light play, somewhere between a green light and a yellow light. RB Steven Jackson has yet to find pay dirt, but I like his odds of ending that drought this week. Regardless, the ball is in his hands too often to feel good about benching him. Quality TEs (Dallas Clark(notes), Owen Daniels, John Carlson(notes)) have been shut down by JAC. Don't try to get cute with TEs Randy McMichael(notes) or Daniel Fells(notes) this week.

STL has allowed 18 pass plays of 20+ yards and it concedes the 8th-most FAN PPG to QBs. In two home games against subpar pass defenses, JAC QB David Garrard(notes) has been magnificent. In three road contests against stiffer air defenses, Garrard has been held without a TD pass. This matchup falls into the former category rather than the later. With WR Mike Sims-Walker(notes) returning from a one-game benching for a team rules violation and WR Torry Holt(notes) certain to be extra motivated going against his former employer, Garrard's arsenal will be at full strength. TE Marcedes Lewis(notes), who has been targeted a combined 13 times the past two games should also get into the act as STL has allowed at least 8 FAN PTS (standard scoring) to a TE in 4 of 5 games. RB Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) was stymied by SEA in Week 5, but the grand re-opening of the passing game should provide him much more daylight to work with. I don't expect him to disappoint for a second-straight week.

Maurice Jones-Drew, David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker, Steven Jackson
Marc Bulger, Donnie Avery, Torry Holt, Jacksonville Defense
St. Louis Defense, Keenan Burton(notes), Randy McMichael, Daniel Fells
Sleeper: Marcedes Lewis
Injuries: STL DT Gary Gibson(notes) (ankle) is out for the year; JAC LB Justin Durant(notes) (hip) is likely to be questionable
Prediction: Jacksonville 24, St. Louis 17
BALTIMORE RAVENS @ MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Key Stats: RAVENS – 3.0 YPC allowed | 238 YPG passing allowed
VIKES – 3.8 YPC allowed | 225 YPG passing allowed | 18 sacks
What to watch for: This will be the game to watch in Week 6. The teams are similarly dynamic offensively and defensively. MIN is one of 3 teams that has not allowed a rush play of 20+ yards, which could prove difficult for the 3rd-most productive fantasy backfield in the league. BAL RB Willis McGahee(notes) has been marginalized the past couple weeks with a major workload decrease. RB Ray Rice should continue to take the most significant piece of the pie, especially given his versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, a dynamic that served running backs of lesser receiving skills like Ryan Grant (50 receiving yards) and Jamal Lewis(notes) (47) when they faced off with Minnesota earlier in the season. I wouldn't bench Rice right now. The Ravens' ability to pass protect (they've done a good job to this point) will be of the utmost importance against the top defensive sack unit in the league. That said, MIN has yet to play a team that could protect its QB worth a damn, and I think QB Joe Flacco will turn out an excellent performance for his fantasy owners. I'd be starting Flacco, trusty go-to WR Derrick Mason and TE Todd Heap(notes) (TEs have killed MIN).

After watching CIN RB Cedric Benson pound away with success against the BAL run defense in Week 5, you certainly have to expect MIN to follow suit with Adrian Peterson. I don't think Peterson will be able to duplicate Benson's totals but, if you're a Peterson owner, you don't really care about matchups – you're playing him every week save a Week 9 bye. BAL has allowed 19 pass plays of 20+ yards, 2nd-most in the league. MIN hasn't been quite as good at protecting QB Brett Favre(notes) as BAL has been at keeping the heat off Flacco, but it hasn't been terrible, and the BAL pass rush doesn't pose the same threat that the MIN pass rush does. This is to say, Favre should be in line for another productive passing day. BAL has allowed 3 of the past 4 QBs it has faced to top 250 passing yards. Tall receivers like Vincent Jackson(notes), Randy Moss(notes), Chris Henry and Dwayne Bowe(notes) have faired well against BAL this year, which makes WR Sidney Rice(notes) an attractive option. The speed from sideline to sideline of the BAL defense has me a little leery of rookie WR Percy Harvin(notes). While WR Bernard Berrian(notes), because of the Ravens' susceptibility to the deep ball, could break a long one or two. I'd rank them in this order this week: Rice, Berrian, Harvin. TE Visanthe Shiancoe(notes) will likely be used more in pass protection than is typical this week. No TE besides Antonio Gates(notes) has caught more than 2 balls against BAL this season, and I'd be inclined to sit Shiancoe. Finally, BAL has allowed the 2nd-most receptions and most receiving yards to opposing RBs, reason enough to consider Chester Taylor(notes) a solid sleeper.

Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap, Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre, Sidney Rice
Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Baltimore Defense, Minnesota Defense
Willis McGahee, Mark Clayton(notes), Kelley Washington(notes), Visanthe Shiancoe
Sleeper: Chester Taylor
Injuries: BAL OT Jared Gaither(notes) (neck) is likely to be questionable
Prediction: Baltimore 28, Minnesota 27
NEW YORK GIANTS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Key Stats: GIANTS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 105 YPG passing allowed | 14 sacks
SAINTS – 3.7 YPC allowed | 212 YPG passing allowed | 10 INTs
What to watch for: Like the BAL/MIN game (above), this is another outstanding matchup against two teams that are surprisingly very similar in statistical production. The NO pass defense has produced the lowest QB rating by opponents (51.3). The NYG pass defense has produced the second-lowest QB rating by opponents (60.4). NO has produced the No. 2 rushing offense (166.2 YPG) in the NFL. The NYG own the No. 4 rushing offense (160.4 YPG). NO has allowed just 4 sacks. The NYG have allowed only 3 sacks. Both teams are in the top four in points per game and among the seven stingiest in points allowed per game. If there is a game I'm most unsure how it will play out this week, it's this one. Teams have had more success throwing against the Saints than running against them, but NO has yet to lose. So I think NYG will have to keep the focus on the ground and try to break what has been a strong rush defense for NO, thus far. That said, you can't bench QB Eli Manning(notes) or WR Steve Smith until they give you a reason to. And rookie wideout Hakeem Nicks(notes) seems to be growing his legend with each passing week. He was incredible in the preseason and he's scored each of the past two weeks. There's not a lot of WR talent sitting out on bye this week, but if I'm a Reggie Wayne(notes) owner looking for a high-upside fill-in, Hicks is a mighty fine option.

The NYG have faced three teams that average less than 200 passing yards per game, so take its amazing numbers in pass defense with a bit of a grain of salt. Saints QB Drew Brees(notes) has averaged 50 pass attempts in his previous three games in New Orleans, coming off a bye. He's been uncharacteristically reserved in the passing game the past two games and I think, now that that RB Pierre Thomas(notes) has turned some attention to the running game, Brees will ratchet up the pass attempts this week into the upper 30, lower 40 range. You're starting Brees and Thomas, and I'd roll the dice on WR Marques Colston(notes) (call him chartreuse, as well). The other NO player of intrigue is former NYG TE Jeremy Shockey(notes). The Giants allow the 10th-most FAN PPG to TEs. Shockey makes sense as a prominent target this week against his former team.

Brandon Jacobs(notes), Ahmad Bradshaw(notes), Eli Manning, Steve Smith, Drew Brees, Jeremy Shockey, Pierre Thomas
Marques Colston, Mario Manningham(notes), Devery Henderson(notes), NY Giants Defense
Kevin Boss(notes), Reggie Bush(notes), New Orleans Defense, Lance Moore(notes)
Sleeper: Hakeem Nicks
Injuries: NYG DE Chris Canty(notes) (calf) and CB Aaron Ross(notes) (hamstring) could be out; NYG LB Michael Boley(notes) (knee) is out; NYG TE Kevin Boss (ankle) could be questionable; NO LT Jermon Bushrod(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; NO CB Malcom Jenkins (ankle) could be questionable
Prediction: New Orleans 30, NY Giants 28
CLEVELAND BROWNS @ PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Key Stats: BROWNS – 5.1 YPC allowed | 210 YPG passing allowed
STEELERS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 220 YPG passing allowed | 15 sacks
What to watch for: PIT is allowing just 3 first downs per game by way of a rushing play and is the only team in the league seeing less than 20 rush attempts against it per game (18.8). You simply can't count on RB Jamal Lewis to waltz in to Heinz Field and have even a modicum of success. Sure, Lewis ran for 100+ yards last week, put he averaged just 3.8 YPC and he was doing it against a BUF defense that is a MASH unit right now. This brings us to the CLE passing game. Umm, yeah, I think I'll skip the extra 5-10 minutes it would take to breakdown the ineptness of the CLE aerial unit and just move on. In short, the entire CLE offense is awash in a sea of red lights this week.

On the other end of the rush defense spectrum from PIT, CLE has allowed league-high 46 rush plays to go for first downs. RB Willie Parker(notes), coming back from turf toe, is expected to practice this week and his participation in Sunday's likely bloodbath is dependent upon how his toe responds to each practice session. Owners of RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes) are certainly imploring PIT to ease Parker back into the mix ever-so-gently. Mendenhall has been a fantasy force while Parker has sat and I think you have to expect Mendenhall to get at least 15 touches in this one regardless of the Parker situation, and that's enough to believe in. CLE has posted respectable numbers against the pass as a product of it being so successfully run upon. That said, PIT should get enough red zone opportunities to feed QB Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) fantasy owners. And middlemen WRs like Derrick Mason, Chad Ocho Cinco, Jabar Gaffney(notes) and Brandon Stokley(notes) have had the best success against the CLE secondary, leading me to favor WR Hines Ward(notes) over WR Santonio Holmes. No. 3 WR Mike Wallace(notes) is the team's new Nate Washington(notes), as he has produced a pass play of 35+ yards in each of the past three games. In this offense, he'll continue to get those deep opportunities and his sleeper status is holding steady. In the event of a blowout, RB Mewelde Moore(notes) could also factor into the mix more than usual. TE Heath Miller(notes) has been fabulous the past couple games, but this feels like a week that he'll take a backseat. CLE hasn't faced many tough TEs, but it's been good against the position nonetheless.

Hines Ward, Rashard Mendenhall, Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Defense
Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Willie Parker
Derek Anderson(notes), Jamal Lewis, Jerome Harrison, Mohammed Massaquoi, Chansi Stuckey(notes), Robert Royal(notes), Joshua Cribbs(notes), Cleveland Defense
Sleeper: Mike Wallace, Mewelde Moore
Injuries: CLE DE Kenyon Coleman(notes) (groin) is likely to be questionable; PIT SS Troy Polamalu(notes) (knee) could be questionable; PIT DL Aaron Smith(notes) (shoulder) is likely out; PIT RB Willie Parker (turf toe) could be questionable
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 7
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Key Stats: PANTHERS – 5.0 YPC allowed | 166 YPG passing allowed
BUCS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 227 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: TB has the second-fewest pass attempts per game (26.2) against it in the league because teams haven't had the need to throw it. The Bucs allow 4.7 YPC and 152.6 yards per game on the ground. From my perspective, this is the worst all-around defense in the league. CAR has serious problems, but you have to feel good about what a likely 20+ touches will yield for RB DeAngelo Williams(notes). And I could certainly be talked into backup RB Jonathan Stewart(notes) on the expectations of 12-15 touches. TB also gives up big plays in the passing game, and it has allowed a league-high 10 TDs to WRs. WR Steve Smith picked things up a bit last week with 65 receiving yards, and he burned TB for 100+ yards twice in '08. I'm starting him, without question. CAR has looked to its TEs in the red zone, and before last week, that was Dante Rosario(notes). But TE Jeff King's(notes) TD in Week 5 muddies those waters, so I'd avoid the guessing game despite the fact that TB has allowed a lot of yardage to TEs.

TB RB Carnell Williams(notes) had an opportunity to put his stamp on the Bucs' lead backfield role in Week 5, but daylight proved elusive against PHI (10 carries, 8 yards). RB Derrick Ward(notes) managed a much more respectable 6 carries for 37 yards. Now you have to wonder if we are back to Square 1 with a full-on platoon situation. It could be good living for one or both of them this Sunday as CAR has been pretty lousy against the run. I'd still trust Williams a bit more at this point, but I think you have to run both of them under the caution flag this week. QB Josh Johnson(notes) remains the starter for the Bucs this week and, while I don't expect that he'll have to throw 50 times like he did in Week 5, I do think he'll air it out 30+ times simply because TB hasn't been able to ground it out with much authority against anyone this season, save Week 1 against Dallas. CAR is likely to welcome Johnson trying to beat them as opposed to the running game. Because Johnson can do so much with his legs (back-to-back games with 40+ rushing yards) I think he and TE Kellen Winslow(notes) (CAR has long had issues with the TE position) are two green light plays for TB this week. And, it's worth noting, WR Antonio Bryant(notes) had 200 receiving yards and 2 TDs when he visited CAR Week 14 of last season. I could fathom inserting him into my lineup this week, albeit a bit tentatively. WR Michael Clayton(notes) likely lost any trust Johnson had in him with 3 drops in Week 5.

DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith, Josh Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant
Carnell Williams, Derrick Ward, Jake Delhomme(notes), Carolina Defense
Dante Rosario, Jeff King, Muhsin Muhammad(notes), Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay Defense
Sleeper:
Injuries: TB C Jeff Faine(notes) (triceps) could be questionable
Prediction: Tampa Bay 17, Carolina 14
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS @ WASHINGTON REDSKINS

Key Stats: CHIEFS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 270 YPG passing allowed | 6 sacks
SKINS – 4.0 YPC allowed | 171 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: KC is the 4th-worst pass offense in the league, not what you'd expect from former ARI offensive coordinator Todd Haley. In Week 5, they had success with a no-huddle approach in a second half in which the team threw 27 times – that includes a 10-play TD drive in which the only play that wasn't a pass was when QB Matt Cassel(notes) was sacked. I think KC might start gravitating more to this approach, more akin to the style Haley employed in ARI – the situations are at least similar in that both teams are/were lousy at running the ball. WR Dwayne Bowe made some big plays against DAL last Sunday and he's officially out of Haley's doghouse. I expect him to see double-digit looks against WAS and I'm planning to start him in the two leagues where I own him. You can't start RB Larry Johnson(notes). He's averaged less than 3.0 yards a carry in 4 of 5 games. He's not what he once was, but the run blocking for KC is a mess – and the O-line is pretty beat up. Backup RB Jamaal Charles(notes) saw extensive time (5 catches, 54 yards) in the no-huddle approach in Week 5 and it might finally be his time to take on a larger role. Owners beat up by the bye this week might want to consider Charles for flex employment. WR Bobby Wade(notes)? WR Bobby Engram(notes)? WR Mark Bradley(notes)? TE Sean Ryan(notes)? Who knows? And who cares?

KC is allowing the 8th-most FAN PPG to RBs, but it's hard to gauge for sure whether WAS RB Clinton Portis(notes) will be able to take advantage. He's faced four defenses that rank among the 12 most generous in fantasy to opposing RBs, and he's 8th in the league in carries (91). But despite the soft schedule and heavy workload, he's managed just 3.7 YPC and ranks just 30th among RB in FAN PPG (10). Still, it's doubtful that many owners have 2-3 RBs on the roster they feel better about this week, so he's an unexciting green-light play. Tackling is a serious issue in the KC secondary, as it probably could have limited DAL WR Miles Austin(notes) to about 75-100 fewer yards if the KC DBs could have wrapped up on initial contact. KC has now allowed more than 130 yards to a WR in 3 straight games. WAS WR Santana Moss(notes) has been hit-n-miss this season, but you have to expect at least a sharply hit line drive from him this week. Did TE Chris Cooley(notes) really not see a pass come his way last week? Inexcusable. I don't care if he did have to block extensively after LT Chris Samuels(notes) left the game with a neck stinger. That head coach Jim Zorn couldn't work that out in a way that Cooley, his best receiver, could still see some action downfield is another nail in his coffin. KC has allowed the 7th-most receiving yards to TEs, so Cooley looks like a decent play on paper. But WAS has been so conservative (clueless) on offense, that you can't count on Cooley for a major rebound – Samuels is not expected to return. QB Jason Campbell(notes) hasn't thrown more than 23 passes in either of the past two weeks and my heart is not in hyping a change of course for him this week.

Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Dwayne Bowe, Matt Cassel
Jason Campbell, Chris Cooley, Washington Defense,
Antwaan Randle El(notes), Kansas City Defense, Larry Johnson, Bobby Wade, Bobby Engram, Sean Ryan
Sleeper: Jamaal Charles, Mark Bradley
Injuries: KC LT Brandon Albert (ankle) could be questionable; WAS OT Chris Samuels (spine) is out; WAS DE Philip Daniels (biceps) could be questionable; WAS DT Cornelius Griffin(notes) (sprained elbow) could be questionable; WAS DT Anthony Montgomery(notes) (knee) could be out
Prediction: Kansas City 20, Washington 16
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats: EAGLES – 3.7 YPC allowed | 172 YPG passing allowed | 13 sacks/10 INTs
RAIDERS – 4.3 YPC allowed | 221 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: OAK is easily the most run-upon defense in the league (37.6 rush attempts per game). That said, PHI just isn't that interested in a run-heavy approach. It's content to use a short, controlled passing game to open up deep opportunities rather then using the ground game for that purpose. Last week against TB, it was so effective on offense that it didn't have to do too much of anything, as QB Donovan McNabb(notes) averaged 16.5 yards on 16 pass completions. PHI is the No. 2 offense in the league and a matchup with OAK is enough reason to start every Eagles offensive skill position starter, sans FB Leonard Weaver(notes) – although even he had a 20-yard TD catch in Week 5. WR De Sean Jackson is going back to the Bay Area (he went to school at Cal), so he should be hyped for his return (he had 6 catches and 98 yards when he traveled to San Francisco in '08). He likely won't see dreaded CB Nnamdi Asomugha exclusively, especially after rookie WR Jeremy Maclin(notes) served notice with a monster 6/142/2 line in Week 5. I think Jackson gets the spotlight back this week amongst the receiving contingent. Certainly you're starting RB Brian Westbrook(notes), who checked out healthy after his Week 5 return. As for RB LeSean McCoy(notes), he's a tougher call. More was expected of him against TB last week. But a big lead is likely to materialize for PHI, and I bet McCoy gets double-digit touches in this one. I'm filing him under "sleeper" again.

OAK is getting just 3.3 YPC on the ground in addition to being far and away the worst passing team in the league – so, so very bad. RBs have had very little success running against PHI and I seriously doubt that OAK will have the luxury of being able to handoff often, so RB Michael Bush(notes) is out of the question – he's a guy I'd love to see in a competent offense and I'll give him a "yellow light" because he's the goal line guy and I have a soft spot for him. The only real viable play here is TE Zach Miller who was back in the saddle in Week 5 with 4 catches for 69 yards.

Donovan McNabb, DeSean Jackson(notes), Brent Celek(notes), Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Defense, Zach Miller
Jeremy Maclin, Michael Bush
JaMarcus Russell, Justin Fargas(notes), Louis Murphy(notes), Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)
Sleeper: LeSean McCoy
Injuries: PHI CB Asante Samuel(notes) (calf) could be questionable; PHI CB Ellis Hobbs(notes) (wrist) could be questionable; PHI CB Sheldon Brown(notes) (abdomen) could be questionable; PHI LG Todd Herremans(notes) (foot) is expected to be out; OAK WR Chaz Schilens(notes) (foot) could be questionable; OAK OT Cornell Green(notes) (calf) is out; OAK OG Robert Gallery(notes) (fibula) could be questionable; Oak DL Greg Ellis(notes) (knee) could be questionable;
Prediction: Philadelphia 31, Oakland 9
ARIZONA CARDINALS @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Key Stats: CARDS – 2.9 YPC allowed | 303 YPG passing allowed
HAWKS – 4.8 YPC allowed | 208 YPG passing allowed | 14 sacks
What to watch for: ARI still can't run the ball (3.1 YPC), and they don't even really bother trying all that much – it is the only team in NFL averaging less than 20 rush attempts per game (18.2). RB Tim Hightower(notes) has the high-carry mark of 15 totes (Week 2). Other than that, neither he nor rookie RB Beanie Wells(notes) have carried the rock more than 9 times in a game. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt directed an offense that carried only four times post-halftime in Week 5. Last season, ARI averaged just 21.5 rush attempts in two meetings with SEA. Whisenhunt mentioned recently that he'd like to get Wells more touches and feels more comfortable using the rookie in 3-receiver sets, so we may see him a bit more this week. However, SEA has been very good against the run at home this season, having not allowed a TD or more than 67 yards to a RB in three contests. Chances are that QB Kurt Warner(notes) ends up chucking it 40+ times and, although SEA is much healthier in its secondary, it will still struggle mightily to contain WRs Larry Fitzgerald(notes) and Anquan Boldin(notes) – both players produced monster numbers against SEA last season. SEA has allowed the 6th-most catches to RBs, a number that would favor ARI RB Tim Hightower. But the expected increased work for Wells and the Seahawks' stinginess at home casts doubt on the entire backfield. Stick to the aerial contingent.

SEA is tied for the 5th-most rush attempts in NFL. But ARI has been lights out against opposing RBs, having yet to allow more than 66 rushing yards to a back this season. And SEA is dealing with a serious depth issue on the O-line where it is down to its fourth option at LT. Like ARI, you want to stick to the passing game for SEA. QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is back from a rib injury and picked up right where he left off in Week 5 by throwing 4 TD passes – he now has 7 TD passes in 10 quarters of work this season. ARI allows the 5th-most FAN PPG to WRS, and it has allowed no better than the 3rd-most FAN PPG to WRs in each of the previous three seasons, so this problem is nothing new. WRs Nate Burleson(notes) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) are two of the top seven most-targeted WRs in the league and have scored a combined 5 TDs with Hasselbeck at the helm. They both need to be active in fantasy lineups on Sunday. TE John Carlson, the 5th-most targeted TE in the NFL, also makes for a solid play against an ARI defense allowing the 6th-most FAN PPG to the position.

Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, John Carlson
Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, Steve Breaston(notes), Seattle Defense
Anthony Becht(notes), Arizona Defense, Julius Jones(notes), Edgerrin James(notes)
Sleeper: Deion Branch(notes)
Injuries: SEA OLs Walter Jones(notes) (knee), Sean Locklear(notes) (ankle), Rob Sims(notes) (ankle) and Brandon Frye(notes) (neck) are out; S
Prediction: Seattle 26, Arizona 21
TENNESSEE TITANS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Key Stats: TITANS – 2.8 YPC allowed | 288 YPG passing allowed
PATS – 4.4 YPC allowed | 218 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: TEN has second-best YPC average in the league (5.3), but it is just 24th in the league in rushing attempts – certainly the fact that it has been outscored by 40 points in the first half this season isn't doing the ground game any favors. QB Kerry Collins(notes) is under a ton of media pressure for his erratic aerial efforts – he has the lowest QB rating (67.4) and most INTs (7) among AFC starters. TEN will almost certainly strive to reclaim its identity as a smash-mouth running team. But if it can't hold Tom Brady(notes) and Co. in check early, it'll be the same old song and dance that we've seen in previous weeks. Despite coming off his worst performance of the season, RB Chris Johnson is too dangerous to bench. And NE has allowed some pretty big days from RBs through the air, so that could be an avenue that could re-emerge as a factor for Johnson this week. At this point, TEN would prefer to limit QB Kerry Collins' potential impact on the bottom line. I don't think he'll be taking many deep shots this week, and I'd gamble on the better short-range options (WR Justin Gage(notes) and TE Bo Scaife(notes)) ahead of WRs Nate Washington and Kenny Britt(notes). But, if I had my way, I wouldn't gamble on any of them.

Thanks to one of the stoutest rush defenses in the NFL, TEN has seen the second-most pass attempts against it in the league behind IND. That likely suits NE head coach Bill Bellichick just fine. Only ARI has averaged more passing attempts than NE, and only ARI has allowed more passing yards per game than TEN. In other words, the TEN defense plays right into the wheelhouse of the NE offense. Against a non-threatening TEN pass rush with little expectations of being able to run with any semblance of success, QB Tom Brady should throw it a ton. A total of six WRs have topped 90 receiving yards against TEN, with three of them adding multiple TDs in the process. WRs Randy Moss and Wes Welker(notes) should be golden, and don't discount TE Benjamin Watson(notes) against a defense that has allowed 60+ receiving yards to four TEs this season. Because of the likelihood that TEN comes in less concerned about stopping the run than usual, apparent new featured RB Sammy Morris(notes) isn't the worst flyer this week – and there's always the comfort in knowing he'll get the goal line work.

Chris Johnson, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker
Justin Gage, New England Defense, Benjamin Watson, Sammy Morris
Kerry Collins, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, LenDale White(notes), Tennessee Defense, Laurence Maroney(notes), Kevin Faulk(notes)
Sleeper: Bo Scaife
Injuries: NE OT Matt Light(notes) (knee) could be questionable; TEN CB Nick Harper(notes) (broken forearm) is out
Prediction: New England 28, Tennessee 17
BUFFALO BILLS @ NEW YORK JETS

Key Stats: BILLS – 4.7 YPC allowed | 186 YPG passing allowed
JETS – 4.2 YPC allowed | 194 YPG passing allowed | 4 sacks
What to watch for: The mystique of the Rex Ryan-led Jets defense has taken a hit the past couple weeks in losses to NO and MIA. Teams have been able to run against NYJ, and that provides hope for a BUF offense that ranks 6th in the league with a 4.6 YPC clip. BUF is decimated by injuries on the defensive side of the ball so it absolutely has to be able to eat clock and keep the defensive unit off the field. The NYJ allow the 7th-most receiving yards to RBs and in addition to a split of what should be a sizeable chunk of carries, RBs Marshawn Lynch(notes) and Fred Jackson(notes) should be very active receivers, as well – BUF is 5th in the league in receiving yards produced from the RB position. QB Trent Edwards(notes) is absolutely brutal to watch in the passing game. He's incapable of taking downfield risks, even when the game is on the line – his 4-yard dump down to WR Lee Evans(notes) with the ball on their own 40-yard line, down by 3 points and 23 seconds remaining in the Week 5 contest was inexplicable. TB WR Michael Clayton has seen as many passes (28) thrown his direction than would-be deep threat WR Lee Evans. And WR Terrell Owens(notes) (27) has seen one look fewer than that. NYJ CB Darrelle Revis will be one of the two wideouts' reality on Monday night, and I wouldn't bother with either WR.

NYJ have generated the 3rd-most rush attempts in NFL. And this week, it gets a BUF defense that, in addition to allowing 4.7 YPC, is also without the services of two more starting LBs (in addition to the loss of MLB Paul Posluszny(notes) earlier in the season) – the team lost MLB Marcus Boggs and LB Kawika Mitchell(notes) for the season in Week 5. RBs Thomas Jones(notes) and Leon Washington(notes) are both likely to see 15+ touches, and rookie RB Shonn Greene(notes) could get another half dozen. I'd steer clear from WR Jerricho Cotchery(notes), who re-aggravated a hamstring injury on Monday night. WR Braylon Edwards, playing in his first game with the NYJ on MNF, more than filled Cotchery's void with a 5/64/1 line. Edwards is a fine choice for fantasy owners this week. And, I liked TE Dustin Keller(notes) an awful lot last week and he finished with 1 target and zero receptions against MIA. That said, the BUF LB issue is too juicy to pass up if you're a Keller owner. I'm willing to try again with him. QB Mark Sanchez(notes) should have his usual game-manager script in hand for this one – he's not a top 15 QB play this week.

Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson
Mark Sanchez
David Clowney(notes), Trent Edwards, Terrell Owens, Lee Evans, Derek Fine(notes), Jerricho Cotchery
Sleeper: Shonn Greene
Injuries: NYJ WR Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) could be out; NYJ WR David Clowney (leg) could be questionable; NYJ WR Brad Smith(notes) (foot) could be questionable; BUF OT Jonathan Scott(notes) (ankle) could be questionable; BUF LBs Paul Posluszny (arm), Kawika Mitchell (knee) and Marcus Buggs(notes) (knee) are out
Prediction: NY Jets 28, Buffalo 14
CHICAGO BEARS @ ATLANTA FALCONS

Key Stats: BEARS – 3.8 YPC allowed | 226 YPG passing allowed | 14 sacks
FALCONS – 4.9 YPC allowed | 229 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: Despite the fact that ATL allows 4.9 YPC, opposing teams have been much more inclined to attack the Falcons through the air. A sizeable deficit can be pointed to as the reason for SF QB Shaun Hill(notes) throwing it 38 times against ATL in Week 5. But opposing QBs have averaged more than 40 attempts against ATL for the past three games. But despite this aerial assault, ATL has yielded just 3 TD passes, and I'd look for CHI to try and build upon RB Matt Forte's(notes) breakthrough performance (121 yards, TD) in Week 4 against DET. Forte was dealing with a sore knee, so the bye in Week 5 was well timed. Even if CHI QB Jay Cutler(notes) doesn't follow the pass-heavy trend of recent ATL opposition, he's proving highly effective with small quantities. Despite averaging just 27.5 pass attempts the past two games, he has accounted for 6 TDs (1 rush TD). There's hasn't been a consistent pattern to accurately gauge a pecking order from week to week for the WR trio of Devin Hester(notes), Earl Bennett(notes) and Johnny Knox(notes). Any combination of the three can be argued into fantasy lineups this week. ATL has allowed the 6th-most YPG to the TE position, so there should be little fear factor involved in starting TE Greg Olsen(notes).

ATL has yielded a league-low 2 sacks. Of course, the fact that it has played one less game than most other teams and also throws the ball less than most other teams helps. ATL loves to run the football and it is gaining steam in that department. CHI has done a solid job in run defense this season, but it hasn't faced a vaunted rushing attack like what ATL brings to the table. I think RB Michael Turner(notes) will get his usual 20+ carries in this one, and there's at least 80 rushing yards and a TD to be had from him. Turner will be aided by the fact that WR Roddy White(notes) showed up in Week 5 with 210 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Add TE Tony Gonzalez(notes) to the equation and where can CHI really expect to cheat on the defensive side of the ball? Much like it's Week 1 home victory against MIA, ATL should shoot for a nice run-pass balance. With Turner in the Bears' minds, QB Matt Ryan(notes) should get some play action opportunities. CHI just doesn't scare me enough in pass defense to shy away from either White or Gonzalez. Backup RB Jerious Norwood(notes) picked up a dozen carries in Week 5, but that was due to the mammoth lead that ATL enjoyed. He can't be counted on for more than 6-8 touches in this one.

Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Matt Ryan, Tony Gonzalez
Devin Hester, Earl Bennett
Michael Jenkins(notes), Jerious Norwood, Atlanta Defense, Chicago Defense
Sleeper: Johnny Knox
Injuries: CHI LB Pisa Tinoisamoa(notes) (knee) could be questionable
Prediction: Atlanta 23, Chicago 20
DENVER BRONCOS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Key Stats: BRONCOS – 3.3 YPC allowed | 172 YPG passing allowed | 16 sacks
BOLTS – 4.6 YPC allowed | 215 YPG passing allowed
What to watch for: A league-high 30.5 percent of the rushing plays against SDG have gone for first downs. This bodes well for DEN, the 4th-most run heavy squad in the NFL. RB Knowshon Moreno(notes), who has averaged 97 YFS the past four weeks, gets a thumbs up. DEN has built a foundation on the run and has slowly seen its passing game come online. QB Kyle Orton(notes) has produced his two best games as a Bronco the past two weeks and is starting to understand to fruits of a receiving corps ripe with the talents of WRs Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal(notes). Marshall, who had an 18-catch effort in Week 2 of '08 against SDG, is the No. 1 fantasy WR for the past three weeks. He should be fine against a SDG pass defense that only looks so good against opposing WRs this season because it has faced OAK and MIA among its four opponents. Royal, who had 10 catches in Week 5, was such a non-factor in the four games prior to past Sunday's breakout that you still have to be a little tentative about him. He has averaged 10 targets the past three weeks and QB Kyle Orton claims that he has the best rapport with the second-year Virginia Tech product among all DEN WRs. But DEN success on the ground could very well leave little pigskin to share through the air, and I'm flying Royal under the caution flag for that reason. If TEs Tony Scheffler(notes) and Daniel Graham(notes) could morph into one TE, they'd have something. As it stands, they cannibalize each other's fantasy production – DEN ranks 12th in yards per game from the TE position, but neither Scheffler nor Graham rank inside the top 25 in FAN PPG. Scheffler, however, does have a nice history card against SD, having scored 3 TDs against the Chargers last season.

Few would have believed at the start of the year that five weeks into the season, SDG would possess the worst rushing offense in the league – 2.7 YPC and 53.8 YPG. It's going to be tough to turn that beat around against a DEN defense allowing the 5th-fewest yards per game on the ground. It's also going to be tough to ignore RB LaDainian Tomlinson's(notes) string of successes when hosting DEN – he has 10 TDs in his past five games against DEN in San Diego. Odds are that the 6th-most pass-heavy offensive attack in the league will have to keep to the skies. QB Philip Rivers(notes) is 5-1 in his career against DEN and has never really laid an egg when facing his division rival – of course, I understand this is far from the same atrocious DEN defense we saw last season. No matter how much improved the DEN defense is, though, WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates are unbenchable fantasy commodities. I think SD gets LT and backup RB Darren Sproles(notes) active out of the backfield in the passing game and literally "throws" everything but the kitchen sink at the DEN defense.

Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Knowshon Moreno, Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall
Eddie Royal, Denver Defense, San Diego Defense, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Chambers(notes)
Jabar Gaffney
Sleeper: Tony Scheffler, Darren Sproles
Injuries: SDG C Scott Mruczkowski(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable; SDG DE Jacques Cesaire(notes) (calf) could be questionable; SDG LBs Shawne Merriman(notes) (groin), Stephen Cooper(notes) (knee), Shaun Phillips(notes) (calf) and LB Antwan Applewhite(notes) (hamstring) could be questionable
Prediction: San Diego 27, Denver 21
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