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NFL Skinny: Week 8 preview

Brandon Funston
Yahoo Sports

I own the injured Dallas quarterback Tony Romo(notes) in my three most competitive leagues. And those squads already had vultures circling overhead by Monday night. I awoke on Tuesday to no fewer than four trade offers involving my quarterback position. But I'm not sweating my predicament and I'm certainly not in the mood to take a low-ball offer just so I can fill my quarterback spot with a perceived established, steady-handed veteran.

My plan, if I don't actually land one of the very few long-term desirables that I have a chance to acquire from the player pool, is to wade in the QB stream week-to-week much like I often do with defenses, looking to cherry matchups for available QBs on the waiver wire.

Go back and look at the fantasy leaders at quarterback for any week this season and I guarantee you'll see no less than three QBs among the top 12 that, on the surface, look like they have no business being there. In the most extreme example, Week 4, standard-scoring leagues were led at QB by Shaun Hill(notes), while David Garrard(notes), Bruce Gradkowski(notes), Sam Bradford(notes) and Chad Henne(notes) all clocked in among the top 8. Unless you play in a very deep league or a league with ridiculously large benches, you will be able to get by, Romo owners. This week, maybe it's Romo's backup, Jon Kitna(notes), against an awful Jacksonville secondary. Kitna's a good place to start, but trust me; diamonds in the rough will be available each week.

Alright, reality still bites as I was 7-7 in my Week 7 Skinny game predictions. Here's my early take on how Week 8 will play out.

Note: Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore, Philadelphia and the NY Giants are on bye in Week 8

Week 8 Preview
A snapshot of each Week 8 matchup

DENVER BRONCOS @ SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BRONCOS – 4.8 YPC | 7.4 YPA
NINERS – 3.6 YPC | 7.1 YPA

What to watch for: DEN hasn't been good against the run for years (5.1 YPC to RBs in '08; 4.5 YPC to RBs in '09; 4.8 YPC to RBs in '10) and that fact became even more obvious after watching OAK RB Darren McFadden(notes) run by Bronco defenders like they were standing still (and I think some actually were) in Week 7. With SF QB Alex Smith dealing with a sprained shoulder, count on a heavy workload for RB Frank Gore(notes). In the passing game, you can only trust SF TE Vernon Davis(notes), who has scored in four straight and faces a DEN defense allowing the seventh-most FAN PPG to TEs. WR Michael Crabtree(notes) will certainly draw CB Champ Bailey(notes), and with David Carr(notes) likely at QB for SF, that's a big, "No, thanks!" … DEN RB Knowshon Moreno(notes) has done a nice job of finding the end zone when he has played this season, but he hasn't yet rushed for more than 60 yards in a game and SF is allowing just 3.4 YPC to RBs and has yielded just 3 TDs to backs in seven games. Even in a bye-heavy week, he's a big question mark. SF has given up healthy numbers in fantasy to QBs (13th-most), which plays to the Broncos' strength. DEN WR Brandon Lloyd(notes) leads the NFL in catches of 20-plus yards (14) and SF has allowed a hearty 22 pass plays of 20-plus yards (ninth-most). Despite a recent dip in production for Lloyd, he's probably the DEN WR to feel best about this week.

Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Brandon Lloyd, Kyle Orton(notes)
Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Royal(notes), Jabar Gaffney(notes), San Francisco Defense
Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan(notes), Daniel Graham(notes), Denver Defense, David Carr
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: SF QB Alex Smith (shoulder); SF CB Tarell Brown(notes) (back); SF OG Chilo Rachal(notes) (neck)
Prediction: Denver 24, San Francisco 20
WASHINGTON REDSKINS @ DETROIT LIONS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
SKINS – 4.7 YPC | 7.1 YPA
LIONS – 4.9 YPC | 7.3 YPA

What to watch for: In terms of rushing and/or passing, DET and WAS have been among the two most generous defenses in fantasy. This is a game where you should feel good about all the players you would typically consider on both sides. DET RB Jahvid Best(notes) and WR Calvin Johnson(notes) (coming off a much-needed bye week) are slam dunks, as are WAS RB Ryan Torain(notes) (who fits like a glove in this zone-blocking system that WAS seems to be getting better at with each passing week) and WR Santana Moss(notes). And I wouldn't be afraid to throw returning DET QB Matthew Stafford(notes) right into the fire. QBs have thrown for 280-plus yards against WAS in five of seven games. WAS QB Donovan McNabb(notes) has yet to throw 2 TDs in a game this season and is averaging less than a TD pass per game. For that reason, make sure you consider all other options first before settling on McNabb. WAS TE Chris Cooley(notes) is also flying under the caution flag this week. DET has not yet allowed more than 37 yards to a TE, and that includes JerMichael Finley(notes), Greg Olsen(notes), Brent Celek(notes), Visanthe Shiancoe(notes), among others.

Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Santana Moss, Ryan Torain
Donovan McNabb, Nate Burleson(notes), Brandon Pettigrew(notes), Chris Cooley, Washington Defense, Detroit Defense
Anthony Armstrong(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: DET RB Jahvid Best (toe); DET WR Calvin Johnson (shoulder); DET LB DeAndre Levy(notes) (ankle)
Prediction: Detroit 26, Washington 22
BUFFALO BILLS @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BILLS – 4.8 YPC | 7.7 YPA
CHIEFS – 3.7 YPC | 6.9 YPA

What to watch for: BUF has allowed 34-plus points in five straight games. The KC offense has topped 30 points in three of its past four games. The Chiefs have supplanted CAR as the home of the best backfield platoon in the league with RBs Jamaal Charles(notes) and Thomas Jones(notes). Wrap both in green this week as BUF has allowed two RBs to top 60 rushing yards in four of six games. The KC passing game is iffy because of the general inconsistency of QB Matt Cassel(notes) and the potential for KC to just sell out completely to the running game. But BUF is allowing the sixth-most FAN PPG to WRs, so can you really feel good about sitting KC WR Dwayne Bowe(notes), who has 4 TDs in his past two games? KC WR/RB Dexter McCluster(notes) has gained favor over WR Chris Chambers(notes), who was a "DNP-coach's decision" last week. McCluster's game-breaking potential makes him a solid flyer in a potential fireworks show for KC. … BUF employs the least-productive fantasy backfield in fantasy and KC only allows 3.7 YPC. But we've seen versatile RBs like Frank Gore and Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) make things happen with a big boost in receiving yards against KC in recent weeks. In fact, only WAS has allowed more receiving yards to RBs than KC. BUF RB Fred Jackson(notes) has rushed for 73 yards in each of his past two games and I have a hunch that his total combined yardage this week is going to top the century mark. With six of the top 16 fantasy RBs on bye this week, I'm going green with Jackson. KC has been pretty good against the pass this season. Fantasy WRs have scored more than 10 percent below the league average against KC and QBs have been slightly subpar against the Chiefs, as well. But BUF QB Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) is tops in fantasy at the QB position in PPG among signal-callers with a minimum of four starts. Again, in a heavy bye week, he's an entirely defensible starting option. I doubt both WRs Lee Evans(notes) and Steve Johnson(notes) will be able to step up like they did last week, but there's a good chance at least one will. I'm guessing Evans draws more of the attention, to Johnson's benefit once again.

Jamaal Charles, Thomas Jones, Dwayne Bowe, Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson, Kansas City Defense
Lee Evans, Tony Moeaki(notes), Dexter McCluster
Buffalo Defense, Buffalo TE, C.J. Spiller(notes)
Sleeper:
Key Injuries:
Prediction: Kansas City 28, Buffalo 20
CAROLINA PANTHERS @ ST. LOUIS RAMS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
CATS – 3.9 YPC | 6.1 YPA
RAMS – 4.6 YPC | 6.6 YPA

What to watch for: Both No. 1 RBs in this game – Steven Jackson (finger surgery) and DeAngelo Williams(notes) (sprained foot) – could be questionable for this one. But I'd be very surprised if Jackson doesn't force his way onto the field (he's often played through much worse). STL has allowed just 3 TDs to RBs and only one 100-yard rushing game (Darren McFadden). If Williams goes in this one, it's likely to be another dud for the once-vaunted CAR RB platoon. But if Jonathan Stewart(notes) gets the lead role because Williams can't answer the call on Sunday, I'll be on board with J-Stew. The CAR second-chair RB has never disappointed when given 15-plus carries – I'm ranking him with the expectation he'll see that kind of a workload on Sunday. CAR rookie WR David Gettis(notes) had an awakening in Week 7 (8/125/2), but I think he'll jump back into the backseat so WR Steve Smith can ride shotgun in this one – just a gut feeling with a heavy dose of track record mixed in … The CAR pass defense is legit, and it's a legit concern for opposing WRs in fantasy. No WR has topped 85 yards against the Panthers this season and only one WR has scored a TD against them in the past five weeks. STL has been a fairly pass-happy team this season but given this matchup and the way the Rams passing game performed last week in Tampa (13-for-26, 126 passing yards), I'm not sure you can feel good about any Ram outside of Jackson.

Steven Jackson, Jonathan Stewart, Steve Smith, St. Louis Defense
Sam Bradford, Danny Amendola(notes), Matt Moore(notes), DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Defense
Laurent Robinson(notes), David Gettis, Carolina TEs
Sleeper: Michael Hoomanawanui(notes)
Key Injuries: CAR RB DeAngelo Williams (foot); STL RB Steven Jackson (finger); STL S James Butler(notes) (knee)
Prediction: Carolina 19, St. Louis 17
MIAMI DOLPHINS @ CINCINNATI BENGALS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
DOLPHINS – 3.8 YPC | 7.6 YPA
BENGALS – 4.5 YPC | 6.7 YPA

What to watch for: What a difference the loss of CIN CB Johnathan Joseph(notes) makes in the CIN secondary. No slight to superhuman WR Roddy White(notes), but you have to think he might have been held closer to 100 receiving yards (as opposed to 201) if Joseph had been in the mix. After all, CIN hadn't allowed a 100-yard WR before White in Week 7. If Joseph misses another game in Week 8 because of his sore ankle (he'll likely be questionable), that should make WR Brandon Marshall(notes) an easy green-light option. Same goes for WR Davone Bess(notes), who is almost unbenchable in PPR formats. MIA is seventh-lowest in the league in FAN PPG from the backfield, this after finishing as the fourth-most productive backfield last season. RBs Ronnie Brown(notes) and Ricky Williams(notes) were predictably ineffective last week against PIT, but they've been consistently bad despite the opponent. I like Williams a little more than Brown this week, as he's just been outplaying him. But I'm not excited for either in this one. … MIA has allowed the third-most FAN PPG to QBs and CIN QB Carson Palmer(notes) has been on a roll of late and has a healthy, loaded arsenal at his disposal. MIA did a solid number on PIT RB Rashard Mendenhall(notes) last week (15/37) and allows just 3.9 YPC to RBs. Like last week when he produced a middling 20/70/0 line, CIN RB Cedric Benson(notes) could simply be used as food for thought for the MIA defense so that the passing lanes stay open for Palmer.

Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens(notes), Chad Ochocinco(notes), Brandon Marshall, Davone Bess
Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, Chad Henne, Jermaine Gresham(notes), Cincinnati Defense, Miami Defense
Anthony Fasano(notes)
Sleeper: Jordan Shipley(notes), Brian Hartline(notes)
Key Injuries: CIN CB Johnathan Joseph (ankle); CIN CB Adam Jones(notes) (neck)
Prediction: Cincinnati 24, Miami 20
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS @ DALLAS COWBOYS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
JAGS – 4.6 YPC | 8.9 YPA
BOYS – 4.5 YPC | 7.5 YPA

What to watch for: The big news here is the loss of QB Tony Romo for DAL. But, you can pretty much count on 240-plus yards and 2 TD passes from even the sketchiest of QB plays when the opposition is JAC. That's my minimum expectations for backup QB Jon Kitna this week. Rookie WR Dez Bryant(notes) caught two TD passes from Kitna last week and also returned a punt for a TD. With DAL sitting at 1-5, count on Bryant to see plenty of work the rest of the way as the team prepares for him to take his talent to the mesosphere next season. Bryant's increased role could come at the expense of WR Roy Williams, who failed to catch a pass from Kitna and was targeted just three times for the second consecutive week. TE Jason Witten(notes) is in the wheel house of Kitna's range and that was evident in Week 7 as he had 9 catches for 95 yards and a TD (which was actually from Romo). Witten seems like a safe bet this week. JAC is allowing 4.6 YPC and 21 percent more to the RB position than the league average. DAL RB Felix Jones(notes) was quiet against the NYG in Week 7, but that was to be expected. At least he remains the clear No. 1 in the backfield and he gets a green card for Week 8. … I mentioned here last week that JAC would wise up and start using RB Maurice Jones-Drew in the passing game and, sure enough, MoJo had 5 receptions, 74 yards and a receiving TD in Week 7. Without much of a passing game threat, the running room has been limited for MoJo against stacked defensive boxes. And things get a bit worse this week with the loss for the season of RT Eben Britton(notes) due to a shoulder injury. Still, MoJo is the best thing going for the JAC offense, by far, and DAL has allowed 100 yards to a RB in three of the past four games. Forget about QB David Garrard as he comes back from a concussion this week. He's terrible on the road and DAL is very good against the position of Garrard's favorite target, TE Marcedes Lewis(notes).

Maurice Jones-Drew, Miles Austin(notes), Dez Bryant, Jon Kitna, Jason Witten, Felix Jones, Dallas Defense
Mike Thomas(notes), Marcedes Lewis, Roy Williams
David Garrard, Mike Sims-Walker(notes), Jacksonville Defense
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: DAL QB Tony Romo (clavicle); DAL CB Terence Newman(notes) (rib); DAL LG Montrae Holland(notes) (groin); JAC QB David Garrard (head); OT Eben Britton (shoulder)
Prediction: Dallas 28, Jacksonville 16
GREEN BAY PACKERS @ NEW YORK JETS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
PACK – 4.7 YPC | 6.6 YPA
JETS – 3.5 YPC | 6.8 YPA

What to watch for: The NYJ run defense is a dead end. Only one RB (Adrian Peterson) has managed more than 6 FAN PTS against the Jets this season. You can forget about GB RB Brandon Jackson(notes) in this one. And there's concern for the GB passing game as NYJ CB Darrelle Revis(notes) claims that his hamstring is now 100 percent, bad news for WRs Greg Jennings(notes) and Donald Driver(notes), indeed. With those two drawing the attention of Revis and CB Antonio Cromartie(notes), don't be surprised if WR James Jones(notes) has another big day. He went for 107 yards last week and No. 3 WRs like Brian Hartline, Jabar Gaffney and David Nelson(notes) have all gone for 75-plus yards against the NYJ this season. Figure QB Aaron Rodgers(notes) will provide at least serviceable fantasy numbers because he'll be forced to throw so often. … GB has been stingy to RBs in fantasy, but it is allowing 4.7 YPC and is dealing with injuries on the defensive line that make NYJ RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) a clear-cut green light this week. Even backup RB Shonn Greene(notes) should be seriously considered. And while QB Mark Sanchez(notes) will likely run a conservative game plan once again, I won't be surprised if play-action opens up a long ball opportunity for WR Santonio Holmes(notes) or Braylon Edwards(notes). TE Dustin Keller(notes) is a fine looking option this week considering the TEs on bye, the points allowed by GB to TEs (12th-most) and Keller's production to-date this season.

LaDainian Tomlinson, Dustin Keller, Aaron Rodgers, NY Jets Defense
Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, Greg Jennings
Brandon Jackson, Donald Driver, Andrew Quarless(notes), Jerricho Cotchery(notes), Green Bay Defense
Sleeper: James Jones
Key Injuries: GB WR Donald Driver (quadriceps); GB DE Cullen Jenkins(notes) (calf); GB DE Ryan Pickett(notes) (ankle); GB DE Mike Neal(notes) (shoulder); NYJ TE Dustin Keller (wrist)
Prediction: NY Jets 24, Green Bay 16
TENNESSEE TITANS @ SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
TITANS – 4.0 YPC | 6.3 YPA
BOLTS – 3.5 YPC | 5.9 YPA

What to watch for: TEN RB Chris Johnson may have company in the unbenchable class for TEN. WR Kenny Britt(notes) put up a ridiculous 225 yards and 3 TDs in Week 7 despite being benched for more than a quarter because of an off-the-field altercation the Friday before the game. Britt now has TDs in five straight games and 7 TDs in that span. And this week's matchup with SD is easier, on paper, than the PHI matchup was last week. Start Johnson, bench Britt at your own risk and don't bother with the rest of the Titans. … TEN has feasted on lesser QBs, but has been riddled by the likes of Eli Manning(notes), Kyle Orton and Tony Romo. SD QB Philip Rivers(notes) should find fantasy success against an opportunistic Titans secondary, even if he suffers a turnover or two. WR Patrick Crayton(notes) has averaged 100 receiving yards in his past two games and he'll continue to see big minutes with WR Malcom Floyd(notes) still out with his hamstring injury. Even as WR Legedu Naanee(notes) returns, Crayton is the only trustworthy WR in this group. TEN has faced a quality RB most every week this season and still sits as the fourth-toughest run defense against RBs in fantasy. Considering that SD RB Ryan Mathews(notes) still does not have a featured role, you should try to avoid him this week. Backup RB Mike Tolbert(notes), who at least gets a TD every week (6 TDs in his past 6 games), might be a better gamble than Mathews this week. And PPR owners should note that RB Darren Sproles(notes) has 14 catches in his past two weeks, probably not a coincidence that he's emerged in the passing game with so many injuries in the receiving corps. TE Antonio Gates(notes) clearly looked at less than 100 percent last week with his turf toe but still managed 50 yards and a TD. Even 75 percent of Gates is better than most at TE.

Chris Johnson, Philip Rivers, Patrick Crayton, Antonio Gates, Kenny Britt, Tennessee Defense
Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews, Bo Scaife(notes), San Diego Defense
Tennessee QB, Nate Washington(notes), Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis
Sleeper: Darren Sproles,
Key Injuries: SD WR Legedu Naanee (hamstring); SD WR Malcom Floyd (hamstring); SD TE Antonio Gates (toe); SD PK Nate Kaeding(notes) (groin); TEN LB David Thornton(notes) (shoulder, hip); TEN QB Kerry Collins(notes) (finger); TEN QB Vince Young(notes) (knee, ankle)
Prediction: San Diego 19, Tennessee 16
MINNESOTA VIKINGS @ NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
VIKES – 3.8 YPC | 6.3 YPA
PATS – 3.8 YPC | 7.4 YPA

What to watch for: It's hard to say whether QB Brett Favre(notes), sore ankle, elbow and all, would be better for the MIN offense this week than healthy backup QB Tavaris Jackson. Personally, I might prefer a healthy Jackson against a NE defense that allows a league-high 70.0% completion rate and has sacked the QB just 12 times. NE has allowed the third-most FAN PPG to QBs so, if Jackson goes, consider him a solid sleeper. The worst-case scenario is if Favre decides to play, his owners decide to start him and then Favre exits early. I'd avoid Favre this week, but count on WR Randy Moss(notes) playing with a whole lot of motivation against his former team and I wouldn't have him on my bench no matter who is at QB for MIN. WRs like Davone Bess, Jordan Shipley and Derrick Mason(notes) have worked the underbelly of the NE secondary with much success this season and that bodes well for WR Percy Harvin(notes). The matchup also looks good for TE Visanthe Shiancoe, but he's been a sewage factory for the past four games (although he should have had a TD last week) and you can't feel particularly confident about him right now. … WR Deion Branch(notes) has a 20-17 target advantage over WR Wes Welker(notes) in the two games post-Moss, although neither look great on paper this week. TE Aaron Hernandez(notes) has been targeted a healthy 14 times in that span. MIN has been good against the pass this season, especially against WRs. Look for Hernandez and RB Danny Woodhead(notes), as a receiver out of the backfield, to play big roles in this one as that is where MIN has shown the most susceptibility against the pass. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) may again score a cheap TD, but he's a terrible yardage bet against a stout MIN defensive front.

Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady(notes), Aaron Hernandez, Randy Moss, Percy Harvin
Danny Woodhead, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Visanthe Shiancoe, New England Defense
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brett Favre, Bernard Berrian(notes), Minnesota Defense
Sleeper: Tavaris Jackson
Key Injuries: MIN QB Brett Favre (ankle/elbow); NE S Patrick Chung(notes) (ankle)
Prediction: New England 27, Minnesota 21
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS @ OAKLAND RAIDERS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
HAWKS – 3.3 YPC | 6.9 YPA
RAIDERS – 5.0 YPC | 7.3 YPA

What to watch for: OAK RB Darren McFadden is coming off an epic performance in Week 7 and has now delivered at least 12 FAN PTS in each of the five games he has played. SEA has allowed more than 12 FAN PTS to a RB just once in six games and has not allowed more than 73 rushing yards to a RB this season. It's going to be strength versus strength with the SEA defense and the OAK offense. But, in the end, I'd expect Run-DMC to deliver his 12-plus FAN PTS. The Raiders are tied for sixth in the league with 4.7 YPC on offense and SEA has allowed a RB to go for 40-plus receiving yards on four different occasions. One way or the other, McFadden should get his. If OAK QB Bruce Gradkowski can return from a shoulder injury this week, I'd like him as a sleeper play. SEA has really amped up its blitz packages in recent weeks, trying to mirror what the Jets do. Gradkowski is much better at reacting to pressure than QB Jason Campbell(notes) and could dial up some big plays to WR Louis Murphy(notes) if he's in there. If no Gradkowski, consider only TE Zach Miller in the passing game. … SEA WR Mike Williams has been the feel-good story of the NFL the past two weeks, combining for 21 receptions in that span. He's almost assuredly captured the attention of OAK CB Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), who at 6-foot-2, can negate much of that height advantage that Williams brings to the table. As tough as it would be to sit Williams this week, you have to at least consider it if you have other solid options. Another reason that Williams flies under the caution flag this week is that SEA is likely to lean heavily to the run against an OAK defense that is one of just two teams in the league allowing 5.0 YPC. SEA RB Marshawn Lynch(notes) has averaged 21 carries in his first two games with SEA and that kind of workload on Sunday should prove bountiful. And backup RB Justin Forsett(notes) has excelled in his 3rd-down role with Lynch on board, getting 11-plus touches in each of the past two games and an average of 74 YFS. Consider him for something similar to that kind of production once again. The surprise performer for SEA this week could be TE John Carlson(notes). TEs have fared well against OAK this season and before last week's Silver-and-Black Gone Wild performance in DEN, the Raiders hadn't been able to get to the QB with much success. I'm going to gamble on green for Carlson in what should be a fairly conservative game plan for SEA.

Darren McFadden, Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Defense, John Carlson, Zach Miller
Mike Williams, Oakland Defense, Louis Murphy
Matt Hasselbeck(notes), Jason Campbell, Deon Butler(notes), Michael Bush(notes), Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes)
Sleeper: Justin Forsett, Bruce Gradkowski
Key Injuries: SEA OT Russell Okung(notes) (ankle); OAK QB Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder)
Prediction: Seattle 24, Oakland 20
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS @ ARIZONA CARINALS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
BUCS – 5.3 YPC | 6.8 YPA
CARDS – 4.3 YPC | 6.6 YPA

What to watch for: These two teams are tied for third-worst in the league in scoring offense (16.3 PPG). But the ARI defense ranks among the 14 most generous teams in fantasy at the QB, RB, WR and TE positions. So TB TE Kellen Winslow(notes) and WR Mike Williams have to be considered strong plays this week, and RB LeGarrette Blount(notes), who could see 15-20 carries this week at the expense of struggling veteran RB Cadillac Williams, is also worthy of your vote. … Thankfully for ARI QB Max Hall(notes), TB (just 5 sacks) is unlikely to rattle his cage like SEA did in Week 7. Hall is expected to be back at QB after suffering a concussion last week, but he'll likely be handing the ball off frequently to RB Beanie Wells(notes) considering that the Buccaneers have allowed the most YPC (5.3) in the NFL. Wells is solid green this week, while nobody in the ARI passing game should be trusted. This is the worst passing offense in the league and the TB defense doesn't offer the promise of much upside – it has allowed the third-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards.

Beanie Wells, Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow, LeGarrette Blount
Larry Fitzgerald(notes), Josh Freeman(notes), Arizona Defense
Sammie Stroughter(notes), Max Hall, Arizona TEs, Steve Breaston(notes), Tampa Bay Defense, Carnell Williams(notes)
Sleeper: Tim Hightower(notes)
Key Injuries: ARI OLB Clark Haggans(notes) (groin); ARI QB Max Hall (head)
Prediction: Tampa Bay 17, Arizona 14
PITTSBURGH STEELERS @ NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
STEELERS – 2.8 YPC | 6.8 YPA
SAINTS – 4.0 YPC | 6.5 YPA

What to watch for: NO RB Reggie Bush(notes) returns for a struggling Saints squad. But you can't feel good about his first game back given that it is against the Steel Curtain defense that is allowing the second-fewest FAN PPG to RBs. Expect QB Drew Brees(notes) to hand the ball off sparingly as the Saints go heavily to the air. Bush might end up having some value in PPR leagues because I think he'll be used in screen/swing routes often. WRs Marques Colston(notes) and Lance Moore(notes) will probably be in Brees' focus most often among receivers as the Steelers are quick to the QB (18 sacks in six games) and don't often yield the big plays that are the calling card of WRs Robert Meachem(notes) and Devery Henderson(notes). … PIT is averaging more than 25 points per game in two games with QB Ben Roethlisberger(notes) back behind center. And there's reason to feel optimistic for another strong offensive output from the Steelers offense this week, both on the ground (where the Saints have allowed the 13th-most FAN PPG to RBs) and through the air (where Saints CBs Jabari Greer(notes) and Tracy Porter(notes) are both expected to be questionable this week).

Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward(notes), Mike Wallace(notes), Heath Miller(notes), Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh defense
Reggie Bush, Marques Colston, Lance Moore
Chris Ivory, Jeremy Shockey(notes), New Orleans Defense, Robert Meachem
Sleeper:
Key Injuries: NO RB Pierre Thomas(notes) (ankle); NO RB Reggie Bush (leg); NO CB Jabari Greer (shoulder); NO CB Tracy Porter (knee); PIT OT Flozell Adams(notes) (ankle); PIT LB LaMarr Woodley(notes) (hamstring); PIT DE Aaron Smith(notes) (arm)
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, New Orleans 21
HOUSTON TEXANS @ INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Key Stats
(Defense)
:
TEXANS – 4.2 YPC | 8.2 YPA
COLTS – 4.8 YPC | 6.7 YPA

What to watch for: IND was blown away by the zone-blocking scheme of WAS in Week 6, as RB Ryan Torain went for 100 yards and 2 TDs. HOU runs the same scheme, as HC Gary Kubiak was schooled under WAS HC Mike Shanahan while in DEN. This should be a huge day for RB Arian Foster(notes), maybe not like the Week 1 performance he had against IND (231 yards, 3 TDs), but a TD and the century mark in rushing yards should be easily attainable. HOU QB Matt Schaub(notes) has been fairly pedestrian in his past three games against IND and he pretty much took a backseat to Foster in Week 1. Sure, if you're a Schaub owner, you're probably still playing him this week. Just know that his ceiling looks pretty low this week. Same goes for WR Andre Johnson(notes), who has 10 FAN PTS or less in his past four games against the IND Cover-2 scheme. … Despite giving up more than 200 YFS combined to KC RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones last week, HOU isn't a bad run defense, having allowed the 10th-fewest rushing yards to RBs. IND will be without top RB Joseph Addai(notes) and backup RB Donald Brown(notes) is probably (perennially?) questionable with a sore hamstring. Third-stringer Mike Hart(notes) could factor heavily into the mix this week but, in general, it's a tough week to bank on the IND backfield. Expect IND QB Peyton Manning(notes) to come out firing once again – he threw 57 times in the Week 1 meeting. Yes, he's without WR Austin Collie(notes) and TE Dallas Clark(notes), but WRs Reggie Wayne(notes) and Pierre Garcon(notes) are good to go, and between backup WRs Anthony Gonzalez(notes) and Blair White(notes) and backup TE Jacob Tamme(notes), you can bet Manning will make at least one of them a star on Monday night.

Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Arian Foster, Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson
Donald Brown
Indianapolis Defense, Kevin Walter(notes), Jacoby Jones(notes), Owen Daniels(notes), Houston Defense
Sleeper: Jacob Tamme, Mike Hart, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White
Key Injuries: IND WR Austin Collie (thumb); IND RB Joseph Addai (shoulder); IND TE Dallas Clark (wrist); IND WR Anthony Gonzalez (ankle); IND RB Donald Brown (hamstring)
Prediction: Indianapolis 30, Houston 27

Note: YPC stands for Yards Per Carry; YPA stands for Yards Per (Pass) Attempt

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