Oakland at San Diego (Thursday night) – Can Philip Rivers pull both himself and the Chargers out of a tailspin? Can Michael Bush build on his momentum from last week? The answer is “yes” to both of these questions, but without Darren McFadden, the Raiders will still come up short. San Diego 31, Oakland 24.
- Start: RB Michael Bush, TE Kevin Boss
- Neutral: QB Carson Palmer (Probable-quad), WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey, Denarius Moore, & Jacoby Ford
- Sit: RBs Darren McFadden (Out-foot) & Marcel Reese (Probable-shoulder), WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, DEF, K Sebastian Janikowski (Questionable-hamstring)
- San Diego
- Start: QB Philip Rivers, RB Mike Tolbert, WRs Vincent Jackson & Vincent Brown, TE Antonio Gates, K Nick Novak
- Neutral: RB Ryan Mathews (Probable-groin), DEF
- Sit: WR Patrick Crayton, TE Randy McMichael, WR Malcom Floyd (Doubtful-hip)
New Orleans at Atlanta (Sunday early) – The team that wins this game will be in the driver’s seat in the NFC South. The Falcons were my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, but unless they stop with the Jekyll and Hyde routine, that’s not going to happen. Plenty of fantasy value to go around on both teams in this contest, but New Orleans has just a bit more offensive firepower, even with Julio Jones at full strength. New Orleans 31, Atlanta 24.
- New Orleans
- Start: QB Drew Brees, RB Darren Sproles, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, K John Kasay
- Neutral: RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, DEF
- Sit: RBs Mark Ingram (Questionable-heel) & Chris Ivory (Questionable-hamstring), WRs Devery Henderson & Robert Meachem
- Start: QB Matt Ryan, RB Michael Turner, WRs Roddy White & Julio Jones
- Neutral: TE Tony Gonzalez (Questionable-back), K Matt Bryant
- Sit: RBs Jacquizz Rodgers & Jason Snelling, WR Harry Douglas, DEF
Houston at Tampa Bay – Both starting quarterbacks in this game have been fantasy disappointments so far this season, but Tampa Bay’s defense will make Matt Schaub look like Aaron Rodgers, at least for one day. Start virtually any Texan on your fantasy roster, and you should be rewarded handsomely. Houston 34, Tampa Bay 17.
- Start: QB Matt Schaub, RB Arian Foster, WRs Jacoby Jones & Kevin Walter (Probable-ankle), TEs Owen Daniels & Joel Dreessen, DEF, K Neil Rackers
- Neutral: RB Ben Tate (Probable-ankle)
- Sit: WR Andre Johnson (Questionable-hamstring)
- Tampa Bay
- Start: QB Josh Freeman (Probable-thumb), WR Preston Parker, TE Kellen Winslow
- Neutral: WR Mike Williams (Questionable-thigh)
- Sit: RBs LeGarrette Blount & Kregg Lumpkin, WRs Dez Briscoe & Arrelious Benn, DEF, K Connor Barth
Arizona at Philadelphia – Just when you thought the Eagles were back on track following their demolition of Dallas, they laid an egg Monday night against Chicago. The Eagles are already three games behind the Giants; a loss here would be nearly fatal to their slim playoff hopes. Still, with all their injuries on offense the Cardinals don’t figure to put up much of a fight. Philadelphia 31, Arizona 17.
- Start: WR Larry Fitzgerald
- Neutral: QB John Skelton, RB Beanie Wells (Questionable-knee), WRs Early Doucet & Andre Roberts
- Sit: QB Kevin Kolb (Questionable-toe), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (Questionable-shoulder), TEs Todd Heap (Questionable-hamstring), Rob Houssler (Questionable-groin), & Jeff King, DEF, K Jay Feely
- Start: QB Michael Vick, RB LeSean McCoy (Probable-shoulder), WRs DeSean Jackson & Jeremy Maclin, TE Brent Celek, DEF
- Neutral: WR Jason Avant, K Alex Henery
- Sit: N/A
Washington at Miami – Neither quarterback in this game was expected to start this season, but due to injury (Chad Henne) and poor play (Rex Grossman) both Matt Moore and John Beck are getting their opportunity. These teams are headed in opposite directions, and Miami will continue its “no suck for Luck” surge by winning its second straight. Miami 24, Washington 21.
- Start: QB John Beck, WR Jabar Gaffney, TE Fred Davis (Probable-ankle)
- Neutral: RBs Roy Helu & Ryan Torain, WR Terrence Austin, DEF
- Sit: RBs Tim Hightower & Tashard Choice (Probable-hamstring), WRs Leonard Hankerson & Anthony Armstrong, K Graham Gano
- Start: QB Matt Moore, RB Reggie Bush, WR Brandon Marshall, DEF
- Neutral: RB Daniel Thomas, WR Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano, K Dan Carpenter
- Sit: RB Lex Hilliard
Tennessee at Carolina – Based on last week’s “outburst” it’s time to give Chris Johnson another start in what appears to be a favorable match-up against a poor Panther rushing defense. Damian Williams won’t make anyone forget Kenny Britt, or even Nate Washington, but he’s quietly turning into a useful fantasy option. Look for Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams to put a disappointing season behind him and post a useful fantasy line. Carolina 27, Tennessee 24.
- Start: QB Matt Hasselbeck (Probable-knee), RB Chris Johnson, WR Damian Williams
- Neutral: RB Javon Springer, TE Jared Cook (Questionable-knee), DEF, K Rob Bironas
- Sit: WR Nate Washington (Questionable-hip)
- Start: QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Steve Smith, TE Greg Olsen
- Neutral: RB Jonathan Stewart, TE Jeremy Shockey, DEF, K Olindo Mare
- Sit: WRs Brandon LaFell & Legedu Naanee
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati – Top to bottom the AFC North boasts the best group of team defenses of any division in football. While the Bengals may not yet be in the same class with Baltimore and Pittsburgh defensively, they’re good enough to make life very difficult for Ben Roethlisberger and crew this week. Other than the two defenses look elsewhere if you’re desperately seeking fantasy points this weekend. Pittsburgh 20, Cincinnati 17.
- Start: DEF
- Neutral: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WRs Antonio Brown & Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller
- Sit: RB Rashard Mendenhall, WRs Emmanuel Sanders (Questionable-knee), Jerricho Cotchery (Questionable-knee), & Hines Ward (Probable-concussion), K Shaun Suisham
- Start: DEF
- Neutral: QB Andy Dalton, WRs A.J. Green & Jerome Simpson, TE Jermaine Gresham (Questionable-hamstring)
- Sit: RBs Cedric Benson & Bernard Scott, WR Andre Caldwell (Questionable-groin), K Mike Nugent
St. Louis at Cleveland - Steven Jackson will run wild against the Browns, but he’s going to be one of few offensive weapons for the Rams this week. Fortunately for St. Louis, Cleveland has been hit hard by the injury bug, and the Rams should have just enough offense to eke out the victory. St. Louis 21, Cleveland 17.
- St. Louis
- Start: RB Steven Jackson (Questionable-foot), WR Brandon Lloyd, DEF
- Neutral: WR Austin Pettis
- Sit: QBs Sam Bradford (Questionable-ankle) & A.J. Feeley, WRs Brandon Gibson, Danario Alexander (Questionable-hamstring), & Greg Salas (IR-leg); TE Lance Kendricks (Questionable-foot), K Josh Brown
- Start: RB Chris Ogbannaya, TE Ben Watson, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Josh Cribbs & Greg Little, TE Evan Moore
- Sit: QB Colt McCoy, RBs Montario Hardesty (Out-calf) & Peyton Hillis (Out-hamstring), WR Mohamed Massaquoi (Questionable-concussion), K Phil Dawson (Questionable-migraines)
Buffalo at Dallas – Buffalo’s season is at a crossroad. Win this game and they’ll be right in the thick of the AFC’s playoff hunt. Drop this game and they’ll not only fall out of their three-way tie for first place in their division, but they’ll also likely fall behind a handful of wild card contenders. Dallas is in a similar position sans the opportunity to win their division. Ryan Fitzpatrick will bounce back this week, but Tony Romo will be victorious, even with Laurent Robinson starting for the re-injured Miles Austin. Dallas 30, Buffalo 24.
- Start: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB Fred Jackson, WR Steve Johnson
- Neutral: WRs David Nelson & Donald Brown, TE Scott Chandler, K Dave Rayner
- Sit: RB C.J. Spiller, WR Naaman Roosevelt, DEF, K Rian Lindell (Questionable-shoulder)
- Start: QB Tony Romo (Probable-ribs), RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Dez Bryant & Laurent Robinson, TE Jason Witten, K Dan Bailey
- Neutral: DEF
- Sit: RB Felix Jones (Questionable-ankle), WR Miles Austin (Doubtful-hamstring)
Jacksonville at Indianapolis – The Jaguars’ offense is several rungs south of mediocre, but the Colts will make them look like the 2007 Patriots. Jacob Tamme, stepping in for the injured Dallas Clark, may be the Colts’ leading receiver in his first start of the season. That’s not a good sign. Jacksonville 27, Indianapolis 14.
- Start: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WRs Mike Thomas & Jason Hill, DEF
- Neutral: TE Marcedes Lewis, K Josh Scobee
- Sit: QB Blake Gabbert, RB Deji Karim, WR Brian Robiskie
- Start: TE Jacob Tamme
- Neutral: RBs Delone Carter & Donald Brown, WRs Reggie Wayne & Pierre Garcon, DEF
- Sit: QB Curtis Painter, RB Joseph Addai (Questionable-hamstring), WR Austin Collie, TE Dallas Clark (Out-leg), K Adam Vinatieri
Denver at Kansas City – Denver’s offense under Tim Tebow’s direction is reminiscent of watching Navy and Army run the wishbone: it’s not very interesting to watch, but it often gets the job done. With the Chiefs sporting a poor run defense both Tebow and backfield mate Willis “One Hand” McGahee are good starts. Kansas City gets another chance to prove that its four-game winning streak wasn’t a mirage, but they don’t have enough offense to win this contest. Denver 27, Kansas City 21.
- Start: QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee (Probable-hand), WR Eric Decker, DEF
- Neutral: RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Fells, K Matt Prater
- Sit: RB Lance Ball, WR Demaryius Thomas
- Start: QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee (Probable-hand), WR Eric Decker, DEF
- Kansas City
- Start: RB Jackie Battle, WR Dwayne Bowe
- Neutral: QB Matt Cassel, WR Steve Breaston, DEF
- Sit: RB Dexter McCluster, WR Jonathan Baldwin, TE Leonard Pope, K Ryan Succop
Baltimore at Seattle (Sunday late) – After watching the conclusion to last Sunday’s Ravens-Steelers slugfest, you may conclude that Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco has shaken off his season-long slump and is finally back on track. That would be a mistake. Baltimore will win this game easily, but Ray Rice will carry the bulk of the load on offense. Baltimore 27, Seattle 10.
- Start: RB Ray Rice, WRs Anquan Boldin & Torrey Smith, DEF
- Neutral: QB Joe Flacco, TEs Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta, K Billy Cundiff
- Sit: RB Ricky Williams
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: DEF
- Sit: QB Tarvaris Jackson, RB Marshawn Lynch, WRs Sidney Rice (Probable-foot), Doug Baldwin, Ben Obomanu, & Mike Williams (Questionable-ankle), TE Zach Miller, K Steven Hauschka
Detroit at Chicago – It won’t matter who starts at running back for the Lions - the way for them to beat Chicago is to throw the ball early and often, which should lead to a big day for Matthew Stafford and his receivers. Earl Bennett had a great game for the Bears in their Monday night victory over the Bears - stash him on your bench if you must, but don’t count on him putting up a similar performance this week. Detroit 28, Chicago 24.
- Start: QB Matt Stafford (Probable-finger), WR Calvin Johnson, TE Brandon Pettigrew (Probable-elbow)
- Neutral: WRs Nate Burleson & Titus Young, DEF, K Jason Hanson (Questionable-knee)
- Sit: RBs Jahvid Best (Doubtful-concussion), Maurice Morris, Keiland Williams, & Kevin Smith
- Start: RB Matt Forte
- Neutral: QB Jay Cutler, RB Marion Barber, WRs Earl Bennett & Devin Hester (Questionable-ankle), DEF, K Robbie Gould
- Sit: WRs Johnny Knox & Dane Sanzenbacher, TE Kellen Davis (Questionable-shoulder)
- Start: RB Matt Forte
New York Giants at San Francisco – In the same vein as the previous game the Giants’ only hope for beating the 49ers is to rely heavily on Eli Manning and their passing game (my, how times have changed). Whether you think Eli Manning is now an elite quarterback or not, he should definitely have a field day against the 49ers’ secondary. Assuming that they’re healthy enough to play, Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter should fine plenty of room to run against the Giants’ defense, but quarterback Alex Smith is in for a stiff test against the G-men’s pass rush. New York 27, San Francisco 24.
- New York
- Start: QB Eli Manning, WRs Victor Cruz & Mario Manningham, TE Jake Ballard
- Neutral: RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Hakeem Nicks (Questionable-hamstring), DEF, K Lawrence Tynes
- Sit: RBs Ahmad Bradshaw (Questionable-foot) & D.J. Ware, WR Ramses Barden
- San Francisco
- Start: TE Vernon Davis
- Neutral: QB Alex Smith, RBs Frank Gore (Questionable-ankle) & Kendall Hunter (Questionable-ankle), WRs Michael Crabtree (Questionable-foot) & Braylon Edwards (Questionable-knee), DEF, K David Akers
- Sit: WR Ted Ginn Jr
New England at New York Jets (Sunday night) – Between the Jets’ pass defense and the Patriots’ injuries this is a good week to bench Tom Brady if you’ve got another quarterback with a more favorable match-up (e.g. - the Jets’ Mark Sanchez). BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ rushing made the difference in the Patriots’ victory over the Jets earlier this season, but he’s banged up and shouldn’t be in your starting lineup this weekend. If Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller are able to play, they should join Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley in having big days against the Pats’ woeful pass defense. New York Jets 24, New England 21.
- New England
- Start: TEs Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez
- Neutral: QB Tom Brady, RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Questionable-toe) & Stevan Ridley, WR Wes Welker (Questionable-ribs) & Deion Branch, DEF
- Sit: RBs Kevin Faulk & Danny Woodhead, WRs Julian Edelman & Chad Ochocinco, K Stephen Gostkowski
- New York
- Start: QB Mark Sanchez, WR Santonio Holmes, DEF
- Neutral: RB Joe McKnight, WRs Plaxico Burress (Questionable-back) & Jeremy Kerley, TE Dustin Keller (Questionable-concussion), K Nick Folk
- Sit: RB Shonn Greene (Questionable-concussion)
Minnesota at Green Bay (Monday night) – Christian Ponder has brought an undeniable spark to the Vikings’ offense since replacing Donovan McNabb, but that’s still nothing compared to the inferno that Aaron Rodgers directs for the Packers. Unless Minnesota figures out a way to get Adrian Peterson loose in the Green Bay secondary, the Packers should win this game easily. Green Bay 31, Minnesota 21.
- Start: QB Christian Ponder, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Percy Harvin, TE Visanthe Shiancoe
- Neutral: WR Michael Jenkins
- Sit: RB Toby Gerhart, TE Kyle Rudolph, DEF, K Ryan Longwell
- Green Bay
- Start: QB Aaron Rodgers, WRs Greg Jennings & Jordy Nelson, TE Jermichael Finley, DEF, K Mason Crosby
- Neutral: WRs James Jones & Donald Driver
- Sit: RBs John Starks & Ryan Grant
Good luck this weekend!
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