Philadelphia at Seattle (Thursday night) – Both teams are 4-7 heading into the “Battle of the Birds”. Even with LeSean McCoy potentially hampered by a toe injury, the emergence of QB Vince Young and wide receiver Riley Cooper as viable threats in the Eagles’ offense should give them a decisive edge in this contest. Philadelphia 28, Seattle 20.
- Start: QB Vince Young, WRs DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, & Riley Cooper; TE Brent Celek, DEF
- Neutral: RB LeSean McCoy (Questionable-toe), K Alex Henery
- Sit: RB Ronnie Brown, WR Jeremy Maclin (Out-hamstring)
- Start: WR Doug Baldwin, TE Zach Miller
- Neutral: RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Ben Obomanu, DEF
- Sit: QB Tarvaris Jackson (Probable-pectoral), WR Mike Williams, K Steve Hauschka
Tennessee at Buffalo (Sunday early) – This game features two teams headed in opposite directions. Depending on how effective T.J. Yates is at quarterback for Houston, Tennessee still has a shot at winning the AFC South, even though they’re currently two games behind with five to play. At 5-6 Buffalo is now in third, a game behind the Jets in the AFC East. Chris Johnson has been better lately, but he’s going to need to string together a series of top-notch performances (starting this weekend) for the Titans to overcome the recent struggles of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has also struggled lately after having success earlier in the season. Tennessee 24, Buffalo 21.
- Start: QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Chris Johnson, WRs Nate Washington & Damian Williams, DEF
- Neutral: RB Javon Ringer, WR Lavelle Hawkins, TE Jared Cook (Probable-concussion), K Rob Bironas
- Sit: N/A
- Start: WR Steve Johnson, TE Scott Chandler
- Neutral: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB C.J. Spiller, WR David Nelson, DEF
- Sit: RBs Tashard Choice & Johnny White, WRs Brad Smith & Naaman Roosevelt (Probable-shoulder), K Dave Rayner
Indianapolis at New England – For some inexplicable reason NBC decided several weeks ago that this game was no longer worthy of the Sunday night time slot. Go figure. Dan Orlovsky becomes the Colts’ third contestant this season in everybody’s favorite reality show “Who Wants to Be a Quarterback?” (note: Andrew Luck was contacted, but through his representatives, declined to be a contestant this season). Orlovsky should have some success against the Pats’ pathetic pass defense, but it won’t be nearly enough to prevent an ugly blowout that won’t be nearly as “close” as the final score indicates. New England 38, Indianapolis 20.
- Start: RB Donald Brown, WR Reggie Wayne
- Neutral: QB Dan Orlovsky, WRs Pierre Garcon & Austin Collie, TE Jacob Tamme
- Sit: RBs Joseph Addai (Questionable-hamstring) & Delone Carter, DEF, K Adam Vinatieri
- New England
- Start: QB Tom Brady, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WRs Wes Welker & Deion Branch, TEs Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez, DEF, K Stephen Gostkowski
- Neutral: N/A
- Sit: RBs Danny Woodhead (Questionable-abdomen), Stevan Ridley, & Shane Vereen (Questionable-hamstring); WRs Chad Ochocinco (Probable-hamstring) & Julian Edelman (Questionable-back)
New York Jets at Washington – So, Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan says that it’s finally time to take the training wheels of rookie running back Roy Helu. You know what that means - Evan Royster, recently promoted from the practice squad, will almost surely start and get 30+ carries this weekend while Helu watches from the comfort of the bench. Rex Grossman looks to be in for a tough day against Darelle Revis and company (unless Steve Johnson gets cut by Buffalo and signs with Washington before Sunday), but Helu (or whoever gets the majority of the snaps at running back) should be in for a big game. Mark Sanchez will continue to prove Pete “He Should Have Stayed In School for Another Year” Carroll correct, but he’ll connect with Dustin Keller just often enough to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. New York 21, Washington 17.
- New York
- Start: WR Santonio Holmes, TE Dustin Keller, DEF
- Neutral: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene (Probable-rib), WR Plaxico Burress
- Sit: RBs LaDainian Tomlinson (Probable-knee) & Joe McKnight, WRs Jeremy Kerley (Probable-knee) & Patrick Turner, K Nick Folk
- Start: RB Roy Helu, TE Fred Davis, DEF
- Neutral: QB Rex Grossman (Probable-shoulder), WRs Jabar Gaffney (Probable-foot) & Santana Moss
- Sit: RBs Ryan Torain & Evan Royster, WRs Terrence Austin (Probable-hamstring), Anthony Armstrong, & Donte’ Stallworth (Probable-foot)
Carolina at Tampa Bay – Cam Newton has cooled off some since his consecutive 400+ passing yard games to start his career, but he could put up astounding numbers yet again this week against one of the league’s worst overall defenses. Expect DeAngelo Williams to continue his resurgence, and expect Josh Freeman to continue his season-long struggle if he’s even healthy enough to start. Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 20.
- Start: QB Cam Newton, RB DeAngelo Williams, WR Steve Smith, TE Greg Olsen, DEF, K Olindo Mare
- Neutral: RB Jonathan Stewart, WRs Legedu Naanee & Brandon LaFell
- Sit: TE Jeremy Shockey
- Tampa Bay
- Start: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow
- Neutral: QB Josh Johnson, WRs Preston Parker & Arrelious Benn
- Sit: QB Josh Freeman (Out-shoulder), WR Dez Briscoe, DEF, K Connor Barth
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh - If you’re asking yourself, “Hey, didn’t these two teams play each other just a few weeks ago?”, the answer is “yes”. Not much has changed in the last three weeks, except that both teams lost to Baltimore, giving the Ravens control of the AFC North. Cincinnati rookies Andy Dalton and A.J. Green are unquestionably the top first-year quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the league, but with Jermain Gresham the only other viable offensive weapon against the Steeler defense, the Bengals will come up just short once again. Rashard Mendenhall won’t do much against the Bengals’ defense, but Ben Roethlisberger will yet again rely heavily on the pass and lead his team to victory. Pittsburgh 24, Cincinnati 20.
- Start: WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham
- Neutral: QB Andy Dalton, DEF
- Sit: RBs Cedric Benson (Probable-foot) & Bernard Scott, WRs Jerome Simpson (Probable-knee), Andre Caldwell, & Andrew Hawkins, K Mike Nugent
- Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Probable-thumb), WR Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, DEF
- Neutral: RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Antonio Brown, K Shaun Suisham
- Sit: RB Isaac Redman, WRs Jerricho Cotchery, Hines Ward, & Emmanuel Sanders (Probable-foot)
Kansas City at Chicago – The storyline couldn’t be better - Kyle Orton returns to face the team that traded away to get Jay Cutler and gets the Chiefs’ playoff march back on track by leading his new team to an upset victory on the road against his former team. The only thing wrong with this scenario is that it won’t happen. Orton may serve another week as Tyler Palko’s clipboard caddy, but even if Orton starts, he’ll be at a major disadvantage because Jackie Battle and the Chiefs’ running game have been missing in action for several weeks now. Bears’ fans and fantasy owners are concerned about the drop-off in Matt Forte’s production after a great start to the season, but chances are very good that Forte will get back on track against what passes for the Chiefs’ run defense. Chicago 27, Kansas City 24.
- Kansas City
- Start: QB Kyle Orton (if he starts), WR Dwayne Bowe
- Neutral: RB Dexter McCluster, WR Steve Breaston, DEF, K Ryan Succop
- Sit: QB Tyler Palko (if he starts), RBs Jackie Battle & Thomas Jones, WR Jonathan Baldwin, TE Leonard Pope
- Start: RB Matt Forte, WR Johnny Knox
- Neutral: RB Marion Barber, WRs Roy Williams & Earl Bennett, DEF, K Robbie Gould
- Sit: QB Caleb Hanie, WR Devin Hester, TE Kellen Davis
Atlanta at Houston – Houston has a two-game cushion over Tennessee in the AFC South, which is a good thing given that T.J. Yates is now their starting quarterback. It’s almost as if the football fates are teasing the Texan faithful and conspiring to keep the franchise from making its first playoff appearance yet again. At least Houston’s NFL-leading defense is still largely intact, so that should keep the game close, but even with Michael Turner hobbled, Atlanta should generate just enough offense to win. Atlanta 20, Houston 17.
- Start: WR Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzalez, DEF
- Neutral: WR Harry Douglas
- Sit: QB Matt Ryan, RBs Michael Turner (Questionable-groin), Jason Snelling, & Jacquizz Rodgers; WR Julio Jones (Questionable-hamstring), K Matt Bryant
- Start: TE Owen Daniels (Probable-knee), DEF
- Neutral: TE Joel Dreessen (Probable-neck)
- Sit: QB T.J. Yates, RBs Arian Foster & Ben Tate, WRs Andre Johnson (Probable-knee), Kevin Walter, & Jacoby Jones; K Neil Rackers
Oakland at Miami – Miami’s bubble burst in its Thanksgiving Day game against the Cowboys as they lost on a last-second field goal (somewhere Leon Lett was smiling). Still, the Dolphins are much better than their 0-7 record to start the season indicated, and they’ll be competitive in this game too. The Raiders have suffered some injuries to key players, and there’s still no timetable for Darren McFadden’s return, but the offense has been much improved since the trade for Carson Palmer. Michael Bush will continue to pick up the slack on the ground for Oakland, and they’ll maintain their lead in the AFC West. Oakland 24, Miami 20.
- Start: QB Carson Palmer, RB Michael Bush, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Chaz Schilens & Louis Murphy, TE Kevin Boss, K Sebastian Janikowski (Questionable-hamstring)
- Sit: RBs Taiwan Jones (Out-hamstring), Darren McFadden (Out-foot), & Marcel Reece; WRs Denarius Moore (Out-ankle), Jacoby Ford (Out-foot), & T.J. Houshmandzadeh
- Start: RB Reggie Bush, WR Brandon Marshall, TE Anthony Fasano
- Neutral: QB Matt Moore, RB Daniel Thomas, WR Davone Bess, DEF
- Sit: RB Lex Hilliard, WR Brian Hartline, K Dan Carpenter (Probable-groin)
Denver at Minnesota – Tim Tebow going against a quarterback named Christian - perhaps not the stuff game promos are made of, but interesting nonetheless. Tim Tebow should have the more useful day fantasy-wise and lead his team to victory. Willis McGahee should also have a good day against a run defense that isn’t as intimidating as it was earlier in the season, and Eric Decker is worth starting too, even though Tebow may not throw 20 passes the entire game. With Adrian Peterson declared out for the game, the Vikings will spend most of the game throwing, so expect a big game out of Percy Harvin. Denver 24, Minnesota 21.
- Start: QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee, WR Eric Decker, DEF
- Neutral: K Matt Prater
- Sit: RB Lance Ball, WRs Eddie Royal (Questionable-toe) & Demaryius Thomas, TE Daniel Fells (Probable-hand)
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: QB Christian Ponder, RB Toby Gerhart, WRs Percy Harvin (Questionable-illness) & Greg Camarillo, TE Visanthe Shiancoe (Probable-hamstring), DEF
- Sit: RB Adrian Peterson (Out-ankle), WR Devin Aromashodu, TE Kyle Rudolph (Questionable-quad), K Ryan Longwell
Baltimore at Cleveland (Sunday late) – At first blush this seems like a game Baltimore should win easily, but keep in mind that all three of their defeats this season have come at the hands of inferior teams when the Ravens have been on the road (Jacksonville, Tennessee, Seattle). Cleveland would seem to fit that bill as well, but knowing that they’ll win the division if they can stay at least tied with Pittsburgh record-wise (by virtue of their two wins over Pittsburgh), the Ravens won’t stumble this time. Cleveland may be lucky to score as many points as I’m projecting, so don’t start any of their offensive players this week unless you absolutely have to. Baltimore 24, Cleveland 10.
- Start: RB Ray Rice, DEF
- Neutral: TEs Eric Dickson & Dennis Pitta, K Billy Cundiff
- Sit: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ricky Williams, WRs Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, & Lee Evans
- Start: TE Ben Watson
- Neutral: WRs Josh Cribbs & Greg Little, DEF
- Sit: QB Colt McCoy (Probable-elbow), RBs Peyton Hillis (Probable-hamstring), Montario Hardesty (Questionable-calf), & Chris Ogbannaya; WR Mohamed Massaquoi, TE Evan Moore, K Phil Dawson
St. Louis at San Francisco – Many pundits were picking St. Louis to win the NFC West handily this season. Of course that hasn’t happened, and Sam Bradford’s health woes have played a major part in that. Of course, some of Bradford’s health woes may be attributed to his offensive line’s ability to keep him upright and in one piece. There’s a good chance that with Bradford still ailing the Rams will go back to A.J. Feeley at quarterback this week; either way, San Francisco and its strong defense/just-good-enough offense will win the game handily. San Francisco 28, St. Louis 14.
- St. Louis
- Start: WR Brandon Lloyd
- Neutral: WR Austin Pettis, TE Lance Kendricks, DEF
- Sit: QB Sam Bradford (Questionable-ankle), RBs Steven Jackson & Cadillac Williams, K Josh Brown
- San Francisco
- Start: RB Frank Gore (Probable-ankle), TE Vernon Davis, DEF
- Neutral: RB Kendall Hunter, WRs Michael Crabtree & Braylon Edwards (Questionable-shoulder), K David Akers
- Sit: QB Alex Smith, TE Delanie Walker
Green Bay at New York Giants – I picked the Giants to give the Saints a run for their money last Monday night, and that obviously didn’t happen. So, why am I picking the Giants to keep another game close against a superior opponent? As good as Green Bay’s offense has been this season, their pass defense leaves a lot to be desired. Anyone who thinks that Eli Manning has been the cause of the Giants’ recent woes should watch what he does to the Packers’ secondary - 350+ passing yards is not out of the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, the Giants’ running game is in such disarray that they won’t be able to keep the Packer defense from using extra men in coverage and producing a game-clinching interception. Green Bay 34, New York 27.
- Green Bay
- Start: QB Aaron Rodgers, WRs Greg Jennings & Jordy Nelson, TE Jermichael Finley, K Mason Crosby
- Neutral: RBs James Starks (Probable-knee) & Ryan Grant, DEF
- Sit: WRs James Jones & Donald Driver
- New York
- Start: QB Eli Manning, WRs Hakeem Nicks (Probable-ribs) & Victor Cruz, TE Jake Ballard
- Neutral: WR Ramses Barden; K Lawrence Tynes
- Sit: RBs Ahmad Bradshaw (Questionable-foot), Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware, & Da’Rel Scott; WR Mario Manningham (Doubtful-knee), DEF
Dallas at Arizona – While the Giants are struggling against (and ultimately losing to) the Packers, the Cowboys will be 2,500 miles west adding to their NFC East lead. The calls for Tony Romo’s arm on a platter have ceased, DeMarco Murray has finally given the Cowboys a legitimate ground game, and Laurent Robinson has filled in so well that Dallas has barely missed the still-injured Miles Austin. To top that all off, the Dallas defense has played well in recent weeks too. It’s too early to say for sure, but Dallas looks to me like the team with the best shot to prevent Green Bay from getting to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Kevin Kolb may or may not return, and Beanie Wells may or may not play; the Cowboys will still win handily. Dallas 31, Arizona 21.
- Start: QB Tony Romo, RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Dez Bryant & Laurent Robinson, TE Jason Witten , DEF, K Dan Bailey
- Neutral: N/A
- Sit: RB Felix Jones, WR Miles Austin (Out-hamstring)
- Start: WR Larry Fitzgerald
- Neutral: QB John Skelton or QB Kevin Kolb (Probable-toe) (whoever starts), RB Beanie Wells (Probable-knee), WRs Early Doucet & Andre Roberts
- Sit: RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (Probable-shoulder), TEs Jeff King, Todd Heap (Questionable-hamstring) & Rob Housler (Probable-groin); DEF, K Jay Feely
Detroit at New Orleans (Sunday night) – At least NBC made a good choice for a replacement game when they moved Indianapolis-New England out of the Sunday prime time slot. Don’t expect Ndamukong Suh’s two-game suspension to stomp out the Lions’ defensive intensity, but the Saints have just a bit more offensive firepower than the Lions, and that will be the difference in this game. Don’t expect Kevin Smith to have an impact for Detroit, but expect Mark Ingram to continue his return with another strong performance. New Orleans 34, Detroit 28.
- Start: QB Matthew Stafford, WRs Calvin Johnson (Probable-ankle) & Nate Burleson, TE Brandon Pettigrew
- Neutral: RB Maurice Morris, WR Titus Young, K Jason Hanson
- Sit: RBs Kevin Smith (Questionable-ankle) & Keiland Williams, DEF
- New Orleans
- Start: QB Drew Brees, RBs Darren Sproles & Mark Ingram, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, K John Kasay
- Neutral: RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore, DEF
- Sit: RB Chris Ivory, WRs Devery Henderson & Robert Meachem
San Diego at Jacksonville (Monday night) – With the Chargers’ season (and Norv Turner’s job) rapidly spinning down the drain, Philip Rivers and company have one last chance to pull out of their five-game tailspin. It won’t be easy because Jacksonville’s defense is better than most people give them credit for, but Jacksonville’s offense (or more to the point, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert) is so overmatched that San Diego will get back on track with a win. San Diego 24, Jacksonville 17.
- San Diego
- Start: QB Philip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates, DEF
- Neutral: RBs Mike Tolbert & Ryan Mathews, WR Malcolm Floyd (Probable-hip) & Vincent Brown, K Nick Novak
- Sit: N/A
- Start: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR Mike Thomas, TE Marcedes Lewis
- Neutral: RB Deji Karim, WR Jason Hill, DEF
- Sit: QB Blaine Gabbert, WRs Jarett Dillard & Brian Robiskie, K Rob Bironas
Good luck this weekend!
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