Jacksonville at Atlanta (Thursday night) – MJD will find it tough to run against the Falcon defense, but Blaine Gabbert should have plenty of opportunities to complete passes to wide-open receivers, if any of them are healthy enough to actually make it out on the field. Atlanta is dealing with a number of injuries of its own to key players, but they’ll still have enough firepower to stay in the playoff hunt. Atlanta 24, Jacksonville 17.
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: RB Maurice Jones-Drew, WR Jason Hill, TE Marcedes Lewis, DEF
- Sit: QB Blaine Gabbert, WRs Mike Thomas (Out-concussion), Chastin West, Jarett Dillard, & Kassim Osgood, K Josh Scobee (Questionable-groin)
- Start: RB Michael Turner (Probable-groin), WR Roddy White, TE Tony Gonzalez, DEF
- Neutral: QB Matt Ryan, WRs Julio Jones (Probable-back) & Harry Douglas (Probable-groin), K Matt Bryant
- Sit: RBs Jason Snelling & Jacquizz Rodgers
Dallas at Tampa Bay (Saturday night) – No DeMarco Murray? No problem, Dallas will still win easily. Against most teams fill-in running back Felix Jones would be a risky start this week, but against Tampa Bay he could well be a top-5 running back. Even if the Cowboys get out to a big lead early, don’t expect much fantasy production from the recently-signed Sammy Morris. Be wary of starting LeGarrette Blount this week - he doesn’t play much in passing situations, which should describe the Bucs’ predicament early and often. Dallas 30, Tampa Bay 17.
- Start: QB Tony Romo, RB Felix Jones, WRs Miles Austin & Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten, DEF, K Dan Bailey
- Neutral: WR Laurent Robinson (Questionable-shoulder)
- Sit: RB Sammy Morris
- Tampa Bay
- Start: QB Josh Freeman (Probable-shoulder), WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow
- Neutral: WR Dez Briscoe
- Sit: RB LeGarrette Blount, WR Arrelious Benn (Out-concussion), DEF, K Connor Barth
Carolina at Houston (Sunday early) – It’s an odd coincidence that in a season where their team slogan could easily be “Next man up” the Texans have qualified for the playoffs for the first time. Don’t count on T.J. Yates throwing for 300 yards again this week; expect Houston to rely heavily on Arian Foster with Andre Johnson out once again. Cam Newton should be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year, but you still shouldn’t start him this week against Houston’s #1-ranked defense. Houston 24, Carolina 20.
- Start: WR Steve Smith
- Neutral: RBs DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart, TE Greg Olsen (Probable-back), DEF
- Sit: QB Cam Newton, WRs Legedu Naanee & Brandon LaFell, TE Jeremy Shockey, K Olindo Mare or K Adi Kunalic (whoever starts)
- Start: RB Arian Foster, TE Owen Daniels, DEF
- Neutral: RB Ben Tate, WRs Jacoby Jones & Kevin Walter (Probable-knee), TE Joel Dreessen (Questionable-knee), K Neil Rackers
- Sit: QB T.J. Yates (Probable-elbow), WR Andre Johnson (Out-hamstring)
Tennessee at Indianapolis – No matter whether it’s Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker starting at quarterback for Tennessee, they should be able to post huge offensive totals against the Colts’ defense. However, the Colts’ offense under Dan Orlovsky has improved just enough to make this an interesting game for the curious. Chris Johnson has looked like a new man the last few weeks; expect that to continue for at least another week. Tennessee 27, Indianapolis 21.
- Start: QB Matt Hasselbeck (Questionable-calf) or QB Jake Locker (Probable-chest) (whoever starts), RB Chris Johnson, WR Damian Williams, TE Jared Cook, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Nate Washington & Lavelle Hawkins, K Rob Bironas
- Sit: RB Javon Ringer (Out-hand)
- Start: QB Dan Orlovsky, WR Reggie Wayne, TE Jacob Tamme
- Neutral: RBs Joseph Addai, Donald Brown & Delone Carter; WRs Pierre Garcon & Austin Collie, DEF
- Sit: TE Dallas Clark (Questionable-neck), K Adam Vinatieri
Green Bay at Kansas City – The Chiefs will be the latest team to attempt to knock the Packers from their unbeaten perch, but even if Kyle Orton is able to make his debut as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, that’s unlikely to happen. Jonathan Baldwin has been a disappointment for the Chiefs - he’s not even the best rookie wide receiver named Baldwin. The Green Bay offensive machine will continue to merrily roll along, but they still need to improve their defense if they’re going to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Green Bay 30, Kansas City 21.
- Green Bay
- Start: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Jordy Nelson, TE Jermichael Finley, DEF, K Mason Crosby
- Neutral: RBs James Starks (Questionable-knee) & Ryan Grant, WRs Donald Driver & James Jones
- Sit: RB Brandon Saine (Questionable-concussion), WRs Greg Jennings (Out-knee) & Randall Cobb
- Kansas City
- Start: WR Dwayne Bowe
- Neutral: QB Tyler Palko or QB Kyle Orton (Probable-finger) (whoever starts), RB Dexter McCluster, WR Steve Breaston
- Sit: RBs Jackie Battle & Thomas Jones, WR Jonathan Baldwin, TE Leonard Pope, DEF, K Ryan Succop
Seattle at Chicago - Chicago had a game to forget last week in Denver, although Brian Urlacher’s post-game line about Tim Tebow (”He’s a good running back”) was one of the best lines of the year. Marshawn Lynch has been the top running back in football the last half dozen games, and he’ll continue operating in Beast Mode this weekend. Caleb Hanie is showing that he’s not the long-term answer for the Bears as a back-up, much less as a starter. Matt Forte and Jay Cutler will both watch the game from the sidelines. Seattle 24, Chicago 21.
- Start: RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Doug Baldwin (Probable-ankle), TE Zach Miller, DEF
- Neutral: QB Tarvaris Jackson (Probable-pectoral), WR Golden Tate, K Steve Hauschka
- Sit: WRs Mike Williams & Ben Obomanu
- Start: RB Marion Barber
- Neutral: QB Caleb Hanie, WRs Devin Hester (Questionable-ankle), Johnny Knox, Roy Williams, & Earl Bennett; DEF
- Sit: QB Jay Cutler (Out-thumb), RBs Matt Forte (Out-knee) & Khalil Bell, TE Kellen Davis, K Robbie Gould
Miami at Buffalo – Miami fired its head coach this week; Buffalo didn’t. Still, the two teams have one important trait in common - they’re both heading in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, neither will get a shot at Andrew Luck next Spring, but both are likely to have one of the top ten picks in the draft. Reggie Bush has been one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins this season, and this week should be no exception. Ryan Fitzpatrick will give the Bills’ faithful even more reason to question why the team decided to sign him to a long-term contract during the middle of this season. Miami 24, Buffalo 21.
- Start: RB Reggie Bush, WR Brandon Marshall, DEF
- Neutral: QB Matt Moore (Questionable-concussion) or QB J.P. Losman (whoever starts), WR Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano (Questionable-ribs), K Dan Carpenter
- Sit: RB Daniel Thomas, WR Brian Hartline
- Start: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Steve Johnson
- Neutral: WRs David Nelson & Naaman Roosevelt, DEF
- Sit: RBs C.J. Spiller, Tashard Choice, & Johnny White; TE Scott Chandler (Out-ankle), K David Rayner (Probable-groin)
New Orleans at Minnesota – If any team in the NFC looks capable of beating Green Bay at its own game, it’s the Saints. Mark Ingram will miss another game, but New Orleans has more than enough depth to cover for him. Adrian Peterson is likely to play, but if the Saints get out to a big, early lead, as expected, then Christain Ponder will spend a lot of time throwing the football, in all likelihood to someone other than Peterson. New Orleans 41, Minnesota 21.
- New Orleans
- Start: QB Drew Brees, RB Darren Sproles, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham (Probable-back), DEF, K John Kasay
- Neutral: RB Pierre Thomas, WR Lance Moore
- Sit: RBs Mark Ingram (Out-toe) & Chris Ivory, WRs Robert Meachem & Devery Henderson
- Start: QB Christian Ponder (Probable-hip), RB Adrian Peterson (Probable-ankle), WR Percy Harvin, TE Visanthe Shiancoe
- Neutral: WR Greg Camarillo (Probable-concussion) & Devin Aromashodu, K Ryan Longwell
- Sit: QB Joe Webb, RB Toby Gerhart, TE Kyle Rudolph, DEF
Cincinnati at St. Louis – The fact that Kellen Clemens (yes, him) will likely start this game for St. Louis tells you everything you need to know about what kind of season 2011 has been for them. On the other side of the field rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie wide receiver A.J. Green are showing signs of becoming a very good tandem. Cincinnati 27, St. Louis 14.
- Start: RB Cedric Benson (Probable-back), WR A.J. Green, TE Jermaine Gresham, DEF
- Neutral: QB Andy Dalton, WR Jerome Simpson, K Mike Nugent
- Sit: RB Bernard Scott, WR Andre Caldwell
- St. Louis
- Start: WR Brandon Lloyd
- Neutral: QB Kellen Clemens, TE Lance Kendricks, DEF
- Sit: QBs A.J. Feeley (Out-thumb) & Sam Bradford (Doubtful-ankle), RB Steven Jackson, WRs Brandon Gibson & Austin Pettis, K Josh Brown
Washington at New York Giants – Both teams are relatively healthy, but even so, stay away from Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw this weekend. Eli Manning and Rex Grossman should both have a field day against the opposing secondary; the one big difference between the two is that Grossman may still be available on your league’s waiver wire. Washington 28, New York 27.
- Start: QB Rex Grossman, RB Roy Helu, WRs Santana Moss & Jabar Gaffney
- Neutral: TE Logan Paulsen, DEF, K Graham Gano
- Sit: WRs Donte’ Stallworth (Probable-ankle), Anthony Armstrong, & Terrence Austin
- New York
- Start: QB Eli Manning, WRs Hakeem Nicks & Victor Cruz, TE Jake Ballard
- Neutral: RBs Ahmad Bradshaw (Probable-foot) & Brandon Jacobs, DEF, K Lawrence Tynes
- Sit: RBs D.J. Ware & Da’Rel Scott, WR Mario Manningham
Detroit at Oakland (Sunday late) – Both these teams can be high-scoring and fun to watch, but Detroit is a lot healthier right now than Oakland, and the game’s final score will probably reflect that. Matthew Stafford has remained healthy, so Detroit hasn’t missed injured running back Kevin Smith too much. Meanwhile, Oakland has been without Darren McFadden most of the season and has had a quarterback change and a rotating cast of characters at wide receiver. Somehow, they’re still 7-6, just one game behind the Denver
Tebows Broncos. Detroit 30, Oakland 24.
- Start: QB Matthew Stafford, WRs Calvin Johnson & Nate Burleson, TE Brandon Pettigrew, K Jason Hanson
- Neutral: RBs Maurice Morris & Keiland Williams, WR Titus Young, DEF
- Sit: RB Kevin Smith (Questionable-ankle)
- Start: RB Michael Bush, WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey (Probable-heel) & Chaz Schilens (Probable-foot)
- Neutral: QB Carson Palmer, WR Louis Murphy (Probable-hip), TE Kevin Boss, K Sebastian Janikowski
- Sit: RBs Darren McFadden (Out-foot) & Taiwan Jones (Questionable-hamstring), WR Denarius Moore (Questionable-foot), Jacoby Ford (Out-foot) & T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Cleveland at Arizona – Unless you’re a fan of either team (not likely) or have players from either team on your fantasy roster (only slightly more likely), you probably won’t watch this game. You won’t miss much: fill-in quarterback John Skelton will do just enough to beat fill-in quarterback Seneca Wallace. Arizona 24, Cleveland 17.
- Start: QB Seneca Wallace, WR Greg Little
- Neutral: RB Peyton Hillis, WRs Josh Cribbs (Questionable-groin) & Mohamed Massaquoi, TE Evan Moore, DEF
- Sit: QB Colt McCoy (Out-concussion), RBs Montario Hardesty (Questionable-calf) & Chris Ogbannaya, TE Ben Watson (Out-on IR with concussion), K Phil Dawson
- Start: RB Beanie Wells (Probable-knee), WR Larry Fitzgerald, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Early Doucet & Andre Roberts, K Jay Feely
- Sit: QB John Skelton or QB Kevin Kolb (Questionable-concussion) (whoever starts), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, TEs Jeff King, Todd Heap, & Rob Housler (Probable-shoulder)
New England at Denver – Much has been made of the contrasting quarterbacking styles in the Tom Brady vs. Tim Tebow match-up, but the match-up that will actually determine the game is Brady vs. the Bronco defense. If the Broncos hold Brady and his injured receiver corps in check, they’ll have a shot to win this game. If not (and I don’t think they will), then I believe that Tim Tebow’s fourth-quarter “luck” finally runs out. New England 31, Denver 24.
- New England
- Start: QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, K Stephen Gostkowski
- Neutral: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WR Wes Welker (Questionable-knee), TE Aaron Hernandez, DEF
- Sit: RBs Danny Woodhead (Questionable-abdomen), Shane Vereen (Out-hamstring) & Stevan Ridley; WRs Deion Branch (Out-groin), Julian Edelman (Questionable-back) & Chad Ochocinco
- Start: QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee, WRs Demaryius Thomas & Eric Decker
- Neutral: K Matt Prater
- Sit: RB Lance Ball, WR Eddie Royal (Probable-concussion), TE Daniel Fells, DEF
New York Jets at Philadelphia – Both teams wear green. Both were once coached by Rich Kotite. Both have head coaches who will never be accused of having moves like Jagger. And both were heavily hyped as Super Bowl contenders coming into the season but may not even make the playoffs. At least the Jets still have a fairly good shot to do so. Don’t buy Mark Sanchez’ 4-touchdown performance last week (2 rushing, 2 passing) as a sign of things to come - he’s one of the most maddeningly inconsistent fantasy quarterbacks around. The Eagles should continue their good game-bad game pattern with a winning effort here. Philadelphia 27, New York 24.
- New York
- Start: RB Shonn Greene (Probable-rib), WR Santonio Holmes, TE Dustin Keller
- Neutral: QB Mark Sanchez, WRs Plaxico Burress & Jeremy Kerley, DEF, K Nick Folk
- Sit: RBs LaDainian Tomlinson & Joe McKnight (Probable-elbow), WR Patrick Turner
- Start: QB Michael Vick (Probable-ribs), RB LeSean McCoy
- Neutral: WRs Jeremy Maclin (Questionable-hamstring), Jason Avant, & Riley Cooper (Probable-groin), TE Brent Celek, DEF, K Alex Henery
- Sit: RB Ronnie Brown (Probable-hamstring), WR DeSean Jackson
Baltimore at San Diego (Sunday night) – With two consecutive wins the 6-7 Chargers are staging their annual late-season run at the playoffs. Keep in mind, however, that the two teams they beat (Jacksonville and Buffalo) have a combined total of nine victories on the season. Also keep in mind that they’re playing a Ravens’ defense that may be getting their emotional leader, Ray Lewis, back this week. Philip Rivers and company could be in for a long afternoon, but the Chargers’ defense will keep the game close. Baltimore 24, San Diego 21.
- Start: RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin, DEF
- Neutral: WR Torrey Smith, TEs Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta, K Billy Cundiff (Questionable-calf)
- Sit: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ricky Williams, WR Lee Evans
- San Diego
- Start: QB Philip Rivers, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates
- Neutral: WR Malcom Floyd, DEF
- Sit: RBs Ryan Mathews & Mike Tolbert, K Nick Novak
Pittsburgh at San Francisco (Monday night) – Both of these teams are playoff-bound, but both still have something to play for. San Francisco can still grab the second-seed in the NFC (and the first-round playoff bye that comes with it), while the Steelers are still in a four-way fight with Baltimore, New England, and Houston for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs. With his team essentially down a game to the Ravens in the AFC North standings, you can almost guarantee that Ben Roethlisberger will at least try to play. Pittsburgh 24, San Francisco 17.
- Start: WR Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, DEF
- Neutral: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Questionable-ankle) or QB Charlie Batch (whoever starts), WR Antonio Brown, K Shaun Suisham
- Sit: RBs Rashard Mendenhall & Ike Redman, WRs Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders (Out-foot), & Jerricho Cotchery
- San Francisco
- Start: TE Vernon Davis
- Neutral: WR Michael Crabtree, DEF
- Sit: QB Alex Smith, RBs Frank Gore & Kendall Hunter, WR Braylon Edwards (Questionable-knee), K David Akers
Good luck this weekend!
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