San Francisco at St. Louis (Sunday early) – San Francisco can lock up the second seed in the NFC playoffs (and the first-round bye that comes with it) with a victory, so expect their starters to play most of the game. St. Louis also has something to play for - a loss in this game will keep them in the running in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, depending on the outcome of the Indianapolis-Jacksonville game. Very rarely do the interests of both teams line up so well. San Francisco 24, St. Louis 13.
- San Francisco
- Start: RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, DEF
- Neutral: RB Kendall Hunter, WR Michael Crabtree, K David Akers
- Sit: QB Alex Smith, WRs Ted Ginn Jr (Questionable-ankle) & Kyle Williams (Questionable-concussion)
- St. Louis
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: RB Steven Jackson, WR Brandon Lloyd, DEF
- Sit: QBs Sam Bradford (Doubtful-ankle), A.J. Feeley (Doubtful-thumb), & Kellen Clemens; RB Cadillac Williams, WR Brandon Gibson, TE Lance Kendricks, K Josh Brown
Washington at Philadelphia – The Eagles’ season has been an unmitigated disaster relative to the expectations many had for the self-annointed “Dream Team”, but a win in this game will allow the Eagles to finish with a .500 record. The Redskins’ Rex Grossman and Evan Royster have been pleasant surprises, but don’t look for Ryan Torain to get any carries Sunday - he was released earlier this week by the mercurial Mike Shanahan. Philadelphia 28, Washington 17.
- Start: RB Evan Royster, WRs Jabar Gaffney & Santana Moss
- Neutral: QB Rex Grossman, DEF
- Sit: RB Roy Helu (Questionable-toe), WRs Terrence Austin, Anthony Armstrong, & Donte’ Stallworth (Probable-ankle), TE Logan Paulsen, K Graham Gano
- Start: QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson, TE Brent Celek, DEF
- Neutral: RB LeSean McCoy (Questionable-ankle), WRs Jason Avant & Jeremy Maclin, K Alex Henery
- Sit: RB Ronnie Brown, WR Riley Cooper
Detroit at Green Bay – Green Bay is unlikely to play its key starters more than a half, so it’s probably wise to bench Aaron Rodgers, Jermichael Finley, and Jordy Nelson. Detroit will play for momentum going into the playoffs, so their starters should play most of the game. Detroit 27, Green Bay 21.
- Start: QB Matt Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson (Probable-achilles), TE Brandon Pettigrew, DEF
- Neutral: RB Kevin Smith (Probable-ankle), WRs Titus Young & Nate Burleson, K Jason Hanson
- Sit: RB Maurice Morris
- Green Bay
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: QB Matt Flynn, RBs John Kuhn & Brandon Saine, WRs James Jones & Donald Driver, TE Jermichael Finley, DEF
- Sit: QB Aaron Rodgers, RBs James Starks (Out-knee) & Ryan Grant, WRs Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings (Out-knee), & Randall Cobb (Out-groin), K Mason Crosby
Tennessee at Houston – Tennessee still has playoff hopes, but the Texans want to regain momentum heading into the playoffs. Don’t start Chris Johnson, but Jared Cook is finally displaying the top-tier talent many have talked about since he came into the league. For Houston expect to see much more of Ben Tate than Arian Foster. Houston 20, Tennessee 17.
- Start: WR Nate Washington, TE Jared Cook, DEF
- Neutral: QB Matt Hasselbeck, WR Damian Williams
- Sit: RB Chris Johnson (Questionable-ankle), WR Lavelle Hawkins (Questionable-ankle), K Rob Bironas
- Start: RB Ben Tate, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones, & Bryant Johnson (Probable-thigh), TEs Owen Daniels (Probable-knee) & Joel Dreessen (Probable-knee)
- Sit: QB T.J. Yates (Probable-shoulder), RB Arian Foster (Probable-knee), WR Andre Johnson (Probable-hamstring), K Neil Rackers
Indianapolis at Jacksonville – Indianapolis “controls its own destiny” in the Andrew Luck derby - a loss in this game will clinch that dubious distinction for them. However, don’t expect the Colts’ players to roll over - many of them are playing for their jobs. Jacksonville has only four wins of its own, but as long as Maurice Jones-Drew is still in one piece, he’s worth starting in any fantasy league. Jacksonville 20, Indianapolis 17.
- Start: RB Donald Brown, WR Reggie Wayne, DEF
- Neutral: QB Dan Orlovsky, WRs Pierre Garcon & Austin Collie, TE Jacob Tamme
- Sit: RBs Joseph Addai & Delone Cater, TE Dallas Clark (Questionable-neck), K Adam Vinatieri
- Start: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Probable-ankle), DEF
- Neutral: WRs Mike Thomas, Chastin West, & Jarett Dillard; TE Marcedes Lewis (Probable-hamstring)
- Sit: QB Blaine Gabbert, K Josh Scobee
New York Jets at Miami - The Jets need to win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, then hope for a series of unlikely events in other games. Miami’s playing out the string; Reggie Bush has been a pleasant surprise for them this season after a slow start, but he won’t be playing, leaving the bulk of the rushing chores to the disappointing rookie Daniel Thomas. New York Jets 21, Miami 20.
- New York
- Start: WR Santonio Holmes, TE Dustin Keller, DEF
- Neutral: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonne Greene (Probable-ribs), WR Plaxico Burress
- Sit: RBs LaDainian Tomlinson (Probable-quad) & Joe McKnight (Probable-shoulder), WR Jeremy Kerley, K Nick Folk
- Start: RB Daniel Thomas (Probable-knee), DEF
- Neutral: QB Matt Moore, WRs Brandon Marshall (Probable-knee) & Davone Bess, TE Anthony Fasano (Probable-concussion)
- Sit: RB Reggie Bush (Out-knee), WR Brian Hartline, K Dan Carpenter
Chicago at Minnesota – After they were eliminated from the playoff race last weekend the Bears placed quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte on IR. Kahlil Bell seems intent on showing the Bears that Forte, a free agent-t0-be, is expendable. Bears’ quarterback Josh McCown has a great match-up this week, which could be good news for Dane Sanzenbacher as well. Minnesota will be without Adrian Peterson, and most likely Christian Ponder, so it’s likely time for the Toby & Joe Show. The Vikings can’t win for losing - their third victory last weekend took them out of the running for the top pick in the 2012 draft. Chicago 24, Minnesota 17.
- Start: QB Josh McCown, RB Kahlil Bell, DEF
- Neutral: WRs Devin Hester (Probable-ankle), Roy Williams, Earl Bennett, & Dane Sanzenbacher, K Robbie Gould
- Sit: RB Armando Allen, TE Kellen Davis, RB Marion Barber (Doubtful-calf)
- Start: RB Toby Gerhart, WR Percy Harvin, TE Visanthe Shiancoe
- Neutral: QB Joe Webb, WR Devin Aromashodu, DEF
- Sit: QB Christian Ponder (Probable-concussion), WR Rich Camarillo, TE Kyle Rudolph, K Ryan Longwell
Buffalo at New England – New England has something to play for, but don’t be surprised if their starters don’t play the full game, especially with several of their key offensive players already hurt. Ryan Fitzpatrick should have a field day against the Patriots’ pass defense. New England 28, Buffalo 27.
- Start: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, RB C.J. Spiller, WR Steve Johnson
- Neutral: WR David Nelson, DEF, K Brandon Coutu
- Sit: RBs Tashard Choice & Johnny White (Probable-concussion), WRs Naaman Roosevelt & Brad Smith (Out-hamstring), TE Scott Chandler, K David Rayner (Out-groin)
- New England
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: QB Tom Brady (Probable-shoulder), RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis & Shane Ridley, WR Chad Ochocinco, TEs Rob Gronkowski & Aaron Hernandez, DEF, K Stephen Gostkowski
- Sit: RB Shane Vereen (Questionable-hamstring), WRs Wes Welker (Questionable-knee), Deion Branch (Questionable-groin), & Julian Edelman (Questionable-back)
Carolina at New Orleans – New Orleans will be the NFC’s third seed if San Francisco wins (likely), but since both the Saints and 49ers play early games, expect Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints’ stars to play until the outcome of the San Francisco game is no longer in doubt. Cam Newton will put an exclamation point on a very impressive rookie season. New Orleans 31, Carolina 24.
- Start: QB Cam Newton, WRs Steve Smith & Brandon LaFell
- Neutral: RBs DeAngelo Williams & Jonathan Stewart, TEs Jeremy Shockey & Greg Olsen, K Olindo Mare
- Sit: DEF, WR Legedu Naanee (Out-foot)
- New Orleans
- Start: QB Drew Brees, RB Darren Sproles, WR Marques Colston, TE Jimmy Graham, K John Kasay
- Neutral: RBs Pierre Thomas & Chris Ivory, WRs Robert Meachem & Devery Henderson, DEF
- Sit: Mark Ingram (Out-toe), WR Lance Moore (Out-hamstring)
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (Sunday late) – Tampa Bay will try to conclude what’s been a disappointing season on a high note. Atlanta has stumbled late in the season in spite of Matt Ryan’s improvement. There’s some fantasy value on both teams, but the outcome of the game won’t be in doubt. Atlanta 27, Tampa Bay 21.
- Tampa Bay
- Start: WR Mike Williams, TE Kellen Winslow
- Neutral: QB Josh Freeman, RB LeGarrette Blount, DEF
- Sit: RB Kregg Lumpkin, WRs Dez Briscoe, Sammie Stroughter (Probable-knee), Preston Parker (Probable-concussion), & Arrelious Benn (Questionable-neck), K Connor Barth
- Start: QB Matt ryan, RB Michael Turner, WRs Roddy White & Julio Jones (Probable-ankle), TE Tony Gonzalez, DEF
- Neutral: RBs Jacquizz Rodgers & Jason Snelling, K Matt Bryant
- Sit: WR Harry Douglas (Probable-groin)
Baltimore at Cincinnati – Both teams have something to play for, so this should be one of the day’s top games. With a win Baltimore would clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye; the combination of a Ravens’ victory and a Patriots’ loss (unlikely) would give the Ravens homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Cincinnati can clinch a wild card berth with a victory; even if they don’t, their future looks a lot brighter than it did a year ago. Baltimore 21, Cincinnati 17.
- Start: RB Ray Rice, WR Torrey Smith, DEF
- Neutral: QB Joe Flacco, TEs Ed Dickson & Dennis Pitta
- Sit: RB Ricky Williams, WR Anquan Boldin (Doubtful-knee) & Lee Evans, K Shayne Graham or K Billy Cundiff (Questionable-calf) (whoever starts)
- Start: DEF
- Neutral: WRs A.J. Green (Probable-shoulder) & Jerome Simpson, TE Jermaine Gresham
- Sit: QB Andy Dalton, RBs Cedric Benson & Bernard Scott, K Mike Nugent
Pittsburgh at Cleveland – The Steelers’ quarterback situation is a mess, but they’re still a much better team and should win this game easily. The Browns’ quarterback situation is only slightly less unsettled, although it’s pretty clear Seneca Wallace will play this weekend, and Colt McCoy won’t. Peyton Hillis is probably playing his last game for the Browns. Pittsburgh 27, Cleveland 14.
- Start: RB Rashard Mendenhall, TE Heath Miller, DEF
- Neutral: Isaac Redman, WRs Mike Wallace (Probable-ankle) & Antonio Brown, K Shaun Suisham
- Sit: QBs Ben Roethlisberger (Probable-ankle) & QB Charlie Batch (whoever starts), WRs Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders (Probable-foot), & Jerricho Cotchery
- Start: N/A
- Neutral: RB Peyton Hillis (Probable-elbow), WR Greg Little, TE Evan Moore, DEF
- Sit: QBs Seneca Wallace & Colt McCoy (Out-concussion), RBs Montario Hardesty & Chris Ogbannaya, WRs Josh Cribbs (Probable-groin) & Mohamed Massaquoi (Probable-foot), K Phil Dawson
Seattle at Arizona – This is one of the least interesting games in terms of playoff implications (none) but could still be an entertaining game - the winner will finish with a .500 record. Marshawn Lynch has proved this season that last year’s playoff explosion wasn’t a fluke, while John Skelton has played passably (pun intended) after Kevin Kolb’s season was derailed by injuries. Arizona 24, Seattle 21.
- Start: QB Tarvaris Jackson, RB Marshawn Lynch, WRs Doug Baldwin & Golden Tate, TE Zach Miller (Probable-pectoral)
- Neutral: DEF
- Sit: WR Ben Obomanu (Probable-knee), K Steve Hauschka
- Start: QB John Skelton, WR Larry Fitzgerald, DEF
- Neutral: RB Beanie Wells (Questionable-knee), WRs Early Doucet & Andre Roberts, TE Todd Heap, K Jay Feely
- Sit: QB Kevin Kolb (Questionable-concussion), RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (Questionable-hamstring), TEs Jeff King & Rob Housler
Kansas City at Denver – Is it Tebow Time after two straight losses? Usually, in late-season games like this, where one of the two teams has something to play for, and the other team is playing the role of spoiler, the team with something on the line wins. Floyd Mayweather supposedly made $1 Mil betting against Tebow and the Broncos in the Patriots’ game. Kyle Orton’s return to face the team that cut him earlier this season and potentially keep them out of the playoffs is a nice storyline, but that’s not how this one’s likely to end. Denver 24, Kansas City 20.
- Kansas City
- Start: QB Kyle Orton, RB Dexter McCluster, WR Dwayne Bowe
- Neutral: RB Thomas Jones, WR Steve Breaston, DEF
- Sit: RB Jackie Battle (Out-foot), WR Jonathan Baldwin, TE Leonard Pope, K Ryan Succop
- Start: QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee, WR Demaryius Thomas, DEF
- Neutral: WR Eric Decker, K Matt Prater
- Sit: RB Lance Ball, WR Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Fells
San Diego at Oakland – Forget what I said in the previous blurb; the Chargers will win this game because they’re the better team. Even so, this is probably Norv Turner’s last game as head coach in San Diego, where his teams have perennially have gotten off to slow starts and underachieved in spite of a late-season push). Carson Palmer has helped the Raiders a lot, but there are just too many injuries to too many key players, especially running back Darren McFadden. San Diego 28, Oakland 24.
- San Diego
- Start: QB Philip Rivers, RB Mike Tolbert (Probable-hamstring), WRs Vincent Jackson (Probable-groin) & Malcom Floyd, TE Antonio Gates
- Neutral: RB Ryan Mathews (Questionable-calf), DEF, K Nick Novak
- Sit: WRs Patrick Crayton & Vincent Brown
- Start: QB Carson Palmer, RB Michael Bush, WRs Darrius Heyward-Bey & Denarius Moore
- Neutral: WRs Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy (Probable-groin), & T.J. Houshmandzadeh; TE Kevin Boss, DEF, K Sebastian Janikowski
- Sit: RBs Darren McFadden (Out-foot) & Taiwan Jones (Questionable-hamstring), WR Jacoby Ford (Questionable-foot)
Dallas at New York Giants (Sunday night) – The playoffs begin a week early for these two teams - the winner will capture the NFC East title, and the loser will be done for the season. Eli “Lil Brother” Manning and Tony “Big Hand” Romo can both cement their reputations as big-game quarterbacks - or chokers (depending on whom you listen to). The key to the game will be the Giants’ pass rush’s ability to disrupt the Cowboys’ passing attack. New York 27, Dallas 21.
- Start: QB Tony Romo (Probable-hand), WRs Miles Austin & Dez Bryant, TE Jason Witten
- Neutral: RB Felix Jones (Questionable-hamstring), WR Laurent Robinson (Probable-shoulder), DEF
- Sit: RB Sammy Morris, K Dan Bailey
- New York
- Start: QB Eli Manning, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WRs Victor Cruz & Hakeem Nicks (Probable-hamstring), DEF
- Neutral: RB Brandon Jacobs, K Lawrence Tynes
- Sit: RB D.J. Ware, WR Mario Manningham (Probable-knee), TEs Jake Ballard (Out-knee), Bear Pascoe, & Travis Beckham
Good luck this weekend!
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