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Eli Mack, Sal Marcoccio, Chris Eakin, Rinku Dhawan

Inside The Matchup: Wk 14

ATL @ NO | TB @ CAR | CLE @ TEN | CIN @ IND | NE @ SEA | NYJ @ SF | KC @ DEN

Raiders @ Chargers (Eakin)
JaMarcus Russell/Ronald Curry/Ashlie Lelie/Zach Miller
Darren McFadden/Justin Fargas (vs. SD)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Chargers this season: Raiders
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Chargers this season: Raiders
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 18.3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 3.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 15.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 12.8
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 18.1/21.8/6.6
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 17.2

Passing Game Thoughts: How’s this for a shocking factoid: The San Diego Chargers (4-8) are only one game better than the Raiders (3-9) after 13 weeks of 2008. Sure, I know the Chargers have had a disappointing season, but considering the drama and press about how bad the Raiders organization is, S.D. could lose this game and actually have a better draft spot than the Raiders. Amazing. The Chargers can avoid all this by keeping the Raider offense in check. In the passing match up, we will see the 3rd poorest pass defense versus the leagues poorest pass offense. JaMarcus Russell has struggled all year and is close to earning the bust label.

His best target is TE Zach Miller. The Raider’s TE had one of his best games of the year in their first match up with 95 yards and a TD. Russell also had his best day of the year with 277 yards, one INT, and one TD. Duplicating those results will be a stretch considering that was in Oakland had a healthy McFadden and Javon Walker. RB Michael Bush also did well with 7 catches for 80 yards Look for Oakland to again try and move the ball by getting their TE Miller and RB McFadden matched up on the Merriman-less LB core of the Chargers. . The Raider WRs were all held under 40 yards in their last meeting and last week the Oakland WRs gained exactly zero yards. I think I can say with some confidence that has never happened before in my lifetime.

Running Game Thoughts: Oakland has had some success running the football the last couple weeks. Justin Fargas has regained his form and should approach around 100 yards once again. With ILB Stephen Cooper returning to the lineup, the Chargers have been pretty tough against the run. However the real factor this week will be NT Jamal Williams. He left last week’s game but all indications are that he is available and will play. Assuming he is healthy enough to be effective, the Raiders will find will struggle to be productive enough on the ground to outscore the potent Charger offense.

Fargas can grind out some yards but the Raiders will need McFadden to make some explosive plays. There is little evidence from recent performances to suggest he is capable. He has trouble getting by tacklers in the open field when he has a one-on-one situation. The explosiveness he showed in college has not been evident. Whether it’s his lack of ability or the toe injuries remains to be seen. The Chargers have a mathematical chance of still making the playoffs should they win out, so they also have a little more motivation to win.

JaMarcus Russell: 175 yds/1 TDs/1 INT
Ronald Curry: 40 yds
Ashlie Lelie: 30 yards
Zach Miller: 65 yards
Darren McFadden: 25 yards/35 yards receiving/1 TD
Justin Fargas: 75 yards/1 TD

Philip Rivers/Chris Chambers/Vincent Jackson/Malcom Floyd/Antonio Gates
LaDainian Tomlinson (vs.OAK)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Raiders this season: Chargers
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Raiders this season: Chargers
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 14.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 5.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 11.8
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 23.5
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 11.6/11.3/4.3
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 20.3

Passing Game Thoughts: Much like the Oakland rush offense versus the Charger rush defense, this will be a heavy factor in which team wins. San Diego has moved the ball well all year through the air. Oakland, with or without DeAngelo Hall, has played the pass well. They are the seventh best defense is QB fantasy points allowed. While they may have some success in limiting the Chargers, it likely won’t be enough to overcome their inept offense. TE Antonio Gates should continue to his big production versus the Oakland defense. In week four he amassed 75 yards and a TD while he was still slowed by injury. Now he is healthy and may be the key to winning. Oakland can take choose a WR to limit, but the Chargers have three productive WRs in Chambers, Floyd, and Jackson. This is where the loss of DeAngelo Hall could hurt them. They may not have the three-deep talent in the secondary to contain all of the Charger weapons.

Running Game Thoughts: LaDainian Tomlinson gained a grand total of 24 yards on 14 carries against the Falcons average rush defense, less than two yards per carry. He is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry on the year. This is a guy who has averaged over five yards per carry for several years. Tomlinson should fare better this week. His best day of the year came in their week four meeting with 109 yards on 20 carries and two TDs. The Raiders ranked 25th struggle to stop the run. Tomlinson should generate high end RB2 to low end RB1 production.

Phillip Rivers: 265 yards/2 TDs/1 INT
Malcom Floyd: 60 yards
Chris Chambers: 70 yards/1 TD
Vincent Jackson: 45 yards
Antonio Gates: 80 yards/1 TD
LaDainian Tomlinson: 80 yards/1 TD/25 receiving

Jaguars @ Bears (Mack)
David Garrard / Matt Jones / Reggie Williams / Marcedes Lewis
Maurice Jones-Drew / Fred Taylor (vs. Chicago)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Bears this season: Tennessee
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Bears this season: Tennessee
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 23
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 12
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 18
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 7

Passing Game Thoughts: After developing into a fantasy darling last year with efficient and mistake-free play, David Garrard has dissolved into a fantasy afterthought in 2008. His 6-to-1 interception-to-touchdown ratio from a year ago has now turned into a 10 TD/9 INT thud while leaving fantasy owners of Garrard in a state of frustration. He looks like a completely different player and thus has become someone who should not be a starter right now. However, the Chicago Bears have looked painfully average against the pass this year, as its 29th league ranking proves. Running the football may be a fruitless effort, so look for the responsibility of moving the ball offensively to rest in the hands of Garrard. He will have to be careful with the ball, having thrown at least one interception in four of the last five games. And with Chicago’s 18 interceptions (second in the league), protecting the football becomes even more of a premium.

Matt Jones has been a beast this year—not bad for someone who had come close to not making the team during the preseason. His team-leading 62 receptions are more than twice as many as his teammate Reggie Williams’ 28. Jones’ size will pose a problem for Chicago’s corners Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher. Other receivers such as Calvin Johnson, Roddy White, and Bernard Berrian have put up excellent numbers against the Bears, and Jones will continue that trend. Both Marcedes Lewis and Reggie Williams have shown brief flashes this year, but it’s Jones who makes the passing game go in Jacksonville. So if you’re in need for a WR3 with a good match-up, Jones should be your guy.

Running Game Thoughts: It’s strange, but in some fantasy circles Maurice Jones-Drew is having a “down” year. But a cursory glance at his stats says otherwise. His 11 rushing TDs are tied for third most in league, and the fact that he’s been able to be so productive with a patchwork O-line for much of the season is a testament to his ability. Meanwhile, Fred Taylor has been an insignificant—if not useless—fantasy player, especially over the last seven weeks. During that stretch, he has had only two games in which he had double digit carries. He’s also had only one TD during that same time period. What does that mean? It’s debatable if Taylor should even be on your team, much less in your starting line-up.

Chicago boasts the NFL’s 6th-best run defense, even though they’ve been roughed up two of the last three weeks (Ryan Grant, 145 yards; Adrian Peterson, 131 yards). MJD should have a decent game, although reaching the century mark may be a bit too optimistic. But I do believe he will get a chance or two from the goal line, which should salvage a potentially low yardage game. He’s also a viable option in the Jags’ passing game, as his 43 receptions are second on the team. MJD is an integral part of what Jacksonville does offensively, so start him and anticipate a decent—albeit not spectacular—game.

David Garrard: 210 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Matt Jones: 90 yards / 1 TD
Reggie Williams: 45 yards
Marcedes Lewis: 55 yards
Maurice Jones-Drew: 65 yards rushing / 1 TD – 35 yards rec.
Fred Taylor: 40 yards

Kyle Orton / Devin Hester / Rashied Davis Brandon Lloyd / Greg Olson
Matt Forte (vs. Jacksonville)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Jags this season: Tennessee
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Jags this season: Houston
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 26
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 15
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 25

Passing Game Thoughts: Whether or not Kyle Orton’s ankle injury remains an issue, it’s obvious his play has taken a nosedive since his return three weeks ago. He’s averaged only 142 passing yards in those three games, with a total of three TDs and three INTs. Orton has looked tentative and the sharpness that characterized his play during the first two months of the season seems to nonexistent. Some have pointed to the fact that the Bears are devoid of a true go-to receiver, but Orton was one of the biggest surprises in the fantasy world before his injury with those same receivers.

Orton’s chances of recapturing his early-season mojo increased this week when it was announced that Jags’ cornerback Rashean Mathis was out for the remainder of the season. Jacksonville’s defense has been a disappointment all year, and losing its true playmaker in the secondary spells more trouble for this beleaguered unit. Orton should be able to find the speedy Devin Hester with regularity on deep passes, with Greg Olson dominating the middle of the field. The Kyle Orton of September and October will make a return visit this week in the Windy City and tattoo the Jags’ pass defense all afternoon.

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie Matt Forte continues to provide fantasy owners with steady and consistent production. He’s a multi-threat player with the skills to put up numbers from all over the field. That’s the kind of player that gives fantasy owners goose bumps, and those goose bumps may feel like grapefruits before week 14 is over. Forte is poised for a huge game against the Jags—a squad whose high hopes entering the season have now turned into despair. Houston’s Steve Slaton ran roughshod over Jacksonville last week, and even Detroit’s Kevin Smith had a very productive day. So look for Forte to have one of his better games against Jacksonville. Part of the intrigue of Forte is his involvement in Chicago’s passing game. He’s the Bears’ leading runner and receiver, making him one of the best RB2s in fantasy football. Forte should continue being the centerpiece of Chicago’s offense both through the air and on the ground.

Kyle Orton: 225 yards / 2 TDs
Rashied Davis: 80 yards
Devin Hester: 50 yards / 1 TD
Brandon Lloyd: 20 yards
Greg Olson: 35 yards
Matt Forte: 120 yards rushing / 1 TD – 35 yards rec. / 1 TD

Vikings @ Lions (Mack)
Gus Frerotte / Bernard Berrian / Bobby Wade / Sidney Rice / Visanthe Shiancoe
Adrian Peterson / Chester Taylor (vs. Detroit)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Lions this season: Carolina
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Lions this season: Carolina
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 10
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 10
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 21.5

Passing Game Thoughts: We can all agree that Gus Frerotte is a walking turnover, having thrown at least one interception in all but two games in which he’s played this year. That’s the bad news. The good news is he’s thrown at least one TD in all but two games in which he’s played this year. The bottom line is Frerotte is as erratic a starting QB as there is in the league, but starting the Vikings’ signal caller this week in what is most likely a playoff game for you is a tempting proposition, especially considering the dreadful Detroit Lions and their 32nd ranked defense is the opponent.

Bernard Berrian’s play this season has been the quintessential roller coaster ride. He started the year poorly and then ascended to a high level after the promotion of Frerotte into the line-up. That was followed by a three-game lull in his production with another resurgence in his play that was capped with the 99-yard TD catch last week against Chicago. Berrian is a big play waiting to happen, and with the generosity of the Lions’ secondary in allowing such plays, Berrian will once again be a star on all post-game highlight shows. Look for the #87 to burn Detroit for at least one big play. Put him in your line-up with confidence and watch him embarrass the undermanned Lions’ secondary much the way he did in week 6.

Running Game Thoughts: I love how media outlets in Detroit have been saying all week that the Lions “held” Adrian Peterson to “only” 111 yards rushing when the two teams met earlier in the year. That’s funny. Some media outlets in Detroit are even saying the Lions have a good chance of winning if the suspension of DTs Kevin and Pat Williams is upheld. What they’re convenient forgetting is who on the Lions is going to stop Peterson, regardless if the Williams Boys play or not. I’m sure Peterson has gotten wind of some of the talk around the Motor City that Minnesota represents the Lions’ last best shot to win a game this year. That probably won’t sit well with him, so I’d look for AP to have one of his best performances of the year.

The Lions are simply ill equipped to handle any player remotely resembling anything like Peterson. Detroit has the league’s worst run defense, they have an undersized front seven and they may begin pressing, trying to get the goose egg for their “W” column. The Vikings are fighting for NFC North supremacy and they won’t allow the measly Lions to stand between them and playoffs. Write it down: Peterson will have one of his best games of the season while probably not playing all of the 4th quarter. Heck, even Chester Taylor is a viable play in this one.

Gus Frerotte: 235 yards / 2 TDs
Bernard Berrian: 120 yards / 1 TD
Bobby Wade: 55 yards / 1 TD
Sidney Rice: 20 yards
Visanthe Shiancoe: 35 yards
Adrian Peterson: 180 yards / 2 TDs
Chester Taylor: 65 yards

Daunte Culpepper / Calvin Johnson / Shaun McDonald / Michael Gaines
Kevin Smith / Rudi Johnson (vs. Minnesota)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Vikings this season: N/A
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Vikings this season: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: N/A

Passing Game Thoughts: Don’t get it twisted: the fact that Daunte’ Culpepper is facing his former team for the first time won’t morph him into the Culpepper of old. He remains a shell of his former Pro Bowl self with almost none of the threat that he posed to opponents in his heyday. Culpepper is every bit the turnover machine that Frerotte is, having had at least one turnover in all the four games in which he’s played. The difference is the Vikings’ defense is good enough to get the ball back and allow Frerotte to redeem himself, while Detroit’ defense is…well…need I say more?

The only true bright spot in the Lions’ passing game is Calvin Johnson. He’s as good as advertised, but it continues to surprise me how they tend to get away from him for long stretches during games. Johnson seems indefensible at times, yet Detroit often allows opponents to dictate when he gets the ball and where, as opposed to forcing the issue and getting their only playmaker the football. He has one TD in five of the last seven games, and that still seems inadequate for what he should be doing. When the Lions throw the ball—and trust me, they will do it a lot this week—Johnson is the ONLY viable option. As such, he becomes productive by default. Put the sensational 2nd year player in your line-up and hope Culpepper doesn’t screw things up any more than he always does.

Running Game Thoughts: You know, I seriously thought about leaving this section blank, simply adding ellipses to indicate the redundantly average Detroit Lions running game. It won’t matter whether the Williams Boys play or not; the Lions’ O-line is one of the worst run-blocking units in the league. They are a collection of second-string players (with the exception of center Dominic Raiola) thrown into the mix of an NFL game, playing against perennial All-Pros while routinely being overmatched. However, rookie Kevin Smith has begun to show that he could be a feasible fantasy option—if not this week, certainly going into next year. He has obvious limitations to his game, but if given a crease, he can exploit it and make a play. As of this writing, it appears both Kevin and Pat Williams will play this week, bolstering the league’s 2nd ranked run defense while rendering Detroit’s impotent 30th ranked running attack useless. Steer clear of anything resembling a Detroit Lion running back in this one.

Daunte Culpepper: 185 yards / 1 TD / 3 INTs
Calvin Johnson: 90 yards / 1 TD
Shaun McDonald: 45 yards
Michael Gaines: 20 yards
Kevin Smith: 55 yards – 25 yards rec.

Texans @ Packers (Mack)
Matt Schaub / Andre Johnson / Kevin Walter / Owen Daniels
Steve Slaton (vs. Green Bay)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Packers this season: Carolina
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Packers this season: Atlanta
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 9
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 0
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 18

Passing Game Thoughts: It looks like Matt Schaub will take over the reigns of the Houston Texans offense this week after missing the last month or so with an injury. Schaub had just begun to get his feet underneath him before he got hurt. His slow start to the season had many clamoring for Sage Rosenfels, but Schaub got it together and put up tremendous numbers leading up to the game in which he was injured.

Getting back into the swing of things won’t be an easy task for Schaub, but having a receiver with the capability of Andre Johnson makes it less stressful. Johnson has 17 catches in his last two games and is a QB’s best friend with his unique blend of talent, size and character. The Packers may experiment with Charles Woodson at safety in an effort to preserve his rickety knees; if that’s the case, expect Al Harris to man-up on Johnson with Woodson acting as a roving centerfielder. While attention is paid to Johnson, look for both Kevin Walter and Owen Daniels to play major roles in the passing game. I normally stay away from players making returns after lengthy visits on the sidelines, so I wouldn’t advise putting Schaub in your line-up just yet. But, obviously, Johnson is a no-brainer, and both Walter and Daniels are practical options this week against Green Bay.

Running Game Thoughts: Steve Slaton’s role as the Texans’ workhorse is once again solidified with the recent addition of Ahman Green to the injured reserve list. Green was nothing more than a goal line and change-of-pace back that only frustrated Slaton owners with the occasional TD vulture. But now Slaton has all the coveted RB roles to himself, and those who endured those brief moments of having him taken out in certain game situations will now have their patience rewarded. The Packers have one of the worst run defenses in the league, although they’ve improved somewhat over the last month or so. But they remain vulnerable at the point of attack, and Houston’s zone blocking scheme should create massive holes for Slaton. Weather can always be a factor at Lambeau in December, so a conservative game plan could be in order. If that’s the case, Slaton’s stock rises that much more. Get him in your lineup.

Matt Schaub: 210 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Andre Johnson: 125 yards / 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 35 yards
Owen Daniel: 45 yards
Steve Slaton: 115 yards / 2 TDs

Aaron Rodgers / Donald Driver / Greg Jennings / Donald Lee
Ryan Grant / Brandon Jackson (vs. Houston)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Texans this season: Indianapolis
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Texans this season: Baltimore
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 19
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 10
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 10
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 23

Passing Game Thoughts: Owners of Aaron Rodgers have recently had to take the good with the bad. He’s averaged almost 260 yards passing during the past three games while tossing seven TDs, but he’s also thrown five interceptions during that span, including a three INT stinker against the defensively deprived New Orleans Saints. Rodgers is consistently aided by one of the best tandem of WRs in the league. Donald Driver and Greg Jennings create problems all over the field, and with Houston’s suspect secondary and 25th ranked defense, both should have big games.

Attacking Houston through the air begins and ends with ensuring DE Mario Williams is held at bay. He has 11 of the Texans’ 20 sacks, and perhaps the biggest issue with that number is the fact that no one else on Houston’s defense has more than three. That’s a travesty, considering Williams commands double and even triple teams at times. Tackle Chad Clifton will have his full keeping Williams off of Rodgers. If he is successful protecting his QB, look for Jennings and Driver to exploit Houston’s secondary with receptions for long yardage all afternoon.

Running Game Thoughts: What started as a slow season for Ryan Grant has blossomed into a very productive year—last week’s abbreviated performance not withstanding. He’s shown the power and speed that made him a free agent steal last year, and Houston’s 23rd ranked run defense is vulnerable to that kind of runner. Perhaps the one troubling aspect of Grant’s performance this year is his lack of involvement in the running game. He only has eight receptions on the year after finishing 2007 with 30. Early indications are that the weather will cooperate, but it will be bone-chilling cold in Green Bay on Sunday. Whether or not that favors the pass or run game remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: Grant’s role in the game plan will be crucial to keeping the relentless Williams neutralized, thus preventing the DE from teeing off on the O-line. Also, keep an eye on Brandon Jackson. Jackson performed well in Grant’s absence last week against a tough Carolina defense. Maybe he did enough to warrant more situational playing time. We’ll see.

Aaron Rodgers: 235 yards / 2 TDs / 1 INT
Greg Jennings: 95 yards / 1 TD
Donald Driver: 60 yards
Donald Lee: 45 yards / 1 TD
Ryan Grant: 85 yards / 1 TD
Brandon Jackson: 45 yards

Cowboys @ Steelers (Mack)
Tony Romo / Terrell Owens / Roy Williams / Patrick Crayton / Jason Witten
Marion Barber / Tashard Choice (vs. Pittsburgh)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Steelers this season: New England
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Steelers this season: San Diego
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 5.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 16

Passing Game Thoughts: This game has playoff atmosphere written all over it. Both teams want to solidify their standing as elite squads in the league and Dallas’ most efficient way of doing so is through the air. Unfortunately, that’s one of the many strengths of Pittsburgh’s stifling defense. The Steelers are #1 in points allowed, #1 in yards allowed, #1 in both run and pass defense, plus they have given up the fewest plays of 20 or more yards in the league with 19. That’s not a good sign for any team, but the Cowboys should put up a good enough fight to make this the best game of the week.

There are a few tough decisions, however, facing those fantasy owners of the Cowboys’ usual suspects. Do you start Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Roy Williams, and/or Jason Witten? The Steelers have put the smackdown on every potentially explosive offense they have faced, including the Colts and the Patriots. Romo will be harassed all day, and his time in the pocket will be limited. T.O. and Williams will have to cut off their routes as a result, leaving them with the garden variety short crossing patterns or curl routes, which don’t lend themselves to superlative production, especially against Pittsburgh. The player with the best potential to do anything this week I believe is Witten. Even with the probability of being defended by Troy Polamalu or James Farrior or Larry Foote, Witten should be able to hold his own and create enough space for Romo to find him in the secondary. Beyond that, the pickings may be slim for Dallas. But these players have gotten you this far and benching them now would be a tough pill to swallow. If you’re lucky enough to have viable options, you’d be advised to look into it. Otherwise, stick with your Cowboys and hope for the best.

Running Game Thoughts: Marion Barber left last week’s game with a toe injury. He hasn’t practiced all week but is expected to play. Afterwards, he may wish he hadn’t. The Steelers are the most physical defense in the league and pose the biggest defensive threat the Cowboys have faced all year. A hobbled Barber is not a good thing for Dallas, but I’m sure he won’t want to miss this game. The inevitable clash between Barber and Polamalu will be worth the price of admission alone.

Barber has been hit or miss the last month or two. He’s had good games followed by clunkers—all the while frustrating his owners greatly. Those same owners will have to temper their expectations this week. Dallas’ O-line is good, but the challenge of facing a hybrid defensive front with multiple pre-snap shifts is a tall order. Couple that with Barber’s questionable health and you have a situation that’s as clear as mud. I’d give the same suggestion I provided on Dallas’ passing game: if you have another option with a much better match-up, go for it.

Tony Romo: 220 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Terrell Owens: 60 yards
Roy Williams: 55 yards / 1 TD
Patrick Crayton: 35 yards
Jason Witten: 60 yards
Marion Barber: 60 yards

Ben Roethlisberger / Hines Ward / Santonio Holmes / Nate Washington / Heath Miller
Willie Parker / Mewelde Moore / Gary Russell (vs. Dallas)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Cowboys this season: New York Giants
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Cowboys this season: Washington
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 22
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 10
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 12

Passing Game Thoughts: After a four-game stretch in which he threw one TD and eight INTs, Ben Roethlisberger has settled down. He has followed up that putrid stretch of games with two efficient, Pittsburgh-like performances, tossing a total of three TDs and one INT in those two contests. Dallas’ most feared pass rusher, DeMarcus Ware, remains questionable and his availability for Sunday remains in jeopardy. If Ware doesn’t play, that lightens the load considerably for Pittsburgh’s beleaguered O-line. They’ve given up sacks by the boatload and not possibly not having Ware to contend with will make Big Ben’s a more intriguing fantasy player this week.

Hines Ward should continue his fine play after last week breaking his five-game scoreless streak. Santonio Holmes hopes to improve his performance have being below-average for most of the season, and Pittsburgh may look to spread out the Cowboys’ defense in an effort to exploit nickel back Mike Jenkins, who has—to put it kindly—struggled mightily this season. Nate Washington should be matched up with Jenkins in three-receiver sets, and if that happens, look for Washington to go deep. Heath Miller should be a good play this week as well.

Running Game Thoughts: Fast Willie Parker returned to the line-up last week against New England despite battling a number of injuries. It’s obvious he doesn’t have the explosiveness he had during the first several games this year, but Pittsburgh continues on with Mewelde Moore spelling Parker at specific intervals of the game. It’s said that Parker is getting better but that Moore will continue to see action. One thing to keep in mind as well: the Steelers have not been happy with Parker’s play at the goal line. They say he has a tendency to not follow his lead blocker and chooses instead to improvise. Consequently, they have chosen to go more with Gary Russell. Keep that in mind as you formulate expectations for both Parker and Moore. I think Parker will get enough action to put up respectable yardage totals, but the lack of TD opportunities will hurt his overall performance. Moore probably won’t get enough time for neither yardage nor TD totals of any significance, so he’s probably no good. And if you’re scrapping the bottom of the fantasy barrel and are playing in a TD-only league, Russell could be an option.

Ben Roethlisberger: 195 yards / 2 TDs
Hines Ward: 75 yards / 1 TD
Santonio Holmes: 40 yards
Nate Washington: 30 yards / 1 TD
Heath Miller: 55 yards
Willie Parker: 95 yards
Mewelde Moore: 35 yards
Gary Russell: 10 yards / 1 TD

Redskins @ Ravens (Mack)
Jason Campbell / Santana Moss / Antwaan Randel El / Devin Thomas / Chris Cooley
Clinton Portis (vs. Baltimore)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Ravens this season: Cleveland
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Ravens this season: New York Giants
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 18
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 8
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 8
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 14

Passing Game Thoughts: As a season-long owner of Jason Campbell, allow me to drop a few pearls of wisdom regarding Washington’s passing game. First, before you subject yourself to watching the Redskins play offense, partake in the strongest adult beverage you can find; only then will you be able to watch the most boring display of an NFL offense on the planet. The next time the Redskins call multiple pass plays in a game that involves throwing the ball more than 15 yards down the field will be the first time. The slant passes, dink-and-donk throws, screen passes to the tight end on 3rd and 12 and a number of other head-scratching calls at the most inopportune time is as frustrating a brand of football I’ve seen in years. Head coach Jim Zorn’s version of the west coast offense needs to be revamped if, a) the Redskins are to become a more consistent offense, and b) Campbell and Co. are to become viable fantasy options next year. Keep in mind, too, that Campbell hasn’t thrown for multiple TDs in a game since week 4 and has tossed only four total TDs in the last eight games combined.

With all of the said, none of it matters because they play a Baltimore Ravens team that has surrendered a grand total of 10 points in their last two games. Campbell will be under relentless pressure all game long, and that antiquated west coast offense will be put to the test. No one in the ‘Skins’ passing attack will do anything of any consequence. The Ravens will feast on Washington, leaving many to question how they thought the Redskins were any good to begin with. This will not be pretty.

Running Game Thoughts: An ailing Clinton Portis, coupled with a stingy Baltimore defense, playing in prime time on the road and what you have is a recipe for a debacle of epic proportions. The Ravens have given up only three rushing TDs all season and haven’t allowed an opposing RB to rush for more than 100 yards in more than 30 games. Portis will be on lock this game, so if he’s pressed into duty on your team, your expectations must be kept low. Baltimore seems to be on a mission after being throttled by the Giants several weeks ago, and they’ve since taken out their frustration on their two subsequent opponents. Portis will be lucky to crack 50 yards in this game, meaning a player you counted on all season may struggle to help you advance in your league’s playoff. Truthfully, he’s been scoreless during the last five games against lesser opponents, so benching Portis if you have a suitable replacement is a definite option.

Jason Campbell: 160 yards / 2 INTs
Santana Moss: 75 yards
Antwaan Randle El: 40 yards
Devin Thomas: 20 yards
Chris Cooley: 45 yards
Clinton Portis: 55 yards rushing

Joe Flacco / Derrick Mason / Mark Clayton / Todd Heap
Le’Ron McClain / Ray Rice / Willis McGahee (vs. Washington)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Redskins this season: Pittsburgh
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Redskins this season: Pittsburgh
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 16
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 4.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 0
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 13

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been refreshing to see rookie QBs such as Joe Flacco enter the league and perform well despite their lack of experience. He has become someone who must be given serious consideration about being put in a fantasy line-up. The rookie has been on fire the last seven games, throwing 11 TDs while only tossing only two picks. A receiving corps that includes veterans Derrick Mason and Todd Heap has now been supplemented with the stellar play of Mark Clayton. Washington, however, has quietly become a dominant unit and passing on the Redskins will not be easy. They’re ranked 6th in total defense and 7th against the pass, so moving the ball through the air will be a monumental challenge for the rookie. Mason will use his possession receiver skills to get open at least half a dozen times, while Heap should open up things underneath to allow Clayton to get deep a time or two. All things considered, though, Mason may be the best option this week against the Redskins.

Running Game Thoughts: Baltimore’s running game has been difficult to call during the last couple of games. Willis McGahee has been nicked up, but Le’Ron McClain and Ray Rice have picked up the slack and given the Ravens substantial ground production. McGahee continues to get very limited practice reps this week and his status remains in doubt. But McClain and Rice have both proven to be reliable options for head coach John Harbaugh to call upon. Both youngsters did well last week, as McGahee cheered from the sidelines. This will be a low-scoring game and Baltimore’s running attack should play a substantial role in its outcome. Keep McGahee on your bench until further notice; McClain has gotten the bulk of the carries recently, so he seems to be the best RB option for the Ravens. Rice gets playing time, but maybe not enough at this point to warrant a starting spot this week on your team.

Joe Flacco: 175 yards / 1 TD / 1 INT
Derrick Mason: 70 yards / 1 TD
Mark Clayton: 40 yards
Todd Heap: 55 yards
Le’Ron McClain: 75 yards / 1 TD
Ron Rice: 40 yards
Willis McGahee: 24 yards

Eagles @ Giants (Marcoccio)
Donovan McNabb/Reggie Brown/DeSean Jackson/Kevin Curtis/LJ Smith
Brian Westbrook/Correll Bukhalter (vs. NYG)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Giants this season: PHI
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Giants this season: PHI
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 29.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 8.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 3.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 5.9
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 17.0/18.7/3.7
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 14.1

Passing Game Thoughts: Donovan McNabb saved Philadelphia’s slim playoff chances and perhaps his Eagle career with a 4-TD performance on Thanksgiving Night. I guess he has that to be thankful for. The Eagle WR corps makes it difficult on fantasy owners as none are really dominant enough to really step up each week. Instead, the receptions are usually spread between 4 to 5 different WRs each week. The closest thing to a legit fantasy starter the Eagles had was rookie Desean Jackson earlier in the year, but he has been undependable in recent weeks. Its one thing for McNabb to light up the Arizona secondary on a short week when the Cardinals had to travel, but this week’s match up presents a much stiffer challenge. The Giants are ranked 10th against the pass and have 16 interceptions and allow only 13 TDs. If the Philly o-line has trouble with the Giant pass rush, McNabb could end up closer to the QB that was getting benched at halftime two games ago than the one that was last week’s fantasy hero.

Running Game Thoughts: Brian Westbrook, like McNabb, also had a “rebirth” last week after he struggled in previous weeks due to various injuries and offensive (pun intended) play calling. However, like McNabb, Westy will not be facing the mediocre Cardinal defense this week. He will try to run against a defense that allows only 3.9 yards per carry and only 7 rushing TDs on the season. He only managed to gain 26 yards rushing against this same unit in Week 10. Westbrook could play a big role catching screen passes designed to limit the Giant pass rush, so I’m not advising benching him. In fact, he’s nearly impossible to bench based on any match up since he’s such a talent and major part of his offense.

Donovan McNabb: 225 yds passing 1 TD / 25 yards rushing
Reggie Brown: 25 yds receiving
Kevin Curtis: 45 yds receiving
DeSean Jackson: 45 yds receiving
LJ Smith: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brian Westbrook: 85 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving
Correll Buckhalter: 30 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving

Eli Manning/Dominek Hixon/Amani Toomer/Steve Smith/Kevin Boss
Brandon Jacobs/Derrick Ward/Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. PHI)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Eagles this season: NYG
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Eagles this season: NYG
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 19.8
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 7.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 12.9
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 24.6
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 21.7/26.5/4.6
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 11.3

Passing Game Thoughts: Here’s an inside scoop from someone in the New York City area: Plaxico Burress apparently shot himself in the leg. Amazing that Burress did such a good job of covering it up. Sarcasm aside, this news really does not hurt the Giants passing attack much – just Plaxico himself and his owners. Eli Manning has developed into a QB that has the smarts and vision to scan downfield and find an open WR. He does not need to lock in on “his guy”. Dominek Hixon has shown an ability to stretch defenses almost as well as Burress and Steve Smith and Amani Toomer are a dependable a duo of possession type WRs. Kevin Boss has been one of the hottest TEs over the last several weeks and he should benefit from Plaxico’s stupidity as well. He went for 69 yards and a TD in the last match up against Philly. The Eagle’s 9th ranked pass defense does pose an obstacle to a big passing game however, and the Giants could look to limit the passing game and instead unleash Earth, Wind, and Fire on their opposition which leads us to….

Running Game Thoughts: The aforementioned (by nickname) trio of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 217 yards and 2 TDs last time they faced the Eagles. Jacobs himself accounted for both TDs and 126 of those yards. Bradshaw could be inactive this week, as he was last week, but I’m guessing no one is really looking to start him anyway. Despite the big game by the Giants in Week 10, Philadelphia has been a tough run defense on the season, allowing only 93.5 yards per games and 6 total rushing TDs. I’ve said this before – and I’m sure most of you reading this already know it – the Giant’s rushing attack is match up proof, as they can run on anyone.

Eli Manning: 215 yds passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Dominek Hixon: 55 yds receiving
Amani Toomer: 35 yds receiving, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 20 yds receiving
Kevin Boss: 40 yds receiving, 1 TD
Brandon Jacobs: 95 yds rushing, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
Derrick Ward: 55 yds rushing, 1 TD / 45 yds receiving
Ahmad Bradshaw: 15 yds rushing

Dolphins @ Bills (Marcoccio)
Chad Pennington/Davone Bess/Ted Ginn, Jr./Anthony Fasano/David Martin
Ricky Williams/Ronnie Brown (vs. BUF)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Bills this season: MIA
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Bills this season: MIA
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 21.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 17.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 7.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 11.9
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 22.2/18.6/7.1
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 18.8

Passing Game Thoughts: Chad Pennington lost the dependable Greg Camarillo and didn’t miss a beat. The Dolphins now start two slightly built, but speedy WRs in Tedd Ginn, Jr. and Davone Bess. While the early season offense worked through the two TEs, Chadwick is now starting to use his WRs more to move the chains. Buffalo was a very solid pass defense earlier this season, but they have struggled with injuries in recent weeks and have not been a difficult match up for QBs since. They have currently dropped down to 14th in the rankings and should be a good match up for the Dolphins this week. Of course with most of the fantasy owners that are still interested enough to read this piece either in the playoffs or fighting for a spot, its unlikely they are relying too much on the Dolphin’s passing game, so the match up likely will not get exploited.

Running Game Thoughts: The Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams rushing attack peaked in Week 3 and have been solid but unspectacular since. Even the single wing a/ka Wild Cat attack has lost a lot of its luster, though it’s still been effective at times. Buffalo allows 109.8 rushing yards per game and has allowed a little over a TD per game as well so Miami should be able to move the ball on the ground in this important match up. Ronnie Brown should be a very good start this week.

Chad Pennington: 230 yds passing, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 45 yds receiving
Ted Ginn, Jr.: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Anthony Fasano: 15 yds receiving
David Martin: 10 yds receiving
Ricky Williams: 65 yds rushing / 5 yds receiving
Ronnie Brown: 110 yds rushing, 2 TDs / 15 yds receiving

Trent Edwards/Lee Evans/Roscoe Parrish/Robert Royal
Marshawn Lynch/Fred Jackson (vs. MIA)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Dolphins this season: BUF
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Dolphins this season: BUF
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 11.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 11.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 2.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 15.5
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 17.8/23.0/4.1
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 17.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Trent Edwards is questionable this week and may not play, which would give JP Losman the start. It shouldn’t really matter as Edwards has not been fantasy relevant (outside of Week 12) since his hot start. As a matter of fact, no one in the Buffalo passing game has been relevant due to Edwards struggles. Losman throws a nice deep ball which could mean a nice long TD for Lee Evans, but Evans has been terribly inconsistent and his owners may want to look at safer options no matter which QB is under center. The Miami pass defense has been extremely generous however. Therefore, a good game from Trent Edwards or JP Losman is not out of the question, but do you really want to risk you team’s playoff life on it?

Running Game Thoughts: Marshawn Lynch has put his fantasy owners in a difficult position all season. He was likely drafted high, has performed reasonably well most weeks, and offers big game potential so most owners likely kept him in their line-up each week. However, he has been merely adequate at best in a lot of his starts, which likely means many weeks where they have left points from “lesser” options on the bench in favor of Lynch. Miami is a tough run defense, allowing only 97 yards per game and only 8 TDs in their 12 games. This could be a week where benching Lynch for a player with a favorable match up isn’t such a bad idea, especially when you consider he suffered some back spasms in practice this week. He’s still slated to play, but this is not a great sign.

Trent Edwards: 205 yds passing, 1 TD
Lee Evans: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Roscoe Parrish: 35 yds receiving
Robert Royal: 15 yds receiving
Fred Jackson: 20 yds rushing / 35 yds receiving
Marshawn Lynch: 85 yds rushing / 25 yds receiving

Falcons @ Saints (Dhawan)
Matt Ryan/Roddy White/Michael Jenkins/ Harry Douglas/Justin Peelle
Michael Turner/ Jerious Norwood (vs. NO)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +23.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +22.3%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -44.3%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -7.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: “Matty Ice” directed a huge victory over division rival Carolina last week. He did not let Julius Peppers season him at all, and did what he does best---find open receivers for timely big gains in tight coverage. He is a legitimate fantasy QB2 now, and making the reality NFC playoff race a fun watch. He will have no problem shredding a porous Saints secondary and leading his crew to another big division win. Expect great stats from Ryan and pass catchers Roddy White and Michael Jenkins.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner had a solid game against his old team last week. In back to back seasons, Tomlinson was left watching from the sidelines as another running back stole his thunder [last year, Adrian Peterson posted the NFL record 296 rushing yards game against his Chargers defense as he watched]. Turner was consistent and tough in the second half when it mattered most, and is powering fantasy teams towards playoff success. His big games this year have more often than not won fantasy head-to-head match ups, and keep near the top of the overall fantasy payers this year. He will get his normal dose of carries and post huge stats this week.

Matt Ryan: 260 pass/2 TD/0 INT
Roddy White: 80 rec/1TD
Michael Jenkins: 70 rec/1 TD
Harry Douglas: 40 rec
Justin Peelle: 25 rec
Michael Turner: 125 rush/2TD
Jerious Norwood: 65 rush/ 20 rec

Drew Brees/Devery Henderson/David Patten/Robert Meachem/ Lance Moore/Billy Miller
Reggie Bush/Pierre Thomas (vs. ATL)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -2.5%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -11.6%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -11.1%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -15.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees hit a speed bump on his way towards Dan Marino’s passing yards mark last week. The Bucs defense was keen on slowing him down and making him toss uncharacteristic INTs. HB Reggie Bush returned to the lineup, but was contained for the most part. The Falcons secondary may not have many names, but it plays tough and slowed top QB Philip Rivers last week. Expect another big yardage day from Brees and his receivers. Lance Moore is hot again and is a must start in all fantasy leagues.

Running Game Thoughts: Deuce McAllister was sentenced to a 4 game suspension this week, but his attorneys will file an injunction, so stay tuned on his availability. Pierre Thomas looks good again in the starter role, posting 50 total yards and TD last week. Reggie Bush came back from a knee injury, caught 5 passes, but mostly a non-factor. He should be better this week to make a normal impact with big plays and a TD.

Drew Brees: 350 pass/3 TD/1 INT
Marques Colston: 80 rec/1 TD
Devery Henderson: 50 rec
David Patten: out
Robert Meachem: 25 rec
Lance Moore: 70 rec/1 TD
Billy Miller: 50 rec/1 TD
Jeremy Shockey: 35 rec
Reggie Bush: 40 rush/40 rec/1TD
Pierre Thomas: 30 rush/ 20 rec

Bucs@ Panthers (Dhawan)
Jake Delhomme/Steve Smith/Muhsin Muhammad/Dwayne Jarrett/Jeff King
DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart (vs. TB)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -16.6%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -10.9%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +20.1%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -22.3%

Passing Game Thoughts: Jake Delhomme has been winning football games in an ugly manner. In reality, no one will fault him; in fantasy, that will get him removed from starting lineups. He did connect with WR Steve Smith for 100 yards last week in the comeback versus Green Bay, but all of the damage was in the second half, mostly on a late 50 yard bomb. Smith has a high reputation among analysts but has not scored a TD in a month. Look for him to try and get past S Erik Coleman and Lawyer Milloy early and often.

Running Game Thoughts: The fantasy world knows DeAngelo Williams is for real now, and is becoming very annoying to non-owners. The fortunate owners who drafted him in later rounds are gloating about their gem as he continues to crush the stat sheet, last week with a 4TD performance. What happened to Jonathan Stewart and the goal line carries? It seems Williams is beginning to assume a fulltime reality HB1 role, and in doing so, fantasy owners are rejoicing. The SI article this week featuring WLB Derrick Brooks is all you need to know regarding this match up. We have known for a long time that Brooks was among the top 5 players at his position, but it nice to now and then be reminded of it. He will direct his teammates around and through the massive run blockers of the Panthers, who have mauled opponents this year, especially the rebuilt right side. Expect low to medium production this week.

Jake Delhomme: 220 pass/1 TD/1 INT
Steve Smith: 75 rec/1 TD
Muhsin Muhammad: 60 rec
Dwayne Jarrett: 35 rec
Jeff King: 30 rec
DeAngelo Williams: 70 rush/1 TD
Jonathan Stewart: 45 rush

Jeff Garcia/Antonio Bryant/Joey Galloway/Ike Hilliard/Michael Clayton/Jerramy Stevens/Alex Smith
Cadillac Williams/Warrick Dunn (vs. CAR)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +4.3%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +6.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -28.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +9.0%

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Jeff Garcia directs yet another team towards the NFL playoffs. Last week on a limited number of throws and completions, he got the job done and won the game. The Carolina pass defense has been sturdy this year, but Garcia will find a way to elude pass rushers and make timely completions to his receivers. We have not seen the explosive play from WR Joey Galloway this year, so former castoff now rejuvenated Antonio Bryant has filled into the role.

Running Game Thoughts: Cadillac Williams was back on the road last week, and found the end zone again. He looked sharp and his return is exactly when the Bucs needed him, as Earnest Graham is out for the season. He and Warrick Dunn will make nice gains using an underrated offensive line featuring draft crop players as Jeremy Trueblood, Davin Joseph, Arron Sears, and Jeremy Zuttah [a late round high motor player in this past draft class from Rutgers].

Jeff Garcia: 245 pass/1 TD/1 INT
Antonio Bryant: 65 rec
Joey Galloway: 40 rec
Ike Hilliard: 60 rec
Michael Clayton: 40 rec/1 TD
Jerramy Stevens: 30 rec
Alex Smith: 25 rec
Cadillac Williams: 65 rush/1 TD
Warrick Dunn: 60 rush/ 1TD

Browns @ Titans (Dhawan)
Ken Dorsey/Braylon Edwards/Donte Stallworth/Kellen Winslow/Syndric Steptoe/Steve Heiden
Jamal Lewis (vs. TEN)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -12.1%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -18.0%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -26.2%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +3.5%

Passing Game Thoughts: With Derek Anderson out (knee) Ken Dorsey is anointed the starter by default. Brady Quinn (finger) flew to Birmingham, AL, to seek the consultation of storied Dr James Andrews, MD. This move did not exactly benefit anyone, neither WR Braylon Edwards nor their fantasy owners. The deep ball so prolific from last season is gone, and TE Kellen Winslow is battling nagging injuries again and minimizing the damage on the underneath passing routes. Temper all expectations from this bad team in December as management is on the way out and no one has a motive to perform well.

Running Game Thoughts: Jamal Lewis does not have a 100 yard game this season, and the promising offensive line of 2007 has looked pedestrian in 2008. Now HB Jerome Harrison gets spot snaps, and even KR Joshua Cribbs sees action in trick formations. None of them will find success this week against the vaunted Tennessee defense which rounded back into form with a destruction of the terrible Lions.

Ken Dorsey: 245 pass/1 TD/2 INT
Braylon Edwards: 75 rec/1 TD
Donte Stallworth: 45 rec
Kellen Winslow: out
Syndric Steptoe: 45 rec
Steve Heiden: 60 rec
Jamal Lewis: 60 rush

Kerry Collins/Justin Gage/Justin McCareins/Brandon Jones/Bo Scaife
LenDale White/Chris Johnson (vs. CLE)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +11.6%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +22.5%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +5.2%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -4.1%

Passing Game Thoughts: Kerry Collins directed the team to a routine bounce back game last week versus the Lions. His grizzled veteran leadership was very evident as he downplayed the undefeated season talks prior to the Jets loss and focuses his squad on the tasks ahead in December and January. He will have a very efficient game this week against the bad Browns secondary featuring “please-be-covering-my-fantasy WR” CB Brandon McDonald.

Running Game Thoughts: HBs Chris Johnson and LenDale White put on a show for their owners and fans last week, each reaching the 100 yard mark and scoring 2 TDs [very reminiscent of the Chiefs game earlier this season]. They will get plenty of opportunity to mulch the Browns rush defense, since they will be on the field a lot. DT Shaun Rogers has played very well this year, and has gone unnoticed among the stellar play at the position in the conference; yet, he will not drastically change the production outcome this week.

Kerry Collins: 200 pass/1 TD
Justin Gage: 30 rec
Justin McCareins: 45 rec
Brandon Jones: 40 rec
LaVelle Hawkins: 35 rec
Bo Scaife: 35rec/1TD
LenDale White: 65 rush/2 TD
Chris Johnson: 100 rush/1 TD

Bengals @ Colts (Dhawan)
Ryan Fitzpatrick/Chad Johnson/TJ Houshmandzadeh/Chris Henry/Reggie Kelly
Cedric Benson (vs. IND)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: -26.0%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: -23.7%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: -28.2%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: +15.9%

Passing Game Thoughts: How bad can it get? Not worse than the previous 2 game stretch versus stellar the defenses of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The Harvard alum must find it disconcerting that his yardage marks and QB Rating are declining amidst cold weather and injuries. WR Chad Johnson has been a fantasy bust this year after his preseason shoulder injury, and may be on the bus out of town as position mate Plaxico Burress in New York. The consummate professional TJ Houshmandzadeh continues to play hard and make tough grabs with impending free agency this summer and a possible sunny vacation destination in mind. Expect low numbers versus the tough Cover2 of the Colts, not the shootout of 2005.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson posted a 100 yard game versus the Jaguars prior to the bye week a month ago; since then, he does not have 100 yards combined over his past 3 games. The offense is terrible, and both team and management seem to be mailing it in as the campaign closes and major changes are on the horizon. Temper expectations versus the playoff bound Colts despite the fact S Bob Sanders [knee] may not play again, because fill in S Melvin Bullitt moves like one and has made plays [4 INTs] in the interim.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 195 pass/1 TD/ 2INT
Chad Johnson: 50 rec
TJ Houshmandzadeh: 80 rec/ 1TD
Antonio Chatman: out
Chris Henry: 35 rec
Reggie Kelly: 30 rec
Cedric Benson: 55 rush

Peyton Manning/ Marvin Harrison/ Reggie Wayne/ Anthony Gonzalez/ Dallas Clark/ Tom Santi
Joseph Addai/ Dominic Rhodes (vs. CIN)

OPP FF Points Allowed vs. QBs: +14.9%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. WRs: +20.0%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. TEs: +45.5%
OPP FF Points Allowed vs. RBs: -24.6%

Passing Game Thoughts: Hearing the news of QB Peyton Manning’s second career victory with no offensive TDs scored I the game is not music to fantasy owners’ ears. Against the hapless Browns, the expectations were high for a huge week of stats and points alike. Instead, 125 yard, 2 INT clunker with a reality win. This week should right the ship against the easy Bengals secondary and defense that has been abused most of the season. Manning should find enough room and time to toss at least 3 TDs before calling run plays to finish the game.

Running Game Thoughts: The running game was solid in the tough road win last week, and HBs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes continue to share carries. Addai looked healthier last week, and made some important interior runs, despite a lower end yardage day. He should find room for some scores this week to up his season tally, and Rhodes will get plenty of shots to score and run out the clock in a blowout.

Peyton Manning: 290 pass/3 TD/0 INT
Marvin Harrison: 60 rec
Reggie Wayne: 100 rec/ 1 TD
Anthony Gonzalez: 40 rec/1 TD
Dallas Clark: 50 rec/1 TD
Tom Santi: 20 rec
Dominic Rhodes: 60 rush/1 TD
Joseph Addai: 95 rush/1 TD

Patriots @ Seahawks (Eakin)
Matt Cassel/Randy Moss/Wes Welker
Kevin Faulk/Sammy Morris (vs. SD)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Seahawks this season: Redskins
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Seahawks this season: Buccaneers
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 17.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 7.8
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 5.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 12.5
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 23.6/24.8/11.2
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 21.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Patriots were rolling on offense until they ran in to the Steel Curtain circa 2008 last week. Their mindset is now that they need to win out to make the playoffs. The Seahawks are struggling and have little to play for. The Patriots will come out very aggressive through the air looking to regain the form that had them churning out 400 yard games. Wes Welker was the recipient of one of the more violent hits I have ever witnessed last week. He seems to have shaken it off and even practiced this week, but as of Wednesday night he is still questionable. If he doesn’t play then look for Kevin Faulk and Ben Watson to benefit with more looks on the underneath routes. Randy Moss was hampered last week by weather and the Steelers terrific pass rush. Seattle can’t get that kind of pressure so New England should have time to get Moss free downfield. Seattle CBs are short and Moss will also have a huge height advantage. With their playoff lives on the line, expect Belichick to make sure his best weapon is heavily factored in the game plan, especially with Welker’s status unclear. All signs point to a big day for Moss. Seattle gives up the 2nd most points to opposing fantasy QBs so play Cassel if he’s on your roster.

Running Game Thoughts: Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk are rotating carries. They like to use Faulk in passing situation where he excels as a receiver. Morris is a power back and will get most short yardage and goal line attempts. Expect Morris to get about 10-15 carries to Faulk’s 6-12. Seattle gives up an average of twenty points per game to opposing RBs. In PPR scoring leagues both RBs would be solid RB2 options. In standard scoring Morris remains a solid RB2 while Faulk is more of a flex play this week.

Matt Cassel: 315 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Randy Moss: 110 yds/2 TDs
Wes Welker: 60 yards
Jabar Gaffney: 45 yards
Kevin Faulk: 25 yards/35 yards receiving
Sammy Morris: 65 yards/1 TD

Matt Hasselbeck/Deion Branch/Bobby Engram/John Carlson
Maurice Morris/Julius Jones (vs. NE)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Patriots this season: Rams
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Patriots this season: Miami
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 19.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 13.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 8.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 10.0
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 24.6/24.1/9.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 21.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Seahawks did a good job of moving the ball through the air against the Cowboys but couldn’t capitalize in the redzone. Hasselbeck threw for 287 yards with no TDs and one INT. Despite getting his full complement of WRs back, it was still rookie TE John Carlson providing his best weapon. Carlson is 8th among fantasy TEs averaging 5.3 points per game. New England is not one of the better defenses at defending the TE position allowing an average of 6.4 FPTs per game so Carlson makes for a good play this week. Bobby Engram is Seattle’s most targeted WR but the ball is spread between him, Deion Branch, and Koren Robinson. It was expected that it would take the Seahawks a few weeks to get some timing back so last week may be an indication that they are close. The Patriots have an excellent defensive front that is capable of getting some pressure but they are short handed in their secondary ranking only 25th in QB fantasy points allowed. The Seahawk should be able to take advantage and have some success passing the ball.

Running Game Thoughts: The Seahawks spread carries between Maurice Morris and Julius Jones. The downfall is that both backs have similar skills. Both are quick in and out of cuts and are average receivers. Neither could be considered a power back that can wear down the opposing defense. For short yardage they rely on T.J. Duckett and FB Leonard Weaver. Neither power back gets enough carries to be consistently relevant. Both Morris and Jones have had stretches of good production this year but neither of them has been very consistent either. Jones had a few more carries and more yards last game but the week before Morris had a big day against the Redskins. It changes on a weekly basis and is a flip of the coin but I would continue to play Morris given the choice.

Matt Hasselbeck: 235 yards/2 TDs/1 INT
Bobby Engram: 70 yards/1 TD
Deion Branch: 50 yards
Koren Robinson: 45 yards
John Carlson: 80 yards/1 TD
Maurice Morris: 60 yards/1 TD/15 receiving
Julius Jones: 35 yards

Jets @ 49ers (Eakin)
Brett Favre/Jericho Cotchery/Laveranues Coles/Dustin Keller
Thomas Jones/Leon Washington (vs. SF)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the 49ers this season: Cardinals
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the 49ers this season: Cardinals
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 13.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 9.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 1.1
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 13.5
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 19.6/26.2/2.8
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 18.3

Passing Game Thoughts: The Jets have transformed in to a short west coast style pass attack. This is an odd strategy considering Favre’s legendary arm strength and gunslinger reputation. The change had been successful until the Broncos game last week. Favre’s longest pass play was a dump off to RB Leon Washington. His longest pass to a WR went for 16 yards on a day where he threw for 247 yards. Two things that led to this dink and dunk attack are Favre’s affliction for throwing INTs and Eric Mangini’s controlling personality. He is a coach that does not like to shoot it out. Laveranues Coles suffered a thigh injury was unproductive with two catches for two yards in Denver. He is practicing on a limited basis this week and listed as questionable. If he doesn’t play, Chansi Stuckey and Brad Smith will step up in his absence. Jerricho Cotchery is the team leader in yards and receptions. The 49ers are 22nd in QB FPTs allowed per game. Their physical corners can slow down Cotchery and Coles but they give up a lot of passing yards to RBs and TEs. This should be another good day for TE Dustin Keller and RB Leon Washington who both had good games receiving last week in Denver.

Running Game Thoughts: Thomas Jones is in the midst of a four game tear, including last week’s impressive 138 yards and two scores. His streak of good production should continue facing a S.F. defense that is 23rd in points allowed for RBs. The Jets have a talented offensive line that has had success blocking against the 3-4 defensive scheme the 49ers use. The 49ers lack run stopping personnel on their D-line and rely on their talented young LB crew to penetrate the gaps and disrupt the run. The Jet offensive line will win this trench warfare and control the pace of the game on the ground along with the short passing to the TE and RBs.

Brett Favre: 260 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Jerricho Cotchery: 70 yds/1 TD
Laveranues Coles: 60 yds
Dustin Keller: 75 yds/1 TD
Thomas Jones: 110 yds/1 TD
Leon Washington: 235 yds/45 yds receiving/1 TD

Shaun Hill/Isaac Bruce/Jason Hill/Bryant Johnson
Frank Gore (vs. NYJ)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the 49ers this season: Chiefs
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the 49ers this season: Broncos
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 20.6
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 10.4
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 18.9
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 26.7/28.2/11.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 15.6

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s still early to tell if my predictions of the 49ers offense transforming on to a more physical approach are taking root. The numbers suggest that they are but last week’s game in Buffalo was played in poor weather conditions that could also be the cause for a more conservative approach. The Niner’s once high flying pass attack was scaled back to 161 yards on only 23 pass attempts. QB Shaun Hill avoided making the costly errors down the stretch that has cost the 49ers all year long. I’ve been suggesting that there is no way Mike Martz and Mike Singletary can coexist and already this week there are whispers of Martz interviewing for a position at San Diego State. Shaun Hill is 2-2 as a starter and the 49ers are 2nd in their division. They are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, but a strong finish could lead to Singletary getting his shot to continue coaching the team next year. I think the players like Singletary and will continue to play hard for that reason. The Jets are much weaker defending the pass than the run so it will be interesting to see if Singletary continues to pull on the reigns this week or if the Niner’s will come out firing. I think it depends on the initial attempts to run Frank Gore. Isaac Bruce continues to lead the team at WR and has caught a TD in two straight games. Jason Hill is 3rd or fourth on the depth chart but has been the second leading WR since Hills insertion at QB. The two had lots of time as backups to work with each other and develop chemistry.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore was disappointed in his own performance last week. He only managed 65 yards and lost two fumbles. HE apologized to his offensive line and vowed to come back strong. Who am I to doubt him? He’s as talented and well rounded of a back as there is. He has an uphill battle against the Jets strong rush defense. NT Kris Jenkins is having Pro Bowl caliber and does a great job of penetrating or tying up multiple blockers. This frees up LB David Harris to make lots of tackles and disrupt opposing rush attacks. The Niner’s will need to have some success through the air to open up lanes for Gore. It’s not an impossible task considering FB Peyton Hillis of Denver put 129 yards on 22 carries and a TD last week against the Jets.

Shaun Hill: 190 yds/2 TD
Isaac Bruce: 70 yds
Jason Hill: 45 yds
Bryant Johnson: 40 yds/1 TD
Frank Gore: 80 yds/2 TD/35 yds receiving

Chiefs @ Broncos (Eakin)
Tyler Thigpen/DeWayne Bowe/Mark Bradley/Tony Gonzalez
Larry Johnson (vs. DEN)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Broncos this season: Chiefs
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Broncos this season: Chiefs
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 11.9
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 8.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 10.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 31.8
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 12.9/14.5/4.3
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 29.8

Passing Game Thoughts: Denver was undefeated and on a roll coming in to their week 4 matchup versus the winless Chiefs earlier this season, but it was the Chiefs that came out on top 33-19. Damon Huard only managed 160 yards passing in that game but a lot has changed since then. Tyler Thigpen is now at QB and has been more effective than his predecessors. The Broncos don’t have Champ Bailey to lock down DeWayne Bowe. At the time, the Chiefs were still searching for a second WR to establish themselves alongside Bowe. Mark Bradley stepped up in to that role and had some big games earlier but both he and Bowe need to get back on track after a poor outing against Oakland. Dre Bly will focus on Bowe and he can still be an effective DB but I think this is a game that Mark Bradley and TE Tony Gonzalez can get loose for some good yards.

Running Game Thoughts: Larry Johnson comes in to this matchup after a near 100 yard effort against the Raiders. He was the major difference in the week four victory over the Broncos when he rushed for an “old school like effort” of 198 yards on 28 carries. The Broncos run defense has been their weakness all year. They could receive a real boost this week if MLB Nate Webster and OLB D.J. Williams return. Both missed last week but are scheduled to return. The Chiefs will spread out the Denver defense to create lanes for Johnson. 200 yards maybe a lot to ask again but Johnson should have a better than average week.

Tyler Thigpen: 235 yds/1 TD/1 INT
DeWayne Bowe: 70 yds
Mark Bradley: 60 yds
Tony Gonzalez: 80 yds/1 TD
Larry Johnson: 115 yds/2 TD

Jay Cutler/Brandon Marshall/Eddie Royal/Tony Scheffler
Peyton Hillis (vs. KC)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Chiefs this season: Broncos
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Chiefs this season: Broncos
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 22.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 13.7
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 4.3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 33.6
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 21.6/14.5/5.5
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 27.6

Passing Game Thoughts: Jay Cutler was back on form against the Jets last week. He threw for 357 yards with a good mix to all three WRs and both of his TEs. The Broncos were able to pick apart the Jets because of their offensive balance. They ran the ball well and got all of their receiving options involved in the game. The broncos will need to continue the balanced attack to beat the Chiefs. They met in week 4 where Kansas City kept their safeties deep and forced Cutler to settle on underneath routes. Cutler didn’t show the patience for that and got caught forcing the ball a couple times. This will be a good test for him to see if he can win with his best options taken away. This should be a game where Brandon Stokely, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler get lots of catches. If he is willing to settle on them and not force the ball downfield to Marshall then the Broncos can sustain some good drives.

Running Game Thoughts: Anyone bet on Peyton Hillis being the most productive rookie RB from Arkansas this year? Anyone? Hillis now has five TDs and was a monster last week against a good run defense in the Jets. The success of the Hillis has been a big part of the Broncos all but mathematically winning the AFC West. Shanahan will be licking his chops facing the Chiefs worst ranked run defense. It won’t help that two of Kansas City’s starting LBs don’t play. Both MLB Pat Thomas and OLB Donnie Edwards are very questionable. The Chiefs are young on defense and need Edwards’ veteran leadership.

Jay Cutler: 320 yds/2 TDs/1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 90 yds/1 TD
Eddie Royal: 75 yds
Tony Scheffler: 45 yds/1 TD
Peyton Hillis: 105 yds/2 TDs

Rams @ Cardinals (Eakin)
Marc Bulger/Torry Holt/Donnie Avery/
Steven Jackson (vs. ARI)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Cardinals this season: Rams
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Cardinals this season: Rams
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 20.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 11.3
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: 1.2
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 15.9
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 23.0/21.3/6.2
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 29.7

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams have one TD in their last three games. Without a healthy Steven Jackson they can’t get receivers open versus double teams. Donnie Avery has cooled off since his highly productive stretch after winning the starting job. Coach Haslett thinks the offensive line has done a good job so the lack of scoring comes down to Bulger limiting mistakes and the WRs getting open. The Cardinals can be undisciplined at times and the Rams will need to make sure they capitalize on those mistakes.

Running Game Thoughts: Steven Jackson appears to be back to full speed. He must have a big day for the Rams to have any real chance of sustaining drives and keeping the Explosive Cardinal offense off the field. The Cards are better against the run than the pass but have been bullied around the last two weeks. The Philadelphia game was to be expected after the physical and emotional of the big matchup with the Giants a week earlier. Arizona needs to get back on track this week to get ready for the playoffs. Their entire game plan will center on Steven Jackson. Safety Adrian Wilson plays well against the run. They will move him up in to the box to force the Rams to try their luck throwing.

Marc Bulger: 170 yds
Donnie Avery: 65 yds
Torry Holt: 75 yds
Steven Jackson: 85 yds/25 receiving/2 TDs

Kurt Warner/Larry Fitzgerald/Anquan Boldin/Steve Breaston
Tim Hightower (vs. STL)

Similar passing attacks that have faced the Rams this season: Cardinals
Similar rushing attacks that have faced the Rams this season: Cardinals
FF Points Allowed vs. similar QBs: 24.9
FF Points Allowed vs. similar WRs: 14.5
FF Points Allowed vs. similar TEs: N/A
FF Points Allowed vs. similar RBs: 16.8
FF Points Allowed vs. QBs/WRs/TEs over the last 3 weeks: 15.2/13.1/4.0
FF Points Allowed vs. RBs over the last 3 weeks: 31.2

Passing Game Thoughts: The Cardinals have too many weapons for the Rams to contain. Boldin and Fitzgerald are both to top five in production this year. The Rams have a poor pass defense for multiple reasons. They do not have superior cover guys in the secondary and they don’t generate enough pass rush to help cover it up. Not a good combination for a team facing the pass heavy Cards. In recent weeks Warner has cooled off but a big reason for that is because he was facing top level defenses. Arizona has actually been a little to pass oriented lately and will look to find better balance. Warner needs to cut down on his recent slew of fumbles and interceptions.

Running Game Thoughts: Tim Hightower got his first start of the year versus the Rams. He provided nice balance with 109 yards. Hightower struggled to get going against the Eagles and Giants. Scouts say he has been a little hesitant to hit the holes with the same authority he did when he was running well. He may have hit the rookie wall. This week will be big for him as the Cards will be eager to get him going for the stretch run. If he doesn’t produce this week they may consider returning to a committee approach again. The Rams poor run defense may be just the medicine he needs.

Kurt Warner: 325 yds/2 TDs
Larry Fitzgerald: 90 yds/1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 90 yds/1 TD
Steve Breaston: 50 yds
Tim Hightower: 110 yds/2 TDs