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Inside the Matchup
Week 12

By: Bill Andereson | Sal Marcoccio | Nick Caron | Kyle Smith


ATL @ TB | TEN @ JAX | SF @ NO | MIN @ CHI


 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Anderson 29 11 72.5
2 Caron 28 12 70.0
3 Smith 28 14 66.7
4 Marcoccio 20 15 57.1

Texans @ Lions - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Everybody knew the Texans could run the ball but after last week’s game, we now know they can pass it too. Against the Jaguars, Matt Schaub threw for 527 yards and 5 TD’s with 273 yards and 1 TD going to WR Andre Johnson. The Texans are now firmly entrenched as a top 12 passing team, averaging nearly 250 passing yards per game while throwing double the amount of touchdowns as INT’s. While most players in the Texans passing game have had an up and down year, it was encouraging to see that they can air it out and put up huge numbers if the matchup is right.

Speaking of matchups, this week vs. the Lions will not be as favorable as the matchup with Jacksonville, but it is far from being a bad matchup. So far this season the Lions are just a bit worse than average against opposing fantasy QB’s but a closer look at their schedule shows they have only played a couple teams that are even close to the upper echelon of passing teams. The truth is, while Detroit has not allowed a ton of yards to date, they are below average in opponents completion percentage (66% - bottom 5 in NFL), and are also bottom 5 in opponents QB rating allowed. With their secondary banged up with multiple injuries I expect Andre Johnson to have a big day (though not near last week’s numbers) and continue his resurgence as a mid-range WR1. TE Owen Daniels couldn’t find the endzone last week but is about as consistent as tight end’s come in terms of yardage numbers. This week Daniels should once again be a top 10 option and should be started with confidence, as his injury issues look to be behind him. As for Schaub, he obviously won’t come close to last week’s numbers but he is a very safe QB2 this week and a lock to get 200+ yards and at least a TD, with little to no turnovers.

Running Game Thoughts: Against the Jaguars RB Arian Foster actually looked human, putting up only 77 yards on 28 carries (2.8 ypc). For Foster owners there may have been a bit of panic, as he failed to record a TD for just the third time all year, and it’s the first time he didn’t record a TD or gain 100+ yards rushing all season. Fear not though Foster owners, the Jaguars did something that most other teams will not do and that is totally sell-out to stop the run. The Jaguars would consistently load the box with 7, 8, and occasionally 9 guys in order to limit Foster, and to that end their plan kind of worked (although 77 yards is still decent for most RB’s). The reason most other teams will not do this is simple, it didn’t work. By throwing for 527 yards and 5 TD’s Matt Schaub proved the Texans can beat teams through the air and are a much more balanced team then many believed. If anything, I would be happy as a Foster owner because now the league is on notice that the Texans can throw the ball and that should perhaps even open more lanes for Foster in the coming weeks.

Trying to stop Foster this week is a Lions team that is giving up over 110 yards per game to opposing rushers at a rate of just over 4.2 yards per carry. To opposing fantasy RB’s the Lions are actually somewhat stingy (in the top 10 toughest teams) but this is based largely on the fact that they have given up just 3 rushing TD’s all season (tied for 3rd in the NFL) and we all know Foster can score TD’s against anybody. A quick look at Detroit’s schedule also paints a different picture, because they have faced only three teams that are solid running teams and have only faced one other RB (Adrian Peterson) that is on Foster’s level. Against Peterson, the Lions gave up an awful 273 yards and 1 TD in two games. With a short week I expect the defense to be a bit tired after a shootout with the Packers and think Foster will easily regain his status as a top 3 RB play this week, start him with confidence.

Matt Schaub: 245 pass yds, 2 TD
Andre Johnson: 90 rec yds. 1 TD
Owen Daniels: 70 rec yds
Kevin Walter: 45 rec yds
Arian Foster: 115 rushing yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Against Green Bay last week, Detroit had what has come to be a typical passing game for them this year, that is, throwing for a healthy amount of yards (266) but high turnovers (4) and low TD’s (1). For the season now Detroit remains a top 5 passing team in terms of yardage but in the bottom half of the NFL in passing touchdowns. This of course has made fantasy owners of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson very frustrated as to why they can’t seem to get in the endzone on a consistent basis.

Their opponent this week, the Texans, provide a very interesting matchup because on the season they have been excellent versus the pass but are coming off a game against the Jaguars (a normally bad offensive team) that saw them give up 372 yards through the air, with 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. On the season, the Texans are still a top defensive team, ranking in the top 10 in passing yards allowed per game, opponent’s completion percentage allowed, and passing yards per attempt. The news could get much better for the Lions though if Texans CB Jonathan Joseph misses the game as expected with a hamstring issue. Joseph left last week’s game and is Houston’s best cover corner, and a likely candidate to cover Calvin Johnson if he would play.

WR Titus Young has been suspended by the team for this game, which obviously means he is not an option, but it also means WR Ryan Broyles should see an increase in targets. While the Texans may be a bit banged up and have had some weaknesses exposed, I still expect them to put a lot of pressure on Stafford, and thus force a lot of bad throws. Because of this, the expectations for the Lions passing game should be below that of a normal matchup. While Titus Young’s suspension might mean extra targets for Detroit’s secondary receivers, it is not enough for me to recommend starting any of them in this tough matchup. As usual, Johnson is a must start, as he continues to put up big yardage numbers despite a lack of big TD numbers. As for Stafford, there are easily eight+ better options than him this week, but because of the sheer volume of passes he throws, he remains a very safe high-end QB2 this week, just don’t expect him to break out of his low TD slump against a tough Texans defense.

Running Game Thoughts: While the Lions remain one of the more pass-heavy attacks in the NFL, RB Mikel Leshoure has been a pleasant surprise with a fairly consistent (yet not spectacular) season. Last week Leshoure ran for 84 yards and a TD, with a nice 4.4 per carry average, though for the season he (nor any other Lions RB) has still not had a run over 19 yards (worst in the NFL). For fantasy owners, Leshoure has not blown anyone away (except for his 3 TD performance in week 9) but he remains a valuable asset, as he is one of just a few true workhorse backs in the league, getting over 80% of the teams carries since he took over the starting job.

Unfortunately for the Lions, and Leshoure owners, this week’s matchup is one of the toughest in the league, as the Texans rank in the top 5 in most defensive rushing stats, including the only team in the NFL yet to give up a rushing TD. As you might guess, the Texans are consequently one of the three hardest teams in the league for opposing fantasy RB’s to score against. Because Leshoure gets a lot of his value from TD’s and not long explosive runs, this matchup really favors the Texans defense. With the Texans pass defense showing a little weakness last week I expect the Lions to pass even more than usual and therefore leave the rushing game by the wayside. While the workload that Leshoure has been getting makes him an interesting start most weeks, I would certainly look for a better option, as he should be no more than a low-end RB3 in this matchup against perhaps the best rushing defense in the league. No other Lions RB is even worth considering, as both Kevin Smith and Joique Bell are now fighting it out for the backup and third down roles, making it difficult to speculate on which will play any significant role this week.

Matthew Stafford: 270 pass yds, 1 TD , 1 INT
Calvin Johnson: 100 rec yds, 1 TD
Ryan Broyles: 45 rec yds
Brandon Pettigrew: 50 rec yds
Mikel Leshoure: 40 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Texans 27, Lions 20 ^ Top

Redskins @ Cowboys - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Robert Griffin III is having an outstanding rookie campaign and is coming of a game where he increased his TD passes on the season by 50%. Griffin threw for 4 TDs last week while completing 14 of his 15 pass attempts. He also led the team in rushing yards with 84. His duel threat status makes him one of the more dangerous weapons in fantasy football. Pierre Garcon played his first snaps since Week 1, but was still limited due to the pain in his foot and is a risky start on a short week. No other Washington pass catcher can be started with confidence as Griffin has spread the ball around amongst Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, et. al. with Garcon out. With bye weeks now out of the way, fantasy owners likely have better options at the wide receiver position.

The Cowboys pass defense has been outstanding this season after adding Brandon Carr and Morris Clairborne to their secondary. Dallas is the 7th ranked pass defense in the league giving up only 211.4 ypg and 11 TD passes on the season. They did allow 2 passing TDs to inferior rookie QB Brandon Weeden this past Sunday, so perhaps Griffin can follow up on his excellent Week 11. Weeden had time to throw for the most part and the Cowboys must do a better job rushing the passer.

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie running back Alfred Morris is averaging a more than respectable 4.7 ypc on the season and has gained 869 yards while scoring 5 TDs on the ground. Morris is a bull with the ball in his hands and his one cut and go running style makes him a good fit for the Shanahan zone blocking scheme. In the past, fantasy owners were always concerned with Shanahanigans, but the Shanahan’s are actually making Morris more of the bellcow back as the season wears on. This past Sunday, Morris stayed on the field for a majority of the Skins’ third down plays making him a rare three down back in an NFL. We’ll see if that trend continues this week.

The Cowboys have played the run well, allowing 106.6 ypg and just 8 rushing TDs on the season. However, they have struggled when facing power runners like Marshawn Lynch, Michael Turner and Trent Richardson, making Morris a good start on Turkey day. Rob Ryan’s defensive scheme will likely be more concerned with stopping the dynamic RGIII, which should allow the workmanlike Morris to eat up yardage while you eat up the mashed potatoes.

Robert Griffin III: 235 pass yds 1 TD / 45 rush yds, 1 TD
Leonard Hankerson: 20 rec yds
Santana Moss: 35 rec yds, 1 TD
Pierre Garcon: 50 rec yds
Logan Paulsen: 45 rec yds
Alfred Morris: 95 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Tony Romo wasn’t spectacular last week against a Cleveland defense missing its best pass defender, but he did limit his mistakes and led his team to an overtime victory. Last week Romo did break 300 yards passing, but only threw for 1 TD. Dez Bryant was the star of the talented receiving crew but as his owners know he’s been maddeningly inconsistent all season. Jason Witten and Miles Austin, Romo’s usual favorite targets were quiet in the first half but came up big during the Cowboys’ rally. It does seem the Cowboy offense is getting closer to clicking and perhaps the Thanksgiving spotlight is the catalyst for the passing game to completely take off like its talent indicates it should.

Washington’s pass defense made Nick Foles look like a third round rookie last week but they have been quite pathetic all season and one has to believe that last week was the exception and not the rule. The team is giving up 290 passing ypg and has allowed a whopping 20 TD passes on the season, despite not allowing a passing TD last week. Pass the gravy and watch the Boys put on an aerial show.

Running Game Thoughts: At press time, I have very little idea whether veteran Felix Jones will get another start replacing DeMarco Murray. Indications last week were that Murray was very close to returning and there was a good chance he would be available Thursday. However, Murray will miss yet another week. Furthermore, Jones is also banged up with sore knees and could now miss this game as well. If Jones can’t go rookie Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner would likely split the carries. You have better fantasy options at running back.

Tony Romo: 340 yds passing 3 TDs, 1 Int. / 10 yards rushing
Miles Austin: 105 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dez Bryant: 80 yds receiving, 1 TD
Dwayne Harris: 45 yds receiving
Jason Witten: 65 yds receiving, 1 TD
Lance Dunbar: 55 yds rushing / 20 yds receiving
Phillip Tanner: 20 yards rushing / 15 yards receiving

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Redskins 24 ^ Top

Patriots @ Jets - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady showed Andrew Luck last week that the youngster has a lot of catching up to do. Brady threw for 331 yards and 3 TDs and led the Patriots to a 59-24 dismantling of the (at the time) 6-3 Colts. However, while the Patriots walked away with a win they did lose their biggest weapon in the passing game (TE Rob Gronkowski) to a broken arm. Gronkowski is expected to miss 4-8 weeks, and while the Patriots will survive without the Gronk, he is the straw that stirs the drink, and the offense will suffer a bit. Gronkowski is a matchup nightmare and the offense has been built around him the last two seasons. Luckily the team should get TE Aaron Hernandez back and slot WR Julian Edelman excelled last week and should see an increased role in the offense now that he’s healthy again. The pair should pick up some of Gronk’s slack and let’s not cry for Tom Brady who still has Wes Welker and Brandon Llyod at his disposal. Expect the team to come out throwing in order to make a statement. This is a spotlight Thanksgiving Night game and against the hated Jets which will only make that statement louder.

Antonio Cromartie and the Jet secondary will have one less mismatch to deal with but will still need to find an answer for Hernandez and Welker. Cromartie should be able to keep Llyod at bay but Kyle Wilson has struggled with Welker in the past and the hard hitting Jets safeties are two slow to keep up with Hernandez. The Jets have managed to remain a top five pass defense despite losing Darrelle Revis and are allowing only 200.1 passing yards per game, but they have given up 14 TDs on the season and the competition becomes a little more intense this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Stevan Ridley has carried the rushing load for an offense that has been very balanced this season making the Patriots much more dangerous. Ridley has 842 yards and 7 TDs on the ground in ten games. Expect the Patriots to look to exploit the Jets’ weakness in stopping the run by featuring a heavy amount of rushing attempts – with Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen also seeing action.

The Jets have struggled to stop opposing runners in 2012. On the season they are allowing 141.9 ypg and 10 TDs on the ground. The Patriots ran for 131 yards in the Week 7 matchup against the Jets-D in Foxboro with Ridley getting 65 and Vereen 49 of them.

Tom Brady: 280 pass yds 2 TDs / 1 int.
Brandon Lloyd: 35 rec yds
Wes Welker: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Julian Edelman: 55 rec yds
Aaron Hernandez: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 115 rush yds, 1 TD / 10 rec yds
Danny Woodhead: 15 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Shane Vereen: 35 rush yards, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Mark Sanchez had arguably his best game of the season in the Week 7 game against the Patriots – although he did throw and awful interception and fumbled away the Jets chances in overtime. On the positive side, he did throw for 328 yards and a TD and led the Jets back from a 10-point 4th quarter deficit. Last week Sanchez returned to the game manager role that he needs to perfect to give the Jets a realistic chance to win most weeks. Sanchez has little in the form of weapons and must limit his mistakes in order for the Jets to have a chance at defeating New England.

The Patriots have once again struggled with their pass defense after finishing 2011 as one of the worst teams in the league defending the pass. They are allowing 289.7 ypg and have given up 21 passing TDs so far in 2012. The team brought in Aquib Talib in a trade with the Buccaneers and the troubled CB paid immediate dividends intercepting an Andrew Luck pass and returning it 59 yards for a TD in his first game as a Patriot. Talib should help improve the pass defense a bit but the unit is still likely to struggle most weeks.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets running game has been going nowhere fast behind the pedestrian Shonn Greene, but perhaps it found new hope in the form of a finally healthy second year back Bilal Powell. Powell went for 42 yards and two scores in St. Louis last week and looked far more explosive than Greene. Powell likely earned a bigger role and could do some damage on fresh legs going forward.

The Patriots’ run defense is allowing only 99 ypg on the ground and just 6 rushing TDs on the season so establishing a running game could be difficult. With the Jets likely splitting carries, Greene owners should look to find a better option, but Powell owners will be tempted to take advantage of a hot runner and could get rewarded if he finds the endzone.

Mark Sanchez: 285 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 Int. / 25 rush yds
Stephen Hill: 25 rec yds
Jeremy Kerley: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Dustin Keller: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Shonn Greene: 35 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Bilal Powell: 55 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 24 ^ Top

Bills @ Colts - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the Buffalo passing attack, but he’s been anything but fantasy-friendly of late. After starting the year with 12 touchdowns in his first four games, Fitzpatrick failed to throw a touchdown four times in six contests, and he’s just 19th in FPPG among quarterbacks. His top target is Steve Johnson, but he’s just tied for 35th in FPPG at wideout and has only one touchdown since Week 3.

Indianapolis is 20th in the league in pass defense, tied for 22nd in passing scores allowed and tied for last in interceptions. The numbers don’t tell the whole story though, because the Colts have faced some weak passing games from their competition, having played Jacksonville (twice), Miami, Cleveland, Tennessee (minus Jake Locker), and the New York Jets. Despite that, they have allowed the 14th-most FPPG to quarterbacks and sixth-most FPPG to wideouts.

Running Game Thoughts: With Fred Jackson possibly unable to play due to his concussion this week, the onus will once again fall on C.J. Spiller to carry the load for Buffalo. He’s been fantastic this season, averaging an absurd 6.6 yards per carry, is a true pass-catching threat and is sixth in FPPG at running back. Even if Jackson does play, Spiller figures to get the majority of the looks, and should have a chance to do serious damage for his fantasy owners against Indianapolis.

The Colts are 22nd in the league in run defense, but 28th in touchdown runs allowed, with only one team in the NFL having given up more rushing scores to running backs. They’ve done well recently in terms of yards allowed, having not allowed a back to gain more than 41 yards in their last three games, but for the season, four of the five backs who have carried the ball at least 15 times against Indy have gained 80 or more yards, so they are certainly vulnerable.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 235 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Steve Johnson: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 55 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 35 rec yds
C.J. Spiller: 90 rush yds, 1 TD / 45 rec yds
Fred Jackson: 30 rush yds / 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck is seventh in the league in passing yards and he’s tossed 12 touchdowns but also thrown 12 interceptions. Still, with five rushing scores he’s been a quality fantasy option, and he’s also made Reggie Wayne into a fantasy stud yet again. Wayne leads the NFL in targets and receptions, is second in receiving yards, and has yet to gain fewer than 70 yards in any contest. It should be noted that Donnie Avery is questionable to play due to the concussion he suffered against the Patriots in Week 11, making T.Y. Hilton a fantasy candidate against a below-average Bills pass defense.

Buffalo may be 18th in the league against the pass, but they’re tied for 25th in passing touchdowns allowed, have given up the ninth-most FPPG to quarterbacks, the 10th-most FPPG to tight ends and the 12th-most FPPG to wideouts. They even let Mark Sanchez throw for 266 yards and three scores against them and Matt Cassel throw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, though to be fair, that was in Weeks 1 and 2. More recently, the Bills have had their troubles against tight ends, having allowed three touchdowns over their last three games to players at that positon.

Running Game Thoughts: Vick Ballard seems to have taken over as the lead running back in place of Donald Brown, but hasn’t done much for fantasy owners. Ballard has had some solid rushing totals, with at least 60 yards in three of his past five games, but doesn’t have a rushing score yet. However, look for that to change this week against Buffalo, who hasn’t stopped anybody on the ground this season.

The Bills are second-to-last in the NFL in rush defense, but have allowed more rushing scores than any other team and the highest YPC as well. Predictably, they are giving up the most FPPG to running backs in the league, with seven having scampered for at least 90 yards and a touchdown against them. Needless to say, there is no better match-up in the league for an opposing running back.

Andrew Luck: 285 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Reggie Wayne: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Donnie Avery: 55 rec yds
Dwayne Allen: 50 rec yds
T.Y. Hilton: 35 rec yds, 1 TD
LaVon Brazill: 20 rec yds
Vick Ballard: 55 rush yds, 1 TD /10 rec yds
Donald Brown: 30 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Colts 24, Bills 17

Falcons @ Buccaneers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan threw for more than 300 yards last week against Arizona, and leads the league in passing yards, but he also threw five interceptions and no touchdowns in the game, killing his fantasy owners in the process. Yet he’s still fourth in FPPG at quarterback, and helps make Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez fantasy starters on a weekly basis. Jones may be limited this week – just as he was last week – due to his ankle injury, so expectations for him should be lessened, but look for White to have a big game due to the excellent match-up with Tampa.

The Bucs may be 17th in passing scores given up this year, but they’re last in pass defense and have allowed the third-most FPPG to quarterbacks and second-most FPPG to wide receivers. Every quarterback Tampa has faced but one has thrown for at least 250 yards, with six tossing the pigskin for at least 300 yards. Wideouts have picked up huge yards all season against the Bucs, with 18 having collected 60 or more receiving yards when facing them.

Running Game Thoughts: Michael Turner has struggled of late, and fallen into a tie for 22nd in FPPG at running back and 21st in rushing yards for the year. He’s scored five times, including twice over his last three games, but has amassed more than 80 rushing yards only twice this year. He isn’t likely to break that mark this week either, not against a Buccaneers team that has been so good against the run this season.

Tampa leads the league in rush defense, and no team is allowing fewer YPC than they are. Yet they’re 14th in rushing scores given up, which has led to them being 20th in FPPG allowed to running backs instead of in the top-10. Still, just three backs have gained at least 60 yards when facing the Bucs, including just one in their last six games.

Matt Ryan: 315 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Roddy White: 110 rec yds, 2 TD
Tony Gonzalez: 85 rec yds
Julio Jones: 45 rec yds
Harry Douglas: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Michael Turner: 50 rush yds
Jacquizz Rodgers: 20 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Freeman continued his streak of games with multiple touchdowns last week, tossing three more, and he’s now gone six consecutive games with at least two scoring passes. That’s put him in a tie for fourth in touchdown throws this year and 12th in FPPG among quarterbacks. His main weapons are Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Jackson is ninth in receiving yards and tied for fifth among wideouts in touchdowns for the year, and just three receivers are averaging more FPPG than he is. He is in for a bit of a challenge this week though, because the Falcons have done well containing opposing passing attacks.

Atlanta has been solid against the pass this year, ranking 10th in pass defense, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns allowed, 24th in FPPG given up to quarterbacks and 29th in FPPG allowed to wideouts. They have had some struggles against tight ends, with just five teams allowing more FPPG to players at that position, with five tight ends accumulating at least 50 yards against them over their last seven games.

Running Game Thoughts: Doug Martin’s 138 rushing yards last week left him at exactly 1,000 for the season, and he’s now run for at least 135 yards in three of his last four contests. He’s been a steal for fantasy owners as a dual rushing/receiving threat, leads all backs in FPPG, and is primed for another big contest this week against Atlanta.

The Falcons have had their troubles against the run this season. They are 26th in the NFL in rush defense, tied for 24th in rushing scores allowed and 30th in YPC given up. Atlanta has allowed the 11th-most FPPG in the league to running backs, with six gaining at least 70 yards against them. The most notable number in fantasy is touchdowns though, and backs have scored in seven of the 10 games the Falcons have played this year.

Josh Freeman: 250 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Vincent Jackson: 95 rec yds, 2 TD
Mike Williams: 60 rec yds
Dallas Clark: 35 rec yds
Tiquan Underwood: 15 rec yds
Doug Martin: 120 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds

Prediction: Falcons 30, Buccaneers 27

Titans @ Jaguars - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Tennessee returns from their bye this week with Jake Locker having thrown a pair of touchdowns in Week 10 in his first start since suffering an injury that kept him out since late September. He still isn’t a polished passer, but has a number of solid options to throw to, including Kenny Britt, who hasn’t been explosive this season, but does have at least five targets in each of his last seven games, and who should be Tennessee’s top receiving option if healthy. He has a chance to break out this week due to a very good match-up against Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have been mostly bad against the pass this season, ranking 28th in pass defense, tied for 13th in passing scores allowed and have allowed the eighth-most FPPG to both quarterbacks and wideouts. Last week was a disaster for them, of course, as Matt Schaub threw for 527 yards and five touchdowns and Andre Johnson gained 273 yards with one score. Johnson was the fifth receiver to have gained at least 110 receiving yards against Jacksonville, and Schaub was the fifth quarterback to throw for at least 285 yards against the Jags.

Running Game Thoughts: What can you say about Chris Johnson? He went from having fantasy owners cursing at themselves for taking him to praising themselves. He’s rushed for at least 90 yards in each of his past five games and six of his last seven, and has scored four times in his last four contests. We’re fully confident that he’ll continue his excellent play against the Jaguars and their lousy run defense this week.

Jacksonville is 29th in the league against the run, second-to-last in rushing scores allowed and have given up the fourth-most FPPG to running backs. While they haven’t allowed any huge games by backs, they are getting beaten by them consistently, with eight players at the position having picked up 70 or more rushing yards when facing the Jaguars. Only once this season has an opposing team’s back not gained at least 50 yards against Jacksonville, and that was Detroit, who had both Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell run for more than 40 yards.

Jake Locker: 265 pass yds, 1 TD / 35 rush yds
Kenny Britt: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Nate Washington: 70 rec yds
Kendall Wright: 45 rec yds
Jared Cook: 35 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 110 rush yds, 2 TD / 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Blaine Gabbert was put on IR due to a torn labrum in his shoulder, clearing the way for Chad Henne to start the rest of the season. He was a revelation for the Jags last week, throwing for 354 yards and four touchdowns against the Texans. Henne doesn’t have the most notable cast of receivers to throw to, and Laurent Robinson was, like Gabbert, put on IR this week after suffering his fourth concussion of the season against Houston, but Justin Blackmon finally showed up, hauling in seven passes for 231 yards and a score last week. But that was Blackmon’s first noteworthy game, and the player that has really made himself a quality fantasy option is Cecil Shorts, who is now just outside the top-20 in receiving yards for the year, has six games with at least 70 yards and is now tied for 26th in FPPG at wideout. He has every chance to continue to put up solid fantasy numbers this week against Tennessee.

In a word, the Titans have been bad against the pass this year. They are 26th in pass defense, have allowed more passing touchdowns than all but two other teams and have given up the highest completion percentage in the league. They are 10th in FPPG allowed to quarterbacks and have allowed the second-most FPPG to tight ends, but just the 15th-most FPPG to wideouts. Tennessee has allowed seven of the 10 quarterbacks they’ve faced to throw multiple touchdowns against them, and six different tight ends have gained at least 55 yards when squaring off with the Titans.

Running Game Thoughts: Maurice Jones-Drew continues to be sidelined with an injury, and Jacksonville initially went to Rashad Jennings to carry the load. That didn’t work out so well, so the team switched things up last week and gave Jalen Parmele the rock 24 times. He gained 80 yards, averaging a meager 3.3 YPC, but did break a 28-yard run and will likely see the majority of the carries again this week. If there were teams on a bye, he could be a flex option, but byes are over and only fantasy owners who have been hit hard by injury should consider Parmele, even against Tennessee’s porous rush defense.

Just four teams have given up more rushing yards than the Titans, who are also tied for 22nd in rushing scores allowed and 24th in YPC allowed. They have given up the third-most FPPG to running backs, with eight having gained at least 80 rushing yards against them. Tennessee has also struggled to control backs as pass-catchers, having allowed the third-most receiving yards in the league to players at the position.

Chad Henne: 270 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Cecil Shorts: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Justin Blackmon: 80 rec yds
Micheal Spurlock: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Marcedes Lewis: 25 rec yds
Jalen Parmele: 70 rush yds / 10 rec yds

Prediction: Titans 24, Jaguars 20

49ers @ Saints - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: All Colin Kaepernick did against the Bears last week was throw for 243 yards and two touchdowns, as well as ignite a quarterback controversy. Alex Smith suffered a concussion in Week 10 against the Rams, a game that saw Kaepernick come in relief to throw for 117 yards and run for 66 yards and a score. Those two performances likely mean that he’ll be the starter this week against the Saints, and fantasy owners in need of a quarterback should look his way. They should also look at Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Neither has been outstanding this season, but the match-up with New Orleans is too juicy to ignore.

No team has given up more touchdowns through the air this season than the Saints, and only one has allowed more passing yards. So it’s only fitting that they’ve allowed more FPPG to quarterbacks and wideouts than any other team in the league, and the 11th-most FPPG to tight ends. There have been eight different 100-yard receivers against New Orleans this year, only Matt Cassel failed to throw for at least 250 yards against them (he tossed for 248 yards), and seven quarterbacks have thrown at least two touchdowns when facing the Saints.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore is eighth in the NFL in rushing and averaging a healthy 5.3 yards per carry. He’s run for at least 75 yards in three of his last four games, but hasn’t hit pay dirt recently. Despite scoring five times on the ground this season, four of those came in the season’s first five games, so it would be nice if he could finally cross the goal line with the ball in his hand. And if Gore is going to do score, this would be the week, because the Saints have been horrid against the run this year.

New Orleans has been bad against the pass, but has been equally lousy against the run. They are last in the NFL in rush defense, second-to-last in YPC allowed, tied for 22nd in rushing scores given up and are allowing the second-most FPPG in the league to running backs. Not only have nine runners gained at least 80 yards on the ground against the Saints, but nine have also accumulated at least 25 receiving yards.

Colin Kaepernick: 250 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT / 40 rush yds
Vernon Davis: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Michael Crabtree: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Mario Manningham: 40 rec yds
Kyle Williams: 25 rec yds
Randy Moss: 15 rec yds
Frank Gore: 90 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Kendall Hunter: 25 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: There are no secrets about the Saints’ passing game – it’s arguably the most explosive in the league. What isn’t arguable is that Drew Brees is a constant, every-week fantasy starter regardless of opponent. He’s second in the league in passing yards and first in passing scores, with more than a quarter of those going to tight end Jimmy Graham. The former Miami basketball player is a touchdown machine, having scored in all but one game this season that he’s been healthy for. Marques Colston and Lance Moore round out the plethora of fantasy options, though each is in for a tough test this week against the 49ers.

San Francisco has been beasts against the opposition’s passing game, ranking second in both pass defense and passing touchdowns given up. They have allowed the second-fewest FPPG to quarterbacks and receivers, and the fourth-fewest to tight ends. The 49ers haven’t allowed a tight end to score since Week 3, just one wideout has gained at least 100 yards against them this season, and only two quarterbacks have thrown for more than 275 yards against them all year.

Running Game Thoughts: Darren Sproles may play this week for the first time since Week 8, but that doesn’t mean fantasy owners should rush to put him in their lineups. The match-up isn’t a good one, and it’s unknown if he’ll get his usual number of snaps. We wouldn’t recommend any Saints backs this week, because none get enough carries to bolster their numbers in case they get stopped early and often.

The 49ers are sixth in the NFL in rush defense, have given up the second-fewest rushing scores and only two teams have allowed a lower YPC. As you may expect, they have given up the second-fewest FPPG to running backs, and have been especially good at stopping them from contributing as receivers out of the backfield. Only two teams have allowed fewer receiving yards to running backs than the Niners, and they’re one of seven teams that hasn’t allowed a back to catch a touchdown.

Drew Brees: 290 pass yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Jimmy Graham: 80 rec yds, 2 TD
Marques Colston: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 55 rec yds
Devery Henderson: 30 rec yds
Pierre Thomas: 30 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Mark Ingram: 25 rush yds
Darren Sproles: 15 rush yds / 30 rec yds

Prediction: 49ers 27, Saints 21

Vikings @ Bears - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: For having a decent amount of talented skill players, the Vikings are having an underwhelming season passing the football, as they currently rank 30th in passing yards per game (190). Christian Ponder has been up and down—but mostly down—and most of his few passing yards are a result of dink-and-dunk passes rather than an aggressive downfield attack. The Vikings passing game’s lone fantasy star, WR Percy Harvin, has been consistent all year but is now in danger of missing his second straight game after spraining his ankle two weeks ago.

The news gets even worse, too, as the Vikings must travel to Chicago and face a tough Bears defense that was demoralized against the 49ers last week. Even with that rough game, the Bears pass defense still ranks in the top 12 in passing yards allowed per game (11th), completion percentage allowed (9th), passing touchdowns (4th), interceptions (1st), and sacks (5th). As one may guess looking at these numbers, the Bears defense is one of the very toughest for skill players to score against: fourth toughest against fantasy QBs and eighth toughest against WRs. Ponder should definitely be avoided this week, as he has not only been wildly inconsistent but has one of the very toughest matchups in the league this week, especially if Harvin is out again. If Harvin does manage to play, he will certainly be less than 100 percent, and with a tough matchup to boot, should not be considered anything more than a very low-end WR2. The only other member of the Vikings passing attack worth mentioning is TE Kyle Rudolph, but he too has been inconsistent and has lost a lot of his early-season shine. The Bears are a bit more generous to opposing TEs, and Rudolph should get more targets if Harvin is out, but he should not be counted on to provide anything more than high-end TE2 numbers.

Running Game Thoughts: The Vikings have to wonder where they would be if Adrian Peterson hadn’t come back from injury so quickly, since he is the main reason their offense has had any kind of productivity. Currently, the Vikings rank third in the league in rush yards per game (150.5), with a very healthy 5.2 yards per carry. Peterson has dominated the carries thus far and sits among the top 5 fantasy RBs this season in almost all formats. He has become (once again) a must-start in all matchups thanks to his elite talent, heavy workload, and nose for the end zone.

Unfortunately for Peterson and the Vikings, this week may be the toughest matchup they will face this season. The Bears run defense is perhaps even better than their elite pass defense, as they rank eighth in rush yards allowed (954) and have given up just three rushing touchdowns so far (tied for 2nd). Because of this, it is easy to understand why the Bears are currently the third toughest team for RBs to score against. The good news for Peterson owners is that the Vikings will most likely pound the ball all game long in order to get their most talented player involved, so 25-plus touches is very likely. While Peterson is certainly not in the best situation this week, he is more than capable of breaking off a long run at any time and should see at least a few tries from the goal line as well. Don’t expect Peterson to carry your fantasy team this week as he has been doing, but low-end RB1 numbers are certainly possible from this fantasy stud.

Christian Ponder: 175 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jerome Simpson: 40 rec yds
Kyle Rudolph: 50 rec yds
Adrian Peterson: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds
Percy Harvin: 50 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bears are by no means an elite passing offense this year, but they are much better than they showed Monday night against the 49ers with Jason Campbell under center. This week, they are expected to get Jay Cutler back, and while he is not having an amazing year, he should at least stabilize the offense and return Brandon Marshall to his normal status as a stud WR. While Marshall has been simply amazing for the Bears (and fantasy owners), the problem has been finding a second consistent option on the Bears passing attack, and thus far it has not happened.

Against the Vikings this week, Cutler and company should at least be able to move the ball (which they could not do against the 49ers), as Minnesota is just average in pass defense and has actually given up the seventh most fantasy points to opposing fantasy QBs on the season. While the Bears should be able to throw downfield and probably even get in the end zone through the air (Vikings have given up 17 passing touchdowns), I would worry about the pressure that Cutler will be under, as the Vikings are top 10 in sacking quarterbacks and the Bears have given up the second most sacks in the NFL. Despite this threat, Cutler should be a mid-range QB2 in this matchup, and Marshall should return solid WR1 status thanks to the volume of targets he will get.

Running Game Thoughts: Last week against the 49ers, the deck was stacked against the Bears run game right from the beginning. First of all, their opponent was already one of the league’s best run defending teams. Second, the 49ers got off to a hot start offensively, and the Bears had to play catch-up with the pass game for most of the rest of the game. Third, without Cutler at quarterback, the 49ers could play a more aggressive defense and force quarterback Jason Campbell, rather than running back Matt Forte, to beat them. That game plan worked. While the game was a dud from a fantasy perspective for Forte (63 rushing yards), the Bears in general are still a very good rushing team, ranking 10th in rushing yards per game (122.8) and eighth in rushing attempts.

Against the Vikings this week, Forte should at the very least be able to run all game long, as the Vikings are unlikely to get such a big lead on the Bears. As a real-life and fantasy defense, the Vikings are middle of the road (14th in opponent rushing yards) but have certainly given up big days to opposing running backs—such as those to Doug Martin (135 yds, 1 TD) and Marshawn Lynch (124 yds, 1 TD) in back-to-back weeks. I would put Forte’s ability on par with both those players, so the upside is certainly there for him to have a solid game. Conservatively speaking, I would rate Forte as a solid RB2 this week and a borderline RB1 if Cutler is in the lineup to take some pressure off the run game. Backup running back Michael Bush has not been getting consistent carries and is therefore off the fantasy radar at this point, except as a Forte handcuff.

Jay Cutler: 240 pass yds 2 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Matt Forte: 90 rush yds, 15 rec yds
Earl Bennett: 45 rec yds
Michael Bush: 20 rush yds

Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 17

Raiders @ Bengals - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Oakland’s passing offense isn’t necessarily pretty or textbook or talent-filled, but they throw a lot (417 attempts, 2nd most in the NFL) and accumulate a lot of numbers, and for fantasy players that’s the biggest thing we care about. This past week, Carson Palmer made it three games in a row that he threw for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns, and for the season has already surpassed 3,000 yards, with seven games still left to play.

Their opponent this week, the Bengals, have a better than average, though not elite, pass defense that ranks in the top 10 toughest defenses for quarterbacks to score against. With their own sub-par defense, the Raiders are going to be throwing the ball all game long again, and for that reason, it makes several Raiders players very fantasy relevant. Palmer will never be an elite fantasy QB on a consistent basis, as he turns the ball over too much and is not a very dynamic talent. This does not mean, however, that he can’t be useful in some matchups. And while this is not an ideal matchup, the Raiders have been on fire through the air recently, and the stats that Palmer should accumulate in this game make him at the very least a solid QB2. As for the receiving corps, Denarius Moore had his worst game of the season last week but he is still the one I would trust the most as a low-end WR2 this week (and most weeks in general). Darrius Heyward-Bey is the second best WR option on the Raiders, and while he has not had many “big” games this season, he has been fairly consistent and is always a threat to take it deep to the end zone. I like him as a high-end WR3 this week. The only other fantasy-relevant pass catcher is TE Brandon Myers, who has actually been quite hot recently, scoring all three of his touchdowns in the past three weeks. Myers is a safe but low-end TE1 in this matchup, as the Bengals are more generous (8th easiest) to opposing TEs than WRs.

Running Game Thoughts: The Raiders have had a miserable time all year running the football, ranking 31st in the league in rushing yards. With starting running back Darren McFadden likely out again this week, the rushing duties once again fall mainly to Marcel Reece, who had a decent game last week as he racked up 103 yards on just 19 carries. Reece, who has been a fantasy factor each of the past two weeks, looks to actually have a very good matchup against a Bengals defense currently giving up the eighth most fantasy points to opposing RBs. They have also given up the fifth most (tied) rushing touchdowns in the league and are consistently giving up more than 110 yards per game on the ground. As long as McFadden is out this week, Reece owners should ride the hot hand, as he should put up at least high-end RB2 numbers as the workhorse out of the Raiders' backfield.

Carson Palmer: 275 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Denarius Moore: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 70 rec yds
Brandon Myers: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Marcel Reece: 75 rush yds, 55 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: While many other teams have more hype surrounding their passing attack, the Bengals have quietly had a very productive season, ranking 10th in the league in passing yards (2,496) while putting up respectable numbers in completion percentage (64.3), yards per attempt (7.6), and touchdowns (21). Andy Dalton, whose production trailed off in the season’s second half last year, has remained productive in almost every game this season, including last week when he threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The receiving corps has been led by fantasy’s top WR, A.J. Green, who continues to put up big numbers despite getting the most defensive attention due to the lack of a legitimate complimentary receiving threat. Speaking of other receivers, rookie Mohamed Sanu has earned a lot more playing time lately and, while he has yet to have a real breakout game, is someone to watch for, especially in dynasty leagues. The only other noteworthy player in the passing game is TE Jermaine Gresham, who has really come on as of late and is especially valuable in PPR leagues.

The Raiders are a dream-come-true matchup for opposing offenses, as they give up a great amount of passing yardage (9th most in the NFL), a healthy amount of touchdowns (tied for 2nd most), and cause few turnovers (tied for 3rd fewest). Fantasy-wise, the Raiders are the fifth most generous to opposing QBs and ninth most generous to WR’s. Green should be able to put up huge numbers this week, and Dalton goes from a decent mid-range QB2 option to a low-end QB1 and a good start in any league this week. As for Gresham, he still has not put up huge numbers like a true TE1 should, but he is very startable as a high-end TE2, especially in a favorable matchup like this week's.

Running Game Thoughts: Signs of life from the Bengals running game! Last week, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had his best fantasy game of the season, putting up 101 yards on the ground and adding a touchdown against the Chiefs, who were never really in the game. In addition, Cedric Peerman put up a very respectable 75 yards on just eight carries and contributed to the Bengals' best game on the ground all season.

The good news continues this week, as the Raiders are one of the worst run defending teams in the league and are the fifth most generous to fantasy RBs. Not only do the Raiders give up big yardage numbers on the ground (122.4 ypg), but they have let up the second most rushing touchdowns to date (14). While the Raiders offense can certainly keep pace with most teams, the Bengals should be able to get enough stops to keep Green-Ellis running all game long, making 22-plus rushes very likely. Coming off a good game and going into a great matchup at home, Green-Ellis may be in store for one of his best games all year. While he is not dynamic or explosive enough to recommend as a strong RB1 play, the matchup and situation certainly makes him a safe and strong RB2 play this week.

Andy Dalton: 280 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
A.J. Green: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Mohamed Sanu: 45 rec yds
Jermaine Gresham: 55 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 85 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Bengals 27, Raiders 24

Steelers @ Browns - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers have fallen out of favor as a reliable team for fantasy owners. This week Charlie Batch takes his turn at quarterback, and the Steelers will more than likely run a very conservative offense again, making any member of the passing attack a very risky start in fantasy. Wide receiver Antonio Brown is also very likely to miss this week, so the Steelers are really an empty void for the fantasy community until key players return from injury.

The Browns passing defense is about average, although especially now that cornerback Joe Haden is back, they certainly have some playmakers who can make life miserable for opposing quarterbacks (they are top 8 in sacks). While the Browns rank as one of the 12 easiest teams for quarterbacks to score against, the Steelers' game plan this week will severely limit the upside of any fantasy player. While Batch is an obvious player to avoid, I would also avoid all other Pittsburgh receivers, with the possible exception of Heath Miller, who Batch may rely on as a safety valve and therefore may put up mid-range TE2 numbers. Overall, fantasy owners need to look elsewhere until Ben returns from injury to stabilize this offense and get the receiving corps back to their normal consistent status.

Running Game Thoughts: As the saying goes, “If you have two quarterbacks, you have none.” In this case, the Steelers have three decent running backs, but in the fantasy world this means they really have none, at least as far as a safe and reliable option goes. Last week Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer pretty much evenly split the workload after Isaac Redman left the game with a concussion. While neither running back did significant damage on the ground, it was apparent that the coaching staff split up the workload based on the game scenario. This week Redman is expected to return, making the picture is even cloudier as far as who will be fantasy relevant. It is a shame there is not a true workhorse running back, because in a game where Batch will be the starting quarterback, the Steelers are very likely to lean heavily on the run game.

In addition to a run-heavy game plan, the Steelers face a nice opponent for running backs, as the Browns are the 12th easiest defense for running backs to score against. Despite the situation and the matchup, it is very tough to recommend any Pittsburgh running back as anything more than a high-end RB3, since we simply do not know how the touches will be split up. If I own all three of these guys and have to start one, I am going to roll with Mendenhall. But if there is a way to totally avoid the situation, that is probably the best option until a running back emerges as the frontrunner.

Charlie Batch: 190 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rashard Mendenhall: 45 rush yds
Emmanuel Sanders: 35 rec yds
Mike Wallace: 45 rec yds
Heath Miller: 40 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Browns passing attack is certainly not pretty (55.3 completion rate—second worst in the NFL—and a 11:12 TD-to-INT ratio), but they do rack up a healthy amount of yardage through the air (2,197 on the season) and have had a number of big plays. Quarterback Brandon Weeden has looked totally lost at times but has shown glimpses of being a very competent quarterback as well. Part of his shortcomings have been magnified by a lackluster and inconsistent receiving corps, although several of them (mostly Josh Gordon) look like they could break out big any week now.

While the Browns passing attack seems to be improving a bit each week, they may actually take a step backwards this week, thanks in large part to the defense they are facing. The Steelers pass defense, despite missing various key members intermittently throughout the season, ranks first in passing yards given up, second in completion percentage allowed, and fifth in passing touchdowns given up. They also are the toughest defense for fantasy QBs and WRs to score against. This could lead to a very ugly day for the Browns passing attack. Because the Browns are aware of the Steelers tough pass defense, and because the Steelers may have trouble moving the ball, and because it is a home game, I expect a very heavy dose of the Browns run game in this matchup, which will limit the fantasy upside of their passing game. Brandon Weeden should certainly be avoided this week as a fantasy starter. And unless you are very desperate and have to take a shot at WR (Gordon being a WR3), I would bench every member of the Browns passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: The Browns still rank near the bottom in team rushing yards (27th with 922 yards), but don’t tell that to Trent Richardson owners, who have watched the rookie running back carry their teams the past three games, averaging over 25 carries and 100 yards per game. In a tough matchup against the Cowboys last week, the Browns stuck with the run game, giving Richardson 28 carries that he converted into 95 yards. While the offense is still not dynamic enough to create huge runs, the sheer workload they give Richardson is making him an every-week low-end RB1.

This week, the Browns face an even tougher matchup as they host a top 5 run defense that is also among the five toughest for fantasy RBs to score against. While it is certainly not an ideal matchup for Richardson, the Cleveland defense has steadily improved over the course of the season, so they should keep this a tight game, meaning the run game should be involved throughout. In addition, Richardson is so involved in the pass game as well, his owners should not hesitate to start him as a high-end RB2.

Brandon Weeden: 195 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Josh Gordon: 40 rec yds
Greg Little: 40 rec yds
Trent Richardson: 85 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Cleveland 23, Pittsburgh 20

Packers @ Giants - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers has been missing his top wide receiver, Greg Jennings, for most of the season and has still managed to keep the Green Bay offense humming along. His No. 2 wideout, Jordy Nelson, also missed a few weeks, but second-year receiver Randall Cobb has emerged as a big-play weapon with an expanded role. Veteran James Jones has also stepped up and produced with his increased snaps, and his issue with drops is now a thing of the past, as he has not dropped one catchable ball this season. Cobb is a player in the mold of Percy Harvin, and his quickness and versatility have made him virtually uncoverable at times over the last five to six weeks. Tight end Jermichael Finley finally chipped in last week, and if he can manage to live up to his talent level, this passing attack will be unstoppable even if Jennings doesn’t make it back this season.

The Giants secondary has looked terrible at times and could be in trouble this week if the bye week wasn’t enough time to plug some of its holes. The Giants have allowed 257.8 ypg and 17 passing touchdowns on the season. The pass rush, while still formidable, hasn’t been as prolific as it was in recent seasons. It will need to return to form, as the pressure they were able to put on Aaron Rodgers during last year’s playoff game was a large part of the reason New York moved onto the NFC Championship game.

Running Game Thoughts: James Starks took over the lead role at running back last week but was mostly ineffective, gaining only 74 yards on 25 carries. Mike McCarthy lamented to the press this week over not giving former starter Alex Green any carries in that game, and it’s looking like a RBBC going forward, hurting the value of both backs.

The Giants run defense has been solid, allowing 113.8 ypg, and having limited opponents to only six rushing touchdowns on the ground. Their front seven is more suited for getting to the quarterback than stopping the run, but veterans Michael Boley, Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips can keep the Giants defense respectable against most running games. This week should not be much of a test for the unit.

Aaron Rodgers: 315 pass yds 3 TDs, 1 INT / 30 rush yards
Randall Cobb: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
James Jones: 60 rec yds
Jordy Nelson: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermichael Finley: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
James Starks: 45 rush yds / 5 rec yds
Alex Green: 40 rush yds / 25 rec yds
John Kuhn: 5 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning was struggling before the bye week, and many observers speculated that he was suffering from a “dead arm.” Manning comes out of the bye claiming that his arm feels good and ready to go. His owners are probably a little leery about throwing him back into their lineups after two consecutive fantasy games with less than ten points in the two weeks leading up to the bye and may want to see Manning prove it first. In Manning’s favor, Hakeem Nicks should be back at full strength. That’s a good thing for Victor Cruz as well. Without a healthy Nicks, defenses have been bracketing coverage on Cruz, forcing him and Manning into taking the underneath routes and thus limiting his big plays. Nicks' drawing some attention away could allow Cruz to break out once again.

The Packers pass defense is much improved over the 2011 version, but they can still be beat through the air. On the season, the Pack have allowed 244.4 ypg passing and have yielded 14 passing touchdowns. The Giants passing attack will need to be effective to keep up with the Packers potentially explosive offense.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw’s chronic foot issues became news once again following one the greatest two-game stretches of his career—and heading into the bye week his owners also had to fear a mysterious injury that forced him to undergo “a battery of tests”. Bradshaw apparently came out ok, as he’s been practicing this week and looks ready to go. He is one of the best pass blockers in the league and is a successful goal line rusher, making him one of the more complete backs in the league, but he was ceding carries and—more importantly—goal-line work to journeyman Andre Brown before the bye. It’s a scenario likely designed to keep Bradshaw healthy, and one likely to continue.

The Packers have played the run extremely tough this season, having allowed only 99.5 ypg and seven touchdowns.

Eli Manning: 305 yds passing 2 TDs
Hakeem Nicks: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Victor Cruz: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Domenik Hixon: 40 rec yds
Martellus Bennett: 35 rec yds
Ahmad Bradshaw: 55 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds
Andre Brown: 40 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Packers 37, Giants 34

Seahawks @ Dolphins - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson is lost in the shadows of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but he is having a fine rookie season in his own right. He’s led the Seahawks to a 6-4 start and has thrown for 1,827 yards with 15 touchdowns (more than both Griffin and Luck). Wilson was considered to be undersized at 5’11”, but his mobility has allowed him to find open passing lanes, and his leadership skills and poise belie his age. Sidney Rice is as healthy and productive as he’s been since his outstanding year during the miraculous revival season of Brett Favre with Minnesota. Former Notre Dame star Golden Tate looks like he’s finally putting things together and is a great second option for Wilson in the passing game. The Seahawks don’t put the ball up in the air often, but they can be very effective when they do, as Wilson throws one of the prettiest deep balls in the league.

That deep ball could be on display against a below-average Dolphins secondary. Miami has allowed 266.3 ypg through the air and 12 touchdowns this season. The Phins secondary should have a difficult time matching up against the eclectic group of weapons featured in the Seahawks passing attack, and Wilson should continue where he left off before the bye.

Running Game Thoughts: The Seahawks are one of only a handful of teams left in the league that heavily feature the running game each week. Pete Carroll and the front office have done a great job building up the O-line and putting together a team that can pound the ball and play great defense. Marshawn Lynch is one of the most intense runners in the league, seeking contact and delivering blows on his way to racking up the yardage. Expect that to continue in South Beach this Sunday.

The ninth-ranked Miami run defense offers a tough matchup for opposing running backs and has allowed only 96.8 ypg on the ground and just four rushing touchdowns on season. They have held opposing runners to 3.8 ypc, but that shouldn’t scare off the Seahawks from attacking the Miami defense on the ground. Lynch is one of the few runners that had success against the 49ers run defense last season, and he should be in your lineup even when the matchups are tough.

Russell Wilson: 245 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 40 rush yds
Sidney Rice: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Golden Tate: 50 rec yds
Zach Miller: 25 rec yds
Marshawn Lynch: 115 rush yds, 1 TD / 10 rec yds
Robert Turbin: 25 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Now that the bye weeks are over, there really shouldn’t be much consideration given to any member of the Dolphins passing game for fantasy football purposes. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been inconsistent but has had a decent enough rookie season to make Miami fans feel pretty secure that he could be the first Miami quarterback since Dan Marino to hold the starting job for a multiple season arc. Brian Hartline has become their de facto No. 1 wideout and isn’t a terrible fantasy option as a WR3 when the matchup is right, but the team will surely look to do better for Tannehill this offseason, and you should do the same for your fantasy team.

You really don’t want to be starting anyone from the passing game this week, as Seattle presents a very formidable opponent, even if they do struggle a bit more when on the road. They remain a top 5 pass defense, having allowed only 196.2 ypg and just nine passing touchdowns on the season. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are playing at a Pro Bowl level and should have no problems matching up against the undersized and slow wideouts the Dolphins put on the field.

Running Game Thoughts: Recently, Miami has worked second-year runner Daniel Thomas into the offense more at the expense of Reggie Bush, causing Bush’s fantasy value to spiral down while Thomas just doesn’t do enough to be more than bye-week filler. Thomas is even seeing work on passing downs due to his superior blocking, further limiting Bush’s potential for exploding in open space. In this tough matchup with a Seattle defense that is limiting opponents to 100 ypg rushing, you should hopefully have a better option. If you don’t, you need to hope Bush makes a big play for a score or that Thomas can punch one in from the red-zone.

Ryan Tannehill: 225 pass yds 1 TD / 25 rush yds
Brian Hartline: 45 rec yds
Davone Bess: 50 rec yds
Rishard Matthews: 35 rec yds
Anthony Fasano: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Reggie Bush: 50 rush yds / 25 rec yds
Daniel Thomas: 35 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Seahawks 23, Dolphins 17

Panthers @ Eagles - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton has been a letdown to fantasy owners expecting a repeat of his outstanding rookie season. Heading into Week 12 he’s ranked 14th among quarterbacks behind the likes of Carson Palmer, Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton and Josh Freeman. While owners couldn’t have expected him to match his 15 rushing touchdowns of last season, his four this year is still disappointing. He has shown some improvements as a passer after a slow start to the season, when the read-option offense that the Panthers were running became predicable and threw both the passing and running game out of whack. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski has adjusted his offense and things have improved, but as of right now it’s hard to start Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell or Greg Olsen because, while all three have had their share of big games, they have been highly inconsistent as Newton has struggled to put up huge numbers.

The Eagles secondary has performed reasonably well in 2012, allowing 222.3 ypg, but they have given up some big plays. Opposing teams have thrown for 18 passing touchdowns against them so far.

Running Game Thoughts: As mentioned above, Chudzinski has adjusted his offense from heavily featuring the read option behind Newton to a more traditional power running game, and the results have been positive. Jonathan Stewart was promoted to the feature back role at the expense of DeAngelo Williams. Stewart is one of the more talented backs in the league and has the combination of size, power, speed of an Adrian Peterson. He has run well in the lead role but often just doesn’t get enough carries to allow him consistent production. On the positive side, he is coming off his best game of the season, where he totaled 73 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season, so his owners must hope the Panthers ride his hot hand in a favorable matchup.

Cam Newton: 265 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 45 rush yds, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 60 rec yds
Brandon LaFell: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Greg Olsen: 45 rec yds
Jonathan Stewart: 85 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds
DeAngelo Williams: 30 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Nick Foles era is off to a horrendous start, and now the Eagles are back to hoping Michael Vick can be cleared (concussion) sooner rather than later. I watched Foles play a lot this preseason, and I came away very impressed with his accuracy and decision making. But with the real bullets flying, he’s looked like the unheralded third-round rookie that he is. Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson were practically no-shows on last week’s stat sheet due to Foles’ inability to find his wide receivers under heavy pressure. Maclin and Jackson owners will probably want to give each one more chance under Foles, but alternatives should be considered until Foles shows he can function under the duress allowed by his subpar O-line.

The Panthers have been surprisingly tough against the pass. They have allowed 232.3 ypg passing and have given up 13 passing touchdowns in 2012. Carolina can generate a pass rush (26 sacks), and behind a decimated Philly O-line, Foles will likely be under serious pressure all night.

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy is also likely to miss this game after suffering a concussion late last week against the Redskins. McCoy has been underutilized all season, so fantasy owners should be leery of plugging in his backup, rookie seventh-round pick Bryce Brown. Brown’s draft stock fell because of some behavioral issues in college, but he was considered to the top high school running back in the nation during the college recruiting season—ahead of even Trent Richardson. If the Eagles decide to commit to a running game to take some pressure off of Foles, Brown could be an interesting option against a below-average Carolina run defense, which is allowing 118.4 ypg.

Nick Foles: 215 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
DeSean Jackson: 40 rec yds
Riley Cooper: 25 rec yds
Jeremy Maclin: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Brent Celek: 50 rec yds
Bryce Brown: 105 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Panthers 24, Eagles 20

Ravens @ Chargers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: For a guy who made waves by proclaiming his own status as an “elite” quarterback, Joe Flacco certainly hasn’t done much to prove that he has even come close to that level as a fantasy player. Flacco has just one multiple-touchdown passing game since Week 3 and his up-and-down overall production has been disappointing in some of the team’s most important games this season, including a discouraging performance in Week 11 against the Steelers where he failed to throw a single touchdown pass. Wide receiver Torrey Smith has been even more inconsistent than Flacco, with his worst game of the year coming in last week’s painful seven-yard day on just one reception.

If the Ravens are going to get things going in their passing game, why not against the San Diego Chargers who have struggled all season to shut down opposing quarterbacks. Where Flacco has failed to throw multiple touchdowns, it has been the San Diego defense who has struggled to stop opposing QB’s from throwing for numerous scores. They’ve allowed two or more touchdown passes against them in six of their past eight games, with their only “good” games coming against the Browns and Chiefs. The Chargers have been particularly bad at stopping opposing wide receivers this season and are coming off of a game where they allowed three touchdowns to the Broncos wideouts, which could mean a nice day for receivers Torrey Smith and veteran Anquan Boldin who has averaged nearly five catches per game this season despite scoring just one touchdown on the year. One player to note in this passing game is Dennis Pitta who suffered a concussion during the Sunday night game against the Steelers. Although he was knocked out of that contest, coach John Harbaugh has indicated that he will be ready to play this week. Still, with just one game over four fantasy points since Week 13, Pitta is a stretch to be in fantasy lineups this week, especially when you consider that the Chargers have allowed only one touchdown to an opposing tight ends on the year.

Running Game Thoughts: His year hasn’t been filled with the giant rushing performances that we’ve seen from him in the past, but Ravens running back Ray Rice has remained one of the most consistent fantasy producers in the game and is currently ranked as the No. 4 fantasy back in standard scoring leagues. Having achieved at least eight fantasy points (standard scoring) in every game but one this season, Rice has been a reliable source of fantasy production and an every-week starter no matter your league’s scoring format. Even during last week’s slow rushing week where he got just 40 yards on 20 carries, Rice was able to contribute enough in the passing game to get 93 total yards. It’s the Ravens’ insistence on getting him the ball that makes him one of the best in the game.

Rice’s excellent fantasy season should continue in Week 12. San Diego has been fairly tough to run on, having allowed just four rushing touchdowns on the year, but their fairly un-athletic front seven has struggled against some of the more shifty backs they’ve played against, with the exception of shutting down Chris Johnson early in the year. In two career games against the Chargers, Rice has averaged over five yards per carry and his 102 yards per game give fantasy owners enough confidence to place their stud running back in the lineup yet again this week.

Joe Flacco: 240 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Torrey Smith: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 70 rec yds
Dennis Pitta: 25 rec yds
Ray Rice: 80 rec yds, 1 TD, 40 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The up-and-down story that has been Philip Rivers’ career over the past few seasons continued this past week when the Chargers lost a close game to the division-leading Denver Broncos. On the bright side, Rivers was able to throw for multiple touchdowns for the sixth time over his past seven games, but his turnover totals continue to mount. With 14 picks on the season, Rivers simply hasn’t been able to give his fantasy owners the kind of week-in and week-out performances that they need to make him a reliable starter. Perhaps most disappointing has been Antonio Gates’ production. While he does have three double-digit fantasy point games (standard scoring) over his past six games, the other three games have been abysmal with only one fantasy point in each of those contests. That inconsistency has made Gates extremely frustrating to own and has surprisingly made wide receivers Malcom Floyd and the emerging Danario Alexander the best fantasy options in the Chargers passing attack.

As the Chargers look to make a late-season run at a wild card spot, they’re going to need to step up and have a big game against an elite fantasy pass defense in Baltimore. The Ravens have allowed a league-best eight passing touchdowns on the season while intercepting 11 passes. They’ve held opposing quarterbacks to five or fewer fantasy points on three separate occasions and would have had another nice day this past week if they would’ve simply tackled Byron Leftwich on an embarrassing first-drive touchdown during Sunday Night Football. Rivers isn’t exactly much of a scrambler so we don’t expect a repeat performance of that run, so he will need to do it with his arm. History is on his side, though, as he has thrown seven career touchdowns and only three interceptions in his four career games against the Ravens.

Running Game Thoughts: There might not be a more frustrating player to own in fantasy football this season than Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. Mathews, who spent the first two games of the season on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, has been riddled with injuries ever since and has even seen some of his touches given to backup running backs Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle. Mathews’ disappointing season was on display against the Broncos as the running back rushed for just 47 yards on 15 carries. While he did contribute 36 yards in the passing game, it was yet another game where he was held out of the end zone. He has now failed to score a touchdown in every game but one this season and his value has fallen from a perceived fantasy RB1 to a low-end RB2 or a FLEX option in most leagues.

It seems like we say it almost every week, but if there’s an opportunity for Mathews to break out, it could be this week against the Ravens. If Baltimore is able to slow down Philip Rivers like they have other quarterbacks, San Diego will need to rely on their running game to attack the Ravens’ 24th-ranked fantasy defense against opposing quarterbacks. Although Baltimore hasn’t allowed a touchdown to the position over the past three weeks, opposing teams have averaged nearly 190 total yards per game from their running backs over the past five games. In Mathews’ only previous game against the Ravens, he achieved 109 total yards and scored twice, which is a good sign for him and the Chargers’ offense.

Philip Rivers: 260 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Danario Alexander: 75 rec yds
Malcom Floyd: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Antonio Gates: 40 rec yds
Ryan Mathews: 60 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds
Ronnie Brown: 10 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Ravens 20, Chargers 17

Broncos @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The unbelievable comeback season for Peyton Manning doesn’t seem like it’s going to be slowing down anytime soon. The Broncos’ signal caller tossed three more touchdown passes in Week 11, making that six out of his past seven games where he has achieved that number. Not only that, but he’s doing it while spreading the ball to a plethora of receivers and avoiding turnovers. With running back Willis McGahee now on the IR, Manning will be relied on even more to carry this offense to the playoffs and beyond, which could mean huge opportunities for Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and even Brandon Stokley who caught his fifth touchdown of the season against the Chargers in Week 11.

Manning and the Broncos have a great opportunity to improve in their season totals this week as they go on the road to Kansas City where they will be up against one of the league’s worst defenses. Kansas City has allowed multiple passing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in eight of their ten games this season, including a bad performance this past week when they allowed Andy Dalton to score two passing and a rushing touchdown. Manning isn’t likely to be rushing for many touchdowns, but the pace that the Broncos set on offense could be extremely difficult for the Chiefs to keep up with and that could lead to yet another monster afternoon from Manning and the Broncos’ passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: With Willis McGahee now on the IR and out for the year, the question of who takes over in the backfield has begun. In Week 11, it was rookie running back Ronnie Hillman who benefited most as he got 12 carries to Lance Ball’s six. Hillman is a shiftier back and brings a unique skillset as a receiver. If he can block well enough to stay on the field during third downs, Hillman could be one of the sneaky plays down the stretch that helps lead fantasy owners to a championship.

No matter who gets the bulk of the carries, this matchup could be one that produces huge results for the entire backfield. Kansas City is coming off of a game against the Bengals in which they allowed 176 yards on the ground and while they have been surprisingly good in only allowing five rushing touchdowns to opposing backs this season, teams have gone over 100 yards against them in seven of their ten games. The Broncos aren’t likely to focus much on the run to start the game, but if this one gets out of control early, we could see quite a bit of Hillman and Ball in the second half.

Peyton Manning: 270 pass yds, 3 TD
Demaryius Thomas: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Eric Decker: 60 rec yds, 2 TD
Brandon Stokley: 40 rec yds
Jacob Tamme: 30 rec yds
Ronnie Hillman: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 15 rec yds
Lance Ball: 45 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The train wreck that has been the Kansas City Chiefs 2012 season can be explained with just a simple look at their quarterback situation. Despite week after week of awful performances, then a benching for Brady Quinn earlier this year, reports indicate that the Chiefs are leaning toward giving the Week 12 start to Brady Quinn. It is becoming increasingly obvious that there really isn’t a single player in this passing game that can be trusted in fantasy lineups this year. Dwayne Bowe’s frustrating season came to a head in Week 11 when the former Pro Bowler was held without a catch for the first time since his rookie year in 2007. He has now been held to six or fewer fantasy points in six straight games.

As the game approaches, it will be important that the Chiefs make their final selection of starting quarterback in order to give themselves the best possible opportunity of keeping up with the Broncos’ high-powered offense. If they’re going to have any chance of winning this one, Kansas City will need a big game out of whoever is throwing the ball. Denver has allowed at least one passing touchdown in nine of their 10 games this season so there’s reason to believe that points could be scored, but the Broncos have also intercepted an average of two passes each game in their past five contests, so there’s always the potential of a blowout in this one.

Running Game Thoughts: As frustrating as it has been to own any member of the Chiefs’ passing game, running back Jamaal Charles has somehow been able to put together some truly impressive performances. Sure, he’s also had a few stinkers, but at this point, the offense completely circles around how many times No. 25 touches the ball. If Charles gets 20 touches, he has hit over 100 total yards in every game this season. But when he hasn’t been fed the ball throughout the game, his stats have been very much a rollercoaster. Even with Peyton Hillis back in the mix, Charles is the only player to own in the Chiefs’ running game and probably in the entire offense.

Charles will look to make it three straight games of over 100 total yards when he goes up against the Denver Broncos and their ninth-ranked fantasy defense against opposing running backs. Denver has been very good against the run all season with the only exception coming in the beatdown they took against New England in Week 5. Outside of that game, the Broncos have allowed just 76 rushing yards per game and much of that can be attributed to the fact that they’ve been up so much that the opposition has had to throw the ball just to keep games close. With Kansas City’s struggles on offense and Denver’s offense clicking so well, don’t be surprised to see this game get out of control early, which could lead to fewer-than-usual touches for Jamaal Charles.

Matt Cassel: 170 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 50 rec yds
Dexter McCluster: 35 rec yds
Tony Moeaki: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds
Peyton Hillis: 20 rush yds

Prediction: Broncos 31, Chiefs 17

Rams @ Cardinals - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: A week after one of his best games as a pro against the San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford was back to his old tricks with a mediocre quarterbacking performance where he threw for just 170 yards in a blowout loss to a bad Jets team. What is there to be said about Bradford other than that his inconsistencies make him way too big of a headache to consider playing in anything other than very deep leagues. As for his receivers, Brandon Gibson was the beneficiary of two short-yardage scores which left owners of Danny Amendola frustrated as their man caught seven passes for just 41 yards and no score. Amendola does remain a strong play in PPR leagues but for those in standard-scoring leagues, there are likely better, higher-upside plays on your roster than Amendola.

There might not be a more Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde pass defense than the Arizona Cardinals in 2012. After allowing back-to-back monster games to Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers, the Cardinals surprised everyone with an amazing performance against one of the league’s top fantasy quarterbacks this season, Matt Ryan, wherein they intercepted five passes. Not only that, they held Ryan out of the endzone, leaving the quarterback with just two fantasy points on the day in standard-scoring leagues. The last time they played against Sam Bradford, Arizona held him to just 141 yards and intercepted him once. While Bradford did throw a couple of touchdown passes in that contest, it’s hard to trust that he’s going to do it again given his inconsistencies as a passer.

Running Game Thoughts: It wasn’t exactly a huge game, but seeing Steven Jackson rush for 81 yards in a blowout loss has to inspire at least a bit of confidence from fantasy owners who might have given up on the veteran tailback earlier in the year. At this point in 2011, the wheels had completely fallen off of Jackson and he was no longer a viable fantasy option, but with Daryl Richardson now taking some of the workload, there may be tread still left on Jackson’s tires for a final push down the stretch. The most disappointing aspect of Jackson’s game this season, however, might be his lack of involvement in the passing game. With only 16 receptions so far this season, Jackson is well below his career average of 46 receptions per season. His partner in crime, Daryl Richardson, hasn’t done much better in the passing game and with only 14 carries over the past two games, has been relegated back to a simple change-of-pace for Jackson and is not much of an option as a fantasy player himself. He does, however, remain one of the highest-upside handcuffs in fantasy football.

Jackson and Richardson will have a chance to run against a defense that they did some decent work against earlier this season when the two of them rushed for a combined 111 yards against the Cardinals in Week 5. At that point, it was the first time that the Cardinals had allowed a team to get to 100 yards against them on the season. But since then, Arizona has allowed opposing teams to average over 110 yards per game. With the Rams likely frustrated with themselves for losing such a winnable game against the Jets in Week 11, don’t be surprised to see them run some serious power offense against the Cardinals in Week 12, which could mean a lot of work from Jackson and Richardson.

Sam Bradford: 190 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Danny Amendola: 80 rec yds
Brandon Gibson: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Chris Givens: 30 rec yds
Lance Kendricks: 25 rec yds
Steven Jackson: 90 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds
Daryl Richardson: 50 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to lose a game when your defense forces five interceptions, but that’s exactly what the Arizona Cardinals managed to do this past Sunday when their offense completely collapsed, scoring just a total of 19 points on the day. Part of that came because quarterback John Skelton, who was just 2-of-7 passing, got benched in favor of rookie QB Ryan Lindley. Lindley didn’t fair much better as he threw for just 64 yards on the day, going 9-of-20 in the process. It would’ve been hard to imagine this going into the year, but Cardinals fans are practically begging for the return of Kevin Kolb. Their quarterback practiced on Wednesday this week for the first time since being knocked out of the Week 6 game against the Bills, but was limited. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has since named Ryan Lindley the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game.

Ryan Lindley isn’t likely to be much of a fantasy option and with the lack of star-power in this offense, the only player that fantasy owners likely care much about is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, who was held to just one catch for 11 yards during the team’s loss to the Falcons this past week, has seen his fantasy numbers drop off significantly in 2012 from his career averages and he could have some problems this week against the St. Louis Rams defense. The Rams have been excellent against opposing wide receivers in just about every game this season, having held them to one or zero touchdown receptions in eight of their 10 games. The only other fantasy-relevant player in this passing game is Andre Roberts who has scored just one touchdown in his past six games combined and is also coming off a terrible game against the Falcons when he caught just one pass for seven yards. With Ryan Lindley behind center, it’s going to be difficult to expect much from either Fitzgerald or Roberts, but with a full week of practice, things should at least be better than they were a week ago.

Running Game Thoughts: After struggling with the likes of Ryan Williams, William Powell and LaRod Stephens-Howling for most of the season, Arizona Cardinals fans will welcome back running back Beanie Wells to the lineup in Week 12. Wells, who had missed the previous seven games due to turf toe, may be eased back into playing time, but given the up-and-down production of Stephens-Howling since he took over as the starter, it’s very likely that Wells will be given his starting job back as soon as he is physically ready to take the bulk of the carries. With the Cardinals out of any real playoff discussion, one has to assume that the Cardinals have decided that Wells is healthy enough for at least a decent-sized workload if they were willing to activate him already.

Whether it’s Wells or Stephens-Howling who gets the majority of the touches, this matchup against the Rams has become very interesting over the past few weeks. While the Rams were very good against the run in the early part of the season and had only allowed one team to rush for 100-or-more yards against them through their first seven games, they have since allowed three straight teams to get to that number and more. Not only that, but they’ve allowed a total of five touchdowns to the running back position during that three-game stretch. This past week, it was the combination of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell who beat up St. Louis on the ground. If that mediocre duo could put together a nice day, there’s really no reason that LaRod Stephens-Howling and a healthy Beanie Wells couldn’t do quite well themselves, especially if the Cardinals attempt to control the clock and keep the ball out of their rookie quarterback’s hands.

Ryan Lindley: 150 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 50 rec yds
Andre Roberts: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Robert Housler: 40 rec yds
Beanie Wells: 50 rush yds, 1 TD
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 40 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Rams 20, Cardinals 14