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Inside the Matchup
Week 5

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

ARI @ STL | BAL @ KC | BUF @ SF | GB @ IND



 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Anderson 12 4 75.0
2 Caron 10 7 58.8
3 Smith 8 8 50.0
4 Marcoccio 6 8 42.9

Cardinals @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: The most unlikely 4-0 team in the 2012 NFL season has to be the Arizona Cardinals, led by quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb, who had lost the starting gig to John Skelton in the preseason, took over midway through Week 1 and rallied the team to an unlikely victory over the Seahawks. Though it hasn’t always been accompanied by the most impressive statistical performances, Kolb has been an efficient QB and has only thrown two interceptions in four weeks compared to seven touchdowns.

One of the biggest reasons for that success his been the conservative play calling. In order to continue the success, Kolb will need to play perhaps his most safest game yet as he heads to St. Louis to go up against a surprisingly dominant Rams defense that has already forced eight interceptions while only allowing two touchdown passes. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging just 226 yards passing per game and the Rams have allowed just one touchdown pass to a wide receiver this season. Larry Fitzgerald will likely find himself lined up against top cornerback Cortland Finnegan throughout the game.

Running Game Thoughts: With Beanie Wells (toe) out of the picture with an injury, the job has opened up for second year back Ryan Williams to establish himself as the new go-to guy out of the backfield for the Cardinals. Though Arizona walked away with a win, the first test of the Williams experiment didn’t go so well last week. Williams ran for just 26 yards on 13 carries and failed to get into the endzone. Worse yet, he caught just one pass and it appears that he is not yet the receiver out of the backfield that Wells was.

Williams will have a chance to redeem himself this week, as he will be running against a significantly less-dominant run defense than he faced in Week 4. The Rams defense has allowed 401 yards on the ground through four games and have allowed at least one opposing running back to score in three out of the four games so far this year. Not only that, they allowed a less-than-stellar Kevin Smith of the Lions to run over and through them for two scores in Week 1. This is the kind of game that Williams could break out in, so if you’re looking for a player to take a chance on this week, he just might be your guy.

Kevin Kolb: 210 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 60 rec yds
Andre Roberts: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Michael Floyd: 30 rec yds
Ryan Williams: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s a passing game that has shown improvement in 2012, but Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams have not yet graduated to the big leagues of fantasy stardom. Bradford looked good through the first two weeks of the season, throwing four touchdown passes to only one interception, but has not thrown a touchdown since while throwing three more interceptions. Fortunately, top receiver Danny Amendola has remained at least moderately productive with the massive number of targets. As it sits right now, Amendola has seen 25 more passes come his way this season than any other Rams receiver.

If the numbers stay consistent, don’t look for Bradford to get back into the touchdown column. The Arizona Cardinals secondary has been incredible this season, having allowed just three passing touchdowns through the first four games of the season. That number includes just one touchdown between Mike Vick and Tom Brady. Although the Cardinals secondary did look surprisingly weak at times against rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, they were able to intercept two passes while allowing just one touchdown. Bradford and the Rams haven’t yet broken out and while we don’t necessarily expect the Cardinals to remain an elite pass defense all year, they look like one right now.

Running Game Thoughts: There is little debate that Steven Jackson has been an elite running back throughout his NFL career, but the lack of offensive firepower around him has kept him from being an elite fantasy player in most seasons. So far in 2012, it looks as though Jackson may finally be on the decline from even being a startable fantasy option. Through four games, a banged-up Jackson has rushed for just 195 yards and has not yet scored a touchdown either rushing or receiving. Though backup running backs Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead have value if Jackson goes down, neither is truly fantasy relevant as long as Jackson is healthy.

Jackson will have a challenge this week going up against one of the league’s stingiest run defenses through the first four weeks of the season. The Cardinals have yet to allow 100 yards on the ground to an opposing back and although they’ve gone up against some of the league’s more talented backs in Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush, they have allowed just one rushing touchdown on the season—to the 258 pound Dolphin running back Jorvorskie Lane. Jackson is very talented, but this is a tough matchup even for him, especially when you consider that he has scored just four career touchdowns against the Cardinals in 13 career meetings against them.

Sam Bradford: 230 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Danny Amendola: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Gibson: 50 rec yds
Lance Kendricks: 25 rec yds
Steven Jackson: 60 rush yds, 15 rec yds
Daryl Richardson: 20 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Cardinals 20, Rams 16 ^ Top

Ravens @ Chiefs - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Could 2012 be the year that Joe Flacco finally emerges as a top-tier quarterback? Through four weeks it looks like that very well might be the case. Flacco, who has averaged an impressive 317 yards per game this season, has already thrown seven touchdown passes putting him on pace for career years in both categories. The offense has gone through the running game in recent seasons and although Ray Rice has certainly stayed an important player, the offense is beginning to look more and more like it’s running through Flacco’s arm. Receiver Torrey Smith has scored three touchdowns over the past two weeks and after a great start to his 2012 it was tight end Dennis Pitta who found himself without a catch for the first time this season last week against the Browns.

Flacco, Smith and Pitta could all be in for big weeks in Week 5 as they head to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs whose defense has been perhaps the worst in the league through the first quarter of the season. They’ve allowed a league-worst 11 total touchdowns to opposing QB’s while intercepting just two passes. For Dennis Pitta owners, it is worth noting that the Kansas City secondary has allowed three touchdowns to opposing tight ends but do keep in mind that they’ve already played against Antonio Gates, Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez.

Running Game Thoughts: As a consensus top five pick in just about every fantasy draft this season, Ray Rice has done his job of maintaining the status of being a solid first round pick. His 317 rushing yards aren’t overly impressive and place him 13th in the league, but it’s his ability as a receiver that makes Rice an absolute juggernaut. With 22 receptions for 174 yards, Rice trails only Darren Sproles in the race for the league’s top receiving back in PPR formats. When you combine the rushing and receiving, Rice has been the No. 2 back in fantasy which puts him in line with his ADP even after a somewhat disappointing performance in Week 4 where he failed to get into the endzone against the Browns.

When you consider how bad the Chiefs defense has been against the pass this season, one would assume that their run defense has been better, but that’s not really the case. The Chiefs have been absolutely abused on the ground this season, surrendering a staggering 650 total yards to running backs through the first four weeks, including five touchdowns. To make matters worse, the Chiefs have allowed 15 receptions for 172 yards and two scores to opposing running backs over the past two games, so look for Rice and the Ravens to exploit that weakness on Sunday.

Joe Flacco: 300 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Torrey Smith: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Dennis Pitta: 60 rec yds
Ray Rice: 70 rush yds, 1 TD, 50 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: The first quarterback demotion of the 2012 season could very well happen this week as Matt Cassel and the Chiefs host the Baltimore Ravens. Cassel, who has been the top quarterback on the team’s depth chart since signing in 2009, has struggled mightily during the 2012 season, throwing seven interceptions through the first four games with only five touchdown passes. Although the five TDs have helped fantasy owners, it is worth noting that many of them have come in “garbage time” during games when the Chiefs have been blown out.

If Cassel can avoid being benched in favor of Brady Quinn, he’ll have to do it against one of the league’s perennially best defenses. The Ravens have allowed just two passing touchdowns this season despite allowing three straight 300+ yard performances to opposing quarterbacks. The “bend but don’t break” philosophy that the Ravens have deployed in 2012 has led them to a 3-1 record and could prove to be the final nail in the coffin for Matt Cassel as the starting quarterback in Kansas City. If Quinn does take over, pay close attention to his connection with Dwayne Bowe as Bowe has been very successful this season with Cassel, particularly late in games. If he and Quinn don’t have the same type of chemistry, it could be a rough season for the Chiefs top receiver from here on out.

Running Game Thoughts: Following an absolutely ridiculous performance in Week 3, Jamaal Charles kept the fantasy train rolling in Week 4 with a 111 total yards and two touchdowns. This came in a blowout loss, which should give fantasy owners some confidence that even in games when his team is not moving the ball, Charles is still going to get his touches and should be a decent starter in most games. Peyton Hillis has fallen off the face of the planet due to injury and although Shaun Draughn has 18 touches over the past two games, Charles owners shouldn’t worry about their guy being phased out of the offense.

What Charles owners should be worried about is that the Baltimore Ravens defense has not yet allowed a 100-yard rusher this season. They’ve done a good job of controlling BenJarvus Green-Ellis, LeSean McCoy, Stevan Ridley and Trent Richardson. Although opposing backs have scored at least one touchdown in each game, the reality is that the lackluster Chiefs offense is not likely to find themselves in goal line situations, so if Charles is going to score, it’s probably going to have to be a long one.

Matt Cassel: 140 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Brady Quinn: 90 pass yds, 1 INT
Dwayne Bowe: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Baldwin: 40 rec yds
Dexter McCluster: 30 rec yds
Tony Moeaki: 25 rec yds
Jamaal Charles: 75 rush yds, 1 TD, 25 rec yds

Prediction: Ravens 34, Chiefs 17 ^ Top

Bills @ 49ers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Who would have thought that through four games, Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick would’ve outscored Eli Manning, Matt Stafford, Mike Vick and Aaron Rodgers? Fitzpatrick’s 12 touchdowns are best in the NFL and although his seven interceptions are second-worst, he has been a shockingly productive fantasy quarterback, having thrown seven of his touchdowns over the past two weeks including four against the Patriots in Week 4. Receiver Steve Johnson remains his favorite target, but tight end Scott Chandler has been a red zone beast, catching four touchdowns already.

Given how ridiculously dominant the 49ers are against the run, it should be assumed that much of the Bills’ success on offense this week will come via Fitzpatrick’s arm. The 49ers humiliated the Bills’ division rivals, the Jets, in Week 3 but Buffalo’s offense does have significantly more firepower, so not all hope is lost. One point worth noting is that while the 49ers have allowed just one touchdown reception to opposing wide receivers, they have struggled to stop tight ends in the redzone. All signs point to another touchdown for Scott Chandler even against this tough defense.

Running Game Thoughts: When Fred Jackson went down early in the season, it was C.J. Spiller’s chance to shine. And shine he did, becoming the top-scoring back in most formats through the first three weeks of the season. When Jackson was set to return, Spiller suffered an injury of his own and it appeared that Jackson might get a chance to pick up where his partner in crime left off. But when Spiller played through the shoulder injury during a Week 4 loss to the Patriots, neither he nor Jackson was able to get much going. It does appear that Jackson, at least for now, will see more playing time than Spiller but this is one of the truest timeshare backfields in the league when both players are healthy.

The split backfield itself could be tough enough for fantasy production, but when you add that to the fact that they’re playing against the league’s most formidable run defense, it’s not hard to understand why some fantasy owners are leaning toward benching both Buffalo RBs. San Francisco has yet to allow a touchdown to an opposing running back and only Adrian Peterson has cracked the 100-yard mark against them. Their success against the run is nothing new. The 49ers allowed just two touchdowns on the ground through the entire 2011 season. The Buffalo running backs have been productive, but if there is a week to consider benching them, this is it.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 240 pass yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
Steve Johnson: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 60 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 40 rush yds, 40 rec yds
C.J. Spiller: 30 rush yds, 40 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Formerly referred to as a “bust,” San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has truly embraced his role as a game-managing quarterback over the past two seasons. With a 3-1 record as a starter this season, Smith has averaged just 196 yards and 1.25 touchdowns per game. By themselves, those numbers aren’t very good, but it has been Smith’s ability to avoid turnovers that has made him truly valuable... valuable to the 49ers, that is. For fantasy owners, Smith remains a below-average QB2.

Given Smith’s mediocre numbers, tight end Vernon Davis remains an elite player at his position and might be the strongest tight end play in the league this week. He’ll go up against a Buffalo Bills secondary that was the worst defense in the league at stopping tight ends in 2011 and has allowed 15 catches to the position over the past two weeks. Michael Crabtree is likely the only other player in this passing game who can be a fantasy option, but has yet to impress this season. He did catch 19 passes over the first three weeks, but fell back with only two in Week 4. If he’s not getting into the endzone, Crabtree is likely only a flex play option in PPR leagues.

Running Game Thoughts: Frank Gore may have found the fountain of youth as the 49ers RB has already scored three touchdowns and rushed for 326 yards through four games. It’s not that his performances have been particularly dominating, but Gore has been a solid RB2 for fantasy owners. The only game he hasn’t achieved more than 12 fantasy points was in Week 3 when he went up against the league’s No. 2 run defense, the Minnesota Vikings. Backup running back Kendall Hunter has looked good in the limited action he’s seen, but has not been on the field much, limiting his opportunities.

Gore, Hunter and the 49ers run game will be up against one of the league’s worst rushing defenses, one which has already allowed six touchdowns to opposing running backs this season and was destroyed by the Patriots’ backs in Week 4. Buffalo’s run defense is fourth-worst in the NFL and it could mean some serious numbers for not only Gore, but Hunter as well.

Alex Smith: 190 pass yds, 1 TD
Michael Crabtree: 40 rec yds
Mario Manningham: 25 rec yds
Randy Moss: 20 rec yds
Vernon Davis: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 120 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds
Kendall Hunter: 35 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Bills 20, 49ers 30 ^ Top

Packers @ Colts - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers hasn’t come close to living up to his lofty draft status this season. He was the first overall pick for fantasy owners in many drafts, and undoubtedly a top-five pick across the board. Yet he’s just 11th in fantasy scoring at the quarterback position, and needed a good game last week against the Saints to move up. Greg Jennings is likely out this week, leaving the heavy lifting to Jordy Nelson, who finally caught his first touchdown of the season last week and is in line for another this week against an Indianapolis team that has been burned by quality receivers this season.

The Colts have an average pass defense, ranking 15th in passing yards per game allowed. They’ve had difficulty stopping opposing wideouts, and are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to players at that position. The Colts have only faced two big-time wideouts, Brandon Marshall and Percy Harvin, and each gained over 100 yards against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Cedric Benson has been okay for the Packers, twice rushing for 80+ yards in a game, but he’s only averaging 3.6 yards per carry and is 19th in the league in rushing yards. Yet he has a good match-up this week, and is a solid flex play for fantasy owners.

Only seven teams have allowed more fantasy points per game to running backs than the Colts, who are 24th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. While they held Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson to 60 yards on the ground, Chicago’s Matt Forte and Michael Bush each had double-digit fantasy points against Indy, and Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 177 yards against them in Week 3.

Aaron Rodgers: 290 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jordy Nelson: 110 rec yds, 2 TD
James Jones: 65 rec yds
Jermichael Finley: 45 rec yds
Randall Cobb: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Cedric Benson: 70 rush yds, 1 TD
James Starks: 25 rush yds / 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck has been highly overshadowed by fellow rookie Robert Griffin III, but he’s been solid in his own right. Luck has played one fewer game than RG3, but that doesn’t make up for the 50-point gap in fantasy points that currently separates the two. Still, Luck has thrown for 300 yards twice in his three games, and made Reggie Wayne relevant to fantasy owners once again, and each should have a good shot at putting up good numbers this week against Green Bay.

The Packers are sixth in the NFL against the pass, but did allow Drew Brees to throw for 440 yards and three touchdowns last week. They’ve only had an interception in one of their games this season – against Jay Cutler and the Bears – and have allowed a wide receiver to register double-digit fantasy points in three of their four contests on the year.

Running Game Thoughts: Donald Brown is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry, and currently ranks 31st in rushing yards. He hasn’t run for more than 62 yards in any of his first three games this season, and is a flex play, at best, most weeks.

The Packers have allowed just a single rushing score this year, but they are giving up 113 rushing yards pare game (18th in the NFL) and 4.4 yards per carry. Green Bay allowed 112 yards to Frank Gore, 85 yards to Matt Forte and Michael Bush, and 98 yards to Marshawn Lynch, so they aren’t invulnerable to being run on.

Andrew Luck: 225 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Reggie Wayne: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Coby Fleener: 55 rec yds
Donnie Avery: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Brown: 55 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Packers 31, Colts 21 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Panthers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson is Seattle’s quarterback, but he has no place whatsoever as the quarterback on fantasy rosters. He is 32nd in the NFL in passing yards, and dead last among starting quarterbacks in fantasy points. This has subsequently hurt the fantasy status of his receivers, specifically Sidney Rice, who fantasy owners could once count on, but who doesn’t belong on fantasy rosters as anything more than a deep reserve.

The Panthers are 22nd in the league in pass defense, and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for at least 285 yards in each of their last three games. Carolina has also allowed receivers to have big games in their last two contests, with Ramses Barden gaining 138 yards and Roddy White beating them for 169 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Running Game Thoughts: Fortunately for fantasy owners, not all of Seattle’s offense is lethargic. Marshawn Lynch is currently the NFL leader in rushing yards, but is sixth in fantasy points because he is not a huge receiving threat, and has scored just twice. Until this week, that is, when he’ll double his touchdown total against one of the worst run defenses in the NFL.

Just one team, the Saints, have given up more fantasy points per contest to running backs than the Panthers, who rank 25th in the NFL in rushing defense. They’ve allowed at least 95 rushing yards to the opposition’s top back in each game this season, and six different backs have picked up 20 or more receiving yards against them.

Russell Wilson: 155 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT / 25 rush yds
Sidney Rice: 55 rec yds
Doug Baldwin: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Golden Tate: 20 rec yds
Zach Miller: 10 rec yds
Marshawn Lynch: 130 rush yds, 2 TD / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite throwing five interceptions and only four touchdowns, Cam Newton is fifth among quarterbacks in fantasy points because he’s run for 167 yards and three scores. He’s also found Steve Smith 17 times for 325 yards, which is ninth in the league, but none of his receptions have come in the end zone, and we’re not confident this is the week that the two will finally hook up for a score.

The Seahawks are tied for ninth in the league in passing yards per game allowed, and have given up the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and the fifth-fewest to tight ends. They haven’t allowed more than 251 passing yards to a quarterback, more than 63 passing yards to a wideout or more than 60 yards to a tight end.

Running Game Thoughts: Injuries have limited Jonathan Stewart to a pair of games this season, but he’ll be good to go in Week 5, as will DeAngelo Williams. These two make for a great pair of backs for the Panthers, but are a nightmare for fantasy owners, because it’s infuriating to try and figure out which of the two will ultimately have the bigger day, and that’s even more difficult this week due to the quality of Seattle’s run defense.

Only three teams have given up fewer fantasy points per game to running backs than Seattle, and only Miami has allowed fewer rushing yards per game and a lower YPC average. No running back has gained more than 55 rushing yards in a game against them this year.

Cam Newton: 205 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT / 40 rush yds, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 85 rec yds
Brandon LaFell: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Greg Olsen: 35 rec yds
DeAngelo Williams: 40 rush yds / 10 rec yds
Jonathan Stewart: 35 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Panthers 24, Seahawks 21 ^ Top

Bears @ Jaguars - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Not only is Jay Cutler the league’s biggest baby, he’s also a lousy quarterback, at least in terms of fantasy football. He has fewer fantasy points than Blaine Gabbert – who is awful, and Andrew Luck – who has played three games. Brandon Marshall has still produced, with two games of at least 115 receiving yards and one touchdown, and he’s seventh in the league in receiving yards. He should move up in the rankings this week against Jacksonville.

The Jaguars are 20th in the NFL against the pass, and struggle to do the one thing that frustrates Cutler (and most quarterbacks) the most – rush the passer. Jacksonville has just two sacks this season, which is the lowest total in the NFL and fewer than 35 different individual players.

Running Game Thoughts: Matt Forte returned from his ankle injury against Dallas despite not being 100 percent, and had 52 rushing yards. He and Michael Bush make up a formidable duo that should have their way with the lousy rush defense that the Jaguars employ.

Jacksonville is 30th in the NFL in run defense and has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Three separate backs have accumulated at least 20 fantasy points against the Jags and four different backs have run for 70 or more yards against them.

Jay Cutler: 255 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 115 rec yds, 1 TD
Alshon Jeffery: 60 rec yds
Devin Hester: 25 rec yds
Kellen Davis: 15 rec yds
Matt Forte: 90 rush yds, 1 TD / 30 rec yds
Michael Bush: 55 rush yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: The Jaguars would have the league’s worst passing offense if not for Seattle and Russell Wilson, and now that Laurent Robinson is out with a head injury, there’s not a single Jaguars quarterback, wide receiver or tight end worthy of being owned on any fantasy roster anywhere on the planet.

Chicago is 18th in the NFL in pass defense, but the lead the league in interceptions. Their high interception rate is one reason the Bears have given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, though they’ve also allowed the the sixth-most to tight ends, including 82 yards to Coby Fleener in Week 1 and 112 yards and a score to Jason Witten last week.

Running Game Thoughts: Unlike the Jaguars non-existent passing game, opposing defenses do have to take into account Maurice Jones-Drew, who is seventh in the league in rushing yards and 11th in fantasy points. He’d be higher but has scored just once on the ground, and we don’t think he’ll add to that this week against the vicious Chicago run defense.

The Bears have the league’s third-ranked rush defense, and have given up just a single touchdown on the ground, and that was in Week 1. Only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to running backs than Chicago, who held both Steven Jackson and DeMarco Murray to fewer than 30 rushing yards.

Blaine Gabbert: 135 pass yds, 2 INT
Justin Blackmon: 50 rec yds
Marcedes Lewis: 35 rec yds
Cecil Shorts: 15 rec yds
Mike Thomas: 10 rec yds
Maurice Jones-Drew: 60 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Prediction: Bears 24, Jaguars 9 ^ Top

Chargers @ Saints - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Philip Rivers has not been as good this season as he has been in past years for his fantasy owners. He’s just 20th among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, and has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game. It would be nice if Rivers could get tight end Antonio Gates more involved as well, because Gates currently has fewer fantasy points than Anthony McCoy.

New Orleans is 24th in the NFL in pass defense and has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to both quarterbacks and wide receivers, but the fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends. Every quarterback they’ve faced has thrown for at least 248 yards against them, and four different wideouts have gained 90 or more yards when facing the Saints.

Running Game Thoughts: We’d like to think Ryan Mathews is a better running back than Jackie Battle, but it’s hard to argue with the results thus far. Battle has been a very pleasant surprise for fantasy owners who have been keen enough to use him, but make no mistake, a breakout is coming for Mathews, and it could very well happen this week against a porous New Orleans run defense.

No team in the league has given up more fantasy points per game to running backs than the Saints, who are dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game. Five different runners have gained 50 or more yards against New Orleans, including Jamaal Charles, who annihilated them for 233 yards in Week 3.

Philip Rivers: 275 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Antonio Gates: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Michael Floyd: 75 rec yds
Robert Meachem: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Eddie Royal: 20 rec yds
Ryan Mathews: 110 rush yds, 2 TD / 20 rec yds
Jackie Battle: 35 rush yds / 25 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees is third at the quarterback position in fantasy scoring, Jimmy Graham is tied for third among tight ends, and Marques Colston and Lance Moore are each solid plays on a fantasy team’s wide receiving corps. Basically, there’s very little not to like about the Saints passing attack for fantasy owners.

San Diego is 18th in the league against the pass, and three of the four quarterbacks they’ve faced this season have thrown for at least 250 yards against them, but the Chargers have held their own against wideouts, as just eight teams have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to wide receivers than they have.

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints aren’t all that interested in running the ball, and as such, have just one player in the league’s top-40 in rushing yards. That player would be Pierre Thomas, who is second on his team in carries and has yet to score a touchdown. Still, Darren Sproles is a dream play at the flex position this week, because San Diego can’t stop opposing backs from catching the ball.

The Chargers are fifth in the league against the run, but have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points per game to running backs this season because they’ve allowed the fifth-most receiving yards and most receiving touchdowns (tied) to backs.

Drew Brees: 345 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jimmy Graham: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Marques Colston: 70 rec yds
Lance Moore: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Devery Henderson: 15 rec yds
Pierre Thomas: 55 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Mark Ingram: 35 rush yds, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 20 rush yds / 90 rec yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Saints 31, Chargers 28 ^ Top

Browns @ Giants - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Brandon Weeden has exceeded 300 yards passing in both of his road games, and he’ll look to continue that streak at the Meadowlands this Sunday. Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie, has appeared shaky at times, but has also received little help from an inexperienced receiving corps, lead by the drop-prone Greg Little. Little is a physically gifted athlete who played only one season as a receiver at North Carolina, and his inexperience is more evident in the pro game. Weeden has a strong arm, and is a heady player, but he has had issues with accuracy and lacks the composure that should come later with experience. He’s completing only 53 percent of his passes for 997 yards, with only three touchdowns versus seven interceptions. Of course four of those interceptions came in his first professional game against a tough Eagles pass defense; he has since seemed to settle down a bit, which may be a good sign.

If the Cleveland O-line can protect the rookie quarterback, Weeden may be effective against a suspect Giants secondary. The unit did perform better last week with the return of Prince Amukamara, but on the season they have allowed 249.5 ypg six passing touchdowns. The Giants' bread and butter on defense is of course their ability to rush the passer, and Cleveland has allowed nine sacks already. It could be another tough day for the rookie.

Running Game Thoughts: During the pre-NFL draft run up, rookie running back Trent Richardson was billed as the best prospect since Adrian Peterson, and so far he has lived up to those expectations. He struggled in Week 1, after coming back from a preseason ankle sprain, but since then has looked like one of the best backs in the league. He has a unique speed and strength combination, and his incredible balance allows him to bounce off hits and gain yards after contact. He has scored a touchdown in each of his last three games and is starting to be worked into the passing game. Under the national spotlight on Thursday night, he totaled over 100 yards and found the end zone against a tough Ravens defense. T-Rich is the real deal and should be in your lineup whenever he is healthy.

The Giants have played the run relatively tough, allowing 118 ypg and only two touchdowns, but they can be vulnerable against good running games. Expect them to move a safety or two into the box in order to limit Richardson and take their chances with Weeden and the inexperienced pass catchers of Cleveland.

Brandon Weeden: 225 pass yds 1 TD, 2 INTs / 5 rush yds
Greg Little: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Travis Benjamin: 40 rec yds
Jordan Cameron: 40 rec yds
Ben Watson: 25 rec yds
Trent Richardson: 70 rush yds, 1 TD / 35 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning and the passing offense have been missing Hakeem Nicks for the last two games and will be without him once again this week. What started out as a foot injury has now developed into a swelling of the knee, and according to Tom Coughlin, it isn’t getting any better. As a result, defenses have been throwing bracket coverage at Victor Cruz, forcing him mostly into underneath routes. Ramses Barden in Week 3 and Domenik Hixon in Week 4 have each broken 100 yards receiving while filling in for Nicks, but they are not nearly as dangerous and have benefitted from Eli’s Peyton-like ability to move the ball by finding the open receiver. Tight end Martellus Bennett had an extremely quiet Week 4, but he opened the season grabbing touchdown receptions in each of his first three games. He’s far more athletic than the previous tight ends who fared well playing with Manning in the Giants' system, so owners should look at last week as a bump in the road and feel safe starting him most weeks going forward.

Cornerback Joe Haden started his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances after the Week 1 contest, and the Browns pass defense has suffered tremendously since. The team has allowed 286 ypg and has given up nine passing touchdowns on the season. Haden will return next week, but his absence this week is good news for Manning, Cruz and Hixon owners.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw was back in his role as the lead back last week. Many owners feared that Andre Brown did enough to steal significant snaps from Bradshaw while he was nursing a neck injury, but Coughlin is loyal to his players. Brown received only five carries to Bradshaw’s 13, but neither back was very effective against a tough Philadelphia run defense. Bradshaw also dominated snaps as the superior pass blocker, and he's statistically one of the game’s best short-yardage backs. As long as his neck holds up, Bradshaw should be a good start most weeks.

Eli Manning: 315 pass yds 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rueben Randle: 35 rec yds
Victor Cruz: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Domenik Hixon: 70 rec yds
Martellus Bennett: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw: 45 rush yds, 1 TD / 30 rec yds
Andre Brown: 30 rush yds

Prediction: Giants 27, Browns 17 ^ Top

Falcons @ Redskins - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Ryan has arguably been the NFL and Fantasy MVP through the initial quarter of the 2012 season. He has masterfully run the no-huddle, downfield-attacking offense installed by new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It doesn’t hurt that he’s blessed with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and two All-Pro caliber wide receivers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. White was the hero last week with 160 yards and 2 touchdowns after the younger After stealing some of White's thunder earlier in the season, Jones had his worst game of the season last week, but Koetter inferred that he was used mostly as a decoy because of a hand injury that limited him during the game. Expect the powerful and fast Jones to bounce back as early as this week, as he’s one of the more physically imposing receivers in the league. White should be able to follow up his big performance with another strong showing, as well, when the Falcon’s travel to our nation’s capitol to match up with the Redskins' pathetic pass defense.

The Washington defense struggled before losing pass-rush specialist Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the IR for the season, and has been even more vulnerable since. The suspect secondary needs the protection of an aggressive pass rush, so defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will need to be a little more creative to make it work. Washington has allowed an incredible 326.3 ypg through the air and an even more incredible 11 passing touchdowns. Maybe RGIII has a kid brother that can play cornerback.

Running Game Thoughts: In running for 103 yards last week, Michael Turner kicked off the dirt in which everyone had him buried. He even caught the first touchdown pass of his career, which was good for 60 yards. Before his owners get too excited, however, remember that the Panthers defense made journeyman Andre Brown look like a Pro Bowler the week before.

The Redskins have handled opposing runners fairly well so far this season, allowing only 89.0 ypg with two rushing touchdowns. This is a matchup that probably favors the Skins, especially when you consider that the Falcons should be able to move the ball through the air with ease.

Matt Ryan: 345 pass yds 3 TDs
Roddy White: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Julio Jones: 110 rec yds, 2 TDs
Tony Gonzalez: 80 rec yds
Jacquizz Rodgers: 30 rush yds / 30 rec yds
Michael Turner: 45 rush yds, 1 TD / 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Robert Griffin III has shown tremendous poise, accuracy and athleticism and is likely finding his way into fantasy starting lineups after being drafted as a high-upside backup. Griffin is a perfect fit in a Shanahan passing offense that relies on the quarterback rolling out of the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Pierre Garcon made his way back into the Skins lineup off a foot injury last week, but he only saw a limited amount of snaps. He should be worked back into his normal amount of snaps this week, but he has admitted the foot still bothers him. Second year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, who filled in nicely for Garcon while he was out, is expected to slide into Josh Morgan’s spot opposite Garcon. Veteran Santana Moss is strictly a slot receiver now, and because the team has not run a lot of three-wide receiver sets, he’s not produced much this season. He is likely on the waiver wire in most leagues by now. Tight end Fred Davis was not targeted much by Griffin during the first two weeks but has started to find his way into the mix the last two weeks. He’s one of the more talented pass catchers on the team, and his role should continue to grow.

Atlanta lost defensive back Brent Grimes for the season before it even started, but they've still managed to perform well against the pass. They are ranked as one of the top 10 pass defenses, allowing only 207 ypg. Asante Samuel was added during the offseason to play nickel and add depth, which has helped the team survive the loss of Grimes.

Running Game Thoughts: I hate to say it, but it looks like Alfred Morris has made “Shanahanigans” a thing of the past. The sixth-round rookie should stick in the starting lineup as long as he stays healthy and productive. The hard-charging Morris has little wiggle or deception in his running style, but he fits well in the zone blocking scheme with his one-cut-and-go mentality. He has gained a lot of yardage after initial contact due to his burst and the way he keeps his legs churning through contact. It would be nothing short of shocking if Morris weren’t the bell cow this week after the season he’s had so far.

Robert Griffin III: 235 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 45 rush yds, 1 TD
Pierre Garcon: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Santana Moss: 35 rec yds
Leonard Hankerson: 60 rec yds
Fred Davis: 45 rec yds
Alfred Morris: 85 rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Falcons 31, Redskins 24 ^ Top

Broncos @ Patriots - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Peyton Manning returns to Foxboro, but this time as a Denver Bronco. The Manning-Patriot rivalry has been as long and intense as any non-divisional rivalry the league has seen. Manning leads a Broncos team back to the place of last season’s playoff humiliation—albeit one that came without him under center. He may not have the same zip he had on the ball before his recent neck surgeries, but Manning is still the heady quarterback that finds the open receiver while in total command of the offense. He has familiar faces in Brandon Stokley and Jacob Tamme that act as security blankets, but new weapons Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas will be the key to Denver’s passing game success. Manning has more chemistry with the sure-handed, precise route running Decker, but Thomas is the most physically dominating receiver that has ever been on the receiving end of Manning's passes. Expect the Broncos to attack the Patriots’ suspect cornerbacks early and often.

The Patriots have allowed 281.5 ypg and have given up nine passing touchdowns through the air this year. Cornerback Devin McCourty showed promise in the past but has been badly abused this season. Manning should be able to take advantage of the speed, size and strength advantage that Thomas and Decker will have downfield.

Running Game Thoughts: Willis McGahee turns 31 this month but is still running with the power and shiftiness that he displayed in his younger years. McGahee was a star in his prime, before backing up Ray Rice during his last two seasons in Baltimore. However, that backup role may have kept his legs fresh for this career rejuvenation, which has allowed him to be the engine that drives the offense in Denver. Rookie Ronnie Hillman has worked his way up the depth chart, since preseason injuries kept him behind the likes of Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno, and is starting to be worked into the offense. Hillman is undersized but his quick lateral jump cuts allow him to avoid major hits while gaining yardage. His role could expand this week if McGahee struggles against the tough interior of the New England D-line.

The Patriots have been a top 10 run defense this season behind the play of nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the immovable object in the middle of the line. Expect the Peyton Manning Show in New England this Sunday once the Broncos fail to establish the run.

Peyton Manning: 305 pass yds 3 TDs, 1 INT
Eric Decker: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Demaryius Thomas: 100 rec yds, 2 TDs
Brandon Stokley: 45 rec yds.
Jacob Tamme: 35 rec yds
Willis McGahee: 40 rush yds / 5 rec yds
Ronnie Hillman: 25 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady was effective through the first three weeks, but he finally had the breakout game against Buffalo last week that his owners were waiting for. Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns while also running in a fourth. Rob Gronkowski (5-104-1) bounced back from a poor statistical Week 3, where he was often required to stay in and block against the blitzing Baltimore Ravens. The loss of tight end Aaron Hernandez has allowed Wes Welker, who was mysteriously benched in favor of Julian Edelman after Week 1, to remain relevant in the offense, and his owners hope he’s done enough over the last three weeks to stay in the mix when Hernandez returns. Brandon Lloyd has done a nice job as Brady’s deep threat—something that New England has been lacking since the heyday of Randy Moss. Still, Lloyd may not be consistent enough for the likes of his fantasy owners.

The Broncos are a middle-of-the-road pass defense, allowing 220.5 ypg and eight touchdowns through the air thus far. Veteran Champ Bailey is still going strong at his advanced age; however, since he sticks to one side of the field, Lloyd owners can feel comfortable starting him if they normally would. Bailey may find himself on Deion Branch for large portions of this game.

Running Game Thoughts: Former LSU running back Stevan Ridley was back in the mix after mysteriously giving way to Danny Woodhead in Week 3. Ridley carried the ball 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns, but just to further confuse fantasy owners, undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden also saw 16 carries. Bolden, who resembles former Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis in appearance and running style, rumbled for 167 yards and a score of his own. The Bills run defense is terrible, so it’s unlikely that the Pats will run the ball as much as they did last week—but Bolden’s impressive game may earn him a few carries each week at Ridley’s expense.

It does get tougher for the Pats’ ground game this week as the Broncos bring a top 10 run defense into Gillette Stadium. The New England game plan may very well be to attack through the air, putting Danny Woodhead back into the forefront of the running back crew. It’s tough to bench Ridley when he’s having such a fine season, but his owners must proceed with some caution.

Tom Brady: 325 pass yds 3 TDs
Brandon Lloyd: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Wes Welker: 80 rec yds
Rob Gronkowski: 70 rec yds, 1 TD
Deion Branch: 10 rec yds, 1 TD
Stevan Ridley: 85 rush yds / 10 rec yds
Danny Woodhead: 15 rush yds / 45 rec yds

Prediction: Patriots 30, Broncos 27 ^ Top

Texans @ Jets - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans are one of only a few teams to have run the ball more than they’ve attempted to pass it in 2012. They were one of only two teams (the other being the Broncos with Tim Tebow at quarterback) that ran the ball more than they dropped back to pass in 2011, as well. In other words, the Texans passing game is limited by opportunity, and only Andre Johnson is relevant for fantasy purposes. Quarterback Matt Schaub is nothing more than a solid, safe option who will not be the reason you win your league, but will not kill you should you lose your starting QB to injury. From an NFL perspective, Schaub is good enough to take Houston far in the playoffs and could probably carry the team if need be. Andre Johnson is one of the more talented wide receivers in the league and can dominate most defensive backs. The only thing holding him back is the offensive system and his recent injury history. The team has tried for years to find a complimentary receiver to line up opposite Johnson, but they always end up settling for Kevin Walter. Walter is a great blocker—an attractive quality for this offensive system—and is a dependable option in the passing game with sure hands and enough size to shield off defenders, but he’s not a game breaker. The real second option in the passing game is, and has been, tight end Owen Daniels. Daniels is having a nice season living off of Johnson’s scraps. This week he'll face a Jets defense notoriously generous to opposing tight ends.

As everyone knows, Darrelle Revis was lost for the season in Miami, and with that, the Jets pass defense is no longer feared. The 49ers did not need to take advantage of Kyle Wilson last week because they were running at will, but those days are coming soon—although probably not this week, either, since the Texans should be able to ground and pound the Jets into submission.

Running Game Thoughts: As stated above, the Texans are content to hand the ball off to fantasy god Arian Foster 20-25 (or more) times a game. Having one of the better backup running backs in the league in Ben Tate allows this team to ride their feature back without fear of wearing him down. Of course Tate also sees his share of carries and effectively moves the ball. Head coach Gary Kubiak is a Mike Shanahan disciple and helped implement the zone-blocking scheme that has helped so many runners succeed when he was an offensive coordinator in Denver. That success has carried over to Houston, and the team is fortunate to have two outstanding backs that fit the system well.

The Jets allowed C.J. Spiller to run all over them for 169 yards in Week 1. They managed to hold the pedestrian Steelers running game in check in Week 2, but then allowed Miami backs Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas to combine for 130 yards in Week 3. Last week was more of the same, as the San Francisco rushing attack totaled 245 yards on the ground. It doesn’t get any easier for the Jets this week as Mr. Foster and Mr. Tate come to Jersey.

Matt Schaub: 225 pass yds 2 TDs / 20 rush yds
Andre Johnson: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 55 rec yds
Owen Daniels: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Ben Tate: 40 rush yds
Arian Foster: 135 rush yds, 2 TDs / 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: I’m sure most of you will be skimming over this section quickly because, quite frankly, does any fantasy owner really care about the New York Jets passing game? Mark Sanchez looked like Joe Montana through a game and a quarter to start the season but has looked like Joe Blow since. With the season-ending injury to Santonio Holmes and with rookie Stephen Hill likely out with a hamstring injury, the Jets will be starting second-year slot receiver Jeremy Kerley and oft-injured Chaz Schilens at wideout this Monday night. With only former Dolphin Clyde Gates and journeyman Jason Hill, who was signed this week, behind them, this is an ugly situation.

The ugly New York receiving corps is made even uglier by the fact that the No. 1 pass defense will be lining up against them at Met Life Stadium. By the end of the first half of Monday Night Football, most of the audience may be switching over to “Revolution,” or anything else on TV other than this potential disaster.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets running game has been going nowhere fast behind the pedestrian Shonn Greene. Rex Ryan gave him a vote of confidence this week despite Bilal Powell seeing more snaps (albeit in catch-up mode) last week. Local rumors are stating that owner Woody Johnson will push for backup quarterback Tim Tebow to see more time on the field, so Monday Night could be a showcase for Tebowmania in prime time.

Mark Sanchez: 195 pass yds, 1 INT / 15 rush yds
Tim Tebow: 45 rush yds, 1 TD
Chaz Schilens: 45 rec yds
Jeremy Kerley: 45 rec yds
Jeff Cumberland: 20 rec yds
Shonn Greene: 25 rush yds / 5 rec yds
Bilal Powell: 10 rush yds / 35 rec yds

Prediction: Texans 34, Jets 10 ^ Top

Dolphins @ Bengals - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Against one of this year’s better defenses (Arizona), Ryan Tannehill threw for a remarkable 431 yards while having the best day of his still-new career. The main beneficiaries of this yardage outburst were Brian Hartline (12 catches, 253 yards, 1 TD) and Davone Bess (7 catches, 123 yards), who both look to be hot ‘adds’ on the waiver wire this week. While these numbers from both QB and WRs look impressive, it is important to temper expectations going forward, as Miami still ranks in the bottom five in touchdowns, completion percentage, and quarterback rating. That being said, this most recent game obviously has the attention of fantasy owners and has at least opened the door of possibilities that better days are to follow for this Miami passing attack. Their opponent this week, the Bengals, has been somewhat of an anomaly against opposing quarterbacks this season. On one hand, they have only picked off just one pass and are near the bottom of the NFL in both completion percentage allowed (67.9) and quarterback rating allowed (102.4). On the other hand, they are better than most in yards per game allowed and they rank first in sacks, with 17. Against a rookie quarterback this week, I expect the Bengals pass defense to really pressure Tannehill and contain Hartline now that they have seen what he can really do. If I'm in a PPR league, I’m comfortable with starting Hartline or Bess this week as low-end WR3, but I’d definitely make Tannehill prove his worth for another game or two before he gets anywhere near my starting lineup.

Running Game Thoughts: Against a fairly stout Arizona run defense, Reggie Bush put up average numbers (67 yards, 3.9 ypc) but more importantly showed that any injury he had to his knee from the previous week was not a major issue. For the Dolphins in this game, the running attack should be the focus. Miami, mostly on the legs of Bush, is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards and in the top eight in rushing attempts, yards per carry, and touchdowns. The Bengals run defense, on the other hand, ranks in the bottom 10 in yards allowed and dead last in yards per carry allowed, with a very generous 5.4. The Bengals rush defense is coming off its best performance to date, allowing just 69 yards to the Jaguars, but this is the Jaguars offense, so take that with a grain of salt. As long as Bush is still healthy this week, I expect 18 or more carries and a healthy amount of yards to go with them. Start Bush with confidence as a decent RB2, but avoid any other Dolphins runner unless Bush is completely ruled out ahead of time.

Ryan Tannehill: 220 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Brian Hartline: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Davone Bess: 55 rec yds
Anthony Fasano: 35 rec yds
Reggie Bush: 95 rush yds, 1 TD, 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bengals pass attack is on fire right now, ranking in the top 10 in yards, completion percentage, touchdowns, and yards per attempt. While a decent percentage of this may have to do with their weak schedule thus far, it is fair to say that Andy Dalton has looked sharp and A.J. Green looks like one of the league's best wide receivers already. Add this to the surprise mini-breakout of slot man Andrew Hawkins and a consistent performance from tight end Jermaine Gresham, and you have the makings of a pretty decent passing attack. The good news continues this week, as the Bengals get to host a Dolphins pass defense that just got torched by the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb, which had previously been near the bottom of the league. Thus far, the Dolphins rank third to last in passing yards allowed, though to be fair, they are middle of the road or better in most other defensive passing stats. Put this all together and I see a very good, but not elite, matchup for the Bengals passing attack. A.J. Green is a must start of course, and Dalton should make a good-bye week fill-in or QB2 in larger leagues. No other Bengals receiver is consistent enough to warrant starting yet, save for perhaps Gresham in larger leagues or as a desperation bye-week replacement.

Running Game Thoughts: The matchup between the Bengals rush attack and the Miami run defense is one where I expect the Bengals to lose. While the Bengals rank a respectable 13th in the NFL in rush yards, a good deal of that is because they have gotten some leads on teams and have pounded the ball in the fourth quarter. A more telling stat is their very average rush yards per attempt which sits at just 3.8, and that includes a 1 carry for 48 yards from Cedric Peerman in last week’s game. Match this with the Dolphins run defense which has not only given up the least amount of rushing yards (227), but also the lowest yards per carry average (2.4), and have yet to give up a run over 14 yards yet this season (best in the NFL). While I do not expect the Bengals to totally abandon the run, an average talent running back like Green-Ellis should not do much damage on the ground against this defense, even if he gets the 20+ carries that he is averaging per game. Bottom line; start BJGE only if you have to as a very low-end running back3.

Andy Dalton: 285 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
A.J. Green: 115 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermaine Gresham: 50 rec yds
Andrew Hawkins: 50 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 45 rush yds, 15 rec yds

Prediction: Bengals 27, Dolphins 24 ^ Top

Eagles @ Steelers - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: Just as the Eagles have barely been winning games, Mike Vick has barely been putting up good fantasy stats. Once again, the Eagles are top 10 in both passing attempts and passing yards. Unfortunately for them, they also rank in the bottom 10 in completion percentage, quarterback rating, interceptions, sacks allowed, and touchdowns. Against the Giants, who were well below average versus the pass, Vick put up mediocre numbers (241 yards, 1 TD), yet still managed to pull out the victory. With Jeremy Maclin catching the early-season injury bug, the Eagles have relied mostly on DeSean Jackson (20 catches, 333 yards, 1 TD) and Brent Celek (18 catches, 315 yards) to carry the load through the first four games. Watching the Eagles, and especially Vick, you get the sense that they are just a bit off, perhaps with timing, or protection, or just bad decision-making. This unit certainly has the talent, but they have yet to make fantasy owners as happy as expected.

Coming off a bye week, the Steelers should be well-rested, prepared, and hungry to play football, especially at home. The Steelers pass defense is a bit above average but not up to the standards that most would expect. The return of James Harrison and Troy Polamalu could easily help, and both are expected to play in this game. I expect the Steelers pass defense, with the week off to get healthy and prepare, to excel and cause lots of problems for the Philly passing game. I would not consider Vick a top 12 fantasy option at QB this week, and the rest of the Philly WRs and TEs should also be considered marginal starters in this tough matchup.

Eagles Running Game Thoughts: Despite the fact that the Eagles pass the ball so much, they are actually quite effective at running it as well. Philly currently ranks in the top 10 in both rushing yards and yards per rushing attempt, although they also lead the league in fumbles and have only two rushing touchdowns thus far. While Vick is certainly a big part of the Eagles' rushing stats, LeSean McCoy is what makes the offense tick, in addition to being a stud fantasy RB. While McCoy is not yet getting into the end zone as much as he was last year, he is putting up good yardage numbers, despite the Eagles' offensive struggles. While the Steelers defense will be quite a challenge for McCoy, I expect decent numbers from him, as he will be the focal point of the offense once again. The good news for McCoy owners is that the Eagles defense is good enough to keep them in most games, and that along with McCoy’s receiving skills will give you a RB that can put up numbers all game long, regardless of matchup.

Michael Vick: 230 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
DeSean Jackson: 70 rec yds
Brent Celek: 50 rec yds
Jeremy Maclin: 45 rec yds
LeSean McCoy: 80 rush yds, 1 TD, 30 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off their bye week, the Steelers look to get back to their now pass-heavy offense. Leading the way, Ben Roethlisberger is off to an excellent start this year, averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game while throwing just one interception—along with eight touchdowns through three games. Mike Wallace has been the main beneficiary of the aggressive pass attack, catching 17 balls for three touchdowns thus far, while Antonio Brown (18 catches) and Heath Miller (4 TDs) have also both stood out early. The passing attack as a whole looks better than last year at this time, and while the offensive line is still a work in progress, it looks improved over the unit that let up the ninth most sacks in the league last year.

The Eagles pass defense has been fairly solid, although they are coming off their worst game of the year after allowing Eli Manning to throw for 309 yards and two touchdowns while not registering a single sack (they racked up seven in the previous three games). With their two shutdown corners, the Eagles have allowed a league low 52.4 completion percentage and a measly 6.2 yards per attempt (third best in the league). While I expect a healthy amount of yards through the air, the Steelers big plays should be very limited. I would look for the Eagles to bend but not break, possibly allowing for more field goals than touchdowns. I do not expect big numbers from any Steelers in the passing game this week, but Big Ben remains a decent top 12 option at QB while Wallace should be a mid-range WR2 and Brown a high-end WR3. For those considering Miller at TE, I would look for another option, as the Eagles have allowed the third lowest fantasy points to opposing TEs.

Running Game Thoughts: The glory days of the Steelers successfully and consistently pounding the ball with the run seem so long ago. Currently, Pittsburgh is second to last in rush yards per game and dead last in rushing yards per attempt. This could be blamed on the game-plan, the offensive line, the talent in the backfield, or injuries, but the bottom line is that right now this unit stinks. The good news is that Rashard Mendenhall is supposed to return to action this week after, missing the offseason and the first three games with a knee injury. While Mendenhall may not be fully healthy—and certainly not an elite talent—he is an upgrade over Isaac Redman (2.3 ypc) and Jonathan Dwyer (2.9 ypc), who have both struggled mightily to get anything going on the ground. The Eagles rush defense has been very good so far, although they have not really faced a legitimate rushing attack other than Ray Rice in Week 2. Because the Eagles cover so well on the outside, they can always bring help down to stop the run—although they may not need to if the Steelers give them nothing to fear early. I would completely avoid the Steelers run game from a fantasy perspective until Mendenhall shows he can carry a full load, and do so with some effectiveness. While still getting his legs back under him, I expect Mendenhall to get only 12-15 carries, and even that may be asking too much. Once again, do not expect much from the Pittsburgh run game this week.

Ben Roethlisberger: 275 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Mike Wallace: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 70 rec yds
Heath Miller: 35 rec yds
Rashard Mendenhall: 45 rush yds

Prediction: Steelers 23, Eagles 17 ^ Top

Titans @ Vikings - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: With Jake Locker officially ruled out of this one, veteran Matt Hasselbeck takes over a Titans passing attack that, much like the rest of the team, has been very up and down thus far. Most of the Titans passing stats are right in the middle range of the league. They certainly have some talented weapons at their disposal, yet they have managed just one really big game (378 yards, 2 TDs 0 INTs, 0 sacks allowed in Week 3 vs. DET). The Titans' most talented receiver, Kenny Britt, is currently a game-time decision with an ankle injury. And even if he does suit up, I expect he would be very limited. This leaves Nate Washington, Jared Cook, and rookie Kendall Wright to carry the load, and while none of the three are household names, each possess great athleticism and are capable of producing if given the opportunity. As the starter last year, Hasselbeck’s favorite target, Nate Washington (1,023 yards, 7 TDs in 2011) enjoyed the best year of his career, so I would bet he has the biggest game of those three options this week.

While the Vikings pass defense has been a weakness the past couple of years, they are doing surprisingly well so far in 2012, especially in limiting their opponents' yards per attempt (6.5 ypa, sixth best in the NFL), and their trips to the end zone (5 TDs allowed, tied for eighth), while racking up 12 sacks, good for seventh in the league. With home-field advantage and a below-average Titans offensive line, the Vikings pass defense should perform admirably and hold the Titans to average numbers through the air. There certainly are better options for fantasy QBs this week, and while I like Washington as a sleeper in this matchup, he is still no better than a low-end WR2 in most leagues, especially if Britt ends up playing. Overall, the Titans pass attack should be average at best, so it would be wise to avoid all their players in fantasy.

Running Game Thoughts: Well, not many people saw that coming from CJ2K last week! After looking horrible the first three weeks, Johnson broke out against the Texans, one of the league's very best defenses, to the tune of 141 yards on the ground. He had not hit that total combined over the previous three games. While Johnson certainly looked better, he still had some negative yardage runs, and a nice chunk of yardage came against very conservative defenses when the Texans went up big. It was a good sign, though, and Johnson owners had to feel some relief after drafting him so high. The bad news for Johnson owners is that this is a tough matchup against a top 10 rush defense who has not given up a run longer than 15 yards this season. With Hasselbeck at quarterback, I would guess that Johnson may see a few more looks in the pass game, but it may be difficult to get big yardage on the ground against the Vikings, who have allowed just 3.3 yards per carry. Fantasy-wise, the Vikings have held RBs to the second-lowest average in the league, so if I have other options here I am sitting Johnson and chalking up that last game as a sort of fluke until he proves he can do it again.

Matt Hasselbeck: 220 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Nate Washington: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Kendall Wright: 45 rec yds
Jared Cook: 45 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 50 rush yds, 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Statistically speaking, the Vikings pass offense is average at best right now, but if they were a stock, I would be buying for a few reasons. First, while Christian Ponder has not put up monster numbers yet, he is throwing at a very accurate rate (68.3%) and is the only starting quarterback who has yet to throw an interception. Second, the weapons are certainly there, and they should be getting better. We all know Percy Harvin is a stud, but Kyle Rudolph is also developing nicely, and Jerome Simpson should be getting better and better after shaking the rust off from a three-game suspension. Finally, this matchup at home favors the Vikings simply because the Titans' pass defense has been pretty awful so far. Not only do they rank near the bottom in pass yardage allowed, but they are dead last in completion percentage (75.3), and second worst in passing touchdowns allowed, with 10. Add this all up and the Vikings pass game should flourish this week in one of the better matchups they will see all year. Ponder is still not an elite option, of course, but he makes a great bye-week fill-in and should be considered a top 12 option at QB this week. Harvin should be started in all formats, and Rudolph makes a pretty safe start at TE (in the 8-12 range for the position), even after coming off his most disappointing start of the year. I would say Simpson makes a decent sleeper this week as a high-end WR3, but I’d really like to see him play another game or two (if you can afford to wait) before he makes your lineup.

Running Game Thoughts: With Adrian Peterson looking like his old self, the Vikings run game is going full steam ahead. They are top 10 in rushing yards and Peterson is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season. Peterson is looking quick, powerful, and decisive and should be close to full health at this point. Meanwhile, the Titans are ranked in the bottom 10 in rush defense and are giving up the sixth most fantasy points to RBs. Needless to say, this is a must-start for Peterson owners, as he should easily be a top 5 option at RB this week. Look for the Vikings to pound the ball all four quarters and for Peterson to top the 100-yard mark and land in the end zone at least once in this very nice matchup at home.

Christian Ponder: 250 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT, 20 rush yds
Percy Harvin: 85 rec yds, 1 TD, 15 rush yds
Jerome Simpson: 75 rec yds
Kyle Rudolph: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Adrian Peterson: 105 rush yds, 1 TD, 20 rec yds

Prediction: Vikings 27, Titans 17 ^ Top