Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Inside the Matchup
Week 7

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

SEA @ SF | NO @ TB | DAL @ CAR | BAL @ HOU



 Predictions - YTD
Rk Staffer W L %
1 Anderson 15 6 71.4
2 Caron 13 11 54.2
3 Marcoccio 11 11 50.0
4 Smith 12 12 50.0

Seahawks @ 49ers - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Coming off the best game of his young career, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has to be riding high. He and the Seahawks battled back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to shock the world by defeating Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. In the victory, Wilson threw for 293 yards and three touchdown passes - both career highs - while throwing no interceptions. Though no receiver caught more than two passes during the game, Wilson has shown the ability to take over a game if called upon to do so.

Wilson exploited the Patriots defense and hopes to continue that streak against much stiffer competition in the 49ers. San Francisco, who currently ranks 6th in the league in points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks, has allowed just one passing touchdown in the past three weeks combined. One could argue that one of the major reasons for that is that the Giants got out to an early lead against them last week and didn’t end up throwing the ball much, but the opposite argument could be made for the previous two games when the 49ers completely thumped the Jets and Bills but still held both teams to under 130 yards passing with zero touchdowns. Wilson is coming off the hottest game of his career and there may be a temptation to give him a chance in your lineup this week, but there will be better opportunities for him going forward. Let’s see him prove it before we rely on him in our fantasy lineups.

Running Game Thoughts: In a surprising turn of events, it was running back Marshawn Lynch who took a backseat to the suddenly high-powered Seattle passing game in Week 6. Lynch, who carried the ball a season-low 15 times, managed only 41 yards and failed to get into the endzone for the second straight week. Although he was a touchdown machine during the 2011 season, Lynch has scored just twice through the first six games of the 2012 season, putting him on pace for a measly five touchdowns on the year. In a year with so many backfields splitting carries, Lynch remains an every-week starter in most leagues given that he has averaged 21 carries per game.

Prior to suffering a beatdown at the hands of Ahmad Bradshaw and the New York Giants last week, the 49ers had allowed only one running back to eclipse the 100-yard mark in the past 21 games straight. That running back? Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch. Lynch did it in Week 16 last season when he ran for 121 yards and a touchdown during his impressive nine-game touchdown streak. Then again, it’s also worth noting that he failed to rush for 35 yards in either of his previous two outings against the 49ers. They might have stumbled a bit last week, but look for the 49ers to bounce back this week against a struggling Seattle running game. Lynch could be productive, but don’t expect him to match what Ahmad Bradshaw did in Week 6.

Russell Wilson: 190 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Sidney Rice: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Doug Baldwin: 40 rec yds
Braylon Edwards: 25 rec yds
Zach Miller: 20 rec yds
Marshawn Lynch: 60 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: After crushing the Bills and Jets in back-to-back weeks, the 49ers finally got a taste of their own medicine as they were blown out by the Giants in Week 6. The game was Alex Smith’s worst of the season as he failed to throw a touchdown while tossing three interceptions, leaving him with negative fantasy points in some leagues. Smith has mostly taken care of the ball this season and had only thrown one interception prior to the abysmal start against the Giants, so fantasy owners shouldn’t be expecting more where that came from. Still, it is a bit concerning that tight end Vernon Davis has now gone three straight games without a touchdown and PPR specialist Michael Crabtree has caught three or fewer passes in two of his past three games.

We’d typically be looking for a bounce back week from Smith and the 49ers offense, but against Seattle, one of the league’s best defenses, it’s hard to expect too much. The Seahawks have terrorized opposing quarterbacks this season, intercepting five passes while only allowing four touchdowns against. Tom Brady did throw for nearly 400 yards against them with two touchdowns in Week 6, but Alex Smith is not Tom Brady. In fact, he has failed to throw a touchdown against Seattle in either of the team’s meetings in 2011.

Running Game Thoughts: Given how quickly they were down during their game against the Giants in Week 6, it’s hard to fault the 49ers coaching staff for not running the ball more. Still, the eight carries that Gore did get were a major disappointment for those who were hoping that he continue his surprisingly high-scoring start to the season. Gore ran for just 36 yards in the loss while backup running back Kendall Hunter added only 26 yards. It’s worth noting that Hunter has been significantly more productive than Gore on a per-touch basis this year, but there still doesn’t seem to be any signs that the 49ers will begin looking in a new direction at the running back position.

The Week 6 performance by the 49ers has to be considered a mirage given how strong they’ve been this season, but things don’t get any easier this week as Gore and Hunter will test the league’s most efficient run defense. The Seahawks have been dominant this season, holding opposing running backs to just 2.8 yards per carry while allowing just two touchdowns on the ground. Not even the trio of New England running backs could get things going in Week 6 as they were held to just 87 yards rushing and without a score. San Francisco’s running game has been effective this season, so this could be a matchup of strength versus strength.

Alex Smith: 200 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Michael Crabtree: 60 rec yds
Randy Moss: 30 rec yds
Mario Manningham: 30 rec yds
Vernon Davis: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Frank Gore: 55 rush yds, 10 rec yds
Kendall Hunter: 40 rush yds

Prediction: 49ers 19, Seahawks 17 ^ Top

Saints @ Buccaneers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees continues to light up fantasy scoreboards, and is among the league leaders in all passing stats, despite having a bye week when most other players have not. He’s had three touchdown passes or more in four of his five games this season, and no less than 19 fantasy points in any contest. He could be without a major weapon this week in tight end Jimmy Graham, who was questionable as of this writing, but has plenty of other options to attack the Buccaneers with.

Tampa Bay is 31st in the NFL in pass defense, and is one of just two teams giving up at least 300 yards per game through the air. However, they’ve allowed just four passing scores, which are tied for fewest in the league, and three of those came to Eli Manning in Week 2. Still, every quarterback they’ve played not named Brady Quinn has thrown for at least 280 yards against them, four different receivers have gained at least 100 receiving yards and three tight ends have compiled 50 or more yards.
Running Game Thoughts: The Saints continue to rely on Darren Sproles, Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, with only Sproles being much of a fantasy option, and that’s because of his receiving prowess and not his rushing numbers. Sproles leads all running backs in receptions and receiving yards, which should come as no surprise to any fantasy owners. He should be able to get his hands on the ball plenty of times this week against Tampa, whose below-average pass defense we’ve already discussed.

The Bucs have been solid against the run, ranking fourth in the league in rushing defense and tied for 15th in rushing scores allowed. No team is giving up fewer yards per carry than Tampa (3.1), who has allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Only one team has run for at least 100 yards as a team when facing the Bucs, who held DeMarco Murray to 38 yards on 18 carries in Week 2 and held Jamaal Charles to 40 yards on 12 carries last week.

Drew Brees: 340 pass yds, 3 TD
Marques Colston: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Lance Moore: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Jimmy Graham: 30 rec yds
Devery Henderson: 25 rec yds
Pierre Thomas: 40 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Mark Ingram: 35 rush yds, 1 TD
Darren Sproles: 15 rush yds / 70 rec yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: You have to go all the way to number 26 to see Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman’s name on the fantasy leaderboard at quarterback. He’s had a pair of games with less than 140 passing yards, but over the last two weeks has thrown for 299 or more yards in both. He has a pair of options at receiver that fantasy owners will want to play this week. Mike Williams has more than 110 receiving yards in each of his last two games, and Vincent Jackson had accumulated at least 16 fantasy points in three of his last four contests. Each should have their share of opportunities to put up points for their fantasy owners against the Saints.

New Orleans has been a train wreck against the pass this year, ranking 26th in the league in pass defense, tied for 19th in touchdown passes given up, and 29th in opponents completion percentage allowed. They are allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and third-most to wide receivers, though they’ve somehow given-up the second-fewest FPPG to tight ends. Go figure. Three of the five quarterbacks they’ve faced have thrown for 319 or more yards and five wideouts have compiled at least 90 receiving yards when facing the Saints.

Running Game Thoughts: Doug Martin has been okay for the Bucs, with four games of at least 55 rushing yards. But he’s scored just once on the ground, and has seen LeGarrette Blount’s number of carries increase each of the last three weeks, and score twice. Nonetheless, we would consider both players this week against New Orleans, if only because of the high number of teams on byes.

Though only one running back has had a 100-yard rushing game against the Saints (Jamaal Charles with 233), that doesn’t tell nearly the whole story of how pliable their rush defense has been. They rank 30th in the NFL against the run, tied for 24th in rushing scores given up, 30th in yards per carry allowed, and no team is giving up more fantasy points per game to running backs than they are. New Orleans has allowed four different running backs to gain at least 80 yards, and have been vulnerable to backs catching the ball, with just six teams having allowed more receiving yards to players out of the backfield.

Josh Freeman: 225 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Vincent Jackson: 75 rec yds, 1 TD
Mike Williams: 70 rec yds
Tiquan Underwood: 40 rec yds
Dallas Clark: 15 rec yds
Doug Martin: rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
LeGarrette Blount: rush yds, 1 TD

Prediction: Saints 34, Buccaneers 24

Cowboys @ Panthers - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Twenty-seven. That’s how many quarterbacks have amassed more fantasy points than Tony Romo this season. He’s second in the NFL in interceptions, and has fewer scoring passes than the likes of Kevin Kolb and Russell Wilson. The team’s receiving corps has still been valuable to fantasy owners, though. Miles Austin started the season with four straight games of double-digit fantasy points, Dez Bryant has had 33 fantasy points over his last two games, and Jason Witten has amassed 25 fantasy points in the same span. Unfortunately, all three usually can’t have big games at the same time, so for fantasy owners, it’s a game of chance, though this week we think Witten will have a good day due to Carolina’s iffy play versus tight ends.

The Panthers have been somewhat of a mixed bag defensively against the pass; they rank 19th in the league in passing yards per game allowed, but 30th in opponents completion percentage given up. Elite quarterbacks have shredded them, with Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan each throwing for at least 288 yards, and though they’ve held receivers down with the exception of huge games by Ramses Barden and Roddy White, four tight ends have amassed at least 50 receiving yards against them, and they are tied for 11th most fantasy points per game allowed to players at that position.

Running Game Thoughts: DeMarco Murray is out this week, leaving the duties to Felix Jones. A former first-round pick who never quite lived up to the billing, Jones did well against the Ravens last week, running for 92 yards on 18 carries. It was the first time this season that he had more than a single carry in a game, but we liked what we saw, and the Panthers don’t have a vicious run defense by any means, so consider Jones a solid flex option this week.

Carolina is 23rd in the league against the run as well as in yards per carry allowed, and just four teams have given up more fantasy points per game to running backs. They have allowed more fantasy points per game to running backs than all but four other teams, and every starting running back they’ve faced has picked up at least 85 rushing yards.

Tony Romo: 240 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Jason Witten: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Dez Bryant: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Miles Austin: 40 rec yds
Felix Jones: 85 rush yds, 1 TD / 20 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton has to be driving his fantasy owners mad, doing things like compiling 30 fantasy points in Week 4 but only seven points in Week 5. He has just five interceptions this season but only four touchdown passes, and it’s a good thing he’s rushing the ball well, though not at the pace he was last season. His struggles throwing the ball have affected Steve Smith the most, who has not caught a touchdown pass, and whose receiving yardage since Week 1 has echoed Newton’s passing yards during that time – ebbing each game. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to be looking up for them against a tough Dallas pass defense.

No team in the NFL has allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Cowboys, at 182 yards per, and they’re tied for seventh in passing scores allowed. They are tied for fifth-fewest fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks, with only one throwing for at least 235 yards. Dallas has been even better against wideouts, with just three amassing 60 or more receiving yards versus them, and only four teams having allowed fewer FPPG to receivers.

Running Game Thoughts: Cam Newton leads a rushing attack that can be frustrating for fantasy owners, at least when it comes to Carolina’s running backs. Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams? Nobody really knows the answer to that on a weekly basis, and that probably includes the Carolina coaching staff. You know how some colleges use a two-quarterback system and you hear analysts say that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any? Well, we will apply that here in fantasy terms, as neither Stewart or Williams should be more than a flex play.

Dallas is 13th in the league in run defense, tied for 15th in rushing scores given up, and 12th in yards per carry allowed. They’re middle-of-the road in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, but just one player has gained 65 or more yards against them on the ground, and just four teams in the league have allowed fewer receiving yards to running backs.

Cam Newton: 215 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT / 55 rush yds, 1 TD
Steve Smith: 80 rec yds
Brandon LaFell: 50 rec yds
Greg Olsen: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Jonathan Stewart: 50 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
DeAngelo Williams: 25 rush yds / 20 rec yds

Prediction: Cowboys 27, Panthers 24

Ravens @ Texans - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: There’s a lot of debate about whether or not Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback, and we suppose it’s valid. But in fantasy terms, there’s no debate – he’s solid, but in the second tier. He’s 10th in fantasy points among quarterbacks, and though he’s thrown for plenty of yards, has just eight touchdowns. Half of those have gone to Torrey Smith, and though he’s 12th at receiver in fantasy points, more than a third of those came during Week 3, and he’s had eight or fewer points in four of his six games. Tight end Dennis Pitta started out with a bang as well, but has disappeared, with only five fantasy points over his last three games. If he’s going to turn it back up, the Texans defense is friendly to opposing tight ends.

Houston is seventh in the league in pass defense, but Aaron Rodgers’ six touchdown throws last week accounts for half of the passing scores they’ve allowed this season, and that pushed them to 25th in the league in touchdown throws given up. Before last week, they had only allowed more than 10 fantasy points to quarterbacks once, and just two touchdowns to wide receivers, a number surpassed by Jordy Nelson and equaled by James Jones for Green Bay. But the Texans have been vulnerable to tight ends on a consistent basis, allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to players at the position and have given up a touchdown to a tight end in four consecutive contests.

Running Game Thoughts: There wasn’t necessarily a clear-cut number one choice in fantasy drafts this season, and a guy that was a popular pick in that spot was Ray Rice. The fantasy owners that selected him haven’t regretted it, as he’s second at the position in fantasy points. He’s also seventh in the league in rushing yards, tied for second in rushing scores, and second among running backs in receiving yards. Houston is a tough match-up, but that shouldn’t stop fantasy owners from installing Rice.

The Texans have been very good stopping the run this season, ranking seventh in the NFL in rush defense and 11th in yards per carry allowed, but they’re the only team in the league who has yet to give up a rushing score and one of two who has not allowed a run of at least 20 yards. Only five teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs than Houston, who have allowed just one runner to gain at least 70 yards.

Joe Flacco: 200 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Torrey Smith: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Anquan Boldin: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Dennis Pitta: 25 rec yds
Ray Rice: 65 rush yds, 1 TD / 25 rec yds
Bernard Pierce: 15 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Schaub is an interesting fantasy quarterback – some weeks he looks like definite starter material, and other weeks you wish he was sitting on the bench. He has yet to throw for 300 yards this season, and just twice in six games has tossed multiple touchdowns, with half of his eight touchdowns coming in Week 3 against Denver. Andre Johnson doesn’t seem to be quite what he used to be, and his numbers are proving it, as he has just two games with more than seven fantasy points this season. That does mean that Owen Daniels has gotten more looks at tight end, and he’s currently fourth at the position in fantasy points, having caught a touchdown in three of his last four games.

Baltimore is 22nd in the NFL against the pass, but tied for fewest passing scores allowed. Due to that, they have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, despite three different quarterbacks tossing for 320 or more yards against them. Nine different wideouts or tight ends have had games with at least 70 receiving yards when facing the Ravens, but they’ve managed to be one of the five teams in the league who has yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end.

Running Game Thoughts: Arian Foster is simply a fantasy beast. He leads all running backs in fantasy points and touchdown runs, is second in the NFL in rushing yards, and though he’s not catching the ball as much as he did last season, is still effective in that area. What else is there to say? He’s a RB1 with no thought whatsoever.

The Ravens are an atypical 26th in the league in run defense, and are now missing their leader, Ray Lewis, to injury. They’re also tied for 24th in rushing scores allowed and tied for eighth-most fantasy points per game given up. Both DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones rushed for 90+ yards against them last week, and they are two of the five backs who have gained at least 80 yards when facing Baltimore.

Matt Schaub: 205 pass yds, 1 TD
Andre Johnson: 75 rec yds
Owen Daniels: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Kevin Walter: 30 rec yds
James Casey: 15 rec yds
Arian Foster: 110 rush yds, 2 TD / 15 rec yds
Ben Tate: 20 rush yds / 10 rec yds

Prediction: Texans 24, Ravens 21

Browns @ Colts - (Smith)

Passing Game Thoughts: Brandon Weeden has certainly had his struggles this season, and leads the NFL in interceptions, but he’s also 10th in the league in passing yards, having thrown for 290 or more yards and two touchdowns three times from Week 2 on. He doesn’t have a whole lot to work with, though the most intriguing option is wideout Josh Gordon. He’s made big plays and scored in each of the past two weeks, but has yet to catch more than three balls in a game, and had a total of eight fantasy points through his first four contests.

The Colts are third in the league in pass defense, but are tied for 21st in touchdown throws given up and tied for 28th in interceptions, which has hampered their fantasy prowess, and they are tied for 12th in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks and eighth in FPPG allowed to receivers, though no team has given up fewer FPPG to tight ends than Indy. While not a single tight end has gained more than 35 yards against them, four of the five starting quarterbacks they’ve faced have thrown multiple touchdown passes, five different receivers have registered 80 or more yards against them, and just four teams have allowed more receiving scores to wideouts.

Running Game Thoughts: Trent Richardson has been battling a rib injury, but should play this week. He’s been a solid player for his fantasy owners, despite only rushing for at least 50 yards twice. But his four rushing scores are tied for third among running backs, and he’s been catching the ball well, with the fourth-most receiving yards at his position.

Porous is a good word to describe Indianapolis’ run defense. They’re 30th in the league in that stat, and 29th in both rushing scores and yards per carry allowed. Add it all up and you have a team which has allowed the second-most fantasy points per game in the league to running backs. They’ve played five games, but have already allowed two separate backs to gain 160 or more yards, including last week when the Jets Shonn Greene made his fantasy owners delirious with 161 rushing yards and three scores against the Colts.

Brandon Weeden: 205 pass yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Josh Gordon: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Greg Little: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Jordan Cameron: 30 rec yds
Ben Watson: 15 rec yds
Trent Richardson: 75 rush yds, 1 TD / 25 rec yds
Montario Hardesty: 20 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck hasn’t gotten the recognition of Robert Griffin III, mostly because Griffin is a more dynamic player, but Luck has had good moments this season. He’s thrown for 280 or more yards in all but one game, and has thrown a pair of touchdowns in three of his five games. He’s also helped rejuvenate the fantasy status of Reggie Wayne, who is sixth among wideouts in fantasy scoring, third in receiving yards and first in targets. The Colts also have an interesting young tight end tandem in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, who are still developing but are a pair fantasy owners will be utilizing for years.

The Browns have had all kinds of problems defending the pass this year – they are 30th in the league in pass defense, tied for last in passing scores allowed, tied for fourth-most fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks and are giving up the second-most FPPG to wideouts. In six games, Cleveland has allowed four different quarterbacks to throw for 315 or more yards, two to throw for at least 355 yards, and four to throw a trio of touchdowns. No team in the league has allowed more touchdown catches to wide receivers, and a whopping 12 wideouts have compiled 50 or more yards against them.

Running Game Thoughts: Donald Brown is injured and will be out for the second straight game, leaving the running duties to Vick Ballard and Delone Carter. Though neither had an impact last week, with Ballard running for 25 yards and Carter for 13, we expect this contest to be much closer, and with the way the Browns run defense is, Ballard should be considered as a flex option.

Cleveland stinks against the pass, and though they’ve been better against the run, it’s only marginal. They’re 25th in rush defense and yards per carry allowed, but tied for ninth in rushing scores given up, but that can be attributed in part because of how many touchdowns they allow through the air. The Browns are 13th in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs, but have given up 75 or more yards to four different rushers, with Ahmad Bradshaw’s 200-yard game in Week 5 the most damaging.

Andrew Luck: 265 pass yds, 2 TD
Reggie Wayne: 105 rec yds
Donnie Avery: 65 rec yds
Coby Fleener: 40 rec yds
Dwayne Allen: 30 rec yds
Vick Ballard: 65 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 rec yds
Delone Carter: 20 rush yds

Prediction: Colts 21, Browns 17

Cardinals @ Vikings - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: This unit is one of the ugliest passing attacks in the league, both in terms of fantasy and on-field production. The Cardinals quarterbacks have been sacked a league high 28 times and rank in the bottom eight in completion percentage, quarterback rating, passing yards per attempt, and passing yards per game. Although it may not exactly be bad news from a fantasy perspective, the waters sure got cloudier when Kevin Kolb suffered a rib injury in last week’s game and is out for this week’s matchup in Minnesota. Since nobody except the most desperate are even considering starting a Cardinals quarterback anyway, let’s instead focus on the receiving corps. Larry Fitzgerald, in spite of terrible quarterback play, has actually put up very respectable numbers (430 yds, 3 TDs), thanks in large part to the high amount of targets he gets each game (65 on average, fifth in the NFL). While the matchup versus the Vikings is not ideal, Fitzgerald is a must-start because of his talent, the high amount of throws he should see once again, and perhaps a little more motivation for him back in Minnesota since he was once a Vikings ball boy as a teenager. As for the rest of the receivers, Andre Roberts is really the only other guy on the fantasy radar, but he is nothing more than a WR4 at this point because of the inconsistency at the quarterback position. As for the Vikings pass defense, they rank in the upper half of the league in most stats but do not really stand out in any of them. I expect Minnesota, in a home matchup coming off a big loss, to get to the quarterback a lot and limit what the Arizona passing attack is capable of doing, which is not much to begin with.

Running Game Thoughts: As ugly as the Arizona passing game is, the run game is not much better. The Cardinals rank in the bottom five in rush yards per game and are second worst in rush yards per attempt, with a laughable 3.4 average. The offensive line surely deserves a lot of the blame, but between three different starters at the position (Wells, Williams, and Stephens-Howling) the running backs have just been awful on the field—and from a fantasy perspective. There may be a small ray of light in all of this mess, as William Powell managed a very respectable 70 yards on just 13 carries (5.4 avg) last week. Look for Powell to be given more touches this week, as Stephens-Howling, the starter last week, managed just 22 yards on 11 carries. The bad news for the Arizona run game is that the Vikings present quite a challenge defensively. Not only do they rank in the top 11 in rush yards allowed per game and rush yards allowed per attempt, they are the second toughest defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. While the Cardinals defense is good enough to keep them in this game and allow for 20-plus rushing attempts, it would be very risky to start any Arizona RB this week because of the matchup and uncertainty on how the carries will be divided. I would avoid the Cardinals run game as a whole until further notice.

John Skelton: 195 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Larry Fitzgerald: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Andre Roberts: 40 rec yds
Michael Floyd: 40 rec yds
William Powell: 70 rush yds, 10 rec yds
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 40 rush yds, 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The more I watch the Vikings passing attack, the more excited I get about its prospects, at least in terms of fantasy production. Against a weak Redskins defense, Christian Ponder threw for 352 yards and two touchdowns (with two picks) and made four different receivers fantasy relevant last week. While the Arizona defense should present a much bigger challenge, I still see Harvin and Rudolph as every-week starters and Jerome Simpson (out last week) and Christian Ponder as intriguing fill-ins with great upside. As a team, the Vikings have crept up into the top half of the league in many passing categories, and are actually second in the NFL in completion percentage with a very healthy 68.6 percent. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals pass defense has allowed the third lowest completion percentage in the NFL, so this battle will be very interesting to see which side gives way. Because Minnesota checks down to guys like Harvin and Rudolph so much, I would expect the Vikings to be a bit more successful in this matchup compared to other teams the Cardinals may have faced. The Cardinals also get to the quarterback a great deal, as they rank third in sacks. Still, Minnesota is right around the league average in sacks given up, and Ponder has above-average mobility, so I would not expect huge sack numbers in this matchup. The one other thing that may hinder the Vikings passing attack this week is a more conservative game plan, as the Cardinals run defense is worse than their pass defense. All in all, I would not hesitate to start Harvin (NFL’s reception leader) and Rudolph (fourth in the league in touchdowns) and perhaps consider Ponder as a bye-week fill-in, since he should be good for at least 200 yards and one touchdown in a home matchup coming off a tough loss.

Running Game Thoughts: Just two months ago, Adrian Peterson was falling into the late second round of many drafts because of the fear he would miss extended time or have a slow start coming back from his injury. Flash-forward to Week 7, and he is sixth in the NFL in rushing and a top 10 fantasy RB once again. Against the Redskins last week, Peterson did not have an amazing day but he still managed 79 yards on just 17 carries (4.6 ypc), mostly because the Vikings had to play catch-up for most of the afternoon, so they relied on the pass. Against the Cardinals this week, there is very little chance the Vikings will fall behind far enough to abandon the run, so I expect easily 20 or more carries from Peterson. While Arizona’s run defense is letting up less than four yards per carry, they are being run on a lot and are 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed (113.3 per game), so there is certainly the possibility for a big day from the Vikings rush attack. Start Peterson with confidence in this matchup, as the sheer volume of touches alone should make him an easy top 10 RB option.

Christian Ponder: 225 pass yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, 25 rush yds
Percy Harvin: 80 rec yds
Kyle Rudolph: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Jerome Simpson: 40 rec yds
Adrian Peterson: 95 rush yds, 1 TD, 25 rec yds

Prediction: Vikings 23, Cardinals 17

Steelers @ Bengals - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: It's definitely official, whether they like it or not: the Steelers are a passing team. Currently they rank seventh in the league in pass yards per game and rank in the top 12 in completion percentage, passing touchdowns, and passing yards per attempt. Despite passing the ball so much, Roethlisberger actually has thrown the least interceptions in the league (2) among full-time starting quarterbacks. The Pittsburgh receivers, led by Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Heath Miller, have put together a fine start to the season as a whole, although each has been a bit inconsistent from game to game. This week’s matchup provides both good opportunities and tough challenges for the passing game...but let's start with the good news. The Bengals pass defense has been below average this season, giving up 228 yards per game and allowing a 99.6 passer rating. They also rank in the bottom eight in terms of completion percentage allowed (66.1) and yards per pass attempt (7.9). With the volume of passes the Steelers are throwing, this matchup should, at the very least, mean a high yardage total and an efficient performance from Big Ben. On the downside, this is an away game at a division rival, and the Bengals secondary is finally getting healthy after missing several of its starters throughout the first six weeks. In addition, the Bengals rank second in the league in sacks, and the Steelers offensive line is a mess, with both right tackle Marcus Gilbert and center Maurkice Pouncey out with injuries this week. While Roethlisberger is one of the very best at escaping pressure, expect the Bengals to get to him at least a couple of times and pressure him throughout the game, especially without a big threat in the running game. Big Ben still remains a very safe start as a low-end QB1 option because he will throw all day—just don't expect a career day, or anything close to it. At WR, both Wallace and Brown are very startable options as low-end WR1 and high-end WR3 options, respectively. Miller is a good bye week fill-in at TE, though most of his value lies in the hopes that he catches a touchdown, as his yardage totals have been just average so far.

Running Game Thoughts: Pittsburgh is very lucky the passing attack has been effective, because the running attack is not only terrible, it may be historically terrible. Thus far, the Steelers are not only dead last in rushing yards (374) but dead last in yards per carry (3.0) and longest rush (17 yards). Add this to the fact that they have only two rushing touchdowns, and you could easily say there are 15 or more individual running backs in the league that are having better seasons than the Steelers running game as a unit! In fact, quarterback—yes, quarterback—Robert Griffin III alone has five more rushing yards and four more rushing touchdowns than the whole Steelers team, in 71 less attempts! This unit is awful and should obviously be avoided in fantasy football at all costs. The only thing I would keep in the back of my mind as a fantasy owner is to watch Mendenhall down the line in case somehow he gets healthy and the team re-commits to the run game, but that is a long shot. The Bengals run defense is certainly below average, but the poor health/lack of talent/lack of production/split of carries issues that the Pittsburgh run game has makes the Steelers RBs totally avoidable even in a dream matchup, which this is not.

Ben Roethlisberger: 310 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT, 10 rush yds
Mike Wallace: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Antonio Brown: 70 rec yds
Heath Miller: 40 rec yd, 1 TD
Emmanuel Sanders: 45 rec yds
Rashard Mendenhall: 30 rush yds

Passing Game Thoughts: The Bengals passing game is firing on all cylinders right now, ranking in the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards (fourth), completion percentage (ninth), passing yards per attempt (third), and passing touchdowns (fifth). Andy Dalton has certainly made some questionable decisions this year (9 INTs) but is racking up the yards and touchdowns, so his fantasy owners can certainly forgive him. Even better, Dalton has helped make A.J. Green fantasy’s top WR in standard leagues, as he leads the league in receiving yardage and is tied for second in receiving touchdowns. While I certainly think Dalton, and especially Green, are talented, I also see an early-season schedule that may have inflated their numbers to some extent, as Baltimore in Week 1 has been the only above-average pass defense that they have faced thus far. This week may be the true measure of just how legit this Bengals pass defense is, as the Steelers have given up the third least amount of pass yards in the NFL. On the bright side for the Bengals, Troy Polamalu is out this week, and while both James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley are expected to play, they have been hampered by injuries this season. Also, while not giving up very many yards through the air, the Steelers pass defense is giving up nearly two passing touchdowns per game, and both Green and Gresham are nice red-zone threats. While I do expect a downtick in production from the Bengals pass game this week, it is a home game and they are on fire right now, so it is hard to totally avoid them as fantasy plays. I would certainly start Green, as he has become matchup-proof and should be force fed 10 targets, minimum. As for the rest of the Bengals pass game, I would look for better options but would not feel terrible about starting Dalton as a bye-week fill-in or low-end QB2 in this matchup, as he is very likely to hit 200 yards and at least one touchdown, even if he does throw an INT or two.

Running Game Thoughts: The Bengals are getting just enough out of their run game to keep defenses semi-honest, and so far that formula has worked pretty effectively, as their total offense currently ranks seventh in the league. Green-Ellis continues to stumble along, putting up decent yardage numbers (62 last week) but not really making any big plays or getting anyone too excited about his potential. The good news for his owners continues to be that he is the only Cincinnati running back getting a significant amount of carries, so that makes him at least semi-valuable in most leagues. The Steelers run defense is once again very good (10th in rush yards allowed per game), although not as elite as in recent years, as they surprisingly gave up 91 yards on the ground to a struggling Chris Johnson last week. In a home game that should be close throughout, the Bengals should be able to rush the ball at least 20 times, probably enough to at consider BJGE as a decent flex play or solid RB3; just don’t expect much more than what he has already been doing, which is about 60 yards a game. No other Bengals RB has gotten enough touches to be fantasy relevant yet, although deep PPR leagues may want to watch Cedric Peerman closely, as he caught eight balls for 76 yards last week as Bernard Scott’s replacement as No. 2 running back.

Andy Dalton: 245 pass yds, 2 TDs, 2 INTs
A.J. Green: 90 rec yds, 1 TD
Jermaine Gresham: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Andrew Hawkins: 55 rec yds
BenJarvus Green-Ellis: 55 rush yds, 15 rec yds

Prediction: Bengals 24, Steelers 23

Lions @ Bears - (Anderson)

Passing Game Thoughts: While the Lions passing game is putting up very respectable numbers overall (second in the NFL in pass yards per game), the lack of touchdowns (6, tied for third worst) is a concern, especially for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson owners. Other than that, the passing game looks much like it did last year: Stafford is not getting sacked a lot (just 9 times), his completion percentage is fine (63.2), and the yards per attempt are adequate (7.2) as well. Sometimes touchdowns can be a bit fluky, so a big outburst might just happen any week now; however, I’m betting it will not be this week. The Chicago Bears pass defense has thus far given up only five passing touchdowns, good for second in the league (tied). Add that to their league-high interception numbers (13) and their 18 sacks (tied for fourth) and you have a recipe for lackluster numbers this week from the Detroit passing attack. As for the Lions receiving corps, we all know Johnson is matchup-proof, so you must start him, even in a tough matchup. The rest of the guys, however, are hard to read. Titus Young got a lot of hype this offseason but has failed to do much of anything, save for a Week 3 where he caught six balls for 75 yards and a touchdown. He should be firmly on your bench until he has at least one more decent game. Pettigrew has been fairly consistent yardage-wise but has found the end zone only once. In a PPR league, he is a decent start this week, but otherwise he is not a top 10 option against the Bears. The only other guy on the radar is Nate Burleson, who actually has the team lead in receiving touchdowns and is second in catches and third in receiving yards. I would personally not start him unless I were desperate, but with a lot of guys on bye weeks, he may be a decent WR3 this week. As for Stafford, if you have him on your team, you drafted him high and probably do not have a much better option, so it is hard to sit him. While the Bears do not give up many touchdowns, they generally give up a healthy amount of yardage through the air (225 per game), so Stafford will get his yards, just don't expect him to carry your whole team this week.

Running Game Thoughts: With the announcement coming this week that Jahvid Best is not going to play this season, the Lions running back committee became a little less crowded and probably a lot less explosive. While the Lions are certainly a pass-heavy team to begin with, Best was supposed to give the team something that their other running backs have not: big-play ability. Led by Kevin Smith, Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell, the Lions currently rank in the bottom half of the league in total rush yards, while averaging a meager 3.9 yards per carry, and are tied for second worst in the NFL, with 19 yards as their longest run to date. There have been small glimpses of hope—like Leshoure’s first game back from suspension, where he ran for 100 yards and a touchdown—but consistency has been a big issue for this running attack. At the present time, Leshoure looks like the workhorse back, with Bell coming in on most third downs and to occasionally spell Leshoure. Smith looks like an afterthought but has performed relatively well in the past, so he may get a few carries here and there if the other guys in front of him struggle. Speaking of struggle, the Lions run game has a very tough matchup this week, as the Bears have given up the least amount of rushing yards in the NFL so far. They are also in the top 10 in opponents' rush yards per attempt (3.6), and have given up only one rushing touchdown. Add this all to the fact that opposing fantasy RBs are scoring the fourth fewest points against the Bears, and you can envision a long day for the Lions rushing attack. The only Lions RB I would even consider starting is Leshoure, and he is not much more than a mediocre RB3 or flex play in this very difficult road game.

Matthew Stafford: 270 pass yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Calvin Johnson: 95 rec yds, 1 TD
Brandon Pettigrew: 55 rec yds
Nate Burleson: 50 rec yds
Mikel Leshoure: 45 rush yds, 20 rec yds
Joique Bell: 20 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Despite a winning record and some decent talent, the Bears passing game has been below the league average in most statistics. Their pass yards per game, completion percentage, touchdowns, and quarterback rating are all in the bottom 10, and other than Brandon Marshall, the receiving corps has failed to produce consistently. Alshon Jeffery was the only other receiver showing any consistency, but he fractured his hand and will miss at least the next few weeks. Despite all this doom and gloom surrounding the passing attack, there are a few things that work in the Bears' favor this week. One is the return of Earl Bennett, one of Cutler’s favorite targets in the past, and a nice possession receiver who should complement Marshall’s big-play ability. The other thing is a home game against a passing defense that is statistically below average, and now banged up in the secondary. The Lions rank in the bottom 10 in opponents' completion percentage (64.7) and quarterback rating (94.8) and have thus far picked off just two passes in 170 attempts. With two of their top three corners banged up and questionable, the Lions may very well be vulnerable in the secondary, and there is no doubt that Cutler can expose weaknesses when he is on. While I expect the Lions to play the Bears tough, as they normally do, I also see a great opportunity for an above-average day for Cutler and Marshall (both top 12 options at their positions this week). I would easily start the dynamic duo, but unless you are feeling very lucky with Bennett as a low-end WR3, I would avoid all other Bears receivers, as they are just too inconsistent with the distribution of targets so far.

Running Game Thoughts: With two fully healthy and talented running backs, the Bears run game is already clicking and should probably even improve over the course of the season. Currently, the Bears are top 12 in the league in rush yards per game (123.6), yards per rush (4.1) and rushing touchdowns (5), in addition to being just one of four teams not to fumble the football yet (rushing). Coming off a bye week, well rested and back to health, Matt Forte will resume his role as feature ball carrier and be in on most passing downs. Michael Bush will occasionally spell Forte, as well as carry the rock in most goal-line situations. As a team rushing defense, Detroit has actually been pretty solid, ranking 12th in rush yards allowed per game (96.4), and tied for second in rushing touchdowns allowed (1). I believe this matchup, a good run offense versus a good run defense, may well determine the game, and in this case I think Chicago pulls slightly ahead. The combination of Chicago's coming off a bye, being at home, and Detroit's having played two tough road games in a row really favors Chicago, especially since they have two quality running backs that can pound and wear out the defense. I would easily start Forte as a mid-range RB1 and expect his final numbers to be pretty decent, even if his yards per carry are not that impressive. As for Bush, I would probably bench him this week, as most of his value (except in cake matchups) will come on touchdown chances, which are very hard to predict.

Jay Cutler: 280 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Marshall: 100 rec yds, 1 TD
Earl Bennett: 55 rec yds
Matt Forte: 85 rush yds, 35 rec yds
Michael Bush: 40 rush yds, 15 rec yds

Prediction: Bears 28, Lions 24

Jets @ Patriots - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Mark Sanchez was efficient last week, completing 61 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. However, he finished with only 82 yards passing, as the Jets offense dominated Indianapolis on the ground. Wide receiver Stephen Hill returned to the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring pull and caught one of Sanchez’s touchdown passes. The other was caught by another Hill, the recently signed Jason. The performance by Sanchez broke a four-game string where he failed to complete even 50 percent of his passes. With Hill and tight end Dustin Keller now both recovered from their hamstring issues, Sanchez finally has some weapons at his disposal in a week where more will be required out of the passing offense if the Jets hope to keep pace with the high-powered Patriots in Foxboro.

The Patriots have once again struggled with their pass defense in 2012, after finishing 2011 as one of the worst teams in the league defending the pass. They have allowed 288.8 ypg and have given up 15 passing touchdowns through six weeks. The team brought in a pair of rookie pass rushers to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and while defensive end Chandler Jones has lived up to his end of the bargain with five sacks on the season, linebacker Dont'a Hightower has struggled through injuries and has missed the last two games.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets running game was going nowhere fast behind the pedestrian Shonn Greene, until the anemic Colts run defense allowed him 161 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday in New Jersey. Greene had some running room, but he also looked a little more explosive as he spun out of and broke tackles on his way to his best game as a professional. It’s unlikely that this game is a harbinger of things to come, but perhaps he gained enough confidence to at least be effective in favorable matchups going forward. Backup running back Bilal Powell suffered a separated shoulder against the Colts, and fellow backup Joe McKnight suffered a high ankle sprain, leaving the team perilously thin in the backfield. Only rookie Jonathan Grimes, who was recently signed off of the Texans practice squad, and fullback Lex Hilliard are available behind Greene if the Jets do not add a warm body this week. This may be the week that Tim Tebow becomes more involved running the ball in the Jets offense.

Meanwhile, the Patriots run defense has been very effective. The team has allowed only 82.7 ypg on the ground and just two rushing touchdowns on the season. Greene owners will be tempted to get him back in their lineups after his Week 6 performance, but this tough matchup and his performance in his prior four games scream against it.

Mark Sanchez: 285 pass yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT / 25 rush yds
Tim Tebow: 35 rush yds, 1 TD
Stephen Hill: 65 rec yds, 1 TD
Jeremy Kerley: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Dustin Keller: 30 rec yds
Shonn Greene: 45 rush yds / 15 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady has not been as dominant in 2012 as he has in recent seasons, due in large part to the Patriots’ newfound reliance on the running game. However, he’s still one of the better fantasy options on a weekly basis, as he’s averaging 307 passing yards per game and has thrown for 10 touchdowns while rushing for two. Aaron Hernandez returned last week but was only slowly worked into the offense. His role should grow, and he’s a unique talent who presents a difficult matchup for most defenders. Wes Welker thrived while Hernandez was out of the lineup and should continue to see a good share of targets, despite it's looking as though the team was trying to phase him out of the offense during the early part of the season. With Rob Gronkowski and Brandon Lloyd also in the mix, the Jets secondary, missing their top cover corner, should have difficulties slowing down an angry Brady, who was allegedly taunted by the Seattle defensive backs after last week’s loss.

Last week, the Jets made Andrew Luck look how a rookie quarterback is supposed to look, as Antonio Cromartie did a good job limiting Luck's go-to wide receiver, Reggie Wayne. On the season, the Jets have been a top 5 pass defense—despite losing Darrelle Revis—allowing only 209.3 passing yards per game. The competition becomes a little more intense this week, however.
Running Game Thoughts: Former LSU running back Steven Ridley has given the Patriots offense something it hasn’t had in quite some time—a feature back. Danny Woodhead and rookie Brandon Bolden do see some snaps in the backfield, but Ridley has carried the rushing load for an offense that has been very balanced this season. He has 524 yards and four touchdowns on the ground through six games. Expect the Patriots to look to exploit the Jets’ weakness in stopping the run by featuring a heavy amount of rushing attempts.

The Jets have struggled every week but two in trying to stop opposing runners. Last week the Colts never got a chance to establish a running game after falling behind early, but on the season the Jets defense has allowed 150.5 ypg and eight touchdowns on the ground. Bill Belichick can smell the blood in the water as you read this.

Tom Brady: 305 pass yds 3 TDs / 1 INT
Brandon Lloyd: 65 rec yds
Wes Welker: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Rob Gronkowski: 60 rec yds, 2 TDs
Aaron Hernandez: 60 rec yds
Stevan Ridley: 115 rush yds, 1 TD / 10 rec yds
Danny Woodhead: 15 rush yds / 15 rec yds
Brandon Bolden: 35 rush yards, 1 TD

Prediction: Patriots 41, Jets 24

Redskins @ Giants - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Robert Griffin III suffered a "mild" concussion in Week 5, which likely caused a lot of owners to move him to their bench for Week 6. Those owners missed out on his 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Griffin also threw for 186 yards and a score as well. Sometimes the process is right, but the results just don’t work out. Griffin obviously was not gun-shy about taking off on the run after a big hit on the sidelines knocked him out the game in the fourth quarter against Minnesota. His 76-yard run showed the elite speed that made him such an interesting prospect. Pierre Garcon was once again inactive due to his foot injury, and it appears this just may be a lost season for him. Owners in shallow leagues should keep abreast of the latest news and decide if he’s worth a roster spot. With Garcon banged up, it’s difficult to find the go-to option in the Skins passing game, as Griffin looks to spread the ball around. No Washington pass catcher is consistent enough at the moment to start with confidence.

Since Prince Amukamara returned from injury, the Giants secondary has looked much better. But last week against San Francisco, in a game where the Giants defense was smothering, the star of the show was veteran Antrel Rolle, who picked off Alex Smith twice. The Giants’ bread and butter on defense is of course their ability to rush the passer, and it was Jason Pierre-Paul (2 sacks) leading the way on a six-sack effort in San Francisco. The Giants have done fairly well containing Michael Vick during his three seasons as Philly's starter, which could help them in their preparation for RGIII.

Running Game Thoughts: Rookie back Alfred Morris continued his stellar start to the season last week, rushing for 47 yards and his fifth touchdown of the year. Morris runs with tremendous leg drive and has proven to be one of the more difficult backs in the league to take down on initial contact. The Skins O-line has done a good job with their version of the zone blocking scheme, and Morris has hit the holes hard. The surprise running back of the season so far, Morris looks poised to be an effective producer all season.
The Giants have played the run relatively tough, allowing 106.2 ypg and only three touchdowns through six weeks, but they may be vulnerable against an attack featuring Washington's two rookies—one with blazing speed and the other that will run right over you. Expect the Giants to move a safety or two into the box in order to limit the running game and force Griffin to beat them through the air.

Robert Griffin III: 235 pass yds 1 TD, 1 INT / 45 rush yds, 1 TD
Leonard Hankerson: 45 rec yds
Santana Moss: 25 rec yds, 1 TD
Josh Morgan: 30 rec yds
Fred Davis: 55 rec yds
Alfred Morris: 75 rush yds, 1 TD

Passing Game Thoughts: Eli Manning and the passing offense got the Giants off to a fast start last week in San Francisco, but it took a back seat to Ahmad Bradshaw and the running game in the second half. Tight end Martellus Bennett has been extremely quiet after his torrid first three weeks, but he was suffering from a knee injury he sustained in Week 4 and is supposedly now fully recovered. Victor Cruz hasn’t been making the big plays that made his 2011 season so special, but his owners can’t be disappointed with his production in 2012 so far. Due to the absence of Hakeem Nicks, who returned to the lineup last week but was still hampered by his foot and knee injuries, opposing defenses have been throwing double teams and bracket coverage at Cruz. As a result, Manning has had to find Cruz mostly on underneath routes—but find him, he has. Cruz has 43 receptions and six touchdowns already this season, albeit while averaging only 11.6 yards per catch.

Manning, Cruz, Nicks, Bennett, and even Dominick Dixon owners have to be happy to see the Redskins’ league worst pass defense on the schedule this week. The team has allowed an incredible 328.3 ypg through the air and 15 passing touchdowns in the six games the team has played.

Running Game Thoughts: Ahmad Bradshaw is coming off the best two-game stretch of his career. After gashing the Browns for 200 yards in Week 5, he racked up over 100 yards rushing and a touchdown against the vaunted 49er defense—a defense that does not give up many 100-yard efforts or rushing touchdowns to anyone. Bradshaw sat out of Wednesday’s practice with a sore foot, which should be noted is an injury that has plagued him throughout his career, but it could just be precautionary after two high-carry efforts for the Giants’ lead back. He was back at practice on Thursday.

Bradshaw faces another tough matchup with the Redskins this week. They have been able to limit opposing runners so far this season, allowing only 88.8 ypg with three rushing touchdowns on the season.

Eli Manning: 365 pass yds 3 TDs
Hakeem Nicks: 65 rec yds
Victor Cruz: 105 rec yds, 1 TD
Domenik Hixon: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Martellus Bennett: 55 rec yds, 1 TD
Ahmad Bradshaw: 85 rush yds / 30 rec yds
Andre Brown: 20 rush yds

Prediction: Giants 27, Redskins 24

Titans @ Bills - (Marcoccio)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Hasselbeck will get another start, with Jake Locker still at least a week away from returning from his shoulder injury. Hasselbeck’s arm strength and mobility are practically non-existent at this point in his career, but he’s still a smart and fiery leader. He looked more than adequate leading the Titans to an upset victory over the Steelers, even if his diminished arm strength got him in trouble at times and could have led to some bad results if the Steelers made a few more plays. Kenny Britt finally looked healthy in that game, but he continued to show why he’s been such a tease during his brief career. While he has immense talent, Britt ran a few bad routes and showed some immaturity between the lines (something he’s often done outside the lines, as well, during his professional career). Kendall Wright is having a nice rookie season, displaying elite quickness and sure hands, if not the downfield speed and ability that made him an intriguing college prospect. Veteran Nate Washington rounds out a very talented and dangerous wide receiver corps. When you add the talented but underused tight end Jared Cook to the mix, this team could have a very dangerous passing unit, provided it gets more consistent quarterback play down the road.

The Bills have allowed 283.2 passing ypg, while also giving up 13 passing touchdowns. Last week the offseason additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson finally created a dangerous pass rush, but that could have had a lot to do with lining up over one of the worst pair of offensive tackles in the league. Facing a soft matchup that could allow him to put up big numbers in western New York, Hasselbeck has a nice opportunity to give the Titans’ coaching staff something to think about if Locker is ready next week.
Running Game Thoughts: Surprisingly, Chris Johnson has performed well only in his two most difficult matchups, against Houston and last week against Pittsburgh. In his other four games he looked like trash, dancing in the backfield and failing to hit hard any holes that did exist. Johnson’s inconsistent season makes life difficult for his fantasy owners each week, as his biggest games have likely come when many owners said “enough is enough” and moved him to their benches.

The Bills present an easy matchup for Johnson, but as stated above, that has not meant success this year for the artist formerly known as CJ2K. The Bills have allowed a league worst 173.5 rushing ypg with nine rushing touchdowns. Tempting.

Matt Hasselbeck: 265 pass yds 2 TDs, 1 INT
Kenny Britt: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Nate Washington: 40 rec yds, 1 TD
Kendall Wright: 45 rec yds
Jared Cook: 35 rec yds
Chris Johnson: 85 rush yds / 30 rec yds
Jamie Harper: 15 rush yds, 1 TD / 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Fitzpatrick proves to be a below-average NFL starting quarterback each week, despite at times putting up some decent fantasy stats. He lacks the arm strength to put many throws where they need to be, and for a Harvard graduate, he makes some incredibly stupid decisions with the football. Fitzpatrick is a gutsy player and can gain yards with his legs when the pocket collapses, but his costly mistakes limit the Bills' ability to get to the next level. Stevie Johnson looked to be on the verge of superstardom heading into this season, but he has been limited by a strained groin, by Fitzpatrick’s lack of ability, and by his own lack of discipline. Johnson still hasn’t learned to be a great route runner, and at times he seems disinterested on the field. As the weather gets colder in Buffalo, the odds of the team turning around its passing game declines sharply.
Like the Bills, the Titans have also given up 13 passing touchdowns and have struggled to stop opposing passing offenses, so this game has some shootout potential, despite its two middling quarterbacks. The Titans allow 292.3 passing ypg and their secondary really misses departed free agent Cortland Finnegan.

Running Game Thoughts: The Bills have decided on a running back rotation which gives Fred Jackson and then C.J. Spiller two series each to carry the load. This may frustrate fantasy owners, but the Bills have little choice, since both backs are still effective and deserve some share of the workload. It worked well last week when Jackson gained 53 yards on his 16 carries, and Spiller 88 on his 12. Both backs also found the end zone. Spiller has shown rare explosion and big-play ability, so limiting his touches is not necessarily a bad thing if it helps keep him healthy. Jackson is more of a grinder at this stage of his career, so his owners cannot be pleased during the weeks where the carries to be split are not plentiful. The Bills O-line, which was once a disaster, has developed into a very solid unit, and Chan Gailey knows that, with a porous defense and a mistake-prone quarterback, the running game is his only real chance of competing for the AFC East title.

The Titans defense also struggles against the run (129.5 ypg and 7 rushing touchdowns), so the Bills can attack the Titans on the ground with confidence. The soft matchup combined with the potential heavy workload makes staring either Buffalo back a good option this week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 245 pass yds 2 TDs, 2 INTs / 25 rush yds
Steve Johnson: 85 rec yds, 1 TD
Donald Jones: 40 rec yds
T.J. Graham: 35 rec yds
Scott Chandler: 45 rec yds, 1 TD
Fred Jackson: 60 rush yds, 1 TD / 5 yds receiving
C.J. Spiller: 105 rush yds, 1 TD / 15 yds receiving

Prediction: Bills 34, Titans 27

Packers @ Rams - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Never bench your studs. We hear it time and time again and for some reason there always seems to be a fraction of fantasy owners who complain when their benched “stud” blows up while their lower-ranked player with a “better matchup” throws up a dud. Consensus top-5 pick Aaron Rodgers hasn’t had the amazing start to the season that many expected but he made up for it on Monday night when he tossed a ridiculous six touchdown passes against the highly-touted Texans defense, proving once again that the Packers offense can still function at a high level, even without Greg Jennings.

With Jennings expected to miss Week 7 with a lingering groin injury, Aaron Rodgers will be relying on Jordy Nelson and the emerging James Jones to step up again. Jones and Nelson combined for five of Rodgers’ six touchdowns against the Texans but things could be a bit tougher this week as they go up against a Rams pass defense that has allowed just two touchdown passes against them in the past five weeks combined. Much of that success can be attributed to Chris Long, Robert Quinn and the Rams pass-rush. The Packers have struggled to protect Rodgers at times, so this could be something to worry about, but it’s hard to bench anyone in this passing attack when they’re coming off of such an unbelievable performance.

Running Game Thoughts: With injuries to Cedric Benson and Brandon Saine, the job as Green Bay’s primary ball carrier seems to be firmly in the hands of rookie tailback Alex Green. Green, who ran for 65 yards on 22 carries in Week 6, struggled to get things going, but it didn’t particularly matter as the Packers passing game was practically unstoppable. If 22 carries becomes the norm, Green could very well become one of the league’s best sleeper pickups. Still, fantasy owners should temper their expectations as the Packers remain a pass-first offense and it is more likely that Green will get somewhere around of 15 carries per game. Still, if the Packers offense is back to being what it was in 2011, that could mean some big games are in store for this waiver wire pickup.

Green’s first chance at a nice fantasy day could come in Week 7 as he goes up against the Rams run defense that hasn’t been as great as its pass defense. They’ve done a solid job against the run over the past two weeks, allowing just 57 yards combined on the ground to the Cardinals and Dolphins backs. The Packers running game hasn’t been particularly impressive thus far in 2012 so it’s hard to imagine that Alex Green is suddenly going to break away into fantasy stardom, but for those in a pinch with bye weeks, Green could be a decent fill-in in your RB2 or FLEX spots.

Aaron Rodgers: 305 pass yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Jordy Nelson: 110 rec yds, 1 TD
James Jones: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Randall Cobb: 45 rec yds
Jermichael Finley: 30 rec yds, 1 TD
Alex Green: 60 rush yds, 10 rec yds
James Starks: 20 rush yds, 5 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: Consistency isn’t exactly the word that fantasy owners of Sam Bradford would use to describe the Rams quarterback’s play this season, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been effective at times. With receiver Danny Amendola out, Bradford had perhaps his best fantasy day this season when he threw for 315 yards, ran for 34 more and even scored a rushing touchdown. While he failed to throw a touchdown, he also avoided turning the ball over, which gave him a nice fantasy day overall. The sudden rushing stats should be looked at more as a mirage than a trend, however, as Bradford had not rushed for more than 15 yards in any game this season.

At the moment it appears that Brandon Gibson is the top target in the St. Louis passing game so it will be interesting to see if the Packers decide to lean coverage in his direction. Gibson caught 7 passes for 91 yards in Week 6 and has had multiple catches in every game so far this season. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 2, but given the up-and-down play of the Packers secondary that allowed multiple passing touchdowns to Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck already this season, Gibson and Bradford could get back in the endzone this week. Another player to play close attention to this week is receiver Chris Givens who has become the Rams’ deep threat in recent weeks, catching a pass of 50+ yards in each of the past three weeks.

Running Game Thoughts: When the Rams drafted running back Isaiah Pead in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, most experts believed that he would be the heir to one of the league’s best running backs, Steven Jackson. While it does seem that Jackson is losing some steam and could be being slowly phased out of the St. Louis offense, the surprise has been that another one of St. Louis’ 2012 draft picks has emerged. Daryl Richardson carried the ball 11 times in Week 6, his second-highest total this season, and most importantly only one less carry than what a healthy Steven Jackson received. While the transition is still happening and we don’t know for sure whether Richardson will see an increased workload going forward, fantasy owners of Steven Jackson now have a real reason to consider benching one of their high-round picks.

Whoever is getting the carries in Green Bay this week could have trouble running against the Packers defense which just got done holding Arian Foster and the Texans’ running game to just 3.3 yards per carry in Week 6. Sure, Foster did score twice, but given that neither Jackson nor Richardson has scored a rushing touchdown this season, it’s hard to believe that either man will suddenly sneak into the endzone against the Packers. If St. Louis’ defense struggles to stop Rodgers and the Green Bay passing game, it could lead to fewer carries for the Rams running backs, which only serves to lower their fantasy projections this week.

Sam Bradford: 210 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Brandon Gibson: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Chris Givens: 60 rec yds, 1 TD
Lance Kendricks: 25 rec yds
Steven Jackson: 55 rush yds, 15 rec yds
Daryl Richardson: 40 rush yds

Prediction: Packers 27, Rams 23

Jaguars @ Raiders - (Caron)

Passing Game Thoughts: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert hasn’t even reached the 200-yard mark or thrown for more than one touchdown pass since Week 1, making the Jaguars passing game - as many expected - the worst in the league by a fairly wide margin. Rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon hasn’t had nearly the kind of return on investment that one would expect. It is believed that his role in the offense will continue to expand as the year goes on, especially considering there really isn’t another reliable pass-catcher on the active roster if Laurent Robinson is unable to suit up due to his concussion.

On the bright side, Gabbert and the Jaguars have had two weeks to prepare for one of the league’s worst pass defenses. The Raiders have been absolutely punished by opposing quarterbacks this season, having allowed at least 200 yards in every game this season. While some will point to their performance last week against the Falcons as a more recent example of their success, as they allowed only one touchdown while intercepting three passes from Matt Ryan, the more skeptical eye will look at their previous four games where they allowed nine passing touchdowns while intercepting nothing. If you’re in a tough enough situation that you’re contemplating Blaine Gabbert as a wise fantasy start, the waiver wire is probably pretty thin. But if you’re looking for some positive reinforcement, do consider that the Raiders defense has been embarrassingly bad this season and it may very well begin again this week.

Running Game Thoughts: 2011’s leading rusher Maurice Jones-Drew averaged almost exactly 100 yards per game during his impressive campaign last year, yet has failed to live up to that standard in 2012 as he is averaging just 71 yards per game on the ground. With Blaine Gabbert’s irritatingly slow progression as a passer combined with the general lack of any vertical threat, defenses have been free to key in on MJD and his stats have taken a hit. Jones-Drew has only reached the 20-carry mark once this season and his role in the passing game has diminished to an almost non-existent level in most games. Thankfully for Jones-Drew owners, rumors that Rashad Jennings would be taking significant snaps this season were greatly exaggerated so whatever runs the Jaguars have called have been going to Jones-Drew.

If he’s going to get back on track, this is the week when MJD needs to explode. The Raiders run defense has been notoriously bad for years now and things haven’t been much better in 2012. While they’ve had a couple good performances including shutting down the Falcons running game last week, Oakland has had two games where they’ve been absolutely destroyed on the ground against the Dolphins and Broncos. Not coincidentally, those are the only teams that have run the ball more than 20 times against this defense. If the Jaguars commit to the run, Jones-Drew should have a nice day. Otherwise it could be another disappointing performance for a player whom many spent a first round pick on in their fantasy drafts.

Blaine Gabbert: 160 pass yds, 1 TD
Justin Blackmon: 50 rec yds, 1 TD
Cecil Shorts: 40 rec yds
Marcedes Lewis: 35 rec yds
Maurice Jones-Drew: 100 rush yds, 1 TD, 10 rec yds

Passing Game Thoughts: With the Raiders continuing to struggle to run the ball, quarterback Carson Palmer has been asked to throw quite a bit this season. He’s averaging 39 pass attempts per game and while much of that can be attributed to the fact that the Raiders have fallen behind in many games, the truth is that they are leaning more on their passing game because it has simply been more effective. Palmer has limited his interceptions this season to just three, compared to six touchdowns, and has only had one game out of five where he has failed to throw a touchdown pass. With Denarius Moore continuing to perform at a high level and Darrius Heyward-Bey back from his neck injury, the Raiders passing game is looking increasingly viable.

At first glance, the Jaguars’ middle-of-the-pack pass defense doesn’t look too bad. A closer examination into why they’re ranked where they are is in order though, because it’s hard to blame an opposing team for not passing the ball much when they’re up multiple scores. Jacksonville has been blown out in three games this season and that has certainly contributed to the muted stats that opposing teams have put up against them in the passing game. Still, the Jaguars have allowed multiple touchdown passes to opposing quarterbacks in three straight games and have to be considered a pretty good matchup for Carson Palmer and the Raiders.

Running Game Thoughts: After taking him with a second or even first round pick in fantasy drafts this season, Darren McFadden owners are expecting more than what they’ve gotten thus far. The concern for McFadden has always been injuries - not production. But in 2012, the production hasn’t really been there either. With only two touchdowns so far and only two games with more than 35 yards rushing, McFadden has been a big disappointment. Even during last week’s near-win over the Falcons, “Run DMC” ran for just 2.6 yards per carry. Not only that, but after catching 13 passes in Week 1, McFadden has caught only eight passes in the following four games combined.

Frustrated fantasy owners might be tempted to sit him, but after weeks of going up against fairly tough run defenses, Darren McFadden finally has a chance to break out this week against one of the league’s worst run defenses. The Jaguars have already allowed a league-worst eight touchdowns to opposing running backs and have only held one team (Indianapolis) to under 100 yards on the ground so far in 2012. McFadden has the talent to terrorize a defense like this and if Jacksonville falls behind early as they have in other games, he could get a chance to do just that. The Jaguars are allowing an average of 182 total yards per game to opposing running backs, so look for McFadden to continue that trend.

Carson Palmer: 260 pass yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Denarius Moore: 80 rec yds, 1 TD
Derek Hagan: 40 rec yds
Darrius Heyward-Bey: 30 rec yds
Brandon Myers: 40 rec yds
Darren McFadden: 115 rush yds, 1 TD, 35 rec yds, 1 TD
Mike Goodson: 25 rush yds, 10 rec yds

Prediction: Raiders 27, Jaguars 14