The prime-time games of each NFL week always keep a fantasy football victory alive.
As opposed to starting most of a roster for the Thursday and earlier contests on Sunday, those after sundown provide a chance to make a comeback or build a lead.
As for this week, the 2012 season offers the Houston Texans at the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With that, K.C. wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is a start 'em, sit 'em conundrum because of the Steelers defense. On the bright side, Bowe is the Chiefs' best receiving option, and it's not like Kansas City has anything to lose either.
Therefore, it's reasonable to expect the Chiefs playing as such, which also means no pressure. Pittsburgh, however; is back in the postseason mix, and it must win to increase the odds for January.
Ahead, we look at Bowe as part of two players from each team for the after-dark games in pro football's 10th week.
For the Houston Texans to defeat the Chicago Bears, Andre Johnson needs a solid impact. And it's not in terms of simply running deep patterns and preventing the Bears from stacking the box.
Because of Houston's rushing attack, Johnson must make plays downfield and over the middle. Against a defense with a solid pass rush and one that constantly forces turnovers, a receiver of his caliber can't be nonexistent.
Chicago is more suspect versus the pass than against the run, but the Texans not abandoning the ground game is crucial. As for Johnson, that means run-blocking even better and selling play-action for opportunities against any coverage.
His size alone is a competitive advantage against Chicago's secondary, so Johnson receiving targets must occur for the Texans to effectively move the ball.
Start Andre Johnson
Yes, it's a contradiction. But aside from Johnson in the passing game, don't expect much from the Texans.
Any route over the middle will get shielded by Brian Urlacher and/or Lance Briggs, so Matt Schaub will get limited when surveying the field. In addition, Arian Foster must be fed carries early and often to keep Chicago honest.
Also, yards after the catch will be scarce because the Bears are excellent tacklers and in man coverage underneath. Include the pass rush, despite Schaub's reliable protection, and the Bears' ability to get interceptions, and he's a tough fantasy start on Sunday night.
Not to mention this game being on the road and Houston still needing to prove itself in prime-time.
Sit Matt Schaub
Jay Cutler has arguably more talent around him now than ever before. With a solid receiving corps led by Brandon Marshall and one awesome two-running back tandem, the Bears field some impressive playmakers.
The downside is Cutler's inconsistent pass protection and overall decision-making. With eight picks on the season, Cutler has completed less than 60 percent of his throws and averages only 221 yards passing per game (excluding yards lost from sacks).
In getting sacked 28 times as well, that lack of pocket protection affects the ability to read progressions quicker. Looking at the Texans defense, J.J. Watt and Co. can apply just as much pressure as Chicago.
Houston is also better at forcing turnovers than given credit.
Sit Jay Cutler
If the Bears are going to move the ball on the ground at all, it will come from Matt Forte. Michael Bush's impact will benefit Chicago in any short-yard situation simply because he is the bigger and more powerful ball-carrier.
And despite Bush being a solid check-down and screen threat, Forte is still the more dynamic back. Plus, in a game of this magnitude, will Chicago give its No. 1 back more snaps and carriers? For much of the season, Bush has been a reliable flex option in fantasy because the guy has tallied 329 total yards and three touchdowns.
The Texans, though, aren't going to allow much production from anyone on the Bears offense. Houston gives up only 285.6 total yards per game and just 81.9 on the ground.
As a result, don't anticipate much from Bush even when given opportunities.
Sit Michael Bush
The Kansas City Chiefs' best chance to move the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be on the ground.
A byproduct of that results in Dwayne Bowe not getting many targets. The passing game would be a viable option for K.C., although Matt Cassel's case of the fumbles and the pocket protection plays give to Pittsburgh's advantage even more.
And the only way to get some sort of ball movement when it's K.C. versus the Steelers is to try and set up the pass for later. Regardless of the ground game's production, refusing to abandon that can help Bowe as the game unfolds.
Still, the Steelers rank No. 1 against the pass and have allowed only a 55.6 completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks this year. For Kansas City to have any chance at victory, shortening the game and not risking Cassel versus the coverage is the safer approach.
Sit Dwayne Bowe
Whether Jamaal Charles gets a fantasy start or remains on the bench, both are not bad decisions.
It's reasonable to keep Charles on the bench because after all, the Steelers defense ranks No. 7 against the run and allowed less than 90 rush yards per game. And with Kansas City lacking a legitimate passing game, Pittsburgh's will need to isolate Charles to totally blank the Chiefs.
On the other hand, Charles is K.C.'s best chance for any sort of offensive production. The Steelers aren't as tough against the run as they are the pass, and Pittsburgh allows four yards per carry.
If anything, Charles must be fed early and often to try and keep the Steelers honest. Being one-dimensional versus Pittsburgh will lose K.C. this game before halftime, so slamming up front and minimizing Ben Roethlisberger's possessions helps Romeo Crennel's defense.
Because this is such an unfavorable matchup, however, Charles only works as a flex option.
Start Jamaal Charles
Heath Miller is the Pittsburgh Steelers' best receiving weapon inside the red zone.
He currently leads the team with six receiving touchdowns and is tied for second with 39 receptions. Arguably the most consistently reliable tight end in pro football, the Chiefs don't have the intermediate-level coverage players to isolate Miller man-to-man.
The guy has too much size and athleticism over the middle, and he can out-jump any defensive back. Another reason Miller will get targeted from Ben Roethlisberger is K.C.'s defense needing to focus elsewhere.
Receivers such as Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders are capable of accumulating significant yards after the catch. Therefore, more press coverage and bracketed zones towards those playmakers is required to limit Big Ben's field utilization.
Miller is then the beneficiary and allows Pittsburgh to move the chains consistently.
Start Heath Miller
The other flex option in Monday night's contest is Pittsburgh ball-carrier Isaac Redman. And according to the Steelers' official website, Rashard Mendenhall is listed as doubtful.
Regardless of who lines up in Pittsburgh's backfield, though, Redman is worthy of a flex start. Kansas City is weaker against the run than the pass, and Redman's ability to hit inside will make the Chiefs honor the run.
Doing so opens up Heath Miller over the middle and keeps K.C. off-balance throughout. Considering how little Pittsburgh turns the ball over, that's because of efficiency from guys like Redman. He's also a decent dual-threat with 154 receiving yards on top of 274 rushing yards.
The biggest strength of K.C. is its secondary, so using the ground game and intermediate passing attack will wear down the Chiefs rather quickly, as will Redman's size and power since he's incredibly difficult to tackle.
Start Isaac Redman
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