Green Bay, victors in four of its last six, figures to dominate this one from start to finish. The Lions own the No. 32 pass defense, give up the NFL's second most passing touchdowns, and are without SS Ko Simpson (knee). You won't find a better Week 12 matchup than Aaron Rodgers' indoors on Thanksgiving. Donald Driver has slowed down in his last two games (nine combined catches, 90 yards, no TDs), but posted a 7-107 line against Detroit in Week Six. He's a rock-solid WR2. The Packers played it perfectly with Jermichael Finley's knee injury, holding him out for three games and making sure he returned at 100 percent. Coming off a seven-reception effort, Finley is a Top-12 TE1 again.
Rodgers' pass protection is much improved with tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton healthy. Deep threat Greg Jennings may be the biggest beneficiary. Green Bay is taking shots downfield again, and Jennings caught five balls for 121 yards and a 64-yard TD last week against the 49ers. Detroit has the sixth fewest sacks in the league, so Rodgers will have time to deliver bombs Jennings' way. As usual, Ryan Grant is getting stronger in November. He's averaging 22 touches and 5.0 YPC with two TDs in his last three games. The Lions' run defense remains porous.
Matthew Stafford might've given Detroit an outside chance to keep this one close and at least offer high-scoring upside, but he's out with a dislocated left shoulder. Daunte Culpepper, who's thrown one TD on 62 attempts in 2009, will start against Green Bay's No. 7 pass defense. He's not even a QB2. Calvin Johnson is full-blown game-time decision, and the Lions could easily play it safe with their most valuable player to avoid aggravation of his knee injury. He's also listed on the injury report with "hand" ailment. Strongly consider other options even if Calvin is active.
Just three teams (Baltimore, San Francisco, Pittsburgh) allow a lower YPC than Green Bay. No NFC club has permitted fewer rushing TDs. The Packers will load up to stop the run with Stafford out, and Kevin Smith managed a measly 61 yards on 15 carries with no catches in his last meeting with the Pack. He's barely an RB2. Brandon Pettigrew has 15 grabs for 165 yards and two scores in his last three games. Green Bay is as tough on tight ends as anyone, but Pettigrew could be Culpepper's go-to guy if Calvin sits. Bryant Johnson (32.5 yards-per-game average) and slot man Dennis Northcutt don't have enough talent for fantasy use.
My Pick- Packers
No team has more rushing attempts against than the Raiders. Opponents routinely game plan to beat them on the ground, and Dallas is a safe bet to follow suit. Particularly with Jason Witten nursing a foot sprain and Tony Romo a sore back, Marion Barber is a threat for 20-plus touches as he comes off a 107-yard game—his best since Week Two. MB3 is a borderline RB1 against a front seven that will start Richard Seymour (back) at less than 100 percent. Just the TE16 overall, Witten is a low-upside gamble with an injury and Raiders SS Tyvon Branch playing at a ridiculously high level.
Oakland's strength is in pass defense. Only the Colts and Jets have given up more TDs in the air, and the Raiders will likely to hold Roy Williams in check with Nnamdi Asomugha...Miles Austin, however, has factors working in his favor. The Raiders don't use nearly as many double teams as his last three opponents (PHI, GB, WAS), and he will mostly see LCB Chris Johnson in coverage. Johnson, who gets safety help from Branch—who will key on Witten—is the lesser of two evils in Oakland's secondary. Consider Austin a high-upside WR2, even if Romo only tries 25 passes.
Bruce Gradkowski breathed life into Oakland's offense last week, tossing two touchdowns against a Bengals team that didn't take the Raiders seriously. Losers of two straight, the Cowboys can't afford such an approach. Gradkowski has never had sustained success in the NFL, and Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware has seven sacks in his last six games. Dallas' fantasy defense is a recommended play. Zach Miller will stay on the line to help Raiders LT Mario Henderson block Ware, and Oakland's wideouts are never worth fantasy consideration. This game shouldn't be close.
Darrius Heyward-Bey and Chaz Schilens will start at wideout for Oakland. They rotate with Louis Murphy and Johnnie Lee Higgins...Michael Bush started Oakland's last two games over Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden, but a third-quarter fumble in Week 11 got him benched. Bush finished with four touches compared to Fargas' 10 and McFadden's nine. The Cowboys have the No. 7 run defense and have allowed only four rushing TDs (fifth fewest in the league). The Raiders' backfield needs to be avoided in fantasy until someone emerges as the lead runner. And that may not happen soon.
My Pick- Cowboys
Brandon Jacobs left last Sunday's game with a third-quarter knee ailment, but practiced fully all week and isn't on the injury report. He will start against a Denver defense that's surrendered at least 100 yards to opposing starting RBs in each of the last five weeks. Jacobs also will not have competition for carries from Ahmad Bradshaw (out, ankles). Danny Ware is only a third-down back, so Jacobs is a strong candidate for 20-plus touches. Ware had two carries and no catches last week despite a large bump in snaps during the fourth quarter and OT with Jacobs out. He's hardly a threat to Jacobs.
Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are New York's big-play wideouts, but Steve Smith has the best matchup this week. The Broncos struggle with slot receivers (it's whey they signed Ty Law), and Smith plays the slot when the Giants go three wide. Smith is the safest bet to lead the team in receiving with something like seven catches for 90 yards. Don't get too excited about Giants TE Kevin Boss despite his 76-yard, two-TD game in Week 11. The Broncos will have FS Brian Dawkins (neck), and Jacobs is likely to be fed early and often in the red zone.
The Broncos trot out a starting quarterback with ligament damage in his ankle. Kyle Orton managed a measly 171 yards and no touchdowns despite missing only three series last week against San Diego. He's not close to 100 percent, is subject to aggravation of his injury, and makes Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler complete fantasy non-factors. Brandon Marshall is difficult to sit no matter his QB or opponent, but can't be considered more than a WR3. The Giants' secondary will be much better going forward with Aaron Ross healthy, and his QB will struggle to get him the ball.
Bad news for Denver: RT Ryan Harris (toes) has been ruled out. The Broncos will start struggling former undrafted free agent Tyler Polumbus across from All-Pro LE Justin Tuck. Tuck has been up and down this year, but is heating back up and had a sack, four tackles, and a forced fumble against Atlanta in Week 11. It's a severe mismatch on the strong side. Knowshon Moreno started again last Sunday and averaged eight yards a carry, but lost a fumble at the goal line and was replaced by Correll Buckhalter on passing downs. Wait for Week 13 at Kansas City to consider a Broncos back.
My Pick- Giants