Will Colts and Saints Stay Unbeaten? Silva's Week 13 Predictions
I will be breaking down every single football game this week. Like on NFL Playbook they break down every single game, that's what I did, and my article is long, so be ready for a show.
Last Week's Record (17-2)
My Overall Record (85-32)
Everyone should know about Darrelle Revis by now.
After holding Carolina's Steve Smith to one catch for five yards, picking off two passes, and returning one 67 yards for a touchdown in week 12, Revis followed up Thursday night with another pick and stifling of a No. 1 receiver. He held Terrell Owens to 31 yards, keeping the previously red-hot Bills' wideout in front of him on each of T.O.'s three receptions.
Afterwards, NFL Network's Deion Sanders—who knows a little something about shutdown corners—called Revis the best cover man in the league and said he should be a unanimous All-Pro selection along with Green Bay's Charles Woodson.
Luckily for the rest of the NFL's pass catchers and throwers, Revis' Week 13 is over.
On to the match-ups.
Thursday Night Football
Buffalo at New York
Fred Jackson has taken over as Buffalo's No. 1 tailback in an overdue depth chart switch. The team is 2-2 in his four starts compared to 1-5 in Marshawn Lynch's, and F-Jax averages nearly five yards per touch on the year to Lynch's paltry 3.8.
Jackson's explosive, slashing, crease-finding style is a far better fit behind Buffalo's patchwork front five than Lynch's grind-it-out running, and observers of the 2009 Bills know the offense runs much more smoothly with Jackson in the game.
The Jets play the run well (13th overall, under 4.0 YPC allowed), but Jackson is hard to sit when he's a good bet for 20 touches.
Back-to-back solid games from Ryan Fitzpatrick usually mean a clunker is coming. Fitz went for 246 yards against Miami's No. 23 pass defense in week 12 and 297 yards against Jacksonville's 26th-ranked unit in week 11, but now faces a Jets secondary that is No. 2 overall and has allowed the fewest passing TDs (seven) in the league.
Expect Terrell Owens' hot streak (14-293-2 in his last two outings) to end against Jets shutdown CB Darrelle Revis. Revis held T.O. to 13 yards on three grabs in their week six meeting.
Lee Evans is a better bet to get open against Jets RCB Lito Sheppard, but is a mere WR3 considering New York's overall stout defending of the pass and his unproductive recent play (33.5 yard average in his last four games).
Thomas Jones has the easiest stretch-run schedule for running backs in the league. It begins Thursday night against a Bills rush defense that ranks dead last overall, has given up the second most runs of 20+ yards in the NFL, allows nearly 5.0 yards per carry, and has served up 16 rushing TDs through 11 games.
Jones, facing little competition for carries from rookie Shonn Greene, is easily an RB1 in the final four fantasy weeks. Greene lost his second fumble in the last four games during week 12 and threatens to land in Rex Ryan's doghouse again.
The Jets have severely scaled back Mark Sanchez's aggressiveness. He leads the AFC in interceptions and is completing a pathetic 53.5 percent of his throws. Allowed to try just 38 passes in his last two games, Sanchez now faces a Bills pass defense that ranks No. 7 overall and is getting healthier.
S Donte Whitner is back from his bum ankle, play-making FS Jairus Byrd (groin) is very likely to play, and top CB Terrence McGee (knee) practiced more this week than he has in a month.
An unfavorable match-up combined with Sanchez's restrictions make both Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards low-upside plays. Dustin Keller is coming on with 21 catches for 240 yards in his last four games, but is only a low-end TE1.
The Football Outsiders rank Buffalo as a top-ten team against tight ends.
1:00PM ET Games
Philadelphia at Atlanta
Chris Redman makes his first start since 2007 with Matt Ryan (toe) out indefinitely. Redman performed admirably in relief last week, completing 23-of-41 passes for 243 yards and two TDs, but isn't facing Tampa anymore.
Sixth in the NFL in sacks, the Eagles trot out a defense that ranks No. 9 against the pass and No. 3 in interceptions.
While Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are every-week starters (each saw 12+ targets despite Ryan's first-quarter injury last week), Redman is barely a two-QB league option. Expect the usual heavy blitzing from Eagles defensive play-caller Sean McDermott.
Michael Turner hasn't been ruled out, but is doubtful to play on an aggravated high ankle sprain. He was limping badly even before re-injuring it last week and clearly shouldn't have played.
Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood rotated evenly after Turner was ruled out of last week's game; both had six yards on three touches following the third-quarter injury, with Snelling losing a fumble.
This has the look of an even timeshare against a Philadelphia defense that ranks No. 8 against the run and surrenders under four yards per carry. Avoid Falcons backs in Week 13 if possible.
Coming off a near loss to 3-8 Washington, Philly is likely to rebound. The loss of DeSean Jackson stings, but there isn't an area of Atlanta's defense the Eagles will struggle to attack.
The Falcons rank 27th against the pass and 23rd against the run, and have surrendered the most 20+ yards completions in the league. Donovan McNabb is a top-five QB play at the Georgia Dome.
Already emerging as a serious red-zone threat, Jason Avant is a good bet to lead Philly in catches. He'll be an every-down receiver, and was seeing just as many targets as Jeremy Maclin in his previous sub-package role. Even Reggie Brown, who will see spot duty at flanker, is worth a WR3 look.
With Westbrook still out, the Eagles used LeSean McCoy (21 touches) as their feature back last week, Leonard Weaver (seven touches) as a 242-pound changeup, and Eldra Buckley at the goal line. Buckley's insertion in scoring position was odd considering he's 5'9" and 207 lbs, and may not stick. He was stymied twice before executing on his third try from one yard out.
Either way, McCoy is a safe bet for 100+ yards in this favorable matchup. Despite a drop-filled week 12, Brent Celek should stay in fantasy lineups. The Eagles showed no concern about his injured hand this week, declaring he would definitely play at Atlanta and signing him to a $33 million extension Tuesday.
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Weather at Bank of America Stadium (mid-40s temps, light wind, 10 percent chance of rain) won't be a factor, but this match-up doesn't stack up well for passing.
The QBs have seven career starts between them, and the Panthers will ask Matt Moore to "manage" the game as he replaces Jake Delhomme.
Steve Smith's ceiling is not only capped by Moore's likely low pass attempts total, but by a match-up with Bucs shutdown CB Aqib Talib.
In Tampa's week 5 meeting with Carolina, Talib shadowed Smith all over the field and held him to one catch for four yards.
Note: Keep an eye on Talib's hamstring injury. If he's out, Smith becomes a rock-solid WR2.
Clearly not a fantasy option, Muhsin Muhammad is back on the injury report with more knee woes, and his backup, Dwayne Jarrett, has a sprained ankle. It's hard to imagine Moore topping 175 yards.
This is all excellent news for Carolina's running game.
Ranked 30th overall, the Bucs' rush defense has shown no improvement since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for an earth-shattering 282 yards and three TDs on 49 touches against them earlier this season. Williams, whose ankle tweak won't keep him out, is a top-ten RB1. Stewart is a must-start FLEX.
Unlike the Panthers, the Bucs let their passer get aggressive. Quietly emerging as one of the NFL's most impressive rookies, Josh Freeman has averaged 31 attempts in his four starts and is coming off a 250-yard, two-touchdown, turnover-free outing.
Unfortunately, Carolina has the No. 3 pass defense in the league. Freeman is a mere low-end QB2 this Sunday. Kellen Winslow remains an every-week starter. Coming off a seven-catch, 81-yard game, the No. 6 fantasy TE has a team-high 32 targets in the last three weeks. The next closest Buc (Antonio Bryant) has 10.
While Bryant confirmed that he is over his knee woes with 91 yards and a TD last week, he ultimately caught only three balls, didn't start the game, and now will face off mostly with Panthers lockdown LCB Chris Gamble. He's barely a WR3.
Maurice Stovall starts for Michael Clayton (MCL sprain), but isn't a fantasy option with a difficult match-up and Sammie Stroughter also vying for snaps.
The Bucs never did reinstate their three-headed RB monster last Sunday; Earnest Graham had two touches. Carnell Williams remains Tampa's lead back and the heavy favorite for red-zone work.
St. Louis at Chicago
In terms of sheer on-paper talent, this game is a severe mismatch favoring Chicago. Which Jay Cutler shows up is anyone's guess, but he offers upside.
While the Soldier Field forecast calls for sub-40 degree temperatures, 10 mph winds and a 10 percent chance of rain won't threaten passing. St. Louis is 22nd against the pass, and most importantly in Cutler's case, has picked off eight passes all year (seventh fewest in the league).
While Cutler is always boom or bust, confidently use Greg Olsen and Devin Hester in this matchup. The Rams are porous against TEs and No. 1 receivers.
Matt Forte owners should enjoy a game against the No. 28 rush defense while it lasts. After this, Forte doesn't face a unit ranked lower than sixth against the run for the rest of the fantasy year.
In their last three games, Earl Bennett has 11 catches for 98 yards and no scores compared to Johnny Knox's five grabs for 60 yards and one touchdown. Bennett starts and is the slightly better bet for a worthwhile game Sunday, but his fantasy ceiling is limited by the Bears' rotation at split end.
Steven Jackson (back) remains sore and is officially a game-time decision again, but he'll likely play. Allowing S-Jax to start last week on no practice confirms that the Rams aren't worried about him playing through pain. He'll take a pre-game numbing injection before facing a Bears defense that ranks 24th against the run and will be minus its top player on the front seven (Lance Briggs-knee).
Ideally, the Rams won't let Kyle Boller throw 46 passes again for the rest of the season, like he did in week 12. He's barely a QB2 against Chicago's No. 14 secondary.
Brandon Gibson managed 18 yards with Boller replacing Marc Bulger (leg) in week 12. In theory, Gibson has a favorable match-up against Bears RCB Zackary Bowman, but Boller's inaccuracy makes him extremely risky without much upside.
It's also worth noting that Danny Amendola started over Gibson against Seattle. Amendola won't keep the job long term, but he did tie Donnie Avery with a team-high 11 targets. He's worth light consideration in deep PPR and return-yardage leagues. Avery, the Rams' No. 1 receiver, is only a WR3. It's just very difficult to rely on Boller.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Vince Young's rebirth and Tennessee's five-game win streak are music to newspaper columnists' ears, but what goes up usually comes down.
In a decided mismatch, the Titans will try to stop Indy's No. 1 passing offense with the No. 31 pass defense. Tennessee continues to give up gobs of passing yards when it isn't facing Matt Leinart or Trent Edwards. Peyton Manning has eight touchdowns in his last three games and is averaging 290 yards with a 70 percent completion rate over that span. His run of back-to-back-to-back multi-interception games is fluky. He's a top-two QB1.
While Titans RCB Cortland Finnegan tries to contain No. 1 fantasy receiver Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon will square off with over-the-hill LCB Nick Harper. Garcon has two TDs in his last three games and is averaging a 5-71 line in the last month. He's an ideal WR3 in this match-up.
Meanwhile, Austin Collie has become maddeningly inconsistent. He hasn't scored since week six, and has topped 45 yards just once in his last four games.
Dallas Clark has fallen behind Vernon Davis to be the No. 1 tight end in fantasy, but remains an obvious every-week play.
Joseph Addai has no threat for carries with Donald Brown (chest) slated to be inactive. Consider Addai a low-end RB1.
Vince Young may not repeat the 387 yards he threw for in week 12 for the duration of his career. Entering last Sunday, he'd topped 257 yards once in four years. V.Y. is a "winner," but a QB2 in fantasy, and a low-end one against an Indianapolis team that is very stingy against the pass and gets back top CB Kelvin Hayden (knee).
Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing, total yards from scrimmage, yards-per-carry average, and fantasy points. Ummm, use him against a Colts team that ranks a middling 15th against the run and may be without DE Dwight Freeney (abdomen).
Kenny Britt is already the Titans' best receiver and will remain so for a long time, but isn't a good bet for a touchdown or many yards against a Colts secondary that's allowed just nine passing TDs (second fewest in the league) through 11 games and gives up 6.3 yards per throw (third fewest). Wait for Week 14 against the Rams to resuming using Britt.
Nate Washington would be an even poorer WR3. He hasn't caught more than three passes in a game since Week 4. The Colts shut down opposing tight ends, so avoid Tennessee's Bo Scaife-Jared Cook-Alge Crumpler rotation.
Denver at Kansas City
Denver is a Jekyll and Hyde team, dropping four straight by a combined 80 points before whipping the Giants 26-6 on Thanksgiving. After giving up 100+ yards to opposing RBs in five consecutive games entering Week 12, the Broncos held Brandon Jacobs to 27 yards on 11 carries.
Still, red-hot Jamaal Charles is a must-start RB2. Quietly becoming the centerpiece of K.C.'s offense (not to mention special teams), Charles is averaging a 20-110 line in his last three games, with four all-purpose scores. The Broncos lack the speed at linebacker to contain Charles if he finds a seam.
Chris Chambers will be Kansas City's No. 1 receiver for two more games (Dwayne Bowe returns in week 15). Chambers has been a fantasy surprise with an average of nearly five catches for 80 yards and three TDs in four games as a Chief, but his hot streak is likely to end against Denver's No. 5 pass defense. Consider Chambers a low-end WR3.
He'll see lots of Champ Bailey. Chiefs wideouts after him are a complete fantasy non-factor. Bobby Wade started opposite Chambers in Week 12 and caught two balls for 20 yards. Slot man Lance Long had 15 yards on two catches.
Dominating time of possession last Thursday night allowed the Broncos to fire off 40 runs and 28 passes. Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter each had 21 touches. While Denver's backfield remains an even timeshare, Moreno has significantly out-produced Buckhalter for several games running and qualifies as a solid RB2 against a Chiefs run defense that ranks 27th overall and surrenders a rushing touchdown per game.
Tony Scheffler has a good match-up on paper against the Chiefs' weak safeties, but he's a complete crapshoot in fantasy and only a desperation play.
Three pluses for Brandon Marshall: 1) He's running more vertical routes and making plays deep down field; 2) He torched Giants top CB Corey Webster for 86 yards on eight grabs last week; 3) Kyle Orton, coming off a 245-yard game, looks healthy again despite ligament damage in his ankle.
While Orton is a QB2 against the Chiefs' No. 30 pass defense, Marshall's a cut-and-dried WR1. Eddie Royal has just 50 yards in the last two games and is now battling a thigh injury. He's an obvious must-sit. Slow-footed possession guy Jabar Gaffney is outplaying him at this point.
New Orleans at Washington
Observers may see Washington's No. 1 ranking against the pass and believe Drew Brees is due for regression to the mean after Monday night's 371-yard, five-touchdown domination of the Patriots. But CB DeAngelo Hall's (knee) absence is a major blow to a thin Skins secondary.
Hall would've matched up primarily with Marques Colston, who will now see the likes of Justin Tryon (5'9", 183 lbs to Colston's 6'4", 225 lbs) and Fred Smoot (5'11", 185 lbs) in coverage. The Skins will have to stick safety help over the top of Colston, leaving Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson singled up. While both "No. 2" receivers are dice rolls, Meachem is the pick if you're deciding between the two.
Avoid Jeremy Shockey, whose loss of targets to David Thomas is now consistent. The Skins also routinely shut down TEs.
Chris Wesseling established in Wednesday's must-read Daily Dose that Pierre Thomas "gets the lead" for New Orleans, while Mike Bell is used to "keep the lead." Bell also sees most of the scoring chances, but his smash-mouth, up-the-gut style doesn't match up well with a Washington front seven that gets back 350-pound DT Albert Haynesworth. Thomas has the ability to make defenders miss with quick cuts, and is a strong bet to outgain Bell, at least in terms of yards.
Reggie Bush (knee) may return this week, but probably only as a punt returner.
Getting an anticipated surge in run support from DT Sedrick Ellis' (knee) return, the Saints held Laurence Maroney to 64 yards on 15 carries last Monday night. Ellis also caused Maroney to fumble.
New Orleans now faces a rushing "attack" that is feeble with Ladell Betts (knee) done for the season and Clinton Portis (concussion) out indefinitely. Rock Cartwright managed just 38 yards on 15 totes in his week 12 debut as Washington's featured back, losing short-yardage work to Marcus Mason. Confidently leave all Redskins RBs on your fantasy bench this week.
Jason Campbell is making a contract-year run with five all-purpose TDs and 680 yards in his last three games, but this matchup is unfavorable. Surrendering an NFC-low 6.2 YPA and nine TDs in 11 games (another NFC-best mark), the Saints' secondary is legit, no matter which 34-year-old lines up across from opposing No. 1 receivers.
RE Will Smith is also on a tear, ranking fourth in the NFL in sacks. He'll have his way with Redskins fill-in LT Levi Jones, decreasing Campbell's time to hit Santana Moss deep. The Skins have no other receiver worth considering. Behind only the Packers, the Saints are the league's toughest team on TEs. Keep Fred Davis benched.
Oakland at Pittsburgh
Tread lightly when considering plugging Ben Roethlisberger back into lineups a week after he was deactivated due to post-concussion symptoms.
The Steelers will utilize a heavily run-first game plan to keep Big Ben out of harm's way. Oakland's defense is also much easier to beat on the ground than through the air, and sub-40 degree temps are in the Heinz Field forecast.
Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward move around the field often, but Holmes lines up on the offensive left in Pittsburgh's base formation. He is likely to see the most of Raiders RCB Nnamdi Asomugha.
A run-heavy approach would crush the upsides of Heath Miller and Mike Wallace. Wallace only plays in three-receiver passing sets, and Miller is a sixth offensive lineman when Pittsburgh is in I-formations.
Rashard Mendenhall has one score in his last five games, but TDs come eventually for players that are playing well and get the ball consistently. Mendenhall is averaging 26 touches for 117 yards in the last two weeks. He's a marquee RB1 play against an Oakland defense that ranks No. 31 against the run and has allowed the most rushing touchdowns in the league.
The Raiders don't match up well with Pittsburgh—not that they match up well with anyone. In theory, Oakland's strength is the run game, but it's only ranked 20th in rushing. The Steelers are No. 1 against the run.
With a three-man backfield rotation, avoid Raiders RBs entirely. Coach Tom Cable gets criticized for sticking with Justin Fargas, but it's hard to make a serious case for Darren McFadden moving up when he's averaging 3.3 YPC. Michael Bush is the best all-around back, but is in the doghouse after losing a fumble in week 11. He had three touches last week.
Also avoid all Oakland passing game members. Zach Miller will be on the line helping OTs Mario Henderson and Cornell Green block Steelers OLBs James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Darrius Heyward-Bey's two-catch, 21-yard, one-score effort in Week 12 was his career best, which says all you need to know.
Louis Murphy has lost his job to Chaz Schilens. Schilens has been the team's most consistent pass catcher over the last three games with seven grabs for 100 yards and no TDs. QB Bruce Gradkowski is an upgrade over JaMarcus Russell, but that's not saying much.
Houston at Jacksonville
Jaguars top CB Rashean Mathis (groin) will miss a third straight game, which is recipe for disaster against a desperate Texans team that ranks No. 3 in passing. A 50 percent chance of rain and 13 mph winds in the Municipal Stadium forecast are only a slight concern. Without Mathis, Jacksonville has no cover man remotely capable of matching up physically with Andre Johnson.
A.J. managed (only?) 86 yards on four catches in his last meeting with the Jags and is back for vengeance. The Jaguars would rank 27th in pass defense with Mathis in the lineup, so Matt Schaub is a must-play with him out. Jacksonville has also surrendered the seventh most passing scores in the league.
Kevin Walter's 73-yard week 12 was his second most productive game of '09. His first? A 96-yard, one-TD effort on seven grabs versus Jacksonville in Week 3. He'll square off primarily with former undrafted free agent Tyron Brackenridge in this one and is a strong WR3.
James Casey hasn't topped 33 yards since Owen Daniels' ACL tear and isn't a fantasy option. Steve Slaton is starting again and heavily involved in the passing game, but his value almost totally depends on catches. He has 15 receptions in his last three games, but is averaging only seven carries a week.
David Garrard returns home, where he is way more effective. He has seven TDs, a 7.9 YPA, and a 66.1 percent completion rate at Municipal, compared to one touchdown, a 6.7 YPA, and 59.0 percent completions on the road. Houston is solid in pass defense, but Garrard is a quality QB2.
Mike Sims-Walker's three-game scoring streak ended in Week 12, but he's again a borderline WR1. He has rebounded from down games with big ones all year and will benefit from an improved Garrard. Torry Holt still hasn't found the end zone this season and offers no upside.
Marcedes Lewis showed leadership by organizing a players-only meeting this week, but isn't playing well enough to even be a TE2.
After a hot midseason run, Houston is again showing leaks in the front seven. Since their Week 10 bye, the Texans have allowed 344 rushing yards, a 5.4 YPC average, and two rushing touchdowns in two games. Maurice Jones-Drew is coming off his seventh 100+ total-yard effort this season. He's the No. 2 overall player in fantasy football.
New England at Miami
The Patriots attacked the Dolphins with a spread offense in their first 2009 meeting, and there's no reason to think they'll change it up. Tom Brady poured on 337 yards in the 27-17 win. Expect an even bigger day from Brady against the Fins' No. 23 pass defense.
Scattered thunderstorms and 15 mph winds are in the LandShark Stadium forecast, but the Pats have already proven that weather doesn't deter their consistently pass-heavy game plans. Randy Moss caught six balls for 147 yards and a touchdown in the aforementioned victory. The Dolphins routinely leave Moss in single coverage (they did last year too), which he routinely obliterates.
The Saints gave the league a blueprint for slowing New England's AFC-best offense in Week 12 by double teaming Wes Welker and pressing Moss at the line of scrimmage with safety help over the top.
This approach, however, leaves six in the box to defend the run. Miami's rush defense is typically stout, but Laurence Maroney is a safe bet to keep his touchdown tear going if the Dolphins copy New Orleans.
The Fins simply don't have a slot corner capable of staying with Welker. Double teams can stop him, but don't bench the NFL's leader in catches. Ben Watson has 14 yards combined in his last two games. This is a good matchup, but he's too inconsistent.
Other than Ricky Williams, there's no one to like on Miami's side of the ball for fantasy purposes. The Fins' coaching staff said this week that it hopes rookie Brian Hartline will emerge as a No. 1 receiver, but he hasn't topped 47 yards in six game. Ted Ginn Jr. will likely move into a backup role against New England. His primary functions are kickoff returner and situational deep threat in a conservative offense.
The Patriots are one of the league's toughest teams in tight end defense, making Anthony Fasano a non-option. Greg Camarillo has never offered big-play ability.
Managing games well entering Week 12, Chad Henne took a big step back with three picks and a 5.6 YPA at Buffalo. He's barely worth QB2 consideration against New England's top-ten pass defense. The Dolphins continue to use Ricky Williams as a workhorse, despite his age (32). Williams, averaging a robust 5.1 yards per carry on the year, has 73 touches for 360 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games. He faces a Patriots run defense that permits 4.4 YPC on Sunday, and is an every-week starter until he breaks down. Then, power back Lex Hilliard will take over.
Detroit at Cincinnati
Cincinnati will likely employ "bracket" coverage in an effort to slow down Calvin Johnson. Johnson, though, has good health (he's practiced fully all week), weather (light wind, 10 percent chance of rain in the Cincy forecast), and enormous talent on his side. He's impossible to sit.
Matthew Stafford (left shoulder) is also practicing without limitations and will start Sunday. He's not a stand-alone fantasy option against Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph, but helps Johnson's cause. Lions Nos. 2 and 3 receivers Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt remain waiver wire fodder. Neither would make most NFL teams' rosters.
Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski termed it correctly this week, saying Kevin Smith is "running like a beaten man." Smith's monster workloads saved him early in the season, but he is moving with no authority or acceleration, and getting very few openings from his offensive line. Clearly, Smith would be an awful bet as even a FLEX against the Bengals' No. 3 overall run defense.
Brandon Pettigrew's ACL tear leaves Will Heller and Casey FitzSimmons as the Lions' top two tight ends. FitzSimmons is the probable starter, but neither is talented enough for fantasy relevance.
While the Lions' run defense is annually pathetic, their secondary is even worse.
Several teams this year have begun games against the Lions with run-heavy looks, but ultimately leaned on the pass because Detroit's DBs are so burnable (e.g. Green Bay on Thanksgiving).
Carson Palmer's attempts total won't necessarily be low. He has just two TDs in the last month but is a quality, if low-end QB1 because of the match-up. Chad Ochocinco has too much speed for the Lions' slow-of-foot defensive backs. Coming off a slow November, he's an excellent bet to start December hot.
Cedric Benson (hip) turned in a full practice week. The Bengals plan to reinstall him as their workhorse, with Brian Leonard staying active on third downs and Larry Johnson perhaps picking up 4-6 carries.
Despite Bernard Scott's (turf toe) absence, L.J. is not a "change of pace" option. He is essentially a poor man's version of Benson -- a slower CedBen with no value on passing downs. Week 12 could easily go down as the last 100+ yard effort of Johnson's career. He isn't going to draw any interest from teams searching for a starter in offseason free agency.
4:05PM ET Game
San Diego at Cleveland
The injury bug bit chunks out of Cleveland's woebegone defense in the face and rear this week, with NT Shaun Rogers (ankle) and FS Brodney Pool (concussions) hitting I.R. The Browns now face the Bolts' top-nine passing attack without their best on-the-line pass rusher and cover safety.
Sub-10 mph winds and a 10 percent chance of showers at Browns Stadium won't hinder passing, so expect a big day from Philip Rivers. The Football Outsiders rank Cleveland as the worst team in the league in tight end defense. Antonio Gates should stay hot.
Expect little from Malcom Floyd, who's caught more than three balls once all year, but look for this to be the week Vincent Jackson emerges from his three-game funk. Still the No. 7 overall fantasy receiver despite no touchdowns and 93 combined yards since Week 8, V-Jax faces the league's No. 24 pass defense.
Rogers' loss especially hurts Cleveland's run defense. Already ranked 29th, the Browns will resort to Ahtyba Rubin (zero career starts) on the nose. LaDainian Tomlinson isn't productive on a per-touch basis, but is getting it done in fantasy with seven scores in his last five outings.
Brady Quinn's 304-yard, four-touchdown week 11 has been proven a fluke. Somehow, he managed to average under three yards per pass attempt (unheard of) in Week 12 at Cincinnati. Quinn now has to deal with San Diego's top-eight pass defense. He isn't even a QB2.
Mohamed Massaquoi also went back in the tank against the Bengals, catching one ball for 12 yards. It's hard to fathom using him for the rest of 2009. The Browns' No. 2 receiver position remains a fantasy wasteland. Joshua Cribbs started opposite Massaquoi last week and had seven yards on three catches.
Chris Jennings, projected to be Cleveland's new No. 1 tailback following Jamal Lewis' season-ending concussion, isn't a fantasy option until we see how carries are divided between him and Jerome Harrison.
But whomever gets the touches on Sunday has received a matchup boost. The Bolts plan to deactivate front seven starters Luis Castillo (ankle) and Shawne Merriman (foot), in addition to run-stopping S Eric Weddle (knee). San Diego is friendly to opposing running backs in the first place, so it will be interesting to see if Jennings or Harrison can capitalize.
4:15PM ET Games
Dallas at NY Giants
Brandon Jacobs' 27 yards on 11 carries in week 12 against a Denver team that had been gashed for 100+ by opposing RBs in each of its last five games couldn't have been more disappointing. While Jacobs didn't look good himself—running East-West instead of North-South all too often—the Giants clearly have lost their identity.
Despite Eli Manning's accuracy woes caused by a foot injury, Jacobs has seen 20 carries just once in the last six games. Danny Ware's (concussion) absence and Ahmad Bradshaw's injuries to both ankles would seemingly set Jacobs up for 20+ touches this Sunday, but that's up to the Giants, who seem to think that they are a passing team. Dallas also ranks No. 9 against the run. Use Jacobs at your own risk.
Manning, coming off a Thanksgiving effort in which he had 28 yards at half and looked positively brutal, now faces a Cowboys pass defense that's made major strides since a slow start. Assisted by the NFL's seventh-best pass rush, Dallas has allowed three passing TDs in its last four games. Bench Manning unless you're in a two-QB league.
The Cowboys (i.e. Orlando Scandrick) set the table for Mario Manningham's week 2 "breakout" (10-150-1). Scandrick, however, has been benched and replaced by steady RCB Mike Jenkins. Avoid Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. Steve Smith is the only consistent Giants wideout. Kevin Boss, coming off a 22-yard game, is another routinely weak play.
The absence of Giants top safety Michael Johnson (groin) hurts badly against Dallas' big-play offense. C.C. Brown, who's been a coverage liability in previous spot starts this year, will be forced to start against a Cowboys team that's produced the second most 20+ yard completions in the league.
Tony Romo is coming off one of his better games of 2009 (309 yards, two TDs) against a tough Oakland pass defense, and should be used confidently in this matchup. Jason Witten and Miles Austin also get boosts. Roy Williams is a non-factor until he picks up his play.
The demotions of DE Osi Umenyora and DT Fred Robbins don't make a difference in terms of matchups, mostly because new Giants starters Mathias Kiwanuka and Chris Canty could easily prove better options.
Marion Barber's week 12 105-total yard effort was disappointing considering the opponent (Oakland), and Felix Jones and Tashard Choice both saw action. This matchup isn't ideal for Barber, but he's still a viable low-end RB2 because he will get goal-line carries if Dallas gets close enough. He's also playing well, averaging over 4.2 YPC in each of his last four games.
San Francisco at Seattle
Justin Forsett has too many factors working against him to be a viable fantasy option this week. Julius Jones is back to retake his starting job and red-zone work, the 49ers are fifth against the run, and Forsett strained his quadriceps on the practice field Friday. Forsett might still play on some third downs and remains Seattle's best option in the backfield when healthy, but there's not much to like about him in Week 13.
Season-long bust T.J. Houshmandzadeh has a good matchup, but is hard to get excited about when he's averaged three catches for 25 yards in his last two games. John Carlson shouldn't have to block often because the 49ers have a weak pass rush and is a low-end TE1.
The best way to attack San Francisco's defense is through the air. Thus, the match-up favors a Seahawks offense that has gradually evolved into a pass-heavy unit and will remain so with its best running back in danger of sitting out.
The Niners rank 28th against the pass, and the Qwest Field conditions (10 percent winds, 10 percent chance of rain) are of little concern. Matt Hasselbeck is a high-quality start in two-QB leagues. Nate Burleson, as usual, is Seattle's best fantasy option at wide receiver because he can make big plays and the 49ers routinely give them up through the air.
Seattle's defensive strength is against the run, but Frank Gore appears to have the Seahawks' number. He gashed them for 246 yards and two scores on 21 touches earlier this year. There is talk that Gore's been adversely affected by San Francisco's conversion to a spread offense, but a 5.4 YPC average out of the formation disproves that notion. Expect a strong effort.
Alex Smith has a favorable matchup against a Seattle team that ranks 25th in pass defense and has allowed the sixth most passing touchdowns in the league. He's an ideal two-QB league play.
Vernon Davis is on pace for 83 catches, 975 yards, and 13 touchdowns. He's the No. 1 tight end in fantasy football. Michael Crabtree hasn't had any truly big games this year, but improves weekly and remains a rock-solid WR3 play. Ultimately, the spread attack is going to benefit his numbers. He played in Mike Leach's spread offense at Texas Tech.
49ers play-caller Jimmy Raye deemed Josh Morgan's six-catch, 43-yard Week 12 his best performance of the year, which tells you all you need to know. Morgan is a good real-life player, but isn't a fantasy option.
Sunday Night Football
Minnesota at Arizona
Kurt Warner's (concussion) status is extremely shaky, and the guess here is that he will miss his second straight game.
Cardinals LT Mike Gandy (pelvis) is unlikely to play, ushering journeyman Jeremy Bridges into the lineup. Backup quarterback Matt Leinart is a southpaw, so it would make more sense for him to start. The Cards need to avoid having Bridges protect their quarterback's blind side.
Steve Breaston is not a fantasy option if Leinart starts, and only a low-end WR3 if Warner gets the nod. Breaston has just four catches for 26 yards combined in his last two appearances.
If Leinart starts, don't let it affect your decision to use Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin. They are simply too good to be on fantasy benches, and face a Vikings defense that will likely be without top CB Antoine Winfield (foot) again. Minnesota is 19th against the pass.
Tim Hightower is listed as questionable with a thumb injury. He is slated to play, but the hand ailment may hinder his effectiveness in the passing game. While Hightower and Chris Wells lack high fantasy ceilings against the Vikings' No. 2 rush defense, Wells is a better bet as a desperation flex play.
Few Vikings skill players wouldn't be worth using in this one. The entire offense is smoking hot, and Arizona has plenty of defensive weaknesses.
The forecast is favorable (60+ degree temps, 5 mph winds, 10 percent chance of rain), so ride Brett Favre and Sidney Rice against Arizona's No. 29 pass defense.
Percy Harvin is only a "No. 3" wideout, but is coming off a 101-yard game and benefits from the Vikings' increasingly pass-friendly offense, while the Cards struggle to defend slot receivers.
Bernard Berrian saw nine targets and had 74 yards last week, but let's see him keep it up before recommending him in fantasy. Berrian has too often been used as a decoy this year.
Arizona's run defense has fallen to 13th overall and permits the seventh-highest YPC (4.5) in the league. After being held under 100 rushing yards in his last two games, Adrian Peterson is due for a breakout. He won't see eight in the box with Favre forcing the Cardinals to respect the pass.
Visanthe Shiancoe has exceeded fantasy expectations this season, but was limited in practice all week with a rib injury and is listed as questionable. In a late game, it would be hard to count on Shiancoe. He's a game-time decision.
Monday Night Football
Baltimore at Green Bay
Snow showers and 30-degree temperatures are in the Lambeau forecast, but Baltimore will still struggle to check Green Bay's high-octane passing attack.
The disappointing Ravens defense has the seventh fewest sacks in the league and will again be without top pass rusher Terrell Suggs (knee).
While rookie CB Lardarius Webb's rise to the starting job has given Baltimore's secondary a shot in the arm, Aaron Rodgers is on a tear with at least 344 yards and multiple touchdowns in his last two games. He's impossible to stop with time to drop back and fire deep.
Greg Jennings continues to take a backseat to Donald Driver in terms of both production and targets. Driver is the No. 12 overall fantasy receiver (a borderline WR1); Jennings is No. 23 (a WR2/3).
The Ravens are very good at defending the tight end. Jermichael Finley, coming off a 25-yard effort, isn't much of a fantasy play.
Ryan Grant faces a Ravens run defense that ranks No. 6 overall and has given up a league-low 3.5 yards per carry. Grant gets 20 touches consistently, but this is an unfavorable match-up on paper. He's very mediocre RB2 in this one.
Joe Flacco has just one passing touchdown in the last month and goes against Green Bay's top-seven pass defense. He hasn't been worth QB1 consideration since mid-October. With CB Al Harris out for the year, the Packers will likely use probable All-Pro Charles Woodson to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers, as he did in Week 12 against Calvin Johnson. Woodson held Johnson to 10 yards on two catches. Derrick Mason is Baltimore's No. 1 wideout.
Mark Clayton's 100+ yard effort last week was his first since 2008. Don't consider it a sign of things to come.
Todd Heap can safely be left on fantasy waiver wires. He clearly isn't fully healthy.
Ray Rice, the No. 4 overall fantasy back, is losing goal-line carries to Willis McGahee again, although he has 100+ total yards in eight straight. While Green Bay has a stout run defense, Rice is an obvious every-week starter.
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