San Francisco (+9) at San Diego, Thursday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: San Francisco won in impressive fashion last week, taking a 30-7 lead into halftime. Alex Smith got 9.4 YPA with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio and making coach Mike Singletary look smart for making the switch at quarterback. He now has nine touchdown passes over four home games this season. The 49ers are 5-3 since opening the year 0-5, and they remain in the NFC West playoff picture, but a trip to San Diego during a short week means they are big underdogs Thursday night. The Chargers have allowed an NFL-low 6.2 YPA while recording 38 sacks this season, and Smith has struggled on the road... San Diego followed up a loss to Oakland by beating Kansas City 31-0 last week, and the team will be playing its third straight home game Thursday. They can ill afford to lose again this season still down a game to the Chiefs in their division, so don’t expect the Chargers to overlook the 49ers, though with the worst special teams unit in the league and shaky coaching, anything is possible. Philip Rivers has been terrific this year, getting 8.8 YPA with 26 touchdown passes, but he’s also committed 10 penalties, the most among signal callers in the NFL, and he’s likely to be without Antonio Gates (foot) in Week 15. With Malcom Floyd (hamstring) also banged up and iffy for Thursday’s contest, Vincent Jackson is going to need to step up – he makes for a sneaky fantasy play. Ryan Mathews gained 65 rushing yards on 16 carries Sunday during his first action since Week 9, also hitting paydirt. Mike Tolbert received the same amount of rushing attempts, and while he’s a better bet to score each week as the team’s goal-line back, don’t be surprised if the rookie starts getting the majority of the carries from here on out. As nearly double-digit favorites at home against the 49ers on Thursday night, the Chargers should be playing with the lead mostly, resulting in plenty of carries to go around.
Predictions: Alex Smith throws for 200 yards with a touchdown to Vernon Davis, while Brian Westbrook and Anthony Dixon combine for 110 total yards without scoring. Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, meanwhile, total 150 yards and a touchdown run. Philip Rivers adds 270 passing yards with scoring strikes to Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd, as the home team prevails. Chargers 27-16.
Buffalo (+5.5) at Miami, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After winning last week, the Bills are 3-2 over their past five games, which is progress after opening the year 0-8. Ryan Fitzpatrick has tossed multiple TDs just once over the last six contests, but Fred Jackson has emerged as a weapon out of the backfield, totaling 625 yards over the past five games. The Dolphins, however, are tough to run against, allowing just 3.6 YPC this season - the third lowest mark in the league. Lee Evans' disappointing season came to an end thanks to a high-ankle sprain, so Steve Johnson might see a lot of Vontae Davis on Sunday…After a victory in New York against the Jets last week, Miami has alternated wins and losses since Week 4, and it's remarkable how much better they have played on the road (6-1) compared to at home (1-5) this season. Chad Henne has played poorly regardless of venue, although he has a favorable matchup in Week 15 against a Buffalo defense that struggles to pressure the passer. The Dolphins have recorded an NFL-low five rushing touchdowns on the year, as the team's backfield has been a fantasy wasteland.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 210 yards with a touchdown to Steve Johnson, while Fred Jackson adds 90 yards from scrimmage and reaches the end zone. Miami's RBBC totals 110 yards with a TD run by Ricky Williams, while Chad Henne throws for 225 yards with a scoring strike to Brandon Marshall, as Miami wins it. Dolphins 20-17.
Cleveland (+1.5) at Cincinnati, Sunday 1 p.m. Comments: Cleveland enters with a 5-8 record, but considering their difficult schedule, the team has exceeded expectations, especially with wins over the Saints and Patriots on this year's resume. Peyton Hillis has been a revelation, but he also "leads" the NFL with eight fumbles, losing five of them. Colt McCoy, who has gotten an impressive 7.7 YPA during his rookie campaign, is back as starter, finally recovered from his ankle sprain. The move was a no-brainer, and McCoy should find success against a Bengals defense that has recorded a league-low 18 sacks on the year…After beginning the year 2-1, Cincinnati has dropped 10 straight games, and the team lost by 16 points in Pittsburgh last week despite holding the Steelers' offense to zero touchdowns thanks to a couple of pick-sixes by Carson Palmer. Terrell Owens has slowed after a hot start to the year, and Chad Ochocinco is hobbled by an ankle injury, but both wideouts have a favorable matchup against the Browns in Week 15.
Predictions: Colt McCoy throws for 210 yards with a touchdown to Mohamed Massaquoi, while Peyton Hillis totals 110 yards and hits paydirt. Cedric Benson responds with 80 rushing yards and a score, while Carson Palmer adds 270 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Chad Ochocinco, as the home team prevails. Bengals 23-20.
Detroit (+6) at Tampa Bay, Sunday 1 p.m. Comments: Detroit ended its five-game losing streak with a win over the Packers last week, holding a strong Green Bay offense to just three points after knocking Aaron Rodgers out of the game with a concussion. The team is still searching for its first road win this season, however. Shaun Hill (finger) was hopeful of returning in Week 15, but odds are Drew Stanton gets another start against a Tampa Bay defense that has been destroyed by injuries recently. Coming off his worst game of the season, fantasy owners sure hope Calvin Johnson makes it up to them with a big game Sunday…Thanks to a failed extra-point attempt, the Bucs came away with a win last week in Washington, although they have yet to beat a team with a winning record this season. Josh Freeman has a plus matchup at home against a Detroit secondary that has ceded 7.6 YPA and a 21:11 TD:INT ratio on the year, and he has yet another young receiver developing into a threat in Arrelious Benn. LeGarrette Blount makes for a fine start in fantasy leagues, and it's safe to expect Mike Williams to bounce back in a big way after being held to a season-low 15 yards receiving last week.
Predictions: Drew Stanton throws for 200 yards with a TD toss to Calvin Johnson, while Detroit's running back committee produces 90 rushing yards and a score. LeGarrette Blount answers with 100 rushing yards and reaches the end zone, while Josh Freeman adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Mike Williams and Kellen Winslow, as Tampa Bay comes out on top. Buccaneers 24-20.
Jacksonville (+5) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: After a nice comeback victory last week, the Jaguars are 5-1 over their past six games, with their lone loss coming in New York against a tough Giants team. Despite averaging just 178.4 passing yards per game this year, David Garrard has somehow thrown 20 touchdowns over 12 games, and he's even added four rushing scores as well. Still, expect Jacksonville to concentrate on its ground game Sunday, with Maurice Jones-Drew leading the way. MJD has reached 100 yards rushing in six straight contests, and he should find success against an Indy front seven that has been gashed for an AFC-high 4.8 YPC and 14 rushing scores this season…The Colts ended their three-game losing streak last week, and they enter with 10 days to prepare after last playing Thursday night. They will lose the division to the Jags with a loss Sunday, so expect a focused effort from the perennial AFC South favorites in Week 15. Indy's rushing attack remains in flux, but the team is expected to get Austin Collie back in the lineup, which is great news for Peyton Manning. The signal caller should have a big game facing a Jacksonville secondary that has given up an NFL-high 8.7 YPA and 24 scores through the air this season.
Predictions: David Garrard throws for 225 yards and two touchdowns, with Mike Sims-Walker and Marcedes Lewis the recipients. Maurice Jones-Drew adds 110 yards from scrimmage and a TD run, while Indy's rushing attack combines for 80 yards and a touchdown by Javarris James. Peyton Manning adds 300 passing yards with scoring strikes to Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie, as Indy pulls out the victory. Colts 27-21.
Arizona (+2.5) at Carolina, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Arizona's seven-game losing streak came to an end last week with a resounding 43-13 win over Denver, as the team scored as many points in the victory has it had over the previous four games combined. John Skelton completed just 41.9 percent of his passes while getting 4.4 YPA, so even in victory the team's quarterback play was a major weakness. Tim Hightower is the clear back to own for fantasy purposes, as Chris Wells has taken a backseat and continues to disappoint. Carolina has yielded 17 rushing touchdowns on the year, so it's a solid matchup for Hightower…Rarely will you see a 1-12 team favored, but so is the case Sunday, and it makes sense considering the opponent. Jimmy Clausen has a 1:9 TD:turnover ratio during his rookie campaign, completing a paltry 51.3 percent of his passes. Andrew Luck is in his rearview mirror as a result. Jonathan Stewart has already lost three fumbles on just 120 carries this year, but he's rushed for 323 yards over the past three games and has become a major factor in fantasy leagues. He should have a nice game Sunday against an Arizona defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2010.
Predictions: John Skelton throws for 160 yards with no touchdowns, while Tim Hightower manages 80 total yards and scores. Jonathan Stewart counters with 120 rushing yards and hits paydirt, while Mike Goodson also adds a TD run. Jimmy Clausen adds just 175 passing yards without a score, but Carolina wins anyway. Panthers 20-16.
New Orleans (+1) at Baltimore, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Saints come in riding a six-game winning streak, and they have scored 30 points or more in each of their past five contests. Drew Brees is on pace to throw 34 touchdowns for the third consecutive year, but he's also been picked off in nine straight games. He's already thrown a career-high 18 interceptions this season. Still, he remains tough to sack and has completed 69.0 percent of his passes. Chris Ivory (hamstring) is unlikely to play in Week 15, leading to more action for Pierre Thomas, but Baltimore has allowed just five rushing scores on the year…Although they lost a 28-7 lead, the Ravens won in overtime last week in Houston. They lose a day of preparation this week coming off playing Monday night, but Joe Flacco has been terrific at home this season, getting 8.4 YPA with an 11:1 TD:INT ratio. However, New Orleans has allowed an NFL-low eight passing touchdowns in 2010. Ray Rice has seen his YPC drop from 5.3 last year to 3.9 this season, but he's going to be a big part of the game plan Sunday. These two teams seem equal, so it's curious to see the spread fewer than the standard three points.
Predictions: Drew Brees throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with Marques Colston and Reggie Bush the recipients. The Saints' rushing attack is held in check, while Ray Rice counters with 90 total yards. Willis McGahee punches in a goal-line score, while Joe Flacco adds 230 passing yards with TD strikes to Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason, as the home team prevails. Ravens 24-20.
Philadelphia (+3) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles are 5-1 over the past six games, and Sunday's contest with the Giants is hugely important in the NFC East. Michael Vick has gotten 9.3 YPA with a 17:3 TD:turnover ratio on the road this season, but New York has ceded only 6.3 YPA while recording 39 sacks in 2010. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin offer a great test for the Giants' strong secondary. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL in yards after the catch, and he'll enter 2011 as a top-five fantasy back despite seeing 20 carries during just one game so far this season…The Giants enter with a three-game winning streak, but with two upcoming road games, including a trip to Green Bay in Week 16, Sunday marks something close to a must-win. Eli Manning has already committed a whopping 24 turnovers, which doesn't bode well facing an Eagles' defense that has intercepted a league-high 22 passes and will be getting Asante Samuel back. The return of Hakeem Nicks is big news for New York's offense, but the loss of Steve Smith to microfracture surgery is a big blow to the franchise. Brandon Jacobs has gotten 6.1 YPC this season after getting just 3.7 last year, and he forms a dominant duo with Ahmad Bradshaw in the Giants' backfield.
Predictions: Michael Vick throws for 230 yards, rushes for 30 yards and finds DeSean Jackson for a score. LeSean McCoy adds 100 combined yards and hits paydirt, while Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw total 120 yards and each record a TD run. Eli Manning adds 240 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Hakeem Nicks, as New York wins it. Giants 24-23.
Kansas City (+1) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: St. Louis leads the NFC West despite a 6-7 record, but they can ill afford a loss against the Chiefs. Sam Bradford hasn't thrown a touchdown in either of the past two games, but the Rams return home Sunday for the first time since Week 11. Steven Jackson has just eight touchdowns over the past 28 games, although at least he's stayed healthy this season…The Chiefs' three-game winning streak came to a halt last week with a 31-0 loss in San Diego, as Matt Cassel's injury proved crushing. Brodie Croyle is now 0-10 while starting throughout his career, but Cassel is expected to return to the lineup Sunday, although it remains to be seen how limited he'll be coming off an appendectomy. No player in football has been more boom-or-bust than Dwayne Bowe this year, but fantasy owners will want him in their lineup as long as Cassel is back. Jamaal Charles finished with fewer than 4.5 YPC last week for just the second game all season, but it's safe to expect a bounce back performance Sunday against a middling Rams' defense.
Predictions: Sam Bradford throws for 210 yards with a TD to Brandon Gibson, while Steven Jackson totals 80 yards and reaches the end zone. Jamaal Charles answers with 120 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, while Matt Cassel adds 240 passing yards with a scoring strike to Dwayne Bowe, as Kansas City wins on a late field goal. Chiefs 23-20.
Washington (+6) at Dallas, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins are just 1-5 over their last six games, as Mike Shanahan's first season in Washington has been a disaster. The team has decided to make a change at quarterback, inserting Rex Grossman now that they are "mathematically eliminated." Donovan McNabb has not played well this season, throwing more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) for the first time in his career. He's also lucky just one of his 10 fumbles were lost. Still, it's hard to make sense of this switch, as Rex Grossman is 30 years old and has gotten just 6.4 YPA with a 69.6 QB rating throughout his career…The Cowboys lost for the second time since Jason Garrett took over as coach last week, although they remained competitive against a good Philadelphia team. The offense has become dink-and-dunk with Jon Kitna at quarterback, crushing Miles Austin's fantasy value in the process. Still, Dallas has a favorable matchup against a Redskins secondary that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Predictions: Rex Grossman throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Anthony Armstrong, while Ryan Torain adds 80 rushing yards and a TD run. Dallas' RBBC totals 120 yards and a touchdown, while Jon Kitna adds 250 passing yards with scoring strikes to Miles Austin and Jason Witten, as Dallas comes out on top. Cowboys 27-23.
Houston (+1.5) at Tennessee, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: Houston's valiant effort in a 21-point comeback Monday fell short, as Matt Schaub threw a pick-six in overtime. The team now has to travel during a short week, while Tennessee has the benefit of 10 days of preparation. Schaub has thrown seven touchdowns over the past three games, but he'll have to deal with a strong pass rush from the Titans. Arian Foster has been the No. 1 fantasy player this season, and it should be interesting to see how high he's drafted in 2011…Tennessee has lost six straight games, although Kerry Collins finally led the team into the end zone in Week 14 for the first time in three games. Chris Johnson has taken a major step back this year thanks partly to poor run blocking, but he should once again be a big part of the team's offense Sunday. Kenny Britt has a terrific matchup against a Houston secondary that is the only in the league to allow opposing passers to accrue a QB rating above 100.0, and Randy Moss has become a complete afterthought.
Predictions: Matt Schaub throws for 250 yards with TD tosses to Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels, while Arian Foster racks up 110 yards and hits paydirt. Chris Johnson responds with a similar line, while Kerry Collins adds 240 passing yards with scoring strikes to Kenny Britt and Nate Washington, as Tennessee wins for the first time since Week 7. Titans 27-24.
Atlanta (-7) at Seattle, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Atlanta has won seven straight games, and while they have benefitted from an easy schedule, their two losses this season have come in Pittsburgh and in Philadelphia, so this is a legit team, although somewhat flawed. Matt Ryan somehow has 22 touchdown passes despite getting just 6.6 YPA, and that number drops to 6.1 while playing outdoors. Roddy White hasn't scored in three straight games, but expect that to change Sunday. The Falcons are vulnerable on the road, especially outdoors, and even a mediocre Seahawks team isn't easy while playing in Seattle…The Seahawks are somehow tied for first place in their division despite being outscored by 68 points this season. Matt Hasselbeck has thrown eight interceptions over the past three games, although he gets a middling Atlanta defense this week. Both Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu are expected to return to the lineup Sunday, so the team's WR corps is getting healthier. Still in the playoff hunt, the Seahawks will be focused, and with a big home-field advantage, don't be shocked by an upset.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 260 yards with a touchdown to Roddy White, while Michael Turner adds 80 rushing yards and scores. Seattle's RBBC counters with a similar stat line, while Matt Hasselbeck throws for 240 yards with TD strikes to Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu, as Seattle pulls off the upset. Seahawks 24-23.
New York Jets (+6) at Pittsburgh, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Jets have followed up a four-game winning streak by losing back-to-back games, scoring a total of just nine points over that span. While the defense played well last week, the offense struggled mightily, as Mark Sanchez is in a major slump. The Jets have the second most drops in the NFL this season, but Sanchez has also played poorly, getting picked off in eight consecutive games. Life won't get any easier Sunday against a Steelers' defense that has allowed just 6.6 YPA with 39 sacks and has recorded more interceptions (17) than touchdowns allowed (14), although they will be playing without Troy Polamalu (ankle) in Week 15…Pittsburgh has won four straight, although the offense has scored just one touchdown over the last 13 quarters. Ben Roethlisberger is clearly playing hurt, and his offensive line is among the worst in football at both pass and run blocking. The Steelers' offense should struggle to move the ball against a tough Jets' defense Sunday, so it's safe to expect a physical, low-scoring affair.
Predictions: Mark Sanchez throws for 180 yards with a TD to Braylon Edwards, while LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are both held in check. Rashard Mendenhall totals 70 yards and a TD run, while Ben Roethlisberger adds 225 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Mike Wallace, as Pittsburgh prevails. Steelers 17-13.
Denver (+6.5) at Oakland, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Broncos have lost four straight and are just 1-8 over their past nine games, including an embarrassing 43-13 loss in Arizona last week. Kyle Orton has been horrible over the past two games, getting just 4.1 YPA with a 0:5 TD:turnover ratio. He's dealing with bruised ribs, and as a result, there's a chance Tim Tebow gets the start Sunday. It's a plus matchup against an Oakland secondary that has allowed a 25:8 TD:INT ratio this season, but a move to Tebow would make Brandon Lloyd an even shakier fantasy play…The Raiders lost a thrilling 38-31 game in Jacksonville last week, but the team is still moving in the right direction, entering Week 15 having outscored its opponents this season. Zach Miller is back to full strength, and he's a viable fantasy option Sunday against a Denver defense that has struggled defending tight ends this year. Coming off a terrific performance in which he totaled 209 yards and three touchdowns, Darren McFadden now gets a Broncos defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to running backs in 2010. He might be the best start of the week in fantasy leagues.
Predictions: Kyle Orton gets the start, resulting in 230 passing yards and a TD toss to Brandon Lloyd. Knowshon Moreno adds 90 combined yards and reaches the end zone, while Darren McFadden answers with 150 yards from scrimmage and hits paydirt. Jason Campbell throws for 250 yards with a scoring strike to Zach Miller, as Oakland wins it. Raiders 26-20.
Green Bay (+10.5) at New England, Sunday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: Green Bay was upset in a 7-3 loss last week in Detroit, as the offense laid an egg against a bad Lions defense. The team not only lost the game but also quarterback Aaron Rodgers to injury, and he's doubtful Sunday while dealing with the aftereffects of his second concussion of the year. Enter Matt Flynn, who has attempted only 46 passes in his career, with 26 of them coming just last week. The team claims the playbook won't change with Flynn under center, but he's extremely inexperienced, and New England's defense has played well of late. The loss of Rodgers no doubt hurts Greg Jennings' fantasy outlook…Since Week 2, the Patriots are 10-1 and have established themselves as the best team in football. Over the past two games, New England has outscored the Jets and Bears by a combined score of 81-10. Wes Welker, Deion Branch and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have all become staples in fantasy lineups, and Tom Brady has a 14:0 TD:INT ratio over the previous five contests. He's the clear frontrunner for this year's MVP award.
Predictions: Matt Flynn throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to James Jones, while Green Bay's rushing attack combines for 80 yards and a score. BenJarvus Green-Ellis responds with 90 yards and a TD run, while Tom Brady adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Wes Welker and Deion Branch, as the home team prevails. Patriots 27-17.
Chicago (-3) at Minnesota, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings lost 21-3 last week during a "home" game in Detroit, as Brett Favre's ironman streak finally came to an end after 297 consecutive regular season starts. Backup Tavaris Jackson was also lost to a turf toe injury and has since been placed on IR. Joe Webb is expected to get the start Monday night, although he's dealing with a hamstring injury of his own. Webb presents an interesting fantasy option, as he's eligible at WR in most formats. That absolutely makes him a viable start in Week 15. Adrian Peterson is questionable with knee/ankle injuries, but he's expected to play Monday, and Percy Harvin (migraine) is also expected to return to the lineup…Chicago's five-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt last week when the team got blown out 36-7 at home to New England. In a competitive NFC North, the team can't afford to overlook Minnesota. Jay Cutler should benefit from facing a Vikings defense that struggles to pressure the passer, but no Bears wideout is worth using in fantasy leagues. With the Metrodome's roof collapsing, the Vikings won't play a true home game the rest of the year, as the venue for Monday night's game will be at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium. Both the field and weather conditions should be extreme, and while Chicago struggled last week in the inclement weather, they are far more used to it than the Vikings who have a dome stadium, so while the Bears are the team traveling, they might actually have the advantage come Monday night.
Predictions: Joe Webb throws for 150 yards, runs for 40 yards and throws a TD strike to Visanthe Shiancoe. Adrian Peterson fights for 90 rushing yards but is held out of the end zone, while Matt Forte totals 70 yards and runs in a touchdown. Jay Cutler adds 210 passing yards with a scoring strike to Greg Olsen, as Chicago records its 10th win of the season. Bears 20-13.