Jacksonville (+12) at Atlanta, Thursday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: After not scoring more than 20 points in a game this season, the Jaguars scored 28 points over the final 7:36 minutes in the second quarter alone last week, exploding for 41 overall in an easy win over the Buccaneers. Blaine Gabbert hasn't exactly impressed, but he has thrown four touchdowns over the past two games. With an already paper-thin WR corps likely to be without starters Mike Thomas (concussion) and Cecil Shorts (hamstring), Jacksonville's passing attack has to rank among one of the worst in the league. It could pose a problem, since the Falcons are far more vulnerable against the pass than the run. Still, expect another heavy dose of Maurice Jones-Drew, who has racked up a whopping 745 yards from scrimmage over the past five games. He's also scored seven touchdowns over that span, including four last week. And after gaining just 85 receiving yards over the first eight games, he's suddenly on pace to finish the year with 428, which would be his most since 2008. All while playing for one of the five worst offenses in football... Atlanta is 6-2 over its past eight games, with Matt Ryan's improved play a big reason why. In fact, since the Week 8 bye, Ryan has produced a 14:4 TD:INT ratio with an 8.3 YPA mark. While the Jaguars fielded a solid defense earlier this season, Ryan has a plus matchup at home against Jacksonville's current secondary that is badly depleted thanks to injuries. Michael Turner has averaged just 3.3 YPC over the past three games while clearly limited by a groin injury, but he's also a tough guy to bench in fantasy leagues in a game that projects the Falcons to be playing mostly with the lead.
Predictions: Blaine Gabbert throws for 170 yards with a touchdown to Marcedes Lewis, while Maurice Jones-Drew adds 100 yards from scrimmage with a TD run. Michael Turner counters with 80 rushing yards and a goal-line score, while Matt Ryan adds 290 passing yards with TD tosses to Roddy White and Julio Jones, as the home team prevails. Falcons 27-17.
Dallas (-7) at Tampa Bay, Saturday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Bucs enter with a seven-game losing streak, none worse than last week when they lost 41-14 to a Jaguars team that had previously not scored more than 20 points in a game this season. Touchdown underdogs Saturday night and with the final two games of the year on the road, there's a real chance the Bucs end the year on a 10-game skid, so expect a coaching change during the offseason. Josh Freeman (shoulder) says he feels better and should be healthier this week, but he has a 4:8 TD:INT ratio over the past four games. Dallas' defense is middling, but LeGarrette Blount will have to leave the field if the Cowboys put up a bunch of points, forcing Tampa Bay into catch up mode... Dallas has lost back-to-back games, including a huge defeat at the hands of the Giants at home last week when they blew a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter. The team likely can't lose another game this season if they want to make the playoffs, so they can ill afford to overlook a Tampa Bay team that's been reeling. Tony Romo has been on fire recently and gets a plus matchup against a Bucs defense that struggles to pressure the passer and has allowed 8.1 YPA on the year. He also has his full complement of receivers at his disposal, and while it's a tough situation to break down in fantasy terms, all three wide receivers appear to be solid starts. Felix Jones replaces an injured DeMarco Murray (ankle) and gets a Tampa D that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Predictions: Josh Freeman throws for 220 yards with a TD toss to Mike Williams, while LeGarrette Blount adds 70 rushing yards and a goal-line score. Felix Jones counters with 125 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, while Tony Romo adds 290 passing yards with scoring strikes to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, as the road team prevails. Cowboys 27-17.
Cincinnati (-6.5) at St. Louis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: St. Louis comes in 2-11 and as one of the league's true doormats. Injuries have contributed, but the defense has taken a huge step back this season. More worrisome, however, is Sam Bradford, who hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns in a game since Week 13 of last season, and he's produced just six touchdowns compared to 13 turnovers so far this year. His career 6.0 YPA mark is equally as unimpressive, especially when you consider he plays in a dome. The addition of Josh McDaniels at offensive coordinator hasn't helped at all, as the QB has actually taken a step back during his sophomore season. Bradford apparently aggravated his ankle sprain last week as well, and he's currently in a walking boot. Expect Kellen Clemens to get the start in Week 15 as a result. Even an injury-riddled Bengals defense on the road looks like a plus start in fantasy leagues Sunday... Cincinnati is just 1-4 over its past five games, but a difficult schedule deserves plenty of the blame. They need to take care of business in St. Louis on Sunday, but their final two games are at home, so the Bengals could easily still finish with 10 wins. Andy Dalton should be able to move the ball, but it's Cedric Benson with the truly favorable matchup, as the Rams have allowed 5.0 YPC and an NFL-high six rushes for 40-plus yards this season.
Predictions: Kellen Clemens, who just signed last week, struggles, taking numerous sacks while producing no touchdowns. Steven Jackson fights for 75 total yards and scores, while Cedric Benson adds 100 rushing yards and a TD run of his own. Andy Dalton adds 220 passing yards with two touchdown tosses to A.J. Greene, as Cincy wins it. Bengals 24-13.
Miami (pick 'em) at Buffalo, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Bills have lost six straight games and look nothing like the team that started the year 4-1, as their once strong looking offense managed just three points in good conditions against a mediocre San Diego defense last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick has played noticeably worse during the second half of the season compared to the first for the second year in a row, and his contract extension looks increasingly shaky. Stevie Johnson will likely face off against Vontae Davis, while C.J. Spiller gets a Miami defense that has allowed the third-fewest YPC (3.5) in the NFL this season... A loss to the Eagles last week prompted the Dolphins to fire coach Tony Sparano, and while it was discouraging since the team had so much momentum, the team lost LT Jake Long and QB Matt Moore to injuries in the game. Both are questionable Sunday, but Moore is expected to play after returning to practice. Good thing, because J.P. Losman would be a huge downgrade. Buffalo has an NFL-low 19 sacks and has given up 4.7 YPC with 15 rushing scores on the year, so it's a plus matchup for Miami's offense.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 200 yards with a touchdown to David Nelson, while C.J. Spiller adds 75 yards from scrimmage with a TD run. Reggie Bush counters with 90 total yards and also hits pay dirt, while Matt Moore adds 250 passing yards with a TD strike to Brandon Marshall, as the road team comes out on top. Dolphins 20-17.
Washington (+7) at New York Giants, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Redskins are 1-8 over their past nine games and are still searching for a franchise quarterback. They also lost their left tackle and promising tight end to suspension, so it hasn't been an encouraging year for the team's fan base. At least Roy Helu has been a bright spot, as he's ran for at least 100 yards in three straight games and shown good ability to gain yards after contact. If he continues to improve in pass protection and can hold up physically, he looks like a franchise back. The Giants can be beat both in the air (7.9 YPA, 24 scores) and on the ground (4.7 YPC), so Washington should be able to move the ball Sunday... The Giants ended a four-game losing streak with a huge come from behind victory in Dallas last week, as they continue to control their own destiny in the NFC East. Eli Manning is having a season that in other years would win the MVP; he's averaged 384.0 passing yards over the past three games, and his 14 fourth quarter TD passes have already tied an NFL-record for a single season, and he has three games to go. Jason Pierre-Paul might already be the best defensive end in football, but while New York is capable of beating any team in the league at any venue, they also can disappoint as favorites, so don't be surprised if Sunday's game is closer than expected.
Predictions: Rex Grossman throws for 250 yards with a touchdown to Santana Moss, while Roy Helu adds 100 combined yards and a TD run. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs split carries, resulting in 110 total yards and a touchdown by the latter. Eli Manning adds 270 passing yards with scoring strikes to Hakeem Nicks and Jake Ballard, as New York wins it. Giants 24-20.
Tennessee (-7) at Indianapolis, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: While the Colts continue to lose, at least Dan Orlovsky has produced two straight backdoor covers, including the ultimate last week, when Indy scored a touchdown on the final play of the game. If Jim Caldwell doesn't get fired after the season, something is seriously wrong with this franchise. The big decision will obviously be what to do with Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning, as there's little left to discuss regarding the 2011 team. The secondary has allowed an eye-popping 108.7 QB rating to opposing passers this season... The Titans lost a close game against the Saints last week, badly hurting yet not completely killing the team's playoff hopes. Jake Locker has really impressed when given the opportunity this year, but as long as Matt Hasselbeck (calf) can physically play Sunday, he'll likely get the starting nod. Chris Johnson continues to be the most maddening and unpredictable fantasy player of the season, but he should again be considered a strong start in Week 15 against a Colts defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year.
Predictions: Dan Orlovsky throws for 180 yards with a TD toss to Reggie Wayne, while Indy's RBBC produces 75 total yards and a score. Chris Johnson responds with 130 yards from scrimmage and reaches the end zone twice, while Matt Hasselbeck suits up and adds 240 passing yards with a scoring strike to Nate Washington, as the road team prevails. Titans 27-17.
Seattle (+3.5) at Chicago, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Seahawks are 4-1 over their past five games, and while two of the wins have come against the Rams, the other two were against the Ravens and Eagles, so this team is showing real improvement. In fact, they have averaged 30.5 points over the past two games. Seattle could still use a long-term solution at quarterback, but Marshawn Lynch has now scored in nine straight games with a total of 10 over that span. While his season YPC mark of 4.3 is far from overwhelming, he's also eclipsed 100 yards rushing in five of his past six games and has broken 39 tackles on the year, which is tied for the third-most among running backs. He's going to be on a lot of winning fantasy teams this year... The Bears have dropped all three of their past games since losing Jay Cutler to a thumb injury, as Caleb Hanie has really struggled (2:6 TD:INT ratio, 15 sacks). Seattle's defense has been playing well of late, so this should be a low scoring affair Sunday. Marion Barber, who committed two huge gaffes to contribute greatly to last week's loss, gets a Seahawks front seven that has yielded just 3.7 YPC on the year.
Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson throws for 170 yards with no touchdowns, while Marshawn Lynch gains 70 rushing yards and scores yet again. Marion Barber answers with a similar line, while Caleb Hanie throws for 180 yards sans a TD, as Chicago wins a defensive battle thanks to home field. Bears 16-13.
Green Bay (-14.5) at Kansas City, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Chiefs are 1-5 over their past five games, so they decided to make a coaching change. New coach Romeo Crennel has an immediate tough task as more than two touchdown underdogs against the undefeated Packers, but he made a step in the right direction by naming Kyle Orton his new starting QB, barring health. Even though Orton has been on the team just a couple of weeks, he's likely to be an upgrade over Tyler Palko. Orton gets a Packers defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. His insertion into the starting lineup should boost Dwayne Bowe's fantasy value as well... Green Bay hasn't trailed in the fourth quarter since December 19, 2010. They can't run the ball and are mediocre on defense, but with possibly the NFL's best passing attack of all-time, it hasn't mattered. They will be without Greg Jennings (knee) Sunday, which increases the fantasy value of Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley the most, and it also makes James Jones an option in deeper leagues. Kansas City really struggles getting to the quarterback, so Aaron Rodgers should pick apart this defense, but what else is new?
Predictions: Thanks to some stat compiling in garbage time, Kyle Orton throws for 240 yards and adds TD tosses to Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston, while the Chiefs' RBBC attack doesn't produce much. Ryan Grant runs for 60 yards, while John Kuhn punches in a goal-line touchdown. Aaron Rodgers adds 320 passing yards with scoring strikes to Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and James Jones, as Green Bay's record remains perfect. Packers 31-17.
Carolina (+6.5) at Houston, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Panthers are without question exciting because of their skill position players on offense, but their defense is one of the worst in the NFL, and with a 4-9 record, it's unclear why they are underdogs by less than a touchdown on the road against a team that might be the No. 1 seed in the AFC (even with them dealing with injuries). Carolina entered halftime with a 23-7 lead at home against the Falcons last week and ended up losing 31-23, and they get a Houston defense Sunday that has allowed an NFL-low 62.6 QB rating against opposing passers this season. The Texans have ceded just six rushing scores on the year as well, so Carolina's offense has its work cut out for them, although defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will miss the game after undergoing surgery... Houston has won seven straight games, including a touchdown to win by one point last week with just two seconds left. T.J. Yates has proven to be a competent replacement at quarterback, although it sure would be interesting to see this team with a healthy Mario Williams, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Arian Foster should bounce back in a big way Sunday after a poor performance last week, as he should feast on a Panthers front seven that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Ben Tate makes for a decent flex play this week as well.
Predictions: Cam Newton throws for 240 yards and rushes for a score, while DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart total 110 yards but don't score. Arian Foster responds with 125 total yards and hits pay dirt, while Ben Tate also finds the end zone. T.J. Yates adds 220 passing yards with a TD toss to Owen Daniels, as Houston comes out on top. Texans 27-16.
New Orleans (-7) at Minnesota, Sunday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings have lost five straight games and could be looking at the No. 2 pick in next year's draft. While Joe Webb impressed coming off the bench last week, Christian Ponder (hip) is expected to get the start Sunday, and the team expects to get Adrian Peterson back from his ankle injury as well. New Orleans has allowed 4.9 YPC, so Peterson should return with a nice game. Percy Harvin has been a top fantasy WR over the past four games, but it remains to be seen if he can remain as productive with Peterson back in the lineup... The Saints enter riding a five-game winning streak, and they now have a real shot at getting the No. 2 seed and a bye. Sunday marks their final road game of the regular season, and while the team can be vulnerable away from home, they benefit from the game being played on turf. Drew Brees has an 11:0 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, and he shred a Minnesota secondary that has been burned for 8.1 YPA and an NFL-high 26 passing scores this year. A lot of fantasy points should be put up in this matchup that projects as a shootout.
Predictions: Christian Ponder throws for 240 yards and two touchdowns, with Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe the recipients. Adrian Peterson adds 120 total yards and reaches the end zone, while the Saints' RBBC produces 100 total yards and a goal-line score from Chris Ivory. Drew Brees adds 325 passing yards with scoring strikes to Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham, as New Orleans wins it. Saints 27-24.
Detroit (-0.5) at Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Oakland has lost back-to-back games, and they need to turn it around soon to have any chance of winning their AFC West. Carson Palmer has thrown 13 interceptions over 6.5 games since joining the Raiders, but he's had to deal with a banged up receiving corps. He gets a Detroit defense that has allowed just 6.3 YPA and has recorded 18 picks this season. Ndamukong Suh is back from suspension as well. Michael Bush will once again carry the load, and he gets a favorable matchup against a Lions defense that has yielded 5.1 YPC on the year... The Lions enter 8-5 and fighting for a wild card spot. Matthew Stafford has completed 72.1 percent of his passes over the past four games, so his finger injury appears to be behind him. Calvin Johnson has slowed down after a big start to the season, but he should see an increase in targets this week. Kevin Smith (ankle) is expected to give it a go, and while he's risky since he could aggravate the injury at any moment, he also possesses a ton of upside facing an Oakland team that has given up an NFL-high 5.2 YPC this season.
Predictions: Carson Palmer throws for 260 yards with a touchdown to Darrius Heyward-Bey, while Michael Bush totals 110 yards and hits pay dirt. Kevin Smith produces a similar line, while Matthew Stafford adds 275 passing yards with scoring strikes to Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, as the road team prevails. Lions 24-23.
Cleveland (+7) at Arizona, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Browns are 1-6 over their past seven games, although the defense typically plays competitively. The team enters with a few extra days of preparation having last played on a Thursday, but Colt McCoy will be sidelined with a concussion. Seneca Wallace will take over at quarterback, and it will be his first start since Week 5 of last season. Wallace actually has a 1.8:1 TD:INT ratio for his career, but Arizona's defense has played much better of late. Cleveland's rushing attack remains a wasteland for fantasy owners... The Cardinals are 5-1 over their past six games, including a come from behind victory against the 49ers last week. Kevin Kolb will likely be out while dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion, so John Skelton will get his fifth start of the season. It's good news for Larry Fitzgerald, who's done the majority of his damage with Skelton under center. Beanie Wells should bounce back from a poor game with a big effort Sunday, so leave him in your fantasy lineups.
Predictions: Seneca Wallace throws for 180 yards sans a score, while the Browns' RBBC produces 80 total yards and a goal-line TD from Peyton Hillis. Beanie Wells responds with 120 rushing yards and a touchdown run, while John Skelton adds 175 passing yards with a TD toss to Larry Fitzgerald, as Arizona wins in a low-scoring affair. Cardinals 17-13.
New York Jets (+2) at Philadelphia, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles won easily last week in Miami, as they continue to be one of the toughest teams to figure out on a weekly basis. Philly is 2-4 over its past six games, but they still remain capable of beating any team in football when their "A" game shows up. Michael Vick, who's taken a big step back this season, gets a tough matchup against a Jets secondary that has allowed a 68.8 QB rating to opposing passers this year. His rib injury appears to have sapped his ability to run as well. LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 17 touchdowns, so he's an obvious must-start every week regardless of opponent... The Jets have won three straight games, averaging 33.0 points over that span. Mark Sanchez has produced nine touchdowns while committing just two turnovers during the winning streak, and he gets an Eagles secondary that has been up-and-down in 2011. Shonn Greene got a career-high 187 yards from scrimmage last week, and he's scored four touchdowns over the past two games, as he's really rewarded patient fantasy owners. He should once again be featured heavily Sunday.
Predictions: Michael Vick throws for 225 yards with a TD to Brent Celek, while LeSean McCoy totals 90 yards and scores another touchdown. Shonn Greene runs for 75 yards and hits pay dirt, while Mark Sanchez adds 225 passing yards with a TD toss to Plaxico Burress, as New York wins on a late field goal. Jets 20-17.
New England (-7) at Denver, Sunday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Broncos come in riding a six-game winning streak, with none more unlikely than last week's victory against Chicago, when the team trailed 10-0 with 2:10 left in the fourth quarter having no timeouts left. Tim Tebow is now 7-1 since taking over QB duties, but the defense, running game and special teams all deserve a ton of credit. Demaryius Thomas continues to battle the drops, but he's racked up 222 receiving yards with three touchdowns over the past two games, seeing a whopping 20 targets over that span. He faces a New England secondary this week that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, and while Denver loves to run the ball, they may be playing catch up against a Patriots team likely to put plenty of points on the board... The Patriots have a five-game winning of their own, and they still have plenty to play for while trying to earn the conference's top seed. Denver's defense has played better over the second half of the season, but New England leads the AFC in scoring with 30.5 points per game. Tom Brady has a 13:1 TD:INT ratio over the team's winning streak, and he should have no trouble moving the ball Sunday. Rob Gronkowski is going to be on a lot of winning fantasy teams this year, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis can no longer be used.
Predictions: Tim Tebow throws for 240 yards with a touchdown to Eric Decker, and the QB also adds 40 yards on the ground. Willis McGahee adds 80 rushing yards and a TD run, while the Pats' ground game doesn't produce much. Tom Brady answers with 300 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Deion Branch, as New England comes out on top. Patriots 30-20.
Baltimore (-2) at San Diego, Sunday 5:20 p.m.
Comments: The Ravens are 6-1 over their past seven games and control their own destiny regarding what seed they finish with in the AFC. They get a middling San Diego defense Sunday night, but Baltimore is just 3-3 on the road this season, as they play far better at home. In fact, Joe Flacco has got just 6.0 YPA on the road this year. Ray Rice has totaled 363 yards over the past two games, and he should once again be the centerpiece of Baltimore's offense... San Diego has won back-to-back games, and while they have come against weak competition, the team has averaged 37.5 points over that span, as the offense is back clicking in a big way. Philip Rivers has a 6:0 TD:INT ratio over that span, but he gets a Ravens defense that leads the NFL with 45 sacks and has allowed just 6.4 YPA with a 9:14 TD:INT ratio. Ryan Mathews had two 100-yard rushing games over his first 21 career games, and he now has three in his last three contests. He's looked really good while doing so, getting 6.6 YPC over that span, but he faces a Baltimore front seven Sunday night that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.
Predictions: Joe Flacco throws for 240 yards with a touchdown to Torrey Smith, while Ray Rice adds 100 yards from scrimmage with a TD run. Ryan Mathews counters with 80 total yards, while Mike Tolbert vultures a goal-line score. Philip Rivers adds 250 passing yards with a TD toss to Vincent Jackson, as San Diego pulls off the mild upset. Chargers 23-20.
Pittsburgh (+3) at San Francisco, Monday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Steelers are 8-1 over their past nine games, and there's a strong argument they are the best team in the AFC. They enter Monday night having 11 days to prepare after last playing on a Thursday, so they are coming off something of a mini bye week. Rashard Mendenhall is a poor start facing a 49ers defense that has ceded an NFL-low 3.2 YPC and zero rushing scores this year, but the big issue is Ben Roethlisberger's availability. The QB is dealing with a grade-one high-ankle sprain, and while most would have to sit out a week, Roethlisberger is as tough as they come, so it would be something of an upset if he doesn't play. San Francisco can be beat by the pass, and the Steelers should struggle to move the ball on the ground, so Roethlisberger's (or Charlie Batch) ability to move the ball through the air will be key... The 49ers have dropped two of their past three games, and they essentially need to win out if they want a first round playoff bye. With a tough game against the Steelers and then two upcoming road tilts, it's an unlikely scenario. Alex Smith gets a Pittsburgh secondary that has allowed an NFL-low 5.8 YPA, and the 49ers' offensive line continues to struggle. Frank Gore was given just 10 carries last week as he continues to battle health problems, but he wasn't even listed on this week's injury report, so hopefully he enters Monday night relatively healthy. This matchup will be a good test to see whether the 49ers are a fraud or not.
Predictions: Ben Roethlisberger plays through injury and throws for 250 yards with a touchdown to Mike Wallace, while Rashard Mendenhall is held in check. Frank Gore answers with 75 hard-fought yards and a TD run, while Alex Smith adds 220 passing yards with a touchdown strike to Vernon Davis, as San Francisco pulls off the victory. 49ers 20-16.
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