Houston (-6) at Indianapolis, Thursday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Colts won for the first time this season last week, and they are still heavy favorites to end up with the first pick of next year's draft. Last week's 27 points scored was a season-high, and they get another home game this week, but they face a tough defense Thursday, as the Texans have recorded 38 sacks and allowed an NFL-low 64.9 QB rating to opposing passers this season. However, that defense took a major step back with Wade Phillips (surgery) not on the sidelines last week, and it remains to be seen if his absence will hurt the Texans again in Week 16. Dan Orlovsky has got just 4.0 YPA over the past two games, and Donald Brown faces a Houston front seven that has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs on the year... The Texans' seven-game winning streak came to an end last week, losing as touchdown favorites at home to the Panthers. Their defense played one of its worst games of the season, but the big problem was T.J Yates, who's clearly a downgrade from Matt Schaub, and it doesn't help the team continues to be without Andre Johnson (hamstring). Ben Tate was limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury, but he's likely to play Thursday. Still, expect Arian Foster to once again carry the workload, and he has a highly favorable matchup against a Colts front seven that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2011. Indy's secondary has also yielded 7.9 YPA with a 24:8 TD:INT ratio, so expect Yates to bounce back as well.
Predictions: Dan Orlovsky throws for 170 yards with a touchdown to Pierre Garcon, while Donald Brown totals 70 yards sans a score. Arian Foster responds with 125 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, while Ben Tate also adds a goal-line TD. T.J. Yates throws for 230 yards with a touchdown toss to Joel Dreessen, as the road team prevails. Texans 27-13.
Miami (+10) at New England, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Dolphins are 5-9, but have played better during the second half of the season. Matt Moore has an 8:1 TD:INT ratio over his past five games, and he gets a New England secondary that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season. Reggie Bush has run for 100 yards in each of his past three games, totaling 439 yards over that span. Brandon Marshall continues to battle drops, but four of his five touchdowns this year have come over the previous seven weeks…The Patriots enter riding a six-game winning streak, scoring more than 30 points in all of them. Their final two games are at home, so they are the clear favorites to finish as the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Tom Brady has a 15:1 TD:INT ratio over the past six games, as he’s once again having an MVP-type season. Aaron Hernandez took advantage of a defense focusing on stopping Rob Gronkowski last week, and both tight ends are well worth using in fantasy leagues Saturday.
Predictions: Matt Moore throws for 250 yards with a touchdown to Brandon Marshall, while Reggie Bush totals 100 yards and scores. The Pats’ RBBC produces a similar line, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting a goal-line TD. Tom Brady adds 300 passing yards with scoring strikes to Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, as New England comes out on top. Patriots 31-20.
Cleveland (+13.5) at Baltimore, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Browns are 1-7 over their past eight games, but their defense hasn’t been that bad. Seneca Wallace has a 30:16 TD:INT ratio during his career and doesn’t look like much, if at all like a downgrade from Colt McCoy. He gets a tough task this week facing a Baltimore defense that has allowed an NFL-low 10 passing touchdowns while recording 45 sacks this season. Peyton Hillis is still searching for his first 100-yard rushing game of the year and gets a Ravens’ front seven that has ceded the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2011…Baltimore is coming off a loss in primetime last week, but thanks to a Steelers loss, they are still in first place in the AFC North and will get a bye if they win the final two games of the season. The Browns’ secondary has been stingy this year, but Ray Rice should be in store for a big workload, so big fantasy production should follow. The Ravens are 7-0 at home this season and typically play dominant in Baltimore, so expect an easy victory Saturday. Anquan Boldin is out with a knee injury.
Predictions: Seneca Wallace gets another start, throwing for 175 yards with a TD to Evan Moore. Peyton Hillis is held relatively in check, while Ray Rice answers with 150 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Joe Flacco adds 225 passing yards with a TD toss to Ed Dickson, as Baltimore wins it. Ravens 26-13.
Arizona (+4) at Cincinnati, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: Arizona is 6-1 over its past seven games, as the defense has allowed 20 points or fewer during all the victories. Kevin Kolb (concussion) is questionable, so expect John Skelton to get another start Saturday. It’s good news for fantasy owners of Larry Fitzgerald, who’s scored most of his touchdowns with Skelton under center this year. Beanie Wells (knee) is questionable, and he’s ran for 85 yards just once since Week 4, but expect him to give it a go in Week 16…Cincinnati comes in 8-6 and with their final games both at home, so there’s a chance they reach 10 wins this season. Andy Dalton hasn’t thrown for multiple touchdowns in any games over the past five weeks, but he should have A.J. Green available, as the rookie wideout is playing through a painful shoulder injury. Expect a heavy dose of Cedric Benson on Saturday.
Predictions: John Skelton throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald, while Beanie Wells adds 70 rushing yards and a goal-line score. Cedric Benson counters with 80 yards and a TD run of his own, while Andy Dalton adds 225 passing yards with a TD toss to Jermaine Gresham, as Cincy wins by a field goal.
Minnesota (+6.5) at Washington, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Vikings have lost six in a row, with the defense being the biggest problem. Christian Ponder has thrown for seven touchdowns over the past three games, and he gets a middling Redskins’ defense this week. Adrian Peterson should get more work during his second game back from injury, and it remains a mystery why Percy Harvin hasn’t produced whenever the team’s star running back is in the lineup this season…Washington is 2-8 over the past 10 games, although they dominated in a victory in New York against the Giants last week. Rex Grossman has thrown an interception in every game this year since Week 1, but he gets a Minnesota secondary Saturday that has allowed 31 passing scores and a 110.8 QB rating to opposing passers this year, which are both NFL-highs. Roy Helu has racked up 112 touches over the past four games and should remains the team’s workhorse.
Predictions: Christian Ponder throws for 230 yards with a touchdown to Visanthe Shiancoe, while Adrian Peterson adds 90 rushing yards and a score. Roy Helu answers with a similar line, while Rex Grossman throws for 275 yards with scoring strikes to Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, as Washington comes out on top. Redskins 27-23.
Denver (-1.5) at Buffalo, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Bills have lost seven straight games, as the offense has really regressed while the defense has been a major weakness. In fact, all of those losses have been by more than a field goal. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been picked off five times over the past two games, and Denver does a good job of pressuring the passer. C.J. Spiller totaled 167 yards last week, also grabbing nine receptions and doubling his season TD total by scoring twice. He’s emerged as a legit fantasy option…The Broncos’ six-game winning streak came to an abrupt end last week, as three lost fumbles led to a loss against the Patriots. Tim Tebow continues to improve weekly as a passer, and he should have time Saturday to pick apart a Buffalo defense that has recorded an NFL-low 21 sacks on the season. Willis McGahee is fully expected to play through his hamstring injury.
Predictions: Ryan Fitzpatrick throws for 230 yards with a touchdown to Stevie Johnson, while C.J. Spiller adds 90 combined yards and scores, while Willis McGahee produces a similar line. Tim Tebow runs for 40 yards and reaches the end zone on the ground, while he also throws for 200 yards with a TD toss to Demaryius Thomas, as the road team prevails. Broncos 24-20.
St. Louis (+16) at Pittsburgh, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Rams come in 2-12 and as one of the league’s true doormats, as they have scored more than 20 points in just one game this season. Kellen Clemens will get another start Saturday, and het gets a difficult task facing a Steelers’ defense that has yielded an NFL-low 5.8 YPA in 2011. Steven Jackson doesn’t have it much easier, as Pittsburgh has ceded the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this year…The Steelers lost for just the third time this season last week, blowing a huge opportunity to take hold of the conference’s No. 2 seed and a future bye. Ben Roethlisberger was badly hobbled by his high-ankle sprain, and while he came out of last week’s game no worse for wear, there’s a real chance he sits Saturday since the team is 16-point favorites and should be able to easily handle the Rams even with Charlie Batch under center. Expect Rashard Mendenhall to get a heavy workload, and he gets a favorable matchup against a St. Louis front seven that has allowed 4.8 YPC on the year.
Predictions: Kellen Clemens struggles against a fired up Steelers’ defense, while Steven Jackson is also stymied. Rashard Mendenhall responds with 100 yards from scrimmage and scores, while Charlie Batch adds 225 passing yards with a touchdown to Heath Miller. Pittsburgh also scores a defensive touchdown, as the home team wins handily. Steelers 27-6.
New York Giants (+2.5) at New York Jets, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: After getting embarrassed in Philadelphia last week, the Jets have a huge “home” game against the Giants on Sunday; both teams really need a win to stay in the playoff race. Mark Sanchez’s YPA is just 6.7, but he’s produced 28 touchdowns on the year and gets a New York secondary that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing passers this season. The Giants do pressure the QB pretty well, however, so expect the Jets to feature Shonn Greene plenty…Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks are both coming off really poor games during a loss as favorites at home to the Redskins last week, and the Giants’ passing attack gets a tough matchup Saturday versus a Jets defense that has allowed a 13:16 TD:INT ratio this season. The Giants have struggled to run the ball all year, so Manning will need a big game Saturday. The Jets enter with the clear advantage on defense, while the Giants come in with a decided advantage at quarterback, and the outcome should be close and come down to the final minutes.
Predictions: Mark Sanchez throws for 250 yards with a touchdown to Plaxico Burress, while Shonn Greene adds 75 rushing yards and a TD run. The Giants’ RBBC produces a similar line, while Eli Manning adds 260 passing yards with a TD strike to Victor Cruz, as the Giants win on a late field goal. Giants 23-20.
Tampa Bay (+8.5) at Carolina, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: Tampa Bay has lost eight straight games, scoring 20 points in just one game over that span. The team appears to have given up on the season, as the defense is playing terribly, and Josh Freeman has taken a major step back this season. Mike Williams has also slumped this season, so while Carolina has allowed a league-high 8.3 YPA in 2011, it’s unclear if the Bucs’ offense can take advantage of the favorable matchup…The Panthers are 3-1 over their past four games, with all of the victories coming on the road. Cam Newton has totaled 30 touchdowns on the year and he gets a highly enticing matchup this week, as the Bucs have allowed 8.2 YPA while recording only 22 sacks this season. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have an equally as favorable matchup, as Tampa Bay has been gashed for an NFL-high 20 rushing scores in 2011.
Predictions: Josh Freeman throws for 240 yards with a touchdown to Mike Williams, while LeGarrette Blount runs for 75 yards and a goal-line TD. The Panthers’ backfield produces 130 combined yards with a touchdown by Jonathan Stewart, while Cam Newton adds another 30 yards and a TD on the ground. Newton also adds 250 passing yards with a scoring strike to Steve Smith, as the home team prevails. Panthers 27-20.
Jacksonville (+8) at Tennessee, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Jaguars are coming off a game in which they were blown out 41-14 against the Falcons, and we can only hope the team isn’t scheduled for so many primetime games next season. Blaine Gabbert has had a rough rookie campaign, as his pocket presence is among the worst in all of football. Maurice Jones-Drew has been impressive, producing strong numbers while being saddled with extremely poor skill position players on offense…Tennessee lost last week to a previous winless Colts team, as the Titans officially fell out of the playoff race. Matt Hasselbeck hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 12, but he’s expected to once again get the start Saturday despite playing with a calf injury. Rookie Jake Locker has impressed whenever given the opportunity, and it would certainly make sense to give him some reps down the stretch, especially against a Jacksonville secondary that has been ravaged by injuries. Chris Johnson is questionable with an ankle injury.
Predictions: Blaine Gabbert throws for 170 yards with no touchdowns, while Maurice Jones-Drew totals 90 yards and scores. Chris Johnson suits up and plays, resulting in 80 rushing yards and a TD run. Matt Hasselbeck adds 225 passing yards with a touchdown toss to Nate Washington, as Tennessee wins it. Titans 23-16.
Oakland (+0.5) at Kansas City, Saturday 1 p.m.
Comments: The Chiefs are coming off an emotional victory over a previously undefeated Packers squad, as the team responded well to the firing of Todd Haley. Kyle Orton taking over QB duties had an awful lot to do with it, and Kansas City’s defense has allowed 14 points or fewer in three of the past four contests. Orton gets another start Saturday and gets an Oakland defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season…The Raiders have lost three straight, including blowing a 13-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter last week, thanks largely to Hue Jackson not attempting a two-point conversion to go up two touchdowns late in the game. Carson Palmer had a rare turnover-free game during the loss, and he’ll have to protect the ball Saturday against an opportunistic KC defense that has recorded 17 picks this season. Both teams still have a shot to win the AFC West, so this divisional battle actually matters.
Predictions: Kyle Orton throws for 240 yards with a touchdown to Dwayne Bowe, while the Chiefs’ RBBC produces 90 total yards and a score. Michael Bush answers with 100 yards from scrimmage and hits pay dirt, while Carson Palmer adds 260 passing yards with a scoring strike to Darrius Heyward-Bey, as the road team prevails on a late field goal. Raiders 23-20.
San Diego (+1.5) at Detroit, Saturday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: San Diego has won three in a row and remains in the playoff picture despite its 7-7 record. Saturday’s matchup projects as a shootout, as Detroit’s season long numbers look good against the pass, but their secondary has stumbled badly of late. Philip Rivers has an 8:0 TD:INT ratio over the past four games, as he continues to excel in the month of December. He might be without Vincent Jackson, however, as the wideout is questionable with a groin injury. Ryan Mathews continues to battle fumbling problems, and his health is always a question mark, but he sure looks like a developing superstar…The Lions are coming off a huge victory in Oakland, as the team scored two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter. Detroit controls its own destiny as far as the playoffs are concerned, but they get a San Diego team Saturday that enters playing very well of late. Matthew Stafford has a 6:0 TD:INT ratio over the past two games, and Calvin Johnson is coming off a monster performance. Kevin Smith didn’t reinjure his ankle but also didn’t produce much last week, but expect one or the other to occur Saturday. In a high-scoring affair, home field is the difference.
Predictions: Philip Rivers throws for 275 yards and two touchdowns, with Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson the recipients. Ryan Mathews adds 100 yards from scrimmage, but Mike Tolbert steals a goal-line score. Kevin Smith responds with 90 yards from scrimmage and a TD run, while Matthew Stafford adds 300 passing yards with touchdown tosses to Brandon Pettigrew and Titus Young, as Detroit wins on a late field goal. Lions 27-24.
Philadelphia (+1) at Dallas, Saturday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: The Eagles have won back-to-back games by a combined score of 71-29, as they somehow remain in the postseason picture. Michael Vick got 12.5 YPA last week against a strong Jets secondary, and he also added his first rushing score of the season. Dallas’ defense has been inconsistent this year, and LeSean McCoy is up to 20 touchdowns in 2011. Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) appears back to full strength, and Brent Celek has caught fire of late…The Cowboys were embarrassed the last time these teams met, as they lost 34-7. Tony Romo has a 7:0 TD:INT ratio over the past two games, and he gets a Philly secondary this week that will be without Asante Samuel (hamstring). Miles Austin, Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant have all remained relatively productive when playing together, although the latter has seen fewer targets. If the Giants win their game played earlier Saturday, this matchup becomes essentially meaningless, so there’s some risk players get rested, especially Felix Jones (hamstring).
Predictions: Michael Vick throws for 270 yards and two touchdowns, with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson the recipients. LeSean McCoy adds 110 yards from scrimmage and reaches the end zone again, while Felix Jones plays and totals 80 yards with a TD run. Tony Romo adds 300 passing yards with scoring strikes to Miles Austin and Jason Witten, as home field is the difference. Cowboys 27-24.
San Francisco (-2) at Seattle, Saturday 4:15 p.m.
Comments: San Francisco won in impressive fashion last week, beating the Steelers 20-3. However, having last played Monday night, it won’t be easy traveling to play in Seattle on Saturday. It’s a must-win game for the 49ers if they want to win the No. 2 seed and have a bye, but the Seahawks have played much better of late. Alex Smith hasn’t committed a turnover over the past three games, as he continues to protect the football. Frank Gore hasn’t totaled 75 yards in any of his past four games, and Seattle defends the run well…The Seahawks are 5-1 over their past six games, scoring at least 30 points in each of the past three contests. They aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs, so expect a focused effort Saturday. Marshawn Lynch has scored in 10 straight games, totaling 12 over that span. It’s strength against strength, as San Francisco is trying to become the first team in NFL history to not allow a single rushing touchdown during a season.
Predictions: Alex Smith throws for 220 yards with a touchdown to Vernon Davis, while Frank Gore adds 70 rushing yards and a TD of his own. Marshawn Lynch answers with 75 yards but is held out of the end zone, while Tarvaris Jackson throws for 225 yards with a touchdown to Golden Tate. Seattle also scores a special teams touchdown, as the home team comes out on top. Seahawks 20-17.
Chicago (+13.5) at Green Bay, Sunday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Bears lost last week, getting blown out at home to the Seahawks. The team has fallen completely apart after Jay Cutler was lost for the season, as Caleb Hanie has thrown three interceptions in three of his four games played this year. As a result, Josh McCown will start Sunday night, which will be his first meaningful action since 2007. Marion Barber is out with a calf injury, so Kahlil Bell should get a full workload and is a sneaky fantasy start…The Packers lost for the first time this season last week, losing as big favorites in Kansas City. A clunker was better then than in the playoffs, and while they are no longer playing for a perfect record, they still haven’t officially clinched the No. 1 seed, so the starters should play most of Sunday’s game, barring a blowout. Aaron Rodgers is coming off his worst game of the season, and Chicago has defended Green Bay well in the past, but it’s safe to expect a bounce back from the league’s MVP. With a banged up Chicago team going to Green Bay in primetime facing an angry Packers squad coming off a rare loss, things could get ugly Sunday night.
Predictions: Josh McCown throws for 225 yards sans a score, while Kahlil Bell totals 120 yards and runs for a touchdown. Green Bay’s backfield produces 80 rushing yards, while Aaron Rodgers adds 300 passing yards and three touchdowns, with Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jermichael Finley the recipients, as Green Bay wins in a rout. Packers 30-13.
Atlanta (+7) at New Orleans, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Falcons are 4-1 over the past five games, as the offense has really been clicking. In fact, Matt Ryan has a 17:4 TD:INT ratio over the past seven games, taking just eight sacks over that span. He continues to play better at home, but he’s hiked his YPA up, and while the Falcons are rightfully underdogs Monday night, the over/under is 52.5, so it should be a high-scoring affair that requires a lot of passes from Ryan. Meanwhile, Roddy White has 38 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns over the past five games, as there isn’t a hotter receiver in the league…The Saints enter winners of six straight and if they take care of business during their season’s final two games, both of which are at home, all they need is a 49ers loss to be the NFC’s No. 2 seed. New Orleans is undefeated at home in 2011, and Drew Brees has a 16:0 TD:INT ratio over his past five games. Atlanta is decent against the run, but they can be beat through the air, so expect another huge performance from Brees on Monday night.
Predictions: Matt Ryan throws for 250 yards with a touchdown to Tony Gonzalez, while Michael Turner adds 60 rushing yards and a short score. Chris Ivory produces a similar line, while Drew Brees throws for 350 yards and three touchdowns, with Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston the recipients, as he leads his team to yet another victory. Saints 31-23.
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