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Game Capsules: Predictions for Week 11

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for Rotowire.com since 2011 and is most proud of recommending Victor Cruz as a starter in his breakout game against the Eagles. He's a lifelong fan of Notre Dame, the Packers and, unfortunately, the Knicks.

Miami (+1) @ Buffalo, Thursday 8:20 p.m.

Comments:
The Dolphins and Bills both gave up 37 points in losses last week, but the two defeats were dramatically different. Miami was pushed around and embarrassed on their own field as their usually-stout defense allowed 30 points to a Titans offense led by Jake Locker, who was coming off a six-game absence to a left shoulder separation. Offensively they failed to move the ball on a Tennessee defense that entered the week near the bottom in the league against the run and the pass, and which had allowed a league-worst 34.2 points per contest. Miami scored only a field goal in a pivotal game that leaves them traveling to Buffalo on a short week for an absolute must-win. A Bills defense that is now the worst in the league in rushing yards (163.7) and points allowed (31.7) provides a chance at redemption. Presuming this one doesn't also get out of hand early, Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas should both get more opportunities to rack up yardage, though since Bush has fumbled in two of the past three games and was benched last week, don't be surprised if the timeshare favors Thomas. In the air Ryan Tannehill should fair well against a Buffalo pass defense with a sorry 18-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio... The Bills handed away a shot at pulling to within a game of New England for the division lead by turning it over twice in the fourth quarter when going in for touchdowns. A Fred Jackson fumble at the Patriots one was enormous, but a Ryan Fitzpatrick pick in the end zone in the final minute was the dagger in a 6-point loss. Losing Jackson to a concussion after an otherwise strong performance could prove costly against a stiff Dolphins run defense, but it opens the door for C.J. Spiller to steal back a bigger portion of the workload with a huge game. The Dolphins larger front seven has proven susceptible to speed backs such as Chris Johnson and Darryl Richardson, so Spiller could be in line for another elite performance in a featured role. Through the air Fitzpatrick will look to exploit the 28th ranked pass defense to Steve Johnson and emerging No. 2 Donald Jones. Ultimately the team that wins the turnover battle will likely win the game and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Predictions: Tannehill throws for 212 yards and a touchdown to Brian Hartline. On the ground Bush and Thomas combine for 118 yards in roughly a 50-50 split, with Thomas punching in a short score. Fitzpatrick connects with Johnson and Jones for scoring strikes in a 238-yard effort. Spiller totals 134 yards with a rushing touchdown. Bills 24-17.

Arizona (+10) @ Atlanta, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The Cardinals are coming off a bye week that couldn't have come any sooner. Unfortunately, returning to action by flying all the way across the country for a 1:00 EST kickoff to face a Falcons team that doesn't lose at home is not a good way to end a 5-game losing steak. And that doesn't even account for Atlanta's motivation factor as they come off their first loss of the season to divisional rival New Orleans. Arizona will need John Skelton's best performance of the season, and to really have a shot they'll also need a pass defense that's given up seven touchdowns in their past two games to return to the form they showed in a Week 2 upset of the Patriots. LaRod Stephens-Howling will be called upon to move the chains against a Falcons run defense giving up 4.9 yards per carry, which could lead to one of his top weeks. Should the Falcons take an early lead though, expect Skelton, who hasn't been below 35 pass attempts or 260 yards in three games, to pitch it around a ton and make Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts nice receiver options... Atlanta is a ridiculous 31-3 under Matt Ryan at home, so despite the 2nd ranked Cardinals pass defense coming to town, don't expect any hiccups from the Falcons. Ryan may not approach the 308 yards per game he's been averaging through the air, especially if Julio Jones sits to rest a leg injury, but he could continue the onslaught of passing scores Arizona has allowed of late. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez still present fantastic options in the passing game, and Jacquizz Rodgers has been improving out of the backfield as a receiving weapon. Michael Turner, who had a horrifically bad 15 yards on 13 carries versus the dreadful Saints defense, may even wake back up facing a Cardinals D relinquishing 126 yards a game on the ground.

Predictions: Stephens-Howling nets 98 total yards and a score rushing, while Skelton hits Fitzgerald for a touchdown in a 266-yard passing day. Turner rushes for 74 yards and Ryan throws for 281 with touchdowns to White, Jones and Gonzalez. Falcons 30-17.

Cleveland (+8.5) @ Dallas, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Brandon Weeden has basically vanished in the Browns' last two games as the rookie signal caller has just 305 yards combined and two picks to show for his 64 attempts. Prior to the dismal display, Weeden hadn't dipped below 230 passing yards since Week 1 and was on a streak of three games with two touchdown tosses, so his sharp and dramatic downturn is more disappointing than it otherwise would be. He is only a rookie after all and Cleveland is bereft of receiving talent. Better days will be ahead, but they will not begin this week on the road versus a top-10 Dallas pass defense that's allowed just nine scores in nine games through the air. Count on Cleveland pounding Trent Richardson repeatedly in an effort to sustain drives... With the Giants tanking lately, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to challenge them for the NFC East crown, so expect them to play every game going forward like it's a playoff. A 2-7 Cleveland team doesn't present much of a threat-on paper at least-but it also can't be overlooked. Dallas has some very ugly losses and some sloppy wins to their credit, so it should be noted that the Browns have 16 takeaways on the year. Tony Romo, who's thrown 10 of his 13 interceptions at home, will need to protect the ball. Cleveland's pass defense is middle of the pack, so from a fantasy standpoint, Romo's day could go either way and he remains a risky start. With DeMarco Murray still out, Felix Jones will get a crack at the worst run defense he's faced to date. If he gets it going on the ground, that will also limit the upside of Romo, and indirectly, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

Predictions: Weeden throws for 193 yards and a touchdown to Josh Gordon, while Richardson totals 109 from scrimmage. Jones compiles 94 total yards and scores on the ground. Romo hooks up with Austin for a touchdown in a 239-yard effort. Cowboys 23-16.

Green Bay (-3.5) @ Detroit, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The Packers bye week couldn't have come at much of a better time. They may still be quite banged up on defense with Charles Woodson (collarbone) and Clay Matthews (hamstring) out this week, but with the expected return of Jordy Nelson and the surprise effectiveness of James Starks prior to the week off, the offense should maintain it's juggernaut status. In just their second divisional game, Aaron Rodgers will look to shred a Lions defense that's allowed 14 touchdowns while picking off only five passes this year. That secondary should be no match for Nelson, the dynamic Randall Cobb and TD machine James Jones. The Detroit run defense however is a bit more stout with a front four as physical as any in the league, so although Adrian Peterson destroyed them last week, don't expect the pedestrian duo of Starks and Alex Green to do much... Matthews Stafford is back. Calvin Johnson is back. The Lions are still pretty much out of the playoff hunt. With two matchups with the Packers, and visits from the Texans, Falcons and Bears yet to come, Detroit's hopes of a Wild Card are extremely thin. For this week expect them to try running Mikel Leshoure early to keep Rodgers off the field, only to abandon the run when Green Bay scores once or twice. Stafford should get his requisite 40+ attempts while Johnson-finally feeling healthy-continues his rise back to the top receiver spot. Given that Blaine Gabbert and John Skelton just topped 300 yards on the decimated Packers defense, Stafford could threaten 400+ and as result make Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young and even Ryan Broyles useful options this week.

Predictions: Leshoure rushes for 48 yards, while Stafford pitches it for 374 and touchdowns to Johnson, Pettigrew and Broyles. Green and Starks combine for 108 total yards, as Rodgers runs the show with 358 yards and scores to Nelson, Cobb and Jermichael Finley. The reigning league MVP adds one on the ground in the W. Packers 34-30.

Cincinnati (-3.5) @ Kansas City, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Cincinnati owned the Giants last week in crucial victory that stopped the bleeding of a four-game losing streak. While Andy Dalton was extremely sharp in completing 70% of his passes for four touchdowns to four different targets and zero interceptions, the true champion for the Bengals was an opportunistic defense that took four balls away from the Giants and kept Eli Manning off the field and out of the end zone. Dalton and his targets should again fair well against a Chiefs defense that has a pathetic 18-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio, so expect A.J. Green to keep his 8-game scoring streak alive. Jermaine Gresham and Mohamed Sanu are also on the rise as capable possession options, while BenJarvus Green-Ellis should remain a steady source of about 60 yards on the ground. The defense has a chance to match or even improve on last week's big outing versus a combustible Kansas City offense that has turned it over 30 times already... Jamaal Charles shrugged off a neck stinger to slice through a stingy Steelers defense for 100 yards and a touchdown last week. That bodes well for an encounter with a Bengals defense that, despite a tremendous overall performance, allowed Andre Brown and Ahmad Bradshaw to completely gash them for 7.2 yards per carry. In the air however, Matt Cassel likely won't fair as well against a secondary that's picked off the Manning brothers twice each in their last two contests and has allowed only 12 passing touchdowns in nine games. That means Dwayne Bowe, who's nursing a thigh injury, is perhaps at best a No. 3 option this week.

Predictions: Green-Ellis totes it for 58 yards and a short score. Dalton connects with Green and Sanu for TD's in a 256-yard effort. Cassel finds Tony Moeaki for a touchdown in a 181-yard day as Charles steals the show with 154 on the ground and two scores. Chiefs 24-21.

Philadelphia (+3.5) @ Washington, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
A new era for Philly will begin on Sunday when 6-foot-6 rookie Nick Foles makes his first career start in place of the concussed and consistently ineffective Michael Vick. It may have been the preseason, but Foles displayed the accuracy and strong arm to develop into a highly productive passer in this league. In three straight preseason games Foles threw two touchdowns. Against a Redskins defense that gives up an average of two per game, hitting that number should be no trouble for Foles. That means you can expect the stocks of Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek to rise from this week going forward. LeSean McCoy's prospects should likewise improve as a more threatening vertical passing game could take a defender out of the box and pressure off McCoy's legs... Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris may have been feeling the effects of carrying the team as rookies prior to their Week 10 bye, as professional starts numbers eight and nine were two of the worst for each. For Morris, that was due in large part to his losing touches as the team played from behind in both contests, but a week off was likely welcomed after seeing 164 carries in nine games. His rejuvenated legs figure to enjoy taking it to an Eagles' run defense that gave up 240 yards on the ground in the last two weeks to the Saints and Cowboys, two of the league's worst rushing offenses. RGIII may also do most of his damage using his legs this week given Philly's usually stingy secondary. Though if Pierre Garcon is able to return to action (he's looking like a game-time decision), that could increase Griffin's chances of a big all-around performance.

Predictions: Griffin throws for 241 yards and rushes for 56, getting a score in each manner. Leonard Hankerson snags the receiving score, while Morris gets one of his own rushing in a 96-yard day. McCoy carries it for 113 yards and a touchdown. Foles passes for 295 yards and hooks up with Maclin and Riley Cooper for TD's. Eagles 27-24 in OT.

Tampa Bay (-1) @ Carolina, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The Bucs offense was finally slowed a bit last week after racking up over 400 yards of offense and at least four touchdowns in four straight games. And it still didn't matter as their defense and special teams stepped up to the plate with two scores of their own. Aside from a passing defense that bends, bends some more, and then breaks, they are quickly becoming a complete team. Finding themselves firmly in the playoff hunt at 5-4, Tampa now draws a Carolina team with the conference's worst record. Still, road divisional games are rarely cake walks, so don't be surprised if the Panthers significantly improved defense limits Josh Freeman and Doug Martin and slows their torrid stretch of yards and scores. Carolina has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 4 and just held Peyton Manning to one touchdown pass after he'd tallied three in five straight, so tempered expectations for all the Tampa stars seems reasonable... If Cam Newton is going to bust out of the passing funk he's been in all year, this week seems as good an opportunity as he'll find to start doing so. The Bucs are last in the league in yards allowed through the air at 321 weekly, and have given up a combined 751 yards and seven scores to Carson Palmer and Philip Rivers in the past two weeks. Newton hit 300 when the teams squared off in Week 1, but with just one score. He can and should do better this time around and keep the Panthers competitive despite Tampa's top ranked run defense. In that process, look for Greg Olsen to give an encore to his impressive 100-yard, 2-score Week 10.

Predictions: Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams tally 52 combined rushing yards, though Newton gets 40 on the ground to go with 278 passing and touchdown throws to Olsen and Steve Smith. Martin totals 128 yards and finds paydirt. Freeman hooks up with Mike Williams and Luke Stocker for scores in a 260-yard effort. Buccaneers 30-20.

Jacksonville (+15.5) @ Houston, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
The two biggest questions facing the Jaguars this week as they travel to the AFC's top team are 1.) which quarterback will get the start? And 2.) just how much will they lose by? Blaine Gabbert played three lackluster quarters in Week 10 before aggravating a left shoulder injury and giving way to Chad Henne, who was considerably more effective in his brief appearance. Realistically, whichever quarterback gets the nod on Sunday won't matter though, as the Texans' 3rd ranked pass defense won't allow either to do much of anything-or at least nothing fantasy relevant. Laurent Robinson, who may see a lot of targets on quick hitting routes as he did a week ago, could have some impact in PPR leagues. Outside of him and perhaps a rising Cecil Shorts, only Rashad Jennings is even worth considering in fantasy play, and like Robinson they are at best PPR or deep league options... The Texans shouldn't have any trouble registering their ninth win of the season whether Ben Tate (hamstring) and Owen Daniels (hip) miss their second straight week or not. Though Daniels led Houston with 47 receiving yards in the their first meeting with Jacksonville in Week 2 and Tate racked up nearly 100 total yards and two touchdowns, neither player is needed in this matchup. Arian Foster has scored in every game this year and between he, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, it won't be tough for Houston to post enough points against the Jaguars' 26th ranked defense to let their own defense take care of the rest.

Predictions: Schaub passes for 238 yards and hits Johnson and James Casey for scoring strikes. Foster pounds out 118 on the ground and keeps his TD streak going with one rushing. Gabbert suits up but sits down as Henne throws for 160 yards and a TD to Marcedes Lewis. Jennings totals 60 yards in the loss. Texans 33-7.

New York Jets (+3) @ St. Louis Rams, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Enough has been said in the media about how ugly the Jets offense and overall play has been most of this season, but the past two games have certainly seen them hit a low point. It feels an awful lot like a quarterback change is at least worth a try for one week, but don't count on seeing a stubborn Rex Ryan give Tim Tebow a shot anytime soon. Mark Sanchez has been his guy and the two appear poised to go down in flames together. One touchdown from a Sanchez-led offense in two weeks is apparently not enough embarrassment to trigger a change, so count on Shonn Greene and perhaps Dustin Keller to be the only worthy Jet options in most fantasy leagues this weekend when the Rams quality pass defense leaves Gang Green with a Greene, Greene, pass and punt offensive gameplan... The Rams are coming off their best offensive performance of the season as they registered 24 points and piled up 458 yards of total offense. They leaned on Steven Jackson heavily as the monster veteran back's 29 carries were by far his highest total of the year. The result was 101 yards and a score against an elite Niners defense, so should Jackson see even 18-20 opportunities versus a Jets unit giving up 145 rushing yards a week on average, count on at least similar production. The speedier Darryl Richardson should also get involved more on the ground, perhaps to rest Jackson after his big workload, and that could mean flex-worthy yardage out of the rookie who's gained 5.7 yards per run thus far. Coming off perhaps his best overall game as a pro, in which Sam Bradford threw for 275 yards and two scores without a pick, don't be surprised if his encore finds similar success given the three touchdowns and 211 yards New York gave up to Russell Wilson and Golden Tate. The big return of Danny Amendola from a separated shoulder will certainly help that cause.

Predictions: Bradford throws for 231 yards and touchdowns to Amendola and Lance Kendricks. Jackson rushes for 94 yards, while Richardson totals 88 and collects his first career score. Sanchez passes for 192 yards and a TD to Keller. Greene totes it for 97 yards and punches in a score. Rams 24-14.

New Orleans (-4.5) @ Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments:
They're not all the way back, but the Saints are certainly in the hunt for the Wild Card race in the NFC. With Jimmy Graham looking fully healthy after an ankle sprain shelved him in mid October, the Saints offense is humming. Graham and Marques Colston have been touchdown machines for Drew Brees in recent weeks, while the run game has picked way up behind the dynamic play of Chris Ivory and hard North-and-South bulldozing of Mark Ingram. An Oakland defense that's given up 97 points in the last two weeks and have been burned on both the ground and through the air doesn't seem likely to slow any of the Saints down... With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out last week with high ankle sprains and not looking good for this one as well, H-back Marcel Reece, looks like one of the sneakiest pick-ups of the season in fantasy. Reece totaled 104 yards on 20 touches last week in Baltimore and now he draws a Saints defense that cannot stop the run or pass. It would be a bit surprising if Reece didn't exceed 100 yards in this matchup and it's not inconceivable that with guys like Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch and Chris Johnson on bye, Reece may finish as one of the top fantasy backs this week. All the Raiders skill starters look like strong options facing that Saints defense, particularly with how well Carson Palmer has thrown the ball of late. Palmer is third in the league in passing yards and has found the end zone more lately, so expect Denarius Moore to have a big game, and if a tweaked hamstring doesn't hold him out or limit him, Darrius Heyward-Bey could go off as well.

Predictions: Brees throws for 327 yards and touchdowns to Graham, Colston and Pierre Thomas. Ivory and Ingram combine for 119 on the ground with Ingram punching in a short score. Reece totals 124 yards and gets in the end zone on a Palmer throw, as the QB also hooks up with Moore and Rod Streater for TD's in a 344-yard performance. Saints 34-27.

San Diego (+8) @ Denver, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
Six turnovers-5 in just the second half alone-crushed an otherwise strong performance by Philip Rivers when San Diego and Denver squared off for the first time on Monday Night Football in Week 6. Seeing Rivers throw a fourth-quarter pick six into the chest of a Tampa Bay corner last week showed that not a whole lot has changed since that ugly second-half drubbing by the Broncos. One notable difference though on offense is the impact Danario Alexander has made in his short time in the lineup. The 6-foot-5 deep-threat with impressive ability after the catch has provided Rivers with a secondary outside target to Malcom Floyd and as result helped to boost the gunslinger's overall production. If Rivers can limit his turnovers in this go-around with Denver, his upside is notably higher with the Alexander addition. In the run game, the Chargers may be more average than usual as Ryan Mathews is questionable with a neck stinger and back-up Ronnie Brown is most effective in the pass game these days... Manning cooled off a bit last week in Carolina, as he was limited to just one touchdown for the first time since Week 2, but when he last faced the Chargers he completed a brilliant 80% of his passes and was basically flawless in a second half that saw him toss three scores. So expecting a bounce-back performance is a fairly safe bet. That he did that damage with Demaryius Thomas seeing just two targets as he nursed a hip injury is telling of just what kind of magical season Manning is having so far. With Thomas fully healthy a mediocre Chargers secondary will be no match for the Broncos passing game. That also means that Eric Decker should be back to himself after a shockingly limited outing last week saw him post only 15 yards. Willis McGahee on the other hand figures to continue his recent difficulties on the ground as he'll deal with the 2nd ranked Chargers run defense on which he averaged a disappointing 3.3 yards per carry earlier this year. What's worse, it's possible he loses touches to Ronnie Hillman after giving away three fumbles in five weeks.

Predictions: Mathews gives it a go and totals 56 yards. Rivers throws it for 294 yards and touchdowns to Alexander and Antonio Gates. McGahee totals 78 yards but finds the end zone on a short run. Manning hooks up with Thomas (2) and Decker in a 322-yard performance. Broncos 34-17.

Indianapolis (+9.5) @ New England, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
Andrew Luck posted his second game of the season last week with two rushing touchdowns and no passing scores, proving once again that he's fantasy-friendly regardless of game circumstances. Fortunately for his owners this week, the game circumstances will likely dictate a big day for the rookie quarterback who often looks like a 5-year vet. The Patriots posses the 29th ranked pass defense while also boasting the highest scoring offense (by a full three points per game!). So when New England gets up early on an average-at-best Colts defense, count on Luck slinging it all over the field. Reggie Wayne will remain the prime beneficiary, but Donnie Avery and rookies T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen will also get into the mix. Any of those complementary targets could make for a decent flex start in deeper leagues, though running backs Donald Brown and Vick Ballard figure to suffer fewer touches as a result of a game that should become a pass-fest for Indy... Tom Brady will faceoff with the Colts for the first time without one of his biggest rivals on the other sideline, and while he will likely come away impressed by Luck, he'll also likely relish not having to worry about Peyton Manning. And Brady being Brady, he won't have to worry about a Colts defense that's picked off a league low four passes either. Expect an efficient performance out of the future Hall-of-Famer, though don't be surprised if New England plays a ball control offense that rides Stevan Ridley against an Indianapolis defense that allows an average of 4.7 yards per rush and 120 yards per game. After all, Ridley does lead the league with 54 carries for first downs.

Predictions: Luck throws for 338 yards and scores to Wayne, Avery and Allen. Brown and Ballard contribute 68 combined yards. Ridley totes it for 117 and two touchdowns, while Brady hooks up with Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker for TD's in a 274-yard performance. Patriots 31-24.

Baltimore (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh, Sunday 8:20 p.m.

Comments:
One of the best and hardest-hitting rivalries in the NFL will not be the same without Ben Roethlisberger guiding the Steelers, but you won't hear the Ravens complain. Their greatest leader, Ray Lewis, is also out of commission and so the matchup will take on a different feel. It should still have the hitting and the hatred, but with perhaps less heart. Ray Rice figures to be called upon often to try and get the Steelers' top-ranked pass defense off balance. The Ravens may pound Rice early to try and set up play-action for Joe Flacco to take his downfield shots to Torrey Smith and his tight ends down the seam. With Byron Leftwich taking the snaps for Pittsburgh, it makes sense for Baltimore to try and hit a homerun or two. They likely won't be too worried about Pitt sustaining long drives, so rolling the dice on a handful of deep balls could make the difference in what will otherwise be a slugfest type of game... Supporting Leftwich will be a stable of capable running backs to pound the ball against a susceptible Baltimore run defense that's giving up over 130 yards per game rushing. Rashard Mendenhall by all accounts is on pace to return from an Achilles issue, but even if that is the case, none of the Steelers backs would be an especially advisable fantasy start. Mendenhall may get first crack at carries if he returns, but Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman figure to also work into a rotation that will do its best to grind out drives and win a battle of ball control. As they'll likely be without No. 2 wideout Antonio Brown (ankle) again in the passing game, establishing the run will be crucial. Leftwich simply doesn't have the juice anymore to win games with his arm.

Predictions: Leftwich throws for 186 yards and connects with Jerricho Cotchery for a score. Mendenhall and Dwyer combine for 110 rushing yards, as Dwyer punches in a goal-line look. Flacco finds Dennis Pitta for a score in a 210-yard performance, while Rice totals 106 yards and gets the game's decisive touchdown. Ravens 17-14.

Chicago (+5) @ San Francisco, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Comments:
Coming off just their first loss since Week 2, the Bears are staring down the barrel of defeat number three as they travel to visit a 49ers team sure to be fired up after a shocking tie with the Rams. Likely to be without Jay Cutler (concussion), former first-round pick Jason Campbell appears set to make his first start since a broken collarbone ended his stint with the Raiders in Week 6 of 2011. With a season of 3,600+ yards and 20 scores to his credit, Campbell is a perfectly capable backup, albeit a certain downgrade from Cutler. One thing that is apparent though after last week is that his top target, Brandon Marshall, is completely matchup proof. The huge target was responsible for eight of Chicago's 18 completions and 107 of their 134 passing yards last week despite Houston's ultra tight coverage and a wet field. The 49ers defense won't slow him down either. Matt Forte on the other hand figures to find the sledding tough facing a San Fran D that's allowing 3.7 yards per carry... Following Sunday's tie, the Niners appeared to be in the same boat as Chicago, with Alex Smith also suffering a concussion last week. But the third-highest rated passer in the league has already cleared concussion testing and is expected to start unless he suffers a setback. Given Chicago's exceptionally opportunistic pass defense, having to start Colin Kaepernick would likely result in a highly ugly offensive performance for San Fran. Smith though may be able to overcome a Bears defense leading the league in takeaways, as his play has been remarkably efficient of late. He's completed 25 of his last 27 attempts and connected on four touchdowns versus two stiff NFC West pass defenses in a little over five quarters, so Michael Crabtree may actually continue his hot stretch despite Charles Tillman's defensive MVP-like season. If Smith falters though, the Niners offense could be in trouble given Chicago's 4th ranked run defense has allowed just two rushing scores all year, and figures to limit Frank Gore.

Predictions: Forte totals 93 yards in a heavy workload, while Campbell hooks up with Kellen Davis for a score in a 187-yard night. Smith throws for 228 yards and connects with Vernon Davis and Randy Moss for touchdowns. Gore rumbles for 74 yards in the win. 49ers 17-7.