Cincinnati (+3.5) @ Philadelphia, Thursday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Bengals are coming off a last-second loss that concluded a 4-game win streak, while the Eagles snapped an 8-game skid by scoring on the final play last week. Suffice it to say these two teams are getting through the short week with dramatically different tastes in their mouths. Cincinnati is in absolute must-win territory if they want to secure the final Wild Card spot in the AFC and it's hard to imagine them not being up for this matchup given that it is their last favorable one of the season. Andy Dalton will look to take advantage of a defense with a dreadful 25-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Given that Philly has allowed at least two passing scores in four straight contests (11 total in that span), it should be a promising week for Dalton and his top receiving targets. That means A.J. Green may find the end zone after enduring a 3-week dry spell and Jermaine Gresham remains a better than average tight end start. On the ground the suddenly explosive BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has a run of 20+ in his last four outings, will take on a front seven that's ceding plenty of yards to feature backs lately. Averaging nearly 5.5 yards per carry during his hot streak, look for The Law Firm to do some damage in the City of Brotherly Love... Nick Foles had a monster game last week but much of that can be credited to a terrible Bucs pass defense and a combination of a stagnant run game and two-score deficit dictating a lot of passing. It is true that Foles has shown much more poise in the past two weeks and is reading the field better and more quickly, but it also must be noted that a Cinci defense that's given up the third fewest touchdown passes on the season and leads the league in sacks is going to present a far less generous matchup. Given the stingy pass defense, look for the Eagles to try leaning on the ground game with Bryce Brown, who should bounce back against a Bengals rush defense that's definitively softer than Tampa's. It's possible that LeSean McCoy could be available for the game if he's medically cleared, but don't expect him to see much action given Brown's play during his absence. If Philly's D lets the Bengals jump out to an early lead, however, expect Foles to get a healthy arm workout once again, meaning Jeremy Maclin (groin, probable) and Jason Avant could continue getting plenty of opportunities to produce, particularly with Brent Celek out with a concussion.
Predictions: Brown totals 121 yards and scores on the ground. Foles hooks up with Avant and Clay Harbor for touchdowns in a 230-yard effort. Green-Ellis totes it for 96 yards rushing and converts at the goal-line, while Dalton throws for 288 yards and TD's to Green and Marvin Jones to thwart the upset attempt. Bengals 27-21.
Cincinnati (+3.5) @ Philadelphia, Thursday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The Bengals are coming off a last-second loss that concluded a 4-game win streak, while the Eagles snapped an 8-game skid by scoring on the final play last week, so suffice it to say the two teams are getting through the short week with dramatically different tastes in their mouth. Cincinnati is in absolute must-win territory if they want to secure the final Wild Card spot in the AFC and it's hard to imagine them not being up for this matchup given that it is their last favorable one of the season. Andy Dalton will look to take advantage of a defense with a dreadful 25-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Given that Philly has allowed at least two passing scores in four straight contests (11 total in that span), it should be a promising week for Dalton and his top receiving targets. That means A.J. Green may find the end zone after enduring a 3-week dry spell and Jermaine Gresham remains a better than average tight end start. On the ground the suddenly explosive BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has a run of 20+ in his last four outings, will take on a front seven that's ceding plenty of yards to feature backs lately. Averaging nearly 5.5 yards per carry during his hot streak, look for The Law Firm to do some damage in the City of Brotherly Love… Nick Foles had a monster game last week but much of that can be credited to a terrible Bucs pass defense and a combination of a stagnant run game and two-score deficit dictating a lot of passing. It is true that Foles has shown much more poise in the past two weeks and is reading the field better and more quickly, but it also must be noted that a Cinci defense that's given up the third fewest touchdown passes on the season and leads the league in sacks is going to present a far less generous matchup. Given the stingy pass defense, look for the Eagles to try leaning on the ground game with Bryce Brown, who should bounce back against a Bengals rush defense that's definitively softer than Tampa's. It's possible that LeSean McCoy could be available for the game if he's medically cleared, but don't expect him to see much action given Brown's play during his absence. If Philly's D lets the Bengals jump out to an early lead, however, expect Foles to get a healthy arm workout once again, meaning Jeremy Maclin (groin, probable) and Jason Avant could continue getting plenty of opportunities to produce, particularly with Brent Celek out with a concussion.
Predictions: Brown totals 121 yards and scores on the ground. Foles hooks up with Avant and Clay Harbor for touchdowns in a 230-yard effort. Green-Ellis totes it for 96 yards rushing and converts at the goal-line, while Dalton throws for 288 yards and TD's to Green and Marvin Jones to thwart the upset attempt. Bengals 27-21.
New York Giants (+1) @ Atlanta, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Giants found their future starter at running back last week and with Ahmad Bradshaw out Sunday with a sprained knee, the future could be sooner than planned. Rookie David Wilson put his exceptional explosive playmaking on display in full force to the tune of a franchise record 327 total yards (227 in returns) and three touchdowns versus the Saints. It shouldn't be lost on the fantasy world that he decimated the NFL's worst defense, but that doesn't mean an encore of sorts won't be on the menu with Bradshaw sidelined against a Falcons unit that allows 4.9 yards per carry (the second worst mark in the league to New Orleans). Eli Manning likewise took serious advantage of a terrible defense last week, but he doesn't figure to fare as well with an Atlanta group that has picked off more passes (16) than it has given up TD's (13). With Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett bouncing back though in recent weeks and Hakeem Nicks slowly getting healthier, Manning and the pass game still has the upside to go off… Atlanta likely hasn't forgotten the beatdown the G-Men put on them in last year's Wild Card playoff game, so expect the team with the NFC's best record to come out particularly fired up versus arguably the conference's scariest team. Matt Ryan put up big totals last week but mostly in a fruitless comeback attempt. Doing so Sunday may prove more difficult, however, versus a hot defense that's held Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III and Drew Brees to just one passing score each in its past three games. The Giants are also second in the league with 20 picks, so Ryan, who's thrown nine INT's in six home games, may also take a few points off his total in this matchup. If Roddy White (knee) ends up on the wrong side of a game-time decision and sits out for the first time in his career, Ryan will be in even worse shape in an already tough matchup, though Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez may benefit greatly by virtue of the target boost. On the ground, a Giants run defense that's yielding 4.7 yards per carry and over 120 per game rushing may well make a decent flex out of Michael Turner or Jacquizz Rodgers. If needing to start one, Turner gets the edge since he's riding a 4-game scoring streak as the team's plow near the goal-line.
Predictions: Ryan throws for 235 yards and connects with Gonzalez and Jones for touchdowns, though the Giants pressure forces two picks. Turner plugs his way for 46 rushing and a short score. Wilson totals 116 yards and a TD on the ground, while Manning passes for 270 yards and touchdowns to Nicks and Bennett. Giants 30-24.
Minnesota (+2.5) @ St. Louis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Adrian Peterson is on a collision course with a 2,000 yard season and there's little the Rams can do to knock him off the path. Peterson is 400 yards shy of hitting the mark and could run himself into history and the Vikings into the playoffs with three more monster performances. With Minnesota well within striking distance of the final Wild Card, don't expect the Vikings coaching staff to give AP's legs a rest anytime soon. During the seven game stretch in which Peterson has gone Robo Back on the league the Minnesota pass game has suffered tremendously, so playing any pass-catcher (Kyle Rudolph included) is a huge risk. In those seven games Christian Ponder has averaged a pathetic 137 yards through the air… The Vikings are not the only one playing in this game with hopes of stealing a Wild Card bid. The Rams have an outside shot if they can survive a tough three-game stretch versus teams also in the hunt. Like Minnesota, they figure to lean heavily on their workhorse back. Like Peterson-though on a smaller scale-Steven Jackson is also chasing history. He needs only another 164 more rushing yards to register his eighth straight 1,000-yard season; a remarkable feat considering the horrible teams for which he's played. If he continues averaging the 21 carries he's gotten over the last five games, he'll have little trouble reaching the milestone. So for those that buried the burly back earlier in the year, Jackson has returned to once again prove he's the clear centerpiece of the St. Louis offense. Riding the teams first 3-game win streak since 2006 into Sunday, Sam Bradford will need to be a bit more efficient in the early going because a fourth-quarter comeback may not be possible versus the ultimate clock-killer in purple. If Danny Amendola (foot) can return after a 2-game absence, Bradford and the Rams passing attack will be in much better shape.
Predictions: Ponder tosses it for 142 yards and finds Michael Jenkins for a score, while Peterson hammers away for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson totals 122 yards and punches in a short TD. Bradford connects with Chris Givens for a score in a 210-yard effort. Vikings 21-17.
Jacksonville (+7) @ Miami, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Jags have lost two highly winnable games in a row as they fell victims to tough circumstances. A rain storm and a couple concussions put them behind the eight ball two weeks ago in Buffalo and the absence of breakout receiver Cecil Shorts to one of the aforementioned concussions had a devastating impact to their passing game this past Sunday. A blessing for fantasy owners may have come out of those concussions however, as Montell Owens stepped in and stepped up with Rashad Jennings out versus the Jets. With Jennings out again and Shorts expected to return, Jacksonville may actually have a balanced attack for the first time since David Garrard and Fred Taylor shared the backfield with Maurice Jones-Drew. Speaking of MJD, don't expect him to return given the meaningless nature of Jacksonville's remaining games. And though Owens displayed nice explosiveness last week, it's possible that will be shelved for a week versus a stout Miami front seven. Chad Henne though figures to have more success facing his former team. The Dolphins give up an average of over 250 yards per game passing, so expect Henne to take advantage of his two playmakers and exploit Miami's secondary… Reggie Bush has broken out the smelling salts on his fantasy season after it spent a good chunk of the middle of the fall with a foot in the grave. In two of the last three games-all against top-10 run defenses-Bush has double digit points and has at least 60 yards on the ground in all three. With a Jacksonville defense on tap that's 31st against the run, Bush has a nice shot to turn in his best performance since he last topped 100 yards rushing in Week 2. Though he's vanished the last two weeks with just seven combined carries, Daniel Thomas could re-emerge as a factor out of the backfield with such a promising matchup. In the air Ryan Tannehill should threaten to top 200 yards for just the second time in five games given that the Jags allow nearly 250 passing yards a contest.
Predictions: Owens totals 84 yards, while Henne connects with Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis for touchdowns in a 264-yard performance. Tannehill throws for 188 yards and connects with Brian Hartline for a score. Bush finds the end zone on the ground while netting 126 total yards. Dolphins 20-17.
Green Bay (-3) @ Chicago, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Aaron Rodgers is an impossible guy to bench right now, but he's an awfully hard guy to count on for a playoff victory. The Chicago defense is beat up at the moment, most notably without Brian Urlacher (hamstring), but they are still a very aggressive, playmaking unit that leads the league in interceptions. Rodgers struggled mightily the first time he faced them in Week 2 when he went for 219 yards and just one score with a pick, and lately his play has been as bad or worse. He hasn't topped 300 yards since Week 7 and has just five scores to four turnovers in his last four contests. On pure ability though there are only a very select few that can match Rodgers, so benching him is risky business. Though Jordy Nelson (hamstring) remains out, he still has Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings and James Jones to take advantage of Chicago's injuries (league interception leader Tim Jennings is also out). Of course, with Alex Green playing much better and solid running back depth with Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris, Green Bay may elect to run it 28 times again versus a Bears defense that's been giving up 4.5 yards per try… Jay Cutler is dealing with both neck and knee injuries right now and it's not inconceivable that some of his neck pain may stem from just thinking about the beating he took the last time he faced the Pack. His offensive line really hasn't improved since then and if Clay Matthews (hamstring) can finally return Cutler may not have the mobility to avoid another seven sacks. His injuries and a Bears offense playing poorly as a whole will likely make Green Bay's defense an excellent starting option this week. Chicago needs this game desperately though if they want to stay in the Wild Card hunt-let alone steal back the division lead from GB-so expect them to take every extra measure to protect Cutler and get Brandon Marshall more involved than he was in a 2-catch performance in Week 2. With two straight games of 10 catches and 160+ yards, Marshall's back may be tired from carrying the offense, so don't be surprised to see more of Matt Forte versus a Packers run D that's been going down hill.
Predictions: Cutler throws for 196 yards and a touchdown to Alshon Jeffery, while Forte totals 116 yards and runs one in for six. Green and Grant combine for 128 yards on the ground, with the latter punching in a short TD. Rodgers tosses scores to Jennings and Cobb in a 231-yard performance. The Pack notch five sacks in the division-clinching win. Packers 24-14.
Washington (pick 'em) @ Cleveland, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Robert Griffin III has likely gotten many fantasy owners into the playoffs, but now when he's needed the most, he may not be available. A sprained LCL is a major threat to force Griffin to miss the first game of his very young and bright career, but even should he suit up, RGIII would be an extremely risky start for numerous reasons. On a gimpy knee the rushing numbers that regularly inflate Griffin's fantasy production figure to go out the window, leaving him to have to thrive from the pocket against a defense among the top-10 in sacks. And of course all that is dependent on him being able to stay in the game. Though the decision likely won't be made until moments before kickoff, it seems fellow rookie Kirk Cousins has a nice shot at making his first career start. In limited relief duty this season Cousins has tossed two touchdowns and looked fairly sharp in the Redskins offense. Unfortunately Washington's go-to option, Pierre Garcon, is likely to be negated by the blanket coverage of Joe Haden, who has shut down numerous top threats this year. So suffice it to say, regardless of who is at QB for the Skins, Mike Shanahan is likely to ride the legs of Alfred Morris very heavily against a mediocre Cleveland run defense… The Browns are enjoying their first 3-game winning streak since 2009, and with the quarterback situation tenuous for Washington, an eager, young Cleveland team will look to exploit the situation. Amazingly, at 5-8 Cleveland is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs (though winning in Denver and Pittsburgh to close the schedule might take miracles only Tim Tebow could deliver). Without looking ahead though, the Browns actually have a nice matchup for their primary skill players this week. Brandon Weeden has experienced an up-and-down rookie season but has had nice moments in recent weeks and could burn the Redskins 31st ranked pass defense to Josh Gordon. Rounding into more than just a deep threat over the last few games, Gordon could be one of the sneakier starts of the week, while Trent Richardson remains a plug-and-play option given his ability to churn out yards and find the end zone on any defense.
Predictions: Weeden hooks up with Gordon and Ben Watson for TD's in a 266-yard effort. Richardson racks up 117 total yards but is denied a score, while Morris counters with 131 yards and a goal-line plunge. Cousins draws the start and throws for 278 yards and finds Santana Moss and Josh Morgan for touchdowns, the latter the game-winning toss. Redskins 24-23.
Denver (-2.5) @ Baltimore, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: With two cake-walk home games remaining versus Cleveland and Kansas City following Sunday, Peyton Manning may be making his last bid for a fifth MVP in Baltimore. The game is of course crucial to both teams as they battle for playoff seeding, but a loss for Denver would crush any hopes of stealing a bye. Manning will have his work cut out for him versus a Ravens defense that has relinquished the fewest passing scores in the league (tied at 12), but it goes without saying that he's capable of a huge performance. Knowshon Moreno will look to take some of the weight off Manning's shoulders against a run defense that's struggled the past two games-as he did big time last week with a career-high 36 touches. In what figures to be a much more hotly contested game though, expect to see quite a bit less Moreno, and much more Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker… The heartbeat on both sides of the ball for Baltimore this week figures to once again come from a Ray, as Rice and Lewis should be the centerpieces of the offense and defense respectively. Lewis (triceps) is hoping to make a surprisingly quick return to the field after being down since Week 7, and the team's undisputed leader could light a raging fire inside a defense that's ceded an unusually high number of yards this year. Offensively, the Ravens will be greatly challenged by a Denver defense that is among the top-10 versus both the run and pass. After firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and replacing him with Jim Caldwell, it's widely anticipated that Baltimore will lean more heavily on Rice, their most versatile and talented weapon, to grind out their final victories. An onslaught of Rice may even open up the pass game more for Joe Flacco to take advantage of play-action and utilize the deep speed of Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones on the outside. If Champ Bailey locks down Smith though, look for Anquan Boldin to be featured and continue his recent hot streak (three TD's last two games).
Predictions: Manning throws for 274 yards and scores to Decker and Brandon Stokley. Moreno nets 92 total yards but unlike his counterpart cannot find the end zone. Rice does find paydirt en route to 118 total yards, while Flacco hooks up with Boldin and Dennis Pitta for touchdowns in a 220-yard day. Ravens 21-17.
Indianapolis (+9) @ Houston, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Texans have registered the 5th-most takeaways in the league and are still a top-10 defense in pretty much all categories despite the boom New England laid on them last week. Considering that Andrew Luck has thrown 18 picks on the year and nine in just the last four weeks, it seems a safe bet that the stud rookie will give a ball or two OR three away to Houston. There also exists a good chance that Luck sets the rookie passing yards record with two games left to go in the season. He needs just 260 yards to break Cam Newton's year-old record of 4,051 yards, and versus a Texans run D that figures to greatly limit Vick Ballard, Luck should get plenty of opportunities with his arm… Houston has two truly ugly games on its record this year, but those two outings came against two quarterbacks with four Super Bowl rings and three MVP trophies. Andrew Luck might end up with a Rookie of the Year award, but a Colts team that relies so heavily on him may not be able to compete for 60 minutes with a Texans team that is otherwise more talented from top to bottom. Houston is still the class of the AFC South and will be out to prove it after an embarrassing loss. Arian Foster figures to have a bounce-back performance versus a defense that's allowing 4.7 yards per carry, while Matt Schaub will look to take advantage of a secondary that gave up a season-high 143 yards to Kenny Britt and has little-to-no chance of containing Andre Johnson.
Predictions: Ballard totals 58 yards, while Luck passes for 277 and hooks up with T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener for touchdowns despite throwing two picks. Schaub connects with Johnson and Owen Daniels for scores in a 205-yard day. Foster totals 118 yards and punches in two short runs. Texans 31-17.
Tampa Bay (+3.5) @ New Orleans, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: A game that looked to have serious Wild Card implications a few weeks back has since devolved to just a divisional matchup with major fantasy playoff implications. The Bucs and Saints have each blown three straight to play their way out of the playoff hunt and the demoralizing manner in which Tampa dropped last week's contest on the last play may set them reeling the rest of the way. Still, it's nearly impossible to bench Josh Feeman against a New Orleans defense that he torched for 420 yards and three TD's when he met them in Week 7. Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Dallas Clark all figure to be promising starts given the ineptitude of the Saints pass defense, while Doug Martin is likely to continue racking up the yards versus the last place run stopping unit… Drew Brees has not looked like himself lately. Just one touchdown and a whopping seven picks over the last two games have to be scaring his owners, but those woes could certainly be cured by the Bucs' dead last pass defense. Brees turned in the best half of his career with over 300 yards and four touchdowns versus the Bucs the first time, but he followed that up with barely 60 yards and no scores in the second half. If he puts together a full 60 minutes this week it could be a long day for the Tampa secondary and a bright one for all Saints receiving options (Jimmy Graham didn't even play that week). Conversely, things aren't looking up for Mark Ingram or Pierre Thomas versus the top run-stuffing D.
Predictions: Martin busts tackles en route to 144 total yards and punches in two short scores. Freeman passes for 306 yards and finds Jackson and Williams for touchdowns. Brees pitches it for 397 yards and hits Graham, Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Darren Sproles for TD's, while Ingram contributes 45 yards rushing to the cause. Saints 34-31.
Detroit (-6) @ Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: It would be a fairly substantial surprise if the Lions defense didn't register double-figure fantasy points this week versus a Cardinals offense that's scored fewer touchdowns the last four weeks than opposing defenses have scored on them (five TD's given up on picks and fumbles). Unfortunately for those relying on Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, that may mean their numbers are limited this playoff Sunday by lack of volume. The Cardinals have been devastated on the ground in recent weeks and figure to have no success stopping Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell from going up and down the field on them. Without an Arizona offense to keep it competitive, this game could become a clock-killer early for Detroit, which means Stafford and Megatron have about a half to try and get on the scoreboard. If Arizona somehow keeps things close early though, expect Tony Scheffler, who will likely take over as the top tight end for an injured Brandon Pettigrew (ankle), to be a strong start versus a defense that's allowed a tight end into the end zone in three straight contests… After being benched in favor of John Skelton's interceptions, Ryan Lindley will get thrown back out to the lions (literally in this case). If a vicious front seven led by Ndamukong Suh doesn't kill the rookie, it will certainly force him into mistakes. With all due respect to Larry Fitzgerald--who is still one of the most talented to play the position--none of the Cardinals are really worth discussing, and certainly not worth owning in fantasy.
Predictions: Stafford slings it for 243 yards and touchdowns to Johnson and Scheffler. Leshoure totes it for 94 yards and a score, while Bell adds 126 total yards and a TD rushing. Beanie Wells tallies 37 yards on the ground, while Lindley throws for 136 yards and his first-career touchdown to Michael Floyd. Lions 31-10.
Carolina (+3) @ San Diego, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Cam Newton's production has soared in the past three weeks as he's piled up 825 yards passing, 246 on the ground and 10 total touchdowns without turning it over once. To some extent, those numbers are a result of Newton taking advantage of bad defenses, but it's impossible to ignore the confidence with which he's playing lately. Newton has gotten back to what he does best by using his legs to pick up major chunks of yards and is getting what he wants downfield by extending plays with his elusiveness. After a tumultuous first half to the season, it's safe to say Newton is back to being a no-brainer start. And with Newton garnering so much defensive attention and producing so many big plays, the entire offense has benefitted as a result. Steve Smith is back to a strong weekly option and DeAngelo Williams even appears to have found the fountain of youth with Jonathan Stewart (ankle) out, though the 4th ranked run defense might stone Williams this time out… Somehow Philip Rivers figured out how to toss three touchdowns on the top-ranked Steelers pass defense last week just to remind the league that he's still a very talented gunslinger. Danario Alexander's surprise emergence as a standout No. 1 receiver has dramatically aided Rivers' cause in recent weeks as the lanky wideout has contributed five scores in five games. Considering that he was able to post a 20-point game versus that stingy Pittsburgh defense, Alexander has become a must-start in all formats regardless of matchup. Ryan Mathews, on the other hand, is no more than a flex option despite a Carolina run defense that was dominated from Weeks 11-13. Mathews has only posted one score this year and not a single 100-yard game, though if he sees 20+ carries again this could be the week he breaks through.
Predictions: Rivers slings it for 254 yards and scores to Alexander and Antonio Gates. Mathews totals 107 yards and finally finds the end zone again. Newton gets a score on the ground with 72 yards, while also going for 238 passing and hitting Greg Olsen for a touchdown. Williams chips in 64 total yards. Chargers 24-20.
Seattle (-5.5) @ Buffalo (in Toronto), Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: Marshawn Lynch has been a tackle-breaking fool this year, as expected, but he's been especially hot in his last seven games. During that stretch he topped 100 yards five times while piling up seven touchdowns and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Now he gets to face his former team for the first time in his career and break Buffalo's 4-game streak of holding an opponent under 90 yards rushing (something they hadn't done since 1999). Though the Bills defense has stepped up dramatically against the run since their Week 8 bye, they are still not capable of slowing the second-best rusher in the league. And when Lynch isn't pummeling them, Russell Wilson will look to take advantage of play-action to the likes of Golden Tate and Sidney Rice-that is if Rice can suit up. A sore foot has Rice in a walking boot and could make him a game-time decision. If he's out or limited Wilson likely won't find as much success through the air… A Bills offense that only averages about 341 yards and 22 points per game surely took note of the epic spanking Seattle applied to Arizona last week. Fortunately for them this game will not be played in Seattle, where the Seahawks look like world beaters. Unfortunately for them, it won't be played in Buffalo either as the teams wills square off in Toronto. And Buffalo will have to do so without the services of Fred Jackson (knee/IR). While this hurts the Bills offense as a whole, owners of C.J. Spiller that are still alive for playoff runs will rejoice. Spiller has seen his touches inexplicably limited the past two weeks while Jackson has been featured much more out of the backfield. Given that the Seahawks 4th ranked pass defense will likely cause Ryan Fitzpatrick fits, Buffalo will need Spiller more than ever to have a monster outing if they care to win.
Predictions: Fitzpatrick throws for 183 yards while Spiller carries the load with 138 total yards and a rushing touchdown. Wilson hooks up with Tate and Doug Baldwin for scores in a 223-yard performance. Lynch rumbles for 132 and a touchdown. Seahawks 27-13.
Pittsburgh (-1) @ Dallas, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: Facing a Dallas defense that has been gashed for 481 yards rushing over the past three weeks, don't be surprised to see the Steelers lean on the powerful legs of Jonathan Dwyer to get an offense that started extremely slowly last week back on track. Dwyer had just eight carries in that game as Ben Roethlisberger was forced to sling it 42 times after Pittsburgh fell behind by double figures. With Rashard Mendenhall dealing with a team-imposed suspension and Isaac Redman in the backseat behind Dwyer, look for the burly back to put up some nice yards. After the ground game gets going, Big Ben will have the benefit of play-action to take shots downfield versus Dallas' top-10 pass defense. Since Roethlisberger proved last week that his arm still has plenty of zip, top targets Mike Wallace and Heath Miller resume their status as weekly starts despite the tough matchup… While the loser of this game could well fall short of the playoffs, a W is much more pivotal for Dallas. The Steelers would still control their own destiny if they lose, but in the considerably deeper NFC, the Cowboys would be all but finished. Speaking of finished, there's a strong possibility the huge rise of Dez Bryant as a fantasy superstar has run its course for this season. Though the star wideout-who has gone crazy for 517 yards and seven scores the last five games-insists that he's going to play through a fractured finger on his left hand, it remains to be seen if he actually can suit up, and if so, whether or not he'll be able to perform on the field. To say he is a risky start against the Steelers top-ranked pass defense is a huge understatement. With Bryant ailing and possibly out though, Miles Austin and Jason Witten may seen a swell in their production to close the year. Still, Tony Romo and his targets may all struggle through this tough matchup, while DeMarco Murray won't have it much easier against a unit allowing just 3.7 yards per carry.
Predictions: Dwyer rumbles for 110 total yards and a short score, while Roethlisberger pitches it for 206 yards and TD's to Miller and Antonio Brown. Romo hits Austin and Kevin Ogletree for touchdowns in a 239-yard effort. Murray chips in 66 total yards in the loss. Steelers 24-17.
Kansas City (+3) @ Oakland, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: One day perhaps Brady Quinn will get a chance to start for a team that has some semblance of receiving talent from which his game might benefit. That time, however, is not now. With Dwayne Bowe (ribs) likely done for the year the Chiefs receiving corps looks about as rag-tag as the Jets has since they lost Santonio Holmes months ago. Bowe's injury leaves the highly underwhelming, so-far-major-bust-of-a-first-round-draft-pick Jon Baldwin to headline a group that includes special teams ace, Terrance Copper, as one of the most experienced targets. That means Jamaal Charles will go back to being the entire offense just two weeks removed from Quinn actually looking decent. With the best matchup he's got left on tap against one of the most generous run D's, expect 25-30 carries and a big game for the only ownable Chief… There's no medicine for a 6-game losing streak quite like the last team you beat coming to your house. The Raiders should get a reprieve from giving up massive amounts of yards and points for one week to get a chance to play with a lead versus arguably the worst team in the league. Carson Palmer should have little trouble moving the ball against a KC D that's allowing the most yards per pass attempt in the league (8.2), but likely won't be in line for his usual garbage stats. That means if he doesn't throw them into a lead he might turn in a down week. Should Oakland build a lead, Darren McFadden could be the biggest beneficiary of the matchup, but after tweaking his ankle last week it's also entirely possible he'll see even less touches than the 13 he totaled in his return. And if he is deemed a game-time decision he could be a highly risky start. If somehow McFadden is ruled out against the Chiefs' 27th ranked run defense, Marcel Reece will resurface as a strong fantasy option.
Predictions: Charles totals 152 yards and scores on the ground. Quinn throws for 134 yards with a pick. Palmer tosses it for 215 yards and hooks up with Darrius Heyward-Bey and Rod Streater for touchdowns. McFadden and Reece combine for 94 total yards with Run DMC punching in a short TD. Raiders 24-13.
San Francisco (+5.5) @ New England, Sunday 8:20 p.m.
Comments: The 49ers under Colin Kaepernick are simply not as productive an offense. The young signal caller has gone two games without throwing a touchdown and doesn't even have 400 yards passing in those two contests combined. One was a bad loss to the Rams due to an enormous turnover by Kaepernick while the other was a closer-than-the-final-score win over an average at best Miami team playing thousands of miles from their home. So a cross-country trip to play the hottest team in football will be quite the test of Kaepernick's maturity as a player. He passed visits to Chicago and New Orleans with flying colors, but neither of those offenses could do to their defense what Tom Brady and Co. are capable of laying on even the San Fran D. For the Niners to keep it close they'll need to win up front on both sides of the ball. Pressuring Brady heavily with soon-to-be single-season sack record-holder Aldon Smith, and slugging away with Frank Gore and LaMichael James against a huge New England front seven to keep the chains moving should be the plan. If they get behind though, expect Michael Crabtree to threaten a career day for yards while Kaepernick unleashes his arm at a volume he's yet to reach… Brady sliced and diced a very good Houston defense last week in what was supposed to be a battle of the AFC's top teams. In the process though Brady lost yet another weapon as Donte Stallworth was forced onto IR with an ankle injury to remove a familiar deep threat from the attack. Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez will continue to see a huge volume of targets given the thin depth of New England's receiving corps. Danny Woodhead may even see his value rise given his abilities to line up as a slot receiver. For this week though the back to continue playing is Stevan Ridley who will test his 6-game touchdown streak against the league's 2nd best run defense. After scoring on a Houston unit that had allowed just two rushing TD's all season, Ridley will attempt to double down with a Niners front that's given up just three.
Predictions: Ridley totes it for 54 yards and a score, while Brady passes for 244 yards and connects with Welker and Hernandez for TD's. Gore rushes for 64 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick throws for 260 yards and scores to Crabtree and Randy Moss in a furious comeback. 49ers 24-21.
New York Jets (+1.5) @ Tennessee, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: Braylon Edwards is back with Gang Green to take another shot at a playoff run with Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan. Whether Edwards (hamstring) is healthy enough to suit up this week or not is unknown at this time, and sadly a bit irrelevant. Though the Jets are completely devoid of receiver talent, a less-than-healthy Edwards doesn't figure to add much to a Tony Sparano offense he has yet to learn. Moreover, New York has returned to the "Ground & Pound" attack in full force behind the tough running of Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, both of whom had at least 19 carries last week and found the end zone. That duo may be put on hold for a week, however, if Powell, who's dealing with an injured toe, can't suit up. He could be a game-time decision and given the Monday kickoff, would be an extremely risky option in fantasy. Whether he can go or not, look for the Jets to lean heavily on Greene versus a bad Tennessee run defense in yet another must-win… Jake Locker has struggled mightily since returning from a shoulder injury four weeks ago. In his last three games he's thrown just three touchdowns while barely completing 50% of his passes and turning it over a disconcerting nine times. Since he's attempted an average of 40 passes per game though, his yardage totals have been good, and it appears Kenny Britt may emerge as a flex option down the stretch as result. For this week though, Britt would be a scary start as he'll draw tight coverage from Antonio Cromartie. Since Locker is almost sure to find the going tough versus the Jets' 3rd ranked pass defense, expect the Titans to lean on Chris Johnson plenty against a unit that allows and average of 136.5 yards per game on the ground and just let Montell Owens rip them for 91 and a TD in his first career start-and on just 14 carries.
Predictions: Greene goes for 112 yards with Powell netting a gritty 48 and both scoring on the ground. Sanchez passes for 128 yards and plays turnover-free football. Locker on the other hand throws two picks to go with his 215 yards and one touchdown to Nate Washington. Johnson rattles off 138 total yards and breaks one for six. Titans 20-17.