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Game Capsules: Breaking Down the Season Finales

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.

New York Jets (+3.5) @ Buffalo, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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The Jets ought to feel dirty going back to Sanchez. But that's more of a story for the circus otherwise known as the New York media. After a one-week benching, Mark Sanchez will start over Tim Tebow in what might be his last game for Gang Green because one of the 11 sacks Greg McElroy took versus San Diego apparently left him concussed. Sanchez turned in by far his best performance of the season when the Jets stomped Buffalo in Week 1, but that was 28 turnovers ago and came with the services of Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill, neither of whom are going to be at his disposal this time around. So despite a mediocre Bills pass defense, Sanchez throwing to his ragtag group of receivers should be left for only the most desperate of two-quarterback league owners. Shonn Greene, however, should be started in all formats against a Bills defense that is dead-last stopping the run and has allowed a league-high 23 rushing scores… C.J. Spiller is the only shred of explosiveness in the Buffalo offense and he's proven that he's completely matchup proof when given the opportunities. He's racked up 276 total yards and a touchdown in the past two games without Fred Jackson, and he's done so versus the 10th and 11th ranked run defenses in blowout losses. Unlike Spiller, Ryan Fitzpatrick has lost pretty much all fantasy usefulness since Week 4 and that should remain the case versus the Jets top-5 pass defense. With Donald Jones (undisclosed) and Scott Chandler (ACL) landing on IR this week, Fitzpatrick has virtually zero chance of matching the three garbage touchdowns he registered when these teams met in Week 1. Steve Johnson should continue to see plenty of targets, but matching up with Antonio Cromartie makes him a risky option at best this week.

Predictions: Sanchez passes for 152 yards and a touchdown to Clyde Gates, while Greene rumbles for 78 yard and a score. Fitzpatrick tosses it for 132 yards as Spiller totals 138 and finds paydirt on the ground. Jets 14-13.

Tampa Bay (+3) @ Atlanta, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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The Bucs have stunk it up during a 5-game losing streak that has long since crushed any playoff hopes they once had. What seemed like an explosive offense has fizzled during this stretch as Josh Freeman has struggled miserably with turnovers lately and Doug Martin has found little room to roam out of the backfield. Freeman has thrown eight picks in the last two weeks with just one touchdown, so expecting a bounce-back versus an Atlanta defense that held him scoreless at the start of this losing skid and happens to have allowed the fewest passing scores in the league (13) seems foolishly optimistic. Martin has not had a run longer than 14 yards in Tampa's 5-game collapse, but he may have a better chance for a strong performance facing a Falcons run D that gives up 4.8 yards per carry. Still, he only averaged half that number on his 21 totes in their last meeting, so unless he finds paydirt again his value may not win any titles this week… Atlanta has nothing to play for but the franchise's second 14-win season and the league's best record. Whether or not that will influence the playing time of studs like Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez though remains to be seen. It would be a surprise for them to not start, but finishing the game is a whole other story. Ryan has been on fire lately and it's a good bet he slings the Falcons out to an early lead versus the league's worst pass defense. Should that happen, count on Ryan and his weapons sitting much, if not all of the second half.

Predictions: Ryan throws for 174 yards and two touchdowns going to Jones and Gonzalez in limited action, while Jacquizz Rodgers leads the team with 56 yards rushing. Freeman hooks up with Vincent Jackson for a score in a 258-yard performance. Martin contributes 88 total yards and a TD on the ground. Falcons 23-17.

Baltimore (+1.5) @ Cincinnati, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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The Ravens and Bengals last met 16 long weeks ago in the September season opener and their records have since been an identical 9-5 after Baltimore took that one in decisive fashion. Whereas the Cinci D has improved dramatically since, Baltimore's has rode a rollercoaster after losing Ray Lewis (triceps) and Lardarius Webb (ACL) for the regular season. Offensively, Joe Flacco has also experienced an up and down season of inconsistent play. Facing the 10th ranked Bengals pass defense-one which has ceded just 16 passing scores-may well lead to the season finale being another down after last week's big-time performance in a thumping of the Giants. If Anquan Boldin (shoulder) is rested with the team's 4th seed in the AFC unlikely to change, that will just sting all the more for anyone counting on Flacco. Ray Rice may fair better against a defense he's had some great success against, but the 8th ranked Bengals run D has improved nearly every week as the season has progressed and may limit the dinged up tailback (hip pointer). With Rice a bit sore, it's also possible Baltimore will rest their star for the playoff run and lean on rookie Bernard Pierce, who's impressive running could warrant a flex in the deepest of leagues… A.J. Green needs just five catches to hit 100 in only his second season, and it's a safe bet Andy Dalton and the Bengals will get him their as they try to end their regular season on a high note riding into the playoffs. Dalton and Green may have a difficult time finding the end zone versus a Ravens team that's allowed the second-fewest passing scores in the league (14), but they should post some solid yards against a unit giving up over 230 per game throwing. BenJarvus Green-Ellis figures to find more success on the ground as he'll tango with a thin front seven that's relinquishing nearly 130 yards rushing per contest.

Predictions: Green-Ellis rushes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Dalton hooks up with Marvin Jones for a score in a 214-yard day. Flacco pitches it for 196 yards and a scoring strike to Dennis Pitta. Rice goes for 71 total yards as Pierce leads the way with 92 yards and a TD. Bengals 20-14.

Chicago (-3) @ Detroit, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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With a win the Bears must root for their arch nemesis Packers to deal an inferior Vikings team a loss. Should those cards fall into place, Chicago will likely draw a 49ers team that smashed them six weeks ago on Monday Night Football in the Wild Card round. To notch the necessary W the Bears need only to hand a Lions team donning the league's longest losing streak (7) one final L. Count on a very fired up Chicago defense to give Matthew Stafford as difficult a time as they did in the team's first meeting when they limited him to 263 yards and one score, while also picking him once. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall will need to generate the points offensively, particularly with Matt Forte hobbled at best with an ankle injury. If for any reason Forte cannot tough it out, on-and-off-again Bear Kahlil Bell will likely handle the bulk of the carries… Charles Tillman, perhaps the league's most underrated cover corner, locked down Calvin Johnson to the tune of a measly three catches for 34 yards on 11 targets when the teams met in Week 7. It was Megatron's worst game of the season, and after struggling versus the Seahawks the following week, all he's done is rip off 8-straight 100-yard games (1,254 yards to be exact on 76 catches; no big deal) en route to shattering Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record. Another 108 yards will make him the first player in the long and storied history of the NFL to hit the 2K mark receiving. So no matter what Tillman and the Bears D throws at Detroit, count on Johnson delivering a bare minimum of 108 yards, if not twice that amount. Even if it takes 20+ targets, a Lions team with absolutely nothing left to play for (aside from assuring a division rival misses the playoffs) will do everything within the power of Matthew Stafford's erratically inaccurate arm to get Johnson this milestone. And if they can get within sniffing distance of also ending their season on a win, expect Mikel Leshoure to see a goal-line carry or two versus a Chicago run D that's been very stingy from in close. Oh and Stafford as it turns out is well within reach of the quietest 5,000-yard season imaginable.

Predictions: Forte limps his way to 82 total yards, while Bell vultures a goal-line score. Cutler throws for 181 yards and connects with Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown. Leshoure totes it for 46 yards and a score. Stafford slings it for 313 yards and connects with Johnson for 183 of them and a TD. Bears 20-17 in OT.

Jacksonville (+4) @ Tennessee, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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The Jaguars played a powerful Patriots team extremely tight last week only to fall short when it mattered in the fourth quarter. In the process up-and-coming wideout Cecil Shorts suffered his second concussion in the last four games and will finish the year on IR. It's an unfortunate end to a great breakout year for a promising talent. A soft Tennessee defense may ease the blow to Chad Henne's stock, however, as Justin Blackmon and Jordan Shipley have enough ability to put up yards. On the ground Montell Owens has performed quite admirably in the absence of the team's top three backs, and a matchup with a weak Titans run D makes him a top-15 option this week at tailback… Jake Locker is so erratic throwing the ball that no Titans skill player can be trusted to produce consistently until he's either improved considerably or found the bench. The Titans' signal caller has completed just 53% of his passes in the last five contests and tossed four touchdowns to nine interceptions. Kenny Britt has managed to post modest numbers during that stretch and could be an option for a team in trouble at receiver or the flex spot. Chris Johnson meanwhile has gone downhill due to the combination of an ineffective passing game and a significantly banged up offensive line. If you remove his 94-yard score versus the Jets-his only touchdown in the last five weeks-Johnson has totaled a miserable 231 yards on 84 carries over that stretch for an average of 2.8 yards per try. Though he racked up 109 total yards on 23 touches in the matchup with the Jags to begin this miserable finish, an ankle injury figures to limit those touches and prevent him from taking advantage of the 31st ranked Jacksonville run defense.

Predictions: Owens racks up 121 total yards and scores rushing. Henne finds Blackmon for a touchdown in a 244-yards effort. Locker pitches it for 199 yards and hooks up with Britt for a TD. Johnson chips in 63 total yards. Jaguars 17-10.

Houston (-7) @ Indianapolis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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Houston has a ton riding on its second matchup with Andrew Luck and the Colts after the Vikings smashed them on their own turf last week. They hold the top seed in the AFC but a loss would not only make a trip to the Super Bowl go through Denver, but it would likely push the Texans out of a bye as well. A Patriots win and Texans loss lands Houston in the No. 3 seed, so expect a Houston team on a mission to show up in Indy. When they met two short weeks ago Arian Foster ripped off 165 yards for his best ground performance of the season. He followed that up with his worst effort last week as an irregular heartbeat forced him out of the game early (a season-crusher for anyone using him in the Super Bowl). Foster is expected to play Sunday after clearing all tests this week and returning to full practice, so count on him being leaned on again versus a Colts defense that's allowed a ridiculous 530 yards rushing in just two weeks. In the passing game Matt Schaub will spend most of his time targeting Andre Johnson, who needs only 43 yards to become the first receiver ever to post three 1,500-yard seasons. Considering he hammered the Colts for 11 grabs, 151 yards and a score last time, it seems safe to chalk that milestone up right now. One record that may also happen Sunday, but is a far-greater longshot to come through, is J.J. Watt's pursuit of the sack record. If he can once again bring Luck down three times it will be his… Luck has gone four straight games completing less than 50% of his passes, but he's also turned in consecutive games without throwing a pick for the first time this year. He found the end zone twice versus Houston in the loss, but he otherwise struggled to produce. His yards were limited by a lack of volume (only 27 pass attempts), but given that he's thrown the fifth-most passes in the league, it's a safe bet his opportunities will go up this time around. Although Vick Ballard ran the ball quite effectively (18 rushes for 105 yards) versus the Texans' 7th ranked run D, the odds of a repeat performance are slim, and it's much more likely that an extensive workout of Luck's arm will be required to have a shot against an angry Houston defense. That means Reggie Wayne should be able to avenge the season-worst 14 yards he delivered in Texas.

Predictions: Ballard totals 74 yards while Luck slings it for 281 and touchdowns to Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton. Foster racks up 120 yards and a score on the ground. Schaub connects with Johnson for a touchdown in a 210-yard day. Watt posts two sacks to tie the record. Texans 23-20 in OT.

Carolina (+5) @ New Orleans, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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Carolina played easily its most complete game of the season in a Week 2 victory over the Saints, and has returned to that form for the most part over the last five contests. Cam Newton has thrown just one interception in his last six outings and has totaled 15 touchdowns in that stretch. In other words, he's finished the year producing like the top-20 draft pick he was in many leagues this summer. One of his best early-season performances came against the Saints' lowly defense and with very minimal improvements to that New Orleans unit, Newton should have no trouble duplicating or exceeding those numbers. DeAngelo Williams also turned in one of his top showings that week and will look for a repeat as well with Jonathan Stewart likely out again due to ankle troubles. At receiver Steve Smith is a must-start with one of his best matchups of the year coming on the heels of a 4-game streak with 10+ fantasy points… A red-hot Drew Brees has been out for blood after the Saints dropped three embarrassing games that culminated in a butt-whooping by the Giants three weeks ago. In the past two contests, both wins, Brees has racked up over 750 yards and seven TD's without throwing a single pick. Carolina's pass defense has been quite stingy in recent weeks, but they are no match for an angry Brees on his home turf. Expect Brees to be hunting payback for the poor showing he gave in Carolina way back in September. That means Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston (yes he returned from the dead last week with 150+ yards), Lance Moore and Darren Sproles are all excellent options as his primary receivers. Mark Ingram, who's had at least 65 total yards or a score in seven of eight games, is also good for a flex start facing a Panthers defense that's struggled to slow the run at numerous points of the season.

Predictions: Newton throws for 268 yards and touchdowns to Smith and Brandon LaFell, while adding 54 yards rushing. Williams tallies 77 total yards and a rushing score. Ingram pounds it for 80 yards and touchdown on the ground. Brees hooks up with Graham and Sproles (2) for scores in a 320-yard performance. Saints 31-24.

Philadelphia (+7) @ New York Giants, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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Nick Foles out, Michael Vick back in. The rookie signal caller will miss the final game of the season with a fractured hand and give Vick what is very likely his final chance to don an Eagles jersey. Vick has been either on or off versus the Giants during his years in Philly, but this will be the weakest Big Blue defense he's faced. In a game that is an audition for the rest of the league-regardless of what Vick claims-expect the veteran QB to come out with a great deal of energy and focus. If Jeremy Maclin (knee, questionable) can suit up, Vick could be a sneaky strong start versus a team that's been shredded by Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco the last two weeks. Without him though, Vick doesn't have enough weapons to put up big passing numbers. On the ground LeSean McCoy has reprised his role as the featured back after returning last Sunday to post 122 total yards. With a Giants defense giving up 4.6 yards per carry on tap and Bryce Brown back in the backseat, plan on plugging McCoy right back in the lineup as a No. 1 tailback… A desperate defending champion Giants team has to win to stay in the playoff discussion. To get in they'll still need a good deal of help, but beating an Eagles team that registered one of their four wins against them must come first. Eli Manning has been cloaked in the stink of failure in six of the last eight games, but has a nice shot to come out smelling a little fresher versus a Philly D that's allowed two touchdowns to opposing QB's in 10 straight outings. Unfortunately, he may have to channel his inner Super Bowl MVP without the assistance of Hakeem Nicks, who looks like at best a game-time decision with his aching knee. Victor Cruz should see an increase in targets if Nicks sits, but the key word there is "should". After it looked like Cruz was on his way out of a mid-season slump the Pro Bowl wideout has vanished once again with a pathetic 36 yards on six catches in the last two games. Still, Cruz has owned the Eagles in three meetings with Philly, posting at least 100 yards and a score every time. Domenik Hixon would also look like a solid play should Nicks sit, while Ahmad Bradshaw remains a risky option at tailback because of his foot ailments. David Wilson is the upside play of the two, but his floor is as low as it gets given the fluctuation of his touches.

Predictions: Bradshaw and Wilson combine for 90 total yards with the veteran punching in a short rushing score. Manning pitches it for 253 yards and touchdowns to Cruz and Rueben Randle. Vick passes for 238 yards and a TD to Riley Cooper, while adding 56 yards and a touchdown with his legs. McCoy contributes 114 total yards and finds the end zone. Giants 24-21.

Cleveland (+7) @ Pittsburgh, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

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The Browns and Steelers are playing for nothing but pride at this point. For Cleveland though, pride might be overshadowed by survival in this contest, as they've been getting awfully beat up lately. Brandon Weeden was knocked out of last week's loss to the Broncos and looks like a strong bet to miss the final game of his average rookie season. Colt McCoy replaced Weeden in Denver but he too suffered a shoulder injury and won't be active, leaving second-year man Thaddeus Lewis to take the first regular season snaps of his career versus Pittsburgh's top-ranked pass defense. With Trent Richardson (ankle) also out for his final rookie contest, things are sure to get pretty ugly in this one. Montario Hardesty will headline the Browns rushing attack versus the Steelers 2nd ranked run defense in Richardson's absence… Ben Roethlisberger has thrown Pittsburgh out of the playoffs with a pick that directly led to a game-winning field goal in each of the last two weeks. So it's a safe bet that he'd like to finish the year with a good showing versus a division rival that always plays him tough. Fortunately for Big Ben, the Browns don't have a particularly scary defense and it's a virtual certainty that they don't force the Steelers in to eight turnovers again this time. Unfortunately for Roethlisberger, his security blanket, Heath Miller, tore his ACL and MCL last Sunday and is on the shelf. And to make matters worse, the speedy Mike Wallace won't be running by anyone as he'll sit with a sore hip. So again, count on an ugly game. Antonio Brown figures to be a great source of yards as the likely recipient of 10-15 targets, while backs Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall will look to avenge the worst ground game performance by any team in any game all season. Eight fumbles, five lost let the Browns win the first one, but the two bruising backs won't have any of that again, despite their recent struggles.

Predictions: Hardesty totals 58 yards, while Lewis gets the nod and throws for 152 yards. Roethlisberger passes for 236 yards and finds Brown and Emmanuel Sanders for scores. Dwyer and Mendenhall combine for 120 total yards. Steelers 20-3.

Oakland (+4.5) @ San Diego, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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Carson Palmer's run in Oakland may be over, as the 33-year-old quarterback will miss the season finale due to the broken ribs he suffered in Carolina last week. In his place will likely be some highly underachieving blend of Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor, two tremendous collegiate talents that have not done a thing at the pro level. Leinart is expected to see the majority of the snaps, which could make the receiving options somewhat useful in the deepest of leagues given San Diego's average passing defense. However, which target among Rod Streater, Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey to roll the dice with is anybody's guess. Essentially, that means the Raiders offense-yes, that's right, the WHOLE offense-is a tremendously risky option this week. Darren McFadden couldn't do a thing last week versus a mediocre Panthers run defense, and with little threat of a passing game the Chargers' 4th ranked unit figures to handle him without much difficulty… San Diego's offense is also a mess at this stage of the season, but at least they still have their former Pro Bowl quarterback, a future Hall-of-Fame tight end and the benefit of a highly suspect Oakland defense visiting their field. Philip Rivers somehow found the end zone twice last Sunday against a very stingy Jets pass defense as if to remind the league that he's still an upper echelon talent. With little offensive help around him this season-in particular along the line "protecting" him-Rivers has pressed too often and made numerous costly and ugly turnovers. With Danario Alexander emerging as a true No. 1 wideout, however, he still has just enough around him to squeeze some juice out of San Diego's rotten fruit of an offense that ranks 29th in yards per game. Alexander is a must-start given his status in the offense and propensity for making big plays. Jackie Battle even looks like an attractive option this week versus a Raiders defense that's allowed 18 rushing scores. Don't be surprised when the lunch pail back delivers double-digit fantasy points.

Predictions: Leinart throws for 204 yards and a score to Heyward-Bey, while McFadden totals 53 yards. Rivers passes for 194 yards and finds Alexander for a touchdown. Battle nets 86 total yards and punches in a short score. Chargers 20-10.

Arizona (+16.5) @ San Francisco, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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The Cardinals offense versus the 49ers defense equals a hideously ugly day for Arizona-and that would just be on a day the Niners weren't playing with a vicious edge after the beatdown they took last week in Seattle. Larry Fitzgerald might be a moderately useful flex if all you need is 50-60 yards, but that's about it for the Arizona O. With Brian Hoyer set to be the next guy featured on Ken Wisenhunt's comedy game show "Who Wants to be an NFL Quarterback," Fitz might actually see enough targets within 10 yards of his body to catch a few (as he did in a surprise 111-yard effort last week). Beanie Wells meanwhile is hopeful that he can turn in a performance that opens the eyes of the rest of the league. He had one such outing two weeks ago with three rushing scores versus the Lions, but after putting up a more familiar line of four carries, three yards, one lost fumble, it's safe to say the San Fran D isn't about to make him an attractive free agent option… The 49ers blew their chance to put a stranglehold on the No. 2 seed in the NFC when they went to Seattle and were absolutely obliterated. Colin Kaepernick will try to bounce back versus an excellent Cardinals pass defense that is giving up less than 200 yards per game and is second in the league with 22 interceptions. Alex Smith carved the Cards like he was using a lightsaber to carve a turkey when these teams met in Week 8, but Kaepernick does not have the field vision, anticipation or accuracy of Smith. And at this point he also doesn't have all the weapons that helped Smith light the desert on fire. Mario Manningham (ACL) is done for the season while Vernon Davis (concussion) looks doubtful to return before the playoffs. Delanie Walker could be an intriguing tight end option as a result and Randy Moss has entered the flex discussion for really the first time all year as he becomes the team's No. 2 target. Ultimately though, only Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree figure to be useful starts in what might be a sloppy game won mostly by San Fran's pissed off defense.

Predictions: Hoyer passes for 164 yards with 81 of them going to Fitzgerald. Wells finds the bench as William Powell totals 43 yards. Gore nets 82 total yards and scores on the ground, while Kaepernick carries it for 62 yards and TD himself. In the air, Kaepernick goes for 176 yards and a score to Crabtree. 49ers 27-3.

St. Louis (+10.5) @ Seattle, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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The Rams have the chance to finish over .500 for the first time in Steven Jackson's illustrious nine seasons. That chance, however, is maybe a shade over 1% going against a Seahawks team that is utterly dominant at home and has demolished their past three opponents by a score of 150-30. Sam Bradford has performed admirably against tough defenses all season, and in particular versus the other best defense in the division in San Francisco, but playing in Seattle presents a whole other set of problems for him and the Rams. Expect the "12th Man" to rattle Bradford as it has most QB's and lead to a miserable day passing the ball. Danny Amendola, by virtue of his usual allotment of targets and shiftiness out of the slot, is the only Rams receiver to even think of starting. Jackson of course needs to remain in lineups because he's seen a hefty workload and posted at least 70 total yards in seven straight contests… The Seahawks look like one of the scariest teams in the league right now and the other NFC playoff contenders are thanking their lucky stars that Seattle likely won't have the opportunity to compete at home after this week. With four touchdowns in each of the last two games, Russell Wilson is a No. 1 QB option despite drawing a Rams defense that forced him into his worst game of the season (three picks, no scores). The young QB has grown by leaps and bounds since that outing and is one touchdown shy of tying Peyton Manning's rookie record of 26 TD passes, a mark Pete Carroll and Seattle will certainly try to help him break. Marshawn Lynch meanwhile is as safe a start as there exists in fantasy. The tackle-breaking machine has piled up 385 yards and six touchdowns in the last three weeks on just 50 touches and is not about to be slowed by a Rams defense he's already decked once this season.

Predictions: Bradford throws it for 207 yards and finds Brian Quick for a score. Jackson totals 77 yards in his final game as a Ram. Lynch totes it for 121 yards and two TD's, while Wilson passes for 198 yards and scores to Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Robert Turbin. Seahawks 35-10.

Miami (+10) @ New England, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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The Dolphins played the Patriots awfully tough in Miami, but the overachieving bunch from South Beach won't fair as well in the cold of Foxboro in a game that could impact New England's playoff seed. Reggie Bush, who has been a playoff hero for the second straight year, will be looking for enough running room to register back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Though the Patriots and their beefy front seven have been quite stout versus the run, Bush should have little trouble notching the final 40 yards he needs to get there. With Ryan Tannehill pulling the trigger though, Bush remains the only fantasy option for Miami… Tom Brady has been oddly un-Tom Brady-like the last couple weeks. He's completed less than 60% of his throws while netting only three passing touchdowns and tossing half of his season's eight INT's. He made things competitive with the 49ers in a furious rally (but needed a career-high 65 attempts to do so), and it took him four quarters to throw two scores and pull away (barely) from a bad Jaguars defense. A Miami unit that has allowed only 16 passing scores all season and held Brady to just one is likely in for a long game, as the All-Universe QB is not a guy you want to be playing when he's feeling an angry chip on his shoulder. As a result, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez should all remain strong options versus the Dolphins 25th ranked pass defense. Stevan Ridley though figures to have a down week unless he finds paydirt against an imposing Miami front seven that has stoned many a tailback this year.

Predictions: Tannehill tosses it for 184 yards while Bush totals 92 and finds the end zone on the ground. Ridley carries it for 61 yards but loses a goal-line score to Danny Woodhead. Brady passes for 285 yards and touchdowns to Lloyd, Hernandez and Deion Branch. Patriots 31-10.

Kansas City (+16) @ Denver, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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Without Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs have no offense. With Brady Quinn under center and no Dwayne Bowe there is absolutely no threat of a passing game from Kansas City, and yet Charles just keeps on churning out yards. The speedster is approaching 1,500 rushing yards despite three worthless performances in which he totaled 17 yards. While he can be hit or miss because of the nature of the Chiefs dreadfulness, Charles has been much more hit than miss of late. He's rushed for over 800 yards in the last seven contests with at least 87 in all but one, and that stretch includes a 107-yard day versus the Broncos' 3rd ranked run defense. He must be rolled out despite the fear factor of the Chiefs laying a total egg… Peyton Manning and the Denver offense didn't post any type of huge numbers when these teams met in Week 12 even though the game remained within one score from start to finish. With a win needed to secure the No. 2 seed and possibly steal the top spot in the AFC that likely won't be the case again. Manning has far too many weapons between Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno to not put a hurting on the Chiefs, just as Denver did to a similarly underwhelming Browns team last Sunday. If they jump out to a big lead, John Fox may rest the starters in the second half, but it's not like these guys can be benched considering what they're capable of doing to a terrible Kansas City team in three or less quarters.

Predictions: Quinn throws for 134 yards as Charles leads the way with 128 total yards. Moreno tallies 134 total yards of his own and contributes a score rushing. Manning hooks up with Thomas and Joel Dreessen for touchdowns in a 256-yard effort. Broncos 24-9.

Green Bay (-3) @ Minnesota, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

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Green Bay is still not quite healthy and has just begun peaking. That could be very scary for the rest of the NFC if the Packers seal a first-round bye with a win on Sunday. With the extra week to get healthy a huge motivator, expect Aaron Rodgers to continue his sharp play. Since top target Randall Cobb could rest ankle and knee ailments on the sideline, Rodgers may start slow, but with Jordy Nelson expected to return, Rodgers will still have plenty of weapons at his disposal. He completed nearly 80% of his passes when the Vikes came to Lambeau at the start of the month, so count on James Jones and Greg Jennings to carry over last week's productive play. Nelson would be a riskier start in case he re-tweaks the hamstring, however. On the ground, Alex Green is expected to be back from a concussion that held him out of Week 16 and allowed Ryan Grant to turn back the clock with a two-score day. That spells a three-headed monster that should be scarier for fantasy owners than it is Minnesota's 13th ranked run defense… In an ideal world for the Vikings, Adrian Peterson would run himself into the record books and Minnesota into the playoffs. With a proud and talented Packers defense likely intent on preventing both those things from happening, expect Christian Ponder to have to do more than usual with his arm for the Vikes to have a shot in this one. Peterson trucked Green Bay for 210 yards last time-a number that would set the record if repeated-but will need a miracle to duplicate that performance versus what certainly figures to be a 9-man box this time around. Since Minnesota doesn't have the receiving weapons to score points without an All Day massacre, expect the Vikes to need help landing that last Wild Card spot (they can lose and still make it if the Bears, Cowboys and Giants all lose as well).

Predictions: Rodgers throws for 294 yards and touchdowns to Jones, Jennings and Jermichael Finley. Grant and Green combine for 106 yards on the ground. Ponder finds Kyle Rudolph for a score in a 160-yard showing, while Peterson rushes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Packers 24-20.

Dallas (+3) @ Washington, Sunday 8:20 p.m.

Comments:
When the Cowboys and Redskins met for the first time on Thanksgiving the Robert Griffin show took Dallas by storm. A terrible Washington pass defense (tied for last with 29 touchdowns allowed) let Tony Romo and Dez Bryant make a hell of a game out of a blowout, however. In the game of the week, another instant classic could be on tap, as the victor will lay claim to the NFC East crown and the No. 4 seed in the conference. The Cowboys were without DeMarco Murray in that meeting and received a pathetic 35 yards out of its run game, so the presence of the versatile tailback could tip the scale in favor of Dallas. The key to snapping the NFC's longest win streak though still lies with a defense that must account for RGIII. A badly banged up Cowboys linebacking corps may get a reprieve if Griffin's knee injury limits his scrambling for the second consecutive week. If the mobile quarterback finds his stride, however, all bets are off. In the end, Dallas will continue to need a heavy dose of the Romo-to-Bryant connection to win what could become the week's best shootout. Given the follies of the Skins' pass defense, Miles Austin and Jason Witten could also be quite valuable fantasy assets if the game becomes an air raid… Griffin is looking to complete an epic run to the divisional crown after a 3-6 start made Washington's playoff hopes look laughable. With Pierre Garcon toughing out a painful foot injury during this win streak, RGIII has had the go-to weapon he lacked during the season's first half. The pair combined to burn Dallas for a long score the last time and will look to continue their strong play together against a Cowboys pass defense that has steadily fallen off all year. Beating Dallas this time around won't be quite so simple as Griffin torching them for big plays though, as a heavy dose of the bruising Alfred Morris is a must to keep the explosive Cowboy offense off the field. Washington is 8-1 in games in which Morris carries the ball at least 20 times (including that great Thanksgiving performance), so expect Mike Shanahan to grind his bell cow early to wear down the Cowboy defense, slow the pass rush, and set up the play-action they've worked so well this year.

Predictions: Murray totals 89 yards but is held out of the end zone. Romo slings it for 352 yards and finds Bryant, Witten and Dwayne Harris for touchdowns. Morris totes it for 107 yards and a score. Griffin passes for 245 yards and hooks up with Garcon and Leonard Hankerson for TD's, while also adding 44 rushing yards to claim the division. Redskins 30-27.