Buffalo (+4) @ Cleveland, Thursday 8:25 p.m.
Comments: Both at 2-2 and coming off major upsets versus teams expected to be in the thick of the playoff hunt, Cleveland and Buffalo are proving to be relentless, unflappable football teams. Incredibly, the two quarterbacks leading these teams have a combined seven career starts, and in the case of Brian Hoyer, he may have stolen the Browns job outright from Brandon Weeden with his impressive poise and overall performance in Cleveland's two-game win streak. Hoyer will welcome a Bills defense that's been stingier at home thus far than on the road. They were torched by Geno Smith at the Jets in Week 3 in a loss but picked off Joe Flacco five times in Sunday's home victory. With Jordan Cameron driving defenses crazy as a matchup nightmare and Josh Gordon providing a homerun threat, Hoyer's day should more closely resemble Smith's than Flacco's. On the ground Willis McGahee stepped forward against Cinci as the team's lead back, getting 15 carries, and facing a Buffalo defense that entered Week 4 tied for 31st in the league allowing 155.0 rushing yards per game, the one-time Bills rusher could be worth a flex start... Even with EJ Manuel being limited to only 167 passing yards and throwing two interceptions against a tough Ravens defense that hadn't allowed a touchdown in two games the Bills offense found a way to put 23 points on the board. They did that in large part because the best offense is a good defense, and they were able to take advantage of turnovers and shorter fields, but led by Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller's combined 164 yards on the ground they were able to gain a huge advantage in time of possession and grind out drives. Their 203 yards on the ground was an impressive feat against a Baltimore defense that entered the game 4th versus the run, but a Cleveland unit that is allowing 2.9 YPC is actually stingier. Moreover, the health of both Spiller and Jackson is dicey at best after the former sprained an ankle and the latter sprained an MCL in the win over Baltimore. While Jackson looks like he'll be a go after seeing limited practice action through Tuesday, Spiller figures to be a game-time call as he sat out Tuesday with a "heavy limp." Suffice it to say that Jackson and Spiller, if active, are highly risky options given the damage Cleveland's run defense has inflicted. In fact, Tashard Choice could end up headlining this backfield, so EJ Manuel also figures to be in for a long night.
Prediction: Hoyer passes for 293 yards and finds Cameron and Gordon for touchdowns. McGahee rumbles for 76 yards and finds paydirt. Spiller sits while Jackson and Choice tally 82 total yards between them. Manuel hits Scott Chandler for a score in a 191-yard effort. Browns 21-10.
New Orleans (pick 'em) @ Chicago, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Saints defense under Rob Ryan is like night and day from the group that allowed the most yards in league history in 2012. They've allowed the fifth fewest point per game (13.8) and hold the same ranking against the pass (192.3 yards). It is worth noting, however, that contests with Tampa Bay and a visit from Arizona make their statistics a bit deceptive. Moreover, the Saints are still susceptible to the run, so expect heavy doses of Matt Forte to keep drives extended as Chicago will look to boost their mediocre 35.2% third-down conversion rate and keep Drew Brees' deadly arm on the sideline. Should the Bears fall behind, however, Cutler does have the tools to move the ball. We all know what Brandon Marshall can do, but with Martellus Bennett and now Alshon Jeffery emerging as mismatches with their size, speed and strong hands, Cutler has an assortment of weapons to help Chicago march down field. And with his revamped line finally keeping him clean, the aggressive blitzing of the Saints may just get them burned for big plays... The 14 turnovers Chicago has forced leads the NFL, but the 28.5 points their gambling defense has allowed more than offsets the gains of taking the ball away. And while Brees has been know to take his chances slinging the ball all over the field, with a loaded group of targets led by Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Darren Sproles the Bears may be best suited to wrap and tackle and keep the ball and bodies in front of them. Jumping routes or trying to strip instead of tackle will put you in a hole quickly against a Sean Payton-coached offense. Although New Orleans run game has been completely M.I.A. this year, don't expect the offense to sputter as long as Brees doesn't get too bold with his throws. And with a Bears defense that's ranked 30th with only six sacks, the Hall-of-Famer in waiting should have plenty of time to surgically move the ball.
Predictions: Brees passes for 322 yards and touchdowns to Grahams, Sproles and Kenny Stills, while the firecracker back leads N'Awlins rushers with 91 total yards. Forte piles up 131 yards himself and runs one in. Cutler connects with Marshall and Jeffery for TD's in a 303-yard comeback effort. Bears 27-24.
New England (+1.5) @ Cincinnati, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: It's sad to see such a respected veteran like Vince Wilfork (torn Achilles) lose the rest of his season to an injury, but Giovani Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be happy to not have that human wall filling pretty much every hole between the tackles. After suffering as an entire offense versus Cleveland, and particularly struggling to run the ball, Bernard and Green-Ellis could be the spark needed for a talented unit against The Law Firm's former team. With two unheralded rookies being asked to fill the ginormous void of Wilfork, don't be surprised to see Cinci try to ride their two backs in an attempt to control the clock and keep Tom Brady sidelined. If Bernard and BJGE find early success, look for Andy Dalton to try to free up A.J. Green with play-action. As talented as Green is, Aqib Talib has developed into one of the premier cover corners in the league so the star wideout could be limited for a fourth straight week. If that's the case, Dalton will badly need Mohamed Sanu, Jermaine Gresham or Tyler Eifert to step up... After significant speculation regarding their health neither Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) nor Danny Amendola (groin) was able to make his return to the lineup last week, and the status of each remains very much up in the air. Both have once again been limited participants in practice during the week and each figures to be a game-time decision. If active though, they would still be major risks given their layoffs and the potential for limited snaps. Kenbrell Thompkins, however, is looking like less and less of a dicey start and more like a legitimate No. 2 fantasy wideout. With each contest his chemistry and timing with Brady improves, and though he's likely to be designated as questionable with a shoulder issue, Thompkins will still be a central piece of the offense assuming he's out there. One thing that's less distinct though is how the carry distribution will unfold with what's become a three-headed backfield. Stevan Ridley is dinged up with a thigh injury, so the struggling back could cede the bulk of the workload to LeGarrette Blount after the behemoth ball carrier punched in New England's first rushing score of the season last week. But with Brandon Bolden also involved, it's tough to justify starting any Patriots that aren't top Brady targets.
Predictions: Brady hits Thompkins and Josh Boyce for touchdowns in a 259-yard outing, as Amendola suits up and Gronk sits. Blount leads the committee with 58 yards rushing. Bernard totals 114 yards and runs one in while Green-Ellis chips in 51 on the ground. Dalton passes for 244 yards and scores to Gresham and Sanu. Bengals 27-23.
Jacksonville (+11.5) @ St. Louis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: It was true last week and is even more so entering what should be a matchup ripe for improvement: the Rams offense desperately needs to generate a spark running the ball. And judging from Daryl Richardson's acknowledgement on Twitter that he's not expecting to start, it appears Jeff Fisher will look to another back to provide a much-needed boost. Of the candidates to improve on the measly 58 total rushing yards Ram tailbacks have produced the past two weeks, there's little clarity as to who will get the shot to lead the way. Isaiah Pead had a chance in Week 3 but was a healthy inactive for Week 4 while undrafted rookie Benny Cunningham saw work in the second half and was even trusted on a 2-point conversion. Zac Stacy was the teams fifth-round draft pick though and the all-time rushing leader at Vanderbilt has received speculation that it's finally his turn. Whoever gets the nod, facing a Jags defense that's allowing a league-worst 164.3 rushing yards per game should allow him some room to run. If the ground game finally gets going, Sam Bradford may be in line for a bounce back performance. His top receivers though - Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis - are not advisable starts until this offense proves more consistent... For some inexplicable reason head coach Gus Bradley claims that Blaine Gabbert is still his starting quarterback despite the former 10th overall draft pick having gone 33-for-67 with just 300 yards and five interceptions in his two starts, while Chad Henne has been a more efficient 46-for-82 for 512 yards and two INT's, with Henne getting the only score between the two. Whether Bradley's statement holds true or not come Sunday, whoever lines up under center for Jacksonville will be breathing a sigh of relief to see Justin Blackmon back in the huddle. The fifth overall draft pick from 2012 has completed his 4-game suspension and could provide a shot in the arm for the league's worst offense. The Jags have scored a measly 31 points in four weeks, but Blackmon gives them a highly talented duo of receivers with Cecil Shorts. If the passing game can click a bit it will also take pressure off Maurice Jones-Drew who has seen mostly stacked boxes through four contests. With Blackmon back in action and the Rams generous run defense allowing 133.5 yards per game on the ground, MJD should once again resemble a bowling ball with legs this week. If he struggles though with such a tasty matchup, he may need to find the bench for the foreseeable future in all fantasy formats.
Predictions: Jones-Drew plows his way to 84 yards and a touchdown. Gabbert starts and throws for 212 yards with a score to Shorts. Bradford connects with Cook and Brian Quick for TD's in a 276-yard outing. Stacy makes a loud debut with 94 yards and a score on the ground. Rams 24-17.
Baltimore (+3) @ Miami, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Dolphins were not exposed as a fraud when they were shredded by Drew Brees on Monday Night Football and handed their first loss. That's what Brees does. What has been exposed in Miami is their inability to protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has taken the most sacks in the league at 18 takedowns. While it's true the second-year QB could work to get the ball out faster, the fact of the matter is left tackle Jonathan Martin has been abused by opposing pass rushers. Drawing the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil does not bode well for the Miami passing game against Baltimore. And unfortunately coach Joe Philbin isn't likely to tailor the gameplan towards the ground attack, as Baltimore is giving up a meager 3.5 YPC. Of course, considering the lack of trust Philbin has shown in Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, the proposition of a run-heavy plan sounds even more preposterous. Neither back has had a game with 15 carries and that doesn't figure to change in this one... The Ravens on the other hand are preaching a need to get back to the run after handing it off only nine times in a surprising loss to Buffalo. In particular coach John Harbaugh has expressed the need to get Ray Rice more involved in the offense in general, as both a runner and a receiver. Fortunately for his fantasy owners Rice suffered no setbacks last week with his hip injury and should be fine to see an increased workload against the Dolphins. The going won't be easy though, as Miami is ranked 10th versus the run, but the acquisition of stalwart left tackle Eugene Monroe should improve the blocking (though possibly not this week if he's left watching from the sidelines as he learns the system). Once acclimated, the former first-round pick will be protecting the blind side of the big-armed, big money Joe Flacco, whose career-high five interceptions were the real difference in the Buffalo loss. When protected, Flacco will still regularly be looking the way of his lone standout receiver, Torrey Smith, so keep the emerging star active in all leagues.
Predictions: Tannehill tosses it for 226 yards and finds Mike Wallace and Charles Clay for touchdowns. Miller chips in 48 yards rushing. Rice doubles the Dolphins back going for 96 on the ground with a score. Flacco throws for 211 yards and connects with Smith and Dallas Clark for TD's in the narrow win. Ravens 21-20.
Philadelphia (+2.5) @ New York Giants, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Amazingly, if Dallas falls to Denver - a fairly likely proposition given the absurd pace of Peyton Manning and Co. - the winner of this game will be either tied (Eagles) or merely a game and a half back (Giants) of the division lead. For New York a loss could crush their hopes of climbing back into the NFC East race, so somehow they'll need to wake up after being embarrassed by a cumulative score of 100-21 over the last 10 quarters of action. An Eagles defense that was just demolished on the road to one Manning may be the perfect cure for the other Manning, as younger bro Eli last played a turnover-free game and got the G-Men a victory in Week 17 of last year when he shredded Philly for five passing TD's. It will help Manning's cause that the Eagles are 31st in points (34.5) and dead last in yards allowed (446.8) per game, but if his line cannot protect him after letting him get sacked 14 times so far, the passing game may still struggle. After averaging over 4.0 YPC for the first time all year, David Wilson may finally break out versus an Eagles D giving up over 120.0 rushing yards a game... Michael Vick was simply no match to keep up with the other Manning, but his offense this year is a far cry from the unit that only turned in seven points in the drubbing that ended Philly's 2012 season. This year Chip Kelly has them moving at a significantly higher tempo, and while their defense's inability to take opposing offenses off the field has hurt their O's gameplan, a miserable Giants defense allowing a league-worst 36.5 points per contest will almost certainly help Vick maintain more balance. With this game unlikely to become a blowout, LeSean McCoy's touches should once again top 20, and the results figure to be there versus a Giants front seven with arguably the weakest linebacker play in the league.
Predictions: Wilson totes it for 95 yards and a touchdown, while Manning hooks up with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz for scores in a 301-yard effort. Vick slings it for 266 yards and finds DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz for touchdowns. McCoy slices his way to 128 rushing yards and finds the end zone twice. Eagles 31-24.
Detroit (+7) @ Green Bay, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: This game couldn't be more crucial for the Packers. A win for the Lions puts them 3.5 games ahead in the division race with a visit to Motown still to come on Thanksgiving. Fortunately for Green Bay both Eddie Lacy and Jermichael Finley should be at 100% after using the bye week to get cleared from concussions. Lacy could be a huge piece of the Packer attack versus a Lions defense that leads the league in third down conversion rate, having allowed their opponents to move the chains on a paltry 21.3% of tries so far. And while Aaron Rodgers has excelled on third downs in the past, his Pack have struggled to convert this season having gone no better than 4-for-10 in any game. If Lacy can shorten those tries versus a defense allowing 5.2 YPC the Packers will give themselves many more scoring opportunities. Moreover, if Lacy and the speedy Johnathan Franklin get the ground game in high gear, the field will open up more for Rodgers to pick apart a defense he knows well. Of course, if one of the league's best defensive lines invades the Packers backfield (a distinct possibility given the inexperience of the O line), Rodgers could struggle against an underrated pass defense whose 4-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is third behind only Indianapolis and Seattle. Still, benching any of Rodgers' top four receiving weapons would be a drastic move... Matthew Stafford could have a fun Sunday versus a Packers defense that's allowed a whopping 9.0 yards-per-attempt, 311.0 passing yards-per-game and picked off just two balls. Calvin Johnson has owned Green Bay at times and there's little reason to expect that to change. With an electric run game led by the reinvented Reggie Bush and steady Joique Bell, the Lions also have found offensive balance for the first time in ages. Ultimately the Detroit offense may simply be too much for a Green Bay defense with an ailing Clay Matthews (hamstring) to handle. After all, the Pack have given up 29.3 points per game so far.
Predictions: Bush shreds his way to 142 total yards and snatches one of Stafford's three TD's. The others go to Johnson and Joseph Fauria in a 320-yard day. Bell chips in 51 total yards and a short rushing score. Lacy rumbles for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while Rodgers hooks up with Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Finley in a 289-yard performance. Packers 38-31.
Kansas City (-3) @ Tennessee, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Titans will be without Jake Locker who will miss up to two months with a hip injury he suffered after the best half of football he's ever played. After slinging three first half touchdowns (his first career 3-TD passing game) against a very stingy Jets defense, Ryan Fitzpatrick had to take over once Locker went down. Fitzpatrick has plenty of experience after starting for over three years in Buffalo, but he'll very much have his work cut out for him facing the No. 1 scoring defense in the league. Granted the Chiefs have faced both the Jaguars and Giants to make that number a bit deceiving, they're still loaded at linebacker and in the secondary and lead the league with 18 sacks. Nate Washington has been excellent with 236 yards and two touchdowns over the last two weeks, but for Tennessee to hang enough points on Kansas City and stick them with their first loss, they may want to unleash Chris Johnson. The speedster has yet to find the end zone or post a 100-yard game, but his 3.3 YPC average should jump facing a Chiefs unit that can get caught over-pursuing at times and as a result has given up a league-worst 5.4 YPC... Andy Reid has led a tremendous turnaround so far in his KC tenure, but the Chiefs have faced the weakest schedule through four weeks. The opponents they've vanquished are a combined 3-13. The Titans have matched that win total and are a few plays away from also being 4-0. Gregg Williams has reinvented a relatively no-name defense that ranks among the top-10 in yards and points allowed, and the speed and attacking mentality with which they play creates constant havoc for opposing offenses. A game-manager like Alex Smith who is extremely smart and careful with the ball could burn Tennessee if his protection holds up, but that's a big "if" versus a unit that's gotten to 14 sacks with eight different players registering at least one. The potential of a poor passing day for the Chiefs along with the excellent coverage of Titans corner Alterraun Verner makes Dwayne Bowe remain a risky option, while Jamaal Charles is still a no-brainer regardless of matchup - Charles leads KC with a whopping 35 targets after all to go with his 70 carries.
Predictions: Fitzpatrick pitches it for 210 yards and scores to Damian Williams and Delanie Walker. Johnson tallies 113 total yards but cannot hit paydirt. Charles racks up 136 total yards and runs in a score. Smith finds Dexter McCluster for a touchdown in a 224-yard performance. Chiefs 20-17 in OT.
Seattle (-3) @ Indianapolis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: For the second consecutive week and third time this season the Seahawks will head east for a 1:00pm EST kickoff, this time visiting an Indy team that has dominated it's last two opponents by a margin of 64-10. While it's easy to dismiss the thrashing they put on Jacksonville last Sunday, it's impossible to ignore the physical beating they gave to the Niners in San Francisco. That game was won in similar fashion to how Seattle thumped SF a week prior, but it was in California and with a Colts team not exactly built for that style. It's also impossible to ignore the tremendously slow start Seattle got off to in road trips to Carolina and Houston in which they barely squeaked out wins. Russell Wilson struggled mightily from a constantly collapsing pocket against the Texans, and with left tackle Russell Okung (toe) out that trend will likely continue, especially with NFL sack leader (tied) Robert Mathis prepared to eat Okung's awful understudy alive. Don't expect the Seahawks to turn to the pass though even if Indy jumps on them the way Houston did, as it is and will remain a run-first offense powered by Marshawn Lynch, for whom there is simply no matchup too daunting... Andrew Luck has averaged a little over 200 yards passing and tossed just two TD's in the last two contests yet the Colts have demolished their opponents. Behind a relentless rush attack Indy has dominated time of possession and worn down defenses, but that could well change facing arguably the most physical, powerful defense in football. Ahmad Bradshaw was a crucial figure to pummeling the Niners but with a neck injury threatening his season the heavy lifting will fall to Trent Richardson for the foreseeable future. While Richardson has the tools to handle the workload and find success, he's still in a learning process with a new system and teammates, so it wouldn't surprise for him to struggle to top 3.0 YPC again, particularly facing the Seattle D. If the run game stalls, Luck will have his hands full going against the "Legion of Boom" secondary and facing an aggressive pass rush that will return sack specialist Bruce Irvin from suspension. Ultimately, the focus of this game will fall on two of the brightest young quarterbacks in football and the deciding factor will likely come down to which second-year stud makes more plays down the stretch.
Predictions: Wilson throws for 228 yards and a score to Golden Tate, while adding one with his legs. Lynch powers his way to 108 yards and a touchdown. Richardson grinds out 74 tough yards, while Luck hits T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener for scores in a 258-yard effort that comes up a bit shy. Seahawks 24-20.
Carolina (-2) @ Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: For those who may have forgotten, Cam Newton suited up for his first regular season NFL game in this very stadium and hung a then rookie record 422 passing yards on a pretty talented Cardinals defense. Newton took serious advantage of Steve Smith's speed and veteran savvy against Patrick Peterson in his first NFL action, but it's highly unlikely the Carolina duo will be able to replicate that success. Not only has Peterson developed into one of the league's premier corners, but he's also got company now in former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals ultra-versatile, playmaking safety. With Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington also returning from suspension to an already fast and physical defense, it could be a much rougher visit this time around for Newton and his receivers. And despite being rested coming off the early-season bye week, old man DeAngelo Williams doesn't figure to continue his streak of three games topping 80 rushing yards against an Arizona defense only allowing 75.0 per contest... The Cardinals offense is the not-so-proud owner of one of the crazier stats in this young season. Arizona has somehow managed to produce two victories while converting just one third down in each, going 2-for-21 in wins and 12-for-27 in losses. Go figure. With a run game that's been severely limited the last two weeks due to Rashard Mendenhall's injured toe, Carson Palmer will have to be especially sharp. That may be difficult facing a powerful defensive front seven that gets after the quarterback, but with Larry Fitzgerald closing in on 100% Palmer may be able to take advantage of a shaky secondary and burn them when they blitz. Given that Carolina ranks seventh against the run expect the third downs to be long and the pass attempts to be plentiful. If that's in fact the case, talented third-down back Andre Ellington could have flex appeal in PPR formats.
Predictions: Williams contributes 90 total yards to stay valuable but has yet another score vultured by Mike Tolbert. Newton throws for 266 yards and finds Greg Olsen for a score, while adding 50 yards rushing. Palmer passes for 312 yards and hits Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd for touchdowns. Ellington leads a backfield rotation with 70 total yards. Cardinals 17-14.
Denver (-7) @ Dallas, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: There's a very real chance that Dallas will still be leading the NFC East at just 2-3 by Sunday's end, but there's a pretty slim shot they'll be doing so at 3-2. The Cowboys are ranked 28th in passing yards allowed per game at 304.5 and are tied for last in the league with 10 scores given up through the air. Enter Peyton Manning; cover your eyes, Cowboy fans. Of course while this is awful for Dallas' victory hopes, it actually bodes really well for Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, all of whom should be extremely busy trying to throw their way back into the game versus Denver's 30th ranked pass defense. So plenty of yards can be expected for this trio. The same may not work out for DeMarco Murray, however, who could be in line for down week after turning in nearly 300 total yards over the last two. The Broncos are only allowing 3.2 YPC and once Manning guns his guys to a lead it would be shocking to see Dallas remain committed to the run. It's an even bigger shame though for Miles Austin owners, as his hammy woes will likely keep him out of this favorable matchup... Wash, rinse, repeat. There's little to add or change when projecting the Broncos from week to week. It's impossible to say exactly who will catch them from one contest to the next, but you can bet there will be multiple touchdown passes and plenty of yards to go around - seriously, Manning has incompleted just 11 throws the last TWO weeks. Obviously this means you're keeping Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas active. And while a Dallas defense that's yet to allow a rushing touchdown is less than ideal, benching Knowshon Moreno in this offense seems a bit too cute. Count on the Broncos' top back to maintain his value regardless of matchup given how easily Denver can move the ball.
Predictions: Manning hits Welker, Decker and J. Thomas for touchdowns in a 316-yard performance. Moreno tacks on 85 total yards and punches in a short run. Murray nets 72 total yards, while Romo pitches it for 349 and touchdowns to Bryant (2) and Terrance Williams. Broncos 34-24.
Houston (+6.5) @ San Francisco, Sunday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: Jim Harbaugh and the Niners got back to what they do best in a Thursday drubbing of St. Louis. They outmuscled the Rams on both sides of the ball - and did so without Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith defensively. The 219 yards and three touchdowns they totaled on the ground was pure 49er football, but it was also against a weak Rams defense that had just been blasted for 175 by DeMarco Murray himself. Frank Gore looked similarly beastly with over 150 of his own against that defense, but the Texans are not normally that generous. Only the Seahawks behind the bulldozing Marshawn Lynch and elusive Russell Wilson have had much ground success against Houston. Of course if Brian Cushing is not cleared of a concussion suffered last week, that could pave an easier road for San Fran. Either way, expect the Niners to at least try to keep their rushing success going, especially with Vernon Davis still less than 100% with a hamstring injury. Without his speedy tight end Colin Kaepernick simply doesn't possess the weapons to have the passing game support this offense, particularly against the Texans top-ranked pass defense... What might the Vegas odds be on Matt Schaub throwing another pick-six? The Niners don't have one on the year yet, so maybe they're due. Were it not for Schaub's most egregious error of the three he's thrown in as many weeks, the Texans would be riding extremely high into this game with a win over the mighty Seahawks. And that win would have come on the heels of an otherwise awesome offensive performance in which Houston dropped 476 total yards on Seattle's elite defense. Schaub topped 350 yards through the air with a mix of the entirely uncoverable Andre Johnson, his two tight ends and Arian Foster. If they can avoid the natural letdown that could come with that heartbreaking loss their balanced attack could be too much for San Fran to handle, especially if Patrick Willis (groin) is out again. Foster and Ben Tate ran quite effectively on Seattle and a Niner D that had been punished on the ground for two weeks before visiting the league's worst rushing offense doesn't seem like much of a threat to slow them down. Defensively, it's a safe bet Houston will get an inspired effort from J.J. Watt after the superstar ended the Seattle loss bloodied and visibly agitated.
Predictions: Foster and Tate combine for 124 yards on the ground with the All-Pro finding the end zone. Schaub hits Johnson for a score in a 271-yard effort. Kaepernick throws for 206 yards and a touchdown to Jon Baldwin, while adding 56 yards with his legs. Gore totes it for 88 yards and a rushing score. 49ers 20-17.
San Diego (-4.5) @ Oakland, Sunday 11:35 p.m.
Comments: An Oakland Athletics MLB playoff game on Saturday night has forced the kickoff of the Raiders vs. Chargers to an unusual 11:35pm EST start time, which could have a major repercussion in the fantasy world if Darren McFadden (hamstring) ends up a game-time decision. That means unless you have options like Rashad Jennings, Danny Woodhead or one of the Falcons backs on your bench to swap in (chances are if you own Bilal Powell you're starting him anyways over an injured McFadden), you're likely going to have to sit Run DMC due to the uncertainty. That would be a shame versus a San Diego team allowing averages of 120.5 rushing yards per game at 5.2 YPC, but chances are that with an unhealthy run game - potentially no Marcel Reece (knee) as well - and the return of Terrelle Pryor against the Chargers' 29th-ranked pass defense, the Raiders will be passing it plenty anyways. That means that Denarius Moore may be the safest play among the Silver and Black... In any other season Philip Rivers would be the league MVP through four weeks given his incredible 118.8 passer rating with numbers like a 73.9% completion rate, 11 touchdowns and 300 yards per game. But there's that Peyton Manning guy right there in the AFC West dousing the record books in kerosene. What Rivers is doing though is equally, if not more so impressive when considering that his top two receivers - Danario Alexander (knee) and Malcom Floyd (neck) - are on IR, with Alexander having landed there in the preseason. Antonio Gates' big revival and the early exploits of Eddie Royal have been huge keys to Rivers' individual bounce back and while Royal has slowed, it's difficult to see Gates losing steam unless his body breaks down again (a distinct possibility, however). An Oakland D that's yet to registered a pick certainly keeps the dynamic duo No. 1 fantasy options this week. The same cannot be said though for Ryan Mathews, who despite coming off his first game over 100 total yards, is no more than a flex given his 3.5 YPC and allergy to the end zone (just two TD's over his last 17 contests). Danny Woodhead on the other hand could just be warming up after notching two scores last weekend. In PPR leagues he's a legitimate No. 2 tailback right now.
Predictions: Rivers slings it for 283 yards and scores to Gates and Keenan Allen. Woodhead runs one in to go with 78 total yards, while Mathews chips in 73 yards. McFadden sits as Jennings tallies 69 yards. Pryor rushes for a score and throws it for 205 yards and a TD to Rod Streater. Chargers 27-17.
New York Jets (+9) @ Atlanta, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The Falcons are desperate for a W after dropping a third loss in the final two minutes of a game in which they just couldn't make the winning plays needed in the clutch. Getting a Jets team that's becoming increasingly decimated by injury on the offensive side should help matters. For fantasy purposes though it could be a tough day for the top Falcons. Despite getting thrashed 38-13 by Tennessee the Jets are still ranked third in total yards allowed, and in particular are brutal versus the run, against which they also rank third. Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling have filled in for the injured Steven Jackson (quadriceps) admirably, especially the diminutive Rodgers, but facing a mauling and ferocious New York front seven could limit them severely. This unit is allowing just 3.0 YPC and has only relinquished one rushing score on the year. Conversely, while the Jets do boast the fifth-best pass defense in terms of yards, they've registered only a 7-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio, so Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez - fresh off a monster performance - should remain matchup proof... Geno Smith has now thrown at least two picks (seven total) in the last three weeks with only three passing scores over that period. He also lost two fumbles versus the Titans including a disastrous one in his own end zone. Now Smith will be without the services of Santonio Holmes for a minimum of two contests due to a hamstring injury and it appears likely he'll also be minus Stephen Hill who's yet to be cleared from a concussion. Considering the pair represents nearly 44% of the yards Smith has thrown for so far, chances are it will be an ugly Monday Night Football debut for the rookie. Jeremy Kerley and Kellen Winslow should by default see a bunch of targets, which could pay off against an Atlanta D ranked 26th against the pass, but that still leaves them as desperation plays. Bilal Powell on the other hand remains a strong option as long as Chris Ivory (hamstring) is still out and not robbing carries.
Predictions: Powell tallies 105 total yards and converts a short rushing score. Smith passes for 206 yards and two more interceptions, one of which is housed. Ryan hooks up with Jones and Roddy White for touchdowns in a 278-yard effort. Rodgers and Snelling combine for 93 total yards. Falcons 24-13.