RotoWire Partners

Game Capsules: Week 7 Game Breakdowns

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.

Seattle (-6.5) @ Arizona, Thursday 8:25 p.m.

Comments: For the first time since the season opener Carson Palmer connected on more than one passing score, and he did so versus a seriously stingy 49ers defense. Larry Fitzgerald was key in that as the star wideout toughed it out despite a sore hamstring and gritted his way 75 yards for one of those TD's. Arizona doesn't figure to be so fortunate this week, however, as Fitz tweaked his other hammy against the Niners and now has a short week to recover before getting glued with Richard Sherman and the Seattle "Legion of Boom" defense. Palmer's improving chemistry with second-year man Michael Floyd will need to take another leap if he wants to sniff 300 yards and two touchdowns, but again, that seems more likely to come another time. For the Cardinals to have much of a chance at putting enough points on the board to steal a W from the NFC West leaders, Palmer needs to protect the ball better by ending his streak of four straight games with multiple picks, and Arizona needs to continue feeding rookie back Andre Ellington. With limited touches in six weeks Ellington is averaging 7.0 YPC and 10.0 yards-per-catch with a score each way. His balance, ability to cut on a dime and acceleration are superb. In some ways he resembles a young Jamaal Charles with these traits. Rashard Mendenhall's presence limits Ellington's upside, but after seeing the latter post over 90 total yards and a score in San Fran, it may only be a matter of time before this split favors the rookie... Russell Wilson and crew returned to their winning ways but were not their usual dominant selves at home. The Titans defense proved to be the real deal as they held Wilson out of the end zone and limited Marshawn Lynch to just 3.7 YPC on his 21 attempts. A fast and aggressive Tennessee front seven kept Wilson very much on his toes for the third consecutive week as the Seahawks have severely struggled with protection since Russell Okung (toe) went on short-term IR. The Cardinals defense is at least equally fast and furious up front, but a banged up Calais Campbell (leg) may give Wilson something of a reprieve in the pocket. Still, expect the nifty signal caller to continue moving the ball effectively with his legs even when he isn't forced to scramble. The Fran Tarkenton-esque QB has racked up 240 yards on 33 rushes over the last three games and it has kept defenses off balance while moving the sticks at key moments. Of course, the more Wilson runs the less his receivers have value - what little they would to begin with given how much he spreads it around. Although none of the Seattle wideouts is a viable fantasy starter, Lynch remains an absolute stud. Even when he struggled to move it well on the ground last week he posted huge yardage numbers because of his involvement as a receiver (78 yards on four grabs).

Prediction: Ellington paces the Arizona backfield with 82 total yards and a receiving score, while Palmer also finds Floyd for a TD in a 218-yard effort. Wilson passes for 230 yards and connects with Sidney Rice for a touchdown while adding 56 yards and another score with his legs. Lynch rumbles for 82 yards and hits paydirt. Seahawks 24-17.

Tampa Bay (+7) @ Atlanta, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
No Julio Jones, very iffy status for Roddy White and the on-going absence of Steven Jackson has what was arguably the league's most explosive offense in the preseason looking grounded, one-dimensional and borderline finished. Matt Ryan is still an extremely talented passer though, so it's probably a bit early to pull the plug on this group. The team's season and playoff hopes are another story of course, as they're clearly finished, but Ryan may not be done just yet. He's a matured quarterback and with the ability to make others better, Ryan may still put up strong numbers without Jones. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez will certainly be called upon to step up. For this particular matchup though, if White has to sit Gonzalez is sure to draw constant double coverage while Douglas gets stuck with Darrelle Revis isolation. If this scenario plays out Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are likely to see a lot of action out of the backfield both running and catching, as the Falcons will likely struggle to move the ball... Mike Glennon does spin a pretty good ball when he's protected, and facing a second tame defense in as many weeks, he should keep the Bucs' air attack thriving. He resuscitated Vincent Jackson by feeding him 14 targets against a weak Philly secondary and that should remain a top priority versus Atlanta's thin unit. Meanwhile, Glennon has made undrafted rookie tight end Timothy Wright into a legitimate starting option in fantasy, as the athletic target has become his fellow rookie's security blanket. In two starts he's converted 15 looks into 12 catches and 132 yards, earning him at least a spot on someone's bench. After racking up a whopping 100 carries in the team's first four games, including 27 in Glennon's debut, it was disconcerting to see Doug Martin only receive 16 attempts against a Gumby-like Eagles D, but that was dictated more so by the scoreboard as Tampa trailed early. Given what Geno Smith and the Jets were able to do to a Falcons team that no longer has Julio Jones and may also be missing Roddy White, expect Martin to get fed plenty against this divisional foe.

Predictions: Glennon passes for 244 yards and touchdowns to Jackson and Wright, while Martin totals 121 yards and finds paydirt rushing. Rodgers and Snelling combine for 108 yards with the mighty mite scampering for six. Ryan finds Levine Toilolo for a touchdown in a 230-yard effort. Buccaneers 21-17.

Cincinnati (+3) @ Detroit, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Not surprisingly, a banged up Calvin Johnson served as little more than a decoy when he suited up last minute to face Cleveland in Week 6. It's clear that Johnson is not himself as he did next to nothing with his eight targets and even dropped touchdown when Matthew Stafford led him perfectly on a quick slant. Still, his presence completely changes the Lions offense, as Stafford was able to find openings to other targets en route to nearly 250 yards and four touchdowns. Gigantic rookie tight end Joseph Fauria was the prime beneficiary, as the 6-foot-7 red-zone monster came down with all three of his catches for touchdowns to give him five scores on only seven grabs this year. With Johnson making improvements this week in practice, expect the Detroit air attack to keep thriving against a Cinci D that just allowed Thaddeus Lewis to find the end zone twice despite it being the former Buffalo practice-squader's second career start. Meanwhile, Reggie Bush proved as safe as they come when he racked up over 130 total yards and a score on a Browns defense that had been one of the stingiest to opposing RB's... The Bengals finally got their offense into high gear last week, netting 483 total yards and finding the end zone three times after combining for only 607 yards and 19 points in the two previous contests. Andy Dalton's arm came alive as he finally topped 300 yards and registered his first three-touchdown outing. The key to the passing attack seemed to be getting the ball into the hands of their speediest playmakers. A.J. Green turned in his best performance since Week 1, while Marvin Jones and Giovani Bernard had career receiving days. The Buffalo defense is a more porous unit than Detroit's though and one that can get burned due to their over-aggressive nature. The Lions may be below average in terms of passing yards allowed, but they do keep receivers in front of them and attack the ball well in the air. Detroit is tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions and their 7-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio is among the best. Dalton will have a tall order posting a similar stat line, and for a realistic chance to steal a road win, the Bengals will be better served to build on a season-high 165 rushing yards behind the tough running of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and change-of-pace of Bernard. After all, Detroit is 29th against the run and allowing a league-worst 5.4 YPC.

Predictions: Bush racks up 124 total yards and scores on the ground. Stafford slings it for 289 yards and TD's to Johnson and Fauria. Dalton throws for 247 yards and connects with Mohamed Sanu and Jermaine Gresham for scores. Bernard totals 83 yards, while Green-Ellis vultures a short touchdown. Bengals 27-24.

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

Comments:
Chicago can be thrown and run on effectively, but the key to putting points on the board and beating the Bears is more simple than gaining yards. For Washington to stay in this game all they need to do is take care of the ball and put pressure on Jay Cutler. That's the formula. Chicago is tied for second in the league with 17 takeaways, so expect Robert Griffin to be extra careful with his throws. Given his mobility and the decrepit Bears pass rush (a pathetic eight sacks in six weeks), Griffin should have no problem taking his time to find open targets. Of course, with Charles Tillman expected to return from a knee injury that forced him out of last week's win, Pierre Garcon may not be Griffin's usual favorite after garnering at least six catches in each game thus far. And seeing as how there is no clear-cut No. 2 target in the Capital, don't be surprised if Griffin is quick to tuck and run. With Alfred Morris and backup Roy Helu both running efficiently (5.2 and 4.4 YPC respectively), the Skins may be poised to return to the dominating ground game that led the league last year in rushing... Though they only registered one sack, the Redskins consistently put pressure right in Tony Romo's face and disrupted his timing last Sunday, limiting him to only 170 yards a week after he topped 500. While the Bears have been enormously better after years of letting Jay Cutler get creamed (sacked only nine times thus far), the gunslinger can still be rattled into mistakes, as we saw in a loss to the Lions and a near loss to Minnesota when he registered five of his six interceptions. The Redskins have been one of the most generous defenses though in terms of yards (395.0) and points (28.6) allowed per game, while also not forcing many turnovers (only eight total), so Cutler may well continue burning defense with twin towers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The 937 yards Cutler has thrown for in the last three weeks is the highest three-game total for the Bears QB since he pitched it for over 4,500 yards as a Bronco in 2008. That bodes well for the fantasy hopes of Cutler and his targets despite the solid Washington pass rush. And when Cutler isn't beating them with his arm, Matt Forte should have little trouble versus a Skins group giving up 123.4 yards per game rushing.

Predictions: Cutler hooks up with Marshall, Forte and Martellus Bennett in a 301-yard performance, while the tailback tallies 122 total yards. Morris rumbles for 106 yards and punches in a short TD. Griffin also runs one in while going for 238 yards and touchdowns to Garcon and Jordan Reed. Redskins 27-24.

St. Louis (+6) @ Carolina, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Cam Newton did his best Super Man impression last week in a big bounce back from his implosion in Arizona in Week 5. Newton pulled a complete 180 by going from a 4-turnover affair to a 4-TD gem. A banged up Vikings defense that cannot pressure the quarterback was just what the doctor ordered for Newton and a Rams unit that has been absolutely stomped on at times provides a nice window for an encore performance. St. Louis is coming off by far its most complete showing of the season in which they dominated the sinking ship that is the Texans, but led by a rising Newton, the Rams are highly unlikely to have similar success. Brandon LaFell has developed into a strong complement to veteran Steve Smith, and the bigger, younger wideout may even be on the cusp of overtaking Smith in terms of fantasy value after posting 207 yards and three touchdowns in three games. However, while Newton's prospects look very rosy, the real star for Carolina this week could be DeAngelo Williams. The 30th-ranked Rams run defense has been shredded in three of the last four outings, so count on a big day from a spry Williams... The Rams will find the going much tougher this week. A 4-0 turnover differential versus Houston allowed Sam Bradford to get in the end zone three times while only having to throw it 16, a fairly unusual and unrepeatable stat line. Bradford figures to have to throw it close to three times as much this week if the Rams want to move the ball on a very tough Carolina defense that's ranked second in points allowed (13.6) and third in yards allowed (299.2) per game. The Panthers front seven has been particularly stout and finding running room will likely be quite a task for rookie Zac Stacy. While Stacy has performed well in his first two starts with 32 carries for 157 yards (4.9 YPC), it's a safe bet no Ram back will be able to run it on a unit that has held Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch to a combined 105 rushing yards.

Predictions: Stacy fights for 96 total yards and takes his first-career goal-line plunge. Bradford throws for 187 yards and a touchdown to Austin Pettis. Newton pitches it for 240 yards and scores to Smith and Ted Ginn, while adding a TD with his legs. Williams piles up 138 total yards and breaks a long run to deny Mike Tolbert the vulture. Panthers 31-17.

San Diego (-7.5) @ Jacksonville, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
Led by Justin Blackmon's monster day and an inspired effort from the defense, the Jaguars gave Denver a surprisingly difficult time for nearly three full quarters. With Chad Henne under center and Blackmon back in the lineup Jacksonville's offense can actually sustain drives and score points. If Cecil Shorts hadn't gone down early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury they may have even kept it tighter into the fourth. Shorts' availability will be key to the balance of the offense and it sounds like a matter of him being able to play through the pain of a sprained shoulder. Shorts will likely be a game-time call for a prime matchup against a Chargers D that is still averaging 273 yards per game through the air and are the owners of a woeful 10-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. If Shorts can go don't expect Blackmon to see anywhere near the whopping 20 targets he garnered versus Denver, but don't be surprised to see him once again top 100 yards. On the ground it has to be noted that Maurice Jones-Drew has garnered at least 19 touches in three of the last four blowouts Jacksonville has suffered. In those outings he's had no less than 8.5 fantasy points in standard scoring. Don't bury "Pocket Hercules" just yet... Ryan Mathews just turned in his first 100-yard rushing game since December 11, 2011 when he capped a three-game streak of topping the mark. It was just the fifth time since that contest that Mathews was given 20-plus carries, but versus a Jacksonville defense ranked dead last in giving up 152.5 yards per game on the ground, expect the totes and the good times to keep rolling for Mathews. Danny Woodhead meanwhile remains a PPR star as he registered at least five catches for the fifth consecutive game and has become a favorite of Philip Rivers in a ball-control style offense in San Diego. Another rising star who figures to take advantage of the hot matchup against a Jags D tied for the most passing scores allowed (14) is rookie Keenan Allen. The big-bodied wideout has become Rivers' No. 1 receiver in a three-week span in which he's piled up 20 catches for 302 yards and two scores. He feels a solid No. 2 fantasy receiver given the sweet matchup, while Antonio Gates remains a high-end tight end considering his relationship with Rivers, who figures to have an easier time finding the end zone than he did versus a stout Indy defense.

Predictions: Henne tosses it for 281 yards and touchdowns to Blackmon and Marcedes Lewis. Jones-Drew contributes 73 total yards. Mathews slashes his way to 117 on the ground and finds paydirt, while Rivers hooks up with Allen, Gates and Vincent Brown for touchdowns. Chargers 28-20.

Buffalo (+8) @ Miami, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
A bye week and a backup quarterback could be just what the Dolphins need to get back on the winning track. Of course, Joe Flacco did little damage to them in their last loss and Thaddeus Lewis actually played an excellent football game in a near upset over Cincinnati last week, so the second part of that equation may not translate if Lewis' sprained foot doesn't limit him. What Miami really needs though is to finally get a balanced offense after letting Ryan Tannehill pitch it 182 times through five weeks while the backs have attempted just 78 combined runs. As a result the Dolphins are throwing down a welcome mat to defenses, simply begging them to blitz. So far it has resulted in Tannehill being sacked a league leading 24 times in five games (a pace that would have him going down 77 times on the year). That formula doesn't figure to end well versus a Bills defense ranked third with 21 sacks. If Miami doesn't put more trust into Lamar Miller - something they absolutely should do against a Buffalo D allowing 124.2 rushing yards per game - expect Mario Williams to have a field day against weak-link left tackle Jonathan Martin and take his 8.0 sacks into double digits... Lewis was by no means flawless in his second career start, but he proved to be up to the challenge. Displaying a calmness and boldness not usually reserved for guys walking off the practice squad, Lewis stayed patient throughout the game and picked his moments well to take shots. With his arm commanding respect from the pocket despite the absence of No. 1 wideout Steve Johnson (back) the run game did not suffer much at all. If anything, the only issue with the ground game was that Buffalo could have run it more. Given Lewis' sore foot, don't be surprised if the Bills take a cue from Baltimore, who pounded Ray Rice to grind down the game and play ball control to beat Miami. C.J. Spiller is still less than 100% with his sore ankle but has managed 6.2 YPC the last two weeks in spite of it. Fred Jackson has churned out the tough yardage. With Johnson returning the Bills offense could be primed to steal one on the road and climb closer to 0.500 in a weak division.

Predictions: Miller rushes for 91 yards and a score while Tannehill guns it for 249 yards and touchdowns to Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. Lewis connects with Scott Chandler for a score in a 206-yard day. Spiller tallies 114 total yards but Jackson vultures a short TD. Bills 23-21.

New England (-4) @ New York Jets, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
In the season's first rematch of divisional opponents Geno Smith will get his a shot to redeem himself against a New England defense that has lost its top defensive leaders to injury. Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and Jerod Mayo (pectoral) may are on IR, while star corner Aqib Talib is nursing a hip flexor that forced him out of the Saints thriller. Smith may not be fortunate enough to have Talib sit, but with the top two hole-pluggers out the Jets ground attack could take significant pressure off the rookie. Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory both played well in the teams' last meeting and could be in line for more work and even better results. The dreadful New Orleans rush attack was even able to pile up over 100 yards and a score on a Pats' front seven going downhill fast, so don't be surprised to see New York go run-heavy in an attempt to control the clock and keep Tom Brady sidelined. When the Jets do have to throw, Jeff Cumberland and Stephen Hill will likely remain the featured targets... Bill Belichick is still one of the top in-game strategists around, as he proved yet again with his handling of the final possessions last week that resulted in a last-second game-winner from Brady. So although his defense is a bit of a mess right now, don't be surprised to see him gameplan and then adjust to keep Smith flustered. If he can force the Jets rookie QB into his fifth game with multiple picks the Patriots should have just enough juice on offense to stay perfect in the division. The momentum Stevan Ridley gained last Sunday against a weak Saints run defense could go a long way if he can find even close to that success against the Jets' second-ranked run D. A balanced attack would be a huge lift to Brady since Danny Amendola is almost certainly out after suffering a concussion and Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) has yet to get his tune-up game. Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson figure to remain plenty busy as the nucleus of the New England passing game.

Predictions: Smith throws for 216 yards and hits Cumberland for a score. Powell and Ivory combine for 147 total yards with the latter punching in a short touchdown. Ridley grinds out 73 on the ground while Brady zips it for 264 yards and finds Gronkowski twice in the end zone. Jets 20-17.

Dallas (+3) @ Philadelphia, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Comments:
A major divisional rivalry will be reborn as the Cowboys and Eagles meet for the first time in the Chip Kelly era, and it will possibly bear witness to the future QB of that era. A combination of six total Nick Foles touchdowns in the last five quarters and a ginger Michael Vick hamstring has cracked the door to a permanent changing of the guard (or in this case quarterback) in Philly. And to the delight of anyone savvy enough to have snatched up Foles, the second-year signal caller will look to rip up Dallas' 30th-ranked pass defense. Not only is that unit giving up over 300 yards per game and tied for most passing scores allowed with 14, but they're also severely banged up along the defensive line and could be without DeMarcus Ware (quadriceps). With the deep speed of DeSean Jackson keeping the defense on its heels, don't be surprised to see LeSean McCoy shred them on the ground as well... The Cowboys will live and die by Tony Romo in this matchup. DeMarco Murray's (sprained MCL) absence dramatically downgrades the run game and puts all the onus on Romo to carry the offense. Joseph Randle is a gifted athlete who had a ton of success at Oklahoma State, but he's not in Kansas (eh close enough) anymore. While Randle did manage to find the end zone in relief of Murray last week, he also totaled just 17 yards on 11 carries against a woeful Washington defense that had entered the week allowing over 140.0 rushing yards per game at 4.7 YPC. So while Randle could be worth an emergency start, particular in PPR formats since he's a capable receiver, he's not likely to match Murray's usual production. That means Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams should find their numbers rise again versus the Eagles' 31st-ranked pass defense. Miles Austin could even join the show again as he slowly returns from his hammy wars. After all, Philly just let Mike Glennon pitch it for over 270 yards and two TD's.

Predictions: Randle totals 52 yards while Romo slings it for 322 and touchdowns to Bryant, Williams and Austin. Foles matches those scores with strikes to Riley Cooper (2) and Zach Ertz in a 288-yard performance. McCoy racks up 133 total yards and finds the end zone rushing. Eagles 34-27.

San Francisco (-4) @ Tennessee, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments:
It's almost unfair for Ryan Fitzpatrick to take over the starting job at the beginning of a three-game stretch versus the Chiefs, Seahawks and 49ers. By sheer necessity Fitzpatrick has found some success with his legs as his scrambling has outrushed Chris Johnson 83-50 in two weeks. Although the Niners don't have their usual pass rush with Aldon Smith out indefinitely to get rehab and deal with his legal troubles, more of the same struggles can be expected for a Titans offensive unit that cannot match San Fran's physicality. Johnson is not getting the holes to break the big play and has been dreadfully ineffective on the ground as a result with 71 yards on 37 carries (1.9 YPC) in three weeks. It's almost unimaginable to start him at that pace even though the once-stout 49ers front seven has been run on this year. Fitzpatrick cannot keep the defense honest enough with the lack of a true No. 1 target, so Johnson will likely be hard-pressed to find room to roam once again. Kendall Wright though has played his way into a steady, albeit unsexy flex option with at least five catches and 54 yards in five consecutive weeks... Seems like Vernon Davis might be past the hamstring issue that held him out of Week 3. The stud tight end has scored in three straight games, including two that went for over 60 yards and just blasted the Cardinals athletic back seven for 180 yards and two TD's. His individual play got Colin Kaepernick to over 200 yards passing for the first time since Week 1, but the Niners signal caller remains a risky fantasy play at best. The Titans pass defense has allowed only six touchdowns while also snatching six picks. Davis and ole reliable Frank Gore - who has had at least 10 fantasy points in four straight - look like the only pieces worth talking about in the San Francisco offense. And they're certainly the only ones worth rolling consistently in fantasy.

Predictions: Kaepernick connects with Anquan Boldin for a score in a 199-yard effort, while Gore churns out 104 yards and punches in two TD's. Johnson finds nowhere near as much success with only 62 total yards. Fitzpatrick passes for 236 yards and hooks up with Delanie Walker for the team's lone touchdown. 49ers 24-13.

Baltimore (+2) @ Pittsburgh, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Comments:
Behind a stingy defense that registered its first two turnovers of the season the Steelers finally notched a win. The offense predictably struggled to run the ball versus a Jets' defense leading the league with just 3.0 YPC allowed, but Ben Roethlisberger played arguably his best game of the year as moved the ball efficiently through the air and led five scoring drives. For this bitter rivalry game though Le'Veon Bell will need to produce a better showing than 16 carries for 34 yards if Pittsburgh hopes to climb back out of the division cellar. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh and Big Ben that figures to be a tall order against a Baltimore D ranked eighth against the run and tied for the fewest rushing scores allowed with just one through six weeks. A stymied ground game figures to translate to plenty of dropbacks for Roethlisberger, so while top targets Antonio Brown and Heath Miller should benefit in the stat column, more dropbacks will likely equal more being on his back. The Ravens are second in the league with 22 sacks after all, and Big Ben has taken 18 in only five games... Baltimore has had its most success versus Pittsburgh in their recent rivalry when Ray Rice is leaned on and finding running lanes. The Steelers run D is far from the steel curtain days, as they currently rank 22nd with nearly 115.0 yards allowed per game, but Rice has been unable to run efficiently this year. His 2.8 YPC make him a scary fantasy option, especially with the Ravens' frustrating tendency to randomly go away from their star, but in a favorable matchup that will no doubt motivate the All-Pro tailback Rice could return to business as usual. When they do throw Joe Flacco will have to figure out how to advance the ball on a tight Pittsburgh back seven that has limited the opposition to only four touchdown passes on the year and the fourth fewest yards per game passing at only 196.0 per outing. After a highly disappointing showing - his first down game of the year - expect Torrey Smith to get back on track. After all, the anemic Steelers pass rush will give Flacco plenty of time to let the speedy Smith get behind the defense.

Predictions: Flacco pitches it for 212 yards and a score to Tandon Doss, while Rice contributes 92 total yards and runs one in. Bell totals 74 yards but is held scoreless. Roethlisberger finds Miller and Jerricho Cotchery for touchdowns in a 266-yard outing. Steelers 17-14.

Cleveland (+10) @ Green Bay, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
A broken leg has Randall Cobb out a minimum of eight weeks while James Jones is at best a game-time decision with a sprained PCL. Fortunately, Green Bay still has Aaron Rodgers and the former league MVP has the goods to make the most of what he has left. In the event Jones has to sit this one the Packers could go run heavy with bruising rookie Eddie Lacy paving the way and shifty rook Johnathan Franklin adding a change of pace. When they do throw though Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley figure to split a huge number of targets, making them must-starts. While star corner Joe Haden could limit Nelson some, Rodgers has the accuracy to still beat tight coverage and Nelson has the hands and supreme body control to make enough plays. No stone in the Packers offense should be left unturned, however. Loosely translated, that means stashing second-year man Jarrett Boykin is a wise idea. In the event Jones struggles to stay on the field the all-time leading receiver in Virginia Tech history could serve as Rodgers' No. 2 wideout, which almost assures him fantasy utility... Having been sacked 18 times in only four games this year, Brandon Weeden has spent an awful lot of time on his back. That may change though against a Packer defense that has already ruled out top pass rushers Clay Matthews (thumb) and Nick Perry (foot) and has primary reserve Mike Neal (shoulder) looking very iffy. If Weeden can buy some time the weapons are there for him to do damage against the 28th-ranked pass defense. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are known commodities at this point, but with Greg Little stepping up to make some tough catches and Chris Ogbonnaya providing a strong checkdown option out of the backfield, the big-armed QB could make enough plays to not only post good fantasy totals, but also put the Pack back on the wrong end of 0.500. And seeing as how Green Bay boasts the third-best run defense, count on plenty of Weeden and little of Willis McGahee.

Predictions: McGahee totes it for 46 yards as Weeden airs it out for 316 yards and touchdowns to Gordon and Cameron. Rodgers connects with Finley and Boykin for TD's in a 261-yard effort. Lacy leads the backfield charge with 95 yards and a score. Packers 24-17.

Houston (+6.5) @ Kansas City, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Comments:
Amazingly a Chiefs team that was 2-14 last year going up against a Texans team that entered 2013 with realistic Super Bowl aspirations looks like a tremendous Survivor pick this week. The Texans are a mess right now on both sides of the ball while Kansas City has a steady, albeit unspectacular offense and a dominating defense. Jamaal Charles should have little trouble churning out the yards as he has every week, but the real fantasy star in this one may yet again be the DEF/Special teams of KC. The league's leader in sacks (30) and forced turnovers (18) figures to have little trouble preying on an offense that's thrown a pick six in a ridiculous five straight games... With Matt Schaub (ankle/foot), the trigger man on four of those egregious pick sixes, out of commission this week third-stringer Case Keenum will leapfrog T.J. Yates to make his first career start. Texans coach Gary Kubiak says the team is looking for a "spark" but throwing Keenum to the wolves in one of the toughest stadiums to play in seems like somewhat of a desperation move. Although Keenum is the NCAA's most prolific QB with the records for passing yards and touchdowns, this Houston offense is nothing like the spread aerial attack from his Houston Cougars days. And the Chiefs sure as hell are not a Conference USA defense. Still, Kubiak has little choice given how poorly Yates played in the second half last week when he replaced the injured Schaub. Look for Arian Foster and Ben Tate to be featured heavily to compensate for the inexperience of Keenum and the overwhelming pressure the Chiefs defense places on opposing passers. After all, a KC unit allowing 5.1 YPC is susceptible to the ground attack.

Predictions: Smith throws for 212 yards and a touchdown to Dwayne Bowe, while Charles piles up 141 yards and a rushing score. Foster tallies 144 total yards and scores on the ground, with Tate chipping in 56 rushing. Keenum connects with Lestar Jean for a TD in a 188-yard effort. Chiefs 23-17.

Denver (-6.5) @ Indianapolis, Sunday 8:30 p.m.

Comments:
It may be Peyton Manning's homecoming, but the pressure in this one lies squarely on Andrew Luck's burly shoulders. He is the heir apparent but that doesn't mean he's anywhere near equipped to outgun "The Sheriff" in his old stomping grounds. Tony Romo pitched it for over 500 yards and five touchdowns and still fell shy. Luck hasn't thrown for over 500 yards or five touchdowns in any TWO consecutive games this year. In fact, Luck has just two games over 250 yards and only one topping 300 and he's yet to throw for three scores in a game this season. Of course in an attempt to keep pace with Manning that could certainly change. The Broncos defense has had nice moments this year but even Chad Henne reached 300 yards on their dead last pass defense. That means T.Y. Hilton should be in line for a bounce-back performance while Reggie Wayne and Coby Fleener could have their best outings to date. On the ground, however, the matchup with Denver's top-ranked run defense and combo of his recent poor play and the likely circumstances of the contest strongly suggests benching Trent Richardson. He's not been as involved in the passing game as Donald Brown and looks like the weakest link in the Indy offense this Sunday... The return of Manning is equivalent to Brett Favre returning to Lambeau field and beating Green Bay as a Viking - only Favre tossed four touchdowns in that contest to an average group of targets. Manning will face a lesser Colts defense with a markedly better receiving corps. Four touchdowns may be reached at halftime of this one. As usual that means all Broncos starting skill guys are must-starts in fantasy. While Indianapolis will likely be forced to throw it more, Denver can run as they see fit, so Knowshon Moreno appears set for another big day facing off with the Colts' 31st-ranked run defense.

Predictions: Richardson and Brown combine for 81 total yards with Brown scoring on a screen pass. Luck also hits Hilton and Wayne for touchdowns in a 326-yard performance. Moreno tallies 126 total yards and a rushing score. Manning passes for 368 yards and touchdowns to Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas (2). Broncos 41-24.

Minnesota (+3) @ New York Giants, Monday 8:30 p.m.

Comments:
Peyton Hillis. The Giants running back situation has grown so bleak that after already signing Brandon Jacobs off the street - who to his credit was able to turn back the clock in a 100-plus yard, 2-TD showing - New York has turned once again to a washed-up bruiser. With Jacobs ailing from a hammy tweak suffered because 31-year-old running backs who sat out more than a full year aren't intended by God to carry the ball over 20 times, the G-Men need an emergency fallback plan. Enter Hillis. Though he was dreadful in his one-year stint in Kansas City and couldn't stick as Doug Martin's backup this summer, Hillis is still young enough at only 27 years old to pull a surprise comeback. At this time the former Madden cover boy is little more than depth, but if Jacobs is limited or can't suit up Monday, the door could be wide open. At the end of the night though, Eli Manning and Co. figure to go pass-heavy versus a Vikes defense ranked 29th in yards allowed through the air and tied for second most with 13 TD tosses given up. They also have seven picks of course, so watch out for Manning to add to his easily league-leading 15. When he doesn't throw it to purple jerseys though, he may look to feature Hakeem Nicks to boost the trade value of the wideout New York is rumored to be shopping... Inexplicably Adrian Peterson saw a season-low 10 carries last Sunday despite averaging 6.2 YPC. Expect that to change dramatically this week as Josh Freeman is set to make his first start a mere two weeks after strolling into town. While the veteran QB has the physical tools to handle the job it's difficult to imagine he'll have enough of the playbook and the chemistry necessary for the team to throw it very often. That means despite the tasty matchup against a Giants D giving up a league-high average of 34.8 points per game, none of the Minnesota pass catchers is an advisable fantasy option. As the year progresses though, Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson could see their values spike.

Predictions: Manning throws it for 276 yards and touchdowns to Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle, while Michael Cox leads the backfield with 36 yards rushing. Freeman pitches it for 168 yards and a score to Cordarrelle Patterson. Peterson rips off 164 yards and two TD's on the ground to edge New York. Vikings 24-21 in OT.