Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Tennessee, Thursday 8:25 p.m.
Comments: Both the Titans and Colts received huge hits last Sunday as the only AFC South team to leave Week 10 with a victory was the only AFC team that had yet to win this year. Tennesseeís loss of Jake Locker to a Lisfranc foot injury is considerably more significant of course in the grand scheme of things, as Ryan Fitzpatrick will now be relied on to keep the Titans in the playoff hunt. Being just two games in back of Indy, the Titans are in a must-win situation if they want to stay alive. If the Colts team that never really showed up versus St. Louis makes the trip to Nashville, Fitzpatrick and a Tennessee offense with solid weapons should be able to get within a game of the division. The Colts have allowed four touchdown passes of more than 40 yards in the past two weeks, so Fitzpatrick could be poised for a big game. Aside from a trip to Seattle, his other appearances of extended action have resulted in five combined touchdowns versus the Chiefs and Jags, including two rushing scores and over 500 passing yards. Kendall Wright has not scored a touchdown since Week 2, but heís also posted at least 54 yards in every game since, so he looks like the best bet if daring to take a chance on the Colts being burned again by a wideout. Chris Johnson looks like every bit as unnerving a fantasy start as the Titansí receivers after watching him go for a measly 2.5 YPC versus a Jacksonville D that was dead last versus the run, especially when considering how the Colts were able to limit Zac Stacy to 62 yards on 26 carries... The Colts offense is a mess without Reggie Wayne to serve as a steady chain-mover. Trent Richardson and the run game are simply not getting it done consistently or efficiently enough to set up more convertible 3rd downs. As a result teams are able to tee off on Andrew Luck, who is struggling to handle the pressure given his ultra-thin receiving corps. In the past two weeks Luck has been sacked seven times and hit another 18, while completing just 47-of-87 passes and turning it over four times. The offensive line woes need to turn around or Indy may find itself in jeopardy of winning the division. Of course, besides the line requiring a big step up in play, rediscovering a physical defense that limited big plays over the first seven games would go a long way towards improving the run game. Playing from behind has limited Richardson and Donald Brown to a paltry 21 carries over two weeks. The catch-up mode has really only benefited T.Y. Hilton in fantasy play, as heís racked up 251 yards and three scores on 14 catches the past two weeks. A stingy pair of corners in Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty could make things difficult on the playmaking wideout, especially on a defense thatís allowed only two TDís to receivers all season, but given his role in this offense itís hard to not consider Hilton a must-start.
Prediction: Johnson totals 108 yards and finds the end zone rushing, while Fitzpatrick connects with Delanie Walker and Justin Hunter for TDís in a 249-yard effort. Luck pitches it for 284 yards and scores to Hilton and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Brown leads the backfield with 86 total yards, but Richardson vultures a short touchdown. Titans 24-21.
New York Jets (+1) @ Buffalo, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: C.J. Spiller needs to be benched until his ankle is 100% healthy, which could easily mean he's useless for the rest of 2013. Now, chances are unless you're in an 8-team league or just loaded at running back, you don't have the luxury of benching Spiller. But at less than 100% he's a highly risky play from week to week and is completely reliant on a huge run to post a nice stat line. Both Spiller and Fred Jackson were shut down versus a Steelers D that entered Week 10 ranked 31st versus the run, so drawing the league's stingiest run defense should be a major red flag to find the pair a comfy seat on the fantasy bench. In September when the teams last met Jackson managed over 100 total yards on 10 touches, but that was buoyed by a season-best 59-yard scamper. And that was nearly two months and a lot of hits ago for his 32-year-old body. With EJ Manuel still getting his game legs under him after missing four contests with a sprained LCL and now without the services of Steve Johnson, who suffered a groin injury versus Pitt, the Buffalo offense as a whole looks like it may get lambasted by the Jets' top-notch defense coming off its bye week and in the thick of the Wild Card hunt... Geno Smith posted a season-high 331 yards when he first met the Bills' defense, but nearly half of those went to Santonio Holmes, who has missed the previous five outings with a hamstring injury. Holmes looks ready to return after the extended downtime, but how many snaps he'll be able to play and how sharp he'll be is anyone's guess. Still, Holmes could be needed badly given the state of the New York receiving corps. Jeremy Kerley (elbow) will be out and Stephen Hill has been M.I.A. for weeks. With tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow returning from a concussion and a suspension respectively, the pair may form Smith's top targets in a divisional game that will almost surely see Buffalo's best defensive effort. Given the state of the Bills offense though, it would be a bit surprising if the Jets don't lean on the legs of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell to slog out a low-scoring affair in the cold Buffalo weather.
Predictions: Spiller and Jackson combine for 117 total yards with Jackson getting the bigger share. Manuel tosses it for 171 yards and a score to Scott Chandler. Smith hooks up with Winslow for a touchdown in a 224-yard effort. Ivory leads the backfield with 88 yards rushing and finds paydirt. Jets 17-13.
Baltimore (+3) @ Chicago, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: No Jay Cutler, no problem. Or at least that's what Marc Trestman should have been saying much earlier in the Detroit loss. Josh McCown has been very sharp in relief of Cutler over the last three games for Chicago and to try riding an obviously hurt quarterback in a winnable contest could haunt the Bears if they're on the couch come January. Fortunately for Chicago a friendly slate of games remains, starting with a defending champion Ravens team dragging one of the league's most sluggish offenses into Soldier Field. However, while they're incapable of going up and down the field and lighting up the scoreboard, Baltimore does boast a physical defense that will give most offenses trouble. Matt Forte in particular could be in for a rough outing, as the Ravens 10th-ranked run defense allows just 3.7 YPC and leads the league with only one rushing score given up all year. They've also limited their opponents to nine passing touchdowns since the Week 1 floodgates were opened to Peyton Manning, so despite having two physical mismatches in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, McCown and the aerial attack could struggle more than usual... Ray Rice is borderline unplayable. He proclaimed himself healthy coming out of the team's Week 8 bye and has since carried it 29 times for a monumentally disappointing 47 yards (1.6 YPC). He's matched that rushing total with 47 receiving, which is the only thing keeping him on the precipice of fantasy utility. Well, that and the fact that Bernard Pierce has been almost equally ineffective in his last four appearances with 26 carries for 64 yards (2.5 YPC). The 30th-ranked rushing offense has a shot to redeem itself, however. If they cannot produce versus the 31st-ranked Bears run defense - a unit that's allowed 553 rushing yards and five touchdowns in its last three - they can officially be buried for the season. For one more week though, Rice has a puncher's chance. As for Joe Flacco, he gets the benefit of Charles Tillman (triceps) and Lance Briggs (shoulder) being out of commission. Torrey Smith looks like a must-start given those circumstances, but he's about the only Raven that can truly be counted on for a nice game given the dreadful state of this offense.
Predictions: Flacco throws for 238 yards and touchdowns to Smith and Marlon Brown. Rice redeems himself some with 82 total yards and a short touchdown. Forte totals 104 yards and catches one of McCown's two passing scores. The other goes to Alshon Jeffery in a 258-yard effort. Ravens 24-17.
Cleveland (+6) @ Cincinnati, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: The Bengals are in serious danger of losing control of the AFC North with a relatively hot Cleveland team coming to town following their bye week. Andy Dalton has gone from hot to cold over the last two weeks and was a Hail Mary away from another lackluster fantasy performance in the second consecutive loss. Facing a Browns defense that ranks among the league's best in sacks and YPC allowed could severely limit the offense, as it did in their last meeting when Cincinnati generated a season-low in points (six). Joe Haden has developed into one of the elite cover corners in the league and if he can take A.J. Green and Dalton out of their usual rhythm, this offense may struggle yet again. On the ground Giovani Bernard had one of the worst rushing performances of his promising young career against Cleveland's big and aggressive front seven. If the line cannot sustain blocks long enough for Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to avoid getting gang tackled after just a few steps it will be another long day for Cinci... In his first two starts as the Browns' signal caller Jason Campbell was nearly flawless versus two of the top defenses in the league. He burned Kansas City and Baltimore for 555 yards and five touchdowns without registering a single turnover, and he did his damage by utilizing a variety of weapons and not just leaning on studs Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. In the win over the defending champions Greg Little and Davone Bess led the way. While neither is an advisable fantasy option at this point, they both need to be watched closely given the change under center. Little has dynamic ability with a big, athletic body, and if he can make the easy catches he's struggled with in the past he could emerge as a go-to chain mover for Campbell. With absolutely no semblance of a run game behind Willis McGahee's sloth-like 2.6 YPC, the Browns will be pitching it plenty going forward. That makes each of their top-four targets valuable as long as Campbell can continue his fine play. Versus a Bengals D that's allowed three passing scores to the likes of Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill in their losing skid, the good times may keep rolling for Campbell and Cleveland against a unit missing the rock of their defensive line in Geno Atkins (ACL) and their best corner in Leon Hall (Achilles).
Predictions: Campbell throws for 255 yards and touchdowns to Gordon and Greg Little, while McGahee grinds his way to 48 on the ground. Bernard and Green-Ellis combine for 125 total yards with the veteran finding the end zone. Dalton passes for 236 yards and hooks up with Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert for TD's. Bengals 21-17.
Washington (+3.5) @ Philadelphia, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: In the three games Nick Foles has started and finished this year the Eagles have gone 3-0. All Foles has done to contribute in those victories is complete 70.1% of his passes for 13 touchdowns, 930 yards and zero interceptions at a whopping 12.1 YPA. He may not be the long-term solution in Philadelphia, but it's awfully hard to believe Chip Kelly when he suggests that his quarterback situation is unsettled until Michael Vick (hamstring) is back to 100%. At 33 years old and with a lot of wear and tear on his body, Vick's days of leading a franchise are over. Foles is only 24 and just warming up what could be a very bright career. With a big arm and quality receiving threats surrounding him, Foles gives Philly the best shot at claiming a very winnable division. Against a Washington defense that's giving up 274.8 yards and more than two scores per game through the air, Foles remains a No. 1 fantasy quarterback this week while DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper should also be started in every format. The real star though in Philly should remain LeSean McCoy, who returned to his early season form last week and now draws a Redskins defense tied for the second most rushing scores allowed on the year with 12... The Redskins are far from out of the hunt in the NFC East despite dropping to 3-6 after a disappointing loss to Minnesota in a game they had in hand. Robert Griffin has been relatively sharp throwing the ball the last two weeks and the ground game has been fantastic with Alfred Morris leading all running backs with 5.2 YPC. With that backfield pair driving the train and Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed both playing at a high level, this offense can move the ball on an Eagles D ranked 31st in yards allowed. The real pressure will be on it's defense. Giving up the second most points in the league currently (31.9 per game) simply won't cut it in Philly.
Predictions: Griffin passes for 293 yards and touchdowns to Garcon and Leonard Hankerson, while chipping in 61 yards with his legs. Morris adds 105 and a score on the ground. McCoy rips off 124 total yards and finds paydirt rushing. Foles slings it for 321 yards and finds Cooper, Jason Avant and Zach Ertz for TD's. Eagles 31-21.
Detroit (-2.5) @ Pittsburgh, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Ben Roethlisberger simply cannot be trusted for fantasy play. One of the best real-life quarterbacks in the league is just not getting it done this year on the scoreboard. Despite facing a Bills defense that entered last week having allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league, Big Ben still found the end zone just once. This has been a highly disappointing trend for Roethlisberger this year, as he's got just two games all season with multiple touchdowns. A deceptively good Lions defense that's allowed only 15 passing scores and picked off 11 balls in nine games could very well help Roethlisberger maintain the trend, so for those hurting at QB, this may not be the way to go. Anyone looking for a safe running back or receiver start can look no further than Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown, however. A true three-down back, Bell has put up at least 9.9 points in five of his six games and never been below 5.5, while Brown - the league's reception leader with 67 grabs - has been good for at least 7.5 in all but two contests this year... The Lions go as Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush go. Simple as that. When they produce big plays and rack up yardage in chunks Detroit is a dynamic offense that's awfully hard to slow down. Pittsburgh's D has been stingy versus the pass, but they've faced few quarterbacks with an arm like Matthew Stafford's and absolutely no receivers like Calvin Johnson. Of course, if the Steelers blanket Johnson and force Stafford to go elsewhere his limited receiver depth could slow the Lions down. That is until they start feeding Bush against a Pittsburgh run defense giving up 127.2 yards per game. The Lions will enter the game in sole possession of first place in the NFC North and they figure to remain there despite a stiff road trip.
Predictions: Stafford guns it for 237 yards and hooks up with Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew for scores, while Bush tallies 94 total yards. Bell racks up 122 total yards and punches in a short TD. Roethlisberger passes for 258 yards and a touchdown to Heath Miller. Steelers 20-14.
Oakland (+7) @ Houston, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: A quarterback controversy could be on the Houston horizon. Despite the fairly stellar play of Case Keenum in his three starts (seven touchdowns, zero interceptions), coach Gary Kubiak is not prepared to commit to him for the rest of the season. Matt Schaub is fully healthy and itching to get back on the field. With the veteran waiting in the wings, one off game from the inexperienced Keenum could find him on the bench. It would be an awful turn of events for fantasy owners and possibly the Texans franchise, which may have found a hidden gem in Keenum. A Raiders defense featuring a miserable 18-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio doesn't figure to present that stumbling block, however; so the Keenum to Andre Johnson connection should stay going strong at least a few more weeks. On the ground there's absolutely no controversy or question as to who will lead the show with Arian Foster (back) now on IR. Ben Tate, though banged up with injured ribs, will lead the way against a tough Oakland front seven. Although the Raiders are stingy versus the run and Tate is less than 100%, he's pretty much a must-start given his talent level and the run-friendly system in Houston... Rashad Jennings' strong performances the last two weeks racking up 283 total yards and a score on 5.4 YPC have made Darren McFadden expendable in Oakland, particularly given McFadden's struggles with efficiency this season (just 3.6 YPC). The one guy in the offense that the Raiders cannot replicate right now is Terrelle Pryor, whose ability to scramble has kept the Oakland offense in games it otherwise had no chance to keep close. If a knee injury keeps Pryor out this week the reigns of the offense will fall to undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. Although he spins a good ball, McGloin doesn't have the athleticism to extend drives consistently for an otherwise unspectacular offense lacking receiving talent after Denarius Moore. And facing a Houston defense that tops the league versus the pass, expect Oakland to struggle mightily to put up points on the road regardless of which youngster is under center.
Predictions: Pryor starts but doesn't finish, as he and McGloin throw for just 168 yards between them. Jennings manages to net 96 total yards though with some strong running. Tate rumbles for 102 yards and a touchdown, while Keenum connects with Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins for scores in a 239-yard day. Texans 21-6.
Atlanta (-1.5) @ Tampa Bay, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Doug Martin owners who grabbed Mike James looked like they were going to be just fine entering the Monday Nighter versus Miami, as James was actually running with more explosiveness and effectiveness than the stud he replaced. And then after a fantastic first drive for the rookie things went from bad to worse. James suffered a broken ankle on a run that came up inches short of the goal line and will miss the remainder of the season. In his stead Brian Leonard looks to be the feature back with Bobby Rainey providing a bit of an explosive element out of the backfield. Facing a Falcons defense that's allowed 543 rushing yards over the past three weeks, Leonard looks like a legitimate flex option, while Rainey has some deep league appeal as well. Either way, in a season that's seen scores of injuries to tailbacks, each is worth owning until proven otherwise. To start it's first win streak of the season though Tampa will need to lean a bit on Mike Glennon and his big arm. A weak Atlanta secondary could be just what Vincent Jackson needs to go off again after several down weeks, and while other relative unknowns will be involved in the pass game as well, Jackson is the only worthwhile fantasy option here... Roddy White returned just in time to get blanketed in back-to-back weeks by Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis, essentially rendering him nothing more than a decoy for a couple games. His presence though should make life easier on Harry Douglas for this week. He burned the Bucs in their last meeting when Revis was playing more zone, and with the All-Pro corner now being properly utilized in man, Douglas is extremely fortunate to have White back to draw the attention. Unfortunately for Matt Ryan though, Douglas may be his only real go-to, as Tony Gonzalez was shut down in their last meeting and doesn't figure to do much better against a Bucs defense that has excellent coverage from the safety and linebacker positions. With the Falcons reeling on both sides of the ball and the Bucs rising on each, look for Atlanta to try and lean on Steven Jackson to settle down and balance the offense.
Predictions: Ryan pitches it for 249 yards and touchdowns to Douglas and Drew Davis, while Jackson adds 62 yards on the ground. Leonard and Rainey combine for 134 total yards with Leonard leading the way and finding the end zone rushing. Glennon passes for 184 yards and scores to Jackson and Timothy Wright. Buccaneers 27-17.
Arizona (-7) @ Jacksonville, Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Comments: Behind an inspired defensive performance in which the Jags generated four turnovers and finally stepped up against the run, Jacksonville was finally able to get in the win column. Keeping that momentum will be tough versus a Cardinals team that's won four of its last six with the only losses coming to San Francisco and Seattle. The saving grace for the Jags though could be that Arizona has struggled away from the desert. Their swarming defense seems to just fly to the ball a step slower when they go on the road, so Chad Henne may have an easier time connecting with Cecil Shorts and Mike Brown than he did last week when he notched just 180 yards through the air. If they want to stay competitive Henne will need to improve this week considering the Cardinals have the third-best run defense in the league and Maurice Jones-Drew has been far less than dynamic most of the season (as evidenced by his 3.0 YPC). Of course, that doesn't mean you're benching MJD, as the clear feature back has managed at least 8.5 fantasy points in five of the last seven outings... Carson Palmer continues to give the ball away at a tremendous clip (he's the only QB with a pick in every game), but at least he's making strides. After five straight games with multiple interceptions he's tossed just one in back-to-back contests. More importantly for fantasy owners, he's thrown two touchdowns in three of the last four after a four-game stretch with only three total scores. He's also topped 240 yards in three of those showings, making him borderline playable versus a Jaguars defense with an NFL-worst 18-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. Larry Fitzgerald figures to bounce back as well after a dreadful 23-yard outing and could really emerge if Michael Floyd is unable to overcome a sprained shoulder to suit up. The real stud to start in this one though is easily the electric Andre Ellington. Though he was limited to just 13 touches last week he still posted over 70 yards, and with Rashard Mendenhall having lost a crucial fumble late in a competitive contest, it's hard to not see him headlining the backfield versus the league's most generous run defense in yards (153.0 per game) and touchdowns (14) allowed.
Predictions: Ellington piles up 161 total yards and scores rushing, while Palmer hooks up with Fitzgerald and Rob Housler for TD's in a 230-yard effort. Henne hits Marcedes Lewis for a touchdown in a 215-yard day. Jones-Drew contributes 72 total yards and a short score to the losing cause. Cardinals 24-14.
San Diego (-1.5) @ Miami, Sunday 4:05 p.m.
Comments: The Dolphins followed up arguably their best performance of the season with certainly their worst, and it's hard to not credit the disappointing loss to distraction. The media circus that's surrounded their team in recent weeks seemed to take a toll in a uninspiring performance against the cellar-dwelling Bucs, but in reality the bigger effect of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga was felt exactly where those men used to line up. The offensive line struggled to give Ryan Tannehill time to throw and failed miserably at opening holes in the running game. Facing third-and-longs all night is not conducive to putting points on the board and without steady balance from the run game that trend should continue to haunt the Dolphins. The Chargers, like the Buccaneers, don't boast much of a pass rush, but if the line doesn't gel it may not matter. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas don't have the skillsets to generate yardage without a lane blocked open and Tannehill doesn't have the savvy yet to exploit quick pressure from an extra rusher. While the chemistry displayed between Tannehill and Rishard Matthews portends well for the future, with Mike Wallace struggling to separate consistently and a generally thin receiving corps, Miami simply doesn't have the skill talent to overcome shaky line play... The Bolts scrapped pretty hard versus a Denver team they simply don't match up with talent-wise, and that grit should serve them well against a team looking awfully close to packing it in. Facing a Dolphins defense that's been flattened by rush attacks in recent weeks - 455 yards and fives touchdowns on the ground in three games - expect Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead to each continue his strong play. Each back has at least 300 total yards and two touchdowns over the last four games, and given how stingy Miami has been against the pass (10 scores, 12 picks), expect the backfield duo to be leaned on heavily while Philip Rivers has a relatively quiet day avoiding the pressure of Cameron Wake and dumping off passes to move the chains.
Predictions: Tannehill finds Wallace and Charles Clay for touchdowns in a 229-yard outing. Miller totals 66 yards to lead the backfield tandem. Mathews rushes for 95 yards and score while Woodhead adds 81 total yards. Rivers hooks up with Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal for TD's in a 197-yard effort. Chargers 21-20.
San Francisco (+3) @ New Orleans, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: Watch out NFL defenses. The Saints finally found an explosive running game to complement Drew Brees. Or did they? The 242 rushing yards and three scores New Orleans rolled up on Dallas may be a bit deceiving considering the massive injuries to the Cowboys front seven, which included losing Sean Lee during the game. Still, the offensive line seems to be gelling at just the right time. Mark Ingram ran with a purpose and visible passion through gaping holes and if he can continue to display such aggressive, downhill running to compliment Pierre Thomas' all-purpose role and Darren Sproles' lightning quickness, the Saints are going to be extremely difficult to slow down. The litmus test for the ground game will be the top NFC West foes beginning with a stout 49ers defense this Sunday. Though San Fran may be without hard-hitting rookie safety Eric Reid (concussion), they're still among the best tackling teams in the league. If Ingram and Thomas can find open lanes and shake the likes of Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman, this team could well be the one to beat in the NFC race, especially with Marques Colston returning to form after missing a week with a sore knee. While Thomas and Sproles are safe bets to be active in the passing game, it may be wise to wait a week before rolling out Ingram in fantasy, as his touches are unpredictable and his huge game was the first sign of life he's shown since Week 16 of 2012... San Francisco is in trouble heading to the Bayou. There's almost no way their stagnant passing game can keep up with Brees and Co., especially given the vast strides the Saints defense has made. Colin Kaepernick has gotten Mario Manningham back in the fold, but Vernon Davis has been by far the most explosive and productive of the Niners' targets and he could be sitting after the concussion he suffered versus Carolina. The best hope San Fran has is to play its top defensive game of their season and control the clock by pounding Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter against a susceptible run-stopping unit. If Kaepernick utilizes his legs to create first downs and keep Brees sidelined and the score down, the Niners could steal one. For fantasy purposes though, only Gore should be trusted. He's run on even the best defenses with little difficulty and could feast on a Saints front seven giving up 5.0 YPC (tied for most in the league).
Predictions: Kaepernick rushes for 58 yards and throws for 162 as he struggles without Davis. Gore pounds it for 115 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Thomas and Ingram combine for 136 total yards with Ingram making an end zone dive. Brees passes for 277 yards and finds Jimmy Graham and Lance Moore for TD's. Saints 30-17.
Green Bay (+5.5) @ New York Giants, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: The Giants are turning their season around slowly but surely. Granted the offensive play they've faced during their three-game win streak is nothing to write home about, their defense still deserves credit for making tremendous progress from a unit that had been giving up well over 30.0 points per game while starting 0-6. In the three wins they've allowed just one offensive touchdown while limiting their opponents to an average of 206.3 yards per game. Even with Scott Tolzien under center the Packers should exceed that yardage mark, but putting up points is another story. On the offensive side of the ball Eli Manning still has yet to produce anywhere near what he's capable of doing, but it's refreshing that he's tossed only one picked during their streak. That doesn't help fantasy owners of Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks, of course, but by protecting the ball the Giants are giving themselves a chance to make an improbable run at the division title, so don't expect them to get pass-happy again anytime too soon, especially not with Andre Brown back. With the Packers suddenly looking very porous against the run, Brown may be in line for another monster day after debuting for the first time following his broken leg with 30 carries for 115 yards and a score... The Packers have gone through two starters in less than two games. Seneca Wallace, like Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) the week before, lasted just one series before leaving with a groin injury that now has him on IR. In relief of Wallace former practice-squader Scott Tolzien was productive in his first pro action and could repeat that performance against a Giants defense that ranks 31st in sacks. If Tolzien is protected well enough he has the talented receiving options in Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin to move the ball. And for Eddie Lacy owners the hope should be that Tolzien picks apart the G-Men, as it will be awfully difficult for Lacy to stay productive if he keeps seeing stacked boxes. With Matt Flynn now on the roster though, at least the Packers have a familiar option should Tolzien fall on his face in what will be his first career start.
Predictions: Brown plows his way to 122 yards and two scores rushing, while Manning passes for 219 yards and finds Nicks for the receiver's first TD of the year. Tolzien hooks up with Nelson and Boykin for touchdowns in a 266-yard performance. Lacy rushes for 85 yards and punches in a score. Giants 27-24.
Minnesota (+12.5) @ Seattle, Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Comments: With the Saints hosting the 49ers this weekend the Seahawks have the perfect opportunity to distance themselves even further for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Versus a Vikings defense that is equally inept at stopping the run and the pass the Seattle offense could go bonkers, especially with the return of Percy Harvin providing Russell Wilson with yet another weapon. Minnesota doesn't get after the quarterback well at all (only 21 sacks so far) and with the offensive line for Seattle finally starting to assert itself, Wilson should have little trouble picking apart an inexperienced secondary when he throws it. While Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse have had nice moments since Sidney Rice tore his ACL in Week 8, the only wideout safe enough to start here is Golden Tate, who has racked up 199 yards and three touchdowns in two of the last three games in which he didn't find himself on Revis Island. Harvin is a bit of a wild card in the offense, but probably worth holding off a week for fantasy use until it's clear how healthy he is and how he'll be incorporated into the offense. Marshawn Lynch, fresh off consecutive 100-yard games, is an elite option as always... It's quite strange to say it, but the Vikings passing offense seems likely to struggle more than usual without Christian Ponder in the lineup this week. A dislocated shoulder that came in perhaps his best performance of the season last week has re-opened the door for either Matt Cassel or Josh Freeman to claim the starting gig. Of course, it will be a tall order for either to shine in the league's toughest venue to play and going up against "The Legion of Boom" Seattle secondary. Whoever draws the job under center will need to throw it when they get down, and though his numbers likely won't add up to much, it could make John Carlson a sneaky good start at the tight end spot. Carlson has re-emerged from a deep sleep with Kyle Rudolph (foot) out and looked every bit the part of the athletic, gifted pass-catcher he was in 2008 and 2009 before injuries set him back and sent him packing from Seattle. Before the offense gets to the point of catch-up mode, expect plenty of Adrian Peterson to try and soften the Seahawk D and keep Wilson from burning them on the other side of the ball. Mike James had a ton of success running it in Seattle's last home game and Minnesota's best hope at pulling the shocker will be to ride Peterson to similar results.
Predictions: Lynch bullies his way to 116 yards and two touchdowns, while Wilson hooks up with Tate and Doug Baldwin for scores in a 268-yard passing day. Cassel starts and pitches it for 217 yards and a score to Cordarrelle Patterson. Peterson fights his way to 91 yards and a TD on the ground. Seahawks 34-17.
Kansas City (+8) @ Denver, Sunday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: The game of the week could be a long one for Peyton Manning if his line cannot hold up to the tremendous pressure that Kansas City can put on the quarterback, particularly with stud pass rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. That pair has combined for 20 of the Chiefs' league-best 36 sacks and with Manning even less mobile than usual with an achy ankle, the Broncos passing game may suffer. Look for Denver to rely on the run game and a dink and dunk pass attack focused around quick throws to move the chains. Knowshon Moreno stands to benefit the most from this style of attack, as he's been a tremendous receiver out of the backfield in recent weeks with 29 grabs for 266 yards in five games. Meanwhile the Chiefs are tied for dead last in YPC allowed at 5.0, so Moreno could just as well carve them up on the ground for an overall impressive showing. If Manning turns to a quick-hitting pass game, Wes Welker could be the receiver to shine this week after posting by far his worst performance of the season versus the Chargers... After a 9-0 start the Chiefs are poised to drop their first game since the 2012 season concluded with them locking up the first pick in the draft. After the Chiefs posted just 210 total yards and no offensive touchdowns on 54 plays versus Buffalo, it became abundantly clear they don't have the firepower to hang with the Broncos. Jamaal Charles has been the offense for KC, but he'll be faced off with a Denver D sitting at fourth versus the run and allowing just 87.0 yards per game on the ground. That's no matter for Charles' fantasy production, as he's almost assured of seeing a ton of work in the screen game as Alex Smith's favorite target has 14 more grabs than any other Chief, but he won't be enough by himself to outscore Manning and Co. With the Chiefs next best skill player, Dwayne Bowe, having made more of a splash in the news this year for his recent arrest for speeding and possession of marijuana than his play on the field, it figures to be a long night for the Chiefs' offense. With that said though, Bowe is still expected to start and coming off a game in which he caught a season-high seven balls for 67 yards, he may actually be a sneaky flex option. The Chiefs will have to throw it a good amount and against a so-so Broncos secondary Bowe could finally break out for his first 100-yard game of the year. One thing that is almost a certainty in this matchup though is that the Chiefs' streak of consecutive games holding an opponent to 17 points or fewer, which they've astonishingly managed in all nine wins, will fall and likely fall hard. Andy Reid has had some serious magic after bye weeks, as his 13-1 record in 14 years in Philly attests to, but he'll need to reach deep down in his bag of tricks for this one.
Predictions: Smith passes for 224 yards and a touchdown to Bowe, while Charles piles up 148 yards and a rushing score. Moreno totals 136 yards and punches in two short TD's on the ground. Manning hooks up with Julius Thomas for his lone touchdown pass in a 296-yard gritty effort. Broncos 27-20.
New England (+2.5) @ Carolina, Monday 8:30 p.m.
Comments: For all the hype the Broncos vs. Chiefs will receive Sunday, this Monday encore may be an equally thrilling clash of two heavyweights. The Panthers are tied with Seattle for the league's second longest winning streak at five games and New England will need an awesome Tom Brady effort to generate yards and points against what's quickly becoming the league's most physical defense. Offensively Carolina will likely want to lean on its many legs. The Patriots are 30th against the run giving up 128.2 yards per game, so a platoon of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and the wrecking ball that is Mike Tolbert should be featured heavily between the tackles to soften the defense for play-action. Cam Newton is at his best throwing the ball when he can catch defenses inching up in the box. And Newton will need every advantage he can get versus a fairly stingy Patriots pass defense, especially if lock-down cover man Aqib Talib (hip) can suit up and slow down Steve Smith... Brady and his bunch will be tested greatly in this one, as the Panthers D may even be a better unit than the intelligently-aggressive Jets group that gave the New England offense headaches in their last loss. The Panthers are second only to the Jets in run defense allowing a paltry 82.0 yards per game, but they've allowed even fewer scores with just two TD's coming out of opposing backfields. That spells trouble for Stevan Ridley's four-game touchdown streak, even though he did play well against the Jets' tough group. With New England's power run game they may challenge Carolina more than any team has yet, but where they could be in even more trouble is when Brady drops back. The Panthers have been a ton stingier than New York against the throw, allowing 50.0 fewer yards per game and with a significantly better TD-to-INT ratio. In fact, the Panthers are tied for fewest passing scores allowed (seven) and most picks made (13). And considering that Carolina has given up more than 15 points just once all year, it could be a very long night for the Pats' stars. Rob Gronkowski is a must-start in fantasy nonetheless, but expectations should be lowered a bit even for him. With the attention paid to Gronk and the run game, Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola may end up the most productive Pats from a fantasy standpoint.
Predictions: Newton churns out 56 yards with his legs and throws it for another 210 with a score going to Greg Olsen. Williams and Stewart combine for 135 yards on the ground with both Stewart and Tolbert making goal-line plunges. Ridley rumbles for 66 yard but is held scoreless, while Brady finds Gronkowski and Dobson for TD's in a 278-yard performance. Panthers 24-20.