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Game Capsules: Week 12 Previews

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for since 2011 and is most proud of recommending Victor Cruz as a starter in his breakout game against the Eagles. He's a lifelong fan of Notre Dame, the Packers and, unfortunately, the Knicks.

New Orleans (-10) @ Atlanta, Thursday 8:25 p.m.

The Falcons cannot stop anything. Drew Brees is coming to town. Fantasy owners, get your Saints at the ready. For those Falcons though, you may want to be a bit more selective. Matt Ryan has enough tools now with Roddy White slowly rounding into form and Harry Douglas playing well, but he hasn't got much in the way of protection, so a blitz-happy Rob Ryan defense figures to limit him and the Atlanta pass attack. New Orleans can be run on of course, as the Jets proved in Week 9, but to do so a team needs to be able to keep the score relatively close. So while Steven Jackson might finally be able to run the ball effectively, he's not likely to have many chances to do so once Brees and Co. get the scoreboard lights popping. Moreover, Jackson's ineffectiveness since he returned from a hamstring injury in Week 8 could lead to more of a timeshare with Jacquizz Rodgers, who was finding success in his absence, or possibly even Antone Smith, who ripped off runs of 38 and 50 yards against Tampa's second-string defenders. Ultimately though, the ground game will likely be waiting a week to make much impact given the potential for a lopsided score. Look for Ryan to be slinging it often, with Douglas, White and Tony Gonzalez the prime beneficiaries... While Brees will certainly get his against a weak secondary, it could be the New Orleans backfield that does the most damage against an Atlanta front seven that has been getting gashed lately. One week after the Seahawks blasted them for over 200 yards on the ground, Bobby Rainey ripped through them for 163 and two touchdowns in his first career game as a feature back. With the Saints line blocking better each week, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram could have a field day against this defense. With Thomas being the lead back, he's obviously the stronger fantasy option, but Ingram carries at least flex appeal given how tough he's been running the last two weeks with his limited attempts. And if Brees utilizes his myriad of weapons to make this ugly early, Ingram could play the role of the closer, just as he did in a monster effort against Dallas a couple weeks ago. Given the mismatch, Jimmy Graham (foot) and Darren Sproles (knee/ankle) could be poised to bounce back from down games, but owners should still temper their expectations as neither is 100% and it's possible they could see plenty of rest in the second half. If they're limited though, that means more targets for Marques Colston, who's returned to his usually steady self over the last two weeks.

Predictions: Jackson tallies 68 total yards, while Ryan passes for 284 yards and touchdowns to White and Gonzalez. Brees slings it for 266 yards and scores to Colston (2) and Graham. Thomas nets 104 total yards as Ingram rushes for 113 and each punches in a rushing TD. Saints 38-20.

Pittsburgh (+2) @ Cleveland, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Browns horrible offensive and special teams play cost them the game versus Cincinnati. All five Bengals touchdowns were the result of a turnover or special teams gaffe that resulted in a direct score by the Cinci defense or short field for its offense. The Browns D gave up three passing scores to Andy Dalton on those short fields, but otherwise they were phenomenal. Joe Haden completely shut down A.J. Green and picked off two passes, one of which he housed. Meanwhile, they tallied four sacks and held Cinci to a measly 224 yards and 10 first downs, while allowing just one of 14 third downs to be converted. With Ben Roethlisberger playing at a high level lately with nine scores in his last three games, Jason Campbell and the Browns offense had better clean up their execution or it could be another ugly divisional game. They may want to start by simply running the football more, and specifically with Chris Ogbonnaya. Over the last five games Willis McGahee has not topped 40 yards on the ground and he's averaged a pathetic 2.6 YPC. At 32 years old McGahee is physically spent and Cleveland likely should have let him stay retired. Ogbonnaya has averaged 6.3 YPC on the ground and been productive as a receiver as well. If they'd like to find some success throwing it against Pittsburgh's ninth-ranked pass defense, they may want to start by balancing the offense and feeding the underrated Ogbonnaya against a unit allowing 125.2 rushing yards per game. Getting at least some respect for their backfield will help Campbell find open passing lanes to the dynamic, matchup-proof Josh Gordon and the slumping Jordan Cameron... Roethlisberger played by far his best game of the season last week in a crucial win for Pittsburgh to keep their slim Wild Card hopes alive. Going into "The Dawg Pound" to face an even stingier Browns defense though, he'll need to stay extra sharp. For Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense the big challenge will be generating first downs with Antonio Brown, the league-leader in receptions, likely a non-factor. Haden owned Green last Sunday and odds are he'll make Roethlisberger look to other options in the passing game this week. Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery and Heath Miller could all see their numbers rise as a result. Pittsburgh could also elect to lean more on the legs of Le'Veon Bell, though facing a stout Browns front seven that's giving up just 3.5 YPC gives that plan little hope for success. After all, Bell has carried it 40 times for just 93 yards in the last two games.

Predictions: Roethlisberger throws for 229 yards and a touchdown to Miller. Bell tallies 63 total yards and punches in a short score. Ogbonnaya nets 104 total yards and snares one of Campbell's two touchdowns. The other goes to Jordan Cameron in a 237-yard effort. Browns 17-14.

Tampa Bay (+9) @ Detroit, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The two teams are mismatched somewhat dramatically, but in an otherwise ho-hum game we'll see perhaps the best one-on-one matchup of the season. Calvin Johnson has been on an utterly dominant stretch with 746 yards and seven touchdowns in the last four games. Across from him though will be Darrelle Revis, who is back to hosting tours of his private island these days. He'll welcome Johnson and the winner of that mano a mano showdown could well dictate the victor of the game. The Bucs have blasted running backs the last two weeks, but that doesn't mean they can stop the run, so even if Johnson is limited severely by Revis (which by his standards is still like 100 yards and a score), Reggie Bush could be the x-factor in this one. The Dolphins and Falcons are two of the worst rushing offenses in football this year and completely abandoned the run once Tampa built early leads. The Lions defense is good enough, particularly at home, to prevent the Bucs from doing that, and it just so happens that Bush on turf is a nightmare for opposing defenses. In four home games, Bush has averaged 145 total yards per, with a low game of 94. If Matthew Stafford has to look elsewhere, expect it to be Bush's capable hands... In one game as a starter Bobby Rainey rushed for more touchdowns than Doug Martin and Mike James had combined for in 187 attempts through the first nine games. Of course he added one through the air as well to give him four touchdowns in less than two games of action. Sure, he accomplished his mini explosion versus two of the league's most pitiful run defenses, and the Lions certainly are not that - they've held Matt Forte and Le'Veon Bell to a combined 35 carries for 69 yards the last two weeks - but Rainey has fresh legs, vision, burst and a low center of gravity that makes him difficult for defenders to track and wrap up. Behind much-improved Tampa blocking, the diminutive scatback could well continue his hot play in a contest that the Bucs would likely prefer turning into a grind-it-out slugfest. However, if Stafford slings Detroit to a lead or Rainey struggles to continue his momentum, expect a heap of Mike Glennon to Vincent Jackson. In fact, given how much Detroit has struggled to slow the pass the last couple weeks, particularly on deep balls, count on plenty of Jackson targets either way.

Predictions: Rainey totes it for 67 yards, while Glennon slings it for 242 and touchdowns to Jackson and Tom Crabtree. Stafford passes for 293 yards and hooks up with Johnson and Kris Durham for TD's. Bush racks up 125 total yards but has a score vultured by Joique Bell. Lions 24-14.

Minnesota (+5) @ Green Bay, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Packers will give it a go for at least one more week without their franchise player under center. Scott Tolzien has been solid in place of Aaron Rodgers, but there's simply no replacing someone with Rodgers' command of the offense and overall skillset. Though the Pack have struggled as a team to generate points with Tolzien at the reigns, it hasn't been a huge loss for fantasy owners of other Green Bay skill players, particularly the receivers. In just his first two games of regular season action Tolzien has pitched it for 619 yards, and a matchup with the Vikings' 29th-ranked pass defense means that volume should continue. Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin stand to benefit the most as his clear favorite targets (19 and 21 targets respectively in two weeks), but Eddie Lacy could continue to struggle with Minnesota likely to stack the box and dare Green Bay to win with Tolzien. It's the smart move of course because while Tolzien has been productive from a yardage standpoint he's still tossed five picks to two average defenses... The Packers defense seems to be missing Rodgers' presence almost as much as the offense is. In three games without him they have allowed 27 points in each and have especially struggled to slow down No. 1 running backs. They may finally catch a break though as the No. 1 of all No. 1 backs is at least less then 100% entering this matchup. After piling up 215 yards and three touchdowns the previous two weeks, Adrian Peterson struggled versus the Seahawks, in large part due to a nagging groin injury. It's hard to doubt the superstar back when he insists he'll be suiting up against the nemesis Packers, but it's also important to be aware of the circumstances for Minnesota. They're clearly out of the playoff hunt and should Peterson start to feel pain during the game or lack his usual explosiveness like he did versus Seattle, the coaching staff may elect to rest him. That Toby Gerhart stepped in last week and rattled off 67 yards on just seven carries could make that decision easier if Peterson appears hurt. Even with Tolzien at quarterback the Vikings likely don't have the juice to beat Green Bay in Lambeau without Peterson playing up to his ability. Christian Ponder will draw another start despite being pulled in the fourth quarter last week, and should he struggle again with turnovers or inefficiency it's possible Leslie Frazier will have him on a short leash. The Vikings passing game was non-existent in their first matchup with Green Bay when Ponder was under center, but with corners Sam Shields and Casey Hayward both out with hamstring injuries, young wideouts Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright could help turn that around this time out. Of course, any Vikings target outside of perhaps John Carlson would be a highly risky play given their typically inept quarterback play.

Predictions: Lacy rumbles for 82 yards and a short goal line plunge, while Tolzien passes for 277 yards and scores to Boykin and Andrew Quarless. Ponder connects with Patterson and Carlson for touchdowns in a 218-yard effort. Peterson tacks on 112 yards and a score to the win. Vikings 27-24 in OT.

San Diego (+5) @ Kansas City, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Residing in the same division as Denver meant the Chiefs were never destined for an undefeated season. With loss numero uno out of the way though, they can refocus on getting back to what they do well and what got them to nine straight victories. Expect Kansas City to come out with a high-energy defensive effort and finally get back to pressuring the quarterback. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are simply too good to be shut out for long and they will certainly be looking to get a Chiefs defense that's gone three games with just one sack back to terrorizing the opposing QB. Offensively, expect Andy Reid to take advantage of a Chargers defense giving up 4.8 YPC (the 30th worst mark in the league) by feeding Jamaal Charles a steady diet of touches. When they do throw it though, expect the recent trend of Alex Smith locking on to Dwayne Bowe to continue. The Chiefs are dangerously thin at receiver and its resulted in Bowe seeing 26 targets in their last two contests. If that continues against a weak San Diego pass defense, Bowe could continue his slow but steady rise out of the fantasy gutter... With a combination of a defense that cannot tackle or cover and an offense that struggles inside the red zone the Chargers have played their way out of the Wild Card race. Four of their last six losses have been due to late collapses or blown opportunities and having to go into Arrowhead against a stacked Kansas City defense doesn't figure to cure their woes. Philip Rivers appears allergic to the end zone of late with only one touchdown pass in four of the last five contests. Considering that the Chiefs limited Peyton Manning to just one passing score, it's hard to expect much from Rivers this week. He simply doesn't have the weapons to produce like he's capable of, which is quite disappointing given the otherwise extremely good season he's had. Rivers' 71.0% completion rate tops all QB's, but it will truly be put to the test against a Chiefs defense allowing the lowest rate (54.2%) in the league. With Keenan Allen dealing with a knee injury and likely to be a bit limited, expect a lot of targets to go in the direction of Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead, both of whom could have nice days in PPR formats. The only truly strong fantasy option left in this offense though is Ryan Mathews. In four of the last five outings Mathews has rushed for 100 yards or found the end zone, while averaging at least 4.2 YPC in all five games. Facing a Chiefs unit allowing 4.7 YPC, he has a nice shot to continue his impressive play.

Predictions: Rivers finds Ladarius Green for a score in a 211-yard performance. Woodhead contributes 68 total yards while Mathews rushes for 74 yards and a touchdown. Charles nets 108 yards and hits paydirt on the ground. Smith connects with Bowe for a score in a 187-yard effort. Chiefs 23-17.

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

Ray Rice rolled out of his fantasy grave to hit the Bears for 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The 31st-ranked Chicago run defense has now been trampled in its last five games, giving up eight rushing touchdowns and 100-yard games to the likes of the old-as-dirt Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy sans Aaron Rodgers and a version of the aforementioned Rice that had been doing a spot on impersonation of a tractor stuck in mud all year. Rested off his bye week, Zac Stacy must be licking his chops to face this Lance Briggs-less unit. The rookie back spent the four games prior to his week off piling up 462 total yards and four touchdowns, more than half of which came on a sprained ankle while the other half came versus the Panthers and Seahawks. Yowsa. A Bears team that is slow to plug running lanes and even worse at wrapping up is going to be in for a long day versus the tackle-breaking rookie. And when St. Louis isn't handing off, their speed on the outside figures to provide difficulty to a Bears D down Charles Tillman (triceps)... With Jay Cutler (ankle) still out, Josh McCown will have the pleasure of dealing with a Rams pass rush that has sacked or hit opposing QB's a combined 41 times in their last three contests. Fantasy owners looking for an injury or bye week replacement at quarterback may want to look elsewhere as a result. All that pressure in the backfield has helped the Rams to pick off five balls while allowing just one passing score in their last two outings. Of course, none of their recent opponents had two receivers of the same caliber as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, so McCown still could be productive. If nothing else, both receivers are must starts. The worst a No. 1 receiver has done all year to St. Louis is 69 yards, and that was Kendall Wright, arguably the worst of the bunch to face them. In a deceptively tough road game, however, look for the Bears to lean on Matt Forte heavily. The Rams have struggled the most as a team when they've been run on, and while they've been solid at times, they've still allowed four different backs to gash them for at least 140 yards on the ground.

Predictions: McCown pitches it for 233 yards and touchdowns to Marshall and Martellus Bennett, while Forte piles up 138 total yards. Stacy nets 128 yards himself and punches in two short TD's. Clemens tosses a score to Chris Givens in a 215-yard day. Rams 24-17.

Carolina (-4.5) @ Miami, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Miami offense is in deep trouble. Their offensive line has been shaky at best without Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and with the best defense in football coming to town Ryan Tannehill is in for a long day. In an ideal scenario, the Dolphins would run the ball consistently and effectively to soften a beastly front seven and open the door to play action throws downfield to Mike Wallace or quick underneath strikes to Charles Clay and Rishard Matthews. But the circumstances in Miami are much less than ideal. The ground game is utilized and effective only sporadically, as Lamar Miller has vanished in recent weeks after briefly breaking out with consecutive games over 100 total yards. Coach Joe Philbin seems reluctant to run it enough, whether it's with Miller or the plodding Daniel Thomas, and versus this elite unit that's unlikely to change Sunday... For as good as Carolina has been versus running backs this year, Miami has been almost equally bad, having let an opposing rusher go for over 100 yards or a touchdown in every game since Week 1. Of course, for fantasy owners the problem is trying to figure out which Panthers running back will get to reap the rewards of this tasty matchup. Or for that matter, if any of them will. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are the best bets to churn up some yardage, but Mike Tolbert is the goal line back. Ultimately, each is a risky option because of the crowd. Cam Newton though is a no-brainer despite Miami having a quality pass defense. He's played at a high level for virtually all of their six-game win streak and, sadly, he's pretty much the only strong fantasy option in this entire game.
Predictions: Williams and Stewart combine for 117 total yards with the elder making a scoring jaunt. Newton guns it for 221 yards and a touchdown to Brandon LaFell, while adding 45 yards with his legs. Tannehill passes for 195 yards and finds Matthews in the end zone. Thomas and Miller total 56 yards between them. Panthers 20-10.

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

The Ravens let one get away in a sloppy game in Chicago that saw a two-hour delay for rain deter their early momentum. Behind the eight ball for a Wild Card, the defending champs are in a must-win scenario facing one of the teams ahead of them in the playoff race. Fortunately for Baltimore though, Geno Smith is terribly careless with the football and could simply hand them the game without Joe Flacco and the offense having to do much. And that's pretty important considering that, at least from a statistical standpoint, the Jets are one of the league's best defenses and Flacco and Ray Rice are respectively among the worst quarterbacks and running backs. Versus the Jets' top-ranked run defense Rice is not about to follow up his first big rushing performance with anything resembling an encore. The Bears D he finally found success against is such a sieve right now former Ravens tailback Jamal Lewis could come out of retirement tomorrow and blast them for 100-plus yards. No Raven except their team defense - and perhaps Torrey Smith who's recently rekindled his relationship with the end zone - is an advisable fantasy start in this one... Smith is going to remain the starter for the Jets. For now. With just one touchdown pass in the last five contests though, he could be on leash more closely resembling a choke collar. Matt Simms is certainly inexperienced, but he has a lively arm and seems to have more poise in the pocket against pressure. With the playoffs on the line a quarterback controversy could be forthcoming. Of course, the Jets have alternated wins and losses all year, so if the bizarre pattern holds true Smith could be safe for another week. He's been horrifically bad in the losses with only one touchdown produced to 15 turnovers, so if he flops again and they fall below 0.500, Rex Ryan may have a tough decision on his hands. Given the Jets' super thin receiving corps that has no one besides Santonio Holmes capable of consistently separating from coverage, expect Chris Ivory to be ridden early, often and hard throughout this contest. The lone bright spot for the offense in recent weeks, Ivory has racked up 341 yards and two scores in three of the last four games. However, getting in the end zone against a Ravens D that's given up a league-low one rushing score may be wishful thinking for his fantasy owners.

Predictions: Smith throws for 161 yards and two interceptions. Ivory contributes 64 yards on the ground. Rice totals 81 yards, while Flacco pitches it for 198 yards and finds Tandon Doss for the game's lone touchdown. Ravens 13-9.

Jacksonville (+10) @ Houston, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

After eight straight miserable losses a Texans team riding the league's longest losing streak is in prime position to break it. The Jags are the only team with a worse record and after they were dissected at home for over 400 yards by Carson Palmer while being the first team he's faced all year to not pick him off, it seems there's nothing Jacksonville can do right. Case Keenum rides into this game armed with an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the four outings he's played in and plenty of motivation to prove he's the future of the Houston offense. With Andre Johnson presenting his usual matchup nightmare and Garrett Graham consistently getting open in the middle of the field, Keenum has the weapons and skills to dig his fingers into the job and not let go. Making it easier for him to find success through the air will be Ben Tate rumbling through the Jags' last-ranked run defense. Although he may be dealing with a rib injury, Tate too has the motivation of a major job audition to give him the juice he needs to play well... Paul Poszluszny is legitimately the best fantasy asset on the Jaguars. That about sums up how bad this offense is as a whole. Cecil Shorts has not been able to get anything going since Justin Blackmon was suspended, and while some of that can be attributed to the strong coverage units for Tennessee and Arizona, his banged up season doesn't figure to have a particularly promising finish with Chad Henne at the helm and no other real threats in the passing game. While his ceiling is super limited at this point by the offense he plays in, Maurice Jones-Drew has been steadily average, as he's quietly produced at least 8.5 fantasy points in five of the last six games.

Predictions: Henne throws for 182 yards and a score to Marcedes Lewis. Jones-Drew tallies 81 total yards and adds a short TD plunge. Tate bests that mark with 108 tough rushing yards and a short touchdown. Keenum hooks up with Johnson and DeVier Posey for scores in a 290-yard performance. Texans 27-17.

Tennessee (+1) @ Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Just as quickly as Terrelle Pryor ascended to the starting gig in Oakland with a strong preseason, he may lose it after an injury opened the door for Matt McGloin to showcase his lively arm. Though he's attempted 177 fewer passes than Pryor this year, McGloin has tossed just two fewer touchdowns. His 3-TD performance in Houston had to open eyes for the Raiders coaching staff, but the display was a bit deceiving, as the Texans had a miserable 15-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio entering the game. If he can manufacture a repeat performance however against a Titans defense that has given up the fewest passing scores in the league with just seven allowed in 10 games, the job should be his for the rest of the year. For as valuable as Pryor's legs can be in extending drives, team's do not have to respect his arm and can force him into poor decisions that produce costly turnovers. Facing Tennessee's stingy pass defense though will likely make this burgeoning quarterback controversy a lot less controversial. With that in mind, however, expect Oakland to ride the hot legs of Rashad Jennings against a defense that has allowed four different backs to rush for two touchdowns in the last five games. For Jennings, who leads the league with 3.4 YPC after contact, keeping up his streak of three straight games over 100 total yards seems like a pretty safe bet... With six touchdowns in the last six games Chris Johnson is looking like a top-10 fantasy back once again. The only thing separating him from rejoining the ranks of the elite at this point would be consistent touches. He may struggle for three quarters before having one run make him a great fantasy start, but unfortunately he doesn't always get the opportunities. Facing a Raiders defense giving up the sixth fewest yards per game on the ground, this could be another one of those weeks when the Titans abandon the run if they don't find early success. Oakland can be thrown on though, so Ryan Fitzpatrick could keep Johnson involved in the pass game and boost his total yards. For owners scrambling for an injury or bye week replacement at QB, they could certainly do worse than Fitzpatrick. Despite limited weapons the resourceful signal caller has figured out ways to produce, managing at least 15 points in standard scoring in three of his four games with significant action. With Delanie Walker stepping up and Kendall Wright providing a steady target, expect that to continue.

Predictions: Jennings racks up 133 total yards and finds the end zone rushing. McGloin throws for 195 yards and a score to Denarius Moore. Fitzpatrick hits Wright for a touchdown but also gets pick sixed in a 229-yard day. Johnson notches 92 total yards and breaks a long scoring run. Raiders 24-17.

Indianapolis (+2) @ Arizona, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

The Colts have beaten the likes of Denver, Seattle and San Francisco and yet just one game separates their record from Arizona's after the Cardinals have ticked off three straight wins. Of course, those three victories came against teams with a combined 5-25 record, so records can be deceiving. In this case though, they don't matter. What does matter is that the Cardinals are playing fast and physical on defense while finally taking care of the ball offensively. Carson Palmer is fresh off his first game without an interception, and with Michael Floyd and Rob Housler stepping up their play and Larry Fitzgerald finally healthy, the passing game has a chance to be prolific. With two touchdown passes in three straight and four of five, Palmer may be the best bye week or injury replacement option this week at QB. The Colts defense is far from a scary unit (see the 30 catches, 538 yards and six scores Andre Johnson, Tavon Austin, Delanie Walker and Kendall Wright pasted on them in three games) and all three of Arizona's top receiving targets should give them trouble, not to mention the speed of Andre Ellington in the screen game. And although the run game was disturbingly bad against the Jags last week (21 carries for 17 yards), expect it to regain some tread versus Indy's 28th-ranked run defense... Andrew Luck misses Reggie Wayne so so badly and it will be felt even more greatly this week when the super athletic Patrick Peterson, Daryl Washington and Karlos Dansby combine to take T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener, his only legitimate targets, out of the passing game. With the second-ranked Cards run defense giving up just 3.4 YPC and 81.4 yards per game on the ground, Donald Brown and Trent Richardson don't figure to be much help to Luck either. Despite being in the middle of the desert, it looks like Luck may find himself up a creek, and unfortunately, completely paddleless. After all, if anyone knows how to slow down Luck and the Colts offense, it would be Bruce Arians who helped Luck look awfully good as a rookie while winning the Coach of the Year award.

Predictions: Ellington and Mendenhall combine for 86 yards, while Palmer throws it for 287 yards and touchdowns to Fitzgerald (2) and Floyd. Luck tosses it for 191 yards and a touchdown to Brown, who contributes 76 total yards to the cause. Cardinals 24-13.

Dallas (+2.5) @ New York Giants, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

The Giants miraculously find themselves in the thick of the NFC East race despite starting 0-6 and allowing 34.8 points per game in the losses. Their four-game win streak though is extremely deceptive. They faced Josh Freeman in his Minnesota debut just two weeks after joining the team, then got to beat up on Matt Barkley, Terrelle Pryor and Scott Tolzien. That stellar group has combined to throw eight touchdowns and 23 interceptions this season in limited action, with three of the four being their team's third string options. Essentially the Giants won games because their defense couldn't be tested - and they barely beat Oakland against the one true starter they faced. Moreover, the offense produced just five touchdowns with Eli Manning throwing only three. Fortunately for the Giants and all their skill players, however, arguably the worst defense in the league is coming to town. Dallas is dead last against the pass and as bad or worse against the run right now with Sean Lee (hamstring) out. Manning had his best game - the only time New York topped 30 points - in Week 1 against Dallas and he could be poised for another strong outing should the game become a shootout. Victor Cruz can be confidently started again after he finally reached the century mark last week for the first time since Week 4, while Rueben Randle remains a solid threat to score as Manning's favorite target in close. Ultimately though the Giants will want to run the ball to keep it out of Tony Romo's hands, and after seeing Mark Ingram shred them for over 10.0 YPC in their last outing, owners have to be thrilled to start Andre Brown this week... Romo has had a lot of success versus the Giants over the years, but he's also been awfully inconsistent lately, with just a single touchdown pass in three of his last five games. Since New York has ascended to seventh versus the run and Dallas is incapable of committing to their ground game, expect the outcome to fall on Romo's shoulders yet again. That doesn't mean you're benching DeMarco Murray, but it does mean expectations should be tempered. He simply doesn't get consistent touches. And while guys like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten certainly have the talent to post huge numbers, they're tied to Romo, so if Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. can get him off his game, they will suffer. Ultimately though, Romo and his top targets - which could include Terrance Williams - will likely be better than average fantasy producers this week due to sheer volume.

Predictions: Manning pitches it for 314 yards and scores to Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Brown totals 122 yards and punches in two short TD's. Murray gains 82 total yards and runs one in for six, while Romo connects with Bryant and Cole Beasley for touchdowns in a 281-yard effort. Giants 28-24.

Denver (-2.5) @ New England, Sunday 8:30 p.m.

Tom Brady could have made a better throw on the last play of the Panthers game and he admitted it. If he'd put the ball in the back of the end zone where it belonged it would have certainly drawn an interference penalty and given New England another shot to steal the win. Brady doesn't make significant mistakes like that often but when he does he comes back extremely focused, and that should certainly be the expectation with Peyton Manning leading the AFC-best Broncos into town. With Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen all healthy enough to suit up, and with rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins there for support, Brady actually has a deeper assortment of weapons at his fingertips this week than Manning (that is if Julius Thomas and Wes Welker cannot play with knee and head injuries respectively). Facing a Denver defense giving up nearly 280.0 yards per game through the air, Brady, Gronk, Amendola and Vereen could all be in line for a fantasy smorgasbord. And though Denver has been stingy against the rush this year only allowing 3.7 YPC, they have given up nine scores. With an offense that can put him in position, Stevan Ridley has a nice shot to keep his five-game touchdown streak rolling... Manning has thrown for 300-plus yards in all but one game this year - which was 295 - and is averaging 3.4 touchdowns per game to boot. At those clips he'll easily surpass the single-season passing yards and touchdowns records set by Drew Brees and Brady respectively. Of course, Manning has plenty of records and cares about nothing more than getting a win versus his longtime rival this weekend. With Thomas banged up and versus a defense that's registered 32 sacks and 12 picks, the best way to do that may be a run-heavy offense. New England is allowing 125.7 yards per game on the ground, so Denver may want to lean on Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball to set the tone of this game. The strategist in Manning would see that and check to runs. The competitor in Manning though will find ways to burn an average Patriots secondary with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. If Welker is fully cleared of concussion symptoms to face his former team, well then the only thing that might slow Manning is the cold. He already doesn't play his best football when the temperature dips, and with an achy ankle, the New England chill in late November could affect him more.

Predictions: Brady passes for 344 yards and touchdowns to Gronkowski, Vereen and Dobson. Ridley rushes for 54 yards while Vereen tacks on 90 total yards. Moreno piles up 118 and a rushing score, but has another vultured by Ball. Manning slings it for 316 yards and TD's to Decker and Welker. Broncos 31-27.

San Francisco (-5.5) @ Washington, Monday 8:30 p.m.

A furious Robert Griffin-led comeback fell short because Griffin didn't put enough on an attempted throwaway. Careless errors like that will result in a blowout versus a Niners defense that is likely itching to get back on the field and hit something following the late-game collapse versus the Saints. With Griffin's second favorite target, Jordan Reed, unlikely to suit up after suffering a concussion last week, the sophomore quarterback will have to play his sharpest game of the season for the Skins to generate first downs. A limited receiving corps after Pierre Garcon will allow San Francisco to stack the box and focus on taking away what Washington does best - pound Alfred Morris. If the 49ers are successful in shutting down the Skins' league-leading rush attack, they'll have little difficulty keeping Griffin's arm - which is often reliant on play-action - in check... Colin Kaepernick has topped 200 yards passing twice in 10 games this season. Yes, you read that correctly. Twice. His recent stretch of four games totaling 581 passing yards is downright embarrassing when considering that Scott Tolzien, the quarterback waived by the 49ers in the preseason, just threw for 619 in his first two career games, one of which he didn't even start. A Redskins defense that allows 274.9 yards a game through the air could cure the woes of Kaepernick owners though if Jim Harbaugh lets him throw it more than his average of 25 attempts per contest. As bad as Washington is defending the pass, they're almost equally weak against the run, so expect Frank Gore and the big Niners offensive line to remain the focal point offensively for San Fran. For fantasy owners that means expect the status quo for 49ers skill players - a big yes to Gore, a moderate one to Vernon Davis and an eyes-closed, fingers-crossed as you click the mouse to submit your lineup one to Kaepernick.

Predictions: Kaepernick throws for 208 yards and a score to Anquan Boldin and adds 47 with his legs. Gore bullies his way to 102 yards and two touchdowns. Morris rushes for 70 yards and finds paydirt. Griffin passes for 193 yards and hits Santana Moss for a score. 49ers 24-14.

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