Saturday, October 27, 2012

NFL WEEK 8 – MATCH-UPS & BREAKDOWNS


The Perfect Storm; While the country braces for a weather event that became the subject of Sebastian Junger's famous novel, the NFL braces for a solid mix of division rivalries and cross conference challenges. Games could be affected by the weather if they're anywhere on the east coast, and though most rain or snow has no effect, we could be dealing with tremendous winds. Double check the local forecasts.


THE 1PM DOCKET

NEW ENGLAND @ ST LOUIS (IN LONDON'S WEMBLEY STADIUM)
What can one say but to expect a jolly good show when the Patriots and the Rams take to the pitch at Wembley for yet another regular season NFL game overseas. The last time the Patriots visited London was 2009, and they thoroughly dismantled Tampa Bay 35-7. For the Rams, this is their first visit to the United Kingdom. There are rumors that one team might play a good portion of their home games using London as their base in the near future. Could this be an audition for the London Rams?

The Rams tenth ranked defensive unit will be tested by a New England offense that is now ranked first overall and leads the league with 217 points scored. The Patriots have been held to less than 20 points just once all year, but are 1-2 away from Gillette Stadium. Stevan Ridley leads a strong rushing attack, which has leapt into the top five, averaging 149 yards per game and scoring 10 touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Patriots passing game has a bevy of weapons, starting mainly with their two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Rams will attempt to keep Brady's passing offense off balance by using DEs Chris Long and Robert Quinn in different blitz packages to upset Brady's timing. Expect Cortland Finnegan to play some bump and run on Wes Welker in an attempt to take him out of the equation physically, and with Hernandez being ruled out this week, I expect Rob Gronkowski to see 10-12 targets. Brandon Lloyd should get five-seven targets and a shot downfield against his former team. He'll finish with sixty-five yards and a touchdown. Don't be surprised if Danny Woodhead ends up having another solid day, as his hybrid style makes him the perfect back to have beside Brady against blitzes for inside screens and quick flat passes. Expect Tom Brady will give you another 280 yards and three touchdowns, with Lloyd leading the way this time in terms of receiving yards for the wide outs. Gronkowski will again figure big, with 100 yards receiving and at least a touchdown. Taper your expectation for nothing more than 85 yards for Ridley.

Richardson has been a pleasant
 surprise for everyone but Steven Jackson
The Rams boast the 15th ranked rushing attack with the duo of Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson. They'll try to control the ball on the ground and keep Brady's unit sidelined as much as possible. The problem is the Patriots have a pretty strong run defense, yielding just 86 yards per contest and just 3.3 yards per carry. That means Sam Bradford is going to once again have to step up, this time against the weak Patriots secondary. Chris Givens has 12 of his 27 targets in the last two games, and is averaging over 23 yards per catch in that span. With both starting safeties for the Patriots out, Givens is primed to go deep again. Brandon Gibson led all receivers last week against the Packers, so don't be surprised to see him get another 6-7 targets this week, making him a decent WR3 play. The best news for St. Louis could be the return of Danny Amendola, who hasn't yet been ruled out with his shoulder problem. Amendola, who I've often referred to as a poor man's Wes Welker, was off to a torrid start when injuries sidelined him. However, it's hard to imagine the Rams wanting to expose their prize possession when they're still very much in the thick of things at 3-4.

In each game Bradford attempted over 35 passes the Rams lost. The Rams have won two of three games where Bradford stayed at 30 attempts or under. Expect Bradford's line to be better because of the Patriots compromised secondary, but he'll likely have to exceed 35 passes again.

PATRIOTS 31, RAMS 17


ATLANTA @ PHILADELPHIA
Both teams are coming of their Bye Weeks, meaning that they will be well rested and likely healthier than they've been for awhile. For the Eagles, their last game was another disappointment to add to a growing list. The Lions came storming back from two 10-point deficits to overtake them in the overtime. The Falcons struggled as well, allowing Oakland 474 yards of total offense, but they escape with a three point win. These two teams met last year in Atlanta and it was a slugfest that ended with the Falcons topping out 35-31.
 
This year the outcome could be a little different. Michael Vick has been a much better quarterback at home, as testament to his 8.55 yards per pass attempt indicates. He completes almost 65 percent of his passes at Lincoln Financial and in addition, has been more inclined to use his legs to get out of trouble there. Thus, he's been sacked three less times, has rushed nine more times, and scored his only rushing TD of the year in his home park. Matt Ryan has been even more effective protecting the football away from the Georgia Dome posting a 70 percent completion rate and an 8/2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, he's struggled against Philadelphia completing just 55.3 percent of his passes with 6.3 yards per pass attempt.

Whether you realize it or not, the Eagles still have the seventh best offense in the league, averaging 379 yards per game. Though LeSean McCoy is coming off a subpar performance, he's had an extra week of preparation. The last two years after a Bye McCoy has average a combined six yards per carry. The Falcons rushing defense gives up on average 5.2 yards per carry, and though McCoy has struggled in the past against Atlanta, this game feels too important for Marty Mornhinweg not to supply McCoy with 20 carries here. Expect those 20 carries, at least 90 rushing yards and a score, with another receiving score to boot. Michael Vick completed 68 percent of his passes against his former team last year, and will have to protect the football for the Eagles to win this one. Atlanta has 10 interceptions, and a plus-10 give/take. Vick will have to control the ball, rush occasionally to keep Atlanta off-balance, and take a few shots down the field. Matt Ryan also will need to throw in this game, as RB Michael Turner hasn't had tremendous success against the Eagles. In four games against Philadelphia, he's managed just 219 rushing yards and one touchdown. He won't get in the end zone here either. The Eagles have struggled to generate sacks this season, and that means Ryan will have big opportunities to get his receivers down the field. Look for big days from Julio Jones and Roddy White. Tony Gonzalez feasted on the Eagles safeties last year for two scores in the final quarter. The Eagles will keep him from being a major factor here. . Expect Ryan to throw between 35-40 times against the Eagles secondary, and he'll get you two touchdown passes and 250 yards.

In the end, it will be the team that turns the ball over the least that keeps this game in their hands. For once, I'm betting on Vick, letting his legs be the difference in this one. Instead of making that bad throw this time, I'm expecting he'll continue his home trend of fleeing the pocket and making his former team forced to keep a 'spy' on him. That will allow him to take advantage of the deep middle with Brent Celek and keep his top target Jeremy Maclin from drawing too many double teams. I expect eight targets for Celek and around 85 yards. DeSean Jackson will get a few deep shots and quick plays to use his speed, but it will be Maclin who'll find the openings for another 10- yard day and a touchdown. I like Vick as a solid fantasy play here, for nearly 300 yards through the air, and another 50 on the ground, with a couple of touchdowns and a rushing TD as well.

Weather could be a huge factor in this one as a cold front moves across the East and Hurrican Sandy approaches the coastline. Bad weather only favors Philadelphia. Mike Smith has a 3-1 record when coming off of the Bye Week since he took over in Atlanta. His one loss came in Philadelphia to the pesky Eagles.

EAGLES 38, FALCONS 24


CAROLINA @ CHICAGO
Unfortunately for Panthers QB Cam Newton, things don't get any easier this week. However, if Ron Rivera is paying attention, Cam could get some relief in facing the Bears defense. The last two marquee runners to face this Bears front seven, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mikel Leshoure, averaged well over four yards per attempt on the ground. Enter the Panthers, a team that has as more depth at the running back position than the Pacific Ocean, and you have the makings of an interesting game. The Bears passing defense is ranked 16th in terms of yards against, and their offense is a hardly a defensive coordinator's nightmare. If ever there was an opportunity for a team who just lost their GM to shift the tide of their season, this is it. After all, the Bears barely defeated Carolina at home last year, and it took an interception return and kick return for touchdowns to do it.

The key for Carolina is to attack and grab a lead, because Jay Cutler is not a great quarterback at playing from behind. However, whether Rivera and his offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski
can get Newton's head on straight and utilize their weapons remains to be seen. The Panthers average 4.6 yards per carry, a better ground average than 27 other teams in the league. Last year against Chicago DeAngelo Williams averaged over eight yards per attempt, and Jonathan Stewart added over six. Stewart's been declared the starter this week, but that means little because in three games against the Bears, Stewart has totaled 30 carries and Williams 33. That's a nice split but it averages to just 10 carries per game. That's not a lot of opportunity. Steve Smith had a fantastic game last year and should be a solid WR2 for your team this week. Expect close to 100 yards and another 8-9 targets. Greg Olsen is your best play here, as the Bears are allowing an average of 6.7 fantasy points to TEs in ESPN standard scoring leagues. One third of touchdowns against them to come from that position.

The Bears will run Matt Forte until the cows come home against this Carolina defense, especially now that they're missing MLB Jon Beason. Forte ran for over 200 yards last year and should see between 20-25 attempts. The Panthers also recently placed CB Chris Gamble on the I.R., so expect rookie Josh Norman to be facing off against WR Brandon Marshall because their other CB, Captain Munnerlyn, gives up nearly a half of a foot to Marshall. Marshall will require double-teams, so he could get frustrated, but that makes Earl Bennett who has seen 16 targets in the last three games a sneaky sleeper this week. Tight end Kellen Davis isn't really a consideration.

The Bears will use Forte and compliment him with Michael Bush when necessary. They'll harass Newton and cause a few turnovers, and that will likely be the difference. However, if you're getting over seven points as the spread, I'm taking the road team again.

BEARS 21, PANTHERS 16


SAN DIEGO @ CLEVELAND
Was anyone really surprised that WR Robert Meachem hadn't exactly lit up the scoreboard for the Chargers? In an admission of sorts to that failure, the Chargers signed WR Denario Alexander, an oft-injured but speedy addition. He's reputed to have had five knee surgeries and he's only 24. He's also listed a six foot five, which would give the Chargers two speedy head toppers as they head to Cleveland to face the Browns' unheralded secondary. Alexander could make an appearance this weekend, but don't get too excited.

If you read this blog, you know I've picked the Browns a fair share this year, and they've covered well. This game, I'm not on board. Two things make the difference. First, RB Ryan Mathews of the Chargers is not only a strong runner, but he's one of the better pass-catching backs in the league in his just his second year. On the ground he averages 4.5 yards per carry, the same number the Browns give up. Second, for all their secondary's prowess, the Browns have given up a lot of scores (15 passing touchdowns and 180 points). Add to that the fact the Browns injury report looks like a hospital ward, with a good part of their secondary on it, and you get more bad news for the Cleveland. Philip Rivers may not have the weapons of old, but he's got a lot more than QB Brandon Weeden, who last week watched a victory slip through the hands of their newest goat, Josh Gordon.

The Browns have managed to score over 30 points just three times this year, and those came against the banged up Giants team and twice versus the hardly stout Bengals defensive backfield. Brandon Weeden has seen his numbers turn upward, and even with a receivers group seems to drop as many passes as they catch, he's a good play at home against San Diego's 25th ranked secondary. The Chargers have just 10 sacks this season, meaning Weeden should have some time to find his newest deep threat Gordon for another touchdown pass. Only seven teams give up more fantasy points to wide receivers, so look for Greg Little to have at least 10 targets, which for him means four or five grabs on the day. Keep an eye on the newest Josh to play with this group, Josh Cooper, who saw his targets rise from just three in his first NFL game, to eight last week against Indianapolis. He's a waiver wire guy to keep an eye on and a deep sleeper this week because with Trent Richardson hurting and possibly sidelined, Montario Hardesty would get the start. That means more passing for the Browns.

The Chargers have blown two big games against two worthy offensive foes. In what I expect to be a high scoring affair, this Chargers team coming off a Bye is going to take their anger out on this Cleveland franchise, with Ryan Mathews delivering over 100 yards rushing and a couple of touchdowns. Malcom Floyd will find his second touchdown of the year as well, after hauling in eight passes for 95 yards. Antonio Gates has given the Browns problems in the past, but his age and their defensive backfield do not make me optimistic for anything more than 60-70 yards. Rivers biggest concern has been pass protection, as he's been dropped 18 times this season. If he can get some extra time, Robert Meachem is likely to get a shot or two deep to see if San Diego can't leap on top.

Although both quarterbacks will put up over 250 yards on a clear day in Cleveland, the Chargers running attack will be able to score and control the clock, and thus, close the game.

CHARGERS 27, BROWNS 23


JACKSONVILLE @ GREEN BAY
The Packers offense was just getting into full gear when they ran up against a speed bump Wednesday.  Wide receiver Jordy Nelson tweaked his hamstring in Wednesday's practice, leaving him as a spectator the rest of the week. He's likely to be a game-time decision, meaning Randall Cobb and James Jones just became this week's fantasy jackpot winners. The Packers rely on being able to stretch the field with viable threats in all of the receiver positions. Having lost WR Greg Jennings to a groin injury which was recently corrected via surgery, the Packers find their depth at WR now challenged. Donald Driver is likely to return, but Driver's in the waning twilight of his golden career, and expectations for more than anything but a few receptions will be met with the giggles of your fantasy opponents. That's not to say Driver's hands don't have value. He can still make some possession grabs and at least draw some coverage. Losing Nelson would slow this offense down, as he's coming off two 100-yard performances in a row, and four touchdowns in the last two games. Running back Alex Green was handed 20 attempts last week and disappointed, with a 1.8 yards per carry average. Even so, he's likely to get the same number again, as James Starks still isn't healthy, and Green Bay needs to prove they can run to keep the oft-sacked Aaron Rodgers upright. Jacksonville isn't quite as strong up front as their last opponent, the Rams, so I expect a similar number of runs with more success. Red Zone favorite John Kuhn has been ruled out Sunday giving Green's value a slight uptick as there's no threat of Kuhn playing touchdown vulture.


Can Jennings change the outcome?
Jacksonville hobbles into Green Bay without Maurice Jones-Drew, who has a foot sprain. No timetable has been given for his return. That means Rashad Jennings gets the start, and you could do a lot worse here. It will make a difference for Jennings that Blaine Gabbert start, as the playbook won't be pared down as it might have been with backup Chad Henne under center. Jennings has only carried the ball more than 10 times in three games, and his durability as an every down back has been a concern. Laurent Robinson is still not back, having had three concussions this year already, and he's stated he doesn't feel like he's in playing shape, something you never like to hear from a player say. Thus, Gabbert will again be looking for Cecil Short III and Justin Blackmon, with an occasional appearance from Mike Thomas. Ironically, Gabbert has posted a QB rating over 98 on the road and has zero interceptions this season. That may change this week as the Packers lead the NFL with 24 sacks and has become more opportunistic in recent weeks. Gabbert has been sacked 18 times this year and will be under pressure all day long. Cecil Short is worth playing in this one as your flex or third wide out as Jacksonville will have to throw.

If this game was in Jacksonville…. and Mike McCarthy was hit by lightning…. and Aaron Rodgers had a leg removed…. It probably still wouldn't' be very close. Your biggest worry fantasy wise is that Rodgers and the offense put up a huge lead, and they sit him with line like 195 yards and three touchdowns. You're taking Green Bay all day.

PACKERS 35, JAGUARS 17


SEATTLE @ DETROIT
These two teams have more in common than you would think. Both offenses have been struggling and return to action after games where they lost after their defenses gave up just 13 points. Both teams have improved defenses ranked fifth and eighth respectively, and both stuff opposing running backs over ten percent of the time. Both have solid pass defenses, yielding fewer than 220 yards per game passing. Both teams have recently lost a wide receiver for the immediate future to injury. Where the Lions have a fourth ranked offense overall, the Seahawks tote the 30th ranked offense. Yet both teams are having problems putting the ball in the end zone. For all of their offensive yardage, and they average 306 per game, the Lions have scored just 133 points, good for 21st in the NFL. Seattle ranks 26th with 116 points and manages just 293 yards per game total.

Detroit's biggest problem has been falling behind. The Lions haven't led once when entering the fourth quarter, and while a large part of the problem has been their special teams, a good part of this burden has to fall on their QB Matthew Stafford. Detroit has been terrible at scoring this season, managing just 48 percent of the time to get seven points when setting up inside the 20. Not only that, they've been turning the ball over in droves, and Stafford has thrown six interceptions to just five touchdowns. Calvin Johnson is still averaging nearly 100 yards per game, but has found the end zone just once. Now the team has lost Nate Burleson, and though they're still averaging among the tops in yards per play, this is a team just seems to that lack any chemistry. Detroit doesn't have nearly the potent running game of San Francisco, meaning Mikel Leshoure will get 15-17 carries, but to what end? Scott Linehan seems married to the idea of throwing because since Leshoure's first game where he carried 26 times, Leshoure hasn't breached 15 carries in a contest since. I don't' see Detroit's offense meriting much attention. You can't bench Megatron, but you can sit Stafford as I have done in several leagues. According to ESPN.com, he's on pace to throw just 13 TDs this season. Whether he breaks out of this funk will depend a lot on how effective Titus Young is in stepping into the WR2 spot. However, having watched Young simply break off routes and give some lackluster efforts, I'm not keen on that happening. Thus, Ryan Broyles becomes a candidate to monitor. He had Detroit's loan touchdown last week against the Bears, but I'm not wasting a waiver priority on him yet.

Seattle is coming off a tough divisional loss where the ugly scab that is their offense became a full on sore. Russell Wilson was unable to get anything going against the 49ers defense, going 9-for-23 for 122 yards and an interception. The problem though really isn't Wilson. He was accurate with his throws as any QB this season. He has so few guys that can catch the ball. Marshawn Lynch will again be the focal point and Detroit will do what most teams have tried to do, load the box and force Wilson to throw. Lynch will deliver 100 yards anyway, and against the Lions and should be in your lineup. Wilson will be looking for Sidney Rice, who should manage well considering the numbers Brandon Marshall put up. However, Rice has disappointed many times before, and Golden Tate, his favorite deep target, is more likely to make plays. While you're not playing him, you should note that Ben Obomanu received four targets last week and two of them were deep downfield. He's never been more than a WR3 in fantasy, but he should be on your watch list with this offense.

At some point Stafford has to get it in gear. I wouldn't start him this week, but 220 yards and a touchdown might be enough to seal the deal. Can Seattle's secondary keep Calvin Johnson from making some big plays an entire game? My guess is not at home. I'd play kickers Jason Hanson and
even Steven Hauschka, as both these teams fail to finish drives a lot.

Detroit is minus-6 in the give/take and Seattle is minus-1. Turnovers will likely decide this one, and with Wilson being the visitor, I expect his offense to crack first. With Seattle getting fewer than three points as the underdog, I'll take Detroit at home.

DETROIT 16, SEATTLE 10


INDIANAPOLIS @ TENNESSEE
The Colts have lost both their games on the road and have been outscored 76-30. Donald Brown practiced fully for the Colts, and his return couldn't come at a better time. The Titans rush defense gives up 134.7 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. They've also allowed seven rushing touchdowns. In five games against the Titans, Brown has averaged 5.63 yards per carry, including 10.1 yards per tote in last year's matchup in Indianapolis. He finished that game with 161 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Brown wasn't as strong in Nashville last year, but did manage a touchdown, and this year is averaging over five yards per carry on the road. In fact, Brown has the only rushing touchdown this year against the Chicago Bears defense, so I like this matchup here for him. He should get a minimum 12-15 carries for nearly 70 yards and a score. He also could provide some receptions as well.

While Andrew Luck has been tolerable at home, he's been abysmal on the road, completing barely 51 percent of his passes while throwing five interceptions against one touchdown. Reggie Wayne has been his best target, and the Titans have given up an average of 21.6 points against wide receivers. Wayne is a strong play on Sunday. Tight end Coby Fleener has yet to score his first NFL touchdown, but this is the week to plug him in. The Titans are the worst at yielding fantasy points to opposing tight ends, allowing them to score 13.4 on average. Eight of their 16 passing touchdowns allowed went to tight ends.

On the flip side of things, RB Chris Johnson has been terrible at home, averaging just 2.7 yards per carry this year, and for his career against Indianapolis has managed just 3.67 yards per tally in seven games. He's coming off his best game of the season against the Bills, and now gets a match-up against a Colts defense giving up 4.8 yards per carry. The Colts have improved their pass defense, making Matt Hasselbeck's job more difficult. Though they've given up 12 passing touchdowns, they're ranked seventh in terms of yards, giving up 211 per game. Yet if there's one receiver that seems to get a boost with him behind center it's Nate Washington. The last three games Washington was targeted 17 times. For the month of October, he has 13 receptions for 146 yards and a score. That's a huge increase in targets from the 18 total he received in the first four games.

I expect Chris Johnson will get his share of carries, but his numbers won't be fantastic. Expect 85 yards and a touchdown at best. Instead, Matt Hasselbeck will target Washington and Britt often, relegating Kendall Wright back to a slot receiver and chain mover. Expect Washington and Britt to be solid plays, and Hasselbeck to deliver two touchdown strikes. Though last year TE Jared Cook had a tremendous nine reception, 103 yard showing he's likely to struggle against the Colts new 3-4 that has yielded the fewest fantasy point for tight ends.

Andrew Luck hasn't yet taken that next step in his development to assume he can win this divisional matchup, even against a Titans defense yielding 238 points so far. However, the Titans won't be able to stop Reggie Wayne or Donnie Avery, and a newly healthy Donald Brown might deliver his best game of the season. With 3.5 points I'm taking Indianapolis to cover.

TITANS 24, COLTS 21


WASHINGTON @ PITTSBURGH
The RGIII show comes to Heinz field where the NFL's second rated defense in awaits. As I mentioned Tuesday, RB Alfred Morris has my vote as ROTY so far, and he's the kind of runner the Steelers have trouble with. He's big and physical, and with the Steelers front seven giving up 4.1 yards per carry, expect Morris to gain chunks of yards finishing with just under 100 on the day. Where Robert Griffin III will have to be successful is in protecting the football. Mike Shanahan knows the Steelers well, and the likelihood is with the mobile Griffin, they'll try to spread the Steelers out and take advantage of Griffins legs on draws and mismatches on defense. Santana Moss has filled in at the WR1 spot admirably for Pierre Garcon, who announced this week he has a torn ligament in his foot. With Garcon ailing, Leonard Hankerson will be the 'Skins deep threat. Hankerson will likely be the responsibility of CB Ike Taylor, the Steelers tallest and most physical corner. Don't expect a ton from him if Taylor's on his game. The Steelers are the second best pass defense in terms of yards at 185 per game but they do give up points, particularly late in games. RGIII should be penciled in for 180 yards passing and 65 yards rushing for the day. I expect though he'll give you a combination of three touchdowns.

For the Steelers, the return of Jonathan Dwyer from his turf toe injury couldn't have come at a better time. Dwyer fits the mold of Jerome Bettis, a big man who can deliver contact but has quick feet and good acceleration. They'll also mix in Chris Rainey, who showed his what his 4.4 speed can do if there's a place to run. The Redskins worst ranked secondary is their biggest concern here, as the Steelers weapons of Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and TE Heath Miller are each likely to each get targets in this game. Ben Roethlisberger has yet to attempt fewer than 30 passes in a game so expect sizable numbers from him this week. His top target Brown will get 8-10 catches for nearly 100 yards. However, even with his spate of recent drops, it's Wallace that poses a tremendous threat to the secondary, particularly after we all saw Victor Cruz blaze past them during an obvious passing situation. Wallace is in for a big game Sunday. Expect 120 yards and a touchdown. You're starting Heath Miller as well, as the Redskins not only give up the most fantasy points to opposing WRs, they give up second most to opposing TEs.

This game will simply come down to how much of a difference Griffin can make on third downs. The Steelers are ranked tops in the league in third down conversions, while the Redskins are ranked 29th. The Steelers will attempt to clog up the running lanes and try to force long third downs for this team. If the Redskins can't get their defense off the field, the Steelers will be able to do with them as they please. With the return of Center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers will get gain some rushing yardage, and should be able to stay undefeated at home.

STEELERS 31, REDSKINS 21



MIAMI @ NEW YORK JETS
The Jets escaped this Miami team in Week 3 when Dan Carpenter sent a 48-yard field goal wide in overtime, leaving the Jets great field position to get one of their own. One would think that after keeping pace with Patriots, that playing Dolphins in late autumn in the Meadowlands would favor the Jets in a big way. Well, in recent years, the Dolphins have been weather immune, winning the last three meetings between the two, and all happening in November or later. That's good news is a cold front is expected to move into the area, and the possibility of snow exists this weekend.

The Dolphins are winners of two straight, and QB Ryan Tannehill is actually doing more by doing less. What I mean by that is in recent weeks he has less attempts, a better completion percentage and less turnovers. In fact, he hasn't been intercepted in his past two games while throwing for two scores. With the war of words that has gone on between these two teams, expect a now healthy Reggie Bush back to mid-season form and ready to go. It was against the Jets that Bush hurt his knee after posting 10 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown. He'll be given a greater sum of the carries here, and I like Bush for 120 rushing yards and a couple of touchdowns against a Jets defense yielding 4.6 per carry and 147 yards per game. While the Jets shut down receivers to the tune of just 13.7 fantasy points, they are third worst against opposing tight ends. Anthony Fasano had five catches in their first matchup, and I'd expect Miami to attack the Jets' middle again, making Fasano a good fill-in this week. As for the Dolphins receivers, don't expect much from Brian Hartline, who went target-less last week. He'll have a tough match-up with Antonio Cromartie on him. Davone Bess is second on the team with 47 targets, and he'll like have the best match-up here, but it won't matter because the dirty work is going to be done in the trenches.

Mark Sanchez has played better of late, and this week he'll have a healthy Dustin Keller. Keller's a must start here, as he was targeted seven times for seven catches and a touchdown against New England. Miami's pass defense isn't much better, and Keller is a likely difference maker in this one. The Dolphins have been plagued by big plays with three touchdown passes against them for longer than 40 yards. Jeremy Kerley will test Miami's secondary again, and should put up 5-6 catches for 70 yards. Shonn Greene fared lousy against the Dolphins rush defense last meeting. Now ranked fourth and giving up 3.3 yards per carry, the Dolphins run defense is good enough to where they don't have to load the box to stop Greene. In fairness to Greene, he's a much better runner on the Meadowlands turf, averaging almost one and one-half yards better per carry there. He'll get 65 yards, plus a few receptions.

Linebacker Bart Scott is the heart of this defense. He'll miss this week, leaving Bush and Daniel Thomas to carry 27-30 times between them. The Dolphins will take this one down to wire and pull it out in the end. I'm willing to take Miami and the 2.5 points.

DOLPHINS 19, JETS 17


THE 4PM DOCKET

OAKLAND @ KANSAS CITY
After seeing what Miami's RB Reggie Bush did to Oakland's rushing defense in Week 2, it seemed this would be another year where Oakland simply couldn't stop anybody. However, besides their lopsided loss the Denver, the Raiders haven't given up more than 54 total rushing yards in their other three games. Granted, part of that is going up against teams with subpar offensive lines (Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Jacksonville). And even though the Chiefs are solid up front when it comes to running the football, with Brady Quinn now behind center, you can bet Oakland will stack the box to keep RBs Jamaal Charles, Shaun Draughn and Peyton Hillis (probable) from beating them. That means Quinn is going to have to prove that he can indeed be a starting QB in this league. Brian Daboll will likely try to build Quinn's confidence. Expect a lot of early screens to Charles and another appearance by TE Steve Maneri, who led all Chiefs receivers two weeks ago in their blowout loss at Tampa Bay. The Raiders' pass defense is ranked 22nd, but I'm not even interested in Dwayne Bowe at this point until I see that Quinn can anticipate throws better and not be so gunshy. Charles is the only fantasy start here, and he'll likely get you 120 all-purpose yards.

For Oakland, a hot-handed Carson Palmer gets the likes of the Chiefs 15th ranked defense, which though tough on yards against, has been compromised by their own offense's turnover woes. It was against the Chiefs last year that Darren McFadden went down with his foot injury and didn't return. However, in the six games against the Chiefs where he has played, McFadden owns a 5.02 YPC with 363 yards on 63 carries. His health issues aside, this should be a solid match-up for McFadden, even on the road. The Chiefs are giving up 122 rushing yards per game and 4.7 per carry. While Palmer might want to look for Denarius Moore, my guess is the Chiefs will see him as the biggest threat and match Brandon Flowers against him as much as possible. That could mean more targets for Darius Heyward-Bey, who had seven targets against Jacksonville. He'll get another 6-7 here and I expect 75-80 yards. 

The Chiefs have broken the 20 point barrier on offense just once this year. The Raiders have scored over twenty points in three of their last four games. Call me Quinn-skeptical, but the turnovers are there for the Raiders taking, and Oakland will do enough to get Sebastian Janikowski his share of opportunities to squeak this one out.

RAIDERS 19, CHIEFS 13


Tanner is likely to get his first start
DALLAS @ NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants have had the Cowboys number in Arlington, and after Jerry Jones' boys stole one from New York opening week, you can bet they'll be set to get their revenge. In the first game of the season, the Dallas defense sacked Eli Manning three times, and held him to one touchdown pass. Ahmad Bradshaw managed 78 rushing yards and a touchdown, but the rest of Manning's receivers were held in check, with Victor Cruz topping out with six grabs and 58 yards. Since that time, Manning has been sacked just three more times, Victor Cruz is fifth overall in the NFL for receiving yards (second best fantasy WR), and Ahmad Bradshaw has gotten himself injured again.

With DeMarco Murray still healing and Felix Jones questionable again, proving he's not an every down back, Philip Tanner gets the opportunity to start for Dallas. Though the Cowboys tend to give up on their running game, Tanner won't be sharing many of his carries, and that should provide him an opportunity to get between 17-20 totes. However, the Cowboys will likely attack the banged up secondary of New York, which is ranked 21st against the pass having yielded 10 passing touchdowns. Tony Romo has been a fantasy owner's dream against the Giants, with his recent worst outing coming last year in New York where he threw for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He's in your starting lineup this week as a potential 300-yard hurler. Miles Austin has scored in four of their last five meetings, so expect Romo to keep looking his way this week. Jason Witten has been completely uneven against the Giants, putting up one solid game per season. He wasn't healthy Week One, but I still don't like him here. Besides the fact the Giants pass rush has added seven sacks in the last two weeks, they are giving up just 4.6 fantasy points on average to opposing tight ends. Dez Bryant is the wild card here, and you probably can't bench him, but he's just not reliable week to week yet.

The Giants continue to be road warriors. Besides Philadelphia, they dismantled the 49ers top rated defense, and have clobbered just about everyone else. Their passing game is ranked third, and they're protecting Eli's back to the tune of less than one sack per game. Even without Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants have Andre Brown and speedster David Wilson to carry the load. Expect Manning to again throw on early downs to shorten the distances into manageable increments where their playbook can be opened. Then watch Hakeem Nicks pop off several big plays and have his best day of the season. Tom Coughlin and Kevin Gilbride will use the run, and if it works, they're not afraid to go back to it over and over. The Cowboys lack of pass rush will hurt them in this game, and if they can't slow Manning down, the Giants will turn the game over to their runners and pound away like they did in San Francisco. 

For all his trials, Tony Romo still has a ton of weapons surrounding him. The Giants nearly blew one to the Redskins at home a week ago because of Manning's uneven play. The Cowboys will get a pick or two off of Manning, and I see Philip Tanner posting decent enough numbers to give Romo some leeway to beat the Giants and sweep the season series.

COWBOYS 31, GIANTS 29


SUNDAY NIGHT GAME

NEW ORLEANS @ DENVER
This game actually feels a lot less like a shootout and more like a blowout. The Saints are 2-7 overall versus the Broncos and have won only once in the Mile High City. Last time these two teams met was 2008 and the Broncos, led by Jay Cutler, handed Drew Brees a tough 34-32 loss.

This year, the Saints offense isn't so much the problem. Defensively, the Saints have allowed 20 touchdowns and 182 points. They've been equally bad against the run and pass, yielding 465 yards per game on average. Against Peyton Manning, who has the Broncos offense now ranked sixth, fourth in the passing department, the Saints are staring at an opponent with enough firepower to keep up with them, and a defense that can stop them.

Two things could change the outcome for the Saints. First, they need a win badly. At 2-4 they're staring down the barrel of a virtual gun and their schedule doesn't get any easier. Second, the Broncos have fumbled the ball nine times and lost all nine, and along with four interceptions have 13 turnovers that have resulted in 36 points.

Colston is again atop fantasy WRs
The Broncos goal is to keep their defense rested, force a few turnovers and sustain time of possession through a mix of passes and runs. Willis McGahee has only carried the ball more than 20 times in a game once this season. Expect him to get another 17-20 carries here, and you can bank on some fruitful runs for a 100-yard performance. That will leave Manning to work play action and use all his receivers. Every Denver receiver should have value this week, including a healthy Brandon Stokley, who now has three touchdowns and 216 yards.

For the Saints, their 32nd ranked rushing attack will struggle in Denver. Drew Brees will throw a lot, so don't be surprised to see 40 attempts and 300 plus yards through the air. Jimmy Graham is questionable on his bad ankle and will likely be a game time decision. If he plays, we've seen the Broncos give up scores to Heath Miller, Tony Gonzalez, Owen Daniels and two to Antonio Gates. He's a top TE play if he's healthy. Marques Colston has seen his numbers take off in his past three games. He has dominated the fantasy landscape, finishing twice in the top five with 25 catches on 41 targets for 327 yards and five scores. He and Lance Moore both have a shot at over 100 receiving yards. You can also start Darren Sproles, who is bound to be used on key third downs and for screens to take advantage of Sproles speed.

This game just feels like the one-dimensional passing offense of the Saints will get them into trouble. Sooner or later, the opportunistic veteran secondary of Denver will force a mistake or two, and that will be enough for the Broncos to cover.

BRONCOS 37, SAINTS 31


MONDAY NIGHT GAME

SAN FRANCISCO @ ARIZONA
In 2011, the 10-2 49ers marched into cool Phoenix desert expecting to return home with their 11th win. What they got instead was a shocking 21-19 defeat at the hands of a 5-7 Cardinals team.

It was John Skelton who threw three touchdown passes in that game, and it was the third in a string of six straight wins to finish off the season. Skelton is set to start for the Cardinals again, but this time the 49ers are the best defense in the NFL. Skelton's 55.4 percent completion rate should give fantasy owners pause, especially since it's combined with just one TD pass versus three interceptions. You can't bench WR Larry Fitzgerald, as he has 11 career touchdown catches against San Francisco, scoring in three of the last four. Even with the 49ers pass defense giving up just 173 yards per game and six receiving touchdowns, Fitzgerald's just too good to consider sitting him here. While teams like the Giants have put up decent rushing numbers against San Francisco, Arizona's offensive line is nothing close to New York's. LaRod Stephens-Howling appears to be in line for the most carries but he's likely to finish outside the top 20 runners in fantasy this week. Andre Roberts, the beneficiary of Skelton's lone TD pass this season, isn't much more than a yardage play this week.

The 49ers are going to pound RB Frank Gore into this unit as much as possible, in order to keep control of the tempo. He should be good for 22-25 carries and well over 100 yards. The 49ers defensive unit, which surprisingly has just 11 sacks, is about to augment its total and is a strong D/ST play this week. Don't expect a lot from Alex Smith or his wide receivers this week. This should be a low scoring affair much like San Francisco's grinder against Seattle. The difference will be the tattered offensive front of Arizona allowing too many 49ers linebackers to terrorize Skelton.

Expect 185 passing yards from Smith, most of which will go to Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. Davis will be good for a short TD as well, and the 49ers will take revenge on last year's let down.

49ERS 20, CARDINALS 10