Articles By Mark Ross

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One of the NFL’s best rivalries going right now will take center stage this afternoon when the Seattle Seahawks take on the San Francisco 49ers at 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX. Pete Carroll and the Seahawks (11-1) have already clinched a playoff spot and can sew up the NFC West title and a first-round bye with a win. Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers (8-4) currently possess the NFC’s final Wild Card spot, but they would like to improve their postseason chances with a victory at home and snap a two-game losing streak to their division rivals in the process.

3 Things to Watch

Seahawks Flying High
Winners of seven in a row after a dominating, 34-7 victory over New Orleans on Monday night, Seattle appears to come into this one with all of the momentum. The Seahawks haven’t lost since a 34-28 defeat at Indianapolis back on Oct. 6 and have outscored the opposition by nearly 100 points (203-105) during their winning streak. In their last three games alone, the offense has averaged 414 yards and has not turned the ball over once. The No. 1 defense in the NFL, the Seahawks have held their last three opponents – Falcons, Vikings and Saints – to an average of 250 yards per game and have forced six turnovers. New Orleans, one of the top offenses in the league, managed a season-low 188 yards of offense and one lone touchdown against the Seahawks’ defense on Monday night. Seattle also has been successful against San Francisco lately, winning the last two games against the 49ers by a combined score of 71-16. In these contests, the Seahawks outgained the 49ers 348-182 on the ground and won the turnover battle 7-2. Seattle seems to be peaking at just the right time, which means San Francisco has its work cut out for it this afternoon.

Location, Location, Location
As well as Seattle is playing right now, San Francisco does have one thing in its favor – the 49ers are the home team. The Seahawks enjoy one of the greatest home-field advantages in the NFL at CenturyLink Field, which is manifested by the deafening support of their fans, collectively known as the “12th Man.” These fans have been so loud as to register on the Richter scale, and it’s apparent the home team feeds off of this energy, especially the defense. At home, the Seahawks are giving up 261.5 yards per game and just 14 points per game. On the road, those numbers grow to 316.5 and 17. At a league-best 11-1, it’s not like Seattle has played poorly on the road this season. In fact, the Seahawks could set a single-season franchise record with their sixth road win this afternoon. To do that, however, they will have to do something they haven’t done since 2008 – win in San Francisco. The Seahawks have won the last two meetings against the 49ers, but both of those games were in Seattle. San Francisco has won the past four games at Candlestick Park, including last season’s 13-6 victory in Week 7. Last year’s Seahawks team went 3-5 during the regular season on the road, won at Washington in the NFC Wild Card game before losing in Atlanta in the Divisional Round. This year’s Seahawks squad is 5-1 on the road and would be one step closer to securing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory this afternoon. San Francisco made it to the Super Bowl last season by beating the Falcons on the road in the NFC title game. Can the Seahawks show the defending NFC Champions that they are a team to be feared, no matter where the game is played?

Putting the “O” in San Francisco
For the season, the 49ers are 28th in the NFL in total offense at 311 yards per game. The rushing attack is seventh at 130.8 yards per contest, but the passing game lags well behind. Only the Jets, who are starting a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith, have thrown for fewer yards this season than the 49ers (180.3 ypg). In San Francisco’s eight wins, the 49ers are averaging 365.5 yards and 32.3 points per game. In their four losses, including a 29-3 defeat to the Seahawks back in Week 2, those numbers plummet to 202 yards and just 9.8 points per game. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s play has been inconsistent to say the least this season, and he’s fared even worse against Seattle in his career. In two games against the Seahawks, Kaepernick has accounted for one touchdown pass and five (4 INTs, fumble) total turnovers, as the 49ers have been outscored 71-16 in those contests. Earlier this season, Kaepernick had arguably the worst game of his young career up in Seattle. In the Week 2 loss, Kaepernick completed just 13 of 28 passes for 127 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He did rush for a season-high 87 yards, but he lost a fumble and also was sacked three times, as the 49ers finished with 207 yards of offense. While Kaepernick certainly needs to play better, the San Francisco offense really revolves around running the ball. After starting the season with nine straight performances of at least 90 yards rushing, the 49ers have averaged just 80 yards on the ground over their last three games. If there’s been any weak spot in Seattle’s defense this season, it’s been against the run. The Seahawks are 13th in the league in rushing defense at 107.2 yards per game, but have given up 150 or more to three different teams (Houston, St. Louis and Tampa Bay). Running back Frank Gore has had success in his career against Seattle, posting a 5.3 yards per carry average in 15 games, but he gained just 16 yards rushing against the Seahawks earlier this season and hasn’t gone over 82 yards on the ground since Week 6. Whether it’s Kaepernick or Gore or someone else, San Francisco needs to find some offense this afternoon if the 49ers have any hope of ending Seattle’s seven-game winning streak.

Seattle Key Player: Russell Wilson, QB
The Seahawks have the best record in the NFL at 11-1 and the league’s No. 1 defense. They also have a pretty good quarterback in Wilson, who has gone from an afterthought as a third-round draft pick in 2012 to a legitimate MVP candidate this season. All Wilson did as a rookie was win the starting job in the preseason and then go on to post a 26:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio while completing 64.1 percent of his passes and help lead the Seahawks to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. This season Wilson has been even better. His completion percentage is up (64.9), he’s on pace to post a 29:8 TD:INT ratio and he’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry. With four games left, Wilson has already won 22 games and has 48 touchdown passes in his first two seasons. The only quarterbacks with more touchdown passes in their first two campaigns are Dan Marino (68) and Peyton Manning (52). While Wilson may have a chance of catching Manning, what is first and foremost on his mind is securing the NFC West title and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win over San Francisco. Wilson is 2-1 against his division rivals, with both victories coming at home. In fact his only game at Candlestick Park, a 13-6 defeat in Week 7 last season, was the worst performance of his young career. In that game, Wilson completed just 9-of-23 passes for 122 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He has been solid on the road this season (10:2 TD:INT ratio in six games), but has struggled away from home against some of the better passing defenses. A strong performance by Wilson at Candlestick Park this afternoon may not only result in a division title and first-round bye in the playoffs, it could go a long ways towards bolstering his MVP candidacy.

San Francisco Key Player: Michael Crabtree, WR
The 49ers’ leading receiver last season, Crabtree has played in a grand total of one game in 2013. He missed the first 11 after tearing his Achilles tendon in late March. Colin Kaepernick looked Crabtree’s way early and often after he became the starter midway through last season, as the duo become one of the most productive quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the NFL. In the 10 starts Kaepernick made in 2012, including playoffs, Crabtree recorded 61 receptions for 880 yards (14.4 ypr) and eight touchdowns. It’s no stretch to say that Kaepernick has missed his favorite target, as he’s thrown for just 15 touchdowns with seven interceptions this season. In his first game back, Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards, but the 275 yards passing by Kaepernick were the most since 412 against Green Bay all the back in Week 1. While it’s expected that Crabtree will be rusty as he works his way back, it’s not out of the question for him to have an impact this afternoon. Especially considering Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” secondary will most likely be without heavy-hitting cornerback Brandon Browner, who is dealing with a groin injury.

Final Analysis

Seattle is on a roll right now. The Seahawks have won seven in a row, have the NFL’s No. 1 defense and a legitimate MVP candidate in quarterback Russell Wilson. While they have been pretty much unbeatable at home under Pete Carroll, this year’s Seahawks team has played very well away from home too, posting a 5-1 record.

San Francisco has a tentative grasp on the final Wild Card berth in the NFL, but the 49ers know they need to keep winning if they want to have a shot at getting back to the Super Bowl. The offense continues to be a mystery, as Colin Kaepernick hasn’t thrown for more than 300 yards in a game since the season opener.

These two teams clearly don’t like each other, so don’t be surprised if things get heated this afternoon at Candlestick Park. The last time they played, back in Week 2, they combined for 22 penalties for 205 yards. In fact, whichever team does a better job of controlling its emotions, if you will, will probably be better positioned to win.

That said, Seattle is peaking at the right time and appears to be a team on a mission. Wilson is playing exceptional football right now, while Kaepernick has yet to find his stride. In the end, the Seahawks make enough plays early on offense and late on defense to earn the season sweep of the 49ers, along with the NFC West division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Seattle 24, San Francisco 20

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Seattle Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 09:00
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Even though it’s a light Sunday afternoon/night slate in Week 14 that doesn’t mean there aren’t any important games on the schedule, especially when it comes to fantasy implications. Here are some key wide receivers playing later today or on Monday that you need to keep an eye on.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears vs. Dallas Cowboys (Mon.)
Marshall’s quad strain is a minor issue at this point, as he practiced in full on Friday and Saturday. He is listed as Probable for Monday night’s game against Dallas and should be worth the wait. The Cowboys are second to last in the NFL in passing defense and are tied for the fifth-most yards allowed to wide receivers this season. Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are indisputable must-starts this week.

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Thomas injured his shoulder last week against Kansas City, which limited him during practice for most of the week. He was able to participate fully on Friday, however, and is considered Probable for this afternoon’s game. The chilly conditions expected at game time (4:05 p.m. ET) in Denver could dictate the Broncos’ offensive game plan, but Thomas still needs to be in your lineup.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
After initially injuring his shoulder, Floyd was limited some in practice this week because of an ankle injury. Regardless, Floyd is considered Probable for this afternoon’s game and this red-hot Cardinal needs to be in your lineup. Over his last three games, Floyd has caught 18 passes for 396 yards and two touchdowns.

Kendall Wright, WR, Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Wright was limited on Wednesday because of an ankle injury, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is considered Probable for this afternoon’s game in Denver. Wright has just two touchdown receptions on the season, but his 71 catches are seventh among wide receivers and he’s averaged nearly 10 targets over his last four games. Even with the expected cold/wintry conditions, Wright should catch enough passes to provide WR2 production with a shot at even bigger numbers.

Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers vs. New York Giants
Royal missed last week’s game because of a chest injury and didn’t practice at all this week. He is officially listed as Questionable and will be a game-time decision to suit up against the Giants. The Chargers have gone to more two-tight end sets lately with Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green, which has diminished the use of a No. 3 wideout like Royal. At this point, it would be wise to move on from Royal, as Keenan Allen is really the only Charger wide receiver worth paying attention to.

Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Harvin’s road to recovery has experienced more than its fair share of bumps recently, as he recently underwent a minor procedure to try and alleviate soreness in his surgically repaired hip. He has been declared Out for this afternoon’s game against San Francisco and it’s very likely he won’t return until the playoffs, if even then. At this point, it’s looking like Harvin will be a no-show for the entire 2013 fantasy season.

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Week 14 Injury Updates: Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Percy Harvin
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
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Weather and injuries are two things that could factor into today’s games. Here is the latest information on some banged-up wide receivers entering Week 14’s 1 p.m. ET kickoffs.

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Indianapolis Colts
Green was limited earlier this week because of a groin issue, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is listed as Probable. Green will be out there against the Colts, and while he’s a top-10 fantasy wide receiver, the weather (wintry mix) could be a factor for today’s game. What that means is the passing game may take a back seat to the running game this afternoon and Green may not perform in accordance to his WR1 status.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Buffalo Bills
Jackson did not practice at all on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury, and only participated in a limited capacity on Thursday and Friday. He is considered Questionable for today’s game (1 p.m. ET) against Buffalo and will most likely be a game-time decision. Greg Schiano has said he’s “cautiously optimistic” about Jackson’s availability, but this is certainly a situation worth watching. Jackson is a WR1-caliber player, but only if he’s on the field.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
Hilton was limited at practice on Wednesday because of a shoulder injury, but he was a full participant on both Thursday and Friday. He is considered Probable for today’s game in Cincinnati and should play. After Reggie Wayne (ACL) was lost for the season, Hilton became Andrew Luck’s No. 1 target. Unfortunately, Luck and the passing game have struggled recently, as Hilton hasn’t topped 50 receiving yards in any of the last three games. Between the weather forecast (wintry mix) in Cincinnati and the matchup with a tough Bengals defense (213.8 passing ypg, 8th in the NFL), Hilton should probably be viewed as nothing more than a WR3 with upside this week.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Moore will miss his third straight game because of a shoulder injury, which means Rod Streater and Andre Holmes will serve as the Raiders’ top receiving threats. Between the Jets’ susceptible pass defense and the state of flux that is Oakland’s backfield, Streater and/or Holmes could be worth a look if you are in need of rounding out your receiving corps or a flex option this week.

Teaser:
Injury Updates Week 14: A.J. Green, Vincent Jackson, T.Y. Hilton, Denarius Moore
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
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Peyton Manning should have his top tight end back this afternoon while Arizona’s quarterback is dealing with an elbow injury entering Week 14. Here’s the latest injury information on those and others at these two positions as the fantasy playoffs heat up.

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Thomas has missed the last two games because of a knee injury, but he practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is listed as Probable to play against the Titans. The Probable designation is a pretty good indicator he will play, but there’s nothing wrong with confirming Thomas’ status prior to the 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff, provided you have another option waiting in the wings just in case.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots vs. Cleveland Browns
Just like last week, Gronkowski is listed as Questionable, but this appears to be more procedural than anything on the Patriots’ part. Gronk has recorded a touchdown catch in four straight games, making him the most productive fantasy TE during this span. This production is why you waited so long for him to return, so there’s no reason to not stick with Gronkowski at this point.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
Gonzalez is listed as Questionable yet again because of his toe injury, but the future Hall of Famer has yet to miss a game and he practiced all week in some capacity. He recorded his fifth touchdown catch of the season last week and even with Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offensive struggles, Gonzalez is worthy of TE1 consideration.

Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Walker sustained a concussion in last week’s loss to Indianapolis and didn’t practice this week. He is listed as Questionable to play against Denver, but the good news is his status should be known well before the late afternoon (4:05 p.m. ET) kickoff. Even if he’s cleared to play, I would be very hesitant to take my chances with Walker, despite how productive (45 rec., 5 TDs) he has been.

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Palmer is Questionable with an elbow injury, but head coach Bruce Arians said he expects him to play against the Rams. Palmer did participate in the team’s walkthrough on Saturday, so he’s looking like a fairly safe bet. He has thrown at least two touchdown passes in five straight games with just four interceptions during this span. Provided his offensive holds up against a fierce Rams pass rush (37 sacks), Palmer should put up decent numbers once again. He’s definitely in the 2-QB conversation and could work his way into starter status, depending on your options.

Jason Campbell, QB, Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
Campbell missed last week’s game because of a concussion, but he returned to practice this week, passed the necessary tests and has been cleared to return. He is listed as Probable and will get the start against New England. Brandon Weeden, who sustained a concussion in last week’s loss to Jacksonville, has already been declared Out. Campbell could merit consideration in 2-QB leagues against a Patriots secondary that is somewhat banged up and also considering the possibility that he may be forced to throw the ball quite a bit because of the game circumstances.

QBs Already Declared Out

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears – Cutler will miss his fourth game in a row because of an ankle injury, but he appears close to returning. Until then, Josh McCown will get the call and he has forced himself into the fantasy starter discussion this week against a Dallas defense that is second-to-last in the NFL in passing yards allowed and giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. McCown has put together back-to-back 350-yard performances and has posted a 9:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season.

Christian Ponder, QB, Minnesota Vikings – Ponder will miss today’s game against Baltimore because of a concussion. Matt Cassel will get the start, but that only should matter to Vikings fans and the Ravens because otherwise Cassel shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers – Rodgers will miss a fifth game because of his broken collarbone and could end up being shelved for the remainder of the season as a precaution. Matt Flynn will get the start today against Atlanta and maybe the Falcons’ 20th-ranked passing defense will be just what he and the Packers need following a disastrous showing (139-0-1) on Thanksgiving Day against the Lions. The forecast for Lambeau Field will be chilly and snowy, so it’s up to you if you want to pin your fantasy hopes on Flynn.

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Injury Updates Week 14: Julius Thomas, Rob Gronkowski, Tony Gonzalez, Carson Palmer
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
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Week 14 means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. Here’s the rundown on all of the running back injuries you need to know about before setting your lineup.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
Peterson is listed as Questionable with a groin injury, but there’s no indication he’s not going to play. The groin has been an issue for several weeks now and all the reigning MVP has done in his past two games is record 67 carries for 357 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore has been pretty good against the run (100.1 ypg), but unless he’s out, you’re not sitting Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Although he was limited in practice on Wednesday, Moreno is listed as Probable and will get the start against Tennessee this afternoon. Despite rushing for just 18 yards on 15 carries last week against Kansas City, Moreno still paid dividends to his fantasy owners with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. The more important development, however, was that Moreno finished the game no worse for the wear after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle two weeks ago. Moreno and Monte Ball both figure to be quite busy this afternoon, as the wintry conditions in Denver could result in the Broncos running the ball more than they usually do.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
Bush’s only practice appearance this week was a limited one on Friday, as he’s Questionable with a calf injury. He’s been held back in practice before and still played, but that was to rest his sore knee. The fact that this is his calf and his last game was on Thanksgiving Day is somewhat concerning. Bush rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Packers and he has an appealing matchup against the Eagles. However, with everything that’s at stake, you probably want to make sure Bush is playing today before setting your starting lineup.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins
Bell sustained a concussion late in the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, but he practiced fully all week and is considered Probable for today’s game. Barring a setback and provided he has passed the necessary league-mandated concussion protocols, Bell should be out there against a Dolphins defense that is 25th in the NFL against the run (121.8 ypg). The Steelers and Dolphins kick off at 1 p.m. ET, so that should give you plenty of time to see if this Bell will toll for you this week or not.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, RBs, Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller was limited earlier this week because of a pectoral injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable. He should be in for a similar workload today as last week (22 carries vs. the Jets) against a Steelers defense that has struggled to stop the run at times. Meanwhile after initially believed to be out for the rest of the season due to a torn ligament in his ankle, Thomas returned to practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury. He is officially listed as Questionable, but it would be somewhat of a surprise to see Thomas return today. Miller remains the Dolphin back to start, but it looks Thomas could still be heard from before the season is over.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Questionable headed into last week’s game, Ellington was ruled inactive prior to kickoff against the Eagles because of a knee injury. He remained limited on Thursday, but participated in Friday’s practice and is considered Probable to return today against the Rams. Even with his speed and big-play ability, Ellington is probably no more than a boom-or-bust flex option, as he has taken somewhat of a backseat to Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals backfield.

Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
After entering last week’s game as Questionable, Carolina’s top three running backs are considered Probable for tonight’s pivotal NFC South showdown with New Orleans. Williams (right) missed last week’s win against Tampa Bay because of a quadriceps injury, but has been declared the starter against the Saints. Stewart (ankle) and Tolbert (knee) both missed some practice time, but they will play as well. Even with a matchup against a rushing defense that’s allowing 4.6 yards per carry, all three Panther backs are risky fantasy options. Including Cam Newton, there are four mouths to feed in the Carolina backfield and the Panthers run the ball less than 32 times a game. As it relates to the backs, Williams is probably the best option because he’s the starter, but he’s probably no better than a flex candidate. Tolbert is probably a shade ahead of Stewart because of his goal-line and short yardage usage. Tolbert also is the most likely of the three to score a touchdown (4 rush, 2 receiving).

Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, RBs, Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
McFadden has already been ruled Out because of an ankle injury, while Jennings is Questionable due to a concussion. Jennings has yet to be cleared by the league to return to the field, although he did travel with the team to New York. Jennings’ status should be known well before game time (1 p.m. ET), but between his uncertainty and the matchup with the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense, I would just steer clear of the Raiders’ backfield as a whole this week.

Teaser:
Week 14 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, Knowshon Moreno, Reggie Bush, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
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Week 14 means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. Here’s the rundown on all of the running back injuries you need to know about before setting your lineup.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
Peterson is listed as Questionable with a groin injury, but there’s no indication he’s not going to play. The groin has been an issue for several weeks now and all the reigning MVP has done in his past two games is record 67 carries for 357 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore has been pretty good against the run (100.1 ypg), but unless he’s out, you’re not sitting Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Although he was limited in practice on Wednesday, Moreno is listed as Probable and will get the start against Tennessee this afternoon. Despite rushing for just 18 yards on 15 carries last week against Kansas City, Moreno still paid dividends to his fantasy owners with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. The more important development, however, was that Moreno finished the game no worse for the wear after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle two weeks ago. Moreno and Monte Ball both figure to be quite busy this afternoon, as the wintry conditions in Denver could result in the Broncos running the ball more than they usually do.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
Bush’s only practice appearance this week was a limited one on Friday, as he’s Questionable with a calf injury. He’s been held back in practice before and still played, but that was to rest his sore knee. The fact that this is his calf and his last game was on Thanksgiving Day is somewhat concerning. Bush rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Packers and he has an appealing matchup against the Eagles. However, with everything that’s at stake, you probably want to make sure Bush is playing today before setting your starting lineup.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins
Bell sustained a concussion late in the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, but he practiced fully all week and is considered Probable for today’s game. Barring a setback and provided he has passed the necessary league-mandated concussion protocols, Bell should be out there against a Dolphins defense that is 25th in the NFL against the run (121.8 ypg). The Steelers and Dolphins kick off at 1 p.m. ET, so that should give you plenty of time to see if this Bell will toll for you this week or not.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, RBs, Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller was limited earlier this week because of a pectoral injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable. He should be in for a similar workload today as last week (22 carries vs. the Jets) against a Steelers defense that has struggled to stop the run at times. Meanwhile after initially believed to be out for the rest of the season due to a torn ligament in his ankle, Thomas returned to practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury. He is officially listed as Questionable, but it would be somewhat of a surprise to see Thomas return today. Miller remains the Dolphin back to start, but it looks Thomas could still be heard from before the season is over.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Questionable headed into last week’s game, Ellington was ruled inactive prior to kickoff against the Eagles because of a knee injury. He remained limited on Thursday, but participated in Friday’s practice and is considered Probable to return today against the Rams. Even with his speed and big-play ability, Ellington is probably no more than a boom-or-bust flex option, as he has taken somewhat of a backseat to Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals backfield.

Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
After entering last week’s game as Questionable, Carolina’s top three running backs are considered Probable for tonight’s pivotal NFC South showdown with New Orleans. Williams (right) missed last week’s win against Tampa Bay because of a quadriceps injury, but has been declared the starter against the Saints. Stewart (ankle) and Tolbert (knee) both missed some practice time, but they will play as well. Even with a matchup against a rushing defense that’s allowing 4.6 yards per carry, all three Panther backs are risky fantasy options. Including Cam Newton, there are four mouths to feed in the Carolina backfield and the Panthers run the ball less than 32 times a game. As it relates to the backs, Williams is probably the best option because he’s the starter, but he’s probably no better than a flex candidate. Tolbert is probably a shade ahead of Stewart because of his goal-line and short yardage usage. Tolbert also is the most likely of the three to score a touchdown (4 rush, 2 receiving).

Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, RBs, Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
McFadden has already been ruled Out because of an ankle injury, while Jennings is Questionable due to a concussion. Jennings has yet to be cleared by the league to return to the field, although he did travel with the team to New York. Jennings’ status should be known well before game time (1 p.m. ET), but between his uncertainty and the matchup with the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense, I would just steer clear of the Raiders’ backfield as a whole this week.

Teaser:
Week 14 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, Knowshon Moreno, Reggie Bush, Le’Veon Bell, DeAngelo Williams
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, injury updates, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/week-14-injury-updates-adrian-peterson-reggie-bush-knowshon-moreno-deangelo-williams
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Week 14 means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. Here’s the rundown on all of the running back injuries you need to know about before setting your lineup.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
Peterson is listed as Questionable with a groin injury, but there’s no indication he’s not going to play. The groin has been an issue for several weeks now and all the reigning MVP has done in his past two games is record 67 carries for 357 yards and a touchdown. Baltimore has been pretty good against the run (100.1 ypg), but unless he’s out, you’re not sitting Peterson.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
Although he was limited in practice on Wednesday, Moreno is listed as Probable and will get the start against Tennessee this afternoon. Despite rushing for just 18 yards on 15 carries last week against Kansas City, Moreno still paid dividends to his fantasy owners with four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. The more important development, however, was that Moreno finished the game no worse for the wear after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle two weeks ago. Moreno and Monte Ball both figure to be quite busy this afternoon, as the wintry conditions in Denver could result in the Broncos running the ball more than they usually do.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
Bush’s only practice appearance this week was a limited one on Friday, as he’s Questionable with a calf injury. He’s been held back in practice before and still played, but that was to rest his sore knee. The fact that this is his calf and his last game was on Thanksgiving Day is somewhat concerning. Bush rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown against the Packers and he has an appealing matchup against the Eagles. However, with everything that’s at stake, you probably want to make sure Bush is playing today before setting your starting lineup.

Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins
Bell sustained a concussion late in the Steelers’ loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, but he practiced fully all week and is considered Probable for today’s game. Barring a setback and provided he has passed the necessary league-mandated concussion protocols, Bell should be out there against a Dolphins defense that is 25th in the NFL against the run (121.8 ypg). The Steelers and Dolphins kick off at 1 p.m. ET, so that should give you plenty of time to see if this Bell will toll for you this week or not.

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, RBs, Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Miller was limited earlier this week because of a pectoral injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is listed as Probable. He should be in for a similar workload today as last week (22 carries vs. the Jets) against a Steelers defense that has struggled to stop the run at times. Meanwhile after initially believed to be out for the rest of the season due to a torn ligament in his ankle, Thomas returned to practice on Friday for the first time since suffering the injury. He is officially listed as Questionable, but it would be somewhat of a surprise to see Thomas return today. Miller remains the Dolphin back to start, but it looks Thomas could still be heard from before the season is over.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals vs. St. Louis Rams
Questionable headed into last week’s game, Ellington was ruled inactive prior to kickoff against the Eagles because of a knee injury. He remained limited on Thursday, but participated in Friday’s practice and is considered Probable to return today against the Rams. Even with his speed and big-play ability, Ellington is probably no more than a boom-or-bust flex option, as he has taken somewhat of a backseat to Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals backfield.

Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
After entering last week’s game as Questionable, Carolina’s top three running backs are considered Probable for tonight’s pivotal NFC South showdown with New Orleans. Williams (right) missed last week’s win against Tampa Bay because of a quadriceps injury, but has been declared the starter against the Saints. Stewart (ankle) and Tolbert (knee) both missed some practice time, but they will play as well. Even with a matchup against a rushing defense that’s allowing 4.6 yards per carry, all three Panther backs are risky fantasy options. Including Cam Newton, there are four mouths to feed in the Carolina backfield and the Panthers run the ball less than 32 times a game. As it relates to the backs, Williams is probably the best option because he’s the starter, but he’s probably no better than a flex candidate. Tolbert is probably a shade ahead of Stewart because of his goal-line and short yardage usage. Tolbert also is the most likely of the three to score a touchdown (4 rush, 2 receiving).

Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden, RBs, Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
McFadden has already been ruled Out because of an ankle injury, while Jennings is Questionable due to a concussion. Jennings has yet to be cleared by the league to return to the field, although he did travel with the team to New York. Jennings’ status should be known well before game time (1 p.m. ET), but between his uncertainty and the matchup with the NFL’s No. 1 rushing defense, I would just steer clear of the Raiders’ backfield as a whole this week.

Teaser:
Week 14 Injury Updates: Adrian Peterson, Reggie Bush, Knowshon Moreno, DeAngelo Williams
Post date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-14
Body:

Week 14 means there are just four games remaining in the NFL regular season and that the fantasy playoffs are upon us. Congratulations to those whose teams are still in contention for your league championship. But now, here's where the rubber really meets the road, as it's win or go home from here out.

Last week was Thanksgiving and I know that those who have Eric Decker, Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson on their team were especially thankful. Those were the top five leading scorers in Week 13, led by a trio of wide receivers. Other top scorers at their respective positions included DeMarco Murray (RB), Rob Gronkowski (TE), Adam Vinatieri (K), and the Detroit Lions DST. Chances are if you had any of these players (and especially if you had more than one), you had a good holiday weekend.

Looking ahead, the Detroit-Philadelphia matchup on Sunday and the Dallas-Chicago Monday night affair should both feature plenty of offense, while Carolina-New Orleans and Seattle-San Francisco should be two of the more competitive games on the slate. At this time of year, the elements also could be a factor, especially in places like Denver (vs. Tennessee), Cincinnati (vs. Indianapolis), Pittsburgh (vs. Miami), and even Philadelphia.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-14
Body:

Peyton Manning stands tall atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 quarterback rankings, but there's another signal-caller who is proving that size isn't the only thing that matters.

Manning led all quarterbacks with 41.8 fantasy points last week, thanks to five touchdown passes and 403 yards against Kansas City, but Russell Wilson wasn't too far behind with 35.1. Wilson won the battle of the 6-feet tall and under quarterbacks on Monday night against Drew Brees, as the second-year pro tossed three touchdowns and finished with 310 yards passing and no turnovers in the Seahawks' dominating 34-7 win over the Saints.

Wilson is having an MVP-caliber sophomore season, with 23 total touchdowns and 11 turnovers (6 INTs, 5 fumbles) and his team possessing the best record in the NFL at 11-1. He's fifth at his position in fantasy scoring, but could be in for a slower day at the office Sunday when Seattle goes to San Francisco for a key NFC West showdown. The 49ers are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Meanwhile Manning and the Broncos will be at home against Tennessee and it will be interesting to see if the expected cold temperatures impact his production, as they did in New England (19-of-36, 150-2-1) two weeks ago. Philadelphia could be cold and rainy as well, but Nick Foles and Matthew Stafford are solidly among the top six options this week. Foles' remarkable season just keeps on going, as he's accounted for 21 total touchdowns (19 passing, 2 rushing) and just one turnover (fumble) in nine games played. Foles is No. 17 among quarterbacks in fantasy points on the season, but his per-game average of 30.8 in his six starts is surpassed by just one player — Peyton Manning.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Peyton ManningDENvs. TEN
2Matthew StaffordDETat PHI
3Tom BradyNEvs. CLE
4Drew BreesNOvs. CAR
5Cam NewtonCARat NO
6Nick FolesPHIvs. DET
7Josh McCownCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
8Tony RomoDALat CHI (Mon.)
9Russell WilsonSEAat SF
10Philip RiversSDvs. NYG
11Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. MIA
12Alex SmithKCat WAS
13Robert Griffin IIIWASvs. KC
14Matt RyanATLat GB
15Joe FlaccoBALvs. MIN
16Colin KaepernickSFvs. SEA
17Andrew LuckINDat CIN
18Andy DaltonCINvs. IND
19Ryan FitzpatrickTENat DEN
20Mike GlennonTBvs. BUF
21Carson PalmerARIvs. STL
22Eli ManningNYGat SD
23EJ ManuelBUFat TB
24Ryan TannehillMIAat PIT
25Case KeenumHOUat JAC (Thurs.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-14
Body:

Order has been restored atop both the NFL rushing rankings and Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 running back rankings as the reigning MVP is on another tear.

Adrian Peterson posted his fifth career 200-yard rushing game last week with 211 on 35 carries in the overtime win against Chicago. The only thing missing from Peterson's stat line was a touchdown, but I'm pretty sure his owners will gladly take the 22.1 fantasy points and run with them. Peterson has 357 yards rushing over his last two games combined and is the undisputed No. 1 RB this week, even with a date against a fairly stingy Baltimore defense.

Speaking of tough matchups, it will be interesting to see how LeSean McCoy fares against Detroit's rushing defense on Sunday. McCoy has ceded the rushing lead to Peterson, but he's still a top-five fantasy RB and someone owners are hoping to lean on in the playoffs. This week isn't shaping up to be easy, however, as the Lions are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Some top running backs with more appealing Week 14 matchups include Jamaal Charles (at Washington), Matt Forte (vs. Dallas), Knowshon Moreno (vs. Tennessee) and DeMarco Murray (at Chicago). In particular, the Monday night tilt between Dallas and Chicago could end up determining many a fantasy playoff game, as the Cowboys are giving up the most fantasy points to running backs and the Bears come in sixth in that respect.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Adrian PetersonMINat BAL
2Jamaal CharlesKCat WAS
3Matt ForteCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
4Knowshon MorenoDENvs. TEN
5Marshawn LynchSEAat SF
6Reggie BushDETat PHI
7Eddie LacyGBvs. ATL
8LeSean McCoyWASvs. KC
9DeMarco MurrayDALat CHI (Mon.)
10Andre BrownNYGat SD
11Alfred MorrisPHIvs. DET
12Chris JohnsonTENat DEN
13Ben TateHOUat JAC (Thurs.)
14Zac StacySTLat ARI
15Le'Veon BellPITvs. MIA
16Maurice Jones-DrewJACvs. HOU (Thurs.)
17Shane VereenNEvs. CLE
18Frank GoreSFvs. SEA
19Giovani BernardCINvs. IND
20Ray RiceBALvs. MIN
21Steven JacksonBUFat TB
22Fred JacksonATLat GB
23Chris IvoryNYJvs. OAK
24C.J. SpillerOAKat NYJ
25Bobby RaineyTBvs. BUF
26Ryan MathewsSDvs. NYG
27Rashard MendenhallARIvs. STL
28Lamar MillerMIAat PIT
29Donald BrownINDat CIN
30Rashad JenningsBUFat TB
31Danny WoodheadSDvs. NYG
32Pierre ThomasNOvs. CAR
33BenJarvus Green-EllisCINvs. IND
34Darren SprolesNOvs. CAR
35Montee BallDENvs. TEN
36Darren McFaddenOAKat NYJ
37Willis McGaheeCLEat NE
38DeAngelo WilliamsCARat NO
39Chris OgbonnayaCLEat NE
40Jonathan StewartCARat NO

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-14
Body:

Calvin Johnson maintains his standing as the No. 1 wide receiver in Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 rankings, but there's a young Brown hot on his heels.

All Josh Gordon has done the last two weeks is post back-to-back 200-yard receiving games becoming the first player in NFL history to do so. If there's any concern with Gordon, who is ranked No. 5 on this week's list, it's his quarterback situation. Both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden are banged up and it may not be known until game time who will be under center against New England. With all the damage Gordon has done recently, it may not matter who his quarterback is, which is why you have no choice but to start him and hope for the best.

As impressive as Gordon was last week, scoring 43.1 fantasy points, he wasn't even the top player at his position. That honor goes to Eric Decker, who caught four of Peyton Manning's five touchdown passes against Kansas City. Decker totaled eight catches for 174 yards, scoring 46.4 fantasy points and moving him ahead of teammate Wes Welker to No. 11 among all wide receivers. Welker currently slots in at No. 14 and when combined with Demaryius Thomas (third), gives the Broncos three of the top 15 fantasy wide receivers. Denver hosts Tennessee on Sunday and even with the expected winter-like conditions, you didn't come this far to sit one of them now did you?

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Calvin JohnsonDETat PHI
2A.J. GreenCINvs. IND
3Dez BryantDALat CHI (Mon.)
4Brandon MarshallCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
5Josh GordonCLEat NE
6Demaryius ThomasDENvs. TEN
7Andre JohnsonHOUat JAC (Thurs.)
8Vincent JacksonTBvs. BUF
9DeSean JacksonPHIvs. DET
10Alshon JefferyCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
11Torrey SmithBALvs. MIN
12Antonio BrownPITvs. MIA
13Victor CruzNYGat SD
14Larry FitzgeraldARIvs. STL
15Wes WelkerDENvs. TEN
16Pierre GarconWASvs. KC
17Eric DeckerDENvs. TEN
18Jordy NelsonGBvs. ATL
19Keenan AllenSDvs. NYG
20Harry DouglasATLat GB
21Kendall WrightTENat DEN
22Michael FloydARIvs. STL
23Riley CooperPHIvs. DET
24Roddy WhiteATLat GB
25Mike WallaceMIAat PIT
26T.Y. HiltonINDat CIN
27Julian EdelmanNEvs. CLE
28Cecil ShortsJACvs. HOU (Thurs.)
29Dwayne BoweKCat WAS
30Marques ColstonNOvs. CAR
31Anquan BoldinSFvs. SEA
32Steve SmithCARat NO
33James JonesGBvs. ATL
34Stevie JohnsonBUFat TB
35Danny AmendolaNEvs. CLE
36Jarrett BoykinGBvs. ATL
37Brian HartlineMIAat PIT
38Denarius MooreOAKat NYJ
39Golden TateSEAat SF
40Rueben RandleNYGat SD
41Rod StreaterOAKat NYJ
42Hakeem NicksNYGat SD
43Michael CrabtreeSFvs. SEA
44Emmanuel SandersPITvs. MIA
45Cordarrelle PattersonMINat BAL
46Tavon AustinSTLat ARI
47DeAndre HopkinsHOUat JAC (Thurs.)
48Nate WashingtonTENat DEN
49Robert WoodsBUFat TB
50Kenny StillsNOvs. CAR

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-14
Body:

He has only played in six games, but Rob Gronkowski has proven his value to both his team and yours, which is why he's No. 1 in Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 tight end rankings. Gronk still trails Jimmy Graham by more than 100 fantasy points on the season, but Tom Brady's favorite target has recorded a touchdown in four straight games. Gronk's average of 16.6 fantasy points per game is topped by just one of his peers — Graham.

Speaking of Graham, he hauled in his 12th touchdown catch of the season on Monday night in Seattle, but the Seahawks did a pretty good job of keeping him in check with just three receptions for 42 yards. He faces another tough matchup in Carolina this week, but he and Gronkowski are clearly the cream of the tight end crop.

That doesn't mean there aren't other productive tight ends out there, however. One possible option is Julius Thomas, who is third in fantasy points at the position despite not playing the past two weeks because of an ankle injury. If Thomas is able to return to the Broncos' lineup this week, he gets a Tennessee defense that is in the middle of the pack when it comes to fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Just make sure Thomas is playing before plugging him into your lineup. Fantasy playoff time is not the week you want to risk a DNP from one of your starters.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Rob GronkowskiNEvs. CLE
2Jimmy GrahamNOvs. CAR
3Vernon DavisSFvs. SEA
4Jason WittenDALat CHI (Mon.)
5Tony GonzalezATLat GB
6Greg OlsenCARat NO
7Julius ThomasDENvs. TEN
8Antonio GatesSDvs. NYG
9Martellus BennettCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
10Jared CookSTLat ARI
11Coby FleenerINDat CIN
12Jordan CameronCLEat NE
13Delanie WalkerTENat DEN
14Jordan ReedWASvs. KC
15Charles ClayMIAat PIT
16Ladarius GreenSDvs. NYG
17Heath MillerPITvs. MIA
18Garrett GrahamHOUat JAC (Thurs.)
19Brandon MyersNYGat SD
20Rob HouslerARIvs. STL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-14
Body:

Coming off of Monday night's dominating performance against one of the best offenses in the NFL is there even any doubt as to which team tops Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 defense/special teams rankings? Seattle held Drew Brees and the Saints to one lone touchdown and 188 yards of offense in Monday night's dominating win at home. The Seahawks' defense scored a TD on a fumble return and on the season trail only Kansas City and Carolina in fantasy points among DSTs.

Seattle and San Francisco will lock horns this Sunday and even though the Seahawks' "12th Man" won't be present at Candlestick Park, don't expect a bunch of points from either team in this one. As for the Saints, they have another tough matchup ahead of them in the aforementioned Panthers, but New Orleans will be back home in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is why Carolina is ranked lower this week (ninth) than it has been for most of this season.

No DST had a better week last week than the Lions. Detroit feasted on Matt Flynn and the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, as the Lions' defense gave up just a 54-yard field goal and a PAT (Green Bay's TD was on a fumble return), while amassing seven sacks, a safety and three takeaways (2 fumble recoveries, INT). The Lions DST may not be as productive, however, this week since Sunday's date in Philadelphia has all the makings of a high-scoring affair. Neither the Lions nor Eagles made our top 16 fantasy DSTs for Week 14.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

RkTeamOPP
1Seattle Seahawksat SF
2Cincinnati Bengalsvs. IND
3San Francisco 49ersvs. SEA
4New England Patriotsvs. CLE
5Arizona Cardinalsvs. STL
6St. Louis Ramsat ARI
7Baltimore Ravensvs. MIN
8Kansas City Chiefsat WAS
9Carolina Panthersat NO
10Oakland Raidersat NYJ
11Denver Broncosvs. TEN
12Houston Texansat JAC (Thurs.)
13New York Giantsat SD
14Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. BUF
15New Orleans Saintsvs. CAR
16Pittsburgh Steelersvs. MIA

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-14
Body:

Stephen Gostkowski heads up Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 14 kicker rankings, but no one has been hotter at the position lately than Justin Tucker. The Ravens' kicker has connected on 27 straight field goal attempts, including 13 over the past four weeks.

In his career, Tucker is 59 of 64 (92.2 percent) on field goal attempts, making him the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Tucker could be fairly busy against this week against Minnesota. The Vikings are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to kickers this season.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 14 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

RkPlayerTeamOPPONENT
1Stephen GostkowskiNEvs. CLE
2Justin TuckerBALvs. MIN
3Steven HauschkaSEAat SF
4Matt PraterDENvs. TEN
5Adam VinatieriINDat CIN
6Blair WalshMINat BAL
7Dan BaileyDALat CHI (Mon.)
8Mason CrosbyGBvs. ATL
9Robbie GouldCHIvs. DAL (Mon.)
10Shaun SuishamPITvs. MIA
11Phil DawsonSFvs. SEA
12Caleb SturgisMIAat PIT
13Ryan SuccopKCat WAS
14Alex HeneryPHIvs. DET
15Garrett HartleyNOvs. CAR
16Nick FolkNYJvs. OAK

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Week 14 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 14
Post date: Thursday, December 5, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-vs-kansas-city-chiefs-preview-and-prediction
Body:

First place in the AFC West and the top seed in the playoffs are on the line this afternoon when the Denver Broncos face the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS. The Broncos and Chiefs are currently tied for the best record in the AFC at 9-2, with Denver holding the tiebreaker edge over Kansas City by virtue of their 27-17 win two weeks ago.

For the first time all season, both teams are coming off of losses, as Denver and Peyton Manning tied a franchise record by blowing a 24-point halftime lead to New England last week before losing in overtime, 34-31. Kansas City’s 41-38 loss to San Diego last Sunday was its second loss in a row and the first at home all season for Alex Smith and company. Now the Chiefs look to bounce back and snap a three-game losing streak to their division rivals in the process.

3 Things to Watch

You Look Familiar…
It was just two weeks ago that Denver and Kansas City faced each other. At that time, the Chiefs were the only remaining undefeated team (9-0), while the Broncos had just one loss (8-1). The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead at home in the first quarter and never really looked back. Denver would go on to win 27-17 behind 323 yards passing by Peyton Manning. The 27 points were, at the time, the most allowed by Kansas City’s defense, which didn’t record a single sack of Manning. On offense, the Chiefs out-gained the Broncos 144 to 104 on the ground, but struggled to find their rhythm in the passing game. Alex Smith had one more touchdown pass (2 to 1) than Manning, but nearly 100 fewer yards and he was sacked three times. Each team lost a fumble and drew their share of yellow flags. The teams combined for 22 penalties for 135 yards, with the Broncos (13 for 82 yards) being the bigger culprit. Outside of the score and total yardage (Denver 427, Kansas City 344), there was very little separation between them, statistically speaking. First downs were even (24 apiece), the total number of plays was very close (76 to 73) and just 14 seconds separated the Broncos (29:53) and Chiefs (30:07) in time of possession. In the end, the Broncos were just a little more efficient and productive in the passing game, which combined with the Chiefs’ inability to get to Manning, resulted in Denver staying perfect at home and moving into first place in the AFC West.

Bumps and Bruises
Last week was tough for both Denver and Kansas City, and not just because they both lost after leading at halftime. Several key players for both teams sustained injuries, and their potential absences or limited capacities could greatly impact this game. For the Broncos, the biggest concern is running back Knowshon Moreno, who gashed the Patriots for a career-high 224 yards last week, but left the stadium on crutches after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle. Despite the initial concern, Moreno did return to practice on Thursday and Friday and is expected to play. The status of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is a little more uncertain. Rodgers-Cromartie injured his shoulder against the Patriots, which caused him to leave the game and not return. His absence was one of the catalysts that helped fuel the Patriots’ second-half comeback. He was limited in Friday’s practice and is considered questionable to play this afternoon. The Broncos could get a boost, however, with the return of tight end Julius Thomas and cornerback Champ Bailey. Thomas was held out of last week’s game because of a knee injury, but is currently on track to play, while Bailey is expected to be back in the lineup for the first time since re-aggravating a foot injury back in Week 7. Kansas City’s defense, however, may not be as fortunate when it comes to its banged-up personnel. Linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hail both left last week’s game against San Diego with injuries. Hali sprained his ankle, but he has insisted that he will play. Houston, meanwhile, dislocated his elbow and reportedly could miss up to three weeks. The Chiefs entered Week 13 with an NFL-leading 37 sacks. Houston (11 sacks, tied for third in the NFL) and Hali (9, tied for 10th) are responsible for 20 of them. Kansas City didn’t record a single sack or quarterback hit on Peyton Manning in the first game two weeks ago. This task only figures to get harder without Houston and if Hail ends up being limited. For example, even though Houston didn’t have a sack in the first game, he led the Chiefs with 10 total tackles (9 solo). Injuries are just part of the game, especially at this point in the season, but it appears that the Broncos are the healthier team entering this key contest.

Which Defense Bounces Back Best?
Through the first nine games, Kansas City’s defense had allowed no more than 17 points and 283 yards passing. In their last two games, losses to the Broncos and Chargers, the Chiefs have given up an average of 34 points per game and 355 yards through the air. Last week, Philip Rivers carved up the pass defense for nearly 400 yards (392) and three touchdowns. Peyton Manning threw for 323 against Kansas City the first time, and the Chiefs will be without their most productive pass-rusher (Justin Houston) this afternoon. One way or the other, the Chiefs’ defense needs to fix what’s been ailing it the past two weeks. For Denver’s defense, it was a tale of two halves last week in New England. After shutting out the Patriots in the first half and doing everything right, the wheels came completely off in the final two quarters. Top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie injured his shoulder on the final play of the first half and didn’t return. The Broncos’ defense wasn’t the same after that, as Tom Brady completed 81 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters to help send the game into overtime. A couple of untimely turnovers certainly didn’t help matters, but no doubt interim head coach Jack Del Rio and his staff spent a lot of time this week trying to figure out what went wrong, especially in pass coverage. Both defenses had their moments in the Week 11 meeting and now it’s up to both units to quickly put last week’s disastrous performances behind and focus on the task ahead. This isn’t basketball, but whichever defense “wins” the rebound battle this afternoon will likely leave Arrowhead Stadium victorious.

Denver Key Player: Montee Ball, RB
Knowshon Moreno was the man and then some last week against New England, rushing for 224 yards and a touchdown. Alas, it wasn’t enough as the Broncos blew a 24-0 halftime lead and lost 34-31 in overtime. On top of that, the 37 carries Moreno had took their toll, as he left Gillette Stadium on crutches after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle. Moreno is expected to play this afternoon, but the situation brought to light one of the Broncos’ biggest concerns entering the stretch run – not overworking their No. 1 back. That’s where Ball, and to a degree either C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman, are supposed to come in. Ball, Denver’s second-round pick in April’s draft, has contributed more as the season has gone on, including three rushing touchdowns over his last four games. However, ball security remains an issue for the rookie, as he’s lost three fumbles. The latest was rather costly, as Ball fumbled on a screen pass on the Broncos’ first possession of the second half after New England scored its first touchdown. The Patriots turned that fumble into a touchdown just six plays later, cutting a 24-point lead to just 10 in less than 10 minutes. Ball’s fumble is not the only reason why the Broncos lost last week. However, with the wear and tear adding up on Moreno, it’s critical that the rookie show the coaching staff, and Peyton Manning for that matter, that he can get the job done when his number is called. If Ball can’t be counted on in the regular season, what do you think will happen in the playoffs?

Kansas City Key Player: Alex Smith, QB
When surrendering 17 or fewer points, the Chiefs are 9-0 this season. This is a good thing, considering the Chiefs are scoring less than 25 points per game. Kansas City has put more than 28 on the scoreboard two times this season, with one of those being the 41-38 loss to San Diego last week. Contrast that to Denver, who has scored fewer than 28 points once, when the Broncos beat the Chiefs 27-17 two weeks ago. Smith is known for being more of a game manager than a risk-taker, but as the Chiefs have found out the past two weeks, there will be some games where the defense can’t be expected to do all of the heavy lifting. Kansas City’s offense is powered by running back Jamaal Charles, but Smith has to be able to hold his own when he’s going up against quarterbacks like Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers, especially come playoff time. In the last two games, both Kansas City losses, Smith threw for a combined total of 524 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Manning and Rivers combined for 715 yards passing, four touchdowns and no picks. Kansas City out-rushed both Denver and San Diego, and yet still lost both games – by 10 points to the Broncos and three to the Chargers. The Chiefs’ defense was a big reason why they got out to a 9-0 start. It’s now Smith’s and the offense’s turn to lead the way.

Final Analysis

Having just played each other two weeks ago, Denver and Kansas City probably spent more time this week figuring out what went wrong last week than on game planning for each other. There’s no doubt both teams are still feeling the pain from last Sunday’s disappointing (to put it mildly) losses. A strong case could be made that the Broncos’ second-half collapse was more devastating than the Chiefs’ late defensive lapses against the Chargers, but one or the way other, each team must move on.

Denver won the first meeting two weeks ago behind the passing of Peyton Manning and a stellar performance from the offensive line and running backs in pass protection. Kansas City’s disruptive pass rush never laid a hand on Manning, which gave him more than enough time to find the open man down field. Pressuring the quarterback could play another big part in this afternoon’s game, as Denver’s All-Pro linebacker Von Miller has been a difference-maker since his return from suspension, while Kansas City’s productive pass rush won’t be at 100 percent with Justin Houston sidelined and Tamba Hail likely limited.

Last week’s loss to the Patriots was definitely a hard one for the Broncos to digest, but this is a veteran team that knows full well there’s still business to take care of. Meanwhile, I think the inexperienced Chiefs are still learning how to deal with adversity, and the offense hasn’t shown an ability to completely pick up the slack while the defense has struggled these past two weeks. In the end, the growing pains for the Chiefs continue, as the Broncos pull ahead in the AFC West and the race for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Denver 30, Kansas City 20

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The Week 13 injury report is littered with the names of key running backs. Athlon Sports has the latest information on the ones you need to know about.

Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (Mon.)
Sproles (ankle) was held out of last week’s game against Atlanta, which was played on a Thursday. The extra rest seemed to have paid off, as he was a full participant in practice this week and is considered Probable for the Monday night showdown with the Seahawks. Seattle’s defense is tough, especially at home, so this isn’t the best of matchups for Sproles. Still, with this versatility as a receiver and his obvious chemistry with Drew Brees, Sproles should be a fairly safe flex option.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Moreno left last week’s loss in New England on crutches after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle. He was limited in practice at the start of the week, but showed marked improvement by Friday’s session. Moreno is listed as Probable and expected to play in this key afternoon matchup with Kansas City. He is coming off of a monster game (224 yards rushing, TD) against the Patriots, so if you have Moreno you’re starting him. Don’t expect to see 37 carries this week again, however, as the Broncos will probably limit Moreno’s workload to make sure he’s as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Stacy sustained a concussion last week against Chicago, but not before he rushed for 87 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries. He practiced fully on Friday, has passed all the necessary tests and has been cleared to return. He is listed as Probable and expected to play this afternoon. The matchup with San Francisco is far from ideal, but Stacy has been too productive (410 yards rushing, 4 TDs in last four games) lately to really consider benching him. If anything, just view Stacy as a RB2 this week when setting your lineup.

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Mathews is dealing with a hamstring issue, but he practiced fully on Friday and is listed as Probable. It’s been a curious season for Mathews, who has just four total touchdowns and three 100-yard rushing games. He’s scored a short touchdown in two of his past three outings and sandwiched those around 127 yards rushing against Miami. Danny Woodhead is very much a factor in the Chargers’ backfield, which probably caps Mathews’ potential as a RB2 this week.

Already Ruled Out

Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants – Listed as Questionable entering last week’s game because of a knee injury, Jacobs rushed for 75 yards on nine carries in the loss to Dallas. Whether it happened during the game or sometime after, Jacobs apparently re-aggravated the knee injury, as he’s already been declared Out against Washington. Andre Brown figures to be quite busy against a Redskins defense that has given up 13 rushing touchdowns and the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins – Thomas is out for the rest of the season because of an ankle injury, which means (hopefully) that Lamar Miller finally gets his chance at being a lead back. Miller’s usage this season has been somewhat sporadic, as it appears that the coaching stuff is reluctant to rely on him. Miller’s had his flashes (105 yards rushing vs. Cincinnati in Week 9), but he’s totaled just 21 carries over his last three games. Even though Miller has a golden opportunity in front of him, he faces a tough matchup this week in the Jets, the NFL’s No. 1 rush defense. Owners should be excited about Miller’s potential moving forward, but need to temper that enthusiasm this week.

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Even with three games on Thanksgiving Day, there’s still a full slate of Week 13 action today. Here are some wide receiver injuries you need to know about before setting your starting lineup.

Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
A quadriceps injury limited Marshall in practice, but he is listed as Probable for today’s game in Minnesota. Marshall hasn’t missed a beat with Josh McCown at quarterback in place of Jay Cutler. In McCown’s three starts, Marshall has averaged nearly 12 targets per game and has turned those into a total of 21 catches for 363 yards and four touchdowns. Regardless of who is under center for the Bears, Marshall is locked in as a WR1.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
The shoulder is still enough of an issue to limit him in practice, but there’s been nothing wrong with Floyd come game day. He’s caught 13 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown in his last two outings. Sure, you would love to see more touchdowns, but as along as Floyd is getting the targets (18 in the last two games), he should probably be in your lineup, even with an injured shoulder. Floyd is Probable to play the Eagles and with a matchup like that you pretty much have to roll the dice and see what happens.

Cecil Shorts and Mike Brown, WRs, Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
Shorts’ groin issue continues to limit him in practice, but he is considered Probable to face the Browns. Last week Shorts saw 11 targets against Houston, so he should be plenty busy today, though he will be matched up with Cleveland’s shutdown cornerback Joe Haden. Brown missed last week’s game because of a shoulder injury and he’s looking like a game-time decision for this one. He is listed as Questionable, but unless you have no other options, there’s no reason to wait and see if Brown will play.

Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, WRs, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
Holmes just can’t seem to stay healthy. After missing five games because of a hamstring injury, Holmes played in the past two contests. His production, however, was minimal (12 receptions, 83 yards combined), and it appears that his hamstring is an issue once again. Holmes was limited in practice on Wednesday and then missed the next two days. Rex Ryan has already voiced his concern regarding Holmes’ availability against Miami. Holmes is listed as Questionable, but his status won’t be known until game time. With the Jets’ issues on offense and at quarterback right now, I wouldn’t wait that long to make up your mind. Bench Holmes and save yourself the disappointment later. As far as Kerley goes, he also is expected to be a game-time decision, as he’s missed the last two games with a dislocated elbow. Again, there’s nothing to get excited about when it comes to the Jets’ passing game right now and Kerley’s potential return doesn’t change this.

Already Ruled Out

Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots – Dobson played just two snaps in the second half last week against Denver and it appears that a foot injury is to blame. It’s an injury that kept the rookie out of practice this week and he’s already been ruled out for this afternoon’s game against Houston. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are the top two pass-catching threats for the Patriots, with Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen falling in behind somewhere. I wouldn’t expect too much from Kenbrell Thompkins this week, even with Dobson sidelined.

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One NFC West team gets its top wide receiver back in Week 13 while another will most likely be without theirs. Elsewhere, Buffalo should have its top pass-catching duo for its game in Toronto while a Giant wideout appears ready to return after missing last week.

Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers vs. St. Louis Rams
Crabtree doesn’t even appear on the injury report this week, as he’s expected to make his season debut against the Rams. The 49ers’ leading receiver last season, Crabtree tore his Achilles tendon in late March and has been working hard to get back to the field. Even though he’s expected to play, his snaps will be limited so it’s hard to envision him making much of an impact fantasy-wise. If you have room, there’s nothing wrong with stashing Crabtree, just don’t be surprised if it takes a week or two for him to round into form.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants at Washington
Despite proclaiming that he will “surely play,” Nicks ended up being a late scratch last week because of his abdominal strain. Whatever the reasoning behind the decision, the rest appears to have benefitted Nicks. He was able to practice in some capacity all week and is considered Probable for tonight’s matchup with Washington. Nicks’ struggles have been documented (42 rec., 0 TDs), but the Redskins are 27th in the NFL in passing defense and 31st in points allowed, so maybe this will be the game he finally breaks through.

Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods, WRs, Buffalo Bills vs. Atlanta Falcons (Toronto)
Johnson (groin) and Woods (ankle) both missed the Bills’ last game, but that came in Week 11 as they were on bye last week. The extra rest seemed to help both wideouts, as they are considered Probable for the Bills’ annual appearance in Toronto. Atlanta has struggled against the pass all season, so this appears to be a good matchup for Johnson and Woods. Johnson remains ahead of Woods in the pecking order and in terms of fantasy rankings, at least for now. For this week, I would put Johnson near the end of the WR2 options and Woods among the middle of the WR3 tier.

Eddie Royal, WR, San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Royal has been dealing with a toe injury for well over a month. While it’s impacted his practice time, it never cost him a game, despite always being listed as Questionable. Last week, Royal added a chest injury to his ailments and it looks like this one will cost him at least one game. Royal was downgraded from Questionable to Doubtful on Saturday, which is all you need to know. Keenan Allen and Vincent Brown figure to be Philip Rivers’ top two wideouts against Cincinnati with Seyi Ajirotutu and Lavelle Hawkins potentially seeing more playing time. Allen is the only Charger wide receiver you need to pay attention to.

Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks vs. New Orleans Saints (Mon.)
Harvin made his season debut two weeks ago against Minnesota with the Seahawks on bye last week. Unfortunately, it appears that Harvin’s surgically repaired hip isn’t quite ready to handle the load of practicing and playing, as he is considered Doubtful to play on Monday night. Harvin is experiencing continuing soreness and the team is choosing to play it safe for the time being. Hopefully you weren’t counting on Harvin to be an impact performer this week anyways.

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Quarterbacks appear to be healthy for the most part entering today’s Week 13 action. The same can’t be said as it relates to the tight end position, however.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Gates missed some practice time with a hamstring injury, but he was a full go on Friday and is considered Probable for this afternoon’s home game. Gates has been a top-10 fantasy TE this season and even with the occasional explosive play by backup Ladarius Green, Gates remains one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. The Bengals have done pretty well against tight ends, but that’s no reason to shy away from Gates.

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Thomas was held out of last week’s game because of a knee injury and he’s not back to 100 percent just yet. He was limited in practice all week, which is why he’s listed as Questionable. He was able to practice, in a limited fashion, all week so he appears to have a good chance of playing, as long as there are no setbacks. The Broncos-Chiefs game is in the afternoon (4:25 p.m. ET) and considering he didn’t play last week, a little more caution is probably warranted this time around with Thomas. As long as he’s not ruled out before kickoff, I think it’s safe to stick with Thomas, but I would have a Plan B (Jacob Tamme perhaps?) ready just in case.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots at Houston Texans
Gronkowski was listed as Probable last week, so it’s a little curious to see him Questionable for today’s game in Houston. However, this is the Patriots we are talking about, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to be concerned. Roll with Gronk as you usually do, as he’s caught a touchdown pass in three straight games.

Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills (Toronto)
The future Hall of Famer has been limited in practice because of a toe injury, but he has yet to miss a game. Gonzalez is officially listed as Questionable but I don’t think he would make the long trip up north if he wasn’t intending to play. Even though Gonzalez has just four touchdown catches this season, he’s still solidly within the top 10 in fantasy scoring at his position. The numbers may not be as a big every week, but Gonzalez still carries TE1 potential and needs to be in your starting lineup.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins vs. New York Giants
Reed missed last week’s game because of a concussion and it appears he’s not quite out of the woods yet. He’s listed as Questionable on the injury report, but the team seems optimistic about his chances of playing. With some uncertainty regarding his status, as well as the late (8:30 p.m. ET) game slot, it would probably be wise to keep Reed on your bench for at least another week and go with another tight end.

Not Playing Today

Jason Campbell, QB, Cleveland Browns – Campbell sustained a concussion last week against Pittsburgh and has already been ruled out. Brandon Weeden will start against Jacksonville in Campbell’s place and even with a matchup against the Jaguars; it is hard for me to endorse Weeden, even for 2-QB leagues.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears – Cutler will miss a third straight game because of an ankle injury, giving Josh McCown another start. Cutler does hope to return for the Week 14 Monday night game against Dallas, but a lot could happen between now and then. For today, McCown will get his shot at a Minnesota defense that is giving up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Last week, McCown threw for 352 yards, two touchdowns and an interception (first of the season) in the loss to St. Louis. The bye weeks are over, but I have no problem if you want to give McCown another shot, especially in 2-QB leagues.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings – Rudolph remains sidelined with a fractured foot, which leaves John Carlson as the starter. Carlson has been productive to some degree during Rudolph’s absence and has an appealing matchup this week in Chicago. The Bears are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends, so Carlson looks pretty good as TE2 option.

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Will injuries to Matt Forté or Adrian Peterson keep either from their head-to-head matchup today? Those aren’t the only running back injuries Athlon Sports is keeping an eye on in Week 13.

Matt Forté, RB, Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Forté left last week’s game with a hyperextended knee, but he was able to return and finish things. The knee doesn’t really appear to be an issue, as he’s listed as Probable for today’s game with Minnesota. Forté is the No. 2 scoring running back in all of fantasy, so he needs to be in your lineup. Especially against a Vikings defense that is surrendering the third-most fantasy points to RBs.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
Peterson’s groin is still sore, but he got in a full practice session on Friday and appears ready to go. He is listed as Probable and there’s no probably to it – he has to be in your lineup. Chicago’s run defense is a mess right now, as the Bears have given up an average of 194 yards rushing per game over their last four contests. Peterson had 146 on the ground last week against Green Bay, so the fact that he’s not 100 percent shouldn’t even enter into your thought process.

Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert and DeAngelo Williams, RBs, Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina’s trio of running backs all are listed as Questionable on this week’s injury report. Of the three, Williams appears to be the most uncertain because of a quad contusion that has held him out of practice all week. Stewart (ankle) and Tolbert (knee) are also nursing injuries, but they were able to practice to some degree. If Williams can’t go, Stewart would get the start with Tolbert getting his usual work in short-yardage and goal-line situations. Although Williams’ absence would mean one less mouth to feed, it’s still a crowded backfield, especially when you take into consideration Cam Newton’s ability to run the ball. As far as this week goes, I would stay away from Williams and rank Stewart slightly better than Tolbert. If he gets the start, Stewart looks to be a pretty solid flex play with the potential to provide RB2 production. At best, Tolbert is a flex option.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans vs. New England Patriots
Tate has been playing with broken ribs for several weeks now and has yet to miss a game. He’s Probable for this afternoon’s visit from New England, and the only real concern with Tate is that he had just one yard on seven carries last week against Jacksonville. All Tate owners can hope is that last week was the exception and not the rule. As long as he gets his typical workload, Tate should provide RB2 production.

Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
Ivory injured his ankle on his first carry last week, which impacted his effectiveness against Baltimore. He finished with nine carries for 35 yards rushing, although he did have a long of 17 yards. He was limited earlier in the week, but practiced fully on Friday and is listed as Probable. He should play against the Dolphins, but if he is limited or suffers any sort of setback, Ivory figures to lose carries to Bilal Powell. Ivory is still the Jet running back to own/start, but just be sure you understand the situation before plugging him in your lineup.

Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
Ellington injured his knee during Thursday’s practice and wasn’t able to participate at all on Friday because of it. He is considered Questionable and will be a game-time decision to face the Eagles. Ellington certainly carries a lot of appeal, as he possesses big-play ability because of his speed, but his value has been limited because of the presence of veteran Rashard Mendenhall in the Cardinals’ backfield. Because of his uncertainty for today’s game, it’s probably safest to steer clear of Ellington all together. Mendenhall could see a bump in his production with Ellington out, but even against the Eagles, I don’t see Mendenhall being any more than a possible RB2 option.

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Week 13 of NFL action gets started with a Thanksgiving Day tripleheader. With the fantasy playoffs right around the corner, these three early games (Green Bay at Detroit, Oakland at Dallas and Pittsburgh at Baltimore) could be critical to getting your team off to a good start. Before you dig into your turkey and dressing, here is the latest on some key injured players.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
McFadden has missed the past three games because of a hamstring injury, but he will be back on the field today. Although McFadden will play, he won’t take back his starting role. Instead he will share the carries with Rashad Jennings, who has averaged 138.3 total yards per game over his last four. From a fantasy standpoint, Jennings is probably the safer option, but the timeshare with McFadden could impact his production potential. The silver lining for both Raider backs is that Dallas is giving up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Not knowing how the workload is going to be shared, I would place Jennings in the RB2 category with McFadden a consideration at flex, depending on your other options.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers
Johnson (above), who has been dealing with a lingering knee injury for most of the season, did not practice on Tuesday, the Lions’ only real session this week. But before you choke on that drumstick, there have been no indications from the All-Pro or the team that he is any danger of missing today’s game. If anything, the rest was probably a precaution given the short turnaround, as he is listed as Probable on the injury report. Besides, even at less than 100 percent, all Johnson has done is post 861 yards receiving over his past five games. That’s the most over a five-game span in the regular season in NFL history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Johnson missed the first game against Green Bay because of the knee injury, I would be willing to bet my slice of pumpkin pie he won’t miss this one.

Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
Moore missed last week’s game because of a shoulder injury and he didn’t participate in either Monday’s walkthrough or Tuesday’s practice. That alone made him very questionable to begin with, but the Raiders removed any doubt on Wednesday when Moore was declared out for a second straight game. Rod Streater filled in for Moore last week as Matt McGloin's No. 1 target and he will probably do the same today. It could be worth taking a flyer on Streater, who has done well with McGloin under center and considering the fact that Dallas is second to last in the league in passing defense.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Sidelined since breaking his collarbone on Nov. 4, Rodgers returned to practice on Tuesday, albeit in a limited capacity. While that is certainly a step in the right direction, Mike McCarthy put an end to any hopes that Packer fans may have had of their MVP returning on Thanksgiving Day, as the head coach named Matt Flynn the starter against Detroit. Flynn probably earned the nod over Scott Tolzien due to his impressive fourth-quarter and overtime showing (21-of-36, 218-1-0) last week against Minnesota. The Lions aren't exactly shutting opponents' passing games down, so depending on your appetite for risk-taking, Flynn could be a possible starting option, although I would say more for 2-QB leagues rather than standard or shallow ones.

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The NFL’s Thanksgiving Day slate of action ends with a tasty matchup of AFC North archrivals, as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens will meet up again at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC. While Mike Tomlin’s Steelers and John Harbaugh’s Ravens both sit at 5-6, certainly not where they intended to be entering this season, they are part of the five-team jumble for the final AFC Wild Card spot and just two games behind the division-leading Bengals (7-4).

Pittsburgh has won the last two meetings with the Ravens, the most recent being a 19-16 victory in Week 7. The three-point victory is fitting, considering eight of the last 10 regular-season games have been decided by that exact margin. The Steelers hold a 20-15 edge in the all-time series during the regular season.

4 Things to Watch

When Last We Met
Entering Week 7, Pittsburgh (1-4) had finally gotten into the win column the previous week with a 19-6 victory over the Jets on the road. Baltimore was at 3-3 after dropping a 19-17 decision to Green Bay at home. On a Sunday night at Heinz Field, the defenses more or less dictated things, which is not unusual when the Steelers and Ravens get together. The home team struck first, Ben Roethlisberger connecting with tight end Heath Miller on a short touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. The teams settled for field goals from there, with Shaun Suisham and Justin Tucker each connecting on three apiece to make the score 16-9 Steelers with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense finally put a sustained drive together, culminating with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dallas Clark and a tie game with less than two minutes to go. Emmanuel Sanders put the Steelers in good field position on the ensuing kickoff, taking it from deep in his own end zone for 44 yards. Starting from his own 37-yard-line, Big Ben led his team 39 yards in seven plays, setting up Suisham for the 42-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Statistically speaking, the game was pretty even in terms of total yards, first downs and time of possession. The Steelers had the lone turnover, a Miller fumble, but were able to overcome that and win their second straight game after starting the season 0-4. The Ravens, meanwhile, missed a golden opportunity to put their archrivals into a huge hole while also keeping pace with Cincinnati, who was 5-2 after Week 7.

Since Week 7
Baltimore went on bye the week after the loss to Pittsburgh, but the break didn’t help solve the Ravens’ offensive issues. A disappointing showing at Cleveland in Week 9 extended their losing streak to three games before bouncing back with a big overtime win over division-leading Cincinnati in Week 10. The momentum was short lived, however, as the Ravens fell to the Bears on the road the following Sunday in a game that was delayed nearly two hours due to severe weather. The roller-coaster ride continued last week with Baltimore’s defense smothering Geno Smith and the Jets for a comfortable 19-3 victory at home. The Ravens’ defense has done its part most of the season, holding opponents to just 16.8 points per game over the last four with seven takeaways. The offense, however, hasn’t returned the favor. Baltimore averaged just 274 yards and 19.3 points per game, while committing eight turnovers during this same four-game span. The running game has been an issue all season, as the Ravens rank 27th in the NFL in rushing offense, but Joe Flacco hasn’t exactly lit up defenses either. Pittsburgh meanwhile, was unable to build off of its Week 7 victory over Baltimore, as the Steelers made the trek across country to face the Raiders and put themselves into a 21-3 halftime hole they couldn’t crawl out of. The next week was even worse, getting drilled by New England 55-31 in Foxboro, Mass., in a game in which Pittsburgh set franchise records for most points and yards (610) allowed. The Steelers have since turned things around, however, winning their last three by an average margin of 13 points. The offense, behind Ben Roethlisberger, has been more productive and taken care of the ball (1 turnover in last three games), while the defense has had more moments of looking like the Steel Curtain of old. Take out one bad first half (27 PA) against Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson in Week 11 and the Steelers’ defense has given up a total of 21 points in 10 quarters. The Steelers are starting to click on both sides of the ball, and as a result have gone 5-2 since a 0-4 start and are very much alive for a postseason berth.

Smash-Mouth Football
Things are usually pretty physical when the Steelers and Ravens get together, but that doesn’t mean that either team has had much success playing that way this season. Both rank near the bottom of the NFL in rushing offense, with the Ravens coming in at 27th (81.7 ypg) and the Steelers 30th (77.3 ypg). Ray Rice finally posted his first 100-yard game of the season two weeks ago when he went for 131 against Chicago, but he’s still averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and has scored a total of four touchdowns. Pittsburgh rookie Le’Veon Bell has played in two fewer games than Rice (8 to 10) and has fewer carries (143 to 156), yet he has five more yards rushing (455 than 450) and the same number of touchdowns as the Pro Bowler. In fact, Bell’s best game came against Baltimore in Week 7, when he rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries. The Steelers out-rushed the Ravens in that game 141 to 82, and this category should factor into tonight’s game too. Pittsburgh’s success against Baltimore on the ground was somewhat surprising; considering the Ravens have been pretty strong against the run all season. Baltimore is 11th in the league in rushing defense (102.6 ypg) and has given up a grand total of one rushing touchdown so far. The Steelers have had their issues stopping the run, as they rank 23rd in the league (118.8 ypg) and have surrendered 13 rushing touchdowns. However, as the first meeting showed, how things look on paper don’t always play out on the field, especially when it’s these two teams. Either way, whichever team can gain an edge in the battle of the trenches tonight should be well positioned to walk away with the win.

Key Matchup: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Joe Flacco
Even though these are two defensive-minded teams, the connection between the quarterbacks is pretty much unavoidable. Both have led their teams to Super Bowl wins, both are paid like franchise quarterbacks, and both have received their share of criticism. From a numbers standpoint, Roethlisberger is lapping Flacco this season, as Big Ben leads in all statistical categories. He has been buoyed by some big games lately, with 11 touchdown passes and two performances of 367 yards passing or more over his last four games. Flacco has struggled in the afterglow of last season’s Super Bowl championship and since signing his lucrative contract extension. He has the same number of touchdown passes as interceptions (14 apiece) and he is averaging less than 250 yards passing per game. He has surpassed his per-game average just once over his last five outings and Flacco has thrown at least one interception in each of his last four games. It’s no stretch to say that Roethlisberger has all the momentum headed into tonight’s game, but Flacco has already proven that he’s capable of playing at a high level when it matters the most. Tonight may not be the Super Bowl, but both teams need their quarterbacks to bring their “A” game if they want to stay in the thick of the postseason race in the AFC.

Final Analysis

It’s somewhat ironic that two teams that really don’t like each other will play on Thanksgiving Day. However, it’s NFL fans that should be thankful for getting a heated rivalry like Pittsburgh vs. Baltimore as the final course of the NFL’s Turkey Day tripleheader. The fact that the two teams are tied at 5-6 and in the thick of the chase for the final AFC Wild Card spot only makes it even more appetizing.

The Steelers have turned things around in a big way since starting 0-4, and would love to beat the archrival Ravens a third straight time. On the other hand, Baltimore would like to put an end to both of Pittsburgh’s winning streaks (Seelers have won their last three games, as well as two in a row over the Ravens), while also staying within striking distance of AFC North-leading Cincinnati.

Call it a Super Bowl hangover or the result of a lot of offseason changes; the Ravens are not the same team that won the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February. The Steelers meanwhile have seemed to find their second wind after their disastrous start, and appear to be peaking at the right time. It will be another instant classic, but Ben Roethlisberger and company find a way to claim their fourth straight win and bragging rights over the defending Super Bowl champions with a sweep.

Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 17

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The NFL’s longest-running Thanksgiving Day rivalry will be renewed when the Detroit Lions host the Green Bay Packers at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX. Besides serving as the first course to the Turkey Day tripleheader, first place in the NFC North is at stake with the Lions (6-5), Bears (6-5) and Packers (5-5-1) all fighting for the head seat at the table.

Detroit, along with Dallas, is considered the two traditional Thanksgiving Day hosts. Green Bay also has an extensive history of playing on Turkey Day, as this represents the 21st meeting between the Lions and Packers on the fourth Thursday in November. Detroit holds a 11-8-1 edge over Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day, but the Packers have won the last three. The Lions have dropped their last nine Thanksgiving Day games overall.

4 Things to Watch

Changing Places?
Detroit and Green Bay first played each other back in Week 5. The Lions entered that game 3-1 with the Packers sitting at 2-2 and coming off of their bye. Green Bay would win 22-9 at Lambeau Field, as the Lions were missing their top two wide receivers — Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson – due to injury. Without two of his biggest weapons, quarterback Matthew Stafford struggled (25-of-40, sacked five times), as the Lions finished with 286 yards of total offense and their only touchdown came with a little more than two minutes left in the game. The Packers were led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers (274-1-0), and they piled up 180 yards rushing, including 72 from wide receiver Randall Cobb. Fast-forward to this week and both teams have been spinning their wheels lately. The Lions have lost two in a row, including last week’s disappointing 24-21 home loss to a two-win Tampa Bay team. The Packers haven’t won since Week 8, as they have three losses and last week’s 26-26 tie with the Vikings. Green Bays slide can be largely attributed to injuries, as Cobb remains out with a broken leg, tight end Jermichael Finley is on injured reserve after recently undergoing spinal fusion surgery, and Rodgers has missed the past three games after breaking his collarbone in Week 9 against Chicago. So while Detroit was the banged-up team entering the first meeting, it’s Green Bay that’s really feeling the hurt for this one, especially when it comes to the quarterback position. The question is can Jim Schwartz’s struggling Lions team take advantage of Mike McCarthy’s (above, right) depleted Packers roster?

Green Bay’s Quarterback Carousel
Aaron Rodgers returned to practice on Monday, the latest step in his recovery from the broken collarbone he sustained on Nov. 4. But even after that brief appearance, head coach Mike McCarthy characterized Rodgers’ chances of playing this week as “Closer to none.” So barring something short of a miracle, the Packers will turn to either Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn to get them back into the win column. Tolzien became the starter following a season-ending groin injury to backup Seneca Wallace against Philadelphia in Week10. Tolzien, a third-year pro from Wisconsin, finished with 280 yards passing against the Eagles and followed that up with 339 against the Giants in his first career start, but he also had five interceptions and just one touchdown. Last week, he was ineffective (7-of-17, 98 yards) against Minnesota, resulting in McCarthy replacing him in the fourth quarter with Flynn. Trailing by 16, Flynn proceeded to lead the team to two touchdowns and the game-tying field goal with just 46 seconds left. Flynn couldn’t complete the comeback in overtime, as the Packers and Vikings traded field goals and settled for a 26-26 tie, but he finished his afternoon with 218 yards passing and a touchdown in less than two quarters of play. Flynn, who served as Rodgers’ backup from 2008-11 before signing a three-year, $20.5 million contract with Seattle, had already spent time this season with both Oakland (2 G, 1 GS) and Buffalo (0 G), before returning to Green Bay after Wallace was placed on injured reserve prior to Week 11. In his first action back in a Packers uniform, all Flynn did was nearly pull of a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback and in the process create something that McCarthy hasn’t had to deal with since Rodgers became the starter in 2008 – a quarterback controversy. The short week only complicates the decision facing McCarthy, as he must prepare both Tolzien and Flynn to face the Lions. Ideally, the starter gets most of the reps in practice, but that may not be the case this week because of the short turnaround. The Packers’ offense was clearly more productive with Flynn under center last week, but is that enough to convince McCarthy to give him the ball? Or does Tolzien get another shot since he’s been with the team longer this season? One other thing that McCarthy may need to consider is that in Flynn’s last start as a Packer in Week 17 of the 2011 season he threw for what was then a franchise-record 480 yards and six touchdowns. Green Bay’s opponent that game? None other than the Detroit Lions.

Can the Lions Keep Both Paws on the Ball?
Detroit is fifth in the NFL in total offense (412.1 ypg) and seventh in scoring offense (26.0 ppg), but yet the Lions are just 6-5. While there have been some defensive letdowns, particularly in the past two games, the main culprit has been turnovers. After committing just eight turnovers in their first seven games, the Lions have coughed it up 13 times over their last four. They are very fortunate to have gone 2-2 during this stretch, as they managed to come from behind and defeat the Cowboys in Week 8 despite losing the turnover battle 4-0. The Lions haven’t been as fortunate the past two weeks, however, as eight total turnovers resulted in losses to Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Prior to beating the Lions, the Steelers had won just three games, while the Buccaneers had jus two victories. Matthew Stafford is responsible for five of the Lions’ eight miscues over the past month, as he has tossed a total of eight interceptions over his last four games, but there also have been three lost fumbles. The Lions are capable of gaining a bunch of yards and putting plenty of points on the board. However, as the past two weeks have shown, they need to take better care of the football if they want this statistical success to carry over to the win column.

How will the Packers handle the Thanksgiving Day Rush?
With injuries impacting the quarterback position (see above), Green Bay has had to rely more on its ground game to move the ball on offense. The flip side of this, however, is the Packers also need to a fix a rushing defense that has been gashed on more than one occasion recently. The Packers have turned to rookie Eddie Lacy to carry the ball, as he’s seen 22 or more carries in all but one game going back to the Week 5 meeting with Detroit. In that home win over the Lions, Lacy finished with 99 yards rushing. He has followed up that strong performance with four other efforts of at least 90 yards on the ground, along with six rushing touchdowns. The Lions’ defense has really stiffened against the run over their past five games as well, giving up an average of less than 44 yards rushing per contest. Unfortunately, the Packers’ rush defense has gone the opposite direction. After holding opponents to just 79 yards rushing per game in its first six games, Green Bay has yielded 171 yards or more in three of their last four contests. That span also covers the Packers’ current slide of three straight losses followed by last week’s tie with the Vikings. So whether it’s Lacy finding room to run or the Packers’ defense standing strong against the Lions’ ground game, Green Bay needs to be at the head of the line when it comes to the holiday “rush” at Ford Field on Thursday.

Green Bay Key Player: Clay Matthews, LB
Matthews broke his right thumb in the Week 5 win over Detroit, which caused him to miss the next four games. He returned in Week 10 against Philadelphia, a game in which the Eagles rushed for 204 yards. Last week, Adrian Peterson and the Vikings gashed the Packers for 232 yards on the ground. Since Matthews’ return, Green Bay has lost two games and tied one. And in the process, the Packers have given up nearly 400 yards per game, including 171 yards rushing per contest. Matthews does have three sacks in his last two games and leads the team with six, but his impact on the defensive end against the Lions on Thursday needs to go beyond just pressuring quarterback Matthew Stafford. Because if the Lions are able to run on the Packers’ defense as successfully as the Eagles and Vikings, then Stafford may not even need to throw a bunch of passes in the first place.

Detroit Key Player: Reggie Bush, RB
Everyone knows the Lions’ offense begins with quarterback Matthew Stafford, usually connecting with wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but Bush is certainly an important piece as well. In the Lions’ six wins, Bush Is averaging 122.3 total yards per game. In the five losses that number drops to just 77.2. He had 69 total yards (44 rush, 25 receiving) against Green Bay in Week 5, a game in which Detroit posted season lows in both yards (286) and points (9). Granted, Johnson, along with No. 2 wide receiver Nate Burleson, both missed that game because of injury, but Bush’s lack of contributions certainly didn’t help matters either. Also, Green Bay’s rushing defense has struggled mightily recently, surrendering 171.4 yards rushing per game over its last four. Johnson has already proven tough to stop this season, but if Bush can get it going early, the Packers’ defense may have a no-win situation on its hands.

Final Analysis

Green Bay and Detroit are both headed in the same direction, which right now is backwards. The Packers haven’t won a game in a month, while the Lions have dropped their last two contests. Despite this, either team could finish this week in first place in the NFC North, depending on what happens when Chicago visits Minnesota on Sunday.

Even with the consecutive losses, the Lions appear to be in much better shape entering this game, as the Packers have had quarterback issues from the moment Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone in Week 9. While I like Green Bay’s chances better with Matt Flynn under center than Scott Tolzien, there’s no denying the Packers’ offense is nowhere near the same unit without the 2011 NFL MVP leading the charge.

In the end, the Lions’ continuity on offense, led by the trio of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, is too much for a disjointed Packers offense to overcome. Green Bay’s defense puts up a fight and the Packers are able to hang around thanks to a few ill-timed Detroit miscues, but the Lions wear down their division rivals late and put an end to their nine-game losing streak on Thanksgiving Day.

Detroit 31, Green Bay 23

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With Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, one thing that fantasy owners have to be thankful for is the end of the bye weeks. All teams will be in action in Week 13, starting with a full plate of games on Thanksgiving Day, as we not only enter the stretch run of the NFL regular season, it’s also nearing fantasy playoffs time. Depending on your team’s needs, not to mention postseason standing, one of the players listed below may be just what you need to feast on your opponent this week, and perhaps beyond.

The players listed in Athlon Sports’ weekly fantasy football waiver wire may be one-week adds, some may be worth holding onto all season long and some are of the “sleeper” variety that you may want to keep an eye on. So without further ado, here are some players you may want to consider.

Quarterbacks
Week 12 Recap: Carson Palmer threw two touchdown passes against Indianapolis and finished with 314 yards passing, continuing his strong second half. Ben Roethiisberger had more modest numbers (217-2-0) against Cleveland, but did help the Steelers pick up their third straight win.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
There’s no disputing that Flacco (above) has failed to play in accordance with the lucrative contract extension (six years, $120.6 million) he signed in March. He has as many touchdowns as interceptions (14) and is averaging less than 250 yards passing per game. However, what Flacco does have going for him is upcoming games against Minnesota and Detroit, two of the NFL’s worst passing defenses. It’s risky, but Flacco could (finally) pay off for someone willing to take a chance on him in Week 14 and/or 15.

Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers
Could it be? Is Flynn ready to pull off one of the most impressive comebacks in recent NFL history? Aaron Rodgers’ backup for four seasons, Flynn turned one record-setting home start (480 yards, 6 TDs vs. Detroit in Week 17 of the 2011 season) into a three-year, $20.5 million free agent deal with Seattle. Injured in the preseason before the start of the 2012 campaign, Flynn lost the starting job to rookie Russell Wilson and was eventually traded to Oakland in April. Given another chance at being a starter, Flynn lost the Raiders’ gig in the preseason to Terrelle Pryor. Released by Oakland in October, Flynn signed with Buffalo after rookie EJ Manuel was injured. Flynn never got into a game for the Bills, who released him three weeks ago. Flynn landed back with the Packers following injuries to Rodgers (broken collarbone) and backup Seneca Wallace (groin, placed on injured reserve), but was behind Scott Tolzien on the depth chart. On Sunday, Flynn replaced an ineffective Tolzien with the Packers trailing by 16 early in the fourth quarter. Flynn produced some more magic at Lambeau Field, leading the Packers to two touchdowns and the game-tying field goal with just 46 seconds left. The game ended up as a tie, but that doesn’t change the fact that Flynn (218 yards, TD) out-performed Tolzien. Head coach Mike McCarthy was non-committal after the game about the starter for the Thanksgiving Day matchup with Detroit, but there’s not a lot of time for Rodgers to get back to practice and get game-ready. Will Flynn get the call? It’s something worth watching, especially considering the Lions’ struggles in pass defense.

Running Backs
Week 12 Recap: Montee Ball posted 40 yards rushing (Knowshon Moreno led the team with 224) and added three receptions, but he also had a costly fumble that helped fuel the Patriots’ remarkable second-half comeback against the Broncos on Sunday night. Bobby Rainey finished up his 163-yard monster game with a total of 35 yards on 18 carries against Detroit. Rainey should continue to see the majority of the carries, but the schedule (Carolina, San Francisco still remaining) isn’t necessarily kind. Donald Brown finished with negative yardage (-1) on three total touches against Arizona. To be fair, no one on the Colts’ offense did much of anything against the Cardinals’ smothering defense, so hopefully Brown can get back on track at home against Tennessee.

Benny Cunningham, St. Louis Rams
Rookie Zac Stacy got knocked out of Sunday’s game against Chicago because of a concussion, so the Rams turned to Cunningham to carry the load. The second-year back from MTSU responded with 109 yards rushing on 13 carries and a touchdown. The Rams shredded the Bears for 258 yards on the ground, but the important thing to keep an eye on is Stacy’s availability for St. Louis’ next game. If Stacy isn’t cleared, Cunningham figures to get the starting nod ahead of the other backs (Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead) on the roster. It’s not an ideal matchup against San Francisco, but a starting running back in the NFL is a valuable commodity, especially with fantasy playoffs right around the corner.

Wide Receivers
Week 12 Recap: Michael Floyd was at it again against Indianapolis, catching a team-high seven passes for 104 yards. Marquise Goodwin and the Bills were on bye and have Atlanta in Toronto this week. San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree didn’t return against Washington, but could be back in the lineup Sunday in a key divisional matchup with St. Louis.

Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
In his first game back since breaking his forearm in a car accident in late September, Burleson caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Tampa Bay. Detroit’s No. 2 wide receiver, Burleson is the beneficiary of all the defensive attention Calvin Johnson demands and Matthew Stafford has no problem going to him (10 targets Sunday). Injuries have been an issue for Burleson the past two seasons, but when he’s been on the field he’s been productive. Locked into a starting spot in a pass-happy offense, Burleson could be a productive late-season addition to your wide receiving corps.

Rod Streater, Oakland Raiders
Denarius Moore was inactive because of a shoulder injury, allowing Streater the opportunity to emerge as the Raiders’ go-to option in the passing game. Streater and Matt McGloin hooked up for five receptions and 93 yards in the loss to Tennessee. Last week against Houston, Streater had six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. In McGloin’s two starts, that’s 11 catches for 177 yards and a touchdown for Streater. In his nine other games he has a total of 29 receptions for 423 yards and a score. If McGloin retains the starting job over Terrelle Pryor, then Streater becomes more appealing. This is especially the case if Moore ends up missing more time because of his shoulder injury.

Tiquan Underwood, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson is the Bucs’ No. 1 target and tight end/wide receiver Timothy Wright has emerged this season, but Underwood has assumed the No. 2 wideout slot following Mike Williams’ season-ending hamstring injury. Underwood only had three catches on Sunday, but they went for 108 yards and two touchdowns in the Bucs’ 24-21 win over the Lions in Detroit. If quarterback Mike Glennon continues his steady (10 TD passes, 1 INT in his last six games) play, Underwood could develop into an option for those looking for wide receiver help during the fantasy playoffs.

Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
Wright is probably one of the most least-owned No. 1 wide receivers in the NFL, but maybe it’s time for that to change. Ryan Fitzpatrick is cemented as the starting quarterback the rest of the season and he and Wright are beginning to establish a good rapport. In his last three games, which go back to Week 10 when Jake Locker sustained a season-ending foot injury, Wright has averaged 9.3 targets and 87 yards per game. On Sunday, Wright went for a season-high 103 yards on six catches and the game-winning touchdown against Oakland.  Wright and Fitzpatrick are really starting click, so now may be the perfect time to get on board with the Titans’ top target.

Tight Ends
Week 12 Recap: Delanie Walker caught five passes for 46 yards in the Titans’ come-from-behind win in Oakland. He’s knocking on the door of the top 10 at his position.

Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
This falls into the deep flyer category, but based on the last few games, the future of the tight end position in San Diego looks pretty bright with Green. Antonio Gates is still the star, but Green has been playing the role of impressive understudy. Green has 80 or more receiving yards in each of his last two games, and helped the Chargers upset the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday with a 60-yard touchdown reception that featured an impressive show of speed from the 6-6, 240-pound target. His opportunities figure to be few, but it looks like the Chargers have a pretty good idea of what Green is capable of doing once Philip Rivers gets the ball into his hands. Remaining games with Denver (Week 15) and Oakland (Week 16) could end up being fairly high scoring, so perhaps Green could be a good color if you are unsure about your tight end situation in the playoffs.

Defense/Special Teams
Week 12 Recap: The Saints held the Falcons to just 13 points in their close NFC South win on Thursday night. New Orleans forced just one turnover, but sacked Matt Ryan five times and held Atlanta scoreless in the second half.

Buffalo Bills
The Bills were on bye last week, which means the defense should be rested and raring to go for the stretch run. Buffalo’s DST has been somewhat sneaky this season, posting four games of 15 or more fantasy points. The Bills are tied for first in the NFL in both sacks (37) and interceptions (16) and have been pretty good against the pass (229 ypg). The other thing that makes the Bills appealing is their schedule. Starting with Atlanta in Toronto on Sunday, Buffalo’s final five games are all against teams ranked no lower than 19th in terms of fantasy points allowed to DSTs. Depending on your situation at DST, Buffalo may be the perfect candidate to (ahem) help beef up your lineup.

Scoring is based on Athlon Sports default scoring which is 6 points for all TDs, .5 points per reception and 1 point PER 25 yards passing, 10 yards rushing/receiving and 40 return yards.

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NFC East rivals headed in different directions are on tap this afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys meet up with the New York Giants at 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX. Jason Garrett’s Cowboys (5-5) are looking to tie the idle Eagles for first place in the division, while Tom Coughlin’s Giants (4-6) are hoping to continue their remarkable turnaround. Since starting the season 0-6, the Giants have won four in a row and a victory at home this afternoon would tie them with the Cowboys, just a game behind the Eagles.

The Cowboys won the first meeting, 36-31, back in Week 1 and are going for their first regular-season sweep of the Giants since 2007. A Dallas win also would make them 4-0 in NFC East play, putting the Cowboys in the driver’s seat for the division title. The Cowboys have struggled on the road, entering this game with a 1-4 record as the visiting team, while the Giants have won three in a row at MetLife Stadium.

4 Things to Watch

Since Last We Met…
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, served as the season-opening backdrop for the two NFC East rivals when they first met back in Week 1. The Cowboys won 36-31 thanks in large part to six Giants turnovers. Eli Manning was picked off three times and David Wilson fumbled twice, as the Cowboys turned two takeaways into defensive touchdowns. The Giants moved the ball on the Cowboys with Manning throwing for 450 yards and four touchdowns, three of those to Victor Cruz, but just couldn’t overcome their own mistakes. The Cowboys had just one turnover, a Tony Romo interception, but otherwise played a clean game and got a little more out of their ground game (DeMarco Murray had a game-high 86 yards rushing) than the Giants. The loss sent the Giants into a tailspin; as they went on to lose their next five games by an average of 19 points per contest. The Cowboys weren’t able to build off of that season-opening win either, as they lost three of their next four. Fast forward to this week and the Giants are riding high, winners of four in a row while the Cowboys are coming off of their bye week sitting at .500. Despite their horrendous start, the Giants are very much alive in the division race and a fifth straight victory would only tighten up things between them, the Cowboys and the first-place Eagles (6-5), who are on bye. The Cowboys would love to sweep the Giants to get above .500 and grab a share of the division lead. With a six weeks left in the regular season, it’s not a stretch to say the road to determining the NFC East champion begins this afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

Where’s the D in Dallas?
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired after the 2012 season and replaced by 73-year-old Monte Kiffin, who had spent the previous four seasons in the collegiate ranks. While Ryan has orchestrated a remarkable turnaround of a New Orleans defense that set an NFL single-season record for yards allowed in 2012, Kiffin’s unit has struggled. And that’s an understatement. The Cowboys entered Week 12 last in the league in total and passing defense and have been abused by good quarterbacks. Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford have all thrown for more than 400 yards against the Cowboys, the first time in NFL history this has ever happened to a defense. Even though Drew Brees didn’t join that club two weeks ago, he and his Saints did roll up a franchise-record 625 yards and NFL-record 40 first downs in a 49-17 shellacking in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 625 yards also is the most the Cowboys have surrendered in any game in their long history and was the fourth game of 500 or more total yards allowed this season. Unfortunately, the situation may not get any better any time soon, as Kiffin has several key players who are injured. Of them, the most critical missing piece is linebacker Sean Lee, who injured his hamstring in the loss to the Saints and is expected to miss a few more weeks. Sack specialist DeMarcus Ware has been dealing with a lingering quad strain and is questionable for this afternoon, while fellow lineman Anthony Spencer also has been sidelined for an extended period of time. Kiffin’s task isn’t easy, especially with all of the injuries, but he must find a way to “fix” his defense if the Cowboys consider themselves legitimate playoff contenders.

The Return of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew
At the start of the season, the Giants’ defense was having just as many issues as the Cowboys’ unit, if not more. Through the first six games, all losses, the Giants were giving up 34.8 points and 391.3 yards per game, along with nearly 25 first downs per contest. When it didn’t seem like things would ever get better, something clicked and an entirely different Giants defense emerged starting with the Monday night game against Minnesota to close out Week 7. In the last four games, the Giants are surrendering fewer than 12 points and 254 yards per game. In fact, Green Bay last week is the only team to gain more than 206 yards of total offense and throw for more than 176 yards during this stretch. No team has collected more than 16 first downs in any of these four games and one team (Oakland, Week 10) has gained more than 55 yards rushing. Takeaways (11 total) and sacks (9) have been a big part of this run and the defense/special teams units also have provided three touchdowns of their own. Critics will be quick to point out that these four games were against teams with less-than-stellar quarterbacks (Minnesota’s Josh Freeman, Philadelphia’s Matt Barkley, Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor and Green Bay’s Scott Tolzien), but the bottom line is that the Giants’ defense has taken care of its business over the last month. Just how far has the 2013 edition of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew come since Week 1? Tony Romo and company will have a front-row seat this afternoon.

Can Either Offense Gain Ground?
Back in Week 1 the Cowboys and Giants combined for 809 total yards of offense, but only 137 of those came on the ground. DeMarco Murray led the way with 86 yards on 20 carries, while Da’Rel Scott was the leading ground-gainer for the Giants with a total of 23 yards. Establishing any sort of running game has been a season-long problem for both teams, as they are tied for 28th in the NFL in rushing offense at 77 yards per game. Murray is obviously the key to the Cowboys’ rushing attack and he is coming off of an 89-yard effort with a touchdown in the loss to the Saints two weeks ago. One of the problems for Murray has been a lack of attempts. He has gotten 20 or more carries just twice this season, including exactly 20 in the first game against the Giants, and is averaging 10.8 carries in his six other games. Murray did miss two games because of a sprained knee, but coming off of the bye he should be fairly healthy and the Cowboys need to be sure to give them the ball if they want to take any pressure off of Tony Romo and the passing attack. As for the Giants, the only one who got a rushing attempt in Week 1 that will play this afternoon is quarterback Eli Manning. Scott is no longer with the team while David Wilson, who had just 19 yards rushing and two costly fumbles in that first game, sustained a neck injury in Week 5 and is on injured reserve. Instead, the Giants will turn to the two-headed monster of Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs to carry the load. Brown made his season debut two weeks ago with 115 yards rushing against Oakland after missing the previous eight games because of a broken leg he suffered in the final preseason game. Jacobs joined the team in Week 2 and rushed for 106 yards and two scores against Chicago before a hamstring injury sidelined him for a month. The two will likely share the carries in some capacity and try to take advantage of a Dallas rushing defense that ranks near the bottom of the league at 126.8 yards per game. The Giants meanwhile have really stiffened up against the run during their winning streak. The G-Men are giving up just 60 yards rushing per game and have moved all the way up to seventh in the league (98.0 ypg) in rushing defense. 

Dallas Key Player: Miles Austin, WR
Austin got out of the gates quickly this season, catching 10 passes for 72 yards against the Giants in Week 1. Since then he has totaled nine catches for 53 yards. Austin has played in just five games, as a hamstring injury held him out of the other five games, but with the exception of the season opener, he has been virtually non-existent in the Cowboys’ passing attack. In the last two games Austin has played, Weeks 6 and 7, not only did he not record a single catch, he didn’t even receive a single target. Tony Romo doesn’t lack for options, starting with wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, and the emergence of rookie wideout Terrance Williams has been a pleasant surprise too. But if the Cowboys are going to continue to ask Romo to carry the load offensively, he needs a healthy Austin to make his presence felt in these last six games.

New York Giants Key Player: Hakeem Nicks, WR
Eli Manning may be struggling (12 TDs, 17 INTs) this season, but he hasn’t gotten a bunch of help from his wide receivers either. Victor Cruz leads the team in receptions (58) and yards (824), but he has just four touchdown catches and three of those came in Week 1 against Dallas. Rueben Randle leads the Giants with six touchdown grabs, but he has just 29 catches on the season and a catch rate (29 of 53) of less than 55 percent. That said, Nicks is the one who has been struggling the most, as the big target is still searching for his first touchdown catch of 2013. Nicks has gone over 100 yards receiving twice, but in his other eight games he’s averaging 3.5 receptions for 45.5 yards per contest. Nicks is still capable of making the big play, as he’s averaging 14.8 yards per reception and has 10 catches of 20 or more yards. Like Randle, however, Nicks is converting less than 55 percent (42 of 77) of his targets and sometimes seems to disappear completely from the offensive game plan. Injuries have been an issue for Nicks over the past few seasons. He did miss some practice time this week due to an abdominal strain and is listed on the injury report as questionable, but Nicks has said he will be out there. Dallas is dead last in the NFL in passing defense (313.0 ypg) and Nicks posted 114 yards on five catches (22.8) against the Cowboys back in Week 1. A repeat performance this afternoon could go a long ways towards not only helping the Giants earn their fifth straight win, but also jumpstarting Nicks’ season and put him in position for a strong finish. The latter is particularly important to Nicks since he will be a free agent after the season. Wide receivers who want to get paid like a No. 1 need to play like a No. 1.

Final Analysis

Oh the wild and wacky NFC East. Philadelphia is currently in first place, but the Eagles are just 6-5 and own one of the league’s worst defenses. Dallas could pull even with the Eagles with a victory this afternoon, but things will get even more interesting if the Giants extend their winning streak to five games in a row. Either way, this is a pivotal game as it relates to how things will play out in their division the rest of the way.

The Cowboys are coming off of their bye, but probably still licking their wounds from the 49-17 debacle against the Saints two weeks ago. The Giants have all the momentum, are playing their best football, especially on defense, and are at home. The Giants have their flaws, but every team in the NFC East does, which is one of the reasons why this race is so tight.

Eli Manning has had his issues, but he did throw for a season-best 450 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys back in Week 1. Plenty has changed since the season opener, as the Giants have a new backfield and the Cowboys will be missing several key members of their defense. In the end, I think Dallas’ personnel losses are too much for this struggling defense to overcome, despite Tony Romo’s best efforts to keep the Cowboys in the game. The Giants rely on ball control and an effective running game to secure their fifth win in a row, setting the stage for what’s shaping up to be another fantastic finish in the NFC East.

New York Giants 34, Dallas 24

Teaser:
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 08:00

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