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Back by popular demand are our weekly predictions. I took a week off to write about a dynasty matter last week, and even the dynasty owners filled up by inbox asking where the weekly predictions were. So, they’re back, and it’s probably safe to say they’re not leaving until Week 17. After all, I guess I’ve got all offseason to write about preparing for 2011, don't I?
Anyway, after a week featuring plenty of big news, including the return of Mike Vick, Randy Moss getting his bye week after all due to ending up in Tennessee and Shawne Merriman resurfacing in Buffalo, let’s get to it.
Bears at Bills
Uh, oh. This could be a shootout, folks. Johnny Knox is a borderline must-start against a suspect Bills secondary. Jay Cutler is actually worthy of a look this week despite horrible play earlier this year behind a putrid pass protection scheme. Even TE Greg Olsen could get into the end zone. I don’t trust Matt Forte at all this week, as Mike Martz could throw Chester Taylor into the mix quite a bit. On the Buffalo side, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson and Lee Evans are all solid bye-week fill-ins, and don’t be surprised if C.J. Spiller finally busts out a big play or two.
Patriots at Browns
I have to be honest. I’m not seeing much here. Guys like BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Peyton Hillis have been very useful to fantasy owners this season. Even Ben Watson has performed well on occasion. But this has to be the week that things return to normal. These guys just aren’t that good, and it’s time for then to come back down to earth. You may want to start Hillis if you have him, and that’s fine, but I expect this to be a mess of a game, and other than IDPs like Jerod Mayo and T.J. Ward, I’m staying away.
Jets at Lions
This one could be very interesting. The Lions’ offense torched Washington last week as Matthew Stafford tossed four TD passes. While the Jets have a premier defense, they’re actually not that great against the pass. I think Stafford is actually a solid start this week, as is an injured Calvin Johnson. While Jahvid Best appears to be losing touches to Kevin Smith, I only recommend him as a flex play in PPR leagues. I really like Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes to have big weeks. LT is a must start, and don’t be surprised if even Shonn Greene gets in on the action. All IDPs on the Jets’ side of things are full go, and look for Detroit MLB DeAndre Levy — a preseason sleeper — to finally get on track after battling injuries all season.
Cardinals at Vikings
With Brett Favre less than 50 percent healthy, Randy Moss gone and Percy Harvin nursing a serious ankle ailment, this one is a really tough game to gauge. Many think Visanthe Shaincoe is a solid play with Moss gone, but I’m not so sure. However, one thing is clear, Adrian Peterson will have a huge game. On top of that, expect another five-catch performance out of Toby Gerhart — who has apparently taken over third down duties. On the Cardinals’ side of things, Derek Anderson will start, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see DEs Ray Edwards and Jared Allen have a nice little sack party. Steve Breaston and Larry Fitzgerald are full go and will probably do just fine in PPR leagues.
Buccaneers at Falcons
Raheem Morris called his team the best in the NFC, which got Roddy White a little worked up in a media interview this week, so it will be interesting to see how many times White hooks up with Matt Ryan. I’m guessing at least two scores. Ryan is a great start this week against the Bucs, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Turner build on his solid Week 7 effort. LaGarrette Blount is a solid RB2/flex play in all formats, and rookie WR Mike Williams has become a must-start.
Saints at Panthers
Matt Moore has actually come in and salvaged some of the Panthers’ passing attack, but the Saints’ defense absolutely shutdown the Steelers last week, which concerns me. If possible, avoid all Panthers offensive players this week, and while it may make sense for you to start Drew Brees or Marques Colston, I wouldn’t count on much production from anyone in New Orleans’ offense as well.
Dolphins at Ravens
Fantasy owners perception of the Ravens defense had to have changed a bit when Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed four scores against them in Week 7, right? For sure, a little. So, don’t bench Brandon Marshall just because he plays the Ravens. However, don’t necessarily rush to get Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams in your lineup either. I see Baltimore shutting down Miami’s run game and forcing them to pass. Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason are all solid starts, and Ray Rice should have a huge week. IDPs like Ed Reed, Dawan Landry and Haloti Ngata on the Baltimore side, and Yeremiah Bell, Channing Crowder and Jason Allen on the Miami side should be in lineups.
Chargers at Texans
With the Chargers WR corps still banged up, a guy like Darren Sproles might be a nice flex play for PPR owners. Antonio Gates is highly questionable with a torn plantar fascia, so owners may need to look elsewhere for TE help. While he didn’t do much against the Colts last week, Jacoby Jones is back healthy and could be a factor in this game. And it looks like LB Zac Diles is benefitting from DeMeco Ryans being out and is a nice IDP option.
Giants at Seahawks
With or without Russell Okung, and with Matt Hasselbeck nursing a concussion, this could be a QB feast for Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and even Jason Pierre-Paul, who should see more snaps in place of Mathias Kiwanuka. Marshawn Lynch is a risky play but won't be as bad as he was last week. All Giants offensive players (the usuals) should be in lineups — even Brandon Jacobs.
Chiefs at Raiders
The Raiders have absolutely murdered each of their last two opponents and enter this game with a ton of confidence. Look for Matt Cassel to struggle a bit in the passing game, making Dwayne Bowe and Tony Moeaki potential disappointments. Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden are must starts in all formats, but beyond that, I’d avoid any other offensive players. Kansas City’s LBs are good enough to shut down TE Zach Miller.
Colts at Eagles
Shootout city. Welcome back Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson and possibly even Austin Collie. Collie owners need to keep an eye on him all the way up until kickoff and play him if he’s a go. In what promises to be an offensive showdown, all obvious names should play. I’d stay away from the Colts’ RB situation with the top three backs banged up and rookie Javarris James in the mix for carries. DBs Nate Allen (PHI) and Kelvin Hayden (IND) should have solid weeks. IDPers need to also keep an eye on Pat Angerer, who may start at SLB for Indy.
Cowboys at Packers
With Donald Driver out and Andrew Quarless likely to miss the game as well, our fantasy sleeper of the week is Jordy Nelson, not James Jones. While Jones could break away for a big play against Dallas’ horrible secondary, Nelson will see more targets and be more valuable in PPR leagues. It’s no secret to my readers that I’ve always liked Nelson, and this could finally be his stage to showcase his skill set. Avoid Dallas’ RBs and consider Jason Witten the best play on the offensive side of things. All Green Bay linebackers should be in lineups.
Steelers at Bengals
After being embarrassed on Sunday night in New Orleans, expect a bounce back from Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and company against division rival Cincy. Look for TEs Heath Miller and Jermaine Gresham to each get in the end zone, and for Terrell Owens to finally have a bad game against a Steelers defense that will look to shut him down. I’d be hesitant to start Carson Palmer here, and as always, the Steelers’ defense is a great play.