Carson Palmer and the Raiders should be able to move the ball against the Vikings.
-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)
NFL Bye Weeks: Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Pittsburgh
Start These Quarterbacks:
Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Minnesota)
The Oakland Raiders passer has thrown for 631 yards and five touchdowns in his last two games and is coming off his best game of his brief tenure on the Bay. He has built an instant rapport with rookie Denarius Moore and will be facing the NFL’s 30th-rated pass defense (272.8 ypg). No team in the league has allowed more touchdown passes than Minnesota’s 18.
Alex Smith, San Francisco (Arizona)
Smith has become a model of consistency – quick, where does that rank among phrases you thought you would hear? It’s true, however, that Jim Harbaugh has turned the former No. 1 overall bust into a serviceable fantasy option. He has thrown for between 170 and 242 yards in six of the last eight games and has a touchdown pass in six straight to go with only three interceptions all season. The Cardinals rank 24th against the pass and pose little threat to the 49ers on defense.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (at Green Bay)
Freeman has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions only three times this season, but in a blowout situation in Lambeau, he should have a good chance to produce a useful fantasy total. The Packers rank 31st in the NFL against the pass, and Freeman is sixth in the NFL in attempts per game. Look for the Bucs to be throwing a lot in the second half.
Bench These Quarterbacks:
Eagles QBs (at NY Giants)
With broken ribs it is hard to imagine Michael Vick being allowed to use his legs — if he plays at all. And against one of the league’s top pass rushes, neither Vince Young nor Vick should have much time to throw. Especially considering the wide receiver issues with DeSean Jackson (contract) and Jeremy Maclin (hamstring, shoulder).
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (at Baltimore)
The red-headed quarterback got his first career taste of Pittsburgh last weekend, and it showed. He threw for only 170 yards and two interceptions (even though he did toss two scoring strikes). Dalton has exceeded all expectations in 2011, but no team has allowed fewer touchdown passes than Baltimore’s six. The Ravens are sixth in the NFL against the pass at 194.3 yards per game as well. Stay away.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at Miami)
Fitz has topped the 200-yard mark only twice in his last six games and has only seven touchdowns over that same span. His 2:5 TD:INT ratio over his last two doesn’t bode well either — even against the Dolphins. Miami’s pass defense has played dramatically improved football of late, allowing a total of 467 yards, no touchdowns and two picks through the air during the two-game winning streak. Miami has surrendered 12 total points the last two weeks.
Start These Running Backs:
Michael Bush, Oakland (at Minnesota)
Assuming that Darren McFadden is out once again, Bush becomes almost a must-start — even against a relatively solid rush defense. In his fill-in start last week, Bush totaled 242 yards and a touchdown on 33 touches. Palmer and Hue Jackson will get him the ball plenty against the 2-7 Vikings.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle (at St. Louis)
In what was arguably the week's most shocking final score, Lynch torched Baltimore for 167 yards from scrimmage and a score in the 22-17 upset. Lynch has 61 touches in the last two games and should be in for another full day of action against the worst rushing defense in the NFL (150.6 ypg allowed).
Brandon Jacobs, NY Giants (Philadelphia)
I am not ready to say that Jacobs is running as hard as possible yet, but it does appear he is taking advantage of his opportunity with Ahmad Bradshaw still injured. The Eagles are allowing 112.4 yards per game and nearly one touchdown per game to running backs. Expect a full workload for Jacobs, assuming Bradshaw does not play.
James Starks, Green Bay (Tampa Bay)
Arizona, Indianapolis and Carolina are the only three teams in the league that have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bucs. Tampa Bay ranks 29th in the NFL against the run at 138.2 yards per game. Expect Green Bay to get up big behind Aaron Rodgers early and then turn to the ground game in the second half.
Reggie Bush, Miami (Buffalo)
Sound familiar: Arizona, Indianapolis and Carolina are the only three teams in the league that have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Bills. Buffalo ranks 23rd in the NFL against the run at 125.2 yards per game. Bush has 53 touches over the last three games and is averaging 5.9 yards per touch with three scores over that span. He is finally getting the ball in the red zone, and even if Buffalo pulls away, he will get touches in the passing game.
Kendall Hunter, San Francisco (Arizona)
K-Hunt is a deep sleeper play this weekend. He showed spark and solid quickness while filling in last week for Frank Gore (he averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored). Against a porous Cardinals defense that is last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed (12), Hunter should get 12-16 touches and should score.
Bench These Running Backs:
Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Atlanta)
If you take out CJ’s two 100-yard efforts against lowly Carolina and Cleveland, he has averaged 37.8 yards rushing per game. He has scored only twice this year and is facing one of the NFL’s best run defenses in a must-win situation. The Falcons are allowing a third-best 90.3 yards per game behind stellar play of Sean Weatherspoon, Curtis Lofton, Jordan Babineaux and Corey Peters in the front seven.
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Baltimore)
Yes, Marshawn Lynch posted a big number against the Ravens last week. But that was following an emotion-draining road thriller over Pittsburgh and a cross-country flight to the Pacific Northwest. This important divisional game will most assuredly feature the NFL’s No. 3 scoring defense (16.9 ppg), the No. 3 rushing defense (90.3 ypg) and the No. 3 total defense (296.4 ypg).
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at Green Bay)
Expect the touches for Blount to be much lower than normal in what should be a lopsided score in Green Bay. Blount, even when healthy, has not produced in 2011. He hasn’t scored since Week 4 against the Colts, has topped the century mark only one time (Week 4) and has 140 yards rushing in his last three games. The Pack is stingy against the run (8th in the NFL), so don’t expect much from Blount.
Beanie Wells, Arizona (at San Francisco)
Put this one on the tee and start swinging for the fences. There is just no way Wells has any business near your starting lineup. Just thought I would remind you.
Frank Gore, San Francisco (Arizona)
The matchup is very juicy, but Gore is nursing two tender ankles and a bum knee. Owners can expect a lowered workload and plenty of K-Hunt.
Felix Jones, Dallas (at Washington)
DeMarco Murray is on a record-setting tear, and there is just no reason to slow his momentum. Take a major wait and see approach to Jones.
Start These Wide Receivers:
Mario Manningham, NY Giants (Philadelphia)
The Eagles are struggling to stop anyone, and Mario is starting to get his Super back. Manningham has caught at least five passes in four of five games and has scored in three straight. Look for the Manning-Manningham connection to continue to grow as the year goes along.
Denarius Moore, Oakland (at Minnesota)
It was painfully obvious how much Carson Palmer likes Moore. Once Jacoby Ford left the game, No. 17 got most of his looks — and the rookie wideout capitalized with multiple big plays and circus catches (5 rec., 123 yards, 2 TDs on Thursday night). Look for the 30th-rated pass defense that has allowed a league-worst 18 touchdown passes to surrender plenty of fantasy points to the Raiders’ pass-catcher.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas (at Washington)
Robinson lands on this list for the second straight week — and he has earned it. The Illinois State product has caught 13 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. Romo has clearly defined him as one of his top three options, so keep him in the lineup against the Skins.
Damian Williams, Tennessee (at Atlanta)
The Falcons have been dominant against the run, so expect most of the Titans' offensive success to come through the air. Williams made a fantasy living in college by playing smart, disciplined, fundamentally sound football at USC (and Arkansas), and it is starting to show on the next level. He has scored in two straight games and posted his first career 100-yard game last week against Carolina.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at New England)
Despite a very tasty matchup against the worst pass defense in the league (that is getting better and healthier each week), Bowe still has Tyler Palko throwing him the ball now. Look for Kyle Arrington, who has been arguably the Pats' best DB, to slow Bowe just enough to hurt your fantasy squad.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia (at NY Giants)
D-Jax has been asleep all season as he his contract issues have put a serious dent in his fantasy production. And without a healthy Michael Vick throwing him the ball, I would look for a more stable, safer play this week. Especially against the Giants’ pass rush.
Roddy White, Atlanta (Tennessee)
The return of Julio Jones, ageless wonder Tony Gonzalez and Cortland Finnegan all make this seem like a low ceiling for the under-performing Hot Roddy. Look for the gameplan to center around Michael Turner anyway.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego (at Chicago)
The Chargers couldn’t block my grandmother last weekend, and Rivers will face a fierce pass rush this weekend. And since secondary shifting a month ago, the Bears have not allowed a wideout to top the 85-yard mark and have allowed only one touchdown since Week 6.