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Play your Titans, Bucs and Patriots this weekend.
-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)
Start These Quarterbacks:
Eli Manning, NY Giants (Green Bay)
The NFL’s second-worst pass defense has allowed six 300-yard efforts and seven multiple-touchdown games. And with the ability the Packers have to score points, Manning should have plenty of chances to chuck it around.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The ground game should struggle again this weekend for the Steelers, and Big Ben will be the fantasy beneficiary. This offense has been built around the pass this season, and the big-play threats at wide receiver have been very productive.
Matt Moore, Miami (Oakland)
The Raiders have allowed at least two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks in four straight games. Moore has played well since being inserted into the lineup, throwing seven touchdowns (including two 3-TD games) over his last four starts. He is coming off a season-high 288 yards and should be able to produce against the struggling Raiders pass defense.
Bench These Quarterbacks:
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Houston)
The Falcons passer has been one of fantasy’s top scorers over the last month and half. But against the stingy Texans, that will change. Only twice this season has a quarterback thrown for either more than one TD or 200 yards against the Texans' revamped defense. Wade Phillips is right at home managing half of a football team.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
This one may look out of place with his track record against the Browns; however, the Ravens passer has been a fantasy lump of coal for most of the year, with one multi-TD game since Week 3. The passing game should be largely irrelevant in this one. Ray Rice should get plenty of touches against a Browns defense that hasn’t stopped the run of late.
Carson Palmer, Oakland (at Miami)
Tony Romo’s two scores aside, the Dolphins have been playing excellent football against opposing quarterbacks this month (2 TD, 6 INT in the last four games). And Palmer’s receiving corps looks to be depleted this weekend as Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both could be out. He'll churn out some yards, but expect scoring to be at a premium.
Start These Running Backs:
Chris Johnson, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
CJ2K got his third-heaviest workload of the season last weekend and did not disappoint. Against the Bucs, Johnson had his best rushing performance of the season with 190 yards on 23 carries. The Bills are 28th in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed with 12 and are 21st in the league in rush defense (123.8). The Bills are also allowing 33.5 points per game during their current four-game skid and surrendered 138 yards on 6.0 per carry last week to the Jets.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (Carolina)
No team has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Panthers' 15 thus far in 2011. They rank 28th in the NFL against the run at 137.5 yards per game, and Blount is playing the best football of his season. He has two straight 100-yard games and even got involved with the passing game last week against the Titans. Expect the Bucs to turn to the burly tailback once again this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England (Indianapolis)
Just when you had given up on the Lawfirm, he does something like score two touchdowns. Only six running backs have more than his seven rushing touchdowns this season, and the Colts should not be able to slow anyone on the Pats offense. Indy ranks 31st in the league against the run at 150.6 yards per game, and no one has allowed more rushing touchdowns than their 15.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego (at Jacksonvile)
When the Chargers give One-T Mathews the ball, he produces. He had a big outing last week against an improved Broncos team (142 yards from scrimmage), and the inconsistency of the passing game makes him a much more appealing option for Norv Turner.
Bench These Running Backs:
Steven Jackson, St. Louis (at San Francisco)
The story is pretty clear at this point. The 49ers still have not allowed a rushing touchdown this season and are leading the NFL in rushing defense at 75.5 yards per game. They held Ray Rice to 59 yards on 21 carries in last week’s loss to Baltimore (9.8 TFP in Athlon’s scoring system). I told you to bench Rice last week, and I have to do the same for Jackson, who has averaged 77.5 yards and 3.6 per carry against the Niners in 13 career games (5 TDs) again this week.
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Pittsburgh)
The Steelers boast a top-five rush defense, and they held Benson to a 57-yard performance three weeks ago. In seven career games against Pittsburgh, the former Longhorn has averaged 45.0 yards per game, 3.4 yards per carry and has scored twice. The Curtain is fifth in the NFL with only six rushing touchdowns allowed this season, and I cannot see that trend changing this weekend.
Reshard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
Yes, he scored twice against the Bengals defense three weeks ago, but don’t expect a repeat. He carried 16 times for 44 yards — a paltry 2.8 ypc clip — in that game. And frankly, he just isn’t getting the ball as much as expected, with only one game of more than 20 carries for the entire season (23, Week 6). And the Bengals are sixth in the NFL against the run at 92.7 yards per game.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo (Tennessee)
The electric tailback got his first big chance at stardom last week and posted an uninspiring 70 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches against the Jets. The Titans are third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns allowed, and this seems like a game that will be played through the air for the Bills.
Start These Wide Receivers:
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (New England)
The Colts should have to throw early and often. And they will get to do so against the worst pass defense in the league. And with Dan Orlovsky under center, Wayne has a chance. His 5-122-1 line last week was his best of the season. Look for more this weekend.
Eric Decker, Denver (at Minnesota)
The Vikings are just not the same without Antoine Winfield – one of the most underrated corners in NFL history. Despite the Mile High Messiah’s inability to complete the forward pass, Decker has still scored in four of five games. Get him in there.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Cincinnati)
The Steelers have been leaning much more on the passing game this season, and that trend should continue this weekend against a stingy rush defense. Without Leon Hall, the Bengals secondary has struggled to stop big-play wideouts, and Brown is getting tons of targets (46 in five games).
Nate Washington/Damian Williams, Tennessee (at Buffalo)
I had both Plaxico and Santonio on this list last week, and both reached paydirt against the Bills. The same could be the case for Matt Hasselbeck’s improving duo.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota (Denver)
The Broncos defense has done a complete 180 since the start of the season. They will be chasing Christian Ponder all game long, and Champ Bailey is back playing Champ-ionship football. Harvin and the rest of the Vikings will struggle.
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore (at Cleveland)
Joe Haden should be checking all day, and that does not bode well for the Ravens receiver. Additionally, the passing game should not be needed much in this one.
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (Tennessee)
David Nelson gets the redzone looks, and Cortland Finnegan will be in his jersey all game long. Johnson cost his team a chance at the win last week, and one has to wonder if he is back in good graces yet — especially considering the offense’s struggles this month.
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (at Chicago)
Kyle Orton took a lot of reps with the first team this week, and I reserve the right to upgrade the stud wideout should the Neckbeard start. But if Tyler Palko is under center, Bowe’s value is much lower against a team that will be pressuring whoever is playing quarterback. Oh, and he hasn’t scored in seven games.