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Play all of your Falcons, Cardinals, Rams and Chiefs this week.
-by Braden Gall ( @AthlonBraden on twitter)
NFL Bye Weeks: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, Minnesota
Start These Quarterbacks
Matt Ryan, Atlanta (at Indianapolis)
Matty Ice has had two weeks to get his ankle fully healthy, and there is no better way to walk back onto a field than against the Colts pass defense. No team in the NFL is less efficient against the pass than the Colts with their 72.4% completion rate allowed. No team has allowed more passing touchdowns than the Colts' 15. Expect Ryan to reach the Colts’ 258.9 yards allowed per game mark with relative ease.
Eli Manning, NY Giants (at New England)
New England’s woes against the pass are well documented; at 323.1 yards per game, they are more than 30 yards worse than anyone else in the league. Manning is coming off arguably his best game of the season (349-2-0) and should have a field day throwing due to the struggles of his ground game, which will be without Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Manning produced a tasty 251-4-1 line in his only career regular season start against New England, and we all know what happened in the only postseason meeting (David Tyree, please pick up the red courtesy phone).
Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Miami)
The defeated Dolphins have been bad in all phases of the game but have been particularly putrid against quarterbacks lately. They have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks over the last four games. The emergence of names like Battle and Baldwin only help Cassel’s case to produce this weekend. Miami’s 14:2 TD:INT ratio against is the worst in the NFL, and only the Colts have allowed more TD passes.
Carson Palmer, Oakland (Denver)
The Broncos' 68.1% completion rate against is second-worst in the NFL, and their 14:3 TD:INT ratio against is third-worst in the NFL. Denver just allowed 267-3-0 to Matt Stafford, 197-1-0 (which is world-beating for him) to Matt Moore, 250-1-1 to Philip Rivers and 408-4-1 to Aaron Rodgers over the last four games. Palmer should reach the 249.7 yards allowed per game by Denver and probably reach paydirt at least once – especially with Darren McFadden potentially shelved for this one.
Bench These Quarterbacks
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (at Pittsburgh)
The Ravens quarterback has one touchdown pass in his last four games to go with four interceptions. He also has failed to reach 200 yards in every other game he has played (Weeks 2, 4, 7). With the way Baltimore embarrassed the Steelers in Week 1, there is no way Pittsburgh isn’t clicking on all cylinders on defense this weekend. Oh yeah, the Steelers are No. 1 in the NFL against the pass at 171.6 yards allowed per game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Reason No. 1 not to like the Harvard grad this week is the uber-talented Jets secondary, which leads the NFL with only four touchdown passes allowed and is tied for fourth with 11 interceptions. And Fitzpatrick has turned the ball over four times in the last two games. Reason No. 2 is Fred Jackson’s 132 attempts and NFL second-best 103 yards per game. The Jets have been susceptible to the ground game, and owners should expect a heavy dose of F-Jax this weekend. This week it’s once again Fitz and the Tempered Expectations that will be Breakin’ the Chains of Love.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The Ravens are third in the NFL in pass defense at 174.1 yards per game and are forcing turnovers in typical Ravens fashion. Baltimore has allowed five touchdown passes and has seven interceptions on the year. Big Ben committed five of his 11 total turnovers this season in the Week 1 debacle in Baltimore. Expect him to play better this weekend, but his upside is limited against a defense that is No. 2 in the NFL in sacks (25.0).
Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Cincinnati)
In the first four games, Hasselbeck averaged 288 yards per game with eight TDs and three INTs. Since Week 5, the level of competition has increased significantly, and it has shown in Hasselbeck’s production. He has three touchdowns, three interceptions and has averaged 196 yards per game since. The Bengals have allowed only six passing touchdown this fall and are fifth in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2011.
Colt McCoy, Cleveland (at Houston)
The Browns passer still is the starter and still throws the ball as much as any quarterback in the league not named Brees. However, the passes are rarely down the field, and the Texans have played stingy pass defense of late. Especially since there will be no running game for the Browns whatsoever.
Start These Running Backs
Shonn Greene, NY Jets (at Buffalo)
Expect Rex Ryan’s re-establishment of the ground game to continue this weekend. Greene, who averaged 12.8 carries per game through four weeks, has topped 20 attempts in all three games since Ryan’s public yearning to run. And Greene’s production has jumped to nearly 90 yards rushing per game. The Bills are 27th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed at a 4.9 clip. Look for lots of Greene this weekend.
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati (at Tennessee)
The Titans are 27th in the NFL against the run at 129.3 yards per game and have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of their last three contests. Benson is, well, uh, rested after his mandatory penal bye week and will be fresh for what is a huge game with AFC Wild Card implications. Look for Benson to run early and often against the Titans.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay (at New Orleans)
Steven Jackson had his best game in years when he rolled up 159 yards (6.4 ypc) and two scores last week against the Saints. Reports are that Blount is back leading the way on offense after missing some time with his sprained MCL. The Saints are allowing a league-low 5.5 yards per carry for the season, and with the recent struggles of the Bucs’ passing game, owners can expect Raheem Morris to attempt to control the clock and keep Drew Brees on the sidelines.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, New England (NY Giants)
Faulk is a sneaky play in PPR leagues; he should see plenty of time on third down in what should be a high-scoring affair. Look for Green-Ellis get plenty of touches between the tackles against the NFL’s 28th-rated rush defense (130.1 ypg). Before last week’s five-carry game, BJGE had been averaging nearly 16 carries per game. Owners can expect him to return to that mark in Week 9.
Beanie Wells, Arizona (St. Louis)
Wells might not be fully recovered from his knee injury yet, but fantasy owners could still be in store for big things this weekend. The Rams are allowing a league-worst 165.6 yards per game and have been gashed all season long. Wells is eighth in the NFL in rushing attempts per game (18.8) and should get plenty of touches in an effort to protect Kevin Kolb.
Bench These Running Backs
Chris Johnson, Tennessee (Cincinnati)
One of the biggest bust values of the 2011 season should not be in the lineup this weekend. The overweight and under-motivated tailback has topped the 53-yard mark only one time in 2011. Against the NFL’s No. 2 rush defense (85.4 ypg), which is also No. 2 in the league in forcing fumbles (10) and allows a fourth-best 17.6 points per game, CJ will be nowhere near his former CJ2K self. And in case you missed it, in an easy win over an atrocious Colts defense, Javon Ringer out-paced (19 touches, 102 yards) Mr. Johnson (17 touches, 51 yards) by a wide margin.
Reshard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The Ravens are allowing the second-fewest points in the NFL at 15.7 points per game, are third in the NFL against the run at 89.1 yards per game and only the 49ers have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Ravens' two. Mendenhall has topped the 70-yard mark only once in 2011 and has 26 carries for 102 yards with no TDs over his last two. In six career games against Baltimore, Mendenhall has average 55.0 yards, fumbled twice and scored three times.
Willis McGahee, Denver (at Oakland)
McGahee is crying for a full workload this weekend after missing time with a broken right hand. The pins were inserted, he missed one game and is reported back practicing this week. But how much you can count on him against what should be nine-man front from Oakland remains to be seen. It might be safer to play the wait-and-see game with Willis.
San Diego Chargers (Green Bay)
Ryan Mathews will probably be sitting on the sideline in civilian clothing. Mike Tolbert is active but has been dealing with serious injuries all season long. Curtis Brinkley showed flashes but also is dealing with concussion issues. Jacob Hester might vulture you a touchdown, but the Chargers backfield isn’t likely to produce much of anything this weekend against a Packers defense that has allowed three rushing touchdowns and a solid 102.1 yards per game. Expect Philip Rivers and the passing game to take center stage for Norv Turner.
Start These Wide Receivers
Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, NY Giants (at New England)
With Hakeen Nicks battling injuries, there should be plenty of space for the also very productive Cruz-Manningham combo to make plays against the worst pass defense in the NFL. The duo combined for 13 catches, 162 yards and two scores last week.
Brandon Lloyd, St. Louis (at Arizona)
After a few weeks in the system, Lloyd showed that he could still be an impact fantasy performer with a tidy 6-53-1 line last week against New Orleans. Arizona is 30th in the NFL against the pass at 277.6 yards allowed per game. Look for Lloyd’s role in the Rams’ offense continue to expand.
Julio Jones, Atlanta (at Indianapolis)
All signs point to Jones being back on the field this week after not playing since the fourth-quarter of Week 5. The Colts defense has been pathetic against, well, anyone on the opposing offense and Jones had back-to-back 100-yard games prior to his injury. If he is starting, play him without concern.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco (at Washington)
If you are feeling serious lucky, Crabtree could be a sneaky play this week. He has caught 14 passes for 131 yards and a TD in his last two games and seems to be finally working at a level needed to succeed in the NFL.
Malcolm Floyd, San Diego (Green Bay)
Floyd looked like Rivers' top target on Monday night (5-107) and should be used heavily against the banged-up Green Bay secondary. With all of the injuries to the running game, look for the passing game to lead the way for San Diego.
Deion Branch, New England (NY Giants)
Wes Welker is still not 100% and Branch has been solid over the last month or so. Since disappearing for two weeks, Branch has caught 14 passes for 179 yards and two scores in three games.
Bench These Wide Receivers
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Welcome to Revis Island. The Jets have been excellent on the edge against receivers all season long as they have allowed only four touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions. Stay away.
Brandon Marshall, Miami (at Kansas City)
Brandon Flowers is one of the NFL's most underrated covermen and will likely draw the assignment this weekend. Marshall will get his targets, but Matt Moore will struggle against a secondary that is second in the NFL with 13 interceptions.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (Baltimore)
The hard-working Brown has come to life with two great games in a row (7-102, 9-67-1) in a row. But Baltimore has been downright parsimonious against the pass this season. He caught two passes for 14 yards in the season opener in Baltimore.
Start These Tight Ends
Brent Celek, Philadelphia (Chicago)
Michael Vick has finally realized what type of weapon he has in Mr. Celek. I will take 18 targets, 11 receptions, 136 yards and a score in two weeks all day long.
Dustin Keller, NY Jets (at Buffalo)
Mark Sanchez still looks to Keller as a safety valve, and Keller has topped 50 yards in two straight games. Keller also scored twice against Buffalo last season and should be needed this week.
Jake Ballard, NY Giants (at New England)
Quietly becoming a steady fantasy producer at tight end after his fourth straight game with at least three catches and third straight game of at least 55 yards. He also scored twice over that four-game span, and the Pats are horrendous against the pass.
Bench These Tight Ends
Vernon Davis, San Francisco (at Washington)
Has topped 50 yards only once this season and has five total catches for 35 yards in last two games. Look for the ground game and receivers to get most of the offensive work this week.
Scott Chandler, Buffalo (NY Jets)
Don’t get sucked in by the two-touchdown performance last week. He has one game of more than two receptions and that was back in Week 1. Don’t do it!
Start These Defenses/Special Teams
San Francisco 49ers (at Washington)
The Niners are the No. 3-ranked fantasy defense this season and have yet to allow a rushing touchdown. The Skins O-Line is no match.
Oakland Raiders (Denver)
Tim Tebow is under center. Willis McGahee is banged up. Oakland is at home and needs a key division win.
Cincinnati Bengals (at Tennessee)
They have scored three weeks in a row, and Matt Hasselbeck has little to work with this weekend.
Bench These Defenses/Special Teams
Chicago Bears (at Philadelphia)
Michael Vick has been more stable of late, and the ground game figures to be featured prominently.
San Diego Chargers (Green Bay)
Aaron Rodgers protects the ball and could put up a big number on the struggling secondary.
Buffalo Bills (NY Jets)
Expect the Jets to run the football and minimize mistakes. Sanchez won’t take risks in this one.