Posted: Tuesday December 5, 2006 12:26PM; Updated: Tuesday December 5, 2006 12:26PM
MATT HASSELBECKSeahawks AT Cardinals Even with wins in two of its last three games, Arizona continues to give up passing yards by the acre (234.8 per game). Hasselbeck gets a well-deserved gimme after missing four games with a knee injury, then playing in frigid conditions in Seattle in Week 12 and in Denver on Sunday.
ELI MANNINGGiants AT Panthers The South hasn't recently shown its famed hospitality to a kid who grew up in New Orleans and went to college in Mississippi. In games at Jacksonville and Tennessee, Manning passed for an average of 186.5 yards and totaled two TDs and four picks. Since Week 10, Carolina's D has allowed nine points per game.
PHILIP RIVERSChargers VS. Broncos When these teams last met, Denver was confident that it could contain LaDainian Tomlinson. Four TDs later the Broncos realized no one can. That won't keep Denver from trying this week by stacking the box, which will open up passing lanes for Rivers (222 yards, two TDs, two picks in their first matchup).
MARC BULGERRams VS. Bears This would be a tough assignment even if St. Louis had a full complement of O-linemen to protect Bulger against Chicago. But Orlando Pace is out for the year, and with Bulger having thrown three picks against Arizona (which was missing top pass rusher Bertrand Berry), he must be benched.
VINCE YOUNGTitans AT Texans Houston entertained the notion of making this native son the first overall pick in April's draft. Now the Texans will get to see what they missed out on. Young has led Tennessee to five wins in seven games with his arm (five TD passes over three games) and legs (147 rush yards and a TD in his last two).
BEN ROETHLISBERGERSteelers VS. Browns K.C.'s Trent Green torched the Browns for 297 yards and four TDs, so Roethlisberger seems like a sure bet at Heinz Field next week. However, with Hines Ward ailing, Big Ben will find it hard to duplicate the 272 yards (with two touchdown passes) he had at Cleveland on Nov. 19.
LADELL BETTSRedskins VS. Eagles Betts has shown some nifty footwork and has been a serviceable fantasy replacement ever since he stepped in for Clinton Portis four weeks ago -- against the Eagles (28th against the run). Betts may not have Portis's goal line instincts, but he averages 3.3 receptions per game (Portis averages 2.1).
KEVIN JONESLions VS. Vikings For Jones to have a good game, he'd have to do what eight consecutive starting running backs have failed to achieve against Minnesota: run for more than 55 yards or score a TD. That group includes Ronnie Brown, Ahman Green, NFC rushing leader Frank Gore -- and Jones, who gained all of eight yards in Week 5.
WILLIS MCGAHEEBills AT Jets Here's what Willis was talkin' 'bout: In four career starts against New York, McGahee has averaged a splendid 4.72 yards per carry and has never been held under 113 yards. (He had 150 against the Jets in Week 3.) What's more, the Jets recently have allowed monster games to Thomas Jones and Ahman Green.
LAURENCE MARONEYPatriots VS. Dolphins One of the overlooked stories of last week's three-TD show by Corey Dillon was that Maroney left the game after a helmet-to-helmet collision. When it comes to the status of injured players, the Patriots are the most secretive in the league, so there's no way to know how healthy Maroney will be.
FRED TAYLORJaguars VS. Colts Indy has allowed the most rushing yards (159.9 yards per game) and the second-most TDs (13) in the league. Taylor's a supersafe bet, considering his record against the Colts: In 10 career games he has logged only one subpar performance (19 yards in a loss last year) and has topped 70 yards in the other seven.
JOSEPH ADDAIColts AT Jaguars Addai has become the go-to guy in Indy, but in recent years Jacksonville has been rough on Colts running backs. With Indianapolis, Edgerrin James was a TD machine, but he crossed the Jags' goal line once in eight division games. In Week 3 against Jacksonville, Addai had 15 yards in limited action.
TERRY GLENNCowboys VS. Saints What a difference a few games make. In Week 9 it looked as if Glenn's season was in jeopardy after he suffered a knee injury. Now he is one of Tony Romo's favorite targets, hauling in 14 passes, including two TDs, over the last three weeks. New Orleans's foes have passed for 11 TDs in the last six games.
MARTY BOOKERDolphins VS. Patriots Despite letting Detroit's Mike Furrey get into the end zone last week, New England is tied with the Broncos and the Bears for the league lead in fewest passing TDs allowed (eight). In their first meeting this year, the Pats held Booker and fellow wideout Chris Chambers to 51 combined yards.
ANTONIO BRYANT49ers VS. Packers Bryant went the entire month of November without a TD catch but broke the drought last week against the Saints. This week he'll be Alex Smith's best friend as he provides the Niners QB with a deep threat against a Green Bay team that's been lit up for nine TD receptions in its last three games.
JOE HORNSaints AT Cowboys Horn left last week's game against the Niners when he reaggravated his groin injury, leaving Drew Brees with neither Horn nor wideout Marques Colston. Adding insult to injury, this week New Orleans will be clashing with a talented Dallas defensive backfield that includes Terence Newman and Roy Williams.
T.J. HOUSHMANDZADEHBengals VS. Raiders While Chad Johnson was challenging receiving records last month, Housh was relatively quiet nursing a sore hamstring. Now he has come up big in two straight games, including a 10-catch day against the Ravens. Carson Palmer will hook up with both wideouts for TDs in this game.
EDDIE KENNISONChiefs VS. Ravens Last week Kennison had his best fantasy output in nearly a year (seven catches for 117 yards and one touchdown). However, there's a big difference between the Browns' coverage scheme and the Ravens'. Look for a well-rested Chris McAlister & Co. to keep Kennison off the scoreboard.
CHRIS COOLEYRedskins VS. Eagles As in 2005, Cooley is looking solid down the stretch. After going scoreless in his first five games, he has five TDs in his last seven and has developed a nice rapport with second-year QB Jason Campbell, who tossed two of those scores. There's bad news down the road, though. As Campbell gains confidence, he'll throw more to his fleet of underused wideouts.
JERRAMY STEVENS Seahawks AT Cardinals Stevens had better hope that Mike Holmgren has more patience than Seahawks fans do. The tight end, still dwelling on his drops in Super Bowl XL, is routinely booed by Seattle's 12th Man. He has TDs in three of seven games since returning from a knee injury, but teammates may be down on him -- especially after his two big drops against Green Bay.
JOHN CARNEYSaints AT Cowboys Carney has worked plenty on his short game recently, booting 28 extra points and only one field goal longer than 39 yards in the last 10 games. But Dallas's defense, which has allowed a mere 11 passing TDs all year, should be stout enough to slow down Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense, often forcing field goal tries. Carney will clean up.
ROBBIE GOULD Bears VS. Rams As goes the Bears offense, so goes Gould. In Chicago's 7-0 start, Gould kicked 20 field goals and 23 extra points. But the attack has petered out and the NFL's field goal percentage leader (96.3) has seen his chances diminish. In the Bears last five games, Gould has just seven field goal attempts -- including one that was blocked against New England -- and 11 extra-point tries.
RAMS VS. Bears Rex Grossman has suddenly become Rex the Wonder Dog of Interceptions, which is good news for a team that has but a dozen this year. Even soft pass defenses like the Rams' have proved troublesome for the beleaguered QB: He's tossed 10 interceptions to the Vikings, Patriots and Cardinals combined.
BRONCOS AT Chargers The Bolts hung 35 on Denver three weeks ago -- and that was on the road. Denver likely will crowd the line this time to stop LaDainian Tomlinson, which will open routes for quick passes to tight end Antonio Gates. If Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson (who injured his neck on Sunday) plays, he likely won't be at full strength.
BEWARE OF BUST
RANDY MOSSWR RAIDERS AT Bengals Mr. Moss has to show up at some point this season, and it's a good bet that he'll grace us with a cameo against the banged-up Bengals secondary, which is ranked dead last against the pass and has allowed 16 TDs through the air this year. The Raiders don't throw the ball a lot, so don't count on too many receptions. Rather, look for some catch-and-run plays of the type Moss exhibited against Cincinnati in '98 (his rookie year), when he hauled in four balls for 99 yards and a touchdown. This year's Bengals have the look of a playoff team, and they're likely to put Oakland away early. That could lead Raiders coach Art Shell to open up the offense as a means of playing catch-up and seeing whom he wants to keep around for the future. In that vein Moss may also have an eye on '07. Even if he wants out of Oakland, he'll have to find someone else to pay him and will need to show his stuff down the stretch.
LARRY JOHNSON RB CHIEFS vs. Ravens Last week Chiefs coach Herm Edwards expressed his belief that running the football wins games. While Kansas City does rely heavily on Johnson, here's a case where such dependence could prove costly to you in a crucial week. That isn't to say Johnson should automatically be shelved, but take a look at the defensive matchup and your alternatives before proceeding. The Ravens' vaunted defense has stood its ground against almost every top AFC back, including LaDainian Tomlinson, whom they held to 98 yards and zero TDs. (He leads the league with 26 this season.) Baltimore has bottled up the likes of Rudi Johnson (47 and 78 yards), Willie Parker (22), Reggie Bush (16) and DeShaun Foster (58), and it has surrendered more than 100 yards to a running back only once, when it was banged up against Tennessee. This week the Ravens are healthy, so consider yourself warned.
IS HE FOR REAL?
FISH OR CUT BAIT?
MARCEL SHIPPRB CARDINALS Remember who the Cardinals' leading rusher was before Edgerrin James was signed last off-season? It was Shipp, who in last week's win at St. Louis thrived in his new role as James's replacement in goal line situations. Shipp scored three times on seven carries, a feat that becomes infinitely more impressive once you realize that James also has three rushing TDs this season -- in 252 tries. Arizona's offense has moved the ball effectively (averaging 355.3 yards over the last three games), creating scoring chances that belong to Shipp. He has found his niche.
BRETT FAVREQB PACKERS He's a lock for Canton, but Favre's fantasy value has taken a nosedive since he suffered a nerve injury in his elbow during a Week 11 loss to the Patriots. In the two games since, Favre is a combined 46 for 83 (55.4%), with two touchdowns and five interceptions. The real question is: Should you depend on Favre in the fantasy playoffs? Three of Green Bay's remaining four games (at San Francisco, against Minnesota and at Chicago) are difficult fantasy matchups. Given the ailing elbow and the schedule, it's time to activate your contingency plan.