Matchup Meter: Browns holding door open to opposing backs
Nine opposing runni backs have gained at least 85 yards vs. Browns in 2011
The Buccaneers defense is likely to struggle to stop the Titans' passing attack
Miami one of seven teams holding opposing RBs to less than 100 yards per game
Opponents have learned that beating the Browns means pounding the football. While Cleveland's pass defense ranks among the NFL's elite in yards allowed and opponent QB Rating, the run defense has been horrendous.
Nine opposing backs have gained 85 or more yards against Cleveland this season (six of those players added a touchdown to their performance). It's a list that includes Daniel Thomas, Chris Johnson and Ben Tate. The Browns rank 29th in run defense, allowing 139.3 yards per game, and 30th in attempts allowed per game (32.2).
Cedric Benson's biggest day of 2011 came against Cleveland in the season opener (121 yards on 25 carries and a touchdown). Fantasy owners would be delighted to see similar numbers from a back who has eclipsed the 80-yard mark in just two games this season.
These matchups suggest success is around the corner for a number of suspect fantasy starters ...
Carolina's passing attack vs. Indianapolis' defense
With an opponent QB Rating of 109.7 you'd think the Colts face Aaron Rodgers each week. Only one other NFL team has allowed opposing passers a rating higher than 100. Against NFC West opponents, the Colts secondary has given up nine touchdowns and an average of 288 yards in three contests.
Expect a big day from: No need to announce that Steve Smith and Cam Newton are safe bets this week, only to add that Newton may work his way out of his passing funk (five touchdown passes, eight interceptions in the past five weeks combined). Fantasy owners may want to roll the dice on Greg Olsen. Newton threw to the tight end 20 times in Weeks 10 and 11 combined.
Pittsburgh's rushing attack vs. Kansas City's defense
The Chiefs allow 136.3 rushing yards per game (28th most), but the more damaging evidence of the front seven's troubles can be found in recent box scores. In Week 9, Reggie Bush gained 92 yards on 13 carries; the following week, Denver's Lance Ball had 96 yards; against New England on Monday, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen combined for 147 yards on 33 carries.
Expect a big day from: This is the game Rashard Mendenhall's owners have been waiting for. For four straight weeks the Steelers back has gained fewer than 75 yards; this week Mendenhall will make up for it with four productive quarters of football.
Tennessee's receivers vs. Tampa Bay's defense
The Buccaneers allow the fourth most passing yards (265.4) of any unit in the league, and only three teams have given up more passing scores (18). The big play has been partially to blame (Tampa Bay ranks dead last in yards allowed per attempt). Plus, the Buccaneers have given up eight touchdown passes and an average of 250.0 yards in their last three road games.
Expect a big day from: The Falcons defense had no answer for Nate Washington last week (nine catches, 115 yards, two scores), so there's a good chance the Titans' top wideout could roll that success into Week 12. Damian Williams is another player fantasy owners may want to consider. He has been targeted 25 times over the past three games combined -- more than any other Titans receiver.
These fantasy stars might need a rest this week due to an unfavorable matchup on the horizon ...
Dallas' rushing attack vs. Miami's defense
The Dolphins defense has received little respect. While most of the focus has been on the team's inept offense or Tony Sparano's uncertain future, fans have ignored a defense that ranks second in touchdown runs allowed (three). Miami is one of just seven NFL teams to allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, and let's not forget it kept Houston's second-rated backfield out of the end zone and limited it to 4.0 yards per carry.
Who to bench: Miami will make DeMarco Murray the focus of its defensive game plan, forcing Tony Romo and a banged up Cowboys receiving corps to win the game. Fantasy owners with a good option behind Murray may want to make a change this week.
Buffalo's passing attack vs. N.Y. Jets' defense
The Jets are one of two defenses to have allowed fewer than 10 passing scores (eight) and they rank sixth in yards allowed (200.1). Opponents attempt just 30.9 passes per game, and complete just 54.4 percent of their attempts. When these teams met in Week 9, Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick completed just 15 of 31 passes for a QB Rating of 51.9.
Who to bench: Beyond Fitzpatrick, fantasy owners should also shy away from Buffalo's up-and-down tight end Scott Chandler and top receiver Steve Johnson, who has been hampered slightly by a shoulder injury.
Oakland's rushing attack vs. Chicago's defense
The Bears allow too many yards per attempt (4.9) but it's almost a moot point because opposing teams rarely keep the ball on the ground. Only San Francisco has allowed fewer rushing attempts than Chicago's 20.5 per game, and the Bears have permitted just six rushing touchdowns all season. A week ago, Chicago limited San Diego to 52 yards on 17 carries (almost half of which came on one 23-yard carry).
Who to bench: Michael Bush has four straight games with 95 or more yards, but it's a streak that will come to an end this week. Fantasy owners should put the Darren McFadden fill in back on the shelf.