Matchup Meter: Ravens look to fine-tune passing game vs. Colts
Colts defense has allowed league-worst 109.2 Quarterback Rating this season
DeMarco Murray has struggled over last three games but could rebound vs. Giants
Tim Tebow may struggle vs. Bears, who have allowed only seven rushing scores
Joe Flacco is dead to most fantasy owners. He has completed a career-low 55.3 percent of his attempts through 12 games, and has thrown just six touchdown passes since the start of October -- it's a wonder Baltimore is in contention for home field advantage in the AFC.
Most would expect the Ravens to feature their powerful running game this week against a winless Indianapolis squad giving up an average of 144.2 yards on the ground, but the matchup could benefit Flacco and the Ravens receivers, as well. No defense is friendlier to opposing passers (109.2 QB Rating), and the Colts secondary has allowed 21 scores to opposing receivers.
Consider this Baltimore's opportunity to fine tune its passing attack before the playoff season. Fantasy owners should find room in their lineups for Anquan Boldin and possibly Torrey Smith ... even Flacco might be worthy of a little love in Week 14.
These matchups suggest success is around the corner for a number of suspect fantasy starters ...
Dallas' rushing attack vs. NY Giants' defense
Frustrated by DeMarco Murray's recent performances? Cheer up, things are about to improve. The Giants run defense ranks among the bottom 10 in yards allowed per game (127.0) and has given up the fifth-most rushing scores (13). Opposing rushers average a healthy 4.6 yards per carry against the Giants, and subpar rushing teams have been made to look outstanding (New Orleans gained 205 rushing yards against New York two weeks ago).
Expect a big day from: Murray has stumbled to the finish line, with just 198 yards in his last three games combined. He needs a boost, and the Cowboys need a win to control the NFC East. Playing at home, expect Murray to find plenty of running room Sunday evening,
Oakland's passing attack vs. Green Bay's defense
Everyone from Josh Freeman to Christian Ponder has shredded the Packers secondary. The unit ranks 31st in yards allowed per game (292.8) and is one of 10 to have allowed 20 or more touchdown passes this season. At least one opposing receiver has gained 100 or more yards in four of Green Bay's last six outings.
Expect a big day from: The Raiders receiving crew is all dealing with one foot injury or another. Chaz Schilens has been Carson Palmer's go-to receiver in recent weeks and someone fantasy owners should consider, assuming he finds his way to the practice field by Friday. Palmer could follow a string of quarterbacks to do well against Green Bay, which has allowed an average of 321.6 passing yards over the past three weeks.
San Diego's rushing attack vs. Buffalo's defense
Things have fallen apart in Buffalo. Not only has the team fallen out of the playoff race, but opponents are walking all over the defense. The Bills rank 24th in rushing yards allowed per game (129.1), 26th in yards allowed per carry (4.7) and have given up 12 runs of 20-plus yards (tied for seventh-most among NFL defenses).
Expect a big day from: Ryan Mathews is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games; still, he doesn't have the full confidence of his fantasy owners. No reason to sit him this week. Tennessee's Chris Johnson could have crawled to a 100-yard day last week against the Bills.
These fantasy stars might need a rest this week due to an unfavorable matchup on the horizon ...
Cincinnati's rushing attack vs. Houston's defense
The Texans do a marvelous job up front of limiting opposing running games. Houston gives up 90.7 yards a game and has not allowed a rushing score since Week 8. Plus, teams do not have many opportunities to run the football -- opponents have carried just 261 times against the Texans, tied for second-fewest in the league.
Who to bench: Last week, Atlanta's Michael Turner managed just 44 yards on 14 carries against the Texans. That should be enough information for fantasy owners to send Cedric Benson to the bench.
Pittsburgh's passing attack vs. Cleveland's defense
It's not just that opponents prefer to pound the ball against Cleveland's 31st-ranked run defense -- the pass defense is deserving of its No. 1 ranking. Last week, for example, Joe Flacco completed less than 50 percent of his passes and no Ravens wide receiver caught more than two balls. The Browns give up just 6.6 yards per attempt, and have only allowed 11 passing scores (tied for second-fewest in the league).
Who to bench: Ben Roethlisberger ate the Browns up in 2010, but that was another year, another Browns defense. Roethlisberger has been just so-so for fantasy owners lately (held to fewer than 200 yards passing in each of the past two weeks) and could use a rest. Fantasy owners cannot afford to offer Mike Wallace the same courtesy, but they may want to consider sitting fellow Steelers targets Antonio Brown and Heath Miller.
Denver's rushing attack vs. Chicago's defense
There's a good chance Tim Tebow's winning streak will continue at home this Sunday, but his legs may not be as productive as they've been in recent weeks. The Bears are one of eight NFL teams to allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game, and over the past seven games no opposing back has reached the 75-yard mark -- a list that includes Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, LeGarrette Blount and LeSean McCoy.
Who to bench: The fact that Chicago has only allowed seven rushing scores this season should scare Tebow owners. Willis McGahee's knee won't keep him out of the lineup this Sunday, but the injury combined with the Bears defense is enough to warrant serious concern from fantasy owners.
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