Carolina @ Jacksonville
Carolina improved its record to 5-7 with a 31-14 win last week over San Francisco. Carolina ran the ball 44 times for 166 yards, and this likely will be the game plan this week against Jacksonville. Jacksonville LB Mike Peterson is out again, so rookie LB Justin Durant will once again start in his place.
Jacksonville, like Carolina, wants to run the ball 40+ times. The Jags are coming off a 28-25 loss to division leading Indianapolis. Jacksonville QB David Garrard threw his first INT of the season last week, on a deflection by one of his receivers. Carolina DL Mike Rucker is coming off his best sack performance of the season, with 1.5 sacks last week.
NY Giants @ Philadelphia
The Giants were awful for 3 plus quarters last week, then Eli started to look like a real NFL QB in the final quarter. Eli lead his team to a come from behind win over Chicago, and did so in impressive fashion. . The Giants running game took another hit with the loss of Ward, but HC Coughlin will continue to run the rock no matter who they have lining up behind Eli.
Philadelphia hopes to get back QB Donovan McNabb this week, though he is probably still having nightmares about the last time these 2 teams played, where he was sacked 12 times, with Osi Umenyiora landing 6 of them. Obviously start your Giants defensive ends, as well as LB Antonio Pierce.
St. Louis @ Cincinnati
Rams QB Marc Bulger left last weeks contest and isn’t a lock to start this week. And St Louis would love nothing more than to be able to hand the ball to RB Steven Jackson 30 plus times and have him grind out a win for the Rams. Bengal’s safeties Dexter Jackson and Madieu Williams will have to lend a hand in run support this week.
Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer had his worst game of the season, though this week he gets a chance to get back on track against the woeful Rams secondary. The Bengal’s want to jump out to an early lead to keep St Louis from just grinding the clock with their running game, so expect them to go vertical early and often. As a result the Rams secondary should be productive.
Tampa Bay @ Houston
Tampa Bay is coming off a big win over New Orleans, and may have found a running game to lead them into the playoffs with Earnest Graham. Graham is a dual threat out of the backfield, as he is just as productive catching the ball as he is running it. Houston LB DeMeco Ryans should have a huge day spying Graham.
Houston may shut down QB Matt Schaub for the rest of the season, which could be a big benefit for the Bucs defense, as Schaub had great chemistry with WR Andre Johnson. Houston will have to pass to stay in this game, as the Bucs defense isn’t going to let them establish a running game. Expect S Jermaine Phillips and LB Derrick Brooks to lead the way defensively for Tampa Bay.
Miami @ Buffalo
Miami is still winless, and their coach appears to be safe, even if he goes 0-16. Miami is in a talent evaluation mode, starting rookie QB John Beck, and probably having to throw out injured RB Jessie Chatman into the starting lineup as well. Miami isn’t very effective offensively, so Id probably stay away from any of Buffalo’s IDP players this week.
Buffalo had an impressive win last week at Washington, and should extend their winning streak this week. The Bills will once again be without RB Marshawn Lynch, but it wont matter who they line up at RB, he will be effective vs. the Dolphins run defense. Miami LB Zach Thomas has been put on IR, so LB Channing Crowder will take his place the rest of the season.
Oakland @ Green Bay
Oakland is on the verge of giving rookie QB JaMarcus Russell the reigns to their offense, knowing they have nothing to lose at this point. Even if Oakland can win out, 8-8 wont get them into the playoffs in the AFC. Green Bay DE Aaron Kampman should have a huge game against the Raiders OL.
Green Bay QB Brett Favre looks like he will start this week, though the Packers will likely lean on RB Ryan Grant and the running game. Grant has been impressive this year in limited action and should get 30 carries this week. Expect LB Kirk Morrison to have another huge game.
Dallas @ Detroit
Dallas is seeking revenge on Detroit for a game the Boys felt like they gave away last year, and the comments Detroit QB Jon Kitna said after that game. Dallas will throw to Owens and Co. early, and pound RB Marion Barber late. Solid contributions from the Detroit defense should come from LB Ernie Sims and LB Paris Lenon.
Detroit lost WR Roy Williams for the next few weeks, and likely the season. Detroit still has WR Calvin Johnson and Mike Furry to move the chains, but Roy drew so much attention, it allowed those other guys to get open. Kitna is the most sacked QB this year, and Dallas will certainly come after him. Dallas LB Demarcus Ware should have a huge game rushing the passer, as should CB Terrence Newman defending the pass.
San Diego @ Tennessee
San Diego RB Ladanian Tomlinson finally looked like LT last week. But, Tennessee with DT Albert Haynesworth in the lineup was the best rush defense in the NFL. Though they dropped a a bit when he left the lineup the past month. Haynesworth is back, so running inside should be tough for SD. Thus outside LB Keith Bulluck could return to stud status this week.
Tennessee QB Vince Young led his team to a 28-20 victory last week over Houston, but will have a tougher test this week vs. San Diego. San Diego isn’t a great pass defense, but do have one of the best athletes in the NFL, playing in its secondary. Antonio Cromartie has 8 INT in his last 7 games. Another best bet to start this week would be LB Stephen Cooper.
Minnesota @ San Francisco
Minnesota is looking more and more like a playoff team in the NFC. Their running game is forcing teams to back off the blitz of their QB, and it’s amazing how well the play action pass works, when there is a real threat to run the ball, like Minnesota has. LB Patrick Willis had 17 tackles last week, and very well could eclipse that mark this week.
San Francisco can only play spoiler at this point with a 3-9 record heading into this game with Minnesota. The rest of the NFL hopes so, as New England owns their first round pick, and right now its #2 overall. San Francisco will continue to run Frank Gore, and let its defense keep the game close. Expect LB EJ Henderson to have a very productive day for the Vikings defense.
Arizona @ Seattle
Arizona held on for a big win last week against Cleveland, where controversy surrounded the games final play. Cleveland TE Kellen Winslow caught what appeared to be a TD, as he was pushed out of bounds by the defender, but the official on the spot said no TD, and he would have come down out of bounds regardless if the defender was there or not. Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald is a game time decision, so the Cardinals may change their game plan a bit to run more Edgerrian James. Regardless LB Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu are always must starts.
Seattle got RB Shaun Alexander back last week, and this week he will be leaned on even more to give the Seahawks balance on offense. QB Matt Hasslebeck is again without weapon WR DJ Hackett, so its crucial the Hawks can run the ball, to keep the pass rush off their QB. Just like Julian Peterson above, LB Karlos Dansby is a must start every week.
Cleveland @ NY Jets
Cleveland hopes to erase last week painful loss, and get back on the winning track against the Jets this week. The Browns can be as balanced as they wish against the Jets defense, as they are likely to have success with both the run and pass. For Jets IDP, start LB David Harris, DB’s Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes.
The Jets actually looked impressive last week, but that was against the only winless team in the NFL, Miami. This week will be a much bigger challenge. New York needs to run the ball 40 times again this week, to have any chance of slowing down the Browns offense. As a result, expect solid contributions from LB D’Qwell Jackson and DB Sean Jones.
Pittsburgh @ New England
Many thought Pittsburgh had a chance to win this game on the road against New England, but one of their little known players ran his mouth and likely fired up the undefeated Pats. Pittsburgh has the weapons to defeat the Patriots, but must run Willie Parker and execute on 3rd down to sustain drives and score points. Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi had his best game of the season last week, but one wouldn’t think he could duplicate that.
New England has looked mortal the last couple of weeks, but both of those teams have a solid secondary, and a nice pass rush. Interesting enough the Pats opponent this week also has a solid secondary and a nice pass rush. New England isn’t likely to take this game lightly, like it seemed they did the past two weeks. Expect the Patriots to throw and throw often. Obviously the Steeler’s CBs will be tested in this match up, but it probably isn’t wise to start any other Steeler but secondary players.
Kansas City @ Denver
Kansas City QB Damon Huard loves throwing to TE Tony Gonzales, so as long as he is starting, expect 10 plus target to his favorite outlet. Denver obviously knows this and will attempt to take Gonzales away with a CB, like they did Antonio Gates earlier in the year. Expect solid numbers from LB DJ Williams, but also Champ Bailey covering the Chiefs TE.
Denver was embarrassed a week ago by the woeful Raiders. This week they get another division rival Kansas City who wants to beat them just as much. Denver QB Jay Cutler will have to avoid making the crucial interception, to give his team a chance to win this game. As a result, the game plan may be to just run Travis Henry and Selvin Young and only pass when they have to. This is perfect for Kansas City IDP LB Donnie Edwards and LB Derrick Johnson.
Indianapolis @ Baltimore
Indianapolis came a step closer to locking up their division, and a first round bye with its big win last week. The Colts took advantage of Jacksonville turnovers with touchdowns, and escaped with a 28-25 win. This week the opponent doesn’t get any easier, as the Ravens defense is playing as good as any right now. Start Raven’s LB Ray Lewis and DL Terrell Suggs.
Baltimore was impressive for 59 minutes a week ago, but it was the final minute that defines their season. The defense looks like they feel the offense and coaching staff are letting them down on a every week basis. This week the Baltimore offense must take care of the ball, or Colts QB Peyton Manning will make them pay. Colts Freddie Keiaho returned to startable status last week, and should once again have a great statistical day this week.
New Orleans @ Atlanta
New Orleans is coming off a huge loss to Tampa Bay, and need a win in a bad way to have any chance at making the post season. 8-8 may get a team in the playoffs in the NFC, but 9-7 is almost a must to guarantee it. New Orleans has 7 loses already. The Saints will jump out on Atlanta with their passing game, and wont get cute in the final seconds this week, if the game gets close. Expect a heavy sack day for LB Michael Boley, though his tackle numbers may be down this week.
Atlanta is one step closer, to drafting HC Bobby Petrino’s former QB, Brian Brohm. The Falcons have little chance to win this game unless they can run the ball and keep the Saints offense on the sidelines most of the day. This will be the game plan, and as a result Saints DB Josh Bullocks will have yet another strong game.