Bengals at Steelers
The Bengals have been one of my favorite teams to watch thus far this season. They have one of the most prolific rookie QB to rookie WR combinations ever as well as a solid running game to compliment one of the best and most complete defenses in the NFL. Despite being in the middle of 4 games against their division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, if the season ended today, the Bengals would be in the playoffs. They will need a big win this week against the Steelers to keep the Jets and Tim Tebow in the rear-view mirror and they certainly have a good shot at it. The status of Troy Polamalu could easily tell the tale of how this game will go. AJ Green will be able to blow the top off of the coverage a few times without Troy and his hair out there on Sunday and this season teams have been able to run against the Steelers with limited success. Pittsburgh on the other hand had issues moving the ball on offense against the Chiefs last week and this has me far from confident that they can find a way to win this game. I am going to follow my gut and take the underdog Bengals to win a very close game. Cedric Benson falls JUST outside my top 20 (to 21st) in my running back rankings, which makes him a great flex option or passable RB2. I am continuing to consider AJ Green matchup-proof still and kept him inside my top 20 this week at wide receiver. Rashard Mendenhall has proven to be nothing more than an RB2 this season and I ranked him on the low-end of my top 20 against the 5th best rush defense in the NFL. Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown were unaffected by the match up when doing my rankings so you can start them confidently in whatever role you have been using them in. Big Ben doesn’t have a lot of upside and he remains a low-end starting QB this week.
Packers at Giants
The Giants are in a dog fight over the NFC East title and this game is huge for them. Unfortunately this is also one of the two games remaining where the Packers can reasonably be beaten. I am obviously going to put my money on Green Bay but if they win this one, I only see the Lions in week 17 as the only team capable of beating them. I expect Green Bay to play for the undefeated season as they remain the best and among the least injured teams in the league. The Giants on the other hand have had a variety of injuries but have persevered through them and sit one game behind Dallas for the division lead. Neither team has a defense that scares me at all and surprisingly, the Packers are the 31st ranked pass defense in the league. This is helped by the fact that they always have a sizable lead late and teams are throwing in desperation to try and play catch-up. I think Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks can be started with supreme confidence in this game as junk-time should be very good to them at least. Brandon Jacobs should be rendered irrelevant by the time the 4th quarter comes around and the duo of Starks and Grant for Green Bay has not been worth much attention for fantasy owners, so stay away.
Lions at Saints
The Lions have an opportunity to jump ahead of Chicago in the wild card race now that Caleb Hanie is at the helm for the Bears. It won’t be easy this week against the Saints, who have really hit their stride in recent weeks. Last Monday, the Saints dismantled the Giants and I honestly expect another convincing win for Brees. Detroit seems to have issues pushing the ball down field when they don’t have balance with the running game. Teams have been able to roll coverage to Calvin Johnson and contain him in order to try and force someone else to make the big play. This formula has worked better for some teams than others but I think it works very well for the Saints this week, who are bound to score plenty of points on offense. Neither defense scares me from a fantasy-owners stand point, so you can go ahead and start your QBs and WRs with confidence. Don’t bother with any of the running backs unless you are really desperate. James Jones is the most questionable receiver in this game and I think you have to play him if your light on options and are looking for a high-upside player that can beat a really high scoring opponent.