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  Rushing Matchups  

Week 17 Passing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [BUF] [CAR] [CHI] [CIN] [CLE] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [KC] [MIA] [MIN] [NE] [NO] [NYG] [NYJ] [OAK] [PHI] [PIT] [SD] [SEA] [SF] [STL] [TB] [TEN] [WAS]


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Peyton Manning is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


Houston Texans Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

David Carr played like a first pick last week, tossing 19/29 for 295 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. the stout Jaguar pass Defense. Andre Johnson (7/119/1) and Corey Bradford (4/101/1) both broke through the 100 yard barrier, and Carr was "only" sacked 4 times (his line has played worse games this year). Carr still resides outside the top 20 at his position over the last 3 weeks (58/88 for 561 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions), but at least we saw a flash of the potential he has at this level.

The 49ers are dead last in passing yards allowed per game this season (282.1 per contest), and second-to-last in passing scores allowed to date with 27. They have averaged 266.6 passing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks, including last week's totals of 33/41 for 354 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions handed over to the Rams. These guys are the worst pass D in the NFL - only the Titans' sorry group comes close to being as inept a unit.

Use caution in how excited you can get about the Houston offense but this is a great matchup for the Texans.

Weather: Monster Park expects a high of 58F witha a low of 52F and a 60% chance of rain on Sunday. If the moisture falls thickly around game time, footing and ball handling will be more difficult than usual for both teams.

HOU Injuries: RB Jonathan Wells (Probable)
SF Injuries: LB Saleem Rasheed (Probable), DB Derrick Johnson (Doubtful), DB Ahmed Plummer (Out)


New York Jets Passing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Vinny Testaverde was the starter the last time these teams faced off, back in week 6, tossing 12/26 for 161 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions - since then, he's given way to Brooks Bollinger in the starting lineup. Bollinger has tossed 53/87 for 546 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception during the past 3 weeks (16th fantasy QB in the land during that span), including 11/19 for 100 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. New England last week. Vinny Testaverde hit for 3/7 for 63 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions last week in limited work. Laveranues Coles was responsible for both TDs last week, with 5/71/2.

The Bills' pass defense has fallen on their collective faces over the past 3 weeks, allowing a total of 864 passing yards (288 passing yards per game on average), and a total of 11 TDs in 3 games (rushing and receiving) - last week, the Bengals hit for 27/38 for 283 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions vs. the Bills as a team. The Bills' secondary is sorry to close the season, folks.

It's hard to get too excited about this offense but they have a great matchup to work with this week.

Weather: Giants' Stadium expects a high of 45F with a low of 31F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - as long as the precipitation holds off, that's pretty nice weather for January 1st.

NYJ Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: DB Coy Wire (Out)


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Josh McCown played well enough to notch a "W" in his belt last week, leading the Cardinals to 27/38 for 294 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception against the wrecked Eagles' team. He connected with favorite targets Larry Fitzgerald (5/93/1) and Anquan Boldin (9/81/1) for the 2 scores, and generally had himself a nice game. He'll be back in the saddle again this week as Warner is done for the season - Boldin and Fitzgerald should see lots of opportunities to make plays.

The Colts have nothing on the line in this matchup, and will be resting some of their key defensive players (and top pass rushers) for most of the game. As we saw last week against the Seahawks, the Colts defense is racking up valuable game-time for their reserves (Matt Hasselbeck threw for 17/21 for 168 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions in the easy victory for Seattle).

McCown and company have a good matchup to work with this week.

Weather: This game will be played in the RCA Dome - weather won't be a factor in the game's outcome.

ARI Injuries: WR LeRon McCoy (Questionable)
IND Injuries: DL Dwight Freeney (Probable), DL Montae Reagor (Questionable), DL Corey Simon (Questionable), DL Josh Thomas (Questionable), DL Robert Mathis (Doubtful), LB Cato June (Doubtful), DB Marlin Jackson (Probable), DB Gerome Sapp (Probable), DB Bob Sanders (Doubtful)


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Despite the fact that Rex Grossman is still getting up to speed in the Bears' offense after spending most of the season sidelined due to injury, it is likely that the team will only play him for part of the final game vs. Minnesota (a meaningless contest as far as playoff seeding goes for either team, with Chicago locked in at #2 seed, and Minnesota eliminated from playoff contention). "I don't know if I could see him playing the entire game," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We'll have to wait and see how much everybody else is going to play before we make a decision on what Rex is going to do. He hasn't had a whole lot of reps, so we could always get him some reps, but we've got to be smart with it. It depends who else is in there with him." Backup QB Kyle Orton led the team to victory the last time Chicago played Minnesota, with 16/25 for 117 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception passing.

Minnesota was ripped up by Kyle Boller last week, handing over 24/34 for 289 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception during the game. They have 6 interceptions and 7 sacks over the past 3 weeks (vs. 5 TDs allowed), but they fell apart vs. the Ravens and have now been eliminated from playoff contention. Over the past 3 weeks, Minnesota averages 213.6 passing yards allowed per game - they have paced 215.7 passing yards given up per game during the season, 24th in the NFL, so their sub-par play during the last 3 weeks is not surprising.

Whichever (or both) QB plays for the Bears this week, they have a good matchup to work with vs. the suspect Vikings who are just playing out the string.

Weather: This game is scheduled for the Metrodome - weather won't be an issue for either team.

CHI Injuries: RB Cedric Benson (Questionable), RB Bryan Johnson (Out)
MIN Injuries: LB Keith Newman (Out), DB Corey Chavous (Probable)


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bengals are fighting for playoff seeding, but have already clinched the AFC North - they are in the playoffs. There are rumors as of mid-week that Carson Palmer may be held out of the game to rest him for the playoff run (the Bengals cannot earn a first round bye, which have been locked down by Indianapolis and Denver). Palmer slightly strained his groin in the game vs. Buffalo - "We'll see what happens," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We'll play to win the game." Jon Kitna has played in this system and is familiar with all the plays - if he steps in, expect adequate play for the season finale.

Kansas City limited Drew Brees and company to 18/33 for 161 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception last week on their way to a 20-7 victory. The Chiefs have to win in order for an outside chance at the playoffs, so expect them to bring their best game to the dance. Unfortunately for K.C. fans, the Chiefs' secondary is not good - they are 31st in the NFL this year, averaging 237.0 passing yards allowed per game, and have surrendered the 3rd-most (t) passing scores to date with 25 handed over. Over the past 3 weeks, the team has given away 217.3 passing yards per game on average, with only 2 interceptions vs. 8 TDs allowed (rushing and receiving) - K.C. has generated 6 sacks in that span (they are tied for 25th in the NFL with only 28 sacks to date), which is a step up from their usual pace.

The 12th man is a powerful force in Arrowhead Stadium, which will help support the suspect K.C. pass D. However, this is still a good matchup for Cincinnati, whether Kitna or Palmer is tossing the football for most of the game.

Weather: The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 55F and a low of 40F with a 20% chance for rain on Sunday - that's pretty nice weather given the time of year. Wind is often an issue in this venue - owners of Bengals or Chiefs will want to check a short-term forecast at the end of the week before setting your lineup.

CIN Injuries: QB Carson Palmer (Probable), RB Rudi Johnson (Probable), RB Chris Perry (Doubtful), TE Reggie Kelly (Questionable)
KC Injuries: DL John Browning (Probable), DL Eric Hicks (Probable), LB Shawn Barber (Questionable), DB Benny Sapp (Probable), DB Jerome Woods (Questionable)


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Bledsoe benefited from the strong running game last week, and put together 15/29 for 209 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. Carolina last week (Keyshawn Johnson snagged 6/89/0, while Terry Glenn grabbed 4/88/1 on the day, to lead the team's receiving corps). Over the past 3 weeks, Bledsoe has been up and down, with 53/86 for 694 yards, 5 TDs and 4 interceptions (13th best fantasy QB in the land during that span). Terry Glenn (12/251/2 during the last 3 weeks, #5 fantasy WR in the land), Keyshawn Johnson (11/144/0 in that 3-week time-frame), and Jason Witten (12/143/2 during the last 3 games) have accounted for the vast majority of the Cowboy's receiving yards.

The St. Louis pass D isn't very good, ranking 22nd in the NFL with an average of 214 passing yards allowed per game, and surrendering a total of 25 passing scores to date (tied for 3rd-most in the NFL this year). Over the past 3 weeks, the Rams average 108.6 net passing yards allowed per game (facing San Francisco's Alex Smith and Philly's Mike McMahon in the most recent 2 games during that span helped depress the average), with 3 interceptions and 9 sacks vs. 8 TDs given up (rushing and receiving). When the Rams play against a decent passing attack, they tend to have problems stopping it.

This is a good matchup for the Cowboys, despite the Rams recent statistical prowess vs. the pass.

Weather: The forecast for Texas Stadium calls for a high of 77F with a low of 56F and a 10% chance for rain - weather conditions shouldn't impact this matchup very much, as long as that pleasant forecast holds up.

DAL Injuries: none
STL Injuries: DL Brian Howard (Probable), DL Damione Lewis (Questionable), DB Oshiomogho Atogwe (Questionable), DB Jerome Carter (Out)


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jake Plummer hit 23/37 for 248 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception when these teams clashed back in week 2 - since then, the Chargers have been eliminated from playoff contention, while Denver has secured the 2nd seed in the AFC and cannot improve or damage their seeding regardless of the weekend's outcomes - we'd be shocked to see Plummer, Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie (nursing stitches in one arm) in for more than a cameo appearance. Bradlee Van Pelt, Charlie Adams and Darius Watts are likely to gain a lot of valuable game-time experience this week.

The Chargers' secondary isn't impressive, allowing an average of 234.3 passing yards per game this season (30th in the NFL), with 20 passing scores surrendered to date. They've been even worse lately, coughing up an average of 246.6 passing yards per game over the past 3 weeks, including last week's totals of 19/35 for 207 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions handed over to Trent Green and company. The pass D was the team's Achilles heel all year long.

Look for the Broncos' starters and backups to have an easy matchup this week against the weak Charger secondary.

Weather: Qualcomm Stadium expects a high of 62F with a low of 48F and a 30% chance for rain on Saturday. If the rain falls thickly at game time, footing and ball handling will be larger issues than usual for both teams.

DEN Injuries: RB Mike Anderson (Out), WR Ashley Lelie (Probable)
SD Injuries: DL Jamal Williams (Questionable), DB Bhawoh Jue (Questionable), DB Terrance Kiel (Out)


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Brett Favre threw the ball 51 times last week, and still failed to connect for a TD - 30/51 for 317 yards, 0 TDs and 4 interceptions were his numbers on the day. As usual, Donald Driver was a top target, with 10 passes for 6/107/0 (the top receiver during the game), while Antonio Chatman saw 11 chances (5/45/0) - Tony Fisher was second on the team with 8/61/0 in receiving. There just isn't much in the way of quality targets left on this injury-depleted squad - Robert Ferguson missed the game due to an injured knee, joining former starters Javon Walker and Bubba Franks out of the game due to injury. Favre has 65/111 for 631 yards, 0 TDs and 7 interceptions over the past 3 weeks, to rank 39th among all fantasy QBs during that span. He's crashed and burned in the second half of the season, folks.

Seattle has locked down the top seed in the NFC, so this game is essentially meaningless for them. However, due to key injuries in their secondary earlier this season (CBs Kelly Herndon (knee) and Andre Dyson (ankle) have both missed games including last week's and S Ken Hamlin was critically injured in a brawl and is on the PUP list), they are already thin - there won't be an opportunity to rest their currently healthy players this week, in most cases. The injuries have led to Seattle landing at 26th among pass defenses this season, giving up an average of 220.9 passing yards per game, with 17 passing TDs allowed to date. Over the past 3 weeks, the Seahawks have allowed 243.6 passing yards per game, with a mere 1 interception (6 sacks) during that span. They are the 2nd-ranked team in sacks going into the finale, with 47 to their credit - Green Bay isn't particularly vulnerable in that department, though, with 24 allowed to date (among the best pass-blocking numbers in the league). The Bears only sacked Favre twice last week, and they are strong in that part of the game.

Favre has one last shot at a decent game against this weak secondary - but does he have the targets to get the job done?

Weather: Lambeau Field should seee a high of 30F with a low of 27F and a 20% chance for precipitation on Sunday - it'll be cold, especially if the wind is blowing briskly around game time (a usual occurence here at this time of year). Owners of Seahawks and Packers will want to check a short-term forecast at the end of the week before setting their lineups, as wind conditions could adversely affect both teams' passing games.

GB Injuries: RB Samkon Gado (Out), WR Robert Ferguson (Questionable), TE David Martin (Probable)
SEA Injuries: DL Joe Tafoya (Questionable), LB D.D. Lewis (Questionable), DB Marcus Trufant (Doubtful), DB Andre Dyson (Out)


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Byron Leftwich was under center the last time these teams hooked up (week 11) - he's been sidelined for several weeks with a broken ankle, but hopes to return to practice and maybe even the game this week. David Garrard has led the team to 4 wins in his 5 appearances (4 starts), though - the coaching staff will have a tough decision this week if Leftwich can return to practice/action. The Jaguars have definitely clinched a playoff spot, so letting Leftwich test his wings/knock off the rust this week might not be a bad decision, if he can go. Garrard had a great day passing the ball last week, with 18/31 for 292 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Texans (he's totaled 65/106 for 758 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions, with 15/86/2 rushing during the last 3 weeks, to rank 3rd among all fantasy signal callers in points per game during that span) - Ernest Wilford showed a flash of his ability last week, with 4/118/1 to lead the team (Jimmy Smith was second with 5/71/0 during the game). Garrard looks like he's finding his wings in the passing game...

The Titans are horrible pass defenders, rivaling the 49ers for ineptitude. They lead the NFL with 31 passing scores handed over in 15 games, while ranking 17th in yards allowed per game, with 200.2 per contest on average. Over the past 3 weeks, Tennessee has coughed up an average of 162.6 passing yards per game, with only 1 interception - they did rack up 10 sacks during those games. Miami hit for 2 TDs vs. this group last week (14/30 for 151 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception during the game). Except for sacking (the Titans are tied for 9th in the NFL with 38 to date), the Tennessee pass defense doesn't do much well.

This is a good matchup for whichever Jaguar QB steps under center this week.

Weather: Alltel Stadium expects a high of 72F with a low of 57F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - it should be a pleasant day to play some football, as long as the forecast holds up.

JAX Injuries: QB Byron Leftwich (Questionable), RB Rich Alexis (Probable), RB Greg Jones (Questionable), WR Jimmy Smith (Probable)
TEN Injuries: DB Rich Gardner (Questionable)


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tom Brady tossed 21/36 for 275 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions the last time these teams faced off in week 10 (neither Corey Dillon or Kevin Faulk were available for that game) - since then, he's crossed 4,000 yards passing in a season for the first time in his storied career (331/522 for 4073 yards, 25 TDs and 13 interceptions to rank 4th among fantasy QBs in points per game this season). New England is still fighting for playoff seeding, so this game is important as far as determining who their first round opponent will be. However, Brady is so critical to the team's playoff contention that he may not take every snap in the finale. Last week, Brady distributed 18/29 for 185 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to 8 different receivers, led by Deion Branch (4/69/0) - LB Mike Vrabel caught 2 TDs from the TE position on trick plays.

The Dolphins' pass D has been mediocre this year, allowing an average of 206.9 passing yards per game, with 20 TDs given away to date. Over the past 3 weeks, the team's performance has been a mixed bag, with the team averaging 228.3 passing yards allowed per game, but 13 sacks (tied for most in the league during that span) and 3 interceptions vs. 6 TDs given up (rushing and receiving). Last week, Tennessee managed 19/37 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions vs. this squad, while suffering 4 sacks at the Dolphins' hands.

The Patriots are jockeying for playoff position, while the Dolphins' players are trying to leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff before off-season roster moves begin (there is a big overhaul expected down in Miami). Look for both teams to play hard in this division rivalry - but the Patriots have the edge, in our opinion.

Weather: The forecast for Gillette Stadium calls for a high of 40F and a low of 22F with a 20% chance for precipitation. That's pretty nice weather for Massachusetts in January - as long as the wind stays calm, it'll be a nice day to play some football.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Probable), RB Patrick Pass (Probable), RB Corey Dillon (Probable), RB Heath Evans (Probable), WR Bethel Johnson (Probable), TE Christian Fauria (Probable), TE Daniel Graham (Probable)
MIA Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Brees managed 15/23 for 175 yards passing, 0 TDs and 1 interception the last time these teams played, back in week 2. Since then, Denver has clinched the AFC #2 seed in the playoffs, while the Chargers will sit out the playoffs this season. Brees was underwhelming last week vs. the Chiefs, with 18/33 for 161 yards, 1 TD (to Antonio Gates, 4/52/1) and 1 interception. Keenan McCardell led the team with 6/58/0 last week, and has amassed 16/204/2 over the last 3 weeks to land at #14 among all fantasy WRs during that time-frame. Gates has 23/204/2 to rank #3 among fantasy TEs during that time frame, and is #1 among all fantasy TEs this season with 86/1078/10, despite being suspended for the inaugural game of 2005.

Starting MLB Al Wilson had surgery to place pins in his injured thumb this week, and will likely sit out this meaningless game in order to have a better shot at being ready for the playoffs - the middle of the field could be a fruitful spot for Antonio Gates to work this week. CB Champ Bailey has struggled with leg problems all year, and dinged his ribs last week - it would be no surprise to see him appearing in a very limited way before taking a seat on the bench this week. Darrent Williams won't play at all. The Broncos' pass D has been really soft even with their top players in the game this season, ranking 29th in the league allowing an average of 233.2 passing yards per game (20 passing scores) - it's likely that they will be even worse this week with the team's backups in action for a substantial portion of the game.

Advantage, San Diego.

Weather: Qualcomm Stadium expects a high of 62F with a low of 48F and a 30% chance for rain on Saturday. If the rain falls thickly at game time, footing and ball handling will be larger issues than usual for both teams.

SD Injuries: WR Eric Parker (Questionable)
DEN Injuries: DL Courtney Brown (Out), LB Keith Burns (Probable), LB Ian Gold (Probable), LB Al Wilson (Out), DB Roc Alexander (Probable), DB Darrent Williams (Out)


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jamie Martin is the Rams starter for the final regular season game (of the Rams' schedule, and of the NFL schedule) - in praise of Martin, coach Vitt said the following: "He has real good pocket presence. He's reading coverages. The ball is coming live off his arm. He has them in and out of the huddle. He's playing with a lot of poise. He'll be our starter. I'm really proud of him." Martin earned his start with last week's 33/41 for 354 yards, 1 TD and 2 interception performance vs. San Francisco. Torry Holt (12 targets for 10/163/1) and Isaac Bruce (9 targets for 6/73/0) led the team in targets and receptions with Martin under center, as you would expect.

The Cowboy's pass D is in the middle of the NFL herd this year, ranking 13th while allowing an average of 195.7 passing yards per game, with 18 passing scores allowed to date. They have averaged 247.3 passing yards surrendered per game over the last 3 weeks, though, with a mere 1 interception and only 5 sacks, vs. 11 TDs (rushing and receiving) given up. The 11 TDs that Dallas handed over represents an NFL worst for that span of time. Last week, Jake Delhomme tossed 14/31 for 260 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. the Cowboys. The 'Boys secondary has faded badly in the closing weeks of the season.

This is a good matchup for Martin and company - they may get the chance to play spoiler even if the Cowboys have a shot at the playoffs when Sunday night rolls around.

Weather: The forecast for Texas Stadium calls for a high of 77F with a low of 56F and a 10% chance for rain - weather conditions shouldn't impact this matchup very much, as long as that pleasant forecast holds up.

STL Injuries: QB Jamie Martin (Probable), RB Marshall Faulk (Probable), RB Steven Jackson (Probable), WR Dane Looker (Questionable)
DAL Injuries: DB Anthony Henry (Probable), DB Roy Williams (Probable)


Washington Redskins Passing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Mark Brunell was under center the last time these teams faced off (21/24 for 224 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions), but he suffered a MCL injury last week and will likely be limited in this week's game unless he heals faster than expected. Keep an eye on the Players In the News to check his progress. Backup Patrick Ramsey played well in relief of Brunell last week, with 5/7 for 104 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions - he's started in this system before this year (week 1), and in years past, so he should be able to step in for Brunell without too much trouble this week. Santana Moss went off in a big way last week, with 5/160/3, and TE Chris Cooley continued his charge to the top of the TE board with 5/41/1 (he's snagged 15/137/4 during the last 3 weeks to rank 2nd at his position in fantasy points per game during that span, and is now the 4th best fantasy TE this season, with 69/766/7 to date).

The Eagles' pass D has seen better days, currently ranking 21st in the NFL allowing an average of 213 passing yards per game (with 23 passing TDs handed over to date) - over the past 3 weeks, they've coughed up an average of 237 passing yards per game, with only 3 sacks and 5 interceptions vs. 5 TDs (rushing and receiving) allowed. Last week, Arizona hit them for 27/38 for 294 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception, with backup Josh McCown slinging the football. Obviously, the Eagles are winding down as the season comes to an end. Key DE Jevon Kearse injured his MCL last week and may not be able to go for this game.

Ramsey and company should have a decent day against the worn-out and depleted Eagles.

Weather: Lincoln Financial Field expects a high of 46F with a low of 33F and a 20% chance of precipitation on Sunday. As long as the wind doesn't get too brisk, there should be decent weather conditions for football in Philadelphia.

WAS Injuries: QB Mark Brunell (Probable)
PHI Injuries: DL Ndukwe Kalu (Probable), DL Mike Patterson (Probable), DL Jevon Kearse (Questionable), DB Sheldon Brown (Probable)


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kyle Boller was not under center for the last Baltimore/Cleveland game due to injury - over the past 3 weeks, he's suddenly become the QB that coach Billick has insisted he could be all along, with 66/100 for 793 yards, 7 TDs and 3 interceptions passing. Billick said early this week Boller's goal for week 17 was "Just to continue to improve. How much more are we going to draw from one more game? One more game's worth of information for us to go forward with, and then we'll go through that analysis [whether Boller will be the starter in 2006]." Derrick Mason (20/253/1 during the last 3 weeks) and Todd Heap (18/205/3) continue to be the reliable fantasy receivers for this squad.

The Browns were shredded for in excess of 400 total yards of offense last week, giving away 14/21 for 257 passing yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions to the Pittsburgh QBs in this phase of the game. They are the league's 6th ranked pass D in terms of average yards allowed per game this season (181.9), but have handed over 19 passing scores in 15 games. Over the past 3 weeks, they have given up an average of 151.3 passing yards per game, with 2 interceptions and 5 sacks to their credit. Considering how vulnerable they are in the rushing phase of the game, many teams are electing to run the ball vs. this D right now - but statistically speaking, opposing QBs have had a hard time with these guys fairly regularly.

Boller is on fire, while the Browns are up and down to close the 05-06 season - this looks like a neutral matchup in a hostile venue for the improving Boller.

Weather: The forecast for Cleveland Browns' Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 34F and a 20% chance for precipitation - it sounds like a brisk but calm day is on tap for this matchup, as long as the forecast holds up.

BAL Injuries: RB B.J. Sams (Questionable), TE Daniel Wilcox (Doubtful)
CLE Injuries: DL Orpheus Roye (Questionable), DB Ray Mickens (Questionable)


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jake Delhomme hit 17/27 for 164 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. the Falcons back in week 13, hooking up with Steve Smith (7/65/1) and DeShaun Foster (3/49/1) for the scores that week. Over the past 3 weeks, Delhomme has tossed 48/85 for 656 yards, 4 TDs and 3 interceptions (with 3/7/1 rushing) to rank 10th among all fantasy QBs. Last week, he hit Dallas' secondary for 14/31 for 260 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. Ricky Proehl (2/104/1) led the team in receiving while Drew Carter (3/55/1) also handled a TD - they took up the slack for Steve Smith who had a mere 1/18/0.

The Falcons were torched by division-rival Tampa last week for 29/42 for 285 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions, and have averaged 191.6 passing yards allowed per game over the last 3 weeks, with 3 interceptions and 6 sacks vs. 6 TDs (rushing and receiving) allowed in that time-frame. Over the past 15 games, Atlanta is the 14th ranked pass D in the NFL, allowing an average of 197.5 passing yards per contest, with 16 TDs given up to date. They are a mediocre bunch, by and large.

Delhomme and Carolina have to have this game, while the Falcons hope the 12th man in the Georgia Dome can help ruin Carolina's plans. This looks like a neutral matchup for the Panthers from where we sit.

Weather: Inside the Georgia Dome, conditions should be perfect - weather won't be an issue for either team during this contest.

CAR Injuries: RB DeShaun Foster (Questionable)
ATL Injuries: DB Deangelo Hall (Out)


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Trent Dilfer was under center vs. Baltimore the last time around the block (week 6, with 16/30 for 147 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception) - since then, he's given way to Charlie Frye - but Frye got beat up last week, taking 8 sacks and ending the day with a head injury. Keep an eye on Frye's practice participation/injury status this week - Dilfer could close the 05-06 season under center, although coach Crennel indicated early in the week that Frye was still slated to be the starter for the finale "Right now, yeah.".

Baltimore handed over 25/36 for 248 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions to Brad Johnson and company last week, and have averaged 207.6 passing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks, while generating 3 interceptions and 8 sacks vs. 3 total TDs allowed in that span. They are ranked 8th in the NFL this year vs. the pass, giving up an average of 185.7 yards per game, with 17 passing scores surrendered to date. On balance, they are an average group of pass defenders who can make highlight reels with their big hits.

In Cleveland, this looks like a neutral matchup for the Browns - the Ravens are the visitors, and they don't have their full complement of defenders to bring to the dance.

Weather: The forecast for Cleveland Browns' Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 34F and a 20% chance for precipitation - it sounds like a brisk but calm day is on tap for this matchup, as long as the forecast holds up.

CLE Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: DB Chris McAlister (Probable)


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With the Colts locked into the first seed in the AFC, they played Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne for only 2 series (about a quarter plus a few minutes), and then went with the tandem of Jim Sorgi/Brandon Stokley/Troy Walters the rest of the way. Stokley suffered a knee injury towards the end of the game that required treatment. When it was all said and done, Sorgi racked up 22/31 for 237 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions, while Manning opened the game with 9/12 for 116 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions before hitting the pine. Troy Walters handled the TD pass with 8/91/1, while Stokley led the receivers with 5/122/0. Given the emotionally charged experience of James Dungy's funeral on Tuesday and the aftermath from it, the Colts may come out flat to close the regular season.

Arizona, of course, has nothing on the line this week as a team - they've been out of the playoff hunt for quite a while. However, evaluations considering next years' roster are in play, which will provide motivation for personal achievement in the final game of the season. The Cardinals' secondary has been mediocre all year long, ranking 12th in the NFL allowing an average of 192.7 passing yards per contest, with 15 scores allowed to date in this phase. Over the past 3 weeks, though, they've been giving up 134 passing yards per game on average, with 7 TDs rushing and receiving handed over. They had 5 interceptions and 7 sacks during that 3 week span (the team is now tied for 14th in the NFL with 35 sacks this season). Of late, the Colts have been more vulnerable to the pass rush than usual - they coughed up 2 sacks to the Seahawks last week.

The Colts have enough oomph to give the Cardinals trouble even if the starters don't play very long - this is an O.K. matchup for the Colts' backups to strut their stuff against a so-so secondary.

Weather: This game will be played in the RCA Dome - weather won't be a factor in the game's outcome.

IND Injuries: WR Marvin Harrison (Questionable), WR Brandon Stokley (Questionable)
ARI Injuries: DL Darnell Dockett (Probable), DB Antrel Rolle (Doubtful)


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Chiefs have to have this game in order to have a shot at the playoffs, so look for them to play like there is no tomorrow. Trent Green has tossed 54/95 for 723 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception during the last 3 weeks, including last week's solid 19/35 for 207 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. San Diego. Tony Gonzalez (5/58/0), Samie Parker (4/58/1) and Larry Johnson (4/48/1) led the team last week and were responsible for the majority of the passing yards.

The Bengals haven't been overpowering in this phase of the game this year, allowing an average of 215.6 passing yards per game (23rd in the NFL), but they have swiped a lot of passes this year, leading the league with 31 interceptions during 15 games. Over the past 3 weeks, the Bengals have stolen the ball 5 times, with 6 sacks to their credit, while allowing 6 TDs and an average of 207.6 passing yards per game in that span. Kelly Holcomb passed for 24/31 for 308 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. the Bengals last week. They are a gambling, aggressive secondary.

Green has been pretty strong recently, while the Bengals have their strong points and their weak points - on balance, we think this is a neutral matchup.

Weather: The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 55F and a low of 40F with a 20% chance for rain on Sunday - that's pretty nice weather given the time of year. Wind is often an issue in this venue - owners of Bengals or Chiefs will want to check a short-term forecast at the end of the week before setting your lineup.

KC Injuries: TE Kris Wilson (Questionable)
CIN Injuries: DL Shaun Smith (Probable), DL Jonathan Fanene (Probable), DL Carl Powell (Doubtful), DL Bryan Robinson (Out), LB Marcus Wilkins (Questionable), DB Deltha O'Neal (Questionable)


New York Giants Passing Offense at Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Eli Manning has been up and down over the past 3 weeks, with 68/117 for 742 yards, 3 TDs and 5 interceptions to his credit, with 8/18/1 rushing - he was solid last week vs. Washington with 23/41 for 244 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception to his credit. Amani Toomer continued his resurgence with 6/85/1 to lead the team, while Tiki Barber (6/49/0) and Plaxico Burress (3/40/0) lent their support. 2/18/0 outlined a disappointing outing for TE Jeremy Shockey. With 17/208/2 receiving over the past 3 weeks, Toomer has moved into 13th among all fantasy WRs in points per game during that span, while Burress is 69th with 7/111/0 across those weeks.

The Raiders have been mediocre in this phase of the game all season, currently ranking 18th in the NFL allowing an average of 203.5 passing yards per game, with 17 scores given away to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they average 184.3 passing yards surrendered per contest, including last week's totals of 19/29 for 268 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception allowed to Jake Plummer and company.

The mediocre Raiders won't be too tough for the Giants - this looks like a neutral matchup to us, despite the home-field advantage that the Raiders enjoy.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects a high of 58F with a low of 46F and a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. If the moistures falls heavily around game time, expect footing and ball handling to be tougher than usual for both teams.

NYG Injuries: WR Tim Carter (Questionable), TE Jeremy Shockey (Questionable)
OAK Injuries: DL Edward Jasper (Questionable), DL Grant Irons (Doubtful), LB Danny Clark (Questionable), DB Fabian Washington (Probable), DB Stuart Schweigert (Probable), DB Charles Woodson (Out)


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense vs New York Giants Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kerry Collins has struggled since returning to the lineup, with 17/41 for 178 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception last week vs. the Broncos, and 31/71 for 310 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions over his last 2 games. During the loss to Denver last week, Randy Moss (5/72/0) and Jerry Porter (4/29/0) led the team in receiving, for what they were worth. There aren't a lot of fantasy points to be had from these guys of late.

Over the past 3 weeks, the Giants have handed over an average of 186.6 passing yards per game (with an average of 173 rushing yards given up per game, teams haven't needed to throw against them a ton), with 9 TDs rushing and receiving surrendered during that span. They've been handing over a lot of points to the opposition - the Redskins hit this secondary for 13/19 for 233 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception last week. The Giants aren't doing much right in this phase of the game.

Collins has struggled lately, but the Giants aren't playing well either - and there is a revenge factor in play here for Collins, who is still upset over being dumped for Eli Manning. This looks like a neutral matchup to us, on balance.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects a high of 58F with a low of 46F and a 60% chance of rain on Saturday. If the moistures falls heavily around game time, expect footing and ball handling to be tougher than usual for both teams.

OAK Injuries: RB Omar Easy (Probable), RB Lamont Jordan (Doubtful), WR Randy Moss (Probable), TE Courtney Anderson (Doubtful)
NYG Injuries: DL William Joseph (Questionable), DL Reggie Torbor (Questionable), LB Antonio Pierce (Out)


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Lions sport the league's 16th ranked secondary this year, averaging 199.1 passing yards allowed per game, with 19 passing scores handed over to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've given up ground at a clip of 215.3 per contest, with 3 interceptions and 6 sacks vs. 6 total TDs given away. Last week, the stumbling and storm-tossed Saints could only muster 21/38 for 233 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. this group.

Pittsburgh needs to win this game, and they have home-field advantage. The Lions are nothing special - this is a neutral matchup for Ben Roethlisberger and company.

Weather: Heinz Field expects a high of 42F with a low of 37F and a 30% chance of precipitation on Sunday. If the sky opens up, the moisture could fall as snow, sleet or rain - owners of Lions or Steelers will want to check a short-term forecast before setting their lineups this week, as wind and weather can make things tough on players in this venue.

PIT Injuries: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Probable), RB Dan Kreider (Probable)
DET Injuries: LB Donte Curry (Questionable), LB Nate Wayne (Questionable), DB Jon McGraw (Doubtful)


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

With the top seed in the NFC locked up, the Seahawks are going to rest their key offensive stars - that definitely includes Matt Hasselbeck. Said coach Holmgren of his backup players this week: "I think its great fun for them. Theyve worked hard all year. While weve had a couple games when we could substitute people maybe even a little more than in years past they know theyre going to play (extensively on Sunday). They have a lot of pride and theyre good players, (witnessed) by the fact that theyre on the roster." Seneca Wallace, Hasselbeck's backup, said earlier this week "Im probably going to be out there the majority of the time. Ill take it like I take every other game, just prepare during the week as usual, and whenever I get in the game, Im just going to make sure Im efficient with everything I do...The last couple games Ive gotten in, its been the end of the game and we were trying to run the clock out. This week, hopefully, well open it up and play some football."

The Packers have been giving up lots of rushing yards lately, so they haven't been tested by air much in recent weeks - they average 174 passing yards given up per game during the last 3 weeks, but have generated only 1 sack and 1 interception vs. 8 TDs allowed (rushing and receiving) - they are tied for last in the NFL in both sacks and interceptions during that 3 week span. Last week, Rex Grossman hit them for 11/23 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. The Packers haven't given up many passing yards, but they aren't putting much pressure on opposing QBs lately, either.

This is a neutral matchup for the Seahawks' reserves.

Weather: Lambeau Field should seee a high of 30F with a low of 27F and a 20% chance for precipitation on Sunday - it'll be cold, especially if the wind is blowing briskly around game time (a usual occurence here at this time of year). Owners of Seahawks and Packers will want to check a short-term forecast at the end of the week before setting their lineups, as wind conditions could adversely affect both teams' passing games.

SEA Injuries: WR Darrell Jackson (Probable)
GB Injuries: LB Robert Thomas (Out)


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Alex Smith didn't throw an interception last week. That's the first time he hasn't in 5 weeks. However, he didn't throw a TD yet - he still hasn't matched Ryan Leaf or Akili Smith's rookie marks of 2 TDs thrown in their inaugural seasons - Smith is stuck at 0. His best outing of the year amounted to 12/16 for 131 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions - the top 49er receiver last week was Jason McAddley (2/38/0). Enough said.

The Texans pass D is 27th in the NFL, allowing an average of 225.3 passing yards per game, with 23 TDs given away to date. Last week, David Garrard bombed them for 18/31 for 292 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions - over the past 3 weeks, they've handed over an average of 248.6 passing yards per game to the opposition - the Houston defense is not good at all.

Smith managed to take care of the ball last week, and completed a decent percentage of his passes - against the Texans, he'll have a chance to continue to improve. We see this as a neutral matchup for the green QB.

Weather: Monster Park expects a high of 58F witha a low of 52F and a 60% chance of rain on Sunday. If the moisture falls thickly around game time, footing and ball handling will be more difficult than usual for both teams.

SF Injuries: WR Rasheed Marshall (Probable)
HOU Injuries: DL Travis Johnson (Questionable)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tampa Bay needs to win this game in order to nail down the NFC South crown. Chris Simms was efficient the last time Tampa Bay tangled with the Saints, tossing 12/21 for 123 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during their week 13 duel. Joey Galloway was a one-man band, snagging 5/75/1 (nobody else exceeded 23 yards receiving during the game). Michael Clayton has been ruled out of this contest due to a turf toe injury, so Ike Hilliard, Edell Sheppard and Mark Jones will need to elevate their play across from Galloway. Simms comes into this game off one of his best 2005 efforts, 29/42 for 285 yards (a season high), with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions tossed against Atlanta. The TDs were his first scoring throws in 3 weeks, though - in that span he's posted 70/103 for 578 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Joey Galloway led the team in receiving with 8/97/0 receiving, while on-again, off-again rookie TE Alex Smith was on with 8/75/0. The TD passes went to RBs Mike Alstott (3/32/1) and Jameel Cook (1/9/1).

The Saints have been fairly stout in this phase of the game as far as yards allowed per game (180.9, 6th in the NFL), with 18 passing scores given up to date. Over the last 3 weeks, though, they've averaged 217.3 passing yards allowed per contest, with a mere 2 sacks and 3 interceptions vs. 7 TDs allowed (rushing and receiving) - they are winding down as the season closes.

Tampa has to have this one, and they have home-field advantage. Look for Simms to play well against the so-so Saints - we call this a neutral matchup.

Weather: The weather service says that Raymond James Stadium can expect a high of 73F with a low of 62F and a 20% chance for rain on Sunday. That's nice football weather - conditions shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

TB Injuries: WR Mark Jones (Questionable), WR Michael Clayton (Out), TE Anthony Becht (Questionable)
NO Injuries: DL Darren Howard (Out), LB Sedrick Hodge (Questionable), DB Mike McKenzie (Questionable)


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Steve McNair tossed 20/30 for 208 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception when these teams battled back in week 11. However, last week, McNair injured his chest/pectoral region and pulled himself from the game due to being ineffective - he's not expected to practice until Thursday this week, and his status for the season finale will depend on how his injury progresses during the week. In relief of McNair last week, Billy Volek tossed 14/24 for 132 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions - he's considered a very capable backup who can step in for McNair without much of a dropoff in the passing game. Tyrone Calico injured a hamstring last week, and may not be able to play in this game, leaving Drew Bennett (4/70/1) and the teams' cadre of TE's as the likely targets for whoever steps under center this week.

Jacksonville's pass D ranks 7th in the NFL allowing an average of 185 passing yards per game, but they have coughed up 20 passing scores to date. Over the past 3 weeks, the teams averages 223.3 passing yards allowed per game, with 2 interceptions and 9 sacks vs. 4 total TDs given up. The Jags are tied for 3rd in the NFL with 46 sacks to date, and that's a concern for the Titans who have allowed a middling 30 sacks to date. Last week, the Jags handed over 19/29 for 295 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to David Carr and company - they come into this game knocked back on their heels.

The Jaguars are, on balance, mediocre pass defenders, bringing a lot of pass pressure but allowing quite a few scoring passes per game - they have the 12th man on their side this week, though, which will make things tougher for their division rivals. We think this is a fairly neutral matchup for the Titans' aerial unit.

Weather: Alltel Stadium expects a high of 72F with a low of 57F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - it should be a pleasant day to play some football, as long as the forecast holds up.

TEN Injuries: QB Steve McNair (Questionable), RB Chris Brown (Questionable), WR Drew Bennett (Questionable), WR Tyrone Calico (Questionable), TE Erron Kinney (Questionable), TE Ben Troupe (Questionable)
JAX Injuries: DL Reggie Hayward (Probable), DL Paul Spicer (Out)


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Michael Vick didn't play a strong game the last time these teams faced off, with 17/35 for 171 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions passing to his credit back in week 13. Alge Crumpler led the team in receiving with 3/52/0 during the game - nobody else got over 35 yards receiving during the game. He's been a force over the last 3 weeks in fantasy terms, with 41/81 for 514 yards, 3 TDs and 3 interceptions passing, and 23/136/2 rushing (5th best fantasy QB in the land during that span). Last week, vs. Tampa, he tossed 16/26 for 161 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions. As usual, Alge Crumpler led the team with 4/63/0 receiving, while Michael Jenkins snagged 4/54/1 - FB Justin Griffith hauled in the other score with 2/4/1. The Falcons fought hard but fell just short vs. Tampa, 24-27.

The Panthers gave up 15/23 for 209 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception to the Cowboys last week, but have averaged 165.3 passing yards allowed per game over the last 3 weeks, while generating 5 interceptions and 7 sacks (vs. 6 TDs rushing and receiving allowed during that time-frame). The Panthers are 8th in the NFL with 40 sacks to date, while Atlanta runs in the middle of the NFL flock with 34 sacks surrendered so far this year. This season, the Panthers are 11th in the NFL averaging 191.5 passing yards given up per contest, with only 14 thrown TDs handed over in 15 games - not too shabby.

Vick had a hard time with Carolina last time around the block, and there's no reason to expect the Panthers will drop off this week with their playoff lives at stake - this is a tough matchup for Vick and company.

Weather: Inside the Georgia Dome, conditions should be perfect - weather won't be an issue for either team during this contest.

ATL Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: DL Kindal Moorehead (Questionable), DL Mike Rucker (Questionable), LB Dan Morgan (Questionable), DB Ken Lucas (Probable)


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense at New York Jets Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Kelly Holcomb led the Bills to 18/26 for 172 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions through the air the last time he faced the Jets (week 6). Since then, he's been in and out of the lineup - during the last few weeks, he's been in, thanks to a shoulder injury suffered by J.P. Losman. Last week, he tossed 24/31 for 308 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in the victory over playoff-bound Cincinnati. He's passed for 46/66 for 510 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception (with 3/3/1 rushing) in his last 2 appearances. Eric Moulds has seen 25 targets in the last 2 weeks, vs. 13 for Lee Evans - Moulds has caught 19/209/0, while Evans has 7/112/1 over the last 2 weeks. Last week, Evans led the team with 5/107/1, while Moulds hauled in 10/99/0.

New York gave up 19/30 for 187 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to the Jets last week, and have averaged 141 net passing yards allowed per game in the last 3 weeks, with 10 sacks and 4 interceptions vs. 8 TDs given away (rushing and receiving). Considering that the Jets have only 28 sacks all year, they've really turned up the pressure on opposing passers in recent weeks. The Bills have given up 41 sacks to date (in the top 10 for most sacks allowed, not a good category to rank among the top 10), so look for the Jets to get after the signal caller on Sunday. This season, the Jets are 2nd in the NFL averaging 172.2 passing yards allowed per game, with 15 passing scores given up in 15 games.

The Bills will have a tough time moving the ball vs. New York in this phase of the game.

Weather: Giants' Stadium expects a high of 45F with a low of 31F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - as long as the precipitation holds off, that's pretty nice weather for January 1st.

BUF Injuries: QB J.P. Losman (Probable)
NYJ Injuries: DL Shaun Ellis (Questionable), DL Dewayne Robertson (Questionable), DB Oliver Celestin (Probable), DB Ty Law (Probable)


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The last time these teams locked horns, during week 10, Frerotte tossed for a season-best 25/47 for 360 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception - Chris Chambers handled the TDs, with 6/69/2 to his credit, while Marty Booker led the team with 5/102/0. Since then, Frerotte has battled through a index finger injury on his throwing hand during recent weeks, and has put up 36/68 for 456 yards, 5 TDs and 2 interceptions over the past 3 weeks, including 14/30 for 151 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. Tennessee last week. Chris Chambers, his go-to-guy, hauled in 5/51/2 on the day, followed by Marty Booker with 3/50/0.

The Patriots' secondary/pass defense has made a strong recovery from their mid-season woes, and over the last 3 weeks they have averaged a mere 136 passing yards allowed per game, with a league-leading 13 sacks during that span, and 4 interceptions vs. only 3 TDs given up (rushing and receiving). Last week, the Jets could muster 14/26 for 163 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. New England. They have become very hard-nosed all of a sudden.

In Gillette Stadium, this will be a tough challenge for Frerotte, Chambers and company.

Weather: The forecast for Gillette Stadium calls for a high of 40F and a low of 22F with a 20% chance for precipitation. That's pretty nice weather for Massachusetts in January - as long as the wind stays calm, it'll be a nice day to play some football.

MIA Injuries: RB Ronnie Brown (Questionable)
NE Injuries: DL Jarvis Green (Probable), LB Tedy Bruschi (Questionable), DB Artrell Hawkins (Probable), DB Asante Samuel (Probable)


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Daunte Culpepper was still at the helm the last time these teams faced off in week 6 - a lot has changed for the Vikings since then. Brad Johnson did his best to lift the Vikes into the playoffs despite their poor start, but fell just short and Minnesota is now out of the playoffs. However, with 2006 roster decisions looming on the horizon for this franchise in transition, there is still a lot for the Vikings to play for as a group this week. Johnson has been less impressive the last 3 weeks than he was when he first took over the top job, with 57/91 for 537 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions to his credit over the past 3 games - he's been up and down lately. He did his best last week, with 25/36 for 248 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. Baltimore, but failed to lead his team to victory. Jermaine Wiggins (7/43/1) and Travis Taylor (3/40/1) handled the scores last week, while Troy Williamson led the team in yardage with 1/56/0.

The Bears' pass D is outstanding this year, currently ranking 3rd in the NFL allowing 175 passing yards per game, with a mere 8 passing scores given away over 15 games (1st in the league this year). They have 6 interceptions and 4 sacks vs. 4 TDs (rushing and receiving) given up during the last 3 weeks - 6 interceptions is tied for 1st in the NFL in that category during the past 3 weeks - while averaging 196.6 passing yards allowed per game. Last week, Brett Favre racked up 30/51 for 317 yards passing, but tossed 0 TDs vs. 4 interceptions - and some of their best players, like Mike Brown, were sidelined for the Green Bay game. That's likely to be true again this week, as the Bears prepare for their playoff run.

The Bears' defenders are hard-nosed, even when some of their top players are out of the lineup. This game will be a tough challenge for the Vikings.

Weather: This game is scheduled for the Metrodome - weather won't be an issue for either team.

MIN Injuries: WR Marcus Robinson (Probable), TE Jermaine Wiggins (Probable)
CHI Injuries: DL Ian Scott (Questionable), LB Brian Urlacher (Probable), LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (Questionable), DB Michael Green (Questionable), DB Charles Tillman (Questionable), DB Jerry Azumah (Questionable), DB Mike Brown (Questionable)


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense vs Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Donovan McNabb was the starting QB the last time Philly played Washington (week 9) - a lot has changed on the Eagles offense (for the worse) since then. Mike McMahon has had a hard time pass the ball lately, with 41/93 for 438 yards, 2 TDs and 4 interceptions during the last 3 weeks, but he's rushed for 11/40/2 to salvage his fantasy owners from despair. Last week, he put up both rushing TDs (3/21/2), while tossing 12/33 for 151 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. Reggie Brown led the team in receiving last week, with 6/69/0, while Billy McMullen accounted for the TD with 2/25/1 (he's caught 2 passes per game in each of the last 3 games, by the way). The receiving corps is nothing special, so you can't lay all the blame for the anemic passing game at McMahon's feet.

Washington has allowed an average of 193.3 passing yards per game over the past 3 weeks, but they've racked up 5 interceptions and 10 sacks during that span, vs. only 3 TDs (rushing and receiving) allowed. Last week, Eli Manning managed 23/42 for 244 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. this group. Over the course of the season, the Redskins have averaged 189.5 passing yards per game (9th in the NFL), with 13 passing scores given up to date (3rd-least in the NFL). The Redskins' pass defense is tough to crack right now, more often than not.

McMahon and company will have a hard time handling what the Redskins bring this week - they've given up 38 sacks this year, so McMahon better use his scrambling abilities to their utmost vs. the energized Washington pass rushers.

Weather: Lincoln Financial Field expects a high of 46F with a low of 33F and a 20% chance of precipitation on Sunday. As long as the wind doesn't get too brisk, there should be decent weather conditions for football in Philadelphia.

PHI Injuries: QB Mike McMahon (Probable), RB Bruce Perry (Probable), RB Reno Mahe (Questionable), WR Billy McMullen (Probable), WR Darnerien McCants (Questionable)
WAS Injuries: DL Renaldo Wynn (Probable), DB Matt Bowen (Probable), DB Shawn Springs (Probable), DB Carlos Rogers (Questionable)


Detroit Lions Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Steelers have been absolutely ferocious over the past 3 weeks in this phase of the game, with 13 sacks (tops in the NFL during that span) and only 1 TD allowed in 3 games (receiving or rushing), while averaging 146.3 net passing yards given up per game. They have 46 sacks to date (tied for 3rd-most in the league this year) - meanwhile, the Lions have handed over 30 sacks, in the middle of the NFL range. Last week, Charlie Frye was sacked 8 times and held to 20/39 for 183 yards passing, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the 41-0 drubbing laid on the Browns. Look out, Detroit!

This is an awful matchup for a struggling Lions' squad.

Weather: Heinz Field expects a high of 42F with a low of 37F and a 30% chance of precipitation on Sunday. If the sky opens up, the moisture could fall as snow, sleet or rain - owners of Lions or Steelers will want to check a short-term forecast before setting their lineups this week, as wind and weather can make things tough on players in this venue.

DET Injuries: RB Kevin Jones (Questionable), RB Artose Pinner (Questionable), WR Scott Vines (Probable)
PIT Injuries: DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (Probable), DL Travis Kirschke (Questionable), LB James Harrison (Probable), LB Clint Kriewaldt (Probable), LB Andre Frazier (Questionable)


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

New Orleans can put their disappointing 2005 season to bed by playing the spoiler in their division - Tampa needs to win this game to guarantee a division crown. Can Todd Bouman do better than Aaron Brooks did in week 13 (before he was benched) when Brooks tossed 18/34 for 215 yards, 0 TDs and 4 interceptions vs. Tampa's aggressive secondary? Stay tuned to find out...

In any case, Bouman did a better job of protecting the ball last week, tossing 21/38 for 233 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions - TE Zach Hilton led the team with 7/83/0, while Joe Horn was second with 6/70/0. Donte Stallworth had a relatively quiet afternoon with 2/47/0. It was a mediocre game at best - Bouman has managed 38/72 for 426 yards, 1 TD and 4 interceptions over the past 3 weeks - not too scary for opposing defenses.

Tampa Bay has the 4th best secondary this year in terms of passing yards allowed per game (179.6), and they are tied for 4th-least passing scores given up to date, with 14 allowed in 15 games. Over the last 3 weeks, but Buccaneers have averaged 191.3 passing yards given up per game, with 7 sacks but only 1 interception vs. 8 TDs allowed (rushing and receiving) - they are not playing at an elite level right now. Last week, Michael Vick hit them for 16/26 for 161 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions.

The Buccaneers need to win this game to lock down the NFC South crown, and they have home-field advantage. Against the stuttering New Orleans' attack, the Bucs pose a huge challenge.

Weather: The weather service says that Raymond James Stadium can expect a high of 73F with a low of 62F and a 20% chance for rain on Sunday. That's nice football weather - conditions shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

NO Injuries: none
TB Injuries: DL Anthony McFarland (Probable), DB Jermaine Phillips (Questionable)




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