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  Passing Matchups  

Week 15 Rushing 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.


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Panthers had no problem rushing the ball against the Saints back in week 1, with 13/81/1 for Stephen Davis, 9/41/0 for DeShaun Foster, and a team total of 25/141/1 during the game. These days, Foster is the teams' starter (if his injured shoulder doesn't flare up during practice this week) - both of the teams' top options did well vs. New Orleans last time around the block. Last week, the tough Buccaneer defense limited Carolina to 20/82/0, and DeShaun Foster had a disappointing outing, suffering either a bruised shoulder or a shoulder stinger (reports vary on the exact nature of his injury) that sidelined him, limiting his effort to 14/46/0 rushing and 2/2/0 receiving. Stephen Davis didn't do much in relief of Foster, with 4/23/0. The wheels came off the Panthers' attack last week.

The Saints' rush D ranks 29th in the NFL this year, averaging 135.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing scores allowed to date. Last week, the Falcons blasted them for 32/127/3 on the ground; over the past 3 weeks, they have allowed an average of 126 rushing yards per game. The Saints are soft.

Carolina should find the medicine they need to get healthy this week in the form of the Saints' weak D. However, keep an eye on Foster's practice status this week to determine if his sore shoulder is a problem or not.

Weather: The forecast for Tiger Stadium calls for a high of 55F with a low of 36F and a 40% chance for rain. If the rain comes down thickly at game time, field conditions may deteriorate causing problems with footing and ball-handling for both teams.

CAR Injuries: RB DeShaun Foster (Probable), TE Michael Gaines (Questionable)
NO Injuries: DL Darren Howard (Questionable), LB Sedrick Hodge (Questionable), DB Jason Craft (Questionable)


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Rudi Johnson has really come on in recent weeks, with 78/381/5 rushing and 5/21/0 receiving to his credit in the past 3 games (2nd best fantasy RB in the land), including last week's 30/169/1 shellacking of the Browns. With Chris Perry sidelined indefinitely due to an ankle injury, Johnson is "The Man" for the Bengals' powerful running game - he should continue to see a ton of carries each week. Smile and start him if you've got him.

The Lions' rush D is not very good, averaging 126.1 yards allowed per game (26th in the league), with 9 rushing scores surrendered to date. They were blown up by Samkon Gado and company last week (35/181/1), and have averaged 180 rushing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks - they are in the tank in this phase of the game.

Johnson should have a field day against the Lions.

Weather: Inside Ford Field, conditions will be perfect - weather will be a non-factor.

CIN Injuries: RB Rudi Johnson (Probable), RB Chris Perry (Out), TE Brad St. Louis (Probable)
DET Injuries: LB Donte Curry (Questionable), LB Earl Holmes (Doubtful), LB Boss Bailey (Out)


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense at Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Reuben Droughns has cooled off lately, with 21/74/0 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving last week and 70/235/0 rushing and 6/50/0 receiving during the last 3 weeks. Once again, the scoring drought is on at the Cleveland RB position. He is still getting a lot of touches every game, though, and is a reliable scorer in leagues that award points for yardage gained.

The Raiders were raided by the Jets for 43/184/1 on the ground last week, and have averaged 151.6 rushing yards allowed per game over the last 3 weeks. They are 25th in the NFL this season averaging 124.1 rushing yards allowed per game, with 14 rushing TDs coughed up to date - they're playing even worse football than their season average indicates coming into this matchup.

Droughns and company have a great matchup to exploit this week.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects a high of 59F with a low of 43F and a 30% chance for rain on Sunday. If the rain falls steadily during the game, footing and ball handling could become problems for both teams.

CLE Injuries: QB Charlie Frye (Probable), RB Reuben Droughns (Probable), TE Steve Heiden (Questionable), TE Aaron Shea (Questionable)
OAK Injuries: DL Edward Jasper (Probable), DL Tommy Kelly (Probable), DL Ted Washington (Probable), LB Danny Clark (Probable), DB Jarrod Cooper (Probable), DB Chris Carr (Probable), DB Charles Woodson (Out)


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Denver's trio of running backs were held in check last week, piling up 32/96/0 between all of the ball carriers - Tatum Bell led the way with 16/63/0 rushing and 2/16/0 receiving, while Mike Anderson saw 8/21/0 on the day. Ron Dayne was a spot contributor, with 4/7/0 rushing and 1/7/0 receiving. Anderson is the 26th ranked fantasy RB over the past 3 weeks with 32/89/1 rushing and 3/72/1 receiving, while Bell was 40th in points per game during that span, putting up 21/109/0 rushing and 3/17/0 receiving in 2 games (he was out due to injury 1 week). The Broncos rushing attack is suffering from a power-outage right now.

The Bills rush D is pathetic this year, ranking 31st in the NFL while coughing up an average of 141.7 rushing yards per game, with a league-worst 18 rushing scores allowed to date. Over the past 3 weeks, the Bills have improved. They've handed over 115 yards per game on average, with 8 TDs (rushing and receiving) surrendered - although last week, the Patriots trampled them for 41/159/2.

The Broncos have been struggling lately, but the Bills' weak defensive front will help them get back up to speed.

Weather: Ralph Wilson Stadium expects a high of 29F with a low of 23F and a 50% chance for sleet/ice/snow on Saturday. This game is to be played starting at 8:30 PM ET, so temperatures will be on the cold end of the scale and wind conditions could be a problem for both teams if a storm sets in - owners of Broncos and Bills will want to check a short-term forecast before setting their lineups this week. Heavy snow and high winds are not ideal conditions for passing/kicking games - although both of these teams play in cold-weather, outdoor home stadiums.

DEN Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: LB Lauvale Sape (Doubtful)


Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Domanick Davis is the most potent weapon on the Texans' offense. Last week, he cranked out 22/139/0 rushing and 7/50/1 receiving (leading the team in both categories) - over the past 3 weeks, he's compiled 76/372/0 rushing and 13/108/2 receiving to rank 3rd in fantasy points per game among RBs. Even though the rest of the team is pathetic, Davis is a must-start fantasy player week in and week out - he's the 8th best fantasy RB this season in points-per-game.

The Cardinals' rush D gives up an average of 112.2 rushing yards per game this year (18th in the NFL), and has handed over the 2nd-most rushing scores to date with 17 surrendered. Last week, Washington hung 34/109/1 on this squad; over the past 3 weeks they've given away an average of 107.3 rushing yards per game. They are a sub-par rush D, folks.

Davis has a great matchup to exploit this week.

Weather: The forecast for Reliant Stadium calls for a high of 54F with a low of 39F and a 30% chance for rain on Sunday. If the weather looks too nasty, the retractable roof can always be closed - conditions shouldn't be a huge factor for either team.

HOU Injuries: RB Domanick Davis (Questionable), WR Jabar Gaffney (Probable)
ARI Injuries: DL Darnell Dockett (Doubtful), LB Karlos Dansby (Doubtful), DB Eric Green (Probable)


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Jags had a tough time against the Indianapolis defense last week, managing 23/74/1 as a team. Though Fred Taylor insists he's healthy now, he only saw 10/19/0 on the ground - Greg Jones had a much better average (7/43/0, a 6.1 yards per carry average), but only handled the ball 8 times during the game. Right now, the Jaguars RB stable is in turmoil, with no clear-cut featured running back. Jones has been very productive when given the chance, so it'll be interesting to see who gets the most touches this week. Coach Del Rio has indicated the team will still start Taylor, but added "I see us utilizing both players. Greg has proven that he can play both fullback and halfback for us, and we can be productive using him." Stay tuned...

The 49ers are awful at rush D, allowing 16 rushing scores to date (tied for 3rd most) and an average of 120.5 rushing yards per game (23rd in the NFL). Last week, the Seahawks gained 40/185/1 on this unit. Their offense can barely move the ball (only 23:47 time of possession last week), which gives the opposition lots of leisure time to pick apart the defense.

The Jags should enjoy a great day on offense against the lame 49ers.

Weather: The weather service expects a high of 61F with a low of 47F for Alltel Stadium - there is a 40% chance for rain, though. If the moisture falls heavily at game time, footing and ball handling will be more tricky than usual for both teams.

JAX Injuries: QB Byron Leftwich (Out), RB Rich Alexis (Doubtful)
SF Injuries: DL Bryant Young (Probable), LB Saleem Rasheed (Probable), DB Mike Adams (Questionable), DB Ahmed Plummer (Out)


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Ryan Moats gave the faltering Eagles' offense a big lift vs. the Giants last week, powering them to 11/114/2 on the ground (the team had 25/175/2 rushing as a unit). The triumvirate of Moats, Reno Mahe (7/42/0) and Lamar Gordon (who started, with 6/17/0) handled 24 of the teams' 25 rushes, but Moats was the most impactful by far. Said Eagles OC Brad Childress earlier this week "He's putting in a lot of time trying to master this thing, and obviously it's a work in progress, but it's good to see him have some success carrying the football and hitting his landmarks and getting his God-given athletic ability on the field. He knew he had a certain segment of plays, and unlike the Seattle game [in which Moats gained only 26 yards on 10 carries and fumbled for a Seahawks touchdown], we were able to do some things run-gamewise, be able to stay with it a little bit." The knock on Moats is that he's very raw and not accomplished at blocking, so he probably won't be an every-down player for the Eagles this year - but he's definitely got the ability to make some big plays happen.

The Rams came apart at the seams vs. the Vikings' backs last week, allowing 29/113/3 to the team (one score was by WR Koren Robinson). Over the past 3 weeks, they have given up an average of 164.6 rushing yards per game, with 9 TDs (rushing and receiving) surrendered. Obviously, the bottom is falling out of the St. Louis defense in the closing weeks of the season.

Moats, Mahe and Gordon have a great matchup to work with this week.

Weather: The Rams play in the Edward Jones Dome - weather conditions won't be an issue for either team in this venue.

PHI Injuries: QB Mike McMahon (Probable), RB Lamar Gordon (Probable)
STL Injuries: DL Leonard Little (Probable), DB Ronald Bartell (Questionable)


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Thomas Jones got within spitting distance of 100 yards combined last week, with 14/72/1 rushing and 4/23/0 receiving against the stern Pittsburgh defense - it was a solid outing on Jones part. He's the 15th ranked fantasy RB over the past 3 weeks, with 58/237/1 rushing and 7/73/0 receiving to his credit - he's the engine that moves the Chicago offense.

The Falcons handed over 24/125/1 to the New Orleans committee of backs last week, and have averaged 114 rushing yards allowed per game during the past 3 weeks. They are the league's 22nd ranked rush D this year, giving up an average of 117.8 yards per game in this phase, with 14 rushing scores surrendered to date - they are sticking close to that sub-par pace to close the season, as you can see.

This is a good matchup for Jones to exploit - advantage, Chicago.

Weather: The forecast for Soldier Field calls for a high of 25F and a low of 15F, with a 10% chance for precipitation. As this game is a Sunday night affair, the temperatures will be at the low end of the range, and in the Windy City, wind chill could make if feel even colder. The football gets hard and slick in such weather, and high winds can cause havoc with passing/kicking games in this venue. Owners of Falcons and Bears will want to check a short-term forecast before pulling the trigger on their lineups this week. Earlier this season, an entire game was played in Soldier Field with only 9 pass completions out of 26 attempts between 2 NFL teams(San Francisco vs. Chicago).

CHI Injuries: RB Bryan Johnson (Doubtful), RB Cedric Benson (Doubtful)
ATL Injuries: DL Antwan Lake (Questionable), DL Brady Smith (Questionable), DB Allen Rossum (Questionable)


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Dallas managed 29/90/0 rushing vs. Washington back in week 2, with 22/81/0 rushing and 4/24/0 receiving to Julius Jones' credit. Since then, though, the situation has become murky in Dallas, with an erratic stable that features Jones and Marion Barber III - lately, they've taken turns having good games, with Barber excelling last week (15/82/0 rushing and 3/32/0 receiving, vs. Jones' 12/41/0 rushing). Jones led the team in rushing and receiving the week before (23/74/0 rushing and 9/88/0 receiving) while Barber had 2/8/0 in a limited role. Coach Parcells warned us when Jones returned from injury that the guys would share the load, and it looks like he meant it. Whoever has a hot game going on any given Sunday is seeing the bulk of the touches (and fantasy production).

Washington got to face the worst rush attack in the NFL last week, holding the Cardinals to 18/62/0 (the team only averages 68 rushing yards per game this year) - it was about what we've come to expect out of the Cardinals. This season, the Redskins have been fairly generous at the goal-line, coughing up 15 rushing scores to date (an average of 105.3 rushing yards per game, 12th in the NFL). People are not afraid to run the ball at the Redskin's defensive front.

The Cowboys have a good matchup to exploit this week - which running back will do the bulk of the work is another question entirely. Jones did have modest success against Washington the last time around the block.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a high of 41F with a low of 19F and a 10% chance for precipitation on Sunday. As long as the winds don't start howling, weather conditions should be fairly nice in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

DAL Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: LB Lavar Arrington (Probable), DB Matt Bowen (Probable), DB Walt Harris (Probable), DB Shawn Springs (Probable), DB Carlos Rogers (Probable)


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

What can we say about Kevin Jones' season that hasn't already been said or written? He's snakebit, plain and simple. Nothing has gone right for him, from eye injuries to his latest hyper-extended elbow. The guy just hasn't been able to stay in a football game for 4 quarters this year. Luckily, he hasn't suffered a really serious injury like Daunte Culpepper, but all the less serious ones have just as thoroughly wrecked his season. Once again last week, we got a glimpse of his explosive capabilities, when he racked up 9/63/0 before being forced from the game - oh, what a fantasy season he might have had....

Anyway, this week Jones owners will want to pay attention to his practice/injury status as he tries to recover from the hyper-extended elbow. In his absence last week, Artose Pinner managed 13/25/0 rushing and 3/8/0 receiving, while Shawn Bryson got 5/16/0 rushing and 1/1/0 receiving - neither looks like an exciting fantasy prospect from where we sit, although somebody will get touches if Jones can't go.

Cincinnati's rush D has been suspect all season long, allowing an average of 117.1 yards per game (20th in the NFL) with 12 rushing scores given up to date. Last week, the Browns managed 26/84/1, while over the past 3 weeks the Bengals have averaged 104 rushing yards given up per game. They are not a shut-down type of defensive front.

Whoever gets the touches for the Lions should have a good shot at a solid showing vs. Cincinnati.

Weather: Inside Ford Field, conditions will be perfect - weather will be a non-factor.

DET Injuries: RB Shawn Bryson (Probable), RB Paul Smith (Questionable), RB Kevin Jones (Doubtful), WR Eddie Drummond (Questionable), TE Casey Fitzsimmons (Out)
CIN Injuries: DL John Thornton (Probable), DL Carl Powell (Doubtful), DL Bryan Robinson (Out), DB Ifeanyi Ohalete (Questionable)


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Samkon Gado may not have come from a high-profile college program, but he's making a big-time statement in the NFL. Last week, he ripped the Lions for 29/171/1 rushing and 1/9/0 receiving. He's posted 75/357/3 rushing and 3/32/0 receiving in the past 3 weeks to rank 5th among all fantasy RBs in points per game during that run - he's a must-start player at this point in the season, unless you have Larry Johnson and Rudi Johnson as your #1 and #2 RBs (they are the top 2 fantasy backs during the last 3 weeks).

The Raven's rush D has caved in over the second half of the season, allowing an average of 132 rushing yards per game over the past 3 weeks, including last week's 32/96/0 performance against the Broncos (an improvement over the 34/165/0 given up to Houston and the 32/135/2 handed over to Cincinnati in the previous 2 games). They are the 14th ranked rush D in the NFL right now, averaging 106.8 rushing yards allowed per game, but in 2 of their last 3 games they've been much worse than that average would indicate.

Gado has a good matchup on Monday Night Football against a fading Raven defense.

Weather: The forecast for M and T Bank Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 30F and a 10% chance for precipitation on Monday night. Both teams are familiar with cool conditions - as long as the winds don't kick up, weather shouldn't be a huge factor for either Green Bay or Baltimore.

GB Injuries: TE Bubba Franks (Questionable)
BAL Injuries: DL Anthony Weaver (Questionable), LB Adalius Thomas (Probable)


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Back in week 2, the Dolphins were still waiting for Williams to return from suspension - Ronnie Brown managed 12/35/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving against the Jets that day. A lot has changed in Miami since then in the offensive backfield, though. Williams has racked up 38/156/2 rushing and 8/45/0 receiving during the past 3 weeks, to rank 20th in fantasy points per game at his position, while Brown has 35/110/1 rushing and 4/53/1 receiving to rank 25th. Both players have seen 9 passes come their way over the past 3 weeks, by the way. As a tandem in the NFL, they are to be feared, but as fantasy RBs they are a marginal #2 or a solid #3 in most leagues.

The Jets are horrible at defending vs. the run this season, ranking 28th in the NFL allowing an average of 134.4 rushing yards per game, with 16 rushing scores allowed to date. They have averaged 112.6 rushing yards allowed per game of late (the last 3 weeks), including last week's totals of 17/95/0 given up to Oakland. Usually, they aren't nearly as strong defensing the running game.

Williams and Brown have a good matchup to exploit this week.

Weather: The forecast for Dolphins' Stadium calls for a high of 82F and a low of 69F with a 30% chance for rain. If the moisture falls heavily at game time, footing and ball handling could be bigger issues than usual for both teams.

MIA Injuries: WR Bryan Gilmore (Questionable)
NYJ Injuries: DL Bryan Thomas (Probable), DL Shaun Ellis (Questionable), DL Dewayne Robertson (Questionable), DB Ty Law (Probable)


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tiki Barber has been running wild in recent weeks, with 88/390/0 rushing and 11/107/1 receiving to his credit. Unfortunately for Barber owners, the Giants' coaching staff keeps awarding goal-line carries to other-wise bench-warming Brandon Jacobs, which last week resulted in no rushing TDs for the RBs (2/0/0 for Jacobs) and a QB sneak TD for Eli Manning. Barber was a Eagle-killer last week with 32/124/0 rushing and 5/71/1 receiving - he's nuclear hot right now.

K.C.'s defense got trampled by the Cowboy's stable last week, giving up 28/129/1 rushing during the game. They sport the league's 6th ranked rush D at this point of the season, averaging 94.6 rushing yards surrendered per game, with 9 rushing scores allowed to date. Over the past 3 weeks, the Chiefs have handed over 111.3 rushing yards per contest - they are slipping in this phase of the game.

Barber is hot, the Chiefs are cold - advantage, New York.

Weather: The forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 38F and a low of 25F with a 20% chance for precipitations. If the winds aren't too gusty at game time, conditions at Giants' Stadium will be about as nice as they can be at this time of year.

NYG Injuries: WR Jamaar Taylor (Out)
KC Injuries: DL John Browning (Probable), DL Carlos Hall (Questionable), LB Shawn Barber (Questionable), DB Jerome Woods (Questionable)


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense vs Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

As the Raiders' passing game has struggled, LaMont Jordan has had trouble finding much room to roam. Last week, with Tuiasosopo under center, Jordan eked out 14/49/0 rushing and 4/30/0 receiving. Over the past 3 weeks, he's managed 52/201/2 rushing and 13/87/0 receiving to rank 13th in fantasy points per game at his position during that span - hopefully, with Collins and his big arm back under center, Jordan will find more room to maneuver this week.

Cleveland got trampled by Rudi Johnson last week as the Bengals posted 34/185/1 on the ground during the game. Over the past 3 weeks, the Browns are coughing up 133.6 rushing yards per game, right on pace with their 27th ranked season average of 132.4 rushing yards allowed per contest. They aren't very good in this phase of the game.

Advantage, Oakland.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects a high of 59F with a low of 43F and a 30% chance for rain on Sunday. If the rain falls steadily during the game, footing and ball handling could become problems for both teams.

OAK Injuries: RB Omar Easy (Probable), WR Randy Moss (Probable), TE John Paul Foschi (Questionable)
CLE Injuries: DL Orpheus Roye (Questionable), DB Leigh Bodden (Probable), DB Michael Lehan (Questionable), DB Ray Mickens (Questionable), DB Antonio Perkins (Doubtful)


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Shaun Alexander took it easy last week, "only" rushing for 21/108/1 with 4/20/0 receiving (Matt Hasselbeck tossed 4 TDs last week) - it looks like Alexander is going to shatter the single-season TD record for RBs. He should be in your lineup every week if you are lucky enough to have drafted him.

Tennessee runs in the middle of the NFL pack in this phase, allowing an average of 107.5 rushing yards per game (16th in the league), with 7 TDs given up to date. They allowed 26/152/0 to the Texans last week, and average 110.3 rushing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks - they are a pretty average bunch in this phase of the game.

Alexander has a decent matchup to exploit this week.

Weather: Nashville expects a high of 43F with a low of 26F and a 10% chance for rain on Sunday - assuming the forecast holds up, the Coliseum should be a decent place to play football.

SEA Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: DL Travis Laboy (Questionable), LB Robert Reynolds (Questionable)


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Rams actually did emphasize the run more last week, handing off to Steven Jackson for 19/67/0. Marshall Faulk got into the mix with 5/25/0 rushing and 4/32/0 receiving - the team posted 29/108/1 (Ryan Fitzpatrick scored the TD). It wasn't a bonanza of fantasy points, but Jackson at least got a chance to make something happen with a decent number of touches.

The Eagles' defense has collapsed in recent weeks - they coughed up 40/138/1 rushing to the Giants last week, and have averaged 120.6 rushing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks. They are pacing 113.8 rushing yards allowed per game this season, but the trend has been towards more and more rushing yards allowed as the season draws to a close.

This is a good matchup for Jackson and Faulk to show next year's coaching staff what they can do.

Weather: The Rams play in the Edward Jones Dome - weather conditions won't be an issue for either team in this venue.

STL Injuries: QB Marc Bulger (Out), RB Arlen Harris (Doubtful)
PHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Clinton Portis couldn't find much room to roam the last time the Redskins clashed with the Cowboys (week 2) - he put up 17/52/0 rushing and 4/25/0 receiving on the day - the team managed 25/104/0 as a unit in this phase. Portis had a good game last week vs. Arizona, with 25/106/1 rushing and 3/16/0 receiving - he's put up 82/328/3 rushing and 5/40/0 receiving over the last 3 weeks (7th fantasy RB in the land during that span) - it looks like Portis is finally finding his rhythm. He's been over 100 yards rushing 2 straight weeks and in 3 of his last 5 games.

Dallas was trampled by Larry Johnson last week - he posted 26/143/3 on the ground (K.C. totaled 28/161/3). Over the past 3 weeks, the Cowboys have handed over an average of 144 rushing yards per contest, far in excess of their season average of 106.4 yards per game. They are playing very poorly vs. opposing rushers right now.

Portis is building up some momentum late in the season, while the Cowboys are fading in this phase of the game. Advantage, Washington.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a high of 41F with a low of 19F and a 10% chance for precipitation on Sunday. As long as the winds don't start howling, weather conditions should be fairly nice in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

WAS Injuries: WR James Thrash (Probable)
DAL Injuries: DL Chris Canty (Probable)


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cardinals average 68.8 rushing yards per game this season - last week, they didn't hit that "benchmark", managing a mere 18/62/0 vs. Washington. Marcel Shipp led the team with 7/27/0, J.J. Arrington had 9/26/0 rushing. We've run out of polite ways to say "these guys stink".

The Texans are the leagues' worst rush D, giving up an average of 146.9 rushing yards per game, with 17 TDs surrendered to date (2nd-most in the league in this phase of the game). Last week, Tennessee only managed 30/93/0 against the Texans - over the past 3 weeks, Houston has averaged 101.3 rushing yards allowed per game. They seem to be improving their play recently.

The Cardinal's attack is so anemic that the somewhat improved Texans' defensive front represents a pretty normal challenge for Arizona.

Weather: The forecast for Reliant Stadium calls for a high of 54F with a low of 39F and a 30% chance for rain on Sunday. If the weather looks too nasty, the retractable roof can always be closed - conditions shouldn't be a huge factor for either team.

ARI Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: DL Robaire Smith (Probable), DL Gary Walker (Probable), DL Junior Ioane (Doubtful), DB Lewis Sanders (Probable)


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jamal Lewis was a bench-warmer last week, holding himself out of the game due to a thumb injury. There are rumors out of Baltimore that Lewis and head coach Billick aren't speaking, so there may be more to this situation than just a sore thumb. In any case, it is apparent that the struggling Ravens are going to be playing Chester Taylor at RB a lot more in the closing weeks of the season. Said Billick of Lewis' reputed thumb injury "Like a lot of injuries, there was no sense of hiding it, per se, because we really thought it was going to progress. Most players can play with that injury by their position, but a ball carrier, that's a little bit different. We really felt like it would come along far enough. How we'll categorize it [this week], I don't know." Taylor had 20/59/0 rushing and 3/14/0 receiving last week - not much in the way of fantasy points, but more than Lewis has been generating lately.

The Packers gave up 31/129/0 to the Lions last week, and have averaged 122.7 rushing yards allowed per game this year (24th in the NFL). A fact lost in the debris of their disappointing season is that Green Bay has only allowed 6 rushing scores to date, which is tied for 3rd-least in the NFL. These guys are tough to score on at the goal line. However, they have handed over 149.3 rushing yards per game over the last 3 weeks, so they can't be called a shut-down defense.

Two sub-par units meet in this matchup, but the Packer's hard-nosed ways in the red-zone will limit Taylor's upside this week. This one looks pretty even from where we sit.

Weather: The forecast for M and T Bank Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 30F and a 10% chance for precipitation on Monday night. Both teams are familiar with cool conditions - as long as the winds don't kick up, weather shouldn't be a huge factor for either Green Bay or Baltimore.

BAL Injuries: RB Jamal Lewis (Questionable), RB Justin Green (Questionable), TE Todd Heap (Probable), TE Daniel Wilcox (Out)
GB Injuries: LB Robert Thomas (Questionable), LB Brady Poppinga (Out)


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Larry Johnson over the past 3 weeks: #1 fantasy RB in the land, with 87/402/6 rushing and 10/90/0 receiving. Now that he's taken over as the starter in K.C., Johnson has amassed season totals of 247/1251/14 rushing and 25/257/0 receiving - 4th in the NFL this year behind Tomlinson, Alexander, and James. Start him if you have him.

The Giants' rush D ranks in the top ten at this point of the year, averaging 99 yards surrendered per game on the ground (8th in the NFL) with 9 rushing scores allowed in 13 games. However, over the past 3 weeks, they've coughed up an average of 127.6 rushing yards per contest, with 6 total TDs surrendered (rushing and receiving). Last week, Philadelphia's reserves blasted the Giants for 25/175/2 on the ground - it was an atypically bad game by the Giants' defensive front.

The Giants almost collapsed last week (they did have injury issues, with LB Antonio Pierce and DL William Joseph both going down during the game), but it looks more like an aberration than a trend from where we sit. K.C. brings an elite back to the matchup - given that the D has home-field advantage, we see this matchup as pretty even.

Weather: The forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 38F and a low of 25F with a 20% chance for precipitations. If the winds aren't too gusty at game time, conditions at Giants' Stadium will be about as nice as they can be at this time of year.

KC Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: DL William Joseph (Out), LB Antonio Pierce (Out)


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Pittsburgh got back to what they do best last week, rushing the ball 46 times for 190 yards and 2 scores against the very tough Bears' defensive front. Jerome Bettis led the charge with 17/101/2 (but he bruised his quadriceps - keep an eye on his participation in practice/injury status this week), while Willie Parker toted the rock 21 times for 68 yards and also led the team in receiving yards with 2/45/0. The two form a powerful tandem heading into the final weeks of 2005.

Minnesota coughed up 29/108/1 to the Rams last week, and have averaged 97 rushing yards allowed per week over the past 3 weeks, with 3 TDs (rushing and receiving) given up during that span. Their average of 112.1 rushing yards allowed per game slots Minnesota at #17 in the league, with 13 rushing scores allowed in 13 games. They are an average rush D - not overpowering but not underwhelming, either.

The Steelers love to rush the ball, and rank 9th in the NFL with an average of 128.7 rushing yards per game this season - meanwhile the Vikings are only so-so at rush defense. This is a neutral matchup for the visiting Steelers.

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

PIT Injuries: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Probable), RB Jerome Bettis (Probable), WR Hines Ward (Probable)
MIN Injuries: DL Kevin Williams (Probable), LB Keith Newman (Out), DB Fred Smoot (Probable)


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense at Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Whatever you think of Michael Vick the QB, you had to admire his crafty move to dive at the goal line almost out of bounds, but actually passing his hand over the top of a pylon for a TD. He's a phenomenal athlete, and he showed us the quality of his legs (and wits) vs. New Orleans this week, with 6/38/2 rushing (the Falcons racked up 32/127/3 on the night, with the other TD going to T.J. Duckett (10/13/1). Warrick Dunn moved the chains as usual, with 14/73/0 rushing and 2/39/0 receiving, but didn't get any goal-line chances. The Falcons' rushing attack is as lethal as ever heading into the closing weeks of '05.

Chicago's top-ranked rush defense was embarrassed by the Steelers last week, getting a 46/190/2 spanking from Pittsburgh. That's what statisticians call an outlier, folks - the Bears have only given up 6 rushing scores all year, and average 100.7 rushing yards allowed per game (9th in the NFL) - they had a bad night, sure enough. One thing that might give Bear defensive team owners pause this week is that the Falcons have a similar (and probably even more talented) stable of runners with Duckett the big back, Dunn the shifty speedster, and head-ache causing Michael Vick to boot.

Atlanta's rushing attack is powerful, but the Bears' defensive front is elite. This is a tougher-than-usual matchup for the Falcons.

Weather: The forecast for Soldier Field calls for a high of 25F and a low of 15F, with a 10% chance for precipitation. As this game is a Sunday night affair, the temperatures will be at the low end of the range, and in the Windy City, wind chill could make if feel even colder. The football gets hard and slick in such weather, and high winds can cause havoc with passing/kicking games in this venue. Owners of Falcons and Bears will want to check a short-term forecast before pulling the trigger on their lineups this week. Earlier this season, an entire game was played in Soldier Field with only 9 pass completions out of 26 attempts between 2 NFL teams(San Francisco vs. Chicago).

ATL Injuries: QB Michael Vick (Probable)
CHI Injuries: DL Ian Scott (Questionable), LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (Questionable), DB Todd Johnson (Questionable), DB Mike Brown (Doubtful)


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense vs San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Colts offense is virtually unstoppable as currently constituted. Edgerrin James was the 10th best fantasy RB in the land over the past 3 weeks, with 87/324/1 rushing and 11/78/0 receiving, including last week's totals of 30/93/0 rushing and 9/61/0 receiving against the ultra-tough Jaguars. He should be in your lineup every week.

The Chargers rank 1st in the NFL this year, allowing an average of only 78.8 rushing yards per game, with 9 rushing scores surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, teams have averaged 81 rushing yards per game against this group, with 26/71/0 allowed to the powerful Williams/Brown tandem last week. These guys are good.

James is an elite back, but the Chargers won't make things easy for him. He's still a starter in our book, but realize this is one of his toughest matchups this season.

Weather: The Colts' home stadium is the RCA Dome - weather won't be an issue for either team during this matchup.

IND Injuries: none
SD Injuries: DL Luis Castillo (Questionable), DB Quentin Jammer (Questionable), DB Bhawoh Jue (Questionable)


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Minnesota has been playing Michael Bennett a lot in recent weeks because Mewelde Moore has nagging injuries that are limiting his effectiveness. Coach Tice commented about Moore's situation this week, saying "He had that quad banged up before he went out, and the trainers notified me he wasn't in any mental shape to go out and be an impact." Bennett had 18/70/1 rushing and 4/6/0 receiving last week - his second week above 70 yards rushing and his second consecutive week scoring at least one TD. However, Bennett is notorious for disappearing into mediocrity without warning, so consider Moore's status in practice/on the injury report before you pull the trigger on Bennett this week.

The Steelers' rush D ranks 4th in the NFL averaging 88.8 yards allowed per game, with 10 rushing scores surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've handed over 104 yards per game in this phase, though, and 8 TDs total (rushing and receiving) - they are not playing up to their reputation right now - Chicago averaged 4.6 yards per rush last week, racking up 18/83/1 vs. Pittsburgh.

Minnesota's rushing attack has been modestly successful in recent weeks, while the Steelers are off their usual stellar pace right now. With home field advantage flowing to the Vikings, we think this still looks like a tough matchup.

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

MIN Injuries: RB Mewelde Moore (Probable)
PIT Injuries: DL Brett Keisel (Probable), DL Travis Kirschke (Questionable), LB Joey Porter (Probable), LB Andre Frazier (Doubtful), DB Chidi Iwuoma (Probable), DB Deshea Townsend (Questionable)


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The last time these teams clashed, back in week 1, Deuce McAllister was the starting RB for the Saints. A lot has changed since then - the series 2005 history won't tell us much about this matchup. Last week, the team ran the ball right at the Falcons defense, racking up 24/125/1 as a team - not bad. However, the by-committee approach of the team meant that Antowain Smith (11/60/1 rushing and 3/12/0 receiving) and Aaron Stecker (7/35/0 rushing and 2/12/0 receiving) split up the available fantasy points. Over the past 3 weeks, Smith has been the superior fantasy play, with 41/154/1 rushing and 4/13/0 receiving (34th fantasy RB in points per game) over Stecker (23/94/0 rushing and 7/73/0 receiving), but Stecker has more receptions which can be an important factor in some leagues that award points-per-reception.

Carolina sports the league's 3rd ranked rush D, averaging 87 yards allowed per game (with 7 rushing scores handed over to date). However, Cadillac Williams found some seams to run through last week - to the tune of 29/112/2 (Tampa managed 36/114/2 as a team). Over the past 3 weeks, the Panthers have handed over an average of 95.6 rushing yards per game - and only 2 TDs (both to Williams last week). Usually, these guys are a tough nut to crack.

New Orleans will have their hands full vs. their division rivals this week.

Weather: The forecast for Tiger Stadium calls for a high of 55F with a low of 36F and a 40% chance for rain. If the rain comes down thickly at game time, field conditions may deteriorate causing problems with footing and ball-handling for both teams.

NO Injuries: RB Aaron Stecker (Questionable)
CAR Injuries: DL Mike Rucker (Questionable), LB Dan Morgan (Probable), DB Ken Lucas (Probable)


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Back in week 2, the Jets' offense hadn't been shredded by injuries yet - Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin were both starting and the team won 17-7 over Miami. A lot has changed since then - recent history won't tell us much of anything about this week's upcoming game. Cedric Houston, the Jets' 3rd string RB, is the starter nowadays, and he handled 28/74/1 last week vs. Oakland. The team managed 43/184/1 on the ground as QB Brooks Bollinger (6/56/0) and RB B. J. Askew (9/54/0) pitched in to help out Houston. As you can see, neither Houston or Askew is a huge fantasy star as of yet.

Miami shocked the Chargers last week, and they did it in part because their defense constrained LaDainian Tomlinson to 21/75/0 rushing (27/96/1 to the Chargers as a team). Over the past 3 weeks, Miami has averaged 102.6 rushing yards allowed per game, compared to their season average of 117.3 per contest - the Dolphins have got the numbers moving in the right direction in this phase of the game.

The Jets' offense has been hampered by a series of injuries and is currently a shell of its former self - Miami's unit, on the other hand, is on the rise. This is a tough matchup for the Jets.

Weather: The forecast for Dolphins' Stadium calls for a high of 82F and a low of 69F with a 30% chance for rain. If the moisture falls heavily at game time, footing and ball handling could be bigger issues than usual for both teams.

NYJ Injuries: QB Jay Fiedler (Out), RB Derrick Blaylock (Questionable), RB Curtis Martin (Out)
MIA Injuries: DL Keith Traylor (Questionable), LB Zach Thomas (Questionable), DB Reggie Howard (Questionable)


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

LaDainian Tomlinson looked like he was limited by his sore ribs last week, and could "only" eke out 21/75/0 rushing and 1/0/0 receiving during the game. The Chargers totaled 21/96/1 during the contest. Tomlinson has been held under 100 yards rushing for 3 out of the last 4 games, and hasn't scored a TD during the last 2 contests. His owners are going to want to monitor how his ribs heal/hold up during practices this week, as his production is way down from where we're used to seeing it.

Indianapolis has a top-ten rush D this season, averaging 96.5 rushing yards allowed per game, and they are tied for 3rd-least scored upon rush defense, with only 6 allowed to date. Last week, Jacksonville could only manage 23/74/1 on the ground vs. the Colts - they've handed over an average of 66.6 rushing yards per game over the last 3 weeks. That's stout rush defense, friends.

Tomlinson is in for a tough game against the elite Colts' defensive front.

Weather: The Colts' home stadium is the RCA Dome - weather won't be an issue for either team during this matchup.

SD Injuries: RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Questionable), WR Reche Caldwell (Questionable)
IND Injuries: DL Josh Thomas (Probable), DL Corey Simon (Questionable), DL Robert Mathis (Doubtful), LB Rob Morris (Probable), LB David Thornton (Probable), LB Cato June (Questionable)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cadillac Williams opened up the throttle vs. Carolina last week, laying down 29/112/2 rushing and 2/4/0 receiving - he seems to have recovered the form we saw early in the year at this point (just in time for the playoffs). Over the past 3 weeks, he's the 12th best fantasy RB in the land, with 71/292/2 rushing and 6/18/0 receiving to his credit. If he's on your roster, you should be starting him.

New England's rush defense has been so-so this season, currently ranking 11th in the league allowing an average of 104.8 yards per game with 10 rushing scores surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've held the opposition to 55.6 rushing yards per game, though, and they absolutely crushed Buffalo's stable last week (12/14/0 as a team). Since the return of Tedy Bruschi and the coming of frosty winter weather, the Patriots' performance has improved.

Williams plays on a warm-weather squad (plus he played at Auburn during college) - it's good news for him that the weather isn't supposed to be arctic cold on Saturday afternoon. New England's defense has elevated their game over the past month - this looks like a tough matchup for the Bucs' stable.

Weather: The forecast for Saturday at Gillette Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 21F and a 20% chance for precipitation. The game is scheduled for 1:30 PM ET, so temperatures should be closer to the high end of the range - winter winds can be an issue in this venue - owners of Patriots and Bucs will want to pay attention to wind conditions before setting their lineups.

TB Injuries: none
NE Injuries: DB Artrell Hawkins (Questionable), DB Asante Samuel (Questionable), DB Michael Stone (Questionable)


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The bottom fell out of the Buffalo rushing attack last week, when they barely got past the line of scrimmage on the ground (12/14/0 as a team) - Willis McGahee eked out 8/3/0 on the day. McGahee has put up 56/137/0 rushing and 3/23/0 receiving during the past 3 weeks (43rd ranked fantasy RB during that span) - right now, it doesn't look like the Bills can move the ball very well in either phase of the game. We suggest you look elsewhere for your starters.

The Broncos have surrendered an average of 108.3 rushing yards per game over the past 3 weeks - last week, the Jamal Lewis-less Ravens could only manage 23/72/0 vs. Denver. This year, Denver sports the league's second-ranked rush D, averaging 85.4 yards allowed per game on the ground, with 8 TDs allowed to date.

The Bills struggle mightily in this phase, while the Broncos are top-notch. This is an ugly matchup for the Bills/McGahee.

Weather: Ralph Wilson Stadium expects a high of 29F with a low of 23F and a 50% chance for sleet/ice/snow on Saturday. This game is to be played starting at 8:30 PM ET, so temperatures will be on the cold end of the scale and wind conditions could be a problem for both teams if a storm sets in - owners of Broncos and Bills will want to check a short-term forecast before setting their lineups this week. Heavy snow and high winds are not ideal conditions for passing/kicking games - although both of these teams play in cold-weather, outdoor home stadiums.

BUF Injuries: QB J.P. Losman (Questionable)
DEN Injuries: DL Courtney Brown (Probable), LB Keith Burns (Probable), LB D.J. Williams (Probable), DB Sam Brandon (Probable), DB Darrent Williams (Out)


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Last week, the Patriots' rushing attack suddenly got healthy - Corey Dillon looked like the 2004 version, putting up 22/102/1 rushing with 4/29/0 receiving - Kevin Faulk showed up in a big way, with 5/14/0 rushing but 6/71/0 receiving. It was like old times. However, don't be too impressed - the Bills' defense hasn't been very good all year long, averaging 141.7 rushing yards allowed per game (31st in the NFL to date), with 18 rushing scores surrendered to date, tied for last in the NFL). This week, the Dillon/Faulk tandem faces a sterner test.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town on Saturday, bringing along the 5th ranked rushing D in the league, averaging 92.8 rushing yards allowed per game, with 8 rushing TDs surrendered through 13 games. Over the past 3 weeks, the Bucs have held the opposition to an average of 88.3 rushing yards per game, including last week's totals of 20/82/0 allotted to Carolina. These guys are very tough.

Dillon and Faulk started to click last week, but they'll have a hard time handling the impressive Buccaneers defense.

Weather: The forecast for Saturday at Gillette Stadium calls for a high of 38F with a low of 21F and a 20% chance for precipitation. The game is scheduled for 1:30 PM ET, so temperatures should be closer to the high end of the range - winter winds can be an issue in this venue - owners of Patriots and Bucs will want to pay attention to wind conditions before setting their lineups.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Questionable), RB Corey Dillon (Questionable), RB Heath Evans (Questionable), RB Kevin Faulk (Questionable), RB Patrick Pass (Questionable), WR Bethel Johnson (Questionable), TE Daniel Graham (Questionable), TE Ben Watson (Questionable)
TB Injuries: DL Anthony McFarland (Doubtful), LB Marquis Cooper (Questionable), DB Juran Bolden (Probable)


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Look, the 49ers could only manage 77 yards passing last week - nobody is afraid of their passing offense, so they key on the running backs and blitz the passer a ton. In this climate, it's very hard to find any running lanes - last week, 11/33/0 rushing was the best Kevan Barlow could do (the team put up 21/62/0). Unless and until the 49ers' passing game is no longer a joke, the running backs are going to be bottled up and practically worthless in fantasy terms.

The Jaguars did a good job of containing Edgerrin James and company last week (34/99/0), and they have only allowed 4 rushing scores all season (2nd-best in the NFL). The team averages 107.2 rushing yards allowed per game, but that will improve after they crush the 49ers.

Advantage, Jacksonville.

Weather: The weather service expects a high of 61F with a low of 47F for Alltel Stadium - there is a 40% chance for rain, though. If the moisture falls heavily at game time, footing and ball handling will be more tricky than usual for both teams.

SF Injuries: RB Kevan Barlow (Questionable), WR Arnaz Battle (Questionable)
JAX Injuries: DB Rashean Mathis (Probable)


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Titans' backs didn't do very well vs. Houston last week, with 30/93/0 as a groups. Chris Brown led the charge with 16/53/0 rushing and 3/49/0 receiving - he wasn't a total loss for most of his owners, but he wasn't particularly stellar, either. Over the past 3 weeks, Brown has compiled 37/115/0 rushing and 7/160/1 receiving to rank 18th in fantasy points per game during that span. Travis Henry led the team in receiving last week with 3/54/0 and also added 8/19/0 rushing - he's become a valuable change-of-pace back to compliment Brown now that he's out of the team's doghouse.

Seattle's defense has been very stingy of late, with only 2 TDs (rushing and receiving) given up in the past 3 weeks - they have averaged 96.3 rushing yards allowed per game during that span. Last week, anemic San Francisco could only generate 21/62/0 on the ground (and only 77 yards passing) - the Seahawks lead the NFL with only 3 rushing scores given up all year long (10th in the NFL averaging 101.4 rushing yards allowed per game).

The Titans are going to have their hands full on Sunday.

Weather: Nashville expects a high of 43F with a low of 26F and a 10% chance for rain on Sunday - assuming the forecast holds up, the Coliseum should be a decent place to play football.

TEN Injuries: QB Steve McNair (Questionable), RB Chris Brown (Questionable), RB Travis Henry (Questionable), WR Sloan Thomas (Questionable), WR Roydell Williams (Out), TE Erron Kinney (Questionable), TE Ben Troupe (Questionable)
SEA Injuries: LB D.D. Lewis (Questionable), DB Andre Dyson (Out), DB Kelly Herndon (Out), DB John Howell (Out)




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