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Game Capsules: Week 9 Game Previews

Luke Hoover

Luke Hoover has covered fantasy football for since 2011 and is most proud of recommending Victor Cruz as a starter in his breakout game against the Eagles. He's a lifelong fan of Notre Dame, the Packers and, unfortunately, the Knicks.

Cincinnati (-1) @ Miami, Thursday 8:25 p.m.

The Dolphins and Bengals are headed in dramatically different directions. Miami has dropped four straight after opening 3-0, while the Bengals have been on a decisive 4-game win streak that culminated with an absolute demolition of a tough Jets team. The short week leaves little time for the Dolphins to find answers, but they should still have a chance given Cincinnati's struggles on the road. Despite having all the talent, the Bengals have gone 2-2 on road trips with both wins coming by a field goal margin on the final play. Few teams are hotter though than Cinci's loaded group, so for the Dolphins to close the deal they'll badly need to protect Ryan Tannehill from a fearsome pass rush while simultaneously generating pressure on Andy Dalton with their front four. Still the most sacked QB in the league (32 sacks in just seven games), Tannehill will need to get the ball out much faster versus the Bengals aggressive unit if Miami is to move the chains enough and convert drives into scores. Most importantly though he cannot give Dalton and the high-powered Bengals offense short fields. Turnovers have plagued Tannehill tremendously in the team's losing skid, as he's given it away 10 times by himself. If Miami can keep the ground game on the rise after consecutive season highs in rushing yards it will go a long way towards taking the pressure off the second-year signal caller and keeping drives alive. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas have played well in a tandem recently and need to be fed in a game that Miami will want to keep low scoring - especially now that Brandon Gibson's season-ending knee injury has Miami down a wideout. Given the heavy bye week schedule, each runner can be viewed as a flex given the timeshare in the backfield... No quarterback has been hotter the past three weeks than Dalton. "The Red Rifle" has thrown for 11 touchdowns and 1,034 yards in that stretch with at least three scores and 325 yards in each contest. No other passer can boast such a gaudy run over their last three, and with a deep and supremely talented group of receiving options facing an average Miami pass defense it's difficult to see the brakes being hit on this train. A.J. Green has been steadily doing his thing as a No. 1 real life and fantasy wideout but the exploding emergence of second-year man Marvin Jones - who set a franchise record with four TD grabs against the Jets - has made this passing attack truly special. Add in twin towers Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert and the speedy, whirling dervish that is Giovani Bernard and Dalton has the recipe for a monster second half of the season. In fantasy Dalton is set up to challenge some of the elite quarterbacks, and if he continues to progress with his weapons and behind arguably the league's best offensive line, expect the stock of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard to rise among the running back options. Each rusher should find wider holes and more scoring opportunities if Cincinnati continues to torch teams through the air.

Predictions: Miller and Thomas combine for 86 total yards with the latter punching in a short score. Tannehill pitches it for 206 yards and finds Mike Wallace in the end zone. Dalton passes for 304 yards and connects with Green and Eifert for touchdowns. Green-Ellis and Bernard tally 128 total yards between them with each hitting paydirt on the ground. Bengals 28-17.

Kansas City (-3.5) @ Buffalo, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Bills have lost two home games to the Patriots and Bengals by a combined five points on field goals that closed the scoring. The undefeated Chiefs have won three road games though by a combined 45 points. Something has to give in this one, and chances are whoever draws the start at QB for Buffalo will not have the juice to get the better of the league's top-ranked defense in points allowed and sacks. Thaddeus Lewis is doubtful with a rib injury so either undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel will make his first career start or Matt Flynn, who has been with the team only a handful of weeks will take over the offense. Either signal caller figures to struggle though, especially with clear-cut No. 1 target Steve Johnson having aggravated a groin injury last week. When the Bills do run the ball, it looks like it's Fred Jackson's backfield to control with C.J. Spiller still quite hampered by what has now been diagnosed as a high ankle sprain, even though coach Doug Marrone has indicated that Spiller will return to the field... The defense has led the 8-0 start for Kansas City. That much is clear. The offense is average at best, due in large part to being so Jamaal Charles-centric, but a Bills D that's allowed 11 touchdown passes in its last three contests may be just what Alex Smith needs to get the aerial attack humming. Of course, having the ghost of Dwayne Bowe rising from the dead a few days after Halloween would go a long way towards helping. If you're looking for a dart of a receiver play this week, Dexter McCluster appears to be emerging as Smith's favorite target. In consecutive weeks McCluster has topped 65 yards and registered his first receiving score of the season on a beautiful diving grab versus Cleveland, so there's potential from the dynamic wideout. The Buffalo run defense by contrast is fairly tough. It's low ranking is deceptive as they've allowed just two scores on the ground and are holding opponents to 3.9 YPC despite having the third-most rush attempts against them. Of course, Charles is a yardage machine, so expect that he'll find a way to get his usual 100-plus yards.

Predictions: Smith throws for 248 yards and scores to McCluster and Anthony Fasano, while Charles racks up 131 yards and punches in a run. Jackson tallies 70 total yards and hits paydirt rushing. Tuel gets the nod and finds Scott Chandler for a touchdown in a 176-yard effort. Chiefs 24-17.

Minnesota (+10.5) @ Dallas, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Cowboys lost in a stunning collapse at Detroit but shouldn't have to worry about suffering the same fate against a Vikings team that cannot stop anybody and struggles to move the football. The offense should benefit greatly from the return of DeMarco Murray (knee) who has been practicing fully, but even without him Tony Romo has the weapons in the passing game to carve up Minnesota's secondary. If the fire Dez Bryant displayed at the end of the Detroit loss shows up on the field Sunday, the Vikings young defensive backs are in trouble. They were torched by Jordy Nelson last week and Bryant may be poised to duplicate that performance. Opposite Dallas' star, Terrance Williams has turned in a touchdown in four straight outings and is emerging as the team's big-play threat given his speed and smooth running after the catch. While Adrian Peterson will have something to say about the outcome versus the Cowboys last-ranked defense, at the end of the day Minnesota's D figures to prove the bigger liability against Dallas' strong passing attack... Christian Ponder has more rushing touchdowns (three) than passing touchdowns (two) in four starts, and he has as many interceptions as those scores combined. And yet, somehow Ponder appears to be the best option for Minnesota's offense to generate points and perhaps a victory. Matt Cassel is equally, if not more so unspectacular, while Josh Freeman simply doesn't know the system well enough yet. Ponder's ability to scramble is an asset, but for the Vikes to have a chance in this one they'll need him to air it out effectively against the league's worst pass defense, which is allowing 315.4 yards per game in the air. With Greg Jennings, Kyle Rudolph and exciting rookie Cordarrelle Patterson it's not like the Vikings don't have the weapons to be a successful passing offense. Still, count on Minnesota living and dying on Peterson's legs.

Predictions: Peterson gashes his way to 152 total yards and two rushing scores. Ponder throws for 218 yards and hits Rudolph for a TD. Romo finds Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley for touchdowns in a 320-yard day, while Murray tallies 73 total yards and makes a goal line plunge. Cowboys 31-24.

Tennessee (-3) @ St. Louis, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Rams have found the running back that will take over the feature role vacated by Steven Jackson. It took half a season to make it official, but after increasing his production each week since taking over for Daryl Richardson in Week 5 and culminating with a brilliant 134-yard effort versus the stout Seahawks defense, it's clear Zac Stacy owns the St. Louis backfield. That is to say he owns it provided he's healthy. A low ankle sprain could crack open the door to Richardson, who also had nice moments in the narrow loss. Stacy though brings better vision and power, and given his efforts versus Carolina and Seattle it's clear he can produce regardless of matchup. Whoever lines up at tailback, Stacy could certainly use some help from Kellen Clemens to take a body or two out of the box on occasion, but a lackluster first start in place of the injured Sam Bradford (ACL) doesn't suggest that happening anytime too soon. None of the Rams receivers are even ownable at this point in fantasy, but should the Rams find a serviceable QB at some point this season that could change... Tennessee was fortunate to get Jake Locker back so soon from his hip injury and the rising signal caller should be feeling close to 100% after the bye week. Though the Rams defense displayed tremendous aggression and speed versus Seattle, Locker still has the look of a No. 1 fantasy QB this week, and perhaps going forward. Even with his ground support struggling, Locker has managed at least two touchdowns in each of his last four starts and has been efficient as a passer, having thrown eight scores to just one pick. Chris Johnson, however, has far from matched his QB's efficiency level. The running back formerly known as CJ2K has averaged a miserable 2.4 YPC on 46 totes over that same stretch, and now he's slated to share the backfield with a finally healthy Shonn Greene. Fortunately for Johnson's fantasy owners he's managed to tear off long touchdown receptions in the past two outings to at least salvage his value, but the presence of Greene may be yet another hit to it going forward. Speaking of receiving production, the Rams have allowed all but one opposing No. 1 wideout they've faced to find the end zone, with none posting less than eight points in standard scoring. Kendall Wright has not been below 54 yards since Week 1 and has established himself as Locker's clear favorite. This could be a breakout game for the second-year receiver.

Predictions: Clemens tosses it for 184 yards and a touchdown to Chris Givens. Stacy grits it out for 106 total yards and a short rushing score. Johnson and Greene share the backfield to the tune of 125 yards on the ground, with CJ breaking one to the house. Locker throws for 252 yards and touchdowns to Wright and Kenny Britt. Titans 24-17.

New Orleans (-6) @ New York Jets, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

The Jets may be the most Jekyll and Hyde team in the league right now. They are 4-4 and still certainly in the playoff hunt, but they've yet to win or lose consecutive games. If the pattern were to hold true, New York is due for a W, but chances are some guy named Drew Brees will have a lot to say about that. More than Brees though, the Jets fate could well be sealed by their own QB. In the four losses Smith has accounted for just one touchdown while turning it over 11 times. Conversely Smith has produced nine scores to only five giveaways in the wins. With New Orleans boasting the fourth-best turnover differential in the league at plus eight, Smith and the Jets skill players will be hard pressed to hold onto the football and keep Brees sidelined. To that end, look for the Jets to employ a similar tactic that helped them earn a win over the Patriots two weeks ago when they dominated time of possession be nearly 2-to-1. Chris Ivory was the central cog in that plan as he toted it a whopping 34 times, and facing his former teammates, expect the burly back to get ample opportunity to duplicate that 100-yard effort. Ivory earned the tough yards in that win and with Smith's weapons fairly depleted due to injury - Santonio Holmes (hamstring) remains out and Jeff Cumberland looks iffy at best (concussion) - don't be surprised to see plenty more Ivory and a fair dose of Bilal Powell, provided of course we're not looking at another blowout... The Saints offense will go as Brees goes in this one. So of course that bodes well for New Orleans. Even with Jimmy Graham suffering from a partially torn plantar fascia and Marques Colston clearly not himself (just 44 yards over the last three games), Brees just keeps on racking up the yards and points. Over his last four outings the future Hall-of-Famer has thrown for 13 touchdowns to just one pick. With a revamped defense currently sitting at fourth in points allowed per contest (17.1), Brees barely even needs the boost of a run game - which is a good thing given that New York tops the league in rush defense giving up a paltry 77.9 yards per game. That means Pierre Thomas is mostly a desperation play. Of course Darren Sproles' involvement as a receiver could keep him a solid flex. With 193 yards and three TD's in the last two games, however, rookie speedster Kenny Stills looks like the next best fantasy option in New Orleans after the likes of Brees and Graham.

Predictions: Smith passes for 174 yards and a touchdown to David Nelson. Ivory and Powell combine for 141 yards, with the former Saint hitting paydirt. Sproles leads the New Orleans backfield with 81 total yards and catches a score from Brees, who adds TD's to Graham and Stills in a 263-yard performance. Jets 23-21.

San Diego (-1) @ Washington, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Just when it looked like Robert Griffin's strong rushing numbers would support his passing yardage to make him a consistent fantasy force he goes and drops a complete stinker on a Denver defense that had been getting sliced and diced in the air. Prior to Week 6 Griffin had not yet stretched his legs out, but he'd been relatively productive with his arm. Versus Denver neither was working. A Chargers defense traveling across the country for an early kickoff could be just what Griffin and the Skins need to get back on track though. RGIII and especially Alfred Morris will be licking their chops over a defense that's tied for worst in the league in yards allowed per carry (4.8 YPC). A unit that's tied for last in the league with three interceptions should likewise make it smoother sailing when Griffin uncorks his arm to favorite targets Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed (a combined 63 looks on Griffin's 98 throws in three weeks). With 17 catches for 224 yards and a score over the last two games, Reed actually has the look of not only a sure-fire No. 1 fantasy tight end, but also a flex for any teams hit hard by injury or the bye schedule... The 30th-ranked Redskins run defense has been decimated by running backs this year, having allowed at least 100 total yards or a touchdown in all seven games with nine different backs doing one or the other - and that includes the likes of reserves James Starks, Joique Bell, Rashad Jennings, Joseph Randle and Montee Ball. In the last three weeks alone they've allowed seven touchdowns to opposing runners. Ryan Mathews is rested coming off his bye week and following back-to-back 100-yard efforts he could be in line for a huge day. Danny Woodhead likewise figures to hurt Washington's D as the change of pace back. In his last five contests Woodhead has totaled at least 75 yards each time while registering four scores. With 30 catches over that same stretch, he's a must-start in PPR formats. Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates will also look to register big performances as Philip Rivers' favorites in the passing game. The Skins are almost equally generous through the air, allowing 273.7 yards and over two scores per contest on average, so expect this trio to find plenty of points of their own.
Predictions: Mathews rushes for 112 yards and a touchdowns, while Woodhead chips in 81 total yards with six catches. Rivers hooks up with Gates and Vincent Brown for scores in a 239-yard effort. Griffin counters with 277 passing yards and TD's to Reed and Santana Moss, and 58 yards on the ground. Morris rumbles for 93 yards and a short score. Redskins 27-24 in OT.

Atlanta (+7.5) @ Carolina, Sunday 1:00 p.m.

Cam Newton is primed to dismantle the Falcons defense. He has a good history versus Atlanta and this banged up version of the Falcons D will more than have their hands full with the dual threat quarterback. Newton has been lights out as a passer recently, having completed 77.3% of his throws for 8.9 YPA and six touchdowns in Carolina's three-game win streak. And as a Cardinals offense with a sorry offensive line proved, running on this defense is not especially difficult either. DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and of course Newton should rack up plenty of yardage on the ground. Tolbert is starting to look like the better fantasy play over Williams, however, as "The Round Mound of Touchdown" has turned in four scores in the last three weeks as the league's premiere goal-line vulture. In a week when plenty of good running backs are on bye, it's hard not to flex some Tolbert muscle despite the impending return of Jonathan Stewart, who figures to see limited action in his first game back... With the league's worst rushing offense producing a measly 62.4 yards per game on the ground and the injuries to Julio Jones (foot) and Roddy White (ankle/hamstring), Matt Ryan has had to carry the offense the past couple weeks. That trend is almost sure to continue against a Carolina front seven that is among the game's best and limiting opponents to the second fewest rush yards a week. With Ryan throwing to the likes of Harry Douglas and Drew Davis 20-plus times a game, the Atlanta offense is in some serious trouble. Tony Gonzalez cannot be started in fantasy so long as there's no White to draw at least some coverage off him, and unfortunately for Gonzo it doesn't look like the veteran wideout will be 100% very soon. Steven Jackson could certainly help, but it seems he's not up to full speed either after an awful return performance of 11 carries for six yards against Arizona. Jackson and Jacquizz Rodgers may need to be featured more heavily though to try and grind out longer drives and keep Newton sidelined. Expect them to get more involved provided the score doesn't grow too lopsided.

Predictions: Williams and Tolbert contribute 121 total yards, with the latter vulturing yet another score. Newton passes for 244 yards and touchdowns to Greg Olsen and Steve Smith, while chipping in 60 and another TD with his legs. Ryan guns it for 312 yards and TD's to Douglas and Rodgers, while Jackson leads the backfield with 62 total yards. Panthers 31-17.

Philadelphia (+1.5) @ Oakland, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

Terrelle Pryor essentially had one effective play last week, but 93-yards of effectiveness ended up being enough with a standout defensive performance from the silver and black defense. Pryor's record QB touchdown run set the tone for the Raiders and Darren McFadden finished it in a grinding effort to notch just enough points for the W. These two athletic wonders don't figure to find the same level of difficulty with the porous Eagles defense though. Philly is 31st in total defense and the legs of Pryor and McFadden could have a field day against it, with Denarius Moore a strong option once again after a down performance against Pittsburgh's second ranked pass D... Quarterback roulette in "The City of Brotherly Love" has once again landed on Nick Foles. After sitting out a week with a concussion, the second-year signal caller will again replace Michael Vick after the vet suffered a setback to the hamstring injury that previously held him out for two games. Considering that in Foles' last appearance he registered a pitiful 11-of-29 for 80 yards against a Cowboys unit that is dead last against the pass, the switch is far from inspiring to Philly fans and fantasy owners alike. LeSean McCoy has been slumping right along with the passing game, which has suffered in three of the last four weeks due to inconsistent play. Facing an Oakland defense that held Pittsburgh to a measly 35 yards on 19 carries (1.8 YPC) likely won't make the going any better for McCoy. Top receiving option DeSean Jackson has likewise been subject to a serious downgrade the last two weeks and although it's hard to imagine Jackson owners having many better options, expectations for the speedster have to be lowered accordingly.

Predictions: Foles throws for 221 yards and a touchdown to Riley Cooper. McCoy tallies 99 total yards and runs one in, while McFadden bests him with 124 total yards and two touchdowns. Pryor hooks up with Rod Streater for a score in a 214-yard outing. Raiders 21-17.

Tampa Bay (+16.5) @ Seattle, Sunday 4:05 p.m.

The Buccaneers lost No. 2 wideout Mike Williams this weekend to a torn hamstring but the Seahawks matched the loss when Sidney Rice tore his ACL on Monday Night Football. Both passing attacks will be depleted but only one secondary is playing up to its potential. Unfortunately for Russell Wilson, after witnessing how terribly his offensive line protected him from the St. Louis pass rush, he may not have the chance to take advantage of Tampa's mediocre pass defense. Though the Bucs have generated just 17 sacks in seven games, the Rams were sitting at 18 through the same number before unloading seven on Wilson. Adrian Clayborn and Gerald McCoy are very difficult assignments for any O-line and Wilson's is particularly leaky. With the "12th Man" advantage in Seattle, and with Rice out, count on Marshawn Lynch to be leaned on appropriately after he shockingly saw just eight carries against the Rams. The run game will be especially important with Percy Harvin, who suffered a small setback with his hip last week, still unable to return. When Seattle does throw it though, Golden Tate is a solid fantasy option given the momentum he's gained in recent weeks... Without Doug Martin (shoulder) and now Williams, the already shaky Buccaneers offense will have to rely on Mike Glennon to make other less experienced players better. That's a tall order for a rookie making just his fifth start, especially when his lone star, Vincent Jackson, will likely draw double coverage from Richard Sherman and possibly Earl Thomas. Jackson should of course still see plenty of targets considering that he's averaging 15 a game with Glennon as a starter, but that doesn't mean they'll translate into big fantasy production considering the defense he's facing. Timothy Wright may actually be the best fantasy option in this offense given how much they will throw it (Glennon is averaging a whopping 45 tosses per in his four starts). When Williams sat out in Week 6, Wright converted nine targets into seven grabs for 91 yards. Of course, Zac Stacy suggested last week that late-round rookie running backs could be the Seattle D's kryptonite. In theory it could translate to Mike James having a big day, but that's just theory. James isn't quite as talented as Stacy and doesn't have the benefit of being at home. In Seattle a dominant performance is likely, which makes all Bucs fairly frightening fantasy plays.

Predictions: Glennon pitches it for 168 yards, while James contributes 68 total yards. Lynch racks up 131 yards and two rushing scores. Wilson passes for 184 yards and a touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Seahawks 27-6.

Baltimore (-2.5) @ Cleveland, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

Jason Campbell brought just the lift the Browns offense had been lacking under the lead of Brandon Weeden and it nearly resulted in the Chiefs being dealt their first loss of the season. Campbell managed to avoid the pressure of the league's best pass rush and produce nearly 300 yards and two scores through the air without a single turnover. He's had some moments in the past with plenty of starts under his belt, but given the circumstances this was arguably his finest. A rested Baltimore D will be another tough test for Campbell, but with Joe Thomas to fend off Terrell Suggs and the supremely athletic Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to target, not to mention the support of "The Dawg Pound," Cleveland and it's new QB should keep moving the football. A Ravens run defense that has allowed a league-best one rushing score all year though figures to keep Willis McGahee struggling (just 2.9 YPC) and put all the pressure on Campbell to generate points... The Browns are allowing only 3.7 YPC to opposing running backs but have given up nine touchdowns on the ground so far. A self-declared healthy Ray Rice will look to take advantage of that softness near the goal line and continue his historically strong play versus the AFC North rival. With plenty of good backs on bye and Rice having struggled all year through a hip injury, the timing couldn't be better for the all-purpose back to finally look like the Rice of old. His 2.8 YPC has been a major disappointment, but if he is in fact healthy, he's a proven commodity on which fantasy owners have to rely until truly shown otherwise. Not only are fantasy owners counting on him, but the Ravens will also need a big game out of Rice, as Joe Flacco figures to struggle with Cleveland's sixth ranked pass defense. Though he completed 66.7% of his throws in the team's first meeting in Week 2, he netted just 6.4 YPA and struggled to find points with a sluggish ground game limiting the offense.

Predictions: Flacco hits Tandon Doss for a touchdown in a 217-yard effort, while Rice tallies 109 total yards and punches in a score. McGahee grinds out 48 rushing yards and gets in the end zone from in close. Campbell tosses it for 246 yards and a touchdown to Cameron. Browns 20-17.

Pittsburgh (+7) @ New England, Sunday 4:25 p.m.

New England has beaten just one team with a winning record and they were a mere five seconds away from losing that one. Fortunately, Pittsburgh is far from a winning ball club. Though their records don't indicate it, however, these two teams are not all that far apart in their performance. The difference in the two team's records can be found in one thing though: turnovers. The Patriots have forced 11 more of them while protecting it better at the same time. Tom Brady has been far from himself though with his receiving corps having looked like "The Island of Misfit Toys" for most of the year. Brady has only one 300-yard performance with three games under 200. The downward trend figures to continue despite the presence of Rob Gronkowski upgrading his weapons significantly. Pittsburgh may not generate takeaways or pressure the passer well, but what they do well, and damn well at that, is cover. The Steelers are allowing just 181.0 passing yards per game (good for second in the league) and have allowed the fewest scores through the air on the season (only five in seven games). That sets up perfectly though for what New England now does effectively. Expect a heavy does of a revitalized Stevan Ridley (5.0 YPC and four TD's in the last three games) with Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount sprinkled in against Pittsburgh's 27th-ranked run defense... If the Steelers are playing a team that can move the ball effectively they absolutely need Le'Veon Bell to perform better if they want to win. In three out of his four career games he's combined for just 115 rushing yards at a pathetic 2.6 YPC. Against Baltimore he ran with quickness, vision and power and managed nearly 5.0 YPC en route to a close victory. Fortunately for Bell the interior of the Patriots defense is not what it once was without the likes of Vince Wilfork (Achilles) and Jerod Mayo (chest). If Bell can generate the tough yardage between the tackles, Ben Roethlisberger will be able to work play-action to speedy wideouts Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders effectively. Keeping the defense from pinning its ears back will be crucial, as Big Ben has been sacked 26 times in only seven contests. At that rate the Steelers will not be able to sustain drives enough to beat Brady in Foxboro.

Predictions: Roethlisberger throws for 288 yards and a touchdown to Sanders, while Bell chips in 82 total yards and a short TD plunge. Ridley leads the New England trio with 106 yards and a score rushing. Brady finds Gronkowski and Kenbrell Thompkins for touchdowns in a 217-yard effort. Patriots 21-14.

Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Houston, Sunday 8:30 p.m.

A new era may be on the horizon in Houston and depending on the success of newfound starter Case Keenum that era may not include coach Gary Kubiak or any of the three QB's currently occupying roster spots. Despite Matt Schaub (leg), a 10-year veteran and former Pro Bowler, being healthy enough to suit up, Kubiak is electing to hand over the reigns - at least temporarily - to Keenum, college football's most prolific passer. Prior to the team's Week 8 bye, Keenum was impressive at times in a narrow loss that came to the undefeated Chiefs in Arrowhead. If nothing else, Keenum was the first Texans quarterback to make it through a game without throwing a pick six since Week 1. And though he did take too many sacks and lose a game-clinching fumble, Keenum was for the most part accurate and effective as he turned in an eye-popping 10.8 YPA. Facing a stingy Colts defense though that frustrated Peyton Manning and put a blemish on the Broncos record their last time on the field may not work out well for the inexperienced Keenum. Given the state of the Colts run defense - 4.5 YPC, 122.3 yards per game allowed - look for Houston to squeeze as much juice as possible out of their banged up star backs. Arian Foster (hamstring) and Ben Tate (ribs) both suffered injuries versus Kansas City and are not assured to suit up despite having rested over the bye week. With Houston desperate for a win, it's almost unthinkable that both would sit, but the Texans did stock up on emergency options - Ray Graham, Deji Karim and Dennis Johnson - just in case either back cannot play or finish the game. Given the Sunday night kickoff, lineup choices could be quite tricky if both end up game-time calls... The Colts will figure out what life without Reggie Wayne is like for the first time in more than 13 years, and the proposition of Andrew Luck not having his security blanket must be unnerving for one of the AFC favorites. There's no better time for Trent Richardson to step up and perform as the bellcow that Indy traded for him to be. It will be interesting to see if the team has learned how to better incorporate him and get him going following the bye week. Since joining the Colts in Week 3 Richardson has been dreadful with just 3.0 YPC and not a single game topping 60 yards on the ground. While the values of Darrius Heyward-Bey, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener all go up with the loss of Wayne, the fantasy utility of the phony-stud Richardson remains in the toilet for now. Luck and his targets will have their days with a light schedule coming up, but this doesn't figure to be one of them versus the league's top-ranked pass defense, so maybe Richardson will surprise the fantasy world on many an owner's bench.

Predictions: Luck passes for 196 yards and a touchdown to Fleener, while adding 54 yards on scrambles. Richardson and Donald Brown combine for 98 yards, with the former Brown plowing in a short score. Keenum connects with Andre Johnson and Garrett Graham for TD's in a 285-yard effort. Tate rushes for 86 yards as Foster rests another week. Texans 20-17.

Chicago (+11) @ Green Bay, Monday 8:30 p.m.

The Packers offense continues to churn out points and touchdowns even with three of Aaron Rodgers' top four targets out with injury. Since he may actually have James Jones (knee) returning this week the Bears and their 29th-ranked scoring defense are in for a long Monday night. Rodgers has had a couple down games (by his standards), but with the beastly running of Eddie Lacy keeping the offense arguably the league's most balanced, and a weak schedule the rest of the way, he remains fantasy gold despite the depleted receiving corps. And for the rest of the season new toy Jarrett Boykin will reap the benefits as a sudden fantasy flex. Considering that the Bears allowed 500 total yards and five TD's to the Redskins when they last took the field, all Packers skill players - and that includes backup runner James Starks - are strong fantasy starts this week... The last time veteran signal caller Josh McCown replaced an injured Jay Cutler as the starter he did so on Christmas day in 2011 to mixed results versus none other than Green Bay. Of course in that matchup McCown did not have the benefit of any of his current top three targets. Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett were on other teams while Alshon Jeffery was in college. That trio helped McCown complete 70% of his throws in relief versus Washington for over 10.0 YPA and a score. It was a more than respectable showing, but it was against a terrible defense. McCown also benefited from Matt Forte gashing the Skins' terrible run defense, which is not a likely scenario facing Green Bay's fourth ranked unit. Forte still figures to register solid yardage numbers given his abilities as a receiver, but with the Packers likely to build a sizeable lead, expect Chicago to abandon the run relatively early.

Predictions: Lacy and Starks produce 190 total yards, with the rookie rumbling for over 100 and a score. Rodgers hooks up with Jordy Nelson, Boykin and Andrew Quarless for touchdowns in a 246-yard effort. McCown pitches it for 281 yards and TD's to Marshall and Jeffery, while Forte chips in 93 total yards. Packers 34-20.