By Kyle Fisher
Welker torched his old team for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7, and while the Patriots passing attack struggled last week, weather is not expected to be factor this weekend. The forecast is for a few showers, but the highs will be in the 40's. With Tom Brady just five touchdowns short of the NFL-record, we expect the ball to be in the air a lot and Welker to be a big beneficiary.
While the Seahawks had an unexpected loss to Carolina last week, it was more the inefficiency of the running game than Hasselbeck's performance. Hasselbeck has averaged two touchdown passes over his last nine games, and we expect that to continue against a Ravens defense that is just 23rd against the pass and has allowed 23 touchdowns, including a game-winner to the previously winless Dolphins. With Seattle back at home, look for a big effort from Hasselbeck.
Brandon Jacobs vs. BUF
Jacobs is back as the Giants No. 1 running back. He had a solid 160 total yards last week despite dropping several passes from Eli Manning. Jacobs is matched up against a Bill defense that is 22nd in the league in rushing and gave up 163 yards rushing to Jamal Lewis in the snow storm last week. While the weather is expected to be warmer than normal in Buffalo, snow showers are in the forecast, and we see the Giants trying to win by keeping the ball on the ground.
LenDale White vs. NYJ
White is back to being the Titans' workhorse back. He had 54 carries the last two weeks and is the type of back who gets stronger as the game gets longer. White should be productive for fantasy owners this week, as he faces a Jets defense that is 30th in the league against the run, allowing 141.1 yards per game. The Jets have allowed 100-plus yard rushers in three of the last four weeks, and we can see White making that four out of five.
Kolby Smith vs. DET
Smith was solid last week against a Titans defense playing with a limited Albert Haynesworth. Smith gained 105 total yards and has played well in three of his four stars. This week he faces a Lions defense that has allowed four 100-yard rushers in the last four weeks. The Lions are 21st against the run, surrendering 116.5 yards per game and have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (17). The only thing that could stop Smith is the prospect that Larry Johnson might play. Owners should keep tabs on this, as the back that gets the bulk of the carries should have a good week.
By all accounts, this has been a down year for Palmer. His interceptions are up while his yards per attempt and passer rating are down. However, this week Palmer faces the team in which he had his most success against this season. In Week 2 against the Browns, Palmer threw for 401 yards and six touchdowns. While not calling for an exact repeat performance, we see Palmer having a strong game. The weather is not expected to be a huge factor, but keep an eye on it, as this could have a great affect on Palmer's value.
While the Steelers have one of the better defenses in the NFL, they haven't played like it the last two weeks. They gave up 399 yards in the air to Tom Brady two weeks ago and then gave up a combined 216 yards rushing to Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew last week. This week, they face perhaps the NFL's hottest running back. Jackson has not rushed for less than 90 yards in the past five weeks and despite getting blown out against the Packers last week, still rushed for 143 yards and a touchdown. While Jackson is not all the way back to the beast of 2006, he is close.
Marshall wasn't selected to the Pro Bowl, but he is playing like a Pro Bowler. In his last two games, he has caught 21 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. In the blowout loss to the Chargers earlier in the season, Marshall caught seven passes for 72 yards despite the Broncos scoring only three points -- and the Chargers do give up yardage, ranking 22nd in the league in passing yardage allowed.
Shaun Alexander vs. BAL
Where have you gone Shaun Alexander? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Alexander has gone into hiding for several weeks, gaining just 120 yards in his last three games. Alexander is not the same back he was in 2005, when he set the then NFL-record 27 rushing touchdowns. This week, Alexander faces a Ravens defense that, while not the Ravens defense of the past, is still excellent against the run, allowing just 77 yards a game on a league leading 2.8 yards per carry. Expect Alexander's struggles to continue.
Clinton Portis vs. MIN
One of the certainties in football in the last two years is that nobody runs on the Vikings. The Vikings are No. 1 in the NFL against the run, allowing just 67.9 yards per game on the ground on just 3.0 yards per carry. Portis has averaged just 67.2 yards per game against the four Top-10 run defenses he has faced. We see a similar performance for Portis in this game.
Sage Rosenfels vs. IND
Rosenfels has been steady in the three games since starter Matt Schaub was injured. He has thrown at least one touchdown in every game and has thrown just two interceptions in three weeks. However, this week he is matched up against the league's No. 1 pass defense in Indianapolis. The Colts allow just 162.4 yards per game and a league-best 5.6 yards per attempt. This should definitely be a step up in class for Rosenfels this week.
This may be more of Eli Manning vs. the elements. While the Bills do not have a great pass defense, ranking 28th, it is December in Buffalo. Manning has a history of struggling in cold weather, as evidenced by last week's performance against Washington and his struggles against New Orleans and Washington at the end of last season. Buffalo also struggles against the run, which should provide the Giants the opportunity to move the ball in the form of Brandon Jacobs.
Dominic Rhodes/Lamont Jordan vs. JAC
At press time, Raiders coach Lane Kiffin had not named a starter, but neither of these two should be starting in your lineup. Jacksonville has been great against the run lately holding its last five opponents to just under 80 yards a game on the ground. Jordan started off the season like a house of fire, but injuries slowed him, while Rhodes benefits from the recent injury to Justin Fargas. Still, this does not appear to be the week to use a Raider running back despite the team's improved running game.
Thomas Jones vs. TEN
After a good effort against Cleveland, Jones struggled mightily against the Patriots last week, rushing for just 19 yards. While he should improve on that total this week, don't look for the type of numbers to help your fantasy team a great deal. The Titans are still solid against the run, seventh in the league, even though they have not been as dominate since Albert Haynesworth's hamstring injury. However, Haynesworth should play, and with the Titans playoff hopes on the line, expect an all-out performance by the Titans.
Houston defense vs. IND
The Texans are much improved defensively, and perhaps in hindsight made the smart selection by drafting defensive end Mario Williams over Reggie Bush and Vince Young. Williams has nine sacks in his last five games and is second in the NFL with 13 sacks. While the Texans defense has improved, as evidenced by allowing 27 points and recording nine sacks in its last two games, it is not facing Jay Cutler and Luke McCown this week. The Colts have averaged 33.2 points a game against the Texans in their last five meeting, including 30 earlier this year. While the Texans are definitely headed in the right direction, expect them to get knocked off course this week.