Fantasy Football Matchups: Week 7

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 0-5 stars (with five stars suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any stars suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute. You should be able to compare the ratings for the players on your team and make an educated pick on who should start -- and sit -- in your lineup .

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Soldier Field
All eyes are on Adrian Peterson , who ran for over 220 yards against this Bears team in Chicago last year. The Bears' run defense has been stout again in '08, but they were in '07 when they played Peterson the first time and he dominated them. By now, the Bears will have taken notice of Bernard Berrian and have a solution to covering him. That might be all Peterson will need to run well, and run without fumbles (he's likely focused on that problem in practice this week). Expect a big game from Peterson and the Vikings to run a bunch. The matchup is not as promising for Matt Forte , who has done well rushing inside this season and will struggle to do so this week. All of the long runs against Minnesota this season have come on the outside, so look for Forte to try and work the edges and be a factor in the pass attack. Otherwise, expect a suddenly confident Kyle Orton to employ his receivers and tight ends much like he has in his last four games. Devin Hester has been playing well and made his first legit reception last year vs. the Vikings on an 81-yard touchdown bomb. He has 11 receptions for 153 yards in his last two games and is looking the part of a wideout. Greg Olsen and Rashied Davis will also help the cause. Both DSTs should be good but not spectacular.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Gus Frerotte ** QB Kyle Orton ***
Adrian Peterson ***** RB Matt Forte ***
Chester Taylor * RB Kevin Jones
Bernard Berrian **** WR Devin Hester ***
Bobby Wade * WR Rashied Davis *
Visanthe Shiancoe ** TE Greg Olsen ***
Ryan Longwell *** K Robbie Gould **
Vikings **** DST Bears ***
Dallas Cowboys at St. Louis Rams
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Edward Jones Dome
With or without Tony Romo , the Cowboys have a great matchup against a defense that grossly overachieved last week at Washington. The Rams won't be able to handle covering Terrell Owens , Jason Witten , Roy Williams and Marion Barber with the Cowboys making a mistake. That said, Brad Johnson is more prone to making mistakes than Romo. If Johnson plays, reel in expectations a smidge and expect a couple of turnovers. If Romo plays, then the Cowboys should steamroll the Rams. Interestingly enough, the Rams have fallen into a perfect matchup here as they are playing at home and the Cowboys' secondary is decimated. Do not be surprised to see season-best stats from Marc Bulger and Torry Holt , and a strong effort from Steven Jackson . The score could be high much like it was in the Cowboys-Cardinals game last week.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Brad Johnson *** QB Marc Bulger **
Marion Barber ***** RB Steven Jackson ****
Tashard Choice * RB Travis Minor
Terrell Owens **** WR Torry Holt ***
Roy Williams ** WR Donnie Avery *
Jason Witten ***** TE Joe Klopfenstein
Nick Folk **** K Josh Brown **
Cowboys **** DST Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Paul Brown Stadium
The Steelers will try to run the ball against the Bengals with Mewelde Moore , who will play in place of Willie Parker . We would have expected a big week from Parker, but Moore isn't the same rusher, and the Steelers may not be willing to give Moore the kind of work they would have given Parker. That said, expect decent stats from Moore but figure that Ben Roethlisberger will take the offense into his hands. Yes, the Bengals' secondary isn't all that bad, but the Steelers have a way against them, especially Hines Wards (two TDs in each meeting last year). Pittsburgh should post a bunch of points. The Bengals? Not so much. Ryan Fitzpatrick will have the tough task of facing a blitzing defense that's been playing great defensively. Simply getting the ball to T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson will be a challenge, and running the ball will be nearly impossible. If you can help it, bail out on starting any Bengals this week -- it's not going to be pretty.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Ben Roethlisberger ***** QB Ryan Fitzpatrick *
Mewelde Moore *** RB Cedric Benson
Najeh Davenport * RB Chris Perry
Hines Ward **** WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh **
Santonio Holmes *** WR Chad Johnson **
Heath Miller **** TE Ben Utecht
Jeff Reed *** K Dave Rayner
Steelers ***** DST Bengals
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Bank of America Stadium
Drew Brees has a good history playing at Carolina and will only have the same kind of success here if Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey are both back. Between them, Reggie Bush and the stepped-up play of Lance Moore and Devery Henderson , there are too many weapons for the Panthers' defensive backs to account for. Brees should do well, but picking the player to benefit most (other than Bush), is a toss-up. Moore seems like the safest bet even with Colston returning. The Panthers will find themselves up against a defense that's been sparkling against the run of late -- no rusher has posted a good average on New Orleans in its last two games. With Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams not expected to produce a ton of stats, look for good numbers from Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith , who has scored in four of his last five against the Saints (including once last year without Delhomme.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Drew Brees ***** QB Jake Delhomme ***
Reggie Bush **** RB Jonathan Stewart **
Deuce McAllister ** RB DeAngelo Williams **
Marques Colston *** WR Steve Smith ****
Lance Moore *** WR Muhsin Muhammad ***
Jeremy Shockey ** TE Dante Rosario
Taylor Mehlhaff ** K John Kasay ***
Saints ** DST Panthers **
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Dolphin Stadium
This shouldn't be a high-scoring game. The Ravens have had some trouble running the ball lately, and the Dolphins have improved in run defense. No Ravens rusher has been good for more than 70 yards in any of their last three games, and if not for some Le'Ron McClain touchdowns, there would be no reason to start either back. The passing game has struggled, so it's hard to count on Todd Heap or Derrick Mason . The Dolphins won't be able to Wildcat their way to a blowout win here as the Ravens surely have plans for the formation. Ronnie Brown will have trouble making headway against this defense, and the passing game will struggle as well. This is a good week to start both DSTs.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Joe Flacco * QB Chad Pennington **
Le'Ron McClain ** RB Ronnie Brown ***
Willis McGahee ** RB Ricky Williams *
Derrick Mason ** WR Greg Camarillo *
Mark Clayton * WR Ted Ginn
Todd Heap * TE Anthony Fasano *
Matt Stover *** K Dan Carpenter **
Ravens ***** DST Dolphins ****
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Arrowhead Stadium
Tennessee should be able to get away with running the ball early and often at Kansas City. The Chiefs tend to play better at home, but the Titans have been so good on the ground that it's not likely to matter. Chris Johnson and LenDale White should be fine with Bo Scaife a sleeper at tight end. The Chiefs will play without Larry Johnson , who is suspended for violating a team rule. That's going to force the passing issue, and that's not good with Brodie Croyle under center. It's going to be a tough week for Tony Gonzalez and Dwayne Bowe -- you might not be able to get away from starting them against Tennessee, but you should keep expectations low. The Titans DST is the third-best play in this game.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kerry Collins ** QB Brodie Croyle **
Chris Johnson ***** RB Jamaal Charles *
LenDale White *** RB Kolby Smith *
Justin McCareins * WR Dwayne Bowe ***
Brandon Jones   WR Devard Darling
Bo Scaife *** TE Tony Gonzalez ***
Rob Bironas ***** K Nick Novak **
Titans ***** DST Chiefs **
San Diego Chargers at Buffalo Bills
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ralph Wilson Stadium
The last time the Chargers came East, the Dolphins held them to 10 points. Buffalo's defense is healthy, especially in the secondary, and the club is rested coming off a bye. This should be a good week for LaDainian Tomlinson to show us what he's got; the running back looked better last week vs. the Patriots and says his toe is almost all the way healed. The Chargers should use him and Darren Sproles a bunch to set up the play-action pass, almost the opposite of what they did vs. New England last week, especially with Chris Chambers likely to be inactive. The Bills will fight back with a big dose of Marshawn Lynch and some intermediate routes to try and cash in on a suspect San Diego secondary. Trent Edwards isn't a stat machine, but he should make use of Lee Evans and maybe even tight end Robert Royal against the Bolts. Lynch's carries will be key as if he can churn out the yardage, it will keep the Chargers' offense off the field.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Philip Rivers ** QB Trent Edwards ***
LaDainian Tomlinson **** RB Marshawn Lynch ****
Darren Sproles ** RB Fred Jackson *
Vincent Jackson *** WR Lee Evans ****
Craig Davis   WR Josh Reed *
Antonio Gates **** TE Robert Royal **
Nate Kaeding *** K Rian Lindell ***
Chargers ** DST Bills **
San Francisco 49ers at N.Y. Giants
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Giants Stadium
The Niners struggled in this game last year and likely will this week, too. J.T. O'Sullivan has been sacked 25 times and will see that number rise against a feisty Giants' pass rush. That's going to hurt his production and therefore the production of his receivers. Frank Gore is a good play here, but it wouldn't be surprising if he didn't get much more than 100 total yards. The Giants should come back with the ground game, followed by Eli Manning throwing off of play action. Once a lead is built, look for Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward to really lead the charge. The Giants' offense should be strong against a road-weary squad.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
J.T. O'Sullivan ** QB Eli Manning ****
Frank Gore **** RB Brandon Jacobs *****
DeShaun Foster   RB Derrick Ward **
Isaac Bruce ** WR Plaxico Burress ****
Arnaz Battle   WR Amani Toomer **
Vernon Davis   TE Kevin Boss *
Joe Nedney ** K John Carney ****
49ers ** DST Giants *****
Detroit Lions at Houston Texans
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Reliant Stadium
The Lions are waving the white flag on the 2008 season and will go with a shell of its formerly potent offense. Even though the Texans don't rank high vs. the run or the pass, the matchup isn't good for Detroit, and that starts with Dan Orlovsky at quarterback. He's not going to be good for anyone, including Calvin Johnson . Kevin Smith has a chance to make plays ( Rudi Johnson does too, I guess), so he's a sneaky low-end No. 3 rusher. The Texans should pound the Lions with the run game; Steve Slaton is a beast so long as he gets in a good amount of work. Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub will lead the offense, and Kevin Walter fills in as a quality bye-week replacement if you need one.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Dan Orlovsky * QB Matt Schaub ****
Kevin Smith ** RB Steve Slaton ****
Rudi Johnson * RB Ahman Green *
Calvin Johnson *** WR Andre Johnson *****
Mike Furrey * WR Kevin Walter ***
Michael Gaines   TE Owen Daniels ***
Jason Hanson * K Kris Brown ***
Lions ** DST Texans ***
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Lambeau Field
Look for plenty of offense here. The Colts had to have liked building a big lead with their passing game last week and could aim to do the same here, especially if the Packers' secondary is without some (or all) starters. Dominic Rhodes is a good option this week as he'll be involved on the ground and through the air, but he'll be really special if the Colts build a lead and then sit on it by running the ball. Green Bay's approach will be a little bit different. They might use Ryan Grant first, trying to grind out first downs as teams try to do against the Colts to keep Peyton Manning off the field. But, as they've done in nearly every game this season, they'll inevitably throw the ball, and they should do well even though the Colts' pass defense is ranked high.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Peyton Manning ***** QB Aaron Rodgers ****
Dominic Rhodes *** RB Ryan Grant ***
Clifton Dawson   RB Brandon Jackson
Reggie Wayne ***** WR Greg Jennings ****
Marvin Harrison *** WR Donald Driver ***
Dallas Clark *** TE Donald Lee *
Adam Vinatieri **** K Mason Crosby *****
Colts ** DST Packers *
N.Y. Jets at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 4:15 pm, McAfee Coliseum
Should be a one-sided game as the Jets' offense has the ability to take advantage of mismatches and the defense should corral the Raiders. Look for New York to be balanced with the run and the pass, maybe using the pass to move the chains and the run to score. It won't be pretty for Oakland either way -- they've allowed eight rushing touchdowns and eight passing touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Jets are ranked third vs. the run and will be able to focus on stopping Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden . That will force the Raiders to pass, and it's been a while since we've seen them do that well. The Jets DST is a solid play this week, and the club should run away with this one.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Brett Favre **** QB JaMarcus Russell
Thomas Jones **** RB Justin Fargas **
Leon Washington * RB Darren McFadden *
Laveranues Coles **** WR Ronald Curry
Jerricho Cotchery **** WR Javon Walker
Dustin Keller * TE Zach Miller *
Jay Feely ** K Sebastian Janikowski **
Jets ***** DST Raiders *
Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins
Sunday, 4:15 pm, FedEx Field
The Browns' offense came alive last week against a good Giants defense by spreading the defense early. To do that at Washington might be tougher as the Redskins' secondary has played moderately well. Expect a decent outing from Braylon Edwards , better than he's been giving you, as well as Kellen Winslow , but the Browns can't post big points without Jamal Lewis doing well, and the Redskins' run defense has turned the corner. They've allowed one rushing touchdown over the last four weeks with no 100-yard games. Lewis has his work cut out for him. The Redskins should be able to fight back with Clinton Portis , but he's not going to get a full workload as his hip is bothering him. Look for Washington to call for Jason Campbell to reconnect with Santana Moss against a bad secondary. Campbell will have to carry the load to help Portis, and getting on the same page with Moss is in order after Moss' two poor previous weeks.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Derek Anderson *** QB Jason Campbell ***
Jamal Lewis ** RB Clinton Portis *****
Jerome Harrison   RB Shaun Alexander
Braylon Edwards *** WR Santana Moss ****
Donte' Stallworth ** WR Antwaan Randle El *
Kellen Winslow ** TE Chris Cooley *****
Phil Dawson *** K Shaun Suisham *****
Browns ** DST Redskins ***
Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, 8:15 pm, Raymond James Stadium
This should be a one-sided affair. Seattle's offense is beat up at quarterback and facing a tough matchup at running back. Julius Jones , the guy most likely to get the most touches, will see a hard time against a Bucs' run defense not allowing 90 rush yards per game or a single rush TD on the season. It's going to be hard to start any Seahawks this week; their goal should be to come out of this game healthy and nothing more. With that being the case, the Buccaneers should be balanced until they build a big lead, then lean on rushers Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn to kill the clock. Jeff Garcia stats shouldn't be big, but good enough to be a 10-to-15 point Fantasy option.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Seneca Wallace * QB Jeff Garcia ***
Julius Jones * RB Earnest Graham ****
Maurice Morris   RB Warrick Dunn **
Bobby Engram * WR Antonio Bryant **
Koren Robinson   WR Ike Hilliard **
John Carlson * TE Jerramy Stevens *
Olindo Mare * K Matt Bryant *
Seahawks ** DST Buccaneers *****
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
Monday, 8:30 pm, Gillette Stadium
The Broncos have always tried to scheme well for the Patriots and should be able to do so this week as New England's secondary is struggling. Expect Jay Cutler to throw quite a bit, and that should spell results for Brandon Marshall , Brandon Stokley and Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler (if they're active). Michael Pittman is also a safe play as New England struggles with versatile running backs ( LaDainian Tomlinson and Ronnie Brown , to name two). The Patriots will likely come back with good balance as the Broncos are bad against the run and stunningly awful against the pass. Then again, the Chargers were bad against the pass last week and the Patriots couldn't capitalize. Randy Moss and Wes Welker should still be started as the matchup is good, even if the quarterback throwing to them isn't. Sammy Morris also has a shot to post quality stats as he's been the most reliable New England running back so far and should score on a run defense that's allowed seven rush TDs on the season.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jay Cutler **** QB Matt Cassel **
Michael Pittman *** RB Sammy Morris ***
Andre Hall   RB Kevin Faulk *
Brandon Marshall ***** WR Randy Moss ***
Eddie Royal ** WR Wes Welker ***
Brandon Stokley ** WR Jabar Gaffney
Tony Scheffler ** TE Benjamin Watson *
Matt Prater **** K Stephen Gostkowski ****
Broncos ** DST Patriots ****
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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