Chiefs (9-0) at Broncos (8-1)
Time (TV): 8:30 p.m. (NBC).
Line: Denver by 8.
Notable: The Chiefs have six starters on defense who have four or fewer years of NFL experience, with linebacker Derrick Johnson the elder statesman at just under 31 years old. In other words, Kansas City is not just talented on defense but fairly young. Which is bad news for Peyton Manning — in his current condition, the last thing he needs to see coming at him is a pack of ankle-biters. Even though Kansas City is the side bringing the undefeated record to this marquee matchup, it still has a lot to prove to many people, including the folks in Las Vegas who made it, remarkably enough, the second-biggest underdog of the week. But Manning, who is essentially the reason Denver is favored by so much, must also prove that he can play effectively through a right ankle sprain. We’ve seen Manning throw some wounded ducks this season; now he could be a sitting duck for the likes of 24-year-old Justin Houston and 23-year-old Dontari Poe.
Fantasy scout: Recent reports indicated that the Broncos were planning to scale back Knowshon Moreno’s role, both to keep him fresh and to give high draft pick Montee Ball some more seasoning. That hasn’t really happened, and given Moreno’s pass-blocking ability and Manning’s aforementioned gimpiness, it almost certainly won’t happen today. But Ball would be a smart add for Moreno owners, at least as a handcuff and possibly as a flex play in a pinch. Ball will get work when the Broncos have a big lead, which should be often, and he’ll get goal-line carries.
Ravens (4-5) at Bears (5-4)
Time (TV): 1 p.m. (CBS).
Line: Chicago by 3.
Notable: Coach John Harbaugh said his Ravens, who beat the Bengals in overtime after allowing a Hail Mary touchdown, showed “the heart of champions.” The Bears would simply settle for exhibiting the body parts of healthy NFL players. Chicago has been ravaged by injuries, particularly on defense. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is also out but, given the solid play of backup Josh McCown, that may be a lesser concern than stopping even an offense as mediocre as Baltimore’s.
Fantasy scout: Harbaugh also mentioned this week that he envisioned giving more carries to whichever running back — Ray Rice or Bernard Pierce — seemed to be playing better. So there could be a changing of the guard in the Ravens’ backfield, although an actual changing of the left or right guard might be no less of a desperation move.
49ers (6-3) at Saints (7-2)
Time (TV): 4:25 p.m., Ch. 5 (Fox)
Line: New Orleans by 3.
Notable: The last time San Francisco played in the Superdome, the power went out in Super Bowl XLVII. This time, they’ll probably need a lights-out performance from Colin Kaepernick in order to keep up with Drew Brees. The Saints QB has thrown 13 touchdowns and no picks in his past three home games, which New Orleans was won by a total of 122-51.
Fantasy scout: Kaepernick has generally been a disapointment to his fantasy owners, never more so than in last week’s dismal showing against the Panthers. But he could be a big help down the stretch, as he gets better matchups and a more complete receiving corps, including Michael Crabtree.
Patriots (7-2) at Panthers (6-3)
Time (TV): 8:40 p.m., Monday (ESPN).
Line: Carolina by 2.
Notable: Well, it looks like Carolina is for real, at least on defense. (You’ll note that I didn’t go with ‘Welp’ to start the previous sentence. When did everyone decide to write — because I’m pretty sure that no one actually says it — ‘welp,’ anyway? And now, back to football.) In fact, the Panthers are the only team in the NFL’s top five in both rushing (No. 2) and passing (No. 4) defense. But after slipping by the 49ers, Carolina has a major test in the getting-healthier-by-the-minute Patriots.
Fantasy scout: Shane Vereen returns to New England’s lineup after breaking his wrist in Week 1. Here’s hoping he finds it tough sledding against the Panthers, because that might be your only chance to pry him and his potential gold mine of production, especially in points per reception (PPR) leagues, from owners who have held onto him all this long, long time.
Jets (5-4) at Bills (3-7)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Buffalo by 1.
Notable: Jets rookie Sheldon Richardson has gotten some much-deserved acclaim for his strong play, but Bills rookie Kiko Alonso’s performance so far warrants plenty of praise, as well. He has a team-high and NFL rookie-best 99 tackles with 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery and 4 interceptions. Plus, he merits extra credit for going with “Kiko” instead of his given name, Kristian.
Fantasy scout: Santonio Holmes is expected to return to the Jets after missing five games with injury, and he has a chance to make a splash, considering the team’s dearth of receiving talent. But even if he does well today, Holmes is a poor bet for consistent numbers, given his fragility and Geno Smith’s up-and-down tendencies.
Lions (6-3) at Steelers (3-6)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Detroit by 2.
Notable: Detroit hasn’t won in Pittsburgh since 1955, but so what? It hadn’t tasted victory on Redskins soil since 1939, and we all remember what happened in Week 3, don’t we? (Hint: the Lions won at FedEx Field.) For its part, Pittsburgh is 0-2 against the NFC North this season, having lost at Minnesota after being drubbed at home by Chicago.
Fantasy scout: Jerricho Cotchery has four TDs in his past two outings, but it will take more than that to make him worth an add. With the return of promising rookie Markus Wheaton, Cotchery is more likely to descend to No. 4 on Pittsburgh’s WR depth chart than to ascend higher than his current No. 3 status.
Browns (4-5) at Bengals (6-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Cincinnati by 6.
Notable: It’s true that you can’t spell “Paul Brown Stadium event” without “overtime,” but Cincinnati is likely happier about the former than worried about the latter. After losing two straight in overtime and on the road, the Bengals return home, where they are 4-0, having outscored opponents 116-55. If Cincy keeps that up, it’ll keep winning, well within regulation, no less.
Fantasy scout: The Bengals are fairly stingy to tight ends, and a below-par outing for Jordan Cameron would give him two straight bad games sandwiched around a bye week. That might give you a chance to snag one of the few legitimate TE1s from someone unhappy with what Cameron had done for him lately.
Falcons (2-7) at Buccaneers (1-8)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Atlanta by 1.
Notable: Tampa Bay has finally tasted victory, while the sight of the Bucs might be the only thing that reminds Atlanta what that feels like. The Falcons have lost six of their past seven games, but did get that one, delicious victory against Tampa Bay back on Oct. 20. In what’s probably not a coincidence, that was also the last time Matt Ryan played really well.
Fantasy scout: Having lost Doug Martin and Mike James, the Bucs are down to a committeee, at least for now, of Brian Leonard and Bobby Rainey. It’s probably too much to expect either guy to replicate James’s stats, let alone Martin’s 2012 form, but both are worth owning as speculative plays.
Cardinals (5-4) at Jaguars (1-8)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Arizona by 7.
Notable: Like Tampa Bay, Jacksonville finally has a ‘1’ in its record, which might be what guard Uche Nwaneri wanted to indicate when he said its win last week was like giving critics the “middle finger.” Now the Jags will try to win two straight for the first time since 2010, which presumably give Nwaneri an opportunity to display two fingers.
Fantasy scout: According to Football Outsiders, Houston is pretty good at covering No. 1 WRs (12th) and terrible at covering No. 2 WRs (31st), so it’s no shock that the Cards largely ignore Larry Fitzgerald in favor of secondary targets. Just like it will be no shock when he resumes putting up good numbers.
Raiders (3-6) at Texans (2-7)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Houston by 7.
Notable: Case Keenum is the first undrafted first-year quarterback to throw three touchdown passes in consecutive games since Butch Songin in 1960. That was the debut season of the AFL, and Songin was a 36-year-old CFL veteran who had previously notched the AFL’s first completion. So, maybe not the most apt comparison, but solid trivia!
Fantasy scout: Rashad Jennings has played well while Darren McFadden recovers from (yet another) injury, and could have at least flex-player value even when McFadden returns. Oakland Coach Dennis Allen said this week that Jennings has “earned” his share of touches going forward.
Chargers (4-5) at Dolphins (4-5)
Time: 4:05 p.m.
Line: San Diego by 1.
Notable: Lately, things have come in twos for Miami, most of them bad. So after losing a pair of offensive linemen — you might have heard something about that — and rushing for only two yards last week, the Dolphins are just hoping to avoid a two-game losing streak. The good news for their porous line is that San Diego has just two sacks over its past two games.
Fantasy scout: When a player has about as many catches and yards in Week 10 as he had in Weeks 1-9, there’s a good chance that performance was a fluke. So today could go a long way toward revealing whether second-year WR Rishard Matthews has been given a consistent role in the Dolphins’ offense.
Packers (5-4) at Giants (3-6)
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Line: New York by 5.
Notable: With their team at 3-6, Giants fans are dreaming big, full of optimism about moving toward a division title. With their team at 5-4, Packers fans are making like Cheesehead Littles, full of fear that the sky is about to fall on their heads. Such is life when an NFC East team on a three-game winning streak finds itself squaring aff against an NFC North squad on a two-game losing streak, especially when the latter is coping without its all-universe, discount-doublechecking quarterback.
Fantasy scout: The hand-wringing over Aaron Rodgers’s absence isn’t just felt by Green Bay fans, of course. Fantasy owners with a stake in the Packers’ attack are currently a fretful bunch, which is why now would be a good time to make an offer for Jordy Nelson, who himself is in perfectly good health and should still see plenty of targets.
Vikings (2-7) at Seahawks (9-1)
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Line: Seattle by 12.
Notable: It’s fair to say that the Minnesota fans have missed Percy Harvin. It’s also fair to say that Seattle fans have no idea what they’ve been missing. Harvin, shelved all season with a hip injury, finally appears ready to go, and as fate may have it, he would go against his former team. The Vikings are having a bad season, and with or without Harvin, they’ll have their hands full today.
Fantasy scout: In his first shot at replacing Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson outdid all expectations, piling up seven catches for 98 yards and a score. So that puts him on the fantasy radar, but it also gets the attention of opposing defenses. The Seahawks may opt to make a priority of covering Carlson.