Cowboys (5-4) at Saints (6-2)
Time (TV): 8:30 p.m. (NBC).
Line: Saints by 7.
Notable: Last week, Rob Ryan squared off against his brother, Rex. But this week (dramatic movie voice) ... it’s personal. Ryan was the defensive coordinator for Dallas in 2011 and 2012, then got fired after the Cowboys missed the playoffs. The team could point to a drop from 14th to 19th in total defense, but it looked to many — not least to Ryan himself, who claimed he’d be “out of work for like 5 minutes” — that he was being scapegoated, especially since his unit had been racked by injuries. This season, Ryan has done wonders with the Saints, getting them to ninth in total defense after they were dead last in 2012. The Cowboys? They have a new coordinator (Monte Kiffin), a new scheme (4-3 instead of Ryan’s 3-4) and, one imagines, a new appreciation for the job Ryan did, considering that they are currently ranked 31st.
Fantasy scout: Darren Sproles has been cleared to play following a Week 9 concussion, and in what figures to be a shootout, he could put up some nice numbers. If he somehow manages to play his usual amount and not make a major statistical impression, he could be ripe for a buy-low offer. Sproles has only had one big game this season, so his owners could be getting quite impatient, but there’s still no reason to think that, going forward, the little guy won’t be a large part of New Orleans’s attack.
Eagles (4-5) at Packers (5-3)
Time (TV): 1 p.m. (Fox).
Line: Packers by 1.
Notable: One week ago, this matchup appeared to feature a starting quarterback who was a threat to rain touchdowns on the opposition versus a starting quarterback who was much more of a question mark. It’s still that way, but now the former plays for Philadelphia (Nick Foles) and the latter for Green Bay (Seneca Wallace). Foles almost certainly won’t throw for seven TDs again, but Wallace has the more daunting task in replacing Aaron Rodgers.
Fantasy scout: It is unclear when Rodgers will return; it might be in time for the fantasy playoffs, or he might miss the rest of the season. For owners who feel they are a lock to make their league’s playoffs and who have two QBs on their roster, now would be a good time to take advantage of that uncertainty and offer the lesser QB for Rodgers.
Bengals (6-3) at Ravens (3-5)
Time (TV): 1 p.m. (CBS).
Line: Bengals by 1.5.
Notable: You can’t spell “playoffs” without “OL,” and without better play from its OL, Baltimore likely will miss the playoffs a year after winning it all. Ray Rice may or may not have gotten old in a hurry, but the fact that he and his backup, Bernard Pierce, both are averaging a miserable 2.7 yards per carry indicates that the offensive line just hasn’t been doing its job. However, the Bengals’ defense could have a hard time doing its job after losing Geno Atkins.
Fantasy scout: Atkins isn’t the only major contributor Cincinnati has lost on defense, meaning that the Bengals could find themselves needing to throw more often than they’d prefer. Remember Marvin Jones? He was snatched off waiver wires after scoring four Week 8 TDs, but a relatively quiet Week 9 might have made him available for trade.
Broncos (7-1) at Chargers (4-4)
Time (TV): 4:25 p.m. (CBS).
Line: Broncos by 7.
Notable: With head coach John Fox out indefinitely after heart surgery, assistant Jack Del Rio has taken over in the interim. But the guess here is that Del Rio can pretty much carry on just being defensive coordinator, what with Peyton Manning remaining on the premises. Of course, Del Rio was previously a head coach, so he’s already skilled at completely unenlightening sound bites. “We believe we have a good football team,” said Del Rio. Think so, Jack?
Fantasy scout: Vincent Brown is owned in well over 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which seems entirely too many, considering he’s had just one good game all season. Denver does give up a lot of yards through the air, so he might have a nice outing today; if so, and you have him, use Good Game No. 2 to shop Brown around for whatever you can get.
Dolphins (4-4) at Buccaneers (0-8)
Time (TV): 8:40 p.m. (ESPN).
Line: Dolphins by 2.5.
Notable: Between Richie Incognito and Greg Schiano, Miami and Tampa Bay are doing a remarkable job of turning Jacksonville into Florida’s least embarrassing NFL team. If this thing gets out of hand, the game announcers will certainly still have plenty to talk about, but it probably won’t, given the Bucs’ propensity for playing teams close before inevitably losing. A distracted Dolphins squad could be just what Tampa needs for that first win.
Fantasy scout: Doug Martin is still holding out hope of returning this season from a shoulder injury that will eventually require surgery. This has put his owners, especially those who were unable to secure the services of Mike James, in a tough spot. If possible, they should hold on to Martin at least another week, in hopes of getting some clarity.
Seahawks (8-1) at Falcons (2-6)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 5.
Notable: These two teams last met in the 2012 playoffs, when Atlanta came away with a thrilling victory. They might play another exciting game today, but the similarities would end there, at least for the Falcons. Seattle is well on its way back to the postseason, while Atanta is on a fast, indoor track to nowhere. Poor Matt Ryan sorely misses Julio Jones, but he might have Roddy White back.
Fantasy scout: Seattle has been gashed on the ground the past two weeks by the Rams’ Zac Stacy and the Bucs’ Mike James, so maybe there’s hope for Steven Jackson today. But Stacy and James both have the fresh legs of rookies, whereas Jackson is far from a rookie and has the decidedly stale legs to prove it.
Lions (5-3) at Bears (5-3)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Pick ‘em.
Notable: Calvin Johnson is a giant redwood that can run really fast, but Chicago has its own pretty nice pair of sequoias. Brandon Marshall (6-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) are on pace to become the first set of Bears receivers to each record a 1,200-yard season. They could make it difficult for Detroit to make like a tree and leave with a win.
Fantasy scout: Your league’s resident Reggie Bush owner was likely smart enough to handcuff him to Joique Bell. But if not (Bell is available in 37 percent of Yahoo! leagues), find room on your bench to stash the backup RB. He’s nearly as good a fit for Detroit’s high-powered offense as the injury-prone Bush.
Raiders (3-5) at Giants (2-6)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Giants by 7.
Notable: We’ll find out if the bye came at a bad time for the Giants. They were hot! Relatively speaking that is, having won two in a row after starting the season 0-6. Big Blue does have a good chance of picking up where it left off, because Oakland hasn’t won a road game in over a year and may be without star RB Darren Mcfadden (hamstring injury).
Fantasy scout: Andre Brown is set to make his season debut for New York, and while he’ll likely be eased back into action, he’d be well worth a pick up if still available in your league. The Giants’ current collection of running backs can be defined in technical terms as “yucky,” so Brown should quickly lead the pack.
Rams (3-6) at Colts (6-2)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Colts by 9.
Notable: Indy Coach Chuck Pagano says his team’s penchant for getting off to slow starts is “big pink elephant in the middle of the room.” However, Andrew Luck has a way of driving that elephant out of the room and into the next county. With Luck leading the charge, the Colts have outscored opponents 101-57 in the second half, and 59-29 in the fourth quarter.
Fantasy scout: St. Louis has given Zac Stacy 53 carries in the past two games, and one gets the feeling that they’d give him more than that today if they could. Stacy is the unquestioned focal point of the team’s offense, and even if it’s not a very good offense, that kind of workload gives Stacy high-RB2 value.
Bills (3-6) at Steelers (2-6)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Steelers by 3.
Notable: “Tuel Time” lasted just long enough for Buffalo to be incredibly relieved to get not just starter E.J. Manuel back, but backup QB Thad Lewis as well. Manuel is expected to play after a four-week absence, just in time to face a Steelers defense eager to redeem itself after allowing the most points (55) in franchise history last week.
Fantasy scout: Heath Miller had a couple of splashy games shortly after his return from injury, but his statistics have fallen off late. He continues to be a reliable outlet for Ben Roethlisberger, but with Le’Veon Bell’s emergence as another short-passing option, Miller isn’t looking like more than a TE2.
Jaguars (0-8) at Titans (4-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Titans by 12.
Notable: Tennessee has a great opportunity to get above .500 and stake a claim as a dark-horse playoff contender. Quick quiz: Who plays defense for this team? Well, two players you might not have been able to name are defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and cornerback Alterraun Verner, but they are a big reason why Tennessee is seventh versus the pass.
Fantasy scout: Amid the wreckage of the Jags’ season, Cecil Shorts III is on track for over 1,000 yards receiving, a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that a Jacksonville player hasn’t done that since 2005. Particularly with Justin Blackmon suspended, Shorts is a good trade target.
Panthers (5-3) at 49ers (6-2)
Time: 4:05 p.m.
Line: 49ers by 6.
Notable: Carolina has won four in a row over teams with a combined record of 7-27. San Francisco has won five in a row over teams with a combined record of 13-28. Finally, these bullies (if I may be allowed to use that word in an NFL context) are being forced to pick on someone their own size. However, the Panthers went 13-19 the previous two seasons, so they have more to prove.
Fantasy scout: Michael Crabtree was cleared to practice this week, but don't tear your Achilles’ (you know, like he did) rushing to grab him off waivers. He’s still quite limited and probably won’t appear in a game for several more weeks. Crabtree’s return is worth monitoring, however, and he could eventually be a WR2.
Texans (2-6) at Cardinals (4-4)
Time: 4:25 p.m.
Line: Cardinals by 3.
Notable: As with Denver, Houston finds its head coach out for health-related reasons. Quite unlike the Broncos, the Texans are having a lousy season. They are mired in a six-game losing streak, the longest in franchise history. At least young QB Case Keenum has brought a spark; now Houston just needs him to bring it a much-needed victory.
Fantasy scout: Larry Fitzgerald has emerged from the Cardinals’s bye week a new man! Well, a man with healthy hamstrings, at any rate. He was not listed on the team’s injury report, and he could be in store for a very nice second half of the season (at least until the Cards travel to Seattle in Week 16).