Bears (4-3) at Packers (5-2)
Time (TV): 8:40 p.m., Monday (ESPN).
Line: Packers by 10.5.
Notable: NFL teams usually try to spend their bye weeks getting healthier, but Chicago will have a decidedly depleted look in Green Bay. In its most recent game, two weeks ago in Washington, the Bears lost both their offensive and defensive leaders in Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs. Cutler is expected back sooner than Briggs, possibly as early as next week, but in the meantime, Josh McCown will take the snaps. But will he look like a McClown, or will the Packers end up McCrowning his [Denny Green can say it, but we can’t]? Bears fans are probably just glad they’re not getting 1999 first-round bust Cade McNown, and, in fact, McCown played very well in relief of Cutler against the Redskins. But the Packers field one of the league’s best defenses, and they’ve beaten the Bears five straight times at Lambeau Field. Not that I’m trying to bring Chicago fans McDown.
Fantasy scout: What’s in a name? Well, for owners of several star running backs, it’s time to find out if there’s enough in their names to pry Eddie Lacy away. The Packers back has 97 carries for 395 yards and two touchdowns in his past four games, and is a better bet for fantasy production than more highly touted RBs such as Ray Rice, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson, not to mention disasters like C.J. Spiller and Chris Johnson. The trading-for-Lacy ship has probably sailed, but owners of the latter guys can harbor hope that those currently in possession of the Packer might be seduced by a big name (along with something like a WR3).
Eagles (3-5) at Raiders (3-4)
Time (TV): 4:05 p.m. (Fox).
Line: Raiders by 2.5.
Notable: While he was coaching at Oregon, Chip Kelly tried to recruit Terrelle Pryor, and when he meets Pryor at midfield after this game, it wouldn't be shocking if he slipped the QB an envelope full of cash. Pryor’s running and passing skills have more than shone through for the Raiders, and he’d probably fit Kelly’s Eagles system like a multipurpose glove. As it is, Philadelphia will again be without Michael Vick, so Kelly can only hope that lead-footed Nick Foles passes well.
Fantasy scout: LeSean McCoy owners might be starting to get nervous, because in three of his past four games, the cornerstone of their teams has put up pedestrian numbers. Another bad outing, and it could be time to walk McCoy over to the proverbial trading block. Now there’s a big name with which to tempt Lacy owners.
Ravens (3-4) at Browns (3-5)
Time (TV): 4:25 p.m. (CBS).
Line: Ravens by 2.5.
Notable: Baltimore has beaten Cleveland 11 times in a row. The Ravens are also 5-0 coming out of their bye week under Coach John Harbaugh, and won all five games by double digits. So the historical trends don’t favor the Browns, but then again, when do they ever? Well, Cleveland would like to see one recent trend continue: Whenever they have benched Brandon Weeden, the next guy — first Brian Hoyer, now Jason Campbell — has done pretty well, at least initially.
Fantasy scout: Here’s hoping the Ravens figured out something about their running game during the bye, because Ray Rice has performed miserably this season, and now gets top-12 run defenses in three of the next four weeks. But if he can improve a bit, there’s light at the end of tunnel, in the form of a fairly soft slate during the fantasy playoffs.
Colts (5-2) at Texans (2-5)
Time (TV): 8:30 p.m. (NBC).
Line: Colts by 2.5.
Notable: They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and the game tonight is a very, very big one for Case Keenum, who’s from Abilene and set all sorts of records at the University of Houston. On the other hand, Keenum is listed at just 6-1, 205, which is kind of small for an NFL quarterback, so I guess that saying doesn’t really apply to him. But given the starting nod ahead of Matt Schaub, Keenum does have a major opportunity to grab the Texans QB job by the longhorns.
Fantasy scout: The season-ending injury suffered by Reggie Wayne represented a major blow to the Colts’ passing attack, but it also means more targets for some other guys. One of those guys might be LaVon Brazill, who has yet to catch a pass this season, but who could suddenly become a WR of interest in deeper leagues.
Saints (6-1) at Jets (4-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Saints by 6.
Notable: Jets Coach Rex Ryan knows that if his team wants to make the playoffs, it can’t keep following up good games with stinkers. But as New York reeked in its last outing, he wouldn’t seeing history repeat itself just one more time. “Win one, lose one, I hope it continues this week and then we’ll figure it out,” said Ryan. The team may also have won one and lost one with its first-round draft picks; defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson has excelled, while cornerback Dee Milliner is struggling.
Fantasy scout: What’s wrong with Marques Colston? The longtime No. 1 WR in New Orleans has only one TD so far, just one game with more than 71 yards receiving and has really struggled of late, with six catches for 44 yards in his past three games. Whatever it is — his age (30) and/or all those hits going over the middle? — it’s hard to recommend Colston as a buy-low.
Chiefs (8-0) at Bills (3-5)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Chiefs by 3.
Notable: The Chiefs are the fourth team since 1970 to allow 17 points or fewer in each of its first eight games of a season. How are they doing it? Well, sure, with a strong defense. But it also helps that they have faced four QBs making their first starts of the season, and it could be five today if Jeff Tuel has to fill in for Thad Lewis. Okay, that last stat included Week 1, but that was against Blaine Gabbert, who always looks like he’s starting for the first time ever.
Fantasy scout: Now is not the time to trade for C.J. Spiller, what with him admitting that he has a high-ankle sprain and is “not back to normal yet.” But owners who can afford a roster stash might plan on trading for him ahead of his Week 12 bye, at which point Spiller owners may be willing to give him up for next to nothing. A rested, healthy Spiller could be huge down the stretch.
Vikings (1-6) at Cowboys (4-4)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Cowboys by 10.5.
Notable: After giving up 329 yards to Calvin Johnson alone, there is a good chance that Dallas won’t allow that much to the entire Minnesota squad this week. After all, the Vikes are averaging a paltry 305.9 yards per game, and they might just give Josh Freeman another start. Freeman can’t play any worse for Minnesota than he did against the Giants, but that just he means he might only be terrible. Would it be so crazy for the Vikes to put Adrian Peterson under center?
Fantasy scout: Jason Witten made news for defending Dez Bryant’s sideline tantrum, but he’s been disturbingly quiet in the box scores of late. Usually a magnet for passes (if not touchdowns), has only nine catches for 90 yards in his past three games. Minnesota should be a good matchup, so if Witten again does little, it may be time to look for an alternative at TE.
Titans (3-4) at Rams (3-5)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Titans by 3.
Notable: Jeff Fisher joins Hall of Famer Curly Lambeau as the only NFL coaches to square off against teams they coached for at least 17 seasons. Which is a reminder that, while Lambeau won six titles in his 29 seasons with the Packers, Fisher led his Titans to just one Super Bowl appearance in those 17 years. And with Kellen Clemens at the helm of the St. Louis “passing attack,” it seems like a pretty safe bet that Fisher will go to 19 seasons without that elusive title.
Fantasy scout: Titans Coach Mike Munchak said this week that he envisioned Shonn Greene getting 15 carries a game. Of course, he also sees Chris Johnson getting 20, so he apparently doesn’t plan on having to throw much in any of these games. Still, if Greene is getting 12-15 carries, plus goal-line work, he’d be a nice flex play, or even an RB2 in a pinch.
Falcons (2-5) at Panthers (4-3)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Panthers by 7.5.
Notable: These Panthers like to get their maul on, especially against bad football teams. They just played three squads with a combined record of 4-18, and beat them by a combined score of 96-38. Atlanta has lost four of its past five, so its visit to Bank of America Stadium could turn into the Maul of America if it’s not ready. The Falcons would love to get Steven Jackson untracked; the veteran RB had just 11 yards on six carries in his return from injury last week.
Fantasy scout: Jonathan Stewart is set to make his long-awaited season debut for the Panthers, and he is certainly worth a roster spot in most leagues, just to see if he quickly proves a much better option than DeAngelo Williams. Chances are, that won’t happen quickly, if at all, but his return alone is bad news for Williams’s prospects.
Buccaneers (0-7) at Seahawks (7-1)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 16.
Notable: Star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told a Tampa radio station that he was taking some heat from the Bucs’ coaching staff for helping an opposing player get back up on his feet. Apparently, it didn’t matter much to the coaches that McCoy had caused the opponent to eat some turf in the first place, and was more than willing to do it again. Nice. Then again, maybe Tampa Bay’s staff is just salty because no one has helped their winless team get up off the mat.
Fantasy scout: Percy Harvin is not expected to play, but Marshawn Lynch is, even though he has been battling a knee injury. And that’s a reminder for Lynch owners to get Christine Michael on their rosters. The rookie has barely seen the field, but he has plenty of talent, and if Lynch were to go down, he would likely get more carries than teammate Robert Turbin.
Steelers (2-5) at Patriots (6-2)
Time: 1 p.m.
Line: Patriots by 6.5.
Notable: Tom Brady was spotted going to the Patriots’ Halloween party as the Cowardly Lion, with wife Gisele Bundchen as Judy Garland’s iconic character, so that’s all the excuse Dexter Manley needs to refer to the quarterback as “a friend of Dorothy.” Brady probably doesn’t need to go off in search of courage in order to face Pittsburgh’s pass rush, which has just 10 sacks, second-worst in the NFL. However, Brady has been taken down unusually often this season.
Fantasy scout: Antonio Brown has quietly attained the status of a PPR superstar. His 56 catches lead the NFL, even though Pittsburgh has played one less game than many teams. They also are a Steelers record through seven games, but more importantly, have him on pace for 128 receptions on the season. In other words, try to trade for him. Quietly, of course.