Now that Jay Cutler is out and Kyle Orton has been cut there have been some rumors that Orton may wind up in Chicago.  That would be an interesting scenario, as on the surface it looks like a good fit for fantasy owners.  Orton is no world beater, but he isn’t a bad quarterback either, especially if he’s given a few weapons to take the pressure off of him.  Matt Forte is certainly a weapon that could cause defenses to neglect Orton and the Bears’ passing game.  However, there are some issues that could throw a wrench into the plans of fantasy owners looking to snag a late-season sleeper.  Mike Martz has a notoriously complicated offense, and you have to assume that it will take at least 4 to 5 weeks for the Bears to implement their entire playbook should they choose to go with Orton.  Secondly, it’s entirely possible that Orton could end up signing with another team besides Chicago.  There has been some talk that the Chiefs may take a shot at signing Orton, and should he end up in Kansas City I think he would have little to no fantasy value.  Keep an eye on this situation.  If Orton does end up in Chicago he will be worth claiming him off of waivers and seeing what happens.  Now on to the tips.

Quarterback

BEST:      Matthew Stafford, DET

-Stafford threw the ball well once he got back indoors last week.  This week he’s facing off against a Green Bay defense that has been giving up passing yards in bunches, and surviving almost entirely on their ability to create turnovers. Stafford has had his fair share of interception problems recently, but that shouldn’t be enough of a problem to shy away from him this week.  I expect the game this Thanksgiving to be extremely high scoring, with each team slinging the ball around the field with relative ease.  I think that Stafford should exploit holes in the Packers secondary for around 350 yards and 3 scores.  I also think he’ll get stung for 2 interceptions, but even with those picks he’ll end up one of the best quarterbacks in fantasy football this week.

WORST:  Alex Smith, SF

-He’s overachieved this year, no doubt.  However, I just don’t see it continuing this week.  The Ravens have been extremely stingy against the pass, giving up only 211.3 yards per game.  I don’t think Smith’s receivers are good enough to create separation against the Ravens’ secondary, so Smith will have to fit the ball into very tight space to complete any passes.  He doesn’t have the talent of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers at sliding the ball into a tight window, so I don’t have faith that he’ll be able to do it this week.  Look for Smith to end up with about 185 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and 2 or 3 interceptions.   His production so far this season has warranted starting him in most formats, but make sure to keep him out of your lineup this week.

Running Back

BEST:     Matt Forte, CHI

-Before injuring his ankle last week, Adrian Peterson was performing pretty well against a weak Raiders rush defense.  I have a strong feeling that Forte will beat up on the Raiders this week.  Oakland is giving up 131.6 yards per game on the ground this season, as well as one rushing touchdown per game.  Forte should exceed both of these numbers.  Look for him to end up with 140 yards rushing, 25-50 yards receiving, and 2 touchdowns.  I know that it may seem like overkill having Forte in this spot so often, but when you’re really the biggest threat on your team, and you have as weak a schedule as he does going forward, it’s deserved.

WORST:  Ray Rice, BAL

-The 49ers have been outstanding against the run this season, giving up only 73.9 yards per game on the ground.  Even more impressive, San Francisco has yet to give up a rushing touchdown through 10 games.  I love Rice’s talent, and his offensive line has been very good this season, so if anybody has a chance to beat the 49ers’ average it’s him.  Heck, I even expect him to beat the 49ers’ averages, but it won’t be enough to recommend him, mostly because I don’t see him finding the end zone.  He’ll probably end up with around 75-80 yards with no touchdowns.  One caveat:  If he gets involved heavily in the pass game I could see him being a much better play than I’m currently projecting.  Of course, with a guy like Rice you never take him out of your lineup, just consider lowering your expectations.

Wide Receiver

BEST:      Steve Smith, CAR

-From a yardage standpoint, the last two games have been slightly disappointing for Smith.  I think that will change in a big way this week.  The Colts have been bad in just about every phase of the game this season, and, as expected, rank in the bottom third of the league in pass defense this season.  Cam Newton is still a rookie, so of course that means he could have a clunker of a game against any team, and in turn kill Smith’s fantasy value that week.  I don’t see that happening this week, though.  Look for Smith to go over 100 yards and find the end zone at least once.

WORST:  Dwayne Bowe, KC

-Tyler Palko will still be the one throwing him the ball, and he’s going against the Steelers who rank 3rd in the league against the pass, giving up only 183.2 yards per game this season.  Palko threw 3 picks against the Patriots last week, and that pass defense isn’t nearly as good as what the Steelers are going to throw at him.  Mistakes like that will take the ball out of the hands of Bowe, and really hurt his fantasy value.  Don’t bench him, but temper your expectations.  He’ll probably end up with somewhere around 60 yards and no touchdowns.

Tight End

BEST:    Tony Gonzalez, ATL

-Gonzalez ranks in the top 5 TEs this season in nearly every scoring format.  Not what I expected this year as he was appearing to show his age last season.  He’s gotten most of his points through being a major red zone targets for the Falcons.  In fact, of the top 5 fantasy tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten, Fred Davis, and Gonzalez) he ranks last in yardage, nearly 70 yards behind Davis.  However, he has 7 scores already, which ranks second amongst all tight ends.  I like Gonzo to end up with a score again this week against a porous Vikings pass defense.  He should tack on about 75-90 yards as well.  Start him with confidence.

WORST:  Jermaine Gresham, CIN

-He’s a talented TE, who I think got a touchdown stolen from him last week by the referees.  On a side note, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the completing the process rule.  Once I think I finally get it, a play like Gresham’s comes around and completely confuses me.  I give up.  Anyway, back to fantasy football.  This week I don’t like Gresham to be a big factor however.  No matter how good rookie Andy Dalton has played, I think the Bengals will have trouble with a Browns secondary that is only giving up 166.5 yards per game this season.  Additionally, the Browns have been bad against the run this year, ranking in the bottom third of the league, so I don’t think the Bengals will take to the air very often.  Look for Gresham to have minuscule numbers this week, and if you have a better option take it.

Defense

BEST:     Houston Texans

-Matt Schaub not playing could hurt the Texans’ defense, as if their offense can’t sustain drives it could keep the Texans’ defense on the field too much to be a worthy play.  However, I think the Jags offense, which is the worst in the league, should give the Texans plenty of help.  The Texans should be able to hold Jacksonville to under 14 points this week, get at least 2 sacks, and create 2 turnovers.  That will make for a very nice fantasy score for the Houston defense.  Make sure they’re in your lineup.

WORST:  New York Giants

-Have you seen the Saints play offense this year?  Yeah, I really want to start a defense going up against a team that’s averaging 436.9 yards per game.  So I just realized that sarcasm doesn’t translate well in writing.  So yeah, I was being incredibly sarcastic with that last comment.  Don’t start the Giants.  Heck, you might be better starting no defense instead of the Giants, as there’s a reasonable possibility that they will end up losing points this week.

SLEEPER OF THE WEEK

Green Bay Packers Defense

Shocked?  I am too…as much as you can be when you’re the one making the choices.  But if you remember my maxim, “turnovers and sacks make for a winning fantasy defense,” you might get where I’m going here.  The Packers have been great at taking the ball away from opposing defenses this season, and I think that will continue this week.  However, they’re going to give up a lot of points, and the turnovers they should create may not be enough to make them worth playing.  The real game-changer here could be Randall Cobb and the Lions’ pitiful special teams.  If Cobb can break a touchdown on a return, those leagues that grant special teams points to defenses could make the Packers worth playing.  If that doesn’t happen, I think they’re a below average to poor play.  If you’re interested in taking your chances, this could be your play.

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