Saints RB Pierre Thomas: The Fighting Illini product has reestablished himself as the lead back for the NFL’s most explosive offense. The last two weeks, Thomas has averaged 90 total yards and scored 3 touchdowns. Thomas’s hot streak should continue as he faces the woeful Rams’ defense this week. St. Louis has allowed 134 rushing yards per game and 9 rushing touchdowns. Projection: 80 rushing yards, 30 receiving yards, and a touchdown.
49ers WR Michael Crabtree: His draft stock sunk, because he couldn’t do drills at the combine. He wanted to get paid more money than Darrius Heyward-Bey. He had a long holdout. It seemed like a dark cloud was hanging over Crabtree. One that Crabtree helped conjure up. When he finally took the field, the former Red Raider flashed what all the fuss was about. He is averaging 55 receiving yards per game. Those numbers aren’t spectacular, but realize that he only ran two routes at Texas Tech. He just now learning how to run the route tree and learning the complexities of a pro playbook. This week, he faces a Bears’ defense that truly struggles against big, dynamic receivers. In week 4, Calvin Johnson had 133 receiving yards. Last week, Larry Fitzgerald had 123 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Overall, Chicago has allowed on average 85 receiving yards per game and 6 touchdowns to opposing team’s #1 wide receivers. He wanted to be paid like a star receiver, and this Sunday he should play like one. Projection: 80 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Bucs TE Kellen Winslow: Unlike his team, Junior has had occasional bright spots instead of the one last week. Even though he is going on his third quarterback, he has been averaging 44 receiving yards per game and has scored 5 touchdowns. This week, Winslow gets a Dolphins’ defense that only seems mildly interested in stopping tight ends. Miami is allowing on average 68 receiving yards per game and 3 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. Projection: 50 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Other shine notables: Cards QB Kurt Warner, Jets WR Braylon Edwards, Ravens WR Derrick Mason, Bears WR Devin Hester, Ravens RB Ray Rice, Eagles TE Brent Celek, and Chargers TE Antonio Gates
Ride the Pine
Bengals RB Cedric Benson: At the halfway point of the season, Benson is second in the league in rushing, averaging 4.2 rushing yards per game, scored 6 rushing touchdowns, averaging 104 rushing yards per game, and has 7 runs of 20 yards or more. Not bad for a guy who two years ago was considered a bust. Benson definitely deserves praise for turning his career around. Those numbers might take a dip this week though as the Bengals have their second go around with the Steelers. Benson had a solid game against Pittsburgh in week 3, but Polamalu was out. When Troy Polamalu was injured, the Steelers were giving up around 22 points a game. Since he has been back, Pittsburgh is only giving up a little more than 12 points a game. I definitely wouldn’t bench him. He has been too consistent and I doubt you have a better option on your bench. I just feel that a little after four o’clock on Sunday, Benson owners will feel disappointed. Projection: 80 rushing yards.
Broncos QB Kyle Orton: The Redskins aren’t a good team. Struggling already with numerous injuries, Portis was knocked out against the Falcons and looks like a scratch against Denver. Their offensive line is starting multiple back-ups. Campbell’s best receiving options are the smurf-sized Moss and Randle El. They might not be great, but their secondary is strong. They are 1st in the league in receiving yards allowed. On top of that, Washington has sacked the quarterback 21 times and only allowed 7 receiving touchdowns. Washington will be tested this week by a good Denver offense with a recently unearthed flaw. Orton has been solid this year. He has two stud receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Broncos also have other great skill positions in the form of Tony Scheffler, Correll Buckhalter, and Knowshon Moreno. Denver’s recent problem deals with something that is usually their strength, their offensive line. The loss of Ryan Harris, their right tackle, has led to two consecutive losses in which Orton has looked pedestrian for the most part. Expect that trend to continue as Washington will probably attack Denver’s strong side with rookie pass rusher, Brian Orakpo. Projection: 200 passing yards and 1 interception.
Jags WR Mike Sims-Walker: The Jaguars best receiver faces maybe the league’s best cornerback, Darelle Revis. The Jets defender has held the likes of Andre Johnson to 35 receiving yards, Randy Moss to 24 receiving yards, and Marques Colston to 33 receiving yards. Sims-Walker is good, but he isn’t on those players’ level yet. Projection: 45 receiving yards.
Other pine notables: Bears RB Matt Forte, Bills RB Marshawn Lynch, Jaguars QB David Garrard, and Ravens TE Todd Heap