This week the NFL Network's Thursday Night games begin, so be sure to set your lineup before kickoff of what should be a very interesting game between the Broncos and Browns. A few players in the contest are worth starting, so don't miss out. On to this weejk's best and worst plays ...
Sage Rosenfels, QB, Texans
Earlier in the season there were rumbles that Matt Schaub's starting job was hanging by a thread in favor of Rosenfels. Now with Schaub sidelined for the next two-to-four weeks with a sprained knee, Rosenfels, who has a 4-2 record as a starter since becoming a Texan and has averaged 1.5 TD passes in those starts, takes over. The Ravens rank in the top five in both passing and rushing defense, but have given up points to their last two pass-oriented teams (31 to the Colts, 27 to the Browns).
Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers
Coming off a bye, Delhomme and the Panthers have to be salivating at the thought of facing a Raiders team in disarray. One matchup that will sorely be missed is the reunion of hated rivals Steve Smith and ex-Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall now that Hall has been waived and replaced by the ironically named Stanford Routt. Delhomme will put up better numbers than Atlanta's Matt Ryan did last week, and Ryan threw for 220 yards with two touchdowns.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers
Last Monday Parker made his return from his Week 3 knee injury and tallied 21 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins in "limited" action. The Steelers will likely be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, so, in an effort to limit the number of hits on the immobile Byron Leftwich, look for Pittsburgh to go to the run early and often against a 25th-ranked defense that's allowed 143.6 yards per contest.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals
Arizona head coach Ken Wisenhunt made no apologies for his decision to make the backfield change from Edgerrin James to the rookie Hightower. The new guy has gained just 3.4 yards per carry (compared to 3.5 for James), but with only 71 carries, it's a stat that has been skewed by many short goal-line runs that have resulted in seven touchdowns. Prior to last week, when Hightower ran for 109 yards against the Rams, Arizona's only other individual 100-yard game of the season came in Week 1, by James, against the Bay Area's other team in disarray, the 49ers who happen to be visitors to the desert this Monday night.
Ryan Torain, RB, Broncos
Thursday in Cleveland Torain is expected to carry the brunt of the load for the Broncos after Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were placed on the injured reserve. He hasn't been a featured back since last October, when he dislocated his elbow while playing for Arizona State. But he has impressed Mike Shanahan and his coaches throughout camp and practices through the early part of the season. The Browns are ranked 26th in the league against run, allowing 4.7 yards per carry, and should provide little opposition for an offense averaging 105.3 rushing yards per game. He's risky, but you'll hate yourself if he has a big game and it's wasted on your bench.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions
There's no way that the Jaguars looked at their Week 9 and 10 matchups with the Bengals and Lions and thought they could come out 0-2, but it's possible, especially if defensive tackle John Henderson, hampered by a bad knee, can't play. Although not the starter, Smith has been the more effective runner between he and Rudi Johnson.Smith has the better chance to exploit the banged-up Jags like Johnson's replacement in Cincinnati, Cedric Benson, did last week with 104 yards and a TD.
Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns
Denver's defense is not good to begin with, but when you add injuries to Champ Bailey, Boss Bailey, D.J. Williams and now Marlon McCree to the equation, it is downright awful, allowing more than 70 percent of the passes attempted against them to be completed. Like Derek Anderson before him, Brady Quinn's favorite receiver figured to be Edwards. Thursday should be the start of his fantasy resurgence.
In last week's home game against Atlanta, the Raiders gained just 77 yards from scrimmage, three first downs, held the ball for less than 15 minutes and became just the second team to be shutout this season in the worst offensive showing this year. Do you remember the first team to be shut out? It was the Chiefs, who in Week 5 were blanked 34-0 by none other than these Panthers.
Daunte Culpepper, QB, Lions
Just don't. Although in a perfect world, Culpepper would provide exactly what the Lions need, someone who can get the ball down the field to Calvin Johnson, reminiscent of a past when he and Randy Moss were the league's top pass and catch duo. However, in making his first start since retiring in the preseason, Culpepper enters Week 10 having thrown for just 2,260 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 games since leaving Minnesota. He's just a shadow of himself. Even against the banged up Jags, he's not worth the roster spot.
Matt Forte, RB, Bears
The Bears haven't given up hope that Kyle Orton can play this week, but it wouldn't be the wisest thing to put a less-than-100 percent QB in against the swarming and punishing defense of the Titans. Given that, Forte looks like he'll get the ball a lot against the league's second-stingiest defense, one that has allowed only one 100-yard rushing contest this season (to Houston's Steve Slaton). Forte's two big games this year came against poor run stoppers (Indy and Detroit), so even with an increased workload, don't expect much more than 75 yards.
Steve Slaton, RB, Texans
Week 10's tilt against the Ravens is the game that was rescheduled due to Hurricane Ike's devastation in South Texas. Since then Slaton has become one of fantasy football's best surprises, seizing the starting job with 538 rushing yards, 181 receiving yards and six scores. However, nobody runs against the Ravens, who have not allowed a 100-yard rusher since '06. Although Samari Rolle will be back for Baltimore at one corner spot, Chris McAlister is out again with a right knee injury, making Houston's passing game all the more effective. That means fewer touches for Slaton, who'll have Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Haloti Ngata on top of him all day.