Engel: Avoid Patriots

Every week, I share my personal selections and picks in ESPN.com's mini-games, plus feature my lineups in prominent expert leagues that I am still participating in late in the season. I'll explain the reasoning behind many of my choices, in an effort to assist you in making your own decisions or to explain why certain picks may seem risky or unusual.

Gridiron Challenge

QB1: Carson Palmer (Value: 7.5)
QB2: Drew Brees (7.7)
RB1: Earnest Graham (5.4)
RB2: Ryan Grant (5.5)
WR1: Terrell Owens (7.1)
WR2: Roddy White (4.9)
TE: Donald Lee (3.2)
K: Jeff Reed (3.8)
D/ST: Buffalo Bills (4.6)
Total Team Value: (49.7)
Engel's Angles: Tom Brady and Randy Moss are gone from the lineup for the first time since their bye week. I'm not expecting a stellar Brady performance against the Steelers, and Moss has been less productive in the past two games. Brady will perform well enough, but I would rather use Palmer against the Rams. The St. Louis secondary has played better recently but will still have much trouble containing the Cincinnati wideouts. Brees has thrown five touchdown passes in his past two games and I like him a lot against the Falcons. Graham has scored in four consecutive games and has three 100-yard outings during that span. Ryan Grant faces the Raiders, who allow 148 rushing yards per game, 30th in the NFL. Owens has eight touchdowns in his past four games and has scored in every game since Week 6. White is coming on strong recently and Lee remains a viable bargain. I like Reed to notch at least three field goals when Pittsburgh stalls in the red zone at New England. Buffalo held Miami to 10 points in their first meeting on Nov. 11.


Pick: Buffalo Bills (versus Miami Dolphins)
Engel's Angles: The Bills had to overcome a 10-2 third-quarter deficit in the first meeting between these two teams, an eventual 13-10 Buffalo victory. This time, the gritty Bills remain alive for a playoff berth and will not be denied at home after pulling out a win at Washington. Jesse Chatman, who rushed for 124 yards in the first meeting, is banged up and could be a game-time decision or limited because of an ankle injury. Rookie quarterback John Beck lacks playmakers in the passing game. The Bills may finally get Marshawn Lynch back, but even if they don't, Fred Jackson has proved to be a viable replacement against a Miami defense that is showing its age and doesn't have Zach Thomas. Trent Edwards will get solid pass protection and will limit his mistakes against a Miami defense that should allow enough points to make its offense appear to be climbing uphill again. Buffalo has overachieved under Dick Jauron this season and is not about to let its postseason hopes die at home against a winless team. This may be another low-scoring affair, but Buffalo will move into scoring position often enough to give Rian Lindell a few chances to build a lead with some field goals and the Bills should add at least one touchdown to win decisively.

Pigskin Pick 'Em vs. The Spread

My selections in CAPS
WASHINGTON -3½ vs. Chicago
BUFFALO -7½ vs. Miami
DALLAS -10½ at. Detroit
Cincinnati -6½ vs. ST. LOUIS
Green Bay -10½ vs. OAKLAND
TAMPA BAY -2½ at Houston
JACKSONVILLE 10½ vs. Carolina
Philadelphia 2½ vs. N.Y. GIANTS
San Diego 1½ at TENNESSEE
Minnesota 8½ at SAN FRANCISCO
Seattle 7½ vs. ARIZONA
New England 13½ vs. PITTSBURGH
Denver 6½ vs. KANSAS CITY
CLEVELAND 3½ at N.Y. Jets
INDIANAPOLIS 9½ at Baltimore
NEW ORLEANS 4½ at Atlanta
Engel's Angles: The Bills may score only 13-16 points, but Miami may not even muster more than a field goal or two on the road in 30-degree weather with the possibility of snow showers, according to the Weather Channel's official site. The sliding Lions will get overpowered early by Dallas. The Rams will slug it out offensively with the Bengals, who will have a lot of trouble containing Steven Jackson. The Packers will win, but the Raiders will run the ball effectively and will not get blown out. The Texans have no chance against Tampa Bay with Sage Rosenfels at quarterback. The Giants have feasted on mediocre teams this season, and will beat the Eagles again. Albert Haynesworth is back and Vince Young is playing well again, pointing the way to a Tennessee win. Minnesota will see the 49ers stick surprisingly close, and the Seahawks will win a high-scoring contest to wrap up the NFC West. The Steelers will give the Patriots a tough fight in a loss, but the Ravens will look much less formidable against Peyton Manning this week.

Pigskin Pick 'Em: No Spread

Home team in CAPS
WASHINGTON over Chicago
BUFFALO over Miami
Dallas over DETROIT
CINCINNATI over St. Louis
GREEN BAY over Oakland
Tampa Bay over HOUSTON
JACKSONVILLE over Carolina
TENNESSEE over San Diego
Minnesota over SAN FRANCISCO
SEATTLE over Arizona
NEW ENGLAND over Pittsburgh
DENVER over Kansas City
Cleveland over N.Y. JETS
Indianapolis over BALTIMORE
New Orleans over ATLANTA
Engel's Angles: Once Detroit falls behind against Dallas, Jon Kitna will get hit often and make mistakes. Earnest Graham will shine against the Texans and score more than once. The Jaguars will dominate on both sides of the ball against the Panthers. The Tennessee defense won't fully contain LaDainian Tomlinson, but will control him enough that Philip Rivers will face some adverse and critical passing situations. The Seahawks will outgun the Cardinals and the pass rush will get to Kurt Warner when it counts. Travis Henry will perform even better and give the Broncos good offensive balance against the Chiefs. The Jets were able to surprise the Steelers at home, but they won't be able to handle the Cleveland passing game and there won't be another surprise win over an AFC North team. The Saints will have no trouble with Chris Redman, who won't look good with New Orleans having time to prepare for and watch some film on him.

Fanex Football

A long-running, highly prestigious 12-team experts league that has always been tops among seasoned fantasy experts. Four points for passing touchdowns, 0.05 points for each passing yard, 0.1 each for rushing and receiving yards, one point for every reception. Only two add/drops allowed per week, with blind bidding.

QB: Derek Anderson
RB: Thomas Jones
RB: Willie Parker
RB: Earnest Graham
WR: Reggie Wayne
WR: Brandon Marshall
WR: Justin Gage
TE: Donald Lee
K:Jeff Reed
D/ST: Minnesota Vikings
Reserves: Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck, Dwayne Wright, LenDale White, Ted Ginn Jr., David Patten, Nate Washington, Nate Burleson, Vernon Davis and Vikings D/ST
Engel's Angles: I expect Anderson to be good for at least two touchdown passes against the Jets. Parker has been disappointing recently, but I can't sit him. Graham has emerged as my best running back and Jones should provide adequate numbers against the Browns' 30th-ranked run defense. White's finger problem squeezes him out of the lineup. Wayne is a must-start and I can rely on Marshall. Although Burleson is a tempting start, Gage has become a go-to guy in Tennessee. I like Lee's matchup versus Oakland better than Davis against the Vikings. Minnesota's defense has been outstanding recently and is a must-start in any format. The Vikings won't blow out the 49ers, but it won't be a high-scoring game, either.

Krause Publications Experts League II

From the publishers of Fantasy Sports Magazine, a long-enduring fantasy industry staple. A 12-team league with similar scoring to Fanex, except running backs get .5 points for a reception.

QB: Ben Roethlisberger
RB: Willie Parker
RB: Kolby Smith
RB/WR: Chester Taylor
WR: Bobby Engram
WR: Wes Welker
WR: Plaxico Burress
TE:Chris Cooley
K: Mason Crosby
D/ST: Minnesota Vikings
Reserves: Kellen Clemens, Fred Taylor, Justin Fargas, Marvin Harrison, Anthony Gonzalez and Buccaneers D/ST
Engel's Angles: Depending on a pair of Steelers can be risky this week, but I, at least, expect Roethlisberger to perform reasonably well against the Patriots after A.J. Feeley and Kyle Boller threw the ball well against New England in the past two games. Parker is no lock to stay in the lineup over Fargas, though. Smith faces the notoriously shaky Denver run defense, and even with some key injuries on the offensive line, I still like the Kansas City running back. Chester Taylor will continue to play well even with Adrian Peterson back, and Engram remains a good start with D.J. Hackett still out. I still consider Welker a must-start and I have no choice but to hope for a rebound outing from Burress this week.

Scott Engel covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can contact Scott here.