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Fantasy Football Matchups: Week 9

Dave Richard
Senior Fantasy Writer

To prepare you as best we can for your week of Fantasy Football, we've devised this series of previews for each NFL game. We'll give you a taste of what to expect, then rank each significant Fantasy contributor on a scale from 1-5 stars (with five stars suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any stars suggests you probably shouldn't start him under any circumstances). The rankings take the matchup into account, but injuries and other significant factors also contribute. An asterisk next to a player's name denotes an injury concern, and that is taken into consideration with the player's ranking.You should be able to compare the ratings for the players on your team and make an educated pick on who should start -- and sit -- in your lineup. Fantasy Football video
Looking for more Fantasy advice from our own Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard? Our weekly Fantasy Football video shows are loaded with timely analysis for Week 9.
Start 'Em/Sit 'Em | Move Makers | Who's Hot/Who's Not

Carolina Panthers at Tennessee Titans
Sunday, 1:00 pm, LP Field
This one is going to be tough for Fantasy owners who have Steve Smith or DeShaun Foster. With David Carr at quarterback and facing the best run defense in football as well as a team that kills the clock by running a lot, there won't be many chances for the Panthers to post big stats. No one has rushed for over 100 yards against the Titans and no one has rushed for a touchdown on them since Reggie Bush had two in Week 3. Smith's struggles will continue so long as Carr is under center. Look for the Titans to pay plenty of attention to Smith to keep him ineffective. Carolina has given up at least one rushing touchdown in each of its last four, and Joseph Addai throttled them for 100 yards on the ground last week. Look for LenDale White to continue his strong running and carry the Titans to another run-heavy victory.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
David Carr   QB Vince Young *
DeShaun Foster * RB LenDale White ****
DeAngelo Williams   RB Chris Henry *
Steve Smith ** WR Roydell Williams *
Keary Colbert   WR Justin Gage
Jeff King * TE Bo Scaife *
John Kasay   K Rob Bironas **
DST Panthers *** DST DST Titans *****
Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ford Field
This is an interesting matchup of two teams with amazing strengths and awful weaknesses. The Lions' defense may be tops in takeaways, but they've allowed two passing scores in four of their last five and have yielded plenty of rushing yards to teams that can run the ball effectively. That tells me that the Broncos should have no trouble putting points on the board. I really like Jay Cutler to continue his strong play; he's thrown a touchdown pass in all but one game this season. We were just as surprised as you were to see Brett Favre hit two long touchdowns on the Broncos' stud cornerbacks. Rest assured, the Lions took notice. No doubt, they'll continue to attack with Kevin Jones against the Broncos' pitiful run defense, but look for them to try some deep balls, especially in Calvin Johnson's direction since he's a mismatch for any corner in the league.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jay Cutler **** QB Jon Kitna ***
Travis Henry *** RB Kevin Jones *****
Selvin Young ** RB T.J. Duckett
Brandon Marshall *** WR Roy Williams ***
Brandon Stokley ** WR Calvin Johnson ***
Brian Clark   WR Shaun McDonald *
Tony Scheffler *** TE Sean McHugh
Jason Elam ***** K Jason Hanson ****
DST Broncos ** DST DST Lions
San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Three of the last four QBs who have played the Vikings have thrown for over 300 yards. Philip Rivers has 300 yards and two scores written all over him, especially with Chris Chambers likely more comfortable with the Chargers' terminology. But what about LaDainian Tomlinson? He's too good to sit, but the Vikings have held Larry Johnson to 42 rush yards and Brian Westbrook to 46 rush yards. However, Tomlinson can catch (and throw), so look for him to rack up yardage somehow, someway. The Vikings continue to be a one-trick pony offensively (Adrian Peterson), and the Chargers happen to be strong against the run, too. Oddly enough, only Larry Johnson has topped 100 rush yards on San Diego this year.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Philip Rivers ***** QB Tarvaris Jackson
LaDainian Tomlinson **** RB Adrian Peterson ***
Michael Turner   RB Chester Taylor *
Chris Chambers **** WR Troy Williamson
Vincent Jackson ** WR Sidney Rice
Antonio Gates ***** TE Visanthe Shiancoe *
Nate Kaeding *** K Ryan Longwell *
DST Chargers ***** DST DST Vikings *
Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Superdome
Jacksonville's offense is very run-oriented. The Bucs knew it last week and still lost, but New Orleans hasn't allowed a touchdown or even a 50-yard rusher in their last three games (all wins). Shaun Alexander and Frank Gore were held in check, and the reality is that Quinn Gray might have to complete more than seven passes to give the Jags a shot at winning. The Saints' success on offense has come with running the ball effectively and good O-line play. Both of those will be hard to come by against the Jaguars, whose run defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 1 but has yielded a rushing touchdown in all but two games this year. Drew Brees will also have it tougher with Rashean Mathis assigned to Marques Colston.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Quinn Gray   QB Drew Brees ***
Maurice Jones-Drew *** RB Reggie Bush ***
Fred Taylor ** RB Aaron Stecker
Reggie Williams   WR Marques Colston **
Dennis Northcutt   WR David Patten *
Marcedes Lewis   TE Eric Johnson **
John Carney * K Olindo Mare *
DST Jaguars *** DST DST Saints
Washington Redskins at N.Y. Jets
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Giants Stadium
It seems obvious start Jason Campbell, but it's still pretty clear that the Redskins don't want to throw unless they have to. Note that in three losses, Campbell attempted over 34 passes, which signals that the Skins were behind and needed his arm. He didn't top 29 attempts in any of their four wins. With the Jets' run defense an easy target, expect Clinton Portis to see right around 20 touches, which is the most he's seen in any game this season. The Jets have allowed over 100 rush yards to one player in four of their last six (Marshawn Lynch whiffed twice), so Portis should do fine. The Jets will start Kellen Clemens this week, and he has a good arm but might be without his best receiver, Laveranues Coles. If there's a Jet to start, it's Jerricho Cotchery, even though he'll be covered by Shawn Springs, the Redskins' best (active) cornerback.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jason Campbell ** QB Kellen Clemens *
Clinton Portis ***** RB Thomas Jones *
Ladell Betts   RB Leon Washington
Santana Moss *** WR Jerricho Cotchery **
Antwaan Randle El * WR Brad Smith
Chris Cooley **** TE Chris Baker
Shaun Suisham   K Mike Nugent **
DST Redskins ***** DST DST Jets *
San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Georgia Dome
Both teams realize that this is a game they can win. San Francisco's offense has been abysmal regardless of who's under center, and the idea that Frank Gore is going to run all over the Falcons doesn't hold water. Atlanta's run defense has been fairly good at limiting rush yardage, but they've allowed four rushing scores in their last three games. Gore hasn't scored since Week 2 and isn't getting the workload he received last season either. I think he's just about a No. 2 Fantasy RB this week, and the only moderately reliable 49er to use for Fantasy (Vernon Davis is OK in deeper leagues). This matchup is nice for the Falcons; despite the presence of CB Nate Clements, the 49ers pass defense has allowed eight passing scores in their last four, including four to the Saints last week. With the Falcons aiming to throw as per their scheme (they throw 63 percent of the time), this should be a decent week for Roddy White and Alge Crumpler. Joey Harrington even sneaks in as a low-end bye-week replacement option.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Alex Smith   QB Joey Harrington **
Frank Gore ** RB Jerious Norwood *
Michael Robinson   RB Warrick Dunn *
Arnaz Battle * WR Roddy White **
Bryan Gilmore   WR Michael Jenkins
Vernon Davis * TE Alge Crumpler **
Joe Nedney *** K Morten Andersen *
DST 49ers ** DST DST Falcons **
Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Raymond James Stadium
This game sets up nicely for Edgerrin James. Last week, Tampa Bay knew that Jacksonville was going to run a ton and they still gave up 128 rush yards to running backs. This is the Bucs' fourth straight game against a team that's aiming to run on them, and the Cardinals should be successful. Plus, the Bucs are good against the pass (one pass TD allowed over last three games). Arizona should be good in all areas but especially running the ball. Tampa Bay's offense, meanwhile, topped 20 points for the first time in four games last week and hasn't scored more than two touchdowns in a game since Week 3. That's going to be a problem keeping up with Arizona. The good news is that the Cardinals are susceptible to both the run and the pass, and Jeff Garcia should have no problems making plays. This could end up being a high-scoring matchup.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kurt Warner *** QB Jeff Garcia ***
Edgerrin James **** RB Earnest Graham **
Marcel Shipp   RB Michael Bennett *
Anquan Boldin **** WR Joey Galloway **
Larry Fitzgerald *** WR Ike Hilliard **
Leonard Pope * TE Jerramy Stevens
Neil Rackers ** K Matt Bryant *
DST Cardinals   DST DST Buccaneers ***
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Arrowhead Stadium
The Chiefs' run defense has tightened up, not allowing a rushing score since Maurice Jones-Drew's long burst in Week 5. That's just fine with the Packers and their 'throw short, throw often' game plan. Do not expect another big week from Ryan Grant, but Greg Jennings and James Jones should keep it going. Donald Driver? He's been slipping, but if you own him it's tough to sit him. The Chiefs host a Packers defense that is better than its 14th overall ranking. Only one running back (Cedric Benson) has scored on the ground against the Pack, and they have allowed one passing TD in three of their last four. The Chiefs may be rested, but they're not going to stomp over the Packers, whose front four should be tough for the Chiefs' offensive line to handle. Remember: Larry Johnson has only posted big games against poor rush defenses -- the Packers are far ahead of the Bengals and Raiders defensively.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Brett Favre **** QB Damon Huard **
Ryan Grant ** RB Larry Johnson ***
Brandon Jackson   RB Priest Holmes
Donald Driver *** WR Dwayne Bowe *
Greg Jennings *** WR Samie Parker
James Jones * WR Jeff Webb
Donald Lee ** TE Tony Gonzalez ****
Mason Crosby **** K Dave Rayner *
DST Packers *** DST DST Chiefs **
Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Ralph Wilson Stadium
Everyone sees Rudi Johnson practicing, and they figure that the Bengals' offense will be on point. Bad news: The Bills run defense has improved in recent weeks, allowing just two rushing TDs and one 100-yard run game since starting the year horribly on defense. Not only do I think Rudi won't do well, but I don't think he's going to take every carry. That's going to result in the Bengals going back to passing, and they should be successful there despite the Bills' improved secondary. Meanwhile, J.P. Losman has a great matchup ahead of him. The Bengals have allowed 13 passing touchdowns in their last five overall, with every opponent getting at least two scores through the air. That's good news for Lee Evans, too, and think about using Roscoe Parrish as a deep sleeper. The Bills' running game should be effective too, but Lynch has yet to run for 100 yards in a game. However, three of his four touchdowns have come at home in close, competitive games, so consider him a solid No. 2 Fantasy rusher.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Carson Palmer ***** QB J.P. Losman **
Rudi Johnson ** RB Marshawn Lynch ****
Kenny Watson ** RB Dwayne Wright
T.J. Houshmandzadeh ***** WR Lee Evans ***
Chad Johnson **** WR Roscoe Parrish *
Reggie Kelly   TE Robert Royal *
Shayne Graham *** K Rian Lindell **
DST Bengals   DST DST Bills
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Cleveland Browns Stadium
I've given Shaun Alexander the benefit of the doubt too many times this season. He did not light up (nor had the chance to light up) weak run defenses earlier this year and has to be considered more of a low-end No. 1 RB this week. I'd still start him, but my expectation is around 75 total yards and maybe a score. Thing is, I see this becoming a shootout in the mold of the Bengals-Browns Week 2 game. If that happens, Alexander's going to be a bust again. But the rest of the Seahawks are excellent plays thanks to Cleveland's swiss-cheese defense. The Browns have become a very strong passing team, and they'll continue to be that way here. Seattle ranks high against the pass but has had its fair share of trouble with passing teams like Cincinnati and New Orleans. They'll do fine, but be careful starting Jamal Lewis as the Seahawks run defense has mostly rebounded after a slow start.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Hasselbeck ***** QB Derek Anderson *****
Shaun Alexander *** RB Jamal Lewis **
Maurice Morris   RB Jason Wright
Deion Branch *** WR Braylon Edwards *****
Nate Burleson *** WR Joe Jurevicius **
Bobby Engram * WR Josh Cribbs
Marcus Pollard   TE Kellen Winslow *****
Josh Brown **** K Phil Dawson ***
DST Seahawks * DST DST Browns
Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders
Sunday, 4:15 pm, McAfee Coliseum
For Houston to succeed, they'll need Andre Johnson back. It's been made clear that the Texans cannot run the ball (even with Ahman Green) and while the passing game has been good without Johnson, it would be great with him. Even against the Raiders' highly ranked defense and with backup Sage Rosenfels starting at QB, the Texans should be effective moving the ball through the air once they fall behind. The Raiders can sympathize with the Texans over lost starters, but they'll get back their best QB this week in Josh McCown. This team is much better with him under center, and he's a great sleeper for 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns. I expect LaMont Jordan and Justin Fargas to split reps at running back, but keep an eye peeled for Michael Bush if he plays. He's a fabulous player and has a great shot at being an under-the-radar Fantasy option not just next season, but towards the end of this year, too. The Raiders should mix up the run and pass evenly in a win over the Texans.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Sage Rosenfels ** QB Josh McCown ***
Ahman Green * RB Justin Fargas **
Adimchinobe Echemandu * RB LaMont Jordan *
Andre Johnson *** WR Ronald Curry ***
Kevin Walter ** WR Jerry Porter *
Owen Daniels ** TE Zach Miller
Kris Brown * K Sebastian Janikowski *
DST Texans * DST DST Raiders *
New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 4:15 pm, RCA Dome
While I believe it's in the best interests of both teams to run the ball a lot to keep the other's offense off the field, the likelihood of this turning into a shootout is pretty good. The Patriots seem to have adopted a 'Chicago Bulls'-like approach: Start the game with a plan, then chuck the plan and dominate with what you do best. They've seemingly done that in several games -- and won. They will have some trouble against this Indy secondary as CBs Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden have proven to be remarkable upgrades, but the Pats are crafty. I like Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Benjamin Watson (if he plays) a lot since the Colts won't be able to cover them and Randy Moss at the same time. I do not expect Laurence Maroney to have a big game statistically. The Patriots' defensive plan continues to focus on taking out the biggest threat and dealing with the rest. That threat is Peyton Manning, but he has done very well in his last three overall against the Pats (over 300 yards passing in each with six total TDs). The key to beating him is hitting him -- in several of the Pats' wins over Manning, they sacked him early and often and forced some turnovers. With left tackle Tony Ugoh a likely target, look for the Pats to overload the left side of the Colts' O-line in an attempt to hurry Manning. The Colts will know to combat that with short quick hitters to Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Anthony Gonzalez. The chess match in this game will be phenomenal -- the only Fantasy entities you should sit for this one are Maroney and both DSTs.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tom Brady ***** QB Peyton Manning *****
Laurence Maroney ** RB Joseph Addai ****
Kevin Faulk * RB Kenton Keith
Randy Moss ***** WR Reggie Wayne *****
Wes Welker **** WR Anthony Gonzalez **
Benjamin Watson *** TE Dallas Clark ****
Stephen Gostkowski ***** K Adam Vinatieri *****
DST Patriots ** DST DST Colts *
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 8:15 pm, Lincoln Financial Field
The Eagles have a decisive edge in the series, winning 11 of the last 14 matchups. Philly has a strong history of attacking Dallas' QBs and forcing them into mistakes; Tony Romo's worst game last year was against the Eagles. Dallas' offense is better than it's been in years, and they're rested, so I expect a slightly better game out of their stars. Romo is good enough to start, but the expectations should be reeled in a little. The Eagles have rediscovered their passing game thanks to Reggie Brown's involvement, and Brian Westbrook is always a threat to throttle Dallas (he's either rushed for a touchdown, totaled over 100 yards or both in his last three vs. Cowboys).
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tony Romo **** QB Donovan McNabb ****
Marion Barber ** RB Brian Westbrook *****
Julius Jones * RB Correll Buckhalter
Terrell Owens **** WR Reggie Brown ***
Patrick Crayton ** WR Kevin Curtis **
Jason Witten **** TE L.J. Smith *
Nicholas Folk **** K David Akers ****
DST Cowboys **** DST DST Eagles ****
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Monday, 8:30 pm, Heinz Field
I think it's going to be hard for the Ravens to score touchdowns here as the Steelers' run defense is as good as anyone's in the league right now and the Baltimore passing game is limited to short-area throws. Willis McGahee is actually a candidate for the bench this week; the Steelers have allowed one rushing TD all year (Edgerrin James, Week 4) and two rushers over 75 yards (none over 100). The Steelers will also struggle to run the ball here -- Willie Parker's best performance in four games against the Ravens is 63 rush yards -- so it will come down to Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball. Roethlisberger has one passing TD in his last two against the Ravens and has thrown at least one interception in each of his last five against them. The Steelers' new passing scheme is improved, but this will still be a challenging game for them.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Steve McNair * QB Ben Roethlisberger ****
Willis McGahee *** RB Willie Parker ***
Musa Smith   RB Najeh Davenport
Derrick Mason ** WR Santonio Holmes **
Mark Clayton   WR Hines Ward **
Todd Heap *** TE Heath Miller ***
Matt Stover **** K Jeff Reed *****
DST Ravens **** DST DST Steelers *****