Week 9 Fantasy Football Matchups

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 0-5 logos (with five logos suggesting can't-miss; a player or unit without any logos 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.

Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Raymond James Stadium
The Packers are turning back the clock on their O-line, putting tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher back into the starting lineup to protect Aaron Rodgers . Rodgers is dealing with sprains on his feet and toes, so protection is a must this week. The Bucs shouldn't provide much of a challenge there, so Rodgers should find success hitting Donald Driver , Greg Jennings and even touchdown vulture extraordinaire Spencer Havner in the red zone. Ryan Grant really has a great chance to storm through the Bucs' front seven as well. Tampa Bay will turn to rookie quarterback Josh Freeman , who spent part of his bye week visiting friends and family in Kansas and not burning the midnight oil watching the Packers' secondary. Moreover, the Bucs reportedly did very little practicing during the bye week and won't be as prepared as most teams are after an extra week of game prep. Tampa Bay will likely come out riding Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward , keeping the offense simple for Freeman. That should also include plenty of easy short-area routes, which might benefit Kellen Winslow . The mid-range and deep stuff might be mixed in, but it's not going to be very successful since the Packers have excellent cornerbacks and are familiar with the Bucs' offensive scheme. It's not going to be pretty for Tampa Bay.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Aaron Rodgers QB Josh Freeman
Ryan Grant RB Cadillac Williams
Brandon Jackson   RB Derrick Ward
Greg Jennings WR Antonio Bryant
Donald Driver WR Michael Clayton
Spencer Havner TE Kellen Winslow
Mason Crosby K Connor Barth
Packers DST Buccaneers
Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Paul Brown Stadium
Both offenses should lean on their strengths and hope it's enough to pull out a win. The difference is in the matchups: The Bengals' defense doesn't pose nearly the threat that Baltimore's does. The Raven offense should continue to revolve around Ray Rice , who torched the Bengals for 143 total yards and a score in Week 5 and should do a number on them again. Joe Flacco will throw, too, and he'll have more time to do it as the Bengals' pass rush has been tamed with Antwan Odom sidelined (three sacks in two games since his injury). Cincy has been burned by big-play runners and receivers lately and thus it wouldn't be a surprise to see Derrick Mason join Rice as a hero for the Ravens offense. Cincinnati's offense line hasn't been a slouch, either, and they handled themselves well in the first meeting with Baltimore. They did a really nice job eliminating linebacker Ray Lewis from making a play and it made a big difference in how they gained their yards. For all the amazing things Cedric Benson did against the Ravens in their previous meeting, it's hard to imagine he'll do it again, but he's been too good to sit and the Bengals' offensive line has played well. But don't mistake Baltimore's pass defense as back after shutting down the Broncos' timid gameplan last week; Carson Palmer will aim downfield and should be able to shake up Baltimore's secondary with solid connections to Chad Johnson and Chris Henry and short-range stuff to Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles . The Bengals have typically done a good job protecting their passer against the Ravens and if they do it here, and if the Cincinnati defense does its job, then the Bengals will have a shot at the season sweep.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Joe Flacco QB Carson Palmer
Ray Rice RB Cedric Benson
Willis McGahee   RB Brian Leonard
Derrick Mason WR Chad Johnson
Mark Clayton WR Andre Caldwell
Todd Heap TE J.P. Foschi
Steven Hauschka K Shayne Graham
Ravens DST Bengals
Kansas City Chiefs at Jacksonville Jaguars
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
This actually is a very good matchup for Matt Cassel to test what might become a pass-friendly Chiefs offense. With Larry Johnson out, Jamaal Charles will see more work and he's more of an outside rusher and pass catcher. Look for the Chiefs to find creative ways to use him against a Jaguars defense that struggled a week ago with speedy back Chris Johnson . Plus, using him on the outside will negate the Chiefs weak offensive line. Jacksonville's secondary should get Rashean Mathis back but the rest is still far from spectacular, which means Cassel should be able to come up with some decent completions to Dwayne Bowe and others. Remember, the more that Kansas City doesn't use a traditional runner like Larry Johnson to battle between the tackles, the more Cassel will throw. We might see a much more entertaining Chiefs offense in this game. The Jaguars should battle back with a heavy dose of Maurice Jones-Drew both running and receiving. David Garrard will also carry some of the workload as the Chiefs' secondary isn't very good, and they lost free safety Jarrad Page for the season with a shoulder injury. To that extent, Mike Sims-Walker should have a big outing while Torry Holt also picks up some decent yards. Mike Thomas also brings an element of speed that the Chiefs might have a hard time matching up with. The bottom line is that if both of these versatile running backs get off to good starts, this game might produce plenty of points.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Cassel QB David Garrard
Jamaal Charles RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Dantrell Savage   RB Rashad Jennings
Dwayne Bowe WR Mike Sims-Walker
Mark Bradley WR Torry Holt
Chris Chambers   WR Mike Thomas
Sean Ryan   TE Marcedes Lewis
Ryan Succop   K Josh Scobee
Chiefs DST Jaguars
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Georgia Dome
The Redskins should continue to lean on their passing game and take aim at the Falcons' safeties. They have to like what they've uncovered with Fred Davis and he should open things up for them. If the Redskins offensive line can protect Jason Campbell , he'll have a shot to connect on some long-range passes to Santana Moss -- the fast turf in the Georgia Dome will help him out as much as the Falcons' iffy cornerbacks. Atlanta's run defense is good, not great, but the Redskins' run game is decent, not good. The onus will fall on Campbell in this one. The Falcons might shrug off the Redskins' strong secondary, but it might be by force and not by choice. The matchup seems tailor made for Michael Turner , but there's no way Atlanta will give him more than 20 total touches or so after giving him a big workload last week against the Saints. Washington's done a good job corralling opposing running backs ( DeSean Jackson was the one who hurt them the most on the ground in their last game) but Turner's been running strong and shouldn't have too much trouble behind his line. That might result in limited pass attempts for Matt Ryan , though it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him hit a short-area touchdown to Tony Gonzalez off of play action.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jason Campbell QB Matt Ryan
Clinton Portis RB Michael Turner
Ladell Betts   RB Aaron Stecker
Santana Moss WR Roddy White
Devin Thomas   WR Michael Jenkins
Fred Davis TE Tony Gonzalez
Shaun Suisham K Jason Elam
Redskins DST Falcons
Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Soldier Field
The Cardinals' offense is predictable -- that much the Panthers figured out last week when they picked apart Kurt Warner . Like so many other quarterbacks, Warner struggles when there is pressure on him, and the Panthers brought it with Julius Peppers last week. The Bears as a unit can bring pressure but don't have that one guy to do it, and that's where the Cardinals might find success. Because the Bears will blitz, Warner can find the openings and move the chains on Chicago. Furthermore, the Bears have struggled with big receivers (Chad Ochocinco most recently) and could yield some hefty stats to Larry Fitzgerald . As usual, Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells will split their complementary reps as running backs -- only Hightower is worth a start. The Bears will try to run it on Arizona much like the Panthers did, but they don't have the horses to do it. Arizona's secondary has been lights out over the last three weeks and with Devin Hester hobbled, this might be a tough week for Jay Cutler . One key to the Cardinals' defense will be how effective defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is -- if he's playing well in spite of his injuries, the Bears will have trouble no matter what they do.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Kurt Warner QB Jay Cutler
Tim Hightower RB Matt Forte
Beanie Wells RB Garrett Wolfe
Larry Fitzgerald WR Devin Hester
Steve Breaston WR Johnny Knox
Ben Patrick   TE Greg Olsen
Neil Rackers K Robbie Gould
Cardinals DST Bears
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Gillette Stadium
Tough spot for the Dolphins: Their passing game is in the gutter and their run game is getting exposed a little bit. Last season the Patriots were more than capable of slamming the Wildcat after they were unprepared for it the first time around. Miami will surely revolve its offense around the run game and not try and get fancy with the pass, especially since New England has been good against lesser quarterbacks all season. If the Dolphins had better receivers they'd have a threat, but they don't and it would be a surprise to see Chad Henne have a good game even if they take elements of the Broncos' passing offense that upended the Patriots a few weeks back. With that in mind, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams aren't locks to put up big rushing efforts since the Pats will play to stop them first. The Patriots' offensive mandate is clear: Throw on the Dolphins. They've done this over their last four wins against Miami and surely will test both of the Dolphins' rookie cornerbacks as well as their shaky safeties. You shouldn't be shocked to read that Randy Moss and Wes Welker will have big days, and Sam Aiken might sneak in a couple of passes too. Tom Brady offensive line will need to be ready for the Dolphins' front, but they should be -- Brady's only been sacked eight times all year. If Laurence Maroney and the Patriots' running backs get going, it might be in the second half while sitting on a lead.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Chad Henne QB Tom Brady
Ronnie Brown RB Laurence Maroney
Ricky Williams RB Kevin Faulk
Davone Bess   WR Randy Moss
Brian Hartline   WR Wes Welker
Greg Camarillo   WR Sam Aiken
Anthony Fasano   TE Benjamin Watson
Dan Carpenter K Stephen Gostkowski
Dolphins DST Patriots
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, 1:00 pm, Lucas Oil Stadium
It's unchartered territory for the Texans: They enter this game with a winning record and realistic playoff goals, without tight end Owen Daniels and with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson healthy. Never before has Houston had these things going for it in a game against the Colts, so it's a big deal. The Texans uncovered a new weapon in Ryan Moats last week, but the hunch here is that he plays primarily on running downs and is off the field in pass situations. Those will still go to Slaton, and with the Texans expected to pass a bunch, he'll see more time on the field but probably not many more touches than Moats. It also wouldn't be a huge shock to see Houston use both backs at the same time -- remember, they need to make up for the loss of Daniels any way they can. Indy plays good pass defense at home but they've been burned plenty by Andre Johnson . We could see Schaub aim for Johnson a little more often than normal which would result in his stats rebounding after two weak games. One more point: Daniels' replacement will be Joel Dreessen , who is a better blocker than receiver and might be in to help protect Schaub from the Colts' pass rush. The Colts are taking the Texans seriously but Peyton Manning won't pass up taking shots at Texans cornerback Jacques Reeves when he's lined up across from Reggie Wayne . The Texans will play a lot of two-deep zone to keep Wayne from beating them deep, and that will bode well for Dallas Clark . Remember, Vernon Davis went to town on the Texans a few weeks back when the Niners were forced to throw and they took full advantage of the Texans' safeties. Look for more of the same here. Additionally, Joseph Addai track record against the Texans is immaculate and he should put up some nice totals even though he'll share touches with Donald Brown . You know how sometimes teams will try to run as much as possible on the Colts to keep Peyton Manning sidelined? Don't be surprised to see the Colts run more than normal now that Brown is back to keep the Texans offense off the field.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matt Schaub QB Peyton Manning
Steve Slaton RB Joseph Addai
Ryan Moats RB Donald Brown
Andre Johnson WR Reggie Wayne
Kevin Walter WR Austin Collie
Joel Dreessen   TE Dallas Clark
Kris Brown K Matt Stover
Texans   DST Colts
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Superdome
The Panthers have owned the Saints in recent years, winning six of their last seven in the series. Not only have the Panthers habitually run over New Orleans, but Jake Delhomme has always played great ball against them. Carolina should keep it close thanks to its running attack; the Saints sorely missed defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis clogging up the line of scrimmage and they'll wish they had him again here. The Panthers ran the ball effectively and limited Jake Delhomme chances for error last week and they'd be smart to do the same thing this week (and every week). DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will stay busy. As for Steve Smith , who has torched the Saints badly as recently as last season, the matchup isn't as good for him as New Orleans' secondary has continued to play at a strong level and Delhomme is still capable of making errant throws. He won't dominate New Orleans as he did last season. Now despite the records of both teams, this will be a challenge for the Saints. They're playing on a short week and face a Panthers defense that is much improved against the run and strong against the pass. This isn't to say that Drew Brees will hand off any more or struggle to throw, but an elite Fantasy stat line seems out of place here. The Panthers will key in on Marques Colston and challenge Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod to contain Julius Peppers . That's a tall order, and the Falcons proved last week that they can get to Brees through the middle of the Saints' O-line too, so the Panthers will take some risks with their front seven to cut off the head of the Saints' passing game. Take away last year's Week 17 battle where Brees was trying to break Dan Marino's single-season yardage mark and he's had problems throwing on the Panthers. One idea the Saints might have is to overload the Panthers with four-receiver sets and look to attack the deep middle of the field against rookie backup safety Sherrod Martin . Granted, the Cardinals tried the same thing last week and Martin had two interceptions (one off a tip). If the Saints vary their passing game and do more short-area work than long, they should be all right, but it might mean less-than-stellar stats for Brees.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Jake Delhomme QB Drew Brees
DeAngelo Williams RB Pierre Thomas
Jonathan Stewart RB Mike Bell
Steve Smith WR Marques Colston
Dwayne Jarrett   WR Robert Meachem
Jeff King   TE Jeremy Shockey
John Kasay K John Carney
Panthers DST Saints
Detroit Lions at Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, 4:05 pm, Qwest Field
Could the Lions' offense actually be worse now than last season? Kevin Smith and Calvin Johnson both aren't close to 100 percent and rookie Matthew Stafford has had more down than up moments. The Seahawks match up real well for the Lions, especially if Smith is limited or out. If he is out, look for Maurice Morris to have many chances to show-up his old squad, though not necessarily overpower them. Detroit's offense is just in a bad place right now -- unless Johnson is healthier than the team is letting on, they'll struggle to score points. The Seahawks should be able to play as they wish here. Julius Jones has a tremendous matchup as his offensive line starts to jell and get healthy. Matt Hasselbeck should also get time to throw, which means T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Nate Burleson will be back on the radar this week. Burleson's speed should especially be tough for the Lions secondary to deal with. Two sleepers: Olindo Mare and the Seahawks DST since both should have plenty of good moments in Week 9.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Matthew Stafford QB Matt Hasselbeck
Kevin Smith RB Julius Jones
Maurice Morris RB Justin Forsett
Calvin Johnson WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Dennis Northcutt   WR Nate Burleson
Brandon Pettigrew   TE John Carlson
Jason Hanson K Olindo Mare
Lions   DST Seahawks
Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Candlestick Park
The Titans would be foolish to change anything from what they did last week against the 49ers. San Francisco's defensive line was OK against the Colts but they've been bullied several times this season and should get bullied here. Chris Johnson has played out of his mind, and even though the 49ers will stack the box to stop him, expect the speedster to put up some good stats and score his first road touchdown of the season. We also saw a spike in carries for LenDale White last week, partially because the Titans built a lead and grinded down the clock. He could be worth a flier since he too might find some success. And Vince Young did a nice job against Jacksonville last week and took good care of the football. The 49ers will be on to his 'keep it safe' mentality, and that might make it easier for them to zone blitz the Titans and possibly force a turnover or two. San Francisco will battle back with the run, which it has stuck with for much of the season even though Frank Gore hasn't always delivered. The Titans couldn't wrap up Maurice Jones-Drew last week and should be better prepared for Gore here, especially since Gore's offensive line isn't as strong as Jones-Drew's. But the 49ers have found their go-to guy in Vernon Davis and the matchup is right for him against the Titans' secondary. Play-action should be a key component to Alex Smith success this week. Additionally, if Michael Crabtree can find single coverage (play-action!) he might score his first NFL touchdown in front of the home folks. If anything this game will be fun to watch because of all the young, promising talent in it, all of whom have a shot to score and rack up some yards.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Vince Young QB Alex Smith
Chris Johnson RB Frank Gore
LenDale White RB Glen Coffee
Nate Washington WR Michael Crabtree
Kenny Britt   WR Isaac Bruce
Bo Scaife TE Vernon Davis
Rob Bironas K Joe Nedney
Titans DST 49ers
San Diego Chargers at N.Y. Giants
Sunday, 4:15 pm, Giants Stadium
The last three games for the Giants defense have been ugly, and the Chargers will try to make it four in a row but might be challenged to do so. DL Chris Canty should be back for the Giants as might linebacker Michael Boley , and they'll hamper the Chargers' run game. With the San Diego offensive line still sloppy, the offense will turn to Philip Rivers sooner than it has in the last couple of games. Look for San Diego to isolate receivers on safety C.C. Brown , especially tight end Antonio Gates . The Giants have had their troubles with tight ends, including last week against Brent Celek and two weeks ago against Jeremy Shockey . Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd will also see their usual workloads; the Chargers will look for Jackson in matchups with cornerback Terrell Thomas , which might happen a lot unless Aaron Ross returns from his hamstring pull, which is possible. The Chargers' run defense has looked as good as we've seen against the Chiefs and Raiders but they'll have their hands full with the strong Giants' O-line and Brandon Jacobs . It would not be a surprise to see the Giants lean on their run game here; Eli Manning has been off target over his last three games (six interceptions) and the Chargers' secondary has some good components. A heavy dose of Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw would keep the San Diego offense off the field, keep Manning fresh and attack the weakness of the San Diego defense. That's a trifecta if there's ever been one. If there is a receiver that might pan out for Manning it's Kevin Boss , as the Chargers have been weak against tight ends.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Philip Rivers QB Eli Manning
LaDainian Tomlinson RB Brandon Jacobs
Darren Sproles RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Vincent Jackson WR Steve Smith
Malcom Floyd WR Hakeem Nicks
Legedu Naanee   WR Mario Manningham
Antonio Gates TE Kevin Boss
Nate Kaeding K Lawrence Tynes
Chargers DST Giants
Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, 8:20 pm, Lincoln Financial Field
The Cowboys have done a great job rejuvenating their offense over the last few weeks and should have the personnel to overpower the Eagles' secondary. One guy to look for: Jason Witten , who has been quiet this season but should come up with a couple of big gains as the Eagles continue to struggle against tight ends. With him playing alongside Miles Austin and Roy Williams , he'll find single coverage quite often. And if he can open things up, then all of the Cowboys' receivers would benefit as would the run game. Marion Barber is still the lead back for the Cowboys but it's clear that the team wants him to share, and share he will. Even in blowouts he's not getting the ball a ton. The Eagles did a nice job last week protecting Donovan McNabb but the Cowboys have been bringing a great pass rush. McNabb is great when he has time to throw, but not so much when he's feeling pressure. Look for the Cowboys to have some success bringing that pressure, but they'll struggle containing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin . It wouldn't be a surprise to see Philadelphia continue to score on long explosive plays, possibly with a short catch taken to the house. The Eagles will need the passing game to thrive -- Dallas should be OK containing Brian Westbrook , who still isn't playing at the level we're used to. Not sure either defense will do much good in this one.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Tony Romo QB Donovan McNabb
Marion Barber RB Brian Westbrook
Felix Jones RB LeSean McCoy
Miles Austin WR DeSean Jackson
Roy Williams WR Jeremy Maclin
Jason Witten TE Brent Celek
Nick Folk K David Akers
Cowboys DST Eagles
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Monday, 8:30 pm, Invesco Field at Mile High
The Steelers had the supreme benefit of watching the Ravens maul the Broncos and will most definitely implement things that the Ravens did into their gameplan, but mostly on defense. Offensively, expect Ben Roethlisberger to be the dominant figure. Even though the Broncos have a solid secondary, the Steelers have so many weapons to use on offense in their three-receiver set that it will be difficult for the Broncos to cover them all. Mike Wallace stands out as a candidate for a big game since he'll see more single or safety coverage that he can beat with his deep speed. And if Hines Ward sticks to lining up on the left, he'll rarely if ever see Champ Bailey , who plays on the right side (that's bad for Santonio Holmes ). Sure, the Steelers will run it some with Rashard Mendenhall more than anyone else, but the Broncos' run defense is now actually ranked higher than its pass defense and has allowed fewer touchdowns! The Broncos offense must go back to the drawing board if they're going to move the ball effectively. Last week the Ravens figured out their quick-strike, short-area pass attack and rattled Kyle Orton in the process, and the Steelers will attempt to do the exact same thing. The best plan for the Broncos is to no-huddle that short-range attack with some deep shots mixed in. Problem is if the Steelers bring their zone blitz as often as they potentially could, then Orton won't have the time to connect deep. Additionally, the Broncos' running backs aren't safe options here as they were limited in their ground game last week in spite of Knowshon Moreno scoring. The onus will fall on Orton, and if the Broncos can't out-smart the Steelers defense through the air, it's going to result in another long game for Denver.
Name Rating Pos. Name Rating
Ben Roethlisberger QB Kyle Orton
Rashard Mendenhall RB Knowshon Moreno
Willie Parker RB Correll Buckhalter
Mike Wallace WR Brandon Marshall
Hines Ward WR Eddie Royal
Santonio Holmes WR Jabar Gaffney
Heath Miller TE Daniel Graham
Jeff Reed K Matt Prater
Steelers DST Broncos
Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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