By Alan Squatrito
Falcons vs. Buccaneers
The New Orleans Saints are not in first place in their division, they are in third! The Tampa Buccaneers are currently battling for the first place spot in the NFC South as they travel to the Georgia Dome to face the 5-2 Falcons in week 9. The Buccaneers are also 5-2 and the Saints are right behind them at 5- 3. It’s going to be tough to stay atop the division in the NFC South as the season progresses for the Buccaneers but they have been playing great football in general and on the road. However, I believe the Falcons will get a win at home this week. Michael Turner has yet to run for back to back 100 yard games and I think it’s safe to say he will do so after week 9 is in the books. The Bucs are giving up 5.2 yards a carry while Michael Turner is averaging 4.5 yards a carry. He is going to bowl right through the Bucs this weekend no doubt. The Falcons are 27th against the pass while the Bucs are 13th with 14 interceptions (most in the NFL), so there is more reason to believe the Bucs will get a heavy dose of Turner Burner this weekend. I think the Bucs are going to be down early and have to eventually abandon the run. Josh Freeman is a high number 2 QB start this weekend and Mike Williams is a clear number 1 despite Dunta Robinson being back out on the field. LeGarrette Blount should play well, but we shall see comes Sunday, don’t count him out just yet, the Bucs may keep this game within reach.
Ravens vs. Dolphins
It is true; the Dolphins are 4-0 on the road and 0-3 at home. It’s time for a flip-flop. The Dolphins aren’t going to go into Baltimore and get another road win after upsetting the Cincinnati Benglas on the road last week. To win two games in a row on the road is a tough task in general. The Bengals were desperate last week for a win and couldn’t get it done. The Dolphins struggled in the red zone as they usually do to give Dan Carpenter all their fantasy points. The Ravens hate it when opposing offenses try to score within their red zone and I feel as though this is where Miami will make their mistakes. The Ravens are also coming fresh off their bye with Ed Reed getting his legs back from underneath him. The Ravens are 9th against the pass even though they can give up big plays, but they are also allowing 4.2 yards on the ground per attempt. If I were the Dolphins I would bring back the wild cat offense and pull some tricks out of the hat, but that’s the only way I can see them pulling off another win on the road. I see Ray Rice exploding with numerous opportunities including being involved with the pass game. He should see a couple of screen passes his way as well. The Dolphins are playing well against the run (3.8) a carry but the Ravens’ offensive line is going to boss around a tired front four all day long. I like Derrick Mason and Anquan Boldin as solid starts in fantasy this week. I see Mason as a flex start and Boldin as a number 2 start. Brandon Marshall could blow up because his nickname is Godzilla but I rank him and Davone Bess very close to one another especially in ppr leagues.
Bills vs. Bears
The Buffalo Bills are 0-7 thus far this season but are playing their hearts out to get a win! There last three games have been close while they still can’t seem to put it all together. Steve Johnson has been a nice surprise for the Bills, he is emerging as a true number one receiver with 5 touchdowns in 5 consecutive games and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he got his 6th touchdown in week 9. Mike Martz has been talking to the media about how Jay Cutler is losing confidence with his role under center for the Bears, and I wouldn’t blame him because it’s not an easy thing to erase from your memory when you throw four interceptions in your last game, especially if it’s to one player, but maybe Mike Martz will abandon the pass game and feed Forte and Taylor all day? Yikes, I wouldn’t count on it. Jay Cutler is in an offensive system where timing is everything. His receivers aren’t the best receivers around the league, and he isn’t the best quarterback in the league to make any receiver look great. I know the Bears are playing well and have a solid defense but I still don’t trust them this week. I see Forte having a great day but not great enough to get the Bears the win. I am not a fan of starting Jay Cutler this week even though the Bills are 26th against the pass. I see him as a number 2 QB start. Johnny Knox will produce as usual in ppr leagues and Earl Bennett could emerge to be Cutler’s other go to guy. I like Ryan Fitzpatrick as a low-end number 1 this weekend. Could the Bills still lose this weekend? Definitely, but if they are going to have an opportunity to win at all this season, it will be against the Bears at home this weekend.
Panthers vs. Saints
The Saints finally looked like their former selves in last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers but they still seem to be somewhat lax when needing to string consecutive solid games together . It is interesting to note that Carolina’s Matt Moore has won 5 of his last 7 starts at home while DeAngelo Williams 119.8 yards per game on the ground when he faces off against the Saints, he won’t be facing off against them this week however. Marques Colston has at least 5 catches in five consecutive games and I can’t picture him not having a 6th consecutive game with five catches or more as the Saints seem to be heating up. The Panthers kept it close last game but unless DeAngelo Williams is playing I can’t picture the Saints losing in week 9. I expect Lance Moore and Colston to carry the load with Robert Meachem to have a solid receiving day as well. The Panthers ranks 21st against the run but only give up 3.6 yards a carry. I see Chris Ivory as a low number 2 running back this week because Drew Brees is simply going to carry everything on his shoulders. Jonathan Stewart should be an honest number 2 running back this week as the Saints give up 4.1 yards a carry on the ground, they can only help his 2.8 yards per carry average get better. I know Matt Moore is 5 and 7 at home in his last 7 starts but you can only take a guess when he is going to play well, and the Saints have momentum to build on. Until Matt Moore plays consistently well, I wouldn’t count too much on any Panther this week.
Browns vs. Patriots
Coach Belichick and Coach Mangini are definitely an awkward combination together when they are in the same room, out on the same field, or coaching on the same team. They usually don’t like shaking hands after the end of a regulation game and it will be fun to watch this awkwardness continue after week 9 when the Patriots visit the Browns in the Dog Pound. The Patriots have beaten the Browns the last four times they have played one another and I think it is going to be time for a fifth. Although the Browns beat the Saints and have kept games close at home within three points, I still believe the Patriots are going to win this game with ease. The Browns defense ranks in the bottom half of the league against the pass and the run. That’s pretty much all I have to write, and Colt McCoy is still behind center. This skews the previous stats mentioned at home where the Browns have had tendencies in keeping it close. I still expect the clock to run all game along with the Great White Water Buffalo (Peyton Hillis). Peyton Hillis feels at 100% and he is a bruiser, he will run wild against the Patriots defense giving the Browns the only possible chance to keep the game within reach against the Pats comes Sunday. I am still waiting for Brady to have a magnificent day through the air and this game gives him a great chance to have one. I like Peyton Hillis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Danny Woodhead as great starts this week while it may be a coin flip between Deion Branch and Brandon Tate on who will have the better day. I am not a big fan of Benjarvus Green-Ellis this week because I think Coach Belichick wants to get his passing attack going early and often in week 9.
Lions vs. Jets
The Lions are looking great with Mathew Stafford behind center and it is a good thing they will be playing at home this week against the Jets, even though it may not matter much. It’s funny that Mike Shanahan couldn’t just give credit to the Lions front four opposed to pulling Donovan McNabb out of the game but he will be the one to deal with all the criticism, not Donovan. We will never know if Donovan McNabb would have made a comeback win in the last two minutes of the game against Detroit last week, despite how great the Lions defense played throughout the game. You can never assume. But one fact will still always remain when it comes to the NFL. Games are won and lost inside of the trenches and the Redskins offensive line has to be one of the worst O-lines in the NFL while the Jets O-Line is one of the best. That is going to be the main difference in this week’s battle in Ford Field. The Lions are 27th against the run giving up 4.9 yards a carry. The Jets are averaging 5.0 yards a carry and I can’t seem to think that will change come Sunday. I expect Calvin Johnson to have a solid day with at least one touchdown while Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith are going to struggle. Ladanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene are going to be a great duo this weekend and I like Shonn as a flex play. I like Brandon Pettrigrew and Dustin Kellar in this game putting up solid number tight end numbers. Sanchez is more of a low-end number two quarterback while Stafford is a low-end number one this week.
Texans vs. Chargers
No matter who is out or injured, this will be a high scoring game. Matt Schaub put up a devastating ten points in fantasy last week and I’d be surprised if he did something along the same lines in week 9. Andre Johnson is hurting; Antonio Gates is hurting, what will Schaub and Rivers do? Find a way to get points regardless. I expect the Chargers to get all three running back involved heavily in this game to move the ball considering the fact that Naanee is out for the game, Malcom Floyd is still out, and Buster Davis is on i.r. with a rib injury. Philip Rivers quarterback rating is a 98 while Matt Schaub’s quarterback rating is an 89, this is the main difference in the game. Philip Rivers likes to take charge of his team in general, and especially in November. The Texans are always on the brink of making the playoffs while the Chargers always do. I still think both teams are going to make it to the playoffs and believe that this game is going to be the game of the week but I think Rivers is going to find a way to get it done. The Chargers are supposedly one of the best defenses in the NFL but I disagree with this stat because they are giving up 21.7 points a game. The Texans will move the ball and I expect Arian Foster, Kevin Walter, Joel Dressen, and Jacoby Jones to contribute when Schaub isn’t force feeding the ball to Andre Johnson. Every player for both teams is good starts this weekend.. Rivers and Schaub are the best players to plug-in for your fantasy team this weekend as they are both going to have to get creative. I expect Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, and Mike Tolbert to all produce. I like the Chargers in this game to win by 2-4 points. I expect over 50 points being scored in this game.
Vikings vs. Cardinals
What a great team to play against in order to look like a playoff contender once again, but this is not the 2009 season. Whether they want to admit it or not, the Vikings are going bonkers after they let go of Randy Moss and owner Zygie Wilf had nothing to do with his release, it was all Childress. Besides for making such a silly decision to let go of Moss, there is a bright side. The Minnesota Vikings led the league last year with 48 sacks while they only have 6 sacks on the year in 2010 and that is definitely due to change. I expect the Vikings defense to pick up the slack on the dysfunctional franchise in Minnesota this week and get a win. Adrian Peterson and Visanthe Shiancoe are the only players worth starting this weekend in my opinion for the Vikings, along with their defense. If Harvin plays then of course, but he is very questionable for Sunday. I like Beanie Wells as a low number two running back this weekend with not a lot of upside. Derek Anderson will have to give the Cardinals an edge in this game and although it is possible I don’t see it from happening. I expect Larry Fitzgerald to get a touchdown at some point in the game.