NFL Fantasy Matchups - Week 9

Michael Vick gives fantasy owners an edge with game by game analysis heading into week nine of the NFL fantasy season.

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Atlanta Falcons (5-2) @ Miami Dolphins (3-4) 1:00
Falcons' QB Michael Vick is a premium NFL player, and his game presence makes the difference in Atlanta when he's in the lineup. But Vick doesn't always put up tremendous fantasy stats. Vick's athleticism makes him a constant threat to run the ball, but Miami coach Nick Saban will likely make Vick beat them with his arm...which is good for Vick fantasy owners. Expect him to throw for a couple of TDs this week, with at least one going to TE Alge Crumpler. Versatile RB Warrick Dunn is a great play here as the Miami defense focuses on keeping Vick in the pocket. For the Dolphin offense, RB Ronnie Brown is a must start. I also like TE Randy McMichael and WR Chris Chambers, but neither will have huge numbers.

San Diego Chargers (4-4) @ New York Jets (2-5) 1:00
The Chargers are a better team than their 4-4 record, and QB Drew Brees is starting to look like a fantasy stud. And he should. Brees has the best fantasy player in the league with RB LaDainian Tomlinson and also has a tight end (Antonio Gates) that consistently puts up fantasy numbers of a top five wide receiver....Gates had three TDs last week. Brees, Tomlinson, and Gates are all fantasy musts against the Jets this week. New York and their 30th ranked offense are rested after a bye week, but Vinny Testaverde and the Jets will need more than rest before they can be recommended as fantasy starters against a solid San Diego defense.

Oakland Raiders (3-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-3) 1:00
Raiders vs. Chiefs has a history of shootouts and close games and this matchup lends itself as a big fantasy game for owners of offensive weapons on either team. Randy Moss is listed as questionable, but he should start and is a nice play here. I also like Kerry Collins and RB LaMont Jordan against a beatable Chiefs' defense. WR Jerry Porter will also look to build upon last week's game as KC keys on Moss. For the Chiefs, watch the prognosis of Priest Holmes closely. I like RB Larry Johnson in this game and believe it is also one to start QB Trent Green. Expect WR Eddie Kennison and TE Tony Gonzalez (7 grabs last week) to have nice numbers against the Raiders' secondary.

The Texans got out of the cellar (well, not really) and got their first win last weekend. But don't expect Houston to get their 2nd against a stout Jacksonville defense. RB Domanick Davis is always a solid play, but don't expect a monster game. WR Andre Johnson returned to practice this week, but he needs to prove his injury is behind him before he is started in fantasy leagues. Plan on RB Fred Taylor to go off for the Jags. He should light up the Texans for 150 total yards and at least one score. I also like Jax QB Byron Leftwich to have a good game this week, but his receiving target moves from week to week. If you have Jimmy Smith on your roster, this may be the week to play him.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-2) @ Baltimore Ravens (2-5) 1:00
The Bengals have the league's 2nd best record, but still haven't moved to the NFL elite in the minds of NFL experts. Fantasy owners, however, have a different perspective. QB Carson Palmer and WR Chad Johnson are both top three at their respective postitions and should be started every week by their fantasy owners (this week included). WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a benefactor of Palmer at QB and CJ on his flank, thus making him a fine number two fantasy receiver. RB Rudi Johnson hasn't put up stellar numbers this season, but I like him here. Jamal Lewis has had his problems with the Ravens in 2005, but he is a fine play this week against a weak Bengals' run defense. TE Todd Heap will more than likely lead the Ravens in receptions and is key to the Ravens' passing game.

Detroit Lions (3-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (2-5) 1:00
Joey Harrington will be back at the helm this week for the Lions due to an injury to Jeff Garcia. I actually like Harrington as a bye week replacement or as a pickup for Daunte Culpepper owners. I like Detroit running back Kevin Jones as an even better fantasy play this week against the sliding Vikings. Speaking of Culpepper (who suffered a season ending injury in the first quarter of last Sunday's game against the Panthers), Brad Johnson will replace him in Minnesota. I don't recommend any Vikings in this game until I see their offense recover from their seemingly season ending funk.

One of these two teams has to win this game, but neither is loaded with momentum or fantasy studs. Cleveland's poor run defense makes Titan RB Chris Brown a quality start, but that's about it for Tennessee (who are decimated with injuries in their passing game). Browns RB Reuben Droughns DUI arrest this past week could have a reverse motivating effect on his game (coach Romeo Crennel is allowing him to play), but the Titan run defense is solid.

Tampa Bay and Carolina feature the top two rushing defenses in the league (although Kevan Barlow busted for over 100 last week against the Bucs). Tampa Bay's defensive front and the RBBC (running back by committee) employed by Carolina's Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster make the Panther runners risky starts. But, I do like QB Jake Delhomme (who threw for three TDs last week) and WR Steve Smith (200 yards and TD last week) for the Panthers. For the Bucs, Carnell Williams "Cadillac" will get a few yards, but the Carolina front will key on the run and keep him in check. WR Joey Galloway has been a second coming for Tampa Bay and may again be a nice start as Carolina defends the run.

Seattle Seahawks (5-2) @ Arizona Cardinals (2-5) 4:05
Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks have been doing it without their starting wide receivers, but will get starter Bobby Engram back in this game. Engram and Joe Jurevicius will both get plenty of action against the Cardinals. As always, RB Shaun Alexander is a must start...and will absolutely pound out fantasy numbers this week. The Cardinals and coach Dennis Green are changing back to Kurt Warner at quarterback, who will do okay as a bye week replacement for owners in need. WR Larry Fitzgerald will be the primary focus for Arizona due to the injury to Anquan Boldin (out 2-4 weeks with bone bruise) and is a nice play.

Chicago Bears (4-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (2-6) @ Baton Rouge 4:05

Thomas Jones continues to get banged up and will wear a jacket over his injured ribs this week (in addition to the knee injury). My him! Jones will have another huge week and is a top five fantasy player until proven otherwise. Bears' rookie QB Kyle Orton continues to learn and is progressing nicely, but tends more to manage the game and avoid mistakes...thus shelving his fantasy potential and the Chicago passing game until a later date. Surprisingly, the Saints have a top ten offense. The Bears' defense is the real deal (esp. against the run), but I'd still play Saint WRs Joe Horn and Dante Stallworth plus QB Aaron Brooks in this game...since New Orleans will repeatedly go to the air.

New York Gaints (5-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (2-5) 4:05
It will be tough for New York to be as up for this game as they were this past weekend against the Redskins,...but they don't have to be. Play all Giants in this game, including QB Eli Manning, RB Tiki Barber, WR Plaxico Burress, WR Jeremy Shockey, and K Jay Feely. For the Niners, RB Kevan Barlow is a decent play (esp. as the game gets out of hand). But QB Cody Pickett will have his hands full in the NFL and puts a big "fantasy no" on the San Fran passing game.

Big Ben Roethlisberger had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and will miss this game. Charlie Batch will take over at QB, but is on few fantasy rosters and is not a recommended pickup. With the downgrade of RB Jerome Bettis to questionable, the Steeler offense may be Willie Parker and more Willie Parker (although coach Bill Cowher claims that Duce Staley is being prepared to play). Pittsburgh TE Heath Miller has only a few yards this season, but has five touchdowns and is a nice start here as a red zone target for Batch. Brett Favre may have his toughest game yet. But prior to last week's Bengal game, he led the league in touchdowns (14) and had a passer rating of 93.1...this without his top two wide receivers, top two running backs, and the left side of his line replaced due to free agency departures in the off-season.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) @ Washington Redskins (4-3) 8:30
Both Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens are questionable as of this writing. Owens was upgraded to questionable after practicing on Thursday. McNabb was downgraded to questionable after not practicing on Thursday. Both are fine plays (as always) if they play, but will need to be evaluated closer to game time. Look for the Eagles to try to get the ball into RB Brian Westbrook's hands more this week than previously. The Skins were pounded by the Giants last week, but will rebound against the Eagles. QB Mark Brunell will have a good game and will look often to targets Santana Moss and TE Chris Cooley. RB Clinton Portis will do okay and should be started if on your roster, but his numbers will be limited.

Indianapolis Colts (7-0) @ New England Patriots (4-3) 9:00 MNF

This is the game of the year for the Colts...and with New England's 4-3 record, may be their game of the year as well. The Patriots have beaten the Colts the last six times these teams have played and the Colts are looking to exercise this demon on Monday Night Football. Regardless of New England's recent domination (esp. in Foxboro), I still like Indy's primary weapons. Play Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James, and WRs Marvin Harrison / Reggie Wayne. For the Pats, QB Tom Brady is a good play. I also like RB Corey Dillon (check his health first) and WR Deion Branch. Regardless of fantasy implications, this game will definitely be one to watch!

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