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Week 9 fantasy matchups


For those who think the running game in fantasy football is taking a back seat to passing, the numbers bear that out. Through eight weeks of the season, there have been fewer 100-yard rushing performances, more 300-yard passing games and more 100-yard receiving games than at this time last year:

Inside the numbers
After 8 games 2006 2007
100-yard rushing games 68 60
300-yard passing games 32 37
100-yard receiving games 76 82

And here's a tidbit that's worth considering if you are having lineup questions and you're choosing between players in different conferences: If all things seem equal between two players, choose the one from the AFC, where teams have scored a combined 2,619 points so far this season, as opposed to the player from the NFC, where they've combined for 2,241 points.

Here's a look at key fantasy matchups for Week 9:

49ers at Falcons

It's hard to like anyone from San Francisco, which averages 12.6 points 220 yards of offense per game. In this game, however, I do think RB Frank Gore will break out of his season-long slump and play well. QB Alex Smith, meanwhile, always plays better inside then outside, so he might connect here with TE Vernon Davis.

For Atlanta, I like RB Jerious Norwood, WR Roddy White and QB Joey Harrington, in that order.

Bengals at Bills

Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer needs 310 yards to reach 13,000 for his career. Against a Buffalo defense that ranks 26th in the NFL, he could get it here - which would also bode well for WRs Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. It's not uncommon to see a player who's been out a while have a big game when he's finally healthy, and I think that's what will happen here with RB Rudi Johnson - he should have a big game.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are the only team in the NFL that has allowed more than 20 points in every game this season, so don't be surprised if the Bills put up some good numbers here. I love RB Marshawn Lynch here against the Bengals' 28th-ranked defense. WR Lee Evans came out of his shell a bit last week, and I think that will continue here as he catches some big passes from QB J.P. Losman. It's hard not to like anyone playing against a defense that allows more than 400 yards per game.

Broncos at Lions

Detroit's defense has been opportunistic, but it does give up 367 yards and 25.4 points per game. I like RB Travis Henry here, as he is expected to play. You should also see some production from QB Jay Cutler and WR Brandon Marshall.

Detroit QB Jon Kitna has 10 TD passes in five career games against Denver. Of course, RB Kevin Jones is a very solid play here against a Broncos defense that allows 160 rushing yards per game. Look for Denver to pay extra attention to WR Roy Williams, so don't be surprised if WR Shaun McDonald becomes the main target for the Lions in this one.

Packers at Chiefs

One week after Peyton Manning and Tom Brady became first QBs in NFL history to defeat 31 different teams, Packers QB Brett Favre is in line to become the third - the Chiefs are the only current NFL team (other than Green Bay) that's he's never beaten. Since the Chiefs are tough to run against, don't be fooled by Ryan Grant's 100-yard effort last week in Denver. The Packers will have to rely on Favre's passing. As far as his targets go, I like WRs Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones - in that order. Kansas City is the only team in the league that has not given up more than 20 points in any game this season.

Chiefs RB Larry Johnson is a must-start, but understand that the Packers are pretty tough to run against. That said, I don't think there's anyone else for Kansas City worth playing.

Chargers at Vikings

San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson is an automatic start, but he'll have to get some production in the passing game here. The Vikings have allowed 74 rushing yards per game and two rushing TDs all year. That said, I do think the Chargers can put up some numbers in the air with QB Philip Rivers, WR Chris Chambers, and TE Antonio Gates.

For Minnesota, it's all RB Adrian Peterson - but the San Diego run defense is very good in its own right, allowing 89 yards per game and only two rushing TDs all year. However, there's nobody else on the Vikings worth playing.

Jaguars at Saints

For Jacksonville, I like RB Fred Taylor first and Maurice Jones-Drew second. I don't see the Jaguars getting much done through the air.

For New Orleans, I like QB Drew Brees and WR Marques Colston, who are both starting to hit a stride. Even if Jags DT Marcus Stroud does not play here, I don't think the Saints can run on Jacksonville, so the only yards you'll get from RB Reggie Bush will be through the air.

Redskins at Jets

For Washington, I like RB Clinton Portis and WR Santana Moss. The Jets are near the bottom of every defensive category, including 31st in overall defense. QB Jason Campbell can be quite inconsistent, but Washington should be able to do something here.

On the other hand, it's hard to find much to play for the Jets. WR Laveranues Coles is banged up and inexperienced QB Kellen Clemens against defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a very tough matchup.

Panthers at Titans

Good news for the Panthers - while they have lost all three home games this season, they are 4-0 n the road, so the trip to Nashville should be welcome. In fact, the road team has won the last 11 games Carolina has played dating back to last season. I don't think the Panthers can run on Tennessee, which allows just 64 yards per game on the ground. It's hard to expect much from QB David Carr, but he'll at least try to get the ball to WR Steve Smith, who is really the only Panther worth playing.

For Tennessee, I think QB Vince Young is playing hurt and that's why he's been struggling most of the season. So the only real play here is RB LenDale White, who should continue his solid play.

Cardinals at Buccaneers

I think Arizona QB Kurt Warner - who has passed for 908 yards in his last three games - should continue that pace. That means you should also like WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Boldin, by the way, needs 80 yards to reach 5,000 for his career -- and if he does it here, he would tie Jerry Rice as the fourth-fastest (60 games) in NFL history to reach 5,000 yards (Lance Alworth did it in 52 games, which is the fastest). RB Edgerrin James also is worth playing here.

For Tampa Bay, I like WR Joey Galloway - though that is predicated in QB Jeff Garcia's ability to make plays. Garcia is coming off his first bad game of the '06 season last week. Sometimes with older players, it's not uncommon to see a dropoff as the season progresses - so I'm curious to see if last week was an aberration for Garcia or the start of a downhill trend.

Seahawks at Browns

On the one hand, this is another one of those tough road games where a West Coast team must travel cross-country for a 1 p.m. ET start. On the other hand, Cleveland allows 410 yards per game. So I do like QB Matt Hasselbeck and RB Shaun Alexander. I don't think WR Deion Branch will play - but check the injury reports as late as possible because if he plays he's got a chance to something against this defense.

Seattle is better on pass defense than most people think - allowing just five TD passes this season -- but the Seahawks will still have a hard time stopping QB Derek Anderson, who I'm sure will continue to get the ball to his two favorite targets, WR Braylon Edwards and TE Kellen Winslow.

Patriots at Colts

As everyone has talked about all week, this should be a tremendous matchup. I think 28 or 31 points will be enough to win this game. New England's top-scoring offense takes on an Indianapolis defense that is first in yards allowed and second in points allowed. QB Tom Brady looks to continue his streak of eight consecutive games with 3-plus TD passes. After Brady, I like WR Wes Welker, WR Randy Moss, and RB Laurence Maroney, in that order.

For Indianapolis, Peyton Manning of course should do well. I wouldn't be surprised if the New England emphasis is on keeping TE Dallas Clark from having a big game like he did last year (7-168), so the top plays after Manning are RB Joseph Addai and WR Reggie Wayne.

Texans at Raiders

The Raiders can't stop the run, so you might want to take a flier on RB Ron Dayne. I'm not sure anyone else is worth playing, unless you want to try your luck with QB Sage Rosenfels and TE Owen Daniels.

I wouldn't be surprised if QB Josh McCown gets the start here. Unfortunately for McCown, Oakland's best receiver, Ronald Curry, got hurt in practice Wednesday. Look for Oakland to run a lot, which means you could try LaMont Jordan or Justin Fargas. Jordan is getting about two-thirds of the carries compared to one-third for Fargas, but both might get a fair share here.

Cowboys at Eagles

It seems as if young quarterbacks facing Philadelphia for the first time have it pretty tough - but they bounce back nicely the second time around. Last year in his debut against Philly, Dallas QB Tony Romo threw 2 INTs, was sacked three times and had a 45.5 rating. But I would look for him to playmuch better this time around. Which means I also like WR Terrell Owens and TE Jason Witten. RB Marion Barber will do something, but it's not easy to run on Philadelphia.

For the Eagles, I like QB Donovan McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook, who should present a major matchup problem for Dallas.

Ravens at Steelers

I think the only chance of getting anything from a Ravens player in this game is from WR Derrick Mason - he's got 52 receptions on the season, however his yardage total is quite low. The Steelers, meanwhile, have allowed just one rushing TD and an average of 13 points per game, so don't expect much from RB Willis McGahee.

For Pittsburgh, I like QB Ben Roethlisberger and WRs Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. Pittsburgh RB Willie Parker has become a must-start, but it's tough to run on Baltimore.