Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
Byes: Chicago, Miami, New York Giants, St. Louis.
START OF THE WEEK
Kevin Jones, RB, Detroit: One of the most underrated runners in fantasy football, Jones is back to 100 percent from an injured foot and has been dominant as the Lions featured back. He has recorded 225 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in his past two starts, and his success should continue against Denver. The Broncos rank dead last in the NFL against the run, and only Oakland has allowed more rushing yards per game on the road. With a newfound reliance on the run and Jones in a serious groove, look for the Lions to lean on the former Hokie all afternoon.
QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle: Hasselbeck in on pace to finish with a career-best 3,898 yards and 25 touchdowns based on his current numbers, and this week's matchup in Cleveland should further increase those projections. The Browns rank 31st against the pass and are tied with Cincinnati for the most passing touchdowns allowed (18). What's more, the Browns have surrendered an average of over 30 points and close to 280 passing yards per game at home, so Hasselbeck should since. Look for the veteran quarterback to total 250-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns.
Philip Rivers, San Diego: Rivers led countless fantasy owners to a win last week with a solid three-touchdown performance against Houston, and he's in line to record another solid stat line. Quarterbacks have averaged close to 42 pass attempts and 344 passing yards per game against Minnesota in its past four games, so teams know to exploit what is the 32nd-ranked pass defense. Even with LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, look for Rivers to be prominent in the Chargers' offense in what could be a one-sided contest at the Metrodome.
Sleeper alert: J.P. Losman vs. Cincinnati.
QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger is on pace to record 3,500-plus passing yards and a career-best 34 touchdown passes based on his current numbers. But if there is ever a week to reserve him, this is it. Big Ben faces a formidable Baltimore defense that ranks ninth against the pass and has allowed eight passing touchdowns, so points could be few and far between from the Pittsburgh pass attack. Another reason to sit Roethlisberger -- he had 370 passing yards with one passing touchdown and four interceptions against the Ravens in 2006.
Steve McNair, Baltimore: McNair is expected to return to action from back and groin ailments, but that doesn't make him more attractive in the world of fantasy football. The one-time co-NFL MVP comes back to face Pittsburgh, which ranks fourth against the pass and has surrendered seven passing touchdowns. Furthermore, no team in the league has allowed fewer passing yards per game than the Steelers, who have surrendered an average of 141.7 per game. McNair has also averaged just 205 passing yards in his past three starts against Pittsburgh.
More quarterbacks with unfavorable matchups: David Carr at Tennessee, Brett Favre at Kansas City, Jeff Garcia vs. Arizona, Jon Kitna vs. Denver, Vince Young vs. Carolina.
Owners beware: Kurt Warner at Tampa Bay.
RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM
Clinton Portis, Washington: Portis has been inconsistent all season, as a sore knee and a patchwork offensive line have hurt his production. However, this week's matchup against the Jets makes him a solid fantasy choice. The Men in Green rank 27th against the run and have allowed nine rushing scores, which is tied for third-most in the league. Headed into last weekend, the past two featured backs to face the Jets at the Meadowlands combined for 12 catches, 367 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, so look for Portis to make some statistical noise.
Sleeper alert: Jerious Norwood vs. San Francisco.
RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM
Thomas Jones, N.Y. Jets: Amidst what has been a dreadful season for the Jets is Jones, who is on pace to record over 1,100 rushing yards. He still hasn't scored a touchdown, however, and his chances to do that against Washington are less than stellar. The Redskins rank an impressive ninth in the NFL against the run, and featured backs have averaged a miniscule 69.3 rushing yards with one rushing touchdown against them at home. Jones is a viable flex starter, but fantasy owners shouldn't expect much production.
DeShaun Foster, Carolina: Foster posted decent totals in last week's loss to Indianapolis with 62 rushing yards and one touchdown, but he should be avoided at all costs in Week 9. He heads to Tennessee to face the Titans, who rank first against the run and have allowed a mere 14.7 points and 90.7 rushing yards per game at home. The Titans have also surrendered just one rushing touchdown on their home field, and that came back in Week 2. Foster, who will share carries with DeAngelo Williams, is a serious risk and should be reserved if at all possible.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Ryan Grant at Kansas City, Maurice Jones-Drew at New Orleans, Julius Jones at Philadelphia, Laurence Maroney at Indianapolis, Willis McGahee at Pittsburgh.
Owners beware: Willie Parker vs. Baltimore.
WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM
Lee Evans, Buffalo: Fantasy owners who have held onto Evans despite a poor start to the season should be rewarded for their faith. The veteran faces Cincinnati, which ranks 28th against the pass and is tied with Cleveland for the most receiving touchdowns allowed (18) after eight weeks. Evans, who has 10 receptions for 236 yards and one touchdown in his past two starts, also has a nice rapport with quarterback J.P. Losman, who is back under center for the Bills. Evans should record another 100-yard performance, so make sure he's active.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cincinnati: Houshmandzadeh is on a rampant statistical pace at the midseason point. He leads the league in targets (88) and receptions (58), he's sixth in receiving yards (629) and tied for second in touchdown catches (9). His success should continue in Buffalo, where Houshmandzadeh will face a Bills defense that ranks 29th against the pass and has allowed an average of over 273 receiving yards per game at home. The Bills have also allowed five receiving touchdowns in four games at Orchard Park, so look for Houshmandzadeh to produce well.
Sleeper alert: Brandon Marshall at Detroit.
WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM
Donald Driver, Green Bay: The Packers offense has clicked on all cylinders in recent weeks, but it has not been due to the statistical success of Driver. The veteran has recorded a combined 19 receptions for 175 yards with no touchdowns in his past four starts, and now he'll have to face Kansas City's 10th-ranked pass defense at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have surrendered an average of 15.7 points per game and have not allowed a 100-yard performance or a touchdown to the opposition's No. 1 wide receiver at home, so Driver could have a long afternoon.
Roy Williams, Detroit: Much like Driver, Williams has struggled in recent weeks and has a porous matchup in Week 9, but he'll remain active in most fantasy lineups. He faces a Denver defense that ranks sixth against the pass, and he'll have to deal with arguably the best cover cornerback in the NFL in Champ Bailey, who held Driver to 28 yards last Monday night. Coordinator Mike Martz and the Lions have also leaned less on the pass and more on the run in recent weeks, which is good news for Kevin Jones and bad news for Williams' chances to produce.
Owners beware: Steve Smith at Tennessee.
TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM
Jason Witten, Dallas: Believe it or not, Witten has been the second-most productive tight end in fantasy football behind Antonio Gates after eight weeks. He's on pace to finish with 96 receptions, 1,200-plus yards and nine touchdowns, and he'll build on those projections in Philadelphia. The Eagles have allowed an average of over 325 receiving yards per game at home, and Witten has averaged close to six receptions with 407 yards and two touchdowns in his past six games against them overall. The Cowboys should move the football, so look for Witten to record nice totals.
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis: Clark, who ranks third on NFL.com among tight ends in fantasy points, should be a prominent option in the Colts offensive attack against New England in what could be the greatest regular-season contest ever. The Patriots field one of the league's better defenses, but they've allowed an average of close to five receptions and over 50 yards to tight ends this season. With Marvin Harrison at less than 100 percent, Clark should see more than his share of opportunities and is an attractive option for fantasy owners across the board.
Sleeper alert: Zach Miller vs. Houston.
TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Miller has developed into a top-notch fantasy tight end this season and will be active in countless leagues, but he faces a less than favorable matchup against Baltimore. The Ravens rank ninth against the pass and have surrendered eight receiving touchdowns, and they've been extremely stout against tight ends. In fact, the Ravens have allowed an average of just 2.3 receptions and fewer than 30 yards per game to the position this season. They've also held tight ends without a score on the road, so Miller could be a disappointment.
L.J. Smith, Philadelphia: Smith didn't sustain a setback with his injured groin in last week's win over Minnesota, and Eagles head coach Andy Reid said the veteran will see more time on the field in Week 9 against Dallas. While that's good news in terms of his overall value, Smith should still not be considered a solid starter against the Polks. The Dallas defense has surrendered an average of just 3.1 receptions and fewer than 35 receiving yards per game to tight ends this season, so fantasy owners would be wise to keep Smith on the sidelines.
More tight ends with unfavorable matchups: Todd Heap at Pittsburgh, Jeff King at Tennessee, Donald Lee at Kansas City, Jerramy Stevens vs. Arizona.
Owners beware: Owen Daniels at Oakland.
KICKERS: START 'EM
Josh Brown, Seattle: Brown possesses one of the strongest legs among NFL kickers, and he should have numerous chances to put it to use this weekend in Cleveland. The Browns have surrendered a total of 14 field-goal conversions -- an average of two field goals per game -- and only Miami and St. Louis have surrendered more extra points. What's more, the Browns have allowed an average of over 10 fantasy points per week to kickers, so Brown's chances to produce a solid stat line in this inter-conference clash appear to be positive indeed.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland: It is extremely hard to lean on ol' Sea Bass, as he's been one of the most inconsistent kickers in fantasy football. Still, it's hard to overlook his matchup against a Houston defense that has allowed a league-high 21 field-goal conversions. The Texans have also surrendered 20 extra points, so Janikowski should have more than his share of opportunities. Again, Janikowski has been inconsistent, but he does warrant consideration for fantasy owners who are desperate for a kicker with some statistical potential this week.
KICKERS: SIT 'EM
Matt Stover, Baltimore: Stover has been one of the better fantasy kickers in the NFL this season, but this week'a matchup in Pittsburgh makes him somewhat of a risk. The Steelers have allowed a league-low 6.3 points per game at home, and they've been ultra-formidable against kickers. In fact, the Pittsburgh defense has allowed a mere seven field-goal conversions -- that's the fifth fewest in the NFL -- and kickers have averaged just 4.3 fantasy points against them. Stover will be a nice option for owners down the line, but this seems like a good week to sit him.
Ryan Longwell, Minnesota: Once considered an elite fantasy kicker, Longwell has seen a decrease in value since he went to Minnesota. While his numbers have been better in his past three starts -- he is tied for the fourth-most fantasy points among kickers in that time -- Longwell should still be reserved against San Diego. The Chargers have allowed eight field-goal conversions, which is the sixth fewest in the NFL, so Longwell could be starved for opportunities. Kickers have also averaged just six fantasy points against the Bolts, so Longwell is less attractive.
Owners beware: Jason Elam at Detroit.
DEFENSES: START 'EM
San Diego defense: The Chargers led all defenses in fantasy points on NFL.com last week with 29, and their success should continue in Week 9 against Minnesota. The Vikes have little offensive outside of Adrian Peterson, and questions at the team's quarterback position should mean some solid point totals for the Bolts.
Pittsburgh defense: The Steelers defense has remained a premier unit under the guidance of new head coach Mike Tomlin, and it should thrive this week against Baltimore. Pittsburgh has allowed an average of just 6.3 points per game at Heinz Field, so the Ravens offense could find itself stuck in neutral on Monday night.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Denver defense at Detroit, Green Bay defense at Kansas City, Oakland defense vs. Houston, Washington defense at N.Y. Jets.
Sleeper alert: Atlanta defense vs. San Francisco.
DEFENSES: SIT 'EM
Indianapolis defense: The Colts defense has performed well for fantasy owners despite the numerous personnel losses it suffered in the offseason, but this is one week to keep it on the sidelines. The Patriots have averaged over 42 points per game on the road, and that makes Indianapolis a serious risk in all formats.
Philadelphia defense: The Eagles defense has been a middle-of-the-road unit in fantasy circles this season, and it should be reserved in Week 9 against Dallas. The Cowboys have averaged 32.0 points per game on the road, and they're fresh off a bye. Unless you're desperate, the Eagles should be sidelined across the board.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Arizona defense at Tampa Bay, Buffalo defense vs. Cincinnati, Jacksonville defense at New Orleans, Minnesota defense vs. San Diego.
Owners beware: New England defense at Indianapolis.