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AFC West running backs could be productive in Week 9

Each week, Scott Engel of previews every NFL matchup from a fantasy perspective.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta

The Falcons rank 27th in yards per game allowed, so you can expect Josh Freeman to take many mid-range shots to Mike Williams and a few to Arrelious Benn. Freeman is an adequate bye-week plugger, Williams a must-start, and Benn worth the gamble if you are desperate for help in larger leagues. The Falcons might load up against LeGarrette Blount, so do not expect a huge statistical day from him again, but he will get some TD chances as the Buccaneers move the ball effectively. Tampa Bay ranks 30th in the NFL against the run, and the defensive line will get pushed around by Atlanta's front wall. Michael Turner is one of the top fantasy starters of Week 9, and Matt Ryan will use play-action passes to his benefit. Look for Ryan to get Tony Gonzalez involved early and often. He'll want to steer clear of opportunistic CB Aqib Talib until he gets Gonzalez established.

Chicago at Buffalo

The Bills rank last in the NFL against the run, and Matt Forte should take advantage of the matchup with some quality rushing numbers. Forte, however, has endured issues near the goal line, and Chester Taylor might steal some of his short-yardage opportunities. The Buffalo secondary is sturdy, and the Bills will be a dangerous opponent after just missing out on their first win last week. Jay Cutler will absorb some big hits and coverage sacks and could be in for an uneven performance. Johnny Knox still might catch a few downfield balls, though, and Earl Bennett is worth a look as a PPR filler in larger leagues. Fred Jackson faces the NFL's fourth-best rush defense, yet he should still come through with an adequate performance. Ryan Fitzpatrick will carry the offense as Buffalo tries to nail down its first victory. Expect him to throw more than one TD pass, and Steve Johnson is a must-start. You can also expect good yardage totals from Lee Evans.

New England at Cleveland

The Browns rank 26th in passing yards allowed, yet they played much better than the numbers would indicate in their last game, a win over the Saints. Tom Brady will have to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid pressure, and that bodes well for the numbers of Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Brady, however, has disappointed his owners recently, and you cannot assume this will be the week when he comes through with the type of numbers that have been expected in the past. The Browns have allowed only one rushing score this year, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis is very hard to keep out of the end zone and should not be reserved. No team can stop a determined Peyton Hillis, and he has emerged as a top 10 fantasy RB. You can lock him in every week with great confidence. Colt McCoy has done an admirable job of valuing the football, yet he won't do much with the ball, even against a vulnerable New England secondary.

New York Jets at Detroit

The Lions allow 130.4 rushing yards per game, and the Jets can successfully re-establish their running game this week. LaDainian Tomlinson will approach 100 yards and should score, and Shonn Greene should be considered as a flex starter if you need a bye-week replacement. An effective running game should keep some pressure off Mark Sanchez at times, and look for him to revive his connection with Dustin Keller. Sanchez should throw more than one TD pass, and he might also get picked off more than once, as the Detroit defensive line will force him to get rid of the ball quicker than he wants to on occasion. Calvin Johnson can be unstoppable no matter who he faces, but Matthew Stafford is a risky start. Detroit will have a lot of trouble getting the running game untracked. Jahvid Best is not a recommended starter, and Stafford will be forced into some obvious passing situations. Nate Burleson should also be reserved. Stafford will need to make some "safe" throws, and that means TE Brandon Pettigrew should be one of his top options.

New Orleans at Carolina

Matt Moore is prone to turnovers, and that is bad news against an aggressive Saints defense. Look for New Orleans to bring lots of pressure, and all of the Carolina WRs are risky starts, even Steve Smith, who appeared to be getting back into a groove last week. The Saints might focus heavily on containing the run to force Moore to throw, and Jonathan Stewart will be stuffed early and often. Of course, this season's Saints have shown they can lay an egg at any time, and this is a divisional game, so do not assume New Orleans will dominate, either. Chris Ivory cannot be counted on for a solid outing, and none of the Saints' pass-catchers can be locked in against a pass defense that ranks fourth in yards allowed per game. Still, it is very difficult to bench Drew Brees, and even if he turns the ball over more than once, he will throw more than one TD pass. This game could turn out to be lower-scoring than expected, especially on the New Orleans side of the ball.

Miami at Baltimore

The mediocre Miami running game will not offer much to fantasy players this week. Do not hesitate to bench Ronnie Brown, and you can likely do better than Ricky Williams at flex. The Ravens defense is not quite as fearsome as it once was, yet it should be able to keep the Dolphins RBs pretty quiet for most of the day. Chad Henne will be up and down as a passer, and he needs to start getting the ball to Brandon Marshall more often. That means a good day for Marshall, but some turnovers for Henne if he attempts to force balls to his top playmaker. Davone Bess has emerged as a quality WR3 start against any opponent. Miami's defense has been respectable overall and might keep Ray Rice from busting loose too often, but Willis McGahee might be difficult to keep out of the end zone. Joe Flacco must throw high-percentage passes against the Dolphins secondary to avoid picks. Look for him to operate a controlled passing game. Flacco will finish with solid, yet unspectacular numbers, and Anquan Boldin is a must-start as his top target. Derrick Mason and Todd Heap will be adequate for PPR purposes.

San Diego at Houston

Philip Rivers' receiving corps has been depleted, and he could actually be without Antonio Gates this time. Even against Houston's soft pass defense, that is not good news. Still, Rivers should be counted on for at least respectable totals, and Patrick Crayton will, obviously, be his best target. Using anyone else in the San Diego passing game is a serious risk, as the rest of the pass-catching crew is unproven and simply does not have much chemistry with Rivers yet. If you are feeling devilishly lucky, though, or simply desperate, Seyi Ajirotutu is the guy you want to roll the dice with. Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert ought to get a lot of work, and both players are good flex options. Mathews has yet to start showing signs of a true breakout, though, and is no lock as an RB2. Matt Schaub has been disappointing, and the Houston offense will continue to revolve around Arian Foster. The Chargers lead the league in passing yards allowed per game, and although they always haven't looked as good as the numbers indicate, the numbers should be enough to make you think twice about using the Houston QB. Andre Johnson faces a secondary that has shut down some opposing No. 1 WRs this year, yet you simply cannot justify benching the Texans superstar.

Arizona at Minnesota

The Minnesota run defense was shown up by New England last week; do not expect that to happen again this week. The Cardinals do not have the consistent passing game needed to prevent the Vikings from honing in on Beanie Wells. The Arizona RB will post disappointing numbers, and the Vikes will attempt to make the erratic Derek Anderson carry the offense. That means another good outing for Larry Fitzgerald, yet it also translates into turnovers for the Minnesota defense. Steve Breaston is a boom-or-bust option with Anderson at QB. Adrian Peterson assumes a heavy workload with Randy Moss gone and Percy Harvin hurting. Although the Cardinals will know he is coming, Peterson can never be fully contained. Visanthe Shiancoe should re-emerge as a prime contributor in the passing game, but anyone else is a major fantasy gamble, including Brett Favre, who always seems to be one more big hit away from missing time.

New York Giants at Seattle

Without Matt Hasselbeck, this game clearly turns in New York's favor from a matchup perspective, although Seattle's home-field advantage can always help its defense. Eli Manning could be erratic early, but the Seahawks defense will spend too much time on the field and will eventually give way. Expect a two-TD, two interception type of performance from Manning. Steve Smith will be very productive from the PPR perspective, and Hakeem Nicks will be a solid bet to score. Ahmad Bradshaw will pad his numbers later in the game, but Brandon Jacobs might have some difficulty finding the end zone against a LB unit that plays with a lot of pride. Charlie Whitehurst is in for a long day behind a shaky offensive line that must guard against a notoriously furious pass rush. Marshawn Lynch will be stuffed consistently, and Mike Williams becomes a much less attractive option without Hasselbeck in the lineup.

Indianapolis at Philadelphia

The Eagles have allowed 13 TD passes this season, and have looked vulnerable to the deep ball recently. Peyton Manning is in for a big week gunning the ball, and he could fire more than two TD passes. Reggie Wayne is an obvious must-start, and Pierre Garcon will definitely challenge the Eagles secondary downfield. Jacob Tamme has the skills to be a consistent contributor and should be started if you do not have another top-level TE on your roster. The Colts RB corps is down to possibly Javarris James as a fantasy option, because Donald Brown does not yet look ready to contribute significantly. If you are desperate for RB help, roll with James. The Colts allow 133.1 rush yards per game, and LeSean McCoy is one of the very best RB starts of Week 9. Michael Vick will be well-rested and ready to produce, which makes the Philadelphia QB and top WR DeSean Jackson optimum starts. A quality ground attack will allow the Eagles to establish the desired offensive balance.

Kansas City at Oakland

If you have RBs on either side in this game, consider yourself fortunate. Oakland's running game is unstoppable behind the rejuvenated Darren McFadden, and although the Chiefs allow less than 97 rushing yards per game, no opponent seems to be capable of containing McFadden right now. He will be especially primed for another divisional game against a fierce rival. Michael Bush, however, is less elusive and will be much less effective. The Oakland passing game produces better than expected with the ground game working so well. Darrius Heyward-Bey is worth using again this week if you need a bye-week filler. Check his status, though, as he might be more risky if he is limited in late-week practices. The Raiders' run defense has been pretty soft for most of the year and does not have much hope against the cutback, slashing style of Jamaal Charles. Thomas Jones will be easier to defend, yet he still may get in the end zone. Matt Cassel cannot be counted on for better than average numbers against any opponent, especially with the Chiefs running the ball so well. Dwayne Bowe is a go-to guy in this intense matchup, and the Chiefs will find a way to get him loose. If Bowe gets shut down for awhile, Tony Moeaki could benefit with some extra targets.

Dallas at Green Bay

The Cowboys' running game is non-existent, and that puts the game in the hands of Jon Kitna, who can produce turnovers even when balls are not getting tipped. Reserve Kitna, and do not expect Dez Bryant to be a major contributor. Jason Witten will catch a lot of balls, and Miles Austin can burn any opponent, but using any other Cowboy will hurt your fantasy results. Aaron Rodgers will let loose after the Jets held him out of the end zone. Expect more than one TD pass, and Greg Jennings is a must-start. Jordy Nelson can be more reliable than James Jones, so go with Nelson in PPR leagues and Jones in performance formats. Even against the moribund Cowboys, Brandon Jackson should not be used. He is the epitome of fantasy mediocrity, and John Kuhn offers even less to fantasy owners.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

The Bengals are having trouble pressuring opposing QBs, and Ben Roethlisberger will have lots of time to throw and produce fine fantasy numbers. Expect him to locate Mike Wallace deep for a TD, and Hines Ward is a must-start in PPR formats. Rashard Mendenhall also should rip some holes in a rush defense that is allowing 120.7 yards per game. Cedric Benson has stood up to the Pittsburgh challenge before, but he is not showing the same burst he did last season. Bench Benson if you have another RB option of similar value. Carson Palmer will spread the Steelers out and attack them with confidence. Expect more than one TD pass, even if he throws more than one interception as well. Terrell Owens is simply unstoppable right now, and Chad Ochocinco should find the end zone against a familiar rival on national television. Ochocinco is still capable of some heroics when the lights are the brightest.

Scott Engel is a member of the inaugural class of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Join him in a live gameday chat every Sunday!

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