I know I harp on this every week, but the Chiefs, Broncos and Lions provide favorable matchups in fantasy football. The Lions are giving up 9.5 yards per pass -- that's a full yard more than every other NFL team. To put that number in perspective, last year Tom Brady had perhaps the best passing season in NFL history, yet his YPA was 8.3. Philip Rivers is leading the NFL this year with a YPA of 8.7 (a truly amazing number, by the way), yet he's almost a yard short of what the Lions are giving up to every quarterback they face.
Meanwhile, the Broncos and Chiefs are giving up 5.4 and 5.6 yards per rush, respectively. To put those numbers in perspective, two of the best running backs of all-time, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson, have never averaged 5.4 yards per carry in any season of their respective careers. What does this mean for you? Simple -- take advantage of these matchups -- every week. In fact, these matchups are so good, it's worth peeking more than one week in advance to see who these teams are facing. With this in mind, here are my suggestions heading into Week 9.
All Bears. Kyle Orton, Matt Forte, Robbie Gould, Greg Olsen, Bears defense, and whoever starts at receiver (Marty Booker, Brandon Lloyd, and/or Rashied Davis) are all good plays this week against the Lions if they are available. I'd even start Olsen in a league that treats tight ends the same as receivers.
Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins. It's time to put aside the fact that it's Chad Pennington and that he plays for a Dolphins team without an established receiver and look at Pennington's stats. He's averaged nearly 300 yards passing with four touchdowns, while his YPA is 8.5 over the past three games. He also faces the Broncos and Seahawks the next two weeks.
Ladell Betts, RB, Redskins. Those of you in shallow leagues can skip to the next recommendation. But for deep leagues, I think Betts has value. Clinton Portis has been terrific, but his enormous workload leaves him susceptible to injury. Betts is currently injured, but he should be healthy again after the Redskins' Week 10 bye and he's the handcuff for Portis, a role some owners might incorrectly assign to Shaun Alexander. If your league is deep enough to take a flier on a guy with upside, take a look at Betts.
Kevin Faulk, RB, Patriots. Unlike the prior game, when he got to pick on the Broncos, Benjarvus Green-Ellis didn't look like anything but a short-yardage back last week. With Laurence Maroney on injured reserve, Sammy Morris out, and LaMont Jordan still hurt, Faulk makes for a decent, short-term plug-in. I still think Faulk is best used as a third-down back, but the Patriots may not have any choice but to expand his role, and even if they don't, it's easy to see Faulk in that role this week against the Colts.
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but he's back. You may not have noticed, but Galloway was wide open on that fourth-down play that the Bucs couldn't convert at the end of the game -- he ran an out-and-up and the defender fell down (anticipating the "out" for the first down). As Galloway gets healthier and rounds into form, expect Jeff Garcia to look for him in those types of situations. Oh, and Galloway gets the Chiefs this week.
Reggie Williams, WR, Jaguars. It looks like Matt Jones will soon be serving a multi-week suspension, which will leave Williams as the Jaguars' top receiver. That might not sound like much, but Williams scored 10 touchdowns last year, and he gets to face the Bengals and Lions the next two games. If Jones is suspended before this Sunday, I'd be fine with starting Williams as my flex player for the next two weeks.
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Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins. Nobody is going to confuse Ginn with a body builder, or basically anybody who has a gym membership. But Ginn is fast and developed a rapport with Pennington last week. If Ginn can avoid getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, then upcoming matchups against the Broncos (without Champ Bailey) and Seahawks look appealing.
Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jaguars. In what has become a really down year for tight ends, Lewis is as involved in the Jaguars' offense as just about anyone. Lewis is probably not an every-week starter, but he's certainly worth starting the next two weeks, as the Jags play the Bengals and Lions. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I'd be very surprised if Lewis doesn't score at least once over the next two games, and that's more than I can say for a lot of tight ends.
Defenses in bad weather. It's getting to that time of year when a mediocre defense would make for a good fantasy defense in bad weather (rain and/or wind). So if you're hurting for a defense and Sunday is approaching, check the weather forecasts. This week, for instance, bad weather in Buffalo or Cleveland is certainly possible, and that would make the Bills (versus the Jets) and Browns (versus the Ravens) more attractive options.