ETB Articles

Fantasy Football: Week Nine Matchups

Rivers draws the NFL's worst pass defense

We’re entering the stretch run for a spot in the fantasy playoffs, with some of us (Andrew) faring better than others (Brian) in the ETB League. Who to start, who to bench, and who to plug in for a spot start is crucial no matter what. To aid your worthy quest for a title, ETB continues to break down a few key fantasy matchups at all the positions that matter (sorry, kickers are putzes). For each roster spot we’ll spell out our Five Strong Plays, a few players to Temper Your Expectations for, one Sneaky Play of the Week, and one Dud of the Week.

These are not always the guys we think will score the most points or score the least points: there will always be obvious situations and choices we ignore. These also aren’t all sneaky plays. These are just the matchups that we feel deserve mention*.

Make sure to check back on these matchups the following week to see how each one of our picks actually fared. That way you can either sing the praises of ETB (likely) or scoff at our incompetence (very unlikely).

Good luck, but with ETB at your disposal “luck” just isn’t relevant.

Palmer is due for a big day

Five Strong Quarterback Plays

Philip Rivers, San Diego @ MIN: This one could get ugly, fast. The Vikings cannot stop anybody’s passing attack–they’re the league’s worst secondary, allowing 288.3 yards passing/per–and they get the Chargers at the worst possible time with Philip Rivers, LT, and Antonio Gates on a major roll. Tomlinson could get 10 receptions, and Rivers will be able to pick and choose between Gates, Chris Chambers, and Vincent Jackson downfield. He has four games this season of at least 2 TD passes; this one will make five.

Actual: 19-42, 197 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT. Weird.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. BAL: Since getting embarassed Week 4 in Cleveland, the Baltimore pass defense appears to have gotten things back on track. It only looks that way because they’ve played the 49ers, Rams and Bills the last three weeks. This secondary is still overrated and can be beaten by physical receivers and speedsters. The Steelers have both, and playing at home we like Ben for 2 or more TDs.

Actual: 13-16, 209 yards, 5 TDs

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati @ BUF: The Bills have been playing inspired defense at home all season, but their secondary is still not in the same class as Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. We think this is going to be a much closer game than most people think, and Palmer (the NFL leader in passing attempts) will be throwing all day–as usual.

Actual: 26-39, 271 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia vs. DAL: The Cowboys haven’t given up that many yards passing this year (208.9 per), but they have surrendered 11 TDs thus far. They’ve also been lit up by the only two real passing offenses they’ve faced–the Giants and the Pats. McNabb hasn’t throw a ton of TDs recently, but all the peripheral stats show a QB on the rise: the completion percentage is rising, the attempts are rising and the Y/A are rising. We don’t buy this Dallas secondary one bit, and McNabb should find the endzone a couple times.

Actual: 27-46, 264 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs, 1 Fumble Lost

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle @ CLE: Browns games are suddenly fun to watch again. They have one of the NFL’s most explosive passing games, and their defense makes the opponent’s passing game look almost as good every week. Cleveland gives up the second-most passing yards in the NFL (270.7) and they’ve given up the most TDs (18). Hasselbeck has been playing well and should be in most lineups.

Actual: 30-47, 318 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 17 yards rushing, 1 Fumble Lost

Temper Your Expectations

Tony Romo, Dallas @ PHI: Romo is a very good QB, no doubt. But we really feel like good defensive coordinators can figure him out and get in his head. The Eagles DC Jim Johnson is one of the best in the business, and constantly changing blitzing schemes is his specialty. It’s going to give Romo problems on the road, and it’s the main reason the Iggles only give up 210.3 passing yards a game and have surrendered just 6 TD passes on the year.

Actual: 20-25, 324 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT

Derek Anderson, Cleveland vs. SEA: It’s hard to tell anybody to bench Derek Anderson at this point, and unless you have another very strong option you should roll with him. However, the Seattle pass defense has quietly been one of the best in football. They give up just 212.7 a game, and what’s worse, they’ve only given up 5 passing TDs, fewest in the NFL this season. Julian Peterson has also invigorated this pass rush, which is getting to QBs.

Actual: 29-48, 364 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 21 yards rushing

Sneaky Play of the Week

Jay Cutler, Denver @ DET: Jay Cutler has been a big disappointment thus far, throwing more than 1 TD in a game just once so far. He has played better recently and appears to have two strong options that he’s comfortable with in Brandon Marshall and Tony Sheffler. Detroit gives up 258.3 yards a game, third-worst in the NFL, and has allowed 13 passing TDs this year. The play doesn’t come without risk, though–the Lions defense now leads the NFL in turnovers.

Actual: 3-4, 20 yards, Injured

Dud of the Week

Jeff Garcia, Tampa Bay vs. Arizona: Watching Garcia try to throw it deep, you realize just how much of his yardage and how many of his TDs have nothing to do with his arm. Joey Galloway has made him look good so far, but defenses are starting to figure out that he can’t throw over their safeties. The 37-year-old finally threw 3 INTs last week, and he faces an Arizona secondary that’s been in the top-10 in the NFL all season.

Actual: 18-28, 196 yards, 1 TD, 26 yards rushing

Maroney will look to stomp the Colts

Five Strong Running Back Plays

Kevin Jones, Detroit vs. DEN: KJ is an absolute must-start player this week. Detroit has started going with a more balanced and conservative gameplan in recent games, and Jones is thriving because of it. He’s running strong and looks elusive, and more importantly he’s getting all the carries and finding the endzone. Denver, who trots out the NFL’s worst rushing defense, is playing on the road, in a short week, and they just made some guy named Ryan Grant look like a star on Monday.

Actual: 17 carries for 71 yards, 1 catch for 5 yards

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia vs. DAL: Brian Westbrook has been healthy over the last month, and when this guy is healthy, you start him. He’s simply electric, and that Dallas defensive line can’t contain him. He should also be very involved in the passing game, just like every other week.

Actual: 16 carries for 65 yards, 14 catches (!) for 90 yards, 1 TD

Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo vs. CIN: The Bills are an entirely different animal at home, and the Bungles just might stumble onto the plane with another improbable loss to add to their ’07 resume if they fail to contain this hard-running rook. With Cincinnati’s dearth of linebackers, it’s going to be tough. Against a D allowing opponents 139 on the ground/per, anything less than 105 yards and a TD would be a disappointment for Marshawn.

Actual: 29 carries for 153 yards, 1 catch for 7 yards, 1 pass for 8 yards, 1 Rushing TD, 1 Passing TD

Laurence Maroney, New England @ IND: Christ… do we have to list him here, again? We feel like Matt Jones: we’re not going to remove him until he scores. How can Maroney not have a single, solitary touchdown yet in one of the most deadly offenses the NFL has ever seen? Perhaps Bill Belichick was saving him for this, The Most Hyped Regular Season Game Ever. Oh, you’d be one sneaky devil, Bill, if you suddenly gave Maroney 30 carries and all the goal-line chances. This figures to be a game where his team actually needs him, so start him with as much confidence as you can muster at this point.

Actual: 15 carries for 59 yards

LenDale White, Tennessee vs. CAR: LenDale has emerged as the workhorse back that Tennessee was hoping for all along. Instead of just stumbling and falling forward for a couple of yards, he’s actually starting to show some burst and get into the second level. Tennessee’s defense keeps them in games, and it’s allowed them to feed the fat man a gluttonous volume of carries. Carolina is a perfectly average rushing D, so roll White out there.

Actual: 31 carries for 100 yards, 1 catch for 1 yard, 1 TD, 1 Fumble Lost

Temper Your Expectations

DeShaun Foster, Carolina @ TEN: He’s somehow managed to stave off the competition (i.e. DeAngelo Williams) much longer than anyone anticipated, but this isn’t a good week to bank on either of the Panthers’ backs. The Titans stop the run better than anybody in the NFL, giving up the staggeringly low number of 64.3 yards/per through seven games. At home, facing an incompetent quarterback, they will shut it down again.

Actual: 17 carries for 63 yards, 2 catches for 6 yards

Larry Johnson, Kansas City vs. Green Bay: After two consecutive strong showings for the first time this year, Johnson owners are feeling a lot better about their top-5 pick, but he could be in for another rough week. You likely have to roll with your stud, but the Green Bay rush D has been extremely stingy. They’ve only let up two rushing touchdowns all year, and they give up less than 100 yards per on the ground. We have a feeling Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk will be shadowing LJ all day.

Actual: 19 carries for 53 yards, 3 catches for 42 yards, 2 TDs (injured?)

Sneaky Play of the Week

Jerious Norwood, Atlanta vs. SF: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is speculating that Norwood could finally get the nod as the team’s starting back, replacing the destitute fantasy black hole known as Warrick Dunn. It’d be a good week to give the explosive second-year back a featured role, as the Falcons face a reeling ‘Niners defense giving up 123 yards/per on the ground.

Actual: 6 carries for 39 yards

Dud of the Week

Willis McGahee, Baltimore @ PIT: You just don’t run on the Steelers at Heinz Field. Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore, and Shaun “Shoot Me Now” Alexander have combined to rush for just 128 yards against this squad on their visits, and we expect to add McGahee to the long list of backs held under 75 yard rushing and out of the endzone.

Actual: 12 carries for 50 yards, 3 catches for 12 yards, 1 TD, 1 Fumble Lost

Megatron wants to do his dance on Sunday

Five Strong Wide Receiver Plays

Brandon Marshall, Denver @ DET: We’ve been on the guy’s bandwagon all season, and he’s made us look good. He’s just a natural talent who should be a reception machine in this league for the next decade. The Detroit corners will not be physical enough to keep the big man out of the endzone this weekend.

Actual: 9 catches for 96 yards

Chad Johnson, Cincinnati @ BUF: Chad has been quiet recently, at least for him. He hasn’t scored since Week 2, but we think he gets off the schneid this week. This game should have plenty of offense and the Bills are one of the NFL’s worst against opposing wideouts.

Actual: 3 catches for 48 yards. Injured.

Chris Chambers, San Diego @ MIN: San Diego only attempted 11 passes last week, but they’ll be throwing considerably more on Sunday against the NFL’s worst secondary. Chambers already knows this offense well, and the Viqueens corners can’t keep up with him in the red zone.

Actual: 5 catches for 59 yards

Lee Evans, Buffalo vs. CIN: Evans has 10 receptions, 238 yards and 1 TD over his last two games. It’s safe to say he’s coming around, and just in time to face off against the cake Bengals secondary. Cincinnati has given up an NFL-worst 18 TD receptions already, and it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if Evans grabbed two more. With Losman likely getting the starting nod, his chances for long TDs rise that much more.

Actual: 9 catches for 165 yards, 1 TD

Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson, Detroit vs. DEN: Something tells us that there’s a big play in store for Megatron in front of the amped-up home crowd. Former Lions CB Dre Bly will be looking to make something happen against his former team, but one of his patented gambles backfires and Johnson takes it to the house. We don’t like to make guarantees, but let’s just say there’s a very good chance for a score.

Actual: 3 catches for 47 yards

Temper Your Expectations

Roy Williams, Detroit vs. DEN: Denver’s best player, Champ Bailey, does an excellent job of locking down opposing WR1s, which would be Roy. He hasn’t been up to snuff lately in the TD department, and may have to wait another week to bust back out.

Actual: 3 catches for 44 yards

Laveranues Coles, New York Jets vs. WSH: Washington is going to bring the pass rush, and Coles won’t have time to get open. Plus, the love affair with Chad Pennington is over and Kellen Clemens will suffer from the growing pains every new quarterback endures. We’d be trying to trade him now while his value is still relatively high.

Actual: Inactive

Sneaky Play of the Week

Troy Williamson, Minnesota vs. SD: Ok, projecting Troy Williamson TDs is a bit like trying to predict my next bowel movement. Nobody knows when it will happen for sure–it could be weeks, months away–but I think it’s going to happen here. Williamson is one of the fastest players in the NFL and the Chargers’ corners can be beat by the deep ball. With Minnesota playing from behind all game, I just have a feeling he’ll be the recipient of a long TD pass. Please don’t bench anybody good for Williamson this week, though.

Actual: Inactive

Dud of the Week

Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City vs. GB: The rookie first-round pick has been a pleasant surprise for the Chiefs, who are absolutely depleted at that position with Eddie Kennison on the shelf and Samie Parker not really a viable option. Since scoring a TD three weeks straight, however, Bowe has been shut out of the endzone for the same amount of time, and will likely draw Al “Lock Him Up and Throw Away the Key” Harris on Sunday (nickname asserted by teammate Nick Barnett). He’ll again get some catches and some decent yards, but will struggle to score.

Actual: 0 catches for 0 yards

Gonzo is happy to get the Pack

Five Strong Tight End Plays

Tony Scheffler, Denver @ DET: The big 6-5, second-year player out of Western Michigan returns to his home state on a two-game scoring streak. Cutler loves this guy in the redzone, and another short TD catch could be in the cards against a Lions secondary that’s vulnerable over the middle.

Actual: 6 catches for 46 yards, 1 Fumble Lost

Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. GB: Green Bay is one of the league’s worst at containing tight ends, and have now given up four TDs to players at that position after Scheffler scored on Monday night. The Chiefs will no doubt look to get Gonzo involved early and often, and he could very well go off for 75+ yards and a TD.

Actual: 10 catches for 109 yards, 1 TD

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis vs. NE: Over the last month one chink in the New England armor has been their defense against tight ends. They’re giving up nearly 6 receptions, 63 yards and .5 touchdowns a game to the position. Clark is emerging as one of Peyton’s favorite targets inside the red zone, which figures to continue with a hobbled Marvin Harrison. Clark was quiet last game, but he was on fire before that and he’s getting enough looks to get back on track this week.

Actual: 2 catches for 15 yards

Jason Witten, Dallas @ PHI: This guy has just been a monster all year long and the most consistent fantasy producer at his position outside of Antonio Gates and Kellen Winslow. Through seven games, the likely Pro Bowler has recorded 42 receptions for 540 yards and 4 TDs, and in this big matchup we expect him to at least get his per-game average of 6 catches, 77 yards, and a possible score. Rock solid.

Actual: 3 catches for 77 yards, 1 TD

Vernon Davis, San Francisco @ ATL: QB Alex Smith knows that he essentially has two playmakers to utilize: Frank Gore, who’s been MIA, and Davis, who returned to the lineup last week after sitting out a few and had his best day of the year (6 receptions, 71 yards, 1 TD). Neither of these teams have much to play for, and Davis seems like the kind of guy who’ll do his best to take advantage of his opponents’ apathy.

Actual: 7 catches for 77 yards

Temper Your Expectations

Jeff King, Carolina @ TEN: King has been surprisingly good on PPR leagues, but this is a terrible matchup. The Tennesse linebackers are extremely tough against opposing tight ends, allowing just 2.5 receptions per game over the last four contests. King put up a monster 10 receptions this week, but he’s been largely MIA since Delhomme went down and we don’t expect much this week.

Actual: 2 catches for 14 yards

Alge Crumpler, Atlanta vs. SF: Team Trainwreck is being led by a group of disgruntled veterans who aren’t keen on new HC Bobby Petrino’s persona; Crumpler is one of them and a prime candidate to phone it in from here on out (which is scary considering they still have 9 games left). He’s banged up on top of everything else, and has 3 catches for 13 yards, total, over his past two games.

Actual: Inactive

Sneaky Play of the Week

Kyle Brady, New England @ IND: The nine-year vet is just slightly less older and beaten down than Evander Holyfield, but he’s really, really good at hauling in short TD passes from Tom Brady. If Ben Watson sits this one out again, Brady should get the starting nod, assuming he’s healthy. Then again, this team is filled with TD Vultures (Faulk, Evans, T. Brady, Vrabel), so you might get a big 0.00 from K. Brady. Only for the most strapped owners.

Actual: 0 catches for 0 yards

Dud of the Week

Todd Heap, Baltimore @ PIT: Yuck. There’s a reason we both avoid Heap at all costs on draft day, and his owners are finding out the hard way. The guy just can’t stay healthy and on the field, and we weren’t fooled by all those preseason reports that Heap was feeling good and looking forward to a productive ’07 campaign. He’s missed the last three games with some sort of sore vag, and is currently questionable against the Steelers. Booooo!

Actual: Inactive

Taylor will have eyes on the inexperienced Jets QB

Five Strong Team Defense Plays

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. BAL: The Ravens have had a week to get healthy, but it won’t make much of a difference against a Steelers team that absolutely shuts down their opponents’ running game at home. That means either Steve McNair or Kyle Boller will have to throw more than Brian Billick would like, which could translate to less than 10 points on the board and three turnovers.

Actual: 7 points allowed, 6 sacks, 1 INT, 3 Fumble Recoveries

Tennessee Titans vs. CAR: The Titans have quietly become the league’s best at stopping the run, which is bad news for a Carolina offense that’s just not very good with David Carr (or Old Man Vinny) behind center. All four of the Panthers’ wins so far have been on the road, but they’ll need a monster effort from their defense to take this one because their offense will struggle. Steve Smith, you’re they’re only hope.

Actual: 7 points allowed, 7 sacks, 2 INTs

Washington Redskins @ NYJ: Despite the season-ending injury to CB Carlos Rogers, the ‘Skins should get Fred Smoot back against the Jets after he sat out the team’s blowout loss to the Patriots in Week 8. Of the two we’d rather have Rogers, but it shouldn’t make much of a difference against the disconsolate Jets, who’ll march out Kellen Clemens for his first official start as “the guy” at quarterback. After that spanking last week, the ‘Skins will have a chip on their shoulder and take it out on this poor offense.

Actual: 20 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 Fumble Recovery

San Diego Chargers @ MIN: Adrian Peterson must feel like a lonely man on this Vikings offense as its only consistent playmaker. Granted, he’s already one of the best in the league at his position, but it’s going to be tough for him against this high-speed Chargers defense whose strong suit is stopping the run. We’re still rooting for him, but it could be a long day for AP and the Vikes.

Actual: 35 points allowed, 1 sack, 2 Fumble Recoveries

Houston Texans @ OAK: Houston has been getting lit up lately, but they draw a Raiders offense that hasn’t scored more than 14 points since Week 4 against the Dolphins, when they put up 17. QB Daunte Culpepper fumbled four times last week against the Titans (he was lucky to only lose one) and has gifted four interceptions to his opponents over the last three weeks. This one reeks of a low-scoring slugfest.

Actual: 17 points allowed, 1 sack, 3 INTs

Temper Your Expectations

New England Patriots @ IND: Well, here’s an interesting dilemma for those fantasy owners who’ve been nonchalantly plugging in the New England DEF every week without a second thought. Will you still play them against Peyton Manning, Joseph Addai, and Reggie Wayne… at home… in a statement game where the Colts will try to remind everyone that they’re the defending champs, not the Pats? Best of luck with that decision.

Actual: 20 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 Fumble Recovery

Dallas Cowboys @ PHI: The touchdown passes have only been trickling in for Donovan McNabb, but he’s helping keep his team afloat in the competitive NFC East and seems to be regaining his form more and more every week. This is a big one for the Iggles, and even if they don’t emerge victorious, we think McNabb, Westbrook, and Kevin Curtis are going to put some points on the board. Cowboys could have a sack party, though.

Actual: 17 points allowed, 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 Fumble Recovery

Sneaky Play of the Week

Detroit Lions vs. DEN: They give up over 365 total yards a game, field the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense, and allow about 25 points/per. To be sure, they’re a team to exploit just about every week, but the Lions defense also leads the NFL in turnovers with 20, including 13 interceptions, and are tied for sixth overall in sacks with 19. Credit HC Rod Marinelli and first-year Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry for installing a solid Tampa-Two scheme that puts their overachieving players in the right position to make a big play when it matters most. At home, with a chance to go an improbable 6-2, this defense is going to be rocking. They’re going to give up points, but there’s a high probability of sacks and turnovers, too.

Actual: 7 points allowed, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 Fumble Recoveries, 2 TDs

Dud of the Week

Seattle Seahawks @ CLE: Never thought we’d say it, but it’s becoming difficult to start all but the most elite Team DEFs against the Browns. Derek Anderson’s sprint to the forefront of fantasy QBs is nothing short of remarkable, as is Braylon Edwards’ ludicrous production through seven games (37 receptions, 669 yards, 9 TDs). The Dawg Pound is gonna be nuts, and we can’t see the Browns scoring less than 20 points, even if Seattle is fielding a pretty solid D.

Actual: 33 points allowed, 1 INT

More Free Fantasy Football Advice for Week Nine

Week Nine Stock Report

ETB’s Week Nine Position Rankings

ETB’s Week Nine Quick Hits

ETB’s Week Nine Cheat Sheet

ETB’s Week Nine Fantasy Mailbag

*Disclaimer: There are some players who are always must starts, and you should know who they are. To make things easy, we’ve picked a few guys at each position who will never be listed in our Top Matchups because it just wouldn’t be fair– they’re studs, simple as that. They are: QB Peyton Manning, QB Tom Brady, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Adrian Peterson, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Randy Moss, TE Antonio Gates, DEF New England and DEF Baltimore.


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