The fantasy gods are real pranksters. Remember how last week I said that I had to face Jordy Nelson in all three of my money leagues? Well, I thought the gods had decided to spare me this week by making Nelson a surprise inactive after a hamstring injury. Two of my three opponents actually left Nelson in as a starter! But alas, I went 1-2 in my three leagues last week, as the one who benched Nelson picked up Donald Driver, who scored a touchdown on his only catch of the day (he had also started Doug Martin, so the fantasy match was essentially over before I even played a single player). And in another league that’s touchdown heavy (you need 20 rushing/receiving yards and 50 passing yards to get a single point), none of my guys scored a TD while every one of my opponent’s players (Eric Decker, Stevan Ridley, Darren Sproles, MICHAEL FREAKING CRABTREE!) reached the end zone. He didn’t even need Nelson, who was still starting.

Like I said, the fantasy gods can be funny guys.

Byes for week 9 include the Patriots (ouch for Tom Brady owners, cough cough), Jets, Rams and 49ers.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers

Comfortables: Jamaal Charles, Ryan Matthews, Dwayne Bowe, Antonio Gates, Kansas City Defense, San Diego Defense

Cautions: Philip Rivers, Matt Cassel, Malcolm Floyd

Casualties: Shaun Draughn, Dexter McCluster, Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle, Jonathan Baldwin, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, Tony Moeaki, Dante Rosario

Sleeper: Peyton Hillis

If there’s anything I know about Thursday night games, it’s that all bets are off. We saw a Minnesota Viking team that was undefeated at home get shellacked by a Tampa Bay team that was struggling to find its identity until last week. So here we have two extremely underwhelming teams whose coaches might not last the year. Personally I don’t think this will be that fun of a game to watch. No clue what’s happening to Philip Rivers right now. He couldn’t even score a touchdown against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns. I actually demoted him to a caution this week, and hopefully you have a better option at QB to start. Jamaal Charles owners should actually be feeling good about this week. Think back to Weeks 2 and 3. In Week 2, Charles had little-to-no touches, then went off in Week 3 to the tune of 34 fantasy points. He also nearly hit 20 points against the Chargers in Week 4. J-Mail is a must-start this week. You have to start Ryan Matthews and Antonio Gates this week because chances are you have no better options (I’m personally benching Gates for Heath Miller), but it’s tough because they both have the potential to blow up. Honestly, your best bets are to start the kickers and the defenses.

Prediction: The Novaks outkick the Succoups 12-9.

Denver Broncos vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, Willis McGahee, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Eric Decker, Demariyus Thomas, AJ Green

Cautions: Brandon Stokley, Andrew Hawkins, Joel Dreessen, Jacob Tamme, Jermaine Gresham, Denver Defense, Cincinnati Defense

Casualties: Randal Hallman, Knowshown Moreno, Lance Ball, Armon Binns

Sleeper: Cedric Peerman

There was a time not too long ago where a Broncos/Bengals game would be dominated by the defense. Not so much the case this year. With Peyton at the helm, the Broncos are looking like an offensive juggernaut. Decker and Thomas remain must-starts. I just wish they’d figure out their TE situation, as I’ve invested in both Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen this year and have reaped exactly none of the rewards. I list them both as cautions here. On the Bengals side, the only real safe bets are the Red Rifle, The Law Firm, and the beast known as Green. Everything else is a crapshoot.

Prediction: The Broncos offense is too much for Cincinnati to contain, even at home.

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns

Comfortables: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Trent Richardson, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Josh Gordon, Baltimore Defense

Cautions: Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson

Casualties: Brandon Weeden, Bernard Pierce, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbannaya, Greg Little, Josh Cribbs, Mohammad Massaquoi, Cleveland Defense

Sleeper: Jacoby Jones

The Browns have kept it close week after week, regardless of whether they win or lose. I don’t think this is one of those games. The Ravens should be pissed off about getting embarrassed by the Texans two weeks ago, and have had a long bye week to think about it. I think they take it out on poor Cleveland. I envision a shellacking. All starting Ravens options (except Dennis Pitta) are must-starts, including Anquan Boldin, who will probably see some targets that Torrey Smith would otherwise get as he’ll be blanketed by Joe Haden (although I still expect a long score from Torrey).

Predictions: The Ravens bounce back and win handedly at Cleveland.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers

Comfortables: Aaron Rodgers, Alex Green, Larry Fitzgerald, Jordy Nelson (if active), Randall Cobb, James Jones, Green Bay Defense

Cautions: John Skelton, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Andre Roberts, Jermichael Finley

Casualties: William Powell, Alphonso Smith, James Starks, Early Doucet, Robert Housler, Arizona Defense

Sleeper: Donald Driver

If you haven’t already cut ties with the Arizona Cardinals defense before that shellacking at the hands of the 49ers Monday night, now might be your last opportunity. Expect more of the same as Aaron Rodgers will once again go into Eff You mode after a disappointing outing against a Jaguars team that shouldn’t have even been in the game as long as they were. All Packers receiving options are good to go, and you need to bump up Donald Driver in case Jordy Nelson can’t make it again.

Prediction: The Packers cruise at home.

Chicago Bears vs. Tennessee Titans

Comfortables: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Kenny Britt, Chicago Defense

Cautions: Matt Hasslebeck, Michael Bush, Chris Johnson, Nate Washington, Kellen Davis, Jared Cook

Casualties: Khalil Bell, Jamie Harper, Darius Reynaud, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Dane Sanzenbacher, Damian Williams, Tennessee Defense

Sleeper: Kendall Wright

The Titans are the toughest team to figure out in the NFL. Are they bad? Are they good? I have absolutely no idea. Chris Johnson is starting to veer into an every-week start, but I don’t think this is the week for him, unfortunately. The Bears almost got embarrassed at home by a poor Carolina Panthers team. I expect them to feast on the Titans. Unfortunately, outside of Cutler, Forte, and Marshall, I can’t recommend any other Bears option as a start. And as for the Titans? I barely made Kenny Britt a start. He was one Academy Award-winning flopping performance away from a huge game last week.  

Prediction: Chicago returns to form and snuffs out Tennessee.

Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts

Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Reggie Bush, Reggie Wayne, Miami Defense, Indianapolis Defense

Cautions: Ryan Tannehill (if active), Daniel Thomas, Donald Brown, Vick Ballard, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano,

Casualties: Lamar Miller, Delone Carter, Mewelde Moore, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener (if active)

Sleeper: Dwayne Allen

The Dolphins are sneaky good. They certainly like to beat up on inferior teams (like the Jets). And if the Jets beat the Colts a couple weeks ago and you apply the transitive property, the Dolphins should win this one handedly, right? Not so fast. I think Luck-to-Wayne gets kicked into gear again this week. It looks like Coby Fleener won’t suit up for the game, so now’s as good a time as ever to roll the dice on Dwayne Allen (I’m doing so in a must-win league with Vernon Davis on a bye). As a Reggie Bush owner, I’m getting real tired of these Daniel Thomas poaches. Other than Luck, Wayne and Bush, I don’t expect any offensive guy to get his stats. This should be a defensive struggle.

Prediction: Indy wins close on the road.

Carolina Panthers vs. Washington Redskins

Comfortables: Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Steve Smith, Santana Moss, Greg Olsen

Cautions: Jonathan Stewart, Brandon LaFell, Leonard Hankerson, Carolina Defense, Washington Defense

Casualties: DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Evan Royster, Keiland Williams, Louis Murphy, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson

Sleeper: Logan Paulsen

This should be the most exciting game to watch. This year’s rookie QB phenom vs. last year’s rookie QB phenom. I think RG3 shows Killa Cam how it’s done. Personally I think Cam’s given up on the season and given up on his team. I repeat: he is not a leader of men. Still, I think he’ll get his stats because the Washington Defense is terrible. Fortunately for RG3, the Carolina Defense is just as inept, and I expect Alfred Morris and him to run up and down on the Panther D.

Prediction: RG3 out-runs Cam and the Redskins win at home.

Detroit Lions vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Comfortables: Matthew Stafford, Rashad Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Defense

Cautions: Blaine Gabbert, Mikel LeShoure, Ryan Broyles, Cecil Shorts

Casualties: Kevin Smith, Montell Owens, Justin Blackmon, Tony Scheffler, Mercedes Lewis, Jacksonville Defesne

Sleeper: Joique Bell

The Jags hung in there and played a juggernaut offense tough last week against Green Bay. Believe it or not, I actually expect them to do the same this week. Matthew Stafford has started to get into a groove, and sooner or later he and Megatron are going to make sweet Touchdown music together. I started Titus Young out of desperation last week and was happily rewarded for my boldness. I feel safe rolling with him again.

Prediction: Not the massacre you’d expect, but Detroit pulls it out.

Buffalo Bills vs. Houston Texans

Comfortables: Matt Schaub, Fred Jackson, CJ Spiller, Arian Foster, Stevie Johnson, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Houston Defense

Cautions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ben Tate (if active), Donald Jones, Kevin Walter, Scott Chandler

Casualties: Tashard Choice, Buffalo Defense

Sleeper: Justin Forsett (if Tate is inactive)

Both teams should be rested after having a bye week. I don’t expect this to be much of a contest but the Bills have surprised people in the past. If you own Fred Jackson or CJ Spiller, I don’t think you have any other option but to start them both, although I think one or the other will get the stats, not both. Which Johnson WR will do better…Stevie or Andre? AJ3K has been struggling mightily as of late, and you can’t blame it on injury this time. I’m sure Owen Daniels owners don’t mind the extra targets he’s getting. Coach Gary Kubiak insists on running Arian Foster into the ground, giving him unnecessary touches when the game is out of hand. Ben Tate owners must be pulling their hair out in frustration (cough cough). We expected the Texans to be doing well enough that Foster wouldn’t be needed all game. But Tate should still be stashed in all leagues, as Foster will either succumb to all the touches with an injury, or the Texans will lock up the division and Tate will finally get a full workload (I hope). Tate’s questionable for this game, so Justin Forsett becomes an intriguing deep sleeper.

Prediction: Houston’s D puts a stranglehold on Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Texans win comfortably at home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders

Comfortables: Josh Freeman, Carson Palmer, Doug Martin, Darren McFadden, Vincent Jackson, Denarius Moore, Tampa Bay Defense

Cautions: Mike Williams, Darius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers, Oakland Defense

Casualties: LeGarrette Blount, Mike Goodson, Taiwan Jones, Rod Streater, Dallas Clark

Sleeper: Taiquan Underwood

Yuck. I want nothing to do with watching this game. The Raiders are like the Titans in the sense that they’re damn near impossible to figure out. Are they bad or are they good? Same with the Bucs. They haven’t really been blown out this year in their losses, and they’ve been winning dominantly. I like all top options for each team at QB, RB, WR, and not much else. Josh Freeman has been fantastic lately and I hope he keeps it up, as I have him filling in for Tom Brady this week. We’ll see how the TB offense fares without high-priced guard Carl Nicks, who went on IR this week. He was a big part of the offensive line, but he wasn’t the entire line. I’m staying optimistic this week.

Prediction: Tampa Bay, I guess.

Minnesota Vikings vs. Seattle Seahawks

Comfortables: Russell Wilson, Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice, Kyle Rudolph, Seattle Defense

Cautions: Christian Ponder, Jerome Simpson, Golden Tate, Minnesota Defense

Casualties: Toby Gerhart, Robert Turbin, Michael Jenkins, Doug Baldwin, Braylon Edwards

Sleeper: Zack Miller

Seattle is winning this, don’t even think twice about any other outcome. The Seahawks are just a different team at home, and the Vikings are pretty bad on the road. So I like all Seattle’s top offensive  and defensive options, especially Sidney Rice as this is his first game against his old team (remember the rule…it’s been working like clockwork all season long). The only Viking options worth starting are AP, Percy Harvin, and Kyle Rudolph.

Prediction: It’s in Seattle, so it’s the Seahawks.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Giants

Comfortables: Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Jonathan Dwyer (if Mendenhall and Redman are inactive), Ahmad Bradshaw, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Heath Miller

Cautions: Rashard Mendenhall (if active), Isaac Redman (if active), Andre Brown, Domenik Hixon, Martellus Bennett, Pittsburgh Defense, New York Giants Defense

Casualties: Baron Batch, Chris Rainey, David Wilson, Emmanuel Sanders, Reuben Randle, Ramses Barden

Sleeper: David Wilson

This is going to be a really fun game. Lots of offense expected. This is certainly a potential Super Bowl matchup if either team catches fire going into the playoffs. All offensive options are in play, including the Steelers starting RB, whoever that is. You have to figure Jonathan Dwyer won the job because he’s the healthiest option, but there’s something to be said for not losing your job due to injury, so it’s possible coach Mike Tomlin is going to ride the hot hand. The Giants did nothing offensively last week against a tougher-than-expected Dallas defense, but I think they’ll do better this week. I expect Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to bounce back from fantasy team-killing performances last week. More salsa please!

Prediction: Eli outslings Big Ben and Big Blue wins at home.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Atlanta Falcons

Comfortables: Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, DeMarco Murray (if active), Michael Turner, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Defense

Cautions: Felix Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, Dallas Defense

Casualties: Kevin Ogletree, Harry Douglas

Sleeper: None

I’ll actually be in Dallas while this game is going on. If I show up to a bar in my Osi Umenyiora jersey, do you think anybody would mind? As with the Giants/Steelers game that will take place before, and the Eagles/Saints game that will take place after, I expect this to be a shootout, although I also expect Tony Romo to throw a few more Romoceptions, so the Atlanta D will probably get their points through that. All starting offensive options should be good to roll with, with the possible exception of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys have to figure out their running game because they can’t rely on Romo to sling it 65+ times a game. He’s not that good of a QB to win games that way. I hope they can feed Murray the ball, because the Cowboys record is much better if he’s getting more touches.

Prediction: Atlanta wins at home after another Romo Pick-Six.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. New Orleans Saints

Comfortables: Michael Vick, Drew Brees, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston, Brent Celek, Jimmy Graham

Cautions: Pierre Thomas, Jeremy Maclin, Lance Moore, Philadelphia Defense

Casualties: Bryce Brown, Mark Ingram, Devery Henderson, New Orleans Defense

Sleeper: Jason Avant

Andy Reid has just said that Michael Vick is starting this week, but we are one bad Eagles game away from Nick Foles starting at QB. I’ve already picked him up in a couple leagues as a precaution (and hopefully he can fill in for Aaron Rodgers next week). Thankfully for Vick owners, he’s got a pretty swell matchup as the Saints D is a gift from the fantasy gods for opposing QBs. The Eagles D hasn’t been wowing anybody lately either, so all offensive options look good to go (with the possible exception of Jeremy Maclin…I have no idea what’s up with him). The Saints D is so bad, deep leaguers might want to consider Jason Avant as a desperation play.

Prediction: The Saints win a shootout, and the Nick Foles era begins Week 10.

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Before I go, I want to say that I hope all of my readers on the east coast are okay after Hurricane Sandy. Hope everybody is making it through okay.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @PocketSeagull, and good luck in Week 9!