Week 9 in the NFL promises to be another wildly entertaining one. Sunday Night has the biggest showdown as the Cowboys head to Atlanta to take on the unbeaten Falcons. The Steelers and Giants are the marquee late game in what could be quickly become an Eli vs. Ben shootout. There’s some intriguing early games as well with a couple of my favorites being Carolina at Washington and Denver in Cincinnati.
Last week’s picks (click herefor the post) were mostly solid but not spectacular. None went off, but most at least contributed. If you need to make a last-minute lineup move these are the sleepers who I think should at least be involved and could explode for big games this week. They make good last-minute additions off the waiver wire or from your bench as we get ready for kickoff. My picks also include my pick against the spread taked from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em. Here’s who I’m taking this week as sleepers and against the spread:
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (+3.5)
Pick: The Broncos were impressive last week thumping the Saints in Denver on Sunday Night Football. Peyton Manning was effective against the Saints D as expected but the surprising thing was the effectiveness of the Denver D as they held Drew Brees to only 213 yards through the air. The Bengals have unfortunately for them trended the other direction losing three in a row before their bye week last week. They lost to Miami, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and I think Denver’s better than all those teams so I’ll take the Broncos on the road and give the points.
Potential Sleeper: The Broncos have struggled defending the tight end so I like Jermaine Gresham to have a solid game as a complement to A.J. Green. If you’re a Gronk or Vernon Davis owner looking for a fill-in, Gresham is a decent option if he’s available… On the Broncos, make sure to keep tabs on Ronnie Hillman who got 14 carries in garbage time and turned them into 86 yards. He’s still behind Willis McGahee, but could get more looks if he continues to produce. I wouldn’t start him this week outside of very deep leagues but he’s a rookie to keep an eye on coming down the stretch.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+3.5)
Pick: The Browns catch the Ravens at a tough time. Baltimore hasn’t looked impressive since their week one route of Cincinnati. They got nice (but close) wins against Dallas and New England while struggling to put away the Chiefs and Browns. Their last game they got blown out by the Texans. All that being said, I think they’re out to make a statement this week and make it loud and clear by running over the Browns. Expect to see plenty of Ray Rice who historically dominates Cleveland as the Ravens win and cover in this one.
Potential Sleeper: The Ravens defense isn’t a matchup to avoid anymore so definitely start Trent Richardson. Since he’s not a sleeper, I’ll pick Josh Gordonv to continue his emergence as the Browns primary weapon in the passing game. The past four games, Gordon has been over 45 yards in each game with four total touchdowns. He’s a great WR3/flex play and could even be a WR2 against a vulnerable Ravens secondary.
Arizona Cardinals at Green Bay Packers (-10.5)
Pick: The Packers have had trouble covering at home lately and haven’t beat the spread at home since week 2. Overall, the Pack is just 3-5 against the spread this year, but Arizona has completely fallen apart since it’s 4-0 start and is on a short week on the road. I’ll take Green Bay to cover, but don’t think it’s a lock with Green Bay’s struggle to put away weaker teams.
Potential Sleeper: Most of Green Bay’s defense will be focused on Larry Fitzgerald, and rightly so. However, I think that will continue to open opportunities for Andre Robertswho has emerged as an option the last few weeks. He’s been targeted nine or more times in three of the Cards last four gams and has 14 catches 169 yards and a touchdown the last two weeks. The Packers have struggled to stop opponets’ passing games and Arizona will most likely be playing from behind, so I think Roberts will have a solid game maybe even approaching is nine-catch, 103 yards, and a touchdown game he had against Minnesota the last time Arizona was on the road.
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
Pick: The Bears struggled to get the win while hosting the Panthers last week needing a last second FG to get the win. This week Jay Cutler and friends hit the road and head to Tennessee. The Titans have been solid at home (2-1) beating the Lions and Steelers at LP Field. However, I think the Bears defense will be too much for a banged up Titans offense and that Chicago will cover in this one.
Potential Sleeper: Both Nate Washington and Kenny Britt are nursing injuries leaving them questionable and their availability still unknown heading into this game. That could lead to even more looks for solid rookie Kendall Wright who has consistently been a part of the Titans passing game. He caught his third touchdown of the year last week and has been a big part of the Titans passing game especially in key third down situations.
Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (+2.5)
Pick: Miami rolled the Jets last week while the Colts needed overtime to dispatch the Titans in Tennessee. Miami is 4-3 but has lost twice in overtime and has a pretty solid team. Their defense has been outstanding against the run allowing just 82 yards per game, ranking them second in the league. They’ve won three in a row and are 4-2 against the spread this year. I think they’ll get the win here in a close game, but since they can stop the run and the Colts can’t (see below) I’ll take the Dolphins.
Potential Sleeper: The Dolphins D/ST isn’t getting the respect that it deserves and I think they’ll have a nice week on the road against a Colts team that hasn’t scored 20 points in their last three games and has turned the ball over 1.9 times per game so far this season. Expect a couple turnovers and some solid sack numbers for Miami this week… The Dolphins were way ahead last week but the were able to give more carries to Daniel Thomas than even Reggie Bush. Thomas responded with 42 yards and a touchdown giving him a touchdown in three of the ‘Phins last four games. With Ryan Tannehill either missing the game or playing through a leg injury look for Miami to try and exploit the 27th ranked Indianapolis rush defense with lots of Thomas and Bush. Thomas makes a decent flex play this week, and could be worth even more if he continues to get the touches.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-3.5)
Pick: Many saw RG3 as this year’s version of Cam Newton, but with Newton in the midst of a sophomore slump and RG3 at home I’m taking the ‘Skins to win at home as the Panthers drop their sixth game in a row. Carolina played better last week, but the Redskins can put up points at home (see 38-26 win in last home game) and I don’t see Newton being able to keep up.
Potential Sleeper: The Redskins have given up 4 touchdowns to opposing tight ends the last four weeks. Only the Titans allow more fantasy points to opposing Tight Ends. With the absence of Brandon LaFell, Cam Newton will look for Greg Olsen even more and I’d be surprised if Olsen isn’t a top 10 tight end this week. He could have a huge game in store if the ‘Skins focus on shutting down Steve Smith and leave the middle of the field open. Ask Victor Cruz how that works out…. The most targets in the Washington passing game went to Santana Moss last week who makes a nice play against the Panthers secondary this week…
Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5)
Pick: The Jags are 0-3 at home this year and have lost by 20, 17, and 38. The Lions struggled at home last week, but pulled out the win over the Seahawks. The Jacksonville defense won’t provide as much resistance as the Seahawks, so I think the Lions will cruise in this one covering easily.
Potential Sleeper: Both Jaguars starting CB’s are banged up and Calvin Johnson hasn’t practiced all week. It sets up for Titus Young to have another big game. Even Ryan Broyles is a decent flex play if your bye-week or injury depleted.
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-10.5)
Pick: The Bills have been crushed on the road this season by San Francisco and New York. They’ve actually won two games on the road as well at Arizona and Cleveland. However, the Texans are definitely more like the Niners than the Browns. Look for the Texans in a romp.
Potential Sleeper: Because I think Houston wins easily I expect both Ben Tate and Justin Forsett to get carries enough to make them usable in deep fantasy formats.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Oakland Raiders (-1.5)
Pick: I’m surprised at this line. The Bucs are an ineligible receiver pentaly away from being 4-3 and winning their last three. They showed last week on Thursday Night that they can go on the road and win as they demolished Minnesota. Oakland has been tough at home beating the Steelers and Jags while losing to the Chargers. I think Tampa can go west and get the win.
Potential Sleeper: Although he’s not much of a sleeper anymore, Mike Williams is still undervalued and a legit WR2 start with plenty of upside. If you’re in need of a tight end fill-in consider old stalwart Dallas Clark. Clark has eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown in his last two games. The Raiders have struggled defending the tight end allowing four touchdowns and five 40+ yard games. I think Clark could be a top ten option this week with some top options on byes.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-4.5)
Pick: After surprising everyone with a solid opening to their 2012 season, the Vikings have stumbled a bit their last few games as QB Christian Ponder goes through some “growing pains.” Going to Seattle is always tough but I think Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and the Vikings Defense will keep this game to within a field goal so I’ll take Minnesota and the points.
Potential Sleeper: The Vikings haven’t gotten the production they were hoping for from WR2 Jerome Simpson. According to some reports, it’s mostly due to a back injury that is just now healing up. Simpson was targeted seven times last week although he only finished with 2 catches and 37 yards. He’s not ready for fantasy lineups now, but keep an eye on how he does this weekend in Seattle if you need WR depth.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants (-3.5)
Pick: The Steelers are flying in this morning before the game. Whether that affects them or it’s just the moxie of the “win one for the city” that the Giants are sure to be feeling, I don’t think the Steelers can come into NYC and get a win this Sunday. They’ll also be without Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer their top two running backs making a difficult task virtually impossible.
Potential Sleeper: The Giants offensive stars are well-known and I’m not a huge fan of Steelers starting running back Isaac Redman. Instead, I’m going to take Emmanuel Sanders the Steelers third WR. Hes been over 40 yards each of the last three weeks. He’s the fourth option in the passing game and not a awesome start, but if you’re rummaging on the waiver wire this morning you could definitely do much worse.
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
Pick: Atlanta has been winning at home-and everywhere-so far this season but not by much. In fact they are 1-2 against the spread at home. However I think their opportunistic defense and their multiple weapons on offense will be too much for a one-dimensional Dallas team still without DeMarco Murray. Atlanta by a touchdown in this one.
Potential Sleeper: Both offenses are very well-known although both D/ST’s I think are slightly underrated. There’s no great sleeper here unfortunately.
Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Pick: The Saints need this one and I think at home against a turnover-prove Eagles team they’ll get it. This game showcases two desperate teams so it should be wildly entertaining and high-scoring. Having players in this game will serve you well in fantasy this week.
Potential Sleeper: The loss of Darren Sproles for the Saints is a big blow, but it is a huge boost for the fantasy value of Pierre Thomas who becomes a must-start. I also think it will result in a boost in looks for Lance Moore and Devery Henderson in the passing game.