<
>

Sunday NFL preview: Who to start, sit in Week 9

play
Who should you start in fantasy football? (1:36)

Al Zeidenfeld breaks down who you should start this weekend in fantasy football. (1:36)

NFL Nation reporters look ahead to what Sunday has in store for each team.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills: Signs had been pointing toward Sammy Watkins (ankle) being ready to go for Sunday's game against the Dolphins until we found out Friday that Watkins had a "little tweak" of his ankle late in Thursday's practice that kept him out of action Friday. Watkins insists that he'll play, but it's hard to imagine the banged-up receiver being anywhere close to 100 percent. Watkins said he doesn't plan on making any "crazy moves" on his injured ankle, a sign that he could be mostly a decoy against the Dolphins' defense. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins: Fantasy buyer beware with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Few teams have given Tannehill more issues over his career than the Bills. He is 2-5 all-time against Buffalo, including 0-3 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is the site of Sunday's game. Tannehill struggled completing passes against Buffalo's blitz in a Week 3 loss. He is a risky play for fantasy owners. -- James Walker

New England Patriots: The Patriots have little concern with wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) and running back Dion Lewis (abdomen) being able to assume their normal duties Sunday against Washington. Both are probable, and the only thing that might limit their snaps is if the Patriots are winning big late in the game and they are pulled more as a precautionary measure. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets: The expected return of center Nick Mangold should help the Jets' running attack, especially Chris Ivory. The offensive line blew a lot of assignments last week, contributing to Ivory's 15-carry, 17-yard day. The Jets plan to run, but the Jaguars are allowing a league-low 3.5 yards per carry. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens have a much-needed bye this weekend before a home game vs. the Jaguars in Week 10. -- ESPN.com staff

Cincinnati Bengals: Perhaps it's time to just keep Tyler Eifert in the regular rotation at tight end on your fantasy team. He keeps posting 20-point games in ESPN's standard scoring system. His third such game came Thursday night when his season-high 23 points became a nice early-week present for those who started him. Part of what makes him such a good fantasy play is his ability to catch multiple touchdown passes in individual games. Three times this year (the same weeks he has had 20 or more points) he has caught two or more touchdown passes. Eifert is on pace to set the franchise mark in single-season receiving scores. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns: After losing to the Bengals on Thursday Night Football, the Browns travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers in Week 10. Though Johnny Manziel started at quarterback -- and flashed at times -- vs. Cincinnati, coach Mike Pettine said he won't announce a starting quarterback until next week. -- ESPN.com staff

Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown is on pace for more than 1,400 receiving yards this year. Then why do the Steelers need to get him going a little more? Because after 35 straight games of at least five catches and at least 50 yards, he has failed to hit those marks in four of his past five games. Brown will trend upward starting this week. Oakland gives up 302 passing yards per game, the second-worst clip in the league. Brown and Ben Roethlisberger -- who throws Brown's way about 30 percent of the time on broken plays -- have a second healthy week together to find a rhythm. After taking several deep shots last week, to mixed results, expect the Steelers to accentuate the quick passing game that allows Brown to do damage in the middle of the field. The biggest obstacle in Brown's way is Martavis Bryant, who has a penchant for big plays. But even if Brown doesn't score, he's good for a major-yardage play in Week 9. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans: The Texans, who have won two of three games, have a bye in Week 9. They travel to Cincinnati next weekend to take on the 8-0 Bengals. -- ESPN.com staff

Indianapolis Colts: The Broncos have given Andrew Luck fits in his career. Luck has thrown four interceptions and been sacked five times by the Broncos in three career meetings against them. Those numbers could increase Sunday because the Broncos lead the NFL in a number of defensive categories, including sacks with 29. Luck has been sacked 14 times this season. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars: Tight end Julius Thomas has been limited to just 10 catches because of injuries, but he and quarterback Blake Bortles are slowly starting to build some chemistry together. With wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson having to deal with Jets cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on Sunday, Thomas should be a big factor in the passing game. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: The Titans hope rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota's return from a sprained knee energizes the offense. A new interim coach in Mike Mularkey and a new first-time play-caller in Jason Michael have to help an offense that has converted just four of its past 31 third downs. That's the sixth-worst three-game stretch of third-down offense in NFL over the past 10 years. -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos: The Broncos haven't lined up in a two tight end set more than 21 times in any game this season -- penalty snaps included -- but Sunday's game in Indianapolis could well be the first. Coach Gary Kubiak has said all season he'd like to use the formation more because it allows the Broncos to face more base defenses, which they believe gives them a chance to use play action more in the passing game. Vernon Davis is expected to get a healthy dose of snaps after Monday's trade and gives the Broncos the depth and added athleticism in the offense to bulk up the formation. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs: Fresh off a blowout win over the Lions in London, the Chiefs are off this week. They play the Broncos in Denver in Week 10. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders: Taking any number of Oakland players these days may be a smart fantasy approach. Several players are playing at a high level. This season, for the first time in franchise history, the Raiders have had a 300-yard passer (Derek Carr), a 100-yard rusher (Latavius Murray) and 100-yard receivers (Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree) in same game twice in a season. Also, Oakland is playing sound football. It is trying to tie a franchise record with three straight games without a turnover, set in 1979, Sunday at Pittsburgh. -- Bill Williamson

San Diego Chargers: Running back Danny Woodhead will be one of the players that help fill the void on offense for San Diego with wide receiver Keenan Allen out for the year. Woodhead has been particularly effective in the red zone, with 14 touches and four total touchdowns through eight games. -- Eric D. Williams

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys: As the Cowboys lean on Darren McFadden in the running game, they are attempting to do what they can to lighten the load elsewhere. In addition to the 20 carries last week vs. Seattle, he led the Cowboys with six catches. The Cowboys are looking at rookie Rod Smith as a possibility to take more third-down snaps. He did not catch a pass in two games for Seattle earlier this season and had just nine catches and a touchdown in his career at Ohio State. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul will make his 2015 season debut for the Giants on Sunday in Tampa. It will be Pierre-Paul's first game action since he severely damaged his right hand in a July 4 fireworks accident. It's hard to imagine him playing a full game right out of the chute, and the Giants want to be careful to make sure they don't ask him to do anything for which he's not ready, but anything Pierre-Paul can do to help the pass rush of a team that ranks last in the league with nine sacks would be appreciated. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles: It is already obvious that Chip Kelly's offense makes it tough to rely on his players for fantasy purposes. DeMarco Murray, who was consistently excellent in Dallas last year, is a perfect example. This could be a good week for Murray, though. Ryan Mathews is listed as questionable, but he didn't practice as the week went on because of a groin injury. That could translate into more carries for Murray. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have their full arsenal of receiving weapons available now that DeSean Jackson will play Sunday against the Patriots. New England has done a good job vs. tight ends (and likely will make Jordan Reed a target), but the Patriots allow 13.62 yards per catch to receivers this season, 21st in the NFL (that's a little misleading, built on teams needing to pass a lot in the second half; in the first half of games they're 7th). Still, that bodes well for a team that has Jackson and slot receiver Jamison Crowder. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears: Chicago departs for Southern California on Sunday following a walk-through practice at the team facility. Coach John Fox spent his teen years in the San Diego area and attended Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, California. Fox later played defensive back at San Diego State University, and spent two years (1992-93) as the Chargers' defensive backs coach. Fox is 4-1 lifetime against San Diego head coach Mike McCoy, who previously worked under Fox in Carolina and Denver. This is the Bears' first regular season trip to Qualcomm Stadium since 2007 when Chicago opened the year with a 14-3 loss. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions: The Lions, who are on a bye this week, fired their team president and general manager on Thursday. After being routed by the Chiefs in London last weekend, their schedule doesn't get any easier. Detroit plays at Green Bay in Week 10. -- ESPN.com staff

Green Bay Packers: If you're thinking about benching Aaron Rodgers after his 77-yard passing performance in Sunday's loss at Denver, consider this: In the previous 18 times in which he has thrown for less than 200 yards in a game, he has come back to throw for an average of 299.9 yards the following week. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings: You'll probably start Adrian Peterson regardless of the fact he has a tough matchup tomorrow, but he's facing the league's ninth-best run defense in the Rams, who have allowed one 100-yard rusher all season. And if the Vikings have to throw the ball frequently, Peterson might not be on the field as much as usual. The Vikings are giving many of his third-down snaps to Matt Asiata, who's better in pass protection, and Asiata could see a larger workload if the Vikings need help protecting Teddy Bridgewater against the Rams' fierce front four. -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons: Devonta Freeman has been held scoreless the past two games after scoring an NFL-leading 10 touchdowns in the first six games. Although Freeman said he has much respect for a "physical" 49ers defense, he should be able to get back in the scoring column by getting physical right back at them. The 49ers gave up a 71-yard touchdown run to Rams rookie Todd Gurley last week, so maybe Freeman can break loose himself. 49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini said himself it's not like you can just load the box against Freeman with Julio Jones on the field. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers: Quarterback Cam Newton could be in for a big day with Green Bay cornerbacks Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins doubtful on a defense that has given up 1,048 yards in the past two games combined. That the Packers have allowed 120 or more yards rushing in five of seven games also bodes well for Newton, who is a threat as a runner and a passer. Newton already has four rushing touchdowns, one less than he had all of last season, and he's on a career-best pace with 9.1 carries a game. He has had a rushing and passing touchdown in four of seven games. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints: Don't hesitate to use Saints receiver Willie Snead if he's your best option, even though he was on the injury report with a knee injury this week. Snead described it as a bruise and said he's dealing with some soreness. But he insisted he'll be "good to go" and said the team was just being smart when they held him out of Wednesday's practice. Snead has been averaging seven targets, five receptions and 67 yards per game since Week 2 with three touchdowns. Expect that same pace to continue. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He's still a rookie, but quarterback Jameis Winston might reward fantasy owners Sunday against a vulnerable Giants pass defense. New York allowed Drew Brees to throw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns in Week 8. It's hard to count on another collapse of that magnitude, but the Giants are last in the NFL against the pass by allowing 315.4 yards per game. Winston has thrown for 683 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Bucs' past three contests. Don't be shocked to see him break out as a passer here. -- Andrew Astleford

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are on a bye this weekend. They take on the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 10. -- ESPN.com staff

St. Louis Rams: Rams running back Todd Gurley is already a must-play as some rank him as the top player in fantasy going into this week. But his chances of a big game increased when the Vikings officially ruled out linebacker Eric Kendricks for Sunday. The Vikings are 25th in the league in run defense, yielding 4.4 yards per carry, and that's with Kendricks. Gurley will get a lot of attention but looks poised for another strong day at the office. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' offensive backfield will consist of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, running back Kendall Gaskins and fullback Bruce Miller. Not exactly what fantasy players dream about. But with Miller the most experienced player, it makes sense that he could be Gabbert's safety valve with outlet passes and, like earlier in the season, a few deep throws. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have a bye in Week 9 before playing the Cardinals at home next weekend. -- ESPN.com staff