When you sat with your laptop out on a glistening mid-August afternoon to draft your fantasy minions while wearing flip flops and the hat that makes you look like the captain of the S.S Minnow, players from the Raiders and Chiefs weren’t too high on your list.

Yet here we are three months later, and those two former laughingstock teams are playing what could be the game of the week, in both fantasy and reality. Each claiming their own batman and Robin rushing attack–Darren McFadden and Michael Bush for Oakland, and Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones for Kansas City–this game will feature the league’s top two rushing offences. If you’re privileged enough to have any of these steady workhorses on your roster, sit back and open the stable gates Sunday afternoon.

The rest of the Week 9 schedule isn’t nearly as predictable, and I spent an unhealthy amount of time drawing conclusions for my picks.

Hey, it could be worse. There was a time about 10 years ago that I’d spent an unhealthy amount of time on a Friday night surrounded by chicken manure while working at a mushroom farm.


Love him: Matt Ryan is a difficult quarterback to gauge, but there are still far more positives than negatives. First, the bad news: Ryan is up against a Tampa Bay secondary that’s allowed only one quarterback to pass for over 250 yards in the past four weeks.

But the good news is that Ryan has been remarkably consistent at home, and is 16-1 at the Georgia Dome in his career. The Falcons are far more potent offensively on their home turf, and put up an average of 28.4 points per game, firepower that’s led Ryan to 12 straight home wins.

Hate him: It’s fun to jump back onto the Matthew Stafford bandwagon after his four touchdown performance last week against the Lions in his first game since Week 1. His girlfriend is easy to look at too, so that makes the Stafford fan club even more fun.

But at the end of this weekend, if you’re still a member of the Stafford fan club you could be like that guy who joined the young sailors in grade eight, looking lonely and out of place. It’s difficult to recommend any quarterback playing the New York Jets. The numbers don’t tell the story because of the Jets’ well documented struggles staying healthy in the secondary (the Jets are giving up an average of 218.6 yards per game), but I’m still not touching a quarterback who just missed six weeks and now has to throw against Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

Sleeping on him: Maybe I have a soft spot for the Longhorns, but there’s something oddly appealing about Colt McCoy this weekend. Inconsistencies are expected from a rookie making his first few NFL starts, so we’re not sure which Colt McCoy will come out to play. Will it be the one that surprisingly threw for 281 yards against the Steelers in his first regular season start? Or the one that didn’t even crack the 80-yard mark two weeks ago against New Orleans?

If bye weeks have you strapped, bet on the former with McCoy this weekend against the Patriots. The Patriots are giving up a good chunk of yardage on every pass (an average of 7.4 yards) and they’re one of the worst teams in the league at pressuring the quarterback. New England has only 13 sacks, so McCoy’s mobility and pocket sense will be key assets.

Running backs

Love him: The Bengals are vulnerable on the ground, and Rashard Mendenhall should rumble with ease Monday night. Mendenhall gets most of his yardage on long runs, and he’s in luck, because Cincinnati enjoys long walks on the football field. In two of his best yardage games (120 yards in Week 1 and 143 in Week 3) Mendenhall had runs of 50 and 34 yards. Last week against the Saints, 38 of his 71 yards came on one play.

The Bengals are tied for third in the league in an often overlooked but important stat. They’ve given up eight runs of 20 or more yards, and Cincinnati has also surrendered one of the longest runs of the season so far (61 yards). The home run is there for the taking, and Mendenhall will be swinging a big bat.

Hate him: Sure, Beanie Wells is healthy, or at least he says he is. And sometimes it’s fun just to have a guy with a cool nickname like “Beanie” in your starting lineup. I get it. Just don’t think you’re fooling anyone this weekend by starting a running back who still hasn’t rushed for over 75 yards, and will undoubtedly be limited by his ailing knee.

Wells has a tough matchup against the Vikings, a run defence that hasn’t given up a touchdown to a running back at home yet this season.

Sleeping on him: This could be the last time you have permission to use anyone in the Cowboys’ backfield. Despite their tenacity when it comes to chasing down the quarterback, the Packers are pretty pedestrian against the run.

Two weeks ago Cheeseheads watched in horror as Adrian Peterson rushed for 131 yards. Combined, Marion Barber and Felix Jones aren’t as talented as Peterson, but they can be compared to the platoon of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, whom Green Bay allowed to rush for a combined 163 yards in Week 6.

Wide Receivers

Love him: Braylon Edwards may have not be overwhelming you with his yardage totals, but that can be blamed on the amount of weapons available to Mark Sanchez in the Jets’ offence. What matters is that he’s scoring, and doing it often. Edwards has four touchdowns in seven games, and has consistently shown an ability to use his length in the redzone.

This Sunday Edwards has another prime opportunity to add to his touchdown total against a Lions defence that allows an average of 23.6 points per game through the air.

Hate him: I would never, ever tell you to bench Reggie Wayne. That’s grounds for handing in your fantasy football license immediately. I would, however, tell you to lower your expectations for him a touch with an unfavourable matchup. In fact, I must just do that right now.

The Colts are up against the Eagles this weekend, a team with a secondary that isn’t scaring anyone, but has a front seven that could make life difficult for Peyton manning. The Eagles have 21 sacks this season, only five behind the league-leading Titans. Manning historically doesn’t go down much, but he could often be hurried into giving up the ball early.

Sleeping on him: This one is obviously attached to the health of Percy Harvin, who’s looking like a gametime decision Sunday against the Cardinals. If Harvin can’t go, it’s a toss up between Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo, and Greg Lewis as to who will take his place in the wide receiver pecking order for Minnesota. I’ll hang my hat on Berrian, the receiver who flirted with back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons a few years ago.