Buffalo: QB E.J. Manuel has returned to some light practices this past week but is OUT for week 9 and probably won't return from his knee injury until week 11 at the earliest. His replacement, Thaddeus Lewis is Doubtful for week 9 because of a ribs injury and while the Bills are holding out hope that he will buck the odds and be able to start week 9, it seems unlikely. That leaves them with undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel and recently signed Oakland cast-off Matt Flynn as their options. Tuel is considered the favorite to draw the start if Lewis can't play. Between that and the matchup against a stout Chiefs defense, it brings down the value of everyone in Buffalo's offense. RB's Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (ankle) are both listed as Probable. Jackson is likely to be the lead RB again with Spiller working as the change of pace. I have a hard time believing that Spiller was able to get his gimpy ankle completely healed up with just one week off and am dubious about him being more than a boom or bust RB3. Jackson is a middling RB2.
Miami: It was good to see Miami not punish RB Lamar Miller after he fumbled the football as he was streaking to the end zone Thursday night. They briefly benched him but got him back in the game and gave him more playing time than Daniel Thomas. Thomas ran better than expected most of the time but Miller is the far more explosive RB and it's a good bet that entering the second half of the season he's going to be the more primary of the 2 and handle more of the workload.
New England: Given the fact the Patriots usually play games listing practically everyone as Questionable on the injury report, I'm a little confused to see each of QB Tom Brady (shoulder), RB Brandon Bolden (knee), TE Rob Gronkowski (arm, back, hamstring), and WR's Danny Amendola (groin), and Julian Edelman (thigh) as all Probable. Brady has been pretty miserable as a passer this season and it's not likely to be better against a Steelers pass defense that allows the fewest fantasy points through the air of any team in the league. However, Stevan Ridley should be big this week as the Steelers are the 30th ranked fantasy run defense.
New York Jets: WR Santonio Holmes remains OUT with a hamstring injury. Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and David Nelson have settled in nicely as the top trio at WR and all 3 are Probable and will play without issue week 9. TE Jeff Cumberland is Questionable as he tries to get clearance to return from a concussion suffered week 9. He'll be a game time decision but isn't worth waiting on. The RB rotation between Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell swung back in Powell's favor week 8. It's pretty much becoming clear that as long as the game is close or they have a lead, the Jets prefer Ivory as their main pounder. But if they fall behind by more than once score, they prefer Powell as he is the superior pass catching RB. With a matchup against high-powered New Orleans this week, I would expect Powell to get more touches again.
Baltimore: Backup RB Bernard Pierce is Probable despite a lingering thigh injury. He should be fine for his usual 5-12 touches per game behind Ray Rice. Rice says he's almost fully recovered from the hip flexor injury he suffered earlier in the season, so we should see whether his struggles were tied more to that, or the poor play of the offensive line. RB Bernard Scott was signed to provide depth behind Rice and Pierce and doesn't figure to have much of an offensive role.
Cincinnati: RB Giovani Bernard suffered a ribs injury Thursday night. While it's not believed to be serious, we'll have to wait until mid-week to know for sure. If he misses week 10, Benjarvus Green-Ellis would carry the bulk of the load. WR Andrew Hawkins was activated off the IR/Designated for return list in time to play Thursday night. Hawkins sits currently as the Bengals 4th WR behind A.J., Green, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. Jones almost had another big game Thursday night but had a 50 yard TD reception called back on a very questionable holding penalty. Jones has been shaping up as a steady fantasy WR3/4.
Cleveland: Jason Campbell did very well week 8 and will start again in week 9 over Brandon Weeden. Another good game by Campbell should solidify his place as the Browns starting QB going forward the remainder of the season. RB Willis McGahee is Probable with a minor knee issue. He's been getting Thursday's off from practice because of it but he's still locked in as a plodding lead RB. Chris Ogbonnaya is still the top backup to McGahee and 3rd down RB, but is starting to lose some of those duties to recently signed Fozzy Whitaker. Whitaker is a name to stash in minds going forward as McGahee hasn't been better than adequate as the lead RB and Whitaker represents the great unknown.
Pittsburgh: Emmanuel Sanders has stepped up the last two games and may finally be figuring out his role in this offense. But he's still barely a fantasy WR 4/5. Antonio Brown is a receptions machine and figures to be an excellent fantasy WR 1/2 this week against New England. Ben Roethlisberger is Probable and while the team lists his reason as "not injury related", it's likely because of his troublesome finger injury that could explain some of his errant passes. Expect the Steelers to use a heavy dose of rookie RB Le'Veon Bell this week. The Patriots are 31st in rushing yards allowed giving up and average of nearly 131 per game. Bell is a borderline fantasy RB1/2.
Houston: RB Arian Foster is Questionable and going to be a game time decision for Sunday night because of a hamstring injury. If he doesn't play. Ben Tate is expected to start and be the primary RB despite having 4 cracked ribs. Tate is officially listed as Probable and even if Foster plays it's likely he'd split a lot more time than normal with Tate. Ray Graham and Deji Karim may also get into some game action, especially if Foster doesn't play. You risk much if you're planning on starting Foster and don't have Tate as the insurance. I might even be more inclined to just give Tate the nod over Foster and not take chances. QB Case Keenum gets the start at QB and it's believed that if does well again, he'll take control of the job going forward even when Matt Schaub gets totally healed up. As it is, Schaub is healed up enough to be Probable for this week, but he's going to be Keenum's backup.
Indianapolis: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is Questionable for week 9 after only getting in one limited practice this week because of a hamstring injury. DHB was supposed to step up with Reggie Wayne gone for the season, but now it may be LaVon Brazil who has to step into a more prominent role. This just means a lot more targets for both WR T.Y. Hilton and TE Coby Fleener. It's hoped that the bye week allowed the Colts coaching staff to figure out why RB Trent Richardson isn't producing the way he should be in this offense. I so want to say that Richardson is going to be big the second half of the season, but while I have watched him run and been impressed with him, he still isn't doing as much as was expected.
Jacksonville: WR Justin Blackmon has been suspended indefinitely by the league after Blackmon violated the substance abuse policy yet again. Blackmon already served a 4 game suspension to start this season and now he's gone for the rest of 2013 and will have to wait until 2014 to apply for reinstatement. Mike Brown will step in as the starter opposite Cecil Shorts to close out the second half of the 2013 season for the Jags when they return from the bye this week.
Tennessee: The Titans would have taken a bag of Doritos for WR Kenny Britt, but no one was even offering that before the trade deadline passed. He's stuck as their #4 WR and will look to resurrect his career with a new team next season. RB Shonn Greene is finally 100% healthy after missing a few weeks with a knee injury. The Titans say they want to get Greene around 15 rushing attempts per game. That would mean a return of the thunder and lightning attack they used to have between LenDale White and Chris Johnson. Greene could be a borderline fantasy RB3 each week going forward if the Titans hold true to the plan. Johnson has been consistently mediocre more weeks than not but is grinding out another semi-productive fantasy season. I have to say I'm impressed with the moxie shown by QB Jake Locker. Not that he's been a world beater, but coming back earlier than expected from what looked like a bad hip injury and a knee sprain and being efficient at least deserves some recognition.
Denver: The bye should allow Peyton Manning to heal up a bothersome ankle injury. He's been playing through it though and the rest can do nothing but help. Denver should be close to full strength when they return from their bye.
Kansas City: Jamaal Charles is Probable and will start without issue despite a minor knee injury. Charles has managed to avoid any serious injuries so far this season but has had several close calls. If anything were to happen to him Knile Davis would likely take over and be someone worth fantasy consideration as the Chiefs are using Charles as a true featured RB. If you have Charles and don't have Davis, I'd recommend getting him as I have concerns about Charles' luck running out when it comes to avoiding something more serious. WR Dwayne Bowe is Probable despite having a minor groin injury. His fantasy production is strictly TD dependent as through 8 games so far he is on pace for a miserable 52 catches, 604 yards, and 4 TD's.
Oakland: Darren McFadden suffered no setbacks in week 8 from his hamstring injury and he is locked in as a borderline fantasy RB1/2 going forward. QB Terrelle Pryor provided a huge play last week with his 93 yard TD run but he was horrible passing the ball. I'm expecting a big bounce back this week for both him and WR Denarius Moore against a generous Eagles passing defense.
San Diego: WR Eddie Royal is Questionable after not practicing at all this week with a toe injury. Royal didn't practice at all last week and then was a surprise active for week 8 and had a pretty decent game so I expect he'll be active again week 9. The Redskins are a miserable defense allowing bunches of fantasy points both on the ground and through the air to their opponents so Philip Rivers is a strong fantasy start this week and expect him to get impressive rookie WR Keenan Allen plenty of chances, making Allen a surprise top 5 WR play this week. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead can both be considered as fantasy RB2's. Mathews looks to post a 3rd consecutive game with over 100 rushing yards this week. Woodhead has been a surprisingly effective fantasy play the last 5 games having at least 75 combined rushing and receiving yards in each game and scoring 4 TD's in that span. WR's Vince Brown and Royal could be considered boom or bust WR3's this week.
Dallas: RB DeMarco Murray practiced in full all week and he is Probable for week 9. This is an excellent sign that the knee injury that prevented him from playing the last 2 games is behind him now. His return pushes Joseph Randle back to being a rotational backup role with Lance Dunbar. Murray has a very favorable matchup this week and if he's really close to 100% he could have a huge day. WR Miles Austin is Doubtful after not practicing at all this week. It's believed the Cowboys are resting him in hopes his bothersome hamstring injury will get fully healed up in time for the late season playoffs push. It's a smart thing for them to do and they can afford it as rookie WR Terrence Williams has been tearing it up replacing Austin the last few weeks. With Dez Bryant commanding constant attention from opponents, Williams could be in for a huge day this week as the Minnesota Vikings are an equal opportunity defense allowing big points both on the ground and through the air.
New York Giants: On bye this week, it's hoped that RB Andre Brown will return in week 10. He broke his leg in the last preseason game and has been on the Injured Reserve/Designated for return list and is eligible to come back any time. His expected return will give the Giants a true lead RB, but it's likely he'll still cede some playing time to either Brandon Jacobs or Peyton Hillis. Neither of those two are special RB's, but both have been admirable in the jobs they've done the last few weeks and have earned consideration going forward with the team. David Wilson is still in limbo with his compressed disc in his neck. He is not likely to return for a couple more weeks, if then.
Philadelphia: Nick Foles is Probable and will start after getting clearance to return from a concussion suffered two weeks ago. His return means the Eagles don't have to rely on shaky rookie Matt Barkley with Michael Vick OUT after aggravating his hamstring injury last week. Vick is likely to miss a couple of games after rushing back too soon to start week 8. After a hot start to the season, RB LeSean McCoy has struggled the last 5 games. He's eclipsed 100 combined yards just once in that span and has only 1 TD too in those 5 games. Still, McCoy is on pace to be a yardage beast by season's end. If he can repeat his stats from the first 8 games, he'll finish with 312 carries for 1466 yards, 50 receptions for 568 yards and 6 total TD's.
Washington: The helter skelter season for QB Robert Griffin III continues. Some weeks he looks like the RG3 of last season; others he looks awful. And matchups don't seem to matter as he had a great one last week but was really bad. RG3 was held out the last part of week 8 because the game was out of hand and not because of the minor knee injury he suffered. He's practiced in full all this week and will start week 9 without issue. Also Probable is WR Pierre Garcon. Garcon's been battling a minor calf injury. TE Fred Davis has been a healthy inactive the last 2 games. With rookie TE Jordan Reed living up to all expectations and having assumed the role of second most important passing game weapon, Davis is likely to be inactive going forward barring any injuries. Reed is a legitimate fantasy TE1 going forward.
Chicago: Josh McCown will start Monday night in place of injured Jay Cutler. Cutler says he's hoping to be back before the original week 12 scheduled return. I'll bet a lot of whether that happens is tied to how well McCown does the next 2 games. McCown is a decent QB who may surprise within the confines of a scaled down version of Marc Trestman's offense. But if they ask McCown to carry the team, they'll be in trouble. As long as he knows to throw to Brando Marshall a dozen times each game and check down to Matt Forte whenever things fall apart, he should be okay.
Detroit: It's expected that Nate Burleson will return when the Lions come back from their bye. His addition will hurt the fantasy upside of Kris Durham, but have little other fantasy consequences. Burleson is a guy we're all trying to replace in Detroit, but he keeps coming back and being decent. He'll be a middling fantasy WR4/5 when he returns.
Green Bay: WR James Jones is Questionable for Monday night, but he was able to practice in limited fashion all week so I think he'll be active and at least play a little. HIs return may not hurt Jarrett Boykin that much as the Packers have proved their offense can sustain 3 fantasy capable WR's in the past. Myles White likely would be the odd man out. TE Jermichael Finley remains OUT with his neck injury and likely will be heading to injured reserve. The only reason the Packers don't do that is if they think he may be healed up enough to help them in January. Finley's not likely to return before then.
Minnesota: Christian Ponder has been named the starting QB for week 9. Ponder was predictably bad in week 8 and this will be his last start of the season unless he finds some mojo this week. If Ponder flops again, I think Josh Freeman will be the starter the remainder of the season no matter how poorly he may play. RB Adrian Peterson is Probable after being held out of Friday's practice. The team says it's not injury related, but I suspect it's just to give his tender hamstring injury a bit of rest. WR Greg Jennings is Probable despite a minor knee issue. He'll be fine. The role of rookie WR Cordarrelle Patterson figures to expand each week going forward. He's just proving to be too explosive to keep on the bench on offense. He hasn't attained status yet as a fantasy consideration beyond dynasty leagues, but he's a guy to watch the second half of the season and snatch up at the first sign of taking on a more consistent role.
Atlanta: WR Roddy White practiced in limited fashion on Friday despite his lingering ankle and hamstring injuries. He is listed as Questionable and considered a game time decision. Even if he plays, I expect him to be little more effective than he was earlier in the year when he was playing through an ankle sprain. His return doesn't matter much for fantasy purposes until he proves he can be effective despite his injuries. RB Steven Jackson isn't on the injury report at all and should be closer to 100% this week after looking tentative last week in his first action since week 2. Jackson is a low end RB2 who needs to prove age and injuries haven't caught up to him and diminished his aggressive running style.
Carolina: RB DeAngelo Williams is Probable and likely will start week 9 despite having been limited to just one practice this week because of a quad injury sustained last week. The Panthers are expected to activate RB Jonathan Stewart sometime today from the PUP list and he is expected to play some for the first time this season in week 9. His anticipated return isn't likely to yield much of a workload as the team eases him back into game action. But it could grow as the weeks go on and he proves he's recovered from his off-season surgeries to both ankles. It makes it difficult to trust any of the Panthers RB's as more than a RB3 or flex option. I speculate that Mike Tolbert's role as preferred goal line and 3rd down RB is likely safe but DW and Stewart might cancel each other out in coming weeks.
New Orleans: TE Jimmy Graham made it through week 8 without aggravating his partially torn plantar fascia injury and while he is likely to be limited in game action again week 9, he proved last week he can put up quality fantasy points in the right situational use. WR Marques Colston has been miserable the last 3 games and he is Questionable and considered a game time decision for week 9 because of a knee injury. Even if he plays, I wouldn't expect much from him. The one Saints WR who really seems to have taken on a solid role is Kenny Stills. Maybe he is more than just a boom or bust deep threat. Lance Moore was steady in his return week 8 from a hand injury that had sidelined him for a month. Between him, Stills, Robert Meachem, and Nick Toon, I think the Saints would be smart to sit Colston and let him get healed up. But that's not my decision to make. RB Mark Ingram is not on the injury report at all for the first time in several weeks and it appears he is finally ready to return from a toe injury. If he's active, expect Khiry Robinson to be made inactive. Robinson was okay as Ingram's replacement but wasn't special. It's likely Ingram's return would also cut into Pierre Thomas's role as a 10-15 carry guy. It's a situation to avoid if possible right now until we see how it shakes out.
Tampa Bay: The National media is finally starting to echo what I've been saying about RB Doug Martin the last couple of weeks: Martin is going to need surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder and it's ridiculous for the Bucs to even think about bringing him back this season. His recovery from that surgery is 6 months and the choices are either have the surgery now and have Martin back at full strength for training camp (and maybe even OTA's) or be stupid and have Martin return this season and have the surgery after it's over and have him by questionable at the start of training camp. The Bucs season is OVER and their bigger investment lies with Martin than head coach Greg Schiano. I expect eventually somebody with power in the Bucs organization is going to have an epiphany and realize this and get Martin the surgery now rather than wait. As for this week: RB Mike James will be the primary RB and the Bucs may try to use the blueprint the Rams followed last week and just try running it down Seattle's throat. If they try to beat the Seahawks through the air, they're going to get beat badly. Vincent Jackson can't be sat but is a middling fantasy WR2 at best with the poor matchup. TE Tim Wright is starting to emerge as the second most reliable weapon in the passing attack and while only a fantasy TE2 with the matchup, he has upside to surprise.
Arizona: The bye week will allow the Cardinals to figure out ways to make sure Andre Ellington is on the field more often. While it will also allow Rashard Mendenhall to heal up a toe injury that has lingered. it has become clear to everyone that Ellington needs to touch the ball more often. Even if you take away his 80 yards TD run in week 8, Ellington is still averaging over 6.0 yards per rush attempt. It's hoped the Cardinals realize this and make Ellington the lead RB in a committee going forward.
St. Louis: RB Zac Stacy is fully expected to start week 9 and be fine despite being listed as Questionable on the injury report with the ankle injury suffered week 8. Reports say Stacy practiced in full Friday and was walking around just fine afterward so he can be considered a strong fantasy RB2 this week. Normally Daryl Richardson would be his backup, but he is Questionable with an ankle injury too and was unable to practice Friday. If he can't play, it may be that Isaiah Pead (who has lived in the doghouse this season for unknown reasons) is Stacy's top backup. Kellen Clemens was predictable bad last week and will likely be again this week. I think we will eventually see Austin Davis at QB just so the Rams get a gauge on him as a potential future backup QB. And let me just say that the loss to Seattle last Monday night was because of the dumbest last play I've ever seen. Stacy went out of the game earlier in the series after sustaining the ankle injury but up until then had been ripping off large chunks of yards on the ground and breaking initial contact with ease. Then on the final play, the Rams reinsert Stacy into the lineup despite the ankle injury and instead of at least threatening play action (or even better, just giving him the ball to see if he could get the team's first rushing TD of the season), they send him out wide and leave Clemens with an empty backfield. By far, that was as dumb a formation and play call as I've ever seen a game end on. Can you tell I'm a Rams fan?
San Francisco: On bye this week, the 49ers hope to have WR Mario Manningham back when they return in week 10. Manningham has been on the PUP list while recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL and PCL suffered in week 16 last season. Manningham likely won't be ready to take on a full time role right away, but he should start immediately asserting himself as the best WR to start opposite Anquan Boldin barring any setbacks. The 49ers have found nothing in WR's Jon Baldwin, Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood, and Marlon Moore (whom they just released this week to make room for Manningham). Quinton Patton remains out with a fractured foot and while the 49ers haven't placed him on injured reserve yet, it's still a possibility as Patton doesn't appear close to returning any time soon.
Seattle: RB Marshawn Lynch is listed as Probable despite sitting out 2 days of practice this week to rest up a minor knee injury. Expect Lynch to be heavily involved this week after being severely underutilized last Monday night. His lack of involvement at the goal line was especially confusing. Lynch was visibly unhappy about it too on the sideline and I expect the Seahawks will make him happy and feed him the ball plenty. WR Sidney Rice was lost for the remainder of the year after tearing his ACL in the game. With Percy Harvin not expected to be activated for at least one more week, Jermaine Kearse steps in as the starting WR opposite Golden Tate. Kearse has intriguing skills, but has been inconsistent when given opportunities.