It might not be crunch time in terms of the NFL playoffs or even the fantasy postseason, but it's a "loser leave town" week for the struggling Eagles, their coach and quarterback Michael Vick. The fates of all three are tied together.
The suggestion here, because of the fantasy gold mine that is the Saints defense, is to tie your fantasy fate to Philly this week.
It's payback time for Vick and his receiving targets Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and even Brent Celek. The Saints are easily the worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks and wide receivers. Meanwhile, we saw LeSean McCoy enjoy somewhat of a resurgence last week with two touchdowns, and he should be a monster against a Saints defense that is the second-worst in fantasy versus running backs too.
It's now or never for the perpetually disappointing Eagles still on your roster. Thankfully, Andy Reid made some decisions easier by choosing to hold off on benching Vick for rookie Nick Foles in this tasty Monday night matchup.
If only all the decisions were so easy for owners facing a week without their Pats, 49ers, Rams and even their Jets, who are all on byes this week. Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Stephen Gostkowski, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, David Akers, the 49ers D/ST, Steven Jackson, Greg Zuerlein, Shonn Greene and more have to be replaced in lineups this weekend.
We break down all the decisions in our Week 9 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:
• Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe: Charles has been grossly underutilized at times, but rest assured it won't happen in back-to-back weeks. Earlier this season, Charles had a breakout game after a curiously small number of carries. As for Bowe, getting Matt Cassel back at the helm should help him get back to being one of the must-start wide receivers in fantasy, especially against a Chargers team that has been ninth-worst in fantasy against receivers to date. If you need a deep sleeper, Dexter McCluster might be an option, depending on whether he is eligible at running back or receiver in your league.
• Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak, Chargers D/ST: This is virtually a start-all game for the Chargers, since the Chiefs are in the bottom half of fantasy against everything. The Chargers' defense is an especially good streaming option against a Chiefs team that is second-worst in fantasy versus opposing D/STs. The Chargers will get back on track here for fantasy owners.
• Chiefs -- Matt Cassel, Peyton Hillis, Shaun Draughn, Jon Baldwin, Steve Breaston, Tony Moeaki, Ryan Succop, Chiefs D/ST: Cassel gives the Chiefs a better chance in fantasy than Brady Quinn (concussion), but the uncertainty makes all of these guys low-end stashees at this point.
• Chargers -- Ronnie Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal: Meachem and Royal are banged up and unproductive, and you cannot guarantee Brown will remain a frequently targeted pass receiver each week. Brown is a low-end flex sleeper if you're desperate, though, especially in PPR formats.
• Ravens -- Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST: The Browns have been a useful defense for much of the season, but with Joe Haden back playing shutdown corner the unit has played much better of late, particularly at home. Use Joe Flacco, Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta as needed, but the above quartet are the only sure things against an improving Browns defense.
• Browns -- Trent Richardson: The Ray Lewis-less Ravens will come off the bye playing better defense than they did going in, making Richardson the only Brown to trust this week. Phil Dawson is also a potential option, but after last week's dud, there should be a more promising kicker on waivers.
• Ravens -- Bernard Pierce, Jacoby Jones, Ed Dickson: These guys still have some value as bench players, but they're not yet useful as starters.
• Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Montario Hardesty, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Jordan Cameron, Browns D/ST: Weeden had a 300-yard game last time against the Ravens, and the Baltimore defense is even more banged up now. But trusting him against a team that is still top 10 in fantasy versus quarterbacks is dangerous. That makes all of Cleveland's receivers questionable plays as well.
• Cardinals -- Larry Fitzgerald: He made an impact against the 49ers, so it's safe to start him in all leagues again, especially with the Packers sitting at 11th-worst in fantasy versus wide receivers. Also, LaRod Stephens-Howling is a viable flex option in deeper leagues because of his involvement in the offense as a pass receiver out of the backfield.
• Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Mason Crosby, Packers D/ST: The Cardinals, despite making Alex Smith look like a star Monday night, rank third-best in fantasy versus quarterbacks. No one is going to sit Rodgers, though, or his primary targets. The Pack's defense is also a great streaming option against a Cardinals team that has been the sixth-most forgiving against opposing D/STs.
• Cardinals -- John Skelton, William Powell, Andre Roberts, Early Doucet, Michael Floyd, Todd Heap, Jay Feely, Cardinals D/ST: The relatively short week and road trip make this a difficult spot to trust your marginal Cardinals options. There should be some garbage time in this one, but it's unclear where the extra productions will come from with Skelton at the helm. Watch this week closely if you want to take a flier on a Cardinals sleeper for the stretch run.
• Packers -- Alex Green, James Starks, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jermichael Finley: Even though Green has retained the starting running back job, the Packers just don't run the ball. Finley remains a fantasy enigma, and the Cardinals are the third-best team in fantasy versus tight ends, so sit him and hope he finally wakes up on your bench.
• Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson: The Texans aren't a defense to mess with, particularly against running backs (third-best in fantasy), but the Bills vowed over the bye to get the ball into the hands of Spiller and Jackson as much as possible. They will be active in the passing game, in addition to the run. Start them even in this tough road matchup. There should be some garbage time stats for them, even if they get stuffed early. The same goes for Johnson.
• Texans -- Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, Texans D/ST: It is hard to imagine a league where these guys shouldn't be active. Foster gets to abuse the worst team in fantasy versus running backs, while Johnson should be at his best after the rest of the bye week and against the fourth-worst team in fantasy versus wide receivers. Also start Matt Schaub as needed. The Bills are third-worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks, too.
• Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donald Jones, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: Jones has a chance to emerge as a stretch-run sleeper, but the Texans are one of the toughest opposing defenses in fantasy at home, so ignore these marginal options here.
• Texans -- Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, Kevin Walter: Tate hasn't been healthy, so Forsett might be a factor if this game gets out of hand and Foster gives way to a mop-up man. Walter is a sleeper in deeper formats, but a more consistent option likely can be found in most leagues.
• Dolphins -- Reggie Bush, Dolphins D/ST: Bush is the only sure thing with Ryan Tannehill (knee/thigh) banged up. Also worth considering is goal-line back Daniel Thomas against a Colts defense that is eighth-worst in fantasy versus running backs. The Dolphins' defense won't be its best against a Colts team that is clearly better at home, but the unit is still one of the top-12 options for Week 9.
• Colts -- Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne: One of the biggest surprises of this season has been the performance of the Miami defense. While it has been great against the run, it has been 12th-worst against quarterbacks and 10th-worst against wide receivers. That makes Luck and Wayne the best of the Colts options. You might also consider Donnie Avery as a stopgap out of necessity.
• Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore, Lamar Miller, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Dan Carpenter: The uncertainty at quarterback clouds most of the Dolphins this week. Even if Tannehill plays the whole game, he might not be 100 percent, and owners have already had enough of Hartline's inconsistency in standard fantasy leagues.
• Colts -- Donald Brown, Vick Ballard, Delone Carter, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Adam Vinatieri, Colts D/ST: Brown's return to health is promising, but the Dolphins have one of the elite run defenses in the NFL. Also, there is a complex timeshare still in place with Ballard and Carter getting action in the Colts' running game. The same frustrations exist with the tight end combo.
• Bears -- Matt Forte, Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: The Titans are third-worst in fantasy versus running backs, so both Forte and his touchdown-vulture are good plays this week. The Titans are also fifth-worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks, so even Jay Cutler might be a bye-week replacement option. The problem is that Cutler doesn't have much in the way of a secondary target on the outside.
• Titans -- None: Don't mess with the Bears defense, if you can afford to avoid it.
• Bears -- Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, Kellen Davis: They just are not consistent enough to trust unless out of necessity. The Titans are last in fantasy versus tight ends, but who even owns Davis at this point?
• Titans -- Matt Hasselbeck, Chris Johnson, Jamie Harper, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook, Rob Bironas, Titans D/ST: This is about as clear a "sit-all" game as there has been this season. The Bears' defense has been so good, even starting Johnson is tough this week against the No. 2 team in fantasy against running backs. The receivers might get some garbage time numbers, but there is no way to know who will lead the way. Cook might be the best one of the bunch if you're weak at tight end.
• Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Mikel Leshoure, Calvin Johnson, Titus Young, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hanson, Lions D/ST: Leshoure is the only real question mark here after he spent most of the second half on the bench last week. The Lions say it was a function of the game situation, so there is little reason to think Leshoure won't be effective against the fifth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Megatron should be healthier and less likely to be blanketed, so keep him active while also jumping on the Young bandwagon. Stafford was great against a good Seahawks secondary, so expect him to be great again with a full complement of weapons in what qualifies as his first truly favorable matchup of the season. The Lions' defense is another great streaming option, not to mention a bargain in salary cap leagues.
• Jaguars -- Rashad Jennings: Jennings wasn't great in place of Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) last week, but he should be better here, even if the Lions are one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Jennings will get catches and receiving yards again, even if he gets stuffed on the ground.
• Lions -- Joique Bell, Kevin Smith, Tony Scheffler: Bell and Scheffler might be threats to score, but their usage is not consistent enough to make them starters.
• Jaguars -- Blaine Gabbert, Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: The Lions' defense is tougher -- and the Jags' offense is worse -- than you might think. Shorts is the only one worth considering, but you're better off forcing him to have back-to-back solid games before you consider him a weekly fantasy starter.
• Panthers -- Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen: This is a week for Newton owners to breathe a sigh of relief: The Redskins are second-worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends. Even Brandon LaFell is an option as a bye-week replacement, in addition to Newton's primary targets Smith and Olsen. Finally. This contest might also make Justin Medlock a decent fill-in at kicker.
• Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris: Morris should rebound nicely against the 10th-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. You can't sit RGIII at home, even if the Panthers are top 10 in fantasy versus quarterbacks.
• Panthers -- Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert: The Panthers are still trying to find their running game and have handed the reins over to Stewart, but the Redskins have a very good run defense. The best move is to wait for Stewart to force you to start him in fantasy. Ignore his backups.
• Redskins -- Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Logan Paulsen, Chris Cooley, Kai Forbath, Redskins D/ST: Lost amid the disappearance of the Panthers' running game and Newton's sophomore slump is the improvement of the Panthers' defense, which is fifth-best in fantasy versus wide receivers. Plus, making sense of RGIII's targets week to week is a crapshoot. Someone is going to have to score points along with Griffin, but is anyone sure it will be Moss again? Mike Shanahan hasn't been, choosing to merely open him in the slot in three-receiver sets.
• Broncos -- Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Matt Prater: No one would dare sit the scorching Manning and his top targets. McGahee is still going strong, and the Bengals are fourth-worst in fantasy versus running backs, even if the run defense is better than the numbers suggest. If you need a sleeper, consider Prater and the Broncos' D/ST.
• Bengals -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham: The Broncos' defense did a number on the seemingly unstoppable Saints offense, so there's little reason to feel confident in the Bengals putting up points with their top guys. At home, though, the Bengals will do what the Saints didn't bother to: pound the ball right at the defense. The Broncos will be a decent run defense, but The Law Firm still rates as one of the top-24 starting running backs this week. Gresham might be the best play of all here, since the Broncos are the third-worst team in fantasy versus tight ends.
• Broncos -- Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Brandon Stokley, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green: The tight ends seem to rotate targets from week to week. Hillman is coming on, but you're best off avoiding all of these guys on the road against a defense capable of slowing the run.
• Bengals -- Andy Dalton, Cedric Peerman, Andrew Hawkins, Armon Binns, Mike Nugent, Bengals D/ST: Dalton, Nugent and the defense are the only viable fantasy options here, and only when the matchup is favorable. The steadily improving Broncos are an unfavorable matchup after what they showed last week.
• Buccaneers -- Josh Freeman, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams, Connor Barth: The Raiders are in the bottom 12 in fantasy against everything: quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and kickers. All of these guys are too hot and too promising not to use in this matchup. Barth is particularly attractive against the second-worst team in fantasy versus opposing kickers. Only the Eagles and Panthers have given up more field goals than the Raiders.
• Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Sebastian Janikowski: We learned last week, possibly painfully, that the Bucs' defense is better than the numbers suggest. McFadden should be featured more in Week 9, so keep him active. Moore, meanwhile, is facing the third-worst team in fantasy versus wide receivers.
• Buccaneers -- LeGarrette Blount, Dallas Clark, Buccaneers D/ST: The defense is worth a look-see, but not for long; the Raiders have been seventh-toughest on opposing D/STs and have been stingy with sacks and turnovers, somewhat surprisingly.
• Raiders -- Carson Palmer, Mike Goodson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon Myers, Raiders D/ST: There is potential here, especially at home, but the inconsistency means it's best to avoid these players.
• Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Kyle Rudolph, Vikings D/ST: This is not a good matchup for any of these guys, but owners would be hard-pressed to have better options available on the bench with byes still a factor. Rudolph is the only one with a favorable matchup, statistically speaking. The Seahawks are in the bottom half of fantasy against tight ends.
• Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks D/ST: If the Vikings defense does something well, it's slow the run -- save for last week's aberration against the Bucs. If the Seahawks do something well, it is run the ball and play defense. These are the only two options to trust in a game that figures to be a physical ground-and-pound battle where neither offense takes too many chances downfield in the passing game.
• Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Jerome Simpson, Blair Walsh: Last week should have scared most fantasy owners away from these guys, especially in Seattle, where the Seahawks are at their best. They're in the top 10 in fantasy against quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers.
• Seahawks -- Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Braylon Edwards, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka: The Vikings are quietly the fourth-best team in fantasy versus wide receivers, otherwise Rice and Tate might be sleeper bye-week replacements. That also makes Wilson and Hauschka tough to trust.
• Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Steelers D/ST: The banged-up Giants secondary might be forcing turnovers and limiting touchdowns, but the Steelers are facing the seventh-worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks and the sixth-worst against wide receivers. Also worth noting is that Jason Witten had a career day last week against the Giants. Start everyone in the Steelers passing game. Even Jonathan Dwyer is a viable play if Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) and Isaac Redman (ankle) remain too banged-up to start. And despite being without safety Troy Polamalu, the Steelers' defense is still second in the NFL against the pass, which should help it stay among the top 12 D/STs this week.
• Giants -- Eli Manning, Ahmad Bradshaw, Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Martellus Bennett, Lawrence Tynes, Giants D/ST: This is not a good week for any of the Giants, but it isn't an especially bad one, either. All of the fantasy regulars are healthy enough to produce among the fantasy starters at their positions this week, albeit barely.
• Steelers -- Rashard Mendenhall, Isaac Redman, Shaun Suisham: Even if Mendenhall and Redman play, expect the more durable Dwyer to get the important carries. The promising matchups in the passing game should limit the production of the secondary backs and Suisham.
• Giants -- Andre Brown, David Wilson, Domenik Hixon, Bear Pascoe: We barely like the starters against the Steelers' underrated defense. Ignore these backups. You might think Brown is an option for a rushing touchdown, but the Steelers are fifth-best in fantasy versus running backs for a reason.
• Cowboys -- Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten: Fantasy owners saw just how good these guys can be last week. The Falcons shouldn't scare any owners away, especially given the potential shootout a game against the Falcons might become. That makes the struggling Tony Romo a sleeper. Start DeMarco Murray (ankle) if he plays, too.
• Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant, Falcons D/ST: Even though the Cowboys are second-best in fantasy versus quarterbacks and third-best versus wide receivers, there is not a league in which it is wise to sit the Falcons' passing-game threats. Turner should also be better at home than he was a week ago, so consider him among the top-24 running backs to start. The Falcons' defense is a decent streaming option because of the turnovers Romo has been good for weekly.
• Cowboys -- Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: Jones isn't a great fantasy option even if Murray remains out. The defense is better than the fantasy numbers suggest, especially because it limits the passing game so well. Still, the Falcons figure to be able to move the ball on anyone at home, and Romo just keeps putting the Dallas defense in bad spots with turnovers.
• Falcons -- Jacquizz Rodgers, Drew Davis, Harry Douglas: You won't believe this, but this will be the Falcons' stiffest test to date. This Cowboys are tough -- too tough to consider any low-end offensive options here.
• Eagles -- Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek, Alex Henery: As we said in the lead, this is a payback week for your Eagles. Pounce on the most advantageous matchup in fantasy this year.
• Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley: The Saints will be much better at home this week, especially against an Eagles defense still adjusting to a new coordinator. Graham, most importantly, proved healthy last week. Consider Lance Moore as needed, too.
• Eagles -- Eagles D/ST: Expect a turf-war shootout, which means start all Eagles except for the defense.
• Saints -- Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Devery Henderson, Saints D/ST: Joe Vitt is coaching and the running game is still underutilized and worthless in fantasy. Henderson was useless in an easier matchup last week, and the Saints' defense is worthless as well.
If you play in those weekly salary cap leagues, here are the top bargains by position relative to their expected prices:
QB: Michael Vick or Matthew StaffordRB: Alfred Morris or Reggie BushRB: Mikel Leshoure or Jonathan DwyerWR: Larry Fitzgerald or Andre JohnsonWR: Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Jeremy Maclin or DeSean JacksonTE: Brandon Pettigrew or Jermichael FinleyFLEX: Bush, Dwyer, A. Johnson, A. Brown, Maclin or D. JacksonK: Robbie Gould or Alex HeneryD/ST: Packers, Lions or Chargers
You have a winning lineup? Challenge me with it on Twitter @EricMackFantasy.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. Track his weekly starts and sits every Thursday, his last-minute Cheat Sheet on Sunday mornings and his Fantasy Fast Forward on Sunday nights. You find also him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice or challenging him to a head-to-head fantasy game @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).