Congratulations, you've made it to Week 9 in your survivor pool. But unfortunately, that means you've used up 25 percent of the league. It's only going to get harder from here, though we do have a handful of seemingly safe picks on the board this week.
1. Dallas Cowboys (vs. Minnesota Vikings) -- This is easily my favorite pick of the week. The Cowboys are laying 10 points in a game they should win with ease. Dallas suffered an embarrassing loss a week ago, but remember that they were an untimely holding call away from picking up an impressive win in Detroit. The Cowboys should have little problem with a defense Pro Football Focus ranks as the fifth worst in the league. The reason this is my favorite pick of the week, however, is that this is one of two good opportunities to use them the rest of the season. The other is Week 13 when they host the Raiders. Of course, you could lose or your pool could have a winner before that game gets here. Take the win now and back the Cowboys.
2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers) -- The Seahawks are 15.5-point favorites in this game, and even after they struggled in St. Louis it would be a shock to see them fall at home to the lowly Buccaneers. You want to zig when the rest of your pool zags, and that maxim is enough reason to consider another team for the week. However, if you're more concerned with just getting to Week 10 than you are with saving a powerhouse for the home stretch, the Seahawks are as much of a lock as it gets.
3. Green Bay Packers (vs. Chicago Bears) -- The first 2013 installment of the NFL's greatest rivalry, unfortunately, will not go down as a classic, at least in terms of it being an exciting, closely played game. If you're a Packers fan or an Aaron Rodgers owner, you'll probably be pretty happy on Monday night. The Bears have been a trainwreck defensively this season, especially against the pass. They've allowed a league-high 8.7 yards per attempt and will be playing their first game without Lance Briggs. Jay Cutler will also be out, and while backup Josh McCown played well against Washington two weeks ago, the thought of him matching Rodgers point for point is almost laughable. The Packers are favored by 10.5 points in this game. They'll cover with relative ease.
4. Carolina Panthers (vs. Atlanta Falcons) -- The Falcons offense played well in its first game without Julio Jones and Roddy White, but that was against the Buccaneers. We saw their true colors against a good defense in Arizona last week, and they were some ugly colors. The Cardinals picked Matt Ryan four times and limited him to 4.9 YPA. Carolina has held opposing quarterbacks to 6.7 YPA this year and racked up 22 sacks and 15 takeaways, while turning the ball over just nine times. Their plus-6 turnover differential is tied for eighth in the league. Cam Newton has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league over the last three weeks, throwing for 667 yards and six touchdowns while adding 106 yards and two scores on the ground. The Panthers should be able to cover the 9.5-point spread.
Teams to avoid
• Kansas City Chiefs (at Buffalo Bills) -- Even though this is a road game, wouldn't you guess off the top of your head that the Chiefs would be bigger than three-point favorites? I sure would. That line is awfully fishy to me. I like the Chiefs to win, but this feels like a trappy line. You'll have a better chance to use the Chiefs in the coming weeks.
• Indianapolis Colts (at Houston Texans) -- The Colts own three of the most impressive wins this season, giving the Seahawks and Broncos their only losses and coming out of San Francisco with a victory, one of two blemishes on the 49ers record this season. So why should you avoid them against the reeling Texans? First, we're going to have to see how this offense adapts without Reggie Wayne. Second, for all their struggles this year, the Texans still boast the ninth best pass rush in the league according to Pro Football Focus. This is too great a risk for my tastes. Stay away.
MORE WEEK 9 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
GONOS: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em -- Tough it out for one more big week of byes
SI STAFF: Player Rankings -- The best replacements for Manning, Stafford
BELLER: Player Stat Projections -- What will Dalton do this week?
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Midseason Awards -- Broncos offense cleans up
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- Who's the fantasy MVP of the first half?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Desperate for starters? Look at Brazill, Campbell
McQUADE: Risers & Sliders -- Dalton put on a performance for the ages
BELLER: Early Week 9 Advice -- Brady should not be trusted as a starter