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NFL Week 9: Just like old times for Raiders, Broncos

AFC West rivals in a huge game; plus, fantasy boom and bust.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derek Carr of the Raiders
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL season enters its second half, so here is what you need to know for Week 9:

Game of the Week
Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders

On Oct. 15, 2006, the Raiders lost to the Denver Broncos, 13-3. They have not appeared on Sunday Night Football since. Until now. The Raiders entered the season with a lot of upside, earning a Sunday Night game at home, but NBC did not expect this to be a game that will pit two teams tied at the top of the AFC West at 6-2.

The Raiders are undefeated on the road, but they now have a home game in prime time against the defending NFL champions. Their wheelhouse is their offense. Derek Carr, their third-year quarterback, threw for 513 yards in their last game, a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have a great receiving duo in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and it could lead them to the Super Bowl.

The Broncos win games in the opposite way, their defense. DeMarcus Ware has returned to the lineup and they can be one of the league’s best when at full health. Their coordinator, Wade Phillips, got hurt in a collision in the last game, but he returned to practice on Wednesday and should be at the game Sunday night.

One of the best defenses and one of the best offenses makes this the game of the week. I am going to take the defense of Denver to win this game. Denver is experienced and Oakland commits too many penalties to take on a game of this magnitude.

Denver 23, Oakland 17

Upset of the Week
Pittsburgh Steelers over Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are at home against their biggest rivals this week and they are favored. However, they face a Steelers team that is hungry for a win after losing two straight before their bye. Ben Roethlisberger is hurt but is likely to make his return this week. Meanwhile, the Ravens have lost four straight and are looking to win for the first time since Week 3 against the Jaguars.

Baltimore’s story is very similar to last year’s. They are in every game, and lose by a score. They don’t win games convincingly, and they don’t lose games by a huge margin to make them a terrible team. The Ravens are an enigma and they cannot be trusted.

The Steelers need this win. Their 4-3 record has them leading the AFC North, but the Ravens and Bengals will be hot on their tails all season long. This is a great opportunity for the Steelers to give themselves a little breathing room, and they are not going to waste this chance. Le’Veon Bell has gotten his groove back, and Antonio Brown is playing like the MVP we all thought he would be.

I’m pretty surprised that the Steelers are underdogs in this game. They are the better team in this matchup on both sides of the ball and should win this close and exciting rivalry game.

Steelers 27, Ravens 20

Fantasy Start of the Week
Saints RB Tim Hightower

Hightower had a great game last week against the Seahawks, and he was promised more carries this week against the 49ers. San Francisco’s run defense has been atrocious all season, and Hightower should succeed as the lead back this week when the Saints go to San Francisco. The 49ers are coming off of a bye, but in their last two games, they have allowed LeSean McCoy and Jacquizz Rodgers to have their best game of their years against the 49ers. Expect Hightower to do the same.

Fantasy Sit of the Week
Ravens WR Steve Smith Sr.

Smith is also coming off of a bye week, but he has not scored a touchdown since Week 4. He is coming off of an ankle injury as well that has kept him out of the lineup since Week 5. Pittsburgh is the lineup he draws this week, and if he plays, he will be rusty since he has not played in a month. Receivers are going to be slim with six teams out this week, but Smith is not the way to go.

Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Chiefs RB Charcandrick West

Jamaal Charles found himself back on injured reserve, and Spencer Ware has entered the concussion protocol. Enter Charcandrick West to save the day for the Jaguars. He did well last year when Charles was injured, as he rushed for 634 yards. His number is being called upon again, and running backs in Andy Reid’s offense tend to get a lot of carries. The Chiefs have had the most RB1 usage since Andy Reid took over as head coach in 2013. It doesn’t matter who the running back is, he will produce, and it is West’s turn to produce.

Lock of the Week
New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49ers

The Saints are coming off their most impressive win of the season, beating the NFC West leader Seahawks. Now, they face the cellar dwellers of the same division, the San Francisco 49ers.

San Francisco is not a good football team. They give up points in droves and have an inconsistent quarterback. They walk onto the field each week as the inferior side and it is very hard for them to win football games. Nothing has gone right for them since their 28-0 opening week victory against the Rams. They are 0-7 since that game.

New Orleans is only 3-4, but I have confidence in them as my lock. They started off 0-3 but have gone 3-1 in their last four games. Their win against Seattle showed promise for this team, even if they faced a poor offensive team. They face a poor offensive team this week and their offense could completely blitz the Niners out of the game. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL still at age 37.

New Orleans averages 28.7 PPG, second in the NFL to the Atlanta Falcons. San Francisco averages 20.6, good for 22nd in the NFL. New Orleans is simply a better team riding a lot of momentum right now. Expect much of the same to happen this week in Santa Clara.

Saints 34, 49ers 17

Panthers -3 at Rams
Pick: Patiots

The Panthers are still a good team despite their 2-5 record and have scored 30+ points in two consecutive games. The Rams, meanwhile, have lost three in a row and are not dominant in any phase. The Panthers win this one fairly easily.

Last week: 1-0. Season: 4-4.

Jeremy Brener is a student at the University of Central Florida who writes a weekly NFL column for Outsports. He can be reached via email (jeremybrenerchs@gmail.com) and followed on Twitter.