The NFL is officially entering the second half of the 2012 season—Week 9 is now upon us.
With half the season complete, we now have a better understanding of where certain teams stand and which players are performing up to par.
But as usual, each individual week has its own unique surprises and plot twists, which creates a challenge when it comes to managing a fantasy team.
In order to assist you on your Week 9 lineup, here is one sleeper and one bust for each position this week.
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals
Tom Brady owners are in panic mode as the Patriots are enjoying their bye week.
The loss of Brady is not too overwhelming if you have a capable backup in place. If not, you need to quickly hit the waiver wire for the best available passer.
Carson Palmer has over 200 yards in every game this season and has tossed a touchdown in every game except one.
Palmer—a mediocre option as a permanent starter—is actually a solid substitute this week as the Raiders take on the Buccaneers, who rank second-to-last in pass defense (309.6 yards per game).
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Eli Manning is a top NFL quarterback when it comes to winning games and rolling through the playoffs, but he's not a fantasy juggernaut like his older brother.
The Cowboys—with the third-best pass defense in the NFL (187.7 yards per game)—were able to limit Eli to 192 yards and an interception, despite losing to the Giants.
This week, Eli will face the No. 1 ranked pass defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers (182.6 yards per game), so it's unlikely that his stats will improve.
Justin Forsett, Houston Texans
Justin Forsett is stuck behind Arian Foster on the depth cart, but he has still mildly contributed recently.
In the last two games, Forsett has a total of 97 yards from scrimmage, including a 65-yard performance against Green Bay.
The recent flashes could result in an increased workload, which could pay off as the Texans prepare to take on the Buffalo Bills, who rank dead last in run defense (176.9 yards per game).
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson is coming off back-to-back 100-yard performances and is a must-start every single week, but if there's one top-notch running back who might hit a Week 9 rut, it could very well be Peterson.
The Vikings are on the road this week in a very hostile Seattle environment.
On top of playing in one of the toughest NFL stadiums, Peterson will also have to deal with the Seahawks defense—a unit that ranks fifth in the NFL against the run (84.9 yards per game).
Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers
Third-year veteran Brandon LaFell has been stuck under Steve Smith's shadow for the majority of his young career, but Week 9 could be an exception.
Since being shut out against Atlanta in Week 4, LaFell has improved every week.
In his last game against the Chicago Bears, LaFell finished with three catches for 88 yards. In the previous week against Dallas, he racked up 53 yards and a touchdown.
LaFell's Week 9 opponent will be the Washington Redskins—a team that ranks last in the NFL in pass defense (314.2 yards per game).
If LaFell has been riding your bench for the majority of the year, this would be a good week to give him a shot.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
Jordy Nelson is typically a must-start, but a hamstring injury could keep him sidelined in Week 9.
Even if he does play, the Packers are going against a capable Arizona defense that ranks top-five against the pass.
If you have an alternative plan, you better put it in motion.
Joel Dreessen, Denver Broncos
Joel Dreessen has been inconsistent with his fantasy production this season.
He went three straight games with a touchdown reception, but has been kept out of the end zone the last two weeks, including a zero-reception performance against New Orleans last week.
He's a risky option, but since Manning likes to spread the ball around, it's possible that the cycle will come back around and Dreessen will produce against the Bengals this Sunday.
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons
Tony Gonzalez had a monster game against Washington in Week 5, resulting in 143 yards and a touchdown.
In the last two games, Gonzalez has not exceeded 50 yards and has been kept out of the end zone.
The Falcons will take on the Cowboys in Week 9, which does not bode well for Gonzalez, because Dallas has the third-best pass defense in the NFL.
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