The Big Rotowski: Week 9 Player Rankings


(Bye-Week Notables: Eli Manning, Brian Griese, Marc Bulger, Cleo Lemon)

Notes: It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Brady, then Manning, then Derek Anderson. What can you say about the Browns? At least they throw the ball, and the offensive line really has improved. Anderson is a big, strong-armed kid who's about as mobile as Romeo Crennel, but with Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow to throw to, Anderson's an every-week play. ... Brees finally takes the leap back up to elite territory this week. His performance against the Niners wasn't just about numbers (though those were impressive: 31-of-39 for 336 yards and four touchdowns); he was on his toes, coming over the ball, which made him much more committed to his throws. If you watch tape on him from the Colts game versus the Niners game, it's like he's a different person. One wonders if he was hurt, or just confused. Anyway, I'd start him, even against a tough Jacksonville D this week. ... Hasselbeck has an injured oblique muscle, but is supposedly over it enough to play in Cleveland. The Browns are a tasty secondary against which to throw, so here's hoping he's healthy. ... Rivers should be able to pick his poison against Minnesota. Either throw it deep to open receivers, or dump it short to Antonio Gates and let him run. ... Cutler's development is vexing. He made a few very nice throws Monday night against the Packers, but he had a tendency to overemphasize pressure and make hurried, off-target zips, relying on his strong arm to get him out of trouble. Too often, it didn't work. He's still a borderline start against a by-now-overrated Lions defense, but you'd like to see more from him, and soon. ... Warner's elbow is reportedly less of a factor, and he should start against the schizoid Bucs defense. I may bump him a few spots higher if he practices without incident all week. ... Campbell gets a mulligan for his Patriots game performance, but the Jets are substantially easier to rush against than throw against. ... I hate having Culpepper even this high, and by now I'm in the start Josh McCown camp, but Houston's defense is teetering, and Daunte does have a way of putting up a pretty play or two just when you think he should be benched. ... I wrote about Vince Young in this week's fantasy newsletter. Boy, is he a bust. And boy, was I the biggest VY booster around in September. One rushing touchdown? Three passing TDs, to three interceptions? No matter what you paid for him (probably a lot, as did I), he can't be in your lineup. He looked thoroughly lost this past week in a win over Oakland, and Jeff Fisher knew it: It's why VY only got 14 pass attempts. I think Young's the primary reason this team is bogging so badly in the red zone, and I can't even believe I just typed that.

(Bye-Week Notables: Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns, Derrick Ward, Steven Jackson, Brian Leonard, Jesse Chatman, Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson (Bears))

Notes: The Colts have to try and dominate time of possession against New England, and that'll mean healthy doses of both Addai and Keith. Addai has become an elite goal-line back: His eight scores (seven rushing, one receiving) have been an average of 6.75 yards, and the longest was just 14. The Patriots are 10th in the league preventing opposing rushers from scoring fantasy points in the past five weeks, which doesn't qualify them as ultra-tough. Addai has a fine day Sunday. ... Look for Lynch to do some good work against the Bengals and Dolphins the next two weeks. Of course, we said that against the Jets in Week 8, and he didn't score (but he did rack up 80 yards on 21 carries). Cincy and Miami are top-10 in allowing scores to fantasy backs in the past five weeks. ... If I was incredibly stupid and wrong about Vince Young, at least I was right jumping on the LenDale White wagon early (and quite a hefty wagon it is). White is too fat and too slow, but he's a nightmare to tackle. Listen, the Raiders were a goofily easy matchup in Week 8, but the Panthers allowed Addai's big game in Week 8, and haven't stopped the rush like you expect them to. ... I don't love Larry Johnson against the Pack, but you start him. No question, Green Bay loads up to stop the rush, something they already do pretty well, and dares Damon Huard to pull an Elvis Grbac. ... The Parker/McGahee matchup Monday night will be fun, but it's folly to expect huge days from either. These defenses' collective manhood will be on the line. ... This is the week Maroney either starts delivering in fantasy leagues, or starts getting benched. For about a quarter last week, the Panthers laid a blueprint on how to beat Indy's defense: no traps or fancy end-arounds, just smash-mouth, preferably right at Dwight Freeney. I think New England's going to come out in two-tight-end sets on Sunday and jam it down the Colts' throat in the first half. It's so them. Then the moment Bob Sanders steps up to play the run, they'll bomb the living heck out of the Colts. ... I have Kenny Watson rated as though he's a clear starter, but as of this writing, that was sounding less and less like the case. Rudi Johnson apparently has a decent chance of being active, and meanwhile Watson has a concussion. I'll have to re-address the situation on Friday. ... The Browns have contained the rush a little better their past few games (though Steven Jackson getting re-injured certainly helped their numbers), but that's not what's got me rating Shaun Alexander as a borderline fantasy starter. I think the Seahawks will try and come out rushing, but I doubt Mike Holmgren sticks with it. As I've said earlier this year, this is as much about an O-line not creating the creases through which Alexander likes to slip horizontally as it is about Alexander himself hitting some kind of wall. Either way, though, it's hard to imagine him being consistently effective. ... Ryan Grant is the flavor-of-the-week pickup, but Kansas City's defense has been really tough since Jared Allen returned. ... I've got Selvin Young higher than Travis Henry again, though what'll happen with Henry is pretty much anyone's guess. The good news is Denver's got an early game on Sunday. ... Is this the week Bobby Petrino stops being so stubborn and gives Jerious Norwood the ball more than Warrick Dunn? I've got 'em ranked that way. ... Let me just stop a moment and rant about DeAngelo Williams. Has any back in the league been tackled on first ankle contact more than Williams? I admit: I've been a big Williams booster for nearly two years, but I'm off the wagon. Or on the wagon. Whatever. I'm not using Williams. ... Against a bad Oakland rush defense, I'd love to put Echemandu higher, but he's dealing with a bruised hamstring, and is sounding iffy.

(Bye-Week Notables: Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Drew Bennett, Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Marty Booker, Ted Ginn Jr., Derek Hagan)

Notes: Seattle doesn't have a corner that can stay with Braylon Edwards. Frankly, no one may have a corner who can cover Edwards one-on-one. Seattle will roll safety help on every play, but that hasn't stopped Derek Anderson from throwing it deep Edwards's way. And frankly, the 'Hawks have been had via the air a couple times in the past few weeks. ... Moss is the best receiver in football, but that doesn't mean he's automatically the best fantasy play every week. First off, as I mentioned above, I think the Pats will cross up the Colts by running. Second, Wes Welker's been every bit as productive, fantasy-wise, as Moss over the past month. Of course, that's mostly because Moss gets so much attention. Regardless, I'd start both of 'em in every league in existence. ... Ward looked great against the Bengals, and appears to be healthy. He hasn't scored a touchdown against Baltimore since Week 2 of 2004, but Big Ben obviously looks for Ward in the end zone. ... Sticking with Donald Driver is an act of blind faith at this point. While defenses focus on Driver and let Greg Jennings and James Jones sprint free, all us Driver owners run screaming to the poor house. Three catches for 28 yards while the other guys both scored and exceeded 100 yards just stinks. But eventually, the defense's attention will have to fall on those other guys, too. Driver's targets haven't been in double digits since Week 2; that has to change soon, or I'll start dropping him on this list. ... Lee Evans makes a meteoric rise. Is it simply because of one lucky play in garbage time at the end of the Bills/Jets game? Not exactly. First off, Evans got a quasi-healthy seven targets Sunday, beating his average this year. But more importantly, J.P. Losman is back, and Losman and Evans made beautiful music together in 2006. ... This is high for Roddy White, especially without Byron Leftwich flinging bombs for the Falcons. Joey Harrington won't be mistaken for John Elway (for many, many reasons) any time soon. But White caught 8-of-8 targets the last time out, and the Niners' pass rush is surprisingly awful (12 sacks, four interceptions). ... Cotchery jumps on this list after word arrived that Laveranues Coles has a good chance of missing Week 9 because of a concussion. Clemens-to-Cotchery should be the rule Sunday. ... Roy Williams was back to being a huge part of Detroit's offensive game plan last week, but the Lions could never get him open deep. Instead, Jon Kitna hit Williams with a series of dinks and dunks (12 targets, eight catches, 77 yards), and Big Roy is still looking for his first touchdown catch since Week 3. It'll come, and you keep starting him, but expectations have to be lowered a bit. ... This Marvin Harrison rating is a complete hedge. If he plays, he probably deserves to be higher. But will he play? ... Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett should both be back. That would mean Nate Burlseon's fantasy value returns where it belongs: nil.

(Bye-Week Notables: Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen, Desmond Clark, David Martin, Randy McMichael)

Notes: I'm missing some big names on this list. Benjamin Watson, Alge Crumpler and Owen Daniels all have a chance to play this week, but for the moment, I'm avoiding them. Watson's ankle might be ready, Crumpler's knee sounds like it's improving but as of this writing he hasn't practiced yet, and Daniels has a high-ankle sprain. Crumpler would seem like the best chance to play with Watson close behind, but check back on all of them throughout the week on ESPN.com, and in my Friday rankings updates I may include one or more. ... Gates will be a focal point of the Minnesota defense, which has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends over the past five games. Minny will have to pick its poison, though: Bring up safeties to help with Gates and risk deep passes, or let Gates have the underneath stuff. ... The Ravens seem to have been pointing their entire season at this Week 9 tilt against Pittsburgh, as they held out a bunch of stars before the bye. Heap is one of them. I think he'll play, and play well. ... As long as David Carr's in there for Carolina, expect King to get a lot of work. He was targeted 13 times against Indy last week, and caught 10 balls for 82 yards. Carr is extremely skittish and doesn't want to look downfield. ... We have a Vernon Davis sighting! Big Vern got nine targets this past week and caught six passes, including one for a touchdown. Alex Smith needs to play for Davis to be effective, though. ... L.J. Smith is playing, but hasn't looked close to full speed yet.

(Bye-Week Notables: Robbie Gould, Lawrence Tynes, Jeff Wilkins, Jay Feely)

(Bye-Week Notables: New York Giants, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami)

Notes: The Chargers defense has arrived. It has scored more fantasy points on defense than anyone else over the past five (and past three) weeks, and it tees off on Brooks Bollinger in Week 9. Minnesota is middle-of-the-pack in terms of allowing fantasy points to defenses, but still, San Diego is a must-play. ... As is Tennessee: the Titans are owned in fewer than 60 percent of ESPN.com leagues. It is the best unit in football against the rush (64.3 yards per game), has 11 interceptions and 15 sacks. Plus the Titans play against David Carr, king of fantasy points allowed to defenses. ... Rating the Raiders this high makes me squeamish, but Houston's in terrible shape on offense. Andre Johnson will sit again, and Matt Schaub might be next to him. Oakland's been very difficult to pass against lately, and while the Raiders are pillow-soft against the run, I question whether Ahman Green (if he plays) and this beyond-shaky offensive line can take advantage. ... Late word (just before I submitted this article) is that Jacksonville defensive tackle Marcus Stroud might be suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. It remains to be seen if this suspension could apply to Week 9; if it does, I'd consider bumping the Jags defense down a notch or two. ... The Saints defense has completely turned it around. The Saints have done it with a really tough rush defense. They've allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers over the last five weeks; check out their last four tilts: Frank Gore, 41 yards; Warrick Dunn and Jerious Norwood, 66 combined yards; Shaun Alexander, 35 yards; DeShaun Foster, 59 yards. You have to beat them via the air, and I don't trust Quinn Gray to do that. ... I might have Tampa Bay Buccaneers a little high, and if Kurt Warner checks out healthy and ready to go with both his big wideouts, I may adjust them downward. They've been schizophrenic this year: one, two and zero fantasy points in three of their past four tilts, but 14, 11 and 13 in three of four before that. ... Yes, I'm officially nauseous: The Lions are a starting fantasy defense. But heck, the Broncos make mistakes, especially on the road. ... No way I want any part of either the Patriots or the Colts this week. If you regularly start either one, treat this as a bye. New England only has allowed an opposing fantasy defense to score non-negative points once in eight games, while Indy's offense has allowed minus-seven, zero, zero and minus-two fantasy points to opposing defenses over the last month.

Don't forget to read The Breakdown on Fridays, for more detailed thoughts on every team and every game.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com.
You can e-mail him here.