The Big Rotowski: Week 12 Player Rankings
|Week 12 Quarterback Rankings|
Notes: Thanksgiving Day should be a lovely time for fantasy quarterbacks. Romo, Favre and Peyton Manning will start in most leagues, Kitna might get the nod in deeper divisions, and Clemens and Harrington will try not to get hurt. ... Keep an eye on Hasselbeck's oblique, or rib cage, or whatever they are calling it. He's not expected to practice a ton after reinjuring himself Sunday, but he didn't come out of that game and doesn't seem in danger of missing this one. ... Schaub looked terrific in his comeback game and gets to pick on a Cleveland secondary that is missing rookie Eric Wright. Daven Holly will start at corner, while rookie Brandon McDonald will play nickel. Considering how poorly Leigh Bodden played on the other side Sunday, Schaub will have open receivers. ... Palmer stunk and wasn't helped by his receivers against Arizona, but he still turned in a fine fantasy day. Get used to it. ... Brees wasn't responsible for either of his interceptions, but for a second straight week, he didn't play well. Carolina is uninspired in the secondary, but I'd like to see the Saints throw a little less frequently to Reggie Bush and a little more downfield. ... Young played really well against Denver. He was poised, accurate and quick. He has a quad bruise, which supposedly is unrelated to the leg problems that dogged him last month. ... Garcia gets to take on a battered Washington secondary. You know he's not tossing a dozen bombs, but he'll be his efficient self and turn in a very good fantasy day. ... At this point in his career, Cutler looks better than he is. Watching the Broncos on offense, I can't help having confidence that the kid will make all the throws, right up until the point where he doesn't make all the throws. There's still a piece missing, and it's related to experience and brains. I still think he'll be a good one. Next year, maybe. ... Whoopee! Garrard hasn't thrown an interception. He also had 15 completions last week. ... It sounds like McNabb (ankle) will play Sunday night at New England. He's one of the snide few who, upon hearing about Spygate, kiddingly asked if that meant he'd get his ring (since he and his Eagles lost a Super Bowl to the Patriots a few years back). Don't think that quote won't be plastered all over the home locker room.
|Week 12 Running Back Rankings|
Notes: I love Parker's matchup against Miami's soft rush defense, but then again, I loved him against the Jets' soft rush defense last week, even made him No. 1 on my list, and he carried 21 times for 52 yards and no scores. Gah. He hasn't given his owners a touchdown since Week 8 and has just two on the season. There certainly are indications that Mike Tomlin believes Parker is wearing down a little, and for all his ineffectiveness on the goal line, Davenport has stolen some close-in touches. But fantasy football is a game of averages, and it has to even out for FWP sometime. ... Steven Jackson had one 37-yard scamper and otherwise was quiet against San Francisco, which focused on him. Seattle doesn't have the corners to run those same schemes, and it sounds like S-Jax is as healthy as he's been all year. Time to see if he can stand up to the glare of the top 5. ... Jones-Drew was outdone by Fred Taylor in all areas but one: fantasy scoring. That fourth-and-1 call that gave MJD his touchdown was a thing of beauty. ... Bush is a beast in point-per-reception leagues; he is on pace for 107 catches. Unfortunately, he also has only a 3.6 yards-per-carry average, which puts him behind ultra disappointments like Gore and Julius Jones. He's beaten the short-yardage bugaboo, but his negative-yards runs are really putting the Saints in holes. (And yes, I know that's what they used to say about Barry Sanders, but Sanders never averaged below 4.3 yards per carry, because he was a long-touchdown specialist.) ... I've rated Grant as though he'll play against Detroit on Thursday, but he's not going to practice because of his injured ankle, so make sure he's off the inactive list come Turkey Day. ... Graham and Morris both dwell in the land of surprising fantasy starters. Neither guy will lose his job this week, anyway, and as long as both men contribute, their more-recognized backfield-mates will wait. Graham has the harder matchup, but he's also playing better. ... Man, what do you do with Gore? He limped off the field with his injured ankle yet again Sunday, although he returned to the tune of 15 carries for 32 yards. The Niners tossed it to him seven times (he caught five), though, so at least they realize he needs the ball in his hands. New/old offensive assistant Ted Tollner was rehired to inject some life into this moribund offense, but alas, Dilfer still is the quarterback. ... Kolby Smith: Fantasy Starter? Considering it's sounding more and more like Priest Holmes could miss more time with a neck injury (and given the nature of his past injuries, this really could be it for Holmes), I'm assuming Smith is the starter against the easy Oakland rush defense. Smith didn't overwhelm the Chiefs with confidence either in the preseason or at Indianapolis last week. But the running back cupboard is otherwise bare.
|Week 12 Wide Receiver Rankings|
Notes: Miami has been easier to rush against than pass against, but with Santonio Holmes out, I expect Ward to have a No. 1 WR type of night Monday. ... Slippery-fingered Chad Johnson doesn't seem like a particularly complicated guy. Like, if you were to ask him what he thinks of Proust, he probably would ask what team Proust plays for. So the fact that he appears so distracted (by his team's poor play, by his own poor play, by Houshmandzadeh's success, by rumblings that the Bengals might part ways with him this offseason) explains why he's having such a tough time breaking his slump. It'll happen. But man, that giant "H.O.F." blazer seems miles away, doesn't it? ... I'm singling out Galloway, in particular, this week. He broke a long one last week against Atlanta, and I'm calling my shot: He'll have a big day against those hurting 'Skins D-backs. ... Fitzgerald is fighting a bad shoulder; Boldin has a bad hip. They're both starters, but we're back to the point where it's tough to tell which will excel in a given week. ... Clearly, I've ranked Steve Smith as though he'll start, and he has a phenomenal matchup against New Orleans if he can go. It's sounding good so far, but definitely check on him a couple of times this weekend. ... I guess you can start Burress. Maybe his bad ankle suddenly will start feeling better. But if I have options, I might sit him a week. He turned in his worst performance of the season against Detroit and seems unfocused because of the pain he's in while running routes. The chemistry he and Eli Manning had in the first month has been disrupted because Plax is simply slower now. ... Cotchery and Brad Smith are likely to be the Jets' starting receivers Thursday (Laveranues Coles probably will be out). If New York is smart (and it often hasn't been this season), it will play three-wide as a base formation and force Jacques Reeves on the field a lot. He can't cover. ... It's sounding more and more like Patrick Crayton might miss Thanksgiving with a bad ankle. Hurd would benefit. ... Branch has told reporters he's "not close" to feeling healthy, so while he'll continue to be in Seattle's starting lineup (speaking of a team that's running three-receiver sets in its base offense), he'll take a back seat to Hackett and Engram for a while longer. Hackett's in a great position to continue to be the top receiver on that team. ... So much for the Chris Chambers gold-rush stampede since the former Wisconsin track star headed west. With Philip Rivers playing as awkwardly as any quarterback in the league in terms of footwork and repeatable mechanics, no one other than Antonio Gates in the San Diego aerial attack can be a fantasy starter right now.
|Week 12 Tight End Rankings|
Notes: Wait a minute. Didn't I just praise Gates? How did he drop down to No. 2 on this list, especially when he scored for the first time in three games, and Winslow was shut out? Man, I'm seeing the light on targets with these two guys. Winslow now has 38 targets in his past three games. (That's a ridiculous stat.) Gates has 22. And at the moment, Cleveland has the better quarterback. At some point, of course, I'm just splitting hairs between two great options. ... Dallas Clark was a big ol' mess against Kansas City, dropping passes that hit him in the hands and helmet. It's possible he still was concussed. Will he be better just four days later? I don't know. He is a pretty good player and a great red-zone threat. It might be worth the risk for his fantasy owners. ... Clemens' ascension to the Jets' quarterback job has helped Baker big time. He has 11 targets and eight catches in those two games, more than he's had in any two-game span this season. ... Assume Todd Heap's an unusable fantasy commodity right up until the point you see him happily being interviewed in the locker room, his hamstrings free of giant taped-on bags of ice.
|Week 12 Kicker Rankings|
|Week 12 Defense Rankings|
Notes: It's a little nerve-racking having Pittsburgh occupying the top spot, especially when Troy Polamalu isn't expected to play. But John Beck didn't show a lot against Philadelphia, and this is a borderline-insane spot for the rookie signal-caller: national TV, up north, in front of a rabid Steelers crowd. It smells ugly. ... Make no mistake: The Giants have issues in their secondary, as Detroit was good enough to illustrate during its comeback last week. But Tarvaris Jackson probably isn't the guy to take advantage. Even without Mathias Kiwanuka, expect New York's pass rush to be obliterating. ... And yes, even without Dwight Freeney, I think you can use the Colts' defense again with impunity. Sure, Joey Harrington has turned in a few stubbornly good games in which he's looked downfield (or, shall we say, as downfield as his arm will allow him). But Atlanta's O-line is hurting as much as ever, and the Falcons don't have great weapons anywhere. ... The Chiefs are a lot like the Giants: shaky secondary, opponent who'll struggle to take advantage of it. Jared Allen. Man. That guy is playing great. ... Yes, the idea of using Arizona is all about the opponent (the anemic Niners). After all, these guys allowed 396 total yards last week. It's not like they're world-beaters, but you just don't fear much that's going down on the San Fran offense. ... Bears and Ravens: out of my starting rotation in 12-team leagues. Who woulda thunk it?
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.
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