Commentary

The Big Rotowski: Week 12 Player Rankings

Updated: November 21, 2007, 11:29 AM ET
By Christopher Harris | ESPN.com

Week 12 Quarterback Rankings
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Tom Brady Patriots PHI
2 Tony Romo Cowboys NYJ
3 Brett Favre Packers @DET
4 Matt Hasselbeck Seahawks @STL
5 Derek Anderson Browns HOU
6 Matt Schaub Texans @CLE
7 Carson Palmer Bengals TEN
8 Drew Brees Saints @CAR
9 Ben Roethlisberger Steelers MIA
10 Vince Young Titans @CIN
11 Jeff Garcia Buccaneers WAS
12 Peyton Manning Colts @ATL
13 Eli Manning Giants MIN
14 Kurt Warner Cardinals SF
15 Marc Bulger Rams SEA
16 Jay Cutler Broncos @CHI
17 Jon Kitna Lions GB
18 David Garrard Jaguars BUF
19 Jason Campbell Redskins @TB
20 Donovan McNabb Eagles @NE
21 Kellen Clemens Jets @DAL
22 Philip Rivers Chargers BAL
23 Daunte Culpepper Raiders @KC
24 Kyle Boller Ravens @SD
25 Brodie Croyle Chiefs OAK
26 Rex Grossman Bears DEN
27 J.P. Losman Bills @JAC
28 Vinny Testaverde Panthers NO
29 Joey Harrington Falcons IND
30 Trent Dilfer 49ers @ARI
31 Tarvaris Jackson Vikings @NYG
32 John Beck Dolphins @PIT

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
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Joseph Addai Colts @ATL
2 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers BAL
3 Willie Parker Steelers MIA
4 Brian Westbrook Eagles @NE
5 Steven Jackson Rams SEA
6 Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars BUF
7 LenDale White Titans @CIN
8 Reggie Bush Saints @CAR
9 Willis McGahee Ravens @SD
10 Edgerrin James Cardinals SF
11 Marion Barber Cowboys NYJ
12 Jamal Lewis Browns HOU
13 Clinton Portis Redskins @TB
14 Chester Taylor Vikings @NYG
15 Ryan Grant Packers @DET
16 Earnest Graham Buccaneers WAS
17 Maurice Morris Seahawks @STL
18 Cedric Benson Bears DEN
19 Frank Gore 49ers @ARI
20 Jesse Chatman Dolphins @PIT
21 Selvin Young Broncos @CHI
22 Justin Fargas Raiders @KC
23 Kolby Smith Chiefs OAK
24 DeShaun Foster Panthers NO
25 Ron Dayne Texans @CLE
26 Kevin Jones Lions GB
27 Fred Taylor Jaguars BUF
28 Warrick Dunn Falcons IND
29 Julius Jones Cowboys NYJ
30 Laurence Maroney Patriots PHI
31 Thomas Jones Jets @DAL
32 Rudi Johnson Bengals TEN
33 Anthony Thomas Bills @JAC
34 Derrick Ward Giants MIN
35 Reuben Droughns Giants MIN
36 Chris Brown Titans @CIN
37 Kenny Watson Bengals TEN
38 Adrian Peterson Bears DEN
39 DeAngelo Williams Panthers NO
40 Michael Pittman Buccaneers WAS
41 T.J. Duckett Lions GB
42 Kenton Keith Colts @ATL
43 Najeh Davenport Steelers MIA
44 Andre Hall Broncos @CHI
45 Jerious Norwood Falcons IND
46 Leon Washington Jets @DAL
47 Ladell Betts Redskins @TB
48 Brandon Jackson Packers @DET
49 Heath Evans Patriots PHI
50 Correll Buckhalter Eagles @NE

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
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Randy Moss Patriots PHI
2 Terrell Owens Cowboys NYJ
3 Braylon Edwards Browns HOU
4 Andre Johnson Texans @CLE
5 T.J. Houshmandzadeh Bengals TEN
6 Reggie Wayne Colts @ATL
7 Greg Jennings Packers @DET
8 Marques Colston Saints @CAR
9 Torry Holt Rams SEA
10 Hines Ward Steelers MIA
11 Chad Johnson Bengals TEN
12 Wes Welker Patriots PHI
13 Roy Williams Lions GB
14 Joey Galloway Buccaneers WAS
15 D.J. Hackett Seahawks @STL
16 Brandon Marshall Broncos @CHI
17 Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals SF
18 Anquan Boldin Cardinals SF
19 Donald Driver Packers @DET
20 Steve Smith Panthers NO
21 Shaun McDonald Lions GB
22 Plaxico Burress Giants MIN
23 Chris Henry Bengals TEN
24 Lee Evans Bills @JAC
25 Bobby Engram Seahawks @STL
26 Jerricho Cotchery Jets @DAL
27 Dwayne Bowe Chiefs OAK
28 Ronald Curry Raiders @KC
29 Donte' Stallworth Patriots PHI
30 Kevin Curtis Eagles @NE
31 Sam Hurd Cowboys NYJ
32 Bernard Berrian Bears DEN
33 Roddy White Falcons IND
34 Santana Moss Redskins @TB
35 Derrick Mason Ravens @SD
36 Deion Branch Seahawks @STL
37 Brad Smith Jets @DAL
38 David Patten Saints @CAR
39 Kevin Walter Texans @CLE
40 Calvin Johnson Lions GB
41 Brandon Stokley Broncos @CHI
42 Arnaz Battle 49ers @ARI
43 Chris Chambers Chargers BAL
44 Justin Gage Titans @CIN
45 Reggie Brown Eagles @NE
46 Joe Jurevicius Browns HOU
47 Andre Davis Texans @CLE
48 Isaac Bruce Rams SEA
49 Mark Clayton Ravens @SD
50 Sidney Rice Vikings @NYG

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
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Kellen Winslow Browns HOU
2 Antonio Gates Chargers BAL
3 Jason Witten Cowboys NYJ
4 Tony Gonzalez Chiefs OAK
5 Jeremy Shockey Giants MIN
6 Dallas Clark Colts @ATL
7 Heath Miller Steelers MIA
8 Donald Lee Packers @DET
9 Benjamin Watson Patriots PHI
10 Chris Cooley Redskins @TB
11 Owen Daniels Texans @CLE
12 L.J. Smith Eagles @NE
13 Chris Baker Jets @DAL
14 Greg Olsen Bears DEN
15 Alex Smith Buccaneers WAS
16 Vernon Davis 49ers @ARI
17 Alge Crumpler Falcons IND
18 Marcedes Lewis Jaguars BUF
19 Eric Johnson Saints @CAR
20 Quinn Sypniewski Ravens @SD
21 Jeff King Panthers NO
22 Leonard Pope Cardinals SF
23 Randy McMichael Rams SEA
24 Tony Scheffler Broncos @CHI
25 Desmond Clark Bears DEN
26 Zach Miller Raiders @KC
27 Will Heller Seahawks @STL
28 Ben Utecht Colts @ATL
29 Robert Royal Bills @JAC
30 Sean McHugh Lions GB
31 Daniel Graham Broncos @CHI
32 Visanthe Shiancoe Vikings @NYG

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
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Stephen Gostkowski Patriots PHI
2 Nick Folk Cowboys NYJ
3 Jeff Reed Steelers MIA
4 Rob Bironas Titans @CIN
5 Mason Crosby Packers @DET
6 Josh Brown Seahawks @STL
7 Matt Stover Ravens @SD
8 Kris Brown Texans @CLE
9 Shayne Graham Bengals TEN
10 David Akers Eagles @NE
11 Adam Vinatieri Colts @ATL
12 Jason Elam Broncos @CHI
13 Neil Rackers Cardinals SF
14 Jason Hanson Lions GB
15 Nate Kaeding Chargers BAL
16 Lawrence Tynes Giants MIN
17 Phil Dawson Browns HOU
18 Jay Feely Dolphins @PIT
19 John Kasay Panthers NO
20 Shaun Suisham Redskins @TB
21 Jeff Wilkins Rams SEA
22 Robbie Gould Bears DEN
23 Rian Lindell Bills @JAC
24 Ryan Longwell Vikings @NYG
25 John Carney Jaguars BUF
26 Sebastian Janikowski Raiders @KC
27 Josh Scobee Jaguars BUF
28 Olindo Mare Saints @CAR
29 Matt Bryant Buccaneers WAS
30 Mike Nugent Jets @DAL
31 Morten Andersen Falcons IND
32 Joe Nedney 49ers @ARI

Week 12 Defense Rankings
RANK Name Team Opponent
1 Pittsburgh Steelers MIA
2 New England Patriots PHI
3 New York Giants MIN
4 Green Bay Packers @DET
5 Dallas Cowboys NYJ
6 Indianapolis Colts @ATL
7 Jacksonville Jaguars BUF
8 Kansas City Chiefs OAK
9 Seattle Seahawks @STL
10 San Diego Chargers BAL
11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers WAS
12 Arizona Cardinals SF
13 Chicago Bears DEN
14 Baltimore Ravens @SD
15 New Orleans Saints @CAR
16 Tennessee Titans @CIN
17 Detroit Lions GB
18 Minnesota Vikings @NYG
19 Denver Broncos @CHI
20 Oakland Raiders @KC
21 Washington Redskins @TB
22 St. Louis Rams SEA
23 San Francisco 49ers @ARI
24 Cleveland Browns HOU
25 Atlanta Falcons IND
26 Carolina Panthers NO
27 Houston Texans @CLE
28 Buffalo Bills @JAC
29 Miami Dolphins @PIT
30 Cincinnati Bengals TEN
31 New York Jets @DAL
32 Philadelphia Eagles @NE

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.