- Christopher Harris, Fantasy
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Editor's Note: These rankings are meant to capture fantasy value from today through the end of the NFL regular season. We'll publish them every Tuesday during the season to help you decide about trades and waiver-wire acquisitions; as such, this list won't always reflect news that comes out later in the week. And remember, every Wednesday you'll find week-specific rankings from all our fantasy football writers.
Notes: I don't have a big favorite among the top four on this list. The best schedule belongs to Peyton Manning: Chargers, Browns, Bengals, Lions, Jaguars. Are you serious? Not an above-average pass defense among them. (Manning does draw the Titans in Week 17, but who knows if Tennessee will be resting its starters for the playoffs by then.) Don't give Kurt Warner that MVP trophy just yet. Tony Romo didn't answer all questions about his pinkie, and in fact admitted that the ball didn't come crisply out of his hand a few times Sunday night. Still, the next two weeks provide awesome matchups against the Niners and Seahawks. After that, I'm assuming he's up to speed. That Steelers/Chargers game certainly wasn't pretty, but Ben Roethlisberger did enough to restore my faith in him as a fantasy starter. He's got tough matchups when it matters most, in Weeks 14 and 15 (at Baltimore and at Tennessee), but until then, it's pretty nice: Bengals, Patriots, Cowboys. Meanwhile, all you folks who whined about how ESPN.com's mock drafters ignored Philip Rivers for too long in our midseason re-draft, take a bow. In the two games since then, Rivers has tossed two scores and four picks, and averaged well under 250 pass yards per. Eli Manning didn't do anything wrong, really, but I don't like his schedule: Cardinals, Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, Panthers, Vikings. There are some good secondaries coming up (though Arizona probably doesn't have one of them). I'll eat crow on David Garrard. I thought he'd play well against the Titans, and he was besieged all day. He deserves credit for emerging alive. I, however, do not. Matt Cassel and Tyler Thigpen have become legitimate options, and some weeks should be ranked as starters. (For instance, Cassel will look tasty in the fantasy playoffs against the Seahawks.) Thigpen's best asset during his emergence has been his running ability, and if he had a better O-line, he'd have a higher completion rate. Playing Denver and San Diego in consecutive weeks in Weeks 14 and 15 will make him intriguing. Don't forget about Jeff Garcia. Like Chad Pennington, Garcia is a better "real-football" player than fantasy star, but his schedule lightens up now, too: Lions, Saints, Panthers, Falcons, Chargers, Raiders. There are at least three excellent matchups in that run. Trent Edwards threw three picks in the first half Monday night, and just hasn't been the same guy since his concussion. He did run for a late score in Monday's game and he does have a favorable schedule, but I don't see how you can use him right now. Sage Rosenfels has cost himself so much money the past two weeks. However, Matt Schaub is reportedly behind in his rehab, and might still miss four more games.
Notes: That collective sigh you heard across fantasy nation Sunday night occurred when Clinton Portis emerged from the tunnel and played well against the Cowboys. Phew. He's having a tremendous year, and yes, his schedule in Weeks 13 and 14 isn't good (versus Giants, at the Ravens), but he should have a nice Week 12 against Seattle and gets the Bengals, Eagles and 49ers in Weeks 15 through 17. Plus he's really good. Don't flinch, LaDainian Tomlinson owners. You're about to benefit from a schedule that includes the Colts, Falcons, Raiders, Chiefs, Buccaneers and Broncos. Tampa could be dicey, but otherwise, that's a nice skein. The big riser, of course, is Joseph Addai, whose schedule (see Peyton Manning above) is similarly cake. Addai proved he was healthy in a make-or-break matchup against a depleted Texans D, making him a guy to trade for here at the fantasy regular season's end. It requires a leap of faith to get him back in your top 10, but evidently it's a leap I'm willing to take. Michael Turner has been great, but his schedule includes Week 15 and 16 matchups against Tampa Bay and Minnesota, making him a potentially scary guy to own if you get that far. Maurice Jones-Drew has quietly used consecutive huge weeks (in which he scored five times) to tie LenDale White and Brandon Jacobs for the league lead in rushing touchdowns. And his schedule, too, is nice: he gets the Vikings this week, which stinks, but after that, he gets the Texans, Bears, Packers and Colts before closing with a tough one against the Ravens. Jamal Lewis had a disappointing night in Buffalo, one that saw him tippy-toe a lot more than I like: shades of "old-looking" Jamal from his end days in Baltimore. Plus Jerome Harrison comes in and looks explosive taking one 72 yards to the house. Whither Steven Jackson? He's already been ruled out for Week 12, and Orlando Pace looks like he could be out for the season. Jackson's now lost a second straight year to injury. I've rated him inside the top 24 simply because on the off chance he does get healthy, obviously he's a transcendent talent. Earnest Graham is out for the year with an ankle injury, meaning Warrick Dunn is the clear starter in Tampa. Could Cadillac Williams also be a factor? Never say never, but I still think it would take some doing. He's worth adding in deeper leagues, though. Justin Fargas gets the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers in his next three, and also has the Texans in Week 16. The only tough matchup he has left is New England in Week 15, plus Darren McFadden just can't get healthy. Tim Hightower did nothing with two sweet matchups the past couple of weeks, plus he lost a lot of carries to J.J. Arrington in the spread offense against Seattle. Kevin Smith looked very strong against the Panthers, and has obviously eclipsed Rudi Johnson. However, he's got the Bucs, Titans and Vikings the next three weeks. Ouch.
Notes: The Cardinals' passing game is back where it was a couple years ago, when Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin were regular entrants into the receiver top 10. This week's game against the Giants will be interesting because Warner doesn't figure to have as much time, and their matchup against the Eagles the week after is tough, too. After that, they draw the Rams, Vikings, Patriots and Seahawks. That's very workable. Reggie Wayne and Greg Jennings will take advantage of soft schedules, as well. You've read me wax poetic about the Colts' schedule above; the Packers have the Saints, Panthers, Texans, Jaguars, Bears and Lions. The Panthers are tough against the pass, but that's it. Braylon Edwards looked strong Monday night against the Bills, and while Brady Quinn might not go deep with him as much as Derek Anderson did, the rumors of Edwards' demise have been greatly exaggerated. Meanwhile, Lee Evans went the other way. He's had three straight poor games, as safeties roll his way on nearly every play, from what I can see. Plus Trent Edwards is suddenly checking down constantly. Heck, there were third downs Monday night when Evans wasn't even on the field. Bernard Berrian was as hot as they came for a month, but he's gone two straight games without a touchdown, and the newly conservative Gus Frerotte isn't good news for Bernie. That said, the schedule goes: Jaguars, Bears, Lions, Cardinals, Falcons and Giants. That should make for some more scores, even though surprisingly Berrian only has 33 grabs through 11 weeks. He does make them count when he grabs them, doesn't he? Vincent Jackson played badly against the Steelers. There were plays to be made out there, and he didn't make them (and did that annoying post-drop smiling thing a whole bunch). Disappointing. Derrick Mason climbs back up where he belongs after concerns about his shoulder proved to be needless; he played through pain against the Giants and notched seven catches for 82 yards. He's the only game in town in Baltimore, though he did reportedly aggravate the injury some. He might be a game-time decision this week. I've swapped Ted Ginn Jr. and Greg Camarillo, while trying not to be swayed by Ginn's end-around touchdown Sunday which, let's face it, isn't likely to be repeated. The Dolphins do have a nice remaining schedule: Patriots, Rams, Bills, 49ers, Chiefs and Jets. Don't give up entirely on Donnie Avery, even though the rest of the offense is hopelessly moribund. He still caught nine passes for 93 yards Sunday, and the Rams have a good schedule against weak secondaries, too: Bears, Dolphins, Cardinals, Seahawks, 49ers and Falcons.
Notes: A week after his huge night against Denver, Kellen Winslow didn't do much Monday night, but I still like him a lot in his partnership with Quinn. Zach Miller caught four passes for 67 yards against Miami and has a nice schedule the rest of the way: Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers, Patriots and Texans. The Chargers, in particular, are the gold standard for opposing tight ends. If your guy is playing against them, smile and get him in your lineup. Tony Scheffler got shut out a week after grabbing four passes for 92 yards against the Browns. More galling is that Daniel Graham caught the game-winning touchdown for Denver. Argh. Is Scheffler's groin still bothering him? Bo Scaife is still among the best of the "other" tight ends, but he's going to have weeks like Week 11, when he caught only two passes for 28 yards. It'll still be a positive sign for him if opposing defenses dare Kerry Collins to throw, because Scaife and Collins have nice chemistry. Jeremy Shockey got a talking-to from Sean Payton last week, and responded with six catches against the Chiefs. Granted, those only resulted in 39 yards, and he's always a play away from doing something stupid that alienates his teammates. But his fantasy value is increasing as his health apparently becomes less of an issue.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Christopher Harris has his season-to-end rankings, which includes a huge jump for Joseph Addai.