The Big Rotowski: Despite bonehead play, Jackson rises
(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: The crazy Monday Night Football shootout only reinforced that the Cowboys and Eagles are pass-first teams who should rack up big games for Romo and McNabb on a regular basis. I'm splitting hairs by putting McNabb higher than Peyton Manning, but that offensive line in Indy is scaring me just a little, and it's also notable that Manning can't get to the edge on that traditional Colts sprint-handoff play, which is why Manning is pitching it to Joseph Addai so often. His knee is still bugging him. I still love Roethlisberger, but only if he's healthy. The announcers Sunday night were calling his injury a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, and despite the fact Big Ben was throwing the deep ball with a lot of oomph, the worry is enough to bump him down a couple pegs. The rest of my explanations here are mostly about guys I'm not moving down yet. Palmer stunk against the Ravens, but we can't blame him for stinking in 40 mile-per-hour winds against the Titans, can we? Taking the long view, I think he still winds up a top-10 quarterback, but he has a terrible matchup against the Giants next week. Yes, I'd still rather have Derek Anderson than Aaron Rodgers. Anderson has had two tough defenses, including the Steelers in a rainstorm. Rodgers has had it pretty easy, especially against the Lions. He's a West Coast quarterback; I don't think he racks up 328 yards passing very often. In fact, if there's one "sell-high" guy in fantasy right now, I think it's Rodgers. Not that he's bad. He's just overhyped. Garrard has to take a tumble because of that offensive line. It's decimated. O'Sullivan is starting to look like he might hold onto his job after all.
Notes: You can't have the No. 1 player in fantasy be questionable for two straight weeks because of a bad toe. Tomlinson is still a must-start (until you hear he's definitely not playing), but he's not the surest thing out there right now. Plus he has a clear handcuff in Sproles. Barber is most efficient back in football from the one-yard line. I still worry he'll get hurt, but I'm again willing to admit I had him too low to begin the year. I thought about dropping Addai further, and I don't expect him to do much against the Jags this week. That offensive line is really banged up. Still, history suggests some goal-line bunnies will come. I was the voice of warning about Grant last week, and his hammy could continue to limit him. Still, these are season rankings, and I think for the season, he'll produce. McFadden had a great day, but watch out for his turf toe. For this ranking, I've assumed it won't be a problem, but just ask LT owners how that can go. This is where I wanted to have Larry Johnson all along. He looked dreadful against the Raiders. Tentative. Lumbering. I'd be very worried were I heavily invested in LJ. Graham broke off a career-long run against the Falcons, but Dunn really is playing a lot. Stewart is looking more like a starter by the week. He's already the Panthers' goal-line back, for sure. Chris Johnson may not get the goal-line touches in Tennessee, but he's easily eclipsed White as the better fantasy play.
Notes: Marshall caught 18 passes in Week 2, tied for second-most in a single game in NFL history. Calvin Johnson haters: any questions? Boldin scored three times, but Fitzgerald was the real difference-maker, as usual. After a quiet Week 1, Fitz racked up 153 receiving yards, including a 75-yarder. Bowe recovered nicely from a drop-laden opener. Unfortunately, Tyler Thigpen was throwing him the ball most of the day. Damon Huard had a neck injury. I had to find the breaking point where I could put Colston, who's out another five games because of thumb surgery. He'll likely rise a little bit each week over the next month. DeSean Jackson was known as an immature player in college, and evinced his knuckleheadedness for the world to see on Monday Night Football, dropping the ball before crossing the goal line on a long pass. What a dolt. However, he's the best thing the Eagles have going in the receiving corps right now. Galloway sprained his foot in Week 2, and was using crutches after the game. He doesn't seem likely to play next week. Meanwhile, the Niners' receivers take a step up. Bruce looked rejuvenated (how many times in his career has someone written that?), while Bryant Johnson is making up for lost time by being really unpleasant to tackle after the catch. Matt Jones is the Jags' top target for the moment. Maybe that'll change when Jerry Porter can play, or maybe Jones will head to prison because of cocaine charges. But he's ownable in deep leagues right now. I'm through speculating which receivers might save Matt Hasselbeck. Now I'm ranking the injured guys, each of whom should be back around Week 5 or 6.
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Notes: I've taken the plunge from Gates to Witten, the plunge I wanted to take this summer, but was too chicken to go through with. It's not like Gates was bad against the Broncos, but he's not himself, and Witten is just a force. The top four guys continue to separate themselves from the field, though. I was decidedly not part of the Scheffler Bandwagon at our rankings summit this spring, and that turned out to be wrong. Yeah, Nate Jackson is playing, and yeah, Scheffler makes mental errors, but owning any starting piece of that Denver pass offense is starting to look mighty smart. Miller led the Raiders in catches Sunday. With two! Carlson seems like a very logical target for the Seahawks, now that Logan Payne is out for the year and Seneca Wallace is out for a couple weeks. Utecht apparently took a heavy blow to the chest in Week 2, and is highly questionable for Sunday's game. I'm not going to be surprised to hear that he's out for a long while.
Notes: The Chargers are my big dropper here. I'm not ready to say the problem is Shawne Merriman, though his absence doesn't help. The fact is that two consecutive opponents have marched up and down the field against San Diego, to the tune of 62 points in two games. The corners aren't making plays, and the team has registered two sacks in two games. Meanwhile, the Titans are getting unbelievable play out of their defensive line. You know about Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch, but Tony Brown and Jevon Kearse (yeah, him) are playing well, too. The Bears limited the Panthers to 216 total yards in their second straight road game, and nobody's special teams are better. Maybe it's just that the offense is inconsistent, but the Seahawks' defense didn't make many plays in either of their first two games. When you make J.T. O'Sullivan look like Steve Young, time to suck it up.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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