- 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: Philip Rivers just keeps throwing the ball down the field. His 8.7 yards per attempt is highest in the league, even better than Drew Brees' 8.5. With the Chargers' running game struggling, Rivers is verging on top-five territory. It sounds as though Tony Romo is going to try to play sooner rather than later. His status for the Rams disaster was up in the air until game time, and the season could slip away very quickly for the Cowboys if Romo doesn't decide to give it a shot. There's definite risk involved in playing soon; he reportedly could suffer a compound fracture and be done for the year. But I wouldn't bet against seeing Romo in Week 9 against the Giants, at the very least. Kyle Orton has put together three straight terrific games, and if not for a Marty Booker drop, Orton would've had another long score Sunday. I still can't get him into my top 10, no matter how hard I try. He's Kyle Orton. But after this week's bye, he's got another sweet matchup against the Lions. I'm worried that eventually he goes bad, but for now, you can start him. Jeff Garcia's good game against Seattle was predictable (in fact, I predicted it), and he should have another nice day against the depleted Dallas secondary in Week 7. Things will get tougher on him eventually, but he's a good matchup play. With Mike Nolan getting fired, J.T. O'Sullivan had better cozy up to prospective coach Mike Singletary but quick. JTO was awful against the Giants, and looks like a candidate to be replaced sometime after midseason. Shaun Hill would get the nod. Dan Orlovsky put up big numbers against Houston, but realize that 154 of his 265 passing yards came on two throws to Calvin Johnson, each of which had a lot more to do with Johnson than Orlovsky (one was a Hail Mary just before halftime). Seneca Wallace doesn't stink as badly as he played Sunday night, but boy, he was awful. He looked ill at ease with Tampa's blitz, and figures to see a whole lot of pressure in the coming weeks. Matt Hasselbeck isn't expected to return from his back troubles any time soon. The feeling in Cincinnati seems more and more to be that we've seen the last of Carson Palmer this year. Brodie Croyle is out for the season with a torn MCL. Damon Huard is his backup, but he got hurt at the end of this week's game against Tennessee, so the immortal Tyler Thigpen might be in line for some starts.
Notes: Steven Jackson had a massive fantasy day against the Cowboys, and according to Jim Haslett, the quad injury that scared the fantasy world Monday morning is apparently fine now. Jackson should be good to go against a relatively vulnerable Patriots defense next week. In the chunks of the Chargers-Bills game I could see (power outages in Buffalo interrupted the network feed), LaDainian Tomlinson looked terrible. His O-line did him no favors, but his quickness, especially on screens and flares, was as lacking as I've seen it this year. That's alarming because Tomlinson told reporters his toe felt good. I expected more, and I have to admit: I'm starting to waver. The Saints have done well in matchups against tough rushers in recent weeks, though they're by no means an elite defense. LT better show us something in London. Joseph Addai missed a nice matchup against an injured Packers rush defense, and could miss one or two more games with his pulled hamstring. Dominic Rhodes (20 carries for only 73 yards but two touchdowns) likely continues to sub if Addai is out Monday night. Reggie Bush has already undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus, and will miss between two and four weeks. Deuce McAllister figures to see an uptick in touches, provided his surgically constructed knees hold up, and Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker may pitch in. Willie Parker stepped in a hole in practice last week (which begs the question: why are there holes where the Steelers practice?), and had to miss his plum matchup against the Bengals. Mewelde Moore filled in admirably, and deserves his spot on this list. Whether Parker will be able to play next week against the Giants is currently up in the air. Sure, LenDale White's girth is the butt of jokes from his own coach ("LenDale must've eaten a salad this week," said Jeff Fisher), but he's a touchdown machine: His three against the Chiefs gave him eight on the year. He's getting to be a borderline fantasy start most weeks. Larry Johnson was suspended this past week, and several news outlets have reported that LJ could face discipline from the league for a nightclub incident in which Johnson allegedly pushed a woman. Jamaal Charles would be my favorite over Kolby Smith in Johnson's absence, but neither guy could really be counted on for much as long as they'd split the job. That's the Julius Jones that Cowboys fans remember. Plus Maurice Morris is back and healthy, really submarining Jones' fantasy value. It wasn't like Cedric Benson had a good game against the Steelers (14 carries for 52 yards), but it was a heck of a lot better than what Chris Perry had given the Bengals lately. Benson will stay the starter. Sammy Morris ran hog wild in the first half Monday night against Denver (then again, who doesn't?), but hurt his knee and didn't return after halftime. The field is wide-open with Laurence Maroney out for the season with a bad shoulder and LaMont Jordan missing time with a bum calf, but can Morris stay healthy enough to take advantage? Kevin Faulk and undrafted rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis could be in line to start against the Rams next week. I've been pitching Ahman Green as a decent flex play the past few weeks, and he rewarded me Sunday with 14 carries for 62 yards and a score against the Lions. Steve Slaton is obviously the main guy, but as long as he's healthy, Green is a drain on Slaton's value.
Notes: Have a little more faith in Marques Colston. He didn't catch a single pass in his return against the Panthers, and had two drops, whereupon he was benched in what turned into a blowout. Hopefully he'll get in game shape this week. Within a few weeks, I have hopes he'll be back to his dominant self. Laveranues Coles jumps ahead of his teammate Jerricho Cotchery in my estimation. Cotchery came out of the Jets game this weekend in the first half because of injury, and while he did return, he only made one catch (for zero yards) all day, although he did get seven targets. Coles had out-targeted him in New York's previous two games, and was by far the more effective player Sunday. I also have Vincent Jackson ahead of Chris Chambers. Chambers is probably faster (when he's healthy), but Jackson is so much bigger and is finally looking like the physical receiver we were promised a couple years ago. As Antonio Gates struggles, Jackson can fold into Gates' role even when Chambers does get his ankle right. After Sunday night's impressive effort, the Bucs announced that Antonio Bryant will remain their No. 1 receiver even after Joey Galloway returns to health (whenever the heck that'll be). Bryant will probably be inconsistent, but he put on a show against Seattle. Josh Morgan has replaced Bryant Johnson in the 49ers starting lineup. Morgan looked like a playmaker against the Giants, though he did drop what should've been an easy big-yardage catch. Mike Furrey got eight targets Sunday (compared to Calvin Johnson's four), and appears to have the advantage right now on Shaun McDonald. McDonald started and did see six targets, but caught none. Matt Jones has been suspended for three games by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and he drops on the receiver list accordingly. He still might have the most value of any Jags receiver, though; it's unclear if Mike Walker is healthy, and neither Reggie Williams nor Jerry Porter has made an impact in '08. Bobby Engram is supposed to be a quarterback's security blanket, but he's had eight targets and one catch in his past two games combined. It's hard to foresee much value for him unless Matt Hasselbeck comes back.
Notes: Tony Scheffler didn't play Monday night. John Carlson was eminently quiet (along with the entire Seattle offense) until garbage time, when he caught a nice little play-action touchdown. Heck, in a season of disappointing tight ends, we'll take it where we can get it. Jeremy Shockey reportedly blasted the Saints in a postgame interview Sunday for mishandling his groin injury, and said he suffered through a lot of pain against Carolina. However, he did make the trip to London, and is likely to be questionable for Sunday. He's a hard guy to rely on at this point, but the Saints did target him seven times. Surprise! Vernon Davis had a hellaciously bad drop against the Giants that really hurt the Niners' comeback chances. Bo Scaife just quietly continues to be a big part of the Titans offense. He's a nice bye-week fill-in, though Tennessee isn't passing much in the red zone. David Martin got four targets (and four catches) to Anthony Fasano's three targets (and two catches) in Sunday's game. Fasano is still the starter, but we're watching.
Notes: The Giants' issues at corner reared their heads again Sunday, as Aaron Ross was temporarily benched. The pass rush hasn't been as consistent lately (though Justin Tuck responded to recent criticism with two sacks and two forced fumbles); that obviously has a tendency to expose flaws in a secondary. What the heck was that, Vikings? I know Kyle Orton is have a shocking run right now, but they couldn't get a pass rush going against suspect Bears tackles and couldn't cover your grandmother. The preseason's consensus No. 1 fantasy defense is reeling. The Bears drop some, too, but they get a bit more of a free pass than Minny, simply because anyone could see this coming. So many of their corners are hurt. One assumes eventually these guys will return to health; for now, it's tough to start this unit, though. The Dolphins D has been a nice story, but it looked pretty old and beat up in the middle in Sunday's loss against the Ravens. In particular, Jason Ferguson's injury really crippled the run defense. This is still a surprising unit, but temper your enthusiasm. As I said they'd be, the Cowboys corners were a disaster against the Rams. Terence Newman will miss at least a couple more games, and I wouldn't hold my breath for Pacman's return. This looks like a problem without a solution.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
5hAdam Rubin and Kieran Darcy