The Breakdown: Week 12
(Remember, you can find my weekly positional rankings in The Big Rotowski. Also, all ESPN.com fantasy columnists will update their rankings on Friday.)
The 49ers did a good job against St. Louis last week by keeping close to the line to stop the run and putting Nate Clements on Torry Holt everywhere he ran. Steven Jackson got loose for a big run early but otherwise carried it 23 times for 55 yards. The operative question is: Can Seattle do the same on defense? Well, Marcus Trufant has turned in some highlights, but he's no Clements. I'd expect better days from both Jackson and Holt on Sunday.
Fantasy Up: D.J. Hackett was my pick for last week's "Alone On An Island" piece (where each ESPN.com writer explains why he's out-of-step with the others on a player rating), and he set career highs in receptions (nine) and yards (136). Heck, he'd have scored a second touchdown if not for a good play by Adam Archuleta. The Rams have better (healthy) corner depth right now than the Bears, so I expect Matt Hasselbeck to spread it around more this week. Still, Hackett remains my top receiver on the Seahawks roster, even with Deion Branch back. To my eyes, Maurice Morris looked quite a bit better this week. He'll start again over Shaun Alexander and is a fair No. 2 rusher. He'll not be a focal point, but another 15 carries for, say, 75 yards feels viable. St. Louis gets offensive lineman Todd Steussie back from his broken foot Sunday, which is good news for Jackson owners. It's unclear where he'll play, but rookie guard Nick Leckey was terrible against the 49ers last week.
Fantasy Down: Don't do anything crazy and suddenly use the Rams defense. Yes, they didn't allow a touchdown last week, but that was against the Niners. There are still inadequacies here, especially against the run. Isaac Bruce shrugged off his hamstring injury and caught five passes for 54 yards. Still, he's nothing more than a No. 3 fantasy receiver. Hasselbeck seems to have re-injured his oblique in Sunday's win. He's made 84 pass attempts the last two weeks and is using the shotgun more than I can remember. He's supposed to be okay for this game, but keep an eye on him. How about kicker Josh Brown absolutely laying out Devin Hester on a kickoff return last week?
Last week I wrote Dallas would have a big day via the air because of Sean Taylor's and Carlos Rogers's absences, and Fred Smoot's continued leg problems. Chalk up one for the redhead. Without question, the Bucs don't offer the same aggressive downfield passing game as Dallas, but also without question, Jon Gruden owns a VCR. He saw safeties LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty and Pierson Prioleau make mistake after mistake, and he'll test them. Expect nice days from Jeff Garcia and Joey Galloway.
Fantasy Up: Check out Galloway: five weeks of 12 fantasy points or more, five weeks of seven fantasy points or fewer. He has six scores, and he showed his awesome speed in torching DeAngelo Hall for a 44-yarder early on Sunday, but hopefully you don't have to rely on him as your No. 1 receiver. He's so streaky. The Bucs have allowed the sixth-fewest pass yards per game in their last four, though that's certainly been aided by quality of opposition. They'll take a step up in class against Jason Campbell, who matched Tony Romo pass-for-pass until the 59th minute Sunday. Campbell is still just a borderline starter, because I'm not convinced Joe Gibbs will take off the shackles again this week. Santana Moss repeatedly torched Jacques Reeves on Sunday, and it's great to see him healthy, but he's still a No. 3 fantasy wideout until he does this consistently. We have a Gaines Adams sighting! Tampa's first-rounder, and the fourth-overall player taken in the '07 draft, Adams has been startlingly invisible, but he roughed up Byron Leftwich in the second half, causing a fumble recovered by Chris Hovan. Tampa's defense is a usable fantasy commodity and a borderline start Sunday. Right now, I'd use them over Washington's defense.
Fantasy Down: Tampa has improved lately against the run, allowing 306 yards and three rushing scores in their last four games. Right tackle Todd Wade sounds highly questionable for Washington in this one and should be replaced by rookie Stephon Heyer. None of this is good news for Clinton Portis. You have to start Southeast Jerome, but limit your expectations. Similarly, I have Earnest Graham rated a little lower than last week's performance indicates he should be. For one, Washington can stop the run, especially when Cornelius Griffin can tough out an ankle injury, as he did Sunday. Also, with the 'Skins secondary in disarray, there might be less running in Tampa's game plan. Michael Pittman, who did get 10 carries and two receptions against Atlanta, sounds very iffy for this one, and he should be on your bench. According to the Bucs' Web site, Jon Gruden fears Pittman could be out for the season.
Losers blame turnovers. Or, rather, losers commit turnovers, then act as if they just "happened." Eric Johnson had two well-thrown balls bounce off his mitts for interceptions against Houston, and Reggie Bush fumbled on the Texans' one-yard line. There you go. So the Saints, winners of four straight, have dropped consecutive inexcusable losses to fade back into obscurity. They're better than Carolina, and Bush has a good enough matchup here that you start him even if you're not in a point-per-reception league. But this is the worst team in the NFL in turnover margin, and Jason David is their "shut-down" corner. Count on nothing.
Fantasy Up: Steve Smith (shin) was a late scratch at Lambeau but has a better chance of playing Sunday. It would be a super-sweet matchup if he goes; this is an early game, so start him if he's active. Marques Colston is the only Saints receiver you can consistently plug in every week. In Week 11, he had another nine catches for 118 yards, bringing him to 61 grabs for 754 yards and five scores. But David Patten has cooled way down (five catches, 66 yards the last two games combined). Don't be fooled by Devery Henderson, who caught his score in Houston on his only target of the day.
Fantasy Down: Saints defensive end Charles Grant should return, which is good news for a New Orleans defense that's looked awful two straight weeks. There are, I think, too many questions in this secondary to start them, but with Grant they've been good enough against the rush that I'd also bench DeShaun Foster. Foster's strong effort against the Packers indicates his toe is healthy, but most of his production came when the game was settled. He has a 3.9 yards-per-carry average and has broken 100 yards once. Rookie Dwayne Jarrett got two end-zone targets (Vinny Testaverde misfires) with Smith out, and Drew Carter had a career day (132 yards), but when No. 89 comes back, neither Jarrett nor Carter can start on fantasy teams. Carolina defensive tackle Kris Jenkins hasn't called anyone heartless in a while. Get on that, Jenk.
Vince Young! Vince Young! Someone found him and decided to get him in a Titans uniform! The guy we've watched all year has been a Bledsoe-esque imposter, big-armed and inaccurate, stubborn and statuesque. The guy who played Monday night was excellent. He threw on rhythm, he zinged passes where they needed to be until it was desperation time at game's end, and he ran more effectively than in any contest in '07. He was magnetic to watch, and I expect him to produce near-starter-worthy numbers against a terrible Cincy defense.
Fantasy Up: He'd better. The Titans' pass defense made Jay Cutler look like John Elway Monday night. It was clear that even without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the Titans were going to focus on the run first and foremost and then hope their secondary could tackle. It couldn't. Chris Hope looked moronic trying to wrestle little Brandon Stokley to the ground, and Brandon Marshall did anything he wanted. Big day ahead for T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson (nice hands, 7/11), Chris Henry (you too) and, yes, even mistake-prone Carson Palmer. The Bengals throw it way too much to sit any of these guys. LenDale White struggled early and lost a killer fumble, but pulled himself together and looked very good in the second half Monday. Problem was: The Titans needed to throw to catch up. I've stubbornly stuck with White this far; I'm not benching him against the Bengals.
Fantasy Down: I don't know why we're all so freaked about the Bengals being bad. This franchise has one winning season in 16 years. Rudi Johnson got the first-half work against Arizona but converted his six first-half carries into 16 yards. Cincy got behind, thanks to bad defense and bad Palmer, and couldn't return to the ground game. Kenny Watson was in most of the second half in the spread offense and managed 45 yards on nine carries. With or without Haynesworth playing, it's too risky to start either Bengals back. VY passed for over 300 yards for the first time in his career Monday (plus he set a career high for rushing carries). But you can't use any of the stone-handed Tennessee receivers. Roydell Williams, Brandon Jones and Bo Scaife all had abysmal drops Monday. Rumor has it Tennessee is considering Mike Williams (really).
Asking you to start Andre Johnson last week was a good call; begging you to get him in there against a Cleveland secondary that'll be without rookie corner Eric Wright is even more urgent. AJ proved he's healthy on a 73-yard bomb in the first quarter and wound up with six receptions on seven targets for 120 yards. No doubt the Browns will scheme against Houston's primary weapon, but he'll still be open. This one promises to be a shootout if the weather is okay.
Fantasy Up: The injured Ravens defense tried valiantly, but Derek Anderson got 'em in the end. Baltimore kicked a go-ahead field goal with 26 seconds left, but Anderson made a steel-gutted throw with Antwan Barnes hanging off him, getting it to Braylon Edwards, who'd gotten away from mouthy corner Chris McAlister. Then came Phil Dawson's legendary no-good-good kick. Anderson's got another great matchup Sunday against a secondary that doesn't have Dunta Robinson. Ahman Green's out again Sunday, and now the whispers are that he could be played on injured reserve. Hang onto him for now, but don't expect much. In his place, Ron Dayne was solid last week, turning 21 carries into 89 yards, though 35 of those came on a meaningless clock-killing drive. The Browns are a middle-of-the-road rush defense, so if you're a Green owner or just need a space filled, you can try Dayne. It sounds like ex-Notre Damer Darius Walker might be Dayne's backup instead of Adimchinobi Echemandu. Get Jamal Lewis back in there, too. On paper, the Baltimore game appeared to be his toughest contest left this year; Arizona could be tricky in a couple weeks, but otherwise it's the Jets, Buffalo, Cincinnati and San Francisco.
Fantasy Down: Andre' Davis had five targets and two catches on Sunday; Kevin Walter had seven targets and three grabs. If I had to start one as a deep-league third wideout, it'd be Walter. Joe Jurevicius caught a season-high 82 yards' worth of passes, and with a now-prolific quarterback in the fold, you'd expect Joltin' Joe to be more fantasy-worthy. The Browns defense pressured Baltimore, perhaps because everyone pressures Baltimore these days, and they managed a season-high six sacks, two by Robaire Smith. But they allowed 23 points to a crummy offense (I won't hold the Ray Lewis interception return against them), and the Texans promise to be more wide open. Start neither of these units.
A couple of defensive injuries on the Jacksonville side may dictate this fantasy matchup for both teams. Middle linebacker Mike Peterson will be out for a while with a broken hand, and corner Rashean Mathis had to sit in last week's second half because of a strained groin (he could play Sunday). Daryl Smith, who underwhelmed replacing Peterson in the middle last year, makes for a weakened rush defense, while sitting Mathis in favor of Terry Cousin would hurt efforts to defend Lee Evans. The larger point might be this: If the Jags defense isn't as stout, it might mean the Jags offense would have to open things up a little. It's just a thought. I'm still not starting David Garrard.
Fantasy Up: The great thing about the way Jacksonville plays is they're entirely predictable: Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor average nearly 26 carries a game between them, while the quarterbacks average about 26 throws a game (and that includes big losses to the Colts and Saints that dragged those averages down and up, respectively). The bad thing about the way Jacksonville plays is they're entirely predictable: They're always in danger of giving a dominating game away, as they almost did against the Chargers. Still, against a Bills defense that's consistently been among the 10 worst against the run, consider starting both Jones-Drew and Taylor. Don't hold Sunday night against Lee Evans. He got free for one nice-sized pass and was open a couple of other times, but J.P. Losman didn't have any time. Then the Bills had their collective soul sucked out through their collective nose. If Mathis doesn't play, Evans is a very nice start. Losman, however, is not.
Fantasy Down: Marshawn Lynch probably won't be back from his high ankle sprain, meaning Anthony Thomas probably runs against the Stroud-free Jags. It's not a thoroughly-hopeless task -- LaDainian Tomlinson carried it for 62 yards last week -- but I have to believe you've got better options. No, Reggie Williams. We will not be tempted by you. Go away. Me and Bobby McCray: The defensive end had 10 sacks last year and was a healthy scratch against San Diego. Paul Spicer is the team's leading sack artist in McCray's absence. How about those hands on Michael Gaines? He made a sick catch against New England, his only one of the day. It makes you understand why the Panthers used to tell everyone to watch out for him. You can't own him, but his might be a name worth remembering.
ESPN's own Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that the Raiders were planning on starting No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell on Dec. 2 against Denver, which would make this Sunday's game Daunte Culpepper's last as starter. Lane Kiffin denies a decision has been made, but I'm with Mort here: If Russell is Plan A at quarterback for 2008, you have to give him four or five starts to take his lumps and adjust to the speed of the NFL game. Mort also happened to mention that Russell is down from 270 pounds to 259. My thinking is: Why not play him just after Thanksgiving, so he can work off the stuffing weight?
Fantasy Up: For a quarter, Priest Holmes looked terrific against the Colts. He carried it seven times for 32 yards and was quick and decisive. After that, he looked exhausted, and after that he apparently re-injured his neck. He announced his retirement on Wednesday, so "happy trails" to Mr. Holmes. Gosh, good thing the Chiefs traded Michael Bennett, huh? Kolby Smith gets the nod Sunday against an Oakland rush defense that made Chester Taylor look like, well, Adrian Peterson. Boy, is Jared Allen just an unbelievable player. I ordained Mike Vrabel my first-half defensive MVP a couple of weeks back, but now that Vrabel is a part-time player in the Pats' new-look 4-3 front, Allen is the guy. Holy cow. He knocked down four Peyton Manning passes and made six tackles last week. He was in the pocket all day. The Colts couldn't block him. Despite their secondary problems, I can see using the Chiefs defense Sunday. That said, I also don't hate using Ronald Curry as your third receiver. He's healthier than he's been, and neither Ty Law nor Patrick Surtain should be able to stay with him. Yes, the 46-yard first-quarter catch came on a terrible throw by Culpepper, but Curry went up and got it, and he got free for a 49-yard bomb just seven minutes later.
Fantasy Down: You've loved what you've gotten out of Justin Fargas; even 60 yards against the brutal Minny rush defense is okay. I've got him inside my top 24, so you probably have to start him this week in 12-team leagues. But danger is afoot. The Chiefs have allowed just two rushing touchdowns total and 77 rush yards per game since Week 5. If Fargas is a borderline player on your team, choose the other guy this week. Brodie Croyle did well with what Kansas City gave him in Indy, but the game plan continues to beg the quarterback not to lose. No chance he opens it up enough to be fantasy worthy.
Sidney Rice for quarterback! The South Carolina rookie threw a bomb to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe off a reverse in the first quarter and later niftily escaped the Raiders rush to flip a shorty to Troy Williamson. Heck, the Vikings didn't ask Tarvaris Jackson to do a blessed thing Sunday. Maybe the rookie wideout has been the answer all along.
Fantasy Up: I received some abuse in my Monday morning chat about asserting Adrian Peterson would be back as soon as the Week 13 Detroit game, but that's looking more and more possible. Now, I highly doubt AP will be at full strength for that one, or for many more future games this year. But after the Williamson P.R. fiasco, Brad Childress is thinking about his job. Eli Manning doesn't have an effective Plaxico Burress right now, but the Vikings' secondary woes aren't going away. Minus a blizzard, I think Eli gives you some very nice production spreading the ball around Sunday. Chester Taylor was my seventh-ranked rusher last week, because he was facing the Raiders. The Giants will miss Mathias Kiwanuka, who's out for the year with a broken leg, but their rush defense has been best in the league, fantasy-wise, over the last five weeks. Behind that offensive line, Taylor is a fantasy starter, but keep your expectations reasonable. As such, get the Giants defense in there again. I had them fifth among defenses against the Lions, and that's about where they reside this week. Michael Strahan is getting the glory (and the sacks), but my eyes tell me opposing teams are scheming against Osi Umenyiora, and Strahan is simply benefiting from going up against the George Fosters and Blaine Saipaias (who's actually a backup center) of the world.
Fantasy Down: Brandon Jacobs will almost assuredly be out Sunday with his bad hamstring, but the word is Derrick Ward may return. Unfortunately, he'll probably split carries with Reuben Droughns, making their fantasy usefulness highly questionable, especially against the Vikes' Williams boys in the middle. I hate this: I think you also have to strongly think about benching Burress if you have other options at wideout. Listen, he wasn't lying about his ankle after the Dallas game. Watch that Detroit tape, and you'll see he's a step slow and is dropping passes because he's distracted. I wouldn't mind missing a good-Plax upside day if I could at least guarantee myself something out of someone else.
The Niners have turned in two above-par efforts against opposing fantasy rushers this year: Weeks 2 and 10 against St. Louis. Otherwise it's been yards and touchdowns galore, including Week 1, when Edgerrin James racked up 92 yards and a score. James has only broken the century mark once in '07 and is battling Willis McGahee for the title of most boring fantasy star of the year. But he's also scored in six of 10 games, and he'll be the focal point Sunday.
Fantasy Up: It's tough to know what to do with Frank Gore. I guess you have to keep playing him, because he's one tough dude, but I have him 19th among fantasy backs this week. He came out of the St. Louis game again with his bad ankle but later kept plugging away. If the Niners ever find a way to get near the goal line, Gore is an elite option almost no matter who's blocking for him. That said, there are 18 other backs I'd rather start in Week 11, and if you have two of them, go for it. Antrel Rolle had a dream game against Carson Palmer and the Bengals last week, picking off three passes and returning all three for touchdowns (one was called back by a penalty). Rolle was the eighth overall pick in the '05 draft and has basically been bad from Day One, so good for him. Maybe this is a turning point. Either way, with San Francisco struggling so badly on offense, the Cardinals defense is a top-10 play. You start Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but I'm at a loss to figure out whose injuries are worse (Fitzgerald = shoulders; Boldin = hip) and who'll excel in a given week. Just like old times in Arizona.
Fantasy Down: Not that you were using him anyway, but Alex Smith is out for two more weeks while he rests his injured shoulder, and it sounds like there's a chance that surgery is an option. Trent Dilfer goes in Smith's place again Sunday. Arnaz Battle has turned in the closest thing resembling an interesting fantasy season among Niners receivers, but you can't start him. San Francisco just doesn't go downfield enough, and last week Dilfer seemed very busy squeezing the ball into the stone-like hands of Darrell Jackson and Bryan Gilmore; the former blew a touchdown and the latter missed an easy pass that turned into an interception and killed a potential game-winning drive.
Pop quiz, hotshot: LaDainian Tomlinson has averaged fewer than four yards per carry in seven of 10 games this year. Does that mean Norv Turner is right to give him the ball so infrequently? Or does it mean he should feed LDT more, under the assumption that stats usually catch up with talent? Tomlinson is on pace for the second-fewest carries of his career, and got only 16 against the Jags last week. Somehow, San Diego finds itself tied for the AFC West lead. It's not too late for Norv to stop relying on Philip Rivers so much and get stubborn with LDT. Unfortunately, I don't expect it to happen this week against the Ravens.
Fantasy Up: Through five games, Antonio Gates had 40 catches for 489 yards. In his last five, he's got 14 for 240. Gates did score a touchdown last week but was otherwise pretty quiet. Obviously, you keep starting him. Clearly peeved that I said he had a hard time at the goal line, Willis McGahee has scored a touchdown in five straight games. Hey, whatever works as motivation, big guy. He had a rough first half against Cleveland, but he slashed for a big run near the beginning of the third quarter, popped his score in from two yards after that, and he was off to the races. The Chargers have had shaky games against the run in three of their last four. That said, I'm probably using San Diego's defense at home in a game where Shawne Merriman promises to be motivated after making a fool of himself during interviews this week.
Fantasy Down: Think about what an energy drain guys like Steve McNair, Jonathan Ogden and Samari Rolle have been for Baltimore. I don't mean in terms of attitude; they're all probably fine men. But they're always hurt, always questionable, always require contingencies. If I were a betting man, I'd say all three are gone at season's end, along with Trevor Pryce (who's out for the year with a torn pectoral) and Derrick Mason. I know Kyle Boller's final numbers (22-of-41 for 279 yards) against Cleveland look respectable, but they don't capture how poorly he played before the fourth quarter. The pass Brodney Pool intercepted on the Browns goal line and returned 100 yards gives you everything you need to know about why the Ravens need a new quarterback prospect. Don't be tempted to start Boller. Nate Kaeding has only 11 field goal attempts all season, fewest in the NFL. Matt Stover has 24.
Uh-oh. Lovie Smith is raving about Rex Grossman again. You know what comes next, right? A five-pick game for Sexy Rexy?
Fantasy Up: The NFL sure can deliberate when it wants to, huh? As of this writing, it appears Travis Henry's suspension won't be enforced before Sunday, so Henry might get one more chance to play. His knee kept him out last week, and this is a late game, so unless you're making a choice between Henry and Selvin Young, I wouldn't consider using the soon-to-be-suspended serial monogamist. ... But if Henry is ruled out, you still might not be able to use Selvin. He banged up his knee Monday night and hasn't been able to practice. He's considered a better all-around player than Andre Hall, but there's a mounting chance that neither Young nor Henry will be able to play. Watch the news this weekend. Hall, in fact, probably should be owned in deep leagues. ... Here's all you need to know about the Cedric Benson situation. A day after he ran for 89 yards and a score against Seattle, his coaches announced Adrian Peterson would start getting more carries. Denver's rush defense looked a little better against Tennessee, but it's still vulnerable. I guess you have to start Benson, and he's still going to get the most carries on this team Sunday. But as I've been saying all season: Pick up the other AP.
Fantasy Down: Javon Walker told reporters he thinks he'll participate in every practice this week, which is what he'd need to do to play Sunday. It remains to be seen if his knee will tolerate such action and, frankly, it remains to be seen if he's still fast. I own Walker in a deep league, but I'm keeping him on my bench for another week, for investigative purposes. As such, I've still got Brandon Marshall as my highest-rated Broncos receiver, though my same logic applies this week as last: Nathan Vasher is still out, which means Charles Tillman will get the Broncos' No. 1 receiver. If that's Walker, look out for Marshall. If that's Marshall, Brandon Stokley becomes a sneaky No. 3 fantasy wideout. ... Tommie Harris just can't plant his bad leg. Between him and Vasher, the Chicago defense is missing two of its most important Pro Bowlers. I don't think I can start 'em this week, even in a home game.
When news of CameraGate broke, several Eagles were among the most vocal reactors. Donovan McNabb joked that now maybe he'd get his Super Bowl ring, while Sheldon Brown questioned why the Patriots' play-calling was so accurate in the 2005 title game. Oh, boy. Just what New England needs: motivation.
Fantasy Up: Brian Westbrook had a career-high 32 carries for a career-high 148 rushing yards last week against Miami. He won't find the Patriots quite so hospitable, but the Eagles have always been good at finding ways to get Westbrook the ball with few defenders around him. Expect him to be fantasy-relevant Sunday night. ... To start Donte' Stallworth or not to start Donte' Stallworth? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to start Randy Moss and Wes Welker, or to take arms against a sea of Eagles and, by opposing, score touchdowns on them? To score; to win. No more; and by a win to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that fantasy football is heir to. Er, yeah. Anyway, Stallworth is a good No. 3 wideout, but no more than that.
Fantasy Down: Donovan McNabb hurt his ankle and thumb against the Dolphins and is sounding mighty questionable for this game. Multiple news outlets in Philly reported that they believed A.J. Feeley would start this game, and unfortunately you probably aren't going to know anything for sure until late Sunday. Avoid McNabb. ... Quietly, Laurence Maroney is one of the biggest busts of this fantasy season. Really, Maroney? That's all you've got: 436 yards and one touchdown? And now we don't know whether you really hurt your foot against the Bills. Eesh. The real question is: What happens if Maroney is injured? Sammy Morris is done, Kevin Faulk got dinged in the head and is questionable, though he says he'll play. I guess Heath Evans and Kyle Eckel would split duties, but you wouldn't want to start either. ... Reggie Brown did another disappearing act against Miami. Neither he nor Kevin Curtis should start for you this week, unless you're in an extremely deep league. L.J. Smith is probably a better bet.
Guess it's a pretty lame argument to say the Steelers were looking past the Jets because they knew the Dolphins were coming to town, huh? The Pittsburgh offensive line has a reputation for excellence that exceeds its 2007 performance. The rush lanes haven't been there for a month, and Ben Roethlisberger was sacked seven times against a Jets defense that had previously registered nine in nine games. ESPN's own Bill Parcells made an astute observation: New York spied Big Ben, forcing him to scramble left, where he's less capable of making plays throwing across his body. Roethlisberger probably won't have to win this game via the air, which is a good thing because Santonio Holmes is out with a high ankle sprain. But this team had better get its blocking together before Weeks 14 and 15, when they face New England and Jacksonville.
Fantasy Up: Willie Parker was my No. 1 overall running back in Week 11 and rewarded me with 52 yards on 21 carries. There was just nowhere to run. Now, Miami has been OK against the rush a couple of times lately, including games against Houston, New England and Buffalo. But Brian Westbrook went crazy on them in Week 11. I have to believe Fast Willie finally punches one into the end zone Monday night. ... Jesse Chatman has the unenviable task of facing an angry Pittsburgh defense a week after it allowed its first 100-yard rusher in 35 games. Still, as I've said many times this year, if there's one unit I trust in Miami, it's the offensive line. Chatman will find the sledding tough, but he's a viable No. 2 back. Troy Polamalu is out for the Steelers. ... Hines Ward runs without Holmes in this one, which will mean increased attention. But when has Ward not turned in a big performance on the big stage? Use him.
Fantasy Down: I've been asked about my feelings on Ricky Williams. Is he worth a pickup in deeper leagues? Maybe, because anything's possible. But soon-to-be 31-year-olds who've been out of the NFL for a couple years, who didn't have their hearts in it in the first place, who seem to be coming back for the money and who couldn't excel in the CFL don't usually beat down the door to superstardom. Chatman is playing quite well. My guess is Ricky stays fantasy-worthless through 2007. ... If John Beck thought watching Eagles blitzers come at him was no fun, wait 'til Monday night. He was just 9-of-22 for 109 yards in Week 11. Fellow rookie Ted Ginn probably benefits most from his starts, but, really, you don't want anyone from this passing game.
(Remember, you can find my weekly positional rankings in The Big Rotowski. Also, all ESPN.com fantasy columnists will update their rankings on Friday.)
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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