Every Friday during the NFL season we'll review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. If an expert breaks from the herd, they'll be asked to show their work. We try to focus on names near the start/sit line in public leagues, or on complete acts of lunacy. Let's play the feud…
Denver faces a tough Baltimore run defense that, although victimized by Cedric Benson(notes) and Adrian Peterson the past two weeks, still has allowed just 3.5 YPC, the fifth-best mark in the league. To make matters worse, Baltimore is at home and coming off a bye after losing three straight hard-fought games against good teams. I expect the Ravens to be extremely surly and focused, looking to snuff out the fifth-heaviest rush offense in the NFL.
Orton has gained head coach Josh McDaniels’ confidence with three straight two-touchdown games, and he has but one turnover through six contests. I expect McDaniels will go with a much more pass-heavy approach against the league’s 10th-worst pass defense (241.5 passing YPG allowed). Denver has pass-protected well, adding further confidence here. Orton should be able to lean heavily on WR Brandon Marshall(notes); Baltimore struggles with big, physical wideouts. And TE Tony Scheffler(notes) is re-emerging as a usable weapon for the Broncos. I expect Orton to throw it 35-40 times, and he should be good for at least the average yardage that Baltimore allows through the air, along with a couple scores. (Funston)
Steve Smith (CAR) - Pianowski's rank 27, composite 16
Delhomme comes to the desert with a league-high 13 interceptions, and while the Arizona secondary looks beatable on paper, you first have to deal with the surging Cardinals pass rush. The Redbirds have collected eight sacks and six turnovers (including four picks) in the last two weeks, and given the way this unit has rallied of late, I don't imagine the Panthers are going to ask Delhomme to do too much in the early part of the game. You probably won't see a lot of deep shots to Smith, at least until the matter gets out of hand.
You don't have a lot of time to fix things in a fantasy football season; very early it becomes too late. And as poorly as Delhomme has played, some of of the blame for Smith's 2009 bagel (no touchdowns) has to lie with the receiver. Now that we're about to turn the page to November, let's roll with the players who are actually spiking footballs with some regularity. That's not Steve Smith, amigos. (Pianow)Ricky Williams(notes) - Behrens' rank 26, composite rank 18
In Week 7, Williams led all running backs in fantasy scoring. He rushed for 80 yards and three TDs against his former employer, adding two receptions for 12 yards. It was an outstanding effort. No complaints. Great game. Williams clearly has more left in the
hookah tank than any of us suspected.
But as a fantasy owner, you can't fall into the habit of chasing last week's stats. Williams only received nine carries against the Saints; he's averaging just 11.7 carries per game for the year. As good as he's been, Ricky isn't any sort of serious threat to Ronnie Brown's(notes) 18.2 carries per game. Even if you have a Gruden-esque affection for the Wildcat and a Ditka-like affection for Ricky, you have to acknowledge that backs who receive 10-13 carries per week should rank as flex options, not must-starts. (Behrens)
In order to regain the PT Bruiser's affection, the Noise was forced to shower his main flame with flowers, chocolates and erotic massages. After a one-week breakup we can safely say our bromance is budding once again.
Skeptics are understandably petrified of Mike Bell's(notes) presence near the goal line, but the Saints' depth chart topper is destined to have a banner performance in front of a national audience. Though Bell has wrested away sizable red zone touches from PT, he's still an integral part of the offense inside the 20. On the season, he's toted the rock 11 times to Bell's 15 in the red zone. Both players should add to those totals this week.
The Falcons have yielded just 3.8 yards per carry and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to rushers since Week 3. But Atlanta's banged up secondary facing the league's most prolific passing offense is a nightmare scenario. Because Drew Brees(notes) will be able to move the ball through the air unrestricted, it will provide Thomas with ample scoring opportunities. We're banking on one, potentially two, spectacular TD runs. (Noise)
Arizona really exposed the major weakness for Seattle on offense in Week 6, pinning its ears back and going for broke at QB Matt Hasselbeck(notes), who was sacked five times and under relentless pressure all game. Seattle is missing both of its starting tackles (Walter Jones(notes) and Sean Locklear(notes)), which is likely to remain a huge issue at Dallas this Sunday. DeMarcus Ware(notes) lives on the edge and he has ramped it up with four sacks in his past two games. Seattle doesn’t have anyone that can come close to handling him right now. If pressure remains a big problem, as I think it will, that’s going to favor a much more conservative passing game for Seattle – I see more of the quick slant and quick out stuff to T.J. Housmandzadeh. Burleson is more the vertical, big-play guy and that can be an issue when the QB has little time to set up in the pocket – like in Week 6 when he had just two catches for 40 yards. (Funston)Donovan McNabb(notes) - Pianowski's rank 14, composite 9
I find matchup history to be an overrated factor unless we're talking about division rivals; when they clash, it's worth it to open the history books and see what's happened in recent meetings. Four out of the last five tilts between the Giants and Eagles have been capped at 34 points or less; these tend to be slug-it-out affairs where the first team to score 17 or 20 points gets the win. If you're looking for pinball scoring, head elsewhere.
Much is made of Andy Reid's pass-happy offense, but the Giants seem to know how to defend it; McNabb hasn't topped 200 yards passing in any of the last four regular-season matchups here and in three of those games he went for one touchdown or less. And McNabb certainly didn't earn my trust Monday night at Washington; other than one long touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson(notes) (on an underthrown ball), he looked like a quarterback struggling with his accuracy and mechanics. The QB position is a deep one for fantasy owners in 2009, and I don't see any reason to force the issue on McNabb here, in a game where points, yards and touchdowns figure to come at a premium. Learn the history, or be doomed to repeat it. (Pianow)
This one is a layup. (Not to say I've never missed a layup, but still. This is easily defended). Lynch is dominating the workload in Buffalo's backfield. He's carried no fewer than 17 times in each of the Bills' three previous games. Most of us thought Fred Jackson(notes) deserved a greater role, but instead he's become an afterthought. Lynch is the guy to own. He's perhaps not the league's most exciting back, but he's getting all the touches he can handle (and possibly more than he deserves). In Week 8, Lynch faces a Texans defense that's allowed 10 rushing TDs and 4.7 yards per carry. (Behrens)
Although the rookie has practiced uninhibited since Tuesday, he's still expected to be a "game-time decision" according to Jim Schwartz. Still, it's very likely he will take snaps against an awful Rams secondary which has surrendered 258.2 yards per game and eight scores to signal callers since Week 3, equal to the ninth-most fantasy points allowed. When healthy, Stafford has performed respectably, averaging 223.5 yards per game with three touchdowns in four starts. He's also chipped in 12.5 rushing yards per game.
Obviously, the potential absence of Calvin Johnson(notes) – Megatron said Friday he doesn't want to "overwork" his injured knee – diminishes Stafford's upside, but Bryant Johnson(notes), Dennis Northcutt(notes) and Kevin Smith(notes) are suitable enough for the QB to achieve success against St. Louis. Heck, JaMarcus Russell(notes) could flirt with the top-20 against the Rams. (OK, that might be a tad bit optimistic).
Assuming Stafford plays, a borderline top-12 effort is probable. (Noise)
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