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Andy Behrens

Early Position Ranks, Week 14

Andy Behrens
Roto Arcade

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As often happens during the most important weeks on the fantasy schedule, it appears that a significant weather event is imminent. And no, this is not a drill.

According to current forecasts, kickoff conditions could be less-than-optimal in Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Washington, New York and perhaps elsewhere. Details here via Weather.com. (That link is worth a bookmark). For obvious reasons, position ranks become more difficult when weather interferes; you'll need to make a few game-day calls.

My general philosophy regarding bad weather games — recently discussed here — is that field conditions should not trump factors like match-up and talent, not unless we're talking about a massively disruptive event. If flights are grounded, if citizens are stockpiling canned food, fine. Maybe you can bench your QB. But don't sit an elite player with a favorable match-up simply because a little snow is falling. NFL teams don't typically alter gameplans due to inconvenient weather; they don't veer away from doing the things that have made them successful because of flurries.

High sustained winds, however, are an issue. The latest forecast for Chicago calls for 30.0 mph wind (and the usual awful Soldier Field footing). That game may not quite be the shootout that Pats' fans are accustomed to.

But again, we can't make guesses about the impact of weather until gameday. If you're ever gonna check out Fantasy Football Live, this would be the Sunday to do it. We have a weather geek at our disposal. (Evans). He's already on Storm Watch, bunkered in his own private Doppler Radar Center.

And this has been Roto Arcade's traffic and weather on the :04s. Thanks for tuning in, gamers.

In keeping with Wednesday tradition, here's the rough draft — repeat: ROUGH DRAFT — of my weekly ranks. There will be modifications made prior to the release of the final ranks on Thursday. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful comments (which too often focus on TEs, but whatever).

QUARTERBACKS

1. Aaron Rodgers(notes) at DET
2. Michael Vick(notes) at DAL
3. Drew Brees(notes) vs. STL
4. Peyton Manning(notes) at TEN
5. Philip Rivers(notes) vs. KC
6. Joe Flacco(notes) at HOU
7. Kyle Orton(notes) at ARI
8. Tom Brady(notes) at CHI
9. Ben Roethlisberger(notes) vs. CIN
10. Matt Ryan(notes) at CAR
11. Eli Manning(notes) at MIN
12. Josh Freeman(notes) at WAS
13. Matt Schaub(notes) vs. BAL
14. David Garrard(notes) vs. OAK
15. Jay Cutler(notes) vs. NE
16. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) vs. CLE
17. Carson Palmer(notes) at PIT
18. Jon Kitna(notes) vs. PHI
19. Jason Campbell(notes) at JAC
20. Donovan McNabb(notes) vs. TB
21. Matt Hasselbeck(notes) at SF
22. Mark Sanchez(notes) vs. MIA
23. Alex Smith vs. SEA
24. Sam Bradford(notes) at NO
25. Kerry Collins(notes) vs. IND

That may seem irresponsibly high on Joe Flacco, but he's facing a defense that ranks last in the NFL in passing yards allowed (287.4 YPG) and passing TDs (27). He's also a player who gives you a relatively high floor; Flacco has given his owners 200-plus yards and at least one touchdown in seven straight games. Over his last 10 games, he's thrown for 18 scores, rushed for another, and he's only been intercepted three times. This is a perfectly safe player, and the match-up is excellent. … Donovan McNabb only has one multi-TD game this season, incredibly enough. (And it happened to occur in Week 10, in the blowout loss to Philly, when he also threw three picks). He's had a miserable year, already setting a new career-high in interceptions. But he sneaks into the top-20 this week because the Tampa Bay secondary will be without corner Aqib Talib(notes) (hip, IR) and safety Cody Grimm(notes) (fibula, IR).

Brett Favre(notes)'s status isn't yet known, though he's expected to test the shoulder in practice late in the week. It seems unwise to bet against him starting, though it's also unwise to roll with him in fantasy against the Giants defense, in a must-win week. … There's been a changing of the Smiths in San Francisco, as Alex gets the nod over Troy Smith(notes). Hopefully this does not impact your fantasy plans. … I really can't imagine starting Mark Sanchez in a week like this, when you can't afford a loss. And it's not even about the weather. He'll be facing the NFL's fifth ranked pass defense (201.3 YPG, 15 TDs), he's coming off back-to-back yardage totals in the 160s, and he's thrown at least one INT in his last seven games.

The Kansas City Star is speculating that Matt Cassel(notes) will miss "at least two weeks" following his appendectomy. Brodie Croyle(notes) reportedly took the first-team snap for the Chiefs on Wednesday. Bad news, with a degree-of-difficulty match-up ahead at San Diego.

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RUNNING BACKS

1. Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) vs. OAK
2. Peyton Hillis(notes) at BUF
3. Arian Foster(notes) vs. BAL
4. Michael Turner(notes) at CAR
5. Chris Johnson vs. IND
6. Adrian Peterson vs. NYG
7. Ray Rice(notes) at HOU
8. Darren McFadden(notes) at JAC
9. LeSean McCoy(notes) at DAL
10. Knowshon Moreno(notes) at ARI
11. Rashard Mendenhall(notes) vs. CIN
12. Jamaal Charles(notes) at SD
13. LeGarrette Blount(notes) at WAS
14. Steven Jackson at NO
15. Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) at MIN
16. Matt Forte(notes) vs. NE
17. Christopher Ivory(notes) vs. STL
18. Mike Tolbert(notes) vs. KC
19. Felix Jones(notes) vs. PHI
20. Brian Westbrook(notes) vs. SEA
21. BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) at CHI
22. Jonathan Stewart(notes) vs. ATL
23. James Starks(notes) at DET
24. LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) vs. MIA
25. Fred Jackson(notes) vs. CLE
26. Shonn Greene(notes) vs. MIA
27. Tashard Choice(notes) vs. PHI
28. Cedric Benson(notes) at PIT
29. Thomas Jones(notes) at SD
30. Brandon Jacobs(notes) at MIN
31. Ronnie Brown(notes) at NYJ
32. Javarris James(notes) at TEN
33. Marshawn Lynch(notes) at SF
34. Anthony Dixon(notes) vs. SEA
35. Michael Bush(notes) at JAC
36. Danny Woodhead(notes) at CHI
37. Donald Brown(notes) at TEN
38. Tim Hightower(notes) vs. DEN
39. Willis McGahee(notes) at HOU
40. Ricky Williams(notes) at NYJ

OK, so that's a low rank on Brandon Jacobs, considering that A) he's still apparently the starter, and B) he's coming off a 103-yard, 2-TD game. But the role of "starting running back" seems to be a purely ceremonial position in New York. Ahmad Bradshaw actually carried 25 times against Washington, while Jacobs did his damage on just eight carries. Bradshaw is my preferred play against Minnesota's defense, a unit that ranks fourth in the league against the run (92.0 YPG, 3.6 YPC), and that gives up nothing up the middle. … When you added Brian Westbrook to your roster two weeks ago, it wasn't for the Green Bay game. Instead, it was for this week's home match-up with Seattle. The Seahawks have allowed the fourth most fantasy points to running backs over the past five weeks; Anthony Dixon is in the flex discussion, too.

Don't expect another 45-point fantasy buffet from New England, not in the lousy conditions that are expected in Chicago. The Bears defense ranks second against the run (84.9 YPG, 3.7 YPC); I'm starting BenJarvus Green-Ellis in at least one league this week, but not feeling particularly confident. … There's no obvious reason to expect either Joseph Addai(notes) (neck/shoulder) or Mike Hart(notes) (ankle) to return for the Thursday nighter. You can expect Donald Brown to handle the 2-yard carries, and Javarris James to be in charge of touchdowns. … There's little doubt that some Washington running back will crack the top-40, but I have no interest in being Shanahan'd, not in Week 14. Ryan Torain(notes) returned to practice on Wednesday. He's a potential starter against Tampa Bay, the league's 26th ranked run defense (128.5 YPG, 4.6 YPC). Beware: James Davis still lurks.

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WIDE RECEIVERS

1. Roddy White(notes) at CAR
2. Andre Johnson(notes) vs. BAL
3. Reggie Wayne(notes) at TEN
4. Anquan Boldin(notes) at HOU
5. Greg Jennings(notes) at DET
6. Brandon Lloyd(notes) at ARI
7. Dwayne Bowe(notes) at SD
8. Jeremy Maclin(notes) at DAL
9. Mike Williams (TB) at WAS
10. Terrell Owens(notes) at PIT
11. Miles Austin(notes) vs. PHI
12. Calvin Johnson(notes) vs. GB
13. Marques Colston(notes) vs. STL
14. DeSean Jackson(notes) at DAL
15. Malcom Floyd(notes) vs. KC
16. Santonio Holmes(notes) vs. MIA
17. Stevie Johnson(notes) vs. CLE
18. Wes Welker(notes) at CHI
19. Sidney Rice(notes) vs. NYG
20. Larry Fitzgerald(notes) vs. DEN
21. Donald Driver(notes) at DET
22. Pierre Garcon(notes) at TEN
23. Mike Wallace(notes) vs. CIN
24. Santana Moss(notes) vs. TB
25. Michael Crabtree(notes) vs. SEA
26. Hakeem Nicks(notes) at MIN
27. Johnny Knox(notes) vs. NE
28. Hines Ward(notes) vs. CIN
29. Roy Williams vs. PHI
30. Derrick Mason(notes) at HOU
31. Earl Bennett(notes) vs. NE
32. Mario Manningham(notes) at MIN
33. Deion Branch(notes) at CHI
34. Braylon Edwards(notes) vs. MIA
35. Percy Harvin(notes) vs. NYG
36. Jacoby Ford(notes) at JAC
37. Steve Smith (NY) at MIN
38. Chad Ochocinco(notes) at PIT
39. Mike Thomas(notes) vs. OAK
40. Robert Meachem(notes) vs. STL
41. Brandon Marshall(notes) at NYJ
42. Steve Breaston(notes) vs. DEN
43. Blair White(notes) at TEN
44. Danny Woodhead at CHI
45. Steve Smith (CAR) vs. ATL
46. Kenny Britt(notes) vs. IND
47. Lee Evans(notes) vs. CLE
48. Davone Bess(notes) at NYJ
49. Devin Hester(notes) vs. NE
50. Lance Moore(notes) vs. STL
51. Nate Washington(notes) vs. IND
52. Anthony Armstrong(notes) vs. TB
53. Jabar Gaffney(notes) at ARI
54. Danny Amendola(notes) at NO
55. Nate Burleson(notes) vs. GB
56. James Jones(notes) at DET
57. Randy Moss(notes) vs. IND
58. Mike Sims-Walker(notes) vs. OAK
59. Eddie Royal(notes) at ARI
60. Seyi Ajirotutu(notes) vs. KC

Please note that my rank on Dwayne Bowe (No. 7) was in place before Matt Cassel's appendix broke. If it's Croyle behind center on Sunday against San Diego, the NFL's top-ranked pass defense (186.3 YPG), then Bowe clearly isn't such a strong start. He'll drop 10-15 spots in the final ranks. … Donald Driver actually led all Packers receivers in targets in Week 13 (8), and he delivered one of Sunday's more ridiculous highlights. He appears to be healthy, and is thus back in the circle of trust. … Hakeem Nicks was reportedly a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, and claimed to feel no pain. These were his words, as tweeted by Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News: "If I'm practicing, I'm playing." If Nicks indeed makes it back for the Minnesota game, he'll beat the original estimate by a week. And you'll start him. … I won't normally get too caught up in player-vs.-team history, but when we're talking Chad Ochocinco vs. the Steelers, that's maybe a little different. Check the game logs. Ocho has only reached the end zone once against Pittsburgh since the 2005 season, and he hasn't had a 100-yard game against them since 2003.

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TIGHT ENDS

1. Jason Witten(notes) vs. PHI
2. Jacob Tamme(notes) at TEN
3. Tony Gonzalez(notes) at CAR
4. Vernon Davis(notes) vs. SEA
5. Antonio Gates(notes) vs. KC
6. Benjamin Watson(notes) at BUF
7. Ed Dickson(notes) at HOU
8. Dustin Keller(notes) vs. MIA
9. Chris Cooley(notes) vs. TB
10. Kellen Winslow(notes) at WAS
11. Brandon Pettigrew(notes) vs. GB
12. Brent Celek(notes) at DAL
13. Greg Olsen(notes) vs. NE
14. Tony Moeaki(notes) at SD
15. Aaron Hernandez(notes) at CHI

Normally I don't offer additional thoughts on this position beyond the ranks, because our commenters do such a marvelous job. But this week, it's worth noting that Todd Heap(notes) suffered a hamstring injury in the loss to Pittsburgh, and in his absence, rookie Ed Dickson was targeted seven times. This year, Houston's defense allows the most fantasy points to … well, to all humans, basically. But they've been unusually generous to tight ends. Assuming Heap is sidelined in Week 14, Dickson should be a strong play.

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DEFENSES

1. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CIN
2. Green Bay Packers at DET
3. New York Jets vs. MIA
4. Atlanta Falcons at CAR
5. New York Giants at MIN
6. New England Patriots at CHI
7. New Orleans Saints vs. STL
8. Philadelphia Eagles at DAL
9. Minnesota Vikings vs. NYG
10. Miami Dolphins at NYJ
11. San Diego Chargers vs. KC
12. Oakland Raiders at JAC
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at WAS
14. Cleveland Browns at BUF
15. Washington Redskins vs. TB

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