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The Big Rotowski: Week 12 Ranks

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Are you ready for some football?

Well, too bad.

If you, like me, belong to one of the estimated 30 million football-oriented households who are about to be shut out of a Thanksgiving NFL game for the first time in history, I'll bet you're pissed. Heck, I'm pissed. Denver against Kansas City sure sounds more alluring than Miami visiting Detroit, doesn't it?

On just about any other day of the year, I'd shrug off the fact that the Chiefs/Broncos game is on the NFL Network, which my cable package doesn't get, and just head to a bar. However, methinks that might not go over so well with my mom. "Sorry, folks. Awesome cranberry sauce, but I've got to go watch my fantasy kicker. Bye." Uh, no. So Fox and CBS will give us the traditional Dallas and Detroit games, and well more than 30 million of us will discreetly open our laptops and pretend to listen to grandma's story about the time her hair caught on fire while cooking the turkey, while refreshing the KC/DEN box score.

It ain't right. And it ain't the first thing the NFL's done that's not right; forcing season-ticket holders to buy four exhibition games at full price comes to mind. I wonder, though, whether this greedy grab will finally backfire in the league's face. There's going to be bad publicity surrounding this decision (remember: seven more games will be exclusively on the NFL Network later this year), and the NFL doesn't like bad publicity. Maybe some of us poor folks who don't get this game will rush out to a local drinking establishment and pay for the privilege in beer, but most won't. Is fewer viewers a good thing? Even in the long term?

Aw, well. Don't worry about missing the Chiefs/Broncos. I can already tell you what happened. Jake Plummer looked crappy. Mike Shanahan introduced a 73-year-old Tahitian man as his running back of the future. Larry Johnson carried it 56 times for 176 yards and three scores. And announcer Bryant Gumbel annoyed a nation. Okay, part of a nation.

As always, you can check back Friday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts. And don't forget to get your Dolphins, Lions, Cowboys, Buccaneers, Chiefs and Broncos into your starting lineups early.

Quarterbacks

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 Peyton Manning PHI 1
2 Drew Brees @ ATL 2
3 Carson Palmer @ CLE 3
4 Michael Vick NO 6
5 Tony Romo TB 14
6 Matt Hasselbeck GB NR
7 Philip Rivers OAK 7
8 Jake Delhomme @ WAS 12
9 Steve McNair PIT 11
10 Tom Brady CHI 9
11 Jon Kitna MIA 8
12 Brett Favre @ SEA 10
13 Marc Bulger SF 5
14 Ben Roethlisberger @ BAL 16
15 Jake Plummer @ KC 13
16 Vince Young NYG 22
17 Joey Harrington @ DET 21
18 Eli Manning @ TEN 17
19 Rex Grossman @ NE 15
20 Matt Leinart @ MIN 23
21 Charlie Frye CIN 20
22 David Garrard @ BUF 25
23 Jeff Garcia @ IND NR
24 Jason Campbell CAR 28
25 David Carr @ NYJ 19
26 Trent Green DEN 18
27 Alex Smith @ STL 27
28 J.P. Losman JAC 31
29 Aaron Brooks @ SD 29
30 Bruce Gradkowski @ DAL 30
31 Chad Pennington HOU 26
32 Brad Johnson ARI 32

Notes: With Donovan McNabb gone, Brees seems like a good bet to hit the No. 2 spot for the foreseeable future. The Saints just throw so much … The Falcons keep losing, but Vick keeps performing serviceably. He's only failed to rush for 50 yards twice this season. And the Saints have been terrible against fantasy quarterbacks lately … Romo has me intrigued. His release really is noticeably quicker than your average NFL signal-caller, and approximately 7,000 times quicker than Drew Bledsoe's. He's been sacked seven times in 151 attempts; Bledsoe was sacked 16 times in 169 … Hasselbeck will play this week, and he usually seems to play well against his old team. I'd get him in there … I know Oakland's been tough against quarterbacks, but benching Rivers at this point is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Don't get clever this far into the season … Beware Brady owners: the Bears may have slacked a little against the run, but they continue to be fantasy murder on QBs … Bulger takes a plunge this week, as his last two games have been just terrible. After getting picked nine times in eight games in '05, he had one interception through nine games in '06 before tossing an interception in each of his last two. He's also been sacked 11 times in that span; since he's getting no protection, it's getting harder and harder to find anyone downfield … Roethlisberger is turning into Vick North: playing pretty badly in real football (75.8 QB rating), but working out okay for his fantasy owners. He's thrown an average of 41 passes in Pittsburgh's last four games, during which he's connected for 10 TDs and seven picks … Young's legs make him a borderline start in deep leagues. Yet for all the receivers Tennessee has drafted over the past couple seasons, they really don't have anyone good for him to throw to. Drew Bennett's hands are never going to catch up with his legs … Campbell had a nice fantasy day in his debut, but Carolina is a lot harder to throw against than Tampa Bay. Love his arm-strength, though.

Running Backs

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 LaDainian Tomlinson OAK 1
2 Larry Johnson DEN 2
3 Frank Gore @ STL 8
4 Steven Jackson SF 6
5 Brian Westbrook @ IND 3
6 Chester Taylor ARI 13
7 Willie Parker @ BAL 4
8 Ronnie Brown @ DET 17
9 Shaun Alexander GB 11
10 Fred Taylor @ BUF 21
11 Tiki Barber @ TEN 7
12 Ahman Green @ SEA 15
13 Rudi Johnson @ CLE 12
14 Travis Henry NYG 19
15 Marion Barber III TB 29
16 Warrick Dunn NO 16
17 Joseph Addai PHI 22
18 Corey Dillon CHI 18
19 Julius Jones TB 9
20 Deuce McAllister @ ATL 14
21 Reuben Droughns CIN NR
22 Thomas Jones @ NE 10
23 Maurice Jones-Drew @ BUF 30
24 Jamal Lewis PIT 27
25 Wali Lundy @ NYJ 26
26 Mike Bell @ KC NR
27 Brandon Jacobs @ TEN 31
28 DeShaun Foster @ WAS 20
29 Leon Washington HOU 40
30 Carnell Williams @ DAL 34
31 Anthony Thomas JAC 23
32 Edgerrin James @ MIN 24
33 Ladell Betts CAR 28
34 Tatum Bell @ KC 25
35 Laurence Maroney CHI 35
36 Justin Fargas @ SD NR
37 Cedric Houston HOU NR
38 Arlen Harris MIA NR
39 Reggie Bush @ ATL 36
40 Samkon Gado @ NYJ NR

Notes: Gore set a franchise record for most yards rushing in a single game against Seattle last weekend; his match-up on turf against a Rams defense that's allowing the most points to fantasy RBs over its last five games looks like a laugher … Imagine if Donovan McNabb were playing, how drooly we'd all be getting over Westbrook's chance to run against the Colts' shoddy run D. While Jeff Garcia's no great shakes, he'll keep Indy honest enough to give Westbrook room. Start him … Parker doesn't fit the profile of backs who can have success against the Ravens' D, and his career numbers against Baltimore (3.8 yards per carry, no TDs) show it. So why didn't I bump him down more? FWP just seems to have a knack for pulling out good fantasy performances on days when he's otherwise been stopped … Alexander's spot in the top 10 is, without question, an emeritus position, and will be reconciled if he doesn't look better next Monday night. His toe supposedly felt okay last week, but he admitted to feeling sluggish and slow … Fred Taylor and Jones-Drew are each having great seasons, and each are usable against a bad Buffalo rush defense … Henry doesn't realize he's supposed to be taking a back seat to LenDale White. He's also earning himself a boatload of cash this offseason … In ranking the Dallas RBs, I finally decided to take off the blinders and recognize the situation for what it is. Marion Barber is more valuable than Julius Jones. Sure, Jones is getting twice the carries, but Barber has nine TDs, and Jones three. Some of that is bad luck for Jones, but much is by design … I've assumed Droughns is going to play, but I've got no proof. If he doesn't, Jason Wright becomes an option in very deep leagues; Cincy's rush defense (and their defense in general) is falling apart … I've pumped Thomas Jones like crazy since midseason, but this is a week to be cautious. The Bears are set up to fail, with their third consecutive road game, plus playing at New England. Even if Chicago loses this week, it doesn't mean a lot about their Super Bowl potential. The schedule-makers did them no favors … Mike Bell gets the nod over Tatum, and Damien Nash goes unranked, despite how good he looked against the Chargers. Mike Shanahan supposedly rested Tatum against San Diego so he'd be ready to go against Kansas City, which is the kind of logic that caused Brad Pitt to stay with Jennifer Aniston when he could've had Angelina Jolie all that time … The Jets/Texans game features two more running-back carousels. Kevan Barlow seemed on the outs for New York, as Cedric Houston returned; Lundy and Gado sound like pretty much a straight platoon, too.

Wide Receivers

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 Steve Smith @ WAS 1
2 Chad Johnson @ CLE 3
3 Terrell Owens TB 5
4 Darrell Jackson GB 7
5 Javon Walker @ KC 2
6 Joe Horn @ ATL 26
7 Hines Ward @ BAL 6
8 Reggie Wayne PHI 11
9 Roy Williams MIA 10
10 Donald Driver @ SEA 17
11 Mark Clayton PIT 15
12 Torry Holt SF 9
13 Andre Johnson @ NYJ 12
14 Marvin Harrison PHI 13
15 Anquan Boldin @ MIN 18
16 Lee Evans JAC 30
17 T.J. Houshmandzadeh @ CLE 8
18 Deion Branch GB 25
19 Chris Chambers @ DET 21
20 Plaxico Burress @ TEN 20
21 Reggie Brown @ IND 16
22 Muhsin Muhammad @ NE 22
23 Joey Galloway @ DAL 19
24 Laveranues Coles HOU 23
25 Braylon Edwards CIN 28
26 Ernest Wilford @ BUF NR
27 Devery Henderson @ ATL NR
28 Greg Jennings @ SEA NR
29 Larry Fitzgerald @ MIN 24
30 Keyshawn Johnson @ WAS 35
31 Antonio Bryant @ STL 32
32 Terry Glenn TB 39
33 Reche Caldwell CHI 49
34 Chris Henry @ CLE 34
35 Michael Jenkins NO 37
36 Derrick Mason PIT 29
37 Santana Moss CAR 40
38 Randy Moss @ SD 27
39 Bernard Berrian @ NE NR
40 Donte' Stallworth @ IND 14
41 Arnaz Battle @ STL 45
42 Isaac Bruce SF 36
43 Bryant Johnson @ MIN 46
44 Jerricho Cotchery HOU 33
45 Wes Welker @ DET 50
46 Mike Furrey MIA 44
47 Drew Bennett NYG 43
48 Kevin Curtis SF 42
49 Joe Jurevicius CIN 48
50 Eddie Kennison DEN 31

Notes: Things have certainly smoothed out in Cincinnati, where 7/11 should be ranked higher than Houshmandzadeh for the foreseeable future … For the purposes of a Tuesday list, I'm going to assume that Sean Payton is doing a smoke-and-mirrors bit, and that Marques Colston isn't going to play. The Saints say they don't have conclusive medical results yet, and want to see what Colston's injured ankle feels like when he steps on the practice field Wednesday. The game in Atlanta is a huge one for New Orleans' playoff hopes, so maybe Colston pushes it. For now, though, I'm giving his spot to Horn, who has been excellent as he's gotten healthier … I know Ward's questionable, but I think he'll play. The Ravens are beatable up the seam … Holt and Harrison are two guys who've plummeted from the top of this list, and the truth is, without the names on the backs of their shirts, I'd probably have them diving even further … I was frustrated with Evans, which explains why he dipped way down to No. 30 last week. Needless to say, that was a pretty big mistake on my part … Man, is Burress a jerk, or what? … If Wilford's healthy enough, the fickle finger of fate may have landed on him to be Jacksonville's WR1. Unlike Reggie Williams and, to some extent, Matt Jones, Wilford can actually catch passes. He's not going to blow by anyone, but David Garrard doesn't specialize in deep passes anyway … Henderson's on this list because I don't trust Terrence Copper's ankle, either … Jennings finally played near full-speed last weekend, so I'll start edging him north. He's going to be a really good player. If Brett Favre had been able to spit in the ocean on Sunday, Jennings would've scored at least once in the first half … Fitzgerald made another spectacular catch on Sunday on a flea-flicker, but once again didn't look right thereafter. Keep an eye on him; obviously, once he's healthy enough to play a whole game, he'll skyrocket on this board … At first blush, Stallworth would seem to be hindered by Donovan McNabb's injury, as he's Philly's primary deep threat. I don't expect him to get a ton done against the Colts, but watch for him to get in synch with Jeff Garcia in time for your fantasy playoffs; I like fast wideouts against the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys.

Tight Ends

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 Antonio Gates OAK 2
2 Kellen Winslow CIN 6
3 Alge Crumpler NO 3
4 Jeremy Shockey
@ TEN
9
5 Todd Heap PIT 4
6 Chris Cooley CAR 10
7 L.J. Smith @ IND 5
8 Jason Witten
TB
7
9 Tony Gonzalez DEN
NR
10 Desmond Clark @ NE 8
11 Benjamin Watson
CHI
12
12 Dallas Clark PHI 13
13 Heath Miller @ BAL 16
14 Owen Daniels @ NYJ 17
15 Randy McMichael @ DET 14
16 Bo Scaife NYG 24
17 Jerramy Stevens GB 11
18 Jermaine Wiggins ARI 21
19 Courtney Anderson @ SD NR
20 George Wrighster @ BUF 20
21 Vernon Davis @ STL 19
22 Ben Utecht PHI 22
23 Randal Williams
@ SD
23
24 Dan Campbell MIA NR
25 Daniel Graham CHI NR
26 Kris Mangum @ WAS 32
27 Anthony Becht @ DAL NR
28 Bubba Franks @ SEA 30
29 Joe Klopfenstein
SF
25
30 Kris Wilson DEN 28
31 Chris Baker HOU 27
32 Leonard Pope @ MIN 31

Notes: Once again, no Colston here; if it seems like he'll play, he heads to the top of the list … I'm sticking with Gates. As everyone kept saying with Chad Johnson's touchdowns and John Travolta's movie choices: these things even out … Winslow has a great match-up against a hurting Bengals' linebacking corps that's allowed the most points to fantasy tight ends this year … Shockey, too, should break out of his doldrums. Tennessee doesn't have the speed at linebacker to deal with him, and the New York media will blast out Eli Manning's eardrums this week about needing to get his big tight end involved in the first half … After stinking up fantasy teams from sea to shining sea in the first half, Cooley's on fire … I've assumed Gonzalez will play on Thursday against the Broncos, but that he'll be somewhat limited … If Ben Troupe is out, Scaife gets the tight-end gig to himself. He's an okay play in deep leagues even if Troupe does play, as Vince Young, his old college buddy, looks his way quite a bit … My prediction for the random tight end to get an unexpected touchdown this week? Mangum.

Kickers

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 Adam Vinatieri PHI 2
2 Nate Kaeding OAK 4
3 Robbie Gould @ NE 1
4 Shayne Graham @ CLE 7
5 John Kasay @ WAS 13
6 Josh Brown GB 5
7 Jeff Wilkins SF 3
8 Jeff Reed @ BAL 10
9 Joe Nedney @ STL 12
10 John Carney @ ATL 8
11 Morten Andersen NO 11
12 Josh Scobee @ BUF 18
13 Matt Stover PIT 6
14 Jay Feely @ TEN 21
15 Mike Vanderjagt TB 9
16 Jason Elam @ KC 22
17 Phil Dawson CIN 17
18 Olindo Mare @ DET 24
19 Neil Rackers @ MIN 19
20 David Akers @ IND 20
21 Lawrence Tynes DEN 14
22 Sebastian Janikowski @ SD 25
23 Rian Lindell JAC 29
24 Jason Hanson MIA 15
25 Dave Rayner @ SEA 16
26 Matt Bryant @ DAL 31
27 Kris Brown @ NYJ 27
28 Stephen Gostkowski CHI 23
29 Rob Bironas NYG 26
30 Mike Nugent HOU 30
31 Ryan Longwell ARI 28
32 Nick Novak CAR 32

Notes: I dropped Gould really through no fault of his own; the Pats have simply been the stingiest team in football against fantasy kickers. But he hasn't missed this year, and obviously is playing incredibly well … Vanderjagt just stinks, doesn't he? Every time they show his blond highlights followed by the clang of pigskin-on-upright, I just have to smile … Graham and Kaeding are the two hottest kickers in fantasy right now, for obvious reasons. Their offenses are scalding. Too bad the same can't be said for Carney, whose offense is going crazy, but for some reason it isn't translating into a lot of kicking work.

Defenses

Rank Name Opponent Week 11 Rating
1 Baltimore Ravens PIT 2
2 Chicago Bears @ NE 1
3 Miami Dolphins @ DET 5
4 Denver Broncos @ KC 9
5 Dallas Cowboys TB 18
6 Carolina Panthers @ WAS 6
7 New England Patriots CHI 13
8 Jacksonville Jaguars @ BUF 10
9 Arizona Cardinals @ MIN 20
10 Minnesota Vikings ARI 4
11 Seattle Seahawks GB 8
12 San Diego Chargers OAK 16
13 New York Giants @ TEN 11
14 Pittsburgh Steelers @ BAL 7
15 Philadelphia Eagles @ IND 3
16 Green Bay Packers @ SEA 15
17 New York Jets HOU 26
18 San Francisco 49ers @ STL 17
19 Tennessee Titans NYG 24
20 Oakland Raiders @ SD 14
21 Buffalo Bills JAC 23
22 Atlanta Falcons NO 19
23 Cleveland Browns CIN 22
24 Indianapolis Colts PHI 28
25 Houston Texans @ NYJ 25
26 Detroit Lions MIA 21
27 St. Louis Rams SF 27
28 Kansas City Chiefs DEN 12
29 Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ DAL 29
30 Cincinnati Bengals @ CLE 30
31 New Orleans Saints @ ATL 31
32 Washington Redskins CAR 32

Notes: Miami moves two more spots up into elite territory; that the defensive line is playing well isn't a major surprise, but I'm surprised by the secondary's decent play, and also by the pass rush. Keep an eye on Channing Crowder. It seems unlikely his hip lets him play on short rest Thursday, but hopefully he'll be back soon … Dallas goes from playing Indy to playing Tampa Bay. That should help … The Pats/Bears tilt will either be a 10-7 affair or an utter shootout. If Rex Grossman is right, he and the speedy Bears' receivers can take advantage of a dinged-up secondary. Still, I can't see either team doing a ton on the ground … The Cardinals lost Bertrand Berry for the season, and that doesn't help the pass rush. But the Vikings have been the most generous offense to fantasy defenses over the past six weeks … On the other side of the ball, Minnesota's rush defense, and specifically Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, is just awesome. But they've been burnable against the pass … Philly's defense gets a major test against an angry Colts team. Hopefully you have better options … I'd like to get excited about the Niners and Raiders, because both defenses have played really well. But neither match-up is great; the Niners can definitely hang in St. Louis, though the Rams have revenge on their minds, while Oakland is one of LaDainian Tomlinson's favorite whipping boys. Stay far away this week.