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The Big Rotowski: Week 16 Ranks

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The Pro Bowl selections are out, and while there are a number of very interesting and worthy selections, there are also a few guys going to Honolulu who shouldn't. Let me hit you with a few lists:

Best Selections
Steven Jackson, StL. Given that Frank Gore was a gimme, and some retiring guy in New York was going no matter what, the third NFC spot came down to Jackson and Brian Westbrook. I think Jackson's the right call...he has 82 receptions to go along with his 1,236 rushing yards and 1,916 total yards from scrimmage.

Adrian Wilson, Ari. He's tied for the league lead in sacks for a defensive back, caused four fumbles, picked off four passes (one of which he returned 99 yards), and in an age where safeties are beginning to specialize in run-stopping, Wilson can cover most tight ends and a lot of receivers.

Jamal Williams, SD. Williams and his ridiculous 375 pounds are the main reason the Chargers defense withstood the loss of some key players through this year, and he's the main reason the linebackers on this team can go whole hog after the passer. He's surprisingly quick in his box-in-the-middle, and packs a wallop.

Worst Selections
John Lynch, Den. Man. This one's just awful. Lynch has just 48 tackles, and he's played every game. He has zero turnovers. And defenses have been picking on him mercilessly in the passing game. There are at least five better AFC players at Lynch's position this year.

Ronde Barber, TB and DeAngelo Hall, Atl. Barber had that one big game against Philly, where he returned two Donovan McNabb picks for touchdowns, and that's been it. He's a very good tackler for a corner, but defenses don't shy away from throwing at him anymore. Hall is a shameless self-promoter on whom offensive coordinators feast. The Falcons are the worst team in the NFL against WR1s. Hm. Who do you think covers WR1s?

Philip Rivers, SD. Okay, yeah, the Chargers are having a banner year. But Rivers over Tom Brady? Please. Don't get me wrong: the first-year starter is playing well, but he's the caretaker on LaDainian Tomlinson's offense, mixing it up a little when LDT's feeling generous. Brady's about all the Patriots have on offense just now, especially with Laurence Maroney on the shelf.

Larry Allen, SF. My lord.

Biggest Snubs
Marcus McNeil, SD. Hey, let's take our rookie second-rounder and put him at left tackle, perhaps the most intimidating position in professional sports. What's that? He broke both his hands, and still anchors the offensive line? This dude never allowed a sack in college (at Auburn).

John Henderson, Jac. With all apologies to Richard Seymour, who was playing on one leg for much of the year, Henderson's the best defensive lineman in football, bar none. He's far outplayed Seymour while much of the rest of the Jags defense has gotten hurt.

Pacman Jones, Ten. If we're penalizing people for being asses, what's substance-abuser Shawne Merriman doing going to Hawaii? Jones has been every bit as much at the heart of the Titans' late-season rally as Vince Young. He's got two punt returns for touchdowns, an 83-yard interception for a score last week, and scares the living hell out of opponents. His cover skills, maligned last year, are now at least as good as Hall's.

Okay. As always, you can check back Thursday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts. And don't forget to get your Vikings and Packers in your starting lineups early, since those teams play on Thursday this week, and your Chiefs and Raiders in your starting lineups in time for the Saturday game between those teams.

Quarterbacks

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

Notes: I've gotten some email asking me what's the big deal with Brees. He's just a system quarterback, anyone could be doing this in "a Sean Payton offense." I say: that's hogwash. First of all, what's "a Sean Payton offense?" Near as I can tell, up until 2006, that meant an offense with a pretty bad quarterback. I grant you Payton has been a great play-caller in his first job as a head man, and he's taken advantage of his weapons. But Brees was excellent in a totally different system in '04, more than competent in '05, and now has adjusted to a different attack (not tight-end-happy, deeper routes, more screens) in N'Awlins. Besides which, if you're a fantasy player: who cares? Just take the numbers (still an outside threat to Dan Marino's single-season yardage record) and smile … I like Garcia against a Dallas secondary that's allowed huge games in consecutive weeks to Brees and Vick. When the Giants put pressure on Garcia last week, he did make some poor throws, and I could see some of that "hair-on-fire" stuff he did in Detroit and Cleveland. Generally, though, he was smart and tough, and he's got weapons … I'm not put off by Rivers' poor performance against Kansas City. Seattle is ninth-worst against fantasy quarterbacks in the last six weeks … The Saints defense had a terrible time stopping the run against Washington last week, but I think the Giants will beat them via the air. Eli Manning can have a big day; the Saints just don't have anyone to match up with Burress or Shockey … I'd be very nervous starting Brady in my Fantasy Bowl. Jacksonville has continued to be one of the five-toughest defenses to throw on, and they'll put pressure on the Pats' offensive line. You may have no alternative, and he is still Tom Brady. But I'm nervous … Leinart and Cutler leap over Young this week. Leinart will have some open receivers in San Francisco (though that secondary seems much better with Shawntae Spencer in the mix), and Cutler showed the arm that made Mike Shanahan trade up to get him last week against the Cardinals. Young plays a surging Bills defense that humiliated Harrington last week. I still do have Young over Losman, because Young is such a threat with his legs … Kitna has been so terrible the past five weeks, it boggles the mind. His average day in that span? 22-for-36 for 250 yards, two interceptions and zero-ish touchdowns. His QB rating has been 72 or lower in every game. He has eight interceptions the last three weeks. And he goes against Chicago this week … Tarvaris Jackson gets the call in favor of Brad Johnson. Jackson has twice the arm Johnson does, and the Packers can be beaten deep. Still, I think you have to stay away, unless you have absolutely no options … Rattay has played very well for about a full game's worth of time, and Cleveland's secondary has been torched by speedy receivers lately.

Running Backs

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

Notes: Rudi Johnson is where I think he should be on this list if Willie Anderson plays. I haven't heard an update on Anderson's foot injury, which caused him to miss the final three quarters of last Monday's game … Betts should start in all formats. He's racked up 549 yards on the ground his last four games. The only thing that's been missing is touchdowns. That could change this week in St. Louis … Obviously, I'm anticipating that Ronnie Brown will be back this week. He got his cast off, and is supposed to practice. Keep an eye on him, but I think he steps in for Sammy Morris raring to go. Hopefully he's kept his conditioning up … I've rated Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor as though Taylor will play limited snaps. I have no inside information on this; I just think the Jags are whistling past the graveyard thinking that Fragile Freddy's game-ending injury against Tennessee last week was just a "cramp." If I know my Fred Taylor, he'll tell everyone he's fine to go, then pop it again in the first quarter. It'll be very difficult to start Taylor this week, and it's scary to rank Jones-Drew this high, because if Taylor does play, obviously Jones-Drew's value drops a lot … I hate Parker against Baltimore (he rushed it 10 times for 22 yards against the Ravens just four weeks ago), but at some point, you have to just play the guy that brung you. Parker has 1,331 yards rushing and 14 scores overall. Do you really want to lose with Fast Willie on your bench? … McGahee moves from what was a bad match-up against Miami to a nice one against Tennessee … I'm sorely tempted to move Marion Barber higher, since Philly has been so generous lately with their rush defense. But Barber's role doesn't figure to change much, no matter how generous the Eagles are; he's the third-down and short-yardage back, he'll score the touchdowns, but he won't get that many more carries. I think he stays right around the same this week as last … Dayne will be a very popular start in fantasy championships, and with good reason. He's topped 87 yards in three straight outings and has three scores in that time, plus he's playing the Colts. Naturally, Indy knows just what the Texans will try to do, so there's a chance Dayne gets stuffed. But in one league where my fantasy backfield is crippled, I'm rolling the dice with Heisman Ron … Tony Dungy says he thinks Addai's ankle will be okay to play, but I still lowered him just a touch below where I'd otherwise have him against Houston … I like Reggie Bush against the Giants, who have a tough time with quick backs (see Westbrook last week) … I have no idea what's going on in Denver. Hopefully you don't have to rely on that backfield for anything but chuckles.

Wide Receivers

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

Notes: I know: pretty stupid to keep Smith in the top spot after five catches for 56 yards and no scores last week, huh? I can't help it; Smith might not quite be at top speed, but he's as healthy as he's been in a while, and he did get 10 targets in the Panthers' debacle against Pittsburgh last week. Atlanta is one of the worst teams against WR1s (welcome to the Pro Bowl, DeAngelo Hall), and you have to believe there's some pride in Carolina. Don't you? … I like Burress a lot this week for your championship game. The Saints have been one of the eight worst defenses against fantasy receivers all year, and they especially struggle with size. There's no one in that defensive backfield that can match a motivated Plax … Evans against Pro-Bowl-snubbed Pacman Jones (who, in one of my weekly video segments, I mentioned was a lock for Honolulu) should be a lot of fun … I believe Galloway will come up huge for his owners the biggest week of the year. Cleveland has given up big days to speedy wideouts several times in the past weeks, and all those injuries in the secondary has made them one of the five worst defenses against fantasy receivers … Stallworth and Brown, Brown and Stallworth. Hard to project which will get the biggest catches, but against a scuffling Dallas secondary, I think both will be worth starting in deep-ish leagues … I moved Hackett ahead of Branch in Seattle's offense. Darrell Jackson will probably miss at least one more game, and Hackett received a ridiculous 13 targets in Week 15. With a fierce Chargers' rush in his face, I think Matt Hasselbeck goes to the possession guy … Curry is the only guy for Oakland, the only guy. With news that Aaron Brooks gets the start Sunday, Curry becomes startable as a WR3 on your championship team … Booker's sprained ankle, which caused him to miss the second half of Sunday's game in Buffalo, is supposedly a "day-to-day" affair; I bumped him down a bit … I don't know what to make of Walker, who's got a first-degree shoulder separation. In this case, first is better than second or third, so the Broncos give Walker a chance of playing Sunday against Cincinnati. If it comes clearer that he'll be able to go without limitation, obviously I'll move him far up the list. As it is, though, I have him, Rod Smith and rookie Brandon Marshall right around the same spot, with the idea that Jay Cutler will spread the ball to all of them. Cutler's a pretty good play this week; alas, I'm beginning to think Walker isn't … Williamson replaces Marcus Robinson on this list (probably just in time for Robinson to become Tarvaris Jackson's best friend). Williamson has hands of stone, but he got 13 targets last week, eight of which came in the fourth quarter, which just happened to be the moment when Jackson took the reins.

Tight Ends

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

Notes: Colston seemed healthy enough against Washington last week; I think he has a wide-receiver-level game in New York this week, which puts him at the top of the tight end list … Watch out for Vernon Davis. He's on a roll, and the Niners are looking to throw his way. Thirteen targets the last two weeks, to go along with two touchdowns, means the rookie has officially captured Norv Turner's attention … Utecht showed some skills Monday night, translating five targets into four catches. Of course, as long as Marvin Harrison's going to be open all night in the end zone, Utecht won't sniff a score … I'm assuming Benjamin Watson sits again this week, and Graham blocks as much as he catches … Daniels drops as Gary Kubiak revealed the rookie's been playing with an injured shoulder … Scaife couldn't play on his bad ankle in Week 15, but should be back this week … Fletcher wasn't active last week, due to a bad quad.

Kickers

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

Notes: What can I tell you? They're kickers … Elam and Stover are tied for the league-lead in field-goal percentage, with 92 percent apiece. The only reason Stover dips a bit this week is Baltimore's trip to the nightmarish kicking venue in Pittsburgh … Wilkins has made and attempted the most field goals of anyone so far this year (29 and 33, respectively) … The reason Scobee's been valuable this year is Jacksonville's uncanny ability to stall drives between the 23 and the 32. Scobee has 18 kicks in the 40-to-49 range (he's made 14 of them), four more attempts than Wilkins, and three more makes than Gould … Gould does get a friendly dome game this week, where Hanson has been an unsung hero for many fantasy teams. Hanson's 3-for-6 from 50-plus; only Josh Brown (3-for-5) and Kasay (4-for-7) have been better … Rackers is 14-for-14 from 39 in, 21-for-24 from 49 in, and 1-for-7 outside the 50. 2005 seems like a long time ago, indeed.

Defenses

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

Notes: Buffalo's defense is playing really well; Aaron Schobel's Pro Bowl selection was well-justified, and though he doesn't have the numbers in '06 to really back it up, Nate Clements could go almost any year … Just a tiny 20-spot jump for Kansas City. That's what happens when you go from playing the Chargers to playing the Raiders … The statistical part of my brain contends there could be a lot of defensive points generated in Thursday night's Vikings/Packers game, especially with rookie Tarvaris Jackson at the helm for Minnesota, and the Turnover Machine piloting Green Bay … Here's hoping you don't have to rely on Carolina as a fantasy defense in your playoffs. They've quit … I've been a partial booster of the Raiders defense, but not this week. The Chiefs will run Larry Johnson until he can't run no more, and that's just what Oakland can't stop.