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The Big Rotowski: Week 5 Ranks

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Note: As of Friday, updated Week 5 rankings can be found HERE

The only thing good that came out of last week's Terrell Owens media circus is that this week's Terrell Owens media circus will pale by comparison. I mean, sure, it's probably pretty dramatic that Owens returns to the site of his biggest freakouts, to play in front of fans who would just as soon hurl excrement as look at him. But at least nobody's going to try and kill themselves. Right?

A couple notes about last Monday night's game: I have officially reached Annoyance Level: "Mute Button" with the ESPN broadcast. It's not so much that Tony Kornheiser is bad; he just makes no difference. The problem is Joe Theismann. ProFootballTalk.com refers to him as "Joey Sunshine," and with good reason. Everything is the best thing Theismann has ever seen. Every player he met with this week is the smartest, humblest person ever. Every coaching decision is a good one. Every effort is top-notch. One has the sense if Joey Sunshine had been doing the Titans/Cowboys game last week, he'd have been praising Albert Haynesworth for the great progress he's made on his "Riverdance" lessons.

It's no fun to be Ahmad Carroll, huh? Get toasted repeatedly on (sort of) national TV, get cut the next day. I mean, don't get me wrong: Carroll has given up big plays by the bushel for as long as he's been in the league. But let me get this straight: the former first-rounder was good enough to start for you at cornerback one day, and wasn't good enough to be on your team the next? I assume the Packers think they're sending a message to the rest of their team. I just think that message is: "Huh?"

Brian Westbrook owners: Don't panic just yet. I believe Westbrook could've played last week, but that Andy Reid, who is one smart cookie, knew he didn't need the diminutive back with the balky knee to beat the woeful Pack. I think he was saving Westbrook for Dallas.

On to the Week 5 rankings. Remember: Seattle, Cincinnati, Houston and Atlanta are off this week. As always, you can check back Friday for updates in my weekly rankings, as well as ratings from the other Yahoo! Sports Fantasy experts.

Quarterbacks

Rank Name Opponent Week 4 Rating
1 Peyton Manning TEN 1
2 Donovan McNabb DAL 2
3 Marc Bulger @ GB 4
4 Eli Manning WAS bye
5 Tom Brady MIA 14
6 Byron Leftwich NYJ 11
7 Drew Bledsoe @ PHI 7
8 Chad Pennington @ JAC 9
9 Brad Johnson DET 19
10 Mark Brunell @ NYG 22
11 Rex Grossman BUF 15
12 Drew Brees TB 16
13 Charlie Frye @ CAR 17
14 Daunte Culpepper @ NE 8
15 Jon Kitna @ MIN 18
16 Jake Delhomme CLE 10
17 Jake Plummer BAL bye
18 Alex Smith OAK 23
19 Steve McNair @ DEN 24
20 Damon Huard @ ARI 20
21 Brett Favre STL 5
22 Philip Rivers PIT 27
23 J.P. Losman @ CHI 25
24 Ben Roethlisberger @ SD bye
25 Bruce Gradkowski @ NO bye
26 Vince Young @ IND NR
27 Andrew Walter @ SF 28
28 Matt Leinart KC NR

Notes: With Carson Palmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Vick and even David Carr on bye this week, it's a pretty bottom-heavy list … Thanks to his two rushing TDs against Green Bay on Monday night, McNabb is the highest-scoring individual player in most fantasy leagues. The Cowboys are relatively stingy against the pass, but I'd still expect McNabb to be great … Eli Manning returns to the list in the highest slot I've had him all year, partly because of the aforementioned absences, and partly because Washington's pass defense is one of the 10 worst in the league right now … Leftwich took advantage of said defense in Week 4, while the Jets were doing a pretty darn good job on Peyton. Still, there's a lot of untapped offensive firepower in Jacksonville, and with the Jags' defense hurting, it's nice to see the playbook open … Brad Johnson has a thoroughly sweet matchup against a Lions team that's allowing the most fantasy points to quarterbacks in the NFL … I'm not overreacting to Brunell's big finish last week; it's just that the Giants are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to QBs … I told Culpepper he was only getting two more chances, against Tennessee and Houston. It's time to start looking elsewhere for a starting fantasy QB … Favre takes a huge tumble because (a) his health is a question mark; and (b) St. Louis has tied for a league-leading eight interceptions on defense … I admit it: Plummer is low. I'm scared of Baltimore's defense flying around on (semi-) national TV, and of a passing offense that had shown nothing until the Broncos' surprise in New England. Still, one has to assume that Denver's receivers got healthier over the bye week. We'll have to see if the momentum from beating the Patriots carries over. Remember, without the two long scoring passes, Plummer was 13-for-28 for 141 yards. I know it's not really fair to subtract the big plays; my point is just that not all ills are automatically cured … Stay away from the youngsters this week. It's especially unfortunate that Leinart has to play his first game-and-a-half in the NFL against what thus far have been the two stingiest defenses against quarterbacks: Atlanta and Kansas City. The Chiefs' resurgent secondary is a very quiet story this year. Ty Law has clearly made a difference.

Running Backs

Rank Name Opponent Week 4 Rating
1 Larry Johnson @ ARI 1
2 Clinton Portis @ NYG 8
3 LaDainian Tomlinson PIT 9
4 Steven Jackson @ GB 12
5 Brian Westbrook DAL 3
6 Frank Gore OAK 5
7 LaMont Jordan @ SF 14
8 Tiki Barber WAS bye
9 Ronnie Brown @ NE 2
10 Julius Jones @ PHI 11
11 Thomas Jones BUF 29
12 Kevin Jones @ MIN 15
13 Edgerrin James KC 13
14 Laurence Maroney MIA 16
15 Dominic Rhodes TEN 18
16 Chester Taylor DET 6
17 Deuce McAllister TB 19
18 Fred Taylor NYJ 22
19 Joseph Addai TEN 21
20 Willis McGahee @ CHI 10
21 DeShaun Foster CLE 26
22 Willie Parker @ SD bye
23 Kevan Barlow @ JAC 20
24 Reggie Bush TB 24
25 Corey Dillon MIA 27
26 Vernand Morency STL NR
27 Carnell Williams @ NO bye
28 Reuben Droughns @ CAR 17
29 Jamal Lewis @ DEN 28
30 Chris Brown @ IND 35
31 Tatum Bell BAL bye
32 LenDale White @ IND NR
33 Michael Robinson OAK 32
34 Maurice Jones-Drew NYJ 36
35 DeAngelo Williams CLE 38
36 Ladell Betts @ NYG 39
37 Marion Barber @ PHI 34
38 Brandon Jacobs WAS bye
39 Leon Washington @ JAC NR
40 Mike Bell BAL bye

Notes: Johnson backed up my No. 1 rating last week by scoring twice and rushing for over 100 yards (though it took him 30 carries to do it). There's little question the breakup of the Chiefs' great offensive line from the past few years hurts LJ going forward, but Arizona isn't good at stopping the run, so I think you're looking at another score or two this week … Portis ran like a full-grown man against a bruised Jags' D (though the truth is: Portis did a lot of the bruising). Fantasy owners who weathered the season's first month are going to be happy from here on in. For sure, Betts is getting more carries than one might've thought in July, but Portis has the second-highest scoring average among fantasy backs so far in '06 … Tomlinson returns to his rightful place near the top, and will look much better at home against Pittsburgh than he did at Baltimore. The Steelers are still good against the run (their weakness is against the pass), but LDT is due for a score … Stop fumbling, Frank Gore … I've ranked Westbrook here as though he's going to play free and easy. The good thing about Andy Reid is that if he decides a questionable guy can play, he'll use that guy without prejudice. The bad thing about Andy Reid is you have no friggin' idea what "questionable" means before game time. And darn it all, the Eagles/Cowboys game is a 4 p.m. ET start. I'll update Westbrook in a couple of days … Maroney is still a platoon back, and his team is facing the fifth-stingiest defense against fantasy backs, but I've still got him at No. 14. Anyone who watched him spring his runs outside last weekend in Cincinnati knows he's going to be one amazing pro. He's a must-start … As I said in my Sunday notes, I'd start both Rhodes and Addai against weak rush defenses. Tennessee's qualifies … The Bills' rush defense showed some life last week, but I'd still expect the Bears to shred Buffalo on the ground. At some point soon, Chicago is going to need to show that it's multidimensional on offense, if only to make teams prepare for things other than Rex Grossman chucking the ball down the field … I've ranked Morency as though Ahman Green won't play. I don't have all the details right now on Green's hamstring, but initial word was that the hammy that kept him out on Monday night wasn't the one that had kept him questionable all last week. That's not good news. If either guy gets the bulk of the carries against the Rams, he can have a good fantasy day … A good rushing day is there for the taking for a Tennessee back, because Indy hasn't slowed down anyone's run game yet, but it's hard to know who'll get the ball. If it were me, I'd sit down (or trade) Chris Brown right now, and let White have a crack at the job full time. I know he's out of shape. But you're not winning anyway; let the guy throw up a few times on the field. Nothing like upchuck to convince someone he should work out more.

Wide Receivers

Rank Name Opponent Week 4 Rating
1 Torry Holt @ GB 1
2 Steve Smith CLE 5
3 Marvin Harrison TEN 3
4 Terrell Owens @ PHI 15
5 Plaxico Burress WAS bye
6 Santana Moss @ NYG 19
7 Donald Driver STL 4
8 Chris Chambers @ NE 8
9 Laveranues Coles @ JAC 14
10 Larry Fitzgerald KC 6
11 Roy Williams @ MIN 12
12 Isaac Bruce @ GB 26
13 Terry Glenn @ PHI 22
14 Reggie Wayne TEN 10
15 Javon Walker BAL bye
16 Hines Ward @ SD bye
17 Anquan Boldin KC 9
18 Reggie Williams NYJ 28
19 Marques Colston TB 25
20 Jerricho Cotchery @ JAC 29
21 Greg Jennings STL 31
22 Bernard Berrian BUF 30
23 Reggie Brown DAL 23
24 Doug Gabriel MIA 33
25 Braylon Edwards @ CAR 21
26 Troy Williamson DET 43
27 Muhsin Muhammad BUF 16
28 Joey Galloway @ NO bye
29 Randy Moss @ SF 13
30 Amani Toomer WAS bye
31 Keyshawn Johnson CLE 37
32 Eddie Kennison @ ARI 27
33 Keenan McCardell PIT 46
34 Drew Bennett @ IND 24
35 Antonio Bryant OAK 20
36 Mike Furrey @ MIN 45
37 Rod Smith BAL bye
38 Matt Jones NYJ 35
39 Greg Lewis DAL NR
40 Michael Clayton @ NO bye
41 Derrick Mason @ DEN 39
42 Lee Evans @ CHI 42
43 Antwaan Randle El @ NYG NR
44 Joe Horn TB 44
45 Chad Jackson MIA NR
46 Marcus Robinson DET NR
47 Joe Jurevicius @ CAR NR
48 Cedrick Wilson @ SD bye
49 Devery Henderson TB 49
50 Ernest Wilford NYJ 41

Notes: I know opponents and the press are saying that Steve Smith doesn't look like he has his usual burst, but 10 catches for 87 yards and a score is just fine by me. Is he going to rack up a 200-yard game at some point? Maybe not. But as long as he's on the field, he's in your lineup. You have to live dangerously with him now … Does anyone here not think that Owens is going to get at least one score in Philly? … Burress and Driver are each going to be listed as "questionable" at mid-week. Obviously, I've ranked them here as though they'll start. Donte' Stallworth, however, looks shakier to me, so I don't have him on the board right now … Again, I don't consider this high rating of Santana Moss an overreaction to one good game; the Giants are dreadful in the secondary … As are the Lions, which explains why Bruce rises 14 spots. Boy, I was sure wrong about him being past the end of his fantasy usefulness. It's getting to the point now where you can start the dude almost any week … The highest-scoring fantasy receiver who'll be active in Week 5 is Glenn. Considering how banged-up the Eagles are in the secondary and how much attention they'll give T.O., it isn't a stretch to think Glenn'll score again … I anticipate a legion of angry Pittsburgh emailers (I know you're out there, believe me), but I can't justify a spot in the top-15 for Ward any longer, not until Roethlisberger gets right. In fact, I probably pre-bowed to the inevitable email onslaught by putting Ward as high as I did. I don't think I'd start him in San Diego if I had alternatives … Colston is a great story. I have to think that at some point, teams are going to start paying attention to him. Well, actually, Carolina did pay attention to him; they just let him run in a long one in garbage time … Jennings is every bit as good as his small-conference clippings indicated. He was the best player on the field for the Packers on Monday night … Gabriel is proving he's WR1 material in New England. He's made at least one circus catch every week … McCardell can have a sneaky, out-of-nowhere week against a shaky Pittsburgh secondary that'll be focused on the running game and the tight end … Randy Moss scored last week, which justified my high ranking for him, but then he opened his big mouth and said how he didn't really care that much about football. I know, Randy is just being Randy, but the dude's on-field effort looked questionable even when he professed to care. With Andrew Walter underthrowing everything and everybody, a Randy Revolt isn't far away.

Tight Ends

Rank Name Opponent Week 4 Rating
1 Jeremy Shockey
WAS
bye
2 Marques Colston
TB
6
3 Kellen Winslow @ CAR 7
4 Heath Miller @ SD bye
5 Antonio Gates PIT 1
6 Todd Heap @ DEN 5
7 Tony Gonzalez @ ARI 2
8 Eric Johnson OAK 10
9 L.J. Smith DAL 4
10 Jermaine Wiggins DET 19
11 Chris Cooley @ NYG 13
12 Dallas Clark TEN 11
13 Desmond Clark
BUF
16
14 Jason Witten
@ PHI
8
15 Ben Troupe @ IND 22
16 Benjamin Watson MIA 9
17 Chris Baker @ JAC 12
18 Alex Smith @ NO bye
19 Joe Klopfenstein @ GB 23
20 Daniel Graham MIA 21
21 George Wrighster NYJ 20
22 Randy McMichael @ NE 18
23 Bo Scaife @ IND 15
24 Stephen Alexander BAL bye
25 Bubba Franks STL 17
26 Bryan Fletcher
TEN
26
27 David Martin STL 24
28 Courtney Anderson
@ SF
25

Notes: I've almost completely taken the Colston plunge. I get at least 10 emails a week from readers who are frustrated with Colston's tight-end eligibility in Yahoo! games, and it really has shifted the balance of power in a lot of leagues. Heck, Colston beat me bad last week. But that's part of the fun of fantasy, I guess: the unexpected guy who comes out of nowhere. I doubt anyone was complaining about Colston's positional eligibility before he started going loony. Anyway, we're stuck with it … Shockey has a good matchup against the Redskins' linebackers, and will look to make an impact in his first game since shooting off his mouth in a locker room in Seattle. Since he's not getting suspended by the team, I think he'll overcome his balky ankle and play well … Miller plays in one of the few areas where the Steelers' offense could actually have an advantage over the Chargers' defense. San Diego is giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends … Gates will probably score and make my demotion of him look silly, but the Pittsburgh linebackers give up just more than one fantasy point per game to tight ends … Eric Johnson disappointed last week, but then again, didn't every Niner? The Raiders can't cover tight ends; they and the Lions vie for worst in the league, which explains the elevated status of Johnson and Wiggins … I'm tired of waiting for Watson. Every announcer who comes to town spends five minutes raving about his athleticism, his speed, his run after Champ Bailey in last year's playoffs. But it would be nice if Watson would turn in an elite game once … Wrighster was targeted a surprising seven times last week by Byron Leftwich. The Marcedes Lewis Era hasn't quite begun yet.

Kickers

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

Notes: The cream of the fantasy kicking crop so far this year has been Wilkins, Gould, Kaeding and Carney. These four kickers have turned in 12 double-digit weeks, two weeks of nine points, and one week of four points (Carney, last week). Needless to say, these were not the top four guys on anyone's draft board. Here then, friends, is why you don't pay for kickers … Vinatieri is reputed to be ready to play, and probably would've played last week had the turf been dry in New York. When he's right, I expect Automatic Adam to join the ranks of the elite … Gould is bumped down just a little because Buffalo hasn't given up many points to kickers (second-fewest in the league, after San Diego) … Arizona's and Detroit's defenses are the only ones who average double-digits allowed to kickers. In Arizona's case, they've allowed 10, 3, 11 and 18. Meanwhile, the Lions have allowed 12, 11, 7 and 18. That explains why Tynes and Longwell have decent shots at good weeks … Vanderjagt is kooky, but I was surprised to see he's in the top 10 in average fantasy points per game at his position … San Diego hasn't had a single field goal attempted on them. That's weird, and I'd expect it wouldn't hold up for long. Still, I think the Steelers will have a tough time moving the ball, and Reed has scored the fewest points of any kicker in the game.

Defenses

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

Notes: I feel pretty good about the first three defenses listed here, and then it's just about anybody's ballgame … The Colts are banged-up and looked extremely mortal on defense against the Jets last week, but Vince Young in his first road game doesn't sound like a recipe for success … The Panthers have been extraordinarily disappointing on defense, but they showed signs of getting it together last week; yardage and scoring numbers were skewed because of some garbage-time plays … The Steelers are tough and can stop the run, but they've shown very little pass defense this year … The Rams gave up a pant-load of points last week, but their defense turns the ball over like crazy … The Eagles are decimated in the secondary and on the defensive line (well, at least Jevon Kearse is gone), yet they've still got some great players on defense … The Cowboys are a very good defense, but they're facing the hottest offense in football … The Chiefs are, eesh, let me just say it's hurting my stomach having them in the top 10. See what I mean about everyone but the top three being flawed? … Jacksonville didn't play well at all on defense against Washington. The players claim it was just a lack of execution, but the injuries are piling up. The Jets will present an interesting challenge; Chad Pennington's offense has played really well, and has turned it over just five times in four games. We'll see … Denver has good personnel and is playing at home, but the Ravens' offense is so conservative, it just seems unlikely that they'll make very many mistakes … Buffalo is the big dropper, because the Bears' offense is starting to look really, really good.