Every Friday during the NFL season, we'll review the Yahoo! weekly position ranks. If an expert breaks from the herd on a particular player, they'll be asked to show their work. You're encouraged to discuss the wisdom or lunacy of these opinions in comments.
Ryan Grant: No. 23 in Evans' RB ranks, No. 12 in the composite ranks
Over the past five weeks, Grant has torched opponents like habanero cheese does the tongue. During that stretch his 102.8 rushing yards per game, three touchdowns and 15.2 fantasy points per game mark since Week 7 ranks eighth among tugboats. But despite his amazing reversal of fortune, he likely won't earn many beads on Bourbon Street.
Defensively, the Saints have been unpleasant hosts to rushers this season. In five clashes under the Superdome lights, they've not surrendered an RB touchdown and have limited plowshares to 3.8 yards per carry and 83.6 rushing yards per game. Remember how they humiliated Adrian Peterson Monday Night in Week 5?
Because the Saints are not an overly aggressive team like Chicago, they should have success containing Grant at the line of scrimmage. However, if they blitz too often, Grant will have a monster game. The Noise is banking on the former.
Fearless Forecast: 22 carries, 87 rushing yards, 0 touchdowns.
And a little more Ryan Grant: No. 8 in Pianowski's RB ranks, still No. 12 composite
Disagreeing with Brad Evans is often a risky proposition, but here's one instance where I feel quite confident up against The Noise (perhaps we need to wager something on the outcome). Grant's on top of his game right now, and the results are coming against elite run-stopping units. He wasn't supposed to run at Tennessee three games back, but he cranked out 4.3 yards a pop. Doom was predicted at Minnesota two weeks ago, but he came through with 4.7 a carry and a touchdown. The Bears looked like a nasty matchup last Sunday, but Grant laughed at that, collecting 145 yards and a score.
The Saints have allowed just five rushing touchdowns on the year, but make no mistake, this is no great front seven (4.3 YPC allowed). The job New Orleans did against Adrian Peterson earlier in the year doesn't apply as I see it; Minnesota's spotty passing game allows you to take liberties with your run-stopping scheme, but you can't apply the same logic against the balanced Packers offense. Grant leads the NFL in carries over the last six weeks, he's fourth in yards, and he's starting to plow into the end zone again. What's not to like? I'm calling for 100-plus yards and another end-zone visit from No. 25.
Sage Rosenfels: No. 6 in Funston's QB ranks, No. 12 composite
The Browns have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, and they are trending even worse, having allowed the most fantasy points to signal-callers over the past five weeks. And that’s not all about Jay Cutler and his 447 passing yards and three touchdown passes against Cleveland a couple Thursdays ago. That five-week span also includes a 283-yard, two TD effort from David Garrard and a 248-yard, two TD effort from Joe Flacco, not exactly a couple of Air Force generals. This week, things are even more problematic for the Browns as SS Sean Jones, one of their better defenders, is dealing with a sore ankle and is questionable for Sunday. The Browns also don’t put much pressure on the quarterback (just 14 sacks), so Rosenfels should have time to work with his talented receiving corps. Our brain-trust likes Houston’s matchup enough to rank Andre Johnson No. 1 and Kevin Walter No. 19 among WRs, Owen Daniels No. 5 among TEs and versatile rookie Steve Slaton No. 10 among RBs. If that all pans out, then it’s really hard to figure how Rosenfels could land outside the QB top 10. I think he’s in line for at least 250 passing yards and a couple of touchdowns.
Matt Cassel: No. 7 in Behrens' QB ranks, No. 14 composite
In addition to making himself tens of millions of dollars last Thursday night, Matt Cassel also demonstrated that he's a quarterback who needs to be taken seriously by fantasy owners. The game-tying touchdown throw to Moss was exceptional, and the earlier TDs to Gaffney and Watson weren't so bad, either. Cassel appears far more decisive than he did earlier in the season. Miami's Jason Ferguson said it well:
“He’s not as young as he was when he played us. It’s Cassel now, not the replacement for Brady,” Ferguson said.
Miami won't be thrashing the Pats this time, as they did in Week 3. Cassel has delivered 200 or more passing yards in six of his past seven games, and he's coming off the 400-yard effort against the Jets. Miami allows the fifth-most passing yards in the AFC (223.9 per game), and of course you know about the receiving weapons. This is both an essential game for New England, and something of a revenge game. I like the set-up to this one, and I've been impressed by the new guy at the controls for the Pats.
While Wes Welker has been allergic to the end zone for most of the season, he's still been slightly more fantasy-valuable than Randy Moss over the last six weeks (46-467-1 for Welker, 29-341-3 for Moss). It's not difficult to connect the dots on this one; Matt Cassel is at his best throwing short routes to receivers in single coverage (hello Welker), while Moss spends most of his day running intermediate and deep routes against a corner and shadowing safety. The Miami secondary has been strong against No. 1 receivers this year but leaky against support guys, and that sets up well for Welker, the former Dolphin. It's time to recalibrate the New England receivers; Welker is the safest play, not Moss. Look for the slot machine to pay out to the tune of eight catches, 93 yards and a score on Sunday.
Kerry Collins: No. 12 in Evans' ranks, No. 20 composite
Collins, who is an aspiring Roger Miller, is a man of means by no means, king of the road. Sure, he may not be an elite contributor, but Kerry's vertical highway has recently been paved with gold. Over the past two weeks, the ancient slinger has averaged 259.5 passing yards and tossed five touchdowns. This week, his numbers should push the top-ten threshold.
The Jets, led by back snacker Kris Jenkins, have stamped out the run for much of the season. Since Week 7, they've yielded just 3.2 yards per carry, zero touchdowns and 111.8 total yards per game to rushers, equal to the second-fewest fantasy points allowed.
Due to New York's inflexible interior line, the Dinger will uncork Collins again to generate yardage. His fantasy impact may not rival Matt Cassel's points bonanza from a week ago, but 240-260 yards and 2-3 scores seem inevitable.
Fearless Forecast: 27-39, 244 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception.
Jerricho Cotchery: No. 39 in Funston's ranks, No. 29 composite
First, and foremost, Cotchery’s matchup is brutal. The Titans have allowed just one TD and one 100-yard game to a WR – both accomplished by Donald Driver in Week 9. So you simply can’t expect much production from Cotchery or Laveranues Coles. But I like Coles, with his gritty, underneath type of game – kinda like Donald Driver – to turn out slightly better numbers than Cotchery in this one. Cotchery has been prone to disappearing acts this season, having three times been held to just one catch. And his TD in Week 11 was his first in the past six weeks. There’s just no way you can spin optimism for Cotchery out of this matchup. And my No. 39 ranking sends the necessary message that you’ll want to avoid him entirely.
Justin Fargas: No. 17 in Behrens' ranks, No. 26 composite
This ranking really says more about the quality of Fargas' Week 12 opponent (Denver) than it says about him. The Raiders ran well against the Broncos in Week 1, despite getting blown out. In a game Oakland lost by 27 points, they still had 150 rushing yards and they averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Fargas finished with 109 total yards.
Simply put, everyone runs on Denver; they allow 143.1 rushing yards per game. Fargas still sits atop the depth chart for the Raiders, even though Darren McFadden should see increased work this week. It's tough for me to sit any back who's in line for 15 or more carries against the Broncos.
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