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.
Terrell Owens (Pianowski rank 23, Y! composite 15)
While Owens deserves some of the blame for his recent slump - he's probably lost a half step as he approaches his 35th birthday and he doesn't beat the jam at the line like he used to - I'm aiming the red flag at Brad Johnson and his shot-put arm. A 60.3 quarterback rating and 5.3 yards per attempt simply doesn't feed the cat, and Johnson's play has torpedoed TO the last two weeks (seven catches, 64 yards, no touchdowns). Johnson isn't comfortable making intermediate and deep throws, and up against the Giants pass rush this week, I don't see anything changing.
It's not the first time we've seen an Alpha Dog receiver hamstrung by spotty quarterback play - consider the Steve Smith disaster last year in Carolina, or what Randy Moss has lost downshifting from Tom Brady to Matt Cassel. Owens is worth considering a deep No. 2 receiver or a risk-reward No. 3, I suppose, but I'm not restoring his auto-start status until Tony Romo rides back into the pocket. Those swimming in shallow leagues can legitimately consider benching Owens this week.
Steve Slaton (Funston rank 13, Y! composite 18)
No doubt, Minnesota is nasty against the run (2.9 yards per carry allowed). But its strength lies up the gut with the two Williams'. There have been backs that have had success against the Vikings this season, namely quick versatile types - Chris Johnson (75 yards from scrimmage, 2 TDs in Week 4); Reggie Bush (93 yfs in Week 5). Slaton is very capable of working the outside and can supplement his ground game with his excellent ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Houston is a hard team to contain on offense given the abundance of weapons - Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Owen Daniels, Slaton. I fully expect Matt Schaub to be able to move the ball down into the red zone a few times on Sunday. And Slaton has been one of the most heavily-used backs in the league inside the 20 - his 24 red zone carries rank eighth among RBs, while no back has equaled his eight red zone targets. As you can see, there's a good reason Slaton has scored in five of the past six games. I'm betting that he'll make it six out of his last seven on Sunday.
Eddie Royal (Behrens rank 10, Y! composite 18)
First of all, Royal's Week 9 match-up is outstanding. Denver faces Miami, and the Dolphins are allowing the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Royal is getting 8.8 targets per game, and he has nine receptions in three of his six efforts so far this year. We learned back in Week 1 that Royal was unusually elusive, and unusually refined as a route-runner. There's absolutely no benching him this week. The match-up is appealing, and the player is both exceptionally skilled and heavily-used.
Clinton Portis (Noise rank 20, Y! composite 12)
The Drag Queen of Mean may walk the streets of D.C. in a flamboyant OJ costume Halloween night, but his Week 9 tally probably won't frighten any memorabilia dealers. Battling a tender ankle and hip, the No. 1 ranked rusher in Y! fantasy will be brutalized by Dick LeBeau's stalwart 3-4 defense. Over the past four weeks, the Steelers have yielded just 3.0 yards per carry, 108.3 total yards per game and two scores to backs, equal to the sixth-fewest points allowed. Plus, Pittsburgh has not surrendered a 100-yard rusher in nine straight contests.
Yes, Portis will get his customary 25 touches, but the Steely McBeam's stingy all-around defense will drive a stake into the heart of Washington's offense. Don't bench Portis in 12-team and deeper leagues but less than stellar results are very possible. Fearless Forecast: 23 carries, 82 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 9 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns.
Aaron Rodgers (Funston rank 8, Y! composite 11)
I'm feeling pretty confident that a fairly unimaginative runner like Ryan Grant is not going to have success against a blue-collar Titans defense. After handing Grant the ball 30-plus times in each of the past two games, I fully expect that Green Bay is going to sell out to the pass this week. It's not an uncommon way to go for teams opposing Tennessee - the Titans have seen the third-most pass attempts against (35.4 per game). I can see Rodgers throwing the ball a season-high 40-plus times this week. He's done a good job of limiting turnovers, a trait he'll need against a defense that has amassed 12 INTs, thus far. His shoulder woes behind him, with an extra week to game-plan for the Titans, I'm willing to gamble on Rodgers as a top 10 play.
Gus Frerotte (Noise rank 8, Y! composite 14)
If Frerotte doesn't hurl his noggin into a concrete barrier, he'll post top-10 QB numbers. Most would argue Brad Childress' offense is at times overly conservative, but based on Houston's defensive weaknesses, the revitalized signal caller should be able to connect with Bernard Berrian and unsung PPR machine Bobby Wade numerous times. Since Week 4, the Texans have conceded 237.4 passing yards and 1.4 touchdowns to QBs, equal to the ninth-most fantasy points allowed.
Adrian Peterson should break several sparkling runs, which in turn will create opportunities for the passing attack downfield. Sure, you can expect Frerotte to make a boneheaded play or two but 250-plus yards and multiple TD passes are attainable. Keep in mind he's averaged 270.5 yards per game in his past four contests, the sixth-highest mark during that span. Fearless Forecast: 21-36, 277 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Jerricho Cotchery (Pianowski rank 27, Y! composite 15)
Again it's a case of the quarterback bringing the wideout down - Brett Favre hasn't played well since the bye week (three touchdowns, seven interceptions, crummy 65.7 rating) and we have to consider that as we evaluate the entire Jets passing game. Is Favre hiding an injury? What's happened to the normal zip on his throws? As for Cotchery, he's probably a solid enough play if you just want some yards and catches, but I can't ignore that he hasn't scored a touchdown in five of his last six starts. Laveranues Coles is the preferred guy in this offense, with Cotchery the No. 2, and even when those guys are open against Buffalo (and you can beat this Bills secondary), I'm not sure the deliveries will be on target.
Donald Lee (Behrens rank 10, Y! composite 15)
If the Packers are going to do anything through the air against Tennessee, one of the league's stingiest defenses, then there's a good chance that tight end Donald Lee will be involved. The Titans have allowed the second-fewest points to opposing WRs, but the seventh-most to TEs.
Yeah, OK, "seventh-most" doesn't really excite anyone. But Dallas Clark had a big game against Tennessee in Week 8 (seven catches, 94 yards, two TDs), and he let a few points slip through his fingers, too. In Week 7, Tony Gonzalez also had a useful game against the Titans (six receptions, 97 yards). Donald Lee isn't as talented as those two, of course, but he does have touchdown receptions in two of the Packers' last three games. After Mason Crosby, I'd give Lee the best odds to score for Green Bay in Week 9.