The Big Rotowski: Week 9 Ranks

Christopher Harris
Yahoo! Sports

Note: As of Friday, updated Week 9 rankings can be found HERE

The Yahoo! Friends & Family league is going swimmingly for yours truly; along with Matt Buser, I sit at 6-2 (I've got the tiebreaker because I beat Buser) in first place in the "Family" division. It's hard to look back at Brad Evans's preview of the league and not feel a little gleeful. Here's what Evans wrote about his team (now 2-6), while giving his own drafting skills an A-:

"With running back depth, a solid one-two punch of Anquan Boldin and Plaxico Burress, and fantasy Hercules Shaun Alexander on the roster, this will be a contending team. Although straying away from my typical RB-RB motif, the dynamics of a three wide receiver league alters the landscape of a draft. If Deuce McAllister can be the goal-line plowshare and an improved Cleveland Browns offensive line can help elevate Reuben Droughns to a solid No. 2, the 'Big Noise' will be the braggart come Christmas."

And here's what El Ruido Grande wrote about Yahoo!'s own Joe Lago, who is currently 5-3, and whose draft Evans graded a D:

"Drafting in the always-difficult eight spot, this team would have a tough time passing the Wonderlic Test. After Rudi Johnson, Lago's second back will be a deplorable rotation of Mike Anderson, Duce Staley and Cedric Houston (ed.'s note: It's Travis Henry.) Loaded with four sensational wide receivers, he will need to pawn one off to have any shot of making the playoffs. To drive the knife deeper, he was the first to commit fantasy football suicide, taking kicker Adam Vinatieri in Round 12. The vultures are already circling."

Lesson #1: People shouldn't grade drafts in which they partake.

Lesson #2: People shouldn't diss Adam Vinatieri.

And here, really, is my point. Like many standard leagues, the Friends & Family scoring is QB-friendly (21 of the league's top 25 scorers are QBs). Ignoring signal-callers for the moment, the top five in average fantasy points-per-game in the F&F goes like this: LaDainian Tomlinson (23.6), Larry Johnson (22.2), Brian Westbrook (18.6), Steven Jackson (15.2) and, you guessed it, Adam Vinatieri (14.5). Wow. Automatic Adam, who, admittedly, has only played four games in '06, has posted games of 15, 14, 13 and 16 fantasy points. On a per-game basis, he's outdoing Kevin Jones, Torry Holt, Frank Gore and a host of others.

Obviously, this implies you should rush right out and trade Jones, Holt and/or Gore for Vinatieri.

Okay, no it doesn't. But it does tell you good kickers on powerful offenses are not to be scoffed at. Can you count on Vinatieri for double-digit output in every game this year? Probably not. But it's worth noting that the experts' universal (and justified) pre-draft disdain for fantasy kickers shouldn't bleed into the regular season. The reason we diss kickers before your draft is we really don't know which guys will play well when the games start (see: Robbie Gould vs. Neil Rackers). But once an in-season hierarchy has been established, good kickers rock. Vinatieri, Gould, Jeff Wilkins and Nate Kaeding all average double digits so far this year, and in the 25 combined games they've played, they've failed to hit double digits just seven times. Heck, over the course of a season, that'll win you a couple of close games. Just like real-life NFL special teams.

A note about next week: Because I'll be traveling to a Yahoo! confab in Las Vegas (mine is a hard road to hoe), the Week 10 Big Rotowski rankings may be up a little late, and they most assuredly won't contain the textual explanations you've come to know and love. I'll make it up to you someday by publishing a novel that consists entirely of reasons why you shouldn't start Matt Leinart.

On to Week 9. Remember: Carolina, Arizona, Philadelphia and the New York Jets 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

Notes: My sublimation to the Vick Side is finally complete … Peyton Manning was awesome against Denver, so I got that one right, and I'm sure he'll be quite good against New England. Vick's match-up in Detroit would appear to be a somewhat friendlier affair, though, and there will be some who point to Bill Belichick's record against Peyton as indication that you should get clever with your lineup. Don't … Brady was awesome against Minnesota, but don't expect the same strategy this week against the Colts. New England will be able to run against Indy, and half of me thinks they went pass-happy against the Vikings specifically to give Tony Dungy pause before he commits to putting eight in the box … Brees is the king of garbage time. It's almost better for his fantasy owners if the Saints get down big early … Palmer played well against the Falcons, but it was still the Falcons, playing without John Abraham. The Ravens' ball of wax is a whole 'nother … Alex Smith was low last week because of the Bears. It's not like I suddenly think the Niners are going to go cowboy on the Vikes this week, but this is about where I'd have Smith rated generally … Romo made all the throws against a Carolina defense that's much better than Washington's. You can start him … Plummer played extremely well against the Colts last week, and the Steelers' secondary has been dreadful all season. I think the Denver passing game continues to get well this week in Pittsburgh … I'll probably eat my words for putting Losman this high, but oh well. Matt Leinart couldn't make the less-than-talented Packers' secondary pay; we'll see if Losman can. If he can't, you'll hear the Kelly Holcomb cries far and wide … McNair played a very good game in New Orleans, but I still contend the Saints' defense isn't nearly as good as its results for the first couple months. Still, Cincy's D is injured, and not great to begin with … Brad Johnson has a great match-up against the hapless Niners, but with his receivers ailing and his instincts so conservative, I don't know that he'll ever really bust out with a huge game … Roethlisberger is the subject of much speculation; I think we have to take the kid at his word that he's not suffering from any PMSDs (post-motorcycle stress disorders). It may just be that he's not that great. As the supporting cast around him wears down, he's getting exposed as a guy who makes enough big mistakes to kill you. He was very good down the stretch last year when teams were focused on the Parker/Bettis battering ram; as Parker has struggled to get near four yards a carry, the focus is landing more on Big Ben. He's spit the bit so far.

Running Backs

Rank

Name

Opponent

Week 8 Rating

1

LaDainian Tomlinson

CLE

1

2

Larry Johnson

@ STL

3

3

Steven Jackson

KC

7

4

Tiki Barber

HOU

5

5

Chester Taylor

@ SF

9

6

Clinton Portis

DAL

bye

7

Ahman Green

@ BUF

14

8

Willie Parker

DEN

4

9

Warrick Dunn

@ DET

6

10

Frank Gore

MIN

19

11

Kevin Jones

ATL

bye

12

Julius Jones

@ WAS

12

13

Fred Taylor

TEN

17

14

Willis McGahee

GB

bye

15

Travis Henry

@ JAC

11

16

Laurence Maroney

IND

23

17

Deuce McAllister

@ TB

22

18

Rudi Johnson

@ BAL

10

19

Ronnie Brown

@ CHI

bye

20

Corey Dillon

IND

24

21

Thomas Jones

MIA

13

22

Carnell Williams

NO

15

23

Maurice Jones-Drew

TEN

25

24

Jamal Lewis

CIN

27

25

Joseph Addai

@ NE

26

26

Reuben Droughns

@ SD

18

27

Maurice Morris

OAK

24

28

LaMont Jordan

@ SEA

NR

29

Mike Bell

@ PIT

NR

30

Marion Barber

@ WAS

33

31

Brandon Jacobs

HOU

31

32

Reggie Bush

@ TB

30

33

Jerious Norwood

@ DET

36

34

Dominic Rhodes

@ NE

28

35

Wali Lundy

@ NYG

21

36

Cedric Benson

MIA

34

37

Noah Herron

@ BUF

NR

38

Justin Fargas

@ SEA

35

39

Najeh Davenport

DEN

40

40

LenDale White

@ JAC

38

Notes: While Tomlinson and Larry Johnson continue their weekly greatness, Shaun Alexander will reportedly sit at least one more week. He's clearly the disappointment of 2006. Madden Curse! Madden Curse! Madden Curse! … This is easily the highest I've had Green rated in the past three seasons. Partly, it's that he looks pretty healthy. Partly, it's that Vernand Morency went down, and Noah Herron isn't really much of a change-of-pace guy. Partly, it's that Buffalo has been increasingly easier to run against as the season has gone on … Why doesn't Parker slide, when guys like Rudi Johnson and Ronnie Brown do? FWP seems to be able to wring touchdowns out of games where he's otherwise stopped. With Verron Haynes out for the year, Parker may not see more touches, but he certainly won't see fewer … Gore emerges from two-week limbo: first a bye, then a game in Chicago. I know Minnesota hasn't given up a lot of rushing yards, but I still think the ends and linebackers can be had via the run. Obviously, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams plug up the middle pretty well … If McGahee can't do anything between this week's home game against the Packers and next week's roadie against the Colts, he's not fantasy-worthy for the rest of the year … A combined Maroney/Dillon monster (a "Dilloney," if you will) would be a top-10 back at home against a reeling Colts rush defense. As it is, you can start either one, and cross your fingers … McAllister looks more and more enticing as Bush becomes more and more marginalized. Don't get too down on Bush; last week, he was up against one of the few defenses that could almost match his speed. Still, as Sean Payton becomes disavowed of the notion that Bush is ready to be a 15-carry-a-game back, McAllister's worth ekes upward … Cadillac Williams was a disappointment last week against the Giants, so I've dutifully bumped him down. But I went on record on a Yahoo! video this week that I thought Caddy would be a decent bet to break out at home against the Saints. New Orleans has only given up two rushing touchdowns, but it's 28th in yards-per-carry allowed. Out of the Meadowlands wind, the Bucs will be able to throw enough to keep the Saints honest, and Williams can turn in a decent day, his first in a while … As weeks go by, Addai is more and more The Man in Indy. Tony Dungy says he wants to continue the platoon, and the chance for cannibalized scores is always there. Still, Addai has clearly emerged as the more effective back … Morris owners get a reprieve from the executioner. He should be okay this week against Oakland … After reading Tatum Bell's quotes about his tootsie-wootsies, I've got him completely off of this week's board. Mike Bell looked great against the Colts, but the Steelers ain't the Colts (at least on run defense). If I can convince myself Tatum will play, I'll adjust on Friday … I let myself be suckered into ranking Lundy higher than I believed he should've been last week. I think it's safe to say maybe Lundymania has ebbed a bit … Who starts for Oakland? I have no idea. Jordan did play last week, but Fargas got three times the carries. If one guy could take the job, he'd be a good play against a slumping Seattle D.

Wide Receivers

Rank

Name

Opponent

Week 8 Rating

1

Torry Holt

KC

2

2

Darrell Jackson

OAK

10

3

Marvin Harrison

@ NE

7

4

Terrell Owens

@ WAS

6

5

Roy Williams

ATL

bye

6

Chad Johnson

@ BAL

9

7

Plaxico Burress

HOU

11

8

Andre Johnson

@ NYG

5

9

Javon Walker

@ PIT

21

10

Reggie Wayne

@ NE

13

11

Randy Moss

@ SEA

12

12

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

@ BAL

4

13

Santana Moss

DAL

bye

14

Donald Driver

@ BUF

16

15

Marques Colston

@ TB

18

16

Bernard Berrian

MIA

17

17

Hines Ward

DEN

15

18

Terry Glenn

@ WAS

22

19

Joe Horn

@ TB

27

20

Eddie Kennison

@ STL

23

21

Lee Evans

GB

bye

22

Chris Chambers

@ CHI

bye

23

Reggie Williams

TEN

20

24

Antonio Bryant

MIN

34

25

Amani Toomer

HOU

33

26

Mike Furrey

ATL

bye

27

Michael Jenkins

@ DET

45

28

Isaac Bruce

KC

37

29

Muhsin Muhammad

MIA

25

30

Joey Galloway

NO

24

31

Deion Branch

OAK

30

32

Doug Gabriel

IND

29

33

Braylon Edwards

@ SD

35

34

Greg Jennings

@ BUF

NR

35

Drew Bennett

@ JAC

40

36

Troy Williamson

@ SF

36

37

Mark Clayton

CIN

41

38

Rod Smith

@ PIT

NR

39

Arnaz Battle

MIN

44

40

Chris Henry

@ BAL

NR

41

Chad Jackson

IND

42

42

Eric Moulds

@ NYG

38

43

Marty Booker

@ CHI

bye

44

Michael Clayton

NO

43

45

Matt Jones

TEN

NR

46

Kevin Curtis

KC

NR

47

Santonio Holmes

DEN

46

48

Derrick Mason

CIN

47

49

Joe Jurevicius

@ SD

39

50

Wes Welker

@ CHI

bye

Notes: I wussed out and moved Darrell Jackson down from fifth to 10th in last week's Friday update … The notion that Peyton Manning is still freaked out by what Bill Belichick throws at him is antiquated. Manning kicked that bugaboo last year. I think Harrison gets more attention this week; he tends to outshine Wayne in New England games anyway, and Manning likes to even things out between his stars … Owens has got to be pretty happy with Tony Romo (The Place For Ribs). His new quarterback targeted T.O. 16 times in Sunday night's win … I've relented on my ratings of Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh. Given the respective attention defenses continue to pay them, I still think Housh is probably a better overall bet, but if Carson Palmer has decided to force the ball in to 7/11 no matter what (last week, Johnson got 13 targets; Housh got seven), Johnson's going to outperform his long-named friend … I heard a radio interview with Burress this week in which he (punkishly) said, "Ain't no one can cover me when I decide I don't want to be covered." This begs the question: are there circumstances in which Plax decides he does want to be covered? Answer: Last year's wild card game against Carolina. … Colston is a garbage-time freak. The great news about him is I've decided to stop answering emails about his tight-end eligibility. Man, I feel so much more peaceful … Kennison turned in his best game of the season last week against Seattle, and things should be similarly rosy against a Rams defense that's struggled over the last month … Lee Evans is someone else I'm picking to break out of his slump this week. I know he's subject to the whims of J.P. Losman, but he's big and fast, which fits a profile that Green Bay doesn't typically cover well … Reggie Williams suffers if David Garrard starts for Byron Leftwich. Leftwich and Williams have built a solid rapport, and Williams was targeted only three times (still tops among Jags wideouts) with Garrard at the helm last week. Still, Williams could've had a touchdown if he wasn't an alchemist, still capable of occasionally transmogrifying his hands into stone … Jenkins takes a leap as Michael Vick seems to notice he has speedy players who line up on the outside and tend to run downfield and hold their hands up, as though they want him to throw them the ball. Jenkins was targeted four times (and made three catches, including a score) last week, and Ashley Lelie got six targets. I still trust Jenkins more, especially in the red zone … Bruce's big day came because San Diego decided they wouldn't let Holt beat them. The Chiefs are more likely to try Ty Law man-to-man against Holt, which means more work for Holt, and less work for Bruce … Matt Jones returned and made a huge third-down catch late in the Philly game last week. Still, temper your enthusiasm until we're sure he's well.

Tight Ends

Rank

Name

Opponent

Week 8 Rating

1

Marques Colston

@ TB

1

2

Antonio Gates

CLE

2

3

Alge Crumpler

@ DET

3

4

Todd Heap

CIN

4

5

Kellen Winslow

@ SD

7

6

Jeremy Shockey

HOU

5

7

Tony Gonzalez

@ STL

11

8

Desmond Clark

MIA

9

9

Ben Watson

IND

14

10

Jason Witten

@ WAS

13

11

Dallas Clark

@ NE

6

12

Chris Cooley

DAL

bye

13

Jerramy Stevens

OAK

16

14

Randy McMichael

@ CHI

bye

15

Owen Daniels

@ NYG

15

16

Jermaine Wiggins

@ SF

20

17

Alex Smith

NO

12

18

Heath Miller

DEN

10

19

George Wrighster

TEN

27

20

Courtney Anderson

@ SEA

22

21

Bo Scaife

@ JAC

17

22

Eric Johnson

MIN

21

23

David Martin

@ BUF

24

24

Bryan Fletcher

@ NE

25

25

Joe Klopfenstein

KC

23

26

Ben Troupe

@ JAC

18

27

Bubba Franks

@ BUF

NR

28

Kris Wilson

@ STL

26

Notes: Remember: I'm not answering any more emails about Colston-as-tight-end … Crumpler's on fire. He was "only" targeted five times in Cincy last week, but caught four, including one for another TD. That's four scores in his last two games … Winslow scored last week, as well, and was targeted in the end zone by Charlie Frye on two other drives … I've gotten some mail about my continued pushing of Desmond Clark, but last week should rectify that. I grant you, he's really only had two huge weeks, but he's been targeted nine and eight times in the Bears' last two games, and is well on his way to shattering career-highs in targets, receptions and receiving yards … Daniels may not be a one-week wonder, either. Of his 18 catches, five have been for red-zone scores, meaning he's a serious scoring threat. Those five TDs lead all Houston receivers. Bad news is that Jeb Putzier may return this week … Watson finally put up the huge game his owners have expected all year. He led all Week 8 tight ends with 13 targets, scored for the first time this year, and showed the soft hands we remember from '05 … I'm not quite ready to elevate Witten back into the top 10, but his first game with Tony Romo at the helm was promising: nine targets, six catches, 80 yards and (finally) his first score of the year … Martin is a better fantasy threat than Franks right now, but I'm slightly put off by the helmet-to-the-jaw injury he suffered against Arizona last week. If he's healthy, he deserves to be a little higher.

Kickers

Rank

Name

Opponent

Week 8 Rating

1

Adam Vinatieri

@ NE

2

2

Robbie Gould

MIA

1

3

Jeff Wilkins

KC

4

4

Nate Kaeding

CLE

3

5

Morten Andersen

@ DET

15

6

Ryan Longwell

@ SF

8

7

Mike Vanderjagt

@ WAS

16

8

Josh Brown

OAK

6

9

John Carney

@ TB

5

10

Lawrence Tynes

@ STL

17

11

Shayne Graham

@ BAL

13

12

Jay Feely

HOU

11

13

Josh Scobee

TEN

14

14

Dave Rayner

@ BUF

9

15

Rian Lindell

GB

bye

16

Jeff Reed

DEN

12

17

Jason Elam

@ PIT

20

18

Jason Hanson

ATL

bye

19

Joe Nedney

MIN

19

20

Matt Stover

CIN

18

21

Olindo Mare

@ CHI

bye

22

Sebastian Janikowski

@ SEA

26

23

Kris Brown

@ NYG

22

24

Stephen Gostkowski

IND

23

25

Phil Dawson

@ SD

27

26

Rob Bironas

@ JAC

24

27

Matt Bryant

NO

28

28

Nick Novak

DAL

bye

Notes: Is it possible for kickers to have revenge games? "Get me in there coach. I know we're on our own 17 yard line, but I swear, I've kicked in Foxboro a thousand times, and I know I can make it from 98. Just gimme a chance! I hate these guys!" Would you really put it past Vinatieri? … A couple of helpful readers have pointed out I've had Andersen too low the past couple weeks. What's been holding me back from putting him where he statistically belongs is the idea that Michael Koenen is waiting in the wings to kick the 50-plus-yard field goals, but I've gotten over it. Morten probably wasn't going to make those kicks, anyway … Tynes sure had an adventurous day against Seattle. His holder dropped one field goal attempt that turned into a Seahawks touchdown, and he missed a 50-yarder that could've helped ice the game. Still, he's got a big leg.

Defenses

Notes: Chicago, Baltimore, everyone else … The Giants have transformed themselves from a bad defense subject to fits of aerial devastation to a pass-rushing force against which quarterbacks don't have enough time to take advantage of the fact that their receivers are often running free. Against some teams, that might not work; against Houston, it should be gold … I don't know whether Shawne Merriman will drop his appeal, but really, that's not why I've moved the Chargers back up. Cleveland's offense just isn't dynamic, and Reuben Droughns shouldn't be able to do to San Diego's excellent interior defense what he did to the Jets' … New England's defense is playing really well, which explains why this may be the highest I've had any defense facing the Indy offense all year. Let's not get carried away, though: they don't have the cornerbacks to completely stop Harrison and Wayne … Do I expect the Raiders to return two picks per game for scores? No. Do I think they have the capacity to make life miserable for the Hasselbeck-and-Alexander-free Seahawks? Sure, why not?

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