- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I've ranked New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning eighth at his position this week, up a spot from earlier in the week, mostly because the Houston Texans' pass defense he will face Sunday has been awful this season, and I guess I hadn't realized the extent of the mess. I admit I had been starting to wonder whether the normally safe and reliable Manning is, well, safe and reliable. In the past two seasons, Manning has thrown 48 touchdown passes against 24 interceptions. Through three games this season, Manning had five touchdowns and six interceptions.
Watching the other Manning play, the results are deceiving. This is not really the 22nd-best fantasy quarterback, though his standard scoring through a month says otherwise. Manning's wide receivers certainly haven't helped him out on a few of those interceptions, and Manning is on pace, after four games, for another 4,000-yard passing season. His completion percentage, which has risen each of the past two seasons to the 60 percent mark, is actually at a career-best 64.4 so far. And I can't judge him too harshly on the Week 4 performance against the Chicago Bears, when he provided three fantasy points. Why throw? The Bears were not going to score points.
Eli Manning is supposed to be a top-10 fantasy quarterback, and I'm still buying low on this fellow, especially this week. The only NFL team allowing more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Texans is the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants' Week 12 opponent. The Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, also future Giants foes, are also in the bottom 10. Things will get better for Manning, starting with this weekend. Donovan McNabb and Bruce Gradkowski had big games against the Texans. Watch Manning and Matt Schaub have a nice little shootout as well.
The Giants really do have a nice crew of wide receivers; I wrote about that "other" Steve Smith a few days ago, and while I see his fantasy ceiling as a bit limited (except in point-per-reception formats), there's no such problem with Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. These youngsters seem to lack focus at times, and they've been responsible for a few of Manning's interceptions. This week against an overwhelmed Texans secondary, they're going to help Manning have his best fantasy day of the season.
In addition to adjusting my rankings ever so slightly with Manning this weekend, here are some other situations to watch.
Cutting edge: The Chicago Bears will not have starter Jay Cutler this weekend, as he recovers from a concussion, so Todd Collins will handle things. Cutler was my No. 8 quarterback until this definitive news broke. I did not rank Collins in the top 25. I didn't rank any Bears wide receiver well except for Johnny Knox anyway, and I don't see why I need to bury him further. The theory would be that the Bears will run with Matt Forte more, but he's averaging 2.7 yards per carry this season despite Cutler being a threat, so I hardly see why things would improve with Cutler out. In fact, I dropped Forte down just a tad. Looks like a tough weekend for Bears fans.
Bad team shootout: Some readers/listeners/viewers have asked me why I don't have Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard and Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick ranked better, maybe as potential starters, since their defensively challenged teams meet and points should be popular. I ranked Garrard what I thought was pretty well at No. 14, and Fitzpatrick 22nd, so you can see which one I trust. Well, trust is a strong word. Garrard scored three times against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4, but can he be consistent? Despite the matchup, I won't play him over Eli Manning, Brett Favre or Kyle Orton, quarterbacks I trust more. I suppose the same theory is at work with Sam Bradford facing Shaun Hill, but I didn't place either of them in the top 10, either. I did bump up Mike Thomas and Lee Evans slightly, and I've ranked the Bills' Steve Johnson, but I can't do the same with the Jaguars' Mike Sims-Walker.
Austin powered: There's concern that fantasy's top wide receiver through four weeks, the Indianapolis Colts' Austin Collie, might not be able to overcome his foot injury to suit up Sunday. How does this affect Peyton Manning? It doesn't. Reggie Wayne, also a Colt, is the No. 2 wide receiver, and most indications are that Pierre Garcon, previously a starter, will play. If you own Collie, keep an eye on this all weekend and Sunday morning, but I would activate Garcon only if Collie sits.
Thanks for reading, have a great weekend and good luck with your teams in Week 5!
Eric Karabell discusses his rankings changes for the week, including a slight bump for Eli Manning, who gets a very favorable matchup.