- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Wednesdays are the day you will find the much-awaited ESPN Fantasy weekly rankings, and you probably will notice the lists are quite a bit different from ranker to ranker. I can't answer to how my colleagues Matthew Berry, Christopher Harris and Erik Kuselias go about ranking their players, but I generally let my best players play, no matter the matchup.
Of course, I take into account the matchups, mainly the good ones, but I'm a believer that if I drafted a guy to start in Week 1, I'll probably let him do so. I'm a bit conservative that way. I find it hard to believe I would have three running backs better than Chris Johnson for Week 1, for example, so even though it's tough to call his matchup against the champion Steelers a good one, it's doubtful I would bench the guy. The surprises from me will be players I think will do better than others.
Anyway, you can see the rankings on our fantasy football page on Wednesdays, and you should know these are for standard leagues. Here are three things that jumped out at me while I was ranking my players:
• Love those Seahawks: I don't really love the Seahawks this season, realizing the risk that is quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and what shapes up as an irrelevant running game, but I do love the matchup against the Rams. I surprised myself when I gave the quarterback and top target T.J. Houshmandzadeh top-10 rankings at their respective positions. Yes, the Rams did make numerous smart changes to their defensive unit, but I don't expect they'll be posting shutouts anytime soon. In 2008, Hasselbeck was a winner in only one of his seven starts. Guess which team he beat? It wasn't his best fantasy day of the season, but it was his most accurate. Hasselbeck sees the Rams twice a season and last lost to them in 2004. Houshmandzadeh will make a nice impression in his Seattle debut as well. As for Julius Jones, let's not go overboard. But I did rank him above all the Tampa Bay running backs. And by the way, the Rams are going to be scoring a lot as well ... can you say shootout?
• Eagles' defense a worry: As an Eagles fan, I'm actually pretty optimistic that Donovan McNabb finally will throw for 4,000 yards, Brian Westbrook will be healthy enough to be a no-brainer weekly play and multiple wide receivers will have value, but the other side of the ball could be a problem. The Eagles lost middle linebacker Stewart Bradley and haven't really shown confidence in his replacements. A rookie is starting for icon Brian Dawkins at free safety -- think the Philly fans will be kind to said rookie? -- and the death of longtime (and beloved) coordinator Jim Johnson could take a while to get over. The Carolina Panthers have a dynamic running back in DeAngelo Williams; all preseason, I felt I was underrating him in drafts because Jonathan Stewart couldn't stay healthy. And we all know Steve Smith is legit. I even ranked Smith as better than Calvin Johnson. I'm expecting both the Eagles and Panthers to pile on the points, so be careful of using those defenses and don't shy away from their talented skill options.
• Trusting health: When ranking the quarterbacks, I basically decided a banged-up fantasy backup was good enough to top bigger names with tough matchups. As of today, with the info we all have, I think Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton, Matt Schaub and Marc Bulger all are going to play this weekend, and I like the matchups quite a bit for a few of them. I didn't like them enough to put them in my top 10, but if you drafted Orton as your starter, as I had to in one very deep league, I wouldn't panic and force Mark Sanchez into your lineup. The only injured quarterback of note I failed to rank was Matt Cassel, due to the fact that after facing the Ravens in their place, he might wish he missed the game.
Eric Karabell discusses personal surprises in the Week 1 rankings.