- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush has become a difficult player to evaluate, and that's even without bringing up his past production/durability issues from his time with the New Orleans Saints. Last year, Bush was nearly a top-10 running back for the season -- it took 170 standard points to make the top 10, and he scored 165 -- and he's currently tied with San Francisco 49ers stud Frank Gore for seventh in running back scoring this year. Still, while I ranked Bush in the top 10 for the pending Week 6 game against the St. Louis Rams, I admit it was a bit more about the matchup than a philosophic change in his value.
Bush's season numbers are a bit skewed from his Week 2 performance against the awful Oakland Raiders, when he exploded for 172 rushing yards and two touchdowns. In the other four games, Bush has scored 34 fantasy points, with his best performance coming this past Sunday (48 rushing yards and a score against the Cincinnati Bengals). He scored 12 fantasy points and didn't look great doing it. Bush might or might not be recovered from hip and knee injuries that probably would have rendered him inactive in his Saints days, and the modest results have left fantasy owners wondering what to expect.
Well, I expect Bush to rush for 100 yards and a touchdown on the Rams, which is why he's in my No. 8 slot for running backs. A few colleagues ranked him worse, and one had him at No. 3. It's a rather large discrepancy, and I admit I thought about moving Bush ahead of Gore, who has the seemingly tougher matchup against the New York Giants. Regardless, Bush is a clear play. Detractors can point to Bush's past three games, with an average of eight fantasy points per outing, and no more than 72 total yards in any. In fact, rumors of Bush returning to an increased role in the passing game have been untrue; he has caught just six passes in four games.
The Rams' defense is no longer officially among the 10 easiest for opposing running backs, but again we can tailor the numbers to prove any point. The Rams faced the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, a team with no running game, and they did well. But now-forgotten Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith scored well on the Rams in Week 1, Michael Bush reached double digits in Week 3, and Marshawn Lynch ran wild in Week 4. The Rams can be run on, and Reggie Bush will do so. Don't worry about younger colleagues Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, either.
However, while it's still possible Reggie Bush fulfills his personal goals of leading the NFL in rushing -- he's currently 10th, 134 yards behind the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles -- some would suggest this would be a wise time to enjoy his efforts against the Rams and then try to deal him. The Dolphins are on their bye week after the Rams game, after all.
But I see it differently. Yes, Bush hasn't been great the past three weeks, but the bye week will help him heal. Playing the Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills in the four weeks afterward should help his numbers heal, as well. Those are currently four of the golden eight in allowing the most fantasy points per game to running backs. Frankly, and I find this a bit hard to believe after watching Bush disappoint us in New Orleans, I'm a buyer. I'm a buyer right now, in fact, because I like the player, the schedule and Miami's chances of avoiding playoff elimination until the final few weeks. That's good for Bush, who is playing for a new contract.
Quarterback: There's a new No. 1! Congrats to Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, who earned 1s across the board for a fantastic home matchup with the Raiders. Love it! Remember, Drew Brees and Cam Newton (and Jay Cutler and Blaine Gabbert, to be thorough) are on bye this week. ... Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers admitted to reporters that "he isn't getting it done," and fantasy owners have noticed, yet he's still sixth in QB scoring. Let's not quibble. I ranked him third this week against the Texans, not exactly a far drop. ... I like Philip Rivers more than my colleagues for a potential high-scoring affair against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Buy 'em both. ... Speaking of bye weeks, Matthew Stafford comes off his bye to face turnover machine Michael Vick. Expect many points in Philly, and both passers made my top 10. ... I ranked Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman better than the others, but more due to the matchups, not pure trust. ... And if Alex Smith can't suit up to play the Giants, I'd have Colin Kaepernick around 20th overall.
Running back: For years the Colts haven't been able to stop the run, so this might be the last/best chance for the Jets' Shonn Greene. Greene last reached five fantasy points in Week 1! ... What gives when the Cardinals and Bills meet? The Cardinals stop the run, so Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller remain in mid-20s limbo, and while the Bills can't stop anything, the Cardinals are down to their third-string running back. Speaking of which, ESPN Fantasy projects nice numbers for LaRod Stephens-Howling, but I ranked him 30th. ... Similarly, nobody seemed particularly excited about Packers backs Alex Green or James Starks.
Wide receiver: My top 20 nearly mirrored the staff average, but I can say I like Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Brian Hartline and Jeremy Kerley more than the staff average. Pay attention to Philly's Jackson, as he could earn a larger role than normal on returns, and the Lions really struggle there. ... I ranked Andre Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Denarius Moore, Kenny Britt and Randall Cobb worse than the average. Johnson has nine receptions in his past four games. Yes, the Packers can be thrown on, but does that mean Matt Schaub will look Johnson's way? And will he even be open? ... With Nelson, Moore and Cobb, the matchup is a problem. Also, I did not rank Greg Jennings, Hakeem Nicks or Darrius Heyward-Bey, because I do not expect them to play.
Tight end: Ryan leads all quarterbacks, and Tony Gonzalez pushes aside Jimmy Graham (bye week) and Rob Gronkowski (hip) at tight end. Gonzalez does lead all tight ends in scoring, after all, and unlike Reggie Bush, he has been consistent. It's interesting that both Antonio Gates and Jermichael Finley left the top 10. I ranked Gates, who has no more than five fantasy points in any games, 16th. Don't get caught up in the name. Heath Miller is a better play. ... And watch for Aaron Hernandez to perhaps return this week from his ankle injury. If he does, he's top 10, and perhaps a reasonable flex choice.
Defense/ST:We rarely discuss defense in this space, but I just had to point out that the Cardinals and Dolphins are in my top 4. It's about the matchups, and let's face it, while I wouldn't sit the 49ers (against the Giants) or Texans (against the Packers), look at the quarterbacks there. Points should be scored. A sleeper defense to watch is Tampa Bay against Brady Quinn and the Chiefs.
Eric Karabell offers his thoughts on the tough Week 6 rankings decisions, including his projection for Reggie Bush and what to do with the Jets and Bills backfields.