New World Order

Since Week 1, the hierarchy of quarterbacks has changed many times over. For fantasy owners, here are the indispensable, up-to-date passer rankings based on performance in the first half of the season and potential to produce over the remaining nine weeks
October 30, 2006

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KEY
[ARROW UP]>>Rising
[ARROW DOWN]>>Falling
[NEUTRAL ARROW]>>Steady
[HAMMER]>>Hard schedule
[EZ]>>Easy schedule
[?]>>Job uncertain
[+]>>Injury risk

THE INCREDIBLES [ START NO MATTER WHAT ]

1. DONOVANMCNABB, Eagles [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ]

The midseasonfantasy MVP should continue to roll with some favorable matchups on theschedule (Redskins twice, Titans, Giants) and receiver Reggie Brown coming intohis own.

2. PEYTONMANNING, Colts [NEUTRAL ARROW]

The usuallytop-rated fantasy quarterback would be scoring even more if Indy's defensecould get off the field. Manning draws the woeful Texans in crucial Week16.

3. MARC BULGER,Rams [ARROW UP]

After beginningthe season slowly, Bulger has passed for more than 300 yards in three of hislast four games and has 10 touchdowns and just one interception on the year,making him a must-start no matter the opponent. In mid-October scufflingSeahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, "I've got to pull out a MarcBulger tape to see how it's done."

4. ELI MANNING,Giants [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ]

Although he hasstruggled early in games, the younger Manning has shown a better command of theoffense in the first half of 2006 than he did in the second half of '05. Onlyone formidable pass defense (Bears in Week 10) remains.

THE POSSIBLES [WATCH THE MATCHUPS ]

5. JAKE DELHOMME,Panthers [NEUTRAL ARROW]

In two gameswithout Steve Smith, Delhomme averaged 183.5 yards with no touchdown passes. Infive games with Smith, Delhomme is averaging 242.8 yards with eight touchdownpasses. Smith is back. So is Delhomme.

6. TOM BRADY,Patriots [ARROW UP]

Without his toptwo targets from last year Brady will not approach his '05 numbers, but hisstats this season (204.3 yards, 10 TDs) should improve as receivers DougGabriel and Chad Jackson get up to speed with the offense.

7. DREW BREES,Saints [ARROW UP]

Accurate anddecisive, Brees has become a low-end No. 1 fantasy starter with the help of twopass-catching rookies (running back Reggie Bush and wide receiver MarquesColston).

8. REX GROSSMAN,Bears [ARROW DOWN] [EZ]

Grossman's playwas, well, gross against the Cardinals (four picks, two fumbles), but thebiggest surprise QB of the first half faces some porous pass defenses (49ers,Giants, Lions) in the second half.

9. MATTHASSELBECK, Seahawks [NEUTRAL ARROW] [+]

He's out for atleast three weeks with a strained ligament in his right knee, but when hereturns, Hasselbeck will have as many targets--receivers Deion Branch andDarrell Jackson and tight end Jerramy Stevens--as any quarterback in theleague.

10 CARSON PALMER,Bengals [ARROW DOWN]

Injuries to theoffensive line and receivers, Chris Henry's suspension, and conservativeplay-calling have all been blamed for Cincinnati's ineffective offense. Palmerhimself has nine TD passes versus four interceptions, way off his pace fromlast year. And if losing left tackle Levi Jones for several weeks with a kneeinjury weren't enough, Palmer still has to go up against the Ravens twice, aswell as the Chargers, Falcons and Broncos. He'd be lower on this list if itweren't for his superb receiving corps.

11. MICHAEL VICK,Falcons [NEUTRAL ARROW]

Sure, he threwfour touchdown passes on Sunday, but Vick's completion percentage is still anabysmal 52.4. At least the points he scores as a rusher will help owners avoidthe ups and downs of other QBs.

12. PHILIPRIVERS, Chargers [ARROW UP] [HAMMER]

Although Rivershas thrown for six touchdowns since coach Marty Schottenheimer unchained himthree weeks ago, his ranking suffers because San Diego's schedule lackspushovers.

13. JON KITNA,Lions [NEUTRAL ARROW]

Kitna has somedecent numbers (264.7 yards per game, nine touchdowns), but an ineffectiveoffensive line will cost him the chance to be as productive in Mike Martz'soffense as Kurt Warner circa 2000.

14. ALEX SMITH,49ers [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ]

The improvementof receiver Arnaz Battle and a late-season slate with the Packers, Seahawks andCardinals make Smith an intriguing fantasy playoff sleeper option.

15. CHADPENNINGTON, Jets [ARROW DOWN]

He has not had a300-yard game since starting the year with two straight, and his trademarkplay-action pass has been nullified by a New York ground game that until Sundayhad been largely ineffective.

16. DREW BLEDSOE,Cowboys [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ] [?]

Bledsoe has aneasy schedule and terrific receivers, but the groundswell of support inside theDallas locker room for backup Tony Romo diminishes his ranking.

17. DAVID CARR,Texans [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ]

Serviceable buthardly spectacular (nine touchdowns, four interceptions), Carr has takenadvantage of Andre Johnson's emergence. He still gets the Titans twice, theGiants and the Jets.

18. BRETT FAVRE,Packers [ARROW DOWN]

Even coach MikeMcCarthy admitted that Favre has missed some makeable throws. (He's completing56.3% of his passes.) Green Bay's December schedule (the 49ers in Week 14 andthe Lions in Week 15) gives him a chance to go out in style.

19. BYRONLEFTWICH, Jaguars [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ] [+]

In his firstthree seasons Leftwich was not a fantasy dream, and this year is no different.He has only seven touchdowns against five interceptions and ranks 20th amongall passers. But assuming his sore left ankle doesn't get any worse, Leftwichcould be the fantasy supersleeper of the second half. He has played betterrecently, throwing seven touchdowns and three interceptions in his last fourgames. With upcoming games against the Titans (twice), Texans, Giants andDolphins, no quarterback faces a softer schedule.

20. BENROETHLISBERGER, Steelers [ARROW UP] [HAMMER]

After throwingseven interceptions and no TDs in his first three games, Big Ben has connectedfor five TDs and no picks against the Chiefs and the Falcons. The scheduleisn't friendly, though; he still must face the Ravens twice and theBroncos.

21. MATT LEINART,Cardinals [NEUTRAL ARROW]

Rookiequarterbacks have a history of not faring well in fantasy play, but Leinart maybe the exception. Though he threw two interceptions against an underratedRaiders pass defense (ranked No. 1 in the NFL), Leinart has four touchdowns inhis first three starts and has demonstrated poise and a feel for knowing whereto throw the ball. With only one tough pass defense on the schedule (Denver inWeek 15) and offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek promising a less conservativestyle, Leinart has the potential to be a big points producer.

22. JOEYHARRINGTON, Dolphins [NEUTRAL ARROW]

While Miami hasmoved the ball better under Harrington than it did under Daunte Culpepper,Harrington still has not proved he's a viable option for most fantasyteams.

23. BRAD JOHNSON,Vikings [NEUTRAL ARROW] [EZ]

Once thought tobe washed up, this 38-year-old has been a decent caretaker in this offense. Buthe wouldn't even deserve consideration were it not for his schedule: the Lionsin Week 14, then the Jets and the Packers.

THE DESPICABLES [AVOID AT ALL COSTS ]

24. BRUCEGRADKOWSKI, Bucs [NEUTRAL ARROW] [HAMMER]

The rookie fromToledo passed for four touchdowns in his first two starts before being shut outby the Eagles. Owners should beware: Gradkowski faces the Steelers, Falcons andBears down the stretch.

25. MARK BRUNELL,Redskins [NEUTRAL ARROW] [?]

Coach Joe Gibbsdefended Brunell last week and said he would not start backup Jason Campbell."Right now, I don't think that's the answer," Gibbs said. But if theRedskins keep losing, the temptation to play Campbell may send Brunell to thebench.

26. J.P. LOSMAN,Bills [ARROW DOWN]

The 2004first-rounder has turned the ball over eight times (five picks, three fumbles)in the past three games, yet coach Dick Jauron says, "I do believe J.P. isprogressing." The numbers say otherwise.

27. DAMON HUARD,Chiefs [NEUTRAL ARROW] [?]

He's had threegood outings and two bad ones, and it's unlikely that he'll keep the job whenTrent Green returns from his concussion.

28. STEVE MCNAIR,Ravens [ARROW DOWN] [HAMMER] [+]

Knocked out ofhis last game (Week 6 at Carolina) with a concussion and neck sprain, he's notexpected to miss any starts--which may not be a good thing considering he ranksnear the bottom in passer rating (64.1).

29. VINCE YOUNG,Titans [NEUTRAL ARROW]

Young has thrownthree touchdowns and four interceptions during his on-the-job training. He'sstill far from being a reliable fantasy starter.

30. CHARLIE FRYE,Browns [ARROW DOWN] [+]

He appeared onthe fantasy radar earlier this season after two decent performances, in whichhe made plays with his feet, but since then he has not been able to accomplishmuch behind a faulty offensive line. The worst is yet to come: He still has toplay the Steelers twice, along with the Chargers, Falcons and Ravens.

31. JAKE PLUMMER, Broncos [ARROW DOWN] [HAMMER]

Denver (5-1) has been winning with defense and its running game: Plummer hasthrown just four touchdown passes against seven interceptions.

32. ANDREW WALTER, Raiders [ARROW DOWN] [?] [+]

A tweaked hamstring in Sunday's win over the Cardinals, the looming return ofstarter Aaron Brooks and no production (three TDs, eight interceptions) makeWalter fantasy road kill.

PLAYER RANKINGS

Get the latest NFL news, plus ratings for all fantasyfootball positions and daily injury updates at SI.com/fantasy.

PHOTOJOHN G. MABANGLO/EPA PHOTOAL TIELEMANS PHOTORIC FELD/AP PHOTOKENT SMITH/WIREIMAGE.COM SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS
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