if you ask me about specific scenarios you are thinking of here I can describe how the implementation would work.
If I understand you correctly, the best way to describe this is to show the workflow concept I have. If I am off base let me know :)
1) Admin creates a new post.
a) In the New Post page there is a field "Title Image" which allows the uploading/selection (as well as styling, sizing etc) of an image to be used as the title image.
Note: It would be nice to have a switch to include in post body, title summary or both. Or this could be a custom setting (eg. Show TitleImage in Post Header) which will allow for choosing an alternate template for the titlesummary part (I might be reaching
2) After the post construction is complete, admin clicks Save / Publish
a) During the Save / Publish action, the URI of the title image is stored in a db table (eg. ContentTitleImage) along with the "ContentItemRecord_Id
3) The post/s are viewed and rated
4) The Content Rotator module grabs the most popular posts (lets say 5) based on total view count and rating (votes) This logic will be in the model I believe. Construct the slides which will have the titleImage, postTitle, postSummary, postRating (stars)
and a link to the full post. I think this would be the View Model. Then the view (with the Jquery Rotator) will be pushed into the Featured zone of the HomePage Layer for example.