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Twice Deuce
By Joe Levit
December 11, 2003
 

The recent fantasy explosion from Clinton Portis helps highlight a trend in football that can be a determining factor for fantasy owners set on procuring a running back worth building a fantasy team around. Portis ran for over 200 yards and scored an almost unheard-of five touchdowns in a single game when he kicked the Chiefs in the face last weekend. That touchdown total is monumental by any fantasy standard, but the fact James Stewart is among the few other men who have tied for second place (with five touchdowns) on the list of most touchdowns scored in a game goes to show how much luck can be involved in the business of big-touchdown days. You'll remember that Marcus Robinson produced a quartet of touchdowns for Baltimore a few games ago but had not scored prior to that outburst the entire year.

The statistic that is undoubtedly earned, and significantly impressive - though it also isn't so rare as a five-TD game - is the 200-yard game Portis posted. It seems a great many pro football running backs have on a special occasion topped 200 yards rushing. There are names among those ranks that no one remembers. Yet, very telling is the fact that running backs who have more than one 200-yard game on their resume are players people recall. Furthermore, the short list of players who have rushed for three or more 200-yard outbursts is a veritable who's who of star NFL runners. Take a look at this listing to see what I mean:

200-Yard Games Player
6 O.J. Simpson
4 Jim Brown
4 Earl Campbell
4 Barry Sanders
3 Eric Dickerson
3 Greg Bell
3 Terrell Davis
3 Marshall Faulk
3 Corey Dillon
3 LaDainian Tomlinson

You can see without difficulty the fantasy production of these players. Who doesn't remember what Barry Sanders and Terrell Davis were worth in their prime - 2,000-yard runners each. This penchant for putting up ridiculous rushing totals two or more times is an easy indicator of fantasy success. Owners should do whatever is possible to acquire these rare runners, because their big games can come at any time. They are the players capable of winning you games by themselves. Clinton Portis is a perfect example. His big day last weekend propelled many fantasy owners to wins that otherwise wouldn't have happened.

There has been a brigade of recent rushers capable of breaking 200 yards. When Corey Dillon busted out a series of long runs on the way to 278 yards against the Broncos to push Walter Payton (275) from the top single-game rushing yardage spot, it had been 23 years since the record had been broken. It only took Jamal Lewis a three-year span to obliterate Dillon's achievement.

Jamal Lewis is a player who is a good bet to hit multiple 200-yard games. When he set the record this year against the Browns, he finished only five yards short of the league's first 300-yard game.

LaDainian Tomlinson is already on the three-or-better list despite being in only his third season. He became the fastest player in NFL history to record three 200-yard games, accomplishing the feat in 38 games. Former Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell held the record before Tomlinson, taking 41 games to set the record. Campbell holds the record for most 200-yard games in a season, getting all four of his during the 1980 campaign. Tomlinson's game-breaking ability and durability are the reasons he went number one in many fantasy drafts this fall.

Miami Dolphins' bruiser Ricky Williams ran for 200 yards in consecutive games in 2002, and could get hot enough at any time to go for his third. He too was a top choice on draft day this year.

Clinton Portis, with two 200-yard games in two years, is poised to join the pantheon of great NFL and fantasy backs. It may be too late to obtain his services this season, but he is worth working hard to trade for next year and beyond. 100-yard games are a dime a dozen in this day and age of the NFL, but pay attention when a young back begins to break 200. If he does it with any regularity, you know someone to set your sights on.

Joe Levit, based in Boston, writes for www.cnnsi.com and www.thehuddle.com. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a devoted Detroit Lions fan. He can be contacted at lavishjetpoet@aol.com.