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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 5
Mike Courter
October 5, 2004
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s To Own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Despite receiving only 17 carries while Drew Brees continues his job security campaign (throwing the ball on first and second down way too often), LT sparkled with 147 yards rushing and a touchdown. Stiffer test this week with Jacksonville coming to town.
2 KC Priest Holmes Inspired by a taped message from his father, Master Sergeant Herman Morris (currently serving in Iraq with the Army Reserves), prior to the Monday Night kickoff, Priest went on to trample the feared Ray Lewis defense carrying 33 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the crucial Chiefs win in Baltimore last Monday night. Holmes has a bye in week five.
3 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander should be good to go after resting his injured knee and ankle during the bye week. The Seahawks welcome the Rams to the great Northwest in what should be another productive outing for the University of Alabama product.
4 IND Edgerrin James James grinded out 83 yards on 19 carries, including the game-winning touchdown, on the road against a difficult Jaguars front seven. This Sunday, he’ll welcome an Oakland defense who surrendered 105 yards and a touchdown to Texans second-string back Jonathan Wells.
5 GB Ahman Green Favre’s struggles and early, concussion-induced exit against the Giants short-circuited what should have been a fruitful day for Green in Lambeau. Despite the eight man fronts in the second half, he did finish with 106 total yards (58 rushing, 48 receiving). Green should have Favre back for the Monday nighter hosting the Titans defense, which as been a shell of it’s former run-stopping self this season.
6 WAS Clinton Portis Subpar offensive line play and a continued struggle with the Redskins blocking schemes remain the biggest speed bumps for this burner. Portis owners are still waiting for him to click with his new team. Ray Lewis and the visiting Ravens won’t make it any easier in week five.
7 TEN Chris Brown Another victim of Injured Quarterback Syndrome this week, Brown was limited to 55 yards rushing on 15 carries as Billy Volek was busy throwing 58 times while subbing for the injured McNair. Brown will be boosted by McNair’s return and a weak Packer run defense on Monday Night in Green Bay.
8 CHI Thomas Jones The third top 10 running back to fall prey to their own backup QB’s ineptness was Jones, who was swarmed by the Eagles defense and limited to 32 yards on 13 carries along with six receptions for 40 yards. Hopefully the bye week will give the Bears time to work out the kinks in Jonathan Quinn’s game.
9 BAL Jamal Lewis Perhaps distracted by the plea bargin deal he struck with his lawyers this week regarding the felony drug charges against him, Lewis underwhelmed, gaining 73 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown against a surprisingly stout Chiefs defense in the Ravens loss to Kansas City. The reeling Redskins provide an optimum rebound chance for Lewis and the Ravens on Sunday night.
10 HOU Domanick Davis Davis ’ ankle was not ready and backup Jonathan Wells reaped the benefits by rushing for 105 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against the Raiders. Another seemingly favorable matchup awaits this week when Houston hosts Minnesota. If Davis is healthy, he’ll be a great start against the Vikings defense which doesn’t perform well outside the comfy confines of the Metrodome.

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of RB’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing Up The Ladder

Brian Westbrook (PHI) – The Bears, having lost three fourths of their starting secondary in the weeks prior to last Sunday, made a decision that Terrell Owens would not beat them with the long ball so their safeties played deeper than usual allowing Donovan McNabb to shift the offensive plan to Westbrook, his second most reliable weapon, and the elusive back did not disappoint with 23 carries for 115 yards rushing and nine catches for 63 yards enabling the Eagles to coast into their bye week.

Amos Zereoue (OAK) – With Justin Fargas limited by turf toe and Tyrone Wheatley succumbing to a shoulder injury early in the contest with the Texans, opportunity’s door swung wide open for the free agent back from Pittsburgh and Zereoue seized the moment. His 117 yards on 14 carries featured two touchdowns, including a 55 yard highlight reel scamper, and provided one of the few positive takeaways for the Raiders in their 30-17 loss in Houston. Norv Turner has been waiting for a go to guy to emerge from the plethora of Oakland backs and with his week four performance, Zereoue has positioned himself to be that guy.

Lee Suggs (CLE) – Long suffering Browns fans and Suggs fantasy owners were finally rewarded for their patience with the oft-injured running back’s return against Washington last Sunday. After shaking off some initial rust, Suggs showcased his trademark burst and recaptured the starting job from William Green with a 22 carry, 82 yard performance that included the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. In addition to the Cleveland offensive line being strengthened by the return of starting RT Ryan Tucker this week, Suggs has a chance to build on the good start from week four with games against soft run defenses @ Pittsburgh and home to Cincinnati and Philadelphia in the coming weeks.

Michael Pittman (TB) – Pittman, returning from a three game suspension for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, added a noticeable jolt to a needy Buccaneer offense gaining 72 yards on 15 carries. An impressive beginning considering that he was not allowed near the team facilities or coaching staff during his three week hiatus. He also didn’t share many carries with Mike Alstott or Jamel White. With a welcome mat consisting of the friendly run defenses of New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and Kansas City, Pittman will also help many fantasy lineups during the middle stretch of the season as well.

Sliding Back

Michael Bennett (MIN) – After missing the first three regular season games, the Vikings were pinning their hopes on Bennett’s healthy return for week five as Onterrio Smith’s four game suspension should be handed down in the next week or so. Bennett has now further added to the Vikings running back drama by incurring another knee injury in last Thursday’s practice, a partially torn meniscus, which will require another two weeks of rest putting Bennett’s new possible return date at October 24th- week seven, frustrating both Mike Tice and fantasy folk alike.

Ron Dayne (NYG) – After an impressive preseason and what seemed like an opportunity to reinvent himself under new coach Tom Coughlin, Dayne has once again become the invisible man in the Giants backfield. Two weeks ago Dayne’s sudden strained calf before the Browns game cleared the way for Tiki Barber to be the featured back in which he took full advantage of with a 100 yard rushing performance. Barber then added last week’s heroic 182 yard effort in Green Bay to further push Dayne into gameday obscurity.

Tyrone Wheatley (OAK) – After his 102 yard one touchdown rushing effort at home against the Bucs in week three, Wheatley appeared primed to build on that success in week four with a game against Houston’s unimposing run stoppers but once again the surprisingly fragile 235 pounder crumpled with a shoulder injury on his third carry of the game paving the way for Amos Zereoue’s big day. Just as it appeared Wheatley was increasing the distance between he and the rest of the Raiders running back pack, his continued nagging injuries have dragged him back into the quagmire of Oakland’s running back by committee.