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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 8
Mike Courter
October 26, 2004
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s To Own Comment
1 KC Priest Holmes Four touchdowns and 139 rush yards on 22 carries (before leaving the game early due to an ankle sprain) against the suddenly defenseless Falcons stamps Holmes as the unquestioned champ of fantasy running backs. The Colts come to town in Week Eight in what should play out to be another banner day for Priest.
2 NYG Tiki Barber Even in Big Blue’s disappointing home loss to the Lions, 28-13, Barber continues to sparkle with 172 total yards (70 rushing, 102 receiving) including a 62 yard touchdown reception, his third touchdown over 50 plus yards this season. More big play opportunities await this Sunday in the Minneapolis Metrodome.
3 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson finally acknowledged that the groin injury has become a factor and he won’t be able to rest it until week 10’s bye. Backup Jesse Chatman continues to dazzle late in games often gaining more yards per carry than LT and stealing touchdowns away from Tomlinson owners. Expect this to continue until the week 10 bye.
4 IND Edgerrin James James was good, not great in the home loss to Jacksonville with 141 total yards (87 rushing) but this Sunday he heads to Kansas City, the scene of last year’s 38-31 road playoff triumph in which the dread-locked dude ruled the day with 125 yards rushing on 26 carries and two scores.
5 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander‘s meek effort (12 carries for 57 yards, zero TDs) loomed large in the Seahawks demoralizing meltdown under the Arizona sun, dropping the shaken Hawks to 3-3. Visiting Carolina should remedy Seattle’s and Alexander’s woes this weekend.
6 NYJ Curtis Martin A hard fought effort by Martin (20 carries for 70 yards) against Belichick’s befuddling defensive schemes didn’t help many fantasy causes but he should rebound on Monday Night when the Jets host Miami. In week three at Miami, Martin exceeded 100 yards rushing and scored once.
7 NO Deuce McAllister Oakland’s defense showed surprising starch last Sunday making McAllister grind for 42 yards on 24 carries but the two short touchdown runs were all most fantasy owners needed to go away happy from this game. Deuce backers will look for this week’s bye to provide the much needed rest for his still recovering ankle in order to recapture the burst that has been missing for the stretch run of the season ahead.
8 JAX Fred Taylor Taylor followed up his strong all around effort two weeks ago against the Chiefs with a 174 total yards (107 rushing) versus the Colts in Jacksonville’s 27-24 victory over Indianapolis last Sunday. This week he’ll travel to Houston to face the Texans, currently ranked 30 th in the NFL against the run, yielding 4.8 yards per carry.
9 DEN Reuben Droughns Droughns was handcuffed by the Broncos falling behind early in their 23-10 Monday Night loss to the Bengals but he still managed to break the 100 yard rushing barrier, finishing with 110 on 24 carries. The converted fullback has a chance to move up the rankings with the wounded birds from Atlanta, fresh off their beating from Priest Holmes and company, limping into Mile High this Sunday.
10 WAS Clinton Portis With his 171 yards on the ground against the Bears two weeks ago, Portis now sits third in the NFC in rushing with 593 yards, behind Ahman Green and Tiki Barber. This Sunday should favor Portis as visiting Green Bay’s defense is giving up 4.6 yards per carry to opponents although last Sunday’s return of beefy run-stuffer Grady Jackson has helped stiffen the Packers front seven.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Michael Pittman (TB) – Pittman was the catalyst behind the Buccaneers 19-7 winning effort over the Bears in Tampa last Sunday with 109 yards rushing and a touchdown to go along with 55 yards on two receptions. With Mike Alstott being removed from the goal line equation for the next four weeks with a sprained right knee, Pittman will stay on the field when the money is made. The Bucs have a bye this week and welcome the Chiefs in week nine.

Kevin Jones (DET) – It took seven weeks but long suffering Lions fans caught a glimpse of the potential of their other 2004 first round draft choice when Kevin Jones started and ran effectively in Detroit’s third consecutive road win this year. Jones carried 13 times for 65 yards (including runs of 22 and 20 yards) and his first NFL touchdown after sitting out the last few weeks with an ankle injury. Jones will seek to build on this performance when the Lions travel to Dallas, which currently ranks last in run defense, allowing 5.1 yards per carry.

Jesse Chatman (SD) –It seems every time Chatman comes in to relieve Tomlinson’s ailing groin at the end of a game, Charger fans are treated to a 247 pound version of LT. Last week against Carolina, he closed out the game late with 69 yards on eight carries (including a 52 yard bolt) and a game-sealing fourth quarter touchdown in San Diego’s 17-6 road conquest. Pick this guy up not only as Tomlinson insurance but also as a flex player that seems to get the most out of his limited opportunities on a weekly basis. In his 28 carries this season, he’s gained 217 yards (7.8 yds per carry) and three touchdowns.

Derrick Blaylock (KC) – Last week’s 56-10 drubbing of the Falcons demonstrated Blaylock’s hidden value as Priest Holmes backup. Holmes exits early with a sprained ankle after scoring four touchdowns in the rout and Blaylock picks up right where Priest left off with another four touchdowns to go along with 90 yards rushing and 46 yards receiving, all in mop up time. Holmes is not expected to miss any playing time from the ankle injury this week but there should be numerous occasions during the remainder of the season where the Chiefs will rest him when they have a big lead and Blaylock will reap the benefits behind a great offensive line.

Rudi Johnson (CIN) – The Rudi of 2003 showed up last Monday night in Cincy’s 23-10 triumph over Denver, perhaps buoyed by the Bengals first appearance on Monday Night football in 15 years. Johnson fulfilled expectations on this night rushing for 119 yards on 24 carries, including a 36 yard touchdown run in the third quarter, providing the offensive balance to keep Denver’s top-ranked defense from ganging up on second year QB Carson Palmer. Johnson’s next two opponents, Tennessee and Dallas, have uncharacteristically struggled against the run this season creating an opportunity for Rudi and the Bengals to add to the positive momentum from the Monday Night win.

Sliding Back

Chris Brown (TEN) – Brown’s considerable fantasy prowess continues to be stymied by various injuries, both to him and his quarterback Steve McNair. Last week, Brown was contained to 55 yards on 14 carries when McNair succumbed to the suffering sternum once again and was replaced by Billy Volek who threw three interceptions and thrusted Tennessee into catch-up mode. It was also discovered that the second year back suffered a turf toe injury and will be listed as questionable for this Sunday’s home game against Cincinnati.

Michael Bennett (MIN) – When Bennett went down with a knee injury in the pre-season and then suffered a relapse after the first few regular season games just as he was about to return to the active roster, it was still widely believed he would inherit his starting job back once he was declared fit for duty. But Mewelde Moore’s impressive three week stint as the starter has forced Mike Tice to keep things status quo even though Bennett has been given a clean bill of health. To make matters worse for Bennett owners, Tice recently gave Onterrio Smith a public vote of confidence that he will play a significant role in the offense upon his week nine return from a four game suspension.