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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 13
Mike Courter
November 30, 2004
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s To Own Comment
1 KC Priest Holmes After missing his difference-maker for a third straight game last week, Dick Vermeil hopes that Holmes can return for this Sunday’s game in Oakland. However, Derrick Blaylock, and now Larry Johnson, have played well in Priest’s stead, which could make the Chiefs cautious in rushing Holmes back too soon.
2 NYG Tiki Barber Perhaps the translation of Barber’s first name means “enduring warrior” as Tiki shook off both a lacerated knee and shin contusion to register his eighth 100 yard rushing game of the season, going for 110 yards on 19 carries in the 27-6 loss to the Eagles. The downside is that New York’s decision to go with the rook’ at quarterback has negatively affected Barber’s strong season-long output and could lead to Barber’s slip in the rankings over the next few weeks. The Giants travel to Washington this week, an opponent that limited Barber to just 42 yards on 18 carries and two receptions for 27 yards in week two.
3 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander had a rare statistical stumble, 39 yards on 13 carries and no touchdowns, in Seattle’s humbling 38-9 home loss last Sunday against the Bills. Alexander has a chance to rebound against a much friendlier Dallas run defense on Monday night in a critical home game for the struggling Seahawks.
4 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Though his rushing numbers against the Chiefs were so-so (46 yards on 21 carries) LT did score twice and saw a noticeable bump in his reception total with 10 for 57 yards in San Diego’s impressive 34-31 road win over the Chiefs. This week the Chargers host Denver in a fight for the AFC West division title.
5 IND Edgerrin James One would think James would have garnered gaudy numbers in the Colts 41-9 Thanksgiving romp over the sorry Lions but once again Edge fell victim to Manning’s prolific touchdown pace (six against Detroit). James carried on admirably, gaining 105 yards on 23 carries, but played the scoreless sidekick to Peyton again. The Colts host the Titans this week, whom James scored three touchdowns in the two games against last season.
6 NYJ Curtis Martin Martin toughed out 99 yards on 24 carries in New York’s 13-3 win in Arizona while the Jets were reduced to their third-string quarterback at one point in the game. Martin comes home this week, with the possible return of Chad Pennington to the offense, to face Houston, who is currently yielding 4.6 yards per carry to opponents.
7 NE Corey Dillon Dillon’s 30 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown over Baltimore last week combined with his steady output all season has vaulted him into the top ten of RB Watch for week thirteen. Dillon now ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yardage with 1,121 and his seven touchdowns has him currently tied for sixth most in the AFC. Now he’ll face another favorable matchup in Cleveland on Sunday as the Browns have given up 13 touchdowns on the ground and 4.2 yards per carry to opposing backs.
8 HOU Domanick Davis Davis appears to be hitting his stride in this crucial part of the season for fantasy players. Last week against the Titans, his 3.0 yards per carry average, a season long sticking point with critics, ballooned to over 8.0 yards per with his 129 on 16 carries, including a 41 yard TD run to seal the 31-21 win. He was also the Texans leading receiver with seven receptions for 52 yards. Davis will take his escalating fantasy production on the road this week to play the Jets in the Meadowlands.
9 DEN Reuben Droughns Droughns had a serviceable 102 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in the Sunday night loss to Oakland but underperformed in a fantasy football context against a Raiders team whom he rushed for 176 yards against in week six. He’ll face a stiffer challenge this week against the first place Chargers in San Diego.
10 NO Deuce McAllister McAllister’s gained 100 yards on 23 carries against a tough Falcons group in the 24-21 loss to Atlanta last week. This Sunday, he’ll welcome the resurgent Panthers, currently riding a three game winning streak, to New Orleans. Fantasy prospects are favorable as Carolina has surrendered 15 touchdowns on the ground this season.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Rudi Johnson (CIN) – Shhhhhh. With last week’s 202 yard and two touchdown performance against the Browns, Rudi has quietly climbed to fourth in the AFC in rushing yards with 1,049 and is tied for sixth in the AFC with seven touchdowns.

Willis McGahee (BUF) – Those watching the Buffalo-Seattle game last week saw a symbolic passing of the torch in the Bills backfield when Travis Henry was carted off the field with a broken leg early in the game and McGahee picked up the baton and ran with it to the tune of 116 yards and four scores on 28 carries fueling the 38-9 Bills stomping in Seattle.

Brian Westbrook (PHI) – Westbrook’s return to the starting lineup from injury reminded Philly’s fans and opponents alike how valuable he is to Andy Reid’s offense as both a runner and pass-catcher. Since his rookie year, Westbrook has treated the Giants as his own personal whipping boy and last Sunday was no exception. The second year back ran for 74 yards on 18 carries and caught five balls for 53 yards while hitting pay dirt twice (1 rush, 1 rec). His season totals reflect the balance of his game, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and 8.5 yards per catch with three touchdowns in the air and three on the ground.

Najeh Davenport (GB) -- Ahman Green’s sore ribs allowed Packer fans to get a good look under the tent at the long-hyped Davenport, who couldn’t seem to stay healthy even as a backup. Davenport, hamstrings sufficiently healed, proceeded to thrill the Lambeau faithful with 178 yards rushing on 19 carries (including a 41 yard touchdown romp), an eye-popping 9.36 yards per carry average! With Ahman Green battling various ailments this year, Davenport looks to be a wise addition to fantasy rosters for the playoff run.

Larry Johnson (KC) – A Larry Johnson sighting was reported at Arrowhead Stadium as the diaper dandy received rare, meaningful playing time spelling Derrick Blaylock in the Chiefs 34-31 loss with 10 carries for 43 yards, including a six yard TD run. Johnson could see more playing time with Priest Holmes still in doubt for this week’s game in Oakland against a Raiders team that has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns.

Sliding Back

Ahman Green (GB) – This is more about Corey Dillon’soutstanding production forcing his way into the top ten of Running Back Watch versus Green’s inconsistent results throughout 2004. Green sat out the Monday night game against the Rams resting his sore ribs with the hopes of returning for the Packers road trip to Philadelphia this Sunday. The 10-1 Eagles are still struggling against the run, allowing 4.5 yards per carry.

Thomas Jones (CHI) – By no fault of his own, Jones promising fantasy football outlook has been sucked into the wake of the Bears sinking quarterback position as current QB starter, rookie Craig Krenzel, crumpled under a severely sprained ankle on Thanksgiving forcing the Bears this week to dust off 36 year old veteran castoff Jeff George, who hasn’t taken an NFL snap since 2001. Jones’ turkey day totals reflected his decline, gaining only 46 yards on the ground and catching six balls for 48 yards and no touchdowns.

Clinton Portis (DEN) / Chris Brown (TEN) / Kevan Barlow (SF) – This terrible troika represents an unholy trinity of top fantasy draft choices that continue to break their owners hearts on a weekly basis. Portis achieved the season’s true low point with last Sunday’s 17 yards on six carries against the Steelers. Brown has turned NOT recovering from his assortment of injuries into an art form, being yanked from the starting lineup right before last Sunday’s kickoff against Houston after three weeks to rest his turf toe. And Kevan Barlow continues to watch understudy Maurice Hicks (13 carries for 46 yards and a TD with two receptions for 33 yards) get better each week.