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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 15
Mike Courter
December 14, 2004
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s To Own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Priest’s season-ending knee injury has opened the door for Alexander to ascend to the top of the RB Watch, thanks to his league-leading 16 touchdowns and 1,385 rushing yards (only 10 yards behind league-leader Edgerrin James’ 1,395). One of his tougher tests of the year awaits in the Meadowlands this week as the ‘Hawks travel to face the Jets.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson LT2 has been steadily rising from the ashes of his troublesome groin of a few weeks ago. His 131 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs last week marked his third 100 yard game out of his last four. He’s also scored six touchdowns over that four game span. This week Tomlinson leads the Bolts back to Cleveland where in week seven last year he compiled 200 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries.
3 IND Edgerrin James James 104 yards rushing in Houston last week now places him atop the NFL with 1,395 yards. This Sunday night the Colts welcome the suddenly-exposed Ravens defense to Indianapolis where Ray Lewis and company will prove softer than prior years as they struggle to stop Manning from breaking Dan Marino’s touchdown pass record.
4 NYJ Curtis Martin Martin fought hard for his 72 yards on 24 carries in Pittsburgh last Sunday and should find much more favorable conditions at home this Sunday against a hapless Seattle run defense, currently allowing 4.4 yds per carry to opponents and 15 scores on the ground.
5 HOU Domanick Davis Since shaking the injury bug in week nine, Dynamo Dom has scampered for 786 total yards and eight touchdowns in his last six games. Davis and the Texans travel to chilly Chicago where Dom will have to fight through Houston’s struggles on the road, 1-3 in their last four trips away from Texas.
6 NE Corey Dillon Dillon somewhat disappointed by not eclipsing the 100 yard barrier against his former team last Sunday, finishing with 88 yards and a score on 22 carries in New England’s 35-28 home triumph over the Bengals. However, his 1,309 yards ranks him fourth overall in rushing and he’ll be on Monday night against an uncharacteristically soft Miami defense this week.
7 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook managed to scrape together 118 total yards (59 and 59) in a hard-hitting, NFC East throwback contest last Sunday night against the ‘Skins. This week the Eagles get to sink their teeth into a visiting Dallas defense, who five weeks ago yielded 49 points to Philly in Dallas, a game in which Westbrook had 118 total yards and a touchdown.
8 HOU Tiki Barber Barber struggled to overcome Eli Manning’s 0.0 QB rating, gaining 55 yards on 19 carries and scoring a touchdown in garbage time during New York’s 37-14 debacle in Baltimore. And it doesn’t get any easier with Blitzburgh coming to New York this Saturday and Tom Coughlin continuing to stand by Manning as his starter.
9 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson now sits sixth overall in the NFL with 1,194 rushing yards to go along with eight touchdowns. This week, Cincinnati welcomes a nasty Bills defense that has allowed only four rushing touchdowns all season and 3.5 yards per carry to opposing backs.
10 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee continues to fuel Buffalo’s late season stampede, his most recent effort against the Browns tabulated 105 rush yards and two scores on 27 carries, bringing his 2004 total to 922 yards and nine touchdowns in the eight games that he has started.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Chester Taylor (BAL) – Despite Jamal Lewis (eight carries for 32 yards, no receptions) returning to the Ravens lineup for the Baltimore romp over the Giants last week,it wasTaylor who carried the day with 104 yards on 25 touches while also catching 4 passes for 27 yards. In fact, Taylor has a better yards per carry than Lewis in 2004, 4.6 to 4.1, and has 26 receptions for 148 yards compared to Lewis’ six grabs for 83 yards.

T.J. Duckett / Warrick Dunn (ATL) – Atlanta’s deep back duo took full advantage of a demoralized Oakland defense in the Falcons 35-10 home laugher last Sunday. Duckett grabbed the headlines with his gaudy four touchdowns and 65 yards on 12 carries while Dunn was his workman-like self gaining 103 yards on 23 carries. Atlanta hosts a Carolina team that has given up 15 touchdowns on the ground this season at 8:30 PM this Saturday night.

Maurice Hicks (SF) -- Fantasy folks in the know had their eye on Maurice Hicks for weeks and last Sunday he rewarded those that took a chance on Kevan Barlow’s backup a few weeks ago. Hicks was outstanding in San Francisco’s thrilling 31-28 overtime road win in the Arizona desert, carrying the ball 34 times for 139 yards and a touchdown while also contributing to the passing game with five catches for 29 yards.

Sliding Back

Priest Holmes (KC) – Holmes gets bumped from the top 10 this week due to his season ending knee injury but rest assured he’ll be a top five back for next season’s fantasy drafts after amassing 15 touchdowns and 1,079 total yards after just eight games into the 2004 campaign.

Fred Taylor (JAX) – Taylor has been decent in rushing yardage, 1,059 on 238 carries in 13 games this season but his putrid touchdown total of two (one rushing, one receiving) is an anchor dragging him down the running back value chart.

Ahman Green (GB) – Green, beset with various injuries throughout the year, was mediocre again last Sunday in a windy Lambeau Field as the Packers barely survived the Lions, 16-13. In a game where both teams could barely move the ball through the air, Detroit rookie Kevin Jones was the standout back by carrying 33 times for 156 yards and a touchdown compared to Green’s 76 yard effort on 23 carries with no scores.