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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 3
Mike Courter
September 20, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander climbs to the top spot with an impressive 28 carry, 144 yards rushing and a touchdown against a feisty Atlanta defense in Seattle last Sunday. To date, he’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry and he welcomes Arizona to Qwest Field this Sunday, a Cardinals team that he feasted on to the tune of 154 rushing yards and three touchdowns in Seattle last season.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Through two games, Tomlinson has averaged an unLT-like 3.3 yards per carry, despite scoring three touchdowns. And what gives with the San Diego offensive play-calling? In 2003, Tomlinson had 100 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns, he has none through two games this year. Fantasy owners are anxiously awaiting the two touchdown, 189 total yards day of yesteryear and it could come in an emotionally-charged, nationally televised Sunday night game against the visiting New York Giants.
3 NYG Tiki Barber Despite having goal line behemoth Brandon Jacobs snake another touchdown from his 2005 total, Barber displayed his fantasy prowess yet again by rushing for 83 yards on 22 carries and registering one rushing touchdown and one receiving in the Giants 27-10 “road” win at Giants Stadium over the Saints. Barber will be called upon to play a major role in the upcoming Sunday night game against the Chargers to take the heat off San Diego’s public enemy No. 1, Eli Manning.
4 IND Edgerrin James James proved to be the Edge in the Colts hard fought 10-3 win over the Jaguars Sunday in Indianapolis. Although he didn’t find the end zone, James was a total yardage dominator with 128 on the ground and four receptions for 39 yards as the Colts surprisingly led with the ground game against Jacksonville. The Colts host a Cleveland Browns this Sunday team currently yielding 4.3 yards per carry to opponents.
5 KC Priest Holmes Holmes was.….okay against the Raiders on Sunday night with 75 yards rushing on 19 carries and a touchdown and three catches for 15 yards but clearly the days of Holmes taking over a game seem over as Larry Johnson once again pitched in with nine carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. The Chiefs travel to Denver this Sunday where in week one last year, Holmes carried 26 times for 151 yards and three touchdowns….when Larry Johnson was still in his diapers phase.
6 HOU Domanick Davis Despite being saddled with more erratic quarterback play from David Carr, Davis was still able to grind out a functional fantasy performance in the Texans humbling 27-7 home loss to the Steelers. His 59 yards rushing and 33 receiving with a three yard reception for a touchdown demonstrated Davis’ core value as a fantasy football player, despite the one-sided loss, Davis still got the mother-load of touches and was productive with them. The Texans fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer yesterday and will look to retool an ineffective offensive attack before re-emerging from the bye this week to face the Bengals in week four.
7 PIT Willie Parker Watch for the “Free Willie” signs to start appearing amongst the Steelers faithful as the second year back has created quite a stir to start the 2005 campaign. Averaging 5.8 yards per carry, Parker has gained 272 rushing yards and two touchdowns and one reception for 48 yards through the first two games, earning Bill Cowher’s endorsement as the starter, even when veterans Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley return from injury.
8 PIT Carnell Williams Cadillac glides his way into the top ten, buoyed by back to back 100 yard rushing games in the first two games of his professional career. Williams has carried 51 times for 276 yards with two touchdowns, an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Running on the Vikings is one thing but turning around the following week and hanging 128 rushing yards and a touchdown on a nasty Buffalo Bills defense is quite another. That performance showed the kid is for real. Williams is expected to shake off a foot injury to face the Packers in week three.
9 NO Deuce McAllister McAllister was hampered from the beginning in the Saints 27-10 Monday night loss to the New York Giants when the opening kickoff was fumbled by New Orleans setting up the Giants early lead and shifting Aaron Brooks into a throw-first mode. Deuce did manage 91 total yards (47 rushing, 44 receiving) in the disappointing evening but he’ll be given a significant shot at redemption this Sunday when the Saints go marchin’ into Minnesota to face the demoralized Vikings, who are yielding 4.5 yards per carry to opposing backs this season.
10 PHI Brian Westbrook McNabb and Owens were in the majority of the ESPN highlights last weekend after the Eagles 42-3 thrashing of San Francisco but Westbrook rightfully deserved a place on the dais as well. Westbrook ran for 89 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 31 yards, including a two yard touchdown reception. After two weeks, he’s averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is Philadelphia’s third leading receiver with 10 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Another cream-puff defense visits Philadelphia as the Oakland Raiders fly across country to visit the Eagles on Sunday giving Westbrook a chance to quietly soar once again.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Fred Taylor (JAX) – Taylor has stayed healthy through the first two weeks, no small undertaking for the one labeled “Fragile”, and in doing so has managed to put up decent numbers. He’s averaging 4.4 yards per carry and has five catches for 32 yards to his credit, though, not surprisingly, has not found the end zone yet in this young season. He’ll travel to New York to face the Jets this week, not a horrible fantasy match up but not a great one either.

Thomas Jones (CHI) – Jones has taken full advantage of the opportunity presented to him when top draft pick RB Cedric Benson chose the protracted holdout path this off season. In two games, the six year veteran has averaged 4.9 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. The bulk of his numbers came last Sunday against the Lions in Chicago, carrying 20 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Though Benson is expected to receive more carries each week, Jones should have another productive week this Sunday when the Bears host the Cincinnati Bengals.

Stephen Jackson (STL) -- Jackson stepped up his play in week two in Arizona rushing for 93 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown with two catches for 16 yards. He’s averaging 4.1 yards per carry for the season and he’ll welcome the Tennessee Titans to St. Louis this Sunday, a team that gave up 206 yards rushing to the Steelers in week one.

Sliding Back

Curtis Martin (NYJ) – Martin, perhaps reflecting the course of his team, has struggled mightily in 2005 so far. The 11 year veteran has zero touchdowns and is averaging an anemic 2.5 yards per carry in the first two games, against Kansas City and Miami, neither team considered a staunch run-stuffing outfit. To make matters worse, he suffered a knee injury in last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins and his playing status for this Sunday has yet to be determined.

Kevin Jones (DET) – Jones, with so much promise at the start of the 2005 campaign, appears to be suffering from IQS, Incompetent Quarterback Syndrome, an affliction that seems to be affecting more than one stud running back this season (see Dom Davis in Houston). Jones has clearly been hampered by the rapidly deteriorating game of QB Joey Harrington. Last Sunday, as Harrington threw five interceptions in the Lions eventual 38-6 road loss, Jones suffered through an eight carries for 22 yards day as the team had to abandon the running game very early in the contest. So far this year, the second year back has floundered, averaging only 3.3 yards per carry and no touchdowns. And with Jeff Garcia more than a month away from practicing, the Detroit quarterback quandary has no immediate solution. The Lions have a bye this week.

Willis McGahee (BUF) – McGahee has a similar production challenge stemming from the quarterback position although it’s somewhat more forgivable as J.P. Losman is expected to struggle at times during his first year as a starter. Use these first two weeks as an accurate barometer for McGahee’s success this season. Much better production at home where Losman can be somewhat protected (Wk 1 hosting Houston: 117 yards on 22 carries) and a lot riskier play on the road where the rookie QB will be victimized by opposing defensive coordinators (@ Tampa Bay: 34 yards on 13 carries and 1 catch for -1 yards). This week, though the Bills will be at home, they’ll face a blitz-happy Atlanta defense, which did give up 144 yards on the ground to Shaun Alexander last Sunday.