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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 4
Mike Courter
September 27, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander What’s so enjoyable about Shaun Alexander from a fantasy football perspective is his consistency. He rarely disappoints. Prior games showed that he always runs wild against the Cardinals at home and sure enough he hangs 140 yards and four scores on helpless Arizona on only 22 carries last Sunday. Next week will be tougher in Washington but there’s no sitting Alexander under any non-injury circumstances.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson The San Diego brass and Marty Schottenheimer heard about it all week prior to Sunday night’s game against New York, “give LT the ball more” and “throw LT the ball more”. Marty-ball obliged and Tomlinson responded by treating the Giants the way Denzel Washington’s character “Creasy” treated members of La Hermandad in the movie, “Man on Fire”. He tore through a New York defense that, up to that point, had played well in the two weeks prior, gaining 192 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 21 carries. LT also caught six passes for 28 yards and completed his only pass attempt of the evening for a 26 yard touchdown to Keenan McCardell. Week four has the Bolts head to New England which looked like a tough fantasy road to hoe at the beginning of the year but now, due to a plethora of injuries to Patriots defenders, including most recently S Rodney Harrison, appears to be a promising venue for LT.
3 IND Edgerrin James With all the hullabaloo over Peyton Manning’s drop in fantasy production, Edgerrin James has become the quiet beneficiary of the Colts paradigm shift to a run first and win with defense philosophy. James registered his second consecutive 100 yard game, gaining 108 yards on 27 carries and notching his first touchdown of 2005. This Sunday, he’ll travel to Tennessee where last year he ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Barber had a statistically quiet night, for his standards, in San Diego last week rushing for 60 yards on 15 carries, mostly due to New York having to play catch up through the air in the lopsided 45-23 road loss. Nice rebound game this Sunday though, as the Rams pay a visit to the Meadowlands in what should develop as a high scoring contest with offensive success from both sides for the full 60 minutes.
5 PHI Brian Westbrook Perhaps it’s anger about the Eagles refusing to satisfy his contract demands or just a natural progression of his game over the last couple of seasons, but 2005 has witnessed Brian Westbrook soaring to new performance heights. After three games, he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry and is the Eagles second leading receiver (behind T.O.) with 16 catches for 235 yards and a total of four touchdowns (3 rec., 1 rush). Westbrook was the difference in Philadelphia’s hard fought 23-20 home win over the Raiders with 68 yards rushing and 140 yards receiving and two scores. Week four should be just as busy for Westbrook when the Eagles visit running back-friendly Kansas City
6 HOU Domanick Davis Davis and the Texans return from their bye week and head to Cincinnati to face the impressive 3-0 Bengals. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Texans offense, especially Davis, have been energized by the fire that new offensive coordinator Joe Pendry brings to the job. Pendry wants to make Davis even more of a focal point of the offense and that type of development is strong currency in the fantasy football world. Another benefit of Davis this week is that should the Texans fall behind by a sizeable margin, Domanick remains an active part of the offense, shifting from carries to pass-catching mode.
7 TB Carnell Williams The NFL’s runaway Rookie of the Year through week three, Williams carried the ball a whopping 37 times for 158 yards on the ground in the Buccaneers 17-16 road win over Green Bay. The workload that Jon Gruden has been hoisting on the rookie has him projected at 400 plus carries by season’s end but Cadillac continues to run smoothly with no sign of wear in sight. This Sunday the Bucs host Detroit, who yielded 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns to journeyman Thomas Jones two weeks ago in Chicago.
8 PIT Willie Parker The Willie Parker express was brought down to earth in week three’s 23-20 loss to the visiting Patriots. New England bottled up Parker at Heinz Field to the tune of 55 yards on 17 carries and one reception for -6 yards. The Steelers have a bye this week and Parker may have to share carries in week five with both Duce Staley (between the 20’s) and Jerome Bettis (goal line specialist) as the two veterans will return fully from injury after the break.
9 NO Deuce McAllister McAllister played valiantly as his homeless Saints looked run down in the 33-16 defeat at the hands of the Vikings in Minnesota, their third consecutive road game. Though the Saints were in a deep hole on the scoreboard early, McAllister still managed 63 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and four receptions for 19 yards. The Saints finally head back down south to host visiting Buffalo in their foster home of San Antonio in what appears to be a favorable matchup for Deuce. Surprisingly, the highly-touted Buffalo defense has struggled against the run, allowing opponents 5. 3 yards per carry and four touchdowns on the ground and to make matters worse have lost All Pro LB Takeo Spikes for the year to an injured Achilles heel.
10 KC Priest Holmes Lost in the glare of the emergence of Larry Johnson as a backfield co-habitator is the fact that the once vaunted Chiefs offensive line, boasting several Pro-Bowlers and a swagger that intimdated opposing front sevens before they got off the team bus, has eroded over the last few seasons. In Priest’s heyday, just a couple of seasons ago, dominant tackles John Tait and Willie Roaf created enormous lanes on the corners for Priest to gallop through untouched until he reached the second level of defenses. The 2005 Chiefs offensive line, due to a series of unfortunate events, sports nondescript bookends, Chris Bober and Jordan Black, at the tackle spots and rapidly-aging All-Pro guard Will Shields, who almost called it quits this summer after 13 seasons toiling in the trenches. Holmes gained only 61 yards rushing on 14 carries with no touchdowns in the loss to the Broncos on Monday night. The Chiefs host Philadelphia this week.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Mewelde Moore (MIN) – Mike Tice named Moore the starter shortly before week three’s contest against the Saints and the second year back out of Tulane planted his flag as the No.1 back with 101 yards on 23 carries, providing Daunte Culpepper with a stabilizing ground game presence to slow the Saints pass rush allowing Culpepper the time to successfully connect downfield and rebuild his shattered confidence from the past two weeks. This week he’ll face a Falcons defense in Atlanta that’s currently yielding 4.9 yards per carry to opponents.

Ronnie Brown (MIA) – The other first round rookie running back from Auburn finally had a standout performance after hearing the Cadillac comparison whispers for the last two weeks. Brown ran through a mid-game hamstring injury to garner 132 yards and a touchdown on the ground, including a 58 yard streak. He also added three receptions for 15 yards. The breakout performance should help the rookie keep returning Ricky Williams at bay as Miami heads into a week four bye.

Willis McGahee (BUF) -- If it was a book, McGahee’s week three performance in the 24-16 home loss to Atlanta would be aptly titled, “How Willis Got His Groove Back”. After being publicly called out by his head coach for not running hard enough at the line of scrimmage in week two, McGahee responded with a 27 carry, 140 yards (1 TD) performance against the Falcons. He’ll face a displaced Saints team currently allowing over four yards per carry to opponents (4.1) in San Antonio this Sunday.

Sliding Back

Travis Henry (TEN) – In what was supposed to be a triumphant return to his Tennessee home roots, Henry has had nothing but setbacks in trying to stick to the career rejuvenation script. He was unable to dislodge a productive and surprisingly healthy Chris Brown through three games and now the Titans have announced that Henry has been suspended for four games due to violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. He will miss choice fantasy games against the Colts, Texans, Bengals and Cardinals during his league-mandated absence.

Marcel Shipp (ARI) – Shipp, in the fulltime starter’s role for the first time this year, managed a scant 41 yards on 10 carries in the 37-12 trouncing at the hands of the Seahawks on Sunday. The Arizona offensive line still struggles with run-blocking execution and now his starting quarterback, Kurt Warner, has injured his groin and could miss several weeks, hampering the other half of the Cardinals offense. Shipp now looks over his shoulder at the possible Michael Bennett (MIN) trade that looms on the horizon while heading to Mexico City on Sunday night to face the San Francisco 49ers who have given up four touchdowns on the ground this season.

Larry Johnson (KC) – Based on the buzz that he has built with noticeable performances in the first two weeks, owners playing Johnson on Monday night against the Broncos had mentally written in at least a touchdown and anywhere between 40 to 100 yards rushing into their league scorecard. Johnson registered 13 yards rushing on eight carries and no receptions in the Chiefs 30-10 Mile High humbling. The Chiefs fell behind early but, as noted above with regard to Priest Holmes dwindling performances, the Kansas City offensive line appears to be a shell of their former self.