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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 5
Mike Courter
October 4, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson San Diego , since their Sunday night epiphany against the Giants, has rediscovered Tomlinson for the powerful weapon that he is and the franchise back has responded in kind. In the last two weeks, LT has bolted for 326 yards rushing and six touchdowns (5 rush, 1 pass) including an impressive 25 carry-134 yards, two touchdown performance in what was supposed to be a difficult road contest in New England. The Chargers host Pittsburgh this Monday night and the nasty Steelers defense will prove one of the more daunting challenges for the must-start Tomlinson.
2 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander turned in a yeoman’s performance on the road in the nation’s capital against a stingy Redskins defense just missing 100 yards (98) on 20 carries but did manage to find the end zone, which he seems to do every week. He’ll have a more fantasy-friendly road game in St. Louis this Sunday, where last season he rumbled for 176 yards on 22 carries.
3 IND Edgerrin James Though Peyton Manning finally flashed his 2004 form, throwing four touchdowns against the Titans last week, James still managed 102 total yards (90 rushing, 12 receiving) and a score, a positive takeaway for James owners. Great success is expected this Sunday as the Colts head to San Francisco to face a 49ers defense reeling from injuries and fatigue due to an inept offense who can’t convert third downs. James should be a fantasy vulture in this contest, picking at the remains of the ‘Niners after Manning scorches the San Francisco secondary.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Wow. Barber is now the lead running back of the NFL’s highest scoring team, the New York Giants, averaging 34 points per game. Equally potent in the running game or catching passes out of the backfield, Barber, over the last two seasons, has become the quintessential pick-your-poison back. The visiting Rams secondary dictated that the emerging Eli Manning attack them early through the air and then Barber was used to protect the lead and chew clock as he carried 24 times for 128 yards and a touchdown. New York has their bye this week and then will travel to Dallas in week six.
5 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook was uncharacteristically quiet from a fantasy standpoint in the Eagles 37-31 road win in Kansas City, carrying only nine times for 15 yards as the Eagles had to throw for most of the day to climb out of a large first half deficit. He did contribute in the passing game with six catches for 33 yards. This week he’ll head to Dallas where last year he had a nice all-around day carrying 15 times for 56 yards and a touchdown while also catching four balls for 62 yards.
6 KC Priest Holmes Priest started to show signs of life against the Eagles last Sunday in the Chiefs 37-31 home defeat to Philadelphia. Holmes rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries while also nabbing five passes for 24 yards while bothersome understudy Larry Johnson managed only 34 yards on the ground. After the Chiefs week five bye, Holmes will welcome back critical tackles Willie Roaf and John Welbourn to their depleted offensive line, raising Holmes' expectations for week six against Washington and beyond.
7 TB Carnell Williams Caddy needed to dial AAA in last Sunday’s home tilt against Detroit as his high carry count from the prior weeks helped factor in the rookie gaining only 13 yards on 11 carries before succumbing to an accumulation of multiple nagging injuries, namely strains in the hamstring and arch of his left foot. Now it appears he may miss week five’s match against the Jets in order to restore his ailing wheels for the stretch run.
8 HOU Dom Davis Davis responded pretty well to a challenging road contest against a sound Bengals defense in last Sunday’s 13-10 road loss to Cincinnati, gaining 81 yards on 19 carries and notching 31 yards on four receptions. Likely breakout week looming in week five as the improved Texans welcome a young and accommodating Tennessee defense to Houston this Sunday.
9 NO Deuce McAllister Still waiting for the breakout game from Deuce, he did manage to wear down the Buffalo defense last Sunday, gaining most of his 130 rushing yards late in the contest. The Saints travel to Green Bay in week five to face a defense that has played the run much better than last year but has difficulty defending the pass creating a sub 100 yards rushing projection for Deuce with perhaps more than one crack at the end zone.
10 CHI Thomas Jones Through three games, Jones has gained 276 yards on 62 carries and has found the end zone four times, good for fourth overall. His surprisingly high level of production has kept top pick Cedric Benson anchored to the bench for the time being and he’ll visit Cleveland in week five.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Warrick Dunn (ATL) – Dunn sparkled against Minnesota last week, rushing for 126 yards on 18 carries, including a dazzling 37 yard touchdown run, his first score of the season. The nine year veteran currently ranks fifth overall in rushing yards with 394 on 70 carries, a 5.6 yards per carry average. This Sunday, the Falcons host an ailing Patriots defense that yielded 134 yards and two scores to LaDainian Tomlinson at home last week.

Mike Anderson (DEN) – Anderson ran strong against the much-heralded Jaguars interior defensive line, gaining 115 yards on 23 carries in Denver’s impressive 20-7 road win over Jacksonville. Though he’s still battling a lingering rib injury, Anderson has seemingly solidified his role as the starter in the Denver backfield this season, averaging 4.3 yards per carry so far. His 100 yard effort against Jacksonville was his first since the 2001 season.

Michael Pittman (TB) -- With rookie Carnell Williams fast start to the 2005 season, fantasy owners forgot about Pittman’s productive 2004 campaign. Last Sunday against Detroit, Pittman put those who had banished him to fantasy irrelevance on notice with a eye-catching, all-around performance, gaining 30 yards on five carries and 96 more through the air on six receptions, including a 41 yard scoring strike from Brian Griese. Pittman should be the primary back for the undefeated Buccaneers in New York against the Jets this Sunday as Jon Gruden is leaning toward resting Cadillac in week five.

Lamont Jordan (OAK) – Jordan registered his first 100 yard rushing game of the season in Oakland’s 19-13 grind-it-out win over the visiting Cowboys with 126 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. He also added 22 yards on four receptions as the critical component for his team facing a must-win situation at home. This was the type of game that Norv Turner envisioned for the free agent import and should be a sign of things to come as the season progresses after their bye this week.

Sliding Back

Fred Taylor (JAX) – In many fantasy drafts, predictably fueled by the running backs first mentality, Taylor was being selected vastly prematurely in the second and third rounds after barely surviving the preseason intact. Through four games, he’s averaging an underwhelming 3.3 yards per carry and has scored a single touchdown. Last Sunday’s effort, in a losing home cause against Denver, was, to be kind, forgettable. Taylor marked the score sheet with 14 yards on eight carries. The Jaguars host Cincinnati on Sunday night where he hopes to have more success against a Bengals team allowing 4.9 yards per carry to opponents.

Kevin Jones (DET) – Though no one expected a breakout game on the road in Tampa Bay while the Lions are still struggling to find an offensive identity, Jones had an eight yard touchdown run in the second quarter that made many highlight reels and fostered some hope in at least a decent fantasy performance. He finished with a disappointing stat line of 12 carries for 38 yards and was briefly benched in the second half for no specific reason. The Lions have a favorable schedule after week five and his outstanding blocking back, Corey Schlesinger, is due back if not this Sunday against the Ravens, most likely in week six, so perhaps prospects will brighten in the weeks ahead.

Chris Brown (TEN) – All the elements were present for Brown to put together a respectable fantasy outing against the Colts last Sunday in Tennessee. He wouldn’t be sharing carries, since Travis Henry is currently serving a four game suspension and he was facing a Colts defense, though improved from last year, that he had run for 152 yards and a touchdown against last season at home. Brown’s 31 yards on 10 carries didn’t deliver the goods. To make matters worse, the Titans Norm Chow offense seems directionless and they travel to Houston this week to face a Texans defense that has allowed only one rushing touchdown this season.

Jamal Lewis (BAL) – Lewis was another back that had the table set perfectly for him to excel last Sunday but failed to capitalize. The visiting Jets were trotting out their third string quarterback against the vaunted Ravens defense, meaning Baltimore’s offense would have plenty of chances on the Jets side of the 50 yard line to start their possessions and the extra bye week was supposed to allow backup Anthony Wright time to get more comfortable in the starting quarterback role, giving Lewis more room on the ground with a more potent passing attack. None of this materialized in a lopsided Ravens effort as Lewis labored to reach 81 yards on 29 carries and a fortunate one yard scoring plunge. His lone standout season, the 2003 campaign where Lewis gained 2,066 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns, seems like decades ago.