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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 6
Mike Courter
October 11, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander rarely disappoints...he delivered as advertised once again, rushing for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries with three receptions for 16 yards in the Seahawks crucial 37-31 road win over St. Louis. This Sunday night, he’ll welcome a struggling Houston Texans squad to Seattle and demonstrate in front of a nationwide audience why he perpetually ranks amongst the elite performers in the NFL.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson carved out a well-earned 130 total yards and one touchdown performance in the 24-22 Monday night loss to the Steelers. The Chargers travel to Oakland this Sunday where LT hopes to match 2004’s performance in Network Associates Coliseum when he rambled for 164 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries.
3 IND Edgerrin James This is shaping up to be a special year for the Edge as the Indianapolis offensive philosophy shift appears to be permanent after Peyton Manning threw a ho-hum 255 yards with one score and two interceptions against the worst pass defense in the league, the San Francisco 49ers. James rushed for his third 100 yard game this season in the 28-3 win over San Francisco with 105 on 21 carries and a touchdown while catching four balls for 42 yards. On Monday night he’ll face a St. Louis defense battling self-esteem issues after suffering consecutive beatings at the hands of the Giants and Seahawks the last two weeks.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Coming off his bye week, Barber and the Giants head to Dallas to face a resurgent Cowboys team brimming with confidence after their 33-10 thrashing of the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday. Barber has traditionally performed well against the Cowboys, including last season’s dominant 198 total yards effort (122 rushing, 76 receiving) and a touchdown in New York’s 26-10 triumph.
5 KC Priest Holmes Priest will come off his bye week to host a tired Washington Redskins team that endured a hard-fought losing effort in Denver last Sunday, 21-19. Holmes will welcome back All-Pro tackle Willie Roaf with open arms to lead the attack against a Redskins team that was gashed by Tatum Bell for 127 yards, including touchdown runs of 55 and 34 yards.
6 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee currently ranks fifth overall in rushing yardage with 461 (a 4.2 yds per carry avg). He grinded out 86 yards rushing and a touchdown on 31 carries against a stout Miami defense last Sunday and the installment of veteran Kelly Holcomb as the Bills starting quarterback should back defenses up and allow McGahee the room to gather momentum through the line of scrimmage and break longer runs as the season progresses. This Sunday, the Bills host the New York Jets, a team that McGahee ran over for 132 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries in Buffalo last season.
7 CHI Thomas Jones Jones has become 2005’s running back version of Drew Brees. His team drafted a No. 1 pick as his replacement (Cedric Benson) and then he was allowed to begin the season as the starter when the top draft pick decided to conduct a lengthy contract holdout…and he’s never looked back since. Jones 413 rushing yards ranks eighth overall and he’s added four touchdowns to boot. In the Bears first four games, Jones has collected three 100 yard rushing games. Unfortunately, his playing status for this Sunday’s home date with the Vikings is up in the air due to a mild knee sprain suffered against Cleveland last Sunday.
8 PHI Brian Westbrook The Eagles 33-10 dismantling at the hands of the Cowboys represents the second straight week of Westbrook being a persona non grata on the score sheet. His three receptions for 24 yards and 12 yards rushing on six carries was more a product of the Cowboys pressure on Donovan McNabb than any failing on Westbrook’s part. The Eagles will use their week six bye to heal their multitude of wounds and hope to get back on track in week seven at home against the San Diego Chargers.
9 NE Corey Dillon Dillon’s had an imbalanced start to 2005, scoring touchdowns at a healthy clip (his five TDs rank 5 th highest in the NFL) but lacking on the yardage side of the house (3.4 yards per carry). He recorded his first 100 yard game in Sunday’s win over Atlanta with 106 yards on 23 carries. He’ll travel to Denver for a strong week six test against a Broncos defense allowing only 3.8 yards per carry and three touchdowns to opposing backs in five games this year.
10 TB Carnell Williams Williams was rested during the Buccaneers 14-12 week five loss to the New York Jets to help restore his foot and hamstring ills. On Monday this week, Jon Gruden upgraded him to probable for this weekend’s home match against the Miami Dolphins. The rookie may find the waters unfriendly as the Fish have only surrendered one touchdown on the ground.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Stephen Jackson (STL) – Jackson has constructed a solid body of work in a running back-hostile environment under pass-happy Mike Martz this season. The second-year back has rushed for 295 yards (3.9 yards per carry) while catching 17 passes for 139 yards and a total of four touchdowns (3 rush, 1 rec). Jackson’s opportunities to run should increase with Martz having to remove himself from his coaching duties for a medically-mandated six week period due to a bacterial heart infection. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who served under former Rams coach Chuck Knox and his “Ground Chuck” offenses, will take over the reins and is widely assumed to be a strong proponent of the running game.

Tatum Bell (DEN) – Last Sunday’s 127 yard outburst against the Redskins from Bell included two long touchdown runs of 34 and 55 yards, respectively. The speedster’s gaudy 10.58 yards per carry average was a wakeup call to Mike Shanahan, who seemed to have forgotten about the second year pro from Oklahoma State up to that point. Now there’s increased speculation that Bell has wrested the starting job from Mike Anderson for this Sunday’s home game against New England.

Rudi Johnson (CIN) -- The “Quiet Man” of the NFL’s top running backs, Johnson, while being overshadowed by his flashier offensive mates, currently ranks fourth on the NFL rushing yardage list with 464, a 4.2 yards per carry. Though he has only one touchdown to his credit this year, that number has a puncher’s chance of increasing this Sunday when the Bengals visit Tennessee to face a Titans defense that has given up 4.5 yards per carry to opposing backs.

Ronnie Brown (MIA) – Brown has found his stride in his last two outings, rushing for 229 yards on 40 carries (5.7 yds per carry), including 97 yards on 17 carries in the Dolphins 20-14 road loss in Buffalo last week. Ricky Williams return does not appear to be a negative for Brown and after a tough game this week in Tampa Bay he’ll face softer run defenses against Kansas City, @ New Orleans, Atlanta and New England in the coming weeks.

Sliding Back

Deuce McAllister (NO) – McAllister’s season-ending torn ACL injury seemed a morosely fitting end to a 2005 season filled with well-chronicled, mounting obstacles. Not much else could go wrong for the hard-luck Saints in their 52-3 meltdown amongst the cheese-heads of Lambeau. Even before the injury, McAllister was going nowhere with 31 yards on 11 carries and three receptions for 33 yards. Both Antowain Smith and Aaron Stecker are expected to fill the substantial void left by Deuce’s departure.

Willie Parker (PIT) – Parker was one of the exciting new faces in the fantasy football world when the season started and he ran with a burst and purpose that told Bill Cowher that he could take his time bringing veterans Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis back from their injuries. Two weeks ago, Fast Willie managed only 55 yards on 17 carries against hated New England, leaving the door open for carry-sharing with the returning veteran backs after the Steelers week four bye. Judging from the Pittsburgh offensive game plan on Monday night against the Chargers, the dreaded RBBC is in full effect with Jerome Bettis getting 17 carries (for 54 yards) to Parker’s 10 (for 26 yards) and most importantly, the Bus resuming his traditional place in the goal line packages. Bettis carried the ball seven times on the Steelers game-winning drive on Monday night and triumphantly declared , “I’m Back!” , much to the chagrin of Parker owners.

Marshall Faulk (STL) – Graciously stepping aside to allow the young lion, Stephen Jackson, to take his place in the pride is one thing, being active for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks and not receiving a single carry or catching one pass is quite another. Faulk still retains a spot on most fantasy rosters as purely a backup with upside should Jackson incur a meaningful injury but based on his diminishing returns on the field with each passing week, his place in the rotisserie world is at risk as well.