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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 7
Mike Courter
October 18, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander plus Sunday night plus creampuff opponent at home, that’s what fantasy football is all about. Alexander effortlessly put up 141 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the hapless Texans on only 22 carries in the Seahawks 42-10 romp. He leads the NFL in rushing yardage with 715 (5.5 yards per carry) and touchdowns on the ground (12). The ‘Hawks will host a surging Dallas defense in week seven. Though he scored twice, the Cowboys held Alexander under 100 rushing yards (83) when they visited Seattle a year ago.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson The Chargers have really taken this “get LT involved more” game plan seriously. Tomlinson continued his ownership of the Raiders with last Sunday’s performance of 183 total yards (140 rush, 39 rec and 4 pass) and three touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving and one passing). Through six games, LT now has two touchdown passes to go with 11 rushing and one receiving while gaining 652 yards on the ground (second overall in the NFL). LT and the Chargers could be headed into a hornets nest this Sunday in Philadelphia, where the Eagles will be highly motivated coming off a bye having to stew for two weeks after the 33-10 meltdown loss in Dallas in week five.
3 IND Edgerrin James James piled it on as the Colts pulled away from the visiting Rams during their Monday night win rushing for 143 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries as the Colts defense continually gave the ball back to him and the Indy offense in the second half. James is well on his way to a career year and the fun doesn’t end in week seven as the Colts face the demoralized Texans in Houston.
4 KC Priest Holmes Holmes gained 118 total yards in the Chiefs 28-21 win over the Redskins last week with the surprise being 100 of those yards coming on five receptions, including a signature 60 yard touchdown catch that saw Priest gracefully weave through a pursuing Washington defense on his way to the end zone. This Sunday, the Chiefs will face a stubborn Dolphins run defense that’s only allowed 3.4 yards per carry to and two rushing scores to opponents in five games played this season.
5 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee is starting to get on a 2004-like tear after running over the Jets for 143 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries while adding three receptions for 24 yards. He now stands third overall in rushing yardage with 604 and has four scores on the ground. The Bills travel to Oakland in week seven where McGahee has a good chance of increasing his touchdown total against a Raiders defense that has allowed six rushing scores this season.
6 CHI Thomas Jones Jones had to relish pulling his Lazarus routine in the Bears 28-3 win over the Vikings, overcoming weeklong talk of inactive status due to a stretched knee ligament only to overcome and force his way back into the starting lineup, further vexing his nemesis, newcomer Cedric Benson. Jones grinded out 89 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including an impressive 24 yard touchdown run.
7 NYG Tiki Barber Barber’s productivity was cut short in the Giants mistake-filled 16-13 overtime loss in Dallas last Sunday, gaining 64 yards on 14 carries. This Sunday against the Broncos in the Meadowlands should provide a bounce back venue for the veteran tailback as his young quarterback tends to play at a much higher level at home which will create the space for Barber to run freely and take dump off passes for large gains.
8 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook should do most of his damage statistically through the air against the visiting Chargers this Sunday as San Diego does not allow a lot of yardage on the ground (3.5 yards per carry to opponents) but has given up seven passing touchdowns.
9 ATL Warrick Dunn Dunn has been the pace horse for the three-pronged Atlanta ground game all season, the steady performer who churns near 100 yards just about every game, occasionally scoring on a long touchdown run. The selfless team-guy has quietly compiled 577 yards rushing, good for fourth overall, including his 100 yard effort on 22 carries in last week’s 34-31 win over the Saints. Dunn should see his touchdown total, currently at two, increase if T.J. Duckett, historically a slow-healer, is forced to miss significant time due to a high ankle sprain incurred last Sunday. Dunn will showcase his talents in the national TV spotlight against the Jets on Monday night in week seven.
10 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson put forth a solid 127 total yards effort and a touchdown in a 45-28 losing effort against Indianapolis on Monday night. He was on his way to an impressive showing until Marc Bulger was kayoed in the first half with a bruised right shoulder and the Rams fell apart after leading the Colts for most of the first half. Jackson now has 383 yards rushing and four touchdowns with 178 yards and one touchdown in receptions.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Curtis Martin (NYJ) – It was nice to see the classy Martin have some breaks go his way for a change this season as he improved upon his two touchdown performance in week five with a 148 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo this past Sunday, all while his team was playing from behind and his ailing knee still not fully recovered. He’ll travel to Atlanta to face a weak Falcons run defense in week seven and get a chance to rest his injured knee in the week eight bye to follow.

Michael Pittman (TB) – Pittman continued his super-sub routine filling in for the injured Cadillac Williams for the second consecutive week. A few more weeks of performances like Pittman’s against the Dolphins in week six and Buccaneers fans may start to wonder why they used a No.1 pick on the rookie running back from Auburn in the first place. Pittman bolted through the Miami defense for 127 yards on only 15 carries, including a 57 yard touchdown flash.

Chris Brown (TEN) – Brown garnered 112 total yards (84 rushing, 28 receiving) and two touchdowns in a losing effort last week as the Titans fell to visiting Cincy, 31-23. For the season, he’s gained 372 yards on 89 carries (4.2) with two touchdowns but the most important development for Brown has been his surprising knack for staying healthy for a good majority of this young season. He’ll travel with the Titans to Arizona for week seven and should produce against a red bird defense that has allowed eight scores and 4.2 yards per carry to opposing backs in five games.

Antowain Smith / Aaron Stecker (NO) – The Deuce-replacement duo combined for 174 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 28 carries (6.2 yards per carry) in the Saints loss to Atlanta last week. Smith accounted for both scores, including a 24 yard run in the first quarter. Traveling to St. Louis this week is one road trip the Saints will look forward to this season as they have traditionally played well against St. Louis and the Rams have not defended the run well this season, giving up 100 yard games to Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander and Tiki Barber in the last three weeks.

Sliding Back

Stephen Davis (CAR) – Davis ’13 carries, 27 yards and no scores (last week versus the Lions) is not the expected stat line of a featured back. Davis’ 3.1 yards per carry for the season will not win any rushing titles either. He has been an above average scorer with seven touchdowns on the year but his days of taking over a game seem long gone and he remains one good hit from being on the shelf at any moment.

Cedric Benson (CHI) – It’s official. Benson has become the 2005 poster boy for the ills of contract holdouts. In his redefining of the phrase “limited role”, Benson seems to gain one yard less than the three to five carries he gets every game and usually manages to fumble once to boot. In last week’s 28-3 win over the Vikings, Benson missed a blocking assignment that almost resulted in a turnover and Minnesota defensive score but was nullified by a penalty—he was immediately replaced by Adrian Peterson in the relief role of starter Thomas Jones for the remainder of the game.

Jerome Bettis (PIT) – How is it possible for a man of Bettis’ ample girth able to disappear so completely from week five to week six? The Bus carried four times for four yards in the Steelers 23-17 home overtime loss to Jacksonville and was not used in some of the pivotal moments of the game like he was against San Diego in week five. And he wonders why the press questions whether he still has enough left in the tank? Bettis has a chance for redemption this week hosting the Bengals and their questionable run defense (4.9 yards per carry to opponents).