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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 8
Mike Courter
October 25, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander had a rare statistical stumble in week seven, falling prey to a Dallas defensive buzz saw that held him to an uneventful 61 yards on 21 carries and no scores in a rain-soaked 13-10 Seattle home win. The Seahawks receive their bye this week and travel to Arizona in week nine to face one of Alexander’s favorite whipping boys, the Cardinals defense.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson mirrored Alexander’s vanishing act with his own fall from fantasy grace in the Charger’s heartbreaking 20-17 loss to the Eagles in Philadelphia. The best all-around back in football needed 17 carries to gain a whopping seven yards, though he did catch four balls for 26 yards. Unlike Alexander, who will have to wait two weeks for a chance at redemption, Tomlinson will be all charged up for the visiting Chiefs, against whom he registered 103 total yards and two touchdowns the last time he faced them, in 2004.
3 IND Edgerrin James James has truly taken advantage of a charitable schedule that fed him San Francisco, St. Louis and Houston the last three weeks. The 0-6 Texans were a little too hospitable to the visiting Colts, particularly James. Edge ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in the Colts 38-20 week seven victory. Now he’ll have two weeks to prepare for the home showdown against hated New England, who are currently yielding 4.2 yards per carry and seven touchdowns on the ground through six games.
4 KC Priest Holmes With Willie Roaf back anchoring the left tackle position, Holmes appears to have found his stride in Kansas City’s two-pronged running attack. Priest’s 90 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in the Chiefs Friday night 30-20 road win over Miami included a beautiful 35 yard scamper that saw the veteran back separate from the pursuing defensive pack.
5 CHI Thomas Jones Many predicted a bump in the road for Jones last Sunday as he faced Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense with his knee still not 100 percent. And the veteran back continued his surprising 2005 run with 139 yards on 25 carries in the Bears home 10-6 slugfest decision over Baltimore. This week Jones and company will head to Detroit for a midseason battle for first place in the NFC North division. The Lions defense is stout and they’ve allowed only two touchdowns on the ground through six games.
6 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee certainly led the league in hubris going into week seven’s match up against the Raiders in Oakland, boasting, “I’m the best back. Case closed.” Then he goes out and gains a church-mouse quiet 50 yards on 16 carries with another 36 yards in receptions and no scores while his visiting Bills get waylaid by the Raiders, 38-17. He’ll travel to New England this Sunday where he gained only 37 yards on 14 carries last season. The third year back should fare better this time around against a much softer Patriots defense that will still be without Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, who’s not ready for prime time yet.
7 NYG Tiki Barber In the week before the home game against Denver, the New York media took a page from their San Diego counterparts from a few weeks ago and performed a watered down version of the “get LT involved more” mantra regarding the woeful under-utilization of the Giants own pro bowl back, Tiki Barber. The coaching staff of Big Blue responded and Barber did not disappoint with his 25 touches (19 carries, six receptions) good for 110 yards (86 yards rushing, 24 receiving) and a touchdown. The Giants will host rival Washington this Sunday in an NFC East clash where Barber will look to exploit the ‘Skins defense which has been so-so against the run, yielding 4.2 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns.
8 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan registered his first signature performance as the Raiders franchise back by gashing the Buffalo Bills for 122 yards and hat trick on 28 carries while also hauling in four passes for 40 yards in the 38-17 laugher for Raider Nation. His seven rushing touchdowns leave him tied with Edgerrin James and Stephen Davis for third overall. In week eight, he’ll travel to Tennessee to face a Titans defense that’s been respectable against the run in a bend-but-don’t-break way, giving up 4.2 yards per carry but only three touchdowns on the ground.
9 ATL Warrick Dunn Dunn continues to pile onto his impressive season rushing yardage total running for a season-best, single game mark of 155 yards on 24 carries against the Jets on Monday night in Atlanta’s 27-14 win. Surprisingly, the absence of T.J. Duckett (ankle) from the goal line packages did not lead to a touchdown for the selfless team player. Atlanta has a bye in week eight, traveling to Miami in week nine.
10 STL Stephen Jackson With starters Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce all inactive for last week’s home game against division rival New Orleans, Stephen Jackson was called upon to play a crucial role and protect backup QB Jamie Martin in his first start of 2005. Jackson responded with 97 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Rams 28-17 win. Jackson will face a stronger test this week with visiting Jacksonville and their rugged defense coming off their bye week.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Willie Parker (PIT) – Jerome Bettis’return three weeks ag oappeared to spell danger for Fast Willie’s status as an every week fantasy back, but the second year speedster has been able to hold onto his spot in the starting lineup long enough to get a shot at the Bengals last week, which he did to the tune of 131 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Steelers critical road win against their division rivals. Now he’ll get a chance, in concert with Bettis as the power back, to run against a suddenly reeling Ravens run defense that looks like it will be missing, in addition to Ed Reed (ankle), all pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring).

Clinton Portis (WAS) –. Thanks to the 49ers, Portis finally has some touchdowns to go with his 544 yards rushing (8 th overall), scoring three along with 101 yards on 19 carries in the Redskins 52-17 rout of San Francisco in week seven. Portis should have a prominent role once again in week eight’s game against the New York Giants in the Meadowlands this Sunday. Last week, New York’s run defense played poorly, giving up 191 yards on the ground to the Broncos.

Mike Anderson (DEN) – Anderson has continued to play well despite the emergence of Tatum Bell, forming a dangerous one-two punch with Bell in the Denver ground attack. Anderson ran through the Giants for 120 yards and a score on 24 carries in the Broncos heart-wrenching 24-23 loss to New York last Sunday. Sunday’s game against the Eagles will present a stiffer challenge for Anderson as the Philadelphia defense, coming off a stifling of LaDainian Tomlinson in week seven, has allowed opponents only 3.6 yards per carry and three rushing scores.

Reuben Droughns (CLE) – Droughns has consistently produced an unassuming 80 or so yards rushing and a handful of receptions per game as a part of a very underwhelming Cleveland offense. Last week, Droughns notched his first 100 yard game on the ground on 19 carries against a solid Lions defense in the Browns 13-10 home loss. This week could produce his best results yet, traveling to Houston to play a despondent Texans team that has now allowed 5.0 yards per carry and 10 touchdowns to opposing backs.

Sliding Back

Ricky Williams (MIA) – Not much of a leap here. In the two weeks of his 2005 comeback, Williams has now totaled 11 carries for 7 yards, including last week’s six carries for -1 yard against the Chiefs in Friday night’s 30-20 loss. All while rookie running back Ronnie Brown continues to get better each week, highlighted by a powerful 65 yard touchdown run in the loss to Kansas City. I guess Nick Saban wasn’t blowing smoke when he repeated emphatically that he wasn’t looking to trade the embattled running back.

Julius Jones (DAL) – Fantasy aficionados could smell a rat in the preseason when they witnessed Bill Parcells stockpiling running backs through the draft (Marion Barber, Jr.) and free agency (Anthony Thomas and Tyson Thompson). When the 2005 season began, great fantasy expectations were placed on Jones following an explosive finish to the 2004 campaign. But he was slow out of the gate this year and through seven games he’s averaged a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry and only three touchdowns while struggling with various injuries throughout the season. Just this week, Bill Parcells publicly questioned his durability, citing the fact that Jones has missed 11.5 of 24 games in his brief career as a Cowboy and it appears likely that he’ll miss the game against Arizona this Sunday as well due to a lingering ankle injury.

Jamal Lewis (BAL) – Granted, Chicago has one of the better defenses in the league, especially against the run, but a franchise back that’s expected to carry an offense with virtually no passing game cannot continue to disappoint week in and week out. Lewis rushed for a nondescript 34 yards on 15 carries in the Ravens 10-6 loss to the Bears and is outperformed by backup Chester Taylor on a weekly basis. There have been many disappointing running backs in fantasy football this year but none more so than Lewis.