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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 9
Mike Courter
November 1, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander comes off his bye week with the Seahawks brass steeped in talks with his agent about securing a long term deal for the record-setting back to keep him a Seahawk for life. This week’s game, against one of his favorite opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, should help tilt the contract talks in his favor even further as the Cards usually serve as the backdrop to his best performances. In week three this year, he tallied 140 yards and four scores in the Seahawks 37-12 win over Arizona.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Last Sunday’s win over the Chiefs provided an ideal snapshot of why LT2 is the most complete back in the game today. He finished with 92 total yards (69 rushing) but threw his third touchdown pass of the season, a 17 yard completion to Eric Parker, upping his quarterback stats for the season to three for three for 47 yards, all for touchdowns and a QB rating of 158.3 . Aside from his passing exploits, one play demonstrated his all-around greatness in particular. On a play in the first half, Tomlinson started off in pass protection and stood up a much larger rushing defensive end with a jolting helmet in the chest block allowing Brees more time to look downfield, when the coverage yielded no open receivers, Tomlinson peeled away from his block and Brees flipped it to him as he was being tackled while LT zig-zagged downfield for 16 yards. A work of gridiron art.
3 IND Edgerrin James James is well-rested and in the midst of a superior season and he gets the chance to play a central role in the Colts much-anticipated grudge match with visiting New England this Sunday. With the Patriots increasingly poor performance against the run, now yielding 4.1 yards per carry to opponents, the table is set for a special Sunday for Edge and the Colts. And given the recent seasons of Indy frustration against their hated rivals, they will no doubt keep their foot on the gas pedal offensively should they gain the upper hand.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Barber put forth a storybook performance on Sunday that won’t soon be forgotten in the annals of NFL folklore by leading the Giants in an emotional 36-0 domination of their NFC East rival Redskins just days after attending the funeral of NFL icon and longtime Giants owner, Wellington Mara. Barber, a Mara favorite, got a chance to visit the ailing legend in his final days and dedicated his performance that Sunday against Washington to “the Duke” and the entire Mara family. It was as if Wellington strapped a pair of angels wings to Barbers cleats as Tiki glided in and around a befuddled Skins defense all afternoon to the tune of 206 yards and a touchdown on 24 inspired carries. Delivering like a champ and once again reminding league observers just how good a running back he really is.
5 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee’s standout Sunday night effort of 136 yards on 31 carries almost fueled Buffalo to an improbable road upset of favored New England. His 100 plus yards effort, with both of his starting tackles inactive no less, bucked a recent trend of poor performances on the road and provided further evidence that McGahee is steadily climbing the ladder to elite running back status. The Bills host the Chiefs in week ten after their bye this week.
6 CHI Thomas Jones Jones garnered 97 total yards (72 rushing, 25 receiving) in a decent effort during the Bears 19-13 overtime win in Detroit in week eight, a far cry from his week two domination , 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns, of the Lions. He left the game late with sore ribs, giving way to rookie Cedric Benson, who had his first acceptable outing as a Bear, rushing for 35 yards on three carries. Jones insists he’ll play in week nine against the Saints but he does have a history of injury and will now have to fight through both knee and rib injuries in the weeks ahead.
7 KC Priest Holmes Holmes was ineffective against the Chargers in the Chiefs 28-20 loss in San Diego, rushing for 38 yards on 14 carries with only three receptions for 15 yards while suffering from head trauma during the game. All pro guard Will Shields sprained his knee during the game and his status for week nine against the Raiders won’t be known until later in the week which could lead to more struggles for the one-time fantasy football king.
8 STL Stephen Jackson The combination of Mike Martz’ hospitalization, resulting in pro-running game Joe Vitt as interim head coach, and the loss of Marc Bulger and Torry Holt in the last few weeks has combined to accelerate Jackson’s growth as a franchise back. It was never more evident than in last Sunday’s 24-21 home win over the Jaguars. Jackson galloped for 179 yards on 25 carries and scored a touchdown on a nifty 19 yard pass reception. The Rams have a bye in week nine and will travel to Seattle in week ten.
9 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan continues to pay dividends on the free agent dollars Oakland bestowed on him in the off season. He ran for 67 yards and had 69 in the air while also scoring on an 18 yard reception in Oakland’s important 34-25 road win in Tennessee in week eight. Jordan now has 813 total yards and nine touchdowns (seven rushing, two receiving) for the season.
10 ATL Warrick Dunn Dunn and the Falcons travel to Miami in week nine to face a stout Dolphins defense, yielding only 3.7 yards per carry and only five touchdowns on the ground to opposing backs. According to coach Jim Mora’s press conference early this week, T. J. Duckett looked good running through drills and should re-enter into the Falcons backfield equation for week nine, once again stealing carries from Dunn.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Tatum Bell (DEN) – Bell is blossoming in his complementary “outside” role to Mike Anderson’s “inside” in the Denver Broncos prolific running attack. After Anderson ran through the Eagles defense for 126 yards and a touchdown, Bell, in his bullpen closer role for the Broncos, came on strong in the second half with 107 yards and two touchdowns (both in the fourth quarter) on 14 carries, including a blazing 67 yard run around a tired Eagles defense. The Broncos are on a bye this week.

Kevan Barlow (SF) –Barlow’s impressive 101 yards on 26 carries with two receptions for 21 yards against the top-ranked Tampa Bay defense was almost as unfathomable as envisioning the 49ers beating the visiting Buccaneers 15-10 last Sunday. Perhaps the last minute removal of DE Simeon Rice from the Bucs starting lineup played a role but it doesn’t take away from Barlow’s effort to get the team in position for five Joe Nedney field goals, fueling week eight’s biggest upset. San Francisco hosts the surging Giants for week nine which should bring them, and Barlow, back to earth.

Marion Barber (DAL) – While Julius Jones creeps back to active status trying to restore his high ankle sprain, Marion Barber has come on in the last two weeks to rush for 222 yards and two touchdowns from 49 carries, including his first 100 yard day (127 yards and two scores) as a pro against the Cardinals in last Sunday’s 34-13 win. What was once a running back by committee featuring Tyson Thompson and Anthony Thomas complementing Barber has morphed into a one man band featuring the rookie from the University of Minnesota due to his standout performances as well as Tyson Thompson having difficulties executing the right plays and Anthony Thomas dissolving into irrelevance. The Cowboys have a week nine bye and Jones is expected back for week ten’s game at Philadelphia but due to his fragile nature, Barber will remain a fantasy factor for the rest of 2005.

Fred Taylor (JAX) – Taylor ’s 165 yardrushing performance in St. Louis last Sunday came complete with a dazzling 71 yard touchdown run that took Taylor’s fantasy owners back in time to his magical rookie season of 1998 when he garnered 1,223 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns displaying an awesome blend of power and speed and a career of superstar promise. Taylor is averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season and has stayed relatively injury-free and he’ll enjoy another favorable fantasy setting this Sunday, hosting the Texans defense, currently yielding 5.0 yards per carry and 10 rushing touchdowns to opponents.

Sliding Back

Carnell Williams (TB) – Williams 20 yards rushing on 13 carries and one reception for five yards against one of the worst defenses in the league (San Francisco) was not the heroic return he had envisioned while sitting out the last few weeks due to an assortment of injuries. The Buccaneers running game inexplicably went nowhere in the surprising 15-10 loss to the 49ers as stable mate Michael Pittman had five yards on four carries and one reception for three yards. This week looms a much steeper challenge with division rival Carolina paying a visit to Florida this weekend.

Clinton Portis (WAS) – Talk about hero to zero. Portis goes from week seven’s 101 yards and three touchdowns on the ground against the 49ers to a complete production eclipse against the Giants in week eight, getting four carries for nine yards and three catches for 13 yards. Last Sunday’s disappearing act adds further evidence to validating the Broncos trading of him for shutdown corner Champ Bailey two years ago after Portis’ outrageous contract demands forced their hand.

Antowain Smith / Aaron Stecker (NO) – Deuce’s replacement duo were shut down against the Dolphins in the Saints makeshift home stadium in Baton Rouge, as Smith gained 33 yards on six carries and Stecker had an equally underwhelming 23 yards on four carries in a game that remained close on the scoreboard into the fourth quarter. It’s been three weeks since either one of them scored a touchdown with Stecker still scoreless this season. The Saints as a team are crumbling and with no consistent running game to act as a buffer, mistake-prone Aaron Brooks will continue to make more game-losing gaffes in the latter stages of games.