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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 10
Mike Courter
November 8, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander enjoys playing the Cardinals so much he was seen grinning on his way into the locker room in the first half to quell an upset stomach only to rip off an 88 yard dagger to the heart of the Cards early in the third quarter en route to a 173 yard, two touchdown masterpiece on the ground. There’s no reason why he won’t continue to soar this week against division rival St. Louis, a team that just four weeks ago surrendered 119 yards and two scores to the Great in the Edward Jones Dome.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson’s four touchdowns against the New York Jets last Sunday put his league-leading, non-quarterback total at 18 (13 rushing, two receiving and three passing) with still seven games left after the Chargers bye in Week 10. In Week 11, LT2 should pick up right where he left off before the break when the Chargers host Buffalo’s porous run defense.
3 IND Edgerrin James James delivered once again for the 8-0 Colts helping Indy drive a stake through the core of their longtime tormentor, the New England Patriots, with a signature 34 carry, 104 rushing yards and a touchdown performance in the Colts 40-21 statement game at Gillette Stadium last Monday night. This Sunday, James will face the Texans for the second time this year. Three weeks ago, the Edge hung 139 yards and two scores on the ground against the Texans in Houston, expect more of the same in Indianapolis this week.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Though he did register another 100 total yards day (103), Barber was robbed of two goal line opportunities by big Brandon Jacobs in the Giants 24-6 victory in San Francisco. Tiki could be in line for a big day on Sunday as New York hosts the Vikings, who are 0-4 on the road this season (losing by an average of just under 25 points in the four losses), and have yielded 10 touchdowns on the ground to opponents.
5 BUF Willis McGahee After his bye last week, McGahee, who hasn’t played well on the road this year with the exception of week eight’s 136 yards against New England, will travel to San Diego to face the sturdy Chargers run defense, currently giving up only 3.5 yards per carry to opponents.
6 STL Stephen Jackson Watch for a surging Stephen Jackson to best his week five effort against the Seahawks in St. Louis of 139 total yards (77 rushing, 62 receiving) and a touchdown when the Rams travel to Seattle this Sunday. Jackson still labored under pass-happy coach Mike Martz in week five, now he’s thriving under new coach Joe Vitt, who prefers a more balanced attack that emphasizes the run.
7 KC Larry Johnson This past Sunday, Larry Johnson’s two touchdown, 155 total yard dominance (107 rushing, 48 receiving) in the Chiefs stirring come-from-behind win over hated Oakland truly felt like we witnessed the torch finally being passed from Priest to the third year back from Penn State. Johnson added an emphatic ending to his eye-catching display with a critical 36 yard reception that setup his end zone plunge for the winning score as time expired, his second of the day. Johnson has now rushed for 506 yards on only 97 carries (5.2 avg.) with six touchdowns while averaging 12.8 yards per catch as a receiver. Early reports regarding Holmes (concussion) label him as uncertain to play this week against the Bills in Buffalo.
8 CHI Thomas Jones For the last few weeks, Jones battled a growing assortment of injuries and defied the odds putting together productive performances despite a strained knee ligament and bruised ribs and in doing so, thumbing his nose at top pick Cedric Benson and all those who automatically slotted Jones for backup duty when the Bears selected Benson with the fourth overall pick. In week nine, the injury chickens finally came home to roost with Jones’ bruised ribs becoming aggravated and forcing him out of the game after gaining 40 yards on 11 carries. Unfortunately for Jones, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson stepped into the relief role and played well, combining for 137 rushing yards and a touchdown. Early reports out of Chicago are Jones’ worst nightmare with the veteran back sitting for this week’s match against the 49ers and Benson most likely getting the start.
9 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan ’s 93 yards rushing in the Raiders last-second 27-23 loss to the Chiefs in Arrowhead was part of a total yards effort of 118 last week. With the recent emergence of Jerry Porter to complement a still-healing Randy Moss, Jordan should find room to run against visiting Denver (4.1 yds per carry to opponents) this Sunday.
10 ATL Warrick Dunn Dunn benefited once again by T.J. Duckett’s injury absence, cashing in on a one yard touchdown to add to his 111 total yards (88 rushing) in Atlanta’s 17-10 win over the Dolphins in Miami. The Falcons will host struggling Green Bay this week. Despite having only won once this season, the Packers have played surprisingly well against the run, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry and three touchdowns to opposing backs. Dunn will rely on the Atlanta defense to force turnovers against Brett Favre, currently leading the league with 14 interceptions, and the resulting favorable field position to put the speedster within striking distance of the end zone.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Reuben Droughns (CLE) – Though he hasn’t scored a touchdown this season, Droughns has rushed for 646 yards rushing (4.5 avg.), good for 10 th overall and he’s also caught 21 passes for 184 yards. His balanced yardage prowess was on full display last week in Cleveland’s 20-14 home win over the Titans as the free agent from Denver ran for 116 yards and hauled in four passes for 73 yards. The Browns head to Pittsburgh Sunday night to face the arch rival Steelers in a much tougher contest for Droughns.

Michael Bennett (MIN) –Bennett’s 106 yards rushing on only 18 carries and a five yard touchdown reception, in relief of an injured Mewelde Moore (wrist), was hands down the most unexpected event on the fantasy football scene in week nine. Moore’s status for week ten’s road game against the Giants is up in the air this week and Mike Tice has already implied that Bennett would get the start if Moore cannot go on Sunday.

Stephen Davis (CAR) – The antithesis of Reuben Droughns all yardage-no scores, Davis ranks third overall in scoring with 11 touchdowns, after scoring two more last week against Tampa Bay, all while averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Davis has surprised many by staying healthy this far into the 2005 campaign after his lengthy recovery from the micro-fracture in his knee. Davis is a healthy wager to add to his impressive scoring total when the Panthers host the visiting New York Jets, who have allowed a bloated 11 touchdowns on the ground so far.

Sliding Back

Priest Holmes (KC) – As previously mentioned above, Holmes has lost his spot in the top ten of the Running Back Watch due to a combination of his physical deterioration and the continued ascendance of understudy, Larry Johnson. Holmes is currently battling a concussion, having gone so far as to see a spinal specialist last week as a precaution. His status for week ten is in doubt at this point in the week and the Chiefs will be in no hurry to rush him back thanks to the presence of Johnson in the backfield.

Buccaneers running game (TB) – In the last two weeks versus San Francisco and Carolina, the Buccaneers ground game has become unglued. Cadillac is clearly not over his various hurts, having averaged 2.04 yards per carry since returning two weeks ago. Pittman has also been hobbled recently and has offered very little support in his relief role with a 2.1 yards per carry average over the same fortnight. Another difficult test awaits this week with a scrappy Washington defense coming in to face a demoralized Buccaneers team that is suddenly failing on both sides of the ball.

Kevin Jones (DET) – It was all supposed to come together for the struggling Jones against a soft Minnesota run defense last Sunday. He was relatively healthy going in and he had blocking back Corey Schlesinger with a couple of weeks under his belt and the contest versus the Vikings should have been his 2005 coming out party. But Jones, as has been his pattern this year, disappointed once again as a shoulder contusion removed him early from a game that saw quarterback Joey Harrington out rush him 17 yards to 15. The second year back has a promising remaining schedule but it remains to be seen if Jones can get his act together soon enough to take advantage of it.

Brian Westbrook (PHI) -- Yes, it’s a well documented fact that Westbrook is one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL with 43 receptions for 478 yards and four touchdowns but his production on the ground pales in comparison, averaging only 3.5 yards per carry and one touchdown. In last Sunday night’s 17-10 loss to the Redskins, when the Eagles sorely needed a functional running game to protect an injured Donovan McNabb, Westbrook managed 24 yards on 17 carries for an average of 1.41 per tote. The lack of a reliable running game has been universally declared as Philadelphia’s biggest obstacle to making it back to the playoffs this year yet very few have criticized the Eagles main ball carrier, who just recently received a lucrative contract extension.