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Running Back Watch - Week 11
Mike Courter
November 15, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander At this point in the season, the only number keeping up with Alexander’s ungodly touchdown and yardage production is the ever-increasing contract proposal his agent is sliding across Tim Ruskell’s (Seattle’s President of Football Operations) desk each week. Alexander seems to be taking delight in his record-breaking pace and the pressure it’s creating on the Seahawks brass, who so foolishly passed on signing him to a long term deal over the Summer. His 165 yards rushing and three touchdowns against the Rams last Sunday brought his league-leading totals to 1,114 yards on the ground and 17 touchdowns. Alexander should earn a few million more on his new deal with a trip to San Francisco this Sunday, where last season he ran for a familiar 160 yards and two touchdowns.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Coming off his bye week, Tomlinson will have some ground to make up to draw even with Shaun Alexander’s mad pace and the visiting Buffalo Bills (5.0 yds per carry and 13 scores to opposing backs) and their awful run defense will be an optimum vehicle for LT to hit the ground running.
3 IND Edgerrin James Steady Edgy keeps humming along, another 100 yard game (122) and a touchdown with a handful of receptions thrown in. He runs in the shadow of Alexander and Tomlinson but he’s in the midst of a career year and shows no signs of slowing. A road trip to Cincinnati should bear fruit as the Bengals have shown a propensity to breakdown against the run, allowing 4.7 yards per carry to opponents.
4 NYG Tiki Barber It’s statistical explosions like last Sunday’s in the Giants 24-21 home loss to the Vikings that serve as a reminder that if Barber did not have goal line bugaboo Brandon Jacobs stealing precious six pointer’s from him, his overall numbers would put him in close proximity to Alexander-LT real estate. Barber ran for 95 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings but also caught a career-high 111 yards on eight receptions. Barber averaged 118 yards rushing per game against this Sunday’s opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the two contests last year.
5 KC Larry Johnson Though he failed to reach pay dirt in the Chiefs 14-3 road loss last weekend, Johnson’s 178 total yards (132 rushing) debut as the Chief in Kansas City’s backfield was seen as a success. In week eleven, the Chiefs head to Houston for a Sunday night clash with the dreadful Texans, who’ve yielded nearly five yards per carry and 13 touchdowns to opponents on the ground.
6 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson ’s 115 total yards in the Rams rain-soaked loss to Seattle in week ten was a respectable performance but clearly a drop from his previous two games prior to Marc Bulger and Torry Holt’s return to the starting lineup. This bears watching over the next few weeks to see if Jackson’s production is indeed limited by Bulger’s directing of the offense. Hosting St. Louis in week eleven should provide plenty of opportunity for Jackson to shine once again.
7 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee was unimpressive at home against the Chiefs in last Sunday’s 14-3 Buffalo triumph, gaining only 66 yards on 20 carries with no scores and a lost fumble. Offensive line depth issues and the struggles of former first round pick, tackle Mike Williams, whom the Bills tried unsuccessfully at guard last week, appear to be a big part of the problem. The Chargers run defense is rugged, allowing only 3.5 yards per carry, and McGahee has not prospered on the road so lower your expectations for this week in your fantasy matchup.
8 CHI Thomas Jones What a difference a week makes. Prior to last week’s home win over San Francisco, Jones seemed like a battered, veteran heavyweight being rocked on the ropes by the young challenger as he tried to battle a strained knee ligament and then bruised ribs over the past few weeks while No.1 pick Cedric Benson slowly but steadily got better in his preparation and on-field performance culminating in the rookie being named the starter against the 49ers as the Bears decided to rest the ailing but willing Jones. Benson looked good early, gaining 50 yards on 12 carries only to suffer a sprained knee and be carted off the field with an injury that will force him out for a minimum of three to five weeks. Now Jones, thanks to a week’s rest, is set to return to the starter’s role against Carolina this Sunday with no threat of Benson looming in the background.
9 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan did more damage as a pass catcher in the Raiders 31-17 home defeat to Denver last week, hauling in seven balls for 60 yards compared to 48 yards rushing on 14 carries. The Raiders fly to Washington, D.C. to face the Redskins this Sunday, whose defense has given up an uncharacteristic 11 touchdowns on the ground.
10 ATL Warrick Dunn Dunn salted away yet another solid all-around effort in the Falcons home loss to Green Bay in week ten, rushing for 76 yards while catching six passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. This Sunday, Atlanta will host the Buccaneers, whose agile defensive personnel have done a yeoman’s job of corralling the cat-quick Dunn over the last few years.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Greg Jones (JAC) – Jones is gaining steam the longer Fred Taylor sits idle with injury as evidenced by the former Florida State Seminle’s 106 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries in Jacksonville’s 30-3 rout of Baltimore. For the season, Jones yards per carry average (4.2) compares favorably with Taylor’s (4.4) and he’s outscored the fragile one, three to two. With Taylor’s health status still very much in the air, Jones is poised to reap a few more weeks of meaningful carries against fantasy friendly defenses in Tennessee, Arizona and Cleveland.

Heath Evans (NE) – Evans, a journeyman H-back and backup tight end for most of his career, emerged from Bill Belichick’s football genius laboratory a highly functional running back for the injury-depleted Patriots in week ten’s critical 23-16 road win over Miami. Evans carried 17 times for 84 yards, running with surprising speed and power while also catching three passes for 18 yards in a relief role for the injured Corey Dillon, who bowed out early in the game. Don’t rush out and grab Evans off the waiver wire just yet but there’s a strong possibility that Dillon’s ankle may never be right this year and if Evans continues to make the coach look good, Belichick will keep giving him the ball as he loves fitting the square peg in the round hole to keep his NFL genius street cred strong.

Adrian Peterson (CHI) – The Bears backfield soap opera has been well-documented with the main focus revolving around starter Thomas Jones and No.1 pick Cedric Benson with four year veteran Peterson flying under the radar as the third string in the trio. As the 2005 season has unfolded, the Bears version of Last Back Standing left Peterson capitalizing on Cedric Benson’s knee injury misfortune last Sunday, stepping into the breach and running for 120 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, keying a 17-9 Chicago victory over San Francisco in a windy Soldier Field that made it all but impossible to pass. Thomas Jones appears to be ready to resume the starting role for this Sunday’s game against Carolina but given his injury history, Peterson will remain a strong roster consideration for your fantasy team for the rest of 2005.

Samkon Gado (GB) – The emergence of Gado from the practice squad two weeks ago has finally given the Pack a feel-good story to rally aroundin what has been a troubling 2005 for Green Bay.The Nigerian Nightmare II studied medicine at tiny Liberty College and now he appears to be the perfect remedy for a struggling Packers offense that has searched for a consistent running game since the beginning of the season. The 26 carries he received against the Steelers two weeks ago in relief of an injured Tony Fisher was a compelling sign to fantasy players to take a chance on this relative unknown. Last week’s road win by Green Bay in Atlanta has officially put Gado on the map after he registered his first career 100 yard game (103) with three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving). The likeable underdog is fastly rooting himself with the Lambeau faithful and he’s slated to be the main ball carrier for the Packers for the rest of 2005 and possibly beyond as Ahman Green’s contract will expire at the end of this season.

Sliding Back

Ricky Williams (MIA) – Nick Saban has taken a page out of the Tony LaRussa Book of Over-Management with his forced usage of Williams in a rotation with future star Ronnie Brown. Williams yards per carry (3.1) pales in comparison to Brown’s (4.8) and Brown’s yards per catch (6.7) also bests Williams’ (5.9), yet since Ricky’s return they’ve inexplicably received almost the same amount of carries. At some point, figure Saban to come to his senses and make Williams the third down back and allow the explosive rookie from Auburn to blossom.

Corey Dillon (NE) – Worse then being declared OUT before a game so fantasy owners could adjust accordingly and put an active body in their lineup before kickoff, Dillon has now twice suited up for a game this season, including last Sunday against the Dolphins, only to run one or two plays before taking a cozy spot on the sideline to watch the duration of the game while little known understudies Patrick Pass and Heath Evans perform admirably in his place. This may not be all Dillon’s fault as Bill Belichick has become infamous for this sort of gamesmanship but it does downgrade Dillon’s fantasy prospects in what has been a largely disappointing campaign for the veteran back.