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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 12
Mike Courter
November 22, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander The 100 yard game with two touchdowns has become the norm rather than the exception with Alexander running through NFC West foes. He cranked out 115 yards and two scores against San Francisco in Week 11 but will face a much tougher challenge, albeit in his home comfort zone, Qwest Field, against the visiting New York Giants, who are currently yielding only 3.6 yards per carry and six touchdowns to opposing backs through ten games.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson There wasn’t much need for Tomlinson (89 total yards and a score) last Sunday as Drew Brees took center stage in the Chargers 48-10 dismantling of Buffalo, throwing for 339 yards and four touchdowns. LT should flip back into the driver seat of the offense this week in Washington, D.C. as the Bolts will look to establish control on the ground to quiet a raucous Redskins crowd and then take shots downfield with Brees.
3 IND Edgerrin James Last weeks stat line in Indy’s 45-37 shootout was a reassuring sign for James owners, who were enjoying Edge’s career year in a season where Peyton Manning was deferring to the run much more than the pass for the majority of Colts games leading up to week eleven. His 107 total yards (89 rushing) and two touchdowns came in the midst of a classic Manning performance (365 pass yards and three TDs). A physical Steelers defense travels to Indy in week twelve to present James with one of his most difficult tests this season.
4 KC Larry Johnson Johnson continues his rapid ascent to the top of the RB Watch Top 10 with a week eleven trouncing of the Texans on Sunday night that witnessed Johnson breaking the Chiefs single game rushing record (200 yards), set by Barry Word in 1990, with 211 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Johnson never appeared tired the whole night, even at the end of the game, and consistently arrived at his running lanes with a violent forcefulness that was worth the price of admission. No let up in sight for Week 12 as New England’s injury-ravaged defense pays a visit to Arrowhead.
5 NYG Tiki Barber Barber registered another 100 yard game last week with 112 on 21 carries in New York’s hard fought 27-17 home win over division rival Philadelphia. The Giants will rely on Barber, as they travel to Seattle this week, to take the pressure off young Eli Manning, who’s only won once on the road ( San Francisco) in his brief career as a starter.
6 DEN Mike Anderson Anderson has recorded 100 yard rushing games in three of his last four outings, including his 113 yards along with three touchdowns in Denver’s 27-0 domination of the New York Jets. The 8-2 Broncos have become one of the top teams in the AFC due to building their offense around the running game, powered by the former Marine, who’s enjoyed a renaissance of sorts (782 yards rushing and eight touchdowns) after suffering through injury-plagued campaigns the last few seasons. In Week 12, Anderson will be able to showcase his talents on the national stage as Denver travels to Dallas to face the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
7 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson stumbled (12 carries for six yards) as St. Louis bumbled a home game opportunity, losing to visiting Arizona, 38-28, last week. The sudden loss of Marc Bulger during the game seemed to throw the whole Rams team off but the short term difficulty might turn into a long term gain for Jackson as some of his most productive games this season have come when the Rams went run-game first to protect backup QB Jamie Martin during Bulger’s three game absence earlier this season due to a shoulder bruise. Bulger is expected to miss another three weeks, starting with this Sunday in Houston against a Texans team that was just trampled by the Chiefs Larry Johnson for 211 yards on the ground, providing a trampoline of a bounce back opportunity for Jackson this Sunday.
8 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan under-whelmed against the Redskins in last Sunday’s 16-13 road win by the Raiders, needing 27 carries to gain 52 yards on the ground, though he did catch five balls for 37 yards. Jordan, like Stephen Jackson, will also have favorable conditions to rebound this week as the Raiders host a Dolphins team that just allowed 181 yards on the ground to Cleveland last week while losing All Pro middle linebacker Zach Thomas for several weeks to a shoulder sprain.
9 CHI Thomas Jones Jones worked hard for his 87 yards on 25 carries against a formidable Panthers front seven in the Bears stifling 13-3 home win over the Panthers in week eleven. Even better news were no reports of Jones re-aggravating his existing knee and rib injuries during the contest. The Bears travel to Tampa this week to face a Buccaneers defense that is less effective against power running teams like the Bears, as evidenced by Clinton Portis’ 144 yards and a touchdown effort against Tampa Bay two weeks ago.
10 CLE Reuben Droughns Droughns was outstanding last week, running over and through the Dolphins defense for 166 yards on 30 carries including a spectacular 75 yard touchdown run. The former fullback has not missed a beat since leaving the vaunted Denver run blocking schemes as a free agent last off season, currently ranking seventh overall in rushing yards with 868 (4.5 yards per carry) while adding 26 receptions for 254 yards. His scoring has picked up significantly in the last couple of weeks as well, finding the end zone twice in the last two games after not scoring for most of the season.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Marion Barber (DAL) – Bill Parcells stated this week that his ideal ground game plan will give Julius Jones around 20 or 21 carries and rookie Marion Barber III 15 totes and we saw that exact script unfold last week against Detroit in the Cowboys 20-7 home win with Jones gaining 92 yards on 21 carries and Barber running for 53 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. The Cowboys have increasingly used the rookie from Minnesota in their goal line packages which places his value above Jones in the fantasy football world because he does possess breakaway speed for long runs but has displayed strong leg drive in close quarters enough to gain the coaching staff’s trust near the end zone.

Cadillac Williams (TB) – It’s been awhile but the Cadillac finally got the key in the ignition with his week eleven performance against the Falcons in the Buccaneers critical 30-27 divisional road win. Williams gained 116 yards and a game-tying, fourth quarter touchdown on only 19 carries making it the first time since week three that he broke the 100 yard mark and the first time since week two that he found pay dirt. A litmus test awaits the rookie in this week’s home game against the Chicago Bears and their top-rated defense which has allowed only 2 scores on the ground all season and a scant 3.3 yards per carry to opponents.

JJ Arrington (ARI) – Quietly, the Cardinals 2005 second round draft pick has climbed back from obscurity and is actually starting to make an impact on the field for Denny Green’s Cardinals. After weeks of little to no playing time due to a variety of injuries as well as the expected rookie learning curve to the rigors of the NFL, Arrington has started to emerge from his first year cocoon by scoring a touchdown in each of his last two games while boosting his yards per carry up to 3.2 under the umbrella of a blossoming passing game, fueled by Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. With no established veteran presence at the halfback position, the rookie from Cal can use the last six games of 2005 to accelerate his development and build a foundation to hit the ground running in 2006.

Chris Brown (TEN) – Brown has defied the odds and stayed relatively injury free this season after building a reputation as brittle back and in doing so has now compiled 662 yards rushing (4.1) and 167 yards receiving (9.3) with a total of six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving). The third year back makes a solid lineup play this week as well with San Francisco arriving on Sunday, along with their recent history of faltering in games away from Monster Park, losing all four of their road games this year by a combined score of 142-43.

Sliding Back

Jerome Bettis (PIT) – After a standout 2004 that sawthe veteran back gain941 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns (a career high), Bettis has been a bus load of disappointment this season. The Bus has battled a variety of leg injuries since the preseason and has been unreliable from a fantasy standpoint since his long time goal line role has not resulted in consistent scores either, only two touchdowns after 10 games. His most recent stinker came last Sunday in Baltimore in the form of a two carry for zero yards performance against a banged up Ravens defense that should have been easy pickin’s for the power back. Drop him like he’s hot off your roster to make room for someone who can actually help your team in these critical next few weeks.

Willis McGahee (BUF) – McGahee has slowed dramatically in the last two weeks, compiling 105 yards rushing (3.5) and no touchdowns in his last two contests. His struggles mirror the decline of the Bills team, which has now apparently given up on the playoffs at 4-6 and the recent decision to keep inexperienced J. P. Losman in as the starting quarterback. With no Takeo Spikes (Achilles) to anchor a once proud but now humbled defensive unit, an offensive line that has very little cohesiveness and a limited passing attack under Losman, McGahee’s numbers will continue to wilt over the next six weeks.

Curtis Martin (NYJ) – Going 4 for 7is a great day at the plate in another sport but four carries for seven yards are numbers that you never want to see in the stat line next to one of the starting backs in your fantasy lineup and that’s what Martin put up in the Jets most recent debacle, a 27-0 road loss in Denver. Martin’s a surefire Hall of Famer but not even the Son of Jarel can overcome the loss of both all pro center Kevin Mawae and starting tackle Jason Fabini to injury, all three quarterbacks on the depth chart have missed significant time due to injury to the point where New York was forced to play fourth-string retread Kliff Kingsbury last week, and all the while playing through one of the most difficult schedules in the NFL with a knee ligament that was strained in the first few weeks of the season.