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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch - Week 14
Mike Courter
December 6, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson had an off game by his standards against the Raiders on Sunday night , totaling 110 yards with 86 coming on 25 carries. He lost an opportunity for a touchdown to his backup, Michael Turner, who entered the game late in the second quarter when LT left a little early for half time to tend to a slight rib injury. The Chargers should be fighting for a playoff spot ‘til the last week of the regular season so fantasy owners will get maximum mileage out of their lineup anchor during these pivotal next few weeks. This Sunday the Chargers host the Miami Dolphins, whose last trip to the Left Coast two weeks ago saw the them give up 144 total yards and two touchdowns to the Raiders’ Lamont Jordan.
2 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander finished Seattle’s 42-0 thrashing of the Eagles on Monday night with a sub-par 49 yards on 19 carries, even though he did manage to add two short touchdowns upping his league-leading amount to 22 scores. Alexander fell prey to a wacky Monday night game that witnessed the Seattle defense scoring three touchdowns and effectively removing the star back from the game when the score became 42-0 early in the third quarter. Alexander owners can take solace in the fact that San Francisco, one of his favorite foils, is their opponent for week fourteen at Qwest Field. Pencil in a minimum 125 yards and two touchdowns for the University of Alabama product this Sunday.
3 KC Larry Johnson Last Sunday’s heavyweight battle against Denver was supposed to represent Johnson’s toughest challenge of the season and he passed with flying red, yellow and white colors. Grand Ma-Ma was like an angry, 230 pound Energizer bunny…just going and going through the Broncos highly-touted defense for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries, pacing K.C. to a critical 31-27 home win over their division rival. The Chiefs visit Dallas in week fourteen in the latest installment of their trying, playoff-eligibility gauntlet, facing one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the NFL. No doubt about it, Kansas City will feed a steady diet of “Diapers” to a tired Cowboys defense fresh off allowing Tiki Barber 115 yards on 30 carries in the Meadowlands last Sunday.
4 IND Edgerrin James Ho-hum. Another week, another routine 100 yards and a touchdown for James (107 and a score against the Titans). This week the 12-0 Colts will travel to Jacksonville, a division opponent that they defeated at home in week two by a score of 10-3, thanks largely to James’ 128 yards rushing and 39 yards receiving. In week fourteen, look for Indy to live on the Edge once again before taking shots down the field against the Jaguars stingy secondary.
5 NYG Tiki Barber Barber is so consistent. You can script the stat line every week. He’ll have a bunch of carries for two, three and six yards a pop. Then he’ll catch a pass for 11 yards. Repeat the sequence a few more times and then a throw in a burst up the middle of 30 to 50 yards and before you know it, he’s eclipsed 100 yards rushing and/or 150 total yards. Barber’s 115 yards on the ground in last week’s pivotal 17-10 home win over Dallas elevated him to third overall in rushing yards with 1,233 (4.9 avg.). Barber and the Giants head down the N.J. Turnpike to Philadelphia this week to Lincoln Financial Field, where Tiki rumbled for 125 yards and a score on the ground and caught five balls for 75 yards against a much healthier Eagles defense in 2004.
6 WAS Clinton Portis Portis vaults up the Running Back Watch list with his 136 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in the Redskins 24-9road win over defenseless St. Louis in week thirteen. Portis currently ranks seventh overall with 1,079 (4.3 avg) with a respectable seven touchdowns. A week fourteen trip to the Arizona desert to face a Cardinals defense that has yielded 4.3 yards per carry and 16 touchdowns to opponents should allow Portis to build upon his recent success.
7 OAK Lamont Jordan Last week, with Kerry Collins continuing to struggle, San Diego was able to crowd the line of scrimmage and put the clamps on Jordan, limiting him to 55 yards on 15 carries and two receptions for 10 yards, en route to a 34-10 rout over the 4-8 Raiders. Fortunes should change for the better this week for Jordan, with the rumored switch at QB to spark the passing game and the chip-on-his-shoulder homecoming trip to New York to face his former team, the woeful, 2-10 Jets.
8 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson makes the long climb back into the RB Watch this week after scoring two more touchdowns against the Steelers, giving him six scores in his last three games. His recent scoring surge has brought balance to his already solid yardage production, currently eighth overall with 1,066 (4.2 avg) yards. This Sunday, interstate rival Cleveland arrives in Cincinnati and Johnson owners can only hope that a repeat of last year’s 58-48 Bengal’s win or at least something in that neighborhood takes place again as Johnson ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
9 DEN Mike Anderson Over the last two weeks, Anderson has fallen prey to Coach Mike Shanahan’s penchant for running back committee’s. It re-emerged on Thanksgiving day with Ron Dayne’s heroics in Dallas and then the return of a healthy Tatum Bell to the rotation last week, resulting in Anderson’s average carries per game shrinking to 12.0 after carrying 26 times against the Jets three weeks ago. Against the Chiefs last week, Anderson scratched out 37 yards and a touchdown (on 13 carries) on the ground but did manage to add a spectacular 66 yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
10 STL Stephen Jackson In week thirteen, the lack of stability at the quarterback position finally caught up to Jackson and the rest of the Rams as rookie QB Ryan Fitzpatrick tumbled back down to earth in the Rams humbling 24-9 home loss to Washington. Jackson’s 24 yards rushing and 18 receiving certainly didn’t help matters and the effects of having both offensive tackles, Orlando Pace and Alex Barron, hobbled with injuries is starting to have a dramatic impact on what has mostly been a successful campaign for the second year back. This week’s match up against the Vikings in Minnesota looked great for Jackson owners a few weeks ago but is now riddled with danger for all St. Louis fantasy players as their fate will be in the hands of the rookie Fitzpatrick against a renewed Vikings squad, winners five straight, in a boisterous Metrodome.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

DeShaun Foster (CAR) – The passing of the number one back torchfrom Stephen Davis to DeShaun Foster has been cemented by the carries distribution over the last two weeks, Davis has carried 11 times for 30 yards compared to Foster’s 46 for 205 yards. Foster also represents a much stronger threat in the passing game, hauling in seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the last two contests.

Julius Jones (DAL) – It wasn’t the type of dominant performance that we’re used to seeing from Jones based on 2004’s exploits but last Sunday was Jones best and most complete outing 2005 in the Cowboys 17-10 road loss at Giants Stadium. Jones gained 74 hard-earned yards rushing and caught nine passes for 88 yards, accounting for 162 of the Cowboys 206 total yards. He’ll return to Dallas this Sunday to play the Chiefs in a critical game for both teams playoff hopes.

Dom Davis (HOU) – It’s been a difficult year for Davis and those that selected him with an early round selection in their fantasy draft as the third year dynamo has been adversely affected by the collapse of his 1-11 team around him. In the last three games, all Texans losses, Davis has persevered statistically, averaging 133.6 total yards per game with touchdowns scored in two of the three games. Last week on the road in Baltimore, the 5’9” Davis played the role of power back carrying 29 times for 155 yards. An added bonus for Davis, the Texans finally enter what can be considered the soft part of their schedule with games @ TEN, ARI, JAC and @ S.F., all during the money part of your fantasy football schedule.

Sliding Back

Steelers running game (PIT) – As the running game goes, so go the Pittsburgh Steelers post-season fortunes and if the last few weeks are any indication, the Steelers will be spectator’s for this year’s playoffs. The year started off on the wrong foot with power component Jerome Bettis injuring a quadriceps that has still not fully healed months later and Willie Parker’s fast start masked the complete removal of dependable veteran Duce Staley. Throw in some key offensive line injuries, most notably the extended absence of massive tackle Marvel Smith due to alternating sprained ankles, and the result is a team average of 3.9 yards per carry and only 11 rushing touchdowns in 12 games. In last week’s 38-31 home loss to Cincinnati, a team that the Steelers ran over in week six with 221 yards and one touchdown on the ground, pacing a 27-13 road win, Pittsburgh managed just 95 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries (3.39 avg).

Jamal Lewis (BAL) – Lewis owns the distinction of being the first running back to drop from the “Climbing the Ladder” section to the “Sliding Back” group in back to back weeks but after gaining 113 yards and a score like a champ in week twelve against the Bengals and getting everyone all excited, Lewis proceeds to lay yet another egg this season with a home performance of eight carries for 17 yards against one of the most amenable defenses in the league, the 1-11 Houston Texans.