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Running Back Watch - Week 15
Mike Courter
December 13, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 KC Larry Johnson At this point in time, there is no more dominant running back in the NFL than Johnson. LJ has 852 rushing yards since November 1st, which is the most in the NFL since that date. During Johnson’s six consecutive 100-yard rushing games since taking over for the injured Priest Holmes, he has scored 10 rushing touchdowns. Johnson’s recent tear vaults him over LT and Shaun Alexander, with both backs witnessing a slight decline in their exceptional season-long production coinciding with Johnson’s ascent. Johnson has proven himself to be impervious to defensive match-up’s, making him a worry-free fantasy lineup anchor every week. This Saturday, Johnson rolls into Giants Stadium to face a New York defense who will most likely be without their primary playmaker, MLB Antonio Pierce (ankle).
2 SEA Shaun Alexander For the last few seasons, Alexander’s schedule has been littered with Charmin-soft defenses that seem to permeate the NFC West division making him a consensus top fantasy pick every year. But this dynamic, in conjunction with one of the league’s best offensive lines, also feeds a subtle denigration of his accomplishments, despite his standing in the fantasy football world. This view of Alexander makes his week fourteen performance of 108 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries versus the 49ers appear like an underachievement. Yet, his 23 “’dirts” has him within striking distance of the NFL record for touchdowns in a season (27) with three games remaining. Interesting Week 15 note: Seattle’s opponent on Sunday, the Tennessee Titans, have allowed a whopping 26 scores through the air while being downright stingy on the ground, yielding just seven rushing touchdowns to opponents.
3 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson was victimized by a questionable Marty Schottenheimer game plan that called for Drew Brees to attempt 52 passes while only handing the ball off to his franchise back 21 times (for 75 yards) in a relatively close game that the Chargers eventually lost, 23-21 to the visiting Dolphins. Look for a dynamic effort from Tomlinson on a fast, indoor surface this Sunday when the Chargers carry their paper-thin playoff hopes into Indianapolis to face the history-chasing (13-0) Colts. Though the Colts defense is markedly better this year, Tomlinson racked up 176 total yards (including a 74 yard TD reception) and two touchdown’s in last season’s late December showdown in Indy.
4 IND Edgerrin James James didn’t quite get to 100 yards rushing (93) against the Jags last week in the Colts 26-18 win, but he did flex his pass-catching muscles with a nine catch, 61 yard performance, showcasing his versatility. As mentioned above, the Colts Week 15 home date with San Diego, unfortunately for Edgerrin, could be a lot like last year’s game (Peyton Manning- 27 of 44 -383 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) after witnessing San Diego’s secondary make Gus Frerotte (229 yards and two touchdowns) appear like he channeled Danny Marino in the Dolphins upset road win last week.
5 NYG Tiki Barber Barber elicits fine wine comparisons with each passing season as his production continues to climb along with Tiki’s years of experience. Amazingly, this ground game treasure is seemingly overlooked, despite being in the NFL’s largest media market, thanks to a multitude of outstanding backs currently plying their trade in the NFL. Last Sunday was another masterpiece from Barber, racking up 195 total yards (124 rushing, 71 receiving) and a touchdown, all while losing both of his starting offensive tackles during the game, in New York’s gutsy, 26-23 divisional win in Philadelphia.
6 WAS Clinton Portis In fantasy football, as in life, one man’s trash (Mark Brunell’s rapid two game descent- 278 yards passing with 3 INTs and one score) is another man’s treasure as the Redskins have been forced to rely on Portis to minimize the damage from Washington’s deflated air attack. Portis has gained 241 yards and scored three times in the ‘Skins last two games, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Portis’ numbers in recent weeks have been aided by facing the Rams and Cardinals defenses but he’ll face a much stiffer defensive challenge with visiting Dallas arriving on Sunday to provide a contest filled with NFC playoff implications.
7 CIN Rudi Johnson Rudi continues his late season roll with last Sunday’s dominant 169 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries, driving the Bengals to a key divisional win over in-state rival, Cleveland. This week could see similar returns from Johnson as the Bengals visit floundering Detroit, still reeling from last Sunday night’s pounding at the hands of the Packers Samkon Gado’s 171 rushing yards and a score on 29 carries.
8 HOU Domanick Davis Perhaps it’s sensing Reggie Bush’s fleet footsteps that’s got Davis running in a higher gear but clearly the three year veteran has made a case in recent weeks to retain his role as the Texans franchise back. He’s now totaled 1,313 yards (976 rushing) with six touchdowns, all without a vertical passing threat to keep defenses honest. Davis put on a clinic against the Titans last week, rushing for 139 yards while catching seven passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Dom also has a favorable remaining schedule, facing Arizona (Week 15) and San Francisco (Week 17).
9 OAK Lamont Jordan The Raiders recent implosion as a team has hurt Jordan’s fantasy value and the benching of Kerry Collins for Marques Tuiasosopo has not helped, as evidenced by last week’s 26-10 loss to the 3-10 New York Jets. In a game that Jordan had circled on his calendar to show his former team that his milkshake tastes better than there’s, Jordan fell short of expectations with 49 yards rushing on only 14 carries while catching four passes for 30 yards. Jordan fumed in the post-game interviews about his underutilization while his coach Norv Turner labeled the running game “ineffective”. Stay tuned.
10 DEN Mike Anderson Anderson disappeared in Denver’s unimpressive 12-10 win over the lowly Ravens last week gaining a mere 21 yards on eight carries and drifting perilously close to being labeled “unreliable” with regard to his fantasy relevance. The Broncos trip to Buffalo could very well turn into a Saturday night special for Anderson, if he’s given a fair chance to perform by Mike Shanahan against a demoralized and confused Buffalo Bills squad.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Cadillac Williams (TB) – Caddy looked cat-quick in slicing up the Panthers vaunted defense for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and his steady emergence over the last few weeks has him powering Tampa’s renewed playoff drive, making him a go-to guy in your fantasy playoffs lineup.

Ryan Moats (PHI) – Moats makes for an intriguing pickup in these next few critical weeks after having his breakout game against the Giants last week, gaining 114 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. The rookie has game-breaking speed and considerable playing time coming his way with the departure of Brian Westbrook for the season due to injury. This Sunday, he’ll have a great opportunity to build upon his week fourteen success with a trip to St. Louis to face the struggling Rams, who have yielded 18 rushing touchdowns and 4.7 yards per carry to opposing backs.

Corey Dillon (NE) – Dillon decided his ankle had had enough time to heal when he saw easy-pickins’ Buffalo listed on the schedule for last Sunday’s game. The veteran back took full advantage of the spiraling Bills defense, rushing for 102 yards and a score while also grabbing four passes for 29 yards. Dillon might catch another break this Saturday as visiting Tampa bay will be without the services of run-stuffing DT Anthony McFarland due to a left knee strain that will keep him out of action for several weeks.

Sliding Back

Stephen Jackson (STL) – Jackson ’s once promising 2005 fantasy football campaign found itself crumpling along with Marc Bulger’s brittle shoulder four week’s ago. The Rams inability to find a suitable replacement behind center and the coincidental collapse of their defense have slapped a vice grip on Jackson’s production and with Bulger still very much iffy on his return this season, there appears to be no cure within reach.

Willis McGahee (BUF) – If McGahee ran the football as well as he’s run his mouth this year, he wouldn’t find himself plummeting down every conceivable running back ranking list. The Drew Rosenhaus client has averaged just 2.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns in his last four games after recently declaring himself the best back in the business.

Fred Taylor (JAX) – Despitea strongbody of work against the Colts over the last few seasons and a clean bill of health before week fourteen’s home game against Indianapolis, Taylor scratched out only 19 yards on 10 carries and was left wondering why coach Jack Del Rio went with Greg Jones (seven carries for 43 yards) more in the second half. What’s all the more painful for those that invested a high draft pick in Taylor is the question of whether he can stay healthy enough or warrant enough playing time to be able to take advantage of the Jaguars desirable remaining schedule of San Francisco, @Houston and Tennessee.