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Running Back Watch - Week 16
Mike Courter
December 20, 2005
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 KC Larry Johnson Johnson continued to blaze a warpath through opposing defenses in week fifteen, running for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries against the Giants. In his seven games as a starter since taking over for Priest Holmes this season, LJ has already eclipsed the thousand yard mark. Johnson’s surreal efforts week in and week out have fantasy owners expecting nothing less than spectacular results each week. KC returns to Arrowhead this Saturday to host the Chargers in a virtual playoff game with both teams fighting to keep their thin playoff hopes alive.
2 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander’s 172 yards rushing against the Titans upped his league-leading total to 1,668 and his 24 touchdowns leave him three shy of Priest Holmes single season touchdown record (27). There’s been no talk of Seattle resting their starters in week sixteen’s game against the Colts, who will be resting numerous players on both sides of the ball, setting the table perfectly for Alexander to make a run at the touchdown record in front of his hometown fans.
3 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson is experiencing a late season fantasy swoon as he’s failed to break 100 yards rushing in his last three games, averaging only 3.6 yards per carry, while becoming invisible in the passing game as well. LT will start this Saturday against the Chiefs in Kansas City with tender ribs and a backup, Michael Turner, who wowed last week against the Colts (see fourth quarter, 83 yard touchdown run to seal the win over Indy), creating a nail-biter for fantasy owners hoping that LT will deliver the goods in their Week 16 championship game.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Barber gave football fans an early holiday gift last week with his record-setting, MVP-type performance in last week’s 27-17 Giants victory over the Chiefs. His 220 yards rushing (the highest single game total in the NFL in two years) and two touchdowns on 29 carries also included five receptions for 29 yards, willing New York to a crucial, late season win, sparking the “Tiki for MVP” talk amongst media talking heads nationwide. Barber’s outstanding play can no longer be ignored. His recently-incorporated power-lifting regimen, combined with a study of physics and how to angle his body upon impact, have elevated the veteran rusher to elite status in the NFL. The last time Tiki faced this week’s opponent, Washington, he dropped 204 yards rushing and a score on them in week eight.
5 IND Edgerrin James In the face of a swarming San Diego defense, James shrunk from the challenge, gaining a mere 25 yards rushing and a touchdown on 13 carries while catching only two passes for 20 yards. In a game where his quarterback was running for his life, James failed to keep the Chargers defense honest, allowing them to tee off on the immobile Manning. Because the Colts are no longer chasing the undefeated season, this Saturday’s game in Seattle could present a trap for fantasy owners who’ve relied on James to be their lineup horse. If he does play the full game, he will likely have Jim Sorgi as his quarterback for a good part of the contest, stripping him of the protection of a Manning-fueled passing threat.
6 CIN Rudi Johnson Must be in the name. Rudi’s late season surge continues in the shadow of the more-heralded Johnson, Larry, adding 117 yards and two touchdowns to his climbing season totals on 17 carries in the Bengals 41-17 win in Detroit. There’s no reason for Rudi to slow down with struggling Buffalo visiting Cincinnati in week sixteen.
7 WAS Clinton Portis Portis turned in another 100 yard rushing day in the Redskins 35-7 trampling of Dallas, gaining 112 on 23 carries. What had to be bittersweet for Portis owners was the way the Redskins’ chose a multitude of creative ways to rob him of scoring chances. Mark Brunell threw touchdown passes of eight, two and three yards and then handed off to Ladell Betts for a one yard touchdown plunge in what appeared to be a concerted effort to keep Portis out of the end zone. Portis will certainly be looking for redemption against division-rival New York this Saturday after gaining nine yards on four carries versus the Giants in week eight.
8 OAK Lamont Jordan Jordan was a total yardage beast against the Browns last Sunday, gaining 132 on the ground and 40 through the air in another losing effort from Oakland. Jordan travels to Denver this weekend to face the Broncos in difficult Mile High. In week ten, Denver forced Jordan to be more receiver (seven rec. for 60 yds) than rusher (48 yards) in the Broncos 31-17 win.
9 HOU Domanick Davis Davis disappointed fantasy owners with his game-time no show due to swelling on his knee that failed to subside during the week prior to Houston’s 30-19 win. Davis owners probably won’t know until Friday if Davis has a chance to start in Saturday’s game against Jacksonville, a team that he has played very well against historically. In week sixteen last season, Davis ran for 150 yards and a touchdown and caught five balls for 39 yards against the Jaguars.
10 DEN Mike Anderson As expected, Anderson rebounded against the bumbling Bills, rushing for 97 yards and two scores in Denver’s 28-17 road win. The visiting 4-10 Raiders could provide a launch pad for Anderson’s fantasy value as they appear demoralized and close to folding up their tents for the season while Mike Shanahan will look to stick it to Al Davis, even when the game is out of reach.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Michael Turner (SD) – “ Turner the Burner” looks ready, willing and able to fill in for an ailing LaDainian Tomlinson should his ribs continue to bother him, as evidenced by Turner’s 113 yards on eight carries highlighted by an 83 yard touchdown jaunt that sealed the Chargers defeat of the previously undefeated Colts. Tomlinson appears like he’ll cede increasingly more carries to Turner over the next two weeks.

Jonathan Wells (HOU) – This past Sunday was a reminder to Domanick Davis owners to have Wells on their bench after the fourth year back ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns in place of the injured Davis, keying Houston’s 30-19 win. Davis is once again skipping practice this week in the hopes that his knee will be ready for Jacksonville this weekend. In the case that it doesn’t, Wells is poised to reap the benefits against a Jacksonville defense that has not performed as well against the run this year as compared to recent campaigns.

Nick Goings (CAR) – With Stephen Davis on Injured Reserve and DeShaun Foster failing to establish himself as a true No. 1 running back, Goings has emerged once again as a possible late season ground game boost and the Panthers will need it in these crucial late season contests, as well as the playoffs should they qualify. In last week’s 27-10 victory over the Panthers, Goings tallied 88 total yards (52 rushing, 36 receiving). With the fragile Foster one wrong move from pulling something, Goings could see a sudden up tick in value in the next two games.

Sliding Back

Greg Jones (JAC) – The powerfully-built Jones gained only 44 yards on 12 carries before exiting the game with a neck stinger, giving way to a healthy Fred Taylor, who reasserted his claim to the starting tailback job with 61 yards on 17 carries. Jones will be hard-pressed to recover from the stinger enough to play in Saturday’s game against the Texans, leaving the door open for Taylor to force him back into a support role.

Vikings running game (MIN) – The Vikings were brought back down to earth in week fifteen, simply by facing a tough, aggressive defense for the first time in weeks, when the Steelers put the clamps on Michael Bennett and company in last Sunday’s 18-3 Pittsburgh road win. Minnesota gained only 54 yards on 17 carries and also allowed Michael Bennett to be tackled for a safety in the fourth quarter. Prospects don’t improve much in week sixteen with a road trip to Baltimore on Christmas night.

Arizona running game (ARI) – The Cardinals have redefined running game futility in 2005. Their team average per carry now sits at 3.1 yards and the Red Birds have scored an alarming two touchdowns on the ground all season as opposed to 18 scores through the air. The failure of talented rookie back J.J. Arrington to find his groove behind a patchwork offensive line has probably been the biggest reason for Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald’s abundant fantasy success and Arizona seems to be very content to leave things as they are and wait until the off season to address their primary weakness.