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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch Report - Week 2
Mike Courter
September 12, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SEA Shaun Alexander Even in his best seasons, Alexander tends to have a handful of stinkers sprinkled throughout a 16 week schedule and week one of 2006 (19 carries for 51 yards and one fumble lost) was no exception.  Floyd Womack struggled in place of departed All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson (Vikings) and the Seahawks found themselves mired in an unlikely, low-scoring slugfest with the Detroit Lions under new, defensive-oriented, head coach Rod Marinelli.  Look for a noticeable bounce-back this Sunday at home against Arizona.
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson loves playing the Raiders and Monday night’s performance provided yet another example of his greatness versus his forlorn AFC West rival.  LT2 piled on 131 yards and a touchdown on the ground from 31 carries and also caught three passes for 18 yards against an overmatched Oakland defense.  Tomlinson is in line for another feast with hapless Tennessee arriving in San Diego on Sunday.
3 KC Larry Johnson Big drop-off from last season’s contest against the Bengals in which he carried 26 times for 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns, but Johnson still managed an admirable 68 yards rushing (on 17 carries) and five receptions for 80 yards in week one, all in the midst of losing starting QB Trent Green to a concussion in the third quarter.  The Chiefs, minus Trent Green for at least the next two weeks, head to Denver this weekend for a difficult matchup against a Broncos team looking to rebound in Mile High on Sunday after suffering an ugly week one road loss in St. Louis.
4 NYG Tiki Barber Barber picked up where he left off last season in week one of 2006, rushing for 110 yards on 18 carries and gathering five receptions for 61 yards against the Colts in the Manning Bowl last Sunday night. One of the more effective inside runners in the league, it’s still highly annoying the Giants use “goal line specialist” Brandon Jacobs near the end zone.  A stiff, divisional challenge awaits Barber and the Giants in week two on the road against the hated Philadelphia Eagles.
5 IND Edgerrin James Not a bad start against a feisty, young 49ers run defense, as James clawed and scratched his way to 73 rushing yards and a score on 26 carries in the Cardinals exciting 34-27 home win in the debut of brand new, ultra impressive Cardinals Stadium.  He’ll face a much tougher task in week two when Arizona travels to Seattle to face the divisional top-dog Seahawks.
6 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson was the only player to benefit from the new, Scott Linehan-led Rams offense, gaining 121 rushing yards on 22 carries in the Rams 18-10 home win over Denver while all members of the passing game saw their stats drop from last year’s single season game averages.  Jackson and the Rams will face the 49ers in San Francisco this Sunday, a team that he averaged only 2.51 yards per carry against in two games of his 2005 rookie season.
7 MIA Ronnie Brown Brown endured the toughest venue of any running back to start the 2006 season, facing the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers in Pittsburgh last Thursday night and the Blitzburgh defense kept him hemmed him, limiting the second year back to 30 yards rushing on 15 carries and 32 yards receiving on three receptions.  His two short rushing touchdowns salvaged what could have been a disasterous opening week fantasy effort.  This weekend, Brown welcomes the Bills, who yielded 183 yards rushing to the Patriots in week one, to Miami in a contest that holds much greater promise for the Dolphins franchise back.
8 CIN Rudi Johnson Despite 28 carries, Johnson could not reach the 100 yard mark (96) in Cincy’s offensively-challenged 23-10 road win over the Chiefs, though he did manage to score on a 22 yard run.  Johnson and the Bengals host the struggling Browns this weekend, a team that he gashed for 169 yards rushing and a touchdown on 30 carries in Cincinnati last season.
9 TB Cadillac Williams Unfortunately for Cadillac, the Buccaneers were hit with a Baltimore defense buzz-saw in week one’s 27-0 drubbing at the hands of the Ravens.  Consequently, Williams stats suffered from the limited opportunity as the Bucs had to go almost exclusively pass-mode for most of the game, restricting him to 22 yards on only eight carries and 25 yards on five receptions.  Williams will go on the road to Atlanta this Sunday to face the Falcons, a team he prospered against last year, gaining 266 yards rushing on 50 carries (5.32 avg.) and two touchdowns in the two games against Atlanta in 2005.
10 BUF Willis McGahee McGahee was so-so in the Bills 19-17 loss to New England last Sunday, carrying 20 times for 70 yards and no scores, while catching two passes for 24 yards.  Selected as a No. 1 back by many fantasy teams in the 10-12 draft slot, McGahee needs to perform at a much higher level this week on the road against division-rival Miami.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Laurence Maroney (NE) –  Thanks to misinformation from ESPN earlier in the week, Maroney’s gameday status was unclear up until kickoff and coach Bill Belichick took full advantage of the mystery, unleashing the rookie from the University of Minnesota on the Buffalo Bills as part of a highly effective running back tandem with veteran back Corey Dillon.  Maroney led the Patriots in rushing with 86 yards on only 17 carries (5.05 avg.), while keeping power back Corey Dillon from tiring, helping the Patriots seal the 19-17 home opener win over Buffalo.  Maroney’s continued excellence from the preseason into the regular season, combined with Corey Dillon’s penchant for injury give the exciting rookie the chance to be special right away should he receive an increase in touches per game.

Warrick Dunn (ATL) – Dunn led a punishing Falcons ground game in their week one road upset over heavily-favored Carolina, rushing for 132 yards on 29 carries.  Like his diminutive New York counterpart, Tiki Barber, the 5-9, 180 pound Dunn continues to defy the odds in the twilight of his 10 year NFL career.  He’ll face his former team, Tampa Bay, at home this weekend.

Tatum Bell / Mike Bell (DEN) –  Rarely is a two-headed running back combination productive enough to satisfy fantasy owners of both running backs involved, but the Broncos were able to achieve just that, despite losing 18-10 to the Rams in St. Louis last Sunday.  Both Bells played well, with Tatum finishing at 103 yards on 15 carries and rookie Mike totaling 58 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also adding 30 yards on four receptions, despite breaking a finger during the game.  The Denver’s Backfield Bells will be looking for even more success against the struggling Chiefs, who will arrive in Denver without starting quarterback Trent Green.

Sliding Back

Kevin Jones (DET) – Jones reinforced widespread doubts in the fantasy football world about his ability to produce, coming up woefully short yet again in the Lions 9-6 week one home loss to the Seattle Seahawks, despite starting in the new Mike Martz offense, a scheme that would reportedly transform the inconsistent Jones into the 2006 version of Marshall Faulk.  Jones gained a meager 35 yards on the ground on 14 carries, but did catch five passes for 45 yards as a safety valve for a heavily-pressured Jon Kitna.  Things don’t get any easier for Jones and the Lions in week two with a trip to Chicago to play the dominant Bears defense on Sunday.

DeShaun Foster (CAR) –  Given his recent history of success against week one opponent, Atlanta, Foster was a popular choice on many week one running back start lists.  Foster fell way short of expectations with 54 yards rushing on 15 carries and 20 receiving yards from four catches in a sloppy overall effort from the Panthers in their 20-6 home opener loss at the hands of the visiting Falcons.  Now Foster and the Panthers must travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings, who are coming off a gritty road win over the Washington Redskins last Monday night.

Reuben Droughns (CLE) – Anytime your quarterback is the leading rusher for your team (Charlie Frye had 44 yards and a rushing touchdown on six carries against the Saints last Sunday), it’s never a pleasant week for a franchise back.  Droughns, who played well on a bad Cleveland team last season, was expected to take another step forward this season as the focal point of a young and still-developing Cleveland offense but instead, stumbled out of the gate with 27 yards on 11 attempts in the Browns home loss to New Orleans last week.  Droughns will have to work even harder this weekend for a chance at redemption against a young and opportunistic Bengals defense on the road in Cincinnati.