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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch Report - Week 5
Mike Courter
October 3, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 KC Larry Johnson Buoyed by the tasty matchup of 1-3 San Francisco visiting Arrowhead after a Chiefs bye in week three, Johnson capitalized with 101 yards and two touchdowns (though it took him 30 carries to do so) in the Chiefs 41-0 laugher over the ‘Niners.  Johnson continues to add additional value in the passing game, nabbing four passes for 41 yards.  Johnson, despite going on the road, should continue to roll in week five, visiting struggling Arizona.          
2 SD LaDainian Tomlinson As expected, week four’s match-up against the Ravens provided a much stiffer test for LT2, grinding out 98 yards on 27 carries in the Chargers 16-13 road loss in Baltimore.  Not much a reprieve this week against the Steelers, though the game will be in San Diego on a national Sunday night stage.  Tomlinson last faced the Steelers in 2003 in Pittsburgh, rushing for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.                                                                 
3 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook was a last minute scratch against the Green Bay Packers last Monday night due to persistent swelling from a troublesome knee injury.  Westbrook owners have to be concerned with Dom Davis-like injury symptoms threatening to derail his 2006 campaign.  He’ll most likely be ready to go for this weekend’s home game against the Dallas Cowboys and the return of Terrell Owens to Philadelphia.                  
4 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson overcame being at the undesirable end of a lopsided 38-13 defeat at the hands of the Patriots by posting a respectable 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries with three catches for 26 yards.  Johnson returns from his week five bye to face the lowly Buccaneers in Tampa Bay in week six.          
5 NYG Tiki Barber Barber and the Giants will look to put forth strong performances against the Redskins at home this Sunday, coming off the week four bye, to rid themselves of the bad taste left in their collective mouth’s from week three’s disaster in Seattle.  Last year’s home game against Washington yielded 206 rushing yards and a touchdown from an emotionally-charged Tiki in the Giants first game following the death of their beloved owner, Wellington Mara.                                    
6 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson seems to be getting stronger each week in the Linehan offensive system, piling up 146 total yards (81 rushing, 65 receiving) and a rushing touchdown in the Rams 41-34 week four win over the Lions.  Jackson figures to cash in again this weekend with a fantasy-friendly date against the defensively-challenged Packers at Lambeau Field.                              
7 ARZ Edgerrin James James became the victim of a shaky Kurt Warner’s match-up against the opportunistic Falcons defense and the subsequent meltdown of the Cardinals in their 32-10 Georgia Dome defeat.  James scraped together 72 total yards (41, rushing, 31 receiving) with little room to operate against a swarming Atlanta defense.  James and the Cards will be home this weekend, hosting the suddenly resurgent KC Chiefs defense, boosted by their 41-0 blanking of San Francisco last week.  
8 BUF Willis McGahee The good news? McGahee now leads the NFL in rushing yardage with 389 yards on 99 carries and finally found the end zone against the Vikings in last week’s 17-12 win over the Vikings last Sunday.  The bad news arrives this weekend in the form of a road trip to Chicago to face the frightening Bears defense.     
9 WAS Clinton Portis Over the last two weeks, Portis has begun his ascent back to the lofty draft status position he held prior to the preseason shoulder separation, gaining 86 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Texans in week three and last week’s impressive 112 yards and a touchdown on the ground versus the formidable Jaguars run defense in last weekend’s surprising 36-30 overtime win over Jacksonville.                      
10 NE Laurence Maroney The flashy rookie from the University of Minnesota has taken the league by storm and has surpassed the shamelessly, over-hyped Reggie Bush as the league’s best rookie running back, punctuated by last Sunday’s 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns in New England’s 38-13 humbling of the Bengals in Cincinnati last weekend.  The Patriots host the struggling 1-3 Dolphins this Sunday.

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Kevin Jones (DET) – Could Jones finally be waking from his two year fantasy slumber under new offensive coordinator Mike Martz?  Jones has scored three times and averaged 4.85 yards per carry in the last two weeks, against Green Bay and St. Louis respectively.  Jones will travel to Minnesota this Sunday to take on a Vikings defense allowing only 3.4 yards per carry to opposing backs.

DeShaun Foster (CAR) – Foster has responded well to the recent playing time threat of impressive rookie running back DeAngelo Williams by rushing for 82 yards (4.1 avg.) @ Tampa Bay two weeks ago and 105 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries (6.6 avg.) against New Orleans last Sunday.  Foster can add fuel to his statistical fire by seizing the day this weekend against the needy run defense of the visiting Cleveland Browns, currently forking over 4.8 yards per carry to opponents.

Jerious Norwood (ATL) –  Norwood is making the most of his brief game appearances in this, his rookie season,  averaging 8.3 yards per carry on his limited 26 total carries.  The NFC South’s version of Laurence Maroney is being artificially held back due to the Falcons organization deep respect for the durable Warrick Dunn, but performances like last week by Norwood (six carries for 106 yards- including a 78 yard touchdown run) will force the Falcons coaching staff’s hand and put a plan in motion for the rookie to gradually replace the veteran Dunn in Atlanta’s offense as the season progresses.

Sliding Back

Frank Gore (SF) – Just two weeks ago, Gore was a darling of the fantasy world, earning lavish praise and consensus “future star” labels from various pundits after two impressive outings to start the year.  But week three’s dismantling at the hands of the visiting Eagles, which included a goal line fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Philadelphia defense,  followed by another goal line fumble in the 49ers 41-0 loss to Kansas City last weekend has forced the San Francisco coaching staff to insert Penn State rookie Michael Robinson as the goal line back for the time being, crippling the second year running back’s franchise back aspirations, as well as his elite back trajectory in fantasy football.

Chester Taylor (MIN) –  After a promising first two games of 2006 that included 88 rushing yards and a touchdown against Washington in week one and 113 yards on 24 carries in week two against Carolina, Taylor has hit a bump in the road with difficult outings against tough defenses, Chicago (3.7 yds per carry) and Buffalo (2.3 yds per carry), respectively.  He’ll face Detroit at home this weekend and may receive multiple cracks at the goal line as a result of great field position derived from numerous, expected turnovers from the Lions offense.

Warrick Dunn (ATL) –  Between Michael Vick being used by the Falcons the way Texas used Vince Young in his Longhorns career, and as a result- averaging 8.8 yards per rush (5th best in the NFL) and explosive rookie Jerious Norwood averaging 8.3 yards per carry, the 10 year veteran back (averaging 4.5 yds per carry) is being squeezed from both sides and is beginning to become a marginal fantasy football play with each passing week.  The Falcons have a bye this week before facing the Giants at home in week six.