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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Running Back Watch Report - Week 8
Mike Courter
October 24, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson The versatile Tomlinson continues to hum along, totaling 139 yards (66 rushing, 72 receiving, one passing) and two touchdowns (one passing and one receiving ) in the Chargers 30-27 road loss to the Chiefs in week seven.  The visiting St. Louis Rams (4.5 yds per carry to opponents) should add fuel to Tomlinson’s recent fantasy football fire in week eight.              
2 KC Larry Johnson Johnson’s inspired play last weekend harkened us back to images of his dominant 2005 campaign, pounding the much-heralded Chargers defense for 132 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries in the Chiefs critical 30-27 home win over their division rival.  In week eight, the Chiefs host the hurting Seahawks, who not only gave up 169 yards rushing to Chester Taylor last week, but lost starting QB Matt Hasselbeck (sprained MCL) last week, which could lead to an increase in red zone attempts for Johnson due to an expected struggle from Seattle backup quarterback Seneca Wallace.                                                                    
3 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook was fabulous in the Eagles heart-breaking 23-21 road loss to the Buccaneers last Sunday, performing at his multitalented best, rushing for 100 yards (101 on 13 carries) and recording another 100 receiving (seven catches for 113, including a 52 yard TD reception).  The suddenly vulnerable Jaguars run defense, run over by Texans rookie reserve RB Wali Lundy in week seven, visits the City of Brotherly Love in week eight, making B-Dub a must-start once again.                     
4 NYG Tiki Barber Mr. Yardage finally confirmed the rumors of his impending retirement at the conclusion of the 2006 season before Monday night’s challenge against the Cowboys, and then proceeded to shake off a nasty hit from DeMarcus Ware in the first half to register another 100-yard rushing game (114) and an additional 32 yards on four receptions in the Giants’ critical 36-22 win over the Cowboys in Big D.  This week will be filled with Barber Bowl hype as brother, Ronde’s Buccaneers pay a visit to Giants Stadium on Sunday in a brother-against-brother, twin-versus-twin match up.           
5 CIN Rudi Johnson Rudi had to endure the noise generated by critics that had increasingly gotten louder over the last few weeks as his production waned in the wake of several injuries along the Cincinnati offensive line.  Facing a difficult Panthers front four last week, Johnson responded gamely with 101 yards rushing on 26 carries, pacing the Bengals to a hard-fought 17-14 home win over visiting Carolina.  Johnson benefits from a second consecutive home game in week eight, welcoming the Atlanta Falcons inconsistent and smallish defense to Paul Brown Stadium.                                             
6 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson comes off of his week seven bye with a much more agreeable road date with the Chargers this weekend, after the Bolts lost defensive playmaker Shaun Phillips for six weeks due to injury and could also possibly lose DE Shawn Merriman for four games due to violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.                             
7 SF Frank Gore Returning from his week seven bye, Gore might want to lobby for another week off, staring a road trip to Chicago in the face this weekend, to take on the mighty Bears defense.  The Bears, looking to save face after a near-scare in Arizona to weeks ago, will ruin Gore fantasy owner’s weekends with a smothering performance in front of the Chicago faithful.   
8 PIT Willie Parker Parker vanished in the Steelers’ 41-38 loss in Atlanta in week seven, underperforming against a so-so Falcons defense with 47 yards rushing on 20 carries and no receptions.  The likely quarterback change to Charlie Batch this week (subbing for the concussed Ben Roethlisberger) should not negatively effect Parker’s ample opportunity in Oakland this weekend, against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, despite the Raiders one-week resurgence against the confused Cardinals last week.               
9 MIN Chester Taylor Taylor used a memorable 169 yard rushing performance, punctuated with a 95 yard touchdown run that broke the Seahawks back in the Vikings impressive week seven, 31-13 road conquest, to briefly catapult to the top of the league’s rushing ranks with 590 yards (on 137 attempts), before Tiki Barber took back the lead after Monday night against the Cowboys.  The central figure in the Vikings offense, Taylor should only get better down the stretch run with dates against Green Bay (twice), @ San Francisco, Arizona, @ Detroit, N.Y. Jets and St. Louis to close out the season in Week 17.                            
10 NO Deuce McAllister McAllister’s hamstring had time to rest during last week’s bye and the break came at a timely juncture as the Saints will face the physical Baltimore Ravens defense this weekend in the rebuilt New Orleans Superdome.         

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Wali Lundy (HOU) – The rookie running back from Virginia emerged from several weeks of inactivity and provided a key spark to the Texans’ 27-7, week seven upset of the Jacksonville Jaguars, rushing for 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while also catching four balls for 15 yards in Houston’s second win of the season.  Lundy has a chance to keep the good times rollin’ this weekend with a visit to the Music City to advance the ball against the marginal Titans run defense.

Leon Washington (NYJ) –  The rookie from Florida State took full advantage of  the absence of Detroit’s dominant DT Shaun Rogers from the Lions starting lineup last Sunday, due to a violation of the league’s controlled substance policy, accumulating 129 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets 31-24 home win over the Lions.  However, Washington is not a one game, match up exploitation wonder, rushing for over 100 yards against Jacksonville two weeks ago, in a game the Jets lost 41-0.  The 5’8” 202 pound rookie is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and will travel to Cleveland this week to face the Browns, who currently yield 4.6 yards per carry to opponents, a nice foundation to bestow recommended starter status upon the former Seminole.

Ahman Green (GB) – Whoa. Holy Flashback, Batman (Green’s self-appointed nickname)!  Did the recently-returned-from-injury report-mothballs Green just break off a 70 yard touchdown jaunt against the Dolphins like it was 2003 all over again?! Green’s most triumphant 118 yard rushing day rekindled fond memories of his game-breaking talent and could provide a launch pad for a continued upward flight in week eight against the demoralized Arizona Cardinals.

Sliding Back

Laurence Maroney (NE) – Three weeks ago, Maroney looked set for takeoff, all systems go, with 125 yards rushing and two touchdowns against the Bengals, but something has shifted off kilter within Maroney’s chi’ the last two weeks, and the talented rookie has averaged only 33.5 rushing yards per game and zero touchdowns in his last two contests, all while tiring himself out on kick return duty, only to fatten up running mate Corey Dillon’s touchdown total (now at four).  Last week against Buffalo was the classic case in fantasy frustration for Maroney owner’s.  He snares a first half kickoff and performs a beautiful, weaving-and-cutting kickoff return deep into Buffalo territory, naturally exiting at the end of the play to catch his breath and watch Dillon score a few plays later.  The rookie’s immense talent makes him hard to bench, but after two weeks of very little production, there’s now a small sense of dread starting him in your lineup against the Vikings on Monday night.

Edgerrin James (ARZ) – For the second consecutive week, James will maintain a seat in the “Sliding Back” section of the RB Watch (an infamous first in RB Watch annals dating back three seasons), after another dismal outing, with this performance bordering on unforgivable, as James produced a whopping 34 yards rushing on 13 carries against a horrible Raiders defense in helping Arizona grant Oakland their first victory in the 2006 campaign during last weekend’s 22-9 disaster.  James started to publicly question his off season move to Arizona after the defeat, and is being increasingly exposed each week as a running back who benefited from the Colts dynamic pass offense in his prior seven seasons, rather than an elite difference-maker that could change a team’s fortunes.  A week eight trip to Green Bay provides James another chance to prove his growing list of nay-sayer’s wrong.

Reuben Droughns (CLE) –After six games the Browns supposed franchise back is averaging 3.2 yards per carry (after averaging over 4.0 yards per carry the last two seasons) and has just one score to his credit,   a gross disappointment for fantasy owners who had to take him in the top part of their drafts due to the running back frenzy that occurs in the high rounds of most fantasy drafts.  A week eight home date with a soft Jets run defense offers a brief one week respite for long-suffering Droughns owners. Take advantage this Sunday, as he will then go on to face @San Diego, Atlanta, Pittsburgh twice and @ Baltimore in the future weeks ahead.