DeAngelo Williams, Panthers - With increasing calls for Jonathan Stewart to continue to become “the man” in the Carolina backfield, Williams needed a job-saving effort to keep himself in the backfield conversation. The three-year veteran back delivered a statement game of 20 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and a 25-yard touchdown reception that was the engine behind the Panthers 34-0 week five trouncing of the Chiefs. The flipside of Williams standout day was the buzz-kill it created for hopeful Jonathan Stewart owners who were counting on a big day against the Chiefs meek run defense.
Steve Slaton, Texans - Slaton qualified to be in Risers for several weeks now, as the rookie from West Virginia continues to impress since taking over the starting role three weeks ago. Slaton’s 16 carries for 93 yards and two scores last Sunday almost single-handedly willed the Texans to victory in their heart-breaking 31-27 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He has also shown to be no slouch in the passing game as well, catching 16 passes for 100 yards (6.3 avg) and a touchdown in three games.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants - Now week five’s dominant display of 15 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the Giants 44-6 trampling of the Seahawks in the Meadowlands is the sort of stat line that we expect out of a 6-4, 264 pound back with 4.5 speed. This type of performance shows us what Jacobs is capable of, the challenge is for the former Southern Illinois product to turn the corner on consistent dominance in order for him to join the top tier of fantasy running backs.
Clinton Portis, Redskins - Much like his surging Washington Redskins team, Portis has quietly conducted a strong run of his own as an elite back in fantasy football, compiling 514 yards rushing and four touchdowns through the first five games of the season. In week five, the quirky veteran back powered the Redskins come-from-behind road win in Philadelphia with 145 yards and a touchdown on the ground from 29 clock-killing carries. It was his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game after registering 121 yards on 21 carries in week four’s win in Dallas.
Felix Jones, Cowboys - In week five’s 31-22 win over the Bengals, the Cowboys quickly made up for last week’s coaching transgression of somehow making it through the week four loss to the Redskins without giving the explosive rookie from Arkansas a carry by granting him ten touches as an important part of the running attack against Cincinnati. Jones used his trademark explosiveness almost immediately, busting a 33-yard scoring run on the outside perimeter to help the Cowboys stake a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The first-year back would finish 96 yards rushing on only nine carries, showing an adeptness for gains between the tackles as well. If Marion Barber incurs any type of lengthy injury, the Cowboys possess fantasy football’s next big thing.
Ronnie Brown, Dolphins - Brown’s week five performance (24 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown) in the Dolphins impressive 17-10 upset over the Chargers solidified most fantasy owner’s suspicions that he was officially back from last year’s reconstructive knee surgery, and barring another season-ending injury (no guarantee given his history), he will continue for the immediate future as a No.1 fantasy back with a weekly likelihood of 100+ yards and a touchdown.
Larry Johnson, Chiefs - After two weeks of steady rising, Johnson not only blew a flat tire in the Chiefs 34-0 week five loss against the Panthers, his seven carry for two yards performance was akin to the transmission falling out of the bottom of the car for fantasy owners. An absolute match-up killer for Johnson owners, who were forced to absorb a big, fat zero for in their respective head-to-head contests.
Willis McGahee, Ravens - Another nondescript performance by a supposed No.1 fantasy football back, McGahee was invisible again (64 yards on 22 carries) in the Ravens week five loss to Tennessee. The former Miami Hurricane hasn’t scored a touchdown in three weeks and has yet to record a 100-yard rushing game this year. Add the rise of LeRon McClain to steal touchdowns and important carries, and it’s not a stretch of the imagination to paint McGahee in full tailspin mode as a fantasy starter.
LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers - Not that it’s a noticeable fall or anything to be concerned with long term, but Tomlinson’s week five egg-laying in Miami (12 carries for 35 yards, five catches for 22 yards) was frustration of the hair-pulling variety for his fantasy owners after raising hopes the last few weeks with increasingly-higher scoring performances. The most troubling aspect of this downturn was the fact that none of the standard excuses could be applied here as his offensive line was largely intact and the rust from his traditionally slow start had been shaken off in the two prior games.
Fred Taylor / Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars - The two-headed, Jaguars combo that performed so productively last season as a tandem have had few positive moments this year. Count this past Sunday night’s performance in the Jags 26-21 home loss to the Steelers as another unpleasant chapter to a continually underwhelming 2008 campaign. Jones-Drew cashed in on a goal line attempt early in the game, but finished with seven yards on five carries and six receptions for 23 yards. What happen to the explosive long runs that were a staple of the Maurice Jones-Drew brand? It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the dominant gashes that struck fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators throughout the league. Taylor, the veteran who found a new lease on life with MJD as his running mate in the last two seasons, scratched out 19 yards on 10 carries against a decent, not great Steelers run defense. The Jaguars depend on the ground attack to anchor their offense and these two are clearly not getting it done.