Chris Johnson / Lendale White, Titans - There’s nothing like a helping of the Lions tasty run defense to help vanquish the recent struggles of the Tennessee Titans running attack. Chris Johnson hitting the rookie wall? How’s a 58-yard touchdown sprint to highlight a 125 yards and two scores on 16 carries to answer that question? Lendale White in a slump? Thanks to the Lions defense there’s plenty for everyone as White carried 23 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns in a complementary role.
Brian Westbrook, Eagles - After going scoreless in the four games prior to this week’s 48-20 win over the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night, Westbrook appeared to be mired in a struggle that seemed to have no end. The Eagles holiday feast on the Cardinals provided a re-launch for Westy back into fantasy relevance, with 110 yards on the ground, 20 as a receiver, and FOUR touchdowns. The former Villanova product single-handedly won many fantasy head-to-head match-ups with this single-game points eruption, erasing any lingering doubts created by the past four weeks of underperformance.
Carnell Williams, Buccaneers - Caddy is in week two of his return to active duty and took another baby-step forward to productivity in the Buccaneers 23-20 win over the Saints, averaging five yards per carry (four times for 20 yards) and scoring on an eight yard touchdown run, his first score since week three of the 2007 season. With 33-year old Warrick Dunn assuming the starter role when Earnest Graham went on IR, Williams will have increasing opportunities in the coming weeks during Tampa Bay’s playoff drive to gain carries and playing time to keep Dunn fresh.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers - Right now, Williams has inserted himself into the elite fantasy back conversation. Who would have thunk it that for most of the 2008 season, fantasy owners would be much better served with DeAngelo Williams in their lineup than LaDainian Tomlinson? That’s how quickly the ffl world can be turned upside down. Williams, faced with the threat of rookie Jonathan Stewart this season, has taken his game to never-before-heights this year and last Sunday’s four touchdown performance in the Panthers pivotal 35-31 road win over Green Bay provided the latest chapter an MVP-type campaign from the third-year veteran.
Peyton Hillis, Broncos - I think most of us had not given Hillis much of a chance against the New York Jets and their nasty run defense led by mammoth nose tackle Kris Jenkins this past Sunday. This was supposed to be a Jets home laugher over the inconsistent, young Broncos, with the Jets running game taking center stage over a hapless Denver defense. Though New York’s Thomas Jones did perform well (16 carries for 138 yards and two touchdowns), it was the rookie fullback-turned-tailback Hillis who was one of the main stories of the day, gaining 129 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the visiting Broncos 34-17 upset this weekend. And the former Arkansas Razorback has found the end zone four times in his last three games.
Justin Fargas, Raiders - Fargas’ play has been admirable this year with a consistent effort that flies in the face of the chaos that surrounds him on the tumultuous football soap opera known as the Oakland Raiders. Fargas makes like the Energizer Bunny each week behind a mediocre offensive line and last Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was no exception, gaining 82 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries as rookie first round pick Darren McFadden slowly works his way back into the rotation. The six-year vet makes for a nice lineup fill-in during the next few playoff weeks at the flex spot or at the No. 2 RB.
Marion Barber, Cowboys - The anti-Brian Westbrook, Barber killed many of his fantasy owners with his laying of a Thanksgiving Day egg (10 carries for 32 yards, though he fell into a gift 2-yard TD run), causing him to drop a notch for failure to seize upon the favorable Thanksgiving Day match-up with the Seattle Seahawks defense which should have yielded a minimum100+ yards and a score. The four-year veteran also sustained a sprained right pinkie toe that knocked him out of the game prematurely and has him listed as day-to-day this week.
Julius Jones, Seahawks - So much for the big money free agent opportunity Jones received when he signed with Seattle this past off-season after being forced out of Dallas by Marion Barber’s rise to prominence. Jones has registered only two 100 yards rushing games this season (against SF and STL in September) and the following nine games after that saw no touchdowns and single game rushing totals of 61, 44, 42, 9, 41, 88, 19, 21 and 37 yards on 11 carries this past Thanksgiving in Seattle’s 34-9 loss to the Cowboys.
Tim Hightower, Cardinals - We all had such high hopes when the promising rookie from Richmond took over the starting tailback spot in early November from disgruntled veteran Edgerrin James but things have not proceeded according to plan. After manufacturing the first 100-yard rushing game (109 yards and a score on 22 carries) of his pro career against the Rams, Hightower’s numbers have bottomed out with the Cardinals becoming a pass-heavy first team. The next four games following the Rams saw rushing yardage totals of 22, 35, 21, and seven and only two touchdowns (both in the same game against the Giants). And now JJ Arrington has returned from the statistical dead to nibble away at Hightower’s carries, including goal line touches.
New Orleans backfield - The Saints backfield has become a sad state of affairs, starting with Reggie Bush’s never-ending knee injury to Deuce McAllister’s water pill problems and pending suspension. Throw in reliable Aaron Stecker’s season-ending injury and Pierre Thomas performance barely attaining mediocrity and it’s a mess that FEMA wouldn’t even want to get involved with. The lack of a true answer in the New Orleans backfield has helped propel Drew Brees to new fantasy heights, but until Reggie Bush can gain steam post-knee injury, there are no welcome options for fantasy participants to use in the coming weeks.