Must Start: The Top 15
1. Shaun Alexander @ STL - Believe
it or not, his numbers (879 rushing yards, 5.1 yards/carry, and
12 touchdowns) compare quite favorably to Mr. Holmes' otherworldly
figures (892 yards, 4.6 yards/carry, and 15 touchdowns). It's
only fair, then, that he should inherit the top spot with Priest
on the shelf. The 'Hawks have become a run-first team and if they
wanna keep winning, they'll continue to be. I presume they do.
2. Tiki Barber @ ARI - The G-men
had no business losing to Chicago last week but don't blame Tiki.
He chipped in with 131 total yards and two more touchdowns. He'll
continue to be the focal point of New York's offense (duh) and
should post solid to spectacular numbers in the desert this weekend.
3. Ahman Green vs. MIN - It's
been somewhat feast or famine for Green owners this season as
he's scored all of his touchdowns (seven) in just three games.
Not surprisingly, the Pack has won all of them. I doubt that little
tidbit has escaped the notice of head coach and now offensive
coordinator, Mike Sherman. Expect Batman to be a huge factor again
this Sunday as the Pack attempts to wrest control of the NFC North
4. Deuce McAllister vs. KC -
If anyone can handle 30 carries a game, it's this guy. Unfortunately,
he hasn't been getting anywhere near that many of late. The reason?
His defense is abominable and is consistently putting the offense
in come-from-behind mode. If they're somehow able to slow down
the high-powered but Priest-less Chefs this Sunday, Deuce could
have a field day.
5. Clinton Portis vs. CIN -
He's gone over 100 yards just three times this season. Not coincidentally,
the Redskins have won all three of those games. I'm not a mind
reader but I'm betting Coach Gibbs will do everything in his power
to make sure the kid reaches triple digits again this Sunday.
He should facing a Bengals D giving up a league-worst 149.6 rushing
6. Jamal Lewis @ NYJ - Like
Portis, Lewis faces way too many eight-man fronts. Unlike Portis,
his defense and special teams usually give him plenty of short-field
scoring opportunities. He'll likely see more this weekend against
a suddenly punchless Jets offense.
7. Edgerrin James vs. HOU -
"Punchless" is the last word you'd use to describe Indy's
high-octane O. Though Peyton and Co. get most of the attention
(and deservedly so), James is the guy who keeps defenses honest.
Expect another workmanlike 100 yards and, with any luck, a touch
8. Chris Brown vs. CHI - The
decimated receiving corps has made things tougher on Brown but
he's still managed to post some huge numbers this season (five
100-yard games to date). If the Titans are able to stake an early
lead (a strong possibility), he could see the ball 25 to 30 times.
25 x five yards a pop (his average) = a pretty nice day.
9. Willis McGahee @ NE - He's
carried the ball 67 times since earning the job full-time, which
tells me he's all the way back from the devastating Orange Bowl
injury. That's a good thing since the Bills were going nowhere
with Travis Henry at the helm. Provided they don't fall too far
behind against the Pats this weekend, he could see the rock another
30+ times. All things being equal, you want backs who get 30+
10. Domanick Davis @ IND - I'm
no mathematician but I'd say his prediction of a 2,000 yard season
is out of reach. That doesn't mean he can't be a useful start
from here on out. He finally broke out against the Broncos last
week (71 yards and two scores) and could have another large day
against Indy's crummy defense. Don't forget he's always a threat
in the passing game should this one turn into a shootout. It will.
11. Curtis Martin vs. BAL -
Martin has feasted on poor defenses this season and struggled
against good ones. Baltimore's defense isn't good. It's great.
Though he won't reach the century mark, he should still get plenty
of opportunities and, with any luck, a few shots around the goal
12. Michael Pittman @ ATL -
He's been one of the pleasant surprises and, I'm guessing, one
of the top free agent pickups thus far. His 128-yard, three-TD
performance spelled doom for KC last week and if the Dirty Birds
don't account for him, he could wreak havoc again this Sunday.
He's a destitute man's L.T. and a great sub if you happen to own
the Bolts' star, too. Give him a go.
13. Emmitt Smith vs. NYG - The
sledding's been pretty rough for Emmitt of late but he still has
an uncanny nose for the end zone (six touchdowns) and a north-south
running style conducive to moving the chains. Expect the Cards
to take advantage of Michael Strahan's absence by pounding Ol'
Reliable between the tackles 20+ times this Sunday.
14. Corey Dillon vs. BUF - He
probably went unused in many leagues last week, which is a real
shame. The 112 yards, not to mention the touch, would have come
in awfully handy. If you sat him down, don't beat yourself up
over it. Just don't do it again this week. Though he's facing
a formidable Bills front, he should still be good for 80-100 yards
and another score.
15. Jerome Bettis @ CLE - I
KNOW you're lying if you expected anything out of Bettis this
year. Last week's performance was vintage Bus (33 carries for
149 yards) and if Butch Davis has any sense at all, he'll load
the box with bodies and place the burden squarely on the shoulders
of Pittsburgh's precocious rook, Big Ben. Sorry, Butch. You don't
HAVE enough bodies to keep this bowling ball out of the end zone.
Grab A Helmet:
Onterrio Smith @ GB - I don't
trust that Mike Tice saw what we saw Monday night but if he did,
Smith will get the bulk of the carries the rest of the way. The
former Duck is more powerful and more elusive than either Michael
Bennett or Mewelde Moore and could do some serious damage against
an improving but still average Green Bay front. Give him a look
if you're short on backs this week.
Anthony Thomas @ TEN - Though
Thomas Jones is scheduled to return this week, I'd be shocked
if the Bears don't call on A-Train early and often. He's bigger,
stronger, and more durable and should match up well against an
inexperienced and inconsistent Titans front yielding 4.6 yards/carry.
Don't be surprised if he tallies 50-75 yards and a touch.
Fred Taylor vs. DET - The Jags
turn to David Garrard at QB this Sunday and though he's not a
bad backup, he's no Byron Leftwich. That means the offensive burden
falls on Taylor. He's facing a Detroit front that looked uncharacteristically
average last week. Expect Jacksonville to give him every opportunity
to reach the century mark in a game that has all the makings of
a 13-10 snoozefest.
Kevan Barlow vs. CAR - Guess
that Lloyd kid's not so bad after all, eh Kevan? Actually, you
didn't look too shabby yourself last week (61 yards and a touch).
For once, the Niners have a chance to win a game this Sunday.
In order to do so, they'll need a big game from their feature
back. It's anybody's guess whether or not he'll come through,
but there aren't a ton of great starts this week at tailback.
In other words, he gets the nod by default.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevin Jones @ JAX - He looks
like a potential difference-maker in the future but for now, he's
a waste of your time. He doesn't get a ton of carries and doesn't
accumulate a ton of yards with the ones he does get. He draws
a well-rested and solid Jags D this week, just another reason
to sit him down.
Rudi Johnson @ WAS - This is
a matchup recommendation all the way. I like Johnson against most
opponents but the 'Skins are defending the run exceedingly well
this year (3.1 yards/carry and 84.0 per game). That shouldn't
change this week as the Bengals don't possess great balance of
offense. Expect eight-man fronts and very little production from
the former Tiger.
William Green/Lee Suggs vs. PIT
- Predictably, this duo struggled against the suffocating Ravens
D last week. Unfortunately, they won't get much of a breather
this week with the red-hot Curtain coming to town. Suggs appears
to be the back du jour but that could always change (and fast)
and if the carries are split evenly, it won't be worth starting
either one of them. Wait until the matchups improve.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends