Must Start: The Top 15
1. Tiki Barber vs. PHI - It's
time to give someone else a shot at Numero Uno. With Priest on
the shelf for one more week (supposedly), Barber inherits the
top spot by virtue of his unbelievable consistency (over 100 total
yards in every game since Week 2) and efficiency (never more than
28 touches in a single contest). Though he faces the once-beaten
Eagles, you should recall he had his best game of the season against
them in Week 1.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson @ KC
- Apparently the groin's OK? We can only assume he's 100% healthy
after he carried the rock a startling 37 times against the Raiduhs
last Sunday. I wouldn't expect him to do the same this weekend
but 25-30 sounds about right, as does 125 yards and a touch or
two. Welcome back, L.T.
3. Shaun Alexander vs. BUF -
He's leading the league in rushing yards (1151) and is leading
all starters in yards-per-carry (5.1). He's also scored 13 touchdowns.
So why isn't he #1 this week? Buffalo. The Bills are giving up
only 101 yards per game on the ground and a measly 3.6 per carry.
It could be rough sledding for Seattle's meal ticket this weekend,
especially if Dilfer starts again.
4. Reuben Droughns vs. OAK -
The last time he faced the Raiders, he rumbled for 176 yards and
a touch. That game was in Oakland. This one will be at home. Any
chance he doesn't run for over 100 yards and another score? I'd
say that's about as likely as me NOT scarfing down a third slice
of pumpkin pie on Thursday. Start him.
5. Ahman Green vs. STL - The
early deadline means we take a few (Lambeau) leaps of faith. Green
is not a historically injury-prone back and I'm betting the dire
situation in the Packer backfield means he'll find a way to play
this week. It helps he's getting an extra day of rest. It also
helps he'll be facing a Rams team doing a horrible job against
the run (4.8 yards/carry and 137.4/game).
6. Curtis Martin @ ARI - Thanks
to a gimpy knee, he didn't get in a full day's work last Sunday
(just 17 carries for 88 yards). He should be healthy this week
and that's a good thing with a trip to the desert looming. Though
the Cards are MUCH better at home, they're not strong against
the run (4.8 yards/carry and 131.7/game) and can be exploited
by the tag-team duo of C-Mart and Lamont Jordan.
7. Corey Dillon vs. BAL - It's
scary how much better the already-stellar Pats are with Dillon
in the mix. Locked in a close battle Monday night, they turned
to their new workhorse for most of a clock-chewing, game-clinching
drive that put them clear of the pesky Chefs. The opponent gets
tougher (much tougher) this Sunday but he's already dropped the
hammer on some pretty good units this year. He should do so again.
8. Jerome Bettis vs. WAS - Units
don't get much better than Washington's (3.2 yards/carry and 89.7/contest)
but it isn't gonna matter this weekend. In a strength-on-strength
matchup, the Steelers' O-line will be able to open enough holes
for the Bus to do some damage. Look for him to top the century
mark and score a touch, though it may take him 30+ carries to
9. Edgerrin James @ DET - Edge
went absolutely nutso vs. the Bears last week (204 yards and a
score) and, quite frankly, it's surprising he doesn't do so more
often. With all the attention opposing defenses pay to Peyton
and Co., he should run free on an almost weekly basis. Expect
125+ yards and another touch this Thursday at Ford Field.
10. Michael Pittman @ CAR -
One of these days, I'll stop kicking myself for not picking him
up off waivers prior to Week 4. He's done nothing but score fantasy
points (and lots of them) since returning from suspension. He
should be primed to do so again this Sunday as the Panthers are
now tied for worst in rushing TDs allowed this season (15). Oh,
and for you plan-ahead types? He gets them again in Week 16.
11. Derrick Blaylock vs. SD
- Inexplicably, the Chefs were unable to mount much of a rushing
attack Monday night, something that might have come in pretty
handy against the defending world champs. They'll need to get
Blaylock untracked this week against a rugged Bolts front or the
result (another KC loss) will be assured. Expect them to do exactly
12. Fred Taylor @ MIN - He's
due for a touchdown like David Carr is due for another haircut.
Though I don't see the latter meeting up with a pair of scissors
anytime soon (especially if my wife has anything to say about
it!), I do see the former locating the end zone this week. It's
the most daring Shot Caller guarantee in history, folks: he'll
score on Sunday.
13. Deuce McAllister @ ATL -
He, on the other hand, probably won't. With the possible exception
of Michael Vick prior to Week 8, no player has been more poorly
utilized than the Deuce this year. Part of that is New Orleans'
crappy defense but much of it can be attributed to poor coaching.
At least he got involved in the passing game last week (11 catches
for 87 yards). Can't tell you what to expect, folks, but if you've
ridden him this long, why stop now?
14. Domanick Davis vs. TEN -
If you wanna know why he's averaging barely three yards a pop,
take another look at last Sunday night's tape. Facing a decent
but not elite Green Bay front, his O-line couldn't even open a
hole every ONCE in a while. Translation? It's not him, people.
Luckily for you, Carr always manages to keep him involved in the
passing game (one receiving TD last week). Keep playing him for
15. Rudi Johnson vs. CLE - As
predicted, he didn't do much against the Curtain last week (16
carries for 62 yards). That's no reflection on his ability but
rather a testament to how good the Steelers are this year. Though
the Battle of Ohio is always a tough one, he'll find much more
running room this weekend against the Browns and their embattled
Grab A Helmet:
Willis McGahee @ SEA - Stop
me if you've heard this before. When he goes over 100 yards, the
Bills win. When he doesn't, they don't. Sound like any other running
backs you know of in this league?
like, maybe, all of them?
The Bills probably won't win this Sunday but they do have a fighting
chance and that means HE has a fighting chance of posting solid
numbers. Good enough for a recommendation in my book.
Brian Westbrook @ NYG - Don't
be alarmed by the committee approach in Philly. Dorsey Levens
is getting some carries but I suspect Coach Reid is merely keeping
his main man fresh for the inevitable playoff run (and flameout).
Though that might bite into his bottom line some, Westbrook is
still a dangerous receiver who will always get touches (plenty
of them) in the passing game. Stick with him as your #2 or flex
Antowain Smith @ HOU - Been
a while since we heard from him, eh? His emergence shouldn't be
too surprising considering Chris Brown was a lead pipe lock to
go down at some point this season. Luckily, Coach Fisher protected
himself with a veteran backup still capable of pounding it between
the tackles (24 carries for 95 yards and a touch). Did you? Tsk,
Julius Jones vs. CHI - There
won't be a more inexperienced combo working the pitch this week
than Henson and Jones in Big D. Though they both show promise,
only Jones is likely to post numbers worthy of fantasy consideration.
He's fast, shifty, and stout enough to shoulder a pretty sizeable
rushing load. Heck, he even carried it 30 times against the Ravens
last week. Give him a go if you're short-handed.
Emmitt Smith vs. NYJ - Of course,
Dallas wouldn't be so inexperienced if they'd stuck with Mr. Cowboy
hisself two years ago. Though not the stud he used to be, Emmitt
is still a productive NFL workhorse. Coming off a bad game in
Carolina, I like his chances of bouncing back in the desert. For
what it's worth, he's been much better at home this season, where
he plays four of his final six.
Grab A Gatorade:
Clinton Portis @ PIT - He had
his chance last week against Philly's sub-par run defense. He
failed to perform (17 carries for 37 yards). That makes him officially
one of the most disappointing fantasy players of 2004, if not
the MOST disappointing. Expect more frustration in the Steel City
this week as he faces a Curtain squad giving up only 3.6 yards/carry
and a miniscule 77.8 per game.
Kevan Barlow vs. MIA - You probably
already know this but it's my job to remind you: he's gone over
the century mark just ONCE this season. If you're looking for
disappointing fantasy back #2, look no further. Then, start looking
for a replacement.
Kevin Jones vs. IND - Oddly
enough, his recent emergence has coincided with the Lions' fall
from playoff contention. Unfortunately, because of that fall,
he's still not getting many red zone opportunities. That could
change Thursday but, more likely, the Lions will be playing from
behind and will score via the air (if at all). Go with someone
else if you've been relying on the kid.
Any Miami RB @ SF - Unlike most
weeks, the problem is not the matchup. Miami has a semi-decent
chance of beating the equally woeful Niners. The problem is figuring
out who will garner the most carries under newly-promoted coach,
Jim Bates. Travis Minor and Sammy Morris shared the duties last
week in Seattle and if they continue to do so, you want nothing
to do with this group. Assume they will this week and go in another
direction. If something changes before next week, you'll be the
first to know.
Onterrio Smith/Michael Bennett vs.
JAX - Will Mike Tice ever make up his mind here? He starts
w/ Bennett and then switches to Smith (the better back) fairly
early. If things don't go well, he switches back to Bennett. If
things don't go well again
you get the picture. Wait until
something changes before going with one of these guys. Though
they're both potentially useful, they're also potentially harmful
to your playoff health the way things stand now.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends