Must Start: The Top 15
1. Shaun Alexander vs. DAL -
Mea culpa? He was TOTALLY ineffective against the Bills last week
(13 carries for 39 yards) and though that would normally be cause
for concern, you shouldn't fret. The Bills are for real on D.
Moreover, Alexander is still the league's leading rusher through
twelve weeks. He should rebound (in a big way) this Monday night
against a crummy Dallas front. Coach Holmgren will stand for nothing
2. Corey Dillon @ CLE - I promised
he'd be a top 5 back if he started scoring some TDs and he's done
exactly that in his last six games. In fact, he's averaged one
per contest during that stretch, a fact that should seriously
frighten the suddenly inept Cleveland crew. Don't think for a
second Coach B won't relish stuffing his stud back down the collective
throat of his former squad, either. Good thing they're stocked
up on Pepto, eh?
3. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. DEN
- He only managed 46 yards against the usually generous Chefs
front last week. Didn't matter. He still put the ball in the end
zone (twice, actually), something he's done in every game but
one thus far. The only team to keep him out? Denver. Payback's
a you-know-what, Broncos fans. Mark it down.
4. Ahman Green or Najeh Davenport @
PHI -If you saw Davenport run roughshod over the Rams on
Monday night, you know why either back is a fab start against
the susceptible Philly run defense. Indeed, the duo combined to
run for over 400 yards in two games against the Birds last season.
Batman (the likely starter) was responsible for almost 350 of
them. Giddy up!
5. Curtis Martin vs. HOU - The
Jets haven't scored more than 17 points in a game since Chad Pennington
went down. Not surprisingly, Martin's numbers have suffered, as
at least, to some extent. He's still quite productive
and whether he gets his signal-caller back this week or not, he
should enjoy a solid day against Houston's iffy D. Stick with
6. Tiki Barber @ WAS - For all
the problems Washington is having on the offensive side of the
ball, the defense has been pretty stout. Though the Bus managed
to run for 100 yards against them last week, it took him 31 carries
to do so. Tiki isn't likely to carry the ball that often so you
should temper your expectations this Sunday. I like his chances
of scoring (who else is gonna do it?), but a huge day seems unlikely.
7. Willis McGahee @ MIA - Speaking
of huge days! The former 'Cane stormed all over the hapless 'Hawks
last week (142 total yards and four touchdowns), solidifying himself
as the go-to guy in Buffalo. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Travis
Henry is now out for the year, but
. The Bills are all about
defense and the run right now and that means plenty more carries/scoring
opportunities for Mr. McGahee in the immediate future.
8. Deuce McAllister vs. CAR
- Thanks to the defense keeping it close (a rarity in New Orleans),
Deuce was able to garner more than 20 carries last Sunday, something
he hasn't done very often this season. This weekend's tilt with
the Panthers could be just as close and with a potential playoff
berth hanging in the balance, you can expect him to play a large
role again. Expect another 100 yards or so and, if you're lucky,
9. Michael Pittman vs. ATL -
Surprisingly, he couldn't get anything going on the ground against
Carolina last Sunday (18 carries for 29 yards). Fortunately for
his owners, the Bucs had a Plan B. That plan? Get him the ball
in the passing game. Eight catches, 134 yards, and two touchdowns
later, he was one of the most productive RECEIVERS in Week 12.
Don't you just love versatile backs?
10. Edgerrin James vs. TEN -
I like gaudy numbers as much as the next guy but couldn't Coach
Dungy have found a way to get Edge in the end zone on Thanksgiving
Day? Once? He still managed 105 yard, which is nice, but it could
have been a whole lot nicer with a goal-line plunge or two. Expect
him to make up for lost numbers against the reeling Titans this
11. Derrick Blaylock @ OAK -
He only got eight carries against the Bolts but, unlike Edge,
got them when they mattered most (to us), inside the five. Though
he'll continue to lose carries to Larry Johnson, he's still the
main guy while Priest is out. Besides, if he keeps scoring touchdowns,
it won't matter how many carries he gets.
12. Reuben Droughns @ SD - He's
tallied over 100 total yards in every single game since assuming
the reins in Denver. Though none of those games were against San
Diego's fearsome front seven, it's too late in the season to abandon
a consistent producer such as him. We'd like him to score more
(and fumble less), but we'll gladly take ten+ guaranteed fantasy
points at this stage of the season. Continue riding this horse.
13. Rudi Johnson @ BAL - He
hasn't started that many games either but, man, has he posted
some huge days. He won't run for 200 yards this week (I know
out on a limb) but he could gain 60-80 and throw in a cheap score
for good measure. If he doesn't
well, that's life against
Ray-Ray and the Ravens.
14. Jerome Bettis @ JAX - The
Steelers are supposed to get Duce back this week but we've heard
that before (last week, in fact). Even if they do, the Bus will
get plenty of work. Thankfully, he does most of his important
work near the goal line, where he's racked up 11 touchdowns already.
That's almost one per week and definitely enough to make him worthy
of your attention. Continue playing him.
15. Brian Westbrook vs. GB -
Thanks to four scores in the past two weeks, Westbrook is back
on my radar screen. He rarely gets more than 15 carries per contest
but supplements those rushing attempts with over four receptions
per. That's about 20 touches a game, enough to do some damage
against opponents preoccupied with Don and T.O. Expect Green Bay
to be so preoccupied.
Grab A Helmet:
Fred Taylor vs. PIT - He's gone
over the century mark in four of his last five starts, capping
it off with a 147-yard effort against the Vikes last Sunday. Just
one problem. In fact, same old problem. He CANNOT score. If you
can live with the yardage, so be it. If not, keep looking.
Domanick Davis @ NYJ - Davis
is coming off a monster game (181 total yards and a touch) but
now faces the wood-chipper that has become New York's revamped
front seven. He'll probably manage some yards (hence, the recommendation)
but I wouldn't go banking on a touchdown. The Jets are giving
up barely ten points a game since their Week 3 bye. Ten!
Steven Jackson vs. SF - Marshall
has all but been ruled out for the rematch with San Fran and that
means the pride of Corvallis, Mr. Jackson, gets his first crack
as St. Louis' meal ticket. Believe it or not, I'll be rooting
for the ex-Beaver. So will his owners. Rooting for him to get
more than the EIGHT carries he got Monday night, that is. It's
called offensive balance, Coach Martz. You should really look
Julius Jones @ SEA - Dallas
passed on Jackson to pick up this guy in Round 2 of last April's
draft. Though only time will tell whether that was a wise move,
it looks pretty good so far. In fact, Jones already looks like
a better prospect than his older sib and, provided he can stay
healthy, should be in for a nice little run to close out the season.
Nick Goings @ NO - It never
flipping fails. I totally pan the guy (three weeks ago) and he
shows me up by rushing for 100 yards in successive games. Guess
that goes to show you I don't know everything. Though I'm sure
you weren't thinking that anyway, I do know this: he's a great
start against the horrific Saints D. So start him already.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevan Barlow @ STL - He claims
not to be a "failure," a "bust, or a "letdown."
Au contraire, mon frere. When you start losing carries to Skip
check that, MAURICE Hicks (!!!)
adjectives are fair game. He might break out against a susceptible
Rams D but I wouldn't bet a plugged nickel on it.
Clinton Portis vs. NYG - Then
again, when your name is Clinton Portis and you start losing carries
to Ladell Betts, you're not exactly setting the world on fire,
either. The Skins' big catch has accounted for precisely ZERO
touchdowns in the last seven games, a drought that would make
Fred Taylor blush. He's bound to snap out of it some day but can
you really afford to stake your playoff hopes on the possibiilty?
I think you know the answer.
Any Miami RB vs. BUF - You already
know how the league's top back fared against Buffalo's stingy
defense last week. Now imagine how Miami's ragtag bunch will do
this weekend. Not a good visual, is it? No, it isn't.
Any Oakland RB vs. KC - Let's
see. Your options are Justin Fargas or Amos Zereoue. If you're
still mulling that one over, you've got more problems than I can
help you with. Move along.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends