Must Start: The Top 15
1. Jamal Lewis vs. KC - The
Chiefs were actually respectable versus the run last week but
it would be foolish to think they've solved all their problems
on defense. This week, they draw a rejuvenated Lewis who's fresh
off a thrashing of the Bengals' equally shoddy front (186 yards
and a score). If he doesn't top the century mark and find the
end zone, it'll be a huge disappointment. He will and it won't.
2. Ahman Green vs. NYG -The
shootout in Indy was fun to watch but Mike Sherman knows his squad
can't survive unless Green gets his 25-30 carries a game. It's
all about ball control (especially when your defense is a turnstile)
and the Pack's front five should have no problem accomplishing
that against a weak New York front. Start him as usual.
3. Priest Holmes @ BAL - He
drops out of the top spot but not on account of anything he's
done. Though questionable heading into the Week 3 tilt with the
Texans, he cowboy'd up and carried the rock 32 times for 134 yards.
Yards, not to mention points, will be much harder to come by in
Baltimore and for that reason alone, we move him down a few spots.
4. Chris Brown @ SD - Don't
look now but he's leading the league (by a nose) in total rushing
yards through three weeks. This despite the fact he faced a seemingly
impenetrable Jaguars front last Sunday. I don't like his running
style (too high) or his durability (too iffy) but I DO like his
results. It's a results league so stick him in there against a
surprisingly decent Chargers front seven.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. TEN
- He was uncharacteristically average last Sunday but still managed
to account for over 100 yards of offense, albeit the hard way.
A 38-yard completion to Drew Brees did the trick and proved once
again there isn't a more versatile back in the league. Tennessee
is reeling a bit and hasn't been as stout versus the run this
year. That means L.T. (as usual) is a top five start.
6. Clinton Portis @ CLE - It's
no picnic facing the Dallas D (especially inside the red zone)
and though Portis racked up plenty of yards, he couldn't find
the end zone. That might become a recurring theme if Coach Gibbs
and company can't come up with something more exotic than dive
plays near the goal line. Stay tuned.
7. Curtis Martin @ MIA - His
157.5 yards per game dwarves the competition and after a bye week,
he's ready to pick up where he left off against a Miami defense
doing an awful lot of bending (140 yards/contest) but no breaking
(zero touchdowns on the ground). If Pennington is able to get
something going against a tough Dolphins secondary (he will),
Martin could have another big day.
8. Thomas Jones vs. PHI - He's
averaging 22 carries a game. He's averaging five yards a carry.
He's scoring a touchdown every week. What's not to like? The switch
to Jonathan Quinn will put even more pressure on Jones' shoulders
but running behind a veteran offensive line, there's no reason
to think he won't succeed.
9. DeShaun Foster vs. ATL -
Stephen Davis has been ruled out again so you can insert Foster
with no misgivings. He torched KC two weeks ago and looked positively
explosive while doing it. He's tough between the tackles and fast
enough to deep six any defense, even the resurgent Falcons unit.
10. Marshall Faulk @ SF - There's
a fine line between genius and insanity and Mike Martz just crossed
it. Facing a questionable Saints run defense last week, he called
precisely TWELVE running plays for Mr. Faulk. What the
Luckily for us, Marshall scored once and also caught eight passes
to augment his meager rushing totals. Still, you gotta wonder
what you can expect from him and his wacky coach the rest of the
11. Tiki Barber @ GB - For the
first time in a long time, he didn't catch a pass last Sunday
against the Browns. No matter. He still picked up 106 yards on
23 carries and scored a touch. With Ron Dayne out of the picture
(at least temporarily), Tiki becomes a top 10 back again. He faces
a Packers front this Sunday sorely missing its chief gap-clogger
in the middle, Grady Jackson.
12. Fred Taylor vs. IND - Taylor
capped off a great day by scoring the winning touch from a yard
out in Jacksonville's improbable victory at Adelphia on Sunday.
If Coach Del Rio has any hope of slowing down Indy, he'll need
his star back to keep Peyton and Co. off the field. Anything less
than 20 carries means the Jags lose.
13. Kevan Barlow vs. STL - He
never really had a chance to get going in Seattle as the 'Hawks
jumped out to a big, early lead. Though a repeat is certainly
possible this weekend, you gotta like his chances of doing more
against a Rams D giving up 5.4 yards/carry and 164.7 per game.
Keep him in your lineup for now.
14. Brian Westbrook @ CHI -
Still waiting, Westbrook fans. He was a touchdown machine as the
change-of-pace guy last year but, surprisingly, hasn't found the
end zone for the more prolific Eagles offense this season. So
long as McNabb keeps throwing touchdown passes, he probably won't
care. But you will. Keep an eye on him and have a backup plan.
15. Warrick Dunn @ CAR - I'll
stop talking about T.J. Duckett because
does he even play
for Atlanta anymore? Dunn has been THE go-to guy for the 3-0 Falcons
and even though Carolina's better against the run than the numbers
would indicate (facing Green Bay and KC has that effect), they
aren't good enough to stop Vick AND Dunn. As usual, he'll benefit
from the attention paid to his dangerous QB.
Grab A Helmet:
Aaron Stecker @ ARI - A reader
asked me about him last week and for once, I was speechless. He's
been mostly a kick returner/third-down guy and simply hasn't done
much or been given much of an opportunity until this season. That
said, he possesses pretty good speed, as his 42-yard jaunt last
week no doubt proved. He's a good start against a Cardinals squad
surrendering over 180 rushing yards a game.
Rudi Johnson @ PIT - The Steelers
look to be pretty solid against the run so far but the numbers
are somewhat deceiving. They faced Oakland in Week 1 and Miami
in Week 3, two poor running teams. Sandwiched between was a loss
to Baltimore and 176 yards yielded on the ground. Rudi should
find room to roam, just as he did last week against the tough
Edgerrin James @ JAX - Edge
owners had to be feeling a little nervous after the first quarter
Sunday. Twenty-two plays. Twenty-two consecutive passes. Fortunately,
Peyton DID eventually hand the ball off a few times and although
the numbers weren't staggering (21 carries for 62 yards), Edge
dove in for a late, game-sealing touchdown. He won't put up much
better numbers against Jacksonville but starting someone from
Indy's offense is as close to guaranteed points as you can get
Duce Staley vs. CIN - Most of
the free world didn't see it but the Monsoon Bowl in Miami sure
was fun to watch. Staley plowed through the muck and mire to post
a 100-yard day against a great Fish D. If he can run on Miami,
he can surely run on Cincy's matador front. Don't expect a touchdown
but another 100-yard day seems almost assured.
Domanick Davis vs. OAK - There
were several mystifying performances in Week 3 (Faulk and Q. Griff
to name two) but none more so than his. Facing a butter-soft Chefs
front, he managed only 12 yards on ten carries. Worse yet, he
got hurt and was ultimately replaced by Jonathan Wells in the
second half. Provided he's healthy and provided his injury wasn't
just an excuse to get his fumble fingers out of the lineup, give
him a go.
Tyrone Wheatley @ HOU - Your
bonus recommendation of the week. Wheatley finally came through
to resuscitate the moribund Oakland ground attack. Moreover, he
did it against the ever-tough Tampa D. I like his chances of reaching
the century mark again this week in a game that could very well
be a high-scoring affair.
Grab A Gatorade:
Leonard Henry vs. NYJ - One
of the CFL-caliber running backs I spoke of earlier. Henry makes
his first NFL start after rushing for 41 yards on 21 carries Sunday
night. Apparently, all you need to do in Miami to get the starting
nod is rush for two yards a carry. Trust me: you don't want ANYTHING
to do with this Miami offense.
Travis Henry vs. NE - His yards-per-carry
are down this year and it's not hard to figure why. Buffalo's
O-line is dreadful. If the Bills fall behind early (and they should),
his chances of posting solid numbers diminish significantly. See
if you can find someone else to start for you this week.
Corey Dillon @ BUF - I could
get in trouble for this one but Buffalo's defense is not the reason
they're off to a 0-2 start (see above). Charlie Weis is a master
adapter and New England will have more success via the air this
week. Expect Dillon to get fewer carries and, as a result, fewer
yards in Orchard Park.
Any Tampa RB vs. DEN - The loss
of Charlie Garner looks like a devastating blow considering that
Tampa is already missing several playmakers (McCardell and Galloway,
namely). Though Michael Pittman returns from suspension this week,
it's hard to believe he'll be up to speed after sitting so long.
That leaves Mike Alstott. He hasn't been a viable fantasy starter
for well over three years. Pass.
Any Cleveland RB vs. WAS - Lee
Suggs returns to the lineup and in the long run, that should help
Cleveland get better on offense. Like Pittman, though, it's unlikely
he'll be able to handle 25 carries in his first game back. That
means he'll share carries with William Green. Making matters worse,
the duo squares off against a 'Skins D that is flat shutting people
out in the running game (2.2 yards/carry and 47.3 per game).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends