Must Start: The Top 15
1. Priest Holmes vs. ATL - I've
made the mistake of underrating him before when the matchup appears
unfavorable. Though matchups don't get much more unfavorable than
Atlanta's league-leading run defense (74.5 per game), he's not
going anywhere. He torched the equally stalwart Ravens D two weeks
ago and should do the same vs. the Dirty Birds this Sunday.
2. Deuce McAllister @ OAK -
The Rai-duhs have given up over 150 yards rushing for three consecutive
weeks. They probably would have been THRILLED to give up only
150 last week against Denver (they yielded 254). Coach Haslett's
no genius but he's smart enough to know Deuce left, Deuce right,
and Deuce up the middle should suffice to get the Saints back
in the win column.
3. LaDainian Tomlinson @ CAR
- What else can I say? He's good for nearly 100 yards and at least
a touch every single week. Sometimes he gives you more. Occasionally
(though rarely) he gives you less. Bottom line: you don't sit
him, especially against a shockingly porous Carolina front.
4. Reuben Droughns @ CIN - You
like rags to riches stories? Try unknown to unsung to Top 5 in
three, short weeks. It's a trick Droughns has managed to pull
off by rushing for HEAPS of yardage (369) in two starts. His third
matchup is the best one yet: a Cincinnati defense giving up a
league-worst 160.4 yards/game. "Or-e-gon, our al-ma ma-ter!"
5. Shaun Alexander @ ARI - The
'Hawks don't have the D or the receiving corps to fulfill their
prophecy as chic Super Bowl pick this year. At least they have
a Super Bowl-caliber back when they do manage to fix those problem
areas. Alexander has been steady as a rock and is a scoring machine
from the tailback position. He draws a well-rested but questionable
Arizona D in Week 7.
6. Tiki Barber vs. DET - He
heads up my all-surprise team this season, which is all the MORE
surprising because he's sharing the ball with Ron Dayne this season,
something he didn't do last year. Detroit is actually pretty good
vs. the run but Tiki does almost as much damage through the air.
Get him back in there.
7. Ahman Green vs. DAL - He
was hum-drumming along to the tune of 80 yards last week when,
out of nowhere, he tossed a 20-yard scoring strike to Don Driver.
We'll take 'em any way you can give 'em, Batman. The return of
Najeh Davenport will eat into his carries (maybe even on the goal
line) but that's no reason to sit him. He's a good start against
a suddenly susceptible Dallas front.
8. Edgerrin James vs. JAX -
It's been a while since he was considered a Top 5 back but he's
closer than you think to reclaiming that status. He's averaging
over three digits a game and scoring once per contest, as well.
Though it might be tempting to bench him against the stingy Jags,
don't. He's already ripped them for 100 yards and a touch once
9. Curtis Martin @ NE - Though
the competition has been suspect, Martin is consistently proving
why he still deserves to be mentioned with the top backs on a
weekly basis. We'll find out what he's really made of this Sunday
against his old mates, the league's best, in Foxboro. I'm betting
he answers the bell
10. Corey Dillon vs. NYJ - Apparently
he CAN be just as productive with less work. He's aided by the
fact New England rarely plays from behind and also benefits from
more than his share of short fields. If the Jets give him some
this week, the Pats faithful will be chanting what the Pats faithful
always chants after a New England victory: "YANKEES SUCK!"
11. Chris Brown @ MIN - Remember
that discussion we had about his proneness to injury? I won't
rub it in since he should still play this Sunday but you've now
been officially warned
twice. Expect big numbers if he gets
enough carries this week. That depends as much on how well the
Tennessee D plays as it does his health.
12. Mewelde Moore vs. TEN -
That selfsame Tennessee D is gonna have its hands full contending
with Daunte and the stacked Minny receiving corps. Just one problem:
focusing on the pass leaves the versatile Moore free to wreak
havoc out of the backfield. He won't score (Viking backs have
zero TDs thus far) but who needs scores when you're averaging
(averaging!) 185 total yards per contest?
13. Brian Westbrook @ CLE -
He's gone over 20 carries just once this season, which isn't a
lot by feature back standards. In fact, if he weren't a threat
in the passing game, there wouldn't be all that much to get excited
about. Luckily, he's a dangerous check-down receiver who thrives
in the wide-open Philly attack. We need more touchdowns but the
one he scored against Carolina last week is a start. Gotta start
14. Emmitt Smith vs. SEA - Emmitt
isn't getting a ton of carries either, but he's doing something
with them that Westbrook generally isn't: scoring touchdowns.
That's no small feat on a team without Anquan Boldin and with
Josh McCown. Boldin is slated to return sooner rather than later
so you might wanna give the cagey vet a looksy if he's still on
the waiver wire.
15. Fred Taylor @ IND - His
numbers (zero 100-yard games so far) don't really stand out but
he still has a gear most other backs don't. Need proof? Crank
up the Tivo and watch his 64-yard TD scamper (a passing play)
against the Chiefs last week. It's this ability alone that keeps
him in my Top 15.
Grab A Helmet:
Marshall Faulk or Steven Jackson @
MIA - Don't say you weren't warned. Faulk and his protégé
split the touches almost right down the middle Monday night with
Marshall going for 69 total yards and Jackson 78. Though that's
awesome for St. Louis, it's sad news for fantasy owners. You can
expect them both to put up decent numbers in the high-powered
Rams offense but nothing earth-shattering. In other words, temper
the expectations from here on out.
Sammy Morris vs. STL - Some
teams have an embarrassment of riches at the position. Others
struggle to get by with castoffs. Morris is the FOURTH different
back to earn a starting nod this season, which should tell you
all you need to know about Miami's fortunes thus far. Happily
for the Fish, he appears to be somewhat talented. He's big, can
catch, and managed to lay 91 yards on a tough Buffalo D last week.
Give him a go if you're out of options.
Rudi Johnson vs. DEN - The combination
of Carson Palmer's struggles and a lousy defense makes Rudi an
iffy start the rest of the way. He would seem to be especially
iffy against the top-ranked Denver D but I have a feeling the
Monday night spotlight will bring out his best. 100 yards is doubtful
but a touchdown seems likely. Call me crazy.
Michael Pittman vs. CHI - You'd
never rely on this dual threat as a #1 back, but he makes a surprisingly
decent #2. He's averaging close to 70 yards a game and does that
despite sharing carries with Mike Alstott (yes, he's still playing.)
He faces a Chicago defense in Week 7 that gives up close to 140
rushing yards a game and 4.3 per carry.
Thomas Jones @ TB - Thanks to
Jones, the Bears stand a decent chance of matching the rushing
yards their dubious defense gives up every week. Unlike the stud
backs, he needs help. However, running behind an underrated line,
he's a decent start on a weekly basis
even with (gasp!) Quinn
or Krenzel leading the offense.
William Green or Lee Suggs vs. PHI
- Provided, of course, you can figure out who will get the most
carries. I'm usually pretty good at handicapping running back
derbies but this one has me totally mystified. Just when you think
Suggs is gonna take over, Green gets 25 carries. Though Coach
Davis is likely to frustrate us the rest of the season, there's
an outside chance the two can peacefully co-exist. Either one
is worth a start if you're short-handed this weekend.
Grab A Gatorade:
Travis Henry or Willis McGahee @ BAL
- McGahee actually looked pretty decent last week but he heads
back to the bench this Sunday as Henry returns from injury. It
doesn't really matter since neither back is likely to solve Ray-Ray
and the vicious Baltimore front. Wait for a better matchup.
Chester Taylor or Musa Smith vs. BUF
- Can you say eight in the box? Jamal's replacements are gonna
be hard-pressed to do anything spectacular against a Bills squad
loaded up to contain them. That says something about the respect
(or lack thereof) Buffalo has for Kyle Boller. Wait for Jamal's
Stephen Davis vs. SD - Believe
it or not, the Chargers possess the 2nd-rated run defense heading
into Week 7. If it were Week 3, I'd be inclined to call it a fluke.
Six weeks of solid production, however, tells me there's more
to it than mere luck. It's not like Davis is tearing it up this
year, anyway. Expect a mildly disappointing, double-digit performance
in Charlotte this Sunday.
Any Dallas RB @ GB - How hopeless
is the Dallas running attack? I can't even recommend them against
the Swiss cheesehead D of Green Bay. Though someone (Richie Anderson?)
might score, it's anybody's guess who that person will be on a
game-in, game-out basis. Steer clear for now and for the foreseeable
Any Oakland RB vs. NO - The
deplorable Saints D surrendered an astonishing 605 yards of total
offense to Minnesota last week. That would seem to make the Oakland
backs-ANY Oakland back-a good play. The problem is Oakland's backs
are pretty deplorable in their own right. Rule of thumb: you should
always resist using bad personnel, even when the matchup looks
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends