Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ WAS –
You could make a strong case for Shaun Alexander at this spot,
as well, but it’s really like choosing between pumpkin or
pecan pie when the dessert tray rolls around on Thanksgiving Day.
How can you go wrong? In fact, I historically opt for…
2. Shaun Alexander v. NYG –
…a little of both. Alexander is now AVERAGING almost two
touchdowns per game, a mark that mere mortal rock-toters are lucky
to reach a couple times per year. He’s doing it every single
week, folks. Guess the ‘Hawks should probably pay the man,
huh? Hey, boys: help Mr. Allen find his wallet.
3. Larry Johnson v. NE –
Not sure when L.J. is due for a raise but now that he’s
been promoted up the ranks, I’m betting he’ll be in
for a nice, little payday himself come contract negotiation time.
All he’s done since taking the reigns in Week 9? 182 yards
per game and four scores. Priest who? Expect more gaudy numbers
against New England’s banged-up bunch this weekend.
4. Edgerrin James v. PIT –
Peyton and the defense get most of the pub but you really hafta
wonder where Indy would be without this guy. He STILL hasn’t
tallied fewer than 100 yards in a game this season and hasn’t
been held out of the end zone since Weeks 1 and 2. Just another
reason why the Colts will be a tough out come January. Heard it
here first, folks: they don’t lose a game this season.
5. Steven Jackson @ HOU –
Just when you think you’ve got the NFL game figured out….
I’m still scratching my head over his 19-touch, 22-yard
performance against the Cards in Week 11 but am not overly concerned
that it will have lasting implications. He should have no trouble
getting back on track in Week 12, at the very least, especially
considering the opponent (a toothless Texans group) and the fact
Bulger is on the shelf again. Keep him in there.
6. Tiki Barber @ SEA –
He didn’t make it through the Week 11 win against Philly
but seems to be ready and raring for this weekend’s marquee
matchup with Seattle. Good thing, too, ‘cuz the G-Men are
gonna need all the offense they can muster against the prolific
Seahawks. Mark him down for 100 yards and a score in the losing
7. LaMont Jordan v. MIA –
Jordan was held scoreless for the third consecutive week last
Sunday in Washington, but still managed to grind out 89 total
yards in the victory. This week, he draws a Miami D that is giving
up nearly 122 yards per game on the ground. I like his chances
of posting triple digits and finding paydirt as the Raiders creep
back toward the .500 mark, not to mention respectability.
8. Reuben Droughns @ MIN –
More than a few pundits questioned whether he could thrive outside
the running back-friendly Denver offense, but after several huge
efforts of late, it’s clear he can…and has. He’s
a powerful runner with great hands and deceptive speed, just the
traits you’re looking for in a feature back. Give him the
start against a suddenly resurgent Vikings squad that still doesn’t
defend very well.
9. Domanick Davis v. STL –
Whoever inherits the Houston mess next year will be glad to know
the cupboard isn’t entirely bare. There are questions everywhere
else but the versatile Davis at least gives the Texans something
to build upon. He’s their best offensive weapon and worth
starting every week, especially when the matchup is friendly,
as it is this Sunday.
10. Brian Westbrook v. GB –
Hard to believe there’s only one Eagle worth starting on
a regular basis but that’s what happens when your star wideout
gets the heave-ho and your QB elects to have season-ending surgery.
It’s been a forgettable year in Philly but that doesn’t
mean you should write off Westbrook. He’s still good enough
to take you to the playoffs and, perhaps, all the way to the trophy.
Give him the start against a Pack team that will likely start
mailing it in.
11. Greg Jones @ ARI –
Coach Del Rio for president! It isn’t often that NFL head
men announce their intentions ahead of time but Jacksonville’s
main man did us all a favor by deciding to sit Fragile Fred this
weekend and, better yet, announcing said intentions on Friday.
That means the former Seminole gets the nod. He should have a
field day against Arizona’s good, but not great, front.
12. Stephen Davis @ BUF –
He’s coming off his worst performance of the season (four
carries for six yards) and isn’t 100% healthy. If that worries
you, go with his backup, DeShaun Foster. If it doesn’t,
stick with him. He’s likely to see the rock near the goal
line if he goes and we all know what Foster does with the rock
near the goal line.
13. Rudi Johnson v. BAL –
He may not be Cincy’s best back anymore (that would be the
explosive Chris Perry) but he’s still the guy getting most
of the carries, including the ones that count (the ones in the
red zone). He’s scored three times in his last two tilts
and should do so again this Sunday against the Ravens. Keep starting
14. Thomas Jones @ TB –
He hasn’t scored in over a month but appears to be almost
100% again and should see plenty of work in Tampa this Sunday
as a result. Of course, the Bucs are pretty stout against the
run, the main reason he slides to the bottom half of this list.
Give him the start but don’t expect anything earth-shattering.
100 yards and a score would be great against that group.
15. Chris Brown v. SF –
I’d hafta check the archives but this might be only the
second or third time I’ve mentioned him this year. An oversight?
Perhaps. He’s actually on pace for 1,000 yards and has even
managed to score six times in his last five games. If you’re
looking for a playoff sleeper, look no further.
Grab A Helmet:
Willis McGahee v. CAR –
He hasn’t lived up to expectations this season but that’s
probably because they were too high to begin with. Saddled with
a green signal-caller, he simply hasn’t found enough roaming
room to be a consistent option. I’m not sure he’ll
find a lot more this weekend but that doesn’t mean he won’t
make a nice #2 option. If the Bills get close, he’ll be
the one asked to punch them in. Give him a look.
Willie Parker @ IND –
Parker was back as the feature guy last weekend and managed to
parlay the increased touches into a pretty nice day (81 total
yards and a score). I still think he’s likely to lose goal
line looks to the Bus or Verron Haynes but he’s still a
good play in larger yardage leagues. Temper the expectations but
don’t forget about him.
Mewelde Moore v. CLE –
Just when you think Coach Tice couldn’t possibly survive
another week, he pulls a Wayne Fontes, rallying his troops to
three consecutive wins and keeping them in the playoff hunt. Though
the Vikes will have a hard time running down the Bears at this
point, it’s not out of the question. To do so, they’ll
need to continue getting the ball in Moore’s hands, starting
this week against an underrated Browns D.
Ronnie Brown @ OAK – That
underrated Browns D is the reason Miami is coming off a scoreless
effort in Week 11. Brown, the man, did his part (12 carries for
56 yards) but will need to do more if the Fish have any hope of
sticking with the high-flying Raiders. Come on, Coach Saban. Time
to turn the kid loose and see what he can do with 25 totes.
Grab A Gatorade:
Clinton Portis v. SD –
The Bolts haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since…well,
they haven’t. All season. They’ve faced some pretty
good backs, too. Portis is certainly a good one, as well, but
not likely the guy to break the string. Sit him down this week
if you’ve got a decent backup. He could struggle to get
much going against the stout San Diego front.
Carnell Williams v. CHI –
He rushed for more yards last week (116) than he had in his previous
four games combined (82). Does that mean he’s back in the
swing of things? Perhaps, but I’m not sure we’ll get
a true read this weekend. The Bears are stopping everyone these
days and he will be no exception. Expect a low-scoring affair
at Raymond James and not much in the way of fantasy production
from the participants, the Caddy included.
Jamal Lewis @ CIN – The
Ravens are looking to give Chet Taylor more carries from here
on out, probably to see if he can be the feature guy in ’06.
That doesn’t bode well for Lewis’ future with the
team…or his present. Sit him down until further notice.
J.J. Arrington v. JAX –
Arrington appears to have a future with the Cardinals, despite
the painfully slow start to his career. He’s scored in two
consecutive contests and looks to be in line for an increased
workload as the season winds down. Don’t jump the gun, however.
He still hasn’t carried it more than 11 times in a game
and will be facing a tough Jags front this weekend. Wait ‘til
the matchup is better (i.e. Week 13 in San Francisco).
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends