Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson v. MIA –
He’s listed as questionable after missing a few series (and
a scoring opportunity) against the Raiders last week. Nevertheless,
the Chargers are in no position to give him rest. That means if
he’s healthy enough (75%), he goes. Even a three-quarters
L.T. is better than every other back in the league. Yes, I think
the gap between him and…
2. Shaun Alexander v. SF –
…Mr. Alexander is that big. Not that you’re worried
about advancing if you own the Seahawks’ meal ticket, either,
unless you’re concerned he’ll be given limited work
over the next month. It’s a legit concern, especially in
light of last Monday night’s developments, but don’t
forget the ‘Hawks still need to wrap up home-field advantage,
something they likely won’t be able to do until Week 16
or (worst case) Week 17. Continue riding him.
3. Larry Johnson @ DAL –
In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Johnson,
because of KC’s precarious position, will become the next-best
rock-toter by the end of the season, at least from a fantasy perspective.
He’s averaging almost 175 yards per contest since taking
over for Priest and KC needs every ounce of that production as
it navigates an almost ridiculously imposing four-game stretch
(Dallas, New York, San Diego, and Cincy) to conclude the regular
4. Tiki Barber @ PHI –
He didn’t get 20 carries in four of his first six games
but has been over the 20-tote mark in every one of his past six
contests, capped by a 30-carry performance against Dallas last
week. That’s very good news for his owners as he’s
averaging almost five yards per pop. Now, if he could just rediscover
that end zone. I suspect he will against a downtrodden Eagles
crew this Sunday.
5. Edgerrin James @ JAX –
Edge hasn’t carried it fewer than 20 times even once this
season, proof that the Colts are the most well-balanced offense
in the league. Of course, they can afford to be since they almost
never trail. That shouldn’t change this weekend, even though
the Jags gave them arguably their best contest thus far (the Week
2 slugfest in Indy).
6. Rudi Johnson v. CLE –
I ranked him too high as he struggled out of the gate. Then, I
overcompensated by ranking him too low as he rounded into form.
Is this the week I finally get it right? All signs point to “yes”
as he squares off against an overmatched Cleveland bunch he ran
roughshod over in Week 1 (126 yards and a touch). Expect the century
mark and at least one score in the easy win at Paul Brown Stadium.
7. LaMont Jordan v. NYJ –
Several of you questioned his omission last week, wondering aloud
whether I’d simply forgotten about the former Terrapin.
Hey, who’s calling the shots here? I knew what I was doing,
damn it! A rough matchup limited his productivity in San Diego
in Week 13 but a tasty one enhances it this Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Get him back in there and don’t worry about the QB switch.
8. DeShaun Foster v. TB –
I think John Fox is one of the best coaches in the game but I’ll
never fully understand why he waited so long to feature Foster.
It can’t be loyalty (loyalty doesn’t win games) so
we can only surmise he was unconvinced the former Bruin could
stay healthy. So far, so good? I should say. He’s touched
it 26 and 27 times, respectively, in the last two weeks and seems
to be no worse for the wear. Get him in there against Tampa’s
9. Domanick Davis @ TEN –
Unlike everyone above him, Davis has almost nothing to play for.
He already has the big contract and job security. His team is
a shambles. His coach is a lame duck. Nevertheless, he continues
to post good numbers, none better than the 155 rushing yards he
tallied in Week 13. Ray Lewis or no Ray Lewis, that was still
the Baltimore Ravens out there. I like him breaking the century
mark and scoring against Tennessee’s considerably worse
group this Sunday.
10. Clinton Portis @ ARZ –
He’s scored seven times in his last seven tilts, putting
to bed the doubts that arose after an 0-for-5 start to the season.
This week, he draws a dubious Cardinals defense that has given
up 16 rushing TDs thus far, good for second-to-last in the league.
Hard to believe they’ll be able to keep Portis from finding
paydirt, though strange things tend to happen in the desert.
11. Willis McGahee v. NE –
McGahee hasn’t topped the century mark since running for
136 in the Week 8 loss to New England. Think he’s excited
to get another crack at them? It was a game the Bills should have
won, kinda like the one they just played in South Florida. If
he gets 25+ carries again this Sunday, they might just be able
to atone for the loss.
12. Warrick Dunn v. NO –
The Falcons are in danger of falling out of contention and need
a big win on Monday night to stay in the thick of it. If they’re
smart, they’ll look to Dunn early and often in order to
soften up an already butter-soft New Orleans secondary. He ran
for 100 yards and a score in the first matchup and could easily
duplicate those numbers if given the same number of touches this
week. Start him.
13. Steven Jackson @ MIN –
He’s sandwiched two stinky performances around one stellar
one and is starting to look less and less reliable as the games
get more important (for us, at least). Nevertheless, if the Rams’
beleaguered line is able to do anything against Minnesota’s
very average front, he should post solid totals. Expect something
in the neighborhood of 75-100 yards and a score at the Metrodump
14. Samkon Gado v. DET –
He’s only started three games but has more rushing touchdowns
than Warrick Dunn, Julius Jones, Willis McGahee, and Cadillac
Williams, to name a few. Moreover, he even punched one in against
the very stout Bears front last weekend. If you’re looking
for the best out-of-nowhere story of the year, look no further.
Give him the start against the listless Lions this Sunday night.
15. Cadillac Williams @ CAR –
Not that Gado has any chance of stealing rook of the year honors
from Cadillac. After a horrendous mid-season stretch, Williams
is still the most likely Auburn product to take home the hardware,
especially if he helps his squad upset the favored Panthers in
Charlotte this weekend. I’m not sure they will but I have
a feeling he won’t be the reason why. Expect 75 yards and
a score as the Bucs make it interesting.
Grab A Helmet:
Reuben Droughns @ CIN –
He’s Mr. Consistency for the middle class, regularly racking
up triple digits in yards but rarely, if ever, tallying six-pointers.
Hey, you can’t have superstars at every position. If you
can afford 10-15 points at your #2 spot or, better yet, at your
flex position, give him the start. He should have no trouble reaching
that level against Cincy’s opportunistic but generous eleven.
Mike Anderson v. BAL –
He’s averaging just 61.5 rushing yards in his last four
starts but has more than made up for it by scoring six times in
that same span. You’d like your feature guy to touch the
rock more often but from a bang-for-your-buck standpoint, he’s
more than worthy of the starting nod. Give him a look against
Baltimore’s once-proud front.
Julius Jones v. KC – Jones
has been hampered by a tender ankle seemingly all year but finally
appears to be 100%, just in time for the stretch run. He racked
up 162 total yards in the Week 13 loss to New York, or roughly
¾ of Dallas’ entire offensive output. Expect something
north of 100 yards again this weekend and, with any luck, a touchdown.
Corey Dillon @ BUF – Though
highly unreliable to this point, Dillon managed to return to the
starting lineup last week, rushing for 65 yards and a score in
the win over the Jets. This Sunday, he draws the league’s
second-worst run defense, a team he scored twice against in Week
8. Make sure he’s healthy first (and don’t expect
25 carries), but give him the start if things look good by game
time. He’s almost a lock to score if he plays.
Grab A Gatorade:
Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams @ SD
– The platoon situation makes them iffy picks to
begin with but the San Diego defense makes them definitive “no”s
for Week 14. Don’t believe me? You’re probably one
of those folks who thought I was nuts for recommending a sit-down
for LaMont Jordan last week (and Willis McGahee two weeks before
that). If the studs aren’t getting anywhere against these
guys, why would the Brown-Williams tag-team fare any better?
J.J. Arrington v. WAS –
I guarantee he’ll have a breakout game before the season
is over (think Week 15) but it isn’t gonna happen this weekend
against a pretty good Washington bunch. If you’ve stashed
him on your bench all season, keep him there. He might just be
your ace in the hole if you reach the second round.
Chris Brown v. HOU – He’s
listed as questionable on the injury report, which should surprise
precisely nobody who’s followed him closely throughout his
first two-plus years. Too bad, too, ‘cuz the matchup is
a good one (Houston’s 32nd ranked run defense). If he’s
a definite go, you might wanna consider him as a flex option.
Nothing more, though, ‘cuz Travis Henry will almost certainly
steal half the carries.
Maurice Hicks @ SEA –
He actually has one of the league-low three rushing TDs scored
against Seattle this season and would be positioned to double
that total if given the starting nod this weekend. Unfortunately,
he’s no lock to get it as Kevan Barlow is still hoping he’ll
play. That makes one of us, Kev. Probably best to steer clear
of this situation. Doubtful you’ve made it this far worrying
about San Fran backs, anyway.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends