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The Shot Caller's Report - RBs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs/TEs

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15

1. Larry Johnson v. CIN – Every champion in every one of my leagues owned him, regardless of format (dynasty, auction, etc.). Coincidence? I think not. If you were brave enough to draft him early and are still playing in Week 17, start clearing off the mantle. The Chefs might be eliminated by game time Sunday but that isn’t gonna stop L.J. from laying waste to a Cincy squad that will almost certainly rest its starters.

2. Tiki Barber @ OAK – The G-Men have wrapped up a playoff berth but not a home game yet. That means they still need a “W” in Oakland this Saturday. If you’ve seen Kid Bro spraying the ball around lately, you know Tiki gives them the best chance of doing that. Expect 100+ and a score or three against the uninspired (and highly uninspiring) Raiduhs.

3. Carnell Williams v. NO – If there was any doubt who your offensive rook of the year is, there shouldn’t be any longer. The Caddy saved his best stuff for the penultimate must-win against Atlanta, tallying 150 yards and the critical six-pointer in the final minute of regulation. Expect more of the same this weekend (minus the eleventh hour heroics) as the Bucs secure a playoff berth against the sorry Saints.

4. DeShaun Foster @ ATL – Wanna know why the Falcons won’t be returning to the NFC Championship this season? Look no further than that atrocious run defense, the same group that ranked in the top 10 last season. Foster has been merely ho-hum since his breakout performance against them in Week 13 (180 total yards and two TDs) but should bounce back this Sunday in a game the Panthers desperately need.

5. Julius Jones v. STL – Where did THAT come from? Foster’s associates are still trying to track down the slippery Jones, who racked up 194 yards and two scores last weekend in the big Dallas win. Even more impressive? He toted it 34 times, putting to rest concerns about his gimpy ankle. Gotta like his chances of going nutso on the atrocious Rams’ run D this Sunday night.

6. Clinton Portis @ PHI – He averaged slightly over 100 total yards per game last season (with seven TDs) and was widely considered a fantasy bust. He’s doing virtually the same thing this season (with two more touchdowns) and is back in everyone’s good graces. Fickle fantasy freaks or a simple case of appreciation by association (Washington’s probable playoff berth)? Bottom line: he’s one of the ten best backs in the league and plays for a coach who loves to run the football. Get him in there.

7. LaDainian Tomlinson v. DEN – He’s one of the three best backs in the entire league but has fallen out of favor lately, and even out of some folks’ lineups. I’ve never owned him so perhaps I’m just envious, but I wouldn’t sit him down so long as he’s healthy. Oh, and if you believe the game this Sunday means nothing, consider that the Bolts can prevent KC (last week’s tormenters) from making the playoffs with a win.

8. Willis McGahee @ NYJ – Through his first eight games, he was averaging close to 99 yards per contest. Since then, he’s averaging roughly half that (barely 49 per). A tale of two halves, to say the least. His precipitous decline to the contrary, McGahee managed 143 yards in the first matchup with New York (a season best) and will want to go out on a high note, especially with a potential contract extension on the line. Expect a big day.

9. Rudi Johnson @ KC – He’d probably be an iffy start if not for the fact his backup, Chris Perry, is only marginally healthy right now. Somebody’s gotta carry the rock for Cincy and there aren’t a whole lot of other options besides Rudi. In fact, the Bengals only carry four backs on their active roster and one of them (Nick Luchey) might as well be a guard.

10. Fred Taylor v. TEN – Taylor bounced back from a series of nagging injuries to tally 101 yards and a score on 22 carries last weekend. Now, the bad news: the other three Jags’ rushing TDs were scored by seldom-used LaBrandon Toefield. Talk about your poachers! You could have started Toefield at RB and Mike Vrabel at WR in Week 16 and, more than likely, walked away with a championship. Still think the NFL is predictable?

11. Ricky Williams @ NE – How ‘bout the dreadlocked one coming out of nowhere to do a reasonably awesome impression of his former self (26 carries, 172 yards, and a touch)? Not exactly unpredictable but I doubt many of you anticipated such an explosion, especially since he hadn’t topped the century mark all season. He likely gets the nod again this weekend, meaning you want him in your lineup.

12. Tatum Bell @ SD – The Broncos treat Bell like the Eagles treat their smallish backs, limiting his touches for fear an extra load might get him hurt. At least for one week, however, he’s the man. Though he’ll likely share carries with Ron Dayne, he should get the bulk of the work. I expect 20 totes and 100 yards, even against San Diego’s rough front seven.

13. Frank Gore v. HOU – Gore proved the last two weeks he’s capable of being a feature back and might even have locked up the role by helping the Niners upset the Rams last Sunday. The win likely takes San Fran out of the Reggie Bush sweepstakes, meaning they’ll go with the kid or the chronically underwhelming Kevan Barlow in ’06. Any bets on who gets the job?

14. Vernand Morency @ SF – Domanick who? Doesn’t seem to matter who fills in for the injured Davis these days. Both Wells and Vernand Morency have looked comfortable in the backfield. Both Davis and Wells have been put on IR meaning Morency will start with Tony Holling backing up.

15. Jamal Lewis @ CLE – Project Lewis’ career totals v. Cleveland out to 16 games and you’re looking at a 2,200-yard season. Think he likes squaring off against the Brownies? It’s been the Kyle Boller show the last two weeks but I’m thinking that might be an aberration. Expect Lewis to carry more of the load in the season-concluding tilt this Sunday.

Grab A Helmet:

Shaun Alexander @ GB – The ‘Hawks have nothing left to play for but Alexander certainly does; one more TD and he’s in the record books. Though he’ll definitely play part-time, he’s almost certain to notch that history-making score against the Pack before he sits. Give him the start and hope he turns the trick later rather than sooner.

Willie Parker v. DET – Parker and the Steelers need a “W” to sew up a berth and though that seems like a foregone conclusion at this point (a matchup against the awful Lions), there’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL. That means the conservative Coach Cowher plays it like any other game, giving Parker and his huskier running mates most of the work. I think he racks up 75-100 yards and a score this Sunday, as a result.

Reuben Droughns v. BAL – He’s allergic to the end zone and occasionally throws up a dud but, all things considered, Droughns has been pretty effective this year. You couldn’t have made the championship game with him as your #1 guy but it’s possible you did with him at the #2 or flex spot. If so, stick with him.

Noah Herron v. SEA – Herron was far from spectacular on Christmas night but did manage to score on a nice, little run in the second quarter against Chicago’s vaunted D. He should get the majority of the early-down touches again this week and that might be enough for some good numbers against a Seattle team on cruise control.

Steven Jackson @ DAL – You probably expected more from him this season but 1,000+ yards and 10 scores is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Next year’s goal? More consistency. He has six, 24, and 28-yard efforts to his credit thus far and you definitely can’t live with three worthless outings from your #1 guy. Hope for more stability at QB in ’06.

Grab A Gatorade:

Zack Crockett v. NYG – He was better than I thought he’d be last week and was essentially the only Raider who bothered to show up. I mean, there’s mailing it in and then there’s what the Raiders are doing…leaving the mail on the countertop ‘cuz you’re too damn lazy to walk to the post office. Expect a similarly shameful effort against New York this weekend and, by association, limited production from Crockett.

Any New Orleans RB @ TB – Atrocious.

Any Detroit RB @ PIT – Atrocious-er.

Any Arizona RB @ IND – Atrocious-est.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends