Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ DEN
– If the Chargers are planning on giving him 19 touches
per game the rest of the way, they won’t be returning to
the postseason anytime soon. The last time he didn’t catch
a pass in a game? Try never. I’m serious. Expect him to
ACTUALLY be involved in the passing game this Sunday, even with
Antonio Gates back in the lineup.
2. Rudi Johnson v. MIN –
So much for that “vastly improved” Vikings D, eh?
Giving up 148 yards to a rook (albeit, a very GOOD rook) is no
way to prep for a showdown with one of the league’s more
established bruisers. If Minnesota pays too much attention to
Palmer and his deep threats (they’d better), it could be
a banner day for the Auburn alum. Anything less than 100 yards
and a score would be disappointing.
3. Willie Parker @ HOU –
If only I’d known then what I know now. He went for a buck
in our “experts” auction league, making him (without
question) the steal of the draft, even if he doesn’t hold
the job all year. The Texans have virtually no chance of hanging
with the Steelers, which means he should see plenty more carries
in Week 2. After that? Play it by ear.
4. Shaun Alexander v. ATL –
He wasn’t that bad against Jacksonville (5.2 yards/carry)
but he didn’t get enough looks to make much of a difference.
That happens when you’re playing catch-up all day. Atlanta
isn’t the offensive juggernaut Jacksonville has become so
he should receive more attention this Sunday in the Emerald City.
Expect 100 hard-fought yards and a score against the stingy Falcons
5. Jamal Lewis @ TEN –
He broke a digit in the season-opening loss to Indy but there’s
no way that’s gonna keep him from suiting up against Tennessee.
I’m not even sure a broken leg would do the trick, not after
he’s had a chance to watch film of the Titans getting rolled
by the Steelers (206 rushing yards yielded). He’s gotta
be licking his chops and hoping Anthony Wright will be able to
keep the Tennessee D somewhat honest.
6. Deuce McAllister v. NYG –
Coach Haslett promised a steady dosage of Deuce this season and
for one week at least, he delivered on that promise. McAllister’s
26 carries tied for the second most in Week 1. Though he only
netted 64 yards, he did manage to find paydirt twice. Hard to
tell how good the Giants’ run defense is after a gimme against
Arizona, but I like Deuce’s chances of hitting the century
mark on Monday night.
7. Willis McGahee @ TB –
He went well over the century mark in the opener but pulled up
lame near the goal line on one drive and then played decoy on
another trip inside the five. Tough break for his owners but nothing
to be too distraught over. More distressing should be the fact
he squares off against a “mature” Tampa D that still
(clearly) has something left in the tank.
8. Steven Jackson @ ARI –
Over half of his 19 carries came in the first quarter before the
game got out of hand. There’s little chance of that happening
again this weekend so give him another chance. I expect at least
7-8 more touches against a Cardinals D that looked VERY suspect
against the Giants last Sunday.
9. Priest Holmes @ OAK –
The tag-team approach will be murder for opposing defenses this
season but it instantly knocks Mr. Holmes outta the fantasy top
five. He’s still a great start if he gets 20 touches a game
but he certainly deserves more (much more) and won’t get
them with Larry Johnson backing him up.
10. Corey Dillon @ CAR –
He managed fewer than three yards a carry on opening night (2.7)
and even received a moderate tongue-lashing from his star QB at
one point. Guess it worked? Dillon responded with two second half
scores, essentially putting the pesky Raiders away. Expect another
productive day against a suddenly shorthanded Panthers front.
11. Curtis Martin v. MIA –
He never really got a chance to get rolling last weekend as the
Jets fell behind in a hurry at Arrowhead. That’s unlikely
to be the case this weekend against the Fish, a team he has owned
of late (over 100 yards per and one score apiece in the last three
meetings). Keep riding him.
12. Julius Jones v. WAS –
Jones faces another tough run defense on Monday night when archrival
Washington visits Big D. Not that it bothered him much last week
(93 yards and a score against the equally stalwart Bolts). He’s
always a good start because the Tuna knows that a stout running
game is the only way to ensure consistent success in the NFL.
Translation? He’ll get every opportunity to succeed.
13. Kevin Jones @ CHI –
The 25 carries should have been enough to push him over the century
mark last Sunday but the usually cushy Pack D was (surprisingly)
up to the task of slowing him down. He’ll get a similar
number of touches against the Bears this weekend and if the Washington
game is any indication (164 rushing yards yielded), Chicago will
struggle to duplicate the feat.
14. Ahman Green v. CLE –
Unfortunately for Green Bay fans, the Pack’s offense was
NOT up to the task of making a game of it in Detroit, failing
to score more than three points for the first time since the Ol’
Gunslinger took the reins over a decade ago. The remedy? A Cleveland
team that might be the league’s worst. With Javon Walker
sidelined, you can expect a steady diet of carries for Batman
and his backup, Najeh Davenport. Don’t give up on him yet.
15. Edgerrin James v. JAX –
He should probably rank higher than this but you never really
know how Tom Moore is gonna choose to attack opposing defenses.
The Jags are pretty solid up front, telling me he’ll probably
ask Peyton to do most of the damage. Then again, Edge is always
capable of punching it in when the situation presents itself.
Go with your instincts on this guy.
Grab A Helmet:
Clinton Portis @ DAL –
I’ll probably catch hell for leaving him outta the top 15
but with Mark Brunell running the show, he’s gonna be a
marked man. Believe it or not, his 5.8 yards/carry average in
Week 1 was his best since becoming a Redskin. If he does it again
(and manages to score a touchdown), he’ll be a must-start
in Week 2. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced he can do that.
Treat him like a #2 guy until we see if Brunell can get the job
Tiki Barber @ NO – Very
few backs maximize their touches like Tiki does. Though he only
got 15 in Week 1 (13 rushes and two receptions), he managed to
rack up over 120 total yards and a score. Good thing, too, ‘cuz
he’s clearly gonna share the load with dynamic rook, Brandon
Jacobs, from here on out. Keep starting him if you can live with
the occasional dud.
Lamont Jordan v. KC –
His Oakland debut wasn’t underwheming by any stretch but
I’m sure he and the Raiders expect more in the long run.
The long run begins this weekend against a KC defense that, although
improved, won’t be mentioned alongside the league’s
elite anytime soon.
Warrick Dunn @ SEA – Is
there a more underrated back in the league? He’ll never
give you much in the way of touchdowns (that’s apparently
T.J. Duckett’s job) but he always manages to swerve his
way to 100 yards or so. He notched 117 in Week 1 v. the Birds
so there’s no reason to think he’ll have much trouble
against the ‘Hawks in Seattle.
Brian Westbrook v. SF –
If there IS a more underrated back, he’s probably it. I’m
as guilty as the next guy but the numbers don’t lie. Though
he rarely touches the rock more than 20 times a game, he almost
always seems to hit triple digits. Provided he can stay healthy,
he’ll be a good start all year long.
Carnell Williams v. BUF –
Usually, rookie RB v. Buffalo’s defense spells trouble.
This guy is anything but usual, though. After notching 148 yards
and a score in his professional debut, you gotta think Chucky
will give him every chance to carry the Bucs offense again in
Week 2. Start him but don’t be terribly upset if he struggles.
It won’t necessarily be his fault.
Grab A Gatorade:
Thomas Jones v. DET –
He found the going pretty rough against Washington (15 carries
for 31 yards) and he probably won’t find it much easier
this Sunday against the Lions. The main problem? Nobody’s
gonna respect the Bears’ passing attack until the rook (Mr.
Orton) proves himself. Another problem is that the Lions are suddenly
very stout on defense, thanks in large part to Shaun Rogers and
“Big Daddy” Wilkinson clogging up the middle. Stay
Domanick Davis v. PIT –
He doesn’t belong with this group from a talent standpoint
but his competition the first two weeks (Buffalo and now Pittsburgh)
has been pretty stiff. Couple that with the fact his struggling
QB seems to be regressing and you have a recipe for mediocrity.
Wait it out. He’ll be back eventually.
Kevan Barlow @ PHI – If
it weren’t for a nine-yard TD jaunt in the third quarter,
his day would have been a total disaster. The Rams don’t
possess one of the better run defenses in the league but Barlow
still eked out only 22 yards on 14 carries. If he doesn’t
improve (and fast), he’ll start losing time to the guy some
felt was once a better prospect than Willis McGahee, Frank Gore.
Tatum Bell v. SD – Remember
when he was considered a shoo-in for the #1 job and a surefire
1,500 yards? Wait, that was like a month ago. Things change fast
in the NFL, folks. He might still get the job (thanks to an injury
to Mike Anderson) but he will almost certainly cede goal-line
duties to someone else after last week’s three-strikes-you’re-out
debacle on inside the five. His future seems murky at best, especially
if he continues to put the ball on the turf.
Chris Brown v. BAL – The
numbers (11 carries for 63 yards) weren’t all that bad.
Just one problem: Tennessee ran the ball 23 times. That means
he’s sharing carries with Travis Henry for the time being.
Unless you own Priest or Larry Johnson, you probably don’t
want a back stuck in a platoon situation, especially when said
platoon is slated to face the Ravens in Week 2.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends