Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson v. PIT
– The Bolts are officially off life support and they have
L.T. to thank for that. He’s accounted for nearly 400 yards
and SIX touchdowns in his last two tilts, proving beyond the shadow
of a doubt he’s the game’s most prolific player. Provided
he gets 25+ touches per contest, he should always be good for
triple digits and a score or three.
2. Shaun Alexander @ STL –
So should he, especially when he’s squaring off against
a shaky defensive unit like St. Louis’. Alexander has averaged
over 150 yards in his last three regular season starts against
the Rams and is almost certain to shoulder most of the load this
weekend with the receiving corps banged up. So long as the ‘Hawks
don’t crawl into an early hole, he’s a great start.
3. Edgerrin James @ SF –
Believe it or not, Edge has tallied more yards from scrimmage
than either of the above two studs through four weeks. The only
thing holding him back at present is his relative lack of point
production (two TDs). He should have no problem finding paydirt
this weekend against a woeful Niners’ D.
4. Rudi Johnson @ JAX –
Same goes for him. Despite rushing for nearly 100 yards per game,
Rudi hasn’t crossed the goal line since Week 1, a puzzling
statistic when you consider how fruitful the Bengals’ offense
has been. He should reverse that trend this Sunday night against
a Jags team that is surprisingly crappy against the run (130 yards/game).
5. Willis McGahee v. MIA –
His 4.8 yards-per-carry number is surprisingly un-crappy when
you consider how bad his quarterback has been. With Kelly Holcomb
now at the helm, he should see fewer men in the box and even more
running room. Expect 100 yards and a touch against the better-than-advertised
6. Deuce McAllister @ GB –
The Saints are now 14-2 when Deuce carries the ball 25 or more
times in a game. Think Coach Haslett knows this? I’m guessing
he doesn’t or they wouldn’t be a perennial 8-8 squad.
Though the Packers have been pretty solid against the run this
season, they aren’t a particularly good tackling team overall.
That could add up to some serious YAC for the historically hard-to-tackle
McAllister come Sunday.
7. Brian Westbrook @ DAL –
Westbrook was mostly a non-factor in the comeback win last weekend
but don’t go thinking he’s in the doghouse or anything.
The Birds fell behind big in a hurry and were forced to go downfield
in order to catch up. Thanks to the ever-obliging Chefs D, they
were very successful doing that. Expect a return to normalcy this
Sunday against Dallas. In his case, that means 100+ total yards
and a score (maybe two).
8. Corey Dillon @ ATL –
He STILL has yet to rush for more than 63 yards this season but
also has five TDs to his credit, a nice little consolation prize
for owners who were probably expecting more. If the Pats pull
ahead early, you can expect a nice day from him. If they don’t,
he could see fewer carries and, thus, fewer opportunities to punch
one in. They do tend to abandon the running game quicker than
most teams when faced with a deficit.
9. Steven Jackson v. SEA –
Running game? We don’t need no stinking running game! NOBODY
abandons the ground attack quicker than Coach Martz, which means
you’re always gonna be nervous about relying too heavily
on Mr. Jackson. Then again, he’s got a pretty good set of
hands, too, as evidenced by his Week 4 numbers in the passing
game (5 catches, 42 yards, and a score). Start him and hope the
Rams don’t fall behind early.
10. Domanick Davis v. TEN –
Davis is actually one of the league’s better run-catch threats
but, like most Texans receivers, has suffered from David Carr’s
inability to stay vertical. I suspect he’ll be utilized
more as a dump-down target until Coach Capers and Co. figure out
how to thwart oncoming pass rushers. At least, that would seem
like the logical thing to do.
11. Thomas Jones @ CLE –
Not many people pegged him as a legit fantasy starter on draft
day but after four weeks, he’s looking like an outright
steal. He’s averaging over 100 total yards/game and has
already tallied four scores, or one better than his more popular
and more expensive…
12. Julius Jones v. PHI - ,,,younger
bro. Of course, younger bro doesn’t hafta worry about losing
carries to a hotshot rook in the near future. In fact, he’s
just a year removed from being the hotshot rook himself. His sophomore
campaign is off to a pretty good start, too, as he’s managed
to notch more than 100 total yards in every contest but one. He
could be hard-pressed to turn the trick this Sunday against the
Eagles but he’s already done it once in his brief career
13. Stephen Davis @ ARI –
I’m still not sure why he’s starting over DeShaun
Foster but it probably has something to do with the six touchdowns
he’s racked up thus far. Fleet feet and ankle-breaking moves
are nice and all but in the NFL, a nose for the goal line is even
nicer. He has it and that’s a good thing if you managed
to snake him in the later rounds.
14. Clinton Portis @ DEN –
Davis has already tallied more rushing TDs in four games than
Portis has managed since he became a Redskin last year. Still
wonder why I’m not overly crazy about the guy? The matchup
is tough this weekend but I’m betting the return to Mile
High will light a fire under him. Expect 80-100 yards and, if
you’re lucky, a touchdown.
15. Ronnie Brown @ BUF –
He’s coming off a huge Week 3 performance against the Panthers
(132 yards and a score) and now draws the league’s second-worst
run defense in Buffalo. Not only are the Bills giving up 172.3
yards/game on the ground. They’re giving up almost 5 yards/carry.
That makes the kid a good start this Sunday, especially if Frerotte
and Co. are able to get anything going in the passing game.
Grab A Helmet:
Warrick Dunn v. NE – Mr.
Unsung was at it again last Sunday, rushing for 126 yards and
a touch against the lowly Vikes. Though we shouldn’t forget
who he was playing, we also shouldn’t forget that he rarely
fails to produce at least something every week. T.J. Duckett is
still the only reason he’s outside the Top 15 looking in.
Fred Taylor v. CIN – Taylor
followed up a 37-carry, 98-yard performance with an 8-carry, 14-yard
dud against the Broncos last Sunday. That just goes to show you
how inconsistent the Jags offense is right now. Cincinnati’s
D is much improved but they aren’t as good as Denver’s.
That means Fred’s totals will probably fall somewhere in
between this Sunday night, making him good enough for a look as
your #2 back.
Chris Brown @ HOU – He’s
a matchup play all the way since he rarely gets enough work when
the Titans fall behind. They shouldn’t this weekend against
the winless Texans so without Travis Henry around to poach carries,
he’s a good start. Give him the nod if you don’t have
Najeh Davenport v. NO –
Ahman Green is iffy at best right now and that means Davenport
is likely to receive his first start of the season. Though that
isn’t necessarily a good thing with the Pack’s O line
in disarray, the Saints are no great shakes against the run (130
yards/game). Moreover, he’s the kind of back who can wear
a team down as the game progresses, especially if his squad is
playing from out in front. This might be wishful thinking on my
part, but I think they will be this Sunday.
Grab A Gatorade:
Jamal Lewis @ DET – Lewis
sloughed off an early-season slump with a strong effort against
the Jets last week (81 yards and a score). Unfortunately, he now
faces a Lions front that held rook-of-the-year fave, Cadillac
Williams, to a mere 13 yards in Week 4. If they had a passing
game to take the pressure off, I’d like his chances of succeeding
a lot better. Obviously, they don’t.
Kevin Jones v. BAL – Not
that the Ravens will need many points to stay in it at Ford Field
this weekend. The Lions offense was rumored to be on the verge
of great things before the season began but so far, nothing has
changed in the Motor City. Most blame Mr. Harrington but if you
ask me, there’s more than enough blame to go around. For
instance, whatever happened to everyone’s favorite breakout
star, Kevin Jones? Time to put out an APB.
Curtis Martin v. TB –
Calling all cars. Calling all cars. Be on the lookout for the
NFL’s 2004 rushing leader. He was last seen at Giants Stadium
impersonating a feature back for the Jets. Sources say it wasn’t
a very convincing impersonation (13 carries for 30 yards in Week
Kevan Barlow v. IND –
The promotion of Alex Smith means Coach Nolan and the Niners are
officially throwing in the towel this season. How much longer
can it be before Barlow gets the boot, as well? I for one can’t
wait to hear him bitch about the demotion. If he played like he
actually DESERVED to be the starter every once in a while, he
could probably spare us all the whining. Yeah, I know. Wishful
Reuben Droughns v. CHI –
Droughns has been pretty solid these first few weeks but his days
as the unquestioned feature back appear to be numbered. Lee Suggs
is reportedly healthy and the Browns could certainly use his play-makin’
wheels on the perimeter. In other words, it’s looking like
platoon city in Cleveland for the immediate future. Probably best
to stay away until we see who’s gonna get the lion’s
share of the work, if anybody.
Any Arizona RB v. CAR –
I honestly couldn’t CARE who gets the lion’s share
of the work in Arizona. We’re talking about a unit that
is averaging only 75 rushing yards per game and an offense that
has accounted for precisely three touchdowns in four games, none
of them via the ground. Only if you’re desperate, folks.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends