Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ DEN—He’s
scored ten times and tallied 590 yards from scrimmage in his last
three ballgames, all San Diego victories. To add some perspective,
that’s the same number of touchdowns Steven Jackson, a pretty
fair running back himself, scored LAST SEASON! If you’re
looking for this year’s LJ, you’ve found him.
2. Larry Johnson v. OAK—Not
that this year’s LJ is chopped liver or anything. Though
he struggled in South Florida last weekend (by his standards),
he still accounted for almost 100 yards and another score. Problem
was the rest of the KC offense did exactly zilch. That’s
probably not the last time it’ll happen, even with Trent
Green back in charge, but he’s certainly more valuable when
the passing game gets outta first gear. Expect it to this weekend
as the Chiefs drop the hammer on AFC West doormat, Oakland.
3. Steven Jackson @ CAR—The
aforementioned Jackson is on a similar pace this year (about ten
scores) but has really ramped up the production this past month,
tallying no fewer than 96 yards and a score in his last four tilts.
That’s the kind of consistency we were expecting and the
reason you can’t sit him down the rest of the way. Too bad
it hasn’t altered the bottom line in St. Louis, four consecutive
losses and likely exclusion from the playoffs.
4. Willie Parker @ CLE—FWP
hit two longballs in the Week 10 shootout with New Orleans, racing
for 72 and then 76 yards in the span of four carries. By comparison,
Edgerrin James has run for 152 yards in his last two games…on
39 carries. Not sure if that says more about Parker or James but
this much is clear: Fast Willie Parker is every bit as fast as
his moniker would indicate. Give him the nod against Cleveland’s
30th ranked run defense and watch the points pile up.
5. Brian Westbrook v. TEN—Westbrook
is no stranger to huge chunks of yardage either and appeared to
end a mini-slump last Sunday with a 150-yard effort as the Birds
got back on track against Washington. This week, he draws Tennessee’s
31st ranked run defense. I’m thinking he ends that touchdown
drought, as well, in a game Philly should dominate from start
6. Kevin Jones @ ARZ—“
I think he’s still capable of atrocities in the backfield….”
Does 44 yards and a lost fumble against the Niners count? Ummm,
yeah. Fortunately, the former Hokie managed to pick up the slack
in the passing game, catching nine balls for 71 yards as the Lions
came up short in Week 10. They get another bottom-feeder this
weekend, the lowly Cardinals, so it’s likely he’ll
make up for it. He’d better hope so ‘cuz my already
worn patience was stretched to the limit by last week’s
7. Frank Gore v. SEA—While
Jones was plodding along in the Detroit backfield, Gore was wreaking
havoc in San Francisco’s, rushing for 148 first half yards
and a score in the first half of last Sunday’s (mild) upset.
If he hadn’t been felled by a concussion early in the second
half, he might still be running wild. The prognosis on said concussion
is good so he should be back in your lineup against the Chickens
this weekend. Make it happen, folks.
8. Tiki Barber @ JAX—We
can gush all we want about LT and LJ but the fact remains Tiki
stands all by himself atop the rushing yardage heap with 971 yards.
How many of you knew this? The fly in the ointment, of course
(and the reason he’s easy to forget) is that he doesn’t
score touchdowns and, even worse, doesn’t get the opportunity
to do so with Brandon Jacobs around. If you can live with 107+
yards per game (and who can’t), keep starting him. If not,
man do you have high standards!
9. Rudi Johnson @ NO—His
numbers are down a bit this year but he’s still on pace
to easily surpass 1,200 yards and score twelve touchdowns, his
total the last two years. Better yet, he’s starting to gain
some steam this past month, having scored in each of his past
three games. Unfortunately, as he’s gaining it, the Bengals
are losing it. Let’s see if they can turn things around
in the Crescent City this weekend, shall we?
10. Thomas Jones @ NYJ—Cedric
who? The Bears dispensed with the platoon last Sunday night, handing
the rock to Jones 30 times, only the second time he’s carried
it 30 or more times in his career. He rewarded them with 113 yards,
a score, and a pivotal 26-yard sprint draw that, according to
Michaels and Madden, “changed the complexion of the game.”
Seriously, how many times did they mention this play? Forty? It
was a nice run, guys, but 38-20 games don’t ride on one
11. Anthony Thomas @ HOU—Willis
McGahee averaged about 80 yards per tilt in his seven full starts
this year. Thomas, since taking over, has averaged about 102 yards
in one-and-a-half starts. Does that make HIM the best running
back in the NFL? Might wanna outrush your backup, Willis, before
spouting off about being the league’s premier rock-toter.
Just an observation, is all. Start A-Train against Houston’s
27th-ranked run defense this Sunday while you’re chewing
on that one.
12. Deuce McAllister v. CIN—Believe
it or not, Deuce still starts for the Saints, a fact the NFL spin
doctors probably don’t want you to know. All the talk may
be about Brees, Colston, and Bush but the glue that holds this
multi-faceted attack together is still the former Reb, the workhorse
who makes all of those guys more valuable. Give him the start
against Cincy’s matador defense this week as he should score
once…and maybe even twice.
13. DeShaun Foster v. STL—It’s
hard to see him hanging onto the gig past this season but, for
now at least, he’s still the meal ticket in Charlotte. This
despite the fact he ran for a paltry 48 yards on 13 carries against
Tampa’s none-too-stout run defense last Monday night. He
gets another pillowy soft outfit this Sunday, the Rams, so it’s
possible he could surprise. The very fact that would BE a surprise
is surprising…if that makes any sense.
14. Fred Taylor v. NYG—The
Jags will supposedly shut down Big Swifty for the remainder of
the year, meaning Jacksonville’s fortunes rest squarely
on the shoulders of Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew. There’s
no real reason to favor one guy over the other but Taylor does
get a few more touches and is still a versatile threat capable
of scoring when things are going right. If you don’t like
him, go with the former Bruin. Makes no difference to me…or
to them, apparently.
15. Edgerrin James v. DET—The
Lions were gashed by Frank Gore and the Niners running attack
last weekend, an encouraging sign for Edge, a guy who’s
been trying to get untracked all season. He’s averaged over
3.5 yards/carry his last two games, a marked improvement from
earlier in the season and could be in line for a true breakout
performance this Sunday. Wouldn’t go betting the farm on
it but if it were ever gonna happen, this is the spot. Give him
Grab A Helmet:
Ladell Betts @ TB—Clinton
Portis’ broken hand equates to a real opportunity for the
former Hawkeye, a remarkably consistent backup who’s never
been afforded the chance to carry the load. He looked pretty good
last week in mop-up duty (20 carries for 83 yards) and could surprise
the rest of the season. Plus, with Jason Campbell under center,
he’s likely to be the focal point of the Washington attack…if
you can call it that. Go find him.
Ahman Green v. NE—Green
ran into the buzzsaw known as Minnesota’s run defense in
Week 10, accounting for only 55 yards on 20 carries as Favre and
Don Driver carried the day for the Pack. Things don’t get
much easier this week against New England’s third-best run-stuffers
(79.8 yards/game) but I gotta think he’s still good for
75 yards and, quite possibly, a score. A decent play at your #2
slot and a top-notch #3 guy if your league goes that deep.
Corey Dillon or Laurence Maroney @
GB—Dillon’s 50-yard trudge through the Foxboro
muck was, without a doubt, the most depressing (but humorous)
big-gainer in recent memory. I mean, has he fallen off THAT much?
I’m pretty sure he could have run that fast five years ago
with Maroney hanging around his neck. The end is definitely near
for the former Dawg but that doesn’t mean he can’t
score a sneaky six against the Green and Gold this weekend. Maroney,
too, though there’s nothing sneaky about his scores.
Julius Jones or Marion Barber III v.
IND—This two-headed monster combined for a somewhat
pedestrian 110 yards in the Week 10 win at the Cactus, ceding
the limelight to Tony Romo and the Dallas passing game instead.
If the Cowboys attempt to duplicate that game plan against the
Colts this Sunday, they’ll more than likely be in trouble.
My suggestion? Let Jones and MBIII pound it into the teeth of
that 32nd ranked run defense. And, no…I don’t own
either guy so it’s an objective analysis.
Joseph Addai @ DAL—The
Indy tandem, on the other hand, could struggle against Dallas’
fourth-rated run defense. Nevertheless, when you have Peyton on
your side, holes tend to open up in the running game. I suspect
this guy will be the Colt running through them, despite Coach
Dungy’s insistence on keeping Dominic Rhodes, a backup if
ever there was one, involved. Take a chance on Addai. Only a matter
of time before he’s doing his pre-’06 Edge impersonation.
Grab A Gatorade:
Ronnie Brown v. MIN—Since
giving up 100+ rushing yards in their first two contests, the
Vikes have yielded just 349 yards, or about 43 per game, an astonishingly
stingy number. This against the likes of Frank Gore, Ahman Green,
Thomas Jones, Kevin Jones, and Willis McGahee, to name a few.
I don’t know about you but I’d be shocked if Brown
is able to gain much more than 50 yards this weekend. Heard it
here first, people.
Chester Taylor @ MIA—Unfortunately
for the purple guys, their own rushing attack has hit a snag of
late, with Chet averaging just under 65 yards per in his last
three. That doesn’t bode well for this weekend’s trip
to Miami as the Fish are yielding just 3.4 yards/carry and are
fresh off two stellar performances against the Bears and Chiefs.
This one has all the makings of a 14-13 snoozer so you should
probably steer clear of most everyone this Sunday.
Any Oakland RB @ KC—Cut.
Paste. Cut. Paste. Cut….
Carnell Williams v. WAS—Hard
to believe he’s become an afterthought in the Tampa offense
but, lo and behold, that’s precisely what has happened.
Since averaging nearly 96 yards/tilt in a three-game stretch back
in October, Carnell hasn’t topped the 44-yard mark. That’s
three games worth of ineptitude. Needless to say, he hasn’t
scored a touchdown either. In fact, he’s only scored one
of those ALL SEASON! Welcome to Tampa, home of the sophomore slump.
Messrs. Clayton and Williams will now show you to your padded
Wali Lundy v. BUF—The
apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, huh? Or something
like that. After scoring an early touch against the Jags last
weekend, Lundy was inexplicably yanked by Shanny Jr. (aka, Gary
Kubiak) in favor of Packer cult hero/castoff, Samkon Gado, a head-scratcher
if ever there was one. The worst part? Houston actually won, meaning
Kubes’ dubious move was vindicated. You don’t want
anything to do with this fantasy axis of evil. Trust me.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends