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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. Shaun Alexander v. ARI—There were several disappointing studs in Week 1 but none more so than this guy. 51 yards and no touchdowns? Against Detroit? Take heart, Alexander fans. The Cardinals are coming to town and they’re fresh off a gashing at the hands of Frank Gore in Week 1 (170 total yards and two scores). Expect 150+ and at LEAST two touchdowns from Seattle’s main man this Sunday.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson v. TEN—Tomlinson accounted for almost half of San Diego’s offense on Monday night (149 yards) and also scored his first six of the season. That makes him one of the not-so-disappointing studs for Week 1. Get your licks in this Sunday, LT owners, ‘cuz San Diego’s bye week comes early this year (Week 3).

3. Larry Johnson @ DEN—LJ posted a ho-hum (for him) 148 total yards in Week 1 and didn’t find paydirt. Then, he lost his quarterback for the game and perhaps several more. Guess we’re gonna find out if he’s truly immune to personnel changes and matchups, huh? You can be certain the Broncos will throw the kitchen sink at him this week at Invesco. I’m as eager as most of you to see whether it will matter.

4. Steven Jackson @ SF—Jackson posted almost identical numbers (140 total yards) and, more importantly, touched the ball 26 times in the Week 1 victory over Denver. If he does that all year, his owners are gonna be mighty happy. Expect 125+ and his first couple touchdowns at Monster Park this Sunday.

5. Rudi Johnson v. CLE—If you’re looking for another reason to excuse Carson’s David Carr-like performance, look no further. No point in chucking it when Rudi’s rumbling to the tune of 98 yards and a score, after all. Coincidentally, Johnson’s career averages v. Cleveland are almost precisely the same (97.3 yds/game and six scores in seven matchups). You know what to do.

6. Tiki Barber @ PHI—Tiki tallied a mind-boggling 171 total yards against Indy in Week 1, the most of any back. Moreover, he made it look easy. Unfortunately, he lost eight carries and the ever important six to backup Brandon Jacobs. It won’t be the first time. Then again, who wouldn’t settle for 150+ every week? He flambéed the Eagles in the last meeting (195 yards and a touch) so keep riding him.

7. Ronnie Brown v. BUF—I urged you to be cautious with him and, at least partially, my concern was warranted. Though he scored twice, he also rushed for a mere 30 yards on 15 carries. Yes, it was Pittsburgh, but the Fish will need a lot more out of the passing game to get the most out of Brown in the long run. In the short term, it’s nice to know he’s facing a god awful Bills run defense in Week 2 (183 yards yielded last Sunday).

8. Willie Parker @ JAX—We learned a couple things about Pittsburgh in the season opener, as well. First, Fast Willie Parker is more than just fast (as the Bus-like 32 touches certainly proves). Second, Bill Cowher is a filthy liar. He had me believing the former Tarheel wouldn’t get yanked around the goal-line but, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened early in the 4th quarter. Alas, the fantasy gods were watching as Charlie Batch promptly flubbed the ensuing snap. Let that be a lesson to you, Coach!

9. Brian Westbrook v. NYG—“If he gets 20 touches per contest, he’s a Top 10 back all year.” So far, so good. Keep starting him.

10. Frank Gore v. STL—Almost every e-mail I received last week had to do with this guy, which tells me there were plenty of you out there with pretty high expectations for San Fran’s meal ticket. Kudos to you folks. I liked his potential (and even drafted him in the third round in one league) but wasn’t sold on the guys around him. Not sure that I am after one week, either, but Gore sure looked awesome last Sunday. See what he can do against an improved Rams D this weekend.

11. DeShaun Foster @ MIN—What do we make of Foster’s mediocre performance against the Dirty Birds in Week 1, a team he typically torches? Not much, actually. The loss of Steve Smith clearly scrambles the entire game plan so it’s strictly wait-and-see at this point. If Smith plays, I think Foster goes for triple digits and a score. If he doesn’t…well, I’m not sure you’ll want to be tuning in to find out (think Redskins-Vikes redux…only worse).

12. Edgerrin James @ SEA—Coach Green promised us 25 totes and a few looks in the passing game for Edge this season and he didn’t disappoint in the opener (26 carries and three receptions). Sure would have been nice to see the former Colt grind out a few more yards, though (2.8 per carry). I’m not convinced Arizona’s O-line is capable of opening big holes for him but the consistent work and a dynamite passing game should still make him quite valuable over the long haul.

13. Reggie Bush @ GB—I was down in the dumps a couple days back trying to cook up some ways to improve my one winless squad when…knock, knock, knock. Good morning, Opportunity! Long story short? I parlayed Willie Parker, Michael Vick, and Chris Chambers into Saint Reginald, Kurt Warner, and Steve Smith. Yes, I actually traded my boy, Mr. Vick. Yes, I still respected myself in the morning. That’s how good I think Reggie is.

14. Jamal Lewis v. OAK—Lewis was solid if not spectacular last weekend, notching 78 yards and a score on 18 carries. This week, he draws that train wreck of a squad, Oakland, in Baltimore’s home opener. I already told you they’ll win. The only question is how. If I know Brian Billick, it will involve a healthy dose of Lewis and a smattering of Mike Anderson. Oh, and a whole truckload of defense. Anyone else smell shutout?

15. Warrick Dunn v. TB—Week 1 was full of surprises but, for my money, nothing was more shocking than Atlanta’s 252 rushing yards against Carolina. That would be the same Carolina everyone’s touting to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. As usual, Dunn was the workhorse for the Falcons, racking up 132 yards. Things don’t get any easier against his former team this Sunday but that’s what we thought last week, too.

Grab A Helmet:

Carnell Williams @ ATL—Speaking of the Bucs, what the hell? Isn’t Jon Gruden a Mike Holmgren disciple? Shouldn’t he know how to craft a game plan by now? I’m no genius but I’m pretty sure getting the ball to Cadillac more than 13 times is a must-do for Tampa every single week. Let’s hope Chucky does exactly that this weekend at the Georgia Dome.

Willis McGahee @ MIA—The good news? Buffalo scored a rushing touchdown. The bad news? McGahee didn’t score it (try Anthony Thomas). Though the former Hurricane wasn’t terrible at Foxboro, tallying 94 total yards in the near-miss v. the Patriots, he certainly didn’t look like the “best running back in the NFL.” Yes, I’m going to use that against him all year long.

Chester Taylor v. CAR—Only LT touched the ball more in Week 1 than Chet, an encouraging sign for those (like me) who thought Minny’s running game might not be as good as advertised. It’s even more encouraging when you consider his coach, Brad Childress, presided over one of the least run-oriented offenses in ’05, Philadelphia’s. Sounds like somebody learned a thing or two about balance this past offseason.

Fred Taylor v. PIT—The other Taylor, the fragile one, was his typically productive self in the Week 1 upset of Dallas, cranking out 115 total yards (74 of them on the ground). He may not fare as well this weekend v. Pittsburgh (who does?) but he’s been surprisingly efficient v. the Curtain in his career (almost 100 yards and a score per game). He’s probably the only recommended start for the Jags offense in Week 2.

Deuce McAllister @ GB—Deuce put up the second quietest good performance of Week 1 (see below) with 90 yards on 22 carries. Get used to it, bud. There’s only one back anyone in New Orleans wants to talk about these days and it ain’t you. That, incidentally, is not a bad thing for McAllister’s owners (think good value guy).

Ahman Green v. NO—Green was responsible for easily the quietest good performance of Week 1 with 132 yards on 23 touches in the trouncing at Lambeau. I watched every single second and still couldn’t believe my eyes when I dragged myself over to the laptop to check the boxscore. He won’t do that every week, unfortunately, but he may this week against New Orleans’ below-average front seven.

Tatum Bell v. KC—The diabolical Coach Shanny continues to vex fantasy GMs with his “I can win with my MOM at running back” smugness, but at least he’s done us the favor of naming a starter for Week 2. You’re looking at him. Of course, you won’t be looking at him very long because the other Bell is slated to rotate in every other series. Go with the upside guy…if you dare.

Laurence Maroney or Corey Dillon @ NYJ—I don’t think I’ve ever listed this many “Grab a Helmet” backs but how can I leave this devastating duo off the list? Dillon is the sage veteran with the Super Bowl ring and the impressive resume. Maroney’s the young turk with speed to burn and a TBD date with fantasy stardom. Don’t think too much about it. Start either Pat and expect 75 yards and a score.

Grab A Gatorade:

Lamont Jordan @ BAL—In spite of myself, it’s hard not to feel just a tad bit sorry for Jordan, seemingly the only sane person working for Team Dysfunction these days. Randy Moss has lost his mind. Jerry Porter has lost his soul. Art Shell has lost his team. And it’s only Week 2! Can’t wait to see if Aaron Brooks loses that “aw, shucks” grin after he gets sacked 59 times this Sunday in Baltimore.

Chris Brown @ SD—I’ve never liked this guy and I’m certainly not going to start liking him now that the Titans are spelling him with Travis Henry in goal-line situations. With apologies to Oakland and Green Bay, Tennessee might be the worst team in the league. That means you don’t want anything to do with their backfield mess, especially against San Diego. Ask Lamont Jordan.

Kevin Jones @ CHI—Well, he was certainly more involved in the passing game (five catches for 45 yards). Too bad he’s not A RECEIVER! Stop waiting for this guy to “bust out.” As it stands now, he couldn’t bust his way out of a paper bag.

Clinton Portis @ DAL—I could really be setting myself up here but I’m just not sure he’s ready to carry the ball 25 times a game, as has been reported. Put it this way: if you can live one more week without your #1 draft pick, do it. If not, what have you got to lose? Start him and hope for the best.

Any NY Jets RB v. NE—Reason #347 not to get too worked up over Week 1: Kevan Barlow has more touchdowns than Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson…combined.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends