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Running Back Watch Report - Week 3
Mike Courter
September 19, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson NFL schedule makers really helped a brother out in Tomlinson’s case, sending what now appears to be the two of the NFL’s worst, Oakland and Tennessee, as visitors to San Diego in weeks one and two, respectively.  Tomlinson had another impressive showing in week two, gaining 71 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and 51 through the air in San Diego’s 40-7 drubbing of the Titans last Sunday, but after his bye this weekend, the going gets much tougher,  facing the Ravens in Baltimore in week four and then hosting the defending champion Steelers in week five.         
2 SEA Shaun Alexander Alexander’s 89 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in the Seahawks 21-10 home win was better than week one’s snoozer against the Lions (51 rushing yards), but far below the lofty expectations set from his glorious track record against the Cardinals from the last few seasons.  OG Floyd Womack (who replaced departed Pro Bowler Steve Hutchinson) will miss up to six weeks with a knee injury, which is exactly why the Seahawks signed OL utility man Tom Ashworth (Patriots) in the off season.  Seattle hosts the resurgent New York Giants (1-1) in week three in a rematch of last year’s thrilling 24-21 home triumph by the Seahawks in which Alexander needed 31 carries to grind out 110 yards and a score.                                                               
3 KC Larry Johnson Though Johnson has yet to find the end zone in the first two games of 2006, he has been an above average play in yardage leagues, especially as a short, dump pass outlet for Chiefs backup QB Damon Huard.  In Kansas City’s week two 9-6 loss to the Broncos, Johnson ran for 127 yards on 27 carries while nabbing five passes for 41 yards, bring his receiving totals in two games to 10 receptions for 121 yards.  Like Tomlinson, Johnson sits this week during his bye this weekend, but unlike Tomlinson, LJ gets two welcomed match ups when he returns to duty with contests against San Francisco in week four and @ Arizona in week five.                  
4 NYG Tiki Barber Due to the nature of the Giants miraculous, 30-24 comeback win, in which Eli Manning had to rally the Giants from a 24-7 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, Barber’s rushing role was limited to 51 yards on 21 carries, but the veteran back played a key role in the passing game with seven receptions for 57 yards.  Barber and the Giants fly to Seattle for what will be a difficult road battle against the ‘Hawks in week three, but Barber was able to rush for 151 yards on 26 carries in Qwest Field in very similar circumstances last year.          
5 CIN Rudi Johnson Rudi continued his mastery of in-state rival Cleveland with another workman-like performance of 145 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, pacing the Bengals to a 34-17 home win over their divisional opponent.  Johnson’s first true test will come this weekend against the Steelers in Pittsburgh this weekend.                                    
6 SF Frank Gore Gore’s consistently high production has been one of the few pleasant fantasy football RB surprises of ’06.  In two games, the second year back from Miami has rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries (4.8 avg.) while catching eight passes for 93 yards (11.6 avg.), pacing a suddenly-potent 49ers offensive attack.  San Francisco will host the Eagles this Sunday, the toughest defense they’ll have faced so far this year, but Gore’s outstanding play in the last two weeks demands a permanent spot in your starting lineup, regardless of opponent.                               
7 STL Stephen Jackson As the Rams slowly adapt to their new, Scott Linehan-offense, touchdowns have been scarce in the first two games (one; a Bulger pass to Torry Holt last week against SF).  And though Jackson has not found the end zone, he has been effective carrying the ball (224 yards on 44 carries for a 5.1 avg.) and has six receptions for 40 yards.  A week three trip to Arizona should be just what the doctor ordered to cure St. Louis’s red zone ills.
8 ARZ Edgerrin James James delivered a decent effort amongst difficult conditions against an extremely quick Seattle defense, carving out 64 yards on 18 carries with seven receptions for 33 yards in the Cardinals 21-10 week two loss in Seattle.  This weekend’s home game against the Rams soft run defense might be as good as it gets in terms of match-ups for James this year.  Expect the sold-out crowd at Cardinals Stadium to be treated to James’ first 100 yard rushing game as a Cardinal, topped off with two scores.    
9 ATL Warrick Dunn Every week, the Sportscenter highlights for the Falcons game seem to possess a recurring theme, little Warrick Dunn zig-zagging his way through an array of futile arm tackles en route to another 100 yard rushing game.  Dunn demoralized the Buccaneers defense last Sunday, rushing for 134 yards on 21 carries, performing in tandem with quarterback Michael Vick’s 100 yard rushing effort (127, one touchdown) to help push the Falcons over Tampa Bay, 14-3.  Dunn will experience an emotional return to his home state of Louisiana this weekend for the Monday night, grand re-opening of the New Orleans Superdome against the Saints.                        
10 MIA Ronnie Brown Brown, a top six pick in many fantasy drafts this year, has unfortunately become a victim of new quarterback Daunte Culpepper’s struggles in leading the Dolphins offense through the first two games of 2006.  Despite not sharing carries with Rickey Williams any longer, Brown has failed to record a single game 100 yard rushing effort, but has become a stronger presence in the passing game, hauling in six passes for 52 yards against the Bills last weekend.  Brown has to be quietly salivating for this weekend’s home date against a forlorn Titans defense that is currently yielding 4.7 yards per carry and two touchdowns per game to opposing backs.        

(Note – this listing considers the rankings of RB’s if a draft was held today)

Climbing Up The Ladder

Deuce McAlister (NO) – Two games into the season, McAllister’s fantasy production has been the recipient of it’s very own Bush Push, with opponents having to focus on the Saints flashy rookie, McAllister is receiving never-before-seen room from defenses, allowing him to average 4.0 yards per carry while keeping him healthy as the defensive pounding from prior years has significantly waned from previous season’s when he was the No.1 target of opposing defenses.  Useful stat trend for Week Three: Deuce has a personal streak of four consecutive 100 yard rushing games against his week three opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, dating back to 2003.

Chester Taylor (MIN) – After two games, Chester Taylor is quickly removing any doubt regarding his sight-unseen top fantasy draft pick status.  Taking full advantage of the Vikings massive offensive line, highlighted by the powerful left side of LT Bryant McKinnie and RG Steve Hutchinson, Taylor ran through the supposedly elite Panthers defense for 113 yards on 24 carries.   Week three’s tilt against the visiting Chicago Bears will provide a true litmus test for Taylor’s promising fantasy season.

DeAngelo Williams (CAR) –  Perhaps the Panthers 0-2 stumble out of the 2006 gate will have a silver lining after all, with the backfield debut of rookie first round pick RB DeAngelo Williams in the Panthers 16-13 week two overtime loss at the hands of the Vikings in Minnesota.  After receiving zero carries in week one, Williams sparkled against the Vikes, averaging 5.7 yards per carry in rushing for 74 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and adding five catches for 24 yards as a receiver, while incumbent starter DeShaun Foster paled in comparison with 26 yards on 13 carries with two receptions for 14 yards.   Head coach John Fox has already been forced to make “DeShaun Foster is still the starting running back” announcements this week, a sure sign of Foster’s impending demotion to the second string.

Sliding Back

Willis McGahee (BUF) – After a promising showing in the preseason under new Buffalo offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, the self-proclaimed “NFL’s best back” has yet to record a 100 yard rushing game or a touchdown through the first two games of 2006 (though he did come close last weekend against Miami with 91 yards on 25 carries).  McGahee has a great chance to achieve both 100 yards and a score in the Bills home opener this weekend against a New York Jets defense that gave up 145 yards on the ground to the New England duo of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney last week and has already allowed four rushing touchdowns in two games.

Lamont Jordan (OAK) –  The once-proud Oakland Raiders have accelerated their organizational nosedive in 2006 under new head coach Art Shell, who appears to have lost the team after only two games in.  With this year’s pathetic version of the Raiders, the Black Hole isn’t just a cheering section at McAfee Stadium anymore.  A directionless offense headed by mistake-prone Aaron Brooks, mixed with the volatile and never-happy Randy Moss has created a fantasy football booby trap, with Lamont Jordan owners being the primary victims.  If you’re the owner that was forced to ingest selecting Jordan at the end of the first round or beginning of the second round of most drafts during the typical, early round running back frenzy, I offer my condolences on what looks like a catastrophic descent from Jordan’s 2005 statistical campaign.

Wali Lundy (HOU) – Projecting Domanick Davis numbers on the rookie back from Virginia once Davis was placed on Injured Reserve prior to the 2006 season was mistake No.1 by numerous fantasy owners who selected Lundy as high as the third round in some drafts after a handful of solid preseason performances.  After two games, the Texans offensive line is still a porous mess and their RBBC consisting of Ron Dayne, Samkon Gado and Lundy represents a backfield refugee camp of castaways that will all do their best to cancel each other out each week, regardless of opponent.