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Running Back Watch Report - Week 7
Mike Courter
October 17, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson exceeded lofty pre-game fantasy expectations against the 49ers, performing like an elite backfield difference-maker, totaling 135 total yards (71 rush, 64 rec.) and FOUR touchdowns.  LT2 will face the Chiefs in Arrowhead in week seven, after Kansas City yielded 219 yards on the ground in the midst of a demoralizing 45-7 road loss in Pittsburgh last Sunday.            
2 KC Larry Johnson Johnson was completely stoned by the Steelers defense in week six’s 45-7 blowout road loss in Pittsburgh, gaining only 26 yards on 15 carries and managing an uncharacteristic 3 catches for 6 yards, though he did manage one of the more impressive two yard touchdown runs this season in the third quarter.  Things don’t get any easier this weekend at home against San Diego’s ferocious defensive front seven.                                                                    
3 NYG Tiki Barber The Giants unnecessary use of designated goal line back Brandon Jacobs continues to keep Barber out of the end zone through the Giants first five games, but last weekend’s win over the Falcons allowed Barber a chance to provide a glimpse of his dominance of recent seasons.  Tiki accumulated 227 total yards (185 rushing) in the Giants 27-14 road win, but must now play a second consecutive road game this weekend, this time against the NFC East division rival Cowboys in Dallas on Monday night.                    
4 PHI Brian Westbrook BW was quiet in New Orleans last Sunday, 72 yards rushing, no touchdowns and only three receptions in the Eagles 27-24 loss to the Saints in week six.  The positive takeaway from the weekend was no reported post-game swelling of his troublesome knee and he appears to be ready to go for week seven’s tilt against an inconsistent Buccaneers defense in Tampa Bay.
5 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson disappointed many fantasy owners with his no-show performance in Tampa Bay last week, gaining a paltry 52 yards and no scores on 17 carries in the Bengals lackluster 14-13 loss to the Bucs in week six.  He’ll face a suddenly resurgent Panthers defense at home this weekend in a critical mid-season match-up for (3-2) Cincinnati.                                         
6 STL Stephen Jackson Through six games, Jackson continues to put forth solid, consistent outputs, including last Sunday with 96 total yards (56 rush, 40 rec.) and a touchdown against the Seahawks.  He’ll get a timely extra week’s rest during his week seven bye in order to prepare for a difficult road test in San Diego in week eight.                             
7 SF Frank Gore Endured a difficult week six challenge against a nasty Chargers run defense in a game where his team fell behind by a large margin early and still managed respectable numbers (55 rushing, 35 receiving-on five catches) in San Francisco’s 48-19 home loss.  Gore will sit this week during the 49ers bye and return in week eight in the unenviable position of traveling to Chicago to face a scary Bears defense that single-handedly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in an unforgettable 24-23 Monday night week six win in Arizona.   
8 PIT Willie Parker Parker now stands ninth overall in rushing yards with 434 on 106 carries (4.1) with five touchdowns after posting 109 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in week six, fueling the Steelers 45-7 home win over the Chiefs.  Parker and the Steelers travel to Atlanta this week to face a reeling Falcons run defense that gave up 6.64 yards per carry to the Giants last week at home in an abhorrent attempt at run defense (259 rushing yards allowed).  Parker’s fast, slashing style behind the big, physical Steelers offensive line should make for another long day for an injury-riddled and undersized Falcons defensive front.             
9 NO Deuce McAllister Contrary to popular sentiment in the preseason, the oft-injured McAllister has actually benefited from the arrival of rookie Reggie Bush and the carry-sharing arrangement that has sprouted as a result.  McAllister has run strong, looked spry and has been injury-free through most of the Saints first six games en route to compiling 444 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 91 carries (4.9 avg.), while the much-heralded Bush has been reduced to a complimentary decoy role.  The veteran back gets a bye this week and will face the Ravens at home in week eight.
10 WAS Clinton Portis Portis should have put up a much bigger number at home against one of the league’s worst run defenses, the Tennessee Titans, last Sunday, managing only 58 yards rushing on 14 carries.  He barely hangs on to the last slot of the RB Watch top ten by virtue of his two touchdowns and five receptions during the Redskins embarrassing 25-22 home defeat to previously winless Tennessee.   Portis receives another favorable venue this weekend on the road against the high-flying Colts in a game that Washington should heavily feature him in order to control the clock and keep Peyton Manning off the field.         

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Travis Henry (TEN) – The much-maligned veteran gets to rest on his laurels during the Titans week seven bye after cobbling together two consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts in the last two weeks, including an impressive 178 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries in Tennessee’s well-deserved 25-22 road win over the Redskins in week six, their first victory this season.   Returning from his bye in week eight, Henry should be able to continue to add momentum to his current, two game success streak with a home date against the struggling Houston Texans.

Tatum Bell (DEN) –  Bell has accomplished the unthinkable this season, forcing Denver head coach Mike Shanahan to go with only one running back, flying in the face of the Broncos head coach’s infamous running back-by-committee approach of the last few seasons.  Bell has demonstrated an effective inside-the-tackles running style this season, complimenting his game-breaking speed on the perimeter to wrest control of the feature back role in Denver and now ranks seventh in the NFL with 470 yards on 100 carries (4.7 avg.).  Bell and the Broncos should find continued success in week seven with a road date in Cleveland this weekend to face a Browns run defense that’s allowed 4.7 yards per carry to opposing backs.

Warrick Dunn (ATL) –  The underrated Dunn had been quiet in the Falcons prior two games, gaining only 99 yards and no touchdowns on 32 carries, before exploding last Sunday against the Giants for 146 yards on only 14 carries, including a spectacular 90 yard scoring run.  Though the sledding figures to be markedly tougher this Sunday, the Falcons will need the veteran back to be just as dynamic this weekend against the visiting Steelers, to protect Atlanta’s smallish defense front from another pounding.

Sliding Back

Willis McGahee (BUF) –  McGahee now has a single 100-yard rushing effort through six games in 2006, with only one touchdown.  The Bills, trying to bring along young J. P. Losman at quarterback, desperately need much more out of the supposed franchise back.  Help may be on the way in the form of a favorable second half schedule that includes November (Green Bay, @ Indianapolis, @ Houston) and December (@ NY Jets, Tennessee) dates against soft defenses.

Edgerrin James (ARI) –  Much has been made of James expected impact as the big ticket free agent prize of the Cardinals off-season that would change the face and direction of the longtime struggling franchise, but, other than the uniform change to black shoes, the veteran back has not even come close to delivering on the high preseason expectations laid upon him after five games in 2006.  Entering the Monday night home game against the Bears, the eight year veteran was averaging a meager 3.1 yards per carry and has found the end zone only twice so far this season.  He came up small again in the Cardinals devastating 24-23 week six defeat at the hands of visiting Chicago, finishing with 55 yards on 36 carries (1.52 avg.), not only failing to help the young Cards run out the clock, but pouring salt in the wound when he was stripped by the Bears’ Brian Urlacher, which resulted in a 40 yard fumble return for a touchdown by Charles Tillman, spurring Chicago’s memorable comeback.

Reggie Bush (NO) –  Though ESPN will continue to do cartwheels every time the rookie from USC touches the ball for a three yard gain, the fact of the matter is that the No.2 overall pick has been a disappointment so far, being outplayed by at least two other rookie running backs (Laurence Maroney, Maurice Jones-Drew) this season.  I understand Bush still holds decent value in leagues that award a point-per-reception, but clearly, he appears likely to never fill a traditional running back role in the NFL, which is what matters most to fantasy football owners, as most leagues will not award points to a RB for kick return yardage.