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Running Back Watch Report - Week 10
Mike Courter
November 7, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Classic Tomlinson explosiveness on display last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, remaining relatively quiet through almost three quarters until 1:08 left in the third quarter, when he slashed through a crease on the left side of the Browns defense for a 41 yard touchdown gallop, to be quickly followed by two more touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, finishing with 172 yards rushing and three scores on 18 carries.  LT faces the toothless Bengals run defense, allowing a generous 4.3 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns to opponents, in week ten.                 
2 KC Larry Johnson LJ and the suddenly surging 5-3 Chiefs continued to rumble in St. Louis last Sunday, with Johnson’s 172 rushing yards and a touchdown setting the tone in the Chiefs 31-17 road masterpiece.  A much taller order awaits Johnson, minus Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters (knee), in Miami this weekend against an increasingly confident Dolphins defense that will head into the weekend with a renewed swagger after spanking the previously undefeated Chicago Bears to the tune of 31-13 at Soldier Field in week nine.  Plus the Fish have been tough against the run all year, yielding only 3.4 yards per carry and only two touchdowns to opponents.                                                                       
3 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson was a power back version of Brian Westbrook in week nine against the Chiefs, amassing 219 yards and a touchdown, including an outstanding 13 receptions for 133 yards.  Jackson, now sporting 41 receptions (2nd only on the Rams to Torry Holt’s 45) so far this season, is providing a decisive advantage for owner’s in points-per-reception leagues.  Historically, Jackson has been mediocre against his week ten opponent, the Seattle Seahawks.  The third year back had 96 total yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks earlier this season in a bitter 30-28 home loss.                             
4 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook and the Eagles should come out of their much-needed week nine bye looking for an NFL team to make an example of, and week ten places the giddy Washington Redskins, still snickering over the 22-19 divisional win they stole from the Cowboys in week nine, into a hostile Lincoln Financial Field.  Westbrook should post a considerable game against the inconsistent front seven of the Redskins.          
5 NYG Tiki Barber Text book day from Barber at home against the Texans last week, gaining a nifty 115 yards on 17 carries and, FINALLY, scoring a touchdown (his first of 2006), while also adding three receptions for 40 yards.  The wily veteran back has the unenviable task of poking what will surely be a cranky group of Bears defenders this Sunday night, after Chicago was ripped by Miami’s Ronnie Brown for 157 yards on the ground in week nine.                                                      
6 PIT Willie Parker Much to Willie Parker fantasy owner’s delight, the Steelers tailback found himself in the midst of a zany, unpredictable game between the Broncos and Steelers last Sunday.  In what should have been a rock’em-sock ‘em defensive affair, the contest morphed into a Madden football type scoring contest, with Parker posting 70 yards and a touchdown on the ground and another 67 yards and a score as a receiver.  High-scoring New Orleans pays a visit to Heinz Field in week ten and with the Steelers trying to keep pace, Parker should be counted on to be a tier one fantasy starter this weekend as well.                                   
7 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson ran hard against a physical Ravens front, churning out 77 yards and a score on 18 carries as the Bengals clawed their way back from a game-long deficit, only to fall short to the Ravens, 26-20.  In week ten, Johnson has to endure a second consecutive game against a rugged defensive front in the form of the visiting San Diego Chargers, albeit a task made somewhat easier by the absence of Shawn “Lights Out” Merriman (suspension).       
8 SF Frank Gore In week nine, against a scary Vikings defense, a unit that Bill Belichick was too ‘fraidy scared to run against two weeks ago, Gore produced a decent, not great outing, totaling 77 yards, with five receptions for 36 yards.  This weekend’s trip to the Motor City should be a pleasant change of pace from week nine’s grind for Gore as the 2006 Lions have consistently manufactured fantasy-friendly games throughout the year.  Look for a lot of scoring in the contest, with Gore taking advantage of still-missing DT Shaun Rogers (suspension) from the heart of the Lions defensive line.                      
9 DET Kevin Jones Let us all bow down at Miracle Mike Martz’s genius.  His work in the resurrection of the emotionally-fragile Kevin Jones, as well as the Lions offense in general, has all of the fantasy football world at his service.  Right around week six, Jones began his ascent up the RB Watch list, finally breaking into the Top 10 this week, with last Sunday’s roar of 140 total yards (110 rushing) and two touchdowns in the Lions 30-14 domination of the Falcons.  The former VaTech star now has 584 yards rushing, 296 yards receiving (on 41 catches) and seven touchdowns (six rush, one rec.) and should pad that total further against a run-weary 49ers defense at home this weekend.                                  
10 MIN Chester Taylor Though he failed to reach the end zone, Taylor had a fine afternoon against the 49ers in San Francisco last week, compiling 141 total yards (and eight receptions), and just missed having a monster weekend when a 60+ yard touchdown reception was negated by an unnecessary clip by Travis Taylor away from the play.  Week ten’s home game should offer Taylor another promising platform for statistical success with Green Bay arriving in Minneapolis, in a delightful NFC North match-up that just inherently gives off a delicious scoring stank that fantasy footballers love.               

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Maurice Jones-Drew (JAX) –  Despite Fred Taylor’s unlikely durability this season, the rookie from UCLA has still proven to be a functional fantasy starter with a strong upside, due to his breakaway speed and considerable pass-catching ability.  Week ten’s home game against the 2-6 Texans provides a promising opportunity for Jones-Drew as a No.2 back or flex player in your fantasy lineup.

Anthony Thomas (BUF) –  A-Train has looked good when subbing for Bills starter Willis McGahee this season, including last Sunday’s 95 rushing yards and a touchdown in Buffalo’s 24-10 home win over the Green Bay Packers.  McGahee’s broken ribs now provide Thomas with an approximate four game window (@Indy, @Houston, Jax, San Diego) as a starter for fantasy lineups.

Maurice Morris (SEA) –  Bittersweet Monday night romp over Oakland for the much-maligned Morris, who finally had a breakout game while subbing for the injured Shaun Alexander, rushing for 138 yards on 30 carries in the Seahawks 16-0 home win over the Raiders.  During Morris’ memorable night, Alexander chose to inform the national TV audience that the slow-healing crack in his foot finally appears to have taken a turn for the better and implied that his chances for a week ten return have improved considerably.

Sliding Back

Willis McGahee (BUF) –  After being stuck in neutral for most of the season, scoring only one touchdown in eight games,  McGahee brought his fantasy owners to a new level of frustration in week nine, incurring broken ribs at the beginning of the Packers game, instantly removing him from the contest and sidelining him up to a month, effectively goring fantasy teams who drafted him in, or near, the first round of most league drafts at the critical point in their season.

Reggie Bush (NO) – With each passing week of increasingly disappointing results, are the Reggie Bush apologists at all the major TV networks going to continue to blather on about all of the subtle ways that Bush is helping the Saints newfound, high-scoring offense, or finally come clean that they jumped the gun on Baby Matrix’s projected fast track to NFL greatness?  I believe Bush will be a disappointing tweener of Desmond Howard proportions and his 11 carries  for -5 yards against the Buccaneers after nine weeks into his rookie season, as other rookie backs (Maurice Jones-Drew, Laurence Maroney) are improving each week, speak volumes about a back that’s not big enough to run over NFL tacklers and yet, can no longer rely on a sizeable difference in speed over opposing defenses, like he did as a collegian.

Mike Bell (DEN) --  The rookie from Arizona stumbled out of the gate in his first chance at stealing Tatum Bell’s starting job while the veteran rests his sore turf toe, when he failed to effectively advance the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers, gaining only 28 yards on 17 carries, though he did catch five passes for 40 yards.  Mike Bell will probably have several more games to make a splash before Tatum Bell is able to return, but for now, he’s sliding.