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Running Back Watch Report - Week 11
Mike Courter
November 14, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson There’s no stopping LT2 this year.  In a game when the Chargers were down 28-7 at halftime to the Bengals, Tomlinson still winds up with 100 yards rushing (104) and FOUR touchdowns.  Amazingly, Tomlinson is making this type of single game output look routine on a weekly basis.  The veteran back will lead the 7-2 Chargers into Denver (7-2) in week eleven for a Sunday night showdown between the AFC West division leaders.                   
2 KC Larry Johnson The Dolphins defense finally slowed the rampaging Johnson. Limiting him to a mere 75 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Chiefs 13-10 road loss in Miami last Sunday.  Johnson and the Chiefs host 2-7 Oakland in week eleven in what should be a prosperous outing for LJ, though the Raiders have raised their level of play in recent weeks.                                                                          
3 STL Steven Jackson Typical Jackson performance in the Rams week ten 24-22 road loss in Seattle, nearly 100 yards rushing (93) capped by an impressive fourth quarter touchdown run, with 40 yards receiving out of the backfield.  It’s the type of understated, all-around performance that has turned Jackson into a consistent, elite performer in fantasy football this year.  Jackson will travel to Carolina this Sunday, and should fare well against a tremendously disappointing 2006 Panthers defense.                               
4 PIT Willie Parker Fast Willie climbs further up the RB Watch created by the bounce of his 213 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the Steelers 38-31 triumph over the visiting New Orleans Saints.  The Steelers visit longtime rival Cleveland in week eleven and Parker will get to test his considerable skills against the Browns questionable run defense, currently yielding 4.8 yards per carry to opponents.            
5 PHI Brian Westbrook A nice 150 total yards effort, including 113 on the ground, from Westbrook in the Eagles easy 27-3 win over the Washington Redskins last weekend.  The Eagles will host Tennessee in week eleven, and Westbrook should capitalize against a Titans defense that has allowed 10 rushing touchdowns and 5.0 yards per carry through eight games.                                                       
6 NYG Tiki Barber Barber glided for what turned out to be a meaningless 141 yards on the ground (on 19 carries), while also catching three passes for 16 yards, in the Giants demoralizing 38-20 home loss to NFC leader Chicago.  New York travels to Jacksonville for a Monday night clash with the Jaguars, who are far less formidable against the run now, after losing several key players-most notably massive DT Marcus Stroud, than at the beginning of the season.                                
7 SF Frank Gore Gore ran strong against the Lions last Sunday, gaining 159 yards and a touchdown, highlighted by a 61 yard touchdown run to start the scoring in the first quarter.  The 49ers return home to the Bay area to host NFC West-leading Seattle in week eleven.
8 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson had a safe 85 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Bengals heartbreaking 49-41 home loss to the San Diego Chargers.  Considering the Bengals were leading the game 21-0 after the first quarter, Johnson should have played a much larger, clock-chewing role in the game, and the fact that he didn’t is another example of why he remains a cut below the top running backs in the league and in fantasy football.  A road trip to New Orleans in week eleven provides Johnson another legitimate chance to prove the nay-sayer’s wrong and deliver a top tier fantasy performance.                       
9 DET Kevin Jones Jones came up bigger in the passing game in week ten, hauling in nine passes for 71 yards versus 44 yards rushing on 13 carries, in the 19-13 home defeat at the hands of  San Francisco.  Jones’ owners still had to be somewhat disappointed with his failure to reach the end zone and get closer to 100 yards rushing against what was supposed to be a weak ‘Niner run defense.  A week eleven road trip to play the Cardinals in Arizona is a welcome setting for improvement over week ten’s underachievement.                                   
10 MIN Chester Taylor Taylor owner’s will all focus on the receiving touchdown opportunity that was literally forced from his hands at the Packers goal line only to be recovered by teammate Billy McMullen for a Vikings touchdown, limiting Taylor to a 95 total yards effort (75 rushing, 20 receiving).  The Vikings travel to Miami for week eleven to face a Dolphins defense that has elevated its level of play over the last few weeks and will provide a difficult challenge for Taylor.                  

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Thomas Jones  (CHI) –  Jones has registered 100 yard rushing games in three of his last five contests, including 113 and a touchdown on 30 carries in the Bears 38-20 Sunday night win over the Giants in week ten.  Jones and the Bears travel back to Giants Stadium in week eleven, only this time to play the New York Jets and their 28th ranked run defense (143 rushing yards per game).

Travis Henry  (TEN) –  Like Thomas Jones, Henry has also posted three 100 yard rushing games in his last five appearances, including last week’s 107 against the Baltimore Ravens, also scoring a touchdown as part of his 27 carry effort.  The odd man out of the Titans backfield at the beginning of the season, Henry has staged an admirable comeback to recapture the starting role as injured backfield mates, Chris Brown and rookie Lendale White, sit and watch.  Henry will travel to Philadelphia in week eleven to face a decent, but not great group of run stoppers (currently ranked 19th overall).

Sliding Back

Jamal Lewis  (BAL) –  Ever since his 109 yard effort three weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, with Brian Billick taking control of the Ravens offense for the first time in 2006 after firing ex-OC Jim Fassel, expectations were high that Lewis could at least start to resemble his 2003 self, when he hung 100 yard rushing games on opposing defenses with regularity.  However, his output continues to shrink with each passing week since the Saints game, gaining 72 yards two weeks ago against Cincinnati and 45 last week against a poor Titans run defense, scoring only one touchdown in the three week span.

Clinton Portis  (WAS) –  Portis killed fantasy owner’s at the beginning of the season with his preseason shoulder injury, casting a shadow of doubt over his fantasy prospects while participants were forced to draft him high still because he wasn’t hurt quite enough.  Though he showed promise at times, scoring seven touchdowns in eight games played, he registered only one 100 yard rushing game (against Jacksonville) and will now face close to a month off the field after suffering a broken right hand in the Redskins 27-3 week ten loss to the Eagles, delivering a near-fatal blow to the many teams that had to spend a first round pick on him in their running back-emphasized league draft.