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Running Back Watch Report - Week 12
Mike Courter
November 21, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson Tomlinson is using the 2006 season as a canvass to painfully remind those fantasy owners who had slotted him behind Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson for fantasy back bronze that there is still a lot of tread on those LT2 tires, as evidenced by yet another four touchdown chapter in his season-long scoring tome.  Tomlinson registered 105 yards rushing and three touchdowns against the supposedly elite Denver defense, while adding another 74 yards and a touchdown as a receiver, including a 51 yard catch and run score, in the Chargers crucial 35-27 road win at Invesco Field.  With Sunday night’s performance, Tomlinson reached 100 career touchdowns faster than any other player in NFL history, reaching 100 in his 89th game, besting Hall of Famer’s Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith by four games.  Hosting the Oakland Raiders in week twelve should serve as tossing gas on Tomlinson’s blazing scoring assault on numerous team and NFL milestones.  
2 KC Larry Johnson The most impressive part of Johnson’s game this season has been his ability to continue at a high level of production, despite the once-dominant Chiefs offensive line finally hit the age wall with retirement (Willie Roaf) and lengthy absences due to injury (Will Shields, Brian Waters).  He pulled it off again against the Raiders in week eleven with a skeleton O-line crew, rambling for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs 17-13 win.  Johnson will benefit from a second consecutive home game in week twelve, although this time it will be against a difficult Denver defense.
3 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson was part of an unfortunate Rams performance on the road in Carolina, a deflating, 15-0 shutout loss to the Panthers last Sunday.  Jackson’s feeble 27 yards rushing and 30 receiving was indicative of the total collapse of the St. Louis offense that was visibly disrupted by the recent loss for the season of All-Pro tackle Orlando Pace (torn tricep).  A home date with San Francisco should provide the Rams with the rebound venue they are hoping for, although the Niners defense has become increasingly tougher as of late, not allowing a 100-yard rusher in their last three consecutive games.
4 PIT Willie Parker Parker’s rushing (46) and receiving (17) totals were held down in Pittsburgh’s frantic week eleven comeback win over the hated Browns, but he did manage to sneak in two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving, salvaging a good week for his fantasy owners.  At Baltimore in week twelve will not be as hospitable near the goal line. 
5 PHI Brian Westbrook Westbrook put together another fine output last weekend, totaling 148 yards (102 rushing, 46 receiving) in the Eagles disappointing 31-13 home loss to the Tennessee Titans, which also witnessed the season-ending loss of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb to torn knee ligaments.  Westbrook had an even stronger impact in points-per-reception leagues, compiling 12 receptions during the game, the equivalent to two touchdowns in many leagues.  The veteran, all-purpose back could see even more passes against the Colts in week twelve’s Sunday night showcase game, as backup Jeff Garcia will most likely lean on him in his first few games as he gets re-acquainted with the starting QB role.  
6 SF Frank Gore Frank Gore keeps getting better each week and looking like a young fantasy football lion in the making, pounding the Seattle Seahawks for 212 yards rushing on 24 carries, while also catching four passes for 26 yards, pacing the 49ers 20-14 coming-of-age division win over perennial NFC West leader, Seattle.  A week twelve visit to the fast track of the Rams’ Edward Jones Dome should continue to build Gore’s head of steam toward the fantasy playoff weeks.
7 NYG Tiki Barber Barber had by far his worst game of the season on Monday night in Jacksonville, rushing for 27 yards on 10 carries with only one reception for 13 yards as the Giants wilted in a 26-10 road loss.  On paper, an easier match-up awaits in week twelve with a road game against the 3-7 Titans, but Tennessee, as a team, have played better as of late while the Giants are struggling mightily after a strong start at the beginning of the season.  
8 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson’s 111 yards rushing on 27 carries acted as the perfect lure for the Saints defense, drawing the safeties near the line of scrimmage which made them vulnerable to play-action pass exploitation, which fueled Chad Johnson’s 190 yards-three touchdown day in the Bengals 31-16 road win in New Orleans.  Johnson heads to Cleveland in week twelve, where he has traditionally done well, however, Romeo Crennel has had a positive effect on the once flaccid Cleveland run defense.
9 MIN Chester Taylor Taylor was in the midst of recording a passing grade on his fantasy football report card, gaining 80 hard fought yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against an ornery Dolphins defense on the road, until fate smiled upon him and his fantasy owners with a cosmetic one-yard touchdown run with no time left on the clock, bringing his touchdown total to two for the game.  The kind of scoring event that, if you are on the right side of it, leaves one giddy as a school girl as your week eleven, league opponent writhes in agony.   After a physically demanding road game the weekend prior, a home date against the Arizona Cardinals is a nice reward for all of Taylor’s hard work up to this point.
10 CHI Thomas Jones Jones has been consistent all season, churning out the fourth 100-yard rushing game (123) in his last six contests in the Meadowlands against the Jets in week eleven.  Jones travels to New England in week twelve to face a stingy group of Patriots’ run stuffers, allowing just 3.3 yards per carry and a total of five rushing touchdowns to opposing backs. 

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Travis Henry  (TEN) –  Through eleven weeks of the 2006, Henry has emerged as a strong Comeback Player of the Year candidate, averaging a career-high 4.6 yards per carry and currently ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing yards.  Henry rambled through a demoralized Eagles defense for 143 yards and a touchdown on only 18 carries, fueling the Titans improbable 31-13 road triumph last Sunday.  Despite the second consecutive road game in week twelve, Henry should receive a boost by facing the injury-depleted New York Giants defense.

DeAngelo Williams  (CAR) –  The sequence of events that transpired during the Panthers week eleven 15-0 home win over St. Louis could very well mark a turning point for the better during the talented running back’s rookie campaign.  Williams finally returned to 100% health after sustaining a high ankle sprain several weeks ago and looked impressive, gaining 114 yards on 20 carries, while veteran starter DeShaun Foster incurred a hyper-extended elbow casting doubt on his availability for action during week twelve’s game @ Washington and potentially opening the door for a changing of the backfield guard in the Panthers offense.

Cadillac Williams (TB) –  Williamsregistered his first 100-yard rushing effort in six games after gaining 122 yards on 27 carries in the Buccaneers 20-17 home win over the Redskins.  Cadillac added two receptions for 34 yards in his finest all-around effort this season.  Three of the next four games, featuring road trips to Dallas, Pittsburgh and Chicago, will prove whether Williams can finish the season on a high note or not.

Sliding Back

Ronnie Brown  (MIN) –  Brown fell victim to a perfect storm of issues before week eleven’s home game against the Vikings, tweaking his groin in week ten, losing starting offensive guard Jeno James to a season-ending injury and then facing off against the NFL’s best run defense, Minnesota, all conspiring to mash his statistical production down to 12 carries, two yards rushing, zero receptions.  Brown should be healthy enough to play against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and has a chance to exploit Detroit’s soft run defense on the fast indoor surface of Ford Field.

Lamont Jordan  (OAK) –  Based on preseason expectations, through 11 weeks Jordan has compiled arguably the worst fantasy football performance since the inception of rotisserie sports, only to be capped off with a likely season-ending torn MCL injury to his knee, dotting the “i” on Jordan’s horrible 2006 campaign.

Kevin Jones (DET) – A high ankle sprain against a week eleven opponent who he was expected to do well against (Arizona), could force Jones to miss up to a month of action, effectively ending his season after such a promising start.  Best case scenario for week twelve’s traditional Thanksgiving game against a testy Dolphins run defense is that Jones may be able to play but be significantly limited, not what fantasy owners want to deal with while trying to digest their holiday turkey.