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Running Back Watch Report - Week 14
Mike Courter
December 5, 2006
Top Ten Fantasy RB’s to own Comment
1 SD LaDainian Tomlinson The media is running out of accolades to use for Tomlinson’s amazing 2006 run, as fantasy football sits back and watches in amazement as each week is better than the next for Tomlinson owners, who can kick their heels up and enjoy the show for the next few weeks. LT2’s 178 yards rushing and two touchdowns against Buffalo in week thirteen puts him at 1,324 rushing yards for the season and two touchdowns short of Shaun Alexander’s single season record set in 2005.  Denver travels to San Diego in week fourteen.  With the Broncos finding no success containing Tomlinson in Denver three weeks ago (105 rushing yards and 3 TDs), LT2’s week fourteen performance should start the traditional fantasy football playoff week off on a positive note for his fantasy owners
2 KC Larry Johnson Johnson recorded another 100-yard rushing game (110 on 28 carries) in week thirteen against the Browns, but was unable to find the end zone as Trent Green left nothing on the red zone plate for LJ after throwing four scores in the Chiefs 31-28 road loss in Cleveland.  LJ gets a tough draw in the critical week fourteen of the fantasy schedule with visiting Baltimore
3 STL Stephen Jackson Jackson’s symmetrical effort of 96 yards rushing and 69 receiving (on nine receptions) against the Cardinals last Sunday was good, but not scoring and falling short four yards short of the century mark leaves a bad taste in his fantasy owners mouth’s.  This week’s Monday night home game against the Bears is an undesirable match-up for Jackson, as his offensive line, still struggling from the loss of Orlando Pace (tricep) for the season, will be in over their collective heads against a swarming Chicago defensive front seven that is much stronger and faster than them
4 PIT Brian Westbrook Westbrook’s all around effort of 68 yards rushing and 56 receiving on six catches, including a eight yard touchdown reception, helped fuel the Eagles exciting 27-24 Monday night home win in week thirteen.  The 6-6 Eagles now travel to Washington this weekend in must-win mode and will rely on another effort from their offensive anchor, Westbrook, to pace their scoring attack.
5 PHI Frank Gore Gore’s numbers suffered due to the game getting away from his team in the 49ers 34-10 road loss to the Saints, with San Francisco in pass-heavy, catch-up mode, Gore recorded only 40 yards on the ground (from 13 carries), but did manage five receptions for 28 yards.  Struggling Green Bay, fresh off of allowing little known Jets RB Cedric Houston to rush for 105 yards and two touchdowns at Lambeau Field,  pays a visit to Monster Park in week fourteen, providing Gore a promising bounce-back venue for his fantasy owners
6 SF Willie Parker Parker underachieved at home against lowly Tampa Bay in week fourteen, compiling only 86 total yards (61 rushing, 25 receiving) in the Steelers 20-3 home win.  Parker will turn around quickly and host the Browns on Thursday night this week, a team that he scored two touchdowns against in Cleveland three weeks ago
7 MIN Chester Taylor Good news. Taylor fought bravely against the vaunted Bears defense with a bad wrist and in 15 degree weather, earning 99 yards on 17 carries.  Bad news. Backup Ciatric Fason receives a chance to play when Taylor suffers bruised ribs in the third quarter and Fason proceeds to run for 75 yards and a touchdown on only 11 carries, opening up a possible can of worms for having the somewhat worn-down Taylor start to share the load with some fresh legs for the rest of the season
8 NYG Tiki Barber Barber played better in week thirteen against the Cowboys, rushing for 90 yards and adding 53 more on five receptions, after a disappointing week twelve effort against the Titans.  The Giants, losers of four straight, will have another difficult game in week fourteen on the road in Carolina, where the Panthers defensive line has played especially well in recent weeks.  Not a preferred setting if Barber is one of your starting backs heading into your fantasy playoffs
9 CIN Rudi Johnson Johnson was stymied for only 47 yards on the ground on 16 carries last Thursday against the Ravens in the Bengals 13-7 important divisional home win.  Johnson and the Cincy offense should feast this week on a still vulnerable visiting Raiders defense at home.
10 CHI Thomas Jones Jones is in trouble, with backup and backfield rival, Cedric Benson, outplaying him again, this time against the top-ranked run defense of the Minnesota Vikings.  Jones gained only 32 yards on 12 carries while Benson rambled for 60 yards and a touchdown on only nine carries. Jones’ fantasy owner’s hope it’s not too late for him to keep his tenuous hold on the starting job, because the Bears running back that gets the bulk of the carries against the faulty Rams run defense this Monday night should end up with a monster game

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

Climbing Up The Ladder

Ladell Betts  (WAS) –  Betts recorded his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game (3rd of the season) last weekend, rumbling for 155 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in a dominant effort against the visiting Atlanta Falcons.  There has been no noticeable drop off of the Redskins running game since Betts took over for the injured Clinton Portis and with the questionable Eagles run defense headed to Washington this weekend, Betts shapes up to be a solid starter in your lineup for the start of fantasy playoffs

Tatum Bell  (DEN)--  Tatum Bell returned to Denver’s starting lineup in the Monday night 23-20 crushing defeat to the Seattle Seahawks after several weeks missing in action and Bell was a big part in helping the Broncos stay in the game as rookie QB Jay Cutler experienced some growing pains in his first NFL start.  Bell was Denver’s primary chain-mover for a bulk of the game, gaining 133 yards on 23 carries, and Denver will need him to play a large role down the stretch to as they try to salvage their now-vulnerable playoff hopes in the highly competitive AFC.

Reggie Bush (NO) – Bush finally had a single game performance to match the season-long hype he had been receiving, exploding for four touchdowns and 168 total yards, including nine receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.  Bush flashed the swift cuts and acceleration that, since the start of his rookie year in the NFL, could only be found on his college highlight reel, until last Sunday in the Saints 34-10 home win over San Francisco.  Fantasy owners should curb their Bush enthusiasm in week fourteen as the former USC Trojan will play a red-hot Cowboys team in Dallas on Sunday night, a much stiffer challenge for New Orleans than their week thirteen’s slate.  

Edgerrin James (ARZ) – James receives a week fourteen honorable mention after finally breaking into the 100-yard rushing game column for the Arizona Cardinals after thirteen weeks of futility and unmet expectations for the supposed savior of the Cards woeful rushing attack.  A home game this weekend against a vulnerable Seahawks run defense may yield similar results as the Arizona team around him starts to jell under rookie QB Matt Leinart.

Sliding Back

Laurence Maroney (NE) – Maroney was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners in week thirteen, as he was expected to be part of a bountiful day for the New England rushing attack against a weak Lions defense at home last Sunday.  Maroney had been showing signs of starting to takeover the primary role from aging Corey Dillon in the weeks prior and week thirteen’s home game against the Lions seemed like the perfect launch pad for the dynamic rookie.  Instead, the former Golden Gopher left the game early after his fourth carry under a cloud of mystery revealed only by the Patriots as “having the wind knocked out of him”, which was what Maroney’s fantasy owners felt like as well after seeing a total of 14 yards rushing.

Julius Jones (DAL) --  Jones’, a high round pick in most fantasy drafts this Summer, fall from fantasy grace has been slow and steady all season but has picked up momentum in recent weeks with the emergence of Marion Barber II.  Barber was once viewed only as a short yardage back but has become a Bill Parcells fave and is now garnering carries in what used to be Jones’ domain in the Cowboys backfield.  Barber was impressive once again in last Sunday’s critical division win over the New York Giants, gaining 76 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries compared to Julius Jones humble 11 carry, 24 yard effort.  Expect to see this trend continue throughout the fantasy playoff weeks making Barber the desired play for your lineup for the remainder of the season.