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The Shot Caller's Report - RBs
Your Weekly Guide To Fantasy Lineups
Positions: QBs | RBs | WRs/TEs

Running Backs

Must Start: The Top 15

1. LaDainian Tomlinson v. BUF – Calling him good is like calling Jessica Alba hot. It’s certainly irrefutable but…well, tell me something I don’t know. He’s had a hand in 18 of San Diego’s 30 offensive scores this year. That means you start him over anybody else you have.

2. Shaun Alexander @ SF – Him, too. Of course, if you have L.T. and Shaun Alexander, you probably could have set your lineup at the start of the year, gone on a European vacation, and come home to collect the hardware in January. He’s averaging over 125 yards and a touch in his career v. the Niners.

3. Edgerrin James @ CIN – Edge still runs a close third to the top two backs, thanks mostly to a league-leading 1,234 yards from scrimmage. If he scored a few more TDs, he’d be giving them a run for their money. This week, he draws a Bengals squad that is out to prove they deserve mention among the league’s elite. They do, though the Colts will remind them how big the gap still is this Sunday.

4. Larry Johnson @ HOU – L.J. is proving what fantasy owners have known all along: given the opportunity, he can be a consistent top five performer. He’s tallied 155 and 176 yards from scrimmage in his first two starts as the feature back and should have no problem racking up similar numbers against Houston’s 30th ranked defense on Sunday night. Start him and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for having the cojones to select him early on draft day.

5. Steven Jackson v. ARI – Jackson was held out of the end zone last weekend in Seattle, the first time he hadn’t scored since Week 3. Lucky for you, he still managed to piece together a pretty decent day, notching 115 total yards. This Sunday, he draws everyone’s favorite fantasy matchup, the down-on-their-luck Cardinals. Expect triple digits on the ground and a score or two as the Rams stay in the wildcard hunt.

6. Tiki Barber v. PHI – Nobody’s talking about it in light of the result (a stunning 24-21 loss at the hands of Minnesota), but Barber accumulated more than 200 total yards for the second time in three weeks last weekend. Better yet, he also found the end zone. If New York wants to get back on track, they’ll need a similar effort from Tiki this Sunday. He’s averaging over 115 yards per game against the Eagles in his career so there’s definitely some precedent there. Start him.

7. Brian Westbrook @ NYG – With _____ awaiting an arbitrator’s decision and McNabb contemplating season-ending surgery, the Eagles’ once-promising ’05 campaign is going south in a hurry. That doesn’t mean you should downgrade Mr. Westbrook. He showed us last week he can still tote the rock, garnering 86 yards on the ground and another 32 through the air. Expect 100+ yards and a score this weekend as Philly attempts to reverse their flagging fortunes against the division front-runner. He’s about all they have left.

8. Lamont Jordan @ WAS – Jordan hasn’t topped the century mark in three weeks but still excels as a pass-catching option out of the backfield, averaging almost 45 yards/game as a receiver. Though I still think it’s strange they’d look to him so often (what about Moss and Porter, guys?), it’s reason enough to give him the nod again this weekend.

9. Domanick Davis v. KC – He’s flakier than your grandma’s Thanksgiving biscuits but all signs point to him starting this weekend. If he does, you definitely want him in your lineup. The Texans don’t have a ton of confidence in their passing game right now (or hadn’t you noticed?) and will rely heavily on the running game to keep it close against KC. If he ends up being a last-minute scratch, go with Jonathan Wells (and knock him back a few spots).

10. Samkon Gado v. MIN – It’s been a forgettable season for the faithful Cheeseheads but just when it seemed all was lost, in blew a 5’11”, 210-pound breath of fresh air named Samkon Gado. All he’s done since taking over the top spot one game and 50-some minutes ago is rush for 165 yards and score four touchdowns. Not bad numbers for a guy who wasn’t even AVAILABLE in Yahoo! leagues a month ago. I’m talking not even in the player listings. Your feel-good story of the year, folks, especially if he parlays his auspicious start into a long, successful career.

11. Ronnie Brown @ CLE – His career will almost certainly be long and successful, especially when the Fish decide to scrap the committee approach and give him a chance to do his thing. For now, you hafta be content with the 15 or so carries he gets on a weekly basis…and hope like hell Miami finds a taker for Ricky next season. Start him against Cleveland’s very dubious run defense (132.7 yards/game), as he should be good for 75-100 yards and a score.

12. Stephen Davis @ CHI – 75-100 yards? Not likely. A score? Take it to the bank. Chicago’s front is too good to yield huge numbers to Davis but keeping him out of the end zone is another thing entirely. After all, he’s only been shut out twice this season. Start him.

13. Mike Anderson v. NYJ – Anderson’s developing quite the little end zone habit himself of late, having found paydirt in every one of his last four games. Though he still loses touches to the dynamic Tatum Bell, he’s definitely option 1A in the Denver running game. Considering they average over 165 rushing yards per tilt, that’s not a bad option to be. Give him the start against New York’s crummy front seven.

14. Warrick Dunn v. TB – Dunn squares off against his former mates this weekend in a game that will have definite playoff implications. The winner puts itself in the driver’s seat for a wildcard berth while the loser puts itself squarely behind the eight ball. If Atlanta hopes to secure the victory, they’ll need a big game from their meal ticket, the versatile Dunn. I’m sure he’d like nothing better than to oblige.

15. Clinton Portis v. OAK – He isn’t the most consistent back in the world but is certainly capable of big numbers when the cards fall just right. The weird part? His best two games this season have come against Chicago and Tampa, two of the top six defenses in the league. Don’t really know what that says about him, but…. Give him the nod against Oakland’s susceptible eleven this Sunday

Grab A Helmet:

Rudi Johnson v. IND – He’s coming off one of his most productive days of the season (29 carries for 97 yards and a score) and still has a chance to make some noise down the stretch. The only reason he stays out of the top 15 this week? Indy. Defensively, they’ve shown vast improvement over years past. Offensively, they’re starting to hit on all cylinders. That could mean the Bengals are forced to throw more than even THEY want to on Sunday. Expect modest totals from Rudi as a result, though he could sneak one across at some point.

Thomas Jones v. CAR – Ced Benson is out, Jones is off the injury report, and order has been restored in the Chicago backfield…we think. There’s the still the potential problem of Adrian Peterson poaching carries. Fact is, he probably deserves them. I can’t shake the thought that Coach Lovie will want to take it easy on his meal ticket by offering some touches to his new backup from here on out. Whether they’re critical touches or not (read: near the goal line) remains to be seen.

Reuben Droughns v. MIA – Droughns is one of the few backs who hasn’t shared a backfield with someone at some point in time this season. Though his numbers aren’t exactly staggering as a result, they’re certainly very respectable. In fact, I owe him credit for at least two victories in our FF Today experts league. Time for a public “thank you.” Go Ducks, baby!

Greg Jones @ TEN – Fragile Fred’s acting fragile again so Jones gets another start for the Jags this weekend in Nashville. If he performs as well as he did last week, we could even be looking at (yet) another committee situation. He isn’t the home run hitter the former Gator is, but he certainly makes up for it between the tackles (25 carries, 106 yards, and a score in Week 10). Start him without hesitation.

Heath Evans v. NO – Search me, folks. I make it a point not to watch SEC football (overrated) so I really don’t know much about the guy. All I know is he came out of nowhere last weekend to tally 102 total yards in the win over Miami. Corey Dillon appears to be a scratch again so if you’re banged up in the backfield, give him a look.

Grab A Gatorade:

Jamal Lewis PIT – 53.3 rushing yards/game. One rushing touchdown. Three fumbles. Not exactly the kind of production you’re looking for from a guy drafted late first round, early second in most drafts. It’s a two-horse race for bust of the year (Kevin Jones being the other candidate) and Jamal’s out to a fairly sizeable lead as we head down the homestretch. Expect him to extend that lead after a dud against the Steelers this Sunday.

Kevan Barlow v. SEA – The ridiculous conditions at Soldier Field last Sunday meant Barlow received more touches than he usually manages (24 attempts). However, since he’s still Kevan Barlow, he parlayed the extra looks into precisely jack squat (58 yards and no scores). The Frank Gore experiment is about to commence and you don’t wanna be left holding this guy when it does. Deal him, drop him, or sit him. He has very little value from here on out.

Willis McGahee @ SD – Guys this good don’t usually end up on the “don’t start” list but he’s got a couple things working against him this weekend. Number one: J.P. Losman is back under center. Number two: the Chargers are sporting the league’s best run defense. It all adds up to a disappointing day for the usually stalwart McGahee. Sit him down for the last time.

Marcel Shipp @ STL – Until Denny Green stops calling him the starter, I’m not going to stop mentioning him. Besides, it’s kinda fun rehashing his weekly totals, isn’t it? Last week: four carries, three yards. You could have done better with almost every single backup in the league, including his own (J.J. Arrington). If you don’t believe me, start going down the list. Scary, huh?

Any Minnesota RB @ GB – I’m not usually this prone to schadenfreude, but wasn’t it just a bit satisfying to see Coach Tice cut down by a wayward gunner on punt coverage last Sunday? OK, maybe I’m outta line here. I’ll say it and you can think it. How’s that?

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends