Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ CLE
- The Bolts are probably a win away from clinching a playoff berth
and if that's not the biggest surprise of the '04-'05 season,
I don't know what is. The reasons for their success are numerous
but it all starts with L.T. He's scored in every game but one
and is coming off a 150-yard performance against the stingy Bucs
last week. He's a lead-pipe lock to score against a Browns squad
that is horrible against the run (145.2 yds/game)
2. Corey Dillon @ MIA - Believe
it or not, Miami's run defense isn't much better (138.8 yards/game).
That doesn't bode well with Mr. Dillon and the 12-1 Pats coming
to town. Expect him to reach the century mark and score a touch
or two this Monday night.
3. Curtis Martin vs. SEA - Predictably,
he struggled to get much going in Pittsburgh last week (24 carries
for 72 yards). Nevertheless, with Chad Pennington flailing, he's
the best hope the Jets have of being a threat in the postseason.
He should bounce back against a Seattle bunch that has gotten
progressively worse this season.
4. Willis McGahee @ CIN - Cincinnati's
run defense hasn't gotten any worse this season. Problem is, it
wasn't very good to begin with. McGahee should defniitely find
some room to roam against a group that gives up 4.5 yards/carry
and 138.2 yards/game.
5. Shaun Alexander @ NYJ - He
tumbles to the no. 5 slot this week thanks to a Jets defense that
has been astonishingly formidable this year (just 14.8 points/game
yielded). He will likely get 20-25 carries and log a few receptions
but expecting much more than 80-100 yards and a score would be
unwise. It's just not an ideal matchup, my friends.
6. Michael Pittman vs. NO -
Now, THIS is an ideal matchup. Pittman's numbers were off a bit
last week but he still managed to rack up almost 90 total yards
against San Diego's stellar front. There's nothing stellar about
the Saints' front, a group that gives up 4.7 yards/carry and almost
150 per game. If you're looking for the unlikely fantasy superstar
of the week, look no further. He's gonna have a huge day.
7. Jerome Bettis @ NYG - I,
for one, am tired of being jerked around by the Duce Staley injury
situation. Fortrunately, the picture appears to be clear this
week. He won't play, meaning the Bus can go back to carrying the
ball 30 times for 100+ yards and a score or two, numbers that
should be easy to attain against New York's questionable D.
8. Ahman Green vs. JAX - Only
a dubious holding penalty on rookie center, Scott Wells, prevented
Batman from posting big numbers last week. The call was made on
a catch-and-run that covered 75 yards and reached the end zone.
As it stands, he was credited with just 96 total yards and no
scores, numbers he should surpass this weekend against the Jags,
though not easily.
9. Domanick Davis @ CHI - When
he gets involved in the passing game like he did last week (six
catches for 73 yards), look out. His 200+ total yard output and
touchdown were likely enough to push you into the next round if
you played him. Of course, if you did, you have no good reason
not to do so again. Chicago fields one of the lousier teams in
the league and it's conceivable Dom could post similar numbers
10. Julius Jones @ PHI - Like
many of you, I expected a litle more from him last week. Nevertheless,
96 total yards and a score are better than a poke in the eye with
a short stick
especially come playoff time. If he posts similar
numbers this week, you should be elated. Philly isn't very good
against the run but is getting better and still doesn't give up
11. Clinton Portis @ SF - He
picked a heckuva time to start putting up good numbers, eh? I
doubt you're still reading this if you started him all year but
if you managed to reach the playoffs in spite of him (or picked
him up late in the year), give him a look this weekend. The Niners
are a disaster in all phases of the game. He should have no problem
running for 100 yards and scoring a touchdown or two this Saturday.
12. Edgerrin James vs. BAL -
He didn't reach the end zone last week (not unusual) but he did
manage to tally over 150 total yards. That probably makes up for
the scoreless effort. He draws a tough matchup this week but you
don't sit Colts come playoff time
13. Brian Westbrook vs. DAL
- Last week's effort (59 rushing yards and 59 passing yards) was
vintage Westbrook. He'll almost never get 20 touches in a game
(especially when the Eagles clinch home field) but he always turns
those touches into positive yardage and, occasionally, six points.
There are better starts on a weekly basis but he makes a great
#2 guy and a fantastic flex start.
14. Nick Goings @ ATL - For
the fourth consecutive game, Goings went over the 100-yard mark.
More impressively, he's averaging 28 carries per in those four
outings. That tells me he's a horse who can handle the banging
and can wear defenses down late in games. Atlanta's undersized
front has performed admirably this year but could struggle to
slow this big brute down.
15. Larry Johnson vs. DEN -
Speaking of big brutes, Johnson is starting to look like a big-time
prospect for '05, provided he gets an opportunity to be the man
somewhere. He only managed nine touches last Monday night but
turned them into 123 total yards and two long touchdown runs.
That's a lotta bang for your buck and enough reason to give him
another go this Sunday.
Grab A Helmet:
Fred Taylor @ GB - He's tallied
over 100 total yards in eight of his last nine contests. That
would make him a top 10 back but for the fact he's scored only
ONE touchdown in that same span. It's the same ol' sad song for
Taylor owners. If you can live with the yards alone, keep playing
him. If not
why haven't you dished him yet?
Kevin Jones vs. MIN - It took
a while but Jones is now showing us why he was the first running
back chosen in last April's draft. He's averaging over 137 yards
per game in his last four and has also found the end zone in the
last two weeks. You hate to rely on rooks come playoff time (at
least, I do) but he looks like a pretty decent start against Minnesota's
porous D this Sunday.
Onterrio Smith @ DET - He hasn't
gone over the century mark since being handed the starting job
but that's probably because he hasn't carried the ball more than
20 times. Why not? Couldn't tell you. Then again, what can we
expect from a Coach who asks his all-world receiver to throw (not
catch) the winning TD pass last Sunday? Oh, by the way? Moss's
ill-fated toss was intercepted, sealing Minny's fate.
Steven Jackson @ ARI - It appears
both he and Marshall will be back in the fold this weekend and
that's a good thing for the Rams, especially if Marc Bulger is
unable to go again. Though Marshall would likely get some touches,
Jackson is more likely to get the bulk of the carries. That means
he's got a decent chance of topping the 100-yard mark and scoring
Rudi Johnson vs. BUF - The Bengals
won't scale back the offense for Jon Kitna but that doesn't mean
they won't lean heavily on Mr. Johnson this Sunday. He's usually
good for 20-25 carries and 90-100 yards, numbers he'll be hard-pressed
to reach against the tough Bills front. Expect something more
modest, like 75 yards and, if you're lucky, a touchdown.
Grab A Gatorade:
Maurice Hicks vs. WAS - After
watching him run roughshod over the Cardinals last week, we're
left to ponder two things: A) why is Kevan Barlow so bad and B)
can the undrafted free agent sensation who stole his job do it
again? I can't answer the first question (though I suspect Barlow
was never that good to begin with) but I can definitely answer
the second: no
at least, not this year. The Redskins are
giving up a meager 3.1 yards/carry and Hicks is going to struggle
this week. Worse yet? He faces Buffalo and New England to close
out the season. Not exactly great matchups.
Tiki Barber vs. PIT - He managed
to find the end zone against Baltimore's stellar D last week but
then promptly cancelled out the score by putting the ball on the
carpet a couple times. Ya' gotta feel for Tiki owners, don't you?
He was, arguably, the best value back in the draft up until the
point Commandante Coughlin lost his mind and decided to start
Eli Manning. Here's hoping you were able to unload Mr. Barber
before disaster struck.
Any Miami RB vs. NE - Eeny,
meeny, miney, NO!
Any Oakland RB vs. TEN - Ditto,
though the combo of Zereoue and J.R. Redmond managed to tally
100 total yards last week. Still, too many faces, not enough talent.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends