Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ IND -
He WAS the Chargers offense last week (111 yards and two TDs)
and should shine again this Sunday on the fast track at Indy.
Though the Colts are improving on defense, they still give up
4.7 yards/carry and over 120 per game. Expect L.T. to hit the
century mark (easy) and score at least two times in this weekend's
2. Shaun Alexander vs. ARI -
The disappointing 'Hawks are still (miraculously) in control of
the NFC West but need a win against the Cardinals to breathe a
little easier. Lucky for them, Arizona brings one of the league's
worst run defenses to the Emerald City (4.8 per carry and 133.4
per game). If Coach Holmgren wants to salvage his season (and
his job), he'll give the ball to his meal ticket 30+ times.
3. Larry Johnson vs. OAK - Johnson
is averaging almost seven yards PER CARRY in his last three contests
and has tallied at least one 30+-yard tote in each of those games.
Not too shabby for a guy who supposedly lacks a second gear. He
may not be Priest Holmes but running behind the best O-line in
the business (three Pro Bowl-ers), it doesn't really matter. Start
him against a shabby Raiders front that yields 130 yards per game.
4. Corey Dillon @ NYJ - Speaking
of the Pro Bowl, how does he not make it? I know the competition
is fierce but 1,430 yards and 12 touchdowns (and counting) oughta
do the trick. I'm betting Mr. Dillon will play with a fairly sizeable
chip on his shoulder as he squares off against one of the guys
who prevented a return trip to Hawaii.
5. Curtis Martin vs. NE - Not
that C-Mart didn't deserve a little fun in the sun himself. All
he's done this year is run for over 1,500 yards (tops in the league)
and score 14 touchdowns. Oh, and lead the Jets to a sterling 10-4
record. One of his worst games came in Foxboro so he may have
a little something to prove at the Meadowlands, as well. Expect
80-100 yards, at least one score, and a fair amount of redemption.
6. Rudi Johnson vs. NYG - He
hasn't faced many bad defenses this year but the last time he
did, he ran roughshod over the Browns to the tune of two bills
and two scores. The G-men are almost just as bad vs. the run (139.1
yards/game) and will have a difficult time slowing Rudi down as
he closes in on a 1,500-yard season. Did you KNOW he was on pace
for 1,500 yards? Watch out for him next year, wherever he lands.
7. Kevin Jones vs. CHI - Despite
an anemic passing attack (until last week) the former Hokie is
averaging almost five yards per carry. That tells me he can get
to the second level and, when there, take it to the house. While
we're on the subject of taking it to the house, he's done so one
time in each of his last three contests. Make it four (if not
more) in his last four after this weekend's matchup with the Bears.
8. Tiki Barber @ CIN - For whatever
reason, he's getting fewer touches with Eli under center than
he did when Kurt Warner was in charge. That doesn't make sense
to me but so long as he keeps finding the end zone (two scores
in his last two tilts), I don't much care. This week, he faces
a Cincy run defense that ranks among the league's worst (4.3 per
carry and 131.4 per game). Go ahead and start him.
9. Ahman Green @ MIN - Though
I watch every minute of every Packer game, I was shocked to discover
he hasn't scored a touch in his last FIVE outings. Guess it only
seems like he's scoring? You've got to do better than "seems"
at this point in the season and I suspect he will this weekend
against a vulnerable Vikes group. Mark him down for another 100
yards and at least one trip to the end zone.
10. Brian Westbrook @ STL - The loss of T.O. means the offensive
burden falls squarely on Westbrook's shoulders. He's not only
the team's best running back. He's now its best receiver, as well.
Appropriately, I think his production will increase significantly
with Owens on the shelf. Expect 125-150 total yards and a touchdown
11. Edgerrin James vs. SD -
Not surprisingly, Edge struggled to get much going against Ray-Ray
and Co. last week (22 carries for 69 yards). Nevertheless, he
did find paydirt and was enough of a threat to keep the Ravens
from dropping too many men into coverage. He won't fare much better
against San Diego's stellar cast but could score a cheapy if the
chips fall just so. They usually do with Peyton running the show.
12. Fred Taylor vs. HOU - It
figures. The guy hasn't scored since the advent of facemasks but
somehow manages to tag six on my boys at Lambeau. Just for good
measure, he racked up 165 rushing yards, as well. Fortunately
for his owners, he faces an equally porous Texans squad this weekend.
Unfortunately, he's still Fred Taylor (read: he's listed as questionable).
Monitor the injury reports but give him the start if everything
looks good on Sunday.
13. Deuce McAllister vs. ATL -
He's run the ball 55 times the past two weeks, roughly the same
amount of carries he tallied the previous FOUR weeks. Not surprisingly,
the Saints are now riding a two-game winning streak. I'm no rocket
. The Dirty Birds will be missing some key
people this weekend and that could lead to a pretty big day for
14. Jerome Bettis vs. BAL -
The Steel City may have fallen in love with the other Duce (Mr.
Staley) but they never fell OUT of love with the Bus. Secretly,
I'm betting most of them are happy the former is still banged
up. Why? Because the latter gives them the best chance of making
some noise in the playoffs. The lighter workload means he's still
fresh enough to gouge the Ravens for 80-100 yards and a score.
15. Domanick Davis @ JAX - Though
he only has two 100-yard rushing efforts to his credit, he's still
a major threat in the passing game (59 catches for 515 yards)
and has scored in every one of his last seven games. In fact,
the last time he didn't score, he was squaring off against Jacksonville.
Expect him to make amends at Alltel this Sunday.
Grab A Helmet:
Michael Pittman vs. CAR - Pittman
did everything but score last week, accounting for 141 total yards.
Unfortunately, he also lost a critical fumble. Will that affect
his status as the go-to guy this week? Don't bet on it. Tampa
doesn't have any other legit options, unless you still consider
Mike Alstott legit. Don't forget Pittman lit the Panthers up for
134 receiving yards and two scores in the Week 12 matchup.
Nick Goings @ TB - Goings was
finally held under 100 yards last week but he still managed 90
total yards and a score in the heartbreaking loss at the Georgia
Dome. It's tempting to think he'll struggle against the Bucs,
as well, but Tampa is no longer the run-stopping force it once
was (4.2 yards/carry and 123.2/game). Expect 75-100 tough yards
and another score at Raymond James.
Warrick Dunn @ NO - He disappeared
for the better part of seven games but has now strung together
back-to-back 100-yard outings. Even better? He's carried the ball
53 times in those two games. He's always maximized his touches
so it stands to reason that more touches means even more production
from the former Seminole. With Mr. Vick holding a clipboard, he'll
certainly be the show in New Orleans.
Jamal Lewis @ PIT - He's been
one of the bigger fantasy disappointments this season and if the
injury reports are to be believed (questionable at press time),
he still has time to disappoint this week, too. Then again, if
he plays, he should see plenty of touches. How else are the Ravens
gonna move the ball against Pittsburgh's stingy D? Give him a
look if you're strapped for backs.
Lee Suggs @ MIA - Butch Davis
was unusually committed to William Green but now that he's out
of the way, it wouldn't surprise me to see Suggs become the feature
guy in Cleveland. There are better things to be than the feature
guy in Cleveland but at least Mr. Suggs has the kind of shiftiness
and breakaway speed to give Browns fans some hope. He's your super-sneaky
start of the week.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevan Barlow vs. BUF - He's
been re-anointed the starter for this weekend, but don't go thinking
you've found the missing piece to your playoff puzzle. He didn't
do much against weaker opponents (Arizona, Chicago, Miami) so
there's no reason to think he'll do anything against a surging
Bills squad, either. That would be the same Bills squad sporting
the league's fourth-best run defense. Steer clear.
Julius Jones vs. WAS - Jones
is gonna be a stud in the future and by "future," I
mean next week. This week? No. Not against a Washington front
giving up only 83.1 rushing yards per game. If you were counting
on the kid to win you a fantasy championship, sorry.
Any Oakland RB @ KC - There's
no possible way you're counting on one of these clowns to lead
you to a fantasy championship. I'll assume we can leave it at
Any St. Louis RB vs. PHI - Need
further proof that Mike Martz isn't as smart as he thinks he is?
The Rams faced one of the league's worst run defenses last week
with Jamie Martin under center. Total rushing attempts: Ten. TEN!!!
JAMIE MARTIN!!! AAAAHHHH!!!
Any Denver RB @ TEN - Reuben
Droughns and Tatum Bell are both capable of posting huge numbers
against the Titans' undermanned defense. Unfortunately, neither
has the full confidence of his coach at the moment, mostly because
of ball security issues. That means it's committee city for the
Broncos. It may work for them but it's unlikely to work for you.
Go in another direction.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends