Must Start: The Top 15
1. Jamal Lewis @ WAS - He was
nothing if not efficient vs. the Chefs, rushing for 73 yards and
a touch on just 15 carries. It's the 15 carries that concern me,
though. Despite being the only thing going for the Baltimore offense,
he's averaging just 19 totes per game. That means the Ravens aren't
staying on the field long enough (just 58 first downs so far).
Of course, 19 carries is better than no carries, the number he'll
be receiving when an expected league suspension gets handed down.
Play him while you can.
2. Ahman Green vs. TEN - Speaking
of diminished carries, his have dropped every week since a season-high
33 to kick off the season against Carolina. Not surprisingly,
that was the only game the Pack won. If they wanna start winning
again, they'll forgive the fumbles and give him the rock 30+ times
against a very inexperienced Titans front having heaps of trouble
slowing down opposing backs (5.5 yards/carry).
3. Chris Brown @ GB - Luckily
for Tennessee, they possess an emerging star at tailback who's
averaging over five yards a carry himself. He didn't get many
touches last week (detecting a trend here?) but that was mainly
'cuz his team got blasted in San Diego. He should redeem himself
against a disgraceful Pack front that allowed Tiki Barber to run
for almost two bills last week.
4. Tiki Barber @ DAL - Did somebody
say Tiki Barber? (Last segue
I promise.) He wasn't even on
the field for the Giants' first few snaps (Ron Dayne was) but
sixty minutes later, he'd garnered 23 carries, 182 yards, and
another score. He'll continue to split time with Dayne but not
in a way that will hurt his fantasy production. Give him another
go against a Dallas team struggling to stop the run.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. JAX
- He wasn't a threat in the passing game (again) but who needs
the passing game when you're ripping off over EIGHT yards per
carry? That's what L.T. did last week and though he'll be hard-pressed
to do it again facing the tough Jags front, he'll still be good
for 100+ total yards and, most likely, a score. He's never a matchup
play so keep him in your lineup.
6. Shaun Alexander vs. STL -
His yards-per-carry (3.6) is remarkably average, especially when
you consider he's faced the Niners D (bad) and the Saints D (worse).
Nevertheless, that sorta thing gets swept under the rug when you
score SIX touchdowns in three games. For the mathematically-declined,
that's two per game, enough to win you one position battle every
7. Edgerrin James vs. OAK -
You'd think a back for the high-flying Colts would get precious
few opportunities to run the football. Think again. To date, Edge
has carried the rock 91 times, good for fourth in the league.
He's also scored four times and hasn't fumbled since doing so
twice in the opener vs. New England. Start him against a Raiders
bunch that will have its hands full with Peyton.
8. Curtis Martin vs. BUF - I
suspected the Jets would be a playoff team this year but not because
they returned Martin at tailback. On a team loaded with emerging
stars (Pennington, Moss, and McCareins to name a few), he looked
to be just a cog. Turns out he's the whole damned machine, logging
tons of carries, a spectacular yards-per-carry average (5.0),
and plenty of TDs. If you were wise enough to snag him, take a
bow. I'm jealous.
9. Marshall Faulk @ SEA - He'd
rather slit his own throat than admit he was wrong but Coach Martz's
actions spoke louder than words Sunday night: 36 rushes, 25 pass
attempts. Not surprisingly, better balance led to a Rams victory.
If Marshall is an integral part of the game plan again, he's a
10. Kevan Barlow vs. ARI - It's
hard to get carries when your squad's getting its collective brains
bashed in but, luckily for Barlow owners, the Niners actually
stand a chance of keeping this one close. Don't underestimate
the pesky Cards, though. They give up a ton of yards on the ground
but have yet to yield a single rushing touchdown and have already
forced a league-high 11 fumbles (eight of them lost).
11. Warrick Dunn vs. DET - The
hamstring injury he suffered against Carolina, though troubling,
appears to be nothing. That means he remains the chief weapon
out of the backfield. He looked pretty good on Sunday (76 yards
and a touch) and will be his usual productive self against the
Lions this week. I promise you'll see T.J. Duckett some, though.
This time I mean it.
12. Clinton Portis vs. BAL -
It's the linemen, stupid! He's averaging only four yards a pop,
over a yard per carry less than his career average of 5.3. Take
away his season-opening TD scamper and the number drops to an
Eddie George-like 3.3. Something is definitely wrong with Washington's
running game and it isn't Portis. Of course, it may as well be
'cuz all we care about is results.
13. Corey Dillon vs. MIA - The
4.9 yards per carry is exciting. The one touchdown is not. He
isn't the main option in New England's offense so you'll hafta
live with top 20 numbers instead of his usual top 10 stuff. That
said, be careful this week against a Miami team that does precisely
one thing well: defense.
14. Fred Taylor @ SD - He has
yet to top the century mark and has only found the end zone once.
Did we overrate him this preseason? Actually, we overrated his
QB which, in turn, has affected the entire offense. Leftwich is
showing signs of coming around and that can only help Mr. Taylor
in the long run. Monitor his progress and start him this week
if you don't have better matchups elsewhere.
15. Lee Suggs @ PIT - His return
energized a moribund Cleveland offense and settled for good one
of training camp's most intriguing positional battles. He's both
more explosive and more instinctive than William Green and all
we need to know about his job security is that he regained the
gig IMMEDIATELY upon returning from injury. Provided he stays
healthy, he's a good play the rest of the way.
Grab A Helmet:
Travis Henry @ NYJ - The next
time he visits the end zone will be his first for 2004. That could
happen in the Meadowlands against a much improved but still susceptible
Jets D. It wouldn't hurt if his line actually blocked someone.
Speaking of which, if Jonas Jennings and Trey Teague are ruled
out, he becomes a very risky play. Keep an eye on the injury reports.
Jonathan Wells or Domanick Davis vs.
MIN - I doubt many owners benefited from Wells' surprise
start last week but those who did should at least think about
doing it again. He carried the rock 26 times for 105 yards and
a touch and now faces an extremely soft Minnesota D. Obviously,
if Davis goes, he's at least as good a play as Wells and more
of a threat in the passing game, to boot.
DeShaun Foster or Stephen Davis @ DEN
- Am I the only Foster owner cursing his/her fate that Stephen
Davis is rushing back into action? Didn't think so. The vet probably
fears he'll lose his hold on the job if he stays out too long
he's probably right. Go with whoever looks like the starter around
game time. We'll reevaluate this potentially thorny situation
Michael Pittman @ NO - I'm no
Pittman fan but it's hard to ignore a matchup as juicy as this
one. The Saints are giving up a truckload of yards on the ground
(159.5/contest) and have also yielded a whopping nine rushing
touchdowns so far, more than two per game. The Fresno product
looked to be in midseason form after his return from suspension
last week (15 carries for 72 yards) so he's a good start in Week
Emmitt Smith @ SF - Wanna know
how New Orleans came by those numbers I just cited? Take a look
at what the venerable Smith did to them last week: 21 carries,
127 yards, one touchdown. Not bad for a guy some writers (ok,
me) wrote off over a season ago. He gets a Niners squad this week
that might be the worst in football.
Duce Staley vs. CLE - Bottom
line: if you can live with the yardage numbers only, he's a decent
second back. If you're jonesing for the touchdowns, leave him
be. He'll probably get a courtesy score here and there but once
the Curtain gets to the goal line, he'll be watching like the
rest of us.
Grab A Gatorade:
Leonard Henry @ NE - A 53-yard
haul helped him post decent numbers last week but you shouldn't
expect that sorta thing from him on a regular basis. He's a third-string
guy being forced to start. Guys who do that for extended periods
of time don't often have lasting success. He's no exception.
Any Oakland RB @ IND - Coach
Turner says he'll resort to a platoon situation now that Ty Wheatley
is expected to miss a month or so. Though you might score some
points with Famous Amos or Zach Crockett, you'll ultimately be
frustrated by the inconsistency and unpredictability of the situation.
Unless someone emerges as the main guy (doubtful), stay away from
this potential headache.
Aaron Stecker vs. TB - The Saints
ran the ball 14 times last weekend, about enough carries to find
out they REALLY miss Deuce McAllister. Fortunately for those who
started Stecker, he made up for his lack of production on the
ground by shagging six passes for 71 yards. This week's contest
should be significantly tougher so starting him again seems ill-advised.
Find someone else and pray for Deuce's speedy recovery.
Any Minnesota RB @ HOU - The
Vikes appeared to have a wealth of options at running back when
the season began. Guess we know why they were loath to part with
some of that depth now, huh? Moe Williams, Mewelde Moore, and
Larry Ned get the work this week and though each is capable of
surprising on his own (even the rook, Moore), I wouldn't be at
all surprised to see them used in a complementary fashion. Three
might be better than one but not in fantasy ball.
Any Detroit RB @ ATL - Artose
Pinner and Shawn Bryson are better than you think but being better
than you think and being a legitimate starting option are two
VERY different things. Atlanta's run defense has been rock-solid
so far (3.0/carry and 62.8/game) and has faced the likes of Barlow,
Faulk, and Foster. Pinner and Bryson aren't names you'd put in
the same sentence with those folks.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends