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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. Priest Holmes vs. ATL - I've made the mistake of underrating him before when the matchup appears unfavorable. Though matchups don't get much more unfavorable than Atlanta's league-leading run defense (74.5 per game), he's not going anywhere. He torched the equally stalwart Ravens D two weeks ago and should do the same vs. the Dirty Birds this Sunday.

2. Deuce McAllister @ OAK - The Rai-duhs have given up over 150 yards rushing for three consecutive weeks. They probably would have been THRILLED to give up only 150 last week against Denver (they yielded 254). Coach Haslett's no genius but he's smart enough to know Deuce left, Deuce right, and Deuce up the middle should suffice to get the Saints back in the win column.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson @ CAR - What else can I say? He's good for nearly 100 yards and at least a touch every single week. Sometimes he gives you more. Occasionally (though rarely) he gives you less. Bottom line: you don't sit him, especially against a shockingly porous Carolina front.

4. Reuben Droughns @ CIN - You like rags to riches stories? Try unknown to unsung to Top 5 in three, short weeks. It's a trick Droughns has managed to pull off by rushing for HEAPS of yardage (369) in two starts. His third matchup is the best one yet: a Cincinnati defense giving up a league-worst 160.4 yards/game. "Or-e-gon, our al-ma ma-ter!"

5. Shaun Alexander @ ARI - The 'Hawks don't have the D or the receiving corps to fulfill their prophecy as chic Super Bowl pick this year. At least they have a Super Bowl-caliber back when they do manage to fix those problem areas. Alexander has been steady as a rock and is a scoring machine from the tailback position. He draws a well-rested but questionable Arizona D in Week 7.

6. Tiki Barber vs. DET - He heads up my all-surprise team this season, which is all the MORE surprising because he's sharing the ball with Ron Dayne this season, something he didn't do last year. Detroit is actually pretty good vs. the run but Tiki does almost as much damage through the air. Get him back in there.

7. Ahman Green vs. DAL - He was hum-drumming along to the tune of 80 yards last week when, out of nowhere, he tossed a 20-yard scoring strike to Don Driver. We'll take 'em any way you can give 'em, Batman. The return of Najeh Davenport will eat into his carries (maybe even on the goal line) but that's no reason to sit him. He's a good start against a suddenly susceptible Dallas front.

8. Edgerrin James vs. JAX - It's been a while since he was considered a Top 5 back but he's closer than you think to reclaiming that status. He's averaging over three digits a game and scoring once per contest, as well. Though it might be tempting to bench him against the stingy Jags, don't. He's already ripped them for 100 yards and a touch once this year.

9. Curtis Martin @ NE - Though the competition has been suspect, Martin is consistently proving why he still deserves to be mentioned with the top backs on a weekly basis. We'll find out what he's really made of this Sunday against his old mates, the league's best, in Foxboro. I'm betting he answers the bell…again.

10. Corey Dillon vs. NYJ - Apparently he CAN be just as productive with less work. He's aided by the fact New England rarely plays from behind and also benefits from more than his share of short fields. If the Jets give him some this week, the Pats faithful will be chanting what the Pats faithful always chants after a New England victory: "YANKEES SUCK!"

11. Chris Brown @ MIN - Remember that discussion we had about his proneness to injury? I won't rub it in since he should still play this Sunday but you've now been officially warned…twice. Expect big numbers if he gets enough carries this week. That depends as much on how well the Tennessee D plays as it does his health.

12. Mewelde Moore vs. TEN - That selfsame Tennessee D is gonna have its hands full contending with Daunte and the stacked Minny receiving corps. Just one problem: focusing on the pass leaves the versatile Moore free to wreak havoc out of the backfield. He won't score (Viking backs have zero TDs thus far) but who needs scores when you're averaging (averaging!) 185 total yards per contest?

13. Brian Westbrook @ CLE - He's gone over 20 carries just once this season, which isn't a lot by feature back standards. In fact, if he weren't a threat in the passing game, there wouldn't be all that much to get excited about. Luckily, he's a dangerous check-down receiver who thrives in the wide-open Philly attack. We need more touchdowns but the one he scored against Carolina last week is a start. Gotta start somewhere, right?

14. Emmitt Smith vs. SEA - Emmitt isn't getting a ton of carries either, but he's doing something with them that Westbrook generally isn't: scoring touchdowns. That's no small feat on a team without Anquan Boldin and with Josh McCown. Boldin is slated to return sooner rather than later so you might wanna give the cagey vet a looksy if he's still on the waiver wire.

15. Fred Taylor @ IND - His numbers (zero 100-yard games so far) don't really stand out but he still has a gear most other backs don't. Need proof? Crank up the Tivo and watch his 64-yard TD scamper (a passing play) against the Chiefs last week. It's this ability alone that keeps him in my Top 15.

Grab A Helmet:

Marshall Faulk or Steven Jackson @ MIA - Don't say you weren't warned. Faulk and his protégé split the touches almost right down the middle Monday night with Marshall going for 69 total yards and Jackson 78. Though that's awesome for St. Louis, it's sad news for fantasy owners. You can expect them both to put up decent numbers in the high-powered Rams offense but nothing earth-shattering. In other words, temper the expectations from here on out.

Sammy Morris vs. STL - Some teams have an embarrassment of riches at the position. Others struggle to get by with castoffs. Morris is the FOURTH different back to earn a starting nod this season, which should tell you all you need to know about Miami's fortunes thus far. Happily for the Fish, he appears to be somewhat talented. He's big, can catch, and managed to lay 91 yards on a tough Buffalo D last week. Give him a go if you're out of options.

Rudi Johnson vs. DEN - The combination of Carson Palmer's struggles and a lousy defense makes Rudi an iffy start the rest of the way. He would seem to be especially iffy against the top-ranked Denver D but I have a feeling the Monday night spotlight will bring out his best. 100 yards is doubtful but a touchdown seems likely. Call me crazy.

Michael Pittman vs. CHI - You'd never rely on this dual threat as a #1 back, but he makes a surprisingly decent #2. He's averaging close to 70 yards a game and does that despite sharing carries with Mike Alstott (yes, he's still playing.) He faces a Chicago defense in Week 7 that gives up close to 140 rushing yards a game and 4.3 per carry.

Thomas Jones @ TB - Thanks to Jones, the Bears stand a decent chance of matching the rushing yards their dubious defense gives up every week. Unlike the stud backs, he needs help. However, running behind an underrated line, he's a decent start on a weekly basis…even with (gasp!) Quinn or Krenzel leading the offense.

William Green or Lee Suggs vs. PHI - Provided, of course, you can figure out who will get the most carries. I'm usually pretty good at handicapping running back derbies but this one has me totally mystified. Just when you think Suggs is gonna take over, Green gets 25 carries. Though Coach Davis is likely to frustrate us the rest of the season, there's an outside chance the two can peacefully co-exist. Either one is worth a start if you're short-handed this weekend.

Grab A Gatorade:

Travis Henry or Willis McGahee @ BAL - McGahee actually looked pretty decent last week but he heads back to the bench this Sunday as Henry returns from injury. It doesn't really matter since neither back is likely to solve Ray-Ray and the vicious Baltimore front. Wait for a better matchup.

Chester Taylor or Musa Smith vs. BUF - Can you say eight in the box? Jamal's replacements are gonna be hard-pressed to do anything spectacular against a Bills squad loaded up to contain them. That says something about the respect (or lack thereof) Buffalo has for Kyle Boller. Wait for Jamal's return.

Stephen Davis vs. SD - Believe it or not, the Chargers possess the 2nd-rated run defense heading into Week 7. If it were Week 3, I'd be inclined to call it a fluke. Six weeks of solid production, however, tells me there's more to it than mere luck. It's not like Davis is tearing it up this year, anyway. Expect a mildly disappointing, double-digit performance in Charlotte this Sunday.

Any Dallas RB @ GB - How hopeless is the Dallas running attack? I can't even recommend them against the Swiss cheesehead D of Green Bay. Though someone (Richie Anderson?) might score, it's anybody's guess who that person will be on a game-in, game-out basis. Steer clear for now and for the foreseeable future.

Any Oakland RB vs. NO - The deplorable Saints D surrendered an astonishing 605 yards of total offense to Minnesota last week. That would seem to make the Oakland backs-ANY Oakland back-a good play. The problem is Oakland's backs are pretty deplorable in their own right. Rule of thumb: you should always resist using bad personnel, even when the matchup looks great.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends