Must Start: The Top 15
1. Priest Holmes vs. IND - So
much for that #1 ranked run defense, eh? Priest ran for 139 yards
and four scores before handing over the reins to Derrick Blaylock
promptly rushed for four MORE touchdowns. There simply isn't a
better O-line in the business and when you pair the best O-line
with the best back
well, you're in business.
2. Tiki Barber @ MIN - With
apologies to Mewelde Moore, L.T.'s gimpy groin makes Tiki the
top run-catch threat in the league at the moment. He tallied 172
total yards last week in the losing effort vs. Detroit and also
scored a touch. He should be good for another 150+ and a touch
or two this Sunday as the Giants attempt to outscore the Vikes.
Yeah, good luck with that.
3. Shaun Alexander vs. CAR -
Coach Holmgren has had it up to here and is now vowing a return
to "basics." One can only assume he means a heavy dosage
of Shaun Alexander in Week 8. That would be a good thing for his
owners as the 'Bama alum has proven to be MUCH more productive
when he sees more work (seven touchdowns in games he touches it
more than 20 times).
4. Chris Brown vs. CIN - The
Titans haven't been able to get him untracked since the Monday
night bloodbath at Lambeau. Bad quarterback play has hurt but
so has a defense that's spotting its opponents early leads. If
Coach Fisher knows what's good for him (he does), Brown will get
over 20 carries against a woeful and now woefully depleted (thanks,
Denver) Bengals front seven.
5. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. OAK
- At 100%, he's a Top 5 start every week. At less than 100%
a Top 5 start every week. The yards-per-carry average is well
off last year's pace (4.1 vs. 5.3) but he's still managing to
find the end zone on a regular basis. Good enough for me and,
I suspect, his owners.
6. Ahman Green @ WAS - His 90-yard
score against Dallas was the longest scamper by a running back
this season. And you were worried he might be finished. Precious
few feature backs have his combination of power, moves, and home
run speed. If he has an Achilles heel
but enough about that.
Get him back in there, even against a tough 'Skins run defense.
7. Reuben Droughns vs. ATL -
I might be biased but, more than any other back in the league,
he reminds me a lot of Batman. He hits the hole hard, runs with
great tilt, and refuses to go down on first (or second
third) contact. If you weren't sold on him before last week, you
should be now. He posted his third straight 100-yard performance
on Monday night and is now the lone viable option in the Denver
backfield thanks to Q. Griffin's season-ending injury.
8. Edgerrin James @ KC - He's
tallied more than 100 total yards in every game but one this season,
the fireworks display vs. Green Bay in Week 3. This Sunday, he
draws the much-maligned KC D (4.6 yards per carry and 125.2 per
game). Provided Peyton doesn't hog all the glory, he should be
good for at least 100 more yards and a score.
9. Mewelde Moore vs. NYG - Still
no touchdowns from the Tulane alum and though that would normally
be reason to panic, it isn't in his case. Why? Because he's averaging
over 175 total yards per tilt. I don't know about you but if someone
gave me 17 points per week, I'd be asking where the line forms.
Keep playing him until someone figures out how to slow the kid
10. Curtis Martin vs. MIA -
Only Clinton Portis has more carries this year and though few
would have predicted it before the season started, Martin has
done more (LOTS more) with his opportunities than the 'Skins'
feature back has. He's averaging an uncharacteristic 4.5 yards
per and is on pace for a personal best in TDs. All the more reason
to keep riding this venerable workhorse as the playoffs draw nearer.
11. Corey Dillon @ PIT - Speaking
of venerable workhorses, the Pats turned to him in the Foxboro
quagmire last week and he responded with another 100-yard performance.
Though he didn't score, he's still on pace for about eight touchdowns,
a number that would be above his career average, believe it or
12. Clinton Portis vs. GB -
Don't mistake this Packer D for the one you saw on national TV
a few weeks back. The return of Grady Jackson has emboldened a
previously undersized group and opponents must now throw more
than they had to before. Fortunately, that's something they're
still able to do with remarkable ease. Unfortunately, the 'Skins
still have Mark Brunell. Translation? As Portis goes, so go the
13. Thomas Jones vs. SF - His
numbers have drooped since the season-ending injury to Rex Grossman
but that doesn't mean you should forget about him. The Bears will
do everything possible to get him going and he's just capable
enough to get the job done.
14. Rudi Johnson @ TEN - What
did I tell you? The matchup wasn't ideal but Johnson persevered
to the tune of 119 yards and a touch on Monday night. He faces
a less-than-stellar Titans bunch this week and if the Bengals
have any hope of winning two in a row, he'll need to duplicate
the feat. He will even if his team won't.
15. Fred Taylor @ HOU - His
174 total yards were overshadowed by Byron Leftwich's heroics
but don't think the Jags brain trust didn't notice. Coach Del
Rio knows playoff contenders are almost always built upon the
same foundation: franchise back and solid defense. Check (provided
he stays healthy) and check.
Grab A Helmet:
Sammy Morris @ NYJ - I can't
remember the last time so many fourth-string running backs played
such a prominent role this early in the season. Though Mewelde
Moore and Reuben Droughns have been grabbing all the headlines,
Morris is quietly doing his part in South Florida. It won't alter
the Dolphins' fortunes much but it could affect yours. He's averaged
over 100 total yards the past two weeks and is worth a look if
he's still hanging around on the waiver wire.
Kevan Barlow @ CHI - He's not
100% right now and it doesn't appear he will be the rest of the
season. That means he's strictly a matchup play from here on out.
Luckily for those relying on him, the matchup is a pretty good
one this week. The Bears are giving up a lot of yards on the ground
(139.3 per game) and will continue to do so if the impotent offense
is unable to control the clock.
Domanick Davis vs. JAX - His
numbers don't justify the recommendation but I'm betting the bye
week gave him time to rejuvenate the bum thigh and refocus his
game. It better have or yet another fourth-string rock-toter,
Jonathan Wells, could seize the opportunity that didn't appear
to exist when the season began. And you wonder why I prefer drafting
stud receivers to stud running backs.
Duce Staley vs. NE - Duce seems
pleased with his role as the between-the-twenties chain-mover.
I doubt his owners are overly thrilled with it but then how many
of them actually expected feature back numbers from him? Be happy
with the boring, old reliability and keep plugging him in at the
#2 back slot. You could do a lot worse.
Willis McGahee vs. ARI - He's
been named the starter for Week 8, which means the staff really
likes him or really DOESN'T like Travis Henry. Either way, he
should rise to the occasion and earn the right to keep starting
the rest of the way. One note of caution: Buffalo's O-line is
the worst in football. One more: Arizona has yet to give up a
rushing touchdown this season. On second thought, perhaps he belongs...
Grab A Gatorade:
Any Dallas RB vs. DET -
here. The 'Boys would probably kill to have someone of McGahee's
ability in their backfield. Failing that, they'd probably settle
for someone with a pulse. Alas, there IS no silver lining in Big
just touches of grey as far as the eye can see.
Hey, I went to school in Eugene. Gimme a break, will ya'?
Any Oakland RB @ SD - Speaking
of Eugene, the former Duck, Norv Turner, must be pulling his hair
out trying to figure out a way to get his running game going.
Here's an idea: get Tyrone Wheatley back on the field. Without
Wheatley's bruising style, the Rai-duhs are left with sundry scat
backs and third-down types, none of who will have much success
against the Chargers' league-leading run defense. You read that
right. Stay away.
Brad Hoover @ SEA - He's been
a surprisingly decent stopgap for the injury-ravaged Panthers
but he won't be much help this week. Why? The 'Hawks are seething
and will be looking to lay the wood to a depleted Carolina D.
That means he won't get enough touches as Delhomme and Co. play
come-from-behind most of the day.
Dorsey Levens vs. BAL - He's
been dubbed the starter for Week 8 but that doesn't mean you should
be rushing out to grab him. He's neither the home run nor dual
threat Brian Westbrook is and thus, isn't the type of back who
can exploit a stout Baltimore front. Keep in mind his last relevant
season was 1999
when he was still in Green Bay.
Emmitt Smith @ BUF - The Bills
don't do many things well but stopping the run is definitely one
of them (91.8 yards/game). They're especially rough on between-the-tackles
types like Emmitt, primarily because they field two mountainous
tackles/roadblocks of their own, Sam Adams and Pat Williams. He's
been a pleasant surprise this year but expectations should definitely
be tempered for the cagey vet in Week 8.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends