Must Start: The Top 15
1. Larry Johnson @ NYG –
If Edge and Alexander see limited duty in the final few weeks,
Johnson could actually end up leading the league in rushing. Though
a stretch, for sure, it’s certainly remarkable that we’re
even talking about the possibility, especially when you consider
he didn’t grab the starting role until Week 9 (!!!) He’s
scored eight times in the last four weeks and will likely score
twice more this weekend at the Meadowlands. In fact, I’m
gonna go ahead and guarantee it.
2. LaDainian Tomlinson @ IND –
He sure picked a helluva time to go on a scoreless streak, huh?
Since tallying 184 yards and three TDs against Washington in Week
12, L.T. has been held out of the end zone (and under 100 yards)
in two straight tilts. He’d better reverse field (and quick)
if the Bolts intend on making the playoffs.
3. Shaun Alexander @ TEN –
Seattle’s comfortably in the playoffs but still needs a
win to secure home-field advantage throughout. That means Alexander
is a great start for at least one more week. Expect 100 yards
and a couple TDs as they do exactly that this Sunday in Nashville.
4. Tiki Barber v. KC –
Tiki tallied close to 200 total yards in the OT win over Philly
last weekend and also managed to find paydirt for the first time
in four games. Even better, he’s touched the rock more than
30 times per game the last three contests. Clearly, the Giants
know who butters their bread. Give him the start as he toasts
an average Chefs D this weekend.
5. Rudi Johnson @ DET –
The upside of Cleveland’s prevent approach last weekend?
Johnson’s 180 total yards. You can take away the Cincy passing
game or you can take away Rudi. You cannot, apparently, take away
both. I’m betting the Lions won’t be able to take
away either this Sunday as the Bengals demolish them and secure
that much thirsted-for playoff berth.
6. Domanick Davis v. ARI –
He’s the only thing that’s gone right for Houston
this season, regularly racking up 100-yard days despite no help
from the passing attack. Though listed as a game-time decision,
it appears he’ll play this weekend. That means you definitely
want him in your lineup. He’s gone for 171 and 189 total
yards in his last two, respectively, and should be somewhere in
that neighborhood on Sunday if he’s healthy. Keep an eye
on the situation.
7. Edgerrin James v. SD –
The Jags bottled him up reasonably well in the running game but
Edge made up for it by snagging nine receptions for 61 yards,
giving him 154 total yards on the afternoon. That’s 13 straight
triple-digit days if you’re scoring at home. I suspect the
Chargers might keep him under 100 this Sunday but won’t
be able to keep him out of the end zone. Expect 75-90 yards on
the ground and a score at the RCA Dome.
8. LaMont Jordan v. CLE –
I’m not sure which is worse, that Oakland scored 10 points
against the Jets defense or that they gave up 26 to the previously
moribund Jets O. Anyway you slice it, the ugly loss likely cost
Norv Turner his job. It definitely cost Marques Tuiasosopo his,
meaning the Raiders will be led by Kerry Collins once again. I
think that makes Jordan more valuable as the Browns won’t
be able to load up on the former Terrapin like they would if Tui
were lining up under center. Start him.
9. DeShaun Foster @ NO –
There were several discouraging performances in Week 14 but Foster’s
was certainly the most painful from a personal standpoint. I can
stomach losing to Larry Johnson (even when he’s owned by
my boss) but not when my boys (namely, Foster) don’t even
put up a fight. He’ll bounce back this weekend against a
crappy Saints bunch but not soon enough to save me. How ‘bout
10. Thomas Jones v. ATL –
He scored for the first time since Week 6 last weekend and though
it wasn’t enough, it was certainly an encouraging sign as
we head down the homestretch. This week, he draws an Atlanta D
giving up 4.6 yards/carry and close to 120 yards per game. We
know Kyle Orton can’t win it for the Bears so it’s
all gonna rest on Jones’ shoulders. Expect 100 yards and
a score as they fall just short on Sunday night.
11. Samkon Gado @ BAL –
He’s living proof that talent, no matter how far off the
radar, always gets out-ed in the NFL. Combining the explosiveness
of a youngster with the vision and patience of an experienced
vet, the former third-stringer from tiny Liberty has emerged as
the go-to guy in Green Bay. He’s scored seven times in seven
games and could make it eight of eight on Monday night in the
Charm City. You know I’ll be watching, even if nobody else
12. Cadillac Williams @ NE –
It’s been an up-and-down (and up again) year for the Caddy
but he’s firing on all cylinders heading into the most important
three weeks of the season. Coming off a 112-yard, two-TD performance
against Carolina, he should be primed for a big day against New
England’s good but not great front seven. Another 100 yards
and a score sounds about right as the Bucs make it interesting
13. Reuben Droughns @ OAK –
If you’re worried about reduced workloads for the upper-echelon
guys, you might wanna consider a workhorse toiling away in anonymity
for one of the league’s lesser weights. Droughns is just
the guy for the job. He doesn’t score much (just two TDs
thus far) but averages over 100 total yards per contest and almost
always gets 20-25 touches. Give him the nod against an Oakland
bunch that has clearly decided to mail it in.
14. Clinton Portis v. DAL –
Portis is similar to Droughns in that he’s almost always
good for 100 yards. Fortunately for his owners, however, he’s
also become a regular visitor to the end zone this season, tallying
eight touches to this point. He’s never scored against Dallas
(in three career starts) but there’s a first time for everything,
15. Ryan Moats @ STL –
I blew my free agent wad on Samkon Gado after his breakout performance
in Week 9. Though I don’t regret that decision, I now know
why others decided to keep some in reserve. Someone always emerges
in the last month of the season and this year, it’s Moats.
If you were lucky enough to snag him, give yourself a pat on the
back. He just might take you where your other running backs weren’t
going to: the championship game.
Grab A Helmet:
Tatum Bell @ BUF – If
it weren’t so crowded in the Denver backfield, he’d
be firmly entrenched in the Top 15. As it stands, he’s still
only getting about 11 carries per game on average. Of course,
one can do a lot of damage with 11 carries, especially when one
is averaging almost six yards per touch. Give him a look against
the horrible Buffalo run defense (141.7/game) this weekend.
Corey Dillon v. TB – For
approximately the 15th week in a row, he’s listed as questionable
on the New England injury report. Though that won’t likely
keep you from starting him, it’s enough to give me pause.
After all, you can’t afford zeroes at this stage of the
game. If he looks like a go on Sunday, get him in there. His nose
for the goal line is still keen and he’ll probably end up
there at least once this weekend.
J.J. Arrington @ HOU –
The Cards can’t go an entire season without a 100-yard rusher,
can they? Don’t answer that. Though his rookie season has
been mostly a wash, I have a feeling the former Golden Bear will
build some momentum these last three weeks, starting with a decent
day against Houston’s godawful group. Don’t be surprised
if he tallies 50-some yards and a score as the Cards notch victory
number five. Baby steps, Arizona fans. Baby steps.
Greg Jones v. SF – He’ll
continue to split time with Fragile Fred but if I had to choose
one of them for this weekend’s matchup with the league’s
other doormat, San Fran, I’d go with Jones. He’s bigger,
more durable, and definitely more dependable. Expect 50-75 yards
and a touch as the Jags inch ever closer to a playoff berth.
Steven Jackson v. PHI –
He doesn’t belong with this group but an iffy QB situation
and a terrible defense mean he doesn’t get enough chances
to go hog wild. He’s only hit the 20-carry mark thrice this
season and that’s at least five times fewer than he should
have…and probably more. I suspect he’ll be featured
as long as the Rams can afford to and that means 75 yards and
a touch isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Grab A Gatorade:
Willis McGahee v. DEN –
Has there been a less impressive 1,000 yard back this season?
He hasn’t scored since Week 6 and is averaging under 50
yards per game since the Week 9 bye. Worse yet, he’s coming
off one of the worst individual performances of the season, an
eight-carry, three-yard dud against the defending champs. If I
own him, he’s standing next to me this weekend.
Aaron Stecker/Antowain Smith v. CAR
– Smith actually scored last Monday night, breaking
a six game TD-less stretch for the New Orleans running backs.
Whoopee! If you’re starting one of these guys and you’re
still in contention, you must have a sweet trio of receivers and
a top-notch QB.
Kevan Barlow @ JAX – Chad
Johnson’s funny because he isn’t serious. Kevan Barlow’s
funny because he is. Yes, he ACTUALLY said the Niners should pass
on Reggie Bush next April and move ahead with himself and Frank
Gore as the feature guys. They won’t get the opportunity
to draft the Heisman winner but I think it’s safe to say
the Niners won’t be letting Mr. Barlow anywhere near the
war room come draft day.
Artose Pinner v. CIN –
You thought things couldn’t get any worse in Detroit? Meet
this Sunday’s feature back, Lions fans. Oh, and here’s
a vomit bag in case you weren’t able to find anything else
to do this Sunday.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends