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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. Larry Johnson v. SD – Nobody runs the ball well against San Diego. Nobody that is, until KC does so this weekend. Johnson hasn’t tallied fewer than 149 total yards in a game since assuming the starting role and is averaging 32 touches per in that same span. Throw in twelve scores and you’re looking at next year’s consensus #1 draft pick, even ahead of…

2. Shaun Alexander v. IND – …this guy. He wasn’t #1 on most lists at the start of the season but he probably should have been, as his 120 yards/game and 24 scores to date clearly demonstrates. The best part? He’s still got something to play for with only two weeks remaining. Expect 125+ and a couple scores as the ‘Hawks wallop a heavy-hearted Indy squad this Saturday.

3. LaDainian Tomlinson @ SD – I’m actually fielding questions (legit ones) from readers who wonder if he should sit this weekend. Sit? L.T.??? Guess I’m not as brave as some of you. Yes, he’s banged up but the Bolts need a “W” in the worst way and he still gives them the best chance of getting it. If you saw Tiki tear through the KC tackling dummies last Saturday, you know why you still want Tomlinson in your lineup.

4. Tiki Barber @ WAS – “Tear through” doesn’t begin to describe what Tiki did to KC in Week 15. Despite an erratic QB and replacements along the O-line, he managed to set the Giants’ single-game record for rushing yards (220) and score two touchdowns in the process. Is it too late for some MVP consideration? Probably, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be YOUR MVP in championship games this weekend.

5. Rudi Johnson v. BUF – Better late than never, I always say, especially when it comes to fantasy ball. Johnson started the season slowly but is kicking it into gear just in time for the ones that count. He’s scored ten times in his last six tilts and has clearly been energized by the increased attention (thanks to the Chris Perry injury). Give him the start against Buffalo’s surprisingly horrible run defense.

6. Thomas Jones @ GB – After the top 5, things get a bit murky. Though there’s plenty of yardage to be had from the next ten ball carriers, touchdowns are far from guaranteed. You either go with a guy who’s dynamic but inconsistent (see Jackson, Williams, and Foster), or stick to the less flashy but more reliable rock-toter who can lock down 10-15 points for you. I’m recommending the latter approach in this spot and nobody personifies it quite like the steady but unspectacular Jones. Give him a start against the Pack’s cushy front four.

7. DeShaun Foster v. DAL – Foster could be that reliable guy (and then some) if he weren’t so injury-prone and weren’t tethered to the Panthers’ Big 10-like offense (no, not a compliment). He’s big, fast, and has a nice set of hands. Here’s hoping he uses them to good effect this weekend against a Dallas squad that was flat-out embarrassed last weekend in Washington.

8. Carnell Williams v. ATL – Speaking of embarrassed… The Bucs offense was completely dressed down by a resurgent Pats crew last weekend and is now squarely on the playoff bubble. If they want to play more than 16 games, they’ll need a much better effort this Saturday at Raymond James. Expect Williams to top the century mark against a weak Atlanta front as they do exactly that…barely.

9. Steven Jackson v. SF – Jackson was on his way to a stellar day last Sunday until he mysteriously disappeared in the third quarter. The problem? A “sore” foot and a hip pointer. Do we have another DeShaun Foster on our hands here? I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt but there’s no reason he shouldn’t go for a buck-twenty-five and at least one score against San Fran’s crummy front. Check the injury reports on game day and give him the nod if everything looks good.

10. Ryan Moats @ ARI – Philly’s decided to replace Brian Westbrook with…well, Brian Westbrook, or at least a reasonable facsimile. The former La. Tech star is virtually the same size and virtually the same back (shifty and dangerous on the perimeter). Unfortunately, that means he’ll get virtually the same number of touches (fewer than 20) per game. Won’t matter if he continues averaging over six yards per handle. A good start in Week 16.

11. Corey Dillon @ NYJ – He’s only topped the century mark twice this year and is nowhere near reaching 1,000 for the season. If you expected more from the former Bengal this season, you’re not alone. On a positive note, he HAS scored eleven times this season, twice in the blowout win over Tampa last week. That’s four scores in his last three, a trend that shouldn’t be ignored this time of year.

12. Clinton Portis v. DAL – Portis posted the worst numbers of his career in the first meeting with New York (four carries for nine yards) and must certainly be better if the ‘Skins hope to avenge that 36-0 shellacking. I think he will be (75-100 yards) though I’m not sure it will be enough. If it is, they could very well secure a most improbable playoff berth, in spite of their crazy owner’s dubious personnel decisions.

13. Jonathan Wells v. JAX – Hard to believe an also-ran like Houston has depth at any position, but at running back, at least, the talent pool runs pretty deep. Filling in for the persistently smashed-up Davis, Wells ran for 87 yards and two scores against Arizona in Week 15. Yes, it was Arizona, but that’s four scores in three starts this year, more than enough to justify a sneaky start should Dom be M.I.A. again this weekend.

14. Mike Anderson v. OAK – Speaking of deep talent pools! Anderson has barely been able to fend off Tatum Bell this season, but that hasn’t stopped him from racking up close to 1,000 yards (a formality, at this point) and twelve scores. Though he’s unlikely to see many more than 20 carries against the Raiders, that’s more than enough to tally good numbers. Think 75-100 yards and perhaps a score.

15. Reuben Droughns v. PIT – This seems like a tough matchup for Droughns and it probably is. Nevertheless, he’s only dipped below 75 total yards one time this year. Once. Were you aware of this? Larry Johnson he isn’t, but I’ll take 8-10 guaranteed points at my flex position every week. Might even take it at my #2 spot if my starter is someone like Johnson.

Grab A Helmet:

Willie Parker @ CLE – Opposing Mr. Droughns this Saturday will be the three-headed monster known as the Pittsburgh rushing attack (Parker and Messrs. Bettis/Haynes). The little guy gets most of the touches and, for that reason, gets the recommendation. However, you should always temper your expectations with him. He’s carried it more than 20 times only once in his last eight games and must therefore do more with less.

Warrick Dunn @ TB – Dunn should probably be in the Top 15 but he’s never fared that well against his former mates (44 yards/game and no scores). That’s not a reason to sit him, necessarily, but if you were ever gonna do it, this might be the week. Guess it depends on who else you have. I envision 75 yards and perhaps a few more in the passing game, for what that’s worth.

Jamal Lewis v. MIN – Look who’s decided to show up after a mostly wasted campaign. After failing to post triple digits in any of his first ten contests, Lewis has turned the trick twice in his last three, running with more purpose and even a little nastiness of late. If the Ravens can keep it reasonably close (likely), he could make it three out of four against the Vikes in Week 16.

Frank Gore @ STL – He’s probably a desperation play, at best, but you could definitely do worse than the former ‘Cane against a St. Louis D clearly in the giving mood. He tallied 136 total yards against the Jags last weekend and could duplicate the feat at Edward Jones provided he gets enough touches. Give him a look if you’re stumped.

Julius Jones @ CAR – He’s still splitting carries with MBIII, a sure sign that Tuna likes what the former Gopher has to offer. That’s not necessarily a knock on Jones but it certainly bites into his value some. Regardless, he’s still the most potent of the Cowboys backs and will likely get the most carries this weekend in Charlotte. I think he goes for 50-75 yards and a score as the ‘Boys are all but eliminated from playoff contention.

Grab A Gatorade:

Michael Bennett @ BAL – The Vikes certainly don’t belong in the playoffs either but they might still get there, in spite of themselves. The reason? Well, I’m not exactly sure. They’re a sneaky 8-6 and get the Bears at home on New Year’s Day. If Green Bay pulls the upset against the Bears on Sunday, things could get very interesting in the NFC North.

Noah Herron v. CHI – Of course, to do that, the Pack will hafta score some points against the #1 ranked D with their SIXTH (you read that right…SIXTH!) starting back this season. Herron is actually reasonably talented and is single-handedly responsible for my college fantasy championship last season (forgot to thank you, bro). Nonetheless, he doesn’t possess the game-breaking ability to strike fear in an opposing D, especially not one as good as Chicago’s. Sit him down.

Any Detroit RB @ NO – Detecting a trend here? If you’re looking for fantasy points from your running backs, don’t come looking in the Norris division. Outside of Thomas Jones, none of them are worth a look. That includes the other Jones (Kevin), even if he’s able to go this weekend, which doesn’t appear likely.

Any Arizona RB v. PHI – I’m sorry for the J.J. Arrington recommendation last week, though I doubt many of you heeded my advice. Arizona might possess the worst rushing attack in the history of organized football. It’s now official.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends