Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson v. NYG
– Let’s try this again: “If the Chargers are
planning on giving him 19 touches per game the rest of the way,
they won’t be returning to the postseason anytime soon.”
He’s still finding paydirt (two TDs last week) but L.T.
has yet to catch a pass this season, an unbelievable fact when
you consider he’s AVERAGED over 70 receptions per season
in his brief career. I’m betting the farm he’ll break
the reception-less streak this Sunday in a game the Bolts desperately
2. Shaun Alexander v. ARI –
After getting a measly 14 carries against Jacksonville in the
opener, Alexander ran the ball 28 times against the Falcons in
Week 2. Result? Twice as many yards and a score. Arizona’s
D isn’t on par with either Atlanta’s or Jacksonville’s,
meaning he should be in for another huge game at Qwest Field this
3. Rudi Johnson @ CHI –
Thanks to an explosive performance from Carson Palmer and his
wideouts, Rudi ended up being the forgotten man last Sunday. Though
he managed to grind out 90 yards on 22 carries, he didn’t
find the end zone. That should change this weekend against a Bears
D that may be forced into nickel/dime coverage more often than
4. Deuce McAllister @ MIN –
His 2.7 yards/carry figure tells me his line isn’t opening
enough holes for him yet. That could be due to the competition
or it could mean they just aren’t that good. Either way,
it’s bound to play better this Sunday against a Vikings
front that can definitely be pushed around (a league-worst 156.5
rushing yards per game so far). The Shot Caller guaranteed you
a touch for his teammate, Joe Horn, last week. Let’s make
it 2-0 with a guaranteed six for Deuce.
5. Priest Holmes @ DEN –
He’s not what he used to be (fantasy top dog) but he ain’t
exactly chopped liver, either. He’s getting two carries
to every one for Larry Johnson and in the KC offense, that’s
still a healthy chunk of touches. Provided he keeps finding the
end zone every week, you shouldn’t worry about him too much.
Don’t forget that he & Johnson absolutely demolished
the Denver D last season (151 yards apiece in two separate contests).
6. Steven Jackson v. TEN –
See what I mean? When Coach Martz lets this freight train outta
the station, good things happen for St. Louie. The Titans are
coming off a Herculean performance against Jamal Lewis but will
be hard-pressed to suppress both this guy and the Rams’
multi-dimensional passing attack. Expect a high-scoring affair
and Jackson’s first 100-yard outing this weekend.
7. Julius Jones @ SF –
Jones has been just shy of the century mark twice this season
but that will likely be the exception rather than the rule from
here on out. The Niners aren’t the ‘Skins when it
comes to run defense and I’m betting Tuna and the ‘Boys
will attempt to put last Monday night’s debacle behind them
with a punishing ground attack and more fundamentally sound defense.
8. Willie Parker v. NE –
More impressive than the 136 yards/game is the 5.8 yards/carry
number, the best per-tote clip in the league amongst starting
backs. Nevertheless, I have a sneaking suspicion Coach Belichick
will have something special in store for him this week in Pittsburgh.
You don’t win three Super Bowl trophies by letting your
opponents dictate tempo to you. Expect decent but more modest
numbers on Sunday.
9. Edgerrin James v. CLE –
James was about all the Colts had going for them last week as
he accounted for well over half their total offensive output.
Unfortunately, he stepped aside near the goal line as Ran Carthon
(?) punched across Indy’s only touch. See what I mean about
the unpredictable Tom Moore? Don’t worry. Edge will get
plenty of goal-line looks in the future, starting this Sunday
against the Browns.
10. Stephen Davis @ MIA –
He’s gone from off-the-radar to on-the-radar to leading
TD man in less than a month. Not bad for a guy most considered
to be washed up after last season. He’s almost guaranteed
to break down at some point (that’s why you handcuffed him
to DeShaun Foster, right?) but for now, he’s a pretty sweet
points machine. Keep starting him.
11. Carnell Williams @ GB –
This isn’t your granddad’s Cadillac, folks. It’s
the tricked-out hoopty your neighborhood mack is creepin’
around in, complete with continental package and chrome-plated
curb feelers. Expect another strong showing against a Packers
D that has precious few playmakers and even less experience.
12. Thomas Jones v. CIN –
He’s starting to lose carries to the rook (Ced Benson) but
if the Bears are truly gonna contend in the NFC North this year,
they’ll need him to be the man. He’s done a reasonably
good impression so far, racking up 170 yards and three scores
in two games. Provided Chicago doesn’t fall too far behind
this Sunday (a possibility), he should be up for another strong
showing against Cincy.
13. Willis McGahee v. ATL –
I didn’t think the new QB would hurt him that much but after
two weeks, it’s clear opposing defenses don’t respect
the Bills’ passing attack. That isn’t gonna change
anytime soon so it’s probably best to temper expectations
for now. He’s still the show and good enough to start but
don’t expect top 10 numbers ‘til Losman gets more
14. Tiki Barber @ SD –
The reincarnation of Thunder (Brandon Jacobs) and Lighting (Barber)
makes the Giants a difficult team to defend, especially when you
factor in the maturation of Eli Manning. Tiki’s still the
piece that holds it all together so if the guys around him keep
improving, look out. Teams that don’t key on him are bound
to pay the price sooner or later.
15. Brian Westbrook v. OAK –
Same goes for him. Though he almost never touches it more than
20 times a game, he always manages to post double-digit fantasy
totals. That has a lot to do with the fact opposing defenses can’t
afford to pay him much attention, at the risk of letting T.O.
have his way on the perimeter. The Raiders are better across the
defensive front but not good enough to keep him (or T.O.) out
of the end zone.
Grab A Helmet:
Lamont Jordan @ PHI –
He’s coming off a pretty solid game against the Chefs but
could be coming off a huge one if not for a pointless holding
call that reversed a brilliant 56-yard scoring scamper. Welcome
to Oakland, kid. He’s clearly a weapon the Raiders have
been missing so expect more good numbers in the future, especially
with Randy commanding so much attention in the passing game.
Larry Johnson @ DEN –
There aren’t too many backups you’d consider starting
on a regular basis but so long as he keeps performing well, why
not? He’s especially useful in TD-only leagues where he’ll
probably be good for six every week.
Chris Perry @ CHI – Another
backup you might wanna consider, especially if he keeps getting
regular looks. He racked up 80 yards in the blowout win over the
Vikes and could have had twice as many if not for a holding penalty
that nullified an electrifying 86-yard pitch-and-catch in the
first quarter. Give him a go if you’re short-handed this
Ron Dayne v. KC – No,
your eyes did not deceive you. That was actually Ron Dayne driving
the Broncos toward a game-winning field goal last week. If it’s
true Coach Shanahan’s offense can make a star out of any
running back, the former Badger may end up as the free agent pickup
of the year. I’d like to see him get more touches first
but I suspect the touches he does get in the immediate future
will be nearer the goal line. That, in and of itself, makes him
worth a look.
Brandon Jacobs @ SD –
Dayne’s replacement in Gotham, Mr. Jacobs, has already established
himself as a goal-line stud in a very short period of time. Though
he’ll never replace the irreplaceable Tiki Barber, he’s
a good sneaker option when your studs are on a bye. Go pick him
up if your league mates haven’t figured out who he is yet.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevan Barlow v. DAL –
When the Niners decide to throw in the towel this year and start
the youngsters, it won’t be surprising at all to see him
standing next to Coach Nolan on the sidelines. Barlow simply isn’t
a difference-maker in the league, despite having all the measureables.
If you were hoping he’d be a sleeper, time to find an alternative.
He’s asleep, all right.
Reuben Droughns @ IND –
The former Duck has been quietly effective thus far (90 yards
per contest) but hasn’t found paydirt yet and doesn’t
possess the breakaway speed to scare opposing defenses. In a better
offense (think Denver), he’d be a terrific option. In this
one, he’s a flex guy at best. Sit him down against the suddenly
resurgent Colts D.
Warrick Dunn @ BUF – Remember
when he used to be a threat in the passing game? Through two weeks,
Dunn has caught exactly one pass (for no yards) and doesn’t
appear to be on Mr. Vick’s radar when protection breaks
down. Of course, when protection breaks down, the best option
tends to be Vick himself. Wait ‘til the matchup is better.
Any Arizona RB @ SEA –
I’ll cop to drinking a bit too much of that Denny Green
Kool-Aid this offseason but how in the world did this situation
become such a mess in such a hurry? Was that James Jackson toting
the rock against the Rams? Aye-yay-YAY!
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends