Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson @ OAK - Is there an easier suit-up each week than L.T. as your #1 back? Didn't think so. He has yet to be held out of the end zone this season and is starting to re-assert himself in the passing game. That should worry the Raiduhs, a team he's scored upon in seven of eight career starts. You know the drill.
2. Shaun Alexander v. HOU - Since failing to cross the goal line in the opener at Jacksonville, Seattle's meal ticket has notched eight scores, or exactly two per contest. At that pace, he'll shatter his previous career mark of twenty, set just last season. You're still waiting for a reason to start him? Do the words "winless Houston Texans" mean anything to you? Easy suit-up #2.
3. Edgerrin James v. STL - James has been the Prudential rock for an otherwise shaky Colts bunch this season, amassing over 130 total yards per game (tops in the league) and keeping opposing defenses out of Peyton's kitchen. Now, if he could just get his backfield mate to kick it up a notch with some of those world famous scoring strikes. Bam!
4. Willis McGahee v. NYJ - The former Hurricane is building momentum of late, having scored a touchdown in each of his last three contests. Provided Kelly Holcomb can keep defenses honest (he can), McGahee should continue to post good numbers the rest of the way. Mark him down for a hundy or so this weekend and another trip to the end zone against the Jets.
5. Rudi Johnson @ TEN - He hasn't totaled fewer than 82 total yards in a game this year but seems to have become an afterthought once the Bengals penetrate their opponents' 40-yard line. The reason? Why run it in when you can just toss it up to a super-sized (and super-talented) receiving corps? He'll break this cold spell eventually but there's no telling when that might happen. For now, he starts drifting down the list, especially since Chris Perry is starting to steal carries.
6. Domanick Davis @ SEA - Rudi drifts down. Dom inches up. He's the only viable weapon the Texans have at this point, as last week's numbers clearly indicate. All told, he accounted for well over half their total yards in the Week 5 loss to Tennessee and was both the team's leading rusher and its leading receiver. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if he turned the trick again this weekend, especially with Andre Johnson ailing and David Carr flailing. Start him.
7. Tiki Barber @ DAL - Tiki's had two weeks to savor his brilliant Week 4 performance and prepare for the showdown in Big D. Too bad for Dallas 'cuz he's hard enough for them to stop without the extra rest. His '04 totals against the 'Boys? Try 314 total yards and three scores. That, my friends, is called a good matchup. Get him back in there.
8. Steven Jackson @ IND - Too bad he doesn't play in a more run-friendly system, eh? Jackson hasn't carried the rock even 20 times in a game thus far (a crime, if you ask me) but he's still managing to produce, thanks mostly to a soft set of hands and a nose for the goal line. If the Rams ever managed to establish a lead, he'd probably be a regular in the top 5. As it stands, he drifts around the outskirts, a solid but not spectacular start.
9. Priest Holmes v. WAS - Holmes is no longer the fantasy superstar he once was but that doesn't mean he isn't reliable. Through five weeks, he's tallied no fewer than 90 and no more than 108 total yards in a single game. So long as you've adjusted your expectations accordingly, he's a great play. If you're still holding out for the '03 Priest…well, can't help you with that.
10. Carnell Williams v. MIA - How soon before teams realize Brian Griese can't carry the Bucs? The Lions figured it out in Week 4 (holding Caddy to 13 yards on 11 carries) and you can expect others to emulate their stuff-the-box scheme the rest of the way. Though he's still talented enough to stay in the top 10, I've a sneaking suspicion Mr. Williams might not be the fantasy monster he was in the first three weeks. Stay on top of the situation. Oh, and make sure he's playing before you insert him in your lineup.
11. LaMont Jordan v. SD - His boys finally jumped out in front and, predictably, Jordan's numbers went through the roof in Week 4 (148 total yards and a touch). Though that may not happen too often, it could happen this week against a heart-broken and weary Bolts squad coming off a short week. Expect another 100 yards and a score in Oakland.
12. Corey Dillon @ DEN - Dillon finally topped the century mark in Week 5, a good sign after four relatively pedestrian efforts to that point. This Sunday, he draws a Broncos squad that is holding up pretty well against the run. Probably best to expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80 yards. If he adds a score, however, you won't notice the difference in the bottom line.
13. Clinton Portis @ KC - Portis was solid against his former mates last weekend but still couldn't locate the end zone, something that simply must change if the 'Skins hope to contend for a playoff berth. Though I'm not certain it will, the matchup is pretty good in Week 6. Give him the nod against KC's perennially soft front seven.
14. Cedric Benson v. MIN - Call it a hunch. With Thomas Jones ailing, we're likely to get our first good look at the Bears' prized rook. Lucky for him (and his owners), he draws a Minnesota front that is dead last against the run, yielding a staggering 5.4 yards/carry and 178 yards/game. If he can't succeed against these clowns, he may need a little more seasoning. If he can, we could be looking at a potential platoon situation in Chitown before too long. Just what we wanted, huh? Hooray!
15. Stephen Davis @ DET - He's been upgraded to probable for this weekend's contest at Ford Field. More importantly, his running mate (Mr. Foster) hasn't. That means Davis gets the lion's share of carries this weekend. Though he's unlikely to break a hundred yards, he's almost guaranteed a couple touches near the goal line. Nobody converts touches near the goal line better than Stephen Davis, except maybe...
Grab A Helmet:
Jerome Bettis v. JAX - ...this guy. If you're a Willie Parker owner and you didn't trade him after Week 2, it sucks to be you. Hate to say I told you so, but... . Bus looked like his typical self in the Monday night victory and will almost certainly reassume his role as clock-killing battering ram and short yardage specialist for the rest of the season. Go get him, TD-only owners.
Warrick Dunn @ NO - This guy's practically worthless in TD-only formats but a near superstar in yardage leagues. His 5.4 yards/carry average leads all regular backs and his 95.4 yards/game is good for sixth overall. Seriously, now…how many of you thought he could be this effective while splitting carries with T.J. Duckett and Mr. Vick? Note to self: draft Warrick Dunn next year!
Mewelde Moore @ CHI - Call him a cross between Dunn and the aforementioned Domanick Davis. Though he doesn't get many opportunities to score, he's an absolute pain in the neck for opposing defenses, routinely racking up triple digits in total yards and serving as Daunte's bailout man in the passing game. If I ever see Michael Bennett in Minnesota's backfield again, I'm gonna officially declare Coach Tice the winner of the Worst Coach Named Mike Sweepstakes.
Jamal Lewis v. CLE - His coach is seething and his team is a shambles but you gotta think the former Vol was at least a little bit heartened to see Cleveland on the schedule this week. After all, nobody ruins the Browns like Jamal Lewis. If the Ravens want back in the hunt, they'll give him the rock (a lot) and get out of the way. Expect 100+ yards and a score or two in the Charm City this weekend.
Grab A Gatorade:
Kevin Jones v. CAR - Though Jones managed to score a couple touches last week, it wasn't pretty (a microscopic 2.2 yards per carry). He was also stopped cold on two consecutive tries from the one as he attempted to tally a third. Not good. Bottom line? Nobody respects the Lions' passing attack right now (including Jones, apparently) and he's paying the price. Don't be fooled by the productive Week 5. He needs help and isn't gonna get it anytime soon.
Reuben Droughns @ BAL - Of course, facing the Ravens D is no easy task, even for top-tier running backs. Unfortunately, Droughns is no top-tier running back. He's a solid plugger who needs those around him to perform well. Luckily, Lee Suggs won't be one of those people this week. At least that's one less running back committee to worry about, huh?
Antowain Smith v. ATL - Somebody actually paid $70 in our "experts" auction league to pick him up off the waiver wire. We only get $100 for the season. You do the math. I suspect he's still got some tread on that tire but $70 worth? I'm not sold, especially since it looks like he could share the load with Aaron Stecker and, perhaps, Jessie Chatman. Take a wait-and-see approach here...and don't forget who his QB is.
Ronnie Brown @ TB - Did somebody mention sharing the load? South Florida's favorite yoga instructor returns to the fold this weekend and his much-ballyhooed return will likely coincide with a dip in Ronnie Brown's value…not to mention a spike in sales of High Times magazine. The rook showed us he's capable in the first four weeks and probably deserves better than to have his poaches carried by a flake like Williams. Better see how this one sorts itself out before jumping on either guy.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends