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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. LaDainian Tomlinson @ PHI – Does anyone else get the feeling Coach Schottenheimer drafted L.T. for HIS fantasy team this year? If the dude lines up to kick extra points this Sunday, I’m ordering a full-scale investigation. Start him (as always) against an Eagles D that is starting to show some cracks in the armor of late (84 points in the last three games).

2. Shaun Alexander v. DAL – Thanks to injuries (Deuce) and an untimely bye week (A. Green), I was forced to start Jerome Bettis and Maurice Morris in one of my dynasty leagues last weekend. When you’re done laughing, consider this: I won. The former Duck miraculously managed to tally over 100 yards and a score in the blowout win against the Texans, proving (A) the Seahawks running game is the league’s best (start Alexander every week), and…

3. Edgerrin James @ HOU - …(B) the Texans defense is a complete joke. All told, they surrendered a whopping 320 yards on the ground last Sunday night, a fact that must have Edge and the Colts offense licking its lips. Though he won’t gain that many this Sunday, he’s almost guaranteed to tally over 100 yards and a score or two. It’s strength-on-weakness day at Reliant and you’ll want all the Colts you can get your hands on.

4. Willis McGahee @ OAK – After the big three of L.T., Alexander, and Edge, there’s a group of guys who always seem to be capable of posting big numbers but don’t always do it. McGahee is the best of that bunch. Though he occasionally lays an egg (see Week 2), he’s usually good for close to 100 yards and a score. Gotta like his chances of tallying similar numbers this weekend in Oakland.

5. Steven Jackson v. NO – Jackson’s owners were offered a sneak preview of a Martz-free future on Monday night and they must have liked what they saw (more commitment to the run early on). Of course, they’re now gonna find out what a Bulger-free future holds, as well. My guess? You’re looking at the Rams offense for the next few weeks. Get him in there if you’ve been waiting for a reason to play him. He’s a stud and the matchup (a horrible Saints defense) is a good one.

6. Lamont Jordan v. BUF – Don’t look now but the Raiders’ other marquee addition this season is starting to gather some steam (242 total yards and three scores the past two weeks). Good thing, too, ‘cuz marquee addition #1, Mr. Moss, is likely to sit this week. Expect the Raiders to (uncharacteristically, for them) pound it between the tackles against a Bills squad doing a very poor job against the run (5.3/carry and 158.5/game).

7. Clinton Portis v. SF – Should we be more worried about his seeming inability to find the end zone? Four of Mark Brunell’s nine TD strikes this season have come from inside the 5-yard line, a big reason why Portis is still oh-for-’05. Whether that’s a strategic decision or just plain bad luck, it definitely makes the former Hurricane less valuable than he should be. Go ahead and start him if you can live with the 100+ total yards he typically tallies but don’t count on any TDs until he actually proves he can score one.

8. Rudi Johnson v. PIT – Rudi proved he can still punch ‘em in with a cheapie against the Titans last weekend (to go with 80 yards rushing). Unfortunately, he also lost goal line opportunities to his emerging backup, the multi-talented Chris Perry. Hate to break it to you, folks, but there’s no way he’s keeping the kid off the field from here on out. You can take those 80 yards to the bank every week but the touchdowns might be a little harder to come by. Temper your expectations for now.

9. Domanick Davis v. IND – This seems too high for a member of the league’s worst squad but he always manages to get something going, no matter how bad the Texans get throttled. Last week, it was 68 total yards and a receiving touchdown. The week before that, it was 173 total yards. Bottom line? He’s probably good for 10-15 fantasy points on a weekly basis. That’s good enough to keep him in the top 10.

10. Ahman Green @ MIN – Green hasn’t even sniffed the top 10 this season thanks to a horrid start and a bum leg. Nevertheless, he’s coming off a bye week, appears to be healthy, and is rumored to be in line for some more touches this week (if his coach is to be believed). One good thing: he doesn’t have Najeh Davenport to contend with anymore. Oh, wait…one more: he’s playing the Vikes and their 32nd-ranked run defense (161.4 yards/game). Get him back in there.

11. Thomas Jones v. BAL – His QB is green and the matchup is horrible but when has that ever slowed him down before? Jones almost invariably surprises when the cards seemed stacked against him and has now accounted for almost half of the Bears’ total yards and more than half of its scores through six weeks. Expect a more modest effort but also a touchdown against the Ravens this Sunday.

12. Priest Holmes @ MIA – Priest was almost completely snuffed out on the ground last week (14 carries for 18 yards) but made up for it with a stellar showing in the passing game (five grabs for 100 yards and a touch). The result? His most productive outing of the young season. This week, he draws a Fish D that ranks in the middle of the pack. That’s reason enough to keep him in the top 15. Don’t forget to insert him before the early Friday kickoff.

13. Tiki Barber v. DEN – Think Coach Commandant is second-guessing the decision to give Brandon Jacobs the ball on Dallas’ doorstep last weekend? Though the rook’s fumble could have been more costly—the G-men eventually scored, anyway—it probably paved the way for Tiki to reassume goal-line duties this weekend. That means he’s on the uptick, folks. Give him a look against the Broncos.

14. Warrick Dunn v. NYJ – Dunn has been in a similar boat the past few years with T.J. Duckett poaching critical touches in the red zone. Fortunately for his owners, the former Spartan is listed as questionable for this Monday night’s showdown against the Jets. Consequently, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dunn get 25 touches, more than enough to tally the 100+ yards he’s usually good for. Start him.

15. Curtis Martin @ ATL – The return of Vinny has, surprisingly enough, made C-Mart a more attractive option the past two weeks (210 total yards and three scores). That’s a good thing for New York, too, ‘cuz Vinny isn’t capable of carrying this team any more than he was during his first go-round with them. Expect 80-100 yards and perhaps a score this coming Monday in Hotlanta.

Grab A Helmet:

Brian Westbrook v. SD – He’s been virtually non-existent for the Eagles the past two games (84 yards and no TDs) and is now griping that he hasn’t been used properly. Correction, Brian: you haven’t been used AT ALL since the Week 3 win against Oakland. Expect the coaching staff to rectify that situation this weekend in Philly as the Birds are clearly a better team when he’s more involved.

Antowain Smith @ STL – Well, color me surprised! Despite netting fewer carries than Aaron Stecker (12 v. 16), the old plow horse managed to rack up 88 yards and a couple of scores against the Falcons last week. That makes him easily the best free agent pickup of the season thus far. Though I question how valuable he can be in the long run, it looks like he might get the lion’s share of the totes this weekend with Stecker listed as questionable. Give him a ride against St. Louis’ laughable front seven and play it by ear after that.

Kevin Jones @ CLE – The hugely disappointing Jones gets one more crack to prove his worth this Sunday against a dubious Browns D giving up over 140 yards rushing per contest. Can he step up his game and justify that early-round selection? Guess we’ll see. This much is certain: he hasn’t even cracked 50 yards rushing in three of his five tilts this season. That sucks and needs to change…fast.

Mewelde Moore v. GB – Vikings owners seem to be (ahem) abandoning ship these days, but you might wanna think twice about giving up on this guy. Despite the appalling effort in the Windy City last weekend, he still managed to roll up over 100 all-purpose yards, the second time he’s done so in as many weeks. Though you can’t count on him for six-pointers, he’s a great addition as your #2 back or flex guy. Welcome aboard, little buddy!

Chris Brown @ ARI – He’s a walking time bomb (when will he get hurt next?) but there’s no question Brown has been emboldened by his chief competitor’s four-game suspension. Since Travis Henry got the boot two games ago, he’s racked up over 200 yards and a couple scores. This week, he faces a Cardinals defense tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns yielded. Give him a look.

Grab A Gatorade:

Tatum Bell @ NYG – Go ahead, Broncos fans. Lay it on me. I simply don’t think he’s capable of consistently producing the type of numbers he’s been putting up of late. More than half of his total yards the past two weeks have come on two runs (55 and 68 yards) and this week’s opponent has allowed only one run longer than 12 yards this year. Not to mention, he’s still not even getting the majority of the carries in the Denver backfield. Go ahead and start him if you think I’m full of it but do yourself a favor and at least look at the big picture first.

Jamal Lewis @ CHI – He did virtually squat against a team (the Browns) he historically demolishes. That tells me he simply doesn’t have it at for the time being. Part of that could be the shaky QB situation and part of that could be his line but, ultimately, Jamal needs to share some of the blame for his lackluster numbers. Sit him down against a tough Bears squad that plays even tougher at home.

Any Miami RB v. KC – Ricky and the rookie teamed up for the first time in Miami last weekend and if initial returns are any indication, they could be a match made in hell. The Dolphins’ leading rusher last week? Try Chris Chambers. That would be WIDE RECEIVER, Chris Chambers. Don’t even think about it until Coach Saban and Co. figure out how the rotation is gonna work over the long haul.

Any Arizona RB v. TEN – You think Miami’s got it bad? Arizona’s top two running backs (Marcel Shipp and J.J. Arrington) have COMBINED to average 42 rushing yards per game, roughly 26 yards fewer than Ronnie Brown has managed all by his lonesome. Not even if you’re on a bye week, folks. They might even fumble and put you in the red.

Any San Francisco RB @ WAS – Kevan Barlow is ostensibly the starter but it’s looking more and more like a platoon situation with each passing week. Backup Frank Gore seems to get about 33% of the carries currently and that’s too big a bite out of Barlow’s already reduced workload to make him effective. Not that he’s all that effective, anyway. Stay away.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends