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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 @ CIN—He’s averaging 143.9 yards per game, tops in the league. He’s scored 14 touchdowns (again, tops in the league). He’s averaged 216 yards and three scores in his last two tilts. Feel free to stop me at anytime, folks….

2. Larry Johnson @ MIA—While LT’s been busy doing his ’04 Priest Holmes impersonation, Priest’s replacement in Kansas City has been doing a pretty good impression of himself, circa ’05. Since failing to top the 40-yard mark in consecutive October outings, Johnson has averaged 153 yards rushing/game and scored seven times (more than two per contest). Perhaps he gets better as the season gets older? The great ones do and he’s well on his way to being great.

3. Steven Jackson @ SEA—Would you be excited if your #1 wideout grabbed 13 balls for 133 yards? You would? How ‘bout if he added another 86 on the ground and a touch? Those are staggering totals, my friends, even for a guy as talented as Jackson. They also prove that the Rams coaching staff, though still infected by Martz disease, has at least figured out who the team’s most lethal weapon is. He’s probably yours, too. Get him in there against the ‘Hawks this Sunday.

4. Brian Westbrook v. WAS—Jackson’s Week 9 digits are reminiscent of this guy’s typical stat line, equal parts rushing/receiving yardage and usually a touch or two. Westbrook hasn’t fared as well historically v. the ‘Skins (only 72.3 total yards/game) but I suspect an extra week to prepare and a bad loss heading into that extra week should only intensify his and the Eagles’ desire to right the ship this Sunday. They do as he goes for 100+ and a score or two.

5. Willie Parker v. NO—His seven receptions for 67 yards last week were easily a career high and seem to beg the question: why isn’t he a bigger part of the Pittsburgh passing game? Outside of Hines Ward, the Steelers don’t seem to have any proven targets. Not hard to envision FWP putting up Westbrook-type numbers in that offense, if you ask me. Get Cowher on the phone!

6. Kevin Jones v. SF—I can’t verify this (actually, I’m too lazy to) but I think this is the highest I’ve ever ranked Jones. Does he deserve it or am I just rewarding him for three consecutive weeks of stellar play (148.7 total yards/game and four scores)? Call it a little bit of both. I think he’s still capable of atrocities in the backfield but he’s been pretty steady in ’06 and the competition ain’t exactly top-notch. Start him.

7. Clinton Portis @ PHI—I’m usually on top of these kinds of things but I was surprised as hell to find out he’s only cracked the century mark once this season (Week 4 v. Jacksonville). Guess that’s one of the reasons the ‘Skins are 3-5…or vice-versa. He’ll always be hampered by that schizo passing game but, if healthy, is always a top 10 back. This week is no exception.

8. Frank Gore @ DET—After lighting up the Bears in Week 8 garbage time, Gore struggled to get much going against their NFC North brethren, the Vikes, in Week 9 (19 carries for 41 yards). No shame in that, actually, as Minnesota leads the league against the run. Detroit is considerably softer on defense and I think this one has all the makings of a meaningless shootout. Get him in there.

9. Jamal Lewis @ TEN—He hadn’t carried the ball more than 21 times until Week 8. Since then, he’s averaged more than 27 touches per contest. The common denominator in those two most recent games? The Ravens were up big early. I think they will be again this weekend and for that reason alone, Lewis gets a top 10 nod. Think close to triple digits and a score or two.

10. Chester Taylor v. GB—You couldn’t be blamed for wondering how the Vikes managed to score just three points when Taylor accounted for over 140 yards of offense. Here’s a hint, though: he outgained quarterback Brad Johnson. That won’t happen again this week as Minny plays host to the Pack at the Metrodump. Expect 100+ and a score as the two Norris Division rivals square off this Sunday.

11. Tiki Barber v. CHI—Hallelujah! I was starting to think ol’ Tiki might fade into retirement riding a 16-game touchdown drought. Now that he’s got that first one out of the way, it’s time to make up for lost time. Too bad the competition gets exponentially tougher this week, huh? He starts (you can’t sit him, can you?) but don’t expect miracles. The century mark would still be helpful.

12. Warrick Dunn v. CLE—He hasn’t hit triple digits since last month and has also seen a reduction in workload thanks to the emergence of Jerious Norwood. Nevertheless, he’s still good for about 75 yards a game and has even scored in three of his last four tilts. Not the numbers you were hoping for, probably, but still good enough for a #2 guy. Go ahead and slot him there this week against Cleveland’s 29th ranked run defense.

13. Ronnie Brown v. KC—After a mostly sluggish first half, Brown has turned up the heat of late, averaging over 146 yards per contest in his last three. Most impressive of all was his 190-yard outing against the Bears last Sunday, an out-of-leftfield special that must have had the Soldier Field faithful scratching their collective stocking caps. He doesn’t score enough but I have a hunch that might change this weekend against the Chefs. Keep starting him.

14. Maurice Morris v. STL—Now THAT’S more like it, no? It was only the Raiders but MoMo finally showed us what he’s capable of on Monday night, darting and dashing to the tune of 138 yards on an Alexander-esque 30 totes. It appears the meal ticket will sit for at least one more week so that means the former Duck gets another shot this weekend. Since the Rams are giving up over 140 per game and about five per carry, he should be looking at another solid day.

15. Corey Dillon v. NYJ—The Kid is questionable so it’s conceivable Dillon could shoulder the whole load this Sunday at Foxboro. That could prove to be quite fruitful for his owners as he mashed his way to a couple six-pointers in the loss to the Colts. I’m not expecting huge yardage but 75-100 sounds doable and another touch seems almost guaranteed against New York’s pathetic run defense.

Grab A Helmet:

Rudi Johnson v. SD—Like most of the Bengals, Johnson’s stock is slipping drastically. Sure, he’s scored the last two weeks but he’s only topped 100 yards twice this season and is averaging only 3.9 yards a pop, the first time he’s dipped below four since assuming the reins three years ago. Complicating matters this week is San Diego’s fourth rated run defense, a unit that’s yielded just over 85 yards per contest. You don’t sit him but he’s not a surefire top 15 guy at the moment.

Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew v. HOU—Taylor tallied 79 yards and Jones-Drew 85 in the Week 9 shellacking of Tennessee. Now, they draw that other weak sister of the AFC South, Houston. Though neither managed to find paydirt against the Titans, there’s almost no chance of that happening again this Sunday. Expect 200 bills out of the combo and a couple six-pointers.

Ahman Green @ MIN—Batman returns to the scene of the crime this weekend, the site where last season went off the rails for him personally (devastating knee injury) and for the Packers collectively. I doubt many thought he’d return to form in this, his ninth (ninth?!) campaign, but he looks no worse for the wear of late (three consecutive 100-yard outings) and is even being mentioned as a possible comeback player of the year candidate. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it, Green haytas!

Thomas Jones @ NYG—Though the Bears certainly were, Jones wasn’t actually that bad last Sunday, accounting for 93 yards in the 31-13 whupping. Even better, Chicago seems to have settled upon a 2-to-1 ratio of his carries to Ced Benson’s. That means he can still be trusted as a strong #2 option for the rest of the season. Give him another look this Sunday against the G-Men.

Anthony Thomas @ IND—There’s been an A-Train sighting! TBRBITNFL is out for up to four weeks and that means Thomas, perennial second fiddle, gets the show all to hisself in Buffalo. It ain’t much of a show, granted, but he fared OK last Sunday, rushing for 95 yards and a touch as the Bills snuck by the Pack at Orchard Park. We all know how horrid the Colts run defense is (and how horrid J.P. Losman is) so give him a go. He might be all they’ve got in Indy this weekend.

Julius Jones or Marion Barber III @ ARZ—After watching the Cardinals go a full sixty in Week 8, it’s now obvious to me why they’ve failed to fulfill expectations. Their lines flat stink. Both of them. Dallas is good enough and angry enough to stuff the Jones/Barber tag-team right down their throats this Sunday and will more than likely do just that. Only question is, who’s the better play? Well, who’ve you got? Start him. Yeah, him too.

Grab A Gatorade:

Any Oakland RB v. DEN—LaMont Jordan needs only ten touchdowns to match last year’s total and since the Raiders score one about every three weeks, the odds are stacked against him. The only bright spot? He didn’t hafta share the load with Justin Fargas last Monday night. Hey, gotta stay positive, right?

Edgerrin James v. DAL—Edge put together a pretty decent day two weeks back in Green Bay but now must face a Dallas team that is seething and exceedingly stingy against the run (3.4 per rush). Couple that with his own 2.8-per-tote average and it all adds up to another frustrating day for the former ‘Cane. Sit him down.

Travis Henry v. BAL—After two mammoth efforts in Weeks 5 and 6, Henry has returned to earth of sorts, tallying only 96 yards in his last two tilts. Now comes a matchup against Baltimore’s scary tough defense, a unit allowing just 2.9 yards a carry and two rushing touchdowns all season. It was great while it lasted, huh? Now go find someone else.

Carnell Williams @ CAR—We’ve been waiting for that breakout performance seemingly all season but it’s time to cut bait, folks. Tampa’s line just isn’t any good and Coach Chucky is abandoning the run game sooner and sooner every week. LaMont Jordan gets chump of the year honors but Williams is running a close second…and won’t deserve the Cadillac appellation until things turn around. Why don’t you take the kids out for pizza Monday night? They’ve missed you.

Wali Lundy @ JAX—He earned the starting nod after a bust-out Week 7 effort v. the Jags (93 yards and a score) and you can bet your bottom dollar Coach Del Rio hasn’t forgotten. It’s difficult enough beating a team once in the NFL but almost impossible to pull the trick twice, especially when you simply aren’t very good. Expect a lot of nothing carries and considerably less production this Sunday in Jacksonville for the former Cavalier.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends