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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 @ ARI—Now that’s a little more like it, eh? LJ racked up another 142 yards last Sunday at Arrowhead and, most importantly, found the promised land twice as the Chiefs finally tallied one in the win column. Next up? The “playoff hopeful” Cardinals at the Cactus. Considering Arizona is giving up over 144 rushing yards a game (and almost five per carry), it’s hard to envision Johnson going for anything less than 150 and a couple scores.

2. LaDainian Tomlinson v. PIT—The Steelers are stingy against the run (78.3 yards/game) but so is Baltimore and all LT managed against them was 98 yards on 26 carries. Coach Schott is likely sticking with his approach (run, run, and run some more) so no reason to sit him down. As if you were contemplating THAT!

3. Brian Westbrook v. DAL—A league mate roasted me back on draft day for passing on Westbrook to take Willie Parker. Sure looked like a stupid move until about 4:30pm PDT last Monday night. Naturally, I couldn’t resist a playful e-gibe at my critic. Bottom line? You draft Westbrook, you play with fire. He’s iffy again this week so have that trigger finger ready in the event Philly pulls the plug on him.

4. Steven Jackson @ GB—“If he touches it 25 times a game, he could very well lead the NFC in rushing.” Done and done, at least to this point. In fact, Jackson’s leading the entire NFL in yards from scrimmage, proving that a multi-threat back doesn’t hafta be 5’10”, 185 pounds. Expect another monster effort against Green Bay’s turnstile defense at Lambeau.

5. Clinton Portis @ NYG—This guy does most of his damage on the ground and seems to have fully recovered from the shoulder separation that threatened to derail his entire campaign. ‘Skins fans will remember the overtime heroics but anybody who was watching the game will know it was Portis who broke the collective will of Jacksonville’s supposedly stalwart D long before Brunell and Moss connected for the eventual game-winner.

6. DeShaun Foster v. CLE—Foster looked to be on the outs after a pitiful start to the season and the concurrent emergence of dynamo rook DeAngelo Williams. Two games later, he seems to be firmly entrenched as the go-to guy in Charlotte. Expect him to cement that hold on the job as he squares off against Cleveland’s dreadful run D this weekend (149 yards/game).

7. Frank Gore v. OAK—Gore knows all about cement these days. His hands appear to be made of it. Though it isn’t unprecedented for a top-notch talent to be undermined by the dropsies, it still seems unlikely he’ll lose his job because of it. More likely is the scenario wherein he loses crucial touches to Michael Robinson. Stay tuned since, after the Week 4 debacle, we still don’t know how the rotation will play out in the long run.

8. Ronnie Brown @ NE—Brown doesn’t hafta worry about anyone looking over HIS shoulder but there’s still the nagging problem of Daunte Culpepper’s maddening inconsistency. I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest. Best to temper those expectations and hope he keeps tallying 100 or so yards per contest, something he’s done in each of his last three tilts. A few TDs couldn’t hurt, either.

9. Edgerrin James v. KC—Edge and the Cards never got untracked last Sunday in Hotlanta and will now cast their lot with prized rook Matt Leinart for the rest of the season. If Denny Green is like most NFL coaches (debatable), he’ll lean more on his prized free agent acquisition in the short term. That means James should be able to crack the century mark soon (maybe even this week). Stay tuned.

10. Tiki Barber v. WAS—Why so low, you ask? Tiki’s scored 14 times against NFC East opponents in his illustrious career. Only two of those scores have come against Washington (in 17 games). I love the guy to death but that little factoid coupled with New York’s recent struggles tell me caution might be the prudent course of action this weekend. I’m also not convinced he’ll consistently get the goal line looks (that Brandon Jacobs can BALL!)

11. Fred Taylor v. NYJ—Yikes! Taylor was cruising along at a nice, little 80 yards-per-game clip when…splat! He fell on his face to the tune of 16 measly yards on seven carries in the Week 4 loss to Washington. Yes, the Jags abandoned the run but sometimes you abandon the run because it isn’t working. It wasn’t last Sunday, for sure. I anticipate a bounce-back game this weekend but another disappointing effort and we might need to reevaluate. Fool me once….

12. Laurence Maroney v. MIA—Is it too early to call this year’s running back crop one of the best ever? Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t ramp up those expectations a bit. Maroney is the best of the bunch (by far) and that’s saying something when you consider DeAngelo Williams, Maurice Jones-Drew, Joseph Addai, and even Jerious Norwood have proven to be reliable options in a hurry. Keep starting him and don’t worry about Corey Dillon. He’s too good to not see the ball 15-20 times a game.

13. Willis McGahee @ CHI—His yardage was down last weekend (78) but he finally managed to find paydirt. If he ever put together an all-around stellar day (yards and points), I might be willing to cut him some slack for that preposterous preseason boast. Don’t expect it to happen this Sunday (the Bears are too good) but 75 more and a garbage time touch doesn’t seem out of the question.

14. Chester Taylor v. DET—McGahee’s opponent last Sunday, the seemingly reliable Chet Taylor, was practically non-existent, garnering the rock only ten times for a paltry 23 yards. There is simply no way the Vikes are gonna be successful when he does that little. The going won’t get much easier against Detroit, believe it or not, but I think he’ll manage to gain 50-75 yards and a score as Minnesota keeps the Lions winless.

15. Cadillac Williams @ NO—The news is never good out of Tampa these days (banged-up offensive line, rookie QB, etc.) but I’m gonna go against the grain a bit and tell you why I think Caddy will survive: he’s good...and apparently healthy. Plus, I’m not sold on the Saints’ front seven. Call it the contrarian play of the week and get him back in there.

Grab A Helmet:

Joseph Addai v. TEN—The 2nd best rookie back has been a tad inconsistent to start the season and still can’t shake Dominic Rhodes, despite the fact he’s clearly the better back. Nevertheless, he’s coming off a solid performance at the Meadowlands (99 total yards and a score) and now faces a Tennessee team that has, um, a few problems. His first 100-yard outing seems like a stretch but 75 and another score seems do-able. Go do it, Joe.

Julius Jones @ PHI—We shouldn’t read too much into any stats accumulated v. the Titans but it’s hard to overlook Jones’ stellar effort last weekend: 122 yards and one score. Actually, Thomas’ little brother has been pretty danged good all year long, averaging almost 100 yards in three games. The threat of poachers is still strong (look at who else scored for the ‘Boys in Nashville) but Jones is still a strong #2 option in most leagues.

Thomas Jones v. BUF—So’s Big Bro, for once. I traded him after two weeks of blah numbers but I’m starting to regret it now. I figured he’d lose more touches to Ced Benson than he has but, to his credit, Lovie Smith hasn’t strayed far from his general approach (namely, money doesn’t dictate who plays). Expect another near 100-yard outing as the Bears remain undefeated.

Tatum Bell v. BAL—Relax, Tatum fans. He’ll land in the top 15 eventually. In fact, you can count on it for next week when he squares off against Oakland. This week? Not quite. The Ravens did give up nearly 100 yards to L.T. in Week 4 but that was L.T., one of the best five players in the game. I think they hold Bell #1 in check for the most part, though I think he manages to rip off one big one and (maybe) score a touch. Don’t forget about Bell #2, either.

LaMont Jordan @ SF—I told you he’d break out against the Browns last weekend and, sure enough, that’s exactly what he did (128 yards and a touch). Too bad that crappity-a$$ Oakland defense couldn’t prevent Cleveland’s high-powered attack from clawing their way back. Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek. Give him the start in San Fran this Sunday but don’t get too carried away with those expectations. The Raiders are still really, really awful and that will affect his value all year long.

Grab A Gatorade:

Willie Parker @ SD—He’s arguably the only good thing about Pittsburgh’s offense right now but that might change (in a hurry) this weekend. The Steelers go toe-to-toe with the league’s 2nd best run defense and Parker is only one game removed from a 20-yard outing at Jacksonville. Steer clear if you can afford to as the schedule gets softer after this.

Jamal Lewis @ DEN—Lewis knows all about that San Diego front after amassing just 34 yards on 15 carries in Week 4. The amazing part? He and the Ravens are still undefeated, despite an offense that ranks 28th in yards/game. How long can that last? Well, that 28th ranked part can certainly last one week longer as the Broncos field the league’s 4th best unit. Expect an almost unwatchable slugfest this Sunday and very little in the way of fantasy value (unless your league uses IDPs).

Kevan Barlow @ JAX—Remember when I joked about him having more TDs than Larry Johnson and Shaun Alexander combined? Um, yeah. He still does. In case you needed further proof that this NFL season is not exactly following form. Sit him down against Jacksonville and go get your hands on Leon Washington. I’ve got a suspicion the former Seminole could emerge in the next few weeks, despite Barlow’s recent production.

Any Tennessee RB @ IND—Logic would dictate the Titans will protect their raw QB by taking the air out of the ball and grinding it out on the RCA turf. Just one problem: there’s nobody to do the grinding. LenDale White is probably the safest bet in Week 5 but I wouldn’t play him unless I were desperate. Keep looking.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends