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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 v. STL—Fantasy’s Everyman was at it again last Sunday, racking up 138 total yards and even throwing one of his halfback option specials to Brandon Manamanameleamamanau to tie the game late. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Chargers bowed to the Chiefs at Arrowhead yet again. This week, they draw a well-rested St. Louis crew that could give San Diego all they can handle. Expect lots of points and, naturally, lots of LT.

2. Larry Johnson v. SEA—So THAT’S why everyone had him rated #1 coming into the season, huh? After a slow start, LJ has found paydirt six times in his last four contests and appears to be regaining the form that made him such a stud at the tail end of ’05. We had this one circled as a mano-y-mano LJ v. Alexander special but that’ll hafta wait for another time as Seattle’s main man will be in street gear. Probably a good thing for Johnson and the Chiefs.

3. Brian Westbrook v. JAX—If your league rewards kicker points for 100-yard rushing/receiving days, Merry Christmas! Westbrook did both last Sunday, tallying 214 large and what should have been the game-winning score on a 52-yard grab n’ dash late in the fourth quarter. No reasonable person would expect him to be as spectacular this weekend but, then again, what’s to stop him? Not the Jags if last week’s performance is any indication. Start him as usual.

4. Tatum Bell v. IND—One of Denver’s only reliable offensive weapons was at it again in Week 7, notching triple digits and another touch in the victory at Cleveland. This Sunday, he draws an Indy D that is second-to-last against the run (158.0 yards/game). Only reason he’s not #1? Denver might be playing from behind all afternoon. You start him, of course, but 150+ might be unrealistic.

5. Steven Jackson @ SD—I told you he’d fail to top the 100-yard mark in Week 6 and, sure enough, he did (albeit barely). This week, he faces another tough run defense that will attempt to make the Rams one-dimensional. Again, careful what you wish for, Chargers fans. Bulger and the wideouts are capable of lighting up anyone and, I suspect, good enough to keep the pressure off SJ, as well. Get him back in there.

6. Tiki Barber v. TB—We haven’t had a 200-yard rusher yet this season but I’ve got a feeling Tiki will be the first, maybe even this week against Tampa’s no-longer-formidable front seven. Then again, he needs all those yards to measure up with the other top 10 backs as he’s scored nary a touchdown thus far. Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn you…and go find Brandon Jacobs if you’re in a dynasty league.

7. Willie Parker @ OAK—Parker was almost an afterthought in the Hotlanta shootout (20 carries for 47 yards and no receptions) but if we’ve learned anything about Coach Cowher over the years, it’s that running the football is goal #1 in Pittsburgh. Expect him to get back to that philosophy this Sunday against the Raiders, with FWP being the primary beneficiary. 140 yards and a score. Mark it down, people.

8. Travis Henry v. HOU—How ‘bout a little love for Jeff Fisher and his survivor pool slayin’ Titans, huh? Coming off a surprise W in Week 6 (their first) and a bye week, Tennessee goes for two straight against Houston in a game that should be more rivalrous than it is, considering the intertwined histories of the two franchises. Henry’s the reason it will be close, as he’s rushed for over 300 bills in his last two.

9. Rudi Johnson v. ATL—Rudi finally got back in triple-digit territory with 101 yards in the Week 7 win over Carolina but couldn’t find the end zone, something he hasn’t done in almost a month. I’m not sure he reverses that trend this weekend (the Falcons have yielded only two rushing touchdowns all season) but I expect a lot of points at Paul Brown Stadium and when points get scored there, he’s usually one of the folks scoring them. Start him, but have Chris Perry in reserve in the unlikely event he’s unable to go.

10. Leon Washington @ CLE—I called Wali Lundy this year’s Willie Parker but I probably jumped the gun a bit. Would the REAL Willie Parker please stand up? Oh, wait. He IS standing up. Buh-dum Bum! But seriously, folks, the former Seminole is the real deal. Though he only reaches 5’8” (on tippy toes), Washington is lightning fast and surprisingly tough between the tackles. Start him against Cleveland’s third-rate run defense this Sunday.

11. Reuben Droughns v. NYJ—If Cleveland’s run defense is third-rate, New York’s isn’t much better. They both give up boatloads of yardage and the Jets have also allowed a whopping 12 TD scampers in ’06, or about two per game. If Droughns is ever going to score again (he is, isn’t he?), this’ll be the week he does it. Pencil him in for 80-100 yards and the ever important six-pointer.

12. Thomas Jones v. SFO—The committee seems to come and go in Chitown but Jones is easily the most reliable of the two Bears backs, averaging nearly 20 carries per contest in the early going. Sure, he’ll lose carries to Ced Benson from time to time but there should be more than enough to go around this weekend as the Monsters kick around San Fran’s weak sisters. I like him to approach the 100-yard mark and score once as they remain undefeated this weekend.

13. Warrick Dunn @ CIN—He’s ceding more and more touches to hotshot rook Jerious Norwood and is always a threat to be outgained by his QB but Dunn is still a legit top 15 running back for most fantasy GMs. The reason? Did you see that 90-yard scamper in Week 6? Guys his age aren’t supposed to be home run hitters but he still is in this, his tenth campaign. Start him.

14. Cadillac Williams @ NYG—Caddy hasn’t hit a home run since his NFL debut, a 71-yard, deal-sealing jaunt against the Vikes last season. Come to think of it, he hasn’t hit too many extra-base knocks lately, either. Nonetheless, the small ball approach seems to be working as he hasn’t dipped under 83 total yards in any of his past three tilts. Give him the nod against New York and expect something in that ballpark this Sunday.

15. Chester Taylor v. NE—Speaking of the Vikes, why isn’t anybody talking about them? They’ve beaten the ‘Skins, the Panthers, and the Seahawks (all purportedly contenders) and also gave the Bears their second-best game of the year in Week 3. If that defense keeps stoning opposing backs and Taylor keeps grinding it out between the twenties, they could be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time. Don’t forget they have a Super Bowl winner under center, too.

Grab A Helmet:

Laurence Maroney or Corey Dillon @ MIN—In fact, this particular Monday night matchup is starting to look more and more compelling by the minute. The Minnesota run defense is now ranked first in the league (honk if you knew this) and will get another stern test against New England’s ground-pounding duo, Maroney and Dillon, in Week 8. The latter was more valuable last Sunday but they’re both capable of succeeding, even against a front as stout as Minny’s.

Fred Taylor or Maurice Jones-Drew @ PHI—There’s more than one way to skin a cat in JVille, it appears. Taylor is clearly the better yardage guy (451 to 187) but Jones-Drew the better scoring option (five TDs to two). The long and short of it? They’re almost identical from a fantasy perspective. That means you should consider either guy a strong #2 or a superior #3 heading into the Week 8 showdown at the Linc.

Wali Lundy @ TEN—Perhaps the Texans pulled the plug too early on him to start the season? One thing’s for certain: Lundy wasn’t gonna let gift-wrapped opportunity #2 slip through his hands. Though he didn’t start against the Jaguars, he eventually replaced the ineffective Samkon Gado and dashed for 93 yards and a score on 19 carries. Coach Kubes has named him the starter for now and that means you should, as well, especially against the Titans this Sunday.

Dominic Rhodes or Joseph Addai @ DEN—Neither of these two is in danger of cracking the top 15 anytime soon, at least not until one of them (preferably Addai) seizes the role full time. Unfortunately, Coach Dungy has no motivation to do so since the Colts are undefeated and whirring along just fine, thank you very much. The Broncos are tough on opposing backs but Peyton and his gang are capable of loosening up even the most restrictive of run defenses. One of them scores this Sunday. You pick.

DeShaun Foster v. DAL—Not sure what to say about this guy anymore. He’s just too unpredictable to forecast. He’s also too talented not to mention. Consider this your shoulder shrug special of the week since you’ll probably play him whether I tell you to or not.

Julius Jones @ CAR—Same goes for him, more than likely. With three 100-yard outings in his not-too-distant past, you can’t sit him down. Then again, he almost never gets quality looks near the goal line. I mean, he looks at them. It’s just that he’s usually standing next to Bill Parcells. Can’t help you here, folks, other than to say I make it a rule of thumb not to draft players like him (I’ve never owned him).

Ahman Green v. ARZ—Holy seventy-yard scamper, Batman! Most fantasy diehards have written him off but, ever the homer, I can’t seem to let go. Hey, I might not even have to if his last two games are any indication (249 total yards and two scores). Give him a look against the hapless Cards this Sunday and hope that hammy (or at least Green) can go the distance.

Grab A Gatorade:

Deuce McAllister v. BAL—The Saints have been home sweet home for almost a month now and cap off the three-game Superdome-stand with a tilt against Baltimore’s defense-fueled/offense-challenged bunch. That probably spells trouble from a fantasy perspective, especially for a guy like Deuce who is reportedly suffering from a hamstring injury. He’s slated to play but any setbacks and you could be severely disappointed come Sunday. If you hafta start someone in this game, make it Reggie Bush. At least we know he’s capable of scoring anytime against anyone.

Any Oakland RB v. PIT—LaMont Jordan and Justin Fargas are iffy and that means Zack Crockett or (gulp) Reshard Lee could get the nod against the Curtain this Sunday. I challenge you to think of a less enticing matchup than any of these guys v. a pissed off Steelers crew.

Frank Gore @ CHI—OK, I take that back. Gore v. the Bears (ANYBODY against the Bears) isn’t much better. He’s an auto-start most of the time but “most of the time” does not include this weekend. Sit him down if you can afford to and hope he lives to play another day.

Edgerrin James @ GB—You’d need a shovel to find his yards/carry average (2.7), not to mention his characteristically brimming confidence. Word is he’s starting to question why he left Indianapolis. Um, Edge? Maybe you should check that bank balance. Don’t expect things to get much better. The Cardinals O-line simply can’t run block and the Pack is surprisingly decent in that area. Stick with Leinart and the young receivers this weekend.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends