Must Start: The Top 15
1. LaDainian Tomlinson v. CLE—It’s
hoops season again (already?) so I thought a fantasy basketball
analogy might be in order: he’s LeBron James, the guy who
does everything well and some things extraordinarily well. Coming
off a 240-yard, three-score effort against the Rams, you gotta
like his chances of dominating against Cleveland’s 28th-ranked
run defense. Actually, I’m not sure the opponent even matters.
You always start him.
2. Larry Johnson @ STL—Anyone
else get the feeling LJ is primed for an ’05-esque second
half? He was straight-up unstoppable against the ‘Hawks
last Sunday, rambling for 181 total yards and four scores in the
35-28 barnburner. Sure, Seattle was without some key weapons but,
last I checked, Alexander and Hasselbeck don’t play defense.
Neither do the Rams, in case you’re wondering.
3. Steven Jackson v. KC—Of
course, KC shouldn’t be looking down their collective noses
at anyone when it comes to defense. They did, after all, give
up 28 points to those hampered Hawks and 45 and 27 to the Steelers
and Chargers, respectively, the two weeks prior. Jackson, meanwhile,
has been busy averaging over 125 total yards per contest and has
even been finding the end zone more frequently of late (three
times in his last four tilts). I smell another shootout.
4. Tiki Barber v. HOU—The
touchdown drought continues, which means Tiki’s probably
making his last top 5 appearance…ever. Then again, that
could all change should he manage to find paydirt against the
lowly Texans this weekend. They’re giving up close to 135
yards per game on the ground and he’s racking up just over
that many per on the ground and through the air. I’m no
math whiz, but….
5. Chester Taylor @ SF—It’s
been feast or famine for Chet this season and, not surprisingly,
the Vikes win when he feasts…and lose when he doesn’t.
It’s anybody’s guess how he’ll fare this weekend
but a soft San Fran run D tells me he might be feasting. Mark
him down for 100+ and a score at Monster Park and hope the injured
right shoulder is all good come game time.
6. Cadillac Williams v. NO—It’s
been nothing but soup kitchens and government cheese for the Caddy
this year as the sophomore slump enters week #9. So why is rated
this high? Who else deserves the ranking? Not a great week for
rock-toters, folks, and at least he has a triple-digit day v.
the Saints (his best outing of the year, incidentally) in his
back pocket already. I think he tops the century mark again as
the Bucs even the score this Sunday. Heard it here first.
7. Willis McGahee v. GB—TBRBITNFL
has been slipping of late, endangering his status as…well,
TBRBITNFL. OK, so he was never really up for that honor, but let’s
humor him. One thing he can do to get himself back in the good
graces of fantasy ballers? Score a touchdown, damn it! He has
one all season, or four fewer than TWRBITNFL, Kevan Barlow.
8. Ahman Green @ BUF—The
guy opposing McGahee this weekend, the NFL’s version of
Lazarus, has been off the hook of late, tallying 251 total yards
and three scores in his last two contests, both Green Bay victories.
He doesn’t garner nearly the amount of work he used to but
that might actually be a good thing since he tends to get dinged
up. Give him a start against Buffalo’s questionable run
defense this weekend.
9. Fred Taylor v. TEN—You
know I’m digging deep when I go for a committee guy in the
top 10. He’s not even touching it 20 times per game but
Fragile Fred is still producing, averaging almost three bills.
Perhaps that reduction in workload will make him a tad less fragile,
too? Here’s hoping. It certainly hasn’t cut into the
bottom line much since he was never really a touchdown machine
in the first place. Start him against Tennessee’s overly
generous run D this Sunday.
10. Thomas Jones v. MIA—Actually,
this committee thing looks to be in vogue around the league as
coaches and player personnel folks start to realize that putting
all one’s eggs in a single basket can be harmful to the
health of a franchise (unless that basket is LJ). It seems to
be working in Chicago somewhat as Jones and his cohort Ced Benson
have combined to rush for better than 130 combined yards (and
six touchdowns) in three of their last four. Jones still gets
the lion’s share so keep starting him.
11. Julius Jones or Marion Barber III
@ WAS—Since we’re on the subject of committee
backfields, perhaps we should talk about the very best one, no?
It belongs to Dallas if you ask me and a fantasy GM could hardly
be faulted for starting either of the two ‘Boys backs in
any given week. Jones is almost a cinch for triple digits (or
close to it) and Barber seems to find the end zone every week,
no matter how many yards he ultimately accounts for. You gotta
like Jones slightly better but there’s no reason to split
them up at this point. Start either against the ‘Skins this
12. Laurence Maroney v. IND—Sean
Salisbury claimed this week he would draft Maroney over Reggie
Bush if he could indeed go back and pick the guy he thinks is
going to make the biggest impact in the long run. Not sure I buy
that but he IS a former Trojan. Regardless, it doesn’t take
a press pass to know what attracts Salisbury to the former Gopher:
straight-line speed. That comes through loud and clear on the
tube and I suspect it’s what will get Maroney more and more
looks as we get deeper into the season. Start him against Indy’s
league-worst run defense this Sunday night.
13. Warrick Dunn @ DET—Dunn’s
star appears to be fading a bit as the Falcons attempt to get
more touches for Jerious Norwood, another talented rook with built-in
booster rockets. Not sure how that plays out long-term but it’s
probably best if you lower expectations a bit and hope he goes
off against inferior opponents. The Lions certainly qualify so
that means you shouldn’t worry about starting Dunn this
14. Kevin Jones v. ATL—Actually,
Detroit is an inferior opponent with a semi-productive offense,
the best of both worlds in fantasy ball. Much to my surprise,
Jones has caught fire of late, racking up 306 total yards in his
last two contests and two scores, to boot. Hell, the Lions even
won one of those games (Week 6 against the Bills). Give him the
start against the Falcons this weekend.
15. Rudi Johnson @ BAL—It’s
been up-and-down for the quieter Johnson in Cincy this year and
the same could probably be said of the Bengals in general. Sitting
at 4-3, nobody really knows where they’ll end up. I think
the playoffs are still a lock but they’ll need a couple
quality Ws to make it happen, starting this Sunday at Baltimore.
I think they get it, but it won’t be easy, for them or Rudi.
Grab A Helmet:
Willie Parker v. DEN—Forget
quality Ws. Pittsburgh just needs Ws, no matter how they get them.
Tall order if the upcoming schedule is any indication (Baltimore
twice, Cincy, Carolina, etc.) Nevertheless, they have the talent
to run the table and though that isn’t likely, expect them
to give it the ol’ college try. Don’t forget, as well,
that Parker’s three 100-yard games have all come at Heinz
Maurice Jones-Drew v. TEN—He
actually saw the football more than Fred Taylor in last week’s
surprising victory over the Eagles and could do so again if the
Jags jump out to the early lead against the Titans this Sunday.
Not saying he will. Just saying he could. Even if he touches it
10-15 times, he’s explosive enough to tally 50+ yards and
a score or two. In fact, let’s go ahead and guarantee one
of those scores, shall we? Mark it down, people.
Deuce McAllister @ TB—Better
yet, let’s make it a two-fer. Deuce finds paydirt against
the Bucs this weekend, especially if Reggie is unable to go (he
hasn’t practiced as of press time).
Frank Gore v. MIN—Gore
was one of the few bright spots for the Niners last weekend, racking
up 111 yards on just twelve carries in the Chitown bloodbath.
He could actually play much better this weekend and still not
match that total against an equally stingy Minnesota run defense.
Probably best to slate him for 85 yards and a score as the Niners
keep it interesting ‘til the end.
Clinton Portis v. DAL—Portis
has never scored against the Cowboys in four career tries and
he may have trouble doing so again if that passing game doesn’t
get untracked early. Best case scenario? It does and the Redskins
are able to achieve some balance. Worst case? The ‘Boys
jump on their archrivals early and it becomes the Mark Brunell
show (mature audiences only).
Grab A Gatorade:
The Bell Connection @ PIT—The
problem is not the Steelers for once, though that doesn’t
help. The problem is we really don’t know how injured Tatum
is. If he’s OK to go, this looks like a split down the middle.
If he isn’t, then Mike Bell gets most of the touches and
probably warrants a look. Check back Sunday morning and see what
the real experts are saying. Then do the opposite.
Any Oakland RB @ SEA—Did
you miss the part about Oakland notching just 98 yards last week
against the Steelers? I’m thinking a Monday night game against
the ‘Hawks in Seattle is not gonna do wonders for them either.
That’s just me, though. Roll the dice if you’re braver.
Reuben Droughns @ SD—The
former Duck broke out in a big way against the Jets last Sunday
(33 carries for 125 yards and a score) but I suspect his success
will be short-lived. The Bolts are unbeaten at home and, quite
frankly, an entirely different team when they play at Qualcomm.
Not to mention, they’re only giving up 84.4 yards/game on
the ground and have already faced the Willie Parker, Larry Johnson,
Frank Gore, and Steven Jackson, four of the league’s better
Wali Lundy @ NYG—The rook
has started to emerge the past two weeks, averaging over 100 yards
and scoring his first professional touchdown. Nevertheless, he
hasn’t faced a team as good as New York yet and is due for
a correction. I think it happens this week as the G-Men go up
big early and make the Texans one-dimensional. Lundy won’t
be the dimension, in case you’re wondering. Find someone
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends