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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. 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 Sunday.

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 Sunday.

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 Field.

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 rock-toters.

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 else.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends