FANTASY FOOTBALL: Running backs have vanished heading into Week 6 Print
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Wednesday, 10 October 2007 07:09
NFL Headline News

 FANTASY FOOTBALL
By JOHN McFARLAND
Associated Press Writer
It's fitting that Tom Brady, Tony Romo and their surprisingly well-behaved star receivers are the focus of this week's fantasy football freak show between the unbeaten Patriots and Cowboys.
With 31 touchdowns between them, they're the perfect illustration of what's so weird about fantasy football this year: Running backs have vanished.
Take a look at the top scorers. Receivers Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress lead everyone with seven TDs each. Thirteen players have four or more scores, but only three of them are running backs. Braylon Edwards has more touchdowns than LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie Parker, Shaun Alexander, Frank Gore, Larry Johnson, Steven Jackson or Brian Westbrook.
The backs aren't getting the yards, either. Moss has more yards receiving (551) than any back has yards rushing. First-round picks Tomlinson, Johnson, and Jackson each have one 100-yard game. Gore has none.
A quick look at the top 10 rushers, which doesn't include any of the aforementioned first-rounders, sheds more light on the RB problems. Five have one or no scores, three have been hurt, and three share time. And Travis Henry, well, he has other issues.
As you again wonder why you didn't draft Ronnie Brown, here's a look at players to start in Week 6, some to avoid, and a few long shots that just may pan out:
QUARTERBACKS
A SAFE BET
-The Eagles are getting healthier and the Jets are getting worse, meaning Donovan McNabb has the rare opportunity to be effective. He faces the 25th-ranked pass defense, which may be rattled by all the boos from the New York crowd.
-Speaking of notable figures from five years ago, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has been promoted to full-time status. He has four TDs coming off the bench, numbers he could reach against the overrated Panthers defense.
-Don't worry about Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, who barely cleared 100 yards while being shut out and beaten up last week. He'll feel better after a home game against a New Orleans' pass defense that has allowed an NFL-high six passes of 40 or more yards.
-Fun as it is to pick on Bears QBs, Brian Griese is a lock for a big game against the Vikings' always befuddled pass defense. He'll work in some big yardage and TDs to go with his bloopers.
-If Cleveland's Derek Anderson can go for nearly 300 and two TDs at New England, maybe he's a guy you just don't bench anymore. He's had two scores every week since his ridiculous five-TD day in Week 2.
TAKE A SHOT
-Stuck without a QB during the bye? Get that Cleo Lemon bandwagon rolling in Miami. He gets his first start against the Browns, who have allowed an NFL-high 15 TDs. Plus, it's fun to say Cleo Lemon.
BACK AWAY SLOWLY AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Please, in the name of Clint Stoerner, don't start these guys:
-Daunte Culpepper's nice little comeback story in Oakland could hit a major snag this week. The Chargers' defense has woken up, and Culpepper still hasn't passed for 120 yards this year. The last time he was over 300 yards was 2004.
-Likewise, the feel-good story for Matt Schaub and the Texans should take a very sad turn against the Jaguars, who have only allowed two TD passes and just aren't letting people score anymore.
-Surely nobody's still playing New Orleans' Drew Brees (1 TD, 9 INTs). Last year is over, folks. It's time to move on.
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RUNNING BACKS
ALL DAY LONG
-Kansas City's Larry Johnson may quit whining so much once he realizes he can plow through Cincinnati defenders without any blocking. The Bengals were giving up 150 yards rushing a game even before they started placing ads for linebackers.
-The Giants' Brandon Jacobs is feeling rejuvenated after his first 100-yard game. The downtrodden Falcons, already on the verge of taking a knee for the season, are in no mood for a fired-up 264-pounder.
-If Baltimore's Willis McGahee can't find the end zone this week, maybe he never will. His line is beat up, but that shouldn't matter against the Rams' 28th-ranked run defense that has allowed an NFL-high eight touchdowns.
-Rookie Adrian Peterson faces a Bears run defense that's not nearly as scary as it used to be, and with Tarvaris Jackson back the Vikings will do everything they can to avoid throwing.
-Who's Cleveland's running back these days? Who cares? Who ever it is will play against a Dolphins run defense giving up 174 yards a game. (To the chagrin of NFL purists, the aesthetically disturbing Dolphins-Browns matchup is a HUGE game for fantasy geeks.)
HE COULD FIND A SEAM
-Maurice Jones-Drew was stuffed on almost every carry except for his 52-yard TD run. The Jaguars can afford to be patient against the Texans, and he should break loose again.
RED FLAGS
-Sounds shocking, but it might be time to bench Seattle's Shaun Alexander. He's got some cracked bones in his 30-year-old body, his fullback just retired, and his coach has announced more carries for the backup.
-Chicago's Cedric Benson seems to fall down a lot without much prompting, and he faces a Vikings defense allowing an NFL-low 62 yards a game and no rushing TDs.
-Earnest Graham's a great free-agent pickup now that he's Tampa Bay's last runner standing. Just keep him on the bench against the Titans, who are giving up just over 70 yards rushing a game.
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WIDE RECEIVERS
THROW HIM THE DARN BALL!
-Don't worry too much about Torry Holt as the Rams start backup Gus Frerotte against Baltimore's No. 4 defense. If Trent Dilfer can luck into two long pass plays against the Ravens, surely Frerotte's good for four or five.
-The Chiefs will have to throw some once Larry Johnson gets tired. Either of their mediocre QBs will spot Dwayne Bowe behind a Bengals secondary that has already allowed 11 scores.
-With Deion Branch out, Bobby Engram is about as good as it gets for Seattle's receiving corps. He scored in two straight games before last week's shutout, and the Saints still aren't covering people.
-Chicago's Bernard Berrian has gone six straight games without a TD, but the Vikings' 30th-ranked pass defense just may fix that.
-The Chargers have rediscovered LaDainian Tomlinson, but they haven't totally forgotten third guy Vincent Jackson. He should get more passes in a closer game against Oakland.
MAYBE THROW HIM THE DARN BALL?
-The Jaguars are very strict about limiting the offense to no more than one TD pass a game. Last week it was to Dennis Northcutt, who had seven passes thrown his way. He faces a questionable Houston secondary.
SHOW HIM THE DARN BENCH
-Remember when Devery Henderson had 100 yards last week? Well, don't. His lack of opposable thumbs has the coaches eyeballing the bench.
-The Redskins' pass defense has only allowed two TDs, which is the same number of fumbles Green Bay's James Jones lost last week. You might see the rookie as a great bye-week fill-in, but he won't do much from the coach's dog house.
-Also avoid Amani Toomer while shopping for bye-week help. (Plaxico Burress' contract with the Giants specifies that he never practices but gets all TDs.)
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DON'T FORGET THE BYE WEEK: Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Denver, Detroit, Buffalo and San Francisco are off, meaning lots of shaky fantasy lineups.
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FREE AGENT SHOPPING LIST
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: QB Kurt Warner (new starter), RB Earnest Graham (new starter), QB Brian Griese (2 TDs), QB Gus Frerotte (3 TDs), RB Jason Wright (possible starter), WR Bryant Johnson (80 yards), RB Maurice Morris (more carries), QB David Carr (possible starter), QB Trent Edwards (permanent starter?), K Kris Brown (3 FGs over 50 yards).
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WHAT DO I KNOW?
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I saw good things for Jason Campbell (2 TDs), Ronnie Brown (114 yards, TD) and Braylon Edwards (110 yards). I expected more inactivity from Thomas Jones (36 yards) and Joey Galloway (50 yards, drops aplenty). I suggested picking up Kenton Keith (121 yards, 2 TDs) and Sammy Morris (102 yards), the implication being you should start them if they start. (What did you want, a diagram?)
Big Misses: I didn't expect Jon Kitna, Jay Cutler and Vince Young (combined 0 TDs, 6 INTs) to completely lose their minds. I saw big things for Chris Chambers (19 yards), DeShaun Foster (59 yards) and Frank Gore (75 total yards). I for some reason expected failure from Philip Rivers (3 TDs) and Torry Holt (TD).
 

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