Associated Press Writer
Perhaps at some point during the Dallas bye week coach Wade Phillips observed the sudden outbreak of common sense in NFL backfields.
Minnesota and Tennessee, after long holding the odd opinion that their best running back shouldn't get the ball too often, finally have caved in. Adrian Peterson had 20 of the Vikings' 29 carries last week, and LenDale White had 25 of the Titans' 36.
That leaves the Cowboys as the most glaring example of a team clinging to a two-running back system even though one is far superior. Julius Jones starts, but the ground game is bland until the furious-running Marion Barber replaces him.
As anybody who drafted Barber in a fantasy football league knows, there's plenty of evidence indicating he should be the man in Dallas.
Barber averages 5.7 yards a carry to Jones' 3.8. Barber has five TD runs, and Jones has one. Barber rumbled for 96 yards on a Vikings defense that no one runs on, while Jones has yet to hit 70 against anyone. Barber even has a cool nickname granted by none other than Terrell Owens: ``Marion the Barbarian.''
Despite all that, Barber has carried the ball just six times more than Jones.
As you again wonder why the Cowboys are playing in Sunday night prime time instead of the Colts and Patriots, here's a look at some players to start in Week 9, some to avoid, and a handful of long shots who just might pan out:
-Start Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the Patriots and Colts play The Greatest Showdown Ever in All the History of All Humanity, or whatever they're calling this game. (OK, so it's a painfully obvious suggestion, but I just want to be on record as picking them before they each throw nine TDs.)
-If ribless Marc Bulger can light up Cleveland's defense, surely Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck can do it with a sore oblique. He's been solid since the running game began crumbling, with two or more TDs in four of the past five games.
-Hey, look who's back: It's the Bungles. Cincinnati (2-5) has looked like the horrid Bengals of a few years back, but Carson Palmer should rebound against Buffalo. He's thrown just one TD in four of his last five games.
-Denver's Jay Cutler should bust up Detroit's streak of two straight decent defensive games. The Lions have only allowed one TD pass in those games but still rank 30th against the pass and are allowing an NFL-worst 69.5 percent completions.
-The only reason I suggest starting everybody against the Vikings' NFL-worst pass defense is because it works every week. San Diego's Philip Rivers gets the free stats this time.
-Maybe Buffalo's J.P. Losman has been scared straight after getting benched for a rookie. He even gets a shot at the Bengals' easygoing secondary for a confidence booster.
Please, in the name of Babe Laufenberg, don't start these guys:
-Consider this a formal apology for the preseason suggestion that Tennessee's Vince Young is a top 10 QB. He's got leadership and wins, but some stats would be nice. (He's coming off a 42-yard game and is on pace for six or so TDs this year.)
-Kurt Warner's hurt non-throwing elbow might even be bending a bit after Arizona's week off, but his throwing arm could be in trouble. The Bucs rank second against the pass, and there's always the chance Warner limps off early.
-Does anybody know who's starting for Houston or Oakland? Sage McNown or something like that? If you're actually looking it up, your fantasy team has big problems.
-Overthinker Alert: Pittsburgh's Willie Parker normally tanks against Baltimore, averaging about 43 yards the past two years. But the Ravens are a little softer than usual this year, and Parker averages 144 yards in his last five home games.
-So far it's been easy to figure out Kansas City's Larry Johnson. Bench him against good defenses, start him against bad ones. This week it's a bit more complicated, as the Packers have allowed only two rushing TDs but also a handful of long runs.
-Did somebody in Detroit swipe Mike Martz's playbook? Kevin Jones is a power runner in a conservative offense? What next, pass blocking? Jones (TD in four of last five games) faces Denver's NFL-worst run defense.
-Marshawn Lynch of Buffalo should easily get his first 100-yard game against Cincinnati's run defense that's allowed 139 yards a game and a league-worst 11 runs of 20 or more yards.
-Washington's Clinton Portis hasn't done squat the past two weeks, averaging just 35 yards. But he should improve against demoralized Jets defenders who were just swept by Buffalo.
-Remember how the Colts said Kenton Keith would share carries with Joseph Addai? That didn't exactly happen, but if Keith's the only way you can get in on the Arena League-like Colts-Patriots shootout, give him a go.
-Thomas Jones has had 20 or more carries just three times this year, apparently because the Jets wanted to showcase Chad Pennington before benching him. He may get more carries with Kellen Clemens starting, but that would make a lot of sense.
-It's a concern that Reggie Bush had just 10 carries in the Saints' biggest win. And he hasn't run for a score since September.
-Carolina's DeShaun Foster scored last week, so don't expect him to this week. He tends to get a TD about once every fourth game, and he faces the Titans' top-ranked run defense.
-It could be another tough week for Carolina's Steve Smith, who faces Tennessee and will catch passes from a banged-up journeyman to be named later. Then again, he did catch 10 passes from Vinny Testaverde a few weeks ago.
-Lee Evans is a must-start for the Bills now that his buddy J.P. Losman's back in the lineup. The timing's good for Losman's job security, too, as the Bengals are tied with the Browns for most TD passes allowed (18).
-If he didn't have a gray beard, you'd never know Joey Galloway's turning 36 this month. He had 115 yards last week, and he averages more yards per catch (17.1) than Randy Moss, Chad Johnson or Reggie Wayne.
-Atlanta's Roddy White may be the only guy in the NFL who actually wants to see Joey Harrington start. With nine games to go, White already has a career-high 530 yards.
-Seattle's Deion Branch is supposed to be back from injury, and there's no better way to ease back into things than against the Browns.
-The Lions can't go four straight games without a TD pass, can they? The way Denver so casually watched 80-yard passes last week, it may be time to reinsert Detroit receivers into the lineup.
-Donald Driver used to be Brett Favre's one and only target, before the Packers got all those fast and young guys. Driver hasn't scored or cracked 60 yards in four games.
-The Chargers barely threw last week and only looked Vincent Jackson's way once - and even that went incomplete. Bench him even against the Vikings because it appears he's been displaced by Chris Chambers.
-The Saints' David Patten got us all excited after his last 100-yard game, then vanished. Plus, he faces a Jaguars defense that's allowed an NFL-low five TD passes.
DON'T FORGET THE BYE WEEK: The Giants, Chicago, St. Louis and Miami are off, meaning the Dolphins have time to go find more free agents you've never heard of.
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: RB Ryan Grant (104 yards), WR Reggie Brown (105 yards), QB J.P. Losman (starting again), QB Kellen Clemens (new starter), RB Michael Robinson (one of Frank Gore's backups).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I expected big days for Derek Anderson (3 TDs), Brian Westbrook (2 TDs), Donovan McNabb (333 yards, TD), Marc Bulger (310 yards, TD), Brandon Jacobs (131 yards) and LenDale White (133 yards). I expected failure for Jon Kitna (0 TDs), Jeff Garcia (1 TD, 3 INTs) and LaMont Jordan (16 yards).
Big Misses: I expected big days for Eli Manning (59 yards, TD), Frank Gore (41 yards), Brian Griese (TD, 4 INTs), Antwaan Randle El (43 yards) and Muhsin Muhammad (23 yards). I knew an obscure Packer would do well, but I thought it'd be DeShawn Wynn (season-ending injury) and not Ryan Grant (104 yards). I sure didn't see Lee Evans' 85-yard TD coming.

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