Week Four Running Back Rankings
1. LaMont Jordan @ Dolphins – I still firmly believe that Jordan will eventually fade off and finish somewhere in the top 15 to 20 running backs. That being said, the Dolphins present an extremely friendly matchup to the hottest running back in the league. I can’t ignore that and Jordan should be good for 150 total yards and a score.
2. Willie Parker @ Cardinals – Those in touchdown-heavy leagues are probably wondering where the touchdown-per-game Parker is. Well, this offense seems to be favoring the passing game in the red zone while Parker racks up yardage everywhere else on the field. I do think he is a threat for a long touchdown in this contest though, and his ceiling is probably higher than any other running back this week. But even if that doesn’t happen, he’s a lock for over 100 yards.
3. Joseph Addai vs. Broncos – What happened to the Broncos’ defense that was deadly against the run? I guess LaDainian Tomlinson killed that group last season. Anyway, Addai has shown some flaws over the last couple weeks. In fact, if he hadn’t scored three times against the Titans and Texans, people would be wondering what’s wrong. His yards-per-carry average in those two contests is 3.6. I guess that is better than Tomlinson and Larry Johnson, though.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Chiefs – I don’t really know what to tell people here. Either he’ll break out of the slump or it’ll continue. I don’t anticipate a middle-of-the-ground kind of game here. Either his yards per carry will hover between three and four or it will skyrocket to around six. What else can you do but start him and hope for the best?
5. Cedric Benson @ Lions – This is probably my sneaky start of the week. Benson ran well against Kansas City in Week Two, but has looked pedestrian in his games against the Chargers and Cowboys. Those latter two teams are both top 10 run defenses, however, and the Lions have given up more rushing scores than any team in the league. Benson should score twice, and tack on some decent yardage numbers as well.
6. Willis McGahee @ Browns – Everyone knows that the Ravens have had success running against the Browns. Everyone knows that the Browns’ defense is still awful, actually giving up the most rushing yards per game in the league. Everyone knows that McGahee is running better than Jamal Lewis did for the last few years. All of this means that everyone knows to start McGahee, right?
7. Marion Barber vs. Rams – So the Cowboys will be playing a Rams’ team without Steven Jackson and with a banged up Marc Bulger. Oh, and about one and a half healthy offensive linemen. If they don’t score 35 points, it should be considered a disappointing day.
8. Brian Westbrook @ Giants – I am writing this assuming Westbrook will not only play, but be somewhat healthy for the game. There’s no question that he will be at least slightly limited, but he’s still the most dangerous player the Eagles have. He should be good for 125 total yards and maybe a score.
9. Laurence Maroney @ Bengals – If you told me Maroney would have 20-to-25 carries in this game, I’d have no issue putting him even higher on these rankings. Sadly, he will be spelled liberally, which is good for his future, but bad for fantasy owners this week. Still, even getting between 15-to-20 touches should produce 100 total yards and a score.
10. Frank Gore vs. Seahawks – Gore has had a good history against the Seahawks, as he seems to get significant joy from watching Mike Holmgren throw papers onto the ground in disgust. It has been a rocky start to the season for the 49ers’ offense and Gore, but he’s still a starter.
11. Shaun Alexander @ 49ers – Alexander has been, well, okay this year. As I mentioned in the preseason, he’s become a very boring, poor man’s Rudi Johnson. You know you can expect between 70 and 100 yards with the chance of a touchdown. Boooo-ring.
12. Travis Henry @ Colts – Well, at least Henry crossed the stripe. Other than that, it was a terrible game for a player who averaged over 130 yards on the ground in his first two contests. Henry owners will probably be happier after this game, but I still can’t get the bad taste out of mouth enough to move him any higher than this strong second back position.
13. Derrick Ward vs. Eagles – Ward has filled in for Brandon Jacobs quite well, and even though the Eagles are strong against the run, I expect the Giants to try to establish the ground game as often as possible. This is, after all, an NFC East battle. Just don’t expect a touchdown.
14. Adrian Peterson vs. Packers – Much like Ward with the Eagles, any time two division rivals meet, stats have to be taken with a grain of salt. The Vikings know where their bread and butter is, and it rests firmly with Peterson. He’ll have every chance to carry his team to a much-needed win.
15. Marshawn Lynch vs. Jets – Read above. It’s the same deal with Lynch against the Jets. Oh wait. Except the Jets aren’t good statistically. Okay, it’s just a good player against a bad team. That works too.
16. Thomas Jones @ Bills – I’ve never though too much of Jones, but if there’s one week where he can actually help a fantasy team win a game, it’s this one. The Bills possess an atrocious run defense, and the Jets won’t even try to pass.
17. Edgerrin James vs. Steelers – Well, those were the Cardinals we all know and love. Well, unless you are a James’ owner and were wondering why the back only got 10 carries. And you were probably even more curious since he averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Anyway, if they run him 20 times, he’ll get about 80 yards against this stellar Steelers’ defense. So that’s something.
18. Larry Johnson @ Chargers – Look, I don’t think he’s worth a start, but with byes and injuries, there’s not much left to choose from. On the plus side, there’s only 14 more weeks before I let Johnson off the hook (to enter Shaun Alexander land) and start warning you all about Willie Parker next year. Yay.
19. Jamal Lewis vs. Ravens – I told you there wasn’t much left.
20. Carnell Williams vs. Panthers – Can I just end this column yet?
21. Julius Jones vs. Rams – I’d really rather start myself over Jones. Or a pencil sharpener.
22. Kenny Watson vs. Patriots And we’re done. Sorry, but if I didn’t name a running back you’re planning on starting, you lost this week. Better luck next time. Now for some random observations.
23. Milton Bradley – What’s amazing about this situation is that I actually feel sorry for Bradley. It’s like the moment the class clown realizes that even when he isn’t causing trouble, he’ll still be treated by everyone, including the teacher, as if he is. Poor guy.
24. Reading Lists – Are always more fun than stories without lists. CollegeHumor.com is based on this fact.
25. The Year of the Wide Receivers – Last year, fifth-round fantasy backs were going for 1,800 yards. This year, I can’t even come up with 17 backs worth starting. Meanwhile, the wide outs are open every play. Even Chris Chambers is on pace for 1,600 yards. Go figure.