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NFL Skinny: Riding the Bus

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Running Back Radar
MIAMI DOLPHINS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ronnie Brown
2nd Chair: Ricky Williams
Skinny: The workload was split down the middle again as the Dolphins upended the Chargers in San Diego during Week 14. The duo combined for 58 yards on 22 carries against the league's top run defense, and both lost fumbles. Nick Saban refers to Brown as the starter, but expect both to pile up carries for the final three games.
BALTIMORE RAVENS HOT
1st Chair: Jamal Lewis
2nd Chair: Chester Taylor
Skinny: Taylor got the one-game role as starter with Lewis's thumb injury in Week 14. Brian Billick's loyalty to Lewis despite the 3.1 yards per carry average keeps him in the starter role, but Taylor figures to cut into his carries in the final three games as the Ravens' brass evaluates him for 2006 (Lewis is a free agent).
DALLAS COWBOYS HOT
1st Chair: Julius Jones
2nd Chair: Marion Barber
Skinny: Jones remains the starter in Big D, although Barber again made a very loud case for Touches against Kansas City. Barber posted an impressive 5.5 yards per carry average in rushing for 82 yards. With another must-win game on tap against division-rival Washington, look for Bill Parcells to split the workload again.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS WARM
1st Chair: Michael Bennett
2nd Chair: Mewelde Moore
Skinny: Moore fell behind Bennett in the Minnesota backfield after hurting his wrist in Week 13 and watching Bennett dominate. In Week 14, Moore had only two Touches, and again watched Tice favorite Bennett tally 22 Touches, 70 yards on the ground, and a score for the second straight game. With the Vikings now in the mix for a playoff berth, don't look for Tice to rock the boat, no pun intended. Bennett remains the lead man for the final three games, barring injury, and Moore is relegated to spot duty and special teams work.
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS WARM
1st Chair: Fred Taylor
2nd Chair: Greg Jones
Skinny: Taylor returned to the field this week and ran for just 19 yards on 10 carries. His presence limited the opportunities for Jones and kept him from gaining any momentum. For now, Taylor remains the starter based on his history, but with Jacksonville looking to get some momentum going into the playoffs, Jones figures to be in the 12-15 carry range each week.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Antowain Smith
2nd Chair: Aaron Stecker
Skinny: Smith scored for the first time since Week 6 on Monday night against Atlanta. Ironically, his only other rushing touchdowns of the season came in that Week 6 meeting with the Falcons. He carried the ball 11 times in the loss, while Stecker tallied seven carries for 35 yards. Anthony Thomas saw sporadic action as the Falcons pulled away.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Willie Parker
2nd Chair: Jerome Bettis
Skinny: Parker got the Steelers rolling with a 45-yard reception early in their 21-9 victory over Chicago, and he finished the game with 113 total yards. The slippery conditions and snow were perfect for Jerome Bettis to bring the power game back to Pittsburgh, and he contributed his first 100-yard game of the year. Parker remains the starter for the stretch run, but those hurting at the No. 2 back would do well to spy Bettis on the waiver wire. He'll be in the every-down mix in addition to the normal goal-line plunges.
Week 14 provided a number of thrilling contests and some downright ugly stat lines for several of our preseason favorites. Willis McGahee got knocked around and finished the day under 10 yards. Carson Palmer threw for only 93 yards, a touchdown, and an interception against the Browns. Steve McNair and Brad Johnson led their teams to wins and provided adequate yardage, but neither found the end zone.

On the other hand, the QB quartet of Drew Bledsoe, Michael Vick, Drew Brees, and Matt Hasselbeck provided loads of offense for happy fantasy owners.

We saw some familiar names back in the spotlight, with Jerome Bettis, Terry Glenn, and Chris Chambers shining bright. But, the veterans were not alone, as rookie backs Carnell Williams and Ryan Moats crashed the party.

Let's break it down.

WEEK 14 UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days

You wanna talk about domination? Look no further than Kansas City tailback Larry Johnson. Johnson topped the 100-yard mark for the sixth straight game, pouring on another three touchdowns in the 31-28 defeat to Dallas. He's already eclipsed 1,500 total yards for the season, despite recording single-digit Touches in four games.
Staying with the domination theme, Seattle racked up 40-plus points for the second straight week. In Week 12, we watched the defense go wild with three touchdowns. This past week, Mike Holmgren decided to feature QB Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck threw for 226 yards and four TD strikes (he'd had only two games with multiple TD tosses since Week 2). He has another favorable matchup this week against a young Tennessee secondary before a Week 16 date with Indy that may feature backups on both sides. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Shaun Alexander continued his race to Priest Holmes' single-season TD mark. With three games left, Alexander has 23 rushing touchdowns, leaving him five short of Holmes' mark.
It wasn't conventional, but Drew Bledsoe turned in his biggest performance of the year with three TD passes against the Chiefs. It was his third three-TD game of the year, and included TDs off a flea-flicker and one to blocking TE Dan Campbell. It was Bledsoe's first 300-yard game since Week 6 against the Giants.
Carson Palmer had a rare off day against Cleveland, but Rudi Johnson steadied the offense and ran them to victory. Johnson recorded his third 100-yard game, rolling up 169 yards on the ground in the 23-20 win. With his first quarter TD run, Johnson extended his scoring streak to five games. During the streak, he's scored eight of his 10 touchdowns.

BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues

  • David Garrard, QB, Jac: Garrard and the Jaguars went down in defeat to the Colts, but he did post solid fantasy numbers on Sunday in comeback mode. Garrard completed 26-of-35 pass attempts for 250 yards and a score via the air. He also added his second rushing TD of the year. Garrard did lose a fumble on the day, but it could hardly dampen his impact on those who needed a spot start in a critical Week 14 matchup.
  • Cedric Houston, RB, NYJ: The word late last week sent owners scrambling to the waiver wire for the services of the rookie. Houston responded with a solid effort in his first career start, rolling up 74 yards on 28 carries (only 2.6 per carry) and scoring his first career TD. In Week 15, the Jets take on a Miami run defense that has allowed 117 yards per game with Houston figuring to take another heavy workload.
  • Jerome Bettis, RB, Pit: The Bus finally got the engine revved up in the snow against Chicago on Sunday. The veteran tailback topped 100 yards for the first time this season and tied his season high with 17 carries. Of course, Bettis did his damage around the goal line, rushing for two TDs in the 21-9 win. Bettis has solid matchups to finish the year against Minnesota, Cleveland, and Detroit, and remains available for acquisition in a good number of leagues.
  • Bobby Engram, WR, Sea: Engram caught six passes from Matt Hasselbeck for the fourth time in five games. And, after failing to score in the Seahawks' first 11 contests, he's gone to the house thrice in the past two weeks. For the year, Engram has caught five or more passes in eight of 10 games and topped 60 receiving yards in three of his past five starts. The weekly productivity in terms of receptions should have placed him on rosters long ago, but many owners waited until he found pay dirt to move.

MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values

Terry Glenn, WR, Dal: Give Bill Parcells a point for creativity in Sunday's win over Kansas City. And Terry Glenn and his fantasy owners were the beneficiaries. Glenn scored on a flea flicker and an end-around en route to the 31-28 win. He finished with six catches for 138 yards on the day, and scored his third TD via the air in his past five games.

Samkon Gado, RB, GB: The Packers rookie back continues to shine with a heavy workload for the Packers. He racked up 171 rushing yards on 29 carries, reaching the century mark for the third time in six starts. Gado has also scored in five of his six starts. To put his yardage total in perspective, Ahman Green and Najeh Davenport accrued only 330 yards on 30 fewer carries and scored two touchdowns (both from Davenport). Gado finishes the season with Baltimore, Chicago, and Seattle (who may be resting everyone by that point).

Domanick Davis, RB, Hou: Davis poured on another huge game for the Texans in yet another tough defeat. He's done one tremendous audition for potential trade partners if Houston wins the Reggie Bush sweepstakes. He racked up over 170 yards (189) for the second straight week, and found the end zone for the second time in three games. If you go back to Week 7, Davis has piled up over 100 yards of offense in six straight contests.

Mark Clayton, WR, Bal: It doesn't appear that Kyle Boller will have a future in Baltimore, but this rookie receiver from Oklahoma certainly does. Clayton caught seven passes for the second straight week and recorded his first 100-yard game and TD reception against Denver. It's difficult to pin too much hope on him down the stretch given the inconsistency in the Ravens passing attack, but he's certainly one to put on the watch list for '06.

Michael Vick, QB, Atl: After a one-game break in the chain, Vick returned to the multiple TD club with a three-TD performance against the Saints on Monday night. It marked his fourth such outing in his past five starts. He'll end the season with three difficult matchups, including road stops at Chicago and Tampa Bay. Vick took several blows to the ribs and stayed in the lineup until the game was secure. He yielded to Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter. Jim Mora said that Vick would be ready for Sunday night's game against Chicago, regardless of whether he was able to practice during the week.

Eddie Kennison, WR, Kan: Kennison continues to roll in the Kansas City passing game, contributing 92 yards and a score in Week 14 against Dallas. The veteran receiver is most definitely on Trent Green's radar as the Chiefs battle for one of the final playoff spots. Kennison has caught four or more passes for the sixth time in seven games.

Charlie Frye, QB, Cle: Frye threw for only 138 yards in the Week 14 loss to Cincinnati, but Frye contributed his second straight multi-TD game (one passing, one rushing). Frye next travels to Oakland, whose pass defense allows 200 yards per game and 1 1/4 passing TDs.

Carnell Williams, RB, Tam: Williams had piled up huge numbers in three of his previous road efforts, but the Week 14 matchup against Carolina figured to be a much more difficult task for the rookie. Instead, Williams turned in his biggest fantasy game of the season and first multiple TD game of his career. His 112 rushing yards in Week 14 marked his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the year (seventh with at least 84).

Chris Chambers, WR, Mia: Chambers followed up his ridiculous 15-catch, 238-yard performance in Week 13 with another dominant effort against the Chargers. Chambers caught eight passes for 121 yards and two scores to lead the Dolphins to an upset win at San Diego. After Coach Nick Saban said that the Dolphins had reached the "evaluation" stage after Week 11, the Dolphins have rolled up three wins in a row led by the veteran Chambers.

Ryan Moats, RB, Phi: The rookie back from Louisiana Tech turned in a tremendous performance in his first career start against the Giants, whose defense had been rolling against opposing backs. Moats sprinted to 114 yards on just 11 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Eagles ultimately fell in OT, but Moats availed himself to fantasy owners as an option for the stretch run. The next two weeks offer great opportunities for Moats in the running game against St. Louis and Arizona.

Randy Moss, WR, Oak: With a two-catch, 18-yard performance in Week 14, Moss extended his scoreless streak to four games. Moss has been held under 45 yards in six of the Raiders' past eight games and has been eclipsed by Jerry Porter in the offense. With Marques Tuiasosopo under center for the remainder of the season, Moss' chances for a strong finish are minimal.

Mike Anderson, RB, Den: Anderson got shut out of the end zone for the second time in three games, and struggled somewhat in Week 13 against Kansas City (despite the two TDs on the board). Tatum Bell is back in the mix (16 carries, 63 yards in Week 14), and Kyle Johnson continues to pile up short TD receptions. Still, Anderson remains a big play for Week 15, as the run deficient Buffalo defense is on tap for the Broncos.

Eli Manning, QB, NYG: Manning tossed one TD pass, and added a second score on the ground in the OT win over Philly on Sunday, but tossed three interceptions. It marked the second straight week in which he threw multiple interceptions (five INTs against two total TDs). Manning continues to pile up passing attempts and yards (312 against Dallas), but in doing so, he's forced a number of throws.

Laveranues Coles, WR, NYJ: Coles hasn't scored in five straight games (only two on the season), and has topped 40 yards just once during that stretch. Brooks Bollinger has turned his attention in the direction of Justin McCareins, leaving Coles in the dust. Week 15 appears somewhat brighter, as Coles and the Jets take on a Dolphins defense against whom he piled on five catches, 68 yards, and a score in Week 2.

Mark Brunell, QB, Was: Against an Arizona pass defense that has ceded several three-TD performances by opposing QBs in recent weeks, Brunell was limited to 122 yards and three interceptions. That's a monumental letdown in an all-important playoff week. Brunell has recorded only one multi-TD game in six of his past seven outings with three shutouts. He's also failed to top 200 yards in four straight games. Next up for the Redskins stand the Dallas Cowboys, who shut the Redskins down for three and a half quarters before surrendering two long TDs to Brunell and Santana Moss in Week 2.

Mewelde Moore, RB, Min: Nobody's quite sure what happened to reduce Moore's role in the Vikings offense so drastically, but the second-year back watched Michael Bennett run them to victory in Week 15. The Vikings dismissed the severity of Moore's wrist injury and dressed him for Week 15. Moore carried the ball only once for no gain, and added a single catch for seven yards.

Kevin Curtis, WR, STL: Curtis started fast in '05, aided by an injury to Isaac Bruce that elevated him to the starting lineup. In the past two weeks, Curtis has been relegated to the role of bystander with Fitzpatrick under center. He's caught four balls for a paltry 19 yards over two weeks and has watched the number of passes thrown in his direction drop precipitously.

Fred Taylor, RB, Jac: Taylor returned to the field after nearly three weeks on the sideline and failed to make a spark against Indianapolis. Taylor gained a weak 19 yards on 10 carries before ceding carries to Greg Jones in the second half. The schedule is highly favorable for the final three weeks (San Francisco, Houston, and Tennessee), but the workload split remains to be determined.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, STL: Fitzpatrick made the national radar with his 310-yard, three-TD comeback win over the Texans in Week 12. As a starter, Fitzpatrick has failed to throw a single TD, but has run two into the end zone himself. In the 27-13 loss to Minnesota, Fitzpatrick tossed five interceptions to run his three-game total to seven. He has a somewhat more favorable matchup on tap in Week 15 with Philadelphia.

Chris Simms, QB, Tam: The Buccaneers got a huge road win to bolster their playoff hopes against the Panthers on Sunday, but Simms turned in another scoreless performance. Since his breakout performance in Week 10 against the Redskins (279 yards and three scores), Simms has thrown just one TD in four games. He's averaged only 145 yards per game during this stretch.

WATER COOLER RULER
Through Week 14, Antonio Gates leads all tight ends with nine TD receptions (just three yards shy of 1,000). Among all receivers, Gates ranks ninth in yardage and fourth in the TD column behind Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith, and Hines Ward.

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