Commentary

Instant Replay: Running backs gone wild!

Updated: November 6, 2007, 2:21 PM ET
By Nate Ravitz | ESPN.com

Week 9 of the NFL season might as well have been titled: "Revenge of the Running Backs."

The guys who run the ball had been taking a backseat to the throwers and the catchers all season long, but Week 9 was the coming-out party for the runners, who accounted for five of the top seven fantasy performances of the week.

Consider the following:

Before Week 9, only three running backs were among the top-10 fantasy scorers of the season, and only five were among the top 20. In Week 9, six of the top-10 fantasy scorers and nine of the top 20 were running backs.

Nine running backs rushed for at least 100 yards on Sunday, and for five of them -- Clinton Portis, Marshawn Lynch, Earnest Graham, Ron Dayne and Warrick Dunn -- it was their first 100-yard game of the season.

Seven running backs scored a touchdown for the first time all season. The list includes guys like T.J. Duckett and Ovie Mughelli but also some fantasy stalwarts, including Dunn.

Things got so out of hand that Jamal Lewis somehow found his way into the end zone four times despite averaging fewer than 1.9 yards per carry.

Of course, no one was better than ...

Headlines

  • Peterson runs to record

    At this point, the initials AP stand for "always play." Fantasy owners were justifiably concerned about Adrian Peterson's matchup against a tough Chargers defense on Sunday, and he was actually benched in 10 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Oops. Peterson established a new NFL record with 296 yards on 30 carries, with three touchdowns to boot. It's now clear that, like LaDainian Tomlinson, Peterson is capable of a huge performance against any opponent. Under penalty of me tracking you down in cyberspace, do not bench Adrian Peterson, ever ... unless you have the Chicago version, but hopefully you knew that already.

  • Tough day for LJ

    Nate Ravitz can be heard hosting the Fantasy Focus football podcast every weekday. Download or subscribe to the podcast on our fantasy pages or by clicking here.

    First the good news: Larry Johnson found the end zone for the third straight game, scoring one touchdown on the ground and another through the air. Now the bad news: Johnson left Sunday's game with an ankle injury that sure didn't look like a short-term issue. Johnson twisted the ankle awkwardly and later left the locker room on crutches, according to The Kansas City Star. In the likely scenario that Johnson is unable to play in Week 10 against the Broncos, Priest Holmes would be the featured back for the Chiefs. Yes, that Priest Holmes, the former fantasy megastar who just happens to available in 88 percent of ESPN.com leagues. Rookie Kolby Smith might also be worth a pickup, in case Johnson's injury is serious and Holmes proves unable to carry the load. Despite the uncertainty, Holmes would be a must-start against a Denver defense giving up more than 161 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry.

  • Gore sits with ankle injury

    The inconvenient truth about Mr. Gore ... he's injury prone! And despite the protests of my friend and colleague Stephania Bell, I will continue to refer to him only as "injury-prone Frank Gore." (This drives her crazy, and if you ever run into her on the street, I urge you to try it out.) Gore was inactive on Sunday because of an ankle injury that limited him in practice all week. He wasn't necessarily missed; Michael Robinson ran for a respectable 67 yards on 17 carries and Maurice Hicks had 49 yards and a touchdown on seven rushing attempts. It's too bad Robinson and Hicks shared carries; either one could be a respectable fantasy option if Gore misses more time. In a split role, however, it would be risky to rely on either one as a No. 2 fantasy back.

  • Bengals lose Johnson ... (Chad)

    With less than two minutes remaining in a disappointing defeat at the hands of the Bills, the Bengals nearly suffered a much greater loss. Chad Johnson was sandwiched between two defenders while laying out for a pass, and he remained face-down on the field for about 10 minutes. He was carted off the field and later taken to a hospital in an ambulance. A CT scan of Johnson's neck was negative, and he was able to fly home with his teammates. Stephania will surely have more information later, so I won't speculate too much. What I do know is Chris Henry is eligible to return for the Bengals next week. If Johnson misses time, Henry will be a viable No. 3 or possibly even No. 2 fantasy receiver.

    Player Tracker

    Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos: Even with the injury to good friend Jay Cutler, Sheffler has played his way into a possible starting role in deep fantasy leagues. He scored a touchdown in Week 7 and another in Week 8 before catching six passes for 46 yards on Sunday.

    Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers: I guess it's tight end week. You have to give credit where it's due, and Davis followed up his breakout game in Week 8 with seven catches for 75 yards in Week 9. The upcoming schedule is very, very kind, so he's usable again.

    Rudi Johnson He told The Cincinnati Enquirer that his leg was "fine" and that the reason he'd been held back was that he and the Bengals were waiting until he was 100 percent. Well, 100 percent equaled nine carries and 11 yards on Sunday. The next four games include trips to Baltimore and Pittsburgh as well as a home game against the Titans. His schedule is excellent for the fantasy playoffs, but you won't get there if you use him between now and then.

    Studs and Duds

    Quarterbacks

    Stud: Drew Brees (445 yards, 3 TDs)

    Honorable Mention: Tony Romo (324 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT)

    Dud: Philip Rivers (197 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT)

    Dishonorable Mention: Kurt Warner (172 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs)

    Running backs

    Stud: Adrian Peterson (296 rushing yards, 3 TDs)

    Honorable mention: Jamal Lewis (104 total yards, 4 TDs)

    Dud: Shaun Alexander (32 rushing yards)

    Dishonorable mention: Travis Henry (44 total yards)

    Wide receivers

    Stud: Terrell Owens (10 catches, 174 yards, 1 TD)

    Honorable mention: Bobby Engram (14 catches, 139 yards, 1 TD)

    Dud: Steve Smith (3 catches, 15 yards)

    Dishonorable mention: Roy Williams (3 catches, 44 yards)

    Tight ends

    Stud: Tony Gonzalez (10 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD)

    Dud: Antonio Gates (1 catch, 10 yards)

    Kickers

    Stud: Shaun Suisham (5 FGs, 4 of 40+ yards)

    Dud: Jason Elam (1 PAT, 1 missed field goal)

    Team Defenses/Special Teams

    Stud: Detroit Lions (5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 fumble recoveries, 2 TDs)

    Dud: Denver Broncos (1 takeaway, 1 sack, 44 points allowed)

    Training Room

    Quick thoughts on injuries not covered elsewhere. For detailed injury analysis, check out Stephania Bell's injury blog.

    Jay Cutler injured his lower left leg and will undergo an MRI on Monday, according to the AP. Patrick Ramsey threw for 262 yards and a touchdown in relief, but Cutler would be a big loss for the Denver offense if he missed significant time.

    Travis Henry injured his left knee and saw limited action in the fourth quarter, but he told the Colorado Springs Gazette that he could have played more had the game been close.

    Starting in place of Marvin Harrison, rookie Anthony Gonzalez injured a finger and missed the second half.

    Quick observations

    Last week, Matthew Berry and I did a 30-man "redraft" for the second half of the season, both on the podcast and for ESPN.com. The article generated a lot of conversation, with many taking issue with the absence of Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James. Two of the running backs I elected to draft ahead of those two -- and who drew considerable criticism -- were Clinton Portis and "fat" LenDale White. We'll have to wait and see what McGahee does Monday night against the Steelers (My guess? Not much.), but as for the other three, here are the first-week scores:

    Clinton Portis: 25 fantasy points
    "Fat" LenDale White: 16 fantasy points
    Edgerrin James: 7 fantasy points

    By the way, that's three straight 100-yard games for "fat" LenDale White.

    In case you were wondering, a common reason cited for why White was a bad pick in the "redraft" was that he's, you know, carrying a few extra pounds.

    T.J. Houshmandzadeh has now scored at least one touchdown in eight consecutive games. The all-time record of consecutive games with a touchdown reception is owned by -- who else? -- Jerry Rice at 13 games. Amazingly, Houshmandzadeh still needs to score in the next two games to tie the Bengals' franchise record of 10, held by Carl Pickens.

    Kellen Clemens looked pretty good, especially since he was playing without Laveranues Coles and with hands-of-stone Brad Smith.

    The touchdowns are nice, but even without them, Reggie Bush has settled in as a solid fantasy option. He's had more than 100 total yards in four of the past five games, averaging 112 yards per game in that span.

    David Patten caught four passes for 81 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Devery Henderson caught one pass for 15 yards. In the past four games, Patten has 19 catches for 332 yards, and Henderson has four catches for 75 yards. Meanwhile, Henderson is owned in 42 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and Patten is owned in 7 percent of leagues. This continues to make no sense.

    Chargers defensive back Antonio Cromartie returned a missed field goal 109 yards for a touchdown. That's his third touchdown of the season, giving him three more than Laurence Maroney, two more than Larry Fitzgerald and one more than Shaun Alexander.

    Greg Jennings has six touchdowns in the past six games. Part of me thinks this is a fluke, but I wouldn't argue if you decided to start him over Donald Driver.

    Negative Nate

    There's a reason Ryan Grant wasn't drafted, and you saw it on Sunday. He's ... well, he's not good. He's not as bad as, say, the 2007 Notre Dame football team, but he's pretty bad. It just goes to show you that the Denver run defense can make anyone look good.

    You've got to hand it to Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell. When he traded Darrell Jackson to the divisional-rival 49ers for a fourth-round draft pick, many thought it was a mistake to get so little in return. As it turns out, Ruskell could have dealt Jackson and a fourth-round pick for nothing and it still would have been a good deal. Addition by subtraction for the Seahawks, and subtraction by addition for the Niners. Wow, does Jackson stink. But the good news is he's making $3.25 million this season. At his current pace, that's more than $81,000 per catch. Nice work if you can get it.

    Speaking of guys who aren't good, Jason Campbell has six touchdown passes in eight games for the Redskins this season, none to a wide receiver. You can blame his supporting cast, but plenty of quarterbacks with similar or less experience -- like Matt Schaub, David Garrard and Kellen Clemens -- have been doing more with less.

    Reggie Williams had 128 yards on Sunday. If you set the over/under at 128 yards for the remainder of his season, I'd take the over, but I wouldn't feel great about it.

    By the way, Williams has four touchdowns this year, which puts him only one off the "Reggie" lead, behind Mr. Wayne and Mr. Bush.

    Thought you'd escape my wrath, Philip Rivers? Not so fast. How do you go 19-of-42 for 196 yards against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL? That's three straight games with fewer than 200 yards for Rivers, who was also shut out of the end zone for the fourth time this season.

    Words can't describe how bad Shaun Alexander is, but let's try: Putrid. Rancid. Abhorrent. Ghastly. I'm not giving him a pass for the knee and ankle injuries he suffered early in Sunday's game. He's decomposing so fast that he could trade places with the King Tut mummy and only the Egyptians would complain.

    Five early trends for Week 10

    1. DeShaun Foster has four 100-yard rushing games in his past five matchups against the Falcons.

    2. Steve Smith had just one catch for 10 yards in Week 3 against the Falcons.

    3. Tony Gonzalez has not tallied as many as 60 yards in his past 11 games against the Broncos and has only two touchdowns in that span.

    4. Brett Favre has 18 touchdown passes in his past eight games against the Vikings.

    5. Jeremy Shockey has scored in five of his past seven games against the Cowboys.

    Nate Ravitz is an editor and analyst for ESPN.com Fantasy.

    Nate Ravitz is the deputy editor for ESPN.com Fantasy and co-hosts -- along with Matthew Berry -- the Fantasy Focus baseball and football podcasts.