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Monday, October 27, 2003
Updated: October 28, 9:32 AM ET
Philadelphia's Full House

by Graham Hays
ESPN Fantasy Games

For the love of James Joseph, will Andy Reid ever settle on a 20-carry running back? With occasional exceptions -- see Ricky Watters -- the Eagles haven't been good about providing fantasy owners with consistent excellence at running back, no matter how good the team's record.

Correll Buckhalter
Running Back
Philadelphia Eagles

Fresh off Correll Buckhalter's 100-yard, 15-carry, two-touchdown effort against the Jets, they're at it again. While Buckhalter was racing through the defense, Brian Westbrook managed just five carries for 25 yards. That snapped a streak of four consecutive games with a touchdown for Westbrook, a stretch in which he rushed for 234 yards. So an Eagles runner has totaled double-digit fantasy points in four of the last five games, but fantasy owners have needed a fair bit of luck to take advantage of more than one or two of those performances.

The most obvious impact of splitting carries is just that: reduced opportunities. A platoon back can conceivably get 20 carries if the coach chooses to play the hot hand on a given day -- as Kevin Faulk did against Cleveland on Sunday -- but odds are that 15 carries is about the max. So how great an effect does the number of carries have on fantasy production. Here are the numbers for the first eight weeks of 2002.

10-15 carries
Games: 94
Average FFL points: 9.8
20-point games: 4

16-20 carries
Games: 58
Average FFL points: 11.8
20-point games: 10

21-25 carries
Games: 53
Average FFL points: 18.0
20-point games: 22

26-30 carries
Games: 23
Average FFL points: 19.7
20-point games: 11

31-plus carries
Games: 6
Average FFL points: 28.2
20-point games: 5

Apparently, there is something to the benchmark of 20 carries, as the biggest jump in production comes once a back hits that mark. That's not to say either Buckhalter or Westbrook would emerge as fantasy stars if Andy Reid just settled on one or the other. The backs make the carries, not the other way around. Take out Priest Holmes, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Clinton Portis, Deuce McAllister and Shaun Alexander -- FFL's top six backs from 2002 -- and the average in games of 21-25 carries drops to 14.9 FFL points per game. But that's still noticeably better than what fantasy owners can expect Westbrook or Buckhalter to average.

Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow are viable fantasy options in San Francisco because the 49ers run the ball as much as any team in football. Kevin Faulk in New England and Domanick Davis in Houston are quality fantasy additions because they're slowly moving from platoon to primary status. But the Eagles appear hopelessly stuck in committee hell.

Westbrook and Buckhalter have the talent -- not to mention the holes behind a line helping Philly runners average 5.0 yards per carry -- to continue producing quality fantasy days. But as long as both back remain healthy -- Westbrook is doubtful for Week 9 but Duce Staley may prove equally harmful to Buckhalter's workload -- neither will have the requisite carries to be anything more than a siren's song to fantasy owners.