Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2003 [Print without images]

Friday, December 12, 2003
Ask the Gamer: Week 15

By Brandon Funston

Brandon "The Gamer" Funston takes your fantasy questions every week. E-mail him your question.

J.R., Philadelphia, PA: Brandon, Eddie George or Jamel White this week? What do you see for White this week? Is it enough to start him over George?

Gamer: I am probably one of Jamel White's biggest fans. Last season, I wrote often that White should be starting ahead of RB William Green. White is a shifty, quick runner who always gives his best on every play. And he is one of the premier pass-catching backs in the league. That said, I have to make sure to be level-headed in my fantasy advice.

White has a very unattractive matchup this week. He'll travel to Denver to face a Broncos defense that yields the fewest fantasy points to running backs. And at home, Denver has not allowed more than Shawn Bryson's 73 rushing yards in Week 4. And just a few weeks ago, the Broncos held San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson to just 29 rushing yards. Another strike against White is the fact that rookie backup Lee Suggs is likely to see some carries as Cleveland tries to see what they have in the former Virginia Tech product.

As much as I loathe backing Tennessee RB Eddie George, I have to. George does have a challenge in facing Buffalo. The Bills are one of the 10 toughest fantasy run defenses, but George has run with a little more life the past three weeks, averaging 4.3 yards per carry in that span. As a person who has seen plenty of George the past couple years, he's currently running as good as I've seen in a long time.

Cleveland is likely to struggle to score in Denver. George seems like a better gamble to see major carries and score a touchdown. If you are into a play it safe approach for the playoffs this week, George is the right choice.

Joe, Lenexa, KS: Fred Taylor has topped 100 yards four of the last five weeks, but everyone seems to be waiting at the Bus stop. Who should I start on Sunday? Jerome Bettis or Taylor?

Gamer: This exact question has been thrown around the office this week. And compelling arguments have been made for each player.

As you mention, Taylor is on a roll and it would be hard to sit him at this point. But, as a fantasy owner, I look to steer clear of players facing New England, especially when the Pats are at home. Unbelievably, the Patriots have allowed a total of just one touchdown to a running back or wide receiver at home. And in its last four home games, New England has allowed a total of just nine points. They have two consecutive home shutouts and it is very likely that they will hold Jacksonville to a touchdown or less.

The negatives loom large for Taylor, but not for Bettis. This week, he'll ride the gravy train that is the New York Jets run defense. Bettis showed that he can still exploit a bad run defense last week in rolling for 106 yards and a touchdown against Oakland. Now he'll face a Jets squad that is last in the league against the rush. New York has given up more than 100 yards to three of the last four starting backs it has faced. Bettis will likely make it four of the last five.

Given this choice, I'm hopping on "The Bus," Joe.

Matt, Rome, GA: I have a tough decision to make on who starts at running back on my team. Could you list your top 10 running backs for this week.

Gamer: Happy to oblige, Matt. In fact, I'll give you an extra five. Here is my top 15 running backs for Week 15:

1. Jamal Lewis, Bal @ Oakland
2. Priest Holmes, KC @ Detroit
3. Clinton Portis, Den vs. Cleveland
4. Stephen Davis, Car @ Arizona
5. Ahman Green, GB vs. San Diego
6. Edgerrin James, Ind vs. Atlanta
7. Kevan Barlow, SF @ Cincinnati
8. Marshall Faulk, StL vs. Seattle
9. Ricky Williams, Mia vs. Philadelphia
10. LaDainian Tomlinson, SDG @ Green Bay
11. Jerome Bettis, Pit @ New York Jets
12. Tiki Barber, NYG @ New Orleans
13. Shaun Alexander, Sea @ St. Louis
14. Eddie George, Ten vs. Buffalo
15. Travis Henry, Buf @ Tennessee

Bill, Chesapeake, VA: I need to start two guys from this list: Jimmy Smith, Koren Robinson, Marcus Robinson or T.J. Duckett. What are your thoughts?

Gamer: Well, Bill, to start with, I'm throwing Jimmy Smith out of the mix for all the reasons mentioned above. In case you skipped it, I'm talking about the fact that Smith travels to New England this weekend. And as I mentioned, the Patriots at home equal fantasy death for the opposition. In the past five home games, New England has not allowed a receiver to score a touchdown.

A player I do like is Koren Robinson, despite the fact that he's coming off a four-catch, 32-yard performance last Sunday. Robinson hasn't had a bad game in his three career meetings with St. Louis. He has averaged 118 receiving yards in those games and has scored twice. He's done no worse than 94 yards in any of those contests. And, it is at least encouraging that Robinson was thrown to 10 times last week, even if only four were completed. I'd gamble on a rebound game out of Robinson.

So with the next choice we have either Marcus Robinson or T.J. Duckett. And I'm leaning towards Duckett. I just feel that running backs are a little more reliable. Duckett has scored in six consecutive contests and he faces an Indy defense that is average, at best, against the run. Robinson does have six touchdowns in the past three weeks, but I have a feeling he'll be no more than a diversion to RB Jamal Lewis this week against an Oakland defense that can't stop the run. The Raiders are one of those teams that is so bad against the run that their passing defense actually looks pretty good due to the fact that throwing against them is usually unnecessary.

Koren Robinson and T.J. Duckett are more choices and I'm sticking to it.

Mark, Orlando, FL: Gamer, I have Jake Delhomme, Tom Brady and Bryan Leftwich to choose from for my first playoff game this Sunday. Who would you start?

Gamer: For those that have been paying attention, you know already that I want nothing to do with Leftwich or any Jaguars, for that matter. The reason being, of course, the fact that they travel to New England.

Speaking of New England, I also want nothing to do with Tom Brady at home. If you haven't clued into the Brady home/road splits phenomenon, it's time you get yourself up to speed. Brady has just one touchdown pass in six home games compared to 14 touchdown passes in seven road games. Even more, Brady averages about 80 fewer passing yards at home than on the road. In the fantasy playoffs, do you really want to gamble against that trend? I wouldn't.

That brings us to Jake Delhomme, a modest fantasy quarterback at best. You can usually count on him for a touchdown pass and something close to 200 passing yards. But he should be considerably better than average this week. Delhomme goes up against an Arizona defense that allows the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. And the Cardinals seem to be getting worse with each passing week. They look like a team that is already phoning in the remainder of the season. In the past five games, Arizona has allowed 13 touchdown passes. That's enough damning evidence to convince me that Delhomme is the right play here.