Friday, October 15, 2010
NFL's 10 Best Running Backs In The Game Right Now, Week 6 Pix, And Brett Favre's Texting Elbow
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
When the Titans made Johnson their first round draft selection in 2008, many fans only knew he was incredibly fast. Since then, they have discovered he is so much more after making the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons.
He led the league with 2006 yards, 358 carries, 2,509 yards from scrimmage, 125.4 yards rushing per game, and a 91-yard run last year. It was shades of Earl Campbell, and people wondered what he could possibly do for an encore this year.
He leads the league with 113 carries, about the same pace as last year, and six rushing touchdowns. He also has 13 catches, on pace to surpass his career best of 50 set last season.
His 485 rushing yards ranks second in the NFL, and it is very possible the best running back in the game today is en route to his second consecutive rushing title.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
AP is the only good thing to talk about when it comes to the Minnesota offense. Thanks to horrible quarterback play, the opposition knows this more and more each possession the Vikings have.
Peterson also no longer has the luxury of the excellent Chester Taylor backing him up anymore, so he has 13 receptions and is on pass to easily exceed his career best total of 43.
He also ranks third best in the league with 480 yards, averaging a very impressive 5.5 yards per carry.
He has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three seasons, including leading the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage in 2008, but the start to this season may be his most impressive yet.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
Though the undrafted Foster finished his rookie season strong, after having sat out much of it, few people knew who he was heading into this year.
All he has done is lead the league in rushing with 562 yards at almost six yards a carry. He has also caught 13 balls and scored five times.
This all has been done to the fact he has only carried the ball more than 19 times in a game once, and was shut down with 25 yards last Sunday and was forced to sit out much of the first half the week before.
Steven Jackson, Saint Louis Rams
In seven years, Jackson has gone to two Pro Bowls. Yet this may be his most impressive start yet. Though he has been healthy in just three of his five starts, the Ram still ranks tenth in the league in rushing and has 13 catches.
In his past, Jackson had quarterback Marc Bulger providing offensive balance the times Bulger was healthy enough to play. He came into this year with unproven Sam Bradford, the first overall 2010 draft pick, now at the helm.
Though Bradford has been exceptional at times, Jackson is the glue of the offense and the leader of the team. Without his tough yards, gained behind a young offensive line, things would be much tougher for the rebuilding Rams right now.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
After a rookie season that saw the 2008 first rounder get hurt for the year in his first start, Mendenhall ran for 1,108 yards in 12 starts in 2009.
This season has seen him get 406 yards in four games, good for seventh best in the NFL. What makes his yards more impressive is how he has got them.
Pittsburgh came into the year missing their star quarterback to suspension. The player they had slotted as a replacement was hurt in the last preseason game. Their third string quarterback was lost for the year in the second game.
Opposing defenses, already crowding the line of scrimmage knowing Pittsburgh would run much more than pass, came in closer with each injury. Mendenhall responded with a 4.6 yards per carry average.
The fact the 3-1 Steelers have been such a feel good story this year has more to do with just their top rated defense. Mendenhall has been the hero of their offense so far, and his carries should come easier now that the star quarterback has returned.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars
They lovingly call him Mo Drew in Jacksonville, and the 5'8" 205 lbs back has been a star there since being drafted in the second round in 2006.
Drew started carrying the team full-time last year, his first Pro Bowl season, and has continued that trend this year. His 406 yards rushing is tied for eighth best in the league, and he has caught ten balls too.
LaDainian Tomlinson, New York Jets
When Tomlinson joined the Jets this year, after nine years and five Pro Bowls in San Diego destined to be on display in Canton, most figured he was running on flat tires.
However, the 31-year old Tomlinson has already shown he has plenty of gas left in his tank. His 437 rushing yards ranks fifth and he has caught 12 balls.
His backfield mate, Shonn Greene, has four less carries, but has run for 280 yards. They have helped the Jets got 3-1 with the top-rated rushing attack this season.
Though it is uncertain the future Hall of Famer will continue to run for six yards a carry, Tomlinson has spent his whole career making believers out of his critics.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
He is coming off his first Pro Bowl season in 2009, where he ran for over 1,300 yards and averaged an impressive nine yards on 78 receptions.
This season sees him ranked 13th in the NFL in rushing, and he has 15 catches too.
Built low to the ground at 5'9" 195, his combination of quickness, strength, and intelligence has quickly made him a fan favorite in just his third season in Charm City.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants
His carries, receptions, and yards have increased in each of his previous three years after the Jints grabbed him in the seventh round of the 2007 draft.
After having just one career start under his belt, he was named the starter this year and is easily on pace to shatter most all of his career high marks.
He has recently become the fourth-ranked rushing leader in the league, though he has matched his career high total of three fumbles already.
Brandon Jacobs, the starter the past few years for New York, has chipped in 172 more yards to give the team quite an effective duo.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
After a career high 376 carries led the NFL in his 2008 Pro Bowl year, "Burner" Turner has dealt with nagging injuries. He missed five games last years, and parts of the five games so far this year.
On a pace to carry the ball 465 times this year, he is currently ranked sixth in the NFL with 421 yards. Not much of a pass catcher, he already has tied his career best mark of six.
Yet Turner has had help in a Falcons offense that loves to run the ball down their opponents throats. His backup, Jason Snelling, has run for 244 yards and caught 11 balls that is third best on the team.
The duo has helped lead Atlanta to the second best rushing attack in the league, which has helped the 5-1 Falcons take top spot in the NFC South.
Best of the Rest
LeSean McCoy came into this year knowing he was the cowbell of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is 12th in rushing and has already grabbed 28 passes. His five rushing scores is second best in the NFL.
His toughness is also incredible, as shown by his 92-yards rushing and five catches against a tough 49ers defense on cracked ribs.
Cedric Benson, of the Cincinnati Bengals, is tied for eighth in the league in rushing. He is the only consistent part of the Cincy offense.
Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles are a very effective duo for the Kansas City Chiefs. They have helped the surprising Chiefs have them tied with Atlanta with the second best rushing game in the league. The fact Kansas City has had no passing game make it an ever better accomplishment.
Darren McFadden has run for 392 yards in four games for the Oakland Raiders, 11th best in the NFL. He might be the best running back in the AFC West right now.
Matt Forte exploded for 166 yards and two scores last Sunday, after getting just 134 on 50 carries the previous four games. Yet he has also chipped in 18 catches and three scores, including a league longest 89 yard reception.
Peyton Hillis was seventh round steal for the Denver Broncos in 2008, but quickly was buried in their depth chart and let go after last year.
The Cleveland Browns luckily signed him, and he has carried the team with 350 yards, 20 receptions, and five total touchdowns. He gets most all his yards between the tackles with hard nosed running.
Week Six Pix
Last Week : 7-7
Current Record : 43-31
Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears
Seattle has made a lot of strides quickly under new head coach Pete Carroll. Their run defense is the second best in the league, which helps their 28th-ranked offense and keeps them in games.
The Bears seem to be somewhat following the "Steelers Method", introduced to us this season. They will be without the services of their star quarterback, and now have went from their second-string quarterback, Todd Collins, to their third in Caleb Hanie.
Granted, the Steelers juggled quarterbacks because of injury, but the ideology is similar. So is the fact both have strong run defenses, as the Bears is ranked third.
Though running back Matt Forte ran wild for the Bears last week, it may not happen again versus a strong run defense like the Seahawks. Hanie will need to make a few big plays Sunday.
Bears 13 Seahawks 9
Miami Dolphins @ Green Bay Packers
Green Bay is hurting right now. Literally.
They have put three players on the injured reserve this week, and may be missing at least five more players for this game. Not a good sign, as is the fact that they are amongst the most penalized teams in football.
Their strength, passing the ball, falls right into Miami's defensive strength. The Dolphins are ranked fourth best in the league, but 24th in points allowed. Miami also has one of the worst scoring offenses in the league, ranking 28th.
This game will come down to the trenches, who pushes the pile best. Green Bay's offensive tackles are banged up, and one may miss the game. Aaron Rodgers is coming back from a concussion sooner than expected as well.
The Packers defensive line is so banged up, they are playing third stringers in two spots. Clay Matthews III, their star linebacker, is a game-time decision as well.
Dolphins 27 Packers 24
Kansas City Chiefs @ Houston Texans
The Chiefs rely on running the ball, and theirs is the third best in the league. Houston, though they have a more balanced attack, have the fifth rated rushing attack.
The Texans also have the fifth best rushing defense in the NFL. Right behind them in sixth place is the Chiefs. Houston also has the worst pass defense in the NFL, and give up over 100 yards more per game than the 25th ranked Chiefs do.
While it may appear the best quarterback play may win this one, it very well could come down to special teams. Houston will probably be missing their top return specialist, Jacoby Jones, while the Chiefs boast exciting rookies Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster.
Houston does not want to go into Indianapolis at .500 facing a Colts team looking for revenge from their opening day loss to the Texans.
Texans 23 Chiefs 14
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Game of the Week
The Ravens have somehow just lost one game this season with a team that in minus six in the giveaway/ takeaway department. Having the third best defense certainly helps.
Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome has given quarterback Joe Flacco a lot of weapons this year. New England just traded one of their best offensive weapons in wide receiver Randy Moss, replacing him with Deion Branch. Branch has spent the past few years floundering in between injuries and little production, so he will probably come up huge for the Patriots this year even after taking a pay cut.
One player to watch is Patriots wide receiver Brandon Tate, who moves into Moss' slot. Already exciting as a return specialist, Tate will look to expand his role against the second best defense in the NFL.
Though people like to point out New England's pass defense is ranked 28th, the run defense is ranked 20th. Though Flacco has been erratic this year, this game should see the Ravens try to pound the ball down New England's throats often.
Ravens 27 Patriots 21
Detroit Lions @ New York Giants
Detroit has been making huge strides this year, and are a lot better than many realize. The Giants were supposedly were at odds with their coaches a few weeks ago and headed for disaster
Though the media loves to hype the Jets defense, it is actually the Giants defense that is the best in the NFL right now. The offense is the fifth best. This type of balance has put them back on the map as Super Bowl contenders, and the locker room rumors have died down.
Giants 38 Lions 24
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
Atlanta is on fire right now, and in first place in the NFC South. Matt Ryan is returning to his hometown of Philadelphia facing a defense that is small along their front seven and ranked 24th against the run.
The Falcons have the second best rushing attack in the NFL right now, so expect them to play to their strength to keep an explosive Eagles offense off the field as much as possible.
Falcons 26 Eagles 21
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The only interesting thing about this game is to see how rusty Ben Roethlisberger is coming off his suspension. Cleveland has a quarterback making his first start this season too, but Colt McCoy is a rookie facing a team known for blitzing.
Cleveland may try to minimize McCoy's confusion by running Peyton Hillis 20-30 times, but Pittsburgh has easily the best run defense in the NFL and give up just 62 yards per game.
If Roethlisberger is sharp, things could get real ugly real fast.
Steelers 31 Browns 6
San Diego Chargers @ Saint Louis Rams
The Chargers have been a disappointment so far, going 2-3 thus far despite easily having the most productive offense in the league.
The Rams are improving, but will need to run the ball to win this week because the Bolts have the third best passing defense in the NFL.
If the Chargers lose this, they should fire head coach Norv Turner before the weekend is over.
Chargers 34 Rams 16
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The defending champions are showing how hard it is to repeat by wallowing in mediocrity for the most part. They are in the middle of the pack in scoring on both sides of the ball, yet quarterback Drew Brees has done his part by leading them to the fifth best passing attack.
The Buccaneers have surprised people with a 3-1 record. They have done it despite not doing anything in particular that stands out. The offense is 21st in scoring, while the defense is ranked 18th.
Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris has to be proud of his team, who have three very winnable games in the approaching four weeks after this game.
Saints 27 Buccaneers 17
New York Jets @ Denver Broncos
Kyle Orton is putting up better statistics than Peyton Manning, leading Denver to the fourth best offense in the league and second best passing game. The running game, however, is ranked last.
The defense has also played poorly, which is why the Broncos sit at an erratic 2-3 record. Orton is the only real consistent the team has had all year thus far.
This is not a good formula to face a hot Jets team that believes in themselves because their coach has done a wonderful job so far. Expect the Jets to run the ball down the throats of the 25th ranked rush defense all day.
Jets 31 Broncos 20
Oakland Raiders @ San Francisco 49ers
The Battle at the Bay. These teams are neighbors but world apart. The Black Hole in Oakland is its own world, and the Niners have to be relieved they are at home for this.
Oakland is 14th in offense this year, thanks to the running of halfback Darren McFadden. San Francisco cannot seem to get their former Pro Bowl halfback Frank Gore going on the ground this year, and their offense is ranked 23rd. The Niners defense is 17th, while the Raiders is 23rd.
Besides geography, the teams share n the fact they are both struggling at the quarterback position. Oakland may go with Jason Campbell instead of the banged up Bruce Gradkowski. If the seventh ranked Oakland ground game can run over the 18th ranked Niners run defense, the quarterbacks play won't matter as much.
McFadden is a game-time decision, because he is battling a leg injury, but there is word the Raiders best offensive lineman, guard Robert Gallery, will play in his second game this year come Sunday.
Raiders 23 49ers 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings
ESPN has about 45 reporters camped out in Brett Favre's living quarters vigilantly watching the status of Farve's elbow. There is no concrete proof they are helping him text, open jars, wipe, and other activities that may strain his elbow further.
It probably doesn't matter, because Farve seems to be past the end of the line as a player. A former champion fighting one bout too many. Dallas, with their 12th ranked defense, will concentrate mostly on stopping Adrian Peterson.
Peterson has quietly been great this year, too looked over a fact due to his team losing and the diva playing quarterback struggling. If he has a hard time getting going, Minnesota may be forced to gamble on Farve's elbow and the inevitable turnovers he brings to the table.
It has not been easy to run on the Vikings ever since they had the Williams' at defensive tackle, though they are ranked just 14th in that department right now. Their sixth ranked passing defense will get tested against the Cowboys third ranked passing attack and second ranked offense.
Before the season started, fans might have thought this encounter would determine who would lose their first game in 2011. In reality, both teams are struggling and fighting to keep their seasons pertinent.
One weakness the 1-3 Cowboys have shown this year is a lack of offensive balance. Quarterback Tony Romo whose 51 pass attempts in a loss a few weeks ago to Chicago was the second most attempts of his career, went before the media recently lamenting the lack of rushing attempts shortly after wards.
Romo, who threw 47 balls in their first week loss to Washington, career high of 55 attempts last year against the New York Giants was also met with a loss. He tossed 46 balls for a career best 406 yards in last weeks loss to the Tennessee Titans
The three-time Pro Bowler is at his best, as are the Cowboys, when there is better offensive balance. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett somehow hangs onto his job in spite of these facts.
Cowboys 34 Vikings 24
Indianapolis Colts @ Washington Redskins
Most fans see the Redskins last ranked defense, that is 30th in pass defense, and wonder how many yards Peyton Manning will put up against him. Considering the Colts running backs are banged up, so he may have an abundance of opportunities to find out.
Washington has beat top quarterbacks like Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers so far this year, but facing Manning is an entirely different test. Manning will look to spread the ball all over Fed Ex Field on Sunday night.
Indianapolis, however. has a tiny defensive line that is ranked 29th against the run. The Redskins offensive line has struggled mightily this year, helping Washington have the 25th ranked rushing attack.
Washington is hurting as well along the offensive line. Trent Williams, their first round pick this year, has already missed two games due to a knee injury. The left tackle hurt the same knee again last week, which took him out the game, so he is questionable Sunday. Right tackle Jamal Brown and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger are also listed as questionable with knee injuries.
If that wasn't enough, their defense has linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safeties LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, and Chris Horton listed as questionable, and no one has said for certain if nose tackle Albert Haynesworth will have returned from bereavement leave.
Donovan McNabb will try to carry the seventh ranked passing attack again, this time against the 13th ranked Colts pass defense. Yet the real key to Washington winning this game may rest on the shoulders of running back Ryan Torain.
Torain will be making his second career start, this time he will possibly be without the services of primary reserve Keiland Williams because of injury. If Washington can run the ball, it will slow down the pass rush of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. After watching McNabb get run down by Clay Matthews III last week, the prospects of having two guys of that ability is worrisome.
Colts 27 Redskins 17
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars
The Titans offensive attack is simple : get the ball in the hands of running back Chris Johnson as much as possible. He is on pace to easily match the 358 carries he led the NFL with last year with 113 so far. Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew is right behind him with 102 carries.
Both teams passing attacks are similar in that they have erratic but mobile quarterbacks, inconsistent wide receivers, and young tight ends playing well so far. Jeff Fisher and the Titans are riding Johnson as hard as the franchise once rode Earl Campbell over 30 years ago.
Considering Johnson is almost 40 pounds lighter than the "Tyler Rose" it would behoove Fisher and Vince Young to improve in other areas so Johnson has at least five Hall of Fame seasons like Campbell did.
Neither defense is special, so it may come down to which do-it-all running back does the most damage.
Titans 24 Jaguars 16