Fantasy mailbag: White emerges as a must-start back

Who should I start in Week 10: Edgerrin James, Kevin Jones or LenDale White? Also who should I start Vernon Davis, Todd Heap or Greg Olsen? Last but not least, should I start Dwayne Bowe? My other starters are Bobby Engram, Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes? -- A. Gonzalez Panama City, Panama

Michael Fabiano: Despite his mediocre numbers in what was a blowout win over Denver, I'd still side with Jones out of this trio. The versatile back faces an Arizona defense that ranks 18th against the run, so look for him to rebound. I would also start White over James despite the former's difficult matchup against Jacksonville. White has rushed for 337 yards and two touchdowns in his past two starts and has emerged as a solid No. 2 fantasy runner. I would start Heap (if available) at tight end, but if he misses another week then I'd side with Davis. Finally, I'd start Fitzgerald, Engram and Holmes and keep Bowe on the sidelines.

Hi Michael, I have Ben Roethlisberger and Jon Kitna at quarterback and both had great weeks. I'm having a hard time deciding who to start in Week 10 as they both have good matchups. What do you think? Thanks for your continued great advice. -- R. Jones Victoria, B.C.

M.F.: I would continue to use Roethlisberger, who faces a Cleveland defense that ranks dead last against the pass and has surrendered 20 passing touchdowns. In his last start against the Browns, Big Ben threw for four touchdowns in a 34-7 win.

Larry Johnson finally had a game with multiple touchdowns and then he has to go and get hurt on me. I'm lucky enough to have Priest Holmes on my team though to handcuff him. How well will Priest Holmes do if Johnson is out this week against Denver? Is Priest worth a start? - J. Altman, Chippewa Falls, Wis.

M.F.: Holmes is worth a start in some cases, but it all depends on the level of depth you have in your backfield. I would also temper expectations for Holmes even against a porous Denver run defense. Remember that he's 33, past his prime, and I doubt he can handle 20-25 carries each week for the rest of the season. Also keep in mind that Holmes' last two seasons ended with injuries, and he'll have to work behind an offensive line that is less than stellar. I also think Kolby Smith will see his share of carries, so don't expect Holmes to re-emerge into a consistent option.

I need to win bad this week and my wide receivers will have to carry me. Which two wideouts should I start from Anquan Boldin, Greg Jennings and Roy Williams? -- M. Weber, Groton, S.D.

M.F.: This is a difficult call, but I'd start Boldin and Jennings and sit Williams. Boldin has a nice matchup against a Detroit defense that ranks 30th in pass defense, and Jennings faces a Minnesota unit that's dead last against the pass. Williams, who hasn't done much for fantasy owners in recent weeks, face an Arizona defense that ranks seventh against the pass and has surrendered a mere nine receiving touchdowns after nine contests.

I lost last week because I started Philip Rivers (he was a start in Start 'Em & Sit 'Em). I could have started Jon Kitna and won so you owe me one! Who should I start this week? Also, I need to start two running backs from DeShaun Foster, Frank Gore and Thomas Jones. -- Y. Eshkar, Israel

M.F.: There is no exact science to fantasy starts and sits -- it's all about the numbers. I think you made the most educated choice and the right choice in starting Rivers. He had come off a three-touchdown performance and faced a bad Minnesota pass defense, while Kitna hadn't thrown for a score in three weeks and faced a top-10 pass defense in Denver. Sometimes the matchups work, sometimes they don't. Neither quarterback has a good matchup this week, so I'd side with Kitna. With Jones on a bye, you're left to start Foster and Gore at running back. Gore's status is questionable, however, so I would look to add Michael Robinson or Maurice Hicks as insurance.

I have Drew Brees and Tony Romo at quarterback, but I'm short on runners so I want to make a trade. Who should I trade and what sort of back should I expect in return? -- R. Duarte, Poland

M.F.: I would deal Brees and look for nothing short of a stud runner in return. The veteran out of Purdue has been on fire in recent weeks, so don't take less than a back the caliber of Joseph Addai, Adrian Peterson or Brian Westbrook. That might sound like a lot to ask in a deal, but rememeber that quarterbacks, not runners, have been the dominant position in the NFL this season.

I need to choose two of these five running backs to start this week: Marion Barber, Michael Bush, Kevin Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jerious Norwood. Also, should I bench Steve Smith and start Kevin Curtis? -- B. Colbeck, Seattle, Wash.

M.F.: Bush has no real value as a fantasy starter and Norwood has an injured ankle, so I would start Barber and Jones and leave Jones-Drew on the sidelines. MJD has a tough matchup against Tennessee's top-ranked run defense, so he could be hard-pressed to produce. I'd make a decision on Smith based on who starts at the quarterback position. David Carr (back) seems to be doubtful for this week, which is good news if you have Smith, but no one knows if Vinny Testaverde can return from an injured Achilles. Should the old man start against Atlanta, I'd side with Smith. Otherwise, take a chance on Curtis.

Can Justin Fargas be a true featured back in Oakland, or will he share carries down the road with LaMont Jordan? Can I trust Fargas as a No. 2 fantasy back? I've lost Deuce McAllister and Ronnie Brown this season. -- T. Carter, Lakeland, Fla.

M.F.: It looks like Raiders head coach Lane Kiffin will stick with Fargas, who looked tremendous in a win over Houston. I'm not sure Jordan is 100 percent, as his numbers have fallen hard since he aggravated the ailment, so I would expect Fargas to see a boatload of carries into the forseeable future. The Southern California product is now worth a roster spot in all fantasy leagues, and he is a viable No. 2 fantasy back this week against an inconsistent Chicago run defense.

Shaun Alexander killed me last week. Can I trust him this week against San Francisco or should I take a chance on Jamal Lewis? I would have won had I started Lewis, not Alexander, with Adrian Peterson. -- H. D'Onofrio, Bronx, N.Y.

M.F.: Alexander has both wrist and knee ailments, but chances are he'll start on Monday night against the Niners. Here's the problem: Even against a Cleveland team with a bad run defense, Alexander didn't do anything. He has also started to lose carries to Maurice Morris, and I think that scenario will continue. As much as I dislike Lewis this week based on a difficult matchup against Pittsburgh, I like Alexander even less. Until he puts forth a few decent stat lines, Alexander should be left on the fantasy sidelines if at all possible.

Which running back should I start with Reggie Bush this week (PPR league): Jesse Chatman, Kenny Watson or Selvin Young? -- C. Livermore, Green Bay, Wis.

M.F.: I would side with Chatman, who faces a Buffalo defense that ranks 19th against the run. Watson is also a viable option in PPR formats, but he'll share carries with Rudi Johnson and has little chance at work near the goal line. With Travis Henry still in the mix, Young hasn't seen enough work in the Denver backfield to warrant real consideration.

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