I've been dealing with a bit of a guilty conscience today.
In all of my chats and mailbags last week, I told fantasy leaguers to stick with LaDainian Tomlinson. How could you not? After all, he's only one of the best running backs to ever grace a fantasy football lineup. Now I'm worried that were starting to see a Shaun Alexander-like fall from grace. OK, that sort of comparison might be a little too drastic, but Tomlinson has been a total disaster nonetheless.
I actually blogged about my concerns about Tomlinson back in Week 2 after he failed to produce against a bad Denver defense. But as is my motto in these situations, I've stuck with L.T., a fantasy stud, in doling out advice. But after another week with next to no production, Tomlinson can no longer be trusted.
Heading into Week 8, he's on pace to finish the season with 55 catches, which does give him added value in PPR leagues, but his yardage and touchdown totals have been a disappointment. In fact, he'll have 1,019 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns based on his current totals. Those aren't bad numbers if you're Jamal Lewis or LenDale White, but they're not what we expect from the consensus No. 1 overall selection in drafts.
Furthermore, Tomlinson has found the end zone in just two of seven games and hasn't crossed the end zone since Week 4. He's also averaging a meager 3.6 YPC. That's the worst total since his rookie season in 2001. He's also on pace to finish with just 281 carries.
That would be the lowest full-season total of his entire career. But it's difficult to place blame on coach Norv Turner or OC Clarence Shelmon for Tomlinson's lack of touches, especially if he can't handle the workload because of his problematic toe.
L.T. has been dealing with a sore digit for much of the season. While he offers no excuse for his lack of production, Tomlinson's toe has been at least part of the problem. It might also be more than coincidence that Philip Rivers is having the best statistical season of his career. Despite being on pace to record fewer pass attempts than 2007 or 2006, Rivers will finish with career bests in yards (3,879) and touchdowns (36) based on his current totals. He's also scored more fantasy points than anyone after seven weeks.
It should also be noted that Tomlinson now has close to 2,500 career regular-season carries. He'll also turn 30 next summer. That dreaded age has been the downfall of several elite running backs throughout the history of the NFL, a list that includes Alexander, Eric Dickerson and O.J. Simpson. So to say that Tomlinson has lost a step, or that he's getting older and can't handle the same number of carries because of his injured toe, isn't such an out-of-this-world statement.
So, am I telling you to sit Tomlinson in favor of Cedric Benson or DeAngelo Williams? Heck no. Chances are that he'll remain a fantasy starter, even if he's a No. 2 runner, in most leagues.
What I am telling you is that if you have a solid backfield that includes say, Chris Johnson, Steve Slaton and L.T., and the two rookies have great matchups (much like in Week 7), I'd be putting Tomlinson on the pine. At least until he proves that he's still the same productive fantasy superstar we had all come to know and love.
OK, let's take a look at some of the best and worst performances of Week 7.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis (35 points): Jackson ran all over the dysfunctional Cowboys defense for 160 yards and three touchdowns, leading countless fantasy owners to a win. But reports that he sustained an injured quadriceps during the contest could be cause for concern. Be sure to keep close tabs on his status heading into Week 8.
LenDale White, RB, Tennessee (32 points): White took full advantage of a dreadful Chiefs run defense, rushing for 149 yards and three touchdowns. His signature run was an 80-yard rumble in the fourth quarter, where he somehow outran Kansas City's defensive backfield. He'll be a nice fantasy option again this week against the Colts.
Mewelde Moore, RB, Pittsburgh (31 points): Fantasy leaguers who added Moore off the waiver wire when Willie Parker went down have to be all smiles. He rushed for 120 yards and scored three times against the Bengals and now has 250 scrimmage yards in his last two starts. He has now established himself as an elite handcuff, at the least.
Bears DST (24 points): Despite the fact that it allowed 41 points, the Bears DST still managed to score 24 fantasy points on NFL.com. Much of its success had to do with the two touchdowns it scored in what became a serious shootout at Solider Field. This unit also produced four interceptions, two sacks and one fumble recovery.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota (23 points): The Bears had a formidable run defense heading into the week, but Peterson made it look vulnerable with a solid 121-yard, two-touchdown performance. He should record another huge stat line for fantasy leaguers in Week 9, after Minnesota's upcoming bye week, against the Houston Texans.
Other notables: Dominic Rhodes, RB, Indianapolis (23 points); Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee (22 points); Kyle Orton, QB, Chicago (21 points).
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans (0 points): So much for Colston making an immediate impact in his return from a broken thumb. He was targeted just four times and failed to catch a pass in a blowout loss to Carolina. Despite the non-existent stat line, Colston is still a solid option in Week 8 against a bad Chargers' pass defense.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami (2 points): Brown entered the week as one of the hottest running backs in the NFL, but the Ravens were able to shut him down. The veteran had a mere 28 scrimmage yards and averaged a gross 2.1 YPC in a 27-13 loss. The Dolphins didn't find success out of the Wildcat, either, posting 24 total yards in seven tries.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis (2 points): Oh how the fantasy tide can turn in an instant. One week after a monster performance against the Ravens, Wayne was held to two catches, 24 yards and no touchdowns in a loss to Green Bay. He and Marvin Harrison combined to catch four passes in what was an awful week for the Colts' passing attack.
Brett Favre, QB, N.Y. Jets (3 points): Did I curse Favre by making him the Start of the Week? Maybe, but he was a major bust regardless against the Raiders. He threw for 197 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against a defense that ranked 25th against the pass. Look for Favre to rebound in Week 8 against Kansas City.
Terrell Owens, WR, Dallas (3 points): No Tony Romo, no fantasy production from Owens. He hauled in just two passes for 31 yards and saw seven targets in a bad loss to St. Louis. You still have to start Owens even with Brad Johnson under center, but his lack of production has become a real problem. He'll face the Buccaneers in Week 8.