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Fantasy Football: Backups now playing major roles

| Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009

Michael Turner. Julius Jones. Ronnie Brown.

These are names on which fantasy owners have relied this season. Brown is out for the season, and the odds are against Turner and Jones playing in Week 11. The same is true of Brian Westbrook, Clinton Portis, Cedric Benson and Joseph Addai.

Here is a ranking of the running backs who were backups a week or two ago but will play major roles for their teams this week:

1. Ricky Williams, Dolphins vs. Panthers

Williams has been a decent back even while splitting time. With the Dolphins' strong run defense going against the Panthers' potent run game, Miami will have to rely on Williams' ability to be a workhorse.

2. LeSean McCoy, Eagles vs. Bears

The running back of the Philadelphia's future probably will be the man the rest of the season after Westbrook's second concussion. Fifteen carries and two catches against the Bears' No. 21-ranked run defense is a given.

3. Ladell Betts, Redskins vs. Cowboys

The Cowboys are good against the run, but the Redskins have little choice but to rely on Portis' longtime backup. A 114-yard rushing performance last week against the staunch Broncos doesn't hurt either.

4. Ryan Moats, Texans vs. Titans

The Titans have been solid against the run and are clicking on offense, which may limit Moats' chances. He should still outpace Steve Slaton in carries, despite Moats' 16-carry, 38-yard performance before the team's bye.

5. Jason Snelling, Falcons vs. Giants

Turner isn't sure to be out, and Jerious Norwood could return. But Snelling is the best bet to get the top number of carries against a Giants defense that has been struggling lately.

6. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs vs. Steelers

A tough matchup, but the Chiefs will be more likely to rely on Charles with top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe suspended, and he is the clear No. 1.

7. Justin Forsett, Seahawks vs. Vikings

The Seahawks could throw the ball a lot against the Vikings, who are only average against the pass but one of the NFL's top run defenses. Forsett is a better play in the weeks ahead.

8. Bernard Scott, Bengals vs. Raiders

Who will get the most carries for the Bengals is up in the air. At most, Scott is probably a one-week play.

9. Donald Brown, Colts vs. Ravens

No Colts running back has topped 65 rushing yards this season, and Baltimore is no place to start.

Bengals not to be believed on LJ as deep backup

Larry Johnson said he will be OK as a backup and "working my way back up." Marvin Lewis said Johnson will begin his Bengals career as a No. 4 running back.

Don't expect that to last for long.

After all, this is the same franchise that signed Benson last year on Sept. 30, then by Oct. 5 was giving him 10 carries. Within a month, Benson was the featured back.

Early indications are that Benson, while saying some of the right things, is not exactly thrilled about the signing, either.

"Oh, I didn't know I was supposed to be jumping out of my seat or anything. I really have no feelings about it," Benson told Then, later, "The offensive playbook here can be tricky, so it takes a little bit to get adjusted. But Larry's all right."

Sounds like a player who wasn't told by his coach that the starting job is his no matter what. And with Benson banged up and leading the NFL in carries (205), there are plenty of reasons to think Johnson soon will leapfrog Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard into some legitimate playing time.

If you held onto Johnson this long waiting, what's another week to find out?

Hot pickups

Name - Team - Pos.

Justin Forsett - Seahawks - RB

Muhsin Muhammad - Panthers - WR

Roy Williams - Cowboys - WR

Freezing cold

Name - Team - Pos.

Jay Cutler - Bears - QB

Marion Barber - Cowboys - RB

Correll Buckhalter - Broncos - RB

Wideouts to watch

Torry Holt, Jaguars -- The Bills' defense has been tough on the pass, but if you're going to take a chance, do it against a team that just fired its coach.

Laveranues Coles, Bengals -- Two straight weeks leading the team in catches is a start. With Benson banged up and Nnamdi Asomugha focused on Chad Ochocinco, Coles will benefit.

Changing coaches

The Bills fired coach Dick Jauron this week, leaving the team in the hands of interim coach Perry Fewell. Fourteen teams that changed coaches in midseason since the start of the 2000 season allowed almost a touchdown more than their average in the first week under the new coach:

Deposed coach, Tm - Year - Next week - PA - +/- - YA - +/-

Dick Jauron, Bills - 2009 - Week 11 - ??• - ??• - ??• - ???

Lane Kiffin, Raiders - 2008 - Week 14 - 34 - +12 - 372 - +21

Mike Linehan, Rams - 2008 - Week 6 - 17 - -20.2 - 368 - -43.8

Mike Nolan, 49ers - 2008 - Week 8 - 34 - +6 - 261 - -78.6

Bobby Petrino, Falcons - 2007 - Week 15 - 37 - +13.5 - 285 - -58.5

Steve Mariucci, Lions - 2005 - Week 13 - 21 - +1 - 345 - +31.1

Mike Martz, Rams - 2005 - Week 6 - 45 - +15.4 - 363 - -1

Butch Davis, Browns - 2004 - Week 12 - 58 - +37.2 - 504 - +183.3

Dave Wannnstedt, Dolphins - 2004 - Week 11 - 24 - +3.3 - 293 - -2.7

Dan Reeves, Falcons - 2003 - Week 15 - 38 - 11.7 - 465 - +89.4

Denny Green, Vikings - 2001 - Week 17 - 19 - -5.7 - 351 - -3.3

Bobby Ross, Lions - 2000 - Week 10 - 23 - +2.5 - 293 - -53.6

Bruce Coslet, Bengals - 2000 - Week 5 - 31 - +6.3 - 302 - +26.7

Vince Tobin, Cardinals - 2000 - Week 9 - 21 - -9 - 247 - -110.6

Norv Turner, Redskins - 2000 - Week 15 - 32 - +15.8 - 314 - +41.6

Average - - - - - - - - - - - 31 - +6.4 - 40.2 - +2.9

Injury report

Jerious Norwood, RB, Falcons -- Did not practice Wednesday, making it more likely that Jason Snelling will fill in for Michael Turner.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers -- Officially questionable, but he also was last week. Expect him to play.

Sammy Morris, RB, Patriots -- Practiced Wednesday, which is bad news for Laurence Maroney owners. Don't expect much from Morris, though.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins -- Still suffering blurry vision and unlikely to play.

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