Just as there are few things better this season than having Peyton Manning or Daunte Culpepper on your fantasy team, there have been few things more frustrating than suffering with their running backs.
Manning and Culpepper are lapping the rest of the NFL field, scoring half again as many fantasy points as the next closest players at any position. What they're also doing, however, is not sharing at all: Instead of riding the passers' coattails, Edgerrin James and Minnesota's committee of tailbacks are being left in the quarterbacks' shadows.
On Sunday, Indianapolis rolled up 49 points in a win against Houston, but James never found the end zone, settling for a pedestrian 82 rushing yards. He's been the sixth-best running back in fantasy scoring this year, but he really can't thank Manning for it. James caught nine touchdown passes from Manning in his first two NFL seasons, but in the four years since, they've managed one touchdown in 166 receptions.
Minnesota, too, has been prolific but scores almost exclusively through the air. Culpepper has passed for 25 touchdowns, but the Vikings have run for only four scores, with Culpepper taking one of those. Onterrio Smith missed four games during a suspension and rookie Mewelde Moore has missed the last two with an ankle injury, so despite their high-scoring offense, it's been a frustrating year for anyone who has a Vikings running back.
Manning and Culpepper aren't the only selfish passers out there: Denver's Jake Plummer has 19 touchdowns, while the Broncos' leading rusher, Reuben Droughns , has run for one. St. Louis' Marc Bulger trails only Manning and Culpepper in fantasy scoring, but as a result, Marshall Faulk is on pace for a career low in touchdowns, with as many rushing touchdowns (three) as Bulger.
What NFL team had the biggest margin between its passing and rushing touchdowns last year? The Bucs, who threw for 27 scores and rushed for five.
DON'T DO IT: No matter how rough your quarterback situation is, you should avoid any temptation to start Giants rookie Eli Manning , who takes over for Kurt Warner this weekend. Only two teams have passed for fewer touchdown than the Giants, who have six in nine games.
Rookie quarterbacks as a rule are risky business. I nearly picked up an unlikely win this week when my opponent started Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and benched an unbenchable in Culpepper.
Like Roethlisberger, there's no harm in picking up Eli Manning and stashing him as a reserve, especially in a keeper league. As far as starting him, however, there are plenty of veterans in better position to help your team.
Pittsburgh is the anti-fantasy success story this year, with few no-brainer starters on roster. The defense is a definite exception to that as the league's second-best fantasy defense, trailing only Baltimore. It's also safe to ride Jerome Bettis , who needs one more touchdown to set his career high and has topped 100 yards in both games since taking over for the injured Duce Staley .
THIS AND THAT: An emerging star worth a spot on your bench is Ravens receiver Clarence Moore , who caught his first two NFL touchdowns Sunday. It wouldn't take much for the 6-foot-6 rookie, a sixth-round pick from Northern Arizona, to become Baltimore's best receiver. ... How ridiculously good is the Colts offense? Five players leaguewide have four touchdowns in the past month, and Indy has three, in receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark . ... Arizona's Emmitt Smith , football's rushing touchdown king, is on pace for 14 this season, his highest total since 1995. His average draft position in ESPN.com leagues was 122nd, just ahead of Ron Dayne and Garrison Hearst .
-- If you have a fantasy question or comment, send an e-mail to staff writer Greg Auman at firstname.lastname@example.org