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Searching for Second Half RB Stars

Brian Westbrook was one of the top-10 running backs over the final eight games of 2007.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - We're almost at the mid-point of the 2008 NFL season and one of the most important factors in winning a fantasy title is determining which players will have big second halves.

Since most of us don't have a crystal ball, we will have to rely on past history - so let's look at the past (2007) and see if it can help us see into the future.

Over the final eight games of 2007, the top-10 running backs were: Brian Westbrook, Ladainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis, Joseph Addai, Ryan Grant, Earnest Graham, Chester Taylor, Justin Fargas, Steven Jackson, Adrian Peterson

What you should ask yourself, did these guys have in common?

The answer is very basic - opportunity. Nine of the 10 running backs had more touches in the second half of the season than the first half. The 10th, Adrian Peterson would also have had more touches, except he sat out weeks 11 and 12 due to a knee injury.

So how does this help us now?

We must look at who will get the opportunities to run over the final eight weeks (I'm not counting week 17 because most every league is finished by that point.).

There are many factors to investigate, but No.1 is health. You need a physically able running back to take all the punishment.

That rules out: Willie Parker, Reggie Bush, Addai, Sammy Morris, Darren McFadden.

You also have to be on the field, sorry Larry Johnson.

You need the opportunity to get enough carries. That knocks out most "shared" running back tandems. Goodbye to Johnson's replacements Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith, Selvin Young and Michael Pittman, Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor, Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Julius Jones and Maurice Morris, Chris Johnson and LenDale White and all New Orleans running backs.

Of course an injury to one of the tandem running backs, will immediately make the other a threat to become a star so you must watch the injury reports closely.

Contrary to popular opinion, the running back needs a decent passing game to take some pressure off and to prevent eight and nine-man fronts (see Minnesota). It's not a coincidence that Peterson's numbers have improved since Gus Frerotte and Bernard Berrian have become a passing threat.

Adios to Lewis (Derek Anderson), Willis McGahee (Joe Flacco), Cedric Benson (Ryan Fitzpatrick), Fargas (JaMarcus Russell) and Frank Gore (Shaun Hill).

It would help to not face too many of the following defenses: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, either New York team or the Bears. It also helps if the weather turns cold and blustery and coaches game plan for more running attempts. Hello Green Bay, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Chicago.

So who is left?

Some obvious choices - Westbrook, Tomlinson, Grant, Jackson, Portis and Peterson. And some less obvious ones - Thomas Jones, Michael Turner, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Marion Barber III and Graham.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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