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THE RUNNING back by committee ... the platoon ... the time-share. By any name, it's a thorny situation for fantasy owners. And these days more teams are, by force or by choice, sharing the workload in their backfields. Through three weeks the number of runners on pace for at least 150 carries is 35, equal to last year. Because knowing who will be the preeminent Panther or the big Bear could well determine a fantasy team's success, SI has picked the brains of its insiders to determine who, if anyone, will emerge as the featured back for each of the nine teams whose situations are at least somewhat unsettled--and whether the winners are worth owning.
THE TIDE IS TURNING
TALE OF THE TAPE The party line is that Foster is the starter, but privately the Panthers' staff is raving about the quickness of Williams, a rookie from Memphis who's averaging 4.3 yards per carry to Foster's 3.4. Another clue that Williams's star is rising: Even though he had only four carries on Sunday, he was on the field for most of Carolina's game-winning drive.
THE DECISION Williams will eventually be The Man, so he's well worth a fantasy roster spot. If you've got Foster on your team, now's the time to deal him.
TALE OF THE TAPE Maroney, a rookie from Minnesota, has been dynamic from Day One. On his first two carries as a pro, he ran for 27 and 22 yards, matching Dillon's number of 20-yard runs from all last season. But Dillon, while not as explosive, has been almost as productive and gotten more goal line carries. And with receiver Deion Branch now in Seattle, the Patriots will lean on the running game, and that requires two big backs.
THE DECISION The team insists that this will remain a time-share, but with Dillon day-to-day with an arm injury, the door is open for the rookie to get more carries.
TALE OF THE TAPE Because of Denver's success in running the ball under coach Mike Shanahan, this was the most scrutinized battle entering the season. Mike was named the starter in training camp, and heading into Week 3 neither Bell had emerged as the featured back; Tatum alternated series with Mike, and the two produced similar numbers. But for Sunday night's game against the Patriots, Shanahan surprisingly anointed Tatum as the go-to guy, and he responded with 123 yards on 27 carries (Mike ran four times for 12 yards).