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Cut or Run?

Now is the time to assess which veteran backs still have something in the tank—and which are out of gas

During thepreseason the word was that Jets back Thomas Jones would be a fantasy liabilitybecause runners in their 30s are notoriously unproductive. But nearing themidway point of the fantasy season, Jones—at 31, the oldest starting runningback in the NFL—is showing no signs of slowing down. Last season's AFC leaderin rushing touchdowns (15, tied with the Titans' LenDale White) ranks among thetop five in the league this year with six scoring runs. And on Sunday, in NewYork's 16--13 overtime loss to the Bills, Jones rushed for a career- andfranchise-high 210 yards, including breakaways of 64 and 71 yards, the twolongest runs of his 10-year career. Owning Jones does carry some risk: Hesplits time with Leon Washington and Shonn Greene. But there's no doubting thisThomas—he should be a regular in your lineup.

Jones was one ofseveral once-reliable backs whose desirability was debated leading up to thisyear's draft. Among the others were LaDainian Tomlinson, Jamal Lewis and LarryJohnson—all of whom have struggled mightily and vindicated those who passedthem up—plus this trio of former top 20 fantasy selections.

Clinton Portis,Redskins

It's been toughsledding for Washington's top rusher, who ranked among the leaders in fantasyproduction in seven of the last eight seasons. Injuries to his ankles and calfhave slowed the 28-year-old Portis, and he's also been held back by a woefulWashington offense. As one of the few backs not operating in a committee,however, Portis still ranks in the top 10 in rushing yards (447) and yards pergame (74.5), proving that even his off years are better than most players' goodones. Stick with him for consistent if unspectacular productivity.

Joseph Addai,Colts

Peyton Manning'sbackfieldmate has fallen victim to a prolific Indianapolis passing attackthat's averaging a league-high 326 yards. At the same time the 26-year-oldAddai has been forced to share carries with a budding rookie, Donald Brown.Although Addai has outscored his backup four touchdowns to two, he hasoutrushed Brown by only 11.2 yards per game, and at the very least the two havebecome interchangeable. It's likely that Brown soon will be given a much largerrole in the offense, so it's time to look for Addai alternatives.

Willie Parker,Steelers

In the final yearof his contract Fast Willie, who'll be 29 on Nov. 11, has been Wally Pipped bysecond-year man Rashard Mendenhall. Parker returned from a bout of turf toeonly to cede his spot to a younger, stronger and better-blocking back. Each hashad three starts, with Mendenhall gaining 349 yards and scoring four touchdownsto Parker's 185 and one. Barring an injury to Mendenhall, Parker has seen hislast days as a starter in the Steel City; the same should apply on yourteam.

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Sharper Image

Even as Drew Brees's prolific offense produces pointsin bushels, don't overlook another bountiful points source from New Orleans:the Saints' defense. The unit has been scoring 26.8 fantasy points per game,fourth best in the league. Through Week 6 the Saints were tied with the Eaglesfor the NFL lead in interceptions with 11. Free safety Darren Sharper (below)has five of those picks, including two that he ran back for touchdowns. NewOrleans also tops the NFL in takeaways, with three per game. Moreover, the bestis yet to come: From Weeks 9 through 11 New Orleans will face mistake-proneCarolina, St. Louis and Tampa Bay. So take a cue from Sharper and hisball-hawking defensive mates and pounce if an opposing owner makes an unwisecut.



PORT IN A STORM Hampered by injuries and the Redskins' anemic offense, Portis still continues to pound out the points.