Ed Barkowitz: Titans' Chris Johnson rushes into record books

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Saints QB Drew Brees is the readers' choice for MVP.

COLTS COACH Jim Caldwell on Sunday showed the ugly side of what can happen when NFL reality intrudes upon fantasy football. This week, Chris Johnson will try to do the opposite.

Caldwell, in pursuit of a silly, little thing called the Vince Lombardi Trophy, bungled the Colts' run at a perfect season and fouled up fantasy playoffs everywhere by benching Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne, among others, and lost to the Jets.

With Johnson's Titans eliminated from playoff contention, his team is openly embracing his run at a couple of NFL records. He needs 75 yards on Sunday at Seattle to break Marshall Faulk's 1999 record of 2,429 yards from scrimmage and 128 rushing yards to become only the sixth running back to reach 2,000 in a season.

His eyes, though, are on Eric Dickerson's all-time single-season rushing mark of 2,105. Johnson needs 234 to break that. The second-year star out of East Carolina had 228 against Jacksonville on Nov. 1.

"If I get Dickerson," he said smiling through his golden teeth, "I get all of them. I want Dickerson."

Johnson, third in Daily News reader voting for fantasy MVP behind Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, plays at Seattle Sunday. The Seahawks are 14th in the league in run defense, giving up an average of 109.5 rushing yards per game. In its last two, Seattle surrendered 153 and 134 yards, respectively.

"This is not an individual goal," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's a team goal. It's not just CJ. It's an opportunity for his offensive teammates to be part of the history book. It's not just Chris Johnson . . . It's a team-oriented goal."

Whatever you say, coach. As long as you don't take him out in the third quarter.

 

Why 2K

 

Chris Johnson needs 128 rushing yards to become the sixth running back to reach 2,000 in a single season. So far, he has 1,872 yards and 14 touchdowns. In his previous two games, he has 104 yards, 0 TD, and 142 yards, 1 TD, respectively.

While O.J. Simpson's feat remains the most impressive since he did it during a 14-game schedule, here is the list. Also included is how each player fared in his final three regular season games – the heart of fantasy football playoff season:

1. Eric Dickerson, Rams, 1984: 2,105 yards, 14 TD. Final 3 games: 149 yards, 1 TD; 215 yards, 2 TD; 98 yards, 1 TD

2. Jamal Lewis, Ravens, 2003: 2,066 yards, 14 TD. Final 3 games: 125 yards, 0 TD; 205 yards, 2 TD; 114 yards, 1 TD

3. Barry Sanders, Lions, 1997: 2,053 yards, 14 TD. Final 3 games: 137 yards, 1 TD; 138 yards, 0 TD; 184 yards, 1 TD

4. Terrell Davis, Broncos, 1998: 2,008 yards, 23 TD; Final 3 games: 147 yards, 1 TD; 29 yards, 0 TD; 178 yards, 1 TD

5. O.J. Simpson, Bills, 1973: 2,003 yards, 12 TD. Final 3 games: 137 yards, 0 TD; 219 yards, 1 TD; 200 yards, 1 TD

 

Three up

 

* Jay Cutler, Bears quarterback: With so many other quarterbacks involved in possibly meaningless games, Cutler at least will play against the Lions. This is why we recommend not extending fantasy seasons into the NFL's Week 17.

* Frank Gore, 49ers running back: If playing the Rams isn't enough incentive, please note that San Fran won the first meeting, 35-0, in October, well before St. Louis packed it in for the season.

* Jason Snelling, Falcons running back: Atlanta (8-7) really wants to finish with a winning season and find out some more about Snelling. Careful if you plan on starting Tony Gonzalez (calf), however. He and Matt Ryan (toe) missed practice yesterday, but Gonzo's injury is thought to be more serious.

 

Three down

 

* Roy Williams, Cowboys wide receiver: Williams thinks all his dropped passes have led quarterback Tony Romo to look elsewhere. Fantasy fans have been doing that since October.

* Carson Palmer, Bengals quarterback: If the Patriots win their 1 o'clock game against Houston, it would lock the Bengals into the No. 4 seed and make the game against the Jets meaningless for Cincinnati. Second-string running back Larry Johnson could be a sneaky play.

* Kurt Warner, Cardinals quarterback: Ditto for the Cards, who need losses by the Vikings and Eagles to move up to the No. 2 seed. Otherwise, their game against the Packers means squat.

 

Contest result

 

Drew Brees was the readers' choice for fantasy football MVP, beating out Peyton Manning and Chris Johnson. Jay Cutler was the overwhelming selection as the worst fantasy performer this year.

Most ballots were submitted before Cutler threw four touchdown passes Monday night, so those two dozen or so interceptions really must have caused some sour feelings.

The three voters who were randomly chosen to win a Daily News fantasy football T-shirt were Khay Copeland, of Philadelphia; Anthony Preziosi, of West Deptford, N.J.; and Charles Willis, of Rising Sun, Md. We'll also send one to Brees from his fans here.

Complete voting results are below, including voting percent totals. Thanks to all those who participated.

Most Valuable

Drew Brees, Saints: 48.4 percent

Peyton Manning, Colts: 29.0

Chris Johnson, Titans: 22.6

Least Valuable

Jay Cutler, Bears: 70.0

Matt Forte, Bears: 20.0

Steve Smith, Panthers: 10.0

Best Sleeper

DeSean Jackson, Eagles: 56.2

Miles Austin, Cowboys: 43.8

Thomas Jones, Jets: 0.0

Best Quarterback

Peyton Manning, Colts: 58.1

Drew Brees, Saints: 38.7

Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 3.2

Best Running Back

Chris Johnson, Titans: 64.5

Adrian Peterson, Vikings: 29.0

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars: 6.5

Best Wide Receiver

DeSean Jackson, Eagles: 74.2

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: 19.3

Miles Austin, Cowboys: 6.5

Best Tight End

Vernon Davis, 49ers: 54.8

Dallas Clark, Colts: 32.3

Antonio Gates, Chargers: 12.9

Best Kicker

David Akers, Eagles: 63.3

Nate Kaeding, Chargers: 36.7

Lawrence Tynes, Giants: 0.0

Best Defense/Special Teams

Eagles: 66.7

Saints: 23.3

Packers: 10.0

Worst Quarterback

Jay Cutler, Bears: 73.3

Trent Edwards, Bills: 16.7

Matt Cassel, Chiefs: 10.0

Worst Running Back

Matt Forte, Bears: 38.7

Larry Johnson, Chiefs/Bengals: 35.5

Willie Parker, Steelers: 25.8

Worst Wide Receiver

Roy Williams, Cowboys: 50.0

Greg Jennings, Packers: 26.7

Steve Smith, Panthers: 23.3

Worst Tight End

Dustin Keller, Jets: 43.3

Jared Cook, Titans: 30.0

Todd Heap, Ravens: 26.7

Worst Kicker

Nick Folk, Cowboys: 60.0

Robbie Gould, Bears: 23.3

Jason Hanson, Lions: 16.7

Worst Defense/Special Teams

Giants: 38.7

Steelers: 32.3

Falcons: 29.0

Ed Barkowitz, who rallied to win the championship of CBS Sports' nationwide media league, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001. His opponent, Ferdinando DiFino, of the Wall Street Journal, got only one point out of Reggie Wayne. In one of his other leagues, Barkowitz gagged his last three regular-season games and missed the playoffs. *

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