Fantasy Football

Lynch, Ridley ready to roll

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Michael Harmon

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Harmon's rankings: RB, QB, WR, TE/DEF

As I pondered the running back position heading into Week 2, my mind fixated on two storylines that we’re following. First, there are “ROBO-backs” who perform whether they practice or not, and I’m counting both injuries and holdouts. Second, I’m trying to wade through the tape and data to find out what I believe about Chris Johnson.

I ranked him 18th this week. Is that too high? Will he run like a man possessed?

Fantasy owners are still reeling from the injury sustained by Matt Forte on Thursday night in what was a painful NFL contest (literally and figuratively). Owners who handcuffed Michael Bush to their selection of Forte can move forward and plug-and-play. If not, they’ll be sent scrambling to the waiver wire this weekend, as Forte may miss a month or more because of an ankle injury.

We’ll keep tabs on that injury and offer some waiver wire thoughts as the weekend rolls on (Cedric Benson). In the interim, let’s back between the white lines.


(Exclude: Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Arian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Darren McFadden, DeMarco Murray and Maurice Jones-Drew)

C.J. Spiller vs. KC
Spiller came off the bench and electrified fantasy owners in Week 1. He produced a long touchdown run and finished as the leading rusher in the NFL. Spiller is line for another huge workload as a rusher and receiver in Week 2 against the Chiefs.

The Falcons combined for 84 rushing yards on 23 carries (3.7 yards per carry) in the opener. Spiller’s speed and big-play potential makes him a slam-dunk option this week.

Jamaal Charles at BUF
Charles posted a fantastic return to the field in Week 1. He rushed for 83 yards on 12 carries, though his five receptions yielded just nine yards. I’m looking for Charles to match Spiller in the “big play” category, a column that Charles dominated in the 2010 season. Shonn Greene was able to grind out nearly 100 yards against the Bills in Week 1.

Stevan Ridley vs. ARI
Ridley appeared as a sleeper in lists last week, as Bill Belichick has often mixed and matched running backs to frustrate fantasy owners. In Week 1, he gave Ridley a huge workload, and the former LSU standout delivered for fantasy owners. He’s a huge play this week against the Arizona defense that was bowled over by a running back with a bad back (Marshawn Lynch). The balance of this offense affords Ridley plenty of running lanes in the home opener.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. CLE
Green-Ellis doesn’t leave you clamoring for highlight footage, but he’s effective. He amassed 91 rushing yards and scored in a tough spot against the Ravens in Week 1.

We witnessed, when they bothered to do so, anyway, the Eagles run over the Cleveland front in Week 1. With Joe Haden out because of a suspension, the Bengals have an opportunity to present a balanced attack, and that’s a big problem for the Browns. Get Green-Ellis into the end zone again!

Doug Martin at NYG
Martin nearly rushed for 100 yards in his debut against the Panthers. He is the clear-cut No. 1 option with no competition, and LeGarrette Blount was injured in Week 1. The Buccaneers will need to establish the run if they want to slow the game down and keep the high-octane Giants offense on the sideline. Remember, the Giants did cede 5.5 yards per carry to DeMarco Murray in the opener. I certainly don’t anticipate a repeat of Murray’s dominance (I’ll spare you the Cowboys-Buccaneers compare/contrast), but Martin should see 110 total yards with a shot at the painted grass.

Ahmad Bradshaw vs. TB
Bradshaw was hardly dominant in the season-opening loss to Dallas, but he did score while aggregating 93 total yards. Look for the Giants to have fine-tuned things following the long layoff, and the balanced attack (will David Wilson get back on the field?) will post points against the Tampa Bay defense. I don’t believe we should read too much from the Panthers’ rushing issues in Week 2.

Frank Gore vs. DET
I certainly heard from fantasy owners following Gore’s huge Week 1 performance. Gore was a lukewarm start because of the expected timeshare, but he delivered a huge performance to key the 49ers’ win. Look for another big workload against the Lions.

I know Detroit allowed only three yards per carry to the Rams. The 49ers possess a better offensive line and more balanced attack. Ride Gore so long as he’s healthy.

Marshawn Lynch vs. DAL
Lynch, like AP, Foster and MJD, is a monster. He played through back spasms to post 85 rushing yards against the Cardinals. Lynch is on the board for another tremendous effort, provided that he can once again will himself past the injury that has kept him off the practice field this week.

The Cowboys allowed 4.3 yards per carry to the Giants in the opener.


Jonathan Stewart vs. NO
I suspect that Rob Chudzinski went back and pondered the running game quite a bit this week following the opening loss to Tampa Bay. There was zero commitment to the run in a close game. As such, I’m anticipating a big touch count with more consistent and competent offensive play at home against the New Orleans defense.

Stewart has received the “questionable” tag for Sunday, so he represents a risky play at the RB2 or Flex positions. Still, I have to believe that he sees a big role if cleared, particularly after the weak results from DeAngelo Williams in limited touches during the opener.

Peyton Hillis at BUF
Can the Chiefs open things up and replicate the Jets’ success from Week 1? I don’t know that it necessarily occurs in the same fashion, but I do like the balance of this offense against Buffalo.

The Chiefs return Tamba Hali to the defensive front so things should settle down following the boat race against the Falcons. Still, I suspect that the Chiefs try to establish the ground game early as the secondary gets healthy. As a result, Hillis sees a larger workload in Week 2.

Dexter McCluster, KC
McCluster shone in an expanded role against the Falcons in Week 1. He was targeted 10 times in the blowout defeat, finishing the game with six receptions and 82 yards. I’ve made no secret of my infatuation with the Kansas City offense, and McCluster’s new role is mighty intriguing. Of course, the fact that he possesses dual-position eligibility for many owners (RB/WR) is a nice bonus. Look for McCluster to shine against the Buffalo defense.


Alfred Morris at STL
Morris was the second-best story in Washington on Sunday. He was Mike Shanahan’s hero of the day and produced 96 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he has the “right now” tag from Shanahan, which always leaves me nervous. The St. Louis defense played well overall against Detroit in Week 1, and I’m fearful that Shanahan throws a curveball if the offense doesn’t click early.

Now, I might just be paranoid having been torched by him in the past. However, his rushing average hardly overwhelms you (3.4 YPC) and leaves the door open for a committee situation to develop again. The Rams allowed 4.6 YPC and 83 rushing yards to Detroit in Week 1.

Shonn Greene at PIT
Greene nearly rushed for 100 yards and scored in the opener. The Jets ran the ball effectively and mixed and matched with Mark Sanchez downfield. I’m not anticipating a great follow-up effort against the always-stout Pittsburgh defensive line.

Denver averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against the Steelers in Week 1. I fear that we see an expanded role for No. 15 this week, a role that may leave fantasy owners disheartened.

Chris “Beanie” Wells at NE
Wells remains in a workload split and finished Week 1 with just 14 rushing yards on seven carries. I like the Seattle defense, too, but that workload situation and his performance just won’t cut it. Add that he needs to battle Vince Wilfork up front to try and gain traction and you’ve got a SIT for Week 2.

Kevin Smith at SF
Smith posted a huge game for fantasy owners in Week 1 against the Rams with both a rushing and a receiving touchdown. I’m not anticipating a great follow-up against the stingy San Francisco front. He’ll have his spots and warrants a RB2 slot in PPR leagues, but temper your expectations following his huge debut. I just don’t see Detroit’s offense clicking after a weak effort against the Rams.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Lions, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Patriots, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Ravens, Texans, Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shonn Greene, Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller, Dexter McCluster, DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley, Doug Martin

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