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Spiller takes the reins in Buffalo
Welcome to the Week 11 edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. In this space, we’ll look at recent performances and attempt to read the backfield tea leaves to help you with lineup decisions. We’ll post this article each Tuesday, and offer updates in our fantasy coverage throughout the week, including in the Friday morning edition of the FOX Sports Fantasy Buzz Blog!
As usual, this series will focus mainly on the more volatile and/or 50-50 situations, but there are a few non-committee and injury notes as well. If you have any questions, the FOXSports.com fantasy staff is always happy to help. The best ways to reach me are via Facebook or Twitter.
Week 11 Byes: Vikings, Giants, Seahawks, Titans. Three of fantasy’s top-eight running backs are out this week.
If you spend too much time on Twitter during NFL games, you get caught up in plenty of knee-jerk hysteria. One of this week’s themes was, “Michael Turner is the worst running back in the history of history” (or something like that). Turner was indeed awful against the Saints, carrying 13 times for 15 yards and bringing nothing to the table on a couple of critical fourth-quarter goal-line carries. Just remember that, although Turner seems to have slowed down this season, and he’s got four touchdowns while averaging more than 15 carries per game. Volume matters, so don’t bail on him yet.
With that said, if I was calling plays for the Falcons, I’d be trying to get Jacquizz Rodgers more work. Let’s see if they agree.
Another week, another reason to say, “Do I really have to start someone from this crappy backfield?” When we last left the Cardinals in Week 9, LaRod Stephens-Howling carried the load, and William Powell disappeared. Look for more of the same this week, when LSH could be a low-end fantasy start against the Falcons’ 25th-ranked rushing defense. A Week 12 return is still on the radar for Beanie Wells, who remains available in almost 70 percent of FOXSports.com leagues.
Fred Jackson will miss Thursday’s game due to a concussion, so C.J. Spiller is a must-start. Spiller ranks seventh among FOXSports.com fantasy backs this season despite getting a lot less work than the six guys ahead of him. Even though the Dolphins’ run defense is pretty good – fifth in the league with 94.2 yards per game allowed – Spiller looks to be a top-five back in Week 11.
Jonathan Stewart led the way with a paltry eight carries and two receptions in Week 10, and there’s no reason to believe a savior will rise from this fantasy mess of a backfield. Against the top-ranked Bucs’ run defense, you shouldn’t expect much from anyone here this week. Now watch J-Stew run for 100 just to make me look bad.
DeMarco Murray’s status for Week 11 won’t be determined until later this week. If Murray can’t play, Week 10 suggests that Felix Jones (16 carries) will serve as the primary back ahead of Lance Dunbar (six carries) after the pair shared work in Week 9. If Murray plays, there’s reason to suspect that Jones – who had 93 yards from scrimmage against the Eagles – could still get enough touches to be useful.
Against the Cardinals in Week 9, Alex Green played in no-huddle sets and on third downs, while James Starks played on first and second downs, and carried 17 times for 61 yards. The bet here is that Starks again gets a little more work than Green against the Lions, but not so much that he becomes more than a flex play.
Donald Brown and Vick Ballard split the workload right down the middle in Week 10 against the Jaguars, and they’ll have a much more difficult time doing that against the Patriots’ ninth-ranked rushing defense. These guys are bye-week starts, and not much more.
Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) is probably one more week away from returning, so Rashad Jennings gets to run against the third-ranked Texans’ run D on the road. Volume matters, but Jennings has rushed 61 times for 175 yards (2.9 ypc) in four games since taking over for the injured MJD. I hope you can find better options this week.
Eureka! The Chiefs gave Charles the ball 23 times against the Steelers, and he ran for 100 yards and a TD. See how easy that is, Romeo Crennel? Peyton Hillis added 10 carries on Monday as part of a pretty basic strategy of keeping the ball out of Matt Cassel’s hands. Even if Brady Quinn returns this week as expected, look for the Chiefs to run as much as possible against the Bengals’ 20th-ranked rushing defense. Charles is a top-five back for Week 11, and you can think about starting Hillis if you’re in a bye-week bind.
It’s hard to glean much from a 37-3 loss, but Reggie Bush pretty much disappeared after fumbling early against the Titans, and might be on double-secret probation with head coach Joe Philbin. This looks like a timeshare, with Daniel Thomas getting 34 touches over the last three games. I’d rather own Bush than Thomas, but with the Bills ranking last in the league against the run and giving up 5.5 yards per carry (!!!), you can start either guy on Thursday.
I mean … I have no idea what’s going on here. Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory both looked good against the Falcons, with Ingram carrying 16 times after having a previous high of seven for the season, and Ivory scoring on a beastly 56-yard run. I hate recommending Saints’ backs due to the yo-yo nature of their usage, but can see starting either Ingram or Ivory this week in a flex role. You should bench Pierre Thomas until further notice, and keep an eye on Darren Sproles’ status.
Ahmad Bradshaw apparently has a neck injury that will be examined this week, but his low usage – he got slightly more than half the snaps that Andre Brown did against the Bengals – should have your spider sense tingling if you own him. We probably won’t know much this week with the Giants on a bye, but a buy-low attempt on Brown this week sounds like a worthwhile risk.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were still in walking boots on Monday, and their respective statuses for Week 11’s friendly matchup with the Saints are up in the air. If neither McFadden nor Goodson can play, Marcel Reece is the man to own in the wake of what will forever be known as The Great Taiwan Jones Debacle. After getting built up all week by beat writers and fantasy analysts, Jones got three touches against the Ravens. Thanks, Dennis Allen and Greg Knapp.
Rashard Mendenhall is questionable. Isaac Redman got into the fumble doghouse early on Monday, with Jonathan Dwyer (19 carries, 56 yards) getting most of the subsequent work. If all three Steeler backs are active, I’d rank them Dwyer, Mendenhall, Redman, but only Dwyer will creep into RB2 territory. Any back here carries lots of risk, because we won’t have a good idea about the workload until the game gets underway.
Steven Jackson broke out of this timeshare against the 49ers, carrying 29 times for 101 yards and a score to Daryl Richardson’s 7-58 line. Just understand that the Rams aren’t going to overload SJ39 that much every week, so Richardson should remain a candidate for double-digit touches.
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