Fantasy Football

Leshoure back atop Lions backfield

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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Welcome to the Week 16 edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. If you’re reading this, congratulations on still being alive in your fantasy playoffs – probably for a championship game this week! 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.

Saturday game: Falcons at Lions

Arizona Cardinals

No controversy here, just a note that Beanie Wells earned his fantasy keep with 67 yards and THREE touchdowns in Week 15. Wells’ matchup with the Bears isn’t a bad one, as the Urlacher-less defense has permitted a subpar 4.4 yards per carry. Wells is probably only a borderline RB2, but you can start him this week if your alternatives are shaky.

Atlanta Falcons

Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers rotated against the Giants, and as is often the case, Turner provided good fantasy production because he got to run a TD in from the one-yard line. Against a shaky Lions’ run defense, Turner looks to be a decent start in Week 16. As for Rodgers, it’s hard to count on a guy who will probably max out at 12 touches and not get the goal-line carries.

Carolina Panthers

If Jonathan Stewart is out again, DeAngelo Williams will be a solid RB2 against the weak Raiders’ defense (122.5 rushing yards per game allowed). Mike Tolbert looks tempting after carrying nine times for 40 yards and two short-yardage scores against the Chargers, but remember that A) his workload is almost certain to be lighter than that of Williams, and B) Cam Newton is always a threat to vulture the goal-line opportunities. You don’t want to give a fantasy title game starting slot to a guy who hasn’t carried more than nine times all season, do you?

Detroit Lions

What happened to the timeshare? Joique Bell got nine touches to Mikel Leshoure’s 16 against the Cardinals, and can’t be trusted beyond PPR leagues. Leshoure is an interesting RB2 play against the Falcons, who are allowing a putrid 4.9 rushing yards per game. By the way, I’ve heard a lot this week about how the Falcons silenced many doubters with their blowout win over the Giants, but I still think someone is going to smash them in the playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

Carry count against the Bears: Alex Green 13, Ryan Grant eight, DuJuan Harris five. Also, here’s a line from Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “As the Packers try to catch fire in the final weeks of the season, it appears they have no intention of making (Alex) Green the workhorse.” See you in 2013, Packer fantasy running backs.

Jacksonville Jaguars

This one is a wait-and-see, as Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) was labeled as “questionable” on Monday by coach Mike Mularkey, and Rashad Jennings might be cleared to return from his concussion. Neither Jennings nor Montell Owens is a desirable start against the Patriots.

Minnesota Vikings

Just kidding. All hail Purple Jesus!

New England Patriots

On Sunday night, Stevan Ridley took up residence in the doghouse after a third-quarter fumble, but he did return for one unsuccessful goal-line carry (it was his only snap after the fumble). Will Bill Belichick really let Danny Woodhead and/or Shane Vereen carry the load against the Jaguars? I’m not sure, and Belichick’s unpredictability with stuff like this doesn’t help. Beat writer Tom Curran thinks the Pats should stick with Ridley, but that doesn’t mean they will.

Here’s a suggested plan: If you’ve been starting Ridley all along, do it one more time and cross your fingers. If you’re desperate for an RB3/flex gamble, try to grab Woodhead, who’s owned in just 21 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. If the productive Ridley is going to get another chance for this Super Bowl contender, doesn’t a game against the Jaguars seem like a good time for that?

New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram had nine of his 14 carries against the Bucs in the second half, when the game had pretty much been decided. Just remember that Pierre Thomas had 27 touches to Ingram’s 20 in Weeks 13-14, and carried 14 times to Ingram’s six the last time the Saints were in a close game. It’s hard to trust either Ingram or Thomas, but I’d prefer Ingram if looking for a low-end flex guy against the mediocre Cowboys.

As for Darren Sproles, you should always start him in PPR leagues. In standard formats, he’s only flex-worthy.

New York Giants

David Wilson wasn’t bad early against the Falcons, but didn’t see much action in the second half. That’s probably because the Giants wanted a better pass blocker (Kregg Lumpkin) helping to protect Eli Manning in a blowout loss.

Ahmad Bradshaw says he’ll play this week, but the doctors have more say than he does, so stay tuned. If Bradshaw remains out, Wilson will once again be an RB2 with home-run potential. If workload was all Wilson needed to be an RB1, don’t you think the Giants would have started him all along?

New York Jets

Bilal Powell’s low Week 15 workload (eight touches) can probably be attributed at least partly to his fractured toe, and it’s hard to predict if that will carry over to Sunday’s matchup against the fading Chargers’ run defense (122 ypg in last five games). But, since we’re here to make predictions, figure that Greene will see the heavier workload again in Week 16 – 15-20 carries – with Powell getting more of the red-zone work.

Philadelphia Eagles

LeSean McCoy has been cleared by an independent neurologist, and has a good chance to return from his four-game, concussion-related absence. However, head coach Andy Reid said Monday that Bryce Brown “needs to play,” so we could be looking at a timeshare as a way to ease McCoy back into action. If that’s the case, both McCoy and Brown look like flex types this week. If McCoy misses another game, I’ll still be OK with Brown as an RB2, even after his flops against the Bucs and Bengals.

San Diego Chargers

Ryan Mathews is done for the season, and as many wise guys have noted, he had more broken clavicles (two) than touchdowns (one) in 2012. Thanks for nothing, Ryan.

So, will the Chargers’ Week 16 workhorse be Curtis Brinkley, Jackie Battle or Ronnie Brown? Heck if I know, but even against the porous Jets’ run defense (138.7 ypg), I’d worry about trusting any timeshare backs behind such a terrible offensive line. Maybe Norv Turner will clear things up for us by announcing a starter/lead back, but unless that happens, stay away from this mess.

If you have questions on any RBBC situations or think other teams should be added to the mix next week, contact me via Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!

Tagged: Falcons, Lions, Packers, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Panthers, Jaguars, Cardinals, Chargers, Eli Manning, Michael Turner, Ronnie Brown, Ryan Grant, Mike Tolbert, Beanie Wells, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, Mark Ingram, Alex Green, Stevan Ridley, David Wilson, Bryce Brown

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