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Rice, Richardson in for long days

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for>>

Harmon Rankings: QB, RB, WR, TE

I can’t believe that we’ve already reached championship week for 2012. The long, arduous journey that began during training camp ends this Sunday night when the Seahawks and 49ers play on the grand stage. We’ll watch as veteran tailbacks Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore scratch and claw for every inch in support of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, respectively. OK, many eyes will be fixed on the head coaches of this rivalry renewed.

Many fantasy owners were left wanting by their premier running backs in Week 15. I’ll spare us all the ill feelings and omit the listing of those weak stat lines here.

I’m turning the page to a new week and new opportunities.

I begin this week’s “Lineup Calls” by welcoming Philadelphia running back and fantasy football hero LeSean McCoy back to action. During his absence, fantasy owners were subjected to tremendous highs and lows from rookie Bryce Brown. McCoy’s activation would lead me to believe that he will carry a heavy workload against the Redskins. Brown will take on some portion of the workload, but I don’t believe McCoy gets activated to be a bystander at this point in the season. It’s not an easy matchup against a Washington squad that has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. McCoy takes the No. 17 slot in my early Week 16 rankings.

Let’s mine the stat lines and box scores to find Week 16 heroes in this week’s “Lineup Calls.”


(Exclude Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, C.J. Spiller, Chris Johnson, Doug Martin, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris and Frank Gore)

DeMarco Murray vs. NO
Murray lost a fumble against the Steelers to mar an otherwise fantasy performance against a top-5 run defense. He rushed for 81 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown and caught four passes for 31 yards. Murray has twice topped 80 rushing yards in three games since returning to the Dallas lineup and has caught four passes in each game.

He’s on the board as a huge play this week against the Saints. I know. They erased Doug Martin from the Week 15 “Heroes” roster in the shutout win over Tampa Bay. I don’t suspect that we see the same type of swarming effort this week against the Cowboys with Tony Romo playing so well of late. The Saints still rank as the most generous defense to running backs this season (175.8 total yards and nearly one touchdown per game).

Jamaal Charles vs. IND
Charles appeared on the long list of “fantasy failures” for Week 15. He amassed 28 total yards on 12 touches, including just 10 rushing yards on nine attempts. Charles had rushed for at least 87 in five consecutive games prior to last week’s shutdown effort by the Oakland defense. I can’t believe that I just typed that last sentence.

Indianapolis has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs, including 108.3 rushing yards and 0.86 rushing yards per game. With little support from the Kansas City passing game, I understand the reticence the quickly slot Charles into a starting role. Remember, he’s logged all of those strong performances without much help from the passing game earlier this season. He’s still a top-10 option on my board this week.

Knowshon Moreno vs. CLE
Moreno has been fantastic since returning to the top spot in the Denver lineup in Week 12. He’s produced at least 83 total yards in four consecutive games, including back-to-back 100-yard games with a touchdown. Moreno represents a strong play this week against the middling Cleveland run defense. The Browns have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to running backs, including 554 receiving yards on 74 receptions. I expect to see Moreno log another 25-touch day on Sunday.

Matt Forte at ARI
Forte isn’t likely to find the end zone on a short run, as we’ve witnessed time and again this season. You saw it multiple times against the Packers. However, Michael Bush is on the shelf because of a rib injury, thereby keeping Forte on the field in such situations.

Regardless, he’s finally become a bigger part of the passing game in recent weeks. As a result, Forte has recorded at least 96 total yards in three consecutive weeks (119 in Week 14 and 133 in Week 15). He’s in line for another big workload this week against the middling Arizona defense (14th against running backs). The Chicago defense should afford Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense advantageous field position.

Stevan Ridley at JAC
Did Ridley’s fumbling issues against San Francisco push him down the depth chart in New England? Ridley saw his six-game scoring streak fall to the wayside, and he was limited to season-low totals of 23 rushing yards and nine carries. While I have some reservations about Bill Belichick’s use of Ridley this week, I don’t see Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead assuming the lead role.

Will they pilfer a few touches? I suspect that they will, but Ridley’s production has been pivotal to the Patriots’ success this season.

This is a huge spot on paper against the weak Jacksonville run defense. The Jaguars have allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs. Ridley works as a back-end RB1 for your squad this week.

Darren McFadden at CAR
Two huge things happened for the Raiders in Week 15. First, they won a game, a 15-0 shutout of the Chiefs. Raise your glass for the mighty Sebastian Janikowski’s leg. Second, Darren McFadden posted a huge game and finished without a recurrence of the leg injuries that claimed much of his season. McFadden finished the win over Kansas City with 149 total yards on 34 touches.

He’s in line for another big game this week against the Panthers. The Carolina pass defense has been tremendous this season, though the run defense has been porous. The Panthers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs, including 96 receptions. Look for McFadden to be active in the passing game.

Reggie Bush vs. BUF
Bush represents a solid RB2 option this weekend against the Bills. Backfield mate Daniel Thomas was placed on injured reserve, thereby leaving as the workhorse in the Miami running game. Bush carried the ball 21 times for 104 yards in Miami’s Week 15 win over Jacksonville, his highest touch count and yardage output since Week 2 against the Raiders.

I do have to offer a word of caution. The Bills limited Bush to 20 rushing yards on 10 carries back in Week 11. However, that was an anomaly in an otherwise disappointing season. The Bills have surrendered the third-most fantasy points to running backs (1,995 total yards with 18 total touchdowns).


Vick Ballard at KC
Ballard has excelled as the primary running back for the Colts in the past two weeks. He logged a total of 199 yards on 37 carries against the Titans and Texans, and has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in four of his past five appearances.

The Chiefs have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs, including 158 total yards per game. Look for Ballard to amass a huge touch count in this contest as the Colts push toward the playoffs.

DeAngelo Williams vs. OAK
Williams retains the top slot in the Carolina backfield with Jonathan Stewart still sidelined because of an ankle injury. I understand that Mike Tolbert may continue to vulture goal-line carries, but Williams owns the bulk of the workload. He’s caught touchdown passes from Cam Newton in back-to-back weeks while touching the ball 43 times. In this two-game stretch, Williams amassed 256 total yards, including 93 yards on the ground against the Chargers.

The Raiders have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs this season. Opponents have been particularly adept at racking up receiving yardage (83 receptions for 602 yards). Williams cracks the top-15 this week, his highest ranking of the year.

David Wilson at BAL
Ahmad Bradshaw did not practice again on Thursday. As a result, we’re drifting toward a game-time against the Ravens and a second look at David Wilson. Wilson recorded 66 total yards on 13 touches in the Week 14 shutout loss to Atlanta. He produced a 25-yard run early in the game, but the score dictated a change in philosophy and limited work down the stretch.

Wilson creeps back into a second running back slot this week against the struggling Baltimore run defense. Knowshon Moreno became the latest back to carve up the formerly stout Baltimore front. The Ravens have ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. I expect a bounce-back effort from the New York offense, and that portends to a strong effort out of the backfield by Wilson.


Trent Richardson at DEN
It’s a dangerous spot right here. The Broncos have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season, including just seven total touchdowns (four rushing). Richardson’s been scoring of late (six touchdowns in his past four games), but his rushing output has declined in six straight weeks (28 yards in Week 15). Richardson sits as a mid-RB2 on my board for Week 16, as you hold out hope of a goal-line plunge.

Ray Rice vs. NYG
How did Rice not see the ball on third down last week? How did he only carry the ball 12 times? I believed that the departure of Cam Cameron would portend to a bigger workload from Rice in Week 15 against the Broncos. Obviously, things got out of control in terms of the game’s score (post-Flacco interception returned for a touchdowns), but clearly putting the ball in Rice’s hands was the not priority for Jim Caldwell.

This week, Rice and the Ravens host the Giants. Now, the Giants have ranked among the game’s most generous pass defenses, but have been strong against running backs. New York has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs (seven total touchdowns). He remains in your lineups for Week 16, but Rice rates as only a back-end RB1 this week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis at PIT
The Pittsburgh defense has been susceptible to big plays downfield in Ike Taylor’s absence, but the run defense remains one of the league’s elite units. The Steelers have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, surrendering just 105.6 total yards and 0.71 total touchdowns per game.

Green-Ellis has been on a roll of late, so he still rates as a mid-RB2 option. He’s rushed for at least 89 yards in five consecutive seasons, a period in which he’s scored three touchdowns. Green-Ellis earned 69 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting with Pittsburgh. His heavy workload keeps him in your lineup, but temper your expectations.

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Ravens, Steelers, Ike Taylor, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Michael Bush, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, Jamaal Charles, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Knowshon Moreno, LeSean McCoy, Cam Newton, DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Trent Richardson, Russell Wilson, Bryce Brown, Vick Ballard

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