Fantasy Football

Martin, Moreno get the nod this week

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Michael Harmon

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We come to this point every season and the debate reignites. Should you use Week 17 in your fantasy world, or should you let it pass by as a spectator and launch back into “fan” mode? Some leagues have turned the championship round into a two-week affair. Others create a separate one-week “free for all” contest.

The fact that you’ve clicked on this link tells me that you’re playing for more than just pride. Fantasy owners will need to decipher “Coach-Speak” at its highest levels for Week 17 to successfully navigate injury concerns, shutdown potential for playoff-bound teams and those squads looking ahead to 2013. The Jaguars ended all speculation about Maurice Jones-Drew by finally placing him on injured reserve. Montell Owens stands as a mid-RB2 option against the Titans.

Let’s see if we can cut through the noise and find gems for this final week of 2012. It’s time for another edition of “Lineup Calls.”


(Exclude Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Alfred Morris, Ray Rice, Frank Gore)

Doug Martin at ATL
Martin produced 119 total yards against the Rams, a nice final stat line in an otherwise dismal day for the Buccaneers. He’s posted 62 or fewer rushing yards in four of his past five starts, including a 50-yard effort against the Falcons in Week 12. However, Martin did find the end zone twice in that game.

The Atlanta defense has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs, including 14 total touchdowns. I always fear games where teams have secured playoff positioning and an “operation shutdown” may occur.

Knowshon Moreno vs. KC
Moreno has been fantastic since returning to the Denver lineup. He’s produced at least 83 total yards in five consecutive games, including four efforts of at least 11 total yards (two 100-yard rushing games). He returned to action in Week 12 against these Chiefs, offering 85 rushing yards on 20 carries with four receptions for 26 yards.

The Chiefs have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs. Look for the Broncos to handle their business in a bid for home-field advantage.

Chris Johnson vs. JAC
Johnson ranks among the most maddening players on the fantasy board this season. He’s rushed for fewer than 60 yards in three of the past four weeks. The Jets did a fantastic job to bottle him up in that horrid Monday night game in Week 15 with the obvious exception of his 94-yard sprint to daylight. The Jaguars have allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs (2,386 total yards and 17 total touchdowns). Johnson amassed 109 total yards on 23 touches in the first meeting, including a 31-yard run.

LeSean McCoy at NYG
McCoy was “eased” back into action with a 22-touch performance in Week 16. He logged 122 total yards and was active in the passing game with nine receptions. The Philadelphia first unit that opened the season returns for the finale with Michael Vick under center. McCoy rushed for 123 yards, adding 17 receiving yards in the first meeting with New York.

Reggie Bush at NE
Bush posted his third consecutive game with 100 total yards in the 24-10 win over Buffalo. He has rushed for at least 64 yards in five consecutive games, a period during which he’s logged at least 15 touches per game. He’s hardly a huge play against the Patriots (11th-fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs), but his high touch count warrants a RB2 play. Bush needs 40 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the second straight season.

Darren McFadden at SD
McFadden has hardly given fantasy owners the boost expected upon his return to action. In Week 16, he produced just 48 total yards on 20 carries in the loss to Carolina. He’ll undoubtedly post another big touch count with backup quarterbacks under center, and I admit to being reticent to endorse him fully. Still, I expect him to be active in the passing game as he was in the season opener against the Chargers. OK, he’s not catching 13 passes, but the dump-off will be employed frequently.

Ahmad Bradshaw vs. PHI
Bradshaw wasn’t a favor in his return to the field for Week 16 against the Ravens. The Giants’ inability to slow the Baltimore offense clearly didn’t help matter. Bradshaw was limited to nine carries for 39 yards in the blowout loss.

The Eagles have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs and limited Bradshaw to 77 total yards on 16 carries in the first meeting. Still, I’m anticipating a much better effort from the Giants following two debacles, including more efficiency in the red zone. With Hakeem Nicks ailing, that puts Bradshaw in line for more touches around the goal line.

Sleeper Options

DeAngelo Williams at NO
Fantasy owners fixed on the Carolina-Oakland game (few others were watching that one) saw Williams lose a 76-yard touchdown run because of a penalty. He finished the game with 48 total yards on 12 touches (10 carries for 19 yards).

Williams had produced back-to-back games with at least 112 total yards prior to last week’s setback. He’s in line for another big workload against the Saints to close out the regular season after it was announced that Jonathan Stewart had experienced a setback in his recovery from an ankle injury. The Saints bottled up DeMarco Murray last week, but this unit has still allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Rashard Mendenhall vs. CLE
Mendenhall returned to action for the first time since Week 12, producing 50 rushing yards on 11 carries. He’s a low-end RB2 against the Browns this week, with his value torpedoed by Mike Tomlin’s reluctance to stick with one running back option. Jonathan Dwyer figures to take on part of the workload as well.

Mark Ingram vs. CAR
Ingram scored for the fourth time in six games during the Saints’ Week 16 wild win over the Cowboys. He logged a season-high 21 carries, producing 53 yards in the process. Ingram isn’t going to break off many long runs (four runs of more than 19 yards all season), but he’s been a go-to player in the red zone of late.

Jackie Battle vs. OAK
Battle wasn’t dominant, but he was the lead back in Week 16 against the Jets. He posted 49 rushing yards on 19 carries in that San Diego win, and he figures to tote a heavy load once again in the finale against Oakland. The Raiders have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Jacquizz Rodgers vs. TB
Rodgers posted only seven touches in the Falcons’ Week 16 win over the Lions, producing 25 total yards. He may take on a larger role in Week 17 with home-field advantage already secured. Rodgers had been on the radar for several weeks during the middle of the season because of his double-digit touch count and big-play ability. Rodgers logged 79 total yards on 12 touches, including a touchdown run, in Week 12.


Jamaal Charles at DEN
With the exception of a miserable Week 15 performance against the Raiders (raise your hand if that helped to get you eliminated), Charles has played fantastic football in the second half of the season. Charles has logged at least 87 rushing yards in six of his past seven starts, including a 107-yard, 23-carry effort against the Broncos in Week 12.

Still, Charles is a difficult proposition for this tilt in Denver. The Broncos have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and just four rushing touchdowns all season. Charles dips to a back-end RB1 slot this week.

DeMarco Murray at WAS
Murray wasn’t dominant against the Saints in Week 16, but he did log 91 total yards (40 rushing) on 15 touches. Alas, Murray also lost a fumble for the second straight week. He’s in your lineup as a back-end RB1 because of the high touch count and his recent involvement in the passing game (four consecutive games with four receptions since returning to the lineup). However, this is a Washington run defense that has allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Michael Turner vs. TB
Turner was limited to 41 yards on 13 carries in the Week 16 win over Detroit. Unfortunately, he did not have the chance to vulture a touchdown (Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to Michael Palmer). Turner has rushed for 52 yards or fewer in six of the past seven games (he did score in five of those games).

The veteran running back yielded only 17 yards on 13 carries in the first meeting with Tampa Bay (he did score). Beware an early departure for Turner, leaving Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling to close out the regular season. The Buccaneers have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Trent Richardson at PIT
Richardson has yet to be ruled “OUT” for Sunday’s finale against Pittsburgh, but reports from Cleveland indicate that the rookie running back will be shut down. He was carted from the field in Week 16 because of an ankle injury, putting Montario Hardesty in line for a start.

On the slim chance that Richardson does play, he’s no better than a mid-RB2 option against the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. Richardson did post 112 total yards with a touchdown in the first meeting against the Steelers in Week 12. Remember, the Steelers turned the ball over eight times in that game. History shan’t repeat itself in Week 17.

Mikel Leshoure vs. CHI
Leshoure retains a mid-RB2 ranking for Week 17, but he’s hardly a dominant option. He’s rushed for fewer than 60 yards in five consecutive games, though he has scored in five of his past six games to offset the dismal yardage output.

He amassed 83 total yards on 18 touches, including a lost fumble, against the Bears in Week 7. The Bears have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs.

Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Chiefs, Raiders, Dolphins, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Michael Vick, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy, Michael Palmer, Chris Johnson, Mark Ingram, DeMarco Murray, Jacquizz Rodgers, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson

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