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Forte, Morris must-starts in Week 5
How is your roster looking?
Did you make it through the early going unscathed in the injury count? How many of your would-be heroes struggled out of the gate.
Pause before you do anything rash. I know that the temptation to start trading and casting off underperforming players is strong. Remember, the schedule makers put together a ton of enticing early-season matchups to whip everyone into a frenzied state. Of course, it’s the NFL, so that’s really not necessary to front-load things.
Either way, don’t let a sweet sales pitch sway you. Take a long, hard look at your roster and the future schedule before parting with Matthew Stafford, C. Johnson (either of them), Darren McFadden or the veritable laundry list of stars who struggled out of the gate.
Let’s dive between the white lines and dominate the virtual gridiron.
Frank Gore vs. BUF
The Bills were run over by the Patriots in Week 4 in addition to the Tom Brady touchdown-fest. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden both eclipsed 100 rushing yards in what became a blowout win for the Patriots.
Look for the run-first 49ers to put the same beat-down on the struggling Buffalo front this week. The 49ers have averaged 167 rushing yards and 1.25 rushing touchdowns per game. Gore carried the ball a season-high 21 times for 62 yards in Week 4, his second straight tepid effort. I expect to see some of Kendall Hunter as a change-of-pace option (maybe a little Brandon Jacobs), but look for Gore to continue to work a heavy load at home.
Matt Forte at JAC
My only hesitation with putting Forte in such a lofty spot is a fear that he sits down early. I don’t expect to see a let-down from the Bears, as the 3-1 early record did not come easily.
All of the numbers point to a huge day from No. 22 before he does so. The Jaguars allow 150.3 rushing yards and 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game. Forte was obviously caused great discomfort by his injured ankle early in Monday’s win over the Cowboys. He seemed to get loose and more comfortable as the game progressed. Forte’s presence in the passing game is huge.
Jamaal Charles vs. BAL
Charles’ fumbles doomed the Chiefs in Week 4 against the Chargers, but he rallied to rush for nearly 100 yards and scored twice to get back in the good graces of fantasy owners. He remains a top play despite the matchup against Haloti Ngata and the Ravens. Baltimore has allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to fantasy owners, surrendering 81.8 rushing yards and 1.25 rushing touchdowns per game. It might not be pretty overall, but Charles will finish with a strong fantasy day regardless.
Trent Richardson at NYG
The Browns take to the road for the third time this season, and Richardson attempts to extend his three-game scoring streak. Though he’s averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, Richardson’s work in the passing game (15 receptions to date) keeps him among the back-end RB1 options for Week 5. The Giants allow 89.5 rushing yards and a touchdown per game, middling numbers against opposing tailbacks.
Alfred Morris vs. ATL
Morris continues to receive praise from Mike Shanahan, and his 4.6-yard rushing average (94 yards per game) has him among the heroes of the first quarter of the season in fantasyland. Morris has also averaged 20.5 carries per game.
He squares off this week against an Atlanta squad that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to running backs (142.5 total yards and one touchdown per game). Enjoy the run until the fickle finger of Shanahan waves him into a split. If he keeps performing like he has, perhaps he can avoid the hook.
Michael Turner at WAS
Turner posted a strong day in Week 4 against the Panthers on the ground. He provided fantasy owners with a huge 60-yard touchdown reception, the first touchdown reception of his career to put owners over the top.
The Falcons continue their assault on opposing defenses this week against the terrible Washington defense (30.8 points allowed per game). Washington allows only 89 rushing yards per game, but let’s not be short-sighted on it. The pass defense has been so atrocious that teams haven’t bothered to run (fourth-fewest rushing attempts against). Look for Turner to post another end zone plunge with 80-90 yards this week.
Reggie Bush at CIN
Opposing running backs, particularly pass-catching running backs, had success against Cincinnati in the first quarter of the season. The Bengals allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs overall. Running backs caught 31 passes for 250 yards in those four contests.
Look for Bush (77 touches through four weeks and 110.3 total yards per game) to post another big workload in Week 5 against the Bengals.
Stevan Ridley vs. DEN
You kept seeing the name “Bolden” on the screen and wondered why Bill Belichick had fully engaged the Shanahan running back philosophy. Then, you breathed a sigh of relief when you saw Ridley’s 106-yard, two-touchdown stat line.
The Broncos have allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs through four weeks, effectively handling Michael Turner and Darren McFadden. I’m still bullish on Ridley as a high-end RB2 this week.
Cedric Benson at IND
Signed off the street in the 11th hour before the start of the season, Benson has been a true workhorse for the Packers. He’s averaged 18.3 carries in the past three weeks while adding four receptions per game.
He’s a rock-solid option this week against the Colts, a unit that has ceded the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs (160 total yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game).
Darren Sproles vs. SD
Sproles’ weekly workload varies greatly, but he’s always a threat to get lost in traffic during red zone appearances. In Week 4, Sproles generated 64 total yards with a touchdown on 10 touches. He’s caught five or more passes in three of the Saints’ first four games, and I suspect that the New Orleans offense will be pressing with the Chargers in town.
Let’s just state it plainly. The Saints allow 32.5 points per game, thereby putting Philip Rivers in position to roll up a high point total. That keeps Drew Brees throwing, and Lance Moore’s “questionable” tag pushes Sproles up in the target department.
Michael Bush at JAC
Run the ball. That’s the battle cry emanating from Chicago as the Bears travel to Jacksonville for Week 5. The Jacksonville run defense has been terrible. The Jaguars have allowed 150.3 rushing yards and 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game (30th in the NFL). Bush amassed just 29 rushing yards on 10 carries in Week 4 against the Cowboys. The Chicago coaching staff opted to turn to Kahlil Bell in the late stages of the game and rested both Matt Forte and Bush. I expect to see Bush in an expanded second-half role with a visit to the painted grass. In theory (I hesitate to say it), the Bears open this game up and allow Matt Forte an extended rest.
Rashard Mendenhall vs. PHI
Fantasy owners should approach this situation with caution. Obviously, the Philadelphia run defense has been strong (3.8 yards per carry with a single rushing touchdown allowed). However, Mendenhall’s return, coupled with a bolstered defense out of the Bye week, leave me optimistic that he jumpstarts the heretofore putrid (31st-ranked) Pittsburgh running attack. He creeps into the mix as a low-end RB2 or Flex play in his return to the field in front of the home crowd.
Maurice Jones-Drew vs. CHI
Jones-Drew still rates a low-end RB1 slot on my Week 5 ranking sheet, but he’s hardly a dominant play against the third-ranked Chicago run defense (67.3 yards per game with one touchdown) that shut down DeMarco Murray in Week 4. Granted, the Cowboys abandoned the run in pursuit of the downfield passing game to horrific results.
Jones-Drew has been contained through four weeks with the exception of his Week 4 breakout performance against the Colts.
Chris Johnson at MIN
Johnson burst back onto the fantasy scene in an unlikely spot against the Texans in Week 4 with 141 rushing yards. Of course, his rushing average jumped immensely once the game was in hand for Houston. So, I approach Johnson with hesitation this week against the eighth-ranked Minnesota run defense (85.3 yards per game with a single touchdown). The Vikings have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. MIA
Green-Ellis is a favorite in Harmonville, as longtime readers know all too well. He’s in a tough spot. There’s your obligatory Friday nod to “Ocean’s 11.” Anyway, Green-Ellis has scored twice and topped 80 rushing yards in two contests. He’s also lost fumbles in back-to-back weeks.
This week, Green-Ellis faces the stout Miami run defense. They’ve been shredded via air, but surrender just 2.4 yards per carry and 56.8 yards per game. Green-Ellis remains on the radar as a RB2 option for potential goal-line touches.
Fred Jackson at SF
Jackson remains mired in a workload split with the quick-healing C.J. Spiller. In most weeks, he’ll still rate highly enough to find his way into a RB2 spot. That’s not the case here against the dominant San Francisco run defense (3.2 yards per carry and 79.5 yards per game with one touchdown).
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