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Green on shaky ground in GB
Welcome to the Week 8 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 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 8 Byes: Ravens, Bills, Bengals, Texans. Man, there are a lot of good backs out this week.
Tiny LaRod Stephens-Howling (5’7”, 185 pounds) carried 20 times for 104 yards and a score against the Vikings, and added four catches for 45 yards. For one day, he was the man instead of William Powell (four carries, 13 yards). Powell is no superstar, but do you think the Cards are going to keep leaning on such a small back for so much work? Me neither, and I’d try to avoid both guys this week against the 49ers. Also, remember that a possible Week 12 return looms for Beanie Wells.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller split the workload just about down the middle again in Week 7. If you own either Jackson or Spiller, you’d obviously like your guy to take over, since either back would be a stud with 25 touches per game. But that’s not going to happen unless one of them gets hurt, and they’re strong RB2s even with the timeshare. See you in Week 9, SpillJax.
Is DeAngelo Williams officially a second banana after getting just two carries for four yards against the Cowboys? I’ll believe that when I see it again. I do wonder if the ineffective Panthers will start running more, though. But since they’re playing the Bears in Soldier Field this week, stay away from the Panther backs like the plague unless you’re in bye-week hell.
Trent Richardson (ribs) was yanked after some early ineffectiveness against the Colts, giving way to Montario Hardesty. The Browns say they want Richardson to be ready for the Chargers this week, but we don’t know if he’ll be able to play, or how effective he’ll be if he does take the field. The Chargers have given up a league-low 71.2 yards per game on the ground, so you’ll want to avoid Hardesty unless he’s on his own.
We’ll need to wait for this week’s practices to get an idea on DeMarco Murray’s status. If Murray can’t play against the Giants, I’d be happy to start Felix Jones, even if he wasn’t so great in Week 7 and shared the work with Phillip Tanner.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after Alex Green’s 20-carry, 35-yard performance against the Rams: “There were too many 1-, 2-yard runs that should have been hardball 3-, 4-, 5-yard runs. We need to improve that aspect of our offense.” I’ll still recommend starting Green against the Jaguars this week, but if you’re thinking about stashing James Starks, do it now.
The Texans are off in Week 8, and this isn’t a timeshare. However, Ben Tate is getting healthier every week, and got 10 carries to Arian Foster’s 19 against the Ravens. When the Texans host the Bills in Week 9, Tate will probably be worthy of starting in many leagues, even as Foster’s sidekick.
This is getting interesting. Vick Ballard ran 20 times for 84 yards against the Browns, while Delone Carter carried 11 times for 41 yards, and Donald Brown is tentatively scheduled to come back from his knee injury in Week 9. For now, only Ballard is worth starting in Week 8 against the porous Titans.
Not such a great week for the Jags, huh? Maurice Jones-Drew will miss Week 8 (at least) because of a foot injury, and word is that QB Blaine (What About Prom?) Gabbert has a torn labrum in his left arm that is likely to keep him out as well. What does this mean for Sunday’s game against the Packers? First, it’ll make Chad Henne the starter at quarterback, and that’s bad. Second, it means that Rashard Jennings will get the ball as often as humanly possible. Jennings is the best offensive player the Jags have left (sorry, Cecil Shorts), and the bet here is that he’ll get 20 touches. Volume alone doesn’t make any back a superstar, but it probably does make Jennings an RB2 in this case. He can run and catch, so he’ll be busy.
The Saints seem to have concluded that Pierre Thomas (13 carries, 32 yards, TD vs. Bucs) is a better runner than Mark Ingram (seven carries, 21 yards), and you can think about starting him against the Broncos. Darren Sproles is still a must-start in PPR formats and a decent play in standard leagues, even though his value is tied to how many times Drew Brees throws to him.
Should you start Andre Brown because he got a short-yardage TD in Week 7? Nah – Ahmad Bradshaw is clearly the man here. You can’t start a guy coming off a five-carry game, even with all the bye-week absences.
This is a wait-and-see situation, as we won’t know until later in the week if Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles) or Isaac Redman (ankle) can play against the Redskins. Even if both are out again, with Jonathan Dwyer having played so well in Cincinnati on Sunday night, we can safely toss Baron Batch to the fantasy scrap heap.
Tally ho, guv-nah! The Rams and their new backfield committee play the Patriots in London on Sunday, but that’s not good news for fantasy owners, as the Pats rank second in the league with 3.3 yards per carry allowed. I’d start Steven Jackson (27 touches in Weeks 6 and 7) over speedy Daryl Richardson (24 touches), but neither guy excites me this week.
Before you get all crazy and jump on the Jamie Harper bandwagon, let’s remember that his two touchdown runs against the Bills came on a day when he carried seven times for eight yards, and his team’s primary back ran 18 times for 195 yards and two scores of his own. CJ2K is still the man here, and while I can’t say he’s regained my trust just yet, he’s certainly an RB1 in this week’s matchup against the Colts. If you want to pick up Harper as a handcuff or emergency play, go ahead. Just don’t be surprised if he gives you a fantasy goose egg, or something close to it.