Fantasy Football

Tanner, Jennings sleepers in Week 8

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Michael Harmon

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Was your running back cupboard fully stocked ahead of Week 8?

Fantasy owners are digging deep in the running back list for Week 8. The Bye week wipes out a number of prominent options, including Arian Foster, Ben Tate, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Ray Rice. Injuries claim Maurice Jones-Drew and DeMarco Murray, among others.

As a result, players such as the CowboysPhillip Tanner, Shane Vereen, Montario Hardesty or early-season disappointments (Jonathan Stewart, anyone?) take up residence in active roster positions.

Let’s get between the white lines and set the table for continued fantasy dominance.


(Exclude Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Darren McFadden)

Chris Johnson vs. IND
Do I need to convince you to start Johnson following his 195-yard, two-touchdown effort in Week 7? I actually had a caller in one of my radio spots complain about Jamie Harper’s vulture efforts against the Bills. I told him to hang up and yelled at him.

I have Johnson sitting at the lofty No. 2 perch for this week’s tilt against the Colts. Indianapolis has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs (152.7 total yards per game with eight rushing touchdowns). Johnson’s come to life in three of the past four games, and patient owners will have a huge trading chip following another fantastic performance.

Reggie Bush at NYJ
Bush raised eyebrows with some talk about “Karma” and “payback” when Darrelle Revis was injured earlier this season. So, we may expect some extracurricular activity when these teams dial it up this week. However, it’s also a strong spot for Bush against this New York run defense that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to running backs (151.4 total yards and one rushing touchdown allowed per game).

Ryan Mathews at CLE
The Browns have been porous in the secondary, with or without Joe Haden. As a result, I expect to see Mathews play a huge role in the passing game (10 receptions in the Chargers’ past two games). He’s amassed at least 82 total yards in three consecutive games. Cleveland has allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to running backs, including 39 receptions and 322 receiving yards (one receiving touchdown).

Alfred Morris at PIT
Don’t fear the matchup. Morris has been one of the most consistent fantasy options on the board this season. He’s logged three 100-yard games in his past four starts (94 yards per game overall).

I know that the Steelers have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to running backs, but the continued absence of Troy Polamalu and the scheme employed by Washington (including the option) present great challenges this week. Remember, both BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Chris Johnson had success against the Steelers in the past two weeks.

Frank Gore at ARI
When last we saw Gore, he dominated the previously stout Seattle defense to start Week 7 with 182 total yards. He’s been a full participant in practice despite sustaining bruised ribs late in that contest. Gore will start against the Cardinals on Monday night, but don’t be surprised to see more touches for Kendall Hunter.

The Cardinals have been strong against opposing passing games, but running backs have found some success. Arizona has allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to running backs.

Willis McGahee vs. NO
McGahee hasn’t been a dominant, punishing force on the ground throughout the season (64 rushing yards or fewer in four of six games), but his involvement in the passing game is mighty intriguing. The 31-year-old tailback has caught 15 passes in the past three weeks, thereby allowing him to finish with at least 98 total yards in three straight games.

I expect to see a ton of McGahee early against the sieve-like New Orleans run defense (second-most fantasy points allowed to running backs). In fact, the Saints’ porous run defense is the only factor making me pause when considering how high to rank the members of the Denver passing attack. Owners in deeper leagues might consider Ronnie Hillman in a Flex slot.

Ahmad Bradshaw at DAL
Bradshaw didn’t dress for the open portion of Friday’s practice, but there’s currently no overriding feeling that he’ll be limited on Sunday against the Cowboys. He’s coming off of a muted performance against the Redskins in which he totaled 65 yards, but Bradshaw still found the end zone.

I expect to see some of Andre Brown once again (Flex-worthy), but Bradshaw remains a low-end RB1 option this week. Bradshaw ran for 78 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown (15 receiving yards) in the Week 1 matchup against the Cowboys.


Rashad Jennings at GB
Jennings took the reins from the injured Maurice Jones-Drew against the Raiders and produced 102 total yards on 28 touches. He’s in line for another huge workload against the banged-up Green Bay defense (14th-most fantasy points allowed to running backs). I don’t anticipate a ton of success on the ground, but he’ll pile up a ton of check-down opportunities out of the backfield.

Phillip Tanner vs. NYG
DeMarco Murray is OUT once again for the Cowboys. Felix Jones sustained a knee injury against the Panthers in Week 7 and has been slowed during the practice week. As a result, Tanner appears on the radar as a Flex or RB3 option this week. Tanner carried the ball 13 times for 30 yards (one reception for eight yards) against Carolina.

Shane Vereen at STL
Vereen stepped into the spot vacated by Brandon Bolden and angered expectant Stevan Ridley owners. Vereen carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards with a rushing touchdown, adding two receptions for 15 yards.

The second-year back out of California is on the radar for another workload split against the Rams. The Patriots continue to run the ball a ton in the red zone, and the loss of Aaron Hernandez portends to more red zone work for the running backs. As a result, Vereen pops onto the radar as a RB3 option. The Rams have allowed the 18th-most fantasy points to running backs.


Michael Turner at PHI
The Falcons own a perfect record and litter the highlight reels with big plays. Turner has contributed several highlight-worthy runs this season, but he’s still averaged just 59.5 yards per game. He’s finished three of his six starts with 42 rushing yards or fewer.

The Eagles have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs, including just two touchdowns (one rushing). Turner enters my Week 8 rankings as a mid-RB2, but I’m clearly just holding out hope for a goal-line plunge.

Shonn Greene vs. MIA
Greene has been a fantastic contributor to fantasy lineups in the past two weeks. He recorded 215 rushing yards with four touchdowns against the Colts and Patriots, and he even added six receptions for 34 yards in Week 7.

Still, the Dolphins have allowed the eight-fewest fantasy points to running backs (107.7 total yards with three touchdowns). Based on his weekly workload and red zone work (he’s second in RZ touches behind Arian Foster), Greene still rates as a RB2 play.

Trent Richardson at SD
Richardson continues to be affected by his rib injury, an injury that forced him to the sidelines early in Week 7. He produced 19 total yards on 10 touches before exiting the game. Richardson expects to play against the Chargers, but this is a difficult spot for fantasy owners. He rates as a mid-RB2 because of his big-play potential. However, this isn’t a slam-dunk matchup (SD has allowed the 19th-most fantasy points) and there’s no guaranty that he’ll finish. I still expect Montario Hardesty to factor into the workload.

Mikel Leshoure vs. SEA
Leshoure ran well in Monday’s loss to the Bears, producing 63 yards on 12 carries before ceding carries to Joique Bell. He also added six receptions for 20 yards. Unfortunately, the Lions decided to go away from Leshoure despite his early success.

The Seahawks were run over by Frank Gore and the San Francisco offense in Week 7. Look for this unit to step up and show pride on the road. Despite Gore’s heroics, the Seahawks have still surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs (two touchdowns). Leshoure gets into lineups as a back-end RB2 because of his workload (and presumably the goal-line touches after Joique Bell’s fumble in Week 7).

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Raiders, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Redskins, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ahmad Bradshaw, Felix Jones, Ray Rice, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Shonn Greene, Arian Foster, Montario Hardesty, Ben Tate, Joique Bell, Chris Johnson, Mikel Leshoure, DeMarco Murray, Shane Vereen, Phillip Tanner, Trent Richardson

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