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Stay away from Johnson, Turner

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Michael Harmon

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The Chargers and Chiefs got the games of Week 9 underway and left many fantasy owners, particularly those of the starting running backs, wanting. Unfortunately, Ryan Mathews and Jamaal Charles, who would later leave the game because of a neck injury, failed to register much production in the Chargers’ 31-13 win. I’ll produce a lengthy diatribe regarding the fantasy futures of these tailbacks later this weekend.

Turn the page. You can’t uncheck the boxes and remove those players from your lineup. We must find fantasy greatness and avoid pitfalls among the remaining 13 games. Let’s get right to the heart of the matter in this week’s “Lineup Calls.”


(Exclude Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Trent Richardson and Darren McFadden)

Doug Martin at OAK
When we last saw Martin, he gave trusting fantasy owners a reason to celebrate in his breakout game against the Vikings. He’d also performed well in his two previous starts against the Chiefs and Saints. You can insert your own punch line there.

The Raiders have allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to running backs, including five rushing touchdowns. The statistic that leaps off of the page is that opposing running backs have caught a total of 50 passes against the Raiders. I am concerned about the loss of Carl Nicks from the offensive line, but Martin’s high touch count makes him a back-end RB1 for me this week.

Willis McGahee at CIN
McGahee posted a fantastic Week 8 performance against the woeful New Orleans defense, as expected. He logged a heavy workload, totaling 122 yards on 23 carries with his fourth touchdown run of the year.

I expect more of the same this week against a struggling Cincinnati run defense. The Bengals have surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs, a total of 150 yards per game with nine total touchdowns (eight rushing). Peyton Manning continues to fire downfield with great accuracy on the road this weekend, thereby providing huge running lanes for McGahee.

Reggie Bush at IND
I’ll state it clearly. I fear the vulture effect from Daniel Thomas. However, the matchup reads as a great opportunity for Bush to post a huge effort and get back into the good graces of fantasy owners. The Colts allow the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs.

Ahmad Bradshaw vs. PIT
This is hardly a huge spot for Bradshaw. He’s playing through injuries, ceding carries to Andre Brown and facing the stout Pittsburgh run defense (sixth-fewest fantasy points allowed). Still, I can’t look away from New York ground game. The Giants commit to the run and log an average of 26.25 carries per game. The ability to work downfield with a full complement of skill options affords Bradshaw running lanes, even in this tough matchup.

Rashad Jennings vs. DET
It’s not a great matchup for Jennings, by any means, but I’ll toss him up as a mid-RB2 option this weekend because of his contribution as a receiver for Blaine Gabbert. The Lions allow the eighth-fewest fantasy points to running backs, but opposing backs have averaged 4.6 receptions per game. Gabbert’s new-found confidence downfield against the banged-up Detroit secondary affords Jennings running room underneath here.

Mikel LeShoure vs. JAC
Citing the Jaguars’ ineptitude against the run (fourth-most fantasy points allowed), I love LeShoure to put up a big game this week. I’m still not sure why the Lions haven’t given him a bigger workload, but I’ll leave the film review session for another time. LeShoure has averaged 4.84 yards per carry in his past three appearances against the normally stout Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle defenses.


Jonathan Stewart at WAS
Stewart didn’t offer much on the ground against the Bears in Week 8, earning just 42 rushing yards on 17 carries. However, he did catch four of his six targets for 38 yards to produce a solid day.

I know that the Redskins have allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to running backs. However, this unit cannot stop the passing game. As a result, I expect to see gaudy numbers from Cam Newton downfield with Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith, thereby opening some room on the ground late. Now, we just need Rob Chudzinksi to commit to doing so.

Joique Bell at JAC
The All-Name tandem in Detroit should put up some fantastic numbers. The Jaguars have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season, including a total of eight touchdowns (six rushing).

Bell has not produced a huge touch count in the past two weeks, but he has been active in the passing game. He generated seven receptions for 49 yards.

Daniel Thomas at IND
Thomas has regained his place as the No. 2 back in Miami behind Reggie Bush. He’s scored in back-to-back weeks while logging a total of 25 carries. The Colts have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs. Bush may do the bulk of the work, but I look for Thomas to get involved in the red zone and vulture another touchdown. I have Thomas sitting at No. 26 this week.

Isaac Redman at NYG
Presumed starter Jonathan Dwyer didn’t practice on Friday because of his quadriceps injury. As a result, Redman jumps back into the starting role against the Giants. New York surrenders 4.6 yards per carry (113 yards per game). Note that the Giants have allowed only three rushing touchdowns this season.


Chris Johnson vs. CHI
Johnson ran for 99 yards in Week 8 against Indianapolis, his fourth game with at least 90 rushing yards in his past five starts. He enters a terrible stretch on the schedule starting with this home tilt against the Bears. Chicago has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs and has ceded a single touchdown this year.

The Titans may decide to work Johnson into the passing game and a chance to get outside the tackles. That would afford Johnson owners hope of some YAC. Still, Johnson rates no better than a mid-RB2 slot this week despite his recent surge in production.

Michael Turner vs. DAL
Turner’s huge game against the Panthers seems like it happened long, long ago. In the past two weeks against Oakland and Philadelphia, Turner has averaged a dismal 2.6 yards per carry.

Owners pushing Turner higher than a low-end RB2 slot are wishing and hoping for goal-line opportunities out of the passing game (he has three this season). The Cowboys have allowed the 14th-fewest fantasy points to running back despite the early absence of Jay Ratliff from the defensive line.

Alex Green vs. ARI
His weekly touch count will keep Green in Flex slots this week, but he’s hardly made the most of his opportunities as the starter. He did post 82 total yards in Week 8, but he averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. In fact, Green has averaged 2.4 yards per carry in his past three starts (64 carries). His involvement in the passing game makes him interesting (back-to-back four-reception games), but he’s sitting as a RB3 for me (27th).

BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. DEN
Green-Ellis was drafted with anticipation of numerous goal-line plunges, but those opportunities haven’t materialized as of yet. He’s failed to score in four consecutive games and has topped 70 rushing yards just once during this period.

The Broncos have allowed 3.7 yards per carry (106 yards per game) and three rushing touchdowns. He’s a low-end RB2 option this week.

Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Titans, Chiefs, Raiders, Dolphins, Giants, Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars, Steelers, Chargers, Willis McGahee, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jonathan Stewart, Rashad Jennings, Chris Johnson, Mikel Leshoure, Daniel Thomas, Alex Green, Doug Martin

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