Fantasy Football

CJ2K, DMC smart plays in Week 7

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Michael Harmon

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Was the Thursday night game a sign of great things to come in Week 7 for fantasy owners?

Neither Marshawn Lynch nor Frank Gore rated as rock-solid fantasy options in that NFC West showdown, but both men eclipsed 100 rushing yards (103 and 151, respectively) and rewarded trusting owners. Gore was an absolute terror in the second half behind a strong effort by the San Francisco offensive line.

Fantasy owners are looking for great contributions from the running back position as one of the worst Bye weeks on the 2012 schedule blows gaping holes in lineups. Remember, the Falcons, Broncos, Chargers, Eagles, Dolphins and Chiefs are OFF this week.

I begin this edition of “Lineup Calls” in Oakland, where the trading floor is about to close.



(Exclude Arian Foster, Maurice Jones-Drew, Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris, Ray Rice and Matt Forte)


Darren McFadden vs. JAC
McFadden normally resides in the “Exclusion” list, but he’s been anything but dominant through the first five games for Oakland. He’s averaged just 54.2 rushing yards per game, though he’s helped fantasy owners somewhat in the passing game. Your “Buy-Low” opportunity expires at kickoff on Sunday. McFadden begins a run of glorious matchups against the Jaguars. He’ll then face the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Ravens, Saints, Bengals and Browns before beginning the fantasy playoffs against the Broncos (34 yards on 13 carries in Week 4).

McFadden restores his lofty place among the fantasy elite this week against the Jaguars, not that I dismiss his 98 total yards from Week 6 against Atlanta. Jacksonville has allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs (181.6 total yards and 1.6 total touchdowns per game).

Trent Richardson at IND
Richardson will play with a flak jacket on Sunday against the Colts. I just love saying “flak jacket.” Say it with me one time.

Richardson rushed for just 37 yards on 14 carries (two receptions for 17 yards) before departing the Week 6 matchup against the Bengals because of the rib injury. He’d topped 110 total yards in his previous road tilts against the Ravens and Giants. The rookie is a huge play this week against the Colts, a defensive unit that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs. I’m banging the drum for the Cleveland offense this week!

Chris Johnson at BUF
Do I dare? I rated Johnson quite highly this week, as he’s produced two quality starts in his past three games. Obviously, his effort against Houston came late in a blowout, but he was impressive against the Steelers. Johnson stands as a mid-RB1 option for me this week against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Ahmad Bradshaw vs. WAS
Bradshaw sat out Friday’s workout and carries a “questionable” tag into the weekend. He’s logged 62 touches in the past two weeks, so concerns about recurrences of old injuries crop up. For now, I will presume that he’ll suit up in this divisional matchup. Though it doesn’t look great on paper, remember that teams have passed on the Redskins at will. Therefore, teams haven’t exactly lined up to play smash-mouth football against them. We’ve seen Bradshaw do it against the 49ers, so he’s a locked-in RB1 if available.

I believe that Andre Brown trumps David Wilson in the workload split should Bradshaw get shut down. Check your league’s available players list to see if a short-sighted owner returned Brown to free agency.

Doug Martin vs. NO
Martin made the most of his advantageous matchup with the Chiefs, producing 131 total yards on 15 touches (55 receiving yards). It was his best effort since Week 1 against the Panthers when he ran for 95 yards and added 23 receiving yards on four receptions.

The rookie tailback is a fantastic back-end RB1 this week against the porous New Orleans run defense. The Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. I’m moderately concerned about Vincent Jackson’s injury status in terms of establishing offensive balance, but Martin is a strong play just the same.

Stevan Ridley vs. NYJ
Fantasy owners are not a huge fan of the balanced attack being employed by the Patriots. They’d just as soon see Tom Brady start winging it around like the days of old (he did nearly pass for 400 yards in the loss to Seattle last week).

Anyway, Ridley rates a strong play this week against the Jets. New York has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs, surrendering 148.3 total yards and 1.2 total touchdowns per game. Shake off his rough outing against the Seahawks. This is a much more favorable divisional test.

C.J. Spiller vs. TEN
Start both of the Buffalo running backs at home against the Titans. Do I need to say more? Spiller has been the better of the two options of late, but Fred Jackson has posted a solid yardage total in two of the past three weeks since returning to the lineup. The Titans have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs this season (tied). Look for Spiller and Jackson to get involved in the passing game and for each to generate RB2-worthy numbers.

Felix Jones at CAR
Jones ran with authority in the Cowboys’ narrow loss to the Ravens in Week 6. He churned out 92 rushing yards on 18 carries and scored his first touchdown of the season. With DeMarco Murray sidelined, Jones represents a fantastic spot play for fantasy owners against the Panthers. Carolina has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs and nearly 200 total yards per game. With Chris Gamble out and Jon Beason’s status in doubt, the table is set for a big day for the Dallas offense.

Grit your teeth and watch.




LeGarrette Blount vs. NO
Blount is an interesting option for fantasy owners affected by the Bye or injuries this week. He’s scored in back-to-back games (75 yards on 13 carries), though most of his yardage and the touchdown in Week 6 came at the end of a blowout win over the Chiefs. Blount will continue to take a backseat to Doug Martin, but the matchup is absolutely glorious on paper. The New Orleans run defense that has surrendered the most fantasy points to running backs this season.

Vick Ballard vs. CLE
This would-be “All-Name Team” member failed to deliver in his first big spot during the Week 6 matchup against the Jets. Ballard delivered just 42 total yards on 10 touches in the blowout loss.

Ballard has an immediate shot at redemption this week against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to running backs. They’ve been stingy at the painted grass (three total touchdowns), but have allowed 170 total yards per game.

Montario Hardesty at IND
Hardesty relieved the injured Trent Richardson in Week 6 against Cincinnati and ran well. Hardesty ran 15 times for 56 yards with a touchdown plunge in the victory. Richardson is expected to be available, but Hardesty still warrants a look-see against a bad Indianapolis run defense. You do remember Shonn Greene’s effort from last week, right?

Baron Batch at CIN
Batch stepped into a prominent role in Week 6 when both Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman departed the Thursday night game against Tennessee because of injuries. He logged 10 carries for 22 yards and scored a touchdown in the road loss.

Neither Redman nor Mendenhall was able to practice on Friday, and it sounds like Redman is unlikely to be available. That puts Batch in line for another sizable workload against the struggling Cincinnati run defense (eighth-most fantasy points allowed to running backs). He’s worthy of a flier in deeper leagues for owners impacted by the heavy run of Byes..

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Mikel Leshoure at CHI
The second-year tailback out of Illinois has had an uneven introduction to the NFL. Leshoure burst onto the scene in Week 3 against the Titans with 134 total yards and a touchdown. The Vikings contained him, limiting Leshoure to 63 total yards on 17 touches with a lost fumble. He then logged 94 total yards on 18 touches against the Eagles.

The Monday night contest against the Bears obviously rates as a terrible spot for Leshoure. The Bears have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, limiting opponents to 55.8 rushing yards per game with a single touchdown run. He’s a back-end RB2 because of the expected workload, but you’re left hoping for a goal-line opportunity.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. PIT
The Bengals are scoring points, but Green-Ellis has received few red zone opportunities (two touchdowns thus far). Unfortunately, his yardage output has been minimal as well. Green-Ellis has rushed for fewer than 65 yards on three occasions.

I’m not bullish that we see a turnaround here against the stout defensive front of the Steelers. Pittsburgh has allowed the 20th-most fantasy points to running backs, limiting opponents to three yards per carry. You start Green-Ellis in this Bye week with hope of a goal-line opportunity. Backfield mate and pass-catching option Cedric Peerman will spell Green-Ellis.

Steven Jackson vs. GB
Alas, the former workhorse has been relegated to a timeshare with Daryl Richardson. Jackson has posted just 3.6 yards per carry and has generated more than 60 rushing yards just once. He’s logged more than 80 total yards on two occasions.

The Packers possess a middling run defense, and B.J. Raji remains questionable for this week. Opponents have averaged 122.7 total yards and 0.7 touchdowns from running backs this season against Green Bay. The rotation with Richardson keeps Jackson fresh late, and that’s fine. It depresses his numbers and erases his already-paltry red zone potential.

Tagged: Bills, Bears, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Lions, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Rams, Patriots, Giants, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Steven Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Fred Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Jon Beason, Felix Jones, Ray Rice, Darren McFadden, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Andre Brown, Montario Hardesty, C.J. Spiller, LeGarrette Blount, Chris Johnson, Isaac Redman, Mikel Leshoure, Baron Batch, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard, Daryl Richardson

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