Michael Bush at MIN: Bush has rushed for at least 90 yards in nine of the 10 games he’s started in place of Darren McFadden. Whatever you may say about the Raiders, (and many are still reticent to climb aboard the Carson Palmer bandwagon) this team can run the ball.
Palmer’s ability to stretch the field will afford Bush running room, and I suspect that he takes on a bit larger piece of the passing game (five games with multiple receptions this season). Opposing running backs have amassed 49 receptions against the Vikings this season (seventh in the NFL). Bush and Taiwan Jones (super Ninja) will be dangerous on the edge.
Steven Jackson vs. SEA: Fantasy owners have celebrated Jackson’s return to dominance in the past five weeks. He rushed for at least 96 yards in four games during this streak and scored in the fifth.
This matchup is hardly a given, as the Seahawks have limited opposing rushers to 3.6 yards per carry. The stat lines turned in by Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Turner and Ahmad Bradshaw were hardly dominant. I won’t even talk about Cam Cameron’s use of Ray Rice in Week 10. All of those teams turned to their passing games. The Rams don’t have that luxury, so expect another huge carry count from the bulldozing Jackson.
Marshawn Lynch at STL: Power! As other running backs fell to the wayside in 2011, be they mired in committee situations or affected by injuries, Lynch rose to become a weekly staple. He greatly outperformed expectations in Week 10 by running over the Ravens and extended his scoring streak to five games (back-to-back 100-yard games with 55 carries).
Keep the line moving in Week 11 with Lynch against the bottom-ranked St. Louis run defense (150.6 yards per game).
Reggie Bush at BUF: Why couldn’t he have done the pizza ad sooner? Bush turned in his third straight fantasy-worthy performance in Week 10 against the Redskins. He didn’t pile up a huge yardage count, but he strolled into the end zone twice.
Opposing running backs have fared well against the Bills, producing 125 yards and 1.2 touchdowns allowed per game. Running backs have also logged 50 red zone touches to date (tied for third). Ride the hot hand!
Brandon Jacobs vs. PHI: Jacobs was the latest running back to fall at the feet of the San Francisco defense (72 total yards in Week 10). With Ahmad Bradshaw still ailing, he’s in line for a big day against a Philadelphia squad that limps into action with myriad injuries and questions about its latest loss to the Cardinals.
The Eagles’ run defense has struggled terribly all season, ceding an average of 120 rushing yards per game (4.8 yards per carry).
Ryan Mathews at CHI: Mathews and the Chargers seek to rebound from a dismal effort in Week 10 against the Raiders. This road trip won’t be easy against a surging Chicago defense, but the Bears have been hit for big plays on the ground throughout the season. Opponents average 5.1 yards per carry.
James Starks vs. TB: I don’t propose that Starks amasses 20-something carries against the Buccaneers. Aaron Rodgers and the explosive passing attack will dominate Tampa Bay as they’ve done every other opponent, but there’s plenty of room for Starks to salt away the lead against this 29th-ranked run defense. The fact that Ryan Grant has been unable to practice this week boosts Starks value.
Shonn Greene at DEN: The Jets will not have veteran LaDainian Tomlinson (sprained MCL) at their disposal on Thursday night, thereby putting Shonn Greene in line for a sizable workload. The Broncos will not run and hide in this game as the Patriots did in Week 10 (Greene logged 13 carries and 61 rushing yards). Green has averaged 20 carries in his previous four games, and I suspect that he approaches that mark on Thursday. Denver allows 117 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry) per game. He occupies the 18th slot in my early-week running back rankings.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. KC: Green-Ellis carried the ball eight times for eight yards in Week 10 against the Jets. New York shored up its previous issues against the run, but forgot to cover Rob Gronkowski.
The Chiefs won’t stop Gronkowski either, but I suspect that Green-Ellis will get his fair share of the action as well. Kansas City has been run over with regularity (134 yards and a touchdown per game) and may get blown out quickly in this road contest. Watch Belichick grind out the clock in the second half.
Week 11 Running Back Ninja Alerts
Lance Ball vs. NYJ: Lance Ball was the last man standing for the Broncos’ running game (excluding Tebow, of course) in Week 10, and he nearly amassed 100 rushing yards in relief of Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. Moreno is now done for the season because of a knee injury, and McGahee’s hamstring injury will likely sideline him for this tilt.
Ball demonstrated that he can handle a heavy workload with his 30 carries in Week 10. He’s on the board as my 19th running back.
Joe McKnight at DEN: LaDainian Tomlinson’s injury opens the door for Joe McKnight to demonstrate his open field abilities as a receiver. McKnight has been used primarily as a return man, though he did carry the ball nine times in Week 9 against the Bills for 27 yards. He’s a deep “Ninja” option in PPR leagues as the 38th running back on my board.
Maurice Morris vs. CAR: I know. It’s hard to put a lot of stock in Morris on a squad that is running the ball just 35% of the time (last in the league). Despite Detroit’s ongoing struggles and lack of commitment to the ground game, I’m endorsing Morris this week.
I have three reasons. The Lions are trying to run the ball (getting housed by the Bears didn’t help matters).
– Morris has, in fact, carried the ball 23 times in the past two weeks.
– Matthew Stafford is dealing with his finger injury and a recent run of inconsistency.
– The Panthers rank 28th against the run at 137.6 yards and 1.3 touchdowns allowed per game (4.7 yards per carry).
Jonathan Stewart at DET: Stewart, like Morris, represents significant risk but represents a sneaky play in a Flex role. The Lions cede nearly five yards per carry and 134.4 rushing yards per game (four touchdowns).
Stewart has been active in the passing game (27 receptions) and equally splits time with DeAngelo Williams. I’m under no delusion that Stewart runs wild in this game. I’m looking for 100 total yards and glory for owners in PPR leagues as the Panthers exploit the aggressive defensive front with screens.
Danny Woodhead vs. KC: In theory, the Patriots will be salting away a big lead late against the Palko-led Chiefs. Ergo, the aforementioned Green-Ellis and Woodhead will team to close out the contest. Woodhead has been active in the past two weeks, amassing 18 touches and 104 total yards. He was the more productive back against the Jets, and I suspect we see more of the 2010 fantasy “Ninja” in this home tilt.
Week 11 Running Back Flop Alerts
Chris Johnson at ATL: Johnson had his breakout game in Week 10 and even joked about it when heading to the post-game interview podium. Alas, the Falcons and their third-ranked (tie) run defense are next on the schedule. The Falcons allow just 90.3 rushing yards and 0.7 rushing touchdowns per game.
That isn’t to say that Johnson couldn’t do some damage in the passing game, where he’s amassed 35 receptions and 250 yards. I still don’t see him as any better than a mid-range RB2 option with upside. Owners chasing his Week 10 stat line and awaiting a Phoenix-like rise are just wishing.
LeGarrette Blount at GB: Blount ran for 34 yards on 10 carries last week against the run-stuffing Houston defense. He won’t fare much better here against the Packers, as the struggling Buccaneers figure to play from behind all day long. As he isn’t a proficient receiver (seven catches this season) or blocker, Blount likely watches much of the action from the sidelines.
Jackie Battle at NE: Like Blount, Battle finds himself in a difficult spot this week. First, he’ll likely get swallowed by Vince Wilfork and the New England run defense as they dare Tyler Palko to throw downfield (that secondary has been improving). Second, the Patriots will pile on points against the Chiefs, thereby sending Battle to the sidelines. He’s as invisible in the passing game for the Chiefs as Blount is in Tampa.
Beanie Wells at SF: Wells pushed through his knee issue and logged 23 carries in the upset victory over Philadelphia in Week 10. He finished the game with only 62 yards, much to the chagrin of fantasy owners, but Wells continues to demonstrate toughness and resolve. Ken Whisenhunt has also shown great patience and dedication to the ground game.
Unfortunately, Wells faces a daunting task in his Week 11 road matchup against the top-ranked San Francisco run defense that has yet to cede a rushing touchdown. I have him ranked 26th this week.