Fantasy Football RBBC Week 14
Welcome to the season’s 14th edition of our weekly look at fantasy running back committees. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in your league’s semifinal round. Or, you’re finding really useless things to do while avoiding Christmas shopping.
In this space, we’ll 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 will be some non-committee and injury 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 Any tier recommendations below (e.g., RB2) are meant for 12-team standard leagues.
Finally, start/sit recommendations for the players below always depend on the rest of your roster. For specific RB rankings, click here. Rankings will be available at around noon ET each Wednesday.
Thursday game: Chargers at Broncos
Double-digit carries, 40-plus yards and a TD for both Andre Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall against the Rams. What’s not to like? Look for more of the same this week at Tennessee, though weather and natural grass could always affect dome dwellers.
I feel like I want to ignore the stats from all the crazy weather games in Week 13 (Vikings-Ravens, Lions-Eagles, maybe Dolphins-Steelers). However, from a usage standpoint, Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce weren’t far off from their 2013 norms. Pierce is pretty much unusable for fantasy owners in Week 15.
(That’s what I wrote here last week, before Spiller let you down again. If he hasn’t already ruined your fantasy season, consider him a flex play at best this week in Jacksonville. Spiller played 27 snaps to Jackson’s 41 on Sunday, and got you just 48 yards from scrimmage. Jackson had just 38, and while these guys are capable of better, they’re also infuriating. At least you didn’t spend a top-five pick on Jackson.)
Jonathan Stewart tore an MCL in his knee and will miss at least two weeks. The Panthers’ backfield is now less messy for fantasy owners, with DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert now sharing the bulk of the workload. Would you want to start either one against the league’s toughest (or second-toughest) run defense? I don’t think I would, even if Marcel Reece had a strong day against them in Week 14.
Gio Bernard had 148 yards from scrimmage on 16 touches against the Colts, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis out-fantasied Gio on the strength of two one-yard TD runs. I’d be fine rolling with either back against the 24th-ranked Steelers’ run defense, with Gio in RB2 territory and the Law Firm in Flexville. Not much has changed over the past month with these guys.
How can you pass on a home matchup with the Bears’ swiss-cheese run defense? When you have no idea who will run the ball. If I was a gambling man – and I am – I’d like to flex Willis McGahee (28-90-1 over his last two games) with my season on the line. If it works, it’ll be a good story to tell someday.
I said above that I’d LIKE to flex McGahee, but he has a concussion and needs to go through all the necessary league protocols before being cleared to play. Could you possibly go with Chris Ogbonnaya or even Fozzy Whittaker if McGahee is out? That’s probably too risky for me.
Whether or not Knowshon Moreno is a fantasy RB1 – and he is – Montee Ball is garbage-timing and short-yardaging his way to fantasy relevance. Ball has 53 touches over his last four games, with 306 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. He’s a strong flex option against the Chargers (4.8 yards per carry allowed) on Thursday.
Reggie Bush was a late scratch on Sunday after re-aggravating a calf injury before the game, and on Monday head coach Jim Schwartz called Bush day-to-day. An active Bush would be a solid start at home against the eighth-ranked Ravens’ run defense, but Joique Bell might return to a 10-touch role if Bush plays.
Donald Brown had four carries for 11 yards against the Bengals, along with four receptions for 18 yards. We can probably chalk up Brown’s low rushing output to the Colts playing from behind for most of the game, and figure that he’ll again be flex-worthy against the lost-cause Texans this week. As for Trent Richardson … you still own him? Really?
Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) might not be able to practice until Friday, if then. If MJD can’t go against the porous Bills’ run defense, Jordan Todman would be the recommended plug-and-play ahead of Denard Robinson. If you’re looking for a back this week, grab Todman (owned in 0.3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues) and hope MJD gets a rest.
Daniel Thomas ran 16 times for 105 yards and a score while Lamar Miller was sidelined with a concussion. If Miller can’t go against the 31st-ranked Patriots’ run defense in Week 15, Thomas could push RB2 territory. If Miller returns, this backfield will become the same fantasy mess it was before Thomas got hurt.
Adrian Peterson’s injured foot might keep him out of this week’s home matchup with the Eagles, but we won’t know for sure until later this week (or even Sunday). Backup Toby Gerhart is owned in just 2.6 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, and is worth a gamble for any owner looking for improvement at RB2 … IF his hamstring injury isn’t so bad. Don’t go any deeper on the Vikings’ RB depth chart than Gerhart if he and Peterson are out.
New England Patriots
Stevan Ridley returned to active duty in place of Brandon Bolden, and carried eight times for 35 yards (LeGarrette Blount ran eight times for 42 yards) against the Browns. Sometime, a rejuvenated Ridley will get 20 carries for 125 yards, but you shouldn’t bet on that until you see it. He’s a huge risk.
Shane Vereen had three carries for nine yards, and only saved his fantasy owners by scoring a short touchdown. So … what’s that? He also caught 12 passes for 153 yards on SEVENTEEN TARGETS? With Rob Gronkowski out for the season, I wonder if Tom Brady will throw to Vereen on every single down.
New Orleans Saints
Pierre Thomas ran just seven times for 14 yards and added four catches for 14 yards against the Panthers, while Darren Sproles (four touches, 61 yards) continued to infuriate his fantasy owners. Thomas had a pretty good run from Weeks 8-12, and I’d feel comfortable going back to the well with him as an RB2/flex type in a dome game at St. Louis. Sproles is PPR only now, and even looks shaky there. Sproles is a decent All-Fantasy Bust Team candidate.
It sounds like Rashad Jennings (concussion) will be ready to return this week against the Chiefs. Marcel Reece played so well (161 yards from scrimmage, TD) against the Jets that you’d think he has to get more work even with an active Jennings, but who knows? The thought here is RB2 status for Jennings, possible back-end (and uncertain) flex status for Reece if Jennings plays, and Fantasy Siberia for Darren McFadden whether or not he’s active.
San Diego Chargers
Yes, I know Danny Woodhead got a bunch of fantasy points against the Giants. You’re aware that he hasn’t had more than 11 touches since Week 9, and is clearly the second-fiddle back for the Bolts, right? I’d rather not start Woodhead in a standard league unless my hand is forced.
Ryan Mathews, on the other hand, is probably too productive to fall out of solid RB2 status even in this week’s matchup with the Broncos’ seventh-ranked run defense. Did he really have 29 carries against the Giants? WHERE WAS THIS LAST YEAR WHEN I DRAFTED MATHEWS FIFTH OVERALL??? DAMN YOU, NORV TURNER!!!
Shonn Greene had nine carries for 46 yards and two scores on Sunday, but let’s not get too excited. Greene had a one-yard TD run in the first quarter, which isn’t surprising, as he’s often the goal-line back. He added a 28-yard TD scamper in the second, but it was one play after Chris Johnson had a 23-yard reception and came off for a rest. I’d avoid Greene at home against a tough Cardinals’ run defense. CJ2K should start in most formats, but his Week 15 matchup isn’t a friendly one.