Crowded backfields in Cleveland, Pitt

BY John Halpin • October 11, 2011

Welcome to the sixth installment of our weekly look at fantasy’s most aggravating subject, the Running Back Committee. It looks like there’s a Battle for carries in Kansas City.

Week 6 Byes: Broncos, Titans, Chiefs, Cardinals, Chargers, Seahawks

COMMITTEES (10)

Carolina Panthers

Options: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
Outlook: Williams had his second consecutive strong game in Week 5, with nine carries for 115 yards and a 69-yard touchdown run. Just remember that he has only 46 carries through five games, and has a quarterback that essentially serves as the team’s goal-line back. You can start Williams, but don’t expect big games often. Stewart now has 37 carries and 18 receptions after five games, and is probably a bye-week option at this point. Cam Newton giveth, and Cam Newton taketh away.

Cleveland Browns

Options: Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty
Outlook: Hillis and Hardesty shared the workload in Week 4, but head coach Pat Shurmur said last week that Hillis needs to get the ball more. Keep Hardesty on your fantasy bench for the time being.

Green Bay Packers

Options: James Starks, Ryan Grant, John Kuhn
Outlook: Starks had 14 touches to Grant’s eight in Week 5 against the Falcons, and it’s unclear if that was related to Grant’s first-quarter fumble. This week, the Pack host the sieve-like Rams, who have allowed a league-worst 179.8 rushing yards per game. Both Starks and Grant can be considered for fantasy starts in Week 6.

Kansas City Chiefs

Options: Thomas Jones, Dexter McCluster, Jackie Battle
Outlook: Here’s a look at last week’s Chiefs entry: For most of Sunday’s game, this looked like the timeshare we expected, with Jones getting 11 touches to McCluster’s 10. However, the 238-pound Battle had five carries for 22 yards, including two for 10 on the Chiefs’ final two rushes when they needed one last first down. Maybe it was nothing, but it’s not like Jones was running all over the Vikings to begin with. Battle probably won’t become fantasy-relevant, but he could muck up the short-yardage situation for Jones.

Battle did more than muck up the short-yardage pecking order, running 19 times for 119 yards against the Colts. The Chiefs are off this week, but it’s hard to see Battle losing his primary role after Sunday’s performance. His emergence severely dents the fantasy value of both Jones and especially McCluster, who had only five touches in Week 5. If you’re looking for a running back, you’ve gotta try to grab Battle from your free-agent pool.

New England Patriots

Options: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead
Outlook: The Law Firm had a huge day against the Jets, with 27 carries for 136 yards and two scores. He’s a no-doubt fantasy starter this week, but don’t forget about Ridley, who should still see enough work to be a flex option during the bye-week portion of the season. After all, we can’t ever get too comfortable with the Pats’ backfield rotation, right? Woodhead sat out Week 5 due to an ankle injury, and won’t be worthy of your consideration until we see another productive day.

New Orleans Saints

Options: Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas
Outlook: What a mess. The Saints clearly love Sproles, who had 11 carries and five receptions for 91 yards from scrimmage against the Panthers. We knew he had plenty of PPR value, but leading the team in carries was unexpected. Ingram had 11 touches (49 yards, TD) while Thomas had 10 (42 yards, TD), and we now appear to have a true three-headed monster here. The fantasy pecking order should be Sproles then Ingram then Thomas, with Thomas being the shakiest play at Tampa this week.

New York Giants

Options: Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs
Outlook: Jacobs missed Week 5 due to a knee injury, and even if he’s healthy in Week 6, look for Bradshaw to get two-thirds of the work against the Bills.

San Diego Chargers

Options: Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester, Jordan Todman
Outlook: After Tolbert left the Week 5 contest against the Broncos due to a concussion and Mathews (24 carries, 125 yards) took a brief rest because of a calf injury, Hester got some solid work (11 carries, 47 yards). Mathews is still the lead guy here, but if his injury lingers and/or Tolbert can’t go in Week 7, you wonder if the Bolts will activate Todman so that Hester can focus on his fullback duties. Neither Hester nor Todman is worth picking up right now, but keep an eye on Todman to see if he gains value as a second-banana.

San Francisco 49ers

Options: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter
Outlook: Hunter had nine carries for 65 yards in Sunday’s blowout win over the Bucs, but Gore’s owners don’t need to worry about him any more. He’s had 252 rushing yards in his last two games, and has averaged nearly 19 carries per game for the season. Hunter is nothing more than a handcuff.

Washington Redskins

Options: Tim Hightower, Ryan Torain, Roy Helu
Outlook: This will be our first look at the ‘Skins since Mike (Fantasy Hater) Shanahan screwed up tens of thousands of fantasy owners by yanking Hightower in favor of Torain in Week 4. Shanahan hasn’t committed to anyone moving forward, instead saying that he’ll go with the proverbial “hot back.” I could see starting Torain or Hightower this week, but probably not as anything more than a flex or RB3 unless your league is deep. The hunch here is that Torain has another strong game against the Eagles.

INJURY ISSUES (5)

Houston Texans

Options: Arian Foster, Ben Tate, Derrick Ward
Outlook: Foster had 184 yards from scrimmage on 27 touches against the Raiders in Week 5, and appears to be back at full strength. Tate was active for the game, but his stat-free day had more to do with his groin injury than being buried on the depth chart. Healthy or not, Tate shouldn’t start for you again until we see him get double-digit carries.

Indianapolis Colts

Options: Joseph Addai, Delone Carter, Donald Brown
Outlook: When Addai left Sunday’s game against the Chiefs due to a hamstring injury, Carter’s owners probably expected a big day for their guy. Unfortunately for them, the Colts exhumed Brown, who gained 38 yards on eight carries, while Carter had 12 carries for 22 yards and a touchdown. We’re going to have to wait and see on Addai, and if he can’t play, Brown could be a deep-league option against the Bengals in Week 6. Carter is still a better bet than Brown, though.

Miami Dolphins

Options: Daniel Thomas, Reggie Bush
Outlook: Thomas said last week that he expects to return from his hamstring injury against the Jets in Week 6. The rookie ran for 202 yards and a touchdown over Weeks 2 and 3, and should start in all formats as soon as he’s active.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Options: Rashard Mendenhall, Ike Redman, Jonathan Dwyer, Mewelde Moore
Outlook: Mendenhall was active but didn’t play in Week 5 due to a hamstring injury. Most people looked for Redman to fill the void, but after he left the game with some cramps, Dwyer became the star, running for 107 yards on 11 carries. Once Mendenhall is healthy, he’ll be the man again. However, keep an eye on this situation as Week 6 approaches, because Dwyer will be worth adding if Mendenhall isn’t back at practice by Thursday or so.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Options: LeGarrette Blount, Earnest Graham, Kregg Lumpkin, Allen Bradford
Outlook: Blount’s knee injury, which caused him to leave Sunday’s game against the Vikings in the third quarter, leaves his Week 6 status in question. If Blount can’t play against the Saints, Graham is likely to carry the load, and produce decent fantasy value. The Saints are among the league’s worst team against the run, allowing 5.2 yards per carry.

WTF??? (1)

Cincinnati Bengals

Options: Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott, Brian Leonard
Outlook: Welcome to Week 3 of the Cedric Benson Suspension Watch. Even though Scott ran for a touchdown in Week 5, he’s not worth starting until or unless the commissioner’s office grants Benson an unwanted three-week vacation.


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