Helu, Torain battle for RBBC control

BY John Halpin • November 8, 2011

Welcome to the 10th installment of our weekly look at fantasy’s most aggravating subject, the Running Back Committee. Are there two fantasy backs in Houston worthy of fantasy starts?

Week 10 Byes: None

Thursday night: Raiders at Chargers

COMMITTEES (9)

Carolina Panthers
Options:
Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
Outlook: Through eight games, Williams has 75 carries for 363 yards and a score, while Stewart has 71 carries for 327 yards and two touchdowns. Sounds like a pretty even split, right? Not exactly. Over the last two games, Stewart has gained 117 yards on 27 carries, while Williams has 61 yards on 17 carries. Stewart has looked like the better back all along, and the workload is starting to reflect that. I’d keep Williams benched in most formats until he gives you a reason to play him.

Cincinnati Bengals
Options:
Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott
Outlook: Benson had 78 yards on 20 carries against the Titans, while Scott ran six times for 24 yards. Benson is averaging fewer than four yards per carry for the season, but since it ain’t broke, the 6-2 Bengals probably aren’t going to fix it. Keep Benson starting and Scott parked on your bench unless things change.

Green Bay Packers
Options:
James Starks, Ryan Grant, John Kuhn
Outlook: Starks seems to have taken over, getting 14 touches against the Chargers to Grant’s four. However, it’s not like Grant’s going to disappear, so don’t expect Starks to get 20 carries anytime soon, especially on a team with a quarterback who’s playing better than … anyone? Ever?

Houston Texans
Options:
Arian Foster, Ben Tate
Outlook: The Texans’ backs both ran for more than 100 yards in a game for the second time this season. Is it legit? Well, sort of. The score was 24-3 in favor of the Texans after a first half that saw Foster carry 11 times to Tate’s four. Tate is good, and could be an RB1 for many NFL teams. Unfortunately, unless the Texans are on the winning end of a blowout, he’s likely to be on the short end of a platoon with Foster.

In five games since Foster returned for good from his injury, the Texans have had two lopsided wins in which Tate broke the century mark. In the other three games, Tate had two, nine and five carries. Keep that in mind before you choose to start him, even against the Bucs’ 26th-ranked run defense.

Indianapolis Colts
Options:
Joseph Addai, Delone Carter, Donald Brown
Outlook: On Sunday morning, the Colts announced that Carter would start ahead of Addai, which suggests that Addai’s hamstring isn’t yet healed. Carter lost a fumble on the second play of the game, and then spent most of the day watching Brown run 16 times for 70 yards. At 0-9, the Colts will probably give Carter more chances, but he’s likely stay on his short leash. We’ll need to keep an eye on Addai’s health as this week’s game against the Jaguars approaches, because that will have an impact on the chances of Brown or Carter to help fantasy teams.

Miami Dolphins
Options:
Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas
Outlook: Good news! Thomas was healthy in Week 9. Bad news … he carried seven times for 12 yards against the Chiefs, with Bush getting 16 touches for 142 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. I’ve been high on Thomas, but Bush has had a few good games in a row, and his playing time appears to be on the upswing. I’d want to see some production from Thomas before starting him again, even against the Redskins this week.

New England Patriots
Options:
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead
Outlook: The Pats didn’t run much against the Giants, with The Law Firm getting 12 carries to Woodhead’s seven runs and three catches. Woodhead was the beneficiary of Faulk’s injury absence, and when Faulk returns (which should happen this week), Woodhead isn’t likely to do much. Don’t get any ideas about picking up Woodhead to help you in PPR formats.

San Francisco 49ers
Options:
Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter
Outlook: Hunter’s eight carries against the Redskins were about normal, and he’s still not worthy of anything beyond handcuff status. Gore had his fifth consecutive 100-yard game, and his sprained ankle sounds like a non-issue.

Tennessee Titans
Options:
Chris Johnson, Javon Ringer
Outlook: Last week, I wrote in this space that I’d hesitate before starting Ringer. That advice proved to be sound, as Johnson (14 carries, 64 yards) finally ran pretty well – at least in the first half – while Ringer (four carries, 11 yards) was relegated to backup status. This week, the Titans visit the Panthers and their 27th-ranked run defense. Johnson’s owners need to stick with him.

INJURY ISSUES (9)

Arizona Cardinals
Options:
Beanie Wells, Alfonso Smith, Chester Taylor, LaRod Stephens-Howling
Outlook: Wells carried 10 times for 20 yards against the normally porous Rams. Arizona Republic beat writer Kent Somers tweeted during the game that Wells “doesn’t look healthy” and that his knee injury “appears to keep him from bouncing outside.” It sounds like Wells is going to play through his knee issues. Sometimes you’ll get a bad game like the one against the Rams, and other times you’ll get a big game like he had against the Ravens in Week 8. I’d still start Wells this week against the Eagles, and cross my fingers.

Cleveland Browns
Options:
Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya
Outlook: What a disaster. Hillis will be out again in Week 10 due to his hamstring injury, and Hardesty is expected to miss at least another game due to a torn calf muscle. Ogbonnaya started against the Texans, ran 13 times for 28 yards, and showed everyone why he was a practice squad player less than a month ago. This week’s home matchup against the Rams is a good one for any runner, but you should still consider Ogbannaya only if your alternatives are really shaky.

Dallas Cowboys
Options:
DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones
Outlook: So much for the Seahawks allowing a league-low average of 3.2 yards per carry. Murray shredded them for 139 yards on 22 carries, and added four receptions for 47 yards. If Jones isn’t ready to return from his sprained ankle in time for this week’s game against the Bills, then Murray is pretty much a must-start. If Jones can play, it’s hard to see Murray getting anything less than half the workload. He’s a better runner than Jones, and the Cowboys would be crazy to make him a backup again. Play Murray if you have him.

Detroit Lions
Options:
Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris, Keiland Williams
Outlook: It’s time for another wait-and-see week on Best, who hasn’t yet been cleared to return from his concussion. Plan to start Morris against the Bears if you have him. The Lions signed free agent Kevin Smith as added insurance, but it’s hard to see him making an impact anytime soon.

New Orleans Saints
Options:
Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory
Outlook: Ingram’s injured heel kept him out again in Week 9, and his status for Week 10 is TBD. Sproles continued to do damage with limited touches (four carries, five receptions, 99 yards, TD), and remains a PPR monster who starts in all formats. The surprise was Ivory getting 15 carries (for 67 yards) to Thomas’ eight carries and four receptions. This week, the Saints visit the Falcons and their stout, seventh-ranked run defense. Aside from Sproles, I’d be leery of starting a Saints’ running back, whether Ingram returns or not.

New York Giants
Options:
Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware
Outlook: The Giants insisted last week that Bradshaw had a chance to play against the Patriots, but as soon as news of his injury broke, reports surfaced that he told his teammates he’d miss at least two games, so plan on another week off if you own him. Jacobs carried the load on Sunday, running 18 times for 72 yards and a touchdown while catching four passes for 28. Ware (seven carries, 23 yards) could play himself into the mix, but isn’t worthy of more than a bench spot in deep leagues right now. The Giants visit the 49ers and their NFL-best run defense this week, so manage your expectations for Jacobs. He’s worth a start due to workload alone, but another 100 total yards would be quite an achievement.

Oakland Raiders
Options:
Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Taiwan Jones
Outlook: Bush was the man in McFadden’s absence, running 19 times for 96 yards, and catching two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. It sounds like Bush will be featured again, as McFadden didn’t practice Monday, and reportedly hasn’t started running yet. Also, raise your hand if you fell into the “Taiwan Jones is a huge sleeper” trap in Week 9.

San Diego Chargers
Options:
Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Curtis Brinkley
Outlook: With Mathews out due to a groin injury, Tolbert had a nice day against the Packers, carrying 19 times for 83 yards and a touchdown, and catching four passes for 59 yards. The Chargers host the Raiders on Thursday, and if Mathews is ready to return – which will reportedly be the case – look for he and Tolbert to share the workload. The Bolts are concerned about Mathews’ inability to stay healthy, and I doubt they’ll give him the ball 20-25 times just a few days after he wasn’t quite ready to play. I’d start either Mathews or Tolbert in most formats.

Washington Redskins
Options:
Roy Helu, Ryan Torain, Tashard Choice
Outlook: Mike Shanahan, you rascal. On Sunday morning, the Redskins announced that Helu would start ahead of Torain, and the rookie had a strong fantasy day with 10 carries for 41 yards and 14 receptions (!!!) for 105 yards. Helu had nine of his 10 carries in the first half, after which the ‘Skins pretty much stopped running, as the 49ers were starting to shut them down.

During the game, someone on Twitter (I don’t remember who) noted that since QB John Beck isn’t very good at passing downfield, having a good receiver like Helu start in the backfield made perfect sense. The Washington Post described Helu on Monday as a “safety valve” for Beck, and that assessment was right on target. The Redskins appear committed to Beck for the time being, which makes Helu a must-start in PPR formats, and a pretty good play otherwise.

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