Kevin Smith creates RBBC in Detroit
Welcome to the 12th installment of our weekly look at fantasy’s most aggravating subject, the Running Back Committee. The Thanksgiving menu at this position just got interesting.
Week 12 Byes: None (all teams have had their byes)
Thursday: Packers at Lions, Dolphins at Cowboys, 49ers at Ravens
Options: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
Outlook: For weeks, Stewart has been the better runner in this tandem. But against the Lions, Williams ran 10 times for 73 yards while adding a 32-yard catch, and looked strong. Stewart was productive as well, running eight times for 22 yards and catching six passes for 87 yards. Stewart is still the preference here, but both backs can be considered for fantasy starts against the awful Colts.
Options: Matt Forte, Marion Barber
Outlook: This is only a controversy on the goal line, as Barber scored on a one-yard plunge Sunday for his fifth touchdown in seven games. Forte is still a must-start, and should keep catching plenty of passes as QB Caleb Hanie’s safety valve, but Barber can be a desperation play if you have someone injured.
Options: Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott
Outlook: On the surface, Benson had a good fantasy outing against the Ravens, running 15 times for 41 yards and scoring twice. However, Scott once again ran better, gaining 40 yards on nine carries. His carries have inched up from six to seven to nine over the last three games. He just needs a little more work to be fantasy-relevant.
Options: DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones
Outlook: We can put this one to bed now, right? Jones returned against the Redskins, Jones ran five times for 18 yards and caught a pass, while Murray gained 73 yards on 25 carries and had six receptions for 32 yards. This is not a committee at all.
Options: Arian Foster, Ben Tate
Outlook: The normally stout Jaguars’ run defense gave up 115 yards to Cleveland’s Chris Ogbonnaya in Week 11, so the Texans’ tandem must be licking its chops. I hate to repeat myself, but Tate’s fantasy owners need to remember that their back has gained most of his yards in blowouts lately. If this game is close, Foster will still get the majority of the carries. Tate can start in many cases, but his fantasy production is very hard to predict.
Options: Joseph Addai, Delone Carter, Donald Brown
Outlook: Head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday that Addai is a “possibility” to play this week, so hopefully we’ll get a better gauge of how the Colts plan to deploy their backfield trio for the rest of the season. The awful Panthers’ D is a tempting matchup, but you still need to be careful here. If Addai practices fully this week – which sounds unlikely – he’ll be worth a start. Otherwise, Brown is probably your guy.
Kansas City Chiefs
Options: Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster, Thomas Jones
Outlook: Eight carries each against the Patriots for the Chiefs’ backfield trio, with Jones having his best game of the season. I think we’ve entered “stay away” territory for fantasy owners until someone emerges.
Options: Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas
Outlook: This is still a pretty straight timeshare, with both backs getting 15 carries against the fading Bills, and Bush catching four passes. Bush has been the stronger fantasy play lately, but if you want to speculate on someone for a late-season push, Thomas is available in 26.8 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. I’ve been on this guy’s bandwagon for awhile, and I’m holding tight.
New England Patriots
Options: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead
Outlook: Green-Ellis returned to form on Monday, carrying 20 times for 81 yards against the Chiefs. Rookie Shane Vereen added eight carries for 39 yards and a touchdown, but most of his work came in fourth-quarter garbage time. Now that he’s healthy, the Law Firm is once again a solid fantasy starter.
New Orleans Saints
Options: Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory
Outlook: This situation was a mess in Week 10, with Thomas getting 10 touches, Ingram nine and Sproles six. Sproles is still a good PPR start, but I’d try to avoid Ingram and Thomas against the Giants. It’s not a bad matchup, but you don’t know if either of them will carry the ball even 10 times.
San Diego Chargers
Options: Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert
Outlook: Soon-to-be-unemployed head coach Norv Turner has been saying all year that he wants Mathews to carry the load for the Bolts, and was true to his word on Sunday, as Mathews got 15 touches to Tolbert’s eight against the Bears. If Mathews stays healthy, he’ll stay busy, and keep Tolbert as a borderline fantasy starter. I’d try to stay away from Tolbert against the improving Broncos’ defense. (Warning: Mathews lost another fumble on Sunday, and could play himself to the bench if that continues.)
San Francisco 49ers
Options: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter
Outlook: Gore’s ankle injury turned out to be a non-issue in Week 11, as he carried 24 times for 88 yards against the Cardinals. Hunter and Anthony Dixon combined for 18 carries, but if you were worried about Gore’s health, he’s OK now. You do need to be concerned about the Ravens, who have allowed a league-low 3.3 yards per carry. If you own Gore, start him and hope for the best.
Options: Roy Helu, Ryan Torain, Tashard Choice
Outlook: Maybe if this team had an offensive line, we could tell if their running backs are any good. Helu had eight carries for 35 yards against the Cowboys, and while he seems like the best option in both fantasy and reality, head coach Fantasy Hater Shanahan said Monday that he didn’t want to put “too much pressure” on the rookie. Because of that, we get to see disgusting things like Torain and Choice carrying 11 times for 11 yards. At some point, Helu will have a huge game, but we don’t know when that will be. Until then, stay away from this mess.
INJURY ISSUES (7)
Options: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller
Outlook: It’s probably not a big deal, but Jackson appears likely to miss some practice time this week due to a calf injury. Head coach Chan Gailey said Monday that they “hope to get him back later in the week.” Let’s keep an eye on this one.
Options: Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya
Outlook: Hardesty was a late scratch in Week 11, but Ogbonnaya stepped up with 21 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars. Hardesty’s status is TBD against the Bengals, while Hillis will be out again. If Ogbonnaya is the only active option, start him. If Hardesty practices this week, let’s see what coach Pat Shurmur says about the projected workload.
Options: Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Keiland Williams
Outlook: Best didn’t practice Monday, and will almost certainly miss at least another game. That’s no big deal, since Smith racked up 201 yards from scrimmage and THREE touchdowns! We noted last week that Smith had passed Williams on the depth chart, and thought about picking him up in one league, but did we expect more than 200 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns? No way!
Despite the Packers being a tougher matchup than the porous Panthers, Smith should be a high-priority free-agent pickup this week. Start him if you get him, unless you have a couple of studs.
Green Bay Packers
Options: James Starks, Ryan Grant, John Kuhn
Outlook: Starks suffered a sprained knee against the Bucs on Sunday, and his status for the Turkey Day game in Detroit is unclear. If Starks can’t go, you might want to sneak Ryan Grant in against the Lions, who are one of three teams allowing more than five yards per carry this season. If Starks plays, start him and sit Grant, who hasn’t been very effective.
Options: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart
Outlook: Early reports suggest that Peterson will miss at least one game with a high ankle sprain. Gerhart will be the Vikes’ primary ball carrier while Purple Jesus is out, but this week against the second-ranked Falcons’ rushing defense (85.4 ypg), he’s not a great play. You can start him due to a projected heavy workload, but don’t expect miracles.
New York Giants
Options: Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware
Outlook: Bradshaw might practice this week, but it doesn’t sound like he has a great chance to play in New Orleans on Monday. The Saints don’t stop the run very well, so the Giants might actually be able to gain some yards for a change. Start Jacobs if you have him.
Options: Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Taiwan Jones
Outlook: Raiders head coach Hue Jackson said Monday that McFadden won’t return until he’s 100 percent healthy. If McFadden were close to 100 percent, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Prepare to start Bush – who has averaged 30 carries, 133 yards and a score over the last two weeks – against the so-so Bears’ run defense (101.2 ypg, 4.9 ypc).