Running back committees: Gerhart re-emerges for Jags
Each week during the 2014 season, we're going to take a look at running-back-by-committee (RBBC) situations that you should keep a close eye on. Some will have big questions, while others might be noted due to their circumstances becoming clearer. Finally, we're going to focus more on the week ahead than look down the road ... though the road has already ended for some of you.
And now, in alphabetical order ...
The good news: Kerwynn Williams ran 15 times for 75 yards against the Rams (adding two receptions for 11 yards), while Stepfan Taylor carried 14 times for 61 yards. Both were viable fantasy runners, and with Ryan Lindley taking over at quarterback for the Cardinals, their team will run as often as possible.
The bad news: The Cardinals will face the Seahawks, whose defense has been dominant lately, and ranks as the league's fifth best against the run (88.3 yards per game).
The verdict: Williams appears to be the better runner, but it would take a brave (or desperate) fantasy owner to start him in Week 16.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said last week that Jeremy Hill would carry more of the load, and Hill didn't disappoint, rushing 25 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns. Bernard had a solid day as well, carrying 15 times for 79 yards and catching three passes for 24 yards.
However, Bernard was on the field for just 38 percent of the snaps, and eight of his runs came in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. Bernard is the clear second banana here, and he's a shaky flex against the Broncos' second-ranked run defense.
Let's give this backfield a mulligan, since Johnny Football's debut as a starter was a debacle, and we probably can't glean much from the Browns' terrible performance. Isaiah Crowell still figures to be the lead guy over Terrance West, and might be able to run on the so-so (but improved) Panthers' defense.
Four touches for Reggie Bush against the Vikings. We're done with him for now, right?
Why did the oft-ineffective Trent Richardson get 11 touches to Dan Herron's 13 against the Texans? Mainly because he's a much better pass blocker, according to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star. This situation won't change, and while that doesn't mean you should consider Richardson for fantasy purposes, it does remind us that Herron won't be a bellcow back anytime soon. Limited touches usually mean limited production, and Herron is a lower-end RB2 as a result. That's OK, considering you probably got him off the scrap heap a few weeks ago.
Toby Gerhart is alive and well, and he led the Jags' backfield with 13 carries for 54 yards against the Ravens. Gerhart looks to be the lead back for Thursday's game versus the Titans, who own the league's worst rushing defense (139.6 yards per game). Gerhart isn't perfect, but I'm starting him in a fantasy championship game this week. He's in RB2 territory, and is ready to offer redemption to owners who drafted him in the fifth round back in August.
(If those owners have already been eliminated BECAUSE they drafted Gerhart, well ... they can keep hating him.)
New England Patriots
Week 15 snaps: 31 for Shane Vereen, 19 for Jonas Gray, 15 for LeGarrette Blount.
Week 15 touches: 12 for Gray, 10 for Blount, seven for Vereen.
Week 15 TDs: Blount 1, Vereen 1, Gray 0
However, Gray didn't touch the ball until the second half, and got seven of his 11 carries after the Patriots were ahead by 18 points or more. There's no safe option here, but you can still consider Blount (and maybe Vereen in PPR formats) against the Jets in Week 16.
New York Jets
Speaking of the Jets, Chris Ivory (13 touches, 26 yards, TD) and Chris Johnson (10 carries, 55 yards) basically split the workload again, and there appears to be no end in sight to this timeshare (except for the season ending in two weeks, of course). With the Patriots holding backs to less than three yards per carry over their last six games, you might want to avoid both Jets in Week 16.
Shonn Greene carried 16 times for the Titans on Sunday because he had the "hot hand," according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt. I'll stay away, thanks ... Keep an eye on the status of Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle), who missed Week 15. Branden Oliver carried 11 times for 44 yards with Donald Brown serving as the receiving back against the Broncos, but neither should be trusted against the 49ers ... Look for Andre Williams to carry the load for the Giants, as Rashad Jennings re-injured his ankle against the Redskins ... Joseph Randle is first and Lance Dunbar second if you're handicapping DeMarco Murray replacements, but Murray (hand) is tracking toward a gametime decision this week, according to Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones ... 49ers RBs Frank Gore (concussion) and Carlos Hyde (ankle, back) both got injured against the Seahawks. Hyde would be an interesting play versus the Chargers if Gore can't go.