The Raiders' backfield is getting crowded

BY John Halpin • November 15, 2011

Welcome to the 11th installment of our weekly look at fantasy’s most aggravating subject, the Running Back Committee. It feels really good to NOT include Chris Johnson (27 carries, 130 yards, TD) in this week’s edition.

Week 11 Byes: Saints, Colts, Texans, Steelers

Thursday night: Jets at Broncos


Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
Outlook: The Panthers didn’t run much in their 30-3 loss to the Titans. Williams had eight carries for 35 yards, while Stewart ran just four times for 23 yards and also caught four passes for 22. Stewart is still the better start this week at Detroit, but neither back is a high-impact fantasy start.

Cincinnati Bengals
Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott
Outlook: Maybe I’m stubborn for keeping this entry in here every week, but Scott ran seven times for 38 yards against the Steelers, while Benson averaged less than four yards per carry (15 carries, 57 yards), which has happened in six of his eight games. Come on, Marvin Lewis. Make the switch, or at least make it a timeshare.

Green Bay Packers
James Starks, Ryan Grant, John Kuhn
Outlook: In Monday’s 45-7 rout of the Vikings, Starks ran 13 times for 63 yards, while Grant gained just six yards on eight carries. Grant is now only a fantasy benchwarmer or handcuff, and Kuhn will continue to vulture touchdowns. At least Monday’s was a little different, as he caught a nine-yard TD pass instead of getting his usual one-yard plunge.

Houston Texans
Arian Foster, Ben Tate
Outlook: Here’s what I wrote last week: “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.”

Guess what? The Texans blew out the Bucs, and Tate carried 13 times for 63 yards and a score. Foster was on a different level, running 17 times for 84 yards and a touchdown, while adding 102 yards and a touchdown on four receptions (the TD was a 78-yarder). The Texans return to action in Week 12 against the Jaguars, and I don’t know if they’ll win big against the Jags. I’ll still be on the fence about starting Tate in fantasy leagues, but a little less so with Matt Leinart under center in place of the injured Matt Schaub.

Kansas City Chiefs
Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster, Thomas Jones
Outlook: The Chiefs had the ball for just 25 minutes thanks to the Broncos’ rushing barrage, so opportunities for their backs were somewhat limited. Battle carried nine times for 61 yards, while the speedy McCluster ran eight times for 45 yards while adding six receptions for 48 yards. McCluster is still basically a change-of-pace guy, and Battle should easily lead the team in carries Monday night against the Patriots. Unfortunately, with Tyler Palko under center in place of the injured Matt Cassel, Battle can expect to see plenty of eight-man fronts. Or maybe even 11-man fronts.

Miami Dolphins
Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas
Outlook: A healthy Thomas (17 carries, 42 yards) was part of a one-two punch for the Dolphins, though we might want to change “punch” to “nudge” since they combined for 89 yards on 31 carries against the Redskins. Bush – who scored two touchdowns – seems like RB1 to Thomas’ 1A, and with Thomas having some pass-blocking issues, that’s probably not going to change. Thomas can be considered for a start if you have some bye-week issues.

New England Patriots
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead
Outlook: After being listed as questionable due to a toe injury, the Law Firm was a non-entity for fantasy owners in Week 10, carrying eight times for eight yards against the Jets. The Pats’ backs spread the work around, with Woodhead getting seven carries, and Faulk and Ridley notching five apiece. Assuming that Green-Ellis gets healthy, he’s the only one of this quartet that you should start against the Chiefs in Week 11.

New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram, Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory
Outlook: Thanks a lot, guys. Ingram returned after a two-week absence, but ran eight times for 11 yards against the Falcons. Thomas had 29 yards on six carries, and Sproles had his first bad fantasy game of the season, with three yards from scrimmage on six touches. When the Saints return against the Giants in Week 12, Sproles is again likely to be the only safe fantasy start.

San Diego Chargers
Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Curtis Brinkley
Outlook: Mathews was active against the Raiders after missing a game with a groin injury, but probably wasn’t at 100 percent. He had 57 yards from scrimmage on nine touches (six carries, three receptions), with Tolbert getting 73 yards on 12 touches (seven carries, five receptions). The Chargers have said all season that they want Mathews to get the ball as much as possible, and after a 10-day break, look for him to get plenty of work against the Bears. Tolbert is probably just a flex start.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LeGarrette Blount, Kregg Lumpkin
Outlook: Blount is still the lead back here, but Week 11 sets up as an interesting one. The Bucs head to Lambeau Field to play the Packers, who are strong against the run but terrible against the pass. Lumpkin, who has caught 15 passes for 98 yards over the last three games, is worthy of PPR consideration.

Washington Redskins
Roy Helu, Ryan Torain, Tashard Choice
Outlook: You weren’t surprised, right? Shortly before gametime against the Dolphins, the ‘Skins announced that Torain would start. Apparently, he won this week’s coin flip, just like Rex Grossman did at the quarterback position. Unfortunately, this team can’t run well. Torain carried 11 times for 20 yards, while Helu had 41 yards on six carries and caught three passes for 13 yards.

We’ve known for more than 15 years that Mike Shanahan can’t be trusted with our fantasy running back fortunes, and he proved it again on Sunday. Helu can be considered for a PPR start against the Cowboys, but Torain shouldn’t start in any format. When Choice’s hamstring is healthy – he says he’ll play this week against the Cowboys – he’s going to throw another wrench into this situation. Good grief.


Cleveland Browns
Peyton Hillis, Montario Hardesty, Chris Ogbonnaya
Outlook: With Hillis and Hardesty out, Ogbonnaya ran 19 times for 90 yards against the terrible Rams’ rushing defense. Hillis has already been ruled out for Week 11, you probably shouldn’t expect a similar performance by Ogbonnaya against the decent Jaguars’ D. Still, as we’ve said before, any last man standing has some value.

Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones
Outlook: Does anyone care if Jones returns in Week 11? Murray has run for 601 yards in four starts since Jones hurt his ankle, and they’re not going to cut back his workload much. Jones could get 8-10 touches and eat into Murray’s numbers a bit, but if you’re a Jones owner waiting for him to come back and produce good stats, you’re kidding yourself.

Denver Broncos
Willis McGahee, Knowshon Moreno, Lance Ball
Outlook: What are the odds of not having a surefire fantasy starter from a backfield that ran 43 times against the Chiefs? McGahee’s strained hamstring makes him iffy for Thursday’s game against the Jets, but the early word is that he’ll be ready, and if that’s the case he’s a must-start as a 25-30 carry guy. Moreno is done for the season, so ditch him now. Ball isn’t the greatest runner in the world, but as the Broncos’ RB2, he could be worth rostering as a handcuff to McGahee due to the team’s heavy reliance on the run.

Detroit Lions
Jahvid Best, Maurice Morris, Kevin Smith, Keiland Williams
Outlook: Best didn’t practice last week due to his concussion issues, and if he doesn’t get out there on Wednesday, you can probably expect another game on the sidelines in Week 11. Sunday’s blowout loss against the Bears wasn’t a big help toward evaluating anything, but Smith had four carries in his first appearance of the season, while Williams had only one.

Indianapolis Colts
Joseph Addai, Delone Carter, Donald Brown
Outlook: Addai should be ready to go when the Colts host the Panthers in Week 12, so Brown’s recent emergence at the expense of Carter might not be relevant by then. Stay tuned.

New York Giants
Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, D.J. Ware
Outlook: With Bradshaw missing another game due to his foot injury, Jacobs had a busy day against the tough 49ers, carrying 18 times for 55 yards. Ware got more work as the Giants passed in an attempt to erase their fourth-quarter deficit, catching five passes for 34 yards and gaining 34 more on nine carries. If Bradshaw is out again – he probably will be – look for Jacobs to be more effective against the Eagles, who have allowed 4.8 yards per carry. Ware is still just a low-end fantasy starter. If you own one of the Texans, or maybe Rashard Mendenhall, you can give him a look, but that’s all.

Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden, Michael Bush, Taiwan Jones
Outlook: McFadden’s status for Week 11 is TBD; he’s missed almost three games with a foot sprain, and the <i>San Francisco Chronicle</i> reports that he’s a “longshot” to play. Even against the Vikings’ solid run defense, Bush is a must start for as long as McFadden is out.

San Francisco 49ers
Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter
Outlook: Gore (six carries, zero yards) left Sunday’s win over the Giants in the third quarter after hurting his knee and re-injuring his troublesome ankle. After the game and again on Monday, both Gore and head coach Jim Harbaugh predicted a return in Week 11. I’m no doctor, but I’m skeptical about this. Try to grab Hunter (six carries, 40 yards, TD) in anticipation of a possible start against the Cardinals. It might not work out, but it’s worth the investment.

Fantasy Football News and Notes | Week 11 Fantasy Football Stock Watch

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