Week 11 lineup calls: Running backs
Despite three of the game’s top heroes sitting down (and Peyton Manning getting shut out), quarterbacks across the league posted video game numbers. As such, great efforts from running backs went relatively unnoticed.
Now, it’s time for the tailbacks to shine. The weather is about to turn, and quarterbacks will begin two-stepping to their tailbacks with great regularity.
Let’s celebrate the top options for this all-important Week 11.
Top Running Backs
(Other than Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Rashard Mendenhall, Arian Foster, Darren McFadden, Ahmad Bradshaw, Frank Gore, Steven Jackson, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew, LeSean McCoy, Peyton Hillis, Ray Rice)
Cedric Benson vs. Buffalo
It’s got to happen eventually, doesn’t it? Benson struggled once again in Week 10, producing a dismal total of 24 yards on 14 carries against the Colts. He did log five receptions for 27 yards, but that offers little consolation to disappointed fantasy owners. Benson has still rushed for more than 81 yards only once this season.
However, I just can’t look past this beautiful matchup against the terrible Buffalo run defense. Buffalo bottled up the injured Jahvid Best in Week 10, but still rate dead-last in the rushing yardage allowed column, having surrendered 166.9 yards and one rushing touchdown per game.
LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Houston
Tomlinson is ceding a sizable touch count to Shonn Greene each week, but he remains a formidable force in the New York offense. He’s accrued at least 91 total yards in each game this season, and has been held under 75 total yards once. Tomlinson’s three-game scoreless streak ends this week against Houston (108.3 yards and 0.9 rushing touchdowns allowed per game).
LeGarrette Blount at San Francisco
Blount is rapidly approaching the “Automatic Starts” list. That is to say, the Buccaneers have committed to giving him an ample workload to complement the consistent, efficient work of Josh Freeman. Blount has averaged 19 touches and 88.7 total yards in the past three weeks.
The rookie from Oregon doesn’t offer much help in the passing game, but he’s demonstrated the requisite power-speed combination to command attention. The 49ers present a formidable challenge for Blount, as the enigmatic squad has allowed only 100.7 rushing yards and 0.6 rushing touchdowns per game.
Fred Jackson at Cincinnati
Jackson posted his game of the year in Week 10 with 170 total yards and two touchdowns (one receiving), a tremendous bounce-back performance from his dismal Week 9 effort. He’s been more active in the passing game in recent weeks and stands alone with C.J. Spiller sidelined. The Bengals surrender 339.4 total yards per game, and I expect to see Jackson active both on the ground and in the air.
Felix Jones vs. Detroit
Fantasy owners threw their remotes in disgust when Jones broke off his 71-yard touchdown reception in Week 10 against the Giants. He’d been relegated to a bench slot after producing 52 total yards in the Cowboys’ previous two games. Instead, Jones rumbled for 136 total yards on 17 touches. I’ll roll the dice that Jason Garrett give Jones the bulk of the workload again while trying to hold back the fierce Detroit pass rush. Get him out in space! (That’s been my mantra with this guy seemingly forever.)
Knowshon Moreno at San Diego
Moreno was a difficult start last week against the Chiefs. Those trusting fantasy owners were given a receiving touchdown early, and it just rolled downhill from there. Moreno tallied 156 total yards on 25 touches with two touchdowns (one rushing).
His presence in the passing game leaves me optimistic that Moreno will deliver a strong all-around performance against the San Diego defense (21.9 points allowed per game). I don’t expect a scoring barrage as we saw last week against Kansas City, but I don’t believe that the Chargers will be able to stall this squad altogether.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Indianapolis
Green-Ellis rose magnificently from the ashes of a failed Week 9 performance (two failed goal-line carries) with a great effort against the normally-stout Pittsburgh run defense. Green-Ellis rushed for 87 yards on a season-high 18 carries with four receptions for 36 yards. He’s a good play this week in what promises to be a hard-fought game against Indianapolis. The Colts allow 133.2 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown per game.
Brandon Jackson at Minnesota
Jackson has been far from dominant for the Packers on the ground, but his overall production has been a tremendous boost for fantasy owners. He averaged 93.2 total yards per game in five contests ahead of the bye week (3.4 receptions per game). Jackson amassed 104 total yards on 16 touches with a touchdown against the Vikings in Week 7. The bye week allowed the Packers to get healthy, and Jackson should have his opportunities against the sputtering Vikings.
Mike Tolbert vs. Denver
Ryan Mathews didn’t practice on Wednesday, thereby putting Tolbert back on the road map as a strong RB2 option. The bruising tailback/fullback rushed for touchdowns in five consecutive games prior to the Chargers’ hard-fought win over Houston in Week 9. He’s averaging 4.5 rushing yards per carry.
Reggie Bush vs. Seattle
Barring a late-week setback, fantasy owners will welcome Bush back to the fray in Week 11. His aptitude as a receiver is a difference-maker for this offense, and he’ll immediately command a split of the workload with some combination of Christopher Ivory and Julius Jones (Pierre Thomas isn’t ready yet).
The Seahawks have struggled in recent weeks against the run, and the lapses in the secondary have been well-documented. Look out. This New Orleans squad is getting healthy, and that means big things from Bush.
Shonn Greene vs. Houston
Greene’s workload has been steadily increasing, and the Jets have started to deploy him more frequently in the passing game. He touched the ball 12 times against the Lions and 23 times against the Browns. Greene has averaged 4.3 yards per carry this season and will be an important piece to the Jets’ playoff push, particularly once the weather turns in New York. Look for New York to dominate on the ground this week, thereby affording Mark Sanchez ample time to exploit the terrible Houston secondary.
Willis McGahee at Carolina
McGahee continues to be a thorn in the sides of Ray Rice owners, having scored in four of the Ravens’ past six games. He’s on the radar this week given the crumbling structure of the Panthers. Carolina is losing players on offense and defense, and Baltimore should dominate on both sides of the ball.
Tim Hightower at Kansas City
Hightower amassed only 39 rushing yards on 13 carries (he matched his Week 9 total) and scored in the Week 10 defeat to Seattle. With Chris “Beanie” Wells still ailing, Hightower likely retains the first chair in a decent spot against the Chiefs. Of course, it’ll take some accurate throws from Derek Anderson to make that happen. If the burgeoning relationship between Anderson and his receivers continues unabated, Hightower could be in line for a big day. It would help if the Cardinals remembered that he can catch a pass.
Keiland Williams at Tennessee
Williams emerged as one of the few bright spots in that otherwise horrifying Monday night game against Philadelphia. He scored three touchdowns, demonstrating great power, speed and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Williams is a load, a bruising running back who is a flashing red danger sign for would-be tacklers once he gets to the second level. The statuses of both Ryan Torain and Clinton Portis for this game are unknown as the practice week begins.
Jahvid Best at Dallas
Best failed in a great spot last week against the Bills, and one has to wonder how his play continues to be affected by his toe injury. He rushed for fewer than 60 yards for the eighth time in nine games. Best will catch passes out of the backfield and may have a chance to break a long run, but you just can’t count on it right now.
Best has not scored since Week 2 and has only surpassed 100 total yards once this season (Week 2).