By Joe Kilroy
Knowshon Moreno vs. TB: Tampa Bay’s defense may rank best in the league against the run by allowing only 81.5 yards per game on the ground, but in PPR formats they surrender the 15th most fantasy points per game to opposing rushers. This is due to the 68 receptions halfbacks have compiled against the Bucs along with the 10 touchdowns they have totaled (8 rushing; 2 receiving).
With Moreno delivering a strong outing last week in place of the injured Willis McGahee there is no reason to think he will suddenly lose a significant amount of playing time to either Ronnie Hillman or Lance Ball this Sunday. The fact that he is their best back at picking up the blitz, along with his play last week, assures us he will see plenty of time on the field.
Moreno may not handle another 24 touches, but he should finish close to that 20 mark with enough receptions and total yardage to produce double-digit fantasy points in PPR leagues. He also stands a reasonable chance of coming away with his second touchdown of the season.
Jacquizz Rodgers vs. NO: Jacquizz Rodgers hasn’t taken over as the Falcons primary running back the way many had hoped heading into the season (myself included), but in PPR leagues he has provided enough production to be considered a worthy low-end #2RB or flex option – especially in recent weeks.
In his last five games Rodgers has posted 10 fantasy points or more in PPR formats in all but one of those contests. And in the lone exception he still reached the 9-point plateau.
Now I know 10 point outings aren’t anything to get excited about, but they are certainly better than single digit point production, and well, not every fantasy owner has a plethora of “can’t miss” prospects to pick amongst at running back every week. If you are thin at the position, and I know some of you are, Rodgers has produced well enough lately to warrant a start this Thursday against the New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans ranks last in the league against the run (156.5 rushing yards allowed per game) and surrenders amongst the most fantasy points per game to the running back position in both PPR and non-PPR leagues.
Another thing to keep in mind with Rodgers is that while his touches per game haven’t yet risen above Michael Turner’s he has been taking more snaps in the backfield than his counterpart lately. If that trend continues, and should Rodgers continue to impress whenever he touches the ball, the second-year back could become a “fantasy darling” during the fantasy playoff portion of the season.
Rashad Jennings @ BUF: Jennings’ production this season has been horrendous (93 carries; 263 yards; 2.8ypc), but the fact he is being reinserted as the Jaguars primary ball carrier due to the groin injury Jalen Parmale suffered this past Sunday makes him fantasy relevant once again. Fantasy relevance, however, doesn’t necessarily mean a player is a worthy start in your weekly line-up. That said Jennings’ match-up this week does make him worthy of such consideration.
The Buffalo Bills rank second-to-last in the league with an average of 147.3 rushing yards per game compiled against them. The 14 rushing touchdowns they’ve yielded to opposing running backs is a league worst as well. When one looks at such statistics it’s hard not to argue in favor of Jennings’ being a viable #2 fantasy back this Sunday – but not so fast.
While it is true more than a few running backs have had ample amounts of success against the Bills this season, Buffalo has defended the run pretty well the past two weeks. The duo of Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas compiled a total of just 53 yards on 22 carries against Buffalo in Week 10 while Donald Brown and Vick Ballard obtained only 67 yards on 23 carries when they faced the Bills this past Sunday.
Is one Rashad Jennings any better than the Bush-Thomas or Brown-Ballard duo? I’d be reluctant to provide a “yes” in response to that question. Start him if you must, but don’t do so simply because he’s a starting running back going against the Bills this week.
Michael Turner vs. NO: Having just gone through how abysmal the Saints run defense (and pass defense for that matter) has been in discussing Jacquizz Rodgers prospects this week there is little need for me to present that information again. All that really needs to be stated is that such statistics translate into enough reason for Michael Turner to be viewed as a cautionary start this week for any owners truly in a jam at the running back position.
I would like to say the Saints poor defensive play makes Turner a safe option this week, but that really isn’t the case. “The Burner” has had some notable outings this season, but in his last three contests he has managed just 78 yards rushing on 41 carries (1.9 yards per rushing attempt). And that includes his Week 10 match-up against the Saints in which he carried the ball 13 times for just 15 yards.
On the flipside is the fact Turner has scored one touchdown in three of his last four outings. Against the Saints, despite his lack of success against them in their last meeting, he stands a reasonable chance of doing so again in what is expected to be a high scoring affair.
Personally I wouldn’t feel all that confident in starting Turner, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he were to deliver 12-15 fantasy points this week. He’s worth the gamble if you lack more obvious options.
Marshawn Lynch @ CHI: Marshawn Lynch has more than held his own throughout the season, but this week’s contest against the Chicago Bears does not bode well for him.
The Bears defense currently ranks eighth in the league against the run by holding opponents to an average of 96.9 rushing yards per game. Perhaps more impressive is the total of just three rushing touchdowns they have surrendered on the season. As a whole Chicago’s defensive unit is limiting the opposition to less than 16 points per contest, so there will likely be few touchdowns to spread around amongst the Seahawks offensive players as it is.
Another drawback is the fact Lynch is coming off his worst game of the season. In Week 12, against the Miami Dolphins seventh ranked run defense, he carried the ball 19 times for just 46 yards.
Lynch has performed well in all but one other outing this year (Week 6 against the Patriots) so benching him would certainly be a risky proposition – and likely an option few fantasy owners could even consider – but don’t expect him to revert back to another 100-yard outing.
Stevan Ridley @ MIA: Ridley has easily been the Patriots most valued running back, but he has had a few outings over the course of the year in which he failed to perform all that well from a fantasy perspective. And I suspect this Sunday’s contest against the Miami Dolphins may be one which leaves fantasy owners desiring more output from the second-year back.
Miami currently ranks seventh in the league against the run, limiting opponents to just 96.7 rushing yards per game and a stout 3.7 yards per carry. Equally as impressive is the fact they’ve allowed just three rushing touchdowns to the running back position throughout the entire year – and two of those came in Week 1 courtesy of Arian Foster.
When Ridley gets his carries he has delivered more often then not, but chances are his yards won’t be easy to come by in this contest. I also get the sense that this may be one of those games in which Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead make the more meaningful plays out of the Patriots backfield. I know Woodhead hasn’t done much lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s featured this week in the same manner he was throughout the first half of the season.