Wednesday, 11 October 2017 00:00

Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

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Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6 Keith Allison/Flickr

Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

This is Week 6 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 6.


As we head into Week 6 and the 2017 NFL season, the fantasy running back picture becomes more and more clear. Backs like Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell have all established themselves as clear RB1's.

This is also the time of year when injuries crop up and younger backs get their chance. We saw that with Aaron Jones in Green Bay, Elijah McGuire in New York and Matt Breida in San Francisco. This is the time where managing your waiver wire is crucial, as the changing of the guard between starters and second-string running backs can often lead to a new fantasy front runner for the remainder of the season.

Here's every fantasy relevant running back for Week 6.

Cleveland at Houston

Total points expected: 44 (Houston favored by 12)

Cleveland RB's: Over the past two weeks, Duke Johnson has more fantasy points (26) than Kareem Hunt (24). The Houston Texans are still a strong defense, even without JJ Watt, but Johnson's versatility keeps him on the RB1 radar this week. While Johnson saw just three targets last week, he turned them into three catches for 63 yards and a score. The Browns are switching quarterbacks, starting Kevin Hogan in replacement of DeShone Kizer. Hogan is a game manager quarterback, which could lead to more check-down throws to Johnson especially with Houston's pass rush forcing his hand. Last week, Isaiah Crowell saw his biggest volume total since Week 1 with 16 carries, but Houston's defense is only allowing 21 points to running backs this year. Best to throw Johnson in as a flex option and bench Crowell.

Houston RB's: Lamar Miller has completely dominated the snap count as of late and is benefiting from a white-hot Deshaun Watson. Over the past two games, Miller saw nine looks in the red zone and is averaging 75 rush yards per game. He's not a prolific receiver at the RB spot, but he's averaging close to three targets per game. If Houston jumps out to an early lead, this could be a game where Miller cracks 20 carries. The Browns have been a very good run defense, not allowing a running back to rush for over 70 yards all season. Miller has some appeal because of volume, but that's about it. He hasn't established himself as a big play back, with just 52 yards coming on runs of 15 yards or more.

New England at New York Jets

Total points expected: 47 (New England favored by 9.5)

New England RB's: The New England running back narrative of 'you can't trust anybody' was dashed last season with LeGarrette Blount's 18 scores. But this season it looks like it's difficult to trust anybody. Last week, four Patriot running backs saw 13+ snaps. Dion Lewis saw a season-high seven carries, which took away some of Mike Gillislee's value. The one constant seems to be James White in the passing game. White has 21 targets in the last two games and 17 catches total. The Jets have struggled against the run overall, but have bottled up top backs Jay Ajayi and Leonard Fournette. Gillislee is a risky start in that regard and Lewis should see more snaps going forward.

New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte returns this week, Bilal Powell is likely sidelined and Elijah McGuire should see time as the second back. The matchup is a great one, with New England giving up a league-worst 38 points per game to running backs. This game has sneaky shootout potential, and both backs have dark horse RB1 upside due to their versatility in the pass game.

Miami at Atlanta

Total points expected: 47 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

Miami RB's: It's been a rough start for Jay Ajayi, who's yet to score a touchdown despite 76 carries. Only LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart have more carries without a touchdown. Ajay's offensive line hasn't helped much, as the Dolphins rank in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact according to Pro Football Focus. The Falcons have been solid against the run this season, not allowing a 100-yard rusher. They've been weak against pass-catching backs though, giving up at least three catches to every RB1 this season. Ajayi isn't a prolific receiver, but he could find himself getting more receiving yards in this one. He's still an RB1 given his high volume of carries per game.

Atlanta RB's: The Falcons come off the bye week at home where they will face one of the toughest run defenses in the league. The Dolphins have only allowed one running back to crack 50+ yards and that was DeMarco Murray last week. Expect Atlanta to favor the pass in this one, which could make Tevin Coleman the better back to go with. Coleman is averaging close to five targets per game and the Falcons receiving core is banged up. Mohamed Sanu is out and Miami will devote a lot of attention to Julio Jones.

Detroit at New Orleans

Total points expected: 51 (New Orleans favored by 4)

Detroit RB's: The Detroit backfield remains dicey with three running backs getting valuable snaps. Ameer Abdullah is the clear No. 1 in terms of carries, but Theo Riddick continues to see plenty of targets and Zach Zenner is also getting looks in the red zone. New Orleans has been solid against the run this season, only allowing one 100-yard rusher and that was back in Week 1. They've been vulnerable to pass-catching backs though, as they were gashed by Christian McCaffrey and James White 17 catches and 186 yards combined. The game script in this game favors Riddick among all Detroit backs.

New Orleans RB's: it will be New Orleans first game without Adrian Peterson, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. This is great news for Mark Ingram owners, as Peterson was taking away about seven carries per game from Marky Mark. Ingram saw a season-high 46 snaps last week and that number could creep into the 50's with Peterson gone. Expect anywhere from 15-to-20 carries this week for Ingram. Alvin Kamara has been one of the most prolific rookie pass catchers this season with 26 grabs so far. Only Christian McCaffrey and Tarik Cohen have more. The Lions have been decent against the run this season, only giving up one 100-yard game this season. Still, New Orleans is a different team at home and should fare well in potentially high-scoring game.

Green Bay at Minnesota

Total points expected: 47 (Green Bay favored by 3.5)

Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery practiced this week and is listed as 'questionable.' He'll have his work cut out for him against a Minnesota defense that's one of the best against the run. The Vikings have held Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram and Le'Veon Bell all in check this season, and this could be a game where passing ends up being the way to go for Green Bay. Aaron Jones was fantastic in replacement of Montgomery last week, rushing for 125 yards and score. Obviously, his value is curbed if Montgomery plays. Both runners are risky options given the strength of Minnesota's defense.

Minnesota RB's: Jerick McKinnon was dominant last Monday against Chicago, and might be the lead back going forward after out-snapping Latavius Murray 47-to-22. McKinnon was also very efficient in the pass game, catching all six of his targets for 51 yards. Murray struggled to gain yards after contact and finished with just 31 yards on 12 carries. The Packers struggled against Ezekiel Elliott last week, but they've been a solid run defense overall. Still, McKinnon's versatility and volume gives him RB1 potential each week.

Chicago at Baltimore

Total points expected: 41.5 (Baltimore favored by 7)

Chicago RB's: Jordan Howard has reasserted himself as the team's lead back after Tarik Cohen's hot start lead many to believe this would be a split backfield. Howard fared well on Monday night against a tough Vikings defense, rushing for 76 yards on 19 carries. He gets another test this week against a Baltimore group that held Leonard Fournette to just 59 yards and completely shutdown Marshawn Lynch last week. Howard is an RB1 in redraft given his volume and role as an every-down back.

Baltimore RB's: The Bears have given up a rushing touchdown to every RB1 they've faced this season. This is good news for Javorius Allen, who's coming off a solid outing against Oakland where rushed for 73 yards and a score while catching four of five targets. Allen is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside in this one. Expect Alex Collins to be in the mix as well, as he saw 12 carries last week and nine in each of the past two games. Still, Collins upside is limited since he doesn't see many targets.

San Francisco at Washington

Total points expected: 46.5 (Washington favored by 9)

San Francisco RB's: After a solid start where he rushed for over 250 yards in his first three games, Carlos Hyde is starting to see less usage in San Francisco. He saw just eight carries against Indianapolis while backup Matt Breida had 10 and looked much more efficient with 49 rush yards. Washington has become very good defense overall this season. Against the run, they're giving up just 22 points per game to running backs. Perhaps even more impressive is the Redskins have put up those numbers after facing both Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley this season. This is a tough week to start any San Francisco running back.

Washington RB's: The Washington offensive line has been a Top 5 unit this season, getting 2.26 yards of contact blocked according to Pro Football Focus. It's just too bad they haven't found a clear lead running back to make the most of those yards. Rookie Samaje Perine hasn't rushed for more than 67 yards despite two games of 19+ carries. Rob Kelley haven't rushed for more than 78 yards and he's struggled to stay healthy this season. Speaking of his health, Kelley likely won't play this week as he's listed as doubtful with a ankle injury. San Francisco isn't as bad a run defense as they were last season thanks to some promising rookie play for DeForest Buckner. Still, they're giving up over 35 points to the running back position this year. Perine is risky but there is some upside to this matchup.

Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville

Total points expected: 43.5 (Jacksonville favored by 2.5)

Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is coming off his worst performance of the year, rushing for 43 yards on 14 carries against Seattle. He should be in for a bounce back game against a Jacksonville defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. The Jaguars are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this year. They gave up 250+ yards to Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, then they held Le'Veon Bell to just 47 yards and DeMarco Murray to just 25 yards. Expect Gurley to have be better than last week, but this Jaguars team might be sneaky good. They seem to get up for the big-name backs and Gurley is a big name.

Jacksonville RB's: The Jaguars are living up to the identity of a run-first team. Leonard Fournette is the league leader in carries with 109. His five touchdowns are tied with Devonta Freeman for the most in the league. The Rams are giving up 35 points per game to running backs this season, but have been better in recent weeks after holding Seattle's backfield to just 39 rush yards. Still, this is a great matchup for Fournette and his volume makes him one of the most reliable rushers so far this season.

Tampa Bay at Arizona

Total points expected: 44.5 (Arizona favored by 1)

Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin burst back onto the scene following his four game suspension, finishing as an RB7 with 74 yards and a touchdown against a struggling Patriots defense. He'll get a tougher test against the Arizona Cardinals this week, a team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher and has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns this season. Still, the Cardinals offense has struggled to score points which wears on a defense as the season goes along. The Cardinals rank 26th in points per game and will have to hope Adrian Peterson breathes some life into one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. If they continue to struggle on offense, it means a more favorable game script for Martin.

Arizona RB's: Peterson will get his first start against a Tampa Bay defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. It's difficult to say how he'll fare, especially since Tampa Bay has struggled more against passing backs than every-down rushers. The Bucs have given up at least five catches to pass-catching backs in three of their four games, making this a solid matchup for Arizona's Andre Ellington. Ellington has 24 targets over the last two games and the Cardinals will continue to pass due to injuries on their offensive line.

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 3)

Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell saw a season-high 73 snaps last week to go along with 10 catches on 10 targets. There isn't a back in the league with more opportunity than Bell right now, and Pittsburgh will lean on him once again to take down an undefeated Kansas City team. Kansas City is giving up only 23.4 points per game to running backs this season, so this could be a tougher matchup for Bell. But of course, you're starting him each week barring injury. 

Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt rushed for over 100 yards in his third straight game last week, but Charcandrick West sniped two receiving touchdowns from him. Still, you shouldn't worry much if you have Hunt, as he'll see plenty of volume against a Pittsburgh defense that's sneaky bad against the run. The Steelers have gotten smoked by RB1's so far this year, giving up 100+ yards to Jordan Howard, Leonard Fournette. Both running backs also had multiple touchdowns in those games. Hunt is a great play this week in all formats.

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off his best performance of the season against the Giants, where he rushed for over 100 yards and had two receiving touchdowns. His 65 snaps were also a season-high for him that season. The Raiders are average against the run and this should be another solid game for the third-year running back.

Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch's status as an RB1 might be over if he can't dominate this matchup. The Chargers have allowed three running backs to rush for over 100 yards against them so far this season. They've also given up over 100 yards to every backfield they've faced this year. Jalen Richard is also a good sneaky play in deeper leagues as he only saw two less snaps and three less carries than Lynch.

N.Y. Giants at Denver (Monday Night)

Total points expected: 40.5 (Denver favored by 9.5)

New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman looks like the best option for New York at this point. But this is a terrible matchup for New York and injuries at the wide receiver position will likely cost them in the run game. The Broncos have shut down RB1's this season and they've faced some studs, some of which include LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott. 

Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is the clear No. 1 back in this offense and has seen three games of 20+ carries. The Giants have given up at least 80 yards to every RB1 they've faced this season, and game script could help Anderson's cause if New York can't score. Jamaal Charles is a sneaky good start as well if Denver jumps out to a big halftime lead.


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Last modified on Thursday, 19 October 2017 01:19
George Banko

George Banko started talking about fantasy football shortly after graduating college. He started as an intern at FFChamps.com before working as a staff writer for Fantasy Knuckleheads. He currently contributes to the Fantasy Hot Read podcast, which is available on itunes. He also educated himself on player evaluation and is a graduate of The Scouting Academy in 2015, which is an online course run by former NFL Scout Dan Hatman. He started Fantasy Football Helpers as a blog in 2011 and converted it to a full-scale website in 2014. Read more.

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