Tuesday, 24 October 2017 00:00

Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 8

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Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 8 Brook Ward/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 8 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 8.


As we head into Week 8 and the 2017 NFL season, we've seen so many weird trends occurring throughout the year.

For one, Chris Thompson is an RB1 in PPR leagues. Yes, that's right. With 109 points in PPR leagues, he ranks ahead of Jordan Howard, Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman. That's not something we ever could've predicted heading into this year.

Not to be outdone, the rookie running backs have made a huge fantasy impression as well. Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette rank among the top 3 RB's in fantasy points with 135 and 114 respectively. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara all rank within the Top 20 in standard leagues, and that's also despite Cook being injured with a Torn ACL three weeks ago.

The trends have certainly been interesting. Here's a list of every fantasy relevant running back for Week 8.

Minnesota at Cleveland

Total points expected: 37.5 (Minnesota favored by 8)

Minnesota RB's: Since Cook's injury back in Week 4, Jerrick McKinnon has led the Vikes in snap counts each week, but Latavius Murray is creeping in. Last week, Murray surpassed McKinnon in carries for the first time all season, as the veteran back saw 18 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon still saw 14 carries of his own, but the trend keeps pointing up for Murray. Though their record is abysmal, the Browns have been decent against the run this season as they haven't given up more than 66 yards to an RB1. However, they haven't played many true stud backs aside from Le'Veon Bell and that was in Week 1 when Bell was still getting his feet under him after holding out in the offseason.

Cleveland RB's: The Browns backfield continues to struggle as they rank 25th in rush yards per game. Neither Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson Jr. has rushed for more than 60 yards in a game. Johnson remains an intriguing PPR back and is coming off a six-catch game against Tennessee. Still, the Vikings have gobbled up RB's all season and they recently shutdown Buck Allen and Alex Collins last week, allowing just 50 rush yards between the two backs.

Chicago at New Orleans

Total points expected: 48 (New Orleans favored by 8.5)

Chicago RB's: The Bears have run the ball an astonishing 69 percent of the time this season and Jordan Howard's volume has been insane. Since Week 3, Howard is averaging 23 carries per game and ranks third overall in rush attempts. After seeing at least five carries in every game this season, Tarik Cohen did not record a carry in last week's win over Carolina. Game script favors more passes for Chicago this week but Howard has seen his fair share of targets as well, making Cohen a risky play. The Saints defense has really gained momentum over the past three weeks. Though Aaron Jones ran all over them last week, the Saints kept Jay Ajayi, Jonathan Stewart and Ameer Abdullah all in check.

New Orleans RB's: This backfield has been a fun one to watch and could get better as the season goes along. With Adrian Peterson out of the picture, Mark Ingram has had back-to-back 100-yard efforts and three touchdowns to go along with 9 catches for 41 yards. He has RB1 potential every week and is an underrated receiver. Rookie Alvin Kamara has been lethal in the passing game, catching for 19 passes over the last three games and he's getting the volume as his 39 targets ranks second on the team behind Michael Thomas. Drew Brees has thrown for multiple touchdowns in each home game this season, giving Kamara some potential scoring value. The Bears have been decent against the run, but rookie Mitchell Tribusky's growing pains has stifled their offensive output, meaning there will be added pressure on them this week.

Atlanta at N.Y. Jets

Total points expected: 46.5 (Atlanta favored by 7)

Atlanta RB's: The Falcons have been reeling with three straight losses and this is the perfect rebound game for them. Devonta Freeman hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 4, but he's out-targeted Tevin Coleman 7-2 over the last two games. He's also outsnapped Coleman by at least 20 snaps each week since Week 4. There's a good chance Freeman sees 15-20 carries this week. The Jets have been decent against the run this season, allowing just one rushing touchdown over their last five games. Still, Atlanta is a better team than they've shown and had plenty of chances to score against New England last week but failed to finish drives. Freeman has great RB1 potential here.

N.Y. Jets RB's: The combination of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire is an atom bomb to fantasy point potential. With Forte and Powell both healthy, the snap count has been close to an even split and neither running back rushed for more than 43 yards last week. The Falcons have struggled against the run as of late, giving up 130 yards to Jay Ajayi in Week 6 and over 150 to the New England backfield last week. Still, Powell and Forte are being used too evenly to warrant any more than flex value.

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Total points expected: 44 (Tampa Bay favored by 2.5)

Carolina RB's: Christian McCaffrey remains the favorite back but his inability between the tackles is all too real. The rookie is averaging a meager 2.5 yards per carry but he's still an RB19 thanks to 329 receiving yards, which ranks second among running backs behind Chris Thompson. Jonathan Stewart has 99 carries without a rushing touchdown, only Jay Ajayi has more attempts without a score. This is a plus matchup for Stewart though, as the Bucs allowed a 100+ game from Adrian Peterson last week and a 91-yard performance from LeSean McCoy. Not a crazy idea to start Stewart at the flex spot.

Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin cracked 20 carries for the first time last week and although it was his worst fantasy day of the year, it's still promising to see him in a prominent role. Carolina has been very good against the run this year as they have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, but Martin should still provide value for fantasy owners given his workload. Charles Sims was an intriguing PPR option, but his targets have decreased over the last three games. He's not fantasy relevant as of now.

San Francisco at Philadelphia

Total points expected: (Philadelphia favored by 11.5)

San Francisco RB's: The 49ers rush attack looks like its back to normal with Carlos Hyde dominating the snap count 107-32 over the last two weeks. Hyde also saw a season-high eight targets last week against Dallas, which came mostly due to San Francisco trailing Dallas by a wide margin. That could be the gamescript again this week, as there's arguably no team in football hotter than Philadelphia right now. On the flip side, Philadelphia has been stout against the run this season, but they have been gashed by receiving backs. They surrendered 10 catches to Christian McCaffrey two weeks ago and allowed a touchdown to Chris Thompson last week. Their line backing core is also banged up, so they might be easier to run on this week.

Philadelphia RB's: The 49ers have easily been the worst run defense in the NFL over the last two seasons. This is great for LeGarrette Blount owners. The 49ers surrendered a monster game to Ezekiel Elliott last week, allowing over 140 rush yards and two scores to go along with one 72-yard receiving touchdown. Blount hasn't had a true monster fantasy effort yet, but he's cracked 100+ yards before and could be the clock control guy if Philly gets a lead early. He's an RB1 guy this week. Wendall Smallwood also has darkhorse intrigue as a flex due to his similar snap count to Blount.

Oakland at Buffalo

Total points expected: 45

Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is out, but Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have been seeing an even snap count which limits their fantasy value. The Bills are very good against the run, allowing just 19 points to fantasy running backs per game. Both Washington and Richard have been used equally in the passing game as well. Both are risky plays this week.

Buffalo RB's: The Raiders have struggled against the run, allowing a rushing touchdown in two of the last three games. Though they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, four running backs have finished with 73 or more yards. It's likely LeSean McCoy comes close to becoming that first 100-yard rusher. Shady has seen at least 19 carries in the last three straight games and is averaging close to seven targets per game. This is a solid matchup for him.

Indianapolis at Cincinnati

Total points expected: 41 (Cincinnati favored by 9.5)

Indianapolis RB's: Things are trending up for Marlon Mack. Last week, the rookie saw more snaps than fellow veteran back Frank Gore for the first time this season. While Mack only saw five carries, which were four less than Gore, he made up for it with four catches for 40 yards on six targets. While this game might not be a shootout, Mack has potential to be a decent flex/RB2 option as his role continues to expand.

Cincinnati RB's: Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard continue to split snaps, making this a tough backfield to rely on. Still, Mixon has improved from Weeks 5-7, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his last two games. The Colts are atrocious against the run, allowing 27.5 points to running backs. Mixon could creep into the RB1 picture this week, even though it's still a long shot.

Los Angeles Chargers at New England

Total points expected: 49.5 (New England favored by 5.5)

Los Angeles RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off a down week against a tough Denver defense. The last time he performed that poorly was against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. Both defenses rank among the top in rushing yards allowed, so this bodes well for the possibility of bounce back performance from Gordon. The Chargers are surging with three straight wins and this could be a shootout game. Gordon is averaging about 21 carries per game over the last three weeks and is averaging eight targets per game. The Patriots held the Falcons in check last week scoring-wise, but they still gave up 72 rush yards to Devonta Freeman on just 12 carries. Gordon could be in for a big week.

New England RB's: The Patriots backfield is messy, like REAL messy. Last week, three running backs saw 20+ snaps and two more seeing more than 10. That was also the same case in Week 5. Still, there's some minor fantasy value to be had. Dion Lewis is currently the leader in carries over the last few weeks with 24. James White continues to be the passing game with seven targets per game over the last three weeks, and Mike Gillislee is still getting some of the goal line work. Basically, the Pats have a back for every possible scenario, making it very difficult to predict which one will pop. Right now, Lewis is your best bet. The Chargers are a middle-of-the-road rush defense, allowing 23 points per game to running backs.

Houston at Seattle

Total points expected: 42.5 (Seattle favored by 6)

Houston RB's: DOnta Foreman crept back into the picture last week, seeing 12 carries to starter Lamar Miller's 15. The Seahawks are a very good run defense, allowing just 19 points to the running back this season. This is a matchup to stay away from unless you have to start Miller.

Seattle RB's: With Chris Carson out for the year, this is still a very confusing backfield. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls both saw 11 carries last week, with J.D. McKissic seeing a small role in the passing game. Houston's run defense is even better than Seattle's right now, allowing just 17 points per game to the running back. Stay away from this backfield this week.

Dallas at Washington

Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott's 40-point fantasy performance last week was the second highest of the year next to Kareem Hunt's massive 42-point outburst in Week 1. Elliott and the Cowboys need to keep pace with the Eagles, so this is a big game for them. Expect Elliott to see 20-25 carries and inch close to 100-yards. The Redskins have been decent against the run, but they've surrendered 100-yard games to stud RB1's, most notably Kareem Hunt in Week 4.

Washington RB's: Chris Thompson remains the reliable fantasy back for Washington, as he's registered at least 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in all but one game this season. He's an RB7 overall in PPR leagues and one of the biggest surprises this season. The Cowboys have been weak against the run overall this season, allowing three 100-yard games to RB1's. Don't be surprised if Samaje Perine has a decent day against this rush defense as well. The only issue is the Redskins offensive line, which is currently banged up with Brandon Scherff gone and Trent Williams battling a knee injury.

Pittsburgh at Detroit

Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 3)

Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell has cracked 30+ carries in three out of the last four games this season, and has over 100 yards in each of those games. Pittsburgh has also won each game where Bell sees 30+ carries, meaning there's a vested interest in getting him the ball that much. Bell is locked in as an RB1 this week, and gets a plus matchup against a Detroit defense allowing over 25 points each week to running backs.

Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick saw similar snap counts last week, with Riddick seeing the passing down work in the form of seven targets to Abdullah's two. While Adbullah is getting the most carries, he's only cracked 20+ once this season. Although the Steelers were dismantled by Leonard Fournette and Jordan Howard, their defense is starting to find its rhythm. They held Kareem Hunt to a season-low 21 rush yards and Joe Mixon to 48 yards last week. This is a backfield to avoid in Week 8.

Denver at Kansas City

Total points expected: 44

Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is still the clear top back in terms of snap count, as the vet saw a team-high 38 snaps in the last two weeks. Still, the Broncos have really struggled to run the ball. They haven't had a 100-yard rushing effort from one back since Week 2 when Anderson ran for 118 yards against Dallas. The Chiefs are coming off two straight losses and are due for a rebound game at home. They've only allowed one 100-yard effort so far and that was Le'Veon Bell in a loss two weeks ago. Avoid this backfield if you can in Week 8.

Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt has tapered off a bit as of late, but he's still locked in as an RB1 despite a tough matchup. Aside from a puzzling week where they allowed over 110 rush yards to Orleans Darwka of the Giants, Denver has been lights out in the run game. They're allowing just 15 points to fantasy backs per game this season, which is best in the league. Hunt is still getting enough volume to be good in redraft and PPR leagues, but this could be one of his less productive fantasy games.


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Last modified on Saturday, 28 October 2017 02:17
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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