• Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 10

    Editor's note: This is a continuation of our weekly running back piece we've featured throughout this season. We've made some adjustments to this week's edition. As we now know who the good running backs are, we will focus on finding the lesser known gems with good matchups. This way, you can find running backs who have a good chance to outperform value.

    It's now Week 10, and the running back picture (and overall fantasy picture) is just about in clear focus. This is the time where you can start predicting value a bit more accurately, as nine games is a pretty large sample size to draw reasonable conclusions from. 

    For example, we know Le'Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Jordan Howard and LeSean McCoy are legit RB1s. We don't have to tell you that anymore. However, not as many people would consider Alvin Kamara an RB1, though he's second overall in running back scoring over the last three weeks. This is in standard leagues by the way, not just points per reception. 

    Here's a look at some very good running back options for Week 10.

    Orleans Darkwa vs. San Francisco 49ers

    Why he's a decent option: The Giants veteran back is a solid RB2 candidate this week with upside. The 49ers have allowed over 90 yards to five different running backs this season, and are just coming off a 137-yard game from Adrian Peterson.

    Darkwa has seen his snap count increase to 32 last week, his highest total of the season. He's cracked 20+ carries only once this season, but the Giants should plan to attack the 49ers young and inexperienced run defense.

    It's not out of the question Darkwa cracks 20+ carries this week and nearly 100 yards rushing.

    Alfred Morris vs. Atlanta Falcons 

    Why he's a decent option: Yes, there's some risk here. But if you lost Ezekiel Elliott to suspension, this isn't a terrible matchup for the Cowboys backup RB. The Falcons defense has really struggled, allowing 25 points to the running per game.

    Also, as much as the Cowboys would like to pass more with Elliott out, their team is built to run the ball. The offensive line is still solid, and Morris is fresh after only seeing 14 carries this season. If the offensive line can create big holes for Morris to get downhill — watch out.

    The only worry will be Darren McFadden taking the passing down work, but if Dallas runs effectively than Morris should still put up decent numbers.

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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 8

    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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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

    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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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 5

    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 5 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 5.


    Each of the top six running backs from Week 4 had at least four receptions. That should tell you all you need to know about the hybrid running back's potency in fantasy football.

    It was also a quiet week scoring wise, with only Le'Veon Bell rushing for more than one touchdown. With the exception of Green Bay and Dallas, we could be seeing low numbers once again in Week 5 as high-powered offenses such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and Washington are on a bye.

    Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 5.

    Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants

    Total points expected: 44 (Giants favored by 4)

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Knee problems continue to bother Melvin Gordon despite him seeing the highest volume of any Charger running back. Gordon finished as an RB49 in Week 4 and his reduced role in the receiving game has been a big part of that. In the first two weeks, Gordon caught 12 passes for 90 yards. He has just one catch for seven yards since. The matchup is a good one though, as the Giants are giving up 23 points to running backs per game. Still, Gordon is risky at best due to injuries. Branden Oliver is not startable at this time.

    New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman popped onto the fantasy radar in his first performance, going for 42 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown reception. His 31 snaps led all players and he was the best back, but Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen still saw 14 carries between them. It's tough to start Gallman, but it's encouraging that the Giants are working him in more. The matchup is also a fantastic one, as the Chargers have given up over 100 yards to three running backs in three weeks. Gallman's ceiling is curbed, but he's not a terrible darkhorse option in really 14-16+ leagues this week.

    Buffalo at Cincinnati

    Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy has been good volume consistently but he hasn't made the most of it so far. Through four weeks, he's finished as an RB5, RB37, RB33, and RB21 with zero rushing touchdowns. Not exactly top numbers for a player drafted in the late first/early second round in most leagues. The Bengals are tough against the run, giving up 20.5 fantasy points per game. It's best to keep starting McCoy in standard leagues and PPR leagues because of his volume, but he's worth fading this week in Daily Fantasy.

    Cincinnati RB's: Joe Mixon continues to play well, but his offensive line is hurting him. Per Pro Football Focus, the Bengals rank dead last in yards blocked per contact at 1.31. The Bills are a solid run defense, giving up 20 fantasy points per game at the position and haven't allowed a 100-rusher yet. While he has some variables going against him, Mixon still isn't a bad play given his opportunity. He's carried the ball 35 times over the last two games and has the most targets (7) for Bengals running backs over the last two weeks. He's slowly becoming the bellcow back.

    New York Jets at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 39 (Cleveland favored by 2.5)

    New York Jets RB's: Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire combined for over 250 yards and two scores last week. Powell now has a score in each of his last two games and is averaging RB1 numbers. Last week, Powell's five targets tied for second most among all Jets and his 21 carries were a season high. With Matt Forte still out, Powell and McGuire are the top two backs in New York going forward. The Browns are average against the run, making this matchup a decent one.

    Cleveland RB's: Incoming Duke Johnson Jr. The third-year running back out-snapped Isaiah Crowell for 36-22 last week, by far his largest separation from Crowell. While Crowell had more touches, Johnson still only had three less carries and his 9 catches for 47 yards make his ceiling very high going forward. Johnson should also have plenty of favorable game scripts for receiving backs, as the Browns defense is one of the worst in the league vs. quarterbacks. The Browns have given up 31 points in each of the last two games, which should help Johnson get more yards in the second half as the Browns play catch up.

    Jacksonville at Pittsburgh

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 9)

    Jacksonville RB's: In one of the potentially higher scoring games this week, rookie Leonard Fournette is once again center stage. The former LSU star continues to get better as the season goes along. He finished with a season-high four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown last week and has led all Jacksonville running backs in targets every week. His 81 total carries ranks third behind Todd Gurley and Le'Veon Bell. Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger tends to play better at home, so the gamescript might not lend itself to as much rushing volume for Fournette. Still, Pittsburgh hasn't been great against the run after allowing Jordan Howard and Alex Collins to rush for a combined 220 yards over the last two weeks. Fournette is a no-brainer RB1.

    Pittsburgh RB's: This is another dream matchup for Le'Veon Bell. The Jaguars have given up over 100 yards to running backs in three of the last four games. Pittsburgh's offensive line ranks ninth in yards blocked per contact with 2.06. Bell's 87 rush attempts leads the league and he, Todd Gurley and LeSean McCoy lead all bellcow backs with 22 targets. The one worry for Bell could be gamescript in this one, as the Steelers might get out to a quick lead and fail to throw Bell's way for the touchdown. That's just a risk you have to take.

    Tennessee at Miami

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 2.5)

    Tennessee RB's: Miami hasn't allowed a single running back to rush for more than 45 yards this season. They have been susceptible to pass-catching backs though, giving up 10 catches to Alvin Kamara last week and seven to Melvin Gordon in Week 1. The Jets RB's were the only group they held in check, but that was likely due to gamesflow that allowed all three Jets running backs to play conservative and simply waste clock. Only six fantasy points separates DeMarco Murray from Derrick Henry through four weeks. Aside from a monster Week 3 performance where he finished as an RB8,  Murray has only 101 rush yards combined in the other three games. Henry hasn't fared much better, with his best performance coming in Week 2 with an RB9 finish. Both backs are risky in this matchup.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi hasn't finished higher than RB12 since Week 2 and is currently nursing a knee injury. The Miami offensive line also ranks in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact, per Pro Football Focus. Tennessee is giving up 25 points to running backs, so there's so upside to the matchup for Ajayi. Still, he's risky given his health and although he's a tough player, it's best to fade him in Daily Fantasy and only start him in redraft.

    San Francisco at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 43 (Indianapolis by 2)

    San Francisco RB's: With two RB1 finishes through four weeks, Carlos Hyde has been a great value so far in redraft and PPR leagues. He has hybrid potential each week, averaging near six targets per game. His 65 carries rank 12th highest among running backs and he has a plus matchup against a Colts rushing defense that's allowed 25 points to running backs this season. No other running back in San Francisco is startable at this point.

    Indianapolis RB's: Marlon Mack is back. It's the return of the Mack. Sorry, had to. Indy remains a run-oriented team with Andrew Luck still out, as they've opted to pass just 52 percent of the time which ranks 27th overall. Frank Gore has two RB2 finishes through four weeks, but he hasn't been very effective with just 3.1 yards per carry on 61 attempts. It's likely the Colts could try and use Mack more, but Gore is still the feature back going forward until Mack makes the most of his opportunity. In the two games he played, Mack finished with just 27 total rushing yards. 

    Arizona at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 45 (Philadelphia favored by 6.5)

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson is the higher volume running back in terms of rush yards, but Andre Ellington is the most fantasy potent. Ellington's caught 14 passes for 145 yards on 22 targets over the last two weeks. Those numbers helped him rank 15th in PPR leagues, making him a boarderline RB1 in that format. Ellington is startable due to his role in the passing game, though Philadelphia has been solid against the run, giving up only 19.3 points per game.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have really gotten their run game going over the last few weeks. LeGarrette Blount has posted RB1 numbers in both weeks, totaling 203 yards and a score despite seeing less snaps than fellow back Wendell Smallwood. Speaking of Smallwood, he's averaged out to be a solid RB2 option over the last two weeks in both standard league and PPR leagues. The Cardinals run defense is one of their strongest areas, so this will be a test for Philadelphia. Still, they're run game is in sync right now and should still produce decent fantasy numbers.

    Carolina at Detroit

    Total points expected: 43 (Detroit favored by 3)

    Carolina RB's: Christian McCaffrey is currently RB20 in PPR leagues and hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 1. He's really been struggling running between the tackles and that makes him a tough start in standard leagues. Jonathan Stewart is an RB27 in standard leagues and has yet to score a touchdown. The Lions are a middle-of-the-road rushing defense which makes matchup blander than non-salted potatoes. Keep

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah recorded his first RB1 finish last week, ranking 9th among all running backs in fantasy points with 17. His volume has been solid, as his 66 carries rank him 19th overall among RB's. He's starting to distance himself from Theo Riddick in the snap count, but Zach Zenner is also in the mix and could steal goal line touches. The Panthers have been solid in the run defense department, but they've given up 35 catches to running backs over a four game span. Abdullah could be in for a decent outing if he sees the most targets among Detroit running backs, which he did last week.

    Seattle at Los Angeles Rams

    Total points expected: 46

    Seattle RB's: This backfield might be the messiest in the NFL right now, with six running backs all seeing snaps. Converted wideout J.D. McKissic was the guy last week, finishing as an RB7 with 17 fantasy points, including a receiving touchdown. It's likely McKissic remains the top receiving back as C.J. Prosise sat out Thursday's practice. Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are likely to split carries in some fashion, but nobody can be certain of how that will shake out. The uncertainty is frustrating because the Rams have been absolutely gashed by running backs so far this season, giving up a league-worst 31 point per game at the position. This might be the one time it makes sense to roll the dice with a Seattle back.

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: It's the Todd Gurley show once again. Gurley has cracked 20+ carries and 100+ yards in each of his last two games. He's the No. 1 running back in fantasy points through four games in standard and PPR. You start him in all leagues. If you're splitting hairs in Daily Fantasy, he's playing a Seattle team that's given up two 100-yard games to RB1's so far this season.

    Baltimore at Oakland

    Total points expected: 40 (Oakland favored by 4)

    Baltimore RB's: Alex Collins has emerged as the top back in this offense with Javorius Allen struggling. Alex Collins has been very efficient in his last two starts, rushing for over 160 yards on just 18 carries. He's only a flex option as of now, but could morph into an RB2 if he starts finding the end zone and sees more volume. With 18 targets over the last three games, Allen is still the favorite in the passing game. However, Collins did see two targets last week and could see more going forward. Oakland has been hit-or-miss against the run this year, making Collins risky but still worth a shot as a flex in deeper leagues.

    Oakland RB's: Oakland's backfield has steadily become more atrocious each week. Oakland's offensive line is getting  2.24 yards blocked per contact, so they're not the problem. Veteran Marshawn Lynch hasn't cracked 20+ rushing yards since Week 2 and looks washed after sitting out the last season. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are talented but haven't been utilized fully yet. That could change with Lynch's recent struggles, and Richard might see more carries since he's more of an insider runner than the pass-catching Washington. Still, it's a tough matchup against a Ravens defense that struggled against Le'Veon Bell but has been dominant against all the other backs they've played.

    Green Bay at Dallas

    Total points expected: 53 (Dallas favored by 2)

    Green Bay RB's: With Ty Montgomery listed as doubtful for Week 5, so expect the Packers to use Aaron Jones and pass a lot against Dallas. Since Jones is a rookie and is still earning the trust of coaches, he likely won't see the volume Montgomery has been getting. Dallas is struggling against the run, giving up 27 points to the running back which is 4th worst in the league. Still, the Packers have several ways to beat teams, and will likely use Aaron Rodgers and the pass more which will curb any value to the running back minus a touchdown reception out of the backfield. Best to steer clear of these running backs this week.

    Dallas RB's: Minus the one dud against Denver, Ezekiell Elliott has been as consistent as they come for fantasy backs this season. He has 20+ carries in three games and a rushing touchdown in his last two. He's averaging five targets per game and has finished as an RB8, RB50, RB11, and RB3. This game has great gamescript potential for Elliott, as he's scored 42 of his 57.5 fantasy points when the Cowboys have a close lead or are tied. With plenty of high-scoring potential here, Elliott is a must-start in cash games for DFS and an obvious start in all other formats.

    Kansas City at Houston

    Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 1.5)

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt's volume keeps growing, as he saw a season-high 50 snaps in Week 4. You have to wonder when Hunt's role will start to wear him down though. He looked exhausted at times during the team's close win over Washington but still recorded his third 100-yard performance in four games. Hunt's been an absolute stud but Houston's defense has been locked in these past three games, holding each team's RB1 to under 40 rush yards. Hunt's nearly matchup proof given his role in the receiving game with 13 targets over four games. Still, this will be his toughest test yet on an undefeated Kansas City team that's getting a bigger target on its back each week. It's best to fade Hunt this week in DFS.

    Houston RB's: It's weird to think Lamar Miller is actually an RB1 this year but he is. He's finished as an RB17, RB21, RB35 and RB4 through four games, averaging out to an RB12. His volume has been consistent, hovering around 16 rushing attempts per game. The Texans rank third in plays per game with 69 which has also helped Miller stay on the field. He also benefited from rookie DeShaun Watson's blowup game last week, as he caught four of five targets for 56 yards and a touchdown. Kansas City is a very good run defense, allowing just one rushing score over their last three games. Miller has a low ceiling this week, but his floor is very reliable.

    Minnesota at Chicago

    Total points expected: 40 (Minnesota favored by 3)

    Minnesota RB's: Rookie Dalvin Cook saw his promising rookie year come to an end last week, so now it's up to Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon to pick up the slack. Murray will have the benefit of playing behind an offensive line that's getting 1.94 yards per contact blocked per game, but he's playing against a Bears front seven that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season. Murray's health is also in flux as he's still dealing with the same ankle injury that kept him from starting Week 1. McKinnon should inherit more targets with Cook out, making him a good add in PPR leagues. Still, this is a backfield you should stay away from starting until the picture comes into focus.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen was a dominant pass catcher in the first two weeks but he's since been out-targeted by Jordan Howard 9:8. Howard has rushed for over 190 yards and three touchdowns over his last two starts. He's the clear top option while Cohen's value is dropping off a little bit. Minnesota is one of the best run defenses in the league right now, allowing just 15 points to the running back position. Best to start Howard and fade Cohen.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 4

    Stop guessing and start winning. Numberfire.com. Use the promo code 'FFHelpers' and receive your first month subscription for $9.99.

    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 4 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 4.


    Week 3 was weird. Several surefire players ended up tanking, including Jay Ajayi and Marshawn Lynch. But while the NFL may seem unpredictable right now, keep in mind these are the often the times when things swing back to reality.

    For example, Ajayi is still going to get a ton of volume and be a menace going forward. Marshawn Lynch might lack a high ceiling but he's just being preserved so Oakland can use him when they need to cement a playoff spot down the stretch. LeSean McCoy should still be fired up this week, as he plays the running-back-friendly New Orleans Saints in Week 4.

    Overall, we're all tested when it comes to questioning our previously held fantasy football beliefs as the new season wears on. All the data we've accumulated in the offseason starts to become useless by about Week 4-5. So prepare to have your previous notions eradicated. But for now, hang on to them for at least another week or so.

    Here's a look at every fantasy relevant running back for Week 4.

    New Orleans at Miami

    Total points expected: 50

    Game script: Pass heavy if New Orleans gets out to early lead.

    New Orleans RB's: It's looking more and like Mark Ingram is the back to own in this offense and Alvin Kamara is the PPR guy. Adrian Peterson continues to make a minimal impact with just 8 fantasy points through 3 games, with Ingram and Kamara scoring 23 and 19, respectively. The biggest surprise is that Ingram and Peterson's carry totals are similar, but Peterson hasn't made the most of his touches with just 3.3 yards per carry.

    Miami is an above average run defense, allowing just 19.3 fantasy points per game. Still, Melvin Gordon caught seven passes against them and the Ingram/Kamara combo has been good for about ten targets between the two. They're both solid starts this week with the high over/under.

    Miami RB's: Per Rich Hribar on Rotoworld, the Saints are one of two teams (Seattle) to allow a Top-12 scoring running back in each week of the season so far. This means Jay Ajayi should be in play as a rebound candidate after he struggled against The New York Jets in Week 3.

    There are elements of Ajayi's dud performance you just can't predict — sometimes one team shows up and the other doesn't. However, his lack of volume in the second half can be blamed on the game script. Not all coaches opt to go pass-heavy when their team is down, but Adam Gase does. Overall, the Dolphins threw the ball over 70 percent of the time and New York dominated the time of possession 36:23.

    Ajayi should see better volume against New Orleans in Week 4 given the Saints rank worst against running backs, allowing 33 points per game.

    Jacksonville at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 39.5 (Jacksonville favored by 4)

    Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette has scored a touchdown in each game so far this season and ranks sixth in standard scoring. The gamescript was funky last week with Baltimore's stellar defense coming out flat in London, so don't worry much about Tommy Bahanon and Corey Grant taking snaps away or anything. Fournette is also averaging four targets per game. Game script should favor Fournette seeing heavy volume as long as the Jets don't get completely blown out. The Jets turned Jay Ajayi into Jay Acai berries last week, but they were dominated by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland's committee backfield in the first two weeks. Fournette is still a solid play this week.

    New York Jets RB's: People love Bilal Powell this week but I'm in the minority. Josh McCown hasn't thrown past 250 yards in a game this season which limits receiving upside in the backfield. Powell is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. Jacksonville is a dominant run defense, allowing just 16 points per game against running backs this season. Elijah McGuire has seen increased snaps each week as well, and is expected to be 'involved' this week.

    Cincinnati at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 40 (Cincinnati favored by 3)

    Cincinnati RB's: The Bengals appear ready to feature Mixon as their true lead back going forward. After seeing just 16 snaps a week ago, Mixon saw 34 against Green Bay. He finished with a season-high 18 carries for 62 yards to along with three catches for 39 yards on three targets. Cleveland is an average run defense, but will have No. 1 pick Myles Garrett in the lineup for the first time. Still, we don't know how much they'll use Garrett and even if he'll be effective in his first game. The Bengals offensive line is struggling already, averaging just .71 yards before contact to running backs per Pro Football Focus. Despite that, Mixon should get enough volume to at least have a shot at decent numbers.

    Cleveland RB's: Vontaze Burfict has been activated for Week 4 and should help in an already decent run defense. Duke Johnson is starting to see a bigger role in the Cleveland backfield. His target numbers have increased each week. He also has two more total snaps than Isaiah Crowell, a back who's yet to score a touchdown or run for more than 45 yards in a game. Johnson ranks third in reception yards with 160 and is fourth in snaps per route with Le'Veon Bell. He's recorded at least 50 receiving yards in his last two games and could be a great darkhorse play if Cleveland starts giving him more volume in the run game. He's also a great PPR option each week as always.

    Pittsburgh at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 1)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is still the clear starter. Bell hasn't created yardage by himself like he has in the past, as he just ranks 23rd in elusive rating among running backs according to Pro Football Focus. He continues to be effective none the less, ranking 15th in standard scoring among running backs even though he hasn't really had a dominant performance. Baltimore handled the Bengals and Browns running backs during their first two games, but will be without one of their best run stoppers in Brandon Williams. This could be a breakout game for bell, as his target totals have been steady each game (6,4,7) and so have his reception totals (3, 4, 6). He might finally pop in Week 4.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen has been the top snap guy as of late. He also has 10 catches in his last two games. The gamescript could favor a pass-friendly day as the Steelers rank 11th in passing plays per game which will increase Allen's opportunity. The Steelers are also giving up 27 points to running backs per game, sixth worst in the league. Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen put up big numbers in Week 3 and Allen could have a favorable gamescript if Pittsburgh gets out to an early lead.

    Carolina at New England

    Total points expected: 47.5 (New England favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Pass heavy.

    Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the feature back in the offense, but his rush attempts have dwindled from 18 to 12 from Weeks 1 to 3. New England is coming in averaging 33 points per game, second most behind the Los Angeles Rams. It's hard to see Stewart seeing significant volume in this game. Christian McCaffrey has become Cam Newton's favorite check down guy, as he leads all Panthers in targets with 23. New England has also been soft against quarterbacks so far, so this could be a good game to start Newton and McCaffrey as a stack in DFS and avoid Stewart.

    New England RB's: Mike Gillislee remains the best volume back, averaging 15 attempts per game but has been out-snapped by James White in every contest but Week 2 where they each had 30. It's looking like Gillislee's fantasy value will be touchdown dependent at times, but that's no problem since the Patriots are scoring so much. The Panthers are above average across the board in terms of fantasy points allowed per game, and have been especially good against tight ends and quarterbacks. Still, they've given up 22 catches to running backs over three games. Gillislee and White are startable, but gameflow will likely hurt one of them.

    Los Angeles Rams at Dallas

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Dallas favored by 9.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Not a single back took a snap other than Todd Gurley last week and for good reason. Gurley is now the second highest scoring fantasy back through 3 weeks, trailing only Kareem Hunt. The Rams offense has also been potent, scoring 40+ in two of three games. What a difference Sean McVay has made already. The Cowboys haven't played a running back of Gurley's caliber yet this season aside from maybe C.J. Anderson of the Broncos in Week 2. Anderson finished that game with over 100 yards rushing and two total touchdowns.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott and the running game rebounded after getting throttled by Denver in Week 2. Elliott is one of the best volume backs in the league, ranking fourth in carries with 55. With just one rushing touchdown so far, you have to worry about Dak Prescott's read-option taking away scoring opportunities as teams key in on Elliott. Still, this is another great matchup for Elliott as the Rams are giving up 29 fantasy points per game to running backs, fourth worst in the league. Elliott continues to see a receiving role as well, averaging four catches per game.

    Detroit at Minnesota

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick are seeing an equal amount of snaps from week to week but Abdullah has a sizeable advantage in the touches category. Still, Riddick has out-targeted Abdullah 19-7 through three games. It's frustrating because Abdullah could easily be the receiving and rushing back, but Detroit continues to use Riddick. Minnesota is the best team against opposing running backs so far this season, allowing just 13.2 points per game.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook's volume so far is surprising considering the Vikings spent money on Latavius Murray in the offseason and Jerrick McKinnon was supposedly the passing down back. Cook ranks second in the league in carries with 61, trailing only Gurley. While McKinnon is still getting targets, last week he saw his fewest of the season (2) and Cook saw five. There's a chance Cook could be used more in the passing game going forward. Detroit is also not a great rushing defense, allowing 25.7 fantasy points to running backs per game.

    Tennessee at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Tennessee RB's: Don't be fooled by DeMarco Murray's 100-plus yard stat line, Derrick Henry is still a valuable piece in this offense. Murray ended up with 14 carries for 115 yards but Henry also saw 13 touches of his own. This is a tough matchup for both running backs, as Houston is giving up 16.7 points per game to running backs, which is 23rd worst.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller is still the every-down back but D'Onta Foreman is slowly entering the picture. Foreman's three targets led all running backs last week, and turned two of them into 65 receiving yards. Foreman is worth monitoring going forward, but he's still a risky start as of now since the volume isn't quite there. Unless you see coaches clamoring to get him more involved, avoid him in this matchup.

    Buffalo at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Game script: High-scoring. Atlanta ranks fifth in touchdowns per game, meaning Buffalo might have to play catch up. This game will really come down to how well Buffalo's defense plays. Atlanta has had their way on offense with every defense so far, but they haven't played a group as good as Buffalo yet. 

    Buffalo RB's: Buffalo is a run heavy team, rushing 32 times per game on average, which ranks fourth in the league. LeSean McCoy slogged through tough matchups with Denver and Carolina, scoring just 11 fantasy points in that time. He gets a dream matchup this week against Atlanta, a team that's given up 30.6 points to running backs, third worst in the league. While McCoy is the back to start this week, Mike Tolbert is also seeing decent volume as well. Tolbert has seen 10+ carries in two of three games and is known to snag a goal line touchdown from time to time. He's a risky play in DFS tournaments, but not a bad option considering how good the matchup is. If he gets a touchdown and 40 rushing yards (a feat he accomplished last week), he'll 3x his draft value.

    Atlanta RB's: Devonta Freeman continues to see plenty of carries and has at least one rushing touchdown in each game. People really want to be contrarian and take Tevin Coleman for a better value, and this might be the matchup to do it. Buffalo is giving up just just 15.7 points to running backs, good for 31st in the league. Buffalo has the speed on defense to keep Freeman in check on a consistent basis, making it likely Coleman might have to break the game open with a big run. If you think Buffalo will dominant this game on defense and Atlanta opts for a change of pace, then go with Coleman. Coleman also leads all running backs in targets with 13.

    New York Giants at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 44 (Tampa Bay favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Mid-level scoring. Favors Tampa Bay defense.

    New York RB's: Shane Vereen is an intriguing option this week, mainly because Tampa has struggled against pass-catching running backs. They surrendered eight catches to Tarik Cohen and five catches to Dalvin Cook. Plus, this is a desperation game for New York being 0-3, they'll be playing hard.
    Overall, the running game continues to be the Achilles Heel of New York's offense. Rookie Wayne Gallman has yet to suit up for a game, but it may be time to at least give him a shot. Paul Perkins has been anemic with just 8 fantasy points through three games and hasn't even played a stout run defense yet. Orleans Darkwa has been slightly more efficient with 7 carries for 22 yards last week but the Giants are just trying to make something work by giving him more snaps. The only thing you can hope for is a few goal line touchdowns at this point. Shane Vereen remains

    Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets his last go-around before Doug Martin returns from suspension. He and Charles Sims split snaps last week, and neither made a huge fantasy impact against a tough group in Minnesota. The Giants are better against the pass than the run at this point, but starting Rodgers is a risk considering he lacks a role in the pass game (zero targets through two games).

    Philadelphia at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 46.5

    Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount ran with purpose for the first time all season and finished as an RB14 with 13 fantasy points. He's dealt a tough matchup against San Diego, a team that ranks near the Top 5 in fantasy points allowed for running backs. The opportunity is still there though, as Philadelphia is tied for first in plays run per game with 69. Wendall Smallwood is an intriguing option as well this week. Taking over for Darren Sproles, Smallwood saw 43 snaps last week and should inherit anywhere between 4-8 targets and 5-10 carries.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon and Branden Oliver both saw 33 snaps last week. Gordon is dealing with a bone bruise but all reports indicate he will play against Philadelphia. He's still the clear-cut No. 1 back, but Oliver saw six targets last week and turned them into four receptions for 18 yards. It's not out of the question could see a similar workload in Week 4. Plus, with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox battling a calf injury, we could see an easier matchup for Gordon and Oliver.

    San Francisco at Arizona

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Run-heavy, defensive game.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde is one of the top fantasy running backs in the NFL right now. He's a bit banged up with a hip injury and is 50/50 to play on Sunday, but he's still very valuable if he does suit up. Matt Breida would be the next guy up, and has only carried the ball 11 times through three games. At 5'11, 190 lbs, the rookie Breida was a standout runner at Georgia Southern but a poor 2016 season hurt his draft stock. Still, he could be an impact player given his straight-line speed (4.3 40-yard dash) and he's one of the more interesting backup running backs in the league overall. He's made a small dent in the passing game, ranking second among San Francisco RB's in targets with 6. Arizona has given up a rushing touchdown to RB1's in each of the last two games. Keep an eye on Hyde's status heading into Sunday.

    Arizona RB's: The news that guard Mike Iupati would play Sunday were dashed late Friday as four-time Pro Bowler was sent to injured reserve, likely ending his season. The matchup is still decent for Chris Johnson though, as the 49ers are surrendering 27 points per game to running backs so far. Johnson's ceiling is curbed by Andre Ellington's role in the receiving game, as Ellington saw eight targets to Johnson's two. Ellington's receiving role was heavily influenced by gamescript against Dallas and although the 49ers are still a bad team overall, their offense put up 39 points a week ago. It's tough to start either of these backs this week.

    Oakland at Denver

    Total points expected: 47

    Oakland RB's: Oakland's running backs managed a measly 22 yards rushing last week against Washington. Their matchup doesn't get much easier as they play a Denver team giving up just 16 points to running backs. They have nowhere to go but up though, and Marshawn Lynch should continue to see the most volume with Jalen Richard also mixed in. DeAndre Washington saw a season-high six targets last week due to gamescript, and it's tough to trust him or any other Oakland back in this matchup.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles are now the one-two punch in this offense. Charles outscored Anderson for the first time last week with 12 fantasy points and finished as an RB15. Anderson still out-snapped Charles 49-21, but the veteran back isn't going away anytime soon as he continues to make the most of his carries. Oakland is middle of the road against the run, making this a bland matchup with modest potential for both Bronco running backs.

    Indianapolis at Seattle

    Total points expected: 41 (Seattle favored by 13.5)

    Game script: Low scoring. Favors Seattle defense

    Indianapolis RB's: Seattle isn't the dominant run-stopping defense it once was. They've allowed at least a 100 yards or a touchdown to RB1's in the first three weeks of the season. With Marlon Mack out this week, Frank Gore has some dark horse potential coming off a 57-yard performance with a touchdown last week against Cleveland. Only issue is it took Gore 25 carries to do it, and he'll need that kind of volume again if he's expected to turn in a similar performance. Overall, Gore is a better option for cash DFS tournaments or deep redraft leagues due to a low ceiling.

    Seattle RB's: Chris Carson is now the feature back in Seattle and C.J. Prosise the pass catcher. Prosise is doubtful this week, making Carson an interesting RB2 with upside. If Carson was going to go over 100 yards this season, this would be the matchup to do it.

    Washington at Kansas City (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 49 (Kansas City favored by 9)

    Washington RB's: Chris Thompson's six-catch, 150-yard performance last week was sensational, but Kansas City will be his toughest task yet if he's expecting to continue his crazy efficiency numbers. Robert Kelley has been practicing this week and could assume the inside runner role due to rookie Samaje Perine's struggles. Overall, Thompson is the only fantasy relevant back in this offense as of now, and his efficiency numbers are bound to fall off at some point. Kansas City is surrendering 23 points per game to running backs this season.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt is the best running back in fantasy by a wide margin, and gets a Washington defense that's surrendered 18 receptions to running backs over three games. Although Washington showed up against Oakland last week, Kansas City's offensive line is on another level and Hunt is locked in as an RB1 once again.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 3

    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 3 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 3.


    Week 2 has come and gone and while the overall picture is still cloudy, some small trends are starting to emerge in the fantasy football world.

    For one, Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt has been on a whole different level than any other running back. Hunt's 71 fantasy points through two weeks dwarfs the next highest running back, which is Ty Montgomery at 48.3. To put it in perspective, the highest fantasy scoring running back through two weeks in 2016 was DeAngelo Williams with 48.

    Todd Gurley continues to look more like the rookie who dominated for over 1,000 rush yards during his rookie season. Through two weeks, Gurley has finished as an RB6 and RB2.

    The Oakland Raider backfield remains messy. Marshawn Lynch is getting considerable volume and goal line work but lacking in the receiving category. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have combined for eight targets. Each back curbs the others ceiling from week to week.

    Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 42 points

    Actual points scored: 80

    Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers.

    Los Angeles RB's: Well everyone was wrong on this one in terms of the game script. Todd Gurley was nothing short of amazing, rushing for 113 yards and two scores and catching 5 passes for 36 yards and another score. He's been incredible through 3 weeks and is currently the top scoring fantasy running back until the Sunday games.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde saw his highest carry total yet with 25 rushing attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He's a great shot to continue producing as the 49ers coaching staff keep increasing his volume. Rookie Matt Breida didn't do much in the run game, but he did have three catches on four targets for 20 yards in this one. He's not worth a stash unless you're in a 16-team points per reception league at this point, but he's worth monitoring going forward.

    Baltimore at Jacksonville (London game)

    Total points expected: 40 (Baltimore favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Run heavy, defense.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen was the volume guy in Week 2 with 42 snaps to Terrance West's 15. Allen also received six looks in the red zone but it was West that got the lone carry inside the five and scored a touchdown on it. West did not practice this week and is dealing with a thigh injury, making Allen a primary RB1 candidate for this week against Jacksonville. Through two games, the Ravens have the second most rushing attempts in the league with 37. 

    Jacksonville RB's: Rookie Leonard Fournette ranks second in rush attempts through two weeks. He's also been sprinkled into the pass game with five receptions on eight targets. If T.J. Yeldon is active in Week 3, expect him to steal targets from Fournette. Either way, Fournette is still the primary back and should see his usual volume. Fournette is an RB8 through two weeks this season.

    Cleveland at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 40 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Game script: Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Cleveland RB's: Isaiah Crowell hasn't gone off yet through the first two weeks, ranking as an RB18 through two weeks. But he's had decent volume with 27 carries through two games. The Colts have been stout against the run, holding both Todd Gurley and Chris Johnson to under 50 rushing yards. The Browns should keep Indy's quarterbacks in check, as the Colts QB's have yet to throw a passing touchdown this season. This could lead to Crowell's best volume of the young season.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both Frank Gore and Marlon Mack have struggled through two weeks. But Frank Gore is still a solid RB2 option thanks to his volume. Worth noting that Robert Turbin increased his snap count from 14 to 28 in Week 2, but didn't do much with it as he finished with just three carries for 11 yards. Cleveland has been decent against the run so far, making Indy's backfield more risky in Week 3.

    Pittsburgh at Chicago

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring with Pittsburgh's offense getting considerable upside.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is due for a big game here. His volume was crazy in Week 2, as he saw 68 snaps to James Conner's 4. The Bears surrendered over 110 yards to Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in Week 2. Bell's role in the receiving game also makes him game script proof in case this game favors more passing. The only worry is the unfavorable road splits for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but a good matchup should buck that trend. Bell is a great option in all formats this week and in DFS lineups.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is the guy you want to start for Chicago going forward until Jordan Howard shows some of the effectiveness he had as a rookie. Howard is dealing with a shoulder injury, as he was reportedly wearing a sling in practice this week. The Steelers kept the Browns and Vikings run games in check which makes Howard a risky play. Cohen, meanwhile, leads all Bears offensive players in targets with 21 and is a strong start with so many injuries at wide receiver. Cohen also ranks fourth in yards per route run (2) trailing only Shane Vereen, James White and Melvin Gordon.

    Miami at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 41 (Miami favored by 6.5)

    Game script: Miami defense favored heavily. Run-heavy for Miami, pass-heavy for New York.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is the clear bell cow running back in this offense. His 28 carries in Week 2 should be replicated in Week 3 against a bad New York Jets run defense. The Jets have been lit up by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland Raider backfield in Weeks 1 and 2. With points hard to come by for New York, you might have to worry about Miami getting out to an early lead and taking Ajayi out. But Ajayi's floor is probably 70-80 yards in this one and he has significant touchdown upside.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte took on a slightly larger role, out-touching Bilal Powell 13 to 6 and he's clearly the back to start in deeper leagues. Rookie Elijah McGuire also got into the mix for the first time, receiving six touches of his own for 29 yards and adding one catch for seven yards. Though this backfield is messy, there's some value at the position as the Jets will likely be playing from behind a lot and all of these backs are decent pass catchers. Good garbage time points are a very real possibility. This is a game to steer clear of the backfield for now, but keep an eye out for McGuire on waiver wires in deeper leagues. There's potential for him to see more opportunity in the future.

    Denver at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 41 (Denver favored by 2)

    Game script: Lots of running, low-scoring.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson leads the league in rushing attempts and finished as the top fantasy running back in Week 2 with 27 points. Anderson is looking like a good option due to an improved line, strong defense and quarterback. The Bills have been stout against the run so far this season, so this is far from a dream matchup. Still, Anderson should see around 20 touches in this game and add a few catches in as well.

    Buffalo RB's: Carolina stifled LeSean McCoy last week. The Broncos come into this matchup riding a wave of confidence after holding Ezekiel Elliott to just eight rushing yards. It's hard to like McCoy this week, even though he's averaging close to seven targets per game. He's a running back to avoid this week.

    Houston at New England

    Total points expected: 43.5 (New England favored by 13)

    Game script: Defensive battle. Low-scoring.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller ranks among the top 5 in attempts with 35. He also has five catches on five targets through two weeks. Still, he hasn't been effective with just 3.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Rookie D'onta Foreman saw his snap count jump from 2 to 17 last week. He also received 12 touches to Miller's 20. New England is also giving up just 20 points per game, which ranks among the Top 5. Both backs are good fade options this week.

    New England RB's: It's been about as down the middle as it can get with the Patriots running backs. Last week, James White and Mike Gillislee each saw 30 snaps last week. Rex Burkhead's snap count slightly decreased from 10 to 8 but he was efficient with 3 catches for 41 yards and a score. Whatever, it doesn't matter. Overall, the volume belongs to Gillislee and White for right now, with White being the primary receiving back and Gillislee getting the goal line carries.

    New Orleans at Carolina

    Total points expected: 49 (Carolina favored by 6)

    Game script: High scoring. Pass heavy game.

    New Orleans RB's: Mark Ingram is the lead back in this offense. He also has some receiving upside with five targets per game through two weeks. Alvin Kamara also has some upside in a game that could be pass-heavy, but there's still some risk with Adrian Peterson seeing more snaps in Week 2. This is a muddy backfield. Even more frustrating is the fact that Drew Brees is still passing at an elite level. There could be more scoring opportunities but the crowded backfield limits upside. Carolina has also been stout against the run this season. Best to steer clear of this backfield in Week 3.

    Carolina RB's: Cam Newton could hit Christian McCaffrey quite a bit more in this game. James White caught 8 passes for 85 yards against New Orleans and the Saints are giving up close to 30 points to running backs this season. Jonathan Stewart could also be a good start, but his receiving upside is limited and he's yet to find the end zone on the ground. McCaffrey actually has more upside in both standard and PPR leagues this week.

    Tampa Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 41 (Minnesota favored by 2)

    Game script: Lower scoring.

    Tampa Bay RB's: With 34 snaps last week, Jacquizz Rodgers is the main back until Doug Martin returns. Charles Sims saw all of the passing-down work with three targets. Both aren't great options this week as Minnesota kept the Saints in check and held Le'Veon Bell to just 87 yards on 27 carries. The interior has been strong for Minnesota, as they're allowing just 6.9 fantasy points per game according to Pro Football Focus. Rodgers is a risky play this week.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook had a favorable game script in Week 1 thanks to Sam Bradford's dominating performance. Week 2 was a different story, as Pittsburgh got out to the early lead and Minnesota passed the ball 66 percent of the time. It didn't help that Case Keenum struggled mightily at quarterback either. Bradford was ruled out on Friday, tough matchup for the Vikings running backs. Tampa is a solid defense against both the run and pass, but they've only played Chicago and Cook is a more complete back than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. There's dark horse potential for Cook in this matchup, but if Keenum struggles again, expect Tampa to focus on Cook.

    Atlanta at Detroit

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Potential high scoring with a lot of passing.

    Atlanta RB's: In case you haven't noticed, there's not a clear-cut high fantasy scoring game this week. However, this game could be one of those higher scoring games. Devonta Freeman flourished last week against Green Bay has double the amount of snaps as Tevin Coleman through two weeks. Even though the Lions have been strong against the run, they haven't really played against a decent running back yet. They got David Johnson in Week 1 who excited early with an injury and the New York Giants inept backfield last Monday night. Freeman has some intrigue this week in a potential high scoring matchup.

    Detroit RB's: This backfield is messy but the matchup is dripping with opportunity Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah split snaps last week with Abdullah seeing 28 to Riddick's 27. Riddick finished as an RB20 in Week 1, which is the highest finish of any Lions back so far. The Lions have a long history of not having a true feature back, and this year is looking no different so far. Still, the Falcons have been getting lit up by pass catching backs this year. Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery both caught touchdown passes and combined for 14 catches and over 120 receiving yards.

    New York Giants at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Philadelphia favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Lower scoring. Turnover potential on Philadelphia's side.

    New York RB's: The Giants have looked awful through two weeks. Second-year back Paul Perkins is averaging 1.9 yards per carry and no Giant running back has scored a touchdown through two weeks. Orleans Darkwa saw a slight uptick in snaps and saw four touches to Perkins and Vereen's nine. Still, he's not a back you can rely on this week against a Philadelphia team that's fared well against the run so far. Vereen has slight upside because of his volume in the passing game with 13 targets through two games. This is also a desperation game for New York, as losing would put them at 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have been equally poor in the run game, with no running back over 50 total yards through two games. Darren Sproles remains the dominant PPR back, and the Giants have been susceptible to pass catching backs so far. They gave up five catches on five targets to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1. Sproles is a good streaming option in deeper PPR leagues and has upside in DFS tournaments as well. No other Philadelphia back is worth starting as of now.

    Seattle at Tennessee

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Seattle RB's: The Titans are a good run-stopping unit, holding both Marshawn Lynch and Leonard Fournette to under 100 yards. Chris Carson remains the high-volume guy and rushed for 93 yards and a score on 20 attempts against San Francisco in Week 2. This will be a tougher matchup for the Seattle backfield though, and the Titans have struggled more against the pass than the run so far.

    Tennessee RB's: DeMarco Murray is banged up and all signs point to Derrick Henry getting more volume this week. Henry strung 92 yards and a score together in last week's outing against Jacksonville, a tough defense. Seattle is another difficult challenge, but the volume potential makes Henry a good RB2 play in standard leagues. Probably best to avoid him DFS since there's high bust potential with the matchup and there are better options out there at similar prices. For example, Henry's price tag is $5,300 on DraftKings and Ameer Abdullah has similar upside at $4,700.

    Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring. Both teams can throw and run the ball.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt saw his workload explode in Week 2 and he's the only startable KC back going forward barring a severe slump or injury. He's a great Daily Fantasy play as well since some might be scared off by his expensive price. You should still have some exposure to him in your lineups this week regardless. The Chargers have been soft against the run, surrendering over 100 yards to Denver running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles in Week 1. They also gave up 122 yards to Jay Ajayi last week.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon struggled on the ground last week against a tough Miami front. Still, his hybrid status makes him close to matchup proof this season. He's averaging seven targets a game and saw good volume against Denver in Week 1 with 18 carries. Expect him to see a similar opportunity in Week 3 against Kansas City. Branden Oliver is nothing more than a change of pace back at this point and hasn't seen much work in the receiving game with just one target on the year.

    Cincinnati at Green Bay

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Green Bay favored by 10)

    Game script: Balanced with equal amount of running and passing.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincinnati's backfield remains the most puzzling and perhaps frustrating this season. The numbers tell all really. Through two games, the rushing attempts have been Joe Mixon (17), Giovani Bernard (12), and Jeremy Hill (12). Mixon has been the most effective as of late, rushing for 36 yards on nine carries last week. Still, it's hard to get excited about him until the Bengals let him loose, which may or may not happen anytime soon.

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery continues to be a force and has a solid matchup against Cincinnati, an average run defense so far. He's slowly stepping into that hybrid role and received seven targets last week, catching six of them for 75 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery's 65 snaps last week dwarfed all other Packer backs and Jamaal Williams is no threat to overtake him right now. He should also see more rushing attempts unless Andy Dalton and A.J. Green really go off in this one and force Green Bay to play from behind.

    Oakland at Washington

    Total points expected: 54 (Oakland favored by 3)

    Game script: High scoring. Defense optional.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is a good option in this one since Washington has fared poorly against the run but I worry about the game script in this one. If Oakland comes out throwing, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard could see an increased role. Never much of a receiver, Lynch might see the majority of his work around the goal line if Washington and Kirk Cousins get off to a hot start. Jordan Reed is 50/50 right now but Vernon Davis is still a strong backup and Oakland struggles against tight ends. They also gave up two scores to Jermaine Kearse and Josh McCown of the Jets last week. There's a chance the Redskins put up a lot of points on them which would take Lynch out of the equation somewhat.

    Washington RB's: Samaje Perine saw his first action in Week 2 and rushed 21 times for 67 yards. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, he's the clear No. 1 back going forward. Chris Thompson continues to be ruthlessly efficient, rushing for 77 yards and two scores on just three attempts and is averaging six targets per game. Despite his performance, it's not looking like the Redskins will increase his touches anytime soon for fear of injuring his slight frame. Perine is a risky play this week but definitely worth an add in deeper leagues.

    Dallas at Arizona (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 47 (Dallas favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Above average scoring.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott struggled mightily against Denver after a 100-yard performance against the New York Giants in Week 1. Still, he's yet to record a touchdown this year and Arizona has been strong against the run, granted they've only played Detroit and Indianapolis so far. Elliott is an elite back and has a chance to rebound in this game, and with Arizona's offense playing so poorly, it's unlikely we see a Trevor Siemien passing game script like last week.

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams siphoned production from each other in Arizona's first outing without David Johnson. Andre Ellington led them in snaps with 30.


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Podcasts

Episode 196: Finding out who we can trust

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 00:00
On the fantasy pod, Scott and George discuss waiver QBs, why there's no reason to not pickup Jamaal Williams, and why this season is still whack.  Link to original photo.
Read more...

Episode 195: Back to normal

Monday, 23 October 2017 00:00
The Helpers discuss Week 7 of the fantasy football season. They mention how this week was actually normal and there wasn't as many surprises, except for Amari Cooper. Visit Mybookie.AG and use the promo code 'FFHelpers' for
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Episode 194: What's going on?

Thursday, 19 October 2017 00:00
On this episode of the Helpers pod, George and Scott discuss how weird the NFL season has been so far. They also talk about surprising hits and surprising bust players. Visit Mybookie.AG and use the promo code 'FFHelpers' fo
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Episode 193: Buy low/sell high

Saturday, 14 October 2017 00:00
On Saturday's Week 6 preview pod, the Helpers discuss the why DeShaun Watson is a good sell high candidate down the stretch. They also preview some of the Week 6 slate and wonder how Willie Snead V will fare in his best game
Read more...

Episode 192: PPR backs produce

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 4 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the great receiving backs and why you should consider starting a few of them. They also talk about Ben Roethlisberger's road woes and why Jacksonville's defense is vulnerable
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Episode 191: We know nothing part II

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 3 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the protests in response to Donald Trump's twitter comments. They discuss the weird week that was with many 0-2 teams winning in surprise fashion. They also talk about trends
Read more...

Waiver Wire

Upside vs. efficiency: Should you draft John Brown or Randall Cobb?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00
Giana Pacinelli of the the Huffington Post and 2QBs.com joins George Banko of Fantasyfootballhelpers.com to debate which receiver to draft, Randall Cobb or John Brown? Opening statements George: Randall Cobb is coming off a
Read more...

Jordan Matthews: Boring, predictable, but will exceed ADP value

Monday, 10 July 2017 00:00
In this article, we take a look at a player's potential to outperform their current ADP (average draft position) and assess the risks and potential rewards of drafting them. We look at opportunity stats including target share
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How Samaje Perine Will Help Your Fantasy Team In 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 00:00
Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
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Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in term
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Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable b
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Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
Read more...

Trent Richardson and guy from Ohio State with a nickname 'Boom.'

Those two running backs composed the backfield of the Indianapolis Colts for a majority of the 2014 season. As a team that managed to upset the Denver Broncos in the AFC divisional playoffs and sneak their way into the AFC Championship game all having a below average running game, you have to figure there's a good enough team around whoever is in the backfield that it could translate to decent fantasy production.

But last year, the running back wasn't a hot commodity in Indy. The Colts scored just nine total rushing touchdowns in 2014, which ranked 24th overall. They also led the league in fumbles with 10.

No running back really came in and took the reins as a 20-25 carry a game game. Richardson was the first to get a crack at it but his plodding style has continued to lead to less than stellar results in the NFL. Remember when everybody said Richardson just needed time to adjust to the Colts run scheme after his suspect year in 2013? Turns out that wasn't what was plaguing his numbers.

Richardson finished with just 519 yards on 159 carries (3.3 yards per carry) and was castoff to the Oakland Raiders this past offseason. It's crazy to think that the Alabama running back who was drafted the highest among his former teammates (Eddie Lacy and Mark Ingram) will likely be considered the biggest bust when all is said and done.

Ahmad Bradshaw offered the Colts a decent receiving option with 38 catches through 10 games before he broke his leg and ended up on injured reserve. The Colts also opted to not resign Ahmad Bradshaw and the 29-year-old back also dealt with some off-field issues that likely played a role in his departure.

But there were some bright spots for the Colts rushing attack in 2014. After stepping in for Richardson midway through the season, rookie Dan 'Boom' Herron didn't exactly unload two smoking barrels of fantasy worthy statistics, but he didn't exactly shoot blanks either. Herron outplayed Richardson by a wide margin during the regular season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on his way to

Even though his numbers outshined Richardson, Herron failed to cross the 100-yard plateau in every game he started last season. His numbers also dipped in the postseason as his 4.5 ypc average dropped to 3.8 over the span of three playoff games. So the Colts went out and combated the problem with a key veteran signing.

Welcome Frank Gore

The Colts signed the former San Francisco 49ers running back to a three-year, $12 million deal that includes $7.5 million guaranteed. Coach Chuck Pagano already envisions Gore as the feature back which doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility despite Gore's age. Due to turn 32 in May, Gore finished 2014 off strong with back-to-back games of over 100 rushing yards. His 4.3 yards per carry average was more than respectable and while he only accumulated four rushing touchdowns, it's safe to say his has the potential to rush for more due to his total touchdowns over the last three seasons (9, 8, and 8). So for the sake of this article, let's assume Gore is healthy and still solid as ever and take a look at what could impact his value.

Woes on the offensive line

While we can always place blame on the running backs, we can't leave out Indy's offensive line. A unit that ranked in the bottom 10 in yards per carry (3.9) in 2014, the Colts have gone out and made some changes to hopefully improve their run blocking, but they still have a few question marks.

Colts starting tackle Gosder Cherilus struggled last year while battling knee problems and recently underwent a knee scope in January. They signed former basketball player and 6'8 athletic freak Demarco Cox as well, but he hasn't played any football and is unlikely to crack a roster spot.

Perhaps one of their best moves was picking up veteran Todd Herremans from Philadelphia. Now 32 years old, Herremans was part of one of the best offensive lines in the league in 2013 and helped LeSean McCoy claim the rushing title for the first time in his career. Herremans did struggle with injuries in 2014 though, as he eventually tore his bicep which rendered him useless for the rest of the season. There's a good possibility he takes over one of the starting spots in 2015 based on his upside.

There's also question marks at the center position as neither Khaled Holmes and Jonotthan Harrison really established themselves as an effective option and will likely have to battle it out in training camp for the starting role. Another darkhorse to start would be former CFL player Ben Heenan, a guy that Colts added last February. Now 25 years old, Heenan played for the Saskatchewan Roughriders for three seasons.

They also resigned the versatile Joe Reitz to a three-year deal, but he also wasn't rated that highly according to Pro Football Focus.

Overall, an average offensive line could be something that puts a minor dent in Gore's fantasy value. Remember, he played with some of the best offensive lines in San Francisco for a lengthy period of time, which was a big component to his success and run of 1,000-yard seasons.

View John Martinez's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Thursday, 12 March 2015 00:00

Episode 49: Newly-minted players

On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss several players who have gone on to new teams and assign new fantasy value to their respective situations. Players discussed include Andre Johnson, Jeremy Maclin, Frank Gore and Ryan Mathews. Plus Bill Walton drops. This is going to be fantastically fun.

NFL Free agency is upon us, and fantasy football value is about to shift all over the place like a bunch of tectonic plates under a fault line. With so many players moving around, there's always a lot to take in. But here are the biggest running back transactions so far and what their fantasy impact is.

Podcast notes

Trent Richardson out, Frank Gore in

After the debacle of a trade that ended with Cleveland attaining a first-round draft pick in exchange for Richardson, the lifetime 49er is about to finally see what it's like to put on a different jersey after signing with the Indianapolis colts.. Gore turns 32 in May but the veteran back has shown remarkable consistency despite his age. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for the eighth time in his last nine seasons in 2014. Gore has also never averaged less than 4.1 yards per carry.

From an NFL standpoint, Gore made a great choice signing with Indy. It's a winning team with one of the Top 3 quarterbacks in the league. Gore will get another chance to compete to a championship in the somewhat weak AFC and the AFC South will be a cakewalk compared to the types of defenses he saw in the NFC West.

From a fantasy perspective, Gore will likely assume the role of former Colt Ahmad Bradshaw. Always an underrated receiver, Gore posted reception numbers of 61, 53, 43, and 52 from 2006-09 with San Francisco. He compiled those numbers before the run-minded Jim Harbaugh took the helm, which resulted in less passes being thrown his way.

Now that he's back on a team that passes a lot (Indy threw the ball 616 times last season which ranked 3rd highest in the league) expect Gore to see plenty of passes in the flat similar to what Bradshaw saw when he caught six receiving touchdowns over the first half of 2014. While Gore is a bit older than Bradshaw, he's also more durable, playing in all 16 games for the last four seasons.

Gore likely won't be the only back seeing snaps in the backfield, as Dan 'Boom' Herron showed some positive signs as a runner last year, but make no mistake Gore is going to be fantasy relevant as an RB2 this season.

LeSean McCoy out, Ryan Mathews, DeMarco Murray in

An injury prone back who's still in the prime of his career at 27, Mathews still has plenty of value as a running back and should see much better run blocking from the Eagles offensive line than the one he had in San Diego.

Obviously, you can't generate too much fantasy value if you're hurt, and Mathews has long been a guy who has never finished a season strong even when healthy. It's why the Chargers backed him up with so many other players (Danny Woodhead, Brandon Oliver and Donald Brown) in hopes of keeping him fresh throughout the season. But the situation is better in Philadelphia because of the offensive line. Plus, Chip Kelly's system will allow the athletic Mathews to use his conditioning to beat defenders rather than bruise through them.

As far as Murray goes, the former Cowboys running back will see plenty of runs as well in the offense. There should be enough ball to go around so that Murray and Mathews will remain fantasy relevant.

 

Published in Podcasts

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The debate on whether strength of schedule makes a difference in fantasy football is an interesting one. On one hand, it gives you the opportunity to steer clear of the players who might regress. On the other hand, it gives you a chance to over think things and end up not drafting a talented player specifically because you think he might struggle. Like answers to most things, the best way to analyze it lies somewhere between the two extremes.

When applying strength of schedule to fantasy football, it's important to realize which teams find ways to be successful even with a difficult schedule. These are the teams that you don't have to worry much about when it comes to drafting their players on your fantasy team. On the other hand, there are the younger, less successful teams that have been struggling already and adding a tough schedule on top of that can only make things worse.

How teams have done in the past

Looking back on the 2014 season, the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets were saddled with the two toughest schedules coming in. Talent-wise, both teams weren't considered contenders for a Super Bowl so there wasn't much hype coming in anyway and the results were about what you'd expect. Oakland finished a paltry 3-13 while the Jets ended up 4-12. Both teams failed to produce a reliable fantasy player, as they didn't produce a single 1,000 yard rusher or receiver which limited any chance of fantasy upside from any of their players.

Sure, they had their moments like every team did. Raiders RB Latavius Murray exploded for 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries during a Thursday night game against the Chiefs. Jets running back Christopher Ivory served as a plug-and-play flex option for the Jets as he finished with just under 900 yards to go along with six rushing touchdowns.

But while both teams had tough schedules, they also were just plain bad.

What about a good team?

Switching gears, let's take a look at a more talented team who ran through a gauntlet last season. The Denver Broncos held the AFC's best record at 13-3 in 2013 and entered 2014 with the second toughest schedule in the NFL. They finished at 12-4 in 2014.

So their record wasn't really affected, but let's take a look at their individual stats. Quarterback Peyton Manning posted a 39:15 TD-to-INT ratio in 2014 which paled in comparison to his 55:10 ratio in 2013. He also threw for about 700 less yards. Of course, you can argue that him being a year older at 38 and the fact that a 55 touchdown season is almost impossible to top, and you'd be right. Also, his 597 pass attempts in 2014 were less than his league leading 659 attempts in 2013 as well. Their receivers didn't miss a beat either, as Demaryius Thomas and free agent pickup Emmanuel Sanders surpassed the 1,000-yard plateau.

It really was a testament to how talented the team was. The Broncos took on New England and Seattle both on the road. They also played tough teams like Kansas City, Arizona and San Francisco in the earlier part of the season. Manning was fantastic in that early stretch, as he posted 19 touchdowns in the team's first six games. Ironically, he started to struggle later on against considerably worse defenses like Cincinnati and Oakland.

Manning can also be looked at like an exception to everything, considering he's one of the best quarterbacks of all time. So what if we take a medium-range quarterback who had a tough schedule in 2014. 

Phillip Rivers and San Diego

The Chargers had the fourth toughest schedule entering 2014, and they finished 9-7 on the year. Quarterback Philip Rivers finished 12th among all fantasy quarterbacks with 254 points. A season ago, he finished sixth with 276 fantasy points. Overall, still not that big of a drop off. So let's look at the next team to undergo a tough schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers up next

Well, it just so happens that the Pittsburgh Steelers face a similar road like the Broncos had in 2014. Like Denver, Pittsburgh plays both the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos on the road.

The Steelers schedule is murderous in 2015. They play both Seattle and New England on the road in addition to improving St. Louis. They also have Arizona and San Francisco, two teams that were among the best at stopping the run last year. The AFC West is also a decent defensive conference minus Oakland and the Raiders are already starting to show signs that they are improving on the defensive side as well with rookie Khalil Mack turning in a fantastic rookie season.

What does it mean for Le'Veon Bell?

Of all Pittsburgh's players including Antonio Brown and Ben Reothlisberger, Bell is probably the one guy we need to look at when it comes to a tougher schedule possibly hampering him in 2015. He played above and beyond expectations in 2014, and benefited from some weak defenses in the AFC North and also a weak out of conference schedule with the NFC South in 2014. Not saying that to entirely discredit Bell, he turned in a fantastic season and flashed competence in the receiving game that few people knew he had. 

Even with all that though, the Steelers are a franchise that has found ways to defeat good teams regardless. They managed to make the playoffs last season. They also have a good offensive line with even better chemistry, including Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey. So does a tough schedule make Le'Veon Bell not worth drafting as an RB1? Absolutely not. Does it make you think twice about drafting him in the Top 3? Maybe. But probably not.

Final verdict

Overall, talent rules over everything. Don't worry too much about strength of schedule when drafting fantasy players. While it plays a slight factor, there are way too many other bigger factors that come into play such as injuries, team chemistry and as mentioned before, talent. The best fantasy players are good/great players on good/great teams. If you have a good player on a bad team, he can still produce. If you have a bad player on a good team, he can still produce. It sounds obvious at it is.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Colin Kaepernick

Coming Into the 2014 Season

Colin Kaepernick came into the season off a breakout 2013 campaign in which he had thrown 10 TDs vs. 1 INT in his last 6 regular season games all while rushing for 243 yards in three post season games.  He was 1 Richard Sherman tip away from reaching the Super Bowl and NFL and fantasy football fans were led to believe that he could be the next big thing at the quarterback position.  His 2013 season (25 TDs/8 INTs, 524 yards rushing) placed him 12th amongst fantasy QBs, but because of his rushing ability and his much improved passing efficiency, it seemed as if this was his floor while the sky was the limit. His ADP ranged from as high as the 6th QB to as low as the 10th QB off the board.  

2014: Weeks 1-6

The 2014 fantasy season started off with mixed results as Kaepernick was not playing all that well as an NFL QB, but the fantasy point totals added up.  In the first five weeks he showed flashes of brilliance for one half of the game while sailing throws, taking sacks and folding in the other half.  However, he consistently provided enough rushing yards so that his fantasy point total was respectable.  His week 6 MNF performance against the Rams (335 yards and 3 TD) was his high point of the season, raising him to the 7th ranked QB.  This performance had Kaepernick owners saying to themselves, “This guy hasn’t even started really running yet.  He’s put together incredible halves of games, and finally he had a complete game of dominance. This guy could be top 5 when all is said and done.  Crabtree and Vernon Davis haven’t even done anything yet.  This season is going to be incredible!”  Well, as you all know, that week 6 game would be his only big performance, and the plummet to a disappointing season happened quickly, leading to his finishing as the 16th ranked QB. So the question on the minds of Kaepernick owners at year’s end was…..What happened?

Two Bust Pass Catchers.  I’m talkin’ to you Crabtree and Vernon

Michael Crabtree finished 2013 healthy and having been two years removed from a torn ACL, his 2014 season was supposed to be a special one.  NFL experts pegged a healthy Crabtree as a game changer, much like he was in 2012, and the reason why San Francisco would overtake Seattle in the division.  In addition, Vernon Davis was an athletic tight end on the rise coming off a career high 13 TDs.  Savvy veterans Anquan Boldin and newly signed Stevie Johnson rounded out what looked like a pass catching foursome that would give defensive backs nightmares.  What happened next was not expected by anyone…Boldin was the heart and soul of the team and was incredible while the great duo of Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree were among the biggest real life and fantasy football busts.  Both players struggled with injury while running poor routes and dropping pass after pass.  They’ve actually dropped three passes since you started reading this article!  Stevie Johnson was basically a non-factor.  The poor play of Crabtree and Davis left a lot of points on the table for Kapernick owners from day 1 all the way through week 16. 

Ineffective/Injured Offensive Line

Starting guard Alex Boone entered 2014 as a holdout and didn’t have a training camp.  Pro Bowl right tackle Anthony Davis was coming off shoulder surgery which held him out of the preseason and injured his hamstring in practice before week 1.  He returned in week 4 and sprained his MCL the same day against the Eagles.  He returned briefly while playing injured and then sustained a concussion in week 12.  He was held to 5 games.  Boone struggled throughout the year and Davis’s absence led to swinging gate, Jonathan Martin, having to play right tackle.  The end result was an offensive line that allowed 53 sacks, the 3rd most in the league. Sure, Kaepernick held onto the ball too long leading to some of these sacks, but the o-line was significantly worse than the unit the 49ers had previously considered a position of great strength. 

Defenses Adjusting to the Mobile QB

As I had previously mentioned, Kaepernick put together respectable rushing totals in weeks 1-6.  He had rushed for 37-65 yards in 4 out of the first 6 weeks.  In the following 7 weeks, Kaepernick was not able to break 26 yards.  His threat as a rusher had been taken away, and the safety net for fantasy owners, Kaepernick’s rushing totals, had disappeared.  As a slap in the face to his owners, he ended the season rushing for 151 yards and a TD in a game against the Chargers.  It was his only rushing TD on the season (last season he had 4). 

Decision Making and Touch Passes

These are the two areas where Kaepernick struggles the most.  When his first read is open he’s incredible.  When his second read is open he’s pretty good.  When both his first and second reads are covered he starts dancing around and either throws the ball away, takes a sack, or turns it over. Starting in week 7, defenses regularly started to rush only 3 or 4 and take away his first receiving option.  He was able to find Anquan Boldin often because my man Q is incredible at finding holes in the zone, but Kaerpernick often missed first down opportunities on crucial drives because he did not go past his second read.  Outlet receivers and lesser talented options would be open, but he just wouldn't bother to look at them.  These adjustments led to a jaw dropping run from week 7 to week 16 where Kaepernick had 1 or fewer TD passes leading to Kaepernick being amongst the worst fantasy QBs in the 2nd half of the season.

In addition, when Kaepernick did deliver the ball it was almost always getting to the receiver at 95 MPH.  Kaepernick was recruited as a pitcher and he sports one of the fastest bullet passes, but it’s the only speed he knows how to throw. Until the young QB learns when it is appropriate to throw a bullet vs. a medium speed pass vs. a touch pass, more drops and more inaccuracy can be expected. 

Lessons Learned

Major changes will be coming in San Francisco.  Jim Harbaugh is already out as head coach and offensive coordinator Greg Roman is interviewing with other teams, so he could very well be out of the mix in San Francisco. Kaepernick has all the talent in the world, but he needs to get his head on straight in order to succeed.   His decision making and accuracy issues were exploited this season and he’ll most likely be learning a new offense.  The new head coach, and coordinator/personnel changes will determine his value going into next season.  Because of his unique skill-set, he will always have a high ceiling as long as he’s a starting QB, however, unlike last year, fantasy owners should not be drafting him as their starting QB.  

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Week 16 is the championship week in fantasy football for nearly every league. Unfortunately, there are a lot of top running backs whose status is in flux on the biggest week of the fantasy football season. You may be one of those people facing the dillema of having one of those backs on your fantasy team and are still uncertain what your lineup should look like. We're here to hopefully make it a little easier to decide. Here are a bunch of running backs whose status is uncertain heading into Week 16, what their matchups are like, and whether or not we trust them to win you a fantasy championship.

Cleveland Browns Isaiah Crowell @ Carolina Panthers

Crowell's problem: Hip injury

What he did last game (vs. Cincinnati): 7 carries for 17 yards (2.9 yards per carry), 2 catches for 17 yards

What he's up against this week if he plays: Carolina ranks 12th worst against fantasy running backs (17.8 points per game)

What happened last week: Crowell has put together an impressive rookie season with 8 touchdowns and 546 rushing yards. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted. Crow's always been a bit of a touchdown dependent, boom or bust guy due largely to the Browns dual system with Terrance West. That, combined with the Browns suspect run blocking ever since Pro Bowl center Alex Mack went down for the season and you have a constant whirlwind of uncertainty going into each matchup if you have Crowell. 

To complicate matters further, the Browns trotted out rookie Johnny Manziel for the first time last week and it was a strug. The rookie quarterback forced the issue at times, made some classic rookie mistakes like throwing the ball just a half second too late on an out route which lead to an interception and overall created more doubt regarding whether the Browns will move the ball effectively this week. Of course, you can't place the blame solely on Manziel. The Browns receivers failed to reel in a few of his throws, but his mistakes were enough to severely limit the Browns offense and allowed the Bengals to bring the blitz more which limited Crowell's upside.

What could happen this week: The Panthers are a far cry from the dominant defense they were just a year ago where they ranked second best team in the league against running backs. Injuries on the defensive line sprinkled with lackluster depth at the receiver position have resulted in several low scoring outputs for the Panthers, but they have established a bit of a running identity in the last few weeks. The Panthers have shown life in the running game with Jonathan Stewart averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Panthers will also likely get Cam Newton back and he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Even though Crowell is banged up, he played through it last week which could indicate he's not completely against playing through pain. Still, the Browns are a complete liability on offense as long as Manziel is under center as a rookie. If you watched the Bengals/Browns game last week, you saw how the Bengals completely dominated the Browns in the run game which ate up clock and limited the offenses time on the field. That could very well be the case again this week against Carolina with Stewart.

Do we trust Crowell?: No

Who would we start over him?: Giovani Benard, Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron, Lamar Miller, Tre Mason

Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis Colts

Murray's problem: Broken metacarpal in his left hand (same injury as Apollo Creed's opponent in Rocky I which forced the champ to find himself another ranked contender)

What he did last game (@ Philadelphia): 31 carries for 81 yards, 2 touchdowns (2.6 yards per carry)

What he's up against this week if he plays: Indianapolis ranks 6th worst against fantasy running backs (19.1 points per game)

What happened last week: While many consider Murray's injury huge in terms of affecting his value, the status of offensive linemen Zach Martin and Doug Free may actually make a bigger difference. Martin and Free suffered ankle injuries last week against Philadelphia, but luckily both avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain which could've been a sweet kiss of death for Week 16. Their status is uncertain but if either or them can't go, it could really impact the effectiveness of the Cowboys run game. 

As for what happened in the game itself, the Philadelphia Eagles front four picked up from where they left off last week after handling the run quite well a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch. Fletcher Cox has been a force up the middle all year long and is a perfect fit for the 3-4 scheme. They kept Lynch under the 100-yard mark and held him to just 3.7 yards per carry.

Against Murray, it was more of the same. They held the league's leading rusher to a season low 2.9 yards per carry average. Even when defensive end Trent Cole went out with an injury in the second half, Brandon Graham stepped right in and the defense didn't miss a beat as far as containing Murray went. Still, the Cowboys committed to the run and Murray went on to have a productive fantasy day despite being limited. It shows you just how valuable he is to the offense even when he's not performing at his peak.

What could happen this week: Murray is currently a game time decision for Week 16. If you weren't lucky enough to grab his handcuff Joesph Randle (who's available in 87% of Yahoo! Leagues) then you may have a crisis on your hands. The matchup against Indy is tasty like a Dallas steak medium rare cooked on a cast iron grill. The Colts are allowing 110 rushing yards per game and rarely hold opponents to low scores. They've been involved in several shootouts with their No. 1 ranked passing attack and teams haven't exactly struggled when it comes to keeping up with their scoring. Two weeks ago, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for over 100 rushing yards against them. They allowed 99 yards from Arian Foster last week and over 130 total rushing yards to the Texans overall. This is a team that can be run on, but you can't put Murray's status at anything better than 50/50 at this point so you'll have to monitor him throughout the week. But remember to monitor the status of the linemen as well. If Martin and Free can't go but Murray can, expect Murray to maybe be a little less effective but still startable. If Murray can't go and neither can Marin and Free, then go with Randle if you have him but temper expectations severely.

Do we trust Murray?: If Martin and Free can't go, then no. But you have to start him anyway because of the all important fantasy commandment of 'start thy studs.'

Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Charles' problem: Ankle and knee injuries

What he's up against this week: Pittsburgh ranks 12th best against fantasy running backs (14.6 points per game)

What happened last week: Charles rushed for a respectable 52 yards on 15 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and looked like his usual self until  a big hit sidelined him for virtually the remainder of the game. Originally thought to be concussed, it turned out Charles' head is just fine and he shouldn't have any more obstacles keeping him from playing against Pittsburgh this week. Backup running back Knile Davis continues to be among the top handcuff RBs in the league and is a worthy flex option regardless if Charles starts or not.

What could happen this week: The Steelers have a lot on the line in this game. They control their own destiny heading into the playoffs. Still, they remain completely inept against the pass (252 passing yards allowed per game) and allow 23.8 fantasy points to wide receivers per game which could help Charles be very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Charles hasn't been the dominant receiver in 2014 that we've seen in the past but he still has 5 receiving touchdowns on the year to go with 235 receiving yards. Davis could be in line for some catches as well. 

Do we trust Charles?: Yes, go with him as an RB1, start Davis as a flex

San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore vs. San Diego Chargers

Gore's problem: Concussion

What he did last game: 11 carries for 29 yards, 1 touchdown

What he's up against this week if he plays: San Diego ranks 13th best against fantasy running backs (14.5 points per game)

What happened last week: Gore got off to a hot start before he took a vicious hit after trying to block down field which left him with a concussion. Fellow running back Carlos Hyde, who replaced Gore, also suffered injuries to his ankle and back. Both running backs missed practice on Tuesday and they have a short week as they're scheduled to play San Diego on Saturday.

What could happen this week: Even before his injury, Gore had been struggling. His YPC average hovered around 2.7 over the last four games and he hasn't crossed the century mark since Week 5 against Kansas City. Hyde has been waiting in the wings and looks like the fresher option at this point. He's been limited in touches, but when he's gotten the carries he runs hard and is a touchdown threat around the goal line.

Do we trust Gore?: No

What should you do: if Gore can't go, then start Hyde as a flex. If Gore can go, bench both him and Hyde or keep Gore in the flex if you're desperate. Hyde simply doesn't get enough carries if Gore is on the field to be effective.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

Episode 38: First Aid (Week 15)

On Monday's Week 15 edition of First Aid, the Helpers analyze Seattle/San Francisco and Detroit/Minnesota and give out fantasy value to the players in those contests. Plus weekly awards and a quick preview of Chicago/New Orleans tonight. Enjoy.

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

Week 14 sleepers and busts

Congratulations!  If you’re reading this then (in most leagues) you’re in the fantasy playoffs!  Now let’s begin that Super Bowl run. There’s a common saying “may the best team win”.  I couldn’t disagree more with this saying!  “May MY team win”, or for you readers, "may YOUR team win” is more like it……unless you’re one of my league competitors. And if I or you happen to be the best team, then this still qualifies.  But, in the playoffs the standings are irrelevant, and regular season accomplishments do not matter.  It’s three weeks of win or go home, and whether you're a top seed or lower seeded playoff team, be confident.  Those teams who are stacked really do have a chance to go home early.  It’s a small sample size, but in my 12 team league, the best team, the team who led the league in points during the regular season, has only gone on to win the Super Bowl twice out of 10 years.  So if you don’t think you’re the best, then maybe that’s a good thing!

Beating the best is the key to winning it all, and it is going to take some chutzpah.  If you’re going up against a team who is truly elite and is projected to beat you by 30+ points, it’s going to be tough but it's not over by a longshot.  If you know you’ll be up against a big score, then I suggest trying to hit a home run with a high upside start even if the player has a low floor.  If you’re in this position, now is not the time to stick with your boring, low upside players (i.e. Reggie Wayne, Owen Daniels, Frank Gore) just because you’ve been starting them all year.  It all comes down another saying, one I do like a lot, “no guts, no glory”.  I’ve witnessed teams starting players like Billy Volek (former Titans QB), Ryan Moats (former Eagles RB), or Tim Tebow make deep playoff runs, demolishing teams who are better on paper.  Hey, just look at what Ryan Fitzpatrick of all people was able to do last week.  At this time of the year, anything goes.

If you’re in the playoffs then most of your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot.  However, there are players at every position that I believe can be the first step towards your 2014 Super Bowl ring. The below sleepers and busts will be a good source for week 14’s home run hitters and those players to avoid in round 1 of the playoffs.

Without further ado, your week 14 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·         Teddy Bridgewater vs. New York Jets.  If you’re playing matchups at QB the best thing you can do this week is embrace your Teddy bear and hope for the best…your Teddy bear of course being Teddy Bridgewater.  Bridgewater is getting more and more comfortable every week in Norv Turner’s offense and Turner has finally decided (fortunately for Bridgewater and the Vikings offense as a whole) that Cordarelle Patterson should not be on the field.  Explosive WR, Charles Johnson’s emergence and Kyle Rudolph’s return to the lineup have allowed Turner to run the offense he envisioned when he joined the staff and it’s led to Bridgewater acquiring value as a matchup play.  He has back to back 2 TD weeks and only 2 INTs in the last 5 weeks.  The Jets are as good of a matchup play as you can get.  Ranking 30th against the pass and having only picked off three passes this season, the Jets are a dream playoff matchup.  They're going through the motions to finish the season and Rex Ryan knows he’s not coming back.  There is no motivation on the part of Gang Green to pull off a surprising performance on the road. Expect Bridgewater to continue to mature, and if the game stays close and Teddy gets to throw for four quarters, we could be looking at a career day and Bridgewater’s first 3 TD game.

I’d Start Teddy Bridgewater over:  Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez

Bust QB:

·         Andy Dalton v. Pittsburgh.  I totally understand that Pittsburgh is a great matchup and that their CBs are burnable.  However, I don’t trust that Andy Dalton and his 13/13 TD/INT ratio are capable of taking advantage.  His pro-bowl LT, Andre Smith, is out for the season and Dalton is fresh off a 176 yard 1 TD/3 INT dud against an awful Tampa Bay secondary.  Dalton is as inconsistent as they come and he’s thrown 0 TDs in 4 games this season while also throwing 1 TD in another 4 games.  So 66.667% of the time he's thrown at most 1 passing TD. He's not exactly trending upward either with 2 TD/4INT in the last two weeks.  The Andy Dalton name has some recognition and can make you feel warm and fuzzy when looking at the matchup, but you can easily do better than him as a fantasy starter.   

I’d Start the following players over Andy Dalton:   Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater

Sleeper RB:

·         Trent Richardson at Cleveland.  To be clear I like Boom Herron this week but I like Richardson slightly more. Richardson gets to go back to the city where all the running in place started, Cleveland.  Seriously, it’s a revenge game for Trent and if he’ll ever put it into that next gear (first gear?), it will be this week.  He’s gone on the record saying he’ll jump into the dog pound after he scores, and the Colts if they can take an early lead will do what they can to get Richardson in the endzone.  Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano remains adamant Richardson is the starter on this team and will continue to receive touches. Herron’s explosiveness (and Richardson’s lack thereof) keeps him in the rotation but he’s had fumbling issues that keep Trent out there getting half the touches. Besides this being a revenge game, Cleveland sports a soft front 4, and while the defense focuses on containing Andrew Luck, they can be had in the running game. I don’t see this as a high ceiling start but I can see this as a flex play with about 70 total yards and at least one TD. 

I’d start Trent Richardson over:  Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Latavius Murray, Bishop Sankey

Bust RB:             

·         Frank Gore at Oakland.  Frank Gore is coming to the end of a fine career and could very well find himself in Canton one day.  However, this season may be the beginning of the end.  Gore has had 50 yards or fewer rushing in 5 out of the last 7 games and only 1 rushing TD in the last 10 games.  He only has 9 catches on the season so he’s no longer a factor in the receiving game.  The matchup against Oakland is ideal, but Gore having a big game would mean that San Francisco would have to be able to move the ball on offense.  The offensive line is vastly under-performing both in the pass game and run game.  Nothing the 49ers have done the past three weeks has shown that they have the ability to move the ball.  Last week was pathetic, but I’ll give them a pass against Seattle. But scoring only 16 points and 17 points against two of the worst defenses in the league (NY Giants, Washington), is inexcusable.  Oakland presents another supposed plus matchup, so Gore is ranked as a high RB2, but he’s clearly past his prime, and I’m starting to believe that the 49ers do not have a solution to the mess they’re experiencing on offense.

I’d start the following players over Frank Gore:  Tre Mason, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller, Gio Bernard, Trent Richardson

Sleeper WR:

·         Nate Washington v. New York Giants.  This is for you guys in deep 3/4 WR leagues, and you’ll thank me later.  Nate Washington is about to have a BIG week and a BIG fantasy playoffs so grab him.  Prior to this year Washington was a viable WR3 in all leagues.  He was 2013s #35 WR in .5 PPR leagues having put up over 900 yards receiving.  He has a 1000 yard season to his name and has 8 career 100 yard games including 3 just last season.  This season Justin Hunter, a promising WR with freakish speed and size, was supposed to be the next big thing, so the Titans, a team that is not really in win now mode, gave Hunter all the reps, snaps, and looks he can handle. Hunter suffered a lacerated spleen in Week 13 after getting hit by a freight train named Daniel Manning.  Hunter stayed in the game briefly but was ineffective.  After the injury, Nate Washington started getting peppered with targets, racking up 9 in total along with 5 receptions, 61 yards, and a score.  This was Washington’s 2nd TD in the past 3 weeks, a stretch where he’s had over 200 yards receiving.  The Titans top WR threat, Kendall Wright, suffered a cracked bone in his wrist this week and could miss week 14, leading to even more targets for the savvy veteran. The Giants come to Tennessee, still brutal and banged up at every position on defense.   Nate Washington will be able to outsmart the Giants porous defense and will have many targets, many catches, and at least one of his patented big plays. I recommend him as a #3 WR, the same place he ranked last year when he played a full complement of snaps.  His week 14-16 schedule is NYG, NYJ, @Jax.  GET HIM NOW.

I’d Start Nate Washington over:  Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Keenan Allen,  Marques Colston, Julian Edelman, Reuben Randle

Bust WR:

·         Keenan Allen at New England.  Next stop Revis Island.  The Chargers have so many other weapons with Gates, Floyd, Royal, and then Mathews in the running game, so there is no way Mike McCoy's gameplan will be to overload Keenan Allen with targets. Revis has left his Tampa Bay days behind him and returned to his lockdown form in 2014. Stud WRs Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and TY Hilton have combined for 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD  the last 3 weeks against Revis! When ONE of those guys has a game like that nobody blinks an eye, but to lock down all three like that is something that cannot be ignored.  Keenan Allen isn't even close to the player those guys are, so I’d expect him to do less than the 3 catch, 40 yard average that they were held to in the previous three weeks.  Allen has been hot but he simply cannot be started this week in any/all formats.   

I’d start the following players over Keenan Allen:  Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings

Sleeper TE:

·         Travis Kelce at Arizona.  One team’s strength against another team’s weakness.  Arizona has elite CB talent but cannot seem to stop TEs ranking 27th on the season against the position.  Kansas City is still waiting to throw its first TD to a WR while their TE combination of Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano have combined for a whopping eight TDs. I like this matchup a lot for Kelce.  The Chiefs will do their best to run the ball with Jamaal Charles, but could very well struggle against the league’s 6th ranked team in rushing yards against.  They’ll have to go to the air and it only makes sense that they use their TEs to do so.  Not convinced?  Take a look at this motley crew who has hit paydirt against the Cardinals:  Jared Cook, Cooper Helfet, Daniel Fells, Levine Toilolo, and Julius Thomas. Outside of the elite TEs and Delanie Walker, I like Kelce the most this week at this position.

I’d start Travis Kelce over:  Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed

Bust TE:

·         Dwayne Allen at Cleveland.  Dwayne Allen is set to make his return to the lineup after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. Prior to his departure he was squarely in the mid TE 1 conversation.  However, I’d expect some rust in his first game back.  In addition, Coby Fleener has been fantasy’s #1 TE over the last three weeks.  Fleener had a very ugly drop on a sure thing long TD last week but has otherwise been picking up large chunks of yardage through the air and getting into the endzone.  Allen will clearly cut into Fleener’s looks but I don’t see the Colts forgetting about what Fleener has done the last few weeks.  Furthermore, the Browns are on tap, a team who allowed a huge game to Jimmy Graham in week 2 but has since not allowed any TE to score more than 11.8 fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues.  They’ve completely shut down many of the TE they’ve faced during this stretch and in 6 games have limited TEs to less than 6.4 points.  Allen is a risky play returning from injury and perhaps sharing with Fleener and the matchup at Cleveland lacks the upside needed for a fantasy playoff start. 

I’d Start the Following Players over Dwayne Allen:  Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell

That’ll do it for week 14. Do not leave any bullets in that holster.  There's no reason to play it safe now. Go big or go home.  May your run to the Super Bowl begin this Sunday.  Good Luck!

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 10 November 2014 00:00

Episode 28: First Aid (Week 10)

On Monday's edition of First Aid, the Helpers discuss Colin Kaepernick and whether or not they would trust him in the fantasy playoffs. They also hand out weekly awards and discuss the fantasy implication of tonight's game between Philadelphia and Carolina.

Fantasy analysis: San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans

Colin Kaepernick: 14-for-32, 210 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 rushes for 24 yards, 1 fumble lost (10 fantasy points)

Kaepernick's receivers struggled to catch the ball which hurt his stats, but he had his own problems as well. He still holds onto the ball a bit too long and refuses to throw it away, and often takes sacks that result in fumbles instead. His arm is still something to behold though, as his 50-yard strike to Michael Crabtree on diagonal line was a showcase of just how talented he can be at times.

Drew Brees: 28-for-47, 292 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 1 fumble lost (27 fantasy points)

Brees had just another day at the office, and has now scored 20 or more fantasy points in seven games this season. He found Jimmy Graham twice in the second half, but his three turnovers put a damper on his score a little bit. He continues to develop better chemistry with Brandin Cooks and is looking like he'll remain a QB1 for the rest of the year.

Mark Ingram: 27 carries, 120 yards (4.4 YPC), 0 touchdowns (12 fantasy points)

Another fantastic game from Ingram, who looks like a completely new running back in this Saints' offense. He's running with a purpose we've never seen before, and it's translating to great fantasy numbers on a weekly basis. He's scored 23, 23 and 12 points in his last three games, and the Saints appear more committed to the run than they ever have been. He's a great RB2 option unless the Saints decide to scale back his carries. Keep in mind, Ingram is only 24 years old.

Frank Gore: 23 carries, 81 yards, 1 touchdown (14 fantasy points)

It was the most points scored by Gore since Week 5 against Kansas City where he rushed for over 100 yards. The 49ers keep leaning on Gore and he continues to produce consistently despite his age. He's still a great flex/RB2 option due to his role in the 49ers' offense and as long as he's healthy, you can be safe starting him in deep leagues.

Carlos Hyde: 4 carries, 36 yards, 1 touchdown (9 fantasy points)

It's a bit frustrating to see a talented rookie like Hyde only get four touches, but there's still some upside to having him on your team. The 49ers like to give him the ball in goal line situations, which leads to touchdowns of course. So as long as he's getting those, you can still plug him in your flex spot in a good matchup and hope for the best. 

Anquan Boldin: 6 catches, 95 yards, 1 touchdown, 15 targets (15 fantasy points)

You know you're a valued receiver in your team's offense if you drop 3 passes in a game and still see 15 targets. Boldin's drops in this game were uncharacteristic of the veteran, as he came in with just two on the season. If you have Boldin, you shouldn't worry and should continue starting him every week as your WR3. The 49ers schedule gets much easier down the road, and they even have a great matchup against Oakland right around the fantasy playoffs. Boldin should be a heavy favorite to change the fortunes of your team when it matters most.

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