The PFW staff offers its late-week fantasy RB tips for Week Seven.
Montitor the status of Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, who’s dealing with an Achilles injury. If it appears he will be able to play Sunday night at Cincinnati, he merits starting consideration. The Bengals have allowed 701 rushing yards and eight rushing TDs in six games. What’s more, Mendenhall scored a pair of TDs in each meeting vs. Cincinnati in 2012.
Something has to give Sunday when the Titans’ 32nd-ranked rushing offense squares off against the Bills’ 32nd-ranked rushing defense. Chris Johnson played well on Thursday for the second time in three weeks, gaining 91 yards on 19 carries in a win over the banged-up Steelers. Also encouraging, Tennessee’s offensive line created more movement up front than it had arguably all season. Johnson owners have been fooled before, so there probably isn’t an overwhelming amount of confidence in C.J.’s ability to string solid games together, but this is a matchup in which your likely first- or second-round draft pick must be in the starting lineup.
One of the more popular waiver-wire pickups a week ago, Colts rookie RB Vick Ballard, failed to capitalize on his first NFL start, picking up just 25 yards on eight carries. However, the Colts fell behind early to the Jets, forcing them to quickly abandon the running game. Ballard will get back on the horse this week against the Browns, who have allowed over 100 rushing yards in four of six contests. Ballard is still the main guy in the Colts’ offense with Donald Brown sidelined, but expectations should be tempered considering the shortcomings of Indianapolis’ offensive line and coordinator Bruce Arians’ tendency to sling the ball around the yard with rookie QB Andrew Luck.
Could this be the game the Texans’ ground game explodes? Though the Texans are No. 6 overall rushing the football, they are the only team in the top 10 averaging less than 4.0 yards per carry (3.8). The perfect remedy could be a date with the Ravens, who, for the first time in franchise history, have surrendered over 200 rushing yards on the ground in consecutive weeks. Of course, Baltimore was decimated by injuries last week, only strengthening Houston’s cause. Arian Foster (league-leading seven rushing TDs) is obviously a must-start, but head coach Gary Kubiak indicated that Ben Tate is now practicing fully and there will be a concerted effort to get him more involved in the offense. It might be prudent to wait and see with Tate, but this is an encouraging development.
Don't jump on the Shonn Greene bandwagon just yet. There are two good things going for Greene coming off his career day against Indianapolis — injuries to Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell mean more carries, and the Jets saw the success they have when they actually ground and pound, so he will get his chances. But Week Seven is not a favorable matchup for Greene. The Patriots' strength on defense is against the run (sixth in the league) and Greene has averaged only 51.8 rushing yards a game in five regular-season meetings with New England. If the Patriots get a lead, the Jets will be throwing more, also limiting Greene's opportunities.
The Patriots' formula for success this season has actually been running the ball. They are averaging 5.1 yards a carry in wins and 2.9 in losses. The Jets‚ run defense has not been imposing this season (26th in yards allowed per carry). RB Stevan Ridley should be in all lineups, and owners may want to consider Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead in deeper leagues.
Aside from WR Larry Fitzgerald, it would appear RB William Powell has suddenly become the Cardinals’ second-most attractive fantasy performer following a decent effort in his first real action at the pro level in the Week Six loss to the Bills. Powell, who led the league in rushing this preseason, picked up 70 of the Cardinals’ eye-opening 182 yards on the ground vs. Buffalo last Sunday. It should be noted, though, that Buffalo’s run defense has been a huge sore point so far this season. This Sunday, Powell goes up against a Vikings "D" that had all kinds of problems stopping the runs of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III last Sunday.
Rams rookie RB Daryl Richardson’s fantasy stock continues on the upswing. If the Rams’ Week Six game is any indication, Richardson could be sharing an equal rushing load moving forward with veteran Steven Jackson. Against Miami, Richardson had 11 carries for 76 yards while Jackson, who was the healthiest he has been since suffering a groin injury earlier this season, managed 52 yards on 12 carries. Looking more and more like he could be Jackson’s heir apparent perhaps as soon as next season, Richardson is definitely a worthwhile fantasy pickup in keeper leagues.
Packers RB Alex Green’s 22-65 rushing performance in Green Bay’s breakout annihilation of the Texans was good enough for the team to make him the “lead running back” until further notice. Keep in mind, though, that Green will be going up against a Rams defense that allowed Miami only 36 yards on 17 carries last week
Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (knee) got some rest on Wednesday, but we anticipate he’ll play Sunday against the Cardinals. And he’s been running with passion and purpose lately.
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray is out for Sunday with a foot injury, and we like Felix Jones’ potential at Carolina. Jones has looked far more spry of late, bursting out for 92 yards against the Ravens on Sunday. Jones is healthy and ready to relish the opportunity, it appears, behind what looked like an improved offensive line last week.
Bad news for Ahmad Bradshaw and his foot injury that has flared up for the first time since the preseason. Giants sources still believe he’ll give it a go against the Redskins, but some are worried about his long-term health.
Buccaneers backup RB LeGarrette Blount has scored a TD in each of the past two games, but he still is not getting much work, rushing only 13 times in those two contests. The Bucs’ running game could be in for a highly productive day against the Saints’ 31st-ranked run defense, though. New Orleans is allowing 172.8 yards rushing per game. Blount is a low-end option — he’s worth considering as a flex play in deep leagues — heading into the Bucs’ battle with the Saints.
The Lions’ Mikel Leshoure is a featured back, and featured backs are hard to bench, especially with six teams on bye in Week Seven. Nevertheless, Leshoure doesn’t have an ideal matchup in Week Seven. The Bears have been strong vs. the run since Jahvid Best shredded their run defense one year ago and are allowing the fewest rushing yards in the NFL (65.8) entering Week Seven.
If Browns RB Trent Richardson (ribs) can play in Week Seven, he’s a strong play at Indianapolis. The Colts are allowing 5.0 yards per carry, and they have given up eight rushing scores in five games. Richardson reportedly was able to practice on Wednesday after missing a portion of the Week Six win vs. Cincinnati with the injury.
The Steelers perhaps aren’t as stout as they have been against the run, but it’s nonetheless hard to confidently recommend Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who’s gaining just 3.0 yards per carry in the last five weeks (89 rushes, 271 yards).
Considering his success vs. the Seahawks, San Francisco’s opponent Thursday evening, you’d be out of your mind not to start Niners RB Frank Gore this week. In 12 games vs. Seattle, Gore has gored the Seahawks "D" for 1,079 yards (89.9 ypg), averaging 5.19 yards per carry. Gore has twice rushed for over 200 yards in a game against Seattle.
With Seattle coming off an exhausting battle against the Patriots with only four days rest, you might consider taking a fantasy flier on Seahawks backup RB Robert Turbin, who could spell workhorse RB Marshawn Lynch more than a little Thursday evening against the Niners after cranking out 27 yards on five carries vs. the Pats. Turbin, considered a clone of Lynch by many, has averaged an impressive 4.5 yards per carry in reserve duty.