RB fantasy tips: Wells could excel in return to action

Posted Nov. 21, 2012 @ 3:59 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

The Cardinals' Beanie Wells, who will return from injury Sunday, is among the fantasy sleepers PFW considers in our Week 12 running-back fantasy tips.

Cardinals RB Beanie Wells could be an interesting fantasy sleeper this Sunday against the Rams, as he is equipped with very fresh legs coming off the injured reserve/designated for return list. Wells, who had been sidelined by a toe injury and a sore knee, and change-of-pace RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, who had his second 100-yard game of the season last Sunday, could give the Rams’ defense, which had trouble handling the Jets’ no-name ground attack last Sunday, some problems this Sunday. It’s worth noting that Wells exploded with a 228-yard rushing performance with a TD in the Cardinals’ 23-20 Week 12 victory over the Rams last season.

Look for Rams RB Steven Jackson to continue being a solid fantasy option after Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said early this week that he erred in not using Jackson enough and giving up on the Rams’ ground game in the ugly Week 11 loss to the Jets. In his last two games, Jackson has posted decent numbers: He had 29-101-1 rushing vs. the 49ers two weeks ago and 81 yards on only 13 carries last week vs. the Jets. Team sources are indicating Jackson will be getting more touches moving forward at the expense of rookie Daryl Richardson, whose penchant for coughing up the ball has reportedly become cause for concern.

At least until the injured Cedric Benson returns for the Packers, it appears James Starks will be providing the bulk of the team’s ground attack over Alex Green, who was barely used last week against the Lions. Starks carried 25 times for 74 yards vs. Detroit, and while his yards per carry leave a lot to be desired, the number of opportunities he had vs. Detroit bodes well for his fantasy potential.

Monitor the status of Raiders RB Darren McFadden this week. McFadden has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain and FB Marcel Reece has shined in his absence, racking up 297 yards from scrimmage over that span. Reece is worthy of starting consideration against the Bengals’ run defense, which has allowed an average of 118 yards rushing and one rushing TD per game, but a return by McFadden is an obvious threat to Reece’s touches.

Given Michael Turner’s struggles this season, owners ought to consider benching him this week with a matchup against the Bucs, who have the league’s top-ranked run defense.

While Browns RB Trent Richardson hasn't scored in the past two weeks, he has had more than 30 touches in each game, racking up at least 13 fantasy points in both contests in conventional yardage formats. The Steelers are solid vs. the run, but Richardson's a recommended play all the same. He's just getting too much work to easily sit.

The Raiders are struggling on defense, and the Bengals' running game comes off its best game of the season (189 yards on 38 carries). BenJarvus Green-Ellis (25-101-1 in Week 11) merits strong starting consideration vs. Oakland, which is allowing 4.5 yards per carry.

Looks like it’s another week for DeMarco Murray and his foot to rest on the sideline. Felix Jones, who has been bothered with a knee injury, should be fine for Thursday’s game against the Redskins.

The Steelers could lean on their running game in Week 12 with third-string QB Charlie Batch in the lineup. Jonathan Dwyer (12-55-0 in Week 11) and Rashard Mendenhall (11-33-0) both figure to get enough work to be potential flex plays in big leagues. However, the Steelers' committee approach in the backfield limits their upside. Check the status of Isaac Redman (concussion). He also could get some carries.

Jets RB Bilal Powell rushed for 42 yards and two touchdowns in Week 11, and most importantly for fantasy owners (aside from the red-zone touches) — he was on the field for two more snaps than Shonn Greene. Powell should be a target for owners in need of a back, but use caution in Week 12. The Patriots have a strong rush defense and the Jets may be passing often if they are playing from behind.

The Patriots continue to throw fantasy owners for a loop with their backfield, as Shane Vereen rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries and one touchdown in Week 11. Stevan Ridley remains an every-week starter in all formats, but it’s too difficult to expect much out of Vereen on a week-by-week basis. Danny Woodhead is still a better bet, and he has had success against New England’s Week 12 foe, the Jets, his former team.

Ronnie Hillman is the Broncos’ back to pick up now that Willis McGahee is injured reserve, but Lance Ball is certainly an option in deeper leagues. Denver might look to go to Ball in goal-line situations, and might be cautious about giving Hillman, a rookie, a heavy workload.

Head coach Chan Gailey said that C.J. Spiller will start for the Bills on Sunday against the Colts, even though Fred Jackson has been cleared to play and is expected to return to the field. Spiller has been a great fantasy player this season, but owners who have Jackson should still put him in their lineup, assuming he is active in Week 12. Teams can run on Indianapolis and Jackson is more likely to get a goal-line touch than Spiller.

The Colts’ backfield remains a puzzle, though Vick Ballard (16-72-0) was by far the busiest of the three options in the rout at the hands of the Patriots in Week 11. With Buffalo’s 31st-ranked run defense coming to town Sunday, Ballard is a solid play, with Donald Brown and even Delone Carter, who continues to get Indianapolis’ goal-line carries, reasonable options as well.

Texans backup RB Ben Tate (hamstring) didn't practice on Tuesday, but “worked harder than the whole team,” according to head coach Gary Kubiak, who added that Tate “ran his tail off with the trainers.” Kubiak said Tate is a game-time decision for Thursday against the Lions. However, with Justin Forsett continuing to capitalize on his limited opportunities, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Tate miss his fourth consecutive game, particularly on a short week.