PFW's late-week fantasy tips for running backs:
Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch has been a steady fantasy force much of the season, and there are three strong reasons to believe he could be ready to put on a big-time fantasy show on a national stage Sunday night against the 49ers. For starters, the numbers don’t lie: (Six 100-yard efforts in the last eight games, eight rushing TDs in the last seven games). Secondly, while one of those aforementioned century-mark performances was a 19-103 outing in the Week Seven 13-6 loss to the 49ers, Lynch was clearly outplayed by Niners RB Frank Gore, who exploded for 182 total yards and was a dominating force. Lynch, one would think, would like nothing more than to turn the tables and make Gore an afterthought, especially before an adoring home crowd and in prime time. We saved the third — and possibly most noteworthy — reason for last: the possible absence of Niners DT Justin Smith with an elbow injury (check status). With Smith on the sideline practically the entire second half last Sunday, all the Patriots did was score 31 points, gain 407 yards and rack up 26 first downs in the final 30 minutes. If Smith is out of the mix Sunday night, Lynch just might have a field day.
While potentially messy weather conditions at Lambeau Field could dictate more of a run-oriented attack for the Packers, you probably won’t be getting much fantasy bang from any of the Green Bay backs this Sunday vs. Tennessee. Alex Green is questionable after suffering a concussion last week (check status), so a total time-share situation is expected for Ryan Grant, DuJuan Harris and FB John Kuhn.
Are owners of Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew poised to receive an early Christmas gift this week, with Jones-Drew returning to action from a foot injury for the first time in over two months just in time for championship week? Not so fast. Mojo did some light running on Wednesday, and head coach Mike Mularkey billed Jones-Drew questionable instead of “very questionable,” as he’s been doing for the past several weeks. However, until Jones-Drew can get back onto the practice field — he didn’t practice Wednesday and isn’t expected to Thursday — chances are slim that he could play this week against the Patriots.
Colts rookie RB Vick Ballard, coming off his first 100-yard rushing day, faces the Chiefs’ 27th-ranked rushing defense at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. With Delone Carter (ankle) still not practicing and recently signed Mewelde Moore fumbling on the Texans’ goal line last week, expect Ballard to get the lion’s share of the work this week, making him a low-end No. 2 RB and strong flex play.
Titans RB Chris Johnson broke off the longest run of his career Monday night against the Jets, quickly hitting the crease and exploding downfield, untouched, 94 yards for a touchdown. Johnson was quiet the rest of the evening, managing just 28 yards on 20 carries, but his home-run potential is clearly still there, and he should be in your lineup Sunday against Green Bay’s middling defense.
With a matchup against Detroit’s 18th-ranked run defense Saturday, the Falcons’ Michael Turner fits as a low-end No. 2 RB in most formats. He should have scoring opportunities — Turner is averaging only 38 yards rushing in his past six games, but he is continuing to get the call on the goal line. Turner has scored a TD in each of the past five games (and six of the last seven).
For owners desperate for help at running back, Saints RB Mark Ingram is worth a look. He is getting nearly 12 carries per game in his past six outings and has scored a TD in three of the last five games. In deep leagues, Ingram is a decent low-end option against the Cowboys’ 15th-ranked run defense.
Browns RB Trent Richardson has scored double-digit fantasy points in seven consecutive games and is a strong play in Week 16 at Denver. Richardson (258 carries, 897 yards, 11 TDs) is having the sort of season that would please owners in TD-only leagues to no end. His yards per carry average is nothing to write home about (3.5), but he has been a force near the goal line. Richardson has played through a knee injury and injured ribs in his rookie season.
Whether to start Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer could be a tricky read for fantasy owners. While the Steelers racked up a season-high 167 rushing yards against Cincinnati in the first meeting between the teams, the Bengals’ run defense has been outstanding of late, allowing 49 rushing yards or less in the past three games.
Lions RB Mikel Leshoure is a solid flex option in Week 16 vs. Atlanta. The Falcons have had their problems vs. the run, surrendering 4.87 yards per carry through 14 games. Leshoure has rushed for at least one TD in five of the last seven games.
In a bit of a surprise, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy will start in place of Bryce Brown, whose fumbling problems have been well-documented. McCoy has been cleared from his concussion, which he suffered against the Redskins in Week 11, and apparently will be good to go.
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray has been taking Wednesday practices off lately to rest his foot injury that caused him to miss six games earlier this season. No alarm — he’s expected to face the Saints’ 31st-ranked run defense on Sunday.
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw says he’ll play Sunday against the Ravens. The Giants have yet to make an official decision. It appears he’s going to travel with the team regardless, but keep checking in for more Bradshaw news as to whether he’ll be active. One note: This is a 4:25 p.m. ET game.
Jets RBs Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell should expect plenty of work on Sunday against the Chargers with Greg McElroy getting his first career start at quarterback. The Chargers are generally strong against the run, but their front seven is banged up and they struggled against Carolina. Greene and Powell have been splitting snaps on almost a 50-50 basis of late. Greene is the better option, but Powell certainly has value in deeper leagues at a flex spot.
It’s anyone’s guess who will get the bulk of the Chargers’ carries on Sunday with Ryan Mathews on injured reserve. Assuming Ronnie Brown is healthy, he’s likely to get the most touches, but Curtis Brinkley could see plenty of work as well. Brinkley had six rushes for 42 yards last week, but only the most desperate of fantasy owners should consider starting a Chargers running back against the Jets’ defense this week.