Week 6: RB Roundup
Fred Jackson (starter); C.J. Spiller (handcuff); Tashard Choice
Current scenario: Things just got real interesting in Buffalo this week. The Bills' rookie starting quarterback - EJ Manuel - has been lost four to eight weeks to a knee injury. This left the Bills searching for a new starting quarterback the same time ex-Buccaneer Josh Freeman became available. After brief discussions with the Bills, Freeman moved on to Minnesota where he decided to sign a one year deal. This has left the Bills with Thad Lewis (who was just signed off the practice squad) and Jeff Tuel as possible starters for week six. Based on Tuel's poor performance in week five, head coach Doug Marrone has decided to start Lewis against the Bengals this Sunday. In his only NFL appearance, Lewis completed 22 of 32 for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Browns' season finale against Pittsburgh last year. If Lewis' performance this week is anything like last season's finale then Buffalo should be able to run the ball effectively. On the other hand, if Lewis struggles and the passing game is near non existent then Jackson and Spiller will find yards hard to come by.
Future scenario: Without EJ Manuel on the field, the run game for Buffalo could struggle. A lack of a passing attack would allow opposing defenses to stack the box, shutting down Jackson and Spiller. On the flip side, a quality start for Lewis could mean fantasy owners can leave Jackson and Spiller in their line up. Until we see just how well Lewis plays, we're going to keep Jackson and Spiller as RB2 or Flex starts.
Trent Richardson (starter); Donald Brown (handcuff); Robert Hughes
Current scenario: When the Colts made the move to acquire Trent Richardson from the Cleveland Browns, fantasy owners were very excited. The big hope of course was that Richardson would become a fantasy stud as member the Colts' high powered offense. Unfortunately Richardson's numbers have not improved since joining Indianapolis. The second year man out of Alabama has rushed for fewer than three yards per carry and has just one reception since joining the Colts. The only positive for Richardson is that he found the end zone in his first two games with his new team. Backing up Richardson the past two weeks has been Donald Brown (as he fills in for the injured Ahmad Bradshaw). Brown has arguably been the best back in a Colts uniform these past two games. The fifth year man out of Connecticut had just 4 fewer yards on 1/4 the carries over the same two game stretch. Brown also got the call from the three yard line late in the game vs. Seattle, while Richardson watched from the sideline. If Brown continues to cut into Richardson's carries and continues to receive goal line calls, he could become a viable flex start.
Future scenario: Three of the Colts' next five games come against run defenses ranked 24th or lower in the league. This could mean big numbers for Richardson and Brown. Richardson should remain the feature back, so owners don't need to worry about him losing his job. Brown could cut into the former Browns' numbers and take a few goal line carries if Richardson doesn't step it up a notch soon.
New York Jets
Bilal Powell (starter); Chris Ivory; Mike Goodson
Current scenario: Mike Goodson returned to action last week after serving a four game suspension, carrying the ball three times for 32 yards and making one reception for 9 yards. This is not good news for Bilal Powell owners, as not only did Goodson return, but Chris Ivory also looked good limited action Sunday. Ivory had just four carries in the game, but ran for 27 yards - just 11 shy of Powell's 38 yards on 12 carries. The Jets have a three headed monster in the backfield and until one of them runs away from the competition, all three will see similar playing time.
Future scenario: With all three backs at his disposal, look for head coach Rex Ryan to use these guys as much or as little as he sees fit. This will be very frustrating for fantasy owners as they see Powell lead the team in carries one week and fall to last in carries the next game. Powell should remain the starter as long as he stays healthy, but the hot hand will likely carry the load from week to week.
Knowshon Moreno (starter); Ronnie Hillman; Montee Ball
Current scenario: The Denver Broncos offense with Peyton Manning under center is amazing to watch. In five games the Broncos have scored at least four touchdowns in each game. This leaves plenty of opportunities for fantasy owners to pick up a touchdown or two each week. In three of Denver's five games, Knowshon Moreno has found the end zone at least once. At first it appeared Denver's run game would be split between all three backs, but things have settled down these past couple of games and it looks like Moreno is the starter. This week Denver hosts the Jaguars in what should be a big win for the Broncos. This could mean big numbers for Moreno, but this will need to happen early because a big lead could leave the starters watching late in the game.
Future scenario: The Broncos are on a scoring tear and if this keeps up fantasy owners would be crazy not to want someone from Denver on their team. Peyton Manning doesn't seem to care who is on the field as he is distributing the ball to everyone. This is both good and bad in that you can score a bunch one week and then very little the next, but you have to take that chance. This offense is scoring way too many points for you to leave Denver's starters on your bench.
DeAngelo Williams (starter); Jonathan Stewart (PUP); Mike Tolbert
Current scenario: Through the first four games the Panthers backfield has been a one man show with DeAngelo Williams at the helm. Fellow back Jonathan Stewart has been on the PUP list with an ankle injury, unable to return until week seven. In Carolina's first three games Williams posted respectable numbers rushing for 86, 85 and 120 yards before the Panthers' bye week. Last week Carolina ran into a strong Arizona run defense, which limited Williams to just 39 yards. While the yards are nice, it is often touchdowns which win games for fantasy owners and Williams is just not getting it done. This week Carolina heads to Minnesota to face a run defense ranked 15th in the league, allowing more than 4 yards per carry. Williams should have another strong showing and possibly his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Future scenario: In week seven look for Carolina to activate Jonathan Stewart off the PUP list and return this backfield to the two headed monster we're used to seeing. This of course means fantasy owners will once again be left holding the bag when it comes to whom to start each week. If you currently own Williams, it may be a good idea to start shopping him around in hopes of finding a suitor before Stewart returns.
Rashard Mendenhall (starter); Andre Ellington (handcuff); Stepfan Taylor; Ryan Williams
Current scenario: Starter Rashard Mendenhall has received the lions share of the carries in every game this season. Until now his position as the Cardinals starter has not been in question. This was until Andre Ellington starting to see more action. On just 18 carries, Ellington has 120 yards rushing for an average of 6.7 yards per carry. This is more than twice the average yards Mendenhall has per carry and this may be the beginning of the end for Rashard in Arizona. For the first time this season Mendenhall and Ellington saw an even number of snaps and this trend will likely continue until a key play forces head coach Bruce Arians' hand.
Future scenario: An injury to Mendenhall or Ellington may be what it takes for one of these backs to become the feature guy. Ellington obviously has had the better season to date, but that could be just being in the right place at the right time. On the other hand, the rookie out of Clemson could be just what the Cardinals have been searching for these past few years. If you have available roster space (or are in need of a flex or bye week start), Ellington could be a nice pick up.
Steven Jackson (starter); Jacquizz Rodgers; Jason Snelling; Antone Smith
Current scenario: Since suffering a hamstring injury week 2 against the Rams, Steven Jackson has not been a part of the Falcons offense. This has left backfield duties to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling. Last week against the Jets, Snelling had seven carried for 13 yards and five receptions for 10 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game due to a concussion. With Snelling out, Rodgers racked up 14 carries for 43 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Falcons run game. When Jackson returns to action he will resume the lead back roll, with Rodgers seeing some action as a change of pace back.
Future scenario: The Falcons (who are already struggling to find themselves offensively) received a blow this week when number one receiver Julio Jones received word he may have to miss the remainder of the season due to a foot injury. To compound things, fellow receiver Roddy White has been battling an ankle injury and now has a hamstring injury to add to the list. Atlanta has a bye this week, which should help them recover some, but things aren't going to get any easier. Week 8 brings a tough match-up against a Tampa Bay defense ranked 9th in the NFL that has yet to yield a rushing touchdown. The following week brings a trip to Arizona where the Falcons will see the league's 3rd best rush defense. The Cardinals are allowing just 79 yards on the ground per game and have allowed just one rushing touchdown. If the Falcons can't figure out a pass game without their top two receivers, they could find yards very difficult to come by these next few games.