First of all, congrats to those who punched their ticket to the fantasy post season last week, or who aim to lock down their position this week. Months of draft prep, research, waiver wire mining, and box score scouring are starting to bear the fruits of their labors. Congratulations!
As for those on the outside looking in, look to the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night or the Denver Broncos on Sunday night as inspiration for those needing exactly everything to bounce their way… or maybe next year will be your year. Either way, best of luck in the future.
In the NFL as the weather cools down, the playoff races heat up. In both fantasy football and the realistic incarnation, the importance of the between-the-tackles, clock-grinding running back becomes ever more essential. Backs who can impose their will on the opposition are evermore essential to team success, both in fantasy and reality. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the leading rushers from a week ago.
Week 12’s rushing leaders:
- Adrian Peterson (29/158/2)
- Spencer Ware (19/114/1)
- C.J. Anderson (15/113/2)
- Tevin Coleman (18/110/0)
- Eddie Lacy (17/105/0)
- Doug Martin (14/97/0)
- Chris Ivory (21/87/1)
- Jeremy Hill (16/86/0)
- Thomas Rawls (21/81/1)
- Alfred Morris (23/78/0)
With the exception of maybe Tevin Coleman, all of these running backs are big, powerful, between-the-tackles types who are all really hard to bring down. It’s no coincidence that the combined record of the teams these backs run for was 7-3 with a point differential of +54. Simply put, teams that run the ball well late in the year have a much greater chance of playoff survival than those who don’t. When the weather gets cold, and passing the ball gets difficult, run it down their throats.
Now, in most leagues, the trade deadline has passed and targeting backs that fit this profile is very much out of the question. However, it’s something to factor in when making start/sit decisions. Gameflow is a big factor when it comes to fantasy football, and it becomes ever more crucial this time of year.
There are No more bye weeks and Thanksgiving has passed: nothing but full slates for the next five Sundays.
Cardinals placed veteran running back Chris Johnson on the Injured Reserve With Designation to Return List with a broken leg. Contrary to the name of said list, don’t expect him back anytime soon. CJ2K was, in my
opinion, the surprise of the season from the running back position. He finished with 196/814/3, good enough for fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. According to Fox Sports 910 Cardinals Insider Mike Jurecki, Johnson is expected to miss 6-8 weeks, and could be back in time for the Cardinals’ playoff run.
Johnson’s teammate Andre Ellington was diagnosed with turf toe following his team’s victory over the rival 49ers, according to NFL media insider Ian Rapoport. He is considered day-to-day and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
According to NFL.com, Bills’ running back Karlos Williams was seen in a sling Tuesday. He left the Bills’ 30-22 loss to the Chiefs with a shoulder injury.
NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus writes about Frank Gore’s durability (or lack their of) at age 32. He suggests that his age is finally catching up to him, and that backs such as Zurlon Tipton and Dan Herron could provide relief in terms of workload. Fellow veteran running back, teammate, Ahmad Bradshaw was placed on IR with a wrist injury and is done for the season. Gore hasn’t averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry since Week 7.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn expects Devonta Freeman to suit-up Sunday. “We anticipate getting Free back,” Quinn said. “He was able to participate in all of the meetings and do all of the stuff today. We’re heading into the week anticipating full action with him.”
Thanksgiving night, Matt Forte out-touched rookie Jeremy Langford 16-
13 in the Bears’ 17-13 victory at Lambeau. Forte had the greater opportunity in his first game back with the team. However, Langford
matched the veteran in all-purpose yards (53) and reached the end-zone, something Forte didn’t do. Both are low-end RB2/flex types. Don’t let Forte’s namesake fool you, these backs are very much evenly matched.
LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots:
I’m doubling-down on my thesis from earlier. Backs that can grind down the clock are the ones who heat up when the weather gets cold. It’s December in New England, and I fully expect the Patriots’ tilt with the free-falling Eagles to be, what many like to call, a “LeGarrette Blount” game.
Yes, we all saw the Lions torch the Eagles’ secondary, but they managed to do quite a bit of damage on the ground as well. The Lions, who ranked last in the NFL in rushing offense going into Thursday afternoon, ran for 108 yards as a team against Philly. No, not particularly impressive on the surface, but its pretty impressive if you’re an offense that averages 74.5 rushing yards per game. The Eagles made the Lions’ running game look competent, something few teams let happen.
Factor in the absence of Edelman, and likely Gronkowski, in the passing game, and the Eagles should see a healthy dose of Blount after Amendola and Brady get theirs.
C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos:
I’m sticking to a theme here.
Maybe C.J. Anderson is just one of those backs that thrives when the snow is falling and his team is in need of a victory? Or, as Chris Collinsworth put it on last Sunday night’s broadcast, “He’s a mudder”, which instantly brings this Seinfeld moment to mind:
The ladder portion of the video more than accurately portrays Anderson fantasy owners and Bronco supporters (or Patriot haters).
It was Week 11 of 2014 when the legend of C.J. Anderson was born. Could this be the start of another C.J. Anderson fantasy playoff surge? Well, he gets the Chargers this Sunday. There’s a very good chance of him having another very productive game against one of the league’s worst run defenses (opponents average 4.9 yards per carry). No, the weather won’t be anywhere near chilly in San Diego, but expect Anderson to produce as if it was a blustery afternoon at Mile High.
DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers:
This matchup is a win-win for Williams owners, whether Big Ben plays next Sunday night or not.
If Roethlisberger does play, which he tentatively is scheduled to, the Steelers should out-throw the Colts by the midway point of the third quarter. Andrew Luck struggled to keep up with this Steeler offense last season; I can’t see Matt Hasselbeck keeping up with the quarterback that beat him in Super Bowl X. This leaves a great deal of handing the ball off to DeAngelo Williams late in the game, racking up those garbage time yards. In this scenario, Williams probably catches some balls out of the backfield for some decent gains as well.
If the Steelers (or the NFL) deems that Ben needs to undergo proper concussion protocol and he is unable to play, this obviously means that Landry Jones gets the start for the black and gold guys. Due to Jones’ limited skill set, the Steelers could lean on the run a little more than norma, leading to, you guessed it, more opportunities for Williams to rack up fantasy points.
Plus, the Colts allow 115.1 rushing yards per game, good enough for 24th in the NFL. Get some, DeAngelo.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders:
Latavius has made many “Start ‘Em” lists this season, and for good reason; The guy is an explosive and talented back.
However, recently, the second-year back out of Central Florida has hit a wall. He hasn’t rushed for more than 60 yards since Week 9, and gets to try to get away from a vaunted Kansas City defensive front that allows under 4 yards per carry to those who tout the rock. I’d try to look elsewhere this week.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints:
There’s a lot of fantasy players that hold a grudge against Mark Ingram, and anyone who has seen him play understands why; He just lacks that explosiveness and play-making ability you want from a back.
Sometimes that works in the favor of fantasy owners, deflating his value on draft day and in trades. At the end of the day, the number are there for Ingram. He’s 154/713/5 on the season and will put up numbers based on sheer volume alone. He’s effective when placed in a position to succeed.
Week 13 is not one of those opportunistic positions Ingram owners hope for. He and his Saints get the undefeated Panthers this week. The Panthers, in case you haven’t noticed, are pretty damn good, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The last running back to have any sort of success on this defense was Frank Gore in Week 8, and it took him 22 carries and overtime to get to 70 yards. Ingram is going to be in for a long day.
Waiver Wire Mining:
With Chris Johnson out and Andre Ellington banged-up, Arizona Cardinals’ Head Coach Bruce Arians had no choice but to make rookie David Johnson the starter for Week 13 against the Rams. Johnson, who has been buried on the depth chart most of the season, has his chance to
make a real impression with this coaching staff and front office. He’s shown plenty of explosiveness in terms of kick returns and his limited time in the backfield. He could be the future of the Arizona backfield, and the future could start Sunday. Well worth a look in redraft leagues, but keeper leagues need to go hard after this guy.
Now, we all know that the 49ers haven’t been the sexiest team for fantasy production… Ah, who am I kidding? It’s been a wasteland in 2015. Ever since he took over for Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn has been rather pedestrian. He’s yet to rush for more than 60 yards in a game this season or reach the end-zone. However, he’s all the Niners have in terms of a rushing “attack”, and his next two games come against the Bears and Browns: two defenses that are a far-cry from excellent when it comes to stopping the run. He might be worth a look.
Alright, that does it for me! Best of luck with your respective fantasy playoff runs!
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.