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Efficiency is key for Ingram, Mathews in fantasy

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Every week Committee Meetings breaks down some top storylines from the league's most head-scratching backfield committees in hopes of gaining some clarity for fantasy owners. If you're wondering about a backfield that's not discussed below, feel free to Tweet @MattFranchise for some additional advice.

The Good

» If you haven't seen any Todd Gurley highlights yet this season, do yourself a favor and sift through some YouTube clips of this guy just flying around the field. He was well worth the wait for fantasy owners and has now posted three straight games with no fewer than 128 rushing yards, averaging 22.6 rush attempts per game in that span. He also finally got into the end zone for the first time in his career on Sunday, and then decided he liked being there, so he found his way in for a second time. The rookie dominated the Browns poor run defense just as we thought he would, and he faces another juicy matchup in Week 8 when the 49ers come to St. Louis.

» Lamar Miller was Week 7's highest scoring fantasy player thanks to his 236 all-purpose yards and two total touchdowns against the Texans (all in the first half!). It's become apparent that the coaching changes in Miami have transformed this offense into what we had visions of during the preseason. Miller attributed his success to a higher volume of touches the last two games which obviously makes sense. Touches create opportunity and opportunity gives way to fantasy points. We can only imagine how many fantasy points he would have racked up if he played in the second half. He'll be an RB1 again on Thursday night when the Dolphins head to New England.

Pro Bowl ballot

» Charcandrick West had the break through game (22-110-1) against the Steelers that many were hoping for last week, when the waiver wire rush was on to pick him up to fill the void left by an injured Jamaal Charles. It's just one game, but the fact that Kansas City gave him 24 touches says a lot about how much confidence the coaching staff has in him. It's worth noting that Knile Davis had one touch the entire game, so there is virtually no concern about this being a committee split. And any chatter about Davis being the "goal-line back" was squashed here too, as West handled all seven red zone carries himself, including a 1-yard TD run. Based on what we saw in Week 7, West is the Chiefs back to start against the Lions in Week 8 and depending on game flow, should bring low-end RB1 value against a Detroit defense that ranks in the bottom 10 in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs per game (22.03).

» Doug Martin stayed hot coming out of a bye week and posted his third straight 100-yard rushing contest. In his last three games, Martin is averaging 121.7 rushing YPG, 157.3 scrimmage YPG, 21 carries and has four total touchdowns. He's clearly found his groove and is currently fantasy's RB3 for the season behind only Mark Ingram and Devonta Freeman.

The Bad

» It wasn't Arian Foster's performance in Week 7 that was bad. It's the fact that he tore his Achillies late in the game and will miss the rest of the season that's bad. Yeah, after watching Foster put up over 100 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns against Miami, Foster's fantasy owners have to be frustrated with the injury and may have to scour the waiver wire for fill-ins. The Texans backfield will now likely go back to the pathetic committee it was before Foster returned from a groin injury a few weeks ago. Alfred Blue would likely be the starter with Jonathan Grimes and Chris Polk working in as well. Good luck trying to figure that one out though. The team could also make a move to pick up another back, but that remains to be seen.

» The Cleveland backfield didn't have a great day. Duke Johnson is the only back worth discussing here as he once against out-snapped and out-touched Isaiah Crowell and Robert Turbin and led the team in receiving with 73 yards on seven receptions. Turbin actually out-snapped Crowell here, and managed 30 yards on five carries while Crowell totaled just nine yards on eight carries. Crowell's days may be numbered in this backfield, especially with this kind of lackluster production. The Browns get the Cardinals next week. The only guy we'd consider rolling out is Johnson, but only in PPR formats.

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» The pregame narrative for Washington was that Matt Jones would have a heavy workload with Chris Thompson inactive. What actually happened was not anything remotely close to that. Alfred Morris and Jones split 19 total touches in Week 7 for a whopping 58 yards from scrimmage. Combined, the duo averaged a despicable 2.3 yards per carry average. It really doesn't get much worse than this. Washington will have a Week 8 bye, and face the Patriots in Week 9 so we can't recommend starting any member of this backfield for at least a few weeks. We'll revisit the situation after the New England drubbing.

» Enough said. Hopefully things improve for the Lions with the recent coaching changes, but we're not holding our breath. Maybe you can think about starting Theo Riddick against the Chiefs in Week 8, but even then you're hoping for some late-game magic. Not worth it.

The Rest

Mathews does more with less


PHI RBs Week 7
PHI RBs Week 7 (NFL.com)

DeMarco Murray | Ryan Mathews | Darren Sproles // Eagles
For the third straight game, DeMarco Murray saw high volume but he wasn't as efficient this time as he managed just 70 total yards on 21 touches against Carolina. And then there is the Ryan Mathews situation. He came away with just nine touches, but took one of them to the house on a 63-yard touchdown run. If you go back and watch the tape, Mathews' explosive speed really stands out, while Murray lacks that explosiveness. There have been whispers all along that Mathews' running style fits the Eagles offense better than Murray's does.

It's only natural that all of the chatter heading into the Eagles' Week 8 bye is about the team getting Mathews more involved in the offense. Through seven games Mathews has 35 more rushing yards than Murray on 32 fewer carries and is averaging 6.1 YPC compared to Murray's 3.5. But coach Chip Kelly said after the game that Mathews was used sparingly against the Panthers due to a groin injury that he suffered prior to his 63-yard TD sprint. Something is not adding up here. Kelly also put the ball in running backs coach Duce Staley's court and said that he is the gatekeeper when it comes to which backs get playing time. Apparently Staley was keeping Mathews sidelined because of the injury. When asked if Mathews needs to have a bigger role, Kelly said simply "He's injured right now and we'll see if he will be available for the [Week 9] Cowboys game." Yeah, coach, we'll see.

 

McFadden rises up


DAL RBs Week 7
DAL RBs Week 7 (NFL.com)

Darren McFadden | Joseph Randle | Christine Michael // Cowboys
Fantasy owners of Christine Michael were salivating over the idea that he might finally get a chance to see more volume in Week 7 because he received some first team reps during the Cowboys' bye. That was not the case though, as the team ended up riding the hot hand of Darren McFadden to the tune of 29 carries for 152 rush yards and a score. Didn't see that coming! Much of McFadden's workload was a result of Joseph Randle's injury that is apparently an oblique issue that will keep him out for some time. Michael's usage was disappointing once again, but you can't really blame Dallas. McFadden was running with vigor and reports on Monday even suggest that he could move ahead of Randle as the team's starter going forward, when both are healthy. He's probably already owned in your league, but if he's not, make him your top waiver priority ahead of Week 8. Keep in mind though that Dallas faces Seattle next week, so it's a tough matchup.

 

Ingram rumbles over Colts


NO RBs Week 7
NO RBs Week 7

Mark Ingram | Khiry Robinson | C.J. Spiller // Saints
Mark Ingram made the most of his 14 carries and averaged over 10 YPC thanks to several big gains of 20, 11, 44, 35 and 17 yards on his way to 143-yard, one-touchdown day. He finally snapped what was a 10-game streak of fewer than 100 rushing yards, but even without the huge games via the ground this year Ingram is fantasy's RB2 for the season. His snap count (50 percent) solidifies that he's the clear leader in this backfield.

Fantasy owners may be worried about the fact that Khiry Robinson had 14 carries and two touchdowns in the game, but this was an outlier for him as he's never had two touchdowns in the same contest in his career. It was also his first game this season with double-digit fantasy points. What's very telling is the fact that Robinson averaged just two YPC on the same amount of carries that Ingram saw. C.J. Spiller got minimal work here (10 touches) despite reports that the Saints want to get him more involved. Ingram remains a strong RB1 in Week 8 against a Giants defense that was gashed for 194 rush yards by the Cowboys in Week 7.

 

Giants add fourth RB to the mix


NYG RBs Week 7
NYG RBs Week 7 (NFL.com)

Rashad Jennings | Shane Vereen | Orleans Darkwa | Andre Williams // Giants

Every game, all season
The Giants decided to insert an additional wrinkle into its already crowded committee backfield against the Cowboys in Week 7. A running back by the name of Orleans Darkwa led the backfield with eight rush attempts and scored this committee's only touchdown. Go figure. When asked about the four-back committee after the game coach Tom Coughlin said, "It depends on the plan and the type of game we expect," and added that "The coaches felt strongly that [Darkwa] should be given an opportunity ... and he played well."

To be completely honest, for the time being any member of this backfield is virtually unusable for fantasy purposes. The addition of Darkwa might be the most frustrating thing that's happened to a committee backfield this season. If he continues to get playing time, it could render the entire Giants backfield unusable in fantasy, which it was already on the verge of becoming anyway. So we're not very happy about this development. Darkwa will probably be a hot waiver wire pickup heading into Week 8, but I don't recommend it.

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang discusses the Arian Foster injury fallout, looks ahead at Week 8 waiver wire targets, and recaps the thrilling Baltimore-Arizona game. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!


Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. He is not ashamed to admit that he can't stop listening to Ellie Goulding's new songs. She's good, so lay off! Hit him up on Twitter @MattFranchise for music recommendations and fantasy advice.

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