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Opportunity Report: Week 11 running back touches

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Opportunity is the name of the game in fantasy football. Talent matters, of course, but we want players who see a healthy volume of targets and touches to anchor our lineups, especially in daily fantasy. Every week in the revamped Opportunity Report, we'll look at all the backfield touches for every NFL team. See Part two (link above) for passing game targets.

Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals backfield touches Week 11
Cardinals backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The Cardinals continue pumping Chris Johnson with carries each week. Since Week 7, the lowest touches total for Johnson in a game is 18. However, he's also grown less efficient of late and has not topped 3.65 yards per carry since that Week 7 outing against Baltimore. Do not expect the Cardinals to change up the distribution here. They value the sustaining element Johnson offers to their run game, and build the unit around a chunk play passing game. Even if it's just a few yards at a time, they don't need much more from Johnson.

As such, Andre Ellington and David Johnson remain "what the heck" flex plays only that you're just hoping snare a touchdown off a big play. The rookie Johnson is one of the more frequently dropped players of late, but should not get lost among the wave of running back handcuffs added this week.

Atlanta Falcons

Falcons backfield touches Week 11
Falcons backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Devonta Freeman left this game quite early with a concussion, and remains in the protocol at this time. Tevin Coleman did little to prove correct the inane belief of his truthers that he's a better running back than Freeman. Coleman struggled running with power, and was completely ineffective in the downhill power game. That reality particularly showed up in the red zone, where he was walloped on more than few carries. He also does not offer nearly as much as his predecessor in the passing game, and it was no coincidence that Terron Ward soaked up those snaps.

If an owner dropped Coleman in your league, he's no doubt worth an addition. You can likely do so quietly with many owners chasing more recently productive running backs. Coleman is still a talented runner, in a successful system, and faces a great matchup against the Vikings in Week 12 if Freeman sits.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens backfield touches Week 11
Ravens backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

In a sad turn of events, Justin Forsett broke his arm on Sunday and will miss the rest of the season. We'll pour one out for a longtime journeymen who finally found a home in Baltimore, and was on pace for a second straight 1,000-yard rushing season.

With Forsett down for the count, and Lorenzo Taliaferro long on IR, Javorious "Buck" Allen will start for the rest of the season. Allen would be a clear cut choice for the No. 1 waiver claim of the week, if it weren't for the season-ending injury to Joe Flacco. Even with Flacco at the helm in Week 11, the rookie out of USC averaged just 3.05 yards per carry, and needed strong work in the passing game to salvage a solid fantasy line. Without Flacco, Forsett and Steve Smith, the Ravens suddenly look like one of the least talented offenses in the NFL. Allen inherits a large slice of the volume, but the entire offensive pie is smaller and far less tasty after the loss of three strong starters.

All that being said, Allen's Week 12 matchup against Cleveland is one of the best possible for a running back in his first start. Perhaps the best course of action is to just deploy him as a DFS value play this week, and chase other backs in your season-long formats.

Buffalo Bills

Bills backfield touches Week 11
Bills backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

As long as LeSean McCoy is healthy, the Bills will ride him until the wheels fall off. Fantasy owners should follow suit. McCoy has 20 or more touches in two of his last three games. During that stretch, he's been far more involved as a receiver out of the backfield than many imagined he would. The wind may have played a factor, but McCoy led the team in passing targets on Monday night, and even saw a few downfield targets. Of course, we know from this season that McCoy's health is akin to just waiting for the other shoe to drop, but with a favorable schedule down the stretch, he's a RB1 when he plays.

McCoy's workload doesn't leave much meat to pick off the bone for Karlos Williams. You're playing with fire anytime you put these hyper-efficient touchdown scores in your lineup. We know Williams can make plays and this was his first career game without a touchdown, but that one 1.1 looks awful ugly in your lineup this morning. Williams is merely a bench stash, and "what the heck flex" play going forward depending on McCoy's availability.

Carolina Panthers

Panthers backfield touches Week 11
Panthers backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The Panthers running back situation remains static. Jonathan Stewart has a 20-carry floor, and is on a 300-plus rush attempt pace for the season. In a year where running back injuries are wiping out fantasy starters left and right, Stewart stands in a shallow group of reliable foundation runners. The 2015 version of Jonathan Stewart is a classic example of a player who is "injury-prone," until he isn't; a reminder to approach fantasy drafts with some degree of injury agnosticism (hat tip to Football Diehards' Bob Harris). A clear fourth-round steal in fantasy drafts, Stewart owners are glad they have him.

Chicago Bears

Bears backfield touches Week 11
Bears backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

While Jeremy Langford earned some much deserved hype after two dynamic playmaking games against the Bears and Chargers, this was a step back for him. As mentioned in this column last week, Langford still has work to do as a traditional between the tackles runner. In a tough matchup, he averaged a meager 2.62 yards per touch. Kadeem Carey didn't fare much better, but runs with better vision and discipline inside than his counterpart, right now. If there's a future star here, it's Langford, but we want to monitor his progress in the more nuanced aspects of the position for the rest of the season. He's sure to be a big-time sleeper for next year's fantasy drafts, but his improvements in these regards will determine to just what degree.

As for when Matt Forte returns, Langford certainly (and perhaps Carey) did enough the last three weeks to warrant consistent touches in the offense. If you're a Langford owner, perhaps you consider buying Forte. However, there's enough evidence to be a little concerned about the veteran running back's workload when he does return to the field.

Cincinnati Bengals

Bengals backfield touches Week 11
Bengals backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Don't let Jeremy Hill's fantasy point line fool you; he was once against an ineffective running back between the 20s. Hill plunged in two goal-line carries, which buoyed up another sub-4.0 yards per carry effort. The Bengals continue insisting they want to establish him, but whenever Hill gets non-goal line touches in this offense, it's a disruptive force.

As a fantasy owner, if you've already cut bait on Hill, feel no remorse. Playing him means you are relying on him snaring a short touchdown. While in a good offense those could come, but if he fails to reach the end zone he offers nothing to your lineup. Giovani Bernard is the better running back right now.

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys backfield touches Week 11
Cowboys backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Pro Bowl ballot

Much like Jonathan Stewart, Darren McFadden is another example of a player who was injury prone until he wasn't. The veteran back played through a groin injury from practice this week, and handled yet another massive workload. If McFadden finishes out this season, it will be the second-straight year he plays all 16 games. There are not many safer high-floor RB2s around right now.

In the wake of Christine Michael's release, the team signed Robert Turbin and fed him seven carries in relief duty. With Dallas being one of the better run games in the NFL, Turbin is worth owning.

Denver Broncos

Broncos backfield touches Week 11
Broncos backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Everyone on this unit got a boost with the team finally running Gary Kubiak's offense as it was always intended. The Broncos got back to building their attack on the stretch run plays, and a backfield-centric approach. Both Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson combined for a whopping 36 touches. With this usage plan, the duo of Denver running backs remain in the RB2/flex conversation every week. Hillman gets the bulk of the carries and red zone work, while Anderson is more efficient with his touches and is the better pass-catching back.

Detroit Lions

Lions backfield touches Week 11
Lions backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

It was encouraging to see Detroit's least effective running back last on this list. With the team long out of contention, it only makes sense for them to get Ameer Abdullah some more work. Unfortunately, with the offense barely functional even on its best days, there just isn't much fantasy goodness to reap here. Do monitor Abdullah's progress for dynasty leagues and next year. He could be a great post-hype sleeper in 2016.

Green Bay Packers

Packers backfield touches Week 11
Packers backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The return of Eddie Lacy was a welcome sight for a team that desperately needed offensive balance. For the first time in many weeks, Lacy looked spry and moved with quickness. It's unlikely that we see the Lacy many imagined when he was a consensus top-five fantasy draft selection, but more stable performances like this are welcomed. The Packers get the Bears on Thanksgiving, in another favorable matchup for Lacy to establish some momentum.

Houston Texans

Texans backfield touches Week 11
Texans backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

There was a ton of talk leading into this game, including some proliferated by Bill O'Brien, that Jonathan Grimes would get more work. Nevertheless, Alfred Blue still saw 24 touches. Do remember that most of his production came on a long touchdown reception via a Cecil Shorts trick play pass. Blue took his 21 carries for 58 yards. Grimes looks like the better runner, but only absorbed Chris Polk's touches, for now.

Indianapolis Colts

Colts backfield touches Week 11
Colts backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Frank Gore has the one of the most secure workloads in the NFL, and hovers over the 18-touch mark every week. Ahmad Bradshaw got into the mix far more than usual, and scored two receiving touchdowns -- a phenomenon we saw take place far more last season. We'll want to see Bradshaw with some steady usage in consecutive games before considering him in fantasy lineups.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars backfield touches Week 11
Jaguars backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Few things were more puzzling in Week 11 than Jacksonville's use of Denard Robinson. Not to take anything away from Robinson, who is a talented player, but he saw seven red zone carries on power runs at the goal line. We have no idea how to feel about this. The Jaguars never used Robinson in this fashion at any other point this season, and drafted T.J. Yeldon to be their every-down workhorse. Yeldon, by the way, looked fantastic on Thursday night. Perhaps this was just a weird, one week occurrence.

Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs backfield touches Week 11
Chiefs backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Charcandrick West was well on his way to a game as the chalkiest play of the week against the Chargers. However, he went down with a hamstring injury mid-way through, and former practice squad player Spencer Ware stepped in. Ware had two DUI arrests that led to his release from Seattle in 2014, but is a legitimate talent. If West is down for any stretch of time, Ware becomes an immeadiate fantasy starter. The former was a similar unknown before dropping right into Jamaal Charles' role in Andy Reid's offense.

Even when West returns, don't rule out a bit more of an expanded role for Spencer Ware. You can't put the performance he just had back in a bottle. Ware offers more raw power and more between the tackles than West does. Other than Thomas Rawls, there's no higher priority add on the waiver wire than Ware.

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins backfield touches Week 11
Dolphins backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The Dolphins coaching staff got away from the running game, and were overmatched by Dallas all afternoon. There's no reason to panic on Lamar Miller, as these games happen to a number of running backs on bad teams. He's still a high-end fantasy starter the rest of the way. Jay Ajayi once again looked good on limited touches, and finally got to show off his ability in the passing game.

Minnesota Vikings

Vikings backfield touches Week 11
Vikings backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The Vikings ended up in a game script where they were chasing Green Bay late in the game. As such, Norv Turner defaulted to a pass-heavy approach, which may not have been the best move.

New England Patriots

Patriots backfield touches Week 11
Patriots backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Don't get fooled into thinking James White is the next Dion Lewis based on his fantasy points scored. He popped in a red zone carry and reception for touchdowns, but still didn't crack his season-high of five touches in a game. White is worth owning in PPR leagues, but could easily get blanked from the stat sheet when the matchup isn't right. Playing Denver in Week 12 may present some opportunity for White, as attacking their stiff defense with short running back passes was a profitable strategy for other teams. However, there's more to make you nervous with White than this game brought optimism. He and Brandon Bolden still split the touches vacated by Lewis, and actually get less combined than their predecessor did.

New York Jets

Jets backfield touches Week 11
Jets backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Chris Ivory spent some time on the trainer's table, and was bottled up by a quickly improving Texans defense. He's growing ever harder to rely on week-to-week given his health. When he's right, he's a lock for 20-plus touches and red zone work; it doesn't get any better than that. Of course, the moments where he's dinged up leading to disappointing fantasy lines are mounting. He's in a far better spot for Week 12 with a home game against the Dolphins.

Oakland Raiders

Raiders backfield touches Week 11
Raiders backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

In what was supposed to be a shootout, the Lions defense bottled up the Oakland offense. Latavius Murray's light workload and the Raiders' emphasis on the pass makes him a hard sell as an every-week starter.

Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles backfield touches Week 11
Eagles backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

With Ryan Mathews out with a concussion, Darren Sproles saw more work put on his plate and Kenjon Barner even mixed into the rotation. DeMarco Murray remains one of the most reliable volume plays and a low-end RB1, but we saw for sure that Mark Sanchez does not elevate this offense. In fact, the offensive efficiency as a whole went down with him on the field.

San Diego Chargers

Chargers backfield touches Week 11
Chargers backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

Every game, all season

This was an ugly game all-around for the Chargers. They still seem intent on establishing Melvin Gordon, but the offensive line and his own indecisiveness aren't cooperating. A road game with Jacksonville, an underrated run defense, in Week 12 is unlikely to cure what ails them. While Danny Woodhead has a high ceiling, this is at least the second week this season where he's careened to a painfully low floor. Even in PPR leagues, Woohead didn't eclipse five fantasy points. His Week 12 outlook should be better, but as this offense loses its luster with each passing week, his variance increases.

San Francisco 49ers

49ers backfield touches Week 11
49ers backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

With Carlos Hyde on the shelf, Shaun Draughn is the 49ers' guy. He's not hidden talent waiting to happen, but Draughn runs with energy and isn't killing them with his presence on the field. With the current running back landscape a barren wasteland, we can't turn our nose up at any semblance of regular volume. Draughn is worth a look if you're desperate in the flex position, based on opportunity alone.

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks backfield touches Week 11
Seahawks backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

We have our league-tilting, late-season fresh legs running back. With Marshawn Lynch seeing a specialist and potentially out for the rest of the regular season, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, the impressive Thomas Rawls is line for a big workload. There's a case to be made he's the superior option to Lynch right now. For the season, Rawls has 190 more rushing yards than Lynch on just 10 fewer carries. Rawls clearly offered more aggression and tempo to the Seahawks offense on Sunday than Lynch did at any point this season. And let's not just blame the matchup, as this was Rawls' third 100-yard rushing game on the year.

Marshawn Lynch is a tremendous player, but injuries continue to mount and nag him. If we're being honest with ourselves, he's spent far less time looking like himself this year than ever before. As they say, things change quickly around here.

St. Louis Rams

Rams backfield touches Week 11
Rams backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

With poor play under center, on the road and facing a tough front seven, it's a miracle Todd Gurley even came away with double-digit fantasy points. We've seen more of his floor than ceiling of late. There are a few more tough matchups on his plate down the stretch, but he gets the Cardinals, Lions and Buccaneers on his turf in just a few weeks. You'll expect big things in those contests.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers backfield touches Week 11
Buccaneers backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

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The Eagles run defense had a top-10 ranking heading into this game, but showed some cracks in recent weeks. Doug Martin exploited those cracks for a major rushing day. By the way, don't be the greedy guy who whines that you didn't get a touchdown from Martin despite gobbles of yards; it's an all-around poor look for fantasy football players.

With games against the Colts, Falcons, Saints and Bears on the upcoming stretch run schedule, Martin makes for an intriguing buy before the trade deadline. The entire offense is on the up-and-up with Jameis Winston playing excellent football right now.

Tennessee Titans

Titans backfield touches Week 11
Titans backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

The long-awaited arrival of David Cobb brought quite a harrowing result for his biggest fans. Rarely do you see a rookie hurt their career rushing total in their first game. The Titans offensive line is far from stellar and they let defenders hit Cobb in the backfield on almost all of his four carries. He's not worth any optimism going forward for this season, but the book of his career is far from written.

Antonio Andrews continues making the most of his skill set in the touches he gets. He runs with aggression, and is just quick enough to slide through creases. You could do far worse for a rotational RB2.

Washington

Washington backfield touches Week 11
Washington backfield touches Week 11 (NFL.com)

That Carolina defense is no joke, but the above chart is hard to look at. Our own Matt Franciscovich noted that the Washington duo combined for 47 rushing yards on 26 rush attempts in the two games sandwiching their blowup week against the hideous Saints defense. This is an enigmatic backfield, and Matt Jones will not stake claim to it with his fumbling issues.


Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

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