With news that Broncos' running back Montee Ball might have a serious groin injury, his fantasy owners will be scrambling to the waiver-wire to pick up his potential replacement. But while Ronnie Hillman projects to be the favorite to replace Ball, there's a good chance that Denver's backfield shapes up to be more of a committee between Hillman, C.J. Anderson (who was inactive in Week 5) and Juwan Thompson.
When Ball went out, Hillman did carry the load with 15 rushes for 64 yards, but Thompson got a red zone carry late in the fourth quarter that he took for an 8-yard touchdown run. It's a situation to keep an eye on, but don't go after Hillman expecting him play the same featured back role as Ball was.
Here's how some other running back committees shaped up in Week 5. And remember to check out NFL NOW for more Week 5 fantasy player recaps.
There's no question that New Orleans' running backs played a major role in the Saints' overtime nail-biter of a win over the Buccaneers Sunday. Pierre Thomas finished as a top-five fantasy running back with 12 touches for 112 total yards and two total touchdowns. He did most of his damage in the passing game taking his eight catches (second on the team) for 77 yards and a score.
Khiry Robinson also finished among the top 10 in total fantasy points among running backs with a career high 21 carries for 89 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown run in overtime. In all, the Thomas/Robinson committee combined for 209 yards from scrimmage, three total touchdowns and 38.90 fantasy points.
The Saints are on a bye in Week 6, and it's been reported that Mark Ingram could return from a hand injury that he suffered in Week 2 when New Orleans takes on Detroit in Week 7. If he does return, he will likely resume the role of the lead back which will mainly cut into Robinson's workload. Although the matchup with the Lions isn't an ideal one as they boast one of the toughest run defenses in the league.
Baltimore's backfield continues to be a fantasy quagmire, with all three of their running backs combining for 15 carries and just 90 rushing yards in a losing effort against the Colts. For the second straight week, Justin Forsettled the committee with a whopping six carries for 42 yards and the Ravens' only touchdown of the game. Forsett's production came mostly in the passing game as he led his team in receptions with seven catches for 55 yards. His 15.70 fantasy points were good enough to finish in the top 10 among running backs on Sunday.
Bernard Pierce and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro combined for a disappointing nine carries for 48 yards. This situation remains one to avoid for fantasy owners but if you have to start one of these backs next week against Tampa Bay, it looks like Forsett is getting the majority of the work on a somewhat consistent basis. At least for now.
With both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams inactive on Sunday for the Panthers, rookie Darrin Reaves drew the start against the Bears. A speculative desperation play for fantasy owners in need of a running back, Reaves averaged 3.2 yards per carry on his 11 rushes for 32 yards netting 5.10 fantasy points.
In true committee fashion, Chris Ogbonnaya (signed by Carolina the previous week), ended up getting a goal-line carry that he ran in for a touchdown late in the game. Ogbonnaya received eight carries for 24 yards, so he wasn't impressive either. But thanks to the score, he finished with 8.40 fantasy points.
Neither Reaves nor Ogbonnaya were targeted in the passing game. It's likely the Panthers get at least one of their more talented runners back for a Week 6 matchup against the Bengals, leaving Ogbonnaya and Reaves with minimal fantasy value going forward. And let's face it; Stewart, Williams and other members of the Panthers' backfield should be avoided for fantasy purposes even when they're fully healthy.
Thanks to a 74-yard touchdown reception, Antone Smith had a better fantasy day than veteran runner Steven Jackson by a small margin. Jackson did score the Falcons' only rushing touchdown and finished with 74 scrimmage yards on 18 total touches. Rookie Devonta Freeman also contributed with 82 scrimmage yards on nine total touches.
Jackson remains the lead back in Atlanta, but at this point, Smith warrants a speculative start in deeper leagues as he now has four total touchdowns through five games. All of his scores have been on huge plays: Week 1 was a 54-yard reception, Week 3 was a 38-yard run, Week 4 was 48-yard run and to cap it off, he added the 74-yard scoring tear in Week 5.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller each received 10 carries in the Bills' win over the Lions. But Jackson was present on 65 percent of offensive plays to Spiller's 35 percent. The veteran also contributed more in the passing game with seven receptions for 58 yards. Spiller only managed eight yards on his 10 rushes and totaled 25 receiving yards on three catches. Clearly, Jackson continues to be the more valuable fantasy running back on the Bills and should be started, especially in PPR leagues, every week.
After speculation that Isaiah Crowell would be taking over Terrance West's job as the Browns' No. 2 back, West ended up with one more carry (seven) than Crowell (six). But the story here is that a healthy Ben Tate returned and did the heavy lifting out of Cleveland's backfield taking 22 carries for 123 yards on the day. As long as Tate keeps running like he did, West and Crowell's fantasy value will remain limited.
Along with the rest of the Patriots' offense, both Stevan Ridely and Shane Vereen got back on track Sunday night against the Bengals. Ridley took his 27 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. Vereen finished with nine rushes for 90 yards and three receptions for 18 yards. The New England backfield was clearly firing on all cylinders in Week 5 but it remains one of the most unpredictable in the league.