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.
It was yet another disappointing week for the Denver backfield as C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for 77 total yards and zero touchdowns against the Raiders. Both of these backs need to remain on your fantasy bench until we either see one of them emerge or Denver gets its ground game together. They're just burning holes in fantasy rosters every week at this point, and you're better off starting someone with more upside rather than settling for single digits week in and week out.
The Dallas backfield was also not very helpful for fantasy owners as the entire Cowboys' offense struggled to move the ball under the direction of Brandon Weeden. Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden each eked out over 70 total yards, but it definitely wasn't pretty in a game that New England dominated. Dallas has a week off to get right, so make sure Randle, McFadden and any other Cowboys are on your bench.
For the Bengals, Giovani Bernard dominated playing time over Jeremy Hill. Bernard was in on 78 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps while Hill only saw the field on 22 percent. It's possible this was due to game flow as the Bengals were down for most of the game, but it proves that the coaching staff is not committed to Hill in certain situations. Bernard remains an every week flex starter as he posted double-digits in standard scoring for the second straight week. Hill has been frustratingly up and down with all five of his touchdowns on the season coming in just two games. He remains a low-end RB2 against the Bills in Week 6.
Now, let's get a little more in-depth with some of Week 5's committee backfields and see what we can deduce.
Redbird runners soar
Chris Johnson | Andre Ellington | David Johnson // Cardinals
The storyline for the Cardinals backfield heading into Week 5 was that Chris Johnson would be the starter, Andre Ellington, who played in his first game since going down in Week 1 with a knee injury, would play on passing downs, and rookie David Johnson would be the odd man out. Well, all three backs ended up getting involved and contributed double-digit points for fantasy owners one way or another in what was a turnover frenzy against a sad Detroit squad.
Usually in fantasy, we steer clear of starting two players at the same positions on the same team in a given week, but if you somehow owned all three Arizona backs and, for some insane reason, started all of them, you would have collected 35.2 fantasy points - that's more than Eddie Lacy (3.5), Matt Forte (16.9), Jeremy Hill (2.5) and Mark Ingram (7.4) scored combined in Week 5.
The game script had a lot to do with the success of the Cardinals running backs as Detroit turned the ball over on five of its first seven offensive possessions. "Once we got the first couple turnovers, it was like piranhas with the blood in the water," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "I was just worried we were going to start taking the ball away from each other." Apparently, that wasn't an issue as the backfield trio combined for 169 rush yards and three touchdowns on the day.
Chris Johnson ripped off runs of 40 and 25 yards while all of Ellington's contributions came on a single 63-yard touchdown run. Two of David Johnson's three carries came inside the red zone, more specifically inside the 5-yard line, and he converted touchdowns on both of them. It's also worth noting that not a single reception was had by any of this three-headed-monster backfield.
When the Cardinals take on the Steelers leaky run defense next week, it will be interesting to see if Chris Johnson continues as the team's early down back. Three carries each for Ellington and David Johnson make things tough to gauge going forward, but if the rookie, whom Arians said was going to take a backseat with the return of Ellington, continues to play the goal-line role he'll retain his value for fantasy owners.
Murray gets volume, Eagles finally figure out run game
DeMarco Murray | Ryan Mathews | Darren Sproles // Eagles
Entering Week 5, DeMarco Murray had 29 total rushing attempts and 47 rush yards on the season. In the Eagles tilt against the Saints on Sunday, Philadelphia's feature back led the way with 27 touches (fifth-most for the week) for 120 total yards and a score. It was evidently an effort by the Philadelphia coaching staff to grease the squeaky wheel as Murray had spoken out after last week's pathetic outing that he wasn't getting the ball enough. Apparently 27 touches was enough. While fantasy owners probably don't care at this point since he hooked them up with 18 points in standard leagues, it's still worth noting that if not for a late fourth-quarter interception returned by Eagles safety Walter Thurmond inside the Saints' 5-yard line Murray probably wouldn't have gotten his touchdown. But all is peachy in the city of brotherly love as far as Murray is concerned.
In what ended up as a 39-17 blowout win over the Saints, Ryan Mathews also had a nice game, ripping off runs of 33, 16 and 11 yards on his way to 96 total on the day plus a touchdown. Interestingly, in Philadelphia's first goal line situation of the first half, Mathews got the nod and punched through the line for a 2-yard score.
On Monday, coach Chip Kelly commented on the decision to stick with Mathews close to the end zone in the first half: "It wasn't a set formation, it was just what was up at the time. We think of both of those guys (Murray & Mathews) as the same player, so it doesn't affect what we're doing from a play call standpoint." Basically what Kelly is saying here is that the Eagles don't use either back as their "goal-line" situation runner. If Murray is the guy for a series, he'll likely get the goal-line looks and vice-versa.
Doug Martin of yore returns
The Martin/Sims combination was the most productive in the league from a fantasy perspective for Week 5. They teamed up for 294 total yards and three touchdowns on the day, with Martin scoring all three times. Whew!
Martin was the highest scoring fantasy back of Week 5 and it was his second straight week in the top 5. He's looking like the Doug Martin of yore, which is something we had preached during the preseason. On his longest run of the game, a 39-yarder, he basically hit a wall at the line of scrimmage, sharply cut outside into space, made two defenders miss with a spin-move and was off to the races.
If Martin continues his current average of 18 carries per game, which will obviously be dictated by game flow on many occasions, he should continue to be a fantasy stud.
As for second-year back Charles Sims, it was his third straight contest with double-digit fantasy points in standard scoring leagues and he did it without getting into the end zone. He did have a goal-line carry that he failed to convert on, and Tampa Bay gave the ball to Martin on the next play for a score. Still, Sims has been surprisingly productive and needs to be owned across the board. He can be used as a flex play, especially in PPR leagues, on a weekly basis going forward.
Unfortunately the Bucs have a bye in Week 6 just when Martin was starting to really heat up. But fantasy owners will have to hope that the week off will render Martin refreshed and ready to take advantage of some favorable matchups in Tampa Bay's upcoming string of games against Washington, Atlanta, the New York Giants, and Dallas.
Crowell outshines Johnson
Crowell out-performed Johnson in fantasy thanks to a 22-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter. On the scoring play, Crowell ran well after he caught the ball, broke two tackles, out ran a few more Baltimore defenders and leapt into the pylon for the score. He had just two receptions on the day, but made them count. While Crowell has collected fewer than 73 rush yards in every game this season, he has still managed double-digit fantasy points in three of five games and two in a row. It's possible that he's been playing better due to competition from his rookie teammate whose play participation has increased every game since Week 2.
Johnson was targeted eight times on passing plays and hauled in six receptions. He averaged a forgettable 2.4 yards per carry on his rushing attempts though. It's encouraging to see his role growing, but his fantasy value seems dependent on a big play, like the 34-yard TD reception he had in Week 4.
For now, Crowell remains a solid flex starter but until we see more consistent success from Johnson, he's nothing more than a wildcard flex play. The Browns RBs matchup against Denver's defense which is a middle-of-the-pack unit when it comes to FPPG allowed to opposing runners.
Vereen gets his turn
Rashad Jennings | Shane Vereen | Andre Williams // Giants
Rashad Jennings had his best game of the season from a fantasy standpoint against the Bills in Week 4. Trying to predict which Giants running back will have a big week is basically pointless. This week, it was Shane Vereen who came through for fantasy owners lucky enough to start him, while Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams took a back seat.
According to coach Tom Coughlin, Vereen's heavy usage was nothing more than a result of game flow as the Giants found themselves in a close game and had to come from behind to pull out a victory over the 49ers. "It was just the way the game unfolded," Couglin told reporters. "There's an order sometimes, but it became more of a zebra game and that's why you saw it the way it was."
His touchdown reception was on a play from inside the 5-yard line early in the second quarter, but four of Vereen's eight receptions and over half of his receiving yards came in the fourth quarter. Vereen's usage also came into play near the end of the game when both Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle were sitting on the sidelines with injuries.
Just 4.3 total fantasy points separate Jennings from Vereen so far this season. It really is a weekly gamble with this backfield, and with a couple of key division contests coming up against Philadelphia and Dallas in the next two weeks, I wouldn't be surprised to see Vereen surpass Jennings in overall points, especially with the Giants lack of depth at wide receiver.
Morris' role diminishes further
Alfred Morris | Matt Jones | Chris Thompson // Redskins
On a week when Alfred Morris seemed like a sure thing for fantasy owners, he ended up seeing the least playing time among Washington's three-headed backfield. Chris Thompson saw more snaps than both Morris and Matt Jones but posted just 4.8 fantasy points in standard leagues on the day. And despite Jones' rushing touchdown, he failed to reach double-digits with just 20 rush yards on 11 carries. Yep, it was just that ugly.
One major takeaway here, other than the collectively horrid play from the Washington backfield, is that Jones suffered a sprained toe. He's considered day-to-day for now and if he's limited at all, Morris and Thompson would obviously be in line for more opportunities.
Either way, Washington's upcoming game against the Jets could be a bigger one for Thompson, who through five games ranks as the RB11 in terms of fantasy points per touch among RBs with at least 20 touches with 0.93 (more than Jamaal Charles, Chris Ivory, Adrian Peterson). The Jets have allowed the second-fewest FPPG to opposing RBs this season with just 266 rushing yards against and a single rushing touchdown. So if Washington wants to move the ball out of the backfield, it will likely be via the pass and not by pounding Morris into a Jets defensive line that will see the return of Sheldon Richardson.
Things have really gone downhill for the Washington running game following Week 2, when the team led the league in rushing.
Matt Franciscovich is an associate fantasy editor at NFL.com. He wants you to know that this My Morning Jacket "Compound Fracture" remix by Giorgio Moroder & Roman Luth is straight fire.Hit him up on Twitter @MattFranchise for music recommendations and fantasy advice.