*Welcome to "Committee Meetings," the running back portion of our weekly Targets/Touches column! Every Monday we'll recap the week that was among running backs and preview the outlook for the upcoming slate. *
With Week 10 nearly in the books, it's time to dive into some backfield breakdowns. We saw some familiar names among the top running back performers including Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarco Murray while guys like Ryan Mathews and Bilal Powell surprisingly made their way into the top 10 for the week. Some of the bigger disappointments of the week include Mark Ingram and Jonathan Stewart, and below we'll try to figure out how to value these running backs going forward. That's enough small talk for now ... more on those backs and every other team's backfield below.
Note: The Opportunity Report is a living document and will be updated with the results of every game until after the Monday night game concludes. If you're looking for backfield touches data on a team and they aren't here yet, check back later.
This game was, on paper, a dream matchup for David Johnson. One of the top rushers in the league going up against the worst rush defense in the NFL. Heck, the last time Arizona played the 49ers, Johnson shredded them for 185 scrimmage yards and two rushing touchdowns. And fantasy owners can't really be upset by 111 total yards and two total scores from Johnson in Week 10, but it feels like some meat was left on the bone in this one. He only touched the ball one time in the second quarter (which happened to be an 18-yard touchdown run) and just three touches in the third quarter, which is mind-boggling. Johnson finished Sunday as the RB6 with 22 fantasy points and was one of five backs with 24-plus touches for the week, so you'll be just fine you greedy owners.
With Tevin Coleman out again Devonta Freeman carried the load for the Falcons backfield. He only had 15 total touches for 81 yards against a tough Eagles defense, though, which likely left his fantasy owners wanting more. The Falcons were down for much of the game, so the script wasn't in his favor anyway. Still, his consistently high floor in an explosive Atlanta offense makes him a weekly starter no matter what the matchup. The Falcons are on a bye next week, so prepare your running back corps accordingly.
The Ravens clearly want Terrance West to be their primary back as he shouldered 21 attempts against the Browns. However, he wasn't very productive in a matchup he should have exploited. Kenneth Dixon is working in more and was the clear passing-down back on Thursday. He's worth a stash, and possibly a start depending on the matchup going forward, especially in PPR formats. The Ravens take on Dallas in Week 11.
Cam Newton was the Panthers leading rusher on Sunday with 12 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Jonathan Stewart couldn't get anything going, averaging just 3.0 yards per rush with his longest run of the day coming in at 10 yards. This was Stewart's second-straight game with fewer than 45 yards and no touchdowns which is not a good development for his fantasy value. He'll look to get back on track when New Orleans comes to town in Week 11 for a contest in which J-Stew should have RB2 upside. He scored twice against the Saints back in Week 6.
If you expected Isaiah Crowell to do much against the Ravens tough defense on Thursday night, well you were sorely mistaken. Crowell's production has gone out the window along with Cleveland's morale. He's had fewer than 15 carries in six-straight games now and without the volume he was getting earlier in the season, he's tough to trust in fantasy. Duke Johnson remains a non-factor even in PPR formats. Neither back will be viable fantasy plays in Week 11 against Pittsburgh.
Despite speculation that Kapri Bibbs would see a significant uptick in playing time after his 69-yard touchdown reception last week, Devontae Booker was still Denver's primary back. Booker played on 77 percent of the Broncos' snaps and touched the ball 26 times. However, he wasn't very efficient on the ground which is surprising given the matchup. Still, he's the back to own and start in fantasy going forward. Bibbs logged seven total touches and didn't catch a pass. He's merely a handcuff for Booker at this point. The Broncos have a bye in Week 11, so keep that in mind when preparing for your next matchup.
This game featured two of the league's best running backs in Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell, and football fans and fantasy owners got what they came for. Elliott far and away out-played Bell, though, totaling over 200 yards from scrimmage on 23 touches and scoring three touchdowns. His final score was a back-breaking 30-yard game-winning scamper in the final seconds. Zeke's receiving touchdown was impressive too, as he took a screen pass a ridiculous 83 yards into the paint. Zeke's 38.9 fantasy points put him atop all fantasy players for the week heading into Sunday night. Zeke will face a tough Ravens defense in Week 11.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers were in a hole early and because of that, their run game was stymied for much of the game. James Starks led the team with just seven carries and did catch a touchdown pass to save some face, which his fantasy owners have to be content with. The big story here is that Starks' return basically sapped whatever value Ty Montgomery was providing fantasy squads with. He played 29 fewer snaps than Starks and will likely not get the volume we've become used to seeing from him in recent weeks. Again, the game script fell out of favor for the Packers' run game early so take this one with a grain of salt and hope Starks can see somewhere around 15 touches against Washington in Week 11.
Lamar Miller ripped off a 45-yard run in the first half against Jacksonville which was good for about half of his production on the day. He had an injury scare in the first half but returned in the second half and got additional work averaging 4.5 yards per carry for the game. With a favorable schedule upcoming, Miller remains a low-end RB1. Alfred Blue is worth considering as a handcuff add if you want some insurance for a playoff push. The Texans head to Oakland next Monday night.
The Jaguars backfield has been ugly all season and that trend continued on Sunday. Granted, it was a tough matchup, but 18 carries split 50-50 between Ivory and Yeldon is not something fantasy owners should be messing around with. Neither back provides any upside while each of their floors are dangerously low on a weekly basis. It will be difficult to find a way to start either of them next week against the Lions.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs fell behind early in this game, which did not favor the backfield. But at least fantasy owners were able to slot Spencer Ware back into lineups after he missed Week 9 with a head injury. Ware was efficient on the ground but didn't get the kind of volume he needed to post big fantasy numbers. When healthy, he's clearly the Chiefs feature back, and played double the snaps of Charcandrick West. Ware should be able to find a groove over the next few weeks though, with some cake matchups against Tampa Bay, Denver, Atlanta and Oakland in the next four games.
Los Angeles Rams
Todd Gurley eclipsed the 20-carry mark for the first time since Week 5. Unfortunately, he averaged fewer yards per carry against the Jets than his season average of 3.1. Gurley, whose fantasy totals in recent weeks had been boosted by his work as a receiver, only caught one pass in this game and did not manage to find the end zone either. He's hard to trust as anything more than a low-upside flex play but will enjoy a couple of nice matchups coming up starting with Miami in Week 11.
Jay Ajayi owners have to be frustrated by what happened on Sunday. Ajayi ran well once again and piled up 20 touches against the Chargers, helping Miaimi to win its fourth straight game. But it was Damien Williams, not Ajayi, who scored not once, but twice in the game (one rushing, one receiving). Williams had three total touches, and two of them ended in the paint. Ugh ... that's fantasy football for you. Ajayi owners need not worry, he's still the team's featured back and the centerpiece of the Dolphins' offense. He'll have tough sledding in Week 11 when Miami takes on the Rams.
It doesn't get much uglier than this. The Vikings backfield is one of, if not the worst, in the league and offers virtually no consistency or upside for fantasy purposes. The team's offensive line is atrocious and it shows. Of course, Asiata is always a threat to fall into the end zone, which he did on Sunday. But nothing matters and winter is coming, so avoid these backs like the plague.
New England Patriots
Following his three-touchdown performance on Sunday Night Football, LeGarrette Blount now leads all running backs with 12 rushing touchdowns on the season. It was pretty ridiculous to see, especially when you consider Tom Brady didn't throw a single touchdown pass in the game because Blount was getting it done. Plus, this was against the Seahawks defense which had allowed just three rushing touchdowns to running backs heading into Week 9. James White was on the field for 42 percent of New England's snaps, but he wasn't much of a factor with just six touches on the night. Blount continues to be one of the most consistent touchdown-scoring backs and that trend should continue when the Patriots face the 49ers in Week 11.
New Orleans Saints
As expected, the Saints employed a running back by committee in the same way they did last week with Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. But the duo was not nearly as effective as they were last week. It seems like the Saints still like Ingram as their lead back, which makes sense, and it will probably be a tough split to predict going forward. Ingram saw 22 snaps compared to Hightower's 14. This backfield faces a tough challenge against the Panthers run defense on Thursday night, so neither back will be more than an RB2. Ingram has more appeal in Week 11 due to his volume upside.
New York Jets
Forte racked up 20 carries for the third game in his last four and while he didn't score, his 100-plus total yards should be considered a win in a tough matchup against the Rams. Forte is once again getting the kind of volume that has him locked in as an RB1 going forward despite the fact that Bilal Powell was the only Jets running back to score on Sunday. Powell has some PPR flex appeal, but Forte is the workhorse and should remain in your starting lineup for the rest of the season, except for next week as the Jets are on a bye.
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson named Darren Sproles the team's No. 1 running back earlier in the week. Ryan Mathews probably didn't like that very much and responded with 27.9 standard fantasy points as the week's second-highest scoring running back heading into Sunday night. Sproles did damage as a pass catcher but the volume he saw last week wasn't there -- this was Mathews' day. The Eagles also rotated Wendell Smallwood in as they have done all season, and he managed a respectable 70 yards, making this quagmire of a backfield one of the most unpredictable situations in the NFL. Have fun trying to figure it out next week when the Eagles head to Seattle.
Finally, the positive regression Le'Veon Bell's fantasy owners were waiting for came against the Cowboys. Bell hadn't scored a touchdown the entire season heading into Week 10, but found the end zone twice on Sunday. His 134 yards from scrimmage was shockingly on par with his 131.8 yards per game average heading into Week 10. He remains a do-it-all back with insane upside in fantasy and will enjoy two extremely favorable matchups with games against Cleveland and Indianapolis the next two weeks.
San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde (shoulder) returned to the field for the first time since Week 6, but he was extremely ineffective as evidenced by the box score. He clearly was not 100 percent healthy and it showed. DuJuan Harris only had five carries, but he didn't do much with them either. Colin Kaepernick actually led the 49ers in rushing yards for the day. It was a tough matchup against Arizona, but Hyde was a complete disaster for fantasy owners. Things won't get much easier next week when New England comes to town. Hyde owners might want to keep him benched until he shows that he's healthy enough to be effective.
San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon and that's it. No other player, not even Philip Rivers, had a rush attempt for the Chargers on Sunday. Gordon, who logged 24 rush attempts for just 70 yards on the ground made up for his lack of efficiency as a runner with 62 yards receiving. His 132 scrimmage yards is all that matters for fantasy owners but skeptics will likely point to his low yards per carry average as a negative. Whatever. Gordon finished Sunday as the 10th-highest scoring running back for the week, despite failing to find the end zone. His owners will have to make do without him in Week 11 as San Diego has a bye.
Rookie C.J. Prosise's versatility was on display Sunday night for the Seahawks. The Notre Dame product racked up 153 total yards on a career-high 24 touches against the Patriots, and fell just shy of the goal-line in the third quarter for what could have been a game-changing play for Prosise's fantasy owners. Christine Michael played limited snaps due to a hamstring injury, so Seattle used their rookie as a do-it-all workhorse. Don't forget that Prosise is a converted slot receiver, and his production from non-backfield lineups showed off his pass-catching skill-set.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Doug Martin, who was reportedly on a snap count entering Week 10 (his first game since Week 2), ended up with 17 total touches and a touchdown. He wasn't effective on the ground, though, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry in the game. Peyton Barber, who was in line for added looks with Martin getting eased back into the offense, disappointed with just 38 yards on his 12 carries. If it wasn't for Martin's late touchdown, this would have been an ugly outing for Tampa Bay's backfield. Martin should be an every-week starter going forward and Barber can probably be sent back to the waiver wire. The Bucs face Kansas City in Week 11.
DeMarco Murray did a little bit of everything on Sunday. He started the game off with a 75-yard touchdown run. Then, he threw a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker. He also caught two passes for 33 yards and finished with 156 total yards in a game where Tennessee absolutely dominated the Packers defense. Murray's playing time remains astronomical as he was on the field for 77 percent of the Titans' offensive plays. He's now scored in five straight games and his lowest fantasy total for the season came back in Week 6 when he posted 12.5 points. With games upcoming against the Colts and Bears in the next two weeks, fantasy owners can leave Murray in their starting lineups and not have a care in the world.
Matt Jones was a healthy scratch on Sunday morning, leaving Rob Kelley to carry the load. He did that and then some with 22 carries for 97 yards on the ground against a still-stout Vikings defensive front. He busted a 21-yard scamper in the second half which boosted his final numbers. If Kelley can get consistent volume, he'll be an upside RB2 the rest of the way. Chris Thompson is game-script dependent and while he'll steal a few snaps here and there, he's not a threat to Kelley's fantasy value going forward. Washington heads to Green Bay in Week 11 to face a Packers defense that was embarrassed on Sunday by DeMarco Murray and the Titans.
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