*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 7 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 DeMarco Murray, Matt Forte and a huge game from Jeremy Hill while guys like Chris Thompson and Latavius Murray surprisingly made their way into the top 20 for the week. Some of the bigger disappointments of the week include Jerick McKinnon and Jordan Howard. 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.
David Johnson just dropped 171 yards on the Seahawks. THE SEAHAWKS! He logged an insane 41 touches on Sunday night, and leads the NFL with 1,004 yards from scrimmage on the year. He's collected 100-plus scrimmage yards in every single game this season and ranks second in rushing yards with 681. He was mere inches away from scoring a touchdown in overtime too, as he ran out of bounds by stepping his foot on the end zone pylon but was ruled out before crossing the plane. With Carson Palmer still struggling to move the ball, the Cardinals seem to be leaning on their best player more and more each game. The matchup-proof GOAT running back takes on the Panthers in Week 8.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both did well for fantasy owners in Week 7. Coleman, who left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury, totaled 74 yards and scored a touchdown before his departure. Freeman collected 100 all-purpose yards on his 20 touches, which marked his third game this season with 100-plus scrimmage yards. Fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on Coleman's hamstring during the week. If he is limited or has to miss Week 8, Freeman would be in for an even bigger workload against the league's top run-stopping defense, the Packers.
Well, these numbers are hard to look at. The Ravens running backs combined for a mere 19 total yards against the Jets on Sunday. Terrance West was sidelined with an ankle injury for a few moments but returned to the game, although he was extremely ineffective. West had just one touch in the second quarter and zero touches in the fourth quarter. It was an outlier game for West, as he's been solid since taking over the lead role in Baltimore. The Ravens have a Week 8 bye, so it gives West some time to heal whatever ails him and hopefully get back on track against the Steelers in Week 9.
The storyline for the Bills heading into Sunday revolved around the health of LeSean McCoy's hamstring. There were conflicting reports regarding his role and workload for the game, and it ended up being bad news all around as he had just eight touches for 11 yards before he got pulled due to injury. Mike Gillislee was unable to capitalize on his opportunities, but it was Reggie Bush who, on his only carry of the game, scored a touchdown. It would have been ideal if the Bills just benched McCoy and started Gillislee, but things don't always happen the way we want them to. Buffalo faces the Patriots next week, so McCoy's status will need to be monitored closely as Sunday approaches. Shady posted over 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown against the Patriots in Week 4.
The Jordan Howard era is apparently over in Chicago. At least it looked that way on Thursday night when freaking Ka'Deem Carey led the Bears backfield. It wasn't pretty, but Carey out-touched Howard 11 to 7 in the game and was much more efficient on the ground with 4.8 yards per rush compared to Howard's 3.1. Honestly, the backfield split here is mind-boggling. Howard is the best back on the team, yet the coaching staff continues to keep him limited when there are other healthy backs like Carey able to play. Howard needs to be stashed on fantasy benches, but he's not a starting option again until we see things clear up a bit, which probably won't happen any time soon since Jeremy Langford could be back in a matter of weeks. Plus, the Bears will run into the buzzsaw that is the Vikings defense in Week 8.
Welcome back, Jeremy Hill. On a mere nine rush attempts, Hill put up 168 rushing yards (over 18 yards per carry average) against what's become a pathetic Browns run defense. His touchdown came on a 74-yard run in the second half, but he left the game early after suffering what looked to be a hand injury. Giovani Bernard scored in the first quarter on a nice red zone run and shared carries with Rex Burkhead following Hill's departure in the second half. Bernard's 17 rush attempts was the highest of the season, two greater than he had last week. Fantasy owners will have to keep an eye on Hill's injury status for next week's matchup against the Redskins. Both backs finished as top-12 plays in standard leagues.
Isaiah Crowell bounced back against the Bengals following two slow games. It was nice to see The Crow return to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the season. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry but was limited to just 12 rush attempts due to game script. That and the fact that backup quarterback Kevin Hogan did work on the ground himself with over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown, serving as a vulture to Crowell in a way. After Duke Johnson's nice outing in Week 6, he returned to his lackluster form and needs to remain benched in fantasy leagues. The Browns face the Jets in Week 8, where Crowell will be a low-end RB2 option.
The Lions were without Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington for the second straight week, so the team leaned on Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett out of the backfield. Forsett looked much better after getting a week of practice under his belt with the Lions, but it was Zenner who managed to punch in a short-yardage touchdown. With Riddick out, this backfield is inefficient and unpredictable, so until he's back we can't advocate starting Zenner or Forsett unless you're extremely desperate. And in that case, it's Zenner who has the touchdown upside. The Lions face the Houston Texans next week, so it will be tough to confidently deploy anyone from the Detroit backfield.
Green Bay Packers
Without Eddie Lacy and James Starks, the Packers were forced to use Ty Montgomery as their main running back on Thursday night against the Bears. He produced 126 yards from scrimmage with 60 on the ground and 66 as a receiver. Newly acquired Knile Davis wasn't expected to have much of a role since the Packers traded for him less than 48 hours before the game, and rookie Don Jackson left early with an injury after just two touches. Green Bay faces Atlanta in Week 8, which is a nice matchup on paper, but we're not touching this backfield for fantasy purposes.
Rinse and repeat with Frank Gore. The veteran posted another 83 total yards on 22 touches and a scored receiving touchdown. He's been one of the most consistent mid-to-late round fantasy running backs who owners can leave in their flex spot on a weekly basis and are guaranteed anywhere from 10 to 15 fantasy points in standard scoring. His work as a pass-catcher helps to boost his weekly floor when he's not able to punch one into the end zone. The Colts face the Chiefs in Week 8, so Gore will once again be a high-end flex option.
The Jaguars offense is bad, and until they show some improvement, you can't use any member of the backfield in fantasy. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory each had seven touches. SEVEN. The Jaguars have a short week as they take on the Titans on Thursday night which is a situation to avoid for fantasy purposes.
Kansas City Chiefs
Spencer Ware is unquestionably the best running back in Kansas City. Jamaal Charles, who we knew would be limited coming into this game (knee) had a single carry for zero yards in this game, while Ware led the backfield with 131 yards from scrimmage on his 19 touches. Ware was already the RB12 coming into this game and helped pad his stats with another strong performance against the Saints' Swiss cheese defense. Ware will be a must-start with RB1 upside again next week when the Chiefs head to Indianapolis, no matter what Charles' status is.
Los Angeles Rams
If you started Todd Gurley against the Giants you knew you'd at least get some volume upside. And he did total 21 touches. But, yet again, he was inefficient on the ground averaging fewer than four yards per carry (again) on his 15 attempts. A trend we've seen hold steady the last few weeks is Gurley's work as a pass catcher which has buoyed his floor given his struggles to gain yards as a rusher. Still, he needs to get into the end zone to give your fantasy squad a chance to win, and he didn't do that against the Giants. Hopefully, the Rams can re-asses their offense and turn things around during their Week 8 bye.
Jay Ajayi continued his Hall of Fame campaign on Sunday with his second straight 200-yard rushing game against the Bills. His 27.6 fantasy points had him ranked as the RB2 heading into the Sunday night game, after finishing as the highest-scoring player in fantasy a week ago. Had he not cramped up later in the game, he probably would have added a second score that ended up going to Damien Williams instead. Additionally, it's pretty evident that Arian Foster is done. He had four touches in the game after logging just three last week. This is Ajayi's featured role to lose, and the way he's been running, the coaching staff would have to be on something to take the ball away from him. For the past two weeks, Ajayi has been the only good thing that the Dolphins have going on offense. He'll get to rest his tired legs as Miami heads into their bye week.
This was an odd game for the Vikings who were coming off a bye. Matt Asiata led the backfield with 18 touches and 80 yards, while Jerick McKinnon had just one fewer carry than his teammate, but five fewer receptions, which doesn't really make sense. Anyway, the only touchdown Minnesota scored against the Eagles was a Cordarrelle Patterson catch in the second half so it wasn't a great week to start either of these backs in fantasy. The going should be easier next week as the Vikings take on the Bears on Monday night.
New England Patriots
In a revenge game for LeGarrette Blount against his former team, he recorded a season-high 127 rush yards and scored twice. It marked Blount's third 100-yard rushing game of the season and his second game with multiple rushing touchdowns, and he now is tied for the league lead with eight rushing scores. Interestingly, Blount was the only Patriots player to record a rushing attempt the entire game, as James White's work was solely as a pass-catcher. White found the end zone for the second straight game and scored his third touchdown in the last two games. He had just five targets but he seems to be a go-to guy in the red zone for Tom Brady. The Patriots face the Bills in Week 8, and considering that Buffalo just gave up over 200 yards to Jay Ajayi, both Blount and White will be strong options at running back with six teams on a bye.
New Orleans Saints
Mark Ingram continued to play the role of the primary back in New Orleans on Sunday, and scored his second receiving touchdown of the season. Without the score, he would've had a mediocre fantasy day because his yardage totals were less-than-impressive again. It was still nice to see Ingram touch the ball 20 times and was his second-highest touch total of the season. The Saints have used several different backs this season in a nonsensical committee which has capped Ingram's ceiling. He will have a tough matchup against the Seahawks in Week 8 where he'll present low-end RB2 value.
New York Giants
The Giants, though they won this game, continued their offensive struggles with just 36 total rushing yards as a team against the Rams in London. Eli Manning's difficulty moving the ball through the air did no favors for the run game, but desperate fantasy owners who rolled Rashad Jennings out at least got to rejoice when he salvaged a late touchdown. Jennings' 25 rush yards led the team, which is pretty pathetic. Going forward, we can't advocate starting anyone from this backfield, but if you have to, Jennings would be the guy you want based on the volume. The Giants have a Week 8 bye following their trip across the pond.
New York Jets
Since Matt Forte's 30-carry, 100-yard, three-touchdown game in Week 2, he's basically been useless, from a fantasy perspective. But on Sunday, the Jets loaded up their veteran back with another 30 carries that he converted into 100 yards on the ground, adding 54 as a receiver and two total touchdowns. It was a much needed bounce-back for Forte and his fantasy owners who've likely been ripping their hair out watching him put up duds for the last few weeks. He gets a cushy matchup in Week 8 as the Jets head to Cleveland. The Browns have been gashed by running backs all season, so Forte will have RB1 upside next week.
Latavius Murray's return to the lineup was a fruitful one. He received 18 carries and scored twice, which is all fantasy owners really care about. So his inefficiency, just 3.3 yards per carry, is somewhat irrelevant. Anyway, it's a good sign to see Murray getting this kind of volume since before his injury he seemed to be splitting the workload with the team's other, younger backs. Perhaps his time off gave the coaching staff an idea of just how much better he is than the other options who have some room to grow. Murray has another nice matchup next week against the Buccaneers, although it's a cross-country road trip for Oakland which could negatively affect the offense as a whole. Still, he'll be a high-end RB2 in that game.
It's not likely that fantasy owners deployed Ryan Mathews against the Vikings defense on Sunday, but for those who did, he got you about eight fantasy points. It could have been worse. When he's healthy he's the clear leader of this backfield, and when he's not, it becomes an unpredictable split. Ride him while he's healthy, including next week when the Eagles head to Dallas for what should be a heated division rivalry matchup.
Le'Veon Bell did it all yet again for the Steelers against New England. In a losing effort, Bell notched 31 total touches and collected 149 total scrimmage yards marking four straight contests with 100-plus total yards. He still has yet to find the end zone but as long as he's averaging 147.3 scrimmage yards per game, it's difficult to find a reason to complain about his production as a fantasy owner. The Steelers have a week to rest before facing the Ravens in Week 9. But no matter what the matchup is, Bell is an elite every-week starter in fantasy.
San Francisco 49ers
Carlos Hyde was ruled out on Friday, so fantasy owners pieced together some waiver claims for Mike Davis and Shane Draughn ahead of Sunday. So it's only natural that DuJuan Harris led the team in rush attempts and total yards. Davis and Draughn each scored touchdowns though, which Harris did not. So from a fantasy perspective, Davis and Draughn were the right call but it's not like either helped you win your week. Hopefully Hyde can recover during the 49ers upcoming bye week and get right for the team's Week 9 game against a bad Saints defense. If not, San Francisco will probably roll with a similar kind of unpredictable committee backfield.
San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon is making up for lost time. He scored another three touchdowns against the Falcons, and though he was inefficient again as a rusher as he's been all season, he still posted 121 total yards thanks to his work as a receiver. Gordon's 28 touches marked a season-high and he finished Sunday as fantasy's highest scoring running back with over 30 points in standard leagues. Gordon leads all running backs with 29 red zone rush attempts and leads the NFL with 10 total touchdowns on the season. He faces the Denver Broncos in Week 8. Gordon managed 94 total yards against Denver in Week 6, but failed to reach the end zone (his only game without a touchdown all season).
The Awakening Tour rolled into Arizona on Sunday night and was a disappointment from a fantasy perspective. In a heavily defensive game where the only points scored on either side were field goals, Christine Michael managed just 55 total yards on 19 touches. Expectations should have been tempered coming into the game against Arizona's defense that allows just 3.8 yards per carry. C-Woke is still averaging 4.2 yards per rush on the season and has a juicy matchup against the New Orleans Saints in Week 8 in which he'll be a low-end RB1 option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As a group, the Bucs backfield averaged a ridiculous 6.3 yards per carry against the 49ers on Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers carried the load, registering 27 touches for 163 total yards on the day, so if you slotted him into your fantasy lineup, it paid off. He wasn't the only Bucs' back doing work though as rookie Peyton Barber received a career-high 12 carries and ripped off a 44-yard touchdown run on his way to 84 yards on the day. Even journeyman Antone Smith was extremely efficient gaining 47 yards on just three touches. The Tampa Bay backs should considered fantasy starters again next week as they take an Oakland defense that is allowing 5.0 yards per carry and 128.3 rushing yards per game.
DeMarco Murray continues to eat. Derrick Henry continues to collect dust on the bench. There really isn't much to analyze here other than the fact that Murray is indeed still good at football. His workload is insane and he produces top-10 fantasy numbers each and every week (last week was an outlier). Granted, this was against the Colts who have been absolutely awful against running backs, but still, the bounce-back season he's putting together is impressive. He should have another heavy workload when the Titans face Jacksonville on a short week for Thursday Night Football.
The unpredictability of Matt Jones continued in Week 7. Last week, he had a career-high 135 rushing yards. This week, he had 27. I've said it before, but what you get with Jones is high highs, and extremely low, basement-level lows. If you're desperate to find some kind of trend or pattern here, Jones seems to be on an every other week kind of schedule. He blew up last week, so he put up a dud this week. Surprisingly, Chris Thompson led the Washington backfield with 113 total yards on his 19 touches and played on 60 percent of the team's offensive snaps. That's not going to happen every week, but he's worth a look on the waiver wire. Rookie Rob Kelley scored on a one-yard reception and Kirk Cousins ran one in on his own, so from a scoring standpoint there wasn't much to celebrate for the Redskins' backs. Looking ahead, Washington takes on Cincinnati next week, and if we're going solely on trends here, Matt Jones should have about 120 yards and a score in that game.
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