Every week Committee Meetings breaks down the 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.
Thomas Rawls got the nod in place of an inactive Marshawn Lynch and led all fantasy players with over 36 points. LeSean McCoy posted over 100 total yards and over 15 fantasy points for the third straight week on Monday night against the Patriots. And Jonathan Stewart notched his fifth solid game in the last six weeks with over 100 yards and a score to help keep the Panthers undefeated. All three of these backs should continue to produce for fantasy owners down the stretch, so keep them in your starting lineups regardless of the matchups.
Washington's three-headed backfield combined for just 29 total yards on 16 total touches as the team was on the losing end of a rout by Carolina. Lamar Miller failed to score for the first game since Week 6 and posted just 5.5 fantasy points on nine touches in a loss against Dallas. And Chris Ivory only had nine touches and totaled 45 yards as the Texans defense shut down the Jets running game. Washington's runners need to be avoided at all costs while Miller and Ivory should be able to bounce back from their disappointing games, so stick with them.
Let's dig a little deeper and find out what we learned about the fantasy running back landscape in Week 11.
Doug Martin | Charles Sims // Buccaneers
Doug Martin steamrolled the Eagles previously stingy run defense on Sunday on his way to 235 rushing yards on 27 carries. Martin gained huge chunks of yardage early on runs of 58 and 84 yards in the first half, and added a 27-yard gain in the second half. Greedy fantasy owners were of course hoping for a touchdown which would have capped what was already an amazing day, but you can't really complain about 23.5 fantasy points. It was a nice return to the top of the running back ranks for Martin following several weeks of forgettable production. But despite six rush attempts in the red zone, his scoring drought has now been extended to five straight games. He may have a better chance to get into the paint next week against the Colts.
There's no question that Martin remains the featured runner in Tampa Bay, but we like the fact that Charles Sims has had a chance to produce too. With Jameis Winston throwing five touchdown passes on the day, Sims got in on the action and was efficient with his 13 touches converting them into 12.9 fantasy points. It's been a while since we've seen Sims have fantasy success, but when your team is putting up 45 points, it's sort of inevitable. He remains a PPR stash and is the direct handcuff to Martin should anything happen to the Douggernaut (knock on wood).
Jeremy Hill | Giovani Bernard // Bengals
In week 11, both Bengals running backs produced for fantasy owners. Jeremy Hill plowed his way into the end zone on two separate occasions and led the team with 13 rush attempts. Hill's situation is a frustrating one since he's really only useful in fantasy if he's scoring touchdowns. Check out this tweet from Alex Gelhar highlighting Hill's touchdown runs this season. It says loads about just how touchdown dependent Hill has been this year. Games when he has scored (Week 1, Week 4, Week 6, Week 11) are the only weeks that he's posted double-digit fantasy points. And when he doesn't score, he's basically useless from a fantasy perspective. The other thing to note is that his total touchdown count for the season is eight, but those eight scores have come in just four games and the randomness at which they've come has made him the epitome of a boom-or-bust fantasy back.
Giovani Bernard had a huge game against the Cardinals thanks to his huge gains in the passing game. Bernard hauled in eight of his 10 targets and had receptions of 41, 30 and 20 yards in what ended up being a high-scoring shootout in Arizona. He produced nearly the same amount of fantasy points as Hill did without scoring any touchdowns, proving that he's at the least a weekly flex asset and can even be considered a low-end RB2 in PPR leagues.
Since the Bengals' Week 7 bye, Bernard has out-snapped Hill by a share of 60 percent to 39 percent. He's also out produced Hill in terms of total yards (345) and fantasy points per game (8.6) in that span. Despite Hill's two touchdowns in Week 11, he's averaging less fantasy points per game (7.6) over the last month than Bernard, which is concerning for Hill owners. To be fair, neither Cincinnati back has produced for fantasy owners in recent weeks, though both hit double-digits for the first time since Week 6 (against Buffalo).
Ronnie Hillman | C.J. Anderson // Broncos
With Brock Osweiler under center for his first NFL start, the Broncos set season-high marks for rush attempts (36) and total rushing yards (170). Ronnie Hillman got the start again over C.J. Anderson. Since Denver's bye in Week 7, Hillman has been the team's starting running back. Hillman posted his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and totaled 22 touches. Frustratingly for fantasy owners, he just missed scoring a touchdown late in the third quarter. On a fourth-and-1 situation inside the 5-yard line Hillman got the handoff and was headed for a gap into the end zone, but Osweiler accidentally tripped the running back behind the line of scrimmage and he fell just short of the goal line.
As much as we hate to admit it, since Hillman took over as the starter, he's out-snapped Anderson three of the last four weeks. Overall, Hillman has Anderson beat on snap percentage by a count of 51 to 43 percent. He's also collected 23 more carries than Anderson in that span, and has three touchdowns to Anderson's one. But Anderson has been the more efficient runner averaging a solid 5.8 yards per carry on his 35 rush attempts while Hillman's rate is down to 3.5 yards per carry on his 58 attempts in the last four weeks. So for fantasy purposes, Hillman seems like the safer, high volume play from week to week, but there is still some flex appeal with Anderson's nearly equal yardage production on far fewer attempts.
DeMarco Murray | Darren Sproles | Kenjon Barner // Eagles
The Eagles suffered an ugly loss on Sunday against the Buccaneers, which had a lot to do with DeMarco Murray's reduction in playing time and rush attempts. Prior to Week 11, Murray had been averaging over 23 touches per game but totaled just 17 against Tampa Bay. He was still efficient with his rush attempts, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and ended up with over 90 total yards. His lost fumble put a blemish on his total fantasy points for the day, but his owners should not be too concerned. He's the clear lead dog in this backfield and that should continue to be the case going forward.
With Ryan Mathews out due to a concussion, Darren Sproles saw an uptick in playing time. He managed 59 total yards on just nine touches, but nearly 60 percent of his yardage came on one big play -- 35-yard screen pass that he took to the house. If Mathews doesn't play again on Thanksgiving, Sproles' owners can consider deploying him as a flex play again. His 41 percent share of offensive snaps was basically dead even with Murray's share, but that number would drop significantly if Mathews does suit up.
Frank Gore | Ahmad Bradshaw // Colts
Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw split snaps right down the middle in Week 12 as each back saw a 50 percent share of playing time. Gore out-produced Bradshaw in terms of touches (19) and total yards (80) but the latter scored two receiving touchdowns and was the better fantasy player. Late in the game, Gore was dealing with quad and knee injuries which kept him sidelined and gave way for Bradshaw's added playing time.
Gore said after the game that he would be fine but fantasy owners should be somewhat concerned, and would be wise to scoop Bradshaw this week on the waiver wire for insurance. Bradshaw's playing time has been consistent the last few weeks as he sees between 30-45 percent of the snaps, but if Gore does have to sit out for a game, Bradshaw would likely play the feature back role.