When we last left our heroes, they were determining which quarterbacks were best poised to help fantasy enthusiasts find their way to a title. Still, man (and woman) can not live on QBs alone. It takes quality production at a number of positions in order to be considered the best manager fantasy football has to offer.
This season, the running back position might be the game's most critical. What was once the bellwether to fantasy success has become a source of vexation and frustration. That makes it much more pressing to know you have at least one back on which you can depend heading into the final weeks of the fantasy campaign.
As such, here's the list of the backs with the most favorable slates in Weeks 14-16. At the start of the season, if I had suggested that you put your fantasy fate in the hands of a Green Bay Packers running back, the lot of you might have suggested I spend some time with a local mental health professional. Yet here we are ... it's mid-November and the Packers' best fantasy option right now is a rookie running back who has emerged as one of this season's most consistent options.
For the most part, the names on this list are reassuring. It's comforting to know that players like Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy, who have produced nicely all season, could post quality numbers when it matters. It's also heartening to see that guys like Alfred Morris and DeMarco Murray have favorable matchups down the stretch.
Then again, plenty of fantasy owners are probably left scratching their heads about what to do with Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Rashard Mendenhall and Andre Ellington. On paper, things seem to be going their way. But on the field, those players have been hampered by a combination of injuries, questionable play-calling and general poor play by their offenses.
Of course, it takes more than a good matchup to excite fantasy enthusiasts about a particular running back. Just ask anyone who drafted Trent Richardson. It helps to have a track record of success in key situations. Eddie Lacy and Gio Bernard have been pretty good so far, but are you willing to completely trust your fantasy future to a rookie? Going back over the past five seasons, I compiled a list of the 10 best running back points-per-game averages.
However, it seems we unfairly slandered Trent Richardson. According to the numbers, he performed fairly admirably in the late weeks last season as compared to his peers. Or maybe we should be worried about the small sample size -- especially when you see the slate he has to deal with this season.
Conversely, there are backs on the negative side of this ledger whose past histories could give fantasy owners reason to be confident. Adrian Peterson might have one of the toughest schedules around, but are you really about to doubt A.D.? And it seems every time we count out Frank Gore, the veteran comes through with another big performance.
It's pretty easy to leave Rashad Jennings or Donald Brown on the bench. But handling someone like Zac Stacy or Andre Brown is a stickier wicket. Stacy has been on fire since taking over St. Louis' starting job and Brown was a surprise Week 10 star after taking the lion's share of the work in New York's backfield. There's not enough trust there for either to be a consensus RB1 -- at least if you consider yourself a championship contender. But there is pretty of reason to feel good about your chances if you plug either of those players in as a RB2 or flex option.
There's certainly no easy answer to the running back conundrum. But it certainly helps that there's time to make some changes before the fantasy trade deadline hits. Perhaps acquiring a guy like LeSean McCoy is too rich for your blood, but a DeMarco Murray could do wonders for your postseason outlook ... and could come at a price that's a little more reasonable.
Stay tuned for next week's exciting episode ... wide receivers!