*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 6 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 LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Stewart and a breakout game from Jay Ajayi while guys like Duke Johnson and James White surprisingly made their way into the top 15 for the week. Some of the bigger disappointments of the week include Carlos Hyde and Isaiah Crowell, 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 just in: David Johnson is still really, really good at football. He absolutely dominated the Jets defense in this game and single-handedly saved some fantasy matchups for owners who were in a hole going into Monday night. Andre Ellington is no threat to his workload, as he didn't get touches until the fourth quarter when this game was basically in the books. Johnson is an elite talent and arguably the best running back in the NFL, and fantasy. He'll face Seattle in Week 7.
We sort of had a feeling coming into Sunday that this was not a great week to mess around with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but the way they've been playing made it hard to bench either. Unfortunately, the matchup played out here, and our worst fears became reality. The Freeman/Coleman tandem combined for a mere 67 yards against Seattle, the worst outing of the season by far. We're going to chalk this one up as simply a bad matchup and move on. The Falcons face the Chargers next, in Atlanta, so both Freeman and Coleman will be viable fantasy plays.
Fantasy owners who have stuck with Terrance West during his resurgence this season enjoyed two touchdowns and 87 yards against the Giants on Sunday. That was enough to put West in the top five among running backs in standard leagues by Sunday evening, and it was his second double-digit fantasy outing in the last three weeks. He benefitted from the offensive coordinator change, logging 23 carries after seeing just 11 last week. It's becoming more evident that Kenneth Dixon is not going to be a factor, at least not in the near future, and that this is West's starting gig to lose. He's a weekly RB2 starter but may find it tough sledding against the Jets in Week 7, so temper expectations some.
This game was set up perfectly for LeSean McCoy to erupt, and he did just that. Despite an injury scare in the first half, McCoy enjoyed a cake matchup against the 49ers and absolutely went off with three touchdowns and 140 rushing yards, averaging 7.4 yards per carry and helped the Bills cruise to a 45-16 win. He is having a special season thus far and has another ideal matchup next week against the Dolphins who have allowed tons of yards to running backs. McCoy might not post another three touchdowns, but he should be locked into lineups as an elite RB1.
Jonathan Stewart return to the Panthers backfield following a few weeks off with an injury, and took full advantage of a favorable matchup against the Saints defense. He looked 100 percent healthy averaging 4.5 yards per carry on his 19 rush attempts and punched in two short-yardage scores. Of course Cam Newton stole a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter as he's known to do, but Stewart's owners can't really complain. JStew will have a week to rest with a bye up next, so his fantasy owners will need to find other options.
Rookie Jordan Howard has been dominating the snaps in Chicago's backfield the past two weeks, so we sort of knew a downtick in his workload was on the horizon. And while Howard did lead the team with 15 carries and scored a touchdown, Ka'Deem Carey rushed nine times and had more yardage than his rookie teammate. Howard is still the guy fantasy owners will want to start every week, but his 95 percent snap share from last week dropped to 68 percent in Week 6, though we knew that insane workload was not going to hold up for long. The Bears have a quick turnaround as they face the Packers on Thursday night in Week 7, and Howard should be a high-end RB2 in that game.
Despite his chest injury, Jeremy Hill had 13 carries against the Patriots, but managed just 38 yards on the ground. His status as a touchdown-dependent fantasy back was further solidified here. Giovani Bernard, who has now been the starter for two straight weeks totaled 19 touches in the game and fell just shy of 100 scrimmage yards. Furthermore, Bernard far out-snapped Hill by a count of 44 to 18 (68 percent to 29 percent). At one point, the Bengals tried punching the rock into the end zone from a few yards out three times with Bernard, but to no avail. Still, given his ability to gain yardage both through the air and on the ground, Bernard will be the upside play going forward. The Bengals backfield will enjoy a great matchup against the Cleveland Browns in Week 7, where Bernard should be considered an upside flex play and a must-start in PPR formats.
At halftime, the Browns as a team had eight total rushing yards. EIGHT. Isaiah Crowell struggled to get anything going, and it seemed like Cleveland made a real effort to get Duke Johnson involved early. That effort paid off for Johnson owners as he managed to pound in a 1-yard touchdown run very late in the fourth quarter. This marks two slow games in a row for Crowell and he'll be tough to start next week against the Bengals. One decent game from Johnson (on eight touches) isn't enough to sell us just yet, but if this keeps up, he may become a legitimate weekly flex option going forward.
The Broncos offense was broken on Thursday night which didn't help C.J. Anderson's production. In fact, he was out-rushed by Devontae Booker on fewer carries, which is not a good look. To his credit, Anderson had an impressive touchdown catch-and-run in the fourth quarter that was called back on a holding penalty. He's still the team's primary back working in on 76 percent of the team's snaps and while Booker has seen his workload increase due to game script the last two weeks, it's tough to advocate benching Anderson unless this turns into more of a timeshare. Either way, Anderson has a tough matchup against the Texans defensive front in Week 7.
Ezekiel Elliott keeps one-upping himself, this time collecting 174 yards from scrimmage following last week's 171-yard performance. He good. Any Zeke fantasy owner who was afraid of a matchup against a Packers defense that, coming into Sunday, had been one of the toughest against running backs should now be reassured that the Cowboys' stud rookie is matchup proof. He's got a comfortable lead as the NFL's leading rusher with 703 yards so far, with the next closest back, LeSean McCoy, at 587 rush yards. If this keeps up, Elliott could push for 2,000 yards by the end of the season. The Cowboys have a Week 7 bye so Zeke's fantasy owners will have to make do without him.
With Theo Riddick ruled out (ankle), and Dwayne Washington still not healthy enough to play, the Lions leaned on Zach Zenner to lead the way against the Rams. Zenner managed 58 rushing yards on his 14 carries and added two receptions for 19 yards but failed to get into the end zone. The newly acquired Justin Forsett is worth mentioning because he did play and had five carries, but they went for just five total yards. Until Theo Riddick gets back, this backfield will be tough to predict. Hopefully, we receive some clarity this week since the Lions face one of the worst run defenses in the NFL in the Washington Redskins next. If Zenner is projected to be the primary back again, he'll be a sneaky waiver add.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers rolled Eddie Lacy out on a bum ankle, because quite simply, they had no other choice. James Starks was ruled out with a knee injury leaving Lacy as the only real option. He did some rumbling, and some hurdling, but for the most part was inefficient and as has been the case all season, has struggled due to the Packers' overall struggles on offense. He still hasn't scored a touchdown this year and now has just one double-digit fantasy outing in five games. He'll be hard to trust on a short week against the Bears Thursday night.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Lamar Miller game we've all been waiting for … FINALLY Miller broke though on Sunday night in front of a national television audience. If he didn't get into the end zone in this game, against a pathetic Colts run defense, it might have never happened. He actually scored twice in the game, once rushing and once on a reception in which he broke several tackles and looked like the Miller we grew to love last year in Miami during his hot streak. Miller ranks second in the NFL in rush attempts with 125 behind only Ezekiel Elliott, and his fantasy owners have to hope this is the start of a run. The Texans face the Broncos next week on Monday night.
Frank Gore dropped 100 rushing yards for the first time this season, and as is the case every week, he just keeps going. Even with the Colts offense looking like a broken unit, Gore is the only reliable option out of the backfield, and the team keeps handing him the rock. There's virtually no upside with Gore, but his consistent floor is the kind of flex running back that dreams are made of.
There was a report late in the week that T.J. Yeldon had apparently earned himself feature back duties in Jacksonville. Then the game started on Sunday and Chris Ivory led the backfield with 11 carries and scored a touchdown. Welp. It was the first game all season where Ivory actually had an impact for fantasy owners, so maybe the Jaguars changed something during their bye week, or maybe Ivory is finally healthy enough to serve the primary back. Either way, the overall production here was not encouraging. Ivory will be a touchdown-dependent RB3 going forward while Yeldon, who had just 26 yards, will be nothing more than a matchup-based flex. The Jaguars face a struggling Raiders defense in Week 7, so Ivory should be considered as a low-end fantasy starter.
Kansas City Chiefs
This was the game where Jamaal Charles' fantasy owners finally felt safe starting him given all the hype leading up to the game that he was ready to rock. Well, Charles did get a touchdown here, but Spencer Ware was the real star, with 163 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on his 26 touches. Charles played just 15 snaps in the game compared to Ware's 40. In a strange twist of fantasy cruelty, Charles became Ware's touchdown vulture. Hopefully, Charles' playing time increases as the season goes on, and as we've seen his entire career, Charles is not the kind of player that needs a huge workload to produce elite fantasy numbers. But we have to face the fact that Spencer Ware is a real thing, and he's not going away. The Chiefs face the Saints at home in Week 7.
Los Angeles Rams
Given Todd Gurley's poor efficiency on the ground this season, he played well on Sunday with 4.1 yards per carry on his 14 rush attempts and added four receptions for 39 yards. It seems like the Rams have finally figured out that one of the most athletic players in the NFL actually can catch the ball since Gurley now has 124 receiving yards in his last three games. That receiving production will help boost his floor when he's unable to get into the end zone and today was a perfect example of that as he finished with nine fantasy points despite zero touchdowns. In Week 7 Gurley faces a Giants defense that has had a tough time stopping running backs the last few games.
Nobody saw this coming. The Dolphins rode the Jay-Train on Sunday, as Jay Ajayi shredded the Steelers defense for 204 yards on 25 carries and scored twice. On his last carry of the game, he took a 62-yard scamper to the house for his second score, putting him over the 200-yard mark for the day. We thought things would look different with Arian Foster back on the field, but this was Ajayi's breakthrough week. Ajayi stated his case as to why the team should feature him on a weekly basis and has now led the team's running backs in touches for three weeks in a row. The Dolphins face Buffalo in Week 7, so while it's not a great matchup, Ajayi will still have flex value at worst given his uptick in volume and the fact that he may be finally finding a groove in this offense.
New England Patriots
We knew LeGarrette Blount's volume would dip with Brady back, and it has, but he's still finding the end zone, which is great for his fantasy owners. He scored again on Sunday and now has scored in all but one game this season. Fantasy owners need to keep rolling him out despite his diminished role as he's a touchdown threat each week. James White may be the biggest beneficiary of Brady's return as he had two receiving touchdowns, his first scores of the season, against Cincinnati. The young pass-catching back out-snapped Blount 37 to 24 (61 percent to 39 percent) and tied for the team lead in targets on Sunday with nine, hauling in eight of them. On the season, White is tied for second on the team in targets (33) with Martellus Bennett and is making a case to be an every-week flex play.
New Orleans Saints
After watching Jacquizz Rodgers gain over 100 rushing yards against the Panthers last week, you'd think Mark Ingram would have had a better day. But that wasn't the case as he averaged just 3.2 yards per rush on his 16 attempts. He still lead the team in rushing but that isn't saying much. His 52 yards was his second-lowest rushing total of the season. And in an ironic twist of fate, tight end Coby Fleener scored the Saints' only rushing touchdown in a game where the offense put up 41 points. Ingram and the Saints head to Kansas City in Week 7, where he will be a touchdown-dependent RB2.
New York Giants
There is not much to say about the Giants backfield production against the Ravens other than the fact that it was worse than anyone could have imagined. Even with Rashad Jennings back in the mix, the Giants running back trio combined for just 38 rush yards the entire game. They'll face the Rams in Week 7 so fantasy owners should steer clear for another week.
New York Jets
It feels like an eternity ago when Matt Forte was a top-five fantasy running back, all the way back in Week 1 and Week 2. Life comes at you fast in the NFL, and the Jets offense is not helping his cause. There's virtually no upside in starting him, or Bilal Powell. Even in a PPR league, Powell is a low-end flex at best. Until the Jets get right, which may not happen with Geno Smith under center, it will be hard to trust this backfield going forward. Sad!
For the second week in a row, the Raiders backfield was without Latavius Murray, and for the second week in a row this was a backfield that fantasy owners should have avoided. DeAnrdre Washington was efficient but had just 10 carries in the game as the Raiders were playing from behind. It's odd then, that Jalen Richard only had six touches. Either way, until Murray gets back, we want nothing to do with this backfield; it's one of the most muddled situations in the NFL.
The Eagles backfield failed to take advantage of a great matchup against one of the worst run defenses in the league. Philly's backs combined for 92 rushing yards with zero touchdowns. Ryan Mathews, whose nine carries led the team, did averaged 6.7 yards per carry which was nice to see considering he's running at a 3.3 yards per carry clip this season. There's really not much else to say about this backfield other than the fact that it was an extremely disappointing week. Philadelphia has a rough matchup against the Vikings in Week 7, so it will be difficult to recommend starting any of these guys in fantasy.
Technically, Le'Veon Bell led the Steelers backfield with 53 rushing yards, but wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey gained more rushing yards than Bell on a single, 60-yard touchdown run in the first half. Still, Bell's 10 carries led the team. Bell also led the team in receiving with six catches for 55 yards. His usage makes sense given that he was on the field for 96 percent of the Steelers snaps. For Bell's standards it was a disappointing game, but he still had over 100 yards from scrimmage for the third straight game. He has yet to score a touchdown this year, but his fantasy owners can't complain about three-straight double-digit performances. He'll look to keep it going against New England next week.
San Francisco 49ers
Hyde was ineffective in a blowout loss in Buffalo, and even worse, suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter. He returned to the game which is a good sign, but his practice participation will need to be monitored all week. A shoulder injury could be devastating for Hyde's fantasy owners especially seeing as he's scored four touchdowns in his previous three games and has six on the season. For that reason, as long as he suits up, he's a must-start in fantasy. There's also a chance that Colin Kaepernick saps some of Hyde's value going forward (Kap out-rushed Hyde on Sunday), but if the San Francisco running back is healthy, he's nearly impossible to bench in a great matchup against Tampa Bay in Week 7.
San Diego Chargers
Melvin Gordon ran well on Thursday night but for the first time all season, he failed to find pay dirt. He did log 27 carries, a season-high, but considering the volume, his fantasy owners would have liked to see more than just 94 yards on the ground. Gordon remains a weekly must-start and still leads the NFL in red-zone rush attempts (27). He'll face the Falcons, who are frequently gashed by opposing running backs, in Week 7.
The 2016 Awakening Tour featuring Christine Michael continued on Sunday as the resurgent running back dropped two touchdowns and 83 total yards on the Falcons. C-Woke now has five touchdowns in his last three games and his elite athletic prowess is on display every time he touches the ball. He did have an injury scare in the second quarter and was on the sideline being examined when rookie Alex Collins fell into the end zone from two yards out, that could have been Michael's third score of the day. But hey, we'll take two. C.J. Spiller got a bit of work but it was nothing to write home about. The 2016 Awakening Tour rolls into Arizona in Week 7, where Michael needs to be started but fantasy expectations should be tempered, just a bit.
DeMarco Murray struggled with just 65 rush yards on 21 carries, which is surprising considering the cushy matchup against the Browns. We'll consider this an outlier for Murray who has looked simply unstoppable this season. He'll be a top-tier RB1 in Week 7 against the Colts, so make sure you keep him locked into your lineups.
We're starting to sense a trend with Matt Jones. He tends to go off every other game, so after a slow Week 5, he posted 135 rush yards and a score against the Eagles this week. He'll be hard to leave on your bench against the Lions in Week 7, despite the trend. Rob Kelley got more work than he's had all season with 59 yards on five carries, but Jones was the clear lead back. Chris Thompson's 66 all-purpose yards were respectable for PPR owners, but as long as the Redskins keep feeding Jones 15-20 carries a game, he'll be the only member of this backfield worth starting.
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